Theme for this month:
For the first time in humanity's history, ever since the beginning of the post-Cold War, global politics has become multipolar and multicivilizational. For hundreds of years, the nation states of the West, namely Spain, France, Great Britain, Austria, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, formed a multipolar world within Western civilization. For a long time, Americans have defined themselves, their society, in opposition to Europe. America was the land of freedom, equality, opportunity, the future, and is a distinct civilization. Those nation states of the West interacted, competed, and fought wars with each other. Concurrently, Western nations also expanded, conquered, colonized and influenced every other civilization worldwide. Democratic societies led by the United States were engaged in a pervasive ideological, economic, political, and, sometimes, military invasion of the communist societies of the Soviet Union and in the Third World. Only Russian, Japanese, and Ethiopian civilizations, all governed by highly centralized imperial authorities, were able to resist the onslaught of the West and maintain meaningful independent existence. During those years, not so much ideologies, economics and politics were differentiating peoples of different civilizations. Their cultures, their ways of life, ways doing things have been their most distinguishing characteristics. Those characteristics have been defined by religion, language, ancestry, history, communities, ethnic groups, customs, nations, and also by major levels of classification being civilizations. In modern era, Western civilization, the West, is referred to the European-American civilization. The global aspirations of Western civilization, the declining relative power of the West, and the increasing cultural assertiveness of other civilizations ensure generally difficult relations between the West and the rest of the world.
The futures of the United States and of the West depend upon Americans reaffirming their commitment to Western civilization. Domestically this means rejecting the divisive siren calls of multiculturalism. Internationally it means rejecting the elusive and illusory calls to identify the United States with Asia. Whatever economic connections may exist between them, the fundamental cultural gap between Asian and American societies precludes their joining together in a common home. Americans are culturally part of the Western family; multiculturalists may damage and even destroy that relationship but they cannot replace it. When Americans look for their cultural roots, they find them in Europe. As Western countries increasingly interact with increasingly powerful non-Western societies they become more and more aware of their common Western cultural core that binds them together. If North America and Europe renew their moral life, build on their cultural commonality, and develop close forms of economic and political integration to supplement their security collaboration in NATO, they could generate a third Euroamerican phase of Western economic affluence and political influence. Meaningful political integration would in some measure counter the relative decline in the West's share of the world's people, economic product, and military capabilities and revive the power of the West in the eyes of the leaders of other civilizations. This new future of the West would be significantly changed for the better by evolving to a different adaptive state: the Global Civilizational State as described by Global Community.
Over the past decades, Global Civilizational State has been promoting concepts, practices, and institutions more prevalent in the West than in other civilizations. They are in large part the factors which enabled the West to take the lead in modernizing itself and the world. The expansion of the West has promoted both the modernization and the Westernization of non-Western societies. Today, the total rejection of modernization as well as Westernization is hardly possible in a world becoming overwhelmingly modern and highly interconnected. Only the very most extreme fundamentalists reject modernization as well as Westernization. The religious values, moral assumptions, and social structures of the non-Western societies are at best alien, and sometime hostile, to the values and practices of individualism. Even extreme proponents of anti-Westernism and the revitalization of indigenous cultures do not hesitate to use modern techniques of e-mail, computers, compact discs, USB devices, the Internet, and television to promote their cause. So modernization does not necessarily mean Westernization. Non-Western societies can modernize and have modernized without abandoning their own cultures and adopting wholesale Western values, institutions, and practices. Whatever obstacles non-Western cultures pose to modernization pale before those they pose to Westernization. In short, modernization means a great victory and achievement of Global Civilization on Earth. Modernization strengthens those cultures and reduces the relative power of the West. In fundamental ways, the world is becoming more modern and less Western.
Inevitability, the fates of the United States and of the West depend upon Americans asserting strongly once more their commitment to Western civilization. At home, this means rejecting the divisive urgent need of multiculturalism. Internationally it means letting go the elusive and illusory calls to identify the United States with Asia. Whatever economic connections may exist between them, the fundamental cultural gap between Asian and American societies precludes their joining together in a common home.
Renewing their moral life, building on their cultural commonality, and developing close forms of economic and political integration to supplement their security collaboration in NATO, Americans could also generate a renewed European-American phase of Western economic affluence and political influence. Meaningful political integration would in some measure counter the relative decline in the West's share of the world's people, economic product, and military capabilities and revive the power of the West in the eyes of the leaders of other civilizations. Whether the West comes together politically and economically depends overwhelmingly on whether the United States reaffirms its identity as a Western nation and defines again its global role as the leader of Western civilization. With President Donald John Trump, Americans have lost their stand in the world, especially have lost their leadership stand of the West. They are no longer considered the leader of the West. Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is an American politician and the president-elect of the United States. He defeated incumbent president Donald Trump in the 2020 United States presidential election and will be inaugurated as the 46th president on January 20, 2021. It is hope that president-elect Biden will renew and upgrade America stand in the world and its leadership stand of the West, and endorse the Global Civilizational State.
Certainly a statement of Western and particularly American values would give far more weight to the rights of the the community, to freedom of expression and truth emerging out of the contest of ideas, to political participation and competition, and to the rule of law as against the rule of a dictator which was lost within the dictatorship President Trump. His leadership style has been characterized by abusively using power for himself, monopolizing decision making, and being dismissive of alternative opinions. His dictatorship implied absolute power — one person who takes control — of a political situation. During the 4 years of his leadership he claimed "to make America great again" yet he allowed nearly 300,000 Americans be killed by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), an infectious disease. He rejected all experts opinions and of scientific and statistical data that were showing clearly the deadly impacts of the COVID-19. The USA Democratic Party emphasized egalitarianism, social equality, protecting the environment, and strengthening the social safety net through liberalism, and supporting voting rights and minority rights, including LGBT rights, multiculturalism, and religious secularism. Even though Democrats proposed legislation in the House of Representatives, the U.S.A. Congress, to deal with the Coronavirus disease, the Republicans control of the Senate dismissed any such legislation that could have stopped the deadly impacts of the virus.
Table of Contents
Global Civilizational State: the Application of the Scale of Global Rights to the global issue of our ways of doing business and trade worldwide threatening humanity's survival.
Evolutionity and Global Civilizational State: the Application of the Scale of Global Rights to Global Issues.
Global Community will celebrate its 35th year in 2020. Prepare now! More significant and meaningful actions needed to save the Earth, all life.
Global Civilizational State: application of the Scale of Global Rights to global issues.
Global Community celebrates its 35th year Anniversary in 2020.
An Assessment of Global Civilizational State, Evolutionity, along with Global Solidarity and United Citizens Movement.
Evolution, creation and now, Global Civilizational State.
Global Civilizational State leadership is a global partnership, solidarity, and cooperation between 9 or more Global Governments dealing with the needs of all humanity for its survival.
Global Civilizational State for free education and training back to the people to guide the next generations toward a successful life, a prosperous future, and a healthy planet.
Global Civilizational State citizenship.
Let us lead the world toward Global Civilizational State for education, Justice, protection of life on Earth, and for new ways of doing business and trade, in global development, and in the management of global resources.
Let us lead the world toward Global Civilizational State.
Global Civilizational State dependable and trustworthy leadership to guard over and care for all life on Earth.
Global Community celebrates its 35th year Anniversary in 2020.
Global Civilizational State dependable and trustworthy leadership to guard over and care for all life on Earth.
A successful Global Civilization for all Life requires that Global Civilization be a Global Civilizational State
Cosmology, cosmogony, and the Elohim, our extra-terrestrial beings who created the human species on Earth.
Democratic socialism plus vs capitalism.
Causes of the global environmental crisis.
Causes of the global crisis which triggered the planetary state of emergency.
Canada, the overseer and custodian of the Earth's north polar region. (A proposal of Global Community.)
Animations for the October 2018 Paper: Vision of a new economic system to replace America economic, population, military and environmental wars against our world, Earth.
Vision of a new economic system to replace America economic, population, military and environmental wars against our world, Earth.
Proceedings of Global Dialogue 2018
Global Dialogue 2019: Canada, the overseer and custodian of the Earth's north polar region. (A proposal of Global Community.)
Global Trade and Resources Ministry (GTandRM) proposal over time since 1985.
Global Government of North America (GGNA).
Global Civilization: short and long term solutions to saving the world.
Business, trade and global resources: Part II (Animation).
Business, trade and global resources.
Global warming and international trade agreements.
Global Trade and Resources Ministry.
Global Civilization symbiosis with SoulLife.
Share your vision of the Earth in year 2024.
Proceedings of Global Dialogue 2017.
Global Civilization vision of Earth in 2024.
Global Civilization has found that people from Wall Street live a dream life.
Global Civilization vision to saving the world.
Formation and evolution of Life in the Universe, a spiritual pathway to SoulLife. (26 MBs video)
Global Civilization issues, values, solutions, and vision of the world for survival as a species.
Global Civilization Politics and Justice Without Borders.
Global Parliament values and vision.
Global Civilization values, solutions, vision, for the survival of our species.
The dream of a new Eden: Global Civilization.
Hillary Clinton, Democrat, an effective global leader as President of the United States of America.
The most important principle governing Global Civilization for Peace in the world is the Scale of Global Rights.
Global Civilization, the 21st century Vision of Global Community.
Glass Bubble concept of a Global Community.
Animations for the theme World Overpopulation as introduced in May Newsletter.
Global Ministry of World Population.
Global Community days of celebration in May.
Timeless Global Community values.
Global Community establishing a global action plan for the survival of life on our planet.
Global Community needs a Commons Trust Fund to manage the Commons with the highest priorities.
On the issues of land ownership and sovereignty within Global Community, and their applications in the Artic.
Global Community choices to save the world.
Global Protection Agency (GPA).
From Prophet Mohammad (GR)(GR), Je suis Charlie Hebdo, global security to the Scale of Global Rights
Global Community 30th Anniversary (1985-2015) and achievements.
Corporate citizen global ethic.
Today, Global Community is Noah's Ark.
Global Community Ethics.
Global Ministry of Essential Services.
Scale of Global Rights.
Ministry of Global Resources.
Global Community perspective on the proposed Canada-EU trade deal.
Proceedings of Ministry of Global Peace in government now for reading.
Ministry of Global Resources.
Short version of Global Parliament Constitution in PDF format.
Global Parliament Constitution.
Politics and Justice without borders: Earth governance.
Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for.
Global Political Parties.
Politics and Justice without borders: Global Parliament.
( see enlargement )
( see enlargement )
Proceedings of Global Dialogue 2020
Proceedings of Global Dialogue 2020 (September 1st, 2019 to August 31, 2020) are ready for reading. Please do verify that your articles, comments and papers were correctly published, and that recommendations were appropriate, useful, pertinent, and proper. Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for Global Dialogue 2020 were published in the Dialogue Overview section at
Global Peace Earth
Ministry of Global Peace in governmentOver the past decades we have shown that peace in the world and the survival and protection of all life on our planet go hand in hand. Asking for peace in the world means doing whatever is necessary to protect life on our planet. Protecting life implies bringing about the event of peace in the world. Let our time be a time remembered for a new respect for life, our determination to achieve sustainability, and our need for global justice and peace.
Our Global Peace Mouvement is about the courage to live a life in a harmonious peace order and showing by example, thus preventing poverty, wars, terror and violence. We need to educate the coming generations with good principles, being compassionate, social harmony and global sustainability being some of them.
Soul of all Life said in Global Peace Earth "Soul of all Life teaching about Peace: Introduction"
Peace is being who you are without fear. It is the "being who you are" who must be taught a value based on principles to live by. Only principles described in Global Law are necessary and required to attain Peace in the world.
Cultural Appreciation Day: August 22
Along with all the global communities, the Global Community, all life on Earth, and the Soul of Humanity can rightfully claim ownership of the Earth as a birthright: October 6
Founding of the Global Community organization, Global Community and the Federation of Global Governments: October 6 , 1985
Global Citizenship Day: October 6
Tribute to Virginie Dufour, the first Secretary General of the Global Community organization, who passed away April 28,2000
The Global Exhibition: August 17-22
Nationalization of natural resources: October 6
Global Peace Movement Day: May 26
Global Movement to Help: May 26
Global Justice for all Life Day: October 6
Global Justice Movement: October 6
Global Disarmament Day: May 26
Planetary State of Emergency Day: May 26
Global Community 25 th Anniversary Celebration (1985 - 2010): October 6
Celebration of Life Day: May 26
Planetary Biodiversity Zone Day: September 26
Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month
Simon Anholt, Jonathan Cook, Countercurrents Collective (3), Aaqib Javid Dar, Bharat Dogra (5), Dr James M Dorsey, Tom Engelhardt, Pepe Escobar (2), Simon Evans, Philip Giraldi, Taj Hashmi, Robert Hunziker(2), Yanis Iqbal (2), Sanjay Jain, Robert Jensen, Dr Binoy Kampmark, M Adil Khan, Dr Gideon Polya, Luis Gonzalez Reyes, Satya Sagar, Fernando C. Saldivar, Anandi Sharan, Shobha Shukla, David Suzuki, Brett Wilkins,
Articles and papers from authors
Day data received Theme or issue Read article or paper November 26, 2020 Survival Crisis Has No Technological Fix; Resolving This Needs Changes in the Way People Live and Think
Bharat Dogra, in Counter Solutions, countercurrents.org
Although there is increasing recognition among many eminent scientists and learned scholars ( and of course many environment and disarmament activists ) that the world is now faced with a very serious human-made survival crisis, which has no comparison in the history so far, no credible road-map has yet emerged to avoid this many-sided, very serious crisis. We have some sort of world agenda for checking climate change and related serious environmental problems, which is increasingly being revealed to be very inadequate and full of holes. We have some sort of world framework to limit weapons of mass destruction, which is becoming weaker and less effective than before even though threats are increasing. As for a world plan to bring together the various life-threatening problems together and resolve these in a holistic way, such a plan simply does not exist.
It is perhaps the most serious reflection of the glaring inadequacies of existing world leadership that a holistic plan to resolve the survival crisis simply does not exist, and the patchwork plans or preparations that exist to resolve some components of the survival separately are increasingly found to be full of gaping holes.
Due to the absence of such planning and the failure of world leadership to prioritize this above anything else, two very dangerous new trends which can aggravate the existing very serious situation are emerging. Firstly, new components of the survival crisis are fast emerging ( such as possibilities of space warfare and space ‘junk’ pollution increasing in a big way, the likelihood of robot/AI/autonomous weapons increasing in dangerous ways that can even get out of human control etc.), which add new dimensions to the survival crisis. Secondly, in the absence of any clear and credible thinking on resolving the survival crisis, all kinds of dangerous high tech. fixes are being pushed, often in the form of giant geo-engineering interventions, which can actually aggravate the existing problems in many predictable and not-so-predictable ways. While these geo-engineering interventions have already faced a lot of criticism , these also have strong backers, being rooted in the very widespread thinking that ultimately technical fixes can be found for all sorts of problems. This commonplace thinking is itself fraught with problems, as it draws attention away from the most basic task of changing human thinking and living patterns.
Of course technology can be of great help as an integral part of much wider efforts and plans to resolve the big crisis. Moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy is itself a very important task with vital technological component. Who can deny the importance of such obvious tasks? But problems arise when change is seen mainly or predominantly in the technological sphere and the extremely important social aspects are neglected. If someone says technology has an important role in resolving this big crisis then this is absolutely correct and in fact no one will deny this. But if someone says that while all the serious social distortions exist technology alone will resolve the big crisis then this is absolutely wrong and in fact even dangerous.
In fact human capabilities in terms of technology are relatively advanced and sophisticated and with proper guidance of what is rally required and with proper planning can contribute much in a relatively short time. It is in the social sphere that there is the most glaring failure as the easier solutions have been neglected and are not even conceptualized properly . The relationships of desired social changes to the wider plan of resolving survival crisis is an issue of the greatest importance which has suffered from the most glaring neglect.
Let there be no doubt about this. Beyond all the harm done by the rapid increase of fossil fuels or the proliferation of military use of nuclear power, it is the terrible distortions in social life and thinking which have brought humankind to this terrible stage of a survival crisis, apart from inflicting so much suffering all through human history.
While there are several aspects of these serious social distortions in human life, we may mention here just two of the most basic ones. Perhaps the most predominant feature of life on earth is that while there are millions of species living on this planet, humankind is clearly the most capable species, one which is capable of providing the most protection as well as the most destruction depending on how it chooses to behave. Hence it is of the greatest importance for protecting all life on earth that the protective role of human beings should be carefully nurtured all through a human being’s life ( particularly in the formative childhood and teenage years) while the destructive tendencies should be carefully curbed. But despite its obvious importance this most basic task has been generally neglected.
Secondly, a related social aspect is that the most basic human relationships ( with fellow human beings, with nature, and with other forms of life ) should be based on cooperation and compassion, but quite often have been based instead on domination, or efforts for domination. This single social distortion is responsible for much of the distress and destruction in history.
Clearly challenging such serious, long-persisting social distortions and replacing these with protective thinking and living need to be a very important component of any credible plan for checking the survival crisis before it is too late.
The writer is Co-ordinator , Save the Earth Campaign with its SED Demand and author of some recent books on this subject including ‘Survival Crisis– Planet in Peril, People’s Response the Only Way Forward’ and ‘Protecting Earth for Children—Crucial Role of Next Decade.’
Read October 19, 2020 Which country does the most good for the world?
Simon Anholt, Information Clearing House.
Good, the opposite of selfish.
The Good Country Index. "Which country does the most good?" The answer may surprise you (especially if you live in the US or China).
Read November 09, 2020 U.S . Arms Manufacturers Are Profiting from Atrocities
Fernando C. Saldivar, Information Clearing House.
"Information Clearing House" -A century ago, as Europe was emerging from World War I, there was a consensus that arms proliferation had been one of the chief causes of the conflict. This is why Article Eight of the Covenant of the League of Nations affirmed that “the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war is open to grave objections.” The League was therefore committed to the regulation and curtailment of the private arms industry.
Today, that old consensus has largely been forgotten, and the U.S. arms industry—uncurtailed and inadequately regulated—does a brisk business in every corner of the world, but especially in the Middle East. The effects of this are especially gruesome in Yemen, where since 2015 Saudi Arabia has been engaged in an unremitting air war, supplied and supported chiefly by U.S. arms manufacturers. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) estimates that in the past five years at least 112,000 people have been killed as a direct result of the conflict, including 12,600 civilians killed in targeted attacks. ACLED estimates there were more than 25,000 fatalities in 2019 alone. According to UNICEF, “Yemen is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with more than 24 million people—some 80 per cent of the population—in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 12 million children.” Since the Saudi air campaign began, UNICEF reports that Yemen has become “a living hell” for the country’s children. And the scale of the humanitarian crisis has only been magnified by COVID-19.
Saudi Arabia cannot wage war on this scale without Washington’s seal of approval. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia was the world’s largest importer of arms between 2015 and 2019—the first four years of its war in Yemen—with a whopping 73 percent of those imports coming from the United States. Although U.S. support for the Saudi campaign began under the Obama administration, President Donald Trump has bent over backward to accommodate the Saudis and replenish their arsenal. Three of Trump’s eight vetoes have involved Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen: he blocked two congressional prohibitions of arms sales and a joint resolution directing the removal of U.S. armed forces from hostilities in Yemen.
The Trump administration has been able to fill the Saudi shopping list by manipulating the federal regulatory scheme designed to ensure congressional oversight of foreign-arms transfers. Two federal laws, the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), govern foreign military sales and direct commercial sales to foreign consumers. (Foreign military sales are government to government, while direct commercial sales are between U.S. firms and foreign governments or international organizations.)
Generally, under the AECA and the FAA, the executive branch is free to proceed with an arms sale unless Congress passes legislation that prohibits or modifies the proposed sale at any time prior to the actual transfer of arms. Even then, the president may veto this legislation, and then, unless Congress can muster enough votes to override the veto, the sale proceeds. In short, without overwhelming bipartisan opposition to an arms sale Congress’s ability to stop it is relatively modest. In 2019, under the provisions of AECA, Congress passed two resolutions challenging the Trump administration’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Trump vetoed them both in July of that year, and that was the end of that.
The U.S. arms industry can sell abroad with relative impunity, especially when it enjoys the enthusiastic support of a sitting U.S. president. Even worse, the AECA’s relatively weak congressional-oversight provisions can easily be circumvented altogether. Section Thirty-Six of the AECA allows the president to bypass Congress if, within the statutory notice period, the White House informs Congress that there is an “emergency ” that requires an arms sale to proceed without delay “in the national security interests of the United States.”
In May 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified just such an emergency, forcing through twenty-two separate arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. Together, these deals were worth $8.1 billion. The sales to Saudi Arabia included the Paveway and Enhanced Paveway bomb systems, manufactured by Raytheon. Members of Congress objected to this particular deal partly because it would allow the Saudis themselves to begin joint production of the Paveway system once they secured a U.S. manufacturing license. Sen. Robert Menendez, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led a bipartisan effort to quash that sale. Menendez also questioned other arms sales to Saudi Arabia, raising concerns about civilian casualties in Yemen and about the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which many believe to have been ordered by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. In the end, though, none of these objections had any effect: Pompeo’s emergency certification made it possible for the Trump administration to simply sidestep Congress.
Among the many federal watchdogs President Trump has sacked is Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general who was fired in May 2020. At the time of his removal, Linick was investigating Pompeo’s emergency certification. In August, the inspector general’s report was finally issued. It found that, while Pompeo had used proper procedures to expedite the arms sale to Saudi Arabia, he had failed to properly assess the deal’s humanitarian impact on Yemen.
For countries like Saudi Arabia, one of the advantages of working with the U.S. arms industry is precisely America’s lack of any legal requirement to consider the humanitarian impact of an arms transfer to a foreign state. Unlike its European competitors, who are legally obligated to perform such an analysis prior to any arms sale, the U.S. arms industry can sell abroad with relative impunity, especially when it enjoys the enthusiastic support of a sitting U.S. president. This is one of the major obstacles to international efforts to regulate the private-arms industry. The United States is not a party to the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)—the heir to Article Eight of the Covenant of the League of Nations and the best hope for increasing transparency in the global arms trade. President Obama submitted the ATT to the Senate for ratification before leaving office in 2016, but President Trump withdrew it from consideration in April 2019. All the European Union’s member states—including major arms producers like France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy—have signed the treaty. Even China, which had been a holdout, signed this past July.
What makes the ATT so important—and the absence of the United States so glaring—is that, unlike other international arms agreements that deal primarily with the illicit arms trade, the ATT restricts authorized arms transfers by state parties. A key provision of the treaty requires that states refrain from exporting arms if there is evidence they will be used to commit atrocities. In other words, the treaty requires the very kind of analysis that the U.S. State Department failed to undertake before it signed off on the arm transfers to Saudi Arabia.
The ATT is not a panacea, but it does introduce a new level of transparency and accountability to the global arms trade. And it is already having real results. In June 2019, the U.K. Court of Appeal determined that the government had failed to assess whether British arms exports to Saudi Arabia might be used in a manner inconsistent with international law. The U.K. government had to suspend all sales while it reviewed its processes.
The war in Yemen is the first proxy war of the ATT era, with one side supplied principally by Iran and the other backed by the Saudis and the United States. The war continues with the tacit approval of three of the four permanent members of the UN Security Council—the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, the three countries that happen to be Saudi Arabia’s major arms suppliers. But France and the United Kingdom, as parties to the ATT, are prohibited from selling arms that will be used to commit human rights abuses, while the U.S. arms industry, working hand in hand with the State Department, operates with no such impediment. Our weapons manufacturers enjoy a highly lucrative freedom to look the other way while the Saudis target noncombatants.
So long as the United States continues to re-arm Saudi Arabia, no questions asked, it is complicit in the atrocities committed in Yemen. That such complicity remains legal in the United States is no excuse—and no accident. Signing the ATT would entail moral obligations that the Trump administration and its friends in the arms industry would prefer to avoid. If President Trump is reelected, there is every reason to believe the State Department will use every tool at its disposal to help the Saudis win their war against the Houthis, whatever the human consequences. Just this August it threatened to invoke its emergency authority yet again to rearm Saudi Arabia without congressional oversight. If Joe Biden wins the election, he must immediately end this indefensible arrangement, and make sure the United States finally ratifies the Arms Trade Treaty. We can no longer pretend not to know—or appear not to care—what is being done with bombs and missiles made in America.
Fernando C. Saldivar, SJ, is a Jesuit Scholastic of the USA West province currently working as the Global Policy and Advocacy Officer for the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA) in Nairobi, Kenya. - "Source" -
Read November 06, 2020 Imperial Overstretch Arrives: Americans Do Not Need the American Empire
Philip Giraldi, Information Clearing House.
"Information Clearing House" - This piece is being written as voters are going to the polls on election day in the United States. While it has been useful to consider how things might change, possibly for the worse, one must also recognize that much of what happens in the U.S. and in its far-flung empire operates by virtue of its own internal dynamics and rules, something that is often referred to as the “Deep State” or perhaps more accurately as the Establishment.
Witness for example the occasional possibly sincere but unsuccessful White House attempts over the past four years to withdraw or reduce the numbers of U.S. troops embroiled in various armed conflicts worldwide. All of those initiatives have been frustrated or redirected in one way or another and it is not simply a question of bungling by a politically insensitive Donald Trump versus the result that might have been obtained by a more experienced and responsible Democrat. What drives the empire’s engine is essentially bipartisan, even in its own way, apolitical, existing as it does as a form of leaderless shadow government that functions as a community-of-interest rather than a bureaucracy. It is inclusive and reflective of the real centers of power in the country, namely the national security state and Wall Street.
In a recent article Pepe Escobar dispels any expectation that a kinder, gentler foreign policy might emerge from the election. He describes with some alarm how victory by Biden will mean that the national security “Blob” team that wrecked Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and Libya while also assassinating Americans overseas under President Barack Obama will be back. He cites former CIA presidential briefer Ray McGovern who persuasively describes the “Blob” as the MICIMATT (the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex). One might well add the Federal Reserve Bank to that list.
So, the engine keeps chugging on, driven my its own self-interests and completely oblivious to what is going on around it. The irony is that the crisis in confidence that simultaneously is besetting the United States in part reflects a very real, largely self-inflicted decline in America’s place in the world due to insistence that it maintain global hegemony. It comes at a time when the empire is entering into a phase of increasing irrelevancy which many of the key players involved are either unable or unwilling to recognize, no matter what their political affiliation might be. That means that the United States is locked into a pattern of behavior that it is incapable of changing. It is a nation that has become addicted to war for no good reason, and that addiction has brought neither security nor prosperity.
The signs are everywhere. The costs of empire continue to rise while real benefits to be derived from it are elusive. The United States government spends far more on a bloated defense budget than it can afford, adding to an unsustainable national debt that currently exceeds $27 trillion, which is 128% of the country’s entire gross domestic product. The debt will likely increase dramatically if there are any more coronavirus stimulus packages. The nation is becoming hollowed out as a result.
America’s “allies” have inevitably rightly become increasingly disengaged from Washington, reluctant to comply with Washington’s directions and demands, while the developing transition from the dollar as the world’s reserve currency is proceeding and will have catastrophic consequences. When the U.S. Treasury stops being able to print money at will, there will be national insolvency.
In terms of the United States’ interaction with the world, a country that not so long ago was widely respected is now regarded as the principal source of international instability, disliked everywhere but Israel, another rogue nation. And the internal damage inside the U.S. to core values and expectations is also evident, to include increasingly dysfunctional schools that focus on political correctness rather than education, crumbling infrastructure, a broken health care system, and a dying industrial and manufacturing base. Unique among all developed countries, life expectancy among working class Americans is declining.
At the root of it all is what Yale professor Paul Kennedy once described as “imperial overstretch,” which means projection of power in support of global commitments that are not essential to national well-being and bankrupting oneself in the process. The reality is that unless an “imperial” acquisition is done purely for exploitative reasons, as Belgium did in the Congo, having an empire operates at a considerable loss. Napoleon “overstretched” when he invaded Russia and both Russia and Austria-Hungary collapsed as a result of the First World War because the stress of external conflict made their obligations far exceed their resources. Great Britain’s Empire likewise became expendable after World War Two when the costs of maintaining outposts “east of Suez” became much larger than the benefits.
So, there are many good reasons for the United States to retrench and again become a “normal” nation, if that is at all possible, but the fact that no candidate but Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders even suggested that America’s global interventionism might be reconsidered or even reversed is telling. Both were eliminated by the Democratic party establishment. In the case of Gabbard, the executioner was no less than Hillary Clinton. Whoever is the new president, he will inherit the awful conceit that he is the “leader of the free world.” It is past time for a serious discussion of America’s proper place in the world, but that will require completely overturning the country’s Establishment and challenging the “exceptionalism” view that the U.S. must dominate as a “force for good.” Unfortunately, there is no politician anywhere on the horizon who is able and willing to take the lead on such an endeavor.
Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is firstname.lastname@example.org.- "Source"
Read November 16, 2020 RCEP hops on the New Silk Roads
Pepe Escobar, Information Clearing House.
World's biggest free trade pact isn't about excluding the US or China's geopolitical ambitions but rather the natural evolution of Asian integration.
"Information Clearing House" - "Asia Times" - Ho Chi Minh, in his eternal abode, will be savoring it with a heavenly smirk. Vietnam was the – virtual – host as the 10 Asean nations, plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, on the final day of the 37th Asean Summit.
RCEP, eight years in the making, binds together 30% of the global economy and 2.2 billion people. It’s the first auspicious landmark of the Raging Twenties, which started with an assassination (of Iran’s Gen. Soleimani) followed by a global pandemic and now ominous intimations of a dodgy Great Reset.
RCEP seals East Asia as the undisputed prime hub of geoeconomics. The Asian Century in fact was already in the making way back in the 1990s. Among those Asians as well as Western expats who identified it, in 1997 I published my book 21st: The Asian Century (excerpts here.)
RCEP may force the West to do some homework, and understand that the main story here is not that RCEP “excludes the US” or that it’s “designed by China”. RCEP is an East Asia-wide agreement, initiated by Asean, and debated among equals since 2012, including Japan, which for all practical purposes positions itself as part of the industrialized Global North. It’s the first-ever trade deal that unites Asian powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea.
By now it’s clear, at last in vast swathes of East Asia, that RCEP’s 20 chapters will reduce tariffs across the board; simplify customs, with at least 65% of service sectors fully open, with increased foreign shareholding limits; solidify supply chains by privileging common rules of origin; and codify new e-commerce regulations.
When it comes to the nitty gritty, companies will be saving and be able to export anywhere within the 15-nation spectrum without bothering with extra, separate requirements from each nation. That’s what an integrated market is all about.
When RCEP meets BRI
The same scratched CD will be playing non-stop on how RCEP facilitates China’s “geopolitical ambitions”. That’s not the point. The point is RCEP evolved as a natural companion to China’s role as the main trade partner of virtually every East Asian player.
Which brings us to the key geopolitical and geoeconomic angle: RCEP is a natural companion to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which as a trade/sustainable development strategy spans not only East Asia but delves deeper into Central and West Asia.
The Global Times analysis is correct: the West has not ceased to distort BRI, without acknowledging how “the initiative they have been slandering is actually so popular in the vast majority of countries along the BRI route.”
RCEP will refocus BRI – whose “implementation” stage, according to the official timetable, starts only in 2021. The low-cost financing and special foreign exchange loans offered by the China Development Bank will become much more selective.
There will be a lot of emphasis on the Health Silk Road – especially across Southeast Asia. Strategic projects will be the priority: they revolve around the development of a network of economic corridors, logistic zones, financial centers, 5G networks, key sea ports and, especially short and mid-term, public health-related high-tech.
The discussions that led to the final RCEP draft were focused on a mechanism of integration that can easily bypass the WTO in case Washington persists on sabotaging it, as was the case during the Trump administration.
The next step could be the constitution of an economic bloc even stronger than the EU – not a far-fetched possibility when we have China, Japan, South Korea and the Asean 10 working together. Geopolitically, the top incentive, beyond an array of imperative financial compromises, would be to solidify something like Make Trade, Not War.
RCEP marks the irredeemable failure of the Obama era TPP, which was the “NATO on trade” arm of the “pivot to Asia” dreamed up at the State Department. Trump squashed TPP in 2017. TPP was not about a “counterbalance” to China’s trade primacy in Asia: it was about a free for all encompassing the 600 multinational companies which were involved in its draft. Japan and Malaysia, especially, saw thought it from the start.
RCEP also inevitably marks the irredeemable failure of the decoupling fallacy, as well as all attempts to drive a wedge between China and its East Asian trade partners. All these Asian players will now privilege trade among themselves. Trade with non-Asian nations will be an afterthought. And every Asean economy will give full priority to China.
Still, American multinationals won’t be isolated, as they will be able to profit from RCEP via their subsidiaries within the 15-nation members.
What about Greater Eurasia?
And then there’s the proverbial Indian mess. The official spin from New Delhi is that RCEP would “affect the livelihoods” of vulnerable Indians. That’s code for an extra invasion of cheap and efficient Chinese products.
India was part of the RCEP negotiations from the start. Pulling out – with a “we may join later” conditional – is once again a spectacular case of stabbing themselves in the back. The fact is the Hindutva fanatics behind Modi-ism bet on the wrong horse: the US-fostered Quad partnership cum Indo-Pacific strategy, which spells out as containment of China and thus preclude closer trade ties.
No “Make in India” will compensate for the geoeconomic, and diplomatic, blunder – which crucially implies India distancing itself from the Asean 10. RCEP solidifies China, not India, as the undisputed engine of East Asian growth amid the re-positioning of supply chains post-Covid.
A very interesting geoeconomic follow-up is what will Russia do. For the moment, Moscow’s priority involves a Sisyphean struggle: manage the turbulent relationship with Germany, Russia’s largest import partner.
But then there’s the Russia-China strategic partnership –which should be enhanced economically. Moscow’s concept of Greater Eurasia involves deeper involvement both East and West, including the expansion of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), which, for instance, has free trade deals with Asean nations such as Vietnam.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is not a geoeconomics mechanism. But it’s intriguing to see what President Xi Jinping said at his keynote speech at the Council of Heads of State of the SCO last week.
This is Xi’s key quote: “We must firmly support relevant countries in smoothly advancing major domestic political agendas in accordance with law; maintaining political security & social stability, and resolutely oppose external forces interfering in internal affairs of member states under any pretext.”
Apparently this has nothing to do with RCEP. But there are quite a few intersections. No interference of “external forces”. Beijing taking into consideration the Covid-19 vaccine needs of SCO members – and this could be extended to RCEP. The SCO – as well as RCEP – as a multilateral platform for member states to mediate disputes.
All of the above points to the inter-sectionality of BRI, EAEU, SCO, RCEP, BRICS+ and AIIB, which translates as closer Asia – and Eurasia – integration, geoeconomically and geopolitically. While the dogs of dystopia bark, the Asian – and Eurasian – caravan – keeps marching on.
Read November 17, 2020 The elusiveness of sanity in an insane world
Jonathan Cook, Information Clearing House.
"Information Clearing House" - Erich Fromm, the renowned German-Jewish social psychologist who was forced to flee his homeland in the early 1930s as the Nazis came to power, offered a disturbing insight later in life on the relationship between society and the individual.
In the mid-1950s, his book The Sane Society suggested that insanity referred not simply to the failure by specific individuals to adapt to the society they lived in. Rather, society itself could become so pathological, so detached from a normative way of life, that it induced a deep-seated alienation and a form of collective insanity among its members. In modern western societies, where automation and mass consumption betray basic human needs, insanity might not be an aberration but the norm.
The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.
This is still a very challenging idea to anyone raised on the view that sanity is defined by consensus, that it embraces whatever the mainstream prefers, and that insanity applies only to those living outside those norms. It is a definition that diagnoses the vast majority of us today as insane.
When Fromm wrote his book, Europe was emerging from the ruins of the Second World War. It was a time of reconstruction, not only physically and financially, but legally and emotionally. International institutions like the United Nations had recently been formed to uphold international law, curb national greed and aggression, and embody a new commitment to universal human rights.
It was a time of hope and expectation. Greater industrialisation spurred by the war effort and intensified extraction of fossil fuels meant economies were beginning to boom, a vision of the welfare state was being born, and a technocratic class promoting a more generous social democracy were replacing the old patrician class.
It was at this historic juncture that Fromm chose to write a book telling the western world that most of us were insane.
Degrees of insanity
If that was clear to Fromm in 1955, it ought to be much clearer to us today, as buffoon autocrats stride the world stage like characters from a Marx Brothers movie; as international law is being intentionally unravelled to restore the right of western nations to invade and plunder; and as the physical world demonstrates through extreme weather events that the long-ignored science of climate change – and much other human-inspired destruction of the natural world – can no longer be denied.
And yet our commitment to our insanity seems as strong as ever – possibly stronger. Sounding like the captain of the Titanic, the unreconstructed British liberal writer Sunny Hundal memorably gave voice to this madness a few years back when he wrote in defence of the catastrophic status quo:
If you want to replace the current system of capitalism with something else, who is going to make your jeans, iPhones and run Twitter?
As the clock ticks away, the urgent goal for each of us is to gain a deep, permanent insight into our own insanity. It doesn’t matter that our neighbours, family and friends think as we do. The ideological system we were born into, that fed us our values and beliefs as surely as our mothers fed us milk, is insane. And because we cannot step outside of that ideological bubble – because our lives depend on submitting to this infrastructure of insanity – our madness persists, even as we think of ourselves as sane.
Our world is not one of the sane versus the insane, but of the less insane versus the more insane.
Which is why I recommend the new documentary I Am Greta, a very intimate portrait of the Swedish child environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
Before everyone gets started, let me point out that I Am Greta is not about the climate emergency. That is simply the background noise as the film charts the personal journey begun by this 15-year-old girl with Asperger’s syndrome in staging a weekly lone protest outside the Swedish parliament. Withdrawn and depressed by the implications of the compulsive research she has done on the environment, she rapidly finds herself thrust into the centre of global attention by her simple, heart-felt statements of the obvious.
The schoolgirl shunned as insane by classmates suddenly finds the world drawn to the very qualities that previously singled her out as weird: her stillness, her focus, her refusal to equivocate or to be impressed.
Footage of her father desperately trying to get her to take a break and eat something, if only a banana, as she joins yet another climate march, or of her curling up in a ball on her bed, needing to be silent, after an argument with her father over the time she has spent crafting another speech to world leaders may quieten those certain she is simply a dupe of the fossil fuel industries – or, more likely, it will not.
But the fruitless debates about whether Thunberg is being used are irrelevant to this film. That is not where its point or its power lies.
Through Thunberg’s eyes
For 90 minutes we live in Thunberg’s shoes, we see the world through her strange eyes. For 90 minutes we are allowed to live inside the head of someone so sane that we can briefly grasp – if we are open to her world – quite how insane each of us truly is. We see ourselves from the outside, through the vision of someone whose Asperger’s has allowed her to “see through the static”, as she too generously terms our delusions. She is the small, still centre of simple awareness buffeted in a sea of insanity.
Watching Thunberg wander alone – unimpressed, often appalled – through the castles and palaces of world leaders, through the economic forums of the global technocratic elite, through the streets where she is acclaimed, the varied nature of our collective insanity comes ever more sharply into focus.
Four forms of insanity the adult world adopts in response to Thunberg, the child soothsayer, are on show. In its varied guises, this insanity derives from unexamined fear.
The first – and most predictable – is exemplified by the right, who angrily revile her for putting in jeopardy the ideological system of capitalism they revere as their new religion in a godless world. She is an apostate, provoking their curses and insults.
The second group are liberal world leaders and the technocratic class who run our global institutions. Their job, for which they are so richly rewarded, is to pay lip service, entirely in bad faith, to the causes Thunberg espouses for real. They are supposed to be managing the planet for future generations, and therefore have most invested in recruiting her to their side, not least to dissipate the energy she mobilises that they worry could rapidly turn against them.
One of the film’s early scenes is Thunberg’s meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron, shortly after she has started making headlines.
Beforehand, Macron’s adviser tries to pump Thunberg for information on other world leaders she has met. His unease at her reply that this her first such invitation is tangible. As Thunberg herself seems only too aware when they finally meet, Macron is there only for the photoshoot. Trying to make inane small talk with someone incapable of such irrelevancies, Macron can’t help but raise an eyebrow in discomfort, and possibly mild reproof, as Thunberg concedes that the media reports of her travelling everywhere by train are right.
The third group are the adults who line the streets for a selfie with Thunberg, or shout out their adulation, loading it on to her shoulders like a heavy burden – and one she signally refuses to accept. Every time someone at a march tells her she is special, brave or a hero, she immediately tells them they too are brave. It is not her responsibility to fix the climate for the rest of us, and to think otherwise is a form of infantilism.
The fourth group are entirely absent from the film, but not from the responses to it and to her. These are the “cynically insane”, those who want to load on to Thunberg a burden of a different kind. Aware of the way we have been manipulated by our politicians and media, and the corporations that now own both, they are committed to a different kind of religion – one that can see no good anywhere. Everything is polluted and dirty. Because they have lost their own innocence, all innocence must be murdered.
This is a form of insanity no different from the other groups. It denies that anything can be good. It refuses to listen to anything and anyone. It denies that sanity is possible at all. It is its own form of autism – locked away in a personal world from which there can be no escape – that, paradoxically, Thunberg herself has managed to overcome through her deep connection to the natural world.
As long as we can medicalise Thunberg as someone suffering from Asperger’s, we do not need to think about whether we are really the insane ones.
Long ago economists made us aware of financial bubbles, the expression of insanity from investors as they pursue profit without regard to real world forces. Such investors are finally forced to confront reality – and the pain it brings – when the bubble bursts. As it always does.
We are in an ideological bubble – and one that will burst as surely as the financial kind. Thunberg is that still, small voice of sanity outside the bubble. We can listen to her, without fear, without reproach, without adulation, without cynicism. Or we can carry on with our insane games until the bubble explodes.Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net. If you appreciate his articles, please consider making a donation -
Read November 03, 2020 The Russia-China Vote
Pepe Escobar, Information Clearing House.
"Information Clearing House" - Whatever the geopolitical and geoeconomic consequences of the spectacular US dystopia, the Russia-China strategic partnership, in their own slightly different registers, have already voted on their path forward.
Here is how I framed what is at the heart of the Chinese 2021-2025 five-year plan approved at the plenum in Beijing last week.
Here is a standard Chinese think tank interpretation.
And hereis some especially pertinent context examining how rampant Sinophobia is impotent when faced with an extremely efficient made in China model of governance. This study shows how China’s complex history, culture and civilizational axioms simply cannot fit into the Western, Christian hegemonic worldview.
The not so hidden “secret” of China’s 2021-2025 five-year plan – which the Global Times described as “economic self-reliance” – is to base the civilization-state’s increasing geopolitical clout on technological breakthroughs.
Crucially, China is on a “self-driven” path – depending on little to no foreign input. Even a clear – “pragmatic” – horizon has been set: 2035, halfway between now and 2049. By this time China should be on a par or even surpassing the US in geopolitical, geoeconomic and techno power.
That is the rationale behind the Chinese leadership actively studying the convergence of quantum physics and information sciences – which is regarded as the backbone of the Made in China push towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The five-year plan makes it quite clear that the two key vectors are AI and robotics – where Chinese research is already quite advanced. Innovations in these fields will yield a matrix of applications in every area from transportation to medicine, not to mention weaponry.
Huawei is essential in this ongoing process, as it’s not a mere data behemoth, but a hardware provider, creating platforms and the physical infrastructure for a slew of companies to develop their own versions of smart cities, safe cities – or medicines.
Big Capital – from East and West – is very much in tune with where all of this is going, a process that also implicates the core hubs of the New Silk Roads. In tune with the 21st century “land of opportunity” script, Big Capital will increasingly move towards East Asia, China and these New Silk hubs.
This new geoeconomic matrix will mostly rely on spin offs of the Made in China 2025 strategy. A clear choice will be presented for most of the planet: “win win” or “zero sum”.
The failures of neoliberalism
After observing the mighty clash, enhanced by Covid-19, between the neoliberal paradigm and “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, the Global South is only beginning to draw the necessary conclusions.
No Western propaganda tsunami can favorably spin what is in effect a devastating, one-two, ideological collapse.
Neoliberalism’s abject failure in dealing with Covid-19 is manifestly evident all across the West.
The US election dystopia is now sealing the abject failure of Western liberal “democracy”: what kind of “choice” is offered by Trump-Biden?
This is happening just as the ultra-efficient, relentlessly demonized “Chinese Communist Party” rolls out the road map for the next five years. Washington cannot even plan what happens the day ahead.
Trump’s original drive, suggested by Henry Kissinger before the January 2017 inauguration, was to play – what else – Divide and Rule, seducing Russia against China.
This was absolute anathema for the Deep State and its Dem minions. Thus the subsequent, relentless demonization of Trump – with Russiagate topping the charts. And then Trump unilaterally chose to sanction and demonize China anyway.
Assuming a Dem victory, the scenario will veer towards Russia demonization on steroids even as hysterical Hybrid War on China will persist on all fronts – Uighurs, Tibet, Hong Kong, South China Sea, Taiwan.
Now compare all of the above with the Russian road map.
Putin has made a key assertion on the role of Capital, stressing the necessity of “abandoning the practice of unrestrained and unlimited consumption – overconsumption – in favor of judicious and reasonable sufficiency, when you do not live just for today but also think about tomorrow.”
Putin once again stressed the importance of the role of the state: “The state is a necessary fixture, there is no way […] could do without state support.”
And, in concert with the endless Chinese experimentation, he added that in fact there are no economic rules set in stone: “No model is pure or rigid, neither the market economy nor the command economy today, but we simply have to determine the level of the state’s involvement in the economy. What do we use as a baseline for this decision? Expediency. We need to avoid using any templates, and so far, we have successfully avoided that.”
Pragmatic Putin defined how to regulate the role of the state as “a form of art”.
And he offered as an example, “keeping inflation up by a bit will make it easier for Russian consumers and companies to pay back their loans. It is economically healthier than the deflationary policies of western societies.”
As a direct consequence of Putin’s pragmatic policies – which include wide-ranging social programs and vast national projects – the West ignores that Russia may well be on the way to overtake Germany as the fifth largest economy in the world.
The bottom line is that, combined, the Russia-China strategic partnership is offering, especially to the Global South, two radically different approaches to the standard Western neoliberal dogma. And that, for the whole US establishment, is anathema.
So whatever the result of the Trump-Biden “choice”, the clash between the Hegemon and the Top Two Sovereigns is only bound to become more incandescent.
Read October 13, 2020 Who is “we”?
Robert Jensen , in Counter Solutions, countercurrents.org.
Who is “we”?
We humans have made a mess of things, which is readily evident if we face the avalanche of studies and statistics describing the contemporary ecological crises we face. But even with the mounting evidence of the consequences for people and planet, we have not committed to a serious project to slow the damage that we do.
One reasonable response to those statements is, “Who is ‘we’?” That is, exactly who has made a mess of things and who has failed to take action? Who’s to blame for the problems and who’s responsible for the costs? Put more bluntly, borrowing from the often-quoted exchange between the Lone Ranger and Tonto, “What do you mean, we, white man?”
The global North—which is to say, fossil-fuel powered capitalism as it developed in Europe—bears primary responsibility for the contemporary crises, and those societies have failed to meet their obligations, or in some cases to even acknowledge obligations, to change course. And within those societies, it is the wealthy and powerful who bear the greatest responsibility for destructive policies.
Today, “we” is not everyone, equally culpable. But if there is to be a decent human future—indeed, if there is to be any human future—we have to realize that human-carbon nature is at the core of the problem, a reality that exempts no one.
Because this sounds harsh in a world with so much human suffering, so unequally distributed, let me be clear: My argument does not minimize or trivialize that suffering, or ignore the profound moral and political failures that exacerbate it. Strategies for a sustainable human presence must involve holding the wealthy and powerful accountable for damage done, and moving toward a more equitable distribution of wealth and power—goals that are desirable independent of ecological realities. But if that realignment were accomplished, then what? With nearly eight billion people and most of the world’s infrastructure built with, and dependent on, highly dense energy, then what?
It’s tempting to believe that we can identify low-energy societies from the past, or communities in the contemporary world with lower-energy living arrangements, and reproduce them more widely. It’s tempting to believe that breaking concentrated wealth and power and expanding democratic decision-making would lead to sustainable societies. But such hopes are based on a misunderstanding of the problem.
We should learn from the low-energy societies and experiments within today’s societies, but those good examples don’t offer a program for moving from the current state of most of the planet (high-energy, unsustainable) to where we need to be (low-energy, sustainable). Because no one can imagine what such a program would look like, people are quick to embrace a “technological fundamentalism” that pretends we can continue at high-energy levels through some magical combination of innovation and renewable energy, which are important but cannot keep the contemporary world afloat.
We can’t pretend that people, if freed from hierarchal social systems, will suddenly find it easy to avoid the comforts and pleasures associated with dense energy, to which people have become accustomed (in the more affluent societies) or to which others aspire (most everywhere else). While much irrational consumption is driven by capitalist propaganda (that is, advertising and marketing), fossil fuels and other sources of energy also make people’s lives easier in many ways that are not frivolous. There is variation in people’s assessment of their needs, but capturing and using dense energy for comfort and pleasure is not a unique goal of imperialists and capitalists.
In short, there are no solutions, if by solutions we mean ways to support anything like the existing number of people at anything like the existing level of aggregate consumption. Wishing it to be possible, simply because the alternatives are difficult to imagine—let alone achieve—does not make it possible.
Again, for emphasis
So as not to be misunderstood: We live amid dramatically different levels of energy consumption, resource exploitation, waste production, and overall contribution to ecosystem instability. This highly skewed distribution of wealth is a product of crimes of the past (especially, but not limited to, the barbarism of European nations in their world conquest over the past 500 years) and ongoing economic domination (when imperial armies go home, private firms continue to exploit resources and labor, typically with local elites as collaborators).
The profoundly unsustainable nature of human economic activity today is the result primarily of a rapacious transnational corporate capitalism. Because capitalism is, and always has been, a wealth-concentrating system, a relatively small number of people reap most of the financial benefits from this ecological destruction. In short: The First World is rich, and much of the wealth of the First World is concentrated in the hands of a relatively small segment of those societies’ populations.
Some people who benefit from these arrangements are dedicated to maintaining the hierarchical systems at the heart of the unsustainable economy and its unjust distribution of wealth. Other people who benefit will condemn those systems but take no action to disrupt them. And some people will work for change. We all should do a self-inventory, uncomfortable though it may be, to assess honestly where we fit in these categories.
I am white, male, born and raised in the United States, educated, retired from a professional job—all realities that have enhanced my opportunities and reduced impediments. While I have been an active member of various movements for sustainability and justice, I will never have a satisfactory answer to a troubling challenge: “Why have you not done more?” And while I am reasonably frugal and consume less than most people of my class in the United States, I have no illusions that I live at a sustainable level.
To repeat, one more time: We are not all similarly situated, and this inequality within the human family must never drop out of our analysis. But when analyzing the ecological crises facing humans today, I believe it is important to talk about a “we” that includes everyone—on biological, historical, philosophical, and political grounds.
We are one species
First, it should be uncontroversial to assert an anti-racist principle anchored in basic biology: We are one species, and while there are observable differences in such things as skin color and hair texture, there are no known biologically based differences in intellectual, psychological, or moral attributes between human populations from different regions of the world. There is individual variation within any human population in a particular place (obviously, individuals in any society differ in a variety of traits) but no meaningful differences between populations in the way people think, feel, or make decisions. Again, we are one species. We are all basically the same animal.
Second, although we are one species, there are obvious cultural differences among human populations around the world. If those differences aren’t a product of human biology—that is, if they aren’t the product of any one group being significantly different genetically from another, especially in ways that could be labeled cognitively superior or inferior—then development of different cultures in different places must be the result of humans living under different material conditions. The type of living arrangements that groups of humans develop arise out of the differences in geography, climate, and environmental conditions. The different material realities under which humans have lived shape the different forms of human culture.
Third, we know that we make decisions, individually and collectively, in ways we do not and cannot fully understand. Our experience of freely choosing does not mean that all of our choices are 100% freely made. Without attempting to resolve the age-old debate on free will, we can self-reflect on how we often come to recognize that our choices, which we believed that we made freely at one moment in time, were shaped and constrained by material conditions we could not understand at that moment, and maybe never fully understand. While we continue to act day-to-day on the assumption of free will, we also should continue to be alert for ways behavior is to some degree determined.
Finally, the implications of all this: We should condemn the unsustainable and unjust actions of others and be critically self-reflective about our own contributions to unsustainable and unjust systems. We also should extend such critique not only to individuals but to the systems that reward pathological behavior and impede virtuous behavior. But thinking historically, we also should recognize that any group of humans living under the same material conditions would most likely have developed in roughly the same way.
That is, there’s nothing particularly special about any one of us or any one group of people.
This caution is a way of extending “there but for the grace of God go I” beyond the individual to cultures. That phrase emerged from Christian testimony to God’s mercy, but I use it here in secular fashion: If one has lived an exemplary life, that’s great, but be aware that life might have been very different if some of the material conditions in which one lived were different. To those who believe they have accomplished something and made a positive contribution to the world, that’s great, but a reminder: Change up any one of the conditions in our lives, especially in our formative years, and perhaps we would have found ourselves failing instead of succeeding. That doesn’t imply that we have no control over our lives, but simply that we likely don’t have as much control as we tend to assume.
This is true of us individually and collectively. The conditions under which a culture emerged may have led to ecologically sustainable living arrangements, but those arrangements might have been very different if initial conditions had been different. If Culture A created an ecologically sustainable way to live and Culture B created an unsustainable system, it is important to highlight the differences, endorse Culture A, and try to change Culture B. But if the geography, climate, and environmental conditions out of which the two cultures emerged had been different, then what would A and B look like? There but for the grace of God go we.
For example, not all cultures developed the technology to plow the ground, smelt ores, or exploit fossil fuels to do work in machines. The cultures without those technologies have not depleted the carbon in soils, forests, coal, oil, and natural gas at the same rate as societies with those technologies. If the development of those technologies was not the product of inherently superior intelligence—remember, we are committed to an anti-racist principle that flows from basic biology—the forces that led to the creation of such technologies must have been a result of the specific environmental conditions under which that culture evolved. Likewise, the lower rate of carbon depletion that results from the absence of those technologies cannot be a marker of inherently superior intelligence, but rather a product of environmental conditions. In a significant sense, the trajectory of people and their cultures is the product of which continent and in which region they have lived (Crosby, 2004; Diamond, 1997; Morris, 2010).
Humility all around
Recognizing that material realities shape our lives does not absolve anyone or any society today of moral accountability for actions, or lack of action. For those of us holding a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth who are responsible for a disproportionate share of ecological destruction, an awareness of some level of environmental determinism is not a free pass. Whatever people knew about ecological consequences when today’s cultures first developed, we now know more than enough to act on what our own moral principles demand of us—pursuing living arrangements consistent with ecological sustainability and social justice. If we fail to live up to those principles, we are appropriately the targets of demands for corrective action.
But in trying collectively to find a way out of the mess we’ve made, the assigning of different levels of responsibility for the mess is only a first step. No culture has a plan for transitioning from an unsustainable high-energy, interdependent global society of eight billion people to sustainable low-energy societies with smaller populations. While lessons from low-energy societies will undoubtedly be valuable, there is no way to flip a switch and return to a previous era’s living arrangements. Technological innovation and renewable energy will play a role but cannot replace the infrastructure of a world built with highly dense carbon. Breaking the grip of concentrated wealth on politics won’t change the fact that dense energy makes our lives easier in many ways that most people enjoy and will not want to give up.
Said differently: Human nature is relevant.
People advocating for social justice and ecological sustainability typically are nervous around talk of human nature, given capitalists’ success in defining our nature as inherently greedy and self-interested. Humans have the capacity to act in greedy and self-interested fashion, of course, but capitalism’s critics point out that we also have the capacity to collaborate and cooperate, which is also part of our nature—a crucial part in the story of human expansion across the globe (Despain, 2010).
My concern is with another aspect of human nature, what we might call our human-carbon nature, a phrase that reminds us that we are carbon-based like all other life on Earth. What is life? What is the nature of living things? Wes Jackson suggests that one answer is, “Life is the scramble for energy-rich carbon” (Jensen, 2021). It is our human nature, like the nature of all life, to seek out energy-rich carbon. Over time, humans have gotten exceedingly good at it, maximizing the extraction of all the carbon we can get our hands on. Exceptions to that pattern are rare.
Coping with the consequences of that carbon-seeking—an aspect of our human-carbon nature—is now our daunting challenge. Our greatest success as a species has become our most profound failure. This is a new challenge for which we have no road map. No existing ideology or culture is going to provide us with a template for dealing with what lies ahead.
It is too glib to say it’s ironic that some of the places in the world that contributed the least to climate change are going to suffer the most from climate disruption. It is too glib to observe that the world is not fair. Ecological realities challenge our policy-making capacities and threaten to overwhelm our moral imaginations. But we can agree not to hide from such realities and press forward.
Renouncing First-World dominance is a start, as is imagining a world beyond capitalism’s obsession with growth and consumption. The end of those systems is a necessary but not sufficient condition for change. If we start with an awareness of the scope of the change needed and the lack of a plan, we can at least be clear about the direction in which we need to move. And that requires committing to being the first species that will have to impose limits on itself, which means a cap on the carbon we use and rationing to ensure fairness (Cox, 2020).
Our chances are better if we take the long view and realize that the problems we face aren’t just the consequence of the past 250 years of fossil-fuel use or the past 500 years of European colonialism. We have to go back further, to the origins of agriculture 10,000 years ago, the crucial fault line in human history, when humans began exploiting carbon at levels beyond replacement levels (Montgomery, 2012), particularly where grains (e.g., wheat and rice) were farmed by annual plowing that disrupted and degraded the soil.
Agriculture did not develop in the same way everywhere on the planet; geography, climate, and environmental conditions set the parameters within which people farmed. Especially where grain crops dominated, the ability to create and store surpluses generated the hierarchies that have produced profound social inequality (Scott, 2017). Surplus-and-hierarchy predate agriculture in a few resource-rich places (Pringle, 2014), but the domestication of plants and animals spread that dynamic across the globe, and agriculture was the beginning of the idea that we humans, rather than the ecospheric forces, control the world.
The “we” is us, Homo sapiens, the primate with the big brain. The first farmers, the first smelters of ore, the first people who tapped fossil fuels to do work in machines—all of them contributed to the mess we are in, but without knowledge of the consequences of their actions. We can say of those early carbon-seekers, “Forgive them, for they know not what they did” (Luke 23:34).
Today, we know what we do. The question is, can we—all of us—face what lies ahead without diversion and without illusion?
Cox, S. (2020). The Green New Deal and beyond: Ending the climate emergency while we still can. City Lights.
Crosby, A. W. (2004) Ecological imperialism: The biological expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Despain, D. (2010, February 27). Early humans used brain power, innovation and teamwork to dominate the planet. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/humans-brain-power-origins/
Diamond, J. (1997) Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies. W.W. Norton.
Jensen, R. (2021) Prairie prophecy: The restless and relentless mind of Wes Jackson. University Press of Kansas.
Montgomery, D. (2012). Dirt: The erosion of civilizations (2nd ed.). University of California Press.
Morris, I. (2010). Why the West rules—for now: The patterns of history, and what they reveal about the future. Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Pringle, H. (2014, May 23). The ancient roots of the 1%. Science, 344(6186), 822-825. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.344.6186.822
Scott, J. C. (2017). Against the grain: A deep history of the earliest states. Yale University Press.
Robert Jensen, an emeritus professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author of The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men
Originally published in Resilience.org
Read October 14, 2020 Leadership for Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change
Anandi Sharan , in Climate Change, countercurrents.org.
I would regard anyone as my leader a) whom I have met personally, b) with whom I work or interact directly face to face on a more or less daily basis c) has proved themselves friendly, kind, sympathetic, compassionate and giving. I only trust someone who demonstrates behaviour in accordance with the positive human virtues and eschews negative actions. They could be neighbours, but if not, their house should be within walking distance from mine. Who is not my leader? Anyone whom I have not met, whom I don’t work with or interact with on a daily basis. I would especially like women leaders.
Given my definition of who my leader is, I neither have a community nor a leader. My definition of leader implies community. There is a group who agrees that that person is their leader. It is essentially a tribal definition. Until the world has eliminated fossil fuels and nuclear energy and other forms of polluting energy by 2060 there will be a chaos of leadership in this world. Even thereafter we will only have the kind of leaders we want and pray for if we assert the rights of community over the land, with clear boundaries and decision making powers over the designated territory and humane rules about who is a foreigner and who is a resident.
All countries are gradually committing to net zero emissions of GHGs by 2050, China has set the goal of net zero GHGs by 2060. Europe is committed to reducing 60% against 1990 levels by 2030. The USA under the Democrats will commit to net zero GHGs by 2050. India may be at net zero GGHs by 2050 or 2060.
We are in an era in which leaders are having to relinquish their attachment to capital and nation states and to global trade in favour of the community. They must figure out how to reorganise humanity on the basis of community but this is not possible in the era of nation states. Thus what to do about the nation state in the era of mitigating and adapting to climate change is a huge unresolved issue. Nation states cannot subsist without fossil fuels to power their trade relations and their domestic trade. Their understanding of their political power is linked to their right as the owner of a sovereign currency. Obviously thus this question of what role if any for the nation state is a massive challenge for multi-party constitutional democracies as also for one-party democracies, all with various cut off ages and various other criteria for suffrage.
The present forms of various kinds of constitutional government have only been around for between around 50 to 300 years and all of them seem to be replacing various forms of social democratic worker oriented parties with various forms of fascist ones. Fascism is any kind of rule by capital through an oligarchic political class, and a voting public manipulated by media controlled by capital and by that oligarchic capitalist political class. At the moment fascism is holding the fort for capital in most nation states. But what next? How will community leadership replace fascism?
The COVID-19 pandemic is giving the public an opportunity to have a trial run of what to do when world ideas are implemented at the national and sub-national level without suitable leadership. I have no answers. But I know that as long as we are attached to ideas rather than to what our bodies tell us is the right thing to do, we will be victims of mirages and myths, not least the myths of capital and nation. Will each community territory after 2050 have enough food forests to offset whatever level of coal and biomass use they decide on? Will they reforest on the basis of community forestry rather than private cultivation of land? If not how much land can a family own? Only once women and men once again see themselves as members of communities with leaders whom they know and trust and whom they can go and talk to because they live down the road within walking distance, will there be a human scale transition to net zero GHG emissions by 2050 for developed countries and by 2060 for developing countries. Until we realise that this question could be more carefully thought through, we will have the COVID-19 chaos as a living example of how not to do politics in the age of mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Anandi Sharan is an independent writer
Read October 14, 2020 We must save other species to ensure the survival of human species
Sanjay Jain, in Counter Solutions, countercurrents.org.
The Corona crisis has reminded humans once again that they are just one species in nature like any other species – a truth they always tend to forget, knowingly or unknowingly. Nature had been enabling the evolution, sustenance and growth of millions of life species over millions of years that resulted into a grand, unified web of life. The secret of the stability of this web is its complexity, which is due to the enormous intricate interdependencies among its various species. Each species in this web, however insignificant looking it may be, has a definite role to play in ensuring the strength and prosperity of the web. In this web a virus is as significant as humans.
Though humans are considered the most intelligent species in this web, ironically they have caused greater harm to it than any other species. According to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) (May 2019), nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history. The report says that around 1 million out of the total estimated 8 million life species are threatened with extinction. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century.Prof. Josef Settele, co-chair, IPBES observed, “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.”
Humans have maintained systematic records of the number of people infected and killed by coronavirus. But there are no such records pertaining to the death and destruction perpetrated by humans to other life species. This is because humans assume that other species are inferior and exist primarily for human use. But some estimated data are available and according to the source, more than 3 billion animals are estimated to be killed for food around the world every day. In contrast to this the average number of deaths per day due to coronavirus is about 3000. Thus every day humans kill about a million times more animals (for food alone) than the humans killed by the virus. This comparison is all the more appalling considering the facts that a human body is naturally vegetarian and plenty of vegetarian options are available in the world. Moreover, a pandemic of this proportion occurs only once in a century and lasts for a few months whereas killing of life species by humans is perennial.
There are many examples that bring forth the complex interdependences among various species in nature’s web of life. Probably the most convincing among them in the recent past occurred in 1958 when Mao Zedong ordered all sparrows in China to be killed to reduce the damage they did to the crops. Described as the ‘Great Sparrow Campaign’, hundreds of millions of sparrows were killed by the Chinese people assuming that they would destroy the grains. However, the dangerous ill effects of vanishing sparrows were witnessed in 1960. As sparrows not only ate grains but also the insects that destroyed the grains, with no sparrow left, the locust populations grew in an uncontrolled way destroying the crops intended for human consumption. This led to a massive famine resulting in millions of people starving to death.
Here are a few more examples. In the 1980s, India used to export frogs in large numbers to serve the palates of a large western population. As frogs are gluttonous consumers of pests and insects, this led to a corresponding increase in pest population, which was then controlled using pesticides causing increase in pollution levels. Realizing the crucial role of frogs in the ecosystem the export was finally banned by the government. Species which are considered harmful by humans also play a significant role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. For instance, insects help in this balance by scavenging upon waste materials and debris and effectively utilizing the energy and nutrients from the dead bodies and waste materials of plants and animals through decomposition. Albert Einstein once said: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!”
Humans can still salvage the harm they have done to nature if they can sportingly accept the fact that they are not the creator of nature’s life web; they are just one strand in it. Life species in nature are not created to serve humans. Human existence, like the existence of any other species, can be ensured only if the entire web is protected. The genetic biodiversity in this web is the ultimate wealth of our planet. As more and more life species get extinct, more strands in the web are lost and the web is shaken loose making its collapse imminent. We must save other species to ensure the survival of human species. If we can’t do this then humans are most likely to be added gradually to the list of endangered species and then to the list of extinct species in future.
Dr Sanjay Jain, Head, Knowledge Center, Priyadarshini Institute of Engineering and Technology, Nagpur
Originally published in CounterView
Read October 15, 2020 Educating in times of systemic collapse
Luis González Reyes , in Counter Solutions, countercurrents.org.
The economic and health crises which we are now experiencing form part of a more global systemic crisis, a consequence of the degeneration of our socio-economic order. Behind this degeneration lies (among other factors) climate change, ecosystemic destabilisation and reduced availability of materials and energy. What we have experienced in the last few months (huge fires in Australia, California and Siberia, plagues of locusts in Africa and Asia, extreme heat waves in the Arctic, the Covid-19 pandemic, massive economic crisis) are not an accumulation of incredible coincidences, but clear indicators that this year is marking a point of inflection of the collapse of global capitalism and of industrial civilisation.
An ecosystemic and socio-economic collapse is not a sudden event, like knocking down a building. It is a process which lasts decades. There will be times of rapid change, as we have seen this year, and times of slower change. Even times (temporary) of reversion to previous conditions. In all probability, there will not be a “new normality” but rather a repeated exceptionality which will place society inside parameters which are farther and farther removed from those we experienced at the beginning of the 20th Century (and not wholly in the sense of ultra-technological development).
This is not a kind of “environmental determinism”. One thing is that, in the near future, there will be social orders which are impossible to maintain due to environmental conditions. For example, without abundant supplies of petroleum large cities are not viable to maintain. But it is quite another thing how those possible social orders might be, as they are totally open-ended. On top of that, they are more open-ended than they ever have been during the last two centuries at least. When an order crumbles, others, and lots of them, will rise from the ruins and debris.
COLLAPSE AND EDUCATION
During this process there will be a lot of social upheaval, and the suffering of wide swathes of the population is almost guaranteed. For this reason, focusing on justice and democracy is critical. Ecosocial education is more necessary now than ever.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, something we thought was impossible has proved to be a reality. The lessons we have been taught, sadly with a very high social cost, have been very enriching and abundant. We have learned that, in order to live, we need much less than our globalised economy produces. We have discovered that we can put quality of life above the generation of wealth. We have experienced how, in reality, we can actually stop the economy. We have seen that what makes us happy is to be in contact with our loved ones. However, these lessons are fragile and therefore need to be strengthened. This is a task and a responsibility which largely lies in the hands of education centres. Again I say that eco-social education is essential in these times.
However, education should not only reinforce these lessons, but must also prepare the young students to make the most of the opportunities which the coming crisis will offer, or at the very least, to be resilient to those changes and be able to adapt to the emerging new world. Here too, we can see the key role of eco-social education. But what does such an education consist of? We can recognise four large learning blocks which ought to be learned at school and which imply elements which break strongly away from what is being taught at the present time.
1. The world in which our young students are going to live will be marked by great changes which, moreover, may take various and very different courses. In the face of this situation, they will need to learn to:
- Accept the civilizational change which is under way. If they do not manage to take this on board, their ability to adapt and to act in order to have an effect over those changes will be greatly reduced, even though the ability to act be minimal.
- Learn to cope with uncertainty.
- Resolve a diversity of problems.
- Develop their creativity.
- Develop tolerance in the face of frustration, but without falling into nihilism.
- Build a dense fabric of relationships. This is the only way to guarantee that we satisfy this need. In the context of the collapsing current order, the State and the marketplace will not work in the same way. Moreover, it is probable that both of these will become out of reach for large sectors of society.
- Create fair and resilient economies. For example, resilient in a context of less available energy and fewer materials, with a more unfavourable climate for human life or with a much more open-ended social-political order.
- Value life care. This is the central element for survival.
- Grow food. It is likely that we will not be able to maintain our food supply system, based on fossil fuels (machinery, distribution and raw materials depend on them) over time. So, learning to grow food will be a determining personal resilience tool.
- Self-defence. Any kind of change to the social and economic order brings serious collective disturbances along with it. Moreover, if there is a decrease in availability of materials and energy, as will occur, conflicts over the control of those resources are likely. Faced with this, learning how to defend ourselves collectively and in a non-violent fashion, will be determinant.
2. Humans are eco-dependent. Our social orders and possible economies are maintained by energy and the materials we may have available, and also by existing ecosystemic balance. Therefore, it is extremely relevant that we evaluate the implications of the deep global and environmental crisis which we are experiencing, a crisis which, even in the best scenarios, will continue to deepen. Some fundamental lessons would be:
- Accept our eco-dependence in a profound sense.
- Accept the planetary limits.
- Take a systemic approach.
- Venerate the whole of life, at least as much as life itself. Without a relationship of deep respect, admiration and even spiritual integration with life itself, a harmonious relationship with it will be very difficult.
- Acknowledge that the technology and economy of Gaia are far superior to our human ones. Gaia’s capacity to recycle, obtain energy or to evolve towards increasing levels of complexity are far superior to our human capacity.
- Integrate ourselves with the ecosystems in a harmonious manner.
- Learn about the key elements of the environmental crisis.
- Analyse the processes which have brought us to this global environmental crisis in order not to repeat them.
3. Not only are we eco-dependent, we are also interdependent. We need other human beings in order to live a dignified life. However, our social organisation leaves the tasks of caring for life extremely badly shared out. They are riddled with structural inequalities in the distribution of wealth and power. For this reason we need to:
- Accept our interdependence.
- Value equality and democracy.
- Develop our empathy. It is an undeniable and fundamental pillar of any fair and democratic society.
- Be aware of how crises increase inequalities if there are no great struggles to prevent it.
- Analyse the processes which have brought about societies based on inequality.
4. All of the above must support the capacity to be an agent of eco-social change. That education serves, above all, the betterment of the collective. The future scenarios which are on their way are highly uncertain. In a situation like this, the social groups which have the capacity to develop a sound prospective analysis of the tims we are living in, which can organise themselves successfully and meet their own needs, will have many opportunities to influence the new social orders. The possibilities of a democratic, just and sustainable world are now greater than in the 20th Century, but so are the risks of the complete opposite. In order that young students be prepared so as to become eco-social agents they must learn to:
- Acquire non-violent tools of social transformation.
- Value the fact that the capacity for action (basically, our freedom) is much greater in collective ways than through the individual.
- Act in polarised contexts, because it is probable that the social tensions, as we can see happening as systemic collapse advances, will lead us down this path. Moreover, it is probable that part of the population will embrace and act from highly reactionary positions.
- Identify the opportunities for emancipatory social change which emerge.
- See themselves as agents of change.
To make all this a reality, a modification of the formal curricula is essential. But it is not necessary to wait to achieve these legislative changes, since there are already multiple experiences around the world that articulate an education that is aimed at these goals.
Luis González Reyes is the author of In the Spiral of Energy with R. Fernández Durán and a member of ecologistas en acción.
Courtesy in Resilience.org
Read October 18, 2020 Building resilience is critical to minimise the impact of humanitarian crises
Shobha Shukla, in Counter Solutions, countercurrents.org.
The number of people affected and displaced by conflicts and natural disasters has almost doubled over the past decade and continues to rise. Climate crisis is a major driver and amplifier of disaster risks and losses, even as armed conflicts compel hordes of people to flee their homes in search of safety. Slow onset disasters, like extreme temperatures and droughts, have added to disaster related economic losses.
Infectious disease outbreaks among refugees and displaced persons are also becoming increasingly common and pose a major threat to health security and social protection. The impact is especially severe on women and girls, people living with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.
This changing humanitarian landscape is even more relevant in the Asia Pacific region, which is the most disaster-prone region of the world. In 2018, 50% of all the 281 global natural disasters occurred in Asia Pacific, with 8 out of the 10 deadliest ones also in this region.
The growing impact of recurrent and protracted disasters and humanitarian crises is posing a major threat to sustainable development and reinforces the importance of developing long term interventions that address humanitarian needs as well as development and peacebuilding challenges.
While delivering the plenary address at the 9th virtual session of the 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR10), Dr Tomoko Kurokawa, Regional Humanitarian Advisor at United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Asia Pacific, made a case for building resilience across the humanitarian, development and peace-building triple nexus.
What is triple nexus?
The “humanitarian, development and peace nexus” is about synergising the efforts of members of the humanitarian, development, and peace community by ensuring that humanitarians can focus on acute needs and those in development can focus on long term resilience, promoting peaceful and robust communities.
What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability of an individual, a community or a country to cope with, adapt and recover positively, efficiently and effectively from the impact of a natural disaster, violence or conflict. Resilience covers all stages of disaster – from prevention to adaptation.
Dr Kurokawa calls resilience “the unifying approach that transcends the various pillars and is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development, peace and prosperity for all and particularly those who are furthest behind”. Systems, institutions, communities, families and individuals are considered resilient when they have the capacities and resources to cope with and bounce back from both anticipated and unanticipated shocks.
She gives a very lucid explanation of resilience at different levels.
“At the national and societal level resilience may be about having positive social norms and customs that support gender equality. It entails having early warning and early action systems and having strong social protection schemes. At the institutional level resilience is having strong health and school infrastructures, sea walls built along vulnerable coastal areas and mobile health units and skilled personnel that can mobilize quickly at the onset of a disaster. At the community level it means local leadership and participation and decision making of women and youth groups. At the family and individual level it means having equal household decision making, equal livelihood and economic opportunities for all, especially women and having supportive intergenerational relationships.”
An individual’s resilience may depend on factors such as their economic well-being, education, health, and age as these define their capacity to cope and adjust. Building communities’ resilience is critical to minimise the impact of disasters and prevent future humanitarian crises.
The Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction – the first major agreement of the post 2015 development agenda – provides governments with concrete actions to protect development gains from the risks of disaster. It prioritises that disaster risk reduction is inclusive of and accessible for people disproportionately affected by disasters. It also advocates for gender and disability to be integrated in all policies of disaster risk management and the comeback of young people in humanitarian action.
Even under normal conditions, reproductive health issues are some of the leading causes of death, illness and disability among women. Moreover, during and after any disaster, women and girls are disproportionately exposed to the risk of loss of livelihood, security and even lives. They face significantly increased risks for unintended pregnancies, gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections and maternal mortality, says Dr Tomoko Kurokawa.
Globally some 500 women and girls die every day from pregnancy and childbirth related complications in countries facing humanitarian and fragile contexts. This is often a result of unavailability of sexual and reproductive health services and not having access to delivery and emergency obstetric services.
The non-availability of voluntary family planning services (like condoms and emergency contraception) in crisis situations increases the risk of unintended pregnancies, increases health risks for pregnant women and for those who resort to unsafe abortions. Gender based violence, one of the most pervasive human rights violations, that is already widespread in times of peace, is exacerbated during conflicts and disasters when communities’ protection systems break down.
Dr Tomoko Kurokawa feels that during emergencies availability of sexual and reproductive health and family planning services and protection of women from violence are as essential as food and shelter. So much so that very often access to basic sexual and reproductive health services determines the choice between life and death for women and girls.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put to test all health systems and national response capacities – both in terms of scaling of public health preparedness as well as for mitigation of broader socio-economic impacts. Some countries in the Asia Pacific region have also had to simultaneously contend with the already existing humanitarian crises and overlapping natural disasters. It has made them particularly vulnerable and less equipped to respond effectively.
The pandemic has already had far reaching impacts on poverty, inequality, employment, economic downturn, human rights protection, which will leave long lasting scars on the process of recovery and rehabilitation and inter-development work for years to come.
Recovery will require application of a comprehensive approach across the triple nexus through a resilience lens. There are already reports of increase in maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality, increase in unmet need for family planning and increased risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices during the lockdowns.
But Dr Tomoko Kurokawa is upbeat with examples of innovative and creative demonstrations of resilience at various levels for the continuity of provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services across the Asia Pacific region during the pandemic. She shares that “In Pakistan, a women’s safety App was upgraded as an innovative solution to counteract challenges posed by lack of mobility and gender-based violence during the lockdown. In Afghanistan, a youth health line providing adolescent sexual and reproductive health information and services has reached over 5000 young people. In Mongolia, telemedicine services were set up by practising physicians to provide quality sexual and reproductive health services. In Mongolia a legendary Mongolian queen chatbot avatar provides counselling to adolescents about life and love on Facebook. In the Philippines, a free condom delivery service under ‘a condom heroes program’, is enabling people in lockdown to access condoms”.
Investing in resilience helps prevent and curtail economic, environmental and human losses in the event of a crisis, thus protecting development gains and benefiting many of the sustainable development goals.
The ‘new normal’, necessitated by COVID-19, will require agility, creativity and nimbleness to bridge the humanitarian development peace divide and to empower women, girls and young people as agents of change to build resilience and ensure sustainability of effective humanitarian action.
Shobha Shukla is the founding Managing Editor of CNS (Citizen News Service) and is a feminist, health and development justice advocate. She is a former senior Physics faculty of Loreto Convent College and current Coordinator of Asia Pacific Media Network to end TB & tobacco and prevent NCDs (APCAT Media). Follow her on Twitter @shobha1shukla or read her writings here www.bit.ly/ShobhaShukla
Read October 18, 2020 Humility, Caring and Wisdom Make a Better Future Possible
David Suzuki, in Counter Solutions, countercurrents.org.
For many, the pandemic has renewed our innate appreciation for and connection to nature. People have taken to growing food on windowsills and in backyard and community gardens. We’re cultivating yeasts to bake bread and getting outside more to walk, run, swim and cycle.
In the face of uncertainty, nature brings solace and sustenance. Research shows time spent in forests — and even just looking at trees or photos of them — boosts immune systems, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, improves mood and ability to focus, and increases energy levels and sleep quality.
As we consider the natural world, we must remember that how we talk about it matters. Steven Nitah, former elected chief of Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation and four-time member of the Northwest Territories legislative assembly, says shifting our language can help shift our understanding. “We need to re-do land use plans. We need to rebuild those plans as land-relationship plans,” he says, urging us to re-imagine and re-orient our relationship with nature — to manage for abundance based on reciprocity and to recognize our responsibilities to the land, water and air.
As a society, we continue to exceed biological limits, which increases our species’ collective exposure to risk. With climate disruption, our refusal to contain carbon emissions has put our well-being and survival at risk.
In his essay “The year America melted down,” Omar El Akkad observes, “Mask-wearing has become politicized, just as school shootings became politicized, just as climate change became politicized, just as any instance of communal survival at the expense of personal profit inevitably becomes politicized.”
Things that shouldn’t be politicized are, but El Akkad argues battle lines continue to be drawn around issues that pit individual rights against responsibilities to uphold the common good. Individual rights only matter in the commons, though, and so must include responsibility.
In times of compounded crises — a pandemic, crippling racism, rising inequity and escalating climate risk — we can no longer afford to listen to advocates of narrow self-interest or those who falsely claim that favouring the wealthy and powerful will send benefits trickling down to the rest. In Canada, the most affluent 0.5 per cent of families now holds 20.5 per cent of the wealth — some $2.4 trillion — and income inequality continues to grow.
If, as El Akkad says, polarization is rising between those who champion individual rights to profit and those who believe in collective responsibility to people and planet, we must make explicit choices to work toward equity, inclusivity and a more balanced relationship with the natural world.
We have the chance to invest in and create a better future. Why wouldn’t we choose this path? What stands in our way?
To envision new ways and to act differently, we need to co-create stories of what is possible and worthwhile.
In her book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, ethnobotanist, professor and Citizen Potawatomi Nation member Robin Wall Kimmerer encourages us to recognize the world as a gift. Humility, she says, will help us make better choices.
Stories have always helped humans make sense of the world, and Kimmerer says they’re strong tools for restoring the land and our relationship to it. “We need to unearth the old stories that live in a place and begin to create new ones, for we are storymakers, not just storytellers.” We have the power to tell different stories that help right our relationships and better enable us to work for the good of all.
Although everyone can benefit from the wisdom in Indigenous Peoples’ stories, Kimmerer cautions against wholesale appropriation. We must take inspiration from the old stories and build more balanced narratives about relationships between people, place and planet.
The choice isn’t as complex as some might have us believe. We can choose humility, caring and wisdom based on knowledge gained from Indigenous Peoples, scientists and experts, and shoulder the responsibilities to each other and Earth through our actions — creating a better future for all. Or we can continue on as we have, knowing that the crises we face will worsen.
Humanity’s ability to take the first path lies in the values we choose, the stories we tell ourselves and the strength of the relationships we are willing to build with each other and Earth.
David Suzuki , an award-winning geneticist and broadcaster, co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990. He was a faculty member at the University of British Columbia, and is currently professor emeritus. Suzuki is widely recognized as a world leader in sustainable ecology and has received numerous awards for his work, including a UNESCO prize for science and a United Nations Environment Program medal.
Originally published by David Suzuki Foundation
Read October 20, 2020 Large-Scale Permafrost Thawing
Robert Hunziker , in Climate Change, countercurrents.org.
Twenty-five percent (25%) of the Northern Hemisphere is permafrost. By all appearances, it is melting well beyond natural background rates, in fact, substantially!
Making matters much, much worse, new research has identified past warming events of large-scale permafrost thaw in the Arctic that may be analogous to today, thus spotting a parallel problem of large-scale thawing accompanied by massively excessive carbon emissions spewing into the atmosphere, like there’s no tomorrow. (Source: Jannik Martens, Remobilization of Dormant Carbon From Siberian-Arctic Permafrost During Three Past Warming Events, Science Advances, vol. 6, no. 42, October 16, 2020)
Permafrost thawing is not, at all times, simply “thawing.” Of course, as a standalone, the word “thawing” implies a rather evenly keeled methodical process without any specific definition of scale. But, there’s thawing, and then, there’s “large-scale thawing,” which is kinda like turning loose a behemoth. The results are never pretty.
As global warming powers up, like it’s doing now, it has a penchant for finding enormous spans of frozen mud and silt filled with iced-species in quasi-permanent frozen states known as permafrost. As it melts, it’s full of surprises, some interesting, as well as some that are horribly dangerous, for example, emitting huge quantities of carbon, thus kicking into high gear some level of runaway global warming that threatens to wipeout agriculture.
As a matter of fact, according to the research, no more than a few degrees of warming, only a few, can trigger abrupt thaws of vast frozen land thereby releasing vast quantities of greenhouse gases as a product of collapsing landscapes, and it feeds upon itself. Indeed, the research effort identified “surges in greenhouse gas emissions… on a massive scale,” Ibid.
The study suggests that massive permafrost ecosystem thawing is subject to indeterminate timing sequences, but it’s armed with a “sensitive trigger” abruptly altering the landscape in massive fashion. In short, an event could arise out of the blue. It’s well known that Arctic permafrost holds considerably more carbon captured in a frozen state than has already been emitted into the atmosphere.
Already, over just the past two years, other field studies have shown instances where thawing permafrost is 70 years ahead of scientists’ models, prompting the thought that thawing may be cranking up even as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fails to anticipate it.
After all, permafrost is not included in the IPCC’s carbon budget, meaning signatories to the Paris accord of 2015 will need to recalculate their quest to save the world from too much carbon emitting too fast for any kind of smooth functionality of the planet’s climate system. In turn, it undoubtedly negatively impacts the support, or lack thereof, for food-growing regions, which could actually collapse, similar to cascading dominos. Poof!
In the Canadian High Arctic: “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)
According to Susan Natali of Woods Hole Research Center (Massachusetts) the Arctic has already transformed from a carbon sink to a carbon emitter: “Given that the Arctic has been taking up carbon for tens of thousands of years, this shift to a carbon source is important because it highlights a new dynamic in the functioning of the Earth System.” (Source: Thawing Permafrost Has Turned the Arctic Into a Carbon Emitter, NewScientist, Oct. 21, 2019)
A 14-year study referenced by Dr. Natali shows annualized 1.66 gigatonnes CO2 emitted from the Arctic versus 1.03 gigatonnes absorbed, a major turning point in paleoclimate history, a chilling turn for the worse that threatens 10,000 years of our wonderful Holocene era “not too hot, not too cold.” Alas, that spectacular Goldilocks life of perfection is rapidly becoming a remembrance of the past.
Additionally, according to Vladimir Romanovsky – Permafrost Laboratory, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) there are definitive geophysical signs of permafrost that survived thousands of years now starting to thaw. (Source: New Climate Warnings in Old Permafrost: ‘It’s a Little Scary Because it’s Happening Under Our Feet,’ Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News, October 16, 2020)
As stated by Romanovsky: “The new (Jannik Martens, Remobilization) research is yet more evidence that the amplified warming in the Arctic can release carbon at a massive scale.”
Nobody knows how soon such an event will break loose in earnest, but global warming has already penetrated the upper permafrost layers, as cliffs of coastal permafrost are collapsing at an accelerating rate. In short, the current news about thawing/collapsing permafrost is decidedly negative and a threat to life, as we know it.
The Martens’ study conclusively states: “The results from this study on large-scale OC remobilization from permafrost are consistent with a growing set of observational records from the Arctic Ocean and provide support for modeling studies that simulated large injections of CO2 into the atmosphere during deglaciation (14–16). This demonstrates that Arctic warming by only a few degrees may suffice to abruptly activate large-scale permafrost thawing, indicating a sensitive trigger for a threshold-like permafrost climate change feedback.” (Jannik Martens, Remobilization)
Thus, as the Holocene era wanes right before humanity’s eyes, the Anthropocene, the age of humans, stands on the world stage all alone with its own shadow and with ever fewer, and fewer, and fewer vertebrates roaming amongst fields of scorched, blackened plant life. What, or who, will it eat?
According to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and world renowned biologist E.O. Wilson: If we choose the path of destruction, the planet will continue to descend irreversibly into the Anthropocene Epoch, the biologically final age in which the planet exists almost exclusively by, for, and of ourselves.
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.
Read October 30, 2020 Soil and carbon sequestration
Countercurrents Collective , in Climate Change, countercurrents.org.
Soil has the capacity to bind large quantities of carbon in the long term. An international team of researchers, including from the University of Bonn, is now advocating effective use of this potential.
Experts estimate that this could reduce the increase of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by a third. At the same time, agricultural yields in many regions would also increase significantly.
In a recent publication they present a strategy to achieve these goals. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications. (W. Amelung, D. Bossio, W. de Vries, I. Kögel-Knabner, J. Lehmann, R. Amundson, R. Bol, C. Collins, R. Lal, J. Leifeld, B. Minasny, G. Pan, K. Paustian, C. Rumpel, J. Sanderman, J. W. van Groenigen, S. Mooney, B. van Wesemael, M. Wander, A. Chabbi, “Towards a global-scale soil climate mitigation strategy”, Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18887-7 )
The climate summit in Paris in 2015 was also the birth of the so-called “4 per 1,000” initiative. Its name stands for a link that has not received enough attention in climate research and politics for a long time: Every year the amount of carbon in the atmosphere increases by more than four billion tons due to the human-made greenhouse gas CO2. If these four billion tons were sequestered in the earth’s soils (thus completely halting the greenhouse effect), the amount of carbon contained in the soil would grow by only 0.4 per cent annually (i.e. 4 out of 1,000). In other words: Soils are already a gigantic carbon store. So why not simply dump the excess CO2 in it as an additional minuscule amount?
Experts are indeed confident today that this strategy could significantly slow down climate change. “0.4 percent additional carbon input is somewhat too optimistic,” explains Prof. Wulf Amelung, who heads the Division of Soil Science at the University of Bonn. “However, a third of this is probably achievable.”
Nevertheless, little has changed since 2015. Together with colleagues from Europe, the USA, Australia and China, Amelung and colleagues therefore want to put the issue back on the agenda.
In the current issue of the journal Nature Communications, they outline a strategy to effectively use the potential of soils in the fight against climate change. Amelung, together with his French colleague Prof. Abad Chabbi, is in charge of the initiative; in Germany, the TU Munich and Forschungszentrum Jülich were also involved.
There are a number of simple measures to increase the amount of carbon in the soil, such as mulching (i.e. covering the soil with crop residues) or adding plant-based coal. The most important method, however, is to increase plant growth (and thus crop yields): by liming acidic soils, by fertilizing as needed, by using smart irrigation. “The more grows on the soil, the better is it rooted,” explains Amelung. “And roots with their widely branching networks of organic material store lots of carbon.” Conversely, the organic matter contains essential nutrients for plant growth and thus promotes crop yield. “Our strategy therefore ultimately addresses two important goals: climate protection and food security.”
Measures must be adapted locally
However, the global implementation of this ambitious plan is not quite so simple: The quality and characteristics of soils in different locations are too different, and the available management technologies are too dissimilar. “Increasing the carbon input therefore requires locally adapted measures; we need completely different strategies in the rice-growing regions of Asia than, for example, on a cereal field in northern Germany,” Amelung emphasizes.
In addition, many carbon sequestration measures are particularly effective when soils are partially degraded by long-term overuse and have lost a lot of carbon. “From a cost-benefit perspective, it certainly makes the most sense to start on such areas, not least because the yield increases are likely to be greatest there,” explains the soil expert.
Unfortunately, knowledge about the condition of soil is very patchy. The researchers therefore recommend the establishment of databases that record the condition of land around the globe on a very small scale, as well as an equally small-scale modeling of possible yield gains and the necessary use of fertilizers. It must furthermore be ensured that there is no mere redistribution of carbon inputs: for example, organic material is moved from one farm to another at great expense and is now missing at its place of origin.
Read November 2, 2020 More mega-droughts are coming
Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change, countercurrents.org.
Mega-droughts, droughts that last two decades or longer, are tipped to increase, finds a new research.
The finding came after an analysis of geological records from the Eemian Period – 129,000 to 116,000 years ago – which offered a proxy of what we could expect in a hotter, drier world.
The research (Hamish McGowan, Micheline Campbell, John Nikolaus Callow, Andrew Lowry, Henri Wong, Evidence of wet-dry cycles and mega-droughts in the Eemian climate of southeast Australia, Scientific Reports, 2020; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-75071-z) was led by scientists from the University of Queensland (UQ).
UQ’s Professor Hamish McGowan said the findings suggested climate change would lead to increased water scarcity, reduced winter snow cover, more frequent bushfires and wind erosion.
The scientists engaged in paleoclimatology, the study of past climates, to see what the world will look like as a result of global warming over the next 20 to 50 years.
“We found that, in the past, a similar amount of warming has been associated with mega-drought conditions all over south eastern Australia,” Professor McGowan said.
Professor McGowan said: “These drier conditions prevailed for centuries, sometimes for more than 1000 years, with El Niño events most likely increasing their severity.”
“The Eemian Period is the most recent in Earth’s history when global temperatures were similar, or possibly slightly warmer than present,” Professor McGowan said.
“The ‘warmth’ of that period was in response to orbital forcing, the effect on climate of slow changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis and shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun.
Professor McGowan said: “In modern times, heating is being caused by high concentrations of greenhouse gases, though this period is still a good analogue for our current-to-near-future climate predictions.”
The scientists worked with the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife service to identify stalagmites in the Yarrangobilly Caves in the northern section of Kosciuszko National Park.
Small samples of the calcium carbonate powder contained within the stalagmites were collected, then analyzed and dated at UQ.
That analysis allowed the researchers to identify periods of significantly reduced precipitation during the Eemian Period.
“They’re alarming findings, in a long list of alarming findings that climate scientists have released over the last few decades,” Professor McGowan said.
“We hope that this new research allows for new insights to our future climate and the risks it may bring, such as drought and associated bushfires.
“But, importantly, if humans continue to warm the planet, this is the future we may all be looking at.”
The study report said:
The Eemian or peak of the Last Interglacial is the most recent geologic period when global temperatures were similar to present, but in response to orbital forcing rather than greenhouse gas loading of the atmosphere. While this makes the Eemian an imperfect analogue for near-future climate due to anthropogenic global warming, the latitudinal temperature distribution was similar to the present. Eemian global mean temperature was zero—2 °C warmer than present, mean global sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were indistinguishable from current SSTs, though sea level was around 6–9 m higher from meltwater inflows from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Therefore, understanding the climate of the Eemian may provide valuable insight to future climate and its variability.
While often thought of as a period of relative climate stability, climate variability during the Eemian was likely greater than in the Holocene. This has been attributed to meltwater outflows disturbing the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and a general global cooling trend toward glacial inception. The resulting changes in sea surface salinity and temperature are believed to have driven regional changes in atmospheric circulation leading to periods of widespread aridity across Europe6, and onset of abrupt cold periods as SSTs cooled by several degrees Celsius.
In State of the Planet (Earth Institute, Columbia University), Kevin Krajick wrote on April 16, 2020:
With the western United States and northern Mexico suffering an ever-lengthening string of dry years starting in 2000, scientists have been warning for some time that climate change may be pushing the region toward an extreme long-term drought worse than any in recorded history. A new study says the time has arrived: a megadrought as bad or worse than anything even from known prehistory is very likely in progress, and warming climate is playing a key role. The study, based on modern weather observations, 1,200 years of tree-ring data and dozens of climate models, appears this week in the leading journal Science.
“Earlier studies were largely model projections of the future,” said lead author Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “We’re no longer looking at projections, but at where we are now. We now have enough observations of current drought and tree-ring records of past drought to say that we’re on the same trajectory as the worst prehistoric droughts.”
Reliable modern observations date only to about 1900, but tree rings have allowed scientists to infer yearly soil moisture for centuries before humans began influencing climate. Among other things, previous research has tied catastrophic naturally driven droughts recorded in tree rings to upheavals among indigenous Medieval-era civilizations in the Southwest. The new study is the most up-to-date and comprehensive long-term analysis. It covers an area stretching across nine U.S. states from Oregon and Montana down through California and New Mexico, and part of northern Mexico.
Using rings from many thousands of trees, the researchers charted dozens of droughts across the region, starting in 800 AD. Four stand out as so-called megadroughts, with extreme aridity lasting decades: the late 800s, mid-1100s, the 1200s, and the late 1500s. After 1600, there were other droughts, but none on this scale. (“Climate-Driven Megadrought Is Emerging in Western U.S., Says Study”).
Read November 3, 2020 First and Foremost Responsibility is to Protect Earth for Children
Bharat Dogra, in Counter Solutions, countercurrents.org.
Our children and their children’s grandchildren have the right to hold us to a high standard of accountability when their future—and maybe their survival—is hanging in the balance. They too deserve something more than a generation of political leaders who look at the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced and then sit on their hands.
– Human Development Report
As the survival crisis of our planet reaches a critical stage, increasingly the most important task just now is to protect the basic life-nurturing conditions of earth for future generations. This task has to be accomplished within a framework of justice, peace and democracy.
We all care deeply for our children. So imagine how high should be the concern of parents who have come to know that their small children, when they grow towards teenage and youth years, are likely to face some very serious life-endangering threats? Surely they should give up everything else to try to do what they can to eliminate these threats, or reduce them as much as possible.
But the reality today is that millions and millions of parents know that their children will be facing such threats in the next two or three decades (as well as beyond this) and yet the potential of the combined strength of these millions and millions of parents is somehow not being realised to check the serious threats which await these children in the next few decades.
This is extremely sad, and will prove very costly. There needs to be much greater realisation of the enormity of the very serious threats and hazards we face and our children are likely to face more than us. These threats are so serious that these can be called a survival crisis.
To understand the very critical times through which all inhabitants of planet earth are passing, the concept of a survival crisis is of crucial importance. Briefly, this concept refers to a range of serious problems which taken together can badly disrupt the special life-nurturing conditions of earth due to which such a wide diversity of life has flourished here. This disruption can take place within the 21st century, in fact as early as within the next few decades. Several very senior scientists have argued along these lines in several statements in recent times.
The serious problems which constitute the survival crisis include nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction including robot or AI weapons, climate change, ocean acidification, freshwater crisis, air pollution , disruption of food safety and around half a dozen other serious environmental and safety problems. Most discussion on these dozen or so survival problems takes place in isolation from each other but in the practical world we are more likely to face the combined threat of several of them taken together, increasing the risks .
From the point of view of the welfare of all living beings on earth this survival crisis constituted by all these problems taken together is clearly the most important issue. This is true for this generation but this is even more true regarding the welfare of future generations, our children and grandchildren as well as the next generations of other life-forms.
The present world leadership and international institutions have miserably failed to find timely and credible solutions for this survival crisis taken as a whole. There are several statements by leading scientists, experts and statesmen testifying to this. In fact some of the problems which constitute the survival crisis have worsened rapidly in the recent past.
Where then can we find hope? In my recent books on these issues titled Survival Crisis–Planet in Peril; People’s Response the Only Way Forward (Vitasta Publishers, Delhi), and One Decade to Protect Life (Published by our own cottage scale publishing effort called Social Change Papers, Delhi) I have argued that the greatest importance must now be accorded at world level to finding solutions for the survival crisis within the framework of justice, democracy and peace. While very significant reforms in governance at world level are needed to find and implement solutions which work, these can come only if there is a great resurgence of people’s movements at the grassroots and a yearning for social values in tune with the big challenges ahead. More specifically I have suggested the coming together of the movements of justice (including gender justice), peace, environment protection, democracy and sincere spirituality to make it possible for people to respond adequately to the challenges ahead. It is tough, it is possible.
A very encouraging recent development has been that a large number of school students started coming out in many countries to protest against lack of adequate action to check climate change. Thousands of scientists and researchers issued statements supporting these children.
This inspired me to write two new books in which I took forward the concerns of my previous books but with more focus on specific solutions which can create a safer future for the generations to come. The first book is appropriately titled ‘Protecting Earth for Children – Crucial Role of New Decade’ while the second, smaller companion book is titled ‘Earth Without Borders – One World for Protecting All.” (both published by Social Change Papers). A Gandhian perspective on such issues was provided in another book ‘Man Over Machine’ (Vitasta). This was followed by a Hindi book which brought together the concerns of all these books written in English (Dharti Ki Raksha Ke Liye Nirnayak Hoga Agla Dashak, Social Change papers).
One particular idea which I advocate very strongly in some of these books and on which I have been campaigning in recent times is to declare the decade of 2021-31 as the Decade of Saving Earth at the world level. This is the most immediate demand at present of the ‘Save the Earth Campaign with SED Demand ( Demand for declaring next ten years as the decade for saving earth’ which I am co-ordinating. This will help to focus attention on the most urgent tasks of resolving the survival crisis issues within a framework of justice,peace and democracy. (Campaign statement can be seen at bharatdogra.in)
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements.
Read November 5, 2020 Linking Justice to Environment Protection – Meeting Basic Needs of All While Also Reducing GHG Emissions
Bharat Dogra , in Counter Solutions, countercurrents.org.
While the very pressing need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is very widely recognized at the scientific level, this can become an issue of mass mobilization only if this is also linked to justice based issues.
When world level planning for reducing GHG emissions is linked to meeting the basic needs of all people, then this will be a plan in which all weaker sections will have a vital stake.
While GHG emissions certainly need to be reduced, millions of people who are denied basic needs also require better access to resources. The planning for reducing GHG emissions should be such that this reduction can take place at the same time and in ways which ensure that basic needs of all people are met.
In such planning the two crucial objectives of environment protection and justice meet and support each other and improve the support base of each other.
Such planning can be based on these precepts –
- A plan to increase the production of food, other goods and services to meet the basic needs of all in the world should be prepared, together with the most environment friendly and least GHG emitting technologies that can be used for this purpose. This plan should be implemented in such a way as to ensure maximum local self-reliance in meeting basic needs, so that unnecessary transport is avoided and maximum local employment is generated.
- The socio-economic changes that are needed to ensure that the adequate availability of all goods and services to meet all basic needs can actually be accessed by all should be identified and implemented.
- Farming and village based life and livelihood patterns should get more help and priority compared to big industry and city based life and livelihood patterns. Small-farmer based farming using environment friendly methods to produce healthy food with kind care of farm-animals should get the top-most priority and help.
- All wasteful forms of consumption will be listed carefully and quantified. Those forms of wasteful consumption which involve particularly high GHG emissions will also be identified and quantified. A time-bound plan will be prepared to reduce all wasteful consumption as much as possible.
- In particular an effort will be made to stop the production of all weapons to the maximum extent possible. In addition to the previously known reasons for disarmament, we now have the additional reason of trying to curb all wasteful/harmful manufacture due to the urgent need to reduce GHG emissions.
- Possibilities of war and civil strife should be minimized, as apart from causing enormous distress to people modern wars and the preparation for such wars involve a lot of GHG emissions.
- All new technologies that are necessary for reducing GHG emissions and related objectives should be free from patents so that these can be used as widely as possible whenever needed. But technology transfer has its limits and local solutions for local problems should get the most encouragement while keeping the door open for any input from outside when needed.
- As far as possible, no remaining natural forests should be cut. Timber needs should be curtailed as much as possible. Forest-dwellers or people living near forests should get first rights over minor forest produce, while also accepting responsibility for protecting forests. They should not be displaced but instead should be involved (with adequate incentives) in the protection of forests and wild life.
- Very high priority should be given to reducing pollution and protecting habitats so that conditions for the healthy living of all life forms, whether on land or in water, can improve significantly.
- Energy planning should focus on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and other technologies which avoid or minimize GHG emissions and are environment friendly.
- Top priority should be given to protecting fresh water sources and conserving water.
- All hazardous products, technologies, substances and chemicals should be carefully monitored and reduced.
A very important aspect of this plan is that this brings the movements of justice, environment protection and peace very close to each other and the demands of all these movements are reconciled to become mutually supportive towards each other.
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements.
Read November 6, 2020 Solar is now ‘cheapest electricity in history’, confirms IEA
Simon Evans, in Alternative Energy, countercurrents.org.
The world’s best solar power schemes now offer the “cheapest…electricity in history” with the technology cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries.
That is according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020. The 464-page outlook, published today by the IEA, also outlines the “extraordinarily turbulent” impact of coronavirus and the “highly uncertain” future of global energy use over the next two decades.
Reflecting this uncertainty, this year’s version of the highly influential annual outlook offers four “pathways” to 2040, all of which see a major rise in renewables. The IEA’s main scenario has 43% more solar output by 2040 than it expected in 2018, partly due to detailed new analysis showing that solar power is 20-50% cheaper than thought.
Despite a more rapid rise for renewables and a “structural” decline for coal, the IEA says it is too soon to declare a peak in global oil use, unless there is stronger climate action. Similarly, it says demand for gas could rise 30% by 2040, unless the policy response to global warming steps up.
This means that, while global CO2 emissions have effectively peaked, they are “far from the immediate peak and decline” needed to stabilise the climate. The IEA says achieving net-zero emissions will require “unprecedented” efforts from every part of the global economy, not just the power sector.
For the first time, the IEA includes detailed modeling of a 1.5C pathway that reaches global net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. It says individual behaviour change, such as working from home “three days a week”, would play an “essential” role in reaching this new “net-zero emissions by 2050 case” (NZE2050).
The IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) arrives every autumn and contains some of the most detailed and heavily scrutinised analysis of the global energy system. Over hundreds of densely packed pages, it draws on thousands of datapoints and the IEA’s World Energy Model.
The outlook includes several different scenarios, to reflect uncertainty over the many decisions that will affect the future path of the global economy, as well as the route taken out of the coronavirus crisis during the “critical” next decade. The WEO also aims to inform policymakers by showing how their plans would need to change if they want to shift onto a more sustainable path.
This year it omits the “current policies scenario” (CPS), which usually “provides a baseline…by outlining a future in which no new policies are added to those already in place”. This is because “[i]t is difficult to imagine this ‘business as-usual’ approach prevailing in today’s circumstances”.
Those circumstances are the unprecedented fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which remains highly uncertain as to its depth and duration. The crisis is expected to cause a dramatic decline in global energy demand in 2020, with fossil fuels taking the biggest hit.
The main WEO pathway is again the “stated policies scenario” (STEPS, formerly NPS). This shows the impact of government pledges to go beyond the current policy baseline. Crucially, however, the IEA makes its own assessment of whether governments are credibly following through on their targets.
The report explains:
“The STEPS is designed to take a detailed and dispassionate look at the policies that are either in place or announced in different parts of the energy sector. It takes into account long-term energy and climate targets only to the extent that they are backed up by specific policies and measures. In doing so, it holds up a mirror to the plans of today’s policy makers and illustrates their consequences, without second-guessing how these plans might change in future.”
The outlook then shows how plans would need to change to plot a more sustainable path. It says its “sustainable development scenario” (SDS) is “fully aligned” with the Paris target of holding warming “well-below 2C…and pursuing efforts to limit [it] to 1.5C”. (This interpretation is disputed.)
The SDS sees CO2 emissions reach net-zero by 2070 and gives a 50% chance of holding warming to 1.65C, with the potential to stay below 1.5C if negative emissions are used at scale.
The IEA has not previously set out a detailed pathway to staying below 1.5C with 50% probability, with last year’s outlook only offering background analysis and some broad paragraphs of narrative.
For the first time this year, the WEO has “detailed modelling” of a “net-zero emissions by 2050 case” (NZE2050). This shows what would need to happen for CO2 emissions to fall to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 on the way to net-zero by 2050, with a 50% chance of meeting the 1.5C limit.
The final pathway in this year’s outlook is a “delayed recovery scenario” (DRS), which shows what might happen if the coronavirus pandemic lingers and the global economy takes longer to recover, with knock-on reductions in the growth of GDP and energy demand.
The chart below shows how the use of different energy sources changes under each of these pathways over the decade to 2030 (right-hand columns), relative to demand today (left).
Notably, renewables (light green) account for the majority of demand growth in all scenarios. In contrast, fossil fuels see progressively weaker growth turn to increasing declines, as the ambition of global climate policy increases, from left to right in the chart above.
Intriguingly, there are signs that the IEA has been giving greater prominence to the SDS, a pathway aligned with the “well-below 2C” Paris goal. In the WEO 2020, it features more frequently, earlier in the report, and more consistently through the pages, compared with earlier editions.
This is shown in the chart below, which shows the location, by relative page position, of each mention of “sustainable development scenario” or “SDS” in the WEOs published over the past four years.
One of the most significant shifts in this year’s WEO is tucked away in Annex B of the report, which shows the IEA’s estimates of the cost of different electricity generation technologies.
The table shows that solar electricity is some 20-50% cheaper today than the IEA had estimated in last year’s outlook, with the range depending on the region. There are similarly large reductions in the estimated costs of onshore and offshore wind.
This shift is the result of new analysis carried out by the WEO team, looking at the average “cost of capital” for developers looking to build new generating capacity. Previously the IEA assumed a range of 7-8% for all technologies, varying according to each country’s stage of development.
Now, the IEA has reviewed the evidence internationally and finds that for solar, the cost of capital is much lower, at 2.6-5.0% in Europe and the US, 4.4-5.5% in China and 8.8-10.0% in India, largely as a result of policies designed to reduce the risk of renewable investments.
In the best locations and with access to the most favourable policy support and finance, the IEA says the solar can now generate electricity “at or below” $20 per megawatt hour (MWh). It says:
“For projects with low-cost financing that tap high-quality resources, solar PV is now the cheapest source of electricity in history.”
The IEA says that new utility-scale solar projects now cost $30-60/MWh in Europe and the US and just $20-40/MWh in China and India, where “revenue support mechanisms” such as guaranteed prices are in place.
These costs “are entirely below the range of LCOE [levelised costs] for new coal-fired power plants” and “in the same range” as the operating cost of existing coal plants in China and India, the IEA says. This is shown in the chart below.
Estimated levelised costs of electricity (LCOE) from utility-scale solar with revenue support, relative to the LCOE range of gas and coal power. Source: IEA World Energy Outlook 2020.
Onshore and offshore wind are also now assumed to have access to lower-cost finance. This accounts for the much lower cost estimates for these technologies in the latest WEO, because the cost of capital contributes up to half of the cost of new renewable developments.
When combined with changes in government policy over the past year, these lower costs mean that the IEA has again raised its outlook for renewables over the next 20 years.
This is shown in the chart below, where electricity generation from non-hydro renewables in 2040 is now seen reaching 12,872 terawatt hours (TWh) in the STEPS, up from 2,873TWh today. This is some 8% higher than expected last year and 22% above the level expected in 2018’s outlook.
Global electricity generation, by fuel, terawatt hours. Historical data and the STEPS from WEO 2020 are shown with solid lines while the WEO 2019 is shown with dashed lines and WEO 2018 as dotted lines. Source: Carbon Brief analysis of IEA World Energy Outlook 2020 and previous editions. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.
Solar is the largest reason for this, with output in 2040 up 43% compared with the 2018 WEO. In contrast, the chart shows how electricity generation from coal is now “structurally” lower than previously expected, with output in 2040 some 14% lower than thought last year. The fuel never recovers from an estimated 8% drop in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the IEA says.
Notably, the level of gas generation in 2040 is also 6% lower in this year’s STEPS, again partly as a result of the pandemic and its long-lasting impact on economic and energy demand growth.
Overall, renewables – led by the “new king” solar – meet the vast majority of new electricity demand in the STEPS, accounting for 80% of the increase by 2030.
This means they overtake coal as the world’s largest source of power by 2025, outpacing the “accelerated case” set out by the agency just a year ago.
The rise of variable renewable sources means that there is an increasing need for electricity grid flexibility, the IEA notes. “Robust electricity networks, dispatchable power plants, storage technologies and demand response measures all play vital roles in meeting this,” it says.
The lower costs and more rapid growth for solar seen in this year’s outlook means there will be record-breaking additions of new solar capacity in every year from 2020, the IEA says.
This contrasts with its STEPS pathway for solar in previous years, where global capacity additions each year – net of retirements – have flatlined into the future.
Now, solar growth rises steadily in the STEPS, as shown in the chart below (solid black line). This is even clearer if accounting for new capacity being added to replace old solar sites as they retire (gross, dashed line). Under the SDS and NZE2050, growth would need to be even faster.
Annual net additions of solar capacity around the world, gigawatts. Historical data is shown in red while central outlooks from successive editions of the WEO are shown in shades of blue. The WEO 2020 STEPS is shown in black. The dashed line shows gross additions, taking into account the replacement of older capacity as it retires after an assumed lifetime of 25 years. Source: Carbon Brief analysis of the IEA World Energy Outlook 2020 and previous editions of the outlook. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.
The story of raised outlooks for solar – thanks to updated assumptions and an improving policy landscape – is directly contrasting with the picture for coal.
Successive editions of the WEO have revised down the outlook for the dirtiest fossil fuel, with this year seeing particularly dramatic changes, thanks in part to a “structural shift” away from coal after coronavirus.
The IEA now sees coal use rising marginally over the next few years, but then going into decline, as shown in the chart below (red line). Nevertheless, this trajectory falls far short of the cuts needed to be in line with the SDS, a pathway aligned to the “well-below 2C” Paris target (yellow).
Historical global coal demand (black line, millions of tonnes of oil equivalent) and the IEA’s previous central scenarios for future growth (shades of blue). This year’s STEPS is shown in red and the SDS is in yellow. Carbon Brief analysis of the IEA World Energy Outlook 2020 and previous editions of the outlook. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.
This year’s outlook makes particularly drastic changes for India, where the use of coal in electricity generation is seen growing far more slowly than expected last year.
In the STEPS, coal-fired power capacity would grow by just 25 gigawatts (GW) by 2040, the IEA says, which is 86% less than expected in the WEO 2019. Rather than nearly doubling in size from 235GW in 2019, this means that India’s coal fleet would barely grow over the next two decades.
Similarly, growth in the amount of electricity generated from coal in India is now expected to be 80% slower than thought last year, according to the IEA figures.
The IEA expects continued rapid retirements of old coal capacity in the US and Europe, which would by 2040 close 197GW (74% of the current fleet) and 129GW (88%) respectively.
Taken together, and despite a rapid expansion in southeast Asia, this means the outlook – for the first time – sees the global coal fleet shrinking by 2040.
Taken together, the rapid rise of renewable energy and the structural decline for coal help keep a lid on global CO2 emissions, the outlook suggests. But steady demand for oil and rising gas use mean CO2 only flattens off, rather than declining rapidly as required to meet global climate goals.
These competing trends are shown in the chart, below, which tracks primary energy demand for each fuel under the IEA STEPS, with solid lines. Overall, renewables meet three-fifths of the increase in energy demand by 2040, while accounting for another two-fifths of the total. Smaller increases for oil and nuclear are enough to offset the decline in coal energy use.
Global primary energy demand by fuel, millions of tonnes of oil equivalent, between 1990 and 2040. Future demand is based on the STEPS (solid lines) and SDS (dashed). Other renewables includes solar, wind, geothermal and marine. Source: IEA World Energy Outlook 2020. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.
The dashed lines in the chart above show the dramatically different paths that would need to be followed to be in line with the IEA SDS, which is roughly a well-below 2C scenario.
By 2040, although oil and gas would remain the first and second-largest sources of primary energy, there would have been declines in the use of all fossil fuels. Coal would have dropped by two-thirds, oil by a third and gas by 12%, relative to 2019 levels.
Meanwhile, other renewables – primarily wind and solar – would have surged to third place, rising nearly seven-fold over the next two decades (+662%). The SDS sees smaller, but still sizeable increases for hydro (+55%), nuclear (+55%) and bioenergy (+24%).
Together, low-carbon sources would make up 44% of the global energy mix in 2040, up from 19% in 2019. Coal would fall to 10%, its lowest since the industrial revolution, according to the IEA.
Despite these rapid changes, however, the world would not see net-zero CO2 emissions until 2070, some two decades after the 2050 deadline that would be needed to stay below 1.5C.
This is despite the SDS including “full implementation” of the net-zero targets set by the UK, EU and most recently China.
(These targets would be only partially implemented under the STEPS, based on the IEA’s assessment of the credibility of the policies in place to meet the goals. For example, table B.4 of the report says that under the STEPS, there is only “some implementation” of the UK’s legally binding target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.)
The NZE2050 “case”, describing a route to 1.5C, has been published for the first time this year, because the WEO team agreed “it was time to deepen and extend our analysis of net-zero emissions”, according to IEA director Fatih Birol, writing in the report’s foreword.
Over the past 18 months, major economies announcing or legislating net-zero emissions targets include the UK and EU. Most recently, China announced its intention to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2060. [Forthcoming analysis for Carbon Brief will explore the implications of this goal.]
Carbon Brief analysis of the last four WEOs shows that these developments – along with the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1.5C in 2018 – have been accompanied by a significant uptick in coverage of these topics in the WEO.
Whereas the WEO 2017 used the phrase “1.5C” less than once per 100 pages, this increased to five uses in 2019 and eight uses per 100 pages in 2020. The usage of “net zero” is up from once per 100 pages in 2017 and 2018, to six in 2019 and 38 per 100 pages in this year’s report.
However, the NZE2050 case is not a full WEO scenario and so it does not come with the full set of data that accompanies the STEPS and SDS, making it difficult to fully explore the pathway.
This seems “bizarre”, says Dr Joeri Rogelj, a lecturer in climate change and the environment at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and a coordinating lead author of the IPCC 1.5C report.
The IEA already publishes lengthy annexes, with detailed information on the pathway for different energy sources and CO2 emissions from each sector, in a range of key economies around the world, under each of its main scenarios. (This year these are the STEPS and SDS.)
Rogelj, who last year joined scientists and NGOs calling for the IEA to publish a full 1.5C scenario, tells Carbon Brief that “all underlying data of the NZE2050 case should be made available with the same detail as the other WEO scenarios”.
Carbon Brief has asked the IEA for such data and will update this article if more details emerge. Rogelj adds:
“The main question, of course, is how the NZE2050 intends to reach its objective of net-zero CO2 emissions in 2050. Of particular interest here is how much and which type of CO2 removal [negative emissions] the scenario intends to use and how it intends to do so while ensuring sustainable development.”
The WEO devotes a full chapter to the NZE2050, with a particular emphasis on the changes that would be needed over the next decade to 2030.
(It also compares the pathway to those set out in the IPCC special report, saying that the NZE2050 case has a comparable CO2 emissions trajectory to the “P2” scenario, which stays below 1.5C with “no or low overshoot” and has relatively “limited” use of BECCS.)
The chart below shows how CO2 emissions effectively plateau to 2030 in the STEPS, remaining just below the level seen in 2019, whereas the NZE2050 case sees a decline of more than 40%, from 34bn tonnes (GtCO2) in 2020 to just 20GtCO2 in 2030.
The power sector contributes the largest portion of the savings needed over the next decade (orange wedges in the chart, above). But there are also important contributions from energy end-use (yellow), such as transport and industry, as well as from individual behaviour change (blue), explored in more detail in the next section.
These three wedges would contribute roughly equal shares of the extra 6.4GtCO2 of savings needed to go from the SDS to the NZE2050 in 2030, the IEA says.
The NZE2050 case would see low-carbon sources of electricity meeting 75% of demand in 2030, up from 40% today. Solar capacity would have to rise at a rate of around 300 gigawatts (GW) per year by the mid-2020s and nearly 500GW by 2030, against current growth of around 100GW.
CO2 emissions from coal-fired power stations would decline by 75% between 2019 and 2030. This means the least efficient “subcritical” coal plants would be phased out entirely and the majority of “supercritical” plants would also close down. The WEO says the majority of this decline would come in southeast Asia, which accounts for two-thirds of current global coal capacity.
Although nuclear would contribute a small part of the increase in zero-carbon generation by 2030 in the NZE2050, the IEA notes that the “long lead time of large-scale nuclear facilities” limits the technology’s potential to scale more quickly this decade.
For industry, CO2 emissions would fall by around a quarter, with electrification and energy efficiency making up the largest shares of the effort. More than 2m homes would get an energy efficiency retrofit during every month this decade, in “advanced economies” alone.
In the transport sector, CO2 would fall by a fifth, not including behavioural shifts counted below. By 2030, more than half of new cars would be electric, up from around 2.5% in 2019.
For the first time, this year’s outlook contains a detailed analysis of the potential for individual behaviour change to reduce CO2 emissions. (This is clear even at a simplistic level, with the word “behaviour” mentioned 122 times, against just 12 times in 2019.)
Behavioural shifts, such as cutting down on flights and turning down air conditioning, will play a vital role in achieving net-zero emissions, according to the report.
While the SDS calls for modest changes to people’s lifestyles, such as increased use of public transport, these choices only make up 9% of the difference between that scenario and the STEPS.
By comparison, in the NZE2050 these changes are responsible for nearly a third of the CO2 reductions relative to the SDS in 2030.
The report includes a detailed analysis of estimated emissions savings from the global adoption of specific actions, including a global switch to line-drying laundry, slower driving speeds and working from home.
The authors estimate that 60% of these changes could be influenced by governments, citing widespread legislation to control car use in cities and Japan’s efforts to limit air conditioning in homes and offices.
As the chart below shows, changes to people’s transport choices account for the majority of the emissions savings. Road transport (blue bars) accounts for more than half the savings in 2030 and significantly reducing the number of flights accounts for another quarter (yellow).
Around 7% of CO2 emissions from cars come from trips of less than 3km, which “would take less than about 10 minutes to cycle”, according to the authors. In the NZE2050 scenario, all of these trips are replaced with walking and cycling.
The report estimates that behaviour shifts could cut emissions from flying by around 60% in 2030. These include substantial changes, such as eliminating flights of less than one hour long, as well as reducing numbers of both long-haul and business flights by three quarters.
Even so, due to the growth in aviation that is otherwise expected, total aviation activity in 2030 would still remain around 2017 levels in this scenario.
The remaining savings come from decisions to limit the use of energy in homes, such as turning both heating and air conditioning systems down.
Working from home has the potential to save emissions overall, as the reduction in emissions from commuting is more than three times larger than the increase in residential emissions.
The report estimates that if the 20% of the global workforce who are able to work from home did so for just one day a week, in 2030 this would save around 18m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) globally, as the chart below shows.
In fact, the NZE2050 scenario assumes that all those who are able to do so, work from home three days a week, amounting to a relatively modest 55MtCO2 savings.
Due to wider changes in the energy mix in NZE2050, the emissions impact of widespread home working is small when compared to the current situation, shown in the left-hand column, or STEPS in 2030, shown in the middle column.
While the report focuses on CO2 emissions from the energy system, it also alludes to the high levels of methane and nitrous oxide resulting from global agriculture and livestock farming in particular.
It notes that without shifts towards vegetarian diets it will be “very difficult to achieve rapid emissions reductions”.
The authors acknowledge that universal adoption of the proposed behaviour changes is unlikely, but suggest there are “alternative ways” in which such changes could combine to yield similar results.
For example, though some regions may not introduce tougher speed limits, others might decide to cut driving speeds by more than the 7km/h suggested in the report.
Simon Evans was one of more than 250 external peer reviewers who read sections of the World Energy Outlook in draft form.
Dr Simon Evans is the deputy editor and policy editor for Carbon Brief. Simon covers climate and energy policy. He holds a PhD in biochemistry from Bristol University and previously studied chemistry at Oxford University. He worked for environment journal The ENDS Report for six years, covering topics including climate science and air pollution.
Originally published by Carbon Brief
Read November 7, 2020 A Troubling Discovery in the Arctic
Robert Hunziker , in Climate Change, countercurrents.org.
A notable satellite-telephonic call to colleagues in late October from Swedish scientist Örjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University briefly described a haunting discovery. On board the research ship R/V Akademik Keldysh, a 6,240-ton Russian scientific research vessel equipped with 17 on-board laboratories and a library, far off the coast of Russia, Dr. Gustafsson reported: “This East Siberian slope methane hydrate system has been perturbed and the process will be ongoing.” (Source: Sleeping Giant Arctic Methane Deposits Starting to Release, Scientists Find, The Guardian, Oct. 27, 2020)
That satellite call referenced a sleeping giant that has enough carbon firepower to adversely impact the world’s climate system. The expedition discovered methane (CH4) that had been securely frozen in shallow subsea permafrost waters forever, and ever, and ever, now “stirring.” Colloquially, “The Monster of the North awakened.” (Although, in fairness to accuracy, the ESAS has been perturbed and leaking/seeping into the atmosphere for some time… but, now it’s much worse than ever before, and terrifyingly, it’s more noticeable to passersby, like expeditions of discerning scientists).
After all, there are scientists who believe the East Siberian Arctic Shelf and neighboring Russian coastline continental shelf seas contain enough methane in frozen hydrates to change human history forever, unfortunately, not for the betterment of civilization.
The East Siberian Arctic Shelf, as well as other Arctic seas off Russia’s northern coastline, has been the subject of clashing opinions within the scientific community.
Over the years, mainstream science has “talked down the risks” of a massive methane breakout in Arctic waters which could start a vicious cycle of runaway global warming that would be devastating on several fronts for civilized societies, and uncivilized too.
Three years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey labeled Arctic hydrates as one of the world’s four most serious causation events of abrupt climate change. Yet, according to USGS geophysicist Carolyn Ruppel, who oversees the USGS Gas Hydrates Project: “After so many years spent determining where gas hydrates are breaking down and measuring methane flux at the sea-air interface, we suggest that conclusive evidence for release of hydrate-related methane to the atmosphere is lacking.” (Gas Hydrate Breakdown Unlikely to Cause Massive Greenhouse Gas Release, US Geological Survey, Feb. 9, 2017)
According to USGS calculations, sediments in the Arctic contain a huge quantity of frozen methane and other gases – known as hydrates. Along those lines, it’s important to note that methane (CH4) has a warming effect 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide over its initial 20 years. Meaning CH4 has a sharper, quicker impact on global warming than does CO2.
That USGS position (“no conclusive evidence”) about the risk of methane release is now three years old. Thus, this new discovery prompts a logical question: Does the current expedition provide conclusive evidence of a change? Meaning, what’s the likelihood of an abrupt shift in the planet’s climate system as a result of the new discovery?
Assuming a major CH4 release, or big burp, is it possible it could lead to planet-wide upheaval? Accordingly, the expedition team reported: “At this moment, there is unlikely to be any major impact on global warming, but the point is that this process has now been triggered.” (Gustafsson)
Therein lies the problem: “It has been triggered.”
Along those lines, a Latin proverb suffices: “Forewarned is forearmed.” Clearly, the results of the Akademik Keldysh expedition qualify as “forewarned,” no doubt about that.
All of which prompts a significant question: How will countries throughout the world respond to this newly discovered risk to climate systems with its potential to damage agriculture and coastal cities beyond recognition?
In that regard, and based upon the nations of the world failing to adhere to voluntary commitments to the Paris 2015 climate accord to reduce carbon emissions, which in fact increase (Oops) year-over- year, the answer is: “It’s not encouraging, not at all.” Indeed, it is questionable that any nation/state anywhere will actually “forearm” as a result of this new report signaling: “The East Siberian slope methane hydrate system has been perturbed.”
Furthermore, what does “forearmed” even look like? Realistically, how does a country prepare for an all-out assault on agriculture and coastlines by an out of whack runaway climate system? Good luck with that.
Meanwhile, according to the initial report from the 60-member team onboard the Akademik Keldysh expedition, the findings are only “preliminary.” The true scale of the discovery will be confirmed when full complements of data are analyzed and published peer-reviewed in a scientific journal.
Significantly, and tellingly, the discovery includes six monitoring points over a slope area of 150km (93 mi.) by 10km (6 mi.) with “clouds of bubbles released from sediment.” It should be noted that “clouds of bubbles” obviously implies one helluva lot of methane erupting from the seafloor. In point of fact, some measurements registered “methane concentrations 400 times higher than should be seen if the sea and the atmosphere were in equilibrium.” (Gustafsson)
By way of comparison to planetary distances, “400xs higher than equilibrium” is a trip to Pluto.
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.
Read November 9, 2020 Climate change and food demand could shrink species’ habitats by almost a quarter by 2100
Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change, countercurrents.org.
Mammals, birds and amphibians worldwide have lost on average 18% of their natural habitat range as a result of changes in land use and climate change, finds a new study.
The scientists estimate that species have lost an average of 18% of their natural habitat range sizes thus far, and may lose up to 23% by 2100.
The study (Robert M. Beyer and Andrea Manica, Historical and projected future range sizes of the world’s mammals, birds, and amphibians, Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-19455-9) published on November 6 in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed changes in the geographical range of 16,919 species from 1700 to the present day. The data were also used to predict future changes up to the year 2100 under 16 different climate and socio-economic scenarios.
A diverse abundance of species underpins essential ecosystem functions from pest regulation to carbon storage. Species’ vulnerability to extinction is strongly impacted by their geographical range size, and devising effective conservation strategies requires a better understanding of how ranges have changed in the past, and how they will change under alternative future scenarios.
Some species are more heavily impacted than others. A worrying 16% of species have lost over half their estimated natural historical range, a figure that could rise to 26% by the end of the century.
Species’ geographical ranges were found to have recently shrunk most significantly in tropical areas. Until around 50 years ago, most agricultural development was in Europe and North America. Since then, large areas of land have been converted for agriculture in the tropics: clearance of rainforest for oil palm plantations in South East Asia, and for pasture land in South America, for example.
As humans move their activities deeper into the tropics, the effect on species ranges is becoming disproportionately larger because of a greater species richness in these areas, and because the natural ranges of these species are smaller to begin with.
The study results predict that climate change will have an increasing impact on species’ geographical ranges. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will alter habitats significantly, for example: other studies have predicted that without climate action, large parts of the Amazon may change from canopy rainforest to a savannah-like mix of woodland and open grassland in the next 100 years.
The results provide quantitative support for policy measures aiming at limiting the global area of agricultural land – for example by sustainably intensifying food production, encouraging dietary shifts towards eating less meat, and stabilizing population growth.
The conversion of natural vegetation to agricultural and urban land, and the transformation of suitable habitat caused by climate change are major causes of the decline in range sizes, and two of the most important threats to global terrestrial biodiversity.
“The habitat size of almost all known birds, mammals and amphibians is shrinking, primarily because of land conversion by humans as we continue to expand our agricultural and urban areas,” said Dr Robert Beyer in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, first author of the report.
“The tropics are biodiversity hotspots with lots of small-range species. If one hectare of tropical forest is converted to agricultural land, a lot more species lose larger proportions of their home than in places like Europe,” said Beyer.
“Species in the Amazon have adapted to living in a tropical rainforest. If climate change causes this ecosystem to change, many of those species won’t be able to survive – or they will at least be pushed into smaller areas of remaining rainforest,” said Beyer.
He added: “We found that the higher the carbon emissions, the worse it gets for most species in terms of habitat loss.”
“Whether these past trends in habitat range losses will reverse, continue, or accelerate will depend on future global carbon emissions and societal choices in the coming years and decades,” Professor Andrea Manica in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, who led the study.
He added: “While our study quantifies the drastic consequences for species’ ranges if global land use and climate change are left unchecked, they also demonstrate the tremendous potential of timely and concerted policy action for halting — and indeed partially reversing — previous trends in global range contractions. It all depends on what we do next.”
The study report said:
Species’ vulnerability to extinction is strongly impacted by their geographical range size. Formulating effective conservation strategies therefore requires a better understanding of how the ranges of the world’s species have changed in the past, and how they will change under alternative future scenarios.
Their data reveal that range losses have been increasing disproportionately in relation to the area of destroyed habitat, driven by a long-term increase of land use in tropical biodiversity hotspots. The outcomes of different future climate and land use trajectories for global habitat ranges vary drastically, providing important quantitative evidence for conservation planners and policy makers of the costs and benefits of alternative pathways for the future of global biodiversity.
The report said:
Habitat range size is a strong predictor of species’ vulnerability to extinction. As a result, two major drivers of the decline of geographic range sizes — the conversion of natural vegetation to agricultural and urban land, and the transformation of suitable habitat caused by climate change — are considered two of the most important threats to global terrestrial biodiversity. Land-use change has caused staggering levels of habitat contractions for a range of mammal, bird, and amphibian species. Simultaneously, anthropogenic climate change has been driving shifts in species’ ranges, which, whilst resulting in larger range sizes for some species, has led to severe range retractions for others. Declines in global range sizes due to land-use and climate change heavily contribute to the loss of local species richness and abundance in many parts of the world, thereby threatening essential ecosystem functions. With global agricultural area potentially increasing drastically in the coming decades, and climate change continuing to drive ecosystem change at an accelerating pace, future projections suggest that past trends in range contractions may continue, and likely contribute to projected large-scale faunal extinctions.
The report said:
With moderate impacts on the habitat ranges of most species’ up until the industrial revolution, the expansion of agricultural production and settlements alongside the rise in population growth since the early 1800 s has drastically reduced range sizes of most mammals, birds, and amphibians.
Using potential natural ranges in 1850 as a reference, we estimate that species had lost an average of 18% of their natural habitat area by 2016. For most species, alterations in the global distribution of biomes due to past climatic change have had a much smaller effect on range sizes compared to land use, causing average range changes of <1% in the past 300 years. There is substantial variability between species in terms of the experienced range changes. Critical levels of habitat range loss affect a rapidly rising number of species, with currently 16% have lost more than half of their natural range. Among these species, tropical species account for an increasingly larger proportion, whereas small-ranged and threatened species did not experience significantly higher ranger losses than other species. For an estimated 18% of species, ranges have expanded in consequence of anthropogenic climate change and the conversion of unsuitable natural vegetation to cropland and pastures.
The magnitude of habitat range contractions estimated since 1700 is not merely the result of the increasing area of converted land. Over recent centuries, range loss has increased disproportionately in relation to the total size of agricultural and urban areas. Whilst the first billion hectares converted since 1700 caused an average 3% loss of habitat size, the most recently converted half billion hectares are responsible for an average loss of 6% of natural range sizes. This acceleration of marginal range losses can be explained by a long-term trend in the location of land-use change towards tropical regions, where both local species richness is higher and average ranges sizes are smaller, and thus where the destruction of natural habitat leads to particularly high relative range losses. Following a long period of much less land conversion than in other parts of the world, these areas have experienced a rapid expansion of agriculture since the end of the 19th century. Habitat conversion rates reached their highest levels to date in South America around the mid–late 20th century, and in the late 20th and early 21st century in South East Asia, a global hotspot of small-ranged species.
Read November 10, 2020 Science Says Stop Gas Exploitation But Climate Criminal US, Australia & Canada Back Increasing Gas Use
Dr Gideon Polya, in Climate Change, countercurrents.org.
Scientists and science-informed activists say that to save the Planet there must be rapid cessation of fossil fuel exploitation, but oil, coal and gas use continue to rise. America and its lackeys Australia and Canada are variously committed to gas and a disastrous coal to gas transition (gas can be dirtier than coal greenhouse gas-wise). Pro-fossil fuels Trump has been defeated in the US Presidential Election but commitment to massive and growing gas exploitation remains in the rich Anglosphere countries of the US, Australia and Canada.
(1). Exceptionalist US, Canada and Australia project increasing gas use in coming decades.
According to Wikipedia: “Natural gas was the United States’ largest source of energy production in 2016, representing 33 percent of all energy produced in the country. Natural gas has been the largest source of electrical generation in the United States since July 2015… Marketed natural gas production in 2015 was 28.8 trillion cubic feet, a 5.4 percent increase over 2014, and a 52 percent increase over the production of 18.9 trillion cubic feet in 2005” , and “Natural gas was the Canada’s third largest source of energy production in 2018, representing 22.3% of all energy produced from fuels in the country. By contrast, the share of fuel-based energy production from natural gas in 2013 was 17.0%, indicating a growth rate of approximately 1.06% per year” . Neoliberal and US lackey Australia is a major exploiter of gas, and in 2020 overtook Qatar as the world’s largest exporter of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) . The neoliberal, anti-science, effective climate change denialist, pro-coal, pro-gas and climate criminal Australian Coalition Government has announced a massive, post-Covid-19 “gas-led recovery” . As set out by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) “The Production Gap” report (2019): “Governments are planning to produce about 50% more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with a 2°C pathway and 120% more than would be consistent with a 1.5°C pathway” . The US, Canada and Australia are projected to increase gas exploitation over the coming 2 decades .
(2). Rapid cessation of fossil fuel use is needed but global gas use and atmospheric methane (CH4 ) are increasing.
Eminent physicist and cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking (of 120 Nobel laureate University of Cambridge) has commented succinctly on the existential threats to Humanity posed by nuclear weapons and global warming: “We see great peril if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change” . The operative word here is “now”.
Many industrialized countries have legally binding net-zero emissions targets e.g. China has a policy of “net zero emissions by 2060”, Sweden has “net zero emissions by 2045”, and the UK, France, Denmark, New Zealand, Hungary, Japan, and South Korea have a “net zero emissions by 2050” policy . Climate criminal Australia under the anti-science, anti-environment, climate criminal and Trumpist Australian Coalition Government has attacked the Labor Opposition for adopting this “net zero emissions by 2050” policy. The Coalition was forced to concede that Australia might get to “net zero emissions” sometime in the latter half of the 21st century but refuses to be more specific. In stark contrast, the science-informed and humanitarian Australian Greens have a laudably tough program: “A safer climate will require a return to an atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases equivalent to 350 parts per million of CO2, or lower… A nationwide, systematic response is required to drastically reduce emissions from all sectors, draw down greenhouse gases, and be greenhouse gas neutral or negative by 2035” .
President-elect Joe Biden has a policy of “net zero emissions by 2050” as set out in his platform: “As president, Biden will lead the world to address the climate emergency and lead through the power of example, by ensuring the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050” . Now Australia is a craven US lackey, and has been involved in all US Asian wars since 1950, atrocities associated with 40 million Asian deaths from violence or imposed deprivation [12-15] (the presently ruling Coalition supported all these wars and Labor, presently in opposition, supported all these wars except for the Vietnam War and the Iraq War). Will the Trumpist, anti-science and effective climate change denialist Coalition Government continue with its climate criminal policies (it is among world leaders in 16 areas of climate criminality [16, 17]) or will it submit to US leadership on climate policy under Biden?
Unfortunately it is now effectively too late to avoid a catastrophic plus 2C temperature rise but we are obliged to do everything we can to make the future “less bad” for our descendants. Indeed it is argued that but for the global dimming effect of sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere the temperature rise would already be +2C. Science-informed people know that we are badly running out of time to deal with a worsening Climate Emergency. The goal of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement – endorsed by all countries except climate change denialist and climate criminal Trump America – is to ideally keep global warming below plus 1.5 degrees Centigrade (+1.5C) and certainly well below a catastrophic +2C . However the latest IPCC report says that +1.5C will be exceeded within 10 years [19, 20]. Indeed +2C is already implicit in present circumstances because of the cooling effect of sulphate aerosols deriving from coal burning. Paleoclimatologist and earth scientist Dr Andrew Glikson (2019): “As the globe warms, to date by a mean of near ~1.5 oC, or ~2.0oC when the masking effects of sulphur dioxide and other aerosols are considered, and by a mean of ~2.3oC in the Polar Regions, the expansion of warm tropical latitudes and the polar-ward migration of climate zones ensue in large scale droughts in subtropical latitudes such as in inland Australia and southern Africa. A similar trend is taking place in the northern hemisphere where the Sahara desert is expanding northward, with consequent heat waves across the Mediterranean and Europe. Since 1979 the planet’s tropics have been expanding poleward by 56 km to 111 km per decade in both hemispheres. A leading commentator called this Earth’s bulging waistline… Turning the Earth into a gas chamber. Whereas in ‘good old’ medieval times the poisoning of wells constituted a hanging offence, nowadays despite of overwhelming scientific and empirical evidence, overloading of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and acidification of the water is fully legal and constitutes the foundation of great Big Oil economic empires, and through that decisive political influence” . It gets much worse – the carbon pollution mitigation promises of national governments to the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference mean a +3.2C of global warming by 2100 .
Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in all key economic sectors of energy production and non-energy production are increasing whereas the worsening Climate Emergency demands urgently decreasing GHG emissions and ultimately net zero GHG emissions ASAP .
Because gas leaks and the GWP for CH4 is 105 relative to that of the same mass of CO2 on a 20 year time frame with aerosol impacts considered, at 2.6% leakage the Fugitive Emissions from natural gas exploitation have roughly the same greenhouse gas effect as the CO2 from burning the residual gas. Indeed in typical circumstances using gas is worse GHG-wise that using coal and hence a “coal-to-gas transition” is a dangerous absurdity. There must be rapid cessation of gas exploitation. However the reality is starkly otherwise. Thus the atmospheric CH4 is remorselessly increasing in a quasi-linear fashion .
The International Energy Agency (IEA): “Natural gas had a remarkable year in 2018, with a 4.6% increase in consumption accounting for nearly half of the increase in global energy demand. Since 2010, 80% of growth has been concentrated in three key regions: the United States, where the shale gas revolution is in full swing; China, where economic expansion and air quality concerns have underpinned rapid growth; and the Middle East, where gas is a gateway to economic diversification from oil… Gas-fired power generation increased 4% in 2018, led by strong generation growth in the United States and China. At around 6100 TWh, gas accounts for 23% of overall power generation” . Gas use has increased in a quasi-linear fashion in the period 1990-2017 from 43.892 x 1018 J in 1990 to 69.888 x 1018 J in 2017 at an average rate of 0.96 x 1018 joules (J) per year ( 844.1 Mt gas in 1990 to 1,344.0 Mt gas in 2017 at an average increase of 18.5 Mt gas per year or 1.7% pa) .
(3). Gas is dirtier than coal greenhouse gas-wise.
The following letter was sent by me (Dr Gideon Polya) to Australian MPs and to media and climate activists in Australia and worldwide on 2 October 2020:
LETTER: Dear fellow humanitarian/Senator/Honorable Member etc ,
Australia is among world leaders in 16 areas of climate criminality. The pro-coal, pro-gas, anti-Green, neoliberal Australian Coalition Government is committed to a “coal-to-gas transition” and a post-Covid-19 pandemic “gas-led economic recovery”, but …
Gas is dirtier than coal greenhouse gas-wise.
Methane (CH4) is a gas, leaks, is 85% of natural gas, and has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 105 relative to the same mass of CO2 on a 20 year time frame and with aerosol impacts considered. On this basis and assuming that natural gas is 100% CH4 or an equivalent hydrocarbon, a gas leakage of 2.6% means that the greenhouse gas (GHG) warming effect from the leaked gas is the same as that of the CO2 from burning the remaining 97.4% of the gas.
With no gas leakage, burning 1 tonne of CH4 yields 2.75 tonnes CO2 as compared to burning 1 tonne of carbon (C) yielding 3.67 tonnes CO2.
However suppose we have 100 tonnes (100 t) of methane (CH4) and A tonnes leaks so that (100 – A) tCH4 x 2.75 t CO2-equivalent / t CH4 = A t CH4 x 105 t CO2-equivalent/ t CH4 -> 275 – 2.75A = 105 A – > 107.5A = 275 -> A = 275/107.5 -> A = 2.56 or about 2.6.
Thus with a mere 2.6% of systemic gas leakage (it is about 3% in the US), the burning of 1 tonne gas results in 2 x 0.974 x 2.75 = 5.36 tonnes CO2-equivalent i.e. with 2.6% systemic gas leakage, burning natural gas is about 5.36/3.67 = 1.5 times dirtier GHG-wise than burning coal.
Gas is dirty energy, gas is not clean energy, gas is not clean-er than coal GHG-wise, and indeed gas is dirtier than coal GHG-wise. The present absurd, dangerous and deadly coal-to-gas transition is testament to neoliberal One Percenter and Mainstream greed and mendacity.
While the falsehood of “gas is cleaner than coal GHG-wise” can be attributed to stupidity and ignorance on the part of scientifically illiterate pro-gas politicians, in the face of expert scientific advice (e.g. from smart, first year high school students) it thence becomes a lie, and utterly unforgivable intellectual child abuse when imposed on children by politicians – for which they must be removed from Parliament and all public office by an indignant electorate. Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity.
Yours sincerely, Dr Gideon Polya, Melbourne, Australia. END LETTER.
This picture changes a bit if we compare GHG emission per GJ (Gigajoule) generated from burning gas or coal, but on this basis too, gas is dirtier than coal GHG-wise as the gas leakage increases above 2.6%.
Combustion of methane produces 50.1kJ/g CH4 (50.1 GJ/tCH4) as compared to that from carbon of 32.6 GJ/t for pure carbon and the best anthracite (black coal), and about 17.0 GJ/t for brown coal or lignite (as used brown coal-based power stations in my state of Victoria, Australia .
The CO2-equivalent from burning CH4 at 2.6% leakage is 5.36 t CO2-e /t CH4, from burning carbon is 3.67 t CO2-e/t carbon, and 0.65 x 3.67 = 2.39 t CO2-e/t brown coal (lignite that is about 65% carbon).
Accordingly, on this basis, the “CO2-equivalent per GJ” is 5.36/ 50.1 = 0.107 for gas, 3.67/32.6 = 0.113 for pure carbon and the best anthracite, but 2.39/ 17.0 = 0.141 for brown coal or lignite.
Thus at 2.6% gas leakage, the “CO2-equivalent per GJ” is much the same for methane and carbon, but is slightly (1.3 times) bigger for brown coal (as in Victoria, Australia).
However the “CO2-equivalent per GJ” for burning gas increases as you increase the degree of systemic leakage above 2.6% (e.g. an estimated 4% lifetime” leakage” with fracking in the US ).
My conclusion is that with 2.6% systemic gas leakage, burning natural gas is about 5.36/3.67 = 1.5 times dirtier GHG-wise than burning coal on a mass basis. On a “CO2-equivalent per GJ” basis and with 2.6% leakage, gas and top quality coal are about the same but brown coal is 1.3 times as bad as gas – but on a per GJ basis gas use becomes dirtier than black coal and brown coal GHG-wise as the degree of systemic gas leakage increases above about 3% and 4%, respectively.
(4). What do science-informed experts say about gas use and its global impact?
As analysed above, gas leaks and Shindell et al. have re-evaluated the Global Warming Potential of CH4 relative to the same mass of CO2 as 105 on a 20 year timeframe and with aerosol impacts considered . Some science-informed expert opinions on the danger of continuing gas use are set out below.
350.org (leading science-informed (international climate activist organization) Australian branch press release (2020): “According to climate activist group 350.org, the push by the [Australian] Government’s hand-picked National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) to prop up large gas projects will be bad for communities and the climate. The group is calling an economic recovery that prioritises renewable energy and low carbon jobs for those most at risk and in the sectors most impacted such as health, the arts, and education. The Chair of the NCCC, Nev Power, is reported in today’s Australian Financial Review to be advocating for two major gas initiatives: developing gas projects such as the Narrabri project, building a gas pipeline connecting WA to the East Coast. According to the CEO of 350 Australia Lucy Manne, “It is not surprising that a Commission stacked with gas executives is asking for Government support for gas projects. This pro-fossil fuel agenda flies in the face of widespread community opposition to gas, evidence that gas is about as polluting as coal, and the potential to prioritise clean industries of the future”… Research released in April estimates that once fugitive emissions are included, the greenhouse gas emissions from the Narrabri gas project would “…approach those of coal”” .
Australian Climate Council (composed of experts in key aspect of the area) (2020): “Gas in Australia is dangerous, expensive and unnecessary. It is in no way a form of ‘climate action’. Expanding gas supply will fix none of the problems that those pushing such an expansion claim it will. The real solution: a rapid transition to renewables, leaving all fossil fuels in the ground… Burning fossil fuels – coal, gas, and oil – is driving climate change, which is making extreme weather events more frequent and more extreme. The United Nations Environment Program last year showed that the international community is already on track to emit twice the level of greenhouse gases required to blow past internationally agreed temperature goals. Australia is the world’s biggest supplier of coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG). The global community has a narrow window in which international goals might be achieved. The fossil fuel resources Australia opened through the 1990s were dangerous brinkmanship. Those opened in the early 2000s were harmful by any measure given our growing understanding of climate change. Planning to open new reserves in 2020 after decades of unconstrained growth is highly irresponsible… Extraction of gas, and particularly unconventional gas (or coal seam gas), is a highly polluting activity. Gas is primarily made up of methane, a greenhouse gas which is up to 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the [20 year] short-term. Massive quantities of methane are released into the atmosphere through gas exploration, extraction, processing, and consumption… Methane emissions from unconventional gas (e.g. coal seam gas) may cancel any benefit of gas over coal .
Robert Goodland and Jeff Angfang (World Bank analysts) on upwardly revised global GHG emissions from properly taking CH4 , land use and livestock into account (2009): “The table to the right summarizes the categories of livestock-based emissions and our estimates of their size. We begin with the FAO’s 7,516 million tons of CO2e per year attributable to livestock, an amount established by adding up GHG emissions involved in clearing land to graze livestock and grow feed, keeping livestock alive, and processing and transporting the end product. We show that 25,048 million tons of CO2e attributable to livestock have been undercounted or overlooked; of that subtotal, 3,000 million tons are misallocated and 22, 048 million tons are entirely uncounted. When uncounted tons are added to the global inventory of atmospheric GHGs, that inventory rises from 41,755 million tons to 63,803 million tons. FAO’s 7,516 million tons of CO2e attributable to livestock then decline from18 percent of worldwide GHGs to 11.8 percent. Let’s look at each category of uncounted or misallocated GHGs…” .
Dr Benjamin Hmiel et al. (University of Rochester) on under-estimation of global anthropogenic fossil CH4 emissions (2020): “Atmospheric methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas, and its mole fraction has more than doubled since the preindustrial era. Fossil fuel extraction and use are among the largest anthropogenic sources of CH4 emissions, but the precise magnitude of these contributions is a subject of debate. Carbon-14 in CH4 (14CH4) can be used to distinguish between fossil (14C-free) CH4 emissions and contemporaneous biogenic sources; however, poorly constrained direct 14CH4 emissions from nuclear reactors have complicated this approach since the middle of the 20th century. Moreover, the partitioning of total fossil CH4 emissions (presently 172 to 195 teragrams CH4 per year) between anthropogenic and natural geological sources (such as seeps and mud volcanoes) is under debate; emission inventories suggest that the latter account for about 40 to 60 teragrams CH4 per year. Geological emissions were less than 15.4 teragrams CH4 per year at the end of the Pleistocene, about 11,600 years ago, but that period is an imperfect analogue for present-day emissions owing to the large terrestrial ice sheet cover, lower sea level and extensive permafrost. Here we use preindustrial-era ice core 14CH4 measurements to show that natural geological CH4 emissions to the atmosphere were about 1.6 teragrams CH4 per year [ 1 Tg = 1012 g = 1 Mt] , with a maximum of 5.4 teragrams CH4 per year (95 per cent confidence limit)—an order of magnitude lower than the currently used estimates. This result indicates that anthropogenic fossil CH4 emissions are underestimated by about 38 to 58 teragrams CH4 per year [4.0 – 6.1 Gt CO2-equivalent per year assuming a GWP for CH4 of 105 on a 20 year time frame with aerosol impacts included ], or about 25 to 40 per cent of recent estimates. Our record highlights the human impact on the atmosphere and climate, provides a firm target for inventories of the global CH4 budget, and will help to inform strategies for targeted emission reductions” [32, 33].
Professor Robert W. Howarth (biogeochemist and ecosystem scientist, Cornell University) (2019): “Methane has been rising rapidly in the atmosphere over the past decade, contributing to global climate change. Unlike the late 20th century when the rise in atmospheric methane was accompanied by an enrichment in the heavier carbon stable isotope (¹³C) of methane, methane in recent years has become more depleted in ¹³C. This depletion has been widely interpreted as indicating a primarily biogenic source for the increased methane. Here we show that part of the change may instead be associated with emissions from shale-gas and shale-oil development. Previous studies have not explicitly considered shale gas, even though most of the increase in natural gas production globally over the past decade is from shale gas. The methane in shale gas is somewhat depleted in ¹³C relative to conventional natural gas. Correcting earlier analyses for this difference, we conclude that shale-gas production in North America over the past decade may have contributed more than half of all of the increased emissions from fossil fuels globally and approximately one-third of the total increased emissions from all sources globally over the past decade” .
Bruce Robertson (Energy Finance Analyst, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA)) (2020): “The [gas] industry claims burning fossil fuels such as ‘natural’ gas is cleaner than burning coal, a commodity on its way out as the world transitions to cleaner more sustainable energy sources. This is simply not the case. Gas is worse than coal in the short term due to its release of methane into the atmosphere. Since 2012, peer reviewed studies have shown ‘natural’ gas emissions have been underestimated by at least 25-40%, with some studies suggesting as much as 60%. As every state and territory in Australia has set a target for a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050, gas, like coal, is simply not going to get us there. In fact, gas and LNG is looking like a very bad investment with companies misleading shareholders and the general public about the true effects of their products. Methane from gas poses the greatest threat to the warming climate. If you leak more than 2% to 3% of methane, it is worse for the climate than coal” .
Bruce Robertson and Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) Report on gas threat (2020): “Conventional or ‘natural’ gas releases methane domestically through gas leakages all along the supply chain, and during production and via transport to customers and business. Methane survives in the atmosphere for a shorter period than coal’s carbon dioxide, but over 20 years has 86 times the planet-warming potential. Electricity produced from LNG is arguably even worse over a 20-year time frame. Methane is the greatest threat to the warming climate. If you leak more than 2% to 3% of methane, it is worse for the climate than coal. Global emissions of methane are increasing rapidly as the gas industry continues to expand globally” .
Union of Concerned Scientists on CH4 leakage impact (2014): “Preliminary studies and field measurements show that these so-called “fugitive” methane emissions range from 1 to 9 percent of total life cycle emissions. Whether natural gas has lower life cycle greenhouse gas emissions than coal and oil depends on the assumed leakage rate, the global warming potential of methane over different time frames, the energy conversion efficiency, and other factors. One recent study found that methane losses must be kept below 3.2 percent for natural gas power plants to have lower life cycle emissions than new coal plants over short time frames of 20 years or fewer. And if burning natural gas in vehicles is to deliver even marginal benefits, methane losses must be kept below 1 percent and 1.6 percent compared with diesel fuel and gasoline, respectively. Technologies are available to reduce much of the leaking methane, but deploying such technology would require new policies and investments” .
(5). Good advice – science-informed political opinion that gas use must end.
Australian Greens (a science-informed, pro-human rights and pro-environment party with about 10% of the Australian vote)(2020): “As a community, we’re facing a dual crisis of COVID-19 and the climate emergency. Both are threatening our way of life. The climate emergency has not gone away. Scientists are telling us that we are in the critical decade. We have to halve pollution by 2030 and get to zero emissions as fast as possible or we will face catastrophic consequences of irreversible global heating. The mining, burning and exporting of coal, oil and gas are the biggest causes of the climate crisis. Gas is a fossil fuel and a major cause of the climate crisis. It is as dirty as coal. [Australian Coalition PM] Scott Morrison wants to give public money meant for renewable energy to new polluting gas projects. Subsiding gas through the green energy bank is like pouring money from the health budget into asbestos. Both the Liberal and Labor parties have accepted millions of dollars in donations from gas companies. These donations are having major influence on their decisions to support new gas projects which will trash the environment, threaten our water and air and lock us in for even more dangerous global heating. Now is the time for bold government investment in publicly owned renewable technology not dirty gas projects. The right investment now will drive our economy into the future and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Any “recovery plan” that doesn’t keep coal, oil and gas in the ground will make the problems we face worse. It’s not too late, but we need to act now to say no to gas and declare a climate emergency” .
Adam Bandt (Australian Greens MP and leader of the Australian Greens) on removal of gas-fired power plants by 2030 (2020): “Over the next 10 years, we might need some of the existing gas plants but they will phase out over the next 10 years if we had a serious plan to do it. We could get to zero emissions within Australia and become a renewable energy super power that is exporting our sunlight instead of exporting our gas and coal… For somewhere in the order of about $25 billion a year increase in net debt over the next 10 years, we end up with lower debt than most OECD countries and we end up with full employment and 100 per cent renewables… [instead of this] global warming becomes runaway [and] becomes unstoppable .
Mark Butler (Australian Labor Opposition Energy spokesperson) (2020): “Now, 20 years into the 21st century, we know that coal and gas won’t underpin continued prosperity, whether for Australia or the rest of the world. In fact, we know that these fuels come with a huge cost that to this day isn’t reflected in their price or in government policy. The cost is the impact that these fuels have on our climate, and by extension on our health, our security, our safety and of course our continued prosperity”.
Dr John Hewson (economist and former Australian Coalition Leader of the Opposition)(2020): “We need a commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies . . . we need a commitment to accelerate the closure of coal-fired power stations and to oppose new gas generation… They [Morrison Coalition Government MPs] ignore the calls from business, including the big miners who are now committed to exiting thermal coal and now engaged in various objectives to get to net-zero. They ignore the gathering momentum within the finance and investor community. Banks are not lending for fossil fuel projects, insurers are not insuring them, the big asset owners including the sovereign wealth funds and super funds are exiting climate exposed investments. The Morrison government turns a deaf ear to all of these warnings and sources of pressure” .
Kevin Rudd (former Australian Labor PM) on the Australian Coalition Government’s “gas-led recovery” (2020): “Besides the United States under [Donald] Trump and Brazil under [Jair] Bolsonaro, we in Australia are the only major economy that does not take the need for action on climate change seriously. Nor do we recognise the economic opportunities that will come with that action. I would argue this is bad company to keep. I fear that seeking to untangle our carbon-intensive economy much later than the rest of the world could in fact be what causes the next recession in Australia as the global economy increasingly walks away from fossil fuel dependency” .
Malcolm Turnbull (former Australian Coalition PM) re “a gas-led recovery” (2020): “This is crazy stuff. To say that [gas] will lead your energy revolution and cheaper energy is a fantasy, and the reason it is a fantasy is because there is no cheap gas on the east coast. It costs too much to extract” and re “net zero by 2050 target”: “The idea that you crash the economy by cutting your emissions is just again, that’s ideology taking the place of what should be sound environmental and economic policy. There is a reason just about every other developed country in the world apart from [Donald] Trump’s America is taking a very different approach” .
UN Production Gap Report (2019): “Oil and gas are also on track to exceed carbon budgets, as countries continue to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure that “locks in” oil and gas use. The effects of this lock-in widen the production gap over time, until countries are producing 43% (36 million barrels per day) more oil and 47% (1,800 billion cubic meters) more gas by 2040 than would be consistent with a 2°C pathway… With average lifetimes of 20 years or longer for pipelines, terminals, wells, and platforms, the time to begin planning for a wind-down of gas production is, as with other fossil fuels, already upon us… Thus the continued rapid expansion of gas supplies and systems risks locking in a much higher gas trajectory than is consistent with a 1.5°C or 2°C future. However, national plans and projections – and the current boom in liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure – indicate that countries are on track for this kind of rapid expansion” .
(6). Bad advice – incorrect, dangerous, pro-gas Anglosphere political assertions.
Anthony Albanese (Australian Labor Opposition leader) interviewed by the ABC RN Breakfast (2020): “Of course, gas is cleaner than burning coal, but we need to transition to clean energy” .
Terri Butler (Queensland Federal MP and Labor Opposition Shadow Minister for the Environment) in a repeated response to being repeatedly asked “More or less gas?” (2020): “We’d like to see gas form an important part of the transition to Australia becoming a renewable energy super power” .
Matthew Canavan (Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, 2016-2020) (2017): “There is no pathway forward for long-term, sustainable and affordable gas in this country unless the states pull their finger out and start developing their gas” .
Dr Alan Finkel (Australia’s Chief Scientist) (2020): “But, there is a limit to how much solar and wind we can use and still retain a reliable system. Ultimately, we will need to complement solar and wind with a range of technologies such as high levels of storage, long-distance transmission, and much better efficiency in the way we use energy. But, while these technologies are being scaled up, we need an energy companion today that can react rapidly to changes in solar and wind output. An energy companion that is itself relatively low in emissions, and that only operates when needed. In the short-term, as the Prime Minister and Minister [for Energy and Emissions Reduction] Angus Taylor have previously stated, natural gas will play that critical role. In fact, natural gas is already making it possible for nations to transition to a reliable, and relatively low emissions, electricity supply” .
Joel Fitzgibbon (pro-coal and pro-gas Labor Opposition Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources) (2020): “We support gas. Gas will be important in saving current jobs and jobs over the next considerable period of time. And of course, gas will help us build the jobs of tomorrow. Coal will also help us build the jobs of tomorrow. Both of those baseload providers will be important to the stability of the grid and will be important to allowing more renewables into the energy system. We cannot do it without them” .
Michael Gunner (Northern Territory Chief Minister” on a gas-based Northern Territory economy (2018): “The number one priority of this Government is to create local jobs and all of our efforts go towards this goal. Diversifying our economy, investing in job-creating infrastructure, turbo-charging tourism, growing our population, repositioning the Territory as a place of opportunity, to visit, study, do business, invest, live and raise a family – these will all create more jobs for more Territorians. Our Five Point NT Gas Strategy will create jobs through exploration, production, supply, export, manufacturing, research and innovation. There is enormous opportunity in the Territory for the diversification of the gas industry, which will create many hundreds of local jobs” .
Andrew Liveris (Northern Territory-born international petrochemicals mogul advising the Federal and NT Governments on a gas-led post-Covid-19 economic recovery) (2020): “The opportunity for the [Northern] Territory is not unlike the way the US looks at Alaska. Alaska is always top-of-mind for its pristine beauty, its relative remoteness, what it does in terms of its ability to harness its geography, which of course is tourism, but also oil and gas production. So we’ve got to put the [Northern] Territory in that psychology” .
Scott Morrison (pro-coal, pro-oil and pro-gas Australian Coalition PM) (2020):”[We intend to] get more gas, more often and more reliably – by resetting our east coast gas market, unlocking additional gas to drive recovery; paving the way, ultimately, for a world-leading Australian Gas Hub to support high-wage jobs, including and especially in manufacturing. We’ve got to get the gas… There is no credible energy transition plan, for an economy like Australia in particular, that does not involve the greater use of gas as an important transition fuel” .
David Speers (influential ABC presenter) repeatedly disputing gas dangers in interviewing science-informed Greens leader Adam Bandt) (2020: “ BANDT: You could get to zero emissions over the course of 10 years and get to full employment in this country, we could do it by winding back on some of the subsidies that the likes of Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer get to put cheap diesel into their trucks. You could still end up with a debt level in Australia that would be less than half of the OECD average. You’re talking about – we’ve just been told by the Treasurer that we are going to be in debt for a decade if not longer anyway, the question is what will we spend that money on, and for somewhere in the order of about $25 billion a year, increasing net debt over the next 10 years…
SPEERS: $25 billion a year for the next 10 years?
BANDT: We end up with lower debt than most OECD countries, and we end up with full employment and 100% renewables.
SPEERS: So about $250b?
BANDT: Spread over 10 years, and that’s invested to make sure we get to full employment so that we’re not dealing with a lost generation. One point to make here though is that gas is as dirty as coal. When you take into account the emissions – not only from burning it to generate electricity, but what leaks when you get it out of the ground….
SPEERS: OK, there is some debate around that.
BANDT: No, I don’t think there is. This is why the Government’s plan is so dire. They’re talking about unleashing in the Northern Territory alone, just one of the basins, something that is four times as big as Adani.
SPEERS: There is debate around that. The Chief Scientist and others”.
Angus Taylor (Australian Coalition Government Energy Minister) (2019): “Our LNG exports are dramatically reducing emissions in customer countries such as Japan, South Korea and China — the equivalent of up to 30 per cent of our emissions each year” .
Justin Trudeau (Canadian PM): “Obviously we are very concerned with OPEC’s decisions that are putting at risk the livelihoods of people around the world, particularly Canadians who work in the oil and gas sector. We are focused on helping those Canadians, helping people who are hardest hit economically by COVID-19. The measures we’ve put in place will support Canadians right across the country, including in our oil and gas sector, but we also know that it has been a sector that has been particularly hard hit and we will look for further help to be able to support people as they get through” .
President-elect Joe Biden (former Vice President under Obama) (2020): “Fracking [for gas] has to continue because we need a transition. We’re going to get to net zero emissions by 2050, and we’ll get to net zero power admissions by 2035, but there’s no rationale to eliminate right now fracking” .
Barack Obama (former US president) on gas (2014): “Today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades. One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas… It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too” .
Mike Pence (Vice President under Trump): “Joe Biden and the radical left are going to abolish fossil fuels and ban fracking but we are not going to let it.We’re going to have more fracking, more American energy, more energy independence for this generation and for generations to come when we reelect President Donald Trump for four more years” .
President Donald Trump (climate change denier and mendacious, pro-fossil fuels and fascoid populist) (2020): “All my life I’ve seen guys… You study politics, and you say, “I’ve never seen anyone say, ‘We’re going to raise your taxes.’” That’s his primary theme, “We’re going to raise your taxes,” and “We’ll end fracking,” that was the other thing. Remember? He’d said it for a year, and then he came to Pennsylvania. They said, “We have a million jobs.” “Oh, okay, well, we’ll leave fracking.” But the people won’t let him. His bosses won’t let him. Biden has vowed to abolish the entire US oil industry. No fracking, no mining, no natural gas, no heating in the winter, no air conditioning in the summer, no electricity during peak hours. And gas prices, you like that $2 gas, right? How about $5, $6 and $7? “Darling, let’s sell the car. It’s a little bit too large. Let’s get a compact.” Biden’s plan is an economic death sentence for Pennsylvania. He will outlaw fracking and eradicate your great economy. You had the greatest year you’ve ever had last year. And now next year, you’re going to have the best. If this happens with the taxes and with the fracking, you’re going to have a real problem in Pennsylvania” .
The utter falsehood of the assertion that “gas is cleaner than coal greenhouse gas-wise” underlies the perverse, neoliberalism-driven coal-to-gas transition in climate criminal Australia, Canada and the US. This untruth can be generously attributed to stupidity and ignorance on the part of scientifically illiterate pro-gas politicians, but in the face of expert scientific advice (e.g. from smart, first year high school students) it thence becomes a lie. However this lie becomes utterly unforgivable intellectual child abuse when imposed on children by politicians – for which they must be removed from Parliament and all public office by an indignant electorate. Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity.
Like the rest of the world I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Joe Biden defeated the mendacious and bombastic Trump. However for political reasons Biden had to support natural gas and fracking. Similarly, in Canada Justin Trudeau is vastly more palatable than the Conservative harpies but for political reasons is committed to planet-threatening oil and gas exploitation. In US lackey Australia the Australian Labor Party is vastly more preferable to the serial war criminal, climate criminal, anti-science, anti-environment, extreme right wing Coalition, but for electoral support reasons it is committed to long-term gas exploitation and to unlimited exports of coal, gas, iron ore and methanogenically-derived meat. Australia is blessed with a compulsory and preferential voting system – accordingly, decent Australians who care for the Planet and future generations will utterly reject the climate criminal Coalition, vote 1 Greens and put the Coalition last in their order of preference.
In the last analysis ordinary folk must decide whom they will believe, scientifically-illiterate, neoliberal, pro-gas politicians or the world’s greatest scientific minds (as exampled by Stephen Hawking) who demand cessation of fossil fuel exploitation ASAP. Unfortunately, the western democracies have become Kleptocracies, Plutocracies, Murdochracies, Lobbyocracies, Corporatocracies, and Dollarocracies in which Big Money purchases people, politicians, parties, policies, public perception of reality, votes, more political power and more private profit. The world’s scientists are trumped (pun intended) by anti-science presstitutes as exampled in North America and Australia by the variously climate change denialist or effective climate change denialist Murdoch media . Trump will soon be gone but mendacious and populist Trumpism will continue globally as a powerful “Alliance between Mob and Capital” [59-63].
We have effectively run out of time to avoid a catastrophic plus 2C temperature rise. However decent people are obliged to do everything they can to make the future “less bad” for future generations. Decent people must (a) inform everyone they can (the mendacious Mainstream journalist, editor, proprietor, politician, academic and commentariat presstitutes certainly won’t), and (b) urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against people, politicians, parties, companies, corporations, and countries disproportionately involved in climate criminality. There is no Planet B.
Read November 10, 2020 Beyond Scary wars: Humankind has something to cherish
Aaqib Javid Dar , in Life/Philosophy, countercurrents.org.
In the vastness and unending dimensions of the gigantic universe, consisting of zillions of galaxies interspersed with myriad number of interstitial bodies like stars, asteroids, and some devastating blackholes accompanied by abyssal silence, we are bestowed with a unique planet called Earth and more precisely “the Mother Earth” comparatively minuscule in size and remotely positioned.
What is more intriguing and fascinating about the Mother Earth is its aptly peculiarities to sustain and nurture the seed of life in diverse forms by subtle conglomeration of entities that it possesses and in turn make it the crème de la crème place, in attempting to comprehend the bounty of Life.
Now the vision of being surrounded by unknown life-less space around us and infinite intervals of heavenly bodies having no signs of life as far as our current knowledge can enchant us to explore, the real emphasis of mankind in particular, should be to resolve the conundrum related to preserving and flourishing the tree of life.
In the pioneer era of human origins’ on the earth, the continued struggle of man paved a way to habitat this planet by his constructive instincts to manipulate and curiously ponder upon everything he knew, his experiences acquired over the period of time passing on to generations thus attributing himself as “king of biological kingdoms”.
Once the worldly life drastically improved, man started living a highly sophisticated life establishing communes around themselves into organised settlements called ‘the Great Civilizations’ around 3100 B.C. With the passage of time, the odyssey of being egalitarian in status now profoundly started vanishing and the miseries based upon the socio-economic status of an individual demarcated the dystopian aura of our newly emerging societies’.
Moreover, the gradual shift of man being a seeker of information to possessor of materialistic things on the basis of his ethnic qualities proved discordant; competing with other ethnic groups caused clash of interest for notably: power, access to resources, or fertile territory and the further implications resulted into the belligerent approaches of native societies to manifest the inborn sense of superiority over the others therefore it resulted into the birth of conflicts.
In the history of human civilizations, battle and wars have had a significant impact. The Hundred Years’ war between England and France(1337-1453), The Pequot war(1634-1638) between the Pequot and Mohegan tribes, The English war(1642-1651), The American Revolution(1775-1783), The American Civil War(1861-1865), Word War I(1914-1918), World War II and the Gulf War. According to The New York Times report, at least 108 million people were killed in wars only in the twentieth century and the overall estimation for the total number of people killed in wars throughout all of human history range from 150 million to 1 billion. Wars are not only responsible for consuming precious human lives, but also the huge economic wealth of the nations like in Gulf war approximately $76 billion dollars, in Vietnam war costed $500 billion dollars and in World War II, almost $3 trillion dollars were squandered.
Amidst era of globalization, the desiderata of a common man irrespective of his geo-political identity is to achieve the real pursuits like the coalesce of cultures, spread of technology and need for higher standards of living and ultimately establish the universal peace but still the war drums are resonating that may escalate to unintentional military bellicose between the nations by their self-centred approaches and policies.
The modern-day full-blown wars cannot commensurate with the wars occurred in the past as many nations possess the deadlier nuclear weapons and when extrapolating the nuclear holocaust, the scenario seems very challenging for the whole humanity en masse. A research publication by William Daugherty and Barbara Levi et al. at Princeton University estimates the fatalities related to nuclear fallout of a single “100-Megaton” bomb can be more than 10 million deaths. At present, there are about 13,410 active bombs in the world of somewhat similar capacity and the amount of destruction that may be caused by these arsenals is far beyond the comprehension.
Subsequently, let’s now contemplate upon the fact that how to stop or avoid the wars? If we analyse the main reason of conflict among the nations then unresolved territorial disputes are on top of the list. When we talk about disputed territories, ‘The Kashmir Dispute’ is classified as the buzzword and regarded as the world’s most worrisome dispute followed by other territorial disputes around the world. A German political scientist Egbert Jahn, referred Kashmir as ‘Nuclear Flashpoint’ and one of the most dangerous centres of conflict in world politics since the founding of the states of Pakistan and India in 1947. Different parts of Kashmir are currently occupied by India, Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China, as each country owns the tag of Nuclear power and the hostile situation always prevail among these nations to gain or control the disputed territory.
Until now, there have been three major wars between India and Pakistan over the state affiliation of Jammu and Kashmir: in 1947-49, 1965, 1999 and Indo-Chinese border war of 1962. Alongside the border disputes, since the partition of British India, the people of Jammu and Kashmir actively demanded the right to self-determination that was also promised by United Nations (UN) Resolution at its interference in 1948. Since then, in various demonstrations of freedom struggle, there are numerous reports of Human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir resulting into the mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech by various government backed security personnel and militant groups that have been accused of severe human rights abuses against Kashmiri civilians.
Additionally, the continuous hatred and pandemonium created by Political stakeholders all over the world on the basis of pseudo-patriotism, religion, nationalism and expansionism to remain in power at stake of breaching the universal peace and the large-scale misuse of information technology to flout with the freedom of others are the real challenges for the cessation of hostilities between the nations in 21st century.
The united Nations must show perseverance and conform its principles to cease and save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, dignity and worth of human person irrespective of gender, equal rights to small and large nations, provide positive ambiance for international law to be maintained and promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom perspective.
At last, the accentuation based on rational thinking is to work for prosperity and eradicate some real challenges like food security problems, inclusive growth, future of employment and work, health, climate change and so on to restore the biological glory of mankind on earth. As the world witnessed that COVID19 pandemic, the ‘‘common enemy’’ of mankind, a global challenge that can only be solved through global solutions.
Aaqib Javid Dar is a Student of M.Sc. Bioinformatics at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
Read November 10, 2020 Can the world be changed?
Satya Sagar, in Life/Philosophy, countercurrents.org.
Can the world be changed in any fundamental way or not? Will the methods one uses to change it end up doing more harm than good? Should one mind one’s own business or make the problems of the world one’s own too?
These were some of the questions at the core of a debate I had over four decades ago with my father, a professor of physics in a university set in a small town in central India. With his passing away recently, these questions floated up once again in the flood of memories that came to me, with no certain answers to them even after all these years.
My contention then as a young man of 16 years or so was that the world was unjust and there were many things wrong with it, that could and should be set right. Material poverty and inequality in particular, I argued, were completely unjustified and the cause of needless misery. I wanted to do something that would bring radical transformation and build a better world without injustice, oppression, pettiness and hatred.
My father agreed with my analysis of the world as an unfair place but felt it could not be changed in any lasting way because human beings would always find a way of screwing up the noblest of systems. Besides, how could I be so sure that the methods I used to change the world would be beneficial and not make things worse than they already were?
History he pointed out was replete with many examples of religious, social and political movements that started out with the best of intentions but ended up in great conflict and bloodshed without delivering the promised land of milk and honey. A safer path according to him was to stick to one’s immediate concerns of earning a livelihood and running a family, while maintaining high standards of personal ethics and integrity.
Later I realized, this was advice typically given by many middle-class parents around the world to their rebellious offspring. In my mid-teens though it was still a big challenge for me to overcome these arguments easily as I threw all my half-baked ideas of systemic political change and the need for revolution at him. To me it was unethical to stand by watch if injustice was being done to anyone, anywhere. None of this made any impression on him of course as he had perhaps seen many young men in this feverish state before.
Ultimately I had to tell him that I would rather pursue my own ideas and make my own mistakes than blindly obey him and blame him later if anything went wrong! He reluctantly agreed to that logic. Luckily for me my father was not authoritarian and preferred to reason it out with me and when I was not convinced allowed me to go the way I wanted.
Over the years I more or less did whatever I wanted, within the constraints of my own intellect, courage and of course the context I was in. And I did make many mistakes in my life too, but they were all entirely my mistakes and I am very happy I have not had to blame anyone else for them at all.
I joined a left political party at the age of nineteen and after a few intense years quit as I could not accept their ideological rigidity or opportunism when it came to making the right political choices. I then hobnobbed with a couple of other parties, both from the left and centre, but while they had their relative merits – there was always a good gap between ideas, ideals and action that left one disappointed.
For my livelihood I had to work as a journalist for many years though with no illusions about the nature of the media industry. Finally I gave up working for the mainstream media too as the rot in the profession got worse with every passing year.
The last decade and half I have been working on public health because I thought instead of chasing change at the macro level I should focus on helping some specific individuals directly and in tangible ways here and now. While this brought some small satisfactions, health is such a political issue that I have concluded nothing is going to change on this front without a bloody revolution. In other words I am today back to where I started four decades ago, but with more doubts than I had then!
Reflecting on all my debates with my father now, I realize that changing the world for the better requires a far more nuanced approach than I was aware of as a young man. I still believe that structural changes are both possible and needed, whether in terms of resource distribution or social power relations. An understanding of the world through the lenses of history and ecology is also essential. And yes, the idea that humans have the agency to make a difference to all these larger processes in a constructive way is also true.
However, the idea of ‘big systemic change’ as a kind of panacea to the problems of human societies is simply not enough on its own. Once one has a reasonably good grip on ‘what is to be done’ the question of ‘how it should be done’ is equally important. Far too often, political ideologues have reduced the stupendous task of changing society to a problem of mere engineering – like Archimedes they claim ‘Give me the right lever and I will move the Earth’.
The fact is that, when it comes to human societies or any ecosystem with living organisms the methods of engineering do more harm than good. This is for the simple reason that the techniques of this discipline are suited only to the manipulation of dead objects – brick, mortar, steel or plastic. Engineering processes inevitably end up killing something in what is sought to be changed.
Living, sentient creatures – whose basic attribute is unpredictability- are better approached with the methods of agriculture, organic agriculture to be specific. All this requires constant alertness and paying attention to whatever is needed in the present, which is always tough to do.
As my father would often say, applying the laws of thermodynamics to personal philosophy, ‘Life itself may be irreversible but an efficient life is one where you do things that are reversible’. Somewhat echoing the Buddha’s wisdom he rejected the idea of permanence of any kind, even if it was the very seductive idea of bringing about permanent change for the common good.
For me today, the impermanence of change is not a deterrent at all. Since we human beings are transient creatures ourselves, even temporary transformations are a step forward for the better. The best approach is to accept the ephemeral nature of everything around us and still strive for improvements, without getting cynical about the world.
A very important lesson I draw from my father’s life though, despite many differences of opinion with him about the world itself, is that change is meaningless if it is achieved without sticking to good, ethical processes. No new system, however lofty its aims may be, can work if those running it are not genuinely good people also. All the cleverness and articulation in the world is simply no substitute for just common decency, sincerity, generosity and a good heart – some of the rarest qualities in the world we are in right now.
The challenge today for all those wanting to change the world for the better, like perhaps throughout human history, is to muddy one’s hands while also maintaining the purity of one’s soul. Not an easy path, but perhaps the only one worth travelling on.
Satya Sagar is a journalist and public health worker who can be reached at email@example.com
Read November 17, 2020 Trump Administration Rushes to Auction Off Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Drilling Rights Before Biden Inauguration
Brett Wilkins, in Climate Change, countercurrents.org.
In what critics are calling a parting gift to the fossil fuel industry, the Trump administration on Tuesday will ask oil and gas companies to choose which areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska—which is the sacred homeland of the Gwich’in Indigenous people—they would like to drill.
The Washington Post reports the administration’s call for nominations is a key part of a rush to lock in drilling rights before President Donald Trump leaves office on January 20. The president has made drilling on public lands and waterways a key component of what he calls his “America First” energy agenda, while President-elect Joe Biden has said he opposes such action.
The Republican-controlled Congress approved drilling in the massive, pristine ANWR in 2017. The reserve is home to the Gwich’in people, who call it “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit,” or, “the sacred place where life begins.” ANWR boasts some 270 species, including all of the world’s remaining South Beaufort Sea polar bears, 250 musk oxen, Arctic foxes, and hundreds of thousands of snow geese and other birds which fly there from all 50 states and around the world.
The Gwich’in rely on the region’s rich biodiversity, especially its 200,000-strong porcupine caribou herd, for their survival. “What impacts the caribou, impacts the Gwich’in,” Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, told Yes!.
In addition to opening ANWR to oil and gas drilling, the Trump administration is also redefining what constitutes a “critical habitat” for endangered species, as well as when corporations are deemed liable for killing migrating birds.
While the Iñupiat—another Alaska Native people who call ANWR their home—cautiously welcome the possibility of drilling and the economic benefits they believe it will bring, the Gwichin’in and their allies, which include environmental groups and progressive lawmakers, have vowed to fight any attempts to defile the unspoiled land.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) strongly opposes drilling, telling the Post that “this administration is ending as it began, with a desperate push for oil drilling regardless of the human or environmental costs.”
Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) tweeted that drilling in the refuge “would threaten the climate, wildlife, and Indigenous rights.”
“Despite a last-second push to complete oil leases, it is no wonder major banks are pledging not to finance these destructive drilling projects,” he added.
Indeed, after decades of grassroots pressure from environmentalists and Indigenous activists and in the face of an ever-worsening climate crisis, numerous major banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, have announced they will not finance ANWR drilling projects.
The Gwich’in and several environmental groups including the National Audobon Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC), have sued the administration in a bid to stop drilling plans from proceeding. Erik Grafe, deputy managing attorney at Earthjustice, an environmental law firm representing the plaintiffs, condemned what he called a “midnight effort to sell off irreplaceable lands in the refuge before a new day dawns.”
“We are already in court challenging the administration’s decision to open the whole coastal plain to leasing, and we’ll hold the line against this rushed attempt to implement the unlawful program,” Grafe said in a statement. “As the majority of Americans know, the Arctic Refuge is no place to drill.”
Ellen Montgomery, public lands campaign director for Environment America, issued a statement asserting that “there is no way to do massive, industrial-level oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge without damaging vital habitat.”
“Building roads and bringing in heavy equipment disfigures the landscape before the drilling even begins,” she said. “Once ruined, the refuge cannot be restored.” Montgomery called on fossil fuel companies to “read the tea leaves and take a pass” on ANWR drilling.
However, it is the Gwich’in who are standing the firmest in the face of the administration’s attack on their sacred land.
“Any company thinking about participating in this corrupt process should know that they will have to answer to the Gwich’in people and the millions of Americans who stand with us,” Demientieff told the Post. “We have been protecting this place forever.”
Originally published in CommonDreamsOur work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.
Read November 18, 2020 Subtly, China pressures Gulf states to reduce regional tensions
Dr James M Dorsey , in World, countercurrents.org.
Public debates about China’s Middle East policy are as much internal Chinese discussions as they are indications of where Beijing’s thinking is going and efforts to nudge countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to accommodate potential policy changes.
Relying on scholars rather than officials, China is signalling to Gulf states adjustments they would have to make to enable China to become more engaged in regional security and geopolitics.
The subtext in the scholars’ writings and statements is that a failure to reduce tension, particularly with Iran, could persuade China to either reduce its economic involvement in the Middle East or focus on relations with non-Arab states, two of which are arch-rivals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
At the bottom line, China’s subtle hints at what it would like Gulf states to do is in line with a Russian proposal that calls for a non-aggression agreement with Iran and possibly Turkey that would significantly reduce the risk of disputes spinning out of control and allow China to expand its engagement beyond economics.
In the latest blast, Chinese Middle East scholar Fan Hongda suggested that China rather than “overestimating” the importance of Arab states should pay more attention to the Middle East’s non-Arab powers, Turkey, Israel, and particularly Iran.
“Given Iran’s expressed willingness to strengthen bilateral relations (with Beijing), China needs to respond more actively,” Mr. Fan said in an op-ed published by Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese language newspaper in Singapore.
Driving the point home, Mr. Fan argued in two articles in Hamshahri, a popular Iranian newspaper published by the municipality of Tehran, that China should forge closer ties to Iran irrespective of US policy or potential Arab opposition. “These overcautious concerns have no advantage whatsoever for the ‘second most powerful country in the world,” Mr. Fan said referring to China.
The timing of Mr. Fan’s article will not have been lost on Gulf leaders. It comes on the back of the publication in Iran of a draft 25-year multi-billion dollar Chinese-Iranian agreement on economic and military cooperation. The draft sparked intense speculation about Chinese Middle East policy and how realistic an agreement was.
To capitalize on the speculation, Iran substantially increased the number of companies populating its pavilion at this month’s China International Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai.
Mr Fan’s article was further published as US President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office in January with the stated intention to break with Donald J. Trump’s harsh ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions policy and return the United States to the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018.
China’s suggestion that it has alternatives in the Middle East puts pressure on countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE as they try to come to grips with a Biden administration that is likely to put greater emphasis on human rights and take a more critical view towards Gulf involvement in wars in Yemen and Libya.
Similarly, the suggestion anticipated a Biden administration effort to rejigger, if not reduce, the United States’ security commitment to the Middle East and possibly entertain a more multilateral regional architecture.
Mr. Fan’s proposal follows an article by prominent Chinese scholars Sun Degang and Wu Sike arguing that the Middle East was a “key region in big power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in a new era.”
Messrs. Sun and Wu indicated that Chinese characteristics would involve “seeking common ground while reserving differences,” a formula that implies conflict management rather than conflict resolution.
The scholars said Chinese engagement in Middle Eastern security would seek to build an inclusive and shared regional collective security mechanism based on fairness, justice, multilateralism, comprehensive governance, and the containment of differences.
Earlier, Niu Xinchun, director of Middle East studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), widely viewed as one of China’s most influential think tanks, adopted a different tone to drive the same message home: China’s interest in the Middle East was waning. To avoid losing China, Gulf states need to create a degree of stability.
“For China, the Middle East is always on the very distant backburner of China’s strategic global strategies … Covid-19, combined with the oil price crisis, will dramatically change the Middle East. (This) will change China’s investment model in the Middle East,” Mr. Niu said.
With few exceptions, Gulf states and media have largely remained silent about Chinese voices that reflect thinking in Beijing that calls into question China’s relations with key Arab states.
No doubt, Gulf states believe that China’s dependence on Middle Eastern energy and their significance to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) makes them all but indispensable.
The BRI is Chinese President’s Xi Jinping’s energy, infrastructure, and telecommunications-driven Eurasia-wide signature foreign policy initiative.
While the Gulf states may not be wrong, they remain vulnerable in an environment in which shifts in US policy force them to hedge their bets and be more attentive to the positions of China in an increasingly multi-polar world.
Said Mordechai Chaziza, an expert on China-Middle East relations: “Beijing has indeed become more concerned about the stability of Middle Eastern regimes. Its growing regional interests combined with its BRI ambitions underscore that Middle East stability, particularly in the Persian Gulf, is now a matter of strategic concern for China.”
Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
Dr. Alessandro Arduino is principal research fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore.
Read November 18, 2020 A New Strategy For The American Left
Yanis Iqbal, in World, countercurrents.org.
Joe Biden won the 2020 US Presidential Election after narrowly defeating the sitting president Donald Trump. This victory comes at a tremendous cost: the defeat of an incipient counter-hegemonic movement which embryonically expressed demands for an alternative future to capitalism. Even after the collective utterance of anger against police brutality and the nascent realization of the structural violence of capitalism, the electoral mechanisms of the American bourgeoisie state have been successful in thwarting the full-blown development of a distinctively socialist campaign. Following the ideological mutilation of massive protests against an inherently exploitative system, Americans have been rewarded with Biden – a dyed-in-the-wool bourgeoisie politician who once opposed de-segregation, called on police to shoot Black Lives Matter demonstrators in the leg, rejected the smallest of concessions to the working class, vehemently supported imperialist wars and refused to commit to even the minimal reforms of the Green New Deal.
The overwhelming de-activation of revolutionary militancy in USA can be traced to certain theoretico-practical problems relating to the formation of socialist strategy. These issues and impediments have been historically constituted as a result of continual errors regarding political premises and form a consistent backdrop against which progressive projects in America have taken place. Among the multiple components which form the foundations for such an incorrect political paradigm, reformism is perhaps the most dominant, subordinating social struggles to its own theoretical dictates. At the most general level, reformism consists in a defeatist politics of uncritical surrender to the contingencies of existing conditions. Instead of acting as a driving force of history and impinging centrally upon the processes of social change, reformism crafts a type of politics which is wholly driven by historical forces.
The concrete content and specificity of reformism comprises of the erasure of the strategic goal of socialism and the corresponding initiation of efforts to slightly tweak capitalism’s internal mechanisms. These attempts at gradually re-calibrating capitalism are made through the adoption of a crass electoral politics which is theoretically uninformed and fails to learn from actual experience. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had formulated the problem of reformism as that of “parliamentary cretinism”, a destructive form of political organization antithetical to the aims of a socialist revolution. Engels defined parliamentary cretinism as “a disorder which penetrates its unfortunate victims with the solemn conviction that the whole world, its history and future, are governed and determined by a majority of votes in that particular representative body which has the honor to count them among its members, and that all and everything going on outside the walls of their house…is nothing compared to the incommensurable events hinging upon the important question, whatever it may be, just at that moment occupying the attention of their honorable House”. Similarly, Marx held that parliamentary cretinism was “that peculiar epidemic…which holds its victims spellbound in an imaginary world and robs them of all sense, all memory, and all understanding of the rough external world”.
Reformism, therefore, is the fetishization of the institutions of bourgeoisie democracy, the dissociation of political practices from the changing correlation of forces in a specific conjuncture and the concomitant belief in a succession of gradual reforms, each posed as an end in itself. The 2020 US Presidential Election can be regarded as a logical result of such a reformist policy which contributes directly to the electoral defanging of explosive class struggle. One of the maneuvers used to legitimize the flattening of class struggle into vacuous support for Biden has been the principle of “lesser of two evils”. According to this principle, any vote for a non-Biden candidate will mean an automatic victory for Trump, portrayed as a true fascist capable of destroying America’s already hollow democracy. Correspondingly, every progressive American has to vote for Biden if he/she does not want the specter of Trump to return and halt the social development of the nation.
Considering the fact that an effervescent multi-racial rebellion took place in America just a few months before the election, it seems difficult to absorb the fact that progressives continued to preach the principle of the lesser of two evils. One can locate the source of this continued support for a largely ineffective political view in the panorama of entrenched reformism in the US which failed to utilize the latent energy of extremely important protests and allowed them to peter out. Before the protests occurred, reformist organizations in USA unconditionally espoused an explicitly reformist orientation which – instead of enfolding present-day politics in the wider goal of revolution – chose to adapt to the existing situation, thus abjuring socialist ideals and counter-productively allying with mainstream ideologies. When protests broke out, these reformist organizations were at a loss to understand the socio-historic dynamics of a newly emergent revolutionary agency which foregrounded radical demands and took care of the interests of the future within the movement of the present.
Unable to successfully interact with the revolutionary potentialities of the massive rebellion, reformists reverted back to their trivial tactical objectives by peddling the lesser of two evils principle. Through this “pragmatic” principle, reformists presented the election of Joe Biden as an unavoidable, all-powerful compulsion and tinged the revolutionary subjectivity of the working class with diluted reformist demands, each considered independently of the ultimate aim of socialism. When political organizations failed to transform the experiences from the struggle into political tactics, the germinal class consciousness of the proletariat soon settled within the discursive region delimited by reformists. In this way, Biden’s path to victory was paved by the reformists who de-mobilized a rebellion to advance changes by appealing to the benevolence of a Biden presidency.
The Actuality of Revolution
From the 2020 US Election, it is evident that the Left need to construct a re-vitalized project of socialist hegemony which does not succumb to the blunders of reformism. In contradistinction to reformism, the equally unacceptable and unfruitful position of abstract and maximalist revolutionism has been presented, creating an impasse for the further advancement of revolutionary struggle. While these maximalist calls for revolution define themselves as “Marxist”, they falter when the need arrives to skillfully interweave theory with politico-practical contexts. Rather than concretizing, modifying and applying Marxism’s theoretical matrix to ever new and changing conjunctures of class struggle, abstract revolutionism dogmatizes and distorts its principles, subsequently conceiving socialism as an ideal form against which attempts to transcend capitalist society are to be measured. Like reformism, it also avoids a direct contact with material conditions, rigidly overpowering the contextual specifities of shifting conditions with the universalism of theory. In other words, it can be termed as “mechanical idealism” which prioritizes theoretical principles over the concrete struggle for revolution.
To chart the future course of revolutionary politics, we need to revisit what Vladimir Lenin said when he talked about the nature of Marxism: “Absolutely hostile to all abstract formulas and to all doctrinaire recipes, Marxism demands an attentive attitude to the massstruggle in progress, which, as the movement develops, as the class consciousness of the masses grows, as economic and political crises become acute, continually gives rise to new and more varied methods of defence and attack…Under no circumstances does Marxism confine itself to the forms of struggle possible and in existence at a given moment only, recognising as it does that new forms of struggle, unknown to the participants of the given period, inevitablyarise as the given social situation changes. In this respect Marxism learns, if we may so express it, from mass practice…To attempt to answer yes or no to the question whether any particular means of struggle should be used, without making a detailed examination of the concrete situation of the given movement at the given stage of its development, means completely to abandon Marxism.”
Taking into account what Lenin said, the Left has to construct a politics of praxis which learns from the masses i.e. a kind of politics which recognizes the fact that practice cannot proceed without theory and vice versa. The two are constitutive of one another in a dialectical relationship: practice guided by a theory that will necessarily be rethought in light of the outcomes of this practice. If we try to assimilate the lessons of present-day class struggle in the US and reciprocally influence the dynamics of that struggle, the relevance of Georg Lukács’ concept of the “actuality of revolution” will certainly stand out. With the help of this conceptual tool, the absence of socialism as a strategic goal can be filled with the presence of a strong and supple theoretical architecture.
As per Lukacs, “The theory of historical materialism…presupposes the universal actuality of the proletarian revolution. In this sense, as both the objective basis of the whole epoch and the key to an understanding of it, the proletarian revolution constitutes the living core of Marxism.” Thus, the actuality of revolution organically integrates the ultimate goal of socialism into the planning of concrete action. Lukacs derived the skeletal framework of his notion of the actuality of revolution from Lenin who had written in one of his articles: “only by constantly having the ‘ultimate aim’ in view, only by appraising every step of the ‘movement’ and every reform from the point of view of the general revolutionary struggle, is it possible to guard the movement against false steps and shameful mistakes”.
Elaborating on Lenin’s brief description of the significance of the “ultimate aim”, Lukacs stated in his book “Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought”: “The actuality of the revolution provides the key-note of a whole epoch. Individual actions can only be considered revolutionary or counter-revolutionary when related to the central issue of revolution, which is only to be discovered by an accurate analysis of the socio-historic whole. The actuality of the revolution therefore implies study of each individual daily problem in concrete association with the socio-historic whole, as moments in the liberation of the proletariat. The development which Marxism thus underwent through Lenin consists merely – merely! – in its increasing grasp of the intimate, visible, and momentous connection between individual actions and general destiny – the revolutionary destiny of the whole working class. It merely means that every question of the day – precisely as a question of the day – at the same time became a fundamental problem of the revolution.”
Unlike the static process of historical change conceptualized by reformism which is decoupled from concrete conditions, the actuality of revolution frames historical processes as an undulating series of politico-economic situations which is pregnant with revolution and crisscrossed by the complex, uneven and contradictory logic of the class struggle. When different conjunctures are conceived like in this dynamic way, the proletarian party converts itself into a collective process of learning; works to increase the speed of the subaltern classes’ spontaneous gravitation towards socialism; weeds out the ideological influence of bourgeoisie institutions; and constantly learns from and crystallizes the practical experience of the oppressed people.
Since the perspective of the actuality of revolution dissolves revolution as a distant horizon and immerses it in the interstices of contemporary conditions, it is fully cognizant of the inevitable patchiness of social transformation and starts from the here-and-now of the proletariat’s consciousness. This means that transformational changes are realized through a set of intertwined intermediate objectives which make evident the necessity for the transition to socialism, prefigure it in certain concrete aspects, dislocate capitalist society through the political percolation of socialist ideals and themselves constitute an apprenticeship and experience of workers’ power. To put it in other words, the specific aspirations of the subaltern classes is articulated within the perspective of a common goal which contains them all and at the same time transcends them: the goal of a socialist society.
The concretization of some of the theoretical underpinnings of the actuality of revolution may be listed as follows: socialists must (a) work within the existing system to reveal its inherent limitations while winning such short-term concessions as may be possible and (b) develop a counter-hegemonic project that intrinsically connects short-term specific interests to the pursuit of a socialist system and justifies necessary short-term sacrifices in terms of the strategic goal. These programmatic objectives can serve to avoid the pitfalls of reformism, avoid super-imposing the abstract exigencies of a hermetically sealed theory on the terrain of concrete struggle and navigate through the rippled territories of revolutionary politics.
With the election of Biden as the President of America, the predominantly negative role played by reformism has been starkly shown. In the foreseeable future, the ideological role of reformism in moderating the content of spontaneous outbursts of anger will continue increasing as the economic base of capitalism assumes ever more grotesque forms. Under the regime of monopoly-finance capitalism, income inequality has exponentially increased and humans have been increasingly reduced to the status of mere commodities, dispensable and endlessly exploitable. As living conditions continue to deteriorate, the Left needs to adopt a new form of politico-organizational modality which is able to move the working class in the direction of socialism and allow its smoldering rage against capitalism to be realized in the form of a revolution.
Yanis Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles have been published by different magazines and websites such as Monthly Review Online, ZNet, Green Social Thought, Weekly Worker, News and Letters Weekly, Economic and Political Weekly, Dandelion Salad, Arena, Eurasia Review, Coventry University Press, Culture Matters, Global Research, Dissident Voice, Countercurrents, Counterview, Hampton Institute, Ecuador Today, People’s Review, Eleventh Column, Karvaan India, Clarion India, OpEd News, The Iraq File, Portside and the Institute of Latin American Studies.
Originally published in Eurasia Review
Read November 18, 2020 Biden Victory: A Mere Sigh of Relief or a Sign of Salvation?
M Adil Khan, in World, countercurrents.org.
Last four years of Trump presidency has been the most chaotic if not the most problematic that the US and the world at large have experienced, ever.
Mr. Trump’s governing style has been unique and bewildering. He made White House a twitter factory – made policies, hired and fired people and attacked his opponents through twitters. Furthermore, and not that Mr. Trump is the first US President to do so, he made lying his main policy strategy and found twitter the most convenient medium to indulge in and spread lies as truth. Barack Obama described 4-years of Trump, a period of deepening the “decay of truth” in US political culture.
Good thing is Mr. Trump is gone – almost. Indeed, despite his endless tantrums regarding the election result and his likely legal challenges, the game is truly up. Mr. Biden has won the 2020 US presidential election convincingly and he would be the 46th President of USA, beginning January 2021.
Now that the issue of presidency for the period 2021- 2024 is all but settled and that Mr. Biden’s victory has brought a sigh of relief of a sort, we must ask ourselves – what’s next. The question that we must is whether Biden victory is also a signal of salvation of America from the abyss of moral, political, economic and social decay it has suffered in recent times, made worse by Mr. Trump?
Many aspire to see Biden victory more than a sigh of relief, the victory has triggered numerous expectations and Biden himself has made many promises too.
According to Washington Post, “President-elect Joe Biden campaigned on a transformational liberal policy platform, calling for ‘revolutionary institutional changes’ and $7 trillion of new spending to remake the American economy as he styled himself a modern-day FDR” – the ‘New Deal’ as we know was made up of a range of public works programmes and financial sector reforms that President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) initiated during Great Depression of 1930s to resurrect the depressed economy and save people from destitution.
Although the current situation in US is not as dire as 1930s, with a pandemic raging (mostly result of Trump’s misguided guidance) and economy dwindling and more and more Americans joining the ranks of the poor, an atmosphere of doom and despair has engulfed the entire US society.
Urgent and drastic actions are needed to salvage the situation. Therefore, this election is not like any other US election. Many regard outcomes of this election a triumph of good over the evil and victory of hope over despair. Many now wait for Mr. Biden to take the command and implement his ‘Build Back Better America (BBBA) project, his campaign promise truthfully.
First, what is BBBA? Has anyone defined it? What is its agenda? Moreover, given that so many things have gone wrong at so many levels, can Mr. Biden truly implement his Build Back Better America agenda?
As a non-American I am ill positioned to answer this question. Moreover, I also do not know the specifics of BBBA nor the expectations the Americans espouse of Biden, accurately.
Luckily, an email from a friend, former UN colleague, a very conscientious person, a humane to the core, who lives in New York City and voted for Biden, came handy. In his email he listed 13 items that he believes Biden would/should do. I found the List interesting because it includes items that are both domestic and international. I believe my friend’s UN background may have made him recognise the importance of global/local synergy in domestic development.
I am using my friend’s 13 items – a wish list of a sort – as the framework of analysis of Biden promises, citizen expectations and implementation prospects. Listed below in italics are the 13 Items of Expectations outlined by my friend and below each of these items is my analysis of possibilities or otherwise of meeting these expectations:
- Re-Engagement with the broader international community including the UN, and immediately with WHO
I believe this would happen and not because that US has great affection for global institutions, but because of the realization that Trump’s ill-conceived isolationism and his equally ill-thought decision to withdraw from WHO and his general distancing of the US from international community including the UN has hurt US more than others. Withdrawal from WHO has deprived US of its capacity to engage with and seek solutions to a pandemic that requires global/local synergies in policies and actions.
Thanks to Trump’s withdrawal from the UN body and his refusal to listen to the globally agreed scientific guidance, US ended up suffering the most from the pandemic – as of November 12, 2020 US has had 11.0 million COVID 19 cases and more than 200,000 fatalities and counting.
By re-joining WHO and by re-connecting with the world health body, Biden would ensure much needed global dialoguing in global crisis, benefitting both US and the world.
- Attention to the environment, reduction of subsidies to coal, in practice to all big polluting corporations, and scrutiny of oil drilling and exploration. As a priority these include public lands and bodies of water around the USA;
Biden is quite firm on the issue of climate change and thus would do his best to re-enter the Paris Climate Accord that Trump has withdrawn from quite arbitrarily. However, given that the processes of entering, withdrawal and re-entering international agreements are complicated, the task of re-entering the Paris Accord would take time. Moreover, as the Paris Accord would involve compliance to strict environmental standards on industries and as these stipulations have the potential to threaten certain industries that include some of the key corporations that benefit from lax environmental standards and that these corporations also have enormous influence over the US policy-making institutions, the task of re-joining the Accord and more importantly, abiding by Accord’s sustainability obligations may prove a little daunting. Surely, Mr. Biden can use his Presidential authority to join the Accord, but this would entail costly re-structuring of the economy, and given that currently, the economy is on a downturn and job losses are frequent, adhering to Climate Accord stipulations that would risk jobs in the interim, would require prudent handling. Mr. Biden would have to think of options that would help offsetting business and job losses.
Biden’s commitment to the Accord and his willingness to re-join the international community in climate change mitigation initiatives must be applauded and encouraged.
- Healthcare, in particular Medicare strengthening – it has disenfranchised millions and threatens more. The Supreme Court is now hearing a case. This is not a case of due diligence and jurisprudence alone;
There is little doubt that Biden Administration would do its utmost to strengthen and widen Medicare.
The pandemic has revealed the sad state of America’s public health system – it has revealed that ceding basic public wellbeing functions almost entirely to the market has been a grave mistake and Americans are paying for it especially since the pandemic, grievously. Indeed, the pandemic has demonstrated how the US, world’s richest that has the best in health and science and is endowed generously with resources has completely failed to come to the aid of its people at a time when they needed them most. It is despicable.
I am convinced that Biden Administration would do whatever it takes to reform the health system and make it more affordable and accessible. However, given the strong lobby of the private health insurers that dominate America’s public health sector, it is not clear how comprehensive and extensive the health reforms would roll out, eventually.
- Infrastructural investment commitments, including support for cities, at State and Federal level;
This would happen but may not be to the magnitude it is needed. Again, given limitations of resources which have been exacerbated further by Federal government’s geo-strategic ambitions and its bulging defence budget that have contributed to widening of current account deficits, scope of comprehensive investments in public works of Roosevelt era’s New Deal magnitude is less likely. Furthermore, investments in public works without required checks and balance and sound plans leave much room for corruption and waste.
- To meet the pandemic in a holistic and systematic way. Not just arguments for vaccines around the corner, no worries, and go out celebrate. Scientific community to be respected both when they are brave and when they advise caution. Protocols to be followed, vetted and monitored regularly;
This will happen. Biden has already formed a 13-member COVID 19 Advisory Board that according to Guardian includes “a former US surgeon general, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, leading virologists and experts in bio-defense” and the Board would …play a high-profile role” to tackle the pandemic which has reached its deadliest phase in November. The Biden campaign has already laid out a multi-pronged plan for dealing with the virus and this includes: (i) shared guidance on reopening from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; (ii) an enormous expansion of testing and production of protective equipment; (iii) an expansion of health insurance benefits; (iv) a multi-pronged, logistically challenging, vaccination campaign to provide free shots; (v) hiring 100,000 new public health workers; and (vi) lobbying for coronavirus economic relief.
A COVID 19 Board member, Dr Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota has stressed that “Failure is not an option here…we have to do whatever we can to reduce the impact of the virus on our society.”
However, given that COVID 19 control measures would include among other things restrictions in socialising and also given that most Trump supporters (48% of all Americans) do not believe in social isolation and regard it as some sort of socialist conspiracy, Biden Plan would do well to include in its multi-pronged strategies – these are mostly clinical and economic types – provisions that would contribute to behavioural change. This is important.
- Binding commitments at the international level to be followed, not unilaterally abandoned;
Most international commitments especially those that concern wellbeing, human rights and climate change etc are non-binding and therefore, possibilities of US committing to and implementing international agreements that do not meet or contradict its domestic needs have limited to no possibilities of being followed through completely and this has been the practice in the past, US has been selectively signing and implementing internationally agreed commitments. Having said this, the least Biden can do is, remove Presidential authority to approve/cancel/withdraw US international commitments and funding of international agencies at will and vest the authority with the Congress to ensure their permanency through act of law.
- Have a better sense who the friends of the USA are and who suck up or are tyrants to boot;
I would love to see Biden doing this. However, this is tricky. If history is any guide, US has always preferred tyrants over genuinely democratically elected leaders as allies to advance its geo-strategic hegemonic interests. Can’t imagine a radical shift in this strategy. But a change to a more principled foreign policy would change the world for the better.
- An understanding how other people, and societies, have much to offer in their own right. Not to embrace oligarchs in power, because they come to the White House, kiss hands, prostrate or worse;
Departure from US mindset of exceptionalism that has hurt both US and the world at large is a great idea. Indeed, there is much to learn from and give to the world and this would be win-win for all. It would also be great if Biden Administration inaugurates a new culture in the White House and shuns embracing oligarchs, blood-soaked tyrants, the racists and the declared sectarians and ban them from setting their feet on its hallowed red carpet. This would signal a major shift in US position and warn the tyrants to change their ways and in the process, pave the way for a better world. Would love to see this gets done as an important aspect of Biden’s ‘Build Back Better America’.
- At the New York level, both city and state, our problems are exigent. Some self-indicted. MTA, the transport system, is in deficit almost by 8 billion, public services and their providers have been reduced, the sense of inequality in access, never mind in incomes, is there for all to see. Education and disparities between private and public-school performance is a problem and so is homelessness. Management of NYC finances woefully inadequate. A more sympathetic ear from the White House would help, but it is also for State and City to sort out.
Some have argued that “Biden and the Democratic Party are joint partners with the GOP in the facilitation of the ongoing Race to the Bottom” and the Administration of New York City, which has been under the Democrats for a while, is no different. Sadly, entire system is self-seeking, corrupt and inefficient. In these circumstances, Mr. Biden who himself is a product of a corrupt system, is unlikely if not ill positioned to bring about much change in the State of New York. The State itself must take the first step to change itself and ask Biden to support.
- Consider, Electoral College reform to reflect the principle of one man/woman counts for Presidential Elections;
This is a much-needed reform to ensure proper democratic election of US presidents but again, given the intractability of its political arrangements the road to electoral reform looks both arduous and difficult.
- Voter suppression and other shenanigans to disenfranchise persons of color be dealt with at Federal level;
This is realizable and thus, should be implemented.
- Bring more civility and a sense of humility by the Executive, President, Appointed Officials and White House advisors;
Biden is a decent person and therefore, political conversations coming out of the White House are likely to be decent and civil and this by itself would be such a huge accomplishment and relief. Mr. Trump turned White House into a conversational sewerage tank, spewing filth.
- Stop demonizing opponents, or caricature media and critics because of their views. Consider, discuss, and have the courage, where relevant, to concede. Respect works both ways, the right to expect and the responsibility to offer.
This is important to make democracy work worldwide including US. Mutual respect, empathy and learning from one another are key to building societies both within and across.
However, given that this election has polarised the entire nation between Trumpists and the rest where the former regale in caricaturing and demeaning their opponents reveal a character attribute that seems to be intrinsic to US political culture. US for many years has made demonization of its adversaries, within and across, its key policy tool and in the process, has entrenched the practice within the psyche of the nation. This is unfortunate and must stop and only a concerted effort from all especially a media boycott of foul mouths can change the habit but with Murdochs of the world around, I would not bet on it.
In sum, salvation of US from its multi-pronged decay would require drastic changes at many levels. Sadly, Biden is no revolutionary and his victory is no signal for revolutionary changes nor about total salvation either. Referring to institutional limitations of Biden, a recent study suggests, “Biden and the Democratic Party are joint partners with the GOP in the facilitation of the ongoing Race to the Bottom for the working class. Wall Street donated heavily to Biden with full knowledge that his administration will continue to support the right of corporations to drive down wages, increase productivity (exploitation), and concentrate capital in fewer and fewer hands.”
This indeed is the reality and yet US must change. Americans must do their utmost to help their newly elected president who campaigned on the agenda of change to bring change. There are many hurdles but none other than Mr. Biden a veteran politician knows better to chart his way through the mesh, the US policy establishment.
One last thing and this is particularly important to re-invigorate the US economy which currently is in a dire state which is that Biden Administration would need to appreciate that in a globalised capitalist world cooperation and not conflict is the most potent economic stimulus – other measures are temporary and mere band-aid.
US does need to change and it simply cannot afford the predatory forces that have deepened injustices right across the board, both at home and abroad and devoured the very soul of America, to continue. Americans must unite and help Biden to do the beginning – facilitate reconstructing a New and Better America, implement the ‘Build Back Better America’ project for an America which is prosperous, healthy, fair, just and inclusive.
Indeed, a better and fair America is good for America and good for rest of the world.
The author is an academic and former senior policy manager of the United Nations
Read November 19, 2020 Islamophobia, Hate Crime, or Trade War? Muslims vs the West, in France and Beyond
Taj Hashmi, in World, countercurrents.org.
This is an appraisal of Islamophobia, mainly in the West, and the so-called Westophobia among Muslims from a different viewpoint. I believe that since all wars are “trade wars”, the ideological conflicts between Islam and Western civilizations are primarily motivated by economic reasons, so they are “trade wars” by other means! I have mainly cited examples from the US and France, which has recently emerged as the most Islamophobic nation in the world. I have argued that hate crimes or even racial/communal jokes often lead to physical violence against the objects of a joke, hate, and ridicule. Hence denigrating or hating Jews and their religion is a criminal offence in 17 European countries. I have argued that since in the light of the history of Jewish pogrom in Russia, Poland, and elsewhere in eastern Europe, and the Holocaust in Germany, Austria, and elsewhere in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s anti-Semitism is considered a hate crime, so, Islamophobia or Islam bashing should also be declared a hate crime, as it often leads to physical attacks on Muslim minorities in the West. The prejudicial portrayal of Islam as a violent faith has also led to multiple invasions of Muslim-majority countries, especially Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya in the last three decades or so. Hence the necessity of making Islamophobia a hate-crime, in the East and West! The nature of Islamophobia or hate-crime against Muslims in France is slightly different from America and the West in general. While France, especially the Macron Administration, is aggressively explicit in demonstrating its hatred for everything Islamic or Muslim, the US and other Western nations are quite subtle and more hypocritical. They also discriminate against Muslims and invade Muslim-majority countries – again and again – they refrain from making public assertions that demonize Islam and its adherents.
Throughout human history, we see people from one tribe, one religion, or one nation denigrate, and even fight and annihilate the “others”. The ubiquitous “we” and “they” are much older than human history. The root cause of this hate is economic, and all wars in the name of religion, homeland, democracy, freedom, or socialism are actually “trade wars”. People compete against each other primarily for economic reasons: better job or business opportunities, raw materials, markets, trade routes, etc. And, manipulative and clever leaders – rulers, priests, and others – manufacture half-truths and lies to justify the denigration of the “others” and defending their wars. This has been going on since the days of Alexander, the Crusades, Chengis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler, Bush Sr., and Bush Junior. As capturing trade routes, sources of raw materials, and markets from the Arabs motivated some West European monarchs to wage the Crusades with “fatwas” from the Popes to justify the invasions of Palestine and adjoining areas, so was the motive behind Columbus’s discovery of the “shortest route” to India. Columbus sought help from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela of Spain to convert Indians into Christians to defeat the Arabs/Muslims to capture their colonies, trade routes, and markets.
And, we know giving a dog a bad name before hanging him is as old as West European Crusades (1096-1271) against Islam and Muslims, and what followed after Columbus landed on the shores of the West Indies in 1492. Both the Crusades and Columbus’s so-called “Discovery of America” were preludes to Western colonizers’ rampant plundering of wealth, after killing and enslaving indigenous people from the Americas to Asia, Africa, Australia, and other places in the world. Thus, Islamophobia isn’t an end in itself but a means towards something much bigger: the domination of the resource-rich Muslim World after demonizing the Muslims as barbarians, terrorists, and threats to Western civilization. One wonders, what else but only the further accentuation of the mutual hatred and mistrust between the backward and weak Muslims, and the advanced and strong West, would be the outcome of the ongoing hate-crimes against Islam!
Most people don’t know that Islamist terrorism, which is very different from the politically incorrect “Islamic Terrorism” is only around thirty-year-old, never existed before the end of the Cold War in 1990. As the end of the Cold War ushered in the new wave of Islamophobia in the West, so did it signal the beginning of Islamist terror and insurgency against the West and other adversaries of Muslims, across the world. The West badly needed an enemy to oil its most profitable industrial complex, Eisenhower’s “Military Industrial Complex” to manufacture and sell more arms to sustain economically. It also wanted to secure the oil-producing Middle Eastern (Muslim-majority) countries from the clutches of the Shiite Islamist regime in Iran, which had emerged as a threat to Western interests in the region. Paradoxically, the West nurtured Sunni Islamism against Shiite Iran and the Soviet Union in the last decade of the Cold War, only to fight it in the following two/three decades. With the defeat and disappearance of the mysterious “Islamic State” (aka ISIS or ISIL) in December 2017, the world has virtually entered the post-Islamist, post-terrorist phase of history. Barring sporadic and very small-scale Islamist terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Middle East, Europe, and elsewhere in Asia and Africa – which have been mostly lone-wolf terrorist attacks – in the last three years, Islamist terror only exists in the imagination of the hardcore Islamophobic minds and those who benefit most politically from the phenomenon, in the West and East. The West and its allies elsewhere – India and Israel, in particular – are, however, in a denial mood! To them, Islamist terror poses an existential threat to Western civilization, India, and Israel. The “beneficiaries of Islamist terrorism” often stage false-flag “Islamist terror attacks” or provoke backward and ignorant Muslims across the world. Unfortunately, the bulk of Muslims globally represent the least educated, least urbane, and underdogs. Many of whom are emotional and fanatical, willing to kill “enemies of Islam” and get killed in the process to embrace “martyrdom”. Although the Qur’an is specific about what the Muslims are supposed to do to a blasphemer of Islam and Prophet Muhammad – to ignore the blasphemer or critic of Islam, and to leave his/her company quietly without resorting to any counter-attack, verbal or physical – Muslims in general want violent retaliation against all blasphemers of Islam and Prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims approve of Ayatollah Khomeini’s infamous “fatwa to kill” Salman Rushdie for his denigration of Prophet Muhammad and his family.
Meanwhile, during the last thirty-odd years, the West has revived its millennium-old hatred for Islam and Muslims. As Emmanuel Macron (among many Western leaders) publicly calls Islam a “violent faith”, “a problem”, and “an enemy of Western civilization”, so does Donald Trump. The dissipation of Islamist terrorist threat did not dissipate Islamophobia in the West. Knowing fully well the consequences, the West provokes Muslims by denigrating their religion and Prophet Muhammad only to make them retaliate against such provocations, to justify its “War on Terror” in the name of restoring the elusive World Order. The West promotes and rewards Islamophobes, especially those born in Muslim families, such as Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasreen, Arshad Manji, and others. Most importantly, many of the Islam-bashers coming from Muslim families suffer from some psychological disorder. They struggle with their atheism, which many of them not being able to fully absorb, demonstrate their “atheism” by publicly saying extremely bad things about Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an. It’s, sort of, comparable with the nouveau riche syndrome. They can’t keep their atheism to themselves without showing off their lack of faith in Islam by publicly being offensive to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an. Some of them also aspire to be in the limelight by being offensive to Islam, which they know would lead to extreme/violent reactions from Muslims (who represent the bulk of the not-so-educated and enlightened people on earth) against them. And, that would endear them to the Islamophobic West, who would protect them and give wide publicity to their anti-Islamic writings, although in the name of promoting the freedom of expression, but actually to demonize the Muslims to justify its War on Terror or the neo-colonial ideology in the post-Cold War world! Islam bashers from the Muslim community becomes celebrities in the West and India (which, of late, has literally become the most dangerous country for Muslims in the world). Rushdie, Hirsi, Nasreen, and Manji may be mentioned in this regard.
As Islamism and Islamist terror and anarchy have .emerged with greater intensity than ever before in the 1990s – after the end of the Cold War – so has the centuries-old but dormant Western Islamophobia becomes much more intensified than before. There’s absolutely no reason to assume that Western Islamophobia is a post-9/11 syndrome. Far from it! The extremely Islamophobic Hollywood movie “True Lies” depicting Muslims as the worst terrorists that ever existed in history was made in 1994; and moments after the Oklahoma City bombing by a White American “Non-Muslim” Timothy McVeigh, American media and analysts jumped to the conclusion that it was an Islamic/Muslim terrorist attack on America! America and the West as a whole need an enemy to rally support for their hegemonic warfare across the world and to divert people’s attention from internal socio-economic and political problems. During the Cold War, the enemy was communism and the Soviet Union, afterward, it’s still Islam and the 1.8 billion adherents of the faith! Interestingly, while ultra-right White Supremacy has emerged as the gravest security threat in America, Islamist threat has remained on the top of the list of terrorism!
Islamophobia or Islam bashing is a hate crime. And, hate or denigration of any individual or community is an important factor behind terrorist activities. One Western scholar has aptly elucidated this: “Men such as Osama bin Laden would never have followers if there were no victims of humiliation in many parts of the world, victims who are young, intelligent and dynamic men, and who are willing to die avenging their humiliations” [Evelin Gerda Lindner, “Humiliation as the Source of Terrorism: A New Paradigm”, Peace Research, Vol. 33, No.2, p.59, November 2001]. And, we have been witnessing this since the First Gulf War against Iraq in 1991. The West loves to provoke Muslims to see them retaliate violently. It’s simply a ploy to highlight Islam as the biggest adversary of Western civilization.
The provocations come in the form of some scurrilous and extremely hateful writings, cartoons, movies, and posts in social media against Islam, Prophet Muhammad, and the Qur’an. What started with the Western promotion/glorification of Salman Rushdie and his ridiculously provocative anti-Islamic fiction The Satanic Verses in 1988, provoked a storm of angry protests from Muslims across the world did not stop there. One Islamophobic writing following another, portraying Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist in cartoons (the first one came out in Denmark in 2005 and later reproduced by the Charlie Hebdo in France, once again in October 2020) and extremely anti-Islamic movie like Fitna in West Europe and elsewhere have become normative since the publication of The Satanic Verses. The rabidly violent Muslim reaction to Rushdie’s portrayal of Prophet Muhammad’s wives as prostitutes, in the East and West – especially Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa to kill Rushdie for the fiction – added more fuel to the fire of Islamophobia across the West, and elsewhere. Without defending Muslims’ violent reaction to Rushdie’s fiction, let alone Khomeini’s atrociously un-Islamic fatwa to kill him, one believes what the Western Islamophobes and hatemongers have been doing to denigrate Islam and Muslims in the world definitely fall in the category of hate-crime against Islam and Muslims – à la the denial of the Holocaust in 17 European countries. Interestingly, while Holocaust Denial is a hate-crime, hate-crimes against Islam has remained decriminalized, for some strange or not-so-strange reasons, across the West! In view of this one may legitimately assume that among the so many “double standards” the West has been nurturing for centuries against Afro-Asian people, and their culture (including religion), Islamophobia is the most potent, virile, and vicious after the official end of racism and apartheid in the West, including the US and South Africa. The West, later joined by Israel and India, directly or indirectly promotes Islamophobia, mainly to provoke Muslim anger and retaliation.
As mentioned above, some rabid atheists or Islamophobes emanating from Muslim communities in Bangladesh and elsewhere attack Islam to come to the limelight after Salman Rushdie had become a celebrity in the West. Bengali writers like Taslima Nasrin and Humayun Azad, among a few others in the 1990s, started writing fiction, essays, and poems ridiculing Islam and Muslims in all possible ways. Scores of atheist bloggers in the country, mostly coming from Muslim families, also started writing extremely scurrilous things against Islam and its Prophet. Some of them got killed by Muslim fanatics, in retaliation in the past few years. And, Bangladesh witnessed its biggest showdown between orthodox but non-violent Islamists belonging to the Hefazat-e-Islam and blasphemers of Islam and Prophet Muhammad in May 2013. This ultimately led to scores of deaths among the Hefazat supporters, killed by Bangladeshi law-enforcers in Dhaka in the wee hours of 5th and 6th May 2013.
Again, Islamophobes in Bangladesh and abroad have one thing in common, their obsession with Islamist terrorism and terrorist attacks, mostly imaginary and exaggerated ; and both of them love to use the expression “Islamic terrorism” instead of the politically correct “Islamist terrorism”, as their prime concern isn’t about preventing or fighting the dying and imaginary Islamist terrorism, but it’s all about their obsession with Islam and inventing a new boogieman “hell-bent” to destroy Western capitalism after the demise of the Soviet Union in the wake of the Cold War. Bangladeshi Islamophobes (mostly nominal Muslims or atheists from Muslim families) hate everything Islamic or Muslim out of self-deprecation, inferiority complex, and desire to prove something to the external powerbrokers. They are mostly favour- and power-seekers from Islamophobes outside Bangladesh.
As all wars are trade wars, all discriminatory acts against certain sections of the population anywhere in the world, and their persecution on racial, religious, and other grounds have been primarily motivated by economic and political reasons behind the façade of trumped-up causes and excuses. As Blacks in the US, until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were officially discriminated against due to certain undefined/unexplained reasons or excuses, the root of racism in America was economic. America needed cheap labour and slavery was the most convenient (albeit grossly unethical) means to have it. And, they needed a “rational explanation” to justify the institution as late as the 1860s, to make it permanent or long-lasting. Thanks to the government-sponsored apartheid and justification of enslavement of the Black people, the bulk of the ordinary White Americans believed in the inferiority of the Black people as something designed by God, hence justifiable and necessary. Even after the abolition of slavery and the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, many White Americans still believe in White Supremacy and marginalization of all Black and “Coloured” people. Muslims in general fall under these two categories. Thus, the discrimination against Muslims and public objection to their culture, religion, attire and food habit that exists today in the US and elsewhere in the West are legacies of old prejudices and practices. Thus, Islamophobia in the West is integral to the racist prejudice that has never totally died out in the psyche of many White people. It’s no exaggeration that in 2016 White supremacists voted Trump to power as they believed they had “lost America” to a black man, Barack Obama. White supremacist voters were almost going to re-elect him in 2020. In sum, White supremacy and Islamophobia in America, and as a whole in the West, are the two sides of the same coin!
Since unlike France Islamophobia in the US, Britain, Germany, and elsewhere in the western world is quite subtle, and is reflected mainly in their foreign policies, I single out France as the exception in this regard. In the name of promoting the freedom of expression, the Macron Administration defended the Charlie Hebdo cartoon lampooning Prophet Muhammad, because, it knew the rich dividend the cartoon would bring to the Administration! As expected, zealous and fanatical Muslims reacted violently against the cartoonist and the French Government. One of them brutally beheaded the cartoonist. The beheading of the cartoonist once again convinces people that Muslims adhere to a violent faith; and that it’s time to retaliate against Muslims. And, this sentiment further justifies the virtual French occupation of Muslim-majority countries like Chad, Mali, and Niger.
French President Emmanuel Macron publicly asserts Islam is “a religion that is in crisis all over the world”, and tweets, “We will not give in, ever”. France has also been killing Muslims in Chad and Mali, in the name of countering Islamist terrorism, and in reality, to control their mineral resources. Angela Charlton explains why France, in particular, has incited so much Muslim anger, while almost all Western countries are more or less discriminatory against Muslims and foment Islamophobia. She attributes it to the country’s “brutal colonial past”, “staunch secular policies”, and the “tough-talking president who is seen as insensitive toward the Muslim faith”. The main reason why Muslims are so angry with France is that a nation of 67 million having five million Muslims, it marginalizes and ghettoizes its Muslim population. The offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad and Macron’s irresponsible Islamophobic assertions and his tacit support of the cartoons added fuel to the fire of Muslim anger (Angela Charlton, “Why France incites such anger in Muslim world”, AP, October 31, 2020 https://www.yahoo.com/news/ap-explains-why-france-incites-150223566.html?guccounter=1). Quite ludicrously, Macron has also asserted that secularism has never killed anybody! Meanwhile, some Muslim fanatics killed several non-Muslims in France and Austria.
As what France did to its Muslim-majority colonies in Africa, so what it is still doing in some of its former colonies in West Africa is disgusting! France killed around 1.5 million in Algeria under its colonial occupation. It’s unbelievable but true that in the early 1920s, A French soldier sent a postcard bearing a picture of severed heads of “rebels” (freedom fighters) in Morocco ( https://martintristramrose.org/2015/01/23/a-warped-mirror/ ) . The French prejudice against Muslims is far from dying out today. French National Front leader Marie Le Pen has recently asked for the re-introduction of the death penalty in France, to punish non-White and Muslim criminals. Currently, there are more than 5,000 French troops in Mali, Niger, and Chad, engaged in “Operation Barkhane” in the name of combatting jihadist groups, which is the largest French overseas military operation since the Algerian War in the 1950s-1960s. However, the French excuse for its military operations in West Africa is “protection of local and regional political order, good governance, and long-term stability” of the region. The reality is somewhat very different. As French troops defended one of the worst dictatorial regimes in Africa, the one run by Mobutu in Zaire (1965-1997), they have been defending the various dictatorships in Chad since the 1960s. In 1986, French troops fought against the Libyan-backed rebels in Chad. In the name of stabilizing African political orders, France has been promoting its own business interests, including mining in Mali and adjoining countries. Last but not least, the French Government’s singling out Islam and Muslims as security threats to France is nothing but a clever ploy to justify its military interventions in Muslim-majority west Africa.
Without responding to Macron’s grossly prejudicial and “uninformed” comments about Islam is a “religion in crisis” and secularism not being “ever responsible” for any killing in history, one may remind the President that from the French Revolution to the Napoleonic wars, French people alone killed tens of thousands of people in France, Russia and elsewhere in Europe in just two decades following the Revolution. And, those killings had everything to do with secular revolutionary and imperialist warfare, nothing to do with any religion! He should be told on his face that almost all devastating wars throughout history – from World War I to Vietnam War, and the Western invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria – were fought in the name of freedom, democracy, and empires. In sum, although Islamist terrorism today in 2020 is around thirty-year-old, Islamophobia in the West predates the Crusades. However, there was a dissipation in Western hate and hostility to everything Islamic or Muslim after World War I. One may impute this change in Western strategic thinking to the emergence of communist Russia as the most formidable challenge to Western hegemony and capitalism. However, as discussed above, the dissipation of Islamophobia in the West during the Cold War was just the lull before the storm. Last but not least, it’s evident now, Islamophobia in the West is all about winning as many trade wars as possible! Nothing could be more profitable than selling weapons among allies and enemies to fight their common enemy: “Islamist Extremism”!
A little elaboration of the ambivalence of the West towards the Muslim World during the Cold War helps us understand the West’s love-hate relationship with Muslims. On the one hand, the West promoted, armed, and protected select Muslim-majority countries, such as Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and Arab kingdoms against communism; and on the other, helped the Zionists to get their “promised land” (Israel) in Palestine in 1948. It also staged anti-people coup d’états in Syria (1949), Iran (1953), invaded Egypt in 1956 after President Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal and destabilized the entire Muslim World. The process of destabilization, regime change, and literal annihilation of millions of Muslims in the Muslim World has been an ongoing process since the end of World War I. And, consequently, the West forced several Muslim-majority countries, from Algeria to Egypt, Libya to Sudan, and Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Indonesia (up to 1965) to join the anti-Western camps. However, the process was reversed through Western manipulation. The West succeeded in installing several friendly, autocratic regimes in countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, and later Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Islamism has remained as the main alternative political ideology to challenge these regimes and their mentors in the West. In short, for centuries the West and Muslims have had love-hate relationships. Unfortunately, since the end of the Cold War, Islamophobia and Islamism have been the main ideologies that nurture mutual hate and mistrust among Non-Muslims and Muslims, across the board. Both of them seem to have hit the cul-de-sac bypassing the streets of tolerance, mutual respect, and mutual trust!
As mentioned above, paradoxically, the West promoted Sunni Islamist extremists against the Soviet Union during the last decade of the Cold War (1980-1990), and when it was convenient and useful to cut them down, it did it with surgical precision in the wake of the Cold War. And, as also mentioned above, the West conveniently and frequently provokes Muslims by denigrating their religion and Prophet to incite sections of ignorant, zealous, and fanatical Muslims to make them run amok, resorting to terrorism so that it could justifying its neo-imperialist invasions of resource-rich and strategic parts of the Muslim World. A new trick to win age-old trade wars! We may cite multiple examples of Western duplicity in nurturing and crushing Islamist terror and militancy since the dawn of the Cold War in 1945. Examples abound!
During 1945 and 1990, the West in general favoured Sunni Islamist terror and extremism, more so after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 to defeat its communist adversary. The catalogue of American and Western interventions in the Muslim League since the end of World War I is pretty long. Even during the War, with a view to getting Arab support for the Anglo-French Allies against Turkey, British and French governments played very dubious role in the Arab World by making false promises and deceptive agreements with Arab rulers. On the one hand, the Anglo-French imperialists promised King Sharif Hussein of Hijaz that for his support for their war efforts, he would become the King of Entire Arab Lands after the War. But in 1917, the British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour declared theta His Majesty’s Government would create a Jewish State in Palestine. And, we know how the Anglo-French imperialists divided the Arab World into artificial states like Jordan and Lebanon out of Greater Syria, to serve their long-term interests to control the strategically important Suez Canal and the entire region. The Western imperialists also controlled Iran and neutralized Turkey after World War I. Soon after the end of World War II, a new overlord entered the arena of world politics. It was the United States of America, which was equally vile, vicious, and treacherous for the Muslim World. The US, which was also one of the main proponents of democracy and freedom, toppled so many democracies in the Muslim World and beyond. And, the Anglo-American-French methods of controlling the World were slightly different in the post-World War II era. Since so many Afro-American countries had been decolonized after 1945, instead of directly controlling the former Western colonies through physical occupation, Western neo-colonial methods were slightly different, albeit as vicious and exploitative as before! They were outright terroristic by any definition of the expression. In 1949, CIA toppled the democratically elected government of President Shukri al Quwatly in Syria, by staging a military coup by a Syrian officer, known as the “American Boy”. In 1953, the Eisenhower Administration staged another coup in Iran and removed democratically elected Prime Minister Dr. Mosaddeq, only because he nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (presently known as BP or British Petroleum). It’s noteworthy that with a view to overthrowing the democratically elected Mosaddeq government of Iran, who nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (presently known as BP or British Petroleum), the Eisenhower Administration bribed (the Shiite) Ayatollah Kashani to wage a violent protest against Mosaddeq, which eventually followed by a military coup that toppled his government.
In Egypt, the West also used the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, albeit in vain, to overthrow the nationalist government of President Nasser, who in 1956 nationalized the Suez Canal, jointly owned by Britain and France. The Western use of Islamist fanatic jihadists were unparalleled in history. During the Afghan “jihad” against the Soviet Union in 1979-1989, the West used Islamist radicals in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. Contrary to the popular perception, not any Muslim leader but Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s Polish-American National Security Advisor, who sporting a turban and brandishing a sword in early 1980 at Peshawar (Pakistan) formally declared America’s “jihad” against the Soviet Union. America was so enamoured by the Mujahedeen that President Reagan invited their top leaders for coffee at his Oval-Office in the White House. He also compared them with the Founding Fathers of the United States. And, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in early 1990, while sections of the fractured Mujahedeen turned into warlords and eventually the Islamist obscurantist Taliban emerged out of them to terrorize Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan for several years, the West just turned a blind eye to all the Islamist terrorism and anarchy in a distant part of the world, until 9/11. As we know, the rest is history!
The history of Western military intervention in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, which isn’t yet over completely, is a dark chapter in world history. The West, which was mainly responsible for the creation of the Taliban and the various factions of the ethnoreligious Mujahedeen groups in and around Afghanistan, later had a disastrous fallout across the Muslim World and beyond, from Mindanao in the Philippines to eastern Thailand; and from Myanmar to Bangladesh, and India to Pakistan; and from Central Asia to the Middle East, North Africa, central and western Africa; Europe, North America, and beyond. Interestingly, in the post-9/11 world, the West in general, and the US, in particular, have been untiringly denigrating Islam as the fountainhead of terrorism, and demonizing the Muslims in general as the foot soldiers of Islamist terror and anarchy. As if every Muslim is a potential supporter of al Qaeda, Taliban, and the elusive ISIS!
In short, Islamophobia in the West has a dark history, which is all about the use and abuse of Islam and Muslims and is positively correlated with Islamist terrorism (the real ones and the false flag operations) and the so-called counterterrorism (CT) and counterinsurgency (COIN), which are multi-billion-dollar operations, mainly run by the Military-Industrial Complex in the West. And, we know the Military-Industrial Complex in the US alone, rob billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, all in the name of defending the nation. Meanwhile, after the Western occupation of Afghanistan, Western troops not only destroyed cities and hamlets, and killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians since October 2001, but for a decade and a half, they made multiple billion dollars from the illicit poppy cultivation under the very nose of Anglo-American troops. Thus, one may argue, Islamophobia in the West has been the main chapter of the book on Western “strategic communication” or, advanced planning and political warfare, against the Muslim World. Interestingly, neither the “Desert Storm” of Bush Sr. and the “War on Terror” by Bush Jr. used Islamophobia to legitimize their illegitimate invasions of Iraq in 1991 and 2003. The former justified his invasion in the name of ushering in a “New World Order”, where invasions of one country by another – as Iraq did to Kuwait in 1990 – wouldn’t be tolerated anymore! Instead of saying bad things about Islam, Bush Jr. and his allies defended their illegitimate Iraq invasion by concocting stories about Iraq having some lethal “Weapons of Mass Destruction” to destroy the West and Israel. It’s noteworthy that Bush Jr. always defended Islam as a “religion of peace”. This, however, doesn’t mean that he and his allies had any love lost between themselves and Islam and its adherents. They directly attacked Iraq to ensure that no Muslim-majority country would pose an existential threat to Israel, or become too powerful to contain, and control any resource-rich or strategically important country or region. As mentioned above, all wars are “trade wars”, so, Islamophobia is an ideology to justify wars against Muslims. And, as it happened in 1991 and 2003, both the Senior and Junior Bush successfully won their “trade wars” without being explicitly Islamophobic out of sheer political expediency. Thus, Islamophobia is the last resort of many Western powers, which are hell-bent to keep Muslim nations subservient and least dangerous to their neo-colonial interests. If they can subdue a Muslim nation or two without being publicly Islamophobic to remain politically correct, they resort to other “justifications” to achieve their goals.
The hatred of Islam could be real or fake, depending on who is in command! While Bush Jr. wouldn’t hesitate to bomb Muslim cities and hamlets asserting publicly “Islam is a religion of peace”, Trump and Macron, on the other hand, prefer to demonize the religion and its adherents as “anti-West” and “problems”. Last but not least, Macron’s portrayal of Islam as “a religion in crisis” stirred up the Muslims so much that many Middle Eastern countries have started boycotting French goods, and President Erdogan of Turkey has expressed his doubts about the mental health of the French President (Nabila Ramdani of BBC on Macron’s Islamophobia etc. “A Religion in Crisis”, October 31st 2020,
It’s heartening that Amnesty International in an article on 12th November 2020, “France is not the free-speech champion it says it is” ( https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/11/france-is-not-the-free-speech-champion-it-says-it-is/) has exposed the hypocritical stand of the French Government about its proclaimed support for the freedom of speech. While the Macron Administration condemns the killing of Samuel Paty, the French teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class on freedom of expression, as an onslaught on freedom of expression in the country, the Article argues: “But they [the French Administration] has also doubled down on their perpetual smear campaign against French Muslims, and launched their own attack on freedom of expression. Last week, for example, French police interviewed four10-year-old children for hours on suspicion of ‘apology of terrorism’ they apparently questioned Paty’s choice to show the cartoons”. Amnesty International further mocks the French Administration’s double standard on freedom of expression:
The French government is not the champion of free speech that it likes to think it is. In 2019, a court convicted two men for ‘contempt’ after they burnt an effigy depicting President Macron during a peaceful protest. Parliament is currently discussing a new law that criminalizes the use of images of law enforcement officials on social media. It is hard to square this with the French authorities’ vigorous defence of the right to depict the Prophet Mohammed in cartoons.
Finally, one can’t agree more with Amnesty International that: “The right to freedom of expression also protects the ability to criticize the choice to depict religions in ways that may be perceived as stereotypical or offensive. Being opposed to the cartoons does not make one a ‘separatist’, a bigot or an ‘Islamist’.” The renowned British defender of human rights and human dignity condemns the French Administration for not allowing French Muslims to wear Islamic symbols or dress in schools or in public sector jobs. I fully agree with Amnesty International that the French government’s “rhetoric on free speech is not enough to conceal its own shameless hypocrisy”. I believe, the French government’s using the expression “radicalization” as a euphemism for “devout Muslims” is anything but freedom of expression.
We know there was nothing called Islamic or Islamist terror anywhere in the world before the 1990s, during the Cold War, or ever before during the 1,400 years of Islamic history. Barring the terrorist activities of a section of the Ismaili Muslims (the Assassins, aka Hashishiya or Hashishiyyin in Arabic) during 1090 and 1275 (who killed Sunni Muslims), there never existed in history any terrorist group in the name of Islam, let alone sanctioned by the religion. The Qur’an in the most unambiguous terms denounce the killing of any innocent human being: “…whosoever kills a human being, except (as punishment) for murder or for spreading corruption in the land, it shall be like killing all humanity; and whosoever saves a life, saves the entire human race” (Surah al Maidah, or Chapter 5:32). So, it’s evident that whoever blames the Qur’an as a violent book, hence Islam as a violent faith, does so out of sheer ignorance or prejudice against Islam, which is plain and simple Islamophobia. Even the so-called “most violent” verses in the Qur’an, from Surah al-Tauba or Chapter 9:4-6, are full of compassion for non-belligerent non-Muslims, instructing the Muslims not to harm or kill them. Thus, it’s evident that all acts of demonizing Islam and Muslims as violent or terroristic are politically motivated hate crimes to justify the subjection, marginalization, and even the killing of Muslims in the name of peace, order, democracy, freedom, and whatever is convenient to do so by the Islamophobes (see Taj Hashmi, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, SAGE Publications, 2014, chapters 2,3 & 4).
Although Islamophobia and “Westophobia” are primarily “trade wars” in other names, yet people on both sides of the fence sadly think they hate and fight each other to defend their respective faiths, ways of life, culture, and civilizations. They are willing to kill and die for what they consider sacred and essential for their existence. Both are actually subject to elite manipulation, who somehow convince them, what Marx calls “false consciousness”, which is a pseudo-truth or blatant lie generated consciously by elite manipulators by establishing their “cultural hegemony”. This process of elite manipulation of the hoi polloi is much older than all known human history and civilizations. The West has been doing this against Islam and Muslims since the days of the Crusades, Reconquista in Spain in 1492, and the beginning of European colonization of the Muslim World in general; and since the Iranian Revolution (1979) and the First Gulf War (1991), in the modern world. One may ask the question if Muslims are the worst killers and terrorists in history, in the last 500-odd years, how many unarmed and innocent civilians and children got killed at the hands of Muslims, and how many at the hands of the so-called “civilized” people in the West! The answer would be less than 10 million and more than several hundred million, respectively. And, how many Muslims have so far joined the Islamist terrorist outfits in the last 30-odd years? Not more than five to 10 thousand out of a total of 1.8 billion Muslim population in the world, around 3,000 on 9/11! Then again, there are multiple “conspiracy theories” or not-so-unconvincing arguments about who orchestrated the catastrophic 9/11, Muslims or somebody else!
Then again, the story about Islamophobia or hate crime against Muslims in the West and “Westophobia” of Muslims remain incomplete without highlighting the level of ignorance and intolerance among Muslims of all shades and colour. Thanks to the overpowering influence of the mullah – which includes all the different types of Islamic scholars, from famous madrasas like Al Azhar, and Deoband, from a mufti to a muhaddis (hadis scholar) or to an imam, Sufi and waez (Islamic speaker/demagogue) and others – the overwhelming majority of Muslims everywhere in the world (including those residing in the developed West) are ignorant about teachings of their scripture (the Qur’an), and almost totally rely on the problematic Hadis literature (which developed more than 200 years after the demise of Prophet Muhammad, mainly based on hearsay and local traditions and Biblical stories, lies, and legends) narrated by the mullah. Thus, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are semi-literate, intolerant, and many are fanatical to the extreme. In short, most Muslims represent the poverty-stricken, backward people of the world. They are only comparable with Hindus and most people in Sub-Saharan Africa, who are equally backward and primitive. Hence, intolerant and superstitious. I give this account of Muslims to explain their level of intolerance. Anyone, they consider an enemy of Islam, or a blasphemer of Prophet Muhammad, they believe must be killed. And, they have been killing so many so-called “enemies of Islam” and “blasphemers” of the religion, especially in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and even in their adopted homelands in the West. The recent killing of the French school teacher who showed a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad in his classroom is another example in this regard.
To conclude, I believe that as no Muslim has the right to kill anyone for one’s speech, writing, or ridiculous activities, such as burning down the Qur’an, drawing indecent pictures of Prophet Muhammad, throwing pork into a mosque, or setting fire to or damaging/destroying mosques (à la the demolition of the Babri Mosque in India) as violent retaliation against blasphemers of Islam and Prophet are specifically forbidden in the Qur’an; similarly, those who publicly denigrate Islam and Muslims, and even discriminate against and physically attack them or even kill them are no different from the Nazis and anyone who is anti-Semitic and justifies the mass and sporadic killing of Jews in Germany, Russia, Poland, and elsewhere. By the way, anti-Semitism is purely a European and Christian reconstruction, not an Islamic one, which is still around among White supremacists in North America, Europe, and elsewhere.
Now, those who argue that since anti-Semitism is primarily racism, which is about hating the Semitic people or Jews this racial hatred and prejudice could lead to violent attacks and killings of Jews as it happened before, is a fallacy. Firstly, Arabs are also Semitic, and the expression has more to do with language than race and religion. Secondly, if hatred of a racial or linguistic group like the Semitics or Jews (as if Arabs are not Semitic!) might lead to pogroms of Jews, or even another Holocaust, why on earth prejudice and hate against Muslims wouldn’t result in similar violent attacks on or mass killing of Muslims! I have argued above, a logical exposition to the whole issue of Islamophobia requires an immediate declaration of Islamophobia in any name and form be considered a hate crime as anti-Semitism is in 17 European countries. As I have cited above Evelin Gerda Lindner, who believes humiliation of an individual or a community often leads to terrorism, so it’s time to address the problem of Islamophobia which has already transformed some Muslims into terrorists, who are willing to die and kill avenging the humiliations of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, and the Qur’an. Most importantly, while the world is fast entering the post-Islamist, post-terrorist phase of history – even after the emergence and subsequent disappearance of the mysterious Islamic State (which, seemingly was a creation of the West to destabilize the Middle East) – Islamophobia should be declared a hate crime or a criminal offence across the world, in the US, France, and beyond. Sooner the better!
The writer is a retired Professor of Security Studies at the APCSS in Hololulu (Hawaii). His major publications include Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan (SAGE Publications, 2014). He holds a PhD in modern South Asian History, and is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (FRAS).
Read November 20, 2020 Changes in Value Systems A Must For Resolving Big Problems.
Bharat Dogra, in Counter Solutions, countercurrents.org.
Today in our deeply troubled world several problems have reached a situation where the basic life-nurturing conditions of our planet are threatened. These include serious environmental problems like climate change and the accumulation and the race for weapons of mass destruction. In addition there are the long-persisting problems of injustice, inequality and exploitation which are perhaps the most common cause of distress for hundreds of millions of people. Crime and violence , (more generally oppressive relationships), including violence against women and children, are another cause of massive distress in daily life. The distress suffered by life-forms other than human beings– mammals, birds or others—appears to be even much higher than that suffered by human beings.
Efforts are being made all the time with increasing levels of supposed expertise and sophistication to find solutions to all these problems, but the net result overall at world level appears to be that all these problems have been increasing, although sometimes these may take a different form as a result of the solutions sought. Certainly it is true of some of the most serious problems mentioned above that the overall trend seems to be increasing. It is even more obvious for many life-forms other than human beings that the threats to their life and the distress caused to them has been increasing.
Why are some of the most serious problems as well as the threats and distress associated with them increasing despite all the expertise of increasing sophistication applied at ever-higher levels for finding solutions for them and the availability of huge sums of money for this?
One important reason is that various problems are seen in isolation from each other and narrow, reductionist solutions are suggested for each problem by experts who are so specialized that they can not or do not see the bigger picture beyond their narrow specialization. Hence efforts to check climate change become almost entirely centered on technologies for reducing GHG emissions. Efforts for reducing risks of weapons of mass destruction are centered almost entirely on international treaties, or on certain important technical factors needed for checking accidents or accidental use. The response of exploitation of workers is seen in better laws to protect labor. The solution to very horribly shameful crimes against women is seen in more stringent punishments for this.
All these responses make a lot of sense to most people at first glance and hence attract a lot of support. But all this has been tried out for long years now without leading to any significant improvement. So clearly something very important is being left out in these and other similar responses. Of course it is self-evident that reduction of GHG emissions is crucial for checking climate change, but beyond stating such obvious facts, in the context of this and other serious problems, what is being left out and neglected?
While all these problems of climate change, weapons of mass destruction, exploitation and injustice , many kinds of serious crime, violence against women and children ( in particular) appear at first glance to be very different from each other and are certainly treated as such, at another level all these are rooted in high distorted value systems widely prevalent in human societies. As long as these value systems are not challenged and changed, these problems will remain or intensify in some form or other. As long as highly distorted values prevail to a dominating extent in human societies, these will be reflected in the form of very serious problems resulting in massive distress and threats.
It is a very commonly spread human value, for example, for a man to believe that the most important goal of his life is to try to acquire the most wealth, income, comforts and sensual pleasures for himself. A related value is that within his domain he should try to occupy the highest possible post or get the most fame. Not many persons may declare this very openly but the number of persons who act in accordance with this value is very high. The acceptance of this value is not discouraged in most important institutions of human life like family and school; in fact it is often encouraged in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
Now once this value is deeply assimilated, it is only one step ahead for a man to convince himself that as arranging somehow the most wealth and pleasure is anyway the most precious concern of his life, he should not hesitate to use any wrong or unethical means to achieve his goal. If this involves tripping or harming a competitor in this highly competitive world, then this person feels he is quite justified in doing so. In any case no-holds barred competitiveness is quite commonly encouraged in educational institutions, including some of the most prestigious ones, as well as in the high-paying corporate sector increasingly seen as the most aspiring goal by youth.
It is only a logical step further to believe that in the pursuit of self-interests of money and pleasure, it is perfectly all right to harm others. This value when it reaches a large number of people in a society starts having very harmful social consequences. A person feels justified in inflicting a lot of harm on others if it is demanded by his high-paying job. Another person in a powerful position sees nothing wrong in inciting a quarrel between two groups if he feels he can benefit from this. A dominant person sees nothing wrong in encroaching a village pond despite knowing well that this will increase water scarcity for the entire village. Powerful persons start seeing even their close relationships only from the point of enhancing their own pleasure and self-interest, resulting ultimately in serious distortions causing much distress.
When persons with such distorted values become dominant in certain groups then the actions of entire groups become highly harmful . If such persons become dominant in a village or city then very harmful actions are taken at this level. If such persons not only increase to some extent but what may be more important also occupy very powerful positions in a country then again at a country level very harmful actions are likely to emerge. The possibilities of such persons becoming more powerful and occupying more powerful positions is high as by the very nature of their thinking they are more used to and more proficient in pushing aside others by fair means or foul, more likely latter than former. In this way highly distorted values can become the dominant values of a society.
Distorted values and the associated never-ending greed, self-centered approach concentrating on material wealth and sensual pleasure, the associated values of trying to dominate and oppress others are a root cause of much of the distress, violence and ecological ruin of our world.
Now imagine if instead there is a very widespread value system based on welfare of all people and all forms of life and on protection of nature. In this value system reducing the distress of others, non-violence, honesty, mutual help and welfare of all get the most importance. In societies where such a value system is cherished and promoted with continuity, generally and at the level of most important institutions like family and school/college, it is likely that even without coercive laws exploitation, oppression, crimes, weaponization and destruction of nature are likely to be at very low levels.
Hence it is clear that to find effective solutions for the biggest problems of our world at the base conducive value systems of justice, equality, peace, democracy and protection of nature and bio-diversity have to be created and nurtured with continuity and dedication.
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements. Web-site bharatdogra.in
Read November 21, 2020 The Yemen Civil War Arms Bonanza
Dr Binoy Kampmark , in World, countercurrents.org.
"Making billions from arms exports which fuel the conflict while providing a small fraction of that in aid to Yemen is both immoral and incoherent.” So thundered Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director, Muhsin Siddiquey after consulting figures from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showing that members of the G20 have exported over $17 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the Kingdom entered the conflict in Yemen. “The world’s wealthiest nations cannot continue to put profits above the Yemeni people.”
They do, and will continue to do so, despite the cholera outbreak, coronavirus, poorly functioning hospitals, and 10 million hungry mouths. The latest illustration of this is the Trump administration’s hurried $23 billon sale of 50 F-35 fighter aircraft, 18 MQ-9B Reaper drones, air-to-air missiles and various other munitions to the United Arab Emirates. The UAE used to be a more enthusiastic member of the Saudi Arabian-led coalition that has been pounding Yemen since 2015. Despite completing a phased military withdrawal from the conflict in February 2020 to much fanfare, Abu Dhabi remains involved in the coalition and an influential agent. Amnesty International has issued a grim warning that such weapons might well be used in “attacks that violate international humanitarian law and kill, as well as injure, thousands of Yemeni civilians.”
With the imminent change of administration in the United States, there is a moral flutter in Congressional ranks, though much of it remains meek and slanted. Democratic Senators Bob Menendez (NJ) and Chris Murphy (Conn.), along with Republican Senator Rand Paul (Ky) intend introducing separate resolutions disapproving of President Donald Trump’s sale. Menendez felt morally mighty in warning the Trump administration that “circumventing deliberative processes for considering a massive infusion of weapons to a country in a volatile region with multiple ongoing conflicts is downright irresponsible.”
Murphy expressed his support for “the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but nothing in that agreement requires us to flood the region with more weapons and facilitate a dangerous arms race.”
The US President-elect, Joe Biden, has thrown a few titbits of promise to critics of the US-Gulf States circle of love and armaments. During the Atlanta Democratic debate held in November last year, he entertained a departure from a policy embraced during the Obama administration, certainly with regards to Saudi Arabia. “I would make it very clear that we were not going to in fact sell more weapons to them.” A Biden administration would “make them pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are.” Specifically on the Yemen conflict, he promised to “end the sale of material to the Saudis where they’re going in and murdering children.” Fighting words, easily said when a candidate.
This view was reiterated to the Council on Foreign Relations in August this year. “I would end US support for the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen and order a reassessment of our relationship with Saudi Arabia.” The Trump administration had issued the kingdom “a dangerous blank check. Saudi Arabia has used it to extend a war in Yemen that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, pursue reckless foreign policy fights, and repress its own people.”
Progressive groups have picked up a scent they find promising. Policy director for Win Without War, Kate Kizer, expressed hope “that [Biden] starts by immediately undoing as many of the just-notified sales to the UAE as possible, and by putting the brakes on transfers that Congress has previously tried to reject under Trump.”
The moral wash on this is, however, thin. Menendez, for instance, is hardly giddy about the fate of Yemeni civilians in the context of such arms sales, citing “a number of outstanding concerns as to how these sales would impact the national security interests of both the United States and of Israel.” Priorities, priorities.
Biden’s top foreign policy advisor, Tony Blinken, seems less concerned about who will be the target of the weapons in the UAE sale than any upset caused to that most unimpeachable of allies, Israel. Sales of the F-35, for instance, were intended as a US-Israeli preserve. Selling it to other powers in the Middle East might well compromise the “qualitative military edge” doctrine Washington adopts towards the Jewish state. “The Obama-Biden administration made those planes available to Israel and only Israel in the region,” explained Blinken in an interview with the Times of Israel. The new administration would have to “take a hard look” at the F-35 sale. Was it, he wondered, a quid pro quo for the normalisation deal between Israel and the UAE?
Mammoth arms sales continue to remain matters of business and politics, with business tending to be the crowing representative. Halting or curbing arms sales is only ever trendy and never permanent. Oxfam reminds us of that blood-soaked truth. “When arms exports by G20 nations to other members of this [Arab] coalition are included, the figure of $17 billion rises to at least $31.4 billion between 2015 and 2019, the last year for which records are available.”
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: email@example.com
Read November 22, 2020 “Forcible Hindrances”: On the Structural Violence of Capitalism and how People respond to it.
Yanis Iqbal, in Life/Philosophy, countercurrents.org.
In his 1845 book “The Condition of the Working Class in England”, Friedrich Engels wrote:
“When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another, such injury that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessities of life, places them in conditions in which they cannot live,—forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence—knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual.”
Engel’s above-mentioned remarks remain as pertinent today as they were when he wrote them. The Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report 2020 (PSPR2020) estimates that Covid-19 will likely push between 88 and 115 million people into extreme poverty i.e. those living under $1.90 a day. It is important to remember that the International Poverty Line (IPL) of $1.90 a day is ridiculously low — in 2011 in the US, $1.90 would have just been sufficient to buy a cup of coffee. Therefore, the magnitude of the process of existential erosion unleashed by the pandemic is likely greater than those being predicted by various financial institutions. The impoverishment of the majority is not solely due to the negative effects of the pandemic. It is closely linked to the brutal logic of neoliberalism capitalism which has instituted austerity-ravaged health infrastructures, precarized the everyday lives of workers through “flexible” jobs and detached itself from productive economic sectors through frenzied financialization. While innumerable people get mired in the vortex of poverty and endless suffering, billionaires are amassing unprecedented amounts of wealth, creating lagoons of affluence and privilege surrounded by oceans of mass misery.
What is happening today because of the fusion of epidemiological and economic crises is merely a stark manifestation of the endless murders being committed by capitalism for hundreds of years. Through accelerated capital accumulation and expanded exploitation, capitalism has cold-bloodedly reduced the state of existence to a process of rotting whose final destination is a harrowing death. This “structural violence” of capitalism is not an inadvertent byproduct of a perfectly functioning economic regime; it is an inseparable internal mechanism with the help of which capital satisfies its insatiable reproductive needs. Under neoliberalism, capital’s economic exigencies have displayed themselves in ever more acute forms like permanent unemployment, job insecurity, cuts in public spending and dispossession as a socially ravaged system desperately attempts to stave off economic crises.
When confronted by the massive structural violence of capitalism, the subalterns inevitably search for alternative ways of living which would shield them from the ruination wreaked by the existing system. This conscious experience of the objective oppressiveness of capitalism leads to social conflicts between classes generated by antagonistic relations of production. These instances of class struggle act as subjective interventions in the structural conflict between forces and relations of production. As the forces of production develop, the relations of production, which once had facilitated their expansion, slowly began to impede further development. Through the direct action of subaltern subjects, the contradiction between the centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor is finally solved, leading to a revolution.
UNDERSTANDING BOURGEOIS DEMOCRACY
While a revolution need not necessarily be violent, historical circumstances under capitalism have operated in such a way as to render violence the only viable method to overthrow the ruling class. Even after the establishment of parliamentary institutions and a “democratic” state, revolutionary violence has continued to act as a last resort for those who are the victims of globalization and necropolitical neoliberalism. In an 1878 article written by Karl Marx on the Anti-Socialist Law in Germany, we can find rough explanations regarding the conflictual presence of revolutionary violence and bourgeois democracy:
“An historical development can remain “peaceful” only so long as no forcible hindrances are placed in its path by those holding power in society at the time…the peaceful movement could become a “violent” one on encountering the resistance of those interested in the old state of affairs…In fact the government tries to crush by force development which is inimical to it although legally invulnerable.”
The “forcible hindrances” are constituted by the state under capitalism. The capitalist state is not an autonomous entity working outside the logic of accumulation; it a highly complex terrain of class struggle embodying the conflict between accumulation and legitimacy. On the one hand, the political power of state is incapable of independently organizing production — property is private and the productive sectors of the economy are in the hands of private companies to whose activities the state has to continually react. In so far as the state is unable to construct a self-supporting productive base and depends on revenues from surplus extraction, its capacities are indirectly determined through private productivity and profitability. This means that politicians and officials have to strengthen capital accumulation to be able to exist within the state. On the other hand, the ruling dispensation brought to power through electoral means has to maintain hegemony within the citizenry if it does not want a crisis of legitimacy to destabilize its tenure.
The conflict between accumulation and legitimacy is maintained and balanced by using coercive power against those political forces which raise issues that cannot be structurally accommodated within the limits of capitalistic democracy that only allows for insufficient and gradual changes. When the subalterns become cognizant of this structural limitation of bourgeois democracy, they are compelled to utilize revolutionary violence to regain agency and put forth their demands in a visible way.
In the current conjuncture, the internal disjunctions of bourgeois democracy are increasingly coming under stress under as the subalterns articulate new demands which are opposed to the murderous mechanisms of capitalism. In the US, for example, the George Floyd uprising — one of the largest movement in US history — highlighted the racist veins of capitalism and explicitly foregrounded the structural violence of capitalism. Since the American rebellion expressed demands which transcended the delimited area of bourgeois democracy, it was met with heavy state repression. Apart from the US, sustained protests have also occurred in Colombia where the concentrated anger of the subalterns against neoliberalism coalesced around the issue of police brutality — identified as one of the constitutive components of a wider picture of injustice. Like the Black rebellion in America, the Colombian protests, too, were violently subdued through the sheer use of force.
REVOLUTIONARY VIOLENCE: THE ETHICAL DIMENSION
As class struggle continues to intensify across the world, a theory of revolutionary violence which is able to build the foundations of politico-ethical hegemony for the Left will likely form. If a coherent theory of revolutionary violence is formed, leftist forces worldwide will get access to a tool which is capable of breaking the cycle of parliamentary violence and consolidating a new constellation of social forces. The application of revolutionary violence against class enemies has always acted as an addendum to politics and has historically been invariably interwoven with and subordinated to careful efforts aimed at forming ideological bases of counter-hegemony within the womb of capitalist society.
In the last instance, revolutionary ideology acts as the primary factor behind the overthrow of capitalism. To use the words of Fidel Castro,
“Just ideas have greater power than all the reactionary forces put together… ideas are and always will be the most important weapon of all…There is no weapon more powerful than a profound conviction and clear idea of what must be done. It is with these kinds of weapons, which do not require enormous sums of money, but only the capacity to create and transmit just ideas and values, that our people will be increasingly armed. The world will be conquered by ideas, not by force”.
While giving a speech to the Hanover Congress of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1899, Rosa Luxemburg had remarked that the proponents of revolution “are the last to take up violent means, the last to wish a brutal, violent revolution on ourselves…such matters do not depend on us, they depend on our opponents”. Violence, therefore, has been a tactical necessity forced upon the proletariat by counter-revolutionary offensives throughout modern history. And while violence has certainly been one functional aspect of revolution, it is also a mode of struggle having ethical ramifications i.e. it is itself constitutive of the new humans that emerge from the revolutionary process. In so far that revolutionary violence has an ethical dimension, a moral framework has often been provided for its exercise. The basic structure of this moral framework can be outlined through two points.
Firstly, revolutionary violence has been performed strictly in keeping with the moral goal of destroying capitalism and correspondingly cleansing the world of structural violence and gratuitous deaths. This means that violence itself is ethically molded by the goal of revolution and is exercised to prevent further violence. In the concluding sentences of his essay “Tactics and Ethics”, Georg Lukacs had expressed this point eloquently: “only he who acknowledges unflinchingly and without any reservations that murder is under no circumstances to be sanctioned can commit the murderous deed that is truly – and tragically – moral.” From this statement, it is quite clear that revolutionary violence can be carried out only when individuals realize that the brutalization and degradation of human life under capitalism has to end. When revolutionary violence is conceived as such, it becomes an endeavor to replace moral narcissism —preservation of the purity of one’s soul at the expense of humanity as a whole — with a collectivist struggle for the destruction of a social order which constantly violates the right to life of an individual.
Secondly, since revolutionary violence has been guided and regulated by the moral ideals of socialism, it also has an internal code of ethics which balances the ends (socialism) with the means (violence). The unification of means and ends has been necessary in so far that revolutionary violence has a direct bearing on the subjectivities of the individuals produced through class struggle. Furthermore, if violence is not mediated by ethical codes consonant with the goals of socialism, the process of struggle is emptied of its political meaning and deforms the goal itself. As Herbert Marcuse has said:
“No matter how rationally one may justify revolutionary means in terms of the demonstrable chance of obtaining freedom and happiness for future generations, and thereby justify violating existing rights and liberties and life itself, there are forms of violence and suppression which no revolutionary situation can justify because they negate the very end for which the revolution is a means. Such are arbitrary violence, cruelty, and indiscriminate terror.”
In order to understand the historical, ethical edifice of revolutionary violence, we need to differentiate between specific types of destruction. In Albert Camus’ play “The Just Assassins”, a leading character, Dora, asserts: “even in destruction there is a right way and a wrong way – and there are limits”. The right way is constituted by prefigurative methods of violence which act as embryonic expressions of the future. Through these prefigurative practices, a politico-ethical fabric of hegemony is woven which allows the subalterns to struggle in the present and at the same time experience the socialist future. Slavoj Zizek accurately outlines the contours of such a prefigurative struggle:
“Revolution is experienced not as a hardship over which the future happiness and freedom already cast their shadow – in it, we are already free even as we fight for freedom; we are already happy even as we fight for happiness, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Revolution is…its own ontological proof, an immediate index of its own truth.”
According to Norman Geras, ethical practices within the field of revolutionary violence comprise primarily of (1) the distinction between direct agents of class oppression and everybody else and (2) a notion of minimum force: “one’s weapons must be capable of stopping enemy combatants, which in the given circumstances involves killing them; but they should not, beyond this, seek gratuitously to accentuate suffering.” Camilo Guevara — Che Guevara’s son — reiterates similar points and writes that “revolutionaries, even if they are being massacred sadistically, should invoke the use of force only when absolutely necessary, and even then, should never accompany it with cruelty. This idea is directly proportional to the condition of being a revolutionary”. When these kinds of ethical arrangements are integrated into revolutionary violence, a form of class struggle is produced which contributes towards the development of a subjectively enriching process of socialist humanization.
With the exacerbation of material conditions and rising subaltern resistance, the legitimacy of bourgeois democracy is constantly coming under threat. This tense period of disequilibrium is similar to past times, when revolution through the politically circumscribed use of violence has been one among the many tactics of revolution. The rationale behind the tactical use of violence was explained by Marx as thus: “the governments are opposed to us: we must answer them with all the means that are at our disposal…We must declare to the governments: we will proceed against you peaceably where it is possible and by force of arms when it may be necessary.” While revolutionary violence is underway in many parts of the world, it has not typically made its way into the imperial core. However, as capitalism’s contradictions come to a head, we are seeing more and more people flooding the streets, even within the US. Though revolutionary violence has historically functioned as a tactic, it also has moral aspects which need to be ethically structured to construct socialist hegemony among the subaltern classes. In the contemporary period, if it is to come about organically in response to capitalism’s structural violence, it can be visceral in nature (and thus misplaced at times) or ethically-informed, and thus utilized as a part of a broader organized movement to replace capitalism with socialism.
Yanis Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles have been published by different magazines and websites such as Monthly Review Online, ZNet, Green Social Thought, Weekly Worker, News and Letters Weekly, Economic and Political Weekly, Dandelion Salad, Arena, Eurasia Review, Coventry University Press, Culture Matters, Global Research, Dissident Voice, Countercurrents, Counterview, Hampton Institute, Ecuador Today, People’s Review, Eleventh Column, Karvaan India, Clarion India, OpEd News, The Iraq File, Portside and the Institute of Latin American Studies.
Originally published in Hamptonthink.org
Read November 22, 2020 Thinking Out of the Box on Climate Change Needed for Timely Solutions to Emerge.
Bharat Dogra, in Counter Solutions, countercurrents.org.
Climate change provides the strangest example of a problem which is very widely and increasingly recognized by the best available scientific opinion to be a huge and definite danger to basic life nurturing conditions of our planet, and yet, in the decades after this became convincingly established, the emissions which cause this have been permitted to increase beyond dangerous limits. As we read truly frightening accounts from the most reliable experts regarding the extreme seriousness of the problem, credible plans for timely solutions at global level are still not emerging ( for an update on how serious the situation is , see ‘Expert IPCC Reviewer speaks out, by Robert Hunziker, November 21, 2020, in countercurrents.org).
It is in this context that one must ask—isn’t the time ripe now for some out-of-box thinking? By this I mean ideas which may not have looked practical till recently but need to be considered seriously now keeping in view the urgency of the challenge ahead.
The first such idea that I would like to propose is to somehow ensure that no wars will be fought in future and then, building on this assurance, we should try to achieve a 95 per cent reduction in the production of all weapons.
Experts tend to work in their areas of specialization and hence the close linkages between ending war and checking climate change have not been explored generally. However the linkages are actually very clear. In order to check climate change in time ( as well as sort out other life-threatening environmental problems in time) a very high degree of international cooperation is needed. This cannot be established as long as the shadow of war ( perhaps even a world war) hangs over the world and there is race among major powers in such high-risk areas as nuclear weapons, robot weapons and space warfare. However if there is no possibility of any future war, then the possibility of international cooperation to check climate change and other most serious environmental problems can increase dramatically.
Secondly wars and preparations made for war are very highly polluting activities involving very high GHG emissions. Thirdly, it is the possibility of wars which provides the main rationale of the world’s most wasteful and destructive industry, the armaments industry. Once wars are ruled out, the possibilities of achieving the aim of a 95 per cent reduction in all weapons, arms and ammunition can increase greatly.
Of course it is very important to avoid wars and reduce weapons to save human lives and reduce suffering greatly, these being the most direct and important benefits, but the indirect benefit of contributing enormously to check climate change and other serious environmental problems is also great.
The ultimate question remains as to how can we eliminate the possibility of future wars. The main issue here is that future wars and weapons are becoming so life threatening that it is increasingly not a question of whether to avoid future war but only of how to achieve this. Once the billions of people whose lives matter and whose voice matters are convinced that wars have to be avoided then wars will be avoided. It is a question of human effort, sincerity and wisdom.
Another out-of-box idea worth considering is whether we can list the most harmful substances in widespread use and try to bring a 80 per cent or so reduction in their production and use within five years by a sustained campaign. Many of these substances are not only bad for health but are also notorious as huge polluters and GHG gas emitters. Alcohol and tobacco would be two obvious candidates for this list. All the poisonous substances currently used wrongly in food production would also qualify. Many other chemicals, substances and gadgets identified to be very harmful for health yet wrongly allowed to spread widely would also be included. Super-luxury products used only by the super-rich but involving huge waste of resources should also be included in such a listing even though these may not be harmful for health directly. I see this as part of a larger effort, the more obvious out-of-box part, to completely rethink development, growth and economics.
Another area where out-of-box thinking may be useful is in the context of big changes which are needed in governance, including international governance, which can make it possible to check climate change, other ecological ruin and weapons race before it is too late. However these changes should be within the framework of justice, peace and democracy, and should completely avoid and resist the efforts of some billionaires, and other global elites with narrow interests, to play a larger role in global affairs in the name of tackling urgent problems.
While out-of-box thinking along these lines will be welcome, the highly risky and unpredictable solutions of geo-engineering which are being increasingly proposed to check climate change are not needed at all as it is not at all advisable to try to solve existing problems by creating new ones.
A simple initial effective step would be for the United Nations to declare the next decade as The Decade for Protecting Earth, arguing that all other activities will keep in view this predominant objective. Such a declaration will be very helpful for spreading this basic idea, including in all educational institutions where children will start asking what is the need for this protective decade and in the process grow up with a better understanding of the most critical issues. This writer has drafted a petition for such a declaration and after obtaining the endorsement of many eminent persons has sent this to the UN Secretary General. ( See bharatdogra.in for the text of the basic statement).
Bharat Dogra has authored several books in English and Hindi on the challenge of protecting basic life-nurturing conditions of our planet, including ‘The Planet in Peril’ and ‘Protecting Earth for Children’.
Read October 8, 2020 Terracide and the Terrarists Destroying the Planet for Record Profit
Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch
Best of TomDispatch: Engelhardt, The Biggest Criminal Enterprise in History
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: In messages like these, I’m aware that I’m boringly repetitive, but you know perfectly well why I have to write them. Your donations really do keep TomDispatch afloat in this pandemic world of ours. So here I am again, moved by the donations (including the recurring ones) that come in so regularly, yet needing to bother you once more (and not for the last time either) for any contributions you feel the urge to send our way. Knowing the work this website has done over the last 17 years, if that urge does strike you, please visit our donation page and do your damnedest. And, believe me, there’s no way I can thank you enough.
In the meantime, I’m on the road briefly and so decided to do something I’ve rarely done before. I’m reposting a “best of” piece that I wrote all the way back in May 2013. In the age of even a hospitalized Donald Trump, as the West Coast still burns monstrously and there have already been so many Atlantic storms that, for naming purposes, scientists have had to break into the Greek alphabet, the criminal nature of American oil and gas company CEOs (still “doubling down” on developing such deposits) should be considered beyond compare. Along with the Trump administration, they’ve been intent, in a fashion that gives the very concept of criminality new meaning, on heating this planet to the boiling point. As I wrote more than seven years ago, they are not the true terrorists but the true terrarists of Planet Earth. Tom]
Terracide and the Terrarists Destroying the Planet for Record Profit By Tom Engelhardt
We have a word for the conscious slaughter of a racial or ethnic group: genocide. And one for the conscious destruction of aspects of the environment: ecocide. But we don’t have a word for the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on, the world as humanity had known it until, historically speaking, late last night. A possibility might be “terracide” from the Latin word for earth. It has the right ring, given its similarity to the commonplace danger word of our era: terrorist.
The truth is, whatever we call them, it’s time to talk bluntly about the terrarists of our world. Yes, I know, 9/11 was horrific. Almost 3,000 dead, massive towers down apocalyptic scenes. And yes, when it comes to terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings weren’t pretty either. But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes.
In the case of the terrarists -- and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell -- you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing.
It wasn’t that complicated. In recent years, the companies they run have been extracting fossil fuels from the Earth in ever more frenetic and ingenious ways. The burning of those fossil fuels, in turn, has put record amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Only this month, the CO2 level reached 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. A consensus of scientists has long concluded that the process was warming the world and that, if the average planetary temperature rose more than two degrees Celsius, all sorts of dangers could ensue, including seas rising high enough to inundate coastal cities, increasingly intenseheat waves, droughts, floods, ever more extreme storm systems, and so on.
How to Make Staggering Amounts of Money and Do In the Planet
None of this was exactly a mystery. It’s in the scientific literature. NASA scientist James Hansen first publicized the reality of global warming to Congress in 1988. It took a while -- thanks in part to the terrarists -- but the news of what was happening increasingly made it into the mainstream. Anybody could learn about it.
Those who run the giant energy corporations knew perfectly well what was going on and could, of course, have read about it in the papers like the rest of us. And what did they do? They put their money into funding think tanks, politicians, foundations, and activists intent on emphasizing “doubts” about the science (since it couldn’t actually be refuted); they and their allies energetically promoted what came to be known as climate denialism. Then they sent their agents and lobbyists and money into the political system to ensure that their plundering ways would not be interfered with. And in the meantime, they redoubled their effortsto get ever tougher and sometimes “dirtier” energy out of the ground in ever tougher and dirtier ways.
The peak oil people hadn’t been wrong when they suggested years ago that we would soon hit a limit in oil production from which decline would follow. The problem was that they were focused on traditional or “conventional” liquid oil reserves obtained from large reservoirs in easy-to-reach locations on land or near to shore. Since then, the big energy companies have invested a remarkable amount of time, money, and (if I can use that word) energy in the development of techniques that would allow them to recover previously unrecoverable reserves (sometimes by processes that themselves burn striking amounts of fossil fuels): fracking, deep-water drilling, and tar-sands production, among others.
They also began to go after huge deposits of what energy expert Michael Klare calls “extreme” or “tough” energy -- oil and natural gas that can only be acquired through the application of extreme force or that requires extensive chemical treatment to be usable as a fuel. In many cases, moreover, the supplies being acquired like heavy oil and tar sands are more carbon-rich than other fuels and emit more greenhouse gases when consumed. These companies have even begun using climate change itself -- in the form of a melting Arctic -- to exploit enormous and previously unreachable energy supplies. With the imprimatur of the Obama administration, Royal Dutch Shell, for example, has been preparing to test out possible drilling techniques in the treacherous waters off Alaska.
Call it irony, if you will, or call it a nightmare, but Big Oil evidently has no qualms about making its next set of profits directly off melting the planet. Its top executives continue to plan their futures (and so ours), knowing that their extremely profitable acts are destroying the very habitat, the very temperature range that for so long made life comfortable for humanity.
Their prior knowledge of the damage they are doing is what should make this a criminal activity. And there are corporate precedents for this, even if on a smaller scale. The lead industry, the asbestos industry, and the tobacco companies all knew the dangers of their products, made efforts to suppress the information or instill doubt about it even as they promoted the glories of what they made, and went right on producing and selling while others suffered and died.
And here’s another similarity: with all three industries, the negative results conveniently arrived years, sometimes decades, after exposure and so were hard to connect to it. Each of these industries knew that the relationship existed. Each used that time-disconnect as protection. One difference: if you were a tobacco, lead, or asbestos exec, you might be able to ensure that your children and grandchildren weren’t exposed to your product. In the long run, that’s not a choice when it comes to fossil fuels and CO2, as we all live on the same planet (though it's also true that the well-off in the temperate zones are unlikely to be the first to suffer).
If Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 plane hijackings or the Tsarnaev brothers’ homemade bombs constitute terror attacks, why shouldn’t what the energy companies are doing fall into a similar category (even if on a scale that leaves those events in the dust)? And if so, then where is the national security state when we really need it? Shouldn’t its job be to safeguard us from terrarists and terracide as well as terrorists and their destructive plots?
The Alternatives That Weren’t
It didn’t have to be this way.
On July 15, 1979, at a time when gas lines, sometimes blocks long, were a disturbing fixture of American life, President Jimmy Carter spoke directly to the American people on television for 32 minutes, calling for a concerted effort to end the country’s oil dependence on the Middle East. “To give us energy security,” he announced,
“I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel -- from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun... Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20% of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.”
It’s true that, at a time when the science of climate change was in its infancy, Carter wouldn’t have known about the possibility of an overheating world, and his vision of “alternative energy” wasn’t exactly a fossil-fuel-free one. Even then, shades of today or possibly tomorrow, he was talking about having “more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias.” Still, it was a remarkably forward-looking speech.
Had we invested massively in alternative energy R&D back then, who knows where we might be today? Instead, the media dubbed it the “malaise speech,” though the president never actually used that word, speaking instead of an American “crisis of confidence.” While the initial public reaction seemed positive, it didn’t last long. In the end, the president's energy proposals were essentially laughed out of the room and ignored for decades.
As a symbolic gesture, Carter had 32 solar panels installed on the White House. (“A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people: harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”) As it turned out, “a road not taken” was the accurate description. On entering the Oval Office in 1981, Ronald Reagan caught the mood of the era perfectly. One of his first acts was to order the removal of those panels and none were reinstalled for three decades, until Barack Obama was president.
Carter would, in fact, make his mark on U.S. energy policy, just not quite in the way he had imagined. Six months later, on January 23, 1980, in his last State of the Union Address, he would proclaim what came to be known as the Carter Doctrine: “Let our position be absolutely clear,” he said. “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
No one would laugh him out of the room for that. Instead, the Pentagon would fatefully begin organizing itself to protect U.S. (and oil) interests in the Persian Gulf on a new scale and America’s oil wars would follow soon enough. Not long after that address, it would start building up a Rapid Deployment Force in the Gulf that would in the end become U.S. Central Command. More than three decades later, ironies abound: thanks in part to those oil wars, whole swaths of the energy-rich Middle East are in crisis, if not chaos, while the big energy companies have put time and money into a staggeringly fossil-fuel version of Carter’s “alternative” North America. They’ve focused on shale oil, and on shale gas as well, and with new production methods, they are reputedly on the brink of turning the United States into a “new Saudi Arabia.”
If true, this would be the worst, not the best, of news. In a world where what used to pass for good news increasingly guarantees a nightmarish future, energy “independence” of this sort means the extraction of ever more extreme energy, ever more carbon dioxide heading skyward, and ever more planetary damage in our collective future. This was not the only path available to us, or even to Big Oil.
With their staggering profits, they could have decided anywhere along the line that the future they were ensuring was beyond dangerous. They could themselves have led the way with massive investments in genuine alternative energies (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, algal, and who knows what else), instead of the exceedingly small-scale ones they made, often for publicity purposes. They could have backed a widespread effort to search for other ways that might, in the decades to come, have offered something close to the energy levels fossil fuels now give us. They could have worked to keep the extreme-energy reserves that turn out to be surprisingly commonplace deep in the Earth.
And we might have had a different world (from which, by the way, they would undoubtedly have profited handsomely). Instead, what we’ve got is the equivalent of a tobacco company situation, but on a planetary scale. To complete the analogy, imagine for a moment that they were planning to produce even more prodigious quantities not of fossil fuels but of cigarettes, knowing what damage they would do to our health. Then imagine that, without exception, everyone on Earth was forced to smoke several packs of them a day.
If that isn’t a terrorist -- or terrarist -- attack of an almost unimaginable sort, what is? If the oil execs aren’t terrarists, then who is? And if that doesn’t make the big energy companies criminal enterprises, then how would you define that term?
To destroy our planet with malice aforethought, with only the most immediate profits on the brain, with only your own comfort and wellbeing (and those of your shareholders) in mind: Isn’t that the ultimate crime? Isn’t that terracide?
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs TomDispatch and is a fellow of the Type Media Center. His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War.
[Note: Thanks go to my colleague and friend Nick Turse for coming up with the word "terracide."]
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Copyright 2020 Tom Engelhardt