Politics and Justice without borders

Global Community Newsletter

Volume 9 Issue 11 November 2011
Theme this month:
Year 2106.
Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist

Interview bewteen Eric, son of Kathia,  and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist

Global Peace Village is a project of the Global Community.

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

Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP)

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 the Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist in .swf Animation movie of the Interview bewteen Eric, son of Kathia,  and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist  in swf

Animation movie of the Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist in .html Animation movie of the Interview bewteen Eric, son of Kathia,  and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist in HTML

Animation movie of the Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist in .wmv on the Internet Animation movie of the Interview bewteen Eric, son of Kathia,  and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist in wmv

Animation movie of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP) .swf Animation movie of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP)  in swf

Animation movie of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP) in .html Animation movie of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP) in HTML

Animation movie of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP) in .wmv on the Internet Animation movie of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP) in wmv

See the following artboards showing the Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist and feel free to use them. The artboards have dimensions 2880x1800. And following, see also the artboards showing the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP).


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Year 2106. Interview bewteen Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist doing background research about the site Global Peace Village and Earth (GPVE). Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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My mother was truly a great diplomat of the Global Community and has managed to bring about Peace on planet Earth. Also her leadership has been an important factor in major scientific advances  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Her other important achievements were all a result of her vision in improving the educational system worldwide. She was first in integrating students of all levels of education at one site thus promoting a healthier intellectual development from one generation to the next.  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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At least today we know for certain God's goal: creation of life in all its forms throughout the Universe. And life is the key to God's Heaven. Why would there be billion of stars and galaxies in our observable Universe unless there was more than one way to communicate between one another and, of course, to travel the distances. To believe gives meaning to the Universe and that is of prime importance.  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Antigravity major discovery has made it possible to control our global climate to the point where we are able to move moisture in clouds to any place on the planet thus solving many problems causing flooding, deserts, forest fires, or the lack of drinking water. Proper global climate control has got rid of many problems such as poverty, conflicts over water, lack of water for agricultural production, land and top soil erosion, and pollution.  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Most of our buildings are underground. Bushes and trees are for the photosynthesis of oxygen we all need for breathing. Let me now show you part of the site. We will visit wings 9 (pre-school students) and 10 (age 5 to 9 students) of the University of Global Learning. After visiting the wings, I will show you the original animation of Global Dialogue 2012 November Newsletter explaining the goal of Global Peace Village and Earth.  Global Peace Village: the way forward artboard

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Sue and Eric arriving at the University of Global Learning. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Wing 9 (pre-schooll students) and wing 10 (Age 5 to 9 students) of the University. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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These are typical pre-school classrooms you find in Wing 9. As I mentioned before, GCLC comprises 124 different wings, each wing represents a specific learning area and may have more than 200 classrooms. In pre-school children are taught to grow internal structures they will need later on in life when facing changes. They will become the new leaders of their generation and, through exercises while playing, we build up those internal structures which will allow them visioning solutions to problems for the better of all life globally and in the community where they will live. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Pre-school Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Pre-school Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Pre-school Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Pre-school  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Pre-school  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Pre-school  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Age 5 to 9

This is the stage in a human being development when teachers and parents must help a child grow all the necessary internal structures needed for leaderhip in all fields.
Give children the gift of belonging to the Global Community, their home, their natural environment, the original place where it all started. Children will find their inner self in this home and become important participants able to act with leadership. Sciences make children understand the world they are born and living in and why it needs their protection. Understanding our world is the first step of leadership.  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Sciences  Global Peace Village: the way forward artboard

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Sciences Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Sciences Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Sciences Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Sciences Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Sciences Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Free art

Free art helps develop further a strong inner self and the skill for vision. This skill will grow and be used daily later on in life to resolve problems and deal effectively with the constant changes in their lives and the world. True leaders have to have a well develop skill for vision in their inner selves. Help children make use of their imagination. Ask them questions and allow them to express themselves freely with the use of their imagination. Let them use their imagination while doing painting and sculpture. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Free art  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Free art  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Free art  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Free art Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Free art  Global Peace Village: the way forward artboard

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Free art Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Allowing children to express themselves, their feelings, through music lessons is also a very important art form helping in the development of their internal structure.Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Music Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Music Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Music Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Music Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Music  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Music  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Help children developed visioning, a new symbiotical relationship with all life on Earth and in the Universe, and with Soul of all Life. This will give the relationship a solid ground from which they can trust forward and grow to be the leaders of future generations. They will need this solid ground later in life in times when difficult decisions have to be made on behalf of all humanity.  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Leadership  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Leadership  Global Peace Village: the way forward artboard

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Leadership Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Leadership Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Leadership Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Leadership Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Leadership Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Joy, wonder and dream
Allow children to express joy and wonder, and dream freely about the immediate environment where they grow; and to experience life within themselves and in the world where they live and grow. They will grow the self, this sense of being a unique individual looking out and exploring.
Make children and youths discover for themselves why each member of "a Global Community" is important - each bird, each tree, each little animal, each insect, plant and human being, ~ and how all work together to create a good place to live. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Joy  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Wonder  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Dream  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Play  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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To experience the concept of "global community" walk outdoors in a location with as many natural elements as possible - city, park, river, mountains - be prepared to really look, to really see whatever surrounds you.Look up, look down, to the right, to the left, in front and behind you. Imagine all this space is inside a giant clear glass bubble.This is "a global community." Wherever you go, you are inside a "global" community. Every thing, every living creature there, interacts one upon the other. Influences inter-weave and are responsible for causes and effects. Worlds within worlds orbiting in and out of one another's space, having their being. Your presence has influence on everything else inside your immediate global community.
Learn to be aware of that and act accordingly, to create good or destroy, to help or to hurt. Your choice. To do good is being a responsible global citizen.  Global Peace Village: the way forward artboard

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Now let us explore this Global Community that we have visited and discover why each member is important ~ each bird, each tree, each little animal, each insect, plant and human being ~ and how all work together to create a good place to live.You walk like a giant in this Global Community. To all the tiny members you are so big, so powerful, even scary? You can make or break their world. But by knowing their needs, and taking care, you can help your whole Global Community be a good one. You become a good global citizen. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Let each child be aware he either grows up to be a person who helps or a person who destroys. Each child makes his own choice. He creates his own future in this way. This may or may not inspire some sort of creative project, of what "could be" to aid this Global Community to remain healthy. To interact knowledgeably within one's global community has to be taught ~ especially to urban children. It has to be brought to them very clearly all life forms interact and depend upon other life forms for survival. They need to know "reasons why" ignorance of nature's law causes such damage, and why working in harmony with nature produces such good results. The concept of the Glass Bubble can be extended to include the planet Earth and all the "global communities" contained therein. That is "the Global Community". Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Nature Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Teach the unique way to make decisions
The appalling dilemma of decision-making. The idea here is to teach children and youths a unique way to make decisions. Life's major problems make us react ~ and there are myriad possible reactions ~ but to be of a mind-set that allows one to calmly face the problem detached from emotion in order to pick the best solution, may quite possibly be the most powerful tool of any person interested in personal development.

Human desires, vanities, attachments to family mores, influence these decisions and so they tend to be accurate expressions of each individual's character at that particular time.

Our choice, in the end, is what we want because of what we feel. This particular assessment of any given situation appears to express our level of development as a human being devoted to building strong character. One feels the most honest thing to do is face exactly what is presented on the horns of our dilemma for our choice:~ One solution will satisfy old values. The other will be in accord with new. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Decision making Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Personal sustainable development
What is personal sustainable development? Why is this important to teach children and youths?
Personal sustainable development has to do with each and everyone of us:
a. being with self-control; eating to accommodate your body's needs and holding hereditary ills in check; maintaining a well working physical vehicle (your body); balancing our life with work, play and rest; feeding our mind and being constantly learning; communicating with others
b. living with the empowerment of free-thought, creativity
c. taking charge of our lives
d. planning for our own future
Everyone has to decide this by himself/herself. Knowing our weaknesses we can work eliminating them or at least making sure they would not affect significantly our decision-making process. It is a struggle that spans our lifetime. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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What to decide?
Once an individual is in control of his own being then he can extend his empowerment out to his global community and the Global Community.
This way each person has to decide what:
a. are the things holding us back and requiring serious attention and how can they be starved-out so good things may grow
b. is most important
c. deserves to be nurtured
At the end each and everyone of us decides what sort of person we want to become.
After going through this personal clean-up we become a better citizen, a more sensitive neighbour, a moral responsible father, and a more useful and respected member of the Global Community.  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Personal Sustainable Development  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Self-improvement based on conscience
Every man (woman) must make a personal decision about: What is most important to me? What about me deserves to be nurtured? What is holding me back? What requires serious attention? What about me needs "starving out" so good qualities can grow?  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Self-improvement based on conscience Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Human conscience
Conscience means human have the knowledge to keep the planet healthy; it is the science of determining right and wrong.
In case of the human conscience towards the planet's survival it is:
a. Saving the planet from becoming an uninhabitable place
b. Stopping the planet from becoming an uninhabitable place
Human conscience should prevent the planet from becoming uninhabitable. How much of what we have in spiritual values do we have to leave behind? Old ideas and thoughts, traditions, laws, ways of doing things must be re-evaluated and some left behind.
Human conscience will insist all possible measures be taken to prevent the planet from becoming uninhabitable. Education is necessary to awaken all people in all countries to the frightening fact that unless we all take responsibility for plant life it will soon become uninhabitable. It will no longer be able to support human life.  Global Peace Village: the way forward artboard

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Self-interest, self-preservation as a species, as peoples and inhabitants of this planet, instinct, are all driving forces of global human consciousness. Global consciousness is about a chain of dependence; everything depends on another form of life for survival like a symbiosis: lifeforms who contribute to the food or well-being of another species. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Human conscience Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Symbiotical relationships
Creating meaningful symbiotical relationships between one another and between us and Soul of all Life is very important. We have defined that any symbiotical relationship is for the good of all. It is based on a genuine group concern and unconditional support for the individual's well-being ~ a giant leap in human behaviour. Symbiotical relationships are needed today for the long term future of humanity, for the protection of life on our planet, and to bring about the event of peace amongst us all. The fundamental criteria of any symbiotical relationship is that a relationship is created for the good of all groups participating in the relationship and for the good of humanity, all life on Earth. The relationship allows a global equitable and peaceful development and a more stable and inclusive global economy.

There is a need to change the "who cares?" attitude in children.
Human beings and other life species need oxygen to live. Trees, plants and growing things provide oxygen. Therefore we destroy the source of oxygen at our peril. The above is a vitally important fact. It is very important to have many areas of healthy green growth. It is not so important that every person owns his own green area. But what has to go is the "who cares?" attitude which stems from ignorance about the importance of green growing areas. Everyone who wants a life has to take responsibility for it. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Symbiotical relationships Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Observing other life species
Conduct exercises to learn about specific species and create projects. Imagine what their own Glass Bubbles might be like. Using evolution-of-species charts, maps of continental drift and records of climate over the ages examine the evolutionary changes in your chosen species, imagining the glass bubbles, or global communities in which they lived at each stage of development. Consider climate, food supply, possible life hazards. Think! Pretend you are there. Use your imagination to pretend you are actually inside that glass bubble, that global community, with your selected species. Feel the situation. Respond to the need of your species. Understand what makes things happen.

Oral Presentations or Papers
* Describe why major physical changes came to the body of your chosen species over time, even causing sub-species.
* Clarify how climate changes caused the need for a different kind of food, and illustrate how the body adapted and changed in certain areas to accommodate the new food, new location, new climate. Document how life-styles changed and sub-species developed over the ages.
* Record the special skills in survival, collection of food, dealing with danger, of the various sub-species as evolution occured in its different branches of the family tree. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Bringing the new knowledge home to see how it fits in our lives as well.
You are in your private glass bubble, the global community in which you live every day. Changes have come to your environment:
- Temperatures have shot up 10% and stayed there.
- There is no place for the water to drain off, and the rain falls every day.
How does this influence your daily life?
How do you dress?
How do you get to school? Where do you play?
Where does your food come from now?
What is there around that you could eat?
What new skills do you need to develop?
How are the adults in your life coping with this?
What happened to their jobs?
Where would they move?

Suppose the climate change in our imaginary scenario persisted.
How might the human species evolve over the next 10,000 years?
Create a class project Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Make a panoramic model of a global community with evolved humans, who have survived the heat and the water. Show all the likely adaptations they would make. Record other life-style changes including food.

Students taking part in such a study are quite likely to internalize the following basic truths:

* what we put into our bodies matters
* nature's laws must be respected and adapted to
* climate can be dealt with once we understand its causes
* there is still time for us to "clean up our act" as humans, and co-operate with nature to keep this planet healthy and comfortable for all life forms
* every species relies heavily for survival on the co-operation and support of its global community
* every single thing in a global community is an important part of the whole  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Observing other life species  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Spiritual values
What spiritual values and survival should be taugth to children and youths?What conduct is correct if survival is the issue?
In Nature:
Predators are involved in eating other life forms, young of any other species sometimes their own.
In our History:
We have seen cannibalism, murders, wars. Wars have been and are still the most unsustainable action of our species. Wars destroy everything and everyone. Wars satisfy self-interest of a small group of people. Wars keep gun, ship, plane, computer manufacturers and people working with them happy and well fed and give them security for the rest of their lives. Wars are often taken or created in another country by a superpower for the purpose of creating wealth and a healthy economic development in the country of the superpower but completely destroy the country(ies) submitted to the war machine.

Having said that what are spiritual values to sustain life? Most people are part of a religious group to use as an excuse for killing other people and destroying communities in other countries. Children and youths should be taught the secret wisdom behind all the existing religions and helping them to sift out the common truths. Let them seek the best of the best. The teaching of the Soul of all Life would certainly be the best of the best.  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Spiritual values  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Living a life in a harmonious peace order and be compassionate
Old rules to deal with old fears.
Many rules are made to empower the rule-maker only learn to recognize those kind of rules! For they are seldom good for the person who obeys such rules. Old fears have sometimes to do with family feud over several generations.

Old fears could be:

1. a traditional hatred of people based on religious differences, skin colour, life styles, language differences, inter-marriage
2. suspicious of strangers
3. supertitions
4. inaccurate beliefs due to ignorance 5. inaccurate knowledge and interpretation of a religion
Things to go:

1. Living in the past with old traditions, old wives'wisdom
2. Family beliefs(racism)
3. Old-age values
4. Archaic mores
5. Ghetto-ism
6. Class systems
7. Slavery
8. Cast systems
9. Sweatshops
10. Perversions: child prostitution, child selling, etc.  Global Peace Village: the way forward artboard

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Living a life in a harmonious peace order and be compassionate Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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New ways of doing things
Explain the main goal of Global Community. New standards, goals and objectives have to be defined. Firm universal guidelines are essentials in keeping the world healthy. Already we notice throughout the world new ways of thinking being embraced, new behaviors and attitudes adopted. Sound workable solutions to all our problems will have to be researched and developed and made available to everyone on the Internet. This is the main goal of the Global Community organization.

The aim of the Global Community is to give people an opportunity to meet, encourage and advise one another about original ways to best harmonize impacts upon:

· the lives of people
· natural resources
· environment
· economic development

We must abandon ideas and old ways which have not worked well, including traditional ways that have simply become habits. Getting rich at the expense of everyone else is no longer acceptable. Over the decades, history has proven projects and actions which ignored everything except a special interest have resulted in ultimate failure and human misery. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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The Global Community aims to establish a UNIVERSAL BENCHMARK for the 21st Century made up of a Scale of Global Rights for sustainable development based on universal indicators.

The Universal Scale of Values or Scale of Global Rights must be taught to children and youths.The Scale was developed by evaluating impacts with respect to four interacting concerns (people's lives, resources, economic development and the environment) based on a new scale of values.

The scale of values is about establishing what is very important to ensure a sound future for Earth, and to keep our planet healthy, productive and hospitable for all people and living things, what is important, what is not so important, and what should be let go.The Scale gives a person a sense of direction, a goal to achieve, and the hope that by achieving the goal the world will be a better place and at Peace. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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New ways of doing things Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Creativity and imagination
Letting children be themselves as creative human beings whose imagination is a vital resource to humanity as they are able to access easily Soul of all Life world of positive thoughts so benificial to all life on Earth.
Connecting with Soul of all Life makes it possible to initiate new discoveries for the benefit of all life.
Teach children the skill of finding a solution to any small problem at first and gradually increasing the difficulty of achieving a fair and just solution. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Creativity and imagination Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Developing physical skills keeps the mind healthy  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Developing physical skills keeps the mind healthy  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Developing physical skills keeps the mind healthy  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Developing physical skills keeps the mind healthy Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Developing physical skills keeps the mind healthy  Global Peace Village: the way forward artboard

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Where does food come from?
Make children and youths build their own self-improvement way.
There are a number of ideas to keep a child's development sustainable:

1. Eating for power: combinations of foods that create vitality and health.
2. Making good things to eat: simple meals children can make for themselves.
3. Where good food comes from: individual garden plots at school growing food that keeps them strong and healthy. Community effort is necessary to make this work ~ gardens grow during summer holidays. They need constant care.
4. Developing the perfectly healthy body: games and exercises, activities that develop a great body (swimming, skating, skiing, roller-blading, etc.)
5. Developing an open mind: ideas, concepts, attitudes that have proven to work well in foreign societies as well as our own.
6. How learning works: how to study, how to memorize, how to think, logic. Finding "best ways" to do things, workable sound solutions.
7. Children have to learn to become problem solvers as they will be facing global problems on a daily basis.
8. How kindness works: how people react; cause and effect of action; living smoothly.
9. What is happiness: LOVE is a verb; one does nice things for others.  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Suggested ideas upon which a creative teacher may build a program in Personal Sustainable Development for children, which develops their ability to make decisions.

Most of us have been brought up with the knowledge adults make their own choices ~ and pay the price. Could children not be made aware of this as well?

Even a child could see if he acts in certain ways, things can backfire and cause harm. And also that he can act in ways that attracts good things ~ even over a period of time.

If a child has the habit of reacting to unpleasant life events in knee-jerk revenge or angry responses, sparks fly and nasty side-effects flare up all around him. Such action causes memories that rankle for years.

It is very important for children to have experience in choosing to react well, even in little things. It is not so important that one agree with other children all the time. One obeys parents and teachers. But a child has to be taught it is not required of him to be somebody's victim; that is OK to disagree with a course of action.

What must be let go is the uncontrolled way some children react to the troubles of their lives. Let us teach them making unproductive choices attracts even more trouble and frustration. Reacting in inappropriate ways in time of conflict must stop.  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Teaching a child how to sustain the development of his own life toward happy solutions calls for a series of small victories, each one easily achieved.

Perhaps the best place to start is care and management of the child's own room at home, and his own personal care. Once the child feels he has his personal space just the way he wants it, he can advance to dealing one by one with family members, later on, school-mates.

Older children could be encouraged to keep a journal about incidents, and how things happened and were worked out.

Referring back to these records, a child gains a sense of mastery, and quickly builds up finesse with successful ways and means, good phrases to use and so on.

It won't take long before a child has solid evidence that bad luck and tough breaks were only wrong moves that could have been avoided.

He'll get the conviction it is not people or "things" that makes him happy. He is making himself happy ~ it is a state of mind he has created for himself. This self-improvement journey will sustain him for as long as he uses it, the results to be enjoyed for ever.  Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Where does food come from? Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

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Where does food come from?  Global Peace Village: the way forward artboard

Artboard of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP)
Global Peace Village front page Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

Artboard of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP)
Global Peace Village, a long time project of the Global Community, has always been about the teaching of Peace in the world. This goal may change over time but for now that is what we are doing. Global Peace Village is somewhat different than our Global Peace Earth project in its method of teaching and audiences to reach. Global Peace Earth reaches all of humanity, collects data from all aspects of life, makes assessment concerning what is the best way forward for all life on the planet, and actually shows the best way forward globally. On the hand, Global Peace Village has a history of dealing with individual communities, knowing their problems and concerns, and making a difference for the better. Of course, both projects work hand in hand for Peace in the world.

Over the past decades we have shown that peace in the world and the survival and protection of all life on our planet go hand in hand. Asking for peace in the world means doing whatever is necessary to protect life on our planet. Protecting life implies bringing about the event of peace in the world. Let our time be a time remembered for a new respect for life, our determination to achieve sustainability, and our need for global justice and peace. All aspects are interrelated: global peace, global sustainability, global rights and Justice, and the environment. The jobless is more concerned with ending starvation, finding a proper shelter and employment, and helping their children to survive. Environmental issues become meaningless to the jobless. In reality, all concerns are interrelated because the ecology of the planet has no boundaries. Obviously, as soon as our environment is destroyed or polluted beyond repair, human suffering is next. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

Artboard of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP)
Our goal for peace in the world can only be reached by resolving those global problems. Those problems have brought up a planetary state of emergency . In view of the planetary state of emergency, shown and declared by the Global Community, we all must change, we must do things differently to give life on Earth a better survival chance and bring about the event of peace amongst us all. There are also long term solutions. A very important long term solution is the Scale of Global Rights i.e. the fundamental guide to Global Law. Global Law includes legislation covering all essential aspects of human activities.

Our first objective was to find statements from all religions, all faiths, that promote ethical and moral responsibility to life and a responsible Earth management. This was assumed to work well within the context of the global civilization of the 3rd Millennium and after defining the Global Community criteria of symbiotical relationships. In this context, we have defined that any symbiotical relationship is for the good of all. It is based on a genuine group concern and unconditional support for the individual's well-being ~ a giant leap in human behaviour. Symbiotical relationships are needed today for the long term future of humanity, for the protection of life on our planet, and to bring about the event of peace amongst us all. The fundamental criteria of any symbiotical relationship is that a relationship is created for the good of all groups participating in the relationship and for the good of humanity, all life on Earth. The relationship allows a global equitable and peaceful development and a more stable and inclusive global economy. Religious rituals now support the conservation efforts and play a central role in governing the sustainable use of the natural environment.

Throughout Global Dialogue 2012, i.e. from September 1st, 2011, to August 31st, 2012, Global Peace Village will present several methods of teaching to children and youths as they are more likely to absorb and retain the internal structures needed to bring about Peace to future generations. These methods of teaching have already been laid down by the Global Community during the 1990s. In fact, these methods include the basics of what it means to be "a Global Community", and also include the original definition of the Global Community. This was at a time when no one was even thinking about these new concepts but today they are widespread all over the world. It was in 1985 that I first defined the concept of Global Community and further refined it over Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

Artboard of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP)
the years afterwards. Gradually, I defined several original concepts during the second half of the 80s and throughout the 1990s with my wife Virginie. They are now widely used.

During the period from 1985 to 1995, except for our work Virgine and I, there was nothing over the internet promoting these new concepts. It took another five years before they became widely used. These methods of teaching will be further accentuated by newly researched and developed animations which are to show how children and youths can be taught to develop those internal structures so needed to bring about the event of Peace to future generations. Global Dialogue 2012 will thus be mainly concerned with the further teaching of these global concepts brought forward in the 1990s.

The University of Global Learning is the site for teaching. It includes all grades from pre-school to the highest stages of education. At all times and grades, students are involved in conducting research and development so needed to future generations. Obviously children and youths are not expected to show immediate leadership in any field of sciences, litterature, arts, sports, human development, business, communications, politics, religion and technological advances. What is important is that they are taught to develop those internal structures so needed to society. They are taught early in life to develop the internal skill of vision when facing a problem. Later on in life, they are expected to take leadership in all aspects of human activities, and when facing a problem they will be able to 'visionize' the best solution to society, within their community and for all life on Earth. Issues 720 to 748 of Global Dialogue 2012 were specifically designed to show what we mean by teaching children and youths the internal skills and capacity to use them toward the re-visioning of humanity's future and what is best for all species survival on our planet. Along with related activities and experiences, those issues show the way forward of Global Peace Village. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

Artboard of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP)
The facility on the hills. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

Artboard of the Facility for finding Intelligent Life Forms on Distant Planets (ILFODP)
Description of the facility. Interview between Eric, son of Kathia, and Sue Morak, a freelance journalist.

Germain Dufour
Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
November 1st, 2011

All our Global Peace animation projects are listed here.

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

Agence France Presse, Farooque Chowdhury, Shamus Cooke, Justin Elliott, Robert Engelman, Tina Gerhardt, Fiona Harvey, Richard Heinberg, Robert Jensen, Zaid Jilani, Naomi Klein, Mike Konczal, David Korten, Les Leopold, Bill McKibben, David Morris, Tom Murphy, Dr. Habib Siddiqui, Matt Taibbi, Bill Van Auken, Jay Walljasper, Tom Whipple, Steven Wishnia

Agence France Presse, Occupy Wall Street, Other Corporate Greed Protests Spread to 951 Cities Across the World , Occupy Wall Street, Other Corporate Greed Protests Spread to 951 Cities Across the World
Farooque Chowdhury, Toward Sino-Russian Comprehensive Strategic Relationship, Toward Sino-Russian Comprehensive Strategic Relationship
Shamus Cooke, Next Steps For The Occupy Movement, Next Steps For The Occupy Movement
Justin Elliott, Occupy Wall Street Goes Global: 900 Protests Around the World, Thousands in Times Square, Occupy Wall Street Goes Global: 900 Protests Around the World, Thousands in Times Square
Robert Engelman, Revisiting Population Growth: The Impact Of Ecological Limits, Revisiting Population Growth: The Impact Of Ecological Limits
Tina Gerhardt, Our Oceans Are in Dire Shape, But Without Them All Life on Land -- Human, Plant and Animal -- Is Totally Screwed, Our Oceans Are in Dire Shape, But Without Them All Life on Land -- Human, Plant and Animal -- Is Totally Screwed
Fiona Harvey, European Union Moves Toward Banning Tar Sands, European Union Moves Toward Banning Tar Sands
Richard Heinberg, End-Of-Growth Uprising Goes Global, End-Of-Growth Uprising Goes Global
Robert Jensen, As The Earth Turns: Going Global With Perennial Polyculture Agriculture, As The Earth Turns: Going Global With Perennial Polyculture Agriculture
Zaid Jilani, 5 Facts You Should Know About the Wealthiest One Percent of Americans , 5 Facts You Should Know About the Wealthiest One Percent of Americans
Naomi Klein, Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now, Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now
Mike Konczal, Who Are the 1% And What Do They Do For a Living?, Who Are the 1% And What Do They Do For a Living?
David Korten, Why I'm In Solidarity With #OccupyWallStreet, Why I'm In Solidarity With #OccupyWallStreet
Les Leopold, 10 Things to Know About Wall Street's Rapacious Attack on America, 10 Things to Know About Wall Street's Rapacious Attack on America
Bill McKibben, With The Keystone Pipeline, Drawing A Line In The Tar Sands, With The Keystone Pipeline, Drawing A Line In The Tar Sands
David Morris, 5 New Rules for an Economy That Works, 5 New Rules for an Economy That Works
Tom Murphy, Sustainable Means Bunkty To Me, Sustainable Means Bunkty To Me
Dr. Habib Siddiqui, The 66 th UN General Assembly Session Will Remember Obama's Deplorable Tactics, The 66 th UN General Assembly Session Will Remember Obama's Deplorable Tactics
Matt Taibbi, Matt Taibbi: 5 Things Wall Street Protesters Should Demand of the 1%, Matt Taibbi: 5 Things Wall Street Protesters Should Demand of the 1%
Bill Van Auken, Mass Killing And Humanitarian Disaster In NATO Siege Of Sirte, Mass Killing And Humanitarian Disaster In NATO Siege Of Sirte
Jay Walljasper, A Surprising Town Is Now America's Top Bike City, A Surprising Town Is Now America's Top Bike City
Tom Whipple, The Peak Oil Crisis: Contagion, The Peak Oil Crisis: Contagion
Steven Wishnia, Will Clean Energy Ever Be a Reality in the U.S.? Here's What's Standing in Our Way, Will Clean Energy Ever Be a Reality in the U.S.? Here's What's Standing in Our Way

Articles and papers of authors
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 October 17, 2011  
Next Steps For The Occupy Movement
by Shamus Cooke , Countercurrents.org

As the Occupy Movement gains strength nationally and internationally, questions of "what next" are popping up. Although there are no easy answers or ready- to-order recipes for moving forward, there are general ideas that can help unite the Occupy Movements with the broader community of the 99% — which is the most urgent need at the moment. Why the urgency? Writer Chris Hedges explains:

"The state and corporate forces are determined to crush this... They are terrified this will spread. They have their long phalanxes of police on motorcycles, their rows of white paddy wagons, their foot soldiers hunting for you on the streets with pepper spray and orange plastic nets..."

The only reason that surviving occupied spots have been spared is because of the broader sympathy of the 99% combined with the direct participation of large sections of working people at marches and demonstrations. The corporate elite fear a strong, united movement like vampires fear sunlight.

Therefore, city governments are slow-playing the Occupy Movement where it is especially strong — New York and Portland, Oregon, etc. — and are attacking quickly in cities where momentum hasn't caught fire —, Denver, Boston, etc. The massive demonstrations in New York and Portland have protected the occupied spaces thus far, as the mayor, police,and media attempt to chip away at public opinion by exploiting disunity in the movement or focusing on individuals promoting violence, drug use, etc.

To combat this dynamic, the Occupy Movement people needs to unite around common messages that they can effectively broadcast to those 99% not yet on the streets; or to maintain the sympathy of those who've already attended large marches and demonstrations. And although sections of the Occupy Movement scoff at demands, they are crucially necessary. Demands unite people in action, and distinguish them from their opponents; demands give an aim and purpose to a movement and act as a communications and recruiting tool to the wider public. There is nothing to win if no demands are articulated.

One reason that the wealthy are strong is because they are united around demands that raise profits for the corporations they own: slashing wages and benefits, destroying unions, lowering corporate tax rates, destroying social programs, privatization, ending Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, etc.

To consolidate the ranks of the Occupy Movement we need similar demands that can inspire the 99%. These are the type of demands that will spur people into action — demands that will get working class people off their couches and into the streets! The immediate task of the movement is to broadcast demands that will agitate the majority of the 99% into action.

On a national level these demands are obvious: Tax the Rich to create a federal public jobs program, fully fund Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and other social programs, fully fund public education, single payer health care, end the wars. These are demands that can unite the Occupy Movement and working people nationally while preventing Democrats and Republicans from taking it over. Poll after poll has recorded that an overwhelming majority of the U.S. population strongly supports these demands, and many unions, including the national AFL-CIO have gone on record supporting them.

On a city and state level these demands can be translated to local issues; cities and states are facing budget deficits that are resulting in cuts to education, social services and resulting in more unemployment. Local Occupy Movements can demand that the local top1% pay more to make up for these, while also demanding that cities and states create jobs with this money.

Corporations are united in their purpose of profit chasing and social service slashing; so too must we be united in saving social services and taxing corporate profits, on a local and national level.

The Occupy Movement has more than room for an umbrella of demands from diverse sections of working class people, but now we must focus on what unites the vast majority, since the corporations have focused on dividing us for decades. The more diverse demands of the working class can find a safe place for expression and growth only within a mass, united movement.

There can be no doubt that the Occupy Movement will either continue to grow into a massive social movement or shrink until the corporate-elite are able to snuff it out. In order for the movement to grow, it must truly attract the broader 99%, not merely the most progressive 10%. Focusing on broad but specific demands that all working people will fight for will attract organized labor, the elderly, students, minorities, i.e., the whole working class.

A working class mass movement has not existed in the United States since the 1930s and 40s when it resulted in spectacular progressive change in America, even if it was cut short before European-style social programs were achieved. Nevertheless, the achievements of the mass movements of past generations are under attack — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and a living wage, etc. Only a real working class movement can save these programs and expand them.

If the Occupy Movement fails, the far right will be emboldened. They are trembling at the potential power of the movement and have lost all momentum themselves. If we lose the initiative, they will immediately seize it to press their agenda further and faster. Only by expanding the movement can we extinguish the power of the corporate elite. We have history on our side; let's not squander it.

The Occupy Movement represents a turning point in history. But in order to achieve its potential, it must reach out to the 99% and draw the majority into its ranks. Then it will have the power to change the agenda of this country, redraw the political map, and create a government that will operate in the interests of the vast majority, not the 1%. Once this change begins to unfold, there are no limits
to what it could accomplish.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)

  Read Next Steps For The Occupy Movement
 October 17, 2011  
End-Of-Growth Uprising Goes Global
by Richard Heinberg , Countercurrents.org

17 October, 2011
Post Carbon Institute

It began in Tunisia and Egypt, then spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It spilled into Spain, Greece, and Ireland. It leapfrogged to Wall Street. And this past weekend it erupted in London, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, Taipei, and Sydney. In hundreds of towns and cities around the world the uprising’s refrain is similar: economic misery resulting from fizzling economic growth is leading protesters to question corruption both in governments and in financial institutions, and to demand an end to extreme economic inequality.

As long as economies grew, inequality was tolerable. And if the rabble demanded perks, governments could simply borrow money to fund social programs. Corruption could fester unnoticed. But now the economic tide is no longer lifting all boats. Bursting financial bubbles have led economies to contract. That has in turn led to falling tax revenues, which have made existing government debts in several key countries unrepayable. Therefore government bonds held by banks as assets suddenly have little value. Which causes the economy to teeter further. The system is broken.

The universal solution: austerity—a strategy of cutting government spending, government jobs, and government services to the poor and middle classes. Suddenly social safety nets are being withdrawn, and extreme economic inequality is no longer socially tolerable.

The only thing that could stop the uprising is a return to growth—which would generate new jobs, higher tax revenues, and solvency in the financial industry. But instead the world economy seems poised on a precipice perhaps more dangerous than the one it faced in 2008. This means the protesters likely aren’t going home anytime soon. For governments, there are only two realistic responses: repression or major reform

Brutal police and military repression of the protests could buy time for politicians, but it would solve nothing. The unrest would go underground and tear at the social fabric, leading eventually to revolution or societal breakdown.

Reform, if it is to make a difference, must be fundamental. It must start by addressing issues of economic inequality, but then must eliminate the massive debt overhang that plagues not just governments but households and the entire financial sector. In essence, policy makers must cobble together a new economic model that meets human needs in the absence of economic growth.

Politicians take note: Forces are being unleashed that cannot be tamed. So far, crisis has been dealt with by a combination of denial and delay. Those tactics no longer work. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

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 End-Of-Growth Uprising Goes Global
 October 14, 2011  
Toward Sino-Russian Comprehensive Strategic Relationship
by Farooque Chowdhury , Countercurrents.org

Russia and China are in a chorus after their recent Libya experience. The old foes turned friends are moving toward, as Chinese president Hu Jintao said, a “comprehensive strategic relationship.” Putin, the Russian leader, found no problem “in the political and humanitarian fields at all.”

Putin is not happy with the US. The former KGB boss with the dream of a new empire tried to make a sweeping stroke at US monetary policy, but the Empire. Was that a tactical restrain? To him, dollar’s dominance is parasitic. “The US is not a parasite for the world economy, but the US dollar’s monopoly is a parasite”, Putin said in an interview with Chinese state media.

Almost at the same time, as an initial response to the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Act that the US Senate passed, and that till now verbally threatens to punish China for undervaluing its currency, China condemned the US.

The condemnation, essentially a political reaction, shows that China now stands for free trade, stands for WTO, an essential arrangement for almost global capital. Capital in its voyages to expansion required “free” trade. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said: The bill is essentially trade protectionism, a serious violation of WTO rules. The Chinese commerce ministry and the People’s Bank of China had no reason to react differently. With a $273bn trade surplus with the US in 2010 China warned of triggering a trade war. Beijing will retaliate in case the bill turns into a law by taxing US multinationals in China.

China, however, still prefers to avoid confrontation with the US. The Chinese leadership’s choice is a win-win situation. The capital there, not entirely Chinese, still needs time and space. The Chinese, the former Mao followers, now, like to depoliticize economy. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said: “We should […] resist politicization of economic and trade issues, and safeguard the healthy development of Sino-US relations.” A dream indeed! Economic and trade issues in modern world is fully politicized.

Led by conservatives and Democratic liberals the US bill with thin possibility of turning into a law is actually a political tact, targeting own electorate, on the part of a section of the US capital. Another section dislikes even the tact. Echoing the section, Economics professor at Long Island University Panos Mourdoukoutas wrote in Forbes: Major US multinationals with a large presence in China will be particularly vulnerable.

Many multinational companies oppose the US legislative initiative, which is still now a political posture. John Boehner, the House Speaker, also dislikes the legislation. To him, the legislative action is like dictating another country. He apprehends that dictating another country’s currency policies would be dangerous. House Republican leaders agree with many business groups that action against China could result in a trade war. The Obama government prefers diplomacy instead of the legislation that might violate international trade rules. Critics warn that it will provoke Chinese retaliation and hurt Americans in one of their fastest-growing markets.

Capital in the US is in a multidimensional problem with itself. It is failing to create jobs in home. But the jobless rate is a threat to its politics. It cannot hurt its part in home. It has to make the part competitive. It cannot also hurt its other part operating from the soil of China using cheap China labor. That part, not totally “communist” capital, has to be kept profitable. That part needs the US market. Even, cheaper commodities from “friendly” capitals will enter the US market and engage into competition if Chinese commodities are pushed away with the power of legislation. Market is really difficult! “Free” market is much more! Profit reigns there. This compels capital to dictate market for making market “free”. It is capital’s dictatorship, not even capital’s democracy. It is dictatorship of a free, democratic capital.

This Sino-US trade tension provided a partial background to Putin’s China visit, an annual diplomatic ritual. The diplomatic act commemorated the 10th anniversary of Russia-China treaty of “Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation”.

China-Russia strategic partnership is passing a decade and a half. Now, China, as premier Wen Jiabao told reporters after meeting Putin, wanted to strengthen the strategic partnership into a comprehensive strategic partnership. The process was initiated months ago. In June 2011, Hu and Medvedev, the Russian president, confirmed the strategic goal while the Chinese president was visiting Russia: comprehensive strategic partnership.

Putin has an imperial target in view – Eurasian Union – that he unveiled in an article in Izvestia, the Moscow daily, about a week ago. His dreamed Eurasian Union, a counterweight to the EU and the US, will be a confederation of former Soviet republics. He has proposed for “creating a powerful supra-national union capable of becoming a pole in the modern world, and at the same time an effective bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific Region”.

Russia’s learning with the EU and NATO close-ship is not a happy one. NATO troops are training at the Russian border, in Georgia. It’s NATO’s first military training center in the Caucasus. With a vigorous posture France is trying to take an active role in the area. Ukraine and Georgia are moving closer to NATO. A chain of NATO missile defense systems stretches along the Russian border, from Turkey through Romania and Poland to Norway. The US and Romania signed an agreement on deployment of US missile defense system by 2015 at a Romanian Air Force Base. A few hundred US military personnel will be stationed there also. A few elements of EUROPRO system will be installed in Turkey. Everything indicates that the US military machine and NATO are encircling Russia.

The East appears brighter to Russia. The country likes to build a pipeline through North Korea to South Korea.

Russia, the world’s largest energy producer, and China, the world’s top energy consumer, are expanding cooperation in areas of energy and military technology. The former rivals, and now occasional partners in diplomacy, have already resolved their boundary conflict. They have held a number of joint military exercises over the years. They are in BRICS and the SCO, emerging counterweights to NATO.

Replacing Germany China became Russia’s top trading partner in 2010 with commercial turnover of $59 bn. This year, it may exceed $70 bn. The partners want to increase trade to $100 bn by 2015 and to $200 bn in 2020. Immediately before Putin’s arrival in China the two countries made 16 economic and trade deals worth over $7 bn that include China’s investment of $1.5 bn in a Siberian aluminum smelter and $1 bn into a joint investment fund.

Russia wants more Chinese investment. The energy giant began supplying oil to China through the 1,000 km Skovorodino-Daqing pipeline on January 1, 2011 boosting China’s energy security and entering a reliable energy market.

These deals, partnership, will impact regions. Russia and China will not be lone actors in these regions. Ruling elites in the region have varying types of relations with geopolitical giants. South Asia will not be a far away idyllic place.

Army General Nikolay Makarov, Russia’s chief of general staff, a few weeks ago said: Russia’s military must be ready to the worst possible scenarios as the political situation in the world is taking complicated and unexpected turns. At a Moscow press conference Makarov said: The world situation especially in North Africa and the Middle East is constantly changing. “What happened in these regions was difficult to predict and the events developed at a tremendous speed. No one can tell now what will happen there. However, this is a signal for all states. We, the military, must be ready for the worst scenarios”, said the Russian general.

Pawns and lackeys in the Third and Fourth Worlds will, if tricky enough, find opportunities to have a better prize from masters in this increasing rivalry. Faction(s) of ruling classes in these societies will enter into deals with the geopolitical actors. A few of them may have scope, at least temporarily, to withstand masters’ pressures. In turn, masters will find out trusted lackeys to replace disobedient friends. Lackeys will appear on stage with masks of civility, democracy, poverty alleviation, etc. only to ensure masters’ interests. Political strife and upheaval in some of these societies is in the waiting. Countries in south-east and south Asia are vulnerable to this changing balance of power.

Gradually increasing competition for market and source of raw materials leading to rivalry will influence democratic movement in Third and Fourth World societies. Identifying friend and foe in democratic struggle, struggle for building up a peaceful, happy life, will turn into a complex job. An informed and aware people make the task easy that can also thwart design to install new pawn.

Farooque Chowdhury the Dhaka based free lancer contributes on socioeconomic issues.

  Read Toward Sino-Russian Comprehensive Strategic Relationship
 October 14, 2011  

Demographers are predicting that world population will climb to 10 billion later this century. But with the planet heating up and growing numbers of people putting increasing pressure on water and food supplies and on life-sustaining ecosystems, will this projected population boom turn into a bust?

The hard part about predicting the future, someone once said, is that it hasn’t happened yet. So it’s a bit curious that so few experts question the received demographic wisdom that the Earth will be home to roughly 9 billion people in 2050 and a stable 10 billion at the century’s end. Demographers seem comfortable projecting that life expectancy will keep rising while birth rates drift steadily downward, until human numbers hold steady with 3 billion more people than are alive today.

What’s odd about this demographic forecast is how little it seems to square with environmental ones. There’s little scientific dispute that the world is heading toward a warmer and harsher climate, less dependable water and energy supplies, less intact ecosystems with fewer species, more acidic oceans, and less naturally productive soils. Are we so smart and inventive that not one of these trends will have any impact on the number of human beings the planet sustains? When you put demographic projections side by side with environmental ones, the former actually mock the latter, suggesting that nothing in store for us will be more than an irritant. Human life will be less pleasant, perhaps, but it will never actually be threatened.

Some analysts, ranging from scientists David Pimentel of Cornell University to financial advisor and philanthropist Jeremy Grantham, dare to underline the possibility of a darker alternative future. Defying the optimistic majority, they suggest that humanity long ago overshot a truly sustainable world population, implying that apocalyptic horsemen old and new could cause widespread death as the environment unravels. Most writers on environment and population are loathe to touch such predictions. But we should be asking, at least, whether such possibilities are real enough to temper the usual demographic confidence about future population projections.

For now, we can indeed be highly confident that world population will top 7 billion by the end of this year. We’re close to that number already and currently adding about 216,000 people per day. But the United Nations “medium variant” population projection, the gold standard for expert expectation of the demographic future, takes a long leap of faith: It assumes no demographic influence from the coming environmental changes that could leave us living on what NASA climatologist James Hansen has dubbed “a different planet.”

How different? Significantly warmer, according to the 2007 assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit more than today on average. Sea levels from two to six feet higher than today’s — vertically, meaning that seawater could move hundreds of feet inland over currently inhabited coastal land. Greater extremes of both severe droughts and intense storms. Shifting patterns of infectious disease as new landscapes open for pathogen survival and spread. Disruptions of global ecosystems as rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns buffet and scatter animal and plant species. The eventual melting of Himalayan glaciers, upsetting supplies of fresh water on which 1.3 billion South Asians and Chinese (and, of course, that number is rising) depend for food production.

And that’s just climate change, based on the more dramatic end of the range the IPCC and other scientific groups project. Yet even if we leave aside the likelihood of a less accommodating climate, population growth itself undermines the basis for its own continuation in other ways. Since 1900, countries home to nearly half the world’s people have moved into conditions of chronic water stress or scarcity based on falling per-capita supply of renewable fresh water. Levels of aquifers and even many lakes around the world are falling as a result. In a mere 14 years, based on median population projections, most of North Africa and the Middle East, plus Pakistan, South Africa and large parts of China and India, will be driven by water scarcity to increasing dependence on food imports “even at high levels of irrigation efficiency,” according to the International Water Management Institute.

The world’s net land under cultivation has scarcely expanded since 1960, with millions of acres of farmland gobbled by urban development while roughly equal amounts of less fertile land come under the plow. The doubling of humanity has cut the amount of cropland per person in half. And much of this essential asset is declining in quality as constant production saps nutrients that are critical to human health, while the soil itself erodes through the double whammy of rough weather and less-than-perfect human care. Fertilizer helps restore fertility (though rarely micronutrients), but at ever-higher prices and through massive inputs of non-renewable resources such as oil, natural gas, and key minerals. Phosphorus in particular is a non-renewable mineral essential to all life, yet it is being depleted and wasted at increasingly rapid rates, leading to fears of imminent “peak phosphorus.”

We can recycle phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, and other essential minerals and nutrients, but the number of people that even the most efficient recycling could support may be much less than today’s world population. In 1997, Canadian geographer Vaclav Smil calculated that were it not for the industrial fixation of nitrogen, the world’s population would probably not have exceeded 4 billion people — 3 billion fewer than are alive today. It’s likely that organic agriculture can feed many more people than it does currently, but the hard accounting of the nutrients in today’s 7 billion human bodies, let alone tomorrow’s projected 10 billion, challenges the hope that a climate-neutral agriculture system could feed us all.

Food production also requires many services of nature that conventional agronomy tends to ignore in projecting future food supplies, and the dependability of these services appears to be fraying. Roughly one out of every two or three forkfuls of food relies on natural pollination, yet many of the world’s most important pollinators are in trouble. Honeybees are succumbing to the tiny varroa mite, while vast numbers of bird species face threats ranging from habitat loss to housecats. Bats and countless other pest-eaters are falling prey to environmental insults scientists don’t yet fully understand. And the loss of plant and animal biodiversity generally makes humanity ever-more dependent on a handful of key crop species and chemical inputs that make food production less, rather than more, resilient. One needn’t argue that the rising grain prices, food riots, and famine parts of the world have experienced in the past few years are purely an outcome of population growth to worry that at some point further growth will be limited by constrained food supplies.

As population growth sends human beings into ecosystems that were once isolated, new disease vectors encounter the attraction of large packages of protoplasm that walk on two legs and can move anywhere on the planet within hours. In the last half-century, dozens of new infectious diseases have emerged. The most notable, HIV/AIDS, has led to some 25 million excess deaths, a megacity-sized number even in a world population of billions. In Lesotho, the pandemic pushed the death rate from 10 deaths per thousand people per year in the early 1990s to 18 per thousand a decade later. In South Africa the combination of falling fertility and HIV-related deaths has pressed down the population growth rate to 0.5 percent annually, half the rate of the United States. As the world’s climate warms, the areas affected by such diseases will likely shift in unpredictable ways, with malarial and dengue-carrying mosquitoes moving into temporal zones while warming waters contribute to cholera outbreaks in areas once immune.

To be fair, the demographers who craft population projections are not actively judging that birth, death, and migration rates are immune to the effects of environmental change and natural resource scarcity. Rather they argue, reasonably enough, that there is no scientifically rigorous way to weigh the likelihood of such demographic impacts. So it makes more sense to simply extend current trend lines in population change — rising life expectancy, falling fertility, higher proportions of people living in urban areas. These trends are then extrapolated into an assumedly surprise-free future. The well-known investor caveat that past performance is no guarantee of future results goes unstated in the conventional demographic forecast.

Is such a surprise-free future likely? That’s a subjective question each of us must answer based on our own experience and hunches. Next to no research has assessed the likely impacts of human-caused climate change, ecosystem disruption, or energy and resource scarcity on the two main determinants of demographic change: births and deaths. Migration related to climate change is a more common subject for research, with projections ranging from 50 million to 1 billion people displaced by environmental factors — including climate change — by 2050. The mainstream projections cluster around 200 million, but no one argues that there is a compelling scientific argument for any of these numbers.

The IPCC and other climate-change authorities have noted that extremely hot weather can kill, with the elderly, immune-compromised, low-income, or socially isolated among the most vulnerable. An estimated 35,000 people died during the European heat wave of 2003. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites research projecting that heat-related deaths could multiply as much as seven-fold by the century’s end.

In the past few years, agronomists have lost some of their earlier confidence that food production, even with genetically modified crops, will keep pace with rising global populations in a changing climate. Already, weather-related disasters, from blistering heat waves to flooded farm fields, have contributed to widening gaps between food production and global consumption. The resulting price increases — stoked also by biofuels production encouraged in part to slow climate change — have led to food riots that cost lives and helped topple governments from the Middle East to Haiti.

If this is what we see a decade into the new century, what will unfold in the next 90 years? “What a horrible world it will be if food really becomes short from one year to the next,” wheat physiologist Matthew Reynolds told The New York Times in June. “What will that do to society?” What, more specifically, will it do to life expectancy, fertility, and migration? Fundamentally, these questions are unanswerable from the vantage point of the present, and there’s a lesson in this. We shouldn’t be so confident that the demographers can expertly forecast what the world’s population will look like beyond the next few years. A few demographers are willing to acknowledge this themselves.

“Continuing world population growth through mid-century seems nearly certain,” University of California, Berkeley, demographer Ronald Lee noted recently in Science. “But nearly all population forecasts... implicitly assume that population growth will occur in a neutral zone without negative economic or environmental feedback. [Whether this occurs] will depend in part on the success of policy measures to reduce the environmental impact of economic and demographic growth.”

It’s certainly possible that ingenuity, resilience and effective governance will manage the stresses humanity faces in the decades ahead and will keep life expectancy growing in spite of them. Slashing per-capita energy and resource consumption would certainly help. A sustainable population size, it’s worth adding, will be easier to maintain if societies also assure women the autonomy and contraceptive means they need to avoid unwanted pregnancies. For anyone paying attention to the science of climate change and the realities of a rapidly changing global environment, however, it seems foolish to treat projections of 10 billion people at the end of this century as respectfully as a prediction of a solar eclipse or the appearance of a well-studied comet. A bit more humility about population’s path in an uncertain and dangerous century would be more consistent with the fact that the future, like a comet astronomers have never spotted, has not yet arrived.

Robert Engelman is president of the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C. The Population Institute awarded his book, More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want, the Global Media Award for Individual Reporting in 2008. A former newspaper reporter who covered science and politics, Engelman previously wrote for Yale e360 on the environmental impact of soaring populations and growing consumption.

  Read  Revisiting Population Growth: The Impact Of Ecological Limits
 October 13, 2011  

With every passing day it is becoming more apparent that the crisis of the depletion of cheap oil has become deeply enmeshed in the European debt crises.

The sequence of events is well known. Greece's economy is imploding; the government can no longer pay its bills without continuing bailouts from the EU; at some point Greece will have to default on at least part of the $430 billion it owes to mostly European banks. Such a default would in turn do severe damage to the viability of many major European Banks which are already suffering a liquidity shortage from the slowing global economy. It is widely believed that these problems quickly would spread to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and now Belgium which are too large to ever be bailed out by France and Germany. Credit Default Swaps would kick in and, taken to the extreme, the world could conceivably not have much of a banking system left.

What is most disconcerting is that many believe that unless all this is settled in the next few weeks, the deluge will begin. Obviously the Europeans do not want to see their financial system collapse and are scrambling to find a solution. EU leaders have given themselves a deadline of October 23rd to come up with a plan to settle the Greek debt question and then recapitalize the European banks that will have to take heavy losses on Greek and possibly other nations' sovereign debts. One of the many issues involved in this crisis, of course, is how much of these heavy losses will be absorbed by the banks making the loans, and how much will be absorbed by the taxpayers of the better-off Eurozone states. London and Washington are putting heavy pressure on the EU to settle this issue, realizing the havoc that would ensue should there be even a partial meltdown of the EU banking system.

There is a big systemic problem going on here. So long as 17 sovereign states and their parliaments have to approve major actions the likelihood that there will be quick and decisive solution to all this seems remote. As we have seen with the Greek situation over the last two years, there is very little the Eurozone as a collective can do to enforce new and highly unpopular economic and social policies on the members, short of kicking them out of the Eurozone and suffering the consequences of a hard default. Despite all the optimism in the financial press and rising equity prices, it seem that in reality there is very little the EU can do to effect a long-term solution.

At this stage, writing off Greece is a rather minor problem, as it only contributes 3 percent to the EUs GDP, as compared to major disruptions to the EU's and by extension the world's banking system. For now it seems that the best the EU's leaders will be able to do is the kick the can down the road a ways and hope for the best.

Our concern here remains how all this will affect oil prices and the availability of oil. Concern over the course of the Greek debt crisis has been roiling the foreign exchange and equity markets of late taking oil prices along for a rather wild ride. Last week we had London oil below $100 a barrel, but renewed optimism, or as it is now known, "risk appetite," soon sent London oil back up over $111 where it continues to methodically eat the heart out of the OECD economies. London oil has now been above $100 a barrel for the last nine months and so far shows no signs of collapsing to the fabled $60 a barrel level as it did three years ago.

The world has changed significantly since 2008. The Arab Awakening and the need for more oil revenue have put many OPEC producers, especially the Saudis, in a position where slipping oil revenues could threaten their hold on power. Last week when oil slipped briefly below $100, the rhetoric coming out of OPEC about production cuts to maintain "proper" oil prices increased significantly. Over the weekend we learned that the Saudis who had unilaterally increased their oil production by over 1 million barrels a day (b/d) in order to make up for lost Libyan production had cut their production by 400,000 b/d in September as they saw prices slipping. The message here is that the European economy and economies of the rest of the OECD are likely to contract under the weight of unaffordable energy for the foreseeable future. This will only add to the problems of those planning for bailouts and recapitalizations in Europe as they are chasing moving targets.

The other side of the coin in which the EU authorities are unable to contain the Greek debt crisis which then spreads across first the European and then the global financial system would likely lead to consequences too serious to meaningfully predict. The demand for oil would likely drop but by how much and where is impossible to say. Unless the EU's crisis spreads into a mega catastrophe with the OECD economies slumping into a deep depression and all those trillions of dollars in Credit Default Swaps are "made whole," parts of the world - Asia, Russia, Brazil, and OPEC exporters - seem likely to weather the storm and continue to demand increasing amounts of oil although perhaps at a slower rate.

We are about to live through some very "interesting times" after which the global economic, political, and social landscapes are likely to be quite different.

Tom Whipple is a retired government analyst and has been following the peak oil issue for several years.

  Read The Peak Oil Crisis: Contagion
 October 6, 2011  
With The Keystone Pipeline, Drawing A Line In The Tar Sands
by Bill McKibben , Countercurrents.org

Yale Environment 360

For environmentalists protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, the battle is about more than just transporting tar sands oil from Alberta. It’s about whether the United States — and the rest of the world — will finally come to its senses about global warming.

In the last three years, three things have happened to the climate movement, one political, one meteorological, and one geological. Taken together, they explain why 1,253 people were arrested outside the White House in late summer protesting the Keystone XL pipeline — and why that protest may be the start of something big and desperate.

Here’s the political thing: When Barack Obama was elected, he carried with him the hopes of people the world around that something might finally happen to break the 20-year stalemate that had prevented meaningful action on global warming. That hope was perhaps always excessive — but then, the man himself had done all that he could to encourage it. On the night he clinched the nomination he said that during his presidency “the rise of the oceans will begin to slow and the planet begin to heal.” Waiting for a messiah, we managed to convince ourselves we might have found one.

American enviros sensed he had no real intention of battling the oil companies early on: Deciding between dealing with health care and with energy, he chose to use his considerable political capital on the former. You can argue that it made moral and political sense to deal with the last question of the 20th century before turning to the first of this millennium, or you can argue it didn’t. What you can’t argue is that health care used up that capital, as the rest of the world found out in Copenhagen. The president’s State Department team had managed to accomplish nothing in the year beforehand, leaving Obama and his Chinese counterpart to scribble together a last-minute plan for a meaningless set of voluntary commitments.

That movie didn’t end the way it was supposed to, and a few months later the president made not the slightest move as carbon legislation died in the U.S. Senate. In essence, 20 years worth of work was done, and mostly wasted; there wasn’t going to be a price on carbon in America, and hence not in most of the rest of the world, anytime soon — an assumption underlined by the results of the 2010 election.

Here’s the meteorological thing. While the administration was fiddling around with little changes (good ones, but little ones — adjustments in automobile mileage regulations, for instance, which were pretty easy to get since the federal government owned the auto industry), Mother Nature was fiddling around with the planet. Sometime in the last few years it became utterly clear we’d left the Holocene behind, bound for some new, chaotic place in which humans had fundamentally altered the planet.

2010 was the warmest year for which we have records; Arctic sea ice is now at its lowest recorded level, while Canada’s Arctic ice shelves have shrunk by half in just the last six years. And what all this has shown is that the planet is coming unglued, at least the planet on which civilization developed. We’ve seen flooding and drought on a scale never witnessed before, from the Indus to the Mississippi, from Texas to the North China Plain. By the end of last year, the world’s biggest insurance company, Munich Re, was declaring that the unprecedented run of catastrophes “cannot be explained without global warming.”

And it’s not just happening in poor places that we’ve gotten used to thinking of as climate change’s first victims. It’s happening in President Obama’s own country. While people protesting the Keystone XL pipeline were being handcuffed outside his house in August, the U.S. set a new record for the most multi-billion dollar weather disasters in a single year (and with four months to go!). We’re getting scared in a new way, as the abstract threat of climate change gives way to its very scary reality. After Irene took out much of Vermont’s infrastructure with its record rains, Gov. Peter Shumlin pointed out that the state’s weather was more like Costa Rica’s. “We didn’t used to get weather patterns like this in Vermont,” he said. The same week, the head of the Texas forest fire service said “no one on the face of this Earth has ever fought fires in these extreme conditions,” which was almost certainly true.

And here’s the geological thing. It’s been slowly dawning on people over the last couple of years that oil and gas companies are finding lots of new supplies. Peak oil was true in the sense that we’ve run out of the easy stuff — but as that realization spiked prices, engineers set to work making hard stuff easier, and they’ve succeeded in ways most people hadn’t expected. So now we have shale gas wells tearing up the countryside in the eastern U.S., and shale oil operations turning North Dakota into a Lutheran Kuwait.

And then there’s the granddaddy of them all, the tars sands megaproject in northern Alberta. Geologists had known about this vast deposit for years, but never figured it would be economical to develop. At $80 a barrel, and with new technologies, it turns out you can get it to work, which the Canadians have done with a vengeance. They have a pool of oil — and hence of carbon — about the same size as the one we’ve largely burned in Saudi Arabia. If we torch most of it, then it’s “essentially game over for the climate,” in the words of NASA’s James Hansen.

In other words, the idea that we’ve had for two decades that we’re destined to transition to renewable energy may be wrong. It’s increasingly possible instead that we’ll just replace cheap fossil fuel with more expensive fossil fuel. Only a price on carbon can really prevent that from happening — but there won’t be a price on carbon soon, because Obama wouldn’t stand up to the oil companies.

And so, backs to the wall, North American environmentalists are now fighting a simpler, more basic battle — not for overhauling laws and economies, but simply to keep carbon in the ground. It’s not an elegant battle with lots of complicated legislation; it is an elemental one, easy to understand, worth going to jail for. We know that we’re simply buying time — given enough years and a high enough price, Canada and everyone else will figure out some way to get oil and coal out of the ground. But if we can stop them, maybe the planet will come to its senses about global warming. Maybe we’ll be able to look at things like Australia’s about-to-be-passed carbon price and see it working (or not, since big energy is doing everything it can to weaken its provisions). Maybe we’ll get scared enough to get serious. Maybe the time we’re buying is precious.

For now, it’s a desperate battle to keep things from getting worse. We fight coal plants and coal mines, tanker ports and pipelines. Keystone XL is such a huge deal because the president can actually stop it himself, without consulting our inane Congress. That’s why we’ll be surrounding the White House on Nov. 6, circling it with people simply holding signs with quotes from his campaign. Like, “it’s time to end the tyranny of oil.” It sure is, and if Obama for once actually lives up to his words, just maybe it will signal something new about him. My guess is we’re not going to change meteorology or geology, which leaves us with politics.

Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org. He is the author of a dozen books about the environment, most recently Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

  Read With The Keystone Pipeline, Drawing A Line In The Tar Sands
 October 6, 2011  

What? Don’t know what bunkty means? Now you know how I feel about the word “sustainable.” My paper towels separate into smaller segments than they once did. It’s sustainable! These potato chips arrive in a box that says SUSTAINABLE in big letters on the side. I’m eating green! When I’m in a hotel, I hang the towel back up rather than throw it on the floor (would I ever do this anyway?) and the placard says I’m being sustainable. Can it be that easy? I claim that not one among our host of 7 billion really knows what our world would look like if we lived in a truly sustainable fashion. Let’s try to come to terms with what it might mean.

I think most would agree that the rapid depletion we currently witness in natural resources and services, climate stability, water availability, soil quality, and fisheries—to name a few—suggests that we do not live sustainably at present. We can not expect to keep up our current practices with 7 billion people in this world without some major changes.

Sustainability, in Numbers

I have made the case in the past that growth—either in physical measures like population, energy use, etc., or in economic terms—cannot continue indefinitely in our finite world. This post rounds out the trilogy.

If we think about the fact that growth must one day end, we realize that an ultimate steady state would tend to reduce income inequalities. Given growth, we have little trouble rationalizing inequality, since those at the bottom have growth opportunity ahead of them. As long as the plight of the poor improves with time, the well-heeled among us can feel justified in living large. But without a growth argument, it would become morally awkward to perpetuate the inequality of two people contributing comparable time and energy to humanity’s steady-state upkeep.

Our dream is that the poor of the world can improve their standard of living toward first-world norms. The U.S. uses about 25% of the world’s annual energy resource (which I will use as a proxy for standard of living) while harboring about 5% of the population. Thus the average U.S. citizen uses energy at five times the rate of the average global citizen. For everyone to get where we are today in the U.S. would require a five-fold increase in the total energy expenditure of the planet. Make that 7-fold allowing the population to swell to 10 billion. And even that requires a freeze in growth at the top end (the U.S.). Since that’s not about to happen—at least not voluntarily—we should call it a ten-fold increase for everyone to get what they want.

If we are not sustainable today, how could we possibly achieve sustainability under the burden of a ten-fold increase in scale?

You may object that Americans don’t eat five times more food than the average Earthling today. True enough, but we eat a meat-rich diet that consumes much more land, grain, and energy than would a simpler diet by something close to that same factor. You might also object that Americans use energy at an obscene rate, and that this should not be the goal for the rest of the world. I won’t argue. This post is aimed at those who see nothing wrong with such an approach.

Yeah, But… and Other Clever Dodges

Might we not improve our efficiency in tandem with development so that standards of living could improve at a constant energy/impact? This is the subtext behind many of today’s sustainability drives. We just need to do things better and smarter and we’ll be fine.

I refer you to the post on the necessary end to economic growth, in which I demonstrate that efficiency improvements might gain us only a factor of two (taking about 70 years to do this at historical rates of efficiency improvement of 1% per year). And we have to watch the pernicious Jevons’ paradox, whereby efficiency improvements in the past have tended to lead to a greater expenditure of energy than before the “improvements.” But I’m feeling generous, so I’ll knock our prescribed ten-fold increase down to a factor of five to allow for efficiency improvements and other oversights.

So in the absence of anyone being able to define how we turn today’s unsustainable practices into sustainable ones at five times the present scale, you’ll forgive me if I remain skeptical. If we could demonstrate the ability to seize control of the current scale and live sustainably today, I might grant that we have some hope of managing a similar trick at five times that scale. Instead, we intend to race headlong into a bigger tomorrow without proving ourselves capable of handling today’s world.

A child who wants a pony might first be asked to demonstrate that he or she can feed and take care of a gerbil, then graduate to a kitten, a puppy, a goat, and finally a pony. Currently, we’re not taking care of our gerbil, so we have not demonstrated that we deserve a pony. Perhaps we also don’t deserve to be brandishing the term “sustainable” for chicken-scratch contributions.

Sure, hanging the towel back up on a multi-day hotel visit is definitely a step in the right direction, and I’m all for it. But if we don’t focus on the big picture, these little acts are mere distractions.

“Yeah, but don’t they add up?” Can a bunch of 1% solutions produce a 100% change (or the 500% change we seek)? Maybe in the same way that if you strapped enough gerbils together, you might get something you can ride like a pony. I think I just invented a new sport.

Blowing Through Our Inheritance

All of this would bother me less if we were at least living within our budget presently. But we are tearing through one-time resources like mineral deposits, aquifers, and the big one: fossil fuels. The easy stuff is grabbed first, and it gets harder and harder as time passes.

In fossil fuels, we found the Earth’s solar battery—charged over millions of years—and we promptly hooked up Las Vegas to help us burn through the resource in mere centuries. In fact, our social and political structures have typically worked to maximize the rate of growth, which has the effect of blowing through resources as fast as may be managed—albeit with an eye toward practical efficiencies of the day. I have always found it compelling to look at a graph of fossil fuel use over a very long time span. This puts it in perspective as a towering blip in the human experience. It’s only schematic, but in case you’re interested, I put the peak at 2050, with a width at the half-max point of 235 years (Gaussian σ = 100 years).

On a long view, the fossil fuel age is brief, and we cannot be certain about the nature of our existence after this era.

We know that the era before fossil fuels used firewood, animals, and human (often slave) labor as sources of energy. Some supplemental energy came from wind, water, and animal fats as well. In most cases, this arrangement was by definition sustainable in the true sense: living off of the yearly energy income provided by the sun. Even then, deforestation and hunting some animals to extinction (or to scarcity) still happened. Looking at the symmetry inherent in the graph, it begs the question of whether this same existence lies in store for us on the right-hand side. Our accumulated scientific knowledge has the potential to break that symmetry, but only if coupled with collective wisdom. The future is not yet written, and may not care what we imagine could happen.

Meanwhile, we sit roughly at the position of the star in the figure. We’re living large and feeling pretty heady about our cleverness and the promise of the future. Up, up, up! That’s the world we’ve known. Surely it will always be so, now that we finally got smart.

I love the metaphor—expressed in the documentary, The Corporation—that early attempts at flight always failed because the flying contraptions were not built on the aerodynamic principles of sustained flight. Nonetheless, the pilot wannabe would launch off the cliff and momentarily feel the wind in their hair, and indeed be airborne for some time—feeling magnificent. But then came the inevitable crash. Likewise, a civilization that is not built on a foundation of sustainable practices is doomed to over-reach and fail. Yet today we feel the wind in our hair, and it feels pretty good. It makes us think we can do anything, and that we’re too clever for words. But we have the same brains we had a few thousand years ago. What’s changed is a windfall of surplus energy.

So the big question is: can we transition to a truly sustainable lifestyle for the long haul at an energy level akin to what we enjoy today—or even several times higher? No one knows the answer, and thus a true understanding of “sustainable” remains elusive. The following graph schematically shows what a level-off at the energy scale of peak fossil fuels (this century) would look like.

Can we pull off an unprecedented leap to a high level of renewable energy resources?

The “go green” function is a logistic curve with an inflection at 1965: very similar to the best-fit logistic for the U.S. energy historical data.

This figure merely illustrates that we have to find a full-scale replacement for fossil fuels in a relatively short period, and sustain it indefinitely. Today, only 15% of our energy comes from non-fossil origins—almost all of it hydroelectric and nuclear. Only hydroelectric is renewable (ignoring the detail that dams silt up), but all the main prizes have been taken, so that this sector generally cannot be expanded by even a factor of two. Uranium limits nuclear fission to short-term (< 100 years), unless proliferation-prone breeder programs are adopted, or fusion pans out in time to make a difference. Of course solar and wind could become more prominent. But all these are primarily useful for electricity, and tend to be expensive or difficult options. The freebee days will end, and we’ll have to work harder to satisfy our energy demand year by year. Future Do the Math posts will dissect the possibilities in greater detail.

We have no historical precedent to tell us whether we can pull off the sustainable right-hand-side of the graph. Will we pull together a technological solution, or disappoint ourselves with a return to muscle power and firewood? It seems a preposterous question, and many readers are now steaming with indignation—much like we might expect a kid to throw a tantrum when told that they can’t have a pony. Are such readers perturbed because they have a crystal-ball vision of the unwritten future and how things will play out? I’ll pretend I’m from Missouri (borders on true), and demand: “show me!”

But I’m not done yanking chains yet. Leveling off near today’s global rate of energy use spells an eventual decline in the U.S. standard of living by a large factor. Remember our premise at the beginning: if the goal is to pull up the world population to American standards of living, we need something more like a factor of five increase in scale. And that’s after taking a factor of two haircut to account for efficiency improvements achieved in tandem. What does this look like?

Western lifestyle for all may require a vastly larger renewable footprint still.

I fittingly pick a “blue sky” color to represent this state of affairs, again using a logistic function, this time having an inflection in 2110. If anyone thought the green portion looked hard, the blue piece is a doozy. It makes the remarkable fossil fuel age look like some insignificant anomaly. Many people react by saying “exactly so,” believing that fossil fuels are merely the kick-start for something bigger, something grander. Better than a pony, even. We’ll be free of the infantile shackles of the Earth and expand into the limitless void. We’ve seen it in numerous TV shows and movies—what more evidence do we need? I’ll have to address this issue in a future post. For now, let’s focus on the here and now, and the serious challenges this century hurls at us as we are weened from the lifeblood that started us on our industrial tear.

My skepticism that we can make it to the 5× sustainable future has led me to anticipate that Americans will have to reduce their energy, material, and dietary consumption. I have reacted by modifying my own behavior, and in so doing have proven to myself that the challenge is one that can be met at a personal level while maintaining a less-than-primitive lifestyle. Choices in diet, indoor temperature, transportation, hot water use, household appliances, etc. have reduced my home impact by a factor of four or more, and this gives me great hope. But I am cheating by riding on top of an energy-rich society. It is not as clear that an entire civilization can ratchet down by a similar factor and maintain today’s basic functionality.

Why Now is Special

Energy is not the only dimension to this problem. From a purely energetic point of view, we have enough solar input to allow sustained energy use at high rates (though not sustained growth). That’s the good news. But we would still strain the throughput of materials harvested from the planet. Pollution will continue to pile up; arable land will be lost to erosion, desertification, salinity increase, and exhaustion of ancient aquifers; fisheries will collapse; important metals will become ever harder to find and extract; we will learn too late that species driven to extinction by climate change and other human impositions are actually vital to our well-being. No one knows for sure what the ultimate carrying capacity of the Earth is: many estimates indicate that we have already exceeded it. And it is distressing that we do not have a plan for living within our means at today’s level of industrial activity, let alone a 5× expansion.

The basic point is that we are entering uncharted territory. This toothless statement has been true at every point in history. But I believe that this century is the one in which we must confront the thorniest issue ever presented to the human race. This moment is special because we have dramatically built up our population, technology, science, medicine, and democratic institutions as a direct result of vast amounts of surplus energy stemming from a one-time resource. The fossil fuel experience has made us dangerously confident about our cleverness and dominance over nature. What makes this century special, then, is that we will have to cope with a diminishing supply rate of the resource that has been of paramount importance to our high-tech existence.

Some will point out that folks 200 years ago could never have predicted the marvels of today, and that we should adopt a similar humility about the future. Fair point. We should also not assume that we won’t be protecting our food supplies by clubbing each other over the head with half-gnawed bones 200 years from now. Who, at the height of the fossil fuel age could have predicted such a reversal of fate?! Did you see that coming? I’m all about exercising humility in our prognostications of the future, but this cuts both ways. Currently, we see an asymmetry in the glorious vs. disastrous prediction score. I’m merely providing counterbalance by pointing out that our recent, rapid ascent provides a compelling reason as to why this asymmetric “limitless” outlook might be expected at this moment in history (look at the star on the fossil fuel graph).

We talk with confidence about the pony we will one day own (eventually equipped with warp drive upgrade), but our gerbil is meanwhile gasping under our neglect. And the rush we have experienced on our fossil fuel binge has made us a bit loopy. Only by looking at the sober possibility that we risk reverting to a low-tech existence after the fossil fuels are spent can we make honest plans for our future. Those honest plans may well involve a substantial ratcheting-down of the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed. And that same honesty suggests refraining from using the term “sustainable” until we better understand what it actually means. I’m more attracted to the words: possible, practical, preservation, and price—oh—and pony.

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  Sustainable Means Bunkty To Me
 October 5, 2011  

By the calendar it’s autumn, but for many it is the beginning of the American Spring.

At this moment the brave and dedicated #OccupyWallStreet protesters are in the streets of New York and cities around the world. They call the world’s attention to Wall Street greed and corruption as a common source of the many crises that threaten the human future—economic, political, social, and environmental. This is a defining moment for America. It is our country’s version of the uprisings occurring around the world. It is a ray of hope for democracy and real prosperity in America and beyond.

Contrary to the Wall Street propaganda, Wall Street is a job killer, not a job creator. Wall Street banks and corporations have no interest in creating jobs, educating American children, or assuring that Americans have health care and retirement security. They appeal for ever more tax breaks and regulatory relief only to have yet more money to use as they used their taxpayer provided bailout: to increase executive bonuses, pay dividends, buy other companies, buy back their own stock to increase the value of their stock options, buy political favor, create new financial bubbles, and outsource yet more jobs.

Wall Street cloaks itself in the American flag to gain public favor, but offshores its profits to avoid paying its share of America’s upkeep—leaving it to the “little people” to pay for the public infrastructure on which Wall Street profits depend. Its relationship to America is that of an alien occupier who comes only to extract, not to build.

The ruckus about the budget deficit is a typical Wall Street inspired and funded political diversion. America is far from broke. Our problem is too much money in the wrong places – unjust but profitable wars, corporate bailouts, and CEO bonuses to name a few. Wall Street banks and corporations are sitting on record amounts of idle cash in the trillions of dollars. Their highest return investments are in the politicians who favor them with public subsidies, tax breaks, and freedom from public oversight.

Ordinary people all across America are rising up to expose Wall Street’s deceptions and reclaim their country from this alien occupier. The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City enumerates Wall Street’s crimes against people, country, nature, and the world. The personal stories emerging from Occupy Wall Street document our common experience under Wall Street’s rule—unemployment, wages that cannot support families, dwindling retirement accounts, foreclosed homes, student debt, and deferred health care. These stories are inspiring yet more Americans to come forward.

There is also the quiet—but powerful—protest of the millions of Americans who are putting their shoulders to the wheel of change by building the new community-rooted, market-based, life-serving Main Street economies we need for a 21st century America that provides secure, adequate dignified, and meaningful livelihoods for all in a balanced relationship to nature.

The corporate media are obsessed with the question: “What do the Occupy Wall Street protesters want? What is their demand?” It should be obvious. They want their economy, their government, and their country back from the alien occupiers.

As our forebears liberated America from rule by a distant king and the British East India Company, the time has come to liberate America from Wall Street and reclaim the power Wall Street has usurped. It is time to establish democracy in America and build a national system of Main Street economies owned and accountable to people who have an inherent interest in building healthy communities with thriving local economies and healthy natural environments for themselves and their children. By the calendar it’s autumn, but for many it is the beginning of the American Spring.

David Korten is board chair of YES! Magazine and the author of Agenda for a New Economy, TheGreat Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international bestseller When Corporations Rule the World. He is co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, and a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. This blog draws from his recent presentation to a local MoveOn gathering of Olympic Peninsula progressives.


Five Ways #OccupyWallStreet Has Succeeded
They were predicted to be a flash in the pan. So why are the anti-Wall Street occupations growing?

The Next American Revolution?
David Korten: What America's current movement against corporate power can learn from that time we overthrew a king.

It's Our Wall Street: Inside an American Occupation
Photo essay: Inspired by the public protests of Egypt, Tunisia, and Spain, American demonstrators are nearly a week into their "occupation" of Wall Street.\

YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

  Read Why I'm In Solidarity With #OccupyWallStreet
 October 2, 2011  
The 66 th UN General Assembly Session Will Remember Obama's Deplorable Tactics
by Dr. Habib Siddiqui , Countercurrents.org

Last month the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, and the U.S. President Obama all spoke at the U.N. While for the first time in years, Abbas behaved and spoke like a leader, taking proactive measures instead of waiting for someone else to call the shots , it is hard to decide whose speech was worse: Netanyahu's or Obama's. Obama's read like an appeal to Jewish voters to finance and reelect him in the next election and Netanyahu's read like a pep rally to the Likud Central Committee .

In the post-Arafat era, President Abbas has more often than not behaved like a yes-man for the U.S. , as if too unsure or too uncomfortable about speaking out against the mindless zero-sum activities that seem to be the only things that either the U.S. or the Israeli government cared about. But on Friday, September 23, he found his lost voice and assumed the title the Palestinian people have long waited for. He transformed himself to becoming their leader, their hero, in relaying their voice. It was long overdue.

In the 66 th session of the General Assembly, President Abbas said, ?It is a moment of truth; and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world. Will it allow Israel to continue its occupation, the only occupation in the world? Will it allow Israel to remain a State above the law and accountability?? ?There are either those that believe that we are not wanted in the Middle East or (those that believe) that there is a missing State that needs to be established immediately.?

He thanked the states that had supported the Palestinian struggle and had recognized the State of Palestine, and those that had upgraded Palestine 's representation in their capitals. He also thanked the U.N. Secretary-General for stating that the Palestinian State should have been created years ago; such support made the Palestinians feel that they were being listened to and that their tragedy was not being ignored. It also reinforced their hope for justice.

President Abbas then informed the Assembly that he had submitted to the Secretary-General an application for admission of Palestine, on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem) as its capital, as a full United Nations member. ?I call upon Mr. Secretary-General to expedite transmittal of our request to the Security Council, and I call upon the distinguished members of the Security Council to vote in favor of our full membership. I also appeal to the states that have not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so,? he said. The world's support for that was a ?victory for truth, freedom, justice, law and international legitimacy? and was the greatest contribution to peacemaking in the Holy Land . In closing, he said: ?I have come here today with a message from a courageous and proud people: Palestine is being reborn.? He implored everyone to stand with it.

In his speech, President Obama said that ? America 's commitment to Israel 's security is unshakeable.? He also made it crystal clear that Washington will veto any Palestinian application to the U.N. Security Council for statehood. Not once did he refer to illegal Jewish ?settlements? on Palestinian lands, nor did he even use the word ?occupied? ? or any derivative of that word in his long speech. Nor was there a word about the plight of the still besieged population of Gaza , or about the ?1967 borders? as being the basis for any eventual two-state solution. Obama is truly becoming a joke of our time!

Honestly speaking, Obama does not surprise me any more. Since becoming the President of the USA , he has largely forgotten what got him elected and put him into the White House. It was to usher in a ?change' for the better from the dark days of GW Bush. To those who voted for Obama, Bush was a villain, an utterly evil man with a crusading zeal, who had deliberately lied and took the country into two unnecessary wars, thereby bankrupting it. Obama was supposed to be the ?good' guy restoring America 's honor and dignity. But Bush, whether one either loathes or loves him, was no hypocrite; at least people knew what to expect of him. But the same cannot be said of Obama. The latter has become the greatest disappointment of our time.

As I write, the Obama administration has assassinated Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan -- two of its own citizens, thus behaving like any of the hated authoritarian regimes of our time. By acting as the accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury and (finally now the) executioner ? all at the same time ? his administration has violated the Fifth Amendment, which forbids the U.S. federal government from depriving any person -- not just American citizens -- of life without due process of law. Commenting on the assassination, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, said, "Al-Awlaki was born here, he is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes. No one knows if he killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the underwear bomber. But if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it's sad." Paul noted the different treatment afforded the Oklahoma bomber. "What would people have said about Timothy McVeigh? We didn't assassinate him, and they were pretty certain he had done it. They went and put him through the courts, and then they executed him. To start assassinating American citizens without charges, we should think very seriously about this."

As is clear from his murderous activities overseas, Obama is not a man of peace! The Nobel Committee should do us all a favor by admitting its mistake and recall its Peace prize which they bestowed to this undeserving person.

In his Cairo speech two years ago, President Obama displayed some awareness of the Palestinian distress; but that was before he was enslaved by the U.S. pro-Israel lobby. Commenting on Obama's speech at the UN, Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian stateswoman, told Israel's Haaretz newspaper, ?Listening to him, you would think it was the Palestinians who occupy Israel,? noting what even The New York Times suggested seemed to be the ?hypocritical? nature of Obama's enthusiasm for Arab democracy movements. ?He presented a double standard when he disassociated the Arabs' fight for their freedom in the region from the Palestinian freedom fighters, who deal with the occupation for 63 years,? she said. ?What we heard is precisely why we are going to the U.N.,? she added.

By siding so brazenly with Netanyahu and against the Palestinian bid for statehood, Obama has put the final nail in the coffin of America's status as a superpower, thus, forfeiting Washington's 20-year exclusivity as broker of the clearly broken ?peace process? between the two parties.

As Uri Avnery has recently observed, ?Obama treated the two sides as if they were equal in strength ? Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians and Israelis. But of the two, it is the Israelis ? only they ? who suffer and have suffered. Persecution. Exile. Holocaust. An Israeli child threatened by rockets. Surrounded by the hatred of Arab children. So sad. No occupation. No settlements. No June 1967 borders. No Naqba. No Palestinian children killed or frightened.?

This in spite of the fact that 6,430 Palestinians including 1,463 Palestinian children were killed by the Israelis since September 29, 2000 ! In the same period, more than 45,000 Palestinians have been injured, 5,554 Palestinians imprisoned and 24,813 Palestinian homes have been destroyed by the Israelis. The tolls on the Israeli side are one prisoner held (by Hamas) and no home destroyed. In the same period, Israel has built 236 Jewish-only settlements and outposts illegally on confiscated land. Obviously, none of these facts mattered to Obama.

The Arab Spring may have been America 's last chance to recover its tarnished standing in the Middle East . Obama stayed with Mubarak until it was too late; ?crying Iranian wolves', he sided with the murderous regime in Bahrain; he came to the aid of the rebels in Libya against Gaddafi but chose to ignore the plight of the Syrian people against their murderous tyrant Bashar al-Asad. Now he has blown it, perhaps forever. As Uri Avnery has put it, ?No self-respecting Arab will forgive him for plunging his knife into the back of the helpless Palestinians. All the credit the U.S. has tried to gain in the last months in the Arab and the wider Muslim world has been blown away with one puff.?

And what a difference a year can make! Last year, Obama in his speech to the United Nations was full of promise and determination to advance Palestinian statehood through negotiations with Israel . He said in the UN General Assembly: ? Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine ? one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity... And we can come back here, next year, as we have for the last sixty, and make long speeches about it. We can read familiar lists of grievances?.Or, we can say that this time will be different ? that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way. This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire. This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem 's soil as sacred. This time we should reach for what's best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations ? an independent, sovereign state of Palestine , living in peace with Israel .?

Ironically, in his speech last year, Obama reminded us about one of the first actions of the UN General Assembly, which was to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. ?That Declaration begins by stating that, ?recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world,? Obama said.

By promising to deny that very right to the Palestinian people, what message is Obama conveying to the world now? Can one conceive of freedom, justice and peace for the world without beginning with freedom, justice, and peace in the lives of individual human beings? By standing up against universal values, Obama has unmasked the immoral character of his administration. He foolishly thinks that such immoral stands -- and there are plenty to cite -- would get him reelected in 2012. Why would the pro-Israelis vote for him when they would have the likes of Rick Perry and other Christian fundamentalist nuts within the opposition to vote for? What Obama needed was a moral leadership to salvage his pathetic record, and not the deplorable hypocrisy or the pro-Israeli appeasements with which he has come to be associated with. His flip-flop actions have erased the support within the non-partisan center that he needs to get reelected.

Whether or not President Obama wields the butcher's knife with his own hand, no one is under any delusion that his speech at the UN has killed the peace process. With such a support from Washington , it was no surprise that last Tuesday Israel announced 1,100 new housing units in east Jerusalem outside Israel 's pre-1967 boundaries.

Israel is a pariah state, a fact once again demonstrated through the thunderous ovation that Abbas enjoyed (compared to Netanyahu) during his historic speech at the UN General Assembly. Its goal has been to expand its borders by swallowing up the West Bank and to make life so miserable for the Palestinian people that they will have no option but to leave. Lack of mobility restricts Palestinian livelihood. And the diversion of water into the Israeli settlements robs them of a basic necessity of their life. These are crimes against humanity. But in this age of information, she has been using endless zero-sum ?peace talks' as covers to complete her illegal annexation policy.

President Obama should reflect upon the fact that if the U.S. government vetoes Palestine 's bid for recognition by the U.N., it would be against America 's own declaration of independence which says that if people are denied equal rights and representative government, they have the right to resist their oppressors. It is a terrible hypocrisy of the Obama administration when it denies the rights to the Palestinian people that it cherishes at home and preaches abroad.

One can only pity Obama who lost the moral compass of what is right and what is wrong!

Dr. Habib Siddiqui is a blogger based in USA
  Read The 66 th UN General Assembly Session Will Remember Obama's Deplorable Tactics
 September 29, 2011  

Refugees from the Libyan coastal city of Sirte report that thousands have died as a result of relentless NATO bombardment and shelling by the the Western-backed “rebels.”

The two-week-old NATO siege of Sirte has left the city without adequate food, drinkable water, medicine and other basic necessities of life, creating hellish condition for its population of 100,000.

While the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council (NTC) has repeatedly issued announcements that the so-called rebels had advanced toward the city center under NATO air cover, they have again and again been forced to retreat under heavy fire from forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi, as well as what have been described as citizen volunteers.

In their frustration, the anti-Gaddafi militias have pounded the coastal city with artillery and mortar rounds, tank shells and Grad rockets, wreaking horrific destruction.

Thousands of refugees have tried to flee the city, forced to pass through checkpoints set up by the NATO-backed forces, where many have been taken prisoner, accused of being Gaddafi supporters.

The Wall Street Journal reported from one of these checkpoints, describing lines of cars and trucks, packed with civilians and piled with mattresses and other belongings:

“As refugees gathered, the Misrata fighters checked their names against lists of suspected Gaddafi loyalists. Some men were arrested while others were told to wait on the side of the road with their families.

“‘We’re going to punish even those that supported Moammar with words,’ said a bearded fighter to a man who protested his detention. ‘We are the knights that liberated Libya.’ ”

Reports from inside the city indicate a deepening humanitarian catastrophe. The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF—Doctors Without Borders) reported Wednesday that it had been in touch with doctors at the main hospital in Sirte, who were facing an increasingly impossible situation.

“If the situation continues for a few more days or weeks, it will be catastrophic. Already the doctors in the hospital can’t do their work properly, and if it persists, the situation will become dramatic,” Dr. Mego Terzian, head of emergency programs for MSF-France, told the Reuters news agency.

“They said the hospital was overwhelmed with wounded,” said Terzian. “There are other kinds of emergencies—pediatric, gynecological and patients with chronic diseases who are not receiving treatment.

“They told us of huge difficulties, a lack of electricity, water and basic medicines to run the emergency room, including anesthetics, antibiotics, analgesics, and blood bags,” he told Reuters.

The MSF representative said that the doctors in Sirte had contacted the group asking for emergency medical supplies, but that the National Transitional Council had “forbidden” MSF volunteers from crossing through its siege lines to aid the population.

Terzian said that the group was investigating whether it could bring in supplies by sea, but that it was not optimistic. NATO warships are maintaining a blockade of Libya’s Mediterranean coast, which is an integral part of the barbaric siege of Sirte.

Another doctor interviewed by the Associated Press said that many of the wounded being brought into the city’s central Ibn Sina Hospital were civilians who appeared to have been hit by rebel shells. The doctor, Eman Mohammed, reported that the hospital had no oxygen in the operating rooms and few staff members to treat patients.

Lack of food, water, electricity and other basic necessities is also taking its toll on the general population, particularly the city’s children. Reporting from a clinic in the town of Harawa, just a few miles outside of Sirte, AFP said that large numbers of families were bringing in young children suffering from severe diarrhea and vomiting.

“Most patients coming to me are children,” Valentina Rybakova, a Ukrainian doctor who has worked in Libya for eight years, told AFP. “I saw 120 patients since morning and 70 percent of them were children. This is a big humanitarian crisis. We are trying to get help from everybody, but the main problem is that these people have no access to clean drinking water.” She said that her clinic, too, was suffering from a shortage of medicines, as well as critical lack of nursing staff.

“The situation in the city is very critical,” Muftah Mohammed, a fish trader who was leaving Sirte, told AFP. “Children are in a particularly bad condition. There is no milk for them. We have all been surviving on just macaroni for several days.”

“There is no food, there is no medicine, and every night, for five or six hours, NATO bombs all sorts of buildings,” Sami Abderraman, 64, told the Spanish daily El Pais as he sought to leave Sirte. “Hundreds of women and children have died like animals.” Abderraman estimated that as many as 3,000 people have been killed in the siege.

Another refugee, who asked not to be named, told El Pais that “The people who remain are going to fight to the death.”

Riab Safran, 28, spoke to the Times of London as his car was being searched at a rebel roadblock outside of Sirte. “It was worse than awful,” he said. “They hit all kinds of buildings—schools, hospitals.” He said that he and his family had slept on the beach to avoid the NATO bombs and rebel shells, which had destroyed his own house on Saturday.

Ali Omar, who fled the city with 27 members of his extended family, recounted the carnage being carried out by the NATO-backed rebels advancing on Sirte from Benghazi in the east.

“The easterners are exterminating everything in front of them,” said the 42-year-old Omar. He and his family, he said, had been pinned down inside their home by heavy gunfire for seven hours on Sunday.

A number of the refugees have told reporters that those remaining in the city feared violence at the hands of the “rebels” after reports of many of those fleeing being detained and of women being abducted from cars leaving the city.

Among the most fearful are refugees who fled Tawergha, a town about 25 miles south of Misrata whose population is composed predominantly of black Libyans. Anti-Gaddafi militias charged that the residents of Tawergha had participated in the siege of Misrata by government troops and have retaliated with wholesale ethnic cleansing. Houses and stores in the town have been burned and daubed with racist graffiti. The new authorities in Misrata have announced plans to bulldoze the entire town so that none of Tawergha’s residents can ever return.

It is estimated that as many as 5,000 refugees from Tawergha sought safety in Sirte and now fear that they will be slaughtered by the militia forces attacking the city from Misrata to the west. Tawergha refugees who have managed to flee the fighting for Tripoli have found no refuge there either. Misrata militias manning checkpoints in the capital have detained them and thrown them into prison camps, accusing them of being “mercenaries.”

The inability of the Western-backed “rebels” to overrun either Sirte or Bani Walid, another city held by Gaddafi forces to the west, has deepened the crisis of the NTC, which has repeatedly failed to carry through announced plans to form an interim government and has seen its authority come under fire from Islamist militia elements.

This crisis has prompted calls from the NTC for NATO to intensify its bombing of Sirte and Bani Walid.

The demands led to a heated denial by NATO that it was not doing enough to support the sieges of the two cities. “NATO has not reduced its activity in Libya,” said the alliance’s spokesman, Col. Roland Lavoie, who pointed out that NATO warplanes had conducted 100 sorties on Tuesday, including 35 “strike sorties.”

Since launching the war on Libya last March, NATO has conducted 24,140 sorties, including 9,010 strike sorties, leaving much of the country in ruins and thousands killed and wounded.

Col. Lavoie added: “The number of strikes depends on the danger against the civilian population, in conformity of our mandate. We do not aim to bring support to NTC forces on the ground, this is why there is no operational coordination with NTC forces.”

This is, of course, a propaganda lie, which hardly conceals the fact that British, French, US and Qatari special operations troops, intelligence operatives and mercenary military contractors have organized, trained and armed the “rebel” armies, whose every advance has been made possible by NATO bombardments.

The so-called mandate claimed by NATO is the resolution pushed through the United Nations Security Council last March authorizing a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack.”

At the time, the US and its NATO allies claimed that intervention was required to halt a supposedly imminent massacre of civilians in the eastern city of Benghazi. Since then, the NATO bombings and the civil war fomented by the Western powers have claimed far more lives than were ever threatened by the Gaddafi regime.

Now this resolution is being invoked to justify NATO and the militias it supports carrying out in Sirte precisely the kind of murderous siege against a civilian population that the US and the European imperialist powers pretended to be preventing.

The killing and destruction that continue more than six months after NATO began its bombardments and more than a month after it proclaimed the fall of the Gaddafi regime serve to underscore the predatory character of this war, which has been carried out based not on “humanitarian” concerns, but rather on imperialist interests.

  Read Mass Killing And Humanitarian Disaster In NATO Siege Of Sirte
 September 29, 2011  
As The Earth Turns: Going Global With Perennial Polyculture Agriculture
by Robert Jensen , Countercurrents.org
Wes Jackson spent the weekend at The Land Institute's annual Prairie Festival http://www.landinstitute.org/vnews/display.v/
talking up -- with his usual precision and passion -- the science and strategy behind plans to revolutionize the way we grow food using perennial polyculture grains.

A leading figure in the sustainable agriculture movement, Jackson has been pursuing the science and tweaking the strategy for more than three decades, building an impressive body of knowledge with his colleagues at ?The Land,? http://www.landinstitute.org/ as it's known to everyone there. (The group also has produced an impressive full-bodied bread that was on the dinner table during the festival, made from an intermediate wheatgrass grain they've developed and dubbed ?Kernza.?)

But, perhaps ironically, my faith in Jackson's vision deepens not when he speaks from the depth of his knowledge (or when people happily bite into the bread) but when he emphasizes the uncertainty of what he knows. More on that, after some background.

Jackson, who co-founded the research center in 1976 after leaving his job as an environmental studies professor at California State University-Sacramento, believes that shifting from fragile annual monocultures to more hearty perennial grains grown in a mixture of plants (polycultures) is the key to a truly sustainable agriculture. Instead of a brittle industrial agriculture dependent on fossil fuels, Jackson's research team is working to build a resilient agriculture modeled on natural ecosystems.

A plant geneticist who grew up farming, Jackson's experiences in the fields and the laboratory give him the credentials to talk authoritatively about how to develop agricultural practices capable of producing healthful food without the soil erosion and contamination that comes with today's highly toxic conventional agriculture. Delivering that message with a style that hybridizes the prairie pulpit and the graduate seminar, Jackson inspired the Prairie Festival audience in Salina, KS, with his sketch of the next step -- taking The Land's work international in the coming decades.

When he gets revved up in front of an audience, Jackson is eager to share all that he knows, but one of the things he knows is the danger that comes with being sure you have the answers.

After the festival ended, Jackson made the rounds of the lunch tables to chat up folks informally. Leaning into one group, the topic turned to the problem of arrogance and certainty, and Jackson suggested an important first step to solving big problems such as agriculture is recognizing that sometimes ?we've got to give up on what we know.?

If there was one sign he could hang above everyone's desk, Jackson said, it would be this daily affirmation: ?This day I will do everything I can to fight the problem of reassertion.? Reasserting, over and over again, what we think we know is trouble, especially in the sciences, he said.

Don't mistake Jackson's warning for the anti-science, know-nothing rhetoric that is popular in some conservative circles. He's trying to bolster, not undermine, faith in science by encouraging scientists not to get stuck in comfortable approaches. In agriculture, such inertia has led researchers to assume that the so-called ?Green Revolution? emphasis on chemicals is the only way to maintain high yields. Research in initiatives such as perennial polyculture grains, Jackson argues, may well reveal the conventional wisdom to be conventional foolhardiness.

With the health of our soils and our own bodies at stake, Jackson says, we can't afford to assume old approaches can cope with coming crises. Because humans like to resolve ambiguity, we reward researchers who appear to do that within existing systems -- such research may be right but irrelevant, if the real problem is at the level of the whole system. Solving individual problems within a system that can't be sustained actually creates problems.

Jackson believes that's the trap of much of contemporary research into agriculture, and that's why he's hoping to find support for an ambitious program to fund new research into The Land Institute's approach to sustainability in partnership with other researchers and institutions around the world. He's confident in the basics but recognizes how much work in the lab and the research plots remains.

He also recognizes that science alone won't solve the problem; serious changes are necessary in economic, political, and social systems. He diagnoses a large part of the problem of those systems to be their love of abstraction. In contemporary financial capitalism, for example, countless decisions about money are based on abstraction, not on the reality of economics rooted in ecosystems.

?Milton and Blake both acknowledged that the demonic is the abstraction without the particular,? said Jackson, who's as likely to quote poets and philosophers as scientists.

The particular is the reality, and science helps us understand it only when it remains rooted in that particularity. Farmers work the land in a specific place within a specific ecosystem, where they must attend to the uniqueness of place, Jackson said. That means an idea such as perennial polycultures is valuable not as a monolithic answer in the abstract, but as an idea tested out in specific places, whether that be wheat fields in Kansas or rice paddies in the Philippines. Jackson is not out to make The Land Institute the center of sustainable agriculture, but instead wants to see the ideas developed in as many places as it is sensible.

Jackson also cautions that our specific places must be understood as part of larger systems. To experience our place in that larger living world, sometimes we have to step outside of science.

Jackson offered an example. We know the earth revolves around the sun, but our daily experience is of standing on ground that doesn't move. To correct that, he said we should take the time to feel the earth move. Jackson was off and running:

?I have actually felt the earth turn. I can tell you how to do that. I've gone out there and laid down on the hill when the moon is full, and if you will look when the moon is coming up in the east and the sun is setting in the west -- you've got to live in Kansas to do that, or Nebraska, someplace flat -- and you can actually feel the earth turn. Do that sometime. It's a great moment. You've got to do that extra exercise to experience reality. Otherwise we live with the illusion,? Jackson said, pausing before adding, ?which is fun enough.?

Jackson took a moment to delight both in his memory of the experience and the smiles on the faces of the people at the table. Then he smiled and, before moving on to the next table, said, ?I suppose that in order to experience reality, you have to be a mystic.?

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009); Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film ?Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing,? which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. Information about the film, distributed by the Media Education Foundation, and an extended interview Jensen conducted with Osheroff are online at http://thirdcoastactivist.org/osheroff.html

Jensen can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/index.html . To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to http://www.thirdcoastactivist.org/jensenupdates-info.html

  Read As The Earth Turns: Going Global With Perennial Polyculture Agriculture
 October 15, 2011  

mike-konczal-newThere’s good reason to focus on the top 1%: they’re distorting our economy.

Look, a crazy anti-capitalist anarchist carrying a bizarre sign incompatible with the basic tenents of liberals:

Or not.

A lot of emphasis is on the “99%” versus the “1%” in these protests. But who are the 1% and what do they do for a living? Are they all Wilt Chamberlains and Oprahs and other people taking part in the dynamism of the new economy? Nope. It’s same as it ever was — high-level management and the financial sector.

Suzy Khimm goes through the numbers here. I’m curious about occupations. I’ll hand the mic off to “Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data“ by Bakija, Cole, and Heim. This is the latest and greatest report on occupations and inequality. Here’s a chart of the occupations of the top 1%:


Inequality has fractals. Let’s go into the top 0.1% — what do they look like?  Here’s the chart of the occupations of the top 0.1%, including capital gains:

It boils down to managers, executives, and people who work in finance. From the paper: “[o]ur findings suggest that the incomes of executives, managers, supervisors, and financial professionals can account for 60 percent of the increase in the share of national income going to the top percentile of the income distribution between 1979 and 2005.”

On Oct. 23, the FDR Library presents a free forum on FDR’s foreign policy advisers. Click here to find out how you can join the conversation!

For fun, there are more than twice as many people listed as “Not working or deceased” than are in “arts, media, sports.” For every elite sports player who earned a place at the top of the income pyramid due to technology changes and superstar, tournament-style labor markets that broadcast him across the globe, there are two trust fund babies.

The top 1% of managers and executives often means C-level employees, especially CEOs. And their earnings versus the average worker have skyrocketed in the past 30 years, so this shouldn’t be surprising:

How has this evolved over time?  Can we get a cross-section of that protest sign above?

Same candidates. There’s a reason the protests ended up on Wall Street: The top 1% and top 0.1% comprises all the senior bosses and the financial sector.

One of the best things about Occupy Wall Street is that there is no chatter about Obama or Perry or whatever is the electoral political issue of the day. There are a lot of people rethinking things, discussing, learning, and conceptualizing the kinds of world they want to create. Since so much about inequality is a function of the legal structure known as a “corporation,” I’d encourage you to check out Alex Gourevitch on how the corporate is structured in our laws.

The paper notes that stock market returns drive much of the manager’s income. This is related to a process of financialization, something JW Mason has done a fantastic job outlining here. The “dominant ethos among managers today is that a business exists only to enrich its shareholders, including, of course, senior managers themselves,” and this is done by paying out more in dividends that is earned in profits. Think of it as our-real-economy-as-ATM-machine, cashing out wealth during the good times and then leaving workers and the rest of the real economy to deal with the aftermath.

Both articles mention chapter 6 of Doug Henwood’s Wall Street; anyone interested in how things have changed and where they need to go would be wise to check it out. It’s even available for free pdf book download here.

There’s good reason to focus on the top 1% instead of the top 10 or 50%. There is evidence that financial pay at this elite level is correlated with deregulation and the other legal changes that brought on the crisis. High-ranking senior corporate executives’ pay has dwarfed workers’ salaries, but is only a reward for engaging in shady financial engineering practices. These problems require a legal solution and thus they require a democratic challenge and a rethinking of how we want to structure our economy. Here’s to the 99% and Occupy Wall Street helping get us there.

Mike Konczal is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

  Read Who Are the 1% And What Do They Do For a Living?
 October 15, 2011  

 MADRID — Activists scuffled with police in London and decried the wealthy in Hong Kong on Saturday as an unprecedented outcry against corporate greed and government cutbacks spread worldwide.


Inspired by America's "Occupy Wall Street" and Spain's "Indignants," people took to the streets in a rolling action targeting 951 cities in 82 countries from Asia to Europe, Africa and the Americas.

It was the biggest show of power yet by a movement born on May 15 when a rally in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square sparked a protest that spread internationally.

Anger over unemployment and opposition to the financial elite hung over the protests, which coincided with a Paris meeting of G20 financial powers pre-occupied by the eurozone debt crisis.

But the demands and the sense of urgency among the activists varied depending on the city.

Scuffles broke out in London where about 300 people rallied in the financial district by Saint Paul's Cathedral, raising banners saying: "Strike back!"; "No cuts!" and "Goldman Sachs is the work of the devil!"

Three lines of police, and one line at the rear on horseback, blocked them from heading to the London Stock Exchange and pushed back against lead marchers, some wearing masks.

"I am here today mainly as a sense of solidarity with the movements that are going on around the world," said Ben Walker, a 33-year-old teacher from the eastern English city of Norwich.

"We're hoping for a kind of justice in the global financial system," the teacher said. He carried a sleeping bag and said he would spend the next night or two in the area.

In Madrid, 100 people in one of a series of five marches set off for an evening rally in the emblematic Cibeles square from where they will proceed to Puerta del Sol for all-night rallies.

"The fight goes on!" they chanted at the start of a six-hour march from the southern suburb of Leganes to the centre of Madrid.

Thousands more marched in Rome where 1,500 police patrolled, famous monuments including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum were closed down and four metro stations were shut.

"Today is only the beginning. We hope to move forward with a global movement," said one protester, Andrea Muraro, a 24-year-old engineering student from northern Padua.

A small group of about 50 protesters gathered outside of Africa's biggest bourse, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, to voice concern over the country's widening gap between rich and poor.

"We need to stop the greedy wealthy elite from stealing from the poor working class," said "Occupy South Africa" organiser Marius Bosch.

As the day began, around 500 people gathered in the heart of Hong Kong's financial district to vent their anger at the inequities and excesses of free-market capitalism, while 100 demonstrators in Tokyo also voiced fury at the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Around 600 demonstrators in Sydney set up camp outside Australia's central bank, where the plight of refugees and Aboriginal Australians was added to the financial concerns.

Organisers of the worldwide protest, relying heavily on Facebook and Twitter, say demonstrations will be held in 951 cities across 82 countries in Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

The "indignant" protests first took hold in Spain, which has a jobless rate of 20.89 percent rising to 46.1 percent for 16- to 24-year-olds, where for a month activists lived in a ramshackle camp in Puerta del Sol.

They then spread elsewhere in Europe, finding strong backing in crisis-hit countries like Greece, and then worldwide -- last month reaching the centre of global capitalism in Wall Street.

In New York, where since September 17 several hundred people have occupied a small park in the financial district, organisers have called a rally in Times Square for 5:00 pm (2100 GMT).

The protesters declared victory Friday morning when New York authorities at the last minute postponed the evacuation of their camp.

But an impromptu celebration march to nearby Wall Street ended in scuffles and 14 arrests when protesters ignored police instructions to remain on the sidewalks so as not to impede traffic.

US police arrested about three dozen other protesters in Denver, Seattle and San Diego.

Over 100 authors, including Salman Rushdie and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham, have signed an online petition declaring their support for the protests.


  Read Occupy Wall Street, Other Corporate Greed Protests Spread to 951 Cities Across the World
 October 13, 2011  

Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone that "the [Occupy Wall Street] movement's basic strategy – to build numbers and stay in the fight, rather than tying itself to any particular set of principles – makes a lot of sense early on." However, he says, "the time is rapidly approaching when the movement is going to have to offer concrete solutions to the problems posed by Wall Street."

Taibbi offers the protesters a "short but powerful" list of demands that he thinks they should get behind. And they make a lot of sense! Here they are:

1. Break up the monopolies. The so-called "Too Big to Fail" financial companies – now sometimes called by the more accurate term "Systemically Dangerous Institutions" – are a direct threat to national security. They are above the law and above market consequence, making them more dangerous and unaccountable than a thousand mafias combined. There are about 20 such firms in America, and they need to be dismantled; a good start would be to repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and mandate the separation of insurance companies, investment banks and commercial banks.

2. Pay for your own bailouts. A tax of 0.1 percent on all trades of stocks and bonds and a 0.01 percent tax on all trades of derivatives would generate enough revenue to pay us back for the bailouts, and still have plenty left over to fight the deficits the banks claim to be so worried about. It would also deter the endless chase for instant profits through computerized insider-trading schemes like High Frequency Trading, and force Wall Street to go back to the job it's supposed to be doing, i.e., making sober investments in job-creating businesses and watching them grow.

3. No public money for private lobbying. A company that receives a public bailout should not be allowed to use the taxpayer's own money to lobby against him. You can either suck on the public teat or influence the next presidential race, but you can't do both. Butt out for once and let the people choose the next president and Congress.

4. Tax hedge-fund gamblers. For starters, we need an immediate repeal of the preposterous and indefensible carried-interest tax break, which allows hedge-fund titans like Stevie Cohen and John Paulson to pay taxes of only 15 percent on their billions in gambling income, while ordinary Americans pay twice that for teaching kids and putting out fires. I defy any politician to stand up and defend that loophole during an election year.

5. Change the way bankers get paid. We need new laws preventing Wall Street executives from getting bonuses upfront for deals that might blow up in all of our faces later. It should be: You make a deal today, you get company stock you can redeem two or three years from now. That forces everyone to be invested in his own company's long-term health – no more Joe Cassanos pocketing multimillion-dollar bonuses for destroying the AIGs of the world.

Read more about Taibbi's advice for the Occupy Wall Street crowd at Rolling Stone.

  Read Matt Taibbi: 5 Things Wall Street Protesters Should Demand of the 1%
 October 6, 2011  

When you climb out of the subway at Wall Street, you might wonder why there are no protestors in the cavernous alley by the stock exchange. That’s because since 9/11, Wall Street has been barricaded shut to prevent possible attacks. But up the block at Zuccotti Park between Liberty and Cedar streets, west of Broadway, the party’s on.

There you’ll find a festive group of about 1,000 people, mostly young folks having a good time accompanied by the occasional cluster of old lefties singing songs. People make signs while sitting on the ground then prop them up wherever they can find a space. They gather at tables filled with donated food and browse boxes of donated books. You also can’t miss the swarm of media folks milling around asking questions, taping interviews and taking notes: they’re the ones in dress suits who spend most of their time interviewing each other. My favorite sign held by an occupier is painted on a skateboard: “This is what Freedom Looks Like.” My son would agree.

And my recurring thought is, “It’s about f’ing time.”

What took us so long? How much worse did it have to get before public outrage would finally focus on those who caused the problem and those who are milking us dry? Several of us have been pleading in blog after blog for more than two years to build a broad-based assault on Wall Street. Where was our answer to the Tea Party? Well, here it is.

There’s no telling where this Occupy Wall Street can lead, especially if a virtuous media feedback loop continues: The more protestors, the more coverage, the more protestors. It’s about the only good thing the mainstream media has done in years.

If unions throw into the mix full force, we may have something powerful in the making. It’s far too early to tell, although the October 5 labor march in New York that drew upwards of 25,000 people was certainly a good sign. Will labor come back and do it again each and every week? Will unions mobilize support for the satellite occupiers in city after city? Or will most of their energy go into the Obama/Democratic Party re-election campaigns as if nothing much has happened? (They should listen to protestors, who agree that corporations and the wealthy are destroying our democracy by buying candidates of both parties.)

Already you can hear the chattering classes mumble about the lack of focus, the lack of consensus and the lack of a coherent agenda in this nascent movement. But they have this coherent call: We are the 99 percent, and we demand our fair share. The irrefutable fact is that 99 percent of us really are being screwed by the 1 percent who are looting our country (actually it’s more like the top 1/10 of one percent). So if you still harbor any doubts that Wall Street is the right target, here are 10 reasons to consider:

1. Wall Street caused the crash: Unless you are suffering from financial amnesia, you should remember that it was Wall Street’s reckless gambling that did us in. It was Wall Street banks and hedge funds, not home buyers, who created the enormous demand for high-risk mortgages to pool, to securitize, and to turn into Ponzi-like gambling structures with names like CDOs, CDO squared and synthetic CDOs. It was the money-grubbing rating agencies that blessed these pieces of garbage with AAA ratings. As a result, trillions of dollars of worthless toxic assets polluted our financial system. When the bubble they induced burst, our system crashed, causing 8 million working people to lose their jobs in a matter of months due to no fault of their own. Anyone who still blames low-income home buyers, or regulations or Greece -- or anyone other than Wall Street -- should be checked for dementia.

2. The Wall Street crash directly caused the gravest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression: We’re three years into the worst jobs crisis since 1937. Upwards of 29 million people are out of work or have been forced into part-time jobs. The number of people who have been jobless for more than 26 weeks is at post-WWII record levels. And there’s no end in sight to this misery. Meanwhile, Wall Street’s representatives in Washington want us to focus on cutting public employment and public services to address the debt that Wall Street itself precipitated. WE wouldn’t have a debt crisis were it not for the bailouts, the crash, the lost jobs and the soaring cost of jobless benefits that can be laid at Wall Street’s door. (The debt was also caused by tax cuts for the rich, and the bankers certainly don’t want to talk about that.) For those diversionary debt tactics alone, Wall Street should be occupied until it pays to replace the jobs it destroyed.

3. Wall Street profited from the bailouts and remains unaccountable: Taxpayers provided trillions of dollars in cash and asset guarantees to the wealthiest bankers and hedge fund managers in the world. But nothing was extracted from them in return. Here’s one egregious example: Goldman Sachs paid $550 million in SEC fines for selling mortgage-related securities that were designed to fail so that a large hedge fund could bet against them. The securities failed as planned and the hedge fund pocketed $1 billion in profits. But after we bailed out AIG, Goldman Sachs picked up nearly $12 billion for similar bets that AIG had insured. Goldman Sachs collected 100 cents on the dollar and those dollars were ours.

4. The super-rich are getting richer: When the economy was crashing during 2008, high frequency traders in hedge funds and banks made upwards of $20 billion from the turmoil. This trading scam provided no redeeming value to our economy. Rather, it was a hidden tax on our sorrows -- a transfer of funds from the many to the few. In 2010 the top hedge fund managers “earned” over $2 million an HOUR! The top 25 hedge fund managers took in as much as 650,000 teachers. Young people have the right to question these lopsided values. All of us have the duty to do something about it.

5. The super-rich are paying lower and lower taxes: While the government pleads poverty when asked to create a massive jobs program, our financial elites use every loophole available to avoid taxes. In 1995, the 400 wealthiest families paid about 30 percent of their income in taxes (after all deductions). Today their effective rate is less than 16 percent. And for what? What did society gain from their retained wealth? Not jobs, not debt reduction, only more Wall Street gambling.

6. Financial elites pay lower taxes than their secretaries: Venture capitalists and private equity fund managers, as well as some hedge fund elites, get a fantastic tax break called “carried interest” that allows them to pay a top rate of 15 percent on their income (rather than the 35 percent top rate regular people pay). This tax break, originally designed for small business partnerships, has made the mega-rich even richer. You might be wondering why this outrageous tax break continues for billionaires. The answer is simple: these elites are pouring money into Washington to make sure that Republicans and Democrats alike keep the loophole in place. Even some liberal Democrats are parroting the line that this tax break for billionaires is good for America. So when the occupiers say they are disenfranchised, they’re right.

7. None of those who caused the crash have been prosecuted: Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge fund billionaire, is going to the hoosegow for insider trading. Bernie Madoff is in prison for life for his Ponzi scheme. And about 40 others have pleaded guilty to insider trading crimes. Yet none of these scoundrels, as immoral as they may be, had much to do with the financial crash. They didn’t peddle toxic mortgage-related securities. They didn’t push predatory loans. They didn’t rate garbage securities as if they were gold. None of these perps pumped up the housing bubble. Those who did are still roaming free, financially armed and dangerous.

8. Wall Street is much too big and its salaries are much too high: The financial sector is supposed to be an intermediary that turns our savings into productive investments. It’s not supposed to be a casino and it’s not supposed to dwarf the rest of the productive economy. But after years of deregulatory foolishness, it has metastasized to destructive levels. From the 1930s until the mid-1970s, financial sector employees earned the same as those in other sectors, relative to their skills and experience. That’s the way it should be. But since we embarked on the long march of financial deregulation and tax breaks for the super-rich, people working in the financial sector have seen their incomes skyrocket compared to everyone else. The bigger that gap, the more danger we face. And unless we build a massive populist uprising, it won’t change.

9. Wall Street still owns the regulators: When you put too much money in the hands of the few and when you deregulate finance, you get a financial casino. That’s what happened in the years leading up to the 1929 crash, and it happened again in 2008. During the New Deal we regulated the tar out of finance, ending their reign of speculative terror. And it worked for nearly a quarter of a century as financial crises virtually disappeared. Since financial deregulation reappeared over the last 30 years, there have been over 180 financial crises around the world. So you would think after 2008, we’d be back to reining in the bankers. But, no…our leaders are afraid to stifle “financial innovation” (See next point.) The Dodd-Frank bill is weak and getting weaker, thanks to intensive Wall Street lobbying. High government officials still believe that Wall Street can lead the nation forward. The kids are telling us that we should shut down the casinos now. Right again.

10. Financial innovation is a joke: Washington genuflects before the gods of financial innovation: the adjustable no-money down mortgages with resetting teaser rates, the synthetic collateralized debt obligations that turn garbage mortgages into AAA securities, the credit default swaps that are financial insurance policies without regulation, the nanosecond trading programs that flip millions of stocks per second while milking slower investors, and the myriad of ways to make enormous financial bets using little or none of your own money. They tremble at the thought of whispering anything that might stifle these highly profitable Wall Street inventions. They are wowed by trading measured in nanoseconds, by the alphabet soup of securities, by the dark pools of financial trading and most of all by financial billionaires and their lobbyists. But to paraphrase former fed chair Paul Volcker, the only real financial innovation in the last 25 years is the ATM machine. The rest are simply gambling games designed to enrich Wall Street's elites who pocket the winnings and pawn off the losses on us. The protesters sense the game is rigged. It is.

Does Wall Street pay or do we? In the end, it comes down to a clear-cut struggle between the few and the many. (There’s that 99 percent again.) Who is going to pay for the jobs we need? Who is going to pay for the debt that was created to bail out Wall Street and prevent another Great Depression? Wall Street wants us to pay in the form of cuts in Social Security and medical coverage, reduced wages and higher taxes (for everyone but them). In fact, they want the kids to pay by working longer before they retire (if they can ever find a job), paying higher medical costs as they grow older, and turning their Social Security accounts into Wall Street playthings no one can rely on. At the same time financial elites are arguing for fewer regulations and lower taxes on themselves and their fellow millionaires and billionaires. Financial interests are hoping we’ll simply forget who caused what and instead focus on debt, more debt and still more debt. They’re hoping we’ll blame government, regulations and taxes, while they laugh all the way to the bank – their banks. Some of us may be old and tired and fatalistic about all this looting, and sour about the chances for change. Thank god the kids still have their wits about them—and a fighting spirit.

Get out there and join them. And if you’re too old to stay overnight (like me), visit often and urge your unions, churches and community groups to join the fray. A progressive populist uprising only works when it’s large, vocal and full of spunk.

Go occupiers, go!

Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute and Public Health Institute in New York, and author of The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It (Chelsea Green, 2009).
  Read 10 Things to Know About Wall Street's Rapacious Attack on America
 October 16 2011  

This piece originally appeared at Salon.

 I was in Times Square Saturday as thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters brought their anti-greed, pro-economic justice message to Manhattan’s brightly lit temple of consumerism and corporate culture. The protest in New York occurred along with hundreds of other coordinated actions around the country and the world. Large affiliated crowds marched in London, Frankfurt, and Rome, where rioters hijacked a peaceful anti-austerity protest. There was a reported total of 900 protests in cities around the world, ranging in size. The day capped a month of exponential growth for a movement that started in New York on Sept. 17, and has since spread to nearly 2,000 towns and cities.

Here is a panoramic photo I took in Times Square Saturday. This is a single-shot view of the crowd, which largely stopped pedestrian traffic through the busy commercial hub for a few hours.

I heard many of the chants from what has become Occupy Wall Street’s repertoire:

“We. Are. The 99 Percent!”

“How do we fix the deficit? End the wars! Tax the rich!”

“Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!”

And there was the usual colorful collection of homemade signs, often scrawled on the back of broken down cardboard boxes.

“You’re God damn right, it’s class warfare!” declared one.  ”I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one,” said another.

This young woman borrowed from Frederick Douglass’ 1847 “Love of God, Love of Man, Love of Country” speech:

I saw Jesse LaGreca, who, after his interview with Fox News went unaired — and viral, is now Occupy’s first full-fledged celebrity. People were stopping him to pose for pictures.

It was a diverse crowd — in age, aesthetic sensibility, and race. I bumped into Ted Actie, a Brooklynite and member of Occupy Wall Street’s people of color working committee. He told me that the crowd at Zuccotti, which was more homogeneous in the beginning, has improved in terms of racial diversity.  “If we can’t stop racism, genderism, ageism, and all the other -isms, then it’s not going to work — no matter what happens with the economy,” he said.

The police presence — usually significant in Times Square — was as massive as I’ve seen it at any Occupy event to date. That includes police who may have been posing as protesters. I videotaped this man, with a walkie talkie in his belt and an “Occupy” T-shirt slung over his shoulder, casually chatting with two badge-bearing plainclothes officers. This video was taken after most of the march had cleared out of Times Square, in an area behind police barricades that was being kept strictly free of any protesters or members of the public.

Another video of the man is here. Some of the other apparent undercover officers were wearing orange wristbands. I asked the man with the “Occupy” T-shirt whether he was a police officer and he told me he was with “sanitation.” I asked him about the t-shirt and he just smiled and shrugged. There were was no one from the Department of Sanitation in sight and no one cleaning the streets. I haven’t seen any of the real protesters wearing branded “Occupy” clothing.

The NYPD, it’s worth noting, has a history of sending officers into marches posing as protesters, drawing the ire of activists and civil liberties advocates. I’ve reached out to the department for comment and I will update this post if I hear back.

Despite no reported instances of violence by protesters, a reported 70-plus were arrested Saturday. The two primary rules officers are enforcing are the law banning groups of people wearing masks and the requirement that marchers remain on the sidewalks (a permit is needed to march on the street).

Here is a taste of the magnitude of the police presence in Times Square (click for full size):

After spending a few hours in Times Square, word spread that the crowd was to head back to Washington Square Park. That is a city-owned green space surrounded by an up-scale residential neighborhood and NYU. It has been used for a few general assembly meetings because it is significantly larger than Zuccotti; it is also seen as a candidate for a second occupation. Attempting to sleep in Washington Square Park would almost certainly bring a confrontation with police because camping is prohibited in city parks.

While occupiers ultimately decided Saturday night not to attempt to sleep in Washington Square Park, there were several reported arrests and a large police presence.

Justin Elliott is a Salon reporter. Reach him by email at jelliott@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin.
  Read Occupy Wall Street Goes Global: 900 Protests Around the World, Thousands in Times Square
 October 7, 2011  

Jim Hightower likes to tell the story of the moving company in Austin whose slogan is, "If we can get it loose, we can get it moving." The thousands of people occupying Freedom Plaza in Washington and Zuccotti Park in New York, along with the tens of thousands others protesting around the country may have pried us loose from our cynicism and despair.

The 99% is growing stronger and larger. The next step is to move the country. Which requires us to decide where we want to go and how we want to get there. Which in turn requires us to agree on the new rules for a new economy.

Last week the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street adopted a declaration of principles that will inform the new rules.

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

From that declaration of principles a program will emerge. Conversations about the elements of that program have already begun. Grassroots driven fundamental change is not without precedent. We can look to the Arab spring. #Occupy Wall Street was self-consciously inspired by the occupation by Egyptians of Tahrir Square.

But we can also look to our own history. At the end of the 19th century a political movement arose to confront many of the same concerns that torment us: concentrated wealth, corporate power, the influence of money on democracy. The populist uprising led not only to the passage of state and national laws (e.g. anti trust legislation, minimum wage and maximum hour statutes) but several Constitutional amendments. In 1913 the 16th Amendment allowed an income tax; the 17th Amendment, ratified the same year required the direct election of Senators; the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, gave women the right to vote.

Five New Rules

The conversation about program will go on for months. To contribute to that conversation I offer five new rules: two of them Constitutional Amendments and three of them laws.

1. Corporations are not persons.

The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 gave blacks the constitutional right of citizenship: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

In 1886, in a case that had nothing to do with corporate personhood, the court clerk wrote a headnote to the case that contained these fateful sentences, “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”

Since the case itself never addressed the question these words did not comprise a legal precedent. Nevertheless, from then on the Supreme Court has considered the question settled. Some 65 years later Justice William O. Douglas observed, “the Santa Clara case becomes one of the most momentous of all our decisions. Corporations were now armed with constitutional prerogatives.” And they made the most of these new prerogatives.

The 14th Amendment, written to protect weak and largely defenseless ex-slaves, was mostly used to protect big and powerful corporations. Of the 150 cases based on the 14th amendment the Supreme Court heard between 1886 and 1896, 15 involved blacks and 135 involved business entities.

In the next 20 years, relying on the 1886 “precedent” the Supreme Court steadily expanded the number of Constitutional rights accorded to this new type of person. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) offers a partial list: in 1893 the Court accorded corporations the right of due process under the 5th Amendment. In 1906 it extended to them the protection against search and seizure in the 4th Amendment. In 1908 it extended to corporations the 6th Amendment right to a trial by jury.

By the 1940s Justice Felix Frankfurter could accurately declare, “Artificial or not, corporations have won more rights under law than people have– rights which government has protected with armed force.”

In early 2010 the Supreme Court gave corporations the right, as persons, to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

Does it need to be said that unlike a real person, a corporation lacks a conscience. It is guided neither by ethics nor morality but rather by laws that required its Boards to elevate the maximization of profits above all other concerns. Does it need to be said that if a person makes a decision that kills or maims people he will go to jail. If a CEO makes such a decision he, at worst, receives a golden parachute.

A wonderful sign at the Occupy Wall Street protest reads, “I won’t believe corporations are people until Texas executes one.”

We need a constitutional amendment consisting of four words. Corporations are not persons.

2. Money is not speech

In 1976 the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment. Today members of Congress now spend 25-40 percent of their time begging for money. Political scientist Thomas Ferguson observes, “Public opinion has only a weak and inconstant influence on policy. The political system is largely investor-driven, and runs on enormous quantities of money”.

When states or the federal government have tried to make elections fairer the Supreme Court says no. Vermont passed a law to cap campaign expenditures for state offices. The Court struck it down.

Congress tried to close a loophole in the campaign finance law that allowed billionaire candidates to spend an unlimited amount of their own money on their own campaigns. The Court struck down the law. Speaking for a 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel Alito told Congress that trying to “level electoral opportunities for candidates of different personal wealth” is not “a legitimate government objective.”

The Supreme Court rulings declaring money is speech and corporations are persons make for a lethal cocktail. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator and law professor at American university points out that Fortune l00 corporations had profits in 2008 totaling about $600 billion. If they spent only l percent of their profits on elections, a trivial sum to protect and foster their interests, the total comes to $6 billion. That is more money than was spent for and on behalf of all congressional and presidential candidates in 2008.

We need a Constitutional Amendment consisting of four words. Money is not speech.

3. Tax Financial Transactions

In 1936, John Maynard Keynes first proposed a financial transactions tax. “The introduction of a substantial Government transfer tax on all transactions might prove the most serviceable reform available, with a view to mitigating the predominance of speculation over enterprise in the United States.”

Economist Dean Baker suggests that a modest tax (0.25 percent) could easily raise more than $100 billion a year. “A small increase in trading costs would be a very manageable burden for those who are using financial markets to support productive economic activity. However, it would impose serious costs on those who see the financial markets as a casino in which they place their bets by the day, hour or minute.”

4. Tax all income as ordinary income

Billionaire Warren Buffett has commented on the unfairness of having a lower tax rate than his secretary. That is so because most of his income derives from dividends and capital gains taxed at half the rate as income from work. (I think it altogether fitting that economists use the term “unearned income” to describe this kind of income.)

In 2007 the 400 Americans with the highest income—nearly $345 million—were taxed at less than 17 percent, less than half the ordinary income tax rate of 35 percent because most of their income was derived from investments. If we were to require that all their income be taxed at the 1999 tax rate of 39.6% this alone would generate an additional $300 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.

5. Declare a moratorium on foreclosures

Foreclosures hurt individuals, neighborhoods and the economy. Dumping millions of homes on the market depresses the overall value of all real estate, increases unemployment and disrupts lives and neighborhoods.

The most effective way to stop the tidal wave of foreclosures is through permanent, sustainable loan modifications that reduce homeowners’ mortgage principal and interest rates to market value. In a 2010 report, National Peoples Actionproposed one strategy. “Across the country, some 11 million homeowners are $766 billion under water with their mortgages. Paid off over 30 years this means $73 billion a year needed to reset all underwater homeowners’ principals and interest rates would be about half of the $143 billion the top six banks alone are getting ready to pay in 2010 in bonuses and compensation. Even if the top six banks were to absorb the full cost of modifying all underwater mortgages in the country, they would still have $70 billion left for bonuses and compensation.”

The Wall Street occupiers have taken a stand against monied democracy and corporate power. We would do well to join them. Make your voices heard. And demand new rules that will honor the 99% and restore democracy to the nation.

David Morris is co-founder and vice president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance in Minneapolis, Minn., and director of its New Rules project.
  Read 5 New Rules for an Economy That Works
 October4, 2011  

As the ongoing occupation of Wall Street by hundreds of protesters enters its third week — and as protests spread to other cities such as Boston and Los Angeles — demonstrators have endorsed a new slogan: “We are the 99 percent.” This slogan refers to an economic struggle between 99 percent of Americans and the richest 1 percent of Americans, who are increasingly accumulating a greater share of the national wealth to the detriment of the middle class.

It may shock you to learn exactly how wealthy this top 1 percent of Americans is. ThinkProgress has assembled five facts about this class of super-rich Americans:

1. The Top 1 Percent of Americans Owns 40 Percent of the Nation’s Wealth

 As Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz points out, the richest 1 percent of Americans now own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. Sociologist William Domhoff illustrates this wealth disparity using 2007 figures where the top 1 percent owned 42 percent of the country’s financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home). How much does the bottom 80 percent own? Only 7 percent.



As Stiglitz notes, this disparity is much worse than it was in the past, as just 25 years ago the top 1 percent owned 33 percent of national wealth.

2. The Top 1 Percent of Americans Take Home 24 Percent of National Income

While the richest 1 percent of Americans take home almost a quarter of national income today, in 1976 they took home just 9 percent — meaning their share of the national income pool has nearly tripled in roughly three decades.

3. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Own Half of the Country’s Stocks, Bonds and Mutual Funds

 The Institute for Policy Studies illustrates this massive disparity in financial investment ownership, noting that the bottom 50 percent of Americans own only .5 percent of these investments.



4. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Have Only 5 Percent of the Nation’s Personal Debt

Using 2007 figures, sociologist William Domhoff points out that the top 1 percent have 5 percent of the nation’s personal debt while the bottom 90 percent have 73 percent of total debt:



5. The Top 1 Percent are Taking In More of the Nation’s Income Than at Any Other Time Since the 1920s

Not only are the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans taking home a tremendous portion of the national income, but their share of this income is greater than at any other time since the Great Depression, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities illustrates in this chart using 2007 data:



As Professor Elizabeth Warren has explained, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody…Part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

More and more often, that is not occurring, giving the protesters ample reason to take to the streets.

  Read 5 Facts You Should Know About the Wealthiest One Percent of Americans
 October 5, 2011  

Oil from controversial and environmentally destructive tar sands is likely to be all but banned from Europe after a decision on Tuesday. The move also casts doubt on the future of other controversial energy sources such as shale gas.

Tar sands (also known as oil sands) have been a target of green campaigners for several years, as the extraction of low quality oil from sands – chiefly in Canada to date – produces far greater greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil drilling operations, and requires vast quantities of water. The exploitation of tar sands has also led to the destruction of swaths of forest and is blamed for water and air pollution.

In a victory for Connie Hedegaard, the EU's climate change commissioner, the commission has decided to back a new directive on fuel quality. This will set minimum environmental standards for a range of fuels, including tar sands, coal converted to liquid and oil from shale rock.

Hedegaard said: "With this measure, we are sending a clear signal tofossil fuels suppliers. As fossil fuels will be a reality in the foreseeable future, it's important to give them the right value.''

Franziska Achterberg, EU transport policy adviser for Greenpeace, said: "Today's move by the commission is good news. Tar sands extraction is a very dirty business for the climate, polluting rivers, lacing the air with toxins and turning forests into wasteland. Despite coming under intense pressure from oil lobbyists and Canada, the commission is doing the right thing by wanting to keep tar sands out of Europe to protect the climate."

The proposals have now been sent to EU member states who will meet in four to six weeks to vote on the proposal. It will then go to the European parliament for final approval.

If the proposed standards are accepted, they will all but rule out imports of tar sands, unless producers can clean up their acts. The commission has proposed that tar sands be ascribed a greenhouse gas value of 107 grams per megajoule of fuel – this compares with 87.5 grams per megajoule for ordinary crude oil, on average. Producers will also have to cut the carbon footprint of their fuels by 6% in the next decade.

Although gas from shale is not yet included, because the proposed directive is focused on transport fuels, the acceptance that fuels must meet minimum environmental standards makes it much more likely that it too could fall foul of legislation in the future. Shale gas has come under the spotlight as vast sources in the US have proved a cheap source of fuel there, but allegations of widespread pollution caused by the shale gas projects has led green groups to call for a moratorium. Europe is beginning to exploit its own newly discovered reserves, but campaigners have called for a halt while the environmental consequences are studied. In the UK, drilling work has begun at sites in Lancashire.

The proposed fuel quality directive may also face a tough ride from some member states. In Britain, Norman Baker, minister for transport, stated in a letter dated 26 September that the government will oppose inclusion of a tar sands value and will "continue to have discussions with colleagues in other member states to ensure all heavy crudes are dealt with, not simply oil sands".

The commission appears to have finessed this objection by including other fuels – such as coal converted to liquid and oil from shale, both of which have been assigned far higher carbon values than oil from tar sands – but it is not certain ministers will accept this. There has been fierce lobbying from the Canadian government in particular over the past year on this issue.

Canada has warned that banning oil from tar sands will raise energyprices for Europe, as tar sands are probably the world's biggest reserve of oil after Saudi Arabia. The exploitation of the hard-to-reach resources is only economically viable because of the high oil price.

Paul Morozzo from Greenpeace UK said the benefits of ruling out tar sands and other high-carbon fuel sources were clear: "This proposal is absolutely the right recommendation. The key question now is what will the UK government do – will it be, as David Cameron once claimed, the greenest government ever and support the ban or will the government adopt the George Osborne approach, as outlined in his speech [at the Conservative party conference], where carbon emissions and the destruction of the environment seems to be a price worth paying."

  Read European Union Moves Toward Banning Tar Sands
 October 6, 2011  

The following article first appeared on the Web site of The Nation. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for its e-mail newsletters here. 

I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on Thursday night. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I said had to be repeated by hundreds of people so others could hear (a.k.a. "the human microphone"), what I actually said at Liberty Plaza had to be very short. With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.

I love you.

And I didn't just say that so that hundreds of you would shout "I love you" back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.

Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: "We found each other." That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can't be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.

If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.

And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it's a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say "No. We will not pay for your crisis."

That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile where the crisis began.

"Why are they protesting?" ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: "What took you so long?" "We've been wondering when you were going to show up." And most of all: "Welcome."

Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalization protests that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999. That was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am proud to have been part of what we called "the movement of movements."

But there are important differences too. For instance, we chose summits as our targets: the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G8. Summits are transient by their nature, they only last a week. That made us transient too. We'd appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. And in the frenzy of hyper patriotism and militarism that followed the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.

Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It's because they don't have roots. And they don't have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.

Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen.

Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately. And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality. Which we saw more of just last night. Meanwhile, support for this movement grows and grows. More wisdom.

But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom. Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging. The media was drunk on easy money. Back then it was all about start-ups, not shut downs.

We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a price. It was damaging to labor standards. It was damaging to environmental standards. Corporations were becoming more powerful than governments and that was damaging to our democracies. But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.

Ten years later, it seems as if there aren't any more rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.

These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.

We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite -- fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful -- the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.

The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society -- while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.

What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I'm not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that's important.

I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it's also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.

That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and proving health care, meditation classes and empowerment training. My favorite sign here says "I care about you." In a culture that trains people to avoid each other's gaze, to say, "Let them die," that is a deeply radical statement.

A few final thoughts. In this great struggle, here are some things that don't matter.

  • What we wear.
  • Whether we shake our fists or make peace signs.
  • Whether we can fit our dreams for a better world into a media soundbite.

And here are a few things that do matter.

  • Our courage.
  • Our moral compass.
  • How we treat each other.

We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That's frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets -- like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting. After all, that is a battle that's easier to win.

Don't give in to the temptation. I'm not saying don't call each other on shit. But this time, let's treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less.

Let's treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.

Editor's Note: Naomi's speech will also appear in Saturday's edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal.

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (September 2007); an earlier international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). Read more at Naomiklein.org. You can follow her on Twitter @naomiaklein.
  Read Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now
 September 29, 2011  

People across the country were surprised last year when Bicycling magazine named Minneapolis America's "#1 Bike City," beating out Portland, Oregon, which had claimed the honor for many years. Shock that a place in the heartland could outperform cities on the coasts was matched by widespread disbelief that biking was even possible in a state famous for its ferocious winters.

But this skepticism fades with a close look at the facts. Close to four percent of Minneapolis residents bike to work according to census data. That's an increase of 33 percent since 2007, and 500 percent since 1980.

At least one-third of those commuters ride at least some days during the winter, according to federally funded research conducted by Bike Walk Twin Cities. Even on the coldest days about one-fifth are out on their bikes.

Minneapolis also launched the first large-scale bikesharing sytem in U.S. -- called Nice Ride -- and boasts arguably the nation's finest network of off-street bicycle trails. It was chosen as one of four pilot projects (along with Marin County, California; Columbia, Missouri; and Sheboygan County, Wisconsin) for the federal Non-Motorized Transportation Program, which aims to shift a share of commuters out of cars and onto bikes or foot.

Bikes also figure prominently in the local economy with firms such as QPB (bike parts), Dero (bike racks), Park Tools (bike tools) and Surly (bikes, frames & trailers) located in the Twin Cities.

"Biking has become a huge part of what we are," Mayor RT Rybak declared to a delegation of transportation leaders from Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, on a Minneapolis tour sponsored by the Bikes Belong Foundation. "It's an economical way to get around town, and many times it's the fastest. I frequently take a bike from city hall across downtown to meetings."

This Is What a Bike Town Looks Like

This year the city is adding 57 new miles of bikeways to the 127 miles already built. An additional 183 miles are planned over the next twenty years. By 2020, almost every city resident will live within a mile of an off-street bikeway and within a half-mile of a bike lane, vows city transportation planner Donald Pfaum.

In a city where bicyclists of all ages and backgrounds already ride recreational trails regularly, the goal is to make two-wheelers a central component of the transportation system by encouraging everyone to hop on their bikes for commuting or short trips around town. This is not a far-fetched dream, since nationally half of all automobile trips are three miles or less -- a distance easily covered on bike in twenty minutes.

"Places famous for biking like Copenhagen and even Portland feel very far away," remarked Jeff Stephens, Executive Director of the Columbus advocacy organization Consider Biking, who came to Minneapolis looking for ideas he could apply back home. "It was exciting to see what they've accomplished in Minneapolis, which is a city that seems a lot like Columbus.

"Our mayor has said that he wants Columbus to become a 'bike town,'" Stephens added, "and seeing what's been done here gives us a clearer sense of what that means."

A World-Class Network of Bike Trails Separated from Traffic

Over three days in mid-July, the visiting group of city officials, planners and citizen advocates pedaled all over Minneapolis in conditions more typical of Copenhagen or Portland -- a constant threat of rain -- than Minnesota's usual warm, sunny summers.

They inspected America's "first bike freeway," Cedar Lake Trail running along an uninterrupted rail corridor from the western suburbs through downtown Minneapolis to the Mississippi River. They also rode the Midtown Greenway, another converted rail line cutting through the city's south side that carries as many 3,500 bicyclists a day.

Both the Cedar Lake Trail and the Midtown Greenway connect to numerous other trails, creating an off-road network that reaches deep into St. Paul and surrounding suburbs. Intersections are infrequent along these routes, which boosts riders' speed along with their sense of safety and comfort.

The crown jewel of the Midtown Greenway is the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge, a striking modernist structure that loops bike and foot traffic high above a formidable seven-lane highway. It's named for a former Minneapolis Congressman who became an early champion of bike riders in the 1990s.

Another sight along the Midtown Greenway is less dazzling but bodes well for biking's acceptance as a legitimate form of transportation. City engineers recently reversed a stop sign to give bikes priority over cars where the trail meets 5th Avenue South. The reason: more bike riders move through the intersection on a typical day than motorists.

Women, Children & Seniors on Bikes

Minneapolis is committed to creating separate rights-of-way for bikes wherever feasible, which helps explain why the city defies trends of bicyclists as overwhelmingly male. While only a quarter of riders are women nationally, the Census Bureau's American Community Survey reports 37 percent in Minneapolis.

Research shows that most people -- including many women, families and older citizens -- are wary of biking alongside motor vehicles on busy streets. Having the option to ride apart from heavy traffic encourages more people to try out biking as a form of transportation.

Since the 1970s Dutch planners have separated bicyclists from motor vehicles on most arterial streets, with impressive results. The rate of biking has doubled throughout the country, now accounting for 27 percent of all trips. Women make up 55 percent of two-wheel traffic and citizens over 55 ride in numbers slightly higher than the national average. Nearly every Dutch schoolyard is filled with kids' bikes parked at racks and lampposts.

The Dutch also that as the number of riders rises, their safety increases. Statistics in Minneapolis show the same results. Shaun Murphy, Non-Motorized Transportation Program Coordinator in the Public Works Department, notes that your chances of being in a car/bike crash in the city are 75 percent less than in 1993.

Takin' it to the Streets

Murphy led the Pittsburgh and Columbus visitors around through the streets of Minneapolis on Nice Ride bikes, showcasing efforts to foster bike riding in a city that until recently accommodated automobiles in every possible way. About half of local bikeways are on the streets, with many more to come soon. "We're known for being pretty innovative about bikes," he explained. "We like to explore creative solutions. We're seeing what new ideas work."

The group pedaled downtown along Minneapolis's first cycle track -- First Avenue North -- a bike lane separated from motorized traffic by parked cars. The configuration provides a better experience for both people on bikes and in cars by creating a buffer between them. Murphy noted that the project was quite controversial when it opened last year, but now everyone is getting used to it.

On the next block, everyone experienced another innovation designed to make bicycling on major streets more appealing. Shared-lane ("sharrow") markers were painted on Hennepin Avenue within a continuous green stripe running down the street to send a clear message to both bicyclists and motorists that road space is used by everyone.

The group then pedaled out of downtown, crossing another bike-and-pedestrian bridge over a busy street before landing on Bryant Avenue, which has been transformed into a bicycle boulevard -- a residential street where pedestrians and bicyclists are given preferential priority over cars. The city's first bicycle boulevard, the River Lake greenway, opened to great fanfare in June.

How Bike Projects Save Money & Make Life Better for Everyone

Mayor R.T. Rybak stressed that in these lean economic times, cities across the country need to be creative about how they spend transportation dollars. Big-ticket road engineering projects to move ever more cars must give way to more efficient projects that move people by a variety of means-including foot, bike, transit. "We need to get more use from all the streets we already have," Rybak said. "It really is the idea that bikes belong."

Bike projects in the Twin Cities are not limited to Minneapolis. St. Paul and many suburbs are also making it easier for people to travel on two wheels and two feet. Steve Elkins, Transportation Chair of the Metropolitan Council, a government body that guides development throughout the region, highlighted his efforts as city council member in suburban Bloomington (home of the Mall of America) to push the idea of Complete Streets -- meaning that roadways should serve walkers and bikers as well as cars.

He extolled the virtue of road diets, conversion of four-way streets into three-way configurations with alternating center turn lanes-which create opportunities to add bike lanes or widen sidewalks without diminishing capacity for cars. "When done in the course of regular road repair projects, they cost nothing more than what it takes for a community outreach campaign," he noted.

Road diets have become common throughout the Twin Cities. "The biggest obstacle to Complete Streets right now are traffic engineers who don't want to reduce the width of traffic lanes, but we are beginning to wear them down," Elkins laughed. "There's nothing in the literature that suggests wider lanes are safer; indeed, if there's any evidence, it's that narrow streets are safer."

One theme recurring through the entire tour was that better bike facilities benefit not just bicyclists, but everyone. Bike lanes improve safety for motorists too, by slowing the speed of traffic explained Mayor Rybak, noting "we've found they're the best traffic calming device around." Joan Pasiuk, Program Director for Bike Walk Twin Cities, distributed materials documenting how new bike facilities get bicyclist off the sidewalks, a major breakthrough for pedestrians' safety and peace of mind.

Have a Nice Ride

The nation's first major bikesharing program hit the streets in Minneapolis in June 2010, quickly followed by Denver, Washington, D.C. Boston and Toronto -- with Seattle, Chicago, Portland and other cities now readying plans.

Bill Dossett, executive director of NiceRide Minnesota -- the non-profit organization that runs the bikeshare program -- recounted the widespread skepticism that greeted the new system? Would bikesharing work outside Europe? Would it work in a city where a high percentage of people already own bikes? In a city that is low-density? Wouldn't inexperienced riders hurt themselves? Won't most of the bikes be stolen or vandalized?

But when the signature lime-green bikes were put away for the winter in November 2010, those questions had all been answered. Only one bike was stolen, only one accident reported, no major injuries suffered and less than $5,000 in vandalism, which was far lower than the organization's projections.

More than 100,000 rides were taken from June to November last year, and Nice Ride operated in the black. (Capital costs were covered by a combination of funding from the Non-Motorized Pilot Program and BlueCross/BlueShield, with smaller grants from beneficiaries like the Minneapolis Convention Center.)

This year the system added 500 more bikes and 51 more stations this summer, expanding outward from the center of Minneapolis and moving into St. Paul. From April to late-September, Nice Ride had logged 172,000 rides, with more than a month to go.

Dossett believes the project's greatest accomplishment is not the numbers, but the success in getting people to ride. Amy Duncan had not been on a bike since the 1970s but joined Nice Ride to do errands around downtown. "I learned to ride a bike again and 100 percent of my success belongs to Nice Ride," she enthuses.

The system is free for the first half-hour, a buck-fifty for the next, and rises steeply after that. The idea is to encourage short trips that might otherwise be made by car. You get access to a bike for a yearly ($60), monthly ($30) or daily ($5) pass. Daily passes can be purchased with the swipe of a credit or debit card at any Nice Ride station.

The bikes themselves -- elegant in design with an eye-popping lime green color -- feature adjustable seats, lights and a rack for carrying a briefcase or shopping bag. The system is particularly popular with out-of-town tourists, downtown office workers, university students and residents of apartment buildings and condos. Many local users may actually own bikes, but find Nice Ride easy to use in certain circumstances, such as when they take transit downtown or the university. Every Nice Ride bike you see likely represents one less car on the road.

Winter Wonderland on Two Wheels

"We're colder than Montreal or Moscow," Steve Clark, Program Manager of Bike Walk Twin Cities, confessed to the Pittsburgh and Columbus visitors, "but that doesn't stop people from riding their bikes in even the coldest, snowiest, darkest conditions." Former bicycle/pedestrian coordinator of Boulder, Colorado, Clark pointed to research his group conducted finding that one in three summertime bike commuters will also ride on warmer, sunny winter days. One in four rides at least once a week November to March. And one in five will be out on their bikes through snowstorms and temperatures below zero.

City workers clear snow from the off-road bikeways just the same as streets, sometimes doing them first. Studded snow tires and breakthroughs in cold-weather clothing makes year-round biking easier than it looks, Clark said. And while Minnesotans are reluctant to dispel the notion they are hardier than anyone else, he revealed that even in the depths of winter many days here are above 20 degrees with streets free of snow and ice. A few tips for would-be winter bikers: install fenders, ride slower, lower your seat so you can use your boots as an emergency brake and enjoy the Christmas-card scenery.

He emphasizes the importance of doing bike counts throughout the coldest months. "Actual data legitimizes winter biking as transportation, and debunks the idea that bike projects are frivolous because they are used only in the summer."

Gary Sjoquist, Bike Belong's Government Affairs Director who lives in suburban Minneapolis, added that gathering data is essential to promote bicycling. "We now understand that if there aren't stats to show how many people actually bike, then nothing happens." Bike Walk Twin Cities pioneered new methodology for bike counts in its role as the local administrator for the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Project.

A Continuing Concern for Social Justice

The notion that only upper-middle-class white folks ride bikes is being challenged on all fronts across Minneapolis. The Major Taylor Bicycle Club, named for the African-American racer who claimed world records in the 1890s, organizes rides and bike events in minority communities.

Jon Wertjes, the city's Director of Traffic and Parking Services, mentioned that a half-dozen bike rodeos to excite kids about biking would take place in inner city neighborhoods over the summer. In St. Paul, the Sibley Bike Depot offers a wide range of programs to introduce biking to immigrants and low-income families, including a shop that sells low-cost bikes and lets people work on their own bikes for free. They also run programs where kids can earn free bikes by taking bike repair classes and a bike library where low-income families are loaned a free bike for .

At a time when gasoline prices are high and transit service is being cut across the country, bikes can help fill the transportation gaps in poor communities. Nice Ride, with support from the McKnight Foundation, has extended service to lower-income areas of both Minneapolis and St. Paul this summer. Bill Dosset says the initiative aims to overcome cultural attitudes in some communities that bikes are only for kids or people who can't afford any other way to get around.

Bike Walk Twin Cities launched a social marketing campaign to promote biking in the lower-income neighborhoods of Minneapolis's north side, where this year a new Bike Walk Center opens along with extensive network of new bikeways.

A Proud Tradition of Civic Involvement

Dorian Grilley, Executive Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, credited a "150-year tradition of civic involvement" as a major reason for Minneapolis's emergence as a bike capital. In the late 19th Century, city fathers wisely preserved land along lakes, creeks and the Mississippi for the public use. These became popular places to bike in the 1890s and again, eighty years later, when the second bike boom hit town. The Cedar Lake Trail and Midtown Greenway were initiated by grassroots groups, which convinced political leaders to take the bold step of developing abandoned rail lines as bike trails rather than as condos or industrial zones. That marked a major step for transforming transportation in the community.

Minneapolis Was Not Always a Good Place to Bike. What Changed?

It just so happens that I live and bike in Minneapolis, although I was on the tour in my capacity as a writer and editor for Bikes Belong not as a local expert. But I offered some background to out-of-town visitors on the first day of the tour.

I told them that local bicyclists would have howled at the idea of Minneapolis being named America's best city 30 years ago. It was a frustrating and dangerous place to bike, crisscrossed by freeways and arterial streets that felt like freeways. Drivers were openly hostile to bike riders, some of them going the extra step to scare the daylights out of us as they roared past. Bike lanes were practically non-existent at that time. What changed in Minneapolis was that local bike riders patiently lobbied for better conditions, slowly winning over elected officials and city staff. Also, as the number of bike riders steadily rose, motorists became accustomed to sharing the streets with us.

Other factors that boosted Minneapolis as a bike town include:

  • A large number of students at the University of Minnesota and smaller local colleges.
  • Minneapolis was originally laid out for streetcars -- like most cities outside the Sun Belt -- which is a scale that works very well for bike riders.
  • The high number of recreational bike riders here eventually translates into bike commuters. Fifty one percent of all Minnesotans rode a bike last year, and the numbers for the Twin Cities are much higher than that. Even folks who will never ride their bikes anywhere except around a lake can still identify with a person on two wheels, which reminds them to drive more respectfully.
  • As a Mid-American city far from the glamour capitals of the coasts, biking has become part of our positive self-image. Even people who haven't rode a bike in years cheered when Minneapolis was named America's #1 biking city. It's become part of our "brand".
Jay Walljasper is editor of OnTheCommons.org, a news and culture website devoted to recognizing the importance of the commons -- those things that belong to all of us -- in modern life.
  Read A Surprising Town Is Now America's Top Bike City
 October 6, 2011  

Global warming has often been discussed with regard to its effects for life on land: increased temperatures and heat waves, increased weather extremes, less but more intense rainfall, drought and forest fires.

Water, however, remains less considered. Even discussions of floods or rising sea levels, which focus on water, study mainly their consequences for land inhabitants.

Yet oceans, it is well known, cover three quarters of the earth's surface. And oceans have absorbed about a quarter of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, one of four main greenhouse gases causing global warming. This absorption of CO2 is integrally related to the three major factors impacting the oceans: global warming, ocean acidification and decreasing amounts of oxygen. As a result, the current situation of the oceans is dire. And its impact will be severe not only for marine life but also for all life -- plant, animal and human -- on land.

Ocean Acidification

Carbon dioxide (CO2) exists naturally in the air. But through the use of fossil fuels, in particular coal and oil, the amount of CO2 in the air has increased exponentially since the Industrial Revolution began. 

As the oceans absorb carbon from the air, their chemistry changes. This process is known as ocean acidification, and it has brutal consequences for marine and land life.

Oceanographers estimate that before the use of fossil fuels, the ocean's PH balance, which measures its acidity, had been relatively stable for the past 20 million years. During the last great extinction of marine life, which occurred 55 million years ago, 50 percent of some groups of deep sea animals were wiped out.

But the current levels of carbon being absorbed by the oceans is far higher than the levels being absorbed then.

A United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report released in 2010 on the "Environmental Consquences of Ocean Acidification" and based on studies conducted over the past two decades off the coast of Hawai'i has confirmed that the increased CO2 concentration levels in the ocean mirror the increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Ocean Acidification and Phytoplankton

Already the increased levels of ocean acidification have led to a loss of phytoplankton and of coral reefs. And losses of phytoplankton and of coral reefs have a ripple effect.

First, much marine life relies on them for nourishment. Flounder, haddock, pollock, salmon and shrimp all eat phytoplankton. Humans eat many of these fish. Krill eat phytoplankton and whales eat krill. So a decrease in one threatens the liveilhood of the other.

Second, phytoplankton also absorbs carbon dioxide. Phytoplankton floats along the ocean's surface absorbing CO2 as land plants do in photosynthesis. As the CO2 is absorbed, the plant dies and sinks to the ocean floor, releasing CO2 along the way. Cold water can hold higher levels of CO2 than warmer water, so most of the CO2 released, which turns water acidic, is to be found along the ocean floor. But this acidic water does not stay at the ocean's floor. During an upswell, it rises to the surface and even the shore. Its acidity is deadly for the shells of marine life, such as shrimps, clams and oysters.

If the smallest part of the food chain is affected by ocean acidification, it ripples all the way up the food chain, making the largest part of the food chain vulnerable.

"Since the time before the industrial revolution," says the National Resource Defense Council's Lisa Suatoni, "ocean acidity has increased 30 percent."

And the bad news does not end there: According to oceanographers, the water rising from the ocean's depths holds CO2 that has accumulated over the past decades. Thus, in coming years, the increased levels of CO2 absorbed by the oceans will re-emerge as increased ocean acidification reaching the shores. Higher levels of cean acidification have already led to tremendous problems for the oyster industry. In the summer of 2007 oyster harvests began to plummet in the Pacific Northwest. The situation was extreme. The oyster hatcheries were keen to find the culprit, which turned out to be ocean acidification.

Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs

Increasing ocean acidification also threatens coral reefs. Recent estimates suggest that coral reefs might disappear altogether by the end of the century.

Coral reefs have been referred to as the "rainforests of the sea." They make up only 10 percent of the world's oceans yet they contain some of the world's most diverse ecosystems. Coral reefs provide a home for and feed about 25 percent of the world's marine life, including crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters and shrimp; echinoderms, such as sea cucumbers, sea urchins and starfish; fish; mollusks; sea turtles; sponges and worms; and also sea birds like albatroses, herons, pelicans and boobies.

Typically located in shallow and warm ocean waters, coral reefs also provide shoreline protection. For example, the reefs near the Maldives help this island create a barrier against rising sea levels.

The extinction of coral reefs would not only jeopardize the lives of marine species that rely on them for shelter and food, but threaten the shorelines of low-lying island states already suffering the impacts of rising sea levels.

Global Warming: Air and Ocean

Global warming is typically talked about in terms of air temperature or earth surface temperature. Recently, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies reported that 2010 was the hottest year on record.

A new study conducted by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found that the ocean has been absorbing much of increased temperatures. As with the CO2 absorbed by the oceans, these temperatures are soaked up and moved toward the bottom of the oceans. And again, as with the CO2, the warmer temperatures do not disappear but will eventually return to the surface. The earth's temperatures would then be doubly impacted: first, by the greenhouse gas emissions already in the air and causing global warming; second by the temperatures and CO2 returning from the ocean.

What Can We Do?

The only way to reduce ocean acidification is to reduce the level of CO2 emissions. Increased efficiency of buildings could help reduce the amount of energy needed, and producing the energy needed through solar and wind energy would emit less greenhouse gas emissions.

Marine biologists and chemists have argued for a Clean Air Act for the seas at the federal level. Last year, President Obama announced the first National Ocean Policy and created a National Ocean Council to establish it. One of its numerous duties, including managing the spatial planning of marine areas, the policy would seek to preserve ocean quality.

Oceanographers also recommend that when the international negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change discuss the reduction of CO2 emissions, they explicitly consider the presence of CO2 in the oceans. Given how stalled movement has been in the federal and the international arena on passing legistlation and reaching an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it remains to be seen how long it will take for the effects of CO2 on oceans to be recognized, taken into account and addressed.

Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist who covers climate change, international negotiations and energy policy. Her work has appeared in AlterNet, Grist, Environment News Service, In These Times, the Progressive and the Nation.
  Read Our Oceans Are in Dire Shape, But Without Them All Life on Land -- Human, Plant and Animal -- Is Totally Screwed
 September 27 2011  

Renewable energy is essential if we are to avert disastrous climate change caused by carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Yet despite significant recent growth, less than 2 percent of the about 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity the U.S. generates a year comes from solar or wind power. More than two-thirds still comes from coal, natural gas or oil, and 20 percent from nuclear power. Meanwhile, the world's total reserves of oil, gas, coal, and uranium are expected to run out by the end of the century, especially as electricity consumption increases.

So what are the obstacles to converting the U.S. electrical system to renewable energy? They are a mix of technological, economic and political factors.

Solar and Wind Make Gains

Solar energy has become "economically viable only in recent years," says Seth Masia, deputy editor at Solar Today, an industry trade magazine in Boulder, Colorado. Prices for photovoltaic panels--the most commonly used devices to convert sunlight to electricity--have dropped dramatically, Masia notes, as "Chinese manufacturers have flooded the market with low-cost devices."

Germany is the world leader in switching over. Early this year, the amount of its electricity that came from renewables passed 20 percent. Solar output almost doubled from the previous year; a utility trade group credited plummeting costs for solar panels and the government deciding to retain subsidies for private solar-power generation. Wind and solar sources now make up almost half of all new electricity generation in Europe, says Ken Zweibel of the GW Solar Institute at George Washington University.

In the U.S. overall, renewables have become a significant percentage of new electricity generation, although this amount fluctuates with the market. In April, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law requiring 33 percent of all electricity produced by utilities in the state to come from renewables by the end of 2020. Masia projects that 20 percent of U.S. electricity could come from solar power by then.

Contracts have been signed for solar-power plants with a capacity of 13 gigawatts--enough to power New York City at the record-high peak set during last July's heat wave--to come online by 2016, says Brett Prior, a senior analyst with Greentech Media in Boston. That means solar power could be 20 percent of new capacity by then, he adds.

Some plants use large arrays of photovoltaic panels. Others employ more complicated systems to concentrate solar power, such as parabolic trough mirrors that heat an oil-filled tube to 1,000°F and generate steam to spin a turbine. Most are in California and Arizona, but there are others underway in Colorado, Nevada, the Long Island suburbs of New York City, and Austin, Texas. Construction has begun on three 250-to 370-megawatt plants in Southern California deserts, but two larger ones--a 1-gigawatt plant at Blythe and a 709-megawatt one in the Imperial Valley--have been delayed for further state review, because they switched their plans from concentrated solar power to photovoltaic cells.

Texas now gets 8 percent of its electricity from wind. This is largely due to a 2005 state law that established collaboration between wind-farm developers and utilities, says Mark Kapner, a retired senior engineer in Austin Energy's renewables division. If wind developers commit to building on a site, the utilities will commit to building power lines out to it, and the cost of transmission will not increase with distance.

This is important, Kapner explains, because the strongest winds are in remote areas, such as west Texas and the rest of the Great Plains. Before the bill was passed, wind turbines had to be taken out of service sometimes, because they were generating more electricity than the existing power lines could handle.

Most people don't think of Texas as "a progressive, innovative state on energy," says Kapner, "but in reality it is." Solar's technological advances have evolved, rather than come through major breakthroughs, he says. Silicon is still the most common material used for photovoltaic devices, says Wladek Walukiewicz of Lawrence Berkeley Labs in California. It's not very efficient, he adds -- it converts 10 to 20 percent of the energy received to electricity--but it can be produced cheaply. The Chinese have been able to bring prices down by "the sheer power of mass production."

Some solar producers are opting for a newer technology called "thin-film" devices. These employ either a cadmium-telluride combination or a copper-indium-gallium-selenium alloy called "CIGS." They are not more efficient than silicon, says Walukiewicz, but can be produced cheaply and require far less space and thus fewer materials in the overall system.

Walukiewicz and other scientists at Lawrence Berkeley recently unveiled a photovoltaic device made from a mix of gallium nitride and indium nitride that gets 43 percent efficiency. The gallium compound is sensitive to light on the ultraviolet side of the spectrum, while the indium is sensitive to the infrared side, he explains, but if you mix the two, you get a device sensitive to visible light, and you can adjust the mix for different wavelengths. These elements are much more expensive than silicon, but the devices would be "much easier to make, much simpler."

A power grid based on renewable energy would most likely be a mix of individual sources, such as solar panels on rooftops and office and industrial buildings, and centralized generation by utilities. Utilities would have to adapt to decentralization, but "they'll still have a major role," says Ken Zweibel, as they would provide economies of scale and more reliable backup.

Decentralization requires that utilities allow "reverse metering," letting private users with solar panels pump the surplus electricity they generate back into the grid and thus reduce their bills. Some states mandate this.

How to store the electricity produced is still an issue. What do you do at night or on cloudy days? Solar-power advocates counter that it would eliminate the need for costly peak-power generation, because the most intense sun coincides with the heaviest use of air-conditioning. "Brownouts would go away," Masia says.

The flaw in that argument, Kapner say, is that there is still a high demand for air-conditioning after sundown. Electricity use peaks when people get home from work; in the Southwest, utilities run at 90 percent of peak demand at sundown, and one-third to half of that is for cooling. Kapner believes this problem could be resolved by better cooling systems and smarter grid management.

Concentrated solar-power systems can store the energy they produce as heat in tanks of molten salt, but photovoltaic devices have to rely on batteries, which are more expensive. Another possibility is using the electricity generated to pump water into mini-hydropower systems.

Storage is "not a big deal" now, says Brett Prior, but will become more crucial as renewables become a substantial part of electricity generation. "Dispatchability" is also an issue, he adds, as gas plants can be turned on and off quickly to meet demand, while solar and wind supplies are more intermittent.

Still, says Zweibel, current solar technology is "adequate to meet 10 to 20 percent of current energy needs, so we need to get on the ball." "I don't think there are any technical hurdles right now," says Walukiewicz. "Germany is not a very sunny place, but they are probably the biggest consumer of solar cells."

Roadblocks Remain

Two large economic obstacles remain: In the U.S., fossil fuels are still cheaper sources of power, and converting the nation's entire electricity-generating system would be costly and take decades.

The tipping point will be "grid parity," says Kapner, referring to when the total cost of installing and running a solar-power system becomes equal to that of buying conventional power. The equipment and installation are expensive, but after that, it costs very little. In the large systems now running in the Southwest, operating costs are as low as 1 cent per kilowatt-hour.

"You have to remember that the fuel is free," Masia says of solar, and the only maintenance needed is "you have to wash the dust and birdshit off" the panels.

Utilities are "technology-agnostic," says Prior; they "will do whatever is best for their investors and shareholders." The price of solar power from photovoltaics has come down to about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is slightly less than the cost of power in New York City or Massachusetts--but twice the 6 cents that natural-gas power currently costs.

In 2009, wind made up 42 percent of all new generation capacity that came online, Prior says. The year before, the price of natural gas had reached $14 for a million British thermal units (BTUs), so utilities sought alternatives. But when gas dropped to $4 for a million BTUs in 2009, they switched back. In 2010, less than a quarter of new power came from renewables, while 35 percent came from coal and 38 percent from natural gas.

"The reason we have to subsidize is because the initial 20-year-cost is higher," says Zweibel of solar electricity. But in the long run, renewables are cheaper, says Mark Kapner. In Austin Energy's Green Choice program, he says, customers pay higher rates at first, but they don't have to pay increases for the next ten years, which protects them from the volatile prices of natural gas.

The Chinese competition has hurt U.S. solar-panel manufacturers, most notoriously the Fremont, California, firm Solyndra, which filed for bankruptcy in September after receiving more than $500 million in federal loans. When Solyndra was launched in 2007, says Masia, "no one anticipated" that the Chinese government would "invest very, very aggressively" in solar-panel manufacturing. Beijing has pumped $30 billion into it, says Zweibel.

Another issue is the time and money it would take to convert the U.S. power grid. About 3 percent of the U.S. generation infrastructure gets replaced every year, says Prior, so even if half of all new capacity were renewable, it would take until the 2040s for half the supply to come from renewables.

Globally, he says, whatever the U.S., France, and Germany do is "a drop in the bucket compared to what's being built in emerging markets." As industry expands in countries like China, India, and Indonesia, world electricity consumption is projected to rise from the 16 terawatt-years of 2009 to 28 terawatt-years in 2050.

What would it take to convert the U.S.? Prior says a combination of technological breakthroughs, cheaper solar panels, better storage, and either an increase in natural-gas prices or a carbon tax. If California's carbon tax raises the price of natural-gas power to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, he adds, solar power will be competitive by 2014.

Paying the Price

Yet if we wait for the market to drive conversion to renewable energy, the Earth might be a scorched, drought-ridden, hurricane-battered planet by the time it happens. Power producers' bottom lines do not include what economists call "externalized" costs--the price of the environmental damage caused by pollution and carbon emissions. What to do about that is inescapably a political issue.

"I see a lot of paralysis in the U.S. on global warming. I don't see a lot of motivation to adapt," says Zweibel. "If I had my druthers, I would have massive solar and wind installations."

Some utilities are resisting efforts to switch over, especially in the Southeast, says Jim Warren, head of NC WARN, a watchdog group based in Durham, North Carolina. A 2007 state law requires 0.2 percent of electricity sold to come from solar power by 2018-but Duke Energy, the largest utility, refuses to buy more than that, he says. In June, a Duke representative told the state utilities commission that the company had already met the minimum and didn't need to do any more.

"It's not only that they won't do it themselves, they're blocking others from doing it," says Warren. "Instead of treating that carveout as a foothold, they're treating it as a cap."

"It's not difficult to do a deal with [Duke]," Richard Harkrader of Carolina Solar Energy in Durham told the Charlotte Business Journal in 2010. "It's impossible."

Meanwhile, Duke is putting $3 billion into building new coal and natural-gas plants. Progress Energy, the other big utility in the Southeast -- which is currently trying to merge with Duke -- is spending $2 billion on new gas plants.

Warren blames the "cost-plus" financing of regulated monopolies, in which power companies are guaranteed a return on their capital investment. "They'd rather have a nuclear-power plant cost $10 billion rather than $8 billion, if they can be sure to pass it on to their customers," he says.

State legislatures enable this, he says, by a policy called CWIP, "construction work in progress." Under this, regulators grant rate increases to cover the construction costs of nuclear plants before they come online. This protects utilities from the fate of the Long Island Lighting Company, which went out of business in 1989 after it spent $6 billion on a nuclear-power plant that never opened because it couldn't develop an adequate evacuation plan for the heavily populated island.

If the market doesn't push renewable energy fast enough, government action is the alternative, but "we don't have a national energy policy," Masia declares. "We make it easy for oil companies to import oil. We make the world safe for drilling in dangerous parts."

The Obama administration slightly increased funding for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, raising its budget to $536 million in fiscal 2010 after it had languished at less than half that amount for most of the Bush era. Still, its main initiative on global warming has been an unsuccessful attempt to enact a "cap and trade" system--essentially, "in exchange for being allowed to operate a coal-fired power plant in Tennessee, we'll buy a forest in Brazil and not cut it down."

Meanwhile, the Republican reaction to talk of climate change resembles children sticking their fingers in their ears and screeching "la-la-la, I can't hear you" -- whether it be Mitt Romney saying "I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans," Rick Perry contending that it's "nonsense" to jeopardize the American economy "based on scientific theory that's not settled yet," or Michele Bachmann claiming that carbon dioxide is harmless because it's "a part of Earth's life cycle." More recently, the far Right has obsessed on the Solyndra loans as outrageous examples of government incompetence and corrupt social engineering.

"We're certainly seeing no leadership from the White House, and worse from other quarters," says Warren.

In January 2009, as Barack Obama was preparing to take office, Denis Hayes, national coordinator of the first Earth Day and now head of the Bullitt Foundation, called for "a national commitment to solar and renewable energy comparable to our mobilization for World War II, when the United States unleashed its scientific creativity and its industrial power to support the war effort."

Spending $300 billion would make 50 million homes more energy-efficient and create millions of jobs, he wrote in Solar Today. If the federal government bought and installed massive amounts of photovoltaic devices, he went on, it would bring their prices down and stimulate the market the way military and space-program purchases did with computer chips. To finance this, he advocated a "cap and auction" system, which would auction off permits "where carbon fuels enter the economy" and limit total production-not "cap and trade," of which he said, "creative traders will find myriad ways to game."

More than three years later, nothing remotely close to this has happened.  

Steven Wishnia is a New York-based journalist and musician. The author of Exit 25 Utopia and The Cannabis Companion, he has won two New York City Independent Press Association awards for his coverage of housing issues.
  Read Will Clean Energy Ever Be a Reality in the U.S.? Here's What's Standing in Our Way