Politics and Justice Without Borders
Politics and Justice Without Borders
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Global Community Newsletter main website
Volume 16 Issue 2 October 2017


Table of Contents of October 2017 Newsletter

Theme for this month

Share your vision of the Earth in year 2024.


Chapter I: Vision of the Earth in year 2024. Vision of the Earth in year 2024.

Chapter II: Earth governance and management in year 2024. Earth governance and management in 2024.

Chapter III: Global Civilization citizenship. Global Civilization citizenship.

Chapter IV: Send your Earth flag design proposal. Send your Earth flag design proposal.

Chapter V: Send your original song with music and/or lyrics that would be the Earth anthem. Send your original song with music and/or lyrics that would be the Earth anthem.

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Global citizens reporting News.
( see enlargement Global citizens reporting.)

Theme of October 2017 Newsletter
( see enlargement Theme for October 2017 Newsletter.)

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

Nathaniel Berman, Center for Biological Diversity , Lorraine Chow, Jon Christensen, T.J. Coles, Sally Dugman, Nivedita Dwivedi, Pepe Escobar, Margaret Flowers, Richard Heinberg, Robert C. Koehler, Peter Koenig, David Korten, Franklin Lamb, Kim Martineau, David McCoy, Thierry Meyssan, Sona Mohnot, John Pilger, Vladimir Putin, Jill Richardson, Paul Craig Roberts, Saral Sarkar, Jon Schwarz, Lucy Goodchild van Hilten, Kevin Zeese.

Nathaniel Berman, Earthships: 100% Sustainable, Inexpensive Off-Grid Homes Made From Recycled Materials (Video). Earthships: 100% Sustainable, Inexpensive Off-Grid Homes Made From Recycled Materials (Video).
Center for Biological Diversity, The Escalating Use of Pesticides Is Harming Already Imperiled Aquatic Invertebrates. The Escalating Use of Pesticides Is Harming Already Imperiled Aquatic Invertebrates
Lorraine Chow, U.S. Wind and Solar Boom Helped Prevent 12,700 Deaths in a Single Year. U.S. Wind and Solar Boom Helped Prevent 12,700 Deaths in a Single Year.
Jon Christensen, Climate Doom and Gloom? Bring It On—but We Need Stories About Taking Action, Too. Climate Doom and Gloom? Bring It On—but We Need Stories About Taking Action, Too.
John Pilger and T.J. Coles, Dangerous Times: North Korea, China and the Threat of Nuclear War and Accident. Dangerous Times: North Korea, China and the Threat of Nuclear War and Accident.
Sally Dugman, The Times Ahead: Catastrophes, Resource Conflicts And Cooperation. The Times Ahead: Catastrophes, Resource Conflicts And Cooperation.
Nivedita Dwivedi, How Nothing Really Maters. How Nothing Really Maters.
Pepe Escobar, The Real BRICS Bombshell. The Real BRICS Bombshell.
Richard Heinberg, Why Climate Change Isn’t Our Biggest Environmental Problem, And Why Technology Won’t Save Us. Why Climate Change Isn’t Our Biggest Environmental Problem, And Why Technology Won’t Save Us.
Kevin Zeese, and Margaret Flowers, Climate Breakdown. Climate Breakdown
Robert C. Koehler, Begging for War. Begging for War.
Peter Koenig, Beijing’s “Belt and Road” Initiative, Towards an Economy of Peace? Beijing s Belt and Road Initiative, Towards an Economy of Peace?
David Korten, For The Love Of Earth. For The Love Of Earth.
Franklin Lamb, Russia, US, Iran And Israel War For Syria. Russia, US, Iran And Israel War For Syria.
Kim Martineau, How Reducing U.S. Air Pollution Can Help Feed Africa. How Reducing U.S. Air Pollution Can Help Feed Africa.
David McCoy, Even a 'Minor' Nuclear War Would Be an Ecological Disaster Felt Throughout the World. Even a 'Minor' Nuclear War Would Be an Ecological Disaster Felt Throughout the World
Thierry Meyssan, Syria Emerging Victorious. Syria Emerging Victorious.
Sona Mohnot, Can California Protect Frontline Communities From Climate Change? Can California Protect Frontline Communities From Climate Change?
Vladimir Putin, North Korea Would Rather Eat Grass Than Give Up Nuclear Weapons. North Korea Would Rather Eat Grass Than Give Up Nuclear Weapons.
Jill Richardson, Here Come the Ecosexuals. Here Come the Ecosexuals.
Paul Craig Roberts, Dear Russia: An Enemy Is Not A Partner. Dear Russia: An Enemy Is Not A Partner.
Saral Sarkar, The Times Ahead: Catastrophes, Resource Conflicts And Cooperation. The Times Ahead: Catastrophes, Resource Conflicts And Cooperation.
Jon Schwarz, North Korea May Negotiate on Nuclear Weapons: The Washington Post Isn’t Reporting That. North Korea May Negotiate on Nuclear Weapons: The Washington Post Isn t Reporting That.
Lucy Goodchild van Hilten, Neonics Harm Bees, Poison Drinking Water and Don't Improve Crop Yield: Why Aren't We Banning Them? Neonics Harm Bees, Poison Drinking Water and Don't Improve Crop Yield: Why Aren't We Banning Them?
Kevin Zeese, and Margaret Flowers, Climate Breakdown. Climate Breakdown

Articles and papers from authors


Day data received Theme or issue Read article or paper
  August 31, 2017
Beijing’s “Belt and Road” Initiative, Towards an Economy of Peace?

by Peter Koenig, Information Clearing House,

Why is the world one huge fireball of hostilities, conflicts, threats of economic sanctions, propaganda of lies and mind manipulations, fearmongering – killing – massive killing – 12-15 million people killed since 9/11? – Why is that? And all provoked and executed by ONE country, and her vassals in the form of NATO, stooges of Brussels and the Middle East, and their prostituted proxies, paid mercenary whores, Islamic State, by the one Rogue Nation the world is subjected to – the United States of America.

All that at the cost of trillions of dollars, tax-payers’ money – really? – More likely privately FED, Wall Street created fiat money, pyramid money, based on usury and debt, subjugating debt to be pillaged from the ordinary citizens; but government debt never to be repaid, as per Alan Greenspan (FED Chairman, 1987-2006) to an exasperated journalist who asks, when will the US ever pay back its huge debt? – “Never – we will just print new money”. – So, is it really ‘tax-payers’ money’? – Would tax-payers’ money be able to pay for these trillions and trillion spent on conflicts, wars and hostilities – hundreds of billions spent on propaganda of deception and lies to promote endless assassinations around the globe? Hardly.

Why is it that we live willingly and knowingly in a fraud and greed-economy? – Is living in deception the illusion that keeps ultra-capitalism alive? – That leads us to ever higher grounds of avarice – ending in all-destructive fascism? – Possibly in a globe-annihilating mushroom?

Why do we worship war, if at least 99.99% of the peoples of this globe want peace?

Why do we tolerate such atrocities imposed by one nation – no longer worthy of the term ‘nation’ – destructions of entire countries, civilizations, the cradle of western history? Obliteration of livelihoods for generations to come? – For nothing else but gluttony, for insane accumulation of material goods and power? For world hegemony of a few? Why do we tolerate Inhumanity as our ‘leadership’?

It is well-understood that such ‘leaders’ are put in place not by elections, but by fraud – why do we not throw them out? – Why do we bend over still believing in the lies of democracy – if in the back of our minds a little spark of conscience tells us exactly that we are being betrayed by our governments, not once, not twice – but ALL THE TIME?

And this refers to WE in the WEST.

We know that we are living a falsehood. Is falsehood tolerable for the comfort of not moving out of our armchairs, out of the cushioned blue-pilled matrix, where we would have to face our own reality – that of having lived a life of lies for most of our existence? – Wouldn’t that recognition be a first step to our freedom – FREEDOM – freedom from want, freedom of mind, like in liberty to love our fellow citizens – freedom to embrace Peace?

Why are we not finishing off this monster – which is itself only a hologram, directed by a deep dark state, invisible to the naked eye of common citizens and a shadow government of tyrants, torturers, killers, psychopaths – that direct our everyday lives? – They, these triangle-framed one-eyed underground beasts have to live in secrecy, in darkness. Why?

Are we afraid? – Why can we not shed that fear for a little bit of courage – and find back to human solidarity against this atrocious abuse – the worst ever since the Roman Empire and probably much longer, ever since our modern times of history, dating back to the ascent of monotheism, some 5000 years ago? When the Akkadians overthrew the Sumerian civilization, where women had their natural initiating roles and were equals to men. Monotheism changed all this.

Let’s be clear – nobody is to be wished death; not the murderers of the Pentagon, or of the CIA, NSA, FBI – not the slaughterers of the Military Industrial Complex – nor the financial assassins of the FED, Wall Street, nor the whores of the mainstream propaganda killer ‘fake news’. No – they will eventually face their own Karma. In the meantime, let them live and drown in their own self-made swamp, or rather their suffocating cesspool of sewer.

But we do have to get rid of them – get them out of our lives, get them isolated from our well-being, human well-being, not greed-well-being, as we live today. They must be marginalized. -How?


There is a new economic paradigm waiting in the wings, offered by China and Russia, an Economy of Peace. An economy backed by labor, by construction, by research, education – by culture – and by gold. No fiat economy – an economy of Equal Rights and equal benefits for all participants; a non-war based economy, totally contrary of the western usury rent-seeking destructive economy. Who would not be attracted by this new model of Peace Economics?

The new Silk Road – also President Xi Jinping’s OBI – One Belt Initiative, formerly known as  “The One Belt One Road” (OBOR) – an economic development program spanning the entire super-Continent of Eurasia and North Africa, from Vladivostok to Lisbon, and from Shanghai to Hamburg. Every territory in between is invited to participate, in what is possibly the largest and most wide-ranging economic expansion initiative in modern history. It is a multi-trillion-dollar (equivalent) endeavor that could literally stretch out for centuries, creating infrastructure, work, trade, income, new technologies, education- the palette is almost endless – for many areas still largely deprived of human well-being.

The “Road” encompasses land route development from Central China to Central Asia, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Eastern Europe – construction of ports and coastal infrastructure from Southeast Asia to East Africa and the Mediterranean. In fact, OBI was initiated by President Xi in 2013 and is already well under way. China’s modernization of Greece’s Port of Piraeus, arguably the largest in the Mediterranean, is already part of it.

It keeps Brussels nervous. The hot-rock of mud and corruption is afraid it may ‘lose’ Greece – a NATO country – from their control. Greece diplomatically assures them ‘loyalty’ – nevertheless, thanks to Greek pressure – under these new circumstances – Brussels ‘vassalic’ human rights condemnation and new sanctions directed at China, in Washington’s latest efforts to pressure China on North Korea, were stopped thanks to Greek intervention on behalf of China. Quite a feat, for a small country – downtrodden into financial and abject purposeful economic misery by Germany and the nefarious troika. It shows not only the west’s bluff, but their fear from the East – where Brussels and Washington know very well – the world’s future lays.

This revival of the ancient Silk road with 21st Century technology, as China calls it, also comes with financing to promote basic needs, such as urban planning, water supply, sanitation, food production and distribution. The old axiom of comparative production advantages will be applied in an open market of equals among equals, already begun under the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), signed by Presidents Putin and Xi in May 2015, and rapidly expanding westward.

The OBI is sometimes referred to as the Eastern Marshall Plan. But it should rather and more aptly be called the Xi Plan. It comes with the appropriate financial instruments, foremost the Beijing based Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB). The Xi Plan is destined for economic development and peoples’ well-being. Whereas the Marshall Plan was designed for deceit, exploitation and enslavement of Europe with its subservient Bretton Woods Institutions – and it succeeded.

The AIIB is a multilateral development bank. In June 2015, 57 countries signed the Bank’s Articles of Agreement which entered into force on December 25, 2015. The Bank started operations on January 16, 2016. As of March 31, 2017, the Bank’s membership has increased to 70 and new applicants are waiting. AIIB has an authorized capital of US$ 100 billion equivalent with US$ 18.4 billion paid in by 31 March 2017.

Among AIIB’s members are many western countries, conventional allies of the United States, like Germany, the UK, France, many Nordic countries, Australia and others.  Despite the objection of Washington, they have decided to join anyway. They realize the future is in Asia, in the East, much of it represented by this gigantic promising New Silk Road. After having lived through a fake and fraudulent privately run monetary economy for most of the last 200 years -even the staunchest ally and Washington vassal is becoming wary and ready for a new start.

  Read Beijing’s “Belt and Road” Initiative, Towards an Economy of Peace?
  August 31, 2017
Syria Emerging Victorious.

by Thierry Meyssan, Information Clearing House,

In May 2017, Thierry Meyssan appeared on Russia Today and explained where the South American elites were going wrong in their fight against US imperialism. He insisted that there has been a sea-change in the way the US now wages armed conflicts and we now need to radically rethink how we should defend our homeland.

operation to destabilize Venezuela continues. The first phase: violent gangs demonstrating against the government killed passers by, as if citizenship created no bonds between them. The second phase: the major food suppliers organized food shortages in the supermarkets. Then some members of the forces attacked several ministers, called for a rebellion and now have retreated into hiding.

Of course the international press never ceases to hold the “regime” responsible for the deaths of demonstrators. Yet it is a fact that a number of videos testify that these demonstrators were deliberately assassinated by demonstrators themselves. No regard is paid to this and on the basis of this false information, the press then proceeds to qualify Nicolas Maduro as a “dictator” just as it did six years ago with respect to Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar el-Assad.

The United States has used the Organization of American States (the OAS) as an arm against President Maduro just like it once used the Arab League against President al-Assad. Caracas, not expecting to be excluded from the Organization, denounced this method and left of its own accord.

Maduro’s government has however two failures on its balance sheet: the vast majority of its voters did not go to the polling stations for the legislative elections of 2015, allowing the opposition to sweep a majority in Parliament. it was caught out by the crisis of food products, even though the same thing had been organized in the past in Chile against Allende and in Venezuela against Chávez. It required several weeks to put in place new circuits to provide food.

In all likelihood, the conflict that begins in Venezuela will not be held back by its borders. It will ooze out, embracing the entire North West of the South American continent and the Caribbean.

An additional step has been taken with military preparations against Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador following Mexico, Colombia and British Guyana. The team responsible for co-ordinating these measures is from the former Office of Global Democracy Strategy. This was a unit established by President Bill Clinton, then continued by Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz. Mike Pompeo, the current director of the CIA, has confirmed that this unit exists. This has led to rumours in the press, followed up by President Trump, of a US military option.

To save his country, President Maduro’s team has refused to follow the example of President al-Assad. Maduro’s team thinks that there is no real comparison between what is happening in Venezuela and Syria. The United States, the principal capitalist power, would set off to Venezuela to steal its oil, according to a plan that has been repeatedly played out in the past on three continents. This point of view was given further weight by a speech that Evo Morales, Bolivia’s President, recently delivered.

Let us recall that in 2003 and 2011, President Saddam Hussein, the Guide Muammar Gaddafi and a number of President Assad’s advisors reasoned similarly. They thought that the US would attack the following states in succession: Afghanistan and Iraq, then Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and Syria. And why? For the sole reason of bringing about the collapse of regimes that were resisting its imperialism and controlling hydrocarbon resources in an expanded Middle East. A number of anti-imperialist authors cling to this analysis today. So for example, they use it to try to explain the war against Syria by reference to the interruption of the Qatari gas pipeline project.

Now, this line of thinking is turning out to be false. The US is not looking to reverse progressive governments (Libya and Syria), nor to steal the region’s oil and gas. Its intent is to decimate States, to send people of these countries back to a pre-historic time where “man did not love his neighbour as God loved him but would pounce like a wolf upon his neighbour” [Translator’s note: the literal translation of the French original is: “man was a wolf for man”].

Has toppling the Saddam Hussein regime and the regime of Gaddafi brought peace back to these states? No! Wars have continued even though “government of occupation” has been set up in Iraq, then a government composed of other governments in the region including those who collaborated with the imperialists opposed to national independence. Wars are still being waged. This surely evidences that Washington and London had no intention of toppling these regimes nor defending democracy. These were transparent covers for their true intentions which were to eliminate the people in these states. It is a basic observation that rocks our understanding of contemporary imperialism.

This strategy, radically new, was taught by Thomas P. M. Barnett following 11-September 2001. It was publicly revealed and exposed in March 2003 – that is, just before the war against Iraq— in an article in Esquire, then in the eponym book, The Pentagon’s New Map. However, such a strategy appears so cruel in design, that no one imagined it could be implemented.

Imperialism seeks to divide the world in two. One part will be a stable area which profits from the system while in the other part a terrifying chaos will reign. This other will be a zone, where all thought of resisting has been wiped it; where every thought is fixated on surviving; an area where the multinationals can extract raw materials which they need without any duty to account to anyone.

According to this map, taken from one of Thomas P. M. Barnett’s power point slides, presented at a conference held at the Pentagon in 2003, every state in the pink zone must be destroyed. This project has nothing to with the struggle between classes at the national level nor with exploiting natural resources. Once they are done with the expanded Middle East, the US strategists are preparing to reduce the North West of Latin America to ruins.

Since the eighteenth century and the British Civil War, Western development has been triggered by its attempt to do all it can to avoid chaos. Thomas Hobbes taught us to support the thinking of the State rather than risk experiencing this torment for another time. The notion of chaos only returned to us with Leo Strauss, after the Second World War. This philosopher, who has personally trained a number of personalities within the Pentagon, intended to build a new form of power by plunging part of the world into hell.

Jihadism inflicted onto an expanded Middle East has shown us what is chaos.

While President Assad reacted as anticipated to the events of Deraa (March – April 2011), by sending his army to quell the jihadists of the Mosque al-Omari, he was the first to understand what was happening. Far from increasing the powers of the forces to maintain order to repress the aggression sourced from abroad, he equipped his people with the means to defend their homeland.

First: he lifted the state of emergency, dissolved the special courts, freed the Internet communications and forbid the armed forces to use their arms if to do so would endanger the lives of innocent civilians.

When Assad took these decisions he was clearly not going with the flow. And these decisions were ladened with consequences. For example, at the time of the attack of a military convoy at Banias, soldiers held off using their weapons in self-defence; they preferred to be mutilated by the bombs of their attackers and occasionally die, rather than to fire, risking injuring inhabitants that were looking at them being massacred without intervening.

Like many at this time, I thought that the President was too weak and his troops too loyal; that Syria was going to go down. However six years on, Bashar el-Assad and the Syrian armed forces met the challenge. While at the beginning the soldiers have struggled alone against foreign aggression, gradually, every citizen came on board, to defend the country.

  Read Syria Emerging Victorious
  September 5, 2017
Putin North Korea Would Rather Eat Grass Than Give Up Nuclear Weapons.

by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Information Clearing House,


Putin North Korea Would Rather Eat Grass Than Give Up Nuclear Weapons


Putin calls sanctions useless

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a press conference on the sidelines of the 9th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit in the southeast city of Xiamen on Tuesday, September 5.

Posted September 05, 2017


Putin warns ‘hysteria’ over North Korea threatens ‘global catastrophe’

  • Putin thinks that sanctions could lead to large-scale human suffering
  • Putin, speaking after a BRICs summit in China, also warned against further ramping up military hysteria around North Korea
By Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that imposing tougher sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear missile program would be counter-productive and said threats of military action could trigger "a global catastrophe."

Putin, speaking after a BRICs summit in China, criticized U.S. diplomacy in the crisis and renewed his call for talks, saying Pyongyang would not halt its missile testing program until it felt secure.

"Russia condemns North Korea's exercises, we consider that they are a provocation ... (But) ramping up military hysteria will lead to nothing good. It could lead to a global catastrophe," he told reporters.

  Read Putin North Korea Would Rather Eat Grass Than Give Up Nuclear Weapons
  September 7, 2017
Begging for War.

by Robert C. Koehler, Information Clearing House,

-“There are no good options,” Brian Williams said the other night on MSNBC, launching a discussion about North Korea with the implication that war — maybe nuclear war — is the only solution to the problem it represents.

We’ve been cradling our own suicide for seven decades. The baby’s eyes open . . .

And Williams was right, though not in a way that he understood. When war — forceful domination, victory through threat, carnage and, if necessary, annihilation — is the ultimate limit of one’s consciousness, there are no good options. Even the peace negotiated in the context of war is bound to be temporary and grudging and therefore a bad option — sort of like the “peace” achieved at the end of the Korean War, after which both sides still, as Reuters reports, “have thousands of rockets and artillery pieces aimed at each other across the world’s most heavily armed border.”

Only beyond the context of war are there any options at all. Only beyond the context of war does humanity have any hope of avoiding suicide. And contrary to the consensus viewpoint of mainstream politicians and reporters, this is not completely unexplored territory.

Because Donald Trump is president, reaching for this trans-war consciousness is as crucial as it has ever been.

Maybe the best place to begin is by noting that there are some 22,000 nuclear weapons on the planet. This fact is almost never part of the news about North Korea, which has, as of this week, when it detonated an alleged hydrogen bomb, conducted six nuclear tests. The fact that Kim Jong-un’s tiny, unpredictable country is a member of the nuclear club is disconcerting, but the fact that there’s a “nuclear club” at all — and that its members are spending as much as a trillion dollars a decade to modernize their nuclear weapons — is even more disconcerting. And the fact that the modernization process is happening so quietly, without controversy or public debate (or even awareness) exacerbates the horror exponentially.

North Korea may be “begging for war,” as U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley exclaimed, but it’s not alone in doing so. None of the planet’s nuclear-armed nations have abided by the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which explicitly calls for complete nuclear disarmament. How easy this has been to ignore.

As Simon Tisdall wrote recently in The Guardian: “. . . the past and present leaders of the U.S., Russia, China, France and the UK, whose governments signed but have not fulfilled the terms of the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty, have to some degree brought the North Korea crisis on themselves. Kim Jong-un’s recklessness and bad faith is a product of their own.”

Preparing for war produces, at best, obedience, which usually comes with hidden resentments. Because North Korea has displayed defiance rather than obedience, the mainstream media have portrayed the country and its leader as, essentially, evil cartoon characters: a crazy country that doesn’t know its place and is therefore begging for war.

To reach beyond war, to reach toward the future and create the possibility that it will arrive — to create sensible options — first of all requires dealing with one’s enemy with respect and understanding. In the case of North Korea, this means revisiting the Korean War, in which some 3 million North Koreans died and, as Anna Fifield pointed out recently in the Washington Post, “the U.S. Air Force leveled the North, to the extent that American generals complained there was nothing left to bomb.”

  Read Begging for War
  September 7, 2017
Dangerous Times: North Korea, China and the Threat of Nuclear War and Accident.

by John Pilger and T.J. Coles, Information Clearing House,

The threat is from the United States, which for more than two generations has bullied and provoked North Korea.

The U.S. continues to provoke North Korea with military exercises near its borders. It also fails to live up to diplomatic agreements. Western media continue to distort the chronology of cause and effect, inverting reality to claim that North Korea is provoking the West. John Pilger, author of "The Coming War on China," talks to T.J. Coles about the situation.

This interview contains material from our book, "Voices for Peace: War, Resistance and America’s Quest for Full-Spectrum Dominance," an edited collection of original works by Pilger, as well as Noam Chomsky, Cynthia McKinney, Ilan Pappe and other leading activists and scholars published by Clairview Books, 2017.

T.J. Coles: What is the threat from North Korea?

John Pilger: The threat is from the United States, which for more than two generations has bullied and provoked North Korea while denying Koreans a treaty that would finally end their civil war and open up numerous possibilities, including reunification. The one pause in this warmongering campaign, during the 1990s, demonstrated that negotiations can “work,” regardless of what (President Donald) Trump says.

In 1992, the North and South signed the Declaration of Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula called, “An Agreed Framework,” which established and resulted in a suspension of North Korea’s nuclear programs in exchange for a U.S. agreement to build two nuclear reactors within the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

George W. Bush tore this up in 2002.

Then there were six-party talks in Beijing. Today, China and Russia have said that if the U.S. and South Korea cease their provocative military exercises – which include regime change – North Korea will stop firing its missiles. Will the Trump administration agree to this?

T.J. Coles: How do you assess Trump’s China policy, as opposed to (former president Barack) Obama’s?

John Pilger: There isn’t a real difference. Obama – urged on by his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – initiated the so-called Pivot to Asia, which set the hare running of a U.S. confrontation with China. Trump has continued this. He has, however, hosted the Chinese president and said what a great guy he is, whatever that’s worth.

  Read  Dangerous Times: North Korea, China and the Threat of Nuclear War and Accident
  September 7, 2017
North Korea May Negotiate on Nuclear Weapons: The Washington Post Isn’t Reporting That.

by Jon Schwarz, Information Clearing House,

- No normal human being should ever have to read the Washington Post’s op-eds and unsigned editorials. But the Post’s words have a huge impact on the hive-mind of America’s foreign policy apparatus — and hence where we’re going to war next — so it’s important that someone normal pay attention and report back.

So as a quasi-normal person, I recommend you pay close attention to this, from a recent column by the Post’s deputy editorial page editor, Jackson Diehl, about North Korea:

[North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un] has shown no interest in talks — he won’t even set foot in China, his biggest patron. Even if negotiations took place, the current regime has made clear that “it will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table,”as one envoy recently put it.

Here’s why that matters:

1. While the Post’s link is dead, it’s meant to take you to this Associated Press story

This is what the envoy, North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In Ryong, actually said, according to a transcript from North Korea’s UN Mission quoted in the AP article:

As long as the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat continue [emphasis added], the DPRK, no matter who may say what, will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiation table or flinch an inch from the road chosen by itself, the road of bolstering up the state nuclear force.”

There’s of course a significant difference between North Korea saying it will never negotiate to halt or eliminate its nuclear weapons program, and that it will never negotiate as long as the U.S. continues to threaten it.

Moreover, many North Korean officials, including Kim himself, have used precisely this formulation over and over again since July 4, when North Korea launched what appeared to be its first genuine intercontinental ballistic missile.

And Diehl’s column is by no means the only example of this misrepresentation. As long as North Korean officials have been saying this, the U.S. media has frequently been cutting the qualifier.

It’s also worth noting that Diehl likely knew he was making this important elision. North Korea’s qualifier appears both in the article’s headline and its first paragraph:

Finally, Diehl clearly read North Korea’s statement, since he cut and pasted its language. It’s hard to imagine he didn’t consciously or unconsciously decide to leave that crucial part out.

So does North Korea’s current rhetoric mean it would ever agree to halt, roll back, or even eliminate its nuclear weapons program? If they did agree to it, would they follow through? North Korea observers disagree on the likelihood of this.

But it does in fact matter that debates among foreign policy elites in the pages of the Post and elsewhere be based in reality. The reality is that North Korea is saying that, under certain conditions, it will put its nuclear weapons on the table.

2. Jackson Diehl’s title obscures his importance at the Post’s editorial page.

It’s long been reported that Diehl is a primary force behind the Post editorial page’s drift to constant belligerence on foreign policy – which can be seen in its unsigned editorials, the writers chosen to be regular columnists, and its guest op-eds. When Colbert King, one of the few African Americans on the Post’s editorial board, decided to step down, he wrote a memo criticizing Diehl’s influence.

Unsurprisingly, Diehl was a supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (although he urged the Bush administration to make its case more on human rights than unconventional weapons). And just as with North Korea today, Diehl made basic factual errors, such as referring to “the 1998 expulsion of the inspectors” from Iraq. In reality, the UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq by the UN itself ahead of the U.S. Desert Fox bombing campaign. Iraq then refused to allow the inspectors to return, citing the fact that the inspectors had been used to spy on the Iraqi regime and that Desert Fox was a clear violation of the UN charter.

According to Fred Hiatt, the overall editor of the Post’s editorial page, Diehl is “rigorously honest, and I have never seen him reluctant to engage in an argument to defend his position.” Diehl didn’t respond to an email asking him why he failed to portray North Korea’s rhetoric accurately.This article was first published by The Intercept.

  Read North Korea May Negotiate on Nuclear Weapons: The Washington Post Isn’t Reporting That
  Spetember 7, 2017
Dear Russia: An Enemy Is Not A Partner.

by Paul Craig Roberts, Information Clearing House,

September 07, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - Russians are concerned about Washington’s arbitrary closing of their San Francisco consulate and the illegal searching of diplomatic properties. There is no question that Washington has violated diplomatic protections and international law.

Why did Washington show its outlaw face to the world?

Was it to show that as strong as Russia is, Russia cannot protect herself from Washington? No international law, no diplomatic immunity can stand in Washington’s way. Washington can violate all law with no consequence.
Washington’s view is that might, and only might, makes right. Law is thrown out of the window, so why does Russia rely on law in her dealings with Washington?

Was it to plant some fake evidence in the Russian properties of Russian complicity in the US presidential election that elected a candidate that prefered peace over conflict with Russia?

Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov has told the US Secretary of State that Russia is going to sue over the seizure and search of Russia’s diplomatic properties. So, here we see again the Russians trying to deal with Washington through law, courts, diplomacy, whatever, and not facing the real issue.

What is the real issue?

The Real Issue is that the US military/security complex, the most powerful component of the US government, has decided that Russia is the ENEMY that justifies its $1,000 billion annual budget and the power that goes with it.

In other words, Russia is designated America’s Number One Enemy, and there is nothing whatsoever Russian diplomacy, Russian measured responses, and Russian references to her enemy as her “partner” can do about it.

Dear Russia, you must understand that you have been assigned the role of “the Enemy.”

Yes, of course, there is no objective reason for Russia being designated America’s enemy. Nevertheless, that is Russia’s designation. Washington has no interest in any facts. Washington is ruled by a shadow government and the deep state, consisting of the CIA, the military/security complex, and financial interests. These interests support US world hegemony, both financial and military. Russia and China are in the way of these powerful interest groups.

The case against Russia becomes more absurd by the day.
Newsweek just published a story that suggests Russia is behind the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Russia can’t do anything about her designation as Enemy Number One.

So, what can Russia do?

  Read Dear Russia: An Enemy Is Not A Partner
  September 7, 2017
The Real BRICS Bombshell.

by Pepe Escobar, Information Clearing House,


Putin reveals 'fair multipolar world' concept in which oil contracts could bypass the US dollar and be traded with oil, yuan and gold

By Pepe Escobar

September 07, 2017 "
Information Clearing House" - The annual BRICS summit in Xiamen – where President Xi Jinping was once mayor – could not intervene in a more incandescent geopolitical context.

Once again, it’s essential to keep in mind that the current core of BRICS is “RC”; the Russia-China strategic partnership. So in the Korean peninsula chessboard, RC context – with both nations sharing borders with the DPRK – is primordial.

Beijing has imposed a definitive veto on war – of which the Pentagon is very much aware.

Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test, although planned way in advance, happened only three days after two nuclear-capable US B-1B strategic bombers conducted their own “test” alongside four F-35Bs and a few Japanese F-15s.

Everyone familiar with the Korean peninsula chessboard knew there would be a DPRK response to these barely disguised “decapitation” tests.

So it’s back to the only sound proposition on the table: the RC “double freeze”. Freeze on US/Japan/South Korea military drills; freeze on North Korea’s nuclear program; diplomacy takes over.

The White House, instead, has evoked ominous “nuclear capabilities” as a conflict resolution mechanism.

Gold mining in the Amazon, anyone?

On the Doklam plateau front, at least New Delhi and Beijing decided, after two tense months, on “expeditious disengagement” of their border troops. This decision was directly linked to the approaching BRICS summit – where both India and China were set to lose face big time.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already tried a similar disruption gambit prior to the BRICS Goa summit last year. Then, he was adamant that Pakistan should be declared a “terrorist state”. The RC duly vetoed it.

Modi also ostensively boycotted the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit in Hangzhou last May, essentially because of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

India and Japan are dreaming of countering BRI with a semblance of connectivity project; the
Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC). To believe that the AAGC – with a fraction of the reach, breath, scope and funds available to BRI – may steal its thunder, is to enter prime wishful-thinking territory.

Still, Modi emitted some positive signs in Xiamen; “We are in mission-mode to eradicate poverty; to ensure health, sanitation, skills, food security, gender equality, energy, education.” Without this mammoth effort, India’s lofty geopolitical dreams are D.O.A.

Brazil, for its part, is immersed in a larger-than-life socio-political tragedy, “led” by a Dracula-esque, corrupt non-entity; Temer The Usurper. Brazil’s President, Michel Temer, hit Xiamen eager to peddle “his” 57 major, ongoing privatizations to Chinese investors – complete with corporate gold mining in an Amazon nature reserve the size of Denmark. Add to it massive social spending austerity and hardcore anti-labor legislation, and one’s got the picture of Brazil currently being run by Wall Street. The name of the game is to profit from the loot, fast.

The BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB) – a counterpart to the World Bank – is predictably derided all across the Beltway. Xiamen showed how the NDB is only starting to finance BRICS projects. It’s misguided to compare it with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). They will be investing in different types of projects – with the AIIB more focused on BRI. Their aim is complementary.

‘BRICS Plus’ or bust

On the global stage, the BRICS are already a major nuisance to the unipolar order. Xi politely put it in Xiamen as “we five countries [should] play a more active part in global governance”.

And right on cue Xiamen introduced “dialogues” with Mexico, Egypt, Thailand, Guinea and Tajikistan; that’s part of the road map for  “BRICS Plus” – Beijing’s conceptualization, proposed last March by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, for expanding partnership/cooperation.

A further instance of “BRICS Plus” can be detected in the possible launch, before the end of 2017, of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – in the wake of the death of TPP.

Contrary to a torrent of Western spin, RCEP is not “led” by China. Japan is part of it – and so is India and Australia alongside the 10 ASEAN members. The burning question is what kind of games New Delhi may be playing to stall RCEP in parallel to boycotting BRI.

Patrick Bond in Johannesburg has developed an
important critique, arguing that “centrifugal economic forces” are breaking up the BRICS, thanks to over-production, excessive debt and de-globalization. He interprets the process as “the failure of Xi’s desired centripetal capitalism.”

  Read  The Real BRICS Bombshell
Why Climate Change Isn’t Our Biggest Environmental Problem, And Why Technology Won’t Save Us.

by Richard Heinberg, in Resource Crisis, Countercurrents.org

Our core ecological problem is not climate change. It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom. Overshoot is a systemic issue. Over the past century-and-a-half, enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing, and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution, and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity. The human system expanded dramatically, overshooting Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans while upsetting the ecological systems we depend on for our survival. Until we understand and address this systemic imbalance, symptomatic treatment (doing what we can to reverse pollution dilemmas like climate change, trying to save threatened species, and hoping to feed a burgeoning population with genetically modified crops) will constitute an endlessly frustrating round of stopgap measures that are ultimately destined to fail.

The ecology movement in the 1970s benefitted from a strong infusion of systems thinking, which was in vogue at the time (ecology—the study of the relationships between organisms and their environments—is an inherently systemic discipline, as opposed to studies like chemistry that focus on reducing complex phenomena to their components). As a result, many of the best environmental writers of the era framed the modern human predicament in terms that revealed the deep linkages between environmental symptoms and the way human society operates. Limits to Growth (1972), an outgrowth of the systems research of Jay Forrester, investigated the interactions between population growth, industrial production, food production, resource depletion, and pollution. Overshoot (1982), by William Catton, named our systemic problem and described its origins and development in a style any literate person could appreciate. Many more excellent books from the era could be cited.

However, in recent decades, as climate change has come to dominate environmental concerns, there has been a significant shift in the discussion. Today, most environmental reporting is focused laser-like on climate change, and systemic links between it and other worsening ecological dilemmas (such as overpopulation, species extinctions, water and air pollution, and loss of topsoil and fresh water) are seldom highlighted. It’s not that climate change isn’t a big deal. As a symptom, it’s a real doozy. There’s never been anything quite like it, and climate scientists and climate-response advocacy groups are right to ring the loudest of alarm bells. But our failure to see climate change in context may be our undoing.

Why have environmental writers and advocacy organizations succumbed to tunnel vision? Perhaps it’s simply that they assume systems thinking is beyond the capacity of policy makers. It’s true: if climate scientists were to approach world leaders with the message, “We have to change everything, including our entire economic system—and fast,” they might be shown the door rather rudely. A more acceptable message is, “We have identified a serious pollution problem, for which there are technical solutions.” Perhaps many of the scientists who did recognize the systemic nature of our ecological crisis concluded that if we can successfully address this one make-or-break environmental crisis, we’ll be able to buy time to deal with others waiting in the wings (overpopulation, species extinctions, resource depletion, and on and on).

If climate change can be framed as an isolated problem for which there is a technological solution, the minds of economists and policy makers can continue to graze in familiar pastures. Technology—in this case, solar, wind, and nuclear power generators, as well as batteries, electric cars, heat pumps, and, if all else fails, solar radiation management via atmospheric aerosols—centers our thinking on subjects like financial investment and industrial production. Discussion participants don’t have to develop the ability to think systemically, nor do they need to understand the Earth system and how human systems fit into it. All they need trouble themselves with is the prospect of shifting some investments, setting tasks for engineers, and managing the resulting industrial-economic transformation so as to ensure that new jobs in green industries compensate for jobs lost in coal mines.

The strategy of buying time with a techno-fix presumes either that we will be able to institute systemic change at some unspecified point in the future even though we can’t do it just now (a weak argument on its face), or that climate change and all of our other symptomatic crises will in fact be amenable to technological fixes. The latter thought-path is again a comfortable one for managers and investors. After all, everybody loves technology. It already does nearly everything for us. During the last century it solved a host of problems: it cured diseases, expanded food production, sped up transportation, and provided us with information and entertainment in quantities and varieties no one could previously have imagined. Why shouldn’t it be able to solve climate change and all the rest of our problems?

Of course, ignoring the systemic nature of our dilemma just means that as soon as we get one symptom corralled, another is likely to break loose. But, crucially, is climate change, taken as an isolated problem, fully treatable with technology? Color me doubtful. I say this having spent many months poring over the relevant data with David Fridley of the energy analysis program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Our resulting book, Our Renewable Future, concluded that nuclear power is too expensive and risky; meanwhile, solar and wind power both suffer from intermittency, which (once these sources begin to provide a large percentage of total electrical power) will require a combination of three strategies on a grand scale: energy storage, redundant production capacity, and demand adaptation. At the same time, we in industrial nations will have to adapt most of our current energy usage (which occurs in industrial processes, building heating, and transportation) to electricity. Altogether, the energy transition promises to be an enormous undertaking, unprecedented in its requirements for investment and substitution. When David and I stepped back to assess the enormity of the task, we could see no way to maintain current quantities of global energy production during the transition, much less to increase energy supplies so as to power ongoing economic growth. The biggest transitional hurdle is scale: the world uses an enormous amount of energy currently; only if that quantity can be reduced significantly, especially in industrial nations, could we imagine a credible pathway toward a post-carbon future.

Downsizing the world’s energy supplies would, effectively, also downsize industrial processes of resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and waste management. That’s a systemic intervention, of exactly the kind called for by the ecologists of the 1970s who coined the mantra, “Reduce, reuse, and recycle.” It gets to the heart of the overshoot dilemma—as does population stabilization and reduction, another necessary strategy. But it’s also a notion to which technocrats, industrialists, and investors are virulently allergic.

The ecological argument is, at its core, a moral one—as I explain in more detail in a just-released manifesto replete with sidebars and graphics (“There’s No App for That: Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss”).  Any systems thinker who understands overshoot and prescribes powerdown as a treatment is effectively engaging in an intervention with an addictive behavior. Society is addicted to growth, and that’s having terrible consequences for the planet and, increasingly, for us as well. We have to change our collective and individual behavior and give up something we depend on—power over our environment. We must restrain ourselves, like an alcoholic foreswearing booze. That requires honesty and soul-searching.

In its early years the environmental movement made that moral argument, and it worked up to a point. Concern over rapid population growth led to family planning efforts around the world. Concern over biodiversity declines led to habitat protection. Concern over air and water pollution led to a slew of regulations. These efforts weren’t sufficient, but they showed that framing our systemic problem in moral terms could get at least some traction.

Why didn’t the environmental movement fully succeed? Some theorists now calling themselves “bright greens” or “eco-modernists” have abandoned the moral fight altogether. Their justification for doing so is that people want a vision of the future that’s cheery and that doesn’t require sacrifice. Now, they say, only a technological fix offers any hope. The essential point of this essay (and my manifesto) is simply that, even if the moral argument fails, a techno-fix won’t work either. A gargantuan investment in technology (whether next-generation nuclear power or solar radiation geo-engineering) is being billed as our last hope. But in reality it’s no hope at all.

The reason for the failure thus far of the environmental movement wasn’t that it appealed to humanity’s moral sentiments—that was in fact the movement’s great strength. The effort fell short because it wasn’t able to alter industrial society’s central organizing principle, which is also its fatal flaw: its dogged pursuit of growth at all cost. Now we’re at the point where we must finally either succeed in overcoming growthism or face the failure not just of the environmental movement, but of civilization itself.

The good news is that systemic change is fractal in nature: it implies, indeed it requires, action at every level of society. We can start with our own individual choices and behavior; we can work within our communities. We needn’t wait for a cathartic global or national sea change. And even if our efforts cannot “save” consumerist industrial civilization, they could still succeed in planting the seeds of a regenerative human culture worthy of survival.

There’s more good news: once we humans choose to restrain our numbers and our rates of consumption, technology can assist our efforts. Machines can help us monitor our progress, and there are relatively simple technologies that can help deliver needed services with less energy usage and environmental damage. Some ways of deploying technology could even help us clean up the atmosphere and restore ecosystems.

But machines won’t make the key choices that will set us on a sustainable path. Systemic change driven by moral awakening: it’s not just our last hope; it’s the only real hope we’ve ever had.

He is Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He has authored scores of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as NatureReutersWall Street JournalThe American ProspectPublic Policy ResearchQuarterly ReviewYes!, and The Sun; and on web sites such as Resilience.org, TheOilDrum.com, Alternet.org, ProjectCensored.com, and Counterpunch.com.
Richard has delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues to audiences in 14 countries, addressing policy makers at many levels, from local City Councils to members of the European Parliament. He has been quoted and interviewed countless times for print (including for Reuters, the Associated Press, and Time Magazine), television (including Good Morning America, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Al-Jazeera, and C-SPAN), and radio (including NPR, WABC, and Air America).
Richard has appeared in many film and television documentaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s 11th Hour. He is a recipient of the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education, and in 2012 was appointed to His Majesty the King of Bhutan’s International Expert Working Group for the New Development Paradigm initiative.

  Read Why Climate Change Isn’t Our Biggest Environmental Problem, And Why Technology Won’t Save Us
The Times Ahead: Catastrophes, Resource Conflicts And Cooperation.

by Saral Sarkar, in Resource Crisis, Countercurrents.org


On 28th July, I posted an essay of mine entitled The Global Crisis and Role of So-called Renewable Energies in Solving It on this blog-site (see below). It had been published a few days earlier in the online magazine Insurge-Intelligence as a contribution to a symposium on renewable energies (https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/how-clean-is-clean-energy-why-renewables-cannot-solve-the-global-crisis-10205baeb781).
Several readers responded to it with comments, both positive and negative. Prof. Mark Diesendorf, another contributor to the symposium, who had expressed views totally opposite to those of mine (https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/the-feasibility-of-100-renewable-energy-f624d93e1424), also responded with two half dissenting and half agreeing comments.
I thought it was necessary to respond to his comments with a short article that clarifies some important issues not dealt with in my original contribution, which was limited by space. I now publish it here. See below.

I knew that my contribution to the symposium would be controversial. And indeed many readers have commented. I thank those who have expressed agreement with my views, and ignore the suspicion that I am being paid by some people for writing what I have written. I shall here limit my response to some critical comments/views of Mark Diesendorf that he made/expressed in his response to my essay. I think they deserve to be paid attention to.

Numbers, Facts and Statistics

Mark wants to know the names of the experts who doubt that the EROEI of solar energy (PV-tech.) is positive (or, I should say, positive enough to run, in future, an industrial economy). In fact, in my essay I have given reference to Ugo Bardi’s article on the subject. Some references can be found there and in the discussion following it. See also Prof. Charles Hall’s contribution to the discussion inhttp://cassandralegacy.blogspot.de/2016/05/the-real-eroi-of-photovoltaic-systems.html
I am not a researcher on the subject, but I try to keep myself informed as an interested political activist. Mark writes: “The claim was only true several decades ago, before solar PV modules were mass-produced.” My information is just the opposite. In a much quoted scientific paper published in 1991 in a serious scientific journal called International Journal of Solar Energy(Vol. 10, 1991), Wolfgang Palz and Henri Zibetta wrote 26 years ago that, in European climates, the average energy payback time (EPT) for photovoltaic modules were as low as 1.2 to 2.1 years. That means their EROEI was very high. (EPT and EROEI are both measuring units for the same thing, namely net energy, expressed in two different ways. They are roughly inversely proportional). In the following years of the 1990s however, in the works of other researchers, the EPT figures for Photovoltaic modules rose, to 7 years, 9 years and 10 years – in spite of presumable continuous improvements in the technology.
I could not (and still cannot) judge the scientific quality of these research works. The point I want to make here is only that, in the 1990s, it appeared and it still appears to me that a lot of arbitrary calculating methods and perhaps alsobias of the researchers were responsible for this chaotic results. So when Mark writes that, nowadays, the EPT of PV solar modules is typically 1 – 3 years, I cannot accept it as correct, simply because Mark says it. So I tried to apply my own non-researcher faculty of logical thinking, the result of which I have presented in my essay. In the 1990s, to my knowledge, no researcher was taking the energy invested in back-up power stations into account.
Mark gracefully agrees with my assertion based only on logic that the EI figure of all and any industrial product (hence also of PV modules, wind turbines, bicycles, toothpaste etc. etc. etc.) is bound to continuously increase because of continuously increasing remoteness of new mines and wells and continuously increasing difficulty in extracting non-renewable raw materials and raw energy-materials (coal, oil, gas, uranium) from them. But then he makes his argument incomprehensible by saying, “This is indeed a strong limitation on the continued production of fossil fuels, but is irrelevant to renewable energy resources: sunshine, wind, etc.” Haven’t I distinguished in my essay between the sources of energy sunshine and wind from the equipments (PV modules, wind turbines etc.) for producing electricity from sunshine and wind? For the EI of the latter, i.e. the equipments, the difficulties mentioned above are indeed very relevant. Their EI is continuously increasing and hence (it is simple arithmetic), ceteris paribus, the EROEI of solar and wind electricity systems must be continuously diminishing. This generally happens also to fossil and nuclear energy systems and their EROEI.
In statistics, there are many things that cannot be measured satisfactorily and are therefore open to bias of the researcher or the client. Opinion researchers e.g. can never know whether the respondents to their questions are telling the truth. But also actually measurable things like GDP, unemployment rate, total work force, inflation rate, cost of living, poverty rate etc. can be distorted because of varying definitions and/or wrong counting methods such as having too small a sample or the sample being unrepresentative. This fact gave rise to the bon mot “I do not believe any statistics other than those I have myself falsified.”

Hopes for the Future

Mark writes: “… energy technologies are made increasingly by using renewable energy.” I have heard of a solar panel factory in Freiburg, Germany, (not a big one, maybe an experimental one), that derives all its energy from the solar panels installed on the roof terrace of the factory. Supposing the information is true, it does not prove Mark’s point. The four questions put by foodstuff (I only quoted him) are not answered with this example (please read the four questions once more!). Mark himself gives two examples – “A mining company in remote Australia is currently building a solar farm to substitute for most of its prolific diesel consumption, and the Tesla gigafactory for manufacturing batteries will be completely powered by RE.” In the first example, the machines in the factory areusing electricity from solar panels; my informant did not say that they are being built by means of electricity derived from solar panels. In the second example (given by Mark himself) solar electricity will only substitute diesel consumption. The huge machines used by the company for mining activities will not be builtwith the help of solar electricity. In the third example, the batteries will be built by using solar electricity. Tesla is not claiming that the gigafactory itself or the machines for manufacturing batteries will be built by using solar electricity. And if one enquires a little further, one may find that in the second and third case, the solar panels, subsidized by the state, have been manufactured in China using dirty coal-electricity. Reg. the case of the factory in Freiburg, I know that all the 6 major German solar panel manufacturers have gone bankrupt.
Basing himself on the examples he has given, Mark thinks that “… although the current generation of RE technologies is being made mainly by using fossil energy, the next generation will utilize RE to a greater degree and so on until RE systems are made entirely by using RE.” At another place he writes, “The energy for mining the raw materials and building the RE hardware can in future be renewable and this transition has already begun.” I am not convinced that the end result of this transition will be the much touted 100% RE for the whole industrial economy. Because Mark does not say with what kind of energy the mining machinery/hardware, the huge trucks, the caterpillars etc. will be built. On the whole, his hopes appear to me as pure faith in miracles happening in future, wishful, not rational thinking. Wishful thinking is an obstacle to making rational/realistic political decisions.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy Law) and Some Favorite Illusions of RE Enthusiasts

Mark writes: “… there is no contradiction between the Second Law of Thermodynamics and a global 100% renewable energy (RE) system, so long as the Sun continues to shine.” I am not sure I have understood in which sense exactly he has written this. But it sounds like saying there is no contradiction between faith in a good and almighty God and the fact that there is evil in this world, no contradiction between the Genesis story of the Bible and the Evolution theory of Darwin. Polemic apart, Mark seems to forget again and again the distinction I made between sources of energy and equipments of energy. Logically and plausibly, we may argue that humanity will exist on the earth so long as the Sun continues to shine. But we cannot say that the industrial society can continue to exist without the fossil fuels and nonrenewable materials.
I am not an engineer, not one of those who are expected to know the Entropy Law. Yet I was compelled to learn the essence of this law. During a private discussion on future energy and resources shortage, an economist said (in the general sense): I do not understand why availability of oil and minerals should be a problem; science says nothing gets lost in this universe. That was obviously the First Law of Thermodynamics or the law of conservation of matter and energy. So let us recycle everything, all problems solved. A friend of Johnny Rutherford, an RE enthusiast, once said, soon the whole industrial economy would run without having to extract a single molecule more. To lay public it may seem plausible. For, after all, the Sun sends us 15 000 times more energy than all the commercial energy we need, for free. I am a bit surprised that Mark has not suggested this “solution” for all non-renewable resources. But why can’t we recycle everything? Because there is a contradiction between 100% recycling and the Entropy Law.
I have learnt that in the process of being used in any production process, all energy and materials get dissipated, more or less. Some part of it gets lost, that is, becomes unrecoverable. From the state of being available, part of the materials used in production goes over to the state of being unavailable. In pure theory, of course, the whole quantity could be recovered and brought back to their original available state, but only if we are prepared to spend enough energy and materials for this work. In many cases, this process is, in energy and material terms, too costly to be economically viable at all. Again, it may be feasible but not viable. This explains why in real industry not everything is even attempted to be recycled.
Energy recycling is practically impossible. A quantity of coal, gas, or petroleum, once burnt, cannot be recycled, although the hydrogen and carbon atoms are not lost, although they still exist somewhere in the atmosphere or the earth. They are however so strongly dissipated that recycling them is only possible in a laboratory by using immensely more energy than what can be recovered. Lack of knowledge or understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics may lead some people to cherish the illusion that, as commenter Mark Goldes writes, “24/7 cheap green energy is being born. Engines designed to run on atmospheric (ambient) heat instead of fuel. Ambient heat is a huge untapped reservoir of solar energy available everywhere around the clock.” There would be “no combustion” in such engines.
Another commenter, John Weber, who agrees with me, referred to the many high temperature processes required in an industrial economy, especially in metallurgy and glass industries. Now rays of the Sun reach us in a high entropy (i.e. highly dissipated) state. This is why we have to spend a lot of energy and materials to first collect and convert them into electricity before we can use them. If we want to use them in metallurgical furnaces, we have to concentrate them further to a very much higher temperature (strongly low entropy state). And at every stage of collection and concentration, in every process of conversion (e.g. to liquid hydrogen), and in the process of every piece of work done, some energy is inevitably lost, i.e. dissipated without being used. That solar modules have a lifespan of 25 years, does not help much in overcoming these problems.

These are essential points of our controversy. I hope Insurge-Intelligence readers would read also this contribution of mine with interest.

Saral Sarkar was born in 1936 in West Bengal, India. After graduating from the University of Calcutta, he studied German language and literature for 5 years in India and Germany. From 1966 to 1981, Sarkar taught German at the Max Mueller Bhavan (Goethe Institute), Hyderabad, India. Sarkar is living in Germany since 1982. He is the author of 5 political books(see list in Wikipedia/German) that have appeared in English, German, Chinese, Japanese and (in internet for free downloading) French and Spanish. Sarkar has also published many articles and essays in several journals in India, USA, Germany, UK, Holland, China, Spain. He also writes regularly in two blogs of his own (see Wikipedia/German).

  Read http://www.countercurrents.org/2017/08/22/there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch-for-humans/
  August 25, 2017
The Times Ahead: Catastrophes, Resource Conflicts And Cooperation.

Climate Change by Sally Dugman , Countercurrents.org

Until fairly recently, anthropologists and geologists were greatly puzzled by an unusual finding. Their perplexity concerned the almost total disappearance of humankind many years ago. Finally, they were able to put together the various factors related to this happening and came up with the following scenario.

Over much of the Earth, crude stone tools have been found at the geological layer roughly corresponding to 74,000 years ago. Based on the various rock types used, their rate of wear and the number of implements uncovered in each setting, the population could be estimated for many regions of the globe. In addition, migration patterns could be charted based on similarities in tool designs combined with their varying quantities in assorted locales. As the seasons changed and the animal location shifted — so did the hunter-gatherers. The related movement could be mapped for several clans.

Then suddenly, signs of all tools, abruptly and completely, vanished across nearly the entire globe. The disappearance was almost completely universal except, for the most part, in one small region of Eastern Africa. At the same time, there existed, instead of the tools elsewhere, layer upon layer of volcanic ash corresponding to a time period many years in duration.

Based upon the amount of powder found in each locality, its composition and other characteristics, the epicenter of the “event” was, eventually, determined to be the place now called Lake Toba. Lake Toba is a large, serene and pastoral body of water roughly 100 km long and 30 km wide (sixty miles by eighteen) in Sumatra, Indonesia. It wasn’t always peaceful [1].


Global Volcanism Program | Toba

Global Volcanism Program – Smithsonian Institution

Because the region lies close to the Sumatra Fracture Zone (SFZ), it is a seething hotbed of subterranean geological activity. This is because the subduction of the Indian Ocean plate under the Eurasian plate is occurring at the rate of 6.7 cm per year and is a part of the basin dubbed “The Ring of Fire” [2], a horseshoe shaped expanse extending across the Pacific rim, while, at the same time, being prone to numerous earthquakes and volcanic activity. For example, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami can be attributed to the instability of these shifting tectonic plates and the seismically activity situated in this, generally, unstable zone.


2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami Documentary – YouTube
Furthermore, one (of several) volcanic eruption from Toba caldera was so gigantic (with a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 8, termed “mega-colossal”) that it spewed an estimated volume of 2,800 cubic kilometers ((670 cubic miles) of materials upward and outward.

(1.609 km equals one mile.) A good basis of comparison is provided by Mount St. Helene, which emitted 1.2 cubic km of matter during its most recent flare-up.

In other words, the sheer magnitude of these two volcanic disturbances were vastly different. Moreover, this largest Toba blast (named the Toba Tuff) was of such a magnitude that at least 20,000 square kilometers were enveloped in pyroclastic flows while the original breaching material was 600 meters (1,800 feet) thick near the point of origin.

As such, ash quickly covered a territory approximately half the size of the US and it has been retrieved as far away as the bay of Bengal and India, where it exists 15 cm (6 in) thick in deposition over the entire Indian subcontinent This is around 3100 km (1,900 miles) from Lake Toba. In short, this eruption was likely the biggest one in the past twenty-five million years.

Moreover, it has been calculated that the upsurging plume column was between 50 to 80 km (30 to 50 miles) in height so as to be capable of spreading gases and debris, via upper atmospheric winds, over an ever increasing and extensive portion of terrain for quite an interval of time. In addition, 1010 (ten to the tenth power) metric tons of sulphuric acid exploded into the air while causing an extremely toxic fallout of acid rain to, likewise, blanket a large area of the globe.

With all of these factors combined in impact, massive weather change ensued. Resultant temperatures varied downward 3 to 3.5 degrees Celsius for a number of years (with evidence collected as far away as Greenland through ice core samples), sunlight sufficient for photosynthesis was blocked in many regions due to light ash dust and other atmospheric impediments trailing the eruption. Furthermore, an enormous number of plants would have died off even if sufficient light were to have been present. This is because vegetation was inundated by ash, acid rain and other noxious byproducts — a phenomenon that has been studied, via the use of duplicative conditions, in botany laboratories at several university sites.

So, in the end, there was a massive die-off engulfing the planet. Indeed, an ice age developed on account of the eruption and lasted approximately a millennium.

At the same time, there is evidence, drawn from mitochondrial DNA and the aforementioned diminishment of tools, that humankind, in all likelihood, experienced a genetic bottleneck [3] due to Toba Tuff. According to information collected by some genetic researchers, the human population probably shrunk to only two to ten thousand of members.

All or most of these lived within around 200 miles of the Rift Valley in Kenya. The advantages by doing so were clear…

Because of the reduced plant and animal life, there was not a large margin of error in terms of acquiring food. If a single animal, for example, were found, it had to be killed on the first try as there were not many more extant from which to select. As such, tools had to be very light, sharp, easily shaped and highly effective. Indeed, they could reflect all of these features in this location as obsidian, an ideal rock for the task (and, ironically, formed by volcanic activity), was in plentiful supply in the Rift Valley.

However, tribes gathering this material could not all live near its source as there was an insufficient food supply in the area. In addition, they had to share (at least the obsidian) and cooperate while communicating with others (strangers from other families) in that they could not expend inordinate energy and time in battle in lieu of primarily focusing on obtainment of enough food and clean water.

In other words, those tribes that chose to fight, for the most part, died off and their genetic legacy did so, too. Meanwhile, it has been speculated that the other groups — the ones that made it to the obsidian deposit without battling — traded, shared and aided each other while there, as well as (later) bartered obsidian with clans too far from the rock bed to make the trek, themselves.

As a result, our ancestors, all of them for everyone on Earth, likely came from these small bands of people and we all inherited a genetic foundation imbued with a propensity towards accommodation, sharing and cooperation!
Now, flash forwarding into the near-past, and there is another, smaller and more personal calamity being addressed. In shock, I am standing in the shell of a house on Water Island, near St Thomas. It is my mother’s home and was built to stand close to 200 miles an hour of hurricane force. It was build by my father and a work crew to withstand, approximately, twenty-five miles an hour above any maximum storm thrust.

In order to be so, it was built with a venting roof to handle changes in air pressure and wind, as well as had three 3″ thick rebars running one yard down into the earth while, also, embedded in each of the building’s 2′ X 2′ X 12′ concrete support columns. In addition, the structure contained other well thought out, protective features. All the same, I am cleaning up the mess left from Hurricane Marilyn (1995) — the second time for such a going-over on account of Hurricane Hugo (1989) having created similar, although less thorough, ruin.

Unfortunately, not much was left of the home this succeeding time. Most of the columns are lying on their sides split in pieces like chopped sticks of butter. My mother’s dresser drawers and clothes were found strew more than a mile away and were even in palm trees. Our refrigerator held its place, but our neighbor’s refrigerator flew through a foot thick concrete wall so as to leave a gaping new window the exact size and shape of its outline (due to winds clocking in at 220 mph in the near vicinity). At the same time, the inner walls held in our home, but the roof, windows and most household items lay spread out everywhere. Even some broken plumbing pipes, ripped from the interior of walls, lay scattered here and there, along with everything else.

Meanwhile, my mother’s grief over this trouble was only superceded by the torment created by the deaths of her husband, firstborn child and parents. At the same time, we wondered that the hurricanes could be so much more powerful than the US Weather Service set as the standard for maximum force. (My father had enquired of the agency about the standards that he should have in advance of building the home, and its members had grossly misjudged.)

How ever tragic such individual losses are from hurricanes, floods, wild fires and other causes indirectly related to global warming, nothing will likely approach the gargantuan magnitude of demise caused by such events as Toba Tuff. Nothing will, also, match the humongous enormity of further devastation that is likely advancing towards us due to the greenhouse effect and other kinds of environmental damage. Not even regional wars, unless they were to be full-scale nuclear in nature, can come close. Here are the reasons:

Jun 29, 2015 – Uploaded by ToP SpreadinG

Global Warming | 10 Causes of Global Warming GLOBAL WARMING looms large over humanity. According … Global Warming | 10 Causes of Global W

The first Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was conducted by 1,300 researchers from ninety-five nations over a four year period. it comprises of the most comprehensive analysis of current planetary conditions ever undertaken and resulted in a detailed report compiled by World Resource Institute (WRI) and approximately thirty partners.

Their ultimate conclusion is that human actions endanger the Earth’s capacity to maintain future generations. Meanwhile our current circumstances include these factors:

As human demand for resources grows exponentially, most ecosystems across the globe have been seriously impaired due to exploitation and the natural processes that support life on Earth are falling apart. Indeed of twenty-four environments that have been assessed, fifteen are seriously damaged. Furthermore, it is only within the past fifty years that this severe destructive change has taken place in which sixty percent of worldwide ecosystem benefits (such as clean air, fish, fiber, timber, etc.) have significantly deteriorated.

In addition, human water usage has doubled over the past fifty years and, currently, forty to fifty percent is being used. However this will change as drought areas spread in addition to glacial runoff and snow packs disappearing due to global warming.

Moreover, fish stock is depleting at an extraordinarily rapid pace, coral reefs are dying, large oceanic dead zones are spreading, whole forests are vanishing, pollution of watersheds (in large measure due to agrochemicals) has led to eutrophication of waters and species extinction rates are now 100-1,000 times above their normal speed of occurrence. In addition, further extreme problems are arising due to the devastation produced by carbon loading.

If this isn’t sufficiently gloomy by itself, the 2007 study (ten years ago during which time between then and now the prognosis has gotten worse) by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) offers further grave information. It is that greenhouse gases, with a ninety percent certainty to be caused by our too great reliance on fossil fuels, are driving cataclysmic level of climate change. These, in turn, will introduce other grim perils of which many are already irreversible.

Some of the worst include that there will be increasingly severe water shortages in many regions, dramatic increase in virulent diseases, decreased food supply, greater extremes in weather causing habitat loss (such as the indigenous life forms and my family faced on Water Island), rising oceans, unbearable levels of heat in many spots so that some life (including many humans) will perish from it, vastly expanding desert regions and other dreadful upshots.

For example, the melting of the permafrost will release further CO2 into the atmosphere and, thereby, accelerate the melting. Along with no longer cooling the earth by a sort of refrigeration effect, the lack of much frost, white snow and ice reflecting light back up into the atmosphere will increase the heat trap on earth.

Then, too, there is the methane problem:

Arctic methane emissions – Wikipedia


Arctic methane release is the release of methane from seas and soils in permafrost regions of the Arctic. While a long-term natural process, it is exacerbated by global warming. … Global warming accelerates its release, due to both release of methane from existing stores, and from methanogenesis in rotting biomass. Large …

?Contribution to climate … · ?Ice sheets · ?Loss of permafrost · ?Clathrate breakdown

Surge in methane emissions threatens efforts to slow climate change

https://phys.org › Earth › Environment

Dec 12, 2016 – Global concentrations of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas and cause of climate change, are now growing faster in the atmosphere than at …

All considered, James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia model (in which the planet is viewed as an interdependent, integrated super-organism), postulates that billions of humans (far more than was killed by the Toba Tuff) will, ultimately, die off due to global warming. As such, he recommends that all communities and countries try to postpone this inevitable outcome (along with delimiting the numbers to be killed) by taking EVERY measure possible to cut back the greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, many others share his bleak outlook while, also, expanding upon it [4].

Despite that we do not know the Earth’s ultimate carrying capacity for people, we do know that it is definitely finite. We, likewise, know that we are running out of critical commodities (most notably fossil fuels, certain ores, some minerals, as well as the plants and animals that our species will, both directly and indirectly, cause to become extinct). In the same vein, we know that there will be massive loss of human life due to various effects of global warming, including ones related to shrinking food production.

All considered, we are faced with a looming cataclysm that perhaps begins to move towards the scale of the Toba Tuff. While our travails are not entirely of human making, they, largely, ARE due to human behavior. This is because they are caused by our collective greed for ever more products, our reproductive patterns doubling the population nearly every thirty years, and the fact that certain resources (such as fossil fuels) have rigidly preset limits while others (such as marine life and trees) are being reduced too rapidly to sufficiently replenish themselves.

In the end, it matters not that, as a species, we are not programmed to react to danger unless it is immediate (rather than slowly evolving), dramatic and concrete (such as is a flood or fire), and in close proximity. It matters not that we deny the existence of global warming and would prefer to think about pleasant topics rather than those that cause discomfort and dismay. This is because, like it or not, the changes that humankind have created for the planet are happening, anyway, due to most people wanting ever more affluence and grander lifestyles, ever more progeny, and ever more personal wealth largely obtained from turning other species into wares. As such, Toba Tuff and other catastrophes give us a little glimpse (and warning) about just how bad life can get when climates radically alter.

This in mind, I wonder about whether whomever is left a hundred or so years from now. Will they wonder about the reason that our generation amused themselves with such questions as, “Should I buy Gucci or Prada shoes?” They, certainly, won’t be trying to select between taking an overseas vacation in Madrid or Tokyo. They might not even know what a jet or cruise liner is unless they go to a museum (that is, if there is any museum left and a way to get to it).

They, also, will likely see the ironic, contradictory folly of jetting in droves to the Great Barrier Reef to study the best way to save it from destruction caused by our large carbon footprint. Likewise, they will probably wonder as to the reason that we didn’t willingly cut back on population growth rather than let “nature” handle the problem for us through tragic and painful means.

Similarly, they will almost certainly be, to some degree, angry at us as our need for constant self-pampering and ever more babies led into the state of affairs that they will have inherited from us. At the same time, perhaps they will be the offspring of sets of individuals who, like the East African tribes of 74,000 years ago, were the most prone to cooperate, share and render mutual assistance rather than war over the last remaining resources in such predatory fashion as is now taking place in the Middle East and elsewhere located on the planet.

In any case, let us hope that they will learn better methods for conservation than our feeble attempts, feel more greatly protective of the natural world, and look at the wilderness as a necessity rather than as, primarily, a site to plunder. If not, they will have to learn all over the understandings that we are just now starting to know and it certainly will NOT be easier for them given the voluminous amount of the Earth that we, right here and now, are almost utterly destroying so as to turn it broken over to them as our legacy.

In the end, we, all of us, have to ask ourselves whether we wish to have more of everything (manufactured goods, vacation homes, holidays in far away locations and so on) in the short term or do we want to stretch out our use of resources to give the Earth a break to heal and to try to help ensure that future generations can more easily survive. Do we want a little inconvenience now or the formation of a whole lot of it down the road? (Surely if our forebears on the African plains could learn to live within their daunting limits, we can manage a little personal discomfort or irritation so as to generally improve life on Earth for all.)

Do we have a sufficient supply of self-control and compassion toward our unknown descendants to curb our boundless desire for ever more merchandise, petrol, electricity and offspring? Can we find some modicum of happiness within deliberately self-proscribed limits?

If not, it is almost inevitable that we will, eventually, wind up with far less people, inadequate energy sources and minimized per person consumption due to the mounting harm to our globe that we are now producing. … Our forebears had no choice but to deal with the effects of Toba Tuff. We, though, DO have a choice and it is a clear one with high stakes.

Thus, can we start changing immediately out of our growing recognition that it is absolutely essential that we do so? In the least, we owe it to the future generations to make a determined effort to cooperate together to create better methods to reduce our ecological damage! Literally, their lives depend on it!

Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA

  Read  The Times Ahead: Catastrophes, Resource Conflicts And Cooperation
  August 31, 2017
How Nothing Really Maters.

by Nivedita Dwivedi, in India, Countercurrents.org


After Tuesday’s deluge and many people staying indoors on Wednesday, due to state government advisories advising to do so, most of the people in Mumbai were back to work today. I too had to stay overnight in my office and reached back home on Wednesday morning. After staying at home yesterday, I came back to work today by the local harbor line train. Rains had stopped late night on Tuesday and on Wednesday, there was hardly any rain, most places in Mumbai experiencing a sunlit day. Still, on Thursday morning, as I reached my local railway station, there were unexpectedly huge crowds waiting on the station. I soon found out that two previous trains on harbor line had been cancelled and the train expected to start from the station in the reverse direction at 7.50 AM had not arrived even by 8.00 AM. It eventually did arrive and started back at around 8.10 AM, with twice or three times the regular number of passengers, because the previous trains had been cancelled and this train was itself running late. Throughout the 1 hour 10 minutes journey, as I was observing the mad rush of people, jostling for bare minimum space to at least stand on one foot, some questions kept on nagging me.

Why is it that almost 30-36 hours of no rains and hence, availability of ample recovery time, the trains services had still not normalized

Why is it that there was a complete absence of timely warnings about the impending heavy rains prior to Tuesday, so that people could have been warned well in advance, and could have stayed at home?

Why is it that all the advisories started pouring in only post noon on Tuesday, when the maximum damage had already been done, and the trains had already stopped functioning? How could the people stranded at workplaces be expected to reach back in such a scenario and of what use were these advisories then?

Why is it that there were predictions of continuous heavy rains for 24-48 hours after Tuesday, and then there was actually no or little rain recorded? Who is accountable for this absolutely off the mark forecast?

Why is it that the authorities are as helpless in handling the rainfalls in Mumbai, as they were in 2005? Why is it that the financial capital of the nation came to a standstill with only one-third the amount of rainfall that had fallen in 2005, and that too 12 years later? Who is accountable for these lost 12 years of no preparation to handle such a situation?

Why is it that the people of Mumbai had only each-other for their help and support, somehow trying to grapple with the crisis situation? Who is accountable for the non-existent disaster management system in a city which experiences 4-month long monsoons every year?

Many, I am sure would be struggling with innumerable questions like the above. These will be discussed in small groups among people for a couple of days, and then all will be forgotten, till the time another adverse situation knocks on the door. People will continue with their lives, putting up with whatever is thrown their way, occupied in the struggles of their day-to day existence. The authorities will be blamed for a day or two, and then narratives will slowly start shifting. We will slowly be told how well the situation was actually handled and if not for the same, how much worse it could have been. The same authorities who were being blamed and trolled will then be rewarded for their excellent work. The narratives will gradually be shifted, and we will not blink an eye, because we will be too busy in managing the affairs of our personal lives.

The process of shifting the narratives has already begun in case of the Panchkula riots. The very Chief Minister who was under the dock till yesterday, is slowly being tried to be portrayed as a hero, because had he not handled the situation so efficiently, the death toll could have been ten times what it was now.

Each one of us needs to seriously introspect today and ask ourselves, which direction are we all headed in? What is the kind of world that we want to create for ourselves? What is the kind of life that we want to provide to our future generations? Have we forgotten the meaning of the term ‘dignified life’? Are we ready to put up with anything and everything? If yes, then for how long do we expect such a kind of world to sustain itself? Or are we not bothered about this at all? Because in all probability, it might just sustain for the duration of our lifetimes. Is that what everything has been reduced to? Is that how dangerously selfish and apathetic the human race has become that it is incapable of thinking and feeling beyond oneself? If yes, then nothing really matters anymore.

Nivedita Dwivedi has done MA in Elementary Education from Tata Institute of Social Science.Blog at http://fromwordstovoid.blogspot.in

  Read How Nothing Really Maters
 September 3, 2017
Russia, US, Iran And Israel War For Syria.

by Franklin Lamb, in Imperialism, Countercurrents.org

Editor’s Note: The University of Oxford Interviews Professor Franklin Lamb about the Future of Syria. Interview conducted by graduate students from Oxford Universities Middle East Center, St Anthony’s College, UK. August, 2017. Franklin Lamb is Oxford University Research Fellow, Oxford, UK

Franklin Lamb is a Doctor of Philosophy in international law and is currently a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford, Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, Oxford England. Oxford University is one of the leading universities in the world, with a history dating back 1,000 years.

Professor Lamb has many years of experience on the ground in the Middle East. For over the past 6 years he was in Syria dedicating himself to, among other activities, the grass roots human rights group Meals for Syrian Refugee Children, Lebanon,

Dr. Lamb’s other major accomplishments have included his efforts to document and preserve for posterity Syrian endangered archeological sites and artifacts dating back over 7,000 years. His book on the subject is Syria’s Endangered Heritage: An International Responsibility to Protect and Preserve.

Franklin Lamb with 7 year-oldNagham, her hand wounded by aMadaya sniper
Image by Meals for Syrian Refugee Children)   

Question by Oxford University Interviewer: The Assad regime appears to be making significant territorial gains with Russian and Iranian help. Do you expect a reversal or will he stay in power?

Franklin Lamb: For the immediate future, yes, he will remain. Barring an alternative plan by Iran, it appears to me that he and his Baathist Alawi dominated regime will remain. Iran wants Assad in power for the time being so as to guarantee its Persian Gulf to Mediterranean Sea Shia crescent arm shipments to Hezbollah, real estate acquisitions, population transfers, and future control of Syria’s economic, security and military institutions and decision making apparatus.

According to Syrian and Russian military sources in Syria with whom I have discussed this subject at length, Iran has no plans to leave Syria. It plans to stay. Given growing fatigue by opposition supporters here in the region there is not much the West wants or can do about this reality short of another long-term war in this seemingly cursed region. There is also little that the Russians can do about this reality although they are increasingly unhappy about what they are witnessing from Tehran and its Shia militia across the region.

But reports that Western governments have decided that Assad will stay may be premature. One example is France where it appears to have returned to its original position which it held until last years that Bashar Assad “cannot be the solution.”  French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared this week that “We cannot build peace with Assad.  He cannot be the solution,” Le Drian insisted that “The solution is to establish… a timeline for political transition that can lead to a new constitution and real elections, and this transition cannot happen with Bashar al-Assad.”  Some western and other powers seem to believe that IS will soon be defeated in Syria leaving the country with a “single conflict, that of the civil war” pitting a more united opposition against the Assad government.

Question: How do you see the coming months unfolding in Syria? What shape are the rebels in?

Franklin Lamb:Relatively bad shape at the present it appears.  In the months and perhaps years ahead it appears to me that Syria’s current government will continue its recent expansion of its authority from Damascus.  Being strongly backed by Iran and Russia as both of these countries increasingly compete and position themselves to have major decision making authority once the fighting substantially ends. But major battles with countless civilian causalities loom in Idlib and DeirEzzor and asymmetrical and guerilla warfare by the opposition with continue.


The countries that backed the rebels and opposition backers are withdrawing their support due partly to the failure of opposition political leader’s to unite with respect to strategy and allocation of foreign weapons and financial resources. As I noted in reply to your previous question, donor countries have over the past two years experienced “squabbling fatigue.” Plus as the opposition appears to cooperate with extreme jihadist groups some supporters such as Jordan and the US equivocated and then pulled back.

With respect to Turkey an early strong supporter  of the opposition, their current single focus is to prevent the Syrian Kurds  from achieving any kind of autonomy and much less, statehood. After ISIS retreats from Raqqa and DeirEzzor, it’s a near certainty that Iranian militias including Hezbollah and other pro-regime forces will concentrate their firepower against the Kurds and will not respect the Rojava ceasefire. Turkey, a member of NATO will be ecstatic.  I predict that Washington will not use American troops to defend the Syrian Kurds against this Iranian led alliance.

The Kurds err if they think Washington will stick by them. The American public has had enough of foreign wars and we have plenty of our own domestic problems that urgently require fixing.

But nothing is confidently predictable these days in Syria and while much of the opposition appears to be throwing in the towel, some Russian sources are suggesting that Russia, in order to counter Iran’s plans to colonize Syria, will negotiate with Washington and the West a “peaceful exile for certain Syrian leaders with some kind of an amnesty thrown in.” At the moment, Washington appears willing to go along with the Russian proposal and that’s partly why the White House has cut off the rebels from previous US missiles and other weaponry.

Question: What is Israel likely to do about Iran’s apparent dominance in Syria?

Franklin Lamb:Perhaps due partly to his current domestic political vulnerabilities stemming from some apparently serious fraud charges, PM Netanyahu has been making increased threats that Israel with enter the war in Syria.  For example, a senior Israeli intelligence delegation made visits last month to Washington and Moscow and according to the Jerusalem Post,  Israel’s Prime Minister told Russia’s Putin that Israel was ready  to bomb the Presidential Palace in Damascus, and to disrupt  the Astana process, should Iran continue to ‘extend its reach in Syria’.

Apparently discussed also was the report that an Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia has seized control of some uranium mines in Africa and will supply the material to Iran. According to a claimed diplomatic letter from the Somalia Minister of Foreign Affairs signed the letter appealing to the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, Stephen Schwartz.  Israel claims that Iran works in several ways with ISIS for mutual benefits and partly to preserve its “we vs. the terrorists” tactic to justify its occupation of Syria.

Israel’s concern about Iranian presence in Syria is based on Iran having tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters from half a dozen countries who after the war will become Iran’s “Foreign Legion” in the region which Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah recently insisted will be available to fight with it against Israel during the next war.

Israel and some of its allies in the US Congress as well as AIPIC has recently claimed that Russia has stationed S-400 batteries near Hamas to protect an area where it’s claimed that Iran has built a long range guided missile factory to supply Hezbollah in Lebanon for use during its next war.

Hezbollah, which has already accumulated over 100,000 rockets, is now seeking to target specific strategic sites in Israel. To that end, it has been trying to obtain long-range guided missiles by smuggling them from Iran through Syria to Lebanon but Israel is thought to have destroyed most of the transfer convoys with loss of Iranian and Hezbollah lives. The Syria army reportedly refuses to help Iran with the transfers considering participation a death sentence.

Without doubt the increasing dominance of Iran in Syria has weakened Israel’s position.  So have Hezbollah’s deployments near its border.  The increased Russian air presence as well as its combat air operations and the new surface-to-air missile batteries the Russians have deployed in western Syria including at the Khmeimim airbase.

Question: The Trump Admiration according to Lebanon’s An Nahar this week announced that it was cutting off military aid to Lebanon. But the next day a senior U.S. general claimed that military aid to Lebanon would continue. What’s behind this?

Franklin Lamb:Certainly an arms cutoff would be a harsh unexpected blow for Lebanon which since 2005 has received nearly $ 1.5 billion in US military aid and for that country’s hopes of establishing a real army is shattered at least in the near term. For example, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) was expecting to receive two Super Tucano light attack aircraft in October with another two to follow in 2018 as well as the first batch of 32 M2 Bradley armored fighting vehicles. These shipments would have made Lebanon only the third country beside the US and Saudi Arabia to have and deploy them.

The Pentagon has also ordered the battlefield retrieval of approximately 50 of its latest model tanks some of which were deployed by the LAF the weekend of 8/26/2017. Other expected shipments of aircraft, drones, and even “missile proof “watchtowers will be stopped. Will the US insist that they be pulled from that battle field where some are presently deployed near the Lebanon-Syria border?

Briefly what is behind Washington stopping military aid to Lebanon’s army is that the State Department recommended cutting aid to Lebanon in 2018 but this was advanced because the US government does not believe Lebanon’s claims this week that the LAF did not coordinated its operations along the Lebanon-Syria border with Hezbollah and Syria’s armed forces. Washington has been dismayed by Lebanon’s agreement with Syria and Hezbollah to give free passage to Islamic State militants from Lebanon’s border region to enter Iraq.  Two days later the U.S-led coalition carried out air strikes to block Islamic State group fighters evacuated from Lebanon from reaching eastern Syria and entering Iraq.

To be blunt, while back in 2006 Washington believed the Lebanese government and its armed forces could be a counter weight to the rise of the Iranian backed Hezbollah but they admit they erred.  Washington believes that Lebanon has essentially lost its sovereignty and that Iran through Hezbollah, which it created, arms and funds and now occupies Lebanon. Whatever Iran’s wants from Lebanon’s 28 ministries, Hezbollah will use its political power to obtain.

The same goes for Lebanon’s army which, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Israeli lobby and many in Congress consider Lebanon’s army, as does Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman merely a “subsidiary unit of Hezbollah.”

Moreover, Members of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees claim that Iran now views Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon  the same and that Tehran has essentially colonized all three countries and has no intension of  withdrawing any of them.  It remains to be seen what becomes of future US military aid to Iraq.

Question: Is there reason for optimism that the post-war government in Syria will allow the development of local autonomy as well as the formation of an active empowered civil society along with local administration and decentralization?

Franklin Lamb:As you can imagine it depends entirely on the make-up of Syria’s post-war government and to what extent Syria’s Arab Baath Socialist Party, assuming it is still in power, will allow it.

My personal sense is that significant decentralization is unlikely in Syria given the nature of Baathism in the region. At the core of Ba’athist ideology is the creation of one party strong central security states. I do not anticipate substantive changes in the elements of the security state?  That does not allow for much democratic opposition.  The thtee countries which have been governed by Baathist regimes, Iraq, Syria and Algeria, have in the main rejected political pluralism while advocating an unspecified amount of time for the Ba’athist government to develop an enlightened Arabic society. Moreover, to date the Syrian government has made consistent efforts to limit civilian governance structures in the suburbs of Damascus including Jobar and East Ghouta.

Even though Russia’s President Putin claims it will happen, and it has yet to be experienced significantly in Russia itself, I am personally dubious that effective decentralization will be achieved.

Unless there is a new post-war civil rights struggle that succeeds, I believe it is unlikely that Syria will witness meaningful decentralization, less a vibrant social society or the granting of effective local autonomy. I may be very mistaken but to date and given current trends, I do not see probative evidence that broad-based local decentralizationor federalism will happen in Syria anytime soon.

Question: What is your view of the Russian promoted “de-escalation zones” as a way to end the war in Syria?

Franklin Lamb:Contrary to some political hype by Russia and Iran, they are not effective and very likely will not be.

The four zones are set up in the largely rebel controlled areas of Deraa and Coneitra along the Jordan border in South Syria,  Idlib province, including the northeastern areas of Latakia province, western areas of Aleppo province and northern areas of Hama province. Also the Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in northern Homs province and the fourth is in Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside.

These “de-escalation zones” are a political tactic to pressure the rebels into concessions—a  tacticalslight of hand if you will. The zones are violated constantly whenever a military advantage sought. The three ‘guarantors’ Turkey, Iran and Russia have ignored violations. Iran has no incentive to back any ceasefires, and the war has brought Iran and Syria’s leadership closer.  These four areas in my opinion will surely be attacked and bombarded again when resources become available and a military advantage appears achievable.

Although the de-escalation zones in Syria are also intended to bring about a cessation of hostilities and restore a sense of normalcy to the country, they lack a protective framework.The Syrian government was to allow “unhindered” humanitarian aid into rebel-held areas, and public services such as electricity and water were to be restored where they have been cut off.

For example, the agreement declares and assumes that the hostilities between the Syrian regime and rebels will end within these zones. But this has not happened as claimed and is unlikely to given that certain armed opposition groups have not agreed and this is a major stumbling block as well have seen with past agreements.  The three “guarantors” claim the right to fight rebels from both ISIS and Al-Qaeda within and outside the de-escalation zones.

Question:  Given the many reports and extensive documentation of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria do you anticipate that someday the victims will achieve any justice? And that the main perpetrators will be held accountable?

Franklin Lamb:I am inclined to believe that there eventually will be an Independent International Tribunal as a result of the nearly seven years of crimes against civilians that we continue to witness in Syria. But whatever justice is eventually achieved will likely to be a long time coming and miniscule given the scope of the crimes.

Not since World War II has there been so much complete disregard for humanity as well as   violations of international humanitarian law, such as the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which were specifically designed to protect the half million killed in Syria, the 11 million displaced and the 6 million forced from Syria into other countries as refugees.

A former Syrian government photographer known as Caesar, who was tasked with documenting victims, released 28,000 photos of deaths which showed mutilated bodies and malnourished individuals. Several other in depth judicial investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity have been published relating to the use of deadly gas against civilians, summary executions, torture, forced disappearances, rapes, torture and killings of women and children imprisoned without trial.  Tens of Thousands of documents and testimonies are being preserved by more than a dozen humanitarian organizations as they prepare cases against both sides in the civil war in Syria.

Unless there is an international amnesty, similar to the one in Lebanon following its civil war that exonerated many war criminals, presumably sponsored by Russia and Iran to protect certain allies, some of the accused in Syria will eventually be arrested or tired in abstentia and held criminally responsible.

Franklin Lamb can be reached c/o franklin.lamb@hmc.ox.ac.uk or fplamb@gmail.com

Please visit:http://mealsforsyrianrefugeechildrenlebanon.com

  Read Russia, US, Iran And Israel War For Syria
  September 3, 2017
For The Love Of Earth.

by David Korten, in Counter Solutions,Countercurrents.org


On July 9, New York magazine published “The Uninhabitable Earth,” a worst-case climate change scenario suggesting that our current human course may produce an unlivable future for Earth. A burst of media commentary and controversy followed, and it quickly became the most-read article in the magazine’s history.

I’m often struck in conversations with friends and colleagues by the number who feel that humans may not have a future. They are comforted, however, by the thought that Earth will ultimately recover. This response suggests that in some deep sense, our love for Earth may exceed our love and concern for our own species. Perhaps we consider our fate a fitting punishment for the sins that we, in our anthropocentric arrogance, have committed against one another and the Earth that birthed and nurtures us.

No one knows for certain the outcome of human-caused climate disruption and accelerating depletion of Earth’s fertile soils, freshwater supplies, forests, and fisheries. Nor can we be certain of the causes and consequences of deadly new infectious diseases,declining human sperm counts, and Earth’s release of methane from the melting permafrost.

We are coming to understand that Earth is a living superorganism that self-organizes to create and maintain the conditions essential to its own vitality—and our human existence. Human activity, however, is disrupting living Earth’s regenerative system. We are destabilizing the climate through the release of sequestered carbons; disrupting natural habitats through ocean acidification and temperature changedestroying natural forest andgrassland habitats; and depleting, degrading, and contaminating soils and sources of fresh water on which all species depend. This in turn drives species extinction and renders growing areas of Earth uninhabitable.

I recently read Clive Hamilton’s book Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the AnthropoceneHamilton notes that as humans have become like an invasive species, Earth has begun to respond as living organisms do: rejecting the invader. He goes on to suggest that humans may be disrupting Earth’s living systems beyond her capacity for self-healing. More startling—but equally plausible—is Hamilton’s suggestion that Earth’s survival as a living organism may depend on humans transitioning from our role as Earth exploiters to a role as facilitators of Earth healing.

Herein lies a potentially game-changing insight. Earth has recovered before from extreme shocks and mass extinctions, but there is no guarantee. Earth may now need us as much as we need her.

Begin with a recognition that Earth is breathtakingly special. Among the now estimated 2 trillion galaxies in the universe, scientists have yet to identify another planet with the water, soils, atmosphere, and climate required to sustain complex life. Earth may be a unique miracle in the vastness of creation.

I find it impossible to acknowledge Earth’s distinctive beauty and wonder without being overwhelmed by unbearable grief and despair at what humans—in our anthropocentric arrogance—have done to her. Our actions represent a breach of cosmic proportion in our human responsibility to creation and Earth.

As individuals, most humans regularly demonstrate an extraordinary capacity for love and caring—sometimes to the extent of sacrificing our own lives for others. This for me demonstrates the positive potential of our nature.

As societies, however, we have demonstrated an extraordinary capacity for violence and mutual oppression at the expense of both ourselves and Earth. It appears our nature is defined by neither love nor violence, but rather by our ability to choose between sharply contrasting and deeply conflicting paths. We exercise that choice both as individuals and, through our culture and institutions, as a global species.

Disgusted by our long history of violence and abuse against one another and Earth, we humans seem ready to abandon hope for ourselves. But what of our Earth mother? Might our love for her hold the key both to her salvation and to ours? Might we, by willful choice, transition from Earth exploiters to Earth healers? If we recognize Earth’s uniqueness, her need for our help, and our responsibility to respond, might we unite in common cause? Might we muster sufficient commitment to serve as loving healers to two of creation’s most extraordinary miracles—a living planet of spectacular beauty and a species with a unique capacity for conscious choice?

  Read For The Love Of Earth
  September 4, 2017
Climate Breakdown.

by Kevin Zeese, and Margaret Flowers, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org


Co-Written by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

Climate breakdown, as George Monbiot calls it, is happening before our eyes at the same time the science on climate change grows stronger and has wider acceptance. Hurricane Harvey, which struck at the center of the petroleum industry – the heart of climate denialism – provided a glimpse of the new normal of climate crisis-induced events. In Asia, this week the climate message was even stronger where at least 1,200 people died and 41 million were impacted. By 2050, one billion people could be displaced by climate crises.

Climate disasters demonstrate the immense failure of government at all levels. The world has known about the likely disastrous impacts of climate change for decades. Next year will be the thirtieth anniversary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which  operates under the auspices of the United Nations and was founded in 1988. The IPCC published the first of five reports in 1990. Thousands of scientists and other experts write and review the reports and 120 countries participate in the process. The most common surprises in successive reports are more rapid temperature increases and greater impacts than scientists had predicted.

Climate Science is real protest

We can No Longer Ignore the Science and the Evidence Before Us

The science on climate change has become extremely strong as the final draft of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Climate Science Special Report showed. The document was leaked last month because scientists feared the Trump administration would amend, suppress or destroy it. The report describes overwhelming evidence of man-made climate change impacting us right now and the urgent need to get to zero net carbon emissions.

It is not just science that confirms the climate crisis, it is also people’s experience with extreme weatherconstant record breaking temperatures, and deadly heat waves as well as collapsing mountains in Alaska, the shrinking Colorado River and an ice free Arctic as a few examples. People have experienced a series of extreme storms – Hurricanes Harvey, Katrina and Sandy being the most notable this century –droughts, fires and other physical evidence that make it hard to deny climate catastrophe. Climate denialism requires shutting one’s eyes to obvious realities when the truth is the Earth is warmer than it has been in 120,000 years.

There is no doubt that these storms are made more deadly by climate change. Harvey was a tropical storm until it went over the warm Gulf of Mexico and grew into a hurricane with record rainfall. Climate expert Michael Mann explains that warmer water resulted in greater moisture being absorbed, more rain and more flooding. Sea level rise added to the greater flooding. The stalling of the storm over Houston was also predicted by climate forecasters because the jet stream pattern has changed. Climate change had the same effects on Hurricane Sandy in New York City.

Science is denied because many profit from the dirty energy status quo and denying or even hiding the existence of climate change. There is litigation against oil and gas companies and an SEC investgation because records show they knew their products were causing climate change going back to the 70s but funded research to hide reality.  ExxonMobil is being sued by shareholders for misleading investors and faces shareholder challengesCoastal communities are suing dozens of oil and gas companies for continuing to pollute after they knew the damage they were doing. Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, now the Secretary of State, used a fake email account to discuss climate change and many of those emails are now missing. Youth suing over the destruction of their environment and climate change are seeking Tillerson’s testimony and emails. There are many climate criminals to point to with the dirty energy companies at the top of the list. There are 100 companies responsible for 71 percent of green house gas emissions. Good government would hold them responsible.

Climate protesters outside of White House. Photo by Susan Walsh for AP.

Historic Failure of Government

The three decade life of the IPCC has coincided with deep corruption of government by the energy industry, sprawl developers and other dirty energy profiteers. The anti-science movement in the United States, which includes government officials, industry and others who deny climate change exists, provides cover for elected officials to do nothing or act inadequately on the urgent reality of climate chaos so that corporations continue to threaten the planet.

The United States elected a climate denier, Donald Trump, who describes climate change as a hoax and has appointed officials who are complicit in denying climate change, closely tied to polluting industries and favor policies that result in climate breakdown, and many of whom were part of the misinformation network on climate. Trump has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement, putting the US out of step with the world on the issue. The Trump administration has sought to hide evidence of climate change, but people have been sharing climate documents with other governments and scientific groups before he hid them. Thirteen cities joined together to publish Trump-deleted climate data. Trump has conducted a witch hunt against believers in climate change. These actions have resulted in the unusual step of climate scientists protesting the Trump administration.

But, even presidents who recognize climate change reality have not taken action to confront it.  Unlike Trump, President Obama played a more hidden hand in his undermining of climate policy. His energy strategy favored “all of the above” energy including oil and gas and his office approved carbon infrastructure and off-shore drilling. Obama showed dirty energy extraction is a bi-partisan concern, as Alison Rose Levy clearly reminds us. Obama undermined the 2009 Copenhagen climate accord and weakened the Paris agreement. He was preceded by the marinated in oil Bush-Cheney administration. Those two administrations wasted 16 years of critical time to respond to climate change.

Federal decisions had local impacts as can be seen in Houston, the fourth largest city. The federal government inadequately regulated superfund sites, pollution from oil refineries and chemical plants in the area. These were all part of “Cancer Alley” or the “Chemical Coast” – names used to describe the petrochemical capital of the United States. When flooding came, so did disaster in these areas. A  1.5 mile radius around one chemical plant had to be evacuated and toxic waste sites flooded.  Of course, the environmental racism that led to these dangerous polluters being put in poor neighborhoods, usually communities of color, is now resulting in massive pollution in those areas and will cause health problems.

But inadequate response to climate change often includes state and local governments (some states and cities are taking positive steps). Texas is an example of decades of failed government as it has taken no action to adapt to climate change over the last three decades. Bills were introduced to do so but the legislature failed to act. Why? Because the laws included the words “climate change,” e.g. calling for a “climate change vulnerability assessment” and were perceived as a threat to the oil and gas industry.

The metropolitan area of Houston contains 6.5 million people over urban sprawl the size of New Jersey. Zoning regulations allowed for unregulated growth, even in areas prone to flooding, creating a large population on a flood plain. The area has had a long relationship with the petrochemical industry which has been able to get its way, but being business friendly to the industry is going to become very costly. The city is sinking at 2.2 inches a year in large part because of oil and water being pumped from under it.

The failure to act on climate for the last three decades also means that government will spend more as each crisis has multi-hundred million or even multi-billion dollar costs. In addition, people today are leaving a bill of hundreds of trillions of dollars to future generations. It would be much less expensive if government acted responsibly and put in place infrastructure and technology to adapt to climate change as well as to ameliorate it now. The disaster in Houston is an opportunity to make those changes.

The historic failure of government action on climate change shows a fatal flaw in a representative democracy that is based on the corruption of big business money and serves the corporate interests who profit from the flawed status quo.

Climate change is big the movement needs to be bigger

People Rise to the Challenge

Throughout much of this history, particularly in the 21st Century, people have been challenging the dominance of the oil, gas and coal industries and pushing government to confront climate change.

Even before Trump came into office, there were massive protests during the Obama administration against the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline and other carbon infrastructure throughout the country.  People protested the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is an arm of the oil and gas industry disguised as a federal agency. Obama’s FERC commissioners were a rubber stamp for the industry, now, Trump’s FERC continues the practice.

People were escalating actions during the Obama era saying the time for direct action on climate change is now. Protests were on an upswing before Trump was elected. Last September, Bill McKibben recalculated the climate math showing how time was running out.

From the first day of the Trump administration people were taking action. Climate activists blockaded Trump’s inauguration making it more difficult for people to attend. In addition to protests against specific carbon energy products, people mobilized for #DayAgainstDenial Protests across U.S. to call attention to climate change.

People pushed businesses and local governments to pledge to reduce carbon emissions resulting in over 1,400 U.S. cities, states and businesses vowing to meet Paris climate commitments.  Last week, nine eastern states jointly agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent more than their previous target.

There is widespread climate change action, which is ‘unstoppable’ despite Trump’s policies. In fact, Trump’s presidency may be leading to an escalation in movement action as people know we can no longer hope to win by simply voting or speaking out. People are showing they are willing to risk going to jail for a livable future. And, we have begun to see cases where juries are not willing to convict people for climate change protests.

Climate change affects each of us and is an issue that unites us. When crisis hits, we need to act as a community in mutual aid of each other. Those community relationships can be built now so we are ready in times of crisis.

The only way we can mitigate and adapt to climate breakdown is by working together toward the common goals of reducing our carbon footprint, moving to a net zero carbon energy economy as soon as possible and putting in place the infrastructure needed to adapt to the climate crisis.

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers are directors of  www.PopularResistance.org

  Read Climate Breakdown
  August 10, 2017
Climate Doom and Gloom? Bring It On—but We Need Stories About Taking Action, Too.

by Jon Christensen, The Conversation, AlterNet


There’s been no shortage of pessimistic news on climate change lately. A group of climate scientists and policy experts recently declared that we have just three years left to dramatically turn around carbon emissions, or else. Meanwhile a widely circulated New York magazine article detailed some of the most catastrophic possible consequences of climate change this century if we continue with business as usual.

Critics pounced on the article, claiming gloom-and-doom messages are disempowering and thus counterproductive.

But are they? And is there a better way to communicate to people about the urgency of climate change? In a somewhat unorthodox way – creating a mini-series of videos on climate change – my colleagues and I think we’ve gained some insight into these questions.

Communications: Art and science

Naysayers to negative messaging miss an important function of this kind of apocalyptic thinking. It is useful in forcing us to imagine ourselves as the people who allowed a future we don’t want to come about. In California, for example, Governor Jerry Brown has been a master of highlighting the existential threat of climate change. But his real genius has been linking that dystopian vision to what needs to be done to prevent it from becoming real. I call this approach “the California way: sunny with a chance of apocalypse.”

Cover art of widely circulated article that focused on the worst possible effects of climate change. New York Magazine

Dystopian visions are easy to conjure these days; they come with scientific probabilities. The second part of that communication strategy – making a compelling connection to how we can act, individually and collectively, to avoid the worst consequences of climate change when so much of our lives depend on fossil fuels – is the really hard part.

To learn more about this challenge, we recently conducted a kind of real-life experiment in the art and science of climate communication with “Climate Lab,” a series of six short, popular videos created by the University of California with Vox.

News you can use: a story about reducing food waste can motivate people to take action on climate change.

The series, which has had more than five million views and created a robust online discussion, grew out of a peer-reviewed report co-authored by 50 UC researchers entitled “Bending the Curve: Ten Scalable Solutions for Carbon Neutrality and Climate Stability.” I was the senior editor, and we worked hard to make the executive summary a tool for communicating what needs to be done to get to carbon neutrality by midcentury. We wanted it to be used by UC President Janet Napolitano (who has pledged that the UC system will be carbon neutral by 2025), Governor Brown, the Vatican, and other important players at the Paris climate summit. And it was.

But we knew we had to do something different to reach a wider audience. One of the chapters in our report reviewed the state of research on climate communication, which over the past couple of decades has taught us a lot about what doesn’t work. We don’t know as much about what does work, but we’re beginning to pull some guidelines from research. So we created a series guided by what we know to see what we could learn.

What do we know from the literature?

  • Facts are not enough. This is not say that facts are not important. They are. But you can try to pump as many facts as you want into people’s minds and it won’t necessarily change their opinions, let alone motivate action.

  • Frames, narratives and values matter. People easily incorporate new facts into their existing frames (the ways they see the world), narratives (the stories they tell about themselves and the world) and values (their beliefs about right and wrong and what matters to them). Or they can simply ignore facts that don’t fit.

  • Know thy audience. There are “six Americas” spread across the spectrum from alarmed to dismissive when it comes to climate change. Trying to change the minds of the dismissive is a waste of time. But the rest are potentially movable, from the concerned, to the cautious, disengaged and even doubtful. Seventy-four percent of Americans are in those middle four categories. And, yes, I include the doubtful among potentially movable audiences. Isn’t science supposed to be about doubt?

    Bring people into the story of science and stimulate their curiosity. There is intriguing evidence in science communication research that invoking people’s curiosity, by bringing people into the scientific process, with all of its uncertainties, can move more people to embrace science than just presenting them with the findings. This is captured in a popular meme in science communication circles: Numbers numb and stories stick.

  • Messengers matter. Doctors and scientists are trusted more than journalists and politicians. Religious leaders are trusted by their flocks. People trust people who share their frames, narratives and values. This contributes to the echo chambers we tend to live in. But it’s a fact of life communicators need to understand.

  • Create positive instead of negative spillover. One of the cautionary findings of climate communication research is that people can easily convince themselves that they’ve done enough (such as recycle) and don’t have to do more (such as support a carbon tax). This is a negative spillover effect. But positive spillovers happen, too, especially when people incorporate actions into their identities and think, “I’m the kind of person who drives a hybrid and believes we need to take collective action, too.”

A real-life experiment in making connections

For “Climate Lab,” we wanted an approachable, even fun and humorous, trusted messenger who would appeal to diverse audiences. We found one in M. Sanjayan, the chief scientist and now CEO of Conservation International, who is also a senior researcher in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. Sanjayan has lots of TV experience (PBS, BBC, National Geographic). And he was eager to try something different.

M. Sanjayan discussed advances in nuclear energy at UC Berkeley for the climate series. Some research shows that piquing people’s curiosity about science is one way to get them to inform themselves about scientific topics. UCLA, CC BY

Working with the UC Office of the President’s creative communications team and a professional video production crew in close collaboration with Vox, we produced six very different videos, unified by a look and feel, slick production values, great graphics, narrative arcs and Sanjayan’s friendly, inviting, quizzical approach.

The subjects ranged from why people are so bad at thinking about climate change to the impacts of our consumer habits, the footprint and fate of our cellphones, food waste as a huge contributor to greenhouse gases, the past and possible future of nuclear power and the importance of diverse messengers, from the pope to a Tea Party member concerned about climate.

I recently conducted an analysis of the reception for these different stories and came away with a few conclusions that reinforce what we’ve learned from the literature, and give us direction for future episodes in the series.

All the stories topped half a million views and generated surprisingly on-point conversations in the comments sections. Well, mostly on-point.

But the three stories that were most popular, those that got the most views and generated the most engagement (thumbs-up and commenting), shared some important characteristics:

  • The stories connected individual actions to collective actions.
  • They showed agency – people taking action.
  • They modeled a positive spillover effect.

These three stories were about why we need to be nudged to think about climate and like to compete to be greener than others, how we can reduce consumer waste individually and collectively, and how simple solutions can lead to big reductions in wasted food.

Two geeky, techie episodes on cellphones and nuclear energy didn’t do quite as well by these measures. And though it was my favorite, the one meta story about the importance of messengers did the least well.

This tells me that people respond well to two things: stories about what they can do, and how they can be part of a broader effective change. And those two things need to be connected.

We’re going to continue to experiment with “Climate Lab” – we’re also creating a real online class for undergraduates which we hope will be used in other universities as well – until we get where we need to be locally and globally: carbon neutrality with a stabilizing climate by midcentury.

The ConversationSo, by all means, let’s talk about how urgent action is, and imagine the worst results of not acting, but let’s be sure to tell stories that lower the barrier to taking action, too, individually and collectively.

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

Jon Christensen is Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the Department of History, and the Center for Digital Humanities, University of California, Los Angeles.

  Read Climate Doom and Gloom? Bring It On—but We Need Stories About Taking Action, Too
  August 18, 2017
The Escalating Use of Pesticides Is Harming Already Imperiled Aquatic Invertebrates.

by Center for Biological Diversity , AlterNet


A new analysis published this month by U.S. Geological Survey scientists found pesticides at high enough concentrations to harm already imperiled aquatic invertebrates in more than half of 100 streams studied in the Midwest and Great Plains. The pesticide levels threaten species like the Hine's emerald dragonfly and the sheepnose mussel.

The U.S. Geological Survey study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found an average of 54 pesticides in each stream in both agricultural and urban areas, spotlighting the ever-broadening contamination of waterways caused by the nation's escalating use of pesticides.

"This study exposes the hidden harm of our increasing addiction to pesticides," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "When we see pesticides doing this kind of widespread harm to aquatic animals, we can be sure it has dangerous cascading effects on the entire web of life, including humans."

The analysis of 228 pesticide compounds in 100 streams over a 14-week period in 2013 documented the most complex pesticide mixtures yet reported in U.S. water samples. The waterways included in the study are in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Surprising among the findings was that the concentrations and incidences of some pesticides, including glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup—imidacloprid and 2,4-D, were higher in urban waterways than in agricultural settings.

At least one pesticide in more than half of the 100 streams sampled in the Midwest exceeded a toxicity threshold predicted to cause harm to aquatic insects and other stream organisms, ranging from acute effects in 12 streams to chronic effects in 41 streams. (image: USGS)

"The finding that many of these pesticides are more prevalent in urban waterways than in rural streams shows the escalating risks of dumping millions of pounds of chemicals on the landscape every year," said Donley. "We simply can't keep pretending it's safe to spray more and more poisons on our fields, gardens and waterways."

The analysis comes as a federal court in California is considering a lawsuit filed by conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, urging common-sense measures to prevent dangerous pesticides from harming endangered species like California condors, black-footed ferrets, arroyo toads, Indiana bats and Alabama sturgeon. Evaluations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clearly show that imperiled wildlife continue to be threatened by pesticides.

The study is the first of five regional assessments by U.S. Geological Survey scientists of pesticide pollution of streams. The others regions are the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast and California.

  Read  The Escalating Use of Pesticides Is Harming Already Imperiled Aquatic Invertebrates
  August 11, 2017
Even a 'Minor' Nuclear War Would Be an Ecological Disaster Felt Throughout the World

by David McCoy, The Conversation, AlterNet


President Donald Trump’s vow to hit North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” is an unveiled threat to unleash America’s most potent weapons of mass destruction onto the Korean peninsula. According to many defence analysts, the risk of nuclear confrontation over Europe and the Indian subcontinent has also increased in recent years.

The Conversation

In a more hopeful turn of events, 122 countries voted in June to adopt the United Nations Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons in New York. The “ban treaty” will make nuclear weapons illegal for ratifying countries, and many see it as an opportunity to kick start a renewed effort towards multilateral disarmament. Supporters of the treaty argue that even a limited, regional nuclear war would produce a catastrophic and global humanitarian crisis.

Equally, other analysts suggest that the reality is not as severe as is often depicted. In March this year, Matthias Eken, a researcher of attitudes towards nuclear weapons, wrote in The Conversation that their destructive power “has been vastly exaggerated” and that one should avoid overusing “doomsday scenarios and apocalyptic language”.

Eken argued that nuclear weapons are not as powerful as often described, on the basis that a 9 megaton thermonuclear warhead dropped over the state of Arkansas would only destroy 0.2% of the state’s surface area. He also observed that more than 2,000 nuclear detonations have been made on the planet without having ended human civilisation, and argued that if we want to mitigate the risk posed by nuclear weapons, we must not exaggerate those risks.

Eken’s sanguine approach towards nuclear weapons stands in contrast to the more dramatic rhetoric of global humanitarian catastrophe and existential threats to humanity. So what is the basis for the latter?

Nuclear war is also a war on the environment

The greatest concern derives from relatively new research which has modelled the indirect effects of nuclear detonations on the environment and climate. The most-studied scenario is a limited regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, involving 100 Hiroshima-sized warheads (small by modern standards) detonated mostly over urban areas. Many analysts suggest that this is a plausible scenario in the event of an all-out war between the two states, whose combined arsenals amount to more than 220 nuclear warheads.

In this event, an estimated 20m people could die within a week from the direct effects of the explosions, fire, and local radiation. That alone is catastrophic – more deaths than in the entire of World War I.

But nuclear explosions are also extremely likely to ignite fires over a large area, which coalesce and inject large volumes of soot and debris into the stratosphere. In the India-Pakistan scenario, up to 6.5m tonnes of soot could be thrown up into the upper atmosphere, blocking out the sun and causing a significant drop in average surface temperature and precipitation across the globe, with effects that could last for more than a decade.

This ecological disruption would, in turn, badly affect global food production. According to one study, maize production in the US (the world’s largest producer) would decline by an average by 12% over ten years in our given scenario. In China, middle season rice would fall by 17% over a decade, maize by 16%, and winter wheat by 31%. With total world grain reserves amounting to less than 100 days of global consumption, such effects would place an estimated 2 billion people at risk of famine.

Although a nuclear conflict involving North Korea and the US would be smaller, given Pyongyang’s limited arsenal, many people would still die and ecological damage would severely affect global public health for years. Additionally, any nuclear conflict between the US and North Korea is likely to increase the risk of nuclear confrontation involving other states and other regions of the world.

It gets worse

A large-scale nuclear war between the US and Russia would be far worse. Most Russian and US weapons are 10 to 50 times stronger than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima. In a war involving the use of the two nations’ strategic nuclear weapons (those intended to be used away from battlefield, aimed at infrastructure or cities), some 150m tonnes of soot could be lofted into the upper atmosphere. This would reduce global temperatures by 8°C – the “nuclear winter” scenario. Under these conditions, food production would stop and the vast majority of the human race is likely to starve.

Eken suggests that both the scenarios of a limited regional nuclear conflict and an all-out war between US and Russia are unlikely. He may be right. However, both scenarios are possible, even if we can’t reliably quantify the risk. Continued adversarial rhetoric from both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un about the use of nuclear weapons is not making this possibility any smaller.

What we can say, is that the doctrine of nuclear deterrence represents a high-risk gamble. Nuclear weapons do not keep us safe from acts of terrorism, nor can they be used to fight sea level rise, extreme weather, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss or antimicrobial resistance.

This is why so many medical and public health organisations have been campaigning to make nuclear weapons illegal. Regardless of how many need to be exploded to cause a catastrophe or produce an existential threat to humanity, and regardless of the risk of this happening, the adage that “prevention is the best cure” remains the case when it comes to these abhorrent and dangerous weapons.

Research papers and discussions on the public health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons will be part of the Health Through Peace 2017 conference at the University of York in September.

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

David McCoy is a professor of global public health at Queen Mary University of London.

  Read Even a 'Minor' Nuclear War Would Be an Ecological Disaster Felt Throughout the World
  August 17, 2017
U.S. Wind and Solar Boom Helped Prevent 12,700 Deaths in a Single Year.

by Lorraine Chow , EcoWatch, AlterNet


A new study from the University of California, Berkeley gives us further reason to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

According to the research, the U.S. wind and solar power boom helped prevent the premature deaths of thousands of people and saved the country billions of dollars in healthcare and climate-related costs in a single year.

"We find cumulative wind and solar air-quality benefits of 2015 US $29.7–112.8 billion mostly from 3,000 to 12,700 avoided premature mortalities," according to the paper authored by Dev Millstein of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and his team. The research was sponsored by the Department of Energy and published in the journal Nature Energy.

Unregulated and poorly regulated energy production and use, as well as inefficient fuel combustion, are the "most important man-made sources of key air pollutant emissions," a 2016 International Energy Agency study found. Eighty-five percent of particulate matter—which can contain acids, metals, soil and dust particles, and almost all sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides can be linked back to those sources.

Unhealthful levels of air pollution can put people at risk for premature death and other serious health effects like lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. But unlike fossil fuels, wind and solar power systems have no associated air pollution emissions.

As the Independent noted from the current study, major air pollutants have declined between 2007 and 2015. Carbon dioxide fell by 20 percent, sulphur dioxide by 72 percent, nitrogen oxide by 50 percent and tiny particles known as PM2.5 by 46 percent.

This decline is due to fossil fuels being replaced by renewable energy—solar and wind capacity increased from about 10 gigawatts in 2007 to roughly 100GW in 2015—as well as tougher emissions regulations.

The study also estimated that wind and solar contributed to the "cumulative climate benefits of 2015 US $5.3–106.8 billion," which includes "changes to agricultural productivity, energy use, losses from disasters such as floods, human health and general ecosystem services."

"The ranges span results across a suite of air-quality and health impact models and social cost of carbon estimates," the study added. "We find that binding cap-and-trade pollutant markets may reduce these cumulative benefits by up to 16 percent."


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

  Read  U.S. Wind and Solar Boom Helped Prevent 12,700 Deaths in a Single Year
  August 17, 2017
Neonics Harm Bees, Poison Drinking Water and Don't Improve Crop Yield: Why Aren't We Banning Them?

by Lucy Goodchild van Hilten, AlterNet


It’s no secret that neonicotinoids can harm bees and other insects—they’re designed to kill pests, after all. But an increasing body of evidence is uncovering just how serious an impact these pesticides are having on the environment.

Several new studies seem to have put the nail in the coffin for neonicotinoids, showing that they harm bees and don’t even improve crop yields. And worryingly, scientists at the University of Iowa have found traces of the pesticides in drinking water for the first time. So should we be alarmed? And why haven’t the chemicals been banned?

Neonicotiniods—or neonics—have been a go-to bug buster for many years; they were developed in the 1980s and '90s as a more environmentally “friendly” alternative to traditional insecticides. Rather than having to spray the chemicals over crops, the seeds are coated, supposedly protecting the plants from being eaten by insects during germination and early growth.

Even though farmers use relatively small amounts of the chemicals, they are still leaching into the environment. According to Prof. Nigel Raine, the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation at the University of Guelph in Canada, almost all of the chemical ends up in the environment. “I've seen estimates of as little as 2 to 20 percent of the treatment going into the actual crop,” he said. “So if you've got potentially 98 percent of that active ingredient going into the soil and the water, that is a concern. If the pesticide is not doing its job where it should be, what impact is that having?”

In a new study in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, scientists found three common neonics in Iowa City’s drinking water: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. It turns out the pesticides can withstand the standard water treatment process: The team found traces of the chemicals at concentrations of 0.24 to 57.3 nanograms per liter.

That’s low—the equivalent of a drop of liquid in 20 Olympic-sized pools—but there’s currently no defined safe level, and it’s difficult to know what the significance is. “Having these types of compounds present in water does have the potential to be concerning,” said study author Gregory LeFevre to the Washington Post, “but we don’t really know, at this point, what these levels might be.”

A mountain of research

Although there were calls to evaluate neonics shortly after their introduction, it wasn’t until the mass decline in honeybee populations in 2006 that concern properly set in. Dubbed colony collapse disorder, the phenomenon wiped out millions of bees across North America, with beekeepers waking up to find piles of dead bees in and around their hives.

A landmark 2015 study showed that neonics harm queen honeybees, and a raft of research in other pollinators has built on this, revealing that the chemicals impair flight, reduce egg development and cause bees to hatch smaller.

Two new studies give a wider view on this. In the first, scientists carried out some large-scale field experiments in the U.K., Hungary and Germany that showed the pesticides have a negative effect on honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees. In their paper, the researchers conclude that neonics may cause “a reduced capacity of bee species to establish new populations in the year following exposure.” On the same day, Canadian scientists published “realistic” research showing that “neonicotinoids increased [honeybee] worker mortality and were associated with declined in social immunity and increased queenlessness over time.”

Corporate controversy

Unfortunately, the stark polarization on the issue—namely the agrichemicals industry supporting neonics on one side and the environmentalists pushing for a ban on the other—is making it difficult to see what’s really happening.

The companies producing the pesticides—the three biggest being Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and Monsanto—have all at one time committed to funding research into the declining bee population problem, and one of the new studies was industry funded. According to The Economist, Bayer and Syngenta are saying the latest results “don’t warrant a ban on the chemicals.”

It’s easy to see big bad corporations on one side and innocent bees on the other, but in reality, the issue is much less clear—and there is still a lot we don’t know. “Everybody has a particular agenda—industry, environmental groups, the media—but it should always be about what the data is telling us,” said Ryan Prosser, assistant professor of environmental toxicology at the University of Guelph. “It’s important to try to understand that this is a complex issue. We need to have a wide perspective, not just a narrow focus on banning a chemical—that might not be the solution to our problem.”

If neonics are banned, what will happen? Some say taking neonics off the market could make farmers use other products, which may be even more harmful—an idea conservative organizations like safechemicalpolicy.org are pushing in a bid to protect neonics from a potential ban.

Yet this argument might not hold up, in light of another new study. A team at Purdue university looked at corn in the state of Indiana and found “no benefit of the insecticidal seed treatments for crop yield during the study.” They also showed that 94 percent of honeybee foragers are at risk of exposure to neonics—even lethal levels—when the corn is sown.

So it’s not the case that farmers need neonics to improve yield, said Prof. Raine: “If the evidence to support that is not as strong as we perhaps thought it was, then that may change the balance of decision making.”

A call for evidence-based policy

Neonicotinoids have already been banned in Europe and although the U.S. has yet to follow suit, regional bans are in place in Maryland, Oregon and Washington. A more nuanced approach in Ontario, Canada, may seen an end to the prophylactic use of the chemicals, and the PMRA—the organization that regulates pesticides in Canada—is due to decide whether to ban imidacloprid—a move that Dr. Prosser says “may be a knee-jerk reaction.”

The EPA is working on the issue too, with five of the main neonics—imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran and acetamiprid—scheduled for review in 2018. The EPA has started a range of risk assessments to determine the effect of neonics on pollinators, aquatic animals and humans, but will the results make a difference to the decision? EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has already greenlighted one pesticide believed to damage brain development in children, so there’s little evidence to suggest he might support a ban.

According to Prosser, more evidence will help. “Pollinators are facing a lot of issues; banning neonics might not solve the problem,” he explained. “It’s easy to vilify a chemical. That’s not to say it doesn’t play a role, but it’s important to step back and look at the bigger perspective: What are the agricultural needs? That’s important to society. And what are the scientists saying? Most will say it’s a multifaceted problem that we don’t know everything about.”

While there is clearly a need for more research, Raine thinks we know enough to limit our use of neonics, especially prophylactically. “There is sufficient concern and evidence now to say that there is potential for harm to bees,” he said. “Although pollinator health and supporting them in an agricultural landscape, or an urban landscape, or any kind of human-affected landscape is not just about controlling pesticide exposure, insecticides are clearly one of the environmental stress factors we should be concerned about, and we should mitigate the impacts on pollinators where we can.”

Research can take years to find answers. In the meantime, there are moves to mitigate the impact of neonics by avoiding their use—stores like Walmart and True Value have committed to eliminating neonics from products on their shelves, and will stop selling plants treated with the chemicals.

Although this is a step forward, a 2016 report by Friends of the Earth found that pesticides could be found in the “bee-friendly” plants being sold across the U.S.; there is also peer-reviewed evidence of a similar situation in the U.K. Friends of the Earth U.S. is asking consumers to take action—to join their BeeAction campaign and sign a petition to garden retailers asking that they stop selling neonicotinoid treated plants and products that contain the pesticides.

Lucy Goodchild van Hilten is a freelance writer. Read more of her work at telllucy.com.

  Read Neonics Harm Bees, Poison Drinking Water and Don't Improve Crop Yield: Why Aren't We Banning Them?
  August 16, 2017
Earthships: 100% Sustainable, Inexpensive Off-Grid Homes Made From Recycled Materials (Video).

by Nathaniel Berman, AlterNet

Residences and other types of buildings directly impact the environment as a result of the construction process, the design features and the types of materials used. In the past, traditional homes have negatively impacted the environment while continuing to contribute to greenhouse gas through energy usage and heating and cooling. As a result, sustainable building is becoming more popular around the world as future homeowners seek to reduce their carbon footprint.

Earthship homes are 100-percent sustainable homes that are inexpensive to construct and incredible to live in. They boast numerous amenities not found in other sustainable building styles. Earthships started taking shape during the 1970s when Michael Reynolds was seeking a home that used indigenous materials, relied on natural energy and would be feasible for the average person to construct. His vision become a u-shaped home that kicked off the Earthship movement.

Most buildings are horseshoe-shaped to maximize the amount of natural light and solar gains during the colder months. Windows in the home face the sun to admit light and heat. The walls are thick and dense due to the tires used to provide thermal mass that regulates the interior temperature naturally. The tire-based walls are strengthened with concrete inside of the tires and half concrete blocks.

(image: Mark Stephenson/Flickr CC)

Earth-rammed tires are assembled by teams of two with one member shoveling dirt into the tire and the other using a sledgehammer to pack the dirt in. These tires can weigh up to 300 pounds so they are commonly made at the construction location. Since the tire is packed with soil, it will not burn when exposed to fire.

The top of the tire walls contain concrete bond beams that are constructed from recycled cans and bonded by concrete. These are connected to the tire walls using concrete anchors. Non-bearing walls are constructed from a honeycombed shape of recycled cans known as tin can walls that are also joined by concrete. The roof is made from trusses that rest on tin can walls placed on the beams. The roof and all other walls, except the windows facing south, are heavily insulated to maintain the internal temperature.

Benefits of Earthships

Earthship near Taos, New Mexico (image: Lisa Haneberg/Flickr CC)

One of the greatest draws of an Earthship home is its ability to sustain comfortable temperatures. From freezing cold temperatures to blistering climates, Earthships hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. This is due to the solar heat stored in thermal mass (tires filled with dirt), which is the basis of the Earthship structure. The thermal mass operates as a heat sink, absorbing heat when the interior cools and insulating when the interior needs warmth. 

Amenities and Energy

When most people hear the word sustainable, they think primitive housing that is removed from 21st-century comforts. Until the Earthship home model, the majority of sustainable solutions have fit this description. 

Most of the materials used to construct an Earthship are recycled. The walls above the tires are constructed with plastic and glass bottles set inside of concrete. In developing nations, these bottles can be gathered from the street to help clean up the neighborhood and build a house.

With solar panels lining the roof and wind turbines in the backyard, the Earthship home allows you to collect electricity the natural way, from the sun and the wind. This will ensure that you are never short of power and eliminates the cost of buying energy from the utility company.

(image: Andrew Stenning/Flickr CC)

With one or two onsite greenhouses that can grow crops throughout the year, regardless of the climate, you can feed yourself with plants that grow inside your home. For a regular source of eggs, construct a chicken coop on your property.

In addition to the money saved on monthly utility bills, Earthships are significantly cheaper than traditional homes. If you have the capability to build the house yourself, the most basic Earthship models start at around $20,000 with more glamorous models running $70,000 or more depending on your decorative preferences. With these low costs, Earthships fit almost every budget.

Using printed plans with no previous knowledge, you can construct a three-story Earthship in as little as three months. There is no need to hire professional assistance or purchase expensive tools. Simply following the printed plans with basic tools and you can have a sustainable home in as little as a quarter of a year.

The water recycling system is another incredible feat of engineering. Even the most arid climates can deliver enough water for daily use using a rain-harvesting system. The roof funnels rain water to the cistern, which pumps it into the sink and shower. The greywater is then pumped into the greenhouse to water the plants, which clean the water and pump it back into the bathroom for toilet use. After this water is flushed, it is now considered black water and pumped into the garden to provide nutrients to the non-edible landscape.

  Read Earthships: 100% Sustainable, Inexpensive Off-Grid Homes Made From Recycled Materials (Video)
Here Come the Ecosexuals.

by Jill Richardson, AlterNet


The term ecosexual has had multiple definitions in its short existence. When it first emerged around 2000, Jennifer J. Reed, a PhD candidate at the University of Nevada Las Vegas who studies the movement, said, "The word ecosexual started being used to identify people who were interested in environmental issues so much so that they were also seeking a partner who was interested in environmental issues. It became a dating term like, 'I’m an ecosexual, I’m looking for another ecosexual.'"

A second group that adopted the term were people engaged in trying to "green" the sex toy industry. Reed points out that "sex toys and lubes and so forth have not been regulated by a health code" because they are classified as "adult novelty items." Ecosexuals became a term for people concerned about the health effect of sex toys.

But the word hit primetime and took a turn when performance artist Annie Sprinkle and her spouse Beth Stephens married the earth—and people took notice. When Sprinkle and Stephens called themselves ecosexuals, they meant that they experienced erotic pleasure from the earth.

I asked Reed about this, and she pointed out that we routinely stick our noses into bouquets of plants' sex organs (flowers), "but we don't talk about it that way." She says Sprinkle and Stephens' "idea is that we are marrying the earth symbolically to bring back the idea of humans being a part of the environment, being a part of nature rather than dominating over or separate from nature."

The reason ecosexuals aim to end humans' separation from nature is because that idea "has led to environmental destruction because the idea that humans rule over the earth has led to [things] like mountaintop removal coal mining." Reed says it engenders the feeling that "we're separate from nature and this is just here for us to take from." She adds, "Because we are part of nature there are also health consequences because we are not separate from nature."

But why connect sexually instead of some other way? Reed says ecosexuals' "expanded notion of sexuality includes the human life force," adding, "The reason we're alive, a species on the earth, is because sex is happening... Really, ecology and the environment are all about sexuality and fertility and the life force and keeping life going."

Reed defines ecosexuality as a mindset, a set of practices and a social movement. "The mindset is number one," she says. It means recognizing the interrelation between the sexuality and nature in some way. "Somebody who is an ecosexual definitely sees the situatedness of humans within the environment."

People with the mindset often add practices "to call back to the sensuality of life," according to Reed. Hiking in the mountains or sitting on the beach are sensory experiences. But, Reed says, these activities can also be "sensual or erotic experiences."

Some people experience similar sensations when they are out in nature as when they have an orgasm. Reed describes it as "a feeling of connection." Reed sees a parallel between the belief that the mind and body are separate and the belief that humans and the environment are separate, with ecosexuality attempting to bridge both at once.

As Sprinkle and Stephens' Ecosex Manifesto puts it: "We shamelessly hug trees, massage the earth with our feet, and talk erotically to plants. We are skinny dippers, sun worshippers, and stargazers. We caress rocks, are pleasured by waterfalls, and admire the Earth's curves often. We make love with the Earth through our senses."

Ecosex practices can be as simple as feeling the soil between your toes or the sun on your skin. That said, some ecosexuals find more X-rated ways to experience the connection between sexuality and nature.

Reed traces the social movement back to 2010, when the first ecosexual conference was held. A year later, in 2011, Sprinkle and Stephens unveiled the Ecosex Manifesto. The pair also founded the EARTH Lab at UC-Santa Cruz. EARTH stands for Environmental Art Research Theory Happening. Ecosexuals do not just have erotic feelings about the earth; they fight to defend the planet.

The Ecosex Manifesto sums up the activist component as follows: "We will save the mountains, waters and skies by any means necessary, especially through love, joy and our powers of seduction. We will stop the rape, abuse and the poisoning of the Earth... We embrace the revolutionary tactics of art, music, poetry, humor, and sex. We work and play tirelessly for Earth justice and global peace. Bombs hurt."

Ecosexuals also hold annual convergences in the woods. I had to ask, and Reed assured me, "No, it's not an orgy." It's family-friendly and held in a campground. But, she added, the group does set aside an area in the woods where people can "go naked and get freaky." After attending a workshop on consent, that is.

If you can get to Australia, you can even go to an ecosexual bathhouse.

In summary, if the Ecosex Manifesto resonates with you, then you're an ecosexual, and you can enjoy the sensuous of the earth and experience humans' connection with nature in any way you wish to.

  Read Here Come the Ecosexuals
  August 23, 2017
How Reducing U.S. Air Pollution Can Help Feed Africa.

by Kim Martineau, The Earth Institute at Columbia University, AlterNet


Falling sulfur dioxide emissions in the United States are expected to substantially increase rainfall in Africa’s semi-arid Sahel, while bringing slightly more rain to much of the United States, according to a recent study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.

Pollution filters placed on coal-fired power plants in the United States starting in the 1970s have dramatically cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas that contributes to acid rain and premature deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. If U.S. sulfur dioxide emissions are cut to zero by 2100, as some researchers have projected, rainfall over the Sahel could increase up to 10 percent from 2000 levels, computer simulations published in the study suggest.

“Reducing emissions in one region can influence rainfall far away because our global atmosphere is interconnected,” said the study’s lead author, Dan Westervelt, an atmospheric scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “We show that the health and environmental benefits of U.S. clean air policies extend to global climate as well.”

Sulfur dioxide simultaneously cools and dries earth’s climate by reflecting sunlight back to space and suppressing heat-driven evaporation near the ground. Though prior research has linked high sulfur emissions in Europe and Asia to the Sahel’s severe droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, this study is the first to look at how U.S. emissions influence precipitation in various regions globally.

Land at the northern edge of Africa’s Sahel could become suitable for farming if sulfur emissions in the United States continue to rapidly decline, says a new study. Here, farmers near Segou, Mali, plant maize at the start of the rainy season. (credit: Francesco Fiondella/International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University)

The researchers ran three independent global climate models to compare the relative impact of the United States cutting its human-caused sulfur emissions to zero and keeping its emissions at 2000-2005 levels. In the zero-emissions scenario, all three models showed a slight increase in average global rainfall, with higher levels in the United States and other northern-hemisphere regions. In the Sahel, two models found that wet-season rainfall increased by 5 to 10 percent, with one producing a rainy season two-and-a-half days longer.

“We were surprised to find that removing sulfur emissions in just one country would significantly influence rainfall on another continent, thousands of miles away,” said study coauthor Arlene Fiore, an atmospheric scientist at Lamont-Doherty.

The added rainfall came as the tropical rain belt returned to its normal, northernmost position above the equator during northern hemisphere summer, the models showed, consistent with earlier research. The rain belt ordinarily shifts north when the northern hemisphere heats up during summer, but when sulfur emissions are high, cooler temperatures in the north stop the rain belt from migrating as far.

Cutting U.S. emissions to zero was enough to move the rain belt roughly 35 kilometers north, placing more of the Sahel in its path, the researchers found.  “We did not expect to see such a clear, significant influence on the Sahel,” said Westervelt. “This northern shift of the tropical rain belt could mean that cropland at the Sahel’s northern edge could become more productive in the future.”

Though two of the three models were generally consistent, they disagree on exactly how much rain different regions can expect as U.S. sulfur emissions go to zero, says study coauthor Drew Shindell, an atmospheric scientist at Duke University. “We have just one real-world example — historic data — to rely on, making it very challenging to quantitatively link emissions to response,” he said.

The influence of rising carbon emissions is another complicating factor. The technology to trap carbon dioxide, unlike sulfur dioxide, is still far from being cost-effective. So while carbon dioxide levels continue to climb, falling sulfur emissions impose a climate “penalty” — less human-caused cooling to offset human-caused warming from carbon dioxide.

“It’s still a good idea to cut SO2 with pollution control equipment on coal-fired power plants for the sake of public health, but even better would be to move away from coal-fired power plants entirely to reap the benefits of public health and climate change mitigation,” said Shindell.

The study’s other authors are Andrew Conley and Jean-François Lamarque of the National Center for Atmospheric Research; Michael Previdi and Gus Correa of Lamont-Doherty; Greg Faluvegi of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia’s Center for Climate Systems Research; and Larry Horowitz of Princeton’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

This article was originally published by Columbia University's Earth Institute. Read the original.

Kim Martineau is a science writer for The Earth Institute at Columbia University. She was newspaper writer for the Times Union in Albany, NY, and The Hartford Courant in Connecticut, and twice named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists. She lives in New York City. Find her writing at The Earth Institute.

  Read How Reducing U.S. Air Pollution Can Help Feed Africa
  August 24, 2017
Can California Protect Frontline Communities From Climate Change?

by Sona Mohnot, AlterNet

In the last five years, San Jose has seen severe drought followed by the worst floods in a century, and to top it off, record-breaking temperatures. These extreme weather events are not unique to the Bay Area, but are happening all around California as well as the U.S. and the world. Climate change makes them more common and more severe.

Although California is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it won’t stop global warming. We can slow down extreme weather events like those in San Jose, but communities will continue to feel the impacts of climate change no matter how much we curb emissions.

The weather conditions brought on by climate change—like  flooding, heatwaves and wildfires—can affect everyday life for people. Californians face the increasing likelihood of power outages, displacement, increased costs for electricity and food, contaminated drinking water, worsened air pollution and increased asthma rates.

While climate change impacts will affect everyone, poor communities and communities of color will be hit hardest. These frontline communities already spend as much as 25 percent of their entire income on just food, electricity and water, which is much more than most Americans. They face a greater risk of heat-related illness and death.

And while air conditioning and transportation could alleviate extreme heat impacts, many people of color and low-income residents lack access to air conditioning or cars to escape hot days. Often located in areas with severe air pollution, these communities will also breathe even dirtier air as smog increases due to climate change.

So what is California doing to ensure frontline communities are prepared to handle the impacts of climate change and continue to thrive?

The state has developed a climate adaptation strategy called the Safeguarding California Plan. The plan covers 10 sectors, including energy, transportation, public health, water and forests. For each sector, the plan discusses what the state is currently doing to address climate adaptation, what must be done, and how the state plans to accomplish those goals. The plan covers a lot of ground, but focuses heavily on the vulnerability of built infrastructure (e.g. roads, highways and energy facilities) and natural systems like wetlands, forests and agricultural lands.

The plan does little to prioritize community vulnerability. For instance, are cooling centers available on hot days for communities lacking access to air conditioning? Are emergency evacuation routes available for people without vehicles? What is the emergency response system to warn people of extreme weather events in rural or hard-to-reach communities? What measures are in place to prevent displacement?

Recognizing the need to address these issues, the Resources Legacy Fund brought together several environmental justice, public health and climate equity organizations, including Greenlining, to create a Climate Justice Working Group. The working group provided recommendations to the state as it updated the Safeguarding California Plan earlier this year. We also just released a set of climate justice principles and recommendations that go beyond “Safeguarding California.” We believe the state should include the recommendations in all climate adaptation policies it develops.

Here’s an overview:

  • The state should prioritize the protection of essential facilities that provide health care, food, and emergency shelter; bring economic opportunities into frontline communities and avoid negative consequences such as displacement.

  • The state should conduct community vulnerability assessments to identify what make a community vulnerable. The assessments can inform strategies to build community resilience.

  • Importantly, the state should meet with and actively engage frontline communities to include their voice in all climate adaptation plans.

  • The state should identify at least $1 billion by 2020 and $10 billion by 2025 to accomplish climate resilience goals.

To hear what communities have to say about climate change, Resources Legacy Fund and EMC Research conducted a survey of 800 California voters of color. Sixty-one percent of these voters say climate change poses a major threat to low-income communities, and 85% want their elected officials to develop stronger policies to help their community prepare for the impacts of climate change.

The recently passed extension of California’s cap-and-trade program designates climate adaptation as a priority that must get funding from cap-and-trade revenue. Since climate adaption will get funding, this is an opportune time for the state to think about incorporating the Climate Justice Working Group’s recommendations into its policies—especially since voters of color want to see policies that address community vulnerability.

Officials must listen to the voices of the communities hit first and worst, and make sure that we build up the resiliency of those communities and don’t accidentally increase poverty and displacement.

Sona Mohnot is environmental equity program manager and policy analyst at the Greenlining Institute

  Read  Can California Protect Frontline Communities From Climate Change?

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