Theme of Global Dialogue 2021
Global Civilizational State: application of the Scale of Global Rights to global issues.
Global participants files.
List of all participants and authors with their work from 1985 to 2007.
All work can be found in Global Proceedings.
Global Information Media (GIM) publishing monthly Newsletters dealing with global issues.
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David Anderson , Lionel Anet, John Scales Avery, Lopamudra Banerjee, Mitali Chakravarty, Collective 20(2), Countercurrents Collective, Mike Hulme, Robert Hunziker(2), Jay Janson, Michael T Klare, Bibin Manuel, Slavisha Batko Milacic, Roy Morrison, Bhabani Shankar Nayak(2), Jyoti Raina, Satya Sagar, K Sahadevan, Andre Vltchek(2), Rene Wadlow, Bryan White.
David Anderson, A Call for Academia to Act Now.
Lionel Anet, Life’s survival is now in question.
John Scales Avery, Human Nature
Lopamudra Banerjee, The World Around Us, 2020.
Mitali Chakravarty, The New World.
Collective 20, It’s the economy, stupid! Or is it the stupid economy?
Collective 20, Tomorrow’s World, Today
Countercurrents Collective, Libya’s war becomes a global scramble for power.
Mike Hulme, Fetishising ‘The Number’: How Not To Govern Pandemics, Climate and Biodiversity.
Robert Hunziker, Arctic Heat Overwhelms Green Infighting Issues.
Robert Hunziker, The Inertia Bugaboo.
Jay Janson, Americans Are Guilty of Genocide Right Now in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria.
Michael T Klare, The Pentagon Confronts the Pandemic Or How to Make War, American-Style, Possible Again.
Bibin Manuel, Pandemic, AI, and end of Democracy.
Slavisha Batko Milacic, Global Problems Need Global Solutions.
Roy Morrison, A Plan for Social and Ecological Justice.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Oligarchs of Mainstream Mass Media in Service of Capitalism.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Why do right wing political and religious forces impose mass morality?
Jyoti Raina, Downstream effects of Bernie Sanders Candidacy: Equality, Social Justice and Participatory Democracy in Frontal Politics.
Satya Sagar, India with Chinese Characteristics.
K Sahadevan, Undeclared Ecological Warfare: The India-China dispute, a ‘biopsy’ analysis.
Andre Vltchek, It Is All About Race. Awful Hypocrisy To Say It’s Not!
Andre Vltchek, Some Italian Thinkers Are Now Resisting Lies About The Soviet Union And WWII.
Rene Wadlow, U.S. Measures Weaken the Slow but Sure Growth of World Law.
Bryan White, Planetary Information Engine.
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|June 12, 2020||
It Is All About Race. Awful Hypocrisy To Say It’s Not!
by Andre Vltchek, Countercurrents.org, in World.
While I am following closely various discussions on Western mass media and social media, simultaneously engaging in several direct exchanges, one overwhelming leitmotif that I see is clearly emerging: “What is happening in the United States (and the UK, France and other parts of Western Empire) is not really about the race. Let us protest peacefully, let us not allow ‘rioting’ to continue, and above all, please let us not single out the white race, Western culture as a sole villain. Let us have peace, love each other… Then things will miraculously improve; terrible occurrences will soon go away.”
I have worked and lived on all continents, from far away island nations of South Pacific (Oceania), to Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia. Of course, I lived in Europe and North America, too.
Colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism – these are all my topics. Seriously! I have been studying them, investigating them; I wrote and made various documentary films about them. On several occasions I came very close to losing my life, confronting them.
My conclusion after all that I saw and experienced and survived? You can probably guess it: “To claim that the race is not what has been, for centuries, dividing our Planet, is outrageous hypocrisy. Or deranged wishful thinking. Or something much worse: it is calculated blindness that serves only the ruling, white group of people.”
To make it blunt: Our Planet has been reduced to only two races: White and “the other”!
On top of it, the color of one’s skin is not always identical to what the West, in general, perceives as the Caucasian/white race. To be “white” is the state of mind. It means: belonging to the culture which perceives itself as “superior”. The culture which sees itself as ‘exceptional’, and somehow ‘chosen’ to judge and advice the entire humanity.
It also means ‘a state of indoctrination and obedience, as well as lack of intellectual courage’. All this, in exchange for the privileges; fabulous privileges! “Plunder the world, and live well above your means; live grotesquely plush life! And while you are living it, do not forget to whine, demand more, and keep repeating that ‘you are also exploited and, actually, a very poor victim’”.
Denying the privileges is part of racism, too, as it demonstrates unexpectable spite for the real victims! Or, perhaps, self-imposed blindness.
Citizens of some countries, such as Russia, Cuba, and Turkey, may look mainly ‘white’, but they are actually not. They are not invited to the ‘club’, because their mindset is different because they are not submissive because they think on their own.
Such conclusions may not be popular in New York, London, Paris, or Berlin. Especially not now, when the United States and the entire West are in turmoil.
The culture which was built on blood, bones, rape, and theft, ‘culture’ shaped by more than 500 years of colonialist terror, is now turning, twisting, and trying to justify itself. It tries to survive while staying in a driving seat. Countless editorials penned by both ‘conservative’ and so-called ‘liberal’ scribes are carpet-bombing the pages of newspapers at both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Fear of perhaps mortally injured beast – Western regime and its citizens – is delectable by its repulsive stench, and it stinks for miles.
Suddenly, most of the so-called ‘progressive’ publications do not want to hear from those writers and thinkers who are shooting powerful projectiles in the form of highly uncomfortable truth. Actually, in the West, there are hardly any true “left-wing” sites or magazines left, of course with some shining exceptions. What is really progressive these days? I don’t want to name the sites or publications here, but you are most likely aware of which ones I am talking about: they almost exclusively carry the stuff written by the Western/white men, for other white men’s consumption! They never cross the line: their criticism of the Western white-dominated world is half-hearted, “peaceful”; in short cowardly.
A white man is an individual who has been brought up and indoctrinated in a certain way, who thinks, speaks, and writes in a manner that is expected from him or her by the Western regime.
And all these ‘non-whites’, all over the world, including the minorities in the Western countries, are expected to sit on their asses, shut up and listen to him or her, but mostly him. And of course, to obey. Or else!
Or else: they will be verbally attacked and humiliated, eventually, they will get sanctioned, their governments were overthrown, countries invaded. There will be corpses all over, the stench of burning flesh, overflowing mass graves. And ‘at home’, in the West? Bullets shot at their eyes, or necks squashed by military or police boots.
So, what actually happened a few weeks ago to Mr. George Floyd, has been constantly happening to non-white people all over the world, to the entire communities and countries.
Then, suddenly, people, all over the world, had enough!
Almost everywhere, not just in China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Enough of being treated as some lower, subservient races. Enough of being treated like a scum; brutalized, killed like Mr. Floyd!
Now, in the West, both liberal and conservative media is making noises, claiming that Mr. Floyd was “not a saint”, that he used to serve some time in prison.
What can I say? People, in general, are not saints. People and countries. Very often, circumstances make them behave in a very nasty matter. But if you are raised as a second-class citizen, if you are beaten, day and night, by your own regime, are you expected to turn out to be a romantic poet? Get real!
Our countries, non-Western ones, are not always behaving like saints, either. But they are still better, much better, than those that have been murdering hundreds of millions in their colonies!
Don’t they understand, in Washington, London, and Paris, why those millions of people, from Tokyo to Buenos Aires, from Africa to Asia, are now marching in support for the African-American people? It is because all of us, outside Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, are somehow related to Mr. Floyd!
Yes, we read those phony essays. We observe those cynical little smiles on the faces of the people who are denying racial and racist division of the world. Individuals who are defending the status quo, the rule of that tiny minority over the planet, so they could maintain their advantages.
Some defenders of status quo are now going as far as claiming that the rebellion against the white rulers is actually some sort of dark conspiracy theatre, triggered by the well-concealed business elites, or that it is connected to COVID-19; but above all, that it is not spontaneous at all.
It is clear, where they really stand and what they want to achieve.
It is never “them”. It is always somebody else. They keep pointing fingers at some invisible bankers, or the minorities in their own countries. You know precisely what I mean. As long as it is not them! But it is all much simpler: most of Europe and North America are constructed on white racism. And so is imperialism, colonialism. Citizens in the West are voting right-wing scum, voluntarily, and consistently. Can you imagine a genuine North American or European “internationalist”? Maybe a few. Perhaps 1%. Not more! So, the proverbial gold keeps flowing in. And billions of non-whites are rotting alive, in all corners of the globe.
My friends, my comrades, all over the world, are now opening their eyes, realizing what is happening in the United States and its colonialist daddy: Europe. Many of them, of course, already knew. At least they knew something. But those who did not, are now wide awake, getting well aware of the brutality of the Western regime, as well as of the racist nature of the “global arrangement”.
Those who were, for centuries, manufacturing consent, justifying and glorifying colonialism, imperialism, racial discrimination, as well as Western supremacy, can suddenly do nothing to stop the avalanche of awareness.
This may be the beginning of the end of segregation, of global apartheid. Just the beginning of the true struggle for equality.
A knee of a beefy white racist cop in Minneapolis, which had cut the supply of air, killing an African-American person, somehow managed to trigger that avalanche.
Nobody wants to live like this. Oppressed nations do not want to be threatened this way by those white Western cynics and nihilists: like Clinton and Trump, Navarro, Pompeo, and others. What a hellish troop of third-rate violent porn performers, these people!
Oppressed minorities inside the empire, be they of African descent, Hispanics or Chinese, are sick of the vicious and repulsive racism. Mostly, they are frightened to speak. But now, day by day, they are gaining courage.
The United States of America has been built on the genocide of the non-white people. The great majority of native folks had been slaughtered so the small number of the first and brutal European settlers could thrive.
This is “to some extend” known fact, but learning in-depth what really happened to the original inhabitants of ‘America’ has been thoroughly discouraged. Word ‘genocide’ is hardly ever uttered, in connection with the first chapters of U.S. history. Actually, it is taboo.
Slavery has been turned into folklore. Millions, tens of millions of broken, methodically destroyed human lives, is hardly ever presented in its real, nightmarish authenticity. People in Africa were hunted down like animals, tortured, raped, killed, and shipped like cattle to the so-called ‘free’ and ‘democratic’ “New World”.
Does a country constructed on such macabre foundations have really any moral right to exist, let alone call itself ‘free’? Can it be allowed to police the world? It is as if you would allow that murder cob who killed Mr. Floyd, to run a nation!
And those states which are now forming Europe? Their citizens are the descendants of those who were hunting down millions of human beings. Offspring of those who perpetrated and then got rich on such mass-slaughters as those of the Namibians, or people who used to inhabit what is now known as Congo.
When dragged to the broad daylight, it is all very, very uncomfortable, isn’t it? Better to sweep the truth under the carpet, and talk about “love”, “goodwill”. And then keep robbing and murdering as before, far away from the cameras!
This way, nothing would ever change.
Repeating over and over again: “race does not matter; it is actually all about class”, could make those who are in control of the world feel good about themselves, even sometimes sorry for themselves, which is actually their favorite state of mind. But it is a terribly hypocritical and deceptive position. And it has to be unveiled if there is ever to be justice!
On 3 June 2020, UN News, published an essay condemning the situation in the United States:
“Voices calling for an end to “the endemic and structural racism that blights US society” must be heard and understood, for the country to move past its “tragic history of racism and violence”, the UN Human Rights chief said on Wednesday.
“The voices calling for an end to the killings of unarmed African Americans need to be heard”, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. “The voices calling for an end to police violence need to be heard”.”
Ms. Bachelet, a Chilean, knows precisely what she is talking about! She knows what it is to have someone’s knee choking your aorta. Her father, an army General during the socialist era of President Salvador Allende, was murdered after the U.S.-sponsored coup led by Augusto Pinochet. Ms. Bachelet herself was kidnapped and tortured.
She looked ‘white’, but obviously not ‘white enough’ for Washington and its local assassins.
What is truly significant is that even the United Nations (usually subservient to the U.S.) is now unwilling to remain silent.
Race ‘issues’ have to be addressed. Racism, inside the national boundaries, as well as on the global scale, has to be fought against, by all means.
The depressing state of our planet is a result of racism.
Look at the map of the world at the beginning of the 20th century, and you will see: a great majority of the nations were colonized by the West. Colonialism is one of the most evident forms of racism. It humiliates victims, it robs them of everything: of culture, dignity, land.
To a great extent, most of the world is still being colonized. Even right now, as this is being written.
Almost the entire Planet is brutally controlled by the white race. Through the racist West-centric education system, and by the mass media which is controlled by the White boy’s Western narrative. Things have been arranged, so that the people in non-Western countries have been ‘learning’ and ‘getting informed’ about themselves from the Western curriculums and the fraudulent sources disseminated by the U.S. and British media outlets. That is grotesquely racist, isn’t it?
Close to 10 million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in just a quarter of a century. It is because they have coltan, uranium, and other essential raw materials, desired by the West. But also, because to the West, their black lives matter close to nothing. My film, “Rwanda Gambit”, is clearly addressing the issue. But who cares? In the West, they rather watch porn, instead of learning the greatest genocide of the 20th Century, which they helped to trigger! And who cares about the West Papuans, who are murdered with almost the same intensity by the Indonesians, on behalf of their Western masters? After all, the West Papuans are blacks, therefore matter nothing.
On those millions, mountains of corpses, huge companies, and even entire countries are thriving, prosper. While their CEOs and Presidents are talking rubbish about some ‘corporate responsibility’ and love for democracy.
And most of the white Europeans, Canadians, Australians, have to sacrifice very little, in order to live their obnoxiously luxurious lives.
Isn’t this racist?
The entire arrangement of the world is!
Soon, it will be impossible to hide behind all those lies.
I work at the frontlines. Where human bodies are crushed by all that “love” of the white colonialism and racism, directly but also indirectly. Racist violence is the most repulsive and the creepiest thing on Earth.
I want it to end; once and for all. I don’t care if some shops get looted or trashed in the process. Peaceniks who are crying over them are mostly sitting in their plush living rooms, watching censored news. They do not see those tens of millions of victims of racism rotting in tropical heat, floating on the surfaces of polluted rivers, thousands of kilometers away!
Images of Mr. Floyd being murdered, slowly and sadistically, is as close as they ever got to reality.
For centuries, they did all they could in order not to see.
Now they are running out of excuses.
Not to see, not to fight against the white, endemic global racism is a terrible crime. A crime that has been taking place for more than 500 years. The crime against humanity.
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Six of his latest books are “New Capital of Indonesia”, “China Belt and Road Initiative”, “China and Ecological Civilization” with John B. Cobb, Jr., “Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism”, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and Latin America, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website, his Twitter and his Patreon.
|June 13, 2020||
A Call for Academia to Act Now
by David Anderson , Countercurrents.org, in Climate Change.
We need to find a way Homo sapiens can live in a symbiotic relationship with Nature that allows both our species and all other organic and inorganic matter on this planet to recycle and renew.
Academia throughout the world can make the difference by collective global action forcing those in government country by country to understand what it will take for humanity to live in that symbiotic relationship.
Recent scientific observations are warning us that we have become a threat to our continued existence on this planet. Violent weather aberrations and record global temperatures are now occurring. Ice in the Arctic and Antarctic is melting. A deadly Arctic Methane Hydrate Feedback Loop has already begun. By the end of this century oceans will be inundating coastal areas inhabited by as much as a quarter of human civilization.
Yet governments throughout the world and the general public continue to operate on an Optimism bias perception of a perception of a perception platform. It is a platform of naivety. Ecological reality is obscured. Any form ecological adjustment is pushed into the future. But the future will arrive. There is inevitability to all corrections. The imaginary world of those who refuse to face reality is then exposed to the light of day. The dream becomes no more than what it ever was; a dream. Then follows the nightmare.
Could it be that there are inherent evolutionary cranial/neurological deficiencies in our DNA makeup; so deeply embedded that we as a species now in this industrial age are unable to comprehend ourselves as a threat to our future existence? Could it be that this is the reason our response to our desecration of the planet and its biosphere is so muted? Could it be that this cranial/neurological DNA side of us will lead to our painful end?
Yet, there is hope. A predominant group in our society has the power to bring on change. It is called Academia. But then it too has to change. It has to become far more active than it has been.
Here are some suggestions:
Academia – A Call to Act Now
Academia must focus attention on our eukaryotic neurotic psychotic thinking imperfection
In my Blog 75 I discuss the eukaryotic neurotic psychotic thinking imperfection we brought with us out of Africa into this New Age. It is an imperfection that has haunted us from that movement. It is driving the irrational human behavior we find in the world today.
To quote from the Blog:
“That “Demonic” power is defined as a eukaryotic neurotic psychotic thinking imperfection we brought with us into this Age. Its power was understood early on in Egyptian times. The weighing of the Heart (soul) and entry into paradise would take place when the dead were judged by Anubis; using a feather on one side of a scale representing Ma’at the goddess of truth and justice responsible for maintaining order in the universe. On the other side of the scale was placed the life of the dead person measured by those criteria.”
Academia – A Call to Act Now
Academia must make us understand who we are
We humans are not like honeybees and grasshoppers.
We are each of us different. Our brains are embedded with thought patterns of behavior that separate us one from the other. Some of these patterns of behavior are beneficial to us and to others. Some are harmful to us and to others.
Now in our high tech society these thought patterns can do far reaching harm. So here is the question academia should be exploring: Can we separate from our society those individuals with thought patters that will harm our society? Can we find a way to remove them not after the crime as we do now under our laws and our democratic legal systems, but before? Can we remove the Al Capone’s and the Hitler’s and the others like them before they inflict their horror?
This question takes on broad international significance. The West is now eliminating Islamic terrorist cells on a global scale. Will the next step be individuals such as the Hutu leaders of the Rwanda Genocide? In 1994 in just 100 days about 800,000 people were slaughtered by ethnic Hutu extremists. The Hutu were targeting members of the minority Tutsi community, as well as political opponents. Western forces did not intervene. The next time should they?
This question is now being addressed in China. (population 1.4 billion) Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Province are being detained and placed in reeducation camps. The camps are one part of a selective national crackdown by way of facial recognition and other means to identify those in Chinese society prone to criminal and other antisocial forms of behavior. In the case of the Muslims in the Xinjiang Province that behavior is the potential of Islamic terrorism.
The Chinese experiment outlined here appears far too excessive for the Western mind to accept. However, viewing it in a broader context, the approach may be acceptable in the West (and throughout the East) to achieve specific purposes. An example would be to close down dishonest and societally harmful internet activity. Also – and this would be a big step – by way of incarceration and re-education to stop deviant behavior resulting in criminal and terrorist activity before it takes place.
Academia – A Call to Act Now
Academia must broaden the meaning of Religion
Religions as they now exist throughout the world in their varied permutations are a powerful force. Leaders of the religious belief systems must come together and reach consensus as to commonality in religious thought. Religious academia can play a leading role.
(Link above for Essay The Crisis of Planetary Health: Reflections from the World Religions: Mary Evelyn Tucker John Grim Yale Forum Religion and Ecology)
Religions need to abandon their belief in exclusivity and recognize religious commonality. That commonality can be found if they focus their attention away from the superficial and toward the universal moral ethical.
They also need to recognize those universally societally destructive elements in the depths of their traditions.
Many seemingly different religious assertions that at first appear contradictory commonly express a “reason for valuing human life.” All religious leaders need to explore this commonality. They need to determine how their religious belief can be energized so as to find a way for reverence every human toward the other as well as all other life and nonlife on Planet earth.
This is not a call for debilitating relativistic religious debate. It is a call for definition of commonality. People can strongly affirm the primary doctrines of their faith while determining commonalities. Given the interreligious conflict evident throughout the world today, the need for this has become obvious to all except those religious fundamentalists who have become the cause of so many of the world’s problems.
An understanding of the implications of our actions and inactions today religiously has now become a 21st century world-wide necessity. It is also a call for global religious hegemony. The global issues at hand have a far reaching moral ethical implication. The 1994 Rwanda Genocide of 800,000 will be seen as miniscule compared to the death and suffering of a billion or more around the planet when the seas rise six to twelve feet.
Academia – A Call to Act Now
Academia must revisit the objectives of the Physical Sciences
Physical scientists need to come together and acknowledge a Modern Age reality: There are planetary and cosmic truths within which a deeper understanding of the continuation of human life can be found. Those truths center on the need for its continuance. A scholar who identified such “planetary and cosmic truths” was a late confidant of Albert Einstein: David Bohm. Bohm was optimistic. He believed that collectively we as a species on Planet earth have reached the point where our universal consciousness is close to, as he phrased it: entering into a stage of cosmic transformation. He saw some of us breaking through to an understanding of transformative cosmic existential reality. He expressed it as our now being at the stage of “putting out the fire.”
Academia – A Call to Act Now
Academia must revisit the definition of the Social Sciences
It is time for the Social Sciences to further examine human thought in all of its societal complexity and resultant societal influence. It needs to focus attention on “putting out the fire” by examining the underlying eukaryotic neurotic psychotic thinking imperfection that we brought with us in our move out of Africa into this New Age. With advanced weaponry and biosphere degradation, that “fire” now could “literally” burn up most of today’s life on this planet, as occurred during the Permian Triassic extinction. Social Scientists with their understanding of our thought processes as they affect societal response need to make recommendations for removal of those harmful societal Demonic human behaviors that are now leading us down the path of ruin. And these recommendations must have universal application.
To quote the physicist V. V. Raman 11 May 2020:
“Rationality must be respected for intelligent living, transrationality must be cherished for meaningful life, and irrationality must be scrupulously avoided for the sake of society’s well-being and one’s own mental health.”
Academia – A Call to Act Now
Academia must revisit the definition of the Economic Sciences
My Blog 77 Planet Earth Reality Check – Survival Homo sapiens outlined our carbon problem and offered an economic solution.
Those in the profession of Economists world-wide need to focus on this planetary problem and be heard. They need to demand economic solutions.
My Paper ended with:
“It must be understood: CO2 elimination as our energy source is just the first step toward human planetary resource control – and human survival. Pricing in of other negative externalities harmful to humanity and all other life on the planet must come next.”
Moving in the eco-planetary direction cannot occur without the strong voices of economists. Their profession is in structural control of the economic relationship between humans and Planet earth. They all need to understand that their influence is not just economic, also it is social – and not just for this year or the next but for the future of society. They can bring the public to an awareness of our ecological problems from an economic viewpoint by demanding that negative external costs be priced into all goods and services.
In this regard economists today are failing us.
Here I quote from the email I am sending to economic professors at colleges and universities in the Unites States:
Email Lesprit351@AOL.com to ask for paper
A MESSAGE TO ECONOMISTS
From David Anderson former executive with several major corporations
Will The Economics Profession Come To The Rescue?
The time has come for the economics profession in and outside the colleges and universities to demand that markets domestically and internationally price in the negative externality costs of all fossil fuels.
My Paper Planet Earth Reality Check – Survival Homo sapiens outlines how coordinated action by the profession can be taken.
Academia – A Call to Act Now
Academia must revisit its definition of the Political Sciences
The following words of John Scales Avery speak to the American political crisis and Donald Trump, a President who would roll back all regulation and give full release to irrational human behavior. As we read this we must keep in mind that it is not just a Donald Trump American problem, it is a world problem calling for action internationally.
Trump Must Be Defeated!
by John Scales Avery ( Nobel Laureate )
“There is so much wrong with Donald Trump that one hardly knows where to start. He is a bully, braggart, narcissist, racist, misogynist, habitual liar, and tax evader, in addition to being demonstrably ignorant. He has contempt for both domestic and international law, as well as for the US Constitution. However, it is Trump’s climate change denial, withdrawal from the Paris agreement, and sponsorship of fossil fuels that pose the greatest threats to the future of human society and the biosphere. The general support of the Republican Party for the fossil fuel industry is the reason why Prof. Noam Chomsky has called the party ‘the most dangerous organization in history’ ”
We need to find a way Homo sapiens can live in a symbiotic relationship with Nature that allows both our species and all other organic and inorganic matter on this planet to recycle and renew.
Academia throughout the world can make the difference by collective global action forcing those in government country by country to understand what it will take for humanity to live in that symbiotic relationship.
|June 13, 2020||
Downstream effects of Bernie Sanders Candidacy: Equality, Social Justice and Participatory Democracy in Frontal Politics.
by Jyoti Raina , Countercurrents.org, in World.
The Bernie Sanders candidacy is over but has left wide-ranging downstream effects. These include a resurgence of class consciousness and realisation of the necessity of a class analysis in frontal politics.
Can the aborted candidacy of Bernie Sanders in the 2020 U.S. presidential election be looked at as merely a thrust to his party’s attenuating working class support base? Isn’t it a left foot forward that there is a resurgence of a grassroots campaign for class consciousness, the necessity of a class analysis and placement of inequality as a vital policy-concern? Hasn’t the campaign cast an indelible influence on future direction of the frontal politics for, so far dominated by private capital, Democratic Party? He has emerged as a voice that interrogates the immoral structures of the prevailing capitalist socio-political order in a novel ideological frame. Even the socialists in the U.S. who were ambivalent on his candidature conceded that he stirred up the conflict between the working and capitalist class to a degree that is unprecedented in recent history. Lenin’s words that there are decades when nothing happens. There are weeks when decades happen, seemed to come alive. Long overdue people’s issues: healthcare for everyone, college for all, better overall social infrastructure and greening the businesses became centre-stage. The thrust of his campaign was on transforming the U.S. economy to one that worked for the ordinary people leading to a better life for the common American. His speeches articulated not just a pejorative schism between the common working class and the rich Americans (not even the top 1% but the 0.1% who hold up 20% of the country’s wealth) but a wider policy- shift to welfare capitalism. His plans like the social security bill also had matters of detail ( often conveniently left out of party manifestoes) of where the money would come from like making 1.8% Americans with annual incomes over $ 2,50,000 pay at the same rate into the social security benefits for low-income senior citizens and disabled people. He even proposed a federal job guarantee scheme, plans that resonate with sections of society undergoing pauperisation, immiseration and privation.
The campaign in broader context
Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci in Selections from the Prison Notebooks (1971) has argued that the repressive state apparatuses of governments tend to reinforce, strengthen and legitimise; competitive, individualistic, pro-capitalist hegemonic ideology ( these are some of the economic values that Sander’s policies were designed to overturn) which in turn make capital appear as natural to a society. The rightward drift, in most countries, since the early 1980’s exacerbated by the state-sponsored 1989 Washington Consensus prescribed policy-shifts towards free trade, deregulation, privatisation and downsized state social infrastructure spending. This further reduced whatever redistribution of economic wealth occurred to those lowest in the hierarchy in the name of welfare. This hegemonic ideology has since taken nations down the road of a cumulative neoliberal restructuring in which pro-poor, pro-people measures are trimmed as much as possible. This has made basic human needs of healthcare and education beyond poor working class reach, a concern that found affirmative resonance with common Americans.
The free college agenda: a working class concern
The country is the largest economy of the world yet post-secondary education is neither a public good nor affordable. The U.S. universities are the most expensive in the world. The published undergraduate tuition fee of Columbia University, New York for academic year 2019-2020 is $ 61,788. The OECD has estimated that private and public institutions charge $ 21,000-27,000 and $ 8,000-15,000 per year on an average. Borrowing from the market to pay for college the graduating student comes out of college with an average debt of at least $30,000. Only a select few countries provide free education but no- where is going to college it as expensive as in the U.S. This has started bothering the common American. Sanders did not desist from taking a cue from Cuba’s hard won national education system in calling for free college education as a public good. His College for All Act proposed to earmark $ 48 billion towards tuition and fees at four-year public institutions ranging from universities, community colleges and apprenticeship programmes. Prior to this in June 2019 he even introduced a legislation that proposed to write off the student debt of 45 million college graduates amounting to a total $ 1.6 trillion dollar. His proposals were maximalist even provoking censure from his fellow democrats who preferred enlarged subsidy, rather than free college, that too only to families earning less than $1,00,000 an year, which is in fact 70% of American households on the grounds that a universal college subsidy would advantage the better-off who anyway use all the other social infrastructure public goods like public schools. Yet they constituted a new imagination of a new world for young Americans waiting to enter college.
The appeal of his policies
As Sanders attracted more and more dedicated supporters he began to scare all those who wanted to salvage neoliberal capitalism in the name of liberal democracy including his own partymen https://truthout.org/articles/noam-chomsky-sanders-threatens-the-establishment-by-inspiring-popular-movements/). The McGovern effect came centre-stage as media commentators highlighted that his prescriptions were too far left for electability, The parallel with a real far-left socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s devastating rout that has decimated the Labour Party in U.K. in December 2019 British parliamentary elections was illuminative. However a real ideological contest beyond winning an election has already made its mark in a recovery of state socialism in politics. Several commentaries have highlighted that Sanders plans are no socialism for a revolutionary overthrow of neoliberal capitalism but its softer version with greater economic justice with lesser oligarchic, plutocratic and kleptocratic elements in the labour-capital dialectics.
With his withdrawal from the democratic primary on April 8, 2020 the downstream effects of his campaign are far from over. He has exited from the presidential contest but his campaign has brought people’s concerns to the fore shifting Democratic Party’s ‘centre’ undoubtedly at least a little bit to the left. Yet V.I. Lenin’s words, Either socialism will defeat the louse or the louse will defeat socialism ring in the ears when in April 2020 (in the very week that Sander’s withdrew) the U.S pharmaceutical industry received price-control exemptions as part of a $8 billion emergency spending bill to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. As the neoliberal depredation is revealed in the post-pandemic devastation coupled with IMF estimated loss of $9 trillion to global GDP, the U.S. government withholding WHO contribution and more than 36 million Americans filing for joblessness it’s too early to second guess what the long-term consequences of Sanders candidacy will be for the U.S. and the world. Yet his candidacy leaves a legacy of hope for real class struggle elections aimed at contesting the rule of private capital in the contemporary world while reinforcing the necessity of a class analysis.
There is a downstream effect nearer home for us in India that has slipped under the radar of mainstream news analysis: possibilities for the re-invention of a new left. The meaning of left in India was located around ideas of equality, equity, anti- (caste/ patriarchy/ establishment) and most of all against the exploitative capitalist economic order. This kind of a left has faced a terminal decline in electoral politics as reflected by the cumulative wipe-out in West Bengal and Tripura. The work towards re-claiming frontal politics based on a deeper understanding of Indian people’s contemporary concerns, can perhaps take a cue from the Sanders candidacy. The birth of such a new left has potential to strengthen the inclusive character of Indian democracy showing light towards a new dawn for an egalitarian Indian society.
Jyoti Raina is a New Delhi based academician who teaches at Department of Elementary Education, Gargi College (University of Delhi). She has recently edited Elementary Education in India: Policy Shifts, Issues and Concerns (2020). Her interests include educational policy, teacher education and science education.
|June 13, 2020||
U.S. Measures Weaken the Slow but Sure Growth of World Law.
by Rene Wadlow, Countercurrents.org, in World.
For nearly a half a century — almost as long as the United Nations has been in existence — the General Assembly has recognized the need to establish such a court to prosecute and punish persons responsible for crimes such as genocide. Many thought that the horrors of the Second World War — the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust — could never happen again. And yet they have. In Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Rwanda. Our time — this decade even— has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide is now a word of our time too, a heinous reality that calls for a historic response
Koffi Annan, then UN Secretary-General
President Donald Trump’s executive order of 11 June 2020 proposing sanctions against staff and family members of the International Criminal Court weakens the slow but sure growth of world law. The International Criminal Court (ICC) and its 123 Member States recognize that individuals and not just States are the subject of world law. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is structured by the Rome Statuten named after the city where the governments agreed to the creation of the Court. The Rome Statute system recognizes the primary jurisdiction of the State to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes – namely genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Court is a court of last resort when national courts are unable or unwilling to act.
Although U.S. non-governmental organizations and legal scholars played an important role in the creation of the ICC, the U.S. government refused to join. The government defended a concept of sovereignty that maintained that U.S. citizens could be tried only by U.S. courts. Legislation was passed by the U.S. Congress the American Service-Members Protection Act to prevent ICC jurisdiction over U.S. personnel.
The role of the ICC has come to a crisis point in the U.S. political system as the Court has started investigations of war crimes in Afghanistan by U.S. military and C.I.A. officials. There are also ICC investigations concerning ICC investigations concerning war crimes by Israeli military in the West Bank and Gaza. The U.S. government has often played a protective role for Israel in the U.N. Security Council and other U.N. bodies.
Many non-governmental organizations, including the Association of World Citizens, have express regret at this short-sighted and ill-timed U.S. policy. They have pledged themselves to uphold the principle of world law applicable to individuals.
Citizens of the world have usually made a distinction between international law as commonly understood and world law. International law has come to mean laws that regulate relations between States, with the International Court of Justice — the World Court in The Hague — as the supreme body of the international law system. The Internatiional Court of Justice is the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice that was established at the time of the League of Nations following the First World War. When the United Nations was formed in 1945, the World Court was re-established as the principal judicial organ of the UN. It is composed of 15 judges who are elected by the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.
Only States may be parties in cases before the World Court. An individual cannot bring a case before the Court, nor can a company although many transnational companies are active at the world level. International agencies that are part of the UN system may request advisory opinions from the Court on legal questions arising from their activities but advisory opinions are advisory rather than binding.
Citizens of the world have tended to use the term “world law” in the sense that Wilfred Jenks, for many years the legal spirit of the International Labour Organization, used the term the common law of mankind: “By the common law of mankind is meant the law of an organized world community, contributed on the basis of States but discharging its community functions increasingly through a complex of international and regional institutions, guaranteeing rights to, and placing obligations upon, the individual citizen, and confronted with a wide range of economic, social and technological problems calling for uniform regulation on an international basis which represents a growing proportion of the subject-matter of the law.” It is especially the ‘rights and obligations’ of the individual person which is the common theme of world citizens.
The growth of world law has been closely related to the development of humanitarian law and to the violations of humanitarian law. It was Gustave Moynier, one of the founders of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a longtime president of the ICRC who presented in 1872 the first draft convention for the establishment of an international criminal court to punish violations of the first Red Cross standards on the humane treatment of the sick and injured in periods of war, the 1864 Geneva Convention. The Red Cross conventions are basically self-enforcing. “If you treat my prisoners of war well, I will treat yours the same way.” Governments were not willing to act on Moynier’s proposition, but Red Cross standards were often written into national laws.
The Red Cross Geneva conventions deal with the way individuals should be treated in time of war. They have been expanded to cover civil wars and prisoners of civil unrest. The second tradition of humanitarian law arises from the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and deals with the weapons of war and the way war is carried on. Most of the Hague rules, such as the prohibition against bombarding undefended towns or villages, have fallen by the side, but the Hague spirit of banning certain weapons continues in the ban on chemical weapons, land mines and cluster weapons. However, although The Hague meetings made a codification of war crimes, no monitoring mechanisms or court for violations was set up.
After the First World War, Great Britain, France and Belgium accused the Central Powers, in particular Germany and Turkey of war atrocities such as the deportation of Belgian civilians to Germany for forced labor, executing civilians, the sinking of the Lusitania and the killing of Armenians by the Ottoman forces. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919 provided in articles 227-229 the legal right for the Allies to establish an international criminal court. The jurisdiction of the court would extend from common soldiers to military and government leaders. Article 227 deals specifically with Kaiser Wilhelm II, underlining the principle that all individuals to the highest level can be held accountable for their wartime actions. However, the USA opposed the creation of an international criminal court both on the basis of State sovereignty and on the basis that the German government had changed and that one must look to the future rather than the past.
The same issues arose after the Second World War with the creation of two military courts — the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Some have said that these tribunals were imposing ‘victors’ justice on their defeated enemies, Germany and Japan. There was no international trial for Italians as Italy had changed sides at an opportune time, and there were no prosecutions of Allied soldiers or commanders.
In the first years of the United Nations, there was a discussion of the creation of an international court. A Special Committee was set up to look into the issue. The Special Committee mad a report in 1950 just as the Korean War had broken out, marking a Cold War that would continue until 1990, basically preventing any modifications in the structure of the UN.
Thus, during the Cold War, while there were any number of candidates for a war crime tribunal, none was created. For the most part national courts rarely acted even after changes in government. From Stalin to Uganda’s Idi Amin to Cambodia’s Pol Pot, war criminals have lived out their lives in relative calm..
It was only at the end of the Cold War that advances were made. Ad hoc international criminal courts have been set up to try war crimes from former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. Just as the Cold War was coming to an end, certain countries became concerned with international drug trafficking. Thus in 1989, Trinidad and Tobago proposed the establishment of an international court to deal with the drug trade. The proposal was passed on by the UN General Assembly to the International Law Commission, the UN’s expert body on international law. By 1993, the International Law Commission made a comprehensive report calling for a court able to deal with a wider range of issues than just drugs — basically what was called the three ‘core crimes’ of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
By the mid-1990s, a good number of governments started to worry about world trends and the breakdown of the international legal order. The break up of the federations of the USSR and Yugoslavia, the genocide in Rwanda, the breakdown of all government functions in Somalia, the continuing north-south civil war in Sudan — all pointed to the need for legal restraints on individuals. This was particularly true with the rise of non-State insurgencies. International law as law for relations among States was no longer adequate to deal with the large number on non-State actors.
By the mid-1990s, the door was open to the new concept of world law dealing with individuals, and the drafting of the statues of the International Criminal Court went quickly. There is still much to be done to develop the intellectual basis of world law and to create the institutions to structure it, but the International Criminal Court is an important milestone.
Rene Wadlow , President, Association of World Citizens
|June 16, 2020||
The New World
by Mitali Chakravarty, Countercurrents.org, in Arts/Literature.
On the edge of annihilation,
a tiny virus rimmed
by an aging sun
draws on the sap
of bread earned by man
The conquistador of Nature,
the hunter, the seeker —
all have stopped
The seller sadly winds
his words in a lonely home
Television sets blare old shows
Man depressed into unrest
slowly crawls towards the rim
burning with pandemic flames
looking for sustenance
To live or die —
an Eternity in Life
Has mankind forgotten Lalon’s song?
Words that string together in harmony
Strains of Love, Tolerance, Kindness
Lalon now sings of Change,
looking beyond the common grave —
A Change which will sing of the Glory of Life
the Wonders of the Universe tied
to the rice, the chapati of mankind
basic needs addressed
A Crescendo will tide humankind towards a New Time
Mitali Chakravarty is a writer and the editor of Borderless Journal
|June 29, 2020||
Some Italian Thinkers Are Now Resisting Lies About The Soviet Union And WWII.
by Andre Vltchek, Countercurrents.org, in World.
Lying about world history is one of the main weapons of the Western imperialists, through which they are managing to maintain their control of the world.
European and North American countries are inventing and spreading a twisted narrative about almost all essential historic events, be they colonialism, crusades, or genocides committed by the Western expansionism in all corners of the globe.
One of the vilest fabrications has been those which were unleashed against the young Soviet Union, a country that emerged from the ruins of the civil war fueled by the European, North American, and Japanese imperialist interests. Foreign armies and local violent gangs were destroying countless cities and villages, robbing, raping, and murdering local people. But determined acts to restore order and elevate the Soviet Union from its knees, dramatically improving lives of tens of millions, was termed in a derogatory way as “Stalinism”. The label of brutality was soon skillfully attached to it.
Next came the Great Patriotic War (for the Soviets), or what is also known as the Second World War.
The West miscalculated, hoping that Nazi Germany would easily destroy the Soviet Union, and with it, the most determined Communist revolution on earth.
But Germany had, obviously, much bigger goals. While brutalizing Soviet lands, it also began committing crimes against humanity all over Europe, doing precisely what it used to do in its African colonies, decades earlier, which was, basically, exterminating entire nations and races.
While the United States first hesitated to intervene (some of its most powerful individuals like Henry Ford were openly cooperating with the German Nazis), the European nations basically collapsed like the houses of cards.
Then, unthinkable took place: indignant, injured but powerful, enormous the Soviet Union stood up, raised, literally from ashes. Kursk and Stalingrad fought as no cities ever fought before, and neither did Leningrad, withstanding 900 years of blockade. There, surrender was not an option: people preferred to eat glue and plywood, fighting hunger, as long as fascist boots were not allowed to step on the pavement of their stunningly beautiful city.
In Leningrad, almost all men were dead before the siege was lifted. Women went to the front, including my grandmother, and they, almost with bare hands repelled the mightiest army on earth.
They did it for their city. And for the entire world. They fought for humanity, as Russia did so many times in the past, and they won, at a tremendous cost of more than 25 million soldiers, civilians, men, women, and children.
Then, Soviet divisions rolled Eastwards, liberating Auschwitz, Prague, planting the red Soviet flag on top of Reichstag in Berlin.
The world was saved, liberated. By Soviet people and Soviet steel.
The end of a monstrous war! Entire Soviet cities in ruins. Villages burned to ashes.
But new war, a Cold War, a true war against colonialism, for the liberation of Africa and Asia was already beginning! And the internationalist war against racism and slavery.
No, such narrative could never be allowed to circulate in the West, in its colonies and client states! Stalin, Soviet Union, anti-colonialist struggle – all had to be smeared, dragged through the dirt!
That smearing campaign first against the Soviet Union and then against Russia was conducted all over Europe, and it gained tremendous proportions.
Mass media has been spreading lies, and so were schools and universities.
The foulest manipulations were those belittling decisive role of the USSR in the victory against Nazi Germany. But Western propaganda outlets also skillfully and harmfully re-wrote the entire history of the Soviet Union, portraying it in the most nihilist and depressing ways, totally omitting tremendous successes of the first Communist country, as well as its heroic role in the fight against the global Western colonialism and imperialism.
Since the end of WWII, Italy has been in the center of the ideological battle, at least when it comes to Europe.
With its powerful Communist Party, almost all great Italian thinkers and artists were either members or at least closely affiliated with the Left. Partisans who used to fight fascism were clearly part of the Left.
Would it not be for the brutal interference in Italy’s domestic politics by the U.S. and U.K., the Italian Communist Party would have easily won the elections, democratically, right during the post-war period.
Relations between the Italian and Soviet/Russian people were always excellent: both nations inspired and influenced each other, greatly, particularly when it comes to arts and ideology.
However, like in the rest of Europe, the mainstream media, the propaganda injected by the Anglo-Saxon polemicists and their local counterparts, had a huge impact and eventually damaged great ties and understanding between two nations.
Especially after destructions of the Soviet Union, Italian Left began experiencing a long period of profound crises and confusion.
Anti-Soviet and anti-Russian propaganda started finding fertile ground even in such historical bastions of the Italian Left like Bologna.
With the arrival of the 5 Star Movement and the radical, traditional Left-wing fractions concealed inside it, the millions of Italian citizens began waking up from their ideological lethargy.
I witnessed it when speaking at the legendary Sapienza University in Rome, shoulder to shoulder with professor Luciano Vasapollo, a great thinker and former political prisoner.
I was impressed by young Italian filmmakers, returning to Rome from Donbas, arranging countless political happenings in support of Russia.
Rome was boiling. People forgotten by history were resurfacing, while the young generation was joining them. My friend Alessandro Bianchi and his increasingly powerful magazine, L’Antidiplomatico, were bravely standing by Venezuela and Cuba, but also by Russia and China.
Still, Mr. Bianchi kept repeating:
“These days, very few Italians understand what happened during WWII. It is a tragedy, real tragedy…”
And then, recently, L’Antidiplomatico informed me that it will be publishing, in order to celebrate the April 25 and May 9 anniversaries, an essential book put together by the Soviet Information Bureau, by the academics, with notes and inside information by Joseph Stalin. It was fired right after the end of WWII: “Falsifiers of History. Historic Information.” (In Russian: “Fal’sifikatory istorii. Istoriceskaja spravka.”)
Now in Italian, the book will be called “Contro la falsificazione della storia ieri e oggi” (Fabrizio Poggi: “Against the Falsification of History Yesterday and Today”).
The powerful editorial work of Mr. Poggi is unveiling the truth, and counter-attacking the Western Anti-Soviet propaganda.
Throughout this work, “The Anglo-American claims about the alleged Berlin-Moscow union against the ‘western democracies’ and a “secret pact between the USSR and Hitler to divide all of Eastern Europe” were clearly dismantled. The falsity of the rhetoric which is repeatedly used today in virtually all Western countries is exposed here, step by step.
Ale Bianchi, the publisher, explains:
“The translation presented here is preceded by an introduction, edited by Poggi himself, which mentions the main issues of the period before the Second World War: Polish-German relations, the role of France and Great Britain and their relations with the USSR, Munich Conference, etc., all used by Western propagandists to advance the theory of “equal responsibility” of Nazi Germany and the USSR for the outbreak of the Second World War.”
I asked Mr. Bianchi about the main purpose of launching the book in Italy, and he answered without hesitation:
“To defeat the anti-Soviet propaganda and also propaganda related to the Second World War.”
In many ways, Fabrizio Poggi’s “Against the Falsification of History Yesterday and Today”), is not just a book. It is a movement, which will consist of discussions, lectures, interviews.
Top Italian intellectuals will, no doubt, participate. Many essential topics will be revisited. The truth will be revealed.
This could be a new chapter in cooperation between the Italian and Russian thinkers and progressive leaders, in their common struggle for a better world!
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Six of his latest books are “New Capital of Indonesia”, “China Belt and Road Initiative”, “China and Ecological Civilization” with John B. Cobb, Jr., “Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism”, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and Latin America, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website, his Twitter and his Patreon.
|June 30, 2020||
Arctic Heat Overwhelms Green Infighting Issues.
by Robert Hunziker, Countercurrents.org, in Climate Change.
Arctic temperatures are soaring to new records… and staying there, ever since May of this year. Truth be known, the Arctic’s been heating up for years. Siberia recently hit 105°F. That’s not normal. It’s 30°F hotter than normal.
Farther south, the Amazon rainforest is hit with a drought every 5 years like clockwork, not regular run of the mill droughts but massive excessive devastating droughts. NASA’s GRACE satellite, measuring water levels stored deep beneath Earth’s surface showed Deep Red Zones beneath the Amazon rainforest, not watery blue.
Climate activists have been warning about overheating of the planet for decades, ever since Dr. James Hansen’s testimony before the Senate in 1987: “The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.” (Hansen)
Fast forward to June 2020: Since Hansen’s testimony, thirty-three years of climate activists bitching, protesting, kicking and screaming and bellyaching about excessive human-generated CO2 has gone nowhere but backwards as a relentless rise in CO2 emissions trudges ahead measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii.
Post-Hansen’s testimony the annual rate of CO2 increase has more than doubled, not gone down but doubled. Up, up and away, year-over-year, it never goes down. It’s the main culprit blanketing the atmosphere, retaining heat for hundreds of years and fast becoming the Big Oven in the Sky.
Clearly, too much heat has already overwhelmed the Arctic and Amazon rainforest ecosystems. Along the way, greenie frustration is finally coming to a head as environmentalists “cat fight” in open public.
For example, Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs’ controversial film Planet of the Humans (Rumble Media) serves as an opening salvo, exposing a green movement that has turned a light shade of brown. The film paints a painful picture of a movement that, in certain instances, has gone off the rails.
Both Moore and Gibbs are lifetime greenies born green. Their film has spooked the green movement into bouts of self-examination and ferocious anger directed right at them, bull’s-eye. After all, the film pulls no punches by highlighting several rash infections of hypocrisy in the uppermost ranks of environmental leadership, acceding to big corporate interests that frankly could care less about the health of ecosystems, other than purely for show.
Otherwise, if they, meaning big corporate interests and billionaires, really cared and were truly concerned, by now they would’ve thrown everything they’ve got, including the kitchen sink, at fixing the climate change conundrum. But, they have not done that, have they?
Still and all, if the intention behind the making of Planet of the Humans was a “wake-up call” (Hey fellas and gals, this is not working) then it was enormously successful. After release of the film, green protestors protested the filmmakers like crazy, but not in the streets. Evidently, Moore and Gibbs struck a chord.
But still, what has 33 years of green advocacy wrought? Answer: Record high CO2 in the atmosphere and nearly 80% dependency upon fossil fuels, same as 50 years ago. Which advocacy group celebrates that?
Now, along comes another frustrated former greenie, Michael Shellenberger, an active environmentalist throughout his career, publishing a book that takes the green movement to the woodshed, as fully exposed in a recent Wall Street Journal review, d/d June 21st by John Tierney of Shellenberger’s book Apocalypse Never, Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All (Harper)
Based upon Tierney’s review, and assuming Tierney did not “cherry pick” and massage the facts to satisfy corporate interests, i.e. the WSJ, Shellenberger misses the target by a country mile. For example, Shellenberger’s “reach for credibility” includes claims such as: “No, climate change has not caused an increase in the frequency or intensity of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.” Really? Did Tierney get that right? (Maybe check in with Nebraska, Missouri, S. Dakota, Iowa, and Kansas re the Great Flood of 2019, the longest flood on record, just for starters)
Shellenberger, who evidently promotes industrialization as humanity’s savior, actually suggests, not facetiously, capitalist entrepreneurs saved whales by discovering cheap substitutes for whale oil, like petroleum. Ahem!
And, not to worry about plastics as sunlight and other forces break down the substances…. not to worry. And, solar and wind power are impractical and damage the environment requiring vast areas of land and harm flora and fauna. Oh, really! Did Tierney get that right…? (I know, I know! “Read the book,” but, based upon the review, no thanks)
And, finally, according to Shellenberger: “While industrialization causes a short-term rise in carbon emissions, in the long term it’s beneficial to the environment as people move to cities, allowing farmland to revert to nature, and as prosperity enables them to switch to cleaner and more compact forms of energy.”
Hmm – Just wondering, thinking out loud, where does sophism come into play here?
As a final note about Shellenberger’s book, a positive review in the WSJ is nothing to be proud of if you are an eco warrior of any stripe. It’s the ultimate sell-out, although, it’s not Shellenberger’s fault that the WSJ picked up on his diatribe of the green movement.
Still, aren’t Wall Street and its kissing cousin the WSJ responsible for promoting the neoliberal leviathan that “sucks up” to fossil fuel interests and literally destroyed America’s middle class and unions and checks and balances on pollution by shipping U.S. manufacturing offshore to the lowest common denominator of wages and avoidance of environmental regulations? Answer: Yes!
Based upon Tierney’s review, Shellenberger is simply one more lifeline for the fossil fuel industry and Wall Street’s neoliberal dreamland advocacy. Although its constituency is quite narrow, the one percent plus a few lesser want-a-be millionaire/billionaire luminaries. So, who’s really left to buy the book?
When it comes to neoliberal advocacy, it’s certainly worth mentioning Ross Perot nailing it during the 1992 presidential debate (Bush, Clinton, Perot) when he warned the country about the devastation to follow in NAFTA’s footsteps: “If you are paying $12 per hour, $13 per hour for factory workers, and you can move your factory to south of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor, have no health care, have no environmental controls, no pollution controls, and no retirement plans and you don’t care about anything but making money, there will be giant sucking sound going south.”
Perot elaborated: “These kinds of deals will wreck the country.” P.S. His speech is pretty good fodder for an American revolution. (Source: Perot in 1992 Warned NAFTA Would Create ‘Giant Sucking Sound’ The Washington Post, July 9, 2019)
Perot’s statement speaks volumes as it illuminates why America’s middle class and its unions are broken. Neoliberal ideology, along with its kissing cousin globalization, shipped labor offshore, shipped environmental/pollution regulations offshore, decimated unions, and as much as possible, adopted the green movement with largess of their own making. Motto: Whatever it takes! Overtake and dilute and/or use to market products.
Meanwhile, the planet itself, speaking on its behalf, likely disagrees with Shellenberger. Ecosystems are coming apart at the seams, which Shellenberger ignores and refutes by advocating as core values industrialism and fossil fuels and nuclear over renewables and eco economics. He misses an important point as far as the biosphere is concerned. Salvation for humanity and for the planet is dependent upon tossing out the entire neoliberal experiment in favor of eco economics that favors natural systems and human values over profits and inane infinite growth schemes.
Meantime, throughout the biosphere, ecosystems are breaking down. It is palpable, and Shellenberger knows it. And Moore and Gibbs know it and expressed concern about it. Further to the point, how could anybody who’s knowledgeable about the climate system miss it?
Consider: It was a little over one year ago when tens of thousands of bats fell out of the sky in Australia because of excessive heat at 42C. According to Dr. Welbergen, president of the Australasian Bat Society: “This sort of event has not happened in Australia this far north since European settlement,”. (Source: How One Heatwave Killed ‘a third’ of a Bat Species in Australia, BBC News, Jan. 15, 2019)
In May 2020 bats dropped dead in the streets in India. “It appears the mass mortality of bats was caused due to brain hemorrhage, caused by excessive heat.” (Source: IVRI- Indian Veterinary Research Institute director R.K. Singh)
Not only that, this June 2020 scientists verified the hottest temperature ever recorded in the coldest place on Earth: “The World Meteorological Organization is investigating a record-high temperature for the Arctic after the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk registered a high of 38 degrees Celsius 100 degrees Fahrenheit.” (Source: Arctic Siberian Town Hit With Record Heatwave, Al Jazeera, June 25, 2020).
That’s Miami weather, and it’s not happening all of a sudden. The entire Arctic has turned into a heat machine that’s been coming on stream for years now.
Not only that, collapsing permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic is happening 70 years earlier than scientists expected, to wit: “Observed maximum thaw depths at our sites are already exceeding those projected to occur by 2090.” (Source: Louise M. Farquharson et al, Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019).
In some locations of the Canadian High Arctic landscape collapsed by three feet, houses sunk into the earth, and roads slip slide in wavy curvatures.
Special Alert! Permafrost covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s loaded with all kinds of greenhouse gas carbon frozen in place just waiting for release.
Not only that, the Wet Bulb Temperature (WBT) effect has already arrived 50 years earlier than expected in some regions of the planet as measured by a recent study. (Source: Colin Raymond, et al, The Emergence of Heat and Humidity Too Severe for Human Tolerance, Science Advances, Vol. 6, no. 19, May 8, 2020)
The human body has limits. If “temperature plus humidity” is high enough, even a healthy person seated in the shade with plentiful water to drink will suffer severely or likely die. A threshold is reached when the air temperature climbs above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity is above 90 percent. Death ensues.
“Previous studies projected that this (WBT) would happen several decades from now, but this shows it’s happening right now.” (Raymond)
Not only that, a major study by 89 climatologists in the journal Nature revealed unprecedented rates of ice melt at the planet’s two greatest ice masses. The combined rate of ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica averaged 89 billion tons per year in the 1990s. Yet, by the 2010s (if standing, please sit down) the average rate exploded to 523 billion tons per annum. (Source: Ice Loss in Antarctica and Greenland Increased Sixfold in the Last 30 Years, LiveScience, March 2020)
Not only that, throughout the world, mega droughts are hitting harder and more viciously than ever before. An Australian research paper identified the worst droughts in 800 years. (Source: Multi-century Cool-and Warm-Season rainfall Reconstructions for Australia’s Major Climatic Regions, European Geosciences Union, Vol. 13, Issue 12, Nov. 30, 2017 by Mandy Freund and Benjamin Henley)
Not only that, according to the UN World Food Program, as for Central America: “Five years of recurring droughts have destroyed maize and bean harvests, leaving poor subsistence farmers in the so-called Dry Corridor that runs through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua struggling to feed their families.” Solution: Pray for rain or migrate north.
And, central Chile is in the midst of what scientists have labeled a “Mega Drought,” an uninterrupted period of dry years since 2010. Half of the country has been designated “Emergency Status.” Farmers are going out of business. (Source: Chile Declares Agricultural Emergency as Extreme Drought Hits Santiago and Outskirts, Santiago Times, August 26, 2019)
And, in South America’s Brazil, “The SPI-12 time series showed that from 2011 to 2019, excluding the south region, the other Brazilian regions have been exposed to the most severe and intense drought events in almost the last 60 years.” (Source: Ana Paula M.S. Cunha, et al, Extreme Drought Events Over Brazil from 2011 to 2019, Atmosphere, October 24, 2019)
Not only that, according to NASA, the Middle East’s drought cycle from 1998-2012 was the most severe in 900 years. According to Ben Cook of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It continues to this day as the eastern and southern Mediterranean coastlines are drying out faster than anywhere else on the planet. Eco migrants follow in kind.
Not only that, throughout much of Asia drought is becoming the norm rather than the exception. (China Daily News, August 12, 2019)
Remarkably, the impact of global warming is just now starting to strut its stuff so visibly and so perceptibly that average people are recognizing its threat. Fox News reported on the Arctic temps of recent. That’s as average as it gets. But, is Fox really average, or is it something else altogether different?
Yet, according to Tierney’s review of Shellenberger’s book, “The trouble with the new environmental religion is that it has become increasingly apocalyptic, destructive, and self-defeating.”
And, of course, as stated previously, Shellenberger claims: “No, climate change has not caused an increase in the frequency or intensity of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.” Not to worry, apocalypse never.
The truth of the matter is environmentalists have not screamed loud enough to make a difference as greenhouse gases are presently at all-time highs after three decades of screaming but not loud enough! Should environmentalists scream ever louder or adopt neoliberalism’s laissez-faire approach to business? BTW – Look where that got us.
Ross Perot’s statement at the 1992 presidential debate (see above) is a full description of laissez-faire economics in one long sentence. How’s that working for working people in America and around the world? And, for the greater environment?
Here’s a big part of the problem in a nutshell: In many respects, the Amazon ecosystem and the Arctic are facsimiles of the larger biosphere but more sensitive to climate change. In other words, some ecosystems are ultra-sensitive to changes in the climate system and thus serve as proxies or early warning signals prior to recognition of a looming threat by civilization at large.
Meantime, whilst climate change disrupts ecosystems on the fringes of civilization, society comfortably exists in artificial complexities of cement, steel, glass, and wood within a vast chemically induced world that only recognizes the danger of collapsing ecosystems after it’s too late. Then, it is too late!
Because of fabricated/artificial life styles, as just described, humans are the last living organisms to see and feel, and indeed, truly comprehend the impact of climate change. Artificial life styles masquerade the bigger issues. Thus, artificiality breeds ignorance and stupidity, as reflected in political elections. It’s the “Cement, Steel, Glass, Wood, Chemically Induced Syndrome,” and it’s deadly by stealthily hiding the truth from society at large.
Yet, there are thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers that see the truth. Some of those papers are quoted in this article.
Postscript: A fact worth repeating, time and again because it’s not going away: According to NOAA Climate.gov: “In fact, the last time the atmospheric CO2 amounts were this high was more than 3 million years ago, when temperature was 2°–3°C (3.6°–5.4°F) higher than during the pre-industrial era, and sea level was 15–25 meters (50–80 feet) higher than today.” The lag effect is in-process.
Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 articles published, including several translated into foreign languages, appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He has been interviewed on numerous FM radio programs, as well as television.
|June 30, 2020||
Tomorrow’s World, Today
by Collective 20 , Countercurrents.org, in Counter Solutions.
COVID-19, and before Covid everything else, has raised a question that is now percolating, and even reverberating. And then came a white knee crushing a Black neck. A dream so long deferred suddenly exploded in city after city. What’s next? From the social distancing, what? From the fumes and flames, what? From the bodies in morgues and the ashes littering streets in hundreds of cities, what? Are we going back or are we going forward? Keeping our distance and feeling incredible anger are both understandable, both warranted. The former uniquely now. The latter since before whenever. But how does either become sustainably constructive?
A school burns. Its lunches for youngsters become unavailable. A call goes out. In hours the school’s community generates truckloads of food. Mutual aid is one way social distancing becomes constructive.
A man is choked to death in a modern day lynching meant to scare and subordinate. People in his community, and in all communities, feel rage and lash out. Do lasting connections form? Do thousands of local organizing efforts, mutual aid associations, and even grassroots assemblies become new sinews of new movement growth? They can, but if they don’t create lasting connections, one to the next, each upsurge will wilt in splendid isolation.
So what glue can network it all? Perhaps we need future-seeking anger. Perhaps we need positive passion. Could vision of a better future be our needed glue? Could vision of what we want, not just for survival but for liberation, move us from disorganized disparate resistance to highly organized coherent rebellion?
Can post Covid lead us toward post racism, post sexism, post authoritarianism, post capitalism, post global warming, post war, rather than leading us back to the ugliness that preceded and provoked our current crises?
What can make this moment’s passion positive? What can make this moment’s anger future-seeking? Fuck it all – what do we really want?
Some people will say the only solution is more authority, more surveillance, more domination. Call out the cops. Call out the national guard. Call out the army. They will seek to parlay current chaos into accelerated regimentation. They will play on fear to birth more fear. Some who do that will ignorantly believe what they are saying. Some who do that will despicably want no more than their own safety and enrichment.
Others will avoid the questions entirely. They are pained, and they want no more pain. Their feeling is fair enough, but somehow they think looking the other way is valid, moral, worthy, and for that matter even a pain-diminishing approach. They will seek to laugh and not feel the encroaching pandemonium. “I must go where it is quiet.” It is an understandable sentiment, but they are the good people who will do nothing and thereby, against their own better natures, abet evil.
Some other people will curiously address these questions. Their inquiring and all too abstract minds want to know. “I want to understand.” They may gain knowledge. They may even share it. But with only curiosity, will they move beyond words?
Some people will approach the questions desperate, their equanimity shattered by their own oppressions. “Get me outta this place.” They will seek relief and with good reason. But only desperate, their’s will be a lonely pursuit.
Finally, some people will approach the questions curious, desperate, and also passionately angry. “I want safety and comfort for all.” They will cultivate intent. They will seek collectivity. They will want to know what’s next so they can can help make it happen.
Trying to embody that last most positive motivation, and feeling that vision of a better world can help glue disparate energies into a powerful sustained force, we in Collective 20 wonder what can all us who want a better world already agree on regarding its features? What can we agree we don’t want? What can we agree we do want? What unresolved issues can we agree we need to all together further investigate by thought, experiment, and construction if we are to arrive at a shared perspective of how a better world can fulfill our many and varied desires? Into the streets with vision. Into action with destination. What can resistance advocate? What should activists consider and even try out?
The ideas we offer below address aims, organization, and organizing. They combine insights from many decades of diverse anti-racist struggle, global climate activism, international immigration activism, LGBTQ organizing, feminist activism, struggles for economic and social justice, anti-fascist organizing, movements for electoral and judicial innovation, labor organizing, anti-war organizing, anti-imperial organizing, and much more.
Six overarching values inform and guide our offerings below, and we hope you will find the chosen values as congenial and helpful as we do.
• Decisions ideally ought to be collectively self managed, not authoritarian, not elitist.
• Material benefits and social circumstances ought to be equitably distributed, not grotesquely unequal, not at all unjust.
• Mutual aid and empathy ought to be institutionally nurtured and defended, not competitive greed, not anti-social brutishness.
• Diverse cultural and social community preferences ought to be celebrated and protected, not denigrated and denied, not choked to submission.
• Natural habitats and environments ought to be societally respected and protected to ensure sustainability and ecological diversity, not to exploit and violate to extinction.
• Worthy values should apply not only to each society, but internationally to the community of all societies so all societies prosper in internationalist peace, not dissolve in internecine war.
We tentatively write what’s below because we believe attaining a much better world will require considerable mutual aid and shared priorities including self consciously proposing, discussing, augmenting, refining, and finally collectively advocating and implementing a shared path forward.
Our words therefore provisionally seek discussion, addition, deletion, and refinement. We hope only to provide grist for a wide ranging conversation about winning a better future. The elements we offer here may have merit, or they may not. They are not so much answers as questions and entreaties. Either way, whether our views prove helpful or dismissible, the point is to embark on conceiving and then employing worthy vision.
Who Decides What?
What of governance, the polity? Most broadly, can we agree we want to fully liberate political life from elitist domination. Can we agree we want no more bought and sold officials. No more rampant corruption and coercion? And can we agree that these gains require new participatory political institutions that take account of and benefit all citizens equally?
If so, can we agree that to eliminate political elitism, we will need transparent mechanisms to carry out and evaluate political decisions and to convey to all citizens information, confidence, and self managing say as much as possible proportionate to effects on them?
And wouldn’t that in turn entail establishing grassroots venues for popular participation, augmented by frequent direct participation or, when needed, recallable and accountable representation and delegation that utilizes voting options such as majority rule, other voting rules, or consensus, each as needed to best approximate self management – all facilitated by advanced public education?
Likewise, to benefit all citizens equally won’t new political institutions also need to guarantee maximum civil liberties to all, including freedom to speak, write, worship, assemble, and organize political parties. Won’t new political institutions need to welcome, facilitate, and protect dissent and diversity and to guarantee individuals and groups information and means to pursue their own goals consistent with not interfering with the same rights for others? Won’t new political institutions need to foster solidarity even while they also provide inclusive means to fairly, peacefully, and constructively adjudicate disputes and violations of agreed norms to preserve justice while promoting rehabilitation?
If many can agree on even roughly the above elements of political vision including adding whatever refinements, additions, and deletions they desire for improvement, wouldn’t we then be in position to develop, explore, and test proposals for using councils, assemblies, communes, and nested networks of these for legislative functions? And in position to develop, explore, and test proposals for means of adjudication and enforcement when needed, and for structuring executive institutions so that all together compose a political vision for a new, better, society? What kind of neighborhood assemblies and networks and layers of such assemblies would fulfill our emerging aims? What kind of judicial bodies? What kind of executive rights and responsibilities? These are matters to consider, explore, and resolve.
In short, if activists from diverse constituencies and movements could arrive at broad shared agreement about various creatively refined and augmented political aims, couldn’t we then use our shared agreements to assess how best to actively participate in public political life to attain our desired ends? What structures would facilitate success? What structures should be avoided? What then, should we demand and build to lead where we wish to arrive in the future? What should we oppose and reject? Not only for society but also in our own organizing?
And if across a wide spectrum of movement activism and constituencies we were able to collectively start to achieve such shared views, couldn’t we then develop coordinated campaigns designed to win immediate beneficial electoral, legislative, and adjudicative gains that would benefit diverse constituencies now but also move society toward our ultimate aims? Immediate gains like eliminating the electoral college, enacting ranked choice voting, eliminating voter discrimination based on ID requirements or former jailing, enacting an Election Day holiday, enacting mail ballot voting, imposing accountability and term limits on legislators, defunding and redefining police mandates, enacting community control of police, eliminating military weaponry for police and even for much of the military, eliminating jail terms for victimless crimes, releasing all political prisoners, and much more. And couldn’t we discuss and organize these immediate efforts in ways that explicitly explain longer term aims and link to them thereby arousing desires to seek more while developing means to do so until success?
That would put collectively developed and shared political vision for the long-term to work to inspire and guide political struggle in the present. A good thing, no?
Who Produces and Who Consumes What?
Beyond polity, what of production, allocation, and consumption – the economy? Can people who reject current capitalist inequality, alienation, and class division broadly agree that attaining better economics requires implementing new workplace and allocation institutions that ensure that no individuals or classes are privileged and that all workers and consumers are able to participate fully in determining their own lives?
If so, can we then also agree that new economic institutions will need to preclude owning productive assets such as natural resources and factories, thereby ensuring that ownership plays no role in decision making influence or in people’s share of income? No more 1% above, perverted by greed and domination. No more 99% below, subordinated and subjugated by lack of property.
But to attain even more comprehensive classlessness, can we further agree that new economic institutions will also need to ensure that all workers have a say in decisions to the extent possible proportionate to effects on them, sometimes best attained by majority rule, sometimes best attained by consensus or other arrangements, all to avoid some people, empowered, dominating other people, disempowered?
And if we can agree on some variant of that, can we also agree that accomplishing such extensive classlessness will entail eliminating corporate divisions of labor that typically give about a fifth of workers predominantly empowering tasks while consigning to four fifths mainly rote, repetitive, and obedient tasks to ensure not only fairness of circumstances but also that 20% no longer dominate 80%?
And could we then even also agree that to that end it follows that new institutions will need to ensure that each worker enjoys a socially average share of empowering tasks via new designs of work that convey to all sufficient confidence, skills, information, and access to participate effectively in decision making? Not only would people then have a formal right to economic decision making influence, they would also have the personal means and inclination to employ their right. With these additional commitments getting rid of the old capitalist owner would not elevate a new coordinator boss. Classlessness.
At the same time, to attain equity, can we also agree that new economic institutions will need to ensure that workers who work longer or harder or at more onerous conditions doing socially valued labor should equitably earn proportionately more for doing so, but that no one should earn payment according to property, bargaining power, or even the value of their personal output, while of course all who are unable to work should receive full income nonetheless? And can we agree on all that to avoid some having not solely gargantuan profit-based income and wealth while others endure barely any income and near total impoverishment, but also to avoid unwarranted and vast income differentials for power or for output due to equipment, genetic endowment, or anything other than personal effort and sacrifice? Citizens would in that case get more of society’s product because they work longer or harder or under worse conditions to contribute to that product, but not for owning property, for bargaining power, or even for output due to lucky genetic or technical factors beyond their control.
And finally, if we are to achieve all our economic desires noted above, however dramatically augmented and creatively refined by collective assessment and experience, can we agree that new economic relations will need to avoid both market competition and top-down planning, since both competition and top-down planning, in any and all combinations, produce class rule, alienation, and various other ecological, social, and material violations? And can we agree that we will instead need to find ways to determine what is produced and consumed by whom in ways that get the job of allocation done not only viably and without undue waste or strain, but also consistently with all our other values and aspirations?
And if we can agree on any semblance of such economic aims, creatively refined and augmented by research and experimentation, couldn’t we then conceive and test new work arrangements, new norms of remuneration, and new means to negotiate economic inputs and outputs by examining the potential roles of workers and consumers councils and federations of councils, new divisions of labor, and new methods of accounting and assessing economic options with whatever additional facilitating structures we find necessary?
And if across a wide spectrum of movement activism and constituencies we were able to collectively start to achieve such collectively developed, refined, and shared long term aims, couldn’t we then develop coordinated campaigns designed to win immediate beneficial economic gains that also move society toward our ultimate aims? Gains like free medical care for all, free education for all, cancelling student debt, higher wages for all below some cutoff and lower wages for all above it, vastly greater high-end wealth and property taxes, strengthened health and safety requirements, legal limits on banks, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and fossil fuel companies with violations punished by transfer to public ownership, extensive unemployment insurance and social security gains, and new laws benefiting union and workplace organizing, corporate accountability, workers control, and much more. And couldn’t we discuss and organize for all these immediate aims in ways that explicitly explain longer term aims and that link to them thereby arousing desires to seek more while developing means to do so until success?
That would put economic vision for the long-term to work to inspire and guide economic struggle in the present. A good thing, no?
Who procreates, births, nurtures, loves and lives?
Beyond polity and economics, what of procreation, nurturance, and family? Can we agree that liberating gender and sexuality requires implementing new kinship institutions that ensure that no individuals or groups – by gender, sexual preference, or age – are privileged above or dominate others?
And if so, can we also agree that to attain that participatory goal new gender and kinship institutions will have to not privilege certain types of family formation over others, but instead actively support all types of families consistent with society’s other broad norms and practices? And can we agree that new relations will need to promote children’s well-being and affirm society’s responsibility for all its children, including affirming the right of diverse types of families to have children and to provide them with love and a sense of rootedness and belonging? And can we agree on the need to minimize or eliminate age-based permissions, preferring non-arbitrary means for determining when an individual is too old (or too young) to receive benefits or to shoulder responsibilities?
Can we agree that new gender and kin institutions will need to respect marriage and other lasting relations among adults as religious, cultural, or social practices, but also to reject such ties as ways for sectors of the population to gain financial benefits or social status others lack? And can we agree on the need to respect care-giving as a central function of society including making care-giving a part of every citizen’s social responsibilities not least to ensure equitable burdens and benefits among men and women for all household, child raising, and elder aiding practices, but also for the enrichment of personality and affirmation that sincere care-giving conveys?
And can we also agree that new gender and kinship institutions will need to centrally affirm diverse expressions of sexual pleasure, personal identity, and mutual intimacy while ensuring that each person honors the autonomy, humanity, and rights of others including providing diverse, empowering sex education and legal prohibition against all non-consensual sex?
And if we can agree on some such array of kinship aims, creatively refined and augmented by collective assessment, research, and experimentation, couldn’t we then better conceive and test new family arrangements, new norms and structures of parenting, and new arrangements of loving and living, nurturing and schooling?
And if across a wide spectrum of movement activism and constituencies we were able to collectively start to achieve anything like the above shared views, couldn’t our emerging and evolving levels of agreement and our unfolding explorations of what we want for a better home life and procreating, living, loving, schooling, and caring then inform how we address immediate issues of feminist change, of laws and structures bearing on gender relations, and of age and sexual relations, thereby bringing feminist and LGBTQ and age-related activism into touch with our long term kinship goals and vice versa?
And couldn’t we then develop coordinated campaigns designed to win immediate beneficial kinship gains that also move society toward our ultimate aims? Gains like full abortion rights, advanced parental paid leave for men and women, extensive excellent free day care, extensive non gender discrimination laws, free public schooling at all levels with vastly expanded resources in underserved communities and neighborhoods, revamped vastly improved free care for the elderly, and much more?
That would put kinship vision for the long-term to work to inspire and guide kinship struggle in the present. A very good thing, no?
Who converses, celebrates, dances, dines, sings, communes, and worships?
Beyond polity, economics, and kinship, what of race, religion, ethnicity, and community relations of all kinds? Can we agree that eliminating systemic racism and liberating culture and community requires implementing new participatory cultural/community institutions that ensure that no individuals or groups – by race, ethnicity, nationality, or other cultural/community identification – are privileged above or dominate others and thus that none are denied or dominated by others?
And if so, can we agree that as a means to that participatory end new cultural and community institutions will need to ensure that people can have multiple cultural and social identities by providing space and resources for people to positively express their identities however they choose, while simultaneously recognizing that which identity is most important to any particular person at any particular time depends on that person’s own personal situation and assessments?
And can we agree that new cultural and community relations will also need to explicitly recognize that many rights and values exist regardless of cultural identity, so that all people deserve self management, equity, solidarity, and liberty, even while society also protects all people’s right to affiliate freely and enjoy diversity?
And in turn can we agree that new cultural and community relations will also have to guarantee free entry and exit to and from all cultural communities including affirming that communities that guarantee free entry and exit can be under the complete self determination of their members so long as their policies and actions don’t conflict with society’s broader arrangements and liberties?
And if we can agree on something like such cultural/community aims, properly refined and augmented by research and experimentation, couldn’t we then conceive and test new cultural arrangements in and between our racial, religious, and ethnic communities, new norms and structures of celebrating and of interrelating?
And if so, couldn’t our emerging and evolving levels of agreement and our unfolding explorations of what we want for better intercommunity and community relations then inform how we address immediate issues of racial justice, religious freedom, police violence, migration, reparations, borders, and more general race and ethnicity related policy and structure, thereby bringing anti-racist and intercommunalist activism into touch with our long term community goals and vice versa?
That would put community vision for the future to work to inspire and guide community struggle in the present. A very good thing, no?
Beyond national borders what of international relations? Can we agree that attaining desirable international relations requires implementing new international institutions that ensure that no nations or geographic regions are privileged above others?
If so, can we agree that new international relations will need to end imperialism in all its forms including colonialism, neo colonialism, and neo liberalism which will in turn entail diminishing economic disparities in country’s relative wealth, protecting cultural and social patterns interior to each country from external violation, and facilitating international entwinement and ties as people desire?
But if we can agree on something like that, then can we agree that new policy and structures will need to foster equitable internationalist globalization in place of exploitative corporate globalization and in turn discover and establish means for localities and regions to maintain autonomy and avoid external violations, while also enjoying international mutuality and solidarity, and for security without militarism, dispute resolution without war and coercion?
If so, couldn’t our emerging and evolving levels of agreement and our unfolding explorations of what we want for international relations then inform how we address immediate issues of trade, immigration, borders, international aid, international law, and war and peace, thereby bringing internationalist activism into touch with internationalist vision and vice versa?
That would put internationalist vision for the future to work to inspire and guide international struggle in the present. A very good thing, no?
Beyond the social, around the social, overarching the social, allowing or disallowing the social – what of ecological relations? Can we agree future worthy ecological relations will require new participatory ecological norms and practices that reverse resource depletion, environmental degradation, global warming, and other ecosystem disrupting or civilization threatening trends, not only for humanity to thrive, but even to just survive?
And can we agree that to become sane much less wise, new ecological relations will need to facilitate ecologically sound reconstruction of society that accounts for the full ecological as well as social/personal costs and benefits of both short and long term economic and social choices, so that future populations can sensibly decide levels of production and consumption, duration of work, degrees of self reliance, levels of energy use and harvesting, pollution norms, climate policies, conservation practices, consumption choices, and other aims and activities bearing on planetary stewardship in light of ecological implications and as part of their freely made economic, political, and social decisions about future policy?
And if so, can we also agree that new ecological norms and practices will also need to foster a consciousness of ecological connection and responsibility, so that future citizens understand and respect the ecological precautionary principle and are well prepared to decide policies regarding related matters that transcend sustainability such as animal rights or vegetarianism consistently with broader agendas for other social and economic functions?
And if so, couldn’t our emerging and evolving levels of agreement and our unfolding explorations of what we want for ecological relations then inform how we address immediate issues of land use, pollution control, resource depletion, and global warming thereby bringing immediate ecological activism into touch with long-term ecological vision and vice versa?
At a time when ecological deterioration threatens to obstruct and literally swamp into extinction all our other concerns, all our other agendas, mustn’t we put sound ecological vision for the future to work to inspire and guide sound ecological struggle in the present. And wouldn’t that be a very good thing?
Who/What Wins a Worthy Future?
If activists and all who desire change can arrive at a desirable vision even roughly of the sort broadly suggested above, but of course adapted, refined, and continually updated in light of new insights gained from new experiences, while that would be good and promising, it would certainly not itself constitute a new world.
A desirable vision can help inspire and inform fighting to win a new world as well as help guide building a new world, but the fighting and the building has to happen for emotional and mental desires to translate to real world outcomes. And such fighting for change and building its attributes isn’t a matter of each individual acting as an isolated atom, divorced from the rest, as is so common in our contemporary condition. Instead, collectivity is a prerequisite of success. Human atoms ricocheting here and there won’t achieve a new world. Such a magnificent accomplishment will require coherent movements with cohesion arising from shared methods and organization. And so can we agree that effective and worthy organizations are needed for groups to work collectively together with shared intentions while learning, retaining, and collectively applying lessons from their own past as well as from their newly unfolding experiences?
But if so, can we agree that to be effective and worthy, an organization must not only galvanize and apply people’s energies coherently, but also plant the seeds of the future that we desire in our present to inspire, learn, and lead where we wish to go?
And can we then also agree that an organization’s structure and policies, while of course regularly updated and adapted, nonetheless should always strive to implement the self management norm that “each member has decision making say proportional to the degree they are affected”?
And to that end, to be effective and worthy can we also agree an organization needs to be internally anti-racist, feminist, participatory, and classless including being structured so that any minority that is initially disproportionately equipped with needed skills, information, and confidence does not form a formal or informal decision-making hierarchy, leaving less prepared members to only follow orders and perform rote tasks?
Likewise, over time, can we agree that to be effective and worthy an organization should apportion empowering and disempowering organizational tasks to ensure that no individuals control the organization by having a relative monopoly on information or position, and that no subset of members has disproportionate say whether due to race, gender, class, or other attributes?
If so, can we agree an effective and worthy organization should monitor and work to correct instances of sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia as they may manifest internally, including having diverse roles suitable to people with different backgrounds, personal priorities, lifestyles, and personal situations?
And can we agree that an effective and worthy organization should celebrate internal debate and dissent as positive, making room, as possible, for dissident views to exist and be tested alongside preferred views? And that it should guarantee members’ rights to organize “currents” or “caucuses” and guarantee “currents” and “caucuses” full onus-free rights of democratic debate?
Likewise, can we agree that an effective and worthy organization should ensure that national, regional, city, and local chapters as well as sectors of the organization can respond to their own circumstances and implement their own programs as they choose so long as their choices do not interfere with the shared goals and principles of the whole organization or with other groups addressing their own situations?
If we can agree on even some variant of the above, refined and amended based on emerging experiences and new insights, can we also agree an effective and worthy organization should provide extensive opportunities for all members to participate in organizational decision making, including engaging in deliberation with others so as to arrive at the most well-considered decisions while implementing mechanisms for carrying out collective decisions and monitoring that such decisions have been carried out correctly? And that a liberating organization should expect members to actively participate in the life of the organization, including taking collective responsibility for decisions and presenting a unified voice in action?
If so, then can we also agree that an effective and worthy organization should establish internal structures that facilitate everyone’s participation including, when possible, offering childcare at meetings and events, finding ways to reach out to those who might be immersed in kinship duties, and aiding those with busy work schedules due to grueling work conditions, long hours, and even multiple jobs?
And, finally, as it discovers and implements structure and policies suited to its vision and priorities, can we agree an effective and worthy organization should also provide transparency regarding all actions by elected or delegated leaders including placing a high burden of proof on secreting any agenda whether to avoid repression or for any other reason, and to provide a mechanism to recall leaders or representatives who members believe are not adequately representing them while also providing means for fairly, peacefully, and constructively resolving internal disputes?
By Way of What Organizing
Even if and when, activists with diverse backgrounds and personal priorities arrive at collectively determined and continually updated shared vision and organization, can we agree that to win their sought aims will require always incorporating seeds of the future in the present, always growing membership and commitment among the class, racial, and sexual/gender constituencies served and leading the efforts, and also always winning reforms without becoming reformist?
And can we agree that to incorporate seeds of the future in its present class, race, gender, sexual, age, and power relations, effective and worthy organizing needs to not only constructively address the ways it’s members act but also actively establish internal norms and support including building exemplary workplace, campus, and community institutions that represent and refine the values of the movement and which the organization can point to as liberating alternatives to the status quo it combats? Seeds that enhance hope, test and refine ideas, and learn experiential lessons that can inform strategy and vision.
And can we agree that to constantly grow membership among the class, cultural, and gender constituencies it aims to aid, effective and worthy organizing should always learn from and seek unity with audiences far wider than its own membership? And that it should emphasize attracting and affirmatively empowering young people and, most difficult but also most essential, it needs to organize people currently critical and even hostile, not least by participating in, supporting, building, and aiding diverse social movements and struggles beyond its own immediate agendas, but also by explicitly addressing critical and even hostile constituencies in communities, on campuses, and at work?
And can we agree that effective and worthy organizing should seek changes in society both for citizens to enjoy immediately, and also to establish by the terms of its victories and by the means used in its organizing, a likelihood that citizens will pursue and win more change in the future. That it should seek to connect efforts, resources, and lessons across continents and from country to country, even as it also recognizes that strategies suitable to different places and times will differ. That it should seek short term changes by its own actions and programs and by support of other movements and projects, both internationally, by country, and also locally, including addressing such issues as global warming, arms control, policing, war and peace, the level and composition of economic output, agricultural relations, education, health care, income distribution, duration of work, gender roles, racial relations, media, law, legislation, etc., all as involved activists choose?
And that it should seek to develop mechanisms that provide financial, legal, employment, and emotional support to its members so that its members can be in a better position to participate as fully as they wish and navigate the various challenges and sometimes negative effects of taking part in radical actions. And that it should work to substantially improve the life situations of its members, including aiding their feelings of self worth, their knowledge, skills, and confidence, their mental, physical, sexual, and spiritual health, and even their social ties and engagements and leisure enjoyments?
And that it should seek means to develop, debate, disseminate, and advocate truthful news, analysis, vision, and strategy among its members and to the wider society, including developing and sustaining needed media and means of face to face communication? And that it should use diverse methods of agitation and struggle from educational efforts to rallies and marches, to demonstrations, boycotts, strikes, and direct actions, to win gains and build movements, while placing a very high burden of proof on utilizing violence, including cultivating a decidedly non violent attitude, while engaging in electoral politics case by case, including cultivating a very cautious electoral attitude – all in pursuit of winning its constantly evolving vision of a better society and world?
A virus rampages. Weather warps. Seas rise. Governments stiffen. Arms proliferate. Lies upon lies scream infantile idiocy. Some, sadly, bystand. Some, worse, applaud. Ostriches and celebrants on a global Titanic.
But many many other people are distraught, angry, outraged. We ask, we answer, we call, we aid, we support, we march, we coalesce, we demand, we strike, we occupy, we construct.
Looking backward confronts looking forward. What will emerge? Will the backward flow start to drift, slide, and then finally advance our way? Or will we tire, tumble, turn, and then morbidly gravitate their way or just lose momentum?
Will we wind up with yesterday, re-entrenched, regimented, and even worsened? Or will we attain tomorrow, diversifying, enlightened, and even liberated?
This is not academic. This is not TV. It is not movies. It is not games. This is life and life only. Or it is death and death only.
Without shared, continually refined vision of a worthy future and without shared, continually updated strategic means to pursue it, no matter our anger, passion, and drive, we will get yesterday, only much worse.
But with vision and with informed continually updated strategy, our anger, passion, and drive can take us to tomorrow, only much better.
And that would be a good thing, no?
[Collective 20 is a group of writers located in different places throughout the globe. Some young, some older; some long-time organizers and writers, others just getting started, but all equally dedicated to offering analysis, vision, and strategy useful for winning a vastly better society than we currently endure. The members of Collective 20 hope their contributions concerning social, political, economic, and environmental issues will generate more useful content and better outreach through a collective publication effort as opposed to individuals doing so on their own. Collective 20’s cumulative work can be found at collective20.org, where you can learn more about the group, see an archive of its publications, and comment on its work.]
|June 30, 2020||
Undeclared Ecological Warfare: The India-China dispute, a ‘biopsy’ analysis.
by K Sahadevan, Countercurrents.org, in Environmental Protection.
We understand war through the sound of bullets and the sight of dead bodies of soldiers. If someone asks the people of the border areas, many facets of the war will be revealed, beyond media coverage, official reports, and hyped-up patriotism. War can sometimes take the form of a flash flood or that of a drought. These are not wars waged by nature against man, but are in fact environmental attacks by the governments.
On February 12, 2012, residents of Pasighat Town in East Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh woke up to a shocking sight. The Siang (Brahmaputra) river originating from Tibet was suddenly found to have almost dried up. Investigations carried out by the district authorities found that the Siang River was dry because the Chinese authorities had blockaded the Yarlang Sangpo (Brahmaputra’s Chinese name) river overnight.
Another incident in 2000 was not easily forgotten by the people living on the banks of the Brahmaputra. On June 9, the water level of Siang rose suddenly by 30 meters and inundated almost the entire township causing widespread destruction to property besides claiming seven lives following the collapse of a hydropower dam in Tibet. There were allegations that Chinese authorities were behind this, but it was later discovered from satellite images that this was just a natural dam burst.
In both cases, we can see among the people and the local authorities the distrust, apprehension, and the fear of turning water into a weapon of war. The people of the Hindukush-Himalayan region have been living in this kind of distrust and anxiety for the past two decades. In fact, international and national attention is drawn only when the water conflicts between the two countries transform into border disputes.
The conflict between India and China is evolving from a traditional border dispute between two countries into a complex and unsolvable environmental crisis. This becomes clear if one considers the many constructions that both countries are undertaking in the region and the implications they have on the Himalayan ecosystem. What is attempted here is an analysis of the emerging environmental causes behind the Indo-China border dispute.
Water: The party is over
It has been predicted in many ways that water will be the cause of most of the conflicts in the new millennium. The diminishing availability of fresh water on Earth proves that the term ‘blue planet’ will not last long. Warnings about impending water conflicts have a history of at least six decades. International bodies, such as the United Nations, have long warned member states of future water shortages. But political leaders who saw in the immediate vicinity the abundance of water, ignored all warnings. Until recently, in geopolitical discussions the debate over water was alien. Water conservation is of little importance in their developmental and political agendas.
If water, which has been the basic resource for existence, from the life of the species to the economic activities of man, has been transformed into a root cause for constant conflict, it is only because of the lack of foresight of our political leadership. Global water shortages have become an issue that affects two thirds of the global population today. By the time we realize with regard to water abundance that the party is over, it has become an issue of constant tension between peoples and nations.
Asia, which now comprises more than half of the global population, is emerging as a new conflict zone for geopolitical reasons. An important one of the many factors that leads to such a situation is the fact that the scarcity of water in the region cannot be covered up any more. Let us try to understand more deeply the water conflicts behind the tense India-China relationship.
The tensions between China, which has become the world’s number one economic power, and India, ‘number one among the emerging economies’, are deepening. This is particularly so because the three nations that have nuclear weapons and political leadership that is totalitarian are part of the crisis.
China: Growing Economy and Drying Water Resources
With a population of 1.39 billion and a $14 trillion economy, China is the world’s number one economy by 2020, based on the power purchasing parity. Chinese products, based on low production costs, have dominated the world market, including the US. The growing population and size of the economy have forced China to increase its resource utilization. China’s planned ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI), connecting more than 70 countries and spending $ 1 trillion, will further strengthen Chinese trade links through land and sea. Many of China’s large-scale projects, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), require large-scale resource utilization. One of the most important and most scarce of these resources is water.
With 20% of the world’s population, China has just 7% of the global water resources (FAO, Aquastat, Online Data, 2011). This illustrates the depth of water shortage the country is experiencing. The Aquaduct Water Risk Atlas, prepared by the World Resources Institute, reveals that 30% of China’s land surface is under severe water stress. This means that about 678 million of the Chinese population are victims of the water crisis. This is more than 48% of the population. (This is based on data available from 2001 to 2010.) According to a study by water resource expert Jiao Wang, the extent of drought-stricken Chinese territory has increased by 57% over the past decade (Drop by Drop, Better Management Makes Dents in China’s Water Stress, Jiao Wang, April, 2018, WRI).
Through a nationwide census, the country was first exposed to a phenomenon that could be attributed to China’s water shortage. The census reveals that 28,000 of the 50,000 rivers that had been flowing in the country 20 years ago have disappeared. Chinese officials have interpreted the disappearance of rivers in the census report as a ‘statistical error’. However, a large group of meteorologists and ecologists point out that this is a real crisis for China in dealing with climate change.
High economic growth and the export-oriented manufacturing sector are contributing to the massive water shortage. The change in groundwater resources over the last two decades must be understood in relation to China’s economic growth. One of the mainstays of Chinese strategies to reduce production costs is the unscrupulous resource exploitation, which makes underground water resources vulnerable. Increased population and higher living standards have caused dramatic changes in household water use in China over the past few decades. These, it has been often pointed out, are the causes of excessive exploitation of groundwater sources.
By 2030, China’s water demand is estimated to be 818 billion cubic meter and the current water supply is 618 billion cubic meters. The reality is that China can only drive the economic growth it has envisaged if it can bridge the gap of up to 24% between supply and demand. These ‘externalities’ never appear in growth debates and are also the undercurrent of many an international conflict.
China has earned the status of the world’s largest dam builder. China’s ‘Three Gorges Dam’ leaves all other dams in the world behind in terms of capacity. Various reports suggest that China is planning massive water projects to overcome the impending water crisis. A 35-member State Council had been commissioned in 2006 to prepare the details of the ‘Great Bend’ project, which will double the size of the Three Gorges in the Yarlang Sangpo (Brahmaputra) basin (Brahma Chellaney, “China’s New War Front,” Times of India, April 23, 2013).
‘India-China Bhai Bhai’: Twins on the Drought Map
India is home to 17% of the global population. At the same time, India accounts for only 4% of global water resources (FAO, Aquastat, Online Data, 2011). The scarcity of water resources is a major concern for India’s developmental future. The water conflicts between subnationalities have become a daily affair for India. Disputes relating to water sharing in all major and minor rivers of India, including Kaveri, Krishna, Mahanadi, Damodar and Yamuna are leading to major conflicts and bloodshed. There is even a situation in India where water can be used as a weapon.
In June 2016, the Jat community in Haryana, during its agitation seeking financial reservation, called for a strike to freeze water supplies to Delhi. When protesters closed the Munak canal, supply of drinking water to over 1 crore people in Delhi was blocked. The army took control of the canal and in the conflict that ensued 18 people were killed. This event reveals how local communities have recognized the potential of using water as a weapon. It also indicates that the escalating interstate water disputes will only weaken the integrity of India’s nationhood.
Our developmental history shows that India has become a water-scarce country, driven by economists who have no preliminary understanding that economic growth must begin with the protection of natural resources. The Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) 2019, compiled by Niti Aayog, indicates that by 2030 the gap between the country’s per capita water supply (765km3) and demand (1498km3) will almost double. In her 2020 budget presentation, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that 100 out of the 739 districts in India (13.5%) are suffering from severe water shortages. The reality is that over 66 crore people in India have no access to safe drinking water. It is worrying that the country’s ground water depletion rate has increased by 23% between 2000 and 2010, and this trend is on the rise. One of the key factors that will hamper Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream that India will grow to 5 trillion economy by 2025 will be the aforementioned water shortage. Economists have warned that shortages of water could lead to problems in agricultural and industrial sectors causing a 6% decline in India’s GDP. While water shortages pose problems for the nation’s economic growth, the water disputes between subnationalities are escalating into more serious internal conflicts. It is undeniable that the root cause behind the partition of Andhra Pradesh into two states is the water sharing of the Krishna River. The dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Cauvery River has led to riots on several occasions. Disputes still persist with Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the use of water in the Mahanadi River. Odisha responded by holding a state-wide hartal to protest the Chhattisgarh government’s move to build 13 barges on the Mahanadi River. Disputes between the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan on the sharing of water in the Ravi and Beas rivers, and between the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan on the use of Narmada river water are currently active. Water disputes over Mullaperiyar, Parambikulam and Aliyar dams are also intensifying in Kerala. Various tribunals have been working to resolve the above water disputes for years but have failed to find solutions.
Hidden water conflicts in border disputes
Disputes over the Indo-China border began long before the birth of independent India. There have been numerous military confrontations, diplomatic talks and a war over the two sides; however, they have not evolved from what would normally be a border dispute. However, with the dawn of the new millennium, as the Chinese government moves ahead with the construction of dams in the Himalayan waters and mining operations, and with the Indian government building a dam network in Arunachal Pradesh, the Indo-China border disputes are becoming indicators of future water wars.
China shares four major rivers with India and other neighboring countries. The most important river is the Yarlang Sangpo, which is called the Brahmaputra in India and the Jamuna in Bangladesh (not the Yamuna River). The Brahmaputra River is one of the widest rivers in the world—50% (2,70,900 sq km) of the Brahmaputra River Basin is shared by China, 36% (1,95,000 sq km) by India and the rest by Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Brahmaputra basin has a population of about 63 million in the four countries mentioned above.
It can be seen that water is a key component of China’s planned industrial growth. The Chinese industrial sector consumes 120 billion cubic meters of water annually. The country’s coal mining sector is also demanding similar water use. Aimed at the country’s growing water and industrial growth, the Chinese government’s planned “Western China Development Strategy” aims at the massive exploitation of Tibetan natural resources—mainly minerals and water. Chinese experts estimate that the generation of electricity from the Yarlang Sangpo River is 114 gigawatts (Managing the Rise of a Hydro-Hegemon: China’s Strategic Interests in the Yarlung-Tsngpo river, Jesper Svensson, IDSA Occassional Paper, No-23). Work on the 550 MW Sangmu project has already begun. In addition to this, China has also planned to add another 20 hydropower projects in the Yarlong basin.
Jasper Svensen reports on March 28, 2011, that the Chinese official newspaper People’s Daily reported that these are projects that could provide 700 million cubic meters of water for the development of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
During various diplomatic negotiations, the Chinese government has repeatedly assured Indian authorities that they are “convinced of their responsibilities as an Upper Riparian State”. Chinese experts explain that their projects on the Sangpo River are ‘run of the river’ (the run-of-the-river project, which is characterized by the use of turbines to generate electricity without interrupting the flow of rivers). However, Delhi-based Center for Policy Research (CPR) professor and water security expert Brahma Chellani rejects China’s claims by evaluating China’s water use and dam construction practices. “From the Yangtze to the Mekong, and now in Brahmaputra, China’s dam-building pattern is quite accurate. China plans to build 12 dams on the surface of the Brahmaputra. Work on the mid-range one has already begun. These dams not only affect the flow of water but also prevent nutrients from flowing into the lowlands. This would adversely affect agricultural activities in the lower basin” (Simon Denyer, “Chinese Dams in Tibet Raise Hackles in India,”Washington Post, February 7, 2013).
In addition to its domination of the Himalayan watershed, the Chinese government is also pursuing plans to mine a wide variety of precious minerals in the Tibetan region. ‘The South China Morning Post’ newspaper quoted Chinese geologists as saying that the region contains $ 60 billion worth of gold, silver and other precious minerals for the electronics industry. The paper reports that the massive mineral deposits in the Tibetan region have led to an unprecedented increase in population (How Chinese mining in the Himalayas may create a new military flashpoint with India, Stephen Chen, South China Morning Post, 20 May 2018).
Brahmaputra is considered to be one of the most important rivers in India. Eight important hydropower projects have been built in Brahmaputra and tributaries across the states of Arunachal and Assam. State governments have given permission for the construction of hundreds of hydroelectric power projects in the Brahmaputra basin as a response to the Chinese presence in the Himalayas, while addressing the country’s growing water problem. From 2000 to 2016, Arunachal Pradesh government has sanctioned 153 water projects. The Indian Exploration Team has not been able to find any profitable mineral deposits in the region, and so far there have been no such moves for mining on the part of India.
At the same time, the government of India has greatly increased its military presence in the region, as it is suspicious of Chinese development activities in the border areas, especially in Tibetan Autonomous Areas. The construction of airports, missile launching pads and other military bases is widely undertaken across the border.
It is clear to those who seek to understand the global water disputes that the lower riparian countries are suspicious of the upper riparian countries in the case of different nations sharing common river basins. The Brahmaputra is a case in point. Indian authorities have accused China of developing several water projects in violation of international river water utilization norms. India has complained about projects other than the run-of-the-river projects.
According to the 2006 India-China Expert Level Mechanism on International Rivers, China is obliged to transfer hydrological data to India from May 15 to October 15 every year. China has been refusing to hand over data since the Docklam stand-off that happened in 2017. It was a move that would endanger the lives and property of the people living in the lower riparian areas. The hydrological data available during the monsoon period enable the authorities to prepare for the flood potential of the Brahmaputra. Chinese authorities have, however, unilaterally withdrawn from providing this essential information.
The collapsing Himalayan ecosystem
The military interference in the Himalayan region by two major Asian countries is disrupting the peaceful atmosphere in South Asia. There is no doubt that this intervention will have long-term effects on the ecology of the Himalayan ecosystem, which is already facing a major crisis.
The climate related issues have made the existence of the Himalayan ecosystem precarious. Even a slight change in the atmospheric temperature will increase the extent of the glacier melting in the Himalayas. This will lead to frequent flooding as well as Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). This is moving towards creating constant uncertainty in the lives of humans living in the Himalayan Valley. Extreme weather events such as floods, landslides, GLOFs, and droughts are likely to cause more damage in these areas. When we are planning large scale development activities aimed at economic growth, we are likely to overlook the reality that extreme weather events of this nature are causing huge losses to the economy.
China’s large-scale construction and mining operations in the Upper Basin region have long-term effects on the Brahmaputra basin. Tibet is dubbed ‘Asia’s Water Tower’. The Tibetan Plateau is a crucial water source and storage for China, whose unevenly distributed water resources are said to be in crisis. The Himalayan ecosystem is adversely affected by the fact that both countries are increasing their military presence in the region. Based on the statistics of the frequency of natural disasters in the region and the number of people affected in the last one century, flood disasters have major significance. At the same time, drought is the main villain when it comes to famine. The reality is that large scale construction projects in the region are the root cause of this change. It is a fact that any change in the Himalayan ecology, which directly affects the lives of over 1 billion people in eight Asian nations such as India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal, will lead to massive suffering and economic collapse.
The scientific community has warned that the Hindukush Himalayan region, one of the world’s largest glaciers, is facing such a threat. Official bodies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have recognized the severity and seriousness of the problem. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the average temperature increase in the Hindukush Himalayan region will rise to 1.8 degrees Celsius for at least the next five years. Another indication by the Hindukush Himalayan Assessment Report is that even with all the agreements we have made in the past, the average temperature rise in the region will be 2.1 degrees Celsius. All this suggests that by 2050, about one-third of the glaciers in the Himalayan mountains are going to disappear.
Extreme flooding and severe drought threaten the valley region, causing earthquake and landslides destroying mountain life and property. Experts say that climate change is making significant changes in the agricultural practices of the Himalayan region. Studies show that over 30 crops have been stopped in Uttarakhand in the last two decades. The people of Kumik village in the Sanskar Valley, which is part of India, are living examples of climate change. Known as the highest village in the world, Kumik is facing a severe water shortage today. The Kumik inhabitants, who have been engaged in agricultural pursuits in the Himalayas for centuries, had to leave their village and migrate to other places. Perhaps the first ecological refugees in India to have fled climate change were the inhabitants of Kumik. Degradation of glaciers has created a crisis for the villagers who depend on the springs that originate from the Himalayas. They had no choice but to leave the village. This is not the story of a single village only. Hundreds of villages in the Himalayan region are facing a similar fate. The only solution is to reduce the human carbon footprint as early as possible.
Are water-wars a reality?
Indian Army Chief S. Padmanabhan wrote a book in 2014, titled ‘Next China-India War: World’s First Water War–2029’. The book predicts that the severe water shortage that China is likely to experience by the end of the decade will drive China to rely more on the waters of Brahmaputra, leading to an inevitable water-war.
The Huffington Post, New York Times, Guardian, South China Morning Post and Washington Post as well as journals such as World Affairs, Project Syndicate, World Review, Geopolitical Monitor have published hundreds of articles and essays on this issue.
In addition, several research papers and books have been published on the same topic. All this points to the potential for India-China relations to go beyond traditional border disputes into a serious water-war. Over the last two decades, however, it can be seen that the key issue in the Indo-China diplomatic negotiations is related to water in the Brahmaputra.
Chinese authorities have always been reluctant to sign legally binding agreements with the lower basin countries. This makes them suspicious of any move by others. There are also rumors that the Chinese government has approved a project to construct a 1000 km long underground tunnel to get Brahmaputra’s water to the heart of China. But there are some other strong arguments that China’s water projects are not dependent on the Brahmaputra and are mainly linked to the Yangtze Yellow River.
Today, there are very clear international standards for how countries located on the upper regions should exercise its natural superiority over the countries in the lower regions of the basin. But China is not the only country in the world that is changing its geopolitical trajectory as a means of upsetting nations located in the lower reaches. A similar interaction can be seen in India-Pakistan relations. The Indian Prime Minister’s statement on September 26, 2016, in response to Pakistani interventions in Kashmir that “blood and water cannot flow together”, was something no Indian Prime Minister had ever done. The fact is that the Indian authorities have not hesitated to raise Pakistan’s anxieties by building dozens of dams across the Indus Valley. International river relations need to be treated with more restraint and foresight—especially when climate change is a reality to reckon with.
Ecological disasters, by their very nature, cannot be mitigated by any amount of flexing of muscles, threatening each other by nuclear weapons or shibboleths of patriotism and accompanying melodrama. They do not recognize national boundaries and cannot be settled through wars. At any rate they will trigger massive destruction, untold suffering and earth-shattering exodus of environmental refugees.
Narrow parochial approaches confined to regional or national boundaries cannot settle interstate water disputes. International bodies such as the UN or international water tribunals can be invoked to arbitrate and settle cross-border water disputes. Principles of equity and justice should be given the top most priority in settling these issues. The sooner we initiate collective action in this regard, the better. The stand-off between India and China should be settled through peaceful cooperation, not through war. People’s will to pressurize governments into positive action for common good irrespective of their nationalities can culminate in hitherto untried means of resolving this global issue of sharing of water resources.
K Sahadevan is an environmentalist from Kerala. He has been writing on Energy, Economics and Environment past few decades. He has authored half a dozen books on different topics and a regular contributor of Various Journals and Newspapers.
|July 6, 2020||
Global Problems Need Global Solutions
by Slavisha Batko Milacic , Countercurrents.org, in Counter Solutions.
Global Problems Need Global Solutions.
Ambassador Lamberto Zannier of Italy took up the mandate of OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities on 19 July 2017. Before taking up the position of High Commissioner, Zannier was OSCE Secretary General for two consecutive three-year terms, from 1 July 2011 until 30 June 2017. He spoke online at the “FROM VICTORY DAY TO CORONA DISARRAY: 75 YEARS OF EUROPE’S COLLECTIVE SECURITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM“ conference held at the Vienna Diplomatic Academy on 1 July.
In his speech, the well-known European diplomat highlighted the milestones in the history of the European continent’s security system in recent decades and told how, in his opinion, the European Union, its partners and neighbors to overcome confrontation and other negative moments that have become obvious in recent years.
In the 1980s, the NATO and the Warsaw Pact held negotiations that were considered a good form of dialog between the two enemies. But in the years that followed we have not really moved an inch. We were talking, but we were not communicating.
In late 1980s, in the OSCE there was a new starting point, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, a new vision of a new Europe for stability.
This was a good point of view for development in terms of the new relationships in a new phase, in the post-Cold War era. We started finding unexpected obstacles. There was an expectation of the transformation of internal borders into international borders of the former Yugoslavia and that the same will happen with the Soviet, but that did not happen. It was very political and generated conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and in Soviet States, in places like Transnistria, Nagorno – Karabakh, South Ossetia etc.
This transformation of borders was not so easy and took place in the context where we started seeing a new kind of complicated relationship. And there was a big debate in NATO: how well does all this mean for the alliance beyond the debate on how to intervene in these conflicts and how we can play a role to stabilize things and help others under the UN of OSCE mandate.
The key point in this debate is how will NATO relate to Russia in the future. In the first half of the 1990s, there were those who were thinking that we need to build a new relationship with Russia as a first step and then we can really to develop relations on the basis of that. But, of course, the agendas did not really match. On the NATO side, the Americans were repositioning themselves on their global agenda as the only remaining superpower projecting stability through the promotion of democratic institutions. And they promoted a rather conservative view of what NATO should be. On the Russian side, there was a big internal debate. Russians still saw NATO as the former enemy, and so they were saying that there was no need for NATO today. But others, especially the leadership, were willing to open a discussion, but the discussion about the future of NATO itself. They were basically saying that they would consider joining NATO, but then NATO would have to change. It would have to turn into a collective security instrument, into something similar to what the OSCE is today. This failed because there was no way to reconcile the two sides. This failure which led to NATOs progressive expansion was seen by Russia as aggressive, as a development that was a threat to Russia. In response, Russia started to establish its own area of influence.
From the last 1990s, the division between Europe and the Russian community has been expanding. The UN Security Council was divided on the Kosovo issue. We managed to pass a decision, but that took quite an effort. Then we had crisis in and around Ukraine and the Crimea. Every step seemed to increase the distance between the sides and to bring more geopolitics on the table.
I attended a security conference in Moscow. Gerasimov showed a map at the conference reflecting the deployment of NATO forces and concluded that Russia was surrounded. They felt threatened, and this was not a stable environment.
Relationship has become increasingly sour. Mechanisms that were established to deal with this have been working less and less. Today we face the situation where we have a lot of potential instability and we lost the tools that would allow us to address these problems.
From the beginning of 2000s we started facing global challenges which kept developing during last 20 years (terrorism, transnational organized crime, climate change, migration crisis, demographic crisis): countries react on them by closing up. We have seen on the migration crisis, EU entered the crisis itself, lack of common policy, lack of solidarity. The pandemic has also led to the real renationalization, closure of boarders, everybody is looking for itself. It’s fully understandable, but global problems need global solutions. It’s very difficult to work on global strategies and sustainable development that we very need today because geopolitical divisions make it impossible. The renationalization of the policy leads to progressive disinvestment of countries on multilateral framework. In OSCE for instance we have a shrinking budget all the time, we need to cut back all the time as a result mainly of the lack of interest of countries to invest in the frameworks like this. We need to stick together, to address challenges that affect us all…
At the end, what we can do? We can create coalitions, involving youth because their great interest is to make things work, we must involve young people in everything we do. Secondly, we must start talking about the need to invest in the effective multilateralism.
Slavisha Batko Milacic – analyst
|July 7, 2020||
India with Chinese Characteristics.
by Satya Sagar, Countercurrents.org, in World.
As India and China squabble over a tiny but strategic strip of land along their long border, some may be tempted to classify this as a clash between a democracy and a communist dictatorship.
And yet, a closer look reveals that India is not much of a democracy anymore – with rampant state repression, subversion of institutions, mass surveillance and discrimination against minorities. Neither is China communist in any sense of the term– being among the world’s most powerful capitalist nations, with widespread social inequality, pauperization of the peasantry and crude exploitation of labour.
Both countries have instead become like the very colonial empires their people fought to become independent nations. Empires operated on behalf of tiny elites, who whip up nationalist sentiments to divert attention from issues such as equitable sharing of resources or democratic rights for their citizens.
Seven decades ago, when India and China freed themselves from the grip of colonialism, they embarked on different political and economic trajectories. India, under the Fabian socialist Jawaharlal Nehru established a multi-party, constitutional democracy and promoted a ‘mixed economy’, which was essentially capitalism with a strong dose of public sector involvement. China, under Mao turned into a communist dictatorship, banned all opposition parties, collectivized land in the rural areas and nationalized all industry.
While the means varied, the two countries had a similar quest – to lift their populations out of poverty, rapidly industrialize and catch up with the developed West[i]. Both China and India also symbolized a rising Asia that wanted to undo the humiliation they had suffered under colonialism and emerge as strong nations.
Over the last half century, the two Asian neighbours have regained some of their lost historic status as global powerhouses, especially China, which in purchasing power parity terms is the world’s largest economy today, surpassing the United States. Steady growth has lifted millions of their citizens out of dire poverty and both countries are better fed and more educated than anytime under colonial rule.
China and India also possess great military might today – being nuclear powers and ranked first and second for largest number of active troops in the world. The real threats to China or India however are not external but come from within, as both countries seem to have lost their way and turned their backs on the civilizational impetus that guided their freedom struggles.
Today governments in the two countries represent nothing more than holding operations on behalf of powerful vested interests. In both countries big moneyed corporations shape national policies routinely, resulting in growing income inequalities that betray their socialist or communist vision from the past.
In the case of China, the Communist Party has always justified monopoly on power in the name of ensuring equal share of resources to all citizens, particularly from the peasantry. However, rapid urbanization promoted by the government in the last three decades, has seen a widening gap between rich and poor and incomes of urban and rural populations.
Between 1978 and 2015 the share of national income earned by the top 10 per cent increased from 27 per cent to 41 per cent. In the same period the share earned by the bottom 50 per cent dropped from 27 per cent to 15 per cent[ii]. Private businesses also dominate the Chinese economy today with the share of public property in national wealth declining from about 70 per cent in 1978 to about 30 per cent in 2015[iii].
in the case of India, which always had milder redistributive policies compared to China, the richest 1 per cent hold more than four-times the wealth held by 953 million people who make up for the bottom 70 per cent of the population[iv]. Overall, the top 10% of the Indian population today holds 77% of the total national wealth[v].
What is worse is that governments of the two countries are today also completely in the grip of a majoritarian ethos, that insists that their nation belongs exclusively to certain dominant social groups. Though at the time of the communist revolution China instituted many sound policies to take care of the needs of its 50 plus ethnic minorities, today it is run entirely by and on behalf of the Han ethnic group, who constitute 90 percent of the population.
In the case of India – despite the Constitution guaranteeing both secularism and equality to all citizens- power is concentrated in the hands of upper caste Hindus. Though themselves a tiny number they claim to represent Hindus in general, who make up over 80 percent of the citizenry. Apart from continuing with the centuries old oppression of indigenous communities and those at the bottom of the Hindu caste order, the Indian state also systematically discriminates against Muslims, who are the country’s largest religious minority.
Both countries are also increasingly intolerant of dissent, using the harshest methods to put down their opponents of any kind. China’s brutal suppression of those calling for freedom in Tibet is well known and if recent reports of mass arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, and sterilisation of Xinjiang’s Muslims are to be believed, the methods used by the Chinese regime mirror those of Nazi Germany[vi].
In India, which calls itself the ‘world’s largest democracy’, the right-wing regime currently in power has become brazenly authoritarian. Political dissidents, particularly student activists, are routinely thrown into prison, with the surveillance state muzzling freedom of expression. In Kashmir, where Muslims are locally a majority, Indian troops are routinely accused of gross human rights violations, paralleled only by atrocities committed by Israeli forces occupying Palestinian territories.
As China and India face-off over control of icy land in the mountains along their borders what people of both countries should really worry about is not each other but the dubious nature of their own ruling regimes.
Growing authoritarianism in the two countries can only result in increasing internal turmoil that will undo all the gains they have made since independence. More than money or military might, it is principles like democracy and fairness to all citizens, that are the real source of strength of societies throughout history.
Even in the United States, it is the fact that they can have a mass movement like ‘Black Lives Matter’ – without brutal suppression – that makes them a real superpower. A few centuries ago the reason why China and India got so easily conquered by European powers was because their feudal systems did not allow any meaningful debate or social change to happen – thereby weakening them internally.
Today, as old imperialist nations like the US, UK and Japan once again fish in troubled waters, trying to pit India against China, it is important to remember the right lessons from history.
Going back to the times of the East India Company and the Opium War may not be something the people of either country will want for sure. That is what they will get though, if they fail to fight their own rotten regimes at home on time.
Satya Sagar is a journalist and public health worker who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
|July 7, 2020||
Life’s survival is now in question.
by Lionel Anet, Countercurrents.org, in Counter Solutions.
What we have already done to our planet by maintaining economic growth.
We have and are over populating it, which is reducing our per capita of resources and our functionality. But worst is we must grow the economy and to do that we must burn more fossil fuels, which’s changing the biosphere that increasingly retains heat that’s raising the planet’s temperature to an unlivable state, and furthermore those gases are absorbed in the oceans acidifying it, thus endangering its life. Forest coverage is shrinking and their fires are uncontrollable and extreme, burning in the north and south hemisphere at same time, lasting much longer and are more frequent, causing multiple fatalities and severe health problems over large parts of the planet. Droughts are more severe and frequent, as are floods, also groundwater has to be pumped from deeper bores, which uses more oil. Spending on the military worldwide keeps increasing, is a drain on nature and on people who maintain societies’ liveability, also and even worse, and it perpetuates fear of the other. It’s aggravated by the disparity between people’s wellbeing, which’s widening nationally and globally. Furthermore, species of wild animals and plants all over the planet are decreasing at an alarming accelerating rate, in the air, land and water; if we keep on course it will be the slow part of a looming extinction. Relation between civilised nations is on a knife edge as the clock keep’s ticking on the possibility of nuclear extermination.
But none of that deters our economists as their aim is firmly fixed on economic and population growth, while politicians are concerned with the next election. That obvious nonsense is accepted worldwide practically unquestioned but there’s a limit to growth and we have passed it, so today, growth is at the expense of an increase decline elsewhere. Our civilised culture has not only separated people from one another, but also from other life and things as the more one feels apart the less feeling one has for the other. Also the less concern one has for the ones we abuse the easier it is to do. Yet we still have responsibility for one another, it’s seen so often when a stranger needs help due an accident or in a dire situation like drowning, people will risk their lives to save another it has been observed numerous occasions, because it’s our normal response to someone in need of support. It’s our hunter-gatherer culture that’s still very much part of nearly every one when it can be expressed if there’s no financial pressure.
To end life on our planet all we need to do is carry on as we have done since we’ve used fossil fuels to its bitter end. We’re not in control of that energy; this is due to the paradoxical system of social-competitiveness with its unknowable outcomes. Yet it’s the decisive factor for societies’ future, for it’s near impossible to be in control when competing one has to go with the flow. It’s the last phase of civilisation. It is one of many beliefs that reflects a culture and within that system we can only try to accelerate economic activity, which will, with fossil fuels, bring us quicker to a bitter end. This will involve everyone eventually in an unimaginable amount of violent turmoil as needs increase on a depleting planet. It’s taking a great deal of effort to end life on earth. On the other hand if we prioritise our survival instead of dominating life, it will be not only much easier, but our children will survive, it will give us self-esteem and a great deal of social satisfaction and happiness within a vibrant ecosystem.
However, we have capitalism and that’s based on financial aggrandizement. So we, the wealthy, the destitute, the learned, and the ignorant we are all in the process of killing “our” planet’s life due to financial demand. To survive we must end civilization before the planet self-emitted so much greenhouse gases due to a higher temperature.
Ability without feelings is the essence of dominance in civilisation.
Science for science sake is knowledge without feelings.
Computers have ability and memory without feelings, a little like psychopaths, but psychopaths have motivation to dominate us.
Those who lack feelings for their fellows will only strive to get an advantage for selves.
To encompass and justify the ruthlessness in civilized societies of various forms, beliefs and legal systems were used that required instituting a narrow focus that enhanced the domineering class’s education and information system that changed according to knowledge obtained from the technology of its civilization. The educated can’t see the whole because it’s a distraction from the particular; the vital issue in a competitive system. There is a strong need to outdo so as not to be outdone. That is a major part of the uncertainty for it’s not competitive if there’s certainty. Social planning, agreement, and helpfulness between individuals and groups is non-competitive and will minimise demand and output; it’s therefore seen as fraudulent, which it is in a competitive economy, but it’s wise, and fair therefore honest in a cooperative system. Competitive systems must be largely unrestrained, creating uncertainties producing psychological problems that have emotional pain, physical illnesses, and waste resources, but it will be fatal in a few decades if maintained. On the other hand, cooperation is assuring, efficient, controlled, and produces a compassionate life. But that’s not possible within civilization so it will have to be a very different world if we are to survive.
This would be impossible if the problem was human nature, but one only needs a glance at all the different lifestyles we had as late as last century and compare the difference. We’d see the very social cooperative extremely peaceful people who had little to no personal position in those few hunter-gatherers who were still left in areas that civilised people couldn’t see anything of value. That compared to any civilised people where personal property is of primary importance. Furthermore, In those bands every one’s character was understood, respected, and were made to feel worthwhile and to maintain that state, hunter-gatherers minimised their personal achievements by stating it was just a bit of luck to equalize the status in the band as the aim is to ensure everyone feels important and valued. The cohesiveness of the band was uppermost at all times; it was their emotional and physical strength. Each band had its own territory, which was considered sacred, like today’s nuclear family one’s home can only be entered by invitation.
So, if those “primitive” people can function well for the common good, what’s the reason we don’t. As mentioned we are knowingly destroying the planet’s liveability. It’s not in our nature except for a few probably less than 1 out of 50 of us who lack emotional feeling thereby can use whoever and whatever to satisfy their desires regardless of consequences if there’s a chance of success. But they can be heroic and assets for society provided they’re not in command. However, we have a competitive society and the best competitors are the ones who have the least feeling for others. So there is a critical mass of people that will change society from an equal power social base to a dominant society controlled by very few people found in all chieftains and civilised societies.
So how can we remove their control of societies as they war the instigator of oppression and wars? Nevertheless, that’s not our primary problem. Ours is to realise what’s going on, it’s the difficult one has historically we’ve looked on civilisation as almost sacred and blamed our human nature for the violence, oppression, and the plundering of people, or things to give a few individuals and associated their desires without responsibility. (“Après moi, le déluge) (“After me, the flood”). But we don’t have options. We have to participate. It’s not only our nature but it’s the only option to satisfy our socialness. The responsibility rests with us but we aren’t given options or the information to understand. Burning fossil fuels has enabled us to do an amazing number of things and support so many people, some in grand style, but we now need to reduce our numbers and our consumption, which is impossible in a competitive milieu. Therefore we need to change our social arrangement to living in small communities in a self-contained and practical way for the time. The ideal sustainable lifestyle that will give people the best life is to live in small highly social communities of less than a hundred adults enabling all adult members to interact and be collectively responsible for all the children’s welfare. It would enable the necessary reduction of our population and it would increase everyone’s wellbeing, particularly for children as living together within all ages the older one looking after the younger one is nature’s way, it used to be the way we spent our leisure time as children before they were organised by professionals. This would relieve the burden of parents without reducing the joy that children can give. Sharing within the group lessens the responsibility as well as increasing the freedom of everyone. The joy it would be wonderful for the young would give security and freedom with a wider experience. This is likely to look fanciful and would require massive changes but the alternative is a slow painful extinction, it doesn’t require any change to our lifestyle to that bitter end.
Unless we come to our senses and live cooperatively that’s controlled by the majority, that’s about 98% of all the people who have feelings for others including other life and our planet that will bring out our real humanity. Otherwise to keep on the present course will create an unlivable planet as it keeps heating up towards a Venus state.
To avoid that fate all we need to do is help each other locally and worldwide, this nearly is everyone’s natural desire and hope. This was so during the WW2 within a few countries when those nations realised they were in danger and needed an all-out effort. Therefore, what we need to do is to be honest in estimating world situations.
Lionel Anet is a member of Sydney U3A University of the Third Age, of 20 years standing and now a life member
|July 10, 2020||
It’s the economy, stupid! Or is it the stupid economy?
by Collective 20 , Countercurrents.org, in Counter Solutions.
ccording to statistics from the World Health Organisation, the number of coronavirus cases being reported worldwide remains significant. For example, in the 24-hours between 9th and 10th July, over 200,000 new cases and 5,575 deaths were reported globally with the highest occurrences in the US, Brazil and India, followed closely by large swathes of Asia, the Middle East and South America. It does not feel as though we are clear of this pandemic. If anything, the virus is very much with us and we have no vaccine or any licenced drug for its treatment.
But whether these figures warrant more caution and extended lockdown conditions, pressure is being exerted to prevent that where possible. The message in most countries—those that imposed lockdowns at any rate— has morphed from one that warned us to stay at home and save lives into one that insists we are in ‘the new normal’ and we need to get back to work.
So while scientific advisers talk of lifting measures gradually to monitor the spread of the virus, of two metres being the safe distance to avoid contracting the virus, of the virus remaining deadly and infectious, restrictions are being lifted, and quickly too, not at all in the gradual, cautious way that was promised initially. The move out of lockdown is not so much phased as frenzied.
So what changed? How did we get from being locked in our homes to ‘the new normal’, and at such speed? Maybe the more pertinent question is why lockdown happened in the first place, allowing, as it did, the unprecedented slowing down of the capitalist machine. The most obvious answer is that the wildfire spread of coronavirus across the planet posed a danger to everybody, ruling elites included, and not just the great unwashed. But back to the original question of what changed? If the virus is still a risk, if it is still sans-vaccine, why are we being told we can emerge from our cocoons?
In part, the answer lies with our own desire to emerge. Humans are a social species and we do not only want, but need, interaction and social contact for our physical and mental wellbeing. “Hell is other people” but a life without other people, without love or being loved, is a greater hell. Indefinite lockdown is hardly ideal so the majority of us may want to hear it is ending, too soon or not.
However, the popular ambition to put the pandemic behind us does not explain why governments are intent on pushing ahead and easing lockdown measures. The fact is, the message has overtly shifted from being about public health to being about the economy, and protecting further damage to the economy is taking primacy over protecting human life. The factors driving decisions now are largely economic, in the modern definition of the economy as one centred on GDP and profits instead of one centred on the wellbeing of the population.
So, you get a situation where political leaders are trying to rationalise why social distancing is being reduced from the very safe two metres to the much less safe one metre; and why it is perfectly reasonable to reopen non-essential shops, bars and beauty salons, schools and crèches, but not to visit family and friends in their own homes. The logic is we can go shopping, eat out and in some cases go to work, but for our own good, movement between households must remain restricted. Household restrictions are explained in terms of ‘bubbles’. People in a single household are in a bubble; they can pick one other household bubble to merge with to become a larger bubble thus allowing the people from both bubbles to visit each other indoors. Confusing? Nonsense? Why not forget about bubbles altogether and arrange to meet whoever you want when you are out at the shops or getting your haircut?
On the upside, it is a source of amusement watching the semantic gymnastics of politicians as they tell us why these are sound decisions based on the medical evidence. Undoubtedly, as confined spaces, our houses are somewhat more prone to the spread of the virus. But are we really expected to believe that a bar or a shop full of strangers with a one metre distancing rule is any safer? The reality is, the visits we make to each other’s homes have no economic value so can remain restricted. On the other hand, opening up the retail and hospitality sectors and the means for parents to return to work have a lot of economic value. Of course, no politician can come clean about that so instead they are cartwheeling, forward rolling and hand-standing their way through press conferences.
Talking of the press and the mainstream media—those cheerleaders for the status quo who speak on our behalf and know better how we feel and think than we do ourselves—they have jumped ship when it comes to the lockdown or the threat of the virus. Their focus is all on the economy and their message is: the pandemic has destroyed state economies, national debts have reached eye-watering levels, we must crank up the economic machine and get it working again at any cost.
Not to be accused of spewing negativity, the media balances the economic misery with a little light fun, bringing us reports from the high streets: shops opening for business; hordes of happy punters desperate for some retail therapy; even happier shop assistants unable to contain their delight at being back at work—work that is probably a zero-hours’ contract on minimum wage with lousy conditions; or the hour-long queues at drive-throughs at McDonalds. The media tells us isn’t it wonderful to see some normality, we got through the lockdown and we were in it together but we are out the other end, and surely, obviously, without a doubt, this is what we want.
The behaviour of the media and the politicians is to be expected and is hardly a disappointment. What is disappointing though, and massively so, is that this global trauma has changed nothing and it is entirely assumed that in re-emerging, we are going to pick up where we left off in serving the needs of capitalism. In many ways, that is worse than the dodgy sprint out of lockdown. And although we might find that pockets of society will be forced back into lockdown to deal with spikes and further waves of the virus, the trend is to reboot the pre-COVID economy, with few, if any, countries considering alternatives to ‘normal’ or how we might do things differently.
But doing things differently is what is desperately needed. Life-before-COVID was hell for billions of us with gross income and wealth inequalities, especially in the global south; austerity, public sector cuts and the drive towards privatisation; low-paid, casualised employment for many and no employment at all for many more; homelessness and housing precarity; debt, poverty and food banks. And do not forget the climate emergency, the destruction of our natural habitats and pollution of our soil, water and air. That is the world we are being told we cannot wait to get back to.
The lockdown was tough but that is not the entire lockdown story
Granted, the lockdown was tough for most people, those having to self-isolate and miss out on support from family and friends, those who lost jobs or businesses, those with chronic health problems who could not get their normal care, those with no access to outdoor space. In those respects, the end of the lockdown is good news.
But that is not the entire lockdown story. It also gave us the tiniest glimpse of another life, another way of being.
A sense of community developed in the vast majority of places and people looked out for each other—the Walking Dead it was not. We discovered the real meaning of an essential worker. Not a corporate executive or a big league football player or a celebrity or a billionaire mogul. But the doctors and nurses and carers, the engineers operating vital infrastructure, the food growers and suppliers, the delivery and postal workers, the waste collectors; these and others who put themselves at risk during the crisis to protect their communities and provide critical services. Consider the pay for the majority of these folks and then ask yourself, what kind of wacky system rewards the most important work with the lowest pay and worst working conditions, while non-essential work reaps the highest financial rewards? Somehow it seems unfair that people do not get rewarded according to the contribution their work makes to society.
And in lockdown, we consumed less. Restrictions were put in place regarding how many of each item we could buy at one time and which items became available for sale. The idea in capitalism that if you have the money and you want it, you should go ahead and buy it; you’re worth it. Conspicuous consumption had no place during the pandemic. This is in no way to suggest that authoritarian measures of rationing should be introduced but certainly, it was an example of much more modest consumption practices and it did none of us any harm.
We travelled less too. With more people working from home and generally making fewer journeys, travel by private and public transport was vastly reduced. The daily commute disappeared for many of us—is there anybody alive who was sorry about that? Restrictions were placed on public transport and global airline flights pretty much halved. The reduced travel had some happy side effects. The government-subsidised fossil fuel industry saw global oil prices and consumption both plummet. Our skies were cleaner and clearer due to a reduction in carbon emissions—the reduction was not enough on its own to trigger any reversal in global warming but it demonstrated the usefulness of reducing carbon-fuelled travel.
These positives of lockdown are disappearing, unfortunately, as lockdown itself disappears. It is time to get back to reality, to fulfilling our purpose here on earth: serving capitalism. As responsible citizens, it is incumbent on us to spend and over-consume our way to economic recovery. We are leaving our homes, the roads are busy again, and the airlines are chomping at the bit for a return to pre-lockdown flights as countries begin to open their borders and resuscitate tourism.
However, this reactivation is not going to be enough for capitalism. We will be made to pay the price for slowing it down. The forecasts are unequivocal about what is coming down the pike: colossal job losses, savage public sector cuts, income tax increases for low and middle earners, wrapped up in the mother of all recessions.
But why does it have to be like this? Why should we accept the single option of capitalism and the punishment it is going to bring on us and the planet? Are we really supposed to believe that despite millennia of ingenuity and creativity, this is the best the human race can come up with?
Capitalism favours a minority that makes up about 1% of the global population, and it is in the short-term interests of these elites that life-after-COVID must go back to the status quo. They will do everything in their power—their very substantial power—to make sure that happens.
The question is, are we going to let them? What if we decided to resist and instead demand another way? We have the power of numbers on our side after all—maybe the only resource we have more of. We already know what the alternatives to the status quo are. We have them waiting and ready to go. We could achieve something extraordinary if we came together and united under this common cause.
For most of the time, we are divided, black versus white, man versus woman, young versus old, gay versus straight, immigrant versus non-immigrant, working class versus professional-managerial class. Of course, these divisions are understandable and the deadly oppression that lies at their core is real. It must be opposed and destroyed. But ultimately, our biggest enemy is not each other but the 1% that wants to keep us subservient and subjugated. And ultimately, our distinct struggles against oppression will never reach an end as long as that minority remains in control.
If there is anything that gives the ruling elites sleepless nights, it is their fear that the masses will unite in mutual support. What if we were to do that? Not abandon our individual struggles but remain distinct while showing solidarity for each other across struggles and collaborating where we see shared goals.
And if we did, how then would we avoid these disasters of colossal job losses, savage public sector cuts and income tax increases wrapped up in the mother of all recessions?
A global recession only needs to happen if we want to keep capitalism intact and ensure the 1% maintains ideological control and amasses huge profits at the expense of everybody else and the planet. We are being prepared to expect this recession just so they can recover anything they might have lost, just so they can make money out of disaster.
We have everything we need to create a different world
We could decide instead not to go back to capitalism. We could decide to reorganise the economy on the principles of prioritising the wellbeing of people and of the planet; of sharing resources so that everybody has enough; of conducting production and consumption based on sane and humane need.
Beyond the straightjacket of capitalism, we have everything we need to create a different world. The means and the resources, at a global level, are readily available to provide material needs such as food, shelter, healthcare and education for every single person on the planet and to do so in a way that is environmentally sustainable and recognises the true social cost of goods. People are hungry or homeless or go without adequate education and healthcare not because there is not enough but because the capitalist economy dictates that there be haves and have nots.
We have ample renewable energy sources to meet our global energy needs without destroying the planet. The move to renewable energy will require us to make use of a mix of sources combined with greater energy efficiency and modest, not excessive, energy consumption, but all of that is entirely achievable. Our deadly dependence on fossil fuels is not because there is no other choice but because under capitalism the fossil fuel industry has the economic and legislative power to ensure their interests come first.
The task of making the transition to a low-carbon society is enormous. It is going to require transformation from carbon-intensive industries to low-carbon counterparts. It is going to require the creation of millions of new jobs worldwide and instead of job shortages there will be an abundance of work. The new jobs will be purposeful and could be provided within the context of worker-owned co-ops that are not profit-driven and that base income on how long and hard people usefully work and on the extent of harsh conditions they must endure.
Alongside these new working environments, the not-for-profit approach would make space for other socially beneficial interventions to be introduced such as a reduced working week; increased time for volunteering, caring responsibilities, self-development and leisure and creative pursuits; affordable and secure tenure of housing with no threat of evictions; a Universal Basic Income for all with additional money for those who cannot work due to health and other reasons; and universal basic services such as healthcare and education. In capitalism, people are unemployed or working in precarious jobs with low pay and Dickensian conditions not because there is no work or the money is not there to give better pay or better conditions but because providing those things would divert money away from profits.
Any discussion of transitioning to a ‘green’ society invariably leads to talk of job losses as the ruling elites propagate threats about the catastrophe such transition will bring, the millions of men and women in the old industries who will be out of work. Politicians who dare to support the transition are vilified as supporting mass unemployment.
Of course, these are just straw man arguments used by the elites to protect themselves, not jobs. They do not care about jobs. If they did, they would not take production to other countries in pursuit of cheaper labour. The truth is, far from being out of work, the workers displaced from the old industries will be desperately needed in the new for their abilities and creativity, whether that means retraining or using their existing skills. Only, if we do it right, in the new industries they will be better off because they will be worker-owners availing of better working conditions, pay and universal services, and providing value to their communities and wider society.
We already have economic models that would allow us to do all of this and more. We could apply the steady-state model which would get us away from the neoliberal obsession with continuous growth and GDP as a measure of economic health. And there is participatory socialism which would allow us to produce and consume using the yardstick of living within our means, attaining equitable income for all, and giving workers truly democratic, self-managing workplaces.
But what about the monstrous deficits that countries have racked up over the pandemic months, countries that were drowning in debt long before coronavirus struck? Governments constantly tell their citizens that paying off the deficit must be the priority and that, evidently, the only way to do so is to reduce public spending by privatising and cutting public services and increasing income tax for ordinary workers. They repeat this message so often that they have us convinced there are no other options. Such thinking takes us back to the assumption that at all costs, we must maintain economic structures as they have been, when actually nothing could be further from the truth.
For instance, one well-kept secret is that government debt is not like household debt where we get into financial trouble if we spend more than we earn. A budget deficit in itself should not be a problem, neither should government spending. The same can be said for budgets at state and regional levels. If they wish, they can have extremely high deficits without causing any economic harm, and government spending is beneficial to society, especially in times of recession.
Another largely hidden measure that governments have at their disposal is Quantitative easing (QE). In very simple terms, QE is a policy whereby a central bank—or the Federal Reserve in the US—generates new money by buying financial assets from commercial banks and financial institutions, thus increasing the money supply which in turn is supposed to stimulate the economy.
QE has been widely used across the world since the 2008 financial crisis. In the US for example, QE programmes have amounted to around $3 trillion. In Britain they sit at £375 billion. Unfortunately, instead of that money being invested in the real economy at regional and state level to boost productive businesses and industries and create jobs, it found its way into financial markets, ironically giving money to the very mechanisms that caused the crash in the first place and probably setting the scene for another crash yet to come. The UK and the US launched further QE programmes during the coronavirus pandemic, £100 billion and $700 billion respectively. History is repeating itself as once more, QE money is going to all the wrong places and is being used to bailout the usual corporate suspects and big polluters such as airlines and oil and gas companies.
QE in itself is not a bad idea. It goes wrong because the additional money is not getting to the real economy. Proposals from many quarters are calling for QE for the People or a Green QE where the money would actually reach the economy that ordinary folks live in. The potential such an injection of money would have on regional and state economies is profound. Used in conjunction with public- or community-owned banks, low or no interest loans could be given to local businesses and co-operatives that provide essential goods and services, all in a way that protects the environment.
Taxation is another reasonable source of revenue for governments. But why, when a government is looking to raise more revenue, is it always the income taxes of low and middle earners or the sales and value-added taxes that have to increase? At the same time, governments give tax breaks and incentives to the wealthy and turn a blind eye to their tax avoidance and evasion activities—because, it is argued, they are the wealth generators and need complete freedom to do what they do best; and also because they buy and sell what they like, including politicians.
For once though, why not make the wealthy pay? The international Tax Justice Network estimates that around $21-32 trillion of financial assets are stashed away in tax havens around the globe. By clamping down on tax havens using mechanisms such as unitary taxation, governments across the world could recoup the $trillions owed to them and their citizens. Taxes could be increased too, though not for the low and middle earners this time, but for the corporations and the wealthy, to create a progressive taxation system. Of course, ending government subsidies to carbon-intensive industries such as fossil fuel, automobile and nuclear, would be imperative. Global spending on fossil fuel subsidies alone is in the region of $800bn annually. Not loose change by any means and it could be usefully diverted to more sustainable and environmentally-sound activities.
Framing budget deficits as the problem and diverting money away from ordinary people and public services as the solutions is a carefully crafted distraction. The real dangers for governments are inflation and deflation, and these can both be controlled in a number of ways: by keeping a check on the financial economy; by investing in the real and green economy; by ensuring a sustainable tax base; and ultimately by managing how much money goes into circulation.
Use this crisis to define a new economy
The thing is, as we move out of lockdown and into a post-COVID world, there will be a recovery. If we slip right back into capitalism, that recovery will mean the creation of money for investment in financial markets so that the wealthy can stay wealthy. The new QE programmes are proof that this is already happening. Simultaneously, the rest of us will be forced to endure more decades of austerity and recession, all the while being pushed towards the cliff edge of the climate crisis. We can decide to accept that or we can decide to turn all of it on its head by demanding that the created money is redirected into the alternatives for a greener, kinder world?
None of the progressive ideas presented above are far-fetched pie-in-the-sky. They are backed with robust evidence. More than can be counted are already in place, albeit on a small scale, and countless others have the support of tens of thousands of us through popular campaigns. Left activists are hard at work all over the world whether it be organising action on climate change or anti-neoliberal uprisings; promoting sustainable farming and food growing practices; defying racism, sexism and homophobia; protecting natural habitats and endangered species; supporting the homeless and constructing co-operative housing projects; establishing community-owned renewable energy projects, community-owned banks and worker-owned co-operatives; implementing experiments in participatory budgeting; or building networks of solidarity and collaboration.
The pandemic, for all its tragedy, has offered the Left a moment. What we decide to do now is all-important.
We can simply let life return to ‘normal’, face the misery and suffering of the anticipated economic depression, and allow the ruling elites and their political servants to define the economy.
Or we can use this crisis to define a new economy that showcases alternatives and proves they’re not only possible but necessary.
The choice can be ours. So, which will it be?
[Collective 20 is a group of writers located in different places throughout the globe. Some young, some older; some long-time organizers and writers, others just getting started, but all equally dedicated to offering analysis, vision, and strategy useful for winning a vastly better society than we currently endure. The members of Collective 20 hope their contributions concerning social, political, economic, and environmental issues will generate more useful content and better outreach through a collective publication effort as opposed to individuals doing so on their own. Collective 20’s cumulative work can be found at collective20.org, where you can learn more about the group, see an archive of its publications, and comment on its work.]
|July 10, 2020||
Fetishising ‘The Number’: How Not To Govern Pandemics, Climate and Biodiversity.
by Mike Hulme, Countercurrents.org
As the pandemic continues to dominate public politics around the world, a single number – the reproduction rate (R) – has become the focus of policy-making and public communication. Keeping R below 1.0 appears to be the primary objective of public health policy. In the case of climate change the number 2°C (or 1.5°C) operates in a similar way. And there is a recent proposal to create a single number by which to direct biodiversity policy – less than ‘20’ species extinctions per year. Governing complex phenomena through managing a single number is alluring. But as these three cases all show, it is misguided – and also dangerous.
The Allure of ‘The Number’
Climate politics have long been dominated by numbers: per capita emissions rates, global warming potentials, atmospheric concentration of CO2, global temperature. Over the last decade, policy-making around climate change has increasingly been directed by the number ‘2’ – limiting global temperature rise to no more than 2°C above the nineteenth century baseline.
Two degrees – ‘The Number’ – has gained extraordinary power in the science, politics and public discourse of climate change. Diplomats negotiate and campaigners protest around The Number, which also fixes the size of the carbon budget and, by extrapolation, the target date for net-zero emissions. This obsessive focus on The Number risk the dangers of climatism.
The ‘success’ of The Number for governing climate change has recently prompted Mark Rounsevell and colleagues to propose a “single 2°C-like target” for governing biodiversity. In their case The Number is proposed to be 20 – the maximum average annual allowable rate of species extinction over the next century. According to a recent Nature editorial, the justification for their proposal is to “break nearly two decades of failure” in global biodiversity governance,
In the case of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, The Number is a reproduction rate (R) of 1.0. R is a measure of the spread of infection in a population, but is a number which can only ever be imprecisely estimated and whose calculation rests on many assumptions. As David Adam has recently argued, fascination with R has turned into “unhealthy political and media fixation”.
The defence of The Number for public policy-making – whether climate change, biodiversity loss or a pandemic – is that it offers a simple, clear focus for political rhetoric and public communication. Indeed, Rounsevell and colleagues are explicit about this. The Number, they say, must be “easy to measure and communicate” and is intended to “galvanize both political will and public support”. This is why we have seen Boris Johnson repeatedly scrutinising and communicating R to set and defend the UK’s pandemic policies.
Why Single Numbers Lead To Bad Policies
In his book Fetishism and the Imagination, literary scholar David Simpson explains that fetishism occurs when the mind “ceases to realise that it has itself created the outward images or things to which subsequently it posits itself as in some sort of subservient relation”. Put more simply, a fetish is any created object or activity to which one becomes excessively or irrationally devoted.
The Number easily becomes a fetish. 2°C is already a fetish, in that it exerts excessive power over our imagination of the climatic future and is allowed to direct our policy-making. R is in danger of becoming a fetish in that all policies have to be justified or attacked according to whether they decease or increase R below or above 1.0. And if 20 is adopted as The Number for biodiversity management, I suggest that it too would quickly become a fetish by directing the conservation policy gaze solely in this direction.
Or if not a fetish, then The Number becomes a monster. Thus David Adam quotes Mark Woolhouse, an infectious diseases expert at University of Edinburgh, “We’re concerned that we’ve created a monster. R does not tell us what we need to know to manage this [pandemic].”
The problem with governing by The Number, as explained by Jerry Muller in The Tyranny of Metrics, is that it encourages goal displacement. Goal displacement occurs when attention becomes focused on hitting The Number, instead of attending to a wider range of more important public policy goals that are either not measured or not valorised.
In the case of climate change, The Number leads to a narrowing of policy horizons – limiting global temperature becomes the sine qua non of climate policy – whilst also opening the door to the Promethean hubris of solar geoengineering. The Number obscures the real reasons why we are concerned about climate change in the first place, for example people either dying or left without livelihoods because of climatic hazards or the ecosystems being damaged. The Number becomes the end or is assumed to be the only means of achieving multiple ends.
With regards to biodiversity I believe similar dangers await if Rounsevell and colleagues’ proposal is adopted. There are many other desirable outcomes of conservation and land use policy that are entirely missed by The Number 20, for example maintaining ecosystem functionality and sharing the benefits of biodiversity equitably.
And we are seeing in real-time the distortions in public health policy caused by fetishising R. As Adam again observes, “Too much attention to [R] could obscure the importance of other measures, such as trends in numbers of new infections, deaths and hospital admissions, and cohort surveys to see how many people in a population currently have the disease, or have already had it.”
Drawing the sting of climate change will not be achieved by limiting global temperature to 2°C. Minimising the total social burden of a pandemic will not be achieved by suppressing R to below 1.0. Effective conservation management cannot be delivered by simply limiting the annualised extinction rate below 20.
Why Good Policies Need Multiple Numbers
So if fetishising The Number leads to bad policies what do good policies need? They need multiple goals that recognise the diversity of the social and environmental goods and values that are threatened by the three scourges of pandemics, climate change and biodiversity loss. A multiplicity of policy objectives are needed. And they should be crafted so that they are deliberately incommensurable. They must not be collapsible to The Number.
Other indicators for climate governance have been proposed other than 2°C, for example ocean heat content, rates of energy decarbonisation, atmospheric CO2 concentration, global sea-level rise. Even better for climate would be foregrounding the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, for the reasons explained here.
In the case of the pandemic, it is essential to recognise those aspects of disease transmission that are not captured by R. These include local and regional variations in transmissions, the absolute numbers of potential spreaders, the nature and location of superspreaders.
Public health policy needs to focus on other numbers that have significant bearing on the total health burden and that can counter the magnetic pull of The Number. These would include, for example, cancer treatment rates, referrals to mental health services, unemployment rates, child-days of education lost … all being indicators which are heading in the wrong direction even while the focus is on controlling R.
One shouldn’t govern a pandemic through the reproduction rate, just as one should not govern climate change through global temperature nor biodiversity and ecosystem services through extinction rates. 1.0, 2°C and 20 are alluring numbers for politicians because of their simplicity.
But they are dangerous because they reduce the complex world to a single number. They point only in one direction.
Far better is to assert multiple goals – reflected in multiple numbers – which cultivates governance for clumsy solutions. We inhabit a plural, diverse world where scientific knowledge is always incomplete and revisionable. It is reflexive governance that is needed, guided by multiple and adaptive goals, rather than precision governance directed by The Number.
The best way of avoiding the dominant power of a fetish is to not grant it power over one’s imagination in the first place. Rounsevell and colleagues’ quest to create The Number for biodiversity management should be abandoned before it begins.
Mike Hulme, University of Cambridge
|July 16, 2020||
Why do right wing political and religious forces impose mass morality?
by Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Countercurrents.org, in World.
The reactionary upheavals are taking place in different parts of the world with diminishing democratic culture in 21st century. The conservative alterations are pushing humanity into the darkness of dictatorship in the so-called glory of god, gold and national greatness. The god is represented by religious right-wing forces to capture gold or resources for the capitalist forces and national greatness is represented by cultural and religious reactionaries. There is a strong synergy between these forces to consolidate unchallenged capitalist system. The religious groups are represented by right wing forces in politics. These reactionary forces demand that people need to follow certain cultural, social, provincial and religious norms. They try to impose food codes, dress codes and marriage codes on the masses. From food habits to sexual preferences, the conservative forces try to impose the idea of national, linguistic, regional, cultural and religious chauvinism.
Why do these forces demand such uniform moral values in the 21st century world? The answer to this question is central to understand the inherent race, gender, caste, class and capitalist character of religious forces. The so-called exclusionary nationalist and religious propaganda is a veil that hides the fascist and capitalist character of these conservative forces.
The centralization of economic and political power, construction of cultural and religious norms are significant tools of social regulation of life and domestication of labour power. The idea of democracy, empowerment and diversity threatens capitalism and its market forces. It also threatens the religious, reactionary and fascist forces. The centralization of politics and uniformity of cultural norms help both political and economic elites in the world. The religious philosophy provides ideological foundation for such an alliance between right wing religious forces and capitalism, where the workers and the masses can imbibe ascetic attitude to the labour and its outcomes. The mass morality derived from the ideals of religious philosophy disciplines both individual labour and the labour of the masses as well. It domesticates the workers in such a way that workers feel as if there is nothing external to their work. Their work only decides their fate and future. But in reality, it is the capitalist class and religious ruling class suppress the desires and aspirations and exploit their labour power for the production of capitalist profit. The neoliberal economic policies are celebrated by capitalist classes and their market forces. Capitalism produces profits for the few and miseries for the masses. Religious forces help in the processes of naturalisation and normalisation of miseries by outsourcing it to fate written by god in religion. The right wing and religious forces provide strong irrational platform of mass morality for the success of capitalism as a social, economic and cultural system.
The deepening of capitalism ensures expansion and universalization of religious mass morality to accommodate and solve its contradictory characters. Capitalism maximizes religious morality with the help of reactionary religious forces in politics and society. It is easier for capitalism to manage capital and labour conflicts, if more people surrender themselves and their labour to the unquestionable religious and moral justifications. The ascetic attitude of the masses is an unavoidable essential for the survival of capitalism. It supplements existing right-wing institutional arrangements of capitalism from the state, political parties and government to judiciary and religion. Religion infused with mass morality provides stability to the fragility of capitalism and helps to cover up its inherent internal contradictions. Mass morality also forces people to work obediently, which helps capitalism to grow by rationalizing exploitation of labour. The taming of labour power is central to the growth of capitalism. It uses science and technology for its growth but forms unholy alliances with reactionary religious and right-wing forces to control the masses with irrational morality in the name of god, religion, culture and nationalism.
The construction of mass morality removes all social and religious barriers to exploitative and violent capitalist accumulation processes. The mass morality is embedded within a broader framework of capitalism, which provides religious justifications to naturalise inequalities. There is nothing moral about capitalist system that promotes exploitation of human beings and degradation of environment. Capitalism is not only amoral but also promotes competitive culture of consumerism, that destroys all existing moralities and goodness of human beings essential for future survival. The consumerism promotes monetised, individualist, selfish culture, which destroys idea of love, peace, commitment of human being for fellow human beings and nature. In this way, the construction of mass morality within capitalism serves its own purpose at the cost of the quality of human lives, society and nature.
Religion is not a precondition to morality. The moral inclinations are products of human experience with life and livelihoods. Morality exists independent of religious indoctrination. Moral concerns are human concerns. There is no morality without human concerns. The religious and right-wing forces use this innate relationship between human beings and morality to expand the regimes of mass morality with the help of organised religion. The organised religions institutionalise morality within social, economic, political and cultural context. It domesticates the masses for the ruling and non-ruling capitalist classes. These forces blame atheists, rationalists and secular forces for the decline of morality. In this way, religion led mass morality works as a safety valve for the immoral capitalist system.
As the religious and right-wing forces accelerate their regimes of mass morality, the human predicaments continue to growth. The hunger, homelessness, hateful climate and all other forms of inequalities continue to grow. The emerging right wing and religious forces strengthen the capitalist exploitative system. There is sprawling silence in the gloomy political, economic and cultural sky, which attempts to devour everything, that is progressive, liberal and democratic. The people who fight for the rights, liberty, equality and justice, they are imprisoned and silenced by the ruling classes. But the silence and silencing are prelude to all revolutionary upsurges in history. The flames of silence do not die with fascist uproars. It waits to gather momentum of the radical storm to burn down fantasies of fascism and all its reactionary brethren in politics, economy, society, and culture. It is the revolutionaries who write the history of the masses and drive society into the territory of prosperity and peace for all.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Coventry University, UK
|July 16, 2020||
by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents.org, in Book Review.
Human nature as a central theme of philosophy
What is human nature? Are we humans good or evil? To what extent is the character of a person produced by heredity, and to what extent by environment? Is competition more central to our existence than cooperation, or is it the other way around? How can a happy, peaceful and stable society be created? Are humans essentially the same as other animals, or are we fundamentally different? Should humans dominate and control nature, or should we be the custodians of nature? These questions are central to philosophy. Conflicting answers have been given by philosophers, scientists and religious leaders offer the centuries, from earliest times until the present.
The chemistry and physiology of emotions
Human emotions have a long evolutionary history. We share many emotions with our animal relatives – for example, mother love, fear and anger. Modern science has given us an insight into the chemistry and physiology of emotions. In our human brains, and in those of animals, there are billions of chemically moderated connections between neurons. These are called synapses. Whether or not a synapse “fires” and transmits its message to the next neuron depends on the chemical environment of the synapse, and this environment changes under the influence of hormones released by our glands, which are in turn influenced by our emotions.
Ethology: the science of inherited behavior patterns
Charles Darwin’s book “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals” (1871) shows that he was aware that behavior patterns are just as reliably inherited as physical characteristics, and that they are similar within related groups of animals. For example, all members of the cat family show similar car-like behavior. Because of this pioneering book, Darwin is considered to be the founder of the science of ethology, the study of inherited behavior patterns.
More recently, in 1973, Karl von Frisch (1886-1982), Nikolaas Tinbergen (1907-1988), and Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989), shared a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Karl von Frisch won his share of the prize for his studies of the waggle dance by which bees transmit information to their hive-mates. Tinbergen, who is famous for his studies of the instincts of birds, has pointed out that no modern ethologist would debate the question of whether heredity or environment plays a greater role in forming the character of an individual, since all learning is built upon a base of genetic predisposition, without which it would be impossible.
The third 1973 laureate, Konrad Lorenz, is most controversial, but also the most interesting of the three, since his famous book “On Aggression” casts light on why humans are so susceptible to militarism.
The dark side of human nature
Are humans good or evil? We can find evidence for both sides of human nature. It seems that humans can behave in both ways, depending on their education, and the circumstances in which they find themselves. In the recent killing of George Floyd, we see both sides of human nature. The brutal killing, and Donald Trumps reaction show the dark side, while the worldwide anti-racist protests show human nature at its compassionate best.
Our collective shortsightedness: The climate emergency
There is a remarkable contrast in the way that governments around the world have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the way that they have responded to the climate emergency. The pandemic, which indeed represents an extremely grave danger to humanity, has produced a massive global response. Borders have been closed, airlines have become virtually inoperative, industries, restaurants and entertainments have been closed, sporting events have been cancelled or postponed, people have been asked to stay at home and practice social distancing, and the everyday life of citizens around the world has been drastically changed.
By contrast, let us consider the threat that if immediate action is not taken to halt the extraction and use of fossil fuels, irreversible feedback loops will be initiated which will make catastrophic climate change inevitable despite human any human efforts to prevent it.
This threat is even more serious than the COVID-19 pandemic. Climate change could make much of the earth too hot for human life. It could produce a famine involving billions of people, rather than millions. And yet the world has hardly reacted at all.
A minority, for example the Scandinavian countries, have taken appropriate action. Most governments pay lip service to the emergency, but do not take effective action; and a few countries, such as the United States under Donald Trump, Bolsonaro’s Brazil, and Saudi Arabia, deny that there is a climate emergency and actively sabotage action.
The world’s net response has been totally inadequate. The Keeling Curve, which measures CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, continues to rise, and the rate of rising is even increasing. What is the reason for this remarkable contrast between our strong reaction to the pandemic and our neglect of the climate crisis? Is it because we see clearly what is near to us and neglect whatever is far away? Or are powerful financial forces at work, controlling the mass media?
Sex and overconsumption
If we are to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, each of us must reduce his or her carbon footprint. Particularly in the wealthy parts of the world, we must simplify our lives and renounce overconsumption. Humans must stop using material goods as a means of social and sexual competition.
Human nature is best suited to sharing societies
T.R. MalthusWhat kind of society will make us happy and safe? What kind of society is sustainable? What kind of society is most in harmony with human nature? Our emotions have not changed much since the time when humans were hunter-gatherers, living in egalitarian groups that shared food whenever they were able to find it. There is much evidence that also today sharing and egalitarian societies are more happy than those with excessive individualism and competition.
A new book
I have recently published a book which discusses rhese questions in detail. The book may be freely downloaded and circulated from the following link:
Other books and articles about global problems are on these links
I hope that you will circulate the links in this article to friends and contacts who might be interested.
John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist at the University of Copenhagen. He is noted for his books and research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. His 2003 book Information Theory and Evolution set forth the view that the phenomenon of life, including its origin, evolution, as well as human cultural evolution, has its background situated in the fields of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Since 1990 he has been the Chairman of the Danish National Group of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. Between 2004 and 2015 he also served as Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy. He founded the Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes, and was for many years its Managing Editor. He also served as Technical Advisor to the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (19881997). http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at email@example.com. To know more about his works visit this link. http://eacpe.org/about-john-scales-avery/
|July 16, 2020||
The Inertia Bugaboo
by Robert Hunziker , Countercurrents.org, in Climate Change.
Planetary heat is turning skeptics into climate change worrywarts with record temperatures galore!
But wait, the worst is yet to come. It’s guaranteed, as future heat is already locked and loaded into the vast climate system. It’s the inertia bugaboo. Today, we’re living with yesteryear’s carbon emissions from the turn of the century. Meantime, the next decade and a half of planetary heat is already baked into the cake no matter what is done to mitigate emissions.
A new study reveals details about climate change inertia, a sobering study that speaks to the absolute necessity of herculean efforts to stop emissions, full stop, now, not tomorrow. (Source: B.H.Samset, et al, Delayed Emergence of a Global Temperature Response After Emission Mitigation, Nature Communications 11, Article No. 3261, July 7, 2020)
According to the aforementioned study, even if emission reduction started tomorrow, in earnest, like 5% per year, its impact on global warming would not show up before 2035. Which is climate change inertia. The planet is big. It takes time to process, a very long time.
It also means that today’s heat is wimpy compared to what’s directly ahead simply because today’s heat is based upon annual CO2 emissions >25% less than today’s emissions.
Meantime, Earth is melting.
And, the melting is getting out of hand. After all, it’s not a secret that the Arctic Circle is loaded, really loaded big time, with frozen carbon just itching to release into the upper atmosphere.
And, we now know it’ll only get worse because of the Samset study. We know future heat is already baked into the climate system no matter what we do today, thus, immediate efforts to mitigate a much, much worse scenario down the road are all the more compelling, assuming there is still time to do something, for example, a Super-Big Fixit (any chance?)
Layered on top of the big heat stroke complicating the issue of what to do about the ruthless anthropogenic heat machine, the USA is confronted by an ongoing Hobbesian Nightmare that hogties cultural/political/societal initiatives to do something constructive to stop the inevitable.
In reality, when the coldest spot of Earth hits 100°F, as happened in the Arctic only days ago amidst blasting heat that is roasting permafrost filled with gigatons of frozen carbon held over for millennia (which incidentally covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere, Ouch!) the message is loud and clear “we’re fast approaching an insurmountable problem.”
Meaning wretched news is topped off by awful news for a host of reasons including the totality of errors, missteps, and failures within an embarrassingly lackadaisical effort to fix climate-related issues by scientists and politicians and bureaucrats that society depends upon to warn and guide society thru challenging, life-threatening issues. It’s simply not on the agenda in a big enough way.
For example, name one major climate mitigation solution that’s actually working to mitigate destructive climate change. Time’s up: Not one comes close to doing the job.
Of course, little efforts like installations of renewable energy solar, wind, and unfortunately biomass are tiptoeing thru the tulips (by the way, woody biomass, the largest component of biomass, emits more CO2 than does coal). After decades, renewables count for less than 15% of energy production (excluding hydro); and frankly woody biomass does not count at all and should discount the 15% figure, as it emits more CO2 than does coal. Stop Woody Biomass!
Proof of abject failure to mitigate emissions is found in the numbers as CO2 and global heat crank up.
According to Scripps Institution of Oceanography, The Scripps CO2 Program: CO2 was 415.13 ppm on July 5, 2020 versus 413.11 ppm on July 5, 2019. The annual change in CO2 emissions has doubled since the start of the new century. It has not gone down, it has doubled in a little over a decade! That’s geological rocket speed.
Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are the fuel behind the buildup of inertia in the climate system. Since CO2 accounts for 85% of greenhouse gases, it is used generically to reference greenhouse gas emissions of all stripes.
Very few voices in the world speak directly to the heart of the global heating problem, which is a failure to act in unison to mitigate emissions across the globe. Seventeen-year-old Greta Thunberg is one of the strongest voices: “How dare you” speech to the IPCC Paris crowd and at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “I don’t want y0u to be hopeful. I want you to panic!”
Yes, mounting evidence of a deepening crisis, by the year, indicates that panic is a proper course of action. People should panic and scream and bite and kick and fill the streets because nothing else seems to work. Pussyfooting around is for weaklings. It hasn’t worked.
Global heating is not waiting around to see whether humans decide to inhibit greenhouse gases, for the first time ever. The Northern Hemisphere, where 25% is covered with frozen carbon-rich permafrost, has turned into an oven. Global heating is in its sweet spot. The consequences are too far-reaching to cover in a short article like this. Truthfully, nobody knows for sure the exact consequences, other than real bad, real destructive, and really happening.
It’s an impending “too hot for comfort” tsunami.
But, there’s a bigger problem at stake as modern-day society lives on “Speed” and expects results yesterday, instantaneously. All of which exposes one of the critical components hindering the Big Fixit, meaning a system that evolves too deliberately, too slowly to sink into attention spans long enough to produce positive results. Greta seems to understand this so she drills home the issue. She screams at adults.
Why scream at adults?
She’s studied the impact of excessive levels of CO2 (James Hansen, the world famous climate scientist, says anything over 350 ppm is trouble…hmm). At only 17 years of age, she’ll experience the impact of climate change inertia. It’s 100% guaranteed!
But come to think about it, if Earth is melting now, what then?
Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 articles published, including several translated into foreign languages, appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He has been interviewed on numerous FM radio programs, as well as television.
|July 20, 2020||
Americans Are Guilty of Genocide Right Now in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria.
by Jay Janson, Countercurrents.org, in Imperialism.
Many tens of thousands of precious Yemeni children have already starved to death, died of cholera, or been blown to bits by US made and managed missiles. It is the American public’s cruel indifference that makes Americans guilty of genocide. As Martin Luther King once said, “comes a time when silence is treason.”
US WARS AND MILITARY ACTION INTERNATIONAL LAW, YEMEN
American Officials Could Be Prosecuted for War Crimes in Yemen
“Under international law, Washington—during both the Obama and Trump administrations—has been a co-belligerent with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”
By Mohamad Bazzi
OCTOBER 10, 2018 The Nation Magazine
“Aerial attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have already caused immense carnage and destroyed much of the country’s medical facilities and other vital civilian infrastructure…Weapons transfers, assistance in identifying targets, and midair refueling of Saudi and allied aircraft—would make Washington a co-belligerent in the war under international law. That means the United States could be implicated in war crimes and American personnel could, in theory, be exposed to international prosecution.”
Forget about “international law.” The criminally insane war investors on Wall Street, who run the United States of Genocide, have managed to keep Americans, who murder or order murder, outside the reach of international law.
And forget about only “American personnel “ being guilty.Forget about “in theory.”
“If there is a God in heaven, He or She is aware that it is the cruel indifference of American citizens that is responsible for the tens of thousands of precious Yemeni children that have already starved to death, died of cholera, or been blown to bits by US made and managed missiles.”
Cautionary: ‘Ignorance may be bliss,’ but ignorance of the law is never a legal defense in court, including in the court of public opinion, which is always in session in the suffering minds of the parents of the millions of child victims of America’s proud but ignominious wars on innocent populations.
And for that great Christian professing USA majority, ignorance of Matthew 25:40 will probably be no excuse on Judgement Day:
“When you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!” (English Standard Version)
Reading the above quoted from Nation Magazine article will give the history of US brought death and maiming to the children of Yemen.
The intention of this article is not information, rather it is to stimulate those reading, to mercifully begin to talk about the children in Yemen among family and friends. When enough people complain about the murder of children, some action can begin to stop it. As Martin Luther King once said, “comes a time when silence is treason.”
Let the dear reader make any painful compassion in his or her heart for the dear children of Yemen become a topic of conversation when and wherever the opportunity arises. This appeal to American readers was preceded by a appeal for non-Americans to demand justice for the murdered and mutilated children of Yemen.
Dead ‘Yemeni Kids? Murdering Children By the Millions For Money and Power Is An American Way of Life 3rd World must demand justice for her kids! Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s, cry “God bless America? No, no, God damn America for her crimes against humanity!” And American film maker Michael Moore’s “sick and twisted violent people that we’ve been for hundreds of years, it’s something that’s just in our craw, just in our DNA. Americans kill people, because that’s what we do. We invade countries. We send drones in to k
Out of a respectful and urgent immediate focus on the dear dead, dying and by Americans still destined to die children of Yemen, separate articles will be dedicated to the children where Americans are right now as well guilty of genocide in Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria.
Jay Janson is an archival research peoples historian activist, musician and writer; has lived and worked on all continents; articles on media published in China, Italy, UK, India and in the US by Dissident Voice, Global Research; Information Clearing House; Counter Currents, Minority Perspective, UK and others; now resides in NYC; First effort was a series of articles on deadly cultural pollution endangering seven areas of life emanating from Western corporate owned commercial media published in Hong Kong’s Window Magazine 1993; Howard Zinn lent his name to various projects of his; Weekly column, South China Morning Post, 1986-87; reviews for Ta Kung Bao; article China Daily, 1989. Is coordinator of the Howard Zinn co-founded King Condemned US Wars International Awareness Campaign, and website historian of the Ramsey Clark co-founded Prosecute US Crimes Against Humanity Now Campaign, which Dissident Voice supports with link at the end of each issue of its newsletter.
|July 20, 2020||
The Pentagon Confronts the Pandemic Or How to Make War, American-Style, Possible Again.
by Michael T Klare , Countercurrents.org, in Imperialism.
On March 26th, the coronavirus accomplished what no foreign adversary has been able to do since the end of World War II: it forced an American aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, to suspend patrol operations and shelter in port. By the time that ship reached dock in Guam, hundreds of sailors had been infected with the disease and nearly the entire crew had to be evacuated. As news of the crisis aboard the TR (as the vessel is known) became public, word came out that at least 40 other U.S. warships, including the carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd, were suffering from Covid-19 outbreaks. None of these approached the scale of the TR and, by June, the Navy was again able to deploy most of those ships on delayed schedules and/or with reduced crews. By then, however, it had become abundantly clear that the long-established U.S. strategy of relying on large, heavily armed warships to project power and defeat foreign adversaries was no longer fully sustainable in a pandemic-stricken world.
Just as the Navy was learning that its preference for big ships with large crews — typically packed into small spaces for extended periods of time —was quite literally proving a dead-end strategy (one of the infected sailors on the TR died of complications from Covid-19), the Army and Marine Corps were making a comparable discovery. Their favored strategy of partnering with local forces in far-flung parts of the world like Iraq, Japan, Kuwait, and South Korea, where local safeguards against infectious disease couldn’t always be relied on (or, as in Okinawa recently, Washington’s allies couldn’t count on the virus-free status of American forces), was similarly flawed. With U.S. and allied troops increasingly forced to remain in isolation from each other, it is proving difficult to conduct the usual joint training-and-combat exercises and operations.
In the short term, American defense officials have responded to such setbacks with various stopgap measures, including sending nuclear-capable B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers on long-range “show-of-force” missions over contested areas like the Baltic Sea (think: Russia) or the South China Sea (think: China, of course). “We have the capability and capacity to provide long-range fires anywhere, anytime, and can bring overwhelming firepower — even during the pandemic,” insisted General Timothy Ray, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, after several such operations.
In another sign of tactical desperation, however, the Navy ordered the shattered crew of the TR out of lockdown in May so that the ship could participate in long-scheduled, China-threatening multi-carrier exercises in the western Pacific. A third of its crew, however, had to be left in hospitals or in quarantine on Guam. “We’re executing according to plan to return to sea and fighting through the virus is part of that,” said the ship’s new captain, Carlos Sardiello, as the TR prepared to depart that Pacific island. (He had been named captain on April 3rd after a letter the carrier’s previous skipper, Brett Crozier, wrote to superiors complaining of deteriorating shipboard health conditions was leaked to the media and the senior Navy leadership fired him.)
Such stopgap measures, and others like them now being undertaken by the Department of Defense, continue to provide the military with a sense of ongoing readiness, even aggressiveness, in a time of Covid-related restrictions. Were the current pandemic to fade away in the not-too-distant future and life return to what once passed for normal, they might prove adequate. Scientists are warning, however, that the coronavirus is likely to persist for a long time and that a vaccine — even if successfully developed — may not prove effective forever. Moreover, many virologists believe that further pandemics, potentially even more lethal than Covid-19, could be lurking on the horizon, meaning that there might never be areturn to a pre-pandemic “normal.”
That being the case, Pentagon officials have been forced to acknowledge that the military foundations of Washington’s global strategy — particularly, the forward deployment of combat forces in close cooperation with allied forces — may have become invalid. In recognition of this harsh new reality, U.S. strategists are beginning to devise an entirely new blueprint for future war, American-style: one that would end, or at least greatly reduce, a dependence on hundreds of overseas garrisons and large manned warships, relying instead on killer robots, a myriad of unmanned vessels, and offshore bases.
Ships Without Sailors
In fact, the Navy’s plans to replace large manned vessels with small, unmanned ones was only accelerated by the outbreak of the pandemic. Several factors had already contributed to the trend: modern warships like nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and missile-armed cruisers had been growing ever more expensive to build. The latest, the USS Gerald R. Ford, has cost a whopping $13.2 billion and still doesn’t work to specifications. So even a profligately funded Pentagon can only afford to be constructing a few at a time. They are also proving increasingly vulnerable to the sorts of anti-ship missiles and torpedoes being developed by powers like China, while, as events on the TR suggest, they’re natural breeding grounds for infectious diseases.
Until the disaster aboard the Theodore Roosevelt, most worrisome were those Chinese land-based, anti-ship weapons capable of striking American carriers and cruisers in distant parts of the Pacific Ocean. This development had already forced naval planners to consider the possibility of keeping their most prized assets far from China’s shores in any potential shooting war, lest they be instantly lost to enemy fire. Rather than accept such a version of defeat before a battle even began, Navy officials had begun adopting a new strategy, sometimes called “distributed maritime operations,” in which smaller manned warships would, in the future, be accompanied into battle by large numbers of tiny, unmanned, missile-armed vessels, or maritime “killer robots.”
In a reflection of the Navy’s new thinking, the service’s surface warfare director, Rear Admiral Ronald Boxall, explained in 2019 that the future fleet, as designed, was to include “104 large surface combatants [and] 52 small surface combatants,” adding, “That’s a little upside down. Should I push out here and have more small platforms? I think the future fleet architecture study has intimated ‘yes,’ and our war gaming shows there is value in that… And when I look at the force, I think: Where can we use unmanned so that I can push it to a smaller platform?”
Think of this as an early public sign of the rise of naval robotic warfare, which is finally leaving dystopian futuristic fantasies for actual future battlefields. In the Navy’s version of this altered landscape, large numbers of unmanned vessels (both surface ships and submarines) will roam the world’s oceans, reporting periodically via electronic means to human operators ashore or on designated command ships. They may, however, operate for long periods on their own or in robotic “wolf packs.”
Such a vision has now been embraced by the senior Pentagon leadership, which sees the rapid procurement and deployment of such robotic vessels as the surest way of achieving the Navy’s (and President Trump’s) goal of a fleet of 355 ships at a time of potentially static defense budgets, recurring pandemics, and mounting foreign threats. “I think one of the ways you get [to the 355-ship level] quickly is moving toward lightly manned [vessels], which over time can be unmanned,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper typically said in February. “We can go with lightly manned ships… You can build them so they’re optionally manned and then, depending on the scenario or the technology, at some point in time they can go unmanned… That would allow us to get our numbers up quickly, and I believe that we can get to 355, if not higher, by 2030.”
To begin to implement such an audacious plan, that very month the Pentagon requested $938 million for the next two fiscal years to procure three prototype large unmanned surface vessels (LUSVs) and another $56 million for the initial development of a medium-sized unmanned surface vessel (MUSV). If such efforts prove successful, the Navy wants another $2.1 billion from 2023 through 2025 to procure seven deployable LUSVs and one prototype MUSV.
Naval officials have, however, revealed little about the design or ultimate functioning of such robot warships. All that service’s 2021 budget request says is that “the unmanned surface vessel (USV) is a reconfigurable, multi-mission vessel designed to provide low cost, high endurance, reconfigurable ships able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions and augment the Navy’s manned surface force.”
Based on isolated reports in the military trade press, the most that can be known about such future (and futuristic) ships, is that they will resemble miniature destroyers, perhaps 200 feet long, with no crew quarters but a large array of guided missiles and anti-submarine weapons. Such vessels will also be equipped with sophisticated computer systems enabling them to operate autonomously for long periods of time and — under circumstances yet to be clarified — take offensive action on their own or in coordination with other unmanned vessels.
The future deployment of robot warshipson the high seas raises troubling questions. To what degree, for instance, will they be able to choose targets on their own for attack and annihilation? The Navy has yet to provide an adequate answer to this question, provoking disquiet among arms control and human rights advocates who fear that such ships could “go rogue” and start or escalate a conflict on their own. And that’s obviously a potential problem in a world of recurring pandemics where killer robots could prove the only types of ships the Navy dares deploy in large numbers.
Fighting from Afar
When it comes to the prospect of recurring pandemics, the ground combat forces of the Army and Marine Corps face a comparable dilemma.
Ever since the end of World War II, American military strategy has called for U.S. forces to “fight forward” — that is, on or near enemy territory rather than anywhere near the United States. This, in turn, has meant maintaining military alliances with numerous countries around the world so that American forces can be based on their soil, resulting in hundreds of U.S. military bases globally. In wartime, moreover, U.S. strategy assumes that many of these countries will provide troops for joint operations against a common enemy. To fight the Soviets in Europe, the U.S. created NATO and acquired garrisons throughout Western Europe; to fight communism in Asia, it established military ties with Japan, South Korea, South Vietnam, the Philippines, and other local powers, acquiring scores of bases there as well. When Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Islamic terrorism became major targets of its military operations, the Pentagon forged ties with and acquired bases in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, among other places.
In a pandemic-free world, such a strategy offers numerous advantages for an imperial power. In time of war, for example, there’s no need to transport American troops (with all their heavy equipment) into the combat zone from bases thousands of miles away. However, in a world of recurring pandemics, such a vision is fast becoming a potentially unsustainable nightmare.
To begin with, it’s almost impossible to isolate thousands of U.S. soldiers and their families (who often accompany them on long-term deployments) from surrounding populations (or those populations from them). As a result, any viral outbreak outside base gates is likely to find its way inside and any outbreak on the base is likely to head in the opposite direction. This, in fact, occurred at numerous overseas facilities this spring. Camp Humphreys in South Korea, for example, was locked down after four military dependents, four American contractors, and four South Korean employees became infected with Covid-19. It was the same on several bases in Japan and on the island of Okinawa when Japanese employees tested positive for the virus (and, more recently, when U.S. military personnel at five bases there were found to have Covid-19). Add in Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and Ahmed al-Jaber Air Base in Kuwait, not to speak of the fact that, in Europe, some 2,600 American soldiers have been placed in quarantine after suspected exposure to Covid-19. (And if the U.S. military is anxious about all this in other countries, think about how America’s allies feel at a moment when Donald Trump’s America has become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic.)
A world of recurring pandemics will make it nearly impossible for U.S. forces to work side-by-side with their foreign counterparts, especially in poorer nations that lack adequate health and sanitation facilities. This is already true in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the coronavirus is thought to have spread widely among friendly local forces and American soldiers have been ordered to suspend joint training missions with them.
A return to the pre-Covid world appears increasingly unlikely, so the search is now on big time for a new guiding strategy for Army and Marine combat operations in the years to come. As with the Navy, this search actually began before the outbreak of the coronavirus, but has gained fresh urgency in its wake.
To insulate ground operations from the dangers of a pandemic-stricken planet, the two services are exploring a similar operating model: instead of deploying large, heavily-armed troop contingents close to enemy borders, they hope to station small, highly mobile forces on U.S.-controlled islands or at other reasonably remote locations, where they can fire long-range ballistic missiles at vital enemy assets with relative impunity. To further reduce the risk of illness or casualties, such forces will, over time, be augmented on the front lines by ever more “unmanned” creations, including armed machines — again those “killer robots” — designed to perform the duties of ordinary soldiers.
The Marine Corps’ version of this future combat model was first spelled out in Force Design 2030, a document released by Corps commandant General David Berger in the pandemic month of March 2020. Asserting that the Marines’ existing structure was unsuited to the world of tomorrow, he called for a radical restructuring of the force to eliminate heavy, human-operated weapons like tanks and instead increase mobility and long-range firepower with a variety of missiles and what he assumes will be a proliferation of unmanned systems. “Operating under the assumption that we will not receive additional resources,” he wrote, “we must divest certain existing capabilities and capacities to free resources for essential new capabilities.” Among those “new capabilities” that he considers crucial: additional unmanned aerial systems, or drones, that “can operate from ship, from shore, and [be] able to employ both [intelligence-]collection and lethal payloads.”
In its own long-range planning, the Army is placing an even greater reliance on creating a force of robots, or at least “optionally manned” systems. Anticipating a future of heavily-armed adversaries engaging U.S. forces in high-intensity warfare, it’s seeking to reduce troop exposure to enemy fire by designing all future combat-assault systems, including tanks, troop-carriers, and helicopters, to be either human-occupied or robotically self-directed as circumstances dictate. The Army’s next-generation infantry assault weapon, for instance, has been dubbed an optionally manned fighting vehicle (OMFV). As its name suggests, it is intended to operate with or without onboard human operators. The Army is also procuring a robotic utility vehicle, the squad multipurpose equipment transport (SMET), intended to carry 1,000 pounds of supplies and ammunition. Looking further into the future, that service has also begun development of a robotic combat vehicle (RCV), or a self-driving tank.
The Army is also speeding the development of long-range artillery and missile systems that will make attacks on enemy positions from well behind the front lines ever more central to any future battle with a major enemy. These include the extended range cannon artillery, an upgraded Paladin-armored howitzer with an extra-long barrel and supercharged propellant that should be able to hit targets 40 miles away, and the even more advanced precision strike missile (PrSM), a surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of at least 310 miles.
Many analysts, in fact, believe that the PrSM will be able to strike at far greater distances than that, putting critical enemy targets — air bases, radar sites, command centers — at risk from launch sites far to the rear of American forces. In case of war with China, this could mean firing missiles from friendly partner-nations like Japan or U.S.-controlled Pacific islands like Guam. Indeed, this possibility has alarmed Air Force supporters who fear that the Army is usurping the sorts of long-range strike missions traditionally assigned to combat aircraft.
A Genuine Strategic Redesign
All these plans and programs are being promoted to enable the U.S. military to continue performing its traditional missions of power projection and warfighting in a radically altered world. Seen from that perspective, measures like removing sailors from crowded warships, downsizing U.S. garrisons in distant lands, and replacing human combatants with robotic ones might seem sensible. But looked at from what might be called the vantage point of comprehensive security — or the advancement of all aspects of American safety and wellbeing — they appear staggeringly myopic.
If the scientists are right and the coronavirus will linger for a long period and, in the decades to come, be followed by other pandemics of equal or greater magnitude, the true future threats to American security could be microbiological (and economic), not military. After all, the current pandemic has already killed more Americans than died in the Korean and Vietnam wars combined, while triggering the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Imagine, then, what a more lethal pandemic might do. The country’s armed forces may still have an important role to play in such an environment — providing, for example, emergency medical assistance and protecting vital infrastructure — but fighting never-ending wars in distant lands and projecting power globally should not rank high when it comes to where taxpayer dollars go for “security” in such challenging times.
One thing is inescapable: as the disaster aboard the Theodore Roosevelt indicates, the U.S. military must reconsider how it arms and structures its forces and give serious thought to alternative models of organization. But focusing enormous resources on the replacement of pre-Covid ships and tanks with post-Covid killer robots for endless rounds of foreign wars is hardly in America’s ultimate security interest. There is, sadly, something highly robotic about such military thinking when it comes to this changing world of ours.
Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. He is the author of 15 books, the latest of which is All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.
Originally published in TomDispatch
|July 20, 2020||
Oligarchs of Mainstream Mass Media in Service of Capitalism.
by Bhabani Shankar Nayak , Countercurrents.org, in World.
In early 15th century Europe, news used to be political, economic, military and diplomatic messages of the ruling classes. There was no mass media. It was often the voices of the businessmen and ruling elites circulated within their own networks. The revolutionary upheavals and democratisation of society during 19th century led to the growth of mass media. People used mass media to fight against all forms of exploitation, injustices and inequalities. The mass media has also played momentous role during the struggle against feudalism, colonialism and apartheid. Mass media is vital in the growth of liberal, secular, democratic, progressive and scientific ideals in the society. Therefore, it is the historic responsibility of mass media to report on realities of everyday life and consider fact as sacred in professional journalism. Yellow journalism is no journalism. But idealism and principles are dead within mainstream capitalist media.
From the early 20th century onwards, the mass media is not only manufacturing consent but also works as an agency of the ruling and non-ruling elites to hide alternatives from the masses. The old world of yellow journalism is transformed into news and opinions for sale in a post truth world. It spreads fake news, misrepresents everyday realities, twists facts and shapes opinions like a marketing or advertisement industry. The mainstream media works as a propaganda machine for the people with money and power. The uncritical reporting and ruling class biases are obsequious. There is limited space for debates and disagreements in the media today. The editorial pages and opinion pieces are sponsored by the market forces that is concomitant with the requirements of neoliberal capitalism and its governance models. The essence of neoliberal capitalism and its affiliated media is to create domesticated and uncritical mass audience and destroy critical voices representing people. The idea is to create mass produce social, cultural and political values that accepts the dominance of illegitimate authority and power. It is the market monopoly that controls the media today. The market monopolies are controlled by oligarchs of mass media. There are six companies (Comcast, Disney, Time Warner, Fox, CBS and Viacom), which control almost all 90% media in USA and other parts of the world.
The National Amusements is a multinational media conglomerate owned by Sumner Redstone and Shari Redstone. These two people control more than 170 networks, reaching out to more than 700 million people in more than 160 countries with the help of a company called the Viacom. It is one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. It controls print, electronics and internet media outlets. It also controls movies, video games, TV shows, and many other creative industries like music. These companies shape public taste in culture, consumption and voting behaviour.
The Walt Disney Company is known as Disney, which controls hundreds of media and entertainment outlets. It is one of the leading multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate which played a major role in shaping capitalism with American dreams. It helped to transform the need-based society into a desire-based society with the help of its advertisement and animation industry. It has promoted a culture of self-gratifying fantasies of individualism. It is also responsible for producing popular cultural narratives for the naturalisation and normalisation of American and global capitalism.
The Time Warner is known as the Warner Media LLC, which is another largest mass media and entertainment conglomerate. This conglomerate has used individual privacy data for its financial gain and played a major role in destroying net neutrality. The Comcast is another largest media and entertainment conglomerate, which played a major role in shaping American and world politics. It has huge budget for political lobbing and it funds electoral campaigns in the name of universal political action. It traps consumers with its political projects and propaganda. This media corporation is opposed to universal media access. The News Corporation is owned by media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, who controls media and publication outlets in five continents. The News Corporation is known as the predatory capitalist media, which destroys media diversity and democracy. It upholds the power of the capitalist market. Similarly, the Sony Corporation is another leading multinational conglomerate which controls largest music, entertainment and video game business. These media corporations uphold the voices of the capitalist class and supress the interests of the working-class masses.
The large media corporations are threat to the democratic and liberal values of the societies across the globe. In pursuit for profit, the mainstream mass media has formed its alliances with reactionary religious, nationalist, undemocratic, illiberal and fascist forces across the globe. It negates every founding principles of mass media. These media corporations and their affiliates promote a culture of no alternative to capitalism in politics, economy, society and culture. These forces hide the economic, social and cultural realities of everyday lives within capitalism and promotes capitalist myth. Facts are no longer the foundation of journalistic analysis. It all about spreading falsehood of market forces by spreading consumer culture as only culture where individuals can realise their free choices. These media houses are responsible for transforming citizens as mere customers in a society driven by profit. In this way, mass media destroys the society based on solidarity, love, share and care by celebrating unabashed hedonistic individualism. Mass alienation is the net outcome of capitalism led corporate mass media.
It is imperative for people to detox themselves from the propaganda machines of the governing elites and find their own alternatives. It is time to reclaim the founding principles of mass media by representing the predicaments of the masses. The masses can organise themselves to create cooperative media organisations to uphold their voices and represent their interests while promoting liberal, democratic, secular and scientific ethos in the society. This is only possible when people can control their own narratives by establishing people’s media free from corporate cultures. Vox Populi, Vox Dei is the only alternative to defeat the toxic culture of capitalism and its mass media, which destroys lives, livelihoods of the masses. It serves power and tame voices of people. The powerful mass movement can crumble the palaces of media moguls and their oligarchic empire of propaganda and profit. The cooperative media owned by people is the only alternative to uphold Vox Populi.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Coventry University, UK.
|July 20, 2020||
A Plan for Social and Ecological Justice.
by Roy Morrison, Countercurrents.org
The death of John Lewis is a reminder that power concedes nothing without a struggle and that social and ecological justice is a consequence of generational efforts.
Building a fair, just, and prosperous ecological future, rooted in social and ecological justice means fundamental change of how we treat one another, how we govern, how we work, how we protect and restore the living world.
What John Lewis saw in the economic and social and public health crises arising in the time of Covid-19 and the murder of George Floyd unleashing a global multi-racial and multi-ethic movement for justice was the latest incarnation of his injunction to make “good trouble”. But, sadly this unfolded in the midst of a financial bailout largely of the rich as billions pouring into Wall Street as the stock market prospered while tens of millions lost their jobs asMain St. suffered, and the worst effects of a pandemic are borne by the poor, by people of color, by essential workers.
For the election of Joe Biden to mean an epochal turn toward social and ecological justice cannot be a return to business as usual BT(before Trump). This means the transformation of institutions, organizations, and businesses to follow new mandates established bylaw, by regulation, by custom to pursue ecological ends and justice.
A market system must make economic growth mean ecological improvement, not ecological pillage while pursuing as an imperative of ecological and social justice. A failure to successfully fight for justice will ultimately undermine any ecological hope as the poor struggle desperately for survival. Justice denied also means the continuing growth of the concentration of wealth in the hands of the very few.
Six Steps for a Transformative Green and Just Future
First, the United States with China, India, and the OECD nations lead efforts for an accelerated global energy transformation from fossil fuel and nuclear power to renewable resources and green hydrogen. This is a paradigmatic example of economic growth meaning ecological improvement. Carbon emissions, pollution, depletion and ecological damage are slashed. Trillions are productively invested in renewable economic growth and job creation. Fossil fuel and nuclear workers are retrained for good-paying jobs in the green economy. Renewable resources are phased in year by year, and fossil fuel and nukes are phased on a strict yearly schedule.
The United States partners with the word’s industrial powers in global efforts which will include financial and technological assistance to poor nations for ecological transformation.
Second, the price system must send clear signals for sustainability. Sustainable goods must become cheaper, more profitable and gain market share. This can be accomplished by an ecological value-added tax on all goods and services. The more sustainable, the lower the tax. Such a taxation system will inevitably help lead to a convergence on the sustainable for almost all goods and services in pursuit of profit. Ecological taxes combined with a wealth tax will replace income taxes.
Third, in order to finance an ecological and just transformation, instead of raising taxes, we can great trillions of wealth by valuing and monetizing sustainability starting with the ecological value of displacement metric tons of carbon dioxide by renewables. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has found the value of displacing of one metric ton of carbon dioxide (2204 pounds) is equal to $100.
We can create a new regulatory asset, the Sustainability Credit (SC)valued at $100 for each metric ton of carbon dioxide displaced by renewable energy. SCs to be managed as part of the Federal Reserve System, and by other central banks. We don’t need carbon taxes to raise prices on working people and the poor.
Sustainability Credits (SCs) will be monetized as paid-in capital and as cash on the balance sheet of a Green Bank or Bank of the Commons. The thirty-three billion tons (gigatons) of annual carbon dioxide emissions can result in creation eventually of hundreds of trillions as in paid-in capital and cash on the books of green banks to be used for investment in future renewables.
A gigaton of carbon displacement means $100 billion in sustainability credits on the books of a green bank who must loan this money for further renewable energy investment. The common magic of bank financing, $100 billion in paid-in capital, and cash means loans of 900 billion in further renewable development that each year produces more Sustainability Credits that monetized. Investment from SCs can encompass both ecological transformation and social justice such as a $1,000 a month basic income grant for all.
The fifty trillion-dollar investment estimated by J.P.Morgan for a global renewable transformation from 2020-2050 can be easily produced by Sustainability Credits as the new gold-based on sustainable ecological value. around the world.
Fourth, the ecological transformation must be pursued not just in energy, but in agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, and an industrial ecology driven by the pursuit of zero pollution and zero waste. All outputs of one process are captured and used as inputs by other processes. The ecological value added tax sends strong economic incentives for such conduct that can be similarly financed through the generation ofSustainability Credits.
Fifth, is a global convergence on a living wage and common sustainable standards for carbon generation and carbon sequestration. Globally there must a convergence on common sustainable norms for emissions and carbon sequestration that leads to atmospheric carbon below 300 ppm, to preindustrial levels.
Six, law and regulation must redefine fiduciary conduct as the pursuit of ecological economic growth within the context of social and ecological justice as guide for government, institutions, and business. This might also be codified by an ecological constitutional amendment.
These six steps are a recipe for ecological economic growth, for sustainability, peace, and justice. They represent spurs to economic and social action that uses an ecological focused pursuit of profit as incentive for ecological behavior and embraces the imperative for pursuit of social and ecological justice.
This is a recipe for an ecological future that transforms ourself-destructive industrial world order into an ecological civilization. This is a global ecological economic growth strategy that aims to build a bigger pie that is fairly and justly divided, ending poverty and injustice, at the same time healing the global ecosphere. Ecological economic growth and an ecological turn is a means for strengthening our democratic institutions and revitalizing our democracy.
Roy Morrison Builds Solar Farms www.RenewableSunPartners.com His next book will be Ecological Economic Growth (EEG)
Feb 11, 2020 -Data Release:Global energy-related CO2emissionsflattened in 2019 at around 33gigatonnes(Gt), following two years of increases … Defying expectations of a rise, global carbon dioxide emissions flatlined in 2019 ..
Carbon dioxide emissions totals
Pounds of carbonper kWh power
In the U.S., on average a kWh of electricity produces a bit more than1-pound carbon dioxide per kWh.https://blueskymodel.org/kilowatt-hour.
Nation Academy of Sciences (NAS) value of One metric ton Carbon Dioxide Emissions
The$100 value has been most recently used in proceedings of the National Academy of Science (NAS) climate change analysis in “Declining CO-2Price Paths”.
MorganStanley recently estimated a $50 trillion dollar investment to bring global carbon emissions to zero by 2020- 2050 (31 years).
“Decarbonization The Race to Zero Emissions”Nov. 25, 2019.
Bank of the Commons:
Ecological Sustainability as the New Gold For Ecological Transformation
Sustainability Sutra: An Ecological Investigation (Sustainability Now)2017
by Roy Morrison
Discussion ecological economic growth/ecological taxation/ecological fiduciary responsibility
Tax Pollution, Not Income A New Prosperity in an Ecological Age
by Roy Morrison
|July 21, 2020||
Pandemic, AI, and end of Democracy.
by Bibin Manuel, Countercurrents.org. in World.
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” ― George Orwell, 1984
The year 2020 is going to be recorded by future historians as a watershed moment in the history of mankind. The coronavirus pandemic is causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, causing unprecedented economic devastation on global proportions, forcing lockdowns across much of the world, and shaking societies and the assumptions on which they were operating until recently. The health crisis is now slamming headlong into a protracted global economic depression. But going forward, its most remarkable legacy will be the way that the pandemic dovetails with another major worldwide disruption of the recent times—the ascent, and widespread adoption of digital surveillance techniques enabled by artificial intelligence (AI). We need to understand the ongoing conflicts between governments and between tech companies for the control of data in this background. Most people whether they are in the developed world or developing world are just faintly aware, or not at all aware, of the ascent of AI and its potential impact on their lives. The technological disruptions which have been gathering momentum for the last few years have now confronting humankind with the hardest trials it has experienced in the recent past.
The pandemic has created a moment in history when the governments can implement and advance ideas that were touted by the blue-eyed boys of the Silicon Valley tech companies for so long. Something resembling a high tech shock treatment is beginning to emerge. As the bodies still pile up, the future is being re-imagined, repackaged, and delivered in warp speed. The weeks and months of lockdown of entire countries is not seen as a painful necessity to save precious lives, but as a living laboratory for creating a permanent — and highly profitable — future. The pandemic has presented the governments and the big capital with a golden opportunity to finally tame human beings for good. We are at risk of becoming like domesticated animals confined in high-tech industrial farms doing nothing but produce enormous amount of data for their masters.
In this future, our homes are not imagined as exclusive personal spaces but, via high-speed digital connectivity, as our schools, our hospitals, our gyms, our primary entertainment venues, and, if determined by the state, our jails. This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under the guise of virus control) and has non-existent or little mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by millions of invisible workers tucked away in warehouses, cloud kitchens, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, data centers, semiconductor fabrication plants, lithium mines, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyper-exploitation. It’s a future in which our every action, our every thought, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented partnerships between governments and tech giants.
In the pre-COVID world, this precise app-driven, gig-based future was being sold to us in the name of convenience. But many of us had concerns. About the privacy, data security, and quality of telehealth and online classrooms. About driverless cars mowing down pedestrians and drones smashing packages (and sometimes people). About location tracking and cash-free commerce wiping out our privacy and reinforcing racial and gender discrimination. About unprincipled social media platforms poisoning our information ecology and our kids’ mental health. About “smart cities” filled with sensors and cameras superseding local government. About the good jobs, these technologies wiped out. About the bad jobs, they mass-produced.
And most of all, we had concerns about the extreme concentration of power and wealth by a handful of tech companies that are threatening democracy and evading all responsibility for the unrepairable damage they have done to the fields they now dominate, whether media, retail, or transportation. Now, against an agonizing backdrop of mass death, it is being sold to us on the questionable promise that these technologies are the only possible way to pandemic-proof our lives, the indispensable keys to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.
Fears of machines pushing people out of the job market are, nothing new, and in the past technological advancements proved to be creating new jobs in place of the obsolete ones. But artificial intelligence is increasingly proving old assumptions wrong. The old human-machine competition was mainly in manual skills. Now machines are making human workers economically irrelevant with cognitive skills. And we don’t know of any third kind of skill in which humans will always have an edge. Without any economic value, labor might also come to lose their political power, whatever little they already have. What is more worrying is the fact that the same technologies that make billions of people economically useless also make them easier to monitor and control.
Even before the pandemic, numerous countries around the world, including several democracies, were busy building unprecedented systems of surveillance. For example, Israeli occupied West Bank is a working prototype for a total-surveillance state. All phone calls, social media interactions, and travel or movement data of Palestinians are likely to be monitored by Israeli microphones, cameras, drones, or spyware. Sophisticated algorithms help the Israeli Defense Forces to analyze the gathered data, pinpoint and neutralize what they consider to be potential threats. The Palestinians may administer some towns and villages in the West Bank, but they do not hold any real power as the Israelis command the sky, the airwaves, and cyberspace. It, therefore, takes surprisingly few Israeli soldiers to effectively control even the minute aspects of the lives of the roughly 2.5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank.
The Silicon Valley giants had been aggressively lobbying and running public relations campaigns pushing a dystopian vision of society that governments all over the world are now building as a response to the pandemic. At the heart of this vision is the seamless integration of government machinery with a handful of tech giants. This means public-funded schools, hospitals, police, and military all outsourcing many of their core functions to private tech companies. The cyber utopianists like Eric Schmidt of Google and Bill Gates of Microsoft call for exponential increases in government spending on research into artificial intelligence and on tech-enabling infrastructure like 5G. What is interesting is the fact that these investments would directly benefit the companies in which they themselves have extensive stakes.
Eric Schmidt has been pushing the argument that since the Chinese government is willing to spend limitless public money building the infrastructure of high-tech surveillance, while allowing Chinese tech companies like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent to pocket the profits from commercial applications, the U.S.’s dominant position in the global economy is on the verge of collapsing. He also argues that “surveillance is one of the ‘first-and-best customers’ for Al” and further, that “mass surveillance is a killer application for deep learning.”Until very recently, public resistance against these companies was surging. Politicians in the western world including the US were openly discussing breaking up big tech companies. Local opposition was raging against Amazon for its plans for a New York headquarters. Google’s many surveillance projects were always faced with regulatory hurdles, and Google faced opposition to its collaboration with governments for surveillance tech with military applications both from public and from its own workers. Facebook’s Zuckerberg was grilled by skeptical US lawmakers on privacy concerns, election interference, and free speech.
In short, democracy with its inconvenient public scrutiny, civil society engagements, and institutional frameworks was seen as the single biggest obstacle to the vision these tech giants was advancing. Now, in the midst of the carnage of this ongoing pandemic, and with the fear and uncertainty about the future, these companies clearly see their opportunity to do away with all that democratic engagement. The Silicon Valley tech giants are now leveling the playing field with their Chinese counterparts, who have the luxury of functioning without being hampered by intrusions of either labor or civil rights.
The race to accumulate data is already on, In the global equity market, the leadership is U.S. equities, and within this large-cap U.S. tech and the so-called FAANG stocks. The 5 most valuable companies in the world are increasingly all AI companies. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (Alphabet). In China, the same situation, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent the so-called BAT are all AI companies. Alibaba and Tencent in terms of market capitalization are the most valuable Chinese companies and both are cutting edge AI companies. In 2017, the Chinese Communist Party announced plans to be the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. The announcement caused considerable uneasiness in the U.S. and elsewhere about the scope of China’s aspirations and the extent to which the communist party might use AI to tighten surveillance control over its citizens and develop more sophisticated military capabilities.
The Australian government has already contracted with Amazon to store the data for its controversial coronavirus tracking app. Amazon is partnering with the Canadian government to deliver medical equipment, raising doubts about why it bypassed the public postal service. The government of India with the opaqueness and ever-increasing scope of its coronavirus contact tracing app is building a sophisticated surveillance state in gigantic proportions. Here also Amazon Web Services is contracted to store the data of hundreds of millions of people. Gates’s foundation with its charity giving and Microsoft with its technology is influencing public health and education policy of countries across the world undermining democracy and public engagement. Bill Gates and Google boys have more say on the way our children learn and setting our public health priorities than we as citizens. Citizens are increasingly becoming irrelevant in this new technological era.
But considering the sheer volume of data the Chinese tech giants are managing, it appears that as of now BAT is winning the race. With $504B valuation Tencent is the largest gaming company in the world. 60% of all mobile time in China is spent on Tencent apps. It is also best known for creating WeChat. They have strategic stakes in Snapchat, Reddit, Tesla, etc. Alibaba with a $470B valuation moves more merchandise in China than Amazon and eBay do in the rest of the world combined. It is also the owner of Alipay, a payments app that is functionally the world ‘s largest digital bank. Alibaba also owns India’s largest payment app Paytm. Alipay’s Yu’e Bao savings feature is the biggest money market fund in the world at $233B (passing JP Morgan)! Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia’s capital) is piloting Alibaba ‘s City Brain smart city system for mass surveillance. Bytedance owns TikTok, the fastest growing social video app in the world. The ridesharing giant Didi with roughly 1.5x the volume of Uber and Lyft combined call themselves “the world’s largest transportation platform.” Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are all invested in Didi. Tencent and Didi have significant stakes in the Indian ridesharing app, Ola. DJI is the first Chinese company to build a globally dominant consumer brand, running away with a 72% share in the consumer drone market. DJI’s Mavic drone is being issued by the Israeli Defense Force for recon.
Technology with its powerful tools can positively transform the lives of millions of people, but not every problem has a technological solution. And the trouble with outsourcing key decisions about reimagining our societies to men like Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt is that they have spent their lives promoting the belief that every humanly imaginable problem has a technological fix. For them, the pandemic has provided a golden opportunity to receive not just the gratitude, but the respect and power that they feel have been unjustly denied.
So far, many of these companies whether Chinese or American, have acted as “attention merchants” by capturing our attention with free information, services, and entertainment, and then they resell our attention to advertisers. But it’s not just about selling ads. By capturing our attention they are actually accumulating immense amounts of data about us, which are worth more than any advertising revenue. We aren’t their customers—we are their product. Ordinary people are happy to give away their most valuable asset—their personal data—in exchange for free services and entertainment. It will, in turn, lead to a point where they have to depend on the network to make everyday decisions, and even for their health and physical survival. Finally, people will find it extremely difficult or even impossible to try to block the flow of data. Many of us are already experiencing this on a personal level, what we are going to see in the future is an extreme version of this.
The ideals of liberty and equality are far more fragile than we believe. Their success in the 20th century depended on unique technological conditions that may prove short-lived. The liberal ideas have already begun to lose credibility. Politics have grown more tribal and sectarian; and in more and more countries, leaders are showing a tendency for demagoguery and autocracy. There are complex reasons for this political shift, but the effects of the current technological developments on this shift can’t be ignored. The technology that favored and sustained democracy for long is becoming more and more obsolete, and the future developments in artificial intelligence might mark the end of democracy as we know it.
New technologies will continue to emerge, which may encourage the decentralization rather than the concentration of information and power. Blockchain technology is currently touted as a possible counterweight to centralized power. But blockchain technology is still in the rudimentary form, and we don’t yet know whether it will indeed counterbalance the centralizing tendencies of AI. It’s worth to note that the Internet, too, was hyped in its early days as a libertarian panacea that would free people from all forms of tyranny—but has now become the most powerful tool at the hands of authoritarian regimes.
Collectivization or state ownership of data could offer one solution; it would certainly restrain the tech giants competing for world domination. But history suggests that handing over the keys of information gateways in the hands of overmighty governments will be the most foolish thing to do. The only way to prevent the concentration of all wealth and power in the hands of a small elite (whether authoritarian governments or corporations) is to regulate the ownership of data. Our scientists, our philosophers, our lawyers, and even our poets need to turn their attention to this big question: How do you regulate the ownership of data? Whether or not we would be able to finally democratize data will have farreaching implications on human beings as a species.
Currently, humans risk becoming similar to domesticated animals who produce enormous amounts of data and function as efficient chips in a huge data-processing mechanism, but they hardly attain their human potential. Like the inventions of vaccines, artificial insemination, and growth hormones led to the development of factory farming of broiler chicken and industrial dairying, the novel coronavirus can usher in a new era of intensive rearing of domesticated human beings with no trait of natural attributes like libertarian thinking or any thinking at all. As the American jurist, William O. Douglas famously said: “Nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”
Bibin Manuel was born and raised in Kerala and is an Engineer by training. Currently, he lives in New Delhi, He writes occasionally in Malayalam for news portals like Mathrubhumi, Azhimukham etc. He writes on topics such as Global Poverty, Technology, Human Rights, Free Speech, and Environment. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
|July 21, 2020||
Libya’s war becomes a global scramble for power.
by Countercurrents Collective, Countercurrents.org, in World.
Libya is becoming a crucible for would-be regional powers. The intractable civil war that has carved apart the oil-rich North African country is in reality a multisided chess match between a variety of outside actors, from Turkey to the United Arab Emirates, France and Egypt.
The battle involves thousands of Syrian militiamen and Sudanese mercenaries. Countries are deploying drones, fighter jets and missiles.
The Turkish-backed group in Tripoli is in command of Libya’s west and may hope to wrest control of the country’s strategic “oil crescent,” an arc of coastal towns and oil facilities in the interior in between Tripoli, the capital, and the eastern city of Benghazi.
“Erdogan and some of his allies believe that Turkey is restoring its importance in the eyes of its western allies,” Ozlem Kaygusuz, an associate professor of international relations at Ankara University, told the Financial Times. “They believe that the more Turkey plays an assertive role, the more it will become valuable and impossible to ignore for western interests in the region.”
Erdogan has railed against Sissi ever since the latter came to power in a 2013 coup that brought down Egypt’s short-lived Islamist government.
“They are each other’s nemeses,” Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Today’s WorldView. “A secularist general who locked up political Islamists, and a political Islamist who locked up secularist generals.”
As part of its intervention, the Turkish government secured a major agreement with Tripoli over maritime rights and access to drill off Libya’s coast. The deal has provoked Brussels, with EU officials seeking to preserve the interests of Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish strategists see an alarming axis of rivals, from old adversary Greece to Egypt and Israel, working in concert against their concerns in the region.
“There’s not a single policymaker in Ankara, including those who hate Erdogan, who is not worried about this idea of being encircled in the eastern Mediterranean,” said Cagaptay.
Moscow had a historic relationship with Libya during the Cold War.
“Proxy forces … have previously had a seat at the negotiating table and have had undue influence on the outcome, but now have almost become the principal interlocutors,” Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the top intelligence officer at U.S. Africa Command, said in an interview.
Over the weekend, in a joint statement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged “all foreign actors to cease their interference and respect the arms embargo established by the UN Security Council.” But such calls ring hollow when set against France’s own engagement in the conflict, which sees it butting heads with a fellow NATO member state.
Libya conflict: Risk of Turkey-Egypt clash increases
Risk of Turkey-Egypt clash in Libya increases as following Turkey’s military interference in Libya Egypt’s parliament on Monday authorized the deployment of troops outside the country. The size and nature of the Egyptian military deployment was unclear.
The Egyptian move could escalate the spiraling war in Libya after Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi threatened military action against Turkish-backed forces in the oil-rich country.
A troop deployment in Libya could bring Egypt and Turkey, close U.S. allies that support rival sides in the conflict, into direct confrontation.
Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has called the strategic coastal city of Sirte a “red line” and warned that any attack on the city, which sits near Libya’s main oil-export terminals and fields, would prompt Egypt to intervene to protect its western border.
“Egypt will spare no efforts to support the sister Libya … to overcome the current critical crisis,” the Egyptian presidency said in a statement after a meeting of the National Defense Council on Sunday that was chaired by el-Sissi.
Libya’s east-based parliament, the sole elected body in the country, urged Egypt to send troops.
Last week, el-Sissi hosted dozens of tribal leaders loyal to Marshal Khalifa Hifter in Cairo, where he repeated that Egypt will “not stand idle in the face of moves that pose a direct threat to security.”
Turkish-backed Islamist forces allied with the government in Tripoli are mobilizing on the edges of Sirte and have vowed to retake the Mediterranean city, along with the inland Jufra airbase, from rival forces commanded by Hifter and based in the east.
After a closed-door session in Cairo, Egypt’s House of Representatives approved plans to send troops to “defend Egyptian national security in the strategic western direction against the actions of armed criminal militias and foreign terrorists.”
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled Moammar Gadhafi, who was later murdered by NATO-backed armed groups.
Drawn by Hifter’s anti-Islamist stance, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other foreign powers have provided his forces with critical military assistance against western militias. Russia has also emerged as a key supporter of Hifter.
Turkey, a bitter rival of Egypt in a broader regional struggle over political Islam, is the main patron of the Tripoli forces, which are also backed by the wealthy Gulf state Qatar.
Relations between Egypt and Turkey have steadily deteriorated since 2013, when el-Sissi led the military overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist who enjoyed Turkey’s support.
Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram daily reported on Sunday that the vote in parliament was intended to mandate el-Sissi to “intervene militarily in Libya to help defend the western neighbor against Turkish aggression.”
El-Sissi has pushed hard in recent weeks for a cease-fire and political settlement. The Egyptian military, which has for years steered clear of overseas adventures and focused on fighting Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula, may be wary of deep involvement in Libya’s chaotic conflict.
New headache for Washington
The “distinct possibility” of direct conflict between Egypt and Turkey, a NATO member, presents a “brand new headache for Washington,” said Jalel Harchaoui, a research fellow specializing in Libyan affairs at the Clingendael Institute, an independent think tank in the Netherlands.
The U.S. has sent mixed signals to the rival sides over the course of the war. Although increasingly concerned about Moscow’s growing influence in Libya, Washington “doesn’t want to articulate a real, coherent Libya policy,” Harchaoui said, leaving a void that has allowed Russia and Turkey to become major players.
In a call on Monday with U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of the Egyptian parliament vote, el-Sissi said Egypt’s aim is to “prevent further deterioration of security in Libya,” according to a statement from the Egyptian presidential spokesman. It said the two leaders agreed on maintaining a cease-fire and avoiding a military escalation in Libya.
Turkey sends Tunisian Daesh to Libya
Turkey is continuing its belligerent campaign in Libya in favor of the Tripoli-based government of Fayez Sarraj, which is facing the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Marshal Hifter.
Reports said Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent 2,500 members of the Daesh branch in Tunisia to Libya in recent months.
By order of the Government, Turkish intelligence has transferred jihadist groups and Daesh members of different foreign nationalities from Syria to Libya in recent months.
The Ottoman intelligence assigned 2,500 members of the Tunisian Daesh group to Libya, out of the thousands of other Tunisians from the jihadist group operating in Syria, in which another civil war is taking place, involving Turkey, which is reported to be cooperating with paid terrorist elements on their behalf.
The number of troops who arrived in Libya increased to 16,100 Syrian mercenaries, including 340 children under-18, of whom 5,600 returned to Syria after completing their contracts and obtaining their salaries.
Turkey continues to recruit more mercenaries who are brought to Turkish soil for military training.
Commanders of Turkish-backed factions embezzle the emoluments assigned to combatants,which has led to great unrest among the ranks of mercenaries and some defections. In this regard, the monthly salaries assigned to paid soldiers are higher than what they eventually receive.
Meanwhile,the number of Syrian mercenaries backed by Turkey who were killed in military operations in Libya has increased to almost 470, including 33 under-18 years of age, as well as some commanders of the detachment.
Turkey actively participates in the wars in Libya and Syria with the clear objective of obtaining a better geostrategic position and to achieve greater financial resources linked to the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the Mediterranean arc.This intervention makes use of the mercenaries in the pay of various nationalities coming from Syrian territory, some of them linked to former groups linked to jihadist organizations such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
Recently, there has also been speculation that Turkey might also send officials from Somalia to Libya to support the Tripoli-based government.
In November 2019 Erdogan and Sarraj signed an agreement guaranteeing Turkish military support to the Tripoli-based government, opposite the LNA led by Hifter, linked to the other eastern executive in Tobruk; a pact by which the distribution of exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean also took place, which provoked the protest of countries like Greece and Cyprus when they considered that their maritime borders were being violated.
This Sunday’s visit by the Turkish Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, to Qatar to meet with Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani probably dealt with this issue of the intervention in Libya. Here may lie the key to the possible dispatch of Somali officers to the North African country, since Doha is a base for the military training of Somali commanders and a starting point for the transfer of fighters to conflict zones in the Middle East.
Libya Review has referred to a report that several Somali intelligence officers were receiving training in the Qatari capital with the aim of expanding the influence of the Gulf monarchy on the African continent.
According to this media, Turkey seriously values the sending of officers from Somalia to support the Tripoli group in a war like the Libyan one, which has become an international game board with the participation of foreign powers in favor of the confronted factions to try to make profits from the situation.
The Tripoli group is supported by Turkey, Qatar and Italy; while, the LNA is supported by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Emirates, Russia and France.
This latest information comes just as the Pentagon has recently confirmed that Turkey stationed between 3,500 and 3,800 Syrian mercenaries in Libya in the first three months of the year.
Egypt’s strong military message to Turkey, Tunisia
Last month, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi warned of the readiness of his country’s army to intervene both within and outside its borders, in a clear reference to the conflict in neighboring Libya.
El-Sissi wanted to send strong messages to all: The Egyptian forces are ready to enter any confrontation, and with any party, in order to protect Egypt’s national security.
“Any direct intervention in Libya will be aimed at securing the border,” the Egyptian president said, adding that “any direct intervention by Egypt now has international legitimacy,” and that “some think they can trespass on the Sirte or Al-Jufra front lines. This, for us, is a red line. As long as the neighboring countries are stable, Egypt is stable. This is what the distant and near history has taught us, and so did the Egyptian military doctrine, which only intervenes if asked. This happened in the 1948 war in Palestine against Zionist gangs and in the 1991 war for the liberation of Kuwait.”
The Egyptian military’s strength is ranked ninth in the world according to the Global Firepower Index.
The image of the Egyptian government, people and army standing united sends a very important message of deterrence to anyone who believes that confrontation with Egypt is easy or who wants to exploit a fictitious division of opinions on the nature of the tasks and priorities of the Egyptian state.
|July 22, 2020||
The World Around Us, 2020
by Lopamudra Banerjee, Countercurrents.org, in Arts/Literature.
We saw you coming, with dreamy eyes
A resurrected year, born from the ashes
Of sufferings of the past years, rechristened in
The divinity of a newborn body,
But then, 2020, you ushered in our lives
With the fury and madness of demolition.
With the rapacious monster of a virus,
a deadly battle consuming our fragile flesh.
Held in its sway, the privileged sing anthems
Seated under soft lights and plush comforts
of our stay-at-home shelters, while the poor
Grope in the empty dark, seeking their homes
Disappearing on the horizon, and then, nothing is in sight
But the staccato coughs, the crowds of hungry bellies,
The thick smoke of an overwhelming nothingness.
2020, you ushered in our lives with the murderous notes
Of cyclones, your ostentatious displays spilling over
Our already jagged edges. Your gusts of storm, your rain
Flew along like a lava of molten grief.
Today, voiceless horror hangs,
in the pitch-dark villages and ravaged farms.
Humanity dwindles and rises, aching in its own cradle of sins
Each day in history, a chunk of hatred, a splinter of hope
Bubbles, pops up from the crevices of a weary, dying universe.
And yet, history has it that we rise.
We rise like precarious seeds from the cracked earth.
We rise, no matter our homelessness, our persecution, our exploitation, our exodus.
We rise, in the wholeness of our creation,
As parts of an invincible script of life in continuum.
Lopamudra Banerjee is a bilingual author, translator, editor and adjunct faculty of creative writing at Richland College and Texas Christian University, USA. She has authored six books and has co-edited four anthologies in fiction and poetry. She has been a recipient of the Journey Awards (First Place category winner) for her memoir ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’, and also a recipient of the Woman Achiever Award (IWSFF, 2018), the International Reuel Prize for Poetry (2017) and International Reuel Prize for her English translation of Nobel Laureate Tagore’s selected works of fiction (2016). Her nonfiction essays, fiction and other writings have been published in various journals, e-zines and anthologies in India, UK and USA. She is also a consulting editor of the e-zine ‘Learning and Creativity’, India. Recently, she has been an honorary poetry fellow at Rice University, Houston and co-produced the poetry film ‘Kolkata Cocktail’ directed by Shuvayu Bhattacharjee, where she has also featured as one of the lead actors. Her works are available on her website www.lopabanerjeewrites.com and also in Amazon.com and Amazon India.
|June 28, 2020||
Planetary Information Engine
by Bryan White