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Table of Contents of November 2017 Newsletter

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Global Civilization symbiosis with SoulLife.

Love the world, save the world!
Rise up global citizens! You are needed! Life needs you, now.

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Theme of November 2017 Newsletter
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Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month

Lionel Anet, Jennifer Baumwoll, Michael Bauwens, Alessandro Bianchi, Damian Carrington, Alastair Crooke, Finian Cunningham (2), Sally Dugman, Andrea Egan, Susan Glickman, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Henderson, Haley Johnston, Dr Mahboob A Khawaja, Peter Koenig, Jeremy Lent, Reynard Loki, Raj Patel, Federico Pieraccini, James Bernard Quilligan, Paul Craig Roberts, Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, Rowan Shafer, Dr. David Suzuki,Bibi van der Zee, Sarah van Gelder, Andre Vltchek, Elizabeth West, Allen White, Mike Whitney, Robin Wylie.

Lionel Anet, We Need To Re-Educate Ourselves To Survive And Live Life At Its Best. We Need To Re-Educate Ourselves To Survive And Live Life At Its Best.
Andrea Egan, Jennifer Baumwoll, Climate Change Is Threatening Food Security and Nutrition Around the Globe—but Some Solutions Are Making an Impact. Climate Change Is Threatening Food Security and Nutrition Around the Globe—but Some Solutions Are Making an Impact.
Michael Bauwens, The History And Evolution Of The Commons. The History And Evolution Of The Commons.
Andre Vltchek and Alessandro Bianchi, On ‘Independence’: Catalonia, Kurdistan, North Korea and Latin America. On ‘Independence’: Catalonia, Kurdistan, North Korea and Latin America.
Damian Carrington, Pesticides Contaminate 75% of the World's Honey, New Research Reveals. Pesticides Contaminate 75% of the World's Honey, New Research Reveals.
Alastair Crooke, How Syria’s Victory Reshapes Mideast. How Syria’s Victory Reshapes Mideast.
Finian Cunningham, Germany and Russia's Bond of War & Peace. Germany and Russia's Bond of War & Peace.
Finian Cunningham, Washington: The Bleeder of the ‘Free World’. Washington: The Bleeder of the ‘Free World’.
Sally Dugman, Wildfires, Hurricanes, Tornadoes! Wildfires, Hurricanes, Tornadoes!
Andrea Egan, Jennifer Baumwoll, Climate Change Is Threatening Food Security and Nutrition Around the Globe—but Some Solutions Are Making an Impact. Climate Change Is Threatening Food Security and Nutrition Around the Globe—but Some Solutions Are Making an Impact.
Susan Glickman, You're Wrong, Scott Pruitt: Now Is Exactly the Time to Have That Discussion About Climate Change. You're Wrong, Scott Pruitt: Now Is Exactly the Time to Have That Discussion About Climate Change.
Mikhail Gorbachev, Mikhail Gorbachev: My Plea to the Presidents of Russia and the United States. Mikhail Gorbachev: My Plea to the Presidents of Russia and the United States.
Bill Henderson, Climate Change Could Be Fatal: An Open Letter To Canada’s Business Community. Climate Change Could Be Fatal: An Open Letter To Canada’s Business Community.
Haley Johnston, Why I Fell in Love With Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—and Why We Must Protect It From Drilling. Why I Fell in Love With Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—and Why We Must Protect It From Drilling.
Dr Mahboob A Khawaja, Global Politics Is Not About The Safeguard of Humanity And Peace But of Special Interest And Wars. Global Politics Is Not About The Safeguard of Humanity And Peace But of Special Interest And Wars.
Peter Koenig, BRICS – Potential and Future in an Emerging New World Economy. BRICS – Potential and Future in an Emerging New World Economy.
Jeremy Lent, The Climate Catastrophe We’re All Ignoring. The Climate Catastrophe We’re All Ignoring.
Reynard Loki, How Many More '500-Year Storms' Will People Endure Before They Start Abandoning Coastal Cities? How Many More '500-Year Storms' Will People Endure Before They Start Abandoning Coastal Cities?
Raj Patel, How To Feed Ourselves In A Time Of Climate Crisis. How To Feed Ourselves In A Time Of Climate Crisis.
Federico Pieraccini, Challenging the Dollar: China and Russia's Plan from Petroyuan to Gold. Challenging the Dollar: China and Russia's Plan from Petroyuan to Gold.
James Bernard Quilligan, Beyond state capitalism: The commons economy in our lifetimes. Beyond state capitalism: The commons economy in our lifetimes.
Paul Craig Roberts, Washington Is Destroying American Power. Washington Is Destroying American Power.
Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, The Courage of the Syrian Arab Army and Allies against US Backed Terrorism. The Courage of the Syrian Arab Army and Allies against US Backed Terrorism.
Rowan Shafer, It's Time to Start Teaching Kids About Climate Change. It's Time to Start Teaching Kids About Climate Change.
Dr. David Suzuki, Oil and Plastic Are Choking Planet Earth: We Have to Stop Pretending This Isn 't a Problem. Oil and Plastic Are Choking Planet Earth: We Have to Stop Pretending This Isn 't a Problem.
Bibi van der Zee, The Argument That Industrial Farming Is an Efficient Way to Grow Food Is a Dangerous Myth That Risks All Life on Earth. The Argument That Industrial Farming Is an Efficient Way to Grow Food Is a Dangerous Myth That Risks All Life on Earth.
Sarah van Gelder, 90 Companies Helped Cause the Climate Crisis—They Should Pay for It. 90 Companies Helped Cause the Climate Crisis—They Should Pay for It.
Andre Vltchek and Alessandro Bianchi, On ‘Independence’: Catalonia, Kurdistan, North Korea and Latin America. On ‘Independence’: Catalonia, Kurdistan, North Korea and Latin America.
Elizabeth West, On The Road To Extinction, Maybe It’s Not All About Us. On The Road To Extinction, Maybe It’s Not All About Us.
Robin Wylie, Climate Change Could Lead to a Resurgence of Some of the Deadliest Illnesses on Earth. Climate Change Could Lead to a Resurgence of Some of the Deadliest Illnesses on Earth.
Allen White, To Achieve Truly Equitable & Sustainable Development, We Must Dump the Notion That Self-Interest Drives Economic Behavior. To Achieve Truly Equitable & Sustainable Development, We Must Dump the Notion That Self-Interest Drives Economic Behavior.
Mike Whitney, John Brennan’s Police State USA. John Brennan’s Police State USA.

Articles and papers from authors


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  September 11, 2017
Climate Change Could Be Fatal: An Open Letter To Canada’s Business Community.

— by by Bill Henderson, in Climate Change, Countercurrents


This third essay on my new metaphor for effectively treating climate change is about climate change being potentially fatal for all we know and love, potentially fatal for civilization as we know it, maybe even for humanity itself. Do we need to consider a major disruption in our society and economy for effective treatment of what could be a fatal disease?

Cancer, without treatment, is almost always a terminal disease.  A diagnosis of cancer is not something easily accepted; not something that rests easily on your mind. This could be fatal. In fact, depending upon the cancer and how early/late it has been diagnosed, it might prove fatal no matter how vigorously treatment is begun. Senator McCain’s brain cancer, for example, is predicted to kill more than 90% of those unfortunate enough to get it despite treatment. Fortunately, today the majority of  cancers can be treated successfully.

During my cancer treatment this summer, David Wallace-Wells published a very scary essay called ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ at New York magazine. In reaction there was a storm of controversy about how accurately he had interpreted the climate change science followed by many essays about communicating the doom and gloom aspect of the building climate problem. I’m going to try and pass on the best of that debate within what I think are the key factors for analyzing the risk of potential climate fatality for civilization, humanity and other forms of life, and why I think getting to effective treatment quickly must be top of mind for everybody on the planet – especially the business community.
First of all, Wallace-Wells wrote about the suite of climate change dangers that pose existential, fatal risks to civilization, if not humanity itself.  He wrote with emotion and urgency in keeping with the cancer-like threat. Most climate change commentary focuses upon temporal and spatial frames where climate change is merely inconvenient: extreme weather today, sea-level rise in the short term, effects on crops or ocean acidification or desertification, and where adaption is possible in our presently configured world. Only so-called ‘doom and gloom’ commentators venture into writing about possible dangers such as methane feedbacks or abrupt climate change that are possible but low probability, at least until temperatures rise more substantially.
These possible fatal dangers have for several decades been labeled as dangerous climate change and have been the subject of international treaties going back to the Rio Summit in 1992. Just as it is possible for newly diagnosed cancer victims to study up on how possibly fatal their particular cancer is, those concerned – because you could now consider climate change as a possible fatal problem for everybody – can and should study up on the climate science and commentary concerned with dangerous climate change. But unlike cancer, there is a lot of uncertainty, because human caused climate change has never happened before; scientists use proxies from paleo-history and models predicting how warming will play out, but climate change is an experiment that has never been run before, and the risk of fatality will never be as knowable as cancer.

What is known is that there is substantial reason for concern and Wallace-Wells wrote up scary scenarios that deserve attention.  Unfortunately, he made both factual and analytic mistakes, and climate scientists such as Michael Mann and others wrote pointing this out, and questioning whether his pessimistic focus was useful or detrimental in enlightening interested readers on a subject that the public isn’t well informed about.

Wallace-Wells wrote about heat death and an uninhabitable Earth. James Lovelock made a prediction more than a decade ago that warming would leave only a few hundreds of millions of humans clustered around the still liveable poles. But most climate scientists see this as at best only a very long term risk and only if climate mitigation continues to be ineffectual. Wallace-Wells wrote up a worst case vision of methane from melting permafrost and clathrates where the state of the art climate science predicts only gradual and minor carbon feedbacks from such sources, unless or until temperatures rise more than the 2-4C rise expected this century. He postulates agricultural, economic and global security concerns that are valid as climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’. As climate scientist Kevin Anderson has expressed:  a 4C rise in temperature, which is possible in the second half of the century with projected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is incompatible with civilization as we know it. 

‘Sam Carana’s’ 10C rise in temperature by 2026 is another example of exaggerating the science and foreshortening timeframes – while maybe possible theoretically, in reality there is an extremely low probability of such a rise in temperature happening so fast. Wallace-Wells mistakenly over-exaggerated at least the degree of danger to humanity in the short term. To his credit he acknowledging that. But his essay drew massive attention to the possibility that climate change could be fatal to civilization and humanity, maybe even to most of the life on the planet.  Many experts wrote to defend if not his text scientifically, at least his vision of how serious a threat climate could get to be.

Going back at least to Rio in 1992, and central to the agreement at COP 21 in Paris in 2015, our governments have agreed to limit green house gas emissions and landuse change so that temperature rise would be kept below a reasonable ‘guardrail’ to limit the possibilities of dangerous climate change. The guardrail was to stay under a 2C rise in temperature, under  a 1.5C rise if possible. But what if this guardrail is too high?

Personally, after decades of reading and learning as a climate activist, I find James Hanson and colleagues have had the best insight into climate change as a possibly fatal problem requiring urgent treatment. After the unprecedented ‘Big Melt’ of the Arctic icecap in 2006, Hansen and co. published papers including Atmospheric Targets: Where Should Humanity Aim? that used paleo-climate studies and modelling to suggest that a melting Arctic icecap and, hence, even a 1C rise, would eventually push us out of the Holocene Era that has been the cradle for civilization since the end of the last ice-age 10,000 years ago. With potentially fatal consequences.
Our climate is a system, and follows common system dynamics. Climate change  is non-linear and there are feedbacks and tipping points and points of no return. Small changes in Earth’s orbit and inclination – Milankovitch cycles – instigate latent CO2 feedbacks that have been instrumental in whipsawing the very dramatic changes we see in the paleo record of the past 100,000 years of ice age / warming cycles.  Human caused GHG emissions threaten similar feedbacks and urgent action to return to below 350 ppm is needed to protect the planet’s ice sheets and present carbon sinks before it is too late.
Hansen’s warning is very much like a cancer diagnosis where the cancer is treatable until it begins to migrate through the body and metastasises upon a vital organ. The past decade of extraordinary temperature increase in the Arctic is to many climate scientists ever increasing evidence that the Arctic is the ‘vital organ’ in danger and that because we haven’t done the emission reduction heavy lifting that should have been done to limit and warming, climate change should now be regarded as an emergency.

To me, Hansen”s science and warning gets more alarming every year of melting icecaps and ineffective mitigation. Rising temperatures – even a 2C rise – could lead to Wallace-Wells scary fatal scenario.  It would be on par with a person like myself with a cancer diagnosis, aware that time is vital and that the danger is growing, but blocked from effective treatment.

So, we must get back below a 1C rise in global temperature before the polar icecaps melt irreversibly. Canada and the world have agreed only to stay as far under 2C as possible.  But pledges to date will leave us far above 2C. Canada, for example, has a 30% of 2005 levels by 2030 target (which most experts expects us to fail to meet).  Furthermore, the carbon budget left to burn before we cross a 2C increase is shrinking rapidly due to advancing climate science (for example, Rogelj et al,Tan et al, MacDougall et alFriedrich et al, Proistosescu et al, and Schurer et al) and continuing emissions of just under 10GT per annum. Therefore emissions must decline by something like 100% by 2030 to even stay under the 2C guardrail.

The present mitigation strategy relies upon decarbonization aided by carbon pricing to do the heavy lifting. Decarbonization requires a long timeframe such as the now obsolete 2050 of the Kyoto Accord era. Fossil fuel use still accounts for over 80% of global energy use to at least 2040 in informed projections (US Energy Information Administration, for example). The decarbonization strategy is clearly not the necessary treatment for what looks more and more like a possibly fatal problem. Market driven decarbonization which allows continued unregulated fossil fuel use is clearly pretend mitigation. If we treated cancer this way I and millions of others would just die. We have decarbonization and not effective mitigation because only market friendly mitigation is allowed.

A scheduled wind-down of all fossil fuel production and use, responsibly and fairly regulated in accordance with carbon budget science is a last chance to keep us safe from the suite of dangers we know imminently threaten. A scheduled wind-down could be not only effective – the best path to reducing GHG emissions at a scale now needed – but also the best mitigation path using and protecting our market-based governance.

I am addressing this open letter to Canada’s business community (and business globally, especially within the US) as the particular group in our society that has done the most to obstruct effective climate mitigation. Business organizations and leaders have repeatedly led in financing and spreading climate denial and have repeatedly used their powerful influence with governments to block any and every climate initiative that they thought might get in the way of business. Whether it was ideology or fear of potentially negative financial consequences, no one group has done more to keep us from effective treatment than business.  (Of course, there has always been businesspeople providing climate leadership, but only a minority and within business constraints.)

One of my favourite books is WHY STATES FAIL (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012) which explains why ‘Goldilocks’ sized government – big enough to protect property rights and the rule of law, but not powerful enough for elites to seize the gains from innovation/investment virtuous circles – enabled the industrial revolution and the exponential growth that led to our incredibly wealthy and complex modern society. Except that Acemoglu and Robinson don’t mention how business elites have captured governance globally in our present era, and are stymieing mitigation of escalating problems such as climate change. Governments everywhere nurture business and put on the Golden Straitjacket to protect investment and innovation for good reason, but effective treatment now requires draconian regulation of fossil fuels.

Business leadership needs to recognize climate change as a rapidly building threat to all of society, to all we love and care about, and recognize the need for effective mitigation. Business has to get itself out of government’s way for everybody’s sake. Otherwise climate change could be fatal.

Part one in the series: Effective Climate Mitigation – Or Just Pretend? An Open Letter to Pam Goldsmith-Jones, MP
Part two:                     Dear ENGOs: Stop Supporting Fake Mitigation

Bill Henderson is a frequent contributor to Countercurrents on Climate Change . He can be reached at bill (at) pacificfringe.net

  Read Climate Change Could Be Fatal: An Open Letter To Canada’s Business Community
  September 14, 2017
On The Road To Extinction, Maybe It’s Not All About Us.

— by by Elizabeth West, in Climate Change, Countercurrents

We can’t prevent the suffering and dying of wild life, and the Earth herself, when confronted by the unleashed forces of fire and water, but we can include them in our assessment of the cost. We might even grieve for them. Their losses are indeed ours, and if we do not see them or their importance to our lives, if we continue to either ignore and/or dominate all other life on this planet, it won’t be long till we join them.” (Photo: Flickr/ChrisA1995/cc)

It is crystal clear—unlike the smoky skies where I live–to most of us who are willing to consider the facts: this summer’s ‘natural’ disasters have been seeded anthropogenically.  Wildfires in the northwestern United States and Canada, in Greenland, and in Europe are often referred to in the media as ‘unprecedented’ in size and fury. Hurricanes and monsoons, with their attendant floods and destruction, are routinely described as having a multitude of ‘record-breaking’ attributes. No one reading this is likely to need convincing that humans –our sheer numbers as well as our habits—have contributed significantly to rising planetary temperatures and thus, the plethora of somehow unexpected and catastrophic events in the natural world. I’d like to include earthquakes, particularly those in Turkey (endless) and Mexico (massive), in this discussion, and while intuition tells me that there is a connection between them and climate change, research to support this supposition is just emerging, so for the nonce I will leave the earthquakes out of it.

Our proclivity for advancing our own short-term interests has made a mess of things from the beginnings of this current iteration of civilization. Irrigating the Fertile Crescent, which was not very fertile prior to the ingenious innovation of bringing water from the mountains down into the dusty plains, opened the way for a massive increase in food production and a concomitant population rise. Cities grew and became kingdoms. After a reasonably good run, though, irrigation led to salination of the soil and ultimately left it sterile and useless (for agriculture) once again. Many people and their livestock starved or were forced to migrate in large numbers. Great idea, irrigation.

The internal combustion engine seemed a brilliant response to the need to move more commodities more efficiently as the Industrial Revolution created both increased product and demand. Though not necessarily so intended, the automobile initially offered humans wildly expanded freedom and ease. It also led to pumping the innards out of the Earth, filling the atmosphere with CO2, and oil-grabbing wars that left hundreds of thousands of people dead.  Another great idea with a few minor issues that did not get worked out ahead of time.

Plastic.  Now there is an incredible invention. Tough, pliable, lightweight, eternal…this stuff filled a myriad of needs. And conveniently, it could be produced using the fossil fuels we were already extracting for those internal combustion engines. Sadly, we never imagined it would come to microscopic plastic filaments in our drinking water, our sea salt, and even our beer. Not to mention in the bellies of just about anything that lives in the Earth’s oceans.

The list of creative inventions designed to make our lives better is long and varied, but almost inevitably, given enough time, our interference (or improvements, if you prefer) upon the natural state of things comes back to bite us.  And hard.  Fukushima could easily head up that list; most of us would have no trouble adding to the tally of follies flowing from Homo sapiens’ clever life hacks.

If you delve into the motivation behind these ‘advances’ there is generally a desire on the part of people to make life safer or more comfortable or easier in one way or another.  Maybe for themselves and their tribe, or their class, or their nation, but still—the impetus does not tend to flow from a place of malignity. We simply use our big brains to see what is adversely impacting our species (or sub-group thereof) and devise a fix for it. How could that possibly go so wrong?

Hindsight, they say, is always more acute than foresight. Could this be because we do not understand fully how our world works?  Is it possible that we lack a lot of critical information about the ways in which this planet’s life forms and forces are interwoven and connected?  Maybe our superior intelligence, while it has been billed as a powerhouse in the problem-solving department, does not really have the scope of vision that would ensure that problems—solved–stay solved?  Hmmm…might there be an issue with hubris here?  And how do we solve that?

What appear to be straightforward challenges that should yield to linear corrections are in fact predominantly multifaceted and many layered. We see only what we see—because we do have limits in terms of perception– and we act upon that. No real fault there. But you do something over and over and over and get consistent results, you keep being bitten by your brilliant solutions. Quick gains, long-term disasters: this is a pretty common human story. Are we capable of examining it? Even acknowledging it?  Of recognizing that our anthropocentrism and self-assurance may be doing us more harm than good despite (or possibly because of) our fêted cognitive capacities?

So here we are: the summer of 2017 with the arctic ice melting, the temperatures rising, the oceans rising and acidifying, our non-human companions on the planet going extinct like nobody’s business. We thought about ourselves from the get-go.  From the beginning of known human history, we wanted better lives, longer lives, happier lives. For ourselves. We used our gifts to reach for what we wanted, like toddlers, with no sense of the bigger world around us, no notion of the consequences of our actions. No awareness of the unfathomable complexity and the perfection of balance represented by the environment we inhabit.

Or, no will to act from that awareness. Because in all fairness, someone has always pointed to it. Not everyone thought situating nuclear power plants on earthquake faults was a bright idea. And no doubt there was someone back in Sumer who advised stridently against the moving of mountain waters to the fields in the valley.  But the collective, or the powers that own the collective, were not interested in anything that thwarted short-term gains.

We have careened along, from one improvement to another, many of them requiring their own fix a bit down the road.  Now we look at super-storms and mega-fires and what do we see?

Unfortunately, as is almost always the case, we see our own interests and little else.  I have been perusing reports and commentary from a wide variety of sources and there is a lot of factual information: the size of the fire, how many miles per hour the winds are blowing, how many acres are still uncontained, or in thrall to the winds and rain. Then, there are stories about losses. Photos and videos and details about homes destroyed, businesses wiped off the map, human injury and death.

But do we talk about the other life forms affected by these human-accelerated events in nature?  In nature, I repeat.  Do we read or talk or hear about the animals who die?  The trees lost? The sea life and habitat ruined? Yup, there are bits and pieces about the animals that belong to us, which are, like our houses and businesses and automobiles, more possessions.  Pets, livestock, even zoo animals are considered.  How do we shelter the cheetah at the Miami Zoo?  Or what about the Cuban dolphins airlifted out of danger to a safe place on the opposite side of the island? Heartwarming, I suppose, and good for those dolphins, but what happened to the wild ones in the sea?

Here is the thing: we helped make these disasters because we always thought about ourselves and neglected to consider the balance of life.  Because our needs were far and away more important to us than the spotted salamanders’.

And maybe that is true. Maybe our lives are more valuable than all the other lives. Who am I to say?  I too am human and subject to the same hubris and shortsightedness as everyone else.

Still…if something is not working, I ask: why keep doing it?  Even if you have no natural affinity for the pine martens who die in the fires or the sandpipers who are flung to their deaths in the monsoons, pragmatism would suggest a change in practice.

We can’t prevent the suffering and dying of wild life, and the Earth herself, when confronted by the unleashed forces of fire and water, but we can include them in our assessment of the cost. We might even grieve for them. Their losses are indeed ours, and if we do not see them or their importance to our lives, if we continue to either ignore and/or dominate all other life on this planet, it won’t be long till we join them.

This piece of writing is, in a ridiculously small way, an attempt to acknowledge those losses that have gone unseen. It isn’t much, but I invite you to join me in taking a few minutes to honor and mourn those who have died in this summer’s conflagrations and deluges. We won’t know much about most of them, but we do know that they lived and we know that they died.  And that we are all diminished by their deaths.

Elizabeth West has a lifelong interest in revolution, and in exploring the interstices where love, truth, imagination and courage meet, sometimes igniting wild transformation. Her political writing has appeared in CounterPunch and Dissident Voice. Write her at elizabethwest@sonic.net or visit her website.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

  Read On The Road To Extinction, Maybe It’s Not All About Us
  September 14, 2017
How To Feed Ourselves In A Time Of Climate Crisis.

by Raj Patel, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents

30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions is from industrial agriculture, including deforestation to support livestock. Photo by Schon & Probst/Getty Images.

Co-Written by Raj Patel  & Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz 

Changing the food system is the most important thing humans can do to fix our broken carbon cycles. Meanwhile, food security is all about adaptation when you’re dealing with crazy weather and shifting growing zones. How can a world of 7 billion—and growing—feed itself? Here are 13 of the best ideas for a just and sustainable food system.

Land Ownership

1. Indigenous land sovereignty

The world is watching as historic land reforms on the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu show how to return land sovereignty to indigenous people. The decade-long effort led by Ralph Regenvanu, leader of the Land and Justice Party, is returning control of lands to “customary owners.” More than 80 percent of land in Vanuatu is considered customary: owned by extended families as custodians for future generations.

2. Agroecology, not chemicals

Instead of single crops and fossil fuel-based amendments, agroecology relies on complex natural systems to do a better job: Bean crops that help soil retain nitrogen are rotated with other crops. Farm animal waste is used as fertilizer. Flowers attract beneficial insects to manage pests. Intensive planting of diverse crops requires less water and helps keep weeds under control.

Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images.

3. Carbon sequestration

A benefit of soil regeneration practices, which make soils more fertile and resilient to land degradation, is that carbon from the atmosphere is captured in soil and plant biomass. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says carbon sequestration accounts for 90 percent of global agricultural mitigation potential by 2030.

4. Resilient polyculture

After Hurricane Ike hit Cuba in 2008, researchers found polyculture plantain farms had fewer losses than monoculture farms. In general, strongly integrated agroecological farms sprang back to full production two months sooner than conventional farms.


5. Open source seeds

The Open Source Seed Initiative was created by plant breeders, farmers, and seed companies as an alternative to patent-protected seeds sold by agricultural giants such as Monsanto. Its goal is to make seeds a common good again, equipping new crop varieties with an open source license. This allows farmers to save and trade seeds and develop their own hybrids for climate adaptation.

6. Genetic diversity

Traditional plant varieties are more adaptive than modern hybrids. In Peru, six Quechua communities form the ANDES Potato Park project, which holds about 1,500 varieties of cultivated potatoes. The project not only models seed diversity conservation, but also studies the traditional knowledge, practices, and spiritual beliefs that nurture those resources.

Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/Lightrocket/Getty Images.

7. Better pay

Agroecology requires skilled labor, yet the worst-paying jobs in the U.S. are in the food system. This makes food and farm labor a poverty issue. Food service jobs are held primarily by women and people of color, making it a social justice issue. Policies addressing these issues would increase wages—which the Fight for $15 campaign wants—protect field workers from harmful chemicals, and treat the migrant labor force fairly.

8. Valuing traditional knowledge

Scientists in Latin America are tapping traditional farmers for their expertise. “Campesino a Campesino” —translated as “peasant to peasant”—is the cultural model of knowledge dissemination throughout Latin America. Farmers sharing their results and ideas have helped to spread agroecological practices.


9. Regional food hubs

Will we quit flying out-of-season produce around the world? Australia’s Food Connect program delivers ecologically and ethically produced fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and bakery items from local farmers to consumer hubs. In Brisbane, door-to-door travel must be no farther than 250 miles, and farmers are paid four times what they would get from big grocery chains.

10. Accessibility, affordability

Low-income people are a large and ready market for farmers. Programs like Double Up Food Bucks make SNAP benefits worth double at farmers markets. In 2013, more than 10,000 first-time SNAP customers in Michigan used farmers markets.


11. Eat together

Considering the energy used in daily cooking for 7 billion people, collective cooking and eating should be a goal. Not only does it cost less carbon per plate, but research also shows that where eating is a social activity, people are healthier.

12. A plate full of plants

Blue Hill chef Dan Barber, author of The Third Plate and known for his work to use less carbon in the production and serving of his food, argues that our standard plate of dinner should shift from a slab of protein with a side of vegetables to a plate full of seasonal vegetables with perhaps meat in a seasoning or a sauce. Some 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions is from industrial agriculture, including deforestation to support livestock.

13. Waste nothing

Total land needed to grow feed just for Europe’s pork industry is the size of Ireland. The U.K.-based Pig Idea campaign encourages feeding leftover catering food to pigs because 40 percent of what farms produce is wasted. Also, the Gleaning Network has in the past four years rescued more than 288 metric tons of produce in Great Britain.

Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz wrote this for Just Transition, the Fall 2017 issue of YES! Magazine. Tracy is the editorial and creative director at YES! She serves on the board of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association.

Raj Patel wrote this article for Just Transition, the Fall 2017 issue of YES! Magazine. Raj is the author of “Stuff and Starved” and “The Value of Nothing” and a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times.

  Read How To Feed Ourselves In A Time Of Climate Crisis
  September 15, 2017
Beyond state capitalism: The commons economy in our lifetimes.

by James Bernard Quilligan, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents


In considering the essential problem of how to produce and distribute material wealth, virtually all of the great economists in Western history have ignored the significance of the commons—the shared resources of nature and society that people inherit, create and utilize.

Despite sharp differences in concept and ideology, economic thinkers from Smith, Ricardo, and Marx to Keynes, Hayek, Mises and Schumpeter largely based their assumptions on the world’s seemingly unlimited resources and fossil fuels, their infinite potential for creating economic growth, adequate supplies of labor for developing them, and the evolving monoculture of state capitalism responsible for their provision and allocation. Hence, in the Market State that has emerged, corporations and sovereign states make decisions on the production and distribution of Earth’s common resources more or less as a unitary system—with minimal participation from the people who depend on these commons for their livelihood and well-being. Because our forbears did not account for the biophysical flow of material resources from the environment through the production process and back into the environment, the real worth of natural resources and social labor is not factored into the economy. It is this centralized, hierarchical model that has led to the degradation and devaluation of our commons.

Over the past seventy years especially, the macroeconomic goals of sovereign states—for high levels and rapid growth of output, low unemployment and stable prices—have resulted in a highly dysfunctional world. The global economy has integrated dramatically in recent decades through financial and trade liberalization; yet the market is failing to protect natural and social resources, the state is failing to rectify the economic system, and the global polity is failing to manage its mounting imbalances in global resources and wealth. Without a ‘unified field theory’ of economics to explain how the commons is drastically undervalued and why world society is amassing huge debts to the environment, the poor and future generations, policymakers and their institutions lack the critical tools and support to address the massive instability that is now gripping the global economy. Businesses and governments are facing the Herculean challenge of reducing climate change and pollution while alleviating poverty without economic growth—a task for which the Market State is neither prepared nor designed to handle.

Meanwhile, the essential ideals of state capitalism—the rule-based systems of government enforcement and the spontaneous, self-regulating social order of markets—are finding direct expression in the co-governance and co-production of common goods by people in localities across the world. Whether these commons are traditional (rivers, forests, indigenous cultures) or emerging (energy, intellectual property, internet), communities are successfully managing them through collaboration and collective action. This growing movement has also begun to create social charters and commons trusts—formal instruments that define the incentives, rights and responsibilities of stakeholders for the supervision and protection of common resources. Ironically, by organizing to protect their commons through decentralized decision-making, the democratic principles of freedom and equality are being realized more fully in these resource communities than through the enterprises and policies of the Market State.

These evolving dynamics—the decommodification of common goods through co-governance and the deterritorialization of value through co-production—are shattering the liberal assumptions which underlie state capitalism. The emergence of this new kind of management and valuation for the preservation of natural and social assets is posing a momentous crisis for the Market State, imperiling the functional legitimacy of state sovereignty, national currencies, domestic fiscal policy, international trade and finance, and the global monetary system. Major changes are on the way. The transformation of modern political economy will involve reconnecting with—and reformulating—a pre-analytic vision of the post-macroeconomic global commons. Another world is coming: where common goods are capped and protected; a portion of these resources are rented to businesses for the production and consumption of private goods; and taxes on their use are redistributed by the state as public goods to provide a social income for the marginalized and to repair and restore the depleted commons.

Although people’s rights to their commons are often recognized and validated in smaller communities, scaling these lessons to the global level will require a new dimension of popular legitimacy and authority. The world community is rapidly evolving a sense of social interconnectivity, shared responsibility and global citizenship, yet the sovereign rights of people to the global commons have not been fully articulated. In declaring our planetary rights for these commons, we shall be confronting many decisive questions:

(1) Are modern societies prepared to create a framework in which the incentives behind production and governance are not private capital and debt-based growth, but human solidarity, quality of life and ecological sustainability?

(2) How soon—and how peacefully—will the subsystems of the Market State integrate their structures of value-creation and sovereign governance with the greater biophysical system of ecological and social interdependence?

(3) Can the global public organize effectively as a third power to develop checks and balances on the private and public sectors and establish the resource sovereignty and preservation value needed for a commons economy?

These issues will be filtering into mainstream discussion over the next two decades. Already the system of state capitalism is breaking down, threatening the entire planet, its institutions and species. When this collapse can no longer be contained and a global monetary crisis ensues, world society will have the choice of creating an economic system that follows the universal laws of biophysics and commons preservation—or accepting a new version of 18th-20th century mechanistic economics, obliging humanity to continue living off the common capital of the planet under corporate feudalism and über-militaristic regimes. Our decision will likely come down to this: global commons or global autarchy. As an economist, I don’t pretend to speak for the conscience of humanity; but as a human being, my heart tells me that we shall see the beginnings of a commons economy in our lifetimes. The long-forsaken global commons are beckoning.

James Bernard Quilligan has been an analyst and administrator in the field of international development since 1975. He has served as policy advisor and writer for many international politicians and leaders, including Pierre Trudeau, François Mitterand, Edward Heath, Julius Nyerere, Olof Palme, Willy Brandt, Jimmy Carter, and His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan of Jordan.Original source: Guernica

  Read Beyond state capitalism: The commons economy in our lifetimes
  September 17, 2017
Global Politics Is Not About The Safeguard of Humanity And Peace But of Special Interest And Wars.

by Dr Mahboob A Khawaja, in Imperialism, Countercurrents


We, the People are at Loss in Global Affairs

We the People of the Globe, We the conscientious Humanity are not the focal point of global political agenda for peace, security and future-making. The contemporary global leadership is obsessed with its own pitfalls of failing accountability to the global mankind.  The corporate managed global media networks view the people as numbers, digits and symbols of statistics to be used in competing popular number games operated in discussions as if the mankind is lifeless.

Paul Craig Roberts ( “Laughing on the Way to Armageddon” paulcraigroberts.org: 9/8/2017), the reputable American intellectual shared an interesting illustration of how the current US political operatives act like “horses” in global setting much like the same context as the Roman Emperors used to enlist the horses as Senator members.

The intensity of collective global emotions is noticeable against the extremely provocative nuclear arsenals and developments of other weapons of mass destruction by the North Korean regime. But is it something new? Were all the so called superpowers not involved in the same scheme of delusional arm race against the mankind? The US and Russia possess the largest number of nuclear warheads.  Are they waiting to be used for peace and security of the global humanity? Certainly not. If and when activated, these weapons will destroy most of the living humanity and its habitats. How wrongful thinking could wipe out the whole of the humanity.  Elizabeth West (“On the Road to Extinction: it is not all about us.” Dissident Voice: 9/13/2017), is making alarming wake-up calls to all concerned too. The irony of North Korean’s claimed joys of wanton destructiveness of its enemies should be tackled more carefully than in just reactionary outbursts. Is the UNSC is being misled as was the case during the fake WMD in 2003 US-led Iraq war?  The rightful place is face to face dialogue either within the UN auspices or coordinated via China-Russia initiatives for better understanding to defuse the irrational rhetoric coming from both sides. Perhaps, President Putin and President XI-Ping of China are more mature and cautious to deal with the North Korean crisis. Human nature prevails for reality when you meet face to face and so does rational communication to resolve the critical man-made problems. How strange, the UN Security Council calls for emergency session on man-made political follies, but it does not move with any sense of urgency on the emerging humanitarian crises such forcible eviction of Rohinga Muslims in Myanmar (Burma), displaced civilians in the Middle East war zones, the on-going sectarian onslaught in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Should human beings be not preferred in global quest for peace and security?

Is Human Ignorance the root cause of Tyranny?

There are insurmountable challenges stemming out of the man’s systematic tyranny against man. Its intensity can be reduced if not eliminated by idea men for change and adaptability to a communication dialogue at equal terms. Nobody can jump to conclude the ending without having a beginning. The global mankind is informed, and vigilant with a purpose and meaning for change and progress. How to safeguard the interests of the mankind and to ensure its survival from the known and unknown conspiracies, onslaught, and extinction of life and be able to live in harmonized global culture of peace, understanding and civilizations? The immense challenge and its on-going emerging critical implications deserve critical thinking and moral and intellectual pondering role and responsibilities from all the thinking hubs of the concerned global mankind. Man’s humanity originates from man, if we can evolve an inward thought and eye not just on business of economic survival but purpose of life with rational reflection to see our own origin, coming out of a drop in mother’s womb into a full fledge excellent Creation of God – complete system of functional human being- the Child of the Planet, the outcome could be more favorable in thoughts and actions to interact with reasoned perceptions and judgments within the socio-political encompassing environment. The self-awareness and actualization is key to rethinking and reconnecting to the originality of Man.

The emerging crises and consequences are dire and immediate for the very survival of the whole of the mankind to crush and block its progress by the invincible forces of the few interest groups.

Where is the human conscience and sense of responsibility in those who claim to be the legitimate political representatives of the people to serve the masses?As if this deliberate political treason was not enough, the humanity is wired by man-made weapons of mass destruction from Planet Earth beyond to the space. Nobody wants to talk about it to maintain indifference and pretension of the unknown. The ultimate aims appear to be to drive the most intellectual creation of God on the Planet Earth – the human being to an irrational and dogmatic outlook of life – into the lasting darkness of ignorance and absurdity to be just dumb numbers and digits to be played with, evicting the moral conscience out of the mind and soul, torturing the body and intellect by sophisticated means of lies and deception, exhausting moral and spiritual values that distinctively characterize the integrated human existence and coercing them to think and act in animalistic behavior. Where do you draw the defining argument between rationality, and political tyranny surging into insanity all over the globe?

In Search of Men of  Ideas, Men of Peace and  Men of Humanity

To introduce Abb Pierre (1912-2007), French founder of Emmaus International as a man of humanity, Ita Marguet wrote (Diva International):

“Acknowledging this Man of Humanity, Abb? Pierre received the Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood amongst peoples … “For having fought throughout his life for the defence of human rights, democracy and peace, For having entirely dedicated himself to helping relieve spiritual and physical suffering, For having inspired – regardless of nationality, race or religion – universal solidarity with the Emmaus communities”

Often one wonders about the moving time span and recorded history in which people of conscience lived, shared imagination and reasoned. It seems that Alexander Pope(“An Essay on Man”) had an in-depth knowledge, vision, and understanding of the human nature, spiritual values and search for truth and peace in quest for Change and Reason:

Of Man what see we, but his station here,
From which to reason, or to which refer?
Thro’ worlds unnumber’d tho’ the God be known,
‘Tis ours to trace him only in our own

Then, in the scale of reas’ning life, ’tis plain
There must be, somewhere, such rank as Man;

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.

Wars kill people and destroy human habitats. It could not have happened unless the mindset and driving force of global leadership were insane full of temptation and compulsion of evil-mongering against the very mankind of which they were a part. The few men who drove the humanity to madness of killing and destruction during the WW1 and WW2 but defied responsibility and consequences to the self, they were not leaders but are known as monster of history- the people who could not think right nor do it right. Why should the succeeding generations celebrate their drudgery and failures? Or what good is there in wars to celebrate?   Felicity Arbuthnot (“Remembrance Day: Let this Silence be a Scream for Peace” Dissident Voice), points out the glued wrong thinking of the warmongers celebrating the acts of savagery by man against man:

“…Hypocrisy does not come more astounding than this. There has not been a single bloodless year since. More often than not, the US, Britain and European countries has been involved. …..the pain of others should surely be, and have been, of concern, distress and subject of mediation and conflict resolve.”

In the 21st century of knowledge-based humanity to avert the monstrous wars even without formidable weapons, we the people and we the humanity are facing crises of conscience with diminishing guilt and coerced humiliation as if there were no civilized people populating the living Earth. To discard global cults of aggressiveness and animosities, we, the people must reflect on ourselves – our inner spirit of humanity to be responsible for change and adaptability to a sustainable future-making. If we ponder at the failing accuracy of rational conscience, it could lead to a self-engineered extinction of the humankind and whatever we perceive to be living in rational terms.

Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja specializes in global security, peace and conflict resolution-international affairs with keen interests in Islamic-Western comparative cultures and civilizations, and author of several publications including Global Peace and Conflict Management: Man and Humanity in Search of New Thinking. Germany, May 2012. His forthcoming publication is entitled: One Humanity and the Remaking of Global Peace, Security and Conflict Resolution

  Read Global Politics Is Not About The Safeguard of Humanity And Peace But of Special Interest And Wars
  September 17, 2017
The Climate Catastrophe We’re All Ignoring.

by Jeremy Lent , in Climate Change, Countercurrents


Imagine you’re driving your shiny new car too fast along a wet, curvy road. You turn a corner and realize you’re heading straight for a crowd of pedestrians. If you slam on your brakes, you’d probably skid and damage your car. So you keep your foot on the accelerator, heading straight for the crowd, knowing they’ll be killed and maimed, but if you keep driving fast enough no-one will be able to catch you and you might just get away scot-free.

Of course, that’s monstrous behavior and I expect you’d never make that decision. But it’s a decision the developed world is collectively taking in the face of the global catastrophe that will arise from climate change.

With daily headlines pivoting from the unparalleled flooding from Harvey in Houston to the devastation caused by Irma in Florida, it might seem like the United States has its hands full just dealing with our own climate emergencies. In the short term, that’s true. Harvey is estimated to have caused $180 billion of destruction, damaging some 200,000 homes, while Irma’s havoc is still being assessed.

But meanwhile, multiply the damage from Harvey and Irma a hundredfold and you’ll get a feeling for the climate-related suffering taking place right now in the rest of the world. In India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, an estimated 40 million people have been affected by massive flooding, with over 1,200 deaths. More than one third of Bangladesh’s land mass has been submerged. As if that’s not enough, Africa has been suffering its own under-reported climate disasters, with hundreds of thousands affected by flooding in Nigeria, Niger, Congo, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.

Although the regime in the White House is doing its best to ignore it, these global weather extremes are clearly exacerbated by climate change, and have been predicted by climate scientists for decades. What is so disturbing is that we’re experiencing this wave of disasters at a global temperature roughly 1°C above historic norms. It’s a virtual certainty that we’re going to hit 1.5° before long—perhaps in the next ten years—and unless we do something drastic to transform our fossil fuel-based society, we could be hitting 2°C as early as 2036. By the end of the century—when half the babies born this year should still be alive—conservative estimates have global temperatures hitting 3.3°C above baseline, based on the commitments that formed the 2015 Paris Agreement at COP21. And that’s not including potentially devastating feedback effects such as methane leaking from permafrost, which could lead to temperatures way higher, causing an earth that would literally be uninhabitable for humans in many regions.

The likely effects on our civilization are dreadful to contemplate. Because most cities have grown up around oceans, half the world’s population currently lives within fifteen miles of the coast. The devastation we’ve been seeing from flooding and storm surges offers only a hint of the impending catastrophe. In the Global South, beleaguered by massive poverty and inadequate infrastructure, cities will be overwhelmed. Reduction in river flows and falling groundwater tables will lead to widespread shortages of potable water. Flooding and landslides will disrupt electricity, sanitation, and transportation systems, all of which will lead to rampant infectious disease. Meanwhile, even as these cities strain beyond breaking point, devastating droughts will cause agricultural systems to collapse, forcing millions of starving refugees into the cities from rural areas.

Eventually, even the most strident climate denialists will have to adjust to the facts raining down from the sky. Even Rush Limbaugh was forced to evacuate his Palm Beach home after claiming Irma was a conspiracy. But when they do, you can guarantee their response will be parochial. Wealthier cities will begin massive investments in building barricades, improving infrastructure, even moving to higher land, to defend themselves against the climate cataclysm. That’s known in climate change circles as “adaptation.” In more rational parts of the rich world, cities such as London and Rotterdam are already doing it.

However, effective adaptation isn’t an option for the megacities of the Global South, which are already floundering from inadequate resources, and where hundreds of millions are forced to subsist, undernourished and vulnerable, in shanty towns. A central part of the Paris Agreement, which Trump recently rejected, was a Green Climate Fund that is supposed to receive $100 billion annually by 2020 from developed countries to aid the rest of the world in mitigating and adapting to climate change. So far, only $10 billion has been pledged, $3 billion of which is the US portion that Trump has vowed not to increase. It’s hard to see even a small fraction of that $100 billion annual payment actually coming through.

Yet it’s the developed world that created this climate mess in the first place. With just 15% of the world’s population, developed countries have been responsible for 58% of human-caused greenhouse gases. All that fossil fuel energy is what permitted them to industrialize and thus become “developed,” to the point that they’re now consuming 80% of the world’s resources, leaving the poorest three billion in the Global South to survive on less than $2 per day. That doesn’t leave much change for climate adaptation.

That’s why the inadequate response of the rich world to climate disruption is like that driver choosing to plunge straight into the crowd rather than swerving and risk damaging their shiny new car. What would it take to put the brakes on in time to avoid climate catastrophe?

There is hopeful news about the spectacular rise of renewables, surprising experts with the speed with which they are replacing fossil fuels around the world. But while that’s an essential part of a solution, modern renewables still account for just 10% of global energy production, which in turn contributes no more than 25% of total greenhouse emissions. Halting the slide to disaster requires something far more extensive: a complete transformation of our current economic system.

After Pearl Harbor, when the United States faced an existential threat, President Roosevelt announced a military production plan to Congress and the American people that seemed unachievable. Yet, not only did the country meet those plans, it overshot them as a result of the wholesale transformation of society towards a single goal. This kind of mobilization is what would be required today to avoid the worst outcomes of climate change: a Climate Mobilization.

In this case, though, it’s a different kind of mobilization that’s required. The threat we’re facing comes, not from enemies at war with us, but from the results of an economic system designed to exploit the earth and the most vulnerable humans living on it at an ever-increasing pace. As long as we measure ourselves and others by how much we consume, we’re complicit in fueling the global system that’s rapaciously devouring the earth.

The good news is that there’s a short window of time when a fundamental shift in our economic, social, and political priorities could still prevent global catastrophe. Alternative economic models exist that offer ways to conduct commerce sustainably. Ultimately, a flourishing future requires moving away from the growth-based, consumption-obsessed values of global capitalism, and toward a quality-oriented approach that could allow all of us to live on the earth in dignity. It’s even possible to draw down much of the carbon that’s already been emitted—the potential is there but it requires a choice to be made: a shift in our society’s values toward caring for others alive right now, and for future generations.

Will there be enough collective willpower to act and transform our society before it’s too late? That depends on the lessons learned from Harvey, Irma, and the climate disasters still to come. Suppose, as you’re racing toward that crowd in the road, that you managed to brake in time, get out of the car and join them. And then imagine your surprise when you discover the road you were speeding on came to an abrupt end around the next curve and was leading you directly off the precipice. Ultimately, the climate catastrophe we’re ignoring will become all humanity’s catastrophe unless we start acting on it now.

Jeremy Lent is an author and founder of the nonprofit Liology Institute. The Liology Institute is dedicated to fostering a worldview that could enable humanity to thrive sustainably on the earth. His current book, The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Future, (Prometheus Books, May 2017), is based on a simple but compelling theme – culture shapes values, and those values shape history.

Originally published in CommonDreams

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

  Read The Climate Catastrophe We’re All Ignoring
  September 19, 2017
The History And Evolution Of The Commons.

by Michael Bauwens, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents

Is it possible to historicize the commons, to describe the evolution of the commons over time? This is our first draft and preliminary attempt to do so.

To do this we must of course define the commons. We generally agree with the definition that was given by David Bollier and others and which derives from the work of Elinor Ostrom and the researchers in this tradition.

What are the Commons and P2P. Click to enlarge.

In this context, the commons has been defined as a shared resource, which is co-owned and/or co-governed by its users and/or stakeholder communities, according to its rules and norms. It’s a combination of a ‘thing’, an activity, commoning as the maintenance and co-production of that resource, and a mode of governance. It is distinguished from private and public/state forms of managing resources.

But it’s also useful to see commoning as one of four ways of distributing the fruits of a resource, i.e. as a ‘mode of exchange’, which is different from the more obligatory state-based redistribution systems, from markets based on exchange, and from the gift economy with its socially-pressured reciprocity between specific entities. In this context, commoning is pooling/mutualizing a resource, whereby individuals exchange with the totality of an eco-system.

A number of relational grammars, especially that of Alan Page Fiske in Structures of Social Life, are very useful in that regard, as he distinguishes Authority Ranking (distribution according to rank), Equality Matching (the gift economy, as a social obligation to return a gift), Market Pricing and Communal Shareholding.

Kojin Karatani’s book about the Structure of World History is an excellent attempt to place the evolution of these modes of exchange, in a historical context. Pooling is the primary mode for the early tribal and nomadic forms of human organization, as ‘owning’ is counter-productive for nomads; the gift economy starts operating and becomes strongest in more complex tribal arrangements, especially after sedentarisation, since the social obligation of the gift and counter-gift, creates societies and pacifies relations. With the onset of class society, ‘Authority Ranking’ or re-distribution becomes dominant, and finally, the market system becomes dominant under capitalism.

Let’s now reformulate this in a hypothesis for civilisational, i.e. class history.

Class-based societies that emerged before capitalism, have relatively strong commons, and they are essentially the natural resource commons, which are the ones studied by the Ostrom school. They co-exist with the more organic culturally inherited commons (folk knowledge etc..). Though pre-capitalist class societies are very exploitative, they do not systematically separate people from their means of livelihood Thus, under for example European feudalism, peasants had access to common land.

With the emergence and evolution of capitalism and the market system, first as an emergent subsystem in the cities, we see the second form of commons becoming important, i.e. the social commons. In western history we see the emergence of the guild systems in the cities of the Middle Ages, which are solidarity systems for craft workers and merchants, in which ‘welfare’ systems are mutualized, and self governed. When market-based capitalism becomes dominant, the lives of the workers become very precarious, since they are now divorced from the means of livelihood. This creates the necessity for the generalization of this new form of commons,distinct from natural resources. In this context, we can consider worker coops, along with mutuals etc… as a form of commons. Cooperatives can then be considered as a legal form to manage social commons.

With the welfare state, most of these commons were state-ified, i.e. managed by the state, and no longer by the commoners themselves.There is an argument to be made that social security systems are commons that are governed by the state as representing the citizens in a democratic polity. Today, with the crisis of the welfare state, we see the re-development of new grassroots solidarity systems, which we could call ‘commonfare’, and the neoliberalisation and bureaucratisation of the welfare systems may well call for a re-commonification of welfare systems, based on public-commons partnerships.

Since the emergence of the Internet, and especially since the invention of web (the launch of the web browser in October 1993), we see the birth, emergence and very rapid evolution of a third type of commons: the knowledge commons. Distributed computer networks allow for the generalisation of peer to peer dynamics, i.e. open contributory systems where peers are free to join in the common creation of shared knowledge resources, such as open knowledge, free software and shared designs. Knowledge commons are bound to the phase of cognitive capitalism, a phase of capitalism in which knowledge becomes a primary factor of production and competitive advantage, and at the same time represent an alternative to ‘knowledge as private property’, in which knowledge workers and citizens take collective ownership of this factor of production.

To the degree that cognitive or network-based capitalism undermines salary-based work and generalized precarious work, especially for knowledge workers, these knowledge commons and distributed networks become a vital tool for social autonomy and collective organisation. But access to knowledge does not create the possibility for the creation of autonomous and more secure livelihoods, and thus, knowledge commons are generally in a situation of co-dependence with capital, in which a new layer of capital, netarchical capital, directly uses and extracts value from the commons and human cooperation.

But we should not forget that knowledge is a representation of material reality, and thus, the emergence of knowledge commons is bound to have an important effect on the modes of production and distribution.

I would then emit the hypothesis that this is the phase we have reached, i.e. the ‘phygital’ phase in which the we see the increased intertwining of ‘digital’ (i.e. knowledge) and the physical.

The first location of this inter-twining are the urban commons. I have had the opportunity to spend four months in the Belgian city of Ghent, where we identified nearly 500 urban commons in every area of human provisioning (food. Shelter, transportation)[1].

Our great discovery was that these urban commons function in essentially the same way as the digital commons communities that operate in the context of ‘commons-based peer production’.

This means that they combine the following elements:

1) an open productive community with

2) a for-benefit infrastructure organisation that maintains the infrastructure of the commons and

3) generative (in the best case) livelihood organisations which mediate between the market/state and the commons in order to insure the social reproduction of the commoners (i.e. their livelihoods).

In our vision, these urban commons, which according to at least two studies [2] are going through an exponential phase of growth (a ten-fold growth in the last ten years), are the premise for a further deepening of the commons, preparing a new phase of deeper re-materialization.

We can indeed distinguish four types of commons according to two axes: material/immaterial, and co-produced/inherited.

Ostrom commons are mostly inherited material commons (natural resources); inherited immaterial commons, such as culture and language, are usually considered under the angle of the common heritage of humankind; knowledge commons are immaterial commons that are co-produced and finally, there is a largely missing category of material commons that are produced. We are talking here of what is traditionally called ‘capital’, but in the new context of an accumulation of the commons, rather than a accumulation of capital for the sake of capital.

Let’s see the logic of this.

In pre-capitalist class formations, where the land is a primary productive factor, natural resource commons are an essential resource of the livelihood of the commons, and it is entirely natural that the commons take the form of the common governance of natural resources tied to the land.

In capitalist formations, where the workers are divorced from access to land and the means of production, it is natural that the commons become ‘social’; they are the solidarity systems that workers need to survive, and they are the attempts to organize production on a different basis during the rule of capital, i.e. they can also take the form of cooperatives for production and consumption.

In an era of cognitive capitalism, knowledge becomes a primary resource and factor of production and wealth creation, and knowledge commons are a logical outcome. But the precarious workers that are in exodus from the salaried condition, cannot ‘eat’ knowledge. Therefore, the commons also take on the form of urban infrastructure and provisioning systems, but must ultimately also take the form of true physical and material productive commons. The commons are therefore potentially the form of a mode of production and industry appropriate to the current conjuncture. During a time of market and state failure regarding the necessary ecological transition, and heightened social inequality, commoning infrastructure becomes a necessity for guaranteeing access to resources and services, to limit unequal access, but also as a very potent means to lower the material footprint of human production.

Therefore, current urban and productive commons are also the seed forms of the new system which solves the problems of the current system, which combines a pseudo-abundance in material production which endangers the planet, and an artificial scarcity in knowledge exchange, which hinders the spread of solutions.

The knowledge commons of cognitive capitalism are but a transition to the productive commons of the post-capitalist era.

In this new form of material commons, which are heavily informed and molded by digital knowledge commons (hence ‘phygital’), the means of production themselves can become a pooled resource. We foresee a combination of shared global knowledge resources (for example, exemplified by shared designs, and following the rule: all that is light is global and shared), and local cooperatively owned and managed micro-factories (following the rule: all that is heavy is local).

This cosmo-local (DGML: design global, manufacture local) mode of production and distribution, has the following characteristics:

  • Protocol cooperativism: the underlying immaterial and algorithmic protocols are shared and open source, using copyfair principles (free sharing of knowledge, but commercialization conditioned by reciprocity)
  • Open cooperativism: the commons-based coops are distinguished from ‘collective capitalism’ by their commitment to creating and expanding common goods for the whole of society; in Platform coops it is the platforms themselves that are the commons, needed to enable and manage the exchanges that may be needed, while protecting it from capture by extractive netarchical platfors
  • Open and contributive accounting: fair distribution mechanisms that recognize all contributions
  • Open and shared supply chains for mutual coordination
  • Non-dominium forms of ownership (the means of production are held in common for the benefit of all participants in the eco-system.

In our opinion, the current wave of urban commons, is a prefiguration of the coming wave of scaled up material commons for the production and distribution of value in post-capitalist systems.

Michael Bauwens is the founder of the P2P Foundation, a global research collaborative network on peer production as well as Co-Founder of the Commons Strategies Group.

All artworks by Mario Klingemann.

  Read The History And Evolution Of The Commons
 October 9, 2017
We Need To Re-Educate Ourselves To Survive And Live Life At Its Best.

by Lionel Anet, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents


We presently are using whatever we can, with little to no concerns for our children’s future, as they, on present trend have little prospect and less to no chance that their offspring will be able to survive. Yet the continuation of life is life’s primary concern. But not in civilisation, with the new socioeconomic system of global capitalism, education primary purpose is to increase the growth of its economy regardless of consequences.

All mammals benefit with an education, while humans are hopeless without it, so, we can only be the result of our education interpreted by our genes and intellectual abilities, which requires nearly everyone to persevere with whatever we are taught. That’s why most of our educated one, although concerned people, can only think within the system that is creating the disaster, although we try to avert the worst effects and improve life within a capitalist socioeconomic system, life is getting harder. Reformist pursue that task as in the innocent heydays of cheap oil before the 1980s when the world economy saw endless growth, however, today for all practical purpose we’re near the top of that economic growth curve on a per capita base with some sectors and communities starting to fall. How far will we fall, as the bottom is the end of life it will depends on how long we keep functioning on our reductionist world view. We still have a fairly easy escape from the fatalities befalling us and nature, but not if we keep maintain business as usual much longer, if we go beyond the critical stage where nature due to an unliveable hotter planet takes over with vengeance. But then there’s nuclear warfare to do a quicker job.

A growing population on an overpopulated world of depleting resources, including fisheries is disastrous but there’s worst to come, within 50 years many cities will be drowned by rising seas, aggravated by more severe storms, there will be floods or uncontrollable fires. Currently, it’s estimated we will reach 9 billion people half way through this century. Definitely not in a civilised capitalist system, we will need a very social system with a rapidly degreasing competition replaced by an ever increasing cooperation, locally and worldwide. But, what is cooperation, selling and buying isn’t a cooperative act, nor is working for wages, they are competitive domineering acts, direct or indirect. The distressing aspect of that, except for a few who are doing well in a competitive economy, is no one is in control of societies’ destiny as the outcome in any competitive activities must be unknown. The real competition is in between the most powerful who have control of the media and teaching institutions, but their goal is to increase their power to get more of it. Nevertheless, the power of the wealthy can only exist, if it’s fulfilled by the powerless ones and nature’s ability to provide.

The advantage of a cooperative society is the wide choice and freedoms the individual can have, through mutual concerns to improve and strengthen relations, which sequentially improves individuals’ security and widen their abilities. All actions are acceptable if they don’t diminish the socialness of society and other people’s freedom or is more beneficial than destructive to nature. Everything we do to be acceptable or praised must preferably enhance present and future life.

One of the many squabbles leading to fights we have is due to people seeking an advantage, or on a wider scale not been at too much at a disadvantage, this is an outcome of competition, it’s a socially guideless, wasteful, and is dangerous in its pursuit to dominate it has indoctrinated civilised people from its inception. That increasing competitive life requires growth to be tolerable, but growth requires evermore stuff and energy and both have limits. The difference and beauty of a cooperative life is its flexible, therefore it’s adaptable to a variety of circumstances and can avoid difficult situation.

It’s not possible for the planet to support the expected 9 billion people and survive with the present way of life. Even today’s young will be in severe difficulty and that’s not just the down and out unfortunates, but our wealthiest one will suffer the turmoil from the inability of nature to maintain the exploitation, it will lead to a likely annihilation of life if continued.

What we must realise and do to survive

These are a few obvious items that need some understanding.

There are so many things we do that are unnecessary and destructive, such as, manufacturing and using military equipment, they multiply social problems, causing many very distressing casualties, and they inflict social and environmental damage. Furthermore, we must replace road transport with rail powered by renewables, it would save carbon emissions and the waisted effort in making millions of cars as they deteriorate fast compared to rail rolling stock, which also save space, however even more important is the lives it would save. According to the World Health Organization, road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.25 million deaths worldwide in the year 2010. In the USA 34,064 deaths that year and there’re worried by terrorist. According to a September 2016 study released by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, some 3,024 Americans died from 1975 through 2015 at the hands of foreign-born terrorists. That number includes the 9/11 terrorist attacks (2,983 people) and averages nearly 74 Americans per year. Since 9/11, however, six Americans have died per year at the hands, guns, and bombs of foreign-born terrorists. So it’s the automobile that is the real terror for Americans.

Whichever way we may look at our transport it kills people directly, poison us, destroys the city environment, and eventually, added with all we inflict on nature, life will be impossible for our offspring. We must realise that moving people and stuff from one place to another and back again is a wasted effort, it produce global warming gas which in capitalism we ignores the many indirect consequences. Ships have stowaways in the ballast water and on their hull spreading unwanted organism throughout the world. It’s insane to transport goods halfway around the world, in most cases we only need to send the information needed to produce what we need, all it takes is cooperation. To survive we must act holistically because generally every single thing has an effect on everything therefore, by just remaining and using what we have in our neighbourhood before we expect other people to provide for us, we would save so much effort and reduce pollution. It a small price to pay as it would be well repaid by giving opportunities for local people to supply their needs as part of enhancing one’s life.

Air travel and transport is extremely vulnerable to fatalities, but being a public transport instead of a private one, it’s very safe and reliable. Nevertheless, air travel uses a great deal of fuel and when emitted at 10 km height it’s five times more effective than at sea level in its warming ability. So, air travel is no light-hearted matter, the seriousness is ignored by airlines, nations, and travellers, furthermore most flights are for business reason or excuses for it. From Quora “I wish everybody could fly, just once, to see the world in a new way, but probably only a relative handful of people worldwide will ever have the chance to do so.” Therefore, only very few aircraft flights would be needed if we decide to save future lives.

We can make life much easier and better by eliminating commercial advertising, all we need is information that’s has as its aim to produce knowledge that allows people to understand life and our planet accurately. We would then see that eating less meat not only lessen nature’s ordeal but would give us a healthier diet. To further reduce energy need agriculture must be more local and of smaller size, as it will bring growers and consumers physical and mentally closer.

However, population reduction to be effective in the coming situation will necessitate a different social arrangement, to both improve our life style and reduce our population as quickly and still giving us the joy that children give, and we give them. Difficulties we must overcome, however formidable they may appear, must be dealt with to survive, in spite of our establish belief, that population must grow to satisfy our economy, regardless of it being dysfunctional.

Commune composed of people who known each other are ideal for social living, they can be self-controlled base on unanimity of purpose and action enabling a harmonious cooperative group living with the environment and other groups of people. If we can establish such life style, people will then be able to deal with a drastic population reduction required and still be involved and enjoy the rearing of children whose welfare will be given the best possible start with multiple parents as we had when we were hunter-gatherers. For in civilisation we value possessions above people, and as children have been and are in some way a possession belonging to one or a married couple, but no matter how dedicated one is we can’t be every where or be everything and cope with all possibilities on one’s own. It’s time we prioritise children’s welfare and their future, instead of GDP growth.

Lionel Anet is a member of Sydney U3A University of the Third Age, of 20 years standing and now a life member

  Read We Need To Re-Educate Ourselves To Survive And Live Life At Its Best
  October 13, 2017
Wildfires, Hurricanes, Tornadoes!

by Sally Dugman, in Climate Change, Countercurrents


Many people can’t seem to wrap their minds around the idea that if we want lessening climate change problems and curtailment of other sorts of devastation like massive spills and air pollution, we need to use less fossil fuels. We also have to stop taking away more and more of the natural world for economic development, stop personally using up ever more resources to climb up the socio-economic ladder and stop increasing the human population. After all more people will require more and more jobs provided based on further gobbling up the biosphere, as well as even more resources in use..

Cutting off your connection to the natural world leads to biodiversity loss and other troubles, obviously:


My elderly friend lived in Santa Rosa, California until recent fire events forced her from her old-person retirement community.

Here’s her city-town now:


Santa Rosa’s charred now, but we’re all facing fire (or flood or heat wave) soon – LA Times

Imagine facing this sort of misery when you are in your nineties? How can you possibly imagine picking up your life and putting it back together at that age? You don’t have necessarily the energy, will or wits (mental capacity) to do it.

Moreover, she has a very small pension and no children. Who is supposed to help her financially and in other ways?

I enquired of another friend of mine in Petaluma, California: “Are you all right? Are you safe? Is your home safe?”

She responded :”Fires all around. yes town is evac center—1000’s in shelters now here.Ptown ok right now. I am ok, still packed a few bags.”

Devastated people, including many who barely escaped with their lives and who lost their homes, flocked to her town in the thousands as a potentially safe haven. Yet everyone is on standby alert in the event that it, too, has to be evacuated at any moment since fires all but surround it! How alarming is that for my friend and all the rest of the people? Nerve racking!

My friend in Petaluma has it particularly tough. She’s recovering from breast cancer and can’t work on account. She is very poor and I have sent her money to help her survive due to her illness and her inability to work.

She has no husband and no children. So what is she supposed to do? Where is she supposed to go? Where can she survive if her rented apartment with all of her belongings, including furniture, go up in flames? … Why, she doesn’t even now have enough money to own a car. She walks or bike rides. So what is she supposed to do? I will repeat.

Of course, it’s not just in California, USA. These ugly events are happening across the world. For example:
Officials reported nearly 900 wildfires in Italy on Monday, with people evacuated from residential as well as touristy parts of Rome and Naples, and around Mount Vesuvius, near Naples.Jul 18, 2017 – From Wildfires Roar Across Southern Europe – The New York Times

Forest fires in Russia. In this July 28 satellite image released by NASA, smoke from fires near Moscow is. More than 300,000 acres have burned in recent days … – From Forest fires in Russia – Telegraph

Like tourist season, wildfire season is also in full swing in British Columbia. Whereas tourists are welcomed to the Canadian province, wildfires are not. In British ... – From Wildfires Continue to Beleaguer Western Canada | NASA

… and the list of places being ruined by wildfires goes onward and onward.


California wildfires: Calistoga evacuated amid blazes

It’s not as if many people cannot connect the dots between their own personal behaviors, our human collective behaviors and an increasingly ruined world. While self-deception about helping the world because one recycles garbage that nobody really wants to use much at all may be momentarily comforting, it doesn’t lead to improvement. It leads to this sort of scene:


Of course, we still have climate change deniers or people across the globe that don’t even know that it exists. Why — I even recently heard of some still blaming sunspots for changing weather and climate change conditions.


Of course, yet others do know that these monumental climate change conditions, which will worsen over time, do exist. Yet they pretend that they don’t. After all, to admit means to be less personally in the money! It means cutting back in lifestyle.


Clearly, we all (except the poorest of the poor) have to cut back on lots. We have to cut back on fossil fuels, resource use and economic development. If we don’t, our world will be in a shambles way worse than it is now.

We humans have to smarten up. We need to start transition town movements now! Yet how many people can we convince to follow this model at this stage of disintegration of the environments around us? (Most are still in la-la land in terms of a need and desire to change their ways.)

The terms transition town, transition initiative and transition model refer to grassroot
community projects that aim to increase self-sufficiency to reduce the potential effects
of peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability.
– From
Transition town – Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition_town

Yet we have to keep trying to convince others, anyway. It’s because we have to keep looking ahead. No, it is not just about us, and our ease and comforts, our advantages today. …

The Seventh Generation Principle is based on an ancient Iroquois philosophy that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. … The Great Law of Iroquois Confederacy formed the political, ceremonial, and social fabric of the Five Nation Confederacy (later Six).May 29, 2012 – FromWhat is the Seventh Generation Principle?


In the end, we need to stop warring against the planet and ourselves in order to get
advantages (like oil resources in  the Middle East). We need instead to lay down our
 swords and shields for good.

As the fellows in this video sing: I’m going to shake hands around the world” and

“I ain’t going to study war no more!” … Let’s all follow suit!

a gospel song also known as Ain’t Gonna Study War No More and/or

Gonna Lay Down My Burden..first …

Sally Dugman is a writer from MA, USA.

  Read Wildfires, Hurricanes, Tornadoes!
  September 11, 2017
It's Time to Start Teaching Kids About Climate Change.

by Rowan Shafer, Rethinking Schools, AlterNet


The room was bustling with 28 3rd graders diligently working in pairs and practicing their scripts for the “People’s Climate Summit.” The 8- and 9-year-olds were discussing parts, devising props and costumes, and sounding out Bengali words and scientific terms.

“Ms. Shafer, what is a gla-ker?”

Paris, her partner Adrian, and I looked at their script and sounded out the word “glacier” together.

“I remember what a glacier is. That’s what’s melting in the North Pole!” Adrian exclaimed. 

“Exactly, Adrian. But does your character live in the North Pole?”

“No, Nancy Tanaka lives in Oregon,” he responded. We looked at a map of North America. Most of my New Orleanian students hadn’t heard of Oregon before.

“I didn’t know we had glaciers, are they melting here too? Isn’t that bad?” Paris asked.

This was one moment, of many, when I wondered how to answer an 8-year-old. 

When I began brainstorming this unit, the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference in Paris had just ended; I thought about how I could use this significant event as a way to teach my students about climate change. Was this global concern too big and abstract to address with 3rd graders? How could I bring up an issue so complex, so gloom and doom? How could I not? I was concerned about how environmental issues are often taught to young children in a way that is artificially divorced from social concerns, and I felt learning about the pressing issue of climate change could not wait until my students were older. 

I knew my students would have myriad experiences relating to this crucial topic, and that most of their knowledge wasn’t coming from school. In Louisiana, there are pretty clear real-life examples of climate change negatively affecting my students in their own backyard. Changing weather patterns, sea levels, and temperatures influenced the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina; rapid coastal erosion — at the rate of a football field per hour — is compounded by rising sea levels and the continued destruction of wetlands for human use (including for the Gulf Coast oil industry); and “Cancer Alley” is the nearby petrochemical industrial corridor in predominantly poor, African American communities between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. 

While most white and middle-class children attend private schools in New Orleans, my public charter has prioritized creating an institution that reflects the diverse neighborhood around it. With a majority African American and low-income student population, and a full-inclusion model, my school is known as one of the most diverse public charters in the city. I wanted to not just teach what climate change is, but to frame it as a social and environmental justice issue my students could directly relate to and take action to change.

The inspiration for this unit came from Bill Bigelow’s article “Climate Change Mixer” in Rethinking Schools’ A People’s Curriculum for the Earth . In the introductory activity, each student takes on the role of someone affected by climate change and, walking around the room, meets people from the world as they tell their stories based on short autobiographies. I was inspired by the active, yet profound way high school students were learning about the climate crisis and believed my 3rd-grade students could too. I created a unit around a “People’s Climate Summit” in which 3rd graders would present mostly underepresented voices of people around the world in a conference-like group performance. The conference was the culmination of students’ learning about the topic, and led to students taking action around Congress’ upcoming decision to adopt the U.N. agreement.

Setting the Stage

To begin this unit, I showed students a short clip from the U.N. conference panning all of the global leaders as they announced the agreement in various languages. “Hundreds of leaders who live in different places and speak different languages came together to make a decision about something that affects the whole world,” I explained. Animated chatter stirred in the classroom; many students excitedly pointed out President Obama on the screen. “These leaders from around the world had a big decision to make about the whole Earth. But only the leaders from each country were there. Not everyone’s voices were heard,” I told them, setting up a scenario. “It is going to be your job, in the next month, to prepare for our own conference where you will represent regular people from all over the world. This is so important that you’re each going to get to write President Obama and tell him what you think he should do. But first, we need to learn about something called global warming.”

Big Issues, Small Kids

“Who knows what global warming is?” Some students had never heard the term before while others had a lot to share. They referenced pollution from cars and garbage, concerns about endangered species, and changing temperatures at the beach.

During the first half of this unit, I focused on providing the scientific background students needed in order to interact with the larger concepts of climate change (such as the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere and phases of matter). These were big, abstract ideas for 3rd graders. The notion that the air around us is composed of different molecules, let alone that this is changing, was hard to grasp. 

“The atmosphere is all around us, it’s the air we breathe. We can’t see it, but without it, humans, animals, and plants couldn’t live on Earth. It’s made up of tiny parts called molecules. Who’s heard of oxygen before?” Lots of hands shot up. “That’s one of the molecules! A really important one that plants breathe in is called carbon dioxide.” I used lots of visuals, including YouTube videos like Climate Change for Kids and Climate Change (according to a kid), to help students understand the science behind global warming. The videos shied away from a lot of scientific vocabulary and instead used animated representations like color-coded cartoon molecules of greenhouse gases to demonstrate how industrial sources are increasing the “blanket” of these molecules around the Earth, trapping heat inside. I used these visuals to build a common vocabulary and a conceptual understanding of the human impact of global warming: We are upsetting a natural balance of the Earth by producing more and more greenhouse gases that keep heat from the sun inside our atmosphere, while cutting down plants that use up carbon dioxide. The result is that our planet is getting warmer, which is causing dangerous changes. I then had students illustrate their own diagrams of global warming as a way to assess their understanding. Most drew pictures of the Earth getting hotter and hotter due to ball-like molecules of carbon dioxide forming a barrier and balls of solar energy bouncing around inside. Once I knew my students had a common foundation, I presented the problem of global warming as both an environmental and social issue. 

“Why is this a problem?” I asked. “Is this a problem just for animals?” 

“No,” Dante piped in. “We’re polluting the air, and people can’t breathe. Sometimes in other countries people have to wear masks because the air is bad to breathe.” This really concerned students, and I could tell it made an impression on them. 

“My mom said Hurricane Katrina happened because of global warming.” So far all of the class examples were about abstract, faraway places, so I was grateful to Janelle for bringing the issue close to home. 

Instead of discussing scientific concepts we hadn’t studied, such as how warmer waters influence air masses and weather patterns, I decided to focus on the connection between the storm surge, rising sea levels, and coastal erosion. So the next day I started with a question: “When ice melts and melts and melts in Antarctica, where does it go?” They were stumped. I tried again. “When an ice cube melts in your soda, what happens?” It gets watery, they agreed. “So when glaciers melt into the ocean what happens to the ocean?”

“There’s more water!” Paris exclaimed.

I used this analogy to help students visualize global rising sea levels and coastal land loss. To illustrate one of the ways climate change is affecting our state, I showed a video from the U.S. Geological Survey showing coastal land loss in Louisiana in fast motion over 50 years. You can literally see peninsulas about two hours from New Orleans shrink to tiny islands. “The land we’re losing in Louisiana is our natural sponge to soak up huge waves from hurricanes before they get to where people live. Now,” I asked the class, “do you think all those global leaders who met in Paris had an important job to do?”

I knew right away that a mixer in which students walk around the room and introduce their characters to each other was too advanced for my class; I needed to create a structure in which I could guide them through the complicated ideas each character would present. Making this into a presentation with an audience could motivate students to take more ownership over their role. So I modified the mixer into a performance modeled after an actual conference.

Adapting the Activity for Elementary School Students

Next, I set about adapting the content. I rewrote each script from Bigelow’s original high school mixer, replacing big words and concepts with more accessible ones. There were a few parts that were just too complex, but I tried to preserve the big ideas as much as possible. For example, part of a Russian oil executive’s write-up (one of the characters who “benefits” from climate change) read, “Already our competitors in Norway — Statoil — are working on project Snow White, which will generate an estimated $70 billion in liquefied natural gas over the next 30 years. I’m not going to sit back and let the Norwegians or anyone else beat me out of this new business opportunity.” I changed this to “A company in Norway is expected to make $70 billion from drilling in their part of the Arctic. It’s not fair for them to be the only ones to make money, I have a business to run!” I understood my students still weren’t going to internalize everything each character talked about, so I planned several ways to scaffold students through these concepts as we went through the preparation and performance. I also adapted the script so two students played one character together. The length was more suitable for 3rd graders and also provided each student a peer helper.

To introduce the activity to the class, we revisited the idea that there were many people around the world whose voices were not heard at the Paris summit. We watched Democracy Now! clips of groups protesting outside the summit, such as Indigenous women from Ecuador and youth leaders from some of the countries most affected by climate change. To really engage students in the importance of their role, I wanted to appeal to their sense of fairness. I used a clip of Kichwa activist Nina Gualinga from Ecuador to get my students thinking about the injustice of only a few making a decision for the whole world:

Indigenous people should be inside the actual negotiations, but we are not. Those who are actually negotiating right now, they might not have to live with the consequences of climate change, but I will. I will have to live with it. My sister, my little brother, and my children, they’re all going to have to live with the consequences of climate change.

The next day I told students we were going to have a people’s climate conference right here at our school and that each of them would be representing a real person’s voice. “Similar to the United Nations Climate Conference that happened in Paris last month,” I read from the PowerPoint I had ready, “all your characters will meet at a conference and hear each different perspective. You will share your character’s experiences of climate change, and hear how other characters feel similarly or different.” I added, “There are also people who think climate change can mean good things for them. Some of you will be representing people in businesses who are making money from letting climate change continue. Is this wrong? You will have to decide what you think by listening to all the voices at the summit.”

I wanted to give my students some context for the people they would be representing and meeting at the conference, so I decided to organize each of the characters by continent. On a slide of each continent I highlighted the location of each country. I then paired the maps of country locations with pictures of people (I tried to include non-stereotypical pictures of children) from that nation. After showing the pictures, I addressed issues of cultural representation in our performance.

“Your characters are based off of real people whose voices weren’t heard at the conference in Paris. One way we’re going to respect their voices is by not making up things about them we don’t know,” I instructed. “No one is going to use accents in their performances, OK? Because we don’t know what the real people sound like, it’s not respectful to guess.” 

By the time we’d gone through the slideshow, viewing where each character was from, the students were hooked and couldn’t wait to get their parts. I passed out the role descriptions I had purposefully assigned to each pair considering students’ interests and strengths. Some scripts were even designed with a specific student in mind. For example, one might have simpler vocabulary for a student who was learning English as a second language, or a short passage for a student with autism to recite with prompts. I started to circulate, checking for conceptual understandings particular to each reading.

I also encouraged students to think of props they might bring to help illustrate something about their character. I used “clues from the text” to steer most students toward props like a basket of apples for Oregon farmers.

The People’s Climate Conference

We spent three days preparing for the performances. Students were more engaged than I had anticipated. Joseph, for example, one of my most struggling readers, came back after the weekend and had memorized his whole script, proudly reciting the Bengali river names he practiced. “I am the mayor of Antapara, a village in Bangladesh,” he proclaimed. “Antapara is on the Brahmaputra River that flows from the Himalaya Mountains in India.” Matthew was bursting to share the research he had done at home about the Ecuadorian Amazon, “I saw pictures of just dirt and mud where there used to be rainforest and homes, and those trees made the air cleaner too.” Students worked with their partners to research and make the flag of their country, which, stapled to a straw, they stuck into Play-Doh on the music stand I fashioned as a podium for their presentations. 

On performance day, our classroom was transformed into a conference room, with the chairs in rows facing the four-desk panel and podium. Performers were called up by their region, and sat at the desks facing the audience until it was their turn to speak. I projected the slideshow in the background, to help visually orient audience members to where we were in the world. As students performed, I wrote new keywords or significant phrases from their speeches on the whiteboard to help guide our debrief, and aid struggling students identify the big ideas on their guided notes handout. 

When they were part of the audience, each student had a scavenger hunt handout on their clipboard that was also adapted from A People’s Curriculum for the Earth. This was to help students organize the overload of information from these presentations into a recognizable, game-like framework. Students were asked to identify someone who is affected by climate change in a different way from their character or someone whose life will change because of climate change. Following each performer, I gave students a few minutes to finish scribbling down ideas or reading over what I wrote on the board. Then I asked volunteers to share one of the “find someone who” questions they answered and used this as a jumping-off point for a dialogue about the effects of climate change. 

Matthew and Jaelyn represented Moi Enomenga, a Huaorani leader from Eastern Ecuador: “We say, ‘leave the oil in the ground.’ Oil kills the Huaorani through pollution and kills everyone through global warming. Why do rich companies come here? People from the richest and most crowded countries come here to take our resources.” 

I wrote phrases on the board from their speech such as “spilled millions of gallons of oil,” “toxic rivers and streams,” and “oil burned to make energy.” Then I provided background information about oil extraction, describing the process of drilling and transporting oil across oceans to refineries. Paris made a connection to several oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and a barge spill on the Mississippi in New Orleans. “The air smelled so bad,” she said. Students responded to Enomenga’s statements about rich countries exploiting poor countries. “They don’t even want the oil!” Matthew exclaimed. “But getting it ruins their homes and poisons their water, and then they don’t get any money. It’s not fair.”

We talked briefly after each performance, but I saved a lot of the conversations for the next few days. The purpose of the debrief was to unpack what students learned from the conference using their handouts and my notes on the board. It was an informal conversation in which I used students’ questions and comments to draw a global picture of the climate crisis and the responses to it. I also explained some concepts I could tell were not understood during the performances, such as the new possibility of drilling in the Arctic or the processes of extracting, transporting, and storing fossil fuels and uranium.

Elementary Students Take Action

One performance discussed at length during our debrief was about Tuvalu. Aaron and Janelle, playing the prime minister of Tuvalu, shared that there will be no more Tuvalu in 20 years. “How can anyone say that people in Tuvalu should suffer so that people on higher land can continue to fill our atmosphere with carbon dioxide by driving their big cars and buying stuff made halfway around the world?” Janelle implored. “This is sick.” 

These words really stuck out to the class, and they referred over and over again to the disappearance of this Pacific island because of the choices of rich countries to not curb fossil fuel consumption. 

I used this as an opportunity to talk about the institutional versus individual changes that curbing climate change would require because I wanted to make sure my students left this unit with a bigger picture. I steered the solutions we discussed to focus on larger systems such as governments holding polluters accountable, and whole countries curbing emissions. “It’s important that we make sure we turn off the lights when we don’t need them, or that we use fewer plastic water bottles. But that’s not enough to help Tuvalu,” I told them. “Prime Minister Sopoaga knows that it’s companies that pull the oil out of the ground, or use energy in huge amounts that can make a big difference. Moi Enomenga knows that some of these American businesses go to other countries like Ecuador and damage his communities to get materials to sell, while they stay poor. But we can speak up and speak out like your characters, and tell these companies to change or tell the government to make them change.” 

The empathy that came from embodying characters whose voices were marginalized led to outrage and a sense of purpose. At this point, one of my students suggested that the biggest polluters — China and the United States — should be paying the people of Tuvalu when they have to move. I also shared videos of local environmental justice activists fighting oil refineries in mostly rural, poor, Black neighborhoods of Louisiana. 

This unit illustrates my constant struggle with how to present and discuss complex issues with young kids, particularly because there is no easy solution for something like climate change. I wanted to discuss a relevant issue without reinforcing a feeling of helplessness. When dealing with such issues with elementary students, I tend to focus on education as the way students can take action because this can take the form of many age-appropriate activities like writing, performing, and/or creating a school-wide campaign. I emphasized the agency of “ordinary people” by making the conference a people’s climate summit and empowering them to feel that all of us can use our voices to make change.

We ended the unit analyzing the Paris Climate Conference agreement and writing letters to President Obama. We used modified versions of a DOGO News article and an IndyKids article written by a 10-year-old to break down how the agreement sets out commitments to prevent global temperatures from rising past the two degrees Celsius threshold. The whole class was adamant that climate change was a pressing issue that our government needed to address. However, the group was divided about whether this agreement should be adopted. Some students thought it was a good goal. Others thought that because there weren’t penalties for breaking the rules, it didn’t hold polluters accountable. 

Jewel wrote, “Dear President Obama, I think you and the U.S. government should not adopt the U.N. Climate Conference agreement because I don’t think it will help. I think this because I’m very concerned about global warming because 14 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases come from the United States. . . . When people signed they could raise the limit. And nothing or nobody is making them live up to their goal.” 

Dante referenced the institutional equity issues we discussed: “(Kenya) is not even polluting that much, and they’re experiencing the worst effects. A woman named Wangari Maathai works in the Green Belt Movement and this is what she said: ‘Wealthy countries who are polluting more should raise money for the ultimate victims of the crisis: the poor people of the world.’ I agree with that! And I know that you might say that you are donating money to poor countries. But that’s poor countries, not poor people.”   

I reflected on the unit after it was over and decided there were parts that worked well and parts I would do differently on the next go-around. I would have liked my students to be able to do more research about the countries and cultures they were representing, and less of me presenting. Also, our post-conference discussions were so rich that I would have liked more time with them and less time presenting background scientific information.

Climate change will undoubtedly be a pressing issue throughout my students’ lifetimes.  Now, more than ever, I strongly believe that we can — and must — trust in young people’s abilities to grapple with issues that impact them. My hope is that through exploring the scientific and social impacts of climate change early in their education, we can better prepare students to face the challenges of their world.

Rowan Shafer taught 3rd–5th grade in New Orleans, and currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

  Read It s Time to Start Teaching Kids About Climate Change
  September 20, 2017
To Achieve Truly Equitable & Sustainable Development, We Must Dump the Notion That Self-Interest Drives Economic Behavior.

by Allen White, AlterNet


Calls for a new development paradigm grow louder each day, especially in rapidly growing countries like India. Allen White, a senior fellow at the Tellus Institute, explores the prospects for such a new model of equitable and sustainable development with development economist Jayati Ghosh. 

Allen White: What drew you to the field of development economics?

Jayati Ghosh: I was interested in how societies function and how social change occurs, so I began by studying sociology. But it seemed that this discipline just skimmed the surface, that deeper underlying economic contexts and processes were crucial for understanding social change, and that without such knowledge, much would remain unexplained. So I switched to economics, where my perspective has always been that of political economy. I have never viewed development economics as a "separate" sub-discipline. From the beginning, economists have been concerned with development, defined as the evolution of economies and the processes of economic growth and change. So, to me, meaningful economics is necessarily about development, that is, human progress through economic and social change.

AW: How does viewing economics through such a social, political and cultural lens help us to better understand and improve the human condition?

JG: Just as I felt that it was not possible to understand a society without understanding the economy, so, too, do I believe that it is not possible to understand the economy without understanding society—including the culture and politics that shape social interactions and drive power relations, and the evolution of these forces throughout history. Isolating the "social sciences" into separate intellectual silos greatly diminishes what and how they see, eroding their explanatory power.

Unfortunately, much of the discipline of economics moved away from this broad perspective, and tried to interpret everything through a very limited and often misleading notion of "rationality" based entirely on a methodological individualism that presumes self-interest and private calculation drive all human economic behavior. I believe this is a false approach, and when it is combined with so many of the other absurd assumptions of the models that continue to underlie much economic analysis today (like perfect competition and full employment), it is easy to see why the approach proves unsatisfactory for explaining how economies actually work and how they change over time. Recognizing the continuous interplay between economic forces and social, political and cultural patterns provides far more useful insights into economic realities.  

AW: You have received awards from the International Labour Organization for your scholarship relating to "decent work" in the age of globalization. What is decent work and what are the key challenges to its attainment worldwide?

JG: Work is central to human existence: it defines so much of how people live, how they value themselves and others, what constraints they face, and what capacities they are able to develop. The concept of decent work championed by the ILO is critical to ensuring that work occurs in conditions of freedom, equality, security and human dignity. Decent work and the pillars that support it (e.g., fair income, safe working conditions, social protections) are fundamental not only to development but also to the creation of just and democratic societies.

So it is surprising that the concept of decent work took so long to be recognized in international discourse; even now, it is barely given more than lip service. Globalization and the associated deregulation within nations have reduced the bargaining power of workers, thereby diminishing the possibilities of ensuring decent work. The decline of welfare states and the obsession with austerity and reduced taxation, the erosion of workers’ rights and protections, the magnified threat of capital flight or relocation of production that create a race to the bottom—all of these have had deleterious impacts on social cohesion. The result is growing inequality, material insecurity and the hollowing out of communities. These phenomena, in turn, are now causing serious political fallout because they were ignored for so long by those in power. Now, more than ever, the focus on decent work needs to be brought back to center stage. Without it, we will face massive political, social and economic instability.

AW: Do the policies necessary to promote decent work differ significantly for men and women? If so, how?  

JG: In most societies, women and girls continue to be responsible for the bulk of work associated with social reproduction—what is today referred to as the "care economy." This means that recognized employment or work participation rates are poor indicators of the actual work performed by both women and men. Globally, time use surveys indicate that women account for about 70 percent of unpaid labor time, and so most women are working whether or not their labor is recognized as such. This unpaid work is essential for the reproduction of society and constitutes a huge subsidy to the formal, or recognized, economy.

The burden of such unpaid work can prevent women from participating in paid employment, thereby reducing their earning capacity. It also means that society tends to undervalue the work done by women even when it is paid for, and that women are concentrated in low-wage occupations, reinforcing gender pay gaps and harmful social attitudes toward both women and their work. Ensuring decent work for women involves recognizing, reducing, rewarding and redistributing unpaid work; ensuring adequate representation of such workers; and striving for gender parity in labor markets and workplaces.

AW: World Bank data show that over recent decades, India has reduced extreme poverty much less so than China. To what extent could a focus on decent work change this?

JG: There are several sharp differences between the Chinese and Indian development experiences. One of the most crucial is the relative absence of structural change in India, in contrast to China, where manufacturing’s share of GDP and employment has increased steadily and significantly. India’s inability to move much of its workforce out of low-productivity agriculture into higher-value-added manufacturing is related to many other failures of human development: low aggregate employment generation, especially in formal jobs; persistent food poverty; minimal expansion of education; and poor health indicators. The much vaunted emphasis on modern services such as ICT (information and communication technology) is insufficient to generate the required structural change or employment creation, as the sector accounts for less than one percent of the Indian workforce.

A basic problem in India has been the single-minded focus of policymakers on GDP growth without looking at the quality or pattern of that growth or considering quality employment as a goal in its own right. This has led to poor human development indicators, including insufficient public spending on the essential social services necessary for realizing the socioeconomic rights of citizens and decent work for all.

AW: Can developing countries achieve wage- and employment-based growth while reducing environmental strain? Is this possible without abandoning the prevailing development model?

JG: Many economists and policymakers argue that economic development, by design, must be associated with some environmental strain. Meeting the basic needs of everyone on the planet will intensify resource use and carbon emissions. But this could be offset by reduced strain from richer groups and corporations in both advanced and developing countries. The environmental damage now occurring is neither necessary nor inevitable. In fact, it is largely due to the prevailing development model, which fails to adequately account for environmental costs disproportionately borne by the poor.

Achieving wage- and employment-led development led by wage and employment growth while reducing ecological damage requires jettisoning the current economic model. The first aspect that must be dropped is the obsession with GDP growth per se rather than the quality of growth and distribution of income and assets that result from it.

AW: In this regard, some are advocating a Universal Basic Income as a response to poverty in India. What are your thoughts on this strategy?

JG: The development project in India is fundamentally incomplete, both in terms of structural transformation of the economy and in terms of achieving even the minimum level of human development. The role of the state thus remains critical to fulfilling development goals and ensuring basic needs and social and economic rights of citizens by providing essential physical and social infrastructure. A Universal Basic Income (UBI) can play a role in addition to these requirements, but it is by no means a substitute for the meeting of these basic conditions by the state.

Many in India interpret the UBI as a substitute for important forms of state provision, be it the food distribution program or the rural employment program or health and education services. Replacing essential public provision with cash transfers is not only a means of privatizing these services (and thereby rendering them even more unequal), but also a way of reducing poor people’s access since the planned cash transfers are unlikely to be sufficient to meet their requirement for basic goods and services. The same Indian government talking about a UBI has still not seen fit to introduce a universal non-contributory pension scheme (surely, a must in a country where more than 95 percent of workers are not covered by pensions). The same government still provides only the paltry minimal pension of Rs 200 per month (around $3.50) to those with incomes below the poverty line. Demands for a UBI must be seen in this context, and supported only if they do not involve reduction of existing public programs to ensure basic needs and employment to the poor. These programs must be expanded and strengthened, not reduced.

AW: You have argued that the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 will remain inadequate if they don’t recognize the underlying processes that hinder their attainment. What are these processes?

JG: The SDGs are somewhat more realistic than their predecessor Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in recognizing the significance of policies and processes to their attainment. But the SDGs still put the onus on national governments to deliver on the stated goals without adequate recognition of how the international architecture and context, as well as national macroeconomic and trade policies, can inhibit states’ capacities to realize their commitments. The most obvious constraint is financing: meeting the SDGs would require massive increases in state expenditure in most countries, but current systems of taxation (as well as rampant tax evasion) and the prevailing emphasis on austerity clearly put limits on such increased spending.

International trade and investment agreements impose further constraints by tightening intellectual property rules and allowing investor-state disputes based on expanded notions of “expropriation” that preclude state attempts at regulation and taxation. Many of the features of the international economic and financial architecture cause greater inequality across and within countries, yet the SDGs include explicit goals to reduce inequalities. It almost seems as if there are two parallel and sometimes incompatible tracks: the declared global goals (SDGs) and the existing international accords that limit what is actually possible even for the most well-intentioned of governments.

AW: Speaking of systemic constraints, you have written about the emergence of a distinctly 21st-century form of imperialism. How does it differ from earlier forms, and what has its impact been on development?

JG: Early imperialism was explicitly related to colonial control; in the second half of the 20th century, it relied on a combination of geopolitical and economic control derived from the clear dominance of the United States as the global hegemon and leader of the capitalist world. In the 21st century, imperialism increasingly relies on international legal and regulatory architecture—fortified by various multilateral and bilateral agreements—to establish the power of capital over labor.

This trend has several implications: the end of the labor aristocracy in the core capitalist countries; the emergence of an implicit compact between different forms of capital in different parts of the world; the fall in wage share of national income in both advanced and developing countries; the inability of nation-states to meet their obligations of delivering social and economic rights to the people; and the erosion of democracy in different parts of the world. The economic results of this new order can be seen in the “stagnationary” tendencies in global capitalism and uneven to faltering development in less advanced countries.

AW: Rising populist and nationalist movements in both advanced and emerging economies threaten to upend the current global order. How do you see these trends affecting the prospects for sustainable development?

JG: The popular frustration and anger expressed around the world are predictable results of global and national economic processes unleashed by a neoliberal marketist approach that has exacerbated inequality, failed to deliver sufficient good-quality employment, eroded workers’ rights and citizens’ access to public services, and made material well-being for most people more fragile and vulnerable. Unfortunately, the political gains from such anger have mostly accrued to the far-right forces that pit workers of one country against workers elsewhere, blame migrants rather than plutocrats for their current plight, and fail to confront large capital in its various forms. This generates not just political instability but also increasingly unstable and violent societies in which older patriarchal and divisive traditions are celebrated rather than transcended.

AW: What signs of hope do you see for a Great Transition (i.e., the shift to a just and sustainable global future) in the coming decades to a form of global development rooted in justice, equity and ecological sustainability?

JG: I believe we must look to younger people for genuine movement towards a more just, democratic, ecologically sustainable, equitable, and progressive economy and society. It is clear that rigid and doctrinaire responses to the current global and national patterns based on past political allegiances are unlikely to be successful. But it is also evident that youth everywhere, forced to deal with a much more insecure and uncertain future, are also more open to creative approaches to change that recognize and seek to address various inequalities and injustices. I find evidence of such creative thinking among my own students, for example, along with a willingness to think beyond the immediate future to the medium term for change. That thinking and willingness gives me hope for the emergence of a Great Transition.

Jayati Ghosh is Professor of Economics and Chairperson at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She is a co-founder of the Economic Research Foundation in New Dehli, and Executive Secretary of the International Development Economics Associates. Her published works include the Handbook of Alternative Theories of Economic DevelopmentDemonetisation Decoded: A Critique of India's Currency ExperimentEconomics, Vol. 2: India and the International EconomyNever Done and Poorly Paid: Women’s Work in Globalising India, and The Market that Failed: A Decade of Neoliberal Economic Reforms in India.

This article was originally published by the Great Transition Initiative.

  Read To Achieve Truly Equitable & Sustainable Development, We Must Dump the Notion That Self-Interest Drives Economic Behavior
  September 29, 2017
90 Companies Helped Cause the Climate Crisis—They Should Pay for It.

by Sarah van Gelder, Yes! Magazine, AlterNet


Pacific Northwest forests are on fire. Several blazes are out of control, threatening rural towns, jumping rivers and highways, and covering Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and other cities in smoke and falling ash. Temperatures this  summer are an average of 3.6 degrees higher than the last half of the 20th century, according to the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group analysis published in The Seattle Times.

Fire crews have been battling fires for months. In spite of all the effort, though, officials expect the fires to continue burning until major rains come sometime this fall. Meanwhile, firefighting coffers are running dry as costs run into the hundreds of millions.

The scale and costs of these disasters pale in comparison to the impacts of hurricanes Harvey and Irma: Accuweather is estimating the combined cost of these unprecedented storms at $290 billion. (Then there is the flooding in India and Bangladesh—less noted in U.S. news media—where 40 million were affected and 1,200 died.)

What these disasters have in common is that they are all exactly the sort predicted by climate models—and they will get terrifyingly worse over coming years.

So who will cover the costs? Who will pay for the first responders, for sheltering and relocating climate refugees, and for rebuilding homes, businesses, and infrastructure?

Our planet is quickly getting hotter, more volatile, and more dangerous. But Republicans are working to cut nearly $1 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and to give large corporations and the wealthy a big tax break. So who should pay for the climate disasters?

report published in early September by the journal Climatic Change helps pinpoint a possible answer. According to the report, 90 companies are responsible for 42 to 50 percent of the increase in the Earth’s surface temperature and 26 to 32 percent of sea level rise.

Some say we are all to blame for the climate crisis—at least all of us who get around in cars and planes. But there are reasons these 90 companies owe a major debt to the entire planet.

First, many of them knew what damage they were causing. According to the report, more than half of the carbon emissions produced since the industrial revolution were emitted since 1986, when the dangers of global warming were well-known. But these companies buried their own research findings and doubled down on fossil fuel extraction.

Second, many of these companies spend vast sums promoting climate denial and undermining support for renewable energyelectric vehicles, and other responses to the climate crisis. Industry lobbyists and think tanks, flush with money from fossil fuel companies and their executives, distort our democracy, making government accountable to their interests rather than to We the People.

Third, by doing these things, these companies prevented action during the brief window of time between climate science becoming clear and it becoming too late to avert disaster.

Now we are very short on time. This year’s fires and floods are just the beginning. But we can still make choices that would curb catastrophic outcomes. To make that difference, we need an all-out effort now on all fronts—in agriculture, transportation, and energy generation, conservation, and efficiency upgrades. That will take a lot of money.

A good place to start would be requiring those who caused the climate catastrophe to pay. The 90 companies could start by helping families and communities recover from the floods, wind damage, and fires, and helping homeowners and cities everywhere build resilience for withstanding the effects of future disasters. But they shouldn’t stop there. The companies that are responsible for the damage should pay their share for the transition to a carbon-free future.

There is a precedent for this. Tobacco companies too had been hiding and dismissing the evidence that their product caused massive damage. Big Tobacco and Big Oil even hired some of the same scientists and public relations firms to obscure the damage their industries were causing, according to ClimateWire. The 1998 tobacco settlement of lawsuits brought by nearly every U.S. state required the major tobacco companies to pay over $200 billion toward the increased cost of health care resulting from smoking and for prevention education.

There are far more victims of the fossil fuel industries’ deception—billions of people today, future generations, and many other species.

We’ve got a precedent, we’ve got a dire need, and we have clearly defined culprits.

  Read 90 Companies Helped Cause the Climate Crisis—They Should Pay for It
  September 27, 2017
How Many More '500-Year Storms' Will People Endure Before They Start Abandoning Coastal Cities?

by Reynard Loki, AlterNet


People love living near the coast. Only two of the world's top 10 biggest cities—Mexico City and Sáo Paulo—are not coastal. The rest— Tokyo, Mumbai, New York, Shanghai, Lagos, Los Angeles, Calcutta and Buenos Aires—are. Around half of the world's 7.5 billion people live within 60 miles of a coastline, with about 10 percent of the population living in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters (32 feet) above sea level.

Coastal migration has been steadily trending upward. In the U.S. alone, coastal county populations increased by 39 percent between 1970 to 2010. As the population skyrockets—from 7.5 billion today to 9.8 billion by 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100, according to a recent United Nations report—the question for sustainability and development experts is, will the world's coasts bear the burden of all this humanity? But with the rise of both sea levels and extreme weather, perhaps a better question is, will all this humanity bear the burden of living along the world's coasts?

Pedestrians wade through water during a heavy rain in Mumbai, India, this summer. Recent floods in South Asia have been the heaviest in a decade. (image: bodom/Shutterstock)

Growing appeal: Landlocked life

As the "500-year" hurricanes Harvey and Irma (and 2011's Irene) powerfully and tragically demonstrated, living near a coastline is an increasingly dangerous proposition. But for some coastal regions, rising seas and hurricanes aren't the only cause for alarm: the coastal lands in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina are sinking by up to 3mm a year, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Florida. Could these multiple factors reverse humans' seaward migration? 

Some research suggests that may be the case. A recent University of Georgia study found that rising sea levels could drive U.S. coastal residents far inland, even to landlocked states like Arizona and Wyoming, which could see significant population surges from coastal migration by 2100. Many of these places are not equipped to deal with sudden population increases. That means sea level rise isn't just a problem for coastal regions.

"We typically think about sea-level rise as being a coastal challenge or a coastal issue," said Mathew Hauer, author of the study and head of the Applied Demography program at the University of Georgia. "But if people have to move, they go somewhere."

Nicknamed the Mile-High City, Denver is the highest major city in the United States. It ranks 11th on the list of American cities with the greatest addition of residents, helping to make Colorado the second fastest growing state in the nation. (image: Hogs555/Wikipedia)

"We're going to have more people on less land and sooner than we think," said Charles Geisler, professor emeritus of development sociology at Cornell University. “The future rise in global mean sea level probably won't be gradual. Yet few policy makers are taking stock of the significant barriers to entry that coastal climate refugees, like other refugees, will encounter when they migrate to higher ground."

Geisler is the lead author of a study published in the July issue of the journal Land Use Policy examining responses to climate change by land use planners in Florida and China. He and the study's co-author, Ben Currens, an earth and environmental scientist from the University of Kentucky, make the case for "proactive adaptation strategies extending landward from on global coastlines." By 2060, about 1.4 billion people could be climate change refugees, according to Geisler's study. That number could reach 2 billion by 2100.

Not just for the birds: Higher ground

Writing in the Washington Post, Elizabeth Rush, author of "Rising: The Unsettling of the American Shore," suggests that coastal residents should take a lesson from the roseate spoonbill. For most of the past century, this striking pink shorebird has made a habitat in the Florida Keys. But for the past decade, as rising wetland levels have made finding food more difficult, the spoonbills have been steadily abandoning their historic nesting grounds for higher ground on the mainland. She writes:

Adding several centimeters of water into the wetlands where spoonbills traditionally bred (as has occurred over the past 10 years in the Florida Bay, thanks to wetter winters and higher tides) significantly changed the landscape, eliminating the habitats where these gangly waders had long found dinner. When the spoonbills realized it was no longer possible to live on the Florida Keys, they left.

But humans can't move to higher ground and build new homes as easily as the spoonbill. Rush contends that "legal and regulatory conditions don’t make moving away from increasingly dangerous coastal areas easy." She argues that, to avoid loss of life and economic value, governments at local, state and federal levels, as part of climate adaption, must "start financing and encouraging relocation."

Roseate spoonbills at J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. For the past decade, spoonbills have been moving out of the Florida Keys to higher ground. (image: Harold Wagle, finalist, National Wildlife Refuge Association 2012 photo contest/USFWS/Flickr)

In New York, some residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy took matters into their own hands, forming grassroots "buyout committees" to raise awareness about the perils of coastal life, even knocking on doors to gauge residents' interest in relocating. Eventually, the relocation activists got the attention and support of Governor Andrew Cuomo: In 2013, he released funds from the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to buy out homes across three Sandy-impacted areas in Staten Island.

"[T]hose homes would be knocked down, giving the wetlands a chance to return so they might provide a buffer against storms to come," Rush writes, adding that since Sandy, around 500 residents have applied for government buyouts—now "entire neighborhoods are being demolished along the island’s shore."

Risky business: Flood insurance

One "exit barrier" has to do with a 49-year-old program called the National Flood Insurance Program. Under the current law, homeowners are required to rebuild on their land—even after suffering through multiple floods. "Through the National Flood Insurance Program, we know there are about 30,000 properties that flood repeatedly," said Rob Moore, senior policy analyst for the NRDC's water program. "On average, these properties have flooded about five times." Only around one percent of these properties carry flood insurance, reports NPR, but have been responsible for about 25 percent of the paid claims.

Jennifer Bayles, a homeowner in the Houston metro area who was interviewed last week on NPR, paid $83,000 for her house in 1992. After the first flood in 2009, insurance paid her $200,000, then an additional $200,000 following the next flood. Now, post-Harvey, she expects to receive around $300,000.

Houston residents use an inflatable swan to move items from a flooded house in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. (image: IrinaK/Shutterstock)

When a program pays out billions of dollars for just a handful of repeat customers, some argue that rebuilding simply isn't cost-efficient. Rush points to a recent Natural Resources Defense Council study that found, "in most cases, it is less expensive to buy out these homes than it is to cover the cost of repairing and rebuilding after ever-more-common floods."

Another problem is a lack of funding. The National Flood Insurance Program is nearly $25 billion in debt due to this season's massive hurricanes. In a recent press briefing, Roy E. Wright, the deputy FEMA administrator in charge of the program, said his agency estimates it will pay Texas policyholders some $11 billion in flood claims for Harvey alone. But NFIP has only $1.08 billion of cash to pay claims. That amount, reported Bradley Keoun of TheStreet.com last week, is "down by a third in less than three weeks—and a $5.8 billion credit limit from the U.S. Treasury Department."

Congress is set to vote soon on whether to reauthorize the flood program. "Even though we reauthorized it for three months, and extended it, it's gonna run out of money probably in October,” Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) told Rollcall earlier this month. MacArthur, who sits on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans, said Congress will have to authorize additional financial support to the program, noting that extra funds "must come with reform."

What kind of reform remains to be seen. Rush proposes lawmakers eliminate the requirement that claim filers must rebuild near the line of devastation:

[T]he program could offer discounted flood insurance to homeowners in the highest-risk areas, with a caveat: In return for lower premiums, those homeowners would agree to accept buyouts if their properties were damaged during a flood. This would help keep insurance rates affordable for low- and middle-income homeowners (a daunting task given that the program is both federally subsidized and tens of billions of dollars in debt) while encouraging folks to move out of harm’s way.

Risky proposition: Climate denial

House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a longtime critic of NFIP, argues that the program amounts to a federal subsidy that spurs human development in flood zones. "After Harvey and Irma," he told Rollcall, "it would be insane for the federal government to simply rebuild repetitive loss homes in the same fashion, in the same place."

In an interview Thursday on CNBC, he said:

If all we do is force federal taxpayers to build the same homes in the same fashion, in the same location and expect a different result, we all know that's the classic definition of insanity.... Maybe we pay for your home once, maybe even pay for it twice, but at some point the taxpayer's got to quit paying and you've got to move.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas is a fierce critic of the National Flood Insurance Program. (image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

"The NFIP in its current form is unsustainable and perverse," Hensarling said, in a written statement.

Perhaps. But what's also unsustainable and perverse is denying the role of climate change, not only in storm activity, but in the rising sea levels that make flooding worse: Hensarling's poor climate voting record garnered him a spot on Vice Motherboard's "Texas Climate Change Deniers" list. As the Sun Herald, a Mississippi Gulf Coast newspaper, recently put it, "Climate change denial and our love of the beach could sink the National Flood Insurance program."

Predictably, Donald Trump dismissed the notion that climate change played a role in the frequency and intensity of superstorms like Harvey and Irma. When asked about climate change by reporters aboard Air Force One after touring the devastation of Florida's west coast, Trump insisted:

If you go back into the 1930s and the 1940s, and you take a look, we've had storms over the years that have been bigger than this....So we did have two horrific storms, epic storms, but if you go back into the '30s and '40s, and you go back into the teens, you'll see storms that were very similar and even bigger, OK?

Trump at the Austin Emergency Operations Center this August. (image: Andrea Hanks/WhiteHouse.gov)

But for coastal residents impacted by these massive storms—and for the vast majority of scientists—it's not OK. Penn State atmospheric scientist Michael Mann connects the dots between climate change and the impact of Hurricane Harvey:

There are certain climate change-related factors that we can, with great confidence, say worsened the flooding. Sea level rise attributable to climate change…is more than half a foot over the past few decades. That means that the storm surge was a half foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction.

This map shows the odds of floods in Florida at least as high as historic once-a-century levels, coming by 2030. Most or all of the rise can be attributed to global warming. (credit: Climate Central)

Endangered: Ocean economies

There's also the economic impact of losing shorelines. The U.N. estimates that the so-called ocean economy, which includes employment, marine-based ecosystem services and cultural services, is between $3 to $6 trillion per year.

Coastal areas within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the ocean account for more than 60 percent of the world's total gross national production. For the economies of developing nations, these regions are especially crucial. A big part of that coastal production is food. As the sea gobbles up fertile seaside land and river deltas, feeding the rapidly escalating human population is going to get that much more difficult.

Fishermen in Lagos, Nigeria. The coastline of Lagos state is about 110 miles long and supports the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen. (image: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/Flickr)

The future of tourism is also a major concern, particularly for small island states, where tourism generally accounts for more than a quarter of GDP. For some islands, that amount may soon have to be wiped off the balance sheet. Just last year, five islands in the Solomon Island archipelago disappeared to the rising sea.

But economic losses due to extreme weather and climate change are also a major issue for developed nations; according to preliminary estimates, Hurricane Harvey caused up to $200 billion in damage.

Retreat or rebuild?

People may enjoy the coasts, beaches, surf and sand. But by emitting greenhouse gases at an unsustainable rate, we're losing these cherished ecosystems to the rising seas and superstorms. Perhaps we should give the coasts back to nature. By letting key coastal ecosystems return to their natural states, mangrove forests and other vegetated marine and intertidal habitats can act as bulwarks against the sea level rise and hurricanes.

Like forests, these coastal areas are powerful carbon sinks, safely storing around a quarter of the additional carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Crucially, they also help protect communities and wildlife near shores from floods and storm surges. As people move inland, natural ecosystems could reclaim shorelines. "Retreat," Rush declares, "is slowly gaining traction as a climate change adaptation strategy."

Mangrove forests, like this one on Lake Tabarisia in Indonesia, help reduce storm surges and flood damage while stabilizing shorelines with their extensive root systems. Mangroves have been systematically eliminated worldwide to make room for human development and shrimp aquaculture. (image: Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR/Flickr)

Moving people out of flood zones—and rewilding coastlines and bringing wetlands back—could be an area where policymakers and conservationists could find common ground. It also means rethinking the way cities are designed; when it comes to urban planning, city planners have generally not taken natural systems into account.

Writing on AlterNet, Mary Mazzoni looked at how the mismanagement of Houston's natural ecosystem increased the amount of flooding from Hurricane Harvey, pointing out that by paving over wetlands, which are able to absorb a great amount of flood water, the city left itself vulnerable to disaster.

She notes that the "relative lack of regulatory hurdles—Houston is the largest U.S. city without zoning laws—allowed development to continue more or less unchecked…the wetlands loss documented in [a] Texas A&M study is equivalent to nearly 4 billion gallons in lost stormwater detention, worth an estimated $600 million."

"'Conquering' nature has long been the western way," writes Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki. "Our hubris, and often our religious ideologies, have led us to believe we are above nature and have a right to subdue and control it. We let our technical abilities get ahead of our wisdom. We're learning now that working with nature—understanding that we are part of it—is more cost-effective and efficient in the long run."

In our new normal, one way to work with nature might be to let her have her coastlines back.

  Read How Many More '500-Year Storms' Will People Endure Before They Start Abandoning Coastal Cities?
  October 5, 2017
Why I Fell in Love With Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—and Why We Must Protect It From Drilling.

by Haley Johnston, Alaska Wilderness League, AlterNet


While renowned and beloved for its superlative qualities, I love the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on a macro level. One evening I watched a small red-backed vole move her offspring, each no larger than a jelly bean, from one hiding spot to another. I was no less impressed by her adaptability and will to survive than by the caribou of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. And the first time I saw the delicate nodding bladder-campion growing amidst the raw bulldozed terrain of a glacier’s recent retreat, I was just as dazzled by this tiny flower, making a living in the most hostile environment, as I was by my first view of Mt. Isto’s glaciated slopes.

Silene uralensis, or nodding bladder-campion, growing in a glacial moraine. (Haley Johnston)

In 2012, I guided a rafting trip in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It was my first trip to the Refuge and like most visitors, I was blown away by the mountains, the incredible hiking, the beautiful braided rivers and the general immensity of the place. The Refuge is what I came to Alaska to find: an expansive, pristine landscape, beautifully lonely, yet teeming with life.

Camped above the Marsh Fork of the Canning River. (Haley Johnston)

That first trip whet my appetite for long trips in the Arctic. Since then I have traveled to the Brooks Range for eleven trips, eight of which were in the Arctic Refuge. At times, I cannot believe my luck that I get to spend so much time in my favorite landscape, sometimes for work, sometimes on personal adventures.

Paddling the East Fork of the Chandalar River in late August. (Haley Johnston)

Still, after six years of traveling through the Arctic Refuge, I have barely scratched the surface. If I go back every year for the rest of my life, I will never see every valley, ridge or mountaintop of its 19 million acres. I will never walk every mile of caribou trail or scramble along every ridgeline. But to see it all is not my goal. Instead, I am building a catalog of incredible experiences and memories from my travels there, hoping to know the soul of the Refuge, if not every inch of its topography.

Traveling on ice highways and bridges in early June. (Haley Johnston)

The Refuge, when taken as a whole, is immense, even overwhelming. It is also an incredible, intact ecosystem – so rare and precious in modern times. To stand on a precipitous ridgeline and gaze out on braided rivers, limestone arêtes, rolling tundra and the coastal plain stretching all the way to the Beaufort Sea and know that there is not a single human development or road far beyond the limits of my vision means so much to me.

Hiking the tundra near the Kongakut River. (Haley Johnston)

That lack of development is also critically important to the animals who travel this land untroubled and unobstructed. To see a thousand caribou pour over a mountain pass and move over the tundra like so many droplets of water is awe-inspiring. But, knowing that these caribou calve on the much-debated lands of the Coastal Plain has moved me to do more than stand in awe.

The Refuge provides constant reminders of the caribous’ presence. (Haley Johnston)

I continue to feel compelled to visit the Arctic Refuge to seek out the intimate experiences that come with traveling at a backpacker’s pace, and I am proud to share the Refuge with guests who visit Alaska each year to see one of the last, great, wild places. But my experiences there have also moved me to speak out on the Refuge’s behalf. Having known this place intimately, sitting idly by and allowing exploitative industries to trammel this ecosystem is simply not an option.

Hikers near the Hulahula River amid the fall colors.(Haley Johnston)

  Read Why I Fell in Love With Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—and Why We Must Protect It From Drilling
  September 30, 2017
Oil and Plastic Are Choking Planet Earth: We Have to Stop Pretending This Isn 't a Problem.

by Dr. David Suzuki, AlterNet


People who deny that humans are wreaking havoc on the planet's life-support systems astound me. When confronted with the obvious damage we're doing to the biosphere, from climate change to water and air pollution to swirling plastic patches in the oceans, some dismiss the reality or employ logical fallacies to discredit the messengers.

It's one thing to argue over solutions, but to reject the need for them is suicidal. And to claim people can't talk about fossil fuels and climate change because they use fossil fuel-derived products, such as plastic keyboards is nonsensical.

There's no denying that oil, coal and gas are tremendously useful. They hold super-concentrated energy from the sun and are used to make a variety of products, from medicines to lubricants to plastics. The problems aren't the resources but our profligate use of them. Using them more wisely is a start. In many cases, we also have alternatives.

Burning oil, coal and gas to propel inefficient automobiles and generate electricity illustrates the problem. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 14 to 30 percent of a gasoline-powered car's fuel is used to propel the vehicle. That energy is mostly moving a tonne of car, which often holds one 80-kilogram person. That's a lot of fuel and energy to transport one or two people.

Looked at this way, even electric or hybrid personal vehicles aren't terribly efficient, but they at least pollute less than gas-powered vehicles—and the EPA notes 74 to 94 per cent of an electric car's energy goes to moving the vehicle and its passengers. Energy-efficient or electric vehicles are moving in the right direction, but public transit and active transport such as cycling and walking are better alternatives.

Fossil fuel power plants are also inefficient. Only about a third of the power generated reaches consumers. More is lost through wasteful household or business use. A lot of energy is also required to extract, process and transport fuels to power plants. Because of the many methods of generating and supplying electricity with renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, it's tough to put exact numbers on efficiency, but far less power is wasted. Because the energy sources are inexhaustible and don't produce emissions, waste isn't as big a concern as with fossil fuels—although it's still important.

Most plastics are also made from oil—which presents another set of problems. As with fuels, people started making plastics from oil because it was inexpensive, plentiful and easy for corporations to exploit and sell. Our consume-and-profit economic system meant automakers once designed cars not to be efficient but to burn more fuel than necessary. Likewise, manufacturers create far more plastic products than necessary. Many items don't serve much purpose beyond making money. Sometimes the packaging is worth more than the contents!

It's so bad that researchers from Australia's University of Tasmania and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds recently found 18 metric tons of plastic garbage—239 items per square meter—scattered across a small South Pacific island 5,000 kilometers from the nearest human occupation. Scientists have also found massive, swirling patches of plastic in the North and South Pacific oceans, each holding around 400,000 plastic particles per square kilometer. University of Tasmania researcher Jennifer Lavers said plastic in the oceans could be as great a threat as climate change. "You put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or plastic in the oceans and both will stick around," she told New Scientist.

As with fossil fuels, the first step to addressing the problem is to substantially reduce plastics usage. There are also alternatives. To begin, we should recycle everything already produced. Plastics can also be made from renewable resources, such as hemp, or any fast-growing plant that contains cellulose. In fact, plastics were once commonly made from animal products such as horn and tusks, but when those became expensive, people started using plants, switching to oil products when that became more profitable.

We can and must cut down on fossil fuels and plastics. We also have alternatives, and ways to prevent plastics from ending up in the oceans. Those who look away and pretend we don't have a problem are only slowing solutions and accelerating our self-destruction.

This article was originally published by the David Suzuki Foundation with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. David Suzuki’s latest book is Just Cool It!: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do (Greystone Books, 2017), co-written with Ian Hanington.

  Read Oil and Plastic Are Choking Planet Earth: We Have to Stop Pretending This Isn t a Problem
 October 13, 2017
Climate Change Is Threatening Food Security and Nutrition Around the Globe—but Some Solutions Are Making an Impact.

by Andrea Egan, Jennifer Baumwoll, UNDP, AlterNet


Investing in climate change adaptation is imperative to ensure food security in vulnerable communities.

1.5 billion people worldwide live in smallholder households, which account for 80 percent of food production in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these smallholder farmers are in developing countries, and 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in these countries is made up of women. Smallholder farmers are dependent on agricultural production for both subsistence and income generation.

In many cases, they rely on rainfall to irrigate their crops, with limited access to reliable water sources such as wells, pumps or irrigation systems. They do not have insurance to cover failed crops, or money to buy advanced fertilizers or nutrients to improve the health of their soil. Most importantly, they often do not have the knowledge and information to prepare for unpredictable climate changes, which increasingly threaten these households and their crop yields, as well as their food security and well-being.

Food production is directly impacted by climate change. Changing temperatures, unpredictable rainfall patterns, shorter and more erratic growing seasons, and an increased frequency of extreme events like droughts and floods all directly affect productivity of traditional crops, livestock and fisheries.

Food security is not just about production. It is as much about the quality and diversity of food available, how it can be accessed by different sections of the society, its nutritional value, and the consistency with which nutritious food is available and accessible on a long-term basis.

A drop in productivity caused by erratic weather events means that there is less food available. This in turn impacts the accessibility of food, especially for the vulnerable sections of the population who are affected by the resulting increase in prices of food and reduced income due to lower crop yields.

Similarly, climate change threatens other resources such as water, for irrigation and for domestic purposes, which directly affects the nutritional quality of food.

Finally, increasingly unpredictable weather events and the repercussions of extreme events take a toll on the regular and consistent availability of nutritious food, especially for vulnerable households. All of these factors contribute to undermining global food security, particularly in developing countries. The global community has committed to Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger.

To reach this goal, we must consider climate-related impacts to each of the above mentioned aspects of food security, and continue to design and implement resilient solutions, at scale.

How the Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility Is Addressing Food Security

Several countries around the world are already addressing the challenges climate change poses to food security. The Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility (CCAF) projects in Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Haiti, Mali, Niger and Sudan serve as exemplars of some of these climate-resilient solutions.

While each country’s experiences and adaptation approaches were unique to their local context, all the CCAF projects had a similar focus on enhancing food security, as well as generating additional income and diversifying livelihood options. Positive results have already been seen across all six countries.

In Niger, increased yields from crop production reduced the number of food-insecure days, and alleviated the need to earn additional income to purchase food.

In Cambodia, newly established solar water pumps and water user groups helped to establish small home-based vegetable gardens typically managed by women. These allowed them to produce a wider variety of crops for families to eat, which helped improve nutrition.

Similarly, in Mali the project assisted women’s collectives to establish cooperative vegetable gardens, including securing access to water, tools and land, thereby diversifying participants’ food and livelihoods.

In Cabo Verde, the national research institution tested new varieties of crops that are more resilient to the expected drier conditions, and piloted them with local farmers. In Sudan, integrated pest management techniques have been introduced to address an increasing incidence of certain pests due to climatic changes.

In Haiti, farmers are developing and implementing individualized farming plans, based on specific family needs, vulnerabilities and opportunities, to achieve sustainable subsistence food production and income generation.

This cookbook represents the fruits of these efforts, restoring food to its position as a celebration of life, local culture and the environment. The cookbook also acknowledges that there is much to learn from communities that are at the front lines of climate change.

These vulnerable households are being forced to adapt within their economic and environmental constraints, yet their innovative and successful strategies can serve as a model and inspiration for others around the world.

More information on the CCAF and specific products generated from the activities implemented in the six countries is available at the CCAF website here: adaptation-undp.org/projects/ccaf.

Bon appétit!

Recipe: Dambou — Niger


  • 1 kg (35 oz) of semolina millet, sorghum, corn or couscous
  • 500 g (17 oz) Moringa leaves (or cabbage or spinach)
  • 2 onions
  • ½ litre (17 fl oz) groundnut or peanut oil
  • 4 fresh tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Fresh chilli
  • Dry chilli
  • Salt


  • Boil the moringa leaves (in case moringa leaves are not available, cabbage or spinach can be substituted) for 3-4 minutes and drain well.
  • Mix with salt and pepper.
  • Dice the tomatoes, onion and garlic.
  • Fry the onion in groundnut oil until translucent and then add the fresh tomato and garlic. Incorporate this into the moringa mixture.
  • Add the dry and fresh chillies.
  • Cook the millet with twice as much water in a medium-sized saucepan at medium-high heat.
  • When the water starts boiling, turn the heat down to low and cover the pot.
  • After 10-15 minutes all the water should be absorbed. The millet is ready to serve.
  • Serve the moringa mixture prepared earlier on a bed of millet. Some fresh chillies can be used as garnish.
  • Mix well and serve.

The starches eaten most often in Niger are millet and rice. Sorghum and maize are also very popular in many parts of the country. Couscous is saved for special occasions. Most of these grains are grown by smallholder farmers, who are typically dependent on one crop for their livelihoods. With the impacts of climate change, these crops become more vulnerable to increasing droughts, changing rainfall patterns and seasonal uncertainty.

Under the CCAF project, new varieties of millet and sorghum that are more resilient to these changing climate conditions have been introduced to target communities. Further, 70 farmers, including 21 women, were trained in how to propagate or produce these improved varieties, which they can then sell to other farmers for a small profit. 3,755 kg of seeds of eight varieties of millet, sorghum and cowpea adapted to climate conditions were produced by the trained farmers and subsequently distributed to 3,000 rural farmers (around 600 of whom are women).

Sustainable Development Goal 2 aims to end hunger, and achieve food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture

The Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility supports a portfolio of national climate change adaptation projects implemented in Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Haiti, Mali, Niger and Sudan. These projects were initially supported by the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). In 2014, these ongoing LDCF-funded adaptation projects in each country received additional funding from the Government of Canada and UNDP to further enhance the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities, particularly in the context of food security and water management. The CCAF also includes a global component, which acts as an umbrella initiative aiming to document, analyze and share experiences and lessons learned across the six countries.

With a degree in International Relations and Human Rights from the University of Auckland, and a degree in Development Studies from Massey University, Andrea Egan has served as a Fellow at the Measurement and Human Rights Program at Harvard University. Her time there focused on climate change and human rights, issues that she continues to focus on at numerous consultancies for UNDP over the past 8 years.

Jennifer Baumwoll is a global advisor on climate change at UNDP in New York. Before joining UNDP, Jennifer worked with UNISDR in Bangkok. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Webster University in Vienna and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Vassar College.

  Read Climate Change Is Threatening Food Security and Nutrition Around the Globe—but Some Solutions Are Making an Impact
  October 9, 2017
Pesticides Contaminate 75% of the World's Honey, New Research Reveals.

by Damian Carrington, The Guardian, AlterNet


Honey from across the world is contaminated with potent pesticides known to harm bees, new research shows, clearly revealing the global exposure of vital pollinators for the first time.

Almost 200 samples of honey were analysed for neonicotinoid insecticides and 75% contained the chemicals, with most contaminated with multiple types. Bees range over many kilometres to collect nectar and pollen, making the honey they produce an excellent indicator of the pesticide pollution across their local landscape.

Bees and other pollinators are vital to three-quarters of the world’s food crops but have been in serious decline in recent decades. The destruction of wild habitats, disease and widespread pesticide use are all important factors. Scientists responding to the new work say a crackdown on the industrial-scale use of the nerve agents is urgently needed.

The new analysis joins a growing number of highly critical reports on pesticides, including research showing most farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses, a UN report that denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world, and a UK chief government scientist stating that the assumption by regulators it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false.

The honey analyses, published in the journal Science, began as a citizen science project when researchers at the Botanical Garden of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, asked people to donate honey collected from around the world between 2012 and 2016. They received hundreds of samples and analysed 198 of known local origin for the five main types of neonicotinoid.

Contamination rates were highest in North America with 86% of samples containing one or more neonicotinoid, followed by Asia (80%) and Europe (79%). It was lowest in South America at 57%. Almost half the samples contained a cocktail of the insecticides.

“The striking finding is that 75% of our samples had measurable quantities,” said Prof Edward Mitchell at the University of Neuchâtel. “That was surprising to us, since our coverage included many remote areas, including oceanic islands.”

Worldwide distribution of honey contamination

Total neonicotinoid concentration (nanogram/gram)

Furthermore, Mitchell said: “If you look at the minimum concentration for which a significant negative impact on bees has been found, then 48% of our samples exceed this level.” The researchers said these impacts include damage to learning, behaviour and colony success. “The concentrations are often very low, but we are talking about pesticides that are extremely toxic: something like 4,000 to 10,000 times more toxic than DDT [dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane],” he said.

In June, the largest-ever field trial showed that neonicotinoids damage the survival of honeybee colonies, as well as harming wild bees, and suggested a toxic “cocktail effect” from multiple pesticides.

All but two of the samples had total contamination levels below the “maximum residue level” (MRL) allowed for human consumption under EU laws. But Mitchell said there was little published research on the effect of neonicotinoids on vertebrates, though there were some indications of harm. “You can wonder if the MRLs are really good enough – I think this is an open question, ”Mitchell said.

Prof Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex, UK, and not involved in the new work, said: “Entire landscapes all over the world are now permeated with highly potent neurotoxins, undoubtedly contributing to the global collapse of biodiversity. It is hard not to feel a sense of deja vu: Rachel Carson was saying the same things more than 50 years ago, but we seem not to have learned any lessons. It is high time that we developed a global regulatory system for pesticides, to prevent such catastrophes being repeated over and over again.”

Christopher Connolly at the University of Dundee, UK, said: “The findings are alarming. It is time that these chemicals are heavily restricted for use. In this way, their impact on the environment can be limited and their efficacy against pests preserved for when there is no other alternative option.”

Jonathan Storkey at Rothamsted Research in the UK said the situation has arisen as much through the overuse of neonicotinoids as through their chemical properties, which may be more benign overall than older alternatives. “Rather than seeking an outright ban, research should focus on developing strategies for limiting their use,” he said.

In 2014, a global assessment of neonicotinoids concluded that their widespread use was putting the global food production system at risk. An updated assessment, to be published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research, found even stronger evidence of the insecticides’ harm: “The consequences are far reaching and cannot be ignored any longer.”

Jean-Marc Bonmatin, at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Orléans, France, and one of the assessment team, said: “The use of these pesticides runs contrary to environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. It provides no real benefit to farmers, decreases soil quality, hurts biodiversity and contaminates water, air and food. There is no longer any reason to continue down this path of destruction.”

Three neonicotinoids were banned from use on flowering crops in the EEU in 2013. The European commission has drafted new regulations that would ban these pesticides from all fields and these look likely to be passed in the coming months.

“The global neonicotinoid contamination in honey is another reminder that wildlife is threatened by these chemicals around the world, and there is growing momentum in support of a new global solution to ensure that high standards of protection for the environment and people are applied everywhere,” said Matt Shardlow at Buglife UK.

  Read Pesticides Contaminate 75% of the World's Honey, New Research Reveals
  October 11, 2017
You're Wrong, Scott Pruitt: Now Is Exactly the Time to Have That Discussion About Climate Change.

by Susan Glickman, AlterNet


As a native Floridian, I chose to ride out Hurricane Irma in my hometown of Tampa—just a few miles north of where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play football. Like millions of other Floridians who evacuated low-lying beach communities for higher ground, I had the obvious safety concerns and worries about whether I would have a home to return to. But as a public interest advocate who has worked on climate and energy issues every day for almost two decades, I also have intense concerns about the growing climate change/hurricane nexus.

So when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says it's insensitive to Floridians and Texans to talk about climate change during hurricane emergencies, I say he missed the boat as to what's truly insensitive.

What's insensitive is not talking about the links between warmer surface water temperatures and more intense weather events. What's insensitive is dismantling the Clean Power Plan that was put in place to reduce climate-changing carbon pollution. What's insensitive is unraveling the environmental protections we all rely on so allies in the oil and gas industry can continue to pollute for free and have consumers pick up the tab.

Plain and simple, we are altering the climate of our planet for all living beings just so that a few people can make money selling, trading and producing fuels and products that emit greenhouse gas emissions. It's not okay and it's got to stop.

Increased greenhouse gas emissions are fueling more extreme weather events. It's just that simple. The warmer ocean temperatures in the Atlantic and the gulf are contributing to more intense hurricanes. Climate change is causing sea level rise that adds to the threat of coastal flooding.

We have needed to act to reduce emissions for a long time, but now we are at a true crossroads. The Arctic is melting, and the permafrost is thawing. As goes the Arctic, so goes Florida. We must take serious action now to both adapt to the climate change impacts that are inevitable from carbon pollution already in the pipeline and to reduce our emissions and future impacts by transforming to a low-carbon economy.

Make no mistake, we've known about the problem for a long time. In 1965, three weeks after his inauguration, President Lyndon Johnson said: "This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels." Johnson was responding to the first official governmental report on the possible challenges posed from increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) to dangerous levels.

Even before that, physicist Roger Revelle testified before Congress in 1956 about the relationship between fossil fuel combustion, rising CO2 in the atmosphere, and potentially increased hurricane risk in the Atlantic. So the potential impacts of climate change on hurricanes were known 60 years ago. This is not new news.

So why do so many people today still deny the causes of climate change despite the overwhelming evidence? Since I'm from the Sunshine State, I liken it to the intense rivalry between the University of Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles. You pick a team and stick with them through thick and thin. Football allegiances are powerful in Florida. There's no in between once you take sides.

Similarly, for climate deniers to embrace the largely accepted science they have to renounce their world view and their peers. And while it is difficult to stray from one's world view, more and more people now see reality staring them in the face.

So without pointing fingers or recrimination, I say that this is the moment we must all confront the realities of a changing climate and acknowledge there are solutions at hand. There is no shortage of data on climate science and, thankfully, there seems to be no shortage of technologies to achieve a low-carbon economy. Transitioning to a clean energy economy will be better for all of us all in the long run, creating jobs, saving money and protecting our natural environment.

Being in a hurricane—or in any crisis situation—does have a certain surreal quality to it. Across the globe we've been pummeled with so many recent cataclysmic events— earthquakes in Mexico, fires in the West, mudslides in Sierra Leone—and now the nearby devastation from Hurricane Harvey is fresh on our minds. Every day it's like we're watching a movie—an intriguing thriller—except this one is real. Climate change is happening and we're seeing it play out before our eyes. It would be insensitive to continue to ignore the signs and fail to take action.

  Read You re Wrong, Scott Pruitt: Now Is Exactly the Time to Have That Discussion About Climate Change
  October 16, 2017
Climate Change Could Lead to a Resurgence of Some of the Deadliest Illnesses on Earth.

by Robin Wylie, Eniday, AlterNet

The incidence of infectious disease has been dramatically reduced over the past century by increasingly sophisticated vaccines. But evidence suggests that climate change could potentially lead to a resurgence of some of the deadliest illnesses on earth.

Many common infectious diseases are known to be affected by climate variation. But those transmitted by insects are particularly sensitive.

One of the diseases most at risk from climate change is malaria. This bacterial infection kills around 429,000 people each year (more than 80 percent of whom are children under five), and although that number is on the decline, there are fears that in the future, climate change could help malaria spread.

Malaria is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles, which are highly sensitive to climatic variations, generally requiring moist conditions, and a temperature of around 25-28 degrees centigrade to breed. Scientists suspect that rising global temperatures could cause the range of Anopheles mosquitoes to expand, and thereby increase the spread of malaria to humans.

One of the places most at risk could be Africa. The continent is already the world’s malaria hotspot, with 92 percent of the world’s malaria deaths occurring there, but a growing number of scientific studies are suggesting that climate change could make malaria matters even worse in Africa.

A female Anophelesalbimanusmosquito feeding on a human host (James Gathany/CDC, Wikimedia)

The most recent of these was published this year in the journal The LancetIn the study, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Colombia University aimed to estimate the effect that projected climate change would have on malaria risk in Africa, using a newly-developed malaria transmission simulator combined with reliable climate change projections.

The study concluded that in east Africa, climate change could significantly expand the range of the Anopheles mosquito by the end of the 21st century, thereby increasing the risk of the disease in the region.

This echoes the findings of an earlier study, which concluded that by the year 2080 climate change would lead to a significant increase in the length of the malaria transmission season (LTS) in parts of both eastern and southern Africa. The same study also predicted that other parts of the world would see similar increases in LTS, such as Central America, southern Brazil, and parts of India and Nepal.

Malaria researchers in Kisumu, Kenya (Rick Scavetta/U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs,flickr)

But malaria isn’t the only mosquito-borne disease that risks being exacerbated by a changing climate. Studies have also found that climate variability could also affect the risk of dengue fever, and there are concerns that the same could be true for yellow fever, encephalitis, hantavirus and even ebola.

There are even signs that climate change could already be altering the distribution of some of these diseases. Recent studies have found that some mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever, as well as tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis, have begun to spread to higher latitudes, possibly due to increased temperatures.

The spread of insect-borne pathogens is serious enough, but it’s not the only way that climate change could impact human diseases.

Increased precipitation, another likely result of climate change, is believed to increase the spread of waterborne infections, which can cause deadly diarrheal illness and flourish in the wake of heavy rainfalls. And other infectious diseases, such as salmonellosis, cholera and giardiasis, may show increased outbreaks due to flooding and elevated temperature.

Scientists are also concerned that the melting of permafrost soils in polar regions due to climate change could release ancient viruses and bacteria that may be capable of coming back to life.

Last year, an Anthrax outbreak in northern Russia was blamed on unusually warm weather in the arctic circle. Up to 90 people were hospitalized, and a 12-year-old boy died after being infected by the deadly bacteria. It is believed that a reindeer carcass infected with Anthrax was buried deep in the ice, but unusually high temperatures of up to 35 C in the Siberian tundra last summer, caused the carcass to thaw, and Anthrax spores to be released.

With research—and climate change itself—at an early stage, time will be needed to more fully understand the ways in which diseases will respond to our unstable atmosphere. Doing so will form a crucial part of protecting humans from an uncertain climatic future.


Robin Wylie is a freelance earth and space science journalist. He is currently getting a PhD in volcanology at University College London.

  Read Climate Change Could Lead to a Resurgence of Some of the Deadliest Illnesses on Earth
  October 20, 2017
The Argument That Industrial Farming Is an Efficient Way to Grow Food Is a Dangerous Myth That Risks All Life on Earth.

by Bibi van der Zee, The Guardian, AlterNet

The world desperately needs joined-up action on industrial farming if it is to avoid catastrophic impacts on life on earth, according to the head of one of the world's most highly regarded animal campaign groups.

Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and the author of Farmageddon and more recently Deadzone, said:

Every day there is a new confirmation of how destructive, inefficient, wasteful, cruel and unhealthy the industrial agriculture machine is. We need a total rethink of our food and farming systems before it's too late.

His comments came on the eve of Compassion's recent Livestock and Extinction conference in London, which brought together scientists, campaigners, U.N. representatives and multinational food corporations including Compass, Tesco and McDonald's. The conference aims to bring together a wide range of voices and connect up the many impacts that factory farming has on our planet. 

Philip Lymbery, head of Compassion in World Farming and the author of two books on the destructive impact of industrial agriculture. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

The conference came against a backdrop of alarming exposés of industrial farming. Last month, a Guardian/ITV investigation showed chicken factory staff in the U.K. changing crucial food safety information on chickens, while a month ago the European Commission admitted that eggs containing a harmful pesticide may have been on sale in as many as 16 countries

In the U.S. in August, meanwhile, campaigners identified the world's largest ever "deadzone" —an area in the sea where pollutants from farms create algal blooms that kill off or disperse marine life—and singled out the U.S.'s heavily industrialized factory farm system as a major cause.

The 2017 Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone, or Dead Zone, measures 8,776 square miles—about the size of New Jersey. This is the largest ever dead zone in the Gulf since mapping of the zone began in 1985. (NOAA)

In an interview with the Guardian, Lymbery said that when he began campaigning on farm animals in 1990, it was still largely seen as a cruelty issue rather than something that went far beyond that.

Since taking over as chief executive of CIWF in 2005, Lymbery has focused on "moving the issue out of being a technical niche to get people to understand industrial farming as a big, global problem."

"We need to go beyond an isolated approach," Lymbery says. "Not just looking at the technical problems around welfare, not just looking at the technical issues around the environment, not just looking at food security in isolation, but putting all of these issues together, then we can see the real problem that lies at the heart of our food system—industrial agriculture."

Lymbery argues that factory farming is not—as some contend—an efficient, space-saving way to produce the world's food but rather a method in which the invisible costs are actually far higher than the savings.

"Factory farming is shrouded in mythology," he said. "One of the myths is that it's an efficient way of producing food when actually it is highly inefficient and wasteful. 

"Another [myth] is that the protagonists will say that it can be good for the welfare of the animals. After all, if hens weren't happy they wouldn't lay eggs.

"The third myth is that factory farming saves space. On the surface it looks plausible, because, by taking farm animals off the land and cramming them into cages and confinement you are putting an awful lot of animals into a small space. But what is overlooked in that equation is you are then having to dedicate vast acreages of relatively scarce arable land to growing the feed.

"The crops fed to industrially reared animals worldwide could feed an extra four billion [people] on the planet."

As the global demand for cheap meat grows, the expansion of agricultural land is putting more and pressure on our forests, rivers and oceans, contributing to deforestation, soil erosion, marine pollution zones and the global biodiversity crisis, he said.

"The U.N. has warned that if we continue as we are, the world's soils will have effectively gone within 60 years. And then what? We shouldn't look to the sea to bail us out because commercial fisheries are expected to be finished by 2048 …

"The rainforest homes of the likes of jaguars and the critically endangered sumatran elephants are being razed to make way for intensive crop production and plantations that are feeding factory farm animals ... the mixed farm habitats of once common farmland birds such as barn owls, turtle doves and skylarks are being stripped away, and ... vast quantities of wild fish are being scooped up to feed industrially reared farmed fish and chickens and pigs, leaving the likes of penguins, puffins and other species starving."

Increased soybean cultivation in Brazil has destroyed—and continued to destroy—huge areas of Amazon rainforest. (image: Budimir Jevtic/Shutterstock)

Antibiotic use is another red flag area. "There is now overwhelming evidence that the routine prophylactic use of antibiotics is leading to the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs, and the World Health Organization has issued warnings that if we don’t do something to curb antibiotic use in both human and animal medicine we will face a post-antibiotic era where currently treatable diseases will once again kill."

Although some countries, the U.K. and the U.S. for example, are now trying to cut back, antibiotic use is totally unregulated in other parts of the world: in China the farmers can just prescribe and administer antibiotics for themselves.

Lymbery believes that we already know the answer to this problem. Compassion advocates a reduction in meat-eating (Lymbery himself is vegan) but is not "anti-meat." In the long term regenerative farming—a broad term that includes all sorts of practices such as rotational grazing, tree planting, improving soils, reducing chemical inputs, silvopasture and increasing biodiversity—is, Lymbery believes, our only hope and a movement whose time has come.

"Hilal Elver, the U.N. rapporteur for the right to food, has talked about the need to move away from industrial agriculture towards agro-ecological models. There is a groundswell—it's almost starting to be a zeitgeist as key thinkers in civil society start to join the dots and see that actually we do need a new style of agriculture which goes beyond industrial agriculture, which goes beyond simple sustainability, which brings us to a point of regeneration."

On the whole national governments have shown little interest in radical farming reform. But there have been a few notable exceptions such as IndiaRwanda and Kenya, and the international community and the corporate world is increasingly interested in financing and supporting these models (USaid is funding a fantastic agroforestry project, although they may be hoping that Trump doesn't realize this).

And in the last few months, there has been some support from surprising quarters, such as Michael Gove, the U.K.'s environment secretary, and his recent statement that U.S.-style industrial farming will not be copied here. In the recent lead-up to the appointment of the head of the WHO, more than 200 scientists and campaigners signed a letter asking the appointee to promise to look at the "global health challenge” of factory farming which was widely circulated on social media and led to an editorial in the New York Times.

So how likely is it that we will get global action on food and farming? "I am sure that 20 years ago people calling for a solution to climate change were being asked exactly that question," says Lymbery. "I believe that nothing less will be needed if we are to secure the future for our children."

Bibi van der Zee is editor of the Global Development Professionals Network and the Elephant Conservation hub. She writes about the environment and food. She is also the author of The Protestor's Handbook, and edited the Guardian's US Debt: The American economy in crisis. Follow her on Twitter @bibivanderzee.

  Read The Argument That Industrial Farming Is an Efficient Way to Grow Food Is a Dangerous Myth That Risks All Life on Earth
  September 20, 2017
BRICS – Potential and Future in an Emerging New World Economy.

by Peter Koenig, Information Clearing House

Based on an interview with Tashreeq Truebody, Radio 786, South Africa


  1. Global economy and Brics

    Peter Koenig
    Let’s put the BRICS in perspective: The BRICS are of course Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Together they make up for almost 50% of the world population and close to one third of the world’s economic output, or GDP.

This alone would make them fully independent from the western economy, from the western, what I call, fraudulent dollar-based monetary system. And it will happen – it will happen sooner than the world believes. However, with the current political structure of the BRICS, the relative lack of political and economic coherence, safe for Russia and China, this for the moment is just theory.

If you allow me, let’s backtrack a bit in history, to where the term BRIC came from, and who coined it. At the beginning, South Africa was not yet member of the association. In 2001, shortly after the 9/11, in 2001, the chief economist of Goldman Sachs, Jim O’Neill, invented the term BRIC – as he was forecasting that these emerging economies, spread throughout the world, Brazil, Russia, India and China – would overtake the so-called western economy by 2041. The forecast was later revised several times, all the way to 2032 – and now, there is, I believe no formal forecast, but it could easily happen by 2025, or earlier, especially with the new Oil-for-yuan and gold exchange market soon to be opened in Shanghai. Many predict this to be the end of the petro-dollar, and the end of the dollar hegemony.

Then strangely and formidably the four BRIC countries realized their potential and took things in their own hands. That’s how dynamics work – often totally unpredictably. For sure, Goldman Sachs and their Chief economist had no clue that this would create the western monetary and economic system’s most daunting adversary.

The first BRIC summit was held in Russia in June 2009. That was the formal conference to create the BRICS.

By 2011, the five countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China – plus South Africa were the five fastest growing emerging markets, and in April 2013, South Africa was added to the BRIC group – to make it formally the BRICS.

This just as a little historic introduction – to show that the impetus for the BRIC(S) came actually form a most unlikely western source – Goldman Sachs.

In the meantime, the BRICS are struggling with another reality. For the BRICS to be an effective alternative to the western economy, or the western monetary system, they need a unified political vision, as well as a coherent and unified economic development approach, one that distances itself from the western dollar-euro based system. Unfortunately, today this is not so. But that doesn’t mean it will not happen. Personally, I believe it will. It may just take longer than the majority of the world may have liked.

Both Brazil and India are totally in the hands of Wall Street, the World Bank and the IMF. In the case of India, you will recall last fall’s deadly monetary fiasco, when PM Narendra Modi decided to cancel more than 80% of the countries circulating cash currency, and as an interim step to replace it with other bills and eventually digitalize the Indian economy.

It is not known how many poor Indians perished, those with no access to bank accounts, those who have no alternative means to pay for food. Uncountable small businesses failed – an important impact on the Indian economy. More, much more inhuman was the impact on the poor average Indians. But – Modi followed the dictate of the west, of Wall Street and the IMF – with a program to test digitalization in a large emerging economy, implemented by USAID. – How much trust does India under Modi as a BRICS member deserve?

And Brazil under neoliberal Temer, who is under accusation of corruption; he has literally handed his country’s economy to the sharks of Wall Street, the IMF and the WB. So, when Temer and Modi stood there holding hands with the other three BRICS members in Xiamen, China on 4th and 5th September – it looked to me like a club that was united only by name.

Yet, the theme of this 9th BRICS Conference was “BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future”. – I truly hope this objective will be achieved. And it very well may – over time. It is important to approach such an event in a positive and forward-looking spirit.

Perhaps it was along the same philosophy, that ahead of the September summit in Xiamen, President Putin said something crucial, but highly political and highly diplomatic: “It is important that our group’s activities are based on the principles of equality, respect for one another’s opinions and consensus. Within BRICS, nothing is ever forced on anyone. When the approaches of its members do not coincide, we work patiently and carefully to coordinate them. This open and trust-based atmosphere is conducive to the successful implementation of our tasks.”

  1. Understanding Industrialization / development and the Brics Bank.

    Let’s start with the BRICS development bank, now called New Development Bank (NDB). It emerged as an idea from the Durban BRICS summit in March 2013 and was formally created in 2014, and signed as a Treaty in July 2015.

Under the Agreement the BRICS Development Bank, as it was first called – now the NDB, they set up a “reserve currency pool” of US$ 100 billion. Each of the five-member countries was to allocate an equal share of the US$ 50 billion start-up capital, to be expanded later to the US$ 100 billion.

Contributions per country were, Brazil, $18 billion, Russia $18 billion, India $18 billion, China $41 billion and South Africa $5 billion. The problem is that the initial capital and the Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA) of US$ 100 billion was set up in US dollars.

How can they break loose from the western dollar-based monetary system, if their contribution is dollar based?

Also, South Africa and Brazil are heavily indebted – in US dollars. South Africa’s current debt is today above 50% (US$ 153 billion) of GDP which stands just below 300 billion.

To comply with their contribution to the dollar-denominated CRA, Brazil and SA may have to borrow from where? – Wall Street, or the IMF, as the CRA is a dollar reserve fund. This puts these countries even more into a dollar bondage, in the hands of the FED and the Bretton Woods Organizations – instead of freeing them from this predicament.

As a parenthesis, South Africa’s interest on foreign debt of $153 billion was about US$ 5 billion (2016). Foreign debt is almost 52% of SA’s GDP of close to US$ 300 billion. The US$ 5 billion debt payments are higher than the country’s spending on tertiary education (about R60 billion / US$ 4.6 billion equivalent). This is also a good reason to detach from a debt-based monetary system – and, as originally was planned by the BRICS – migrate towards a BRICS own monetary and international payment system – similar to the one already introduced to the world by China – the Chinese International Payment System (CIPS).

On Industrialization – the NDB will certainly help boost industrialization within each of the BRICS countries, but also among the BRICS countries – and even outside the BRICS nations, as trade will increase.

At present the NDB has approved seven investment projects in the BRICS countries, worth around $1.5 billion. This year, the NDB is to approve a second package of investment projects worth $2.5 to $3 billion in total.

Although it is not clear what precisely these projects entail, the original idea for the NDB was to support infrastructure and energy projects within the BRICS countries. There is a big need for infrastructure and independent energy production. Of course, infrastructure and energy development, means also industrialization and trade.

  1. Economic diversification 

A solid BRICS cooperation, as well as an own development bank, will most likely attract – and through the NDB leverage – new investments. This was one of the goals discussed during the Xiamen summit. The amount of which is difficult to predict, but Indian PM Modi has talked about an expected 40% increase over the next few years. But even if India or any BRICS country receives foreign investments, it will be difficult to discern which investments are directly related to the new BRICS strength, as so fervently expressed in Xiamen.

More important is the diversification of investments, as well as the related trade. There are currently several countries on a – what shall I call it – “wait list” – to become members of the BRICS. For example, South Korea and Mexico (both are OECD members), Indonesia, Turkey, Argentina, have been mentioned.

Trade between emerging and developing markets has already been increasing more rapidly than “globalized average trade” for which WTO imposes the rules. I could imagine that trade – and, thus, diversification – between BRICS countries, or better even, an enlarged BRICS block, could really boom. It would be a sort of ‘globalization’ with most trade barriers removed, of a peace-oriented economy, one that strives for the well-being of the people, rather than an elite – and of course, an economy that does not work for the war industry, as does the western dollar-based economy.

For that reason, it will be important that the BRICS detach themselves from the western dollar-based economy and eventually have their own currency. At the Xiamen summit, this was discussed in some ways.

The five members have agreed to “promote and develop BRICS Local Currency Bond Markets and jointly establish a BRICS Local Currency Bond Fund, as a means of contribution to the capital sustainability of financing in BRICS countries, boosting the development of BRICS domestic and regional bond markets.”

This comes pretty close to what the Euro was before it became Fiat money, i.e. it was the European Currency Unit (ECU) that then converted into the virtual Euro, before in January 2002, the Euro became paper and dollar like Fiat money.

By now we know that the US drove this European currency effort – establishing the euro as the foster child of the US dollar – totally unsustainable as a unitary currency of a group of countries that have no common political interests and goals, that have no common Constitution. Their only common denominator is NATO, their permanent drive for war. It was clear from the beginning that such a project will be doomed to fail.

Hopefully – and I trust, the BRICS will learn a lesson from this failed exercise, and only with a strong bond that includes political, economic and defense long-term goals, a common currency can flourish.

In Xiamen, the BRICS also established the Strategy for “BRICS Economic Partnership and initiatives related to its priority areas such as trade and investment, manufacturing and minerals processing, infrastructure connectivity, financial integration, science, technology and innovation, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) cooperation, among others.” All this for sustainable, balanced and inclusive global growth.

This Strategy already is indicative for a different development and monetary approach than was the one that laid the cornerstone for the European Union.

  1. Trade between Brics and the dollar

This will be interesting to see emerging. In the medium term, I see a full integration between the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS. Several countries are already today members of both associations; for example, Russia and China, recently also India joined the SCO. The SCO also comprises most of central Asia, the former Soviet Republics, and also new Iran and Pakistan. The SCO has already a common long-term objective, in economic development, political vision, as well as defense strategy.

During the recent Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, President Putin and President Xi announced cementing of the fusion between the Eurasian Economic Union (EUAU) and the new ‘Silk Road’, also called “One Belt One Road” (OBOR), or for short “OBI” – the One Belt Initiative.

Since OBI is largely driven by SCO, i.e. by China, this also means that the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union are part of SCO. Imagine, the economic power of the entire group SCO, EAEU and BRICS…. Western supremacy will be a thing of the past.

This means worldwide trading – but without the dollar hegemony, without an economic and monetary systems that allows Washington to impose “sanctions” – outrageous and illegal punishments on countries that refuse to follow their dictate. Its high time that this high crime stops. And that we reinstate international law – which today is completely ‘bought’ by Washington.

Today it is clear to most progressive and forward-looking economists that the future is the east; the west has practically committed suicide with its constant wars for greed and dominance and disrespect for the very peoples that foot the western empire’s war bills.

  1. Brics development bank vs. World Bank

Yes, the original idea was – and I hope still is – that the BRICS New Development Bank will be able to compete with the WB and the IMF. In other words, by applying non-neoliberal economic policies and with loans that do not impose austerity – which, as we know, is devastating for economic development – but will promote peoples’ based development – aiming at a more just income and wealth distribution.

This is not yet the case.

As mentioned before, the problem is that the BRICS bank’s initial capital and the Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA) of US$ 100 billion was set up in US dollars.

Also, as said before, South Africa and Brazil are heavily indebted – in US dollars, an existing bondage that is difficult to break. But not impossible!

The same is true for the Chinese Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB), whose capital of currently also US$ 100 billion is also dollar denominated, and of which about US$ 18 billion is paid in.

It is very likely that the NDB and the AIIB will work together in the future – and jointly break the stranglehold of the WB and the IMF.

In order to do so, they both need to totally break loose from the dollar economy – which is about to happen, perhaps soon, with the enactment of the Chinese Petrol exchange in Shanghai, where trading will NOT be in US dollars but in gold-convertible Yuan.

A possible solution is an SCO-BRICS currency basket, similar to the IMFs Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket which currently consist of 5 currencies – the US-dollar, British Pound, Euro, Yen and since October 2016 also the Chinese Yuan. This may start out as a virtual currency for external trade, while each country preserves her own monetary system.

It looks like a brighter future is ahead.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 4th Media (China), TeleSUR, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.


  Read BRICS – Potential and Future in an Emerging New World Economy
  September 29, 2017
Germany and Russia's Bond of War & Peace.

by Finian Cunningham, Information Clearing House

No other countries on the Eurasian continent suffered so much from war than Germany and Russia. But perhaps out of this mutually painful experience of horror and loss, the two powerhouses can in partnership forge a new geopolitical direction.
A new direction that would turn simmering conflict and saber-rattling into plowshares in order to cultivate international peace and prosperity.

Nazi Germany's aggression towards the Soviet Union inflicted at least 27 million deaths during the 1941-45 war; Germany was likewise laid to ruins, with up to six million of its military personnel — some 90 percent of its total war losses — killed by the resurgent Soviet forces.

Death, disease, destitution and mass starvation scarred both nations. More than any other country, Russia and Germany know the full horror and suffering of war. Therefore, it is incumbent on both to do everything to ensure that such violence should never be repeated.

This week, Germany's ambassador to Russia, Rudiger von Fritsch renewed the bond of friendship between the two nations. In a meeting with Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian Upper Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, the German envoy said: "There is no alternative to good relations between Russia and Germany."

He added that Germany and Russia "share responsibility for the destiny of the Eurasian continent".

A truer word could not be spoken.

However, there is a special onus on Germany to find its independence in foreign policy and to build a strategic partnership with Russia. Not only for the sake of Germany, but for the European Union and the wider Eurasian continent.

To be blunt, Germany has for too long allowed its natural relations with Russia to become warped under the sway of an overbearing transatlantic dominance by Washington.

Recall that when the US-led NATO alliance was formed in 1949, its first general secretary, Britain's Lord Ismay, candidly described the purpose of the organization thus: "To keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down."

This mentality of divide-and-rule has served well an Anglo-American agenda of giving Washington an overweening presence and role in determining European affairs, in particular in the latter's relations with Moscow.

But Europe has paid a heavy price for its transatlantic thrall to Washington.

As Germany's recent elections have shown, the country has become bitterly divided over the issue of massive influx of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats were re-elected, but only after incurring big electoral losses to the anti-immigrant newcomer party, Alternative for Germany. Merkel is now tasked with cobbling together a coalition government in the aftermath.

Widespread popular rancor over large-scale immigration has also strained the cohesiveness of the European Union. The backlash against the EU from populist parties is felt in Britain, France, Holland to Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The political stresses being felt both inside Germany and across Europe are arguably the direct result of the EU being a bystander to decades of American-led illegal wars in the Middle East. European powers stand accused of being complicit in these US wars which have destabilized whole nations and set off the phenomenal mass migration towards Europe.

If European powers had shown more independence and acted to avert US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and elsewhere, it seems reasonable to posit that the anti-immigrant politics which are tearing at the social fabric within Germany and Europe would not have arisen. In other words, it was precisely Europe being in thrall to Washington's policies that have created so much of the bloc's current turmoil.

The same can be said about American agitation for NATO's expansion and force buildup around Russia. The ensuing tensions between Russia and Europe have grown out of all proportion to the objective circumstances. Russia has repeatedly said that it has no intention to threaten the borders of any European state, yet this specter has been continually whipped up by the US-led transatlantic axis.

The most recent example of this was the Western media hysteria surrounding Russia's Zapad 2017 military defense exercises in Belarus at the end of last month. NATO officials and pro-transatlantic politicians like Britain's Michael Fallon were warning of an imminent Russian invasion of the Baltics. As it turned out, the Zapad exercises passed without any such incident, and were seen to be a defensive drill, exactly just as Russia had been consistently maintaining. But you see how the American-dominated Russophobia was irresponsibly stoking European alarm and tensions with Moscow.

If only German leaders could make the full transition to independence in foreign policy. And abandon the futile, unnecessary antagonism with Russia.

Former German defense minister Willy Wimmer can see through the nonsense. Why can't others? In a media interview from three years ago, Wimmer rejected the Washington-led narrative that Russia instigated the Ukraine crisis. He has the balanced insight to see that it was the US and European allies who destabilized the country with an illegal coup against an elected government in Kiev in February 2014.

The American and European economic sanctions that have been imposed on Russia during the past three years over alleged Russian interference in Ukraine are baseless, as Wimmer points out. These sanctions have rebounded to damage Europe's economy to a much greater extent than America's because of the extensive bilateral links between Europe and Russia.

Now the Trump administration is moving to impose more sanctions that would be detrimental to Europe's vast energy supplies from Russia. The obvious ulterior motive here is for the Americans to replace Russia as the energy exporter to Europe — at much higher financial costs to the European governments and citizens.

Germany has reacted angrily to those latest US sanctions, saying they constitute undue interference by Washington in European affairs. It's about time that Berlin woke up to reality. The issue epitomizes the bigger geopolitical picture of how Washington meddles in European-Russian relations for its selfish interests.

American unilateralism is pushing the world towards more conflict. Whether it is to do with North Korea, Iran, China, or between Europe and Russia.

As the strongest power in the European Union, Germany has a special responsibility to promote diplomacy and peaceful resolutions. Berlin must forge the greater partnership with Moscow to create a vital counterbalance to reckless American unilateralism.

Germany and Russia's shared experience of war and suffering is a powerful incentive for the two nations to lead the way forward for Europe and the world in the pursuit of peace. America's relatively unscathed experience in suffering war is perhaps why its leaders are often gung-ho about starting wars.

For this to happen, Germany must find the political courage and independence to reject Washington's inordinate influence. Chancellor Merkel is known to have little regard for Trump and his loose-cannon policies. Her fourth term in office is an auspicious time for Berlin to radically rethink the transatlantic dependence on Washington.

As the German envoy said earlier: "There is no alternative to good relations between Russia and Germany."

Indeed, the future of peaceful relations in Eurasia and the world may depend on it.

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

This article was first published by

  Read Germany and Russia s Bond of War & Peace
  October 2, 2017
How Syria’s Victory Reshapes Mideast.

by Alastair Crooke, Information Clearing House

The failure of the U.S.-Israeli-Saudi “regime change” project in Syria changes the future of the Mideast, possibly ushering in an era of greater secularism and tolerance, writes ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

By Alastair Crooke

October 02, 2017 "
Information Clearing House" - Plainly, Syria’s success – notwithstanding the caution of President Bashar al-Assad in saying that signs of success are not success itself – in resisting, against the odds, all attempts to fell the state suggest that a tipping point in the geopolitics of the region has occurred.

We have written before how the Syria outcome dwarfs that of Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah, significant though the result of that war was, too.

Both events taken together have brought America’s unipolar moment in the Middle East to an end (though not globally, since the U.S. still retains its necklace of military bases across the region). The successes have corroded badly the reputation of the Gulf States and have discredited fired-up Sunni jihadism as a “go-to” political tool for Saudi Arabia and its Western backers.

But, aside from the geopolitics, the Syria outcome has created a physical connectivity and contiguity that has not existed for some years: the border between Iraq and Iran is open; the border between Syria and Iraq is opening; and the border between Lebanon and Syria, too, is open. This constitutes a critical mass both of land, resources and population of real weight.

The region will listen intently to what these victors will have to say about their future vision for the region – and for Islam. In particular, how Syria articulates the lessons for Middle Eastern societies in light of its war experience will have a profound import.

This discussion has barely begun in Syria, and has not reached a conclusion – and may not, for some time; but we can speculate a little.

At present, talk is divided between Levantism, which is based in the idea of cultural diversity, such as has existed – alongside periodic acute tensions – in Lebanon and Syria, and Arab nationalism. The framework for both concepts being understood to be a non-assertive secularism within a state structure, encompassing equality before the law.

Arab nationalism looks toward a wide Arab cultural unity, rooted primarily in the Arabic language. Levantism essentially was an Ottoman inheritance. Then (in Ottoman times), there was no “Syria” (in the sense of a nation–state), but viliyat (Ottoman provinces), which were more like city-states that were permitted a large quota of self-administration and discretion for diverse societies and sects to live in their own cultural and spiritual ways, including the right to speak their individual languages. (Syrian diversity historically represented the legacy of many foreign occupations, with each leaving behind something of their DNA, their cultures and religion).

Colonial Strategies

Under the subsequent French colonial rule, the colonizers first created separate mini-statelets of these Syrian minorities, but when that policy failed, they reversed into forced unification of Syria’s diverse parts (apart from Lebanon), through a stratagem of imposing the French language instead of Arabic; French law instead of the Ottoman law and mores; and of promoting Christianity in order to undercut Islam. Inevitably, this created the pushback that gave Syria its characteristic suspicion of foreign intervention and its determination to recover a vision of what it was to be Syrian. (The French “regime-changed” Damascus in 1920, 1925, 1926, and 1945, and imposed martial law during most of the pauses in between the coups).

But the nationalism, which the French repression had provoked into life, pulled in two different directions: the Muslim Brotherhood, the major Islamic movement, wanted to grasp Syria as a Sunni Islamic state, while, in contrast, the more Westernized urban élites wanted to “take” Syria – as not exactly a separate nation-state – but more a part of the whole Arab world, and to be domestically organized as a unified, secular, and at least partly Westernized state.

As Patrick Seale noted in The Struggle for Syria: “Above all, [for the secular nationalists], disunity had to be overcome. Their answer was to try to bridge the gaps between rich and poor through a modified version of socialism, and between Muslims and minorities through a modified concept of Islam. Islam, in their view, needed to be considered politically not as a religion but as a manifestation of the Arab nation.

“Thus, the society they wished to create, they proclaimed, should be modern (with, among other things, equality for women), secular (with faith relegated to personal affairs), and defined by a culture of ‘Arabism’ overriding the traditional concepts of ethnicity.”

In short, what they sought was the very antithesis of the objectives of the already strong and growing Muslim Brotherhood. And by 1973, in an attempt to square the circle between conservative, assertive Sunnism and the nationalist “soft” Islam, the fatwa (by a Shi’i cleric) asserting Hafez al-Assad to be Shi’i Muslim (rather than heretic as Sunnis viewed all Alawites to be), exploded the situation. (The French brokered constitution required that the head of state be “Muslim”).

A Cycle of Violence  

The Muslim Brotherhood was beside itself in anger at the designation of then President Hafez Assad as Muslim, and thus began a cycle of bloody violence with organized terrorist attacks on the government, and on al-Assad’s inner circle – and retaliatory attacks by the government – which, in effect, is only now coming to a conclusion with the defeat of militant, jihadi Sunnism’s attempt to seize the state and to oust the “heretic” Alawite.

The outcome of this iconic struggle has profound regional implications (even if we cannot, now, see how the deliberations about the vision for the future of the Levant will finally conclude).

We can say, firstly, Islamism generally is the major loser in the struggle for the Levant. Both in Syria and Iraq, ordinary Levantine Sunnis have been sickened by intolerant, puritan Islam. This orientation of Islam (Wahhabism) that demanded (on pain of death) a linear singularity of meaning to Islam, which asserts its “truth” from the certainty conveyed from a mechanical, procedural, approach to validating selected “sayings” of the Prophet Mohammad (known as “scientific” Salafism), has failed.

Armed jihadism has failed to leverage this linear singularity as the “idea” with which to crush the polyvalent Levantine model and replace it with a rigid, monovalent literalism. Just to be clear, it is not just the non-Muslims and the minority Sunni and Shi’i sects who have had enough of it: Sunni Syrians and Iraqis, more generally, have too (especially after the experience of Raqa’a and Mosul).

The public reaction to the Wahhabi interventions in both nations is likely to push Sunni Islam firstly to embrace polyvalence in Islam more tightly (even to the extent, possibly, of looking to Iran and its “mode of being” as a possible model); and secondly, to embrace further the Arab secular “way,” too. In short, one “fallout” may be a more secular style of Islam, in contrast to the Muslim Brotherhood’s emphasis on external, visible, exclusionary, identity politics.

But, if the Syrian and Iraqi nationalist Islamic impulse is over, what of the other “double aspect” to Syria — its legacy of Levantine diversity and polyvalence versus the secular nationalist perspective that diversity constitutes a primary cause of national weakness. And which sees its primary task as that of integrating the population into a single political and social structure.

Israel’s New Scheme

Well, much in this latter respect will hang on Washington: the French colonists leveraged the Syrian minorities against the Syrian majority (in the French interest). And now America seems intent – with Israel pushing hard from behind – to leverage the Kurds against the Syrian State (in the interest of limiting the extent of Iranian presence within Syria, and even to try to break the contiguity between Iraq and Syria).

That latter prospect seems unlikely. The U.S.-Israeli Kurdish “project” in Syria may fail, as Kurds (much less concentrated in northeastern Syria than they are in northern Iraq), conclude that it would be better and wiser to come to terms with Moscow (and therefore find some modus vivendi with Damascus), rather than trusting to the constancy of American promises of autonomy – amid the almost universal regional hostility to this high-risk independence project. Ultimately, it must be obvious to the Kurds that it is Russia (and Iran) that represent the incoming tide into the northern tier states.

The Syrian Kurds never were in the Masoud Barzani camp and long have had working relations with the Syrian army and Russian forces (versus ISIS), during the conflict. It seems, in any event, that the U.S. main focus is shifting away from Syria to Iraq, as the locus in which they hope to push back against Iran. Again, the prospects there for the U.S. to achieve this aim are poor (Iran is well dug in) – and if mishandled, the Kurdish independence “project” easily could spin into violence and region-wide instability.

Barzani’s leadership is not secure (the Turks are livid at his double-cross of pretending that the referendum was only to strengthen his negotiating hand with Baghdad). And the risk of wider conflict, were Barzani to be removed from power, would be contingent on who ultimately succeeded to the leadership.

In sum, the U.S.-Israeli Kurdish “project” seems – paradoxically – more likely forcefully to strengthen the nationalist impulse across the Levant, Turkey and Iran and to make it more assertive – but not in the old way: there is no going back to the status quo ante in Syria. The processes of de-escalation and reconciliation facilitated by Russia – in and of themselves – will change fundamentally the politics of Syria.

A Shift Toward Diversity

If in the past, politics was top-down, it will now be bottom-up. This is where we see something of a synthesis taking place between Levantism and nationalism. The needs of local politics, in all its diversity, will be much more the future drivers of politics. One can see already that this shift to bottom-up politics is already becoming apparent in Iraq, too. (Again, it has been accelerated by the war against the extreme jihadism of ISIS, but now may become further energized by Kurdish claims to disputed Iraqi territories.)

In some respects, the “ground” in Iraq – the mobilization of the people against these reactionary armed movements – is running ahead of, and away from the Iraqi political leadership, be it political or religious. The unrest may grow, and the government – any government – will have to bend to pressures from their base.

The Western leveraging of minorities against the state – now the Kurds – has already had a major geostrategic impact: that of bringing Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran into close political and military alliance in order to stop this “Kurdish project” from materializing and dissolving the outlines of major states, precisely at their most sensitive juncture.

Essentially, this represents another case where the interests of Israel do not coincide with those of Europe or America. The pursuit of this “Kurdish project” is empowering an alliance – including a major NATO state – that will be explicitly hostile to these American aims (though this does not imply any increase of hostility to the Kurds as a people – though that too may result). The alienation of these states would hardly seem to be in the Western interest, but nonetheless, this is what is occurring.

And finally, the “fallout” from the Syria conflict has prompted the northern tier states to “Look East” – as President Assad recently instructed his diplomats so to do. For Iran it may be primarily to China (as well as to Russia), but for Syria, it is more likely to be Russia in a predominantly cultural way, with China seeing Syria as an “important node” in its Belt & Road Initiative.

This represents a historic shift in the Middle East. Western officials may imagine that they have a hold over Syria by holding reconstruction funding hostage to having their way with Syria’s future: if this is so, they will as wrong about this as they have been on almost everything pertaining to Syria.

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.

This article was originally published by Consortium News -

  Read How Syria’s Victory Reshapes Mideast
  October 6, 2017
Challenging the Dollar: China and Russia's Plan from Petroyuan to Gold.

by Federico Pieraccini, Information Clearing House


As seen in my previous article, US military power is on the decline, and the effects are palpable. In a world full of conflicts brought on by Washington, the economic and financial shifts that are occurring are for many countries a long-awaited and welcome development.

October 06, 2017 "Information Clearing House" -  If we were to identify what uniquely fuels American imperialism and its aspirations for global hegemony, the role of the US dollar would figure prominently. An exploration of the depth of the dollar’s effects on the world economy is therefore necessary in order to understand the consequential geopolitical developments that have occurred over the last few decades.

The reason the dollar plays such an important role in the world economy is due to the following three major factors: the petrodollar; the dollar as world reserve currency; and Nixon's decision in 1971 to no longer make the dollar convertible into gold. As is easy to guess, the petrodollar strongly influenced the composition of the SDR basket, making the dollar the world reserve currency, spelling grave implications for the global economy due to Nixon's decision to eliminate the dollar’s convertibility into gold. Most of the problems for the rest of the world began from a combination of these three factors.


The largest geo-economic change in the last fifty years was arguably implemented in 1973 with the agreement between OPEC, Saudi Arabia and the United States to sell oil exclusively in dollars.

Specifically, Nixon arranged with Saudi King Faisal for Saudis to only accept dollars as a payment for oil and related investments, recycling billions of excess dollars into US treasury bills and other dollar-based financial resources. In exchange, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries came under American military protection. It reminds one of a mafia-style arrangement: the Saudis are obliged to conduct business in US dollars according to terms and conditions set by the US with little argument, and in exchange they receive generous protection.

The second factor, perhaps even more consequential for the global economy, is the dollar becoming the world reserve currency and maintaining a predominant role in the basket of international foreign-exchange reserves of the IMF ever since 1981. The role of the dollar, linked obviously to the petrodollar trade, has almost always maintained a share of more than 40% of the Special Drawing Right (SDR) basket, while the euro has maintained a stable share of 29-37% since 2001. In order to understand the economic change in progress, it is sufficient to observe that the yuan is now finally included in the SDR, with an initial 10% share that is immediately higher than the yen (8.3%) and sterling (8.09%) but significantly less than the dollar (41%) and euro (31%). Slowly but significantly Yuan currency is becoming more and more used in global trade.

The reason why the United States has been able to fuel this global demand for dollars is linked to the need for other countries to own dollars in order to be able to buy oil and other goods. For example, if a Bolivian company exports bananas to Norway, the payment method requires the use of dollars. Norway must therefore own US currency to pay and receive the goods purchased. Similarly, the dollars Bolivia receives will be used to buy other necessities like oil from Venezuela. It may seem unbelievable, but practically all countries until a few years ago used US dollars to trade amongst each other, even countries that were anti-American and against US imperialist policies.

This continued use of the dollar has had some devastating effects on the globe. First of all, the intense use of the American currency, coupled with Nixon’s decisions, created an economic standard based on the dollar that soon replaced precious metals like gold, which had been the standard for the global economy for years. This has led to major instability and to economic systems that have in the proceeding years created disastrous financial policies, as seen in 2000 and 2008, for example. The main source of economic reliability transferred from gold to dollars, specifically to US treasury bills. This major shift allowed the Federal Reserve to print dollars practically without limit (as seen in recent years with interests rates for borrowing money from the FED at around 0%), well aware that the demand for dollars would never cease, this also keeping alive huge sectors of private and public enterprises (such as the fracking industry). This set a course for a global economic system based on financial instruments like derivatives and other securities instead of real, tangible goods like gold. In doing this for its own benefit, the US has created the conditions for a new financial bubble that could even bring down the entire world economy when it bursts.

The United States found itself in the enviable position of being able to print pieces of paper (simply IOU’s) without any gold backing and then exchange them for real goods. This economic arrangement has allowed Washington to achieve an unparalleled strategic advantage over its geopolitical opponents (initially the USSR, now Russia and China), namely, a practically unlimited dollar-spending capacity even as it accumulates an astronomical public debt (about 21 trillion dollars). The destabilizing factor for the global economy has been Washington's ability to accumulate enormous amounts of public debt without having to worry about the consequences or even of any possible mistrust international markets may have for the dollar. Countries simply needed dollars for trade and bought US treasures to diversify their financial assets.

The continued use of the dollar as a means of payment for almost everything, coupled with the nearly infinite capacity of the of FED to print money and the Treasury to issue bonds, has led the dollar to become the primary safe refuge for organizations, countries and individuals, legitimizing this perverse financial system that has affected global peace for decades.

Dollars and War: The End?

The problems for the United States began in the late 1990s, at a time of expansion for the US empire following the demise of the Soviet Union. The stated geopolitical goal was the achievement of global hegemony. With unlimited spending capacity and an ideology based on American exceptionalism, this attempt seemed to be within reach for the policymakers at the Pentagon and Wall Street. A key element for achieving global hegemony consisted of stopping China, Russia and Iran from creating a Eurasian area of integration. For many years, and for various reasons, these three countries continued to conduct large-scale trade in US dollars, bowing to the economic dictates of a fraudulent financial system created for the benefit of the United States. China needed to continue in its role of becoming the world's factory, always having accepted dollar payments and buying hundreds of billions of US treasury bills. With Putin, Russia began almost immediately to de-dollarize, repaying foreign debts in dollars, trying to offload this economic pressure. Russia is today one of the countries in the world with the least amount of public and private debt denominated in dollars, and the recent prohibition on the use of US dollars in Russian seaports is the latest example. For Iran, the problem has always been represented by sanctions, creating great incentives to bypass the dollar and find alternative means of payment.

The decisive factor that changed the perception of countries like China and Russia was the 2008 financial crisis, as well as growing US aggression ever since the events in Yugoslavia in 1999. The Iraq war, along with other factors, prevented Saddam from starting an oil trade in euro, which threatened the dollar's financial hegemony in the Middle East. War and the America’s continued presence in Afghanistan stressed Washington’s intentions to continue encircling China, Russia and Iran in order to prevent any Eurasian integration. Naturally, the more the dollar was used in the world, the more Washington had the power to spend on the military. For the US, paying a bill of 6 trillion dollars (this is the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) has been effortless, and this constitutes an unparalleled advantage over countries like China and Russia whose military spending in comparison is a fifth and a tenth respectively.

The repeated failed attempts to conquer, subvert and control countries like Afghanistan, Georgia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Donbass, North Korea, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Venezuela, have had significant effects on the perception of US military power. In military terms, Washington faced numerous tactical and strategic defeats, with the Crimean peninsula returning to Russia without a shot fired and with the West unable to react. In Donbass, the resistance inflicted huge losses on the NATO-supported Ukrainian army. In North Africa, Egypt is now under the control of the army, following an attempt to turn the country into a state under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood. Libya, after being destroyed, is now divided into three entities, and like Egypt seems to be looking with favorable regard towards Moscow and Beijing. In the Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq are increasingly cooperating in stabilizing regional conflicts, where needed they are backed by Russian military power and Chinese economic strength. And of course the DPRK continues to ignore US military threats and has fully developed its conventional and nuclear deterrent, effectively making those US threats null and void.

Color revolutions, hybrid warfare, economic terrorism, and proxy attempts to destabilize these countries have had devastating effects on Washington's military credibility and effectiveness. The United States finds itself being considered by many countries to be a massive war apparatus that struggles to get what it wants, struggles to achieve coherent common goals, and even lacks the capability to control countries like Iraq and Afghanistan in spite of its overwhelming military superiority.

No One Fears You!

Until a few decades ago, any idea of straying away from the petrodollar was seen as a direct threat to American global hegemony, requiring of a military response. In 2017, given the decline in US credibility as a result of triggering wars against smaller countries (leaving aside countries like Russia, China, and Iran that have military capabilities the likes of which the US has not faced for more than seventy years), a general recession from the dollar-based system is taking place in many countries.

In recent years, it has become clear to many nations opposing Washington that the only way to adequately contain the fallout from the collapsing US empire is to progressively abandon the dollar. This serves to limit Washington’s capacity for military spending by creating the necessary alternative tools in the financial and economic realms that will eliminate Washington's dominance. This is essential in the Russo-Sino-Iranian strategy to unite Eurasia and thereby render the US irrelevant.

De-dollarization for Beijing, Moscow and Tehran has become a strategic priority. Eliminating the unlimited spending capacity of the FED and the American economy means limiting US imperialist expansion and diminishing global destabilization. Without the usual US military power to strengthen and impose the use of US dollars, China, Russia and Iran have paved the way for important shifts in the global order.

The US shot itself in the foot by accelerating this process through their removal of Iran from the SWIFT system (paving the way for the Chinese alternative, known as CIPS) and imposing sanctions on countries like Russia, Iran and Venezuela. This also accelerated China and Russia’s mining and acquisition of physical gold, which is in direct contrast to the situation in the US, with rumors of the FED no longer possessing any more gold. It is no secret that Beijing and Moscow are aiming for a gold-backed currency if and when the dollar should collapse. This has pushed unyielding countries to start operating in a non-dollar environment and through alternative financial systems.

A perfect example of how this is being achieved can be seen with Saudi Arabia, which has represented the crux of the petrodollar.


Beijing has started putting strong pressure on Riyadh to start accepting yuan payments for oil instead of dollars, as are other countries such as the Russian Federation. For Riyadh, this is an almost existential issue. Riyadh is in a delicate situation, dedicated as it is to keeping the US dollar tied to oil, even though its main ally, the US, has pursued in the Middle East a contradictory strategy, as seen with the JCPOA agreement. Iran, the main regional enemy of Saudi Arabia, was able to have sanctions lifted (especially from Europeans countries) thanks to the JCPOA. In addition, Iran was able to pursue a historic victory with its allies in Syria, gaining a preeminent role in the region and aspiring to become a regional powerhouse. Riyadh is obliged to obey the US, an ally that does not care about its fate in the region (Iran is increasingly influential in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon) and is even competing in the oil market. To make matters worse for Washington, China is Riyadh’s largest customer; and considering the agreements with Nigeria and Russia, Beijing can safely stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia should Riyadh continue to insist on receiving payment only in dollars. This would badly hurt the petrodollar, a perverse system that damages China and Russia most of all.

For China, Iran and Russia, as well as other countries, de-dollarization has become a pressing issue. The number of countries that are beginning to see the benefits of a decentralized system, as opposed to the US dollar system, is increasing. Iran and India, but also Iran and Russia, have often traded hydrocarbons in exchange for primary goods, thereby bypassing American sanctions. Likewise, China's economic power has allowed it to open a 10-billion-euro line of credit to Iran to circumvent recent sanctions. Even the DPRK seems to use cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to buy oil from China and bypass US sanctions. Venezuela (with the largest oil reserves in the world) has just started a historic move to completely renounce selling oil in dollars, and has announced that it will start receiving money in a basket of currencies without US dollars. (This is not to mention the biggest change to have occurred in the last 40 years). Beijing will buy gas and oil from Russia by paying in yuan, with Moscow being able to convert yuan into gold immediately thanks to the Shanghai International Energy Exchange. This gas-yuan-gold mechanism signals a revolutionary economic change through the progressive abandonment of the dollar in trade.

In the next and last article, we will concentrate on how successful Russia, Iran and China have been in forging a multipolar world order with the goal of peacefully containing the fallout from the collapsing American empire, and how this alternative world order is opening up a new geopolitical landscape for America’s allies and other countries.

Federico Pieraccini is an independent freelance writer specialized in international affairs, conflicts, politics and strategies

This article was originally published by SCF -


  Read Challenging the Dollar: China and Russia's Plan from Petroyuan to Gold
  October 12, 2017
Mikhail Gorbachev: My Plea to the Presidents of Russia and the United States.

by Mikhail Gorbachev, Information Clearing House

Mikhail Gorbachev: My Plea to the Presidents of Russia and the United States

By Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev was leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991.

October 12, 2017 "Information Clearing House" -  This December will mark the 30th anniversary of the signing of the treaty between the Soviet Union and United States on the elimination of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. This was the start of the process of radically cutting back nuclear arsenals, which was continued with the 1991 and 2010 strategic arms reduction treaties and the agreements reducing tactical nuclear weapons.

The scale of the process launched in 1987 is evidenced by the fact that, as Russia and the United States reported to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2015, 80 percent of the nuclear weapons accumulated during the Cold War have been decommissioned and destroyed. Another important fact is that, despite the recent serious deterioration in bilateral relations, both sides have been complying with the strategic weapons agreements.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, however, is now in jeopardy. It has proved to be the most vulnerable link in the system of limiting and reducing weapons of mass destruction. There have been calls on both sides for scrapping the agreement.

So what is happening, what is the problem, and what needs to be done?

Both sides have raised issues of compliance, accusing the other of violating or circumventing the treaty’s key provisions. From the sidelines, lacking fuller information, it is difficult to evaluate those accusations. But one thing is clear: The problem has a political as well as a technical aspect. It is up to the political leaders to take action.

Therefore I am making an appeal to the presidents of Russia and the United States.

Relations between the two nations are in a severe crisis. A way out must be sought, and there is one well-tested means available for accomplishing this: a dialogue based on mutual respect.

It will not be easy to cut through the logjam of issues on both sides. But neither was our dialogue easy three decades ago. It had its critics and detractors, who tried to derail it.

In the final analysis, it was the political will of the two nations’ leaders that proved decisive. And that is what’s needed now. This is what our two countries’ citizens and people everywhere expect from the presidents of Russia and the United States.

I call upon Russia and the United States to prepare and hold a full-scale summit on the entire range of issues. It is far from normal that the presidents of major nuclear powers meet merely “on the margins” of international gatherings. I hope that the process of preparing a proper summit is in the works even now.

I believe that the summit meeting should focus on the problems of reducing nuclear weapons and strengthening strategic stability. For should the system of nuclear arms control collapse, as may well happen if the INF Treaty is scrapped, the consequences, both direct and indirect, will be disastrous.

The closer that nuclear weapons are deployed to borders, the more dangerous they are: There is less time for a decision and greater risk of catastrophic error. And what will happen to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if the nuclear arms race begins anew? I am afraid it will be ruined.

If, however, the INF Treaty is saved, it will send a powerful signal to the world that the two biggest nuclear powers are aware of their responsibility and take their obligations seriously. Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief, and relations between Russia and the United States will finally get off the ground again.

I am confident that preparing a joint presidential statement on the two nations’ commitment to the INF Treaty is a realistic goal. Simultaneously, the technical issues could be resolved; for this purpose, the joint control commission under the INF Treaty could resume its work. I am convinced that, with an impetus from the two presidents, the generals and diplomats would be able to reach agreement.

We are living in a troubled world. It is particularly disturbing that relations between the major nuclear powers, Russia and the United States, have become a serious source of tensions and a hostage to domestic politics. It is time to return to sanity. I am sure that even inveterate opponents of normalizing U.S.-Russian relations will not dare object to the two presidents. These critics have no arguments on their side, for the very fact that the INF Treaty has been in effect for 30 years proves that it serves the security interests of our two countries and of the world.

In any undertaking, it is important to take the first step. In 1987, the first step in the difficult but vitally important process of ridding the world of nuclear weapons was the INF Treaty. Today, we face a dual challenge of preventing the collapse of the system of nuclear agreements and reversing the downward spiral in U.S.-Russian relations. It is time to take the first step.

  Read Mikhail Gorbachev: My Plea to the Presidents of Russia and the United States
  October 15, 2017
On ‘Independence’: Catalonia, Kurdistan, North Korea and Latin America.

by Andre Vltchek and Alessandro Bianchi, Information Clearing House


Interview with Andre Vltchek by Alessandro Biancchi, Chief Editor of the Italian Political Magazine Anti-Diplomatico

October 15, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - 1) Alessandro Bianchi: Self-determination of peoples and respect for the borders and sovereignty of a country. This is of the most complicated issue for international law. How can it be articulated for the case of Catalonia?

Andre Vltchek: Personally, I’m not very enthusiastic about smaller nations forming their own states, particularly those in the West, where they would, after gaining ‘independence’, remain in the alliances that are oppressing and plundering the entire world: like NATO or the European Union.

Clearly, the breaking of the great country of Yugoslavia into small pieces was a hostile, evil design bythe West, and particularly of Germany and Austria. The dissolution of Czechoslovakia after the so-called “Velvet Revolution” was a total idiocy.

But Catalonia (or Basque Country), if it became independent, would become one of the richest parts of Europe. I don’t think it would have any great positive or negative impact on the rest of the world. As an internationalist, I don’t really care if they are separate from Spain or not, or whether they are even richer than they already are, as I care much more about what is happening in places such as Afghanistan, Venezuela or North Korea.

On the other hand, the way Spain has now behaved in Catalonia, after the referendum, is a total disgrace. They decided to treat the Catalan people in the same way as Indonesians have beentreating Papuans for decades. If this continues, it will all reach the point of no return: reconciliation will become impossible. You cannot start sexually harassing women and then break their fingers, one by one, just because they want to have their own state. You cannot injure hundreds of innocent people, who simply don’t want to be governed from Madrid. That’s absurd and thoroughly sick! Of course Spain used to commit holocausts all over what is now called Latin America, so it is ‘in their blood’. But I don’t think Catalans will allow this to be done to them.

What about the constitution of Spain? Look, there should be nothing sacred about constitutions. In the West, they were written to protect the interests of the ruling classes. When they get outdated, they should be moderated, or totally rewritten. If Catalans or Basques want their independence, if they really want it, if it is so important for them, then why not – they should have it. Spain is not a ‘people’s country’. It is an oppressive Western bully. I would have a totally different position if some part of Bolivia or China were to try to secede.

2) AB: Different situation and different reality. Another issue of fundamental international concern in this period is the referendum of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is likely to become the new fuse ready to explode in that area. Would it be the new Israel in the Middle East as someone has affirmed?

AV: Well, that is really a very serious issue. I have worked in the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq already twice, even on the ‘border’ with Mosul, and what I saw there I did not like at all!

It is clearly a ‘client’ state of the West, of Turkey and to some extent, Israel. It is shamelessly capitalist, taking land from its own people, cheating them, just in order to pump and refine huge quantities of oil. It treats Syrian refugees like animals, forcing them to make anti-Assad statements. It is turning ancient Erbil into some bizarre shopping mall with nothing public in sight. Its military top brass is mainly US/UK-trained and indoctrinated. And it provokes Baghdad, day and night.

I really strongly disliked what I saw there. If Iraqi Kurds were allowed to have their ‘independence’, the impact on the region would be huge and certainly negative. Baghdad should not allow it, even at the cost of an armed confrontation.

3) AB: Coming to the question of the moment: the nuclear escalation in North Korean and a possible escalation of war on the Korean peninsula. What is your opinion about Kim’s strategy and what are the real risks?

AV: There is only one real ‘risk’ and danger: that the world is quickly accepting as inevitable the fact that the Western thuggish regimes can get away with absolutely anything. I see no other serious problem that the world today is facing.

What is Kim’s strategy? To defend his people by all means, against the brutal force that has already murdered millions of men, women and children of Korea. That brutal force is the West and its allies. It is all very simple, but only if one is willing to turn off the BBC and to use his or her own brain, it becomes ‘obvious’.

4) AB: According to many, for Pyongyang the nuclear bomb is becoming more and more vital because it is increasingly feared that the country will end up like Iraq and Libya. Do you not believe that the sanctions of the United Nations are therefore totally ineffective and counterproductive because they fuel this escalation?

AV: Of course, but they [sanctions] are still imposed on the victim! It is because almost no one dares to laugh straight in the faces of Western demagogues and dictators. The world resembles the areas occupied by the Nazi Germany and Italy and Japan during the WWII. There, nobody would dare to vote independently, defending victims of fascism.

5) AB: The US Federation of Science (FAS) estimates that in 2017 North Korea has “fissile material to potentially produce 10 to 20 nuclear warheads” even if it is strongly suspected that none can be considered ready for launch. The US possesses 6,800 nuclearheads. The French and British (respectively 300 and 215 respectively)included, NATO’s nuclear forces have 7,315 nuclear warheads, of which 2,200 are ready to launch, compared to 7,000 held by the Russians, of which 1,950 are ready to launch. With Chinese (270), Pakistani (120-130), Indian (110-120) and Israeli (80), the total number of nuclear warheads is estimated to be around 15,000 by default. The West is a nuclear oligopoly that can only create an escalation with those who feel threatened, and so the threatened search to procure them. Is North Korea the only source of nuclear threat to the world, as it seems in the mainstream media?

AV: Of course, North Korea is no threat at all. I have already spoken about it during countless televised interviews. I visited North Korea and mingled with its people. There, nobody wants war. The North Korean people paid a terrible price for their independence. Its civilians were murdered mercilessly in tunnels by Western forces; its women were brutally raped, entire villages and towns leveled to the ground, or burned to ashes. All this is never discussed in the West, but is remembered in North Korea.

Now, absolutely shameless British propaganda is ‘preparing’ the world public for the ‘inevitability’ of the war. You know, if someone in this day and age still believes that the United States is the only culprit, he or she is perhaps living in some deep isolated trench or a cave. Indoctrination and brainwashing is mainly designed,‘Made in Europe’, most evidently in the UK, where most of the people have already lost all their ability to think rationally. The British colonialist propaganda apparatus is terribly sinister, but strategically it is simply brilliant! It was utilized for centuries, and it even succeeded in ‘programming’ the brains of the victims in the sub-Continent, Africa and elsewhere.

Of course, your numbers are correct and all that is happening is thoroughly absurd! But day and night people are told that North Korea represents a true danger to the world. The same was said about the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other countries. Most of these countries havealready been destroyed.

North Korea’s sin is that it refuses to surrender, to fall on its knees, to sacrifice its people. It refuses to become a slave. For centuries, European and later US colonialism punished such defiance in the most brutal ways. Western culture is, after all, based and built on slavery. It demands absolute compliance, unconditional submission.

If North Korea is attacked, it should fight back! And it will.

6) AB: The United Nations adopted the important Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July. The United Nations is often used (in alternate ways and countries): this Treaty is ignored by all nuclear powers, including by members of NATO with US nuclear weapons (including Italy). NATO has banned member states from ratifying it. Can the West have a moralist attitude to those who pursue a deterrent in order not to not end up like Saddam and Gaddafi?

AV: The West is like an army of brigands that has managed to overrun some city, to rape everything that moves, burn the center, loot houses and shops and then execute all leading thinkers and defenders. A few days later they see someone stealing a bunch of bananas from a fruit stall. And they catch him, and judge him, and feel totally morally righteous. It is all so comical! But that is not how you are supposed to see it!

7) AB: Russia and China (with Iran, Venezuela and many other countries) are intensifying de-dollarization in their mutual exchanges. Does it envisage a gradual weakening of the dollar capable of affecting international finance and what geopolitical repercussions?

AV: Yes, definitely! And you should talk about it to my friend, Peter Koenig, a true dissident, a former economist at the World Bank, who is now actually advising many countries on de-dollarization.

US dollars should not be used anymore. Western institutions should be ignored. Totally new structures should be, and are being erected. China and Russia are, of course, in the lead. All this is extremely important and can change the world, in the near future.

8) AB: Venezuela, with the convening of the Constituent Assembly, turned off the coup attempts of the opposition. In Brazil Lula is favored in polls, while in Argentina the former President Cristina Fernandez is back in the Senate with strong popular support. So it was not the end of the progressive cycle, as the mainstream has for years stated?

AV: Of course it was not the end! The desire of Lain Americans to live in just and egalitarian societies is too strong; it cannot be destroyed overnight.

There were some serious setbacks – in Argentina and Brazil. And Venezuela is suffering immensely, battered by its own shameless elites sponsored from abroad. But the country is still standing.

In Brazil, Temer is immensely unpopular. His ‘constitutional coup’ will soon backfire. PT will be back, in its old form or in a new one. And it will be much stronger than before. The same goes for Argentina. You see, despite all the media manipulation, propaganda and shameless lies, people are already realizing that they were fooled. They want some decency back, they want socialism and pride and hope! They want true independence.

In two weeks from now I’m going back to South America. My book of essays is being published by LOM, soon, and LOM is a very important left-wing publishing house in Chile. These days I go back to South America often. It is one of the frontlines, battlegrounds, where people struggle against Western imperialism and its lackeys!

These are very important, fascinating times! I have just published my latest book, about “The Great October Socialist Revolution” of 1917, in Russia. Its legacy is now relevant, more than ever before in history. It gave birth to internationalism, and internationalism is the only movement, which can still save the world, and which can defeat Western nihilism and its barefaced, cynical pillage of the planet!

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries.

  Read On Independence: Catalonia, Kurdistan, North Korea and Latin America
  October 20, 2017
The Courage of the Syrian Arab Army and Allies against US Backed Terrorism.

by Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, Information Clearing House

The Courage of the Syrian Arab Army and Allies against US Backed Terrorism

By Dr Bouthaina Shaaban

The announcement by the Russian Ministry of Defence that US support for terrorists is a major obstacle to the elimination of the terrorist organisation in Syria is not a simple or transitory declaration. It is an important and dangerous declaration that must be carefully looked at.

The successes of the Syrian army with the support of the Russian space air force in the rapid liberation of the Euphrates valley seem to contradict the plans of American colleagues,” Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashinkov said, noting that US forces did not allow the Syrian army to pursue terrorists in the al-Tanf area.

It is understood, of course, that Russia does not want to initiate a conflict with the United States and to start a third world war, but such declarations and statements by the Russian Ministry of Defence, even if they are uttered in such de-escalatory terms such as “American colleagues,” represent a clear and explicit link between ISIS and US plans in both Syria and Iraq. This at the international level undermines the credibility of the United States, and undermines the impact of any American statements bragging about the fight against terrorism. Especially as Russian forces announced that the ISIS offensive relied on aerial reconnaissance that cannot be attained by the group unless provided by American reconnaissance planes.

We support the comprehensive approach to combating terrorism, preventing the spread of terrorist ideology and funding illegal armed groups, and we call for a political renunciation of double standards in addressing the most serious threats of our time,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin in a welcoming message to participants at the International Meeting of Heads of Security Services.

Double standards” have become synonymous with the United States, and the rise of Russia in the international system today is putting the final nail in the coffin of American unilateralism. This is what Russia’s policy depends on in its cumulative strategy, building on the shortcomings of the other, pointing to them and re-mentioning them whenever possible. While at the same time behaving differently from them, adhering to principles, values and norms in international relations.

But the biggest victim of the US sponsoring of ISIS in recent years is Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Therefore, in addition to what the Russians are doing to draw the attention of the world to the sure link between ISIS and the United States, it is necessary to re-read all the unfolding events in Arab countries in the past seven years in light of these facts, which revealed certain close ties between ISIS, the United States, and the objectives that the Americans and Israelis hope to achieve in our countries.

When we were watching dozens of American four-wheel-drive vehicles pass from Iraq to north-east Syria, we were wondering where ISIS got all these US-made cars from, while our countries could not buy medications to save children’s lives because of sanctions and boycotts. When ISIS pays the salaries of thousands of terrorists, one wonders how could it move all of this liquidity in US dollars, while countries cannot pay for the spare parts of their civil aircraft.

The relationship between the Western and Zionist forces targeting of the Arab confrontation countries, and the Muslim Brotherhood gangs and their detachments from al-Nusra, ISIS, the Free Army, and others’ aggression on our countries is an old-new relationship, but for unknown reasons it remains in doubt despite the books written on this subject, by members of the same organisations such as Izzat al-Kharbawi.

The thorough research and investigation into this subject is an urgent need today not only to prove the creation of these movements by the West as instruments to implement its agendas which it failed to implement by other means in our region, but also to liberate the Islamic religion from all these suspicious movements and all manifestations of extremism, and the violence that has afflicted on them. The proximate end of the fighting with an ISIS on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria can be an incentive and an opportunity for political elites and Arab intellectuals to work quietly today, and hope to re-study this phenomenon, its formation, its entry into our territory, the methods it followed, the tactics that it resorted to, and the networks that provided them with support, in order to reach firm conclusions that we can provide future generations with a factual and correct account of our history that they must depend on in forming their national outlook in the future.

What we Arabs lack from our history is a study of the events we go through in a frank and in-depth manner, in order to draw lessons for the future in a timely manner; this is why we find ourselves experiencing the same turmoil more than once, and the tragedy is repeated throughout our lives in different manifestations without us learning one useful lesson that guides us in any similar experience we may encounter after a while.

Thousands of martyrs have sacrificed their lives to reach this honourable stage in this battle, and thousands have been wounded so that the will of the free peoples triumphs. Is this victory a mere news clip in the media, or should we actually make a plan in order for researchers to study all the dimensions of these events and arrive at solid scientific conclusions that we can provide not only for our peoples, but to the international family so that those who promulgate lies in order to destroy countries and peoples become more reluctant in doing so.

After these achievements in the field, we must spread research centres at the national level to honour all the sacrifices made and establish the foundations of a true and factual Arab history fit for the new world, which is rapidly taking shape, and guarantees us an honourable status at the regional and international levels.

Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, Political and Media Advisor to Syrian President, Bashar Al Assad.

This article was originally published by 21CentyryWire -

  Read The Courage of the Syrian Arab Army and Allies against US Backed Terrorism
  October 20, 2017
Washington Is Destroying American Power.

by Paul Craig Roberts, Information Clearing House

Readers at home and around the world want to know what to make of the announcement that China henceforth will conduct oil purchases and sales in gold-backed Chinese currency.

Is this an attack by Russia and China on the US dollar? Will the dollar weaken and collapse from being discarded as the currency in which oil is transacted? These and other questions are on readers’ minds.

Below is my opinion:

The US dollar’s value depends on whether central banks, corporations, and individuals are content to hold their assets or wealth in dollars. If they are, it does not matter what currency is used to transact oil. If they are not, it does not matter if all oil is transacted in dollars. Why?
Because if they don’t want to hold dollars, they will dump the dollars as soon as the transaction is completed and move into other currencies or gold. What China is doing is creating a currency that might be a more attractive currency to hold.

It is possible that the gold-backed Chinese currency is a move against US power, but I see it differently. I see it as a protection against US power. China and Russia are disassociating from the dollar system, because Washington, in its abuse of the world currency role, uses the dollar payments mechanism to impose sanctions on other countries and to threaten them with exclusion from the payments clearing system.

In other words, Washington, instead of operating a fair system, uses its world currency role to dominate other countries. Russia and China are too strong to be dominated, and, thus, are throwing off the dollar system. If other countries follow, the dollar will cease to be an instrument of US control over the rest of the world.

To put it in different words, Bretton Woods gave Washington the responsibility for the world financial system. Washington abused the power entrusted to it by using the dollar system to destabilize other countries, such as Venezuela currently. Washington’s abuse of the world currency role in order to advance American financial and business interests and Washington’s power over the foreign and domestic policies of other countries has set in motion forces that will eliminate the dollar’s role as world reserve currency.

The hubris and arrogance of Washington are destroying American power.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments.

  Read Washington Is Destroying American Power
  October 20, 2017
Washington: The Bleeder of the ‘Free World’.

by Finian Cunningham , Information Clearing House

Among the many self-flattering epithets it gives itself, the US has always claimed to be the “leader of the free world”. It’s a rather patronizing notion that America views itself as a selfless protector and benefactor of its European allies and others. This fairytale depiction of the world is coming to a rude awakening as American power buffets against the reality of a multi-polar world.

Less a world leader and more like a blood-sucking leech on international relations.

We got a clear view of the contradiction in America’s narcissistic mythology with US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he was disavowing the multinational nuclear accord with Iran last Friday.

Trump didn’t axe American participation in the deal just yet, but he has put it on notice that he or the US Congress may terminate the accord over the next two months. How’s that for high-handed arrogance?

However, there was near-unanimous push back around the world to Trump’s disparagement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was originally signed in July 2015 by the US, Russia, China, European Union and Iran. All the signatories uniformly rebuked Trump’s attempt to undermine the deal, which is supposed to lift international economic sanctions off Iran in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

While Trump accused Iran of “multiple violations” of the accord, all the other stakeholders asserted satisfaction that Iran has in fact fully implemented its obligations to restrict uranium enrichment and weaponization of its nuclear program. The UN watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, also responded to Trump’s claims by reaffirming that eight consecutive monitoring reports have found Iran to be fully compliant with the JCPOA.

Britain, France and Germany, as well as Russia and China, have firmly said that the nuclear deal – which took two years to negotiate during Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House – is not for renegotiation. A point which was reiterated too by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The deal is also written into international law, having been ratified unanimously by the UN Security Council back in 2015. In a stinging admonishment to Washington, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Morgherini said: “This deal is not a bilateral agreement ... The international community, and the European Union with it, has clearly indicated that the deal is, and will, continue to be in place.”

Russia also denounced Trump’s over-the-top aggressive rhetoric towards Iran. The American president was almost foaming at the mouth when he labelled Iran “the world’s top terror sponsor” and accused Tehran of fueling conflict across the Middle East. Moscow said such rhetoric was unacceptable and inappropriate. Iran dismissed Trump’s accusations as baseless lies.

Evidently, Russia, China and the Europeans do not share America’s debased caricature of Iran. And who in their right mind would? The hackneyed American allegations against Iran are – as usual – not backed up with any evidence. They rely on bombastic assertion repeated ad nauseam. It is especially ironic and odious for Washington to accuse others of sponsoring terrorism, given the litany of illegal wars it has launched across the Middle East and the steadily emerging evidence of US links to terror groups in Syria’s six-year war.

Thus, the commitment by all the signatories – except Washington – to the Iranian nuclear deal is a stunning rejection of Trump’s aggressive stance towards Iran.

Ahead of Trump’s anticipated disavowal of the JCPOA on Friday, Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that such a move would “drive a wedge between Europe and the US”. Significantly, Gabriel said that Trump’s spurning of the accord was “driving the EU towards Russia and China”.

France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire also warned the US not to interfere in Europe’s growing commercial ties with Iran. He was quoted as saying: “The US must not appoint itself as the world’s police man”.

Trump’s hostility towards the Iran nuclear treaty has created dissent within his own cabinet. His secretary of state Rex Tillerson and the defense secretary James Mattis are among those who were urging Trump to uphold the JCPOA. In the Congress, there are also many opponents to Trump’s desire to axe the deal, even among his Republican party. It remains to be seen if the Congress will call for new sanctions on Iran over the next 60 days, as Trump has requested. If Congress does, it will mean the US crashing out of the accord.

In theory, of course, the EU, Russia and China can continue to uphold the nuclear accord with Iran and conduct international trade and investment without the Americans. Russia and China have signed major oil and gas pacts with Iran over the past two years.

  Read Washington: The Bleeder of the Free World
 October 21, 2017
John Brennan’s Police State USA.

by Mike Whitney, Information Clearing House

John Brennan’s Police State USA

By Mike Whitney

October 21, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - Did the United States warn Russia to stay out of Syria?

Yes, they did.

Did they tell the Russians that if they joined the war against ISIS and helped Bashar al Assad the US would make them pay a heavy price?


Did US agents and diplomats warn their Russian counterparts that Russian troops would  “come home in body bags” and that the western media would launch a propaganda campaign against them?

Yes, again.

Did US officials say the western media would concoct a phony story about “Russian hacking” that would be used to persuade the American people that Russia was a dangerous enemy that had to be reigned in with harsh economic sanctions, provocative military maneuvers, and threats of violence?

No, but it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which the CIA would pursue such a strategy. After all, the Intel agencies, the media and the entire political establishment have been hammering on Russia for over two years now. Isn’t it possible that elements of these three factions decided to pool their resources in order to poison the public’s perception Russia? Hasn’t the US government dabbled in these type of psychological operations (PSYOPS) many time before?

Of course, they have.  And in prior incidents, the facts were fixed to fit the policy just as they have been in this case.  For example,  the Bush administration had already decided to topple Saddam long-before they cooked up their fake stories about mobile weapons labs, Niger uranium, aluminum tubes and “Curveball”. Doesn’t the same rule apply here?  Haven’t the “facts” about collusion, Pokémon Go and Facebook all been concocted after-the-fact to support the original thesis, that Russia meddled in the election?

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What we know is that high-ranking members of the US State Department and Pentagon threatened Moscow prior to Russia’s military intervention in October, 2015. US diplomats made it clear that if Russia helped the Syrian government,  Washington would use the media and its other  assets to retaliate. According to Russia’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Maria Zakharova:

We were asked to pass on to you the most serious warnings that Russia will be hurt by its actions.. We will make sure that Russia really knows what pain is……Keep in mind that everything you do will be manipulated by the media which will cancel out the real (positive) effects of your work. ..You are going to fight terrorists, but you will be made to look like the bad guy.

These threats were delivered to us many times in 2015 as part of the discussions with the Russia’s Representative of Foreign Affairs and his international counterparts. (During Kerry-Lavrov meetings)

We’re talking about the world’s elite who told us these things.

When we told them exactly what targets we planned to strike, they launched a disinformation media campaign against us. Officials from the White House and State Department directly threatened to hurt us.  They promised that we’d “come home in body bags” not only diplomatic representatives but also the Secretary of Defense…..The US showed us that the strongest military has unlimited rights to create evil in the world.”

(See the whole interview on YouTube.

Zakharova’s admission is interesting for many reasons. First, it confirms that the US did not want to see the jihadist extremists defeated by Russia. These mainly-Sunni militias served as Washington’s proxy-army conducting an ambitious regime change operation which coincided with US strategic ambitions.

Second, Zakharova confirms that the western media is not an independent news gathering organization, but a propaganda organ for the foreign policy establishment who dictates what they can and can’t say. When Zakharova says, “everything you do will be manipulated by the media”, she is tacitly acknowledging that the MSM works in concert with the US government shaping a message that best achieves US imperial objectives. In this case, the obvious goal is the removal of Bashar al Assad and the partitioning of the state consistent with US plans to redraw the map of the Middle East. Russian intervention derailed that plan which is why Russia is despised.

Third, Zakharova’s comments suggest a motive for the Russia hacking campaign. Russia has become an insurmountable obstacle to Washington’s plans for global hegemony. It has blocked US progress in Ukraine and rolled backed US proxy-forces in Syria. Additionally, Russia has united the countries in Central Asia (EEU)  and threatens to economically integrate Europe and Asia into the world’s biggest free trade zone spanning from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Here’s a quote from Putin that explains what’s going on:

“Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think of themselves as Europeans…That’s why Russia proposes moving towards the creation of a common economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, a community referred to by Russian experts as ‘the Union of Europe’ which will strengthen Russia’s potential in its economic pivot toward the ‘new Asia.’”

Putin’s dream of Greater Europe is the death knell for the unipolar world order. It means the economic center of the world will shift to Central Asia where abundant resources and cheap labor of the east will be linked to the technological advances and the Capital the of the west eliminating the need to trade in dollars or recycle profits into US debt. The US economy will slip into irreversible decline, and the global hegemon will steadily lose its grip on power. That’s why it is imperative for the US prevail in Ukraine– a critical landbridge connecting the two continents– and to topple Assad in Syria in order to control vital resources and  pipeline corridors.  Washington must be in a position where it can continue to force its trading partners to denominate their resources in dollars and recycle the proceeds into US Treasuries if it is to maintain its global primacy. The main problem is that Russia is blocking Uncle Sam’s path to success which is roiling the political establishment in  Washington.

The US wants to retaliate for the defeat of its proxy army in Syria but it’s not prepared for a military clash. Not yet, at least. And, keep in mind, Washington’s Sunni proxies were not a division of the Pentagon; they were entirely a CIA confection:  CIA recruited, CIA-armed, CIA-funded and CIA-trained. The defeat is not a loss for the US Military, but a blot on the record of CIA Director John Brennan, the architect and main proponent of the failed project to remove Assad.  Brennan’s whole scheme has gone down in flames.

Why is that important?

Because it suggests that Brennan had a strong motive to strike back at Moscow. He had “a dog in the fight”, and his dog lost. And since he couldn’t win on the battlefield, his only choice was to launch an asymmetrical attack via the media. Isn’t this where the Russia hacking idea originated?

If it did, then there should be footprints that lead back to Brennan himself, the primary source of the psyops. Check out this excerpt from The Washington Times:

What caused the Barack Obama administration to begin investigating the Donald Trump campaign last summer has come into clearer focus following a string of congressional hearings on Russian interference in the presidential election.

It was then-CIA Director John O. Brennan, a close confidant of Mr. Obama’s, who provided the information — what he termed the “basis” — for the FBI to start the counterintelligence investigation last summer. Mr. Brennan served on the former president’s 2008 presidential campaign and in his White House.

Mr. Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee on May 23 that the intelligence community was picking up tidbits on Trump associates making contacts with Russians. Mr. Brennan did not name either the Russians or the Trump people. He indicated he did not know what was said.

But he said he believed the contacts were numerous enough to alert the FBI, which began its probe into Trump associates that same July, according to previous congressional testimony from then-FBI director James B. Comey.

(“Obama loyalist Brennan drove FBI to begin investigating Trump associates last summer”, The Washington Times)

So it all started with Brennan, the resentful Intel chief who got his nose bloodied by Putin in Syria and decided to seek his revenge.  But then Brennan needed to conceal his lead-role in the drama by drawing other agencies into the loop, so he included the FBI, the NSA and DIA. The strategy helped to obfuscate the real braintrust in the hacking affair,  John Brennan.

According to Mother Jones, it was not the FBI that initiated the “Trump-Russia connection”.. but ..”Former CIA Director John Brennan says he was the one who got the ball rolling.”

Indeed. Brennan appears to be the central figure in this political fiasco, the source from which many of the spurious accusations originated. It was Brennan who first intimated that members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian agents prior to the 2016 elections.

“I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons that raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians, either in a witting or unwitting fashion, and it served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion [or] cooperation occurred,” Brennan stated in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in May.

This is a deliberate mischaracterization of what Brennan was actually doing. He was spying on the members of the rival party to gain a political advantage. This is how police state operates.  How is it that no one in the media or on Capital Hill has condemned this egregious attack on the democratic process?

So far, none of the four investigations on Capital Hill have produced even a shred of evidence supporting Brennan’s claims.  Just last week, during a press conference with the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr bluntly stated,

“The committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion. Now, I’m not going to even discuss any initial findings because we haven’t any.”

There’s no proof of collusion at all. So what’s Brennan’s real motive here? What’s driving this silly propaganda campaign that has failed to produce any verifiable evidence after a massive 10-month, no-holds-barred investigation involving both Houses of Congress, the establishment media, four intelligence agencies and an Independent Counsel?

The absence of evidence suggests that Russia hacking narrative is a sloppy and unprofessional disinformation campaign that was hastily slapped together by over confident Intelligence officials  who believed that saturating the public airwaves with one absurd story after another would achieve the desired result, that is, persuading the American people that “evil” Putin is trying to sabotage our pristine democracy and that Donald Trump is not only the country’s lousiest president ever, but also a Russian agent.

That’s not to say, that Brennan’s psyops has not been successful. It has been, amazingly successful. According to a recent CBS Poll, a majority of Americans (57%) now believe that “Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”  In contrast, only 34 percent of Americans don’t believe there was any Russian interference in the 2016  elections.

What the numbers don’t explain, however, is how one’s own political ideology shapes the results. For example, 71 percent of Democrats believe that Russia interfered, while a mere 18 percent of Republicans agree. In other words, one’s own prejudices (about Trump and Russia)  have a much greater impact on one’s opinion than either facts or evidence.  Propaganda campaigns try to exploit public bias to effectively manipulate perceptions.  The CBS polling data shows that they have succeeded in that regard.

The US government has a long history of (as Robert Parry says) “cherry-picking or manufacturing evidence to undermine adversaries and to solidify U.S. public support for Washington’s policies.”  That is certainly the case here. Most of the so-called ‘evidence’ is nothing more than baseless accusations that appear momentarily in the headlines only to vanish a week or so later. Brennan and Co. appear to be exploring new frontiers in state propaganda, propaganda  that relies less on semi-credible events or evidence than on incessant repetition of far-fetched allegations (Facebook, Google, Pokémon Go) that reiterate the same underlying claim of Russian meddling. The difference between the fabrications that led up to the war in Iraq (mobile weapons labs, Niger uranium, shadowy connections to al Qaida and aluminum tubes) and those of Russian hacking suggests that the perpetrators of this charade are convinced that frequency trumps credibility. The American people are being carpet-bombed with dodgy, almost-comical disinformation to see if it has the intended effect. Recent surveys indicate the plan is working.

The loosening of rules governing the dissemination of domestic propaganda (In 2013, Obama gutted the Smith Mundt Act  “unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts.” (Foreign Policy Magazine) In 2016, Obama paved the way for more domestic propaganda by passing the Orwellian-named  “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” as part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.  Ostensibly, the bill lays the groundwork for responding to “fake news” overseas, but in reality, it marks “a further curtailment of press freedom” and an ambitious attempt to suppress accurate, independent information.)  The loosening of rules governing the dissemination of domestic propaganda coupled with the extraordinary advances in surveillance technology, create the perfect conditions for the full implementation of an American police state.  But what is more concerning, is that the primary levers of state power are no longer controlled by elected officials but by factions within the state whose interests do not coincide with those of the American people. That can only lead to trouble.

  Read John Brennan’s Police State USA.

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