Category Archives: Climate Change

The Net Zero Mirage

“Net Zero by 2050” is the rallying cry of scientists and policymakers throughout the world. However, that epithet echoes past decades of climate change/global warming mitigation plans, one after another, all failures.

The world’s continuing failure to come to grips with the dilemma led three notable climate scientists, deeply involved at the highest levels, to publicly ridicule past and future attempts to fix climate change in a blockbuster article entitled:1

That article is a must-read exposé of failed schemes that unintentionally hoodwink the general public, and scientists, and policymakers into believing in the merits of “feel-good proposals to save the planet.” But in reality, the scientists expose these projects as foolhardy, in part, based upon their own personal experience in actually helping to formulate some of the proposals in the first instance.

It is a thought-provoking article that cannot be dismissed, as it essentially implies we’re screwed unless global policymakers face up and react, immediately. They suggests foregoing the conceptual “Net Zero by 2050,” instead cut to the chase by cutting fossil fuels now!

As a follow up to the stirring article, Dr. Alison Green of ScientistsWarning interviewed the authors, May 8th, 2021:

The authors, not pulling any punches, take academia and international policymakers to the woodshed for decades of fairytale fixit schemes that always, always, always hold out hope, great promise to save civilization from burning up in a self-afflicted earthly hades, but never deliver, postage required.

The message behind the scathing article is simple, straightforward: Enough is enough, we’re fooling ourselves and getting nowhere fast, stop the madness, get real. Here’s how the authors see it:

Collectively we three authors of this article must have spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why has it taken us so long to speak out about the obvious dangers of the concept of net zero? In our defence, the premise of net zero is deceptively simple – and we admit that it deceived us.2

A “Net Zero” search on Goggle brings up 1,630,000,000 hits within 0.89 seconds, and that’s just for starters. Deferring to the authors:

We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier ‘burn now, pay later’ approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar. It has also hastened the destruction of the natural world by increasing deforestation today, and greatly increases the risk of further devastation in the future.2

Their article goes on to describe “Steps towards Net Zero” starting with James Hansen, as administrator of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies June 1988 testimony to Congress, demonstrating how humans were warming Earth’s climate, famously stating, “The greenhouse (“GHG”) effect has been detected.” Then, four years later at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, all nations pledged to stabilize GHGs and the 1997 Kyoto Summit re-emphasized these goals, but at the time when something very constructive should have, could have been accomplished, the parties failed.  Subsequently fossil fuels never looked back, zooming ahead in the face of nations of the world agreeing to stabilize GHGs but continuing to fail.

As follows, the next approach was to link economic activity to climate change via “Integrated Assessment Models,” which became, and remain to this day, the principal guidance for climate policy, implicitly implying that “market-based” approaches work, thereby removing any requirement for “deep critical thinking.” This has been, and according to the authors, remains a huge mistake.

The next step to solving the problem was introduction of Carbon-Capture and Storage, a feel-good plan for policymakers but one that failed to address increasing levels of fossil fuel usage. By the Copenhagen 2009 summit it was clear that Carbon-Capture and Storage did not exist in the real world; it was another big bust.

Thereafter, a new magic bullet, Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage – BECCS, became the new savior technology, burning biomass instead of coal. However, BECCS, which is very much in favor today, carries manifold issues, including the insanity of burning trees that absorb & store CO2 if left alone.

According to the authors:

Alas, BECCS, just like all the previous solutions, was too good to be true.2

The following information about BECCS was not included in the relevant article but has been included herewith as BECCS has become the rage, especially in the EU, which generates more energy from burning wood than from wind and solar combined. Biomass is now a $50B global industry.

The title of a recent article tells the story of BECCS 3  For example:

Solar panels can produce 100 times as much power per acre as biomass.2

And here’s another snippet:

In February, more than 500 scientists and economists wrote to President Joe Biden and other leaders to warn that converting wood into power is a carbon disaster, a forest destroyer and an absurdly inefficient way to generate energy… Trees are more valuable alive than dead.2

According to Earth Institute, woody biomass power plants actually produce more “global warming CO2” than fossil fuel plants; i.e., 65% more CO2 per megawatt hour than modern coal plants and 285% more CO2 than natural gas. Meanwhile Canada and the U.S. deliver wood to Europe like there’s no tomorrow.

According to LSA – University of Colorado/Boulder: Wood accounts for 79% of biomass production and accounts for 3.2% of energy production. Wood dominates the worldwide biomass industry. Today 50% of EU renewable energy is based upon biomass, and it is on the rise.

For example, in the UK, the Drax Group converted 4 of 6 coal-generating units to biomass, powering 12% of UK electricity for 4 million households. The Drax biomass plant has an enormous appetite for wood; e.g., in less than two hours an entire freight train of wooden pellets goes up in smoke (easily qualifying for Ripley’s Believe It or Not).

According to Drax’s PR department, their operation has slashed CO2 by over 80% since 2012, claiming to be “the largest decarbonization project in Europe.”4 ; however, when scientists analyze Drax’s claims, they do not hold up.

When wood pellets burn, Drax assumes the released carbon is “recaptured instantly by new growth.” That is a fairy tale.

According to John Sherman, an expert on Complex Systems Analysis at MIT: The “carbon debt payback time” for forests in the eastern US, where Drax’s wood pellets originate, compared to burning coal, under the best-case scenario, when all harvested land regrows as a forest, the wood pellet “payback time is 44 to 104 years,” which is mindboggling, thus prompts a query: Whoever did the research on biomass? Fire them!

Study after study proves that “burning coal instead of woody biomass” reduces the impact of CO2 atmospheric emissions. Coal is the clear winner, but problematically coal has already been cast into no-man’s land as a horrific polluter. Therefore, a massive complexity is at work as countries commit to using trees to meet carbon neutral status, but the end results are appallingly diametrical to their own stated intentions, and flat-out wrong.

According to scientist Bill Moomaw, co-author of several IPCC reports and widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on “carbon sinks”:

If we let some of our forests grow, we could remove an additional 10 to 20 percent of what we emit every year. Instead, we’re paying subsidies to have people cut them down, burning them in place of coal, and counting it as zero carbon. 5

Dr. Moomaw led a group of 800 scientists that petitioned the EU parliament in January 2018 to: “End its support for biomass.” Nevertheless, in June 2018, the EU Commission voted to keep biomass listed as a renewable energy, joined in their position by the support of the U.S. and Britain. Is this conclusive proof that policymakers, at their peril, ignore science? Answer: Yes!

Back to the original article for this story, by 2015, with CO2 emissions still skyrocketing, Paris ’15 brought the world together to limit warming to 2°C, hopefully 1.5°C vs. pre-industrial levels. At the end of negotiations, predictably, worldwide media celebrated an alleged marvelous achievement by the nations of the world to limit global warming, actually implying a halt to global warming, full stop at 2°C. Oh, please!

Yet, the bitter truth about Paris ’15:

But dig a little deeper and you could find another emotion lurking within delegates on December 13. Doubt. We struggle to name any climate scientist who at that time thought the Paris Agreement was feasible. We have since been told by some scientists that the Paris Agreement was ‘of course, important for climate justice but unworkable’ and ‘a complete shock, no one thought limiting to 1.5°C was possible’. Rather than being able to limit warming to 1.5°C, a senior academic involved in the IPCC concluded we were heading beyond 3°C by the end of this century.2

But, at the conclusion of Paris ’15 policymakers and the world’s media focused on a celebration with bright colored streamers and champagne popping and lots of backslapping, continuing the false narrative that a fixit was orchestrated by the nations of the world by simply keeping temperatures below 2°C and maybe even 1.5°C. It’s that simple.

But, getting there may be very complex, accordingly, atmospheric CO2 emissions since 2015: 399.89 ppm January 2015 versus 419.05 ppm April 2021 and increasing at twice the rate of the last century, which makes Paris ’15 a laughing stock.

Furthermore, the three author/scientists discount all of the current proposals on the table like Direct Air Capture, BECCS, and Solar Radiation Management to control and reduce the impact of global warming: “The problems come when it is assumed that these can be deployed at vast scale. This effectively serves as a blank cheque for the continued burning of fossil fuels and the acceleration of habitat destruction.”2

Rather than acknowledge the seriousness of our situation, we instead continue to participate in the fantasy of net zero. What will we do when reality bites? The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over.6

  1. “Climate Scientists: Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”, The Conversation, April 22, 2021.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “The ‘Green Energy’ That Might Be Ruining the Planet,” Politico, March 26, 2021.
  4. Biomass Energy: Green or Dirty? Environment & Energy – Feature Article, January 8, 2020
  5. Europe’s Renewable Energy Policy is Built on Burning American Trees, Vox, March 4, 2019.
  6. Climate Scientists: “Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”, written by: James Dyke/University of Exeter, Robert Watson/University of East Anglia, and Wolfgang Knorr/Lund University.
The post The Net Zero Mirage first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Virtual Bunny Hugging: Boasting About Climate Change Goals

He seemed frustrated.  While Scott Morrison’s international colleagues at the Leaders Summit on Climate were boastful in what their countries would do in decarbonising the global economy, Australia’s feeble contribution was put on offer.  Unable to meet his own vaccination targets, the Australian prime minister has decided to confine the word “target” in other areas of policy to oblivion.  Just as the term “climate change” has been avoided in the bowels of Canberra bureaucracy, meeting environmental objectives set in stone will be shunned.

Ahead of the summit, Nobel Prize laureates had added their names to a letter intending to ruffle summit participants.  Comprising all fields, the 101 signatories urged countries “to act now to avoid a climate catastrophe by stopping the expansion of oil, gas and coal.”  Governments had “lagged, shockingly, behind what science demands and what a growing and powerful people-powered movement knows: urgent action is needed to end the expansion of fossil fuel production; phase out current production; and invest in renewable energy.”

Deficiencies in the current climate change approach were noted: the Paris Agreement, for instance, makes no mention of oil, gas or coal; the fossil fuel industry was intending to expand, with 120% more coal, oil and gas slated for production by 2030. “The solution,” warn the Nobel Laureates, “is clear: fossil fuels must be kept in the ground.”

To Morrison and his cabinet, these voices are mere wiseacres who sip coffee and down the chardonnay with relish, oblivious to dirty realities.  His address to the annual dinner of the Business Council of Australia took the view that Australia would “not achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities.”  Having treated environmental activism as delusionary, he suggested that industries not be taxed, as they provided “livelihoods for millions of Australians off the planet, as our political opponents sought to do when they were given the chance.”

US President Joe Biden had little appetite for such social distinctions in speaking to summit participants.  (Unfortunately for the President, the preceding introduction by Vice President Kamala Harris was echoed on the live stream, one of various glitches marking the meeting.)   After four years of a crockery breaking retreat from the subject of climate change, this new administration was hoping to steal back some ground and jump the queue in combating climate change.  The new target: cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half from 2005 levels by 2030.

Biden wished to construct “a critical infrastructure to produce and deploy clean energy”.  He saw workers in their numbers capping abandoned oil and gas wells and reclaiming abandoned coal mines.  He dreamed of autoworkers in their efforts to build “the next generation of electric vehicles” assisted by electricians and the installing of 500,000 charging stations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken laboured the theme of togetherness in his opening remarks: “We’re in this together. And what each of our nations does or does not do will not only impact people of our country, but people everywhere.”  But Blinken was also keen, at least in terms of language, to seize some ground for US leadership.  “We want every country here to know: We want to work with you to save our planet, and we’re all committed to finding every possible avenue of cooperation on climate change.”

A central part of this policy will involve implementing the Climate Finance Plan, intended to provide and mobilise “financial resources to assist developing countries reduce and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

While solidarity and collaboration were points the Biden administration wished to reiterate, ill-tempered political rivalries were hard to contain.  On April 19, Blinken conceded during his address to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that China was “the largest producer and exporter of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric vehicles.”  It held, he sulkily noted, almost “a third of the world’s renewable energy patents.”

Environmental policy, in other words, had to become the next terrain of competition; in this, a good degree of naked self-interest would be required.  “If we don’t catch up, America will miss the chance to shape the world’s climate future in a way that reflects our interests and values, and we’ll lose out on countless jobs for the American people.”  Forget bleeding heart arguments about solidarity and collective worth: the US, if it was to win “the long-term strategic competition with China” needed to “lead the renewable energy revolution.”

Others in attendance also had their share of chest-thumping ambition. The United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson was all self-praise about his country having the “biggest offshore wind capacity of any country in the word, the Saudi Arabia of wind as I never tire of saying.”  The country was half-way towards carbon neutrality.  He also offered a new target: cutting emissions by 78 percent under 1990 levels by 2035.  Wishing to emphasise his seriousness of it all, Johnson claimed that combating climate change was not “all about some expensive politically correct green act of ‘bunny hugging’.”

Canada also promised a more ambitious emissions reduction target: the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) would be reduced by 40-45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.  “Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan,” stated Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “puts us on track to not just meet but to exceed our 2030 emissions goal – but we were clearly aware that more must be done.”

Brazil’s President and climate change sceptic Jair Bolsonaro chose to keep up appearances with his peers, aligning the posts to meet emissions neutrality by 2050.  This shaved off ten years from the previous objective.  He also promised a doubling of funding for environmental enforcement.  Fine undertakings from a political figure whose policies towards the Amazon rainforest have been vandalising in their destruction.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also threw in his lot with a goal of securing a 46 percent reduction by 2030. (The previous target had been a more modest 26 percent reduction based on 2013 levels.)  This did little to delight Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor.  “What Japan needs to do now,” he warned, “is to expand its options for technology.”  Any immediate bans on gasoline-powered or diesel cars, for instance, “would limit such options, and could also cause Japan to lose its strengths.”

Toyoda’s sentiments, along with those of Japan’s business lobby Keidanren, would have made much sense to Morrison.  In a speech shorn of ambition, the Australian prime minister began to speak with his microphone muted.  Then came his own version of ambitiousness, certain that Australia’s record on climate change was replete with “setting, achieving and exceeding our commitments”.

It was not long before he was speaking, not to the leaders of the world, but a domestic audience breast fed by the fossil fuel industries.  Australia was “on the pathway to net zero” and intent on getting “there as soon as we possibly can, through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support and create, especially in our regions.”  His own slew of promises: Australia would invest in clean hydrogen, green steel, energy storage and carbon capture.  The US might well have Silicon Valley, but Australia would, in time, create “Hydrogen Valleys”.

With such unremarkable, even pitiable undertakings, critics could only marvel at a list of initiatives that risk disappearing in the frothy stew.  “Targets on their own, won’t lead to emission cuts,” reflected Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, Kate Blagojevic.  “That takes real policy and money.  And that’s where the whole world is still way off course.”  Ahead of COP26 at Glasgow, Morrison will be hoping that the world remains divided and very much off course.

The post Virtual Bunny Hugging: Boasting About Climate Change Goals first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Winning Climate and Political Approach

I don’t have any regrets about the work, and the 32-day hunger strike, that I did last fall to get Joe Biden elected. I knew what we would be getting: first and most important, an end to Trump in the White House and second, someone replacing him who wasn’t a climate denier.

I support the Green New Deal idea, embodied in Congress in the Thrive Agenda, introduced in February by Senator Ed Markey and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. That agenda is much stronger than what President Biden put forward last week, much more realistic as far as what is needed to prevent worldwide societal breakdown via climate and environmental catastrophes. But, thinking big picture, it is a major improvement from the Trump years to have an opening-up, three-way, public debate between Republican climate change skepticism, centrist Democrat proposals not-to-the-scale of the need, and the progressive Green New Deal/Thrive Agenda.

It is absolutely essential that the much more realistic progressive approach continue to grow in popular understanding and support, this year, next year and as long as necessary. If the Biden proposal is the best that can be passed this year, then it should be supported and passed, but with a clear understanding that it is a beginning, not an end.

This three-way debate over government policy is not going away. One of the latest examples is an article, “What To Do About Natural Gas,” published in the April issue of Scientific American. It is authored by Michael E. Webber, a writer, educator and Chief Science and Technology Officer at ENGIE, a global energy and infrastructure company. From my research, ENGIE seems to be an all-of-the-above kind of energy company, though it’s selling some of its coal assets. Webber is definitely big on gas pipelines and infrastructure.

One of his sentences about hydrogen in the article is revealing: “Anticipation feels similar to what arose during the very early days of fracking shale: a huge resource is out there, if engineers can figure out how to harness it cheaply and safely.”

There’s not a word of substantive criticism of fracked gas in Webber’s article. Nothing about how people living near gas wells, compressors and pipelines have been poisoned. There is no mention of the fact that, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the overwhelmingly primary ingredient in gas, methane, is 86 times more impactful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 over a 20 year period.

Also unmentioned is the clear need to stop building out new gas and oil infrastructure, stop the decades-long, rubber-stamp approval of industry expansion permit applications.

Webber quickly dispatches renewables in his third paragraph because of transmission issues. Then he never looks back as he proposes various ways to keep the gas and pipeline industries in business for seemingly forever through various still-to-be-proven proposals. In his final paragraph he opines that “climate change requires many solutions. Declaring who cannot be part of those, such as natural gas companies, only raises resistance to progress.”

Reading this yesterday, I was reminded of how Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm spoke in an interview April 1 on PBS. Talking about fossil fuels, she never used any language to the effect that we need to reduce, much less get off, fossil fuel use. She kept saying that what we need to do is “clean up fossil fuel emissions.”

That approach is directly tied to support of the holy grail of industrial carbon capture and sequestration, something I have been following since I became a climate activist in 2003. So far, 18 years later, it has yet to be commercially viable but, clearly, the fossil fuel industry and their active or passive supporters in government have every intention of getting as much money as they can for this failure of an approach to solving the climate emergency.

I’m not opposed to some funding going into research into potential new ways to advance genuinely clean technologies and reduce emissions. But that is not the same thing as research to prop up 20th century industries in a 21st century that must move as rapidly as possible to truly clean, renewable energy as the dominant energy sources. Fortunately, with the technology improving, the prices of solar steadily dropping, and the growth of battery storage technologies, renewables dominance can happen this decade.

And with polls for many years consistently showing that 75-80% of all US Americans, including about half of Republicans, support wind and solar, this is a political winner.

Progressives, let’s keep our eyes on the prize.

The post A Winning Climate and Political Approach first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Two Degrees of Separation

Zoom Lockup!

There’s this Zoom thing coming round the corner, once again — Earth Day 2021. The people on the Pacific Coast, Oregon, Central Coast with no industries, winds whipping up air vortices, and air as clean as what it might be in the middle of the ocean, and yet, we have the old white folk planning for some more Zoom Doom fun.

And not only is this a Zoom Doom “same old usual suspects yakking fest,” but, in fact, some local yokel and state yokel politicians get to bullshit their way through five minutes of nonsense.

The rules of Zoom like the rules of Earth Day 2021 are make nice, no contrarians, and alas, no one arguing. No criticism. Keep it upbeat and positive. Yep, we got Biden back in office — [Biden Backs Revival of His Brainchild: Plan Colombia 2.0 Set to Begin Next Month — Colombia is set to return to a massive aerial campaign of spraying Monsanto’s glyphosate across the country, a plan Biden once fought hard with his Republican colleagues to enact.]

That’s it, really, in the fake world of Google, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Clubhouse, Slack, and Zoom. There are a thousand major software peddlers readying the schmucks for a digital world of work, world of schooling, world of public engagement (disengagement), world of commerce,  world of culture, the world of arts, music, literature, world of medicine and health care.

Earth Day 2021 . . . 2022 . . .  2030!

On the one measly day of the year for celebrating ecosystems, waves, wind, soil, beach, harbor seals, eagles, gulls, cormorants, firs, pines and grasses, the decision to take this one indoors is emblematic of the colonized minds of the, shall I say, liberal class (sic). Neoliberal or demented Democratic minds.

No use asking me to make an alternative earth day for Lincoln County, some gathering on the beach or along a river (we have limitless beaches and thousands of creeks and rivers). In a rural community, in a community based on retirement, and then making dollars from travelers clogging Highway 101, clogging hotels, restaurants, rest stops, you can’t expect any solidarity. The fact that this school system and those white collar jobs are now Zoom Rooms/Jobs, brought to us in the privacy of their closets or garages or fancy offices, that baseline has shifted big time since the lock down of a year ago.

Talk about disruptive and destructive and killer technological shifts. No plan? Right!

Earth Day is Indigenous People’s Year

Yet, on a day of earth benediction, the day of bringing some socialist political zest to the table, a day when Native Americans and First Nations should be front and center, when consumerism-commercialism should be immolated in a symbolic burning of the sales receipts around a big fire, instead we have the Visual Display Terminal (as in terminal disease terminal) as our entry point and end point. One face to the crowd on the 14 inch screen, then our three minutes of Andy Warhol fame, and then, please move on. I am not on it this year, for sure, and last year I dragged myself to the thing.

Again, no expletives, no anti-Americanism, no antiwar, anti-patriotism or anti-politician rhetoric or song or poem. Keep it quaint, upbeat, positive.

I’ve been in this rodeo before — and I polemicized it too, here, at Dissident Voice:  “Zooming Newport’s Climate Awareness Earth Day 2020/April 21st, 2020“.

It is, of course, deja vu, and that’s how the lords of capital want it — triangulation, and fear and, well, push those outliers out. I have found in the past year, more of the jobs, gigs, people I interface/associate with, and other movements I have been a part of have turned into an “us (them) against them (me)” sick Nazi-like defamation of truth. Any critique of the one-party duopoly, any criticism of Harris or Biden, any criticism of the reality of this hegemon, USA, sick before Trump, sick during Trump, sick after Trump, and you not only get ostracized, but penalized. Stitched on Scarlet Letter A for ‘anarchist,’ red being the underpinning of what it means to be a ‘communist-socialist.’

Take the money and run — that’s the motto, and so, before introducing a short animated video about climate heating and those two degrees Celsius, we have a bit of Haeder banter.

Particles in the Atmosphere and Ozone

Don’t let them fool you that 100 or so rocket launches a year (thus far on average, about to go to 200 and then 500) don’t emit much pollution and carbon dioxide in the scheme of things. How much embedded energy to mine that crap, all those wires, metals, plastics, strategic shit, and the electricity, and the transportation? All those human lifetimes expended for Whitey on the Moon, as opposed to stopping the eviscerations of the planet. Right, that isn’t doled out as carbon dioxide emissions. Off-shored, out-sourced, embedded pollution. Forget about the destabilization of those countries where this shit is illegally mined and stolen. Again, science is broken when the capitalists hire scientists to help them steal, pollute, harvest, ruin, destroy, butcher.

See the source image

With that, how can we not rethink a 51-year-old poem, wisdom in a jazz bottle, Gil Scott Heron and Whitey on the Moon. The point of the song-poem runs deeper now than what Gil was alluding to then, because, if you think about cooptation, think about how many other cultures and nationalities are racing for the moon, for the red planet, the song’s updated title might be “Capitalists on the Moon.”

There’s no getting around the fact China and USA are capitalist, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (devolution) is about mastering control of the entire populations of those countries (and that is now Canada, India, EU, Japan, Australia, et al), outside the super-class of folk in the capital dictatorships.

What China or USA or UK or Japan or Musk or DoD or any of them want on the moon or mars, well, it’s not for the good of mankind, womankind, children-kind.

The inverse is the actual affect — more 5 and 6 G, more wasted and polluting energy. More rockets and blasting satellites and millions of human lifetimes spent on this project, and the outcome/outflow are less solutions for the commons here on terra firma. There will be no reversing ocean acidification or ocean inundation or blasting heat waves, or deluges or dwindling snow-pack, or melting ice with these money-drenched projects of megalomania in space.

The fact is, food can be grown agro-dynamically. People can live off a much much smaller energy footprint. Industries can be owned by the people for real durable goods that last, hmm, half a lifetime or more? Public trains and trolleys and light-rail, that’s not what the Musk-DoD-China projects are about.  Fisheries can’t be restored, Fukushima isotopes can’t be corralled in, human global health and universal “correct” education can never be the end product of these space flights. They are a complete and utter contradiction.

We know it, and they know it, and we the people have been bamboozled into disbelieving what we see-hear-touch right in front of us. They (masters of finance) are in it for more money, power, wealth, control.

You can have atom splitters, neutrino collectors, sunspot probes, but, again, don’t try to pull the bullshit capitalist-militarist wool over my eyes: none of that stops the toll of poverty-hunger-war physically weathering billions of people’s lives to the point of lifespans cut down by 10 years or more compared to the stem-cell sucking, human growth hormone eating great white hopes in the Lizard Clan.

Water on mars? Asteroids with ancient ice? Club Meds in orbit?  You know, none of that is for humanity.

[Drifting plumes created by the Space Shuttle Atlantis]

Alumina and black carbon from rockets can stick around in the stratosphere for three to five years. As these materials collect high above the Earth, they can have interesting effects on the air. Black carbon forms a thin layer that intercepts and absorbs the sunlight that hits Earth. “It would act as a thin, black umbrella,” says Martin Ross, a senior project engineer at the Aerospace Corporation who studies the effects of rockets on the atmosphere. That may help keep the lower atmosphere cool, but the intercepted energy from the Sun doesn’t just go away; it gets deposited into the stratosphere, warming it up. This warming ultimately causes chemical reactions that could lead to the depletion of the ozone layer.

The reflective alumina particles can also affect the ozone but in a different way. Whereas the soot acts like a black umbrella, the alumina acts like a white one, reflecting sunlight back into space. However, chemical reactions occur on the surface of these white particles, which, in turn, destroy the ozone layer, Ross says.

Diet for Parasites of Capitalism — 8 by 10 condo on Devils Island

It’s sort of like the anti-diabetes diet — cut down on white food (rice, bread, pasta, potatoes), walk more, drink water, take a few natural herbs, suck on cinnamon, get flavonoids, pig out on leafy vegetables, stop the EMF’s in  your sleeping space, stop the anxiety of TV-Movies-Facebook. Or, what about the real process of land reclamation? It takes removing the trash, the toxins, and then rebuilding the soil, replanting with native plants, readjusting the land to its natural eco-state.

Simple solutions. And, it’s never going to be rocket science that helps the planet, people or others in the animal and plant kingdoms.

Don’t be fooled by Netflix, the Dystopia Stories, the Bizarre Bumbling Cop-Spy-Soldier-Super Hero soap operas. None of that is reality, and, the shortcuts that capitalism has exacted on Mother Earth, well, after more than 300 years of the trillions of lies, here we are, Whitey on the Moon, 51 years after Gil Scott Heron sang it” !!

We have a poem here
It’s called “Whitey on the Moon”
And, uh, it was inspired, it was inspired
By some whiteys on the moon
So I wanna give credit where credit is due

A rat done bit my sister Nell
With whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And whitey’s on the moon

I can’t pay no doctor bills
But whitey’s on the moon
Ten years from now, I’ll be paying still
While whitey’s on the moon

You know, the man just upped my rent last night
‘Cause whitey’s on the moon
No hot water, no toilets, no lights
But whitey’s on the moon

I wonder why he’s uppin’ me
‘Cause whitey’s on the moon?
Well I was already given him fifty a week
And now whitey’s on the moon

Taxes takin’ my whole damn check
The junkies make me a nervous wreck
The price of food is goin’ up
And as if all that crap wasn’t enough

A rat done bit my sister Nell
With whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And whitey’s on the moon

With all that money I made last year
For whitey on the moon
How come I ain’t got no money here
Hmm, whitey’s on the moon

You know I just about had my fill
Of whitey on the moon
I think I’ll send these doctor bills
Airmail special (to whitey on the moon)

To whitey on the moon
Thank you

Old whitey now ready to build millions of carbon dioxide sucking machines. Old whitey ready for terra-forming on Mars. Old whitey looking to mess with the water cycle, the cloud systems, the first 15 meters of biological life on the oceans with iron shavings. Old whitey and his and her geoengineering.

Whitey is way beyond just blasting to the moon. Old whitey is messing with DNA, genetically engineering not just crops. Welcome the GMO human, a la vaccines.

It’s not such a far cry from Zoom Earth Day to Genetically Modified Humanity.

The Future of Food (2004) is an older documentary, but shit-dog, says it all, says it all:

Again, this is not some super complicated Jungian and Freudian hierarchy of needs intellectual jujitsu. Food, water, shelter, home, hearth, community, safety. Yes, art and communal education. Intergenerational and multi-diverse communities. Again, it is about eating and living, music and art, forests and savannas, mountains and valleys, rivers and wetlands, reefs and mangroves, and, well, you get the picture.

It’s not about 5 or 6 G, or about Whitey on the Moon. Many of us know that, inherently. And, many of us who are devoted followers of democracy on top and socialism as the under girder, we also are in “their house,” that is, as the African slave on Turtle Island stated, “It’s the slave master’s house I’m working in, and not one second of a day do I believe I am in my house, that any aspect of this house negro status puts me in any better position than the field slave who slaves under a hot sun, battles cottonmouths, the toil of an ox.”

The Future of Food is really the future is food!!

The reality is back to those global average rise in temperature, that so-called two degrees Celsius.

Global heating affects ecosystems that provide food.

Oceans  provide people with about 20 percent of their dietary protein. Ocean acidification caused by climate change makes it difficult  for thousands of species, including oysters, crabs and corals, to form protective shells, which in turn disrupts the food web.

On land, an increase of 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) would double our water deficit leading a drop in wheat and maize harvests.

Thermometer on beach

Pat DeLaquil contacted me. I included him in on another piece in DV “Plastic Meets the Road and Capitalism’s Role in Climate Change” with the subtitle, Earth Day & Capitalism Like Vinegar and Oil?

Here’s what Pat stated a year ago —

What drives capitalism to extremes? Two things: this hyper-individualism of the Ayn Rand economic school which purports everyone is unique and must fight for himself or herself to acquire as much as possible. And, two, patriarchy which indoctrinates young children into believing this hierarchy of male control. This belief that males are not caring about social issues, the environment, and females are not supposed to speak their minds when confronted with this apparent destructive system.

He reached out to me just recently:

Public awareness of the climate crisis is growing but support for mitigation efforts is still insufficient to reach the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial.  This is partially due to the fact that some aspects of the science, which are truly alarming for those who are able to understand them, are confusing and mysterious to many others.   Humans all over the planet conduct their daily lives in temperatures that range from -50°F to over 100°F.  So they are understandably confused when scientists describe the dire consequences of a further increase in Earth’s annual average temperature of only 1.8°F (1°C).  The Metro Climate Action Team made this short video to help build understanding of why so little means so much!

I sent Pat a quick email with some softball questions. What follows it the Q & A to: ‘Just a short response for each one. Thanks, Paul!’

Paul Haeder: What was your role in producing this animated film?

Pat DeLaquil: I came up with the concept and bounced the idea around with several MCAT members using clip art.  Then we developed a script with where several of us contributed to editing and refining the message.  Once we were happy with the storyboard and script, I placed the task on a platform called Upwork, and found an artist that did motion graphics, which are much cheaper than real animation.  The entire process took well over 6 months.

PH: Who is the intended audience for this and how does that audience access this?

PDL: We believe we have several target audiences among people who accept that climate change is happening, but don’t realize how bad the crisis can quickly get and why strong action is needed now.  We believe this group broadly includes people with children and grandparents, as well as civic groups and the faith community.

PH: Explain your background in research climate change — two sentences.

PDL: I have been a leader in the commercialization of clean and renewable energy technologies for over 40 years, and for the last 20 years I have run a small business that develops and uses models to perform policy analyses on behalf of donors, governments and the private sector to identify optimal pathways for achieving economic development and environmental goals.   I have lead the formation of two clean energy start-up companies and earlier lead the development of two key solar energy development projects: PV for Utility Scale Applications (PV-USA)  and the 10 MW Solar Two Power Tower Project.

I have a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a B.Sc. in Marine Engineering from the US Merchant Marine Academy, and have authored of over 90 papers, reports, and articles on solar and renewable energy including chapters in two books on renewable energy technology.

PH: Three reasons you believe people in the USA still have difficulty understanding global warming, ocean warming, ice and glacial melting.

PDL: It’s very much like the responses we’ve seen to the pandemic.  Disinformation and deliberate politicization of the issue are strategies used by the right (dominated by fossil fuel interests and their fellow corporate oligarchs).  The second reason is that most people are busy with life – just making end meet between jobs, kids and – even before the pandemic, so it’s easy to ignore or deny the severity of the issue or just hope someone does something.  Third, some people in industries that rely of fossil fuels feel threatened that all this is just a plot to take away their lifestyles.

PH: What do you hope this short animated flick will do to move policy makers, capitalists, businesses and national governments to work on the very difficult issue of ocean level rise, inundation, extreme weather events, crop failures, unlivable conditions in many many tropical or subtropical urban spaces.

PDL: We really hope that this video will motivate people, who are not yet active, to become more engaged in pushing their elected officials to act quickly to combat climate change.

And so another earth day, couched on Zoom (how much energy does a Google search use, how much energy for Facebook servers, how much energy for Bezos and his Global Cloud Server monopoly?).

Pat’s sincere about this short animated PSA, and he wants to do the right thing. Of course, earth day should be indigenous people’s day, farmer-land steward day, animal and ocean day. But we will continue to get “Whitey on Mars” day coming out of the voice boxes of the  masters for this co-opted Bono-DiCaprio Earth Day– financial masters. That Fourth Industrial revolution, that globalized capital blitzkrieg, the eugenics of Gates and the GMO Generals, and  that digital dashboard, the compliancy demanded of the majority of people on earth, all for Whitey on the Moon . . . or Mars.

See the source image

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A Climate Change Vandal goes to Paris: Mathias Cormann and the OECD

The hallmark of any institution is the ability to withstand ironic dysfunction.  The United States under the stewardship of that unintentional comic George W. Bush made John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations.  Bolton had loathed the body, wishing for it to implode under its own weight.  The parliamentary chamber of the European Union, between 1999 and 2020, hosted that most anti-EU of proponents, the bilious Nigel Farage.  Hatred for European institutions did not stop the little Englander from drawing a salary and being rather cavalier with his expenses.

The Organisation for Economic Development is the latest institution to encounter its dose of fair perversion. For the first time in its history, its secretary general will be from outside the Americas and Europe.  In terms of birth, Mathias Cormann is Belgian.  But in terms of pedigree, he is a veteran of Australian conservative politics, having been a cabinet minister and, it should be said, power broker, in the Liberal Party.

Very little chance was given to Cormann in his bid.  The field of applicants seemed too varied, too strong.  His abysmal record on climate change policy was seen as the most obvious handicap.  “Governments are not stupid, they have highly intelligent officials and ambassadors who work out what is really going on and advise them,” claimed Bill Hare, climate change scientist and chief executive of Climate Analytics.

But the former finance minister kept making it through the rounds.  Lobbying efforts on his behalf were unsparing.  Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rang numerous world leaders.  Meetings were held between senior officials and ambassadors.  Candidates began withdrawing their bids.

Swiss candidate Philipp Hildebrand, whose pitch focused on climate change, pulled out, citing lack of support.  The former EU trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, fell at the final hurdle.  She had also promised an aggressive approach towards climate change, declaring that she would use her post to globalise Europe’s carbon-tax scheme on high-emission imports.  This was a bit much even for the new climate conscious administration in Washington.

Of the 37 ambassadors to the OECD, a few recorded the view that it had been a “very close race”.  France and the UK decided on Cormann but Malmström was unable to secure a unified bloc of voters.  Christopher Shorrock, the UK representative, told the Financial Times that both candidates had “broad support” but a straw poll showed “Cormann as the candidate with the most support”.

Sending Cormann to the OECD could be seen as a Trojan horse gesture on the part of Australia’s Morrison government.  As a front bencher in right wing administrations, climate change was treated as a secondary concern.  Suggestions to turn his adopted country towards the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 were denigrated as the musings of extremists.

The Australian Greens leader, Adam Bandt, was almost desperate in trying to convince each of the ambassadors with a vote not to appoint him.  His letter from last November to the voting bloc documented various highlights of Cormann’s time in parliament.  He had voted to “repeal Australia’s successful carbon price” in 2014.  He had attempted to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewal Energy Agency.  “As finance minister, he tried to abolish the very same green finance bodies he will no doubt be promoting as evidence of his green credentials for the job.”

The OECD, itself, has reproached Australia’s climate change policies.  In a 2019 report, the organisation notes Australia’s “progress in decoupling the main environmental pressures from economic growth” but that it remains “one of the most resource- and carbon-intensive OECD economies”.  The country was on track to meet its 2020 climate target but needed to “intensify efforts to reach its Paris Agreement goal of reducing GHG emissions (including emissions from land use change and forestry) by between 26% and 28% below its 2005 levels by 2030.”

Cormann’s lobbying exercise, one well aided by the tax-payer funded services of a Royal Australian Air Force jet, chose to focus on other matters.  Here was a European connected to the Asia-Pacific.  He was keen to be a “consensus” candidate.  If needed, he would waffle about the green agenda.  During his campaign, he proposed that the OECD “provide important global leadership to drive ambitious and effective action on climate change” and “help economies around the world achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050”.

In a statement released after his selection thanking the organisation, Cormann made the mandatory salute to environmental policy, putting the case that the OECD will continue to “drive and promote global leadership on ambitious and effective action on climate change to achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050.”  But it was merely one of a range of other objectives: maximising the economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, reaching multilateral understanding on digital taxation and, as ever, the promotion of “market-based policies and a rules-based international order”.

His vision statement similarly talks of the need to “get to zero net emissions as soon as possible.  Climate policy responses will increasingly need to factor into long-term planning.”  Not exactly the sort of language he was known for when a member of the Australian government.

The narrative of a climate change vandal turned green advocate failed to convince the environmental lobby that campaigned against Cormann as a viable choice.  On being notified of Cormann’s appointment, Greenpeace’s international executive director Jennifer Morgan was aghast.  “We have little confidence in Mr Cormann’s ability to ensure the OECD is a leader in tackling the climate crisis when he himself has an atrocious record on the issue, including opposition to carbon pricing.”

It is unlikely that the new secretary general will be able to do much in the way of redirecting climate change policy.  The consensus, if it can be called that, is increasingly towards decarbonising the economy even as COVID-19 recovery is pursued.  Whether the OECD continues being relevant with Cormann at the helm is the pressing question.  Till an answer is provided, activists such as Hare will just have to accept that governments can be monumentally stupid.

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Madagascar: A Nation of Hunger

Madagascar is in great pain. Theodore Mbainaissem, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) sub-office in Ambovombe, southern Madagascar, says: “Seeing the physical condition of people extremely affected by hunger who can no longer stand…children who are completely emaciated, the elderly who are skin and bone…these images are unbearable… People are eating white clay with tamarind juice, cactus leaves, wild roots just to calm their hunger.”

One third of people in southern Madagascar will struggle to feed themselves over the next few months. Until the next harvest in April 2021, 1.35 million people will be “food insecure” – almost double those in need last year – and 282,000 of them are considered “emergency” cases. Pervasive food insecurity in Madagascar is the result of a variety of factors.

Poverty

Food security is not only caused by a lack of food supply but also by the lack of political and economic power to access food. Thus, access to income is one potential means for alleviating food insecurity. In Madagascar, the majority of the people don’t have proper access to income.

Madagascar is one of poorest countries in the world. In the 2007/2008 United Nation Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index, an indicator that measures achievements in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income, Madagascar was given the rank of 143rd out of 177 countries.

Madagascar’s economy is tiny. The market capitalization of U.S. tech giant Facebook is more than 40 times Madagascar’s national income. The company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, alone is five times richer than the island nation. A large chunk of Madagascar’s minuscule national income is appropriated by the rich, evidenced in the declining consumption capacity of the poor. Between 2005 and 2010, consumption for the poorest households declined by 3.1%.

A COVID-19-triggered economic recession has debilitated an already impoverished people. The combined impact of global trade disruptions and pandemic restrictions is estimated to have resulted in a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contraction of 4.2% in 2020. The poverty rate (at $1.9/day) is estimated to have risen to 77.4% in 2020, up from 74.3% in 2019, corresponding to an increase of 1.38 million people in one year.

Climate Change

Between 1980 and 2010, Madagascar suffered 35 cyclones and floods, five periods of severe drought, five earthquakes and six epidemics. Madagascar’s extreme weather conditions have intensified due to climate change, increasing food vulnerability.

Food insecurity affects all regions of the nation, and particularly those in the south, which have a semi-arid climate and are particularly exposed to severe and recurrent droughts. In 2019, a lack of rainfall and a powerful El Nino phenomenon led to the loss of 90% of the harvest and pushed more than 60% of the population into food insecurity.

Interruptions in food supply due to crop failures have resulted in sharp increases in the prices of different items. Some areas have seen the price of rice shoot up from 50 U.S. cents per kilogram in 2019 to $1.05 in 2020.

Extractivism

The extractivist engine of Madagascar’s economy has usurped lands intended for food crops and displaced the people living there. Transnational mining companies in search of new resources have paid increased attention to the significant mineral potential of the country, which is rich in diverse deposits and minerals, including nickel, titanium, cobalt, ilmenite, bauxite, iron, copper, coal and uranium, as well as rare earths. Nickel-cobalt and ilmenite have attracted the majority of foreign direct investment thus far.

Beginning from the early 2000s, multinational mining companies have made the largest foreign investments in Madagascar’s history. Those affected by the large-scale mining operations are subjected to the restrictions on land and forest-use associated with the establishment of the mining and offset projects. Such resource use restrictions affect important subsistence and health-related activities, with critical impacts on livelihoods and food security.

To take an example, villagers living in Antsotso have been heavily impacted by biodiversity offsetting at Bemangidy in the Tsitongambarika Forest Complex (TGK III). They have reported that QIT-Madagascar Minerals (QMM) — a public-private partnership between Rio Tinto subsidiary QIT-Fer et Titaine and the Malagasy government — did not explain to them that they were involved in a offsetting program when they were asked to participate in tree planting and were excluded from accessing the forest.

Constrained resource access due to the biodiversity offsetting measures has seriously impacted food security among Antsotso’s residents, forcing them to abandon rich fields near forest areas and instead grow manioc in inferior sandy soil next to the sea at great distance from their village. All this is the result of the concentrated clout possessed by mining magnates.

Agro-export Firms

Between 2005 and 2008, 3 million hectares were under negotiation by 52 foreign companies seeking to invest in agriculture. These companies form a landscape made up of irregularly placed and privately secured territorial enclaves that are linked to transnational networks but disarticulated from both local populations and national development projects. Since these companies are functionally integrated in a framework geared toward the enrichment of foreign investors, they have little regard for the food security of Madagascans.

In March 2009, the South Korean company Daewoo Logistics signed a 99-year lease in Madagascar for about 1.3 million hectares, or about half of the island’s arable land. It was the largest lease of this type in history and would have supplied half of South Korea’s grain imports. The organization Collective for the Defense of Malagasy Lands (TANY) was established in response to the lease and petitioned the government to first consult with stakeholders before agreeing to foreign land deals. The petition was ignored.

The deal subsequently fell through when political unrest broke out in Madagascar, which led to the fall of the former president, Marc Ravalomana. Daewoo may have been the largest and most-publicized of foreign investment in recent history, but it was not the first. The proposed land deal raised international attention to the land grabs taking place across the globe, particularly given the contemporaneous food crisis.

 Monopoly Capitalism

Hunger in Madagascar is the outcome of a confluence of crises. All of them are fundamentally related to capitalism — the system that generates the chaotic drive for ever-greater profits. In the monopoly stage of capitalism, the oppressed people are standing up against a system of generalized monopolies — a structure of power where a tiny clique of plutocrats and their tightly integrated productive apparatuses control the world.

Correspondingly, the Third World has seen its autonomy erode in the face of this neo-colonial onslaught, leading to the dominance of comprador bourgeoisie — a fraction of capitalists whose interests are entirely subordinated to those of foreign capital, and which functions as a direct intermediary for the implantation and reproduction of foreign capital. What we need today is an independent and unified initiative from the Third World, which brings oppressed countries like Madagascar into regional alliances aimed at de-linking from imperialist architectures and pursuing a socialist path.

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Shrinking Ireland: Global Warning in Local Communities

Portrane Beach, 2021 (Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin)

A recent walk at a local beach revealed to me how fast coastal erosion is affecting local communities. This area where I live is essentially a peninsula with two large popular beaches, Donabate beach and Portrane beach which are joined by cliffs, on the coast of north County Dublin, Ireland.

I have already written about erosion at Donabate beach and erosion at the cliffs over the years but, in a far worse condition, is Portrane beach.

As can be seen from photos I took in 2013 compared with the ones I took a few days ago, coastal erosion is happening at a significant rate.

Portrane Beach (looking south), 2013 (Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin)

Portrane Beach (looking south), 2021 (Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin)

According to one local resident, David Shevlin,  “We live in the midsection of the beach and our property has lost upwards of about 20 metres of established garden since 2018. […] At the current rate of erosion, our garden was 30 metres and it’s gone to 20 metres in two years so it doesn’t take much to calculate that we don’t have very long.”

Portrane Beach (looking north) 2013 (Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin)

Portrane Beach (looking north), 2021 (Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin)

The local council has tried to stem the rate of erosion with concrete Seabees before more permanent groynes are constructed. A groyne is a structure built perpendicular to the shore, that interrupts water flow and limits the movement of sediment and can be made out of wood, concrete, or stone. According to a local spokesman the Seabees will be “an interim solution pending the installation of specially designed Y-shaped groynes structures which will be complemented by a beach renourishment scheme in order to achieve a suitable beach level. This will reduce incident wave energy along the coastline by limiting the prevailing water depth and thus mitigating the threat of erosion.”

The seriousness of the problem can be seen as the Seabees are almost completely submerged at high tides.

Seabees, Portrane Beach, 2021 (Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin)

The Housing and Planning Minister, Darragh O’Brien, has commented that:

Around Ireland, it’s projected that by 2050, the impact of coastal erosion could potentially affect up to 2 million people who live within 5km of the coast, all the major cities, and much of the country’s industry and infrastructure and utilities, including transport, electricity and water supplies.

A European Commission document describes Irish vulnerability to climate change:

Ireland is the third largest European island. It is situated at the north-west of continental Europe. The coastline measures 4 577 km, bordering the Atlantic Ocean on the north-west and the Irish Sea on the south-east.  More  than  50%  of  the  population  lives  within  15km  of  the  Irish coastline.  Most  of  the  population  is  concentrated  in  cities,  with  the  major  coastal  cities  being  Dublin,  Cork,  Limerick  and  Galway.

They further note that:

Approximately  20%  of  Ireland’s  entire  coast  is  at  risk  of  erosion.  Sea  Level  Rise  (SLR)  combined  with  an  increase  in  severity  and frequency  of  coastal  storms  is  expected  to  exacerbate  the  problems,  especially  along  the  Atlantic  coast.

Portrane Beach, 2021 (Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin)

Historically, vertical seawalls were common but now flat-sloped revetments (sloping structures placed on banks or cliffs in such a way as to absorb the energy of incoming water) using rock or unusual shaped concrete units are used to reduce impact on beaches.

It is interesting to see that “in the US hard structures such as revetments and groynes are no longer allowed in many states because of potential negative impacts on the beach and coastal protection is provided by nourishing the beach with sand brought in from external sources. This is called beach nourishment and is now the most common method of coastal protection worldwide but is rarely used in Ireland and it needs to be repeated every three to five years to replenish lost sand. This recurring cost does not fit well with how Irish projects are funded.”

Portrane Beach, 2021 (Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin)

It can be seen that engineers are under serious pressure to come up with new ideas to deal with coastal erosion and, maybe over time and with more experience and newer technology, they will be able to limit erosion with more success. However, we know the seas are rising and despite efforts to hold back the waters, it seems that what is really needed is global action now before large swathes of the planet become uninhabitable.

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The Rich The Poor and Climate Change

Only the most deluded denier can now question that the global climate is dramatically changing and that the chaos is man-made. Extreme weather events – wildfires, drought, intense heat, hurricanes – are becoming more frequent, the impact on ecosystems and biodiversity, populations and infrastructure devastating. Fueled by the industrialized nations and the lifestyles of the rich, it is developing nations in the global south that are most severely impacted by climate change, with the poorest communities, particularly women and children, hit hardest.

The disruption to weather cycles is caused by global warming (increases in average surface temperature) which results from a buildup of what are commonly called greenhouse gases (GHG). Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), trap heat which would otherwise pass out of Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in a rise in average ground temperature. Burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) is the primary source of emissions, as well as industrial animal agriculture, which is not only a major source of greenhouse gases, but is having a disastrous impact on the environment more broadly, including deforestation, and air and water pollution.

With 28% of the total, China (population c.1.4 billion) is the world’s biggest producer of GHG emissions; however when measured per capita it ranks only 47th. China is also one of the world’s biggest investors in renewable energy, and plans to produce 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. It is the USA (population c.328 million) – the second largest overall polluter – that has the highest per capita emissions in the world, and by some margin. Collectively the top four emitters (China, USA, EU + UK and India) produced 55% of all GHG emissions in the last decade.

No matter where they are produced, GHG emissions effect everyone everywhere. Unsurprisingly the biggest single source, accounting for 73% of emissions is energy consumption from fossil fuels. A study by The Guardian in 2019, found that over a third of “all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane” emissions since 1965 have been produced by just 20 companies: Chevron, BP, Shell and Exxon top the carbon charts, producing over 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965.

Everyone, particularly everyone in developed countries, contributes to the clogging fog of global emissions, but, in addition to the energy corporations, the group burning colossal pyres of fossil fuels and those who are therefore disproportionately responsible for climate change is the wealthy. Research by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), published in September 2020, shows that between 1990 and 2015 (a critical period in the evolution of climate change) when GHG emissions grew by 60%, and cumulative emissions doubled, the richest 10% on the planet (c. 630 million) were responsible for a staggering 52% of the total. As if this isn’t shocking enough, drilling down on the figures reveals that the “richest one percent (c.63 million people)…were responsible for 15% of global emissions during this time.”

This huge increase in emissions depleted “the global 1.5C carbon budget [amount of CO2 the world/country has agreed it can produce to meet warming targets in a particular time period] by nearly a third in those 25 years alone.” In contrast the poorest 50% on the planet (c.3.1 billion people), all of whom live in developing countries, used just 4% of the available carbon budget, producing a mere 7% of cumulative emissions.

From Growth to Social Justice

‘Carbon Inequality’ (differences in expenditure of the agreed carbon budget) reflects and amplifies the broader socio-economic imbalances in the world. In the 1990 – 2015 period global GDP doubled, wealth and income inequality grew, consumption levels increased, and although millions were raised out of the most dire levels of poverty ($1.90/day) the income of around half the world’s population remained at less than $5.50 a day.

Even when the poor see some paltry change in their lives, within the present paradigm the main beneficiaries of growth are always the rich; growth intensifies inequality, concentrating wealth, and with it political/corporate power, in the silk-lined pockets of a tiny percentage of the population: A diminishing few, mainly men, predominantly white, controlling more, consuming more, and greedily depleting the global ‘carbon budget’ at the expense of the rest of the population and future generations.

While the benefits of establishing a carbon budget are debatable, the fact that virtually all of it is eaten up by those responsible for the majority of GHG emissions is particularly unjust. Greenpeace relates that an average citizen (it’s much higher for the rich) in the USA, Canada and Australia emit 150 times the amount of carbon compared to someone in Malawi in Southeast Africa. Adding injury and destruction to insult is the fact that poorer countries and communities, who have done little or nothing to cause climate change, are being most severely impacted by its devastating effects.

The breeding ground for climate injustice and social inequality is the competitive ideology inherent within the global socio-economic order, the values it promotes, the behavior it encourages. Endless consumerism and perpetual economic growth are essential components, but for GHG emissions to stop – not reduce, but stop altogether – this crude idea of development, which is a cornerstone of government policies and business plans around the world, must be rejected, and priority given to creating environmental responsibility, social justice and unity.

The challenge of the age

In December 2015, 194 countries signed up to the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate change agreement, adopted at the Paris climate conference (COP21). The treatise sets out a framework to limit global warming to “well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.” To achieve this target countries have established nationally determined contributions (NDC), but even though some countries have announced headline-grabbing targets (EU to reduce GHG by 40% by 2030 e.g.), in its 2020 Emissions Gap Report, the UN states that not only are polices inconsistent with such figures, but that “countries must collectively increase their NDC ambitions threefold to get on track to a 2°C goal and more than fivefold to get on track to the 1.5°C goal.”

Currently, despite Covid-induced economic and trade restrictions in 2020, GHG emissions are climbing at an average rate of 1.3% per year. By the end of 2019, according to Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA), emissions had increased 41% since 1990. The resulting threat, to ecosystems, animal habitat and human communities, is huge; in a recent report in Frontiers in Conservation Science (FCS), an international group of scientists outline a “ghastly future of mass [animal] extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” because of collective ignorance and inaction, primarily by government and big business. “Future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than currently believed,” they state, “the scale of the threats… is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts.”

Scientists have been making such warnings for years, but politicians, business leaders, the rich and complacent have routinely ignored them, unprepared to make the necessary sacrifices and changes in approach and behavior required in order to save the planet. FCS makes clear that dealing with the crisis requires fundamental changes to “global capitalism” as well as education and equality. Under the shadow of Covid-19 governments around the world acted, some more effectively than others, but all responded.

The environmental crisis is a great deal more serious. It is the challenge of the age and demands a (UN) coordinated global response. Radical action is needed and urgently, specifically action that brings about changes in behavior among the principle GHG emitters: The rich, the energy companies, big business and the consuming masses within developed nations. Environmentally responsible action by individuals, flying less, using less plastic, eating less animal produce, while important, will not deal with climate change. Systemic change is urgently needed, together with a shift in attitudes away from excess to sufficiency.

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“A Ghastly Future”? Israeli Apartheid, Biden, Starmer, Assange And Mass Extinction

Back in 2017, before WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange was silenced by Twitter, he used the platform to highlight an immutable truth:

‘The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security not national security.’

Power hates being exposed. It hates having its inner machinations, its selfish priorities and ugly operations opened up to public scrutiny.

The omission of inconvenient facts, and the silencing of inadmissible viewpoints, are core features of the so-called ‘mainstream’ news media. Thus, it should be obvious by now why we always put ‘mainstream’ in quotation marks. Because, as increasing numbers of the public surely now recognise, the major news media are not impartial, or fair, or balanced. Nor do they truly represent and reflect the concerns and priorities of the vast majority of the population. Instead, the major newspapers and broadcasters represent, defend and project the interests of powerful state and corporate elites. The state-corporate media will not, and cannot, undertake consistent and reliable public scrutiny of these elites. That would make no sense since the mass media is the propaganda operation of state-corporate power.

Since we began Media Lens twenty years ago in 2001, we have amassed over 5,000 pages of media alerts detailing numerous examples of dangerous, power-friendly omissions, distortions and imbalances in UK state-corporate media. Rather than go for easy and obvious targets like the Sun, Express and Mail, we have focused on those media outlets the public is supposed to regard as the most fair, balanced, probing and challenging of governments and Big Business. ‘Thus far and no further’, as Noam Chomsky has described the most open or most liberal end of the narrow spectrum of establishment media.

BBC News deserves particular scrutiny, not least because it regularly declares itself  ‘the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster’. That is not much of an accolade given that public trust in the media is crumbling; particularly in a country which has some of the worst ‘news’ media anywhere on the planet. The UK has an overwhelmingly right-wing and establishment press dominated by rich owners, and edited by compliant editors with the required ideologically-aligned views. As for the Guardian, which has always been a ‘liberal’ gatekeeper on behalf of power, investigative journalists Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis reported in 2019 that the paper has been:

‘successfully targeted by security agencies to neutralise its adversarial reporting of the “security state”, according to newly released documents and evidence from former and current Guardian journalists.’

Moreover, other than a recent belated and mealy-mouthed defence, for many years the Guardian essentially abandoned and abused Julian Assange, along with the rest of the ‘mainstream’ media, after exploiting him and WikiLeaks.

Couple all that with the fact that BBC News regularly follows the skewed, power-serving agenda set by UK press coverage, and it is no surprise that overall British public trust in the media is so low. As we noted last year, the extensive annual Eurobarometer survey across 33 countries revealed that the UK public’s trust in the press is rock bottom. Indeed, 2020 was the ninth year out of the past ten that the UK had come last.

BBC Silence Over Israel As An Apartheid State

One of the most egregious recent omissions by BBC News was last week’s groundbreaking report by leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem naming Israel as ‘an apartheid state’ and ‘a regime of Jewish supremacy’:

‘In the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians.’

Apartheid in the Palestinian Territories has long been recognised. For example, in 2004, a prominent South African professor of international law, John Dugard, then UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, wrote that there is ‘an apartheid regime’ in the territories ‘worse than the one that existed in South Africa.’

Noam Chomsky concurred:

‘In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid. To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by “apartheid” you mean South African-style apartheid.

‘What is happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse. There is a crucial difference. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce…

‘The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just do not want them. They want them out, or at least in prison.’

All this was damning enough. But the publication of the new B’Tselem report was the first time that Israeli human rights and legal experts had publicly stated that apartheid exists not just in the Occupied Territories, but throughout the whole region that Israel claims for itself.

As the Israel-based British journalist Jonathan Cook observed:

‘By calling Israel an apartheid state and a “regime of Jewish supremacy”, B’Tselem has given the lie to the Israel lobby’s claim – bolstered by a new definition promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – that it is antisemitic to suggest Israel is a “racist endeavour”.

‘B’Tselem, a veteran Israeli Jewish organisation with deep expertise in human rights and international law, has now explicitly declared that Israel is a racist state. Israel’s apologists will now face the much harder task of showing that B’Tselem is antisemitic, along with the Palestinian solidarity activists who cite its work.’

As far as we are aware, there was no mention of the report on any of the flagship BBC News at 6 or 10 television programmes. Nor was there anything to be found on the BBC News website. Presumably, the BBC deemed it unworthy of the public’s attention. We challenged BBC foreign editor Andrew Roy, BBC world affairs editor John Simpson, BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet and BBC digital news editor Stuart Millar for a response. Not one of them replied. It is perhaps significant that Millar moved to the BBC from the Guardian where, as deputy editor of Guardian US, he had scoffed at Julian Assange:

‘I like to think that #Assange chose the Ecuadorean embassy because it’s so convenient for Harrods’

This is the archetypal sneering ‘mainstream’ journalist’s view of anyone who seriously exposes the truth and challenges power.

As for B’Tselem’s landmark report detailing the reality of the Israeli state as an apartheid regime, it is possible that there were sporadic brief mentions in some outlying parts of the BBC. Longtime readers will recall that the BBC infamously buried revelations by Scott Ritter, a former chief UN weapons inspector, that Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed of any weapons of mass destruction, at 3am on the BBC World Service.

In response to the B’Tselem report, John Pilger pointed out via Twitter:

‘Israel is top of the league for vaccinating its own people [against coronavirus]. The accolades say Israel is the “example”. False. Israel is denying the vaccine to Palestinians whose land and lives it controls. WHO has pleaded with Israel: to no avail. Apartheid in action.’

Glossing Over Brutal Imperialism

Here in the UK, the Tory government’s criminally incompetent response to the coronavirus pandemic has led to an appalling death toll – now the highest death rate of any country in the world – while ministers robotically repeat the mantra of ‘following the science’, with one U-turn after another. Meanwhile, many people are suffering tremendous hardship, losing their jobs or struggling to earn a living, or even unable to feed their children adequately.

As Phil Miller, a staff writer for the excellent investigative journalism website Declassified UK, noted:

‘The UK now has over 100,000 covid deaths. That’s a result of government failure on a grand scale. The lack of calls for Johnson and ministers to resign is extraordinary’

It is extraordinary. But, tragically, it is a natural consequence of how the state-corporate media represents and defends elite power, of which it is a key component. Any real dissent is smeared, swept to the margins or simply blanked. With the power of corporate media manifest in the demolition of Jeremy Corbyn’s prospects of becoming Prime Minister in 2019, it is entirely predictable that there is now no substantive political opposition to a destructive, elite-serving Tory government.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s lame Blairite successor, is a stalwart establishment figure who, at best, would only ever paper over a few cracks in the edifice of neoliberal economics. This is the corporate- and finance-driven system that is crushing the vast majority of the world’s population, destroying the natural environment and species at an alarming rate, and driving us all towards the precipice of climate breakdown. As we have noted before, and as we will see again below, no world leader anywhere is doing anything remotely sufficient to address this disaster.

Starmer has actually called for the Labour party to emulate incoming US President Joe Biden’s ‘broad coalition’ to ‘see progressive values triumph over the forces of division and despair’. The stone-cold reality that Biden, set to be inaugurated today (20 January), represents huge financial interests and corporate power, and has an appalling record in supporting US imperialism and wars, appears to have escaped Starmer’s attention. But then, Starmer is also seemingly oblivious to the UK’s own imperial past and blood-soaked complicity in war crimes. How else could a Labour leader write:

‘We are at our best when the world knows we have the courage of our convictions and a clear moral purpose.’

Wiping away the blood of countless US/UK atrocities across the globe, he continued:

‘For the United States of America and for Britain, this is the time to return to the world stage. This is the time for us to lead.’

To gloss over Britain’s brutal past and present – to ignore the grievous crimes committed against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, to name a few – is an insult to the UK’s many victims. For a supposed ‘progressive’ to do so is surely absurd. It can only result from being blind to the propaganda system so cogently explained by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in ‘Manufacturing Consent’ (Vintage, 1988). In this system, we are immersed in a brainwashing environment of mass media in which even the more ‘reputable’ news outlets such as Associated Press regurgitate doctrinal statements such as:

‘For decades, the U.S. has been an advocate for democracy abroad, using diplomatic pressure and even direct military intervention in the name of spreading the principles of a pluralistic system with a free and fair vote for political leaders. These tactics have generated both allies and enemies, and this year’s presidential vote perhaps more than any other is testing the strength of the values it promotes around the world.’

A safe pair of hands like Sir Keir would never recognise, far less, criticise such assertions for the dangerous, ideological and ahistorical nonsense that they are. Instead, Starmer is locked into an elite-friendly mindset apparent whenever he proclaims his establishment credentials, as here via Twitter:

‘This is also an important moment for the world. It is a chance to reassert America’s place as a force for good on the world stage. A nation that will work with Britain and other allies to defeat this pandemic and fight climate change.’

The reply from Media Lens reader Ryan Moon was apt:

‘When, specifically, has the US (& UK) been a “force for good in the world”? Supporting Suharto & Pinochet maybe? In Yemen & Libya? In the Chagos Islands? Nicaragua might have a few choice words about that description, too. Grow a spine.’

Biologist and science writer Richard Dawkins, like so many other prominent members of the liberal commentariat, once again revealed his deep ignorance of history and world affairs:

‘With few exceptions like Putin & Farage, the entire world welcomes President Biden and Vice-President Harris. After four years of lies, venal hypocrisy and vicious hostility to decency and humane values, America has taken a major step towards making America great again.’

Historian Mark Curtis, co-founder of Declassified UK, responded:

‘The thing is, @RichardDawkins, while you’re right to welcome the demise of the contemptible Trump, as I do, the “lies, venal hypocrisy and vicious hostility to decency and humane values” are just routine features of every US presidency, especially in foreign policy.’

Meanwhile, it was no surprise to see a senior Guardian journalist unleashing purple prose in praise of Biden. David Smith, the Guardian’s Washington DC bureau chief, declared that ‘with empathy and humility, Biden sets out to make America sane again’. The ideological rhetoric continued to gush out across Guardian column inches:

‘After the mental and moral exhaustion of the past four years, Biden made America sane again in 15 minutes. It was an exorcism of sorts, from American carnage to American renewal.’

Readers with long memories will recall similar Guardian effusions of liberal ordure when Barack Obama was elected in 2008 to ‘rebrand America’ and serve as the eloquent ‘cool’ figurehead of US corporate and imperial might. That is the Guardian worldview in a nutshell.

The harsh truth is that the corporate media, including BBC News and the Guardian, has a stranglehold on any prospect for changing society. The transfer of US power from Trump to Biden provided the briefest permissible glimpse of mild scepticism being broadcast from corporate newsrooms. This was most notable with Trump vociferously contesting the US presidential elections results, claiming election fraud on a grand scale. The repeated buzz phrase from journalists reporting Trump’s claims was ‘without offering evidence’. Thus, BBC news presenter Mishal Husain told the nation’s television audience on 8 November last year:

‘President Trump has been out on the golf course and made further claims of election fraud without offering evidence.’

The point was emphasised in a news piece by BBC North America correspondent Nick Bryant:

‘the president took to the golf course this morning continuing to make unsubstantiated claims that the election was rigged.’

This narrative was repeated across the ‘mainstream’ media.

But those important caveats – ‘without further evidence’ and ‘unsubstantiated claims’ – are routinely missing when propaganda declarations are, or were, made by the US/UK about Iraq’s mythical ‘WMD’; or when the public is told that the West’s ‘security’ and military forces need to counter the ‘threat’ from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or whoever the latest ‘enemy’ happens to be;  or that ‘we’ need to keep Saudi Arabia as an ‘ally’; that Israel only ever ‘retaliates’ in the face of Palestinian ‘provocation’, that the US is a neutral ‘peace broker’ in the Middle East; or that the US/UK defend freedom and human rights around the world. On and on flow the propaganda assertions, without serious challenge from a compliant media. Suddenly, when it really matters, the media’s supposed enthusiasm for ‘fact checking’ dries up.

Julian Assange And Guardian Hypocrisy

We have seen the ugly truth in the brutal, inhumane treatment of Julian Assange, arguably the most important Western dissident, journalist and publisher in recent years, by western ‘democracies’, the major news media, and a cruel system of court ‘justice’ operating in London. During a recent online conversation, acclaimed film director Ken Loach nailed the despicable role of the Guardian, in particular, in persecuting and undermining Assange:

‘It’s one of those cases that clarifies the role of the media […] there’s a collusion of silence. There doesn’t need to be an active conspiracy; they all understand the steps of the dance. “We’re going to keep quiet about this”. The Guardian did publish some [WikiLeaks] material, but then turned on Julian. And typical with the liberal press, there’s a degree of hypocrisy. They want to have a foot in both camps. They want to be both seen as part of the responsible establishment; they also want to speak truth to power. But they’re compromised on both fronts. And their attacks on Julian Assange were critical in undermining his presence as a journalist, and being seen as a journalist. And the scurrilous attacks on him, for year after year; [and their] failure to really campaign against the torture for ten years.’

He added:

‘There could not be a clearer case of shoot the messenger, and let the scoundrel go free. I mean, here you have people – Bush, Blair, propagandists like Alastair Campbell – wheeled out on the BBC, like Newsnight. They have season tickets to the current affairs programmes that tell us what to think. They are responsible for – what – up to a million deaths, four, five, million people made homeless, destruction of Iraq; the most atrocious war crimes, in an illegal war – an illegal war, so every activity is illegal on account of that, war crimes – they should be indicted. The man who told us about those crimes is condemned to rot, at the very least, and is in danger of never seeing the light of day again, or of being executed, and we know some politicians in the States have called for precisely that. There could not be a more outrageous, a more egregious example of the messenger being crucified and the scoundrels, the villains, the criminals getting away with this.’

As musician Brian Eno said during the discussion:

‘Julian is a threat [to power] because he exposes an illusion that we are generally being told to support. And that illusion is that we live in a democracy. So, the fundamental concept of democracy is that people make decisions about their future, and about the state they live in. And the fundamental assumption of democracy is that people have the information on which to make those decisions. So, clearly, for democracy to work we have to have good information, otherwise we’ll make bad decisions.’

‘The Gravity Of The Situation Requires Fundamental Changes To Global Capitalism’

The most compelling evidence that there is no functioning democracy in capitalist societies is all around us: global environmental collapse and climate breakdown.

A new scientific report this month warns that the planet is facing a ‘ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals’ that threaten human survival. The study, published in ‘Frontiers in Conservation Science’ by a group of 17 experts, observes that:

‘The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts.’

Somewhat couched in academic language, the urgency and starkness of the warning are nevertheless clear:

‘The gravity of the situation requires fundamental changes to global capitalism, education, and equality, which include inter alia the abolition of perpetual economic growth, properly pricing externalities, a rapid exit from fossil-fuel use, strict regulation of markets and property acquisition, reigning in corporate lobbying, and the empowerment of women.’

They added:

‘the mainstream [sic] is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilization.’

Meanwhile, the climate crisis has been worsening, with 2020 declared by scientists as the joint hottest year ever recorded, despite the pandemic lockdowns. There were record Arctic wildfires and Atlantic tropical storms.

The European Commission’s Matthias Petschke said:

‘The extraordinary climate events of 2020 […] show us that we have no time to lose. We must come together as a global community, to ensure a just transition to a net zero future. It will be difficult, but the cost of inaction is too great…’

In the wake of the US presidential election last November, the BBC’s John Simpson had tweeted:

‘According to the New York Times, exit polls showed that 84% of people who voted for Trump thought that global warming wasn’t an important issue.’

But, of course, if political leaders everywhere believed that climate breakdown is an important issue – the overriding issue facing humanity – they would be tackling it with the urgency that it requires now.

As climate campaigner Greta Thunberg pointed out last week:

‘In 2010 our leaders signed “ambitious goals to protect wildlife and ecosystems”. By 2021 they’d failed on every single one. Each day they choose not to act. Instead they sign more “ambitious” non-binding future goals while passing policy locking in destructive business as usual.’

This was her acerbic summary of political discussions at the One Planet Summit in Paris on 11 January:

LIVE from #OnePlanetSummit in Paris:

Bla bla nature

Bla bla important

Bla bla ambitious

Bla bla green investments

Bla bla great opportunity

Bla bla green growth

Bla bla net zero

Bla bla step up our game

Bla bla hope

Bla bla bla…*

*locking in decades of further destruction

We have arrived at this terminal stage of capitalism because we are being held in a death-grip by a system of economics and exploitation that is coated with a veneer of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, ‘progress’ and other convenient ideological myths. The corporate media has sold the public those myths, perpetuating and deepening the various interlocking crises that threaten to wipe out homo sapiens, along with countless other species.

We can still escape the worst if we face up to reality. As Gail Bradbrook and Jem Bendell, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion and founder of Deep Adaptation respectively, explain:

‘Our power comes from acting without escape from our pain.’

They continue:

‘Paying attention fully to what is around us and in front of us, even though it hurts, is to be fully alive. […] Once we accept that anxiety and grief will be constant companions in this struggle, we can stay fully present to what is happening and respond accordingly. It means we do not grasp desperately at the latest idea of what might fix the climate and ecological emergency. Instead, we can help each other stay fully present to the difficult mess, so that we can try to reduce harm, save what we can and plant some seeds for what might come next.’

A good start would be to reject the corporate media.

The post “A Ghastly Future”? Israeli Apartheid, Biden, Starmer, Assange And Mass Extinction first appeared on Dissident Voice.

We Are Living in an Emergency That Requires Urgent Action

The first newsletter of the new year is written in collaboration with our friend, the great linguist and prophetic voice, Noam Chomsky. What follows is a statement by Noam and me.

Xiang Wang (China), Extinction, 2020

Xiang Wang (China), Extinction, 2020

Three Major Threats to Life on Earth That We Must Address in 2021: A Note from Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad

Large parts of the world – outside of China and a few other countries – face a runaway virus, which has not been stopped because of criminal incompetence by governments. That these governments in wealthy countries cynically set aside the basic scientific protocols released by the World Health Organisation and by scientific organisations reveals their malicious practice. Anything less than focusing attention to managing the virus by testing, contact tracing, and isolation – and if this does not suffice, then imposing a temporary lockdown – is foolhardy. It is equally distressing that these richer countries have pursued a policy of ‘vaccine nationalism’ by stockpiling vaccine candidates rather than a policy for the creation of a ‘people’s vaccine’. For the sake of humanity, it would be prudent to suspend intellectual property rules and develop a procedure to create universal vaccines for all people.

Yoshiko Michitsuji (Japan), I Ran Toward My House Through a Sea of Flames, 1974 (courtesy of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum).

Yoshiko Michitsuji (Japan), I Ran Toward My House Through a Sea of Flames, 1974  (courtesy of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum).

Although the pandemic is the principal issue on all of our minds, other major issues threaten the longevity of our species and of our planet. These include:

Nuclear annihilation. In January 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the 2020 Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight, too close for comfort. The clock, created two years after the first atomic weapons were developed in 1945, is evaluated annually by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, who decide whether to move the minute hand or keep it in place. By the time they set the clock again, it may well be closer to annihilation. Already limited arms control treaties are being shredded as the major powers sit on close to 13,500 nuclear weapons (more than 90% of which are held by Russia and the United States alone). The yield of these weapons could easily make this planet even more uninhabitable. The United States navy has already deployed low-yield tactical W76-2 nuclear warheads. Immediate moves toward nuclear disarmament must be forced onto the world’s agenda. Hiroshima Day, commemorated each year on 6 August, must become a more robust day of contemplation and protest.

Aline Amaru (Tahiti), La Famille Pomare, 1991.

Aline Amaru (Tahiti), La Famille Pomare, 1991.

Climate catastrophe. A scientific paper published in 2018 came with a startling headline: ‘Most atolls will be uninhabitable by the mid-21st century because of sea-level rise exacerbating wave-driven flooding’. The authors found that atolls from Seychelles to the Marshall Islands are liable to vanish. A 2019 UN report estimated that a million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Add to this the catastrophic wildfires and the severe bleaching of the coral reefs and it is clear that we no longer need to linger over clichés about one thing or another being a canary in the coalmine of climate catastrophe; the danger is not in the future, but in the present. It is essential for major powers – who utterly fail to shift from fossil fuels – to commit to the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ approach of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. It is telling that countries such as Jamaica and Mongolia updated their climate plans to the United Nations before the end of 2020 – as mandated by the Paris Agreement – even though these countries produce a tiny fraction of global carbon emissions. The funds that were committed to developing countries for their participation in the process have virtually dried up while external debt has ballooned. This shows a lack of basic seriousness from the ‘international community’.

Karim Saifou (Iraq), Baghdad the Day After, 2003.

Karim Saifou (Iraq), Baghdad the Day After, 2003.

Neoliberal Destruction of the Social Contract. Countries in North America and Europe have eviscerated their public function as the state has been turned over to the profiteers and civil society has been commodified by private foundations. This means that the avenues for social transformation in these parts of the world have been grotesquely hampered. Terrible social inequality is the result of the relative political weakness of the working class. It is this weakness that enables the billionaires to set policies that cause hunger rates to rise. Countries should not be judged by the words written in their Constitutions but by their annual budgets; the US, for example, spends almost a trillion dollars (if you add the estimated intelligence budget) on its war machine, while it spends a fraction of this on public good (such as on health care, something evident during the pandemic). The foreign policies of Western countries seem to be well lubricated by arms deals: the United Arab Emirates and Morocco agreed to recognise Israel on the condition that they purchase $23 billion and $1 billion worth of US-made weapons respectively. The rights of the Palestinians, the Sahrawi, and the Yemeni people did not factor into these deals. The use of illegal sanctions by the United States against thirty countries including Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela has become a normal part of life, even during this public health crisis being faced around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a failure of the political system when the populations in the capitalist bloc are unable to force their governments – which are in many ways democratic in name only – to take a global perspective regarding this emergency. Rising rates of hunger reveal that the struggle for survival is the horizon for billions of people on the planet (all this while China is able to eradicate absolute poverty and largely eliminate hunger).

Nuclear annihilation and extinction by climate catastrophe are twin threats to the planet. Meanwhile, for victims of the neoliberal assault that has plagued the past generation, the short-term problems of sustaining their mere existence displace fundamental questions about the fate of our children and grandchildren.

Global problems of this scale require global cooperation. Pressured by the Third World states in the 1960s, the major powers agreed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968), although they rejected the deeply important Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (1974). The balance of forces available to drive such a class agenda on the international stage is no longer there; political dynamics in the countries of the West, in particular, but also in the larger states of the developing world (such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa), are necessary to change the character of the governments. A robust internationalism is necessary to pay adequate and immediate attention to the perils of extinction: extinction by nuclear war, by climate catastrophe, and by social collapse. The tasks ahead are daunting, and they cannot be deferred.

Xiang Wang (China), Internationalism, 2020

Xiang Wang (China), Internationalism, 2020

This note from Noam Chomsky and me comes as an appeal to unite and struggle against the forces of money, the military, and hypocritical moralism. This year, at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, we will focus attention on these perils, with special emphasis on the threat of war. After the United States atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, Shinoe Shōda began to write tanka poetry in order to never forget the attack. Since the US Occupation censored work such as hers, Shōda had a Hiroshima prison guard mimeograph 150 copies of this book, which she then hand delivered to survivors of the blast. Amongst those poems is this short piece of brilliance:

Since
so many small skulls
are gathered here,
these large bones
must be the teacher’s.

The human spirit rebels against extinction. It must now rebel not only to preserve life, but to improve life – both human life and the life of our planet.

The post We Are Living in an Emergency That Requires Urgent Action first appeared on Dissident Voice.