Politics and Justice without borders

Global Community Newsletter

Volume 10 Issue 8 August 2012
Theme this month:

To all Texans: this land and its resources are no longer ours so get ready to be relocated

President Obama
A) Thank you letter to President Obama concerning your decision not allowing the world dirtiest oil, tar sands oil from Alberta, to enter on American soil.
a) Animation movie in (.swf)
b) Animation movie in (.wmv)
c) Canadian tar sands oil a living insanity.
d) Stop the madness of tar sands oil pipeline construction.
e) Dirty tar sands oil bi-products of Alberta, Canada, used for global pollution and mass destruction.
f) To all Texans: this land and its resources are no longer ours so get ready to be relocated.
Part A
Part B
B) Letter to President Barack Obama concerning your re-election as President of the United States of America

To all Texans: this land and its resources are no longer ours so get ready to be relocated

To view the complete animation click on the following images.

Part A
To all Texans: this land is no longer ours so get ready to be relocated
Part B
To all Texans: this land is no longer ours so get ready to be relocated

Global Peace Village is a project of the Global Community. Global Peace Village

The theme of this Newsletter has been written by Global Peace Village.

President Obama and Soullife meeting concerning the dirty tar sands oil of Alberta, Canada.
To all Texans: this land is no longer ours so get ready to be relocated

The list and links of all of our videos so far are found here.  The list and links to all of Global Community animations.
The list of all Global Community video games so far are found here.  The list and links to all of Global Community video games.

Read about the introductory text concerning Global Peace Village: the way forward. Read about the introductory text concerning Global peace Village: the way forward.
Short list of previous articles and papers on Global Peace
Short list of previous articles and papers on Energy and the protection of the global life-support systems

See the following artboards of
"Thank you letter to President Obama concerning your decision not allowing the world dirtiest oil, tar sands oil from Alberta, to enter on American soil".

Artboard #1 Thank you President Obama Artboard #2 Artboard #3 Artboard #4 Artboard #5 Artboard #6

The theme for this month Newsletter is best described by the following animation

Dirty tar sands oil video in different formats

Part A
a) swf file
b) html file
c) mp4 file

Part B
a) swf file
b) html file
c) mp4 file

Text of above animation (.html)

Artboards of this animation
Title page
President Obama walking in to visit Soullife

walking a)
walking b)
walking c)
walking d)
walking e)
walking f)
walking g)
walking h)

Welcoming by Soullife
Soullife and President Obama shaking hands
President Obama talking a)
President Obama talking b)
President Obama talking c)
President Obama talking d)
President Obama talking e)
President Obama talking f)
President Obama talking g)
President Obama talking h)

Text found in this month theme.

To all Texans: this land and its resources are no longer ours so get ready to be relocated
Meeting between President Obama and Soullife concerning the dirty tar sands oil of Alberta, Canada.

by Soullife
Global Community
August 1st, 2012

Thank you Soullife, God's Spirit, for inviting me here to explain America's position on issues related to the oil sands, you called the dirty tar sands oil of Alberta, Canada.

The United States have been using the dirty tar sands oil of Alberta for a few years now and not truly planning to stop importing it. There is an environmental assessment going on right now in each State where the pipeline carrying the dirty tar sands oil will be built. Each State Government will be making the decision of allowing or not the pipeline be built on their land. So it is not entirely up to my Administration and Federal Government agencies to make a final decision as to allow the new pipeline built on American soil.

I acknowledge what you said concerning the use of the dirty tar sands oil, i.e. the fuelling and the manufacturing of by-products to be used by the:
1. war machine;
2. war industry; and
3. our military in America.

All of them are a part of our society and being heavily, if not entirely, subsidized by American taxpayers. That is not new! The United States have been gradually increasing its involvement in invading other nations all over the world ever since WWII. That is what we do best! And that has made our economy to prosper and kept it on a continuous growth line from decades to decades. As long as other nations keep buying our war products we prosper.

All of this was well done until your organization, the Global Community, started to tell us we were bankcrupted and the reason being that the USA military was the main cause of the bankcrupcy. That caused our economy to collapse. You provided plenty of proof. But no one in America wanted the military be blamed of gorging itself in taxpayers money. So we focused the attention on "the house bubble". Truly! Our military could not have taken the blame for the collapse of our economy. Even though we all know that is the truth. The extreme and wasteful spending of our military is the main factor for the collapse. The military lives off taxpayers money and never had to earn a penny. The military never understood how hard it is to earn money to make a living.

In any way by telling the truth, the Global Community caused a domino effect that finally collapsed our economy and business leadership worldwide. Your leadership brought down America to its knees. For now we managed to focus the attention on other countries in the Eurozone. But it will not be long before we follow down the slope of bankcrupcy, a steep one from now on. Printing trillions of dollars and hand them over to banks and friendly corporations and government agencies will not do it. Unearned money is not going to work anymore. It is no different than the act of money laundering but on a global scale. It is illegal! It is no excuse the Eurozone leardership followed our bad example on that issue. I mean what is an economy built on: unearned money, money laundering??!! What about those living off sharholders money? They never earned an honest penny. They use an economic system totally rotted to its core and take advantage of it to obtain unearned money. They dont have the need to do work for a living.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev ended the Cold War in 1991 because of their economy suffering from the unsatisfying appetite of the military. He had the guts to end the Cold War to save his people from a nuclear war. A leader of Peace and Harmony! Why have the United States not followed his leadership in creating an open and safe world?

If America had followed his leadership the American economy would not have been bankcrupted today.

Now America wants Russia out of Syria. Americans are still at it again. Pushing, manipulating, invading. All about showing off and wanting to control. We truly have no right to change a political system of a nation just because we dont like it. In Iraq, we called rebels "insurgents." In Pakistan and Afghanistan, we called rebels Talibans. Since WWII we have been involved in many nations to either kill and bomb rebels and their communities, or we help rebels with arms so they do the work for us against a government we did not like anymore. In Iraq and Afghanistan we have bombed the place so much and killed at least a million people, committed genocide ten times over, and got those nations back to stone age. All under the United Nations approval! No questions asked! Never got taken to the International Court of Justice for our crimes. Was the Court bias?

Remember Vietnam? The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. We attack the place. We tried to invade the place. To these days no one really knows why we tried to invade the place. I sure dont! Was it because we did not like their political system, communism? Was it because Americans enjoy killing, bombing communities, destroying, and showing off military warfare? Was it because it made good economic sense? We must have killed over a million people. What a bloodshed! Back in America, Americans were told we were killing the bad guys, the communists. That was all what was needed to do the killing. No other reason! The American military troops were the self proclaimed heroes. And to these days the International Court of Justice never got a President to stand in Court for the genocide Americans have committed during the Vietnam war. Was the Court bias? As if nothing had happened! America was right and the other guys were communits! The irony of it all is that today communists own America. China bought America with hard earned money! Low salary and hard earned money. They have an economic system that asks someone to do work to earn a living. And somehow they manage to buy America. At least the U.S.A. will have to give China the State of Texas to pay for their debt to China. At the least! We should ask Governor Rick Perry and Texas's Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn what they would think of giving away the State of Texas to China to pay for America's debt. They are truly Americans but would they want to let go Texas to save America? We all have to make sacrifices. Of course my Administration would relocate every single American from Texas to elswhere. The Arizona desert might be a good place for all Texans. The Sonoran Desert, an area of 120,000 sq mi., might be just what we need. Eventually, global warming will make the desert so hot you would not have a need for a stove for cooking. So that will save taxpayers money. After all, the burning of Texas oil caused the global warming of the planet so it is only fair Texans suffer hell in the desert.

And then we would follow China's lead about creating a proper economic system in America. Communism might not be a bad idea! Texans will have to work to make a living. What a change! But then I got elected as President of the United States on the promise of making changes.

Our military is no replacement to the "will of the people," democracy, the rule of law, social justice, and to Global Rights and Global Justice. The Global Community is right by demanding the end of subversive military forces such as the United States military and NATO.

Our military has created a link in 737-strong chain of American military bases in 130 countries, mainly to control and aquire resources of those countries either by economic walfare or military warfare. The USA military is everywhere to invade, destroy, kill, corrupt governments, and de-stabilize the world for profit. The more unstable the world is the better.

What would our military do without conflicts and wars? We create them, and that is what we do best. Of course! No way out of that! We cannot be inactive! In your ten Commandements you said "that shall not kill". But in our values and beleifs we say that shall not kill our military.

Soullife, you have proposed to stop the fuelling and the manufacturing of by-products from the dirty tar sands oil because it is being used by the war machine, the war industry and our military. To stop production of the dirty tar sands oil of Alberta and its tranportation through pipelines to our facilities would be suicidal for our military. Our military is totally powerless without enough barrels of oil to hold on to. Our military needs the dirty tar sands oil of Alberta more than they need drugs from the Mexican drug cartel. Well I am not entirely sure about that. But look! Those who buy the drugs are those who actually make money to pay for them. I am saying here that those working in the oil field and the military and its war machine have most of the money and, therefore, are more likely to be buying hard drugs.

So if we stop production of the dirty tar sands oil the effect will be to:

a) stop the buying of drugs from the Mexican drug cartel; note that the F.B.I. and Home Land Security probably know that but are not likely to tell anyone.

b) bring Global Peace on planet Earth.

Daily reminder

This is the way. Message from the Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
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Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for. Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for
Message from the President of Global Parliament, the Federation of Global Governments.Message from the President of Earth Government
History of the Global Community organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Governments.History of the Global Community Organization and Interim Earth Government Since its beginning in 1985, many accomplishments can be claimed by the Global Community:History of the Global Community organization and Earth Government
Global Community days of celebration or remembering during the year.Global Community Days of Celebration
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Top of the page

GIM Proclamations

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

John Scales Avery (2), Glen Barry, Fred Branfman, Common Dreams, Stephanie Elizondo, Tom Engelhardt, Timothy V. Gatto, Sarah van Gelder, Amy Goodman, Stephen Lacey, Stephen Leahy, Tara Lohan, Guy McPherson, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Sara Robinson,Sarah Saba, Sarah Seltzer, Worldwatch Institute

John Scales Avery, The Origin Of Cooperation The Origin Of Cooperation
John Scales Avery, Limits To Growth And Climate Change Limits To Growth And Climate Change
Glen Barry, U.S. Abrupt Climate Change 2012 U.S. Abrupt Climate Change 2012
Fred Branfman, Young Hillary Clinton Used to Think Kissinger Was Criminal and Immoral: Now in Laos, She Follows In His Footsteps Young Hillary Clinton Used to Think Kissinger Was Criminal and Immoral: Now in Laos, She Follows In His Footsteps
Common Dreams, Report: Extreme Weather Tied to Man-Made Climate Change Report: Extreme Weather Tied to Man-Made Climate Change
Stephanie Elizondo, Exposing the Grave Dangers of Life in an Oil Refinery Zone Climate Emergency Action Plan Exposing the Grave Dangers of Life in an Oil Refinery Zone
Tom Engelhardt, The Military Solution The Military Solution
Timothy V. Gatto, The Problem Is The United States The Problem Is The United States
Sarah van Gelder, Climate Emergency Action Plan Climate Emergency Action Plan
Amy Goodman, Climate Change: This Is Just the Beginning Climate Change: This Is Just the Beginning
Stephen Lacey, Must Read: Investigation Reveals True Hazards Of Piping Tar Sands Across America Must Read: Investigation Reveals True Hazards Of Piping Tar Sands Across America
Stephen Leahy, Climate Change? Blame Canada Climate Change? Blame Canada
Tara Lohan, It's Time for Parents to Help Tackle Climate Change It's Time for Parents to Help Tackle Climate Change
Guy McPherson, Global Madness Global Madness
Mazin Qumsiyeh, Humanizing Humanizing
Sara Robinson, The New Totalitarianism: How American Corporations Have Made America Like the Soviet Union The New Totalitarianism: How American Corporations Have Made America Like the Soviet Union
Sarah Saba, The Missing Link To Our Harmonised Existence The Missing Link To Our Harmonised Existence
Sarah Seltzer, Fracking in Texas Enabling Drug, Weapons Trafficking Fracking in Texas Enabling Drug, Weapons Trafficking
Worldwatch Institute, Nine Population Strategies To Stop Short of 9 Billion Nine Population Strategies To Stop Short of 9 Billion

Articles and papers of authors
 Data sent
 Theme or issue
 July 21, 2012  

We can still avoid a devastating climate crisis. But we'll need a World War II-level mobilization. And we'll need to stand up to Dirty Energy.

The extreme heat, storms, and drought sweeping most of the nation are finally convincing a large majority of Americans that climate change is upon us. According to Bloomberg News, 70 percent of Americans now believe the climate is changing.

It's late to be getting to solutions, but now, perhaps, we're finally ready to take on the challenge.

Bill McKibben lays out how dire the picture really is in the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone: We’ve already warmed the planet by 0.8 degrees centigrade, and the weather is getting frightening. At the Copenhagen Climate Conference, the one thing the world agreed on is that we must stay within a 2-degree centigrade heat increase—although climatologist Jim Hansen has called even that level of increase a recipe for disaster. And if current trends continue, we're headed for much more global heating. But powerful oil, gas, and coal companies have blocked needed action. With billions in profits, they have plenty of money to channel to political campaigns, climate-denying think tanks, and right-wing media. Together, these groups have prevented progress.

If we had acted 20 or 30 years ago, when the alarm bells were first sounded, the transition to a climate safe world could have been more gradual and less disruptive, and we could have saved many more coral reefs, forests, glaciers, and species.

Now, time is short.

Although there is already enough extra carbon in the atmosphere to make major climate change inevitable, there is still a big difference between the sort of change that brings increased droughts, storms, temperature extremes, and sea level rises, and a change that extinguishes life on Earth. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is among those who say that runaway climate change could transform the planet into one like Venus, on which human life is impossible.

There is no greater emergency than this. Is an effective response beyond us? There are lots of reasons to think so. Dirty Energy has blocked action, and there’s every reason to believe they will continue to do so. International collaboration is tough. And given the choice, most of us would prefer to hold on to creature comforts as long as possible, and to stay in denial.

But the steps needed to avert catastrophe are, in fact, well within our capability as imaginative, hard-working people. And around the world, cities, towns, tribes, responsible businesses, and activists are making change. But we’ll have to scale it up, and quickly.

The Greatest Generation was able to come together as a whole society when the Nazi invasion of Europe and the bombing of Pearl Harbor proved to be threats that couldn’t be ignored. Car factories were repurposed for tank production. Rubber and metals were recycled. Everyone planted victory gardens. Many went off to war.

It will take that level of mobilization, built on a deep patriotism, to build and sustain the effort to avert catastrophe. It will mean a willingness to put our farmers, our coastal cities, our children’s food supply, everyone’s access to sufficient water, and the survival of fisheries ahead of the profits and power of Dirty Energy. It is the task that should define our times and could put each of us to work.

What will it take? Four years ago, YES! did a comprehensive study of what will be needed to turn around the climate crisis. The big takeaways are these:

1. We need to reorient our food system, which contributes a surprising amount to the climate problem through long-distance transport of foods, climate-killing agricultural chemicals, and meat raising practices that use massive amounts of grain and lead to deforestation. The good news is that a new, locally based food system with grass-fed meat and dairy and fresher, more wholesome fruits and vegetables is already blossoming. And young people across the nation are at the forefront, with many itching to make farming their livelihoods.

2. We need to quit subsidizing dirty fuels and put a price on carbon. We should tax carbon, as former Reagan cabinet member George Shultz now recommends. Or we could auction off the right to emit a limited amount of carbon. In either case, we could return the proceeds to all Americans equally. After all, the atmosphere belongs to all of us. Polluters should pay, rather than using our air as a dump for free. And we should end taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuels. The right pricing for carbon pollution will send a strong market signal that will spur innovation and smart, low-carbon redevelopment.

3. We need to rethink how we build towns and cities, and how we get around. The time for car-dependent, sprawling suburbs is over. Europeans use a fraction of the gas we use because cities and towns are compact, public transportation is efficient, and walking and bicycling are well supported and safe. Europeans are also far less likely to be obese and unhealthy. There is a connection. With houses and shopping malls sitting abandoned, now is the time to redevelop a more compact, pedestrian-friendly way of life: neighborhood shops, and a local food and energy supply.

4. We need to reinvent energy. In just a few decades, we’ve burned through millions of years of the compressed dinosaur bones and ancient plant life that make up fossil fuels. Not only is this harming the stability of the atmosphere, but it requires increasingly dangerous and expensive processes to extract the last reserves—like removing entire mountain tops in Appalachia, extracting oil from dirty tar sands in Alberta, deep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and drilling in the Arctic. And then there’s the military cost of getting U.S. access to petroleum deposits in other countries.

Fortunately, smart innovations in energy efficiency and renewable technologies are already available. To really get things rolling—and to put unemployed Americans to work and jump-start a more sustainable economy—we should launch a World War II-level mobilization to weatherize buildings, switch to energy-efficient manufacturing, build mass transit, and install windmills and solar energy generation. We should shift all government purchasing to the most energy-efficient technologies and rapidly phase out government purchases of any transport that uses fossil fuels. We should set targets for this transition away from coal and natural gas for all electric utilities. Those that don’t comply should be taken over by the people and become public utilities—that’s what the voters of Boulder, Colorado, did last year.

5. We need to block dirty energy extraction, transportation, and export. We should say no to the export of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coal to China, as folks in the Northwest are doing. We need to keep saying no to the KXL Pipeline over our precious (and increasingly endangered) Ogallala Aquifer—the KXL is designed as a conduit to export dirty tar sands oil to China. We should say no to drilling in the Arctic. And while we’re at it, we should see that any investment money we control – university endowments, state pension funds, etc.—drop all investments in Dirty Energy companies until they switch to clean energy.

In his speech at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. … We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, 'Too late.'"

By the time our children and their children confront extreme heat and terrifying storms, it might well be too late. It isn’t too late for us to act, though. We can still avert what could be a disastrous climate crisis. There are no excuses for delay.

Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Sarah is co-founder and executive editor of YES!.

  Read Climate Emergency Action Plan
 July 12, 2012  

For three generations the Foster family has worked for the petrochemical refineries of Corpus Christi, Texas. They’ve lived there, too, smack in the middle of Refinery Row – a 15-mile stretch of industrial development that is one of the thickest concentrations of refineries in the nation. Citgo, Valero, and Flint Hills Resources (formerly known as Koch) run two sites apiece, with a gas processing unit, tank farms, and a slew of chemical manufacturers shuffled in between. For three-quarters of a century, this futuristic forest of pipe and steel has not only been the landscape of the Fosters’ lives but the source of their livelihood as well, paying off their houses, feeding and clothing their children, financing vacations now and then.

But Jeannine Foster, the family matriarch, worries about the pitfalls of this seemingly symbiotic relationship. Her father and brother were badly injured during the Coastal States explosion in the early sixties, when her father lost much of his hearing and her brother suffered burns on a third of his body, including his face. All three of her children had birth defects, including Hirschsprung disease (a congenital disorder of the colon) and kidney reflux. The family must also contend with their industrial neighbors’ noxious odors, blinding lights, and warning whistles that rattle the dishes in their cupboards. “When the whistle blows, you look to see which direction the sock is blowing, and run in the opposite direction,” Foster says.

For decades, a sprawling ASARCO/Encyle plant was the anchor of this industrial ecosystem. Foster needed only to step out her front door to see the plant, located two blocks away. Its smokestack – 315 feet of brick and mortar, striped red and white like a barber pole – was visible from her kitchen window. The ASARCO plant began as a high-grade zinc smelting facility in 1941 and, in its heyday, employed nearly 800 workers who oversaw the production of some 100,000 tons of zinc a year. The plant closed for 15 months in 1982, briefly reopened, then closed again in 1985 – only to be bought by a subsidiary called Encycle, which turned the 110-acre site into an industrial waste recycling plant that processed cyanide, lead, and cadmium, among other hazardous materials. Due in part to a disastrous whistleblower report accusing Encycle of myriad illegal practices, the site was shuttered for good in 2002.

Similar scenarios played out in communities across the nation, with ASARCO racking up billions of dollars in fines for environmental damages. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005, and some 90 communities in 21 states now share a $1.79 billion settlement to clean up their neighborhoods and compensate former workers. That sum might sound impressive, but it represents less than 1 percent of what claimants requested. And it has grown exceedingly difficult for those claimants and other affected citizens to request records and remediation from ASARCO, as Mexican steel giant Grupo México bought the company in 1999.

In December 2010, a US Bankruptcy Court and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) ordered the Corpus Christi plant razed. In April 2011, demolition crews rolled in. 

Only 600 feet from the plant sits Dona Park, a residential neighborhood of some 300 homes, including the one owned by the Foster family. For decades, these residents have endured much. Gas explosions shattering their windows. Fine black grit coating their cars. Oil slicking their swimming pools. Their yards have been tested repeatedly for heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, and lead. They’ve been instructed by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to abandon their tomato and cucumber plants and to let their tangerines rot on their trees.

Yet the demolition seemed to pose an even greater threat. The US Environmental Protection Agency documented evidence of asbestos throughout the ASARCO/Encycle site, including in the floor coverings, the pipe wraps, the floor tiles, the thermal system insulation, the roofs, even the skin of the smokestack. More worrisome was the 1994 whistleblower report, made public on the EPA’s website in late 2010 after former ASARCO workers in El Paso filed a Freedom of Information Act request. In it, former Encycle Operations Manager David Cahill accused higher-ups of instructing workers to dump unrecycled hazardous waste into tanks certified as recycled. He also accused the firm of keeping thousands of hazardous storage units beyond the permitted number (500) and then hiding them during inspections (when they sometimes leaked). Cahill called the site an “OSHA regulation nightmare,” noting that Encycle accepted waste from the former Army chemical warfare depot at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, which is included on the government’s Superfund list of the most polluted sites in the nation.

As a protection measure, demolition crews agreed to erect 10-foot tarps around the site and to cease working whenever northerly winds – that is, wind blowing from the plant toward the neighborhood – exceed 15 mph. (While Corpus winds fluctuate between 10 to 15 mph throughout the year, northerners blow infrequently.) An engineer was charged with overseeing an air monitoring system across the street from the plant to screen for heavy metals. But what everyone in Dona Park wanted to know, and what no one could really tell them, is whether the precautions would be enough.

Such is the irony of the deindustrialization era: Dismantling polluting plants might seem like an environmentalist victory, but the demolition itself can be risky for communities caught in the crosswinds. Moreover, new industrial plants tend to be erected in the ruins of the old one. As Dr. Robert Bullard, the dean of the School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University who is widely known as the father of the environmental justice movement, tells me, “When you have a highly concentrated chemical corridor like Dona Park, you attract similar types of industry – not the headquarters of Starbucks. There is no industry regulation saying this community has had more than its fair share.” Indeed, Valero is one of the potential buyers for the site, post-demolition and remediation.

Moving might seem the obvious solution to an outsider, but not to the people who live here. Housing in Dona Park costs a fraction of what it does in Corpus Christi proper, allowing lower-income families to rent and even own multiple-room homes with garages and yards. There is hardly any traffic, so children can play basketball in the middle of the street. Dona Park is a community that hosts reunions every May; that throws backyard barbecues and Halloween block parties where the whole neighborhood is invited; that boasts a thriving stoop culture. Many families have lived here for decades. They have history here. Roots.

And so, they wrestle with the dilemma faced by fence-line communities around the globe: Should they stay or should they go? 

In the summer of 2011, I meet Jeannine Foster’s daughter, Tammy, for breakfast at a taqueria on the outskirts of Refinery Row. Nearly all of the patrons are petroleros, refinery workers clad in blue jeans, boots, and bandanas, swapping stories as they dunk hand-rolled tortillas into their huevos rancheros. After maneuvering her mammoth truck into a parking slot, Tammy strolls up to my table. At 38, she is a tall and hefty woman whose face is splotched apple-red. She orders a taco salad but doesn’t touch the edible bowl: She has celiac disease, and must follow a gluten-free diet.

When I ask about growing up in Dona Park, she smirks. “When they got home from work, my brothers would get undressed in the front yard because my mom didn’t want them bringing anything inside,” she says with a salty twang. “And if they worked in the contaminated area, they would get naked in the backyard and Mom would hose them down.”

Tammy didn’t pay the refineries much mind herself until Javelina started building a gas processing facility a few blocks away when she was in high school. “Suddenly, my bedroom was like daylight twenty-four hours a day, like the sun was rising right in my bedroom. We hung up blackout curtains, but it didn’t help. I didn’t sleep for a year, so I would fall asleep every day in ag class.”

She joined her mom and the neighbors in picketing the plant’s construction on weekends, even caravanning to Austin to lobby lawmakers. Then she married an industrial painter whose work whisked them overseas and across the United States. By the time they returned to Texas eight years later, Tammy’s mother had bought a new house in the city proper, leaving behind a fully paid-for house in Dona Park.

“My brother was supposed to move in the house, but I said, ‘Oh no you’re not, not with two little girls. All the damage that’s been done to me has already been done,’” she says.

Against her mother’s wishes, Tammy and her husband moved back to Dona Park in the summer of 1999, lured by the prospect of free rent. When a northern wind sailed in the following spring, Tammy awoke one morning to a ferocious itch. A rash burned across her body, from her face to her feet. She went in for a round of Benadryl shots, now an annual ritual, and soon became a watchdog of the industry. She joined a local activist group called Citizens for Environmental Justice and became its Dona Park Chair. She started attending meetings, lots of meetings – of the City Council, of the TCEQ, of the Texas EPA. She offered “Toxic Tours” of Refinery Row to the media and to government officials. Above all, she monitored her industrial neighbors and reported anything she perceived as an irregularity, from odors to flare-ups.

“On a good day, I call TCEQ once a day,” she says, holding up her cell phone to prove it. “I’ve already called them twice this morning.”

It isn’t even noon yet.

I was raised in south-central Corpus, about nine miles from Tammy’s home. We graduated from the same high school, two years apart. But while her childhood skyline consisted of petrochemical plants, mine was dotted with palm trees. My family’s chief thoroughfares were South Padre Island Drive (a highway lined with chain stores and restaurants that eventually deposits you at the beach) and Ocean Drive (a boulevard dotted with million-dollar mansions and a knock-out view of the Corpus Christi Bay). I was well aware of Refinery Row, however, because three of my uncles used to work there. For 14 years, one worked at ASARCO.

Growing up, I thought Uncle Valentine was a dashing man, always clad in cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and a giant silver belt buckle that read ELIZONDO, his last name. He has since shaved off his handsome handlebar moustache, but he still drives a mighty big truck. He picks me up one morning after my meeting with Tammy, and we drive down to the old ASARCO site together. Three months into the demolition, colossal warehouses have already been reduced to shards and scree. Here and there, steel rods protrude from the rubble as if waving in surrender. From Upriver Road, there are no tarps in sight, although we can see mist rising from the snow blowers used to stifle dust flow.

“You see that, mija?” Valentine says, pointing at the narrow stairwell snaking up the towering smokestack. Back in the seventies, he and a buddy used to scale it to change the light bulbs on the aircraft warning device. “We’d climb straight up, no safety equipment or nothing. I would be saying Hail Marys and Our Fathers the whole time.”

“Why did you do it?”

He blinks at me in surprise and furrows his brow. “We got two and a half times our salary! We had families to feed.”

Dismantling the smokestack is expected to be the demolition’s most delicate operation. Crews will first remove its asbestos skin using a “wet-scraping” method. Then they will cut down the tower foot by foot with hydraulic shears, starting from the top so that pieces fall inward to the base of the stack. They plan to build an enclosed scaffold to ensure no asbestos flies away, but as Valentine says, “Good luck with that. It was already falling apart back when I used to work there. It was all rusty.”

Valentine was also instructed to dump truckloads of waste into the fields outside the plant, near the ship channel. We drive around to the back of the plant so he can show me where. Overgrown with grass and weeds, the fields are level but raised, like an artificial mesa, within a baseball whack of the channel. “I saw what we were doing and thought, ‘This is not a good idea.’ There was a slope going right down into the water. I asked the foreman, ‘What if it rains?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t go fishing down there if I were you.’”

The residents of Dona Park received no such warnings, however. Days later, I meet a 48-year-old man who not only used to fish in the ship channel when he was a boy – he used to swim down there.

“We used to go to the end of the plant, where they had a reservoir pumped full of mud that looked like liquid peanut butter, and we would take that and chuck it at each other,” says Billy Placker, a lifelong resident of Dona Park. “My daddy [who worked at ASARCO] once took a bunch of pipes from the waste pile and made us a swing set with it. We would go by the grain elevator and shoot rats with BB guns. We could have blown the whole place up!”

A compact man with a full black beard and mound of curly hair, Placker is one of the most vocal critics of the demolition. He is hardly your stereotypical environmentalist: A self-declared “radically saved Christian,” he is a construction worker who wears ball caps emblazoned with slogans like GOD IS IN CONTROL. He invites me to his house to chat. A homemade sign planted in his front yard reads “Save The Dona Park Children From Toxic Soil Contamination/Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic, Zinc. Hair And Soil Samples Proved It.” As we walk through his front gate, a German shepherd hobbles over, lifting its haunches.

“What’s wrong with your dog?” I ask.

“We don’t know. It started about five months ago.”

As if on cue, the dog turns around, revealing a massive growth covering its entire backside, before limping toward a shade tree. We enter Placker’s home. Modest on the outside, it has high vaulted ceilings, black granite countertops, and a Jacuzzi inside, plus a pool out back. Placker remodeled it all himself, and beams with pride when I compliment his handiwork.

I join him and his wife Pat in their living room as they tick off the illnesses in their family. Billy’s son has William’s Syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder that includes mental disability, heart defects, and elfin facial features. Two of his grandchildren – who live next door – have asthma and attention deficit disorder; another has a foot deformity. Turning around on the couch, Pat points at nearby houses through the window. In that house, a lady has cancer. Next door, same thing. Across the street lives a little boy who, she says, has no ears.

Like most of their neighbors, the Plackers are deeply conflicted about what to do. They love Dona Park. Billy’s parents, children, and grandchildren all live within a three-block radius, as do his childhood friends. They have built their dream house here. But when they step out the door, they can see dust clouds rising from the demolition. They can hear bulldozers gnashing their teeth. The last time a northern wind swirled through, Billy fell into a panic.

“I called the County Commissioner, I called the news teams, and then I went over to the front gate where there was a security guard. I said, ‘I’m from the neighborhood and that wind is blowing at 30 miles per hour so you have to stop this.’ And he said, ‘Let me tell you, I don’t care what you or TCEQ says about this, this is now the property of federal bankruptcy court, and they say we can demolish it and we will.’”

Billy’s black eyes grow round and serious. “Well let me tell you, the Good Lord held me back from jumping that fence and killing him then and there. And the Good Lord didn’t allow me to remember what he looked like either, because if I had seen him at a 7-11 later that day, I might have killed him there too.”

As the state’s chief environmental agency, the TCEQ was granted nearly $1 billion by the Texas legislature to protect the state’s air, water, and soil during the 2009-2010 biennium. Yet it is scorned by environmental groups that say the agency is too close to the industries it regulates. The governor of Texas – who has been either George W. Bush or Rick Perry since 1995 – appoints the TCEQ’s top managers, who in the past have included lobbyists for the Texas Chemical Council, former executives of Monsanto, and lawyers for the oil industry. The current chairman, Dr. Bryan Shaw, is a self-declared climate change skeptic who has repeatedly battled regulatory efforts by the EPA. This is one reason why Dona Park residents hiss when you say the agency’s name.

Take Consuelo and Hipolito Gonzalez. They have lived in Dona Park longer than almost anybody, more than 40 years. Their home is one of the nicest in the neighborhood, with a giant pine tree in the front yard and an American flag rippling from a pole. The afternoon I visit in the summer of 2011, a pack of Chihuahuas prance about the hardwood floor while Consuelo and Hipolito rest in twin leather chairs. Though gracious and kind, they are visibly fatigued: Two days prior, Hipolito had gone into cardiac arrest – for the third time – and he had just returned home from the hospital.

They moved to Dona Park as newlyweds in 1970, months after Hurricane Celia blew the roof off their first apartment and soaked their belongings. Dona Park was a predominantly white community back then; they were the first Latino family on their block. Hipolito, a Vietnam veteran, repeatedly applied for jobs at ASARCO, but always got turned down. He found work at other plants, though, including a job loading benzene – a known carcinogen – on and off trailers. While they feel grateful to their industrial neighbors for providing them a lifetime of financial security, they too wonder about the personal cost. Their children were plagued with allergies growing up, and often had bloody noses. Consuelo has had cysts in her breast, a tumor in her pituitary gland, and liver problems; Hipolito has suffered from prostate cancer and congestive heart failure. They have tried to be as cooperative with the TCEQ as possible, submitting to numerous studies over the years. “We have given them blood. We have given them pee. We have given them soil. And then they come back and want to do it all over again,” Consuelo says.

They have already resolved to leave Dona Park. The question is how. Selling their home is no longer an option: Its value has slipped from $89,000 to $55,000 in recent years, Consuelo says. Moreover, they don’t want to perpetuate the cycle. “You come here because this is what you can afford, and when you leave, your homes are sold to people who don’t know what is happening here. Now people are selling their property to illegal immigrants who don’t know what their children are facing.”

So no, the Gonzalez family doesn’t want to sell their home. They want a buyout. That is not without precedence: The federal government recently bought the town of Pincher, Oklahoma, once the site of an ASARCO-owned mine, at a cost of $55 million. But for the most part the government only funds buyouts of homes built directly over hazardous waste sites, such as New York’s Love Canal. An industry buyout is much more likely. Closer to downtown Corpus Christi, the bulk of the residential Oak Park Triangle neighborhood was bought out in the late nineties, due to its close proximity to Citgo.

Tammy Foster acknowledges that she has been offered a buyout in the past year – from whom, she won’t say. She says she will not accept it until the rest of her neighbors are offered one, too.

I returned to Dona Park over Easter weekend of 2012, about nine months after my last visit. The demolition crews have made remarkable progress: Nearly the entire site has been razed, save for a couple of administrative buildings and a skeletal warehouse. Even the ASARCO smokestack – for years, the landmark of Dona Park – has been toppled. Black netting shrouds the chain-link and barbed-wire fencing. Off in the distance, I can see the ship channel dotted with barges, and beyond that, slowly whirling wind turbines.

It has been a rough year for residents. The Fosters, Plackers, and Gonzalezes are full of stories about distressing sights and sounds from the demolition site. Consuelo Gonzalez shows me the fine black grit coating her plants, birdbath, hurricane shutters, and wind chimes. “We’ve been through a lot,” she says. “The wind blew really hard some days, and they polluted us again and again.”

According to a TCEQ Dona Park Neighborhood Ambient Air Monitoring Program report posted online, arsenic levels of 35.2459 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3), cadmium of 0.5993 ug/m3, chromium of 12.0219 ug/m3, and lead of 18.1239 ug/m3 were recorded just a few blocks away from the Gonzalez home on December 7, 2011. Those readings exceed the TCEQ’s “action levels” 350-fold for arsenic, 6-fold for cadmium, 3.3-fold for chromium, and 121-fold for lead. In response, the TCEQ halted the demolition until enhanced emission controls were implemented, and contends that action levels have not been exceeded since December 16. This did little to assuage Consuelo’s fears.

“I want to get out of Dodge,” she says. “I am tired of living in the slums. I deserve better.” She and Hipolito have a new house picked out in Cypress, Texas, near where their daughter lives, but Hipolito started having doubts a few weeks ago, when Consuelo had a health scare requiring hospitalization.

“I came home and called my neighbor of 40 years and she came over right away and helped me. I really felt security in that,” he says. Scooping up a Chihuahua, he looks at his wife and then at me. “What will I do if we move somewhere new?”

Corpus Christi native Stephanie Elizondo Griest is the author of Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines and Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana.

  Read Exposing the Grave Dangers of Life in an Oil Refinery Zone
 July 18, 2012  
Fracking in Texas Enabling Drug, Weapons Trafficking
by Sarah Seltzer | , AlterNet

Here's a story that combines hot button issues fracking, the US-Mexican border, and drugs in one. It seems that the fracking boom in Texas is enabling a little bit more than the extraction of natural gas from beneath rock:

According to a report from the Houston Chronicle, drug traffickers are using the state’s Eagle Ford Shale to move drugs. Cartels have stolen trucks belonging to energy companies, and have bribed truck drivers and contractors who have flooded the area for work. The cartels may also be cloning vehicles to resemble company trucks. This is while new roads sprouting along the oil and gas fields have inadvertently opened new routes around the Border Patrol’s highway checkpoints.

“[Traffickers] are using those roads to transport drugs, guns, ammo, you name it,” Albert DeLeon, chief deputy for the Dimmit County sheriff’s office, told Chronicle reporter Dane Schiller.

Apparently, the new series of roads designed expressly for the fracking fields enable traffickers to go right past checkpoints. Others are feigning involvement in drilling to squeeze in:

Once traffickers bypass the checkpoint, “they are pretty much free,” the Drug Enforcement Administration’s chief Houston officer, Javier Peña, told the Chronicle and Express-News. “It is very much on our radar,” he said. In June, the South Texas High Intensity Drug Traffic Area — a partnership between federal and local police agencies — warned the Obama administration about the shale’s vulnerability to trafficking, the report notes.

There’s also some examples. First, the cartels have cloned Texas government vehicles, like this truck with Texas Department of Transportation markings. In March, police intercepted more than 18,000 pounds of marijuana in two trucks “on a private road leased to energy companies and carrying what looked like supplies used in oil field operations,” Schiller writes.

What a hot, oily, mess. Read more at Wired and The Houston Chronicle.

  Read Fracking in Texas Enabling Drug, Weapons Trafficking
 July 20, 2012  
It's Time for Parents to Help Tackle Climate Change
by Tara Lohan, AlterNet

Of course you've noticed (unless you live in San Francisco) that the weather has been a little hot this summer -- like (bad) record-breaking hot ... and dry. Crops are dying, forest are on fire. This is all following the playbook of what scientists have been predicting will happen with climate change -- however much the weather fluctuates, the over all trend is that the planet is warming.

And it's not just the polar bears who are going to be screwed -- it's all of us -- especially today's kids. As veteran climate change writer and author of the book HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, Mark Hertsgaard wrote this week for the Daily Beast:

Beyond the distress and discomfort, the record-breaking heat raises a puzzling question for anyone who cares about the future of our young people. The laws of physics and chemistry--the fact that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for decades after being emitted--mean that man-made global warming is just getting started on this planet. As a result, my Chiara and millions of other youth around the world are now fated to spend the rest of their lives coping with the hottest, most volatile climate in our civilization's 10,000-year history. Think of them as Generation Hot.


If parents care so deeply about their children's futures, shouldn't they be deeply invested in the fight against climate change? So far, they're not and Hertsgaard surmises it is for one of three reasons. Parents don't really understand the science (there is too much misinformation and shoddy reporting); parents find the reality too depressing; or parents just simply don't know what they can do to take action.

But Hertsgaard writes, "Like it or not, parents must get politically active, employing the only language politicians respect: removing them from office if they don't serve the public good."

Along with some of his colleagues, Hertsgaard is organizing a new group to help give parents the tools they need. Here's his call to action:

At the moment, parents are the singlemost unorganized constituency on climate change, but some of us hope to change that. We're launching a group that aims to mobilize parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who cares about young people. This means you too, President Obama and Governor Romney. You're both parents and you need to start acting like it with respect to climate change.


For now, we're calling our group Climate Parents, because we believe that taking action on climate change has become part of every parent's job description, just like providing proper food, clothing, and shelter.

  Read It's Time for Parents to Help Tackle Climate Change
 July 5, 2012  
Climate Change? Blame Canada
by Stephen Leahy, AlterNet
What has happened to Canada? To the dismay of many Canadians, a country with an international reputation for its relatively progressive environmental policies (at least compared to the United States) is rushing headlong to dig up all the oil, gas, and coal it can. The country’s leaders can scarcely muster the effort to pretend to want to limit greenhouse gas emissions. And the Canadian media has largely  gone along with the program. Put it all together, and you have a country that has become a full-blown petro state.

People are starting to notice. Last December at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, Canada beat out tough contenders like Saudi Arabia and the US to be elected "Colossal Fossil" by environmental campaigners from around the planet. Canada had the dishonor of being the most uncooperative country out of 193 nations at the climate summit. It was the fifth year in a row that international environmental groups gave Canada their 'highest' award for its consistent efforts to block any agreement on reducing carbon emissions.

By contrast, the European Union managed to persuade the rest of the world to breathe life into the Kyoto Protocol, the only international agreement to reduce. Less than 24 hours after those very difficult climates talks ended, Canada declared it wanted no part of Kyoto, a treaty it had once championed.

During the two weeks following its announced withdrawal from Kyoto, Canada approved expansions of tar sands operations by oil giants Exxon, France's Total, and Canada's Suncor. Those multi-billion-dollar expansions are expected to increase tar sands oil output by one million barrels per day by 2020. That will result in an additional 220 million tons of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere annually from both the energy-intensive tar sands production process and burning the resulting gasoline and diesel. Well-to-tank greenhouse gas emissions from Canadian tar sands crudes are 72 to 111 percent higher than the conventional oils, according to a May study from the US Congressional Research Service.

Those three expansion projects alone will generate more climate-damaging emissions than the annual emissions of sizeable economies such as Argentina and the Netherlands.

"My early Christmas present to myself — and to Canada — was to exercise our legal right to get out of the Kyoto Protocol," Peter Kent, Canada's Minister of the Environment, said in a speech in Calgary, Alberta on January 26. Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Canada promised to reduce its emissions six percent below 1990 levels by 2012. In 2010, Canadian emissions were at least 26 percent greater than in 1990.

"It really wasn't a tough decision," Kent said.

A Fossil Fuel Industry Takeover

What's happened to Canada is that it has experienced a steady takeover by the fossil fuel industry. Canada's is now the world's sixth largest crude oil producer and the biggest supplier of oil to the US. Canada is also the third largest producer of natural gas and one of the top ten miners of coal. This enormous boom in fossil fuel production has been underway since the late 1990s. Like Saudi Arabia, fossil energy is by far Canada's biggest export and has become the dominant economic and political focus.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made this perfectly clear in 2006 when he proudly proclaimed Canada as "the emerging energy superpower" during a G8 meeting. Harper, the son of an oil company executive, heads the Conservative party that has pulled Canada sharply to the right. Prior to entering politics, Harper was the climate-change denying head of a right-wing lobby group. Not surprisingly,   his government has done little to reduce Canada's carbon emissions, which are among the fastest growing in world. By contrast, US emissions declined in recent years.

Even as Canadian CO2 emissions rise, the Harper government is shutting down some of the country’s few remaining “green” programs. In March, the government cancelled a popular home energy retrofit program. The retrofit program reimbursed costs of up to C$5,000 for improving energy efficiency in homes. It was unexpectedly cancelled with more than half its budget — $200 million — unspent.

"Canada has become a 'petrostate'," says Alberta journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, author of the award winning book, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent. A petrostate is a country where much of the wealth comes from oil. "The Canadian and Alberta governments now lobby on behalf of the oil industry and fight any restrictions on carbon emissions to combat climate change," Nikiforuk says.

Canada's federal government collects about $5 billion a year from the tar sands industry alone. From 1999 to 2008 Alberta received $10 billion a year in revenues from the oil and gas industry, according to the Parkland Institute, an independent research centre at the University of Alberta. The tar sands brought in less than $2 billion a year due to absurdly low royalty rates. Meanwhile tar sands producers averaged more than $10 billion a year in pre-tax profits.

Hooked on energy dollars, the Canadian and Alberta governments only make decisions that favor growth of the energy industry, Nikiforuk says.

Most of that energy industry growth is in the tar sands located in pristine boreal forest and wetlands of northern Alberta. The industry likes to call them “oil sands,” though the oil is actually a tarry bitumen mixed into the sandy soil. Environmental activists call them "Canada's Mordor." No matter that they are called, the tar sands are the world's largest industrial project. Nowhere has fossil energy expansion or investment been faster or larger. Since 2001 nearly $300 billion has been invested by the oil and gas industry.

While the tar sands may be located in Canada, more than two-thirds of all oil production is owned by foreign entities. China alone has put $36 billion into tar sands development. Even “Canadian” oil companies like Suncor are predominately owned by non-Canadians, which means that a majority of the industry's profits are sent out of the country, according to a recent analysis of stockholdings by a Canadian conservation group.

In 1999 the tar sands produced 300,000 barrels of heavy crude oil a day. Now it’s up to 1.4 million barrels, and expected to increase to 2.4 million a day by 2015. Virtually all of the current production flows south to the US via existing pipelines. But to increase production, new pipelines such as the controversial Keystone XL are needed. That seven-billion-dollar project is designed to carry 700,000 to 800,000 barrels of tarry, unrefined oil every day 2,400 kilometres south through the US heartland to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas. Most of the refined oil is expected to go to non-US markets.

If Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific coast are built, or the newly proposed  eastern route to Montreal,  production is expected to reach 4 million barrels a day by 2020. And there's much more to come. An incredible $2.077 trillion is expected to be invested expanding and maintaining the tar sands over the next 25 years, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

A Natural Gas and Coal Powerhouse

Although tar sands development gets most of the media attention, Alberta is also one the world's largest suppliers of natural gas from its conventional and unconventional gas reserves. In 2000 there were less than 100 gas wells that tapped "unconventional" natural gas fAlberta Environment, a provincial agency, counts 176,000ound in coal seams or in shale deposits. Today Alberta Environment, a provincial agency, counts 176,000 multistage hydraulic fracturing sites. US EPA estimates 35,000 wells are fracked in the US each year.

Next door to Alberta is the province of British Columbia. Some of Canada’s most pristine and rugged wilderness is found in northeastern British Columbia — and the region is also home to some of the biggest shale gas operations in North America. Shale rock formations there contain hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas that can only be tapped by fracking. BC's Horn River basin may hold 165 trillion cubic feet of gas while another region called Montney is estimated to have 49 trillion cubic feet, according to an April 2011 report by the US Energy Information Administration. This largely roadless region will require new roads and pipelines to bring the gas some 1,000 km across the Rocky Mountains and the Coast Range. "Northeastern British Columbia is a key habitat for grizzly bears, caribou and others. Fracking operations are moving into untouched areas, building roads, drill pads and wastewater ponds," says Tria Donaldson of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, an environmental NGO based in Vancouver.

About 90 percent of the gas produced in British Columbia is exported to US or sent to Alberta, where it is used to boil the tarry bitumen out of the millions of tons tar sands. A massive expansion of shale gas operations is underway due to the recent approval to build a liquefied natural gas plant (LNG) on BC's coast, at Kitimat. Korea Gas, Shell, Mitsubishi Corp and Petro-China are involved in the $12 billion project to compress and liquify 1.2 billion cubic feet per day and load it on LNG tankers for lucrative Asian markets. Another LNG terminal owned by US companies has received permits to begin construction in the same area.

The massive increase in fracking will put new burdens on the region’s fresh water resources. "Fracking is using huge amounts of fresh water in a region that suffers water shortages," Donaldson says.

Millions of liters of water are needed for each well. The gas industry has obtained rights to take 275 million liters from local rivers, lakes and streams every day. Sixteen companies were fined last October for failing to account for how much water they were taking. According to media reports, the fines were less than $1,000.

Canada is also tapping into its significant coal deposits. The country is fifth in the world in terms of coal reserves, behind only the US, China, Russia and Australia. BC is also Canada's main coal export hub, with three coal export terminals including Westshore, the busiest coal export terminal in North America. Most of the nearly 30 million tons of coal exported each year is from BC and Alberta.

And so the world's new energy superpower appears intent on condemning the planet to dangerous levels of global warming. With Canada pumping out four million barrels per day of tar sands oil by 2020 it will be responsible for dumping one billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere every year (from tar sands extraction and burning of the fuel). Throw in Canada's natural gas production and that will add another half billion tons annually by 2020. And then at 2.86 tons of CO2 per ton of coal, millions more tons of CO2 from Canada's growing coal exports.

The world is supposed to be on a CO2 diet shedding 6 to 10 billion tons below 2011 levels by 2020. And then continue to decline every year thereafter. Failure to make those reductions means global warming will shoot above 2 degrees C putting the planet at serious risk of dangerous climate change. Canada and every nation in the world signed an agreement at the 2010 UN Climate talks in Cancun to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees C.

"Reckless Resource Capitalism"

With all of the fossil fuel investments and increased exports, Canada's GDP shot up from an average of $600 billion per year in the 1990s to more than $1.7 trillion in 2011. But GDP is only a measure economic activity. Little of this new wealth stayed in Canada as government revenues from other industrial sectors plunged, leading to enormous deficits. And what remained has gone to a very small percentage of the population, dramatically increasing the gap between rich and poor.

While energy wealth has virtually tripled Canada's GDP in 15 years, the country's poverty rates have skyrocketed. One child in seven now lives in poverty, according to the Conference Board of Canada, the country's foremost independent research organization. Income inequality increased faster than the US, with the rich getting richer and poor and middle class losing grounds over the past 15 to 20 years, the Conference Board reported last September.

"Most of Canada's increase in wealth went to the big shareholders in the resource industries,” says Daniel Drache, a political scientist at Toronto's York University. “It mainly went to the elites."

Drache argues that Canada has moved into a type of “reckless resource capitalism,” sacrificing innovation and creativity. Resource extraction industries like logging, mining or fossil fuel production create relatively few jobs, and most of them are short-term positions. Almost all of the equipment used in Canada for resource extraction is made by other countries.

Drache says Canada's economy has completely reversed from its high-tech days of the 1980s and 1990s and has returned to its colonial roots as a "resource-based economy selling rocks [minerals] and logs" — and now oil and gas.

The extraordinary wealth in one sector has been a disaster for the overall Canadian economy, according to a recent study. Up to 45 percent of job losses in Canada's manufacturing sector can be attributed to what economists call "Dutch Disease," wrote authors from Canada and Europe in a peer-reviewed paper published May 15 in Resource and Energy Economics.

Dutch Disease refers to the many examples where an increase in exploitation of natural resources coincides with a decline in the manufacturing sector. It was first documented in the Netherlands during its North Sea oil boom in the 1960s.

Canada's energy wealth has also exacerbated income inequality by spurring the cost of goods and services and making Canadian exports more expensive. Ten years ago, the Canadian dollar was worth about 65 cents of a US dollar. In recent years, the Canadian dollar has often traded at parity with the US dollar, or even exceeded it in value. The study in Resource and Energy Economics found that the "Canadian currency has been driven up by the prices of commodities." As the Canadian currency gained strength, manufacturing jobs plummeted 35 percent since 2000. In 2011 Canada lost industrial plants at twice the pace of the United States.

"This illustrates a negative side-effect of the oil-resource richness in Alberta," the study’s authors concluded.

That is a conclusion the Harper government does not want to hear even though the study was commissioned in 2008 by a government department. Applying the term "Dutch Disease" to Canada has Harper officials saying it is an insult to the hard-working employees in the resources sector.

Under Canada's multiparty, first-past-the-post electoral system, the Harper government can do almost anything it wants, even though only 40 percent of votes cast were for the Conservative Party. The next election will be in 2015 at the earliest (Canada does not have fixed election dates).

"Oil wealth has changed the culture of Canada, but there is no discussion about any of this,” Nikiforuk says. Canada's media have avoided the issue or acted as cheerleaders of the energy sector. The tar sands are already too big and have had enormous impacts on Canada's politics, economy and environment, he says.

Nikiforuk's hope is that growing concerns by Europeans and Americans about the tar sands and Canada's rogue status on climate change will shake Canadians up.

“That is what it will take for us to have a national debate on this.”


Stephen Leahy is an independent environmental journalist based in Toronto. His work has appeared internationally in the New Scientist, Earth Island Journal, Al Jazeera, and in international publications ranging from London to New Delhi. To see more of his work, visit his website..
  Read Climate Change? Blame Canada
 July 10, 2012  
Young Hillary Clinton Used to Think Kissinger Was Criminal and Immoral: Now in Laos, She Follows In His Footsteps
by Fred Branfman , AlterNet

A symbolic moment periodically illuminates both the true nature of U.S. foreign policy and how even once-idealistic youth become what they once opposed when executing it. Such a moment will occur on Wednesday as Hillary Clinton becomes the first U.S. Secretary of State in 57 years to visit Laos, where the U.S. has refused to clean up the 80 million unexploded bombs it left behind, bombs which have murdered or maimed over 20,000 innocent rice-farmers and children since the bombing ended in 1973 and continue to kill until today.

Secretary Clinton's visit to Laos is part of the administration's new attempt to contain China, and will focus on "the Lower Mekong Initiative and ASEAN integration efforts" according to State's press release. The young Hillary Clinton, an admirer of the New Left and activist for the poor, criticized a heartless U.S. foreign policy which plays power politics while shamelessly neglecting urgent humanitarian needs like protecting innocent civilians around the world from being blown up by U.S. cluster bombs. Today, rather than signing the U.N. treaty banning them, she fights to weaken it, ignoring the screams of the victims from the aftermath of U.S. bombing. As a youth she regarded her predecessor Henry Kissinger's bombing of Cambodia as "criminal" and "immoral." Today, supporting similarly illegal and inhuman U.S. bombing and assassination around the globe, she follows in his footsteps.

Millions of Lao children have grown up believing it normal to live in a hellscape where one can suddenly lose a limb, eyes or life by stepping on an unseen cluster bomb, and where it is common to meet whole families made destitute because a father died in an explosion while searching for food, or seeking scrap metal to make a few dollars, to feed his subsistence-level family. No people on earth have been so tormented by U.S. warmaking for so long -- 48 years and counting. U.S. leaders, who dropped more cluster bombs in Laos than have been used in the rest of the world put together, first bombed Laos for nine years from 1964-'73, destroying everything they owned and causing an estimated 30,000 civilian casualties. Then, from 1973 until today the unexploded ordinance (UXO) has not only killed and wounded so many more. It has deprived them of land they badly need to feed their children and caused them to live in constant fear of sudden death.

From 1969-'71, I interviewed refugees from the bombing in Laos who told me that cluster bombs, which U.S. airmen then called “antipersonnel” bombs, were the weapon they most feared. They reported that thousands had been dropped on their villages, and that most of the victims were children, women and grandparents. Lao and Vietnamese communist soldiers moved through the thick forests of northern Laos, and were largely undetectable from the air.

I brought back an antipersonnel bomb to the U.S. in February 1971. Although the communists knew all about these weapons, the information was kept secret from the American people and Congress. It was only by interviewing  U.S. military personnel that I learned how these bombs could not destroy buildings or tanks but were designed to maim not kill human beings in the hopes of tying up others to care for them; how steel pellets were replaced by flechettes meant to tear more flesh if one tried to remove them than they had entering the body; U.S. Airforce personnel at Udorn Airforce Base in Thailand had told me they comprised 80% of the bombs dropped on Laos. I also learned that each “pineapple” bomblet like mine contained 250 steel pellets, and that one aircraft sortie dropped 1,000 bomblets, spewing out 250,000 pellets over an area the size of four football fields.

I also learned how they had been originally designed to take out massed troops but, given the difficulty of detecting enemy troops in Laos, U.S. leaders had instead consciously used them, in the words of a 1970 U.S. Senate Refugee Subcommittee report, "to destroy the physical and social infrastructure of Pathet Lao areas. The bombing has taken and is taking a heavy toll among civilians." My antipersonnel bomb became to me in those years a tangible symbol of U.S. leaders’ indifference to innocent human life.

At Present Rates It Will Take 1,000 Years For Laos To Be Bomb-Free

The U.S. has cleaned up only 0.28% of the Lao land it contaminated over the past 37 years, as it has spent only one tenth of one percent on cluster bomb cleanup of what it spent on bombing Laos ($61 million vs. $70 billion in current dollars). This year's appropriation of $10 million to save living human beings may also be compared to the $105 million the U.S. spends annually looking for the bone fragments of long-dead U.S. pilots. 

Mike Boddington, a former advisor to the Lao Agency in charge of bomb cleanup and founder of the COPE center that helps bomb victims, calculates that at the present rate  -- given 8 million bomb-contaminated hectares and an annual U.S. and international expenditure of $15-20 million -- it  will take over 1,000 years for Laos to be decontaminated, at a cost of $20 billion.  

He also believes, as a rough estimate, that it will take 25 years at the present rate just to clear "high priority" areas in and around existing villages, about 2.5% of the total  bomb-contaminated land. "Now that we have the cluster munitions ban, international eyes are focused on Laos. But the pace of clearance is snail-like, and assistance for victims is tiny,” he says.

Sec. Hillary Clinton will likely visit the 7-acre site of the new U.S. Embassy complex for which ground was broken on May 18, which will "provide embassy employees with a state-of-the-art workspace." The U.S. will spend $109 million on the complex, eleven times more than the token $10 million it will spend on cluster bomb cleanup this year. This $10 million will clear 4,000 hectares, 1/2000 of Laos’s bomb-contaminated land.   

When I interviewed the Lao government head of UXO cleanup on the Plain of Jars in northern Laos in 2008 he stated that if he had 10 times more money he could clean up 10 times more land. If U.S. leaders were to spend $100 million on UXO cleanup rather than a new U.S. embassy they do not need -- the present embassy was big and safe enough to conduct a major war in Laos in the far more dangerous 1960s, and there are now but a handful of U.S. embassy officials in Laos - they could thus help 10 times as many people and decontaminate 10 times as much land.

The Human Impact Of Cluster Bombs

The human impact of the unexploded bombs was dramatically revealed on the third day of the First Meeting of States Parties to ban cluster bombs held in the Lao capital of Vientiane in November 2010. Those of us attending the conference were shocked to our core when the English-language Vientiane Times published a front-page story and photo of the naked corpse of 10-year old Pui, who been killed the day before:

"A 10-year girl was killed and her sister injured on Wednesday by a cluster bomb that exploded in Thasala village ... Ms. Pui was returning home from school, and picked up an unexploded bomb (which) exploded and caused serious injuries and extreme loss of blood and she died. (Her sister) Ms. Paeng (had) injuries to her knees, body and neck. She said that after the explosion she heard her sister coughing up blood and held her until help arrived.

 "Lao people continue to live in fear of UXO three decades after the Indochina war ended. Last month Mr. Ladone of Nhuanthong village in Xieng Khouang province, was injured when a UXO device exploded as he lit a fire in his backyard to warm himself. Mr. Ladone was blinded by the explosion."

The human impacts include not only actual people killed, blinded and deprived of limbs, but the millions of Lao who are forced to live in fear as they walk to school, light a fire or pick bamboo shoots to feed their families. And countless numbers of these subsistence-level rice farmers are denied safe access to land they need to farm in order to survive. "About 37 percent of the country's surface is contaminated with UXO, preventing people from using agricultural land and making many areas uninhabitable," the newspaper also noted.  

Secretary Clinton's State Department does acknowledge the problem. At an April 22, 2010 hearing, 29 years to the day after former U.S. Ambassador William Sullivan lied to Congress by denying that the U.S. was bombing civilian targets in Laos, State Department official Scot Marciel declared that:

"During the Vietnam War, over 2.5 million tons of U.S. munitions were dropped on Laos. This is more than was dropped on Germany and Japan combined in the Second World War. On a per capita basis, Laos is the most heavily bombed country in history. Up to 30 percent of the bombs dropped over Laos failed to detonate. The UN Development Program has reported that ‘UXO/mine action is the absolute pre-condition for the socio-economic development of Lao PDR’ and that because of UXO `economic opportunities in tourism, hydroelectric power, mining, forestry and many other areas of activity considered main engines of growth for the Lao PDR are restricted, complicated and made more expensive.'”

Marciel also acknowledged the human consequences of UXO:

"The explosive remnants of war continue to impede development and cause (close) to 300 (casualties) per year ... At the level of individual victims, of course, the consequences of death or maiming are catastrophic for entire families."

 But despite admitting the U.S. has caused "catastrophic consequences for entire families," the Department of State has basically ignored them. It for many years provided only $3-5 million annually for bomb cleanup, and only recently increased it to a still woefully inadequate $10 million due to the work of the public interest group Legacies of War.

U.S. leaders are prone to lecture others on their need to exercise “personal responsibility.” There may be no more shameful example of their own irresponsibility than their failing to take responsibility for the deadly mess they have left behind in Laos.

Secretary Clinton Pushing To Weaken the Cluster Bomb Treaty

The State Department's refusal to adequately fund cluster bomb cleanup in Laos is but part of Secretary Clinton's failures on the issue.

During the November 2010 conference in Laos to ban cluster bombs many delegates commented on an obvious fact: while over 100 nations were participating in the conference, the major nation not represented was the country that had dropped the bombs in the first place. In a startling display of pettiness the U.S. embassy had refused to accept the Conference's invitation to even send an official observer, the new U.S. ambassador had delayed her arrival in Laos until after the conference was ended, and the only official American present was a low-level political officer handing out a one-pager lauding America's woefully inadequate funding of cluster bomb cleanup.

The U.S. has retained its giant stockpile of cluster munitions, by far the largest in the world, and reserves the right to use them whenever it wishes. It dropped 1.8 million cluster bombs on Iraq, 250,000 on Afghanistan. And in Yemen, the Daily Telegraph reported on June 7, 2010:

"Thirty five women and children were killed by an American cruise missile armed with cluster bombs which struck an alleged al-Qaeda training camp in Yemen, according to a study (by) Amnesty International.”

And then, in November 2011, Secretary Clinton took it a step further. She launched a major lobbying effort to significantly weaken the Cluster Munitions Treaty, as Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch reported:

"The U.S. is touting a much weaker alternative (which) will fail to offer greater protections to civilians. In fact it could lead to an increase in cluster munitions, by providing a specific legal framework for its use. It would allow for continued use, production, trade and stockpiling of many millions of cluster munitions. It includes no obligation to destroy stockpiles."

In the end the U.S. proposal was defeated, and human rights campaigners hope that the stigma now attached to the use of cluster munitions will prevent the U.S. from using them in the future. But given that the U.S. government has ignored so much of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights which it has even signed, as Jimmy Carter recently noted, U.S. future use of cluster munitions is still in doubt.

The Picture of Hillary Clinton

The implications of Secretary Clinton fighting not to ban cluster bombs but to increase their use go far beyond the personal. Though by no means a radical, Clinton was a prototypical and praiseworthy member of the "Sixties Generation." She first came to national attention when, as Wellesley Commencement Speaker in 1969, at the height of the antiwar movement, she declared that "our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life is not the way of life for us. We're searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating modes of living." She also decried "the hollow men of anger and bitterness, the bountiful ladies of righteous degradation, all must be left to a bygone age."

She also went out of her way to praise the New Left, the wellspring of the antiwar movement, declaring that "a lot of the New Left hearkens back to a lot of the old virtues."

She has reported that a 1967 article by SDS leader Carl Oglesby in the Methodist magazine Motive, titled “Containtment or Change,” helped turn her against the war. She campaigned for Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and wrote her senior thesis on Saul Alinsky. She marched on Washington and spent the summer of 1971 working for the leading left-wing law firm in San Francisco, led by former communist Robert Treuhaft, husband of Jessica Mitford, and registered Democratic voters for the 1972 McGovern campaign. She became a mentee of liberal activist Marian Wright Edelman, and an advocate for children’s rights. I spoke at a giant peace rally at Yale University in 1971 which her future husband Bill Clinton helped organize. Mutual friends spoke warmly of her during that period as a decent human being, concerned about the poor and opposed to U.S. warmaking.

It is hard to believe that, even as an earnest college student planning to “work within the system,” she could have imagined that she would one day become a U.S. senator and then Secretary of State who would support an invasion and occupation of Iraq that has killed, wounded or made homeless over 5 million civilians; strongly advocate a surge in Afghanistan that saw General Petraeus triple U.S. airstrikes and import 7,000 U.S. assassins conducting countless night raids; manage a Pakistan policy that has led 125 million Pakistanis to regard the U.S. as their enemy and vastly increased the dangers of nuclear materials falling into terrorist hands; support a new global U.S. assassination policy by drones from the air and 60,000 U.S. assassins on the ground; do virtually nothing to control climate change; support a global U.S. economic policy that impoverishes hundreds of millions of the poor while enriching U.S. companies and local elites; and become a scourge of whistleblowers and proponent of increasing illegal Executive power.

Her transformation has become most visible since she has become Secretary of State. Pictures of her today reveal the results of the inner conflicts and compromises between her once-decent ideals and present desire to conduct U.S. foreign policy. You can see in her face the "anger, bitterness and righteous degradation" she once decried. It is a hard face, a face so different from the open-hearted and alive face of her youth as to be almost unrecognizable.

The true lesson behind this "Picture of Hillary Clinton" is not so much about the individuals who wield U.S. foreign policy but the policy itself; not who holds Executive power but what the institution does to those who do.

The indisputable fact is that the U.S. Executive Branch has killed, wounded or made homeless more people not its own citizens in more nations -- over 20 million in Indochina and Iraq alone, including millions of civilians* -- than any other postwar institution on earth. If evil consists of destroying the lives of the innocent, no institution in our time has committed more evil. And when even once-idealistic people choose to execute its foreign policy -- whether Barack Obama, John Kerry or Hillary Clinton -- they wind up like the characters in George Orwell's Animal Farm who, after taking power, behave like those they had overthrown.

Secretary Clinton will no doubt speak fine words during her trip to Laos tomorrow. She is scheduled to make a “feel good” visit to the COPE center, which provides prosthetic limbs to the victims of U.S. cluster bombs, and will likely boast about the $470,000 the U.S. annually contributes to its funding. She will perhaps even be photographed hugging victims of the U.S. violence she once opposed and now perpetuates.

And as she does so the rest of us would do well, before it is too late, to ponder the troubling questions that arose for me as I left a 2008 meeting on the Plain of Jars with a sweet-faced youth who had lost the use of his arm, a devastating blow for a villager who must farm to marry, have children and even survive. If some of the poorest people on earth are not safe from being tormented this way for decades, who among us is safe? If our civilization cannot protect these Lao rice-farmers who pose no threat to anyone, how can it protect any of us? And if U.S. leaders cannot even now act to heal their pain, how can we regard them as legitimate leaders?

Footnote: For the more than 16 million Indochinese killed, wounded and made refugees, see “Dollars and Deaths,” The Congressional Record, May 14, 1975, p. 14262. For Iraqi casualties, see “5 Million Iraqis Killed, Maimed, Tortured, Displaced,” AlterNet, June 21, 2010. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara estimated that 3.4 Vietnamese were killed, of whom 221,042 were South Vietnamese troops killed by the communists. The other 3 million plus Vietnamese, including 1-2 million civilians, were thus killed by U.S. firepower, as were most of the Laotians and Cambodians killed during the war. To this must be added the countless more that U.S. leaders have killed around the world.

Fred Branfman is the author of "Voices From the Plain of Jars," to be republished by the University of Wisconsin Press in the spring of 2013. He can be reached at fredbranfman@aol.com.
  Read Young Hillary Clinton Used to Think Kissinger Was Criminal and Immoral: Now in Laos, She Follows In His Footsteps
 July 8, 2012  
Evidence supporting the existence of climate change is pummeling the United States this summer, from the mountain wildfires of Colorado to the recent “derecho” storm that left at least 23 dead and 1.4 million people without power from Illinois to Virginia. The phrase “extreme weather” flashes across television screens from coast to coast, but its connection to climate change is consistently ignored, if not outright mocked. If our news media, including—or especially—the meteorologists, continue to ignore the essential link between extreme weather and climate change, then we as a nation, the greatest per capita polluters on the planet, may not act in time to avert even greater catastrophe.

More than 2,000 heat records were broken last week around the U.S. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the government agency that tracks the data, reported that the spring of 2012 “marked the largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States.” These record temperatures in May, NOAA says, “have been so dramatically different that they establish a new ‘neighborhood’ apart from the historical year-to-date temperatures.”

In Colorado, at least seven major wildfires are burning at the time of this writing. The Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs destroyed 347 homes and killed at least two people. The High Park fire farther north burned 259 homes and killed one. While officially “contained” now, that fire won’t go out, according to Colorado’s Office of Emergency Management, until an “act of nature such as prolonged rain or snowfall.” The “derecho” storm system is another example. “Derecho” is Spanish for “straight ahead,” and that is what the storm did, forming near Chicago and blasting east, leaving a trail of death, destruction and downed power lines.

Add drought to fire and violent thunderstorms. According to Dr. Jeff Masters, one of the few meteorologists who frequently makes the connection between extreme weather and climate change, “across the entire Continental U.S., 72 percent of the land area was classified as being in dry or drought conditions” last week. “We’re going to be seeing a lot more weather like this, a lot more impacts like we’re seeing from this series of heat waves, fires and storms. ... This is just the beginning."

Fortunately, we might be seeing a lot more of Jeff Masters, too. He was a co-founder of the popular weather website Weather Underground in 1995. Just this week he announced that the site had been purchased by The Weather Channel, perhaps the largest single purveyor of extreme weather reports. Masters promises the same focus on his blog, which he hopes will reach the much larger Weather Channel audience. He and others are needed to counter the drumbeat denial of the significance of human-induced climate change, of the sort delivered by CNN’s charismatic weatherman Rob Marciano. In 2007, a British judge was considering banning Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” from schools in England. After the report, Marciano said on CNN, “Finally. Finally ... you know, the Oscars, they give out awards for fictional films, as well. ... Global warming does not conclusively cause stronger hurricanes like we’ve seen.” Masters responded to that characteristic clip by telling me, “Our TV meteorologists are missing a big opportunity here to educate and tell the population what is likely to happen.” 

Beyond the borders of wealthy countries like the United States, in developing countries where most people in the world live, the impacts of climate change are much more deadly, from the growing desertification of Africa to the threats of rising sea levels and the submersion of small island nations.

The U.S. news media have a critical role to play in educating the public about climate change. Imagine if just half the times that they flash “Extreme Weather” across our TV screens, they alternated with “Global Warming.” This Independence Day holiday week might just be the beginning of people demanding the push to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, and pursue a sane course toward sustainable energy independence.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!.
  Read Climate Change: This Is Just the Beginning
 July 15, 2012  
The great power struggle of the 20th century was the competition between Soviet-style communism and "free-market" corporatism for domination of the world's resources. In America, it's taken for granted that Soviet communism lost (though China's more capitalist variant seems to be doing well), and the superiority of neo-liberal economics -- as epitomized by the great multinational corporations -- was thus affirmed for all time and eternity.

There's a small problem with this, though. An old bit of wisdom says: choose your enemies carefully, because over time, you will tend to become the very thing you most strongly resist. One of the most striking things about our victorious corporations now is the degree to which they've taken on some of the most noxious and Kafkaesque attributes of the Soviet system -- too often leaving their employees, customers, and other stakeholders just as powerless over their own fates as the unhappy citizens of those old centrally planned economies of the USSR were back in the day.

It's not just that the corporations have taken control over our government (though that's awful enough). It's also that they've taken control over -- and put serious limits on -- our choices regarding what we buy, where we work, how we live, and what rights we have. Our futures are increasingly no longer our own: more and more decisions, large and small, that determine the quality of our lives are being made by Politburo apparatchiks at a Supreme Corporate Soviet somewhere far distant from us. Only now, those apparatchiks are PR and marketing executives, titans of corporate finance, lobbyists for multinationals, and bean-counting managers trying to increase profits at the expense of our freedom.

With tongue only somewhat in cheek, here are a few ways in which Americans are now becoming a new lumpenproletariat, subject to the whims and diktats of our new Soviet-style corporate overlords.

Reduced Choice and Big-Box Censorship

We see it most evidently when we go to the store. Back in the 1970s, the American retail landscape was still mostly dominated by mom-and-pop stores, which in turn carried merchandise also made by small manufacturers (many of them right here in the US). Not only did this complex economy sustain tens of millions of comfortable middle-class jobs; it also produced a dazzling variety of retail choices. Every store on Main Street carried somewhat different merchandise, bought from a different group of preferred suppliers. A shoe store might carry 20 different brands. The shoe store down the street might differentiate itself by carrying 10 of the same brands, and 10 different ones. The result was a very wide range of consumer choices -- though you did have to go from store to store to find it -- and a rich variety of stores that competed aggressively for their customers' attention. And if you visited a different part of the country, the selection might be very different from what you'd get back home.

Now, every Macy's in America carries the same dozen or so lines of bland, middle-of-the-road women's clothing. You'll find exactly the same stuff on the racks in Long Island as you do in Long Beach. If you're looking for something that hasn't been dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, you probably won't find it at the mall.

Big-box stores have eliminated choice even further: The Supreme Soviet in Bentonville or Atlanta or Minneapolis has decreed what appears on the shelves of your local Walmart or Home Depot or Target store, with very little tailoring to local tastes and preferences. (Even our own tap water is being sold back to us by Coke and Pepsi.) You have exactly as many choices as they deign to devote shelf space to. Now that Wal-Mart is selling 25% of the groceries in America, if you're looking for a specific brand that someone back in Bentonville decided Walmart will no longer carry, then you're just plain out of luck. And since the other grocers in town often close up when a Walmart opens, there's no place else to turn to find it.

This constriction of choice is most virulent when it comes to media. Big-box stores have very limited shelf space for each product category they carry; yet they are far and away the nation's biggest purchasers of things like toys and video games. For the past 20 years, this fact has dominated decision-making in both those businesses: manufacturers know viscerally that if the buyers at Walmart aren't interested in your toy or game, there's probably no economic point in even making it. So everything is made with these buyers' sensibilities, prejudices and cost requirements in mind. This became a de facto form of centralized control, where a handful of buyers in Bentonville ended up dictating what the entire country got to play with.

Increasingly, the corporatization of our consumer landscape has meant that there's less choice and variety in our marketplaces than there used to be. Centrally planned franchise and chain stores have been stripped of quirkiness, uniqueness, local color, and anything that might be challenging to the most easily upset among us. The result is that we're left with a bland, santized, Disneyfied set of choices in goods, experiences, entertainment, and ideas that's a far cry from the lively, authentic Main Street scene those stores killed -- and which has brought us several steps closer to the scary stereotype of the limited and poorly stocked state-controlled Soviet shops we were constantly threatened with during the Cold War. Yeah, it's still better -- but not as much better as it should be.

The Sovietization of malls and big-box stores has launched a couple of backlashes. Online shopping is the new refuge of people who are looking for a broader set of options. Local producers of food, clothing, grooming supplies, furniture, and other goods are stepping up to scratch our itch for things that are unique and special. These are both end-runs around the corporatized retail order that's been systematically stripping away consumer choice for decades. But they've got a long way to go before they'll supplant the neighborhood hegemony of Walgreens.

Health Care

The Supreme Health Care Soviet has also done a number on the kind of health care we get, how we get it, where we get it, and who we can get it from. Again: there was a time not so long ago when health care was in the hands of a doctor, who was usually in independent practice (often in a partnership with a couple of other doctors, but that's it), and who had wide leeway to dictate patient care without being second-guessed. The doctor got sound, reliable information on new treatments from respected peer-reviewed journals, and insurance companies generally paid for most of what he or she ordered without further ado. This extreme level of autonomy notoriously led to doctors who overestimated their capacities; but it also meant that whatever happened in an examination room was -- to an extraordinary degree -- left in the hands of the doctor and the patient, and nobody else was entitled to interfere. The result was that, in the struggle between science and the doctor's profit motive, science stood at least a fighting chance of prevailing.

Now, the profit Politburo has had its way with almost every aspect of this interaction. Two-thirds of primary care doctors don't own their own practices anymore -- in no small part because the administrative cost of dealing with Soviet bureaucrats insurance company overseers is so overwhelming. Now, they're salaried employees of some large corporate entity, where they're subject to constant pressure to shorten visits, rack up billable hours, stick to narrow protocols of accepted treatment and churn patients through.

Insurance bean-counters second-guess every order, requiring doctors to put in extra shifts each week writing letters and making phone calls to fight for their patients' right to care. Every channel they rely on for information on new drugs and treatments -- from the peer-reviewed journals to the medical conferences to the drug information inserts -- has been co-opted by the pharmaceutical companies to ensure that doctors won't ever get important information that might reflect badly on profitable drugs; and this, in turn, undermines evidence-based medicine in favor of a kind of corporate-driven Lysenkoism.

Increasingly, states are also inviting themselves into the exam room, passing laws telling doctors what they can and can't tell you about your own condition (and, in some cases, demanding that they out-and-out lie to you, for reasons that are entirely political and seldom supported by science). And as a patient, your access to this co-opted, compromised care is entirely dependent on what the Politburo apparatchiks at your own employer's corporate HQ have decided you deserve to have.

Again: what we've got here isn't anything like a free or independent system, one in which patients and doctors are at liberty to make appropriate decisions without layers of centralized interference (much of it from people who aren't even MDs). And most of this interference isn't from government; it's from various corporate interests that have subjugated both doctors and patients to a centralization regime in order to extract profits from them. During the Cold War, this is what we were told Soviet medicine was like. Now, we don't have to go to Russia: we can get the same regimented, over-managed treatment from our own free-market health system -- and we'll pay more for it than anybody else in the world.

Education: Testing, Not Teaching

My eighth-grade civics teacher used to terrify our class with grim stories about the education endured by our unlucky peers in the USSR. Communist education, she said, was nothing but rote learning -- no discussion, no critical thinking skills, all aimed at preparing kids for high-stakes standardized testing that would ultimately determine their place in the Party hierarchy. They weren't free like we were to explore our own interests, or choose professions that pleased them. Rather than being treated like full, autonomous human beings being prepared for a limitless future of their own design, they were sorted and graded like potatoes, and tracked to serve the needs of the state. All of the decisions, we were told, were dictated by the central authorities in charge of determining what kind of workers the state would need, and which schools students would be sent to in order to fulfill those goals.

The ironies abound. Even as China has ramped up its efforts to inculcate creativity and critical thought in its students, the United States has voluntarily given up on those values -- our competitive edge over the world for the past 150 years -- in favor of a centralized, test-driven schooling regimen that only a Soviet bureaucrat could love. Increasingly, the doors to the best high schools and universities are closed to everyone but those in the top echelons of society, just as the best schools in the USSR were set aside for the children of the Party leadership. But the greatest irony of all is that, far from being done in the name of the state, this is being done by taking education out of the hands of the state and giving it over to for-profit corporations. Again, the more "private industry" gets involved, the more the outcome looks like something from a 1950s John Birch caricature of the horrors of Soviet life.

And On It Goes

These are just three easy examples. There are plenty more to be had:

* Our modern homes are designed by marketing researchers working for Soviet-style large developers that dictate what The People's Houses should look like.

* Our food supply is dominated by Soviet-style government-mandated (but privately run) monoculture.

* Our voting system is increasingly restricted to people who are acceptable to the party hierarchy, just as the Soviet system limited Communist Party membership to a small percentage of the population; and corporate-owned machines count our votes.

* Our increasingly privatized and militarized law enforcement is starting to owe a lot to the brutal Soviet policing style, too. We have gulags now -- and the corporations are running them, too.

* Our response to climate change is being driven by another form of Lysenkoism -- a science-denial movement driven by corporations that are threatened by any demand that they change their ways.

* And anybody who's dealt with a bank foreclosure can tell you stories that would cross Franz Kafka's eyes about the runaround they get every time they try to contact their lender. Checks and papers vanish, and must be sent over and over. Payments are never posted. And you can never talk to the same person twice. (We used to think the DMV was bad enough, but now we know: it takes a corporation to really screw things up.) This kind of faceless, brutally inhuman bureaucracy used to be the stuff of totalitarian nightmares. Now, it's everyday reality for tens of millions of American homeowners.

This is corporate-sponsored tyranny that comes at a huge expense to the masses. The great irony of our age is that, over the past 60 years, the more energy we put into resisting Communism by raising up the cult of the consumer (and the corporations that serviced it), the more our own corporate overlords were able to seize our resources and energy, and divert them into the goal of consolidating their power and inflicting their own totalitarian, centrally planned hell on us.

The USSR has been a historical dead letter for over 20 years now -- but there are still plenty of earnest Fox-watching Americans for whom "communism" remains the most terrifying of all scare words. They're vigilantly watching the leftward horizon, scanning for signs of government-inflicted socialism, ready to strip their own democracy of its very ability to thwart totalitarians if that's what must be done to stop totalitarianism.

Unfortunately, they're facing the wrong direction. The real threat of dignity-stripping, liberty-destroying, soul-crushing oppression is coming not from government, but from the very corporations those same people believed were the key to our superiority over the Communist menace. Now that the government can't protect us from rapacious businesses any more, the centrally planned authoritarian state they've feared is already coming to pass -- privately, for the profit of the few, free from pesky accountability or oversight, and without a bit of resistance from the would-be patriots who have been on guard for decades to ensure it could never happen here.

Sara Robinson, MS, APF is a futurist and the editor of AlterNet's Vision page. Follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to AlterNet's Vision newsletter for weekly updates.
  Read The New Totalitarianism: How American Corporations Have Made America Like the Soviet Union
 July 6, 2012  

Image: Environmental Protection Agency

America has a new word to learn: Dilbit.

Dilbit, short for diluted bitumen, is a combination of tar sands crude (bitumen) and dangerous liquid chemicals like benzene (the dilutant) used to thin crude so it can be piped to refineries.

And there is a lot of it being piped into America — in some cases through the backyards of communities that don’t even know it’s there.

The U.S. imports around half a million barrels of bitumen a day from Canada’s tar sands. According to the Sierra Club, if Keystone XL backers get their way, that number may grow to 1.5 million barrels per day.

A must-read investigation released this week by Inside Climate News illustrates why that could be a potential nightmare for communities located near pipeline infrastructure.

The story follows the complicated clean-up of a tar sands oil spill that most people haven’t even heard of — a 2010 pipeline rupture in southwestern Michigan that resulted in more than one million gallons of dilbit fouling a local waterway close to the Kalamazoo River.

The three-part narrative is detailed and extremely well-researched. It features a blow-by-blow account of how the pipeline ruptured, how officials acted (or, in the case of the pipeline owner, Enbridge, how it failed to act) and why dilbit represents a double threat to the environment and public health. It also shows why having an Environmental Protection Agency is so important when crisis hits.

This investigation is a must-read for any public official or resident from a community located near the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Here’s why, nearly two years after the spill, residents are still finding tar balls in the local waterway:

Instead of remaining on top of the water, as most conventional crude oil does, the bitumen gradually sank to the river’s bottom, where normal cleanup techniques and equipment were of little use. Meanwhile, the benzene and other chemicals that had been added to liquefy the bitumen evaporated into the air.

InsideClimate News also learned that federal and local officials didn’t discover until more than a week after the spill that 6B was carrying dilbit, not conventional oil. Federal regulations do not require pipeline operators to disclose that information. And Enbridge officials did not volunteer it.

Mark Durno, an EPA deputy incident commander who is still involved in the cleanup in Marshall, is among those who were surprised by what they found.

“Submerged oil is what makes this thing more unique than even the Gulf of Mexico situation,” Durno told InsideClimate News. “Yes, that was huge—but they knew the beast they were dealing with. This experience was brand new for us. It would have been brand new for anyone in the United States.”

One of the most compelling pieces of the investigation comes when the reporters examine the safety record of America’s pipeline infrastructure. The results are shocking:

When corrosion rises above a certain threshold, PHMSA requires that it be repaired within 180 days. But the rules are flexible, and companies can easily negotiate for more time.

Records show that 6B had a history of corrosion problems.

In 2008, Enbridge identified 140 corrosion defects on 6B as serious enough to fall into the 180-day category. But the company repaired just 26 of them during that period.

In 2009, Enbridge self-reported a separate set of 250 defects to PHMSA. The company fixed only 35 of them within 180 days.

Instead of immediately addressing the 329 defects that now remained, Enbridge got a one-year extension from PHMSA by exercising its legal option to reduce pumping pressure on 6B while it decided whether to repair or replace the line.

A defect on 6B near John LaForge’s house, where the pipeline eventually ruptured, didn’t appear on any of the 180-day repair lists.

That defect, at mile marker 608, was detected at least three times before the pipeline ruptured, in 2005, 2007 and 2009, according to documents Enbridge filed with PHMSA over the years. But each time, Enbridge decided it wasn’t significant enough to require repairs within 180 days.

Ten days before 6B ruptured, Enbridge applied to PHMSA for another extension. It asked for an additional two and a half years to decide whether 6B should be repaired or replaced.

Does this sound familiar?

In January, we wrote about a pipeline inspector for the original Keystone pipeline who raised some very serious questions about the integrity of work being done for TransCanada, the company overseeing the project. After being built, the Keystone pipeline saw 12 spills in its first year in operation. The inspector, Mike Klink, warned that “people along the Keystone XL pathway have a lot more to lose if this project moves forward with the same shoddy work”:

What did I see? Cheap foreign steel that cracked when workers tried to weld it, foundations for pump stations that you would never consider using in your own home, fudged safety tests, Bechtel staffers explaining away leaks during pressure tests as “not too bad,” shortcuts on the steel and rebar that are essential for safe pipeline operation and siting of facilities on completely inappropriate spots like wetlands.

I shared these concerns with my bosses, who communicated them to the bigwigs at TransCanada, but nothing changed. TransCanada didn’t appear to care. That is why I was not surprised to hear about the big spill in Ludden, N.D., where a 60-foot plume of crude spewed tens of thousands of gallons of toxic tar sands oil and fouled neighboring fields.

TransCanada says that the performance has been OK. Fourteen spills is not so bad. And that the pump stations don’t really count. That is all bunk. This thing shouldn’t be leaking like a sieve in its first year — what do you think happens decades from now after moving billions of barrels of the most corrosive oil on the planet?

Let’s be clear — I am an engineer; I am not telling you we shouldn’t build pipelines. We just should not build this one.

Let’s remember: The Keystone XL pipeline will be built right on top of the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive source of fresh water that provides almost one third of the water used for irrigation in the U.S.

As the debate over Keystone XL rages on, proponents of Canadian tar sands are attempting to brand the resource as a “safe” alternative that will make America more secure.

As we have detailed over and over, those security arguments don’t hold up. The Keystone XL pipeline is a way to pipe dilbit across America to service refineries that will then sell the final product into a global market.

Plus, if you care about a maintaining a liveable climate, sticking a massive straw into one of the largest pools of carbon on the planet isn’t exactly how you make the country more secure.

But more than any of that, people really care about keeping their local environment clean. And this investigative piece from Inside Climate News shows us that we’re dealing with a fundamentally different product than conventional oil — and Americans need to know more about it.

Check out the story. You can find it in multiple parts, or buy the whole thing for your e-Reader. It’s a stellar piece of journalism that everyone should read.

Stephen Lacey is a reporter/blogger for Climate Progress, where he writes on clean energy policy, technologies, and finance. Before joining CP, he was an editor/producer with RenewableEnergyWorld.com. He received his B.A. in journalism from Franklin Pierce University.

  Read Must Read: Investigation Reveals True Hazards Of Piping Tar Sands Across America
 July 10, 2012  
Washington, D.C.----Although most analysts assume that the world's population will rise from today's 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, it is quite possible that humanity will never reach this population size, Worldwatch Institute President Robert Engelman argues in the book State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity.

In the chapter "Nine Population Strategies to Stop Short of 9 Billion," Engelman outlines a series of steps and initiatives that would all but guarantee declines in birthrates-based purely on the intention of women around the world to have small families or no children at all-that would end population growth before mid-century at fewer than 9 billion people. "Unsustainable population growth can only be effectively and ethically addressed by empowering women to become pregnant only when they themselves choose to do so," Engelman writes.

Examples from around the world demonstrate effective policies that not only reduce birth rates, but also respect the reproductive aspirations of parents and support an educated and economically active society that promotes the health of women and girls. Most of these reproduction policies are relatively inexpensive to implement, yet in many places they are opposed on the basis of cultural resistance and political infeasibility.

Eschewing the language and approaches of "population control" or the idea that anyone should pressure women and their partner on reproduction, Engelman outlines nine strategies that could put human population on an environmentally sustainable path:

>> Provide universal access to safe and effective contraceptive options for both sexes. With nearly two in five pregnancies reported as mistimed or never wanted, lack of access to good family planning services is among the biggest gaps in assuring that each baby will be wanted and welcomed in advance by its parents.

>> Guarantee education through secondary school for all, especially girls. In every culture surveyed to date, women who have completed at least some secondary school have fewer children on average, and have children later in life, than do women who have less education.

>> Eradicate gender bias from law, economic opportunity, health, and culture. Women who can own, inherit, and manage property; divorce; obtain credit; and participate in civic and political affairs on equal terms with men are more likely to postpone childbearing and to have fewer children compared to women who are deprived of these rights.

>> Offer age-appropriate sexuality education for all students. Data from the United States indicate that exposure to comprehensive programs that detail puberty, intercourse, options of abstinence and birth control, and respecting the sexual rights and decisions of individuals, can help prevent unwanted pregnancies and hence reduce birth rates.

>> End all policies that reward parents financially based on the number of children they have. Governments can preserve and even increase tax and other financial benefits aimed at helping parents by linking these not to the number of children they have, but to parenthood status itself.

>> Integrate lessons on population, environment, and development into school curricula at multiple levels. Refraining from advocacy or propaganda, schools should educate students to make well-informed choices about the impacts of their behavior, including childbearing, on the environment.

>> Put prices on environmental costs and impacts. In quantifying the cost of an additional family member by calculating taxes and increased food costs, couples may decide that the cost of having an additional child is too high, compared to the benefits of a smaller family that might receive government rebates and have a lower cost of living. Such decisions, freely made by women and couples, can decrease birth rates without any involvement by non-parents in reproduction.

>> Adjust to an aging population instead of boosting childbearing through government incentives and programs. Population aging must be met with the needed societal adjustments, such as increased labor participation, rather than by offering incentives to women to have more children.

>> Convince leaders to commit to stabilizing population growth through the exercise of human rights and human development. By educating themselves on rights-based population policies, policymakers can ethically and effectively address population-related challenges by empowering women to make their reproductive choices.

If most or all of these strategies were put into effect, Engelman argues, global population likely would peak and subsequently begin a gradual decline before 2050, thereby ensuring sustainable development of natural resources and global stability into the future. By implementing policies that defend human rights, promote education, and reflect the true economic and environmental costs of childbearing, the world can halt population short of the 9 billion that so many analysts expect.

Worldwatch's State of the World 2012, released in April 2012,focuses on the themes of inclusive sustainable development discussed at Rio+20, the 20-year follow-up to the historic 1992 Earth Summit, which was also held in Rio de Janeiro. The report presents a selection of innovations and constructive ideas for achieving environmental sustainability globally while meeting human needs and providing jobs and dignity for all.

Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in more than 18 languages.

  Read Nine Population Strategies To Stop Short of 9 Billion
 July 11, 2012  

For the first time ever, scientists behind one of the world's most comprehensive weather assessments say they can perceive the likely impact of human-influenced climate change on specific extreme weather events.

What the study found was increasing evidence that specific events, and patterns of events, can now safely be attributed to man-made global warming and its growing impact on intense storms, extreme floods, unusual cold spells, prolonged heat waves and drought.

The 'State of the Climate' report, issued jointly each year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS), looks at global weather events, climate patterns, and the implications of flunctuating air temperatures and ocean currents.

This year, the group also released a supplemental paper, titled Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 from a Climate Perspective (pdf), which looks specifically at extreme weather events through the lense of global climate change.

“2011 will be remembered as a year of extreme events, both in the United States and around the world,” said Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. “Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment. This annual report provides scientists and citizens alike with an analysis of what has happened so we can all prepare for what is to come.”

Peter Stott, from Britain's National Weather Service which also contributed to the report, said: "We are much more confident about attributing [weather effects] to climate change. This is all adding up to a stronger and stronger picture of human influence on the climate."

"While we didn't find evidence that climate change has affected the odds of all the extreme weather events we looked at, we did see that some events were significantly more likely. Overall we're seeing that human influence is having a marked impact on some types of extreme weather."

The Guardian's Fiona Harvey reports:

Attributing individual weather events, such as floods, droughts and heatwaves, to human-induced climate change – rather than natural variation in the planet's complex weather systems – has long been a goal of climate change scientists. But the difficulty of separating the causation of events from the background "noise" of the variability in the earth's climate systems has until now made such attribution an elusive goal.

To attribute recent extreme weather events – rather than events 10 years ago or more – to human-caused climate change is a big advance, and will help researchers to provide better warnings of the likely effects of climate change in the near future. This is likely to have major repercussions on climate change policy and the ongoing efforts to adapt to the probable effects of global warming.

Researchers found the 2011 crop-destroying drought and heat wave in Texas was "roughly 20 times more likely" the result of man-made climate change -- warming due to greenhouse gasses -- than of natural climate variation, CBS News reported.

Other key findings:

NOAA's State of the Climate in 2011 report was published today by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. (Credit: NOAA).

Warm temperature trends continue: Four independent data sets show 2011 among the 15 warmest since records began in the late 19th century, with annually-averaged temperatures above the 1981–2010 average, but coolest on record since 2008. The Arctic continued to warm at about twice the rate compared with lower latitudes. On the opposite pole, the South Pole station recorded its all-time highest temperature of 9.9°F on December 25, breaking the previous record by more than 2 degrees.

Greenhouse gases climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, continued to rise. Carbon dioxide steadily increased in 2011 and the yearly global average exceeded 390 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since instrumental records began. This represents an increase of 2.10 ppm compared with the previous year. There is no evidence that natural emissions of methane in the Arctic have increased significantly during the last decade.

Arctic sea ice extent decreases: Arctic sea ice extent was below average for all of 2011 and has been since June 2001, a span of 127 consecutive months through December 2011. Both the maximum ice extent (5.65 million square miles, March 7) and minimum extent (1.67 million square miles, September 9) were the second smallest of the satellite era.

Ozone levels in Arctic drop: In the upper atmosphere, temperatures in the tropical stratosphere were higher than average while temperatures in the polar stratosphere were lower than average during the early 2011 winter months. This led to the lowest ozone concentrations in the lower Arctic stratosphere since records began in 1979 with more than 80 percent of the ozone between 11 and 12 miles altitude destroyed by late March, increasing UV radiation levels at the surface.

Sea surface temperature & ocean heat content rise:
Even with La Niña conditions occurring during most of the year, the 2011 global sea surface temperature was among the 12 highest years on record. Ocean heat content, measured from the surface to 2,300 feet deep, continued to rise since records began in 1993 and was record high.

Ocean salinity trends continue: Continuing a trend that began in 2004 and similar to 2010, oceans were saltier than average in areas of high evaporation, including the western and central tropical Pacific, and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, including the eastern tropical South Pacific, suggesting that precipitation is increasing in already rainy areas and evaporation is intensifying in drier locations.

  Read Report: Extreme Weather Tied to Man-Made Climate Change
 July 12, 2012  
The Missing Link To Our Harmonised Existence
by Sarah Saba , Countercurrents.org

Summarising the posts of the CounterCurrents.org during the past seven days we could sort the most critical world issues based on the priority subjects of the posts such as the global human divide, exploitation of the natural resources, their impacts on humanity and the dangers of extremism and terrorism for the peaceful subsistence of global humanity. No doubt these are the most critical challenges faced by today’s world without adequately addressing which we cannot guarantee a harmonized future of global humanity. The most alarming aspect of these crucial issues is that the world had realized their significance as the rising critical concerns of humanity even during the last decade of the previous century and based on such realization a number of protective measures have been taken to adequately address those or at least to reduce their impact. However, with each step taken the intensity of such issues has further been escalated. In this context the failure of global humanity to adequately address the most alarming issues to its survival is more dangerous an aspect than the issues themselves.

During one of my research endeavours I have recently come across the papers of a Sufi Master about the future of the world which have made me stunned since he has talked about the roots of the problems faced by the contemporary world and the important thing about his work is his faith on the potential of global humanity in efficiently overcoming those. Living in isolation the Sufi has over two decades’ background of spiritual transcendence focused on the peaceful future of the world. Despite living in a society which is harsh to the peaceful vision of Sufism and where the Sufis and their centres have been attacked in the recent past, he is confident of arrival of his perspective on the surface by some unforeseen ‘essential means’. After going through his work somehow in detail I have decided to become a way of introducing it to the rest of the world which is spiritual but absolutely methodical with its strength of unifying the scattered humanity and their separating philosophies.

According to the Sufi Qadri, the humanity has the partial knowledge about their existence and without filling the essential gaps we cannot have a collective ride to a safer future. The Sufi’s intuitive wisdom provides those missing links which are essential to comprehend the broader picture of cosmic existence. Here I am presenting very briefly the important points of his conception.

According to our existing understanding the universe was created some 14 billion years ago. Based on the rate of universal expansion and other cosmic equations the cosmologists suggest that the universe commenced with an immensely giant Big Bang. Since its beginning the universe has expressed its amazing capability of transformation from one state to another in a highly complex and objective oriented sequential manner. All universal phenomena, including non living objects and the highly evolved living organisms, have emerged out of the remarkably homogeneous primal universe comprised of the Cosmic Microwave Background or CMB. Under a perfect mechanism the highly intense form of energy generated out of the Big Bang had later transformed into various forms of matter including the stars and their planetary systems and then variety of life forms on the planet Earth. Despite knowing this all we don’t know about the principle involved in the sequential development of the universe from the primary uniform universe into the highly complex and ever evolving lumpy universe. The Sufi fills the blank by presenting that principle quite in a methodical way.

Life on the planet Earth in its countless forms can be resembled with the highly advanced self-replicating, self-programming biological computers. The instincts in the life forms work as the firmware of the modern computer while molecular chains of DNA, RNA, or simply genes perform as the imprinted codes for instinctive behaviour. The genetic codes of humans contain the highly sophisticated and complex imprints with their capacity to form a series of interrelated, well-planned and specific bodily developments in a long term process of evolution extended to millions of years. Despite knowing the details of human evolution we don’t know about the evolutionary method which gives direction and push to an evolutionary development towards the direction of its eventual states. The Sufi fills the blank by highlighting the universal method of mounting and slowing evolution which started with the first evolutionary leap of the universe and continues till present. Importantly, the findings of the branches like the fossil record, paleoclimatology, genetic analysis, neuroscience, infancy research and cognitive grammar support the Sufi’s model of human evolution as a universal method.

The human bicameral brain with polarized functionality of its two hemispheres is a complex issue. Apparently, the two sides closely resemble each other as each hemisphere's structure is generally mirrored by the other side. Yet despite the strong anatomical similarities, the functions of each hemisphere are entirely different. The most amazing aspect of such polarization is that the worldview of each human is established on a different pattern of output from the two hemispheres. In this polarized state human ability to decide is completely dependent on the oceanic sway of emotions and random thoughts by the primitive parts of brain. Without a balancing contribution by the each part, we have very little control over this upheaval and therefore become prey to its anarchic nature. All human divisions, differences, wars, egotism and extremism belong to such innate polarization of human brain. We know about this basic flaw in human personality but don’t know the way how to confront the situation. The Sufi fills in the gap by presenting the solution which is supported by the shared thought of the religious scriptures and the findings of the process of human evolution. Sufis thought not only proposes the reason behind human flawed vision but also suggests a practical and comprehensive way to efficiently overcome such human limitation.

No doubt, the emergence of Religion is the greatest hall mark in the history of humankind with its tenets of common love and selfless service to humanity which are the bright signs of awakening the human sleeping mind. Since its universal emergence Religion is producing difference within the societies with its tremendous contributions in minimizing human suffering and isolation. However, despite its incredible message of love and universal oneness, Religion has also been used to spread conflict and mischief in the societies which is not the expression of the harmonized vision as established by Religion. The controversial role of Religion in spreading love and hatred has long been a question mark without its resolute answer. The Sufi fills in the gap by studying Religion as process and not as institution. His way of analysis extracts the shared principles of the world religions which bring religions’ amazing similarities of thought and practice and their combined vision to promote peace, welfare and harmony in human societies.

When Mother is home then the entire universe functions as a genuine, sanctified and inseparable being and all manifestations of which exist in complete harmony and concord. However, if the balance of normality is forcefully distorted in favour of physical might, subjugation and oppression then Feminine is severely injured. When democracies are thrown out and manipulated, when peace is tried out with the power of gun and when the beauty, fragility and delicateness is harmed by the oppression then the Mother becomes displeased and has to hide her beautifying features. The current are the worst times for humanity when every delicacy and fragility on the planet is spoiled by the robust brawn. The Sufi doesn’t look denial of Feminine in isolation but finds it as one of the numerous outcomes of human flawed vision. Based on his principle of change he foresees the revival of the recognition of global Feminine by the unified humanity under a process of unified human development.

Lastly and more importantly, the Sufi believes in human safe ride under humanity’s collective decision to bring the dawn of a new human era of harmonised human subsistence. He finds humanity’s collective desire to give their future generations a stable and safer future but they don’t find the missing link. Human confused vision is evident by the ideas about 2012 with their diverse impressions, ranging from very optimistic to quite pessimistic, about an event taking place within a particular time frame during this year. According to him it is human confused vision which has squeezed the dawn of a complete new era of human solidarity into a single event on a particular date. Sufi provides the missing link to the idea of a new dawn of human future with his conclusive approach supported by the principles of evolution and shared beauties of spiritual wisdom.

Under his intuitive wisdom the Sufi has introduced few entirely new ideas, terminologies and theories, though not scientifically proven, yet are in line with the recent developments of science. His work seems a dedication to all members of global humanity and lies within it is an invitation to recognize our unparalleled inner potential about which we remain ignorant most parts of our lives. This concealed inner potential is the highest dimension of our beings and has the greatest capacity to change our inner as well as the outer worlds.

After going through the papers of Sufi Qadri I have realized that this is not merely a document; this might be a practical tool of energy transmission from one heart to the other. I am so inspired that I have decided to become a medium between him and a relevant research centre or publishing house to bring his vision to surface. At a time when humanity has reached to a critical crossroads of history where it has to decide for its collective fate, either to be sustained or to be exterminated, such an invitation could serve as an ignition for the human ride towards a unified and secured future.

I wish to all humanity a bright and peaceful future.

Sarah Saba is a researcher in Pakistan and the moderator of the group ‘South Asian http://www.facebook.com/sarah.research

  Read The Missing Link To Our Harmonised Existence
 July 12, 2012  
The Origin Of Cooperation
by John Scales Avery , Countercurrents.org

The mystery of self-sacrifice in War

Warfare involves not only a high degree of aggression, but also an extremely high degree of altruism. Soldiers kill, but they also sacrifice their own lives. Thus patriotism and duty are as essential to war as the willingness to kill.

Tribalism involves passionate attachment to one's own group, self-sacrifice for the sake of the group, willingness both to die and to kill if necessary to defend the group from its enemies, and belief that in case of a conflict, one's own group is always in the right. Unfortunately these emotions make war possible; and today a Third World War might lead to the destruction of civilization.

At first sight, the willingness of humans to die defending their social groups seems hard to explain from the standpoint of Darwinian natural selection. After the heroic death of such a human, he or she will be unable to produce more children, or to care for those already born. Therefore one might at first suppose that natural selection would work strongly to eliminate the trait of self-sacrifice from human nature. However, the theory of population genetics and group selection can explain both the willingness of humans to sacrifice themselves for their own group, and also the terrible aggression that they sometimes exhibit towards competing groups. It can explain both intra-group altruism and inter-group aggression.

Fisher, Haldane, Hamilton and Wilson

The idea of group selection in evolution was proposed in the 1930's by J.B.S. Haldane and R.A. Fischer, and more recently it has been discussed by W.D. Hamilton and E.O. Wilson.

If we examine altruism and aggression in humans, we notice that members of our species exhibit great altruism towards their own children. Kindness towards close relatives is also characteristic of human behavior, and the closer the biological relationship is between two humans, the greater is the altruism they tend to show towards each other. This profile of altruism is easy to explain on the basis of Darwinian natural selection since two closely related individuals share many genes and, if they cooperate, the genes will be more effectively propagated.

To explain from an evolutionary point of view the communal defense mechanism - the willingness of humans to kill and be killed in defense of their communities - we have only to imagine that our ancestors lived in small tribes and that marriage was likely to take place within a tribe rather than across tribal boundaries. Under these circumstances, each tribe would tend to consist of genetically similar individuals. The tribe itself, rather than the individual, would be the unit on which the evolutionary forces of natural selection would act.

According to the group selection model, a tribe whose members showed altruism towards each other would be more likely to survive than a tribe whose members cooperated less effectively. Since several tribes might be in competition for the same territory, successful aggression against a neighboring group could increase the chances for survival of one's own tribe.

Thus, on the basis of the group selection model, one would expect humans to be kind and cooperative towards members of their own group, but at the same time to sometimes exhibit aggression towards members of other groups, especially in conflicts over territory. One would also expect intergroup conflicts to be most severe in cases where the boundaries between groups are sharpest - where marriage is forbidden across the boundaries.

Cooperation in groups of animals and human groups

The social behavior of groups of animals, flocks of birds and communities of social insects involves cooperation as well as rudimentary forms of language. Various forms of language, including chemical signals, postures and vocal signals, are important tools for orchestrating cooperative behavior.

The highly developed language of humans made possible an entirely new form of evolution. In cultural evolution (as opposed to genetic evolution), information is passed between generations not in the form of a genetic code, but in the form of linguistic symbols. With the invention of writing, and later the invention of printing, the speed of human cultural evolution greatly increased. Cooperation is central to this new form of evolution. Cultural advances can be shared by all humans.

Trading in primitive societies

Although primitive societies engaged in frequent wars, they also cooperated through trade. Peter Watson, an English historian of ideas, believes that long-distance trade took place as early as 150,000 before the present. There is evidence that extensive trade in obsidian and flint took place during the stone age. Evidence for wide ranging prehistoric obsidian and flint trading networks has been found in North America. Ancient burial sites in Southeast Asia show that there too, prehistoric trading took place across very large distances. Analysis of jade jewelry from the Phillipines, Thailand, Maylasia and Viet Nam shows that the jade originated in Taiwan.

The invention of writing was prompted by the necessities of trade. In prehistoric Mesopotamia, clay tokens marked with simple symbols were used for accounting as early as 8,000 BC. Often these tokens were kept in clay jars, and symbols on the outside of the jars indicated the contents. About 3,500 BC, the use of such tokens and markings led to the development of pictographic writing in Mesopotamia, and this was soon followed by the cuneiform script, still using soft clay as a medium. The clay tablets were later dried and baked to ensure permanency. The invention of writing led to a great acceleration of human cultural evolution. Since ideas could now be exchanged and preserved with great ease through writing, new advances in technique could be shared by an ever larger cooperating community of humans. Our species became more and more successful as its genius for cooperation developed.

Early religions tended to be centered on particular tribes, and the ethics associated with them were usually tribal in nature. However, the more cosmopolitan societies that began to form after the Neolithic agricultural revolution required a more universal code of ethics. It is interesting to notice that many of the great ethical teachers of human history, for example Moses, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Buddha, and Jesus, lived at the time when the change to larger social units was taking place. Tribalism was no longer appropriate. A wider ethic was needed.

Today the size of the social unit is again being enlarged, this time enlarged to include the entire world. Narrow loyalties have become inappropriate and there is an urgent need for a new ethic - a global ethic. Loyalty to one's nation needs to be supplemented by a higher loyalty to humanity as a whole.

Interdependence in modern human society

The enormous success of humans as a species is due to their genius for cooperation. The success of humans is a success of cultural evolution, a new form of evolution in which information is passed between generations, not in the form of DNA sequences but in the form of speech, writing, printing and finally electronic signals. Cultural evolution is built on cooperation, and has reached great heights of success as the cooperating community has become larger and larger, ultimately including the entire world.

Without large-scale cooperation, modern science would never have evolved. It developed as a consequence of the invention of printing, which allowed painfully gained detailed knowledge to be widely shared. Science derives its great power from concentration. Attention and resources are brought to bear on a limited problem until all aspects of it are understood. It would make no sense to proceed in this way if knowledge were not permanent, and if the results of scientific research were not widely shared. But today the printed word and the electronic word spread the results of research freely to the entire world. The whole human community is the repository of shared knowledge.

The achievements of modern society are achievements of cooperation. We can fly, but no one builds an airplane alone. We can cure diseases, but only through the cooperative efforts of researchers, doctors and medicinal firms. We can photograph and understand distant galaxies, but the ability to do so is built on the efforts of many cooperating individuals.

The comfort and well-being that we experience depends on far-away friendly hands and minds, since trade is global, and the exchange of ideas is also global.

Two sides of human nature

Looking at human nature, both from the standpoint of evolution and from that of everyday experience, we see the two faces of Janus; one face shines radiantly; the other is dark and menacing. Two souls occupy the human breast, one warm and friendly, the other murderous. Humans have developed a genius for cooperation, the basis for culture and civilization; but they are also capable of genocide; they were capable of massacres during the Crusades, capable of genocidal wars against the Amerinds, capable of the Holocaust, of Hiroshima, of the killing-fields of Cambodia, of Rwanda, and of Darfur

As an example of the two sides of human nature, we can think of Scandinavia. The Vikings were once feared throughout Europe. The Book of Common Prayer in England contains the phrase ``Protect us from the fury of the Northmen!". Today the same people are so peaceful and law-abiding that they can be taken as an example for how we would like a future world to look. Human nature has the possibility for both kinds of behavior depending on the circumstances. This being so, there are strong reasons to enlist the help of education and religion to make the bright side of human nature win over the dark side.

Today, the mass media are an important component of education, and thus the mass media have a great responsibility for encouraging the cooperative and constructive side of human nature rather than the dark and destructive side.

Suggestions for further reading

C. Darwin, ?The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals?, The University of Chicago Press (1965).

P. Kropotkin, ?Mutual Aid, A Factor in Evolution?, Walter Heinemann, London, (1902).

R.A. Fischer, ?The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection?, Clarendon, Oxford, (1930).

J.B.S. Haldane, ?Population genetics?, New Biology 18, 34-51, (1955).

N. Tinbergen, ?The Study of Instinct?, Oxford University Press, (1951).

I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, ?The Biology of Peace and War?, Thames and Hudson, New York (1979).

E.O. Wilson, ?On Human Nature?, Bantham Books, New York, (1979).

E.O. Wilson, ?The Social Conquest of the Earth?, (2012)

W.M. Senner, editor, ?The Origins of Writing?, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, (1989).

John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist noted for his research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. Since the early 1990s, Avery has been an active World peace activist. During these years, he was part of a group associated with the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. Presently, he is an Associate Professor in quantum chemistry at the University of Copenhagen

  Read The Origin Of Cooperation
 July 13, 2012  

It is abundantly clear that oppressors spend an inordinate amount of time and resources to dehumanize their victims. But we humans spend an inordinate amount of time also trying to suppress our own humanity. To dehumanize someone is to deprive them of essential human qualities such as compassion, individuality, love, and social contact. Making a family line up in the sun for hours to cross a checkpoint is a form of dehumanizing. It is dehumanizing to deny medical care, to destroy means of livelihood, to take someone's land, to put someone in solitary confinement in jail for months and years, or to tell someone that she is not of God's chosen peopel so she has lless rights.

Dehumanizing makes it easier for the colonizers to not feel compassion for their victims as they rob them of their lands and natural resources. In so doing the occupiers thus also dehumanize themselves because they have to desensitize themselves to human suffering. But the victims themselves can also internalize the dehumanization to think of themselves as somehow unworthy or that their life can only gain meaning if they emulate their oppressors and thus become oppressors themselves. That is why abused children may sometimes grow up to abuse their own children. This spiral of dehumanizing can and must be challenged and the obvious way to do it is via our efforts to humanize ourselves and others: show compassion, mercy, love, and connectedness. The styruggle is mostly inward and it is our own negativism that must be challenged every day, nay every hour. That is the humanizing struggle that is the hardest struggle of all.

Army To Arrest, Deport, Internationals Living In The West Bank

Action: Ask Clinton to Express Opposition to Legalization of Settlements

Action: Vote, like, share (buttons at bottom for facebook, twitter etc)
"They came in the morning" video was born from some of the footage shot over 5 critical years in the life of Bethlehem during the making of upcoming feature film "Operation Bethlehem".

Church of England backs Palestine motion in spite of strong Israel lobby pressure

In BDS milestone, UK supermarket chain to boycott Israel firms doing business with settlements

(important read) The Zionist-Nazi Collaboration by William James Martin, Dissident Voice.

The Ramallah Fiasco Should Never Happen Again

Pro-Divestment Presbyterians Win By Losing

Palestine National Council Registration Campaign

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine. He serves as chairman of the board of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour He is author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle" and “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment” http://qumsiyeh.org

  Read Humanizing
 July 14, 2012  
The Problem Is The United States
by Timothy V. Gatto , Countercurrents.org

I'd like to start this by asking a very simple and straight forward question. ?Is regime change in Syria so important that you would let your family, neighbors and yourself die for it?? That's the question. I told you it was simple. Simple that is, if you give a yes or no to the question.

I don't believe that you would get a yes or no from anyone in the government. They don't work that way. Here's another question for them:

?Do you honestly believe we could ?win? a nuclear war with Russia or China or both??

They won't answer that one either. Still, they apparently believe that they can. If they didn't believe a nuclear war was ?winnable?, they wouldn't bring us this close to one.  Am I being honest here? Think about it (yes, here I go again, asking people to think).

I don't believe that Syria is worth sacrificing everything for. In fact, I don't believe Syria is worth sacrificing anything for. I think that a majority of Americans would agree with me.  So, why is Syria the focus of American diplomacy (or lack thereof)?

Now that should be the question we should be asking of ourselves and our government. Obama and company should understand something:  Most Americans don't care about Assad staying in power or stepping aside. In fact, many Americans couldn't find Syria on a globe.  So why should we risk our lives for a country most of us know nothing about?

The simple answer to that question is because our government wants us to. Because they say we should care, we pretend that we do. We don't. We didn't care yesterday, we don't care today, and we certainly won't care tomorrow. That's the truth. If you really care about Syria or the people that live within its borders, you are a very small minority.

How can I say this with such conviction? It's easy. I'm going to give you a list of countries that kill its people on a regular basis:

This list came from the top of my head (or wherever thoughts come from). I'm sure that there are many more countries that kill their own people on a regular basis.

So why is Syria so important? It isn't. It's important to our government and our military, but it isn't important to anyone else (unless you emigrated from there).  Its military importance is that it is on the Mediterranean Coast and it borders on Iran. It has a Russian naval port.

It supports Hezbollah and Iran. It has about two million Iraqi refugees (from that other war of ours). It has a secular government. It doesn't kowtow to the U.S. and NATO (except for helping us carry out extraordinary rendition (It's OK to torture people when you do it for America).

In fact, it's OK for America to do anything. We can bomb people, assassinate people and put embargoes on nations (an act of war).  We can do anything we please, anywhere and at any time.  We are a nation of exceptional people. The only reason that other nations despise us is because they hate us for our freedom (We are doing our very best to solve this problem by eliminating as many freedoms as we possibly can).

The next time you watch the corporate media report on the Syrian governments atrocities, ask yourself some questions. One question to ask is how did these ?rebels? get all of the weapons you see in the videos? Why do the ?rebels? carry shiny new M-4's and M-16's? How did these weapons get in the hands of the ?rebels? so fast? Who speaks for the rebel opposition? Why does the U.S. care so much for the Syrian people now, when last year we despised them?

Why does Russia and China oppose a UN mandate to end the fighting by military force? Maybe because Russia and China abstained on UN Resolution 1973 (the authorization of military force in Libya) and NATO used this mandate to bomb Libya back to the Stone Age. I don't blame them for thinking twice this time.

I know I'm asking you to ask a lot of questions, but there is much at stake here. The future of civilization is something we should take seriously. You can put ?Dancing with the Stars? on your DVR. This is more important.

Our government is totally out of control. Nobody ?hates us for our freedom?. In fact, no one particularly cares about our freedom or anything else we have or do not have. The truth in 2012 is that America is not among the best-loved nations on Earth. The truth is that most people hate us for getting involved in their internal affairs. They hate us for supplying arms to the world.

We could feed the entire world with eight days of our annual military budget. The Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. The situation is out of control.  The situation will remain out of control until the American people care enough to do something about it. We can either rise up or die. That's not much of a choice. We can only blame ourselves for letting things get this far. We allowed this situation to deteriorate to this point. We allowed it, and we must fix it. That is our biggest challenge. It's not Syria, Iran or any other country. The problem is the United States.

Tim Gatto is former Chairman of the Liberal Party of America, Tim is a retired Army Sergeant. He currently lives in South Carolina. He is the author of "Complicity to Contempt" and "Kimchee Days" available at Oliver Arts and Open Press.

  Read The Problem Is The United States
 July 14, 2012  
Limits To Growth And Climate Change
by John Scales Avery , Countercurrents.org

Classical economists like Smith and Ricardo pictured the world as largely empty of human activities. According to the “empty-world" picture of economics, the limiting factors in the production of food and goods are shortages of capital and labor. The land, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, oceans filled with fish, and other natural resources upon which human labor and capital operate, are assumed to be present in such large quantities that they are not limiting factors. In this picture, there is no naturally-determined upper limit to the total size of the human economy. It can continue to grow as long as new capital is accumulated, as long as new labor is provided by population growth, and as long as new technology replaces labor by automation.

Biology, on the other hand, presents us with a very different picture. Biologists remind us that if any species, including our own, makes demands on its environment which exceed the environment's carrying capacity, the result is a catastrophic collapse both of the environment and of the population which it supports. Only demands which are within the carrying capacity are sustainable. For example, there is a limit to regenerative powers of a forest. It is possible to continue to cut trees in excess of this limit, but only at the cost of a loss of forest size, and ultimately the collapse and degradation of the forest. Similarly, cattle populations may for some time exceed the carrying capacity of grasslands, but the ultimate penalty for overgrazing will be degradation or desertification of the land. Thus, in biology, the concept of the carrying capacity of an environment is extremely important; but in economic theory this concept has not yet been given the weight that it deserves.

There is much evidence to indicate that the total size of the human economy is rapidly approaching the absolute limits imposed by the carrying capacity of the global environment. For example, biologists estimate that between 10,000 and 50,000 species are being driven into extinction each year as the earth's rainforests are destroyed.

The burning of fossil fuels and the burning of tropical rain forests have released so much carbon dioxide that the atmospheric concentration of this greenhouse gas has increased from a preindustrial value of 260 ppm to its present value: 390 ppm. Most scientists agree that unless steps are taken to halt the burning of rain forests and to reduce the use of fossil fuels, the earth's temperature will steadily rise during the coming centuries. This gradual long-term climate change will threaten future agricultural output by changing patterns of rainfall. Furthermore, the total melting of the Arctic and Antarctic icecaps, combined with the thermal expansion of the oceans, threatens to produce a sea level rise of up to 12 meters. Although these are slow, long-term effects, we owe it to future generations to take steps now to halt global warming.

The dogma of growth

According to Adam Smith, the free market is the dynamo of economic growth. The true entrepreneur does not indulge in luxuries for himself and his family, but reinvests his profits, with the result that his business or factory grows larger, producing still more profits, which he again reinvests, and so on. This is indeed the formula for exponential economic growth.

Economists (with a few notable exceptions such as Aurelio Pecci and Herman Daly) have long behaved as though growth were synonymous with economic health. If the gross national product of a country increases steadily by 4 percent per year, most economists express approval and say that the economy is healthy. If the economy could be made to grow still faster (they maintain), it would be still more healthy. If the growth rate should fall, economic illness would be diagnosed.

However, it is obvious that on a finite Earth, neither population growth nor resource-using and pollution-generating economic growth can continue indefinitely. A “healthy" economic growth rate of 4 percent per year corresponds to an increase by a factor of 50 in a century. (The reader is invited to calculate the factor of increase in five centuries. The answer is 312,500,000!) No one can maintain that this type of growth is sustainable except by refusing to look more than a short distance into the future. Sooner or later (perhaps surprisingly soon) an entirely new form of economics will be needed - not the empty-world economics of Adam Smith, but what might be called “full-world economics", or “steady-state economics".

Although indefinitely continued industrial growth on a finite earth is a logical impossibility, growth is nevertheless the most sacred dogma of both economists and politicians, perhaps because of our fractional reserve banking system, which collapses unless there is growth. Anyone who challenges this dogma is treated as a heretic. For example, Professor Tim Jackson recently wrote a book, “Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet”, which challenged the concept of unlimited growth. He suffered for his heresy, although he was not actually burned at the stake: The Sustainable Development Commission (of which Jackson was the Economics Commissioner) was abolished by the British government.

If the world continues on the path of unlimited industrial growth, any chance of preventing catastrophic climate change will be lost.

Suggestions for further reading

T. Jackson, “Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet”, Earthscan, London, (2009).

A. Gore, “An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of
Global Warming and What We Can Do About It”, Rodale Books, New York,

P.R. Ehrlich and A.H. Ehrlich, “One With Nineveh: Politics, Consumption and the Human Future”, Island Press, (2004).

N. Stern et al., “The Stern Review”, www.sternreview.org.uk, (2006).

S. Connor, “Global Warming Past Point of No Return”, The Independent, (116 September, 2005).

J. Patz et al., “Impact of Regional Climate Change on Human Health”, Nature, (17 November, 2005).

L.R. Brown, “World on the Edge”, W.W. Norton, New York, (2011)

John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist noted for his research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. Since the early 1990s, Avery has been an active World peace activist. During these years, he was part of a group associated with the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. Presently, he is an Associate Professor in quantum chemistry at the University of Copenhagen

  Read Limits To Growth And Climate Change
 July 16, 2012  

Where Will You Be the Day Earth's Death Became Unavoidable?

The world’s and especially America’s environment has gone mad during the summer of 2012. Abrupt climate change is clearly upon us, and life-giving ecosystems are visibly failing, portending doom for our shared biosphere, all life, and humanity. Given overshoot of ecological boundaries, and failure to pursue concerted national and global sustainable development and ecological sustainability policy, 2012 may well be the year Earth’s death through collapse of its one shared biosphere becomes inevitable.

Abrupt Climate Change Is Now

Fundamentally the meaning of life is ecosystems. Without a healthy, intact, diverse and operational environment, humanity and all life simply cannot exist. As a result of the human ecocidal system of industrial growth, local ecosystems are being destroyed globally for insatiable human consumption. Life of every sort – including Gaia, the Earth system herself, is dying.

Earth’s biosphere — the thin mantle of life from underground to the top of the atmosphere, which self-regulates the Earth System to keep it habitable — is collapsing. Ecological science knows this with certainty — in disciplines including planetary boundaries, limits to growth, global change and ecology. If nothing is done, massive social and ecological collapse is imminent, and the end of biological being is possible. Earth is burning and the human family is essentially doing nothing.

During 2012, the United States of America, with an extreme lack of winter, spring tornadoes, summer wildfires, droughts, massive storms, heat waves, and other weather “weirding”, is witnessing an unprecedented break down in North American climate and ecosystems. Lack of reliable atmospheric patterns threatens water, food, livelihoods, security and general well-being as never before.

All industry’s well-financed climate and ecological denial in the world can’t undermine the truthful scientific fact that global ecosystems’ bio-geochemical processes are failing.

Global, regional, and local ecosystems are literally falling apart — witness climate, drought, and wildfire impacted Southwestern United States — land normally so arid few should live there, and which is on the verge of becoming uninhabitable. Everywhere you look, we see it again and again: No ecology, no economy, nothing forever.

U.S. Western wild fires and epic drought, the record smashing heat wave, and concurrent extreme weather mayhem from the United Kingdom to Russia, show the consequences of abrupt climate change, water and land mismanagement, and over-population and inequitable consumption; and foreshadow all our futures as ecosystems collapse. Soon, barring major actions to sustain ecosystems, America and the world’s food, water, ecosystems, and security will be further threatened as such global ecological collapse intensifies.

These ecocidal trends are so massive and pernicious, that by the time widely evident abrupt climate and ecological change are recognized, acknowledged as the biosphere, and thus civilization-threatening, ecosystem collapse they clearly are, it will be too late to take the necessary dramatic measures to identify and enact solutions to minimize, survive, and recover from the damage done to ecosystems.

It is not enough to act with urgency and resolve once ecosystems have been razed to a wasteland, and hardships are pervasive, self-evident, and widely agreed upon by lay persons. Then it is way too late.

It is the nature of ecological systems that damage done today is not fully realized for decades. This dangerous lag time in the global ecological system means humanity has already overshot key planetary boundaries such as water, extinction, and abrupt climate change, and the impacts are just beginning to be more fully revealed to us in heat, drought, and life’s death. Such massive and pernicious ecocidal trends can only get worse as they are fully realized.

U.S. is being pummeled by abrupt climate change, yet indoctrination in free market absolutism, our sense of always inherent exceptionalism, and denial of ecological truth is too strong to overcome and even acknowledge the problem, much less begin to act urgently. Acknowledging climate change and other ecosystem collapse evident all across America would call into question an over-consumptive way of life for some, and necessitate profound social change in equity, sharing, fairness and society’s central meaning of life.

Perhaps we are meant to live fairly and well together as part of nature, and not shop for only a while upon the gleaned fruits of fallen ecosystems?

False belief in America’s infallible exceptionalism makes America afraid to admit something is wrong with climate and ecology. If America were truly exceptional, it would be able to look at recent and dangerously worsening weather and other ecological extremes over the past several years, and acknowledge and do something about abrupt climate and ecological change. The nation’s climate inaction and ecological ignorance is more befitting of a backward, uneducated, authoritarian nation — something America increasingly resembles.

The human family, of which Americans are one small yet important part, faces an unprecedented global emergency of collapsing ecosystems and our one shared biosphere. Earth is dying. taking all life along with it, because we are indoctrinated to deny limits and can’t acknowledge ecological collapse clearly evident before us.

Together all peoples act now to sustain global ecology. working on the front end of an emerging global emergency, one ecosystem at a time, using all judicious means necessary, or it is clearly too late to maintain our natural habitat, and human and natural being ends.

Green Libertarianism: Being Green While Remaining Free

Global ecological collapse is occurring against the backdrop of continued rollbacks of civil liberties — particularly in America – and a failure to universalize basic human rights including economic justice. As abrupt climate change hits, it will be easy for post 911 America to fall back upon yet more authoritarian responses, in this case in vain attempts to stem ecosystem collapse.

It is absolutely critical that during the ecological struggles to come, that governance remains humane and limited, and civil liberties and global human rights are respected.

Large and intrusive fascist governments will dramatically limit personal and community responses to sustain global ecology. The conflict and social unrest which will occur as ecosystems collapse will not be solved or meaningfully addressed in any way by limiting liberty, other than the need to further strictly protect ecosystems from individual acts of destruction.

Both flavors of American corporatist government support large government, which arbitrarily takes away liberty, without focusing well upon the real emergencies where government leadership is necessary, indeed irreplaceable — such as abrupt climate change and a collapsing biosphere. Political freedom and personal liberties are threatened as never before. Elements of the Tea Party are openly fascist in their appeals. President Obama orders extra-judicial assassinations of American citizens.

America and the world need new political institutions and actors committed both to global environmental sustainability and universal rights, freedoms, and duties. It is up to green, free Americans to develop another political route — perhaps called green libertarianism — based upon some long-cherished basic ideals updated for the age of ecocide.

Real American patriots reduce their consumption when they see it is causing our shared environment to fail and others to suffer; and refuse to accept torture, assassination or perma-war for any reason on any authority, because both are the decent and right things to do.

It is un-American to slovenly consume yourself and your environment to death, to ignore massive and abrupt climate change occurring before your very eyes, to give up on peace and wage perma-war against innocents, to tolerate summary assassination of American citizens, or to sit placidly by as your formerly great nation wages ecocide and loses it principles.

Yet, it is clearly established that our right to freedom ends where it undermines, even destroys, the common good — as is occurring with industrial capitalism’s ravaging of our shared ecological base necessary for our very survival. Reasonable limits upon industrial growth and personal “rights” to destroy ecosystems are absolutely necessary to maintain our shared habitat. There is simply no other way to avoid destroying our one shared biosphere.

However, this vital need to stop abusive and self-destructive ecosystem destruction does not legitimize intrusive, authoritarian government regulating every aspect of our lives, or ruling our bodies and minds.

There is nothing exceptional about willful ecocide. The United States of America’s ecosystems are collapsing due to preventable abrupt climate change and environmental destruction. Essentially, we have to stop burning fossil fuels and cutting native vegetation. Is there anything sacrosanct about any particular ecocidal industrial, agricultural, consumption and other living patterns — many which are relatively new, cause massive ecological crises, and threaten our very survival.

If your way of living is killing ecosystems, you have to stop now, or you will be compelled involuntarily to do so. Consider it a tax on your right to exist and share in the free use of the natural environment.

If America were truly exceptional, it would be able to look at recent weather extremes over the past several years, and acknowledge and do something about abrupt climate and ecological change. Sadly America has become so removed from nature, ecosystems and wildlife that we don’t recognize ecocide and ecosystem collapse as it bites us in the ass, destroying our ecology, habitat, and cherished — yet highly threatened — sense of individual freedom.

Now Is the Time to Act with Urgency to Sustain Ecology

Warnings of ecological collapse went unheeded for decades. Now ecosystems are crashing and livelihoods are being lost as predicted, as we are at risk of losing our one biosphere. Tragically global ecosystems and their vibrant life are passing away into nothingness, unnoticed and unprotected, as ecology science provides clear warnings and solutions to sustain the biosphere. But few listen.

Yet, a tiny window may exist for dramatic social change to sustain global ecology. Abrupt climate change is here and only urgent policy; i.e., protecting and restoring old forests and other intact ecosystems, beginning the end of fossil fuels, powering down industrial growth to a steady state, and reducing both human population and inequity can save us now. Much can be done to build a society where the personal ability to live sustainably are more available, easy and affordable.

Only if we choose to pursue global ecological sustainability as society’s central organizing principle, can Earth, humanity, and all kindred life be saved from environmental, social, and economic collapse.

It is absolutely unconscionable. an abject failure of the political process, that the issues of abrupt climate change, sustainable development, and global ecological sustainability are not on the political agenda with the Obama and Romney Presidential race, or anywhere else for that matter. Never has such a planetary emergency – collapsing global ecosystems – been so evident, yet been so willfully ignored.

We will all pay dearly in blood, sweat and tears for our failure to know of our utter dependence upon ecosystems, our refusal to see clearly that we are killing them, and our inability to sacrifice and make social and personal changes sufficient to maintain naturally evolved ecosystems as the context for our, and our ancestors’, well-being forever.

There will be no escaping the consequences of our failure to heed ecology. It is almost certainly too late to avoid significant abrupt climate change and global ecosystem collapse; the question now is whether it is survivable and whether we can recover. This is still being determined by the urgency and sufficiency of our global ecological policy responses, which are virtually non-existent at a scale commensurate with the degree of threat posed by global ecosystem collapse.

Let’s be clear. Earth is, in fact, dying at human hands, and at an indeterminate but approaching point it will be a certainty and too late to stop. For all life to survive, the human family needs a global land and ecology ethic now, starting with an immediate end to murdering ecosystems. We must acknowledge and embrace the profound sacrifices and positive social change required to maintain an operable atmosphere and biosphere in a just and equitable world after so many years of neglecting these green and free ideals.

Dr. Glen Barry is the President and Founder of Ecological Internet (EI). He is recognized for contributions to the environmental movement by communicating the severity of global ecological crises and actively organizing with others sufficient responses. Visit Glen's website.

  Read U.S. Abrupt Climate Change 2012
 July 17, 2012  
Global Madness
by Guy McPherson , Countercurrents.org

Television anchor Edward R. Murrow is credited with this expression: “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.” Murrow understood the power of television to misinform the masses. This strategy has worked brilliantly on every front, but none more pronounced than the all-important issue of global climate change. Seeking “balance” on the idiot box means presenting two sides to a one-sided issue until it’s too late to address the crisis.

It’s too late. By the end of June 2012, the U.S. had witnessed its hottest 12 months and hottest half year on record. Extreme events have arrived: “The kind of blistering heat we used to experience once every 20 years, will now occur every two.”

Even as the sun cools, record high temperatures exceeded record low temperatures by a ratio of 2:1 in the last decade, relative to an expected ratio of 1:1. The ratio hit 9:1 in 2012.

Even mainstream scientists writing in Science have finally noticed that ocean acidification threatens all marine life with near-term extinction. In the very near future, coral reefs will disappear. Think of the deprivation we’ve brought to the world as we rape, pillage, and plunder Earth’s glorious bounty for a few extra dollars with which to purchase food high fructose corn syrup that’s killing us and toys that titillate. Deniers take note: “Recent warming of the top 2300 feet of the ocean alone corresponds to an energy content of more than one Hiroshima atomic bomb detonation every second over the past 40 years.” This “remarkable warming can only be explained with man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

According to fancy sensors, those greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for a temperature increase of about 1 C in New England since the beginning of the industrial revolution (graphical depiction is here). The plants paint a considerably direr story, indicating average temperature in the region has increased 2.4 C during the same period. If you trust plants more than human sensors, as I do, this single statistic is sufficient to induce despair.

Climate chaos is only a small part of the big story, though it is among the phenomena poised to cause our extinction within a single human generation. In addition to triggering climate chaos, we’ve initiated the Sixth Great Extinction, and we revel in its acceleration as one more sign of progress. Furthermore, we continue to ratchet up the madness of human-population overshoot on an overpopulated, overheated, increasingly depauperate planet. Environmental degradation proceeds apace as we gleefully trade in living soil for smart phones, clean air for fast computers, potable water for high-definition televisions, healthy food for industrial poison, contentment for exhilaration, decent human communities for hierarchical death camps, and life for death.

All the while, we take truth-tellers to task while looking to corrupt governments for leadership. Truth is treason in an empire of lies, so we don’t protest governments that spy on their citizens and then kill them. The people, largely convinced they are consumers instead of citizens, keep seeking guidance from the television and nourishment from GMO-tainted faux food, all while seeking happiness from exhilaration instead of introspection.

My heart aches to the breaking point. Industrialized humans are destroying every aspect of the living planet with all the joy one would expect from homicidal maniacs. We don’t think about what we’re doing. If we did, we wouldn’t. Or perhaps, driven by a culture of madness promoted by our contemporaries, we would.

I’m guilty, too, of course. Walking away from empire doesn’t mean I’ve done enough to terminate the omnicidal set of living arrangements known as industrial civilization. As I’ve written before, “I’m afraid of change, fearful to cash in my chips. But I’m afraid to stay, too. The thought of continuing to stare, alone, at the world of wounds, causes the terror to rise in me. Afraid to let go of nature’s bounty, as if it’s mine to hold. Afraid what I’m missing by holding onto comfort.”

Haunted by the wonder and beauty of nature and fully recognizing my efforts as insufficient, bitterness nearly overshadows my overwhelming, debilitating sadness. How could I have been be so self-absorbed? What irreparable damage have I wrought?

Curse your television. Then shoot it. It’s not much, and it’s too little, too late. But it’s a therapeutic start to a much-needed revolution.

I feel nature slipping out of my grasp as we rush to destroy every species on Earth. With no decent solutions, my mind wanders between sadness and madness, between reality and the despair induced therein. Is it possible for a scientist to die from a broken heart?

What a way to go.

If silence is the perfect music, then we’re about to have the (musically) perfect planet. But I doubt we’ll be pleased with the silence as we slip, one by one, into the abyss of unconsciousness.

Guy McPherson is professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, where he taught and conducted research for 20 years. He's written well over 100 articles, ten books, the most recent of which is Walking Away From Empire, and has focused for many years on conservation of biological diversity. He lives in an off-grid, straw-bale house where he practices durable living via organic gardening, raising small animals for eggs and milk, and working with members of his rural community. Learn more at guymcpherson.com

  Read Global Madness
 July , 2012  
The Military Solution
Tom Engelhardt , Countercurrents.org
The Lessons Washington Can't Draw From the Failure of the Military Option

The Military Solution. The Lessons Washington Can't Draw From the Failure of the Military Option
By Tom Engelhardt

Americans may feel more distant from war than at any time since World War II began.  Certainly, a smaller percentage of us -- less than 1% -- serves in the military in this all-volunteer era of ours and, on the face of it, Washington’s constant warring in distant lands seems barely to touch the lives of most Americans. 

And yet the militarization of the United States and the strengthening of the National Security Complex continues to accelerate.  The Pentagon is, by now, a world unto itself, with a staggering budget at a moment when no other power or combination of powers comes near to challenging this country’s might. 

In the post-9/11 era, the military-industrial complex has been thoroughly mobilized under the rubric of “privatization” and now goes to war with the Pentagon.  With its $80 billion-plus budget, the intelligence bureaucracy has simply exploded.  There are so many competing agencies and outfits, surrounded by a universe of private intelligence contractors, all enswathed in a penumbra of secrecy, and they have grown so large, mainly under the Pentagon’s aegis, that you could say intelligence is now a ruling way of life in Washington -- and it, too, is being thoroughly militarized.  Even the once-civilian CIA has undergone a process of para-militarization and now runs its own “covert” drone wars in Pakistan and elsewhere.  Its director, a widely hailed retired four-star general, was previously the U.S. war commander in Iraq and then Afghanistan, just as the National Intelligence Director who oversees the whole intelligence labyrinth is a retired Air Force lieutenant general.   

In a sense, even the military has been “militarized.” In these last years, a secret army of special operations forces, 60,000 or more strong and still expanding, has grown like an incubus inside the regular armed forces. As the CIA’s drones have become the president’s private air force, so the special ops troops are his private army, and are now given free rein to go about the business of war in their own cocoon of secrecy in areas far removed from what are normally considered America’s war zones.

Diplomacy, too, has been militarized.  Diplomats work ever more closely with the military, while the State Department is transforming itself into an unofficial arm of the Pentagon -- as the secretary of state is happy to admit -- as well as of the weapons industry

And keep in mind that we now have two Pentagons, thanks to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is focused, among other things, on militarizing our southern border.  Meanwhile, with the help of the DHS, local police forces nationwide have, over the last decade, been significantly up-armored and have, in the name of fighting terrorism, gained a distinctly military patina.  They have ever more access to elaborate weaponry and gadgets, including billions of dollars of surplus military equipment of every sort, often being funneled to once peaceable small town police departments.

The Military Solution in the Greater Middle East  

Militarization in this country is hardly a new phenomenon.  It can be traced back decades, but the process hit warp speed in the post-9/11 years, even if the U.S. still lacks the classic look of a militarized society.  Almost unnoticed has been an accompanying transformation of the mindset of Washington -- what might be called the militarization of solutions. 

If the institutions of American life and governance are increasingly militarized, then it shouldn’t be surprising that the problems facing the country are ever more often framed in militarized terms and that the only solutions considered are similarly militarized.  This paucity of imagination, this constraining of what might be possible, seems especially evident in the Greater Middle East. 

In fact, Washington’s record there, seldom if ever collected in one place, should be eye-opening.  Start with a dose of irony: before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it was a commonplace among neoconservatives to label the region extending across the oil heartlands of the planet, from North Africa to the Chinese border in Central Asia, “the arc of instability.”  After a decade in which Washington has applied its military might and thoroughly militarized solutions to the region, that decade-old world now looks remarkably “stable.”  

Here, in shorthand, is a little regional scorecard of what American militarization has meant in the Greater Middle East, 2001-2012:

Pakistan:  The U.S. has faced a multitude of complex problems in this nuclear nation beset with insurgent movements, its tribal areas providing sanctuary to both Afghan and Pakistani rebels and jihadis, and its intelligence service entangled in a complicated relationship with the Taliban leadership as well as other rebel groups fighting in Afghanistan.  Washington’s response has been -- as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently labeled it -- war.  In 2004, the Bush administration launched a drone assassination campaign in the country’s tribal borderlands largely focused on al-Qaeda leaders (combined with a few cross-border special forces raids).  Those rare robotic air strikes have since expanded into something like a full-scale covert drone war that is killing civilians, is intensely unpopular throughout Pakistan, and by now is clearly meant to punish the Pakistani leadership for its transgressions as well. 

Frustrated by what they consider Pakistani intransigence, elements in the U.S. military and intelligence community are reportedly pressing to add a new set of cross-border joint special operations/Afghan commando raids to the present incendiary mix.  American air strikes from Afghanistan that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, with no apologies offered for seven months, brought to a boil a crisis in relations between Washington and Islamabad, with the Pakistani government closing off the country to American war supplies headed for Afghanistan. (That added a couple of billion dollars to the Pentagon’s expenses there before the crisis was ended with a grudging apology this week).  The whole process has clearly contributed to the destabilization of nuclear Pakistan.

Afghanistan: Following a November 2001 invasion (light on invading U.S. troops), the U.S. opted for a full-scale occupation and reconstruction of the country.  In the process, it managed to spur the reconstruction and reconstitution of the previously deeply unpopular and defeated Taliban movement.  An insurgent war followed.  Despite a massive surge of U.S. forces, CIA agents, special operations troops, and private contractors into the country, the calling in of air power in a major way, and the expansion of a program of “night raids” by special ops types and the CIA, success has not followed.  By the end of 2014, the U.S. is scheduled to withdraw its main combat forces from what is likely to be a thoroughly destabilized country.

Iran: In a program long aimed at regime change (but officially focused on the country’s nuclear program), the U.S. has clamped energy sanctions -- often seen as an act of war -- on Iran, supported a special operations campaign of unknown proportions (including cross-border actions), run a massive CIA drone surveillance program in the country’s skies, and (with the Israelis) loosed at least two major malware “worms” against the computer systems and centrifuges of its nuclear facilities, which even the Pentagon defines as acts of war.  It has also backed a massive build-up of U.S. naval and air power in the Persian Gulf and of military bases in countries on Iran’s peripheries, along with “comprehensive multi-option war-planning” for a possible 2013 strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities.  (Though little is known about it, an assassination campaign against Iranian nuclear scientists has usually been blamed on the Israelis.  Now that the joint U.S.-Israeli authorship of acts of cyberwar against Iran has been confirmed, however, it is at least reasonable to wonder whether the U.S. might also have had a hand in these killings.)  All of this has embroiled the region and brought it to the edge of yet more war, while in no obvious way shaking the Iranian regime.

Iraq: The U.S. invaded in March 2003, occupying the country.  It fought (and essentially lost) an eight-year-long counterinsurgency war, withdrawing its last troops at the end of 2011, but leaving behind in Baghdad the world’s largest, most militarized embassy.  The country, now an ally and trading partner of Iran, remains remarkably unreconstructed and significantly destabilized, with regular bombing campaigns in its cities.

Kuwait: Just across the border from Iraq, the U.S. has continued a build-up of forces.  In the future, according to a U.S. Senate report, there could be up to 13,000 U.S. personnel permanently stationed in the country. 

Yemen: Washington, long a supporter of the country’s strong-man ruler, now backs the successor regime.  (In Yemen, as elsewhere, Washington has been deeply uncomfortable with Arab-Spring-style democracy movements among its allies.)  For years, it has had an air campaign underway in the southern part of the country aimed at insurgents linked to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  More recently, it has put at least small numbers of special operations troops on the ground there as advisers and trainers and has escalated a combined CIA drone and Air Force manned-plane air campaign in southern Yemen.  There have been at least 23 air strikes already this year, evidently causing significant civilian casualties, reportedly radicalizing southerners, increasing support for AQAP, and helping further destabilize this impoverished and desperate land.

Bahrain: Home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, tiny Bahrain, facing a democratic uprising of its repressed Shiite majority, called in the Saudi military on a mission of suppression.  The U.S. has offered military aid and support to the ruling Sunni monarchy.

Syria:  In radically destabilized Syria, where a democracy uprising has morphed into a civil war with sectarian overtones that threatens to further destabilize the region, including Lebanon and Iraq, the CIA has now been dispatched to the Turkish border.  Its job: to direct weapons to rebels of Washington’s choice (assuming that the CIA, with its dubious record, can sort the democrats from the jihadis).  The weapons themselves are arriving, according to the New York Times, via a “network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.”  It’s a project that has “this can’t end well” written all over it.

Somalia: Long a failed state, Somalia has suffered, among other things, through a U.S.-fostered Ethiopian invasion back in 2006 (and another more recently), drone attacks, CIA and special forces operations, a complicated U.S. program to subsidize a force of African (especially Ugandan) troops in the capital and support for a Kenyan invasion in the south -- each step in the process seemingly leading to further fragmentation, further radicalization, and greater extremism. 

Egypt: Ever since Tahrir Square, Washington has been focused on its close ties with the Egyptian military high command (key figures from which visit Washington every year) and on the billions of dollars in military aid it continues to provide to that military, despite the way it has usurped democratic rule. 

Libya: The Obama administration called in the U.S. Air Force (along with air power from NATO allies) to support an inchoate uprising and destroy the regime of long-time strong-man Muammar Gaddafi.  In this they were successful.  The long-term results still remain unknown.  (See, for instance, the Islamist revolt in destabilized neighboring Mali.) 

How to Set the Planet on Fire and Learn Nothing

This remains a partial list, lacking, to give but one example, the web of drone bases being set up from the Seychelles Islands and Ethiopia to the Arabian Peninsula -- clearly meant for expanded drone wars across the region.  Nonetheless, it is a remarkable example of the general ineffectiveness of applying military or militarized solutions to the problems of a region far from your own shores.  From Pakistan and Afghanistan to Yemen and Somalia, the evidence is already in: such “solutions” solve little or nothing, and in a remarkable number of cases seem only to increase the instability of a country and a region, as well as the misery of masses of people. 

And yet the general lack of success from 2002 on and a deepening frustration in Washington have just led to a stronger conviction that some recalibrated version of a military solution (greater surges, lesser surges, no invasions but special forces and drones, smaller “footprint,” larger naval presence, etc.) is the only reasonable way to go. 

In fact, military solutions of every sort have such a deep-seated grip on Washington that the focus there might be termed obsessive.  This has been particularly obvious when it comes to the CIA’s drone wars.  Back in the Vietnam War years, President Lyndon Johnson was said to have driven his generals crazy by “micromanaging” the conflict, especially in weekly lunch meetings in which he insisted on picking specific targets for the air campaign against North Vietnam. 

These days, however, Johnson almost looks like a laissez-faire war president.  After all, thanks to the New York Times, we know that the White House has a “nominating” process to compile a “kill list” of terror suspects, and that the president himself decides which drone air attacks should then be launched, not target area by target area, but individual by individual.  He is choosing specific individuals to kill in the Pakistani, Yemeni, and Somali backlands. 

It should be considered a sign of the times that, whatever shock this news may have caused in Washington (mainly because of possible administration leaks about the nature of the “covert” drone program), few have even mentioned presidential micromanaging, nor, it seems, are any generals up in arms.  Some may have found the “nomination” process shocking, but rare are those who seem to think it strange that a president of the United States should be involved in choosing individuals (including U.S. citizens) for assassination-by-drone in distant lands.  

The truth is that such “solutions,” first tested in the Greater Middle East, are now being applied (even if, as yet, in far more modest ways) from Africa to Central America.  In Africa, I suspect you could track the growing destabilization of parts of that continent to the setting up of a U.S. command for the region (Africom) in 2007 and in subsequent years the slow movement of drones, special forces operatives, private contractors, and others into a region that already has problems enough.

Here’s a 2012 American reality then: as a great power, the U.S. has an increasingly limited toolkit, into which it is reaching far more often for ever more similar tools.  The idea that the globe is a chessboard, that Washington is in control of the game, and that each militarized move it makes will have a reasonably predictable result couldn’t be more dangerous.  The evidence of the last decade is clear enough: there is little less predictable or more likely to go awry than the application of military force and militarized solutions, which are cumulatively incendiary in unexpected ways, and in the end threaten to set whole regions on fire.  None of this, however, seems to register in Washington.

The United States is commonly said to be a great power in decline, but the militarization of American policy -- and thinking -- at home and abroad is not.  It has Washington, now a capital of perpetual war, in its grip. 

This process began, post-9/11, with the soaring romanticism of the Bush administration about, as the president put it, the power of the “greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known” (a.k.a. the U.S. military) to change the world.  It was a fundamental conviction of Bush and his top officials that the most powerful military on the planet could bring any state in the Greater Middle East to heel in a “cakewalk.”  

Today, in the wake of two failed wars on the Eurasian continent, a de-romanticized version of that conviction has become the deeply embedded, increasingly humdrum way of life of a militarized Washington.  It will remain so. 

If Barack Obama, the man who got Bin Laden, is reelected, nothing of significance is likely to change in this regard.  If Mitt Romney wins, the process is likely to accelerate, possibly moving from global misfire, failure, and obsession to extreme global fantasy, with consequences -- from Iran to Russia to China -- difficult now to imagine. 

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which Engelhardt discusses drone warfare and the Obama administration, click here or download it to your iPod here.

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