Politics and Justice Without Borders
Politics and Justice Without Borders
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Volume 15 Issue 12 August 2017

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Global Civilization vision of Earth in 2024.

Vision of Earth in 2024

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Table of Contents of August 2017 Newsletter

Theme of August 2017 Newsletter
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Global Civilization Proceedings
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Global citizens reporting News.
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Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month

Nafeez Ahmed, Damian Carrington, Eric Chaney, Lorraine Chow (2), Carter Dillard, Sally Dugman (3), Prithiraj Dullay, Lauren Kaori Gurley, Georgina Gustin, Elizabeth Hernandez, Anthony Janetos, Reynard Loki, Adam Macon, T Navin, Tim Radford, Vasudha Rao, RT, Satya Sagar, David Sparenberg, Sasha Stashwick, Dr. David Suzuki, John Zangas.

Nafeez Ahmed, Pentagon Study Declares American Empire Is ‘Collapsing’. Pentagon Study Declares American Empire Is Collapsing
Damian Carrington, Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction Event Already Under Way, Scientists Warn. Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction Event Already Under Way, Scientists Warn.
Elizabeth Hernandez, Eric Chaney, Here's What You Need Know About America's Biggest Greenhouse Gas Polluter. Here's What You Need Know About America's Biggest Greenhouse Gas Polluter.
Lorraine Chow, U.S. Quietly Removes 17 Sites From U.N. Biosphere Reserve Network. U.S. Quietly Removes 17 Sites From U.N. Biosphere Reserve Network.
Lorraine Chow, Nuns Protest Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline by Building Chapel on Proposed Route. Nuns Protest Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline by Building Chapel on Proposed Route
Carter Dillard, Low Fertility Rates Isn't a Crisis as Some Argue—It's a Solution to a Safer, More Sustainable World Low Fertility Rates Isn't a Crisis as Some Argue—It's a Solution to a Safer, More Sustainable World
Sally Dugman, We Don’t Want It! Don’t You Get It? We Don’t Want It! Don’t You Get It?
Sally Dugman, After Peak Oil, Are We Heading Toward Social Collapse? After Peak Oil, Are We Heading Toward Social Collapse?
Sally Dugman, What Does It Mean To Be Human? What Does It Mean To Be Human?
Prithiraj Dullay, Revisiting Capitalism Revisiting Capitalism
Lauren Kaori Gurley, Here Are 10 of the World's Dirtiest Oil and Coal Polluters. Here Are 10 of the World's Dirtiest Oil and Coal Polluters.
Georgina Gustin, Factory Farms Put Climate at Risk, Experts Say, Urging Health Officials to Speak Out. Factory Farms Put Climate at Risk, Experts Say, Urging Health Officials to Speak Out.
Elizabeth Hernandez, Eric Chaney, Here's What You Need Know About America's Biggest Greenhouse Gas Polluter. Here's What You Need Know About America's Biggest Greenhouse Gas Polluter.
Anthony Janetos, What Would Happen If Several of the World's Biggest Food Crops Failed at the Same Time? What Would Happen If Several of the World's Biggest Food Crops Failed at the Same Time?
Reynard Loki, Stephen Hawking Warns Trump Withdrawal From Climate Deal Could Turn Earth's Temperature to 250 Degrees and Bring Sulphuric Acid Rain. Stephen Hawking Warns Trump Withdrawal From Climate Deal Could Turn Earth's Temperature to 250 Degrees and Bring Sulphuric Acid Rain.
Adam Macon, The Biomass Industry's Hollow Self-Regulatory Scheme Has Been Exposed as a Smokescreen to Destroy Forests for Corporate Profit. The Biomass Industry's Hollow Self-Regulatory Scheme Has Been Exposed as a Smokescreen to Destroy Forests for Corporate Profit.
T Navin, Othering To Ouring – Man, Environment And Society. Othering To Ouring – Man, Environment And Society.
Tim Radford, Killer Heat Waves Will Threaten Majority of Humankind by Century's End. Killer Heat Waves Will Threaten Majority of Humankind by Century's End.
Vasudha Rao, Perils Of Overpopulation. Perils Of Overpopulation
RT, Iran Preparing to Publish Evidence US Supporting ISIS Iran Preparing to Publish Evidence US Supporting ISIS
Satya Sagar, What On Earth Is A Human Being? What On Earth Is A Human Being?
David Sparenberg, Solidarity With Earth And Humanity. Solidarity With Earth And Humanity.
Dr. David Suzuki, The Notion That We Must Dominate Nature Has Led to Widespread Devastation That Threatens Our Very Survival. The Notion That We Must Dominate Nature Has Led to Widespread Devastation That Threatens Our Very Survival.
John Zangas, An Iceberg the Size of Delaware Just Broke Off From Antarctica (Video). An Iceberg the Size of Delaware Just Broke Off From Antarctica (Video).

Articles and papers from authors


Day data received Theme or issue Read article or paper
  June 15, 2017
Revisiting Capitalism.

by Prithiraj Dullay, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents.org


Capitalism is dead. Period. It can no longer serve humanity without destroying the world. As an economic system it is essentially bankrupt. All the lies and all the shoring up of the lies are not going to make a difference to the truth: pursuit of the path of Capitalism means doom not only for the poor of the world, but for all of us on Planet Earth.

Tragically, South Africa has enthusiastically bought into the Capitalist dream, which is turning into a nightmare. Goaded along by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the gurus of the West, we sold out the revolutionary dreams of economic independence for the mass of South Africans and purchased our place in the train of globalism. We sold out! We had this once-in-a-lifetime-moment to advance the cause of a down trodden people and a continent that has been for centuries dismissed as a “nothing-ness”. Thanks to those who had been seduced by the embrace of the US, the UK and Europe, that we live in a democracy that is being more known for its huge chasms of unbridgeable disparities. Quietly, we excluded the masses of the poor so that at their cost, we could create selected “struggle-istas” who owned not a penny before 1994, into millionaires and billionaires! How has that been possible? I sense a betrayal here. Somebody sold out, so that while we have flag independence, we have no economic independence. A small, Black elite has been accommodated within the essentially White economy, so that while the not insubstantial crumbs were handed out to a few, the majority of South Africa of colour was held at bay. This was “shut up” payment: “Don’t rock the boat, we will bring you on board, so that you too can share the goodies”. And so the new Black elite joined forces with the White elite and sharpened, not the racial composition of our economy, but its class divisions. Colour was to play little role in the new conspiracy of class. The working class and the peasants of the classical divides were the sacrificial lambs.

10 000 protests over the past two years bear testimony to the resilience of our democracy, but more importantly, point in the direction that there is something fundamentally wrong in the beloved country. The people have sensed that the contract between government and the people has been broken and that the interests of the people have been submerged in the service of the few. We ask that the forces that be, to heed our words, so that we will not reap the whirlwind in the very near future. The people are angry and feel betrayed. There is still time to mend the fences and to withdraw from the commitment to a prostitution of the South African revolution.

Let us examine the basis of Capitalism so that we can clearly understand that as an economic system it is doomed to failure. The fundamentals that inform the system are:

~ dependence on ever expanding markets ie. that there will always be new peoples to entice to buy their products and services and to sell replacements to the converted;

~ that there will always be resources on the planet to exploit.

There is a shunning away from the fact that the global market is drastically shrinking and that the exploitable resources of the earth are finite (limited). Soon the oil will be exhausted, as will be the gold and coal and possibly, even water. Hundreds of years of unsustainable harvesting (plunder) of Earth’s resources mean that the resources are depleted, or nearly so.

Even more importantly, Capitalism has not even begun to fathom that the old world order that ushered in its birth has radically changed so that it is unrecognizable today. Here are a few realities that face the planet in the new millennium (there are more):

~ The Earth’s resources have dwindled and many have already been depleted;

~ There are no more “foreign” markets to conquer;

~ That uncaring Capitalist and Communist exploitation has resulted in devastation of large tracts of the Planet, through pollution, sheer greed and stupidity;

~ That the Planet is beginning to respond with ever greater displeasure in the form of tsunamis, hurricanes, massive flooding, earthquakes, landslides and ominously severe weather patterns.

~ That because Capitalism is based on permanent expansion, it is decidedly unsustainable and more correctly, destructive.

In the past few months South Africans have discovered that Capitalism simply gives a damn. Price fixing/ collusions, secret deals and a kind of Mafia-like brotherhood make the corporate sector’s sole interest the improvement of its bottom line. The rest be dammed! Whether people starve as a consequence of their actions is of little concern to this sector. All that matters is profit at all costs.

The current global economic depression and melt down, the worst in world history, is not yet over. The world’s banks have taken all of us for a ride on a roller coaster that is out of control and world governments are actually pumping trillions of dollars into saving the banks who precipitated the crisis in the first place! My little brain tells me that a fraction of that sum should be pumped into a serious examination of economic alternatives to the present “casino economics”. Surely, the reality of what is happening must raise worrisome questions of the sustainability of an economic system that is horribly bankrupt.

So what do we do? If both Capitalism and Communism are similarly uncaring, where do we turn to? If you are looking to me to provide an answer, I have no glib “-ism” that will be a panacea. It will require incisive and original thinking. It must be acknowledged that the world is faced with the combined destructive impact of an impoverished majority struggling to remain alive and an affluent minority consuming resources to excess. This is a recipe for disaster as it will lead to the destruction of the planet. I can attempt to provide the guidelines that such a new system can incorporate and even here there may be shortcomings:

~There is great urgency that all countries reconceptualise their policies and actions with respect to their impact on world ecology and economic development;

~ The new system has to be based on sustainability. We are merely the custodians of the Planet during our lifetime. We hold it in trust for future generations. Over exploitation will mean the depletion of resources for our grandchildren and the unborn generations.

~ A full scale exploitation of renewable and non-polluting sources of energy such as solar, wind, wave, hydro and biogas, geo-thermal heat to replace oil and fossil fuels.

~ Analytical global thinking that forgets the “bottom line”; one that transcends borders and sees the Planet as one ship carrying many diverse passengers.

~ The profit motive has to be addressed within the context of a globalised world, viz. that one part of the world cannot be exploited for the benefit of another,  usually richer part. There will have to be an equitable distribution and sharing of resources.

~ The world will have to learn to live with less and adopt simpler lifestyles.

~ Lifestyles that incorporate mass consumption and the generation of mountains of waste must change to accommodate new realities.

~ Recycling must change from being optional to being compulsory.

~ Our education systems must eradicate “predatory” teaching and programmes and replace these with planet and human friendly systems; those that will emphasize and generate a deep respect for the inter-connectedness of all life.

The thing that alarms me greatly is that we have so little time to begin to change the world. We can begin by making a change right here in South Africa and network with similar groups across the globe. The saying that: “There is always something new that emerges from Africa” is true now than ever before. Let us show the world that a new economic order is not only possible but that it is imperative.

We really have no choice. I am no alarmist. It is change or slowly die! We either see ourselves as part of that great human family with a need to work out strategies for our common survival or we will perish together. Capitalism has misled the world. Its time for it to move over and make place for new and truly globalised thinking, informed by common sense. The writing is not just on the wall. It is up there in bright neon lights.

P R Dullay is a political, social and environmental activist

  Read  Revisiting Capitalism
  June 15, 2017
What On Earth Is A Human Being?

by Satya Sagar, in Life/Philosophy, Countercurrents.org


This article is based on a presentation made at a conference on 13 June, 2017 in Rosario, Argentinatitled ‘Madre Tierra: Una Sola Salud” or  “Mother Earth: Only One Health”

Many years ago when my daughter was just eight years old she sprung a surprise question on me. ‘Papa’, she asked, ‘who are we and where does everything in the Universe come from?’

Not a light theme to tackle any time of the day and certainly not just before she was supposed to go to sleep that night. I was desperate to come up with a short but clever answer and I said, “Well, you and me lying on the bed here right now are both bacteria in the stomach of a giant monster’.

Her response was of course one of great skepticism. ‘Oh yeah?’ she snorted before falling asleep. She was young, but obviously not stupid.

It was I who kept awake for hours that night wondering, ‘What if my answer was the correct one?’ How do I really know I am not a bacteria in a monster’s tummy?’

Honestly, even today I don’t really have the right answer as it is a conjecture I cannot prove, but cannot disprove either. The entire episode however helped give me a sense of perspective about who we humans really are – in terms of the scale of things in the Universe.

From the viewpoint of a bacteria for example the human body would appear to be an entire planet or even a solar system on its own. The bacteria has no idea that there is a human body at all with its various organs and functions. As far it is concerned it is trying to survive on a vast open terrain with mountains, forests, rivers, deserts and the sky itself.

Now if we look at the human body from the perspective of our planet or the Universe it is obvious that we ourselves are really microscopic. For Mother Earth we are the microbes. So, the human being is thus both planet and microbe at the same time, depending on who is looking!

Which brings me to the central theme of this presentation. What on Earth are human beings really? What are we made of and how are we related to everything else in the world around us? Where did we come from and where are we going?

These questions are not new at all and have been asked by philosophers, theologians and the lay public for millennia. The answers to these questions- different in every era of history –  are important because they define how we approach everything around us – law, governance, economies, culture and of course concepts of health and medicine.

The answers are not as obvious as most people assume they are. They are always in for a surprise as from time to time the continuous accumulation of knowledge and human experience challenges everything they think they know about the world and themselves.

What is interesting today is that,though the details are different, in the answers to these questions emerging from modern science the perspective merges with many of the world’s spiritual and religious philosophies. It turns out that everything on Planet Earth is not just deeply interconnected and part of larger ecological cycles but every fragment also contains within itself the entire Universe.

Traditional Vs Modern

A little digression about the debate between categories like ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ is due here as these are a source of much semantic confusion. For example, while traditional and modern 20th Century medicine are often painted as being diametrically opposite to each other the truth is more complicated. What is called ‘traditional’ today was essentially ‘modern’ yesterday and the rapid changes in human understanding of medicine will make today’s ‘modern’ knowledge ‘traditional’ tomorrow.

There is much continuity between the two knowledge systems than is generally acknowledged. A lot of modern pharmacology for example is based on traditional medicine’s experiments and information over the centuries about the utility of plant and animal extracts in treatment of various ailments.

Where modern medicine does score over traditional medicine is in the field of surgery, with the latter not offering such an option at all. Modern medicine is also more systematically organized and documented than traditional medical systems, giving it the advantage of easier replicability – though this by itself does not prove it is better or more effective in any other way.

There is one however one important difference between traditional and 20th century modern medicine, where the former is distinctly superior.  Traditional medicine correctly views the human body as a porous, open-ended system, constantly affected by a wide variety of ecological factors. The ancient Indians, Chinese and Greeks for example believed that the body was a self-generated combination of the five elements: earth, water,  fire,  air and  space or aether.

Modern science, with its more analytical methods, focuses on breaking the body into its various components and studying the parts in isolation, often down to the molecular and even sub-atomic levels. This method brought great insights into the functioning of the human body, our understanding of disease and development of new methods of treatment, but missed out on the big picture of how we are interconnected with other species or even the elements of Mother Earth.

Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease  two centuries ago was a major advance in our understanding of the human body as it rightly linked infectious diseases to the actions of other living species, using the newly discovered microscope. However, given the intellectual and political climate of Europe at that time, an era of warring nation states fighting for territory, it mistakenly evoked the metaphor of war, with the notion of a pure and pristine human body being invaded by ‘bad’ bacteria. All that was needed was strong medicine and methods of hygiene to keep the trespassers out  – dispelled like enemy soldiers or illegal migrant labour – and everything would be well.

When antibiotics were discovered, they became the ‘magic bullets’ that could instantly dispel these bacterial invaders forever. Today with the rise of antibiotic resistance, we realize there is something wrong with the way we have imagined the human body and its relation to the bacterial world.

Over the last decade the rise of microbiome research has brought spectacular insights about the role of invisible microbial species in the evolution and functioning of our bodies. It turns out bacteria, popularly perceived as dangerous, disease-causing agents are like an organ of the human body and essential to the survival of all life forms on Earth. Bacteria are responsible for everything from the functioning of our human cells to the regulation of oxygen in our atmosphere. Our planet is ultimately a planet of the bacteria, with human beings a very recent arrival and with a very uncertain future.

Denying the Ecological Cycle

With the emergence of the new religion of ‘progress’ and ‘development’ in the nineteenth century, a big casualty in our understanding of the human being, was the erasure of the idea that we are individually and collectively part of larger ecological cycles of birth, death and renewal. In other words, that we are clearly perishable, biological goods.

Historically, many philosophers from Pythagoras to the Buddha had seen the human body as  part of an eternal cycle of nature. Indigenous people around the world saw themselves as the children of Mother Earth – brought to life by Her in birth and taken back into Her arms through death. Even the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a central tenet of Christianity, is a metaphor for the concept that nothing ever lives or dies permanently, it transforms constantly from one state of being to another.

Through industrial technology and new resource management systems, however societies have attempted to turn these cyclical processes common to all living organisms into a straight, linear path in the pursuit of endless consumption and illusory immortality.The traditional wisdom that viewed resources involved in these cycles as finite was also jettisoned, replacing it with the false promise of infinite abundance.

As far as the human being was concerned, around the time of the industrial revolution in Europe –the body was viewed as a stand-alone machine, that could be repaired at will through technical or chemical interventions. The ailing human organ needed to be isolated and treated, if necessary surgically removed and replaced too. Disease was viewed as a defect threatening an otherwise perfect device.

This approach became dominant as it also fit very well into the new economic, political, social and cultural trends that emerged with the industrial revolution. Engineering, the technique of manipulating dead objects became the most prestigious among all knowledge systems and the cold but predictable, efficient machine was celebrated as humankind’s greatest achievement.

This together with the fact that in the modern economic system, the mechanical time of the clock became equated with money, the human body could not be given the luxury of operating according to the rhythms of biological and ecological time. Together with biology, culture, spirituality took a backseat and and the long term health of both humans and the Planet Earth were sacrificed at the altar of the modern economy and lifestyles.

Reconnecting with Nature

The biggest challenge to this atomized and mechanized view of human beings came over a hundred and fifty years ago from Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. It connected the human being back to all other species and the history of the planet itself. Evolutionary theory also highlighted the dynamic nature of life and the role of environmental factors, including chance, in shaping our health and well-being.

Half a century ago, the discovery of DNA, as the common building blocks of all life and responsible for passing on biological characteristics across generations, also consolidated the idea that all living organisms are born to a common ancestor.

Thanks to the evolutionary process of inheriting characteristics and traits from successive generations there are an enormous amount of traits that humans and animals share. Everything from eyes, jaws, nervous system, heart, lungs and so on had precursors in other species before coming to us, particularly life forms that emerged in the oceans. All organisms also share a similar genetic machinery and certain biochemical processes common to their metabolism.

While chimpanzees are the closest living species to humans, sharing 98% of our genes, the common mouse has 92% percent of our genes. Even the rice we eat has 25% of our genes – eating rice is almost like eating a distant cousin! In that sense what we do when we consume or destroy any other species is also a form of cannibalism or at least fratricide. There is nothing inherently right or wrong about this process as this is how we have evolved and historically we are also meant to be eaten by other species[1].

The question we need to ask really is  while we human beings have taken generously from Mother Earth, what have we given back in return, except toxic wastes? While for a very long time we could never consume more than what Nature could replenish, for a couple of centuries or more now we have been literally eating the future of the Planet itself. The process of taking endlessly without concern for the world around us lies at the heart of our multiple problems today.

Born of the Earth

In more recent decades new research in origins of life studies, geology, environmental science and evolutionary biology has once again challenged the assumption that we know who we really are. It turns out that our ancestry is linked not just to the first single cell bacteria but also to its precursors such as retroviruses and the various inorganic minerals and elements that played a critical role in the emergence of  the fundamental processes of life.

The traditional human belief in the sanctity of soil is today being validated in science by new research that shows that the ubiquitous clay[2] all around us, could have provided the scaffolding for the formation of the first forms of life and living cell on our Planet[3]. Other ideas being investigated  include the possibility that life may have begun in the hot environment around hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.

Overall, the origins of life in the ocean, amidst volcanic activity and the critical role of clay and minerals explains the composition of the human body today. We human beings are made up of or made possible by the same basic elements that constitute our planet and rest of the Universe.

Roughly 96 percent of the mass of the human body is made up of just four elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, a lot of that in the form of water. The remaining 4 percent of our body is made up of over 60 elements from the Periodic Table, very small in quantity but critical to the maintenance of life[4]. These nutrients perform various functions, including the building of bones and cell structures, regulating the body’s pH, carrying charge, and driving chemical reactions.

We are in other words, a miniscule replica of Planet Earth itself, with geology playing as big a role in our existence as biology. What we do to the Earth through our various activities ultimately affects our bodies and its well-being – there is no escape.

The Anthropocene Age

The human being, like all other living organisms, has been in search of physical security but unlike other species has been spectacularly successful. The last 10,000 years of our Planet’s history has been part of the geological epoch called the Holocene, a period when the Earth’s climatic conditions have allowed a great expansion of human civilization. The coming of settled agriculture ensured a steady supply of food to human societies enabling them to move from being nomadic tribes to city and town builders.

This process brought great stability to the lives of millions of people but it came at a great cost to other species on the Planet and also us as individual human beings. With change in habitat, diet and lifestyle new diseases and ailments too emerged. In more recent times, our activities have created a grave threat to the survival of our own species as well as others.

The impact of human intervention in the Earth’s metabolism over the last ten millennia has been so significant that this period has been renamed the Anthropocene age. The release of carbon dioxide, methane and sulphur dioxide in large quantities through industrial and also agricultural activities has initiated climatic processes that would normally have taken thousands, if not millions, of years to happen on their own.

Suicide by Development

Global warming however is only the most explicit symptom of what is really wrong with the world. Today, the richest 1% own half of the world’s wealth, and the richest 50% own over 99% of the world’s wealth[5].  62 billionaires own the same amount of wealth as 3.5 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world’s population.

The net result of such concentration of wealth is that the people at the bottom of the hierarchy are unable to live up to even their normal biological potential – a fundamental right that all human beings are born with. For example:

  • Two billion people in the world suffer from various forms of malnutrition[6]. Malnutrition is an underlying cause of death of 2.6 million children each year – a third of child deaths globally.
  • Undernutrition accounts for 11 per cent of the global burden of disease and is considered the number one risk to health worldwide.

Resources essential for the sustenance of life are depleting at an alarming rate. 85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet and 83 million people do not have access to clean water. Almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation[7]. 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.

We have also poisoned the air we breathe to a point where it is estimated that more than 2 million premature deaths can be attributed to indoor and outdoor air pollution[8]. On top of all this is of course the spread of toxics through activities such as mining, production of industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals  that has significantly impacted food safety and increased the health risks for all species on our planet.

Planetary Health

While the environmental movement and indigenous people have championed such a concept for long, in recent years the link between the health of individuals and Mother Earth is being recognized in more formal and mainstream circles too.  In 2015 the Lancet together with the Rockefeller Foundation, put together a Commission to elaborate on the concept of Planetary Health[9].

In its first report the Commission clearly points out that the continuing degradation of natural systems threatens to reverse the health gains seen over the last century. According to the Commission[10] the world’s trajectory of economic growth has failed to account for future health and environmental harms over present day gains, and the disproportionate effect of those harms on the poor and those in developing nations.

There is today a consensus building up that given the dependence of human well-being on planetary health the future or our world depends on sustaining Holocene-like conditions, such as a stable climate, clean air, a protective ozone layer, thriving biodiversity, and healthy oceans. This is in turn linked to addressing the deep inequalities—of income and wealth, of exposure to risk, of gender and race, and of political power—both within and between countries.


While we are indeed made up of the material elements of the Earth, human beings are not only about dry facts and scientific truths. Human consciousness and culture are very big drivers in the evolution of human societies, facets that define us as creatures willing to rise above our material needs and selves again and again in the pursuit of the common good.

At the same time our consciousness is also the seat of deep-seated anxieties that drive our decisions and actions on a day to day basis. Our search for permanent security  and predictability and the need to master or control Nature, it seems, has turned the world into the most dangerous and uncertain place. The more we protect ourselves at the cost of other living organisms in nature, the faster we are bound die.

It is time to step back, reflect and ask again and again the questions:  who or what exactly are human beings, how we should live in this world and where we should go?  We are today at one such moment in human history where these questions need to be asked afresh and with a completely open mind – for this time the very survival of the human species may lie in getting the answers right with great honesty.

Satya Sagar is a microbiome pretending to be a human being. He can be reached at sagarnama@gmail.com

[1]This is relevant to the beef controversy in India.

[2] Anderson, Robert S.; Anderson, Suzanne P. (2010). Geomorphology: Tuhe Mechanics and Chemistry of Landscapes. Cambridge University Press. p. 187.

[3]Clay is technically defined as soft, loose, earthy material containing particles with a grain size of less than 4 micrometers and formed as a result of the weathering and erosion of rocks containing the mineral group feldspar over vast spans of time. Feldspar, which forms around 40% of the Earth’s continental crust, is a typically colorless, rock-forming mineral consisting of alumino-silicates of potassium, sodium, and calcium.

  Read What On Earth Is A Human Being?
  June 18, 2017
Othering To Ouring – Man, Environment And Society.

by T Navin,in Environmental Protection, Countercurrents.org


Does benefit for the people and the planet conflict with each other? This is the question which arises when one looks atcurrent state of debate between environment and people. An environmental program can have beneficial effects in addressing climate change. Plantation based climate change interventions aims to increase the tree coverage both within and outside forests, villages, roads and riverside. Theoretically, increase of tree coverage has beneficial effects on people. It contributes to carbon sequestration.  Increased tree coverage reduces the water run off. It increases moisture in the soil. Underground water aquifer’s get recharged.  The pace of increase of global temperatures is reduced. Potential threat to the planet – biodiverse species, small islands, and coastal locations are reduced.

Planet needs to be protected. Human life is a product of evolution of life on earth. Human life is not independent and separate from the planet but a part of it. The relationship of human species with nature and all life forms is that of interdependence, though man has come to assume their life to be superior to all other life forms. This sense of superiority has led to the thinking that exploitation of planet is quite fair. The natural sense of superiority of humans to nature and all other life forms has led to actions which are based on the assumption – that nature is just a material form which needs to serve the human needs. These need to be exploited, transformed in a manner which ultimately serves human materialistic desires. While ‘humans’ are materialistic in the sense they are by themselves a product of material and are a material themselves – ‘commodification’ process creates a consumption lifestyles and new challenges.

It is the process of ‘othering’ which leads one to assume a sense of superiority and exploit others. Man and Environment are considered different. Environment is considered as the ‘other’ from ‘people’. This provides a legitimacy to exploit environment. Nature destructive activities get undertaken. The sense of superiority is found in society too – whites against blacks, upper castes against lower castes, rich against poor. The same goes with nature. Assuming a sense of superiority leads to exploitation of nature by humans. Just like blacks are assumed to serve whites, lower castes are assumed to serve upper castes, poor are assumed to serve rich – in a similar manner nature is assumed to serve human beings.

Assuming a sense of superiority while has short term benefits for few life forms or human beings has long term destructive effects. The process of ‘othering’ and assuming that some are made superior than others, rejecting the idea of interdependence between people, between people and the environment leads to the belief that some are meant to serve and others to be served, the served need to subsume to those who serve. This sense of higher and lower, superior and inferior based on a certain identity leads to exploitation within society and the environment.

A counter process ‘our-ing’ instead of othering can create this process of change. This process can lead to the acceptance that both nature and society consists of diverse natural and social forms. In this diversity – none is superior or inferior to each other. Each is an independent and interdependent entity which needs to co-exist with a sense of cooperation in order to survive. Natural divisions need to be respected – but these are not division based on one against the other, but of each one cooperating in a sprit of ‘our’.

This process of ‘our-ing’ can occur through acceptance of a philosophy which believes that humans and nature are dependent on each other and so do humans. In this process of interdependence, none is superior or inferior to the other. Accepting this basic philosophy can prove to be a radical solution, challenging the humanity. Destruction of environment and natural life forms can end. Exploitation of man against man, man against nature can stop.

Hasn’t the time arrived for ‘human’ to give up the cultivated belief of his superiority over nature, accept the truth of inter-dependence, the need for cooperation in this process of rejecting ‘othering’ and accepting ‘ouring’? The same goes within ‘society’ where artificial creations of ‘superiority’ are ended.

T Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher. He did his M.Phil in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

  Read Othering To Ouring – Man, Environment And Society
  June 25, 2017
We Don’t Want It! Don’t You Get It?

by Sally Dugman, in Environmental Protection, Countercurrents.org


Is the whole world sacred or, if you’re personally not religious enough to use the term “sacred,” worthwhile and NECESSARY to salvage? Are other life forms other than humans worthy to preserve? Do we need the holistic unity of us all to collectively survive, ourselves, as a species in addition to maintaining the world around us?

Do we need this large bountiful entirety that gives us life to survive? If so, we’d better watch out about the way that we treat other species and the complex lavish totality that extends beyond our own individually small human lives, which are so limited in space and time.

Yet no, apparently, we do not need much to protect our world except when using it to push ahead into a realm wherein we suck out wealth for ourselves, wherein around a half dozen humans have the billions of dollars in their families comparable to the amount that the bottom HALF of humanity use to try to stay alive. … Yeah get more, as much as you can for yourself! Capitalism at its best as we fight across the globe in resource wars for access to resources to suck them like a vacuum away from the world! … More for the ME, ME, ME as I have power, control, status and wealth! Wow, I’m successful and “special.”

Except for one aspect, I’d consider people who think like this as ultimate fools and strongly pity them for their paucity of beings – their emptiness, anomy, indifference and sense of lack of connection to everything other than their own self-foisting forward to accrue as much as they singularly can. Yet these people, who are like giant wealth vacuum cleaners, are too dangerous to the rest of us and the Earth as a whole to be mere ignorant fools. So they, dangerous to us rest, need thwarting.

Disgusting, revolting, outrageous beyond belief:

These 6 Men Have as Much Wealth as Half the World’s Population


Feb 20, 2017 – 17, the world’s six richest men had $412 billion. … Based on the same methodology and data sources used by Oxfam that number is now down to six.

Here’s another way to look at the matter:

Being timid about biodiversity loss has gotten us nowhere. Worse than nowhere—it’s brought us to the edge of immense biological extinction. … We’re living in a time when human activity is responsible for the loss of biodiversity at a rate not seen in 65 million years. And without decisive action, we’ll lose as much as 50% of the Earth’s biodiversity before 2050. – Asher Miller, Executive Director at Post Carbon Institute

Earth Will Cross the Climate Danger Threshold by 2036 – Scientific …


Apr 1, 2014 – Earth Will Cross the Climate Danger Threshold by 2036 … “Global warming ‘pause’ may last for 20 more years, and Arctic sea ice has already …. What would it mean if the actual ECS were half a degree lower than previously thought? … If the ECS is indeed 2.5 degrees C, it will make that goal a bit easier.

Emissions could make Earth uninhabitable – Climate News Network


Feb 27, 2016 – Emissions could make Earth uninhabitable … research could not only help with a deeper understanding of global warming and climate change …

Climate May Make Some Regions ‘Uninhabitable’ by End of Century


Mar 2, 2016 – Climate May Make Some Regions ‘Uninhabitable‘ by End of Century … The most dramatic changes can be seen in the Middle East and Southeast … That would include a 2015 study co-authored by Earth Institute scientists …

“Climate May Make Some Regions ‘Uninhabitable’ by End of Century” … Oh yeah: “ may make some regions uninhabitable by century’s end”??? Hey, how about now in Somolia, South Sudan, and elsewhere? … Scary? You bet! … Don’t believe me about it being scary. Just ask the mother of the child who died from lacks of basic nourishing substances in Yemen. … You want to see him? Here, look:


Don’t like that thought? … So let’s work across the globe to tackle the problems one by one since we can’t accept where we’re going as a world in ruination…Now, I’ll play Devil’s advocate since I want to take it one step forward: What if this were your first and only child? What if this were your grandchild?

No, we do not want it. Do you get it? … “NO” in our clear, loud conjoined voices from across the globe to an energy grid in Iceland that destroys the natural world on which we depend: björk calls for global action to prevent destruction of iceland’s highlands 0:55 minutes.

No, we do not want it. Do you get it? …We do not want federal and state natural parks, other pristine natural areas and communal properties in India, USA, across Europe, in AU and every other continent ruined by exploration for and ravage of resources by major corporations at the request of our individual governments.

Trump Orders Review of Protected Federal Lands – NBC News


Apr 26, 2017 – Trumps Signs Executive Order to Review National Monuments, Protected Lands 1:24 … Bear Ears National Monument, with Canyonlands National Park in … Once you destroy these types of resources, these habitats, these …

Excerpted: Bears Ears “was the first opportunity that American citizens had for Native American tribes, not one tribe, but five with support from other federally recognized tribes, asking to preserve and protect this land,” Shaun Chapoose, chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee told the Salt Lake Tribune and other publications in a recent conference call. “This is troubling for all Americans. Once you destroy these types of resources, these habitats, these places that are untouched, you can never go back.”

Republicans Want to Destroy Our National Parks–It’s Up to Us to Save …


Mar 31, 2017 – Those lands include National Park Service-managed parks and programs that … Trump instituted a federal hiring freeze, preventing nearly 500 …

No, we do not want it. Do you get it?  … We do not want your damned pipelines destroying our waterways from which we get drinking water for many millions of people and other species. We don’t want you destroying our lands and the people living on them.

Nope, we don’t want your doing tests for oil in the Atlantic Ocean, tests that destroy the hearing and, in some cases, lives of many whales, dolphins and other creatures.

Trump proposes seismic tests for Atlantic oil drilling | TheHill


Jun 5, 2017 – Trump proposes seismic tests for Atlantic oil drilling … air guns to search for oil and gas reserves beneath the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.


split photo of a humpback whale breaching and a humpback whale and calf under water.

No, we do not want it. Do you get it? … We don’t want you culling the whole Earth for treasures to enrich your company coffers: Mining the Bottom of the Ocean Is as Bad for the Environment as it …


Aug 7, 2014 – Metals and materials are the foundation of our life, but with seven billion … Nautilus Minerals, an industry leader in deep sea mining, have already … Nets and trawls destroy the delicate structures of feather stars, urchins, sea …

Don’t you know that our oceans and the coral beds, nurseries for ocean life, are dying off  bit by bit and year by year? Look straight-on at the bleaching and the death:


Great Barrier Reef to be dead by ’50?

The Oceans Can’t Protect Us Anymore—Here’s Why


Sep 5, 2016 – Our waters have borne the brunt of global warming for decades, but dying corals, extreme weather, and plummeting fish stocks are signs that it …

Yes, yes, we also know that refurbishing and building our wind turbines, as well as our solar panels, as well as their refurbishing to continue to work in centuries ahead takes rare minerals, metals and so on. Yet, so what if we lose these boons too, as sources of energy? At least we’ll still have a world intact on which to dwell. So no, we do not want it. Do you get it?

Sir Hyde now sent me to see what was the matter between decks, as there was a good deal of noise. As soon as I was below, one of the Marine officers …

Deep Sea Canyon Rangers, Guardians of Ocean Realms, Attack of the Solar Cell Mining Industry

Far out in the Atlantic Ocean, east of New York and Boston, beyond the continental shelf, beyond the deep sea canyons known as Hudson, Hydrographers, and Oceanographers Canyons, four seamounts arise ten thousand feet off of the abyssal sea floor: Bear, Physalia, Mytilus, and Retriever. Gnarly with much surface areas, seamounts are made of basalt rock with a remarkable porosity of 60%, a multitude of surfaces.

This very hard extrusive igneous rock sponges out of seawater rare earth minerals (cerium, europium, lanthanum, and yttrium) and high tech metals (tellurium, cobalt, bismuth, zirconium, niobium, tungsten, molybdenum, platinum, titanium, and thorium).  Standing deep in seawater for more than 40 million years, Atlantic seamounts have accreted onto fractal seascapes significant amounts of high tech metals.

The mineral mining eye of the solar cell industry has turned to these four Atlantic Ocean seamounts.   

As part of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument these four seamount are protected.

Yet, the current administration wants to close this ocean refuge, remove the marine monument, and release the wrecking ball of high-tech metal mining to destroy the unique assemblages of marine life living deep below the sea’s surface on Bear, Physalia, Mytilus, and Retriever Seamounts.

Nope, please don’t consider for a minute that when fossil fuels run out that another alternative, such as alternative so-called “clean” energy sources, can “save” us – not at our huge human number, number at 7.5+ billion at present. … So here’s a story, a true one, about something that can be helpful.

One of the mourning doves, a young inexperienced female, nesting in my yard lost her mate. Why? Who knows?

Maybe a hawk caught him midair in flight as a dinner meal. Maybe a motor vehicle ran him over and squashed him. Maybe he was a “dead-beat dad,” the type that engages in sex and disappears. Maybe something else happened to cause his disappearance. …

Who knows? In any case, he was gone. No more him on the scene.

So these birds know not to soil the nest. So once born, they stick their hindquarters over the edge of the nest to defecate outside of their dwelling place.

So this is what this new mother did since maybe birthing felt like defecation: She dumped her first egg out of the nest when she felt the urge to deliver as she had no seasoned mate to encourage her back into the nest when she felt the expulsion urge.

Plop it went. It landed on a branch a foot under the nest. It cracked on the underside despite a thick shell since the strike, with gravity in the fall, slightly busted it.

Then a few days later, a big fat black fly flew to it and ate at the crack. Then a gray squirrel came, mouthed the whole broken egg and carted it away.

She also laid two more. The second one went over the nest edge and landed on the ground under the tree where the nest was located and where ants and other bugs consumed the contents from it except for the amount that seeped into the soil.

Now the third egg, since she’d smartened up, was delivered in the nest and, after born, she fed this one baby until it could fly and be on its own with help from her sister, who’d come to visit. (Yes, I know the birds individually from their markings and their times of birth by which parents since their colorings and markings are unique, as are their beaks.)

Yeah, her sister came to babysit. Then the mother would go out to eat and collect food to partly digest and regurgitate into the baby’s mouth. Thus, it survived due to their two female joint efforts. (Can we survive due to ours, our joint efforts?)

Now, she, with her sister’s help, could manage one bitty child. Imagine if all three had lived. Impossible. … All three would have died since she didn’t have the ability for their care even with assistance from her sibling.

I was really sad about the two destroyed eggs at first despite that they provided food for other species. After all, the birds that they could have become are amazing and wondrous!

Then I smartened up since all three were too much for their mother and aunt. No way could they all have endured. So it was, actually, fortunate that two died early-on so as to become food. Otherwise, none would have lived.

Smartening up: Here’s a transmutation of this true bird tale:

It’s hypothetical, not real: Imagine me with one child in a drought stricken region. I have a shallow well with enough water provided daily to serve two for their needs.

Then five more people show up and ask for or threateningly demand water since they, too, are thirsty in this nearly water barren region. Then what for us all? … Am I supposed to divide up a few drops for us all, just as the mother bird would have had to do if all of her babies had survived in the nest?

Reminder: UN projects world population of 6.2 to 15.8 billion in 2100 with 10.1 …

https://www.nextbigfuture.com › Uncategorized

May 4, 2011 – The UN has a new world population forecast out to 2100 The current world population of close to 7 billion is projected to reach 10.1 billion in …

In real life, what can I say to the mother of five or more children in South Sudan, Somalia or elsewhere that stripped their resources out of place by having more children than their environs can serve? How could I help my bird if all three children had survived?

Have you room for displaced people in your region? Can you personally pay for their keep? …

UNHCR – Figures at a Glance


An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are …



We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.

An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

In a world where nearly 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution, our work at UNHCR is more important than ever before.

The above facts are outrageous and grievous to me. Yet I don’t want the displaced people here where I live.

How much more can we subsume more in terms of people in my region of the USA? I count my birds and butterflies as I watch the diminishment of them to be replaced by economic activity related to ever more people being present in my region and served.

Let’s face it. We’re a rapacious species like every other one. If you deny this fact, then just look at the meals on your plate (all of them in conglomeration) since the day that you were born. Combine the amount of animals and plants that went into your singular existence.

Not enough to do that. Add in all of the rest that you individually used in terms of clothes, shelter, other items, air travel and car travel, junk mail with our name on it derived from cut-down forests, energy, etc., etc.

Culpable, yeah! Yes, YOU!


One of Morton’s most powerful insights is that we are condemned to live with this awareness at all times. It’s there not only when politicians gather to discuss international environmental agreements, but when we do something as mundane as chat about the weather, pick up a plastic bag at the supermarket or water the lawn. We live in a world with a moral calculus that didn’t exist before. Now, doing just about anything is an environmental question. That wasn’t true 60 years ago – or at least people weren’t aware that it was true. Tragically, it is only by despoiling the planet that we have realised just how much a part of it we are.

Morton believes that this constitutes a revolution in our understanding of our place in the universe on a par with those fomented by Copernicus, Darwin and Freud. He is just one of thousands of geologists, climate scientists, historians, novelists and journalists writing about this upheaval, but, perhaps better than anyone else, he captures in words the uncanny feeling of being present at the birth of this extreme age.

“There you are, turning the ignition of your car,” he writes. “And it creeps up on you.” Every time you fire up your engine you don’t mean to harm the Earth, “let alone cause the Sixth Mass Extinction Event in the four-and-a-half billion-year history of life on this planet”. But “harm to Earth is precisely what is happening”. Part of what’s so uncomfortable about this is that our individual acts may be statistically and morally insignificant, but when you multiply them millions and billions of times – as they are performed by an entire species – they are a collective act of ecological destruction. Coral bleaching isn’t just occurring over yonder, on the Great Barrier Reef; it’s happening wherever you switch on the air conditioning. In short, Morton says, “everything is interconnected,” – From composition at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/15/timothy-morton-anthropocene-philosopher, which I recommend be skim-read in full.

Look, I had one child. She, in turn, had one. Yet we live in the USA where five percent of the world’s population uses fifteen percent of the energy used on Earth.

You think that I, personally, choose to use lots of energy to maintain a certain lifestyle? Guess again since I deliberately curtail myself to a bare minimum degree.

Yes, it’s about setting limits – limits in using up resources, limits in having children, limits in energy use, limits in participation in an economic system hell-bent to destroy the world to get more ways to get finances for companies by using people in factories for “stuff” that we don’t need, limits in consumption … limits in capitalism and economic madness writ large.

Here’s a wild-child, Björk. Watch her love, grieve for and honor the Earth. She’s of my kind, although my expressions are way more tame. … Each to our own way to show the direction forward that we MUST go.

Find your own way forward and work hard to bring it to fruition. Please join us each in our own manner of expression … as time is running out for us all! I desperately want this world intact for us and for other life forms in the future like my bird that was able to raise only one baby on her own.

I won’t live long more. I’m sixty-seven years old now, but my gaze is ahead. It has to be since this world matters. So I will help thrust us forward in right directions until I can no longer do so. … Do I personally have anything to gain from my outlook since I’m already comfortable materially?

No, my heart, for now, belongs to people of my ilk regardless of their mode of expression – i.e., if they are singers and performers, who prefer theatrical and dramatic forms of expression to get their points across.  … It does not belong to the many government bureaucrats, who self-serve (although not all do so).

Many in Congress invest in companies they’ll affect with votes

Exclusive: Investments give lawmakers personal stake in biotech, health care

Dec 1, 2015 – A STAT analysis finds dozens of members of Congress held assets … than in the defense and construction sectors combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Their investments in the sector topped $68 million.

14. Congress Invested in Defense Contracts – Top 25 of 2010

projectcensored.org/14-congress-invested-in-defense-contracts/ … chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, had at least $51,000 invested in defense companies

Here’s Why the Defense Industry Is Ecstatic About a President Trump …


Nov 27, 2016 – Supposedly, the job of the president and Congress is to rein in that … You won’t be surprised to learn, then, that the defense industry, always sensitive …. number of jobs per dollar invested as money lavished on the Pentagon.

India Expected to Lure More Foreign Investment in Defense Industry …


Jun 21, 2016 – Global defense companies expect foreign investment in India’s defense industry to accelerate after the government eased direct investment …

My heart, also, doesn’t belong to the sociopathic corpocrats in globalized industries, whose ultimate aim is profits for themselves and their companies, and whose many means include giving money to our government bureaucrats when the latter group work in their favor (such as when they open public lands to oil, mineral, timber, metal, etc., exploitation).

Do you think that these nasty folks really care about the public or environmental well-being? Ha – think again as they try to suck us financially dry by showing supposedly alluring commercials for their products after which they suck the world dry to get their products in place for us to snatch.

No, go away, corpocrats. I’d rather throw my lot in with a young singer, who fights like all get out in the way that she knows as a dramatic performer to protect us and our world. She is one with me despite that I find her a bit on the edge performance-wise.

You government lackeys and your corporate masters are not one with me. I shun you with full vehemence and full force of my being for your self-serving corruption at the expense of the rest of us.

So get out of our lives. …Really, I can’t reiterate this viewpoint enough! We Don’t Want It! Don’t You Get It?

If the above video is not enough to move a heart, then also check this next one out and fall in love with the world again. Then join me to protect this world with the fullest force of yourself that you can muster since we depend on its intact state to stay alive. So we need to, as much as possible, forego its demise in a forceful manner. … Please go past me as I’m old and getting older.

Time is running out and is of the essence. So join my friends of many species and my unified voices, our outraged screams, and thrust against corporatism and our governments supporting it, which is destroying us all!



I need you. I absolutely need you. Indeed I desperately need you to join my mourning doves, my eagles, my wolves, my fellow humans, my buffaloes and all the rest that composes our common intertwined lives. Please fight with me for our future to be better than our current perilous times show as our future to come.

I beg you. I’m not above begging when the stakes are so high. So you want me down on my knees? I’ll do it if needed by my little self since I just don’t want ruination to come into being for life after mine when done.

I have no self-gain for taking my stance. I’m sixty-seven years old and I’ll do just fine for the rest of my life since I’m okay financially. … but how about afterwards when I’m past, and turned to mere dust and bones?

That’s where my eyes are trained to the beyond, a place past myself and my own individual survival! … So let’s go harder to resist our current ravenous ways and find a new paradigm forward! (Poor future generations if we don’t rise up to the task to stymie our destruction of our world immediately right now!)

Apathy gets you nowhere. Instead it gets you something like this scary paucity:

Soylent Green – Wikipedia


Soylent Green is a 1973 American science fiction thriller film directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young. Edward G.

?Make Room! Make Room! · ?Soylent · ?Leigh Taylor-Young · ?Richard Fleischer

The Road – Wikipedia


The Road is a 2006 novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey of a father and his young son over a period of several …

Publisher?: ?Alfred A. Knopf

Publication date?: ?September 26, 2006

Pages?: ?287

Author?: ?Cormac McCarthy

The Road (2009 film) – Wikipedia


The Road is a 2009 American post-apocalyptic drama film directed by John Hillcoat from a screenplay written by Joe Penhall, based on the Pulitzer …

?Plot · ?Cast · ?Production · ?Release

… No, no, no. Please, no to the above potential horrific futures!

Let’s strive with all of our furious and conjoined might for another path forward than the ones depicted in “Soylent Green” and “The Road!” Please, oh so strongly please, join in the effort that we need to deliberately put forth to get there to a better alternative to these directly above ugly nightmares so they, such ugly places, are only left as dreams, horrid nightmares, and not something that people face in life day after day after we are passed away! … Help me, oh please, I ask with my total being, my whole self rising to be all that it can be in its fullness of self!

Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA.

  Read We Don’t Want It! Don’t You Get It?
  June 25, 2017
Solidarity With Earth And Humanity.

by David Sparenberg, in Life/Philosophy, Countercurrents.org


In the spring-early summer of my passage from 17 to 18 years old, Albert Camus helped to solidify my opposition to the war in Vietnam. Camus has never been far since then; a familiar recall to ordinary dignity and decency articulated with extraordinary clarity and courage. Now when I write about America, my words are tears. Every value held in my adult life is being systematically uprooted and trampled.

I believe we are in an early stage of every goodness human beings every dared believe in and which have nurtured and inspired the phoenix of humanity to rise again and again from ashes of the anti-human is in gravest danger.

We must face the truth of the challenge as it is before us. We must discover once more a bravery in solidarity to stand up and stand firm, even for the simplest, most everyday qualities that make it possible to recognize one another, acknowledging common ground and the condition of conscious mortality that sets specific terms on the universal human. To deny these terms has been and will again prove fatal. Initially there is confusion, followed by deception, then oppression, degradation, ultimately destruction.

The challenge then is this: if we do not stand, we fall and falling are at risk of being crushed. If we do not resist, we languish and wait to be conquered, whether the conquest is by arms or ideology. Thereafter when freedom is lost, let us ask now while asking remains possible, what will we have become?

The years are long but the vision is a short distance from Camus to the Paris Accord. Albert Camus is to be remembered and consulted; the Accord upheld and pushed through. I think about Camus advocating for solidarity-out-of-peace to work against humanity’s common enemies of ignorance, disease and death. I imagine the global possibilities to be worked together in the aftermath of achieving the primary goals of the Paris Accord. Let us ask here, with asking ripe before us; picnic basket, the Monet tablecloth, summer atmosphere, as handy props; what might yet come to be?

David Sparenberg is a world citizen, environmental & peace advocate & activist, actor, poet-playwright, storyteller, teacher and author.

  Read  Solidarity With Earth And Humanity
  July 1, 2017
After Peak Oil, Are We Heading Toward Social Collapse?

by Sally Dugman, in Resource Crisis, Countercurrents.org


Several years ago, Glen Sweetnam, director of the International, Economic and Greenhouse Gas division of the Energy Information Administration at the Department of Energy (DOE), announced that worldwide oil availability had reached a “plateau.” However, his statement was not made known through a major US mainstream media outlet. Instead, it was covered in France’s Le Monde.

One could assume that the US assessment of the oil decline was exposed through this particular publication perhaps due to some arrangement that Barack Obama made with Nicolas Sarkozy. (Maybe it is an indirect way to alert the French while keeping most Americans still in the dark on the topic, so that the latter bunch can ignorantly carry onward as usual. After all, no unsettling prognosis should disturb their slow return after the economic recession into shopoholic ways that keep the economy, particularly China’s, on which the US federal government depends for loans, going strong.)

All considered, there was not, as far as I know, even a ten-second blurb about Sweetnam’s message issued via newscasts in New England where I live. At the time of his declaration, their reports primarily covered ad nauseam a recent major flood again … and again.

In a similar vein, no reporter discussing the deluge dared to raise the point that worsening extreme weather is on the way with climate change consequences in the mix, along with oil’s relationship to these outcomes. Moreover, imagine the effect on the Dow or NASDAQ if Sweetnam’s estimation and a discussion of connected economic ramifications got splashed all over the news and across the USA.

Over the news and across the USA?

What exactly are the implications? In “Life After Growth,” Richard Heinberg, senior fellow in residence at Post Carbon Institute, stated, “In effect, we have to create a desirable ‘new normal’ that fits the constraints imposed by depleting natural resources. Maintaining the ‘old normal’ is not an option; if we do not find new goals for ourselves and plan our transition from a growth-based economy to a healthy equilibrium economy, we will by default create a much less desirable ‘new normal’ whose emergence we are already beginning to see in the forms of persistent high unemployment, a widening gap between rich and poor, and ever more frequent and worsening financial and environmental crises – all of which translate to profound distress for individuals, families, and communities.”

In other words, we collectively have to stop our delusions about perpetual economic growth and find another way to live from this point forward. We need to stop pretending that all is well because our myopic view of life shows no oil or other major shortfalls in the very near future. If we do not face up to the truth, the repercussions are clear.

Instead of an “ignorance is bliss” outlook, it’s markedly better to have long-range vision and see the coming monster so that meaningful preparations can be made. Scrutiny of the landscape behind and ahead, followed by timely adaptation, is required. A suitable response is preferable to someone or some group blindly sticking to the same old patterns that could have worked well in the past, but are no longer functionally viable. (Shortsighted government leaders trying to wring the last drops of oil out of the Earth to continue globalized commercial goals certainly provide a clear case in point.)

Certainly, reality does not conform to fanciful hopes and dreams regardless of the degree that they are compelling due to familiarity or any other reasons. A willful adherence to past choices and whimsies just won’t help under the circumstances. As John Adams suggested, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

At the same time, our current standard of living clearly is provided by our ability to burn through unimaginable amounts of fossil fuels, including an estimated 30 billion barrels of oil or more a year, whilst roughly 40 percent of global energy consumption stems from petroleum. Conversely, people without access to such rich energy sources, whether in developed or developing nations, rightfully equate prosperity and access to material goods with fossil fuel use.

After all, no “green” substitute can even come close to the energy density obtained by their derivatives. As such, Robert Bryce, managing editor of Energy Tribune and author of the fairly newly released “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy,” and the “Real Fuels of the Future,” pointed out in “Let’s Get Real About Renewable Energy” at online WSJ: “We can double the output of solar and wind, and double it again. We’ll still depend on hydrocarbons.”

In his view, the reason is that we can never, in a reasonable amount of time, reach the colossal scale needed to supply sufficient energy by alternative means. Likewise, “[renewables] cannot provide the baseload power, i.e., the amount of electricity required to meet minimum demand, that Americans want.”

At the same time, access to fossil fuels will increasingly be a major driver of small and large conflicts around the world with the biggest contenders – most notably the USA, China and Russia – using ever more forceful means to gain advantage over rivals. As such, the current Middle East and African wars are diminutive in scale compared to the contention that lies ahead.

In addition, the pending oil shortfall will cause products, services and food that rely on oil to skyrocket in cost. Moreover, petroleum derivatives serve as the foundation for fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, transportation of goods to markets, the majority of the grocery packaging operations (i.e., the manufacture of containers in addition to the bottling and canning processes, etc.) and, of course, operational farm machinery.

All considered, imagine just farms alone being run without sufficient oil. Would they be capable to supply enough food for over seven billion people without it? How will they provide for the nine billion to ten billion expected to be on the Earth in approximately 40 years?

Henry Kissinger stated, “Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.” However, he perhaps neglected to consider that our food and practically all industry and finance are deeply tied to energy and that, in turn, is tied to fossil fuels.

According to a Greenpeace USA report released some years ago, “‘Nearly 71 percent of US electricity comes from fossil fuels, including 53 percent from coal. Of the remainder, 21 percent is generated from nuclear power, 15 percent from natural gas, 7 percent from hydro, and less than 2 percent from other renewable sources.’ As a result of this energy mix, the US emits more than 2,500 million metric tons of C02 (MMtC02) every year.”

In addition, coal and gases that can be converted into power supplies are not endlessly abundant. So, in light of our energy dilemma, what can be expected in times ahead?

According to Thomas Wheeler in “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” “The consensus is the suburbs will surely not survive the end of cheap oil and natural gas. In other words, the massive downscaling of America – voluntary or involuntary – will be the trend of the future. We are in for some profound changes in the 21st century. The imminent collapse of industrial civilization means we’ll have to organize human communities in a much different fashion from the completely unsustainable, highly-centralized, earth-destroying, globalized system we have now.

There will need to be a move to much smaller, human-scale, localized and decentralized systems that can sustain themselves within their own landbase. Industrial civilization and suburban living relies on cheap sources of energy to continue to grow and expand. That era is coming to an end. One of the most important tasks right now is to prepare for a very different way of life.”

Nonetheless, Obama, Trump and their cohorts have recklessly decided to try to extend our period of dependence on oil for “business as usual” instead of using a significant portion of it, along with a lavish amount of federal funds, to establish a firm foundation for alternative energy provision and the massive, societal changes that are on the way. In other words, they are still trapped in an all-out effort to support globalized industry (including its offshored job market and gargantuan transportation network) instead of their preparing the public for post-peak oil lifestyles, in which human welfare and regionalized community development are emphasized.

Assuredly, facilitation of such a constructive switch would help America across the board. The reason is that the redirection of wealth away from horrific resource wars, macro-scale business and pernicious corporate bailouts toward the creation of robust decentralized economic bases would yield many benefits. The action could generate jobs, serve to protect the raw materials and the natural environments on which communities rely and curb fossil fuel use since many products would be created and used locally. It could, also, lead individuals and groups into gaining the necessary skills and understandings to create assorted merchandise, foster developments of co-ops and other innovative organizations like the cooperative Simple Gifts Farm in western MA, as well as strengthen the US economy at the grassroots level.

Moreover, their backing of transnational corporate agendas is plainly ruinous for environmental well-being and multitudinous societies across the globe. It, also, ensures that the most affluent class continues to make staggering financial gains at the expense of others. As such, many people face increasing deteriorating circumstances while, in tandem, their surrounding natural world falls apart due to resource plunder and environmental disasters.

As Bruce Sterling indicated, “No civilization can survive the physical destruction of its resource base.” Indeed, closed resource and energy systems have built-in limits to growth regardless of whether there are increases in population, resource consumption or energy demands.

The results of exceeding the constraints are undeniably clear. They include armed invasions and resource grabs from populations least capable to defend their assets and lands from aggressors, dwindling supplies of critical commodities as thresholds are reached and, ultimately, diminished economic gains, anyway.

All the same, any government employee who advocates for a cutback in energy use or globalized trade would be committing political suicide. He would, also, face a hostile public, including industrialists and farm owners, along with his being shunned by lobbyists and re-election campaign contributors alike.

Simultaneously, it is apparent that “revolving door” politics among corporate executives, politicians and bureaucrats with whom global-scale moguls sometimes collude do, in fact, exist and even lead, in some instances, to regulatory capture. The overall outcome from such a pattern is unchecked corporate exploitation, deceit and power mongering, during which time nations’ general populations become progressively destitute. Meanwhile, the über-class, without meaningful regulatory brakes on free market enterprise, obtains ever greater control over worldwide resources and the financial wherewithal to seize even more control over time.

Likewise, the overall arrangement leads to multinational business owners seeking ever-cheaper labor wherever it exists and even if it involves young children or unsafe practices, ever new consumers and an endless supply of raw materials from developing regions with lax (if any) conservation regulations. They, also, abandon countries in which coveted materials, when not already commandeered, are protected by stiff environmental laws. Concurrently, jobs continue to drain from nations if their standard minimum wages are not the absolute lowest to be found or there are no new stores of resources to tap.

In relation, Jan Lundberg indicated, in “The People of the Brook Versus Supermarket Splendor,” “Social relations are defined today by tolerance of tyranny: of harmful industrial profit schemes, unfair ownership of huge property holdings, and astronomical financial wealth. As soon as the post-peak oil house of cards topples, ‘new’ social structures will be (re)established. There’s a growing number of people already welcoming the end of false wealth’s tyranny and of civilized arrogance.”

Clearly, our choices in terms of the future that we want to create will in time be largely determined by limitations in oil and other resources. It stands to follow that we can either have a last-man-standing orientation in which only the most affluent and powerful people have lavish supplies of expensive energy and material goods or we can foster deglobalization, which leads into equitable sharing of resources, job creation, strengthening of community ties, assurance that local resource bases are not exceeded and creation of a social foundation that does not increasingly divide the world between the rich and the poor members of society.

The second option, also, protects against the sort of widespread financial collapse that occurs in the buoy model. In such an arrangement, a descending buoy, when additional buoys are hooked by a line to a sinking one, drags the others to some degree downward based on proximity wherein the ones having the closest connections are pulled down the most. Alternately put, guess what happens next when one’s own economy, assets, social well-being and so forth are precariously linked to declining partners. Is it a structurally safe arrangement?

All considered, it is easy to notice that some individuals and countries faring relatively well throughout the ongoing recession are ones whose economic foundations have been largely isolated from worldwide influences. Moreover, the nations mostly immune to the downturn tend to be oriented toward serving the needs of their own populations, have been largely regionalized in focus and generally have smaller, comparatively simple, manageable economies, as the US and other countries, in my opinion, should aim to duplicate as much as possible.

In the end, “Our country’s leaders have three main choices: Taking over someone else’s oil fields until they are depleted; carrying on until the lights go out and Americans are freezing in the dark; or changing our life style by energy conservation while heavily investing in alternative energy sources at higher costs,” according to Charles T. Maxwell. I would add to his perspective that our leaders and the rest of us must, in fairly short order, start creating self-reliant, ecologically healthy communities, ones that are durable and flexible so as to reasonably withstand difficult outside forces, such as lack of sufficient oil or, in the least, the crippling, post-peak oil prices that will come to pass. Only if we successfully do so can we avoid the most dire consequences from the severe deficits to come.

With the current peak-oil interval, we have a grace period when oil is still fairly inexpensive and abundant. At the same time, we cannot expect our government leaders to help society transition off of heavy oil dependence on account of their being controlled by “big business” interests. Therefore, it is up to average citizens to create the reforms that lead into localized economic and social development. If the enterprise is not actively taken in a timely fashion, the resultant chaos, as pointed out by Dmitry Orlov in “The Five Stages of Collapse,” will be unavoidable: The Five Stages of Collapse | New Society Publishers

Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA.

  Read After Peak Oil, Are We Heading Toward Social Collapse?
  July 13, 2017
What Does It Mean To Be Human?

by Sally Dugman,in Life/Philosophy, Countercurrents.org


I asked my employer yesterday about the way that he dealt with tragedy in life, especially since there is so much of it always erupting everywhere. He answered that he tries to find something of joy to celebrate in every day and tries to bring something good to others – other people, other animals and other life as a whole.

His response reminded me of my favorite part of this movie, which I saw shortly after its release many years ago. I recommend it to anyone, who wants to understand the mind of M. Gandhi and there are a number of cost free versions of it online. Here is one:


Gandhi (1982) Gandhi’s character is fully explained as a man of nonviolence. Through his patience, he is …

Gandhi (film) – Wikipedia


Gandhi is a 1982 British-Indian epic biographical drama film which dramatises the life of …. play the role of Gandhi. The choice was Ben Kingsley, who is partly of Indian heritage (his father was Gujarati and his birth name is Krishna Bhanji).


My preferred part of the movie concerned the anguish that a Hindu husband and his Hindu wife felt after they killed a Muslim child after a Muslim had killed their only child, a young son. Filled with almost unbearable grief over their own loss and their subsequent actions, they were beside themselves in anguish and guilt to the point that their lives were falling apart.

So they went to Gandhi and asked about whatever they could do to make everything as all right as possible under such dire circumstances that created such unendurable losses as they had both endured AND, then, perpetuated. They just couldn’t bear their painful situation any longer.

He replied that they needed to adopt a Muslim boy, who had been orphaned in the fighting. Then they were to raise him as if he were their own child … and they were to raise him as a Muslim. (How’s that as a way to promote communal harmony?)

Another narrative that I like about Gandhi came from my parents:

My parents knew the young American featured in the account during the 1940’s. As an aside, he was nineteen years old at the time of his return to the USA from India. …

After having lived at Gandhi’s ashram and shortly before his departure back to the US, a young man requested an exit interview with Gandhi (who brought his Hindi interpreter along). Upon meeting for this final time, the eager young man asked, “How can I ensure that your message of peace and universal brotherhood can be made a successful realization in America? What can I do to make certain that this WILL happen?”

In response, old Gandhi shakily rose to leave and answered the query in Hindi (despite that he could speak in perfect King’s Standard English as he had been trained as a lawyer in Great Britain). Meanwhile, the interpreter translated into English, “Interview is ended.”

The young man pleaded, “But why? What is wrong? I do not understand.”

Gandhi, turning back from leaving the room, replied, “It is because we are not speaking the same language. You see, you speak of success and think of failure. Your vision and your words are wrong… Instead, you must think of yourself and all of us as birth attendants upon the world. We will and must try to do our utmost to bring about a good delivery as it is our responsibility.

However, we, absolutely, cannot think in terms of success and failure. We simply must do all that we can in the best way that we know to help the world irrespective of any presumed outcome. Our effort, in and by itself, must be our whole focus.”

In a similar vein, we know where personally isolating ourselves from personal and global difficulties, while doing nothing to try to address them, leads. We, also, know where indulging in various forms of self-advancement, at the exclusion of others, does.

What we do not know, though, is the way that intentional changes in some life choices can make a difference. Nonetheless, we have to try out these alternatives. After all, it is the only viable way to proceed toward our world’s future!



We need to all rise up with courage of conviction across the world. If we do so, there is no stopping our momentum, as the Quaker pacifist Pete Seeger sang again and again to provide inspiration and an ever growing challenge to the status quo:


Pete Seeger sings We Shall Overcome. … no more Eric Garners, Mike Browns, Walter Scotts, Tamir Rices …

For years, I used to sing this above song as a child as it helped define my identity and ethics in my eyes. Indeed, my friends and I added verses to it, such as “we will end all wars,” “we will ban the bomb,” we’ll walk hand in hand,” and “we will end all poverty,” “we will stop all racism,” etc.

Using this song became a very powerful tool to fight bigotry, battles carried out by various religious or ethnic groups, government oppression, resource wars and so on when my friends and I would stand in vigil and mourn the dead, who were murdered in conflicts like the racial violence in the 1960’s and the Viet Nam War. It was our way of protest.

We’d link arms or hold hands and sway together in rhythm to the music at such sad gatherings. We simultaneously sang with great fervor and intention to bring about a new way forward for life against the unacceptable travesty against us all, and without our resorting to retaliatory violence.

These sorts of events brought very powerful moments of shoveling forward a song’s capability to bring about change. They pushed us ever more forward to define ourselves through resistance against wrongs and through love. They gave us heart and courage to ever carry onward even when events looked grim. Look at M. L. King, Jr., et al doing the same action with this song.

Why, the song grew so monumental as a seamless protest across the entire nation that we were collectively unstoppable as our numbers grew in singing this same song again and again. We could not be stopped!


So I recommend that this song be used across any land that is having conflicts amongst groups or between groups and their governments. This is because it is a very powerful way to bring and teach unity, as well as a sense of courage, purpose and conviction to the singers and song listeners alike. In short, it brings people together against the oppressors whomever they may be. It’s a potent stand-up against them without harming them in return for the slaughter or other grave wrongs that they already inflicted and may still continue to afflict. … Yes, we resist and won’t be stopped by your viciousness!


Heck, people can even make up their own new verses for the simple tune that the song has, such as “we will end beef ban” or “we’ll protect ALL people,” etc. Indeed, one is only limited by imagination for making up the new needed verse that fits a particular situation, such as the murder of people from other religious groups. So please take the lead from Pete Seeger and others:


Yes, please take this simple, caring song and use it anew in the same way that we previously did to build solidarity, an impressive amount of new strength in numbers as others joined our ranks upon their exposure to it and our monumental unity of purpose. Feel free to honor its rich history of prior helpfulness if you wish to do so as it was very affective as a means to gather support in the USA in the 1960’s, and it can be as powerful now as it ever was!

… and look at how much it was of value in terms of teaching unity in cause and reinforcing our shared values. Why, it became our slogan, a new national anthem of sorts. … No stopping us now with such a monumental song bringing us all together! The power of song lights a spark, and that can create a shared and huge spreading fire as more and ever more people are drawn out of apathy into its all-encompassing bright light! … Yes, yes, we shall come together in increasing droves to overcome!


In the end, it is up to each and every one of us to decide the type of world that we want to help create. What version of the future do we want? If we truly want it, what can we do to try to help it come into place? What will happen if we don’t try to help that birthing process of which Gandhi spoke to my parents’ friend to bring about a new and better world?

So what does it mean to be human? It means, in my thinking, someone putting in his best effort to revere and respect life by supporting it as my employer tries to do. Forget indifference or apathy. Forget leaving it to the next guy or gal to solve the difficult issues as a problem.

We can each add our part by singing a protest song or doing something else to improve the world around us. If we join together in this cause and link up as I learned to do in this song and related efforts, we will be unstoppable!

  Read What Does It Mean To Be Human?
  July 19, 2017
Perils Of Overpopulation.

by Vasudha Rao, in Resource Crisis, Countercurrents.org


The Guardian,UK. had a  suggestion for the battle against climate change“Want to fight climate change.Have fewer children .” 

This was  known already & yet, since this has been extensively researched in a scientific fashion, this makes for a few headlines. And yet, will it make us, the humans ( ? ! )  any wiser ? Highly doubtful..Weare  depleting natural resources at a faster pace than the speed with which they are  being  produced.And as population rises, because of copulating endlessly, extinction seems very near !

We  have got better at medical management. This means, that our average life spans have been rising, even in poor countries. Neo natal mortality rates have been falling worldwide. And yet, there are miles to travel, before population growth can stabilise. Many of us  humans think, that we are God’s gift to the world. So , we insist, on giving birth to mini versions of ourselves who transform into  monsters like us, too soon & how ! And then, burden the earth further. The cumulative effect of so many  of our follies  is making it nearly impossible for other living things to simply  exist. In fact, the term rakshas or demons was coined for humans only. It appears to be so, as humans have no control whatsoever, on their greed to use up or rather waste each & every bounty of nature. This leaves the plants & animals helpless. That’s why , we have floods, famines , etal. Wild animals come roaming around in urban & rural areas  Our actions of usurping all habitats for our selfish wants rather than needs, has led to this sorry state of affairs.

And yet, we seem remotely  interested in population control.Men particularly, Indian men , are notorious for avoiding    any device or method to rein in their raging libidos ! Because, they feel that adopting family planning methods ( temporary or permanent ) will reduce their virility.Though come to think of it, women in  India would be much safer, if that indeed would have been the case.   Women are forced to bear the burden of adopting temporary & permanent methods of planning families. This  reinforces, that the power to impregnate, without responsibility is an inherent, innate & inborn tendency of men. And this is on display, as rapes of females of all ages, have  been in the news,  almost on a daily basis !

Many   Indian women seem to opt for sterilization as the only family planning method. Nearly 68 % of 45 million women do not use any method of contraception. The rest, use traditional methods which are highly unpredictable.Though , many contaceptive methods are being added to increase choice, the switch has been slow.

In India , population growth seems to be slowing down. Despite this, India will get more populous than China by 2024. Progress has been extremely sluggish as family planning is like the holy cow  especially with the present regime ( pun  intended) because of forced sterlisations during the Emergency.

It has been  stated, that seven million girls die every decade in India. This is  because, many times, the girl is killed in the womb itself .By some luck, if the girl child survives, she is neglected so much ,that she dies  in the first five years.Sex ratios in India have been falling in every State, in India,  exceptKerela& Meghalaya. The discrimination is so rampant, that the second female child in a family is rare.

Educating girls & women has helped in slowing down population. This is true even for states like Bihar & Uttar Pradesh. In Uttar Pradesh, a rise of 16 % in female literacy has reduced fertility rate by 1.1 over aten year period from 2005-2006 to 2015-16.  Bihar has fared less better& yet, it shows that education is the key. Female literacy rose by 12% & consequently, fertility rate went down by 0.6.So girls need to be made literate so that they have control over their bodies & health. And this will transform into even lower fertility rates. All this, would lead to stablising of population.And even sex education needs to be imparted to prevent unwanted pregnancies ,etc.

Al Gore puts it so  succintly,”Population growth is straining the earth’s resources to the breaking point , & educating girls is the single most important factor  in stabilising that.That, plus helping women gain political & economic power & safeguarding their reproductive rights.”

Vasudha Rao is  a law graduate from Government Law College,Mumbai and a Fellow in General Insurance ( technical qualification for insurance ) .

  Read Perils Of Overpopulation
  June 7, 2017
Factory Farms Put Climate at Risk, Experts Say, Urging Health Officials to Speak Out.

by Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News, AlterNet


Roughly 200 experts in disciplines from nutrition to animal welfare are calling on the World Health Organization to take a more serious look at the impact of industrial livestock production on human health and the climate.

In a letter sent Monday, the group—which includes former New York Times food writer Mark Bittman and environmentalist Bill McKibben—appealed to the WHO, asking that its next director-general work "to reduce the size and number of factory farms." The WHO's World Health Assembly got underway Monday, and the body will elect a new leader this week.

"As the global health community acknowledges the intertwined nature of planetary and human health, it must also confront the role that factory farming plays in climate change," the letter says.

The group points to predictions that, without a reduction in meat consumption, agriculture—including livestock production and growing grain to feed livestock—is on track to gobble up half the world's carbon budget if countries expect to meet the 2050 target of limiting global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius. The livestock industry's contribution to greenhouse gases come from direct sources, including methane emitted from the animals belching and their manure, but also from indirect sources, including land conversion and deforestation linked to growing feed.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that agriculture, including livestock production, is responsible for 9 percent of overall greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) gives a higher global number, estimating that livestock production accounts for about 14.5 percent of all human-caused emissions, or about 7.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide or its warming equivalent.

Sara Place, who works on sustainable beef production for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said Monday that the letter's points about the impact of the beef industry globally misrepresents the U.S. beef industry, the world's largest producer.

"In the U.S., direct emissions from beef, in terms of methane emissions, was 1.9 percent of U.S. emissions," Place said, citing 2014 numbers from the EPA. "Transportation is 25 percent of our emissions. Numbers that are accurate at the global level don't necessarily apply to the U.S."

While short on policy recommendations and details, the letter suggests that advocacy groups and academics are going to push the issue at a global level.

"The letter highlights the interconnectedness of health, climate and meat consumption. They're overlapping issues," said Sunjatha Bergen, a food and livestock specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This is an issue that the WHO should look at."

Globally, meat consumption has increased over the past 40 years, particularly in developing countries as incomes have risen, according to the FAO. The letter points to data indicating that factory farms have served this increased demand, especially for poultry and swine—but it says this surge in production has come at a cost to health and the environment.

The group's primary focus is on the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance, which it calls a "major threat to global health." The WHO predicts that, globally, the use of antibiotics in animal production is expected to rise 70 percent between 2010 and 2030. Studies have shown that a rise in use of antibiotics that are medically important to humans is contributing to antimicrobial resistance, which can render antibiotics useless even against relatively minor illnesses. If current trends continue, the letter says, drug-resistant bugs could kill up to 9.5 million people a year by 2050.

The group also addresses the link between meat consumption and obesity and illness.  Last year, WHO issued a report that declared consumption of red meat to be "probably carcinogenic to humans" and processed meat to be "carcinogenic to humans." 

"The bottom line is that factory farm production isn't great for the climate, especially the disproportionate impact of red meat," Bergen said. "If we reduce demand, that will have a big impact on global warming. Even if they do it for health reasons, that will have a positive impact on the environment."

Bergen said a conclusion by the WHO wouldn't lead to any kind of enforceable policy.

"It's more the moral leadership," she said. "You take it seriously when they've weighed in."

This article was originally published by InsideClimate News. Read the original.

Georgina Gustin is a Washington-based reporter who has covered food policy, farming and the environment for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post and National Geographic's The Plate, among others. Follow her on Twitter @georgina_gustin.

  Read Factory Farms Put Climate at Risk, Experts Say, Urging Health Officials to Speak Out
 June 9, 2017
What Would Happen If Several of the World's Biggest Food Crops Failed at the Same Time?

by Anthony Janetos, The Conversation, AlterNet


Less than one-quarter of Earth’s total cropland produces nearly three-quarters of the staple crops that feed the world’s population – especially corn, wheat and rice, the most important cereal crops. These areas are our planet’s major breadbaskets.

Historically, when a crop failed in one of these breadbaskets, only nearby areas had to contend with shortages and rising prices. Now, however, major crops are traded on global markets, which means that production failures can have far-reaching impacts. Moreover, climate change is expected to generate heat waves and drought that could cause crop losses in most of the world’s breadbaskets. Indeed, failures could occur simultaneously in several of these key regions.

Top 10 grain-producing countries (5-year average, 2012/2013 – 2016/2017), based on 5-year USDA PS&D data. Brian Barker, University of Maryland, Author provided

Pardee Center postdoctoral scholar John Patrick Connors and I are using mathematical models to study the potential environmental and economic impacts of failures in multiple breadbaskets around the world. It is already clear from our preliminary work that this is a real, near-term threat.

The good news is that not all of these regions respond in the same way to shocks in other places in the world. Some could bring new land into production quickly, easing stresses caused by crop failures elsewhere. But in order to make global food systems more robust, we need to know more about the most damaging consequences of multiple breadbasket failures.

A vulnerable system

In the past several decades, many of the world’s major breadbaskets have experienced shocks – events that caused large, rapid drops in food production. For example, regional droughts and heat waves in the Ukraine and Russia in 2007 and then again in 2009 damaged wheat crops and caused global wheat prices to spike by substantial amounts in both years. In 2012 heat and drought in the United States slashed national corn, soybean and other crop yields by up to 27 percent. And yields of important food crops are low and stagnating in many countries due to factors including plant diseases, poor soil quality, poor management practices and damage from air pollution.

At the same time, many experts assert that world food production may have to double by 2050 to feed a growing population and satisfy rising demand for meat, poultry and dairy products in developing countries. Global agricultural production has risen over the past 50 years, largely fueled by improvements in plant breeding and more intensive use of inputs, such as mechanized equipment, fertilizers and pesticides. This trend has eased pressure to bring new land into production. But it has limits, especially in the developing world, where the need to produce more food has been a main driver of deforestation in recent decades.

High food prices and stagnant wages trigger riots in Egypt in 2008.

It is clear that rising demand, growing international trade in agricultural products, and the potential for weather-, climate- and soil-related shocks are making the world food production system less resilient. Global agricultural trade can mean that price spikes in one region, if they are severe enough, can be felt broadly in other regions. Minor shocks, on the other hand, could be lessened by trade and by using grain reserves.

There is increasing evidence that in very poor countries, food price increases and shortages can lead to civil unrest and worsen other social and political stresses. And more wealthy countries are not immune, given the concentration of world food production and the global nature of trade. For example, the Russian/Ukrainian heat wave referenced above led to spikes in food prices, not just in the price of wheat. However, more wealthy countries also typically have more ability to buffer price shocks by either using grain reserves or increasing trade.

Modeling potential shocks

How can we understand this risk and its potential consequences for both rich and poor nations? Programs already exist to provide early warning of potential famines in the world’s poorest countries, many of which already depend heavily on food aid. There also are programs in wealthier nations that monitor food prices and provide early warnings of price spikes.

But these programs focus mainly on regional risks, and often are not located in major food production areas. Very little work has been done to analyze risks of simultaneous shocks in several of the world’s breadbaskets.

We want to understand the impacts that shock events could have if they occur in the real world so that we can identify possible contingency plans for the largest-impact events. In order to do that, we have used an integrated assessment model, the Global Change Assessment Model, which was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy and is freely available to users around the world. Integrated assessment models have been designed specifically to simulate the interactions among Earth’s energy, economic and land use systems.

We have developed scenarios in which small shocks (10 percent crop loss) and large shocks (50 percent crop loss), averaged over five years, are applied to corn, wheat or rice in their major production regions, and then to all the combinations of one, two or all three crops in one, two or the top three production regions.

Flooding in October 2009 caused heavy damage to rice farms in Indonesia. NR-PH001 World Bank/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Unsurprisingly, our results to date suggest that large shocks have larger effects than smaller shocks, as measured in subsequent changes in land use, the total amount of land dedicated to agriculture and food prices. But more interestingly, not all breadbasket regions respond to shocks in the same way.

Some of these areas are quite unresponsive to shocks occurring elsewhere in the world. For example, the total amount of land in agricultural production in South Asia changes relatively little due to shocks elsewhere in the world, largely because most of the arable land is already in use.

But other regions are extremely responsive. Notably, Brazil has the ability to bring a lot of new land into production if large shocks occur elsewhere, because it still has a significant amount of potentially arable land that is not currently being farmed. However, this land currently is mostly forest, so clearing it for agriculture would add significantly to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and thus to global climate change.

Mapping risks

The Pardee Center has published a research agenda that discusses what we still need to know about these risks. Key questions include understanding the full distribution of risks, whether increased international trade can ameliorate risk and where the most responsive and the most sensitive regions are.

The ConversationUltimately, understanding and preparing for multiple breadbasket failures will require input from climate scientists, agronomists, ecologists, remote sensing experts, economists, political scientists and decision-makers. Mounting such an effort will be challenging, but the costs of failing to do it could be devastating.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Anthony Janetos is the Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future and Professor of Earth and Environment at Boston University.

  Read What Would Happen If Several of the World's Biggest Food Crops Failed at the Same Time?
  June 5, 2017
The Notion That We Must Dominate Nature Has Led to Widespread Devastation That Threatens Our Very Survival.

by Dr. David Suzuki, AlterNet


The notion that we must conquer or dominate nature has governed human behaviour for a relatively short period of our 150,000-year history on this 4.5-billion-year-old planet. It’s an understandable impulse. Our intelligence and foresight allowed us to develop complex societies, and gave us a sense of control over our existence in the face of powerful, often threatening natural forces.

Unfortunately, our lack of attention to the intricate and interconnected ways of nature has led to widespread devastation that now threatens the very systems that support human health and survival. We have become disconnected from our own true nature.

The more science reveals about the natural world, the more we learn what many indigenous peoples have long known: that everything is interconnected and interdependent — from the tiniest microbes to the largest carnivores, from plants that sequester carbon, prevent flooding and feed us to the carbon, hydrologic and other large cycles that keep the planet in balance.

There’s no going back to simpler times, but our survival does depend on respecting our place in this miraculous world. To heal the disconnection, we must reconnect. It’s fitting, then, that the theme of this year’s World Environment Day on June 5 is “Connecting People to Nature.”

Renowned American ecologist Edward O. Wilson used the term “biophilia” to describe the innate kinship people share with all other life forms. Because we are more likely to care for the things we love and see as important, we must rekindle this biological imperative if we are to protect the biosphere that keeps us healthy and alive.

How do we accomplish that when many of us are moving further from our natural connections daily — when the average North American child spends less than 30 minutes a day playing outside, but more than seven hours in front of a TV, computer or smartphone screen, and when many adults spend their days driving to and from work where they sit in front of computers for hours on end?

Understanding the benefits of time in nature is a start. Studies show time outdoors can reduce stress and attention deficit disorder; boost immunity, energy levels and creativity; increase curiosity and problem-solving ability; improve physical fitness and coordination; and even reduce the likelihood of developing near-sightedness!

It also builds memories. I was fortunate in many ways to have grown up before televisions, computers, smartphones and other electronic distractions. My greatest memories are of fishing with my dad, exploring swamps and bogs to collect bugs, frogs and salamander eggs, and hiking in the mountains. Even the time my family spent in an internment camp in the British Columbia wilderness during the Second World War holds fond memories of playing by rivers filled with fish and exploring forests where wolves, bears and deer roamed.

In Japan, the term shinrin-yoku — “forest bathing” or “taking in forest air” — describes the beneficial effects of connecting with the natural world. Japanese researchers have found people who breathe forest air lower their risk for diabetes and experience improved mood and lower stress hormone production compared to people exercising on indoor treadmills.

Even getting dirty is good. In their upcoming book The Secret Life of Your Microbiome, Alan C. Logan and Susan L. Prescott explore the importance of microbes and microbiomes — the microbial communities on and in our bodies and all around us. Microbes break down food and produce vitamins in our guts. They coat our skin, protecting us from attacks by harmful microbes. The air we breathe, the soil we dig and the outdoor plants we come into contact with include a variety of microbes — many of them beneficial — that may be absent in indoor and built environments.

Planting pollinator-friendly native plants in your garden, making a mud pie, taking photos of wildlife in the forest or sleeping under the stars are all healthy activities — and they connect you with the natural world and open your eyes and heart to the amazing, intricately interconnected biosphere of which we are all a part.

Getting outside, especially with the children in your life, is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your family and friends, and the planet. World Environment Day reminds us of the importance of connecting with nature every day!

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation

  Read The Notion That We Must Dominate Nature Has Led to Widespread Devastation That Threatens Our Very Survival
 June 15, 2017
Here's What You Need Know About America's Biggest Greenhouse Gas Polluter.

by Elizabeth Hernandez, Eric Chaney, The Center for Public Integrity, AlterNet


Alabama Power’s James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant, located about 16 miles northwest of Birmingham, was the top greenhouse gas-producing U.S. facility in 2015, federal data show.
Photo Credit: Eric Chaney/weather.com

Up close, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. isn't as big as you'd expect it to be. From most angles, you can't even see it until you're right on top of it.

But hit the right gap in the rolling hills of north-central Alabama, and the James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant looms large even from miles away. Nestled on about 800 acres on the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River, the plant is one of Alabama Power's coal-burning workhorses, putting out enough electricity to power about a million homes. It virtually never stops running—and never stops producing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

As the view shifts, so does public opinion.

From certain angles, the plant is a pollution-belching monster harming both the environment and the health of communities. Change your perspective a bit, and Miller is a source of good-paying jobs, a means to raise a family in an area where economic opportunities are thin.

Paul Dollar, 75, who has lived just a few hundred yards from the plant property for more than 30 years, sees Miller both ways. On one hand, there's dust and noise: "This thing I believe is getting my health and it's bothering me." On the other, Dollar and his daughter Tammy can name a dozen friends, relatives and neighbors who work for the plant, its contractors, or in one of the related service industries.

"To their credit, Alabama Power is a good corporate citizen. They provide good jobs. They do a lot in the community for charity and such," said Scotty Colson, a lawyer in Birmingham, 16 miles southeast of the plant. But "you don't get the impression that [pollution] is a high priority. They're pretty much OK with shifting the cost onto people who have a problem with what their byproduct is."

Alabama Power is a subsidiary of the Southern Company, which owns 11 utilities in nine states. Southern has spent nearly $12 billion on pollution controls at its plants since 1990 and "is committed to comply with all environmental laws and regulations," spokesman Terrell McCollum wrote in a statement for this article.

But Colson, a clean-air advocate, said those costs have been passed on to customers—both directly on their utility bills and indirectly through impacts on health and climate.

"They start putting the onus on everybody else," he said, "when in fact they have spent quite a lot with lobbying to fight regulations and delay regulations." Southern spent more than all but a dozen other U.S. companies on federal lobbying during the 2016 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics—nearly $14 million.

Colson has lived in the Birmingham area for all of his 58 years and fought asthma for most of them. Miller's discharges of greenhouse gases and noxious substances have taken a toll, he said, not only on the environment but also on his lungs.

"You rationalize it by saying, 'I'm taking care of my family first,'" he said. "You rationalize it by saying, 'Oh, it really doesn't do any harm.' That's your basic climate denial and science denial, which is epidemic in some areas here."

But the science doesn't lie. Researchers around the world have repeatedly offered proof that climate change is happening and that humans are causing it.

Colson, at least, has no doubts.

"You can question the science," he said, "but you can't question the reality of my lungs."

"Old news"

In 2016, average global temperatures hit record highs for the third year in a row, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Most of the warming since the late 19th century has happened since the early 1980s, the agencies said.

Miller was the nation's biggest emitter of planet-warming gases in 2015, releasing more than 19 million metric tons—the equivalent of about four million passenger vehicles driven for a year. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data show that Miller has been one of the top three greenhouse gas-producing U.S. facilities—not just power plants—since federal tracking began in 2010.

But that doesn't seem to bother its owner.

"That's kind of old news," Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman said. "It's jostled for that No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 spot for years."

Southern CEO Tom Fanning told CNBC there wasn't proof that carbon dioxide is the key driver of climate change—contradicting the overwhelming scientific evidence.

Birmingham attorney Scotty Colson, who has asthma, said Alabama Power provides good jobs—but also air pollutants that affect the climate and, he said, his lungs.

"Is climate change happening? Certainly. It's been happening for millennia. That's not the issue, OK?" he said.

Birmingham attorney Scotty Colson, who has asthma, said Alabama Power provides good jobs—but also air pollutants that affect the climate and, he said, his lungs. (image: Eric Chaney/weather.com)

Though the Miller plant tops the greenhouse-gas list, many large facilities in the U.S.—particularly coal-fired power plants—are also outsize emitters. The 100 industrial sites giving off the most climate-altering gases together make up hardly more than one percent of the facilities reporting to the EPA, but account for nearly a third of those discharges. Toxic air emissions are also heavily concentrated, according to a 2016 Center for Public Integrity investigation in partnership with weather.com.

Miller, for its part, halved toxic releases from its stacks between 2010 and 2015, following many years of far higher levels, EPA data show. The steep plunge came after Alabama Power installed pollution controls to comply with federal regulations. These technologies, like scrubbers and ozone-combating machinery, reduce sulfur dioxide, fine particles and other contaminants associated with coal-burning, Sznajderman said.

Still, some of Miller's remaining emissions can damage the lungs and, research suggests, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The nitrogen oxides coming from Miller, tracked separately by the EPA, are a key ingredient in ground-level ozone, or smog, that's particularly hard on some people. This county, Jefferson, received an "F" grade from the American Lung Association for its ozone levels.

"That is probably my main trigger for asthma issues," Colson said. "I kind of connected the dots … Days when the ozone is high are the days that I feel really bad."

It used to be the steel mills, pumping out brownish "air you could chew," that cost him days at school and basketball games with his friends. As the mills cleaned up or closed and the sky turned blue again, Colson still noticed a burning sensation when he would breathe.

Miller, he believes, is the primary culprit. The plant was fouling the air all those years, he said, "but you basically didn't notice that because it was part of an even worse pollution problem.

Data analysis by Jamie Smith Hopkins. Graphic by Rebecca Pollock. Download the rest of the data here.

Staggering costs

Southern is one of the biggest greenhouse-gas emitters in the country—its plants collectively pumped out more than 100 million metric tons in 2015, EPA data show.

Companywide, greenhouse-gas emissions in 2015 were about 25 percent lower than they were a decade earlier, according to Southern spokesman McCollum. "This reduction was achieved without federal mandates, while delivering to customers the benefits of a more diverse generating fleet," he wrote.

The problem with climate change is that greenhouse gases sent into the atmosphere today lock in big costs later. A report from online real estate site Zillow said almost 1.9 million homes worth $882 billion combined "are at risk of being underwater by 2100."

Add relocation costs for those affected and the loss of tourism dollars in coastal communities, and numbers soar into the trillions—for just a fraction of the damage that experts fear global warming will cause.

Alabama Power's Sznajderman said Southern is "certainly cognizant of climate change and those carbon issues, and we're doing some of the leading research in that area." Indeed, it operates the National Carbon Capture Center—a complex near Wilsonville, Alabama, aimed at finding ways to sequester carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants—for the U.S. Department of Energy.

But none of the technologies is ready for deployment at Miller, Sznajderman said. Southern's Kemper plant in Mississippi, an effort to gasify coal and capture about two-thirds of the carbon, is more than $4 billion over budget.

Southern also is over budget on a project in Georgia, an expansion of the Alvin W. Vogtle nuclear plant that the company is promoting as a solution for moving away from carbon-based "dirty" energy sources like coal.

Two new power generating units were originally scheduled to be completed by 2016 and 2017, at a cost of $14 billion, but more recent estimates put the project about three years behind with a final price tag of $21 billion.

Construction is only about 43 percent complete, and David McKinney, Georgia Power's vice president of nuclear development, has said the company is assessing the costs of abandoning the project altogether. Georgians are angry about having to foot the bill.

The Miller power plant is a key employer in a rural area. (image: Eric Chaney/weather.com)

Fighting the Clean Power Plan

For now, the federal government doesn't pose a threat to Miller's place atop the greenhouse-gas list. In March, President Donald Trump ordered the EPA to scrap its Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration carbon-cutting initiative. On June 1, Trump announced America's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

Trump's promises to decrease regulations and support the coal industry play well here. He didn't win Jefferson County, home of Birmingham, but in three of the counties near the plant, more than 80 percent of voters chose him.

In February 2016, while Barack Obama was president, representatives of Southern decried the Clean Power Plan as an example of the "EPA's overreaching mandates." The U.S. Supreme Court's stay on the rule that month was "the right decision for customers" and went a long way toward "preserving states' authority," Southern said. Alabama Power took an active role in the fight, joining those suing to stop the plan.

Alabama's then-attorney general, Luther Strange, called the stay a tremendous victory over "an unprecedented and illegal EPA rule. … The Obama administration's EPA rule would shutter coal-fired power plants around the country, including in Alabama, while killing jobs and raising power bills for hard-working families."

The state did not join the EPA in its years-long legal battle, largely during the George W. Bush administration, to get Alabama Power to add environmental controls to power plants. The federal agency and the company settled claims related to the Miller plant in 2006."

'Biggest employer around'

Miller represents a steady source of jobs in the rural swath of northwestern Jefferson County.

"Alabama Power is the biggest employer around," Tammy Dollar said. "Everybody needs a job, and there's so many down there."

Day in and day out, the parking lot is packed with cars, and the Dollars can rattle off a host of relatives who earn a living there: an in-law who drove a coal train, a distant cousin who works as a security guard, a first cousin who's "way up there now."

According to Alabama Power, salaries at the plant range from around $36,000 to about $120,000 a year, or about $74,000 on average. The company's Sznajderman said Miller employs around 365 people but can have as many as 1,500 contractors on site during planned maintenance outages. The plant pays about $12 million a year in property taxes.

It's not an easy place to live beside—Paul Dollar isn't the only neighbor to say that. "I've called them. I've tried to ask them to buy me out," he said. "They say, 'Oh, we'll let you know. We're gonna let you know.' And I said, 'Are you waiting on me to die?'"

Sznajderman said Alabama Power has no record of an inquiry from Dollar but "we plan to follow up with him."

His complaints aside, Dollar said the plant's benefits are important—worth the coal dust on his car and racket that sometimes makes it impossible to sleep.

"Even if I could, I wouldn't shut it down because that's jobs for people," he said. "I'm not trying to put people out of business. I don't want to stop progress or people living, you know. If I had anything to do with that, if I had the power to shut it down: No, huh uh, I'd build more. I would let the plant go on giving people jobs and let it keep moving."

Nationally, however, the outlook isn't good. Pressured by low natural gas prices, coal lost its spot as the top fuel for electricity generation in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Coal's share fell from about 42 percent in 2011 to 30 percent last year, the EIA reported.

Virtue and vice

There's a stubbornness ingrained in the Scots-Irish ancestry of many of the people in this area, Colson said. This translates into fierce loyalty to the community and the Miller plant.

"That loyalty is a virtue," Colson said, "but that loyalty, in the face of reality, becomes a vice."

The plant is a mainstay, its benefits obvious. Climate change can seem nebulous and far off, even though some of its effects are already manifesting.

Nearly 70 percent of the people in Jefferson County believe in climate change, a 2016 Yale University study found, but only half believe it's caused mostly by human activities.

Around 65 percent think global warming will "harm future generations" at least a moderate amount, but only 39 percent believe it will "harm me personally" to that extent.

There are many barriers to overcome. People here first must believe that climate change is real. Then they must believe that it's harmful, that Miller is contributing to it and that they can do something about it.

That is, as Colson put it, one "tough row to hoe."

In the case of Paul and Tammy Dollar, it's not that they're unconcerned about the plant's contribution to climate change—it's that the consequences seem too far down the road.

Ask them about global warming and they'll launch into a story about coal dust on their cars or a neighbor who's ill. That's real. It's there, to be touched and smelled and inhaled.

Paul Dollar, 75, has lived just a few hundred yards from the plant for over 30 years. (image: Eric Chaney/weather.com)

Denying science

The unhealthy gases, chemicals and metals Miller pumps into the air are on the decline. But its greenhouse-gas emissions haven't fallen nearly as much. It puts out about one million more metric tons of greenhouse gases than the No. 2 facility in the nation, the Scherer power plant in Georgia, owned partly by Southern.

What lies ahead for power production in the South remains a question, particularly in Miller's corner of Alabama. Michael Hansen, executive director of Gasp, a Birmingham-based environmental group, fears his state isn't poised to move in a climate-friendly direction.

"It's a struggle to figure out how to talk about these issues when so many—not just voters but also politicians and leaders—deny science," he said. "People don't even realize the force of greenhouse gases around them. We're going to need all the help we can get here."

But Colson has hope.

"There has been change—it does get better," he said. "So when people say, 'Oh, you're just stubborn,' or 'You're crazy to keep trying to see positive change in Alabama,' I say, 'Well, I might be crazy, but I've seen it.' It does not come at a precipitous speed, but it does come with due diligence."

Jamie Smith Hopkins of the Center for Public Integrity contributed to this story.

Elizabeth Hernandez is a 2016-2017 W.K. Kellogg Foundation reporting fellow with the environment and workers’ rights team at the Center for Public Integrity. She called the Denver Post home for the previous two years as a breaking news and education reporter. Hernandez's byline has also appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Boulder Daily Camera and the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Eric Chaney is a reporter with Weather.com.

  Read Here's What You Need Know About America's Biggest Greenhouse Gas Polluter
  June 20, 2017
U.S. Quietly Removes 17 Sites From U.N. Biosphere Reserve Network.

by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch, AlterNet


The U.S. has quietly withdrawn 17 sites from the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves program.

As first reported by National Geographic, the sites include a number of national forests, preserves and reserves from Alaska to the Virgin Islands (see list below). There were previously 47 biosphere reserves in the U.S.

The move was made during the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme meeting in Paris this week. Bulgaria also removed three sites.

"Prior to this year, a total of 18 sites had been removed from the program since 1997, by seven countries," National Geographic noted. 

"It's not currently clear why the U.S. and Bulgaria asked to remove those sites: requests for comment have not yet been returned. In the past, sites were removed after countries were no longer able to meet the requirements of the program for protecting them."

According to the United Nations, biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located.

As detailed by the conservation nonprofit George Wright Society, the biosphere program was launched in the 1970s to establish internationally designated protected areas, help minimize the loss of biological diversity, raise awareness on how cultural diversity and biological diversity affect each other, and promote environmental sustainability. 

But over the years, the program has been criticized by certain individuals and groups as—per this Infowars post—a United Nations "land grab" of American landmarks.

The George Wright Society writes: 

"A large, almost bewildering variety of charges have been alleged about biosphere reserves. Many of these charges revolve around a basic fear and distrust of the United Nations. This category of objections includes such claims as the United Nations is poised to invade the United States, confiscate American land, impose some kind of 'new world order' on citizens here, and so forth. There is no truth whatsoever to these charges."

The U.S. removed the following sites from the biosphere reserve program:

  • Aleutian Islands National Wildlife Refuge - US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Beaver Creek Experimental Watershed - US Forest Service
  • California Coast Ranges - University of California Natural Reserve System
  • Carolinian South-Atlantic - Non-Game and Heritage Trust (South Carolina)
  • Central Plains Experimental Range - USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Coram Experimental Forest - US Forest Service
  • Desert Experimental Range - US Forest Service
  • Fraser Experimental Forest - US Forest Service
  • H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest - US Forest Service / Oregon State University
  • Hubbard Brook - US Forest Service
  • Konza Prairie Research Natural Area - Kansas State University
  • Land Between the Lakes - US Forest Service
  • Niwot Ridge Mountain Research Station - University of Colorado
  • Noatak National Preserve - National Park Service
  • Stanislas-Tuolumne Experimental Forest - US Forest Service
  • Three Sisters Wilderness - US Forest Service
  • Virgin Islands - National Park Service

The good news is that 23 new sites around the world were added to the network at the council meeting this week. These are the new designations, as detailed by UNESCO's official press release:

Mono Biosphere Reserve (Benin)—Located in the southwest of the country, this 9,462 ha site comprises ecosystems that include mangroves, wetlands, savannah and forests. It is home to notable biodiversity flagship species such as the dugong, or sea cows, hippos and two monkey species. Nearly 180,000 inhabitants live within the reserve, mostly from livestock and small scale farming of palm oil and coconuts, as well as fishing.

Mono Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Benin/Togo)—Located in the southern parts of Benin and Togo, the 346,285 ha. site stretches over the alluvial plain, delta and coast of the Mono River. It brings together Benin's and Togo's national biosphere reserves of the same name and features a mosaic of landscapes and ecosystems, mangroves, savannahs, lagoons, and flood plains as well as forests, some of which are sacred. The biosphere reserve is home to some two million people, whose main activity is small-scale farming (palm oil and coconuts), livestock grazing, forestry and fishing.

Savegre Biosphere Reserve (Costa Rica)—This site is located on the central Pacific coast, 190 km from the capital, San José. This reserve has high biodiversity value, hosting 20% of the total flora of the country, 54% of its mammals and 59% of its birds. It has approximately 50,000 inhabitants, whose main activities are agriculture and livestock rearing. Crop production is significant in high altitude areas, including plantations of apple, pomegranate and avocado. During recent years, ecotourism has increased and has become a source of socio-economic growth in the region.

Moen Biosphere Reserve (Denmark)—This reserve consists of a series of islands and islets in the southern Baltic Sea, over approximately 45,118 ha. Its landscapes include woodlands, grasslands, meadows, wetlands, coastal areas, ponds and steep hills. This biosphere reserve includes a number of small villages, scattered farms and residential areas with a total population of some 45,806 inhabitants. The main activities are trade, agriculture, fishing and tourism.

La Selle - Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Dominican Republic / Haiti)—This biosphere reserve includes the reserves of La Selle in Haiti, designated in 2012, and Jaragua-Bahoruco in the Dominican Republic, designated in 2002. These two reserves represent ecological corridors divided by a political and administrative frontier. Bringing them together should allow better management of the environment.

Bosques de Paz Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Ecuador/Peru)—Located in the southwest of Ecuador and in northwest of Peru, this site covers a total area of 1,616,988 ha. It includes territories of the western foothills of the Andes, with altitudes reaching up to 3,000 metres, which have generated a biodiversity with a high degree of endemism. The biosphere reserve includes the seasonally dry forests of Ecuador and Peru, which form the heart of the Endemic Region of Tumbes, one of the most important biodiversity hotspots of the world. This region has 59 endemic species, of which 14 are threatened. Most of its 617,000 inhabitants make a living from livestock and tourism.

Majang Forest Biosphere Reserve (Ethiopia)—Located in the west of the country, this biosphere reserve includes Afromontane forests in one of the most fragmented and threatened regions in the world. The landscape also includes several wetlands and marshes. At altitudes above 1,000 metres, vegetation chiefly consists of ferns and bamboo, while palm trees cover the lower areas. The biodiversity rich region is home to 550 higher plant species, 33 species of mammal and 130 species of birds alongside a human population of about 52,000.

Black Forest Biosphere Reserve (Germany)—Located in the south of the country, this biosphere reserve contains low mountain ranges, forests shaped by silviculture, lowland and mountain hay meadows and lowland moors. The total surface area of the site is 63,325 ha, 70% of which is forested. 38,000 inhabitants live in the area, which has preserved its traditions and maintain a significant craft industry. Sustainable tourism is widely encouraged.

San Marcos de Colón Biosphere Reserve (Honduras) – This site, which covers a surface area of 57,810 ha, is located some 12 km from the Nicaraguan border, at an altitude of 500 to 1700 metres. It is characterized by significant biodiversity and the presence of several endemic species of fauna. Eighteen villages are located on the site whose population numbers 26,350 inhabitants. Their principal activities include horticulture, fruit and coffee production, the growth of ornamental plants, cattle rearing and dairy production. The region is also known for its saddlery products (belts, harnesses, boots etc).

Tepilora, Rio Posada and Montalbo Biosphere Reserve (Italy)—Located in Sardinia, this biosphere reserve has a total surface area of over 140,000 ha, and presents mountainous areas to the west and a flat strip to the east, rivers and coastal areas. Around 50,000 people live on this site, which includes the Montalbo massif.

Sobo, Katamuki and Okue Biosphere Reserve (Japan)—This site, which is part of the Sobo-Katamuki-Okue mountain range, is characterized by precipitous mountains. Forests cover 85% of the 243,672 ha of the site, which is a hotspot of biodiversity in the region. The area has fewer than 100,000 inhabitants, whose livelihood comes from farming and exploiting forest resources, including wood production, shitake mushroom cultivation, and charcoal production.

Minakami Biosphere Reserve (Japan)—The site includes the central divide of the rivers of the island of Honshu formed by a 2,000 metre high backbone. Significant environmental differences between the eastern and western slopes, between mountainous and lowland areas create a distinct biological and cultural diversity. More than 21,000 people live in the reserve, which covers a total of 91,368 ha. Their main activities are agriculture and tourism.

Altyn Emel Biosphere Reserve (Kazakhstan)—This biosphere reserve covers the same areas as the Altyn Emel state national nature park, one of the country's protected areas, which is very important for the conservation of the region's biological diversity. It includes a large number of endemic plants. The site comprises deserts, riparian forests and floodplains of the Ili River, deciduous and spruce forests as well as salt marshes. The resident population of about 4,000 lives mainly from agriculture and cattle rearing as well as ecotourism and recreational tourism.

Karatau Biosphere Reserve (Kazakhstan)—Located in the central part of the Karatau ridgeway, a branch of Northwestern Tien Shan, one of the world's largest mountain ranges, the reserve covers a total surface area of 151,800 ha and is inhabited by 83,000 people. It is an extremely important natural complex for the conservation of West Tien Shan biodiversity. Karatau occupies first place among Central Asian regions in terms of its wealth of endemic species. The region's economy rests primarily on cattle rearing, agriculture, ecotourism and recreational tourism.

Indawgyi Biosphere Reserve (Myanmar)—Indawgyi Lake is the largest body of freshwater in Myanmar. With a total surface area of 133,715 ha, the site consists of a large open lake with floating vegetation areas, a swamp forest and seasonally flooded grasslands. The hills surrounding the lake are covered by subtropical moist broadleaf forests that harbour a number of threatened forest birds and mammals, including primates. The local population derives most of its income from farmlands bordering the lake.

Gadabedji Biosphere Reserve (Niger)—Located in the centre of the country, the site extends over an area of 1,413,625 ha. It comprises a mosaic of savannahs, depressions, pits and sand dunes. Its fauna includes mammals such as dorcas gazelle, pale fox, and golden jackal. The human population of the reserve belongs to two main ethnic groups, Touaregs and Peulhs, totalling close to 20,000 inhabitants, whose main activity is nomadic pastoralism.

Itaipu Biosphere Reserve (Paraguay)—Located in the east of the country, the reserve covers a surface area of over a million hectares. It comprises an area of semi-deciduous sub-tropical forest also known as the Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest. It is one of the most important ecosystems for the conservation of biological diversity on a global scale, due to its large number of endemic species, wealth of species and original cover. It is home to large predators such as harpies, jaguars, pumas and large herbivores such as tapirs. It has a permanent population of over 450,000 inhabitants.

Castro Verde Biosphere Reserve (Portugal)—Located in southern Portugal, in the hinterland of the Baixo Alentejo region, the biosphere reserve covers an area of almost 57,000 ha. It encompasses the most important cereal steppe area in Portugal, one of the most threatened rural landscapes in the Mediterranean region. It has a high degree of endemism in its flora. There is a bird community of some 200 species, including steppe birds such as the great bustard and endemic species such as the Iberian Imperial eagle, one of the most endangered birds of prey in the world. Some 7,200 inhabitants make a living from the extensive production of cereals and livestock rearing in the reserve.

Khakassky Biosphere Reserve (Russian Federation)—Located at the heart of the Eurasian continent and known for its rich biodiversity, more than 80 % of this biosphere reserve is covered by mountain-taiga. With a surface area of almost 2 million hectares, it is home to 5,500 permanent inhabitants. Sustainable forest management and agriculture, beekeeping and tourism are the main economic activities practised in the site.

Kizlyar Bay Biosphere Reserve (Russian Federation)—Kizlyar Bay is one of the largest bays in the Caspian Sea and one of the largest migratory routes for birds in Eurasia. It represents a diversity of marine, coastal and desert-steppe ecosystems, including populations of threatened animals, such as the Caspian seal, many species of birds and sturgeons. With a surface area of 354,100 ha, it has a permanent population of 1,600 inhabitants who depend on fishing, land use (grazing and haymaking), hunting and tourism.

Metsola Biosphere Reserve (Russian Federation)—Located at the border with Finland, the site comprises the Kostomukshsky reserve and contains one of the oldest intact north-taiga forests in Northwest Russia. Some 30,000 permanent inhabitants live in this biosphere reserve, with a surface area of 345,700 ha. The north-taiga forests are essential for the reproduction of many bird species. The local population lives from forestry, agriculture, fishing, hunting and gathering non-timber forest products.

Great Altay Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Russian Federation / Republic of Kazakhstan)—The reserve is composed of the Katunskiy biosphere reserve (Russian Federation, designated in 2000) and the Katon-Karagay biosphere reserve (Kazakhstan, designated in 2014). With a surface area of over 1.5 million ha, the area is used for livestock rearing, grazing, red deer farming, fodder production and apiculture. Tourism, hunting, fishing, and the collection of non-timber forest products are also widespread.

Backo Podunavlje Biosphere Reserve (Serbia)—Located in the northwestern part of Serbia, this site, with a surface area of 176,635 ha, extends over the alluvial zones of the central Danube plain. It is composed of remnants of historic floodplains and human-made landscapes influenced by agriculture and human settlements. The floodplain includes alluvial forests, marshes, reed beds, freshwater habitats, alluvial wetlands, as well as flood-protected forests. The main activities of the 147,400 inhabitants are agriculture, forestry and industry.

Garden Route Biosphere Reserve (South Africa)—With a total area of 698,363 ha and a population of over 450,000, this site is part of the Cape Floristic Region biodiversity hotspot region. The Knysna estuary is of great importance for the conservation of this biodiversity. The eastern part of the biosphere reserve is characterised by the presence of wetlands in which farming practices and urban development could have a negative impact. Faunal diversity includes large mammals such as elephants, rhino and buffalo.

Jebel Al Dair Biosphere Reserve (Sudan)—This reserve is constituted of the Al Dair massif, composed of dry savannah woodlands, forested ecosystems and a network of streams. It is one of the last remaining areas with rich biodiversity in the semi-arid North Kordofan. The site numbers 112 plant species, most with medicinal and aromatic uses. There are also 220 bird species and 22 mammal and reptile species.

Mono Biosphere Reserve (Togo)—The site covering an area of 203,789 ha in the southeast of the country encompasses several coastal ecosystems—mangroves, wetlands, forests and flood plains, as well as farmlands used for small-scale production of palm oil and coconuts. There is also fishing and livestock rearing. The presence of sacred forests and isolated sacred trees is testimony to the vitality of the traditional cultural practices of the biosphere reserve's 1,835,000 inhabitants.


Lorraine Chow is a freelance writer and reporter based in South Carolina.

  Read U.S. Quietly Removes 17 Sites From U.N. Biosphere Reserve Network
  June 23, 2017
Killer Heat Waves Will Threaten Majority of Humankind by Century's End.

by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, AlterNet


By 2100, if nations continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rates, three out of four people will be at risk from lethal heat waves.

And even if the governments of the world act on promises they made in 2015 and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, almost one in two could face the risk of sickness and death by intolerable heat.

That is because, as the temperatures rise, heat and humidity begin to challenge human physiology. Humans are adapted to body temperatures of around 37°C. If humidity—the levels of water vapour in the air—go up with the thermometer, then people caught in a zone of extreme heat cannot adjust body temperatures by perspiration.

And with every 1°C rise in temperatures, the capacity of the air to hold moisture goes up by 7 percent. People with no access to air conditioning or a cool breeze become at high risk.

It happened in Europe in 2003, when an estimated 70,000 died. A heat wave in Moscow in 2010 killed around 10,000. And researchers warned years ago that under global warming predictions, more such extremes of heat would become inevitable by 2020.

“We are running out of choices for the future,” said Camilo Mora, a geographer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who led the study.

“For heat waves, our options are now between bad or terrible. Many people around the world are already paying the ultimate price of heat waves, and while models suggest that this is likely to continue, it could be much worse if emissions are not considerably reduced.

“The human body can only function within a narrow range of core body temperatures around 37°C. Heat waves pose a considerable risk to human life because hot weather, aggravated with high humidity, can raise body temperature, leading to life-threatening conditions.”

Dr. Mora and colleagues warned years ago that by 2016 climate would change inexorably in at least some regions of the globe. More recently he and colleagues calculated that the relentless increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could limit the growing season and pose a threat to world food security. History has yet to deliver a verdict on either prediction.


But the warning about heat waves starts from facts already available. One scientific group has calculated the humidity and temperature hazards and predicted that at least one climate zone—the Gulf between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula—could become murderously hot by the century’s end.

A second study of heat waves over recent decades in India has established a link between extremes of heat, climate change and mass death.

Dr. Mora and colleagues in the U.S. and Britain report in Nature Climate Change that they found evidence on a global scale. They began with 30,000 relevant publications and identified 911 scientific papers with data on 1,949 case studies of cities or regions where deaths were associated with high temperatures.

From this mass of information they found 783 lethal heat waves in 164 cities across 36 countries, with most cases recorded in developed countries at mid-latitudes since 1980: in cities such as New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, London, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney and São Paulo.

Risk mapped

From this data, they found a common threshold at which temperatures and humidities became lethal: that is, as relative humidity climbed, even lower temperatures could kill. And then they devised a world map of those cities and regions most at risk

Right now, one human in three lives in a climate zone in which death by extreme heat is or could be possible. The area in which such conditions are liable to happen on at least 20 days a year is predicted to grow.

By 2100 New York could have around 50 days in which conditions could be potentially lethal. In Sydney, Australia the number of such deadly days could be 20, for Los Angeles 30.

For Orlando, Florida, and Houston, Texas, the entire summer could exceed the thresholds at which people have been known to die.

“People are talking about the future when it comes down to climate change, but what we found from this paper is that this is already happening. In fact since 1980 we found close to 2,000 cases of these places and cities when people died from this, and this is obviously going to get a lot worse,” Dr. Mora said.

U.S. walk-out

Notoriously, President Trump has announced that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement of 2015 to contain average global warming to well below 2°C by the century’s end.

The implication of the Hawaiian research is that if nations act in a concerted way to reduce fossil fuel emissions, an estimated 48 percent of the human population could be at risk of summer extremes. And if they do not, this hazard rises to 74 percent.

“Climate change has put humanity on a path that will become increasingly dangerous and difficult to reverse if greenhouse gas emissions are not taken much more seriously,” Dr. Mora said.

“Action like the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is a step in the wrong direction that will inevitably delay fixing a problem for which there is simply no time to waste.” 

Tim Radford, a founding editor of Climate News Network, worked for The Guardian for 32 years, for most of that time as science editor. He has been covering climate change since 1988. Tim won the Association of British Science Writers award for science writer of the year four times, and a lifetime achievement award in 2005.

  Read  Killer Heat Waves Will Threaten Majority of Humankind by Century's End
  July 3, 2017
Stephen Hawking Warns Trump Withdrawal From Climate Deal Could Turn Earth's Temperature to 250 Degrees and Bring Sulphuric Acid Rain.

by Reynard Loki, AlterNet


In an interview Sunday with the BBC, the celebrated British theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking warned that President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement will cause "avoidable environmental damage."

"We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible," said Hawking, who is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. "Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees and raining sulphuric acid."

Trump's decision to abandon the landmark agreement, which was signed by nearly 200 nations to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, puts the accord in jeopardy, as the U.S. is the world's second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China.

Hawking, regarded by many as one of the greatest physicists since Einstein, has slammed Trump in the past, calling him "a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator." In a March interview with Piers Morgan on ITV’s “Good Morning Britain,” he said the president should fire Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier who is the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent,” Hawking said. “It affects America badly, so tackling it should win votes for his second term, god forbid.”

Watch Hawking describe Earth's possible hellish future due to Trump's climate denial:


  Read Stephen Hawking Warns Trump Withdrawal From Climate Deal Could Turn Earth's Temperature to 250 Degrees and Bring Sulphuric Acid Rain
  July 12, 2017
Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction Event Already Under Way, Scientists Warn.

by Damian Carrington, The Guardian, AlterNet


A “biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is under way and is more severe than previously feared, according to research.

Scientists analyzed both common and rare species and found billions of regional or local populations have been lost. They blame human overpopulation and overconsumption for the crisis and warn that it threatens the survival of human civilization, with just a short window of time in which to act.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, eschews the normally sober tone of scientific papers and calls the massive loss of wildlife a “biological annihilation” that represents a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization”.

Prof Gerardo Ceballos, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, who led the work, said: “The situation has become so bad it would not be ethical not to use strong language.”

Previous studies have shown species are becoming extinct at a significantly faster rate than for millions of years before, but even so extinctions remain relatively rare giving the impression of a gradual loss of biodiversity. The new work instead takes a broader view, assessing many common species which are losing populations all over the world as their ranges shrink, but remain present elsewhere.

The scientists found that a third of the thousands of species losing populations are not currently considered endangered and that up to 50 percent of all individual animals have been lost in recent decades. Detailed data is available for land mammals, and almost half of these have lost 80 percent of their range in the last century. The scientists found billions of populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have been lost all over the planet, leading them to say a sixth mass extinction has already progressed further than was thought.

Nearly half of the 177 mammal species surveyed lost more than 80% of their distribution between 1900 and 2015

Percent of species which have lost more than 80 percent of their range

Billions of animals have been lost as their habitats have become smaller with each passing year. (Guardian graphic | source: PNAS)

The scientists conclude: “The resulting biological annihilation obviously will have serious ecological, economic and social consequences. Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe.”

They say, while action to halt the decline remains possible, the prospects do not look good: “All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life.”

Wildlife is dying out due to habitat destruction, overhunting, toxic pollution, invasion by alien species and climate change. But the ultimate cause of all of these factors is “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich”, say the scientists, who include Prof Paul Ehrlich, at Stanford University in the U.S., whose 1968 book The Population Bomb is a seminal, if controversial, work.

“The serious warning in our paper needs to be heeded because civilization depends utterly on the plants, animals, and microorganisms of Earth that supply it with essential ecosystem services ranging from crop pollination and protection to supplying food from the sea and maintaining a livable climate,” Ehrlich told the Guardian. Other ecosystem services include clean air and water.

“The time to act is very short,” he said. “It will, sadly, take a long time to humanely begin the population shrinkage required if civilization is to long survive, but much could be done on the consumption front and with ‘band aids’—wildlife reserves, diversity protection laws—in the meantime.” Ceballos said an international institution was needed to fund global wildlife conservation.

The research analyzed data on 27,500 species of land vertebrates from the IUCN and found the ranges of a third have shrunk in recent decades. Many of these are common species and Ceballos gave an example from close to home: “We used to have swallows nesting every year in my home near Mexico city—but for the last 10 years there are none.”

The researchers also point to the “emblematic” case of the lion: “The lion was historically distributed over most of Africa, southern Europe, and the Middle East, all the way to northwestern India. [Now] the vast majority of lion populations are gone.”

Current and historic distribution of lions

Historically lions lived across Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East, all the way up to Northwestern India. Today their habitat has been reduced to a few tiny pockets of the original area. (Guardian graphic | source: PNAS)

Prof. Stuart Pimm, at Duke University in the US and not involved in the new work, said the overall conclusion is correct, but he disagrees that a sixth mass extinction is already under way: “It is something that hasn’t happened yet—we are on the edge of it.”

Pimm also said there were important caveats that result from the broad-brush approach used. “Should we be concerned about the loss of species across large areas—absolutely—but this is a fairly crude way of showing that,” he said. “There are parts of the world where there are massive losses, but equally there are parts of the world where there is remarkable progress. It is pretty harsh on countries like South Africa which is doing a good job of protecting lions.”

Robin Freeman, at the Zoological Society of London, U.K., said: “While looking at things on aggregate is interesting, the real interesting nitty gritty comes in the details. What are the drivers that cause the declines in particular areas?”

Freeman was part of the team that produced a 2014 analysis of 3000 species that indicated that 50 percent of individual animals have been lost since 1970, which tallies with the new work but was based on different IUCN data. He agreed strong language is needed: “We need people to be aware of the catastrophic declines we are seeing. I do think there is a place for that within the [new] paper, although it’s a fine line to draw.”

Citing human overpopulation as the root cause of environmental problems has long been controversial, and Ehrlich’s 1968 statement that hundreds of millions of people would die of starvation in the 1970s did not come to pass, partly due to new high-yielding crops that Ehrlich himself had noted as possible.

Ehrlich has acknowledged “flaws” in The Population Bomb but said it had been successful in its central aim—alerting people to global environmental issues and the the role of human population in them. His message remains blunt today: “Show me a scientist who claims there is no population problem and I’ll show you an idiot.”

Earth’s five previous mass extinctions

End-Ordovician, 443 million years ago

A severe ice age led to sea level falling by 100m, wiping out 60-70 percent of all species which were prominently ocean dwellers at the time. Then soon after the ice melted leaving the oceans starved of oxygen.

Late Devonian, c 360 million years ago

A messy prolonged climate change event, again hitting life in shallow seas very hard, killing 70 percent of species including almost all corals.

Permian-Triassic, c 250 million years ago

The big one—more than 95 percent of species perished, including trilobites and giant insects—strongly linked to massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia that caused a savage episode of global warming.

Triassic-Jurassic, c 200 million years ago

Three-quarters of species were lost, again most likely due to another huge outburst of volcanism. It left the Earth clear for dinosaurs to flourish.

Cretaceous-Tertiary, 65 million years ago

An giant asteroid impact on Mexico, just after large volcanic eruptions in what is now India, saw the end of the dinosaurs and ammonites. Mammals, and eventually humans, took advantage.

Damian Carrington is the head of environment at the Guardian.

  Read Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction Event Already Under Way, Scientists Warn
  July 11, 2017
Nuns Protest Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline by Building Chapel on Proposed Route.

by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch, AlterNet


An order of Catholic nuns and the grassroots coalition Lancaster Against Pipelines have built an open-air chapel in Columbia, Pennsylvania along the proposed route of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline to stall construction of the $3 billion project.

The St. Louis-headquartered Adorers of the Blood of Christ own a strip of land in Pennsylvania where the pipeline is set to go through.

The nuns consider the fracked gas pipeline, a project of Oklahoma-based pipeline developer Williams Partners, a violation of their beliefs and environmental values, UPI reported.

"The Adorers received a request from the grassroots coalition, Lancaster Against Pipelines, to install and use, and to invite other people of faith to use, a portable prayer 'chapel' on their land," the Adorers said in a statement. "The hope is that the structure can draw people to prayer and reflection about just and holy uses of land."

The simple wooden alter was constructed on a grove just feet from where the pipeline would cut through a corn field, explained Karen Feridun, a founding member of Pennsylvanians Against Fracking and founder of Berks Gas Truth.

The 180-mile Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline is an expansion of the existing 10,200-mile Transco pipeline network. According to the Sierra Club, the project would clear cut its way through 10 Pennsylvania counties, impacting 2,000 acres of forested land and crossings hundreds of wetlands and water bodies. The proposed route includes nearly 200 miles of new pipeline which would supply gas exports out of Maryland and gas plants in North Carolina and Florida.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the pipeline earlier this year and ruled that Williams Partners has the right to construct, maintain and operate the pipeline on the private land.

"While we respect the rights of people to protest, we view this simply as another blatant attempt to impede pipeline construction," Christopher Stockton, a Williams Partners spokesman told UPI about the Adorers' makeshift chapel.

The company has since filed an emergency court order to seize the nuns' land and build the pipeline. A judge has scheduled a court hearing for July 17.

The nuns noted in their statement that the federal court's order of eminent domain, once it goes into effect, can allow Transco to call for the removal of the chapel. But they believe that "having this structure on their land, for however long, gives tangible witness to the sacredness of Earth."

On Sunday, Lancaster Against Pipelines held a "Stand With the Sisters" ceremony to dedicate the chapel.

"It's not about money, it's about principle. And the nuns have a land ethic that says this Earth is a sanctuary and we regard it as sacred, and we're going to work to protect it," Mark Clatterbuck of the Lancaster Against Pipelines group told CNN affiliate WGAL-TV.

  Read Nuns Protest Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline by Building Chapel on Proposed Route
  July 13, 2017
An Iceberg the Size of Delaware Just Broke Off From Antarctica (Video).

by John Zangas, DC Media Group, AlterNet


One of the biggest icebergs in recorded history, in both area and volume, broke off from the Antarctic East Peninsula and floated free sometime between Monday and early Wednesday morning. The ice mass separated from the Larsen C shelf in a process known as calving. Its surface area of roughly 2,550 square miles (5,800 sq. km) and average thickness of about 650 feet makes it the third largest iceberg ever recorded. The iceberg, designated as A68, has been tracked by scientists for several years and was expected to calve.

The iceberg is comparable in size to the state of Delaware and is now drifting towards the Weddel Sea. As water and wind forces push it into the Southern Ocean, it will further break apart and melt as wave and wind forces move it against warmer ocean currents. This process may take years.

Watch a video of the Larsen C fissure:

The shelf was named after its discoverer, Carl A. Larsen, a whaler who surveyed it in 1893. It has existed for over 10,000 years. The Larsen C breakup was preceded by the break up of the Larsen A shelves in 1995 and Larsen B shelf in 2002. These bergs were also massive, measuring 580 square miles (1500 sq. km) and 1250 square miles (3240 sq. km). South of Larsen C, the shelf complex is still intact, including Larsen D, E, F and G. Larsen D is another 50,000 square miles of ice.

The massive A68 iceberg will not significantly cause ocean rise because it is already over water where 90% of it is submerged. But it does mark what scientists have long feared could be the beginning of an acceleration of ice flow from glaciers behind it from the eastern side of the Antarctic peninsula. It is those glacial ice flows that will cause ocean rise, because the ice melt there is over land and would add to sea levels. There are seven major glaciers behind the Larsen C shelf.

The massive iceberg, designated A68, broke off from the Larsen C shelf between Monday and Wednesday. (image courtesy of Adrian Luckman)

Ice shelves such as the Larsen shelf rest over open water but as long as they remain attached to the Antarctic land mass, they act like barriers to hold back glacial ice flow from land. And as the Larsen shelf segments calve, there is less resistance to hold back the resulting glacial ice flow into the open sea.
Scientists have already recorded accelerations of glacial ice movement from the Antarctic Peninsula in areas behind where the Larsen A and B calving events took place.

NASA reported an eight-fold acceleration of glacial ice off the eastern Antarctic Peninsula after the Larsen B shelf broke away. There are three glaciers behind the Larsen B shelf. One of those, the Flask Glacier had accelerated from its original speed by eight fold after Larsen B broke up. This is comparable to a car going from 55 to 440 mph, according to the published report.

Even though the Larsen C iceberg is very large in surface area, there is still much of the ice shelf left behind it. Usually, only one-tenth of an iceberg is exposed above water, so photographs taken of such a large ice structure cannot capture the actual size.

Is break-off evidence of climate change?

The Larson C iceberg has a weight of a trillion tons, Dr. Adrian Luckman, professor of glaciology and remote sensing at Swansea University, said by email. Dr. Luckman, who has been to the Antarctic twice for fieldwork on the Larsen C ice shelf, said, “Larsen C ice shelf has been losing area since it was first mapped, and the imminent calving will leave the ice shelf at its most retreated known position.”

Dr. Luckman has been working on the MIDAS project, a UK-based Antarctic research project, investigating the effects of a warming climate on the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. But he was not so quick to link the Larsen C iceberg as “direct” evidence of climate change. He indicated there are many factors involved in calving and the answer to whether or not the event was due to climate change “is not simple,” he said.

“In satellite images of the 1980s, this rift was clearly already a long established feature, calving events are part of the natural cycle of ice shelves, and there is no direct evidence to link the rift’s growth to climate warming. I would say it is too early to blame human climate change for this event,” he said.

Watch a video of Larsen B calving:

But Dr. James Hansen, a leading climatologist who worked for NASA for 32 years, has linked ice melt in the Antarctic to climate change. Two years ago, he published a paper with 18 other climatologists, projecting polar ice melt would increase 10 times faster than previously expected and raise ocean levels by 10 feet in 50 years. This is far faster than previous consensus on the subject. Dr. Hansen based his projections on models showing accelerating global climate changes connected to a 2-degree-Celsius rise in average global temperatures.

“Southern Ocean surface cooling, while lower latitudes are warming, increases precipitation on the Southern Ocean, increasing ocean stratification, slowing deepwater formation, and increasing ice sheet mass loss,” he wrote.

Other indicators such as warming ocean temperatures and a steady increase of the average Antarctic temperature have led Dr. Hansen to conclude that feedback loops are accelerating the melting of ice shelves there.

“Meltwater tends to stabilize the ocean column, inducing amplifying feedbacks that increase subsurface ocean warming and ice shelf melting. These feedbacks make ice sheets in contact with the ocean vulnerable to accelerating disintegration,” wrote Hansen.
The Antarctic temperature has risen an average of one degree F each decade in the last 40 years (+3 degrees C). It is this temperature rise which is linked to overall surface ice loss by an increase of 75% in the last ten years.

Scientists have been monitoring the slow calving of the giant iceberg for several years. (image courtesy of Adrian Luckman)

Dr. Luckman credits advances in satellite surveillance with enabling scientists to monitor changing conditions in the Antarctic. “We have only recently had the tools to monitor such events with this frequency and precision. The European Space Agency satellite mission, Sentinel-1, allows high resolution imaging and analysis every 6 days through winter and summer, night and day,” he said.

Such tools will become even more important for monitoring climate changes as there are plans for budget cutbacks at NASA for traditional sources of climate data.

The A68 iceberg accounts for 10 percent of the Larsen C shelf in that region, meaning there is still much of the shelf remaining.  Therefore the remaining part of Larsen C is still acting as a barrier to prevent acceleration of glacial ice flow.

But it could signal more iceberg calving to come, according to Dr. Luckman. “There is the possibility that Larsen C will follow the example of its former neighbour, Larsen B, and continue to be eroded until it collapses completely,” he said.

John Zangas is a photojournalist covering human rights and the environment. His interests include renewable energy, science and literature. John's work has been published by DC Media Group, Revolution News and Vision Planet Media.

  Read An Iceberg the Size of Delaware Just Broke Off From Antarctica (Video)
  July 14, 2017
The Biomass Industry's Hollow Self-Regulatory Scheme Has Been Exposed as a Smokescreen to Destroy Forests for Corporate Profit.

by Adam Macon, Sasha Stashwick, AlterNet


Standing forests are a critical tool in the fight against climate change. Cutting trees down to use as fuel in energy production—known as biomass energy or bioenergy—is one of the most counterproductive things we can do if our goal is clean air and a livable planet.

Despite this reality, policymakers around the world have invested heavily in bioenergy. Nowhere is this more true than in the European Union, where bioenergy policies in the U.K. and other member states enable billions in subsidies each year to flow to the balance sheets of large utility companies, padding their profits and financing the conversion of old coal-fired power plants to burn wood.

Meanwhile, the evidence of the climate and ecological harm wrought by the biomass industry continues to mount. Yet too many policymakers remain unwilling to acknowledge the impacts of bioenergy and adequately limit its growth. They argue that the industry’s impacts on the climate, forests, and people are still uncertain, that we need more studies, more "proof."

For five years running, leading media outlets, NGOs, climate scientists, health professionals, and even official government reports have offered this proof time and time again. Scientists tell us that burning whole trees and other large-diameter wood increases carbon pollution compared to coal for many decades.

Public health experts tell us burning biomass emits myriad harmful air pollutants, with serious consequences for air quality and public health.

Economists tell us biomass conversions are a bad investment compared to truly clean energy sources, such as solar and wind.

Communities tell us that they don’t want biomass producers in their backyards.

And for five years running, respected reporters and local and national NGOs have documented the unsustainable logging practices uses to source the biomass industry, putting some of the most biodiverse and valuable forests in the world in peril.

Unlike the biomass industry, these communities, advocates, reporters and researchers have no political or financial stake in bioenergy subsidies.

It’s time to turn the tables and place the burden of proof where it belongs—at the feet of the biomass industry and the policymakers who are its benefactors.

These policymakers are elected to advance the public’s interest. They pay out biomass subsidies under the guise of advancing national goals of increasing renewable energy production and taking meaningful action on climate change.

In exchange for the public’s generous support, biomass-burning utilities are assumed to deliver a public good: cleaner air and lower carbon emissions. Both parties should be held accountable for demonstrating that the public is getting what it’s paying for.

Enter the Sustainable Biomass Program. The SBP was created in 2013 by biomass companies to provide assurances that their wood pellets and other biomass fuel are sustainable and legally sourced. Unfortunately, from the start, this certification scheme was dominated by industry and built to allow the industry to effectively "self police."

Now, a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Dogwood Alliance reveals the program to be highly deficient and not a credible tool in assessing the carbon emissions or ecological impacts of biomass producers.

Amongst the key findings is that the program uses flawed and incomplete carbon accounting, lacks adequate independent audits and verification, leaving biomass producers to conduct their own risk assessments and choose their own verifiers and data sources, despite the obvious conflict of interest, and fails to provide performance-based thresholds and protections.

Put plainly, the SBP allows the biomass industry to hide their carbon emissions and destructive forestry practices to fuel an environmentally damaging energy industry. In doing so, it actually undercuts vital efforts to address climate change and protect forests and communities.

The impacts of industrial scale bioenergy are now well known and well documented. Hiding behind a smokescreen of an industry certification scheme such as the SBP doesn’t change the facts on the ground—or in the atmosphere The message to policymakers cannot be clearer: If they are looking to the SBP to provide assurances on the sustainability and carbon intensity of biomass fuels, they cannot be confident in using it.

The world has been generating electricity the same way since the 1880’s. Burning biomass is a step backwards, not forwards towards the 21st century clean energy system we deserve and our climate desperately needs. To truly act on climate change, European policymakers must end subsidies for dirty and destructive industrial-scale biomass and invest in truly clean and low-carbon energy sources like solar and wind and the protection and expansion of our standing forests.

Other key findings of the comprehensive analysis of the SBP include:

  • The SBP does not require calculation of emissions at the smokestack when biomass is burned, essentially classifying biomass ‘carbon neutral’, on a par with truly clean energy technologies such as wind and solar. As noted, recent scientific studies have concluded that burning biomass for electricity—in particular whole trees and other large-diameter wood—increases carbon emissions when compared to coal and other fossil fuel for decades.
  • The SBP ignores several crucial aspects for forest carbon accounting allowing assessments to be conducted with a fundamental lack of objectivity, consistency and connection to the management of actual source forests and rarely require on-the-ground verification.
  • The SBP Feedstock Standard lacks concrete, performance-orientated thresholds and protections, and thus provides little assurance regarding environmental or social protection in source forests.

Read the executive summary or the full report.

Adam Macon is the campaign director at Dogwood Alliance, an environmental nonprofit based in Asheville, North Carolina.

Sasha Stashwick is a senior advocate in the Energy & Transportation and Food & Agriculture Programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

  Read The Biomass Industry's Hollow Self-Regulatory Scheme Has Been Exposed as a Smokescreen to Destroy Forests for Corporate Profit
  July 12, 2017
Low Fertility Rates Isn't a Crisis as Some Argue—It's a Solution to a Safer, More Sustainable World.

by Carter Dillard, AlterNet


Last week, news outlets around the country reported on an emerging crisis: low fertility rates. Commentators argue that women having fewer children will harm the economy. That comes as a surprise to Sarah Evans, a mother of one. “Sitting in Los Angeles traffic all day in heat waves, hearing about climate change, watching parents struggle and seeing more families become homeless, it just doesn’t feel like people having too few children is the problem,” she says. For some parents, having one child is just right. Some experts agree, arguing that having an extra child is the worst thing a person can do to exacerbate climate change, thereby endangering the children we already have, not to mention the fact that rapid human expansion is destroying natural habitats and driving the extinction of other species.

Other experts cite the need for parents to plan their families better, given the number of abandoned children being cared for by the state, at tremendous cost, in a child welfare system many believe is failing.

Others argue that traffic, which contributes substantially to emissions, is itself becoming an increasing threat to the economy.

Underpopulated or overpopulated—how do we make sense of it all? The fact is that lower fertility rates are part a larger historic trend toward sustainable families, and the product of an intentional effort by countries around the world to improve child welfare, protect the environment and produce economic equality. Those intentional state interventions cut fertility rates by more than half and averted famines and many environmental disasters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the problem: Those efforts have fallen short. The world’s population is projected to skyrocket from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion in 2050, with the U.S. expected to rise from its current 325 million to 438 million people by 2050. Those state interventions also ignored cooperative family planning techniques that could have promoted equity, setting egalitarian qualitative family planning targets that would give the children of both the wealthy and poor a fair start in life. That in turn exacerbated inequalities, helping lead to the massive gap today.

Graph of human population from 10000 BCE to 2000 CE, showing the extremely rapid growth in the world human population that has taken place since the 18th century. (image: Wikipedia)

Think about your daily routine, and how crowding reduces your quality of life—pollution, climate change, vast inequality and people around you that didn’t get what they needed growing up, disconnected communities, traffic, etc. Now imagine it all getting significantly worse, in a world already well beyond its natural capacity to support a high quality of life for most people.

Why then are some today calling lower fertility rates a crisis? Babies are big business. Experts point to trends such as stagnating food prices, which rely on historically high demand driven by population growth. For conservative governments and big companies, an ever-increasing supply of babies helps drive profits, leading some to call for making America “mate again.”

There is, of course, the very real threat of increasing public costs that come with lower fertility rates, in essence brought on by an ageing populace that’s supported by fewer producers. Others see this trend as a threat to the security of developed nations like the United States and are urging policies to women to have more kids.

But why are we treating kids as future consumers, workers, and taxpayers that we create more of to support us, especially when that growth will make their lives worse than they otherwise could be? Instead of our economies producing real value, are we supposed to just constantly add more people? Perhaps the womb raiders that rely on the Ponzi scheme of perpetual population growth should stop exploiting children and instead try to protect them?

It may be time for one generation to step forward and shoulder the burden of demographic transition, and stop shuffling this onto future generations. The simple fact is that we need human rights-based, objective, and sustainable family planning now, and a model that guarantees every child a fair start in life relative to other kids in their generation. 

Many companies and governments, however, are doing their best to fight the trend towards fairness and sustainability. Efforts range from the obvious to the more subtle. Under Putin’s plan, Russia is paying people to have kids. Spain has appointed a sex tsar to increase fertility rates, and even China, at almost 1.4 billion people, is considering paying its citizens to have a second child. Yet much of China is an environmental nightmare, where many children have to play under cover of plastic domes to protect their developing lungs from air pollution, and most of the country’s water is severely polluted.

South Korea has mapped areas where women of prime childbearing age live in the hopes of increasing birthrates, while some in Singapore are calling for women to have kids as part of their national duty. In the United States, conservative commentators push back against critics of teen pregnancy and citing large families as a way to be patriotic, or question the very idea of family planning.

In order to give every child a fair start in life, we need to talk about sustainable family planning.(image: monkeybusinessimages/BigStock)

Ivanka Trump, whose significant influence seems exclusively a product of the family into which she was born, promotes a family leave program cynically sold as a caring subsidy but clearly responsive to years of calls for government intervention to increase U.S. fertility rates.  

Others shame women who don’t have kids, calling them deficient or arguing that they are selfish. More subtly, many governments are using the media to urge women to have more kids, creating and publicizing surveys that insist having a second child is the key to happiness. In Singapore, doctors are urging women to have children, in some cases despite risks to the infant from the Zika virus.

Companies, especially those that rely on large families that consume a lot of products, are following suit. In a perversion of stealth persuasion technique originally meant to reduce fertility rates, business media routinely run stories about celebrities choosing larger families as a means of increasing growth rates, stories that otherwise have nothing to do with business news.

Unilever is an example. It sells its products, including baby products, under more than 1,000 brand names worldwide, with over two billion people using a Unilever product on any given day. It has used cunning advertising to encourage parents to have children, assuaging fears that weigh on would-parents’ minds as they plan families. Its brands sponsor persuasive blogs, aimed at mothers and those considering having kids.

Disney is getting in on the action, sponsoring blogs where large families push back under the banner of personal freedom against criticism, including for things like hitting their children.

For Sarah Evans, one child is enough. “I want to be there for her. It’s about her future, not about propping up some unsustainable and unfair system. I want her to have a safe, healthy future. I hope other parents want the same—my daughter shouldn’t have to live in a polluted and dangerous world filled with billions more people divided into the ultra-rich and the poor."

To learn more about the benefits of having smaller families, check out Having Kids' Fair Start model.

Carter Dillard is the founder of the nonprofit organization HavingKids.org. He also serves as senior policy advisor to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

  Read Low Fertility Rates Isn't a Crisis as Some Argue—It's a Solution to a Safer, More Sustainable World
  July 10, 2017
Here Are 10 of the World's Dirtiest Oil and Coal Polluters.

by Lauren Kaori Gurley, AlterNet


Ten corporations and state-owned entities are responsible for over 36 percent of global fossil fuels emissions since 1988, according to a new study published by the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Among the top ten polluters is British-Dutch owned-Shell, as well as the Exxon Mobil Corporation, whose former CEO, Rex Tillerson, currently serves as the U.S. Secretary of State. The governments of China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, India, and Mexico also own entities, which make the top ten list. 

The study, which also shows that 100 companies are responsible for over 70 percent of global emissions, highlights the critical role of corporations and powerful state actors not only perpetuating environmental damage, but also in combatting climate change.

If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 20 years, the world could see a 4°C rise in global temperatures by the end of the century, leading to mass extinctions and widespread starvation.

Here are the top ten corporate and state-entity polluters: 

1. China (Coal): 14.3 percent

China's state-led coal production has tripled to almost 4 billion tons since 2000, contributing to around half of all global emissions. 

2. Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco): 4.5 percent

Saudi Arabia's state-owned Aramco has the world's largest crude oil reserves and the highest daily production output of any company in the world. 

3. Gazprom OAO (Russian): 3.9 percent

Russian-owned Gazprom OAO has been the target of environmental protests for its Arctic drilling. 

4. National Iranian Oil Co: 2.3 percent

Iran's state-owned natural gas company has had unilateral control over the country's oil reserves since 1948. 

5. ExxonMobil Corp: 2.0 percent

ExxonMobil is the world's seventh largest corporation, an offspring of John D. Rockerfeller's Standard Oil Company. ExxonMobil has lobbied against climate change action in the U.S. Congress.

6. Coal India: 1.9 percent

State-owned Coal India is the largest producer of coal in the world. 

7. Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex): 1.9 percent

In 2009, Mexican state-owned Pemex was Latin America's second largest corporation

8. Russia (Coal): 1.9 percent

Russia saw a 70-percent increase in coal production since the late 1990s. 

9. Royal Dutch Shell PLC (Shell): 1.7 percent

Shell is the seventh largest corporation in the world, and involved in every area of the coal and gas production chain. The British-Dutch owned company has been implicated major oil spills in Nigeria. 

10. China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC): 1.6 percent

The state-owned oil and gas corporation is the largest integrated energy company in China.

In the foreword to the report, Pedro Faria, CDP's Technical Director, said the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement was "an unfortunate decision," and called on oil and gas firms to step up their commitment to the transition to a low-carbon economy and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Fossil fuel companies are also going to have to demonstrate leadership as part of this transition," he writes. "They owe it to the millions of clients they serve that are already feeling the effects of climate change, and to the many millions more that require energy for the comfort of their daily lives but are looking for alternatives to their products."

Click here for the full report.

Lauren Kaori Gurley is a freelance writer and master's candidate in Latin American studies and journalism at New York University. Her work has been published in In These Times, the American Prospect and the American Journal of Economics and Sociology. Follow her @laurenkgurley.

  Read Here Are 10 of the World's Dirtiest Oil and Coal Polluters
  June 22, 2017
Iran Preparing to Publish Evidence US Supporting ISIS

by RT, Information Clearing House


June 22, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - As the US influence in the Middle East wanes, it increasingly associates itself with dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, whose “dark face” and “role in supporting terrorism is known to everyone in the region,” a high ranking Iranian Revolutionary Guard official told RT.

The United States and President Trump in particular consider only one “dimension” of convergence with Saudi Arabia, ignoring the “ideological and intellectual” challenges and costs such ties entail, media adviser to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Commander-in-Chief Hamid Reza Moghadam Far told RT in an exclusive interview.

“That was one of Trump’s senseless moves. He was just seeking to milk this cow and thinking about only business,” Moghadam Far said.

“The first challenge is that Trump goes to such a country as his first trip after being elected… That is the behavior shown towards a dictatorial regime in which democracy is meaningless and no elections take place and the people have no presence on the scene. The next challenge is that they claim that they are combatting terrorism. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia has provided the most support for terrorism.”

The recent naming of Mohammed bin Salman as Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince might be another “outcome of Trump’s visit” amidst internal disputes among Saudi princes and with other Arab countries.

“This replacement is one of the internal political impacts of the [Trump’s] visit on Saudi Arabia. I mean the replacement of the crown prince. But Saudi Arabia is facing certain conditions today that I think the development would create further problems for the country,” Moghadam Far said, pointing out that this decision would hardly be beneficial for the Saudi people.

While the appointment might push Saudi Arabia into further radicalization, it would unlikely lead to an armed conflict with Iran, Moghadam Far believes, as the Saudi army is “not fit for military action.”

“There is no possibly of conflict. Today many Arab countries are complaining about Saudi Arabia’s inexperienced and radical moves. They consider Saudi Arabia as callow,” Moghadam Far told RT.

“A number of inexperienced people who are ruling Saudi Arabia lack the resolve and determination to initiate a war on Iran. They lack the courage and power. I do not think they will come up with such conclusion, even if all global powers support them.”

Saudi Arabia’s policies in the Middle East only bring instability to the region and its alliance with the US only diminishes the already dwindling American power and influence, Moghadam Far believes.

“[The US policies] definitely have a negative effect. What matters more, however, is that the US is not as influential a player as it used to be and it can no longer manipulate regional equations. Today, it does not enjoy such a sway at all and its influence in the region has waned,” Moghadam Far said.

“It now has to associate with countries like Saudi Arabia whose negative role in supporting terrorism, whose dictatorship, and whose dark face is known to everyone in the region.”

Tehran’s recent Iranian missile attack on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in Syria should have weakened the resolve of the Saudis and other powers to go to war with Iran. A key “message” of the attack was to clearly demonstrate Iranian military capabilities to those who doubted them, Moghadam Far said.

“In the past, when these missiles were test-fired in Iran, the US and certain western countries used to usually announce that Iran was lying that its launches had been successful and tried to create this impression that Iranians do not have such a capability and their missiles cannot strike their targets with precision,” he said.

The strike also demonstrated Iran’s resolve to fight terrorism, rubbishing usual US accusations that Tehran supports terrorist elements.

“As in the past, whenever Americans want to mount pressure on Iran, impose new sanctions and proceed with an issue in the region and beyond, [the US] accuse Iran of backing terrorism,” Moghadam Far said.

“But I think that today’s conditions are such that the world’s public opinion does not accept this. The world has come to realize that the US, despite leading a coalition against [IS] and terrorism in Syria and Iraq, Syria in particular, does not fight terrorism in practice and is in fact is supporting it… They cannot both take an opposite stance against terrorism and accuse Iran.”

  Read Iran Preparing to Publish Evidence US Supporting ISIS
  July 17, 2017
Pentagon Study Declares American Empire Is ‘Collapsing’

by Nafeez Ahmed, Information Clearing House

Pentagon Study Declares American Empire Is ‘Collapsing’

Report demands massive expansion of military-industrial complex to maintain global ‘access to resources’

By Nafeez Ahmed

We report on stunning new evidence that the U.S. Department of Defense is waking up to the collapse of American primacy, and the rapid unraveling of the international order created by U.S. power after the Second World War.

But the Pentagon’s emerging vision of what comes next hardly inspires confidence. We breakdown both the insights and cognitive flaws in this vision. In future pieces we will ask the questions: What is really driving the end of the American empire? And based on that more accurate diagnosis of the problem, what is the real solution?

July 17, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - An extraordinary new Pentagon study has concluded that the U.S.-backed international order established after World War 2 is “fraying” and may even be “collapsing”, leading the United States to lose its position of “primacy” in world affairs.

The solution proposed to protect U.S. power in this new “post-primacy” environment is, however, more of the same: more surveillance, more propaganda (“strategic manipulation of perceptions”) and more military expansionism.

The document concludes that the world has entered a fundamentally new phase of transformation in which U.S. power is in decline, international order is unravelling, and the authority of governments everywhere is crumbling.

Having lost its past status of “pre-eminence”, the U.S. now inhabits a dangerous, unpredictable “post-primacy” world, whose defining feature is “resistance to authority”.

Danger comes not just from great power rivals like Russia and China, both portrayed as rapidly growing threats to American interests, but also from the increasing risk of “Arab Spring”-style events. These will erupt not just in the Middle East, but all over the world, potentially undermining trust in incumbent governments for the foreseeable future.

The report, based on a year-long intensive research process involving consultation with key agencies across the Department of Defense and U.S. Army, calls for the U.S. government to invest in more surveillance, better propaganda through “strategic manipulation” of public opinion, and a “wider and more flexible” U.S. military.

The report was published in June by the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute to evaluate the DoD’s approach to risk assessment at all levels of Pentagon policy planning. The study was supported and sponsored by the U.S. Army’s Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate; the Joint Staff, J5 (Strategy and Policy Branch); the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Develop­ment; and the Army Study Program Management Office.


“While the United States remains a global political, economic, and military giant, it no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors,” the report laments.

“In brief, the sta­tus quo that was hatched and nurtured by U.S. strategists after World War II and has for decades been the principal ‘beat’ for DoD is not merely fraying but may, in fact, be collapsing.”

The study describes the essentially imperial nature of this order as being underpinned by American dominance, with the U.S. and its allies literally “dictating” its terms to further their own interests:

“The order and its constituent parts, first emerged from World War II, were transformed to a unipolar sys­tem with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and have by-and-large been dominated by the United States and its major Western and Asian allies since. Status quo forces collectively are comfortable with their dominant role in dictating the terms of international security outcomes and resist the emergence of rival centers of power and authority.”

But this era when the U.S. and its allies could simply get their way is over. Observing that U.S. officials “naturally feel an obligation to preserve the U.S. global position within a favorable international order,” the report concludes that this “rules-based global order that the United States built and sustained for 7 decades is under enormous stress.”

The report provides a detailed breakdown of how the DoD perceives this order to be rapidly unravelling, with the Pentagon being increasingly outpaced by world events. Warning that “global events will happen faster than DoD is currently equipped to handle”, the study concludes that the U.S. “can no longer count on the unassailable position of dominance, supremacy, or pre-eminence it enjoyed for the 20-plus years after the fall of the Soviet Union.”

So weakened is U.S. power, that it can no longer even “automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range.”

It’s not just U.S. power that is in decline. The U.S. Army War College study concludes that:

“[A]ll states and traditional political authority structures are under increasing pressure from endogenous and exogenous forces… The fracturing of the post-Cold War global system is accompanied by the in­ternal fraying in the political, social, and economic fabric of practically all states.”

But, the document says, this should not be seen as defeatism, but rather a “wakeup call”. If nothing is done to adapt to this “post-primacy” environment, the complexity and speed of world events will “increasingly defy [DoD’s] current strategy, planning, and risk assessment conventions and biases.”

Defending the “status quo”

Top on the list of forces that have knocked the U.S. off its position of global “pre-eminence”, says the report, are the role of competing powers — major rivals like Russia and China, as well as smaller players like Iran and North Korea.

The document is particularly candid in setting out why the U.S. sees these countries as threats — not so much because of tangible military or security issues, but mainly because their pursuit of their own legitimate national interests is, in itself, seen as undermining American dominance.

Russia and China are described as “revisionist forces” who benefit from the U.S.-dominated international order, but who dare to “seek a new distribution of power and authority commensurate with their emergence as legitimate rivals to U.S. dominance.” Russia and China, the analysts say, “are engaged in a deliberate program to demonstrate the limits of U.S. authority, will, reach, influence, and impact.”

The premise of this conclusion is that the U.S.-backed “status quo” international order is fundamentally “favorable” for the interests of the U.S. and its allies. Any effort to make global order also work “favorably” for anyone else is automatically seen as a threat to U.S. power and interests.

Thus, Russia and China “seek to reorder their position in the existing status quo in ways that — at a minimum — create more favorable circumstances for pursuit of their core objectives.” At first glance there seems nothing particularly wrong about this. So the analysts emphasize that “a more maximalist perspective sees them pursuing advantage at the direct expense of the United States and its principal Western and Asian allies.”

Most conspicuous of all, there is little substantiation in the document of how Russia and China pose a meaningful threat to American national security.

The chief challenge is that they “are bent on revising the contemporary status quo” through the use of “gray zone” techniques, involving “means and methods falling far short of unambiguous or open provocation and conflict”.

Such “murkier, less obvious forms of state-based aggression”, despite falling short of actual violence, are condemned — but then, losing any sense of moral high-ground, the Pentagon study advocates that the U.S. itself should “go gray or go home” to ensure U.S. influence.

The document also sets out the real reasons that the U.S. is hostile to “revolutionary forces” like Iran and North Korea: they pose fundamental obstacles to U.S. imperial influence in those regions. They are:

“… neither the products of, nor are they satisfied with, the contemporary order… At a minimum, they intend to destroy the reach of the U.S.-led order into what they perceive to be their legitimate sphere of influence. They are also resolved to replace that order locally with a new rule set dictated by them.”

Far from insisting, as the U.S. government does officially, that Iran and North Korea pose as nuclear threats, the document instead insists they are considered problematic for the expansion of the “U.S.-led order.”

Losing the propaganda war

Amidst the challenge posed by these competing powers, the Pentagon study emphasizes the threat from non-state forces undermining the “U.S.-led order” in different ways, primarily through information.

The “hyper-connectivity and weaponization of information, disinformation, and dis­affection”, the study team observes, is leading to the uncontrolled spread of information. The upshot is that the Pentagon faces the “inevitable elimination of secrecy and operational security”.

“Wide uncontrolled access to technology that most now take for granted is rapidly undermining prior advantages of discrete, secret, or covert intentions, actions, or operations… In the end, senior defense leaders should assume that all defense-related activity from minor tactical movements to major military operations would occur completely in the open from this point forward.”

This information revolution, in turn, is leading to the “generalized disintegra­tion of traditional authority structures… fueled, and/or accelerated by hyperconnectivity and the obvious decay and potential failure of the post-Cold War status quo.”

Civil unrest

Highlighting the threat posed by groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, the study also points to “leaderless instability (e.g., Arab Spring)” as a major driver of “a generalized erosion or dissolution of traditional authority structures.”

The document hints that such populist civil unrest is likely to become prominent in Western homelands, including inside the United States.

“To date, U.S. strategists have been fixated on this trend in the greater Middle East. However, the same forces at work there are similarly eroding the reach and authority of governments worldwide… it would be unwise not to recognize that they will mutate, metastasize, and manifest differently over time.”

The U.S. homeland is flagged-up as being especially vulnerable to the breakdown of “traditional authority structures”:

“The United States and its population are increasingly exposed to substantial harm and an erosion of security from individuals and small groups of motivated actors, leveraging the conflu­ence of hyperconnectivity, fear, and increased vulner­ability to sow disorder and uncertainty. This intensely disorienting and dislocating form of resistance to author­ity arrives via physical, virtual, and psychological vio­lence and can create effects that appear substantially out of proportion to the origin and physical size or scale of the proximate hazard or threat.”

There is little reflection, however, on the role of the US government itself in fomenting such endemic distrust, through its own policies.

Bad facts

Among the most dangerous drivers of this risk of civil unrest and mass destabilization, the document asserts, are different categories of fact. Apart from the obvious “fact-free”, defined as information that undermines “objective truth”, the other categories include actual truths that, however, are damaging to America’s global reputation.

“Fact-inconvenient” information consists of the exposure of “details that, by implication, un­dermine legitimate authority and erode the relationships between governments and the governed” — facts, for instance, that reveal how government policy is corrupt, incompetent or undemocratic.

“Fact-perilous” information refers basically to national security leaks from whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning, “exposing highly clas­sified, sensitive, or proprietary information that can be used to accelerate a real loss of tactical, operational, or strategic advantage.”

“Fact-toxic” information pertains to actual truths which, the document complains, are “exposed in the absence of context”, and therefore poison “important political discourse.” Such information is seen as being most potent in triggering outbreaks of civil unrest, because it:

“… fatally weakens foundational security at an international, regional, national, or personal level. Indeed, fact-toxic exposures are those likeliest to trigger viral or contagious insecurity across or within borders and between or among peoples.”

In short, the U.S. Army War College study team believe that the spread of ‘facts’ challenging the legitimacy of American empire is a major driver of its decline: not the actual behavior of the empire which such facts point to.

Mass surveillance and psychological warfare

The Pentagon study therefore comes up with two solutions to the information threat.

The first is to make better use of U.S. mass surveillance capabilities, which are described as “the largest and most sophisticated and inte­grated intelligence complex in world.” The U.S. can “generate insight faster and more reliably than its competitors can, if it chooses to do so”. Combined with its “military forward presence and power projection”, the U.S. is in “an enviable position of strength.”

Supposedly, though, the problem is that the U.S. does not make full use of this potential strength:

“That strength, however, is only as durable as the United States’ willingness to see and employ it to its advantage. To the extent that the United States and its defense enterprise are seen to lead, others will follow…”

The document also criticizes U.S. strategies for focusing too much on trying to defend against foreign efforts to penetrate or disrupt U.S. intelligence, at the expense of “the purposeful exploitation of the same architecture for the strategic manipulation of perceptions and its attendant influence on political and security outcomes.”

Pentagon officials need to simply accept, therefore, that:

“… the U.S. homeland, individual American citizens, and U.S. public opinion and perceptions will increasingly become battlefields.”

Military supremacy

Having mourned the loss of U.S. primacy, the Pentagon report sees expanding the U.S. military as the only option.

The bipartisan consensus on military supremacism, however, is not enough. The document demands a military force so powerful it can preserve “maximum freedom of action”, and allow the U.S. to “dictate or hold significant sway over outcomes in international disputes.”

One would be hard-pressed to find a clearer statement of imperial intent in any U.S. Army document:

“While as a rule, U.S. leaders of both political parties have consistently committed to the maintenance of U.S. military superiority over all potential state rivals, the post-primacy reality demands a wider and more flexible military force that can generate ad­vantage and options across the broadest possible range of military demands. To U.S. political leadership, maintenance of military advantage preserves maximum freedom of action… Finally, it allows U.S. decision-makers the opportunity to dictate or hold significant sway over outcomes in international disputes in the shadow of significant U.S. military capability and the implied promise of unac­ceptable consequences in the event that capability is unleashed.”

Once again, military power is essentially depicted as a tool for the U.S. to force, threaten and cajole other countries into submission to U.S. demands.

The very concept of ‘defence’ is thus re-framed as the capacity to use overwhelming military might to get one’s way — anything which undermines this capacity ends up automatically appearing as a threat that deserves to be attacked.

Empire of capital

Accordingly, a core goal of this military expansionism is ensuring that the United States and its international partners have “unimpeded access to air, sea, space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum in order to underwrite their security and prosperity”.

This also means that the U.S. must retain the ability to physically access any region it wants, whenever it wants:

“Failure of or limitations on the ability of the United States to enter and operate within key regions of the world, for example, undermine both U.S. and partner security.”

The U.S. thus must try to minimize any “purposeful, malevolent, or incidental interruption of access to the commons, as well as critical regions, resources, and markets.”

Without ever referring directly to ‘capitalism’, the document eliminates any ambiguity about how the Pentagon sees this new era of “Persistent Conflict 2.0”:

“… some are fighting globalization and globalization is also actively fighting back. Combined, all of these forces are rending at the fabric of security and stable governance that all states aspire to and rely on for survival.”

This is a war, then, between US-led capitalist globalization, and anyone who resists it.

And to win it, the document puts forward a combination of strategies: consolidating the U.S. intelligence complex and using it more ruthlessly; intensifying mass surveillance and propaganda to manipulate popular opinion; expanding U.S. military clout to ensure access to “strategic regions, markets, and resources”.

Even so, the overarching goal is somewhat more modest — to prevent the U.S.-led order from collapsing further:

“…. while the favorable U.S.-dominated status quo is under significant internal and external pressure, adapted American power can help to forestall or even reverse outright failure in the most critical regions”.

The hope is that the U.S. will be able to fashion “a remodeled but nonetheless still favorable post-primacy international order.”


Like all U.S. Army War College publications, the document states that it does not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Army or DoD. While this caveat means that its findings cannot be taken to formally represent the U.S. government, the document does also admit that it represents “the collective wisdom” of the numerous officials consulted.

In that sense, the document is a uniquely insightful window into the mind of the Pentagon, and how embarrassingly limited its cognitive scope really is.

And this in turn reveals not only why the Pentagon’s approach is bound to make things worse, but also what an alternative more productive approach might look like.

Launched in June 2016 and completed in April 2017, the U.S. Army War College research project involved extensive consultation with officials across the Pentagon, including representatives of the joint and service staffs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM); U.S. Forces, Japan (USFJ), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Intelligence Council, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), and U.S. Army Pacific [US­ARPAC] and Pacific Fleet [PACFLT]).

The study team also consulted with a handful of American think-tanks of a somewhat neoconservative persuasion: the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the RAND Corporation, and the Institute for the Study of War.

No wonder, then, that its findings are so myopic.

But what else would you expect from a research process so deeply narcissistic, that it involves little more than talking to yourself? Is it any wonder that the solutions offered represent an echo chamber calling to amplify precisely the same policies that have contributed to the destabilization of U.S. power?

The research methodology manages to systematically ignore the most critical evidence surrounding the drivers undermining U.S. primacy: such as, the biophysical processes of climate, energy and food disruption behind the Arab Spring; the confluence of military violence, fossil fuel interests and geopolitical alliances behind the rise of ISIS; or the fundamental grievances that have driven a breakdown in trust with governments since the 2008 financial collapse and the ensuing ongoing period of neoliberal economic failure.

A large body of data demonstrates that the escalating risks to U.S. power have come not from outside U.S. power, but from the very manner in which U.S. power has operated. The breakdown of the U.S.-led international order, from this perspective, is happening as a direct consequence of deep-seated flaws in the structure, values and vision of that order.

In this context, the study’s conclusions are less a reflection of the actual state of the world, than of the way the Pentagon sees itself and the world.

Indeed, most telling of all is the document’s utter inability to recognize the role of the Pentagon itself in systematically pursuing a wide range of policies over the last several decades which have contributed directly to the very instability it now wants to defend against.

The Pentagon frames itself as existing outside the Hobbesian turmoil that it conveniently projects onto the world — the result is a monumental and convenient rejection of any sense of responsibility for what happens in the world.

In this sense, the document is a powerful illustration of the self-limiting failure of conventional risk-assessment approaches. What is needed instead is a systems-oriented approach based on evaluating not just the Pentagon’s internal beliefs about the drivers of risk — but engaging with independent scientific evidence about those drivers to test the extent to which those beliefs withstand rigorous scrutiny.

Such an approach could open the door to a very different scenario to the one recommended by this document — one based on a willingness to actually look in the mirror. And that in turn might open up the opportunity for Pentagon officials to imagine alternative policies with a real chance of actually working, rather than reinforcing the same stale failed strategies of the past.

It is no surprise then that even the Pentagon’s apparent conviction in the inexorable decline of U.S. power could well be overblown.

According to Dr Sean Starrs of MIT’s Center for International Studies, a true picture of U.S. power cannot be determined solely from national accounts. We have to look at the accounts of transnational corporations.

Starrs shows that American transnational corporations are vastly more powerful than their competitors. His data suggests that American economic supremacism remains at an all-time high, and still unchallenged even by an economic powerhouse like China.

This does not necessarily discredit the Pentagon’s emerging recognition that U.S. imperial power faces a new era of decline and unprecedented volatility.

But it does suggest that the Pentagon’s sense of U.S. global pre-eminence is very much bound up with its capacity to project American capitalism globally.

As geopolitical rivals agitate against U.S. economic reach, and as new movements emerge hoping to undermine American “unimpeded access” to global resources and markets, what’s clear is that DoD officials see anything which competes with or undermines American capitalism as a clear and present danger.

But nothing put forward in this document will actually contribute to slowing the decline of U.S. power.

On the contrary, the Pentagon study’s recommendations call for an intensification of the very imperial policies that futurist Professor Johan Galtung, who accurately forecasted the demise of the USSR, predicts will accelerate the “collapse of the U.S. empire” by around 2020.

As we move deeper into the “post-primacy” era, the more meaningful question for people, governments, civil society and industry is this: as the empire falls, lashing out in its death throes, what comes after

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an award-winning 16-year investigative journalist and creator of INSURGE intelligence, a crowdfunded public interest investigative journalism project. He is ‘System Shift’ columnist at VICE’s Motherboard.

His work has been published in The Guardian, VICE, Independent on Sunday, The Independent, The Scotsman, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, New York Observer, The New Statesman, Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, Raw Story, New Internationalist, Huffington Post UK, Al-Arabiya English, AlterNet, The Ecologist, and Asia Times, among other places.

Nafeez has twice been featured in the Evening Standard’s ‘Top 1,000’ list of most influential people in London.

His latest book, Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence (Springer, 2017) is a scientific study of how climate, energy, food and economic crises are driving state failures around the world.

Published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project for people and planet. Support us to keep digging where others fear to tread.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

  Read  Pentagon Study Declares American Empire Is Collapsing

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