Politics and Justice without borders

Global Community Newsletter

Volume 9 Issue 12 December 2011
Theme this month:

Lesson #3
by Soullife

Earth Management

Letter to President Barack Obama concerning your re-election as
President of the United States of America Letter to President Barack Obama concerning your re-election as  President of the United States of America

Authors of research papers and articles on issues of Earth Management :
A) energy worlwide and,
B) concerns about the protection of the global life-support systems

Lesson#3: Earth Management

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

Listing and showing of all our animations so far Website of the Global Community Global Information Media main website iconGD2011 iconGDmain Current News Proceedings since 1985 Global Constitution Global Parliament Justice without borders Global Law Global Peace Movement Global Peace Earth Global Peace Village Ministry of Global Peace Scale of Global Rights Protection of the global life-support sustems Soul of all Life

Lesson#3: Earth Management

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

All our Global Peace animation projects are listed here.

Animation movie of Lesson #3 in .swf Animation movie of Lesson #3 : Earth Management  in swf

Animation movie of Lesson #3 in .html Animation movie of Lesson #3 : Earth Management    in HTML

Animation movie of Lesson #3 in .wmv on the Internet Animation movie of  Lesson #3 : Earth Management  in wmv

See the following artboards promoting Lesson #3 : Earth Management and feel free to use them. The artboards have dimensions 2880x1800.

Artboard #1 of Lesson #3 Earth Management :

Tweeta asking Soullife about Lesson #3.
Tweeta is the symbol of the thousands of students, university staff & professors; government from all nations; E.U. and U.N. officials; and religious and business people from all over the world waiting for the arrival of Soullife. Tweeta is also the symbol of the billions of people watching and learning Soullife teaching over the Internet and TV media.
Soullife is the Soul of all Life in the Universe, of all the Universe everywhere, and is also God's Spirit.
Lesson #3 : Earth Management  artboard

Artboard #2 of Lesson #3 Earth Management :

There is a multitude of diverse Earth resources being taken from the ground and water, carried away for processing, manufacturing, packaging, or used in some form or another by consumers, and by commercial and industrial facilities.

Because of the limited quantities of Earth resources to be made available for this generation and the next ones, and because of environmental, climate change, and world population concerns, there is a need to manage the entire process from beginning to end, from the exploration stage to the consumer.

A Global Ministry is needed to look after the management of Earth resources at all stages: exploration, production, transportation, manufacturing and distribution.
Lesson #3 : Earth Management  artboard

Artboard #3 of Lesson #3 Earth Management :

University of Global Learning site. Lesson #3 : Earth Management  artboard

Artboard #4 of Lesson #3 Earth Management :

University wing #117 Earth Management.Lesson #3 : Earth Management  artboard

Artboard #5 of Lesson #3 Earth Management :

Activities concerning exploration, production, transportation, manufacturing and distribution of Earth resources.Lesson #3 : Earth Management  artboard

Artboard #6 of Lesson #3 Earth Management :

In Lesson #1, "the world now", I told you how the three faces of warfare have caused civil unrests and added pressure on Earth's resources to a critically high level making it very difficult to live or even survive. Earth is covered by pollution and waste from human activities:

1. overconsumption
2. unfair and out-of-control global economics
3. wasteful lifestyles in developed nations
4. overpopulation
5. mindless and out-of-control destruction worldwide caused by the military and its armament industry
6. mindless people activities leading to more pollution, destruction of the planet and annihilation of a large number of life species.
Lesson #3 : Earth Management  artboard

Artboard #7 of Lesson #3 Earth Management :

Now let us see a way out of this deadly scenario also partly due to lack of proper and fair global management. Lesson #3 shows Earth Management.

Noone has the right to destroy the planet.

Follow Global Law.
Lesson #3 : Earth Management  artboard

Germain Dufour
Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
December 2011

All our Global Peace animation projects are listed here.

Daily reminder

This is the way     Message from the Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
Message from the Editor    GIM  Message from the Editor
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
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Top of the page

GIM Proclamations

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

Associated Press, Sharon Astyk, Abdul Basit, Elias Biryabarema, Noam Chomsky, Guy Crequie (11), Farooque Chowdhury, Dr. Peter Custers, Marielle Dufour, Susan George, Jessica Goad, Robert Greenwald, Richard Heinberg, Steve Horn, Eric Johnson, William Kotke, Stephen Lacey, Chris Marsden, Bill McKibben, Tom Murphy, P. Ngigi Njoroge, Dr Gideon Polya, Kavaljit Singh, Scott Thill, Desmond Tutu, Chip Ward, Jody Williams, Naomi Wolf

Associated Press, Greenhouse Gases Rise By Record Amount Greenhouse Gases Rise By Record Amount
Sharon Astyk, 7 billion: Understanding The Demographic Transition 7 billion: Understanding The Demographic Transition
Abdul Basit, Recycling Earth Recycling Earth
Elias Biryabarema, Extreme Weather Set To Worsen With Climate Change: IPCC, Extreme Weather Set To Worsen With Climate Change: IPCC
Noam Chomsky, If We Want A Chance At A Decent Future, The Movement Here And Around The World Must Grow If We Want A Chance At A Decent Future, The Movement Here And Around The World Must Grow
Farooque Chowdhury, A Drama In Disarray: G20 Summit In Cannes A Drama In Disarray: G20 Summit In Cannes
Guy Crequie

32.0    APRES LA CAPTURE ET LE DECES DU COLONEL KADHAFI. Appel a l intelligence et a la lucidite des peuples !    APRES LA CAPTURE ET LE DECES DU COLONEL KADHAFI. Appel à l’intelligence et à la lucidité des peuples !!
34.0    Reve ou realite? Projection de l'humain du XXIe siecle    Rêve ou réalité? Projection de l'humain du XXIe siècle
35.0    GUY CREQUIE en concert: AveMaria.mp3 and Granada.mp3    GUY CREQUIE en concert: AveMaria.mp3 and Granada.mp3
36.0    Guy CREQUIE ecrivain et chanteur venissian ) en concert! BECAUSEMP3CREQUIE-01.mp3    Guy CREQUIE écrivain et chanteur vénissian ) en concert !
37.0    GUY CREQUIE (GIL CONTI ) en concert: Oh mon Amour Oh!MonAmour.mp3   GUY CREQUIE (GIL CONTI ) en concert: Oh mon Amour
39.0    Traiter la personne comme une fin..Cette quete philosophique, reste d une brulante actualite au quotidien !   Traiter la personne comme une fin…..Cette quête philosophique, reste d’une brûlante actualité au quotidien !
41.0    G 20 ET REALITES DES PEUPLES: quelques commentaires !   G 20 ET REALITES DES PEUPLES: quelques commentaires !
42.0    Chroniques sur le monde & enjeux planétaires. (titre d'un nouveau livre)   Chroniques sur le monde & enjeux planétaires

Dr. Peter Custers, The Keystone XL Pipeline: Will Humanity's Survival Interests Prevail? The Keystone XL Pipeline: Will Humanity's Survival Interests Prevail?
Marielle Dufour, Les messages des Elohim et "la constante de l' amour peut faire maintenir l' harmonie et l' equilibre dans notre univers" Les messages des Elohim et la constante de l' amour peut faire maintenir l' harmonie et l' equilibre dans notre univers
Susan George, Defend The Biosphere And Stop Punishing The Innocent Defend The Biosphere And Stop Punishing The Innocent
Jessica Goad, Thousands Circle White House to Protest Keystone XL: Will They Abandon Obama if Pipeline is Approved? Thousands Circle White House to Protest Keystone XL: Will They Abandon Obama if Pipeline is Approved?
Robert Greenwald, Meet the 0.01 Percent: War Profiteers Meet the 0.01 Percent: War Profiteers
Richard Heinberg, What We Are For, What We Are For
Steve Horn, Has Obama Just Kicked Off Another Oil War -- This Time in Africa? Has Obama Just Kicked Off Another Oil War -- This Time in Africa?
Eric Johnson, Tar Sands Fight Goes Beyond Keystone: A Little-Known Pipeline Plan Could Prove Disastrous for British Columbia Tar Sands Fight Goes Beyond Keystone: A Little-Known Pipeline Plan Could Prove Disastrous for British Columbia
William Kotke, The Mass Extinction Of The Human Species The Mass Extinction Of The Human Species
Stephen Lacey, Thousands Circle White House to Protest Keystone XL: Will They Abandon Obama if Pipeline is Approved?, Thousands Circle White House to Protest Keystone XL: Will They Abandon Obama if Pipeline is Approved?
Chris Marsden, Sirte Destroyed By NTC-NATO Offensive In Libya Sirte Destroyed By NTC-NATO Offensive In Libya
Bill McKibben, Puncturing The Pipeline Puncturing The Pipeline
Tom Murphy, The Energy Trap, The Energy Trap
P. Ngigi Njoroge, The Destruction Of Libya And The Murder Of Muammar Gaddafi The Destruction Of Libya And The Murder Of Muammar Gaddafi
Dr Gideon Polya, Science Says World Must Stop Coal Seam Gas Exploitation Science Says World Must Stop Coal Seam Gas Exploitation
Kavaljit Singh, Why We Need A Financial Transaction Tax: A Proposal For The G20 Why We Need A Financial Transaction Tax: A Proposal For The G20
Scott Thill, 7 Billion and Counting: Welcome to a Planet With Population Overload and Resources in Crisis [With Photos From National Geographic] 7 Billion and Counting: Welcome to a Planet With Population Overload and Resources in Crisis [With Photos From National Geographic]
Desmond Tutu, The Devil In The Tar Sands The Devil In The Tar Sands
Chip Ward, Occupy Earth: Nature Is The 99%, Too Occupy Earth: Nature Is The 99%, Too
Jody Williams, The Devil In The Tar Sands, The Devil In The Tar Sands
Naomi Wolf, We May Be Witnessing the First Large Global Conflict Where People Are Aligned by Consciousness and Not Nation State or Religion We May Be Witnessing the First Large Global Conflict Where People Are Aligned by Consciousness and Not Nation State or Religion

Articles and papers of authors
 Data sent
 Theme or issue
 November 18, 2011  
An award-winning documentary offers a glimpse of a little-known pipeline plan -- and the paradise it threatens.

Environmentalists from DC to California are praising last week's State Department decision to delay approval of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline -- a move that could kill the project once and for all. But in Western Canada, where activists have been battling the massive tar sands development at the head of the pipeline for decades, the fight is nowhere near over.

In fact, at an impromptu sideline meetup at the APEC Summit in Hawaii this past weekend, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty scolded Pres. Barack Obama for delaying the Keystone project, and reminded him that the US is not the only oil-buyer in the world market.

The delay, Flaherty said, "may mean we may have to move quickly to ensure we can sell our oil to Asia through British Columbia." He was referring to a pipeline proposal that is extremely controversial in Canada but virtually unknown here -- the Enbridge oil company's Northern Gateway, which would pump tar sands bitumen 731 miles to the coast of northwestern British Columbia, where it would be put on supertankers destined for China.

A week earlier, on Sunday Nov. 5, while 10,000 people encircled the White House to protest the Keystone XL, judges at the prestigious Banff Mountain Film Festival were on stage giving an award to a powerful documentary about the Northern Gateway and Alberta's oil-sands strip-mines, 520 miles to the northeast.

The film, Spoil, takes place in the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the wildest pieces of land on earth. The Northern Gateway's proposed path takes it through a sensitive section of the Great Bear, and, according to the film, threatens the livelihoods of the people of the Gitga'at First Nation. It also could destroy the habitat of the Kermode bear -- an extremely rare, all-white creature also known as the spirit bear.

Trip Jennings, who directed and edited the film, says the existence of the spirit bear was a secret that the Gitga'at rarely spoke of, even among themselves. "They knew what the trappers had done for centuries," Jennings said in an interview last week. "So it became a taboo passed down from the elders--if they happened to see a spirit bear they kept it to themselves."

The Giga'at were at first reluctant to make the spirit bear the symbol of their quest to protect its (and their) home. But as Giga'at leader and guide Marvin Robinson explains in Spoil, the prospect of supertankers plying their narrow intercoastal waterways moved his community to allow the mysterious, charismatic animal to become "the icon for the whole pipeline issue."

Ian McCallister, who lives on an island in the Great Bear and heads the BC-based environmental group Pacific Wild, has worked with the Gitga'at for more than 20 years--when he first arrived, the place was officially known as the Midcoast Timber Supply Area--and it's largely through his and his wife Karen's efforts that it has won protection from logging and open-net fish-farms.

"This place is being viewed in a much different light than it was 20 years ago," McCallister says. "It was a place to extract [British Columbia's] raw resources; today it's a place to celebrate its natural beauty, its ecology, its First Nations culture. So right when we're at this turning point, making good on this promise to protect the place, we're sideswiped by this proposal to put big oil here. Living in fear of a catastrophic oil spill has become very real."

McCallister felt that the place's unparalleled wildness and beauty -- and the spirit bear -- offered a unique opportunity to attract national and attention to its plight. So he contacted Cristina Mittermeier, director of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Spoil follows an innovative artistic/political intervention developed by that organization -- a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE).

The brainchild of photographer Patricio Robles Gil, a RAVE involves deploying a dozen or so of the League's members -- all top-shelf wildlife shooters -- to quickly assemble a visual chronicle of a special place that is in peril. Invented in 2007, RAVEs have been staged in a dozen locales form Patagonia to the Chesapeake Bay.

The ultimate photographic target of the Great Bear RAVE was, of course, the charismatic spirit bear. And the hunt for the elusive creature creates a narrative that culminates with a riveting bit of screen magic involving Marvin Robinson and the Canadian photographer Paul Nicklen.

Nature, Art and Politics

Most of the debate that preceded last week's State Department decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline focussed on the dangers it posed to the domestic environment: the likelihood of a spill somewhere along the pipeline's 1,700-mile US route, and specifically the threat to Nebraska's Sandhills preserve and the huge aquifer that flows beneath it. That political focus was perfectly reasonable given the goal, but it left the bigger part of the tar sands story untold.

Over the course of its 44 minutes, Spoil provides a compelling introduction to the larger issue and places it in cultural context. The film includes footage of the enormous tar-sands strip mines located in the outback of northeastern Alberta and the refineries that turn its slurry into the very crudest of crude oil--a complex frequently described as the most destructive industrial project on earth. This is contrasted with footage and images of the Great Bear Rainforest -- salmon leaping up waterfalls; moose wandering through 1,000-year-old red cedar forests; time-lapse footage of subarctic starfields set to a soundtrack of a howling wolfpack. The film also documents the efforts of the Gitga'at and their environmentalist allies, including the RAVE photographers.

Jennings gives most of the credit for the film to the Gitga'at and the ILCP shooters, joking that he and his partner, cinematographer Andy Maser, are "the ultimate paratrooping filmmakers."

"We don't do the planning or any of the hard work," he says. "We just show up at the end and point our cameras at the people who did."

While the RAVE provides a big piece of the narrative, the stars of the film are definitely Robinson and the spirit bear he has known since it was a cub--an animal he describes as a "friend." The dramatic climax comes when (spoiler alert) Robinson essentially brings Nicklen to meet the bear in its riparian hunting grounds.

Cinematographer and co-producer Andy Maser was there to capture the moment.

"It was stressful," he recalls. "We'd been there shooting for 15 days and hadn't seen one spirit bear. It was our second-to-last day. Then the planets aligned--we got a hold of Marvin, Paul was on the scene, and the spirit bear showed up."

Spoil is only the third film produced by Jennings, 29, and Maser, 26, and is definitely a breakout effort. But the two are well known in the adventure-sports world as extreme kayakers and world explorers; a Google search of either turns up eye-popping photos and videos of the paddlers plummeting off huge waterfalls or making first descents of remote rivers.

The two men began their filmmaking careers making straightforward kayaking videos. But following a 2007 journey to Papua New Guinea, documented in the 19-minute documentary "The Final Frontier," the young filmmakers pursued a new direction.

"Kayaking has taken me to a lot of pristine places," Maser says. "But to get to them you go through a lot of destruction -- places that have been ruined by bad mining or logging practices. At some point I gained an appreciation for the rivers and the ecosystems, beyond just kayaking them. We decided that it's important to protect the places we love to play."

A New Economy

While the Gitga'at and their allies see the Keystone XL delay as a victory, they also fear that it could mean more pressure to approve the Northern Gateway project. Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, which has been leading the fight against the pipeline, told Canada's Globe and Mail that his coalition will redouble its efforts.

"I would expect [the US State Department decision] would increase the resolve for the oil companies to try to come west, as opposed to south. It will also increase the resolve of the federal government," Sterritt said last week. Meanwhile, Brian Topp, a writer and leading member of the progressive New Democratic Party, criticized Finance Minister Flaherty for "threatening Uncle Sam with a tighter embrace of Mao's heirs," and suggested that his country "invest in a new Western Canadian economy that is not dependent on the mining of raw bitumen. "One way or another, the world will soon act to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, and so will Canada. If the best hockey players play where the puck is going to be, then the Western Canadian energy industry -- and our economy as a whole -- need to do the same." 

  Read Tar Sands Fight Goes Beyond Keystone: A Little-Known Pipeline Plan Could Prove Disastrous for British Columbia
 November 19, 2011  
Every activist engaged in combating human-caused climate change or specific elements of the current energy economy knows that the work is primarily oppositional. It could hardly be otherwise; for citizens who care about ecological integrity, a sustainable economy, and the health of nature and people, there is plenty to oppose—biomass logging in Massachusetts, mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia, natural gas drilling in Wyoming, poorly sited solar developments in California, river-killing dams in Chile and Brazil, and new nuclear and coal plants around the globe.

These and many other fights against destructive energy projects are crucial, but they can be draining and tend to focus the conversation in negative terms. Sometimes it’s useful to reframe the discourse about ecological limits and economic restructuring in positive terms, that is, about what we’re for. The following list is not comprehensive, but beauty and biodiversity are fundamentals that the energy economy must not diminish. And energy literacy, conservation, relocalization of economic systems, and family planning are necessary tools to achieve our vision of a day when resilient human communities are imbedded in healthy ecosystems, and all members of the land community have space enough to flourish.

Energy Literacy

Energy is arguably the most decisive factor in both ecosystems and human economies. It is the fulcrum of history, the enabler of all that we do. Yet few people have more than the sketchiest understanding of how energy makes the world go ’round.

Basic energy literacy consists of a familiarity with the laws of thermodynamics, and with the concepts of energy density and energy returned on energy invested (EROEI). It requires a familiarity with the costs and benefits of our various energy sources—including oil, coal, gas, nuclear, wind, and solar. It also implies numeracy—the ability to meaningfully compare numbers referring to quantities of energy and rates of use, so as to be able to evaluate matters of scale.

Without energy literacy, citizens and policy makers are at the mercy of interest groups wanting to sell us their vision of the future energy economy. We hear from the fossil fuel industry, for example, that Canada’s oil reserves (in the form of “tar sands”) are second only to Saudi Arabia’s, or that the United States has over 100 years of natural gas thanks to newly tapped “shale gas” resources. And it’s tempting to conclude (as many people do) that there are no real constraints to national fossil fuel supplies other than environmental regulations preventing the exploitation of our immense natural treasures.

On the other end of the spectrum, we hear from techno-optimists that, with the right mix of innovative energy generation and efficiency technologies, we can run the growth economy on wind, solar, hydropower, and biofuels. And it’s tempting to conclude that we only need better government incentives and targeted regulatory reform to open the floodgates to a “green” high-tech sustainable future.

Energy literacy arms us with the intellectual tools to ask the right questions: What is the energy density of these new fossil fuel resources? How much energy will have to be invested to produce each energy unit of synthetic crude oil from oil shale, or electricity from thin-film solar panels? How quickly can these energy sources be brought online, and at what rate can they realistically deliver energy to consumers? When we do ask such questions, the situation suddenly looks very different. We realize that the new fossil fuels are actually third-rate energy sources that require immense and risky investments and may never be produced at a significant scale. We find that renewable energy technologies face their own serious constraints in energy and materials needs, and that transitioning to a majority-renewable energy economy would require a phenomenal re-tooling of our energy and transportation infrastructure.

With energy literacy, citizens and policy makers have a basis for sound decisions. Householders can measure how much energy they use and strategize to obtain the most useful services from the smallest energy input. Cities, states, and nations can invest wisely in infrastructure both to produce and use energy with greatest efficiency and with minimal damage to the natural world. With energy literacy, we can undertake a serious, clear-eyed societal conversation about the policies and actions needed to reshape our energy system.

Conservation The current energy economy is toxic not simply because of its dependence on climate-altering fossil fuels, but also because of its massive scale and wastefulness. A first step toward reducing its global impacts is simply using less energy, a goal readily accomplished through conservation practices that are widely available and cost effective.

Energy conservation consists of two distinct strategies: efficiency and curtailment.
Energy efficiency means using less energy to produce a similar or better service. For example, we can exchange old incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents or LEDs that use a fraction of the electricity and still enjoy satisfactory levels of indoor illumination.

Curtailment means exactly what you’d think: cutting out a use of energy altogether. In our previous example of indoor lighting, this strategy might take the form of turning off the lights when we leave a room.

Efficiency is typically more attractive to people because it doesn’t require them to change their behavior. We want services that energy provides us, not energy per se, and if we can still have all the services we want, then who cares if we’re using less energy to get them? Much has been achieved with energy efficiency efforts over recent decades, but much more remains to be done: nearly all existing buildings need to be better insulated, and most electric power plants are operating at comparatively dismal efficiencies, to mention just two examples.

Unfortunately, increasing investments in energy efficiency typically yield diminishing returns. Initial improvements tend to be easy and cheap; later ones are more costly. Sometimes the energy costs of retooling or replacing equipment and infrastructure wipe out gains from efficiency. Nevertheless, the early steps toward efficiency are almost always rewarding.

While curtailment of energy use is a less inviting idea, it offers clearer savings as compared with improved efficiency. By simply driving fewer miles we unequivocally save energy, whether our car is a more or less efficient model. We’ve gotten used to using electricity and fuels to do many things that can be done by well enough with muscle power, or that don’t need doing at all.

Conservation helps us appreciate the energy we use. It fosters respect for resources, and for the energy and labor that are embodied in manufactured products. It reduces damage to already stressed ecosystems and helps us focus our attention on dimensions of life other than sheer consumption.

During the latter decades of the 20th century, most Americans achieved a standard of living that was lavish from both historical and cross-cultural perspectives. They were coaxed and cajoled from cradle to grave by expensive advertising to consume as much as possible. Simply by reversing the message of this incessant propaganda stream, people can be persuaded to happily make do with less—as occurred during World War II, when fuels were rationed and billboards promoted recycling.

Many social scientists claim that our consumptive lifestyle damages communities, families, and individual self-esteem. A national or global ethic of conservation could even be socially therapeutic.


Resilience is “the capacity of a system to withstand disturbance while still retaining its fundamental structure, function, and internal feedbacks.” Resilience contrasts with brittleness—the tendency to shatter and lose functionality when impacted or perturbed.

Ecologists who study resilience in natural systems have noted that ecosystems tend to progress through a series of phases: growth, consolidation and conservation, release (or “collapse”), and reorganization. Each turning of this adaptive cycle provides opportunities for individual species and whole systems to innovate in response to external and internal change (i.e., disturbance). Resilient ecosystems (in the early growth phase) are characterized by species diversity; many of the organisms within such systems are flexible generalists, and the system as a whole contains multiple redundancies. In contrast, less-resilient ecosystems tend to be more brittle, showing less diversity and greater specialization particularly in the consolidation phase.

Resilience can be applied to human systems as well. Our economic systems, in particular, often face a trade-off between resilience and efficiency. Economic efficiency implies specialization and the elimination of both inventories and redundancy (which typically guarantee greater resilience). If a product can be made most cheaply in one region or nation, manufacturing is concentrated there, reducing costs to both producers and consumers. However, if that nation were to suddenly find it impossible to make or ship the product, that product would become unavailable everywhere. Maintaining dispersed production and local inventories promotes availability under crisis conditions, though at the sacrifice of economic efficiency (and profits) in “normal” times.

From a resilience perspective one of the most vulnerable human systems today is the American transportation system. For over seventy years we’ve built trillions of dollars of transportation infrastructure that is completely dependent (i.e., “specialized”) on affordable petroleum fuels, and we’ve removed or neglected most alternative methods of transport. As petroleum fuels become less affordable, the effects reverberate throughout the system.

Resilience becomes more of a priority during periods of crisis and volatility, such as the world is experiencing today. Households, towns, and regions are better prepared to endure a natural disaster such as a flood or earthquake if they have stores of food and water on hand and if their members have a range of practical self-sufficiency skills.

While the loss of economic efficiency implies trade-offs, resilience brings incidental benefits. With increased local self-sufficiency comes a shared sense of confidence in the community’s ability to adapt and endure. For the foreseeable future, as global energy, finance, and transport systems become less reliable, the re-balancing of community priorities should generally weigh in favor of resilience.


A central strategy needed to increase societal resilience is localization—or, perhaps more accurately, re-localization. Most pre-industrial human societies produced basic necessities locally. Trade typically centered on easily transportable luxury goods. Crop failures and other disasters therefore tended to be limited in scope: if one town was devastated, others were spared because they had their own regional sources—and stores—of necessities.

Economic globalization may have begun centuries ago with the European colonization of the rest of the world, but really took hold during the past half-century with the advent of satellite communications and container ships. The goal was to maximize economic growth by exploiting efficiency gains from local specialization and global transport. In addition to driving down labor costs and yielding profits for international corporations, globalization maximized resource depletion and pollution, simplified ecosystems, and eroded local systems resilience.

As transport fuel becomes less affordable, a return to a more localized economic order is likely, if not inevitable. The market’s methods of re-balancing economic organization, however, could well be brutal as global transport networks become less reliable, transport costs increase, and regions adapt to less access to goods now produced thousands of miles away.

Government planning and leadership could result in a more organized and less chaotic path of adaptation. Nations can begin now to prioritize and create incentives for the local production of food, energy, and manufactured products, and the local development of currency, governance, and culture.

Natural ecological boundaries—such as watersheds—bordered traditional societies. Bioregions defined by waterways and mountain ridges could thus become the basis for future re-localized economic and political organization.

Deliberate efforts to re-localize economies will succeed best if the benefits of localism are touted and maximized. With decentralized political organization comes greater opportunity for participation in decision-making. Regional economic organization offers a wide variety of productive local jobs. Society assumes a human scale in which individuals have a sense of being able to understand and influence the systems that govern their lives. People in locally organized societies see the immediate consequences of their production and waste disposal practices, and are therefore less likely to adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude toward resource depletion and pollution. Local economic organization tends to yield art, music, stories, and literature that reflect the ecological uniqueness of place—and local culture in turn binds together individuals, families, and communities, fostering a sense of responsibility to care for one another and for the land.

Family Planning

The human demographic explosion, amplified by rapacious consumption in the overdeveloped world, is at the root of the global eco-social crisis. Virtually every environmental and social problem is worsened by overpopulation. With more mouths to feed—and freshwater becoming scarcer and topsoil eroding—global famine becomes an ever-greater likelihood. An expanding population leads to increased consumption of just about every significant resource, and thus to increasing rates of ecological damage, from deforestation to climate change.

Family planning helps avert those threats. If we want future generations to enjoy a healthy planet with wild spaces, biodiversity, abundant resources, and a livable climate we should reduce fertility now.

But family planning can do more than mitigate future resource depletion; it has direct and in some cases nearly immediate benefits. Some of those benefits are economic. For example, Ireland’s declining birth rate in the 1970s is often credited as one of the factors leading to its economic boom in the ’80s and ’90s. China’s one-child policy similarly contributed to its economic ascendancy. The mechanism? In poor societies where family size is typically large, all household income must go toward food and shelter, and none is left over for education and business formation. If the birth rate is reduced, household income is freed up to improve quality of life and economic prospects for the next generation.

Without access to contraceptives, the average woman would have 12 to 15 pregnancies in her lifetime. In contrast, women in industrial nations want, on average, only two children.

It turns out that when women are economically and, this is critical, culturally empowered to make decisions about their own fertility, the result is improved health for mother and children, fewer unplanned pregnancies and births, and reduced incidence of abortion. Numerous studies have shown that women who have control over their fertility also tend to have more educational and employment opportunities, enhancing their social and economic status and improving the well-being of their families.


Discussions about energy rarely focus on beauty. But the presence or absence of this ineffable quality offers us continual clues as to whether or not society is on a regenerative and sustainable path, or on the road to further degradation of nature’s integrity.

From the time of the earliest cave paintings, human ideals of beauty have been drawn from nature. Animals, plants, rivers, oceans, and mountains all tend to trigger a psychological response describable as pleasure, awe, and wonder. The sight of a great tree or the song of a goldfinch can send poets and mystics into ecstasy, while the deep order inherent in nature inspires mathematicians and physicists.

Nature achieves its aesthetic impact largely through anarchic means. Each part appears free to follow its own inner drives, exhibiting economy, balance, color, proportion, and symmetry in the process. And all of these self-actualizing parts appear to cooperate, with multiple balancing feedback loops maintaining homeostasis within constantly shifting population levels and environmental parameters. The result is beauty.

Ugliness, by contrast, is our unpleasant aesthetic response to the perception that an underlying natural order has been corrupted and unbalanced; that something is dreadfully out of place.

Beauty is a psychological and spiritual need. We seek it everywhere, and wither without it. We need beauty not as an add-on feature to manufactured products, but as an integral aspect of our lives.

With the gradual expansion of trade—a process that began millennia ago but that quickened dramatically during the past century—beauty has increasingly become a valuable commodity. Wealthy patrons pay fortunes for rare artworks, while music, fashion, architecture, and industrial design have become multi-billion-dollar industries. Nature produces the most profound, magnificent, and nurturing examples of beauty in endless abundance, for free.

Industrialism, resulting from high rates of energy use, tends to breed ugliness. Our ears are bombarded by the noise of automobiles and trucks to the point that we can scarcely hear birdsong. The visual blight of highways, strip malls, and box stores obscures natural vistas. With industrial-scale production of buildings, we have adopted standardized materials produced globally to substitute for local, natural materials that fit with their surroundings. But industrialism does not just replace and obscure natural beauty—it actively destroys it, gobbling up rivers and forests to provide resources for production and consumption.

Large-scale energy production—whether from coalmines and power plants, oil derricks and refineries, or massive wind and solar installations—comes at a cost of beauty. While some energy sources are inherently uglier than others, even the most benign intrudes, dominates, and depletes if scaled up to provide energy in the quantities currently used in highly industrialized nations.

The aesthetic impact of industrial processes can be mitigated somewhat with better design practices. But the surest path to restoring the beauty of nature is to reduce the scale of human population and per-capita production and consumption. Returning to a sustainable way of life need not be thought of as sacrifice; instead it can be seen as an opportunity to increase aesthetic pleasure and the spiritual nourishment that comes from living in the midst of incalculable beauty.


The family of life on Earth is very large: more than a million species have been identified and formally described by taxonomists, and estimates of the total number of species on the planet range between three and one hundred million. We humans depend for our very existence on this web of life of which we are a part. Indeed, it is part of us: each human is inhabited by hundreds of species of microbes that enable digestion and other basic functions. Yet through our species’ appropriation and destruction of natural habitat we are shredding microbial, forest, prairie, oceanic, riparian, desert, and other ecosystems. Habitat loss, overharvesting, climate change, and other results of human numbers and behavior endanger untold thousands of species with extinction.

Extinction is nothing new: it is an essential part of the process of evolution. Throughout the billions of years of life’s history, life forms have appeared, persisted for thousands or millions of years, and vanished, usually individually but occasionally in convulsive mass events triggered by geological or astrophysical phenomena. There were five ancient extinction events so catastrophic that 50 to 95 percent of all species died out.

Today humans are bringing about the sixth mass extinction in the history of life on Earth. While the normal rate of extinction is about one in a million species per year, the extinction rate today is roughly 1000 times that. According to recent studies, one in five plant species faces extinction as a result of climate change, deforestation, and urban growth. One of every eight bird species will likely be extinct by the end of this century, while one third of amphibian and one quarter of mammal species are threatened.

As species disappear, we are only beginning to understand what we are losing. A recent UN study determined that businesses and insurance companies now see biodiversity loss as presenting a greater risk of financial loss than terrorism—a problem that governments currently spend hundreds of billions of dollars per year to contain or prevent.

Non-human species perform ecosystem services that only indirectly benefit our kind, but in ways that often turn out to be crucial. Phytoplankton, for example, are not a direct food source for people, but comprise the base of oceanic food chains, in addition to supplying half of the oxygen produced each year by nature. The abundance of plankton in the world’s oceans has declined 40 percent since 1950, according to a recent study, for reasons not entirely clear. This is one of the main explanations for a gradual decline in atmospheric oxygen levels recorded worldwide.

Efforts to determine a price for the world’s environmental assets have concluded that the annual destruction of rainforests alone entails an ultimate cost to society of $4.5 trillion—$650 for each person on the planet. Many species have existing or potential economically significant uses, but the value of biodiversity transcends economics: the spiritual and psychological benefits to humans of interaction with other species are profound.

Most fundamentally, however, non-human species have intrinsic value. Shaped by the same forces that produced humanity, our kin in the community of life exist for their own sake, not for the pleasure or profit of people. It is the greatest moral blot, the greatest shame on our species, for our actions to be driving other life forms into the endless night of extinction.

Richard Heinberg is Senior Fellow-in-Residence at Post Carbon Institute. He is the author of ten books, including The Party’s Over, Peak Everything, and the soon-to-be-released The End of Growth. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s most effective communicators of the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels.

  Read What We Are For
 November 19, 2011  

KAMPALA - An increase in heat waves is almost certain, while heavier rainfall, more floods, stronger cyclones, landslides and more intense droughts are likely across the globe this century as the Earth's climate warms, U.N. scientists said on Friday.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urged countries to come up with disaster management plans to adapt to the growing risk of extreme weather events linked to human-induced climate change, in a report released in Uganda on Friday.

The report gives differing probabilities for extreme weather events based on future greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, but the thrust is that extreme weather is likely to increase.

"It is virtually certain that increases in the frequency and magnitude of warm daily temperature extremes ... will occur in the 21st century on the global scale," the IPCC report said.

"It is very likely that the length, frequency and/or intensity of warm spells, or heat waves, will increase," it added.

"A 1-in-20 year hottest day is likely to become a 1-in-2 year event by the end of the 21st century in most regions," under one emissions scenario.

An exception is in very high latitudes, it said. Heat waves would likely get hotter by "1 degrees C to 3 degrees C by mid-21st century and by about 2 degrees C to 5 degrees C by late-21st century, depending on region and emissions scenario."

Delegates from nearly 200 countries will meet in South Africa from Nov. 28 for climate talks with the most likely outcome modest steps towards a broader deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change.


The United Nations, the International Energy Agency and others say global pledges to curb emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are not enough to prevent the planet heating up beyond 2 degrees Celsius, a threshold scientists say risks an unstable climate in which weather extremes become more common and food production more difficult.

Global carbon emissions rose by a record amount last year, rebounding on the heels of recession.

"It is likely that the frequency of heavy precipitation or the proportion of heavy rainfall from heavy falls will increase in the 21st century over many areas of the globe," especially in "high latitudes and tropical regions."

For the IPCC, "likely" means a two-thirds chance or more.

It said there was "medium confidence" that this would lead to "increases in local flooding in some regions", but that this could not be determined for river floods, whose causes are complicated.

The report said tropical cyclones were likely to become less frequent or stay the same, but the ones that do form are expected to be nastier.

"Heavy rainfalls associated with tropical cyclones are likely to increase with continued warming. Average tropical cyclone maximum wind speed is likely," the report said.

That, coupled with rising sea levels were a concern for small island states, the report said.

Droughts, perhaps the biggest worry for a world with a surging population to feed, were also expected to worsen.

The global population reached 7 billion last month and is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, according to U.N. figures.

"There is medium confidence that droughts will intensify in the 21st century ... due to reduced precipitation and/or increased evapotranspiration," including in "southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, central Europe, central North America, Central America and Mexico, northeast Brazil and southern Africa."

There is a high chance that landslides would be triggered by shrinking glaciers and permafrost linked to climate change, it said.

(Writing and additional reporting by Tim Cocks; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

  Read Extreme Weather Set To Worsen With Climate Change: IPCC
 November 15, 2011  

Conventional wisdom has it that the next election will be fought exclusively on the topic of jobs. But President Obama’s announcement last week that he would postpone a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election, which may effectively kill the project, makes it clear that other issues will weigh in -- and that, oddly enough, one of them might even be climate change.

The pipeline decision was a true upset. Everyone -- and I mean everyone who "knew" how these things work -- seemed certain that the president would approve it. The National Journal runs a weekly poll of “energy insiders” -- that is, all the key players in Washington. A month to the day before the Keystone XL postponement, this large cast of characters was “virtually unanimous” in guaranteeing that it would be approved by year’s end.

Transcanada Pipeline, the company that was going to build the 1,700-mile pipeline from the tar-sands fields of Alberta, Canada, through a sensitive Midwestern aquifer to the Gulf of Mexico, certainly agreed. After all, they’d already mowed the strip and prepositioned hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pipe, just waiting for the permit they thought they’d bought with millions in lobbying gifts and other maneuvers. Happily, activists across the country weren’t smart enough to know they’d been beaten, and so they staged the largest civil disobedience action in 35 years, not to mention ringing the White House with people, invading Obama campaign offices, and generally proving that they were willing to fight.

No permanent victory was won. Indeed, just yesterday Transcanada agreed to reroute the pipeline in Nebraska in an effort to speed up the review, though that appears not to change the schedule. Still, we're waiting for the White House to clarify that they will continue to fully take climate change into account in their evaluation. But even that won't be final. Obama could just wait for an election victory and then approve the pipeline -- as any Republican victor certainly would. Chances are, nonetheless, that the process has now gotten so messy that Transcanada’s pipeline will die of its own weight, in turn starving the tar-sands oil industry and giving a boost to the global environment. Of course, killing the pipeline will hardly solve the problem of global warming (though heavily exploiting those tar sands would, in NASA scientist James Hansen’s words, mean “game over for the climate.”)

In this line of work, where victories of any kind are few and far between, this was a real win. It began with indigenous activists, spread to Nebraska ranchers, and eventually turned into the biggest environmental flashpoint in many years. And it owed no small debt to the Occupy Wall Street protesters shamefully evicted from Zuccotti Park last night, who helped everyone understand the power of corporate money in our daily lives. That these forces prevailed shocked most pundits precisely because it’s common wisdom that they’re not the sort of voters who count, certainly not in a year of economic trouble.

In fact, the biggest reason the realists had no doubts the pipeline would get its permit, via a State Department review and a presidential thumbs-up of that border-crossing pipeline, was because of the well-known political potency of the jobs argument in bad economic times. Despite endless lazy reporting on the theme of jobs versus the environment, there were actually no net jobs to be had from the pipeline. It was always a weak argument, since the whole point of a pipeline is that, once it's built, no one needs to work there. In addition, as the one study not paid for by Transcanada made clear, the project would kill as many jobs as it would create.

The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson finally demonstrated this late in the game with a fine report taking apart Transcanada’s job estimates. (The 20,000 jobs endlessly taken for granted assumed, among other stretches, that modern dance troupes would move to Nebraska, where part of the pipeline would be built, to entertain pipeline workers.) Still, the jobs trope remained, and you can be sure that the Chamber of Commerce will run 1,000 ads during the 2012 presidential campaign trying to hammer it home. And you can be sure the White House knew that, which was why it was such a tough call for them -- and why the pressure of a movement among people whose support matters to them made a difference.

Let’s assume the obvious then: that one part of their recent calculations that led to the postponement decision might just be the suspicion that they will actually win votes thanks to the global-warming question in the next election.

For one thing, global warming denial has seen its apogee. The concerted effort by the fossil-fuel industry to underwrite scientific revision met its match last month when a team headed by Berkeley skeptic and prominent physicist Richard Muller -- with funding from the Koch Brothers, of all people -- actually found that, what do you know, all the other teams of climate-change scientists were, um, right. The planet was indeed warming just as fast as they, and the insurance companies, and the melting ice had been insisting.

Still, scientific studies only reach a certain audience. Weird weather is a far more powerful messenger. It’s been hard to miss the record flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and across the Northeast; the record drought and fires across the Southwest; the record multi-billion dollar weather disasters across the country this year; the record pretty-much everything-you-don’t-want across the nation. Obama certainly noticed. He’s responsible for finding the cash every time some other state submerges.

As a result, after years of decline, the number of Americans who understand that the planet is indeed warming and that we’re to blame appears to be on the rise again. And ironically enough, one reason may be the spectacle of all the tea-partying GOP candidates for the presidency being forced to swear fealty to the notion that global warming is a hoax. Normal people find this odd: it’s one thing to promise Grover Norquist that you’ll never ever raise taxes; it’s another to promise that you’ll defeat chemistry and physics with the mighty power of the market.

Along these lines, Mitt Romney made an important unforced error last month. Earlier in the primaries, he and Jon Huntsman had been alone in the Republican field in being open to the idea that global warming might actually be real. Neither wanted to do anything about it, of course, but that stance itself was enough to mark them as realists. It was also a sign that Romney was thinking ahead to the election itself, and didn’t want to be pinned against this particular wall.

In late October, however, he evidently felt he had no choice but to pin himself to exactly that wall and so stated conclusively: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.” In other words, he not only flip-flopped to the side of climate denial, but did so less than six months after he had said no less definitively: “I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer… And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.” Note as well that he did so, while all the evidence, even some recently funded by the deniers, pointed the other way.

If he becomes the Republican presidential candidate as expected, this may be the most powerful weathervane ad the White House will have in its arsenal. Even for people who don’t care about climate change, it makes him look like the spinally challenged fellow he seems to be. But it’s an ad that couldn’t be run if the president had okayed that pipeline.

Now that Obama has at least temporarily blocked Keystone XL, now that his team has promised to consider climate change as a factor in any final decision on the pipeline’s eventual fate, he can campaign on the issue. And in many ways, it may prove a surprise winner.

After all, only people who would never vote for him anyway deny global warming. It’s a redoubt for talk-show rightists. College kids, on the other hand, consistently rank it among the most important issues. And college kids, as Gerald Seib pointed out in the Wall Street Journal last week, are a key constituency for the president, who is expected to need something close to the two-thirds margin he won on campus in 2008 to win again in 2012.

Sure, those kids care about student loans, which threaten to take them under, and jobs, which are increasingly hard to come by, but the nature of young people is also to care about the world. In addition, independent voters, suburban moms -- these are the kinds of people who worry about the environment. Count on it: they’ll be key targets for Obama’s presidential campaign.

Given the economy, that campaign will have to make Mitt Romney look like something other than a middle-of-the-road businessman. If he’s a centrist, he probably wins. If he’s a flip-flopper with kooky tendencies, they’ve got a shot. And the kookiest thing he’s done yet is to deny climate science.

If I’m right, expect the White House to approve strong greenhouse gas regulations in the months ahead, and then talk explicitly about the threat of a warming world. In some ways it will still be a stretch. To put the matter politely, they’ve been far from perfect on the issue: the president didn’t bother to waste any of his vaunted “political capital” on a climate bill, and he’s opened huge swaths of territory to coal mining and offshore drilling.

But blocking the pipeline finally gave him some credibility here -- and it gave a lot more of the same to citizens' movements to change our world. Since a lot of folks suspect that the only way forward economically has something to do with a clean energy future, I’m guessing that the pipeline decision won’t be the only surprise. I bet Barack Obama talks on occasion about global warming next year, and I bet it helps him.

But don’t count on that, or on Keystone XL disappearing, and go home. If the pipeline story (so far) has one lesson, it’s this: you can’t expect anything to change if you don’t go out and change it yourself.

Bill McKibben is a founder of 350.org, a TomDispatch regular, and Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College. His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

  Read Puncturing The Pipeline
 November 9, 2011  

Imagine that the world is governed by concentric circles or spheres of power, with the most powerful one on the outside. Today the innermost circle is a neglected biosphere. We have to turn the paradigm inside out. The biosphere must come first.

We are also in the midst of a grave crisis of inequality. Wealth in Europe and especially in the United States has not been so skewed since the 1920s or 1930s. The “Indignados” are absolutely right to identify themselves as the “99 %”: they understand that the top one per cent has increased its income enormously while everyone else has been losing.

In my view, however, the most serious crisis is the one we talk the least about—this is global warming and climate change. The climate crisis will have the deepest effects on civilisation itself and will make our financial worries look trivial in comparison.

Let me try to explain what I’m talking about with an image. Imagine that the world is governed by concentric circles or spheres of power, with the most powerful one on the outside. Today, the most powerful circle, the one with the most influence on our lives, is finance. Globalised finance is literally running the world - look at how much money the banks have received from governments, which is to say taxpayers, you and me.

A recent report from the Federal Reserve put the amount that the Fed itself spent to bail out the banks at $16,000,000,000,000, sixteen trillion dollars. That doesn’t include what the British, the Germans, the French, the Italians and so on spent on their own banks. I do not know of any complete figures. Imagine that every dollar spent by the Fed to save the bank is one second on your watch. Sixteen trillion dollars in seconds would come to more than 500,000 years.

The banks spent a huge amount on lobbying so that governments would remove all restrictions on their activities. This deregulation contributed a lot to the crisis - the banks took big risks with your money and mine. From their point of view, there was nothing wrong with this - they were ‘too big to fail’ and they knew that governments would have to step in to save them if there was a crash. They also borrowed enormously - often taking risks of more than 30 or 40 dollars for every dollar that was actually theirs. But they were bailed out with absolutely no conditions. They did not have to change anything and they are still too big to fail.

So finance is definitely our most powerful circle, on the outside. The next circle of power is the real economy where real people invest, produce, distribute and consume. In the United States, this real economy only receives about 20 per cent of available investment - the rest goes directly into the financial sector.

Marx based his analysis on the real economy: the industrialist made profits by producing real goods and services, exploiting the workers in the process and collecting the surplus value for himself. Today, you don’t need the real economy to make money. In fact, over the past twenty years or so, you could make much more by betting directly on financial products and selling the same financial product over and over again.

The third circle of power is society, including governments which have to obey the rules of finance and of the economy. Governments obey these rules rather than making finance and the economy obey them so that the people benefit. Social benefit systems and even health and education are under attack everywhere, even in Europe which is supposed to be the richest continent. Governments have become far more indebted over the past three or four years, largely because of all the funds they had to put into saving the banks. Now the people are expected to pay back once more - they have already paid to bail out the banks and now they must pay again because government debts are too high.

The final circle is the environment, the biosphere. It is very small compared to the other three and most governments now see taking care of it as some sort of luxury they cannot afford. This is short-sighted and tragic.

You will not be surprised when I tell you that the solution to all our problems today is simple to state and extremely hard to accomplish. It is the first time in human history that people have been called upon to carry out such a fundamental change. We have to reverse the order of the circles I have just described.

The Biosphere has to come first and be the most powerful of the circles because it is the most powerful. We can’t fight the laws of physics and chemistry and if we try we are sure to lose. I never talk about ‘saving the planet’ because the planet will take care of itself, as it has done for four and a half billion years. The question is not whether the planet will survive but whether humans as a species will survive on it. The climate conference in Durban at the end of next month looks like being another colossal failure, in the image of Copenhagen or Cancun.

Soon it will be too late, if this is not the case already. Perfectly serious scientists are now suggesting that the temperature increase could reach four or five degrees Celsius and that this would literally decimate the human population. ‘Decimate’ means divide by ten and ten percent of it is about how many would then remain. We don’t know under what sort of conditions either: probably not peaceful ones to say the least.

The second circle would be Society - a democratically organised society in which governments would be answerable to their people and people were the basis of all authority. Real democracy is not possible for as long as governments are governing on behalf of the financial system.

The next, third circle would be the real economy with a genuine investment in jobs, in education and health and with a high level of public spending and far more equal revenue distribution and taxation systems. I prefer not to say ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’ or any other supposedly perfect type of society because I am extremely wary of people and parties which think they know, already, exactly how free future societies must be organised. I hope there will be a variety of organisational types to fit different cultures, histories and preferences. I want to conserve biodiversity and I think sociodiversity is a positive value.

Finally we would have finance, the smallest, weakest of the four circles - simply a tool, one among many, at the service of the real economy, society and the biosphere.

Not a Utopian project at all

This is not, repeat not, a utopian project. It is perfectly feasible if we the people could wrest control away from the financial system. As the financial crisis became deeper in 2007-2008, I began to write about how we had to use the financial crisis to solve the other two grave crises of economic and social inequality and the climate crisis. This would mean taking control over finance and investing immediately in a green, job creating transition and going after the money where it is - with the people and corporations now at the very top. Worldwide, the one percent of the top one per cent - people whose liquid assets - not houses, automobiles etc but cash - amount to $35 million or more. Collectively their fortune comes to $15 trillion - nearly what the Fed spent bailing out the banks. They too lost money during 2008-2009, but have now bounced back by more than 25 percent.

A social and green transition also means we have to socialise the banks. (I say socialise and not nationalise because the government would have part of the authority but citizens, bank employees and customers would also have their say.) The banks should then lend to small and medium sized firms in particular with an environmentally innovative project and to families that want to buy or build energy-saving or energy neutral houses.

Many studies have shown that an ecological economy is also a job-creating economy, and at all levels of society, from construction workers to world-class scientists. The other priority for socialised banks would be to extend credit to social enterprise, companies with some form of worker control. No law says democracy has to stop at the edge of the economy: the economy needs to be democratised. Banks should be seen as part of the public service network. Small and medium businesses are at present starved for credit.

Instead of bailing out failing companies to do exactly what they were doing before - for example producing automobiles - pay the personnel, workers, engineers and so on to devise new products that would be the most socially useful and that they could produce in their present workspaces. We spent centuries neglecting the creativity of half the human race, which is to say women, and we are still neglecting the creativity, or nearly all of it, of working people.

There are many other steps to take that would take too long to describe in detail.

So let me just list them:

- Change the statutes and the mandate of the European Central Bank so that it lends directly to governments, not to banks, which then lend to governments at higher interest rates. The ECB should not just ‘control inflation’ [now its only task] but foster job creation.

- Issue Eurobonds and devote the investments to intra-European clean energy and transport networks;

- Create a European tax on all financial transactions including currencies, stocks, bonds and derivatives at 1 basis point [1/1000];

- Shut down tax havens;

- Cancel all African debt owed to Europe but in exchange for reforestation projects with local direction and participation that can be monitored [a “debt for climate swap”];

- Revisit all free trade agreements and choose the elements that favour human, labour and environmental rights while scrapping the others; give preference to fair trade products [monitored];

Never forget that the banks are ours, quite literally. As taxpayers, we have paid for them with our money and they would no longer exist if we had not done so. So don’t be afraid to say so! Otherwise, we will continue to live in a moral crisis as well as a financial, social and ecological crisis. So far, we have rewarded the guilty and punished the innocent. It is high time to turn that around too.

Susan George is associate director of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam and vice-president of ATTAC France. An American by birth, she is now a French citizen and lives in Paris. Her books include How the Other Half Dies: the real reasons for world hunger (1976), A Fate worse than Debt (1987), The Lugano Report (2000), and Another World is Possible…If (2004).

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  Read Defend The Biosphere And Stop Punishing The Innocent
 November 8, 2011  

CAPE TOWN – On Sunday, November 6, thousands of people encircled the White House as part of the ongoing effort to press US President Barack Obama to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. If the nearly 1,700-mile pipeline were to be built, it would run from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, through the heartland of the US, all the way to the Texas coast on the Gulf of Mexico. Should the project go ahead, Obama will have made one of the single most disastrous decisions of his presidency concerning climate change and the very future of our planet.

In August, some 1,250 people were arrested in front of the White House while protesting against Keystone. One of them was James Hanson, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who has been studying for decades the impact of fossil fuels on the environment. Hanson argues that the pipeline would sound the death knell for the world’s climate. Oil from the tar sands of Alberta is the dirtiest in the world, and its extraction is already causing problems. If Keystone is built, there will be increased efforts to expand oil production there, making a bad situation much worse.

Opposition to the pipeline throughout the US is growing in intensity – from the activists arrested in Washington, DC, to the governor of Nebraska, who is seeking state legislation to stop the pipeline from running through America’s biggest aquifer, to members of the US Congress, who have petitioned Obama about the project. The outpouring of opposition surprised the oil industry, its highly paid lobbyists, and especially TransCanada Corporation, which would build the pipeline. So, like many huge corporations facing public criticism, they and their allies are responding with a dubious new marketing effort.

The pipeline’s defenders proclaim that Canadian oil is “ethical,” whereas oil from suspect countries is “unethical.” US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, has picked up on the theme. “We have a supply [of oil] to our north that, to me, is just like finding it in America,” he said. “Dirty oil is buying oil from someone who takes the money and sponsors terrorism and tries to make the world a dark and sinister place to live.”

Graham points to Venezuela and Iran as producers of “dirty” oil thus defined. Presumably, his list should also include America’s long-time ally Saudi Arabia. In fact, that is precisely what the industry’s “ethical oil” campaign is suggesting: by continuing to acquire dirty oil from Saudi Arabia rather than from Canada, the US supports the Saudis’ oppression of women.

The situation of women in Saudi Arabia is obviously unacceptable, but it is deeply disturbing that the oil industry is exploiting the issue of women’s rights in order to shift the discussion away from fossil fuel and climate change. Neither their tactics nor their tar sands are ethical.

The claim that Alberta’s fossil fuels are “ethical” because Canada is a friend is a specious ploy aimed at perpetuating the world’s addiction to fossil fuels. There is no such thing as ethical fossil fuel, regardless of geographical origin. The ethical choice is to move as quickly as possible away from fossil fuels, period.

Time, research, and money must be devoted to finding clean, renewable, and sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. But it takes consistent and committed leadership to make that happen. And that brings us back to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Obama campaigned and was elected in part on a pledge to address climate change. He spoke of seas that would stop rising, and of shifting the US away from fossil fuels to new sources of clean energy. He now has the opportunity to make good on those promises by stopping the Keystone XL pipeline.

Along with fellow Nobel laureates Betty Williams, Mairead Maguire, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, José Ramos Horta, Shirin Ebadi, and the Dalai Lama, we have raised our voices in an open letter to Obama, calling upon him to make the right choice. All of the signatories support those who encircled the White House on November 6 to protest the pipeline. The only ethical choice on this question is one that supports clean, renewable energy – and that rejects continued addiction to fossil fuels.

Along with fellow Nobel laureates Betty Williams, Mairead Maguire, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, José Ramos Horta, Shirin Ebadi, and the Dalai Lama, we have raised our voices in an open letter to Obama, calling upon him to make the right choice. All of the signatories support those who encircled the White House on November 6 to protest the pipeline. The only ethical choice on this question is one that supports clean, renewable energy – and that rejects continued addiction to fossil fuels.

© 2011 Project Syndicate

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace

Jody Williams, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative

  Read The Devil In The Tar Sands
 November 8, 2011  
Here's what is likely behind Obama's decision to send special forces to Uganda.

On Friday, October 14, President Barack Obama announced he would be sending 100 Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces to Uganda to "remove from the battlefield" (meaning capture or kill) the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony. "I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa," wrote Obama in a letter to U.S. House Majority Leader, John Boehner, R-OH.

The LRA, whose horrific deeds have been have been well-documented by scores of human rights reports and the documentary film, Invisible Children, can best be described as a Christian cult militia engaged in violent armed rebellion against the Ugandan government, located primarily in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. An arrest warrant was issued in 2005 by the International Criminal Court against the LRA leadership for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kony, the LRA ringleader, possibly has over 80 wives (i.e. sex slaves), according to a 2009 story by the Guardian, and has fathered over 40 children.

It gets worse.

According to a May 2009 article in Newsweek, "[H]e and the hundreds of forcibly conscripted children who serve as his killing squads are feared throughout the region for their horrific levels of brutality and the butchery of tens of thousands of defenseless civilians. Their swath of destruction has displaced well over 2 million people. Kony has forced new male recruits to rape their mothers and kill their parents. Former LRA members say the rebels sometimes cook and eat their victims."

The mainstream media, at least those who have covered this new U.S. military adventure, have taken the Obama administration at face value on its stated claim that JSOC troops are necessary in Uganda and neighboring countries, for the purpose of murdering the elusive and brutal war criminal-at-large, Joseph Kony.

But is this the true motive for sending JSOC troops into the region? A probe into the last several years of geopolitical posturing in Africa by the United States reveals another tale. It is the tale of a 21st century "scramble for Africa" for the procurement of oil, using imperial tools, such as drones, mercenaries and military bases, in a desperate effort to gain control of this valuable commodity.

An African Scramble for Oil

In October 2008, AFRICOM, the United States Africa Command, became the U.S. military's sixth regional Unified Combatant Command center, joining those already housed in South America (SOUTHCOM), North America (NORTHCOM), Europe (EUCOM), the Middle East (CENTCOM), and the Pacific (USPACOM). The Unified Combatant Command centers serve as regional strategic hubs for the U.S. military planners to plot and implement the ways in which the U.S. will dominate these various regions for whatever it might deem to be in line with the national interest or national security purposes. 

AFRICOM, though, did not come out of the blue and was years in the making before its realization. Not long after 9/11, in early January 2002, a key symposium titled "African Oil: A Priority for U.S. National Security and African Development" took place in Washington, DC; it was hosted by the neoconservative think-tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS).

IASPS is most famous for its authorship of a paper called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," a 1996 paper that, among other things, called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, foreshadowing the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the neoconservative-lead Bush administration foreign policy team. 

At the symposium, then Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Walter Kantsteiner III, stated, "African oil is a national strategic interest...[and] it's people like you who will...bring the oil home." 

Later, in May 2004, Kantsteiner chaired a congressionally funded Africa Policy Advisory Panel report titled, "Rising U.S. States in Africa," in which he stated, "African oil is of national strategic interest to us, and it will increase and become more important as we go forward."

In the midst of these summits, the U.S. set up crucial military bases -- in spring 2003 in Djibouti, a base called Camp Lemmonier, and in 2004 at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda.

The U.S. was now firmly implanted in the region to begin an African safari, featuring, most prominently, tours of prospective and already existing oil rigs and pipelines spanning every contour of the continent.

Oil Safari to Uganda

Not long after AFRICOM became a reality, multinational corporations also flocked into Uganda to search for oil. 

The search was a flaming success story, with 2.5 billion barrels of oil now having been discovered, but still to this date, not yet procured. The royalties accompanying the oil's usage could reach up to $2 billion a year by 2015, reported the Economist in May 2010.

This oil is located off of Lake Albert in northwest Uganda, a lake shared by both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

Multinational corporations are required to sign something known as a Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with the Ugandan government in order to drill for Uganda's oil. In essence, a PSA is a contractual agreement between a foreign corporation benefiting from a country's resources and the government of a country whose resources are being benefited from. 

In October 2006, according to a WikiLeaks cable, Tullow Oil, a British company, and Heritage Oil, a Canadian company, signed a PSA with the Ugandan government, led by President Yoweri Musveni. This particular PSA, though, was no ordinary one, and indeed, could serve, in part, as an explanation for the logic of Obama's October 14 announcement. 

For the first three years the PSA was signed, the details were kept secret from everyone but upper-level Tullow and Heritage executives and Museveni's inner circle. A February 2010 report written by PLATFORM, a British nonprofit organization, titled, "Contracts Curse: Uganda's oil agreements place profit before people," explains the PSA best and for the first time, made public its content.

The PSA, PLATFORM explained, "contain[s] no clauses covering security provision[s]...There is no public agreement setting out the relationship between the oil companies and the military or police forces. Thus it is unclear what promises and guarantees the Ugandan government has made to ensure security and what rights the oil companies have been awarded."

This raised numerous vital questions for PLATFORM, including, "Do oil company security or private military contractors have the right or authority to arrest, injure or kill those they perceive as a threat?" and "Is the Ugandan government incentivised to prioritise security interests over the human rights of local populations?" 

That same report also included revelations by PLATFORM that the Ugandan government had constructed a "new military base on ten square miles" near Lake Albert, where the oil was located. The report also disclosed that Museveni had created something called an Oil Wells Protection Unit (OWPU), which amounted to his own security forces, or mercenaries, guarding oil rigs.

Concerned about the OWPU, PLATFORM wrote, "Apparently its mandate is 'to provide physical security for the oil and gas industry' and 'conduct strategic intelligence activities in all areas where oil will be processed and marketed.' However, the OWPU has no Web site and no clearly known structure or chain of command...In this context, the OWPU could easily be misused to repress opposition to oil extraction activities, further political gains by the government and commit human rights abuses without accountability." 

Enter Heritage Oil and Ties to Private Mercenary Armies

Possibly the most crucial fact about the undisclosed clauses concerning security provisions in the PSA, was this vital detail: The Canadian oil company Heritage, which is owned by Tony Buckingham, who many credit for being the first innovator behind the modern-day private military corporation (PMC) (think Blackwater USA, now known as Xe Services), was formerly the main stakeholder in the Albertine Basin.

In 2010, Heritage sold its stake in the project to the British company Tullow Oil for $1.5 billion. Though Heritage is no longer exploring for oil in the hopes of drilling for it in Uganda, Buckingham's background and business connections are still crucial to grasp.

Buckingham is a former officer of the British Special Air Service (SAS) -- a parallel to the U.S. JSOC forces sent into Uganda by Obama -- according to a 1997 story. In 1992 Buckingham became the founder and CEO of Heritage Oil. A year later, in 1993, Buckingham founded a PMC called Executive Outcomes (EO). EO officially closed shop in 1998, but during its time of existence, it consistently followed in the footsteps of the locations that Buckingham took Heritage's oil rigs. And Buckingham's close ties to mercenary armies did not terminate with EO's fall. Instead, he formed a special relationship with a key figure, the half-brother of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Salim Saleh.

The special relationship between Saleh and Buckingham also goes a long way toward explaining the Obama decision to invade Uganda.

Salim Saleh, Erik Prince, and Guns-For-Hire in the Horn of Africa

Upon the eclipse of EO in 1998, rather than decay into oblivion, it instead morphed into a multi-tentacled machine of various PMC split-offs, the most crucial of which, at least as far as Uganda is concerned, is Saracen International. 

Salim Saleh owns a 25-percent stake in Saracen. "[Saracen International] was formed with the remnants of Executive Outcomes, a private mercenary firm composed largely of former South African special operations troops who worked throughout Africa in the 1990s," explained the New York Times in a January 2011 article.

Saleh, now Museveni's military adviser, is a former high-ranking official for the Uganda People's Defence Force, the military of the Ugandan government. He is also a well-connected mercenary, as seen through his ownership stake in Saracen. 

Saracen, in turns out, also maintains an important relationship with Blackwater USA founder and CEO, Erik Prince.

The same article that revealed the ties between EO and Saracen International also revealed that Prince possesses an ownership stake in Saracen. The Times wrote, "According to a Jan. 12 confidential report by the African Union, Mr. Prince 'is at the top of the management chain of Saracen and provided seed money for the Saracen contract.'"

Blackwater, under Prince's leadership, has been involved in the game of guns-for-hire in the Horn of Africa since February 2009, according to a WikiLeaks cable. The cable reveals that Blackwater won a contract to operate an armed ship, called McArthur, from a port in Djibouti, the country which is also home of the U.S. military's Camp Lemonnier base. 

The cable also reveals that McArthur "will have an unarmed UAV" (Unarmed Vehicle, aka a drone), "will likely engage...Kenya in the future," and that Blackwater "has briefed AFRICOM, CENTCOM, and Embassy Nairobi officials." In other words, this means the Prince and Blackwater mission had the blessing of top-level U.S. military and diplomatic officials. 

Could Prince's and Saleh's guns-for-hire be teaming up with JSOC forces in the Albertine basin to guard oil rigs? History provides some highly relavant precedent.

Erik Prince, Blackwater USA and Oil: History Repeating Itself?

Prince's Blackwater has been involved in such engagements before. Rewind to Azerbaijan and Iraq, where Blackwater was tasked with guarding crucial oil pipelines and oil wells for the world's wealthiest oil and natural gas corporations.

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, in his book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, revealed that "Blackwater USA was hired by the Pentagon...to deploy in Azerbaijan, where Blackwater would be tasked with establishing and training an elite...force modeled after the U.S. Navy SEALs that would ultimately protect the interests of the United States and its allies in a hostile region.

"Blackwater joined a U.S. corporate landscape [in the region] that included...corporations such as Bechtel, Halliburton, Chevron-Texaco, Unocal and ExxonMobil ... Instead of sending in battalions of active U.S. military to Azerbaijan, the Pentagon deployed...Blackwater...that would serve a dual purpose: protecting the West's new profitable oil and gas exploitation in a region historically dominated by Russia and Iran, and possibly laying the groundwork for an important forward operating base for an attack against Iran," Scahill continued.

Azerbaijan, like Uganda, is home to a vast array of oil and natural gas, and also a key pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which, after reaching its respective coastal homes in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, ends up on the global export market.

In Iraq, as revealed by the Guardian in a March 2004 article, Blackwater, via a Pentagon contract, recruited Chilean "commandos, other soldiers and seamen, paying them up to $4,000 a month to guard oil wells against attack by insurgents...many of [them] had trained under the military government of Augusto Pinochet." Pinochet, many will recall, was the brutal dictator who came to power after the CIA-initiated 1973 coup of Salvador Allende.

Iraq, like Uganda and Azerbaijan, is home to vast amounts of oil. Major syndicates ranging from BP America, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips have all flocked to Iraq in the mad dash for Iraq's resources since the 2003 onset of the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq.

WikiLeaks Cables Reveal Ugandan Oil Bid Corruption

ExxonMobil, teaming up with Tullow Oil, as seen through the lens of important Wikileaks State Department diplomatic cables, has also shown great interest in the economic opportunities surrounding oil exploration off of Lake Albert, as well as great concern over governmental corruption in the nascent Ugandan oil industry.

A key December 3, 2009 cable, titled, "Uganda: Corruption Allegations Accompany Arrival Of Major Oil Firms," reads, "Executives from ExxonMobil visited Uganda on November 18-19, and met with Ambassador (Jerry) Lanier (the U.S. ambassador to Uganda), Mission Officers, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), Uganda's Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD), and Tullow (Oil)...ExxonMobil representatives who traveled to Kampala said they were 'very impressed' with...the Ugandan government oil representatives..."

Roughly a month later, yet another important WikiLeaks-provided State Department diplomatic cable was produced on January 13, 2010, titled, "Uganda: Security Report Details Oil Sector Corruption," which discusses the impacts rampant corruption unfolding in the Ugandan oil industry would have on the U.S. if the ExxonMobil deal falls through. 

"A corrupt...agreement would undermine a potential multi-billion dollar deal between ExxonMobil and Tullow, and have serious long-term implications for U.S....in Uganda in terms of...economic development," the cable reads.

The State Department's diplomatic cables make it quite clear that ExxonMobil and its partner, Tullow Oil, were both deeply interested in the Ugandan oil industry, but also gravely concerned about corruption.

Yet, Tullow and ExxonMobil had little to worry about, based on both Prince's ExxonMobil ties during his days at Blackwater USA, as well as a crucial March 2008 meeting between the Salim Saleh-led Ugandan military and high-level Tullow Oil officials, as exposed by Wikileaks.

Tullow's Mercenary Presence Long in the Making at Lake Albert Basin

Tullow, as revealed by State Department diplomatic cables leaked to Wikileaks, has been building up a mercenary army presence in the Lake Albert area for over three years.

A March 2008 State Department diplomatic cable reads, "...Tullow Oil, one of the four exploration companies operating in western Uganda, said that as the oil activity on Lake Albert increased, a security presence would be vital."

The cable also mentions that U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Steven Browning and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Rear Admiral Phillip Greene "met with representatives from Tullow Oil and the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF), as well as local leaders...on March 4." The UPDF is lead by Salim Saleh, who also owns a 25-percent ownership stake in Saracen International, the private mercenary army also owned in part by Erik Prince.

During the meeting it was also "noted that oil exploration and production would raise the profile of the area, which could lead to increased incidences of violence between Ugandan locals and security forces..." and the meeting concluded with a request for "an assessment team...to provide the Ugandan military with an organizational, doctrinal, training, and equipment needs assessment for a future lake security force."

Toss into the ring the ongoing great power politics rivalry between the U.S. and China, and things become even more complex.

Great Power Politics Posturing in the Works?

Though ExxonMobil and Tullow Oil lost out on the corrupt oil bid in late 2009, while exploration has been done, drilling has yet to occur in Uganda. In that vein, 100 U.S. JSOC troops, likely teaming up with Erik Prince, Salim Saleh and Yoweri Museveni-backed mercenaries, have swooped into the Lake Albert area to secure the prize, oil, before its rival does.

The opponent? China.

On October 24, Tullow sold $2.9 billion worth of its shares of oil to France's Total Oil and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), though it has yet to be approved by the Museveni government and requires his approval. 

Throughout all of this, it is vital to bear in mind the bigger picture, which is that the United States and China have been competing against one another in the new "African Scramble" for Africa's valuable oil resources. 

Serge Michel and Michel Beuret, in their 2009 book China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing's Expansion in Africa, write, "China's advances in Africa's oil-rich regions have been viewed with concern bordering on paranoia in the United States....[It] could...deteriorate into a a head-to-head clash between China and the United States, prompting the kind of open conflict that some see as inevitable by 2030."

One has to wonder what will happen with regards to this recent oil deal, knowing the players involved, and seeing the geopolitical and resources maneuvering taking place in the Lake Albert region. 

If the United States and its well-connected guns-for-hire have any say, Tullow Oil, Heritage Oil, ExxonMobil will take home all the royalties, and CNOOC will be sent home packing.

Another Piece of the Puzzle: Senate Bill 1067 of 2009

It appears that since the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, Senate Bill 1067, a bill that called for, among other things, to "apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield...and to disarm and demobilize the remaining Lord's Resistance Army fighters," the United States has Lake Albert targeted in its crosshairs. 

An important provision squeezed into the bill was a section mandating that an official strategy be written up to "disarm and demobilize" the LRA. 

"Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall develop and submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a strategy to guide future United States support across the region," the bill reads. "The strategy shall include...a description of how this engagement will fit within the context of broader efforts and policy objectives in the Great Lakes Region."

The Great Lakes Region includes Lake Albert and "broader efforts and policy objectives" translates into, based on State Department diplomatic cables and public statements made in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the control of precious oil resources in the Albertine Basin. 

Signed into law by Obama in May 2009, it is crucial to put when the bill was written into proper historical context. 

As revealed by State Department diplomatic cables, this was roughly a year after the special meeting between Tullow Oil representatives; U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Steven Browning; and then head of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, Rear Admiral Phillip Greene near Lake Albert. It was also roughly half a year after the launch of AFRICOM.

Some may have been surprised by this latest announcement to invade another country by the Obama administration, but based on recent history, there are no real surprises here. Still, despite evidence that seems to fly in the face of the reason offered by Obama to send troops to Uganda, it is still worth scrutinizing his rationale.

Humanitarian Intervention for Kony?

If there is one thing that is nearly for certain, it is that the Lord's Resistance Army and Joseph Kony, as awful as they are, likely have nothing to do with this most recent U.S. military engagement in Uganda.

In the end, it all comes back to oil, even if top-level U.S. officials maintain that this has "nothing to do with oil."

For one, days before this incursion, it was announced that the "the Obama administration quietly waived restrictions on military aid to Chad, Yemen, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)--four countries with records of actively recruiting child soldiers...Any country even remotely close to the horn of Africa (like these distinguished four) is just too strategically important...So, for the time being, it's still guns for the kids," wrote Mother Jones

One of the rationales Obama gave for sending JSOC troops to Uganda, was that the LRA recruits and uses child soldiers, which, given this recent decision, made for the second consecutive year, is certainly not something high on the list of Obama's concerns.

Furthermore, if human rights were actually the chief concern, why did the United States show interest in Kony only after the discovery of oil in the region? Not only that, but Kony, as many have made clear, is nowhere to be found in Uganda and is on the run or in hiding somewhere outside of the country. 

To top it all off, Yoweri Museveni and his brother, the gun-for-hire Salim Saleh, both have deplorable human rights records, and unlike the LRA, maintain state control over the people of Uganda. An article titled "Uganda's Tyrant," written in 2007 by the Guardian, sums up the human rights situation under Museveni:

"President Museveni's...regime is a constitutional dictatorship, with a rubber stamp parliament, powerless judiciary, censored media and heavily militarised civil institutions...Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International...confirm the harassment of Museveni's political opponents, detention without trial, torture, extrajudicial killings, suppression of protests and homophobic witch-hunts."

Abhorrent as his human rights record may be, the United States sent a $45 million military aid package to the Museveni-lead government in July 2011, which included four drones. 

Do not be surprised if, months from now, ExxonMobil or another U.S. oil industry superpower walks away with drilling rights in the Lake Albert region and CNOOC, the current main possessor of Uganda's Lake Albert oil resources, is sent packing. 

Also don't be surprised if Erik Prince and Salim Saleh lead Saracen International, working alongside JSOC troops, who work closely with the Central Intelligence Agency, are working as "security forces" off of the Albertine oil basin. 

These are not only likely scenarios, but probable ones. Joseph Kony and his LRA allies might be taken down, but the people of Uganda, on the whole, will not benefit from this "humanitarian intervention." 

Things, unfortunately, will probably only worsen for the people of Uganda as time progresses.  

Steve Horn is a researcher and writer for DeSmogBlog. He lives in Madison, WI.
  Read Has Obama Just Kicked Off Another Oil War -- This Time in Africa?
 November 7, 2011  

 “Hey, Obama, we don’t want no climate drama.”

That was one of the rallying cries from the estimated 12,000-person crowd protesting outside the White House against the Keystone XL pipeline yesterday afternoon.

After a series of high-energy speeches from James Hansen, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Mark Ruffalo and many others, demonstrators poured onto Pennsylvania Avenue and created a human chain around the White House, chanting, “two, four, six, eight, stop XL, it’s not too late.”

Christine James of Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts, was one of a dozen protesters interviewed by Climate Progress outside the White House who saw approval of the Keystone pipeline — a 1,700 mile pipeline that would bring environmentally-disastrous crude from Alberta’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries — as a major litmus test for President Obama.

“Those of us who helped to get him elected are here to encourage him to live up to the promises that he made us to clean up the environment and switch us over to cleaner sources of energy. By circling the White House, we’re there to catch him if he falls in doing the right thing. And we’re also there to watch him and make sure he does the right thing,” explained James.

Watch some of our footage from the protest:

The Keystone XL pipeline has become a rallying cry for a broad spectrum of environmental interests — climate, land protection, clean water, and environmental justice. Although the Obama Administration has taken important steps on environmental issues such as crafting rules for mercury emissions, establishing aggressive fuel efficiency standards for heavy and light vehicles, and considering EPA regulation of carbon emissions, the Keystone XL pipeline is seen by environmental groups as “a line in the tar sands.”

Unlike setting standards for emissions — an important, but somewhat mundane process — denying approval of the tar sands pipeline is a much more tangible victory in the fight for climate action. For many environmentalists and progressives who care about climate change, the pipeline is a referendum on Obama, who once boldly proclaimed, “let’s be the generation that frees itself from the tyranny of oil.”

After yesterday’s strong turnout, the President certainly has a lot more pressure in his decision. But the bigger question becomes: If Obama decides to approve the pipeline, will his core group of supporters within the environmental community come back to him in 2012?

BusinessWeek took a stab this morning, predicting that the Obama campaign will retain that support — no matter how reluctant his supporters are — because Republican candidates offer such an extreme alternative on environmental issues. Still, as the report points out, he may have difficulties raising money through environmental groups:

In 2008, the San Francisco-based Sierra Club, a non-profit environmental group with 1.4 million members, mobilized 5,599 volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls for Obama, logging a collective 16,125 campaign shifts.

If Obama approves the pipeline “it will be increasingly difficult for our members to stand behind the president,” said Michael Brune, the club’s executive director.

Wendy Abrams, who raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, said rallying her friends around the president will be tough.

“I probably won’t raise money like I did before because all my friends are going to bark back at me,” she said. “It’s hard to defend his record.”

One respondent to a recent Energy Insiders Poll in National Journal about the pipeline explained that these groups will reluctantly come back to the President: “Environmentalists will not be happy, but they have nowhere else to go, since they scorn Republicans.”

If these musings are all true, what will it take for environmentalism and climate activism to be considered a politically powerful movement that demands respect from elected officials? That depends on whether the movement can flex its political muscle. Certainly, 12,000 people circling the White House in a display of activism not seen since the 1970′s is a major show of force.

In an interview last week, the president explained that “my general attitude is, what is best for the American people? What’s best for our economy both short term and long term? But also, what’s best for the health of the American people?”

Surely, Obama is also asking “what’s good for my campaign?” And if climate and energy activists are serious about backing up their stance on the tar sands pipeline, that factor could weigh just as heavily on the decision.

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.

Jessica Goad is manager of research and outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress

  Read Thousands Circle White House to Protest Keystone XL: Will They Abandon Obama if Pipeline is Approved?
 October 29, 2011  

Editor's Note: View a photo slideshow at the end of this article from National Geographic magazine's new  7 Billion" app for iPad, based on its  year-long series on world population.

Here's some freaky news: According to United Nations, Earth's seventh-billionth person could be born by Halloween, even though "the fire marshal only certified Earth for 6,999,999," according to a recent tweet from "The Daily Show." It's a clever joke hiding a tragicomic dimension of the uncertain achievement: The planet's increasingly inhospitable climate and depleted resources mean we have little room for more humans, especially the 10 billion or more expected to stress the planet's already overweight system by 2100.

"Let's assume the average weight, or mass, of a human is 50 kilograms, or 120 pounds," University of Washington paleontologist and The Flooded Earth author Peter Ward told AlterNet. "That takes into account all the fat men, and all the kids, so it's a ballpark figure. That means 350 billion kilograms, or 770 billion pounds, of humanity on the planet. I wonder if this is the highest mass of any chordate on Earth. Only rats might weigh more of all natural populations."

But even rats have the good sense to abandon a sinking ship. Not so for humanity, whose resource wars have created a hyperreal dragnet that has caught up everything from mass-media distractions like Herman Cain and Mommar Gaddafi to worthy insurgencies like Occupy Wall Street. As those stories, for better or worse, dominated the news cycle, British Petroleum was quietly freed to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after turning it into a marine nightmare since 2010. Exxon Mobil posted a $31 billion profit on the year thanks to billions in groundless government subsidies. American rivers and streams have become hypersaturated with carbon dioxide, and Arctic sea ice has become as thin as the United States is fat in the gut and head. Environmentalists and other concerned parties can be forgiven for not breaking out the bubbly because the planet has managed to spawn seven billion souls with increased life expectancy, thanks to miracles of science and industry. Because in the scariest scenario, that same science and industry could doom most, and perhaps even all, of us.

"Seven billion is not a time for unbridled celebration," cautioned Bill Ryerson, fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute and president of Population Media Center and The Population Institute. "It must be a catalyst for people, leaders and advocates regarding the steps we need to take to achieve sustainability."

Sustainability is key, because even rats can tell you that our expansive, singular planet has more than enough actual room to fit the 10 billion and more that humanity is expected to create over the next few centuries. After all, the definition of overpopulation has less to do with raw numbers of people than their relationship with the planet's sustainable resources. Yet population control remains a controversial topic, for everyone from real-time worriers like the Roman Catholic church and anti-choice Republicans to sci-fi dystopias like Logan's Run and In Time, which topically opened the Friday before Earth was scheduled to reach its seven-billion benchmark.

"The world is much more interconnected now than any time in history," Center for Environment & Population director Vicky Markham told AlterNet. "This is not only because of technology, but also because our per-capita energy, water, land, forest and other natural resource use is linked around the globe. America is particularly important: While we represent just five percent of the global population, we contribute 25 percent of the planet's energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. So our role in global climate change is disproportionately large; so should be our responsibilities for curbing it."

If you drill deeper into that data, you find even more reasons for the global Occupy movement to be pissed at their one-percent overlords. Because it is that infinitesimal but filthy rich minority that funds and defends the polluting corporations, like British Petroleum and Exxon Mobil. Same goes for the enablers in collusive governments, whose trillions in exploits at home and abroad are screwing the billions of us still desperately trying to downsize our nuclear families and carbon footprints, with the exponentially shrinking resources available.

Further, the seven-billion benchmark is less of a warning call for antifeminist population control than it is a passionate plea to empower the women who give birth to Earth's babies with the agency and aid they need to take charge of their lives. On this less glamorous but indispensable front, the science is in: When women are healthy, educated and employed, births and deaths drop. Done deal.

"Slowing population growth would not only help to avert these challenges, but also aligns with women's own wishes," explained UC Berkeley School of Public Health lecturer Martha Campbell, "Globally, there are about 80 million unintended pregnancies each year, and 40 million induced abortions, most conducted in unsafe, painful and dangerous ways. Surveys have shown that over 200 million women do not want to become pregnant, but are not using modern contraception."

Giving women what they need to break our new century's population cycles would save the planet millions of consumers annually. And that could help save us all, although it ironically remains controversial to anachronists crowing about the sanctity of life. Their protestations ring logically hollow: Under the ridiculously deregulated economies of Reagan, Clinton, Bush and now Obama, the ongoing Holocene extinction has proceeded unopposed, permanently ending lives and species of all sorts. If life, and not just human life, is the benchmark, then we've lost the ruler. And we'll wake to that unfurling security nightmare as carbon emissions increase, resources further deplete, and Earth's unsustainable billions aggressively chafe beneath the stratagems of corporatists and politicians.

Freshwater use has already blown past world population. That means the sprawling web of life and consumption dependent upon that water's availability now has even less to share as their numbers increase. Food, energy and other necessary commodities have been thrown into the shark tanks of the speculator predators that already shredded FDR's New Deal down to its carcass, resulting in escalating prices and starvation worldwide.

"When the prices of basic foodstuffs like wheat, corn, rice or cooking oil double or triple as they have in recent years, the urban poor have to tighten their belts," explained Population Institute vice-president Robert Walker. "What happens if, as many project, we see continued volatility in food prices and another doubling or tripling of food prices for basic commodities in the next couple of decades? We could be facing a famine without borders."

And worse. Global warming has unleashed intensified weather events -- and unintended consequences like the Fukushima nuclear meltdown -- that are altering the habitable geography and the planet, and costing its people more money and health than they have on hand. Seven billion people, or more, will not help.

"Emission of carbon dioxide per year is equal to the product of four quantities: population, wealth per person, amount of energy required per year to generate this wealth and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of energy generated," Michael Schlesinger, atmospheric sciences professor and director of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Climate Research Group, told AlterNet. "Although the latter two quantities are projected to decrease during this century, the carbon dioxide emission per year is projected to increase. The cause of this increase is the projected increase in human population from seven billion now, to nine billion in 2050 and perhaps 12 billion in 2100. Reducing this carbon dioxide emission would be greatly enabled by reducing population growth, help safeguard Earth's climate and reduce the level of poverty in the world. A win-win solution."

Schlesinger and colleagues Michael Ring, Daniela Linder and Emily Cross have submitted a plan to the journal Climatic Change to mitigate, reduce and zero out greenhouse-gas emissions by 2065. They are hoping that COP 17, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban this November, takes notice. But their plan, and all of those from similarly concerned scientists around the world, simply cannot be efficiently executed if population growth continues to exponentially replicate. Solutions are everything this late in the game, and there are no solutions if increasing billions whittle the planet's natural bounty and biodiversity down to the bone.

"If we don't reduce our collective resource use, move concretely towards environmentally sustainable practices both in our households and countries, and pay serious attention to global population stabilization, we will have an imbalance," said Ryerson. "We've already crossed the threshold." 

Scott Thill runs the online mag Morphizm.com. His writing has appeared on Salon, XLR8R, All Music Guide, Wired and others.
  Read 7 Billion and Counting: Welcome to a Planet With Population Overload and Resources in Crisis [With Photos From National Geographic]
 October 27, 2011  

There’s the top 1% of wealthy Americans (bankers, oil tycoons, hedge fund managers) and there’s the top 0.01% of wealthy Americans: the military contractor CEOs.

If you’ve been following the War Costs campaign, you already know that these corporations are bad bosses, bad job creators and bad stewards of taxpayer dollars. What you may not know is that the huge amount of money these companies’ CEOs make off of war and your tax dollars places them squarely at the top of the gang of corrupt superrich choking our democracy. These CEOs want you to believe the massive war budget is about security — it’s not. The lobbying they’re doing to keep the war budget intact at the expense of the social safety net is purely about their greed.

In many areas, including yearly CEO salary and in dollars spent corrupting Congress, these companies are far greater offenders than even the big banks like JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America.

Egregious Military Contractor CEO pay

The top 0.01% of earners make at least $9.14 million per year, a rarefied strata of income that includes defense company CEOs and Wall Street bank chieftains alike. But a deeper dive demonstrates how defense companies outpace the big banks’ knack for enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else.

Military Contractor CEO Pay in 2010

Just to put that in context, consider how these annual payoffs compare to the people we’re used to thinking of as poster children for the top 1 percent:

Financial Sector CEO Pay in 2010

Considering how they stack up to financial sector heads, war industry CEOs aren’t just members of the 1%; they’re the super-elite among them, the one-hundredth of a percent.

Lobbying Domination

Disgusted by the overwhelming corporate influence in Congress? Look no further than the big military contractor companies, whose flagship companies spend enough on lobbying to dwarf even financial sector titans.

War Industry Lobbying Expenditures for 2010

Again, just to provide some context, here are the same lobbying totals for some of the most recognized names in the financial sector.

Financial Sector Lobbying in 2010

The war industry gets away with blowing our money on job-killing spending because it can bend Congress to its whim. In the process, the industry is like a vacuum sucking up brain power and engineering resources that could and would establish and grow entirely new wholesome industries. It’s no surprise that Americans confront a 9.1% unemployment rate and an under-employment rate flirting with 20 percent this year.

Want to know where all the money went that could be putting people back to work or keeping U.S. manufacturing industries competitive? The war industry CEOs dumped lobbying cash on Congress and diverted all that wealth to their private bank accounts.

Striking a blow for democracy

The war contractors’ iron grip on the wealth and politics of our country has caught the attention of our friends at Occupy Wall Street, who are targeting war profiteers in its draft list of demands with a call to bring home “all military personnel at all non-essential bases” and to end the “Military Industrial Complex’s goal of perpetual war for profit.”

We’re allies of the Occupy movement, which swells from the 99%’s disgust and dysfunction with our system. A democracy for and of the people that favors the 0.01% at the expense of the 99.99% of us is no democracy at all.

We here at Brave New Foundation and the War Costs campaign have been inspired by the incredible work of the Occupy movement, so we created our latest video to help push this critical piece of their message: war for profit has to end. We’re asking viewers to share our video with their local Occupy groups and organize a guerrilla screening at an Occupy protest in your city.

The Occupy protests have a lot to teach us, and the leaderless movement is at minimum an indictment of our political system. They’ve stopped whispering, and we’ve all started shouting.

Occupy your city and show this video to your community.

  Read Meet the 0.01 Percent: War Profiteers

America's politicians, it seems, have had their fill of democracy. Across the country, police, acting under orders from local officials, are breaking up protest encampments set up by supporters of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement - sometimes with shocking and utterly gratuitous violence.

In the worst incident so far, hundreds of police, dressed in riot gear, surrounded Occupy Oakland's encampment and fired rubber bullets (which can be fatal), flash grenades and tear-gas canisters - with some officers taking aim directly at demonstrators. The Occupy Oakland Twitter feed read like a report from Cairo's Tahrir Square: "they are surrounding us"; "hundreds and hundreds of police"; "there are armoured vehicles and Hummers". There were 170 arrests.

My own recent arrest, while obeying the terms of a permit and standing peacefully on a street in lower Manhattan, brought the reality of this crackdown close to home. America is waking up to what was built while it slept: Private companies have hired away its police (JPMorgan Chase gave $4.6m to the New York City Police Foundation); the federal Department of Homeland Security has given small municipal police forces military-grade weapons systems; citizens' rights to freedom of speech and assembly have been stealthily undermined by opaque permit requirements.

Suddenly, the United States looks like the rest of the furious, protesting, not-completely-free world. Indeed, most commentators have not fully grasped that a world war is occurring. But it is unlike any previous war in human history: for the first time, people around the world are not identifying and organising themselves along national or religious lines, but rather in terms of a global consciousness and demands for a peaceful life, a sustainable future, economic justice and basic democracy. Their enemy is a global "corporatocracy" that has purchased governments and legislatures, created its own armed enforcers, engaged in systemic economic fraud, and plundered treasuries and ecosystems.

Around the world, peaceful protesters are being demonised for being disruptive. But democracy is disruptive. Martin Luther King, Jr argued that peaceful disruption of "business as usual" is healthy, because it exposes buried injustice, which can then be addressed. Protesters ideally should dedicate themselves to disciplined, nonviolent disruption in this spirit - especially disruption of traffic. This serves to keep provocateurs at bay, while highlighting the unjust militarisation of the police response.

Moreover, protest movements do not succeed in hours or days; they typically involve sitting down or "occupying" areas for the long hauls. That is one reason why protesters should raise their own money and hire their own lawyers. The corporatocracy is terrified that citizens will reclaim the rule of law. In every country, protesters should field an army of attorneys.

Protesters should also make their own media, rather than relying on mainstream outlets to cover them. They should blog, tweet, write editorials and press releases, as well as log and document cases of police abuse (and the abusers).

There are, unfortunately, many documented cases of violent provocateurs infiltrating demonstrations in places like Toronto, Pittsburgh, London and Athens - people whom one Greek described to me as "known unknowns". Provocateurs, too, need to be photographed and logged, which is why it is important not to cover one's face while protesting.

Protesters in democracies should create email lists locally, combine the lists nationally and start registering voters. They should tell their representatives how many voters they have registered in each district - and they should organise to oust politicians who are brutal or repressive. And they should support those - as in Albany, New York, for instance, where police and the local prosecutor refused to crack down on protesters - who respect the rights to free speech and assembly.

Many protesters insist in remaining leaderless, which is a mistake. A leader does not have to sit atop a hierarchy: A leader can be a simple representative. Protesters should elect representatives for a finite "term", just like in any democracy, and train them to talk to the press and to negotiate with politicians.

Protests should model the kind of civil society that their participants want to create. In lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, for example, there is a library and a kitchen; food is donated; kids are invited to sleep over; and teach-ins are organised. Musicians should bring instruments, and the atmosphere should be joyful and positive. Protesters should clean up after themselves. The idea is to build a new city within the corrupt city, and to show that it reflects the majority of society, not a marginal, destructive fringe.

After all, what is most profound about these protest movements is not their demands, but rather the nascent infrastructure of a common humanity. For decades, citizens have been told to keep their heads down - whether in a consumerist fantasy world or in poverty and drudgery - and leave leadership to the elites. Protest is transformative precisely because people emerge, encounter one another face-to-face, and, in re-learning the habits of freedom, build new institutions, relationships and organisations.

None of that cannot happen in an atmosphere of political and police violence against peaceful democratic protesters. As Bertolt Brecht famously asked, following the East German Communists' brutal crackdown on protesting workers in June 1953, "Would it not be easier ... for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?" Across the United States, and in too many other countries, supposedly democratic leaders seem to be taking Brecht's ironic question all too seriously. 

A version of this article previously appeared Project Syndicate.

Naomi Wolf is a political activist and social critic whose most recent book is Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries.
  Read We May Be Witnessing the First Large Global Conflict Where People Are Aligned by Consciousness and Not Nation State or Religion
 October 18, 2011  

The Libyan town of Sirte has been all but destroyed and its inhabitants turned into homeless refugees. This situation has gone largely unreported, but those press reports that have emerged paint a picture of a city being reduced to ruins by attacks of the National Transitional Council (NTC) “rebels” and NATO bombing raids against which it has no defense.

“After weeks of intense fighting, Moammar Gaddafi’s home town appeared Saturday to have been largely destroyed, with most of its population fled and holes the size of manhole covers blown in apartment buildings and the ousted leader’s showcase convention center,” writes the Washington Post of Muammar Gaddafi’s coastal hometown of around 100,000 residents.

Once considered to be a showpiece of urban development in Libya, Sirte has been the target of NATO bombing and NTC attacks since shortly after the fall of Tripoli in late August. In the last ten days, it has been the object of an intensified offensive. The Post states that “the damage wreaked in Sirte raises the question of whether its residents will go quietly into the post-Gaddafi future—or retain a smouldering anger that could fuel an insurgency.”

The Telegraph in Britain, which backs Gaddafi’s ouster, nevertheless comments that Sirte, which once had “a brilliant panoply of university and hospitals, with a glittering seafront and a marble-lined conference centre to host leaders from around the world,” is now “a squalid ruin.”

“Rebel fighters gazing at the devastation concede it is difficult to see how much of it could ever be repaired and made habitable again,” it notes. “The shattered remains of housing blocks and the wreckage of once comfortable homes…are more reminiscent of the grimmest scenes from Grozny, towards the end of Russia’s bloody Chechen war, than of anything seen in Libya so far. And the area around the grid of streets where anything between 200 and 500 loyalists are still holding out have become a killing ground, with loyalists, civilians and forces of the new Libyan government dying by the day.”

Former residents who have returned “found almost every house and building either damaged by a rocket or mortar, burned out or riddled with bullets. Water floods the streets and the city’s infrastructure is in tatters,” writes Reuters.

These events shatter the pretences on which the NATO war against Libya was launched—i.e. claims that the possibility that Gaddafi might carry out mass reprisals against protesters justified a NATO intervention to disarm him. Far from planning reprisals against defenceless protesters, the Libyan army soon faced a war in which they were outclassed by NATO forces intervening to support the “rebels.” Reports from Sirte now suggest that the NTC forces are now carrying out collective punishment in the city.

Reuters comments: “the ferociousness of the bombardment of Sirte and the burning of homes that belong to Gaddafi family members and supporters has raised suspicions that some fighters loyal to the NTC are looking for reprisals.” It cited residents returning to Sirte and accusing NTC fighters “of demolishing and looting homes, shops and public buildings.”

“They envy and hate us because Muammar is from here. But we are just civilians. The revolutionaries are coming here for revenge and destruction,” said a Sirte resident.

Another resident, Abu Anas, states: “What’s happening in Sirte is revenge, not liberation. When someone comes and takes your personal car and destroys your home, this is not liberation.”

NTC forces “clearly feel no need for restraint in bombarding the Gaddafi loyalists. That’s especially true of the many fighters from Misrata, a city to the west scarred by a bloody siege by Gaddafi’s troops in the spring,” the Post comments.

Numerous reports indicate that the NTC forces are looting the town. “Orders from the National Transitional Council to outlaw looting have done nothing to deter the rebel stragglers gutting abandoned buildings,” the Telegraph states.

Reuters reporters saw NTC fighters “roaming the streets of Sirte with chairs, tyres and computers on the backs of their pickup trucks. Brand new BMW and Toyota cars were seen being driven away by the fighters and being towed outside of the city.”

Associated Press reporters “also saw trucks carrying equipment from Sirte’s airport, including red-carpeted mobile staircases, baggage carts, airplane towing vehicles and security screening equipment, all apparently meant for Misrata’s badly damaged airport. Smaller pickups were loaded with rugs, freezers, refrigerators, furniture and other household goods, apparently taken by civilians and fighters to be used in their homes or resold.”

Tens of thousands of residents have fled the city. However, Gabriele Rossi, the emergency coordinator in Sirte for the Doctors without Borders charity organisation, told the Washington Post that doctors fear thousands of civilians may be trapped in the areas of the city still being contested: “We are extremely concerned for those people that are inside [Sirte] and cannot get access to health care.”

A doctor for Doctors without Borders in Sirte has estimated that 10,000 people remain trapped in the city, including women and children, some sick or injured.

According to CNN, Doctors without Borders personnel working at the Ibn Sina hospital are still dealing with 50 patients yet to be evacuated. They are “mostly people who have suffered violent trauma, severe burns and fractures, according to MSF. Almost all patients need daily dressing and immediate medical care. There are also some pregnant women in the hospital.

“There is no water supply in the hospital and one of four operating theatres has been shelled,” the charity said. “The medical staff has been working around the clock and are showing signs of exhaustion and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The total number of dead and injured in the onslaught cannot be determined. Information is scanter still regarding Bani Walid, also under NTC/NATO siege for weeks, which the NTC now claims to have captured.

The destruction of Sirte is a fitting testament to the true character of NATO’s “humanitarian intervention” into Libya. Begun with claims that military bombardment would save Benghazi, the illegal war of aggression has instead laid waste to large swaths of the country.

As for reconstruction, there are already indications that the imperialist powers intend to use the funds they have earmarked for Libya for further fighting, not rebuilding the devastated country.

Reuters reported this week that the emergency “relief fund” set up in a Qatari account to circumvent sanctions—now worth over half a billion US dollars—will no longer be available “for providing emergency cash” and will be used “to invest in long-term projects… Thousands of Libyans fleeing fighting in the besieged cities of Sirte and Bani Walid are straining the resources of struggling nearby towns, but the emergency relief fund set up by foreign donors says it is no longer its job to help.”

In reality, only $130 million of the $500 million Temporary Financing Mechanism has been released and this has covered fuel, hospital bills and salaries.

Local authorities “say they have only received a fraction of the money they need to cope with the flood of families escaping the fighting” in Sirte and Bani Walid. “In Tripoli, officials said the capital’s resources were also being tested by the arrival of thousands of internally displaced people and more money was needed to provide services in the capital.”

A local official said Tripoli has only actually received a paltry 15 million dinars, or $12.2 million.

“Most of Libya’s estimated $170 billion in frozen assets are still out of reach, and despite pledges by global powers to make money available, just one third of a promised $15 billion has been unfrozen,” the report concludes.

Yesterday UK Foreign Secretary William Hague was in Tripoli to reopen Britain’s embassy, which was looted and torched in May in angry response to NATO’s air strikes. He marked this “watershed” moment with a promise of a paltry £20 million pounds ($32 million) for Libya’s stabilisation fund, another £20 million to support “political and economic reform,” and health care in the UK for at most 50 Libyans injured in the war.

  Read Sirte Destroyed By NTC-NATO Offensive In Libya
 October 20, 2011  
The Keystone XL Pipeline: Will Humanity's Survival Interests Prevail?
by Dr. Peter Custers , Countercurrents.org
The stakes for oil corporations involved in the project are large, very large. But so are the stakes for environmental activists fighting the threat of climate change. In August last, well over a thousand people courted arrest in front of the White House in Washington D.C. The target of their anger is a huge project for construction of an oil pipeline called Keystone XL. The new pipeline, if materialized, will run from the province of Alberta in Canada throughout the entire length of the United States, and all the way up to oil refineries located in Texas, along the southern coast of the US. Extra large, XL, the pipeline surely will be – 1700 miles in length, as compared with the existing Keystone pipeline which is 1200 miles long. Furthermore, the construction project does not stand alone, but is part and parcel of a scheme aimed at expanding the extraction of bitumen, - an unconventional type of oil produced from tar sands. Already, Canada is the country where the very largest amount of bitumen is extracted worldwide, much of it being exported to Canada’s neighbor, the US. But in case US President Obama gives the green light and Keystone XL be built, the extraction of bitumen is expected to double – from roughly 900 thousand barrels to 1.8 million barrels per day! Hence, the lobby of Canadian and international oil corporations seeking to profit from expanded extraction of tar sands oil is intense.

Yet since the end of last year the Keystone scheme has become the source of a major public controversy in the US. To understand why, it is necessary to briefly look at the nature of bitumen extraction. This unconventional oil is basically mined in two different ways. In surface mining, trees and plant cover are stripped away from the top-layers of the soil so as to expose bitumen located beneath. Here there is massive digging: two tons of bitumen-rich material need to be collected to obtain one single barrel of oil. Hence, the open pit mining results in huge, gaping holes in the earth scarring Canada’s landscape. But the main method used to reach bitumen is called in-situ mining, where high-pressure steam is injected into layers of bitumen-rich soil below the surface, to separate the oil from the sands and make sure it can be piped to the surface. Here, water needs to be heated in order to produce the steam, which in turn requires huge quantities of energy. Both methods of mining reportedly require large quantities of water, - from 3 to 7 barrels of water per 1 barrel of oil! Much of the polluted water ends up in lake-size tailing ponds. And this is only one of the environmentally destructive consequences of bitumen extraction. For the given mining also results in destruction of huge chunks of boreal forests, in ‘perennial’ losses of biodiversity and in oil spills, as the bitumen is transported towards US refineries. One of the spills US opponents of the Keystone XL project have referred to, is an oil spill caused by the existing Keystone pipeline, which has led to pollution of a vast stretch of the Kalamazoo river.

These environmental implications of bitumen extraction and transportation can in no way be belittled. Yet there is one implication of the scheme that is truly global in kind, threatening the bare survival of humanity. Already, worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases in 2010 have reached record levels. Against this backdrop, the danger that Canadian and US emissions of green house gases will increase due to expanded extraction of bitumen, concerns humanity as a whole. And the impact on emissions to all accounts will be dramatically negative. Surely, quantitative assessments vary, but they all point in the same direction. According to a peer-reviewed study of Canada’s Environmental Ministry released in August, Canadian emissions of greenhouse gases are set to increase, perhaps even double between 2005 and 2020, if oil sand extraction be expanded. Again, the Agency for Environmental Protection, EPA, a US governmental institution, has calculated that CO2 emissions from extraction and up to the sale of tar sands oil at gasoline stations, are 82 percent higher for tar sand oil than for conventional crude. Calculations put forward by independent critics of the pipeline project are even higher. The Polaris Institute, a Canadian research centre, for instance cites data indicating emissions in the case of bitumen extraction are three to four times the normal rate (!). Figures on emissions put forward by the International Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) too indicate that any extraction of tar sands oil is prohibitive. Hence, opponents of the Keystone XL project believe that all attempts aimed at preventing accelerated climate change will be undermined, if the Canadian and US government fail to scrap the pipeline project.

Yet if Keystone XL is an insane project when discussed from the perspective of humanity’s survival – how to explain the adamant attitude of the oil corporations? Is this simply a question of corporate greed, and the desire to reap extraordinary profits? The answer seems less definite at first. For profitability of tar sands extraction for a long time was not assured. Mining bitumen is expensive, - it can only be assured if the market price of crude oil stays at a high level, - such as the plus 90 Dollar level prevailing at the moment. Hence, to clarify the behavior of oil corporations seeking to extract bitumen, one needs to refer to the historical peak oil production has reached: the fact that oil extraction from conventional sources in 2006 reached an all time high, as the International Energy Agency (IEA), the institution defending the interests of Western oil consumers, has admitted late last year. Since the present high market price of crude is not caused by conjunctural factors, but is the outcome of the depletion of conventional sources, - extraction of crude from tar sands has become very profitable, and more assuredly so than ever in the past. One therefore understands the pressure that is building up on policymakers. They are asked to scrap their climate change agenda, - and prioritize a corporate agenda which to all accounts is threatening for humanity and other species on earth.

Rests to discuss the outcome of the ongoing controversy over the Keystone XL project. Here, it is important to note that opposition to the project does not just come from climate change- and environmental activists. Their opposition is crucial: in December 2010 a campaign against tar sands oil extraction was launched which is being supported by the entire range of US environmental organizations. But there is more. In June, 2010, 50 members of the US Congress spoke out against construction of the pipeline. Further, the chairperson of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Henry Waxman has urged the US State Department, which bears responsibility because the planned pipeline is cross-border, to block the project. So far the State Department has only drafted environmental assessments of the scheme deemed scandalous. Meanwhile, President Obama has been sitting on the fence, instead of rejecting the scheme outright. In fact, his pronunciations on tar sand extraction made during his visit to Canada in 2009 indicate that he is bending over towards the oil lobby and might well bury the pledges to fight climate change he made when canvassing for the US Presidency. The climate dangers heralding from tar sand oil extraction are twofold: a massive loss of Canadian boreal forests which presently act as a reserve of CO2; plus dramatically increased emissions of greenhouse gases. Hence, if the project be approved, Canada will surely default on the obligations it undertook under the Kyoto Protocol. And any commitments Obama has made will become meaningless. Shouldn’t the world’s most vulnerable countries jointly grill the two, i.e. the American and Canadian governments, when the next World Climate Conference is held in November?

  Read The Keystone XL Pipeline: Will Humanity's Survival Interests Prevail?
  October 21, 2011  
The Energy Trap
by Tom Murphy , Countercurrents.org

Many Do the Math posts have touched on the inevitable cessation of growth and on the challenge we will face in developing a replacement energy infrastructure once our fossil fuel inheritance is spent. The focus has been on long-term physical constraints, and not on the messy details of our response in the short-term. But our reaction to a diminishing flow of fossil fuel energy in the short-term will determine whether we transition to a sustainable but technological existence or allow ourselves to collapse. One stumbling block in particular has me worried. I call it The Energy Trap.

In brief, the idea is that once we enter a decline phase in fossil fuel availability—first in petroleum—our growth-based economic system will struggle to cope with a contraction of its very lifeblood. Fuel prices will skyrocket, some individuals and exporting nations will react by hoarding, and energy scarcity will quickly become the new norm. The invisible hand of the market will slap us silly demanding a new energy infrastructure based on non-fossil solutions. But here’s the rub. The construction of that shiny new infrastructure requires not just money, but…energy. And that’s the very commodity in short supply. Will we really be willing to sacrifice additional energy in the short term—effectively steepening the decline—for a long-term energy plan? It’s a trap!

When I first encountered the concept of peak oil, I was most distressed about the economic implications. In part, this was prompted by David Goodstein’s book Out of Gas, which highlighted the potential for global panic in reaction to peak oil—making the gas lines associated with the temporary oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 look like warm-up acts. Because I knew Professor Goodstein personally, and held him in high regard as a solid physicist, I took his message seriously. Extrapolating his vision of a global reaction to peak oil, I imagined that the prospect of a decades-long decline in available energy—while we strained to institute a replacement infrastructure—would destroy confidence in short-term economic growth, thus destroying investment and crashing markets. The market relies on investor confidence—which, in some sense, makes it a con job, since “con” is short for confidence. If that confidence is shattered on a global scale, what happens next?

I still consider economic panic to be a distinctly possible eventuality, but psychology can be hard to predict. Market optimists would see the tremendous investment potential of a new energy infrastructure as an antidote against such an outbreak. Given this uncertainty, let’s shy away from economic prognostication and look at a purely physical dimension to the problem—namely, the Energy Trap.

Energy Return on Energy Invested

Our goal will be to quantitatively assess the Energy Trap, and see if there is any substance to the idea. We will rely on a concept that has acquired a central role in evaluating our energy future. This is energy return on energy invested, or EROEI.

In order to utilize energy, we must exert some energy to secure the source and prepare it for use. In order to burn wood in our fireplace, we (or someone) must chop down a tree, cut it into logs, and split the large logs. To drive our gasoline-powered car, we must expend energy finding the oil, drilling and possibly pumping the oil, then refining and distributing the gasoline. To collect solar energy, we must invest energy to fabricate the solar panels and associated electronics. The result is expressed as a ratio of energy-out:energy-in. Anything less than the break-even ratio of 1:1 means that the source provides no net energy (a drain, in fact), and is not worth pursuing for energy purposes—unless the form/convenience of that specific energy is otherwise unavailable.

In its early days, oil frequently yielded an EROEI in excess of 100:1, meaning that 1% or less of the energy contained in a barrel of oil had to be expended to deliver that barrel of oil. Not a bad bargain. Domestic oil in the U.S. today more typically has an EROEI around 25:1, while tar sands and oil shale tend to be about 5:1 and 3:1, respectively. By contrast, it is debatable whether corn ethanol exceeds break-even: it may optimistically be as high as 1.4:1. Switching from conventional oil to corn ethanol would be like switching from a diet of bacon, eggs, and butter to a desperate survival diet of shoe leather and tree bark. Other approaches to biofuels, like sugar cane ethanol, can have EROEI as high as 8:1.

To round out the introduction, coal typically has an EROEI around 50–85:1, and natural gas tends to come in around 20–40:1, though falling below the lower end of this range as the easy fields are depleted. Meanwhile, solar photovoltaics are estimated to require 3–4 years’ worth of energy output to fabricate, including the frames and associated electronics systems. Assuming a 30–40 year lifetime, this translates into an EROEI around 10:1. Wind is estimated to have EROEI around 20:1, and new nuclear installations are expected to come in at approximately 15:1. These are all positive net-energy approaches, which is the good news.

The Inevitable Fossil Fuel Decline

Let’s explore what happens as we try to compensate for an energy decline with an alternative resource having modest EROEI. On the upslope of our fossil fuel bonanza, we saw a characteristic annual growth rate of around 3% per year. The asymmetric Seneca Effect notwithstanding, a logistic evolution of the resource would result in a symmetric rate of contraction on the downslope: 3% per year. I borrow a graphic from the post on the meaning of “sustainable” to illustrate the rationale for expecting an era of decline for a one-time finite resource.

On the long view, the fossil fuel age is a blip, with a down side mirroring the (more fun) up side.

We could use any number for the decline rate in our analysis, but I’ll actually soften the effect to a 2% annual decline to illustrate that we run into problems even at a modest rate of decline. By itself, a 2% decline year after year—while sounding mild—would send our growth-based economy into a tailspin. As detailed in a previous post, across-the-board efficiency improvements cannot tread water against a rate as high as 2% per year. As we’ll see next, the Energy Trap just makes things worse.

Arresting the Decline: Take 1

Let’s say that our nation (or world) uses 100 units of fossil fuel energy one year, and expects to get only 98 units the following year. We need to come up with 2 units of replacement energy within a year’s time to fill the gap. If, for example, the replacement:

>> has an EROEI of 10:1;

>> requires most of the energy investment up front (solar panel or wind urbine manufacture, nuclear plant construction, etc.);

>> and will last 40 years,

then we need an up-front energy investment amounting to 4 year’s worth of the new source’s output energy. Since we require an output of 2 units of energy to fill the gap, we will need 8 units of energy to bring the resource into use.

Of the 100 units of total energy resource in place in year one, only 92 are available for use—looking suddenly like an 8% decline. If we sit on our hands and do not launch a replacement infrastructure, we would have 98 units available for use next year. It’s still a decline, but a 2% decline is more palatable than an effective 8% decline. Since each subsequent year expects a similar fossil fuel decline, the game repeats. Where is the incentive to launch a new infrastructure? This is why I call it a trap. We need to exacerbate the sacrifice for a prolonged period in order to come out on top in the end.

The figure above shows what this looks like graphically, given a linear fossil fuel decline of 2 units per year. The deployment steps up immediately to plug the gap by providing an additional 2 units of replacement each year, at an annual cost of 8 units. While the combination of fossil fuels and replacement resource always adds to 100 units in this scheme, the ongoing up-front cost of new infrastructure produces a constant drain on the system. In terms of accumulated energy lost, it takes 7 years before the energy sacrifice associated with replacement starts to be less than that of just following the fossil fuel slide with no attempt at replacement. This timescale is beyond the typical horizon of elected politicians.

Another aspect of the trap is that we cannot build our way out of the problem. If we tried to outsmart the trap by building an 8-unit replacement in year one, it would require 32 units to produce and only dig a deeper hole. The essential point is that up-front infrastructure energy costs mean that one step forward results in four steps back, given EROEI around 10:1 and up-front investment for a 40 year lifetime. Nature does not provide an energy financing scheme. You can’t build a windmill on promised energy.

We can mess with the numbers to get different results. If only half the total energy invested is up-front, and the rest is distributed across the life of the resource (mining and enriching uranium, for instance), then we take a 4% hit instead of 8%. Likewise, a 40-year windmill at 20:1 EROEI and full up-front investment will require 2 years of its 2-unit gap-filling contribution to install, amounting to an energy cost of 4 units and therefore a 4% hit. It’s still bigger than the do-nothing 2%, which, remember, is already a source of pain. Anyone want to double the pain? Anyone? Elect me, and that’s what we’ll do. Any takers? No? Wimps.
Ramp It Up!

It is unrealistic to imagine that we could jump into a full-scale infrastructure replacement in one year. To set the scale, the U.S. uses about 3 TW of continuous power. A 1% drop corresponds to 30 GW of power. Our modest 2% replacement therefore would require the construction of about 60 new 1 GW power plants in a single year, or a rate of one per week! Worldwide, we quadruple this number.

What capability have we demonstrated in the past? In 2010, global production of solar photovoltaics was 15 GW, which is only about 6% of what we would need to fill a world-wide energy gap of 2% per year. Even on a tear of 50% increase per year, it would take 7 years to get to the required rate. Wind installations in 2010 totaled 37 GW, or 14% of the 2% global requirement. It would take 5 years at a breakneck 50% per year rate of increase to get there. When France decided to go big on nuclear, they built 56 reactors in 15 years. In doing so, they replaced 80% of their electricity consumption, which translates to about 30% of their total energy use. So this puts them at about 2% per year in energy replacement.

I am being cavalier about comparing the thermal energy in fossil fuels to electricity delivered (factor of 3 in heat engine), but I more-than-compensate by not incorporating the large intermittency factor for wind and solar (factor of 4–5). For nuclear, expressing the replacement in terms of displaced fossil fuel makes for fair play. But in the end, this point only addresses realistic rates of infrastructure addition, and does not bear on the general Energy Trap phenomenon.
Arresting the Decline: Take 2

Let’s imagine a more realistic trajectory for the replacement effort. In our scenario, the world faces a huge crisis, so we could perhaps outperform France’s impressive nuclear push and ultimately replace energy infrastructure at a rate of 4% per year. But it takes time to get there. If it takes 10 years to ramp up to full speed, we have the situation seen in the following graph.

The energy investment still forces us to steepen the decline, initially looking like a 3.2% rather than a 2% decline. But it’s not as jarring as a sudden 8% drop. On the other hand, we fall farther before pulling out, bottoming out at >14% total drop around years 8–9. It takes more than 10 years to make out better than the do-nothing approach in terms of net energy loss. A table corresponding to the plot appears below for those interested in poring over the numbers to figure out how this game is played.

Note that anywhere along the path, a cessation of the replacement effort will bring instant relief. For example, at the beginning of year 6, having installed 6 units of replacement energy up to that point, abandoning the effort will see 88 units of fossil fuel plus the 6 units of replacement for a total of 94 units. This would be a considerable step up from the previous year’s 88 units of available energy, and an even larger apparent gain over the 86.8 units that would be available under a continuation of the crash program. Likewise, if one stopped the program at the end of ten years, the installed 22 units of replacement would complement the eleventh-year fossil fuel amount of 78 units to bring us back to a peachy 100 units—like nothing had ever happened, and far better than the 88 units that we would otherwise endure under a continuation of the program. But stopping renews the dangerous decline. The point is that there will always be a strong temptation to end the short-term pain for immediate relief.

General Behaviors

As mentioned before, the Energy Trap is a generic consequence of modest-EROEI sources requiring substantial up-front investment in energy. We would need the EROEI to be equal to the resource lifetime in order to have a null effect during the decline years, or better than this to ease the pain or allow growth. For a 40 year lifetime (e.g., power plant, solar panels, wind turbines), this means we would need 40:1 EROEI or better to avoid the trap. Our alternatives simply don’t measure up. Curses!

For resources that do not require substantial up-front cost in the form of infrastructure, the trap does not apply. Fossil fuels tend to be of this sort. The energy required to deliver a barrel of oil or a ton of coal tends to be specific to the delivered unit, and is not dominated by up-front cost. It is similar for tar sands, which requires substantial energy to heat and process the sludge. Even at 5:1 EROEI, filling a 2-unit gap can be achieved by producing 2.5 units of output while losing 0.5 units to investment. Thus it is possible to maintain a steady energy supply. The fact that fossil fuels don’t trap us encourages us to stick with them. But being a finite resource, their attractiveness is the sound of the Siren, luring us to stay on the sinking ship. Or did the Sirens lure sailors from ships? Either way, fossil fuels are already compatible with our transportation fleet, strengthening the death-grip.

Conversely, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind, and nuclear, are all ways to make electricity, but these do not help us very much as a direct replacement of the first-to-fail fossil fuel: oil. This is a very serious point. As Bob Hirsch pointed out in the 2005 report commissioned by the Department of Energy, we face a liquid fuels problem in peak oil. As such, not one of the five immediately actionable crash-program mitigation strategies outlined in the report represented a departure from finite fossil fuels. The grip is tight, indeed.

We must therefore compound the Energy Trap problem if we want to replace oil with any of the renewable sources listed above, because we need to add the energy investment associated with manufacturing a new fleet of electric vehicles of one form or another (plug-in hybrid qualifies). This can’t happen overnight, and will result in a prolonged transportation energy shortfall even greater in magnitude than depicted above.

Do We Have What it Takes?

Many of us have great hopes for our energy future that involve a transition to a gleaming renewable energy infrastructure, but we need to realize that we face a serious bottleneck in its implementation. The up-front energy investment in renewable energy infrastructures has not been visible as a hurdle thus far, as we have had surplus energy to invest (and smartly, at that; if only we had started in earnest earlier!). Against a backdrop of energy decline—which I feel will be the only motivator strong enough to make us serious about a replacement path—we may find ourselves paralyzed by the Trap.

In the parallel world of economics, an energy decline likely spells deep recession. The substantial financial investment needed to carry out an energy replacement crash program will be hard to scrape together in tough times, especially given that we are unlikely to converge on the “right” solution into which we sink our bucks.

Politically, the Energy Trap is a killer. In my lifetime, I have not witnessed in our political system the adult behavior that would be needed to buckle down for a long-term goal involving short-term sacrifice. Or at least any brief bouts of such maturity have not been politically rewarded. I’m not blaming the politicians. We all scream for ice cream. Politicians simply cater to our demands. We tend to vote for the candidate who promises a bigger, better tomorrow—even if such a path is untenable.

The only way out of the political trap is for a substantial fraction of our population to understand the dimensions of the problem: to understand that we’ve been spoiled by the surplus energy available through fossil fuels, and that we will have to make decade-level sacrifices to put ourselves on a new track. The only way to accomplish this is through sober education, which is what Do the Math is all about. It’s a trap! Spread the word!

Tom Murphy is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. An amateur astronomer in high school, physics major at Georgia Tech, and PhD student in physics at Caltech, Murphy has spent decades reveling in the study of astrophysics. He currently leads a project to test General Relativity by bouncing laser pulses off of the reflectors left on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts, achieving one-millimeter range precision. Murphy’s keen interest in energy topics began with his teaching a course on energy and the environment for non-science majors at UCSD. Motivated by the unprecedented challenges we face, he has applied his instrumentation skills to exploring alternative energy and associated measurement schemes. Following his natural instincts to educate, Murphy is eager to get people thinking about the quantitatively convincing case that our pursuit of an ever-bigger scale of life faces gigantic challenges and carries significant risks.

  Read The Energy Trap
 October 21, 2011  

Hitler’s corporatist regime made the Big Lie popular, but it has been used by every regime of the human culture called “civilization” since it began eight thousand years ago. After several million years of success the human species became entrapped in the mental confines of the Culture of Empire. That culture, characterized by agriculture, emperors, militarism and male dominance holds the image that members of the empire will materially gain from what the elite describe as the best human society yet. The idea of “progress” is embedded in the idea of Empire. This idea of “progress” is, in recent centuries, technological and material progression that the elite control, to the exclusion of progress in how humans treat each other, progress in world peace, progress in offering opportunities for each individual to fully develop their personal talents, and progress in feeding the world’s hungry.

“ Civilization” Itself is the Big Lie

Years ago the Nazis took a handful of prisoners and dressed them in German uniforms and shot them on the Polish border. They put out the Big Lie that Poland did it, then they invaded Poland. We’ve seen this type of Big Lie over and over and over again through the years. How does the Big Lie work? Quite simply the lie must be so big, so huge, that no one could believe that it could be a lie. (911) (Libya invaded for humanitarian reasons).

The Big Lie succeeds because of our subconscious conditioning by the culture of empire. The elite continue to tell us that we all live in a happy society where we all work together to build us all up. Then someone explains to us what fractional banking actually is. Who would believe that when one puts their $10 in a bank, the banker turns around and loans out $100 and then the borrower has to pay back the $100, $90 of which was created out of thin air – plus interest! While the banker in his business suit does nothing but sit there on his fat ass! Our culturally conditioned subconscious simply rebels at the thought. “No, no, how could that be? Naw, they couldn’t get away with something like that.” It is possible to explain to the intellect how this works, but this seldom comes down to the level of subconscious belief. The intellect might say so but the subconscious after a lifetime of conditioning says that our trusted leaders would not do such a grandiose thing.

The Biggest Lie Is That “Civilization” is Good for You

The Culture of Empire is based on the extortion of the fertility of the earth. Half of China was once a great forest. After centuries of Empire the soils are so exhausted that the only way food can be raised in the poor soil is by adding their own excrement. Beginning with the Sumerian and Babylonian empires, the deforestation and eco abuse of their land is so great that the erosion material carried by the Tigris-Euphrates river has extended it’s mouth into the Gulf, one hundred and eighty-five miles. One third of the possibly arable land of Iraq cannot now be used because of soil salinization caused by Babylonian irrigation. Only one tenth of the world’s forest remain since the beginning of the Culture of Empire. Ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean are gone. Millions of acres of soil have been exhausted. The emperor compels the “sacred growth” of Empire. Conquering people and adding them to the Empire is “progress” for the patriarch. “Surplus” (aka profits) from the soil, the forest and the sea are what drives the Empire until there is no more. The Culture of Empire has its basis in the looting of the earth.

The Culture of Empire Is Already Dead

It’s called overshoot. The “progress” of Empires is to grow right along with their more and more efficient looting of the earth’s fertility. At the point that we are right now, we find that the multi-billion human population is in the process of falling over the cliff after the Culture of Empire has eaten up everything. The limits of arable land on the planet has now been reached and now we discover that millions of acres of industrial agricultural soils are actually exhausted but continue to produce based on the fossil fuel trade-offs of fossil fuel based fertilizers, agricultural poisons (pesticides), fuel for tractors and the whole mass of that system. Now we learn about Peak Oil and the end of that energy trade-off. This is overshoot when billions continue to procreate without a food basis of their existence. Can our subconscious cope with this?

The Descent Into Chaos

When the ecological and fossil fuel energy to support it goes, the complex Culture of Empire will Unravel. If nothing else, the Empire will fall from the exhaustion of the feedstock to keep it going. Anyone who has tried to grow a garden on poor soil with limited water will understand. At this point our subconscious says, “Yeah, that may be true for the masses, but I and my family will survive.” Rural Americans think they will survive by poaching deer. That deer herd will survive about three days when the massive population really gets hungry.

We have to remember that we live in the Culture of Empire. What do Empires do when they start to decline? Rome started wars. This is our fate. We live on a planet controlled by massive institutions of power who battle each other for supremacy irrespective of living conditions or desires of the citizens. As decline proceeds and panic sets in with the ruling class, their solution will be war. The ruling class knows that when war comes the citizens will pull together in patriotic fervor and stop criticizing the rulers. As we topple over into scarcity the elites of the world will fight over the last resources. This war will ultimately become nuclear. This is extinction.

The Big Truth

Humans cannot live on this planet in perpetuity unless they live in balance with the biological world . For thousands of years now, humans have lived by taking more than they give. Chopping down forests without planting a tree. We see the result. When a forest is injured by fire or tornado a system of biological progression of healing takes place wherein a succession of plant guilds grow and lay down their bodies until the soil and guilds reach back to the climax ecosystem. Climax ecosystems all over the planet is the basic health of the planet. Look out your back door and see if you see a climax ecosystem. We have much ecological restoration to do if we are going to consider ourselves a mature, adult species that lives on a healthy earth. Humans can’t eat rocks, they must have a biological habitat.

The Call for Heroines

Just maybe, some humans can squeeze through the bottleneck by creating a new culture that seeks to live in balance and restore the earth (and having a culture commensurate with those values). Are there heroines willing to take that chance? If the earth can be re-colonized by mature humans in small colonies that live on restored watersheds around the world, in ecologically balanced villages, some may survive- to become the distant ancestors of an even more distant human species.

Heroines, what is it worth to you to save our species? Will you take the chance? Happily, the beginnings of a new culture has already been created that intuitively responds to that question. We have guidance and resources. Thousands of ecovillages exist around the planet. Check http://gen.ecovillage.org/ . Permaculture can produce more food per acre than the industrial system while building soil and increasing species diversity. Check www.permaculture.org

We can create housing from local materials that will heat and cool itself without external energy. www.alternativebuilder.com and the International Living Building Institute www.ilbi.org

Consider this: if you are not actively moving to build this new green world, YOU ARE IRRELEVANT in the long run; to your species, the earth and our great, great grandchildren.

By Wm. H. Kötke, author of The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future and Garden Planet: The Present Phase Change of the Human Species, available at the usual places. He may be contacted at: wmkotke@gmail.com

  Read The Mass Extinction Of The Human Species
 October 21, 2011  
7 billion: Understanding The Demographic Transition
by Sharon Astyk , Countercurrents.org, Casaubon's Book

On the 31st of October we will officially reach 7 billion people on the earth. Over the next week or two we'll be talking a lot about population issues, and I wanted to start by doing a light revision of an article I wrote some years ago about a concept a lot of people don't grasp very well - the idea of demographic transition and what it means.

The term "Demographic Transition" describes the movement of human populations from higher initial birth rates to a stabilzed lower one, and seems to be a general feature of most societies over the last several hundred years.

Initially, birth rates are high, but so are infant mortality and other death rates, and population numbers may rise, but they do so quite gradually, kept in check by high death rates. In Europe and North America, the Demographic Transition occurred over more than two centuries, and extremely gradually, as hygenic practices changed, medicine improved and other factors lowered death rates.

Women grew up noticing "hey,five kids aren't necessary - I can have three and be assured of getting most of them to adulthood." Thus, the average TFR (that's the total fertility rate) dropped steadily from 8-6 (across Europe and the US) to 2.8 and then down further in the late twentieth century. Now the developed world has an average TFR of 1.8, below replacement rate.

This began in the 19th century in the rich world (visitors to the colonies or in America's earliest history were stunned by the high birth rates of American women, who had a TFR over 8 in the late 17th and early 18th centuries).

The demographic transition, however, didn't happen in much of the Global South until the mid-20th century or later. In general, the Global South has undergone a much faster demographic transition than the rich world did - in many cases, radical change has come in less than 50 years. And because in many places in the third world, there has been considerable instability, the factors that lead to a transition haven't been consistently available in many places - that is, it is all the more remarkable in many ways that so many areas have seen such a dramatic decline in total fertility rate.

We all know that rich world nations like Japan and Italy have a TFR well below replacement, but more than half of all poor nations are below replacement rate, and most of the rest are following. The highest reproductive rates are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and those too are following the pattern of other poor nations, but are 20 years behind them. Subsaharan Africa now has a TFR of 5.0, down from 6.3 in 1990 - a huge drop. Latin America is now at 2.6 as a whole, and has nearly halved in merely 20 years. All over the world, population rates are generally falling much faster than even the most radical demographers expected.

What's most interesting about the demographic transition is that birth control, while an important factor, isn't as huge a part of the project as you'd think. In America, for example, we dropped our birthrate to 2.8, before disseminating birth control information was even legal or widely available. Despite a widespread increase in birth control availability after World War II, American birth rates rose well above what they were in the era of the Comstock laws when birth control was illegal.

Birth control is estimated to affect about 15% of demographic decline - but that's a comparatively small percentage. In their book _Understanding Reproductive Change: Kenya, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Costa Rica_, editors Bertil Egero and Mikail Hammerskjold observe that fertility change seems less closely tied to birth control access than to cultural pressures, education and political power for women, how many children are needed to have surviving children into adulthood, and the economic role of children. That does not mean that birth control doesn't matter, but it should be generally heartening to those who worry that industrial medical care may become less available in an energy or economic decline - yes, women should have full access to birth control and medical care, but mostly they need education, political power and medical care that allows their children to live past infancy, so that they feel less pressure to have children to compensate.

While many women in the global south express a desire for fewer children, in many cases people make fairly rational choices, based on their personal economics, their personal situation, their need to have a child of a particular sex, their need for workers, their need for someone to help them in old age. Time and time again, studies like Pritchett's on "Desired Fertility" demonstrate that women worldwide, in every situation, mostly make fairly rational choices for themselves about their family size as long as they have basic rights and power to control their bodies.

The ongoing demographic transition is not, as it is commonly thought, primarily a feature of the rich world. Poor nations as diverse as Albania, Costa Rica, Cuba, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the Philippines have rapidly declining birth rates. And what factors do most of these nations have in common? Generally speaking, basic commodities are widely available - that is, people get to eat. For example, a 1996 USAID report documents a direct link between subsidizing rice in Sri Lanka and a drop in TFR from 3.1 to 2.0 in less than a decade.

Basic access to medical care is widely available. Women have high literacy rates and political power. Women are comparatively well protected from rape, and can choose their husbands. A 1994 study by Yale Economist Paul Schultz fournd that female literacy was perhaps the most defining factor in TFR in poor nations. In India, Kerala, with a 100% female literacy rate has a 1.7 TFR, compared to a 4.1 TFR in regions with a 30% literacy rate

But, all the individual factors together add up to what Jeremy Seabrook rightly observes is "security." If kin are the only safety net you have access to, then you will have children as a form of security and wealth. If there are other options, you will turn to those. Education represents the possibility of work if a husband dies, knowledge of laws, access to information - it is not in itself a reproductive constraint, but an aid to security. What most people want when they have children is security, pleasure and comfort. If 2 children can do that as well or better than 5, they will have two.

As Maria Mies and Vandana Shive point out, for a woman in many parts of rural India, it is still necessary for her to four children to be certain to have one adult child available to support her in her old age. In Nigeria, a six year old contributes more than they eat, and a 12 year old does the work of an adult, while eating less. If we want to encourage families to have fewer children, the need for those children is something we must address - as well as the power to decide.

We know that there is a profound connection between population and poverty, but we also know that there are poor societies that have managed to make a huge reduction in TFR.. The evidence for whether high TFR causes poverty is, at best, mixed. For example, prosperity in India has grown dramatically despite a fairly high TFR. Even Paul Ehrlich, famed Zero Population Growth advocate and author of _The Population Bomb_ and _One with Nineveh_ admits in the latter volume that the answer is extremely difficult to sort out, and that there's limited evidence on that subject.

Generally speaking, the demographic transition occurs as a result of a certain degree of wealth - it is certainly moved along by money for infrastructure improvements such as water systems and sewers and birth control. But very poor nations can and sometimes do prioritize these solutions, for example, desperately poor Tanzania uner Nyerere did so, and saw its level of wealth rise while its population was still increasing. The US dropped its TFR from above 8 to below 4 without making major widespread infrastructure changes.

What is true is that population instability does create poverty - for example, the death of 20 million people in Africa to AIDS has left economies stripped, societies filled with children and elderly people caring for them, while the central working generation is ill and dying. Into this situation comes greater poverty, lower educational levels for women, despair, greater need for young women to become prostitutes, and a rising birth rate in some places, massive economic gaps in others. A slow stabilization of population is probably better than wild fluctuations brought about by short term conditions.

The factors that work to limit population growth deserve some greater attention than my quick summary above, because they way they seem to work is as important as the fact that they do. They give us a sense of what kind of society we'd need to create in order to achieve population stabilization, so let's give them some attention.

The first factor, education, works in several ways. Literacy for women benefits families in a number of ways. It increases her health (a literate woman can read material about health and hygeine practices) and the health of her children, it increases her family's security (if her husband dies, she can get a better job), it increases her desire to see her children receive education and it increases her political power - she can read and understand national issues and participate in them.

Mandatory education for all children serves to remove children from the labor pool, and makes children not producers, but consumers, and thus parents are forced to view their children in that light - if children become an economic burden for longer, than we have to gauge whether they are affordable.

Food security, including price supports, and many other possible programs improves the likelihood of having healthy and non-disabled infants, it makes it less necessary to set children to work finding food, and it makes it possible for women to reserve time for public participation and education - a beneficial circle.

The security of elderly people and the disabled can be assured in a number of ways - public support a la social security is one. Traditions of family obligation are another - were we to treat our obligations to aunts and cousins as strongly as we treat those to sisters and parents, as some societies do, the requirement that individuals have more children is greatly reduced.

Basic health care and hygeine matter because they reduce infant and child mortality, reduce harm in childbirth, and enable women to take advantage of contraception when they want it. They also make childbearing less dangerous, which paradoxically reduces birthrates, because it increases family stability and reduces rates of disability and death within families that drive children out to work at early ages.

Another powerful factor is sexual practices in regards to rape, marriage, prostitution and birth control. Birth control, is, surprisingly, at times the least important of these factors. Discouraging men from seeing prostitutes in the Gambia reduced fertility rates significantly, as prostitution is generally a result of extreme poverty as most prostitutes can't afford contraception. In Libya, enforcement of existing rape laws was found, to reduce TFR signficantly. All of these factors are associated with the status of women, and the more cultural and political power women have in a society, the fewer unwanted pregnancies she has. These are factors that generally speaking are mended by cultural pressures - for example, in the US, where rape and prostitution are huge problems, how many of us sit down with our sons and not only discuss rape in detail, but talk about prostitution?

Freedom from war is perhaps the most underestimated factor. People who fear that their children will be taken from them by the state or killed by routine violence have every reason to have extras to ensure the survival of at least some of their children. Because war disrupts security, it is hard for families to make rational choices in the face of war. Genocide and racial conflict encourage the harmed parties to increase fertility rates to compensate and outpace other communities (see the birth race in Israel and Palestine).

Similarly, the state (or other instigators) have every incentive to encourage women to have as many children as possible in the interest of the state if they are needed to fill armies.

Like war, nationalism itself represents a serious incentive to have more children. Low TFR nations like Japan and Italy that also have strong anti-immigrant sentiments have experienced periodic public calls for a pro-fertility campaign. One of these days, such calls may work - we know that building on racism and hostility to the other is a good way to set up fertility races, but has unfortunate outcomes.

It may sound as though achieving a worldwide population stabilization is impossible -as though we must fix all human problems first. But that's not the case. In fact, it turns out that the total investment in reducing world fertility levels voluntarily is comparatively low. Best of all, most of the changes are human powered, low input, and comparatively cheap. That is, most of what would be required would simply be to prioritize these things.

Fossil fuels, for example are not required to have small local schools, small amounts of fossil and renewable energy are required for some basic medications, but as we can see from the timing of the European and North American example, the demographic transition in the rich world was mostly not a product of fossil fuel based medicine, but a result of infrastructure improvements in nutrition, cleanliness and access to food and water. Safe water, greater food equity and a host of fairly simple good thing - insulation from wild food price fluctuations on global markets, solar water pumps and training in handling human wastes are all things we could prioritize as a society if we chose.

Political power for women is not a product of fossil fuels either, but a cultural change that can be brought about in lower-energy societies - if we make it a priority. Can we do this in the face of peak oil and climate change? If we prefer to have their impacts be as mitigated as possible, we certainly would do so.

The demographic transition is not a product of wealth or cheap energy in large quantities - we can see that by viewing the history of demographic shifts in Europe and the US. Instead, it is mostly about enabling people to make different reproductive choices, and supporting those choices - it requires no coercion, no high energy infrastructure, and is comparatively cheap to achieve.

We are going to need to make massive changes in our infrastructure one way or another. Too much of the discussion of what to do about peak oil and climate change has been about trains and carbon credits, renewable energy, new economies and extraction technologies. And as long as the conversation stays there, we'll be missing the point. Because ultimately, people care most about being fed, having their kids live to grow up, having safe water, basic housing, etc... As long as we continue the "growth and replacement" model of discussion, we'll miss the basic point - that what we need most to concentrate on is health, education and social well being. This would be a radical shift in world priorities - but in many ways a less costly one than most of the shifts being advocated by those who claim will we make a smooth transition to a renewable energy economy.

The thing is, political power for women, food equity and access to clean water and freedom from war and rape are good things in and of themselves - they benefit everyone in the community. That they also help stabilize a world population that is in part straining every resource we have is just another factor.

I've written previously about how UN projections that we will reach a population of 10 billion by mid-century don't adequately take into account the resource constraints we are facing. One way or another, indications suggest that we will see some population declines. There are two ways this could happen - we could have fewer children by choice or more death. It doesn't seem like a tough decision to me.

Sharon Astyk is a science writer, teacher, environmental activist and small farmer who is trying to put her lifestyle where her mouth is, and live in a way with a future. When not writing books, serving on the board of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, she is running her farm with her husband, where they raise dairy goats, herbs, pastured poultry, heirloom vegetable plants, children and havoc

  Read 7 billion: Understanding The Demographic Transition
 October 23, 2011  
Science Says World Must Stop Coal Seam Gas Exploitation
by Dr Gideon Polya , Countercurrents.org

Anthropogenic  global warming (AGW) is threatening Humanaity and the Biosphere. In particular a huge threat is posed by the increasing  exploitation of natural gas from coal seams (coal seam gas) as an energy source. Gas is dirty energy and set out below are 3 major reasons why  the World must stop coal seam gas (CSG) exploitation.

There is a gas rush worldwide as fossil fuel corporations seek to exploit natural gas as a source of energy. Notwithstanding  the endless false claims that ?gas is clean?, natural gas (mainly methane, CH4) is a dirty energy source. Thus burning 1 tonne of methane generate 2.8 tonnes of the greenhouse gas (GHG) carbon dioxide (CO2) whereas burning carbon (C, the major constituent of black coal) yields 3.7 tonnes of CO2.  However CH4 leaks and is 105 times worse than CO2 as a GHG on a 20 year time frame. Depending upon the source, burning gas for power can be worse GHG-wise than burning coal.

A major new source of gas are deep coal seams and this gas is referred to variously as coalbed gas, coalbed methane or coal seam gas (CSG).  A major mechanism for liberating such gas involved hydraulic fracturing (?fracking?) in which water containing a variety of additives is pumped into coal seams to fracture them. This ?fracking? process can pollute underground aquifers with fracking chemicals. Water then removed to permit gas escape from fractured coal seams can be  saline and represents a major surface pollutant. For accounts of coal seam gas (CSG) extraction see ?Coalbed methane?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalbed_methane ; see the devastating movie ?Gasland? ; and  see the ?Coal seam gas fact sheet? on the website of the Lock The Gates Alliance of indignant Australian farmers: http://lockthegate.org.au/csg-facts/csg-factsheet.cfm ).

From a scientific perspective (I am a 5-decade career biological chemist and after 40 years still teaching agricultural science students at a major Australian university),  coal seam gas (CSG) developments should be stopped for three  major reasons as set out below..

1. Coal seam gas exploitation despoils nature, agriculture and aquifers.

CSG exploitation (and especially fracking) will despoil the natural environment (through pollution and the  scaring of wildlife through massive industrialization of the countryside),  pollute  agricultural land (especially with industrial plant and saline waste water) and deplete and pollute aquifers as set out by the Lock The Gate Alliance (see: http://lockthegate.org.au/csg-facts/csg-factsheet.cfm ).

2. A 75% chance of avoiding 2C temperature rise means global zero emissions by 2050.

Data from the Australian Climate Commission's "The Critical Decade" report indicate that Australia must reach zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by mid-2012 if it is not to surpass its "fair share" of the terminal global GHG budget that must not be exceeded if we are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a disastrous 2C temperature rise (see   Australian Climate Commission, ?The Critical Decade. Climate science, risks and responses?, 2011: http://climatecommission.gov.au/topics/the-critical-decade/ ).

Indeed, according to data from  the WBGU that advises the German Government on climate change, Australia had ALREADY used up its "fair share" of this terminal, global GHG pollution budget by mid-2011 and is now stealing the entitlement of all other  countries including climate change-threatened  countries like Somalia , Pakistan and Bangladesh . This analysis shows that the US and Canada must get pt zero emissions within about 3 years and  most EU countries must stop GHG pollution within 5 to10 years (for the Awful Truth see Gideon Polya, ?Shocking analysis by country of years left to zero emissions?, Green Blog, 1 August 2011: http://www.green-blog.org/2011/08/01/shocking-analysis-by-country-of-years-left-to-zero-emissions/ ).

Accordingly, the best scientific advice is that we should be stopping existing coal and gas extraction and certainly not be developing new avenues for polluting the atmosphere.

3. Methane leaks and is 105 times worse than CO2 as a GHG.

A coal to gas transition, that is unfortunately favored by the pro-coal, pro-gas  Labor Australian Federal Government, is an environmental and economic  disaster as set out in point #2 above. However, in addition, methane (most of natural gas) is a gas, it leaks significantly and is 105 times worse than  carbon dioxide (CO2) as a GHG on a 20 year time frame with aerosol impacts considered (see Drew T. Shindell et al., ?Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions?, Science, 30 October 2009: Vol. 326 no. 5953 pp. 716-718: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5953/716  and   Shindell et al. (2009), Fig.2: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5953/716.figures-only  ).

Significant methane leakage  means, for example,  that with existing power plants in Victoria, Australia,  at a 3.3% systemic gas leakage (the US average) burning gas for power is roughly as dirty  GHG-wise as burning coal and at 7.9% leakage (as from fracking-derived gas in the US) burning gas for power can be twice as dirty GHG-wise as burning coal (for details and documentation see "Climate change course summary": http://yvcag.blogspot.com/2011_08_01_archive.html ;   Gideon Polya, ?Oz Labor's Carbon Tax-ETS & gas for coal plan means INCREASED GHG pollution?, Bellaciao, 27 August 2011: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?article21140 ; and also see Robert W. Howarth, et al ?Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations?: Climatic Change, 2011: http://www.sustainablefuture.cornell.edu/news/attachments/Howarth-EtAl-2011.pdf ).

What can decent people do in the face of corporate greed threatening Humanity and the Biosphere? Responsible members of the 99% of Humanity must (a) inform everyone they can and (b) urge and apply sanctions and boycotts against all corporations, countries, politicians and people involved in the terracidal gas rush and hence in the worsening Climate Genocide that is set to kill 10 billion non-Europeans this century due to unaddressed man-made climate change (see ?Climate Genocide?: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/ ).

Dr Gideon Polya currently teaches science students at a major Australian university. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has recently published ?Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950? (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contributions ?Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality? in ?Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics? (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007): http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ) and ?Ongoing Palestinian Genocide? in ?The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/4047-the-plight-of-the-palestinians.html ). He has just published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book ?Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History? (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot..com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the ?forgotten? World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open2.net/thingsweforgot/ bengalfamine_programme.html ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/ .  

  Read Science Says World Must Stop Coal Seam Gas Exploitation
 October 27, 2011  

What if rising sea levels are yet another measure of inequality? What if the degradation of our planet’s life-support systems -- its atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere -- goes hand in hand with the accumulation of wealth, power, and control by that corrupt and greedy 1% we are hearing about from Zuccotti Park? What if the assault on America’s middle class and the assault on the environment are one and the same?

Money Rules: It’s not hard for me to understand how environmental quality and economic inequality came to be joined at the hip. In all my years as a grassroots organizer dealing with the tragic impact of degraded environments on public health, it was always the same:someone got rich and someone got sick.

In the struggles that I was involved in to curb polluters and safeguard public health, those who wanted curbs, accountability, and precautions were always outspent several times over by those who wanted no restrictions on their effluents. We dug into our own pockets for postage money, they had expense accounts. We made flyers to slip under the windshield wipers of parked cars, they bought ads on television. We took time off from jobs to visit legislators, only to discover that they had gone to lunch with fulltime lobbyists.

Naturally, the barons of the chemical and nuclear industries don’t live next to the radioactive or toxic-waste dumps that their corporations create; on the other hand, impoverished black and brown people often do live near such ecological sacrifice zones because they can’t afford better. Similarly, the gated communities of the hyper-wealthy are not built next to cesspool rivers or skylines filled with fuming smokestacks, but the slums of the planet are. Don’t think, though, that it’s just a matter of property values or scenery. It’s about health, about whether your kids have lead or dioxins running through their veins. It’s a simple formula, in fact: wealth disparities become health disparities.

And here’s another formula: when there’s money to be made, both workers and the environment are expendable. Just as jobs migrate if labor can be had cheaper overseas, I know workers who were tossed aside when they became ill from the foul air or poisonous chemicals they encountered on the job.

The fact is: we won’t free ourselves from a dysfunctional and unfair economic order until we begin to see ourselves as communities, not commodities. That is one clear message from Zuccotti Park.

Polluters routinely walk away from the ground they poison and expect taxpayers to clean up after them. By “externalizing” such costs, profits are increased. Examples of land abuse and abandonment are too legion to list, but most of us can refer to a familiar “superfund site” in our own backyard. Clearly, Mother Nature is among the disenfranchised, exploited, and struggling.

Democracy 101: The 99% pay for wealth disparity with lost jobs, foreclosed homes, weakening pensions, and slashed services, but Nature pays, too. In the world the one-percenters have created, the needs of whole ecosystems are as easy to disregard as, say, the need the young have for debt-free educations and meaningful jobs.

Extreme disparity and deep inequality generate a double standard with profound consequences. If you are a CEO who skims millions of dollars off other people’s labor, it’s called a “bonus.” If you are a flood victim who breaks into a sporting goods store to grab a lifejacket, it’s called looting. If you lose your job and fall behind on your mortgage, you get evicted. If you are a banker-broker who designed flawed mortgages that caused a million people to lose their homes, you get a second-home vacation-mansion near a golf course.

If you drag heavy fishnets across the ocean floor and pulverize an entire ecosystem, ending thousands of years of dynamic evolution and depriving future generations of a healthy ocean, it’s called free enterprise. But if, like Tim DeChristopher, you disrupt an auction of public land to oil and gas companies, it’s called a crime and you get two years in jail.

In campaigns to make polluting corporations accountable, my Utah neighbors and I learned this simple truth: decisions about what to allow into the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat are soon enough translated into flesh and blood, bone and nerve, and daily experience. So it’s crucial that those decisions, involving environmental quality and public health, are made openly, inclusively, and accountably. That’s Democracy 101.

The corporations that shred habitat and contaminate your air and water are anything but democratic. Stand in line to get your 30 seconds in front of a microphone at a public hearing about the siting of a nuclear power plant, the effluent from a factory farm, or the removal of a mountaintop and you’ll get the picture quickly enough: the corporations that profit from such ecological destruction are distant, arrogant, secretive, and unresponsive. The 1% are willing to spend billions impeding democratic initiatives, which is why every so-called environmental issue is also about building a democratic culture.

First Kill the EPA, Then Social Security: Beyond all the rhetoric about freedom from the new stars of the Republican Party, the strategy is simple enough: obstruct and misinform, then blame the resulting dysfunction on “government.” It’s a great scam. Tell the voters that government doesn’t work and then, when elected, prove it. And first on the list of government outfits they want to sideline or kill is the Environmental Protection Agency, so they can do away with the already flimsy wall of regulation that stands between their toxins and your bloodstream.

Poll after poll shows that citizens understand the need for environmental rules and safeguards. Mercury is never put into the bloodstreams of nursing mothers by consensus, nor are watersheds fracked until they are flammable by popular demand. But the free market ideologues of the Republican Party are united in opposition to any rule or standard that impedes the “magic” of the marketplace and unchecked capital.

The same bottom-line quarterly-report fixation on profitability that accepts oil spills as inevitable also accepts unemployment as inevitable. Tearing apart wildlife habitat to make a profit and doing the same at a workplace are just considered the price of doing business. Clearcutting a forest and clearcutting a labor force are two sides of the same coin.

Beware of Growth: Getting the economy growing has been the refrain of the Obama administration and the justification for every bad deal, budget cut, and unbalanced compromise it’s made. The desperate effort to grow the economy to solve our economic woes is what keeps Timothy Geithner at the helm of the Treasury and is what stalls the regulation of greenhouse gasses. It’s why we are told we must sacrifice environmental quality for pipelines and why young men and women are sacrificed to protect access to oil, the lubricant for an acquisitive economic engine. The financial empire of the one percenters and the political order it has shaped are predicated on easy and relentless growth. How, we are asked, will there be enough for everyone if we don’t keep growing?

The fundamental contradiction of our time is this: we have built an all-encompassing economic engine that requires unending growth. A contraction of even a percent or two is a crisis, and yet we are embedded in ecosystems that are reaching or have reached their limits. This isn’t complicated: There’s only so much fertile soil or fresh water available, only so many fish in the ocean, only so much CO2 the planet can absorb and remain habitable.

Yes, you can get around this contradiction for a while by exploiting your neighbor’s habitat, using technological advances to extend your natural resources, and stealing from the future -- that is, using up soil, minerals, and water your grandchildren (someday to be part of that same 99%) will need. But the limits to those familiar and, in the past, largely successful strategies are becoming more evident all the time.

At some point, we’ll discover that you can’t exist for long beyond the boundaries of the natural world, that (as with every other species) if you overload the carrying capacity of your habitat, you crash. Warming temperatures, chaotic weather patterns, extreme storms, monster wildfires, epic droughts, Biblical floods, an avalanche of species extinction… that collapse is upon us now. In the human realm, it translates into hunger and violence, mass migrations and civil strife, failed states and resource wars.

Like so much else these days, the crash, as it happens, will not be suffered in equal measure by all of us. The one percenters will be atop the hill, while the 99% will be in the flood lands below swimming for their lives, clinging to debris, or drowning. The Great Recession has previewed just how that will work.

An unsustainable economy is inherently unfair, and worse is to come. After all, the car is heading for the cliff’s edge, the grandkids are in the backseat, and all we’re arguing about is who can best put the pedal to the metal.

Occupy Earth: Give credit where it’s due: it’s been the genius of the protesters in Zuccotti Park to shift public discourse to whether the distribution of economic burdens and rewards is just and whether the economic system makes us whole or reduces and divides us. It’s hard to imagine how we’ll address our converging ecological crises without first addressing the way accumulating wealth and power has captured the political system. As long as Washington is dominated and intimidated by giant oil companies, Wall Street speculators, and corporations that can buy influence and even write the rules that make buying influence possible, there’s no meaningful way to deal with our economy’s addiction to fossil fuels and its dire consequences.

Nature’s 99% is an amazingly diverse community of species. They feed and share and recycle within a web of relationships so dynamic and complex that we have yet to fathom how it all fits together. What we have excelled at so far is breaking things down into their parts and then reassembling them; that, after all, is how a barrel of crude oil becomes rocket fuel or a lawn chair.

When it comes to the more chaotic, less linear features of life like climate, ecosystems, immune systems, or fetal development, we are only beginning to understand thresholds and feedback loops, the way the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. But we at least know that the parts matter deeply and that, before we even fully understand them, we’re losing them at an accelerating rate. Forests are dying, fisheries are going, extinction is on steroids.

Degrading the planet’s operating systems to bolster the bottom line is foolish and reckless. It hurts us all. No less important, it’s unfair. The 1% profit, while the rest of us cough and cope.

After Occupy Wall Street, isn’t it time for Occupy Earth?

Chip Ward is a former grassroots organizer/activist who has led several successful campaigns to hold polluters accountable. He co-founded and led Families Against Incinerator Risk and HEAL Utah. He described his political adventures in Canaries on the Rim: Living Downwind in the West and Hope's Horizon: Three Visions for Healing the American Land. Today he works to protect the spectacular redrock wildlands of Utah. His essays can be found by clicking here.

  Read Occupy Earth: Nature Is The 99%, Too
  October 30, 2011  
I get terribly affected by the kind of things that are happening today, and confess to not being able to be dispassionate.

But some important facts we should keep in view if we want to remain sane and work out a saving response to European and American criminal aggression against us are the following.

Muammar Gaddafi came from an Arab tribe living in Libya. He belonged to a culture completely different from American and European culture. He therefore did not—and never pretended to—champion Western values of so-called "democracy" and "freedom". This, however, did not prevent him from being a force for good for his people and for some other African peoples. When 42 years ago he took over power through a BLOODLESS coup—mark this: he did not have to slaughter his own people to overthrow King Idriss’s government (a lethargic government that allowed the Libyan people to live in poverty and underdevelopment—he took measures to ensure that Libya’s oil wealth was used for the benefit of the Libyan people. Over the decades he created a genuine welfare state with state-of the-art medical facilities accessible to all Libyans, with state funded educational facilities, initiated afforestation of large areas of Libya, and lifted the status of Libya to a middle-income economy. Non-Libyan black Africans flocked to Libya to seek employment. One Kenyan who was working in a Libya-based company when the Europeans started the troubles in March this year was distraught: he spoke of the high standards of living in Libya and his comfortable life, where you’d buy petrol for 10 Kenya Shillings a litre!

Gaddafi was not a modern European or American to believe arrogantly and foolishly that good governance consists only in regular elections and the limited term of a ruler. Like a Ghanaian commentator wrote the other day, Gaddafi believed he had devoted those 42 years of his rule taking care of the welfare of his people.The ridiculous thing is that Westerners believe only systems of governance developed by themselves are to be adopted. People forget that there are good alternative systems indigenously developed by others. For example, the Agikuyu practised democracy before they had the misfortune of being conquered by the white predators, and had 35-year cycles of ruling generations handing over power peacefully to another generation.

Gaddafi assisted freedom movements in other countries of Africa, notably South Africa. He armed and financed the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela when the western powers were doing normal business with the white-dominated apartheid (race-separation) regime. When Bill Clinton visited newly independent South Africa and criticized Libya under Gaddafi, Nelson Mandela rebuked him using the following words: "We cannot join you in criticizing the people who helped us in our darkest hour."

It is an absolute shame to see the mainstream media, including the Kenyan media, join in mouthing cliches about "dictator Gaddafi", "despot Gaddafi", and the "tyranny" suffered under Gaddafi. The other day a local newspaper published a tasteless, highly offensive cartoon about Gaddafi. This is all due to ignorance and brainwashing by the Western Media Juggernaut. We have many Africans who are quite incapable of thinking as themselves and for themselves. You can call such people mental and spiritual slaves. These people miss one aspect of Gaddafi’s character and ideals. Gaddafi believed that the Arabs were the descendants of Black Africans and taught his people that they owed special respect to blacks. (One of his sons, Hannibal, was named after a famous black African general who used elephant-mounted soldiers to fight the Roman army around the time of Christ; Hannibal served the state of Carthage which was geographically situated in Libya.) And Gaddafi put in place a policy where black Africans were welcomed into Libya as employees and even members of the Libyan army. Gaddafi further championed the idea of the African Union, housing the Arabs of his country and the vast black population of sub-Saharan Africa. It is said that by the time he died, he had conceived the idea of an African Bank which would compete against the white-dominated World Bank.

Of course the so-called mainstream media wouldn’t appreciate such things; and neither would they be horrified by what the "revolutionaries" have been doing—including the rounding up and massacring of black people while putting others in concentration camps.

Neither are these mental slaves capable of grasping the enormous shame, horror and deceit of the campaign of the West against Gaddafi. The Great Lie is that there was a popular uprising against Gaddafi. Rather it was an armed rebellion, engineered in Paris and other western capitals, and its success guaranteed by the use of the most sophisticated weapons of mass destruction by America, France and Britain. ONE THING IS CLEAR: GADDAFI HAD MASSIVE POPULAR AND LOCAL ARMED SUPPORT and would have defeated the rebels if massive missile rocket and air bombardment had not been used by the American, French and British murderers. He lasted more than six months, a man leading a country of only 6.5 million people against an alliance of countries housing close to 500 million people. To my mind Gaddafi was a lion-like figure fighting against shameless bullies, men absolutely devoid of honour: Barrack Obama, David Cameron, and Nicholas Sarkozy. These assassins have entered the pages of history for their brutal and ignominious acts.

The lesson for us self-respecting Africans? We can expect more horrors from these people who wield enormous military power. But we have a mighty weapon against them: building awareness about their intentions, crying out loudly against their grotesqueness and unfitness to claim the right to lead the world. We can call them their real names: bullies, greedy predators, robbers of other people’s resources, deceivers and tellers of great lies. And, of course, I can see the rest of the world grouping together for mutual self defence: Africa, India, Brazil and other South American countries, Russia and China. The days of these mis-rulers are numbered.

Yeah, I just said that!

P. Ngigi Njoroge
[Lecturer at a Local University]

  Read The Destruction Of Libya And The Murder Of Muammar Gaddafi
 October 30, 2011  
Why We Need A Financial Transaction Tax: A Proposal For The G20
by Kavaljit Singh, Countercurrents.org

At the forthcoming G20 Summit (Cannes, 3-4 November 2011), the summit leaders are expected to address several policy issues concerning world economy and financial markets, many of which remained unresolved since the Toronto Summit in June 2010. Against the backdrop of a weak global economy and the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis, G20 leaders will have to take some hard decisions. Failure to do so would undermine the effectiveness and credibility of G20 as the “premium forum” for international economic cooperation.

One of the key policy issues to be tackled at the Cannes Summit is the introduction of a global financial transaction tax (FTT). The Interim Report of the G-20 on Fair and Substantial Contribution by the Financial Sector (2010) had proposed a flat rate levy on all financial institutions and “financial activities tax” on profits and remuneration in order to pay for future financial clean-ups and reduce systemic risk. But the proposal got diluted at the G-20 meeting held at Busan in June 2010, which called for implementation of the levy taking into account individual country’s circumstances and options.

The policy objectives for a FTT are essentially two-fold: to raise revenue; and to restore stability and integrity in the financial markets. According to estimates made by Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) in a forthcoming report to the G20 on new sources of finance for development, a tax on financial transactions could generate about $50 billion from G20 member-countries. Some other estimates claim that a global financial transaction tax could generate as much as $250 billion if a wide range of transactions are included. The resources raised through FTT could be better utilized to support programs to fight hunger and poverty, and pay for climate mitigation and adaptation costs.

The European Tax Proposal

On 28 September 2011, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced the adoption of an EC proposal to implement a FTT in all 27 member-states of the European Union. He also underlined the need for Europe to collectively push for a global FTT at the Cannes Summit.

The European proposal consists of a 0.1 percent tax on trading bonds and shares and a 0.01 percent tax on derivatives trading. These are minimum tax rates and member-states can impose higher rates if they wish. According to the official statement, the tax would be levied on all transactions on financial instruments between financial institutions when at least one party to the transaction is located in the EU.

It is estimated that the proposed tax could generate around $78 billion a year. If unanimously approved by all member-states, the EU-wide tax will come into force on January 1, 2014. Despite resistance from powerful financial services lobby, the proposed European tax transpired in response to growing public anger against the massive bailouts and costly public recapitalizations of banks and financial institutions since 2008.

The proposed tax enjoys considerable public support within Europe. Germany and France have strongly backed the EU proposal while the UK insists that it would only back a financial transaction tax if it were applied globally. The City of London, lobby groups (such as European Banking Federation) and conservative think-tanks (such as Adam Smith Institute) have strongly opposed the European tax proposal. The critics argue that the proposed tax would trigger a liquidity squeeze and increase the costs of trading for financial institutions and other market participants. The UK’s support to the EU-wide tax proposal is vital as City of London is the world’s leading financial center. There are apprehensions that the UK could mobilize other European countries, particularly Sweden and Ireland, against the proposed tax in the coming months.

The Growing Opposition

At G20, the idea of a global FTT has been strongly resisted by Canada, US and Australia. In particular, Canada has been a vocal critic of a global FTT for many years. During the Toronto Summit, the Canadian leadership did not encourage any serious discussions on the FTT.

Canada is opposed to the tax on the grounds that its banking system remained strong during the global financial crisis and no bailouts were sought. Canada also perceives that the FTT would be counterproductive during the weak economic conditions. “We will continue leading that charge against a transactions tax and I am confident that our allies on this point, who are the emerging economies, will stay with us and join us in opposing what we view as a counterproductive tax,” said Mr. Jim Flaherty (Canada’s Finance Minister) in a speech to the US financial industry in response to the European proposal. “I am actually confident that we have enough of them in the G20 that we will be successful on that initiative,” he further added.

With the tactical backing of US, Australia, China and India, Canada could generate enough political support within G20 against a global STT at the Cannes Summit.

India’s Position on FTT

At the G-20 Ministerial Meeting at Busan (June 2010), India expressed its reservations against a global FTT on the grounds that there was need for better and well-placed regulations rather than imposing taxes on the banks and financial transactions.

India also pointed out that its conservative approach towards banking regulation helped in protecting national banking system. There is no denying that India’s regulatory framework (often criticized as “outdated” and “inward looking”) acted as a key factor in protecting the domestic banking system from the global financial crisis, yet India’s official position on FTT at the G20 is questionable on three counts.

Firstly, transaction taxes are an integral part of the armoury that policymakers deploy to regulate the financial sector. No one has claimed that transactions taxes are a substitute to well-placed regulatory and supervisory measures. Rather taxation and regulations are complimentary tools used by policymakers to address externalities.

Secondly, not long ago, India had strongly argued in favor of a global financial transaction tax to meet social and developmental needs of the poor countries at various international forums. While addressing the Non-Aligned Movement Business Forum in Kuala Lumpur (2003), the then India’s Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee stated, “I believe there is another initiative, which NAM can spearhead for the reform of the international financial architecture. We know that unstable capital flows can severely disrupt developing economies. There is less ready acceptance of the idea that such flows should be regulated by an international levy. I believe this is a reform whose time has come.”

Thirdly, India itself introduced a Securities Transaction Tax more than six years ago with the twin objectives of raising additional revenue and maintaining market integrity. By not lending support to the idea of a global FTT at G20, India has lost an opportunity to build tactical alliances with the poor countries and global civil society to reforms the financial markets.

Securities Transaction Tax in India

In 2004, India introduced a Securities Transaction Tax (STT) in equity markets. Currently, STT is charged at the rate of 0.125 percent on a delivery-based buy and sell transactions and 0.025 percent on non delivery-based sale transactions. The rate is 0.017 percent on F&O sale transactions. Imposed on both foreign and domestic investors, the STT is collected by the stock exchanges from the brokers and passed on to the exchequer, thereby enabling the authorities to raise revenue in a neat and efficient manner.

Termed as “Terminator Tax,” the STT was strongly opposed by a lobby of speculators, day traders, arbitrageurs, and “noise traders.” Many of them had predicted that the introduction of STT would bring Indian financial markets to a standstill and would dry up liquidity.

Since its implementation, all apprehensions related to STT have proved erroneous. The fact that there is too much liquidity in the Indian markets is also admitted by the critics of STT. The implementation of STT has also reduced some loopholes in the existing tax regime. For instance, foreign investors who used to take undue advantage of the bilateral direct tax avoidance treaties (such as India-Mauritius tax treaty) are now taxed under the STT regime.

Since 2004, Indian authorities have collected sizeable revenue from the STT. During the fiscal year 2009-10, the government’s revenue from STT was Rs. 59940 million ($1.3 billion), a substantial amount in the present times when tax revenues are under severe pressure. The tax authorities have set a target of Rs. 75000 million ($1.6 billion) for the fiscal year 2011-12. However, the trading trends reveal that the STT did not help much in reducing the volatility in the Indian equity markets, as anticipated by many proponents.

Rather than further widening the scope of STT, Finance Ministry is planning a complete or phased withdrawal of it with the expectation that it may substantially increase market turnover.

The Rationale behind FTT

Apart from revenue potential, there are several other justifications for the adoption of a global transaction tax. Such a tax could facilitate the monitoring of international financial flows by providing a centralized database on such flows, which is the need of the hour. This could be particularly valuable to the poor and developing countries where large information gaps exist.

Unlike many other services, no value added tax (VAT) is imposed on financial transactions in many jurisdictions. By taxing diverse financial transactions, a strong message would be conveyed that private banks and financiers must share the costs of the global financial crisis.

Given the fact that majority of transactions carried out by speculators and high frequency traders are short-term and speculative, this tax can curb speculative tendencies that induce excessive volatility and fragility in the financial markets. While a small tax is unlikely to discourage long-term investors such as pension funds. The argument that the FTT would trigger a liquidity squeeze in financial markets lacks evidence. As argued by Avinash Persaud (in a recent article at Vox.EU), “During calm times, when markets are already liquid, high-frequency traders are contrarian and support liquidity, but during times of crisis, they try to run ahead of the trend, draining liquidity just when it is needed most, as we saw with the Flash Crash on 6 May 2010. If a transaction tax limits high-frequency trading it may even provide a bonus in improving systemic resilience.”

Is a FTT Feasible?

Much of the criticism of the FTT is centered on the question of its practicability and technical feasibility. It is often argued that the imposition of such a tax is a difficult proposition since the volumes traded are too high. If the modern electronic system can enable large-scale financial transactions within and across borders, why can’t the same technology be used to collect taxes?

Critics also argue it is almost impossible to get all the countries to agree on a common global tax. Nevertheless, a beginning can be made with a few countries coming together on this issue even if a strong consensus across territories is not possible immediately. Europe can take the lead and introduce the FTT at the European level. The G20 member-countries could also impose such a tax unilaterally or collectively. An agreement among the leading financial centers could also contain the threat of relocation of financial activities to other places.

The issues raised by FTT are more political than technical. Its adoption requires strong political will, particularly among the G20 member-countries. The recent experience (for instance, money laundering related to drug trafficking) shows that international cooperation among countries is possible if there is a political will. A similar cooperative initiative is required to address myriad implementation issues related to FTT.

Another common criticism of FTT is related to evasion. All taxes (e.g., income tax and property tax), for that matter, are open to evasion but this is not sound enough reason for not having them. Concerted efforts should be made to check loopholes, as no policy measure can be foolproof.

While supporting the case for a global financial transaction tax, no one argues that all problems related to global financial markets would be resolved. In the present times, no single policy instrument alone can fix global finance. Nevertheless, such a tax could serve as a first step towards building international cooperation on global financial reforms. If it is used in conjunction with other policy instruments (for instance, capital controls), FTT does offer an attractive mechanism to reform the global financial markets.

Kavaljit Singh is the Director of Madhyam, New Delhi (www.madhyam.org.in). This article is based on a recent Briefing Paper brought out by Madhyam in close collaboration with SOMO (Amsterdam).

  Read Why We Need A Financial Transaction Tax: A Proposal For The G20
 November 3, 2011  
If We Want A Chance At A Decent Future, The Movement Here And Around The World Must Grow
by Noam Chomsky, Countercurrents.org

It's a little hard to give a Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture at an Occupy meeting. There are mixed feelings that go along with it. First of all, regret that Howard is not here to take part and invigorate it in his particular way, something that would have been the dream of his life, and secondly, excitement that the dream is actually being fulfilled. It’s a dream for which he laid a lot of the groundwork. It would have been the fulfillment of a dream for him to be here with you.

The Occupy movement really is an exciting development. In fact, it's spectacular. It's unprecedented; there's never been anything like it that I can think of. If the bonds and associations that are being established at these remarkable events can be sustained through a long, hard period ahead -- because victories don't come quickly-- this could turn out to be a very significant moment in American history.

The fact that the demonstrations are unprecedented is quite appropriate. It is an unprecedented era -- not just this moment -- but actually since the 1970s. The 1970s began a major turning point in American history. For centuries, since the country began, it had been a developing society with ups and downs. But the general progress was toward wealth and industrialization and development -- even in dark and hope -- there was a pretty constant expectation that it's going to go on like this. That was true even in very dark times.

I'm just old enough to remember the Great Depression. After the first few years, by the mid-1930s, although the situation was objectively much harsher than it is today, the spirit was quite different. There was a sense that we're going to get out of it, even among unemployed people. It'll get better. There was a militant labor movement organizing, CIO was organizing. It was getting to the point of sit-down strikes, which are very frightening to the business world. You could see it in the business press at the time. A sit-down strike was just a step before taking over the factory and running it yourself. Also, the New Deal legislations were beginning to come under popular pressure. There was just a sense that somehow we're going to get out of it.

It’s quite different now. Now there’s kind of a pervasive sense of hopeless, or, I think, despair. I think it’s quite new in American history and it has an objective basis. In the 1930s unemployed “working people” could anticipate realistically that the jobs are going to come back. If you’re a worker in manufacturing today -- and the unemployment level in manufacturing today is approximately like the Depression -- if current tendencies persist, then those jobs aren’t going to come back. The change took place in the '70s. There are a lot of reasons for it. One of the underlying reasons, discussed mainly by economic historian Robert Bernard, who has done a lot of work on it, is a falling rate of profit. That, with other factors, led to major changes in the economy -- a reversal of the 700 years of progress towards industrialization and development. We turned to a process of deindustrialization and de-development. Of course, manufacturing production continued, but overseas (it’s very profitable, but no good for the workforce). Along with that came a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise, producing things people need, to financial manipulation. Financialization of the economy really took off at that time.

Before the '70s, banks were banks. They did what banks are supposed to do in a capitalist economy: take unused funds, like, say, your bank account, and transfer them to some potentially useful purpose, like buying a home or sending your kid to college. There were no financial crises. It was a period of enormous growth; the largest period of growth in American history, or maybe in economic history. It was sustained growth in the '50s and '60s and it was egalitarian. So the lowest percentile did as well as the highest percentile. A lot of people moved into reasonable lifestyles -- what’s called here “middle class” (working class is what it’s called in other countries).

It was real. The '60s accelerated it. The activism of the '60s, after a pretty dismal decade, really civilized the country in lots of ways that are permanent. They’re not changing. The '70s came along and suddenly there’s sharp change to industrialization and the offshoring of production. The shifting to financial institutions, which grew enormously. Also in the '50s and '60s there was the development of what became several decades later the high-tech economy. Computers, Internet, the IT revolution was mostly developed in the '50 and the '60s, and substantially in the state sector. It took a couple of decades before it took off, but it was developed then.

The 1970s set off a kind of a vicious cycle that led to a concentration of wealth increasingly in the hands of the financial sector, which doesn’t benefit the economy. Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power, which, in turn, arrives to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The physical policies such as tax changes, rules of corporate governance, deregulation were essentially bipartisan. Alongside of this began a very sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drives the political parties even deeper than before into the pockets of the corporate sector.

A couple years later started a different process. The parties dissolved, essentially. It used to be if you were a person in Congress and hoped for a position of committee chair or a position of responsibility, you got it mainly through seniority and service. Within a couple of years, you started to have to put money into the party coffers in order to get ahead. That just drove the whole system even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector and increasingly the financial sector--a tremendous concentration of wealth, mainly in the literally top 1/10th of 1 percent of the population.

Meanwhile, for the general population it began an open period of pretty much stagnation, or decline for the majority. People got by through pretty artificial means -- like borrowing, so a lot of debt. Longer working hours for many. There was a period of stagnation and a higher concentration of wealth. The political system began to dissolve. There’s always been a gap between public policy and the public will, but it just grew kind of astronomically. You can see it right now, in fact.

Take a look at what’s happening right now. The big topic in Washington that everyone concentrates on is the deficit. For the public, correctly, the deficit is not much of an issue. The issue is joblessness, not a deficit. Now there’s a deficit commission but no joblessness commission. As far as the deficit is concerned, if you want to pay attention to it, the public has opinions. Take a look at the polls and the public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy, which have declined sharply during this stagnation period, this period of decline. The public wants higher taxes on the wealthy and to preserve the limited social benefits. The outcome of the deficit commission is probably going to be the opposite. Either they’ll reach an agreement, which will be the opposite of what the public wants, or else it will go into kind of an automatic procedure which is going to have those effects. Actually that’s something that’s going to happen very quickly. The deficit commission is going to come up with its decision in a couple of weeks. The Occupy movements could provide a mass base for trying to avert what amounts to a dagger in the heart of the country, and having negative effects.

Without going on with details, what’s being played out for the last 30 years is actually a kind of a nightmare that was anticipated by the classical economists. If you take an Adam Smith, and bother to read Wealth of Nations, you see that he considered the possibility that the merchants and manufacturers in England might decide to do their business abroad, invest abroad and import from abroad. He said they would profit but England would be harmed. He went on to say that the merchants and manufacturers would prefer to operate in their own country, what’s sometimes called a “home bias.” So, as if by an invisible hand, England would be saved the ravage of what’s called “neoliberal globalization.”

That’s a pretty hard passage to miss. In his classic Wealth of Nations, that’s the only occurrence of the phrase “invisible hand.” Maybe England would be saved from neoliberal globalization by an invisible hand. The other great classical economist David Ricardo recognized the same thing and hoped it wouldn’t happen. Kind of a sentimental hope. It didn’t happen for a long time, but it’s happening now. Over the last 30 years that’s exactly what’s underway. For the general population -- the 99 percent in the imagery of the Occupy movement --it’s really harsh and it could get worse. This could be a period of irreversible decline. For the 1 percent, or furthermore 1/10th of 1 percent, it’s just fine. They’re at the top, richer and more powerful than ever in controlling the political system and disregarding the public, and if it can continue, then sure why not? This is just what Smith and Ricardo warned about.

So pick Citigroup, for decades one of the most corrupt of the major investment banking corporations. It was repeatedly bailed out by the taxpayer over and over again starting in the early Reagan years and now once again. I won’t run through all the corruption. You probably know it, and it’s astonishing. A couple of years ago they came out with a brochure for investors. They urged investors to put their money in what they call the “plutonomy index.” The world is dividing into a plutonomy, the rich and so on. That’s where the action is. They said their plutonomy index is way outperforming the stock market, so put your money into it. And as for the rest? We set them adrift. We don’t really care about them and we don’t need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state to protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but they essentially have no function. It’s sometimes called these days the “precariat,” people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. It’s not the periphery anymore; it’s becoming a very substantial part of the society in the United States and indeed elsewhere.

This is considered a good thing. For example, when Alan Greenspan was still “St. Alan,” hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this is before the crash for which he is substantially responsible for), he was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years explaining the wonders of the great economy. He said much of this economy was based on what he called “growing worker insecurity.” If working people are insecure, if they’re “precariat” and living precarious existences, then they’re not going to make demands, they won’t make wages, they won’t get benefits and we can kick them out if we don’t like them, and that’s good for the health of the economy. That’s what’s called a healthy economy technically and he was highly praised for this.

Well, now the world is indeed splitting into a plutonomy and a precariat, again in the imagery of the Occupy movement, the 1 percent and the 99 percent. The plutonomy is where the action is. It could continue like this, and if it does, then this historic reversal that began in the 1970s could become irreversible. That’s where we’re heading. The Occupy movements are the first major popular reaction which could avert this. It’s going to be necessary to face the fact that it’s a long hard struggle. You don’t win victories tomorrow. You have to go on and form structures that will be sustained through hard times and can win major victories. There are a lot of things that can be done.

I mentioned before that in the 1930s one of the most effective actions was a sit-down strike. The reason was very simple: it’s just a step below a takeover of the industry. Through the '70s, as the decline was setting in, there were some very important events that took place. One was in the late '70s. In 1977, US Steel decided to close one of its major facilities, Youngstown, Ohio, and instead of just walking away, the workforce and the community decided to get together and buy it from US Steel and hand it over to the workforce to run and turn it into a worker-owned, worker-managed facility. They didn’t win, but with enough popular support they could have won. It was a partial victory because even though they lost it set off other efforts now throughout Ohio and other places.

There’s a scattering of hundreds, maybe thousands, of not-so-small worker owned or partially worker-owned industries which could become worker-managed. That’s the basis for a real revolution. That’s how it takes place. It’s happening here, too. In one of the suburbs of Boston something similar happened. A multi-national decided to shut down a productive, functioning and profitable manufacturing company because it was not profitable enough for them. The workforce and union offered to buy it and take it over and run it themselves, but the multi-national decided to close it down instead probably for reasons of class consciousness. I think they want things like this to happen. If there had been enough popular support, if there had been something like this movement that could have gotten involved, they might have succeeded.

There are other things going on like that. In fact, some of them were major. Not long ago, Obama took over the auto industry. It’s basically owned by the public. There were a number of things that could have been done. One was what was done. It could be reconstituted so it could be handed back to the ownership, or very similar ownership and continue on its traditional path. The other possibility was they could have handed it over to the workforce and turned it into worker-owned, worker-managed major industrial system that’s a major part of the economy and have it produce things that people need. And there’s a lot that we need. We all know or should know that the US is extremely backward globally in high-speed transportation. That’s very serious. It affects people’s lives and it affects the economy. It’s a very serious business.

I have a personal story. I happened to be giving talks in France a couple months ago and ended up in southern France and had to take a train from Avignon in southern France to the airport in Paris and it took two hours. That’s the same distance as Washington to Boston. It’s a scandal. It could be done; we have the capacity to do it, like a skilled workforce. It would have taken a little popular support. That could have been a major change in the economy. Just to make it more surreal, while this option was being avoided, the Obama administration was sending its transportation secretary to Spain to get contracts for developing high-speed rails for the United States. This could have been done right in the Rust Belt, which is being closed down. There’s no economic reason this can’t happen. These are class reasons and the lack of political mobilization.

There are very dangerous developments in the international arena, including two of them which are kind of a shadow that hangs over almost everything we discuss. There are, for the first time to human history, real threats to peace and survival of the species. One has been hanging around since 1945 and it’s kind of a miracle we’ve escaped it and that’s the threat of nuclear weapons. That’s a threat that’s being escalated by the administration and its allies. Something has to be done about that or we’re in real trouble. The other, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Every country in the world is taking at least halting steps toward trying to do something about it. The US is also taking steps, namely to accelerate the threat. The US is now the only country that’s not only not doing something constructive…it’s not climbing on the train. It’s pulling it backwards.

Congress is right now reversing legislation instituted by the Nixon administration. (Nixon was really the last liberal president of the United States, and literally, this shows you what’s been going on!) They’re dismantling the limited measures the Nixon administration took to try to do something about what’s a growing and emerging catastrophe. This is connected with a huge propaganda system, perfectly openly declared by the business world, that it’s all just a liberal hoax. Why pay attention to these scientists? We’re really regressing back to the Medieval period. It’s not a joke. If that’s happening to the most powerful and richest country in history then this crisis is not going to be averted and all of this we’re talking about won’t matter in a generation or two. All of that’s going on right now and something has to be done about it very soon and in a dedicated and sustained way. It’s not going to be easy to succeed. There are going to be barriers, hardships and failures along the way. Unless the process that’s taking place here and around the world, unless that continues to grow and kind of becomes a major social force in the world, the chances for a decent future are not very high.


Q: What about corporate personhood and getting the money out of that stream of politics?

A: These are very good things to do, but you can’t do any of these things or anything else unless there’s a very large and active base. If the Occupy movement was the leading force in the country then you could move it forward. Most people don’t know that this is happening or they may know about it and not know what it is. Among those who do know, the polls show there’s a lot of support. But that assigns a task. It’s necessary to get out into the country and get people to understand what this is about and what they can do about and what the consequences are of not doing anything about it.

Corporate personhood is a good point, but pay attention to what it is. We’re supposed to worship the Constitution these days, but the 5th Amendment of the Constitution says no person shall be deprived of rights without due process of law. The founding fathers didn’t mean “person” when they said “person.” For example there were a lot of creatures of flesh and blood who were not persons. The entire indigenous population was not considered persons. They didn’t have any rights. There was a category of creatures called 3/5 human -- they weren’t persons and didn’t have rights. Women were not entirely persons, so they didn’t have full rights. A lot of this was somewhat rectified over the years. During the Civil War, the 14th amendment raised the 3/5 to full humans at least in principle, but that was only in principle.

Now over the following years the concept of person was changed by the courts in two ways. One way was to broaden it to include corporations, legal fictions established by the courts and the state. These “persons” later became the management of corporations; the management of corporations became “persons.” Of course, that’s not what the 14th amendment says. It’s also narrowed to undocumented workers. They had to be excluded from the category of persons. That’s happening right now. So legislation like this goes two ways. They defined persons to include corporate persons, which by now have rights beyond human beings, given by the trade agreements and others. They exclude people who flee from Central America where the US devastated their homelands, flee from Mexico because they can’t compete with the US’s highly subsidized agro-business. When NAFTA was passed in 1994, the Clinton administration understood pretty well that it was going to devastate the Mexican economy, so they started militarizing the border. So we’re seeing the consequences. So these people have to be excluded from the category of persons.

So when you talk about personhood, that’s right, but there’s more than one aspect to it. It ought to be pushed forward and it ought to be understood, but that requires a mass base. It requires that the population understands this and is committed to it. It’s easy to think of a lot of things that should be done, but they all have a prerequisite – namely a mass popular base that’s there that’s committed to implementing them.

Q: What about the ruling class in America? How likely is it that they’ll have an open fascist system here?

A: I think it’s very unlikely frankly. They don’t have the force. About a century ago, in the freest countries in the world, Britain and the United Sates at the time, the dominant classes came to understand that they can’t control the population by force any longer. Too much freedom had been won by struggles like these, and they realized it. It’s discussed in their literature. They recognize that they’re going to have to shift their tactics to control of attitudes and beliefs instead of just the cudgel. It can’t do what it used to do. You have to control attitudes and beliefs. In fact that’s when the public relations industry began. It began in the United States and England. The free countries where you had to control beliefs and attitudes, to induce consumerism, to induce passivity, apathy and distraction. It’s a barrier, but it’s a lot easier to overcome than torture and the Gestapo. I don’t think the circumstances are any longer there to institute anything like what we call fascism.

Q: You mentioned earlier that sit-down protests are just a precursor to a takeover of industry. Would you advocate a general strike as a tactic moving forward? Would you ever if asked allow for your voice to relay the democratically chosen will of our nation?

A: You don’t want leaders; you want to do it yourself. We need representation and you should pick it yourselves. It should be recallable representation.

The question of a general strike is like the others. You can think of it as a possible idea at a time when the population is ready for it. We can’t sit here and declare a general strike, obviously. There has to be approval and a willingness to take the risks on the part of a large mass of the population. That takes organization, education and activism. Education doesn’t just mean telling people what to believe. It means learning yourself. There’s a Karl Marx quote: “The task is not just to understand the world but to change it.” There’s a variant of that which should be kept in mind, “If you want to change the world in a certain direction you better try to understand it first.”

Understanding it doesn’t mean listening to a talk or reading a book, though that is helpful. It comes through learning. Learning comes from participation. You learn from others. You learn from the people you’re trying to organize. You have to gain the experience and understanding which will make it possible to maybe implement ideas as a tactic. There’s a long way to go. This doesn’t happen by the flick of a wrist. It happens from a long, dedicated work. I think in many ways the most exciting aspect of the Occupy movements is just the construction of these associations and bonds that are taking place all over. Out of that if they can be sustained can come expansion to a large part of the population that doesn’t know what’s going on. If that can happen, then you can raise questions about tactics like this, which could very well at some point be appropriate.

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher,cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor (Emeritus) in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years.
  Read If We Want A Chance At A Decent Future, The Movement Here And Around The World Must Grow
  November 4, 2011  

Levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago

The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide has jumped by a record amount, according to the US department of energy, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.

The figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.

"The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing," said John Reilly, the co-director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

The world pumped about 564m more tons (512m metric tons) of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009, an increase of 6%. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries, China, the US and India, the world's top producers of greenhouse gases.

It is a "monster" increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate department of energy figures in the past.

Extra pollution in China and the US account for more than half the increase in emissions last year, Marland said.

"It's a big jump," said Tom Boden, the director of the energy department's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab. "From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over."

Boden said that in 2010 people were travelling, and manufacturing was back up worldwide, spurring the use of fossil fuels, the chief contributor of man-made climate change.

India and China are huge users of coal. Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8% in 2010.

"The good news is that these economies are growing rapidly so everyone ought to be for that, right?" Reilly said. "Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world."

In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution. Boden said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4-6.4 Celsius) by the end of the century with the best estimate at 7.5 degrees (4 Celsius).

Even though global warming sceptics have criticised the climate change panel as being too alarmist, scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative, Reilly said. He said his university worked on emissions scenarios, their likelihood, and what would happen. The IPCC's worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.

Chris Field of Stanford University, head of one of the IPCC's working groups, said the panel's emissions scenarios are intended to be more accurate in the long term and are less so in earlier years. He said the question now among scientists is whether the future is the panel's worst case scenario "or something more extreme".

"Really dismaying," Granger Morgan, head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University, said of the new figures. "We are building up a horrible legacy for our children and grandchildren."

But Reilly and University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver found something good in recent emissions figures. The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limiting treaty have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8% below 1990 levels. The US did not ratify the agreement.

In 1990, developed countries produced about 60% of the world's greenhouse gases, now it's probably less than 50%, Reilly said.

"We really need to get the developing world because if we don't, the problem is going to be running away from us," Weaver said. "And the problem is pretty close from running away from us."

  Read Greenhouse Gases Rise By Record Amount
 November 6, 2011  
A Drama In Disarray: G20 Summit In Cannes
by Farooque Chowdhury, Countercurrents.org

The G20 summit in Cannes has concluded in disarray and without details in “agreements”. Leaders were unable to agree upon financing the IMF to help advanced capitalist countries in distress. No G20 state is willing to participate in the euro zone bailout fund.

However, one “achievement” is there instead of a total failure: interventions in two democracies – Greece and Italy – appeared close to coup although a G20 leader disagreed. So, all should agree with the leader: These are not coups de grace, but a mere attempt to change government or press government to listen to interventionists for the sake of markets. Italy and Greece have been made to submit to creditors’ dictation.

The Cannes Crisis Festival, considered a flop by some commentators, saw little progress on resolving Europe’s debt crisis. The leaders, as Angela Merkel acknowledged, had failed to interest any of the G20 state in investing in a new initiative. From her statement it appeared that China and Russia bargained a bit. Russia and China demand IMF to secure their investments. A strange symptom within a world structured along a NATO-WB-IMF-WTO design.

But Cannes summit has failed to raise market confidence. Stock markets in New York, Frankfurt and Paris initially expressed their reaction by moving down.

The continuing eurozone debt crisis dominated summit had the hope to increase IMF resources by $250bn to more than $1tn. But the hope has not touched this material world. The hope has been kept suspended for G20 finance ministers with the hope to be materialized in next February.

The summit communiqué made commitment to move “more rapidly” towards greater exchange rate flexibility, agreed to give IMF more money, welcomed Italy’s “wisdom” to invite the IMF to monitor its reforms, and called on countries with strong public finances to take steps to boost domestic demand.

“Dark clouds, Ban Ki-moon warned at an event with main stream labor leaders in Cannes, “have gathered once again over the global economy. […M]any people cannot even see the light at the end of a long, long tunnel.” With a similar mood, David Cameron said the crisis was having a “chilling effect” on his country’s economy. He hinted at worse to come, describing this as only “a stage of the global crisis”. The UK leader felt that in the interest of his country the eurozone crisis should be sorted out as rapidly as possible.

For playing down failure to make progress on major issues Nicolas Sarkozy tried to appear as a warrior for the cause of Robin Hood tax. Sarkozy expressed his willingness to “fight to defend Europe and the euro” as he said in a post-summit press conference.

Sarkozy said: We cannot accept the explosion of the euro, which would mean the explosion of Europe. He has assured that the G20 had agreed to boost the IMF. He made a forecast: G20 would agree by February. The French leader denied the demands on Silvio Berlusconi represented almost an IMF coup: “We never wanted to change governments, either in Greece or in Italy. That is not our role; that is not our idea of democracy.” However, he said that George Papandreou’s decision not to tell fellow EU leaders about plans to hold a referendum was “shocking”. Barack Obama reminded Greek and Italian parliaments to take decisive action. The US leader praised increased scrutiny of Italy as a step in the right direction.

The summit deliberations showed Britain’s inability to take burden. Cameron admitted that the G20 summit had failed to resolve the eurozone debt crisis. He went on: “I’m not going to pretend all of the problems in the eurozone have been fixed, they haven’t.” Cameron feels, “[t]he problem is that not all of the details... have been put in place.” He assured British taxpayers that increasing UK contributions to the IMF would not put their “money at risk”, and the money would not support a eurozone bailout. He revealed a fact: Contributing money to support the IMF was, as a trading nation, “in our interests”. He also suggested that the issue of increasing contribution to the IMF would not be put on a vote in the Commons. It appears that UK capital does not have interest in euro bail out, but in expansion of global business.

The Greek drama annoyed the Cannes festival as Papandreou announced to hold a referendum on austerity package being pushed through Greece’s throat. The political move panicked markets around the world and the G20 leaders. But dominating capital’s dictation made Papandreou step back. He threw away referendum plan to seek people’s mandate on the austerity plan that includes sell-off of public property. The Papandreou government sought confidence in parliament after alleged horse trading and survived a confidence vote.

Italy with its near-nonexistent growth was an amazing player in the Cannes show. Rome now threatens to carry Europe’s debt crisis up to a level that can fall on the entire earth’s capitalist economy, and make it spin listlessly. Italy’s borrowing rates are rising to the levels that forced the PIG to seek bailout “benevolence” in all its crudeness. With a $2.5 trillion debt Italy has agreed to let the IMF monitor its implementation of austerity program.

But, as a Reuter’s story described, the “fierce pressure from financial markets and European peers” was not a humiliation for Berlusconi as he agreed to have the IMF and the EU monitors. It was reported that Berlusconi “was summoned to a late-night hotel meeting with Merkel, Sarkozy, the IMF director general Christine Lagarde and Obama, where he was instructed to bring Italy under […] IMF surveillance to ensure he implements […] measures, including changes to the labor market, […] the sell-off of state assets.” However, Berlusconi tried to minimize the satiric-political impact of the decision, saying that it had been requested by Italy rather than imposed by world leaders. He boasted: He had invited the IMF to offer advice; he had rejected an offer of IMF funds. He claimed that his country was more solid than France or the UK. “Italian restaurants and vacation spots are always full. Nobody has the sense the country is in a crisis”, said the scandal-ridden Italian leader.

The IMF bosses will audit Italy’s books of accounts to make sure the austerity measures are implemented with brute force. An EC team will also supervise. Moreover, the Media Mughal of Italy with a history of not standing by promises had to make a new promise to European leaders in Cannes, the famous film festival place that sees attractive film figures: a confidence motion within 15 days in Roman Senate. These developments achieved by external and Italian finance elites impacted Italian politics. Desertions from coalition government of Berlusconi have made its life uncertain.

Shall there be horse trading in the country’s political market dominated by the rich? Shall the trade be called democratic distribution of patronage by one of the richest men of Italy? All, from Catholic Church to business, want Berlusconi’s exit. But the democratic warrior knows well that Italy is not Libya. This perception has led him to brush aside the desire of powerful interests. He has already found traitors to the country as he described party rebels. Have ghosts of fallen dictators overshadowed the character of Italian comedy in a Roman Holiday? However, there are all the possibilities of Berlusconi’s Mubarak Moment.

The world now is a bit different whatever the Italian leader claims. The IMF bosses do not only dictate the poor in the South. They are now showing muscles in advanced capitalist countries. Now, after Greek Tragedy and Italy Incident, the ruling elites, many of them are pure robbers and plunderers, of IMF-dictated-poor countries should get “rid” of sense of shame. The founding fathers of the Bretton Woods institutions had not imagined that one day in future their institutions designed to subdue the poor world would discipline advanced capitalist countries. Even, Marx had not imagined. Has something rotten down in the core of capitalism? The IMF is disciplining Ireland, Portugal and Greece, “dignified” capitalist countries not “shameless” like the poor countries.

Russia made a major advance in the summit as the country will be allowed into the WTO, “the biggest step in world trade liberalization since China joined a decade ago.” The step will have implication on present major players in the world trade club. China’s increasing power was evident in the summit as the country resisted calls to allow its currency to appreciate. It now appears that these two countries are making their voices heard in the gathering of the powerful and aspiring-powerful.

The disarrayed drama, the unwillingness to fund IMF, the flexing of power reaching close to coup in advanced capitalist countries, the humiliations, etc. raise a few fundamental questions related to capitalist world system that was in euphoria with a brute onslaught named globalization a few years back.

Dhaka based free lancer Farooque Chowdhury contributes on socioeconomic issues.

  Read A Drama In Disarray: G20 Summit In Cannes
 December 1st, 2011  

Lire "Lettre de Marielle a Jean-Denis Saint-Cyr" Les messages des Élohim et la constante de l’amour  peut faire maintenir l’harmonie et l’équilibre dans notre univers

  Read Les messages des Élohim et la constante de l’amour  peut faire maintenir l’harmonie et l’équilibre dans notre univers