Category Archives: Climate Change

Agrarian Crisis and Climate Catastrophe: Forged in India, Made in Washington

India is under siege from international capital. It is on course not only to be permanently beholden to US state-corporate interests but is heading towards environmental catastrophe much faster than many may think.

According to the World Bank’s lending report, based on data compiled up to 2015, India was easily the largest recipient of its loans in the history of the institution. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the World Bank exerts a certain hold over India. In the 1990s, the IMF and World Bank wanted India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture. In return for up to £90 billion in loans, India was directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies, run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange.

The plan for India involves the mass displacement of people to restructure agriculture for the benefit of powerful corporations. This involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. A 2016 UN report said that by 2030, Delhi’s population will be 37 million.

Quoted in The Guardian, one of the report’s principal authors, Felix Creutzig, says:

The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.

The drive is to entrench industrial farming, commercialise the countryside and to replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India. It could mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work given that India is heading (or has already reached) ‘jobless growth’. Given the trajectory the country seems to be on, it does not take much to imagine a countryside with vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly turning into a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides, dirt and dust.

The WTO and the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture are facilitating the process. To push the plan along, there is a deliberate strategy to make agriculture financially non-viable for India’s small farms and to get most farmers out of farming. As Felix Creutig suggests, the aim is to replace current structures with a system of industrial (GM) agriculture suited to the needs of Western agribusiness, food processing and retail concerns.

Hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to (GM) cash crops and economic liberalisation. The number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022 the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.

For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising income levels, this does not address the core of the problem affecting agriculture: the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, lack of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes.

Take the cultivation of pulses, for instance. According to a report in the Indian Express (September 2017), pulses production increased by 40% during the previous 12 months (a year of record production). At the same time, however, imports also rose resulting in black gram selling at 4,000 rupees per quintal (much less than during the previous 12 months). This has effectively driven down prices thereby reducing farmers already meagre incomes. We have already witnessed a running down of the indigenous edible oils sector thanks to Indonesian palm oil imports on the back of World Bank pressure to reduce tariffs (India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils in the 1990s but now faces increasing import costs).

On the one hand, there is talk of India becoming food secure and self-sufficient; on the other, there is pressure from the richer nations for the Indian government to further reduce support given to farmers and open up to imports and ‘free’ trade. But this is based on hypocrisy.

Writing on the ‘Down to Earth’ website in late 2017, Sachin Kumar Jain states some 3.2 million people were engaged in agriculture in the US in 2015. The US govt provided them each with a subsidy of $7,860 on average. Japan provides a subsidy of $14,136 and New Zealand $2,623 to its farmers. In 2015, a British farmer earned $2,800 and $37,000 was added through subsidies. The Indian government provides on average a subsidy of $873 to farmers. However, between 2012 and 2014, India reduced the subsidy on agriculture and food security by $3 billion.

According to policy analyst Devinder Sharma subsidies provided to US wheat and rice farmers are more than the market worth of these two crops. He also notes that, per day, each cow in Europe receives subsidy worth more than an Indian farmer’s daily income.

How can the Indian farmer compete with an influx of artificially cheap imports? The simple answer is that s/he cannot and is not meant to.

The opening up of India to foreign capital is supported by rhetoric about increasing agricultural productivity, creating jobs and boosting GDP growth. But India is already self-sufficient in key staples and even where productivity is among the best in the world, farmers still face massive financial distress. Given that jobs are being destroyed, relatively few are being created and that as a measure of development GDP growth is unsustainable and has actually come at the expense of deliberately impoverished farmers in India (low food prices), what we are hearing is mere rhetoric to try to convince the public that an increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a relative few corporations – via deregulations, privatisations and lower labour and environmental protection standards – constitutes progress.

We can already see the outcome of these policies across the world: the increasing power of unaccountable financial institutions, record profits and massive increases in wealth for elite interests and, for the rest, disempowerment, mass surveillance, austerity, job losses, the erosion of rights, weak unions, cuts to public services, environmental degradation, spiraling national debt and opaque, corrupt trade deals, such as TTIP, CETA, RCEP (affecting India) and TPA.

Making India ‘business friendly’

PM Modi is on record as saying that India is now one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The code for being ‘business friendly’ translates into a willingness by the government to facilitate much of the above, while reducing taxes and tariffs and allowing the acquisition of public assets via privatisation as well as instituting policy frameworks that work to the advantage of foreign corporations.

When the World Bank rates countries on their level of ‘ease of doing business’, it means national states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations, the more ‘business friendly’ a country is.

In the realm of agriculture, the World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ entails opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds. Rather than work to eradicate corruption, improve poor management, build storage facilities and deal with inept bureaucracies and deficiencies in food logistics, the mantra is to let ‘the market’ intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control; the very transnational corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights thereby indicating that the ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about letting the market decide.

According to the neoliberal ideologues, foreign investment is good for jobs and good for business. But just how many actually get created is another matter – as is the amount of jobs destroyed in the first place to pave the way for the entry of foreign corporations. For example, Cargill sets up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people; but what about the agricultural jobs that were deliberately eradicated in the first place or the village-level processors who were cynically put out of business via bogus health and safety measures so Cargill could gain a financially lucrative foothold?

The process resembles what Michel Chossudovsky notes in his 1997 book about the ‘structural adjustment’ of African countries. In The Globalization of Poverty, he says that economies are:

opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished. (p.16)

If people are inclined to think farmers would be better off as foreign firms enter the supply chain, we need only look at the plight of farmers in India who were tied into contracts with Pepsico. Farmers were pushed into debt, reliance on one company and were paid a pittance

India is looking to US corporations to ‘develop’ its food and agriculture sector. With regard to what this could mean for India, we only have to look at how the industrialised US system of food and agriculture relies on massive taxpayer subsidies and has destroyed farmers’ livelihoods. The fact that US agriculture now employs a tiny fraction of the population serves as a stark reminder for what is in store for Indian farmers. Agribusiness companies (whose business model in the US is based on overproduction and dependent on taxpayer subsidies) rake in huge returns, while depressed farmer incomes and massive profits for food retailers is the norm.

The long-term plan is for an overwhelmingly urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Walmart-type supermarkets that offer a largely monoculture diet of highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.

The alternative would be to protect indigenous agriculture from rigged global trade and trade deals and to implement a shift to sustainable, localised agriculture which grows a diverse range of crops and offers a healthy diet to the public.

Instead, we see the push for bogus ‘solutions’ like GMOs and an adherence to neoliberal ideology that ultimately privileges profit and control of the food supply by powerful private interests, which have no concern whatsoever for the health of the public.

Taxpayer-subsidised agriculture in the US ultimately promotes obesity and disease by supporting the health damaging practices of the food industry. Is this what Indians want to see happen in India to their food and health?

Unfortunately, the process is already well on track as ‘Western diseases’ take hold in the country’s urban centres. For instance, there are massive spikes in the rates of obesity and diabetes. Although around 40 per cent of the nation’s under-5s are underweight, the prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world; at the same time, the country is fast becoming the diabetes and heart disease capital of the world.

Devinder Sharma has highlighted where Indian policy makers’ priorities lie when he says that agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. He adds that 60% of the population lives in the villages or in the rural areas and is involved in agriculture but less than two percent of the annual budget goes to agriculture: when you are not investing in agriculture, you are not wanting it to perform.

Support given to agriculture is portrayed as a drain on the economy and is reduced and farmers suffer yet it still manages to deliver bumper harvests year after year. On the other hand, corporate-industrial India has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the hand outs and tax exemptions given to it.

The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year. And data released by the Labour Bureau shows that in 2015, jobless ‘growth’ had finally arrived in India.

So where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of agricultural workers who are to be displaced from the land or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise small-scale village-level industries that currently employ tens of millions?

Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Now we have dogma masquerading as economic theory that compels developing countries to adopt neo-liberal policies. The notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and the concept of poverty depoliticised and separated from structurally embedded power relations, not least US-driven neoliberal globalisation policies resulting in the deregulation of international capital that ensures giant transnational conglomerates have too often been able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.

Across the world we are seeing treaties and agreements over breeders’ rights and intellectual property have been enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Large corporations with their proprietary seeds and synthetic chemical inputs have eradicated traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers. As a result, genetic diversity among food crops has been drastically reduced, and we have bad food and diets, degraded soils, water pollution and scarcity and spiralling rates of poor health.

Corporate-dominated agriculture is not only an attack on the integrity of ‘the commons’, soil, water, food, diets and health but is also an attack on the integrity of international institutions, governments and officials which have too often been corrupted by powerful transnational entities.

Whereas some want to bring about a fairer, more equitable system of production and distribution to improve people’s quality of lives (particularly pertinent in India with its unimaginable inequalities which have spiraled since India adopted neoliberal policies), Washington regards ‘development’ as a way to further US interests globally.

As economics professor Michael Hudson said during a 2014 interview (published on prosper.org under the title ‘Think Tank Times’):

American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

Of course, many others such as Walden Bello, Raj Patel and Eric Holtz-Gimenez have written on how a geopolitical ‘stuffed and starved’ strategy has fuelled this process over the decades.

Capitalism and environmental catastrophe joined at the hip

In India, an industrialised chemical-intensive model of agriculture is being facilitated that brings with it the numerous now well-documented externalised social, environmental and health costs. We need look no further than the current situation in South India and the drying up of the Cauvery river in places to see the impact that this model has contributed to: an ecological crisis fuelled by environmental devastation due to mining, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture based on big dams, water-intensive crops and Green Revolution ideology imported from the West.

But we have known for a long time now that India faces major environmental problems rooted in agriculture. For example, in an open letter written to officials in 2006, the late campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, and the soil is alive and porous, at least half of this rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers, or ‘groundwater tables’. Save argued that the living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs gifted free by nature.

Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.

Save went on to note that while the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. Much of this is mindless wastage by a minority. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.

According to Save, more than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Maharashtra, for example, has the maximum number of big and medium dams in the country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters.

One acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. This could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).

While rice is suitable for rain-fed farming, its extensive multiple cropping with irrigation in winter and summer as well is similarly hogging water resources and depleting aquifers. As with sugarcane, it is also irreversibly ruining the land through salinization.

Save argued that soil salinization is the greatest scourge of irrigation-intensive agriculture, as a progressively thicker crust of salts is formed on the land. Many million hectares of cropland have been ruined by it. The most serious problems are caused where water-guzzling crops like sugarcane or basmati rice are grown round the year, abandoning the traditional mixed-cropping and rotation systems of the past, which required minimal or no watering.

Salinization aside, looking at the issue of soil more generally, Stuart Newton, a researcher and botanist living in India, says that India must restore and nurture its depleted, abused soils and not harm them any further with chemical overload. Through his analyses of Indian soils, he has offered detailed insights into their mineral compositions and links their depletion to the Green Revolution. In turn, these depleted soils in the long-term cannot help but lead to mass malnourishment. This is quite revealing given that proponents of the Green Revolution claim it helped reduced malnutrition.

Various high-level official reports, not least the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge and Science for Development Report, state that smallholder, traditional farming can deliver food security in low-income countries through sustainable agroecological systems. Moreover, given India’s huge range of biodiversity (India is one of Nikolai Vavilov’s strategically globally important centres of plant diversity) that has been developed over millennia to cope with diverse soil and climate conditions, the country should on its own be more than capable of addressing challenges that lie ahead due to climate change.

Instead, policy makers continue to look towards the likes of Monsanto-Bayer for ‘solutions’. Such companies merely seed to break farmers’ environmental learning ‘pathways’ based on centuries of indigenous knowledge, learning and practices with the aim of getting farmers hooked on chemical treadmills for corporate profit (see Glenn Stone and Andrew Flach’s 2017 paper in the Journal of Peasant Studies, ‘The ox fall down: path-breaking and technology treadmills in Indian cotton agriculture’).

Wrong-headed policies in agriculture have already resulted in drought, expensive dam-building projects, population displacement and degraded soils. The rivers are drying, farmers are dying and the cities are creaking as a result of the unbridled push towards urbanisation.

In terms of managing water resources, regenerating soils, and cultivating climate resilient crops, agroecology as a solution is there for all to see. Andhra Pradesh is now making a concerted effort to roll-out zero budget agroecological agriculture across the state. However, in the absence of this elsewhere across India, agroecological approaches will be marginalised.

India faces huge problems in terms of securing access to water. As Bhaskar Save noted, the shift to Green Revolution thinking and practices (underpinned by geopolitical and commercial interests: World Bank loans; export-oriented monocropping, commodity crop trade and dependency on the US dollar; seed sovereignty issues and costly proprietary inputs, etc) has placed enormous strain on water resources.

From glacial melt in the Himalayas that will contribute to the drying up of important rivers to the effects of temperature rises across the Indo Gangetic plain, which will adversely impact wheat productivity, India has more than its fair share of problems. But despite this, high-level policy makers are pushing for a certain model of ‘development’ that will only exacerbate the problems.

This model is being driven by some of the world’s largest corporate players: a model that by its very nature leads to environment catastrophe:

… our economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption. Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.1

Politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi might be facilitating this model and the system of agriculture it is tied to, but it is ultimately stamped with the logo ‘made in Washington’.

  1. Jason Hickel, writing in The Guardian (July 2016.

Ecology: The Keystone Science

A missing piece from most critiques of modern capitalism revolves around the misunderstanding of ecology. To put it bluntly, there will be no squaring the circle of mass industrial civilization and an inhabitable Earth. There is no way for energy and resource use, along with all the strife, warfare, and poverty that comes along with it, to continue under the business as usual model that contemporary Western nations operate under.

There is also the problem of constructing millions of solar panels and gigantic wind farms to attempt to bring the entire world’s population to a middle class existence based on a North American or even European levels of energy use. All of the hypothetical robots and artificial intelligence to be constructed for such a mega-endeavor needed to enact such a project would at least initially rely on fossil fuels and metals plundered from the planet, and only lead to more rapacious destruction of the world.

The dominant technological model is utterly delusional. Here I would urge each of us to consider our “human nature” (a problematic term, no doubt) and the costs and the manner of the work involved: if each of us had to kill a cow for food, would we? If each of us had to mine or blast a mountain for coal or iron, or even for a wind turbine, would we do it? If each of us had to drill an oil well or bulldoze land for a gigantic solar array next to many endangered species or a threatened coral reef, would we?

My guess would be no, for the vast majority of the population. Instead, we employ corporations and specialists to carry out the dirty work in the fossil fuel industries and animal slaughtering, to name just a few. Most of us in the West have reaped the benefits of such atrocities for the past few centuries of the industrial revolution. That era is coming to a close, and there’s no turning back.

The gravy train is running out of steam, and our age of comfort and the enslavement of a global proletariat to produce and gift-wrap our extravagances will hopefully be ending shortly, too. Some may romanticize loggers, factory workers, oil drillers, coal miners, or steel foundries but the chance is less than a needle through a camel’s eye that those jobs are coming back in a significant way. Overpopulation in much of the world continues to put strain upon habitat and farmlands to provide for the Earth’s 7.5 billion — and growing — humans.

Tragically, many with the most influence on the Left today, such as Sanders, Corbyn, and Melenchon want to preserve industrial civilization. Theirs is an over-sentimental outlook which warps their thinking to want to prop up a dying model in order to redistribute wealth to the poor and working classes. Empathy for the less fortunate is no doubt a good thing, but the fact remains that the real wealth lies in our planet’s natural resources, not an artificial economy, and its ability to regenerate and provide the fertile ground upon which we all rely. If we follow their narrow path, we are doomed.

Theirs is a sort of one-dimensional, infantile distortion of Vishnu-consciousness (preservation, in their minds at all costs), an unadulterated cogito, which does not let in the wisdom of his partner Lakshmi (true prosperity) or the harbinger of change and the symbol of death and rebirth, Shiva. Industrial life must be dismantled from the core for a new order to arise. Instead of clinging to this techno-dystopian model of the elites, we must replace it with what I call a Planetary Vision.

The Stone that the Builders Refuse

Only a serious education in ecology for a significant minority of the globe’s workforce can allow for a return to naturally abundant and life-enhancing complex habitats for humanity and all species to thrive. Understandably, fields such as botany, zoology, and conservationism are not for everyone, as much of humanity has been and continues to be more interested in technological fields, the arts, music, sports, religion, etc. It would only take perhaps 10% of the globe to be critically informed, and to be able to act, deliberatively and democratically, about subjects relating to ecosystem preservation and all the attendant sub-fields for a functional, ecocentric culture to flourish.

Thankfully, the foundation of such an ecological vision has been laid by millennia of indigenous cultures, as well as modern prophets and science whizzes such as Rachel Carson, Fritjof Capra, James Lovelock, Lynn Margulis, Barry Commoner, Donella Meadows, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, Masanobu Fukuoka, and many others.

Even Marx and Engels observed the basic deteriorating nature of advanced agriculture in what they termed “metabolic rift”, where they learned from European scientists of the overwhelming degradation of soil fertility on the continent due to poor farming techniques, razing of forests, and heavy industry.

Despite its current limitations, the United Nations offers a model of supra-national regulation and governance, especially the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and the almost totally forgotten Brundtland report of 1987.

The Deep Wisdom of Ecology

Modern nations, corporations, vertical hierarchies, and industrial civilization do not serve human health or well-being. It excludes the majority, cuts them from a connection to their neighbors and the land, and privileges an elite rentier class who sponges and sucks the marrow out of the bowels of the Earth and those born money, property, privilege, without a silver spoon in hand.

Ecological thinking, on the other hand, imparts us with the deep truth that we are all connected to each other, and the planet.

Permaculture farming has managed to match and even outpace productivity on giant agribusiness farms using low-impact or even no-till methods.

Food forests can be created around the globe using layers of edible plants at high densities to allow for the growth fruit and nut trees, vines, and perennial shrubs, groundcover, and herbs. This is the real meaning of the Garden of Eden, an agroforestry model which ancient people lived off of for millennia alongside responsible crop rotation, seasonal burns, biochar, animal herding, hunting and foraging, and obtaining protein from fish and shellfish.

Arid, barren lands have been reforested by planting native trees: in Assam, India, one man recovered over 1300 acres by planting just one sapling a day for 30 years.

In the Chesapeake Bay, oyster restoration has been ongoing for years to help improve water quality. Just one adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water in a single day.

An average acre of boreal forest can hold over 100 tons of carbon above and below ground in soil and biomass. As more forests burn carbon is instantly released, and as temperatures rise soils thaw out, leading to increased soil respiration and thus increasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. With 1,400 gigatons of methane stored in the Earth’s permafrost, any significant release into the atmosphere could ramp up warming even faster.

Wildlife corridors must be funded at multiples of current levels and substantially increased in size to allow for keystone, threatened, and endangered species to maintain population sizes and spread over increasingly patchy and unsustainable habitat due to urban growth, roads, and industry. Millions of acres of land should be reforested (some say 500 million total) to provide carbon sinks to offset the coming effects of global warming. Currently 18 million acres of forest are lost per year due to deforestation for grazing and corporate agriculture.

National parks, forests, monuments, as well as coastal, marine, and wildlife refuges as well as state-run areas should be coordinated at the highest levels of national and international regulation. I say coordinated, but I do not mean controlled by in a vertical hierarchy. Responsibility should “telescope” (borrowing a term from political scientist Robyn Eckersley) according to the size of the problem at hand: local deliberative councils may work best for bioregional approaches, whereas some framework of a supra-national structure will be needed for the mega-problems of climate change, plastic pollution, and GMO proliferation, just to name a few.

We have all heard terms such as “apex predator” or “top of the food chain” which capitalists and social Darwinists have misconstrued and adopted to fit their own hierarchical, fascistic beliefs. Yet anyone who has examined a food web knows there are interrelationships and mutualistic interdependencies between myriad species which dwarf and blow away any notion of rigid, calcified structures of permanent dominance of any species or eco-biome.

A systemic examination of global trade would teach the same lesson. There is no way to make any one country “great again” at the expense of other nations. This is a false binary embedded in Western culture that goes by the name of the “Either/Or”.  Rather, we must adopt the “And/Both” model of cultures synergistically and mutually thriving.

(Trickster/Provocateur homework for US citizens: Welcome or respond to someone on our upcoming 4th of July with a cheery greeting of “Happy Interdependence Day!”)

This false dichotomy has insidiously found its way into the Earth sciences, with the categorization and response to “invasive species”. Human disturbance accounts for upwards of 95% of invasives causing harm to new ecosystems, yet even within the academy, detailed plans for shifting our lifestyles are few and far between, and predictably ignored by mainstream society.

Nowhere has this sort of milquetoast-iness been more visceral for me than in listening to a guest lecturer years ago in a conservation biology class, when, at the outset of the lecture and without prompting, she announced that she would not tolerate any questions about humans as “invasive species”. This was perhaps understandable given the narrow definition of the term by some, or the aim and scope of her forthcoming talk, yet still, the rigid reactionary nature and tone of her dictum managed to produce a chill.

Further, the steps involved in combating invasive, non-woody plants do not usually involve more than a tractor mower or a backpack sprayer and Round-up, in public and private operations. Little is done to thwart the habitat systemically disturbed by human activity, the nutrient-depleted soil, over-salinization, etc. No thought given to the notion that the invasives in many cases are the only plants able to germinate and tolerate nutrient-starved soil and edge habitat which falls outside the purview of agricultural land, or the delusional urge within forestry management to preserve wooded or grassland areas in some pre-colonial or pre-industrial chrysalis.

We all observed this duplicitous portrayal of those evil invasives for many years following the media-driven and pseudo-scientific outrage and mania of the kudzu vine in the South. Covering roadsides and disturbed, recently deforested areas, the vine was portrayed with puritanical hatred. The loathed vine cannot penetrate into shaded forest and acted as a projection of our own fears, malicious intent, and ignorance.

The Revolution as Poetic Enchantment

There is also the problem of revolutionary activity where organization and specific roles are needed. We’ve been told that any and all organizing inevitably leads to corruption, hierarchy, greed, and ego inflation. Yet nature has managed to organize and spontaneously birth everything we depend on for sustenance and pleasure. The works of Mauss, Sahlins, and others have shown human behavior to be mostly peaceful, based on reciprocity, lived in balance with a naturally abundant environment.

The succession of a habitat, from the first pioneer species advancing to a climax community in dynamic equilibrium, is poetry in motion, an endless cycle of community relations where the dead provide for the living, just as the winds of history continue to shape our present, the lessons of our ancestors provide the courage to persevere, and the very real trauma and torment of past generations continues to stalk humanity, perhaps even epigenetically in our cells.

Nature’s ability to play freely and its tendency for creative, regenerative self-discovery offers a model attractive to the public where traditional approaches to ideology, mainstream politics, and moral exhortation have failed. Ecology uniquely offers an approach to our self-interest, with pragmatic and deep ethical implications, and in our nuclear and fossil fuel age, to our very survival.

Recent uprisings in Zucotti Park, South Dakota, Tahrir and Taksim Squares, Tunisia, and many other places demonstrate the organic, spontaneous nature of our ability to resist the systemic oppression endemic to our neoliberal, colonial, imperial world order.

The question of what comes after a successful revolt undoubtedly plagues many people, considering the bloody sectarianism that followed in many historical instances. Yet one of the root causes of such post-revolutionary failings necessarily includes the loss of jouissance, the senses of optimism, exuberance, and mutual aid which erupted throughout history in Paris communes, military barracks and factories in Petrograd, communes in Catalonia, etc.

Many progressives and so-called radicals in the US today seem more interested in internecine bickering and petty squabbling over turf than in implementing an authentic plan to re-enchant a comatose public. A citizenry, mind you, which has become exhausted and disillusioned from politics and any notion of defending the public sphere and commons due to relentless propaganda, neoliberal economics, structural racism, and a perverse imperial edict of global warfare which knows no bounds and sees no end.

Such small-mindedness and insularity is only compounded by a geographically isolated, narcissistic, spectacle craving media, celebrity-worshiping culture, and chattering class smugness which has robotized, dehumanized, and intoxicated a public which no longer seems to have the psychic or physiological energy and stamina to resist. This can be countered by providing material and intellectual nourishment, especially to our youth, through wholesome organic farming, natural medicines, and alternative education systems which promote and instill environmentalism, forms of direct democracy, and critical thinking skills, as well as continuing education for adults and seniors.

Much of our culture’s confusion is reinforced by a digital, social media driven, an ahistorical narrative, and a dematerialized market in the West where information and leisure is metered out to the poor, elderly, disabled, and working classes in a slow drip of bandwidth, bytes, pixels: poisonous cups of soma which we believe must all imbibe to partake in our “culture”.

Yet so many are now beginning to rattle their cages. Part of the reason being that savings and material wealth for the majority has declined, life expectancy dropping in neglected areas, suicide and addictive behaviors are increasing, inequality and gentrification skyrocketing. Yet also partly because creativity has been stifled, free time is eaten up by a gig economy relentlessly eating up our leisure, wild open spaces are diminishing, and the effects of a polluted, over-crowded world where alienation appears to reign and many see No Exit.

Digital technology, trickle-down finance, and media narratives are pushed so hard by the powers-that-be, in a pyramid scheme Ponzi economy bound to collapse. And data-driven, quantifiable, “objective” information doused on the public is losing its effect. Masses can now see through the high priests of officialdom, because their policies do not relate to any place or time, it is not embodied in the commons. The deluge of “empirical” statistics and innovation spouting out of mainstream media, government bureaucracies, and non-profit policy centers borders on absurd, and one could summarize their work as Informationism, for it truly represents an ideology. These are the apologists and court historians for the grand viziers of capital. They have created their own veritable echo-chamber ecology within the former swamplands of the Potomac basin.

How can the hegemony of corporate and state rule be further undermined? By acknowledging how they employ words, propaganda, ideology, and a false version of history as weapons to create a habitat of hate and fear. As the Situationists wrote: “Words work — on behalf of the dominant organizations of life…Power presents only the falsified, official sense of words.”

As the SI further noted:

Every revolution has been born in poetry, has first of all been made with the force of poetry. This phenomenon continues to escape theorists of revolution — indeed, it cannot be understood if one still clings to the old conception of revolution or of poetry — but it has generally been sensed by counterrevolutionaries. Poetry terrifies them. Whenever it appears they do their best to get rid of it by every kind of exorcism, from auto-da-fé to pure stylistic research. Real poetry, which has “world enough and time,” seeks to reorient the entire world and the entire future to its own ends. As long as it lasts, its demands admit of no compromise. It brings back into play all the unsettled debts of history.

Part of poetic resistance simply is awareness. We are not going to save the world without learning how to actually live in the world. Here words fall far short, they “float”, are too abstract. At the level of ontological awareness helpful concepts like “Dasein” and “existence precedes essence” can only show the doorway, yet the point is to walk through it. This is why I don’t consider, for example, Leary’s words of “Find the others” to be an escapist fantasy: they are a call to mytho-poetic revolution, for only in collective struggle can one transcend a selfish ego and a sick, dying culture. Communal living will be a big part of this, especially as the world economy seems very likely to fall into depression or outright collapse within a couple decades at most.

Initiation into adulthood, a model of dying and rebirth, is of utmost importance, as Barry Spector and Martin Prechtel, among others, have shown. Without this, the modern world is stuck in an infantile state, forever craving more, never satisfied.

The domination of man by man and nature by man now reaches global proportions. In our Anthropocene Age all boundaries between human and nature collapse, as we come to understand the web we are enmeshed in. Studies in modern psychics prove on the cosmological scale (relativity) and sub-atomic scales (quantum entanglement, superposition, double-slit experiment) have all proven definitely what ancient traditions have understood for millennia. Andre Malraux was correct when he prophesized that: “The 21st century will be spiritual or will not be.”

All major religions hold ecological balance, love of your neighbor, and conservation as a core truth. Teachings from the Sermon on the Mount, Hindu concepts of ahimsa and karma, Buddhist right livelihood, Islam’s tawhid, khilafa, and akhirah all have shown this, as well as indigenous mythology.

Sadly, most of the dissenters in our culture have been totally marginalized. The best minds of our generation have no longer fallen to madness; they are ignored, imprisoned, killed, or shipped off to a permanent “Desolation Row”. Consider the great works of Gary Snyder, Arne Naess, Robinson Jeffers, Wendell Barry, as well as environmentalists such as Wangari Maathai, Vandana Shiva, Sylvia Earle: the collective brilliance is astounding, yet industrialism allows no avenues for a praxis, for their ideas to be put to work or play.

Only an understanding of relationship and interdependencies can account for how our policy at the border, for instance, is connected to environmental destruction, factory farming, resource extraction, habitat destruction, the killings overseas in Yemen, Gaza, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the list goes on. It goes on for so long that the mind grows numb. Yet, we must counter this. Our government is the primary driver of the perpetual crimes of total warfare, planetary destruction, neo-feudal debt-based serfdom and global immiseration, and most of us have been complicit in varying degrees.

Have no doubt, many in power around the world, consciously or not, are waiting to start a new Kristallnacht against minorities and the poor which they will use to further the next stage of their privatized, totalitarian, surveillance-laden brave new world. It’s already started here in the US and in Italy against the Roma among other places. Theirs is an aesthetic of terror and brainwashing which knows no bounds.

Yet their individual pathologies only tell us part of the story: it is the system of alienation which breeds hate and must be dismantled, not replacing one figurehead leader with another seemingly benign one, as we did with Obama. Only a culture which understands the connections of how capitalism ultimately leads to fascism, one which comprehends the Earth’s limits, our own psycho-somatic frailties, and our bio-social relationships with each other and with flora and fauna can provide the resistance needed in this perilous age.

Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact (Part 2)

Continuing from Part 1… Monster #2 Greenhouse Gases (“GHG”) alter ecosystems:

The biggest impact of anthropogenic GHG hits the oceans. There is no doubt about the importance of the oceans as a great sink, 2/3rds of the planet. After all, the oceans have saved humanity’s butt ever since industrialization started emitting CO2 over 200 years ago.

Sorrowfully, CO2 with consequent global warming, when excessive, literally kills the oceans. As it happens, the oceans absorb 30-40% of CO2 and 80-90% of planetary heat. Otherwise, one can only imagine the awesomely horrendous, gruesome, horrid consequences, but maybe not, as human imagination has trouble focusing on total annihilation. It never seems a reality.

However, a new carbon sink theory claims the oceans have maxed-out, thus unable to absorb additional CO2 after taking up approximately 130B tons of CO2 over the past century (all-time approximately 38,000 gigatons of CO2, which is 16xs terrestrial
CO2).

Further to the point, it is believed the oceans could reverse course and start emitting CO2, a “reverse sink,” at some juncture. The implications are daunting, putting it oh so mildly.

Also, dreadfully, ocean chemistry is changing because of excessive CO2, more acidic, thus imperiling the life cycle of pteropods, tiny pea-like free-swimming snails at the base of the food chain that multiply by the billions, maybe trillions, serving as a source of sustenance for everything from krill to large whales. Analyses of pteropods in the Southern Ocean revealed failure to fully develop protective outer shells (acidification at work), which inhibits maturation and reproduction. It goes without saying, after enough time, it could evolve into a major ecosystem collapse.

Not only is the marine food chain at risk, excessive warming kills coral. For example, one-half of the Great Barrier Reef, one of Nature’s Seven Wonders of the World, died in 2016-17 from extreme heat. Scientists around the world were, and still are, totally freaked-out.

Making matters even worse yet, a recent long-term study shows plankton production down 40% over the past 50 years. This is one more endangered resource of planetary oxygen, too much heat.

Additionally (more nasty stuff) global warming slows down the thermohaline, ocean conveyor belt, which is now at its slowest in 1,600 years. The thermohaline is the deep-water circulation pattern around the world that forms the structure of ocean currents and ocean health.

Given enough time, in addition to other nasty repercussions, the slowing thermohaline will cause Europe to turn colder than ordinary rather than experience a temperate climate as the great conveyor belt brings warm tropical waters to Europe’s shorelines; it’s why Paris’s January temps average 38 F even though Paris is 3 degrees farther north latitude than is North Dakota (12 F January temps). It’s paradoxical in the face of global warming, which may bail Europe out of an icy hole, but to what avail?

Topping off the above-mentioned impending ecosystem disasters, global warming is killing off underwater kelp forests, key to survival for many species. Along the northern California coast for hundreds of miles bull kelp forests died. Australia now lists its giant kelp forests as an “endangered ecological zone”.1

Finally, within the category of monster #2, GHGs altering the planet: Methane clathrates in the Arctic pose extraordinary risks to all humanity, especially in the shallow waters, depth 50m, of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.  A joint U.S./Russian research effort out of the University of Alaska/Fairbanks has discovered ever-increasing zones of methane bubbling to surface, in some cases up to a mile in diameter. The major concern is the risk of a massive methane burp of 50 gigatons, or thereabouts, versus only 5 gigatons of CH4 currently in the atmosphere. Hands down, the consequences would be dreadful.

According to the esteemed Arctic ice authority, professor emeritus Cambridge, Dr. Peter Wadhams2 in response to the question: “Can civilization withstand a 50-gigaton CH4 burp?” His answer: “No, I don’t think it can.”

Monster #3 concerns collapsing ecosystems, which may be a problem of more immediate urgency than CO2 and global warming, as hard as that is to accept or believe. Some things are simply impossible to grasp.

The Colorado River Basin ecosystem — CRB — may be the prototype of collapsing ecosystems as a result of the human footprint. The collapse is happening now as two forces combine to rip it apart at the seams, (1) excessive GHGs warm the planet and alter hydrology systems such that the Rocky Mountains, the source of the river, receive less moisture in the form of snow, and (2) human consumption, as well as water usage mismanagement, drains the system dry.

Just ask Las Vegas as they installed a “third straw” to suck up the last remaining drops at Lake Mead. “The risks of Lake Mead dropping to catastrophically low levels have ramped up dramatically, say federal officials.”3

Brenda Burman is Trump’s appointee as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, the only Trump appointee to acknowledge in Senate confirmation hearings that climate change is not a hoax.  According to Ms Burman: “We need action and we need it now. We can’t afford to wait for a crisis to implement drought contingency plans,” referencing the Southwest.

According to the Bureau, the Southwest is experiencing its worst drought in 1,200 years. So, there’s little mystery as to why Ms Burman doesn’t believe global warming/climate change is a hoax.

Further to the point, the Bureau says 2018 Rocky Mountain runoff will be down 40% in the midst of a 19-year penetrating drought. Ipso facto, there is a high probability of the “first-ever water shortage in the Colorado River Basin- ecosystem” in the near future, which could literally start the process of choking-off major metropolitan areas and crucial farming regions from adequate water supplies.

According to the rules and regs for the Colorado River Basin -ecosystem, the first cuts will hit the city of Phoenix, which could lose 20% of its water flow. Thus, Phoenix may become the next Cape Town (pop 4 mil), which is rationing a drought-induced 13 gallons per day, or enough for 3-4 hefty toilet flushes.

America is not the only country experiencing severe drought conditions. The entire Middle East Mediterranean coastline is drying up faster than anywhere else on the planet. Thus, spawning eco migrants by the tens of thousands. Fourteen (14) Middle East and North African countries are among the most water-stressed in the world. Eco migrants will continue to be a fixture for decades to come.

Monster #3 concerning ecosystems collapsing is also all about loss of insect abundance as insects are primary to creation and support of soil, new soil, aerate soil, and pollinate crops, ecosystems that support all life. The way it works is as follows: Insects do fine without humans but humans cannot exist without insects. As such, insect decimation throughout the planet is one of the biggest crimes of the century, and it may be a crime in the strictest sense of the word.

Insect abundance has taken a huge hit as of late because ours is the first ever pesticide-based agricultural society, which may be the origin of massive insect decimation. What else could it be? The numbers speak for themselves:

According to the Krefeld Entomological Society, founded in 1905, and dedicated to tracking insect abundance at 100 nature reserves, recent readings have shown a drop of up to 80% in flying insect abundance, extinction-type numbers. For example, hoverflies (pollinators) entrapped in 1989 numbered 17,291 whereas 25 years later at the same locations 2,737.

Jack Hasenpusch, owner of the renowned Australian Insect Farm, is dumbfounded over the loss of insects.

Australian researcher Dr. Cameron Webb claims researchers around the world are at a loss to explain losses.

The Stanford University Global Index for invertebrates is down 40% over the past 40 years.

Connecting the dots, it is appears that humans are poisoning the planet. According to Julian Cribb, author of Surviving the 21st Century:

Ours is a poisoned planet – This explosion in chemicals happened so rapidly people are unaware.

Each year an avalanche of toxic chemicals, amounting to 250B tons, drips over earth, which over time, will sanitize all life, thus turning the planet into a gooey glob that glistens dazzlingly orange, not vividly blue.

Ecosystems worldwide depend upon insects but sorrowfully insect abundance already shows extinction-type losses. This is a life and death issue that is too easily overlooked. After all, householders are all-in for bug exterminations. It’s the prominent mindset.

The impending asteroid collision replication is now on standby, but clearly three monster climatic events are on a collision course as the forces of the Great Acceleration triggers one tipping point after another, no turning back. Already, year-over-year, scientists are surprised by past projections, always too low in hindsight!

Ten years ago, the British government commissioned a study, the Stern Report (2008), assuming a “business as usual analysis of worst-case climate change.” It was the first ever major study undertaken and serves as a seminal document of 700 pages. Here are the conclusions from ten years ago:

  • Sea rise of 15-20 feet in a few decades
  • Florida, NYC, London, Tokyo under water
  • 1 billion people displaced, sick, or dead
  • Massive water and food shortages
  • Food and water wars throughout the planet

The Stern Report likely still serves as a reliable road map for what happens going forward, “assuming business as usual.” However, the report is dated as CO2 is increasing at a 50% faster rate today than in 2008, which likely means the report is way too conservative. (Here we go again with expectations too low with hindsight).

Otherwise, no update needed, other than tweaking (increasing by a lot, really a lot, and maybe even more yet) the number of people displaced, sick, or dead.

Postscript:

The rate of carbon dioxide growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age. This is a real shock to the atmosphere.

— Pieter Tans, atmospheric scientist, Global Monitoring Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, NOAA, 2018.

Still, think about it, Trump is president.

• Author’s interview with Collapse Chronicles

  1. As Oceans Warm, The World’s Kelp Forests Begin To Disappear,” Alastair Bland, YaleEnvironment360, November 11, 2017.
  2. Farewell to Ice, Oxford University Press, 2017.
  3. Tony Davis. “Risks to Lake Mead, Colorado River Intensifying Greatly, Federal Officials Say”, Arizona Daily Star, June 29, 2018.

Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact

Three monster climatic events are currently shaping up to collide. It’ll be like an asteroid collision. In that regard, this article, in two parts, explores real, already happening, indisputable climate change that is starting to take down ecosystems throughout the biosphere. It’s happening now.

For perspective on asteroids, the last one, 7½ miles wide, hit 65 million years ago (dinosaurs wiped-out), vaporizing sulfate rocks, filling the atmosphere with sulfuric particles, blocking out sunlight, temps dropped 18-29F, followed thereafter by vaporized carbonate rocks, emitting CO2 at the rate of 0.2 ppm over 100,000 years as temps increased by 5C.

Today, CO2 increases at the rate of 3.0 ppm after only 200+ years of anthropogenic (human) influence. Ergo, humans are 15xs more powerful than an asteroid! Try that one on for size, mister extinction!

The three monsters are: (1) A State Shift in the biosphere; (2) Human-caused greenhouse gases — GHG — alter the planet, disrupting the Holocene Era of 10,000 years of Goldilocks’ climate, not too hot, not too cold, going away fast; (3) Collapsing ecosystems 100% due to human footprint, inclusive of excessive toxic chemicals galore, worldwide.

Monster #1: A State Shift has been detected in a landmark study by twenty-two biologists and ecologists1 concluding that when more than 50% of ice-free land converts to crops, livestock, highways, schools, towns, bridges, cities or the human footprint in toto, the ecological web collapses. As of today, human impact is fast approaching that milestone, as the Great Acceleration smothers the planet with human footprint.

The crux of monster #1 involves inventory of ecologically productive land. How much and for whom? Estimates are 3-4 acres of ecologically productive land per capita for 7.5B people. The problem is: Twenty-five percent (25%) of the world’s population; i.e., the developed/industrialized countries, requires nearly 100% of ecologically productive land to support sustainability of lifestyles, like razor blades, automobiles, houses, and bread and butter and ice cream, beyond which natural capital goes into deficit. It’s why 3B people live on $3/day. There’s not enough room for everybody’s lifestyle like the top 25%, period, end of story as human influence nears the planetary boundary, forcing State Shift, which implies collapsing ecosystems. This is already happening.

Monster #2 greenhouse gases (“GHG”) alter ecosystems, which disrupt the Holocene Epoch (The Age of Man) over the past 10,000 years of a Goldilocks’ climate, not too hot, not too cold, coming to an end. The key driver is excessive amounts of carbon dioxide, CO2. Today, CO2 registers 410 ppm in the atmosphere.

Prompting the question: How is it that CO2 dictates climate change? The answer is found in paleoclimate history, especially when viewed at extreme levels:

(1)  Fifteen million years ago CO2 registered 400 ppm for a sustained period; temps were 5° to 10° warmer than today; sea levels were 75’ higher than today (UCLA science research).

2) Whereas, 20,000 years ago, CO2 was 200 ppm; temps were icy cold; seal level was 400’ lower than today; Florida was twice its size; it was the last Ice Age.

Ergo, proof positive of a direct relationship between levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, temps, and sea levels, high or low, as the amount of carbon dioxide dictates planetary habitability.

But then again, what about that 400 ppm 15 million years ago with sea levels 75’ higher vis a vis today’s 410 ppm?

Answer: Back in the day, geological-time, meaning 1000s of years, dictated the climate versus today’s version or anthropogenic time (human-caused) putting CO2 on steroids with little jets attached, accomplishing as much in 200 years in CO2 emissions as did sluggish ole geological-time over multiples of centuries. A natural change of 100 ppm normally takes 5,000 to 20,000 years. We’ve just exceeded an increase of 100 ppm (280 ppm to 410 ppm) in about 200 years, hyper speed. Temps have not had enough time to catch up and rise up!

As such, today there is a latency effect, as today’s CO2 will register in temps down the road. Problem is: This means the near future is destined to heat up big time as CO2 is/has been accelerating at rates beyond imagination, from 0.6 ppm to 3.0 ppm per annum in only 70 years, thus likely tipping monster events into various stages of RWG (“runaway global warming”)… it’ll be hot as blazes one day in the near future, already baked in the cake, as temps naturally slowly catch up with turbo-charged CO2.

Monster #2 GHG disruption: The Arctic has warmed up 2-3xs faster than the planet as a whole, thus losing its infrastructure of thick multi-year ice, thus exposing its normally ice-covered frigid water to solar radiation for the first time in eons. The consequences are profound, really profound, no kidding about it, impacting the entire Northern Hemisphere in a boundless negative twist of fate.

According to Peter Glick (Pacific Institute/California), who has studied the Arctic for decades: “What is happening in the Arctic now is unprecedented and possibly catastrophic.”

It’s already catastrophic; e.g., (a) the jet streams at 30-39,000 feet have gone loopy berserk becuz of radical change in the Arctic. Result: Colorado, which is one of several examples of wacko, weird weather dictated by wacko jet streams, was hit with tropical weather for one-month in 2013, Noah’s Arc flooding, 10 dead, 6 missing, $4B damage, and (b) Methane clathrates frozen for eons are suddenly exposed, threatening RWG with consequent loss of agriculture. This scenario is already active, bubbling to surface right now, ouch! And, (c) Greenland ice melt is amplified by changing Arctic, as the entire surface turned to slush in only four days for the first time in geologic history, scaring the daylights out of climate scientists.2

Monster #2 GHG disruption: Antarctica’s meltdown turns dead serious as the great white continent loses three massive ice shelves 1995- 2002- 2017 with the final crashing shelf of last year a one trillion ton massive splintering ice cube, forcing National Geographic to redraw the World Atlas. Previously, over millennia, ice shelves served a key purpose by holding back the rapid flow of inland glaciers. Oops, that scenario is suddenly seriously dangerous for coastal cities, like NY and Miami as scientists recently detected Antarctic ice flow three times faster than 10 years ago.3 This is horrible news for the world’s coastal cities, and it’s already started.

Monster #2 GHG disruption: The consequences of ice melt are manifold. Mainstream science (IPCC) claims sea levels will rise by 2 feet by 2100. Who knows? That could be conservative, but so what, sea level rise is already impacting America: (1) Outer Banks, North Carolina, 200-mile island chain, 57,000 population, major tourists’ destination, down to 25% original width at some points because of rising seas; moving beach houses inland, iconic Highway 12 repeatedly washes out; (2) Miami Beach raising streets by 2 feet because of rising seas (To see photo of raised streets, “Miami Beach is raising streets by 2 feet to combat rising seas”); (3) America’s first eco migrants/climate refuges at Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana have been moved to higher grounds by HUD at costs of $50M.

Monster #2 GHG disruption: Headwater glaciers are a favorite target of global warming: China’s Lancang “Danube of the East” River is the longest in S.E. Asia at 3,500 miles flowing thru China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. According to senior geological engineer Cheng Haining of China, global warming has taken out 70% of the headwater glaciers that feed the river.

A major branch of the Slims River in the Yukon disappeared over a period of 4 days because of the rapid retreat of Kaskawulsh Glacier beyond the headwaters, now a dusty riverbed. It’s one more victim of GHG and global warming/climate change.

Monster #2 GHG disruption: Andes glaciers hit hard by global warming as the World Bank (Google “Andean Glaciers Could Disappear”) warns 100 million people endangered by loss of glacial water towers for irrigation, drinking, and hydropower.

Monster #2 GHG disruption: Amazon Rain Forest (the planet’s lungs) targeted by global warming (it’s too big of a target to miss) with back-to-back-to-back severe droughts 2005-2010-2016 as atmospheric warming shifts rain away from the rain forest, a major, major, really significant ecosystem trouble spot.

Plus, making matters much, much worse, within a couple hours of every day the equivalence of 200 football fields of rain forests chopped down, as the forces of globalization strike hard.

Monster #2 GHG disruption: Permafrost thrives on global warming, like bees to honey, as it releases massive quantities of methane (“CH4”). The Siberian region may be on the verge of collapse, which would/could heat up the planet by several degrees; agriculture couldn’t possibly survive. Russian scientists identified 7,000 pingos or mounds of earth pushed upwards by melting permafrost and erupting methane gas, often times imploding into huge craters. Russian scientists believe there may be as many as 100,000 pingos.4

Alaskan permafrost is mimicking Siberia as global warming strikes hard, and a tipping point is triggered, as a 2-yr flyover scientific expedition registered 220 million tons of carbon emissions spewing out of Alaska permafrost, equivalent to all U.S. commercial emissions per year. This is extremely horribly bad news as Alaskan permafrost naturally competes with human carbon emissions. Absolutely horrible news!5

Curiously, ecosystem disruptions, as mentioned herein, all occur where nobody lives, nobody sees, nobody hears, except for the occasional scientist on expedition. It’s little wonder that people do not really understand climate change; they’re completely out of touch.

And, just think, Trump is president.

• To be continued as Part 2

  1. “Approaching A State Shift In Earth’s Biosphere,” Nature, June 2012.
  2. Shocking: Greenland Ice Melt: Global Warming or Just Heat Wave”, Ker Than for National Geographic News, June 25, 2012.
  3. Antarctica is Melting Faster Than We Knew”, Phoebe Braithwaite, Wired, June 17, 2018.
  4. The Siberian Times, March 29, 2018: “Crater Formed by Exploding Pingo in Arctic Erupts a Second Time From Methane Emissions”.
  5. Chris Mooney. “We All Knew This Was Coming: Alaska’s Thawing Soils Are Now Pouring Carbon Dioxide Into the Air,” Washington Post, May 8, 2017.

Protect Immigrants’ Rights: End The Crises That Drive Migration

Immigrant rights are human rights (Susan Melkisethian from flickr)

The ugliness of US immigration policy is once again evident. There is national outrage that separating children, often infants, from their parents is wrong. There is also national consensus (nine out of ten people in the US) that people brought here by their parents, the Dreamers, should not be forced out of the country as adults. The highly restrictive, dysfunctional immigration system in the United States serves the interests of  big business and US Empire. Investors can cross borders to find workers who will accept slave-labor wages and dangerous environments, but workers cannot cross borders to find better wages and safety.

US-pushed corporate trade agreements serve the interests of transnational corporations, allowing them to legally take advantage of cheap labor and to steal natural resources, but workers cannot cross borders when their economy is destroyed or their communities are poisoned.

US militarism and regime change cross borders to replace governments that are working to improve the lives and autonomy of their people and install authoritarian governments, but people who are facing the terrorism of US-supported security states cannot cross the border to find refuge.

The violence of the drug trade that serves US consumers creates mafia and gang violence in other countries, but people who live with the violence of drug gangsterism cannot cross borders to escape.

Protest against separating parents from children. Photo by Scott Olson for Getty Images.

Separating Children From Their Parents

President Donald Trump claims he hates to have to separate children from their families at the border and that he is merely enforcing a law passed by the Democrats. This is a false description of why children are separated from their parents.

The reason for the separation is that the Trump administration has decided on zero tolerance criminal enforcement of immigration laws.  A 1997 court settlement in Flores barred children from being imprisoned with their parents. In 2014, President Obama put hundreds of families in immigration detention but federal courts stopped them from holding families for months without trial, resulting in the release of families to return for trial. Trump has taken the approach of arresting the parents and holding the children.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for taking care of “unaccompanied alien children,” the label put on these youth, already has 11,000 immigrants under the age of 18 in its custody who haven’t yet been placed with relatives or other sponsors. Under the new Trump policy, 2,000 children have been separated from their parents in just six weeks.  These youth are held in tent cities and warehouse jails, which could fairly be called prison camps.

This is resulting in heartbreaking stories. A man from Honduras, where the US supported a coup, Marco Antonio Muñoz, killed himself in a detention cell after his 3-year-old son was taken. CNN reports agents ripped a Honduran  woman’s infant daughter from her arms while she was breastfeeding. The New York Times reported on one child, referred to only as José, also from Honduras, who refused to take a shower or change his clothes after being separated from his parents as he didn’t want anything else taken away from him.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says separation will cause “irreparable harm” to children. While Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders have used the bible to justify the policy, there is a revolt among Trump’s religious base.  The Chicago Tribune reports “The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who delivered a prayer at Trump’s inauguration, signed a letter calling the practice ‘horrible.’ Pastor Franklin Graham … a vocal supporter of the president’s who has brushed aside past Trump controversies, called it ‘terrible’ and ‘disgraceful.’”  Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, described “a groundswell of opposition from virtually every corner of the Christian community.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention issued statements critical of the practice. Even Evangelical Trump supporters are speaking out against it.

Separating children from their parents is justified as a deterrent to convince people not to attempt to cross the border, but it has not worked. The children are also a bargaining chip. Trump will not change the policy unless Congress agrees to his immigration demands, including the border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry. In turn, the Democrats are using child separation as a tool for the 2018 election. Both parties are holding immigrant children hostage for their agendas.

A group of students lead the larger crowd that turned out and showed up in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) at Acacia Park and ended their rally at the office of Cory Gardner on Tuesday September 5, 2017 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).


Immigrant Youth Brought to the US by their Parents

Trump’s repeal of policies protecting youth brought to the US by their parents has resulted in outrage and national consensus that these youth should not be punished. A CBS News poll found 87 percent believe the Dreamers should be allowed to remain in the US.

Dysfunction in Congress and an obstinate White House have left these youth in limbo-risk. Obama allowed certain immigrant youth brought to the U.S. without documents as children to live and work here without fear of deportation. Trump reversed that, announcing he would rescind the program, and gave Congress six months to find a legislative fix. His rescission has been blocked by a federal court.

President Trump sent mixed signals last week. First he said he would veto a bill that would protect Dreamers from deportation, then the White House reversed that statement saying Trump had misunderstood the question and would sign the legislation passed by Congress. People in both Chambers are trying to find a way forward, but sensible immigration laws have lots of barriers to overcome.

Rallies Call For Immigrant Rights Persist

Across the country there have been rallies for immigrant rights. Groups like Mijente and the Cosecha Movement are doing strong organizing for permanent protection for all immigrants. Last week, actions were focused on the issue of separating parents from their children. See: here; here; here; here; and here.

These types of immigration policies have existed for multiple administrations. Trump has not come close to Obama’s record level of deportations. From 2009 to 2016, Obama oversaw the forcible removal of more than 3 million undocumented immigrants. ICE under Obama averaged 309,887 arrests per year from 2009-2012, while ICE under Trump averaged 139,553 in 2017. Obama set records between 2008 and 2014 for the number of people arrested and placed in deportation proceedings.

Remember that there were multiple mass protests against Obama on immigration throughout the country. Protesters blocked traffic around the White House highlighting how “Obama deports parents.” Obama did not use the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric of Trump, but he had strong enforcement policies against immigrants.

Immigration, as we noted at the outset, is tied into issues of corporate trade agreements, regime change, US Empire, the drug war and capitalism. These issues are forcing a race to the bottom for worker rights and wages and destruction of the environment. They are driving a growing security state, militarization of law enforcement and mass incarceration. Border patrols lock people into countries where they face poverty, pollution and violence with little chance of escape.

Immigrants are the scapegoats, but it is the systems that are driving migration. Most people would prefer to remain in their home countries where they have roots, family and communities. Extreme conditions drive people to abandon everything and endure harsh and dangerous travel in hope of finding safety and the means of survival.

This is typical divide and conquer – encouraging us to blame each other and fight while the wealth of the elites expands. We are all hurt by the systems and crises that drive mass migration. This includes climate change as well.

While we take immediate action to protect immigrant children and families, let’s also speak out about the connections between migration and the many crises we face. We need to educate those who are being misled into blaming immigrants for the conditions that force them to leave their homes.

We must work in solidarity to create democratized economic systems, demand trade agreements that strengthen worker rights and protection of the environment and transition to a clean energy economy and a foreign policy that respects the autonomy of peoples while we also end racist systems, militarism, imperialism and mass incarceration.

State of the Climate: It’s Alarming!

Stuart Scott of Climate Matters.TV recently interviewed Dr. Peter Wadhams, emeritus professor, Polar Ocean Physics, Cambridge University and author of the acclaimed highly recommended: A Farewell To Ice (Oxford University Press, 2017).

In response to the question “what’s your assessment of the state of the climate,” Dr. Wadhams replied:

Well, first of all, what I see is an acceleration of global warming because, for instance, the rate of rise of CO2 in the atmosphere is unprecedented. Not only are we not reducing emissions to the point where CO2 is stabilized, but the CO2 level is rising exponentially; it’s going faster than its ever gone before… and then there’s the extreme weather events, which certainly have hit people in Europe….

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) concern about CO2 is decisive:

Today’s rate of increase is more than 100 times faster than the increase that occurred when the last ice age ended.

One hundred times anything is big.

That is an unprecedented rate of growth with profound and nasty negative consequences for temperature, climate, ecosystems, and species on land and in the oceans, nothing good. In fact, it could unexpectedly turn ugly to an extreme; a dour fact few people want to face. Further to that point, nobody believes the worst case, but that’s why society is always blindsided by catastrophes.

Significantly, and extremely important for the optics of climate change, the commencement/start of disastrous climate change happens where nobody lives (nobody sees it), for example, the Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, Himalayan glaciers (headwaters for major rivers), Andes’s glaciers (headwaters for major rivers), the oceans, Patagonia. Nobody lives where climate change is most pronounced and clearly evident. Hence and therefore, it is difficult for people to accept, realize, and deal with the impending danger hidden away from society, until it is too late.

Essentially, the million-dollar question therefore is whether this unparalleled occurrence of abnormally rapid CO2 growth, on steroids, triggers tipping points of significant unstoppable catastrophic events that ravage the biosphere. Regrettably, there are no backups; there’s only one biosphere!

For sure, paleoclimatic history is filled with examples of horrific consequences. After all, there have already been five major extinction events. We are the sixth; it’s just a matter of time.

The first five extinctions: (1) Ordovician 444 million years ago (“mya”), 86% species gone; (2) Devonian 375 mya, 75% species lost; (3) Permian, 251 mya, 96% species lost; (4) Triassic, 200 mya, 80% species lost; (5) Cretaceous, 66 mya, 76% species lost; (6) Today — unknown so far, except for unlucky insects.

Already, extinction-type numbers of 40% to 90% losses have hit insect abundance throughout the world (maybe chemicals at work), which is extremely concerning as insects do well without humans but humans don’t survive without insects. This one fact alone is a big-time wake-up call, like Fright Night on Elm Street.

Still, in light of the unprecedented rapid rate of CO2, as of today, nobody has experienced the likely outcome. Thus, a new era of climate change is commencing with uncertain consequences but horrid telltale signals extend far and wide.

Firstly, it’s important to distinguish the significant impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere as a heat-trapping GHG, as for example, the paleoclimate record of millions of years ago shows CO2 at 400 ppm (parts per million) temps 5° to 10° warmer than today and sea level 75 feet higher than today. Whereas, in stark contrast to that scenario, 20,000 years ago CO2 was at 200 ppm, and sea level was 400 feet lower. It was the last Ice Age, the late Pleistocene Epoch.1

It wasn’t until a decade ago that science first discovered methodologies to effectively look back 20 million years to see the paleoclimate record, as reported in a paper by Aradhna Tripati, UCLA dept. of Earth and Space Sciences:

During the Middle Miocene (the time period approximately 14 to 20 million years ago), carbon dioxide levels were sustained at about 400 parts per million, which is about where we are today. Globally, temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, a huge amount.2

Clearly, when CO2 is too high, similar to today at 410 ppm (Mauna Loa data), temps go up followed by rising sea levels. Conversely, when CO2 is too low, everything freezes up.

All of which begs the question of why CO2 at 410 ppm today doesn’t bring on sea level rise 75 feet higher, similar to the event in the paleoclimate record. In point of fact, it might do that, in time, but the answer as of today has everything to do with the exponential rate of CO2 growth versus a much slower rate of CO2 growth millennia ago. Today’s exponential rapid increase within only 200-years is a flash of geologic time.  As such, temps need time to catch up with the rapid rate of CO2 growth. Therefore, a latency effect is at work, which implies an ominous darkness, very dark indeed, hovering over the future.

According to Dr. James Hansen:

The rate of human-made change of atmospheric CO2 amount is now several orders of magnitude greater than slow geological changes.3

Furthermore, supposing there are lingering doubts about the direct relationship between excessive amounts of atmospheric CO2 and global warming, Venus’s atmosphere is 95% CO2; temperature is 872°F, enough to melt lead. Case closed!

Today’s temperatures are a function of yesteryear’s CO2. Therefore, future temperature rise is haunted by the buildup of today’s CO2, as it emits into the atmosphere at ever-increasing rates, now at 3 ppm per annum versus only 1 ppm per annum only 45 years ago. CO2 emissions are “hell-bent for leather” ever since the Great Acceleration post WWII hit the biosphere like a bolt of lighting, putting human footprint boldly onto nature’s course for the first time ever. Nowadays, it’s a “human-derived climate,” plain and simple.

The negative consequences are far-reaching but start in regions of the planet where nobody lives, nobody sees or hears or senses, for example:

(1) Disappearance of Arctic ice is hugely negative for weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere (already happening), as well as threatening to kick into gear runaway global warming as methane hydrates frozen over eons gets released, heating up the planet, thus burning off agriculture;

(2) Arctic warming feedback amplifies additional rapid melting of Greenland, which has already “knocked the socks off” climate scientists when its entire surface turning to slush for the first time in geologic history;

(3) The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is starting to disintegrate with three massive ice shelf collapses since 1995, including a trillion ton iceberg, a dangerous tipping point already at hand; as such, Miami Beach raises streets by 2-3 feet.

(4) Coral reefs are collapsing, especially the Great Barrier Reef (one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World) losing one-half its coral in 2016-17 due to global warming; the reef is home to thousands of species;

(5) Thermohaline (ocean circulation patterns) are slowing, endangering Europe with loss of its remarkably temperate climate.

(6) Release of marine methane hydrates (20-xs more powerful than CO2), especially in the shallow East Siberian Arctic Sea threatens the start of runaway global warming (RGW), whacking global crops; already U.S./Soviet joint expeditions discovered one-half-mile-wide zones of methane bubbling to surface spewing into the atmosphere;

(7) Depletion of ocean oxygen and the most rapid acidification in millennia, threatening the base of the marine food chain;

(8) Back-to-back-to-back (three) serious droughts hit the Amazon rainforest, the planet’s lungs, within only a few years; this is unprecedented and extraordinarily dangerous for multiple surrounding ecosystems. Global warming redirects rainfall away.

(9) Northern Hemispheric permafrost melting rampantly and deadly dangerous, as it now competes with human-caused GHG emissions, which was scientifically measured for two years in Alaska. This is an absolute “first” and suggestive of a major tipping point reversing from a massive carbon sink into a massive carbon emitter in competition with human CO2 emissions.

Those samplings of active tipping points have either gone over the edge or close to it. But once amplified over the top, no turning back, hands-free disaster, no more anthropogenic influence required for negative consequences, inevitably leading to big trouble.

Meanwhile, opinions of climate scientists run the gamut from belief that humanity is (a) on death’s doorstep, within a decade at most, as the ice-free Arctic exposes massive methane (CH4) stored in ice hydrates, triggering massive global warming, decimating agriculture, upending the planet into a dystopian world of infighting over essential food and water or (b) dangerous tipping points will be deferred well into the current century; so not to worry as human ingenuity will prevail over time or (c) climate deniers  totally discount anthropogenic global warming; humanity’s fate is in God’s hands and/or, in the hands of charlatan politicians, “guiding lights to nowhere” other than dystopia, assuredly guaranteed.

Essentially, nobody accepts, or wants to believe, worst case scenarios such as an extinction event, even though early warning signs of impending extinction are wide open for all to see, assuming they look in the right places, but nobody lives where the red warning lights and bells and whistles and loud sirens blare other than an occasional expeditionary scientist, who is belittled, humiliated, and badgered by America’s current political ruling class.

The idiom “Nero fiddles as Rome burns” arises anew, with an exclamation point.

Postscript:

The world is going to experience global warming, and until we see its bad side I am afraid we are not going to do what we need to do.

— Wally Broecker, Columbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, accredited with coining the term “global warming” based upon a 1975 paper “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”

  1. NASA.
  2. Stuart Wolpert, “Last Time Carbon Dioxide Levels Were This High: 15 Million Years Ago”, Scientists Report, UCLA News, October 8, 2009.
  3. James E. Hansen, “Paleoclimate Implications for Human-Made Climate Change”, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute, NY, 2011.

Climate Crisis Clobbers Trump Denials

Harken!  A Trump appointee agrees that climate change is not a hoax. Granted, that is unimaginable, but it is the real thing. An ongoing climate crisis in America’s Southwest brings this rare specimen into the limelight.

The climate crisis star of the year is Brenda Burman, commissioner of The Bureau of Reclamation, a division of the Department of Interior, who, in her confirmation hearings, said: “I believe that climate change is not a hoax.” After all, in her youth she did serve as a park ranger at Grand Canyon National Park; she’s an outdoors-person.

She comes to the forefront via an ongoing dire ultra scary southwestern drought. According to The Bureau of Reclamation (Trump’s Bureau) it’s the worst drought in over 1,200 years.1

There is plenty of concern and compelling issues/dangers supporting Burman’s push for a solution to water shortages for one of the country’s major regions, and it is a pressing issue for the near future, involving (1) the livelihood of 40 million people, (2) growth of major cities, like Phoenix, and (3) saving America’s breadbasket.

Here’s what Commissioner Burman says about the climate crisis:

We need action and we need it now… We can’t afford to wait for a crisis before we implement drought contingency plans.2

She specifically references the Colorado River System, which has been in crisis mode for some time now, which has everything to do with too much anthropogenic (human-caused) CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.

One answer to Commissioner Burman’s plea of “we can’t afford to wait for a crisis before we implement drought contingency plans” is for Trump to quit goosing up exploration of fossil fuels at the expense of installing renewable energy throughout the country, coast-to-coast. That’s one implementation that can be started overnight with his signature.

Nevertheless, a recent headline in The Intercept, May 5th reads: “Top Republican Plans To Use Fossil Fuels To Make Puerto Rico ‘The Energy Hub Of The Entire Caribbean.” How do ya’ like them apples?

On the other hand, for some sanity, maybe take a look at China’s game plan and Middle Eastern oil sheiks, all major commitments, in fact, billions-upon-billions of funding for renewable energy installations, like solar, making the United States look like a creaky old antiquated fossil fuel blackened worn-out antique on a world stage of innovation and slick solar systems with industrial-strength battery storage systems coming on stream.

Wal-Mart plans on 100% renewable energy for its stores by 2020, but Congress can’t do the same for the country, anything wrong with this picture? Meanwhile, Trump gooses up fossil fuels like there’s no tomorrow, and…ah, oh well!

Meanwhile, the risks are absolutely enormous because once enough time lapses without curtailment of GHGs the impending water crisis may turn irresolvable, assuming it is not already at that point, but nobody rings a bell, so who knows for sure.

According to the aforementioned Grist article, runoff from the Rocky Mountains to the Colorado River is expected to be down by 40% this year, or in other words, an extreme severe continuation of a merciless 19-year drought that’s literally parching large swaths of the Southwest. It is a vicious mega drought that won’t quit!

The Bureau claims the odds have tripled, three-times as likely, that reservoirs fall below critical levels with an another 50% probability that, by 2020, the first official water shortage hits the Colorado River. Watch out below!

The crux of the problem is all about living standards. According to laws governing the Colorado River, Arizona is first in line for big time cuts, which means water allotments could be cut by 20% or more. Meanwhile, Burman has called for “conservation” measures.” Ahem… well, better late than never.

It’s not like scientists have not advertised this upcoming crisis. An article by Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic (2016) spelled out the danger “A Mega-Drought is Coming to America’s Southwest,” furthermore “Unless carbon emissions plummet soon, the risk of a region-altering disaster in Arizona and New Mexico will exceed 99 percent,” prompting a big important question: How is it possible to cut carbon emissions when America’s stated energy policy gooses up fossil fuel exploration, production, and use? Answer: Not.

A “region-altering” disaster with 99% risk of it happening in Arizona and New Mexico implies a worst-case scenario, which is a breakdown of the ecosystem and consequent life support system. There are no silver linings to be found in that analysis, less bathing, no lawn watering, forget car washes, close swimming pools, and dried out splotchy sandy golf courses, among other inconveniences.

Toby Ault, professor of earth science at Cornell University, one of the authors of the study in The Atlantic, says: “As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – and we haven’t put the brakes on stopping this- we are weighting the dice for mega-drought conditions,” or in plain English 99% certainty it’ll happen. Take that to the craps table for a sure-fire winner.

Ten years ago an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paper (2008) by Justin Sheffield and Eric F. Wood, “Projected Changes in Drought Occurrence Under Future Global Warming From Multimodel, Multi-Scenario, IPCC AR34 Simulations,” clearly stated that America’s Southwest is one of the most sensitive regions in the world for increased risk of drought caused by global warming.

In fact, scientists have been warning about the relationship of global warming/climate change, aka: climate crisis and droughts for decades, but the United States has not taken bait. The U.S. has never ever, not even a whisper, instituted a nationwide plan to forestall or to beat back a climate crisis that is quickly, very quickly, getting out of hand. Is it too late?

According to Commissioner Burman: “We can’t afford to wait for a crisis before we implement drought contingency plans.” But, it’s already a crisis, just ask the city of Las Vegas about water resources, but whisper, don’t shout. LV has ordinances in place to penalize citizens that waste water, which is increasingly precious as it flows from Lake Mead, which hit record lows in recent years, prompting LV to install a “third straw” lower intake to capture the final drops in an absolute worst-case scenario, which increasingly looks like reality.

Current governmental policies re climate crises, which should alarm Commissioner Burman, are typified by the following headline: “Trump Administration Kills NASA Project Monitoring Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” by Jacqueline Thomsen, The Hill, May 10, 2018.

NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System has been canceled, winding down over time. Well now, that’s one way to get out from underneath connecting-the-dots of human-caused carbon emissions and climate crises. No monitoring means no proof to connect dots.

Thus and therefore, from this point forward, by executive decree, droughts will be solely acts of nature, not influenced or exasperated by human carbon emissions into the atmosphere, which blankets Earth with heat-retaining molecules, which warms up the planet, which alters hydrological systems, which increases droughts by a lot and even more than realized, which threatens to cripple major cities and decimate major breadbaskets of America, period! It’s factual, no guesswork required.

Cape Town today is Phoenix tomorrow. Cape Town, a city of 4 million, is anticipating “Day Zero” when reservoirs run so low that water is rationed to less than 7 gallons for each person per day. The city is in a three-year severe drought. As of today, each person is allowed 13 gallons water per day, or the equivalent of 3-4 hefty toilet flushes (older models).  If residents overuse, fines are levied with the threat that a shut-off device is installed to limit usage.

According to Peter Johnston, a climate scientist at the University of Cape Town, “We are careening towards disaster on all fronts — whether it’s agriculture, pollution, soil, water, pesticides. The human race is hell-bent on destruction,’ he says. ‘It’s a case of looking at the future and saying we’re going to have to get used to using less water on a permanent basis.”3

At what point in time does the American public wise up, rise up and push back against an incompetent, useless, menacing, devious, pandering Congress, as well as WH administrations, that ignore the pleas of scientists, ever since Dr. James Hansen, former head of NASA, Goddard Institute for Space Studies testified before the Senate way back in 1988, explaining the greenhouse effect and predicting freakish weather would steadily increase.

Geez, looks like Dr. Hansen hit the ole nail right on the head… bull’s-eye… we’re living with it right now, and with the current administration in place, it is guaranteed, absolutely guaranteed 100% to get worse and worse and worse until people get fed up and mad and act out in fits of horrible nastiness. It’s what people do when faced with no other choice, a flashback to Paris 1789, forget Paris 2016’s climate accord era.

Postscript: “Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening.” James Hansen.

  1. Eric Holthaus, Look! A Federal Agency is Pushing for Urgent Climate Action, Grist.org, May 10, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Rachel Becker, “Today Wasn’t Day Zero In Cape Town, But The Water Crisis Isn’t Over”, The Verge, May 11, 2018.

Climate Change 10-Year Check-Up

Ten years ago Kevin J. Surace delivered a fascinating TED talk entitled “Worst Case Climate Change.”

Based upon credits at the end of his speech, data for his talk came from the following sources:

  • Fred Pearce, With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change (Beacon Press, 2007)
  • John D. Cox, Climate Crash Abrupt Climate Change and What It Means for Our Future (John Henry Press imprint of the National Academies Press, 2005)

— Reviewed by Dr. Anthony Strawa, atmospheric scientist, NASA.

Mr. Surace’s brilliant summation Worst Case Climate Change, as of 2008, was done for purposes: (1) exposure, (2) making the issue controversial, and (3) to make people think about the prospects. He did not intend to suggest the worst case would happen, rather encouraging people to learn more and act accordingly.

Ten years later, how does Surace’s TED talk hold up?

Unfortunately explained herein his “Worst Case” scenario hasn’t missed a beat, and maybe worse than expected. Sorrowfully, head held downward, his thesis holds up!

Still, there’s a hidden trick found within this subject matter. Worst Case Climate Change consists of negative changes not seen in everyday life, other than by climate scientists, and therefore it is difficult, if not impossible, for ordinary people to understand the gravity of this situation. After all, who lives in Antarctica or the Arctic or in the ocean? Nobody. Meantime, by the time the brutal after effects become evident, it’s already “lights out!”

Surace’s approach to the subject utilized Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) data for comparison/contrasting purposes. As referenced therein, more or less, the IPCC used a linear or straight-line methodology. However, by way of contrast, in the real world “discontinuities” (non-linear) are common throughout climate history and throughout nature, thus suggesting the IPCC model too conservative in approach and in conclusion.

Carbon Dioxide- CO2

Surace starts his talk with a remarkable statistic that seems simple enough, but it is filled with a powerful haunting message; i.e., CO2 or carbon dioxide in the atmosphere under 300 ppm for 40,000 years. But, all of a sudden, within the geologically short time frame of 200 years, it is “now at 387 ppm,” circa 2008, thus insinuating that the Goldilocks climate” not too hot, not too cold” throughout human history may be a thing of the past.

That fact alone is consummately important and warrants attention beyond the stating of mere numbers because each 1-ppm molecular increase of CO2 has bigger and bigger and bigger impact on global warming, similar to adding individual layers of woolen blankets onto somnolence. Enough blankets added and even an enormous gargantuan perfectly round-faced fading-blue grimacing planet sweats bullets.

Whereas as of May 2, 2018 the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Mauna Loa Observatory/Hawaii reading for atmospheric CO2 registers 408.90 ppm, still climbing higher and higher, year-by-year, thus adding heavier, thicker woolen blankets to an increasingly achromatic Mother Earth. The logical upshot is a hotter and hotter much hotter planet, kinda like a yet-to-be-born baby Venus (864F), where the atmosphere is so thick with CO2 that it can be cut with a knife, which would melt in an instant.

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

Thereafter, Surace segues into one of the most far-reaching, yet least understood, aspects of climate change/global warming, the North Atlantic Flow, an ocean conveyor belt named Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) that keeps Europe warm. Without AMOC grinding away, moving unbelievable tonnage of water throughout the world’s seas, Europe would be ice-covered.

According to Surace’s research, thousands of years ago, within only 10 years, the conveyor belt (AMOC) shut down very quickly. Results: Europe cooled by 5F within several years and glaciers overwhelmed Northern Europe.

Per his speech, according to NASA, since 1990, North Flow is down 30% and South Flow down 50%. Regrettably, IPCC Models did not mention this climacteric risk factor. Once again, demonstrating inherent weaknesses with IPCC overall methodology.

Here’s what recent up-to-date science, as of 2018, has discovered about the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC):

The AMOC is in a very weakened state—the most anemic it has been in the last 1,600 years.1

Therein lay the world’s greatest paradox as global warming impacts worldwide temps whilst possibly casting a cold spell over Europe. Which side wins?

Arctic

Headed northward, Surace set sights on the Arctic, showing a graph of actual Arctic melt vs. IPCC models. Whereas IPCC models suggested the Arctic would melt by 2100, NASA satellite data thru 2007 indicated that the North Pole ice melt was falling off a cliff, way below IPCC projections, and could complete “by 2017, or so.”

As of August 17th, 2017 U.S. Naval Research Lab measurements of Arctic sea ice over a 30-day period “shows that the multi-year sea ice has now virtually disappeared.”2

Multi-year ice was formed over thousands of years and constitutes — or rather constituted — the infrastructure for the North Pole.

This means the Arctic has lost its infrastructure. It’s gone. Yes, ice still forms during wintertime with no sunlight 24/7, but it is thin and almost meaningless, which can lead to untold horrific consequences of radical climate change throughout the Northern Hemisphere, throwing humanity into a tailspin, a tizzy of despair, social unrest, and starvation. The reasons are multi-fold and too broad to tackle herein, but the consequences down the road are brutal!

Greenland

Regarding Greenland, the giant ice sheet experiences loss of ice every year, ever since 1980. It is melting, and the especially bad news is the rate of melt is accelerating. As of 2008, cumulative acre-feet loss equals 3-4 billion acre-feet, an amount that would cover the entire US with two feet of ice.

As for an updated (2017) analysis of Greenland ice melt: Previously “Glaciologists were already fully occupied trying to track and forecast the surge in glacial calving. Now, they are striving to understand the complex feedbacks that are speeding up surface melting.”3

The big melt-off is accelerating because of unseasonably warm summers as well as microbes and algae, soot and dust that blow from lower latitudes and darken the ice, collecting on the white, shiny Greenland ice, thus absorbing rather than reflecting solar energy.

Greenland is living up to, in fact, beyond, Surace’s expectations from a decade ago. Nightmarishly, the big chunk of ice contains over 20 feet of sea level rise.

Antarctica

Speaking of “living up to expectations,” Antarctica is flat-out losing it, but first Surace’s comments of a decade ago: Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica is an example of something happening much quicker than we thought. Within days in 2002, the large ice shelf crashed, splintering into the water.  The ice shelf was 12,000 yrs old and 650 feet thick, 100 square miles.

The IPCC model suggested Larsen B would last thousands of years, but remarkably, it broke up and crashed in 3 short days. Trouble is: It’s the “cork” holding back land-based glacial ice. That cork is out of the bottle, which will accelerate Antarctica ice flow to the sea. Ouch!

Historically, as recently as 1979 Pine Island Ice Shelf and Thwaites Ice Shelf were status quo for decades, not much change. Then, things suddenly went haywire, changing very rapidly, to wit:

1995- Losing 70M-acre feet/yr

2006- Losing 220M-acre feet/yearly – an astounding annualized rate.

Notice the remarkable pick up in acceleration over 11 years. That’s bad news.

According to Surace, for perspective purposes, Pine Island and Thwaites have been in place millions of years, but are now (2008) melting and thinning at record pace. It they collapse, 6 feet sea level rise.  Not only that, NASA spotted a weak underbelly in recent (2007-08) radar images.

Accordingly, in 2008, the British Antarctica Survey estimated: “Thwaites is in danger of imminent collapse.”

No collapse models were found in the IPCC model, as of 2008, only expecting slow melt over time. Unfortunately, behind Thwaites is the West Antarctica Ice Sheet, and if that collapses, sea levels up 18 feet.

IPCC Models, as of 2008, show nothing about this risk to such a vast extent.

Heavens to Betsy! Surace was conservative about Antarctica. July 12, 2017, the Larsen C Ice Shelf crashed, a trillion-ton iceberg, fundamentally changing the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula. As a result, National Geographic will have to redraw the World Atlas.

The recent tally of ice shelf collapses:

1995 – Larsen A Ice Shelf collapses

2002 – Larsen B Ice Shelf splinters and collapses

2017 – Larsen C Ice Shelf falls apart

Problem is… the ice shelves, which extend over water, serve as giant buffers, holding back the flow of inland glaciers where the real serious ice flow originates, like a hockey goalie stopping pucks. Hopelessly, it must be late in the game, as Antarctica’s gone Full Monty without its goalie.

Paleoclimate Perspective

For a broader perspective, Surace segues to a discussion of the paleoclimate record, painting a most interesting picture of climate change over millennia:

1) 3M years ago: sea level was 75 feet higher than today with CO2 at 400 ppm and only 3 degrees warmer than 2008. The reason 75 feet higher back then, and not today with similar CO2 levels, it happened gradually, over centuries, not over decades, like today.

2) 20,000 yrs ago- 400 feet lower sea level and CO2 was 200 ppm.

Thereby proving that CO2 levels in the atmosphere directly impact sea levels.

The Amazon

Amazon Rain Patterns are changing as atmospheric warming shifts rain away from the Amazon. As a result, multiple droughts are taking a toll on overall growth. In point of fact, only 3-5 years of severe drought kills most trees.

For point of reference, Amazonian trees store 77B tons of CO2 which equals 20 yrs of man-made CO2. But, when trees die and during forest fires, CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. This is happening today (2008), but not factored into the IPCC model.

Here’s an Amazon update, as referenced in National Geographic:

In the time it takes to read this article, an area of Brazil’s rainforest larger than 200 football fields will have been destroyed. The market forces of globalization are invading the Amazon.

Especially bad news as “the world’s lungs” take one hit after another. That wunderkind of nature experienced unprecedented back-to-back-to-back severe droughts, 2005, 2010, and 2016, unheard of throughout geologic history. This one fact alone is worthy of ringing the bell at the public square, “all hands on deck.”

Permafrost

Ancient permafrost stores tons and tons of methane in Siberia, but it is already releasing 50M tons per year equivalent to 1B tons of CO2. Sorrowfully, methane release is rapidly accelerating since average temps now run 32F. In fact, the entire Siberian region is on the verge of collapse. According to Surace, here’s the problem: If it all melted or collapsed, it would add 30F to average earth temps, scorching agricultural crops into blackened brittle stems.

IPCC models make no assumptions about this. But, according to Surace, it is already happening.

Here’s guessing that Surace would be shocked, knees folding under, by the current status of Arctic methane. Again, this is a non-populated area, and that’s a good thing, as it’s coming apart at the seams. For example, Russian scientists have already, as of 2018, discovered 7,000 Siberian pingos, mounds containing mucho methane. Vladimir Romanovsky, geophysist at University of Alaska, estimates there could be as many as 100,000 pingos across the Arctic permafrost.

Furthermore, Surace would likely drop to his knees upon hearing another latest: Recent measurements in Alaska show biological sources alone emitting 220M tons of GHG over a two-year time period, which is equivalent to all U.S. commercial emissions per annum. In short, the planet’s ecosystem is now competing with humans in GHG emissions, or in other words, if humans dropped dead, the planet will self-feed greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in an anomalous fashion, meaning not normal, not natural, incipient Runaway Global Warming. That news should take Surace down to his knees and prostrate him onto the ground.

Oceans

According to Surace, the oceans are changing dramatically, but that may be an understatement. For eons, the ocean served as a CO2 sink, but it has probably absorbed all it can. Since 1850 it has absorbed 130B tons of CO2 from humans. Nowadays, according to Surace, it’s more acidic and nearly maxed-out as carbon sink. According to him, over time, the ocean could become a source of CO2, similar to what’s happened on land in Alaska only recently. Once again, the IPCC models forget to calculate this threat.

An update, as of 2018, too much CO2, too much heat, and too much acidification in the oceans would require an additional 100-page article. It’s that bad!

Methane Clathrates at Bottom of Ocean

Surace discussed a paleoclimatic event 55M years ago: clathrates (containing frozen methane over the eons) broke open and ocean temps rose a few degrees, shattering clathrates over the following 10 years, as temps rose 18F very rapidly leading to mass extinction. That happened millions of years ago.

IPCC models do not include mention of clathrates.

As of 2018, Russian scientists in conjunction with Americans have identified massive quantities of methane releasing into the atmosphere in the Arctic, especially around the East Siberian Arctic Shelf where waters are only 50 metres deep.

The world’s foremost authority on the region, Dr. Natalia Shakova, stated:

As we showed in our articles, in the ESAS (East Siberian Arctic Shelf), in some places, subsea permafrost is reaching the thaw point. In other areas it could have reached this point already. And what can happen then? The most important consequence could be in terms of growing methane emissions… a linear trend becomes exponential. This edge between it being linear and becoming exponential is very fine and lies between frozen and thawed states of subsea permafrost. This is what we call the turning point…. Following the logic of our investigation and all the evidence that we accumulated so far, it makes me think that we are very near this point. And in this particular point, each year matters. This is the big difference between being on the linear trend where hundreds and thousands of years matter, and being on the exponential where each year matters.4

When Dr. Shakova mentions “exponential versus linear,” she references an astounding fact, to wit: Thirty (30) linear steps to the water cooler across the room would be equivalent, if 30 exponential steps, to circumnavigation of the planet. That’s exponential. That’s a nightmare scientists like Dr. Shakova live with.

Stern Report for British Government

Finally, Sucrea mentions the Stern Report to the British government, assessing the worst case. Assuming worst-case scenario, here’s their list of outcomes ten years ago:

– Sea rise 15-20 feet in few decades

– Underwater Florida, NYC, Monterey, London, Tokyo

– 1B people displaced, sick and/or dead

– Massive water and food shortages

– $20T worldwide damages

– Food and water wars.

Amazingly and fascinatingly, all of the climate events mentioned above occur where people do not live, do not see, and do not sense the danger. But, significantly, they are happening right now.

  1. Andrea Thompson, “Slow-Motion Ocean: Atlantic’s Circulation Is Weakest in 1,600 Years”, Scientific American, April 11, 2018.
  2. “Storms over Arctic Ocean”, Arctic News, August 19, 2017.
  3. Eli Kintisch, “The Great Greenland Meltdown”, Science, February 23, 2017.
  4. “Nature Communication Journal, Current Rates and Mechanisms of Subsea Permafrost Degradation in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf”, Article No. 15872 June 22, 2017.

Nature’s Breaking Point

Ever wonder how the classical philosophers/economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo would view today’s credo of infinite economic growth, forever more, above and beyond yesteryear.  Well, in a word, they would be horrified. Ricardo, similar to the father of capitalism Adam Smith, believed in the concept of a “stationary state” when the land gets fully exploited and material progress comes to an end.

These classical economists did not advocate limitless growth, which today is how neoliberal advocates see their destiny. In fact, Ricardo added the “law of diminishing returns” to Smith’s original thesis, which included bold mention of the “stationary state.”

Well, surprise, surprise, or maybe no surprise! Today, Adam Smith and Ricardo would be labeled heretics as capitalism has morphed into a universal conviction that humankind is destined for enrichment via unparalleled unlimited economic growth. As such, GDP is revered; it’s maddeningly godly, a quarter-by-quarterly séance whilst prostrate on hands and knees in solemn prayer for profits, and more profits, and even more after that!

But, are there limits, and if so, what if limits are exceeded?

Then, what happens?

As a matter of fact, the limits have been exceeded by a country mile. That fact is beautifully expounded in graphic detail in Donald Worster’s Shrinking The Earth: The Rise & Decline of Natural Abundance (Oxford University Press, 2018).

“Always, humans run up against nature’s limits.” (Worster, pg. 49) It happened at Nantucket Island. The island literally dried up in 1864 when the last lone whaler came back nearly empty-handed. Over the preceding decades, the whalers, like wild bloodthirsty hounds chasing game, exceeded nature’s breaking point. At its peak the whaling fleet numbered 700 vessels, massacring whales and returning home filled to the brim with whale oil bounty, the massive carcasses left to scavengers.

Today’s infinite growth mind trip, seemingly “on electric Kool-Aid,” originated with the discovery of fossil fuels, a transition from an agrarian economy to an industrial revolution powered by carbon-rich remains of ancient plants. Coal created a new world order of economic endeavours, supplying 25% of all fuel energies by the 1870s. The success and growth of the emerging Industrial Revolution depended upon it.

Still, the greatest philosopher/economist of the English language of the 19th century, John Stuart Mill, one of the last of the great classical economists, similar to Smith and Ricardo, advocating trade liberalization and competitive markets, still harbored many doubts; e.g., whether endless growth was good for the human spirit.

According to the celebrated economist, reaching an end to growth might lead to a more enlightened happiness and satisfaction, freeing people from “extravagant dreams of material plenty and encourage them to seek other forms of fulfillment… In contrast, the ideology of progress, with its intense drive for wealth, was leading toward a new kind of deprivation. Increasingly, it was depriving men and women of any moral or spiritual purpose, leaving them trapped in a culture of excessive materialism.” (pgs. 53-54) Subsequently, Mill’s statement has been proven downright prophetic!

Worster takes the reader along fascinating pathways of Americana; e.g., the start of the modern conservation movement by George Perkins Marsh’s landmark book Man and Nature (1864), “man must learn to live with limits of nature,” an early trumpet of doom that represented the intellectual transition from the “age of plenty” to an “age of limits.”

Marsh argued that ancient Mediterranean civilizations collapsed due to environmental degradation, and, of course, they did, as they are faster than ever today! He saw early telltale signs of identical trends in the United States, as early as mid 19th century, over 150 years ago. Marsh’s Man and Nature next to Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was considered one of the most influential books of the 19th century.

It was over 100 years later when the public at large was roundly exposed to limits to America’s celebrated infinite growth dogma with publication of Dennis and Donella Meadows’ punch-to-the-gut treatise The Limits to Growth (1972), the best selling (over 12 million copies in initial years) and most controversial environmental book post WWII.  “It was the book that cried wolf. The wolf was the planet’s environmental decline, and the wolf was real.” (pg. 157)

That wolf, circa 1970s, emphasized natural resource depletion more so than ecological destruction. However, ever since, scientists have increased knowledge of the earth exponentially, thereby demonstrating limits on several levels, terrestrial, oceanic, and atmospheric. “To ignore those limits, they warn, would be to put at risk the planet and human life.” (pg. 189)

Thus, scientists have discovered the limits posed by the planet’s natural systems and capacity to sustain life. Nowadays, those limits stick out like a reddened throbbing thumb, chemically debased ecosystems and crazed/loopy hydrological cycles and dangerous atmospheric concentrations of GHGs heating up the planet, threatening all life like never before throughout human history.

Meanwhile, nature’s breaking point is already nearly at hand in the Western United States from where the majority of America’s food-growing capacity feeds the country. Of course, nobody rings a bell to announce the official start of “the breaking point,” but Worster is quick to point out a troubling stranglehold developing throughout this key breadbasket region. Climate change, too much human-generated CO2 warming the planet, is altering hydrological cycles, especially in the Western U.S., to such an extent that California, the most bounteous state in the union, could experience a drop of 70% to 80% in its current water supply, assuming climate change, as it is now progressing, continues, thus prompting the million-dollar question: What’ll stop it?

Alas, also at the breaking point, across the acidic-infested, CO2 laced, heated up Atlantic Ocean and thru the Mediterranean Sea to its eastern and southern landmasses, the world’s biggest drying-out of land and aquifers is fast approaching crisis levels, accompanied by more and more frequent dust storms which scientists believe may turn into the equivalence of America’s infamous Dust Bowl of the 1930s, as the incredible historical flourish of the Tigris/Euphrates Fertile Crescent dries out at record rates.1

Alternatively, technology is the catchword and modus for continual drumbeat favoring the infinite growth credo, unrelenting GDP growth for eons. But forlornly, as expressed by Worster: “Technology does not open up immense, profitable frontiers of natural resources, untapped oceans filled with fish… or atmosphere rich in oxygen.” (pg. 222)

All of those precious resources were opened up anew to humankind with the advent of Christopher Columbus’s famous, or maybe infamous, voyage in 1492, which opened up, in Worster’s words, a “Second Earth,” the Americas to “First Earth” descendants.

The Second Earth,  a vivid bounteous land of riches is now part and parcel of today’s vast unrelenting Shrinking The Earth complex. Too much of it is now gone, or totally debased, with nowhere to turn for another great discovery, no more Christopher Columbus trips. There is no Third Earth.

Worster ends his book with a chapter entitled “Field Trip: Athabasca River”, which perfectly encapsulates the theme, Shrinking The Earth:

Scientists discovered that oil sands lay under nearly a tenth of Alberta’s territory, including the Athabasca area…The uncomfortable truth is that reclamation probably cannot succeed within any single lifetime, or perhaps for centuries… The companies, led by Syncrude, cannot wait that long and retain public confidence, so they have devised a strategy that is still in the early stages of experimentation. Near an old mine site close to the river stands a model of man-made, accelerated reclamation, a ‘park’ named Gateway Hill that Syncrude offers as proof of its commitment and determination to ‘return the land back to nature’… Gateway Hill boasts a hiking trail winding through a thriving set of aspens, the early succession trees of the boreal forest. It looks over a smoothly contoured artificial lake, a large hay meadow with mowing machines, and a small fenced compound where six bison are kept for viewing. This carefully nurtured mosaic has returned the earth from sterility to a practical, recreational, and suburban tidiness…. THE END.

Postscript:

Our option is to choose our own limits, or let nature chose them for us.

— Donella Meadows, American author, The Limits to Growth (1972)

  1. NASA, Earth Data, 2016.

Earth Day: Conflict Over The Future Of The Planet

Photograph from climate march in Washington, DC, Union of Concerned Scientists.

On this Earth Day, it is difficult to look at the state of the planet and the current political leadership and see much hope. In “Junk Planet” Robert Burrowes writes a comprehensive description of the degradation of the atmosphere, oceans, waterways, groundwater, and soil as well as the modern pollution of antibiotic waste, genetic engineering, nanowaste, space junk, military waste and nuclear, a description of a planet degraded by pollution impacting our bodies and health as well as the planet’s future.

Burrowes includes another form of waste, junk information, that denies reality; e.g., climate change, the dangers of extreme energy extraction and food polluted by genetic engineering, pesticides, and depleted soils. This false reporting results in policies that create a risk of ecosystem collapse.

Political and economic elites want people to believe these problems do not exist. Those in power seek to protect profits from dirty energy rather than transition to 100 percent clean energy. They seek to protect agribusiness food, pesticides, and genetically modified foods rather than transform food to organic, locally grown foods using regenerative agriculture. They deny the reality of environmental racism rather than correct decades of racism and provide reparations. They seek to put profits ahead of the health and necessities of people as well as ahead of protecting and restoring the planet.

Despite this, a growing portion of the public understands these realities and is taking action to challenge the system. People know, for example, as activist Steven Norris writes, that they should be concerned about the impact of carbon infrastructure on their communities and the planet.

Last week, David Buckel, a nationally known advocate for gay rights and the environment, died in a self-immolation suicide as a wake-up call to save the planet. He wrote in a note:

Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result – my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.

The undertow being created by organized resistance is growing, and so is the push back against it. In order for this conflict to be resolved, the conflict must be heightened as is occurring now.

Tree-Sit Protest Of Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia Metro News.

People Power Escalates

As we write this, tree-sits are growing in West Virginia where people are putting their bodies on the line to prevent the destruction of trees and habitat to build the Mountain Valley pipeline for fracked gas. In Virginia, Red Terry started a tree-sit on Easter weekend to protect her land from destruction. She remains, despite the company with law enforcement support, denying her food and water — something illegal against prisoners or during war. As trees are felled she remains, as do protesters in Pennsylvania, who are also doing tree-sits. Their stubborn courageous should encourage each of us.

In Louisiana, a water protector locked herself into a cement-filled barrel placed in the trench of a horizontal directional drill to block construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Eleanor Goldfield reports this is part of the Battle of the Bayou, a coalition of groups and individuals standing against the destruction of a fragile environment, facing arrest and creating a future together.

In Maryland, people blocked construction then escalated to a tractor blockade to prevent the construction of a compressor station that will bring fracked gas from the Mid-Atlantic to the Dominion export terminal in southern Maryland. People who fought the export terminal for years are now joining with neighboring counties fighting gas infrastructure and mounting a campaign against the Maryland Department of the Environment as Governor Hogan pushes $100 million in gas infrastructure.

People are taking protests to corporate offices as a busload of Lancaster, PA people did when they brought a 12 foot stretch of pipeline to a meeting room, singing songs and chanting, asking “How does it feel to be invaded?” In Bellevue Washington, protesters constructed a small longhouse blocking the main entrance to the corporate headquarters of an energy company.

California’s Governor Jerry Brown was protested when he came to speak at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Hundreds of people  protested Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania over his pro-fracking policies. More politicians will be held accountable in this election year by angry constituents.

The industry recognizes that pipeline protestors are having an impact. Canada is having a hard time moving tar sands and fracked gas because protests are stopping pipeline investment. Oil companies are successfully being pressured to examine the risks to the environment and human rights from their actions. Washington activists defeated the largest oil-train terminal in the nation.

Protests are successfully resulting in cities divesting from banks who fund fossil fuel projects. Europe’s largest bank, HSBC just announced it will no longer fund oil or gas projects in the Arctic, tar sands projects, or most coal projects. Corporations realize they are investing in stranded assets that may not pay off and they may be held legally accountable for causing climate change.

Exxon Knew protest. Photo by Johnny Silvercloud.

Litigation Raises Risks

Corporations and the federal government are facing lawsuits from individuals, organizations and state and local governments over climate change and environmental degradation. Protesters are using the courts to underscore the urgent necessity for action by using a climate necessity defense.  Courts are beginning to accept it, but protesters willingly understand they risk incarceration.

Exxon Mobil is facing a raft of litigation arguing the company was aware of climate risks but continued to mislead the public and to pollute. State and local governments are seeking damages and calling for a federal criminal investigation. Litigation highlights the science of climate change and demonstrates how oil giants made immense profits while billions of dollars of cost from climate change; e.g., immense storms and sea level rise, are borne by individuals and governments. Most suits were brought by coastal communities but recently Colorado communities are suing oil corporations over climate change-caused droughts and fires.

ExxonMobil tried to stop state investigations in Massachusetts, New York, and Texas over misleading investors for years about climate change risks. The judge issued a sharp rebuke with prejudice preventing an appeal and allowing the investigations to continue. Oil companies are no doubt behind new legislation in states to give severe penalties to people protesting “critical infrastructure”.

Future generations from Our Children’s Trust have brought eight suits against the federal government over the destruction of the environment claiming a public trust over the atmosphere. A suit filed by 21 youth in Washington has overcome government efforts to dismiss the case and will be going to trial after both the trial court and Ninth Circuit rejected the government.

Environmental racism is also being challenged. Recently a court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Civil Rights Act for decades of inaction over complaints filed by residents of Flint, MI. Hundreds of complaints about environmental racism have been made to the EPA. An ultimate case of racism is coming up in the Supreme Court when it considers whether the United States must abide by treaties made with Indigenous Peoples. The long history of racism from the founding of the US by colonizing land inhabited by millions, followed by ethnic cleansing of the Indigenous who lived there, is on trial. If treaties are law, as they should be, this will empower Indigenous People more.

Climate Our Future from People’s Climate March by Reuters.

Change Is Being Created, Transformation Is Coming

The undertow of protest is having an impact. Corporations fear they will be held accountable for the damage they have done. Governments and elected officials are aware the people are angry and their careers can end with the new political culture created by people power.

The beginning of change always begins with education and changing ourselves. While we know systemic change is necessary, people are also educating themselves about their own own lifestyles. Thirty-six-year-old Daniel Webb was conscious of the dangers of plastic and decided to keep all of his plastic for a year gathering 4,490 items, 93% were single-use plastic, and just 8 were biodegradable. He made a mural of his plastic to educate others.

The US uses 500 million plastic straws every day. Whenever we order a drink, we request no straws and share this fact. This consciousness has permeated the culture, now many restaurants only bring straws when asked, and people are organizing “Don’t Suck”  and “Be Straw Free” campaigns to eliminate plastic straws.

More people spend their money consciously using it to buy organic and local, eating less meat and boycotting factory farm foods. We have more power with our dollar than with our vote in a manipulated “democracy” disguised as an oligarchy.

People are also making changes at the community level. Edmonston, a working-class town with a median income of $19,000 in Maryland, took small steps to going green. In the early 2000s to ameliorate stormwater flooding, they gradually remade their town into a green town, empty lots turned into community gardens and rain barrels were added. Now they have permeable pavement, solar panels, fruit trees for food and native plant landscapes with leaves collected by the city and composted.

In Brooklyn, people began reclaiming land with a vacant lot turned into a nearly 2-acre community space with garden beds, an outdoor movie screening area, a pumpkin patch, and an educational production and research farm. They then got data on vacant lots in the city and put bi-lingual signs on them that said: “This land is your land” and told people how to get control of the area, linking them to a website to help. Since 2011, communities have transformed over 200 sites. Municipalization, or fearless cities, may be a key for creating change toward socializing energy into a public service resulting in transformative cities. These changes are not only about the environment and climate justice but are also about economic, racial and social justice.

Despite the government continuing to invest in dirty energy, clean energy is growing.  Wind farming is creating jobs in red states like Texas. The Solar Foundation mapped solar jobs by congressional district as solar is the fastest growing source of new energy. Research has been developed on a state-by-state basis to make the United States 100% renewable by 2050. With a national mobilization it could happen more quickly.

There are many challenges at the national level with corrupt federal agencies tied to polluting industries, but people pressure is still having an impact. The Federal Energy Regulatory System (FERC) which has been in bed with the oil, gas, and nuclear industries since its founding, indeed it is funded by those industries, has been the focus of a more than four-year pressure campaign by Beyond Extreme Energy. This June 23-25 they will be holding a Crack the FERC protest campaign to escalate pressure. The protest coincides with the Poor People’s Campaign as addressing the  environmental crisis is linked to economic inequality, racism, and other issues.

The environmental crisis and the mishandling of climate change are issues that are going to make the 2020s a decade of transformational change. In order for people to create transformative changes, we need a well-educated activist community.

The Popular Resistance School will begin on May 1 and will be an eight-week course on how movements grow, build power and succeed as well as examine the role you can play in the movement. Sign up to be part of this school so you can participate in small group discussions about how to build a powerful, transformational movement.