All posts by Robert Hunziker

The Yellow Vest Insurgency: What’s Next?

Paris, France, April 2017: Macron Unveils Assault on Workers’ Rights.

Paris, France, December 2018: A potential worldwide insurgency of the working class starts in France as Yellow Vests occupy the streets.

Some 75% of the French back the gilets jaunes. And this support has held up despite the violence.1

The French Yellow Vests Insurgency may or may not grow into a major threat to the established order; nobody knows for sure how it will play out.

Nevertheless, the undertone has been obvious for some years. Once the world publicly recognized a division between the 1% and everybody else, the stage was set for flare-ups, like the Yellow Vest Insurgency movement, as tens of thousands of people dressed in bright yellow vests hit the streets.

Why would tens of thousands of people wearing bright yellow vests, similar to roadside workers, hit the streets? Answer: They’re pissed off!

And, where do tens of thousands of the yellow vests come from? In 2008 France passed a law requiring all motorists to have high-visibility vests in vehicles as a safety measure should the driver need to exit a vehicle on a roadside. Therefore, everybody with a vehicle in France has a yellow vest.

It goes without saying that, over the past three decades, neoliberal globalization set the table for dissolution of the middle class as wages around the world collapsed into a SE Asian vortex of slave labor. This is the heart of the matter behind the Yellow Vest movement, albeit sparked by the Macron government’s new fuel taxes. This is also the biggest reason why a worldwide revolution of the working classes may actually happen, inclusive of pretty much everybody below the top 1% plus the upper-upper-middle-class.

So far, repercussions have been potent on a worldwide basis. For example, retail stores in Cairo have been ordered by the police not to sell yellow vests. Egypt’s abusive dictator General Abdel Fattah al Sisi is looking over his shoulder at France where Yellow Vests have established a foothold that’s spreading like a house afire.

Without doubt, governments are panicked over the prospect of radicalization of the international working class. In France, working class demands include social equality, wage increases, a halt of militarism, reinstituting the wealth tax, and the overthrow of unpopular governments, making Macron look an awful lot like a modern-day clone of Louis XVI (beheaded in 1793).

Recently, Macron made some concessions to demands of the Yellow Vests. They’re not impressed!

This time, however, is different. The gilets jaunes emerged from nowhere via social media. They are not the product of organized unions or political parties. Their structureless and leaderless nature makes them potent, volatile, and difficult for the police and government to handle. They do not follow the codified rules of protest. Their diverse demands range from an end to the eco-tax to the resignation of Mr. Macron – and even his replacement with a military general. And the government cannot find leaders willing to attend meetings.2

All of which describes the future of revolutionary activity throughout the world. It is seamlessly simple and frighteningly powerful.

In Algeria, protestors donned yellow vests in response to a failing system, as family after family cannot afford the basics of life.

In Tunisia, a new group called “Red Vests” issued a call for protests of a Tunisian political system that promotes “systematic impoverishment.”

In Belgium, police violently cracked down on angry groups of Yellow Vests with similar demands.

In Basra, Iraq Yellow Vests criticize widespread contamination of drinking water and poor city services and corruption under a NATO-backed neocolonial regime. Meanwhile, 243 miles away in Baghdad Yellow Vests hit the streets in sympathy.

“Yellow Vest” has become a catchall for all of the grievances of working people. Indeed, this is how revolts commence in earnest. And, it is indicative of a world order that is edgy, angry, and ready for conflict with the first spark of ignition.

The precursor for the present insurrection was identification of an elite class, or the 1%. Throughout history, revolutions aspire to confrontation once lines of division have been clearly drawn; e.g., the Boston Tea Party, or the fall of the Bastille, or today’s “One Percent,” which clearly divides the world into “haves” and “have-nots.” Certainly, the One Percent is one of the clearest, easiest targets of all time.

Not only a clear division, but years of pent up anger magnifies when people know they’ve been screwed. Under Macron, for example, French subsidies for part-time jobs were slashed, housing aid for low-income people cut, and pension checks axed, as he repealed France’s wealth tax, meaning more goodies for the rich at the expense of everybody else. It doesn’t take an accountant to figure out that the working class ends up subsidizing the wealth tax cut.

Furthermore, once people voice dissent in the streets, like the fuel tax revolt in France, magnification of many other issues come into sharp focus. For example, in France students have walked out of 200 schools to protest reforms to high-stakes baccalaureate exams and new higher-education admission procedures. And, university students are now protesting recent hikes in tuition.

Four words, “Yellow Vests and One-Percent,” have converged in a firestorm of resentfulness of every inequity propagated by the utter failure of elite capitalistic globalism punctuated by its neoliberal tendencies. It’s as if the world has lost its way, directionless meandering that honors wealth creation but nothing else.

Similar to the Arab Spring of 2010, minor events reverberate into major events, which may or may not explode into a massive revolution in protest of a capitalistic system that shamefully rewards the rich by preying on workers of the world. But, social media fights back.

The discontent is all about austerity efforts; for example, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights described the austerity policies in the UK as “punitive, mean spirited and callous… heading towards an alienated society made of dramatically disconnected groups, those living the high life and the very poor, relying on food banks even if in work.”3

Philip Alston’s study of austerity policies and consequences equally applies to major developed countries throughout the world, as “austerity” has been the order of the day in Turkey, Italy, Greece, France, Portugal, Spain, Ireland in large measure to satisfy the EU and IMF that their loans will be repaid. Oh, please!

Still, revolutions take a long time to play out: The American Revolution, 1775-1783; the French Revolution, 1789-1799; the Chinese Communist Revolution, 1945-1950; the Cuban Revolution, 1953-1959; the Spring of Nations Revolutions of 1848-1852 against monarchies in Germany, France, Italy, and Austria.

Revolutions start with a loss of decency. Today, the world is full of indecencies for the “working poor.” The Yellow Vest insurgency is only possible because of a failure of global capitalism to uplift the working class.

Instead, it puts a boot on their necks.

  1. “La République en Flammes”, The Economist, December 8-14, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “UN Special Rapporteur Makes damning Criticism of Austerity”, National Survivor User Network, November 2018.

The Deathly Insect Dilemma

Insect abundance is plummeting with wild abandon, worldwide! Species evolve and go extinct as part of nature’s normal course over thousands and millions of years, but the current rate of devastation is off the charts and downright scary.

Moreover, there is no quick and easy explanation for this sudden emergence of massive loss around the globe. Yet, something is dreadfully horribly wrong. Beyond doubt, it is not normal for 50%-to-90% of a species to drop dead, but that is happening right now from Germany to Australia to Puerto Rico’s tropical rainforest.

Scientists are rattled. The world is largely unaware of the implications because it is all so new. It goes without saying that the risk of loss of insects spells loss of ecosystems necessary for very important stuff, like food production.

Farmland birds that depend upon a diet of insects in Europe have disappeared by >50% in just three decades.  French farmland partridge flocks have crashed by 80%. Nightingale abundance is down by almost 80%. Turtledoves are down nearly 80%.

In Denmark (1) owls, (2) Eurasian hobbies, and (3) Bee-eaters, which subsist on large insects like beetles and dragonflies, have abruptly disappeared. Poof, gone!

Krefeld Entomological Society (est. 1905) in Germany trapped insect samples in 63 nature preserves in Europe representing nearly 17,000 sampling days (equivalent to 46.5 years). Krefeld consistently found massive declines in every kind of habitat they sampled. Up to 80% wipeouts.

As for one example, Krefeld data for hoverflies, a pollinator often mistaken for a bee, registered 17,291 hoverflies from 143 species trapped in a reserve in 1989. Twenty-five years later at the same location, 2,737 individuals from 104 species or down 84%.1

A shortage of insect pollinators in the Maoxian Valley in China has forced farmers to hire human workers at $19 per worker/per day to replace bees. Each worker pollinates 5-to-10 apple trees by hand per day.

Jack Hasenpusch of Australian Insect Farms, which collects swarms of insects, says:

“I’ve been wondering for the last few years why some of the insects have been dropping off … This year has really taken the cake with the lack of insects, it’s left me dumbfounded, I can’t figure out what’s going on.”2

According to entomologist Dr. Cameron Webb / University of Sydney, researchers around the world widely acknowledge the problem of insect decline but are at a loss to explain the causes.

Functional Extinctions

Today’s Sixth Extinction is so prevalent that scientists prefer to designate species loss as “functional extinctions,” which means functionally extinct animals and plants are still present but no longer prevalent enough to affect an ecosystem. Not only, seed dispersal and predation and pollination and other ecological functions are also lost.

“More than three-quarters of the world’s food crops rely at least in part on pollination by insects and other animals.”3

But, already some insect populations have dropped by as much as 90%, e.g.,  (1) the Monarch butterfly in North America and (2) the great yellow bumblebee in Europe.

One of the biggest drivers of decline is loss of wild flowers. Here’s the problem: Low-intensity farming of small fields lined with weeds and flowers (think: “American Gothic” by Grant Wood circa 1930) have been overrun by vast industrial crop monocultures with fields stretching to the distant horizon with not a weed or a flower in sight, which paradoxically serves as evidence that the overused maxim “the good ole days” shows true grit.

Additionally, herbicides like glyphosate (Roundup) allow industrial farming to grow perfect monocultures of crops, as everything else is wiped out. But, where does the glyphosate ultimately go? Breakfast, anyone?

The world is rapidly filling up to its brim with insecticides that are toxic to pollinators. For example, neonicotinoids (agricultural insecticides) are meant to kill specific insect pests but invariably get into plant tissue and nectar and pollen and kills insects carte blanche, across the board. Thus, ironically, farmland ecosystems are poisoned by industrial farming practices.

Neonicotinoids are a divisive issue worldwide: “The European Union today expanded a controversial ban of neonicotinoid pesticides, based on the threat they pose to pollinators. The decision pleased environmental groups and was greeted with trepidation by farming associations, which fear economic harm.”4

As of August 2018, the EPA has scheduled “planned completion” of a “Review of Neonicotinoid Pesticides” for sometime in 2019. A coalition of food safety and environmental groups delivered 219,210 public comments to EPA earlier in the year, urging the agency ban neonicotinoid pesticides, which they view as a leading cause of pollinator decline. Additionally, more than 4.4 million Avaaz members have called for a ban on neonics (Avaaz, est. 2007, is one of the world’s largest most powerful online activist networks).

“People from around the country have made it clear: The EPA must act now to save our pollinators. No matter what Scott Pruitt’s industry friends say, this is a problem we can’t ignore. The health of our food system depends on it,” said U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).5

“Neonics are 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic than DDT,” according to Jean-Marc Bonmatinof of The National Centre for Scientific Research in France.”6

Rachel Carson (Silent Spring, 1962) would be horrified. As far back as the ’60s she warned about indiscriminate use of pesticides and accused the chemical industry of disinformation, and she scolded public officials for accepting the chemical industry’s claims; ultimately, her efforts led to a nationwide ban on DDT and inspiration for creation of the EPA. (The ban on DDT saved America’s national bird since 1782, the bald eagle.)

Similar to concerns about use of synthetic pesticides, sensitivity of insects to global warming has only recently been exposed in new studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showing alarming losses of insects in pristine tropical rainforests over a multi-decade study that has rocked the science world.

Over that same 40-year time period, the average high temperature in the rainforest increased by 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Which negatively impacts insects because after a certain thermal threshold insects will no longer lay eggs, and their internal chemistry breaks down.

“Without insects and other land-based arthropods, EO Wilson, the renowned Harvard entomologist, and inventor of sociobiology, estimates that humanity would last all of a few months.”6

Well then, the number of insects still out there qualifies as one of the most puzzling questions of the 21st century.

Postscript:

Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals — the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years. We’re currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.

— The Extinction Crisis, Center for Biological Diversity

Whew!

  1. Gretchen Vogel, “Where Have All The Insects Gone?” Science Magazine, May 10, 2017.
  2. Mark Rigby, “Insect Population Decline Leaves Australian Scientists Scratching For Solutions”, ABC Far North, February 23, 2018.
  3. Pollinators Vital to Our Food Supply Under Threat, FAO/UN).
  4. “European Union Expands Ban of Three Neonicotinoid Pesticides, Science Magazine”, April 27, 2018.
  5. Environment America, News Release, “219,210 Americans Call on EPA to Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides”, April 21, 2018.
  6. Ibid.

Carbon Capture: Does it Work?

Harken! Good news (maybe) “encouraging news” is a better description, as Negative Emissions Technology (“NET”) starts coming into focus. Conceptually, carbon removal or direct air capture removes CO2 from the atmosphere, which would be great for suppressing climate change.

In that regard, Elizabeth Kolbert recently interviewed (Yale Environment 360) Stephen Pacala (Princeton professor) chairman of the US scientific panel studying carbon removal under the auspices of the National Academies. Which means the project has top-notch clearances, in fact, blue chip.

Of course, the big question about direct carbon capture is whether it can fix a very big problem created by humans burning fossil fuels like crazed Madhatters portending an ecological disaster in-waiting because of excessive levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, possibly leading to human extinction way ahead of schedule, too early, or looked at another way, extinction occurring well ahead of scientists’ models. But really, honestly and truly who in his/her right mind “models” human extinction?

Negative Emission Technology -NET- that removes carbon dioxide (“CO2”) from the atmosphere would be a dream come true, assuming it happens fast enough to prevent already-collapsing ecosystems from further total collapse; e.g., permafrost throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the East Siberian Arctic Sea, ESAS, where subsea permafrost covers massive quantities of methane (CH4) in extraordinarily shallow waters. It’s the world’s largest reservoir, and CH4 is the most potent of the greenhouse gases. Problem: The subsea permafrost protective cap is rapidly thinning because of global warming. Already a Russian/American research team has witnessed alarmingly large columns of methane escaping into the atmosphere in the ESAS.

Therefore, the crucial question of the 21st century:  Does technology for carbon removal ultimately measure up to the task at hand, meaning, long-term survival of Homo sapiens?

Answer: Yes~er~no, maybe, depending. After all, it’s not a straight line from concept to actual carbon removal. For example, the infrastructure for effective capture and sequester of carbon is overwhelmingly huge.

According to Wallace Broecker of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in order to capture “current annual CO2 emissions” requires 100,000,000 trailers or carbon removal modules, or using his words: “…one-hundred million units.” He did not specify the size of the “units.”1

One hundred million units, assuming each one is the length of a semi-truck, end-to-end would circumnavigate Earth 44xs and cost trillions of dollars.

Hello… anybody still out there?

Yes, 44xs around Earth. And, if Direct Carbon Removal sounds too good to be true in the first instance… well, yes, maybe as it requires worldwide cooperation and lots of money and land and massive infrastructure almost as much as the fossil fuel industrial complex. Imagine that for size!

And 44xs around the planet is only for current emissions. What about all of the GHGs already up there?

Elizabeth Kolbert’s interview of Dr. Stephen Pacala revealed a couple of important considerations, for example:

  • “Our panel thinks direct air capture could be brought into the marketplace in a heavy way within 10 years’ time.” (Pacala)
  • “Now, in the [2017] tax bill, an entirely Republican bill, they retained subsidies on wind and solar that are 1.9 and 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, and they retained a $7,500 tax credit (drops to $3,750 in 2019) on buying an electric car. Then, last February, a bipartisan act created a $50-per-ton tax credit for carbon capture and storage. That means that the Republican Congress passed subsidies for the entire enchilada. I think it’s very interesting to contemplate why it is that on the one hand we have this political rhetoric, and on the other hand we have this subsidizing of the alternatives.” (Pacala)

According to Pacala, the reason more work is not being done on negative emissions today has everything to do with “the price of carbon, which is inadequate” meaning, in Pacala’s mindset, the best formula for NET success is similar to the success behind solar and wind; meaning, government subsidies until operating costs and production costs fall enough for capitalism’s longstanding shopworn paradigm of mass manufacturing.

According to Pacala:

In the last 15 years, wind and solar went from extremely expensive green luxury items maintained by subsidy to the cheapest forms of energy ever. That happened because government subsidized wind and solar, made a market for it that companies competed over, and they relentlessly drove the cost down. It’s a remarkable achievement – that conservatives should relish – of market success, but through government subsidy.

Effectively, Pacala calls for the free market to handle the impending crisis, and similar to success with solar and wind energy, after a period of government subsidizing, the free market takes over, expanding the market via profitable transactions. All of which brings to mind a question: Who is willing to subsidize, and when? Hello… anybody still out there?

Thus, the very market forces of neoliberalism or gonzo capitalism, which caused the problem to begin with, should now be induced to fix it. Milton “Free Market” Friedman would be proud. How ironic if capitalism profits by removal of carbon that it created in the first instance.

For certain, NET can’t come soon enough. (P.S. It’s not ready for the big time, not yet.) According to knowledgeable sources fossil fuels account for 80% of energy today, which is about the same as 75 years ago, meaning progress has been negligible even with 195 countries agreeing to the Paris climate accord way back in 2015.

In point of fact, the entire world has been alerted to climate change for decades now. Still, no real progress as both renewables and fossil fuels each grow along side one another. Thereby, exposing the vulnerable underbelly of the Paris ‘15 climate accord where countries voluntarily agreed to reduce their emissions. Yes, voluntary.

On October 30 and 31, 2018, the “Negative Emissions Conference: Integrating Industry, Technology and Society for Carbon Drawdown” was held at the Shine Dome, Canberra, focusing on the need to explore and develop a new suite of approaches to address climate change via removal of greenhouse gases.

Here’s a key message from that Conference:

Even rapid decarbonization through emissions reduction will not be sufficient to stabilize climate at the global temperature thresholds of the Paris Agreement. To limit warming at 2 degrees or less requires NETs to draw down past and future emissions and store this carbon in land, ocean, and geological reservoirs…..

However, there is already evidence galore of ecosystems starting to collapse well ahead of reaching the infamous 2C, which is a faux guardrail if only because it creates false comfort for public consumption, meaning people figure if it took a couple hundred years to get to +0.80C above baseline, then we’ve got at least a hundred years to go before 2C becomes relevant. Wrong- A lot of serious, maybe irreparable, ecosystem damage will occur on the way to 2C, and it is happening faster, faster, and faster, making a couple of hundred years ago look very ancient.

Recent studies have highlighted that current NETs, despite their potential, are as yet, not sufficiently mature to be implemented at scale. Key questions exist around the efficacy and scalability of proposed NETs.2

In conclusion, key questions surrounding the efficacy and scalability of “proposed NETs” are likely enough to push back funding by private or sovereign sources, bringing into question how, when, and if any source is willing to commit to billions, and more likely trillions of dollars to capture and sequester carbon?

There is no known response to that question in the public domain.

But, what is known is not encouraging, meaning, world leadership on climate change is, at best, splintered and lackadaisical. Here’s proof: According to the World Bank, fossil fuel energy as a percentage of total energy in 1988 was 79%, the year Dr. James Hansen warned the U.S. Senate, and the world via New York Times’ headlines, that human-caused greenhouse gases had been detected. Today fossil fuels are still approximately 80%. No movement!

And, according to British Petroleum’s 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy: Global oil consumption growth for last year averaged 1.8%, or 1.7 million barrels per day (b/d), above its 10-year average of 1.2% for the third consecutive year. China (500,000 b/d) and the US (190,000 b/d) were the single largest contributors to growth. Fossil fuels retain a hefty leadership position.

After three decades of ongoing brilliant glaring public exposure of a festering problem that could lead to major climate upheaval accompanied by massive starvation and untold deaths, here are the results of how the world has reacted, according to Carl Edward Rasmussen, University of Cambridge, as of September 14, 2018:

What does the data tell us? It shows that all is not well in the state of the atmosphere! In order to prevent further warming, the carbon dioxide levels must not grow any further. On the growth curve, this corresponds to the curve having to settle down to zero ppm/yr. There is absolutely no hint in the data that this is happening. On the contrary, the rate of growth is itself growing, having now reached about 2.3 ppm/y the highest growth rate ever seen in modern times. This is not just a “business as usual” scenario, it is worse than that; we’re actually moving backwards, becoming more and more unsustainable with every year. This shows unequivocally that the efforts undertaken so-far to limit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are woefully inadequate.

It’s been 30 years since Dr. James Hansen testified to the Senate, making NYT headlines the next morning:3

The earth has been warmer in the first five months of this year than in any comparable period since measurements began 130 years ago, and the higher temperatures can now be attributed to a long-expected global warming trend linked to pollution, a space agency scientist reported today.

Postscript:

After spending three or four years interacting with the Bush administration, I realized they were not taking any actions to deal with climate change. So, I decided to give one talk, and then it snowballed into another talk and eventually to even protesting and getting arrested.

— James Hansen- Earth Institute, Columbia University.

  1. Interview of Climatologist Wallace Broecker: “The Deniers Are Going To Go Apeshit. They’re Going to Have a Riot,” YouTube, November 4, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate,” The New York Times, June 24, 1988

Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia

When it comes to planetary carnage, Trump (Amerika’s president) is facing strong competition. Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro aka “Tropical Trump” will likely outdo Amerika’s destroy the EPA Trump. Bolsonaro declared war on the Amazon rain forest. Thus, he’ll likely outpace Trump’s arbitrary efforts at eco annihilation because he has a much bigger target!

The Amazon Rainforest, affectionately known as “the planet’s lungs,” inhales CO2 and exhales precious oxygen (“O”), which serves as a life force for every living being on the planet. As a result, everybody from New Zealand to Finland is impacted by what happens to the global rain forests; unlike Las Vegas, what happens in the tropical rain forest does not stay in the tropical rain forest.

Significantly, a University of Leeds study found forests absorb 35% of human-made fossil fuel emissions (CO2) every year. Dr. Simon Lewis, a tropical ecologist from the University of Leeds and co-author of the study, said trees are much more important to tackling climate change than previously thought. The large uptake of CO2 by forests implies that the world’s agricultural lands, grasslands, desert and tundra each play a more limited role as globally significant carbon dioxide sources or sinks at present. This new information can help pinpoint where actions to conserve carbon sinks are likely to have most impact.1

Coincidentally, at approximately the same time as Bolsonaro won election (October 28th) to the presidency a group of UK scientists issued a Declaration of Rebellion (October 31st ) against the UK government “for criminal inaction in the face of climate change catastrophe and ecological collapse.” Thus, proving that eco turmoil reigns supreme all across the planet, as destructionists versus protectionists factions accelerate on both ends of the biosphere spectrum.

Meanwhile and in consideration of the aforementioned, Bolsonaro’s assault on rainforests is a declaration of war against all of humanity. Informed sources claim Bolsonaro’s deforestation of Amazonia will exceed 3xs current levels of obliteration. That’s impending disaster for global warming and a huge threat to ecosystems and life everywhere.

Bolsonaro’s war plan is exhaustive: (1) expand agriculture into indigenous lands (2) build Amazonia highways  (3) infrastructure projects and (4) major mines, as “Amazonia transforms into a commodity for export.” But, that particular export is much more than a commodity; it is the life support system for the entire planet. Yes, once again with screaming passion: “It’s the life support system for the entire planet!” One more time….

As such, the presidency of Brazil presupposes a special obligation to the world to husband 2/3rds of Amazonia for the benefit of humankind.

However, with the new presidency an ugly situation may develop. A worst-case basis could go so far as the Amazon morphing into a fantasyland with highways, gas stations, fast food, motels, souvenirs, Disneyland guided tours into the dark, deep mysterious forest, photographing indigenous people of 240 known tribes, as they dart from hiding spot to hiding spot. And, that’s only lightweight fantasy stuff whereas the heavyweight climate change consequences will be utterly disastrous for all life on the planet.

To ensure protection of rural properties Bolsonsaro intends to revise the country’s “disarmament law” and allow weapons to be carried for “protection of rural properties.”  Undoubtedly, this will increase violence in Amazonia where there are already thousands of murders per year.

Not only that, Brazil is the world’s deadliest country for eco activists. According to At What Costs? in 2017 fifty-seven (57) activists were murdered. Agribusiness is the most dangerous industry for people who defend forests, rivers, and homesteads. With the Bolsonaro regime in charge a sharp increase in the murder rate is guaranteed. Activists beware!

Bolsonaro is the avatar of nationalism, authoritarianism, racism, misogyny, and anti-free press. Part of Bolsonaro’s raison d’etre involves conspiratorial fear of a global plot to take charge over Amazonia, thereby stepping on Brazilian sovereignty. In point of fact, that would be a blessing for the world.

On the campaign trail he called for an end to all activists and vowed to expel international environmental organizations, like Greenpeace and WWF.  To help enforce law and order, he intends to alter Brazil’s anti-terrorism laws to reclassify as “terrorists” any organization involved in social movements, for example, Brazilia’s Landless Rural Worker’s Movement.

According to WWF, 20% of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years. With published numbers like that it’s little wonder that Bolsonaro wants to “ban the World Wildlife Fund from Brazil.”

Inspiring a group of supporters at a final campaign rally, Bolsonaro promised that “red leftist” political rivals “either go overseas or they go to jail… These red outlaws will be banished from our homeland. It will be a cleanup the likes of which has never been seen in Brazilian history.”2

The risks are enormous as deliberate deforestation of sizeable chunks of Amazonia enhances prospects of runaway global warming. Amazonia contains a large stock of carbon that releases greenhouse gases (GHG) with deforestation. Whereas, maintenance of carbon stocks in Amazonia helps considerably to avoid the curse of global warming.

Additionally, Amazonia recycles an enormous amount of water. Brazil’s Southeastern region, including São Paulo as well as neighboring countries, are major recipients of this transport. In fact, on a global scale, Amazonia hydrology impacts water precipitation as far away as the cornfields of Iowa and wheat fields of Canada.

Newly elected President Bolsonaro’s first foreign visits will be to Chile, Israel and the US. He describes them as countries that “share our worldview.”

Accordingly the world’s largest economy, the U.S. and the world’s 5th largest country by population, Brazil, share disdain for science and a nasty distaste for global efforts to confront global warming. The respective leaders are fanatical eco assassins.

Ever since 2016, the outlook for the health of the planet grows worse with every far right election victory. Strangely, citizens impulsively vote for the equivalence of seppuku or Japanese self-inflicted disembowelment.

  1. “Forests Absorb One-Third of Global Fossil Fuel Emissions”, University of Leeds, Environment News, July 15, 2011.
  2. “Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro Threatens Purge of Leftwing ‘Outlaws’”, The Guardian, October 22, 2018.

Rebellious Scientists Issue Urgent Appeal

On October 31st a select group of UK scientists launched a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK government at the Houses of Parliament: “For criminal inaction in the face of climate change catastrophe and ecological collapse.”

According to the scientists, now is the time to act as a planetary emergency is already upon us.

Nearly 100 British scientists, academics, and writers are willing to go to jail to make their point that anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is a surefire provocateur that’s already starting to decimate ecosystems.

“This is almost a cry of desperation,” says Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute.1

Additionally, effective October 31, ExtinctionRebellion launched an international movement that will use mass civil disobedience to force governments to immediately establish a WWII-type effort to fight climate change.

Yes, civil disobedience is the way forward, as the group promises: “Repeated acts of disruptive, non-violent civil disobedience” if the government does not respond seriously to demands, and they anticipate “there will be mass arrests.”

Similar in tone to early American rebels like “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” Patric Henry of American Revolution circa late 18th century, these rebel scientists are willing to make personal sacrifices, to be arrested, to go to prison, as they firmly believe it’s proper to start a planetary emergency global effort in the UK where the industrial revolution commenced. Essentially, full circle back to the beginnings of the fossil fuel era.

According to ExtinctionRebellion the sixth mass extinction is already strutting its mettle in spunky fashion, for example, a recent Worldwide Fund for Nature report claims a wipe-out of 60% of animal populations has already occurred over the past 50 years alone.

All of which begs the provocative question: What does it imply for the next 50 years as climate change/global warming indicators firmly crank up to rapid-acceleration mode, in some cases exponentially? Thus, the next 50 years zoom-zoom will be supercharged. What then?

For example, an extremely alarming new study,2 reveals a mind-boggling cataclysmic falloff, up to 60-fold, of the “food web” in tropical rain forests with temps up 2.0-to-2.5°C over baseline, indicative of an ecosystem in early stages of disintegration.

A fall-off of “up to 60-fold” is extremely difficult to fathom. It’s almost like an out of body experience from far above, watching rain forests, over time, crumble into thousands of piles of grey dust in a dark nightmarish dream sequence.

The climate is changing much faster than nature normally functions because human-charged climate change works against the regular flow of nature, leaving it choking/gasping/disintegrating in the dust.

Ecosystems from the Arctic to Antarctica are starting to crumble right before our eyes, but nobody lives where it happens. So, nobody sees it first-hand as, for example:

  • Vavilov Ice Cap (700 sq. miles) in the Russian High Arctic slipping sliding by 15-35 feet per day versus normally 2 inches per day- a real shocker.
  • Three 100-year droughts (which normally happen once every 100 years) hit the Amazon Rain Forest like clockwork 2005-2010-2015 over the past 10 years… This is unprecedented.
  • The Totten Glacier (16 feet of water), which comprises less than 1/10th of East Antarctica’s ice mass, is destabilizing 100-years ahead of previous climate modeling.
  • West Antarctica’s rate of ice loss triples over 15 years, way ahead of scientific modeling.
  • Arctic multi-year thick ice infrastructure melts, losing Northern Hemisphere’s biggest reflector of sunlight, exposing sub-sea permafrost methane trapped over the eons in clathrates, thus risking runaway global warming with concomitant wipe-out of mid latitude agricultural crops.
  • The entire surface of Greenland (22 feet of water) turned to slush, freaking-out scientists.
  • China’s Lancang River (1,330 miles in China), the Danube of the East, lost 70% of its head-water glaciers to global warming, threatening an irregular flow, sometime in the distant future, of this major river for all of SE Asia that flows into the Mekong Delta.
  • The World Bank warns that 100 million people are at risk of loss of irrigation, drinking water, and hydropower because of rapid melt of Andes’ glacial water towers.
  • Pingos imploding in Siberia, spewing methane. 7,000 Pingos identified, as Siberia enters ecosystem collapse phase.
  • Alaskan permafrost emitting 220M tons of carbon every 2 years as it reverses from carbon sink to a carbon emitter. Ouch!
  • Too much heat and CO2 are changing ocean chemistry, as acidification disrupts the base of the food web. Pteropod reproduction and/or development threatened.
  • One-half of the Great Barrier Reef killed by excessively heated ocean water conditions 2016-17; scientists flabbergasted.
  • Ocean plankton production off by 40% past 50 yrs., diminishing oxygen production.
  • Thermohaline worldwide ocean circulation slowest in 1,600 years has negative worldwide impact.
  • Underwater kelp forests decimated all along California northern coasts and Australia’s giant kelp forest declared “endangered ecological zone,” as a steady increase in ocean temps by nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit in recent decades was all it took.
  • Colorado River Basin water flow down 40% in worst drought in 1,200 years, threatening major cities and agriculture.
  • Middle East/Northern Africa Mediterranean coastlines drying up faster than anywhere on the planet because of global warming. Where will eco migrants go next?
  • One hundred nature reserves in Europe experienced 80% drop in flying insect abundance, confusing scientists.
  • NOAA says CO2 increasing 100 times faster than end of last Ice Age, which is hyper-speed in geological time.

Signatories to the Declaration of Rebellion include established names in academics like Professor Danny Dorling of University of Oxford and Dr. Ian Gibson, former chair of Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute, and widely published environmental journalist George Monbiot.

Thus and so, because of clear irrefutable evidence that demands an alert of worldwide “climate emergency,” 100 scientists, academics and writers are willing to stick their necks out to wake up the world to the most serious crisis of all time, as ecosystems commence an awful process of crumbling all across the planet, but once again, it happens where nobody lives. People do not see it in the flesh.

Postscript:

The basic science is very well established; it is well understood that global warming is due to greenhouse gases. What is uncertain is projections about specifics in the next few decades, by how much will the climate change.

— Mario J. Molina, Nobel Prize in Chemistry

  1. Alex Kirby, UK Scientists Risk Prison to Urge Action, Climate News Network, October 31, 2018.
  2. Climate-Driven Declines in Arthropod Abundance Restructure a Rainforest Food Web,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 9 October 2018.

Collapsing Rain Forest Ecosystems

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently issued a report on the status of arthropods in rain forests (Bradford C. Lister and Andres Garcia, Climate-Driven Declines in Arthropod Abundance Restructure a Rainforest Food Web, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018.

The report’s shocking analysis discovered a collapsing food web in tropical rainforests. Oh please! Can ecological news get any worse than this?

Biologists Brad Lister and Andres Garcia of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México returned to Puerto Rico’s Luquillo Rain Forest after 40 years, and what they found blew them away. Abundance of insects, and arthropods in general, declined by as much as 60-fold and average temps had risen by 2°C over the past four decades. According to the scientists, global warming is impacting the rain forest with distinctive gusto.

According to Lister:

It was just a collapse in the insect community. A really dramatic change… The insect populations in the Luquillo forest are crashing.1

It doesn’t get much worse than “crashing” of ecosystem support systems; i.e., insects and arthropods in general, which are in the phylum Euarthropoda, inclusive of insects, arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans. This equates to a loss of basic structures of biosphere life forces.

The research team believes they are already seeing today what the recent IPCC report predicted for climate change in 2040. In their words: “It’s a harbinger of a global unraveling of natural systems.”

The central question addressed by our research is why simultaneous, long-term declines in arthropods, lizards, frogs, and birds have occurred over the past four decades in the relatively undisturbed rainforests of northeastern Puerto Rico. Our analyses provide strong support for the hypothesis that climate warming has been a major factor driving reductions in arthropod abundance, and that these declines have in turn precipitated decreases in forest insectivores in a classic bottom-up cascade.2

Lister and Garcia also compared insect abundance studies conducted in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve in western Mexico in 1980 to the year 2014, finding temps increased 2.4°C and biomass of insects, and arthropods in general, declined 8-fold.

Their report prompts all kinds of questions about the health and stability of the world’s ecosystems. For one, tropical rain forests are the final frontier of pristine wilderness in the world. People do not live there and other than scientists, few people visit.

Therefore, if arthropods or invertebrate animals like insects and spiders are crashing in abundance, then something is horribly amiss. After all, the Luquillo is a protected rain forest, but alas, that doesn’t prevent the impact of global warming, which is on the rise in the tropics.

According to the scientists:

Our results suggest that the effects of climate warming in tropical forests may be even greater than anticipated.3

Already, it was reported back in March of 2018 that insect losses of 40% up to 80% were happening around the world outside of and beyond tropical rain forests.4

Now, it appears that insect loss is truly global, not missing a corner of the planet. It’s everywhere.  That’s worse than bad news; it’s dreadful. It’s indicative of a living planet in its early stages of dying throes but still hanging in there. Nobody knows for how much longer.

The big question is: What are the consequences of loss of large portions of insect life? Answer: All living things in the food chain above insects also decrease in abundance or in plain English, they die; e.g., frogs, lizards, and birds and ultimately Homo sapiens, assuming ecosystems eventually crumble.

Significantly, insects are the primary source for ecosystem creation and support. The world literally disintegrates without mischievous burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops, etc. Nutrition for humans happens because insects pollinate.

After all, 97% of the Animal Kingdom consists of invertebrates such as insects, crabs, lobsters, clams, octopuses, jellyfish, and worms.  Meanwhile, insects of the world are getting the ole one-two punch as global warming hits the tropical rain forests whilst excessive use of chemicals hits broad-reaching continents everywhere.

The underlying message is that the world’s ecosystems are under tremendous stress from aberrant forces such as (1) out of ordinary temperature rises, aka global warming, and (2) toxic chemicals.

Industrial toxins are now routinely found in new-born babies, in mother’s milk, in the food chain, in domestic drinking water, in deep-water squid, at Mt. Everest’s base camp, in fact, worldwide… Humans emit more than 250 billion tonnes of chemical substances a year, in a toxic avalanche that is harming people and life everywhere on the planet.5

Here’s an excellent video about the insect dilemma on YouTube by Ben Guarino of the Washington Post:

Postscript:

NOAA has issued a warning as of 10-25-2018 that the entire Great Barrier Reef from November 2018 to February 2019 is at heightened risk of massive bleaching and coral death because of heat stress. If the models prove accurate, it would mean the entire Great Barrier Reef would be damaged by climate change and coral populations would trend towards very low levels, affecting the reef’s tourism and fishing industries and the employment they support. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent 1.5C report warned coral reefs were especially vulnerable to climate change. At even 1.5C of warming it estimated the planet would lose 80% of its coral reefs. At 2C they would all be wiped out.

  1. Climate-Driven Crash in a Rainforest Food Web, Every Day Matters, October 22, 2018.
  2. Brad Lister.
  3. Mountain Research Initiative.
  4. Robert Hunziker. “Insect Decimation Upstages Global Warming“, Dissident Voice, March 27, 2018.
  5. “Scientist Categorize Earth as a Toxic Planet”, Phys Org, February 7th 2017.

The Great Drought

The most hazardous global warming risk for society at large is widespread loss of grain production because of a synchronized worldwide drought. It would be a colossal killer. It’s happened before, known as The Great Drought 142 years ago.

Unmistakably, droughts feed off global warming and world temps are heading up, not down. Thus, droughts are intensified by temperature increases. If the same conditions as the drought of 1876 recurs, it would likely be a nightmarish scenario.

Fortuitously, ever since The Great Drought of 142 years ago, droughts have been regional; e.g., when Russia experienced wheat shortages in 2011 as a result of extreme drought, which led to the Arab Spring, other countries like Brazil and the U.S. picked up the slack. The world continued spinning!

But, what if a severe drought hits the planet once again on a global basis like The Great Drought of the late 19th century? Then, what happens?

World population was only 1.4 billion when The Great Drought of 1876-78 killed 5.5 million in India alone, 50 million worldwide, but today’s world population is 4.5xs larger. Does this mean that global famine redux would bring in its wake 225 million deaths, or more?1

Answer: First, hit the big red button that bonks the clarion bell in the public square to awaken people to the fact that the human footprint, in part and increasingly, negatively influences climate change for the first time since Adam and Eve. Given enough time, anthropogenic global warming itself will hit the drought hot-stuff button. That’s one reason for nations of the world to commit to omitting fossil fuels, which emit CO2, which blankets the upper atmosphere, retaining way too much heat. It’s called “global warming.”

The Great Drought of 1876-78 has been thoroughly studied for the first time ever by Deepti Singh, et al, “Climate and the Global Famine of 1876-78, Journal of Climate, 2018.

The Great Drought and Global Famine of 1876 originated from natural variability or nature taking its own course. Hands down, it remains to this day one of the worst human disasters of all time with 50,000,000 dead. Killed by the forces of nature alone!

Singh’s study is the first-ever global-scale analysis of climatic conditions of 1876 utilizing multiple sources of data, including rain gauges and tree-ring drought atlases that go back in time 800 years, as well as multiple data-sets of past climatic conditions.

Based upon the facts as presented by their comprehensive study, a recurrence of The Great Drought initiated by natural variability as prompted via an El Niño event in 1876-78 in today’s world would likely turn into an ultra nasty turbo-charged affaire, as anthropogenic global warming jump starts drought into a hyper-speed mode.

Recall, anthropogenic global warming was minimal in 1876. Whereas today’s rampant anthropogenic effect superimposed on a repeat of 1876 drought conditions is a disaster waiting to happen, as bad as it gets.

The Great Drought of the 19th century extended from Egypt to Australia, southwestern and eastern North America, Brazil, India, and China with Asia’s drought the worst in 800 years. In a word, it was worldwide. And, it was enormously deadly.

Understanding the drought’s driving forces is important, says Singh, since they could strike again at any time—perhaps worse than ever, since hotter temperatures make droughts more intense.2

Already, drought conditions around the world are starting to resemble something much more perilous than the regional drought events over the past century, which have always been offset by other crop-growing regions not in drought, to wit:

According to Drought.gov, as of October 16, 2018, in the United States, drought conditions currently impact 46 million people and 20% of the land area. One-half of the impacted people live in California, which also happens to be the nation’s largest producer of nuts, vegetables, and fruit.

The entire Southwest is suffering from aberrant drought conditions, meaning severe drought, adversely impacting the Colorado River Basin, key to major population centers, as well as irrigation for crops that feed America. As a result, it’s possible that Phoenix may be forced to ration water sometime in the near future. Colorado River flow is down 40%.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, as of August 2018, the Lake Mead reservoir is only “5 feet above the shortage threshold.” Five feet lower and cutbacks will be necessitated by 2020 (If this one fact alone doesn’t cause Bureau officials to shake in their boots, then nothing will).

The snow that falls in the Rocky Mountains provides the majority of the water for the Colorado River. But, warming temperatures, altered hydrology patterns, misuse, and drought have diminished the water source. This is one prime example of global warming at work.

Argentina, one of the world’s top exporters of soy and corn, experienced its worst drought in decades in early/mid 2018 accompanied by steep decline in exports of grains hammering its economy as losses in grain exports amount to $3.4B. But, as of October ‘18, it’s anticipated grain crops will rebound.3

The 2015 Brazilian drought is still ongoing and considered the worst in 80 years, causing sporadic water cutoffs to residents of São Paulo (pop. 32 million), another scenario that “shakes officials down to their boots.”

Most shocking of all, the Amazon Rainforest has experienced three 100-yr droughts in the space of just 10 years! That’s mind-boggling beyond all belief, never happened before, and seriously disruptive to hydrology flow throughout the world, which negatively impacts precipitation patterns as far away as America’s grain belt. Another “shake down to their boots” scenario.

The European Association of Fruit and Vegetable Processors claim growing conditions in early/mid 2018 were the most challenging in 40 years because of drought conditions. Some vegetable products were hit by 50% drop-offs.4

Headlines throughout Europe mid 2018 claimed crop failures threatened farmers with bankruptcy with states of emergency declared in Latvia and Lithuania.  Severe crop failures experienced in Sweden. Similar problems occurred in the Netherlands, Poland, Belarus and the Czech Republic.

In the Far East, Inner Mongolia’s northeastern and eastern areas suffered its worst drought on record as 120,000 people and 500,000 livestock were clobbered by severe water shortages. Temps registered 1°C (1.8 °F) higher than the same period in years past; thus, drying out ground moisture.5

In Afghanistan, 23-30% of water sources have gone dry, completely gone! No more water! Malnutrition is rampant across the county, thereby impacting 1.6 million children. The government has established drought emergency forces. Entire communities have relocated. These are “eco migrants,” a term that’s destined to achieve universal usage over time.6

In Australia 30,000 Muslim worshippers came together for Eid al-Adha in harmony with farmers to pray for an end to what’s being called “the worst drought in living memory.” PM Turnbull declared the entire country “a land of drought.”7

According to the UN, because of severe drought, about five million people in northern Senegal, southern Mauritania and parts of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, will require food and livelihood assistance, after having exhausted their food reserves.

Overall, drought conditions across the world are greater than the 1901-2017 average, meaning more land mass than normal subject to droughts. However, and thankfully, conditions are not at extreme critical levels… not yet!

According to David Miskus, drought expert for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than lack of precipitation and high temps influence droughts. Droughts are amplified by overuse and overpopulation of land.

In that regard, ever since The Great Drought of 1876, landmass is being overused and overpopulated to an extreme, bringing in its wake considerably higher risks of deepening worldwide droughts. As global warming heats up year-by-year, it’s only a matter of time before large portions of the planet become drought impaired, morphing into the dreaded super drought.

All-in, global warming is an enormously risky anthropogenic event that must be confronted by well-grounded, serious-minded leadership behind a Marshall Plan-type effort to go to renewable energy sources. Otherwise, at some point in time it will be lights out for sufficient agricultural crop production.

But ill-advised and shortsighted leadership in America, which is the second largest CO2 emitter in the world, doesn’t see it that way. Ergo, America’s a bigger threat to world stability than the combined forces of worldwide terrorists groups. Hands down, it’s no contest.

Postscript:

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.

— John Muir (1838-1914), Father of the National Parks.

  1. “Researchers Say an 1800s Global Famine Could Happen Again”, State of the Planet, Earth Institute/Columbia University, October 12, 2018.
  2. “Causes of the Great Famine, One of the Deadliest Environmental Disasters”, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, 12-15-17, Earth Institute, Columbia University.
  3. TheWatchers.news, September 2018.
  4. TheWatchers.news, August 8, 2018.
  5. TheWatchers.news, June 28, 2018.
  6. TheWatchers.news, April 2018.
  7. BBC news, August 2018.

The Negan Syndrome

Overnight, like a flash of light, the far right took another big step forward on the world stage. Brazil’s latest voting results as of October 7th are testimony to the grinding power and overwhelming influence of the irrepressible far-right, a worldwide phenomenon that brings in its wake the death knell of liberal democracy, aka the establishment, aka neoliberal globalism pick one the same as another.

Like a powerful grinding machine that never lets up, far-right-wingers are gaining ground in key political battlegrounds across the globe. And, guess what? They’re popular, very popular. People like them and vote for them. It’s why they’re winning big, very big!

It’s only too obvious that voters like the roughness and toughness of far-right candidates, similar to the ornery, conniving Negan character in the wildly popular (in the recent past) The Walking Dead TV series that clearly revealed, for all to see, no compunction whatsoever about bashing in the heads of iconic establishment characters, utilizing “Lucille,” Negan’s baseball bat wrapped with barbed wire.

As one of the great villains of all-time, Negan mercilessly bashed-in the heads of Abraham and Glenn, two favs of the long-standing TV series, while they sat on their haunches, hands tied behind their backs. Did the TV audience watch without covering their eyes, and how many were wide-eyed and filled with great anticipation and intrigue over the upcoming bloody disfigurations.

It is instructive that Negan’s victims were defenseless with hands tied behind their backs in a lineup including the TV series established characters, from Rick to Carol to Daryl, grieving in the wide open spaces as Negan’s boorish crew “the Saviors” stood by as their leader swung Lucille (named after Negan’s wife) before stopping at the first victim: Whack, Whack, Whack, followed by a strange lowly gurgle.

The juxtaposition of Negan taking down establishment actors of the TV series to Trump taking down America’s establishment leaders at the Republican presidential debates is too perfect to pass up.

Thereafter, the highest-ranking Democrat fell in similar vein as Trump stalked Hillary’s every move, in Negan’s irritating fashion, at every chance in public debate. Voters ate it up, not missing a beat and cast their votes based upon manliness.

Notably, the Negans of the world are very popular. People vote for them. Their underlying message is deadly as for the established order, Democrat or Republican or Social Democrat, whichever, and anything “establishment” is red meat.

Wherefore, Brazilian Congressman Jair Bolsonaro takes center stage. He is running for the presidency of the fifth largest country in the world (population 210M). They call him “Brazil’s Trump,” but he is more Negan than Trump.

Bolsonaro one-ups Trump on multiple levels similar to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte or Egyptian dictator General Abdel El-Sisi. Similar to Duterte, Bolsonaro proposes to unleash the military and police into the nation’s slums to “indiscriminately murder anyone suspected of being a criminal.” Kill them!

And, just for good measure, he has also put a target on the chests of several mainstream Brazilian politicians “to be killed!” Down with the establishment. Kill them!

Bolsonaro is the “Negan of Brazil” and looks promising to be elected el presidente on October 28th. In fact, it’s almost a given that he’ll become the new president, running against the leftist candidate in the runoffs ex-São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad.

Bolsonaro “crushed it” in recent runoff elections, gaining a mind-boggling 60% of the votes in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Not only, his party swept to victory all across the country, registering shockingly high margins of victory. It stunned the establishment into a state of abysmal silence, somewhat similar to Trump’s eye-bulging surprise win.

For example, former President Dilma Rousseff, who had a strong lead by wide margins in polls for a Senate seat, was decimated; fourth place behind two far right wing candidates. She was creamed!

Remarkably, Bolsonaro couldn’t be stopped by a knife wound to the gut in early September (putting him in intensive care), or by hundreds of thousands of women publicly demonstrating against his merciless misogyny (late September), or by mainstream journals like The Economists labeling him “Latin America’s Latest Menace” or by The New York Times declaring “Brazil Flirts With a Return to the Dark Days” all of which seemed to drive more voters to booths en masse.

The bitter truth is that Brazilian voters casts ballots in opposition to the establishment ruling class that has failed them on many levels. This modus is all too familiar worldwide as the establishment throughout the world caves-in time and again in the face of a distraught working class that has lost all hope.

As for one fitting example, Obama won on promises of hope. His most effective electioneering ploy was the iconic “HOPE” poster designed by street artist Shepard Fairey. Voters reached out to that message but to no avail.

The “deplorables” (Hillary Clinton’s biggest mistake and a misnomer) are, in fact, voters found in large numbers everywhere from the Philippines to the United States to Brazil. In the U.S. they embraced Trump with fervor, and he awkwardly addressed some of their grievances, like unfair trade blamed for loss of good-paying jobs. It is true. Good-paying jobs have gone offshore for more than a generation, exported to the lowest common denominator of wages and benefits. The lower, the better. This has gone on now long enough to sink into the fabric of working class mentality: They’ve been screwed, and after a while it hurts, a lot, and they know it and vote it!

The backlash against liberal democracy’s nightmarish creation called “neoliberal globalism” is fierce and deep and bitter. That backlash knows no boundaries because hope is as dead as a doornail. Hope is the final frontier of political leadership, but Obama bushwhacked hope. Ipso facto, Trump unwarily stumbled into riding on a wave of fierce backlash by the workers of the world, which includes all classes below the elites; take notice.

The frustration is everywhere as the far-right mushrooms in popularity throughout the world, Albanian National Front Party, Peoples Reconstruction Party (Argentina), National Socialist Movement of Denmark, European Alliance for Freedom, National Front (France), National Democratic Party of Germany, Golden Dawn (Greece), Icelandic National Front, American Freedom Party (U.S.), National Front (UK) amongst many, many more, all enlarging like the spread of an uncontrollable breakout of the plague that decimated the European continent in the 14th century.

Alternative for Germany (far right) is now Germany’s second most popular party behind Chancellor Merkel’s coalition government. And in Italy, the Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is the poster boy for Europe’s resurgent far-right. According to a Bloomberg analysis, support for far-right parties is at a 30-year high as one of the biggest motivators; i.e., migrant arrivals, has dropped off precipitously.  Yet, national populism is strongest where the fewest refugees or migrants arrived, for example, in Hungary.

Not only that, but in America Black, Latino, and Asians are joining multiracial right wing groups. This strange paradox is really no paradox at all according to Yale associate professor Daniel Martinez-HoSang, author of Producers, Parasites, Patriots: Race and the New Right-Wing Politics of Precarity, (University of Minnesota Press, April 2019, in hardcover).

Martinez-HoSang describes a multiracial far-right that is equally far-right in terms of beliefs, hierarchy, embracing violence, necessity of strong state authority, but remarkably not clashing with belief in a white ethnostate. It’s a clever political twist unified by allegiance to strongman personalities.

With hindsight, it is fascinating that the Trump presidential campaign identified a huge overlap with the audience of The Walking Dead as potential Trump voters. During the election campaign they committed funds heavily to Trump ads during The Walking Dead TV series and on social networking to fans of the program.

In like spirit, The Walking Dead was all about a life-and-death struggle between the “I” and the “Other,” fear of strangers, enclosing of borders, and strong statehood over universal values. Significantly, strongman Negan ruled by fear, similar to what underlies an embarrassing cave-in by the Congressional Republican acquiescence to Trump, similar in fashion to reverence for Negan by the Saviors.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s strongman Bolsonaro is the embodiment of the brutish Negan Syndrome as he willy-nilly dictates death warrants but still garners votes galore. He buries establishment candidates.

And, not to forget that Trump did say he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters. Similar to Bolsonaro, he was right. Fascinatingly, Trump thoroughly, very assiduously understands the Far Right, maybe better than Bolsonaro or Duterte or El-Sisi. Imagine that!

Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!

World greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020, or it’s lights out!

That’s the message from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which has come out from under the shadows of Paris 2015 swinging like a heavyweight champion boxer, and, in fact, they’ve taken the gloves off in preparation for bare-knuckled fisticuffs.

The world’s leading scientists met at the Forty-Eighth Session of the IPCC and First Joint Session of Working Groups I, II, and III, 1-5 October 2018 in Incheon, Republic of Korea and openly declared that civilization is on track for collapse because of reckless use of fossil fuels, unless the beast is corralled, meaning start reacting now, no more waiting around!

Peak emissions must be achieved by 2020, a slap in the face wake-up call issued by the gathering of scientists in South Korea, They intend to change the course of history, or so they claim. Along those lines, 1.5C is an absolute guardrail not to be crossed (not their words but it’s what their analysis implies). Not a bad idea and worthy of deeper analysis, and it is much stronger than previous pronouncements.

At first blush, peak GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 2020 seems nearly impossible to achieve, but it’s a decent idea and jam-packed full of strong motivation, like all hell breaks lose without immediacy of action. In a BBC interview, Heleen de Coninck, a Dutch climate scientist, said:

The decisions we make now about whether we let 1.5 or 2 degrees or more happen will change the world enormously.

In years past, the IPCC viewed the next century as the timeline for deep reckoning when the climate monster would be most threatening. That’s been amended in a big way. Now, trouble is only decades away, and maybe only a few, not several.

According to Bloomberg News, the dictum issued by IPCC to avoid outright catastrophe the world community must invest $2.4 T (trillion) in clean energy every year through 2035 and cut coal-fired power down to as close to zero as possible by 2050.

Also, it’s absolutely necessary to quickly develop functioning technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, an enormous undertaking that might or might not work. Nobody knows because it’s never been done to scale. It may require almost as much infrastructure as needed by the fossil fuel industry to emit the CO2 in the first instance. In a word, overwhelming!

Or, looked at another way, according to the renowned physicist Klaus Lackner’s analysis of what’s required for direct carbon removal:

If you built a hundred million trailer-size units you could actually keep up with current emissions.1

Ergo, one hundred million trailer-sized units, assuming 55-foot trailers (the size of each carbon removal apparatus), end-to-end would extend 42xs around the planet. Oops… on to another subject!

According to Bloomberg/NEF (New Energy Finance- BNEF), world investment in clean energy during the first six months of 2018 was $138.2B, and last year the number was $333.5B of which China accounted for $132.6B. It’s taken more than a decade to get up to $300B/yr. and now they insist it goes to $2.4Trillion/yr. And, it sounds as if it must happen almost immediately. Good luck with that!

However, BNEF has qualms about the reality of enough political mojo for that to happen. For example, as things stand today, world energy research orgs forecast future energy mix as: “Coal is expected to remain the largest source of power globally” into the near future. Cough, cough!

In order to curb fossil fuel use, the IPCC generals (climate scientists) leading the charge to world salvation insist that the world community invest $2.4T per year for the next 17 years. That means renewable investments need to increase 7-fold/yr., and that brings to mind a slew of numbing questions, including:

(1) Is it possible to achieve $2.4T/yr. without a worldwide “Marshall Plan” type of collaboration among all nations, especially the big boys/gals?

(2) Do renewable manufacturers have enough capacity?

(3) Where will the funds come from to finance $2.4T/yr.?

(4) Who’ll take charge and organize the worldwide effort?

(5) Will the United States participate? It is the second largest emitter of carbon in the world, keeping in mind the Trump administration is all-in 100% behind fossil fuels and a very strong advocate of “clean coal,” one of the biggest all-time hyperboles. Which is so utterly stupid that it is nearly impossible to quantify its ranking amongst leading lame brain statements of all time.

Meanwhile, the U.S. pokes a very big fat stick into the spokes of the IPCC’s wheelhouse. As long as Trump and Co. remains in charge, climate change is off the table, no discussion, no collaboration with the world, leading to another question: (6) Who will replace the enormous shortfall of funding of the United States?

Furthermore, the authors of the report assume world governments will embrace their sense of urgency; however, that’s likely an uphill battle in spite of their extreme dire warnings; e.g., (1) count Trump out of the mix; (2) Jair Bolsonaro, who leads the polls for the first round in Brazil’s presidency, threatens to withdraw the country from the Paris climate agreement, and he intends to open up the rainforest wide-open to agribusiness; (3) the UK is pushing ahead with gas fracking; (4) Norway is exploring for oil in the Arctic; (5) Germany (renewables galore Germany? hmm) wants to tear down Hambach forest to extract coal; (6) Russia’s Putin makes Trump look like a lightweight. Where does the rubber meet the road?

The IPCC report says global emissions must be cut 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 (whew!), requiring rapid, far-reaching transitions in “all aspects of society.” Every country in the world will require an entire suite of new regulations and behavioral changes. Which is one more reason why the U.S. will not participate, as Trump and Co. are regulatory assassins, not conformists. And, as for Putin, well, forget it.

Bottom line: The IPCC group better kick butt and get moving asap because irreversible tipping points that fuel runaway global warming, or cause similar levels of crises, are already popping up all over the place: (1) Alaska permafrost erupting, (2) Siberian permafrost erupting, (3) Arctic ice loss threatens massive GHG breakout, (4) West Antarctica ice sheets dropping like flies, (5) Totten Glacier/East Antarctica moving way too fast for comfort, (6) melting headwater glaciers endanger major rivers of the world like Lancang in China, (7) the Amazon Rainforest mind-blowing triple-100-yr. droughts all w/i 10 yrs., (8) the Colorado River Basin down 40%, (9) ocean plankton down 45%, (10) Great Barrier Reef major die-offs, (11) loss of glacial water towers in Andes, (12) ocean acidification threatens sea life, (13) depletion of Great Kelp ocean forests, and more and more. The number of vulnerable ecosystems overwhelms the imagination. It is staggering!

In fact, ecosystems are under stress like never before throughout human history, ever since fire was first discovered. It’s little wonder that the world’s scientists are putting out a clarion call to save civilization. Here’s guessing they experience sleepless nights, night after night after night for too long now. It gets tiring. They’re likely fed up, fired up, and mad!

Of note: It’s important to realize that only scientists see the advent of ecosystem deterioration/collapse. Because it happens where nobody lives and nobody travels, with the exception of an occasional scientist on expedition, assuming they can be pulled away from “modeling” on PCs.

As for one helpful solution, maybe invite America’s Congress to ride along on a field trip to sensitive ecosystems that are starting to collapse or, in fact, already collapsing. Simply have a congress person throw a dart at the globe and then go to wherever the dart sticks… odds are very good that they’ll hit a collapsing ecosystem, or at the least, an ecosystem that is getting ready to collapse, assuming the dart misses the big population regions where no major ecosystem collapses occur in plain sight because people don’t huddle together to live in Antarctica, the Arctic, the Amazon rainforest, the ocean (2/3rds of the planet), or Siberian permafrost.

Postscript:

According to EarthJustice, Brett Kavanaugh sided with corporations/industry to remove EPA protections for clean air and water in 89% of his cases, and 96% of his cases ruled against wildlife protections, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Now he’s a member of the Supremes! Ipso facto, bad beginnings make for bad endings!

  1. Elizabeth Kolbert, “Can Carbon-Dioxide Removal Save the World?” The New Yorker, November 20, 2017.

The Indy 500 Polar Ice Cap Marathon

Eureka! The Vavilov Ice Cap set unheard of speed records a couple of years ago in a massive “surge” and left climate scientists… well, speechless!

The Vavilov Ice Cap, located in the Russian High Arctic has, for years, cruised along at a speed of about 2 inches per day. But, along the way it was the recipient of an anthropogenic turbo-charged-CO2 infusion (scientists didn’t say that), setting all-time world speed records of 82 feet per day in a massive “surge.”

Hand-wringing scientists were aghast, confused. After all, ice caps are supposed to move by “inches,” not by 82 feet per day! Especially considering the mean average annual temperature at Vavilov Station of −16.5°C. Which is b-b-brittle cold.

Additionally, ice caps are very stable. The term “ice cap” refers to a specific type of glacier, a stable slow-moving glacier. That’s how it’s always been, until Vavilov hit the scene!

Vavilov Ice Cap is on October Revolution Island in the Arctic between the Kara Sea and Laptev Sea. It is a polar desert where frigid temps and dry weather should keep ice firmly tethered to bedrock. But, not Vavilov; it’s like a wild horse. As September 26, 2018, it is slipping/sliding at 15-35 feet per day, much faster than its long-term average of 2 inches. The Vavilov is 1,000 to 2,000 feet or 1/3rd of a mile thick, covering over 700 square miles.

Not only did Vavilov set all-time speed records but the scientists, after explaining they’ve never seen acceleration like Vavilov, raised a warning flag about the possibility that “other currently stable ice caps” may be more vulnerable than expected. Oh, really!1

They go on to say the rapid collapse of Vavilov has significant ramifications for glaciers in other polar regions, especially “those fringing Antarctica and Greenland,” where Sea Rise Monsters hang out.

Once again, similar to the same old story of scientists surprised by how fast things are happening, Vavilov caught them off guard: “Climate models don’t take this kind of surge into account.”2

Still, it’s important to realize that scientists have very limited historical data on glaciers in the world’s remotest locations, and without further study, the authors of the Vavilov report are reluctant to boldly claim that “climate change was/is the villain.” It’ll require considerable more study before drawing conclusions.

Yet, common sense would seem to indicate that some kind of warming is behind such an unusual shift in the speed. What else could it be? In time, more answers will become available. As for now, scientists are scratching their heads in disbelief.

Significantly, Vavilov breaks open a new dimension that should haunt the world’s major players. Previously, it was believed that large bodies of ice could only respond slowly to changing climate conditions. That’s dead wrong!

But then again, the entire Arctic is experiencing anomalous sea ice breakup of monstrous proportions. For example:

The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer… a phenomenon scientists described as scary.3

Here are the gritty details: The Arctic sea north of Greenland has always, always, always been frozen rock solid, until now. Over the years, scientists labeled it “the last ice area,” a moniker that has now been crushed by global warming.

“Scary,’ wrote Thomas Lavergne, a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, in a retweet of a satellite-gif of the blue water penetrating white ice and exposing hundreds of miles of the Greenland coastline. “In February, the Kap Morris Jesup weather station in the region is usually below -20C, but earlier this year there were 10 days above freezing and warm winds, which unlocked the ice from the coast.”2

Whoa! Something is horribly amiss: It’s “usually below -20C” but instead it was above freezing for 10 consecutive days in February, in the middle of winter at the North Pole, and just to top off how ridiculous the year has been, an enormous ice cap elsewhere in the Arctic is moving at 15-25 feet per day after surging 82 feet per day!

The world is upside down and awry! You’ve gotta wonder: What climatic event(s) could possibly rival the implicit dire forecast of an ice cap speeding towards collapse?

Postscript:

Our globe is under new dramatic environmental pressure: our globe is warming, our ice caps melting, our glaciers receding, our coral is dying, our soils are eroding, our water tables falling, our fisheries are being depleted, our remaining rainforests shrinking. Something is very, very wrong with our eco-system.

— Richard Lamm, American politician, writer, attorney

  1. “Unprecedented Ice Loss in Russian Ice Cap”, University of Colorado at Boulder, EurekAlert! September 19, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Jonathan Watts. “Arctic’s Strongest Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record”, The Guardian, August 21, 2018.