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Volume 20 Issue 5 January 2022

Theme of January 2022 Newsletter

SoulLife guiding the formation, evolution and protection of Life throughout the Universe.

Note: A display of 21 murals each showing the research done by Global Community over the past 37 years, and displaying unique short and long term solutions to the survival of all Life on Earth. Each mural has a small picture shown here whose size is about 650 px by 650 px, the enlargements are about 7000 px by 7000 pix. The pictures of the email messages are about 350 px by 350 px. All murals themselves have sizes of about 16383 px by 16383 px, with a range of 25 MBs to 65 MBs, much to large to upload on Global Community website. A large size picture for each mural can also be obtained from special request. Text for each Mural will be added to February Newsletter.

(Global Dialogue 2022 begins September 1st, 2021 and concludes on August 31st, 2022 ww)

Back to January 2022 Newsletter

January Newsletter 2022.
( see enlargement Global Civilizational State reporting on issues. )

January Newsletter 2022
( see enlargement Global Civilizational State reporting on issues. )

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

David Anderson, John ScalesAvery, Dr Ramzy Baroud(2), Medea Benjamin(2), Medea Benjamin, M K Bhadrakumar(2), João Camargo, La Via Campesina, Sergio RuizCayuela, Daniel Chavez, Farooque Chowdhury(2), Countercurrents Collective(4), Jessica Corbett(2), Nicolas J.S. Davies, , William deBuys, Sagar Dhara, Daniel de Vries , Bharat Dogra(4), Paul Edwards,Tom Engelhardt(2), Yves Engler, Pepe Escobar, John Feffer, Samantha Fox, Reinhard Genzel, Andrea Ghez, Dr Andrew Glikson(2), Luis T. Gutiérrez , Richard Heinberg, Robert Hunziker(6), Jake Johnson, Alan Johnstone, Caitlin Johnstone, Dr Gurinder Kaur, Michael T Klare,David Klein, Thomas Klikauer, Robert Koehler, Reynard Loki, Fiore Longo, Patrick Martin, Alfred W McCoy(2), Brian Menounos, Jim Miles, T Navin, George Ochenski, Roger Penrose, Kim Petersen, CJ Polychroniou , Ramakrishnan, K Sahadevan, Rawsab Said, SCF Editorial, K M Seethi, Vandana Shiva, Gagandeep Singh, Geeta Sinha , Keith Slack, Valerie Tarico, Colin Todhunter, Dr Ted Trainer , Valdai, Jeff Walllis, Simon Whalley, Betsy Weatherhead, Clara Weiss.

David Anderson, Parasitic Symbiotic Discordance. Parasitic Symbiotic Discordance
John Scales Avery, Tasks For The Future Tasks For The Future
Ramzy Baroud, The West’s Role in Israel’s Illegal Settlement Expansion. The West’s Role in Israel’s Illegal Settlement Expansion
Dr Ramzy Baroud, The West’s China Complex: Beijing as the Enemy and the Savior. The West’s China Complex: Beijing as the Enemy and the Savior
Medea Benjamin, The High Stakes of the U.S.-Russia Confrontation Over Ukraine. The High Stakes of the U.S.-Russia Confrontation Over Ukraine
Medea Benjamin, Nicolas J.S. Davies, Our Future vs. Neoliberalism. Our Future vs. Neoliberalism
M K Bhadrakumar, Biden-Putin meeting is a cliffhanger Biden-Putin meeting is a cliffhanger
M K Bhadrakumar, Glasgow climate summit: An elite farce? Glasgow climate summit: An elite farce?
João Camargo, Climate Chaos: What to Learn From 2021. Climate Chaos: What to Learn From 2021
La Via Campesina, Food Sovereignty: A Manifesto for the Future of Our Planet. Food Sovereignty: A Manifesto for the Future of Our Planet
Sergio Ruiz Cayuela, The commons. The commons
Daniel Chavez, The Commons, the State and the Public: A Latin American Perspective. The Commons, the State and the Public: A Latin American Perspective
Farooque Chowdhury, Putin in a different December. Putin in a different December
Farooque Chowdhury, Environment, human rights and class power. Environment, human rights and class power
Jessica Corbett, UN expert warns of near 'tyranny' against voting rights of US minorities amid GOP attacks. UN expert warns of near 'tyranny' against voting rights of US minorities amid GOP attacks
Jessica Corbett, Climate Emergency May Displace 216 Million Within Countries by 2050: World Bank. Climate Emergency May Displace 216 Million Within Countries by 2050: World Bank
Countercurrents Collective, Arctic Scorches With Record High Temperature, Says WMO Arctic Scorches With Record High Temperature, Says WMO
Countercurrents Collective, Five billion people will be water insecure by 2050, says UN WMO climate report. Five billion people will be water insecure by 2050, says UN WMO climate report
Countercurrents Collective, Vicious Cycle of Climate Crisis: Depletion of Natural Resources, Violent Conflict Set to Worsen Resource Degradation, Conflict. Vicious Cycle of Climate Crisis: Depletion of Natural Resources, Violent Conflict Set to Worsen Resource Degradation, Conflict
Countercurrents Collective, Climate Crisis: Rich Countries’ Carbon Emissions Rose Rapidly in 2021. Climate Crisis: Rich Countries’ Carbon Emissions Rose Rapidly in 2021
William deBuys, Climate Change Viewed from the Attic of the World Climate Change Viewed from the Attic of the World
Daniel de Vries, The Glasgow summit, climate change, and the case for socialism. The Glasgow summit, climate change, and the case for socialism
Sagar Dhara, COP26: By 2100, Bangladesh may drown, Pakistan likely to face severe water shortage, fear experts. COP26: By 2100, Bangladesh may drown, Pakistan likely to face severe water shortage, fear experts
Bharat Dogra, Climate Change Cannot be Resolved Without Strong Commitment Also to Justice and Peace. Climate Change Cannot be Resolved Without Strong Commitment Also to Justice and Peace
Bharat Dogra, Several Serious Environmental Problems Have to be Resolved Simultaneously For A Safe Future. Several Serious Environmental Problems Have to be Resolved Simultaneously For A Safe Future
Bharat Dogra, Trying to Solve One Problem by Increasing Another Will Not Protect Environment. Trying to Solve One Problem by Increasing Another Will Not Protect Environment
Bharat Dogra, A 2 Per cent Tax on Billionaires Can Provide 260 Billion Dollars to Climate Fund. A 2 Per cent Tax on Billionaires Can Provide 260 Billion Dollars to Climate Fund
Paul Edwards, Good Americans. Good Americans
Tom Engelhardt, The $8 Trillion Cost of Failure. The $8 Trillion Cost of Failure
Tom Engelhardt, Welcome to the American Century – Even If It Is a Hell on Earth. Welcome to the American Century – Even If It Is a Hell on Earth
Yves Engler, Time to Fight Climate Change, Not Each Other. Time to Fight Climate Change, Not Each Other
Pepe Escobar, Sochi probes the Utopia of a multipolar world. Sochi probes the Utopia of a multipolar world
John Feffer, Climate Change and the Limits of Economic Growth. Climate Change and the Limits of Economic Growth
Samantha Fox, Climate Change Is the Symptom, Capitalism Is the Problem. Climate Change Is the Symptom, Capitalism Is the Problem
Dr Andrew Glikson, Planetary Ecocide — The Crime Against Life on Earth. Planetary Ecocide — The Crime Against Life on Earth
Dr Andrew Glikson. 5.9 $trillion spent by governments on fossil fuel subsidies in 2020. 5.9 $trillion spent by governments on fossil fuel subsidies in 2020.
Dr Gurinder Kaur, An account of the performance of the early days of the Glasgow Conference. An account of the performance of the early days of the Glasgow Conference
Reinhard Genzel, Andrea Ghez, Roger Penrose Black holes and the Milky Way’s darkest secret. Black holes and the Milky Way’s darkest secret
Andrea Ghez, Reinhard Genzel, Roger Penrose Black holes and the Milky Way’s darkest secret. Black holes and the Milky Way’s darkest secret
Luis T. Gutiérrez, The Ecological Crisis is the Climax of Patriarchy and Religious Patriarchy – What’s Next? The Ecological Crisis is the Climax of Patriarchy and Religious Patriarchy – What’s Next?
Richard Heinberg, The Only Long-Range Solution to Climate Change. The Only Long-Range Solution to Climate Change
Robert Hunziker, What if the Doomsday Glacier Collapses? What if the Doomsday Glacier Collapses?
Robert Hunziker, Warnings from the Far North. Warnings from the Far North
Robert Hunziker, The Dreaded Rainforest Shift. The Dreaded Rainforest Shift
Robert Hunziker, Burned-out Forests Are Not Re-Growing. Burned-out Forests Are Not Re-Growing
Robert Hunziker, Mother Nature, Inc. Mother Nature, Inc.
Robert Hunziker, COP26 Exposes Failure of Neoliberalism COP26 Exposes Failure of Neoliberalism
Jake Johnson, Entirely avoidable': Rich countries blamed as new COVID variant sparks global alarm. Entirely avoidable': Rich countries blamed as new COVID variant sparks global alarm
Caitlin Johnstone, It’s Really Weird How Little We Talk About Humanity’s Imminent Doom. It’s Really Weird How Little We Talk About Humanity’s Imminent Doom
Alan Johnstone, The Socialist Cooperative Commonwealth. The Socialist Cooperative Commonwealth
Michael T Klare, Countdown to World War III? Countdown to World War III?
David Klein, What Might an Ecosocialist Society Look Like? What Might an Ecosocialist Society Look Like?
Thomas Klikauer, Climate Justice in America. Climate Justice in America
Robert Koehler, A World Without Money. A World Without Money
Reynard Loki, COP26: Will Humanity’s ‘Last and Best Chance’ to Save Earth’s Climate Succeed? COP26: Will Humanity’s ‘Last and Best Chance’ to Save Earth’s Climate Succeed?
Fiore Longo, Why Nature-Based Solutions Won’t Solve the Climate Crisis—They’ll Just Make Rich People Even Richer. Why Nature-Based Solutions Won’t Solve the Climate Crisis—They’ll Just Make Rich People Even Richer
Patrick Martin, COP26 climate summit ends in failure in Climate Change. COP26 climate summit ends in failure in Climate Change
Alfred W McCoy, Washington’s World Order and Catastrophic Climate Change. Washington’s World Order and Catastrophic Climate Change
Alfred W McCoy, The Winner in Afghanistan: China. The Winner in Afghanistan: China
Brian Menounos, and Jeff Walllis, 2021 was a bad year for glaciers in western North America. It’s about to get much worse. 2021 was a bad year for glaciers in western North America. It’s about to get much worse
Jim Miles, Beyond the tipping point. Beyond the tipping point
T Navin, Matters of faith and religion Matters of faith and religion
George Ochenski, Globalization Meets Entropy…and We Lose. Globalization Meets Entropy…and We Lose
Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel, Andrea Ghez, Black holes and the Milky Way’s darkest secret. Black holes and the Milky Way’s darkest secret
Kim Petersen, Should One Stand up for Western Values? Should One Stand up for Western Values?
CJ Polychroniou, Killing Nature Must Be Treated as a Crime on a Par with Genocide and War Crimes Killing Nature Must Be Treated as a Crime on a Par with Genocide and War Crimes
Ramakrishnan, Andre Vltchek on Democracy, China, and its Ecological Civilization. Andre Vltchek on Democracy, China, and its Ecological Civilization
K Sahadevan, Climate Crisis: Our Collective Delusions. Climate Crisis: Our Collective Delusions
Rawsab Said, Is Globalization Leading to a Homogenized Global Culture? Is Globalization Leading to a Homogenized Global Culture?
SCF Editorial, Europe’s U.S. Lackey Parliament inUnhinged Attack on Russia. Europe’s U.S. Lackey Parliament inUnhinged Attack on Russia
K M Seethi, Religion, Amity and Society: Call for Human Harmony. Religion, Amity and Society: Call for Human Harmony
Vandana Shiva, Reclaiming Our Common Home Reclaiming Our Common Home Gagandeep Singh, Snow covered area has decreased in Himachal as compared to last year. Snow covered area has decreased in Himachal as compared to last year
Geeta Sinha, Odisha Millets Mission- a step towards combating climate vulnerability and promoting sustainable food systems in India. Odisha Millets Mission- a step towards combating climate vulnerability and promoting sustainable food systems in India.
Keith Slack, The Climate Crisis Is a Human Rights Crisis. The Climate Crisis Is a Human Rights Crisis
Valerie Tarico, Here are 5 reasons to suspect Jesus never existed. Here are 5 reasons to suspect Jesus never existed.
Colin Todhunter, Cultivating Resistance: Food, Dependency and Dispossession. Cultivating Resistance: Food, Dependency and Dispossession
Dr Ted Trainer, Can the Green New Deal save us? No it can’t Can the Green New Deal save us? No it can’t
Valdai, Putin speaks at plenary session of Valdai Discussion Club meeting. Putin speaks at plenary session of Valdai Discussion Club meeting
Jeff Walllis, and Brian Menounos, 2021 was a bad year for glaciers in western North America. It’s about to get much worse. 2021 was a bad year for glaciers in western North America. It’s about to get much worse
Betsy Weatherhead, The science everyone needs to know about climate change, in 6 charts. The science everyone needs to know about climate change, in 6 charts.
Clara Weiss, Biden threatens economic sanctions and a repositioning of NATO troops in meeting with Putin Biden threatens economic sanctions and a repositioning of NATO troops in meeting with Putin
Simon Whalley, Climate Emergency: The War We Must Fight. Climate Emergency: The War We Must Fight

Articles and papers from authors


Day data received Theme or issue Read article or paper
  December 15, 2021
Arctic Scorches With Record High Temperature, Says WMO
by Countercurrents Collective, Countercurrents, in Climate Change .

High temperature seems scorching the Arctic. The United Nations logged the hottest temperature in history in the Arctic, finding that the Russian town of Verkhoyansk hit 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) in the summer of 2020.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced the record heat in Verkhoyansk in a Tuesday press release, explaining that a meteorological station in the region completed the research.

The news confirmed fears of potential record-setting temperatures in the Arctic after 2020 was reported to be one of the hottest years on record.

“This new Arctic record is one of a series of observations reported to the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes that sound the alarm bells about our changing climate,” Petteri Taalas, the organization’s secretary-general, said in a statement.

The average temperature in the Siberian Arctic climbed as high as 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) last year, according to the WMO, sparking massive wildfires and drastic sea ice loss.

The Siberian town, about 70 miles from the Arctic circle, is one of the coldest places on the planet. But the temperature record confirms that the most remote, northern regions of the world, known for freezing temperatures, are warming fast under climate change.

“The extremes presented before the WMO for adjudication are ‘snapshots’ of our current climate,” WMO wrote in the press release. “It is possible, indeed likely, that greater extremes will occur in the Arctic region in the future.”

The Arctic is already the fastest warming region of the world, heating at twice the global average. Melting sea ice in the Arctic has worried climatologists for years, and the Arctic will likely shift toward a rain-dominated climate before the end of the century.

Since the summer of 2020, Verkhoyansk was feared to have recorded the hottest temperature in the Arctic, with meteorologists speculating to Vox that the temperature record would be a 1-in-100,000 year event if not for climate change.

The WMO is looking to verify temperature records in other places, including the hottest region in the world, Death Valley, Calif., which may have recorded the hottest temperature of 129 degrees Fahrenheit in 2020 and 2021.

Ships Leaving Garbage In Their Wake

A Reuters report from Anchorage, Alaska said:

Scientists have warned Tuesday of a new scourge hitting the Arctic region: marine trash.

With the region warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, sea ice that has long blanketed the Arctic Ocean is disappearing, opening new routes to shipping. Scientists began noticing the trash bobbing in the icy water or piling up on Alaska Bering Strait-area beaches last year.

“That is a direct result of increased human maritime activities,” said climate scientist Rick Thoman of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, one of the lead editors of the 2021 Arctic Report Card released by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The garbage shows “what climate change is allowing people to do in the region,” he said. Russian was the most common language on debris found in the Bering Strait on items where language could be identified, NOAA has said.

Between 2016 and 2019, voyages by fishing, cargo and military ships jumped 58% along the region’s busiest lane along the Siberian coast, and experts say the traffic will rise further as global temperatures continue to climb.


With the shipping traffic also comes noise. Underwater soundscapes in the Arctic have become rowdier with the rumble of ships passing, a problem for marine mammals who rely on sound to navigate and socialize, Thoman said.

The annual report, released at the conference of the American Geophysical Union, noted a new springtime sea ice record low in 2021, among other signs that climate change is fast transforming the region.

This year also saw the first rainfall on record over Greenland’s highest elevation.

“People who are living in the Arctic are already experiencing major challenges,” said report co-author Anna Liljedahl, a climate scientist with the Woodwell Climate Research Center.

Warmer And Greener 

By most annual metrics, 2021 was not an extraordinary year for Arctic warming. But it fit squarely with the trend of warming well beyond the rate of the global average. Average air temperatures were the seventh warmest on record over the last year, but hit a record high for the fall season of 2020, the report said.

And while the annual sea ice minimum in September was the 12th lowest on record, scientists noted that all 15 of the lowest minimums have occurred in the last 15 years.

“The loss of the great white cap that once covered the top of the world is one of the most iconic indicators of climate change,” said Rick Spinrad, the NOAA administrator.

Meanwhile, thawing permafrost and melting glaciers are undermining infrastructure and damaging livelihoods, the report warned. Especially worrying are landslides from once-frozen coastal cliffsides or mountains that now threaten to trigger tsunamis, as happened in 2017 in western Greenland, where a landslide-triggered tsunami at Karrat Fjord killed four people.

The last two summers also displayed exceptional “greenness” on the Arctic tundra – a measure of plant productivity. The greenness measure for the summer of 2020 was the highest on record, and preliminary data suggest that 2021 had the second-highest greenness, according to the report.

The five highest tundra greening years on record have all occurred in the last 10 years.

That greening comes with consequences, not least the appearance of more beavers whose dam-building results creates ponds that result in even more thawing, the report said.

“Almost anytime you pool water on the tundra, put a new pond in place, you are going to begin to rapidly thaw the permafrost surrounding it,” said Ken Tape, one of the report’s authors. It is still unclear how much beaver activity might contribute to the release of carbon dioxide and methane from the once-frozen ground.

Record Highs, Rain And Beaver Damage in Arctic

The Arctic continues to deteriorate from global warming, not setting as many records this year as in the past, but still changing so rapidly that federal scientists call it alarming in their annual Arctic report card.

The 16th straight health check for the northern polar region spotlighted the first ever rainfall at Greenland summit station, record warm temperatures between October and December 2020, and the new problem of expansion of beavers in the Arctic.

“The trends are consistent, alarming and undeniable,” U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Rick Spinrad said presenting the findings by 111 scientists from 12 countries at the American Geophysical Union conference Tuesday. “The loss of the great white cap that once covered the top of the world is one of the most iconic indicators of climate change.”

“The Arctic is Earth’s air conditioning,” Spinrad said. “Billions of people rely on its moderating influence on climate. We have a narrow window of time to avoid very costly, deadly and irreversible future climate impacts.”

The 2020-2021 polar year — scientists study the Arctic on a yearly basis from October to September — was only the 7th warmest on record. However, October to December in 2020 set a record for the warmest autumn.

This report card comes out as the Arctic warms two to three times faster than the rest of the planet. The region’s melting ice opens the door to more pressures, including the potential for more oil and gas drilling and more mining and more tensions between countries wanting to exploit the area. For the people who live there, it means having to adapt to a ground that is getting softer as permafrost melts and changes to traditional hunting and fishing.

“It is really tough for us to live up there, let alone thrive,” said report co-author Kaare Sikuaq Erickson, a community science liaison from the Bering Sea village of Unalakleet.

When sea ice hit its annual minimum in September for how far it extends, it was only the 12th lowest on record. But the rarer thick sea ice, which stays around for more than a year, was the second lowest at the end of the summer since records began in 1985, reflecting a problem in the more crucial type of ice for the Arctic.

“The sea ice loss in the Bering Sea is extremely, extremely scary,” Erickson said. “It’s an ecosystem collapse situation. I think the sea ice loss in my region is probably the biggest concern.”

Report editor Twila Moon, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said people may think “if something is not setting a brand new record, then it’s going pretty well. And that is not true.”

The Arctic is on a roller coaster of acceptable conditions and horrible ones, Moon said, pointing to Greenland.

“If you had asked me in early July how we’re doing for the Greenland ice sheet, I would have given you two thumbs up. We were having, surprisingly, what felt like a normal year,” Moon said. “And then we had these really extreme melt events coming in late July and in August, creating brand new records, giving us rainfall observed at the summit of Greenland for the first time ever.”

It is usually so cold there that precipitation always had fallen as snow.

Another weird situation was the expansion of beavers into western Alaska, something Moon called “stunning.” There are more than 12,000 dams there, double the amount from two decades ago.

Beavers are a problem because they dam an area causing more water to pool on the surface, which enhances permafrost thaw, making roads, airports, pipelines and structures less stable, Moon said. It’s changed where fish and even beluga whales live, Erickson said.

“It is a real transformation or disruption of the existing ecosystem,” Moon said.

Climate Change Worsened Weather Extremes In 2021

Reuters identified weather extremes in 2021.

A Reuters report said:

Extreme weather events in 2021 shattered records around the globe. Hundreds died in storms and heatwaves. Farmers struggled with drought, and in some cases with locust plagues. Wildfires set new records for carbon emissions, while swallowing forests, towns and homes.

Many of these events were exacerbated by climate change. Scientists say there are more to come – and worse – as the Earth’s atmosphere continues to warm through the next decade and beyond.

Following are some of the events Reuters witnessed over the past year:

February — A blistering cold spell hit normally warm Texas, killing 125 people in the state and leaving millions without power in freezing temperatures.

Scientists have not reached a conclusion on whether climate change caused the extreme weather, but the warming of the Arctic is causing more unpredictable weather around the globe.

February — Kenya and other parts of East Africa battled some of the worst locust plagues in decades, with the insects destroying crops and grazing grounds. Scientists say that unusual weather patterns exacerbated by climate change created ideal conditions for insects to thrive.

March — Beijing’s sky turned orange and flights were grounded during the Chinese capital’s worst sandstorm in a decade.

Busloads of volunteers arrive in the desert each year to plant trees, which can stabilize the soil and serve as a wind buffer. Scientists predict climate change will worsen desertification, as hotter summers and drier winters reduce moisture levels.

June — Nearly all of the western United States was gripped by a drought that emerged in early 2020. Farmers abandoned crops, officials announced emergency measures, and the Hoover Dam reservoir hit an all-time low.

By September, the U.S. government confirmed that over the prior 20 months, the Southwest experienced the lowest precipitation in over a century, and it linked the drought to climate change.

June — Hundreds died during a record-smashing heatwave in the U.S. and Canadian Pacific Northwest, which scientists concluded would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change.

Over several days, power lines melted and roads buckled. Cities, struggling to cope with the heat, opened cooling centers to protect their residents. During the heatwave, Portland, Oregon, hit an all-time record high of 116 Fahrenheit (46.7 Celsius).

July — Catastrophic flooding killed more than 300 people in central China’s Henan province when a year’s worth of rain fell in just three days.

In Europe, nearly 200 people died as torrential rains soaked Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Scientists concluded that climate change had made the floods 20% more likely to occur.

July — A record heatwave and drought in the U.S. West gave rise to two massive wildfires that tore through California and Oregon and were among the largest in the history of both states.

Scientists say both the growing frequency and the intensity of wildfires are largely attributable to prolonged drought and increasing bouts of excessive heat from climate change.

July — Large parts of South America are suffering from a prolonged drought. While Chile is enduring a decade-long megadrought linked to global warming, this year Brazil saw one of its driest years in a century.

In Argentina, the Parana, South America’s second-longest river, fell to its lowest level since 1944.

Around the globe, heatwaves are becoming both more frequent and more severe.

August — In the Mediterranean, a hot and dry summer fanned intense blazes that forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes in Algeria, Greece and Turkey.

The fires, which killed two people in Greece and at least 65 in Algeria, struck amid an intense heatwave, with some places in Greece recording temperatures of over 46 Celsius (115 Fahrenheit).

Late August — Nearly all the world’s mountain glaciers are retreating due to global warming. In the Alps, Swiss resort employees laid protective blankets over one of Mount Titlis’s glaciers during the summer months to preserve what ice is left.

Switzerland already has lost 500 of its glaciers, and could lose 90% of the 1,500 that remain by the end of the century if global emissions continue to rise, the government said.

August/September — Hurricane Ida, which hit Louisiana as a Category 4 storm, killed nearly 100 people in the United States and caused an estimated $64 billion in damage, according to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

As the remnants of Ida moved inland, the heavy rains created flash flooding across the densely populated Northeast, vastly increasing the storm’s death toll.

Climate change is strengthening hurricanes, while also causing them to linger longer over land – dumping more rain on an area before moving on. Studies also suggest these storms are becoming more frequent in the North Atlantic.

September — Infrastructure and homes in Russia are increasingly in peril as underground permafrost melts and deforms the land underneath them.

Permafrost was once a stable construction base, in some regions staying frozen as far back as the last Ice Age. But rising global temperatures threaten the layer of ice, soil, rocks, sand and organic matter.

November — The worst floods in 60 years in South Sudan have affected about 780,000 people, or one in every 14 residents, according to the UN refugee agency. Every year the county goes through a rainy season, but flooding has set records for three years in a row. The destruction will likely increase as temperatures rise, scientists say.

November — A massive storm dumped a month’s worth of rain over two days in the Canadian province of British Columbia, unleashing floods and mudslides that destroyed roads, railroads and bridges. It is likely the most expensive natural disaster in Canada’s history, although officials are still assessing the damage.

Meteorologists said the rain had come from an atmospheric river, or a stream of water vapor stretching hundreds of miles long from the tropics. Atmospheric rivers are expected to become larger — and possibly more destructive — with climate change, scientists say.

  Read Arctic Scorches With Record High Temperature, Says WMO
  December 18, 2021
What if the Doomsday Glacier Collapses?
by Robert Hunziker , Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

The Thwaites “Doomsday Glacier” in West Antarctica is spooking scientists. Satellite images shown at a recent meeting December 13th of the American Geophysical Union showed numerous large, diagonal cracks extending across the Thwaites’ floating ice wedge.

This is new information, and it’s a real shocker if only because it’s happening so quickly, much sooner than expectations. It could collapse. And, it’s big, 80 miles across with up to 4,000 feet depth with a 28-mile-wide cracking ice shelf that extends over the Amundsen Sea.

Meanwhile, and of special interest because of the underlying threat posed by Thwaites, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) COP26 meeting in November 2021 held in Glasgow was panned by scientists as one more sleepy affair, failing to come to grips with Western Civilization’s biggest challenge since the Huns trampled Rome. This outrageous failure by the world’s leaders, evidenced by weak-kneed proposals, is decidedly threatening to coastal cities throughout the world, especially with Thwaites glacier showing signs of impending collapse.

According to glaciologist Erin Pettit of Oregon State University, the weak spots on the Thwaites ice sheet are like cracks in a windshield: “One more blow and they could spider web across the entire ice shelf surface.” (Source: Crucial Antarctic Ice Shelf Could Fail Within Five Years, Scientists Say, SFGATE, December 13, 2021)

An article in NewScientist d/d December 13, 2021 discussed the AGU meeting of the satellite images of massive cracks: “Antarctica’s Thwaites glacier could break free of the continent within 10 years, which could lead to catastrophic sea level rise and potentially set off a domino effect in surrounding ice.”

Thwaites is a monster, one of the largest glaciers in the world. A 2017 Rolling Stone article, which followed the footsteps of a team of glaciologists at Thwaites glacier, summed up the situation, according to Ohio State glaciologist Ian Howat: “If there is going to be a climate catastrophe, it’s probably going to start at Thwaites… if we don’t slow the warming of the planet, it could happen within decades.” (Source: The Doomsday Glacier, Rolling Stone, May 9, 2017)

That was five years ago but after rapidly changing conditions on the ice sheet in only five years, scientists are no longer saying: “It could happen within decades.” Now the timeline has changed to: “Within a decade,” meaning by 2032. Moreover, as suggested in the aforementioned SFGATE article, there’s some speculation that it could burst wide open “sooner rather than later.”

The world is not prepared for a major disaster on a scale that spreads across the planet unimpeded and totally out of control. In that regard, it’s unfortunate that the world’s leaders have failed to take adequate measures, especially since scientists have been warning for decades of dire consequences for failure to limit and/or stop CO2 emissions. The truth of the matter is the world’s leaders have failed to protect their own people because of ignorance, greed, and tons of dark money.

Thwaites is what scientists refer to as “a threshold system.” Which means instead of melting slowly like an ice cube on a summer day, it is more like a house of cards: It’s stable until it’s pushed too far, then it collapses with a resounding thud!

What happens after the Ice Shelf collapses?

Thwaites’ ice shelf is one of the most significant buttresses against sea level rise in West Antarctica. New data provides clear evidence that warming ocean currents are eroding the eastern ice shelf from underneath. Meanwhile, a major risk is that the series of cracks spotted on the surface shatter into hundreds of icebergs. In the words of glaciologist Erin Pettit: “Suddenly the whole thing would collapse.”

A collapse of the ice shelf would not immediately impact sea level rise as the ice shelf itself already floats on the ocean surface. Its weight is already displaced in the water. But, once it collapses, the landlocked glacier containing a much larger volume of ice behind the ice shelf will be released, or sprung lose, and dramatically increase its rate of flow to the sea.

A collapse of Thwaites is no small deal. Depending upon several factors, it would trigger the onset of raised sea levels by some number of feet, and paradoxically, it would be happening in the face of IPCC guidance expecting sea levels to rise by a foot or so by 2100, assuming business as usual. That could turn out to be peanuts compared to a collapse of Thwaites if it triggers a domino effect of surrounding ice in West Antarctica, as alluded to in the aforementioned NewScientist article.

Thwaites’ significance to the normal course of life is so potentially impactful as a negative force that a team of scientists studies the glacier under the title: The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration. According to the lead glaciologist of the team, Ted Scambos (University of Colorado, Boulder): “Things are evolving really rapidly here… It’s daunting.” He spoke on Zoom from Thwaites glacier.

Once the ice shelf collapses, it’ll lead to massive “ice cliff collapsing,” ongoing collapse of towering walls of ice directly overlooking the ocean that crumbles into the sea. And, once ice cliff collapsing starts, it will likely become a self-sustaining “runaway collapse.”

This alarming signal of impending collapse of one of the world’s largest glaciers underscores a potent political message: What do the world’s leaders, e.g., the US Congress, plan to do about the fossil fuel-derived greenhouse gas emissions from cars, trucks, trains, planes, agriculture, and industry that blanket the atmosphere and heat up the oceans to the extent that a bona fide behemoth of ice is getting much closer to splintering apart and collapsing with attendant sea level rise that will flood Miami, just for starters?

Does Build Back Better include funding for continent-wide seawalls?

And yet, the biggest unknown in this grisly affair is timing, assuming Thwaites does collapse within a decade, how soon will ice cliff collapses bring on sea level rise that drowns the world’s coastal metropolises? Nobody knows the answer to that daunting question, but it certainly appears to be forthcoming.

Robert Hunziker is a writer from Los Angeles

  December 21, 2021
Matters of faith and religion
by T Navin , Countercurrents, in Life/Philosophy.

Being neither a believer in gods or against believers, the existence of supernatural, gods and supernatural ultimately running the human affairs do not form part of my consciousness. Belief in supernatural also brings with it the division of this world and the other world. This world which is the human world is considered a ‘maya’ ‘an illusion’. Ultimate merging with the absolute or ‘Brahman’ or ‘Absolute’ is considered to be the ultimate reality. The other world takes the shape of ‘swarg’ or ‘heaven’ or ‘nark’ or ‘hell’. Good deeds are said to lead to ‘swarg’ or ‘heaven’ and bad deeds to ‘nark’ or ‘hell’.

The desire for reaching ‘heaven’ does result in charitable acts and human actions which try to ameliorate the conditions of those suffering – whether the poor, orphans, physically challenged, aged etc. It could also be a result of inspiration of ‘human’ aspects of religion which calls for love, compassion, kindness and concern for the suffering. Inter-faith peace practitioners also call for building universal brotherhood and harmony through merging the commonalities and larger universal values of religion. Matters of faith carried out in this spirit enhances peace and harmony among communities and also results in positive social actions.

The problems in matters of faith arises when these are taken over by those who believe in establishing supremacies based on faith. Believers of one faith start believing that their faith is the supreme and that of the other is inferior. The one which considers itself supreme and the other inferior could vary across geographies – countries or regions. Those who propagate this division ultimately do use religion to achieve supremacy and power, while at the same time running contrary to humanistic aspects of religion. The faith which considers itself the supreme wants the other to adhere to its whims and fancies. The rights and entitlements of those forming the minority and their equitable citizenship in the nation is denied. Violence, discrimination and denial of citizenship rights gets legitimised.

Religion and matters of faith have limitations in universalizing human values and establishing a society built on it. Sometimes it also serves the rich and powerful in society. The belief in ‘god’ who will take care of those suffering in this world or in the other world after death prevents actions to change the structural conditions which lead to suffering. Religious prescriptions such as performing rituals or taking a bath in sacred rivers to wash away sins provides opportunities whereby initial unwanted actions can be taken up.

Religion hides factors such as ‘oppression’ and ‘exploitation’, while providing prescriptions for dealing with conditions which arise as a result. While it may not necessarily address conditions which create structural reasons for unjust society, it helps to deal with mental and emotional conditions which arise as a result and gives hope of improvement.

While religion does motivate acts of goodness, a just society can only arise on the foundations of larger human values which may go beyond religion. Scandinavian countries which continue to be placed well on human development indicators continue to be the ones with larger proportion of atheists. It would not be surprising to state that absence of conditions which result in human suffering also ensures a decline in faith and religion.

T Navin is an independent writer

  Read  Matters of faith and religion
  December 24, 2021
Putin in a different December
by Farooque Chowdhury, Countercurrents, in World.

This is a different December.

This December is far, far different from the Decembers of 1990 and 1991 and 1992.

The difference is stark, as one goes through the statements and observations made by Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader.

In a recent press meet Putin covered a lot of issues – from Ukraine to NATO to China.

There’re messages in between the lines also.

Putin said:

China is Russia’s number one partner, and the two countries have very trusting relations. Russia-China ties are not based on confrontation with anyone else. Russia and China have agreed to develop a shared financial system to reduce reliance on US-dominated platforms. The two countries are in cooperation in the field of security. The countries are developing certain high-tech weapons together.

China’s economy is already larger than the US, in terms of purchasing power parity. By 2035-’50, China’s economy will be the leading economy of the world, surpassing the US in nominal terms.

Meetings on tension in Ukraine are not enough.  “We don’t care about negotiations, we want results. Not an inch to the East they told us in the 1990s, and look what happened – they cheated us, vehemently and blatantly. Now they’re saying that they will have Ukraine as well. This means they will deploy their weapons there, even if it’s not officially part of NATO. It is now up to the US-led bloc to come up with guarantees “immediately,” instead of continuously talking about it “for decades.”

The statements are enough to tell clearly what has recently gone and what’s going on on world stage.

The recent gone-days were not like the December days of 1990 or ’91 or ’92. Those were days of the Empire’s assumed Single-pole World – None, but me to decide the fate of this planet, that was the Empire’s imagination.

The globe, in those clumsy days, appeared fully tilted towards the Empire. Groups of countries were sold out to the Empire. Bosses were deciding who would grab which part. The Empire-in-euphoria imagined – the game is over.

But the Empire’s fate was having a silent smile – an omen was there in the smile.

Bosses forgot one fact – contradictions. Conflicting interests were hyper-active below the surface that the bosses miss sometimes. That’s the problem with the bosses’ philosophy, and the approach the philosophy produces.

Now, there’re many actors. The latest is in Chile, not General Pinochet’s Chile, but Allende’s and Neruda’s Chile.

One of the latest actors is Putin – his position. It’s not easy to crack that position. Behind that position, there’s a social force with which the Empire has yet failed to reconcile. With increasing competition, it’ll be difficult to reconcile.

Xi Jinping, China’s leader, is there – a much strong position. It’s stronger as it’s a stronger China with its stronger economy.

The Empire has yet not succeeded to drive a wedge between China and Russia. The plan was with a wedge! But, China and Russia understand the wedge-game.

The capital that the Empire operates with doesn’t have that wedge-power. The Empire’s major limitation is the rise of monopoly finance capital in its economy, which has turned out as the center of gravity of the economy.

The Empire is failing to handle the changing parts of Latin America. The Empire is finding it difficult to handle Iran and India. The Empire is finding it difficult to handle Pakistan and Indonesia. There’s possibility that the Empire will find it difficult to handle Saudi Arabia. In Syria, the Empire’s moves aren’t that easy that it planned. The Afghanistan case is unknown. Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya – the cases are also difficult and uncertain.

Yet, the Empire is powerful enough to throw threats to the world.

But, that scene may change within decades – Russia and China will, hopefully, grow stronger. Precedents show China and Russia haven’t faltered in their steps.

On the contrary, ruling classes in the Empire are having difficult time with factional fight.

The repeated talk of possible civil war is a meaningful indicator of the factional fight. Retired three generals’, an expert’s and a part of media’s talk of possibility of civil war, real or fake, warning or propaganda, in the Empire signify something crook in political business. It turns out serious even it’s propaganda, even it’s a preemptive move by one faction against another. It’s a real weakness within the Empire.

With this situation, capitals in countries obviously are pondering – where’s the bigger piece of cake? A group of these capitals is dependent on and tied to the Empire. For the Empire, it’s also a difficult situation – section of lackeys is turning unreliable. Capital always searches the bigger egg. That’s a problem for the Empire.

A significant shift in power equation is going on in today’s world. It’s going to impact almost all countries including geographically small and tiny countries. A recent incident including arson in an island-country is one of the latest evidences.

This situation is meaningful for both of the ruled/exploited and the ruler/exploiting classes. It’ll be stupidity to not keep an eye on the developments, and listen to Putin’s pronouncements.

This makes this December different from the Decembers gone in the early-‘90s.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka. His latest book With the Passing Time, NGG Books, Dhaka, Bangladesh, nggbooks@gmail.com

  December 30, 2021
Odisha Millets Mission- a step towards combating climate vulnerability and promoting sustainable food systems in India
by Geeta Sinha , Countercurrents.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation conducted a pan-India assessment of climate change vulnerability based on fourteen parameters encompassing socio-economic aspects, livelihood, institution and infrastructure and biophysical features. “Out of 100 most vulnerable districts in the country, 70% of them are in five states of Eastern India– Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha,” said Dr Akhilesh Gupta, Senior Advisor and Head, Policy Coordination & Programme Management (PCPM) Division, and a climate change expert at the DST. In this context, the intention is to elucidate one of the existing policy interventions of Odisha that has the potential to address multiple concerns of sustainability pertaining to climate vulnerability. The launch of Odisha Millets Mission is one such flagship programme of Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment, Government of Odisha that has the propensity to contribute substantially to some of the interlinked core goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – climate action, good health and well-being and responsible production and consumption.

Climate change directly impacts the availability of basic necessities like freshwater, food security and energy and the efforts to address this through mitigation and adaptation will notably inform and shape the global development agenda and in this case, it is precisely Odisha’s development agenda. Moreover, the transition from commercial crops to growing traditional crops like millets is envisaged to reduce climate vulnerability that invariably feeds into the loop of achieving food security, improving nutritional status and responsible production and consumption goals of the SDGs. Ending food insecurity has always been one of the development priorities of the state, as high economic growth has mostly failed to translate to reducing farmer’s issues and existing food crisis. Additionally, the pandemic (COVID 19) since its arrival has further aggravated the situation of food crisis, hunger and heightened burden on farmlands due to reverse migration issues.

Given the situation, Millet mission with central objective to promote millets and revival of millet in farms and on plates is envisaged to promote traditional farming that promulgates sustainable and climate-resilient food systems. Likewise, it also has the ability to address intertwined issues like food crisis, livelihood issues, malnutrition and lowering implications of climate change on people and natural resources. Under Millet mission, Odisha has shifted its focus towards millets that continued to remain undervalued. Some of the factors contributing to the failures of millet production and consumption has been both state and market failure, industrialisation, globalisation and neoliberal policies. The transition from traditional to commercial agriculture was driven by factors including market forces, profit maximisation and promoted by government programmes to address constraints that limited productivity of ‘rice-based cropping’ as in the case of Odisha. Although commercial agriculture increased production and income of the farmers, but, in the long run it demonstrated to pose threat to the environment, land, soil and water resources and thus, contributing to the factors of climate vulnerability. Unlike commercial agriculture, traditional agriculture including millet farming upholds agroecological practices, maintains indigenous local agrobiodiversity and promulgates harmonious ecosystem co-existing with its dependent communities.

Kudos to Odisha government that has envisioned the revival of millets not only in fields but on plates too. In the early 2000s when shift from millets to oilseeds crop was promoted with a famous slogan of “Kodo kutki hatao soyabean lagao” has taken a U turn and government has realised the significance of producing millets on a mission mode to address issues of food security, nutrition and sustainability. Moreover, 2018 was also observed as the “National Year of Millets”. In this context, the challenges and uncertainties for farmers to adopt agroecological practices to produce millets are manifold. A comprehensive plan and an enabling environment for the promotion of millets in the state would be required to achieve its stated goals. The state of Odisha under Millets mission is committed to bring about changes in promoting production and consumption of millets and in tandem, have designed and developed interventions to bridge the existing gaps and problems. The response from the state would require a robust design for farmers involved in Millet mission to provide them with consistent technical and management expertise dealing with issues of production, bio-inputs, crop insurances, post-harvest infrastructure, value addition, certification and remunerative marketing systems. This would require adequate time and sustained efforts to streamline the whole process.

Within existing circumstances during pandemic, to address the issues of existing nutritional deficiencies coupled with increasing food crisis, the produce from millet growing farmers must ensure greater linkage with food distributional systems and schemes of the state like PDS, ICDS, Antoday Anna Yojna. Such initiative will ensure development of millets value chain and enhance the nutritional intake of the marginalised sections through different schemes. This would significantly trigger both the production and consumption of millets- from farms to plate. In a nutshell, Millet mission can be considered as one such initiative that has the potential to revive traditional and sustainable agricultural practices that are climate resilient, upholds nutritional value and promotes sustainable food systems to address food security concerns pertaining to SDGs.

Geeta Sinha, Assistant Professor, Jindal School of Government and Public Policy,  O.P. Jindal Global University, India

  Read  Odisha Millets Mission- a step towards combating climate vulnerability and promoting sustainable food systems
in India
  December 30, 2021
Killing Nature Must Be Treated as a Crime on a Par with Genocide and War Crimes
by CJ Polychroniou , Countercurrents, in Environmental Protection.

Ecocide must be elevated into an international crime—on a par with genocide and war crimes—and fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

The first United Nations Scientific Conference on the Environment, also known as the First Earth Summit, was held in Stockholm, Sweden, from June 6-15, 1972. Ιt established a Declaration of Principles and adopted an action plan with recommendations for the preservation and enhancement of the environment. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, it led to the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Since then, environmental issues and climate evolution have figured prominently on the global agenda, yet pledges made to protect the environment and reduce emissions are not being fulfilled. Without an international enforcement mechanism, governments are not legally bound to make good on their commitments, for example, to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2040, which is what Biden pledged that the US will do.

Equally significant, environmental legislation aimed at imposing criminal penalties on corporations and their officials remains weak and, in some countries, even non-existent. In the US, where several types of criminal violations are specified in the Clean Air Act and whose definition of an air pollutant includes greenhouse gas emissions, following a 2007 US Supreme Court ruling on the matter, many states regularly look the other way when it comes to protecting public health and the environment from illegal air pollution from oil refineries and chemical plants. Texas, for example, failed between 2011 and 2016 to penalize 97 percent of illegal polluters.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top two US greenhouse gas emitting companies listed in the new edition of Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index Report by researchers at the renowned Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst are based in Texas. Vista Energy and Duke Energy released a combined 194 million tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere in 2019, and this figure does not include biogenic carbon dioxide emissions (emissions released by a stationary facility from the combustion or decomposition of biologically-based materials other than fossil fuels).Under the Trump administration, polluters and corporate interests had more freedom than any other time over the past few decades to destroy the environment. More than 125 environmental regulations were rolled back during Trump’s nightmarish reign of power.

Of course, let’s not forget the US military’s carbon footprint, which spews so much greenhouse gas emissions from fuel usage alone that if it were a country it would rank as the 47th worst polluter in the world, according to a 2019 report released by social scientists at Durham University and Lancaster University in UK.

In the meantime, China has emerged as the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, with 60 percent of its power provided by coal, although it is still far behind the US in terms of per capita emissions.

Thus, nearly half a century after the First Earth Summit, most environmental problems have worsened, and nature and climate are subsequently on the verge of breakdown. The rate of species extinction is accelerating, according to scores of scientific studies, and there continues to be a relentless rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil which causes temperatures to rise, producing the phenomenon of global warming.

Essentially, what we have is a cause-and-effect relationship between anthropogenic climate change and species extinction. Higher temperatures lead to a chain reaction of other changes around the globe, with tremendous impact not simply on people but also on wildlife and biodiversity.  Today’s extinctions proceed at a pace faster than ever before, with around one million species already facing extinction, “many within decades,’ according to a major United Nations 2019 report.

The time has come for drastic measures to protect the environment and save the world from a climate catastrophe. Polluting the environment is a crime, but environmental criminals are almost never prosecuted. Environmental crime is still regarded a “white collar crime,” subject mostly to civil charges and accompanied by fines, when the reality on the state of the planet mandates that environmental destruction be conceptualized as a crime against humanity.

Fines are surely not enough to deter greedy and ruthless capitalists from destroying the environment, even if fines happen to be as steep as those involved in the historic greenhouse gas enforcement case between the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Hyundai and Kia that forced the automakers to pay $100 million civil penalty for, among other wrongdoings, emitting more greenhouse gases than reported to EPA or, even more recently, of the seemingly humongous fine of $1 billion levied against German automakers Volkswagen and BMW by the European Union. Both automakers were fined for colluding to curb the use of emissions cleaning technology.

For the record, Volkswagen has a long cheating emissions history, yet it continues to get off easy. The reason is that Germany doesn’t even have criminal liability for corporations, and only recently has there been a move to introduce such a legal framework. In Europe, in fact, “there is no penalty for environmental crime,” according to EU environmental commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius.

Yet another reason why fines won’t deter polluters is because the costs of such penalties get passed onto shareholders and even to consumers rather than being borne by the culpable individuals.

Prison sentences must be embraced for environmental crimes, although it is clear that environmental crime cannot be synthesized into a single category. Severe environmental crimes (any crime that brings about an alteration of globalcommons  or the Earth’s ecological system, such as, for example, the destruction of the Amazon forest under the Bolsonaro administration) should be accompanied by severe imprisonment sentences.

The harmful effects of environmental degradation—impact on human health, loss of biodiversity, atmospheric changes, scarcity of natural resources—are beyond dispute. Therefore, the killing of nature must be added to the list of the most horrific crimes imaginable. Ecocide must be elevated into an international crime—on a par with genocide and war crimes—and fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. If we want to save the Earth, there is no way around it.

As for those who may object to severe imprisonment sentences as an effective answer to severe environmental crimes, there is considerable evidence from available studies looking into whether the criminal prosecution of war criminals can prevent and deter crimes against humanity indicating that everything depends on the credibility of the institutions involved and that the conditions have to be just right.

Still, even if doubts persist about the deterrent effects of harsh imprisonment for systemic environmental damage, one thing is certain: leaving intact the existing legal response to environmental crime will ensure that the planet is doomed.

C.J. Polychroniou  is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in numerous universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His latest books are The PrecipiceNeoliberalism, the Pandemic and the Urgent Need for Social Change (A collection of interviews with Noam Chomsky; Haymarket Books, 2021), and Economics and the LeftInterviews with Progressive Economists (Verso, 2021).

Originally published in CommonDreams.org

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

  Read  Killing Nature Must Be Treated as a Crime on a Par with Genocide and War Crimes
  December 27, 2021
Warnings from the Far North.
by Robert Hunziker, Countercurrents, in Climate Change .

“Forces profound and alarming are reshaping the upper reaches of the North Pacific and Arctic oceans, breaking the food chain that supports billions of creatures and one of the world’s most important fisheries.”(Source: Susanne Rust, Unprecedented Die-offs, Melting Ice: Climate Change is Wreaking Havoc in the Arctic and Beyond, Los Angeles Times, December 17, 2021)

“Breaking the food chain that supports billions of creatures” is horrific to contemplate. It sends a powerful signal of trouble dead ahead. In that regard, scientists agree that what happens up North signals what’s in store to the South, and what’s happening up North is a gut-wrenching reality of life on a knife’s edge of catastrophe.

It’s never been more urgent and timely for the world to change its ways and abandon the current economic maelstrom that haunts all life on the planet. The pros and cons of capitalism’s experiment with neoliberal tendencies that enrich the few and bury the many should be debated in the context of strained resources throughout the biosphere, including all life forms. The GDP-to-infinity paradigm is barreling towards a wall of impending extinction. It’s already on a fast track.

In the aforementioned LA Times, aka The Times, article: “Kuletz, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist who has been observing birds in Alaska since the late 1970s, said she’s never before seen the large-scale changes of recent years. In 2013, the dead birds did not show signs of being emaciated, but in 2017, hundreds to thousands more began to wash up dead on beaches with clear signs of starvation.” Ibid.

A team from The Times traveled to Alaska and spoke with dozens of scientists conducting field research in the Bering Sea and the High Arctic from whence they describe the harsh reality of a vastly/rapidly changing climate system that threatens basic food resources for marine life, as well as for humanity.

The fingerprints of anthropogenic global warming are all over the discernable shifts of sea life and/or loss of species captured in a whirlwind of unpredictability. According to boots-on-the-ground scientists in the far north, these radical shifts in the ecosystem have… “ramifications that stretch far beyond the Arctic. Moreover, the Bering Sea is one of the planet’s major fishing grounds.”

Janet Duffy-Anderson, a marine scientist who leads surveys of the Bering Sea for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center said: “Globally, cold-water ecosystems support the world’s fisheries. Halibut, all of the cod, all of the benthic crabs, lobsters, this is the majority of the food source for the world.”

She emphasized the fact that the ripple effect of what’s happening in the far north could shut down fisheries as well as leave migrating animals starving for food, which, in fact, is already omnipresent. And, of concern: “Alaska is a bellwether for what other systems can expect.”

The top of the marine food chain is in deep trouble. Since 2019 hundreds of gray whales have died along North America’s Pacific coastline. Many of the whales appeared skinny or underfed.

Addressing the whale issue, another scientific study from a year ago stated: “It is now the third year that gray whales have been found in very poor condition or dead in large numbers along the west coast of Mexico, USA and Canada, and scientist have raised their concerns. An international study suggests that starvation is contributing to these mortalities.” (Source: Mary Lou Jones and Steven Swartz -Aarhus University- A Large Number of Gray Whales are Starving and Dying in the Eastern North Pacific, ScienceDaily, January 22, 2021)

When the top of the marine food chain (whales) starve, it’s only too obvious that the lower levels are failing. This one fact is cause for serious concern and thus demands action by the leaders of the world to commit to a series of international studies of marine life and ocean conditions with recommendations on how to solve the anthropogenic cause of excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet, it appears that as some species in the far north struggle, some do adapt and even thrive. Thus, there may be some tradeoffs on a slightly positive note, but still, it’s the emaciated animals en mass that cannot be overlooked. The fact of the matter, stated in The Times: “Data from a Bering Sea mooring shows the average temperature throughout the water column has risen markedly in the last several years: in 2018, water temperatures were 9 degrees above the historical average.”

It should be noted that if overall global temperatures averaged 9 degrees above average, it would be “lights out” for terrestrial life.

Warmer waters appear to be at the heart of the problem, e.g., as the planet warms both humans and wildlife become more vulnerable to infectious diseases that were previously confined to certain specific locations and environments. Additionally, toxic algae that kills marine life thrives in warmer waters. Plus, marine animals do not naturally mature, and reproduce as waters warm far above historical averages. Furthermore, ocean acidification, caused by excessive CO2, is already threatening sea life by reducing carbonate, a key building block in seawater.

Only recently, a death march of extreme heat hit the Pacific. A study in Canada showed the enormous impact of heat, as an estimated one billion sea creatures off the coast of Vancouver died because of excessive ocean heat. According to professor Christopher Harley, University of British Columbia: “”I’ve been working in the Pacific Northwest for most of the past 25 years, and I have not seen anything like this here. This is far more extensive than anything I’ve ever seen.” (Source: Heat Wave Killed An Estimated 1 Billion Sea Creatures, And Scientists Fear Even Worse, NPR Environment, July 9, 2021)

The oceans are suffering a triple whammy, and as a result scientists believe it is distinctly possible that life in the wondrous blue seas could be gone by mid century, unless humanity changes course. Overfishing, pollution, and climate change are battering the oceans. It’s all human-caused. The question then becomes, if humans have caused the onslaught, can they reverse it, or at least stop?

In all, it’s becoming only too apparent that to maintain life on the planet, the world economy needs to stabilize by massive reduction of greenhouse gases accompanied by flat-line economic activity, forget the death wish of GDP up and up “whatever percent every quarter,” which runs roughshod over the planet’s ecosystems. Worshipping GDP growth is akin to idolatry, and its moral corollary is greed. Maybe try worldwide socialism and see how that works for the planet’s life-sourcing ecosystems.

Not only that, but plain and simple, we’re running out of nature’s resourcefulness. “Today’s seas contain only 10% of the marlin, tuna, sharks and other large predators that were found in the 1950s… Overfishing puts the whole ocean ecosystem out of balance.” (Source: Katie Pavid, Will the Ocean Really Be Dead In 50 Years? Natural History Museum, London)

Of additional interest, the documentary Seaspiracy/Netflix by Disrupt Studios, March 2021 is an eye-opener on the goings-on of marine life, what’s left of it, in the oceans.

Museum scientists have studied past periods of climate change: “Research leader Prof Richard Twitchett says, ‘We have a really good idea of what oceans look like when the climate warms. It has happened to Earth many times before, and here in the Museum we have collections of fossil animals and plants that date back millions of years, so we can see how they responded. The rocks and fossils show us that as temperature increased in the past, oxygen levels fell and huge areas of the seafloor became uninhabitable,” Ibid.

“The same oceans that nourished human evolution are poised to unleash misery on a global scale unless the carbon pollution destabilizing Earth’s marine environment is brought to heel.” (Source: Oceans Turning From Friend to Foe, Warns Landmark UN Climate Report, Agence France Presse, August 29, 2019)

Robert Hunziker is a writer from Los Angeles

  Read  Warnings from the Far North
  December 30, 2021
Climate Chaos: What to Learn From 2021
by João Camargo, Countercurrents, in Climate Change .

To keep acting as if there wasn’t war declared against the planet and humanity is to accept we are already defeated. Continuing to play their game can only guarantee collapse. It’s time to flip the table.

A home is engulfed in flames as the Dixie fire rages on in Greenville, California on August 5, 2021. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

This year we saw some of the consequences of the climate crisis devastating rich countries in the Northern Hemisphere. This didn’t lead to any political changes, though. Institutions remain the grease for the engines of capitalism. The COP26 in Glasgow became the primary space to project the new forms of capital accumulation, using the climate crisis as an excuse for new land grabs. This was also the year of space penises, inaugurating the space race of idiots while a new global bubble of speculation grows in the form of cryptocurrency. Climate degradation will always be accompanied by growing alienation, as the Capitalocene moves into full throttle.

2021 will probably rank among the seven hottest years ever, continuing the succession of global temperature records that blur with the years we just lived through (of the ten hottest years since records, none were before 2000, and of those before this decade, only 2005 remains at the top). The oceans are more acidic than they have ever been in the last 26,000 years, meaning that their ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is going down, as is the difficulty for many of the creatures that live there to proliferate. Research shows that the Atlantic Meridional Circulation, which distributes energy from the warmer parts of the ocean towards higher latitudes, is destabilized, approaching collapse, with the slowest speeds for 1600 years, indicating the proximity of a standstill. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also at the highest levels ever recorded, unparalleled in the last 3 million years (our species has existed for 300,000).

Global greenhouse gas emissions have increased dramatically (by about 5% from 2020, which will make final levels close to those of 2019). Emissions in China are expected to increase by about 4% relative to 2020, those in India by about 13%, the European Union and the United States by about 8%. The bulk of all the “economic recovery”that has existed has been based on oil, gas and coal. Coal actually saw its biggest annual rise ever, over 9% (well spread between China, India, the European Union and the United States). Global capitalism remains absolutely addicted to fossil fuels and with no credible plan to stop being so. The plan is called climate collapse and it drags us towards catastrophe. If there are those that hadn’t learned that before 2021, it is hard to understand how they ever will.

Catastrophe was a very frequent word this year, although the press stubbornly continues not to directly link the huge increase in extreme weather phenomena to the climate crisis, ending up repeatedly portraying them as “natural disasters”, getting lost in the debate on assistance logistics and financial impacts, always avoiding addressing the unequivocal origin of this crisis. A relevant difference of the year was the higher incidence of climate disasters in the Global North, affecting more directly the countries historically responsible for the climate crisis. The South continued, however, to be devastated.

The beginning of 2021 saw the Spanish capital covered in snow, in a blizzard caused by tropical storm Filomena. Even in a rich country with huge material and social infrastructure the effects are severe, with roads cut off for two to three weeks, public transport almost closed, parks and gardens severely destroyed, countless rooftops collapsed and hundreds of thousands of people trapped in their homes with no ability to move during another Covid-19 peak. Madagascar’s annus horribilis began this month with the passage of tropical storm Eloise, followed by a particularly strong monsoon the following month, with several villages and homes flooded and destroyed.

In February, the collapse of part of the Nanda Devi glacier in India led to a river tsunami that ruptured the Dhauliganga dam, killing more than 80 people. Cold waves in the United States lead to power cuts to more than 10 million people, particularly in Texas and Nebraska. Temperatures were up to 40°C below normal for the season and almost 200 people died. Record lows in temperature were also broken in Canada. In South America the worst drought in 90 years has occurred. Floods in Tangier and Tetouan, Morocco, killed 50 people.

Successive floods in Kenya led to the destruction of crops and several deaths throughout the spring. In March, sandstorms in China, coupling dust, heat and pollution, made Beijing and most of Mongolia intoxicating or deadly places for anyone on the streets under orange skies without masks and goggles. In May, cyclone Tuaktae killed at least 150 people in India. In Russia, the summer of 2021 set the record for hottest in the country’s history, with heatwaves and devastating forest fires in Siberia. In Hong Kong, rainfall during the first five months of the year was the lowest since records began in 1884.

The summer (in the Northern Hemisphere) of 2021 was very hot. In Libya, more than 100 people died in a heatwave in June, while in the antipodes New Zealand set records for the warmest winter ever, 1.32°C above the 1981-2010 average temperature. In Czechia, the largest tornado ever killed six people in June. July 2021 was the warmest July ever recorded. The American northeast saw successive temperature records broken (over 100 in Canada), including Lytton, at 49.6°C in British Columbia, in a heatwave that melted asphalt, destroyed power grids and killed hundreds of people, followed by devastating forest fires that destroyed the town. In the United States more than 800 people died in this heat wave. The largest forest fire in California’s history started in July and only ended in October, the Dixie fire, which consumed 390,000 hectares of forest and brush (and villages and towns). Hurricane Ida was the second strongest hurricane to come ashore in the United States since Katrina, flooding parts of Louisiana, but also Cuba. More than 100 people died. In central Europe, flash floods inundated parts of Germany (where 183 people died), destroying houses and bridges, cutting off electricity and water for several days, as occurred in Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Croatia and Italy. In the same month, floods killed more than 200 people in Pakistan and 300 in Henan, China. It was also in July that impressive images of the sea in flames in the Gulf of Mexico were seen, due to another serious accident on an oil rig from Pemex.

Forest fires devastated Greece and Turkey in the late summer and in October a very rare Mediterranean hurricane, Apollo, made landfall in Sicily. By this time famine in Madagascar, combining extreme poverty with prolonged drought, had reached more than a million people.

In December, a series of unseasonal tornadoes swept through several US states—Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky—covering hundreds of kilometres and killing at least 90 people. The end of the year also saw Super Typhoon Rai force more than 400,000 people from their homes in the Philippines, with at least 400 deaths. In Northeast Brazil, floods devastated the state of Bahia, with dozens of dead and tens of thousands displaced. Also this month news became public that the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica, also called the Doomsday Glacier, is loosening faster as the oceans warm, increasing fractures in the ice and threatening to collapse not decades from now but during this decade, which would in itself lead to a rise in global mean sea level by at least 60 cm in one single event.

Faced with this new climate that no longer hides anything, the economic and political system that dominates the world gave every guarantee that nothing substantive would be done. The COP26 in Glasgow was the first COP that unapologetically affirmed the entry into the Capitalocene, an unashamed market of the natural resources of the poorest countries, where some of the main actors of global capitalism tried to organize a new power arrangement that allows more economic expansion. The plan is to use the climate crisis as the excuse to open new frontiers of exploitation and capital accumulation. Carbon neutrality, emissions trading, carbon offsets and the intensification of mining all feed new narratives to enable only one thing: to make a new division of the poorest countries as sites of extraction, open mines to maintain the status quo.

There is no separation between capitalism as a mode of production and capitalism as a worldview. To compensate for the productive crisis associated with Covid, it is necessary to deepen alienation so that, in the midst of the greatest crisis humanity has ever experienced (not Covid, the climate and environmental crisis), activities like those that gave rise to it can be expanded. During the COP it was revealed that over 800 new oil and gas wells were planned in over 70 countries by the end of 2022. Immediately after the COP ended, Joe Biden’s administration held the largest auction in history of oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico. In the peak of pure alienation, cryptocurrencies exploded, a 100% speculative product, without any physical counterpart, but with a huge impact on energy consumption. It is one of the new facets of anarcho-capitalism that goes looking for new tools to expropriate real wealth and accumulate capital, colliding and competing with the private and public systems of banking and finance. Bitcoin alone emits more carbon dioxide than New Zealand, all connected to the stupidity of cryptomining. The cryptocurrency bubble is a madness like the tulip crisis in Holland in the 17th century, only in this case there aren’t even any tulips.

As a corollary to the alienated side of the Capitalocene, several multimillionaires have assembled spaceships shaped like giant penises and gone into space for 15 minutes to prove they could afford it. Closing the year, Time magazine gave Elon Musk, whose big project is to colonize Mars, the man of the year award. Musk is sold as a self-made man, despite his fortune from his father’s emerald mines in Zambia. Musk is one of the biggest critics of public plans to curb emissions (including, of course, Joe Biden’s plan for a massive public investment plan—which is being blocked by his own party members, another anecdotal episode of the nature of institutionalism). For the billionaire, as for capitalism, the mission is to make money, and they want no competition. The press applauded all these grotesque episodes and gave them all the attention and every minute of time that a good sponsor deserves.

The Capitalocene has set in. Contradictions will always intensify henceforth. To lose clarity and vision and walk the muddy field of looking for hope where there is none is guaranteeing that capitalism—that is, collapse—will prevail. The climate crisis is no longer a future prediction but a present succession of expected and increasingly devastating catastrophes, in all territories, while the economic, political and cultural apparatus of capitalism reveals that it does not even have a Machiavellian plan, but mainly a stupid plan, the fruit of the very alienation of the status quo elites. They intend to collapse us by inertia. To keep acting as if there wasn’t war declared against the planet and humanity is to accept we are already defeated. Continuing to play their game can only guarantee collapse. It’s time to flip the table.

João Camargo is a climate activist in grassroots movement Climáximo in Portugal and in the Climate Jobs campaign. He’s an environmental engineer and climate change researcher at the University of Lisbon, where he just finished his PhD about Climate Change as a new metanarrative for humanity. He authored two books in 2018: Climate Change Combat Manual (in Portugal and Spain) and Portugal in Flames – How to rescue the forests.

Originally published in CommonDreams.org

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

  Read Climate Chaos: What to Learn From 2021
  November 11, 2021
Climate Change Cannot be Resolved Without Strong Commitment Also to Justice and Peace
by Bharat Dogra, Countercurrents, in Climate Change .

            It is becoming increasingly clearer by the day, and confirmed further by COP 26 deliberations, that the climate change crisis cannot be resolved without accompanying strong commitment to peace and justice. At a time when it has become increasingly important to explore all sources of potential reduction of GHG emissions, how can we expect to succeed when possibly the biggest source of emission reduction available in military and arms related emssions is not even on the agenda. At a time when the rich countries have been making a mountain of the molehill of together contributing 100 billion dollars to climate fund for the Global South, it is worth recalling that a 20 per cent reduction in the conservatively estimated military budget (786 billion dollars) of a single country (USA) can yield 157 billion for an urgent requirement like climate change. Or that a 10 per cent tax on the wealth of the world’s billionaires ( 13000 billion dollars) can yield 1300 billion dollars. These are the kind of justice and peace related steps which can give new optimism to climate change agenda but are not considered seriously at summit-level.

At a wider level, these links include many more aspects which transcend emission and budget issues. Glaring inequalities and injustice have spread discontent among the deprived sections of society in various parts of world, which can erupt in violence, threatening peace. Now the new factor is that  problems of various vulnerable groups can worsen in many ways in times of climate change. Exposure to intense heat, prolonged dry weather and other adverse conditions can also lead to behavioral changes making people prone to outbursts of anger and violence. Thus while there was clearly need for justice based reforms to reduce the problems and distress of vulnerable groups, there is now even greater need for this.

If we are committed to finding justice based solutions to the crisis of climate change, this will necessarily involve efforts to have a real understanding of their problems and how these can be solved or reduced. There can be remedial actions which, while reducing GHG emissions, will also solve or reduce many of those problems of peasants and workers which are becoming a cause of discontent.

On the other hand if climate change concerns are sought to be resolved merely by technocratic solutions ignoring the real concerns of the vulnerable groups, then this will merely increase the discontent of people. Already there are examples of big business projects disguised as so-called so-called green projects which are increasing displacement, water scarcity, livelihood uncertainty and other problems of the poor. On the other hand careful and caring solutions can pave the way for reducing discontent and violence. Thus it is clear that climate change solutions should be linked to justice and peace.

These inter-linkages between climate change concerns, justice and peace  should be used at a world level to strengthen effective response of people to most pressing challenges of resolving climate crisis in a framework of justice, equality and peace.

But there is a big problem here. The way in which GHG emission reduction issues are framed today generally fails to excite most people, understandably as they are too engrossed, too involved in the day-to-day struggles of survival and coping with many-sided problems. This situation can change if the great environmental challenges can be linked to the no-less important challenges of meeting the basic needs of all people.

To be more specific, there is a strong case for preparing a plan for adequately reducing greenhouse gas emissions which is also linked to a plan for meeting the basic needs of all. Both plans, or two components of a single integrated plan, should be accepted as equally crucial. When such a plan is in place, then we will have something over which mass mobilisation will be truly possible.

The preparation of such a plan will also bring out forcefully that if these two objectives of critical importance (adequately reducing GHG emissions to keep temperature below 2degreeC and at the same time meeting the nutrition, health, housing, water and sanitation needs of all people) are to be met, then there is no scope for injustice and inequalities, greed and waste, and above all there is no scope for arms race and war!

With such a strong plan in place, the three movements of justice, environment and peace can come together to mobilise  people on a well-integrated , comprehensive agenda of peace, justice and environment protection, with special emphaasis on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

It is being said that the failure so far to reduce GHG emissions adequately has revealed a crisis of world leadership like perhaps never before and therefore clearly a bigger space has to be now occupied by peaceful but determined people’s movements. But these movements need to have an agenda which can obtain people’s support on a mass scale. This is why it is so important to link up the task of GHG emission reductions with the task of meeting the basic needs of all and preparing a common plan linking up these two crucial objectives of the greatest importance.

If we have a world-level plan, a common plan for meeting the basic needs of all and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions adequately – then it will be a plan with which most people in the world can identify closely. Thus it will be possible to build a mass movement, a worldwide movement, to accord the highest priority to this plan. This will provide a clear guide-post to people that the most urgent needs of justice, peace and environment protection can be integrated in a common plan and they and their unions and organizations can link up wih such an agenda, contribute to it and look forward to benefiting a lot from this.

As a step in this direction, people should seek to form a better understanding of  wasteful and hazardous consumption and technologies.Those forms of wasteful consumption and tehnologies which involve particularly high GHG emissions should  also be identified carefully. Plans involving study, discussion and participative education should aim to reduce all wasteful consumption as much as possible while promoting the satisfaction of all basic needs in healthier and more ecologically protective ways.

In particular a worldwide effort is needed 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 also involve a lot of GHG emission.

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 will serve as a guide to people, their organizations as well as governments around the world for keeping GHG emissions low while meeting basic needs.This will emphasize maximum local self-reliance in meeting basic needs, to the extent practical and possible, so that unnecessary transport is avoided and livelihoods and needs are better integrated in all regions.

Energy planning should be focused more and more on renewable sources of energy. There should be a lot of encouragement for  local initiatives and innovations for local solutions in prevailing conditions. 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 at the same it is important to recognize that 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. All threatened mass felling of trees and natural forests should be stopped immediately instead of waiting for a distant date. Conservation projects should never displace local communities but instead should seek to invole them.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.

Spread of such an agenda worldwide will open up many more possibilities for unleashing the creative and enthusisatic response of people to checking climate change while also resolving other serious problems at the same time. Such creative solutions will also open up the need and possibilities to bring wider changes in society, economy and governance which are based on justice, equality, peace, democracy, protection of   environment and biodiversity and sustainability, above all creating a safer and more just and secure world for future generations as well.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Planet in Peril—Peope’s Response the Only Way Forward.

  Read Climate Change Cannot be Resolved Without Strong Commitment Also to  Justice and Peace
  November 18, 2021
The Climate Crisis Is a Human Rights Crisis
by Keith Slack, Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

We must continue to demand that international climate negotiations focus on the experiences of those most affected by the climate crisis and their solutions to mitigating it while ensuring that those who speak out against climate-damaging activities are not subjected to repression or violence.

Colombian natives and activists protested against the government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the fires in the Amazon rainforest, in front of the Brazilian consulate in Bogota, Colombia, on August 23, 2019.(Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)

COP26 ended last weekend and with it, hopes that the negotiations would meaningfully address the needs of Indigenous and frontline communities facing the worst effects of the climate crisis. The United Kingdom, which hosted this year’s COP, promised it would be one of the most inclusive international climate negotiations ever, but in reality, Indigenous and frontline voices were drowned out by the usual chorus of empty climate commitments.

As the primary guardians of the forests, Indigenous communities play a crucial role in the global response to the climate crisis. Every year, the world loses around 5 million hectares of forest, equivalent to the size of Costa Rica. The IPCC has calculated that approximately 23 percent of greenhouse gas emissions derive from agriculture and forestry. Such emissions are produced mainly by deforestation to open land for agribusiness. But there are people acting to reverse this trend. A report from the Indigenous Environmental Network estimates that “Indigenous resistance has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least 25 percent percent of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions.”

Despite the vital role that environmental defenders play in protecting our shared natural resources, they are increasingly under threat. A 2020 analysis by the group Frontline Defenders found that environmental, land, and Indigenous defenders are the most targeted of all human rights defenders, with 331 murdered in 2020 alone. This isn’t just a climate crisis—it’s a human rights crisis too.

Although Indigenous groups have been recognized as key stakeholders at global climate negotiations since 2001, their ability to meaningfully participate in these conferences has always been hampered by systemic barriers. COP26 was no exception. In the months leading up to COP, experts from civil society organizations warned that many potential participants from the Global South could not attend the conference due to high travel costs, obstacles in obtaining visas, COVID-19 quarantine requirements, deportations, and limited opportunities to secure UN accreditation.

COP26 proved that international climate negotiations continue to be inaccessible for frontline communities and environmental defenders. In 2018, a law was adopted in the host country of Poland just months ahead of COP24 to quash protests. At COP25 in Madrid, activists were barred from the conference after protesting the slow pace of the negotiations. We saw a similar pattern at COP26. Of the many panels and side events in Glasgow, few focused on the challenges facing frontline defenders. Outside the meeting rooms of COP26, activists representing Indigenous and frontline communities, trade unions, racial justice groups, youth strikers, and NGOs protested the empty promises presented by most of the major players at the conference.

2021 should have been a big year for the United States at COP—our first since rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. Among the steps they could have taken, President Biden and climate envoy John Kerry had an opportunity to announce plans to cancel the controversial Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, commit to no more fossil fuel projects, and protect climate defenders from repression and abuse. Instead, they talked a big game but failed to deliver on meaningful commitments. They even opposed a proposal to create a Loss and Damage facility, a body intended to provide technical and financial assistance to communities most harmed by climate change.

The text of the Glasgow Climate Pact does little if anything to protect frontline communities from extractive industries or the climate crisis. It calls on parties to respect, promote and consider human rights obligations when taking action to address climate change, but there are no further references to human rights in the rest of the text.

Like the Paris agreement, the preamble to the Glasgow Climate Pact notes “the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice.” This is a flawed statement. Because climate change affects every person alive on this planet today, climate justice is important to everyone, particularly Indigenous, Black, Brown, and frontline communities who contribute the least to the climate crisis, suffer most of its harms, and experience the most repression and violence when speaking out against it. In order to ensure that those most vulnerable to the climate crisis are protected, climate justice must be a central tenet of every solution.

Climate-damaging projects often move forward after undermining the rights of frontline communities to meaningfully participate in decisions around fossil fuel development. That’s why activists were hopeful that the Glasgow Climate Pact would prioritize their involvement, which it failed to do. It also failed to commit to a full phase-out of fossil fuels. After intense lobbying from China and India, the language was watered down to call on parties to “accelerate efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” According to experts, the “unabated” condition implicitly allows space to use inefficient and costly carbon capture and storage technologies that do nothing to address the root causes of climate change.

Frontline and Indigenous communities have the most to lose from the climate crisis, and they also hold many of the solutions to it. But because their remedies do not line the pockets of multinational fossil fuel companies, their voices are often ignored or violently silenced.

As the climate justice movement looks ahead to COP27 in Egypt next year, we must continue to demand that international climate negotiations focus on the experiences of those most affected by the climate crisis and their solutions to mitigating it while ensuring that those who speak out against climate-damaging activities are not subjected to repression or violence. Since 2013, Egypt has systemically moved to limit the rights of activists to protest, which suggests that COP27 will not strengthen the ability of those marginalized from climate negotiations to speak out. True climate justice won’t be achieved unless international climate negotiations effectively integrate and address the needs of frontline and Indigenous communities.

Keith Slack is the Director of Strategy and Campaigns for EarthRights International.

Originally published in CommonDreams.org

  Read The Climate Crisis Is a Human Rights Crisis
  November 18, 2021
Tasks For The Future
by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents, in Book Review .

A new freely downloadable book

Today the world is facing several threats, and to avoid them we need to act. The greatest threats are catastrophic climate change and thermonuclear war, but a large-scale global famine also has to be considered.

I would like to announce the publication of a new book, in which these problems are discussed The book may be downloaded and circulated free of charge from the following link:


Here are the great tasks that challenge us today:

We need a steady-state economic system

Perpetual growth of anything physical on a finite planet is a logical impossibility.  Economic growth is already destroying the global environment.

We must restore democracy

In many countries, democracy has been replaced by oligarchy. Governmental secrecy means that the people have no control of what their governments are doing. We need to restore democracy in our own countries, but we must not interfere in the internal affairs of nations other than our own.

We must decrease economic inequality

We must act to decrease economic inequality, both between nations, and within nations. Countries with more equality are demonstrably happier, and with fewer social problems than nations where inequality is greater.

We must break the power of corporate greed

As Professor Noam Chomsky has pointed out, greed and lack of ethics are built into the structure of corporations. By law, the Chief Executive Officer of a corporation must be entirely motivated by the collective greed of the stockholders. He must optomize profits. If the CEO abandons this single-minded chase after corporate profits for ethical reasons, or for the sake of humanity or the biosphere  or the future, he must, by law, be fired and replaced.

We must leave fossil fuels in the ground

The threat of catastrophic climate change requires prompt and dedicated action by the global community. Unless we very quickly make the transition from fossil fuels to 100 % renewable energy, we will reach tipping points, after which uncontrollable feedback loops will take over.

We must stabilize and ultimately reduce global population

The population of humans will soon exceed the carrying capacity of the global environment, increasing the probability of a large-scale famine. Education of women and higher status for women are vitally important steps, not only for their own sake, but also because these reforms have shown themselves to be important steps towards population stabilization.

We must eliminate the institution of war

In an era of all-destroying thermonuclear weapons, war has become a dangerous anachronism. Today the world spends roughly two trillion dollars every year on armaments. This almost unimaginably enormous sum could solve many of our pressing problems if it were used constructively. Instead, the weapons purchaced with this money endanger the lives of every person on the planet.

We need a world federation

The present United Nations is a confederation, rather than a federation, and thus it is too weak to prevent wars.  The present UN tries to control its member states by means of economic sanctoins, but these sanctions are neither just nor effective, since they make the poorest citizens of the targeted nation suffer, rather than the guilty leaders. By contrast, a federation has the poer to make laws that are binfing on individuals, even if they are heads of the member states.  Historically, federations have been very successful. A number of large nations today (for example the United States, Russia, Germany and Australia) have federal governments. The European Union is also a federation.

We need new ethics to match our new technology

On our small but beautiful earth, made small by technology, made beautiful by nature, there is room for one group only: the family of humankind.

I hope that you will circulate the links in this article to friends and contacts who might be interested.

John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist at the University of Copenhagen. He is noted for his books and research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. His 2003 book Information Theory and Evolution set forth the view that the phenomenon of life, including its origin, evolution, as well as human cultural evolution, has its background situated in the fields of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Since 1990 he has been the Chairman of the Danish National Group of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. Between 2004 and 2015 he also served as Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy. He founded the Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes, and was for many years its Managing Editor. He also served as Technical Advisor to the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (19881997). http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at avery.john.s@gmail.com. To know more about his works visit this link.  https://www.johnavery.info/

  November 18, 2021
Washington’s World Order and Catastrophic Climate Change
by Alfred W McCoy, Countercurrents, in World.

When the leaders of more than 100 nations gathered in Glasgow for the U.N. climate conference last week, there was much discussion about the disastrous effect of climate change on the global environment. There was, however, little awareness of its likely political impact on the current world order that made such an international gathering possible.

World orders are deeply rooted global systems that structure relations among nations and the conditions of life for their peoples. For the past 600 years, as I’ve argued in my new book To Govern the Globe, it’s taken catastrophic events like war or plague to overturn such entrenched ways of life. But within a decade, climate change will already be wreaking a kind of cumulative devastation likely to surpass previous catastrophes, creating the perfect conditions for the eclipse of Washington’s liberal world order and the rise of Beijing’s decidedly illiberal one. In this sweeping imperial transition, global warming will undoubtedly be the catalyst for a witch’s brew of change guaranteed to erode both America’s world system and its once unchallenged hegemony (along with the military force that’s been behind it all these years).

By charting the course of climate change, it’s possible to draw a political road map for the rest of this tempestuous century — from the end of American global hegemony around 2030, through Beijing’s brief role as world leader (until perhaps 2050), all the way to this century’s closing decades of unparalleled environmental crisis. Those decades, in turn, may yet produce a new kind of world order focused, however late, on mitigating a global disaster of almost unimaginable power.

The Bipartisan Nature of U.S. Decline

America’s decline started at home as a distinctly bipartisan affair. After all, Washington wasted two decades in an extravagant fashion fighting costly conflicts in distant lands, in part to secure the Middle East’s oil at a time when that fuel was already destined to join cordwood and coal in the dustbin of history (though not faintly soon enough). Beijing, in contrast, used those same years to build industries that would make it the world’s workshop.

In 2001, in a major miscalculation, Washington admitted Beijing to the World Trade Organization, bizarrely confident that a compliant China would somehow join the world economy without challenging American global power. “Across the ideological spectrum, we in the U.S. foreign policy community,” wrote two former members of the Obama administration, “shared the underlying belief that U.S. power and hegemony could readily mold China to the United States’ liking… All sides of the policy debate erred.”

A bit more bluntly, foreign policy expert John Mearsheimer recently concluded that “both Democratic and Republican administrations… promoted investment in China and welcomed the country into the global trading system, thinking it would become a peace-loving democracy and a responsible stakeholder in a U.S.-led international order.”

In the 15 years since then, Beijing’s exports to the U.S. grew nearly fivefold to $462 billion annually. By 2014, its foreign currency reserves had surged from just $200 billion to an unprecedented $4 trillion — a vast hoard of cash it used to build a modern military and win allies across Eurasia and Africa. Meanwhile, Washington was wasting more than $8 trillion on profitless wars in the Greater Middle East and Africa in lieu of spending such funds domestically on infrastructure, innovation, or education — a time-tested formula for imperial decline.

When a Pentagon team assessing the war in Afghanistan interviewed Jeffrey Eggers, a former White House staffer and Navy SEAL veteran, he asked rhetorically: “What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth a trillion? After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.” (And keep in mind that the best estimate now is that the true cost to America of that lost war alone was $2.3 trillion.) Consider it an imperial lesson of the first order that the most extravagantly funded military on Earth has not won a war since the start of the twenty-first century.

Donald Trump’s presidency brought a growing realization, at home and abroad, that Washington’s world leadership was ending far sooner than anyone had imagined. For four years, Trump attacked long-standing U.S. alliances, while making an obvious effort to dismiss or demolish the international organizations that had been the hallmark of Washington’s world system. To top that off, he denounced a fair American election as “fraudulent” and sparked a mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, functionally making a mockery of America’s long history of promoting the idea of democracy to legitimate its global leadership (even as it overthrew unfriendly democratic governments in distant lands via covert interventions).

In that riot’s aftermath, most of the Republican Party has embraced Trump’s demagoguery about electoral fraud as an article of faith. As it happens, no nation can exercise global leadership if one of its ruling parties descends into persistent irrationality, something Britain’s Conservative Party demonstrated all too clearly during that country’s imperial decline in the 1950s.

After his inauguration last January, Joe Biden proclaimed that “America is back” and promised to revive its version of liberal international leadership. Mindful of Trump’s battering of NATO (and that he, or someone like him, could take the White House in 2024), European leaders, however, continued to make plans for their own common defense without the U.S. “We aren’t in the old status quo,” commented one French diplomat, “where we can pretend that the Donald Trump presidency never existed and the world was the same as four years ago.” Add in Biden’s humiliating retreat from Afghanistan as Taliban guerrillas, wearing tennis sneakers and equipped with aging Soviet rifles, crushed an Afghan military armed with billions of dollars in U.S. gear, entering Kabul without a fight. After that dismal defeat, it was clear America’s decline had become a bipartisan affair.

Global leadership lost is not readily recovered, particularly when a rival power is prepared to fill the void. As Washington’s strategic position weakens, China has been pressing to dominate Eurasia, home to 70% of the world’s population and productivity, and so build a new Beijing-centric global order. Should China’s relentless advance continue, there will be serious consequences for the world as we know it.

Of course, the current order is, to say the least, imperfect. While using its unprecedented power to promote a liberal international system based on human rights and inviolable sovereignty, Washington simultaneously violated those same principles all too often in pursuit of its national self-interest — a disconcerting duality between power and principle that has afflicted every global order since the sixteenth century.

As the first hegemon that didn’t participate in any way in the fitful, painful process of forging just such a liberal world order through six centuries of slavery, slaughter, and colonial conquest, China’s rise could ultimately threaten the current system’s better half — its core principles of universal human rights and secure state sovereignty.

The Coming of Climate Change

Beyond Washington’s strategic failings, there was another far more fundamental force already at work eroding its global power. After seven decades of the profligate kind of fossil-fuel consumption that became synonymous with the U.S. world system, climate change is now profoundly disrupting the whole human community.

As of 2019, following years of bipartisan evasions and compromises (along with partisan Republican denials of the very reality of climate change), the U.S. still relied on fossil fuels for 80% of its total energy; renewables, only 20%. The situation was even worse in China, which depended on fossil fuels for 86% of its power and renewable sources for only about 14%. As energy expert Vaclav Smilexplained, the underlying global problem was 150 years of embedded inertia that made the “production, delivery, and consumption of fossil fuels… the world’s most extensive, and the most expensive, web of energy-intensive infrastructures.”

If there is ever to be a true transition beyond fossil fuels, the world’s two largest economies will have to play a determinative role in it. In the meantime, the picture is anything but cheery.  Global carbon dioxide emissions rose by a staggering 50% from 22.2 gigatons in 1997 to a peak of 33.3 gigatons in 2019 and, despite a brief drop at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, are still rising. Significantly, China accounted for 30% of the world’s total in that year, and the U.S. nearly 14% — for a combined 44% share of all global greenhouse gasses.

At the 2019 Madrid climate conference, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned that, if current emissions continue, global warming will reach as high as 3.9° Celsius by century’s end, with “catastrophic” consequences for all life on the planet. And at Glasgow two weeks ago, he renewed this warning, saying: “We are digging our own graves… Sea-level rise is double the rate it was 30 years ago. Oceans are hotter than ever — and getting warmer faster. Parts of the Amazon rainforest now emit more carbon than they absorb… We are still careening towards climate catastrophe.”

In the 600 years since the age of exploration first brought the continents into close contact, 90 empires have come and gone. But there have been just three new world orders, each of which survived until it suffered some version of cataclysmic mass death. After the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, wiped out an estimated 60% of medieval Europe’s population, the Portuguese and then Spanish empires expanded to form the first of those world orders, which continued for three centuries until 1805.

The devastation of the Napoleonic wars then launched the succeeding British imperial system, which survived a full century until 1914. Similarly, Washington’s hegemony, along with its current world order, arose from the devastating destruction of World War II. Now, climate change is unleashing cataclysmic environmental changes that could soon enough overshadow such past catastrophes, while damaging or destroying the global order that has pervaded the planet for the past 70 years.

As wildfires worsen, ocean storms intensify, megadroughts spread, flooding increases drastically, and the seas rise precipitously, many millions of the world’s poor will be uprooted from their precarious perches along seashores, flood plains, and desert fringes. Recall for a moment that the arrival between 2016 and 2018 of just two million refugees at the borders of the United States and the European Union unleashed a surge of populist demagoguery, which led to Britain’s Brexit, Europe’s increasing ultranationalism, and Donald Trump’s election. Now, try to imagine what kind of a world of political upheaval lies in a future in which climate change generates anywhere from 200 million to 1.2 billion refugees by mid-century.

As at least a million refugees start to crowd America’s southern border every year, while storms, fires, and floods batter coasts and countryside, the U.S. is almost certain to retreat from the world to cope with growing domestic crises. Include in that the inability of its two political parties to agree on just about anything (other than spending yet more money on the Pentagon). Similar and simultaneous pressures worldwide will certainly cripple the international cooperation that has long been at the core of Washington’s world order.

China’s Short Reign as Global Hegemon

So, when might shifting geopolitics and climate cataclysm converge to fully cripple Washington’s current world order? Beijing plans to complete the technological transformation of its own economy and much of its massive trans-Eurasian infrastructure, the Belt and Road Project, by 2027. That projected date complements a prediction by the U.S. National Intelligence Council that “China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030.”

By then, according to projections from the accounting firm PwC, China’s gross domestic product will have grown to $38 trillion — more than 50% larger than a projected $24 trillion for the American one. Similarly, China’s military, already the world’s second largest, should by then be dominant in Asia. Already, as the New York Times reported in 2019, “in 18 of the last 18 Pentagon war games involving China in the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. lost.” As China pushes its maritime frontier farther into the Pacific, Washington may well be faced with a difficult choice — either abandon its old ally Taiwan or fight a war it could well lose.

Weighing Beijing’s global future, it seems safe to assume that, minimally, China will gain enough strength to weaken Washington’s global grip and is likely to become the preeminent world power around 2030. Count on one thing, though: the accelerating pace of climate change will almost certainly curtail China’s hegemony within two or three decades.

As early as 2017, scientists at the nonprofit Climate Central reported that, by 2060 or 2070, rising seas and storm surges could flood areas inhabited by 275 million people worldwide and, suggests corroborating research, Shanghai is “the most vulnerable major city in the world to serious flooding.” According to that group’s scientists, 17.5 million people are likely to be displaced there as most of the city “could eventually be submerged in water, including much of the downtown area.”

Advancing the date of this disaster by at least a decade, a report in the journal Nature Communications found that 150 million people worldwide are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by 2050 and that rising waters will “threaten to consume the heart” of Shanghai by then, crippling one of China’s main economic engines. Dredged from sea and swamp in the fifteenth century, much of that city is likely to return to the waters from whence it came, possibly as early as three decades from now.

Meanwhile, increasing temperatures are expected to devastate the North China Plain, a prime agricultural region between Beijing and Shanghai currently inhabited by 400 million people. “This spot is going to be the hottest spot for deadly heat waves in the future,” according to Professor Elfatih Eltahir, a specialist on hydrology and climate at MIT. Between 2070 and 2100, he estimates, the region could face hundreds of periods of “extreme danger” when a combination of heat and humidity will reach a “wet bulb temperature” (WBT) of 31° Celsius, and perhaps five lethal periods of 35° WBT — where a combination of heat and high humidity prevents the evaporation of the very sweat that cools the human body. After just six hours living in such a wet bulb temperature of 35° Celsius, a healthy person at rest will die.

If the “Chinese century” does indeed start around 2030, barring remarkable advances in the reduction of the use of fossil fuels on this planet, it’s likely to end sometime around 2050 when its main financial center is flooded out and its agricultural heartland begins to swelter in insufferable heat.

A New World Order?

Given that Washington’s world system and Beijing’s emerging alternative show every sign of failing to limit carbon emissions in significant enough ways, by mid-century the international community will likely need a new form of global governance to contain the damage.

After 2050, the world community will quite possibly face a growing contradiction, even a head-on collision, between the foundational principles of the current global order: national sovereignty and human rights. As long as nations have the sovereign right to seal their borders, the world will have no way of protecting the human rights of the hundreds of millions of future climate-change refugees.

By then, facing a spectacle of mass global suffering now almost unimaginable, the community of nations might well agree on the need for a new form of global governance. Such a supranational body or bodies would need sovereign authority over three critical areas — emissions controls, refugee resettlement, and environmental reconstruction. If the transition to renewable energy sources is still not complete by 2050, then this international body might well compel nations to curb emissions and adopt renewable energy. Whether under the auspices of the U.N. or a successor organization, a high commissioner for global refugees would need the authority to supersede state sovereignty in order to require nations to help resettle such tidal flows of humanity. The future equivalents of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank could transfer resources from wealthy temperate countries to feed tropical communities decimated by climate change.

Massive programs like these would change the very idea of what constitutes a world order from the diffuse, almost amorphous ethos of the past six centuries into a concrete form of global governance. At present, no one can predict whether such reforms will come soon enough to slow climate change or arrive too late to do anything but manage the escalating damage of uncontrollable feedback loops.

One thing is becoming quite clear, however. The environmental destruction in our future will be so profound that anything less than the emergence of a new form of global governance — one capable of protecting the planet and the human rights of all its inhabitants — will mean that wars over water, land, and people are likely to erupt across the planet amid climate chaos. Absent some truly fundamental change in our global governance and in energy use, by mid-century humanity will begin to face disasters of an almost unimaginable kind that will make imperial orders of any sort something for the history books.

Alfred W. McCoy, a TomDispatch regular, is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power (Dispatch Books). His new book, just published, is To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Originally published by TomDispatch.com

  Read  Washington’s World Order and Catastrophic Climate Change
  November 23, 2021
The Dreaded Rainforest Shift
by Robert Hunziker, Countercurrents, in Environmental Protection.

Major portions of the Amazon rainforest have shifted from a carbon sink to a carbon source. This shift has severe planet-wide negative implications.

Studies of the Amazon Rainforest over the past decade have shown telltale signals of an impending shift from a carbon sink of heat-trapping gases to a source of greenhouse gases. It’s a dangerous shift that will destabilize the atmosphere of the entire planet. Alas, the dreaded shift has been confirmed via a laborious ten-year airborne detailed study.

The study shows the eastern Amazon rainforest has become a significant source of carbon emissions, competing with cars, trains, planes, and power plants. This travesty is officially confirmed via hundreds of aircraft vertical profiling measurements of the air above the rainforest over a period of nearly one decade. (Source: Amazonia As A Carbon Source Linked to Deforestation and Climate Change, Nature, July 14, 2021)

The implications of the world’s largest rainforest competing with human-generated greenhouse gases is alarming and foreboding of danger ahead, especially in consideration of current circumstances which guarantee further deterioration of the rainforest, thus putting at risk the world’s climate system.

Recent deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is beyond the pale, up 22% in one year at the highest level in nearly two decades. This according to Brazil’s National Space Research Institute, INPE. This is the third year in a row of increases under the Bolsonaro government.

In a remarkable coincidence of timing, in October of this year, on the doorstep of COP26/Glasgow, INPE said deforestation registered the worst month of October on record.

Within two weeks, Brazil was a signatory to an international pledge at COP26 to end deforestation by 2030. The world waits and watches to see if that promise is kept. Bolsonaro’s strong anti-environmental stance will be put to the test.

Marcio Astrini, head of the Climate Observatory that brings together environmental groups operating in Brazil, said: “The latest figures were ‘the result of a persistent, planned and continuous effort to destroy environmental protection policies’ under the Bolsonaro administration.” (Source: Brazil Amazon Deforestation Up 22% in a Year, 15-yr Record, Phys.org, November 19, 2021)

The aforementioned airborne study published in Nature found “a massive continental-size swath of tropical forest releasing more carbon dioxide than it accumulates, thanks to deforestation and fires,” Ibid.

It is the first-ever study to actually measure carbon dioxide in the air above the forest and not dependent upon estimates by models that rely upon imprecise measurements. The airborne measurements where taken in a descending column starting at 14,500 feet down to just under 1,000 feet. These measurements were reproduced every two weeks for a period of nine years to assure accuracy.

The analyses point to a convergence of factors behind the shift from carbon sink to carbon emitter, i.e., global warming, deforestation, and fire all happening in the eastern Amazon where the forest no longer takes up CO2. As a consequence, the temperatures across the southeastern Amazon have risen dramatically in comparison to the western part of the rainforest.

Luciana Gatti, senior researcher Brazilian National Institute for Space Research, the lead author of the study, stated: “The southeast is 28 percent deforested and has 24 percent precipitation loss, and the temperatures in August and September have changed 3.1 degrees. This is unbelievable in tropical latitude to have this kind of change in temperature. Is this a rainforest?”

Gatti is concerned that western Amazon will soon look like eastern because of pressure from logging, agriculture and mining, extending deeper into the forest.

Of utmost importance to life on the planet, the Amazon rainforest serves as the generator of “flying rivers” for the planet. The millions of trees work together like a “biotic pump” that releases water vapor into the air and circulates water and weather patterns throughout the globe.

Dr.Antonio Nobre (retired senior research scientist INPE) in an interview with National Public Radio described the invisible flying rivers of the rainforests: “Trees are like geysers acting as conduits that pump water vapor up into the sky. Transpiration is evaporation, but it’s evaporation of water that went through the tree,’ he says, ‘so this huge flow of vapor into the atmosphere is like an irrigation [system] upside down.’ That creates these immense, invisible flying rivers. ‘Rivers of rainfall,’ Nobre says. He points out that a calculation for the entire Amazon was done. ‘Twenty (20) billion tons of water evaporate per day’ in the region. To put that number into perspective, it is more water than what the Amazon River discharges into the Atlantic Ocean in one day.” (Source: Flying Rivers of the Amazon Rainforest – A Critical Rain Generator for the Planet, Pachamama Alliance, October 4, 2016)

As the “collapse phase” of the Amazon rainforest is underway an emerging worldview acknowledges the interconnectedness of all living things, as one of the most important roles for humans to act as caretaker and protector of natural systems. This new worldview is spreading like wildfire among the young, and it signals hope for humanity, assuming it can breakthrough the veneer of neoliberal capitalism’s dicta of growth at any costs, trampling ecosystems along the way to riches for the few tacitly supported by right-wing charlatans that easily overpower very weak traditionalist national parties that are filled with pushovers.

This new emerging worldview is concentrated among the youngest, for example: (1) SustainUS, dismantling the political elite’s narrative and demanding “urgent climate action” (2) Youth Lawsuits in defense of climate to hold governments accountable, e.g., 21 young plaintiffs suing the US government over fossil fuel support (3) Uplift tackling “energy sacrifice zones” or millions of acres of federal land in the Southwest abused and polluted for energy extraction (4) University Divestment Campaigns with 133 schools divested from fossil fuels, including Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, and Yale (5) Sunrise combining protest organizing and electoral organizing together into one strategy, for example, support of the Green New Deal and in support of 100% US renewable energy by 2030.

The insultingly anemic response by nation/states to warnings by scientists at COP26 is indicative of a world order out of touch with an upside down broken climate system that is in a perennial state of upheaval.

Only the youth can change this distortion of reality because only the youth recognize adult stupidity for what it truly is, a reality.

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

  Read  The Dreaded Rainforest Shift
  November 24, 2021
Several Serious Environmental Problems Have to be Resolved Simultaneously For A Safe Future
by Bharat Dogra, Countercurrents, in Environmental Protection.

There is widespread agreement that a number of very serious environmental problems together threaten the future of our planet. These problems inter-act with each other, are related to each other  and at a practical level, we and other species have to bear their combined burden at the same time. Despite this rather obvious reality the response to these problems is often very segregated. We have different conventions, conferences, frameworks and platforms for different serious environmental problems which are unable to take a comprehensive view of the total combined impact. This is a serious shortcoming which may prove very costly in the near fuure.

So it is very useful to look at the work of those scientists  who have tried to take a more comprehensive and well-inegrated view of nine of the most serious environmental  pronlems at global level.  The reference here is to the work of scientists at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC). Johan Rockstrom, director of SRC says “The human pressure on the Earth System has reached a scale where abrupt global environmental change can no longer be excluded. To continue to live and operate safely, humanity has to stay away from critical ‘hard-wired´ thresholds in the Earth’s environment, and respect the nature of the planet’s climatic, geophysical, atmospheric and ecological processes.”

Summarising the results of this work, the SRC says, “The group of scientists including Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Will Steffen, Katherine Richardson, Jonathan Foley and Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen, have attempted to quantify the safe biophysical boundaries outside which, they believe, the Earth System cannot function in a stable state, the state in which human civilizations have thrived…The scientists first identified the Earth System processes and potential biophysical thresholds, which, if crossed, could generate unacceptable environmental change for humanity. They then proposed the boundaries that should be respected in order to reduce the risk of crossing these thresholds…The nine boundaries identified were:climate change, stratospheric ozone,  land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity,  ocean acidification,  nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans,  aerosol loading and  chemical pollution…The study suggests that three of these boundaries (climate change, biological diversity and nitrogen input to the biosphere) may already have been transgressed. In addition, it emphasizes that the boundaries are strongly connected — crossing one boundary may seriously threaten the ability to stay within safe levels of the others.”

In this context a key research paper titled “Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operations Space for Humanity” authored by Johan Rockstrom and 26 other scientists has been published in the journal Ecology and Society. This paper says “…Anthropogenic pressures on the Earth System have reached a scale where abrupt global environmental change can no longer be excluded. We propose a new approach to global sustainability in which we define planetary boundaries within which we expect that humanity can operate safely. Transgressing one or more planetary boundaries may be deleterious or even catastrophic due to the risk of crossing thresholds that will trigger non-linear, abrupt environmental change within continental- to planetary-scale systems…The exponential growth of human activities is raising concern that further pressure on the Earth System could destabilize critical biophysical systems and trigger abrupt or irreversible environmental changes that would be deleterious or even catastrophic for human well-being. This is a profound dilemma because the predominant paradigm of social and economic development remains largely oblivious to the risk of human-induced environmental disasters at continental to planetary scales…There is ample evidence from local to regional-scale ecosystems, such as lakes, forests, and coral reefs, that gradual changes in certain key control variables (e.g., biodiversity, harvesting, soil quality, freshwater flows, and nutrient cycles) can trigger an abrupt system state change when critical thresholds have been crossed.”

What this paper says about air and chemical pollution has specific references to children. On air pollution it says that its various health effects “…convert to about 800000 premature deaths and an annual loss of 6.4 million life years, predominantly in developing Asian countries. Mortality due to exposure to indoor smoke from solid fuels is about double that of urban air pollution (roughly 1.6 million deaths), and exposure to occupational airborne particulates accounts for roughly 300 000 deaths per year, mainly in developing countries.”

On a concluding note this paper says about the inadequacy of existing efforts to cope with new and extremely serious problems, “Transgressing one boundary may, furthermore, seriously threaten the ability to stay within safe levels for other boundaries. This means that no boundary can be transgressed for long periods without jeopardizing the safe operating space for humanity. Humanity thus needs to become an active steward of all planetary boundaries—the nine identified in this paper and others that may be identified in the future—in order to avoid risk of disastrous long-term social and environmental disruption…The knowledge gaps are disturbing. There is an urgent need to identify Earth System thresholds, to analyze risks and uncertainties, and, applying a precautionary principle, to identify planetary boundaries to avoid crossing such undesired thresholds. Current governance and management paradigms are often oblivious to or lack a mandate to act upon these planetary risks despite the evidence of an acceleration of anthropogenic pressures on the biophysical processes of the Earth System. “

Thus from the point of view of our future generations the most important issue is the many sided ecological crisis which is now assuming the form of a survival crisis. If we are truly concerned about the future of our children (and their children) then we should start giving the top- most priority to these issues. When we compare this need with the petty issues which dominate the current discourse, then we realize the urgency of genuine reforms. We owe it to our children and the next generation to initiate necessary changes and reforms before it is too late.

Moreover once we take a comprehensive view of the most serious environmental problems and try to follow them to their logical conclusion, two very clear conclusions emerge. Firstly it is just not possible to resolve these very serious problems without securing a firm base for world peace, avoiding wars, reducing weapons and military expenditure very drastically and without eliminating weapons of mass destruction.

Secondly, at a time of environmental problems becoming so serious, we just cannot afford massive inequalities as well as the waste and luxury consumption splurge which big inequalities bring. While resolving environmental problems we have to meet the basic needs of all people and for this the need for reducing inequalities today is much higher today than at any previous historical time.

Hence firstly it is very important to take an integrated view of all serious environmental problems and secondly it is very important to link environmental issues with peace and justice concerns.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Planet in Peril.

  Read  Several Serious  Environmental Problems Have to be Resolved Simultaneously For A Safe Future
  December 2, 2021
Countdown to World War III?
by Michael T Klare, Countercurrents, in World.

When the Department of Defense released its annual report on Chinese military strength in early November, one claim generated headlines around the world. By 2030, it suggested, China would probably have 1,000 nuclear warheads — three times more than at present and enough to pose a substantial threat to the United States. As a Washington Post headline put it, typically enough: “China accelerates nuclear weapons expansion, seeks 1,000 warheads or more, Pentagon says.”

The media, however, largely ignored a far more significant claim in that same report: that China would be ready to conduct “intelligentized” warfare by 2027, enabling the Chinese to effectively resist any U.S. military response should it decide to invade the island of Taiwan, which they view as a renegade province. To the newsmakers of this moment, that might have seemed like far less of a headline-grabber than those future warheads, but the implications couldn’t be more consequential. Let me, then, offer you a basic translation of that finding: as the Pentagon sees things, be prepared for World War III to break out any time after January 1, 2027.

To appreciate just how terrifying that calculation is, four key questions have to be answered. What does the Pentagon mean by “intelligentized” warfare? Why would it be so significant if China achieved it? Why do U.S. military officials assume that a war over Taiwan could erupt the moment China masters such warfare? And why would such a war over Taiwan almost certainly turn into World War III, with every likelihood of going nuclear?

Why “Intelligentization” Matters

First, let’s consider “intelligentized” warfare. Pentagon officials routinely assert that China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), already outmatches the U.S. in sheer numbers — more troops, more tanks, more planes, and especially more ships. Certainly, numbers do matter, but in the sort of high-paced “multi-domain” warfare American strategists envision for the future, “information dominance” — in the form of superior intelligence, communications, and battlefield coordination — is expected to matter more. Only when the PLA is “intelligentized” in this fashion, so the thinking goes, will it be able to engage U.S. forces with any confidence of success.

The naval aspect of the military balance between the two global powers is considered especially critical since any conflict between them is expected to erupt either in the South China Sea or in the waters around Taiwan. Washington analysts regularly emphasize the PLA’s superiority in sheer numbers of combat naval “platforms.” A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report released in October, for instance, noted that “China’s navy is, by far, the largest of any country in East Asia, and within the past few years it has surpassed the U.S. Navy in numbers of battle force ships, making China’s navy the numerically largest in the world.” Statements like these are routinely cited by Congressional hawks to secure more naval funding to close the “gap” in strength between the two countries.

As it happens, though, a careful review of comparative naval analyses suggests that the U.S. still enjoys a commanding lead in critical areas like intelligence collection, target acquisition, anti-submarine warfare, and data-sharing among myriad combat platforms — sometimes called C4ISR (for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), or to use the Chinese terms, “informationized” and “intelligentized” warfare.

“Although China’s naval modernization effort has substantially improved China’s naval capabilities in recent years,” the CRS report noted, “China’s navy currently is assessed as having limitations or weaknesses in certain areas, including joint operations with other parts of China’s military, antisubmarine warfare, [and] long-range targeting.”

This means that, at the moment, the Chinese would be at a severe disadvantage in any significant encounter with American forces over Taiwan, where mastery of surveillance and targeting data would be essential for victory. Overcoming its C4ISR limitations has, therefore, become a major priority for the Chinese military, superseding the quest for superiority in numbers alone. According to the 2021 Pentagon report, this task was made a top-level priority in 2020 when the 5th Plenum of the 19th Central Committee established “a new milestone for modernization in 2027, to accelerate the integrated development of mechanization, informatization, and intelligentization of the PRC’s armed forces.” The achievement of such advances, the Pentagon added, “would provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.”

Five years is not a lot of time in which to acquire mastery over such diverse and technically challenging military capabilities, but American analysts nonetheless believe that the PLA is well on its way to achieving that 2027 milestone. To overcome its “capability gap” in C4ISR, the Pentagon report noted, “the PLA is investing in joint reconnaissance, surveillance, command, control, and communications systems at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.”

If, as predicted, China succeeds by 2027, it will then be able to engage the U.S. Navy in the seas around Taiwan and potentially defeat it. This, in turn, would allow Beijing to bully the Taiwanese without fear of intervention from Washington. As suggested by the Defense Department in its 2021 report, China’s leadership has “connected the PLA’s 2027 goals to developing the capabilities to counter the U.S. military in the Indo-Pacific region and compel Taiwan’s leadership to the negotiation table on Beijing’s terms.”

Beijing’s Taiwan Nightmare

Ever since Chiang Kai-shek and the remnants of his Chinese Nationalist Party (the Kuomintang, or KMT) fled to Taiwan after the Communist takeover of China in 1949, establishing the Republic of China (ROC) on that island, the Communist Party leadership in Beijing has sought Taiwan’s “reunification” with the mainland. Initially, Taiwanese leaders also dreamed of reconquering the mainland (with U.S. help, of course) and extending the ROC’s sway to all of China. But after Chiang died in 1975 and Taiwan transitioned to democratic rule, the KMT lost ground to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which eschews integration with the mainland, seeking instead to establish an independent Taiwanese state.

As talk of independence has gained favor there, Chinese officials have sought to coax the Taiwanese public into accepting peaceful reunification by promoting cross-Strait trade and tourism, among other measures. But the appeal of independence appears to be growing, especially among younger Taiwanese who have recoiled at Beijing’s clampdown on civil liberties and democratic rule in Hong Kong — a fate they fear awaits them, should Taiwan ever fall under mainland rule. This, in turn, has made the leadership in Beijing increasingly anxious, as any opportunity for the peaceful reunification of Taiwan appears to be slipping away, leaving military action as their only conceivable option.

President Xi Jinping expressed the conundrum Beijing faces well in his November 15th Zoom interchange with President Biden. “Achieving China’s complete reunification is an aspiration shared by all sons and daughters of the Chinese nation,” he stated. “We have patience and will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts. That said, should the separatist forces for Taiwan independence provoke us, force our hands, or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures.”

In fact, what Xi calls the “separatist forces for Taiwan independence” have already gone far beyond provocation, affirming that Taiwan is indeed an independent state in all but name and that it will never voluntarily fall under mainland rule. This was evident, for example, in an October 10th address by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. The island, she declared, must “resist annexation or encroachment upon our sovereignty,” directly rejecting Beijing’s right to ever rule Taiwan.

But if China does use force — or is “compelled to take resolute measures,” as Xi put it — Beijing would likely have to contend with a U.S. counterstroke. Under existing legislation, notably the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is under no obligation to aid Taiwan in such circumstances. However, that act also states that any use of force to alter Taiwan’s status will be viewed as a matter “of grave concern to the United States” — a stance known as “strategic ambiguity” as it neither commits this country to a military response, nor rules it out.

Recently, however, prominent figures in Washington have begun calling for “strategic clarity” instead, all but guaranteeing a military response to any Chinese strike against the island. “The United States needs to be clear that we will not allow China to invade Taiwan and subjugate it,” Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton typically said in a February 2021 address at the Ronald Reagan Institute. “I think the time has come to be clear: Replace strategic ambiguity with strategic clarity that the United States will come to the aid of Taiwan if China was to forcefully invade Taiwan or otherwise change the status quo across the [Taiwan] Strait.”

President Biden, too, seemed to embrace just such a position recently. When asked during an October CNN “town hall” whether the United States would protect Taiwan, he answered bluntly, “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.” The White House would later walk that statement back, insisting that Washington still adheres to the Taiwan Relations Act and a “One China” policy that identifies both Taiwan and mainland China as part of a single nation. Nonetheless, the administration has continued to conduct massive air and sea maneuvers in the waters off Taiwan, suggesting an inclination to defend Taiwan against any future invasion.

Clearly, then, Chinese policymakers must count on at least the possibility of U.S. military intervention should they order an invasion of Taiwan. And from their perspective, this means it won’t be safe to undertake such an invasion until the PLA has been fully intelligentized — a milestone it will achieve in 2027, if the Pentagon analysis is correct.

The Road to World War III

Nobody can be sure what the world will look like in 2027 or just how severe tensions over Taiwan could be by then. To take but one example, the DPP could lose to the KMT in that island’s 2024 presidential elections, reversing its march toward independence. Alternatively, China’s leadership could decide that a long-term accommodation with a quasi-independent Taiwan was the best possible recourse for maintaining its significant global economic status.

If, however, you stick with the Pentagon’s way of thinking, things look grim. You would have to assume that Taiwan will continue its present course and that Beijing’s urge to secure the island’s integration with the mainland will only intensify. Likewise, you would have to assume that the inclination of Washington policymakers to support an ever-more-independent Taiwan in the face of Chinese military action will only grow, as relations with Beijing continue to spiral downward.

From this circumscribed perspective, all that’s holding China’s leaders back from using force to take Taiwan right now is their concern over the PLA’s inferiority in intelligentized warfare. Once that’s overcome — in 2027, by the Pentagon’s reckoning — nothing will stand in the way of a Chinese invasion or possibly World War III.

Under such circumstances, it’s all too imaginable that Washington might move from a stance of “strategic stability” to one of “strategic clarity,” providing Taiwan’s leadership with an ironclad guarantee of military support in the face of any future attack. While this wouldn’t alter Chinese military planning significantly — PLA strategists undoubtedly assume that the U.S. would intervene, pledge or not — it could lead to complaisance in Washington, to a conviction that Beijing would automatically be deterred by such a guarantee (as Senator Cotton and many others seem to think). In the process, both sides could instead find themselves on the path to war.

And take my word for it, a conflict between them, however it began, could prove hard indeed to confine to the immediate neighborhood of Taiwan. In any such engagement, the principal job of Chinese forces would be to degrade American air and naval forces in the western Pacific. This could end up involving the widespread use of cruise and ballistic missiles to strike U.S. ships, as well as its bases in Japan, South Korea, and on various Pacific islands. Similarly, the principal job of the U.S. military would be to degrade Chinese air and naval forces, as well as its missile-launching facilities on the mainland. The result could be instant escalation, including relentless air and missile attacks, possibly even the use of the most advanced hypersonic missiles then in the U.S. and Chinese arsenals.

The result would undoubtedly be tens of thousands of combat casualties on both sides, as well as the loss of major assets like aircraft carriers and port facilities. Such a set of calamities might, of course, prompt one side or the other to cut its losses and pull back, if not surrender. The likelier possibility, however, would be a greater escalation in violence, including strikes ever farther afield with ever more powerful weaponry. Heavily populated cities could come under attack in China, Taiwan, Japan, or possibly elsewhere, producing hundreds of thousands of casualties.

Unless one side or the other surrendered — and which of these two proud nations is likely to do that? — such a conflict would continue to expand with each side calling for support from its allies. China would undoubtedly turn to Russia and Iran, the U.S. to Australia, India, and Japan. (Perhaps anticipating just such a future, the Biden administration only recently forged a new military alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom called AUKUS, while beefing up its “Quad” security arrangement with Australia, India, and Japan.)

In this way, however haltingly, a new “world war” could emerge and, worse yet, could easily escalate. Both the U.S. and China are already working hard to deploy hypersonic missiles and more conventional weaponry meant to target the other side’s vital defense nodes, including early-warning radars, missile batteries, and command-and-control centers, only increasing the risk that either side could misconstrue such a “conventional” attack as the prelude to a nuclear strike and, out of desperation, decide to strike first. Then we’re really talking about World War III.

Today, this must seem highly speculative to most of us, but to war planners in the Department of Defense and the Chinese Ministry of Defense, there’s nothing speculative about it. Pentagon officials are convinced that China is indeed determined to ensure Taiwan’s integration with the mainland, by force if necessary, and believe that there’s a good chance they’ll be called upon to help defend the island should that occur. As history suggests — think of the years leading up to World War I — planning of this sort can all too easily turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, however speculative all of this may seem, it should be taken seriously by any of us who dread the very idea of a major future outbreak of war, let alone a catastrophe on the scale of World Wars I and II, or with nuclear weapons on a scale as yet unknown. If such a fate is to be avoided, far more effort will have to go into solving the Taiwan dilemma and finding a peaceful resolution to the island’s status.

As a first step (though don’t count on it these days), Washington and Beijing could agree to curtail their military maneuvers in the waters and airspace around Taiwan and consult with each other, as well as Taiwan’s representatives, on tension-reducing measures of various sorts. Talks could also be held on steps to limit the deployment of especially destabilizing weapons of any kind, including hypersonic missiles.

If the Pentagon is right, however, the time for such action is already running out. After all, 2027, and the possible onset of World War III, is only five years away.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. He is the author of 15 books, the latest of which is All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change. He is a founder of the Committee for a Sane U.S.-China Policy.

Originally published in TomDispatch

Copyright 2021 Michael T. Klare

  Read  Countdown to World War III?
  December 3, 2021
Environment, human rights and class power
by Farooque Chowdhury, Countercurrents,in Environmental Protection.

Environment is human right, said and resolved a recent UN meet. It’s a reiteration of an already discussed issue – essential to all of the human society. It’s a much important issue to the peoples in countries facing forces ravaging environment; and, ravaging of environment is an act against people as the act denies people’s right to life and existence.

Reiterating and implementing the environment right empowers people, creates/widens people’s space for a democratic life, as environment itself is an area for democracy, for people’s participation. There’s no scope for individualism, neither for person nor for capital – irrespective of capital’s power – in the area of environment. The reasons:

[1] No individual or a coterie of individuals create/can create livable environment at no level. Having a livable environment is collective contribution.

[2] No capital or an alliance of capitals create/can create livable environment with its own power. Without labor, capital is lame, useless – incapable of moving a single grain of sand a millimeter.

According to a release by the UN1, the Human Rights Council recognized [on October 8, 2021], for the first time, that having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right. In resolution 48/13, the Council called on States to implement this newly recognized right. The text, proposed by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland, was passed with 43 votes in favor and 4 abstentions – from Russia, India, China and Japan. In a second resolution (48/14), the Council also increased its focus on the human rights impacts of climate change by establishing a Special Rapporteur dedicated specifically to that issue. In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called on Member States to take bold actions to give prompt and real effect to the right to a healthy environment. Ms. Bachelet said that, having long called for such a step, she was “gratified” that the decision “clearly recognises environmental degradation and climate change as interconnected human rights crises.” “Bold action is now required to ensure this resolution on the right to a healthy environment serves as a springboard to push for transformative economic, social and environmental policies that will protect people and nature,” she added. At the beginning of the current session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner described the triple planetary threats of climate change, pollution and nature loss as the single greatest human rights challenge of our era. The new resolution acknowledges the damage inflicted by climate change and environmental destruction on millions of people across the world. It also underlines that the most vulnerable segments of the population are more acutely impacted. The issue will now go to the UN General Assembly in New York, for further consideration. The passage of the resolution is outcome of a decades-long effort. The High Commissioner also noted that an unprecedented number of environmental human rights defenders were reported killed last year, urging Member States to take firm measures to protect and empower them. “We must build on this momentum to move beyond the false separation of environmental action and protection of human rights. It is all too clear that neither goal can be achieved without the other”, she said. Costa Rica’s ambassador Catalina Devandas Aguilar said the decision will “send a powerful message to communities […] struggling with climate hardship that they are not alone”.

A few days prior to passing of the resolution, a Reuters dispatch from Geneva said2: The UK and US were among a few countries withholding support for the proposal that would recognize access to a safe and healthy environment as a human right.

The Reuters report didn’t fail to mention: “Washington has historically been hesitant to add new rights and tends to avoid legally binding treaties that could be difficult to ratify.”

According to the Reuters report, David Boyd, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said the UN proposal, first conceived of in the 1990s, was long overdue. “The evidence is overwhelming that these environmental challenges are directly affecting people’s enjoyment of fundamental human rights. There are definitely countries that have a deep-rooted interest in maintaining the status quo and this is a challenge to them”, he said. However he didn’t name the countries.

As a background/reference, the report mentioned: Past UN resolutions including a 2010-resolution on the right to water and sanitation prompted countries like Tunisia to pass legislation enshrining it in domestic law. Globally, the number of climate-related litigation cases has soared in the past few years and more are invoking human rights to support their arguments3. Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel to the Urgenda Foundation which won a landmark climate case4 against the Dutch government in 2019, said the resolution could help courts interpret the right in future cases.

The resolution, no doubt, will have far-reaching implication in law/legal aspects, and in areas related to property, rights – civil, fundamental, basic, political, and to people’s struggle – connected to food, health, environment and ecology, governance, participation, transparency, institution and democracy. Broadly, the resolution will/can be connected to democratic struggle, and to the struggle of the working classes.

In all exploitative societies/economies, the working classes are the first, worst and widest victims of environment-injustice, -expropriation and -appropriation as these classes are the weakest part of society in terms of (a) access to information, education, organization, institution, facilities, rights and justice, (b) politics and participation in political process, (c) type/pattern/level of consumption and living condition. In most cases, and in lands after lands, the working class life is to the level of sub-human standard. In cases, the standard of life members of these classes live in leads anybody to question – how do they survive? It’s shredded, it’s tiny pieces of motions, it’s mechanical movements of some habits void of life. Reports by ILO and other UN organizations, by many other international organizations and media; and reports on poverty, inequality, slum, landless, children, women, food, water, health, disease, consumption, energy use, debt, living and working/work place condition, industrial and occupational accident/death/injury, chemical exposure, waste dumping/discharge of effluent, land/water body grabbing, defacing of hills and mountains, deforestation, mining, urban environment, amusement, rights, coercion, muzzling of voice, demobilization/deactivation of organization tell this fact.5 Location of housing of the working classes6, and slipping out of land, encroachment/expropriation in real terms, from hands of the small landholders to the rich are two of the stark indicators of the condition of environmental rights the poor “enjoy”. This reality shows the way, the extent the working classes are deprived of rights including environmental rights. It’s almost a void.

With expropriation and appropriation of environment and ecology by the powerful, by capitals, condition of the working classes turns precarious. With obstacles to organizing, with deactivating/breaking down of the working class’ organizations or usurping leadership of these organizations by capital the situation takes graver turn. With muzzling down of voices of the working classes the graver situation worsens further. Finding out rights, in this reality, is like searching a gold coin in a deep forest.

Recent reports on the global environment are enough to tell the condition of people, especially the working classes, as everywhere and all the time it’s the dominating interests/ruling classes that transfer the burden/brunt on the weak – the dominated people, the working classes. The dominating interests/ruling classes have the economic and political power to transfer this. The power includes appropriate mechanism and arrangements. Wages, working and living conditions, market mechanisms, actually control over markets, and fiscal/financial measures imposed with state machine, coercion indeed, include these mechanisms and arrangements. Moreover, the dominating interests/ruling classes have the ability/capacity to fly away from distress – be it a distress zone or a distress situation. They can escape saline water intruded area, expansion of desertification, water logged area, an area having contaminated ground water; they live far away from waste dumping site; they run away to area far away from a coming super-cyclone; their residential area’s sky isn’t overcast with black fumes from factory chimneys; they can afford ecologically produced food; the cotton cloth used for their clothes are ecologically produced – cotton not laced with harmful pesticides, etc.; the dairy products they consume are ecologically produced; the health care system they avail is of the state-of-the-art; and the arrangements they avail for recreation is super-fine. Therefore, there remains only the poor, the people, the working classes that face all the realities of environmental degradation. This environmental divide is great, is class-wise. None can disregard this great environmental class divide. The dominating classes have the environmental-economic power, the environmental-political power. They wield these against people, against the working classes.

With imperialist wars, interventions, etc. the environmental rights are lost/harmed most; and it’s people that get destroyed by those wars, etc. that bear the severest blow as all these rights are denied by imperialism.

But the environmental right remains alive, as rights of people can never be wiped out, because people can never be wiped out from the face of the earth. These rights can’t be killed and buried even if its owners – people that include the working classes – are denied and deprived of these; and the denial can’t go for permanently.

Recent international reports on environment/climate are explicit about the threat humanity faces now7.

Environmental rights

“Environmental rights means any proclamation of a human right to environmental conditions of a specified quality.

“Human rights and the environment are intertwined; human rights cannot be enjoyed without a safe, clean and healthy environment; and sustainable environmental governance cannot exist without the establishment of and respect for human rights. This relationship is increasingly recognized, as the right to a healthy environment is enshrined in over 100 constitutions.”8

“There are several established human rights related to the environment. Environmental rights are composed of substantive rights (fundamental rights) and procedural rights (tools used to achieve substantial rights).

“Substantive are those in which the environment has a direct effect on the existence or the enjoyment of the right itself. Substantive rights comprise of: civil and political rights, such as the rights to life, freedom of association and freedom from discrimination; economic and social rights such as rights to health, food and an adequate standard of living; cultural rights such as rights to access religious sites; and collective rights affected by environmental degradation, such as the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Procedural rights prescribe formal steps to be taken in enforcing legal rights. Procedural rights include 3 fundamental access rightsaccess to informationpublic participation, and access to justice.”9

Accessing these rights by people including the working classes depend on their state of awareness and organization/mobilization. It’s impossible to enjoy these rights unless people have their organization/mobilization/initiative/leadership. In areas, these or part of these rights can be declared/enshrined in official or state documents, or partly executed by dominating capital. This declaration/enshrinement or execution by dominating capital depends on compulsions faced by capitals dominating environment; and the compulsions come either from drive for regeneration of capital or accommodating part of social forces opposed to capital’s dominance over environment or diffusing discontent/restiveness of electorates/tax payers over horrible state/infringement of environment as capital, if mature, can’t dare to keep discontent unattended.

Only enactment of law, but void of its execution essentially carries no value. The Environmental Rule of Law, First Global Report is the first ever global assessment of environmental rule of law. The 2019 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found “weak enforcement to be a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades.”10 “The UN Environment report found that despite a 38-fold increase in environmental laws put in place since 1972, failure to fully implement and enforce these laws is one of the greatest challenges to mitigating climate change, reducing pollution, [etc.].”11

The report said:

If human society is to stay within the bounds of critical ecological thresholds, it is imperative that environmental laws are widely understood, respected, and enforced and the benefits of environmental protection are enjoyed by people and the planet. Environmental rule of law offers a framework for addressing the gap between environmental laws on the books and in practice […]

As of 2017, according to the report, 176 countries had environmental framework laws; 150 countries enshrined environmental protection or the right to a healthy environment in respective constitutions; and 164 countries created cabinet-level bodies for environmental protection. These and other environmental laws, rights, and institutions have helped slow, in cases reverse environmental degradation, and achieve the public health, economic, social, and human rights that benefit environmental protection.

It mentioned the existing reality:

Too often, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations falls far short of what is required to address environmental challenges. Laws sometimes lack clear standards or necessary mandates. Others are not tailored to national and local contexts and so fail to address the conditions on the ground. Implementing ministries are often underfunded and politically weak in comparison to ministries responsible for economic or natural resource development. [….] [A] backlash has also occurred as environmental defenders are killed, [etc.]. These shortfalls are by no means limited to developing nations [;] […] developed nations have found their performance […] lacking in certain respects. […] [E]nvironmental rule of law is a challenge for all countries.

The report highlighted steps that states can take to support environmental rule of law: Evaluate mandates and structure of environmental institutions to identify regulatory overlap or underlap; build the capacity of the public to engage thoughtfully and meaningfully with government and project proponents; prioritize protection of environmental defenders and whistleblowers; creation of environmental courts and tribunals, use administrative enforcement processes to handle minor offenses. The benefits of environmental rule of law extend far beyond the environmental sector: Protection of the environment, public health, human and constitutional rights; strengthening of rule of law more broadly; supporting sustainable development; contributing to peace and security. Therefore, it is a growing priority for all countries.

The rights people should be entitled to include:

[1] The right to environmental information.

[2] The right to participate in environmental decision-making.

[3] The right to effective remedy12.

Class Power

These rights, as briefly presented in the note 12, if implemented/ensured/executed, can broadly ensure people’s interests related to environment and life. But, the extent of implementation of these rights in countries is known to all sufferers in most countries. The sufferers are not only the small and marginal farmers, urban poor and proletariat. The middle class, the petty bourgeois class, also suffer due to environment-exploitation by capital.

One of the major hindrances to implementation of the rights mentioned is class power of the dominating interests that constantly acts with environment in a hostile way. To be specific, it’s political power of the dominating interests that harms/hurts/devours environment. It’s class power equation; and class power manifests in economic, political, social ideological power. People, especially the working people, is in weaker position in this power equation if people remain unaware and unorganized.

Class power, a relationship between two opposite and hostile classes, is manifested at local level through local operatives – political, economic and ideological operatives, local administration and local government; and at national level, it’s manifested in legislative, executive and judiciary parts of state machine, in complex arrangements/deals the machine plays with/makes. Force, influence, authority, scope and range of class power depends on dominating position of a class(es).

The absence/non-implementation of rights is directly related to people’s loss of wages/income, degradation of livelihood. The act of devouring of environment is an act of devouring/swallowing of people’s livelihood – an act of hostility to people. Thus, the capital that harms/hurts environment is in direct conflict/contradiction with people.

But, most of the discussions on environment, and on rights related to environment don’t mention this fact of class/political power, equation of political power, contradiction, dominating capital’s hostility. Class connections are also vital in this regard. The connections are visible at times, and, at most of the time, invisible. It requires serious search, or research, to find out the invisible class connections.

The environment-exploitation that the exploiting classes carry on in unhindered way is a show of the exploiters’ class power. This exploitation has its class character – capitalist/imperialist. Bureaucracy plays a very powerful role in favor of the environment-exploitation. “[…] bureaucracy”, writes Lenin, “was the first political instrument of the bourgeoisie against the feudal-lords, and against the representatives of the ‘old-nobility’ system in general, and marked the first appearance in the arena of political rule of people who were not high-born landowners, but commoners, ‘middle class’ […]”13 This instrument faithfully carries on its duties with the power of law formulated to secure exploitative interest and system; and, at times, the instrument turns “blind” when required to allow the plundering capital to carry on environment exploitation. A pure play of class power it’s. The play robs people, unorganized and unaware, of their human rights with environment; and, consequently, people’s suffering increases.

To ensure human rights with environment, there’s the essential task of

[1] reaching the masses of people with relevant information and publicity work;

[2] exposing acts of environment exploitation; and,

[3] organizing the masses of people with activities of regenerating demolished environment and widening space for people’s participation.

Widening space for participation by people is itself an act of struggle and resistance, an act that challenges the capital exploiting environment for profit of an extremely minority class – the exploiting class. The entire task is political; and the task has to encounter political problems, actors and instruments. Many environmental problems can’t be addressed locally, and by local authorities. Central, political authorities are to address those problems. These problems include issues of safe and health-friendly food and shelter/habitat; environment-friendly trade, fiscal, industrial, energy and mining policies. Policies and acts of imperialism including invasion/war, armaments/deployment of weapons go against environment, which makes it an imperative to oppose imperialism. Thus, the endeavor turns political struggle upholding interest of the masses of people; and majority of the people is the working people.

There’s no logic to assume that the task is to be organized and led by the so-called NGOs – non-governmental organizations. Organizing and carrying out this task is beyond capacity of NGOs. People’s organizations are to organize the task; people’s organizations are to gain space instead of depending on NGOs. There’s requirement of environment-political program.



  •   Principle 10 adopted in 1992 as a part of the Rio Declaration, states: “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens,” with “appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.” It sets out three fundamental rights: access to information, access to public participation and access to justice, as key pillars of sound environmental governance. The “access rights” have emerged to be very important in promoting transparent, inclusive and accountable environmental governance. Access to information empowers citizens and incentivizes them to participate in decision and policy-making processes in an informed manner. Public participation is increasingly being a vital part of addressing environmental problems and achieving sustainable development […] Access to justice provides the foundation of the “access rights”, as it facilitates the public’s ability to enforce their right to participate, to be informed, and to hold regulators and polluters accountable for environmental harm. (Benson Ochieng, Implementing Principle 10 and the Bali Guidelines in Africa, UNEP, February 2015, emphasis in the original. 

  • These resource papers, as reference, cite international and national laws/regulations/legal procedures/ legal and environmental instruments/policies including Chile’s environmental framework law, Czech Republic’s Right to Environmental Information Act and Norway’s the Environmental Information Act.

    These also cite treaties/agreements/covenant/conventions on access to information, public participation in decision-making, access to justice in environmental matters, prior informed consent procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade, persistent organic pollutants, climate change, biological diversity, combating desertification, civil liability for oil pollution damage, the Law of the Sea, civil and political rights.

    The papers refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, statements by UN Special Rapporteurs on hazardous substances and toxic wastes, on human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, on the situation of human rights defenders, on the rights of indigenous peoples, on human rights and the environment, on housing and education, etc.

    These also refer to the Future We Want, the outcome document of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 Conference), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, Principles 10 and 17 of the Rio Declaration, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and observations/statements, etc. of the European Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

    These declarations, agreements, conventions, laws, etc. say:


    • need to conduct impact assessments “in line with human rights standards” when planning projects that may have an impact on water quality;
    • “should provide access to environmental information and provide for the assessment of environmental impacts that may interfere with the enjoyment of human rights”;
    • to consult stakeholders in the course of environmental impact assessments;
    • to provide for “adequate compensation and/or alternative accommodation and land for cultivation” to indigenous communities and local farmers whose land is flooded by large infrastructure projects, and “just compensation [to] and resettlement” of indigenous peoples displaced by forestation”;
    • to provide access to judicial recourse for claims alleging the violation of their rights as a result of environmental harm;
    • must implement mechanisms that allow defenders to communicate their grievances, claim responsibilities, and obtain effective redress for violations, without fear of intimidation;
    • recognize that “opportunities for people to influence their lives and future, participate in decision-making and voice their concerns are fundamental for sustainable development”;
    • have heightened duties to indigenous peoples. Among other duties, states are obliged to facilitate the participation of indigenous peoples in decisions that concern them;
    • have a duty to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making to safeguard a wide spectrum of rights from environmental harm.


    • Where a state determines complex issues of environmental and economic policy, the decision-making process must firstly involve appropriate investigations and studies to allow public to predict and evaluate in advance the effects of those activities that might damage the environment and infringe individuals’ rights and to enable them to strike a fair balance between conflicting interests at stake. The importance of public access to the conclusions of such studies and to information would enable the public to assess the danger to which they are exposed is beyond question.
    • Obligations for states to provide for remedies in specific areas.


    • Right “to information on the state of the natural environment and on the effects of any encroachment on nature that is planned or carried out.”

    And, government

    • to provide the information requested as soon as possible and at the latest within 30 days of the request, and not later than 60 days under special circumstances. Any decision to deny requested information is subject to administrative and judicial review;
    • must facilitate the right to participation in environmental decision-making.


    • Administrative and judicial review of alleged violations of the access to environmental information provisions.
    • Duty on any private or public entity to maintain and make available information on their actions that may have an “appreciable effect” on the environment.
    • Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.
    • Provide environmental information to the public.
    • Before any action is taken that interferes with the right to water, the relevant authorities must provide an opportunity for “genuine consultation with those affected.
    • “[E]xtractive activities should not take place within the territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent,” subject only to narrowly defined exceptions.
    • Information relating to large-scale development projects should be publicly available and accessible.
    • Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens.

    And, the right to information

    • is critical to the exercise of other rights;
    • and the right of participation in decision-making are “both rights in themselves and essential tools for the exercise of other rights, such as the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to adequate housing and others”.

    And, everyone has a right

    • to access environmental information in the possession of the government relating to the state of the environment; environmental pollution; administrative acts, or other actions relating to the environment; studies relied on for environmental decision-making; and threats from environmental harm to human health, security or cultural resources;
    • “to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.”


    • Provision of relaxed requirements for standing for plaintiffs in environmental cases.

    And, everyone has the human right

    • “to seek, receive, and impart environmental information”;
    • to participate in environmental decision-making. The rights to take part in the government and in the conduct of public affairs are recognized. The right of participation is also critical to the exercise of other rights.

    And, individuals

    • must “be able to appeal to the courts against any decision, act or omission where they consider that their interests or their comments have not been given sufficient weight in the decision-making process”;
    • should be given full and equal access to information concerning water and the environment.


    • Allow individuals to request access environmental information through multiple means including by writing, fax, telephone, or other technically feasible form.
    • Each individual shall have the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.
    • The Economic Content of Narodism and the Criticism of it in Mr. Struve’s BookCollected Works, vol. 1, Progress Publishers, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1972.

    Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

      Read Environment, human rights and class power
    Can the Green New Deal save us? No it can’t
    by Dr Ted Trainer , Countercurrents, in Counter Solutions.

    Advocates for a Green New Deal are for a collection of admirable goals which it is usually taken for granted can be achieved within a capitalist economy and while the pursuit of economic growth continues.  Here is an indication of the main reasons why these assumptions are totally mistaken.

    The fundamental assumption underlying these beliefs is that economic growth can be “decoupled” from resource and ecological demands and impacts. That is, it is claimed that the rate of production and consumption can continue to increase while the resources needed to do this can be reduced to sustainable levels, along with the environmental damage it causes. This comforting faith is widely held, including by major global institutions.

    It is disturbing that this tech-fix faith persists despite the mountain of evidence that it is wrong. Anyone still unaware of this should consult the massive studies by Hickel and Kallis, Parrique et al., and Haberle et al.  The second lists over 300 studies and the third lists over 850.

    There are some areas in which production is being achieved and/or could be with reduced impacts, and transition to renewable energy is an important instance.  But what matters is whether the overall output of an economy can be reduced as its GDP rises, which is “absolute” decoupling. The above reviews conclude emphatically that despite constant effort to increase efficiency and cut costs absolute de-coupling of resource use and environmental impact from GDP growth is not occurring, and that greater recycling effort and transition to “service and information economies” are not at all likely to achieve it. Despite constant effort to improve productivity and efficiency, in general growth of GDP is accompanied by growth in resource use.

    The reviews emphasisze that there are not good reasons to expect absolute decoupling in future; in fact the trends are getting worse.  Diminishing resource sources, falling mineral grades, rising energy costs, rising environmental costs etc. are requiring more effort and resources to maintain output levels.

    The demolition of the decoupling faith has been central in the rise of the Degrowth movement. This has emerged from the basic “limits to growth” argument put by Meadows et al fifty years ago yet largely ignored until recently. There is now a large literature and many agencies and conferences are working on the fact that levels of resource use and environmental impact and thus production and consumption are now far beyond sustainable levels, and thus that the only viable solution has to be significant reduction in these levels and in GDP. Capitalism cannot do this.

    What very few realise, including most within the Degrowth movement, is the magnitude of the reduction required. My study of the issue arrived at the conclusion that if by 2050 all the expected 10 billion people were to rise to the GDP per capita we in rich countries would have assuming 3% economic growth, then rich world per capita consumption would have to be reduced by more than 90%. That’s a measure of how grossly unsustainable our present ways are. But it’s worse than that because the arithmetic does not take into account the deterioration in resource availability and environmental conditions that will have occurred by 2050.

    So how likely is it that tech fixes could cut impacts to around 10% of present levels while GDP rises to about 2.5 times its present level by 2050?

    If these kinds of studies and numbers are at all valid then there can be no solution but to dramatically reduce rich world levels of production and consumption and GDP. That would mean astronomical change in our present economic, political social, settlement and cultural systems. It is not possible to imagine social systems that enable satisfactory quality of life on extremely low per capita levels of material consumption unless we accept that most of us must live in communities that are small, highly self-sufficient and self-governing, very collectivist and above all content with very simple materially lifestyles. It is not difficult to design a viable alternative Simpler Way of this kind … but it could not work unless there was general willing acceptance of far simpler systems and lifestyles and thus the abandonment of the pursuit of monetary wealth, property and ever-rising GDP.

    This is the general goal that many are working for now, for instance within Degrowth, Ecovillage and Transition Towns movements. The Dancing Rabbit ecovillage in Missouri provides an example project, with people living on 5-10% of average US resource consumption enjoying a higher than us average quality of life index.

    Obviously at present it is extremely unlikely that we could get average Australians to listen to any of this, but their problem is to come up with an alternative analysis of the situation and the way out. And let’s see what they think when the limits to growth noose tightens and the coming mega depression hits. They might then realise that they had better start building local resilience.

    Capitalism cannot do any of this. Growth is one of its defining characteristics. It is about the owners of capital constantly looking for investment outlets for their ever-increasing volumes of capital. They have no choice about this; it’s grow or die. If a capitalist doesn’t try to take or generate more sales opportunities then his rivals will do it and drive him bankrupt. Capitalists are trapped in capitalism like the rest of us.

    But could capitalists compete within a capped system? Firstly that would not be capitalism; it would be a kind of socialism, and it would soon lead to one firm in a domain killing the rest. If the state intervened to stop that it would be managing the economy, deciding which firms should have which shares, setting up a cosy mutually beneficial arrangement with a favoured few. That is how fascism operates.

    Capitalism is about competing in the market place. A substantially degrown economy would have to prevent the market from being able to determine any important functions. Markets always allocate scarce resources to the rich, simply because richer people can pay more and capitalists therefore develop the industries that will produce what they want.  Markets never develop the right industries and never distribute according to morality, justice, or the most urgent needs of people, the environmental or society. (However I argue that a good economy could have an unimportant market sector and could leave most activity to small private family firms, farms and co-ops, operating within strict socially set guidelines.)

    And hardly anyone realises that a stable economy let alone a shrunken one can have no place for interest payments. If at the start of a year money is lent and at the end of it more must be repaid in principle plus interest, then the economy must have growth to enable accumulation of the increased sum. It’s the same with investment.  Capital is invested in developing an enterprise only if an owner of capital expects to get more money back from the venture than he invested in it, so if there is more investment than is needed to maintain productive stock then capital will accumulate and its owners will seek further investment outlets for it. In a stable economy capital would only be invested in maintaining productive capacity, or changing its composition. There goes almost all of the finance industry, recently making 40% of US profits.

    In an economy that had undergone the required huge level of degrowth there would be very few opportunities for owners of capital to invest, and most of the productive projects to be invested in would be decided by local communities.  There could still be a (minor) place for investment of savings in private ventures, but this would be within an economy that was not capitalist. (I argue at considerable length that it would not be a socialist society; it would be an anarchist society, mostly made up of the small self-governing communities indicated above, and including mostly privately owned and cooperative productive units operating within strict constraints.)

    Thus the goals proposed by GND advocates fall far short of being capable of solving our problems. They are admirable but constitute mere reform proposals for social, economic, political and cultural systems that are committed to continued growth and affluence. That commitment is the basic cause of our accelerating descent to self-destruction. Increasing numbers are recognising this, and working for transition to a simpler post-capitalist way.

    Dr. Ted Trainer is a Conjoint Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales. He has taught and written about sustainability and justice issues for many years. He is also developing Pigface Point, an alternative lifestyle educational site near Sydney. Many of his writings are available free at his website The Simpler Way.

      Read  Can the Green New Deal save us? No it can’t
      December 3, 2021
    Burned-out Forests Are Not Re-Growing
    by Robert Hunziker , Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    A fire burns trees next to grazing land in the Amazon basin in Ze Doca, Brazil. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

    Trees are not re-growing in burned-out forests. This strange occurrence is becoming more frequent as global warming turns verdant flora into flammable tinder, causing more and bigger wild forests fires.

    This article will examine the science behind failure of trees to regrow in burned-out forests. Additionally, and as a collateral issue, this puts one more distorted face on the consequential impact of the multi-billion dollar business called “woody biomass,” which burns trees in place of coal to meet carbon neutral protocols.

    As a consequence, between the twin impacts of burned-out forests failing to regrow and woody biomass chopping down mature trees that are strong carbon sinks replaced by frail seedlings, one has to wonder about nature’s “carbon sink” capacity. Is it shrinking just when it’s needed like never before?

    Woody biomass is as bad, if not worse, as burning coal. (See – The Woody Biomass Blunder, November 15, 2021)

    Regarding the effectiveness of CO2 uptake by commercial tree plantations used to produce wood chips for sale in the international woody biomass market: “Single-tree commercial crop plantations may meet the technical definition of a ‘forest’ – a certain concentration of trees in a given area- but factor in land clearing to plant the crop and frequent harvesting of the trees, and such plantations can actually release more carbon than they sequester,” Simon Lewis, forest ecologist/University College London (Source: Why Planting Tons of Trees Isn’t Enough to Solve Climate Change, Science News, July 9, 2021)

    There are several studies and outspoken scientists’ statements about woody biomass emitting more CO2 than burning coal. Yet, in order to meet carbon neutral standards, 60% of EU renewable energy is from wood chips. Somebody at the EU is cuckoo.

    Failure of Tree Regrowth

    A University of Colorado/Boulder study shows that when forests burn across significant portions of the Rocky Mountains, the forests do not regrow, even after 15 years post-fire, 80% of the surveyed plots contained no new trees. (Source: Lisa Marshall, Forests Scorched by Wildfire Unlikely to Recover, May Convert to Grasslands, CU Boulder Today, August 25, 2020)

    The study looked at 22 separate burned-out areas from southern Wyoming thru central/western Colorado to northern New Mexico. The study included regions that had burned as long ago as 1988, including land ravaged by the 2002 Hayman Fire near Colorado Springs; the 1996 Buffalo Creek Fire southwest of Denver; the 2000 Eldorado Springs and Walker Ranch fires near Boulder; and the 2002 Missionary Ridge fire outside of Durango.

    “This study and others clearly show that the resilience of our forests to fire has declined significantly under warmer, drier conditions,” coauthor Tom Veblen, professor of geography, CU Boulder, Ibid.

    Global warming has contributed to a doubling of the number of acres burned across the country since the 1990s.

    Increasing global temperature wipes out seedlings, especially in the US West where summer temperatures have increased so much that young trees do not have a chance to develop thick protective bark, and failure of regrowth in dry conditions finds seedlings shriveling before roots can grow deep enough to reach groundwater.

    Anthropogenic global warming is inhibiting and/or destroying one of nature’s biggest, and best, solutions for combating CO2 emissions. And, even worse yet, humans are chopping down trees to burn for energy, thereby releasing years and years of stored CO2 from the trees into the atmosphere.

    Global Warming Ravages Forests Throughout the World.

    “New studies show drought and heat waves will cause massive die-offs, killing most trees alive today.” (Source: We Need to Hear These Poor Trees Scream: Unchecked Global Warming Means Big Trouble for Forests, Inside Climate News, April 25, 2020)

    According to Bill Anderegg, a forest researcher at the University of Utah: “Global warming has pushed many of the world’s forests to a knife edge… in the West, you can’t drive on a mountain highway without seeing how global warming affects forests,” Ibid.

    Giant Sequoias, the Grand Daddy of the world’s trees are “dying from the top down.” This has never been documented before. According to Christy Brigham, chief of resource management for national parks: “We’ve never observed this before.” (Source: Craig Welch, The Grand Old Trees of the World are Dying, Leaving Forests Younger and Shorter, National Geographic, May 28, 2020)

    According to the National Geographic article: The loss of Giant Sequoias is but one example of a worrisome worldwide trend: “Trees in forests are dying at increasingly high rates, especially the bigger, older trees,” Ibid.

    Nate McDowell, an earth scientist at the US Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the lead author of a major worldwide study of tree loss, says: “We’re seeing it almost everywhere we look.” (Nate G. McDowell, et al, Pervasive Shifts in Forest Dynamics in a Changing World, Science, Vol. 268, Issue 6494, 29 May 2020)

    The numbers are staggering: From 1900 to 2015 the world lost more than a third of its old-growth forests. Ever since, the numbers are accelerating. The causes are mostly anthropogenic, meaning logging and land-clearing, plus fossil fuel emissions that bring forth rising global temperatures significantly magnifying the rate of dying, as droughts extend longer and harsher, resulting in extremely brittle tinder, leading to massive wildfires. The upshot is a world on fire like never before as dead trees burn quickly and easily.

    According to Henrik Hartmann of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, in central Europe: “You don’t have to look for dead trees… They’re everywhere,” Ibid.

    Africa and South America are likewise feeling the brunt of massive tree deaths. Global warming has brought drought conditions that are severe, repeating within ever-shorter time sequences that don’t give nature enough time to revive, to regrow, to survive.

    Recent Siberian fires have been Biblical in scale and intensity. A June 2020 article in SciTechDaily headlined: “Meteorologists Shocked as Heat and Fire Scorches Siberia.” One half of the massive fires are peatlands, which, once started can burn almost forever if the heat is intense enough, which it was/is, emitting both CO2 and CH4.

    The CO2 Cycle at Work

    The curse of CO2 blanketing the atmosphere and trapping heat, as the planet gets ever-hotter, it causes the atmosphere to suck excessive levels of moisture, which causes trees to shed leaves and/or close pores to hold in as much moisture as possible. This, in turn, curtails CO2 uptake. It’s a vicious cycle that impedes the carbon uptake cycle that’s key to maintaining an ecological balance for the planet.

    In the final analysis, “Forests are our last, best natural defense against global warming. Without the world’s trees at peak physical condition, the rest of us don’t stand a chance.” (Eric Holthaus, Up in Smoke, Grist, March 8, 2018)

    Robert Hunziker is a writer from Los Angeles

      Read Burned-out Forests Are Not Re-Growing
      December 7, 2021

    by M K Bhadrakumar, Countercurrents, in World.

    President Biden dismisses Russia’s red lines on Ukraine

    What has unfolded in the past 24 hours in the US-Russia diplomatic tango can be seen as a foreplay of the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden, which is slated for Tuesday evening

    Russia has got what it has been keenly seeking — a meeting between Putin and Biden. Beyond that lies the “unknown unknown”. 

    In remarks last Friday, top Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov had described the forthcoming meeting as a “follow-up” to the Putin-Biden talks at Geneva in June. But Ushakov ended up conveying that Ukraine tops the agenda and within it, NATO-related issues. Ushakov stressed that Putin intends to propose to Biden “the need to hold joint work with colleagues, with leading countries, on reaching corresponding legal accords that would rule out any further eastward expansion by NATO and the deployment of weapon systems that directly threaten us on the territory of states bordering on Russia, including Ukraine.”  

    Ushakov said Moscow urgently needs assurances that NATO would not expand in the eastward direction. To quote Ushakov, “It (NATO expansion) is a very old issue. Both the the Soviet Union and Russia were given verbal assurances that NATO’s military structures would not advance eastward. However, it urned out that those verbal assurances were worthless, although those statements were documented somehow, and there are records of the corresponding conversations.” 

    “Given the current tense situation, there is an urgent need for us to be provided with appropriate guarantees, as it cannot go on like this. It is hard to say what form this document will take, the main thing is that they must be written agreements,” he said.   

    Within hours, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hit back alleging that the Russian president is responsible for the current tensions, being “the decision maker in Russia”, and underscored that there will be “very serious consequences” if Russia “decides to pursue a confrontation course” and Biden himself will “stand up resolutely against any reckless or aggressive actions that Russia may pursue.” 

    Soon afterward on Friday, President Biden stepped in to say “I don’t accept anyone’s red line,” in an indirect challenge to Moscow. He said, “We’re aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin.” 

    Biden added, “What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he’s going to do.” read more

    Quite obviously, Biden is not about to agree to negotiate a security treaty with Russia over Ukraine or NATO expansion. Interestingly, the White House readout on Saturday mentions Biden as talking point but leaves out the NATO. 

    Unlike the brash megaphone diplomacy of his top diplomat, Biden himself has taken a more sophisticated approach hinting at some “most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives” to discuss with Putin. He hasn’t poured oil on the fire, but spoke like Don Vito Corleone in the Mario Puzo novel. 

    That said, the chances of a US-NATO rollback in Ukraine are virtually nil. The optics of a “retreat” will be simply too negative for Biden, post-Afghanistan. Besides, Ukraine’s transformation as an anti-Russian state is still unfinished business.

    In the regime change project in Ukraine in 2013-2014, then vice-president Biden had a hands-on role. When Biden brought back Victoria Nuland into his administration in a key position in the state department he signalled his intention to follow through.  

    The Ukraine tensions have enabled the US to reassert its trans-Atlantic leadership. The NATO’s future is at stake here, too. The US and allies will ever give Russia a veto over Ukraine’s ambitions to one day join NATO and the EU. 

    On Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting Wednesday of allied foreign ministers in Riga, “Only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO. Russia has no veto. Russia has no say. And Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence, trying to control (its) neighbours.”

    The point is, there is little Washington can offer to meet Russia’s demands without undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which the US and its NATO allies have pledged to support in an “ironclad” commitment. 

    That said, some NATO Allies are privately sceptical about US warnings of an imminent Russian invasion. An internal analysis prepared for European Commission officials and diplomats, and seen by POLITICO, says, “Due to lack of logistical support, it would take one to two months for the Russian army to mobilise for a full-fledged invasion. (Moreover, its overall logistical weakness prevents the Russian army from serious invasion). Thus, there is no threat of imminent invasion.” 

    The analysis found “Moscow seems fully understanding [of] the costs of an invasion. So pre-positioning of (Russian troops) is more about delivering the message of discontent about the Western policy vis-vis Ukraine (increasing U.S./U.K. and NATO presence).”

    Indeed, Putin’s predicament is no less acute. Putin doesn’t want to start another war in Ukraine but Moscow also cannot accept the increasing US, UK and NATO military ties with Ukraine, as well as Ukraine’s acquisition of new weaponry. 

    While NATO has no permanent troop presence in Ukraine, the allied nations have built up close mil-to-mil links with Ukrainian forces.

    This is where the risk lies. If Russia’s legitimate security concerns over the growing Western military presence in Ukraine and that country’s steady transformation as an anti-Russian state with tacit Western encouragement are not addressed, Russia will have no option but to resort to coercive diplomacy. 

    As Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put it, further NATO expansion will “unambiguously affect the fundamental interests of our security.” Biden cannot afford to underestimate Russia’s bottom line. 

    How Biden goes about squaring the circle at Tuesday’s meeting remains to be seen. To be sure, Russia gets the best chance ever today in the post-Cold War era to force the US to the negotiating table on the core issue of its discontent with the West — NATO expansion. 

    But on his part, Biden also cannot afford to look “weak” at a juncture when his performance and competence no longer instil confidence among the American voters.

    Ukraine and Russia per se do not agitate the voter, but in the political environment that Biden and the Democratic Party navigate, negativity and tribalism are what is driving American politics today. A confrontation with Russia could add to the grist of the mill alongside issues of price hikes and shortages, pandemic, education, culture war, Afghanistan and so on.

    Russia also happened to be an energy superpower and given Europe’s heavy dependence  on Russian energy supplies and the instability in the world oil market, isolating Russia is easier said than done.

    Above all, Biden cannot afford to get entangled with Russia and take eyes off China. Make no mistake, China is closely watching how Biden is cutting the Gordian knot on Tuesday. It has implications for China’s “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan.  

    Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar served the Indian Foreign Service for more than 29 years. He introduces about himself thus:  “Roughly half of the 3 decades of my diplomatic career was devoted to assignments on the territories of the former Soviet Union and to Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Other overseas postings included South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, and Turkey. I write mainly on Indian foreign policy and the affairs of the Middle East, Eurasia, Central Asia, South Asia and the Asia-Pacific…”

    His mail ID : indianpunchline@gmail.com

    Originally posted in, Indianpunchline

      Read  Biden-Putin meeting is a cliffhanger
      November 22, 2021
    The High Stakes of the U.S.-Russia Confrontation Over Ukraine
    by Medea Benjamin, Countercurrents, in World.

    The border between post-coup Ukraine and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, based on the Minsk Agreements. Map credit: Wikipedia

    A report in Covert Action Magazine from the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in Eastern Ukraine describes grave fears of a new offensive by Ukrainian government forces, after increased shelling, a drone strike by a Turkish-built drone and an attack on Staromaryevka, a village inside the buffer zone established by the 2014-15 Minsk Accords.

    The People’s Republics of  Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR), which declared independence in response to the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014, have once again become flashpoints in the intensifying Cold War between the United States and Russia. The U.S. and NATO appear to be fully supporting a new government offensive against these Russian-backed enclaves, which could quickly escalate into a full-blown international military conflict.

    The last time this area became an international tinderbox was in April, when the anti-Russian government of Ukraine threatened an offensive against Donetsk and Luhansk, and Russia assembled thousands of troops along Ukraine’s eastern border.

    On that occasion, Ukraine and NATO blinked and called off the offensive. This time around, Russia has again assembled an estimated 90,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. Will Russia once more deter an escalation of the war, or are Ukraine, the United States and NATO seriously preparing to press ahead at the risk of war with Russia?

    Since April, the U.S. and its allies have been stepping up their military support for Ukraine. After a March announcement of $125 million in military aid, including armed coastal patrol boats and radar equipment, the U.S. then gave Ukraine another $150 million package in June. This included radar, communications and electronic warfare equipment for the Ukrainian Air Force, bringing total military aid to Ukraine since the U.S.-backed coup in 2014 to $2.5 billion. This latest package appears to include deploying U.S. training personnel to Ukrainian air bases.

    Turkey is supplying Ukraine with the same drones it provided to Azerbaijan for its war with Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. That war killed at least 6,000 people and has recently flared up again, one year after a Russian-brokered ceasefire. Turkish drones wreaked havoc on Armenian troops and civilians alike in Nagorno-Karabakh, and their use in Ukraine would be a horrific escalation of violence against the people of Donetsk and Luhansk.

    The ratcheting up of U.S. and NATO support for government forces in Ukraine’s civil war is having ever-worsening diplomatic consequences. At the beginning of October, NATO expelled eight Russian liaison officers from NATO Headquarters in Brussels, accusing them of spying. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the manager of the 2014 coup in Ukraine, was dispatched to Moscow in October, ostensibly to calm tensions. Nuland failed so spectacularly that, only a week later, Russia ended 30 years of engagement with NATO, and ordered NATO’s office in Moscow closed.

    Nuland reportedly tried to reassure Moscow that the United States and NATO were still committed to the 2014 and 2015 Minsk Accords on Ukraine, which include a ban on offensive military operations and a promise of greater autonomy for Donetsk and Luhansk within Ukraine. But her assurances were belied by Defense Secretary Austin when he met with Ukraine’s President Zelensky in Kiev on October 18, reiterating U.S. support for Ukraine’s future membership in NATO, promising further military support and blaming Russia for “perpetuating the war in Eastern Ukraine.”

    More extraordinary, but hopefully more successful, was CIA Director William Burns’s visit to Moscow on November 2nd and 3rd, during which he met with senior Russian military and intelligence officials and spoke by phone with President Putin.

    A mission like this is not usually part of the CIA Director’s duties. But after Biden promised a new era of American diplomacy, his foreign policy team is now widely acknowledged to have instead brought U.S. relations with Russia and China to all-time lows.

    Judging from the March meeting of Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan with Chinese officials in Alaska, Biden’s meeting with Putin in Vienna in June, and Under Secretary Nuland’s recent visit to Moscow, U.S. officials have reduced their encounters with Russian and Chinese officials to mutual recriminations designed for domestic consumption instead of seriously trying to resolve policy differences. In Nuland’s case, she also misled the Russians about the U.S. commitment, or lack of it, to the Minsk Accords. So who could Biden send to Moscow for a serious diplomatic dialogue with the Russians about Ukraine?

    In 2002, as Under Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, William Burns wrote a prescient but unheeded 10-page memo to Secretary of State Powell, warning him of the many ways that a U.S. invasion of Iraq could “unravel” and create a “perfect storm” for American interests. Burns is a career diplomat and a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, and may be the only member of this administration with the diplomatic skills and experience to actually listen to the Russians and engage seriously with them.

    The Russians presumably told Burns what they have said in public: that U.S. policy is in danger of crossing “red lines” that would trigger decisive and irrevocable Russian responses. Russia has long warned that one red line would be NATO membership for Ukraine and/or Georgia.

    But there are clearly other red lines in the creeping U.S. and NATO military presence in and around Ukraine and in the increasing U.S. military support for the Ukrainian government forces assaulting Donetsk and Luhansk. Putin has warned against the build-up of NATO’s military infrastructure in Ukraine and has accused both Ukraine and NATO of destabilizing actions, including in the Black Sea.

    With Russian troops amassed at Ukraine’s border for a second time this year, a new Ukrainian offensive that threatens the existence of the DPR and LPR would surely cross another red line, while increasing U.S. and NATO military support for Ukraine may be dangerously close to crossing yet another one.

    So did Burns come back from Moscow with a clearer picture of exactly what Russia’s red lines are? We had better hope so. Even U.S. military websites acknowledge that U.S. policy in Ukraine is “backfiring.”

    Russia expert Andrew Weiss, who worked under William Burns at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, acknowledged to Michael Crowley of The New York Times that Russia has “escalation dominance” in Ukraine and that, if push comes to shove, Ukraine is simply more important to Russia than to the United States. It therefore makes no sense for the United States to risk triggering World War III over Ukraine, unless it actually wants to trigger World War III.

    During the Cold War, both sides developed clear understandings of each other’s “red lines.” Along with a large helping of dumb luck, we can thank those understandings for our continued existence. What makes today’s world even more dangerous than the world of the 1950s or the 1980s is that recent U.S. leaders have cavalierly jettisoned the bilateral nuclear treaties and vital diplomatic relationships that their grandparents forged to stop the Cold War from turning into a hot one.

    Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, with the help of Under Secretary of State Averell Harriman and others, conducted negotiations that spanned two administrations, between 1958 and 1963, to achieve a partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that was the first of a series of bilateral arms control treaties. By contrast, the only continuity between Trump, Biden and Under Secretary Victoria Nuland seems to be a startling lack of imagination that blinds them to any possible future beyond a zero-sum, non-negotiable, and yet still unattainable “U.S. Uber Alles” global hegemony.

    But Americans should beware of romanticizing the “old” Cold War as a time of peace, simply because we somehow managed to dodge a world-ending nuclear holocaust. U.S. Korean and Vietnam War veterans know better, as do the people in countries across the global South that became bloody battlefields in the ideological struggle between the United States and the U.S.S.R.

    Three decades after declaring victory in the Cold War, and after the self-inflicted chaos of the U.S. “Global War on Terror,” U.S. military planners have settled on a new Cold War as the most persuasive pretext to perpetuate their trillion dollar war machine and their unattainable ambition to dominate the entire planet. Instead of asking the U.S. military to adapt to more new challenges it is clearly not up for, U.S. leaders decided to revert to their old conflict with Russia and China to justify the existence and ridiculous expense of their ineffective but profitable war machine.

    But the very nature of a Cold War is that it involves the threat and use of force, overt and covert, to contest the political allegiances and economic structures of countries across the world. In our relief at the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which both Trump and Biden have used to symbolize the “end of endless war,” we should have no illusions that either of them is offering us a new age of peace.

    Quite the contrary. What we are watching in Ukraine, Syria, Taiwan and the South China Sea are the opening salvos of an age of more ideological wars that may well be just as futile, deadly and self-defeating as the “war on terror,” and much more dangerous to the United States.

    A war with Russia or China would risk escalating into World War III. As Andrew Weiss told the Times on Ukraine, Russia and China would have conventional “escalation dominance,” as well as simply more at stake in wars on their own borders than the United States does.

    So what would the United States do if it were losing a major war with Russia or China? U.S. nuclear weapons policy has always kept a “first strike” option open in case of precisely this scenario.

    The current U.S. $1.7 trillion plan for a whole range of new nuclear weapons therefore seems to be a response to the reality that the United States cannot expect to defeat Russia and China in conventional wars on their own borders.

    But the paradox of nuclear weapons is that the most powerful weapons ever created have no practical value as actual weapons of war, since there can be no winner in a war that kills everybody. Any use of nuclear weapons would quickly trigger a massive use of them by one side or the other, and the war would soon be over for all of us. The only winners would be a few species of radiation-resistant insects and other very small creatures.

    Neither Obama, Trump nor Biden has dared to present their reasons for risking World War III over Ukraine or Taiwan to the American public, because there is no good reason. Risking a nuclear holocaust to appease the military-industrial complex is as insane as destroying the climate and the natural world to appease the fossil fuel industry.

    So we had better hope that CIA DIrector Burns not only came back from Moscow with a clear picture of Russia’s “red lines,” but that President Biden and his colleagues understand what Burns told them and what is at stake in Ukraine. They must step back from the brink of a U.S.-Russia war, and then from the larger Cold War with China and Russia that they have so blindly and foolishly stumbled into.

    Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran

    Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

      Read The High Stakes of the U.S.-Russia Confrontation Over Ukraine
      December 8, 2021
    Biden threatens economic sanctions and a repositioning of NATO troops in meeting with Putin
    by Clara Weiss, Countercurrents, in World .

    At a two-hour video conference call with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden threatened Russia with “strong sanctions” and the repositioning of NATO troops in case of a war between Russia and Ukraine. It was the second meeting of both presidents this year following a summit in June, at which Biden appeared trying to ease tensions with Russia as part of his administration’s efforts to focus its war preparations on China.

    Since then, however, military tensions between NATO and Russia have grown significantly, even as the US has escalated its war drive against China. Over the past month, the US has sent several warships to the Black Sea in what Putin has described as a “serious challenge” to Russia’s security interests. The EU and NATO have also provoked a geopolitical crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, where thousands of refugees from the Middle East have been trapped.

    While the regime of Alexander Lukashenko has begun deporting many of these refugees, the US and EU imposed new sanctions on Belarus last week which are expected to deal a serious blow to the country’s economy. Despite simmering tensions with the Kremlin, Minsk is the only state remaining in Eastern Europe that maintains extremely close economic and military ties with Russia.

    These provocations have come after three decades, in which NATO has continuously pushed closer to Russia’s borders and staged two coups in Ukraine in 2004 and 2014, to bring pro-Western governments to power. While Putin has described any further military buildup of Ukraine by the alliance as a “red line,” Biden has explicitly rejected acknowledging such “red lines” by the Kremlin.

    The meeting was preceded by numerous threats against Russia from Biden, as well as Germany’s new Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, and a drum beat of war propaganda in the American and European press. The Washington Post and New York Times published reports this weekend alleging that Russia was planning an “invasion” of Ukraine with some 175,000 troops. As in all such war propaganda in previous years, these reports were based on leaks from anonymous intelligence officials.

    At the meeting, which was described as “tense” by both sides, Biden threatened Putin with “strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation” and “reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Putin reportedly refused to promise that Russia would pull its troops from the border with Ukraine (the exact number of which the Kremlin has never confirmed). He blamed NATO for the crisis, asking again and again without success, for guarantees from NATO that it would respect Russia’s security interests.

    Earlier reports by CNN and Bloomberg indicated that US and EU officials are considering cutting off Russia from the SWIFT agreement. This step has been floated since 2014 as the “nuclear option” in the ongoing economic warfare against Russia. The SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) is the main framework for international monetary transactions and is critical, for instance, for international credits. Cutting Russia off from SWIFT could trigger a virtual economic collapse, affecting, in particular, the country’s finance sector and its exports of raw materials, upon which the entire economy is highly dependent. While the Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed the reports as “hysterical,” they sent shock waves throughout the Russian press.

    Biden also warned that, in case of war, NATO would put to an end the Russian-German gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, a project of major economic and geopolitical significance for the Kremlin.

    Whatever sanctions are in the works, they are certain to first and foremost hit the working class and not Russia’s oligarchs, who have long transferred a large portion of their fortunes to bank accounts abroad. The past seven years of economic sanctions by the US and EU have already significantly contributed to a precipitous decline in real wages for workers, while the oligarchs were able to continuously increase their wealth.

    Biden further threatened that NATO could reposition its troops in Europe in case of a war in measures that the New York Times described as going well beyond what NATO did in the wake the 2014 coup. The US and NATO have pumped billions of dollars into the Ukrainian armed forces since the 2014 US-backed coup overthrew the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovich. The US has also equipped the Ukrainian military with Javelin missiles.

    These missiles have so far not been used by the Ukrainian army, but US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, who herself played a critical role in the orchestration of the 2014 coup, declared on Tuesday that this would have to change. She said, “The Ukrainians are having to think differently about their own security, and in fact, some of the defensive lethal support that the U.S. has given Ukraine over the years they’ve had in storage containers, and I think we’ll now see them have to put that stuff out and be thinking very hard about their own civil defense.”

    Just after the meeting, it was revealed that the new US defense budget proposed by Congress will involve $4 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative, which is above all directed against Russia. The amount is over $569 million more than had initially been requested by the White House. While the budget will apparently not include new sanctions on the Russian-German gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, Ukraine is slated to receive $300 million from the Pentagon, $50 million more than initially requested.

    The ongoing threats and the military buildup by NATO in the region have created a highly unstable and dangerous situation that threatens to escalate into a regional war that could quickly draw in Russia and the major imperialist powers. On Friday, a Russian Aeroflot passenger flight from Moscow to came within 20 meters of a US spy plane over the Black Sea, forcing it to change its route. The Kremlin later denounced the US Air Force for nearly creating a “catastrophe”. On Saturday, Belarus accused Ukraine on Saturday of violating its airspace as Ukrainian troops were engaged in military exercises on the Polish-Belarusian border.

    Emboldened by the NATO military buildup in the Black Sea and Tel Aviv’s hysterical war propaganda in the Western press, the Ukrainian government of Volodymyr Zelensky has engaged in open saber rattling vis-a-vis Russia. Earlier this year, the Ukrainian government issued a new national security strategy, announcing its intention to “recover” Crimea, the peninsula in the Black Sea that was annexed by Russia after the 2014 coup, and the Donbass. The strategy was effectively a declaration that Ukraine was preparing for war against Russia.

    A day before the meeting between Biden and Putin, Zelensky visited Ukrainian troops stationed at the front lines of an ongoing civil war in East Ukraine with pro-Russian separatists. Speaking to the troops, he said that he was confident that, with such soldiers, Ukraine would “win” any conflict.

    In a statement published on Monday in honor of the Ukrainian army, Zelensky declared, “Having absorbed the best national military traditions that have been formed in the difficult, bloody wars and armed conflicts of the past, during its most recent history the Ukrainian army has come a difficult way to form a capable and highly organized combat structure, confident in its strength and able to destroy any aggressive plans of the enemy.”

    The statement was a thinly veiled appeal to far-right forces in Ukraine which have been systematically integrated into the state apparatus and the military since 2014. The only significant “national military traditions” of the Ukrainian army, beyond the ongoing civil war against the separatists, involve the role of paramilitary, far-right nationalist organizations in World War II. Fighting alongside the Nazi regime against the Red Army, they participated in numerous massacres of the Jewish and Polish population. It is these forces that are again being mobilized in the interests of imperialism.

    Originally published in WSWS.org

      April2021 2021
    Time to Fight Climate Change, Not Each Other
    by Yves Engler, Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    The Trudeau government’s plan to buy 88 new fighter jets and 15 combat vessels will do little to protect Canadians from this country’s most serious threats. And some people are angry enough to take the streets to send this message to Ottawa. Two dozen rallies were held across the country last week to oppose a fighter jet purchase that will exacerbate an existential menace.

    The wildly expensive military hardware would be of no use to those flooded in British Colombia. Nor could they have assisted those devastated by forest fires last summer in Lytton, BC, or protected Canadians from a virus that has felled 30,000 and turned most of our lives’ upside down the past two years.

    Worse than no help in fighting a pandemic or climate crisis, the cutting-edge fighter jets and surface combatants will exacerbate the problem. The warplanes spew huge amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs) while the naval vessels are also powered by oil. Canada’s probable fighter jet choice, Lockheed Martin’s F-35, reportedly burns 5,600 litres of highly toxic fuel per hour of flying.

    As the federal government proclaims its commitment to reach net-zero in less than 30 years, its two most costly ever procurements will entrench fossil fuel militarism into the next half of the century. Already the Department of National Defence emitted 59% of federal government GHGs in 2019-20. But the military is exempt from emissions reduction targets.

    Worse still, purchasing new surface combatants and warplanes diverts resources required for a just transition away from fossil fuels. The naval vessels are expected to cost an eye-popping $82 billion upfront and as much as $286 billion over their lifecycle. The fighter jets sticker price is $19 billion with an estimated lifecycle cost of $77 billion.

    These public resources are required to mitigate the climate crisis and transition off fossil fuels. Why not spend the money to build dozens of light rail lines in every major centre or a million units of car-free public housing? Or how about investing to expand wind and solar energy production?

    The indirect ecological toll of the fighter jets and naval vessels is also significant. Unnecessary to defend Canadian sovereignty, the high-tech weapons are designed to participate in NATO and US-led missions and wars. The F-35 is marketed as capable of releasing a B61 nuclear bomb. The naval surface combatants look set to be equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of striking land targets up to 1,700 kilometres away and with radar systems that will allow US officials to launch the weapons.

    New fighter jets and naval vessels are an investment in an ideology we must jettison to overcome the climate crisis. Militarism is inherently anti-ecological. It also stokes division and is intimately tied to nation-state competition, which undercuts the international co-operation required to mitigate climate chaos (not to mention the pandemic and other ecological crises).

    Environmentalists’ battle is not with the Russians or Chinese, it’s with the polluters, which include those purportedly protecting us from the Russians and Chinese. An extremely expensive naval armada and cutting-edge fighter jets bristling with weapons of destruction can’t stop ever more ferocious heat waves, forest fires and torrential floods.

    It’s clear we must wage war on climate change, not on our fellow human beings.

    Yves Engler’s latest book is ‪Canada in Africa: 300 years of Aid and Exploitation.

      Read Time to Fight Climate Change, Not Each Other
      November 12, 2021
    Planetary Ecocide — The Crime Against Life on Earth
    by Dr Andrew Glikson, Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    “We are simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.”

    Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Germany’s former chief climate scientist (2009)

    “Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year” James Hansen et al. 2012 and James Hansen 2012.


    Figure 1. The change in state of the planetary climate since the onset of the industrial age in the 18ᵗʰ century.

    During its last 600 million years-long history planet Earth suffered at least five major mass extinctions, defining the ends of several eras of the Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic and Cretaceous, triggered by extra-terrestrial impacts, massive volcanic eruptions, methane release or ocean anoxia. Each of these events included the release of greenhouse gases, inducing changes in atmospheric composition and temperature (Figures 1, 2 and 3). Excepting the role of methanogenic bacteria in releasing methane, the anthropogenic mass extinction constitutes an exception: For the first time in its history the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere are disrupted by a living organism, namely the activity of a carbon-emitting biped mammal species.


    Fig 2B. Temperature trends for the past 65 Ma and potential geo-historical analogs for future climates (Burke et al. (2018)

    In the wake of the Pliocene (2.6-5.3 Ma-ago), with temperatures in the range of (+2°C to 3°C above pre-industrial levels) and sea levels (+25 meters) higher than at present, the development of glacial-interglacial conditions saw the appearance of Homo erectus and then Homo sapiens. Between about 10,000 and 7,000 years ago, the stabilization of the climate in the Holocene saw Neolithic agricultural civilization take hold. Anthropogenic processes during this period, denoted as the Anthropocoene (Steffen et al., 2007), led to deforestation and the demise of species, ever increasing carbon pollution of the atmosphere, temperature rise (Figures 1 and 2), acidification, radioactive contamination and a growing threat to the Earth’s life support systems.

    Planetwide ecocide results from anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, raising their combined forcing (CO₂ + CH₄ + N₂O, etc.) to levels over 500 ppm CO₂-equivalent, (Figure 3), almost doubling the pre-industrial CO₂ level of ~280 ppm, and corresponding to a rise of +3°C per doubling of CO₂ levels. The consequence of extraction and combustion of the buried products of ancient biospheres, threatens to return Earth to conditions which preceded the emergence of large mammals on land.


    Figure 3. Pre-1978 changes in the CO₂-equivalent abundance and AGGI (Annual Greenhouse Gas Index). NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory

    The sharp glacial-interglacial oscillations of the Pleistocene (2.6 million to 10,000 years ago), with rapid mean global temperature changes of up to 5°C over a few millennia and abrupt stadials cooling events over a few years (Steffensen et al., 2008), required humans to develop an extreme adaptability, in particular mastering fire, a faculty no other species, perhaps with the exception of fire birds. Proceeding to manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum, split the atom and travel to other planets, a cultural evolution overtaking biological evolution, the power of sapiens appears to have gone out of control.

    Humans have developed an absurd capacity to simultaneously create and destroy, culminating with the destruction of environments that allowed them to flourish in the first place. Possessed by a conscious fear of death and a craving for god-like immortality, there is no murderous obscenity some were not willing to perform, including the transfer of every accessible carbon molecule to the atmosphere.

    Based on direct observations and the basic laws of physics, the life support systems of the biosphere are threatened by the rise of greenhouse gases and temperature by an average of more than 1.14°C since 1880, currently tracking toward 2°C. These values take little account of the masking effects of the transient mitigating effects of sulphate aerosols in the range of −0.3 to −1.8 Wm⁻², pushing mean global temperature to >1.5°C. Following the current acceleration (Figure 3), mean temperature could reach 2°C by 2030, 3°C by the 2050s and 4°C by 2100, inducing heat waves and major fires.


    Figure 4. Jet Stream, summer, 1988, NASA. Increased undulation of the Arctic boundary zone, allowing penetration of cold air masses southward and warm air masses northward; Overall warming of large ocean regions, reaching ~700 meter deep levels, reduces the ocean’s ability to absorb CO₂ while much of the gas is trapped in the atmosphere. As ocean heat contents rise oxygen is depleted and methane and hydrogen sulphide poisonous for marine life are produced. Models projecting global warming as a linear trajectory, outlined by the IPCC, take limited account of amplifying feedbacks and transient stadial cooling effects from the flow of ice melt water into near-polar oceans. As the circum-Arctic jet stream undulates and weakens (Figure 4), polar-ward shifts of climate zones (Figure 5) allow penetration of warm air masses into the Arctic, manifested by heat waves and fires. Conversely, injection of cold air masses from the Arctic into mid-latitudes ensues in freezing fronts producing violent snow storms, the so-called “Beast from the East”.


    Figure 5. The migration of the Sahara arid climate zone northward into southern Europe. Note the drying up of Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey and the increased in precipitation in Northern Europe.


    As stated by Baronsky et al. (2013) in the paper “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere”: “Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence’’ and “Climates found at present on 10–48 % of the planet are projected to disappear within a century, and climates that contemporary organisms have never experienced are likely to cover 12–39 % of Earth. The mean global temperature by 2070 (or possibly a few decades earlier) will be higher than it has been since the human species evolved’’. Figure 6 outlines critical habitats and species involved in the transition.

     rr Figure 6. Summary of major biodiversity-related environmental-change categories expressed as a percentage of human-driven change (in red) relative to baseline (blue); Corey J. A. Bradshaw; Paul R. Ehrlich; Andrew Beattie; et al. (13 January 2021). https://www.frontiersin.org/files/Articles/615419/fcosc-01-615419-HTML-r1/image_m/fcosc-01-615419-g001.jpg – “Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future”, in Frontiers in Conservation Science, volume 1, 13 January 2021. Red indicates the percentage of the category that is damaged, lost, or otherwise affected, whereas blue indicates the percentage that is intact, remaining, or otherwise unaffected.

    Prof Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleoclimate scientist


      Read Planetary Ecocide — The Crime Against Life on Earth
      December 13, 2021
    5.9 $trillion spent by governments on fossil fuel subsidies in 2020.
    by Dr Andrew Glikson, Countercurrents, in Uncategorized.

    As indicated by the International Monetary fund, greenhouse gas emissions are funded world-wide by government subsidies totaling $5.9 trillion in 2020, about 6.8% global GDP, expected to rise to 7.4% of GDP in 2025, or $11million a minute. In the view of some scientists fuel subsidies are ‘adding fuel to the fire of the climate crisis’.

    Hollow words by dignitaries at COP-out-26 may have led many to believe “leaders” are serious when they raise the alarm of “one minute to midnight”, while at the same time allowing the development of new oil, gas and coal mines enhancing the accelerating trend toward an inhabitability of large parts of the planet. The consequences of the continued transfer of extractable carbon to the atmosphere and oceans were summed up by James Hansen, the renowned climate scientist:

    Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year”. James Hansen et al. 2012 and James Hansen 2012.

    According to Climate 202 (6/12/2021), the Biden administration has approved more oil and gas drilling permits on public lands per month than the Trump administration did during the first three years of the Trump presidency.

    In Europe, the year 2020 was supposed to be when the European Union would launch its ambitious plan to tackle the climate crisis, so why does Europe sabotage its own climate goals by subsidizing the fossil sector by more than €137 billion per year? (Figure 1)


    Figure 1. Fossil fuel subsidies (in €) per capita in Europe (from Investigate Europe)


    Banks continue to finance fossil fuels while signing up to net zero pledges (Nov 2021). The nations that make up the G7 have pumped billions of dollars more into fossil fuels than they have into clean energy since the Covid-19 pandemic, despite their promises of a green recovery. As the UK prepares to host the G7 summit, new analysis reveals that the countries attending committed $189bn to support oil, coal and gas between January 2020 and March 2021. By comparison, the same countries, the UK, US, Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Japan, spent $147bn on clean energy.

    In Australia, business as usual continued, where fossil fuel subsidies reached $10.3 billion in 2020-21. Fossil fuel subsidies cost Australians a staggering $10.3 billion in 2020-21. Plans are made for a huge Beetaloo gas field in the Northern Territory. The Galilee coal project is proceeding and the Adani coal project gets ready to ship coal. Coal and gas works, if approved, would result in a nearly 30% increase in emissions within Australia.

    5.9 $Trillion could have contributed substantially to mitigation of and adaptation to global warming.

    Who or what would save nature and humanity from the accelerating destruction of the livable atmosphere and oceans?

    Figure 2
    . The accelerating destruction of the livable Earth atmosphere and oceans (after Wil Steffen, 2012)

     Andrew Glikson,Earth and paleoclimate scientist

      Read 5.9 $trillion spent by governments on fossil fuel subsidies in 2020.
     December 12, 2021
    Parasitic Symbiotic Discordance
    by David Anderson , Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    The framework of the economic thought that formed in the Western world during the Holocene Period, gained momentum during the Industrial Revolution and is now global has brought on a parasitic symbiotic discordance between our species and our host: Planet earth.  It has become a threat to Homo sapiens continued existence on the planet. The hard fact is that if we continue this discordant relationship we face the possibility of extinction within the next 100 years.


    Time For The Economists To Take Action. Economists in and out of academia need to put forward a solution that calls for a symbiotic survivalist relationship between Homo sapiens and Planet earth. As in the past it can rely on pricing and therefore be human incentive directed. Yet it will be different from former recent structures; Communist Central Planning or Free-Market Laissez-Faire.

    Revised economic theory can turn our resource exploitative capital market system into a constrained yet incentive directed market system emphasizing the provision of the societal needs of humanity, all within planetary symbiotic sustainability.

    See my Countercurrents essay below – Global Negative Externality Tax (NET)

    Ecological long term functionality of the earth’s resources can be priced into all exchanges of goods; organic, inorganic, as well as services. With negative externalities reflected in final price, pricing can take on broad symbiotic meaning. Economic outcomes with negative ecological and/or social value can be eliminated. The parasitical propensity of humans to destroy the planet and their own future existence on it will be placed under control.

    Tipping Points  

    Without action many irreversible “tipping points” will soon be reached. Vast areas of the planet will become uninhabitable due to encroaching coastal sea water and high land temperatures.

    There will be massive death in those areas.

    Methane will be bubbling up from the warming Arctic land mass and adjacent ocean trenches. A repeat of another Methane hydrate induced Permian Triassic extinction will be possible.

    The Need For A Phase Transition Beyond Economics

    A recasting of past ways of thought – Economic, Political, Social, Philosophical, Religious


    Quote from The Web of Meaningreferenced below

    “At some point a tipping point causes a phase transition, known as the release phase. This is followed by the reorganization phase when the future system is up for grabs. In this period, which can feel chaotic, new ideas or charismatic individuals can have an outsize impact on how the system will look as it prepares to enter the growth phase of its new cycle.”




    A 609/610 BCE quote from Jeremiah is worrisome.  

    The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?

    Jeremiah presents us with a very dim picture. This we can understand. There was no cohesion where and when he lived, only religious and social turmoil.


    However, human history going back long before Jeremiah shows the presence of both a rational and cohesive humanitarian side to human thought in opposition to Jeremiah’s eukaryotic neurotic psychotic disorder.

    It was with us over the centuries in both the Western and Eastern world. An Eastern example was Neo-Confucianism and Buddhism. In the West elements of Christianity and Judaism. In recent years throughout the globe this thought has been accelerating. Since the end of World War II it has been the more evident; as seen in a “coming together” by way of global cohesion in the many international organizations that have formed such as The United Nations. We saw it recently in the fractured yet coordinated response to the Corona virus. We see it in the international response to Global Warming.

    Now we see it in a world-wide millennial generation demanding change. We see it coming from some – but not all, areas of academia.

    This indicates that we may be about to enter a New Era; one where rational thought will prevail and bring about close coordination by all of humanity with respect to its activities on Planet earth so as to assure the continuation of a human and other life sustaining planetary/cosmic relationship.

    Some of the New Era Changes

    The Capital Market system will be constrained as noted above. 

    Human economic activity will be limited to designated planetary geographic areas.

    Geographically defined land and water areas will be designated Natural Habitat for plant and non human life.

    There will be methods of human birth control such as genetic selection, chemical and surgical procedures and abortion that will assure an “ideal” population size consistent within planetary resource human sustainability. (possibly under one billion)

    (Global human population has increased from about 800 thousand in 4000 BCE to 300 million during the Roman Empire Period to one billion in 1800 to I.6 billion in 1900 to 6 billion in 2000 to 8 billion today)

    Those born mentally/physically unfit genomically to enter society will be institutionalized.

    (3% / 5% of all new births today suffer from physical or mental retardation)

    Each and every able individual will be trained to be what they can be

    Those who are a threat to the continuance of Homo sapiens on the planet – as identified by Jeremiah’s observation – will be so identified, incarcerated and placed in “reeducation centers” before not after they have committed the crime.

    (The deceitful wicked “Side” referred to by Jeremiah will finally be brought under control)


    Global Negative Externality Tax (NET)  

    David Anderson 


    “Only by the establishment of a new multinational Institution formed for the purpose of orchestrating a world-wide increase in the price of carbon from its first moment of entry into the system through to its becoming a part of all derivative goods and services can this human tragedy be avoided. Board Members must be of the stature and critical thinking skills of today’s Nobel Prize winners and UN Secretary Generals, skills that can put in place measures over a 10/15 year period that will eliminate our carbon dependency. And they must be given powers under its authority well beyond those of existing global institutions today; powers of international law and enforcement.”



    Jeremy Lent

    p 342

    “We have arrived at a stage in the human saga on Earth where the decisions we make over the next few decades will determine the future direction, not just of humanity, but of the Earth itself. Ultimately, it will be a collective decision based on our shared sense of identity.”

    This uniqueness does not, as the Western tradition has maintained for millennia, make us separate from nature. However, it does confer on us both the power to destroy the living Earth and also the potentiality to develop a new type of symbiotic relationship with it.”




    David Anderson


    A book about the social, political, philosophical, religious and economic presuppositions we have believed to be “inherent truths” we are now discovering were built on geo ecological flaws.


    On Contact: The new global order


    McCoy looks at past empires and how they disintegrated in his book ‘To Govern the Globe’. The familiar patterns of decline allow him to speculate about what lies ahead as the global dominance of the United States crumbles under the weight of disastrous military adventurism, the collapse of public institutions, a rapacious and greedy oligarchic elite, and inept political and military leadership. The new world order, McCoy argues, will see China ascendant. 

    David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics. He has written four books. The fourth is about a necessary geo political, social, religious, economic paradigm shift for human survival. Go to:


      Read  Parasitic Symbiotic Discordance
      November 24, 2021
    UN expert warns of near 'tyranny' against voting rights of US minorities amid GOP attacks
    by Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams.

    After completing an extended visit to explore the current state of U.S. society and democracy, a United Nations expert on Monday blasted near "tyranny" against the voting rights of minorities nationwide.

    The remarks from Fernand de Varennes, the U.N. special rapporteur on minority issues, came after he spent two weeks traveling the country to "assess the human rights situation of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities."

    The special rapporteur met with over 100 officials at federal, state, and territorial levels along with civil society groups and other experts, both online and in-person in the District of Columbia, Guam, California, Texas, and Puerto Rico. While de Varennes is now preparing a report on his findings, he shared his initial assessment on various issues, including voting rights.

    "My final report will provide more details and analysis in this regard, but what is already eminently clear is that there seems to be a growing feeling that the United States is becoming a darker, nastier, and more divided society—and that the patchwork of constitutional and civil rights in the country are not sufficiently protecting those most in need of protection such as minorities and Indigenous peoples, amongst others," he said in a statement. "It is very far from, to borrow from the country's Constitution, 'a perfect union.'"

    The expert explained that despite the constitutionally protected right to vote and be elected, "it became clear during this mission that this is increasingly and actively being undermined—and impacting mainly minorities such as African-Americans, Hispanics, and Indigenous peoples."

    After sharing some of another U.N. expert's observations of the phenomenon in 2017, de Varennes said that "four years later, the pace of what my colleague described as the undermining of democracy has expanded explosively."

    Legislators in 49 states this year have collectively introduced more than 425 bills with provisions that restrict voting access, and 19 states have enacted 33 laws to make it harder to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

    The "most notable" measure is "a Texan omnibus legislation that disproportionately impacts on African-American, Hispanic, and Asian minorities," de Varennes said, pointing out that the law "makes it harder for those who face language access barriers, mainly minorities, to get help to cast their ballots, but also restricts the ability of election workers to stop harassment disproportionally targeting minorities by partisan poll watchers and bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting."

    The U.S. Department of Justice earlier this month sued Texas over parts of the law, with Attorney General Merrick Garland declaring that "our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted," and vowing the DOJ "will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society."

    De Varennes also addressed the issue of gerrymandering, which has recently generated alarm from Georgia to Ohio to Texas.

    "The electoral system in Texas, and unfortunately in a number of other states… appears increasingly loaded against minorities," he said. "Despite minorities representing about 95% of the population growth in the state in the 2020 Census of which more than half was Hispanic, the two congressional seats added because of this population growth have a majority white population makeup according to court documents filed in a lawsuit a few weeks before my mission."

    On top of the voter suppression efforts largely led and enacted by Republicans, the U.N. expert highlighted that "citizens in United States territories (including Guam and Puerto Rico, which I visited) cannot vote in presidential elections."

    "American Samoans cannot vote in any event because they are not considered U.S. citizens—even if they are American 'nationals,'" he explained. "They are not represented in the U.S. Senate, and their representatives in the House of Representatives cannot vote on the floor."

    "On the positive side, two federal draft voting bills are currently before Congress, the Freedom to Vote and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which aim to set national voting standards and strengthen legal protections against discriminatory voting laws and policies," he added. "It is however far from certain these will succeed in being adopted."

    Republicans in the evenly split Senate this year have not only blocked those two bills, but also the bolder For the People Act. Despite such actions from the chamber's GOP, a few Democrats still refuse to support abolishing the filibuster to send voting rights legislation and other measures to President Joe Biden's desk.

    Given the current conditions in the country, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance on Monday added the U.S. to its list of "backsliding" democracies. The think tank's secretary general, Kevin Casas-Zamora, said that "the visible deterioration of democracy in the United States, as seen in the increasing tendency to contest credible election results, the efforts to suppress participation [in elections], and the runaway polarization... is one of the most concerning developments."

    De Varennes issued a similar warning during a Monday news briefing, according to Reuters. He said that "it is becoming unfortunately apparent that it is almost a tyranny of the majority where the minority right to vote is being denied in many areas."

    Along with detailing his alarm about attacks on voting rights in the United States, De Varennes also laid out his concerns with dramatic increases in hate speech and crimes; environmental injustice; rising economic, educational, and health disparities; and racial discrimination in policing and the legal system.

    The expert also praised the Biden administration for making some progress. Reuters noted that "there was no immediate U.S. reaction to his preliminary observations which de Varennes said he had shared with U.S. State Department officials earlier in the day."

      Read UN expert warns of near 'tyranny' against voting rights of US minorities amid GOP attacks
      November 26, 2021
    Entirely avoidable': Rich countries blamed as new COVID variant sparks global alarm
    by Jake Johnson,Common Dreams, AlterNet.

    The detection of a new, heavily mutated, and potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant in Botswana and other nations is sending shockwaves worldwide as public health officials rush to understand the strain and its possible impact on the global pandemic response.

    For vaccine equity campaigners and epidemiologists, the emergence of another highly contagious coronavirus mutation is far from surprising given the massive inoculation gap between rich and poor countries, which has left billions of people across the globe without access to lifesaving shots—and kept the door open to variants.

    Botswana, where the new strain was first identified earlier this month, has fully vaccinated just 20% of its population.

    Tim Bierley of the U.K.-based advocacy group Global Justice Now said in a statement that the B.1.1.529 mutation is an "entirely avoidable" consequence of deliberate policy decisions by rich countries, which have hoarded vaccine doses and refused to force pharmaceutical giants to share technology with developing nations.

    "The U.K. has actively prevented low and middle-income countries from having equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. We have created the conditions for this variant to emerge," Bierley said, referring to the British government's opposition to a proposed patent waiver for coronavirus vaccines.

    "For more than a year, South Africa, Botswana, and most countries have been calling for world leaders to waive intellectual property on coronavirus vaccines, tests, and treatments so they can produce their own jabs," Bierley noted. "It's a vital measure that will be discussed at next week’s World Trade Organization conference. But, so far, the U.K. and E.U. have recklessly blocked it from making progress."

    “There have been countless warnings that super-variants could emerge if we do not remove artificial barriers to global vaccination," he continued. "If and when this new variant starts to tear through the world, remember that the British government has led opposition to the plan that could have stopped it.”

    Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease expert, echoed that sentiment.

    "Allowing new variants to emerge and spread, 13 months into the vaccine era, is a policy choice by the rich world," he argued.

    In marked contrast to their slow-walking of the proposed patent waiver, European countries sprang into action in response to the new variant, moving to impose fresh travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa as global markets tumbled.

    Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Friday that the body will "propose, in close coordination with member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529."

    "Rich nations are very quick to ban travel but very slow to share vaccines and know-how," said Madhu Pai, Canada Research Chair in Epidemiology and Global Health at McGill University.

    Dr. Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance, tweeted that the renewed push to cut off travel "was our greatest fear, and [we] were almost prophetic in predicting that the world would eventually shut Africa out having denied us access to vaccines."


    At a press conference on Thursday, South African Health Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla said the B.1.1.529 variant—which has thus far been detected in Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong—may have been behind recent coronavirus outbreaks in the small South African province of Gauteng. (Update: The first case of the B.1.1.529 variant in Europe was identified in Belgium on Friday.)

    "Rest assured that as people move in the next coming weeks, this [variant] will be all over," he warned.

    Professor Tulio de Oliveira, a renowned bioinformatician, told the media that in the B.1.1.529 variant, "what we see is this very unusual constellation of mutations."

    "This is concerning," he said, "for predicted immune evasion and transmissibility."

    As Nature reported, "The variant stood out because it contains more than 30 changes to the spike protein—the SARS-CoV-2 protein that recognizes host cells and is the main target of the body's immune responses."

    "Many of the changes have been found in variants such as Delta and Alpha and are linked to heightened infectivity and the ability to evade infection-blocking antibodies," the outlet noted.

      Read Entirely avoidable': Rich countries blamed as new COVID variant sparks global alarm
      November 29, 2021
    Here are 5 reasons to suspect Jesus never existed.
    by Valerie Tarico,AlterNet.

    Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.” In other words, based on the evidence available they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity. At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

    For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians grounded in this perspective have analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth. Several current or recent bestsellers take this approach, distilling the scholarship for a popular audience. Familiar titles include Zealot by Reza Aslan and How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman.

    By contrast, other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.” In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

    The notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position. Of course it is! says David Fitzgerald, the author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All. Fitzgerald points out that for centuries all serious scholars of Christianity were Christians themselves, and modern secular scholars lean heavily on the groundwork that they laid in collecting, preserving, and analyzing ancient texts. Even today most secular scholars come out of a religious background, and many operate by default under historical presumptions of their former faith.

    Fitzgerald–who, as his book title indicates, takes the “mythical Jesus” position–is an atheist speaker and writer, popular with secular students and community groups. The internet phenom, Zeitgeist the Movie introduced millions to some of the mythic roots of Christianity. But Zeitgeist and similar works contain known errors and oversimplifications that undermine their credibility. Fitzgerald seeks to correct that by giving young people accessible information that is grounded in accountable scholarship.

    More academic arguments in support of the Jesus Myth theory can be found in the writings of Richard Carrier and Robert Price. Carrier, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history uses the tools of his trade to show, among other things, how Christianity might have gotten off the ground without a miracle. Price, by contrast, writes from the perspective of a theologian whose biblical scholarship ultimately formed the basis for his skepticism. It is interesting to note that some of the harshest critics of popular Jesus myth theories like those from Zeitgeist or Joseph Atwill (who argued that the Romans invented Jesus) are academic Mythicists like these.

    The arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving. Since many people, both Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate even exists—that serious scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the key points that keep the doubts alive:

    1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef.

    In the words of Bart Ehrman (who himself believes the stories were built on a historical kernel):

    “What sorts of things do pagan authors from the time of Jesus have to say about him? Nothing. As odd as it may seem, there is no mention of Jesus at all by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references – nothing. In fact, if we broaden our field of concern to the years after his death – even if we include the entire first century of the Common Era – there is not so much as a solitary reference to Jesus in any non-Christian, non-Jewish source of any kind. I should stress that we do have a large number of documents from the time – the writings of poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, and government officials, for example, not to mention the large collection of surviving inscriptions on stone and private letters and legal documents on papyrus. In none of this vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned.” (pp. 56-57)

    2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts.

    Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth, for example. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the most basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers aren’t just vague, but contradict the gospels. The leaders of the early Christian movement in Jerusalem like Peter and James are supposedly Jesus’ own followers and family; but Paul dismisses them as nobodies and repeatedly opposes them for not being true Christians!

    Liberal theologian Marcus Borg suggests that people read the books of the New Testament in chronological order to see how early Christianity unfolded.

    Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel — the good news — of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus’ historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance in their historical context.

    3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts.

    We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them. To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began.

    For a variety of reasons, the practice of pseudonymous writing was common at the time and many contemporary documents are “signed” by famous figures. The same is true of the New Testament epistles except for a handful of letters from Paul (6 out of 13) which are broadly thought to be genuine. But even the gospel stories don’t actually say, “I was there.” Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase, my aunt knew someone who . . . .

    4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other.

    If you think you know the Jesus story pretty well, I suggest that you pause at this point to test yourself with the 20 question quiz at ExChristian.net.

    The gospel of Mark is thought to be the earliest existing “life of Jesus,” and linguistic analysis suggests that Luke and Matthew both simply reworked Mark and added their own corrections and new material. But they contradict each other and, to an even greater degree contradict the much later gospel of John, because they were written with different objectives for different audiences. The incompatible Easter stories offer one example of how much the stories disagree.

    5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons.

    They include a cynic philosopher, charismatic Hasid, liberal Pharisee, conservative rabbi, Zealot revolutionary, and nonviolent pacifist to borrow from a much longer list assembled by Price. In his words (pp. 15-16), “The historical Jesus (if there was one) might well have been a messianic king, or a progressive Pharisee, or a Galilean shaman, or a magus, or a Hellenistic sage. But he cannot very well have been all of them at the same time.” John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar grumbles that “the stunning diversity is an academic embarrassment.”

    For David Fitzgerald, these issues and more lead to a conclusion that he finds inescapable:

    Jesus appears to be an effect, not a cause, of Christianity. Paul and the rest of the first generation of Christians searched the Septuagint translation of Hebrew scriptures to create a Mystery Faith for the Jews, complete with pagan rituals like a Lord’s Supper, Gnostic terms in his letters, and a personal savior god to rival those in their neighbors’ longstanding Egyptian, Persian, Hellenistic and Roman traditions.

    In a soon-to-be-released follow up to Nailed, entitled Jesus: Mything in ActionFitzgerald argues that the many competing versions proposed by secular scholars are just as problematic as any “Jesus of Faith:”

    Even if one accepts that there was a real Jesus of Nazareth, the question has little practical meaning: Regardless of whether or not a first century rabbi called Yeshua ben Yosef lived, the “historical Jesus” figures so patiently excavated and re-assembled by secular scholars are themselves fictions.

    We may never know for certain what put Christian history in motion. Only time (or perhaps time travel) will tell.


    Author’s note: Not being an insider to this debate, my own inclination is to defer to the preponderance of relevant experts while keeping in mind that paradigm shifts do occur. This means that until either the paradigm shift happens or I become a relevant expert myself, I shall assume that the Jesus stories probably had some historical kernel. That said, I find the debate fascinating for several reasons: For one, it offers a glimpse of the methods scholars use to analyze ancient texts. Also, despite the heated back and forth between mythicists and historicists, their points of agreement may be more significant than the difference between historicized mythology and mythologized history. The presence of mythic tropes or legendary elements in the gospel stories has been broadly accepted and documented, while the imprint of any actual man who may have provided a historical kernel–how he may have lived, what he may have said, and how he died–is more hazy than most people dream.

    Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Subscribe to her articles at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

      Read  Here are 5 reasons to suspect Jesus never existed.
      September 17, 2021
    Europe’s U.S. Lackey Parliament in Unhinged Attack on Russia
    by SCF editorial, Information Clearing House.

    "Strategic Culture Foundation " Just as the Russian Federation goes to the polls in legislative elections this weekend, the European parliament launched an unprecedented attack on Russia’s sovereignty.

    Some 74 percent of Europe’s 669 members of parliament (MEPs) voted on Thursday to approve a report calling for a staggering array of hostile moves towards Russia. The massive irony here is that this amounts to gross and explicit interference in Russia’s internal affairs by the European Union. This aggression is what the EU accuses Russia of without any credible evidence.

    (Credibility warning: recall that the European parliament is the same disreputable chamber that voted two years to distort the history of World War Two by insinuating that the Soviet Union was partly responsible for starting the conflagration along with Nazi Germany.)

    One particularly offensive theme in the latest report is the allegation that Russia’s elections held this weekend are not going to be legitimate. That’s even before they take place! And in that case, it urges the European Union to not recognize the new Russian parliament that emerges from the ballots. This is an incredibly idiotic way to further sabotage already-frayed relations between the EU and its largest European neighbor. It’s a gratuitous act of aggression.

    What is doubly offensive is that Russia claims to have substantial evidence that the United States and its European allies have been interfering in Russia’s election by funding pseudo opposition groups and purported election monitors. One such monitor is Golos which is funded by USAID and the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy, both of which are fronts for the CIA. Then when the Russian electoral authorities restrict the subversive activities of such groups the Americans and Europeans decry “unfair elections”. This is what can be called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    One small mercy is that the European parliamentary vote is non-binding which means it can be ignored by the European Commission executive and any of the bloc’s 27 member states. And ignoring such a provocative move is what they should do if relations between the EU and Russia are not to be plunged into further turmoil.

    Nonetheless, the European lawmakers’ attack on Russia is deserving of forthright condemnation. At a time when international tensions are becoming more fraught and confrontational, it is contemptible that the European parliament is promoting a hostile policy towards Russia (and China). Dialogue, diplomacy and international law are being undermined by unhinged calls for adversarial actions. The European parliament is being criminally irresponsible.

    The rhetoric in the 32-page report approved by the European parliament is irrational, intemperate and incendiary. It repeatedly refers to the Russian government as the “Putin regime” and accuses the Russian state of “repressing” its own population as well as being a “threat” to European neighbors.

    The report is a voluminous agitprop screed befitting a Cold War time-warp which advocates that the EU “should counterbalance the efforts of Russia and China to weaken democracy worldwide and destabilize the European order”.

    This is while the United States and its European NATO allies build up military forces on Russia’s borders and while the U.S. this week set up a new military alliance – known as AUKUS – with Britain and Australia that is an audacious provocation to China’s security.

    Lamentably, the geopolitical climate is one in which the world is sliding dangerously towards war. And to its utter shame, the European parliament – supposedly a bastion of democracy and rule of law – is recklessly pushing this destructive dynamic.

    A few other choice hostile declarations in the European parliamentary report are calls for the EU to curb energy imports from Russia so as to “end dependence on Russian oil and gas”; calls for the EU to cut Russia off from international banking systems; and calls for the EU to strengthen cooperation with the United States and other like-minded partners to “defend democracy globally”.

    The latter is particularly laughable coming after the United States left European so-called allies high and dry by its unilateral pullout from Afghanistan. Also this week, the U.S. move to form a new military alliance with Australia, providing the latter with nuclear-powered submarines, caused France to howl about being “stabbed in the back” by Washington owing to Paris losing out on a $50 billion naval contract with Canberra.

    European lawmakers are voting like pathetic lackeys of the United States despite Europe being treated over and over again as a mere vassal.

    Mick Wallace, an independent Irish MEP who voted against the anti-Russia report this week, said his fellow European lawmakers were slavishly following a U.S. agenda and not acting in the interests of European citizens.

    “The U.S. does have a vested interest in driving a wedge between the EU and Russia – a financial one. And sadly right now, the EU lacks the courage to stand up to the Americans and follow their own best interests,” commented Wallace.

    “The vote against Russia was no surprise,” he added. “The anti-Russia rhetoric has been growing for over two years now. It is primarily driven by the U.S. which has found it easy to persuade some EU members states to dance to their bidding. Obviously, the Baltic states are more than willing to comply, as is Poland, the Scandinavians and some Eastern European countries.”

    However, Wallace contended that the majority vote is largely meaningless in practical reality.

    He said: “It’s important to remember that while many of the German and French MEPs are voting with the Baltic states, Poland etcetera, it amounts to a bit of game-playing for them, rather than serious intent. Especially for the Germans who see the sense of having a good relationship with Russia, but with their own elections coming up, now is not the time to be making that argument.”

    Here’s the kicker though. The European Union is facing a crisis of governing authority among its 500 million citizens. And it’s no wonder when so many of its parliamentarians are cowards, duplicitous, and serving a foreign power against the interests of its own citizens, including putting their security and peace in jeopardy.

    Whose parliament is not legitimate?

      Read  Europe’s U.S. Lackey Parliament in Unhinged Attack on Russia
      October 17, 2021
    The $8 Trillion Cost of Failure
    by Tom Engelhardt, Information Clearing House.

    The time and money it took to give Kabul to the Taliban could have been used to help struggling Americans.

     They weren’t kidding when they called Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires.” Indeed, that cemetery has just taken another imperial body. And it wasn’t pretty, was it? Not that anyone should be surprised. Even after 20 years of preparation, a burial never is.

    In fact, the shock and awe(fulness) in Kabul and Washington over these last weeks shouldn’t have been surprising, given our history. After all, we were the ones who prepared the ground and dug the grave for the previous interment in that very cemetery.

    That, of course, took place between 1979 and 1989 when Washington had no hesitation about using the most extreme Islamists—arming, funding, training, and advising them—to ensure that one more imperial carcass, that of the Soviet Union, would be buried there. When, on February 15, 1989, the Red Army finally left Afghanistan, crossing the Friendship Bridge into Uzbekistan, Soviet commander General Boris Gromov, the last man out, said, “That’s it. Not one Soviet soldier or officer is behind my back.” It was his way of saying so long, farewell, good riddance to the endless war that the leader of the Soviet Union had by then taken to calling “the bleeding wound.” Yet, in its own strange fashion, that “graveyard” would come home with them. After all, they returned to a bankrupt land, sucked dry by that failed war against those American- and Saudi-backed Islamist extremists.

    Two years later, the Soviet Union would implode, leaving just one truly great power on Planet Earth—along with, of course, those very extremists Washington had built into a USSR-destroying force. Only a decade later, in response to an “air force” manned by 19 mostly Saudi hijackers dispatched by Osama bin Laden, a rich Saudi prince who had been part of our anti-Soviet effort in Afghanistan, the world’s “sole superpower” would head directly for that graveyard (as bin Laden desired).

    Despite the American experience in Vietnam during the previous century—the Afghan effort of the 1980s was meant to give the USSR its own “Vietnam” —key Bush administration officials were so sure of themselves that, as The New York Times recently reported, they wouldn’t even consider letting the leaders of the Taliban negotiate a surrender once our invasion began. On September 11, 2001, in the ruins of the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had already given an aide these instructions, referring not just to Bin Laden but Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein: “Go massive. Sweep it up, all up. Things related and not.” Now, he insisted, “The United States is not inclined to negotiate surrenders.” (Of course, had you read war reporter Anand Gopal’s 2014 book, No Good Men Among the Living, you would have long known just how fruitlessly Taliban leaders tried to surrender to a power intent on war and nothing but war.)

    Allow a surrender and have everything grind to a disappointing halt? Not a chance, not when the Afghan War was the beginning of what was to be an American triumph of global proportions. After all, the future invasion of Iraq and the domination of the oil-rich Greater Middle East by the one and only power on the planet were already on the agenda. How could the leaders of such a confident land with a military funded at levels the next most powerful countries combined couldn’t match have imagined its own 2021 version of surrender?

    And yet, once again, 20 years later, Afghanistan has quite visibly and horrifyingly become a graveyard of empire (as well, of course, as a graveyard for Afghans). Perhaps it’s only fitting that the secretary of defense who refused the surrender of the enemy in 2001 was recently buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. In fact, the present secretary of defense and the head of the joint chiefs of staff both reportedly “knelt before Mr. Rumsfeld’s widow, Joyce, who was in a wheelchair, and presented her with the flag from her husband’s coffin.”

    Meanwhile, Joe Biden was the third president since George W. Bush and crew launched this country’s forever wars to find himself floundering haplessly in that same graveyard of empires. If the Soviet example didn’t come to mind, it should have as Democrats and Republicans, President Biden and former President Trump flailed at each other over their supposedly deep feelings for the poor Afghans being left behind, while this country withdrew its troops from Kabul airport in a land where “rest in peace” has long had no meaning.

    America’s True Infrastructure Spending

    Here’s the thing, though: Don’t assume that Afghanistan is the only imperial graveyard around or that the United States can simply withdraw, however ineptly, chaotically, and bloodily, leaving that country to history—and the Taliban. Put another way, even though events in Kabul and its surroundings took over the mainstream news recently, the Soviet example should remind us that, when it comes to empires, imperial graveyards are hardly restricted to Afghanistan.

    In fact, it might be worth taking a step back to look at the big picture. For decades, the United States has been involved in a global project that’s come to be called “nation building,” even if, from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to Afghanistan and Iraq, it often seemed an endless exercise in nation (un)building. An imperial power of the first order, the US long ago largely rejected the idea of straightforward colonies. In the years of the Cold War and then of the War on Terror, its leaders were instead remarkably focused on setting up an unparalleled empire of military bases and garrisons on a global scale. This and the wars that went with it have been the unsettling American imperial project since World War II.

    And that unsettling should be taken quite literally. Even before recent events in Afghanistan, Brown University’s invaluable Costs of War Project estimated that this country’s conflicts of the last two decades across the Greater Middle East and Africa had displaced at least 38 million people, which should be considered nation (un)building of the first order.

    Since the Cold War began, Washington has engaged in an endless series of interventions around the planet from Iran to the CongoChile to Guatemala, as well as in conflicts, large and small. Now, with Joe Biden having withdrawn from America’s disastrous Afghan War, you might wonder whether it’s all finally coming to an end, even if the United States still insists on maintaining 750 sizable military bases globally.

    Count on this, though: The politicians of the great power that hasn’t won a significant war since 1945 will agree on one thing—that the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex deserve yet more funding (no matter what else doesn’t). In truth, those institutions have been the major recipients of actual infrastructure spending over much of what might still be thought of as the American century. They’ve been the true winners in this society, along with the billionaires who, even in the midst of a grotesque pandemic, raked in profits in a historic fashion. In the process, those tycoons created possibly the largest inequality gap on the planet, one that could destabilize a democracy even if nothing else were going on. The losers? Don’t even get me started.

    Or think of it this way: Yes, in August 2021, it was Kabul, not Washington, D.C., that fell to the enemy, but the nation (un)building project in which this country has been involved over these last decades hasn’t remained thousands of miles away. Only half-noticed here, it’s been coming home, big time. Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, amid election promises to end America’s “endless wars,” should really be seen as part of that war-induced (un)building project at home. In his own strange fashion, The Donald was Kabul before its time and his rise to power unimaginable without those distant conflicts and the spending that went with them, all of which, however unnoticed, unsettled significant parts of this society.

    Climate War in a Graveyard of Empires?

    You can tell a lot about a country if you know where its politicians unanimously agree to invest taxpayer dollars.

    At this very moment, the United States is in a series of crises, none worse than the heat, fire, and flood “season” that’s hit not just the megadrought-ridden West, or inundated Tennessee, or hurricane-whacked Louisiana, or the tropical-storm-tossed Northeast, but the whole country. Unbearable warmth, humidity, firessmoke, storms, and power outages, that’s us. Fortunately, as always, Congress stands in remarkable unanimity when it comes to investing money where it truly matters.

    And no, you knew perfectly well that I wasn’t referring to the creation of a green-energy economy. In fact, Republicans wouldn’t hear of it and the Biden administration, while officially backing the idea, has already issued more than 2,000 permits to fossil-fuel companies for new drilling and fracking on federal lands. In August, the president even called on OPEC—the Saudis, in particular—to produce significantly more oil to halt a further rise in gas prices at the pump.

    As America’s eternally losing generals come home from Kabul, what I actually had in mind was the one thing just about everyone in Washington seems to agree on: funding the military-industrial complex beyond their wildest dreams. Congress has recently spent months trying to pass a bill that would, over a number of years, invest an extra $550 billion in this country’s badly tattered infrastructure, but never needs time like that to pass Pentagon and other national security budgets that, for years now, have added up to well over a trillion dollars annually.

    In another world, with the Afghan War ending and US forces (at least theoretically) coming home, it might seem logical to radically cut back on the money invested in the military-industrial complex and its ever more expensive weaponry. In another American world on an increasingly endangered planet, significantly scaling back American forces in every way and investing our tax dollars in a very different kind of “defense” would seem logical indeed. And yet, as of this moment, as Greg Jaffe writes at The Washington Post, the Pentagon continues to suck up “a larger share of discretionary spending than any other government agency.”

    Fortunately for those who want to keep funding the US military in the usual fashion, there’s a new enemy out there with which to replace the Taliban, one that the Biden foreign-policy team and a “pivoting” military is already remarkably eager to confront: China.

    At least when the latest infrastructure money is spent, if that compromise bill ever really makes it through a Congress that can’t tie its own shoelaces, something will be accomplished. Bridges and roads will be repaired, new electric-vehicle-charging stations set up, and so on. When, however, the Pentagon spends the money just about everyone in Washington agrees it should have, we’re guaranteed yet more weaponry this country doesn’t need, poorly produced for thoroughly exorbitant sums, if not more failed wars as well.

    I mean, just think about what the American taxpayer “invested” in the losing wars of this century. According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, $2.313 trillion went into that disastrous Afghan War alone and at least $6.4 trillion by 2020 into the full-scale war on terror. And that doesn’t even include the estimated future costs of caring for American veterans of those conflicts. In the end, the total may prove to be in the $8 trillion range. Hey, at least $88 billion just went into supplying and training the Afghan military, most of which didn’t even exist by August 2021 and the rest of which melted away when the Taliban advanced.

    Just imagine for a minute where we might really be today if Congress had spent close to $8 trillion rebuilding this society, rather than (un)building and wrecking distant ones.

    Rest assured, this is not the country that ended World War II in triumph or even the one that outlasted the Soviet Union and whose politicians then declared it the most exceptional, indispensable nation ever. This is a land that’s crumbling before our eyes, being (un)built month by month, year by year. Its political system is on the verge of dissolving into who knows what amid a raft of voter suppression laws, wild claims about the most recent presidential election, an assault on the Capitol itself, and conspiracy theories galore. Its political parties seem ever more hostile, disturbed, and disparate. Its economy is a gem of inequality, its infrastructure crumbling, its society seemingly coming apart at the seams. And on a planet that could be turning into a genuine graveyard of empires (and of so much else), keep in mind that, if you’re losing your war with climate change, you can’t withdraw from it. You can’t declare defeat and go home. You’re already home in the increasingly dysfunctional, increasingly (un)built US of A.

    Tom Engelhardt created and runs Tomdispatch.com, a project of The Nation Institute where he is a Fellow. His next book, A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books), will be published later this month.

      Read The $8 Trillion Cost of Failure
      October 19, 2021
    Good Americans
    by Paul , Information Clearing House.

    Since WWII behavior of the German people throughout the Nazi era has been a moral mystery to many Americans. That party never won an election let alone a plurality of voters but with Hitler’s coup, representative government became a memory. Hitler authorized his own tyranny and ruled by terror but the degree to which Germans abased themselves and embraced or cowered under that psychotically cruel dictatorship still appalls. Under Hitler, Nazis became, as was promised, more repressive, politically punishing, and viciously racist, murdering leadership of the parties that had opposed them, the Communists—who had gotten nearly as many votes—and Social Democrats. With those parties decapitated, organized resistance ceased in a nation divided between a minority supporting Hitler and everyone else. What became of the will of that near two-thirds of Germans who had rejected Nazis and their Fuhrer? Prevailing American opinion has mistakenly regarded in naive wonder their complaisance, their utter passivity and their genuflection to, and public adulation of, their dictator. It’s as if most Americans have no idea what universally applied terror does. Of course, they haven’t. In absolutist regimes, the first order of business is to obliterate all possibility of public resistance, and redirect independent thought into its own propaganda channels. This may or may not begin with widespread murder and torture, but that is how it proceeds. It is not done in secrecy; it is done flagrantly, blatantly, with the terrifying intent to demonstrate the helplessness of its victims and the chilling indifference of its agents to human agony. Soon the entire country knows and feels the dread of being powerless before remorseless and absolute subjection.

    Black midnight vans and jackboots on the stairs, as well as many disappearances, assassinations, and horror stories took over the minds and souls of Germans like succubi because the terror was relentless and broad spectrum. It was not only Jews who were its victims, but also Socialists, unionists, gypsies, homosexuals, aliens, and finally even priests. Pastor Niemoller famously said when they came for Communists, Socialists, and others he didn’t resist because he was not one of them, and when they came for him, there was no one left to resist. In the end, it rendered the entire people captive in a nightmare in which the only options for survival were hysterIcal worship or catatonic submission. There was never a mystery about “Good Germans”; not to those with an understanding of terror. A more provocative question is how “Good Americans” have been brought to their current state of deep and likely fatal spiritual, moral and psychological coma. Of course, this is no mystery, either, once examined. America is not an absolutism in the same sense that Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia were. And yet, the extraordinary degree of control its ruling elite has established and maintained over the generality of the people is arguably greater because—as Orwell predicted— instead of being instilled by violence it has been inculcated by the perverted science of mental and psychological conditioning. Ruling Capitalists developed a method of mind control light years ahead of the bludgeon, pistol, and dogs terror of the past. The rudimentary work of Goebbels was greatly refined by Bernays, a nephew of Freud, in the 1920s. He saw the mass of humans as irrational and stupid, and asserted that manipulation of their herd mind would enable precise control of their beliefs and behavior. Walter Lippmann summarized his idea, saying “Their prejudices, notions, and convictions are used as a starting point, with the result that they are drawn…into passionate adherence to a given mental picture.” What Bernays achieved in his work, Chomsky fully elaborated in his epochal study, “Manufacturing Consent”. The prejudices and convictions of the vast majority of ordinary, poorly educated Americans were clear and unequivocal, and not different in any significant way from people around the world. The principle thing was to play to their battered, damaged egos to make them esteem themselves better than lesser breeds, and therefore to revere the power elite that molds and controls them. In the insecurity of human life in which the alien and unknown seem mortally threatening, the same prejudices obtain: fear of the other, of his race, color, religion, force. These are deeply imbedded in human nature, along with primal fear of the mystery and power of woman that men have smothered with patriarchy. Playing on these fears, the Capitalist Power Elite in America has kept the people in a continuing state of anxiety, exacerbating their racism, sexism, jingoism, and cultural and political hatreds, while constantly dosing them with triumphant assurances of their own moral superiority and incomparable grandeur. This tactic of praising the victim is not new. Nazis told Germans they were the Herrenvolk: the Master Race; our rulers tell us that we are the Exceptional Nation. What real difference is there between “USA, we’re Number One!” and “Deutschland Uber Alles”? Hitler’s Nazis defied the world, stole the Ruhr and the Rhineland, mugged Austria, enslaved Czechoslovakia, devastated Poland, invaded Russia, and caused many millions of deaths before they were broken and destroyed. The Germans supported it all. Since WWII, America has devastated Korea and Vietnam, raped and destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan, dismembered Yugoslavia and Ukraine, pulverized Libya and Syria, funded murder in Yemen and Gaza, starved and crippled Cuba, Iran and Venezuela, and caused many millions of deaths in its brutal imperial psychosis. And Americans supported it all. Humanity’s doom is to be used as livestock, or worse, as things.

    Paul Edwards is a writer and film-maker in Montana. He can be reached at: hgmnude@bresnan.net

      Read  Good Americans
    Our Future vs. Neoliberalism
    by Medea Benjamin, Nicolas J.S. Davies, Countercurrents.

    As we reject the inevitability of neoliberalism and Thatcher's lie that there is no alternative, we must also reject the lie that we are just passive, powerless consumers.

    In country after country around the world, people are rising up to challenge entrenched, failing neoliberal political and economic systems, with mixed but sometimes promising results. 

    Progressive leaders in the U.S. Congress are refusing to back down on the Democrats' promises to American voters to reduce poverty, expand rights to healthcare, education, and clean energy, and repair a shredded social safety net. After decades of tax cuts for the rich, they are also committed to raising taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations to pay for this popular agenda.

    Germany has elected a ruling coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats that excludes the conservative Christian Democrats for the first time since 2000. The new government promises a $14 minimum wage, solar panels on all suitable roof space, 2% of land for wind farms and the closure of Germany's last coal-fired power plants by 2030.    

    Iraqis voted in an election that was called in response to a popular protest movement launched in October 2019 to challenge the endemic corruption of the post-2003 political class and its subservience to U.S. and Iranian interests. The protest movement was split between taking part in the election and boycotting it, but its candidates still won about 35 seats and will have a voice in parliament. The party of long-time Iraqi nationalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr won 73 seats, the largest of any single party, while Iranian-backed parties whose armed militias killed hundreds of protesters in 2019 lost popular support and many of their seats. 

    Chile's billionaire president, Sebastian Piñera, is being impeached after the Pandora Papers revealed details of bribery and tax evasion in his sale of a mining company, and he could face up to 5 years in prison. Mass street protests in 2019 forced Piñera to agree to a new constitution to replace the one written under the Pinochet military dictatorship, and a convention that includes representatives of indigenous and other marginalized communities has been elected to draft the constitution. Progressive parties and candidates are expected to do well in the general election in November.

    Maybe the greatest success of people power has come in Bolivia. In 2020, only a year after a U.S.-backed right-wing military coup, a mass mobilization of mostly indigenous working people forced a new election, and the socialist MAS Party of Evo Morales was returned to power. Since then it has already introduced a new wealth tax and welfare payments to four million people to help eliminate hunger in Bolivia.

    The Ideological Context

    Since the 1970s, Western political and corporate leaders have peddled a quasi-religious belief in the power of "free" markets and unbridled capitalism to solve all the world's problems. This new "neoliberal" orthodoxy is a thinly disguised reversion to the systematic injustice of 19th century laissez-faire capitalism, which led to gross inequality and poverty even in wealthy countries, famines that killed tens of millions of people in India and China, and horrific exploitation of the poor and vulnerable worldwide.

    For most of the 20th century, Western countries gradually responded to the excesses and injustices of capitalism by using the power of government to redistribute wealth through progressive taxation and a growing public sector, and ensure broad access to public goods like education and healthcare. This led to a gradual expansion of broadly shared prosperity in the United States and Western Europe through a strong public sector that balanced the power of private corporations and their owners.

    The steadily growing shared prosperity of the post-WWII years in the West was derailed by a  combination of factors, including the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, Nixon's freeze on prices and wages, runaway inflation caused by dropping the gold standard, and then a second oil crisis after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

    Right-wing politicians led by Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the U.K. blamed the power of organized labor and the public sector for the economic crisis. They launched a "neoliberal" counter-revolution to bust unions, shrink and privatize the public sector, cut taxes, deregulate industries and supposedly unleash "the magic of the market." Then they took credit for a return to economic growth that really owed more to the end of the oil crises.

    The United States and United Kingdom used their economic, military and media power to spread their neoliberal gospel across the world. Chile's experiment in neoliberalism under Pinochet's military dictatorship became a model for U.S. efforts to roll back the "pink tide" in Latin America. When the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe opened to the West at the end of the Cold War, it was the extreme, neoliberal brand of capitalism that Western economists imposed as "shock therapy" to privatize state-owned enterprises and open countries to Western corporations.       

    In the United States, the mass media shy away from the word "neoliberalism" to describe the changes in society since the 1980s. They describe its effects in less systemic terms, as globalization, privatization, deregulation, consumerism and so on, without calling attention to their common ideological roots. This allows them to treat its impacts as separate, unconnected problems: poverty and inequality, mass incarceration, environmental degradation, ballooning debt, money in politics, disinvestment in public services, declines in public health, permanent war, and record military spending.

    After a generation of systematic neoliberal control, it is now obvious to people all over the world that neoliberalism has utterly failed to solve the world's problems. As many predicted all along, it has just enabled the rich to get much, much richer, while structural and even existential problems remain unsolved.

    Even once people have grasped the self-serving, predatory nature of this system that has overtaken their political and economic life, many still fall victim to the demoralization and powerlessness that are among its most insidious products, as they are brainwashed to see themselves only as individuals and consumers, instead of as active and collectively powerful citizens.

    In effect, confronting neoliberalism—whether as individuals, groups, communities or countries—requires a two-step process. First, we must understand the nature of the beast that has us and the world in its grip, whatever we choose to call it. Second, we must overcome our own demoralization and powerlessness, and rekindle our collective power as political and economic actors to build the better world we know is possible.                       

    We will see that collective power in the streets and the suites at COP26 in Glasgow, when the world's leaders will gather to confront the reality that neoliberalism has allowed corporate profits to trump a rational response to the devastating impact of fossil fuels on the Earth's climate. Extinction Rebellion and other groups will be in the streets in Glasgow, demanding the long-delayed action that is required to solve the problem, including an end to net carbon emissions by 2025.

    While scientists warned us for decades what the result would be, political and business leaders have peddled their neoliberal snake oil to keep filling their coffers at the expense of the future of life on Earth. If we fail to stop them now, living conditions will keep deteriorating for people everywhere, as the natural world our lives depend on is washed out from under our feet, goes up in smoke and, species by species, dies and disappears forever.

    The Covid pandemic is another real world case study on the impact of neoliberalism. As the official death toll reaches 5 million and many more deaths go unreported, rich countries are still hoarding vaccines, drug companies are reaping a bonanza of profits from vaccines and new drugs, and the lethal, devastating injustice of the entire neoliberal "market" system is laid bare for the whole world to see. Calls for a "people's vaccine" and "vaccine justice" have been challenging what has now been termed "vaccine apartheid."


    In the 1980s, U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher often told the world, "There is no alternative" to the neoliberal order she and President Reagan were unleashing. After only one or two generations, the self-serving insanity they prescribed and the crises it has caused have made it a question of survival for humanity to find alternatives.

    Around the world, ordinary people are rising up to demand real change. The people of Iraq, Chile and Bolivia have overcome the incredible traumas inflicted on them to take to the streets in the thousands and demand better government. Americans should likewise demand that our government stop wasting trillions of dollars to militarize the world and destroy countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, and start solving our real problems, here and abroad.  

    People around the world understand the nature of the problems we face better than we did a generation or even a decade ago. Now we must overcome demoralization and powerlessness in order to act. It helps to understand that the demoralization and powerlessness we may feel are themselves products of this neoliberal system, and that simply overcoming them is a victory in itself.

    As we reject the inevitability of neoliberalism and Thatcher's lie that there is no alternative, we must also reject the lie that we are just passive, powerless consumers. As human beings, we have the same collective power that human beings have always had to build a better world for ourselves and our children—and now is the time to harness that power.

    Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the 2018 book, "Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran." Her previous books include: "Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection" (2016); "Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control" (2013); "Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart" (1989), and (with Jodie Evans) "Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide)" (2005). 

    Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

      Read Our Future vs. Neoliberalism
      October 20, 2021
    Sochi probes the Utopia of a multipolar world
    by Pepe Escobar, Information Clearing House.

    The annual Valdai Club meeting in Sochi, Russia, was another lively affair for envisioning a post-unipolar global order.

    "Asia Times"- The annual Valdai Club meeting has always been positioned as absolutely essential when it comes to understanding the non-stop movement of geopolitical tectonic plates across Eurasia. 

    The ongoing 18th meeting in Sochi, Russia once again lived up to expectations. The overall theme was Global Shake-Up in the 21st Century: The Individual, Values, and the State. It expands on the theme of a “crumbling world” that Valdai had been analyzing since 2018: as the organizers highlight, this “has ceased to be a metaphor and turned into a palpable reality before our own eyes.”

    Framing the discussions in Sochi, Valdai released two intriguing reports capable of offering prime food for thought, especially for the Global South: The Age of the Pandemic: Year Two. The Future is Back, and History, to be Continued: The Utopia of a Diverse World.

    The “Future is Back” concept essentially means that, after the Covid-19 shock, the notion of a linear one-sided future, complete with “progress” defined as globalized democracy enshrining the “end of history,” is dead and buried. 

    Globalization, as framed by neoliberalism, proved to be finite. 

    The slide towards medical totalitarianism and the trappings of a maximum-security penitentiary are self-evident. As some Valdai participants noted, Foucault’s concept of “biopower” is no longer abstract philosophy. 

    The first session in Sochi went a long way in terms of framing our current predicament, starting with how the current incandescent US-China clash is unfolding. 

    Thomas Graham, from the Council on Foreign Relations – the conceptual matrix of the US establishment – recited the proverbial “indispensable nation” platitudes and how it’s “prepared to defend Taiwan,” even as he admitted, “the Biden administration is still articulating its policy.” 

    It was up to Zhou Bo, from the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University, to ask the hard questions: if the US and China are in competition, “how far are we from conflict?” He stressed “cooperation” instead of a slide into confrontation, yet China “will cooperate from a position of strength.” 

    Zhou Bo also clarified how Beijing is “not interested in bipolarity,” in terms of China “replacing the USSR during the Cold War”: after all, “China is not competing with the US elsewhere in the world.”

    Yet even as “the center of gravity is moving irreversibly to the East,” he admitted the current situation “is more dangerous than during the Cold War.”  

    Surveying the global chessboard, former Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim stressed “the absurdity of the UN Security Council deciding even matters related to the pandemic.”

    Amorim voiced one of the Global South’s key demands: the “need for a new institutional framework. The closer we get would be the G-20 – a little more African, a little less European.” This G-20 would command the authority the current UN Security Council lacks. 


    So Amorim had to tie it all to the centrality of inequality: his quip about “coming from a forgotten region,” Latin America, was very much on point. He also had to stress, “we didn’t want a Pax Americana.” A real, “concrete step” towards multipolarity would be “a big conference” that could be led by this “modified G-20.” 

    Togtbaatar Damdin, a Mongolian parliamentarian, evoked “my great, great, great grandfather,” Genghis Khan, and how he built “that huge empire and called it Pax Mongolica,” focused on what matters to the here and now: “peaceful trade and economic integration in Greater Eurasia.” Damdin stressed, “we [Mongolians] no longer believe in war. It’s much more profitable to be involved in trade.” 

    A constant theme in this and other Valdai sessions has been “Hybrid War” and “Shadow War”, the new imperial instruments deployed against parts of Latin America, the greater Middle East and Russia-China, in contrast to “a transparent system under the rule of law – and kept by international law,” as noted by Oksana Sinyavskaya from the Institute for Social Policy at the Higher School of Economics. 

    The discussions in Sochi essentially focused on the twilight of the current hegemonic socio-economic system – essentially neoliberalism; the crisis of alliance systems – as in the rot within NATO; and the toxic confluence of Hybrid War and the pandemic – impacting billions of people. An inevitable conclusion: the current dysfunctional international system is incapable of dealing with crisis management.   

    In the roundtable presenting the Valdai report on Year Two of the Age of Pandemic, Thomas Gomart, a director of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), stressed how hard it still was to analyze the geopolitics of data.

    With the Chinese privileging the concept of “ecological civilization,” questions of technological monitoring – as in how social credit is framed – are now on the forefront. 

    And as we delve deeper into “invisible wars” – Gomart’s own terminology – we face a toxic convergence of environmental degradation and hyper-concentration of digital platforms. 

    Gomart also made two crucial points that escape many analyses across the Global South: Washington has decided to remain the primus inter pares, and won’t abdicate from this position no matter what. This is happening even as global capital – heavily slanted towards the US – wants to find the new China. 

    That set the stage for Nelson Wong, the vice-chairman of the Shanghai Center for RimPac Strategic and International Studies, to diplomatically shatter divide and rule tactics and the US obsession with a zero-sum game. Wong stressed how China “does not hold a hostile attitude towards the US”; its aim, he claims, is a “peaceful rise.”  

    But most significantly, Wong made sure that “the post-pandemic world will not be determined by the outcome of the confrontation between the US and China, or by splitting the world into two competing camps.”

    This hopeful perspective implies the Global South will eventually have its say – aligned with Amorim’s proposal of a tweaked G-20.     

    The Valdai discussions in Sochi significantly take place just as Moscow decided to suspend the work of its mission to NATO from November 1, and close the NATO information office in Moscow.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had already stressed that Moscow no longer pretends that changes in the relationship with NATO are possible in the near future: from now on, if they want to talk, they should contact the Russian ambassador to Belgium.  

    One of the questions at Sochi had to revolve on whether Moscow should expect NATO to take the first step to improve relations. Lavrov had, once again, to repeat the obvious: “Yes, we proceed from this. We have never started the deterioration of our relations with NATO, the European Union, or any other country in the West or any other region of the world.

    “Everyone knows this story well. When Saakashvili in August 2008 gave the criminal order to bomb the city of Tskhinval and the positions of peacekeepers (including Russian ones), Russia insisted on convening the Russia-NATO Council to consider this situation.

    “The then US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice categorically refused, although when creating the Russia-NATO Council, the founding act emphasized that it should act in any ‘weather,’ especially when crisis situations occur. This is one example that marked the beginning of the current state of affairs between the US and NATO.”

    So Russia has established the new game in (Atlanticist) town: we only talk to the masters and ignore the lackeys. As for NATO now geared to create “capabilities” to be used against China, the Global South may collectively engage in rolls of laughter – considering the fresh NATO humiliation in Afghanistan. 

    With the inevitability of an EU more and more geo-economically intertwined with China, dysfunctional NATO at best may keep on prowling as a bunch of zombie rabid dogs. Now that’s a Utopia theme for Valdai 2022.  

    Pepe Escobar is correspondent-at-large at Asia Times. His latest book is 2030. Follow him on Facebook.

      Read Sochi probes the Utopia of a multipolar world
      October 22, 2021
    Putin speaks at plenary session of Valdai Discussion Club meeting
    by Valdai, Information Clearing House.

    President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,

    To begin with, I would like to thank you for coming to Russia and taking part in the Valdai Club events.

    As always, during these meetings you raise pressing issues and hold comprehensive discussions of these issues that, without exaggeration, matter for people around the world. Once again, the key theme of the forum was put in a straightforward, I would even say, point-blank manner: Global Shake-up in the 21st Century: The Individual, Values and the State.

    Indeed, we are living in an era of great change. If I may, by tradition, I will offer my views with regard to the agenda that you have come up with.

    In general, this phrase, “to live in an era of great change,” may seem trite since we use it so often. Also, this era of change began quite a long time ago, and changes have become part of everyday life. Hence, the question: are they worth focusing on? I agree with those who made the agenda for these meetings; of course they are.

    In recent decades, many people have cited a Chinese proverb. The Chinese people are wise, and they have many thinkers and valuable thoughts that we can still use today. One of them, as you may know, says, “God forbid living in a time of change.” But we are already living in it, whether we like it or not, and these changes are becoming deeper and more fundamental. But let us consider another Chinese wisdom: the word “crisis” consists of two hieroglyphs – there are probably representatives of the People's Republic of China in the audience, and they will correct me if I have it wrong – but, two hieroglyphs, “danger” and “opportunity.” And as we say here in Russia, “fight difficulties with your mind, and fight dangers with your experience.”

    Of course, we must be aware of the danger and be ready to counter it, and not just one threat but many diverse threats that can arise in this era of change. However, it is no less important to recall a second component of the crisis – opportunities that must not be missed, all the more so since the crisis we are facing is conceptual and even civilisation-related. This is basically a crisis of approaches and principles that determine the very existence of humans on Earth, but we will have to seriously revise them in any event. The question is where to move, what to give up, what to revise or adjust. In saying this, I am convinced that it is necessary to fight for real values, upholding them in every way.

    Humanity entered into a new era about three decades ago when the main conditions were created for ending military-political and ideological confrontation. I am sure you have talked a lot about this in this discussion club. Our Foreign Minister also talked about it, but nevertheless I would like to repeat several things.

    A search for a new balance, sustainable relations in the social, political, economic, cultural and military areas and support for the world system was launched at that time. We were looking for this support but must say that we did not find it, at least so far. Meanwhile, those who felt like the winners after the end of the Cold War (we have also spoken about this many times) and thought they climbed Mount Olympus soon discovered that the ground was falling away underneath even there, and this time it was their turn, and nobody could “stop this fleeting moment” no matter how fair it seemed.

    In general, it must have seemed that we adjusted to this continuous inconstancy, unpredictability and permanent state of transition, but this did not happen either.

    I would like to add that the transformation that we are seeing and are part of is of a different calibre than the changes that repeatedly occurred in human history, at least those we know about. This is not simply a shift in the balance of forces or scientific and technological breakthroughs, though both are also taking place. Today, we are facing systemic changes in all directions – from the increasingly complicated geophysical condition of our planet to a more paradoxical interpretation of what a human is and what the reasons for his existence are.

    Let us look around. And I will say this again: I will allow myself to express a few thoughts that I sign on to.

    Firstly, climate change and environmental degradation are so obvious that even the most careless people can no longer dismiss them. One can continue to engage in scientific debates about the mechanisms behind the ongoing processes, but it is impossible to deny that these processes are getting worse, and something needs to be done. Natural disasters such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis have almost become the new normal, and we are getting used to them. Suffice it to recall the devastating, tragic floods in Europe last summer, the fires in Siberia – there are a lot of examples. Not only in Siberia – our neighbours in Turkey have also had wildfires, and the United States, and other places on the American continent. It sometimes seems that any geopolitical, scientific and technical, or ideological rivalry becomes pointless in this context, if the winners will have not enough air to breathe or nothing to drink.

    The coronavirus pandemic has become another reminder of how fragile our community is, how vulnerable it is, and our most important task is to ensure humanity a safe existence and resilience. To increase our chance of survival in the face of cataclysms, we absolutely need to rethink how we go about our lives, how we run our households, how cities develop or how they should develop; we need to reconsider economic development priorities of entire states. I repeat, safety is one of our main imperatives, in any case it has become obvious now, and anyone who tries to deny this will have to later explain why they were wrong and why they were unprepared for the crises and shocks whole nations are facing.

    Second. The socioeconomic problems facing humankind have worsened to the point where, in the past, they would trigger worldwide shocks, such as world wars or bloody social cataclysms. Everyone is saying that the current model of capitalism which underlies the social structure in the overwhelming majority of countries, has run its course and no longer offers a solution to a host of increasingly tangled differences.

    Everywhere, even in the richest countries and regions, the uneven distribution of material wealth has exacerbated inequality, primarily, inequality of opportunities both within individual societies and at the international level. I mentioned this formidable challenge in my remarks at the Davos Forum earlier this year. No doubt, these problems threaten us with major and deep social divisions.

    Furthermore, a number of countries and even entire regions are regularly hit by food crises. We will probably discuss this later, but there is every reason to believe that this crisis will become worse in the near future and may reach extreme forms. There are also shortages of water and electricity (we will probably cover this today as well), not to mention poverty, high unemployment rates or lack of adequate healthcare.

    Lagging countries are fully aware of that and are losing faith in the prospects of ever catching up with the leaders. Disappointment spurs aggression and pushes people to join the ranks of extremists. People in these countries have a growing sense of unfulfilled and failed expectations and the lack of any opportunities not only for themselves, but for their children, as well. This is what makes them look for better lives and results in uncontrolled migration, which, in turn, creates fertile ground for social discontent in more prosperous countries. I do not need to explain anything to you, since you can see everything with your own eyes and are, probably, versed on these matters even better than I.

    As I noted earlier, prosperous leading powers have other pressing social problems, challenges and risks in ample supply, and many among them are no longer interested in fighting for influence since, as they say, they already have enough on their plates. The fact that society and young people in many countries have overreacted in a harsh and even aggressive manner to measures to combat the coronavirus showed – and I want to emphasise this, I hope someone has already mentioned this before me at other venues – so, I think that this reaction showed that the pandemic was just a pretext: the causes for social irritation and frustration run much deeper.

    I have another important point to make. The pandemic, which, in theory, was supposed to rally the people in the fight against this massive common threat, has instead become a divisive rather than a unifying factor. There are many reasons for that, but one of the main ones is that they started looking for solutions to problems among the usual approaches – a variety of them, but still the old ones, but they just do not work. Or, to be more precise, they do work, but often and oddly enough, they worsen the existing state of affairs.

    By the way, Russia has repeatedly called for, and I will repeat this, stopping these inappropriate ambitions and for working together. We will probably talk about this later but it is clear what I have in mind. We are talking about the need to counter the coronavirus infection together. But nothing changes; everything remains the same despite the humanitarian considerations. I am not referring to Russia now, let’s leave the sanctions against Russia for now; I mean the sanctions that remain in place against those states that badly need international assistance. Where are the humanitarian fundamentals of Western political thought? It appears there is nothing there, just idle talk. Do you understand? This is what seems to be on the surface.

    Furthermore, the technological revolution, impressive achievements in artificial intelligence, electronics, communications, genetics, bioengineering, and medicine open up enormous opportunities, but at the same time, in practical terms, they raise philosophical, moral and spiritual questions that were until recently the exclusive domain of science fiction writers. What will happen if machines surpass humans in the ability to think? Where is the limit of interference in the human body beyond which a person ceases being himself and turns into some other entity? What are the general ethical limits in the world where the potential of science and machines are becoming almost boundless? What will this mean for each of us, for our descendants, our nearest descendants – our children and grandchildren?

    These changes are gaining momentum, and they certainly cannot be stopped because they are objective as a rule. All of us will have to deal with the consequences regardless of our political systems, economic condition or prevailing ideology.

    Verbally, all states talk about their commitment to the ideals of cooperation and a willingness to work together for resolving common problems but, unfortunately, these are just words. In reality, the opposite is happening, and the pandemic has served to fuel the negative trends that emerged long ago and are now only getting worse. The approach based on the proverb, “your own shirt is closer to the body,” has finally become common and is now no longer even concealed. Moreover, this is often even a matter of boasting and brandishing. Egotistic interests prevail over the notion of the common good.

    Of course, the problem is not just the ill will of certain states and notorious elites. It is more complicated than that, in my opinion. In general, life is seldom divided into black and white. Every government, every leader is primarily responsible to his own compatriots, obviously. The main goal is to ensure their security, peace and prosperity. So, international, transnational issues will never be as important for a national leadership as domestic stability. In general, this is normal and correct.

    We need to face the fact the global governance institutions are not always effective and their capabilities are not always up to the challenge posed by the dynamics of global processes. In this sense, the pandemic could help – it clearly showed which institutions have what it takes and which need fine-tuning.

    The re-alignment of the balance of power presupposes a redistribution of shares in favour of rising and developing countries that until now felt left out. To put it bluntly, the Western domination of international affairs, which began several centuries ago and, for a short period, was almost absolute in the late 20th century, is giving way to a much more diverse system.

    This transformation is not a mechanical process and, in its own way, one might even say, is unparalleled. Arguably, political history has no examples of a stable world order being established without a big war and its outcomes as the basis, as was the case after World War II. So, we have a chance to create an extremely favourable precedent. The attempt to create it after the end of the Cold War on the basis of Western domination failed, as we see. The current state of international affairs is a product of that very failure, and we must learn from this.

    Some may wonder, what have we arrived at? We have arrived somewhere paradoxical. Just an example: for two decades, the most powerful nation in the world has been conducting military campaigns in two countries that it cannot be compared to by any standard. But in the end, it had to wind down operations without achieving a single goal that it had set for itself going in 20 years ago, and to withdraw from these countries causing considerable damage to others and itself. In fact, the situation has worsened dramatically.

    But that is not the point. Previously, a war lost by one side meant victory for the other side, which took responsibility for what was happening. For example, the defeat of the United States in the Vietnam War, for example, did not make Vietnam a “black hole.” On the contrary, a successfully developing state arose there, which, admittedly, relied on the support of a strong ally. Things are different now: no matter who takes the upper hand, the war does not stop, but just changes form. As a rule, the hypothetical winner is reluctant or unable to ensure peaceful post-war recovery, and only worsens the chaos and the vacuum posing a danger to the world.


    What do you think are the starting points of this complex realignment process? Let me try to summarise the talking points.

    First, the coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown that the international order is structured around nation states. By the way, recent developments have shown that global digital platforms – with all their might, which we could see from the internal political processes in the United States – have failed to usurp political or state functions. These attempts proved ephemeral. The US authorities, as I said, have immediately put the owners of these platforms in their place, which is exactly what is being done in Europe, if you just look at the size of the fines imposed on them and the demonopolisation measures being taken. You are aware of that.

    In recent decades, many have tossed around fancy concepts claiming that the role of the state was outdated and outgoing. Globalisation supposedly made national borders an anachronism, and sovereignty an obstacle to prosperity. You know, I said it before and I will say it again. This is also what was said by those who attempted to open up other countries’ borders for the benefit of their own competitive advantages. This is what actually happened. And as soon as it transpired that someone somewhere is achieving great results, they immediately returned to closing borders in general and, first of all, their own customs borders and what have you, and started building walls. Well, were we supposed to not notice, or what? Everyone sees everything and everyone understands everything perfectly well. Of course, they do.

    There is no point in disputing it anymore. It is obvious. But events, when we spoke about the need to open up borders, events, as I said, went in the opposite direction. Only sovereign states can effectively respond to the challenges of the times and the demands of the citizens. Accordingly, any effective international order should take into account the interests and capabilities of the state and proceed on that basis, and not try to prove that they should not exist. Furthermore, it is impossible to impose anything on anyone, be it the principles underlying the sociopolitical structure or values that someone, for their own reasons, has called universal. After all, it is clear that when a real crisis strikes, there is only one universal value left and that is human life, which each state decides for itself how best to protect based on its abilities, culture and traditions.

    In this regard, I will again note how severe and dangerous the coronavirus pandemic has become. As we know, more than 4.9 million have died of it. These terrifying figures are comparable and even exceed the military losses of the main participants in World War I.

    The second point I would like to draw your attention to is the scale of change that forces us to act extremely cautiously, if only for reasons of self-preservation. The state and society must not respond radically to qualitative shifts in technology, dramatic environmental changes or the destruction of traditional systems. It is easier to destroy than to create, as we all know. We in Russia know this very well, regrettably, from our own experience, which we have had several times.

    Just over a century ago, Russia objectively faced serious problems, including because of the ongoing World War I, but its problems were not bigger and possibly even smaller or not as acute as the problems the other countries faced, and Russia could have dealt with its problems gradually and in a civilised manner. But revolutionary shocks led to the collapse and disintegration of a great power. The second time this happened 30 years ago, when a potentially very powerful nation failed to enter the path of urgently needed, flexible but thoroughly substantiated reforms at the right time, and as a result it fell victim to all kinds of dogmatists, both reactionary ones and the so-called progressives – all of them did their bit, all sides did.

    These examples from our history allow us to say that revolutions are not a way to settle a crisis but a way to aggravate it. No revolution was worth the damage it did to the human potential.

    Third. The importance of a solid support in the sphere of morals, ethics and values is increasing dramatically in the modern fragile world. In point of fact, values are a product, a unique product of cultural and historical development of any nation. The mutual interlacing of nations definitely enriches them, openness expands their horizons and allows them to take a fresh look at their own traditions. But the process must be organic, and it can never be rapid. Any alien elements will be rejected anyway, possibly bluntly. Any attempts to force one’s values on others with an uncertain and unpredictable outcome can only further complicate a dramatic situation and usually produce the opposite reaction and an opposite from the intended result.

    We look in amazement at the processes underway in the countries which have been traditionally looked at as the standard-bearers of progress. Of course, the social and cultural shocks that are taking place in the United States and Western Europe are none of our business; we are keeping out of this. Some people in the West believe that an aggressive elimination of entire pages from their own history, “reverse discrimination” against the majority in the interests of a minority, and the demand to give up the traditional notions of mother, father, family and even gender, they believe that all of these are the mileposts on the path towards social renewal.

    Listen, I would like to point out once again that they have a right to do this, we are keeping out of this. But we would like to ask them to keep out of our business as well. We have a different viewpoint, at least the overwhelming majority of Russian society – it would be more correct to put it this way – has a different opinion on this matter. We believe that we must rely on our own spiritual values, our historical tradition and the culture of our multiethnic nation.

    The advocates of so-called ‘social progress’ believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones – all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs.

    This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices, which we, fortunately, have left, I hope, in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past – such as Shakespeare – are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what colour or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

    Countering acts of racism is a necessary and noble cause, but the new ‘cancel culture’ has turned it into ‘reverse discrimination’ that is, reverse racism. The obsessive emphasis on race is further dividing people, when the real fighters for civil rights dreamed precisely about erasing differences and refusing to divide people by skin colour. I specifically asked my colleagues to find the following quote from Martin Luther King: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by their character.” This is the true value. However, things are turning out differently there. By the way, the absolute majority of Russian people do not think that the colour of a person's skin or their gender is an important matter. Each of us is a human being. This is what matters.

    In a number of Western countries, the debate over men’s and women’s rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria. Look, beware of going where the Bolsheviks once planned to go – not only communalising chickens, but also communalising women. One more step and you will be there.

    Zealots of these new approaches even go so far as to want to abolish these concepts altogether. Anyone who dares mention that men and women actually exist, which is a biological fact, risk being ostracised. “Parent number one” and “parent number two,” “'birthing parent” instead of “mother,” and “human milk” replacing “breastmilk” because it might upset the people who are unsure about their own gender. I repeat, this is nothing new; in the 1920s, the so-called Soviet Kulturtraegers also invented some newspeak believing they were creating a new consciousness and changing values that way. And, as I have already said, they made such a mess it still makes one shudder at times.

    Not to mention some truly monstrous things when children are taught from an early age that a boy can easily become a girl and vice versa. That is, the teachers actually impose on them a choice we all supposedly have. They do so while shutting the parents out of the process and forcing the child to make decisions that can upend their entire life. They do not even bother to consult with child psychologists – is a child at this age even capable of making a decision of this kind? Calling a spade a spade, this verges on a crime against humanity, and it is being done in the name and under the banner of progress.

    Well, if someone likes this, let them do it. I have already mentioned that, in shaping our approaches, we will be guided by a healthy conservatism. That was a few years ago, when passions on the international arena were not yet running as high as they are now, although, of course, we can say that clouds were gathering even then. Now, when the world is going through a structural disruption, the importance of reasonable conservatism as the foundation for a political course has skyrocketed – precisely because of the multiplying risks and dangers, and the fragility of the reality around us.

    This conservative approach is not about an ignorant traditionalism, a fear of change or a restraining game, much less about withdrawing into our own shell. It is primarily about reliance on a time-tested tradition, the preservation and growth of the population, a realistic assessment of oneself and others, a precise alignment of priorities, a correlation of necessity and possibility, a prudent formulation of goals, and a fundamental rejection of extremism as a method. And frankly, in the impending period of global reconstruction, which may take quite long, with its final design being uncertain, moderate conservatism is the most reasonable line of conduct, as far as I see it. It will inevitably change at some point, but so far, do no harm – the guiding principle in medicine – seems to be the most rational one. Noli nocere, as they say.

    Again, for us in Russia, these are not some speculative postulates, but lessons from our difficult and sometimes tragic history. The cost of ill-conceived social experiments is sometimes beyond estimation. Such actions can destroy not only the material, but also the spiritual foundations of human existence, leaving behind moral wreckage where nothing can be built to replace it for a long time.

    Finally, there is one more point I want to make. We understand all too well that resolving many urgent problems the world has been facing would be impossible without close international cooperation. However, we need to be realistic: most of the pretty slogans about coming up with global solutions to global problems that we have been hearing since the late 20th century will never become reality. In order to achieve a global solution, states and people have to transfer their sovereign rights to supra-national structures to an extent that few, if any, would accept. This is primarily attributable to the fact that you have to answer for the outcomes of such policies not to some global public, but to your citizens and voters.

    However, this does not mean that exercising some restraint for the sake of bringing about solutions to global challenges is impossible. After all, a global challenge is a challenge for all of us together, and to each of us in particular. If everyone saw a way to benefit from cooperation in overcoming these challenges, this would definitely leave us better equipped to work together.

    One of the ways to promote these efforts could be, for example, to draw up, at the UN level, a list of challenges and threats that specific countries face, with details of how they could affect other countries. This effort could involve experts from various countries and academic fields, including you, my colleagues. We believe that developing a roadmap of this kind could inspire many countries to see global issues in a new light and understand how cooperation could be beneficial for them.

    I have already mentioned the challenges international institutions are facing. Unfortunately, this is an obvious fact: it is now a question of reforming or closing some of them. However, the United Nations as the central international institution retains its enduring value, at least for now. I believe that in our turbulent world it is the UN that brings a touch of reasonable conservatism into international relations, something that is so important for normalising the situation.

    Many criticise the UN for failing to adapt to a rapidly changing world. In part, this is true, but it is not the UN, but primarily its members who are to blame for this. In addition, this international body promotes not only international norms, but also the rule-making spirit, which is based on the principles of equality and maximum consideration for everyone’s opinions. Our mission is to preserve this heritage while reforming the organisation. However, in doing so we need to make sure that we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes.

    This is not the first time I am using a high rostrum to make this call for collective action in order to face up to the problems that continue to pile up and become more acute. It is thanks to you, friends and colleagues, that the Valdai Club is emerging or has already established itself as a high-profile forum. It is for this reason that I am turning to this platform to reaffirm our readiness to work together on addressing the most urgent problems that the world is facing today.


    The changes mentioned here prior to me, as well as by yours truly, are relevant to all countries and peoples. Russia, of course, is not an exception. Just like everyone else, we are searching for answers to the most urgent challenges of our time.

    Of course, no one has any ready-made recipes. However, I would venture to say that our country has an advantage. Let me explain what this advantage is. It is to do with our historical experience. You may have noticed that I have referred to it several times in the course of my remarks. Unfortunately, we had to bring back many sad memories, but at least our society has developed what they now refer to as herd immunity to extremism that paves the way to upheavals and socioeconomic cataclysms. People really value stability and being able to live normal lives and to prosper while confident that the irresponsible aspirations of yet another group of revolutionaries will not upend their plans and aspirations. Many have vivid memories of what happened 30 years ago and all the pain it took to climb out of the ditch where our country and our society found themselves after the USSR fell apart.

    The conservative views we hold are an optimistic conservatism, which is what matters the most. We believe stable, positive development to be possible. It all depends primarily on our own efforts. Of course, we are ready to work with our partners on common noble causes.

    I would like to thank all participants once more, for your attention. As the tradition goes, I will gladly answer or at least try to answer your questions.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Moderator of the 18th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club closing session Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much, Mr President, for your detailed remarks covering not only and not so much the current political problems, but fundamental issues. Following up on what you said, I cannot fail to ask you about the historical experience, traditions, conservatism and healthy conservatism that you have mentioned on several occasions in your remarks.

    Does unhealthy conservatism frighten you? Where does the boundary separating the healthy from the unhealthy lie? At what point does a tradition turn from something that binds society together into a burden?

    Vladimir Putin: Anything can become a burden, if you are not careful. When I speak about healthy conservatism, Nikolai Berdyayev always springs to mind, and I have already mentioned him several times. He was a remarkable Russian philosopher, and as you all know he was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1922. He was as forward-thinking as a man can be, but also sided with conservatism. He used to say, and you will excuse me if I do not quote his exact words: “Conservatism is not something preventing upward, forward movement, but something preventing you from sliding back into chaos.” If we treat conservatism this way, it provides an effective foundation for further progress.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Speaking of traditions, you also tend to mention traditional values quite frequently, and this is a hot topic in our society. In particular, you have proposed relying on traditional values as a foundation for bringing the world together. However, traditions are destined to be unique for every nation. How can everyone come together around the same traditional values, if they have their own traditions?

    Vladimir Putin: Do you know what the trick is? The trick is that of course there is a lot of diversity and every nation around the world is different. Still, something unites all people. After all, we are all people, and we all want to live. Life is of absolute value.

    In my opinion, the same applies to family as a value, because what can be more important than procreation? Do we want to be or not to be? If we do not want to be, fine. You see, adoption is also a good and important thing, but to adopt a child someone has to give birth to that child. This is the second universal value that cannot be contested.

    I do not think that I need to list them all. You are all smart people here, and everyone understands this, including you. Yes, we do need to work together based on these shared, universal values.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: You made a powerful statement when you said that the current model of capitalism has run its course and no longer offers a solution to international issues. One hears this a lot these days, but you are referring to our country’s unfortunate experience in the 20th century when we were actually rejecting capitalism, but this did not work out for us either. Does this mean that this is where we want to return? Where are we headed with this dysfunctional capitalist model?

    Vladimir Putin: I also said that there were no ready-made recipes. It is true that what we are currently witnessing, for example on the energy markets, as we will probably discuss later, demonstrates that this kind of capitalism does not work. All they do is talk about the “invisible hand” of the market, only to get $1,500 or $2,000 per 1,000 cubic metres. Is this market-based approach to regulation any good?

    When everything goes well and there is stability, economic actors around the world demand more freedom for themselves and a smaller role for the state in the economy. However, when challenges arise, especially at a global scale, they want the government to interfere.

    I remember 2008 and 2009 and the global financial crisis very well. I was Prime Minister at the time, and spoke to many Russian business leaders, who were viewed as successful up to that point, and everything is fine with them now, by the way. They came to me and were ready to give up their companies that were worth tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, for a ruble. Why? They had to assume responsibility for their workforce and for the future of these companies. It was easier for them just to keep what they earned and shift their responsibility to others.

    At the time, we agreed that the state would lend them its shoulder: they kept their businesses, while the state paid off their margin loans and assumed responsibility, to a certain extent. Together with the businesses, we found a solution. As a result, we saved Russia’s largest private companies, and enabled the state to make a profit afterwards. We actually made money because when the companies were back on their feet, they paid back what they owed the state. The state made quite a profit.

    In this regard, we do need to work together and explore each other’s experience. Other countries also had positive experiences in making the state and the market work in tune with each other. The People’s Republic of China is a case in point. While the Communist Party retains its leading role there, the country has a viable market and its institutions are quite effective. This is an obvious fact.

    For this reason, there are no ready-made recipes. Wild capitalism does not work either, as I have already said, and I am ready to repeat this, as I have just demonstrated using these examples.

    In a way, this is like art. You need to understand when to place a bigger emphasis on something: when to add more salt, and when to use more sugar. You see? While being guided by the general principles as articulated by international financial institutions such as the IMF, the OECD, etc., we need to understand where we are. To act, we need to understand how our capabilities compare with the plans we have. By the way, here in Russia we have been quite effective over the past years, including in overcoming the consequences of the epidemic. Other countries also performed quite well, as we can see.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Do you mean that we are moving not only towards an optimistic conservatism but also towards an optimistic capitalism?

    Vladimir Putin: You see, we need to build a social welfare state. Truth be said, Europe, especially the Nordic countries, have been advocating a social welfare state for a long time. This is essential for us, considering the income gap between various social groups, even if this problem exists in all the leading economies of the world. Just look at the United States and Europe, although the income gap is smaller in Europe compared to the United States.

    As I have said on multiple occasions, only a small group of people who were already rich to begin with benefited from the preferences that became available over the past years. Their wealth increased exponentially compared to the middle class and the poor. This problem clearly exists there, even if it is not as pressing in Europe, but it still exists.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

    I will ask the last question so that we do not keep the audience waiting. You mentioned the UN’s invaluable role. We can understand this, since the UN is a fundamental institution, and so on. However, many now criticise the UN, and you have mentioned this in your remarks.

    Just a few days ago, President of Turkey Erdogan, whom you know well, said that the Security Council must be reformed because a group of WWII victor countries monopolised power, which is not the way it should be. Do you agree with this statement?

    Vladimir Putin: I do not. He has recently visited Russia, as you know, and I had a meeting with him. I raised this question myself, saying that I saw his main points. I have to admit that I did not read the entire book, but I did look at some of the ideas. I agree with some of them. This is a good analysis. We can understand why a Turkish leader raises this issue. He probably believes that Turkey could become a permanent Security Council member. It is not up to Russia to decide, though. Matters of this kind must be decided by consensus. There are also India and South Africa. You see, this is a question of fairness, of striking a balance.

    Different solutions are possible here. I would rather not talk about this now, getting ahead of things and preempting Russia's position on this discussion. But what is important (I just said so in my opening remarks, and I also said this to President Erdogan), if we dismantle the permanent members’ veto, the United Nations will die on the same day, will degrade into the League of Nations, and that will be it. It will be just a platform for discussion, Valdai Club number two. But there is only one Valdai Club, and it is here. (Laughter.)

    Fyodor Lukyanov: We are ready to step in.

    Vladimir Putin: Valdai Club number two will be in New York.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: We will go and replace it with pleasure.

    Vladimir Putin: But this is the point – we would rather not change anything. That is, some change might be necessary, but we would rather not destroy the basis – this is the whole point of the UN today, that there are five permanent members, and they have the power of veto. Other states are represented on the Security Council, but they are non-permanent members.

    We need to think how we could make this organisation more balanced, because indeed – this is true, and in this sense, President Erdogan is right – it emerged after World War II, when there was a certain balance of power. Now it is changing; it has already changed.

    We are well aware that China has overtaken the United States in purchasing power parity. What do you think that is? These are global changes.

    And India? Another nation of almost 1.5 billion people, a rapidly developing economy, and so on. And why is Africa not represented? Where is Latin America? We definitely need to consider this – a growing giant there such as Brazil. These are all topics for discussion. Only, we must not rush. We must not make any mistakes on the path of reform.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: The leaders of the Valdai Club will consider holding a meeting in New York. Only, they might not issue visas to all of us, I am afraid, but no problem, we will work on that.

    Vladimir Putin: By the way, why not? The Valdai Club might as well meet in New York.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: After you and Biden agree on the visas. (Laughter.)

    Vladimir Putin: I do not think the heads of state will need to step in. Just ask Sergei Lavrov, he will speak with his colleagues there.

    Why not? I am serious. Why not hold a Valdai Club session on a neutral site, outside the Russian Federation? Why not? I think it might be interesting.

    We have important people here in this room, good analysts who are well known in their countries. More people can be invited in the host country to join these discussions. What is wrong with that? This is good.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Well, we have just set a goal.

    Vladimir Putin: It is not a goal; it is a possibility.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: A possibility. Like a crisis. It is also a possibility.

    Vladimir Putin: Yes.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Please, Piotr Dutkiewicz.

    Piotr Dutkiewicz: Mr President, I would like to return to the words you have just said, that Russia should rely on Russian values. By the way, we were talking about this at a Valdai Club meeting the day before yesterday.

    I would like to ask you which Russian thinkers, scholars, anthropologists and writers do you regard as your closest soul-mates, helping you to define for yourself the values that will later become those of all Russians?

    Vladimir Putin: You know, I would prefer not to say that this is Ivan Ilyin alone. I read Ilyin, I read him to this day. I have his book lying on my shelf, and I pick it up and read it from time to time. I have mentioned Berdiayev, there are other Russian thinkers. All of them are people who were thinking about Russia and its future. I am fascinated by the train of their thought, but, of course, I make allowances for the time when they were working, writing and formulating their ideas. The well-known idea about the passionarity of nations is a very interesting idea. It could be challenged – arguments around it continue to this day. But if there are debates over the ideas they formulated, these are obviously not idle ideas to say the least.

    Let me remind you about nations’ passionarity. According to the author of this idea, peoples, nations, ethnic groups are like a living organism: they are born, reach the peak of their development, and then quietly grow old. Many countries, including those on the American continent, say today’s Western Europe is ageing. This is the term they use. It is hard to say whether this is right or not. But, to my mind, the idea that a nation should have an inner driving mechanism for development, a will for development and self-assertion has a leg to stand on.

    We are observing that certain countries are on the rise even though they have a lot of unsolved problems. They resemble erupting volcanoes, like the one on the Spanish island, which is disgorging its lava. But there are also extinguished volcanoes, where fires are long dead and one can only hear birds singing.

    You, please.

    Piotr Dutkiewicz: Mr President, you have referred to Lev Gumilyov, who presented me with a samizdat edition of his first book in St Petersburg in 1979. I will pass this samizdat on to you.

    Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Samizdat, a tradition.

    Dear friends, please introduce yourselves, when you take the floor.

    Alexei Miller: Good afternoon, Mr President.

    I am Alexei Miller, a historian from the European University at St Petersburg.

    Vladimir Putin: There are two Alexei Millers. Russia is a rich country. (Laughter)

    Alexei Miller: Two years ago, you were asked during a meeting at the Valdai Club about the European Parliament’s resolution, which made the Soviet Union (and hence Russia) and Nazi Germany equally responsible for the outbreak of WWII. Since then, you have commented on this issue several times in your statements and in the article published in the summer of 2020.

    In particular, during the ceremony to unveil a monument to the victims of the siege of Leningrad at the Yad Vashem memorial complex in January 2020, you said you would like to propose a meeting of the Big Five leaders to discuss this issue as well, so that we could overcome the current confrontation and end the war on memory. I believe the situation has not improved since then. Or maybe you know something the general public is not aware of, maybe there have been some improvements? It would be great if you could tell us about this.

    My second question follows on from the first one. When there is such confrontation in the countries that are involved in the war on memory, some forces may be tempted to join ranks and to restrict, to a greater or lesser degree, the freedom of discussion, including among historians. Such discussions always involve a difference of opinions and some risqué or even wrong views. Do you envision the threat of such restrictions in our country?

    Vladimir Putin: No, I do not believe there is such a threat in our country. We sometimes see the danger of not being responsible for what some people say, indeed, but then this is the reverse side of the freedom you have mentioned.

    As for my initiative to hold a meeting of the heads of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, it has been supported by everyone, in principle, and such a meeting could have been organised. The problems that arose are not connected with Russia but with some disputes within this group of five countries. As I have said, they are not connected with Russia. This is the first point.

    And the second is that the pandemic began soon after that, and the situation has become really complicated.

    The idea of the meeting received a highly positive response, and I hope it will be held eventually. This definitely will be beneficial. We are discussing this with our American partners, with our Chinese friends, with France – incidentally, the French President supported it immediately, as well as with Britain. They have their own ideas and proposals on additional subjects that can be discussed at such a meeting. I hope the necessary conditions will develop and we will hold this meeting.

    As for historical memory, the memory of WWII, you know, of course, that I am ready to talk about this with arguments in hand. We have many complaints about the country’s leadership between 1917 and 1990, which is obvious. However, placing the Nazis and the Communists before WWII on the same level and dividing responsibility between them equally is absolutely unacceptable. It is a lie.

    I am saying this not only because I am Russian and, currently, the head of the Russian state, which is the legal successor of the Soviet Union. I am saying this now, in part or at least in part, as a researcher. I have read the documents, which I retrieved from the archives. We are publishing them now in increasingly large amounts.

    Trust me, when I read them, the picture in my mind started changing. You can think about Stalin differently, blaming him for the prison camps, persecution campaigns and the like. But I have seen his instructions on documents. The Soviet government was genuinely doing its best to prevent WWII, even if for different reasons. Some people would say that the country was not ready for the war, which is why they tried to prevent it. But they did try to prevent it. They fought for the preservation of Czechoslovakia, providing arguments to protect its sovereignty. I have read, I have really read – this is not a secret, and we are declassifying these archives now – about France’s reaction to those events, including regarding the meeting of the leading politicians with Hitler in Munich in 1938.

    When you read this, when you see it, you understand that attempts can indeed be made to distort these facts. But you can at least read these documents. I can understand the current Polish leadership’s attitude to the 1939 events, but when you tell them: Just take a look at what happened slightly before that, when Poland joined Germany in the division of Czechoslovakia. You lit the fuse, you pulled the cork, the genie came out, and you cannot put it back into the bottle.”

    I also read the archival documents which we received after the Red Army entered Europe: we have German and also Polish and French documents, we have them. They directly discussed the division of Czechoslovakia and the time for the invasion. And then to blame it on the Soviet Union? This simply does not correspond to reality and facts.

    Simply put, who attacked who? Did the Soviet Union attack Germany? No, it did not. Yes, there were secret agreements between Germany and the Soviet Union. Incidentally, I would like to note that the Soviet troops entered Brest when the German troops had been already deployed there; the Germans simply moved back a little and the Red Army moved in. Do you see?

    There is no point adding a political dimension here. Let us act calmly at the expert level, read the documents and sort things out. Nobody is accusing the Polish leadership. But we will not allow anyone to accuse Russia or the Soviet Union of what they did not do.

    And lastly, I would like to say that there are some perfectly obvious things. Firstly, it was Germany that attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, and not vice versa, and secondly, let us not forget who stormed Berlin. Was it the Americans, the British or the French? No, it was the Red Army. Have you forgotten this? It is easy to recall, for it is an obvious fact.

    As many as 1.1 million of our people died in the Battle of Stalingrad alone. How many casualties can Britain claim? 400,000. And the United States, less that 500,000. A total of 75 percent, and probably even 80 percent of the German military potential was destroyed by the Soviet army. Are you a little rusty on this?

    No, you are not rusty at all. These events are being used to deal with the current internal political matters in an opportunistic manner. This is wrong, because nothing good will come of manipulating history. At the very least, this does not promote mutual understanding, which we need so badly now.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Orietta Moscatelli, go ahead please.

    Orietta Moscatelli: Orietta Moscatelli, Italy. Thank you for the meeting.

    As you mentioned, different things have been said about Homo sovieticus over the 30 years since the Soviet Union’s disintegration. Was there really a person like that? Here is my question: Do you think it was true? Do you believe Russia has fully overcome Soviet experience as a society? What are the main features of the Soviet times that you have kept in your life?

    Vladimir Putin: I, as well as many people of my generation certainly remember this idea and this formula – a new community, Soviet people, the Soviet person. Of course, all of us remember this. In reality, this definition is not at all bad. This is my first point.

    The second point. Look, the whole world and the United States describe the US as a “melting pot,” in which people of different nations, ethnicities and religions are melting together. What is bad about this? They are all proud – the Irish, people of European and East European origin, you name it, as well as Latin Americans and Africans by their initial descent – many of them are proud to be US citizens and this is wonderful. This is what “the melting pot” is about.

    Russia is also “a melting pot.” Since the formation of a united Russian state – the first steps were made, probably in the 8th-9th centuries, and also after Conversion of Rus’, the Russian nation and a centralised Russian state began to take shape with a common market, common language, the power of a prince and common spiritual values. The Russian state began to be established and later expanded. This was also a “melting pot.”

    Nothing particularly new was created in the Soviet Union except one very important circumstance: this new community, the Soviet person, the Soviet people acquired an ideological tinge. Of course, there was nothing good about this because this narrows the horizons of the possible. This is the first point.

    The second point. Positive features of the Soviet times reflected on the Soviet people. What were they? Patriotism inherent in our peoples, supremacy of the spiritual dimension over material things, all these values I mentioned, including family ones. But negative things in the life and destiny of the Soviet Union also stuck to the Soviet people. Thus, they were deprived of property as such. Private property was embodied in a household plot, but this is quite a different category. Hence, their attitude to labour, the one-size-fits-all approach and so on.

    The Soviet Union had many problems. They triggered the events that led to the collapse of the USSR. However, it is wrong, crude and inappropriate to paint everything black. Yes, I know we have people that paint everything black. Hence, they deserve to be put into something that smells bad.

    There are both pluses and minuses, as for “the melting pot,” I think it was good to have it because it enriches the people, enriches the nation.

    You know, what is typical of Russia, something you can find in all historical documents: when expanding its territory Russia never made life difficult for the people who became part of the united Russian state. This applied to religion, traditions and history. Look at the decrees of Catherine the Great who issued her instruction in clear terms: treat with respect. This was the attitude towards those who preached Islam, for instance. This has always been the case. This is a tradition. In terms of preserving these traditions, the new community of the Soviet people had nothing bad about it except the ideologisation of this melting pot and the results of its functioning.

    I think I have described everything linked with the Soviet period of our history. Now I have mentioned this again and I do not think it is worth discussing this topic again.

    As for me, like the overwhelming majority of people of my generation, I faced the problems of that period, but I also remember its positive features that should not be forgotten. Being from a family of workers, yours truly graduated from Leningrad State University. This is something, right? At that time, education played the role of a real social lift. On the whole, the egalitarian approach was very widespread and we encountered its negative impact, such as income levelling and a related attitude to work, but a lot of people still used the preferences of social lifts I mentioned. Maybe, it was simply the legacy of past generations or even cultivated in the Soviet Union to some extent. This is also important.

    I have now recalled my family. My mum and dad were simple people. They did not talk in slogans but I remember very well that discussing different problems at home, in the family, they always, I would like to emphasise this, treated their country with respect, speaking about it in their own manner, in simple terms, in the folk style. This was not demonstrative patriotism. It was inside our family.

    I think I have the right to say that the overwhelming majority of the Russian people and the other peoples of the USSR cultivated these positive features. It is no accident that over 70 percent of the population voted for preserving the Soviet Union on the eve of its collapse. Many people in the union republics that gained independence regretted what had happened. But now life is different and we believe it is going its own way and generally recognise current realities.

    As for the Soviet person, the new formation, as they said then, I believe I have already said enough on this subject.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: This year’s Valdai Club meeting is special in part because we have a Nobel Peace Prize laureate here with us for the first time in our history.

    I would like to give the floor to Dmitry Muratov.

    Dmitry Muratov: Thank you. Good afternoon.

    Mr President, Valdai Club guests, Fyodor, I want to let everyone know that the prize money has been distributed.

    Thanks go to the Circle of Kindness Foundation. Furthermore, we hope that our modest contribution will help everyone realise that the Circle of Kindness Foundation helps young people under 18, but then after they are 18, they are left without guidance. It is like saying, “Thank you, we saved you, and now goodbye.” We look forward to the Circle of Kindness Foundation (they appear ready to do this) expanding its mandate. There is the children's hospice Lighthouse, the First Moscow Charity Hospice Foundation Vera, the Podari Zhizn Foundation, the Anna Politkovskaya Award, and the Foundation for Medical Aid for Media Members. That is all.

    Of course, I also think that, to some extent, probably, this is a prize for our country as well, although I consider myself an impostor. I will do my best to make sure it benefits our people.

    Now, if I may, a brief remark and a question.

    Mr President, I have very carefully studied the answer you gave during Moscow Energy Week regarding foreign agents, where you said that we were not the first to adopt this law, that the United States did so back in the 1930s.

    But, Mr President, since we do not adopt every law that is adopted in the United States, my question about foreign agents remains. After all, I believe this concerns not only dozens and dozens of journalists and human rights activists who are listed in the register, but also hundreds of thousands and even millions of readers. Therefore, I believe it is a serious matter.

    Most importantly, you have just mentioned Leningrad University and I think your subject of study will help us understand each other well. This law does not provide for any court recourse. You are designated a foreign agent and there is no argument of the parties, no provision of evidence, no verdict. It is a stain. Let me remind you of our favourite childhood book. This is the same kind of brand Milady in The Three Musketeers had. But before Milady was beheaded, the executioner of Lille read the verdict to her at dawn whereas in our case there is no verdict whatsoever.

    Furthermore, it is impossible to get away from this law. There is not even a warning that you become a foreign agent starting, say, tomorrow. For many, this status undoubtedly means they are an enemy of the Motherland. I remember from my days of army service that under the guard service regulations, the sentry first fires a warning shot in the air. Excuse me, but only security guards at prison camps shoot to kill without a warning shot.

    I believe we need to sort this out, since the criteria are woefully vague. Take, for example, receiving organisational and methodological assistance. What does this mean? If I am asking a member of the Valdai Club for a comment, and they come from another country, does that make me a foreign agent? They make their announcements on Fridays. I want to remind you that tomorrow is Friday.

    I would like to ask you to respond to the way this issue is presented. Perhaps, you, Mr President and, for example, the State Duma Chairman, could hold an extraordinary meeting with the editors from various media in order discuss the issues at hand.

    Thank you very much.

    Vladimir Putin: First, I would like to congratulate you on the Nobel Prize. I would like to draw your attention to one fact: Nikolai Berdyayev, whom I have mentioned, was expelled by the Bolsheviks on the well-known Philosophy Steamer in 1922. Nominated for a Nobel Prize more than once, he never received this award.

    Dmitry Muratov: That was about literature.

    Vladimir Putin: No difference, but yes, I agree. The first Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Barrack Obama also received Nobel peace prizes. So, you are in good company. Congratulations! But we really know. You have just spoken about a hospice. I would give you a prize for that because you are doing this good work. It is truly noble work, the Circle of Kindness, and the like.

    Your concern about foreign agents; I will not deviate to the right or left. Look, you said that here when these decisions are made… firstly, American laws. Do we have to copy everything from the Americans? No, we do not need to copy everything. Yet many liberals in Russia still think we should copy almost everything. But I agree with you: not everything.

    You said this is not decided in court. This is not done in the United States either. They summon people to the Department of Justice. Ask Russia Today about what they are doing. Do you know how tough they are? Up to and including criminal liability. We do not have this. This is not about the position of some public figure, some public organisation, or a media outlet. Their position does not matter. This law does not ban anyone from having one’s own opinion on an issue. It is about receiving financial aid from abroad during domestic political activities. That is the point. The law does not even keep them from continuing these political activities. The money that comes from abroad, from over there, should simply be identified as such. Russian society should know what position someone comes from or what they think about internal political processes or something else, but it should also realise that they receive money from abroad. This is the right of Russian society. In fact, this is the whole point of this law. There are no restrictions in it at all.

    So, when you said there is no verdict, that is right. There is no verdict. There was a verdict for Milady – her head was cut off. Here nobody is cutting off anything. So, just continue working like you did before.

    But you are right about one thing. I will not even argue with you, because this is true. Of course, we probably need to go over these vague criteria again and again. I can promise you that we will take another look at them. I know it happens occasionally. Even my personal acquaintances who engage in charitable activities were telling me that cases were being made against them portraying them as foreign agents. I am aware of the fact that our colleagues discuss this at the Human Rights Council. I keep issuing instructions on that score to the Presidential Administration and the State Duma deputies so that they go over it again and again, improve this tool, and in no way abuse it.

    So, thank you for bringing this up. We will look into it.

    Thank you very much.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Just a quick follow-up on that. Mr President, are you not afraid of excessive acts?

    Vladimir Putin: I am not afraid of anything, why is everyone trying to scare me?

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Okay, then we are afraid, and you tell us about excessive acts, since you know your former security service colleagues well.

    Vladimir Putin: Not everyone, this is a mass organisation, how can I know everyone?

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Well, not everyone, but many.

    Vladimir Putin: When I was [FSB]director, I sometimes even summoned operatives with specific cases and read them myself. And now I do not know everyone there. I left it a long time ago.

    Fyodor Lukyanov: I am talking about specific cases. Their psychological makeup is that overdoing things is a safer approach than missing things. Will there be no blanket approach to identifying foreign agents?

    Vladimir Putin: What?

    Fyodor Lukyanov: Will they not use a blanket approach to identifying foreign agents?

    Vladimir Putin: Is there anything there that looks like a blanket approach? How many do we have? Every second, or what? I believe there is no such thing as widespread branding of people as foreign agents.

    I think the danger is vastly exaggerated. I believe I have formulated the underlying reasons for adopting this law quite clearly.


      Read  Putin speaks at plenary session of Valdai Discussion Club meeting
      November 04, 2021
    The West’s Role in Israel’s Illegal Settlement Expansion
    by Ramzy Baroud, Informationclearinghouse.

    The international uproar in response to Israel’s approval of a massive expansion of its illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian West Bank may give the impression that such a reaction could, in theory, force Israel to abandon its plans. Alas, it will not, because the statements of ‘concern,’ ‘regrets’, ‘disappointment’ and even outright condemnation are rarely followed by meaningful action.

    True, the international community has a political, and even legal, frame of reference regarding its position on the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Unfortunately, however, it has no genuine political mandate, or the inclination to act individually or collectively, to bring this occupation to an end.

    This is precisely why the announcement on October 27 by Israel that it has given a ‘final approval’ for the building of 1,800 housing units and initial approval for another 1,344 will unlikely be reversed anytime soon. One ought to keep in mind that this decision came only two days after an earlier announcement that the Israeli government had advanced construction tenders for 1,355 housing units in the occupied West Bank.

    Israel has rarely, if ever, reversed such decisions since its establishment on the ruins of historic Palestine. Moreover, since Israel’s occupation of Palestinian East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel’s colonial project has remained in constant and unhindered expansion. 54 years should have been enough for the international community to realize that Israel has no intentions whatsoever to end its military occupation on its own accord, to respect international law and to cease construction of its illegal settlements.

    Yet, despite this obvious fact, the international community continues to issue statements, moderate in their language, at times, even angry at others, but without ever taking a single action to punish Israel.

    A quick examination of the US government’s reaction to the news of settlement expansion tells of the lack of seriousness from Washington towards Israel’s continued disregard of international law, peace and security in the Middle East.

    “We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements,” said US State Department spokesman, Ned Price, adding that the Israeli decision is “completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tension and ensure calm.”

    Since when was Israel concerned about ‘lowering tensions’ and ‘ensuring calm’? If these were truly important US demands and expectations, why then, does the US keep funneling billions of dollars a year in military aid to Israel, knowing fully that such armaments will be used to sustain the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine and other Arab lands?

    If, for the sake of argument, we assume that Washington is finally shifting its policies on Israel and Palestine, how does it intend to pressure Israel to cease settlement construction? Mr. Price has the answer: The Biden Administration would “raise our views on this issue directly with senior Israeli officials in our private discussions”, he said on October 26. “Raise our views”, as opposed to demanding accountability, threatening retaliation, or, God forbid, withholding funds.

    While it is true that the US government is Israel’s main western benefactor, Washington is not the only hypocritical administration in this regard. The Europeans are not fundamentally different, despite the fact that their statements might be a tad stronger in terms of language.

    “Settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between the parties,” read a statement issued by the office of EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, on October 29.

    The statement mirrors the exact sentiments and language of numerous statements issued in the past, ones that “strongly reject” the Israeli action, and “urge” the Israeli government to “revoke” its recent decisions for the sake of “sustainable peace”, and so on. One may even muse to claim that the task of preparing these statements must be the easiest of all clerical work at the EU offices, as it is largely a matter of a simple ‘cut and paste’.

    Yet, again, when it comes to action, Brussels, like Washington, refrains from taking any. Worse, these entities often bankroll the very action they protest, while insisting that they are standing at the exact same distance between Israelis and Palestinians, assigning themselves such roles as “honest peace brokers”, “peace mediators” and the like.

    One should not be in the least surprised by Israel’s recent announcement. In fact, we should expect more settlement expansion and even the construction of new settlements, because that is what colonial Israel does best.

    Within a matter of a few days, Israel has announced its intentions to build, or start bids for, nearly 4,500 settlement units. Compare this number with the settlement expansion during Donald Trump’s term in office. “Israel promoted plans for more than 30,000 settler homes in the West Bank during the four years (Trump) was in power,” the BBC reported, citing an Israeli group, Peace Now, as saying in its recent findings.

    Those figures in mind, if the Israeli government under Naftali Bennett continues with this hurried pace of illegal housing construction, it could potentially match – and even overtake – the expansion that took place during the terrible years of the Trump era. With no accountability, this catastrophic political paradigm will remain in place, irrespective of who rules Israel and who resides in the White House.

    Israel is doing what any colonial power does. It expands at the expense of the native population. The onus is not on colonial powers to behave themselves, but on the rest of the world to hold them accountable. This was true in the case of the South African Apartheid and numerous other examples throughout the Global South. It is equally true in the case of Israeli Apartheid in Palestine.

    The truth is that a thousand or a million more statements by western governments will not end the Israeli occupation, or even slow down the pace of Israeli military bulldozers as they uproot Palestinian trees, destroy homes and construct yet more illegal colonies. If words are not backed by action – which is very much possible, considering the massive military, political and economic leverage the West wields over Israel – then the West remains a party in this conflict, not as a ‘peace broker’, but as a direct supporter of the Israeli occupation and apartheid.

    – Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

      Read The West’s Role in Israel’s Illegal Settlement Expansion
      November 04, 2021
    Should One Stand up for Western Values?
    by Kim Petersen, Informationclearinghouse.

    What are western values? One often hears a representative of a western country praising its western values. In a 2017 statement Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau adumbrated Canadian values as “openness, compassion, equality, and inclusion.”

    Given the psychological torture that Julian Assange has been subjected to over the years at the hands of western nations like the Britain, the United States, Sweden, and the silent host of western states and their media, one wonders where the compassion is. At the heart of the case against Assange is an antipathy to openness, as evidenced by the vituperation directed at Assange for publishing the truth; WikiLeaks has a perfect record of publication. And by promoting the right to know, Assange sought to include the public.

    Given the historical trajectory of the West, how might purportedly virtuous western values have arisen? Enlightened Europeans set sail for distant shores, claimed the inhabited lands as their own, derided the locals as savages, enslaved them, raped the women, chopped off body parts, spread disease, murdered multitudes, robbed the resources, destroyed the cultures, among a host of atrocities. Despotic monarchism, Nazism, fascism, and capitalism would be spawned by Europeans.

    Are westerners more enlightened today?

    The United Nations General Assembly 72nd session in December 2017, seems an apt barometer of current western values. The UNGA’s resolution 72/157, called for concrete action for the total elimination of racism globally.

    The resolution was resumed as 75/237, still entitled as “A global call for concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.” It was adopted by the General Assembly on 31 December 2020.

    Of the total votes cast, 106 were in favor, 14 were against, and there were 44 abstentions.

    The votes on Resolution 75/237 are very revealing of western values. Consider that among the 14 nay votes were a bevy of western countries:

    Australia Canada Czech Republic Democratic Republic of Congo France Germany Guyana Israel Nauru Marshall Islands Netherlands Slovenia United Kingdom United States

    The US explained its nay vote as being based on the “unfair and unacceptable singling out of Israel.”

    In his book, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, the Jewish anarchist professor Noam Chomsky made crystal clear the Israeli racism toward Arabs: “Contempt for the Arab population is deeply rooted in Zionist thought.” Chomsky also alluded to western permissiveness toward Israeli racism: “Anti-Arab racism is … so widespread as to be unnoticeable; it is perhaps the only remaining form of racism to be regarded as legitimate.” [1]

    The US is a country established through genocide and dispossession of the Indigenous peoples, and it set up an apartheid reservation system for those Indigenous peoples that survived. From this vantage point, it seems no wonder that Israel escaped criticism by the US since the US lacks a moral basis from which to castigate Israel. The same holds true for Canada, a country that still practices apartheid with its Indian Act and reserve system. Canada also steadfastly supports Israeli apartheid.

    Several other western or western-aligned countries abstained, among them: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Monaco, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea (South), Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine. These countries refused to take a stand on the anti-racism resolution.

    What about the other countries that supported the resolution? In particular, how did the countries subjected to disinformation, persistent criticism, sanctions, and provocative military maneuvers from countries crowing and preening about their western values vote? China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North), Iran, Iraq, Russia, and Syria all voted in favor of the anti-racism resolution.

    Which countries’ values best represent those embraced by people of conscience?

    Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be emailed at: kimohp@gmail. Twitter: @kimpetersen.


    1. Colleague B.J. Sabri and I explored in a 12-part series what Israeli racism is: “Defining Israeli Zionist Racism,” Dissident Voice, read parts 1234567891011, and 12.

      Read Should One Stand up for Western Values?
      September 13, 2021
    The Winner in Afghanistan: China
    by Alfred W McCoy, Countercurrents, in World.

    The collapse of the American project in Afghanistan may fade fast from the news here, but don’t be fooled. It couldn’t be more significant in ways few in this country can even begin to grasp.

    “Remember, this is not Saigon,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a television audience on August 15th, the day the Taliban swept into the Afghan capital, pausing to pose for photos in the grandly gilded presidential palace. He was dutifully echoing his boss, President Joe Biden, who had earlier rejected any comparison with the fall of the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon, in 1975, insisting that “there’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”

    Both were right, but not in the ways they intended. Indeed, the collapse of Kabul was not comparable. It was worse, incomparably so. And its implications for the future of U.S. global power are far more serious than the loss of Saigon.

    On the surface, similarities abound. In both South Vietnam and Afghanistan, Washington spent 20 years and countless billions of dollars building up massive, conventional armies, convinced that they could hold off the enemy for a decent interval after the U.S. departure. But presidents Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam and Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan both proved to be incompetent leaders who never had a chance of retaining power without continued fulsome American backing.

    Amid a massive North Vietnamese offensive in the spring of 1975, President Thieu panicked and ordered his army to abandon the northern half of the country, a disastrous decision that precipitated Saigon’s fall just six weeks later. As the Taliban swept across the countryside this summer, President Ghani retreated into a fog of denial, insisting his troops defend every remote, rural district, allowing the Taliban to springboard from seizing provincial capitals to capturing Kabul in just 10 days.

    With the enemy at the gates, President Thieu filled his suitcases with clinking gold bars for his flight into exile, while President Ghani (according to Russian reports) snuck off to the airport in a cavalcade of cars loaded with cash. As enemy forces entered Saigon and Kabul, helicopters ferried American officials from the U.S. embassy to safety, even as surrounding city streets swarmed with panicked local citizens desperate to board departing flights.

    Critical Differences

    So much for similarities. As it happens, the differences were deep and portentous. By every measure, the U.S. capacity for building and supporting allied armies has declined markedly in the 45 years between Saigon and Kabul. After President Thieu ordered that disastrous northern retreat, replete with dismal scenes of soldiers clubbing civilians to board evacuation flights bound for Saigon, South Vietnam’s generals ignored their incompetent commander-in-chief and actually began to fight.

    On the road to Saigon at Xuan Loc, an ordinary South Vietnamese unit, the 18th Division, fought battle-hardened North Vietnamese regulars backed by tanks, trucks, and artillery to a standstill for two full weeks. Not only did those South Vietnamese soldiers take heavy casualties, with more than a third of their men killed or wounded, but they held their positions through those long days of “meat-grinder” combat until the enemy had to circle around them to reach the capital.

    In those desperate hours as Saigon was falling, General Nguyen Khoa Nam, head of the only intact South Vietnamese command, faced an impossible choice between making a last stand in the Mekong Delta and capitulating to communist emissaries who promised him a peaceful surrender. “If I am unable to carry out my job of protecting the nation,” the general told a subordinate, “then I must die, along with my nation.” That night, seated at his desk, the general shot himself in the head. In South Vietnam’s last hours as a state, four of his fellow generals also committed suicide. At least 40 more lower-ranking officers and soldiers also chose death over dishonor.

    On the road to Kabul, by contrast, there were no heroic last stands by regular Afghan army units, no protracted combat, no heavy casualties, and certainly no command suicides. In the nine days between the fall of Afghanistan’s first provincial capital on August 6th and the capture of Kabul on August 15th, all of the well-equipped, well-trained Afghan soldiers simply faded away before Taliban guerrillas equipped mainly with rifles and tennis sneakers.

    After losing their salaries and rations to graft for the previous six to nine months, those hungry Afghan troops simply surrendered en masse, took Taliban cash payments, and handed over their weapons and other costly U.S. equipment. By the time the guerrillas reached Kabul, driving Humvees and wearing Kevlar helmets, night-vision goggles, and body armor, they looked like so many NATO soldiers. Instead of taking a bullet, Afghanistan’s commanders took the cash — both graft from padding their payrolls with “ghost soldiers” and bribes from the Taliban.

    The difference between Saigon and Kabul has little to do with the fighting ability of the Afghan soldier. As the British and Soviet empires learned to their dismay when guerrillas slaughtered their soldiers in spectacular numbers, ordinary Afghan farmers are arguably the world’s finest fighters. So why wouldn’t they fight for Ashraf Ghani and his secular democratic state in far-off Kabul?

    The key difference would seem to lie in the fading of America’s aura as the planet’s number one power and of its state-building capacities. At the peak of its global hegemony back in the 1960s, the United States, with its unequalled material resources and moral authority, could make a reasonably convincing case to the South Vietnamese that the political mix of electoral democracy and capitalist development it sponsored was the way forward for any nation. Today, with its reduced global clout and tarnished record in Iraq, Libya, and Syria (as well as in prisons like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo), America’s capacity to infuse its nation-building projects with any real legitimacy — that elusive sine qua non for the survival of any state — has apparently dropped significantly.

    The Impact on U.S. Global Power

    In 1975, the fall of Saigon did indeed prove a setback to Washington’s world order. Still, America’s underlying strength, both economic and military, was robust enough then for a partial rebound.

    Adding to the sense of crisis at the time, the loss of South Vietnam coincided with two more substantial blows to Washington’s international system and the clout that went with it. Just a few years before Saigon’s collapse, the German and Japanese export booms had so eroded America’s commanding global economic position that the Nixon administration had to end the automatic convertibility of the dollar to gold. That, in turn, effectively broke the Bretton Woods system that had been the foundation of U.S. economic strength since 1944.

    Meanwhile, with Washington mired in its self-made Vietnam quagmire, that other Cold War power, the Soviet Union, continued to build hundreds of nuclear-armed missiles and so functionally forced Washington to recognize its military parity in 1972 by signing the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and Strategic Arms Limitation Protocol.

    With the weakening of the economic and nuclear pillars on which so much of America’s paramount power rested, Washington was forced to retreat from its role as the great global hegemon and become a mere first among equals.

    Washington’s Relations with Europe

    Almost half a century later, the sudden, humiliating fall of Kabul threatens even that more limited leadership role. Although the U.S. occupied Afghanistan for 20 years with the full support of its NATO allies, when President Biden walked away from that shared “nation-building” mission, he did so without the slightest consultation with those very allies.

    America lost 2,461 soldiers in Afghanistan, including 13 who died tragically during the airport evacuation. Its allies suffered 1,145 killed, including 62 German soldiers and 457 British troops. No wonder those partners held understandable grievances when Biden acted without the slightest notice to or discussion with them. “There is serious loss of trust,” observed Wolfgang Ischinger, the former German ambassador to Washington. “But the real lesson… for Europe is this: Do we really want to be totally dependent on U.S. capabilities and decisions forever, or can Europe finally begin to be serious about becoming a credible strategic actor?”

    For Europe’s more visionary leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron, the answer to that timely question was obvious: build a European defense force free from Washington’s whims and so avoid “the Chinese-American duopoly, the dislocation, the return of hostile regional powers.” In fact, right after the last American planes left Kabul, a summit of European Union officials made it clear that the time had come to stop “depending on American decisions.” They called for the creation of a European army that would give them “greater decision-making autonomy and greater capacity for action in the world.”

    In short, with America First populism now a major force in this country’s politics, assume that Europe will pursue a foreign policy increasingly freed from Washington’s influence.

    Central Asia’s Geopolitics

    And Europe may be the least of it. The stunning capture of Kabul highlighted an American loss of leadership that extended into Asia and Africa, with profound geopolitical implications for the future of U.S. global power. Above all, the Taliban’s victory will effectively force Washington out of Central Asia and so help to consolidate Beijing’s already ongoing control over parts of that strategic region. It, in turn, could prove to be the potential geopolitical pivot for China’s dominance over the vast Eurasian land mass, home to 70% of the globe’s population and productivity.

    Speaking at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan in 2013 (though nobody in Washington was then listening), China’s President Xi Jinping announced his country’s strategy for winning the twenty-first-century version of the deadly “great game” that nineteenth-century empires once played for control of Central Asia. With gentle gestures that belied his imperious intent, Xi asked that academic audience to join him in building an “economic belt along the Silk Road” that would “expand development space in the Eurasian region” through infrastructure “connecting the Pacific and the Baltic Sea.” In the process of establishing that “belt and road” structure, they would, he claimed, be building “the biggest market in the world with unparalleled potential.”

    In the eight years since that speech, China has indeed been spending over a trillion dollars on its “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) to construct a transcontinental grid of railroads, oil pipelines, and industrial infrastructure in a bid to become the world’s premier economic power. More specifically, Beijing has used the BRI as a geopolitical pincers movement, a diplomatic squeeze play. By laying down infrastructure around the northern, eastern, and western borders of Afghanistan, it has prepared the way for that war-torn nation, freed of American influence and full of untapped mineral resources (estimated at a trillion dollars), to fall safely into Beijing’s grasp without a shot being fired.

    To the north of Afghanistan, the China National Petroleum Corporation has collaborated with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to launch the Central Asia–China gas pipeline, a system that will eventually extend more than 4,000 miles across the heart of Eurasia. Along Afghanistan’s eastern frontier, Beijing began spending $200 million in 2011 to transform a sleepy fishing village at Gwadar, Pakistan, on the Arabian Sea, into a modern commercial port only 370 miles from the oil-rich Persian Gulf. Four years later, President Xi committed $46 billion to building a China–Pakistan Economic Corridor of roads, rails, and pipelines stretching nearly 2,000 miles along Afghanistan’s eastern borderlands from China’s western provinces to the now-modernized port of Gwadar.

    To the west of Afghanistan, Beijing broke through Iran’s diplomatic isolation last March by signing a $400 billion development agreement with Tehran. Over the next 25 years, China’s legions of laborers and engineers will lay down a transit corridor of oil and natural gas pipelines to China, while also building a vast new rail network that will make Tehran the hub of a line stretching from Istanbul, Turkey, to Islamabad, Pakistan.

    By the time these geopolitical pincers pull Afghanistan firmly into Beijing’s BRI system, the country may have become just another Middle Eastern theocracy like Iran or Saudi Arabia. While the religious police harass women and troops battle festering insurgencies, the Taliban state can get down to its real business — not defending Islam, but cutting deals with China to mine its vast reserves of rare minerals and collect transit taxes on the new $10 billion TAPI gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan (which desperately needs affordable energy).

    With lucrative royalties from its vast store of rare-earth minerals, the Taliban could afford to end its current fiscal dependence on drugs. They could actually ban the country’s now booming opium harvest, a promise their new government spokesman has already made in a bid for international recognition. Over time, the Taliban leadership might discover, like the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Iran, that a developing economy can’t afford to waste its women. As a result, there might even be some slow, fitful progress on that front, too.

    If such a projection of China’s future economic role in Afghanistan seems fanciful to you, consider that the underpinnings for just such a future deal were being put in place while Washington was still dithering over Kabul’s fate. At a formal meeting with a Taliban delegation in July, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi hailed their movement as “an important military and political force.”

    In response, Taliban head Mullah Abdul Baradar, displaying the very leadership that American-installed President Ashraf Ghani so clearly lacked, praised China as a “reliable friend” and promised to foster “an enabling investment environment” so that Beijing could play “a bigger role in future reconstruction and economic development.” Formalities finished, the Afghan delegation then met behind closed doors with China’s assistant foreign minister to exchange what the official communiqué called “in-depth views on issues of common concern, which helped enhance mutual understanding” — in short, who gets what and for how much.

    The World-Island Strategy

    China’s capture of Eurasia, should it be successful, will be but one part of a far grander design for control over what Victorian geographer Halford Mackinder, an early master of modern geopolitics, called the “world island.” He meant the tricontinental land mass comprising the three continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. For the past 500 years, one imperial hegemon after another, including Portugal, Holland, Britain, and the United States, has deployed its strategic forces around that world island in a bid to dominate such a sprawling land mass.

    While for the last half-century Washington has arrayed its vast air and naval armadas around Eurasia, it generally relegated Africa to, at best, an afterthought — at worst, a battleground. Beijing, by contrast, has consistently treated that continent with the utmost seriousness.

    When the Cold War came to southern Africa in the early 1970s, Washington spent the next 20 years in an arm’s-length alliance with apartheid South Africa, while using the CIA to fight a leftist liberation movement in Portuguese-controlled Angola. While Washington spent billions wreaking havoc by supplying right-wing African warlords with automatic weapons and land mines, Beijing launched its first major foreign-aid project. It built the thousand-mile Tanzania-to-Zambia railway. Not only was it the longest in Africa when completed in 1975, but it allowed landlocked Zambia, a front-line state in the struggle against the apartheid regime in Pretoria, to avoid South Africa when exporting its copper.

    From 2015 on, building upon its historic ties to the liberation movements that won power across southern Africa, Beijing planned a decade-long trillion-dollar infusion of capital there. Much of it was to be designated for commodities-extraction projects that would make that continent China’s second-largest source of crude oil. With such an investment (equaling its later BRI commitments to Eurasia), China also doubled its annual trade with Africa to $222 billion, three times America’s total.

    While that aid to liberation movements once had an ideological undercurrent, today it’s been succeeded by savvy geopolitics. Beijing seems to understand just how fast Africa’s progress has been in the single generation since that continent won its freedom from a particularly rapacious version of colonial rule. Given that it’s the planet’s second most populous continent, rich in human and material resources, China’s trillion-dollar bet on Africa’s future will likely pay rich dividends, both political and economic, someday soon.

    With a trillion dollars invested in Eurasia and another trillion in Africa, China is engaged in nothing less than history’s largest infrastructure project. It’s crisscrossing those three continents with rails and pipelines, building naval bases around the southern rim of Asia, and ringing the whole tricontinental world island with a string of 40 major commercial ports.

    Such a geopolitical strategy has become Beijing’s battering ram to crack open Washington’s control over Eurasia and thereby challenge what’s left of its global hegemony. America’s unequalled military air and sea armadas still allow it rapid movement above and around those continents, as the mass evacuation from Kabul showed so forcefully. But the slow, inch-by-inch advance of China’s land-based, steel-ribbed infrastructure across the deserts, plains, and mountains of that world island represents a far more fundamental form of future control.

    As China’s geopolitical squeeze play on Afghanistan shows all too vividly, there is still much wisdom in the words that Sir Halford Mackinder wrote over a century ago: “Who rules the World Island commands the World.”

    To that, after watching a Washington that’s invested so much in its military be humiliated in Afghanistan, we might add: Who does not command the World Island cannot command the World.

    Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

    Alfred W. McCoy, a TomDispatch regular, is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author most recently of In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power (Dispatch Books). His latest book (to be published in October by Dispatch Books) is To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change.

    Originally published in TomDispatch

      Read  The Winner in Afghanistan: China
      November 9, 2021
    Trying to Solve One Problem by Increasing Another Will Not Protect Environment
    by Bharat Dogra , Countercurrents, in Counter Solutions.

    The increasing emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuels should be very widely welcomed, but the entire environmental issue cannot be reduced to just this. It is much wider. However our systems have suffered often from a one-point approach to solving complex problems, or may be they are not yet capable of a holistic approach. In the present case, the single-minded emphasis on reducing fossil fuels means that some alternatives to fossil fuels which also happen to be ecologically very destructive are being promoted in their place as green solutions!

    One of these relates to construction of medium and large dams.  In recent decades many adverse impacts of large dams have  been  highlighted in the context of several countries. Several disasters related to these structures have been documented, apart from their other social and ecological adverse impacts as seen in normal times. However as the single point emphasis on climate change increased, these same projects started being promoted as green alternatives! One can openly see such publicity in several places. This is happening even in places like the Himalayan region where dam projects have been found to be particularly prone to serious problems, including safety issues. All the social, ecological and safety issues remain the same; rather the evidence them regarding their adverse impacts has increased further, but these ecologically objectionable projects have suddenly been turned into green projects. It is also forgotten that methane emissions from some of these storage and even bigger run of the river projects are also very harmful for climate change.

    Secondly, in times of climate change nuclear power plants appear to have found new favor on ground of avoiding the GHG emissions of fossil fuel powered plants. However if we look at not just the running of power plants but also at the entire cycle of nuclear power from the mining and transport of uranium to waste disposal, then of course there are so many forms of very serious ecological harms including GHG emissions. A very big question of safety remains always as the possibility of serious accidents can be reduced but not eliminated. There is still no real solution to the problem of nuclear waste disposal  and some of the nuclear power producing countries have been shipping their wastes to other far away countries and territories, transferring their pollution problems to others. Similarly in terms of obtaining uranium, there are serious injustices and longer-term serious hazards and these are sought to be shifted to others to make nuclear power accceptable at national level.

    France is a one of those countries which has chosen to be exceptionally dependent on nuclear power. France has seldom been apologetic about this choice, despite implementing it in highly unjust ways and shifting burden on others. On the other hand its neighbor Germany is committed to phasing out nuclear power within a few years. Surely Germany would have taken such an important decision only on the basis of confirming very serious and unacceptably high risks of nuclear power. Both are members of the European Union. If one European country suffers a serious nuclear power safety lapse, there is high likelihood that neighboring countries too can be affected to a lesser or greater extent. So should not this question of nuclear power be resolved at a wider level, or at the level of the European Union?

    Clearly efforts to solve one problem by aggravation of other serious problems will not take us very far on the path of environment protection. In the process bigger questions of lifestyle changes and moving towards an overall more ecologically protective path of development get neglected, sidelined or forgotten.

    Giving very high priority to reducing GHG emissions and fossil fuel is certainly needed but this should be supported by other ecologically protective policies as well and above all there should be efforts to find an overall ecologically protective path for future journey of humanity, based on more justice and sharing, while avoiding  greed and consumerism.

    Bharat Dogra is Convener, Campaign to Protect Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth for Children.

      Read  Trying to Solve One Problem by Increasing Another Will Not Protect Environment
      January 11, 2019
    The Commons, the State and the Public: A Latin American Perspective
    by Daniel Chavez, Countercurrents, in Counter Solutions .

    An interview with Daniel Chavez.

    What are the commons and what is their political, social and economic relevance?

    In recent years, many researchers and social activists from very different countries, like myself, have rediscovered the notion of the commons as a key idea to deepen social and environmental justice and democratise both politics and the economy. This reappropriation has meant questioning the vanguardist and hierarchical visions, structures and practices that for too long have characterised much of the left. This concept has resurfaced in parallel with the growing distrust in the market and the state as the main suppliers or guarantors of access to essential goods and services. The combined pressures of climate change and the crisis of capitalism that exploded in 2008 (a permanent and global crisis, which is no longer a series of conjunctural or cyclical recessions) force us to reconsider old paradigms, tactics and strategies. This means discarding both the obsolete models of planning and centralised production at the core of the so-called ‘real socialism’ of the last century and the state capitalism that we see today in China and a few other supposedly socialist countries, as well as the equally old and failed structures of present-day deregulated capitalist economies.

    At first, the concept of the commons was disseminated by progressive intellectuals inspired by the work of Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, in 2009. Ostrom, an American political scientist, was a progressive academic, but could hardly be classified as a radical thinker or as a leftist activist. In the last decade, academics and activists from very diverse ideological families of the left have reviewed her contributions and have engaged in intense theoretical debates about the potential of the commons, based on the analysis of many inspiring prefigurative experiences currently underway.

    Ostrom’s main contribution was to demonstrate that many self-organised local communities around the world successfully managed a variety of natural resources without relying on market mechanisms or state institutions. Currently, it is possible to identify various perspectives in the theoretical debates around the commons, but in general they all converge on the importance of a third space between the state and the market (which should not be confused with the Third Way outlined by Anthony Giddens and adopted by politicians as dissimilar as Tony Blair in Britain, Bill Clinton in the United States, or Fernando Henrique Cardoso in Brazil as a hypothetical social democratic alternative to socialism and neoliberalism).

    Nowadays, a quick search in Google about the commons results in millions of references. Most definitions tend to characterise commons as spaces for collective management of resources that are co-produced and managed by a community according to their own rules and norms. We (TNI) have recently published a report on the commons in partnership with the P2P Foundation, in which we refer to this concept as the combination of four basic elements: (1) material or immaterial resources managed collectively and democratically; (2) social processes that foster and deepen cooperative relationships; (3) a new logic of production and a new set of productive processes; and (4) a paradigm shift, which conceives the commons as an advance beyond the classical market/state or public/private binary oppositions.

    In Latin America and Spain, those of us interested in this field of activism and research must overcome a linguistic obstacle, since the translation of the concept of the commons from English into Spanish is not always easy or appropriate. This problem also appears in other parts of the world, so we often use the original English word to avoid confusion. Some of our friends and comrades use the concept of bienes comunes, but this term refers to ideas linked to the old economy or the social imaginary propagated by the church and other conservative institutions, without capturing all the richness, complexity and potential of recent theoretical developments and empirical processes around the commons. Obviously, the production of meaning in this field has already spread beyond the Anglo-Saxon world and there are already many people in countries of the South involved in this type of processes. That’s why the P2P Foundation and other friendly organisations have added a new word to the Spanish dictionary, procomún, while others (like myself) prefer to use the word comunes, which derives from a literal translation of the original term. From a similar perspective, many European or African activists prefer to use the English term instead of bens comuns (Portuguese), beni comuni (Italian), biens communs (in French), or gemeingüter (German).


    Are the concepts of ‘the commons’ and ‘the public’ synonymous?

    This question is the axis of heated theoretical debates, since it alludes to the old discussion about the nature and role of the state. The defenders of the commons who are most disillusioned with the left in government in several Latin American countries, particularly those linked to the fundamentalist autonomist current (like many of my friends in the Andean region, mainly those who are involved in struggles around the rights to water or energy) are convinced that the state should not assume any role and that the social order should be restructured by transferring political and economic power to self-organised local communities. Other researchers and activists (including myself, something that’s not surprising having been born in a country as state-centric as Uruguay) retort that such a contradiction is artificial and that we should at the same time expand the reach and influence of the commons – for example, by creating and interconnecting new types of authentically self-managed cooperative enterprises– and democratising or ‘commonising’ the state – for instance, incorporating workers and users into the management of existing state-owned enterprises or creating new public-public partnerships for the provision of essential public services.

    My friend Michel Bauwens, a Belgian social activist internationally recognised as one of the most creative and influential thinkers in this field, often highlights the importance of what he has characterised as the partner state. From his (and mine) perspective, the state is perceived not as the enemy, but as an entity that could provide local communities and self-organised workers with the institutional, political or economic power that would be required for these processes to reach their maximum potential in the framework of the political and economic transition that we need. It also means, among several other possibilities to be considered, the provision of financial or in-kind support for cooperatives or other initiatives inspired by the notion of the commons.

    The idea of the ​​partner state is in line with some relatively recent theoretical debates among Marxist thinkers. Today, and especially after a series of counter-hegemonic governments that we have had in Latin America, we’re already very aware that the contemporary state is not simply that “committee for the management of the common affairs of the bourgeoisie” that Marx and Engels referred to in the Communist Manifesto. Neither Marx nor Engels were interested in developing a unified or integral theory about the state, so we should not interpret their statement (from the year 1848!) literally,. In the 1970s, Nikos Poulantzas and other non-dogmatic thinkers began to rethink the institutional framework of capitalist societies and argued that the state should be understood as a social relationship and not as an abstract entity floating above conflicting social classes, and added that the transformation of state institutions could be possible in the context of a “democratic way to socialism” (opened by the government experience of Popular Unity in Chile and brutally repressed by a military coup in 1973). More recently, Bob Jessop has shown how, although the state has a strong structural bias towards the reproduction of social relations, it’s also influenced by the totality of social forces, including counter-hegemonic struggles. My perspective of analysis on the state and the commons is very influenced by Jessop, and also by David Harvey, when he argues that a big problem on the left is that many – pointing to John Holloway and other proponents of the thesis of “changing the world without taking power” – think that the capture of state power wouldn’t be of much importance in emancipatory processes. We must recognise the incredible power accumulated in the institutions of the state and, therefore, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of state institutions; in particular when there’re opportunities to enable the expansion of the commons.

    To those who are interested in deepening the knowledge of contemporary theoretical debates on the state and the commons, I would recommend reading our comrade Hilary Wainwright, the British political economist with whom I co-coordinate the TNI New Politics Project. A few years ago Hilary wrote a beautiful book, Reclaim the State: Experiments in Popular Democracy, where she argued the need to ‘occupy’ state institutions while, in parallel, we organise ourselves to create and connect new political and economic institutions rooted in local communities and workers’ collectives. Her books, the one mentioned here and more recent ones, are based on the detailed investigation of positive examples of commons-related initiatives across the Globe.

    In recent years, within the framework of our New Politics project, Hilary, myself, and many other activist-scholars from different regions of the world have tried to make sense of a substantial shift in emancipatory thinking. Until not long ago, the economic policy of much of the left included the proposal of nationalisation of key industries. Nowadays, and maybe influenced by the recognition of the failures or shortcomings of nationalisation in places like Venezuela (where in recent years there’s been a recentralisation of political and economic power in the hands of the bureaucrats and military that control the reins of the state, with very negative in terms of lesser autonomy and influence for popular organisations and with very bad indicators in the management of nationalised companies) many of us are more interested in the design of a new economy based on cooperative relations, in which state institutions would play a facilitating and protective role. We emphasise the importance of public ownership of public services and productive infrastructure, but only as long we ensure a significant level of decentralised ownership and management; for example, in the provision of water and energy services and in the production of a vast range of goods through networks of self-managed ventures.

    This perspective also means a deeper and more serene examination of the ambivalent consequences of the scientific and technological changes currently underway. We already know that the emerging forms of organisation and control of information and communication technologies and distributed production constitute a very contested space, in which a few transnational corporations (I’m thinking of Uber, Airbnb and other examples of the wrongly called ‘sharing economy’) financialise and benefit from precarious workers, the users of social networks and independent software programmers – with negative impacts on unions’ power and on the quality of work – but we should also be able to recognise that the same technological developments could be beneficial for the (re)creation of truly solidarity, democratic and self-managed forms of ownership and management. Around the world, we can see the emergence of a new generation of workers who use their technological knowledge to launch new enterprises and networks based on the principles of the commons and coordinate and collaborate among themselves, transcending economic sectors and geographical borders, and being ethically (and increasingly also politically) aware of the new social and economic order they’re creating.

    what are commons and p2p

    How would you appraise the so-called ‘pink tide’ in Latin America vis-à-vis the commons?

    My personal perspective on these issues has evolved, as I tried to understand the arguments of comrades from other Latin American countries who posed a very strong critique of the statist political culture prevalent in some political and academic circles of the region. Like many Uruguayans, it was hard for me to assimilate the positions of compañeros like Pablo Solón in Bolivia, Edgardo Lander in Venezuela, Arturo Escobar in Colombia, Maristella Stampa in Argentina, or Eduardo Gudynas himself in Uruguay. They (and many others) are strong critics of ‘development’, and in particular of its ‘(neo)extractivist’ component. In short, my critique to them focused on two aspects: their staunch criticism of the state, and their inability to formulate alternatives or proposals to transcend the reality that they criticised. With the passage of time, and after many and agitated discussions with Pablo and Edgardo in workshops at the World Social Forum, seminars of our New Politics project and other similar spaces, I could understand that their criticisms of the state (not always so homogeneous nor so acidic as I perceived them) were not that far from my own criticism of the Latin American left, and I also ended up realising that indeed there were proposals embedded in their criticisms.

    My position on these issues has also been influenced by my increasingly pessimistic interpretation of the outcomes of our progressive of left governments. After having followed very closely the processes of Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, and to a lesser extent also those of Bolivia and Nicaragua, I think we should ask ourselves up to what point is it possible for the left to get involved in government without losing autonomy and our utopian perspective. In other word: is it possible to operate within the state apparatus without being caught in the demobilising logic of institutional power? Unlike some of the friends I mentioned before, I don’t have a single or categorical answer to such question. I still believe that the state has a very important role to play, but I’m also convinced that it is now imperative for the left to get rid of its obsolete state-centric vision and open up to fresh perspectives like those of the commons.

    For the Uruguayan left, such transition could be difficult, if we consider the heavy weight of the state in our society, politics, economics and culture. A significant difference between Uruguay and most other countries in the region is its long tradition of strong and efficient state-owned companies, which are highly appreciated by the population. In Uruguay, people perceive the state as a catalyst for development and guarantor of equity and social integration. On the other hand, the transition could be made easier if we consider the already high significance of workers’ and housing cooperatives. I grew up in a mutual-aid housing cooperative, so I might not be entirely objective. And we know that not all cooperatives are well managed or are internally democratic or participatory, but when we compare the reality of the Uruguayan cooperative sector with other countries of the region and the world, it’s clear that we already have a very fertile terrain for the development of the commons.

    From a purely theoretical or ideological point of view, many components of the current global debate around the commons wouldn’t be a novelty for the Uruguayan left. If we look at several parties that compose the ruling coalition Frente Amplio (Broad Front), we realise that parties as different as the Progressive Christian Democrats (PDC, the advocates of the thesis of socialismo autogestionario, self-managed socialism), the People’s Victory Party (PVP, in line with their libertarian roots), or the Socialist Party (PS, with their proposal of transition from co-management to self-management, which the party has been advocating since 1930, when it demanded workers’ control of the economy) have been for a long time formulating programmatic ideas that transcend the limits of statism.

    In other countries of the region, it would seem that the proposal of the commons would be more compatible with the governmental discourse. In fact, the proponents of the commons in Europe often refer to the concepts of vivir bien (living well) or buen vivir (good living), which came from Latin America. These concepts became popular on a world scale as a supposed alternative paradigm to capitalism. The concepts of suma qamaña and sumaq kawsay have their roots in the economic and societal models developed over centuries by the indigenous peoples of the Andean and Amazonian regions, prioritising forms of production more horizontal and in harmony with nature. The translation (or ‘export’) into other languages and cultures is problematic, but in the countries of origin the significance of these concepts can be debated as well. Bolivia and Ecuador, during the governments led by Evo Morales and Rafael Correa, incorporated the notions of living well and good living in their respective constitutions and policy guidelines, but the policies implemented have not always been coherent with the spirit or with the letter of the new legal and institutional framework. In Ecuador, in the framework of the very radical turn to the right performed by president Lenin Moreno in recent months, the discourse of buen vivir (which sounds beautiful and guarantees a left patina) is being used to provide justification for an impending wave of privatisation and corporatization of public services. In Venezuela, there was also much talk around self-management and people’s power, and considerable resources were allocated to the creation of cooperatives and associative ventures of a new type, but in practice very little progress was achieved; the rentier model based on the exploitation of a single resource – oil – deepened during the governments of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, and its current exhaustion is the most important factor to explain the political, economic and social crisis that the country suffers today.

    p2p and commons together

    What are the organisational and programmatic challenges of the left for the integration of the idea of the commons into its political platform?

    To answer this question, I should start by clarifying that I do not believe that the promotion of the commons should be the only strategy of the left. I believe that we must embrace the emancipatory vision of the commons, but without forgetting the role of the state and the need to respond to the very urgent problems of large sectors of the population. I agree with the criticisms of the hegemonic model of development and support the struggles against extractivism. I also tend to agree with many elements (not the whole package) of the emerging theorisation around the concept of degrowth – which is already very influential among European left circles, but not very significant within the Latin American left. But I disagree with visions such as Escobar’s when he speaks of “underdevelopment” as a mere “narration”, presenting it as an abstract concept that the colonialists would have elaborated and spread for the colonized to repeat. We can’t ignore the terrible rates of poverty, exclusion, and poor access to basic goods and services that still affect millions of Latin Americans. Our region should be incorporated into the global fight against climate change, and we must promote new forms of organisation and production that preserve the ecological balance, but we must also respond to social demands in the context of a quite likely deterioration of the economic situation in the short or medium terms. In that sense, I believe that the impulse to the commons must be framed within a broader strategy of growth, different from that offered by predatory and savage capitalism.

    Thinking about the specific conditions of Uruguay, and based on data and projections published by local researchers, it should already be evident that the promotion of mega-projects like the huge paper mills run by Finnish corporations, or the already privatisation of the wind segment of the energy sector, don’t constitute the most appropriate developmental strategy. I would have preferred that the effort made by the government to convince us that the attraction of direct foreign investment and the liberalisation of trade are the right path would have been accompanied by serious studies sustained by reliable information to appraise the pros and cons of two different strategies: supporting large private investment on the one hand, and the promotion of the local and popular solidarity economy on the other. What would be the impacts of redirecting the tax exemptions and the large explicit or covert subsidies received by large transnational corporations if all that money were used to support cooperatives and other associative enterprises rooted in the national economy? I don’t have concrete answers to these queries, but I know that other Uruguayan economists and social researchers also raise similar questions and could provide objective and relevant information to deepen this exchange.

    How to incorporate the commons within a political project that aims at the de-commodification of public services?

    In Latin America we have many valuable examples of de-commodification of public services, past and present, that we should reconsider in the framework of current exchanges around the commons. A few years ago, during the heyday of what we then praised as the Bolivarian ‘revolution’, I worked in Venezuela and I was able to appreciate very closely the emergence of multiple processes of popular self-organisation in which millions of people participated. I’m referring to the mesas técnicas (people’s technical committees), the consejos comunitarios de agua (community water councils), the consejos comunales (communal councils) and the comunas (communes). Unfortunately, most of these processes are no longer in existence or in terminal crisis. Individualism and competition has been stronger than solidarity and cooperation in the responses to the crisis that Venezuela is experiencing today. This is a sad realisation, which forces us to question ourselves about the reasons and the conditions that made possible the erosion of processes that many of us considered very strong and even irreversible. A large part of the communal and participatory initiatives that had emerged in the most fecund years of the Venezuelan transition have gone into rapid regression when faced with the loss of the resources provided by the state (of which they had become dependent), in the context of the terrible deterioration of the social and economic situation. I think that many lessons can emerge from Venezuela, both on the potential of the commons and on the fragility of processes of this type. It also forces us to rethink the limits of ‘revolutionary’ political projects that are excessively focused on the state.

    At the international level, and taking as a basis for analysis the European reality – which is the one that today I know better, since it’s my place of residence, activism and research – I believe that Latin Americans could ‘import’ some interesting ideas from current European exchanges on alternatives to commodification and corporatization. The side of the European left most active side in the promotion of the commons is that linked to struggles around the right to the city and the citizen platforms that won local office in several Spanish cities. Today, an important part of the European left perceives the city as the privileged space for political, social and economic experimentation, without seeing cities as isolated entities or at the margin of processes aimed at changing the state on a national scale, but recognising their growing significance in the new regional and world order. It’s not by chance that the fight against climate change or for the recovery of public services are led by networks of progressive local governments. Barcelona En Comú, the citizen coalition that now governs the Catalan capital, in particular, is a very powerful source of inspiration of regional and world importance. The political influence of Barcelona today is comparable to the hope that Porto Alegre, Montevideo and other Latin American capitals had been generated in the 1980s and 1990s, when the left began to experiment with participatory budgeting and other innovative policies for the radicalisation of democracy at the municipal level. Barcelona is today a laboratory for the design and testing of multiple initiatives inspired by the principle of the commons.

    Another possible source of inspiration could be the current program of the British Labour Party. Since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader, Labour has become much more radical than our Frente Amplio and most other left parties in Latin America and Europe. The Labour Party has a proposal for renationalisation that’s much more advanced than similar initiatives applied or proposed anywhere else in the world. In the specific case of the energy sector, Corbyn and his party propose to bring back the sector into public hands, so that the country’ energy becomes environmentally sustainable, affordable for users, and managed with democratic control, as stated in the programmatic manifesto launched last year. But renationalisation, from this perspective, does not simply imply that the state retakes control by going back to the obsolete state-owned companies of the past, but rather the combination of different forms of public ownership and management. In short, Labour proposes not merely to re-nationalise companies that had been privatised during Thatcherism and Blairism, but to reconvert the big banks and other financial institutions that during the crisis had been saved from bankruptcy with public monies into a network of local banks based on mixed ownership (state and social), or the creation of new municipal utilities. The party is committed to create new municipal utilities, inspired by some socially-owned companies already in operation – such as Robin Hood Energy in Nottingham – or by popular campaigns – such as Switched On London – that propose the de-privatisation of power through the launch of new public enterprises, rooted in a more democratic type of management based on the active participation of users and workers, being environmentally sustainable, and securing services with affordable rates for the entire population.

    Daniel Chavez, a TNI fellow, specialises in left politics, state companies and public services. He is an active contributor of the Municipal Services Project (MSP) research network, has contributed to Alternatives to Privatization: Public Options for Essential Services in the Global South (Routledge, 2012) and has co-edited The Reinvention of the State: Public Enterprises and Development in Latin America and the world.

    Originally published by Transnational Institute

      Read  The Commons, the State and the Public: A Latin American Perspective
      April 13, 2021
    The commons
    by Sergio Ruiz Cayuela, Countercurrents, in Counter Solutions .

    The commons is a concept originally used in England during the Middle Ages to designate shared areas (mostly woods and pasture lands) that peasants collectively managed to access basic resources such as firewood, foraged food or grazing for their cattle. In a mostly rural society, peasants relied on the commons for survival. In fact, the appropriation and plunder of the commons by the nobility starting in the 12th century—a process known as enclosure—marked the beginning of a transition to capitalism. Common people were excluded from using the land, and were forced to either move to towns and become waged workers or establish serfdom relationships with landowners.

    The concept of the commons was popularised in academia in the late 20th century by a group of scholars (that we will call the ‘institutionalists’) who saw many similarities between the commons from feudal England and the ways in which communities all over the world interacted with their environment. The institutionalists aimed to find efficient and sustainable ways of managing natural resources. Elinor Ostrom, who was the most prominent figure of this current, dismantled liberal myths and prejudices against communal land tenure by presenting commons as a viable property regime. According to Ostrom, common property regimes were especially suited for resources with specific economic features: low rivalry and easy accessibility. She believed that the main drivers of success for commons were their internal design principles, namely the set of relations and strategies adopted by a community that would lead to the sustainable management of a specific resource.

    The turn of the 21st century saw an upsurge of the alter-globalisation movement, which opposed globalized trade and its social and environmental consequences. ‘Alter-globalizationist’ scholars and activists took an interest in the commons, but they were critical of the limitations of the ‘institutionalist’ perspective. George Caffentzis, for example, pointed toward the influence that the outside world has on the success of commons. Specifically, he argued that the ability of a commons to sustain itself is determined heavily by the distribution of power in a given society and the relationship that a commons has with external actors, such as private companies or public institutions. During this time, the work of Peter Linebaugh brilliantly captured a feature of the ‘alter-globalisationist’ understanding of the commons: a shift from commons as resources to ‘commoning’ as a practice. More than just an efficient way to manage resources, the commons became a political antagonist to the logic of capital. In the last few years, authors like Massimo de Angelis and Amanda Huron have suggested that the tension between the ‘institutionalist’ and the ‘alter-globalisationist’ approaches needs a productive articulation in order to generate a better understanding of the survival and expansion of the commons. The internal management of particular commons and how it relates to the structure of the outside world are factors that affect and modify one another.

    Commons can be crucial tools in imagining a world after capitalism, but in order to do so, they need to be devised as forms of social organisation opposed to capitalism and the state. Under capitalism, the propertied class reproduces its wealth by exploiting nature, Indigenous people, women, workers, and landless people around the world but especially in the Global South. This exploitation is legitimised by the laws of the market, which understand the maximisation of economic profit as the motivating force behind human life, and normalise values such as individualism, competition and greed. The commons oppose this logic and mobilise cooperation, solidarity and mutualism as core values, which in turn affect the way people relate to each other and to the environment.

    The development of capitalism advanced in parallel with the creation of a new institutional arrangement, that of the nation-state: a centralised accumulation of political power which has complete sovereignty and the monopoly of violence over a territory. The state is supposed to protect its citizens and act in their interests, but the last centuries have shown us that, whether in liberal democracies or in authoritarian political settings, it often ends up defending the interests of the elites and oppressing the majority of the population. The commons provide an alternative to centralization, the accumulation of power, and representative democracy. Regardless of the specific arrangements of particular commons, power always flows from the bottom up, which means that all commoners are entitled to directly affect the management of a commons. In short, the commons is based on practices of direct democracy, the horizontal distribution of power, and collective decision-making.

    Although their core values are in direct opposition, commons currently exist alongside capital and the state. In fact, the three forms are codependent. Let’s take the example of a community garden organised as a commons. Commoners will need tools to work the soil. Those tools have probably been produced in capitalist factories, and they need to be purchased according to their exchange value (an arbitrary quantification based on the maximisation of price according to market laws). Also, even if things go well and the garden is productive, it might not be enough to fulfill the basic needs of the commoners involved (their social reproduction). They will probably need to complement their commoning activities with waged work for a capitalist enterprise. Moreover, the land where the community garden is sited might be public, or in other words, managed and owned by the state. Therefore, commoners can either squat (risking eviction which would undermine their garden), or negotiate the use of the land, accepting the regulations and rules imposed by the state (or its representative institutions). Deciding how to interact with external actors (in this case, the state) will be crucial to determining the longevity of the community garden. It is important to keep in mind, though, that commons are also threatened by their internal politics. What if members decide to divide the land into individual plots and reduce cooperation? In that case, we could claim that the garden is not a commons any more, since inherent commoning values such as collective management and mutualism would not be enacted.

    Relationships of dependency between the commons and capitalism can lead to cooptation by the state or private actors, who may instrumentalise the commons in order to reproduce themselves. Going back to the case of the community garden, landowners and developers could see its pull as an opportunity to raise the rents of surrounding properties, develop new commercial ventures and, in short, make profit. This would in turn spark a process of gentrification, displacing the commoners who were involved in the garden. Cooptation can also be exercised by the state. For example, the austerity policies implemented by many countries since the 1970s, which were intensified after the 2008 crisis, instigated a gradual retreat of the state from the provision of basic social services. In many cases such as healthcare or education, this void is impossible to fill through community-based response in the short term, so communities suffer an immediate impoverishment of their well-being. In others, state functions are replaced by volunteer labour. In the UK, for example, it has become commonplace to see public libraries run by volunteers. However, we should be wary of celebrating these examples, as they emerge out of need, are imposed by urgency, and are usually closely monitored by institutions. Under the argument that they are using public buildings, communities usually need to follow strict rules and protocols imposed by the government. Lacking autonomy and decision-making power, these volunteer efforts fail to become emancipatory post-capitalist alternatives.

    Autonomy refers to the capacity of a given system to self-manage. In other words, the more autonomy that a commons has, the less dependent it will be on external inputs. The issue of autonomy opens up another important discussion: that of scale. As we have seen in the case of the community garden, it is almost impossible for a specific commons to have a high degree of autonomy (commoners need tools, land, wages, etc). However, if several commons form what Massimo De Angelis calls a ‘commons ecology,’ it is much easier for them to collectively gain a certain degree of autonomy. What if the members of the community garden decide to expand their project and include a community kitchen? The kitchen will be able to use the produce from the garden, and gardeners will be able to get their food from the community kitchen, thus reducing their dependency on capitalist supermarkets and restaurants, or social services managed by the state. And what if they decided to add a tool recycling workshop and other projects to the newly formed commons ecology? They would be able to gradually reduce their dependence on capital, and therefore, their self-management capacity would expand. In conclusion, for the commons to become a viable alternative that can resist cooptation and offer a path to communities’ emancipation from capital and the state, they need to avoid isolation and come together in collaborative networks that allow for greater commons’ autonomy.

    Further resources

    George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici, Commons against and beyond capitalism (2014) In this article, the authors encapsulate the discussion of how commons interact with capitalism. They also list the features that characterize the anticapitalist—and potentially emancipatory—commons.

    Massimo de Angelis, Omnia sunt communia: on the commons and the transformation to postcapitalism (2017) This book is probably the greatest effort in trying to articulate both commoning perspectives to date. It deals extensively with autonomy and social reproduction, and introduces the idea of commons ecologies.

    Elinor Ostrom, Governing the commons (1990) This is Ostrom’s most popular book, in which she distilled her decades of research about common property regimes. It inspired a new generation of commons scholars, who continue to develop the topic into the present day.

    Sergio Ruiz Cayuela is a member of Cooperation Birmingham, Plan C, and other self-organised community groups and organisations. Sergio is also a militant researcher interested in the expansion of the commons as a post-capitalist form of social organisation.

    Originally published by Uneven Earth

      Read  The commons
      November 9, 2021
    Mother Nature, Inc.
    by Robert Hunziker, Countercurrents, in World .

    Wall Street investors have hit the jackpot. Soon they’ll be able to buy, own, and dictate The Commons, public lands, the world of Mother Nature. In fact, a pilot project is already in the works with ecosystems up for sale as Wall-Streeters anxiously prepare to gobble up the valued benefits of Mother Nature.

    According to the NYSE PR Dept. they’ll IPO nature: “To preserve and restore the natural assets that ultimately underpin the ability for there to be life on Earth.” What? Really?

    And, according to NYSE COO Michael Blaugrund: “Our hope is that owning a natural asset company is going to be a way that an increasingly broad range of investors have the ability to invest in something that’s intrinsically valuable, but, up to this point, was really excluded from the financial markets.”

    Then, does this mean that neoliberal capitalism is becoming nature’s beneficent caretaker so environmentalists can stop wringing their hands about the horrendous loss of wild vertebrate life, down a whopping 68%, and loss of wetlands and loss of huge chunks of rainforests these past few decades, all of which echoes a guttural sound of impending extinction? Answer: Don’t count on it.

    For starters, there’s something extraordinarily distasteful and downright disgusting about Wall Street buying control of nature’s resource capabilities. It bespeaks of an upside down world where the ludicrous becomes acceptable, but is it really acceptable? Is it?

    The main character in this new scheme to own the world is a new asset class with a very plain name that says it all: Natural Asset Company or NAC. Yes, if you are a billionaire, get ready to buy up to 30% of the world’s natural resource beneficence to society. It’s going to be offered on the biggest auction block of the world, the New York Stock Exchange under the cover of sustainability of nature and protection of biodiversity, wink, wink!

    Of course, this prompts a series of questions, headlined by when does Mother Nature morph into a tollbooth?

    In simplest of terms, NACs allow for the formation of specialized corporations the hold the rights to the ecosystem services produced on a given chunk of land. The services might be sequestration of carbon or clean water or possibly rare Tibetan mountain air or maybe a lake teeming with trout in the wilderness. The possibilities are endless when auctioning off major chunks of an asset as big as the planet.

    The NAC will maintain, manage and grow the natural asset that it has commoditized, working towards maximizing the profit potential of the natural asset, although, of course, this is not emphasized in the PR material. Nevertheless, it could lead to near-infinite profits. After all, the living Earth does rejuvenate and replenish and service ecosystems on its own accord, a natural process that goes on forever. Why not own it?

    If ever there has been a time for the people of the world to drop whatever they are doing and focus on one issue, now is that time. The Commons is for sale! Think long and hard about that proposition, study it, discuss it, and decide whether to agree that Mother Nature should be monetized. If not in agreement, then do something, tell everybody, tell anybody who’ll listen, carry poster boards in the street, join a protest march, bang pots and pans, do something to relieve that breakneck pressure building around your temples!

    The Intrinsic Exchange Group, in partnership with the NYSE, is currently working with the Costa Rica government on a pilot project of NACs in the country in order to institute its protocol for ownership of forests, lakes, waterfalls, mountains, meadows, caves, wetlands, in essence, all of nature. Costa Rica is the proving grounds for ownership of Mother Nature, whether she likes it or not.

    First, NAC identifies a natural asset, like a forest for example, which is quantified using special protocols that have already been developed by various coalitions amongst multinational corporations, which in and of itself is remarkably terrifying.  The NAC decides who has the rights to the natural asset’s productivity and how it is to be managed. It is then monetized via an IPO on the stock exchange. Thus, the NAC becomes “the Issuer” to potential buyers of the natural asset that the NAC represents. Essentially, NAC is a real estate agent of Mother Nature. The buyers are institutional investors, or the occasional billionaire, that want to own the rights to the benefits of wetlands or rainforests or natural water springs or rarified mountainous air or hot springs or whatever they want to own. The world is their oyster to buy, own, enjoy, and profit by.

    Throughout all human history nature has been The Commons or the cultural and natural resource for all of society inclusive of natural processes like air and water. But now private investors are deleting The Commons with claims of “conservation and sustainability” of 30% of what’s called “protected areas” of our precious worldwide assets.

    According to initial calculations, NACs will unlock $4Quadrillion in assets as a new feeding ground for Wall Street investors to buy the rights to clean water and clean air and trout streams and bass-laden lakes and gorgeous picturesque waterfalls and lagoons, an entire forest, or maybe eventually extend into the oceans. Who knows the range of possibilities once nature is transacted on Wall Street.

    Monetizing nature!

    What’s next, what’s left?

    The Commons is property shared by all, inclusive of natural products like air, water, and a habitable planet, forests, fisheries, groundwater, wetlands, pastures, the atmosphere, the high seas, Antarctica, outer space, caves, all part of ecosystems of the planet.

    The sad truth is Mother Nature, Inc. will lead to extinction of The Commons, as an institution, in the biggest heist of all time. Surely, private ownership of nature is unseemly and certainly begs a much bigger relevant question that goes to the heart of the matter, to wit: Should nature’s ecosystems, which benefit society at large, be monetized for the direct benefit of the few?

    Robert Hunziker is a writer from Los Angeles

      Read  Mother Nature, Inc.
      November 9, 2021
    Climate Crisis: Our Collective Delusions
    by K Sahadevan, Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    Protestors at venue of Glasgow summit on climate change

    One of the most significant announcement of the COP-26 was the formation of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero-GAFANZ. A coalition of the biggest investors, banks and insurers that collectively control $ 130 trillion, committed to use the capital to achieve net zero targets by 2050. This new hub for climate finance led by Mark Carney in his capacity as UN Special Envoy and Adviser to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will focus on building a system that mobilises private finance to support the re-engineering of economies for net zero. Mark Carney claimed it as “one of the greatest commercial opportunities or our time”.

    It’s apparent; Climate extremes are real. The last six years have been the hottest years on record.    Megafires, polar melting, very severe cyclonic storms and other extreme weather events made half of the world population suffer. The Scientific community has warned the global leaders to take necessary steps to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degree Celsius. Countries have been forced to increase their national determined contributions (NDCs) to pacify the growing disappointment among the scientific community. Even the declared NDCs are fully implemented, nobody expects miracles. With the declared mitigation strategies, climate pledges and NDCs, we will move the pathway to 2.7 degrees. The latest updates from the NDC synthesis report shows that for all available NDCs of all 193 Parties taken together of about 13.7%, in global GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 on average. We have to remember that the IPCC has estimated that limiting global average temperature increases to 1.5C requires a reduction of CO2 emissions of 45% in 2030 or a 25% reduction by 2030 to limit warming to 2C. If emissions are not reduced by 2030, they will need to be substantially reduced thereafter to compensate for the slow start on the path to net zero emissions.

    Now the Political leaderships, religious figures, big corporate entities, NGOs and people’s movements, everyone talking about climate change and emission reductions. Net Zero is the latest buzzword of the climate action. Millions of climate refugees, especially from Sub-Saharan and South Asian countries and small Island states looking towards Glasgow with great expectations!

    Some absence had been more visible than the presence in the blue zone in the COP-26. The biggest emitter of the present, China, whose GHG emission contributing 27% of the total, opted out from COP-26. The same way, two prominent petro-states, Russia and Saudi Arabia, has also decided to not participate in the Glasgow summit. Even though these three nations kept away themselves from the Climate summit, they had set their net zero target by 2060. India’s stand on emission reduction was unclear until the Prime Minister’s declaration in Glasgow.

    Certainly, there are several questions arise on about the ongoing climate debate. Do the announced pledges and commitments guaranteed our chances of victory in the climate war we are about to fight?  The financial and technological solutions which we put forward is sufficient enough to overcome the crisis? How serious our political leaderships, Business lobbies on their climate actions? How can we fight without having equity among the communities and assure the same for future generations?

    All these questions are important for two reasons. First, the lack of perspectives and planning is evident in many of the projects announced at the official level. Second, it is our common delusion that we can find a solution within the existing system. Here I am trying to explain both of these issues.

    Missing Perspectives

    The Glasgow summit is being held somewhat in a festive atmosphere with plenty of pledges and commitments given by developed countries and emerging economies. Still there are missing links of perspectives and practicality. President Joe Biden has announced that US will cut funding for fossil fuel projects by 2022 and plans to launch a $ 2 trillion project to achieve the net zero goal by 2050. Without new climate legislation from Congress, Biden’s orders to reverse Trump’s rollbacks on emissions from vehicles, power plants and oil and gas drilling could be undone. But the reality is with a thin Senate majority limits the possibility for Biden to achieve climate legislation to curb carbon emissions. There are concerns over Germany’s commitment to phase out coal by 2038 as they have already on the path of closing nuclear power plants. 2050 net zero commitments have several convenient loopholes. No country has counted the emission for air travel and shipping in their national emission inventories.

    Nonetheless China’s announcement of their net zero targets by 2060 and no more funding for overseas coal projects, as an emerging superpower, their GHG emission will increase for at least next two decades. A new analysis done by Carbon Brief shows, China’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have grown at their fastest pace in more than a decade, increasing by 15% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021.

    It has been lauded that India’s commitments to achieve the net zero target by 2070 is based on pragmatism. Nevertheless, many questions arise related to India’s net zero goals. As Navroz Dubash, an eminent policy analyst from Centre for Policy Reserch, puts the straight questions, is India’s net zero target aims only CO2 or or all GHGs included? Is the 1 billion cumulative through 2030 or in 2030? Prime Minister also announced an ambitious 500GW non fossil fuel energy addition to India’s energy mix. But it is still unclear that whether this 50% increase RE means electricity generation or installed capacity? Dubash also raise the question whether the pledges made by India are conditional on receiving finance or unconditional? These questions are made valid not only because of the lack of a clear picture of declared commitments and pledges, but also the lack of institutional mechanisms in place to implement them.

    Doubts are also being raised about the 500GW renewable energy plan announced by India’s Prime Minister in Glasgow. The current figures show that India’s clean energy targets have failed to meet the target. India has been announced that the installed capacity of renewable energy will be 175GW by 2022, but only  96GW project has been completed. The projects with an installed capacity of 50GW and 25GW are in various stages of construction and contracts. So, the proposed 50% increase in  non fossil fuel electricity by 2030, which means 45GW every year, can only be seen as an overambitious plan.

    GAFANZA: A new Brettonwood in place

    One of the most significant announcement of the COP-26 was the formation of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero-GAFANZ. A coalition of the biggest investors, banks and insurers that collectively control $ 130 trillion, committed to use the capital to achieve net zero targets by 2050. This new hub for climate finance led by Mark Carney in his capacity as UN Special Envoy and Adviser to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will focus on building a system that mobilises private finance to support the re-engineering of economies for net zero. Mark Carney claimed it as “one of the greatest commercial opportunities or our time”.

    As per 31 page document, ‘Building a private finance system for net zero’ written by Mark Carney,  “75 central banks covering 60% of global emissions are now members of the Network for Green Financial Systems (NGFSs), a group dedicated to improving the management of climate risk in the financial sector, and 13 central banks are in the process of stress testing their financial systems to assess individual and collective resilience to climate risks. Climate Action 100+, a group of over 500 institutional investors controlling over $47 trillion of assets, are demanding that the world’s 161 highest- emitting companies (representing 80% of industrial emissions) publish strategies to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050”.

    There is no coincidence that the formation of the new economic hub, GAFANZ, bears resemblance to the Brettonwoods institutions established during World War II. The  new climate finance mechanism stems from the realization that new systems are needed to deal with emerging crisis and threats.

    Look at the mastermind behind the formation of GAFANZ, JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock, BNP Paribas and other financial firms with a heavy engagement in fossil fuels! These institutions will lead the discussions and follow-up work at the Glasgow Summit! The ‘climate deniers’, ‘the inactivists’,  who have been controlling the lion share of the global assets are actively engaging in the vital areas of climate debates!

    Our Collective Delusions

    Of course, there are several positive things happened in Glasgow. Mounting pressure from the global south for climate justice, asking G-20 countries for more accountability. Youth voices are more loud than ever. Least developed countries began to demand that the developed countries take responsibility for their historical emissions.

    But one of the most important concepts in the climate crisis debate, ‘equity’ has never been raised anywhere in the Glasgow talks. Almost all delegates in the blue zone of cop-26, engaging in climate war with a net zero target rather than an equitable pathway to getting there. Everyone is looking for technological, economic and market solutions within a system that perpetuate unequal wealth creation.

    While keeping aside of 10% of the global population in extreme poverty, without access to clean water for 200 million, and uninterrupted electricity for 100 million, we think that we can overcome the climate crisis.

    With $ 2 trillion in annual global military spending,  mounting nuclear wastes and warheads – among them 2000 are launched on warning status-, allowing the advertising sector to stay afloat with a trillion dollar industry; we all dreaming about climate justice! We are making plans to combat climate catastrophe in an economy and production system based on unequal exchange of energy and resources!

    Moreover, we seek solutions within a system that envisions perpetual and exponential growth! We are all concerned about climate change!; but we all afraid of a ‘real change’!!

    We are;

    Concerned about the carbon footprint, ignoring the material footprint of the economy;

    Dreaming of sustainable development, giving up sustainability;

    In discussions on climate justice, there is silence about intergenerational equity.

    We are all in a collective delusion.

    Without overcoming it, a long-term solution to the climate crisis will not be possible.

    K. Sahadevanis an environmentalist from Kerala. He has been writing on Energy, Economics and Environment for the last few decades. He has authored half a dozen books on different topics and a regular contributor to various journals and newspapers. He can be reached: negentropist69@gmail.com

      Read Climate Crisis: Our Collective Delusions
      November 9, 2021
    COP26 climate summit ends in failure in Climate Change
    by Patrick Martin, Countercurrents.

    Climate activists march through the streets of Glasgow, Scotland, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 which is the host city of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

    As the global climate summit COP26 drags out to its miserable end this week in Glasgow, Scotland, the major capitalist powers and the banks and corporations that call the shots in national and world politics have largely failed in their efforts to use the summit to provide a semblance of “progress” in resolving the global climate emergency.

    The rival powers have been unable to reach any significant agreement, even on the type of half measures and purely voluntary arrangements that characterized the last major world summit in Paris in 2015. And the pledges and promises made at that summit have largely fallen apart, as reports issued on the occasion of the Glasgow meeting have made clear.

    Business Insider declared the event a “historic failure,” while an editorial in the Financial Times spoke of “More hot air than progress at COP26,” noting that the US’s decision not “to sign up to a deal to phase out coal production… struck a severe blow to what was meant to be a flagship policy of COP.”

    One report appearing over the weekend underscored an obvious reason for the abortive character of the Glasgow event. The environmental campaign group Global Witness analyzed the provisional list of conference attendees, provided by the United Nations, and determined that representatives of fossil fuel companies have the largest single delegation at COP26, more than any single country.

    The group found that at least 503 people linked to coal, gas and oil companies were in attendance, counting both direct representatives and those coming as part of groups acting on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. “The presence of hundreds of those being paid to push the toxic interests of polluting fossil fuel companies, will only increase the skepticism of climate activists who see these talks as more evidence of global leaders’ dithering and delaying,” a representative of Global Witness said.

    Patricia Espinosa, head of the UN’s climate agency, said each of the 190 countries participating was free to send delegates of their own choosing. “It is really the sovereign right of every government to accredit every representative as part of its delegations, persons it deems appropriate,” she told CNN.

    While throwing open the doors to the big polluters, the summit has largely excluded representatives of NGOs and environmental activist groups. The coronavirus pandemic has been cited as a reason either for barring entry into Britain entirely—with the Johnson government serving as a sort of palace guard for COP26—or keeping those activists on the ground in Scotland away from the summit itself.

    One year ago, when the climate summit was postponed for a year out of pandemic-related health concerns, there were 20,000 cases a day in Britain. Today, the number of infections in Britain has risen to 30,000 a day, despite mass vaccination, thanks to the brutal policy of the Johnson government in reopening schools and businesses.

    Over the course of the year, both the pandemic and the climate emergency have worsened, and the threat to humanity from both dangers has intensified.

    Last Friday, an estimated 100,000 people, most of them young, marched through the streets of Glasgow, delivering a vote of no confidence in the officials gathered at COP26. The demonstration was more a protest against the summit than an appeal to it, at least judging by many of the placards and banners, and the enormous applause given to speakers like Greta Thunberg, the youthful Swedish activist, now 18, who condemned the proceedings as a sham.

    It is hard to argue with Thunberg’s characterization of the summit as “two-week-long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah.”

    She told the huge crowd, “The leaders are not doing nothing. They are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves and to continue profiting from this destructive system. This is an active choice by the leaders to continue to let the exploitation of people and nature, and the destruction of present and future living conditions to take place.”

    Thunberg has been an eloquent voice of the outrage among young people worldwide but offers nothing in the way of a political perspective besides continued, and inevitably more impotent, protests.

    There can be no solution to the looming environmental disaster, any more than there can be an end to the global pandemic, without turning to the one social force whose interests are bound up with the struggle against both: the international working class.

    Climate change, like the pandemic, is a crisis created by capitalism, and the only alternative is socialism—the revolutionary mobilization of the working class to put an end to the profit system, abolish the reactionary nation-state framework, and establish a global socialist society.

    It is noteworthy that in the mass of media coverage of the Glasgow summit, there has been almost no mention of the fact that 100 global corporations are responsible for 71 percent of world emissions. This was first detailed in the 2017 Carbon Majors report, which identified giants like ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron, Peabody and BHP Billiton, as well as the national coal and oil companies of China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Mexico, Kuwait, UAE and Iran, among others.

    One of the main apologists for global capitalism, perhaps the world’s leading practitioner of “blah, blah, blah,” former US President Barack Obama, made a day-long series of appearances Monday in Glasgow.

    His speech to the summit was not mere blather, although there was plenty of that, citing his island origins (he was born in Hawaii) as proof of his sympathy towards the beleaguered island nations that face being overwhelmed by rising ocean waters, and touting the record of his own administration in fighting climate change.

    The truth is that during Obama’s eight years in the White House, the United States was continually at war—a not insignificant contribution to global warming—and American corporations created incalculable amounts of carbon and toxic waste.

    Obama delivered several thrusts against Russia and China, the major targets of American imperialism under the administration Joe Biden, his former vice president. He denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi for not attending the summit, saying this demonstrated a “dangerous lack of urgency.”

    He took credit for the purely illusory gains of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, while admitting that since then “we are nowhere near where we need to be.” And he openly threatened the living standards of American workers, declaring, “All of us have a part to play. All of us have work to do. All of us have sacrifices to make … But those of us who live in wealthy nations, those of us who helped to precipitate the problem … we have an added burden.”

    He also used the occasion for a typically sanctimonious lecture to the youthful protesters outside, essentially telling them to go back to their home countries and become foot soldiers in capitalist politics. He advised them against being “purists,” in other words, telling them to join the political campaigns of the Democratic Party in the United States and similar parties of a completely corrupt and conformist character.

    Obama is being reinforced by a delegation of congressional Democrats, and even a few Republicans, this week, as the climate summit draws to a close. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats will pretend that the infrastructure bill they just approved and the social spending and climate bill they just agreed to postpone add up to a huge US commitment to resolve the climate crisis.

    The truth is just the opposite. Both the Democrats and Republicans are willing to slash the consumption of American workers in the name of climate change, but not to cut a penny of the profits of American corporations.

    The Biden administration aims to use the climate summit as part of its anti-China policy, which is directed, sooner rather than later, at unleashing military violence against the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest nuclear force.

    Originally published in WSWS.org

      Read COP26 climate summit ends in failure
in Climate Change
      November 08, 2021
    2021 was a bad year for glaciers in western North America. It’s about to get much worse
    by The Conversation, Jeff Walllis, and Brian Menounos, University of Northern British Columbia, and Brian Menounos, Canada Research Chair in Glacier Change and Hakai Affiliate. AlterNet

    Each year the global temperature is 1 C above the 1951-80 average temperature, glaciers lose, on average, about 0.8 metres of water equivalent depth.

    The year 2021 will likely be one of the worst for glaciers in southern British Columbia, Alberta, Washington and Montana.

    It started out OK. A weak La Niña arrived in the fall of 2020 and continued through the winter. La Niñas tend to favour cool conditions and ample snowfall, so the winter of 2020-21 wasn't bad for glaciers. But what followed was.

    In late June, the so-called heat dome settled over the west, creating exceptional warming that melted snow cover on the glaciers and exposed ice in a matter of days. The timing was especially bad, as it coincided with days when energy from sunlight is at its maximum.

    The hot weather also helped spark wildfires in British Columbia, Oregon and California that spread through the mountains. When soot, dust and debris from wildfires settle on snow and ice, it darkens the surface, causing them to absorb more solar energy and melt more.

    The warm conditions continued throughout the summer, and preliminary work suggests that these summer events led to exceptional rates of mass loss from glaciers. As a glaciologist who has been studying glaciers for over two decades, it is clear that that glaciers are unwell — thanks to us. To avoid widespread loss of glaciers in the Earth's mountainous regions, policy-makers need the courage to commit to meaningful reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

    A vital natural resource

    Mountain glaciers are vital reservoirs of frozen water. There are more than 15,000 individual ice masses in western North America — an area that lies outside of Alaska and the Alaska-British Columbia and the Alaska-Yukon borders.

    Glaciers are primarily nourished by snowfall during the winter and depleted by melting seasonal snow and ice during summer, releasing large volumes of cool water into headwater streams. Glacier runoff buffers aquatic ecosystems that can suffer from heat or water stress, especially during late summer or years of drought.

    To measure the year-to-year health of a glacier, scientists convert winter accumulation and summer melt to a measurement called “water equivalent depth," which can also be converted to “mass." The sum of these two terms define the glacier's health over the year, or its “net mass balance."

    Glaciers are like mother nature's bank account. If more water is deposited into them than withdrawn, then the glacier had a year of positive mass balance. A negative mass balance means that the glacier lost more water.

    Sensitive indicators of climate change

    In 1965, two things happened that, at first glance, seem unrelated. The first was that Frank Sinatra recorded the song It Was a Very Good Year. The second was the start of the International Hydrologic Decade, a period that aimed to recognize hydrology and standardize the ways in which scientists study water resources.

    One outcome of the Hydrological Decade was that Canada established a glacier monitoring program to assess and report how much water was gained and lost each year from its benchmark glaciers, including three in Western Canada: Peyto, Place and Helm.

    Back then, Canada's glaciers were probably valued more as a water resource than as sensitive indicators of climate change, but make no mistake, even in 1965, scientists were sounding the alarm about the dangers of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since then, carbon dioxide levels have jumped 120 per cent, and surface air temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are now about 1 C above the 1951-80 average.

    Warming of surface air temperatures since 1965 mostly explains the trend of mass loss from our monitored glaciers. Looked at another way, each year the global temperature is about 1 C above the 1951-80 average, those monitored glaciers lose, on average, about 0.8 metres of water equivalent depth.

    graphic showing mass loss with rising temperatures.

    Global temperature anomaly (1951-80) versus globally averaged net mass balance records. Data: World Glacier Monitoring Service.

    (Brian Menounos)

    In particular, glacier mass loss over the past two decades in western North America has accelerated, with losses in the past decade that were four times greater than the decade before. This acceleration coincides with warm, dry conditions over some of the region's largest icefields, namely those in the Southern Coast Mountains of British Columbia.

    Back to Frank's song. This song always made me sad. But was it because the character in the song was in the autumn of his life, its melancholy composition or perhaps a combination of both? It also makes me think of the current state of glaciers in western North America. I've taken the liberty to tweak the lyrics somewhat: When I was 51, it was a very bad year …

    This story is part of The Conversation's coverage on COP26, the Glasgow climate conference, by experts from around the world. Amid a rising tide of climate news and stories, The Conversation is here to clear the air and make sure you get information you can trust. More.

    Wildfires are likely accelerating mass loss for glaciers

    Although heightened glacier mass loss coincides with continued warming, accelerated mass loss may be driven by other factors such as changes to how reflective the ice and snow surfaces are to incoming solar energy.

    Debris, dust and black carbon from wildfires or fossil fuel consumption can darken snow and ice surfaces allowing them to absorb more solar energy, thereby enhancing melt. Warm, dry summers often favour wildfire activity and lead to pronounced darkening of snow and ice surfaces, and more melt. Warm temperatures also allow snow grains to become less reflective, lowering the snow reflectivity and thereby enhancing melt.

    How will glaciers fare in the decades ahead?

    Glacier mass balance is the direct response of meteorological conditions during the year, but it takes time for glaciers to adjust their dimensions. Even if temperatures were to remain stable for the next several decades, glaciers would continue to lose mass and shrink simply because they have not had sufficient time to adjust to present-day climate.

    modelling study in 2011, for example, showed that Alberta glaciers would lose 31-40 per cent of their volume even if temperatures stopped increasing immediately. A more recent study reveals nearly complete deglaciation in mid- to southern areas of British Columbia and Alberta even under moderate future emission scenarios.

    Neither of these earlier projection studies take into account the most recent collection of global climate model experiments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report. The scientific community is currently using these scenarios to update projected glacier loss for many regions, including western North America, which will help clarify the rates and pattern of glacier loss in the decades ahead. But we should anticipate continued glacier shrinkage since glaciers remain strongly out of balance with present-day climate.

    Sadly, losing these frozen reservoirs will impact us in ways we are only beginning to comprehend. A lack of real progress at COP26 will seal their future fate.The Conversation

    Brian Menounos, Canada Research Chair in Glacier Change and Hakai Affiliate, University of Northern British Columbia

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

      Read 2021 was a bad year for glaciers in western North America. It’s about to get much worse
      September 14, 2021
    Climate Emergency: The War We Must Fight
    by Simon Whalley, Countercurrents, in Climate Change .

    “Wally, Wally, quick, come and look at this!” These were the words of my roommate on a balmy Taiwanese evening on September 11th, 2001. Emerging into the living room I was just in time to see a plane slam into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. Walking through the door to work the next morning, I was met by a Canadian co-worker with the reassuring words “we are going to war man, we are going to war.”  It was hard to imagine then how momentous that event was and how our reality would change forever. The feel-good factor that had rolled over from the nineties was about to disappear in plumes of smoke, a new pointless and endless war was about to begin, our online privacy was about to vanish and the largest existential threat to our species was about to be buried along with more than 900,000 innocent lives.

    In retaliation for the attacks on New York and the Pentagon which left 2,977 people dead, America turned on its former partner, the Taliban. The men, once lauded by National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who in 1979, had declared that “your cause is right and God is on your side” were about to be taught a lesson in geopolitics. After arming Usama Bin Laden and the Mujahadeen in a real-life game of Risk in order to overthrow Soviet rule, America was about to come face to face with their own creation. Within weeks of 9/11, the Taliban was offering to hand over the mastermind Bin Laden to a third country in return for evidence of his involvement, but backed by raucous and jingoistic chants of U-S-A!, U-S-A!, U-S-A! at home, President Bush reacted in truly authoritarian terms, “There’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he’s guilty”.

    In Orwellian style, the ally was now the enemy and American and British forces began their war on terror by bombing the long-suffering people of Afghanistan in early October 2001. After the longest war in modern U.S. history, tens of thousands of bombs were dropped on the country and an estimated 164,925 people were killed, 47,245 of whom were civilians. The accompanying media frenzy long since subsided only to reemerge when American and British troops were finally withdrawn at the end of August 2021. The bombing, however, had continued relentlessly. More bombs were dropped on Afghanistan in 2018 and 2019 than any time since 2006. In 2019 alone, 7,423 bombs were dropped softly from the skies, to cause carnage on the ground. Many of the survivors now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression. The war ended much as it had started, chaotically. In August 2021, ten members of a single Afghan family, including seven children, were killed in a “targeted” drone assassination in revenge for the thirteen U.S. soldiers and sixty Afghans who had lost their lives in a suicide attack at Kabul airport.

    While the War on Terror was inflicting misery and death on poor people of color, it was about to alter the lives of people all around the world. Within weeks of thousands of innocent Americans losing their lives, the ruling class wasted no time in making sure the rest of us lost our privacy. It wasn’t until Edward Snowden blew the whistle that we understood the enormous digital infrastructure that had been put in place to monitor the online activity of everyone connected to the worldwide web. The land of the free was no longer and while the security of Americans was claimed to be the reason behind the spying, in 2020, a federal judge claimed the National Security Administration’s (NSA) all-encompassing surveillance program was not only illegal, possibly unconstitutional, but also pointless from a security perspective. Judge Marsha Berzon found there was zero evidence that the program had stopped even a single terrorist attack.

    While America and Britain ramped up the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan and Syria, it became evident that all along, the war we should have been fighting was against our extinction. Aside from human suffering, armed conflicts are costly and resource intensive, they have a terrible impact on ecosystems, and they also contribute massively to the climate crisis. The United States spends more on their military than the ten next largest spenders—China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the U.K., Japan, South Korea and Brazil. The $778 billion that America squanders in a vain show of strength includes trucks, cargo planes, container ships, war ships, bombs, tanks, missiles and bottled water. Recent research estimates that if the U.S. military were a country, it would be the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases on Earth. It would sit between Peru and Portugal in the list. Peru is home to thirty-two million while Portugal’s population is ten million. The U.S. military uses a bewildering 269,230 barrels of oil a day and this amounts to around $9 billion of the overall budget. Since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. has emitted around 1.2 billion tons of carbon. This is just shy of four times the U.K.’s annual emissions. Finding accurate data for military emissions is difficult as much is clouded in secrecy, but Scientists for Global Responsibility estimate it is around 6% of total greenhouse gas emissions. This is considerably more than the civil aviation industry total. While there is much chatter about flight shaming, there seems to be little interest in fight shaming.

    As our taxes have been directed into the pockets of private arms manufacturers, private militias, and destruction/construction firms, funding for the climate and biodiversity crises is nowhere to be seen. It is estimated that the cost of meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target is between $1.6—$3.8 trillion a year. Total worldwide military spending now stands at a colossal $2 trillion. Simply requiring bomb and armament makers to repurpose their production facilities to produce wind turbines, solar panels and other needed materials would cover half of the figure needed to deal with what the Pentagon calls “a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense (DoD or the Department) missions, operational plans, and installations”. This would not be without precedent as it is exactly what was done in the Second World War, but in reverse. To provide further validation, Chile and South Korea recently reallocated part of their military budgets to the COVID-19 response. We know that one of the impacts of the climate and biodiversity crises will be an increase in conflict as food and water scarcity bites, and the Pentagon has even warned that the U.S. military might collapse by 2040 so the justification for using defence spending on actual defence is strong. Our governments tell us that they don’t want to saddle future generations with debt, although through their inaction, this is exactly what they are doing. The cost of not meeting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target is estimated to rise to between $150—$792 trillion by the end of the century. Obviously, without urgent action, it is unlikely there will be a single functioning state left on the planet by century’s end to foot the bill.

    Our leaders love Wars on [insert noun here] because they are endless money pits that enrich the few. Isn’t it time we had a War on the Climate Emergency? Unlike other Wars on [insert noun here], this is a war we can actually win. Simply using these military budgets for actual defence would provide half the funding necessary to save us from extinction. It doesn’t need to saddle future generations with any debt. We simply need to readjust our priorities. If we are serious about reaching carbon-zero, there is no place for warfare. The French soldier, Henri Barbusse, spoke wisely in 1916, “Two armies that fight each other is like one large army that commits suicide.” One hundred years later, it isn’t just suicide we are committing, but ecocide on a global scale. If we are to avoid our species’ extinction, we must avoid warfare. The time for fighting is over. Now is the time for diplomacy and cooperation. We have given ourselves the grandiose title of homo-sapiens (the wise-man). It’s time we lived up to it.

    Simon Whalley is an educator in Japan, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Japan and the author of the upcoming book, Dear Indy: A Heartfelt Plea From a Climate Anxious Father.

    Originally published in CommonDreams

      Read Climate Emergency: The War We Must Fight
      September 14, 2021
    Climate Emergency May Displace 216 Million Within Countries by 2050: World Bank
    by Jessica Corbett, Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    Due to sea level rise, many islands in the Ganges Delta region of West Bengal, India—including Mousuni—are facing fast erosion. Homes and lands are sinking at a steady rate and people are staring at a bleak future where the probability of them becoming climate refugees looms large. (Photo: Arka Dutta/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

    Underscoring the necessity of immediate and sweeping action to take on the climate emergency, a World Bank report revealed Monday that 216 million people across six global regions could be forced to move within their countries by midcentury.

    Groundswell Part 2: Acting on Internal Climate Migration includes analyses for East Asia and the Pacific, North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, building on a modeling approach from a 2018 report that covered Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

    “The Groundswell report is a stark reminder of the human toll of climate change, particularly on the world’s poorest—those who are contributing the least to its causes,” said Juergen Voegele, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank, in a statement.


    The report’s highest projection is for Sub-Saharan Africa, which could see up to 86 million internal climate migrants by 2050, followed by East Asia and the Pacific (49 million), South Asia (40 million), North Africa (19 million), Latin America (17 million), and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (five million). The 216 million figure is a worst-case scenario total for the six regions, Voegele explained in the report’s introduction.

    “It’s important to note that this projection is not cast in stone,” he wrote. “If countries start now to reduce greenhouse gases, close development gaps, restore vital ecosystems, and help people adapt, internal climate migration could be reduced by up to 80%—to 44 million people by 2050.”

    Voegele continued:

    Without these actions, the report predicts that “hotspots” of climate migration will emerge as soon as within the next decade and intensify by 2050, as people leave places that can no longer sustain them and go to areas that offer opportunity. For instance, people are increasingly moving to cities, and we find that climate-related challenges such as water scarcity, declining crop productivity, and sea-level rise play a role in this migration. Even places which could become hotspots of climate out-migration because of increased impacts will likely still support large numbers of people. Meanwhile, receiving areas are often ill-prepared to receive additional internal climate migrants and provide them with basic services or use their skills.

    “Development that is green, resilient, and inclusive can slow the pace of distress-driven internal climate migration,” he concluded. “This report is a timely call for urgent action at the intersection of climate, migration, and development.”

    As the World Bank’s statement outlined, the report’s policy recommendations include:

    • Reducing global emissions and making every effort to meet the temperature goals of the Paris agreement;
    • Embedding internal climate migration in far-sighted green, resilient, and inclusive development planning;
    • Preparing for each phase of migration, so that internal climate migration as an adaptation strategy can result in positive development outcomes; and
    • Investing in better understanding of the drivers of internal climate migration to inform well-targeted policies.

    “This is our humanitarian reality right now and we are concerned this is going to be even worse, where vulnerability is more acute,” Maarten van Aalst, director of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, who wasn’t involved with the report, told the Associated Press.

    The AP noted that though many scientists say the world is not on track for the worst-case scenario in terms of planet-heating emissions, van Aalst pointed out that even under more moderate scenarios, climate impacts are now happening more quickly than projected, “including the extremes we are already experiencing, as well as potential implications for migration and displacement.”

    Kanta Kumari Rigaud, the World Bank’s lead environment specialist and one of the report’s co-authors, highlighted that even if political and business leaders take the actions scientists say are necessary to decrease emissions, “we’re already locked into a certain amount of warming, so climate migration is a reality.”

    “We have to reduce or cut our greenhouse gases to meet the Paris target,” she told Reuters, “because those climate impacts are going to escalate and increase the scale of climate migration.”

    While the World Bank’s figures focus on internal displacement in specific regions, previous broader analyses have shown the greater impact that the climate emergency is expected to have on migration in the coming decades, boosting pressure on the Biden administration and other major governments to take action now.

    The new report came ahead of a major climate summit for parties to the Paris agreement that kicks off in Scotland on October 31, and as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday delivered a relevant warning to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

    “A safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is the foundation of human life,” she said. “But today, because of human action—and inhuman inaction—the triple planetary crises of climate change, pollution, and nature loss is directly and severely impacting a broad range of rights, including the rights to adequate food, water, education, housing, health, development, and even life itself.”

    Bachelet explained that these interlinked crises “act as threat multipliers—amplifying conflicts, tensions, and structural inequalities, and forcing people into increasingly vulnerable situations. As these environmental threats intensify, they will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights in our era.”

    “The greatest uncertainty about these challenges is what policymakers will do about them,” she added. “Addressing the world’s triple environmental crisis is a humanitarian imperative, a human rights imperative, a peace-building imperative, and a development imperative.”

    Originally published by CommonDreams

    This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

      Read  Climate Emergency May Displace 216 Million Within Countries by 2050: World Bank
      September 15, 2021
    Climate Change Is the Symptom, Capitalism Is the Problem
    by Samantha Fox, Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    Our planet cannot handle an eternal growth model. We live in a finite system and capitalist innovation can only take us so far. Eventually we run out of resources. Climate appears to be the limit.

    Too often climate change is reduced to quantification of greenhouse glasses or melting ice caps. These indicators of climate change are important to verify the existence of the problem, but they are less constructive in helping us understand where the problem of climate change comes from. Understanding the source of climate change means moving beyond the source of GHGs and looking into the power relations that drive capitalist growth.

    We know climate change because we have a science to understand it. Many people are familiar with the standard natural science narratives, narratives that are divorced from society. Fewer people are familiar with the social science explanations of climate change, even fewer still incorporate notions of power into the explanation. The first step to understanding climate change is understanding how power operates in the history of capitalist civilization.

    Most climate change scholarship treats society as a black box or explains the problem as one of homogenous humanity. Take for example the idea of the Anthropocene where humanity is treated as something of a plague, entirely disconnected from nature. In this line of thought, humanity itself is the problem. But this line of thinking ignores histories of power dynamics within humanity and between humanity and nature. It fails to acknowledge the contributions of the liberal arts to understanding power.

    The Anthropocene line of thought suffers from a capitalist ideology that reduces relations of power and production to simplistic human activities. The construction of humanity as distinct from nature allows such an idea as the Anthropocene to proliferate. In this understanding of the world, people are not animals nor are they part of ecological systems. Instead, a small part of humanity represented by European colonizers transmogrifies into the quintessential representation of humanity (as the culmination of evolutionary processes), dominating over nature as God on earth while those who have been colonized are ejected from historical consideration along with their decidedly not Anthropocene knowledge and management of nature.

    William Cronon documents the changing relationship of European colonizers to nature in the historical expansion of what is today the United States. Cronon illustrates the ideological transformations that situated white men as a stand-in for God, dominating over nature and able to control nature through science, itself a socially constructed norm for objectivity. The historical separation of a small segment of humanity from nature while simultaneously relegating that vast majority of humanity in an in-between state—neither sufficiently human nor sufficiently nature—means that today that more-or-less small segment of humanity controls the science and therefore how we conceptualize the problem of climate change. This conceptualization constructs humanity as the problem.

    But humanity is not an undifferentiated whole. Only a small part of humanity, associated with Euro-colonizers, managed to colonize the world and dominate over an abstract nature that included the vast majority of its peoples. The reduction of most of the world’s populations into non-humanity or nature began with the debates at Valladolid in the 16th century. It was during these debates that the indigenous peoples of the Americas were first identified as “savage” and in need of civilizing through Christianization. Said Christianization was used as a justification of land dispossession and occupation. Taking control of the land and enslaving (or virtually enslaving) the working classes served the purpose of extracting untold amounts of wealth for the colonizers. Revisiting old sites of natural resource extraction as technological innovations capitalize on new resources such as lithium is a recurrent process that propels the capitalist world economy. The solution cannot lie exclusively in so-called sustainable technological innovation.

    The economic imperative of accumulation and profit did not and does not operate independently of social processes. Not only was the material wealth extracted from nature that propelled capitalism forward largely lost in the 16th century, the knowledge of entire civilizations was intentionally destroyed and repressed. The written Mayan language system was burned in Diego de Landa’s fires. Knowledge documented in the Incan quipu communication system was destroyed. What more was lost with the razing of entire civilizations in the Americas?

    When you understand that more than half of the world’s humanity was deemed less than human and their civilization and cultural existence were erased from the historical record, it is difficult to comprehend the idea of the Anthropocene. Yet the Anthropocene argument serves a purpose. It allows the wealthier countries to eschew responsibility by imposing their will on the places and peoples their enterprises have underdeveloped. It allows people in power to focus political attention on shorter showers and abandoning plastic straws as solutions to climate change. This is despite the fact that the engine of capitalism is growth for the sake of growth.

    As Edward Abbey wrote: growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. Our planet cannot handle an eternal growth model. We live in a finite system and capitalist innovation can only take us so far. Eventually, we run out of resources. Climate appears to be the limit. This past year has seen the most extreme temperatures on record and extreme weather events are more common than ever. Carbon dioxide levels, the primary measure of climate change, are the highest they have ever been measured. As climate expert Peter Gleick wrote on Twitter, the last time carbon levels were this high humans did not exist.

    We need to cultivate in society an appreciation for dynamics of power in the relationship between capitalism and the rest of us, people and nature. There are insights to be gained from an understanding of how power factors in relations of humanity-in-nature throughout capitalist history. Social inequalities are environmental inequalities, those inequalities are an accumulation of wealth and privilege for a small number of people who benefit from a history of oppression. The wealthy need to better understand how sexism and racism operate as social structures in the same way they intuitively understand the economy. It takes more effort, but by learning about and addressing our personal role in inequalities we can realize a more just and equitable society which in turn will address climate change.

    Climate change is an outcome of our current social organization. It threatens all of humanity. Altering our current social organization offers the possibility of creating a society-in-nature where all life is valued.

    Samantha Fox is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ohio Wesleyan University.

    Originally published in CommonDreams.org

    This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

      Read Climate Change Is the Symptom, Capitalism Is the Problem
      September 15, 2021
    The Only Long-Range Solution to Climate Change
    by Richard Heinberg, Countercurrents, in Counter Solutions.

    This article is adapted from POWER: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival (New Society Publishers, September 2021) by Richard Heinberg.

    Climate change is often incorrectly described as an isolated pollution issue. In this flawed framing, humanity has simply made a mistake in its choice of energy sources; the solution entails switching sources and building enough carbon-sucking machines to clear the atmosphere of polluting CO2. Only the political power of the fossil fuel companies prevents us from adopting this solution and ending our existential environmental crisis.

    But techno-fixes (that is, technological solutions that circumvent the need for personal or cultural change) aren’t working so far, and likely won’t work in the future. That’s because fossil fuels will be difficult to replace, and energy usage is central to our collective economic power.

    In other words, power is the key to solving climate change—but not necessarily in the way that many pundits claim. Solutions will not come just from defeating fossil fuel interests and empowering green entrepreneurs; real climate progress will require the willingness of large swathes of the populace, especially in wealthy countries, to forgo forms of power they currently enjoy: comfort and convenience, the ability to travel far and fast, and the option to easily obtain a wide range of consumer products whose manufacture entails large inputs of energy and natural resources.

    This is not a feel-good message, but the longer we postpone grappling with power in this larger sense, the less successful we’re likely to be in coming to terms with the climate threat.

    The Big Picture: Power and Consequences

    Why can there be no climate techno-fix? There are two routes to this conclusion. The first one meanders through the history of humans on Earth, revealing how each new technological or social innovation empowered some people over others, while often imposing a long-term environmental cost. The adoption of agriculture was a milestone on this path: it enabled more people to subsist in any given area, and it led to cities, kings, and slavery; further, in many places, plowing tended to deplete or ruin topsoil, and city-dwellers cut down nearby forests, leading to eventual societal collapse.

    But the real show-stopper came much more recently. The adoption of fossil fuels gave humans the biggest jolt of empowerment ever: in just the last two centuries, our global population has grown eight-fold, and so has per capita energy consumption. Our modern way of life—with cars, planes, supermarkets, tractors, trucks, electricity grids, and internet shopping—is the result.

    Climate change is the shadow of this recent cavalcade of industriousness, since it results from the burning of fossil fuels, the main enablers of modern civilization. Nevertheless, rapidly increasing population and consumption levels are inherently unsustainable and are bringing about catastrophic environmental impacts on their own, even if we disregard the effects of carbon emissions. The accelerating depletion of resources, increasing loads of chemical pollution, and the hastening loss of wild nature are trends leading us toward ecological collapse, with economic and social collapse no doubt trailing close behind. Ditching fossil fuels will turn these trends around only if we also deal with the issues of population and consumption.

    That’s the big picture. However, the quest for a climate techno-fix also fails on its own terms—that is, as a painless means of averting climate change while maintaining our current industrial economy and way of life. The rest of this essay deals with this second trail of evidence and logic, which requires a more detailed presentation. So: buckle up. Here we go.

    Why Solar Panels Won’t Save Consumerism

    Most energy analysts regard solar and wind as the best candidates to substitute for fossil fuels in electrical power generation (since nuclear is too expensive and too risky, and would require too much time for build-out; and hydro is capacity constrained). But these “renewables” are not without challenges. While sunlight and wind are themselves renewable, the technologies we use to capture them aren’t: they’re constructed of non-renewable materials like steel, silicon, concrete, and rare earth minerals, all of which require energy for mining, transport, and transformation. These materials are also depleting, and many will be difficult or impossible to recycle.

    Sunlight and wind are intermittent: we cannot control when the sun will shine or the wind will blow. Therefore, to ensure constant availability of power, these sources require some combination of four strategies:

    • Energy storage (e.g., with batteries) is useful to balance out day-to-day intermittency, but nearly useless when it comes to seasonal intermittency; also, storing energy costs energy and money.
    • Source redundancy (building far more generation capacity than will actually be needed on “good” days, and then connecting far-flung solar and wind farms by way of massive super-grids), is a better solution for seasonal intermittency, but requires substantial infrastructure investment.
    • Excess electricity generated at times of peak production can be used to make synthetic fuels (such as hydrogen, ammonia, or methanol), perhaps using carbon captured from the atmosphere, as a way of storing energy; however, making large amounts of such fuels will again require substantial infrastructure investment, and the process is inherently inefficient.
    • Demand management (using electricity when it’s available, and curtailing usage when it isn’t) is the cheapest way of dealing with intermittency, but it often implies behavioral change or economic sacrifice.

    Today the world uses only about 20 percent of its final energy in the form of electricity. The other 80 percent of energy is used in the forms of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels. A transition away from fossil fuels will entail the electrification of much of that other 80 percent of energy usage, which includes most transportation and key industrial processes. However, many uses of energy, such as aviation and the making of cement for concrete, will be difficult or especially costly to electrify. In principle, the electrification conundrum could be overcome by powering aviation and high-heat industrial processes with synfuels. However, doing this at scale would require a massive infrastructure of pipelines, storage tanks, carbon capture devices, and chemical synthesis plants that would essentially replicate much of our current natural gas and oil supply system.

    Machine-based carbon removal and sequestration methods work in the laboratory, but would need staggering levels of investment in order to be deployed at a meaningful scale, and it’s unclear who would pay for them. These methods also use a lot of energy, and, when full lifecycle emissions are calculated, it appears that more emissions are often generated than are captured.[1] The best carbon capture-and-sequestration responses appear instead to consist of various methods of ecosystem restoration and soil regeneration. These strategies would also reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions. But they would require a near-complete rethinking of food systems and land management.

    Not long ago I collaborated with a colleague, David Fridley, of the Energy Analysis Program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to look closely at what a full transition to a solar-wind economy would mean (our efforts resulted in the book Our Renewable Future).[2] We concluded that it will constitute an enormous job, requiring tens of trillions of dollars in investment. In fact, the task may be next to impossible—if we attempt to keep the overall level of societal energy use the same, or expand it to fuel further economic growth.[3] David and I concluded:

    We citizens of industrialized nations will have to change our consumption patterns. We will have to use less overall and adapt our use of energy to times and processes that take advantage of intermittent abundance. Mobility will suffer, so we will have to localize aspects of production and consumption. And we may ultimately forgo some things altogether. If some new processes (e.g., solar or hydrogen-sourced chemical plants) are too expensive, they simply won’t happen. Our growth-based, globalized, consumption-oriented economy will require significant overhaul.[4]

    The essence of the problem with a climate techno-fix is this: nearly everything we need to do to solve global warming (including building new low-emissions electrical generation capacity, and electrifying energy usage) requires energy and money. But society is already using all the energy and money it can muster in order to do the things that society wants and needs to do (extract resources, manufacture products, transport people and materials, provide health care and education, and so on). If we take energy and money away from those activities in order to fund a rapid energy transition on an unprecedented scale, then the economy will contract, people will be thrown out of work, and many folks will be miserable. On the other hand, if we keep doing all those things at the current scale while also rapidly building a massive alternative infrastructure of solar panels, wind turbines, battery banks, super grids, electric cars and trucks, electrified industrial equipment, and synthetic fuel factories, the result will be a big pulse of energy usage that will significantly increase carbon emissions over the short term (10 to 20 years), since the great majority of the energy currently available for the project must be derived from fossil fuels.

    It takes energy to make solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars, and new generations of industrial equipment of all kinds. For a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE), 10 percent of lifetime energy usage occurs in the manufacturing stage. For an electric car, roughly 40 percent of energy usage occurs in manufacturing, and emissions during this stage are 15 percent greater than for an ICE car (over the entire lifetime of the e-car, emissions are about half those of the gasoline guzzler). With solar panels and wind turbines, energy inputs and carbon emissions are similarly front-loaded to the manufacturing phase; energy output and emissions reduction (from offsetting other electricity generation) come later. Replacing a very high percentage of our industrial infrastructure and equipment quickly would therefore entail a historically large burst of energy usage and carbon emissions. By undertaking a rapid energy transition, while also maintaining or even expanding current levels of energy usage for the “normal” purpose of economic growth, we would be defeating our goal of reducing emissions now—even though we would be working toward the goal of reducing emissions later.

    Many folks nurture the happy illusion that we can do it all—continue to grow the economy while also funding the energy transition—by assuming that the problem is only money (if we find a way to pay for it, then the transition can be undertaken with no sacrifice). This illusion can be maintained only by refusing to acknowledge the stubborn fact that all activity, including building alternative energy generators and carbon capture machinery, requires energy.

    The only way out of the dilemma arising from the energy and emissions cost of the transition is to reduce substantially the amount of energy we are using for “normal” economic purposes—for resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, heating, cooling, and industrial processes—both so that we can use that energy for the transition (building solar panels and electric vehicles), and so that we won’t have to build as much new infrastructure. Increased energy efficiency can help reduce energy usage without giving up energy services, but many machines (LED lights, electric motors) and industrial processes are already highly efficient, and further large efficiency gains in those areas are unlikely. We would achieve an efficiency boost by substituting direct electricity generators (solar and wind) for inherently inefficient heat-to-electricity generators (natural gas and coal power plants); but we would also be introducing new inefficiencies into the system via battery-based electricity storage and hydrogen or synfuels production. In the end, the conclusion is inescapable: actual reductions in energy services would be required in order to transition away from fossil fuels without creating a significant short-term burst of emissions. Some energy and climate analysts other than David Fridley and myself—such as Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester—have reached this same conclusion independently.[5]

    Energy is inextricably related to power. Thus, if society voluntarily reduces its energy usage by a significant amount in order to minimize climate impacts, large numbers of people will likely experience this as giving up power in some form—whether physical, social, or economic.

    It can’t be emphasized too much: energy is essential to all economic activity. An economy can grow continuously only by employing more energy (unless energy efficiency can be increased substantially, and further gains in efficiency can continue to be realized in each succeeding year—a near-impossibility over the long run, since investments in making processes more efficient typically see diminishing returns over time). World leaders demand more economic growth in order to fend off unemployment and other social ills. Thus, in effect, everyone is counting on having more energy in the future, not less.

    A few well-meaning analysts and pundits try to avoid the climate-energy-economy dilemma by creating scenarios in which renewable energy saves the day simply by becoming dramatically cheaper than energy from fossil fuels; or by ignoring the real costs of dealing with energy intermittency in solar and wind power generation. Some argue that we have to fight climate change by becoming even more powerful than we already are—by geoengineering the atmosphere and oceans and thus taking full control of the planet, thereby acting like gods.[6] And some business and political leaders simply deny that climate change is a problem; therefore, no action is required. I would argue that all of these people are deluding themselves and others.

    Do the Right Thing—Even if It’s Hard

    Problems ignored usually don’t go away. And not all problems can be solved without sacrifice. If minimizing climate change really does require substantially reducing world energy usage, then policy makers should be discussing how to do this fairly and with as little negative impact as possible. The longer we delay that discussion, the fewer palatable options will be left.

    The stakes could hardly be higher. If emissions continue, the result will be the failure of ecosystems, massive impacts on economies, widespread human misery and migration, and unpredictable disruptions to political systems. The return of famine as a familiar feature of human existence is a very real likelihood.[7]

    It’s easy to see why people would wish to avoid giving up social, political, economic, and physical power to the degree that’s necessary in order to deal with climate change. Fighting entrenched power is a contentious activity, often a dangerous one. People with power don’t like threats to it, and they often fight back.

    That’s why environmentalists like to choose their battles. The fossil fuel industry is wealthy and formidable, but at least it’s an enemy that’s easy to identify, and a lot of people already feel critical of the oil and gas companies for a variety of reasons (gasoline is too expensive, oil pipelines cause pollution, and so on).

    But not all roadblocks to climate solutions are attributable to the oil companies. The rest of us are also implicated, though to greatly varying degrees depending on where we live and how much we consume. Our whole modern consumerist way of life, the essence of our economic system, is at fault. Unless we’re willing to give up some of our power over nature—our power to extract and transform resources and deliver the goods that we have come to rely on—then we’re destined to careen from one disaster to the next until our worst fears are realized.

    It’s understandable why most environmentalists frame global warming the way they do. It makes solutions seem easier to achieve. But if we’re just soothing ourselves while failing to actually stave off disaster, or even to understand our problems properly, what’s the point?

    The only real long-range solution to climate change centers on reining in human physical, social, and economic power dramatically, but in ways that preserve human dignity, autonomy, and solidarity. That’s more daunting than any techno-fix. But this route has the singular advantage that, if we follow it intelligently and persistently, we will address a gamut of social and environmental problems at once. In the end, it’s the only path to a better, safer future.

    [1] June Sekera and Andreas Lichtenberger, “Assessing Carbon Capture: Public Policy, Science, and Societal Need.” Biophysical Economics and Sustainability volume5, Article number: 14 (2020); https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41247-020-00080-5

    [2] Richard Heinberg and David Fridley, Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for 100 Percent Clean Energy. Washington D.C.: Island Press, 2016. Full text available at www.ourrenewablefuture.org. Accessed September 2, 2020.

    [3] Other researchers have come to similar conclusions. For example, Tim Morgan (former head of research at Tullett Prebon) argues that it is surplus energy—the energy left over once energy required for energy-producing activities—that has driven economic expansion, and that a transition to renewables will necessarily result in declining surplus energy (see Tim Morgan, Surplus Energy Economics website 
    Accessed September 2, 2020.) In a recent paper, Carey King of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, Austin, shows the inadequacy of current growth-based economic modeling of the renewable energy transition and proposes a new model that incorporates data-derived relationships between energy use, resource extraction, and economic growth. His conclusion is that the renewable energy transition will entail trade-offs with consumption, population, and wages; these trade-offs will depend on the path taken (whether high or low rate of investment). Carey King, “An Integrated Biophysical and Economic Modeling Framework for Long-Term Sustainability Analysis: The HARMONY Model.” Ecological Economics, Vol. 169, March 2020. 

    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.106464 Accessed September 2, 2020.

    [4] Heinberg and Fridley, Our Renewable Future, p. 140

    [5] Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin, “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change Demands De-Growth Strategies from Wealthier Nations.” KevinAnderson.Info, November 2013. https://kevinanderson.info/blog/avoiding-dangerous-climate-change-demands-de-growth-strategies-from-wealthier-nations/. Accessed September 2, 2020. See also Patrick Moriarty and Damon Honnery, “Can Renewable Energy Power the Future?” Energy Policy Vol. 93, June 2016, pp. 3-7.  www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030142151630088X. Accessed September 2, 2020.

    [6] Rachel Kaufman, “The Risks, Rewards and Possible Ramifications of Geoengineering Earth’s Climate.” Smithsonian, March 11, 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/risks-rewards-possible-ramifications-geoengineering-earths-climate-180971666/. Accessed September 3, 2020.

    [7] Christopher Flavelle, “Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns.” New York Times, August 8, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/08/climate/climate-change-food-supply.html Accessed September 3, 2020.

    Richard Heinberg is the author of fourteen books including: – Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival (2021) – Our Renewable Future: Laying  the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy, co-authored with David Fridley (2016) – Afterburn (2015 – Snake Oil (July 2013) – The End of Growth (August 2011) – The Post Carbon Reader (2010) (editor) – Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis (2009) – Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines (2007) – The Oil Depletion Protocol: A Plan to Avert Oil Wars, Terrorism & Economic Collapse (2006) – Powerdown: Options & Actions for a Post-Carbon World (2004) – The Party’s Over: Oil, War & the Fate of Industrial Societies (2003) He is Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He has authored scores of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as NatureReutersWall Street JournalThe American ProspectPublic Policy ResearchQuarterly ReviewYes!, and The Sun; and on web sites such as Resilience.org, TheOilDrum.com, Alternet.org, ProjectCensored.com, and Counterpunch.com. Richard has delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues to audiences in 14 countries, addressing policy makers at many levels, from local City Councils to members of the European Parliament. He has been quoted and interviewed countless times for print (including for Reuters, the Associated Press, and Time Magazine), television (including Good Morning America, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Al-Jazeera, and C-SPAN), and radio (including NPR, WABC, and Air America). Richard has appeared in many film and television documentaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s 11th Hour. He is a recipient of the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education, and in 2012 was appointed to His Majesty the King of Bhutan’s International Expert Working Group for the New Development Paradigm initiative. Richard’s animations Don’t Worry, Drive OnWho Killed Economic Growth?  and 300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds (winner of a YouTubes’s/DoGooder Video of the Year Award) have been viewed by nearly two million people. Originally published by Resilience.org

      Read  The Only Long-Range Solution to Climate Change
      September 20, 2021
    Reclaiming Our Common Home
    by Vandana Shiva, Countercurrents, in Counter Solutions.

     The path to an ecological civilization is paved by reclaiming the commons—our common home, the Earth, and the commons of the Earth family, of which we are a part. Through reclaiming the commons, we can imagine possibility for our common future, and we can sow the seeds of abundance through “commoning.”

    In the commons, we care and share—for the Earth and each other. We are conscious of nature’s ecological limits, which ensure her share of the gifts she creates goes back to her to sustain biodiversity and ecosystems. We are aware that all humans have a right to air, water, and food, and we feel responsible for the rights of future generations.

    Enclosures of the commons, in contrast, are the root cause of the ecological crisis and the crises of poverty and hunger, dispossession and displacement. Extractivism commodifies for profit what is held in common for the sustenance of all life.

    The Commons, Defined

    Air is a commons.

    We share the air we breathe with all species, including plants and trees. Through photosynthesis, plants convert the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and give us oxygen. “I can’t breathe” is the cry of the enclosure of the commons of air through the mining and burning of 600 million years’ worth of fossilized carbon.

    Water is a commons.

    The planet is 70% water. Our bodies are 70% water. Water is the ecological basis of all life, and in the commons, conservation creates abundance. The plastic water bottle is a symbol of the enclosures of the commons—first by privatizing water for extractivism, and then by destroying the land and oceans through the resulting plastic pollution.

    Food is a commons.

    Food is the currency of life, from the soil food web, to the biodiversity of plants and animals, insects and microbes, to the trillions of organisms in our gut microbiomes. Hunger is a result of the enclosure of the food commons through fossil fuel-based, chemically intensive industrial agriculture.

    A History of Enclosure

    The enclosure transformation began in earnest in the 16th century. The rich and powerful privateer-landlords, supported by industrialists, merchants, and bankers, had a limitless hunger for profits. Their hunger fueled industrialism as a process of extraction of value from the land and peasants.

    Colonialism was the enclosure of the commons on a global scale.

    When the British East India Company began its de facto rule of India in the mid-1700s, it enclosed our land and forests, our food and water, even our salt from the sea. Over the course of 200 years, the British extracted an estimated $45 trillion from India through the colonial enclosures of our agrarian economies, pushing tens of millions of peasants into famine and starvation.

    Our freedom movement, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, was in fact a movement for reclaiming the commons. When the British established a salt monopoly through the salt laws in 1930, making it illegal for Indians to make salt, Gandhi started the Salt Satyagraha—the civil disobedience movement against the salt laws. He walked to the sea with thousands of people and harvested the salt from the sea, saying: Nature gives it for free; we need it for our survival; we will continue to make salt; we will not obey your laws.

    Expanding Enclosures

    While the enclosures began with the land, in our times, enclosures have expanded to cover lifeforms and biodiversity, our shared knowledge, and even relationships. The commons that are being enclosed today are our seeds and biodiversity, our information, our health and education, our energy, society and community, and the Earth herself.

    The chemical industry is enclosing the commons of our seeds and biodiversity through “intellectual property rights.” Led by Monsanto (now Bayer) in the 1980s, our biodiversity was declared “raw material” for the biotechnology industry to create “intellectual property”—to own our seeds through patents, and to collect rents and royalties from the peasants who maintained the seed commons.

    Reclaiming the commons of our seeds has been my life’s work since 1987. Inspired by Gandhi, we started the Navdanya movement with a Seed Satyagraha. We declared, “Our seeds, our biodiversity, our indigenous knowledge is our common heritage. We receive our seeds from nature and our ancestors. We have a duty to save and share them, and hand them over to future generations in their richness, integrity, and diversity. Therefore we have a duty to disobey any law that makes it illegal for us to save and share our seeds.”

    I worked with our parliament to introduce Article 3(j) into India’s Patent Law in 2005, which recognizes that plants, animals, and seeds are not human inventions, and therefore cannot be patented. Navdanya has since created 150 community seed banks in our movement to reclaim the commons of seed. And our legal challenges to the biopiracy of neem, wheat, and basmati have been important contributions to reclaiming the commons of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.

    Partnership, Not Property

    So, too, with water. When French water and waste management company Suez tried to privatize the Ganga River in 2002, we built a water democracy movement to reclaim the Ganga as our commons. Through a Satyagraha against Coca- Cola in 2001, my sisters in Plachimada, Kerala, shut down the Coca-Cola plant and reclaimed water as a commons.

    Ecological civilization is based on the consciousness that we are part of the Earth, not her masters, conquerors, or owners. That we are connected to all life, and that our life is dependent on others—from the air we breathe to the water we drink and the food we eat.

    All beings have a right to live; that is why I have participated in preparing the draft “Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.” The right to life of all beings is based on interconnectedness. The interconnectedness of life and the rights of Mother Earth, of all beings, including all human beings, is the ecological basis of the commons, and economies based on caring and sharing.

    Reclaiming the commons and creating an ecological civilization go hand in hand.

    VANDANA SHIVA is an internationally renowned activist for biodiversity and against corporate globalization, and author of several books, includingStolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food SupplyEarth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace, and Soil Not Oil; and Staying Alive. She is a YES! contributing editor

    Originally published in YES! Magazine

      Read  Reclaiming Our Common Home
      September 21, 2021
    Beyond the tipping point
    by Jim Miles , Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    Standing where the top of the Helm Glacier used to be, filling the valley up to the tree line on the far hillside. In August, 2005, after 40 years, only the snout of the glacier is visible.

    Twenty years and more ago climate talk concerned long term global warming effects not really occurring until mid-twenty-first century at earliest with most problems occurring toward the end of the century. I remember thinking I would not see the changes as the forecasts were well beyond my lifespan. There were signs of change, obviously, or it would not be an item of discussion other than with climatologists watching the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    The first sign locally in British Columbia was a widespread pine beetle infestation that killed vast swaths of interior forests as the temperatures moderated enough to not kill the overwintering larvae. The second sign I noticed was the rapid recession in glacial ice, and one glacier in particular in Garibaldi Provincial Park as I have photos of it over a 40 year period during which it lost most of its mass and ‘retreated’ two or more kilometers. More recently there have been subtle changes, then more distinct changes to the winter season – shorter duration, less severity – sometimes more snow due to warm moist air, sometimes less snow due to warmer drier air.

    Tipping point

    I had not anticipated this summer’s weather signaling a more dramatic change, both in reality and perception. Much talk has taken place recently about the much more rapid increase in carbon dioxide and the many more significant “100 year storms” being increasingly frequent. Talk of a “tipping point”, an unknown point at which things can only accelerate for the worse, is increasingly presented. After this summer, experiencing a record setting series of events – verifiable by a lifetime of all season outdoor activities as well as empirical data – my senses are indicating that the tipping point is gone and inexorably the climate will change much more rapidly than even now expected.

    It started with the past winter, a warmer January and then a much reduced spring snowfall and continued warmer temperatures. That trend continued up until the end of June when the truly big event struck – the Pacific Northwest ‘heat dome’. On the coast, Vancouver, hundreds of excess deaths from the heat were recorded. Salmon were dying in overheated river water. For several days local temperatures went well above previous record temperatures, my hometown reaching 46° Celsius (115° F. for U.S. interests) and a world record setting 49.6° C (latitudinally) in a nearby town – which subsequently burned almost completely down when a single spark ignited a fire. On the hottest day I stood at the top of our driveway in the sun, blasted with a searing heat.

    All well and good, the heat dome ended, temperatures remained hot but not record setting hot. Except that all was not well and good. Shortly after, intense powerful forest fires with extreme conditions not witnessed before spread throughout the region. For the first time in my life I was witnessing a scenario in which I was in harm’s way and might need to evacuate. Many were, but changes in the wind pattern stopped the closest fire from jumping the local lake.

    I had seen pictures of pyrocumulonimbus clouds and now I had stood under one. Skies were dark, grey smoke clouds billowed thousands of meters overhead, and lightning flickered and rumbled throughout. Probably normal for firefighters, but a first event for many in the area.

    Those events passed as well, but only recently as unseasonal rains are now damping the fires down.

    In the meantime I went on a hiking trip and saw how dangerous the whole situation really was. Most of the trees in the coastal forest showed signs of heat stress, by killing off whole branches and swathes of needles: this comes from trying to prevent water loss due to the heat by closing off stomata which also prevents the intake of necessary carbon dioxide (so much for global warming helping to grow more trees). The result is dead needles, dead branches, and in several cases dead trees rich with resins and turpentines, all set for the next spark or lightning strike. The aroma is very pleasant, the danger is real – see above, powerful forest fires.

    It gave me an uncanny feeling, the sense that this massive change had come about from only a few days of a ‘heat dome’; but it was not just a few days, it was a near year long event – for that matter it was an event decades in the making; and it was not supposed to happen here, it was always ‘over there’ where ‘they’ had floods, hurricanes, arctic vortexes, drought, and yes, forest fires.

    Maybe I am simply spooked by the event, but it feels like we are past the tipping point, and climate events will continue to become more severe, more destructive, and at an increasing rate.

    The future is now

    Driving home from my hiking trip I could see the broader picture of the destruction. Large areas of forest burned across the interior, areas in which only mineralized soil remained and will take decades to grow back, if at all if current heat trends continue. It made me wonder about other parts of the world.

    How many millions have already died due to drought and famines? How many have perished in sudden catastrophic floods? How many areas have highly reduced crop production from the opposites of heat and floods? And no, the warming of higher latitudes will not bring in more agricultural land as most of that land is either rock or tundra swamp with minimal good soils. How will people fare in areas already susceptible to heat and drought through centuries of human manipulation of the environment, with the “Fertile Crescent” being a prime example? The centuries of deforestation and salification of the soil through irrigation have already exacted a heavy toll on the region, aggravated by the last centuries ongoing wars by imperial powers.

    Culture, capitalism, and the military

    There is no real escape. The best humanity can hope for is mitigation, lowering the level of harm. Our main enemy is mostly first world consumer capitalist society: the consumers themselves always wanting more stuff; the huge demands on carbon fuels to keep us warm in winter, cool in summer, and our recreational vehicles running all year; most importantly the greed of profit seeking and the military-industrial-financial complex supporting it all.

    The militaries of the world are the largest institutional users of carbon energy. The U.S. military is mainly used to protect corporate profits and the reserve currency status of the petrodollar. ‘Western’ society is one large complex of empirical extraction for the profit of the already rich and powerful, the entertainment and pacification of the majority, and the subjugation of all other people of the word as indentured wage-slave workers.

    Improbable solutions

    Solutions are available, but highly improbable until we are even further past the tipping point than we already are. Bring all militaries home and reduce them to much smaller self-defence and civic support forces. Stop consuming stuff for the simple sake of having stuff in order to display one’s self-image, or to be continually self-distracted by the latest video or podcast or the many social media services – all prompted by advertising that creates wants rather than servicing needs.

    Involved with all this are other issues of social inequality, racism, poverty, refugees, homelessness, child abuse and trafficking, all readily available under neoliberal economic structures, all ameliorated by a progressive social agenda required in order to alleviate the disasters of capitalism, the largest disaster eventually being climate change.

    Jim Miles is a Canadian educator

      Read Beyond the tipping point
      September 28, 2021
    Religion, Amity and Society: Call for Human Harmony
    by K M Seethi , Countercurrents, in Life/Philosophy .

    In an increasingly convoluted world of religions and cultures, it is imperative to develop and foster social harmony so as to meet the challenges posed by diversity. Recognizing religious diversity and differences is quite important today, and it is quite significant that all religions sustain and reinforce mutual understanding and empathy through dialogue. They also have an obligation to uphold peace and further intra and inter religious harmony with a view to fostering social harmony.

    Kerala, with multi-religious traditions and practices, has a unique distinction of having upheld the principle of ‘harmony in diversity’ and sought to respect each other and bear social responsibilities commonly. Notwithstanding these historical trajectories of secular engagements, there are apprehensions today that interfaith relations tend to get affected by political as well as socio-economic undercurrents and hence promoting social harmony remains a crucial challenge towards the building of a harmonious society.

    It is in this context that the values of renaissance are continuously engaged and brought to light. The launching of ‘Renaissance Lectures’ by Vakkom Moulavi Memorial and Research Centre (VMMRC), Vakkom, Thiruvananthapuram is a part of this task of resuscitating humanist and secular values of Kerala.


    Delivering the first Renaissance Web-Lecture on “Religion, Amity and Society” by VMMRC, eminent theologist and scholar Fr. Dr K.M. George said that “We are living in a complex world of multitudes where we need human harmony rather than religious harmony.” Fr. George, who is currently Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios Chair at Mahatma Gandhi University, said that “religious harmony is good and inevitable, but social harmony must go beyond any religious cordons if peace is the ultimate aim of everything.”

    Fr. George said that “COVID-19 has taught a lesson that we need to be more of ‘fellow-breathers’ rather than ‘fellow-believers’, in a pandemic situation (referring to the reports of shortage of oxygen which actually knows no religion, nor any man-made identity). We can become ‘believers’ only after ensuring sufficient oxygen for all to breath. The implication of this is that we must transcend barriers of religion when we live in a society of different people with different persuasions.” Fr.  George said that “all systems and structures, including religion, degenerate as a consequence of waning of internal criticism and self-correction. Unless we maintain internal vigilance, with perpetual awareness about what is happening around us and what is declining, this degenerative process will continue with enormous costs and consequences.” He forewarned that “the great eternal values of renaissance, as exemplified through humanism, will wither away if we don’t have mechanisms for self-criticism.”

    Fr George pointed out that “Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam—acknowledged as one of the world’s most famous art treasures—set in motion a wave of renaissance in Europe. In a few years after this work, reformation started in the Catholic church and a search for human being started beyond religion and ideologies. The concept of ‘common good’ emerged in this period of enlightenment with considerable intellectual activity which eventually opened doors for rational and humanistic understanding of society.” He reminded; Canadian singer Leonard Cohen’s poem ‘Anthem’ (1991) has a line which runs like this:

    There is a crack, a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in..

    Fr. George said that “in all established systems, cracks developed from time to time with the intervention of great visionaries and intellectuals who eventually helped the light get in. Renaissance took place with such cracks kept facilitating much-needed light and consciousness for social transformation embedded in humanism.” He said that Vakkom Moulavi and Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai were the pioneers of Kerala renaissance who reinforced the values of humanism, with their writings and interventions. Moulavi being a multilinguist (well versed in Malayalam, English, Arabic, Urdu, Tamil) had exposure to the reform and renaissance trends across the world, and that naturally brought new pathways of social and religious transformation in Kerala.

    Fr. George called for a revisit of the values of renaissance for the good of all. However, he said, “we must also be aware of the limits of the concept man is the measure of all things in a changing world of serious environmental crisis, of gender and marginality issues. All these call for a great caution in valourising anthropocentric worldview.”

    Dr. A.K. Ramakrishnan, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University who chaired the session stressed the need to resuscitate the humanist ethics of renaissance and called for extreme vigilance in using religion for sectarian purposes. He said that exclusion and marginalisation, in the name of religion, will be destabilising society if norms of respecting difference are not adhered to.

    Dr B. Ekbal, Dr. Sebastian Vattamattam, Dr V. Mathew Kurian, Sri. Philip Mathew, Dr. M.V. Bijulal, Sri Nahas, Dr. K.M. Seethi and others spoke. Sri. Sameer Muneer welcomed.

      Read  Religion, Amity and Society: Call for Human Harmony
      September 30, 2021
    What Might an Ecosocialist Society Look Like?
    by David Klein , Countercurrents, in Counter Solutions.

    Before describing possible features of a future ecosocialism, it is worthwhile to consider why such a system is even needed. Why can’t the problems that ecosocialism would solve also be remedied within the current global capitalist system? Part I of this essay addresses that question by summarizing recent scientific reports on the state of the climate and extent of the ecological crisis; reviewing available methods and technologies that could be used to address the climate and ecological crises; and briefly describing capitalism’s structural inability to provide solutions at the scale of the crises. Part II then takes up the subject of the title, ecosocialism, along with strategies to move in that direction. 

    Part I: Context and Background

    The threat to life on Earth posed by the climate and ecological crises can hardly be overstated. A 2019 Nature article warned that up to a million species of plants and animals are on the verge of extinction, and a United Nations study the same year identified global warming as a major driver of wildlife decline. Much of the devastation to date was catalogued in the 2020 WWF Living Planet report, which recorded a 68 percent decline in the population of vertebrates around the world, in just the past five decades. More succinctly, scientists report that Earth is experiencing a sixth mass extinction. (The previous mass extinction, 66 million years ago, ended the dinosaurs).

    The scale of the environmental crisis is unprecedented in human history. At stake are human civilization and billions of lives. An article last year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicted that for every additional 1̊C rise beyond the 2019 global average, a billion people will be forced to abandon their locations or endure insufferable heat. The paper warns that under a scenario of increasing emissions, areas now home to a third of the world’s population could experience the same temperatures as the hottest parts of the Sahara within 50 years.

    Summing up the findings of some 150 scientific studies, a 2021 paper authored by 17 scientists warned that the “scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its life forms –- including humanity –- is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp even for well-informed experts.” Adding further urgency, 101 Nobel laureates released an open letter in April  2021 in which they wrote, “We are seized by the great moral issue of our time: the climate crisis and commensurate destruction of nature.” The laureates called for a worldwide fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.

    Global heating is driven by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and yet emissions continue at high levels despite the chorus of promises by “climate leaders” in governments. In 2020 global emissions decreased by a meager 5.8 percent due to Covid-19 lockdowns, but they were already on the rebound by the end of the year. For the current year, 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts the second largest annual increase in history of greenhouse gas emissions, as global economies recover from the Covid-19 recession. In May 2021 a record-breaking monthly average concentration of 419 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 was measured in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, breaking the previous May 2020 record of 417 ppm.

    The drivers of ecocide, more generally, include not only climate change, but also habitat destruction, toxic dumping, plastic pollution in the oceans, radiation poisoning, and other customary byproducts of the global capitalist economy. All of this destruction continues unabated despite the flood of warnings from scientists, lobbying by environmental activists, and even warnings from institutions deeply rooted in the capitalist economy.

    Consider, for example, that in May 2021 the IEA released an unprecedented call to the world to rapidly reach zero emissions in its report, Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector. Widespread news coverage and expressions of optimism followed. Yet from February to the end of April 2021, the Biden administration approved nearly 1200 drilling permits on federal lands, along with more than 200 offshore permits, and defended in court the ConocoPhillips Willow project in Alaska, which is expected to emit 260 million metric tons of CO2 during the next 30 years, the equivalent of 66 coal-fired plants. And Biden is far from alone among world leaders in his support of fossil fuel expansions.

    Is Global Sustainability Achievable?

    The current trajectory toward planetary suicide cannot be attributed to a dearth of technology for sustainable energy, agriculture, transportation, and housing. The means to achieve zero emissions by midcentury, as called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2018 special report, already exists, thanks to the superabundance of available energy from the sun.

    The sun radiates far more energy to Earth in one hour than all of humanity uses in a year. The Carbon Tracker Initiative is a London based think-tank that advises investors on climate threats to their portfolios. The group released a report demonstrating that with current technology, and in a subset of available locations, it is possible to capture energy from solar and wind energy alone that is more than 100 times the current global energy demand. In fact, the land required for solar panels alone to provide all global energy is 0.3% of the global land area, which is less than the land area currently used by fossil fuel structures.

    Research and detailed plans for the world to achieve zero emissions were pioneered by Mark Jacobson at Stanford University. Jacobson and his collaborators developed “roadmaps for 139 Countries and the 50 United States to Transition to 100% Clean, Renewable Wind, Water, and Solar Power for all Purposes by 2050 and 80% by 2030.” In congressional testimony, Jacobson explained that “the main barriers to a conversion are neither technical nor economic; rather, they are social and political.”

    The work of Jacobson et al is consistent with many other independent studies. Among these is Princeton University’s recently released  Net-Zero America Report, which charted five pathways to reach net-zero emissions through a rapid increase of the use of solar panels and wind turbines. It should be noted, however, that limited availability of metals and rare earth components points to the preferability of high quality electrified mass transportation, as opposed to single occupant vehicles, electrified or not.

    Sustainable agricultural methods are also readily available as evidenced, for example, by Cuba’s adoption of organic composting, crop interplanting, bio-pesticides, crop rotations, and extensive urban gardening, beginning in the 1990s and thereafter achieving worldwide recognition.

    Humanity has the means to achieve zero emissions rapidly and live sustainably and well through renewable energy, electrified mass transportation, and agroecology. So, given the looming threat of ecocide, why haven’t governments taken serious steps, at the scale of the crisis, to save humanity and protect the biodiversity of the planet?  Why is it only getting worse?

    The Culprit: Capitalism

    Because of its requirement for unending economic growth, capitalism is the fundamental driver of the climate and ecological crises. A corporation that cannot promise growth is a corporation that will soon be out of business, and the global capitalist system is composed of a multitude of expanding corporations. As David Harvey put it, “Zero growth is a necessity [to avoid ecologial collapse] and zero growth is incompatible with capitalism.”

    Capitalism requires perpetual economic growth in order to avoid economic crises such as the Great Depression. More specifically, in order to stave off mass unemployment and economic misery, capitalism requires increasing commodity production, escalating resource extraction, increasing trash and toxic dumping, and ever-increasing energy production.

    Capitalist expansion takes three forms:

    1)  Colonial conquest and imperialism, with the introduction of commodity production to new territories for new markets and cheap labor.

    2) Increasing assimilation of public commons into the logic of capitalism; for example, privatization and commodification of healthcare, education, and drinking water.

    3) Capitalism’s monotonic secular growth in commodity production and consumption.

    It is this third form of capitalist expansion that drives environmental catastrophe most directly. Examples include the exponential growth in plastic production since World War II; the explosive growth in air travel; cell phone proliferation; global energy consumption; blockchained cryptocurrencies (which have enormous carbon footprints), and the rapid growth of weapons industries.

    Capitalism, by its very nature, must expand. It has already surpassed the ecological limits of the planet in the sense that global consumption now exceeds the planet’s bio-capacity to regenerate the resources consumed. According to the 2020 World Wildlife Fund report, 1.56 Earths would be required to renewably meet the demands humanity makes on Nature each year. Capitalism is not only incapable of responding adequately to the environmental crisis, it is the very cause of the crisis and can only make matters worse.

    But is there a viable alternative?

    Part II: Ecosocialism

    Building a movement to save the biosphere requires more than just being against capitalism and its ecocidal destruction; it also requires being for something, and communicating a positive vision for the future. Ecosocialism is such a vision.

    Let’s recognize from the outset that ecosocialism cannot emerge out of thin air. The viability of post-capitalist social relations will depend inescapably on the extent of the destruction that capitalism leaves in its wake, along with decisions made as an associated revolutionary democratic process unfolds. Thus, implicit assumptions necessarily lie within the speculative and aspirational proposals that follow.

    While there is no universally agreed upon blueprint for ecosocialism, general characterizations are widely accepted. Ecosocialism recognizes ecological principles and sustainability as essential to life. Ecosocialism is democratic and calls for sustainable production based on human needs rather than profit. Of critical importance, ecosocialism proposes a steady state economy that does not require growth. While socialism is capable of economic growth, unlike capitalism, it does not require economic growth to avoid economic crises. It is this critical feature of socialism that makes sustainability possible.

    The energy needs of an ecosocialist society would be far less than what capitalism demands. For example, it has been estimated that more than 150 billion single-use beverage containers are purchased each year in the United States and 320 million take-out cups are thrown away each day. More than 100 billion pieces of junk mail are delivered to mail boxes every year, which generates 51 million tons of greenhouse gases annually through production and decomposition. Nighttime light pollution that disrupts natural cycles for the sole purpose of advertising and promoting overconsumption is destructive and unnecessary. These and many other wasteful uses of energy would naturally be eliminated in an ecosocialist framework.

    Few would disagree that a viable ecosocialism should include free health care, free education, free mass transportation, and many other services. Some capitalist countries already come close to these goals, so ecosocialism should do that and more. Veterinary services, for example, might be added to the publicly funded services, both for domestic and wild animals.

    Ecosocialism will be built from what precedes it. So the repurposing of existing structures would play an important role in its development. For example, already existing shopping malls might be converted to community centers that provide gardens, sports and leisure facilities, theater and concert venues, community political meeting spaces, perhaps health services, and more.

    Political Power and Ecosocialist Government 

    The advanced stage of the climate crisis imposes serious environmental constraints on any future post-capitalist society. A democratically chosen ecosocialist government would therefore need sufficient political power to shut down or repurpose destructive industries on national and international scales, including not only fossil fuel industries, but also the industries that depend on fossil fuels. To accomplish this, it will be necessary to socialize virtually all large-scale industry. In addition, large scale carbon capture and sequestration might be necessary to restore parts of the biosphere, and that also would require government coordination.

    However, this does not mean that small-scale owner-operated businesses, local crafts, mom-and-pop restaurants, worker cooperatives, or family garden farms would have to be nationalized, though some regulations might be necessary. Such questions would have to be resolved through democratic processes.

    It is important to note that some industries and services will need to expand, including energy conservation, renewable energy systems, public health care, public transit, public schools, durable mass transportation vehicles, construction of energy efficient housing, production of long lasting appliances and electronics, repair shops, public services of all kinds, environmental remediation, reforestation, and organic farming.

    Money and Banks

    What kind of function would money play in an ecosocialist society? Under capitalism it can be used to buy things, but it can also be used as capital, that is, as an investment whose purpose is to acquire more money. That is the function of Wall Street.

    Under ecosocialism there would be no Wall Street. An ecosocialist society could restrict the use of money by individuals solely to buy things, and leave publicly owned banks as the sole sources of capital for new developments, e.g. to build or upgrade healthcare centers, energy storage facilities, community centers and parks; remediate environmental destruction; and support agricultural, artistic, and recreational endeavors of all sorts. But banks would be prohibited from making capital loans for the purpose of profiteering from the work of others.

    Work and Pay

    As David Graeber has famously observed, most jobs under capitalism are pointless or destructive. For example, advertising, corporate law, financial services, fossil fuel extraction, health insurance administration, public relations, plastic production, telemarketing, weapons production, along with much of policing, security, and military employment. The elimination of these and other needless jobs would free up more labor and, if socialized, could lead to a drastically reduced standard workweek with much more leisure time.

    But for work that is necessary, how would people be paid? More than a century ago Bertrand Russell wrote The Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism, and Syndicalism. Some of his proposals might work in an ecosocialist economy.

    Consider the question: Should adults have to work if they are able to? Russell suggested, even in the context of the much more limited productive capacity of 1918, that basic needs like food, shelter, and medicine could be supplied without restriction. Basic foods like bread, fruits, and vegetables could be essentially free, and this could be organized through a program of minimum guaranteed income or some form of credits.

    But since some work needs to be done, what would be the incentive for people to work? Russell put it this way:

    “a certain small income, sufficient for necessaries, should be secured to all, whether they work or not, and … a larger income, as much larger as might be warranted by the total amount of commodities produced, should be given to those who are willing to engage in some work which the community recognizes as useful… We might, for instance, give an intermediate income to those who are only willing to work half the usual number of hours, and an income above that of most workers to those who choose a specially disagreeable trade.”

    For those who choose to do work considered valuable by the community (likely the majority of people), credits could be earned for things that go beyond basic needs, such as works of art, high quality racing bicycles or sailboats, rare wines, or vacations to other parts of the world via large sailing vessels, airships, or hydrogen-powered aircraft.

    But there could also be nonmonetary rewards for significant contributions. Public recognition and acknowledgment are more valued by many people than money beyond what is required for basic needs. Examples might be scientific contributions (think of Jonas Salk), teaching awards, recognition for art murals, contributions to the well being of animals — whatever might be valued by local communities, nation states, or the world.

    Agriculture, Animals and Cities 

    Agriculture, forestry and other land use, according to the IPCC, accounts for nearly a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is due in large part to deforestation, the use of fossil-fueled machinery, animal agriculture, petroleum-based fertilizers, chemicals, and soil disruption. Alternative accounting systems give even higher estimates of the current carbon footprint of food production.

    On top of that, global shipping currently produces as much carbon dioxide as all of America’s coal plants combined, and much of the world’s food is shipped across oceans and borders. Food production for the global capitalist centers also relies on heavily exploited human beings brought in from poorer countries, and food itself is imported to capitalist centers through the use of highly exploited and abused workers elsewhere.

    Industrial farming is not only a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it also imposes commodification and suffering of animals for the sake of greater production efficiencies. Within the food industry, capitalism’s drive for ever greater profits has resulted in a system of animal slaughter and sequestration through factory farms of unprecedented efficiency, volume of production, and unspeakable cruelty. Even so, as noted in Part I, this facet of capitalism is dwarfed by the mass extinctions that this economic system carries out on a planetary scale.

    To reverse capitalism’s ongoing extinctions, E.O. Wilson proposed a program of half earth. He calculated that at least 80 percent of all species could replenish and survive with this fraction the planet protected. To carry out such a program it would be necessary to create new cities and locate most humans in them, but the proposal includes leaving indigenous peoples out of that process, as they have been protecting biodiversity for millennia.

    With or without a half earth program, transformative changes in food production are necessary for survival under any circumstances, and certainly would take place in the context of ecosocialism. Employing agroecological methods, moving food production to the perimeters of cities, establishing urban and vertical food farms, promoting cuisines based on locally produced foods in season, and making food preservation a part of these systems for areas with short growing seasons would drastically reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture and its transport, and even help to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere.

    What would be the labor demands of organic, sustainable food production? Without fossil-fueled farm machinery, petroleum-based fertilizers, and other aspects of industrial farming, more human and humanely treated animal labor (such as oxen and draft horses) might be needed. However, depending on the state of the climate and environment, those labor requirements could be offset by the use of electrified tractors and machines, the discontinuation of extensive unhealthy food processing, ethanol and corn syrup production, and other dubious features of the capitalist model of agriculture.

    How Can an Ecosocialist Future be Achieved?

    To defeat capitalism, it helps to understand it. At its core is surplus value, the difference between what a worker is paid and the value of her labor. Surplus value is the fount from which all other profits flow (upward) in capitalism. It may be thought of as capitalism’s “on-off switch.”

    Turn off surplus value, and capitalism cannot continue. The working class is therefore uniquely situated to lead the struggle to abolish capitalism, because it is the working class that generates surplus value.

    Looking at the state of the world today, it would be hard to argue that the postmodernist strategy of the last several decades to focus almost exclusively on identity to the near exclusion of capitalism has been anything but a disaster.  Not only is the world at the brink of ecological collapse, but the working class has also never been more polarized. Identity politics has failed even on its own terms, if the surge of white supremacy is any measure.

    Fortunately, in the last few years, there has been an increasing recognition that capitalism is not only the fundamental driver of destruction of the biosphere, but also a failed economic system even in its own terms, as it generates unprecedented extremes of wealth inequality and perpetuates institutionalized racism. As Malcolm X explained, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”

    Perhaps a strategy for minimizing capitalism’s destruction of Nature while building an ecosocialist future is first to push the capitalist system to the (insufficient) limits of what it can accept, and then make the reasonable and necessary demands for survival that it cannot accommodate. At that point the system is vulnerable to collapse. The Green New Deal (GND), together with building unity and power of the working class, is such an approach.

    At present, the GND is less a specific set of policies, and more a framework for far-reaching, coherent environmental policies that would:

    1) Nationalize the fossil fuel industry and the industries that depend on fossil fuels for the purpose of phasing them out.

    2) Launch a national emergency program to jump-start energy conservation programs, renewable power projects, electrified mass transportation, and sustainable agriculture.

    3) Institute a federal public-works program, similar to FDR’s 1930s depression programs, to retrain and employ workers from fossil fuel-dependent industries to build a new sustainable economy with high wages and benefits.

    The third item is key. Without guarantees of high-paying jobs to workers who stand to lose employment from the elimination of fossil fuels, a viable GND cannot materialize. As to empowering workers, the PRO Act, currently before the Senate, if passed would go a long way in strengthening workers’ rights and opening doors for forming and joining unions — and it would help pave the way for a GND.

    An empowered and unified working class is capable of organizing and carrying out national and international general strikes, as part of a revolutionary struggle to overturn capitalism and begin to build a survivable system of human relations. Such actions will be pivotal in the struggle to dismantle capitalism and to create an ecosocialist alternative.

    However, such a high degree of organized resistance does not yet exist. So, what can be done under the current circumstances? Much can and must be done. Mass actions at this time are critical. North American organizations such as  Black Socialists in AmericaDemocratic Socialists of AmericaExtinction RebellionFood & Water Action, Food & Water WatchSunrise Movement, and System Change Not Climate Change, among others, are working to stop the destruction of Nature through elections, legislation, judicial actions, educational outreach, direct occupation, and radical organizing. Join them! There is still time, but only if working people rapidly organize, unite, and militantly agitate for a better world. Survival of life on this planet depends on it.

    Acknowledgement. The author would like to thank Maura Stephens for her valuable suggestions and extensive editing.

    David Klein is a mathematical physicist and professor of mathematics at California State University Northridge, where he is also director of the Climate Science Program. A longtime member of System Change not Climate Change, he is the author of the ebook Capitalism and Climate Change: The Science and Politics of Global Warming.

    Originally published by System Change not Climate Change

      Read What Might an Ecosocialist Society Look Like?
      October 6, 2021
    Five billion people will be water insecure by 2050, says UN WMO climate report
    by Countercurrents Collective, Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    About half of the world’s population will suffer from water insecurity by 2050, found The State of Climate Services 2021: Water , a new report from the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

    The report said:

    More than 2 billion people are living in countries under water stress and 3.6 billion people face inadequate access to water at least one month per year. Meanwhile, water-related hazards have increased in frequency for the past 20 years. Since 2000, flood-related disasters have increased by 134%, most deaths and economic losses occurred in Asia, where warning systems require strengthening, the number and duration of droughts also increased by 29%, and most deaths were in Africa, again indicating the need for stronger warning systems.

    This latest WMO report, published Tuesday, explores the progress made by WMO Members in using climate services to address water-related challenges and highlights the gaps in user engagement, forecasting, observing networks, and data collection that still exist.

    The warning comes as floods, droughts and other water-related hazards increase due to climate change, while the number of people experiencing “water stress” continues to rise amid population growth and dwindling availability.

    The report said:

    • In 2018, some 3.6 billion people globally had inadequate access to water for one month per year, which is expected to surpass five billion by 2050.
    • In 2020, more than 20% of the world’s river basins had experienced either rapid increases in their surface water area indicative of flooding, a growth in reservoirs and newly inundated land; or rapid declines in surface water area indicating drying up of lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, floodplains and seasonal water bodies. Rapid changes in surface water extent and availability are contributing to elevated disaster risks and potentially negatively affecting water-dependent sectors, e.g. agriculture, energy. More than 80% of wetlands are estimated to have been lost since the pre-industrial era. Despite an average of 58% of countries’ transboundary basin areas having an operational arrangement for water cooperation, only 24 countries reported that all their transboundary basins are covered by such.
    • Globally, 56% of household wastewater flows was safely treated in 2020, with regional values ranging from 25 to 80%, indicating that progress remains uneven across the globe. Data from 42 countries reporting on the generation and treatment of total wastewater flows indicate that less than a third received at least some treatment in 2015. The situation is similar for industrial wastewater flows, although here data are only available for 14 countries. In all world regions, and in low-, medium- and high-income countries alike, many water bodies were still in good condition; in 2020, 60% of water bodies assessed in 89 countries had good ambient water quality. However, water quality data are not collected routinely in a majority of countries; especially lower income countries rely on relatively few measurements from relatively few water bodies and lack suitable environmental water quality standards. Therefore global status and trends cannot be completely assessed.

    “Increasing temperatures are resulting in global and regional precipitation changes, leading to shifts in rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, with a major impact on food security and human health and well-being,” said Petteri Taalas, the WMO Secretary-General.

    Water-related disasters have increased in frequency since the year 2000, according to the report, which was coordinated by WMO and includes input from more than 20 international organizations, development agencies and scientific institutions.

    Taalas recalled that over the past year, extreme rainfall across the continent caused massive flooding in Japan, China, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and India.  Millions were displaced and hundreds were killed.

    “But it is not just in the developing world that flooding has led to major disruption,” he said. “Catastrophic flooding in Europe led to hundreds of deaths and widespread damage.”

    “Lack of water continues to be a major cause of concern for many nations, especially in Africa. More than two billion people live in water-stressed countries and suffer lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation,” said Taalas, adding, “we need to wake up to the looming water crisis.”

    Invest and improve

    The report calls for improving water management, integrating water and climate policies, and scaling up investment as current measures are fragmented and inadequate.

    Recommendations include investing in integrated resources water management to better manage water stress, especially in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

    Authorities in the LDCs are particularly urged to invest in early warning systems for droughts and floods.

    Countries are also encouraged to fill gaps related to data collection critical to climate services and early warning systems, and to join the Water and Climate Coalition, a WMO initiative that provides support, including in improving assessment of water resources.

    The report said:

    Assuming a constant population, an additional 8% of the world’s population in the 2000s will be exposed to new or aggravated water scarcity associated with a 2°C of global warming. Concurrent population growth would further increase this number.

    Good News

    The report said:

    The good news is that nations are determined to improve the situation. According to UNFCCC, water is an adaptation priority in 79% of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement. And not only is water among the highest priority sectors across all NDCs, it is a cross-cutting factor affecting adaptation in the majority of sectors.

    The WMO assessment in this report found, for WMO Member countries (101) for which data are available, that:

    • There is inadequate interaction among climate services providers and information users in 43% of WMO Members.
    • Data is not collected for basic hydrological variables in approximately 40% of WMO Members.
    • Hydrological data is not made available in 67% of WMO Members.
    • End-to-end riverine flood forecasting and warning systems are absent or inadequate in 34% of WMO Members that provided data – with only 44% of Members’ existing systems reaching more than two-thirds of the population at risk.
    • End-to-end drought forecasting and warning systems are lacking or inadequate in 54% of WMO Members that provided data – with only 27% of Members’ existing systems reaching more than two-thirds of the population at risk.

    The report said:

    Several constraints limit countries’ capacity to access financing, including low capacities for developing and implementing projects, and difficulties to absorb resources within low-income countries’ public financial systems. Despite a 9% increase in financial pledges made to tackle SDG 6, official development assistance (ODA) commitments remained stable at US$ 8.8 billion, despite increased funding needs to meet targets under the SDG6 – between 2015 and 2019.

    The report made six strategic recommendations to improve the implementation and effectiveness of climate services for water worldwide:

    1. Invest in Integrated Resources Water Management as a solution to better manage water stress, especially in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
    2. Invest in end-to-end drought and flood early warning systems in at-risk LDCs, including for drought warning in Africa and flood warning in Asia.
    3. Fill the capacity gap in collecting data for basic hydrological variables which underpin climate services and early warning systems.
    4. Improve the interaction among national level stakeholders to co-develop and operationalize climate services with information users to better support adaptation in the water sector. There is also a pressing need for better monitoring and evaluation of socio-economic benefits, which will help to showcase best practices.
    5. Fill the gaps in data on country capacities for climate services in the water sector, especially for SIDS.
    6. Join the Water and Climate Coalition to promote policy development for integrated water and climate assessments, solutions and services, and benefit from a network of partners that develop and implement tangible, practical projects, programs and systems to improve hydroclimate services for resilience and adaptation.

      Read  Five billion people will be water insecure by 2050, says UN WMO climate report
      October 7, 2021
    Vicious Cycle of Climate Crisis: Depletion of Natural Resources, Violent Conflict Set to Worsen Resource Degradation, Conflict
    by Countercurrents Collective , Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    1.26 billion people at highest risk of conflict and displacement caused by environmental damage. A vicious cycle linking the depletion of natural resources with violent conflict may have gone past the point of no return in parts of the world and is likely to be exacerbated by climate change, said a report on Thursday.

    Food insecurity, lack of water and the impact of natural disasters, combined with high population growth, are stoking conflict and displacing people in vulnerable areas, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) said.

    IEP uses data from the UN and other sources to predict the countries and regions most at risk in its “Ecological Threat Register”.

    On October 7, 2021, the IEP launched its second Ecological Threat Report (ETR).

    Key results

    • Eleven of 15 countries with the worst environmental threat scores are currently classified as being in conflict. Another four are classified as at high risk of substantial falls in peace, highlighting the relationship between resource degradation and conflict.
    • Half of the world’s population will live in the 40 least peaceful countries, by 2050. This will be an increase of 1.3 billion people from 2020 levels.
    • New global poll data reveals only 23% of China’s citizens see climate change as a serious threat making it the 7th least concerned country.
    • Global food insecurity has increased by 44% since 2014, affecting 30.4% of the world’s population in 2020, and is likely to rise further.
    • COVID-19 has increased food insecurity and prevented refugees from returning home.
    • With conflict having cost the global economy $600 billion in 2020, the ETR shows that COP26 negotiations need to approve resilience funding to ecological hotspots before drivers of conflict intensify.

    The ETR analyses a broad range of indicators associated with ecological risk including food and water availability, population growth and societal resilience, to better understand the countries most at risk of experiencing significant deteriorations in peace.

    Conflict and Ecological Threats

    The IEP said:

    The main finding from the ETR 2021 is that a cyclic relationship exists between ecological degradation and conflict. It is a vicious cycle, whereby degradation of resources leads to conflict, leading to further resource degradation. Eleven of the 15 countries with the worst ETR scores are currently experiencing conflict. Another four are classified as at high risk of substantial falls in peace. Many more countries are likely to fall into conflict unless these cycles are reversed.

    To reverse these cycles both the ecological environment and societal resilience need to improve, which requires a systemic approach. This means a reappraisal of how development is currently undertaken.

    Underlining the severity of the finding, the number of malnourished people has been steadily rising since 2016 and is forecast to rise by 343 million people by 2050, creating another driver for conflict. Food insecurity has also increased to 30.4% of the world’s population, according to FAO. This is the reversal of a trend spanning decades which has seen undernourishment steadily improve. Malnutrition is worse for men, especially in Africa where twice as many males suffer from thinness than females. Stunting is also worse in boys than girls.

    Three areas of the world suffer from the greatest risk of societal collapse as a result of food insecurity, lack of water, population growth and the impacts of natural disasters. The Sahel-Horn belt of Africa, from Mauritania to Somalia; the Southern African belt, from Angola to Madagascar; the Middle East and Central Asian belt, from Syria to Pakistan. These areas are in urgent need of attention.

    Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of food insecurity, with 66% of the population deemed food insecure. By 2050, sub-Saharan Africa’s population is projected to be 2.1 billion, a 90% increase from today’s population. It also has the poorest measures of societal resilience.

    The Sahel is the next focal point for potential societal collapse as demonstrated by the recent proliferation of radical Islamic groups. Niger and Burkina Faso are currently among the world’s least peaceful countries (measured by the GPI) and are amongst the worst scorers on the ETR.

    Ecological Threat and Migration

    The institute said:

    The ETR has found that more than 1.26 billion people live in 30 hotspot countries, suffering from both extreme ecological risk and low levels of resilience. These countries are least likely to be able to mitigate and adapt to new ecological threats, which is likely to cause mass displacement.

    The number of people displaced by conflict has been steadily rising with 23.1 million people from hotspot countries living outside their home country in 2020. Europe was hosting the largest number of displaced people from hotspot countries, at 6.6 million. These numbers are likely to increase by tens of millions as ecological degradation and climate change takes hold.

    Steve Killelea, Founder & Executive Chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace, said:

    “COP26 provides an ideal opportunity for leaders to recognize that the ecological threats of today need to be addressed before climate change substantially accelerates them, costing trillions more to address.

    “The solution to these problems lies in a more systemic approach, partially through the conscious integration of development agencies. The problems of conflict, food and water insecurity, displacement, business development, health, education and indeed climate change are interrelated, and the interconnectedness of these relationships must be recognized for them to best be addressed.”

    Attitudes Towards Climate Change

    It said:

    New polling of over 150,000 people in 142 countries has found that the most significant emitters of carbon dioxide are countries where their citizens are least concerned with climate change. They are also some of the most populous countries in the world. Only 23% of China’s citizens see climate change as a very serious threat, while India recorded only 35%. The global average was 49.8%, with men slightly more concerned than women by 2%.

    Without the buy in of the citizens of these countries, climate change action is unlikely to be effective.

    Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries scored the highest and occupied 12 of the 20 top spots. Countries immersed in conflict scored poorly, with Yemen, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Myanmar having the worst scores.

    The U.S. scored near the global average at 49.2%, while the United Kingdom had a relatively high score at 69.9%

    The greatest gender disparity was in the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Finland where women scored higher than men by 21%, 18% and 13% respectively.

    Food Insecurity

    The institute said:

    Since 2014, the number of people without access to adequate food globally has risen every year, increasing by 44%. Increases in food insecurity are associated with deteriorations in peace.

    By 2050, the global demand for food is expected to increase by 50%.

    Due to lockdowns and border closures, COVID-19 has amplified food insecurity further and will likely have a long-lasting negative impact on world hunger due to stagnant economic growth.

    Water Stress

    It said:

    The ETR reveals that by 2040 over 5.4 billion people will live in countries facing extreme water stress. Lebanon and Jordan are the countries most at risk.

    Sub-Saharan Africa has the most countries with the lowest levels of social resilience combined with the highest population growth. 70% of its population suffer from inadequate access to safely managed water, which will be compounded by high population growth.

    Building Ecological Resilience

    IEP said:

    Although military interventions are necessary, they will not solve the underlying ecological issues driving the conflicts. The lesson from Afghanistan is that without well planned and executed development spending, obtaining peace is impossible. The recent fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban highlights the limits of the military and exposes a poor spending strategy. It is estimated that the total US federal expenditure on Afghanistan cost $2.261 trillion – $50,000 for each Afghan citizen currently living in the country. This is more than 100 times the average Afghan’s yearly income.

    The 11 countries with the worst ETR score are Afghanistan, Niger, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi, Guatemala, Mozambique, Pakistan, Angola and Yemen.

    The ETR’s present edition (second edition) covers 178 independent states and territories.

    The ETR combines measures of resilience with the most comprehensive ecological data available to shed light on the countries least likely to cope with extreme ecological shocks, now and into the future.

    The ETR includes the most recent and respected scientific research on population growth, water stress, food insecurity, droughts, floods, cyclones, and rising temperature. In addition, the report uses IEP’s Positive Peace framework to identify areas where the resilience is unlikely to be strong enough to adapt or cope with these future shocks. The report draws on a wide variety of data sources, including World Bank, World Resources Institute, Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN, the UN Human Rights Council, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, International Organization for Migration and IEP.


    Afghanistan gets the worst score on the report, which says its ongoing conflict has damaged its ability to cope with risks to water and food supplies, climate change, and alternating floods and droughts.

    Six seminars including governments, military institutions and development groups last year returned the message that “it is unlikely that the international community will reverse the vicious cycles in some parts of the world”, IEP said.

    This is particularly the case in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, which has seen more and worsening conflicts over the last decade, it said.

    “With tensions already escalating, it can only be expected that climate change will have an amplifying effect on many of these issues,” the report said.

    Long-lasting Warm Temperatures in Eastern U.S.

    Another media report said:

    For about a week after the fall equinox, much of the eastern two-thirds of the Lower 48 states enjoyed crisp, refreshing autumn weather. But now Mother Nature has changed course. Warm, humid conditions more typical of late summer have returned and show little sign of retreating.

    Forecasts now call for above-average temperatures lasting at least 10 days, with high temperatures in some areas nearly 30 degrees above normal at times. The core of the anomalous warmth is predicted to focus in the north-central U.S., but above normal temperatures are anticipated to prevail in most places east of the Rockies.

    The weather pattern may trigger heavy rainfall and severe storms in the central U.S. and could eventually support new tropical storm activity near the Gulf of Mexico.

    It’s not clear when this warm pattern will break down, and October is almost certain to end up warmer than normal over a large part of the nation.

    Unusual Heat in the Northern Plains

    The heat is already baking parts of the Northern Plains, with temperatures forecast to hit 90 on Tuesday in western North Dakota, where average highs this time of year are in the 60s. Bismarck could spike to 90 and tie a record last set in 1949, while Minot is forecast to shatter its record of 87 by four degrees.

    Adjacent parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan may see temperatures climb higher than in the heart of Texas. Winnipeg is forecast to reach 82 degrees Tuesday and could see one of its longest October streaks of highs of above 68 degrees on record.

    The heat is predicted to expand as far west as eastern Montana, with record-challenging highs in the mid-80s predicted around Billings.

    This latest bout of heat follows an even more intense round last week when it hit 100 degrees in Hazen, N.D., the highest temperature ever recorded so far north so late in the calendar year.

    The heat is combining with bone-dry conditions to bring “near critical” fire weather concerns across the northern part of the central United States, with relative humidity values falling as low as 10%.

    In the coming days, periodic fall cold fronts may attempt to transport cooler air to the Northern Plains and Midwest, but the fronts will largely fizzle before they reach the Eastern Seaboard and are unlikely to displace milder-than-average temperatures in most areas.

    Expansive and Enduring Warmth

    The pattern of enduring warmth is the product of a bulge in the jet stream over the middle and eastern parts of the Lower 48. To the west, a dipping jet stream is set to bring cool conditions and even mountain snow in the Rockies. This part appears to be locked in for at least the next 10 days or so.

    Temperatures in the central and eastern United States will remain in the 70s and 80s, delaying the traditional stairstep decline that typically occurs during October. The European modeling system shows temperatures at least 5 to 15 degrees above average east of the Rockies.

    Chicago could see highs approaching 80 degrees this weekend, with sunny conditions and a slight uptick in humidity.

    Columbus Day in the nation’s capital could feature highs in the upper 70s, and none of the predicted highs over the next 10 days are below the normal of 72 degrees.

    The actual departures from average aren’t terribly remarkable, but the longevity of the warmth as well as the lingering summertime moisture is noteworthy.

    The warm air is delaying fall foliage, which is rather faint even as far north as the Maine-Canadian border region.

    The Rain and Severe Storm Threat

    Where the warm and cold air masses clash, severe thunderstorms and heavy rainfall will result. Already, meteorologists at the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center are monitoring a risk of dangerous thunderstorms across the south-central Plains and Ozark Plateau from Sunday into Tuesday of next week. Cold air arriving from the west will lift warm, moist and unstable air to the east, brewing thunderstorms with the potential for large hail and damaging winds.

    An insurgence of jet stream energy aloft, meanwhile, will induce wind shear, or a change of wind speed and/or direction with height. That could manifest in a tornado risk as well.

    In the southeastern U.S., a “cutoff low,” or zone of low pressure and cool air aloft, will linger for days, holding back temperatures but tapping into moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and leading to heavy rainfall. Since it’s pinched off from the jet stream, it has nothing to move it along.

    Flash flood watches blanket most of northwestern Florida, Alabama and northwestern Georgia, and flash flood warnings were issued Tuesday morning southeast of Atlanta, where up to three inches of rain had already fallen.

    Weather models indicate another three inches or more may fall by Friday afternoon.

    Tracking the Tropics

    The weather pattern is also one to watch for potential storminess in the Gulf of Mexico, especially in the middle and latter part of the month.

    The upcoming pattern will feature several decaying cold fronts that will shift east with time, and pockets of spin on the tail end of them may eventually wind up in the gulf. Those eddies occasionally prove conducive to tropical development there and in the Caribbean, where water temperatures are unusually warm.

    There’s no specific gulf threat at this time, but given the pattern in place, forecasters will closely monitor the situation.

    Climate Change Connection

    The record-challenging heat in unusual locations and duration of warm conditions over such a broad area are weather features consistent with a warming world.

    Climate research has shown an expanding summer season and a trend toward shorter autumns, a pattern that this year exemplifies.

      Read Vicious Cycle of Climate Crisis: Depletion of Natural Resources, Violent Conflict Set to Worsen Resource Degradation, Conflict
      October 14, 2021
    Snow covered area has decreased in Himachal as compared to last year
    by Gagandeep Singh, Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    The area under snow cover in Himachal Pradesh has declined by 18.5% according to a recent report published by State Centre on Climate Change (SCCC) and Space Application Center (ISRO) Ahmedabad. The report revealed this decreasing trend for the five major river basins in the State. As the report points out, the high altitude regions of Himachal Pradesh receive precipitation mainly in the form of snow during the winter season. One-third of the geographical area of the state is covered by a thick blanket of snow during the winter season. Rivers like Chenab, Beas, Parvati, Baspa, Spiti, Ravi, Sutlej and its tributaries flowing through Himachal are dependent on snowfall in winter. These rivers mainly feed into the Indus water system and a decline at this rate rings a death knell for water and also food security for millions of people from Himachal to Kashmir, the plains of Punjab, the food bowl of the country. Using images and data received from satellites, the report states, that the winter precipitation was mapped in all the basins from October 2020 to May 2021 (a period of two years). The findings indicate that there has been an average decrease of 8.92 percent in Chenab basin, 18.54 percent in Beas basin, 23.16 percent in Ravi basin, 23.49 percent in Sutlej basin compared to last year. The ice covered area of Chenab basin was 7154.11 sq km in 2019-20, which has come down to 6515.91 sq km in 2020-21. Similarly, Beas basin was reduced from 2457.68 to 2002.03 square kilometer, Ravi basin from 2108.13 square kilometer to 1619.82 square kilometer and Sutlej from 11823.1 square kilometer to 9045 square kilometers. Overall, the snow covered area was reduced from 23542 square kilometer to 19183 square kilometer in the entire Himachal.

    The Sutlej River, which is the longest rivers of the state, with two major tributaries Baspa and Spiti. The above study shows that the maximum reduction in snow cover has occurred in the Sutlej basin. An area of 4359 square kilometers under snow cover has decreased for the whole state, of which more than half of the Sutlej Basin.

    Just two years ago another study  had indicated that more than half of glaciers in Sutlej Basin are set to vanish by 2050. Yet another study  also showed that the Sutlej basin has the highest 562 number of glacial lakes. These lakes stand the risk of sudden outdursts, which then causes flash floods downstream as the valley has already experienced. So, while the crisis that is unfolding, be it deglaciation, lake formation or reduction in area under snow cover, it seems that the Sutlej river basin is more vulnerable to these changes.

    Prakash Bhandari, an environmental researcher and activist and member of Himdhara Collective expressing his concern states that the situation in the Sutlej river basin is certainly indicative of a serious climate emergency and it is critical to look into the drivers of this both local and global. “Many factors have worked together to create this crisis which should be studied closely. There is no doubt that global warming is contributing to these changes. But the local conditions  also play a role in reducing or increasing its impact”, he says The upper reaches of the Sutlej Valley, especially areas like Kinnaur are geologically fragile, with sharp gradients and loose soil strata. Vegetation is in a very small area so the proneness to erosion. We have seen the catastrophic impacts of flashfloods and landslides over the last decade and a half, where crores worth of property has been damaged. This year saw a spate of landslides where lives were lost. “In such a sensitive and also strategically important area, changes in the landscape will have far reaching and irreversible impacts. More construction activities will lead to more deforestation, more erosion”.

    Construction of dams has been rampant in the Sutlej valley, a phenomena that started post independence and continues today. At the bottom of the valley in Bilaspur is the Bhakra Dam which has a size of 168 sq km and a storage capacity of 9.340 cubic km. Is. This is followed by the Kol Dam which extends for 42 km up to Sunni, which has a total storage capacity of 90 million cubic metres. Nathpa Jhakri Project which is 27.394 kms. is long. When a dam is built, a huge amount of water is stored. The debris of many villages, trees etc. also gets absorbed inside the dam. When water is stagnant, it receives heat from the Sun to form mist in the surrounding area by evaporation and simultaneously generates methane gas. The experience of the lake formed by the Kol dam at Tattapani in Mandi district shows that the area is experiencing heavy haze which was not there earlier. “In the 30s and 40s, Shikari Devi and Kamrunag used to have snow on the peaks for about 6 months, which now could barely stop for only 2 months. The air route distance of Shikari Devi and Kamrunag is only 26 to 30 kms from Tattapani lake. At the same time, their distance is not much from the cement factories of Darlaghat, Sundernagar”, the elders in the area say. “Today, fog is prevalent and this has also made the area warmer”. Due to the warming of the weather due to the clouds formed from the mist, the snow has started melting quickly. Apart from this the local crop patterns are affected. Post the 1990s, the Sutlej became a site for run of the river hydroelectric projects using extensive underground tunneling. This involves massive use of explosives for blasting through the mountains. Of the 23,000 MW worth of projects to be constructed in Himachal more than 10,000, a third are from this valley alone. Kinnaur continues to be a hydel powerhouse with 10 run of the river projects in progress and 30 more to be set up including two mega projects of 1500 MW and 1000 MW each. This paints a scary picture.


     Sutlej River Basin Map indicate Hydropower Station location

    It is not just the hydro-electric dams but unplanned tourism and other development activities like mining, cement plants, road expansion and mindless construction across the high Himalayan regions have also add to the shift in local weather patterns, land use changes and thus the ecological crisis. But the reason why we should put the limelight on hydropower is that this is being pushed as “Green Energy”, in the name of climate change mitigation. As opposed to other forms of generating power, hydropower projects are said to cause lesser carbon emissions, which is why there has been a global push to shift to renewable resources. But the climate emergency in the Himalayas has put a question mark on ‘water’ as arenewable resource.

    The question then arises that with all this data indicating a steady decline in river discharge and snow cover have our planners and policy makers not considered what will happen to these projects? Will they be able to generate the power they propose to? The people of Himalaya have to wake up to this wastage of public resources. Scarce funds should be diverted to better planning for securing local livelihoods by protecting the forest ecosystems and water sources for the future.

    Gagandeep Singh is associated with the Himdhara Collective, a Himachal based environment research and action group. gdpsingh30@gmail.com

      Read Snow covered area has decreased in Himachal as compared to last year
      October 14, 2021
    Why Nature-Based Solutions Won’t Solve the Climate Crisis—They’ll Just Make Rich People Even Richer
    by Fiore Longo , Countercurrents, in Climate Change .

    Imagine you’re a Baka, a hunter gatherer in the Congo Basin forest. That land has been your home for generations. You know every stone and every tree there. Your grandparents are buried on that land. You and your people have nourished it, taken care of it and loved it. Now imagine that you’re evicted and your house destroyed because, as someone explains to you, a white man living very far away, thinks that your forest has to become a Protected Area where only elephants are allowed to live. He likes elephants, they tell you. White men like elephants. Apparently he went up to space and realized that he likes your forest, and he is worried about climate change. That man created a company that produced 60.64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year—the equivalent of burning through 140 million barrels of oil. But, they tell you, if your forest is protected, he can feel better about his emissions of CO2. You might wonder why he doesn’t stop his emissions instead of destroying your life. The answer to that is money. You might also wonder how anyone can believe he’s doing good. And the answer to that is the topic of this article.

    With the proliferation of climate movements and the acceleration of global warming, the climate crisis has become undeniable for most. And yet emissions keep growing. Instead of facing the crisis, governments, business, and big conservation NGOs are calling on the finance sector for help, hiding their inaction and cheating citizens with dangerous and false slogans, like “nature positive”, “nature-based solutions”, “net-zero.” These so-called ‘solutions’ are, overwhelmingly, empty promises that will lead to massive violations of Indigenous rights, while failing to solve the climate crisis. They divert attention from the real causes of environmental destruction and climate change, and from those who are most responsible, at the expense of the Indigenous Peoples and local communities who are least to blame.

    What are Nature-based solutions?

    The name sounds great, doesn’t it? Appearing for the first time in 2009, in a paper prepared by the IUCN for global climate negotiations, the concept was pictured  by big conservation organizations as the “forgotten solution” to climate change. The idea is very simple: nature holds the solutions to our various environmental crises, and, in the case of climate change, we can mitigate it by avoiding more emissions from natural and agricultural ecosystems (that is, creating more Protected Areas) or by increasing carbon sequestration within them (that is, planting trees or restoring forests). Here it is: a magical solution, that does not rely on significant changes by large economies and their major industries.

    Global debates on climate and biodiversity now increasingly include the claim that 30% of global climate mitigation can be achieved through Nature-based solutions (NbS).

    The real problem starts when nature-based solutions are presented as the best way to tackle the climate crisis, providing an easy solution that doesn’t involve burning less fossil fuel and changing our consumption patterns—which are the only real answers. But as the required scale of NbS grows, so does the likelihood of a devastating impact on Indigenous Peoples and other local communities.

    Hidden in the catchy name we find the usual (and not very new!) market-based approach. Practically speaking, NbS provides a new spin on what used to be called carbon offsets. “Nature”, in this context, is considered a capital or an asset, something we can put a price on and trade in the market. Let’s say that Shell (one of the big supporters of NbS) is releasing X amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. In order to claim that it’s respecting its climate commitments, Shell can carry on releasing exactly the same amount of CO2, as long as it also supports the creation of a Protected Area that stocks the same amount of CO2, or plants some trees that are supposed to absorb the same amount of CO2. This exchange, of course, is carried out in the financial markets, through the creation of carbon credits. And this is what governments mean by “net zero”: they don’t really intend to reduce their emissions to zero, they will simply claim to “offset” those emissions somewhere else.

    Transforming nature into a form of capital (in this case, as carbon credits), that can then be sold in the market, is such a fashionable idea that it even got the support of the conservationist and TV personality Sir David Attenborough.

    So what’s wrong with this?

    From a justice perspective: everything.

    According to the paper more often used as evidence by those supporting NbS as a mitigation solution (which appeared in 2017, with co-authors including carbon traders and representatives of a major conservation organization), NbS “can provide 37% of cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed through 2030”. This figure, in various forms (“37%”, “one-third”, “more than one third” etc) has been repeated many times over, gaining plausibility in the repetition.

    But what does this figure actually mean?

    The most effective known way of pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is by planting trees. Indeed, according to the 2017 estimates, afforestation accounts for nearly half of the potential for climate mitigation through NbS. But achieving this potential would require planting trees over an estimated area of nearly 700 million hectares, almost the size of Australia. Where is that land going to be found? Certainly not in France or the United Kingdom (among the supporters of NbS). The clear risk is that many indigenous peoples and local communities, among those least responsible for the climate crisis, lose their lands.

    Amarlal Baiga, from the Baiga tribe, explains the impact of afforestation for offsetting on his community. In this case it’s biodiversity offsetting, but the process and the devastating consequences are the same. “The forest department has forcefully put fences around my field and around everyone else’s fields. They have put fences and planted teak trees. This land is ours, this land belonged to our ancestors. They made us plant the trees, they made fools out of us saying: “these plants will benefit you” but now they are harassing us and saying: “this jungle is ours and this land doesn’t belong to you anymore.”

    His village’s land has been taken as part of a compensatory afforestation project. In India, when forests are destroyed for things like mining, the companies responsible then have to give money to the CAMPA fund, which is spent on afforestation projects—but the biodiverse forests are usually replaced with monoculture plantations, often on the land of Adivasi people.

    Another heavily promoted NbS, alongside afforestation, is the creation of so-called Protected Areas. The EU Commission new biodiversity initiative called NaturAfrica treats conservation areas as a massive carbon sink, that can “provide interesting opportunities to generate revenue streams for communities through carbon credits”.

    But this, too, is a huge threat to Indigenous Peoples. Several human rights organizations and independent investigations have shown for years how the creation of Protected Areas, especially in Africa and Asia, are done without the consent of Indigenous or local communities, who lose total access to their ancestral lands, and are accompanied by an increased militarization and violence. Protected Areas destroy the best guardians of the natural world, indigenous peoples, in whose lands are found 80% of biodiversity.

    It is somehow surreal that a hunter gatherer in the Congo Basin, whose way of life has nourished and protected those forests, will lose his access to the very land and food that sustains him, or be tortured and abused by a park ranger, because on the other side of the world a rich white man, whose companies are massive polluters, thinks he can compensate for his emissions by creating a Protected Area in Congo – instead of by ceasing to exploit workers, paying taxes and just stopping emissions.

    Of course, not only billionaires like this idea. The conservation industry pushes NbS because they can make huge sums selling carbon credits from the Protected Areas they manage in order to fund new Protected Areas (and pay the million-dollar plus salaries of their CEOs).

    So at the end of the story, Indigenous peoples, small farmers, local communities, fishers, will lose their lands for a climate crisis they didn’t cause.

    But will all of this save us from the worst consequences of climate change?

    Not at all.

    First, many of the tree projects claimed as a path to climate mitigation plant fast-growing trees like eucalyptus and acacia, to make money. This can actually increase rather than reduce carbon: existing vegetation has to be cleared and the new plantations are more susceptible to fires. Most such plantations are harvested in a few years to make things like paper and charcoal which quickly return all the captured carbon back to the atmosphere. Real forests of native trees would need to grow for decades before they start absorbing much carbon. Finally, large scale tree plantations destroy biodiversity and indigenous peoples’ lands.

    Secondly, the plan to carve off 30% of the world as Protected Areas is also presented as a means to mitigate climate change. But quite apart from the disastrous impact on human diversity, there is no scientific evidence that doubling Protected Areas will actually be good for nature. Of the 20 targets in the previous global action plan on biodiversity, covering 2010-2020, the only one achieved was to increase to 17% the area of Earth designated as Protected Area. Yet biodiversity is said by the conservation industry itself to have declined ever faster during the same period. A 2019 study, looking at more than 12,000 Protected Areas across 152 countries, found that, with some individual exceptions, such conservation reserves have done nothing over the last 15 years to reduce human pressure on wildlife. Indeed, inside many, the pressure had worsened compared to unprotected areas. Many Protected Areas invite mass tourism, and are often home to trophy hunting, logging, and mining operations.

    Finally, the finance industry has never solved any of our problems and won’t do it this time. Leaving it to the market to decide what is important and what is not, according to “economic value” is likely to turn out to be catastrophic. Is an indigenous territory, a forest, a grassland only worthy of protection because of the carbon it stores? What about the people living in that territory and the unquantifiable diversity they represent?

    It is, precisely, the exploitation of natural resources for profit and the commodification of nature that brought us here in the first place. The finance industry wants to make money, not to protect our planet.

    As the CEO of Mirova, an investment company, clearly said: “It is easy to estimate our effects on the climate. The carbon impact, tons of CO2 equivalent… All this speaks to finance. When we start discussing deforestation or ecosystem degradation, it’s much more complicated, because there are no indicators or even international standards to measure these impacts.”

    As more evidence that this is about money (and not about nature), NbS are supported and implemented by the largest and most polluting corporations in the world and by the conservation industry, as a way to avoid the drastic changes really needed to tackle climate crisis. Among the supporters of NbS we find: Nestlé, BP, Chevron, Equinor, Total, Shell, Eni, BHP, Dow Chemical Company, Bayer, Boeing, Microsoft, Novartis, Olam, Coca-Cola, Danone, Unilever, etc.

    So are our governments and big corporations lying when they say they are “acting” to put an end to the climate crisis?

    Yes. Offset schemes have already failed to prevent climate change. Expanding these schemes massively with Nature-Based Solutions will fail more massively. Offsetting schemes such as NbS should be abandoned, and instead governments should put in place real regulations over companies and finance to tackle the real causes of environmental destruction: exploitation of natural resources for profit and growing overconsumption, driven by the Global North. We also need to decolonize our approaches and stop marginalizing and silencing Indigenous Peoples and other local communities, who have been protecting our planet for generations. To achieve this governments must respect, protect and fully recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples’ and other local communities to their lands. Finally, we need a radical change of our economic structure and of our way of living. The only real and just solutions to stop climate change will come when these topics are brought to the table. Until now, world leaders, conservation NGOs, business and some climate movements in the Global North have failed to do so.

    Fiore Longo is a Research and Advocacy Officer at Survival international, the global movement for tribal peoples, as well as Co-ordinator of Survival France. She works on Survival’s conservation campaign and has visited many communities threatened with eviction from conservation zones in India and Republic of Congo. She is currently leading Survival’s campaign against the creation of Messok Dja National Park.

    Originally published in CommonDreams.org

      Read Why Nature-Based Solutions Won’t Solve the Climate Crisis—They’ll Just Make Rich People Even Richer
      October 14, 2021
    Climate Crisis: Rich Countries’ Carbon Emissions Rose Rapidly in 2021
    by Countercurrents Collective , Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    Carbon emissions are rebounding strongly and are rising across the world’s 20 richest nations, according to a new study.

    The Climate Transparency Report, Comparing G20 Climate Action and Responses to the Covid-19 Crisis (https://www.climate-transparency.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Climate-Transparency-Report-2020.pdf) says that CO2 will go up by 4% across the G20 group this year, having dropped 6% in 2020 due to the pandemic.

    The 2020 edition of the Climate Transparency Report unpacks recent developments and longer-term trends, providing key insights into where and how to advance climate action, including through greening the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

    The Climate Transparency Report is the world’s most comprehensive annual review of G20 climate action, which provides concise and comparable information on mitigation, finance and vulnerability. Its funders include the World Bank Group. The Climate Transparency Report was previously known as Brown to Green Report.

    This year’s report consists of two parts: the annual policy assessment based on data of the previous year(s) is complemented by an analysis of the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and recovery efforts on countries’ climate ambition.

    The report finds:

    China, India, Argentina are set to exceed their 2019 emissions levels.

    The report says that the continued use of fossil fuels is undermining efforts to rein in temperatures.

    With just two weeks left until the critical COP26 climate conference opens in Glasgow, the task facing negotiators is stark.

    The report said:

    In a time of uncertainty, the G20 can harness the opportunities of a green recovery to set course for a more resilient and sustainable future. In the five years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, there have been many lessons – some hard and some hopeful. G20 members should heed these lessons as they make decisions that will shape our common future.

    With the world currently around 1.1C warmer than pre-industrial times, limiting future incremental increases is extremely challenging.

    If Glasgow is going to succeed on this question, then the countries that create the most carbon will have to put ambitious policies into place.

    The G20 group is responsible for around 75% of global emissions, which fell significantly last year as economies were closed down in response to Covid-19.

    But this year’s rebound is being powered by fossil fuel, especially coal.

    A temporary decrease in emissions will not have a lasting impact on the climate. Sustained annual decreases toward net-zero emissions by 2050 are necessary to arrest global warming. Efforts to use recovery measures to accelerate the decoupling of economic activity and CO2 emissions could help G20 countries to meet Paris Agreement goals.

    According to the report, compiled by 16 research organizations and environmental campaign groups, coal use across the G20 is projected to rise by 5% this year.

    This is mainly due to China who are responsible for around 60% of the rise, but increases in coal are also taking place in the US and India.

    Coal use in China has surged with the country experiencing increased demand for energy as the global economy has recovered.

    Coal prices are up nearly 200% from a year ago.

    This in turn has seen power cuts as it became uneconomical for coal-fired electricity plants generate electricity in recent months.

    With the Chinese government announcing a change in policy this week to allow these power plants to charge market rates for their energy, the expectation is that this will spur even more coal use this year.

    When it comes to gas, the Climate Transparency Report finds that use is up by 12% across the G20 in the 2015-2020 period.

    G20 leaders met in Italy in July amid protests from green groups about the slow pace of progress on climate

    While political leaders have promised that the global recovery from Covid should have a green focus, the financial commitments made by rich nations do not bear this out.

    Of the $1.8tn that has been earmarked for recovery spending, just $300bn will go on green projects.

    To put that figure into context, it almost matches the $298bn spent by G20 countries in subsidizing fossil fuel industries in the year to August 2021.

    G20 GDP is projected to decrease by around 4% in 2020, with devastating effects on many levels, exacerbating poverty, inequality, and unemployment. The decline in global GDP in 2020 could lead to an increase of 25 million people being unemployed, 100 million additional people living in poverty, and the number of people facing acute food insecurity doubling to 265 million.

    The report points to some positive developments including the growth of solar and wind energy in richer countries, with record amounts of new capacity installed across the G20 last year.

    Renewables now supply around 12% of power compared to 10% in 2020.

    Politically, there has been significant progress as well with the G20 group as the majority recognizes that net zero targets are needed for around the middle of this century.

    All members of the group have agreed to put new 2030 carbon plans on the table before the Glasgow conference.

    Deforestation in Indonesia has been an important factor driving up emissions in recent years.

    However, China, India, Australia and Saudi Arabia have not yet done so.

    “G20 governments need to come to the table with more ambitious national emission reductions targets. The numbers in this report confirm we can’t move the dial without them – they know it, we know it – the ball is firmly in their court ahead of COP26,” said Kim Coetzee from Climate Analytics, who coordinated the overall analysis.

    The report said:

    More and more companies, regions, and cities are also making net-zero by 2050 commitments, such as Buenos Aires, Cape Town, London, Mexico City, New York City, and Tokyo. Political commitments need to make their way into enhanced NDC targets and long-term strategies – which are due to be updated in 2020 – and recovery packages.

    Comparing G20 stimulus responses thus far:

    • 10 countries are providing support to the domestic coal sector and 10 provide support to the gas sector
    • 9 countries are providing support to the oil sector
    • 14 countries bailed out their national airline companies without conditions attached. Only France has included conditions in its bailout.
    • 7 countries are providing unconditional support to the automobile industry. Only Germany and France are providing support with environmental conditions attached. Nevertheless, 17 G20 countries (excluding Mexico, Russia, and Saudi Arabia) are providing some support to green industries, focusing mainly on the expansion of renewable energy capacities and low-emissions transport.

    Report’s Highlights

    • Coal consumption is projected to rise by almost 5% in 2021, with this growth driven by China (accounting for 61% of the growth), the USA (18%) and India (17%)
    • The U.S. (4.9 tCO2/capita) and Australia (4.1 tCO2/capita) have the highest building emissions per capita in the G20 (average is 1.4 tCO2/capita), reflecting the high share of fossil fuels, especially natural gas and oil, used for heat generation
    • Between 1999 and 2018 there have been nearly 500,000 fatalities and close to $3.5 trillion of economic costs due to climate impacts worldwide, with China, India, Japan, Germany, and the US being hit particularly hard in 2018
    • Across the G20, the current average market share of electric vehicles (EVs) in new car sales remains low at 3.2% (excluding the EU), with Germany, France, and the UK having the highest shares of EVs

    The report said: There are expectations that both India and China will submit new national plans before the meeting in Glasgow, which could give a significant boost to attempts to keep the 1.5C target in view.

    The G20 group will meet in Rome in the days leading up to COP26 and the UK minister who will lead the talks has in recent days urged the leaders of these countries to now step up.

      Read Climate Crisis: Rich Countries’ Carbon Emissions Rose Rapidly in 2021
      October 19, 2021
    Climate Change Viewed from the Attic of the World
    by William deBuys , Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    Thirteen thousand feet high on the far side of the Himalaya mountains, we have entered the past and the future at the same time. We are a medical expedition and also a pilgrimage, consisting of doctors, nurses, Buddhist clerics, supernumeraries like me, and a large staff of guides, muleteers, and camp tenders. We are bound for the isolated villages of Upper Dolpo, a remote region of northwestern Nepal, land of the snow leopard — both the actual animal and The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen’s nonfiction classic. We are traveling the same trails Matthiessen walked in 1973.

    As a medical mission, our purpose is to provide primary health care to people who rarely, if ever, see a clinician. As pilgrims, our purposes are as varied as our individual identities. Mine is to make peace with the anger and grief that have dogged me since finishing a pair of books, one on climate change, the other on extinction. They left me heartsick. My delight in the beauty of the world had been joined to sorrow at its destruction, and the two emotions were like cellmates who refused to get along. Their ceaseless argument soured the taste of life. I hoped that a long walk — about 150 miles in this case — might cure the resultant moral ache. (The story of that walk provides the backbone of my new book, The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss.)

    The trails we followed led us into the past in the sense that the high Himalayan world — Sanskrit’s “abode of snow” — is a relic of the Pleistocene, a land of glaciers, vast spaces, stony rubble, and frigid rivers. Its cynosure animal is less the snow leopard than the yak, a source of food, fiber, hide, bone tools, transport, and tractor power more essential to the Tibetan settlers of the region than even the bison was to America’s Cheyenne or Sioux. Yaks enabled people to inhabit the wintry attic of the world, where today an Ice Age climate still lingers, even as it begins to fade away.

    As much as we were entering the past, however, we were also plunging into the future. Lands at these high elevations appear to be warming two to three times faster than those lower down. The reasons for this are only partly understood. Changes in albedo — the reflectance of the land — are part of the answer: as snow packs shrink and glacial ice retreats, the newly bared and darker earth absorbs more solar energy than the white blanket that had covered it. The absorbed energy, in turn, warms the land and accelerates the melting of yet more nearby snow and ice. Windblown soot and dust, often set loose by human activities, can also darken the white, high-altitude world, yielding a similar effect.

    From 1962 to 2006 the glaciers of the Himalaya appear to have lost more than a fifth of their ice. They did not all shrink at the same rate. In fact, some glaciers haven’t shrunk at all, but measurements of the overall trend in the Sikkim-Nepal region put the average loss at seven inches of depth every year across the whole extent of ice. And, of course, the melting continues.

    We used to say that climate disruption at high altitude presaged the changes that were soon to arrive in the rest of the world, that the cascade of broken balances exhibited by melting glaciers, erratic seasons, and unpredictable rivers was a harbinger of woes bound for environments closer to home. Sadly, such changes are harbingers no longer, for the woes have arrived.

    Last summer saw nearly an entire Greek island combusted, significant swaths of Italy and Turkey turned to ash, giant expanses of the American Pacific Northwest set ablaze, and another full season of California flambé. Meanwhile, wildfires in Siberia consumed forested areas greater than all the rest combined, while floods in Belgium and western Germany drowned towns and villages that had never seen the like before. Then came an Atlantic hurricane season that has rivaled or surpassed the previous record-setting year in multiple categories. The future about which scientists and activists have warned us for more than 30 years is no longer on our doorstep. It’s in the house.

    Nowadays, the far Himalaya is less a model for the future than a mirror for the present. You see the same controversies over grazing and the same mistrust of land “managers” that preoccupy the American West. You see patterns of rural-to-urban migration that are common throughout the world, with young people leaving the family farmstead to seek their fortunes in the city. You also see the increased mobility of humanity expressed in legions of outsiders flooding into formerly isolated districts, much to the consternation of longtime residents.

    In the case of Dolpo, the vast majority of outsiders invading the region are hunters of a weird fungusyarza gunbu, that invades the head of a particular caterpillar soon after it hatches in the tundra grasslands. The fungus then consumes the unlucky caterpillar and erupts through the thin soil to produce a miniature tower, only a centimeter or two high, that (with a certain amount of imagination) can be seen to resemble an erect penis. As the snow recedes in the spring, yarza hunters pour by the thousands into the high country. Crawling on their hands and knees or shuffling stooped across the damp heights, they stare intently at the ground, straining to spot the phallic structure of their quarry. Gathered and dried, these rather unappetizing avatars of the male principle sell at cocaine prices as a remedy for impotence and a general tonic for health. Their market includes a large swath of Asia, especially China. Some call it “Himalayan Viagra.”

    Many Nepalis, especially urban youth, look to science to explain the perplexities of climate change, but in Dolpo and similar regions, yarza gunbu hunters often get blamed for the disturbed weather and chaotic hydrology afflicting the region. The newcomers, so the thinking goes, break unwritten laws, abuse pastureland, pollute streams, and cut shrubs and trees where none should be cut. Such behavior is said to upset the spirits of place. As a result, brutal winters now alternate with ones that are too warm, while avalanches fall where avalanches never fell before. The rains also seem to be affected. They start too early or end too late. Or they don’t come at all. And the traditional rituals that people counted on to restore order when things slipped out of balance are proving inadequate to overcome such a high level of disturbance.

    The Third Force: Stupidity

    If opinion as to the cause of climate change is divided in Nepal, the division is generally benign. Not so in the United States, where it used to be said that, when things got bad enough, the nation’s doubters and deniers would come around. Well, things have been bad enough for quite a while, as attested by the incineration of Paradise, California, in 2018, and Greenville, California this summer, the steady diminishment of the Colorado River, and so many other grim indicators. Rather than allow the light of realism to penetrate their thinking, the rightwing cheerleaders of America’s culture wars, many of whom serve in Congress, persist in denying, dodging, or twisting the facts of global warming in ways that please their base and their corporate sponsors. Garret Keizer, writing in Harper’s Magazine, theorizes that the problem goes deeper than the inevitable tension between liberals and conservatives. He argues that there is “a third force seeking hegemony over this world: stupidity.”

    Powered by social media, bullshit now travels at the speed of light. A Facebook algorithm is always available to help you segue from funny cat videos to anxiety-inducing clips about QAnon and chem trails. The main objective for Facebook and its advertisers is to keep viewers amused and aroused, to keep them plugged in. For many Internet users, real threats like global warming just can’t compete with the loony ones.

    The immoral and potentially fatal inability of the United States to take meaningful action on global warming means that Americans share more in common with rural Nepalis than they might imagine. Even through the pall of pollution that hangs over that country’s capital, Kathmandu, people there can see that their climatic future will be determined by the billowing smokestacks of the United States, China, India, and Europe. They know that they have little agency on the world stage, little ability to influence events. This is not something new. Nepal is squeezed between the jealous powers of India and China. Each plays a different tune; Nepal dances, but it cannot dance to both at once. With two quarreling neighbors to appease, Nepal is far from being the master of its fate.

    We Americans don’t see ourselves as subject to the will of others. Since the early days of the republic, our autonomy has been a point of national pride. We chart our own path and we’ve long believed that, if something isn’t right, we can fix it. If something needs doing, we will do it. We fought a world war in two hemispheres and came out victors. We rebuilt Europe. We walked on the moon. We won the Cold War and extended our economic reach around the world, exporting not just manufactured goods but our taste in music, film, fast food, and clothes. We spurred a Green Revolution in agriculture that vastly expanded the human carrying capacity of the globe, and we vanquished smallpox and polio. We were the good guys.

    Today those attitudes and that pride seem so… well, twentieth century. Our scientists still develop vaccines, but the rest of us can’t agree on using them. Our research institutions still pioneer the science of epidemics and climate change, but the general population can’t agree on their underlying reality.

    Implementing policies to control a public health crisis that has killed more than 700,000 fellow citizens or mitigating a shift in the global environmental equilibrium that threatens the future of civilization — these “big lifts” now exceed our strength. We can’t even agree on a measure as simple as mask-wearing. More concerning yet, fidelity to the basic tenets of our electoral system, once the backbone of our democracy, now seems a relic of the past. Tens of millions of voters reject the clearly documented outcome of our last presidential election, and so do hundreds, maybe thousands, of public officials elected by that very system.

    In times of stress, America has sought reassurance in the exploits of its vaunted military, but lately that hasn’t worked out too well. Washington’s 20-year war in Afghanistan bore a gloomy resemblance to its catastrophic effort to “save” Vietnam from communism, and not just in the way it ended. Imperial hubris, ignorance of local realities, and soaring civilian casualties are just a few of the dismal parallels to the earlier war. And we need hardly speak of Iraq: our invasion there produced an out-and-out disaster premised on out-and-out lies.

    Which brings us back to agency. As Americans, we now confront a striking new reality: we don’t have the clout we once thought we did. White America now shares its humbled condition with people who live on the farther side of the Himalaya, as well as with Native Americans, Blacks, and many other fellow citizens. America’s minorities have long understood the loneliness and vulnerability of not being in command, of having to struggle against a hostile and disordered world. Now, the fractured American majority is getting a taste of how that feels. For want of cohesion and agreement, the United States is failing to address the biggest and most complex problems that confront it. Given how we’ve used our military since World War II, that reduced capability may not be an entirely bad thing. But where climate change is concerned, it’s tragic.

    Climate change requires comprehensive, systematic, and immediate action. Again and again at the national level, we’ve shown that we don’t have what it takes. Diagnosis: inadequate agency. Responding to the climate crisis has become a race against time and our government still dawdles at the starting line.

    Gratitude, Resilience, and Hope

    At 13,000 feet on the farther side of the Himalaya, the world becomes lunar. The tallest vegetation can’t hide a golf ball. Nothing is screened from view. What’s there is there, as naked as sunlit boulders, as clear as mountain streams. As our expedition meandered from village to village, traversing passes higher than 17,000 feet, we wondered how so stark and spartan an environment might shape the people dwelling in it. In our clinics, we got a partial answer.

    The gratitude and resilience of our Dolpo patients impressed us all deeply. One doctor spoke for many of us when he said,

    “They come in with joint pain, a blown-out knee, GI distress, a horrible rash, whatever, and maybe we can’t help them. ‘Sorry,’ we say. ‘Wish we could do something for you.’ And they get up and smile. They say, ‘That’s fine. Thanks anyway.’ And off they go, as cheerfully as they came in. Patients back in my clinic [in the U.S.] are so different. Whatever hurts them becomes so much bigger a thing. And we give them meds for blood pressure or pain, but they really seem to want us to fix something bigger than that, something we don’t have meds for. They want us to fix the pain that is in their minds or in their souls. My Nepali patients have lots of problems, but not that one.”

    The cheerful stoicism of our hosts inspired us. I had joined the expedition carrying much anger at my country’s refusal to face its environmental responsibilities and frustration at witnessing the worsening results of its fecklessness. The long walk helped quite a bit. My fellow travelers, the patients we treated, and the spectacular land through which we traveled imparted many lessons. Perhaps the most important involved a rekindling of hope.

    Hope is different from optimism and also different from the simple desire for things to turn out well. True hope demands faith in “not-knowing,” in trusting the uncertainty of the future. The people of Dolpo seemed to possess that faith. In realms more familiar to westerners, such culture heroes as Czech dissident and later president Vaclav Havel and South African liberator Nelson Mandela also possessed it. Neither Havel nor Mandela knew if the Soviet Union or apartheid would be dismantled in their lifetime.

    Nevertheless, through long periods of darkness, each of them cultivated a resilient hope that had two vital components. The first was a commitment to the intrinsic value of right action, irrespective of whether it resulted in the desired outcome. In Havel’s words, they did what “makes sense,” no matter whether their efforts might ultimately fail. Many philosophies distinguish between “instrumental good,” which is realized when an action achieves its goal, and “intrinsic good,” which is realized irrespective of result. Havel and Mandela pursued intrinsic good.

    Second, they believed in surprise — that sometimes big, consequential things happen with virtually no warning. An earthquake, the fall of the Soviet Union, or a coronavirus epidemic are all good examples. There is no guarantee that the consequences of surprise will be beneficial. That’s where true hopefulness and doing what “makes sense” come in — they sustain you through the long wait for surprise. In Czechoslovakia and South Africa when the long-desired surprises arrived, both Havel and Mandela seized their moment and made them as beneficial as possible. The essence of their preparation was that they never lost hope. Neither should we.

    William deBuys is the author of 10 books, including A Great Aridness and The Last Unicorn, which compose a trilogy that culminates with The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss, just published.

    Originally published in TomDispatch

      Read  Climate Change Viewed from the Attic of the World
      October 24, 2021
    The Socialist Cooperative Commonwealth
    by Alan Johnstone, Countercurrents, in Counter Solutions.

    Since its origin in the early 19th century by followers of Robert Owen, the term “socialism” has evolved to mean many different things to many different people and has been misused by dictatorships to describe their draconian management of capitalism.  At the present time “socialism” is an unpopular word. Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot have poisoned our understanding by applying the word “socialism” to their barbaric tyrannies. In the course of the 20th-century socialism, as a word, came to be transformed from a doctrine and aim associated with the emancipation of the working class into a doctrine and aim associated with the coming to power of nationalist, anti-imperialist elites in the economically less developed parts of the world. It is something that is supposed to have failed in Russia and East Europe and something that the Labour Party is said to have rejected as archaic. The word has become a turn-off associated with bureaucratic control, regimentation and lack of freedom. It is certainly frustrating that the word “socialism” is almost invariably misused today. Recent years have seen the emergence of groups who recognise that socialism it is meant a society in which goods would no longer be produced for sale and in which people would no longer work for wages.

    As an organisation that campaigns exclusively for socialism (as we understand it) we are in a position to know how people react to the word and if any words are more over-used and misunderstood today it is “socialism” and “communism” (we have also maintained the tradition of using them interchangeably). We are not the only group calling ourselves socialist. Anyone seeking to understand what is wrong with present-day society will come across others, all having some such word in their names as “socialist”, “workers”, “revolutionary” or “communist”. Most of these will be of Leninist or Trotskyist origin and have aims, theories and methods which we do NOT share nor advocate. The only thing we have in common is that, unfortunately, they too call themselves socialists. Although of course, we don’t like people calling themselves “socialist” when in our opinion they’re not, that’s something to be settled by political debate.

    Does the word have any meaning anymore? We think so

    But perhaps the current over-use of the term may bring unexpected results, even encouraging the curious to begin pondering what a truly post-capitalist society could look like. Some positive associations remain, however. We are part of an unbroken tradition going back to those who first used the word and which has retained the original meaning they gave to it despite and in face of Russia and Labour and similar governments. Indeed, as a result of years of misuse, the word “socialism” has now virtually come to mean “state capitalism” for most people. Yet why should we surrender the word, especially as Russia has failed and Labour-type parties are now openly pro-capitalist? The field is now open for us to assert the word’s original meaning. Who knows but it is maybe also quite possible that the growth of the revolutionary movement will breathe new life into the word “socialism”, freeing it from the connotations it has been burdened with by those who cannot see beyond capitalism.

    But even if the World Socialist Movement comes up with the perfect word to replace “socialism” it would not necessarily bring us any closer to our goal, for our task, as socialists, is to persuade our fellow workers that capitalism has got to go and convince them that there is, in fact, an alternative. The task is the same in either case: revealing the limits and contradictions of capitalism and explaining how socialism (or whatever it may one day be called) solves the problems that are irresolvable as long as that capitalist system prevails. Sadly, capitalism has made the image a more important quality than substance but as long as we have to operate within capitalism we will be judged on petty points such as our party colour, just as much as we can be judged on the name and our ethos. If we are to change people’s stereotypical perception of socialism and socialists,  which is difficult enough as it is, then we need to change how people view us rather than reinforce what they already believe.

    One word alone, no matter how well-chosen, cannot accomplish all of that. The key is the concept and content of the future society as the answer to the social problems we face under capitalism, not the word used to indicate that new mode of production. The video we produced (which you can view on this home page of this website) “Capitalism – And Other Kids Stuff” manages to give an analysis without using the term socialist or communist.

    Socialism’s meaning can be said to go back to early religious sects of the ancient world and was taken up by religious dissidents in mediaeval times. Words attributed to John Ball during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 capture its meaning very well:

    “My friends, things cannot go well in England, nor ever, until everything shall be held in common, when there shall be neither vassal nor lord and all distinctions levelled, when lords shall be no more masters than ourselves.”

    Nowadays many try to offer a definition of socialism as public ownership and government control of the major means of production (mines and railways, or whatever) for the benefit of the public at large or central economic planning and public ownership of the means of production which are basically descriptions of state-capitalist systems – not any sort of post-capitalist society that exists beyond production for profit.

    Some might argue, then, that we should let the reformists and gradualists twist around the word “socialism” to their heart’s content while choosing a different term to describe the new society we are aiming to realise – some word less marked by confusion.

    At times Karl Marx used the word “association” to indicate the society he envisaged as replacing capitalism. And this term is useful in terms of emphasising how the members of that society will freely enter into production relations with each other to produce social wealth. One obvious drawback, not to be overlooked, is that it would be rather awkward to describe oneself as “associator” or “associatist”. However, for many people, the words “socialism” and “socialist” hold the sort of vision of an alternative, free society that we stand for. This makes it a strength, and something that will attract people who consider themselves politically aware or socialist to the World Socialism Movement. The title “socialist” connects us to the long tradition of revolutionary ideas and movements of which we are a part of.

    It may very well happen that a new different word other than socialism emerges out of the movement for the new egalitarian society. And it would be absurd in that situation to be a word-fetishist and cling to the word “socialism” as if it were the principle or concept itself. Various other terms have been suggested— “eco-socialism”, “world of free access”. Others, outside our ranks, have come up with “economic democracy”, “self-managed society”. The Zeitgeist Movement, for instance, describes socialism as “Resource Based Economy.” Another section inspired by a book by Aaron Bastani offers up “Fully Automated Luxury Communism.”

    Some say we shouldn’t fixate ourselves and get too obsessed with words—any word can become abused and misused. Indeed you only need to think about how the term “democracy” has been rendered almost meaningless through its use by state and corporate mouthpieces. Descriptions such as socialism, communism, anarcho-communism, free access and commonwealth are all valid if used to convey meanings, explaining the sort of society we wish to achieve. There is nothing to stop us from using a multitude of words and descriptions for what we stand for in our propaganda (and that’s another word that has become distorted to have negative connotations).

    What’s important is that we get our ideas over as effectively as possible. There is no reason why we should constantly shout “Socialism” from the material we produce and distribute, and anyway, much of the time we don’t.

    But let us suppose that some other word came into use to express the very essence of socialism. This new word would then be subjected to the very same difficulties. The old word “socialism” would lose its meaning and significance. The new word would become abused in the same manner as the old one. Changing the name would not solve any problem

    For the World Socialist Movement, the original idea of socialism or communism has not been forgotten, and all through the shifts and turns in the meaning of this word, we have been adding our own, albeit small, voice into shaping its social meaning, so that the idea about what socialism actually means isn’t forgotten. The idea has been held up above the jumble of letters that make up the word. It remains, though, a word worth fighting for, for its history, for its associations of cooperation and mutualism, and because it describes something positive, a situation to be aimed for – a just state of society. Socialism remains a good word to put our arguments across. Because of our different understanding of it, people are surprised by our answers and perspectives, and become genuinely interested, breaking out of the stale old left-wing right-wing arguments. And just as words such as “queer” have been rescued from negative senses in gay politics to have positive meanings, thus can socialism, with all its history and associations be wrested back as well.

    It is our ideas, our practices, and our values, that makes us the World Socialist Movement, not simply the word “socialist”. It wouldn’t matter what we call ourselves, as our ideas grow a word would be found to express them, in their full meaning. Since we think that, historically, that word already exists, we choose to use it. The important thing would seem to be that socialists take an open-minded and non-dogmatic approach to the way we present and develop our ideas.

    Some History

    The word commonwealth goes back to the fifteenth century and was related to commonweal – that is, the common well-being or the public good. Later it came to be associated with the concept of a republic. The term commonwealth came into popular usage during the 17th C English Revolution when the monarchy was deposed and a republic was declared and later as a name of the former British Empire nations. This framing of the state as a commonwealth derives from language of 17th-century thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and refers to the goal of creating a political community for the common good.

    But for many radicals such as Gerrald Winstanley and the Diggers it had a deeper meaning they sought to build, the new models of communities they sought to build and not just a new model army and a mere formal constitution. The sentiment later to be revived by William Morris and the Socialist League and its journal called “The Commonweal.” It was a word to be later adopted in the new United States of America when they had accomplished their own revolution against British colonialism. “Commonwealth”.  sounds more positive to an American public, for the states Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania or Virginia, and two U.S. territories Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands all call themselves commonwealths in their constitutions. Now another American state to be described as a commonwealth if statehood is granted to Washington DC, the would-be 51st US state will be officially titled the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.”

    Later in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, however, commonwealth was widely used by opponents of capitalism to refer to their ideal post-capitalist society. The noun was usually combined with a clarifying adjective to form the phrase the socialist commonwealth or the cooperative commonwealth. Sometimes, however, the future society was called simply the commonwealth.

    The idea of an economic system based on cooperatives has also found a more receptive hearing. America has known many utopian schemes that had co-operatives as its basis. There have been political parties that have promoted co-operatives as policy.

    National Executive Committee member of the Socialist Labor Party, Laurence Gronlund wrote, the “Co-operative Commonwealth,” a vision for a cooperative economy and society echoed over the next decades in early-twentieth-century U.S. and Canadian leftist circles.

    The pioneer of American socialism, Eugene Debs, would frequently apply the phrase “cooperative commonwealth” as a synonym for a socialist society.

    The Commonwealth was also the name of a weekly newspaper published by the Socialist Party of Washington (the state) from January 1911 to April 1914.

    In the 1930s, the populist Farmer-Labor Party could issue a radical platform:

    “We declare that capitalism has failed and that immediate steps must be taken by the people to abolish capitalism in a peaceful and lawful manner, and that a new, sane, and just society must be established, a system in which all the natural resources, the machinery of production, transportation, and communications shall be owned by the government and operated democratically for the benefit of all the people, and not for the benefit of the few. Palliative measures will continue to fail. Only a complete reorganization of our social structure into a cooperative commonwealth will bring economic security and prevent a prolonged period of further suffering among the people.”

    In Washington state, the Washington Commonwealth Federation, based on similar ideas, won control of the state Democratic Party during the late 1930s and early 1940s.

    In a parallel development in Canada, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was formed with some prominent Socialist Party of Canada members joining.

    Even anti-socialists use the term, too. The free-marketeer Von Mises titled his book ‘Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth’. Nowadays the Commonwealth most often is associated in peoples’ minds with the former British Empire.

    Cooperatives and the Cooperative Commonwealth

    Today, with their own visions of the cooperative commonwealth, Richard Wolff and Gar Alperovitz have been receiving a lot of exposure on the progressive media websites for their own “radical”  models for a cooperative economy. But what is there about their proposals to get excited about? They say that they are presenting alternatives to capitalism, but when examined closer, all they offer are prescriptions for curing capitalism with a form of “market-socialism” where workers would be self-exploited.

    Cooperatives are still capitalist institutions i.e. capital – even if it’s “collective” or “democratic” or “social” capital – is invested to make more capital. Co-operatives that exist under a market economy inevitably replicate the problems of capitalism due to market pressure.

    First, you can’t “out-compete” capitalism. Corporations will always have larger capital to invest in research, technology, and their willingness to cut costs through lower wages, less environmentally sounds practices, out-sourcing, etc, will give them an advantage.

    Second, is that co-operatives are subject to market pressures to compete for just the same as capitalist enterprises and this lends itself to pressures to create the same practices of corporations.

    Third, is that many cooperatives face the same issues as small business owners face. Often worker co-operatives are in the service, food or other speciality industries with lower profit margins and because they are smaller and do not have the advantages of scale which larger companies do.

    Lastly, is the tendency of worker co-operatives to see their needs and interests as an entity apart from and/or above other workers. After all, as cooperatives exist within a market system, their interests are to compete with other companies and expand their market share.”

    Socialist commonwealth, cooperative commonwealth

    We share a vision of a real “commonwealth”. It means a global system of society where all wealth is held in common and is democratically controlled by all people. It is a society from which borders and frontiers, social classes and leaders, states and governments have disappeared, in which production is geared to meeting needs, not profit, and in which people give of their abilities and have free access to the benefits of civilisation. This is the real “commonwealth” socialists look forward to.

    Alan Johnstone is a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, a companion party of the World Socialist Movement. He contributes to the blogs: Socialism or Your Money Back and Socialist Courier. Alan can be reached at: alanjjohnstone@yahoo.co.uk.

      Read The Socialist Cooperative Commonwealth
      October 31, 2021
    The Glasgow summit, climate change, and the case for socialism
    by Daniel de Vries , Countercurrents, in Climate Change.

    Heads of state, government ministers and thousands of other delegates from all corners of the globe are converging on Glasgow, Scotland for two weeks of climate change talks beginning this weekend.

    This year marks the 26th round of negotiations following the ratification by more than 190 countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was agreed to in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. In the subsequent 29 years of international talks, capitalist governments have produced one failure after another, leaving the world on a trajectory towards catastrophe. This year’s session in Glasgow promises more of the same.

    Much, however, has changed since the last negotiating session in 2019. The past two years have seen a series of escalating climate disasters in all regions of the globe, including massive wildfires from the Australian bush to the American west, devastating flooding in Europe, Asia and the Americas, and deadly heatwaves the world over.

    Scientific advances have further strengthened our knowledge of climate change and its impact on humanity. The International Panel on Climate Change’s latest comprehensive report released in August confirmed that effects are “widespread, rapid and intensifying, and some trends are now irreversible.” The world has already warmed by 1.2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. The climate system’s inertia has effectively locked in a global temperature increase of 1.5 C within the next two decades, if not sooner.

    Neither the dire warnings of scientists nor the consequences of extreme weather have fundamentally altered the pathetic global response to climate change. The international paralysis in the face of the climate crisis is compounded by the absence of any global response to the pandemic. The Glasgow summit itself was postponed for a year in the hopes that the delay would allow for a collective response to end the mass death. Those hopes have given way to an even more disastrous year, with the global death toll more than doubling in 2021.

    The main item on the Glasgow agenda is to revise the greenhouse gas emissions targets each nation committed to after the Paris agreement six years ago. These commitments are entirely voluntary and have no enforcement mechanism. Despite its toothlessness, the collective aspirations from Paris bring the world nowhere near the stated goal of limiting temperature increase to 2.0 C, let alone the target urged by scientists of 1.5 C.

    An analysis by the United Nations Environment Programme released this week found that if countries manage to fulfill their current commitments, temperatures are still likely to rise 2.7 C this century. The reality is even worse, however. Most nations have done far too little to transition to renewable energy, increase efficiency, and implement other measures required to achieve their insufficient goals. If the current policies continue apace, the world will likely eclipse 3 C of warming by 2100, a magnitude of change that calls into question the future of civilization.

    The solution offered at Glasgow is for governments to conjure up new, more aggressive targets in line with less catastrophic warming trajectories. These targets remain entirely voluntary, however, and are open to cynical accounting tricks. Brazil, for instance, revised its estimate of 2005 emissions upwards so that on a percentage basis, it remains on track to achieve its commitment.

    The stark contrast between the promises to rapidly reduce carbon pollution and the reality of policies that retain the fossil fuel-powered status quo is exemplified by the United States, responsible for more carbon dioxide currently in the atmosphere than any other nation. President Biden arrived in Glasgow Friday with promises to reduce greenhouse gas releases to half of 2005 levels by the end of the decade and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, he is in the midst of negotiations with his own party to gut his infrastructure and social spending proposals. The remaining funding to address climate change amounts to just $550 billion over 10 years, a fraction of what the country spends preparing for war in a single year. The bulk of this climate funding is devoted to tax giveaways to businesses.

    Behind the false promises and posturing over national commitments are explosive national rivalries that permeate the Glasgow summit. For US imperialism, the shift in policy from the Trump administration, which withdrew from the Paris agreement, to the Biden administration, which rejoined it, does not reflect a turn towards international coordination to resolve a catastrophic issue facing humanity. Instead, it reopens a diplomatic front in the fight for economic and geopolitical dominance, aimed above all at countering the rise of China.

    Biden made this clear in a speech Thursday, which he began by stating his aim to “turn the climate crisis into an opportunity to put us on a path not only to compete but to win the economic competition of the 21st century against China and every other country in the world.”

    His comments followed the recent release of a suite of White House-ordered reports on the national security implications of climate change. The first ever National Intelligence Estimate of climate change summed up what is at stake in Glasgow. “Geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions that will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals,” the report noted. “Debate will center on who bears more responsibility to act and to pay—and how quickly—and countries will compete to control resources and dominate new technologies needed for the clean energy transition.”

    Similar calculations are pursued by all the imperialist governments, which are driven above all by an attempt to gain economic advantage for their native industries and to strengthen their geopolitical standing.

    Meanwhile, the chasm between the actions of governments scheming in Glasgow and what is needed to save humanity continues to grow.

    This spring, the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental advisory agency, released a roadmap to achieving a net-zero global energy sector by 2050. The energy sector accounts for three-quarters of global carbon emissions. Such a trajectory is needed to limit warming to 1.5 C.

    The report lays out the fact that “large number of unparalleled changes across all parts of the energy sector would need to be realised simultaneously, at a time when the world is trying to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.” Just in the next nine years, the following are needed:

    • immediately ceasing approvals of all new oil and gas fields and coal mines;
    • more than doubling the share of renewables in electricity to 60 percent;
    • tripling the annual investment in the power sector;
    • retrofitting half of the existing buildings in advanced economies and one-third in developing countries;
    • doubling global battery manufacturing every two years;
    • increasing solar installations five-fold; and
    • transitioning to 50 percent of new passenger cars powered by electricity, up from 2.5 percent in 2019.

    Does anyone think that capitalist governments the world over are capable of this? The parties at the Glasgow summit can’t even agree to abide by their grossly inadequate promises, let alone implement a systemic transformation.

    The pandemic has demonstrated the real priorities of the ruling class, even when faced with mass death. The abysmal measures to address public health were accompanied by a massive intervention of central banks in the crisis that erupted in the financial system in March of 2020, unleashing virtually unlimited funds to shore up the banks and finance houses. With the markets temporarily stabilized, the priority shifted to reopening the economy in most areas of the globe. The virus was allowed to spread and mutate. Millions are dead as a result, with no end in sight. At the same time, social inequality has reached obscene new heights.

    The fundamental challenges posed by the pandemic are the same as those posed by climate change. Just as the coronavirus knows no borders, neither does carbon dioxide. An effective response to the basic problems of our time must similarly break through the national boundaries set up under capitalism.

    They require a massive reallocation of resources, directing social resources to meet social needs, not private profit.

    The enormous investments needed for a rapid transition to a renewable-powered economy are impossible so long as the key levers of the economy are controlled privately and operated in the interest of profit.

    The failure to address climate change is not caused by humans in the abstract. It is caused by a particular social system, capitalism. The inherent contradictions in capitalism—(1) the division of an economically integrated world into rival countries and (2) socialized production alongside private ownership of the means of production—present an obstacle that we must overthrow if we are to stave off the catastrophic implications of climate change. It requires a rational economic plan coordinated on a global level. It requires the struggle for socialism.

    At its root, climate change is fundamentally a class question. In whose interests does society operate? Capitalism, operating on behalf of a tiny but fabulously wealthy ruling elite, has proven itself utterly bankrupt. The urgent task is to turn to the working class, the social force whose fundamental interests align with reconstructing society so as to fulfill social needs, not generate private profit.

    Originally published by WSWS.org

      Read  The Glasgow summit, climate change, and the case for socialism
      November 1, 2021
    COP26 Exposes Failure of Neoliberalism
    by Robert Hunziker, Countercurrents,in Climate Change.

    The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow October 31st thru November 12th may be the most significant climate conference of all time. The fate of the planet is on the line.

    Prior to that august event, hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers evidenced an alarming fact that the climate system is broken, endangering all complex life. This fact is supported by the Alliance of World Scientists with over 15,000 signatories from 160 countries in support of the following declaration: World Scientists Warning of a Climate Emergency.

    As it happens, the UN climate conference extemporaneously puts the neoliberal brand of capitalism on public trial. Alas, the “free market” neoliberal brand of capitalism has miserably failed to address the global warming issue, thus failing to support civilization at large. After all, it’s established, on an anthropomorphic basis, neoliberalism is an economic model that people emulate.

    Free marketers will argue that solar, wind, woody biomass, tidal, hydro, and geothermal demonstrate real true progress within the scope of a generalized free market response to global warming, especially solar, wind, and biomass.  Yet, in reality, these “greenie fixes” are but tiny tokens within a very broad landscape.

    Of special interest leading up to COP26, the EU, as well as corporate forestry interests, have a love affair with woody biomass as an important contributor to net zero, but is woody biomass worse than coal?

    • The influx of 1/3 more trees would buy humanity time by adding 20 years to meet climate targets (ETH Zurich)
    • Each 1% added to current U.S. electricity production from forest biomass, an additional 18% increase in U.S. forest harvest is required (US Energy Info Agency) 18% gets you 1%, umm?
    • Carbon is emitted in the biomass combustion process, resulting in a net increase of CO2 (Columbia University study)
    • Woody biomass power plants actually produce more global warming CO2 than fossil fuel plants (Earth Institute)
    • Every megawatt-hour of electricity generated from wood produces more CO2than if the power station had remained coal-fired. (John Sherman, Complex Systems Analysis, MIT)
    • If we let some of our forests grow, we could remove an additional 10 to 20 percent of what we emit every year. Instead, we’re paying subsidies to have people cut them down, burning them in place of coal, and counting it as zero carbon. (Bill Moomaw, co-author of Nobel Peace Prize-Winning IPCC report)
    • Moomaw led a group of 800 scientists that petitioned the EU to: “End its supp0rt of biomass” in January 2018. The EU Commission voted to keep biomass listed as a renewable energy 6 months later (June 2018), supported by the US and UK.
    • See- The Biomass Fiasco, Countercurrents, Feb. 5, 2020.

    Meanwhile, moving on and beyond the stupidity of the EU embracing big bucks forestry in what appears to be a phony net zero scheme, according to the IMF, subsidies for fossil fuels, which add fuel to the fire of the climate crisis, totaled $5.9 trillion in 2020 as fossil fuels account for 84% or the world’s primary energy (same % as 50 yrs ago) according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2020. According to the IMF calculations, that’s $11 million every minute in subsidies going up in smoke, sending CO2 skyward. (Source: Fossil Fuel Industry Gets Subsidies of $11M a Minute, IMF Finds, The Guardian, October 6, 2021).

    All of the above means free marketers stand on very shaky ground if and when they claim any serious interest in a climate fix. Tokenism doesn’t cut it, especially after decades upon decades of public knowledge of the intimidating enormity of the global warming threat. The gravity of the situation has been an open secret for decades. The fact is the character called Mr. Neoliberal has not gotten the job done but has abetted a worsening of the situation.

    When the nations of the world gather under the same banner for the same purpose at UN climate conferences, they’re responding to the failure of the “free market” to provide guidance or concern or pro-active intervention, other than token renewables, whilst the fossil fuel gorilla garners 84% of primary energy. The evidence is found in fossil fuel production for all to see, and it is found in atmospheric CO2 at 414 ppm, up, up, up every year, never ever down.

    Understandably, the global warming issue is worldwide and requires the world coming together. But, Mister Neoliberal prefers free market capitalism, let the invisible hand of the market decide, as the most efficient means to achieve human progress via rugged individualism rather than a collective, complemented by the fewest possible regulations and government-lite. The Far Right is pushing for this in America with the GOP as its vehicle, under suspicion of massive payoffs, documented in the 6th-to-last paragraph of this article.

    However, fixing global warming requires coalescing world interests simply because it is a worldwide problem, not local, not regional, not national. It’s international! Yet, neoliberalism does not coalesce common interests. Its competitiveness inherently tears common interests apart, taking no prisoners in the universal battle for profits.

    David Attenborough, speaking before the UN Security Council in February 2021 said climate change is: “The biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced… If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security.”

    He went on to say unparalleled levels of global cooperation are required, meaning it’ll be necessary to “compel countries to question their economic models”, as the only way to deal with issue. (Source: UN Press Release, Security Council, SC/14445, February 23, 2021)

    All of which prompts two relevant questions: What’s at stake at COP26 and what role does the neoliberal brand of capitalism play?

    As for what’s at stake at COP26, Dr. Jason Box (professor of glaciology, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland), one of the world’s leading climate scientists, recently discussed global warming and how it perniciously changes weather patterns, interviewed on the Thom Hartmann Program d/d July 2021.

    Dr. Box is a member of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, as part of the Climate Expert Group analyzing all observational records of climate behavior.

    According to Dr. Box: “For the past 50 years we’re finding an increasingly precise story of just how the Arctic climate is unraveling. It is the leading edge of global climate change because the Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the world, and that is directly changing weather patterns where most people live in the mid latitudes.”

    Because of the disappearance of most of the Arctic’s ecosystem, jet streams at 5-9 miles above react in weird unpredictable fashion, morphing into polar vortexes that dip and remain stuck for protracted periods of time, changing the flow of weather, causing massive flooding and severe droughts and bitter cold waves, as well as stationary heat domes, producing sweltering temperatures but can also fuel violent thunderstorms and stoke dangerous wildfires. This is happening all across the Northern Hemisphere, and it is not normal.

    These prolonged weather patterns are negatively clobbering the mid latitudes. For example, fierce heat in Seattle where people never previously needed air conditioning and massive flooding, nearly wiping out towns and villages in Germany and Belgium, and massive destructive flooding in Zhengzhou China (pop. 12M) where passengers on a subway train were trapped with water up to their necks for hours on end and 9,000 homes smashed apart and 1.2 million people displaced. This is not normal.

    The wrath of the climate system gone bonkers is fully displayed on the nightly news for everybody to witness. But very few people know and fully understand the root cause of these natural disasters, which are much bigger and more prolonged than ever before. Answer: Human caused greenhouse gas emissions have turbo-charged nature into a batty wacky crazed unpredictable beast!

    This unglued climate system smothers ecosystems with punishing severe droughts.  According to SPEI Global Drought Monitor, no continent is spared the ravages of severe drought, except for Antarctica. This is happening at unprecedented levels at a global temperature of only 1.2°C above baseline, not the 1.5°C above baseline as suggested by the IPCC as a hopeful stopping point.

    Ultra severe drought conditions are rampant throughout the world. This is not normal. For example, a Middle Eastern water crises has turned deadly in some countries, nearly dried up reservoirs in regions of California, the Hoover Dam’s Lake Mead at an all-time record low, Chile hit extra hard, Brazil hit real hard, normally rainy Taiwan hit, Russia hit hard, Turkey hit hard, Siberia’s Biblical fires, Australia hit hard, and there’s more. These are not normal drought conditions! (See- Drought Clobbers the World, Countercurrents, August 27, 2021)

    Moreover, and of utmost concern, according to Jason Box, recent observations show winter warming that is activating permafrost carbon that has been isolated and frozen for millennia. All of that has suddenly changed with “water ponding” at the surface, which serves as an outlet for methane to emit directly into the atmosphere. The repercussions could be horrifying, but nobody knows for sure if and when it’ll become horrifying, but knowing of that risk is enough.

    Speaking of horrifying, recent observations show the Arctic has become an emitter of carbon, rather than a carbon sink, in harmony with automobiles, trains, planes, and power plants. Essentially, and forlornly, the Arctic has officially joined the ranks of anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gas emitters, as the big global human footprint supplants Mother Nature!

    Box: “It’s a catastrophe in slow motion, and we are like the frogs in a heated pot… we’re just barely noticing this….”

    Yet, it’s started and can only get worse sans far-reaching radical changes in human activity, and most importantly, radical changes in socio-economics. Moreover, as explained by Dr. Box, two-and-a-half times the volume of carbon that’s already in the atmosphere resides frozen in Arctic permafrost. It’s a monster in waiting. Yet, global warming’s thermokarst lakes and collapsing permafrost have not been accounted for in past IPCC climate reports, meaning the IPCC’s carbon budget is likely out of whack, and therefore, there’s much, much less time to do something constructive.

    Box: “The path we are on is most definitely a catastrophic path, and how soon does the world become unlivable… I think we’re approaching that when these wake up calls like the Pacific Northwest of the US that was 120°F, shattering records… that’s basically unlivable.”

    Box suggests preparing for extreme disruptions. After all, nobody knows “how soon the house of cards comes tumbling down”; however, he does express some hope, albeit with suffering: “We are resilient… when you put the species under threat, it acts very well to preserve its own… but it will not come without a tremendous amount of suffering.”

    According to Dr. Jason Box: We must remove >500 gigatons from the atmosphere ASAP, which will be “the project of the century” in concert with halting current carbon emissions.

    Neoliberalism as a Failed System

    COP26 serves as an unwelcomed catalyst for examining the true essence of the neoliberal brand of capitalism. It is instructive that the climate dilemma brings the world community together to fight a common enemy, which requires cooperation, not competition, the hallmark of neoliberal capitalism, and it requires unanimity of equals, not rich homes versus poor slums.

    Neoliberalism emphases limited regulations and limited government, perpetual growth at any and all costs, and favoritism to whomever holds the most marbles. This simply does not compute for a worldwide problem that requires (1) cooperation (2) stiff regulations (3)  government influence.

    Neoliberal capitalism inherently promotes the profit motive of consumer goods in exchange for use of and disregard of ecosystems that provide the foundation for all life, which is antithetical to the big climate fix, assuming there is one.

    More to the point, neoliberalism is an archaic socio-economic model, a holdover from the Middle Age flirtation with commerce and capitalism. (See- The Commercial Revolution in Medieval Europe, The Great Courses Daily, October 4, 2019 or Marc Bloch’s masterful two-part synthesis, Feudal Society)

    Of notable interest, free market proponents have gone so far as to publicly attack and denigrate global warming as a spoof. Donald Trump, the titular leader of the GOP, exercising his presidential discretionary power, wielding a big club, diminished science, and intentionally lambasted the global warming issue, withdrawing from Paris ’15, as key senior scientists had no choice but flee to France’s wide-open arms.

    Worse yet, crony capitalists covertly funded, and continue to fund, direct attacks on the global warming issue. It is believed that Russian oligarchs, as well as Middle Eastern oil barons, surreptitiously fund right-wing political campaigns with the express purpose of backing political candidates that can “easily be molded” to refute global warming and actively obstruct efforts to address the issue. (See- How Putin’s Oligarchs Funneled Millions Into GOP Campaigns, The Dallas Morning News, May 8, 2018) Named participants include: Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Donald Trump, Paul Manafort.

    And tellingly, Losing Earth, a 30,000-word feature on climate change in the New York Times, August 1, 2018 exposed the fact that the US failed to act on climate change between 1979 and 1989 when enough was known about the issue to start preventative action, e.g., James Hansen’s testimony to the US Senate, but nothing was done, as President Reagan and PM Thatcher fully endorsed neoliberalism.

    Thus, the 1980s was the start of decades of failures of the prevailing socio-economic theory to seriously address an ever-enlarging threat to civilization. Moreover, global warming was at the forefront throughout the period but nothing was done.

    The neoliberal brand of capitalism has failed the planet and failed civilization. It’s an archaic outmoded system with very deep roots to a centuries-old masculine-dominated white world.

    Eco-economics is much more attractive on several counts. (Yale Insights: What is Ecological Economics? by Robert Costanza) https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/what-is-ecological-economics).

    Or, do as they do in Amsterdam: Doughnut Economics Boots Capitalism Out!

    Robert Hunziker is a writer from Los Angeles

      Read  COP26 Exposes Failure of Neoliberalism
      November 2, 2021
    The West’s China Complex: Beijing as the Enemy and the Savior
    by Dr Ramzy Baroud , Countercurrents, in World.

    “Could China’s economy collapse?” was the title of an October 15 article published by QUARTZ magazine. The article makes an ominous case of a Chinese economic crash and its impact on China’s and global economies.

    This is one of numerous reports appearing in recent weeks in Western mainstream media, all motivated by recently published economic indicators pointing to less-than-expected growth in various sectors of the Chinese economy, especially in the field of construction.

    It is understandable that the volatility of global markets could instigate immediate concern among economists worldwide, especially when the economic output of a country the size of China – the world’s overall fastest-growing and second-largest economy – stalls, however briefly.

    What is puzzling is how a fully predictable economic slowdown – considering the adverse effects of the pandemic on global trade – becomes a compelling reason to fuel predictions of a supposedly imminent Chinese collapse.

    For QUARTZ, China’s supposed economic woes are an outcome of Beijing’s centralized economy, the Communist party’s political crackdowns and the restructuring of the private sector. If growth continues to slow down, “China may well witness civil unrest,” the article predicts, though without providing concrete evidence to back up such a dramatic assertion.

    Compare this doomsday reading of the manufactured ‘crisis’ in China to the real fuel crisis in the UK, where a collective panic led to millions of people rushing to buy petrol and diesel fuels, resulting in massive disruptions, shortages of supplies and traffic jams. Western media downplayed the unprecedented crisis, as if it was merely the outcome of simple bureaucratic mismanagement or a mere miscalculation pertaining to supply and demand. If the equivalence of the UK’s dystopian scenes were witnessed in China, Western journalists would be ready to report on the ‘civil unrest’ and the impending revolution, even.

    However, the anti-China media hype, which has been on the rise since the beginning of the Donald Trump Administration’s term in office, is a double-edged sword. While media propaganda, which habitually portrays China as an unstable country and depicts its decades-long economic growth as if a fleeting phenomenon, benefits greatly from downgrading China’s status, Western economies will be the first to pay the price should China enter a long-term economic recession.

    Unlike the Soviet Union, which economy had existed in near-total isolation of Western markets, the Chinese economy is closely intertwined with the global economy, from Europe to North America, to Africa and beyond. The saying ‘if China sneezes, the world catches a cold’ has never been truer.

    According to a recent Bloomberg illustration, displaying “Contributions to Global Growth” by various leading economic powers, China, especially starting 2010, served the role of the backbone of the global economy. The year 2020 was particularly interesting, as only China sustained a significant growth above the zero-percentage point.

    The centrality of China as the main fuel of global economic growth presents the West with an impossible dilemma. On the one hand, the US and its allies want to ensure that China remains a minor global political power while, on the other hand, they continue to rely on the Chinese ‘economic miracle’ to keep their own economies afloat. It should come as no surprise that, according to the European Commission, “China is the EU’s biggest source of imports and its second-biggest export market”.

    As US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin headed to Brussels on October 21 to join his first in-person NATO defense ministers’ conference, the Washington Post reported that Austin was joining the highly-influential meeting “with China on his mind”.

    What worries Austin and the US military more than the vast capabilities and constant improvements of its Chinese counterpart, is NATO’s supposed failure to appreciate the ‘China threat’. Indeed, despite the US’ repeated warnings about China’s military ascendency, Europe and most NATO members remain largely nonchalant.

    Simply put, Washington wants Europe to shoot itself in the foot. By isolating China, Europe would consequently isolate itself, thus curtailing its own economic growth and, by extension, slowing down the entire global economy. Considering the trust deficit between the EU and the US, resulting from the instability of the Trump Administration’s years, Biden’s failure to completely change course, and the more recent Afghanistan withdrawal debacle, chances are Europeans will not be following in Washington’s footsteps this time around, as they have during the height of the US-Soviet Cold War.

    The above assertion has been demonstrated, time and again, in real numbers, the latest of which was a survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations, which polled Europeans in twelve different EU member states. Most Europeans, 59 percent, the survey showed, felt that their countries are not involved in a cold war with China.

    Foreign Policy magazine reported on the findings with the following title: “Europeans Want to Stay Out of the New Cold War”. Chances are neither Western media alarmists nor Austin’s interventions at the NATO conference will change this reality.

    China’s economy is likely to continue experiencing its ebbs and flow, thanks to the global recession resulting from the pandemic. On their own, such fluctuations will unlikely change the narrative of the determined Chinese rise as a global power, or that of the unmistakable western decline. The sooner we acknowledge this reality, the better.

    – Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

      Read The West’s China Complex: Beijing as the Enemy and the Savior
      October 8, 2021
    Andre Vltchek on Democracy, China, and its Ecological Civilization
    by Ramakrishnan, Countercurrents, in World .

    “Communist Victory in Beijing, China “ (photo by Andre Vltchek)

    In this review article, we remember Andre Vltchek who passed away last year Sep 22, was a friend of all oppressed peoples, who travelled far and wide to scores of countries. And reflect on his views about China that recently (Oct 1) celebrated its revolution, significant in the context of CPC@100. The subject is relevant and important even as the Biden dispensation launched its New Cold War against China, ostensibly to defend democracy, and unveiled a new AUKUS, in addition to its QUAD.

    Modi-led India, mouthing multi-lateralism, and with democracy as an alibi, unabashedly  allowed itself to be roped in by the US super power and its Asia-Pacific Hegemony project. This one is not mere cold war, but is hotting up into a potential military conflict, with nuclear dimensions, backed by hundreds of military bases in the region, reminiscent of Vietnam days of 1960s and 1970s. By Modi-regime joining the QUAD, India is being entangled in a dangerous situation.      

    The article also throws light on the other burning global question of environment, and China’s alternative in an  Ecological Civilization, highlighted by Vltchek. China led by Xi Jinping reiterated its commitment to this approach. This approach set long-term critics of China’s path, like those of Monthly Review, to reconsider the gamut of their views in a Special issue in July 2021 to mark CPC@100.    


    Apart from being a writer, film-maker and a reporter, Vltchek was an activist who was scholarly. This dimension was less noticed. He introduced himself, in an article two years ago thus:

    “Those of us who are close to the China’s Academy of Social Sciences, or to the Chinese leading universities and media outlets, are doing our best to explain the errors committed in both Soviet Union and the so-called Eastern Block. Based on the analyses of its own past, and of other socialist countries, China is both fighting for the survival of the world, and for the improvement of the standards of living of its own people.”

    “While perfecting its own socialist system, China learned a lot about the mistakes made by the Soviet Union. It is not going to repeat them,” he wrote.

    As CPC recently celebrated its birth centenary last July 1, this aspect about Soviet Union was debated in Chinese party and non-party circles, how it was one factor that was behind Socialism with Chinese characteristics.

    As China celebrated its National Day October 1, amid a climate of Biden-led NEW cold war, beefed up by the new, NATO-like AUKUS, and amid concerns for ecological devastation emanating from imperialist model of development, it is useful to recall the optimistic writings of Vltchek.

    “Attacking China is turning into the most lucrative career for both the mediocre journalist working for the mass media outlets and for the funding-starved individuals all over the world,” he wrote:

    “It goes without saying that China is being intimidated and provoked by almost all Western countries, as well as their client states.”

    (See Why I Stand By The 70 Years Old, Communist China, 14/10/2019


    In a later article, China – US Media War, Vltchek wrote:

    Washington loves to snap at “undemocratic nations”. But the truth is, both the United States and the United Kingdom, in unison, have managed to create a thoroughly and truly undemocratic global system of governance, economic practices and “information” (in fact – disinformation)…

    In summary, if you pay for “information” invented, manufactured and refined in the U.S. and Europe, by the Western press agencies and television networks, you will be just fine and get patted on the back.

    Especially if that information is helping to maintain global political and economic dictatorship of the West. So, if you pay for getting your people brainwashed and indoctrinated, you will be ranked high on the various “freedom of information” indexes…

     “Many citizens in the West do not trust their own media, anymore”

    Russian, Chinese, Latin American and even Iranian media outlets are becoming extremely influential in the educated circles in the West. It is because many citizens in Europe and the United States do not trust their own media, anymore. They are turning for information to such media outlets as RTChina DailyCGTNPressTVNEO and Telesur.

    Washington promotes competition, ideological and commercial, but only when it suits its interests, meaning, when it is winning. When its ideology or products begin to stumble behind the competitors (China, Russia, for instance), it immediately imposes sanctions, or introduces censorship.

    These ‘key issues’, of course, include China…China is seen in the West as the most ‘dangerous’ adversary…

    Western media has sold out. It is despised, ridiculed. It is paid to attack countries such as China, Russia or Venezuela.

    He wrote the above in the Trump era. Biden is more aggressive along the same path, events confirm.  

    Ironically, China is attacked by imperialists as well as some of those who claim to be anti-imperialist, as he wrote:

    Reasons for these attacks are only too easy to identify: The People’s Republic of China is clearly winning in all fields and areas, over both the imperialism and savage capitalism: ideologically, intellectually and socially.”

    Though China tops the table in terms of GDP- it is among the top 5 for the last few years-  it actually is a Third World country hard-pressed for resources.

    China’s per capita GDP, $ 8612 is more than four times that of India at $ 1980, but only 15 % of that of USA at US 59939 dollars. Still it is quite low, even among third world countries, see comparable data (in US dollars for 2017): Qatar 61264, Saudi Arabia 20747, S.korea 29958, Hong kong (though part of PRC, it is a different economic entity, with a capitalist system allowed officially) 46733. China’s is only 15 percent compared to that of USA. Despite that, Vltchek wrote…

    “With only a fraction of the GDP per capita China is eliminating extreme poverty. Its infrastructure is now better than that in the West. Its progress in the field of ecology cannot be matched by any other part of the world. Its creativity, in the area of culture and science, is colossal. The life of the Chinese people is improving, dramatically. And, it is very hard not to notice, the lives of the people in the countries that are working with China, are getting much better, as well.”

    “The only outcome the West would accept would be if China would kneel, surrender, and give up its “Socialism with the Chinese characteristics” system,” he wrote having felt the pulse in the West: “And this is unacceptable to both the government in Beijing and to the people of China.”

    “I am not too interested in reading and listening to the endless analyses of the Westerners regarding China. I am interested in what the Chinese people have to say about their country!”

    Vltchek wrote frequently on China, but was least featured by Indian media, except few like Counter Currents.  Our media picks up only anti-China materials, has no objectivity at all.

    We shall see two important issues of the modern world, democracy and environmental problems…also in relation to China. 

    Views expressed by Vijay Gokhale, a Sinologist, and India’s former Secretary, Ministry of External affairs, MEA, given below, are relevant, and need to be seen along with those of Vltchek.

    ***                          ***

    “Democracy”, the “biggest and the “greatest”, facing the “Dragon”

    There is a notion promoted by ruling classes and the media, both in the West and in India,  that China advanced better and faster because there is no democracy there, as if it is a curse India invited for itself.

    With all his criticism for the Chinese system, Gokhale recently said in a recent interview:

    We very glibly explain China’s remarkable economic transformation as a direct outcome of its non-democratic form of government. As if even today, the Chinese government can decide to build a road through any basti or chawl in Mumbai and there is no opposition to it…

    “Frankly when the Cold War ended, the Chinese were as challenged as we were. We both took different paths. And they pursued economic reform with a single-minded purpose of quadrupling the GDP. And in that process, they made many compromises with policy andthey  showed greater flexibilityWe must acknowledge this and not pretend that it is simply because they have a dictatorial system, whereas we have a democratic one, that they have been able to achieve much more.”

    About India he says:

    “The second is that I suppose a constitution when it is made after you would have been, for want of a better word, enslaved for 150 years, also means you don’t really have the wherewithal to make the perfect constitution. To make a perfect government, you go along the way, and you keep making changes.”

    He says we have poor information, our own, about China.

    “First, because government has begun to rely more on outside resources, since within government there is limited time and ability to study countries like China…

    “Notwithstanding that, we also have a larger structural problem, which is that our educational system is still oriented towards the West. If we are to pick 10 Indians who are studying in universities, and ask them to name 10 American cities, or the last five American presidents, there is a much greater probability that they will get this right than if we ask them to name 10 Chinese cities or the last five Chinese presidents.”

    “Which takes me to the point that a lot more writing has to be done on China… in a way that can be absorbed by our younger generations. Because if we don’t do that, we risk making misjudgments and having misconceptions about a country which is not only a neighbour but is now a superpower.”

    The Long Game: How the Chinese Negotiate with India, is the second, the latest book authored  by Gokhale. The interview was related to that.

    His first book that went in for a reprint within weeks was :

    Tiananmen Square: The Making of a Protest – A Diplomat Looks Back by Vijay Gokhale (May 23, 2021) HarperCollins, Pp 181 (with index).

    When we do not know them well, how can we negotiate with them? … “there was no encouragement to academics and scholars to pursue China studies” though that has somewhat changed over the years, said Gokhale.

    “India has a superpower on its doorstep. Yet the Indian public, including its elites, understand very little about its neighbour’s politics and what drives its policymaking. “Almost nobody in India, including the highly educated elite, would be able to intelligently discuss Chinese politics for more than 10 minutes. But of course, we will all have an opinion on American politics,” said Vijay Gokhale, who was India’s Ambassador to China, in later 1980s, Tiananmen Student revolt days :

    “I would take great issue with the West, because one of the things I pointed out in my book is that the West was hardly objective on Tiananmen, they were actually following (their) government line. They weren’t objective.”

    “It is no longer possible for the western media to hide their hypocrisy, and they have lost their credibility,” wrote Gokhale. We were prejudiced by such sources.

    (scroll.in interview, Aug 14, 2021.)


    Gokhale’s  statement in relation to China is nearer the truth, and that on USA sounds true, but is questionable.

    We do not care to know that dragon in China’s culture is not a ‘cruel deadly’ animal as it is shown in the Indian media visuals. Dragon is a spiritual creature that symbolizes “great power, good luck, and strength.” It represents power and authority, particularly control over typhoons, water, rainfall and floods. To those who believe in astrology and the like, it is the best zodiac sign, not a bad omen.

    US the greatest democracy, is our “ally”, we are told by PM Modi after his latest America trip. We do not care to look into its brazen violations both at home (racism, Black Lives matter, largest number of prisoners, many without trial for years etc etc) and abroad, with brazen policies of hegemony and regime change policies, that are the very anti-thesis of democracy.

    Vltchek on Western democracy

    We are told China has no democracy, no popular media, and people are brain-washed. Andre Vltchek (1963-2020), Soviet-born American media person, was brutally frank about US and the West:

    “ This world is being brutalized and controlled by the fascist clique of Western nations. There is no ‘democracy’ left in this world, as there is near zero respect for international law in North American and European capitals. Colonialism has returned in full force. Western imperialism is now almost fully controlling the world…

    “ Now, the situation is the same. Or worse, perhaps much worse, because the West has nukes and a tremendous propaganda apparatus: it controls human brains all over the world with ‘mass media’, and ‘education’.

    “And because the citizens of the West are now much more brainwashed than the Germans and Italians were in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s; more brainwashed, more scared, submissive and more ‘disciplined’…

    He suggested the remedy, pay back in their own coin:

    “Regime change is urgently needed…in Washington.”(Monthly Review, February 27, 2019)


    Many in India take pride that America sets India in the league of democracies, without bothering to know about democracy itself, which is more an alibi for hegemonism.

    Gokhale pointed out one side of the reality:

    “My perspective is that there is no one democratic path. Merely because the West introduced parliamentary democracy into India does not mean that that is the gold standard for democracy. Because ultimately, if we take Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, where he says “government of the people, for the people, by the people,” then it is the people who determine the shape of the government.”

    And BR Ambedkar by whom we swear by had gone deeper into it, the role of people,  and said, as if visualizing India’s future, in September 1943:

    “ People do not govern themselves; they establish a government and leave it to govern them, forgetting that it is not their government. That being the situation, Parliamentary Democracy has never been a government of the people or by the people and that is why it has never been a government for the people. Parliamentary Democracy,                      not withstanding the paraphernalia of a popular government, is in reality a government of a hereditary subject class by a hereditary ruling class.

    “ It never made even a nodding acquaintance with equality. It failed to realize the significance of equality, and did not even endeavour to strike a balance between liberty and equality, with the result that liberty swallowed equality and has left a progeny of inequities.”


    Façade of democracy : Rule by Minority Vote

    Perhaps lovers of this kind of democracy welcomed and enjoyed this inequity. Chinese  shunned it and have their own People’s Democracy, and their own election.

    But Samir Amin, renowned economist and political scientist, made a most revealing observation in an interview to frontline.in, May 11, 2018:

    “ The French Revolution said liberty and equality. The so-called American Revolution did not project this target. The word “democracy” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. And democracy was considered a danger. The system was invented to avoid this danger. The system did not change the relations of production. Slavery remained a decisive part of the system; (First US President 1789-1797) George Washington (1732-1799) was an owner of slaves.” 

    We have seen how Trump issued warnings and exposed the fraud and fragility of US democracy when he lost (he contests the verdict) the poll. Democracy there is no more than a hand-maid of big corporate plunderers and merchants of death, and it is a State that allows brazen racism against Blacks, Muslims, and others. This is notwithstanding a democratic society many people cherish.

    India is ruled by a model of electoral democracy, with political parties contesting elections, and the party or coalition that is supposed to have won majority becomes the ruling party. Indian Constitution does not contain even a word about political parties. And it never had  rule by a party, or even an alliance, that won “majority votes;”   no party ever got 50 percent plus votes, even out of votes polled, not total voters,  since the first elections of 1950.

    Let alone BJP, even NDA as the winning alliance won only 45 percent of the polled vote in 2019, compared to 38 % in 2014.  Closest to that figure (50%) was Rajiv Gandhi (PM after Indira Gandhi’s murder, elected with sympathy vote); he was a pilot who never wanted to come into politics.  As per the Constitution (Article 356), any state government, elected just like the Centre, can be dismissed by the Centre – and President Rule may be imposed; it was done, not sparingly, but  more than 100 times.

    UK’s Conservative party got 43.6 % of votes poled in 2019, the highest for any party since 1979. Its highest was in 1955, and that was short of 50%..,49.7. The highest ever vote by the Labor party was in 1951..that was short of 50 percent…it was 48.8.

    Germany was ruled by Angela Merkel (with 33 % vote in 2017, 35 in 2005) for four terms, whose party (CDU, that ruled for almost 50 out of the last 70 years) never got 50 percent vote. In fact, no party ever got it since Second World War. In fact, the winner and loser together also never got 50 percent vote since then. And wonder, the winner and the loser joined hands to form government, that is what they did under Merkel…just sharing the spoils, after hard-bargaining, benefiting the large corporates.

    After centuries of democracy, US never had a woman as its president. Germany’s Merkel was the first woman chancellor. UK had only two women (Ms Thatcher and Ms. May) Prime Ministers in all its history. They lecture others. Conservative Islamic Pakistan and Bangladesh, not to speak of India and Srilanka, had women as prime ministers though it is no sign of women’s empowerment. 

    And democracy is aided by a media that is corporate-controlled, anything but democratic, and an instrument to manufacture consent. 

    Thus democracy is not even necessarily a rule by majority, as it is imagined to be.

    Chinese socialist democracy

    Chinese Communist Party leaders assert they have “Chinese socialist democracy” for what they describe as a participatory representative government. In a November 23, 2002 interview, the then-Chinese ambassador to EgyptLiu Xiaoming, said:

    “I think what we are practicing today is Chinese socialist democracy, which is represented by the National People’s Congress and a broad participation of the Chinese people. In fact, in today’s China, the political participation at the grassroots level is much higher than any western country you can name of. We have grassroots level democracy demonstrated by village election. The turnout is 99 percent, i.e. 99% of villagers participating in this political process to elect their village leaders, comparing with only less than 50% of participation in election process in many western countries.”

    (cited in a wikipedia article)

    And Chinese people at the grassroots have a say on agriculture, on industry, on environment. It is not mere electoral democracy. Note Gokhale’s remarks.

    But India and USA are democracies and allies! Fighting against the dragon!

    ***                                    ***

     “China has its own socialism,don’t be judgmental”  

    Vltchek wrote :

    “ China, a mighty Communist country, (or call it a “socialist country with Chinese characteristics”), is being mocked and humiliated by Western propaganda. Arrogance of the European and North American indoctrinators and most of their servile pseudo-intellectuals, from the so-called center to the right, has no boundaries. Most of them are suffering from incurable superiority complexes. They feel that they have the right to judge China; to decide for it, whether it is “truly” Communist or not, and whether it is on the correct track…”

    China’s determined march towards the ecological civilization

    (Following are extracts from an article, May 16, 2018, by Andre Vltchek, in Monthly Review, online.)


    (This piece by Adam Vltchek on ecological civilization in China includes a nice interview with John B. Cobb, Jr., and and also mentions Monthly Review authors Zhihe Wang and Meijun Fan (see below). Cobb is a friend of MR and supporter of the ecological Marxist tradition that has emerged from pages of the magazine and press. As the article shows, Cobb is clearly playing an important role in China…MR Eds.)

    The West is flexing its muscle, antagonizing every single country that stands on its way to total domination of the Planet. Some countries, including Syria, are attacked directly and mercilessly. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people are dying.

    Political and potentially military disaster is simultaneously ‘complemented’ by the ecological ruin. Mainly Western multi-national companies have been plundering the world, putting profit over people, even over the very survival of the human species.

    Western politicians see absolutely no urgency in all that is taking place around the world, or more precisely – they are paid not to see it.

    So, are we now dealing with the thoroughly hopeless scenario? Did the world go mad? Is it ready to get sacrificed for the profit of the very few? Are people simply going to stand passively, watching what is happening around them, and die, as their world goes literally up in flames?

    It appeared so, until few months ago.

    Then, one of the oldest cultures of Earth, China, stood up and said

    No! There are different ways to go forward. We could all benefit from the progress, without cannibalizing, and fully destroying our Planet.

    China, led by President Xi, accelerated implementation of the concept of so-called Ecological Civilization,  eventually engraving it into the Constitution of the country.

    A man who did tremendous work in China, working tirelessly on the Ecological Civilization concept in both China and in the United States, John Cobb Jr (93) , has been, for years, a friend and close comrade of mine. He is a brave ‘alternative’ and optimistic voice coming from the United States…he had expressed worries that China and its leadership could go ‘either way’, in regard to the “Ecological civilization”.


    Andre Vltchek and John Cobb Jr.

    China’s growing commitment to Eco-civ

    I recalled our meeting in Claremont, when John expressed worries that China and its leadership could go ‘either way’, in regard to the “Ecological civilization”, possibly even against it. Inside China and her leadership, there were apparently voices defending ‘pure economic growth’ approach. Now the Chinese Parliament has written the goal of ecological civilization into the national constitution.

    I wanted to know what does it mean, practically? Is there a reason to celebrate?

    John replied via email:

    Something like fifteen years ago, the Chinese Communist Party wrote the goal of an ecological civilization into its constitution.

    Nevertheless, the phrase meant more than just trying to minimize the ecological damage done by rapid economic growth. It expressed an understanding that the natural world was constituted of ecologies rather than just a collection of individual things. And it clearly indicated the desirability of human activity fitting into this natural world rather than replacing it…

    However, Chinese leaders did recognize that simply postponing the work for clear skies and a healthy environment would not work. The nation needed to work on economic growth and a healthy natural environment simultaneously.

    It began evaluating the success of provincial governments by their achievements in these two distinct realms. Growth goals were set below what would be possible, so that it could be channeled in less environmentally harmful directions.

    Experiments with ecovillages received encouragement.

    The talk of moving toward an ecological civilization also encouraged reflection about “civilization” alongside “market.” That supported those Chinese who were concerned that the narrow concern for wealth at all costs was not healthy for human society… The idea of recovering traditional Chinese civilizational values gained in acceptance.

    However, the changes at the recent Party congress tended to strengthen commitment to ecological civilization. President Xi, who has been central to the moves toward ecological civilization was given another five years. He and others reiterated the goal and affirmed steps in its direction.

    To reinforce the Chinese commitment, the Parliament has written the goal of ecological civilization into the national constitution. ..

    The Chinese people do not feel that the Party’s commitment is oppressive or foolish. We can have considerable confidence that China as a nation in genuinely committed and that the people share a hope for becoming an ecological civilization.

    John Cobb’s role in China

    John Cobb is a well-known figure in the PRC. His thoughts are having great impact on an influential group of Chinese leaders. “Through most of my life, the last thing I anticipated was to have a role in China.

    The Communist Party (by efforts of many) was persuaded to shift its policies from the continuing depopulation of rural China to the development of the thousands of villages that were slated for destruction.

    Policies have changed, and in 2016 for the first time, more people moved from cities to countryside than from countryside to cities. Development of villages has been emphasized along with the goal of ecological civilization in last fall’s crucial meetings of the Communist Party. It seems highly probable that this important shift in Chinese society will endure.

    Obviously, the shift was primarily due to the work of many Chinese. However, harsh criticism by Americans of the consequences of industrializing agriculture in the United States played a role. Again, my voice was only one of many.


    Ancient Xidi Village in China (photo by Andre Vltchek)

    Centralized Power

    In many ways, China became the leader, when it comes to ecology, as well as combining traditional culture with modernity. It is determined to build the entire civilization around its ecological and cultural concerns.

    It appears that in the future, the ‘markets’ and financial considerations may play important but secondary role. Is it mainly possible because of the centralized/Communist nature of the Chinese political and economic system (including the central planning)?

    Clearly in China it has been the leadership of the central government that has set the course, done the planning, and implemented what it planned. For those of us who believe the world needs urgently to move toward ecological civilization, this has worked well.

    There was still the possibility that representatives of other factions in the Communist Party, who sought to replace Xi, might treat him as a “lame duck.” Now that the impossibility of a third term has been removed, that danger also is gone. An extended period of leadership can probably make some policies so identified with the nation that they will continue even if a successor is not personally committed to the goal of ecological civilization.

    All of this is to say that centralized power is currently working in a remarkably promising way not paralleled by other countries with less centralized political power.

    Even so, I have more confidence in endurance in China with its centralized control than in European countries more directly subject to popular opinion.

    As I compare China’s success in giving serious attention to the well-being of its natural environment and needy citizens with that of European countries, my reason for betting on China is that I have some confidence that it will maintain governmental control of finance and of corporations generally. If it does this, it can also control the media. Thus, it has a chance of making financial and industrial corporations serve the national good as perceived by people not in their service. Less centralized governments are less able to control the financial and other corporations whose short-term interests may conflict with the common good.

    There is an old adage in the West: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think the Communist Party in China works hard to socialize its members to resist corruption. I think it has been largely successful.

    I think that at the present time, the Chinese Communist Party is more successful in cultivating a commitment to the common good than are the churches in the West. That may be more important than the question of how centralized the power may be.

    Commitment to the common good

    I wrote to John that during our recent encounter, he stated that one of the reasons why China succeeded in so many fields, is because it can count on many people in its leadership, who are truly concerned about the well-being of their country. This fully coincided with my own experience that I gained in the PRC.

    But how does John see the West? How different is it in the West? Is the Western leadership constructed on thoroughly different principles? He replied immediately:

    “Near the end of my answer to the previous topic I made the statement that I believed the Chinese Communist Party was more successful in eliciting concern for the wellbeing of China and all its people than the Western churches were in eliciting commitment to the common good. For many Christians, this is surprising. Christians have tended to think that we need belief in God to ground our ethical commitments.

    No one supposes that a theistic ethic is the only way that people can be socialized with respect to action. ..

    For many theists, right and wrong are so bound up with God that when they hear that Marx was an atheist, they assume he had no ethics…

    The percentage of Western people who take seriously belief in a God who calls us to serve the common good is probably less that the percentage of Chinese who understand themselves to work with the dialectic of history to overcome the class society that leaves so many abused and oppressed.

    Among Americans, the “American exceptionalism” into which the school system socializes youth plays a larger role… I am attributing to the American educational system the inculcation of American exceptionalism. However, it officially eschews even this value. Its goal is to be “value-free,” which means in practice, in the service of money. The whole culture celebrates the value of being rich…

    And, alongside the general culture, in the Communist Party, a substantial number of people are socialized in Marxist thought and values. It is because Marx has more influence in China than Jesus has in the West, that the chances of China to lead the world toward salvation are better than the chances of the West to do so.

    (About Andre Vltchek

    Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are his tribute to The Great October Socialist Revolution a revolutionary novel Aurora and a bestselling work of political non-fiction, Exposing Lies Of The Empire. )



    Marxism, Ecological Civilization, and China

    Environmental issues are a burning question of the day.  John Bellamy Foster, editor of Monthly Review, and an expert on “ecological Marxism”, wrote on China (June 12, 2015). He has been a sharp critic of Chinese model for long. Now there is a change in his assessment, ecology being an important factor in that.

    Extracts are given below

    Marx and Engels addressed in their writings most of the ecological problems of modern times: climate change (then seen as a regional phenomenon); soil degradation; air and water pollution; overexploitation of natural resources; overpopulation; deforestation; desertification; industrial poisons or toxins; and the destruction of species.

    In The Dialectics of Nature Engels observed: “Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature.  For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. . . .  Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature — but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all of our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”

    China’s Ecological Civilization and Marxism

    China’s leadership has called in recent years for the creation of a new “ecological civilization.”  Some have viewed this as a departure from Marxism and a concession to Western-style “ecological modernization.”  However, embedded in classical Marxism, as represented by the work of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, was a powerful ecological critique.  Marx explicitly defined socialism in terms consistent with the development of an ecological society or civilization — or, in his words, the “rational” regulation of “the human metabolism with nature…”

    What is clear about the present Chinese emphasis on ecological civilization is that it has emerged out of a broad socialist perspective, influenced by both Marxian analysis and China’s own distinct history, culture, and vernacular. 

    In China, as opposed to the West, the land remains social or collective property and cannot be sold.  I believe it is wrong therefore to see China’s initiative in the construction of ecological civilization to be a direct outgrowth of Western-style ecological modernism, as some have supposed.  At the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), in 2007 it was officially proposed that China should build an “ecological civilization,” creating more sustainable relations between production, consumption, distribution, and economic growth. 

    At the18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, “ecological civilization construction” was written into the CPC Constitution.  These principles were built into the latest five-year plan (2011-2015).  Although many have questioned the seriousness of the CPC’s commitment to the construction of an ecological civilization, it is evident that this: (1) arose out of real needs in China, where there has been enormous ecological devastation; (2) was a response to the growth of massive environmental protests throughout China; and (3) has been followed up by massive government efforts in area of planning, production, and technological development.

    (The above lines reflect the way democracy works there: massive protests, and massive response. It is not like what is happening to farmers’ protest movement in India, an electoral democracy, with all its fascist laws and features. . They indicate different models of democracy. )  

    Is China Moving in the Direction of Ecological Civilization?

    There is no doubt that Chinese leadership has made significant steps toward a more sustainable development.  Due to the large role of planning China has been able to make rapid changes in a number of areas, going at times against the logic of economic growth.

    Examples of such efforts are: (1) targeted reductions in economic growth justified in terms of more environmentally balanced growth; (2) the massive promotion of solar and wind technology; (3) a growing share of non-fossil-fuel energy consumption; (4) creation of a red line to protect a minimum of 120 million hectares of farmland; (5) reduction of major air pollutants by 8-10 percent in the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015); (6) removal of six million high-pollution vehicles from the roads in 2014; (7) a 700 percent increase in the output of electric passenger cars (non-plug ins) in 2014; (8) initiation of a government campaign for frugal lifestyles and against extravagance (conspicuous consumption) by officials; (9) growing official criticism of GDP worship; and (10) a pledge to reduce the carbon intensity of GDP by 40-45 percent by 2020 from 2005 level, coupled with a pledge to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, if not sooner; and (11) the imposition of a new resource tax on coal.

    He discusses challenges ahead. That was in 2015.

    (Jun 12, 2015 by John Bellamy Foster)


    Xinhua  Oct. 1 reported the latest situation:

    “ Amidst fluttering flags and floral decorations on the streets and public squares, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) celebrated its 72nd birthday, rejoicing the fruitful achievements of the past year and envisioning a bright future ahead…The year 2021 marks the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and China has realized the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, with absolute poverty eliminated…”

    “Prosperous society” has an important componentGreen development

    “ One of the key characteristics of China’s socialist modernization is human-nature harmony, Xi pointed out.

    He has repeatedly underscored the importance of environmental protection in inspection trips and chaired several high-level meetings on advancing ecological civilization this year.  Xi stressed the importance of improving global environmental governance, actively responding to climate change and creating a community of life for man and nature, in his statement delivered via video at the general debate of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

    Xi also reiterated the commitment he made last year that China will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.”


    (The author was a media person, and a political commentator who contributed several articles to the countercurrents.)

      Read  Andre Vltchek on Democracy, China, and its Ecological Civilization
      October 7, 2021
    Globalization Meets Entropy…and We Lose
    by George Ochenski, Countercurrents, in Globalisation.

    It seems like just a few short years ago that the theoretical economists and the insatiable capitalists were head-over-heels in love with globalization. And why not? As a continuation of old-style colonialism wealthy nations go anywhere on the planet to find the cheapest resources with the least amount of pesky environmental or labor regulations and pocket enormous profits when they sell them to consumers. But then came the pandemic — and with all the “unforeseen consequences” globalization has now run head long into entropy.

    Entropy, which is the Third Law of Thermodynamics, is defined as “a scientific concept, as well as a measurable physical property that is most commonly associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty.” In more understandable terms, it basically says the universe and all its systems move toward chaos, not organization. Additionally, the more complex a system, the more energy it takes to maintain order and the more likely it is to break down.

    This is an easy concept to understand in our current societal systems — they are extremely complex, take enormous amounts of energy to maintain, and thanks to their complexity are increasingly likely to break down. A simple example would be our transportation systems — it’s easy to walk down a path. When you convert the path into a multi-lane highway and fill it with thousands of vehicles, maintaining “order,” as in preventing accidents, gets a lot harder and much, much more expensive.

    Apparently in the dream world of theoretical economics those expounding the wonders of globalization thought they could somehow escape the consequences of one of the primary laws of the universe. Only now, as we are seeing on an increasing basis every day, they were wrong.

    The operation of a “globalized” system of production, consumption, and pollution has, to put it mildly, a lot of moving parts — which means more things can go wrong that will ultimately affect the entire system.

    In our current state of affairs, the pandemic has thrown much of the “globalized” system into chaos. The reason COVID-19 is called a “pandemic” is because it affects the entire planet. Hence, when the workers at the factory that produces microchips for virtually all of our electronics are sick, quarantined, or die, the supply of vitally essential parts is disrupted and any process relying on those chips — such as the production of automobiles — cannot function.

    Likewise, when something as elementary as dock workers are impaired by the pandemic’s extremely broad impacts, container ships cannot be loaded, sail across the oceans, or be unloaded at their destinations. This is not theoretical, this is happening daily across the globe.

    None of the “supply chain” problems are going away any time soon — nor is entropy. What should — and may — go away is the fantasy of a smooth-running, extremely profitable, horrifically polluting concept of globalization as the path to a sustainable future.

    As for the alternatives, they’re already being developed and implemented as the fragility of globalization and its increasingly significant downsides becomes more undeniable with every passing day. Self-sustainability is making a comeback as evidenced in the burgeoning local food production movement. Likewise local power production, especially from renewable resources like solar, is growing, providing both energy security and environmental benefits.

    The choice is ours — we can continue on the failing path as globalization meets entropy as we burn through our resources for quick profits and choke on our own exhaust. Or we can reject globalization’s model of consumption and pollution, increase localization, and give generations yet to come a chance at a livable, sustainable, future.

    George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

      Read Globalization Meets Entropy…and We Lose
      November 3, 2021
    Is Globalization Leading to a Homogenized Global Culture?
    by Rawsab Said, Countercurrents, in Globalisation.

    As global connections continue to develop in the twenty-first century under the conditions of globalization, periphery and semi-periphery nations try to adapt to the norms of core countries with the aim of developing a similar global influence as developed nations. Throughout history, people of different cultures have migrated to countries with cultures different from theirs. As people move from location to location, they bring along their traditions and cultural norms, which influences others to assimilate various aspects of the foreign culture and integrate it into their own. This process is known as cultural diffusion. The spreading of culture can be classified into two categories, forced integration of culture –known as cultural imperialism– and naturally occurring homogenization. Cultural imperialism is usually due to the colonization or occupation of a country by a foreign power with more global influence.

    As the world becomes increasingly globalized, periphery and semi-periphery countries endeavor to reach the same economic positions of core countries, which they undertake by concurring with the cultural norms of highly developed countries. Core countries are tremendously influential, so much so that people that migrate to core countries from lesser developed countries usually acculturate to the cultural standards of the core nation. These give rise to two critical questions of our time: How does homogenization and hybridization result from globalization? What are the pros and cons?

    The Path to a Homogenized Global Culture?

    Core countries, which are nations that are highly developed, can be found at the top of the hierarchy of globally influential countries. This is because these countries are usually industrialized and have periphery and semi-periphery countries that depend on them. Behind the system of interdependence is a well-functioning, stable, and successful economy, which allows these core countries to be more opulent than others. Being a core country is the primary economic goal of periphery and semi-periphery countries, which is why they often try and follow in the footsteps of developed core nations. The lesser developed countries try to develop themselves in a similar manner to the development of core countries by imitating their culture. This is apparent in many non-core, developing countries. As the world becomes more globalized, all cultures are slowly –but surely– becoming the same. Here, we will use the examples such as the case of Azerbaijan, a developing nation, to show how homogenization and hybridization are resulting from globalization today.


    As the number of global connections increase, the need for efficient communication does too. Language serves as both a means and a barrier of interpersonal transmission, which is why the number of international languages has been decreasing for centuries. Many languages spoken exclusively by minorities are dying because the speakers are adapting to more popular languages. In Azerbaijan, the people –especially the youth– are starting to learn English to embrace the culture of developed countries. They also tend to combine some aspects of the Russian language with their own Azerbaijani dialect, which shows the effect and influence of their past occupiers. This expresses the concept of cultural hybridization, as two cultures are put together instead of one overpowering the other. Another example would be Morocco, in which the people speak a dialect that is a mix of Arabic and French. As for a language that is dying, the Chamicuro language, spoken by the indigenous Chamicuro people of Peru, has become an endangered dialect since the indigenous tribe had decided to become modernized and started to embrace Spanish as their primary language. The transitions of countries to international languages –such as English, French or Arabic– allows for homogenization as different cultures use the same language, since it makes them become more similar to each other. The uniqueness of cultures is fading as international languages become more common, people are able to communicate with others more easily and more effectively than before. Although many cultures are nearing extinction, many people from different parts of the world are taking the initiative to revive certain languages by learning about them, which is made possible by globalization, as it allows people to learn more about extinct and endangered languages from around the globe. Languages which are –to some degree– significant to the people that they belong to and their historical context are becoming endangered. For example, Chamicuro, spoken by the Chamicuro tribe in Peru, is becoming replaced with Spanish. This trend can be observed within many tribal languages. This gives a partial representation of the effect of cultural homogenization, as languages that are widespread are staring to diminish, with international languages replacing them.


    In the globalized world that we live in, most of the core countries are secular, which denotes that they are less or not involved in religious or spiritual matters. Many developing countries that attempt to imitate the cultural normalities of developed countries often assimilate secularism in order to create stronger alliances with core countries, as well as to follow the path of progression that was taken by the core countries. Azerbaijan is currently listed as a secular country, which would seem rather unlikely as the majority of the population are Shi’ite Muslim, which tend to be religiously conservative. Cultural hybridization is also prevalent in this example, since Azerbaijan is an openly progressive country, but at the same time it retains its unitary government. This exemplifies the notion that core countries influence developing countries through means such as political doctrines. Other political ideologies include democracies and progressivism. Since different countries with significantly different cultures have the same ideologies, which dictate their values and make them increasingly similar. This is more of an advantage, as countries with parallel beliefs and ideologies have a tendency to develop stronger alliances. Although countries having similar ideologies provides several benefits, it still offers a few disadvantages, for example, some countries choose to have different political dogmas because of its culture, majority religion, or geographic location, which causes uncertainty of the relationship with countries that have differing ideologies. A country’s ideologies –whether it be political or social– are substantially important to how it is viewed, which impacts its global influence.

    Cultural Arts

    Cultural arts are a major part of a country’s unique norms and traditions, especially in lesser-developed countries where folk music and