Category Archives: Environment

Doctor Dolittle with Brush and Easel

Always tell the truth. Always take the high road. Live each day like it could be your last. Drink it in. Be adventurous, be bold, but savor it. It goes fast.
— Ben, from the movie, Captain Fantastic.

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Once you drive down the road overlooking Olalla Slough, you end up on a 6.7-acre paradise. Before humans emerge from the ranch-style house, the visitor is greeted by clicking of tongues, screeches and whistling.

Ram Papish and his wife, Dawn Harris, have a residence that includes an outbuilding called “The Love Shack.” No, the B-52’s song is not on a loop. Rather the colorfully painted aviary is home to a dozen parrots affectionately named, Love Birds (genus Agapornis).

There are other avian family members on the property, in another aviary — blue fronted Amazon parrot, Solomon Islands eclectus and an orange winged Amazon parrot.

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I am first greeted by Dawn who has a cold soda for me in hand. I recognize her from one of the trainings I was a part of with the Oregon chapter of the American Cetacean Society as part of my certification to become an ACS naturalist. That was March 2019.

She works as the visitor services coordinator for the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Then Ram emerges with his N95 mask in hand — we all three agreed to the interview and photo session outside.

I first met Ram at the State of the Coast conference at the Salishan Resort in Lincoln City, Oregon. That was November 2019. He imparted a tidal wave of facts and riffs about what it means to be an artist. He is king of anecdotes tied to a life as an illustrator and field biological technician.

Today, on a sunny late June 2020 day, he reiterates at his home what he told the large group at Salishan last year: He considers himself “an illustrator . . . and artists look down their noses at illustrators.”

At the State of the Coast conference, young people abounded, including youthful scientists presenting their research through the elegant process of postering, a mix of science and illustration, something very close to Ram’s heart as he considered in these parts, “The Wayside Interpretative Panel” impresario for the Oregon Coast.

The State of the Coast crowd was in awe of Ram’s hand-painted pants — colorful tufted puffins adorning his trousers is one way to get an audience’s attention.

On the minds of many at the breakout session was, “How do you become an artist?” First, Ram answered in the negative:

“When I went to college, I didn’t think I could make a living at it. I sent out dozens of portfolios to publishers and children’s book publishers. I was really naïve.”

The introduction to art class at Cornell was a turning point in his pursuit: “The professor was basically trying to teach us how to be a snobby artist. I wasn’t going to have any part of that.”

Without question, Ram’s personal and professional drive is to connect people to nature. He works on commission — paid gigs assigned by Oregon State Parks, other agencies and publishers. His drawing avocation started when he was very young; by age 14 he was designing nesting dolls.

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Birds of a feather…

Ram and Dawn met in 2002, at the Newport Christmas bird count. He was a single guy and she was married at the time. The three were friends until her divorce. Ram and Dawn eventually dated and then tied the knot.

Dawn beamed ecstatic about their birding trips, including one to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) where penguins and albatrosses were part and parcel on their birder’s log.

She’s from South Carolina, having attending K12 in S.C. Ram is originally from San Diego from a hippie family fulfilling a vagabond lifestyle.

“My father considered himself somewhat of a poet, a man of letters,” Ram says, smiling. They lived in a tent and spent time in trailer parks. “I was outside all the time.” In eighth grade the family ended up in Eugene.

He is one of five — four boys and one sister. He laughs as Dawn relays how they range in age from 40 to 50.

“Outside” for Ram meant observing nature.

Dawn’s community college years encompassed Manatee Community College in Sarasota, Florida. From there, a BS in wildlife ecology from University of Florida and an MS in the same field from Oregon State University. She ended up as a seasonal employee with US Fish and Wildlife doing work in California on seasonal wetlands and mallard duck transitional ecosystem research.

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Ram, the archer

Pronouncing his name means knowing Ram (variant of Rama) is the most common male name in India, the Sanskrit origin meaning as “archer; pleasing.” Think “raw” plus “hmm.”

We have much territory to traverse around Ram’s incredible illustrations and his early proclivity for and talent with drawing.

As a couple, they fit perfectly, as Dawn, 48, and Ram, 47, frequently finish each other’s sentences. It’s obvious Dawn is his biggest fan. I ask them what makes for a good marriage, or couple. Dawn seamlessly states: “We have so many shared interests.” Those include gardening, landscaping, bird watching and travel.

While she has no artistic bent, Dawn supports spiritually and emotionally Ram’s commissions, which include wayside panel illustrations up and down the coast. He has painted more than 100 panels reflecting the area’s diverse ecosystems and flora/fauna.

His interpretations entice the visitor to reflect on the ecology but also to realize the illustrator behind the images is deeply ensconced into the land. It’s a case of love for and deep reflection of nature.

Anyone hiking around Toledo high school might hear those love birds (the parrots) and other rescued parrots this birding couple has helped settle in this exotic land (for an Amazonian bird, yes, Toledo is super exotic).

I try and find more than eight feeders and eight bird boxes on the property. As I leave their home, Dawn shows me the mason bee box they made. I am happy to recall that this April, the couple came in second statewide with 48 bird species sightings in the backyard one-day bird count.

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 “The earth is what we all have in common.” — Wendell Berry, Naturalist and writer

There are questions about what comes first, art or the environment. There is a passion in art, and yet for Ram, it’s nature that he works with as his universal canvas. Berry’s comment isn’t lost on Ram.

He uses water color techniques with acrylics. He is in his studio showing me the new iteration of his techniques using a computer screen, program and smart pen to design and illustrate work.

He’s working on a junior biologist book for K3 youth. It’s a cool learning tool, sponsored by the Alaskan Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. He’s got one double-page ship cut-away illustration with the goal for readers to spot 15 rats Ram has strategically drawn onboard.

As a panel illustrator Ram knows “less (text) is more.”

“No more do we have textbooks on a stick,” he stated at the conference about the old style of wayside or historical signage where page after page of text dominated markers and panels.

He utilizes the “Rule of Threes” — three seconds to read the headlines; 30 seconds to glance it over and get the gist; three minutes to read everything including the captions.

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His work includes tidepool life in Pacific City, shorebird stop-over on the Bandon Marsh, tidepool explorer at Cannon Beach, sea bird islands at Ecola State Park. He has illustrations in field guides, to include Oregon birder books.

He’s a veritable encyclopedia of ecosystems, bird life and aquatic, river and terrestrial species.

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In the field

The couple can’t wait for outdoor activities and group meetings to resume with the Yaquina Birders and Naturalists group, of which Ram is president.

Both Dawn and Ram have been speakers on separate occasions for the Oregon Chapter of the American Cetacean Society. Birds and their habitats are their focus, with Ram’s added panoply of art from the field.

Dawn has seen many changes in the Fish and Wildlife Services and her profession: more women. She reflects on what has influenced women to embrace nature and the outdoors.

She attributes this to the power of narratives of such female scientists like Rachel Carson (“Silent Spring,” 1962) who is considered the mother of the environmental movement and who also worked for the Fish and Wildlife Service. Add to that Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle and thousands of female scientists and educators growing the field to include girls interested in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.

Obviously, the STEAM. movement — add Arts to STEM — links to Ram’s avocation.

For Harris, wildlife comes first. For Ram, art comes first but his art would be a shell of itself without the integration with and interpretation of the natural world. They have no children, and their lives are intertwined with landscaping, gardening and those darned long-living rescue birds.

The whimsy Ram imparts is universal. He has some amazing paper mâché masks and animals, such as a bigger-than-life turkey vulture. Two books he illustrated and wrote for children — “The Little Fox” and “The Little Seal” both published by the University of Alaska Press — captivate the child’s imagination and wonder for the seal’s and fox’s world.

Ram reiterates he’s always willing to go to public schools to wow youth with his incredible background in art and science, while deploying his flair for public speaking to captivate young and old alike.

A fast-paced PowerPoint with all his illustrations projected on a screen are both impressive and awe-inspiring for young and old.

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The best things in nature

The biggest thing Ram misses in this time of lockdown is the summer sea bird camp coordinated through the Pribilof Island Seabird Youth Network, which covers four volcanic islands in the Bering Sea. He’s been the wildlife illustrator there for more than eight years.

The camp works with youth, many Aleut, covering these areas:

• Open doors to careers in science and natural resource management.

• Increase sense of ownership and understanding of local resources.

• Provide training in marketable multi-media skills.

• Provide education in seabird ecology, research and conservation.

Dawn reiterates how disappointed Ram is now that the camp has been cancelled due to Covid-19. The youth are big losers, since they will miss the collective IQ and creativity of the staff, the comradery amongst themselves, and the amazing ecosystem splendor including 11 species of birds that breed on the island.

As part of the team, Ram works in a partnership between the Pribilof School District, the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, the City of St. Paul, Tanadgusix Corporation, the St. George Traditional Council, St. George Island Institute, the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and the wider scientific community.

The program’s website, http://seabirdyouth.org/ shows the amazing facial and body language of not only the youth getting so much out of the time, but also people like Ram, who in many photos has these ear-to-ear grins while he’s mentoring and instructing youth.

Both Ram and Dawn assert this is the best way for young and old to learn, engage in life long critical thinking and to continue on as mentors and teachers themselves, whether they go into educational fields or not.

Where are people — students — going to get the in-the-field and on-the-canvas wisdom Ram Papish brings to the proverbial table unless they are there, hands on, with him, in a learning environment with the tools of the trade — camera, brushes, paints, photographs and field research?

Ram qualifies as a unique illustration instructor at the Sea Bird Camp because he has also had 20 field seasons working as a biological sciences technician studying birds and other wildlife, primarily in Alaska. He’s a hands-on artist who encourages youth to create art.

What’s more inspiring to youth than an illustrator who has his work published in books and publications, including the Handbook of Oregon Birds, Northwest Birds in Winter and Oregon Birds?

His last big outing was in January, at the OSU Extension office for a talk, “Drawing on Nature: Connecting People and Wildlife Through Art.”

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From paperboy to illustrator

We’re looking at the round plates adorning the kitchen where Dawn is setting up some chips and salsa. It’s a new obsession Ram is involved in creating — sgraffito. These are amazingly simple images of nature, and birds, to include one of my favorites, a kingfisher. The word is derived from the Italian, “graffito,” a drawing or inscription made on a wall or other surface (think graffiti) .

In ceramics, sgraffito is a technique of ornamentation in which a surface layer is scratched to reveal a ground of contrasting color. Ram mentioned this at the State of the Coast talk, too.

Before Ram was designing dolls, he was a paperboy. He recalls how in Eugene he was throwing the newspaper on the lawn of who would be one of his illustrator idols — Larry McQueen.

“I recognized him from a biography of him I had been reading.”

McQueen is still around, and his biography and bibliography are deep when you go to his page on Artists for Conservation.

Here’s a snippet from McQueen’s page:

“I grew up in the small town of Mifflinburg in central Pennsylvania. Birds fascinated me from the start. With colored pencils, I attempted to draw birds that I observed on early morning forays around the neighborhood. One of the first books my parents gave me was “The Junior Book of Birds” by Roger Peterson, illustrated with a small selection of paintings done by several bird artists of the time. Each illustration in this slender book presents the bird in a full page of habitat. As a child, these images influenced my perceptions of the bird in nature, profoundly. Around the age of ten, I was given two books with impressive artwork: a 1937 edition of reproductions of Audubon’s ‘Birds of America’ and another large volume entitled ‘Birds of America,’ with illustrations by Louis Agassiz Fuertes. I have since studied the original work of these great bird artists, with veneration. The inspiration of others continues and I regard as pivotal, the paintings of the great Swedish wildlife artist, Bruno Liljefors, of early 20th Century.

At age twelve, I was invited to be a founding member of the Bucknell Ornithological Club at Bucknell University, close to my hometown. Involved with regular meetings and field-trips, I was learning about ‘ornithology’ as a subject, and my birding skills greatly improved.”

At age 15, Ram tells me he worked at a public relations firm producing illustrations for brochures and advertisements. At 16, one of Ram’s paintings was hung in the US Capitol building.

He was the political cartoonist for the South Eugene High School newspaper. “I did a lot of political cartoons.” Pen and ink drawing was his forte.

He did illustrations of jet boats for a business on the Rogue River; wildlife scenery for different chambers of commerce; designed nesting dolls of endangered species for the Nature Shop. That was by age 16.

He’s still a lifelong vegetarian, incubated at birth by plant-based diet parents. “When you grow up without eating meat, you just can’t stomach it.”

Dawn bends with Ram’s dietary choices, but she still dives into BBQ pork when she ends up back in North Carolina. Ram is experimenting with sushi — tuna — and so far, he’s faring well.

Dawn and Ram’s last trip together on a flora and fauna safari was in Tanzania on the Serengeti plain during the heart of the migration. “The power of those herds of wildlife I have not experienced before. I took around one hundred thousand photos,” he tells me.

For most of us, we will have to vicariously live those trips, through the prism of colors Ram deploys and the interpretations he makes with brushstrokes as our naturalist guide to the art of nature.

Maybe Ram really is the Doctor Dolittle of the illustrator’s world, and he is in good company, with one of this country’s more well-known “illustrators” defining his art:

“Some people have been kind enough to call me a fine artist. I’ve always called myself an illustrator. I’m not sure what the difference is. All I know is that whatever type of work I do, I try to give it my very best. Art has been my life.” — Norman Rockwell

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Q&A: 

Paul Haeder: What’s the most difficult aspect of wildlife and conservation settings to paint?

Ram Papish: I find people to be difficult.

PH: What would you tell a young person wanting to major in and practice with art?

RP: Start networking immediately. I worked at many different agencies and companies as a biotech that later hired me to do artwork. That type of connection building tends to pay off in the long run.

PH: What animal in the wild would you like to see and why?

RP: Helmet Vanga of Madagascar and Blue Crane (most easily seen in South Africa) are high on my bird bucket list.

PH: Thought experiment — If you believed in reincarnation, what animal would you want to come back as and why?

RP: Great Sapphirewing. They live in the beautiful high Andes and spend their days in cool comfort sipping sweet nectar from alpine flowers. Also, they are relatively free of external parasites.

PH: What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

RP: A rainbow of different artwork including different styles, more sculpture, paintings on glass, computer-based drawings, 3D murals.

PH: Wildlife illustrations can enhance the visitor experience by “adding an extra dimension.” Can you expound on this?

RP: I feel that one of the reasons art is appealing is that it depicts reality through the filter of another person’s vision.

PH: What’s your dream commission?

RP: A series of books called “The Secret Life of Birds.” Each lavishly illustrates the natural history of a different bird species.

PH: If you Google, “greatest wildlife illustrators,” it’s all men. What is up with that do you think?

RP: Like in many professions, traditional gender roles have a strong historic influence. This will change over time.

Note: First appeared in Oregon Coast Today, Deep Dive column. Paul Haeder retains all copywrite and republishing rights. Thanks!

The post Doctor Dolittle with Brush and Easel first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Brazil’s 63,000 Fires

Amazon Day, a day of celebration for over 100 years on September 5th, has passed. Amazon Day commemorates the year 1850 creation of the Province of Amazonas, encompassing 60% of Brazil and extending into Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, and French Guyana.

Meanwhile, illegal fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest rage on, and on, and on stronger than ever. Nowadays, in spite of the spirit of Amazon Day, suicidal spates of lawlessness rule Brazil’s precious rainforest.

Indeed, leading scientists believe there is genuine concern that the Amazon rainforest ecosystem could collapse. Already, severe devastating drought sequences have hit every fifth year like clockwork so closely spaced together that normal regrowth does not happen. Thus, the ecosystem is inordinately weakened in the face of human-generated firestorms, further weakening this beleaguered ecosystem.

As substantiated by NASA, the rainforest doesn’t react like it used to. It does not have enough time between droughts to heal itself and regrow. Throughout all of recorded history, this has never been witnessed before, a fact that is horribly concerning and downright depressing. 1

Not only is an ecological breakdown apparent above ground, the breakdown is also found underground. Based upon current images by NASA’s GRACE satellite, the Amazon is in tenuous condition in an unprecedented state of breakdown. The GRACE-FO (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On) satellite system monitors water levels stored deep beneath Earth’s surface. GRACE’s images detected large areas in what’s classified as “Deep Red Zones,” meaning severely constrained water levels. Nothing could be worse.

Furthermore, the peak rainy season, which runs from December to February, was among the top 10 worst on record this year, with just 75% of the season’s usual rainfall.

Additionally, and of consequential concern, the world’s two leading Amazon rainforest scientists made a startling announcement only recently: Thomas Lovejoy (George Mason University) and Carlos Nobre (University of Sao Paulo) reported:

Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.2

Tipping points define equilibrium between life and death.

Furthermore, it is important for world opinion to realize that raging fires are not normal in rainforests, which contain tons of wetness, dripping moisture, and cool air. In fact, even during normal dry seasons, if a fire starts in the undergrowth, it peters out quickly because of extreme wetness throughout rainforests, a moniker that perfectly describes the ecosystem… “rain… forest.”

Not only are fires an aberration under normal conditions, but also deforestation, which brings on the fires in the first instance, is illegal, especially in Brazil. Yet, deforestation is rampant with massive fires as part of the clearing process. It’s highly probable that nearly all 63,000 fires for the current year are the result of illegal deforestation.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, it committed to eliminating all illegal deforestation — which, according to Human Rights Watch, accounts for 90 percent of all deforestation — in the Amazon by 2030.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) monitors and reports on the fires, 63,000, and still counting for the year 2020.3

The Amazon contains the world’s most precious natural heritage, teeming with the richest biodiversity on the planet, including break-thru medicinal resources, many not yet discovered, and most importantly, serving as the single most significant global climate regulator. Without the Amazon, life throughout the world turns miserable, beyond wildest imagination, like a Stephen King horror movie.

Yet, it is burning, and it is unnecessary, and it is mostly illegal.

After all, the world can get by “just fine” without burning down the most precious resource on the planet in order to grow palm oils and soy and cotton and to raise cattle and dig for gold and oil and logging. But, the world cannot get by “just fine” with a crippled rainforest. That’s happening right now smack dab in front of the world’s eyes closed wide shut.

According to Rainforest Alliance, Brazil’s government knowingly looks the other way. As such, President Jair Bolsonaro deflects international criticism, going so far as to say that environmental NGOs start the fires to make his administration look bad. It’s obvious that he’s reading, and likely memorized, Trump’s playbook.

World leaders, like France’s Macron, have called him out in the past, but Bolsonaro merely flips ‘em the bird. He’s living proof that mean-spiritedness, as it originates via purest of ignorance, goes a long way towards deflecting criticism. For proof, the international community has done nothing substantive to stop the illegal fires.

Bolsonaro wins as the world loses.

And, abiding by the precepts of the Trump playbook, in an address to the UN, he said, “the Amazon remains pristine and virtually untouched,” claiming that Brazil is “one of the countries that protects its environment the most.” At the time of his speech, the Amazon rainforest was burning at record rates and illegal deforestation had surged by 84% following his inauguration.

In his UN speech, Bolsonaro especially heaped praise on U.S. President Donald Trump for supporting him, even as he was under fire by the international community.

Meanwhile, because of excessive global warming, climate change has turned up its intensity way-way-way beyond the models of climate scientists as registered with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). From Antarctica to the Arctic, the climate system is out-of-control, including the all-important life-supporting integrity of the Amazon Rainforest.

Sadly, the facts are indisputable based upon numerous scientific reports; the world climate system is literally coming apart at the seams as excessive usage of fossil fuels spews CO2 that blankets the atmosphere that retains more and more heat that undermines the world’s major ecosystems. Given enough time, society has an insurmountable problem, like right now.

Look to Siberia, the Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, Australia, and the Amazon Rainforest for incontestable evidence. Meanwhile, severe droughts haunt the world from the Amazon to the Middle East (900-yr drought) to Australia (800-yr drought), throughout SE Asia to all of Central America (“the Dry Corridor”), to a 10-year mega drought-turned-desertification in central Chile to a massive 60-yr drought in Brazil, to totally dried-out to-a-crisp portions of Africa, t0 China’s Lancang River (the Danube of the East) at 100-yr low water levels in Thailand where it streams, and the list could go on and on.

In turn, eco migrant footsteps follow in kind, kindling rightwing politics throughout the world.

All of which prompts the obvious query: Will the nations of the world never seriously coordinate efforts to combat fossil fuel-generated global warming with its deadly accomplice, abrupt climate change?

Notably, it’s already started everywhere nobody lives.

Mercy!

  1. “NASA Finds Amazon Drought Leaves Long Legacy of Damage”, NASA Earth Science News Team, August 9, 2018.
  2. “Amazon Tipping Point: Last Chance for Action”, Science Advances, Vol. 5, no. 12, December 20, 2019.
  3. “Brazil: Alarming Number of New Forest Fires Detected Ahead of Amazon Day”, Amnesty International, September 3, 2020.

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A Green New Deal for Workers

Workers in 2020 have a unique opportunity to vote to put two fellow workers in the White House. Howie is a recently retired Teamster and Angela is a dump truck driver. We know the economic realities that working people face in the United States. This Labor Day we call for a better class of people in the White House than the corporate crooks and flunkies that have been occupying it.

The COVID pandemic and economic collapse have highlighted the race and class inequalities in our society. With more than 35 million jobs lost, millions have lost their employer-connected health insurance in the middle of a pandemic. COVID-19 deaths are disproportionately afflicting working-class people, particularly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people. The case for universal healthcare through a publicly-funded Medicare for All has never been stronger.

As income disappears, the rent — already too high — has become impossible for many to pay. The threat of eviction is with many of us every month. Even if eviction has been stopped by a temporary moratorium for some of us, we see our rent piling up each month so that we will be evicted anyway when the moratorium ends. We need a federal emergency housing relief program that helps people make their rent and mortgage payments during the emergency. To fix the fundamentals of the housing crisis requires a major investment in public housing, this time not just as segregated housing for the poor but as high-quality mixed-income developments that include middle-income workers and professionals.

Congress and the president are responding to the economic collapse so poorly that the nation is falling into a depression. A poll this week reported that 50% unemployed workers, 8.3 million people, were unable to cover their basic expenses in August.

Trump and Biden rely on private enterprise alone to pull us out of this economic hole. Their public economic recovery spending proposals feature corporate welfare grants, loans, and tax breaks that will supposedly trickle-down to working people as new jobs. But with working-class consumer demand depressed, it is too risky for corporations to make job-creating productive investments. Instead, they will again invest their stimulus money in stocks, bonds, and derivatives, just rearranging and further concentrating who owns the productive assets we have rather than creating new ones.

Our alternative is large-scale public investment in new public enterprises and services to benefit the working-class majority. Our ecosocialist Green New Deal will create 30 million jobs in manufacturing, construction, transportation, energy, and agriculture to rebuild our production systems for zero-to-negative carbon emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030. It provides for a Just Transition of up to five years wage and benefits maintenance for workers displaced by this economic transition, but few will need it for very long with all the new jobs that will be created.

We create 8 million more jobs with an Economic Bill of Rights to a living-wage job, a guaranteed income above poverty, affordable housing, universal health care, lifelong tuition-free public education, and a secure retirement for every senior by doubling Social Security benefits.

The two corporate parties, who represent their Wall Street and big business donors, continue to undermine the rights of workers and let employers get away with breaking labor, health, and safety laws. It is time to repeal repressive labor laws, starting with the Taft-Hartley law that restricts labor’s ability to organize, act in solidarity, and engage in political activity. We need to enact new laws that enable union organization, including card check union recognition and the repeal of anti-union “right-to-work” laws.

We call for a Workers Bill of Rights, including workers rights to unions, to living wages, to portable defined-benefit pensions, to information about chemicals used at work, to refuse unsafe work, and to participate in enterprise governance. In order to increase economic security and strengthen workers’ power, we must replace employment-at-will laws, which let employers discharge workers for any reason or no reason, with just cause termination laws, where workers can only be fired for nonperformance or economic reasons. We must extend constitutional rights into the workplace, including free speech, association, and assembly, and freedom from warrantless employer surveillance, search, and seizure.

Even before the pandemic health and economic crisis hit, three super-rich Americans owned more wealth than the bottom 50% of the population, who earn a poverty-level median income of $18,000 a year.

Now, mounting COVID-19 deaths, economic depression, accelerating economic inequality, and climate collapse are all reasons to restructure our economy into a socialist economic democracy where the working-class majority is empowered to protect its interests and receive the full value of its labor. The first step is the ecosocialist Green New Deal for economic recovery as well as climate recovery.

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Environmental Justice for All

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, and Part X.

We are all victims of a deteriorating environment and rapid climate change that spares no one from its effects. Already, tens of millions of people have been turned into climate refugees while hundreds of thousands die annually from air pollution, heat waves, drought-based food shortages, epidemics, storms and other lethal impacts of climate change and reliance on fossil fuels. But Blacks, Indigenous peoples, other minorities and the poor in the US suffer disproportionately from contaminated and polluted environments from which the wealthy can protect themselves.

Environmental justice is inseparable from social justice. Living in a clean and healthy environment gives us all the strength and stamina to fully realize our rights and fight racism, oppression and injustice, which creates a better society for us all. The COVID-19 lockdown demonstrated how quickly our planet can recover when pollution drops dramatically. The same is true for social justice when the causes of injustice are removed. The proposals offered in the previous ten installments of this manifesto are capable of dramatically reducing the social pollution of racism, exploitation and repression. Environmental justice is a part of this plan.

Following are some specific proposals, mostly taken from the Green Party USA:

1. We must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean, renewable energy. It is possible to do this by 2030, and much of the international will has been demonstrated in the 1992 Kyoto Protocol as well as the 2015 UNFCCC Paris Agreement from which the U.S. withdrew in 2017. The U.S. must reaffirm its commitment to the Agreement and work for stronger measures.
2. We must invest heavily in subsidized and convenient public transport that makes it attractive and inexpensive for everyone to use, and especially for disadvantaged populations.
3. Let us switch to sustainable, regenerative nonpolluting agriculture and husbandry and close all large factory farms.
4. There was a time when the Food and Drug Administration could be trusted to diligently assure that food products were nutritious and wholesome and that food production and distribution consistently met high standards. These standards have today been compromised for the sake of corporate profit. We have deregulated our standards of health and safety in much the same way that we have deregulated our economy for the benefit of large corporations and billionaires. We must re-empower the FDA by placing it under a cabinet level Department of Consumer Protection and Advocacy and assuring that its administration is run by officials who have the strongest possible consumer advocacy credentials and are not selected from the industries that they will be regulating. [See Manifesto Part VII: An Economic Order By and For the People.]
5. We must provide tax incentives and government research programs to promote sustainable energy and energy-efficiency retrofitting, and “complete streets” that promote safe bike and pedestrian traffic, regional food systems based on sustainable organic agriculture and clean manufacturing.
6. There is no reason for our energy system to be in private hands. They belong to us all. Let’s enact energy democracy based on public, community and worker ownership of our energy system. We must treat energy as a human right.
7. Let us redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation. Let us also build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled energy.
8. Let us end the most destructive kinds of energy extraction and associated infrastructure: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, natural gas pipelines, and uranium mines. We must halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas, and phase out all fossil fuel power plants. Let us phase out nuclear power and end all subsidies for nuclear power plants and fossil fuels, and impose a greenhouse gas fee/tax to charge polluters for the damage they have created.
9. We must provide grants, low interest loans and other incentives to grow green businesses and cooperatives, with an emphasis on small, locally based companies that keep the wealth created by local labor circulating in the community rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors.
10. Let us prioritize green research by redirecting research funds from fossil fuels and other dead-end industries toward research in wind, solar and geothermal energies. We will invest in research in sustainable, nontoxic materials and closed-loop cycles that eliminate waste and pollution, as well as organic agriculture, permaculture and sustainable forestry.

The possibilities of these reforms are illustrated by the case of Denmark, which now gets more than 50% of its energy from renewable sources. Virtually all combustible waste is used as energy, making it a resource rather than a burden. Industries, households, cities, agriculture and nearly all forms of activity in Denmark conserve energy and provide fuel to generate power. In addition, non-combustible sources of energy, such as solar, geothermal and wind energy are used as essentially free resources. As a result, energy costs in Denmark are very low, which increases the productivity of its industries as well as the standard of living of its people. At the same time, the quality of Denmark’s air, water and natural areas are clean and teeming with life.

By contrast, the US is still heavily dependent upon fossil fuels and pollution-generating sources of energy. This is because the system is inefficient and mismanaged, but highly profitable for the corporations and oligarchs that own the fuels and their delivery systems. It is time to throw out this corrupt system and build one that benefits the people.

The post Environmental Justice for All first appeared on Dissident Voice.

In Denial: Australia, Human Rights and Climate Change

When the complaint was lodged in May 2019, there was a sense of the audacious about it.  Eight Torres Strait Islanders had taken the trouble to petition the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Committee, citing climate change and Australian violations as their main concern.  Australia, they claimed, had violated their fundamental rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Representing a group of islands between the tip of the Australian mainland at Cape York and Papua New Guinea, the complainants allege that Australia’s inadequate steps on combating climate change had violated Article 27 (the right to culture); Article 17 (the right to be free from arbitrary interference with privacy, family and home) and Article 6 (the right to life).  Australia had also failed to boost the islands’ coastal defences and implement “resilience measures”.  But most troubling of all, Canberra had failed to adopt a sufficient greenhouse gas mitigation strategy.

As a summary from Client Earth documents, legal representatives for the islanders “allege that the catastrophic nature of the predicted future impacts of climate change on the Torres Strait Islands, including the total submergence of ancestral homelands, is a sufficiently severe impact as to constitute a violation of the rights to culture, family and life.”

Sixth-generation Warraber man Kabay Tamu, one of the authors behind the complaint, saw a disturbing aspect of colonialism redux, a nightmare in the making.  “If climate change means we’re forced away and become climate change refugees in our country, I fear this will be colonisation all over again.  Because when you are colonised, you’re taken away from your land and you’re forced to stop using your language and stop practising your culture and traditions.”  Such reasoning is hard to fault.

Various calls are directed against Canberra, including greater funding for coastal defences against rising sea levels after consultation while also addressing Australia’s share of greenhouse gas emissions.  A reduction of at least 65% below 2005 levels by 2030 is demanded; and a promise to achieve net zero levels by 2050.  Thermal coal for both domestic and export markets is also to be phased out.

To date, the Australian government remains distinctly blasé about its commitments to reduce emissions in what is already a modest target: 26-28% by 2030.  Indeed, Australia has proven itself to be an enthusiastic saboteur of international efforts to decarbonise the global economy.  When the Islanders extended a personal invitation to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last September to visit the islands and see the relevant claims of damage, it was not taken up. A promise of $25 million was made instead, ostensibly to beef up emergency coastal defences.

The petitioners have ample evidence to draw upon.  A 2014 report from the Climate Council, self-advertised as “an independent crowd-funded organisation providing quality information on climate change to the Australian public” does not mince its words.  Australia, a continent marked by coastal cities, had the sort of infrastructure that had been designed in a vacuum of harmonious stability, “designed and built for a stable climate and known ranges of variability.”  Rising sea levels had dashed that vision.  The report makes specific reference to the vulnerability of the Torres Strait Island communities, located “on extremely low-lying areas” that “already experience flooding during high tides.”  Sea level data gathered by satellite from a location in Torres Strait between 1993-2010 notes a rise of 6 mm per annum – “more than twice the global average”. (The authors are careful to qualify this “single, relatively short dataset” and possible influences.)

The response from the Australian government is much in keeping with the earth digging vigilantes that make up the fossil-fuel lobby.  Do not speculate about what will happen; worry about the pressing immediacy of the now.  To that end, the Morrison government argues that the complaint should be dismissed.  As it concerns “future risks”, human rights impacts supposedly felt now cannot be proved.  They remain in the realm of the hypothetical.

The second ground for rejection, argue Australia’s lawyers, centres on the issue of greenhouse gas contributions.  As Australia is neither the main or only contributor to global warming, it cannot be held responsible for the effects of climate change on its citizens.

There is, to be sure, much on the climate change litigation plate, piling up with various actions seeking to compel a change in policy.  But no Australian case has yet made the link between human rights violations and climate change policies in the way done in the Dutch case of Urgenda Foundation v. Netherlands.  The Dutch Supreme Court accepted the argument that inadequate action in addressing climate change by the government posed a “risk of irreversible changes to the worldwide ecosystems and liveability our planet”; with that also came a “serious risk that the current generation of citizens will be confronted with loss of life and/or a disruption to family life… that the State has a duty to protect against.”  The European Convention of Human Rights proved to be the lynch pin in the case in stressing that the State’s obligation “to protect the life and the right to private and family life of its residents”.

The Federal Court lawsuit launched by university student Katta O’Donnell last July on sovereign bonds has less to do with human rights than a green commercial sensibility: when investors lend money to the government, they are entitled to be appraised of climate change risks.  A failure to disclose such risks, her lawyers argue, amount to misrepresentation and deception.

The arguments of the Torres Strait Islanders is far more on the theme of Urgenda Foundation.  “States like Australia,” claims Sophie Marjanac, lawyer acting for the complainants, “have legal duties to protect the human rights of their citizens.”  To date, these duties remain spectral, at least to the Canberra set mired in denial and complicity.

The World on Fire  

Massive uncontrolled unprecedented wild fires are consuming portions of the Amazon rainforest and several regions of the Arctic. Somebody somewhere must be asking why all of a sudden in unison, all over creation, two of the planets largest ecosystems are going up in smoke. It’s eerily spine chilling.

Major fires have hit the Amazon and the Arctic for the second year in a row.1

Where’s the world’s largest fire alarm when so desperately needed?

Sure, all of mainstream press covers the fires and people hear about the fires and read about the fires. But that’s the end of any sort of impact because the sensationalism of reading about and hearing about massive fires thousands of miles away in vast wilderness areas doesn’t move the needle enough for people to express serious concern or even go so far as to panic. Maybe they should.

These are not regular ole run of the mill fires. Rather, these are firestorms so powerful that they create their own wind systems and self-perpetuate. More to the point, the world is on a biblical fire alert that posits the Book of Revelations 16:8 smack dab into contemporary society, to wit: Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the Sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire, and men were scorched with great heat.

For example, recent bushfires in Australia (2019) were not just unprecedented. They were “deadly catastrophic,” thus leaving some ecosystems “forever changed.” The conflagrations obliterated landscapes, not just patches of landscape but entire landscapes.

Why obliteration? Climate change is the villain. It supercharged the wildfires by turning landscapes into tinder. As such, and contrary to political opinions by right-wing whacko nutcases, climate change does not constitute surreal events in thin air, rather, it’s power-packed hard-hitting damage to our “one and only” planet. It’s authentic.

Australia’s wildfires convulsed above and beyond any known scale of normal fires, from which animals are usually able to escape. They didn’t. They couldn’t run fast enough! The fires took out entire landscapes, not patches of landscape that leave behind pockets of safety untouched for scampering animals. Nothing was left untouched by the hot lapping flames.

The wildfires permanently crippled iconic habitats that make Australia an ecological wonder for all to behold. From loss of crucial plant life to decimation of species that serve as a meal for a higher species, the ripple effects remain unaccountable, extensively beyond human calculation.

Now, two of the world’s largest, and most significant, ecosystems are on fire like never before, similar to Australia’s biblical fires of a year ago, as more, and more, precious natural resources suffer waves of obliteration. Of course, normal fires in the wild are healthy; however, these fires are anything but normal. They’re truly biblical in scale.

Six months of record-breaking temperatures have sparked massive fires in the Siberian Arctic this year. Great plumes of smoke were visible on satellite… temperatures more than 5°C above average over much of Siberia… A Met Office-led international study has concluded this period of exceptional weather would have been impossible had the world not been warmed by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. 2

What we’re seeing really is unprecedented… we’ve never seen the probability of a change of an event of more than 600 times. We’ve never seen a result like that. 3

Looking at the geologic record, we don’t think we’ve ever seen CO2 levels this high in about 5 million years… We are in uncharted territory. ”4 .

Meanwhile, bad vibes with strong undertones of contempt upend civilized society, as follows: America’s president Don Trump has tweeted 120 posts that variously poke fun at, and ridicule, climate change. Moreover, he has issued dozens of tweets claiming that “cold weather” disproves climate change. It should be noted that 62 million people voted for Trump in 2016 and many “live by his words.”

At the same time, in the real world of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research reported 6,803 fires in the Amazon in July 2020 alone, nearly 30% more than July 2019 when the Western world went bananas over the loss of rainforest due to human-set fires, when, in fact, fires are not a regular feature of rainforests.

Now, environmentalists are going batty because August is traditionally the start of the human-generated fire season, but it already has a roaring head of steam. Not only that, but according to INPE data, the first six months of 2020 are already the worst on record for deforestation. Yes, “the worst on record.”

Sure enough, the Amazon rainforest, similar to landscapes in Australia in 2019, is subjected to obliteration forces, and it’s not just deforestation as the root cause. Climate change has kicked into high gear all across the magnificent rainforest with devastating drought conditions galore!

Excessive drought conditions, in part, originate early in the morning in garages around the world as fossil-fueled gasoline engines crank up, spewing out CO2, and the whir of a jet engine igniting, the blast of a diesel train engine cranking up, the murmur of a jet ski, ignition of hot coals for an electricity-generating plant, a furnace blast molding steel, all are the basis, the origin, of greenhouse gases that blanket the atmosphere, in turn, enhancing devastating severe droughts.

According to a landmark Amazonian rainforest in-depth analysis:

Several studies indicate that the region has been suffering severe drought since the end of the last century, as in 1997/1998, 2005, 2010 and 2015. The intensity and frequency of these extreme drought episodes in the AB during the last years, approximately one episode every five years with a significant increase in the coverage area, is remarkable.5

Back-to-back-to-back-to-back 100/year drought events, every 5 years, are not normal, meaning something somewhere is horribly wrong. After all, major ecosystems that profoundly influence all aspects of the planet’s health and well-being are burning, collapsing, melting like there’s no tomorrow. The message is clear.

Along the way, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro feigns attempts to limit rainforest damage, but experts say the government’s response has been largely ineffective, more symbolic than real. In truth, he’s the primary driving force behind record-setting deforestation. Similar to Trump, on the world stage he’s a laughing stock and archenemy of the planet.

According to NASA, this year’s dry season will be more prone to fires than last year’s record-setting affair. Moreover, according to NASA, warmer ocean surface temps in the North Atlantic (global heating at work) create conditions for more extreme drought in the Amazon, as excessive ocean heat brings on far-flung damage. Everything in nature is somehow connected.

“The world on fire” is merely a prelude to a climate “gone berserk” disaster scenario that’s almost certain to eventually take civilization down to its knees, by all appearances sooner than mainstream science suggests, but frankly scientists don’t make such predictions.

Yet, isn’t a climate gone berserk scenario already playing out in real time; e.g., in Siberia, in the Amazon, in Australia?

Meanwhile, climate-related crises on a grand scale never before recorded throughout human history continue building to a crescendo, in earnest, right before society’s “eyes wide shut.”

Postscript: Reports out of the London School of Economics claim one-half of the Arctic fires are peat soil, normally too wet and too cold to burn, but now burning because of powerful intense heat… peat soil is carbon-rich and can burn for months/years, emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).6

Speechless, once again!

  1. NewScientist, June 26, 2020.
  2. “New Warning Over Climate Change From Siberian Arctic”, BBC News, July 15, 2020.
  3. Professor Peter Stott, Met Office, Ibid.
  4. Dr. Katharine Hendry, Ibid.
  5. Beatriz Nunes Garcia, et al, “Extreme Drought Events Over the Amazon Basin: The Perspective from the Reconstruction of South American Hydroclimate”, Departamento de Meteorologia, Instituto de Geociências, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, November  7, 2018.
  6. Arctic Fires Released More Carbon in Two Months Than Scandinavia Will All Year, Grist, Aug. 4, 2020.

Reversal

Another Mother for Peace (Poster Credit: Lorraine Schneider, 1966)

With survival at stake, can weapon makers change course?

Today, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the atomic attack on Hiroshima, should be a day for quiet introspection. I recall a summer morning following the U.S. 2003 “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq when the segment of the Chicago River flowing past the headquarters of the world’s second largest defense contractor, Boeing, turned the rich, red color of blood.  At the water’s edge, Chicago activists, long accustomed to the river being dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day turned the river red to symbolize the bloodshed caused by Boeing products. On the bridge outside of Boeing’s entrance, activists held placards urging Boeing to stop making weapons.

This summer, orders for Boeing’s commercial jets have cratered during the pandemic, but the company’s revenue from weapon-making contracts remains steady. David Calhoun, Boeing’s CEO, recently expressed confidence the U.S. government will support defense industries no matter who occupies the Oval Office. Both presidential candidates appear “globally oriented,” he said, “and interested in the defense of our country.”

Investors should ask how Boeing’s contract to deliver 1,000 SLAM- ER weapons (Standoff Land Attack Missiles-Expanded Response) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia “defends” the United States.

Here are excerpts from Jeffrey Stern’s account of a missile’s impact on the town of Arhab in a remote area of Yemen. In this case, the missile was manufactured by Raytheon:

Now, as Fahd walked into the hut, a weapon about the length of a compact car was wobbling gracelessly down through the air toward him, losing altitude and unspooling an arming wire that connected it to the jet until, once it had extended a few feet, the wire ran out and ripped from the bomb.

Then it was as if the weapon woke up. A thermal battery was activated. Three fins on the rear extended all the way and locked in place. The bomb stabilized in the air. A guidance-control unit on the nose locked onto a laser reflection — invisible to the naked eye but meaningful to the bomb — sparkling on the rocks Fahd walked over.

At the well, at the moment of impact, a series of events happened almost instantaneously. The nose of the weapon hit rock, tripping a fuse in its tail section that detonated the equivalent of 200 pounds of TNT. When a bomb like this explodes, the shell fractures into several thousand pieces, becoming a jigsaw puzzle of steel shards flying through the air at up to eight times the speed of sound. Steel moving that fast doesn’t just kill people; it rearranges them. It removes appendages from torsos; it disassembles bodies and redistributes their parts.

Fahd had just stepped into the stone shelter and registered only a sudden brightness. He heard nothing. He was picked up, pierced with shrapnel, spun around and then slammed into the back wall, both of his arms shattering — the explosion so forceful that it excised seconds from his memory. Metal had bit into leg, trunk, jaw, eye; one piece entered his back and exited his chest, leaving a hole that air and liquid began to fill, collapsing his lungs. By the time he woke up, crumpled against stone, he was suffocating. Somehow he had survived, but he was killing himself with every breath, and he was bleeding badly. But he wasn’t even aware of any of these things, because his brain had been taken over by pain that seemed to come from another world.

In 2019, the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen observed “the continued supply of weapons to parties involved in Yemen perpetuates the conflict and the suffering of the population.”

These experts say “the conduct of hostilities by the parties to the conflict, including by airstrikes and shelling, may amount to serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

A year and a half ago, were it not for a presidential veto, both houses of the U.S. Congress would have enacted a law banning weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

Another end-user of Boeing’s weapons is the Israeli Defense Force.

The company has provided Israel with AH-64 Apache helicopters, F-15 fighter jetsHellfire missiles (produced with Lockheed Martin), MK-84 2000-lb bombs, MK-82 500-lb bombs, and Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) kits that turn bombs into “smart” GPS-equipped guided bombs. Boeing’s Harpoon sea-to-sea missile system is installed on the upgraded 4.5 Sa’ar missile ships of the Israeli Navy.

Apache helicopters, Hellfire and Harpoon missiles, JDAM guiding systems, and Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) munitions have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. The human rights community, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, B’Tselem, and United Nations commissions, ruled these attacks to be human rights violations and at times war crimes.

I lived with a family in Gaza during the final days of the 2009 “Operation Cast Lead” bombing. Abu Yusuf, Umm Yusuf, and their two small children, Yusuf and Shahid, welcomed Audrey Stewart and me to stay with them. Once every 11 minutes from 11 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. and again from 3:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m., we heard an ear-splitting blast. Normally, I wouldn’t have known the difference between the sound of a Hellfire Missile exploding and that of a 500 lb. bomb dropped from an F-15, but soon I could tell the difference. Little Yusuf and Shahid taught us to distinguish one gut-wrenching sound from the other. They had been cringing under the bombs for 18 days and nights.

I don’t see how the sale of weapons to governments which use them against civilian populations, against people like Fahad, in Arhab or Abu Yusuf and his family in Gaza, defends people in the U.S.

Boeing’s vast resources for scientific know-how, skillful engineering, and creative innovation could, however, help defend the U.S. against the greatest threat we  now face, environmental climate catastrophe. Writing for The New York Review of Books, Bill McKibben predicts “a century of crises, many of them more dangerous than what we’re living through right now.” The main question, he says, is whether human beings can hold the alarming rise in temperature “to a point where we can at great expense and suffering, deal with those crises coherently, or whether they will overwhelm the coping abilities of our civilization.”

“A rise of one degree doesn’t sound like an extraordinary change,” McKibben writes, “but it is: each second, the carbon and methane we’ve emitted trap heat equivalent to the explosion of three Hiroshima-sized bombs.”

Boeing’s engineers, scientists, designers and marketers could help turn the tide of human actions destroying our earth. Their expertise could truly “defend” people.

There’s a lesson to be learned from the river flowing outside of Boeing’s headquarters. It actually flows backwards. Long ago, brilliant engineers designed a way for the river to reverse its course. In doing so, they saved Chicago from sewage contamination of its drinking water supply – Lake Michigan. This action was hailed as one of the great engineering wonders of the world.

The City’s sewers discharged human and industrial wastes directly to its rivers, which in turn flowed into the lake. A particularly heavy rainstorm in 1885 caused sewage to be flushed into the lake beyond the clean water intakes. The resulting typhoid, cholera, and dysentery epidemics killed an estimated 12 percent of Chicago’s 750,000 residents, and raised a public outcry to find a permanent solution to the city’s water supply and sewage disposal crisis.”

The Sanitary and Ship Canal was constructed at an estimated cost of over $70,000,000. After its completion, in 1900, waterborne disease rates quickly and dramatically improved, and its water supply system was soon regarded as being one of the safest in the world. With its water source made safe and dependable by the canals, Chicago and the region grew and prospered rapidly.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to dye the Chicago River red or green. We need to protect the river and all wildlife dependent on it. But, we must continually confront Boeing and other weapon manufacturers, and insist they not destroy lives, homes and infrastructures in other lands. We must urge Boeing, like the river, to reverse course and participate, with dignity and humility, in the pursuit of human survival.

Moore’s Law of Entropy

There is but one freedom, to put oneself right with death. After that, everything is possible.

— Albert Camus, Notebooks, 1942-51

For those of us who grew up watching Charlton Heston films, we can recall enactments of heroic courage, both in the early development and later downward decline of human civilization. Heston gave us a magnificent Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956), returning all scraggly from the wilderness, like some people I knew in the Sixties returning from poetry communes, holding up that Decalogue in revolutionary resistance to the gold lust of Baal. He refused to be a slave in Ben Hur (1959). He gave us a Live Free or Die kind of ethos. No debt slavery, no bondage of any kind.

Toward the end of his career, Heston got dyspeptic over gun control and dystopic in his roles, teaming up with Edward G. Robinson (his last film role) in Soylent Green (1973) as Detective Thorn, a contraband-sniffing cop for the State in a world catastrophically fucked up by climate change and overpopulation and resorting to cannibalism (recycled humans, get it?) that he has a late epiphany as he watches his good friend, Sol, old enough to remember beauty, die by euthanasia, fading to a surround screen explosion of splendor and Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony. He’s been told stories by Sol, but Thorn has never seen this before and he weeps, as if to say: My god, that’s the way it used to be?

But arguably his most important role came a few years earlier in Planet of the Apes, where he plays astronaut George Taylor, who, inadvertently time travels, and comes to realize that he’s landed on the future Earth controlled by fascist orangutans. Who can forget the final beach scene, Lady Liberty buried in sand, while an epiphanal Taylor exclaims, “Goddamn you all to hell!” When I remember his roles as a revolutionary, and an orbiter, I’m almost willing to cut him some slack for his last role, before dying, as president of the National Rifle Association, where he promised you’d have to pry his gun from his “cold, dead hands.” (Damn, the way things are going, we may need those 400 million guns after all.)

Apparently, the Taylor role is the one Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs chose to remember for Planet of the Humans, a recently released film on the politics of things Green and the looming environmental catastrophe ahead, once we knock back Covid-19 with some more Happy Zoom and recreational therapy Corona mask decorations. The film is written and directed by Gibbs; Moore was executive producer. The film was released on YouTube, in time for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (remember Earth?), and was available for viewing for free, until “controversy” over 4 seconds of Fair Use footage caused the film to be pulled by Google. It has since been put up, in its entirety, on Vimeo, without incident thus far.

As we recall, the last time Moore and Heston came head-to-head was in Bowling for Columbine (2002), and things got ugly during the interview, with Moore shooting his mouth off about Heston’s gun rhetoric, but not so much guns themselves (Moore is a member of the NRA). The question is: Why did Moore and Gibbs bring back Heston from the dead to ‘headline’ their environmental film? The answer is simple: Astronaut Taylor realized that They went ahead and did it: They blew up the planet despite years of warnings of impending catastrophe. And Moore and Gibbs are promoting the notion in their new film that we’re an environmental flashpoint away from a planet ruled by fascist orangutans. (Trump as omen.)

As you could almost guess from the title, the film wants to show and explain to us what happens when one species — guess which one — takes over the planet and shits repeatedly in its own well-feathered bed. Well, it’s a Michael Moore film (executive producer), so you can probably see where the film goes, after an opening sequence where passersby are asked the loaded gun of a question: How much longer do you think the human race has? Typically, no one has a clue. Then the soundtrack vibes somber synthetic, Gibbs’ voice-over all disillusioned monotone. Recalls Fahrenheit 9/11. Another bummer rant from Moore ahead.

According to Rolling Stone, “Moore and Gibbs said they decided to release it now, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the hopes of getting people to reflect on ‘the role humans and their behavior have played in our fragile ecosystem.’” This hope seems promising, on the surface, where most of us interface and internet, and so many people have already expressed wonderment at how much the world will have changed while we’ve been in ‘lockdown’. Prisoners opine that way: I wonder how the world will be, without me, in 5 to10.

But, we have people expressing the sentiment after just two months of half-assed ‘self-isolation’ (though increased internet activity). The New Yorker has weighed in for the comfy middle class. Psychology Today speaks for the masses. Yesterday, I watched masked baseballers play in an empty stadium (big screens inexplicably lit up) and thought I was hallucinating: How come this vision (of the future) doesn’t scare the shit out of us? (Plus, these guys like to spit: Yuck, when they remove their masks!)

Planet of the Humans is a tone poem more than a documentary. The vision is in the title. It suggests not so much defeatism as disturbing resignation in the face of Climate Change. Moore and Gibbs argue that We Just Don’t Get It: The much ballyhooed “transition” from an age of fossil fuel dependency to renewable energy is illusory, ineffectual, and too late. The “intermittent” technologies – Solar and Wind – as well as, biomass burning, will never be fully removed from fossil fuel dependency and/or usage. Even if these technologies have improved exponentially in the last decade (when the film was being produced), we humans should be spending our time preparing for the now-unavoidable climate apocalypse ahead. As far as Gibbs and Moore are concerned, pushing renewables at this stage is little more than stylin’ out Covid face masks.

And, yes, recognized leaders of the environmental movement – Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Sierra Club – even if not personally cashing in, have, by partnering with venture capitalists (like Goldman Sachs), corporates and other oil-associated companies, put the “problem” into the hands of private interests and reduced the role of public policymaking. As far as the filmmaking pair are concerned, putting the problem into the controlling hands of capitalists is exactly the wrong thing to do because their interest is growth and profit, not public interest, or, it seems, the fate of the human race. With the global population expanding, almost out of control, with a projected 11.7 billion people by 2100. Prodded by Gibbs, Penn State, anthropologist, Nina Jablonsky, tells us that population growth “continues to be not the elephant, but the herd of elephants in the room.”

Planet begins by reminding the viewer that we’ve had plenty of warning about disastrous climate upheaval. Gibbs inserts a clip from the 1958 Frank Capra movie, The Unchained Goddess, which graphically warns Americans of flooding that will greatly reduce the land mass. It’s not so wonderful a life anymore. Mother Nature standing behind us on a wintry snow-driven bridge telling us to Jump, after giving us a vision of how much Earth would have been better off if we’d never existed.

It’s clear that Planet is a deeply personal film, and Gibbs begins by laying down some street cred. Observing, as a child, some bulldozers taking down woods near his home, Gibbs lets us know he put sand in one of their gas tanks. More contrite, perhaps, he wonders, “Why are we still addicted to fossil fuels?” And he follows the Green movement to understand and to participate in the Pushback. There’s movement forward. 2008 Obama. A stimulus bill with billions for renewable energy development. (Hope, Change). Al Gore’s brought in for some inconvenient rah-rah. End Coal rah-rah. The New Green Economy rah-rah. Bill McKibben. 350.org. Sierra. The Chevy Volt. Rah-rah-rah. Give me a G. Give me an R. Give me an E. Give me an E. Give me an N. GREEN!

But then Gibbs’s anxiety creeps in (the Moore Uncanny with music) and suddenly he’s interviewing well-meaning ‘folk’ giving us the ta-dah! on the Chevy Volt, an electric car that will lead us into the future, no more mean Mr. Carbon. But how are they recharged? They’re plugged into the coal-powered grid, just like your toaster. And you can almost hear the bagpipe crumple into a bummed out wheeze. On to solar arrays. More despondent bagpipes. A ‘folk’ person tells us the football field sized array before us generates enough electricity to power an underwhelming “10 homes” per annum. Getting worked up, Gibbs reminds us that renewables are intermittent and that we can’t count on sun and wind in most places, and we need to have storage, and storage means dependency. In short, there are “profound limitations of solar and wind, rarely discussed in the media.”

Suddenly, we’re being sold a bill of goods by the snakes of Oil and mining; we’re Koch suckers, who believe we can frack (XL) and mine our way to private Paradise. The manufacture of solar panels and other materials that are not renewable replacements. Gibbs gives us a list of the elements unearthed in name of sustainability and renewableness. We are daunted: silicon, graphite, rare earths, coal, steel, nickel. sulphur hexaflouride, tin, gallium, cadmium, lead, ethylene vinyl acetate, neodymium, dyprosium, indium, ammonium fluoride, molybdenum, sodium hydroxide, petroleum. Sweet Jesus!

“It was becoming clear,” he tells us, “that what we are calling green renewable energy and industrial civilization are one and the same. Desperate measures not to save the planet, but to save our way of life. Desperate measures, rather than face the reality that humans are experiencing the planet’s limits all at once.” And he blames the direction that Greenies are now heading in on sell-outs in the ranks and co-optations by the Cappies. Bill McKibben gets enveloped in extra insinuating mood music because he once championed biomass energy and is caught on camera saying, “Woodchips is the future of energy…It must happen everywhere!” Though McKibben has since recanted, Gibbs is all bongos because McKibben’s enthusiasm got the Koch brothers involved. They own Georgia-Pacific, and “are now the largest recipient of green energy biomass subsidies in the United States.” Lawd, almighty!

Gibbs saves some of his best speed bag work for the face of self-appointed Environmental Savior, Al Gore. The Could-Have-Been-President-Had-He-Fought-A-Little-Harder is taken to task for selling his Current TV news company to Al Jazeera, for “that government is nothing but an oil producer,” and Gore picked up the tidy sum of $100m (pre-tax), and he has crowed about how “proud of the transaction” he was. Later Night show hosts lay into his hypocrisy. He doesn’t care.

Gore once claimed to have “created” the Internet because he was part of the Congressional committee that extended funding for ARPANET (the internet’s precursor), which is like tossing some coins into busker Tracey Chapman’s hat and taking credit for her later success. Later, two internet pioneers, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, trying to smooth things over said, Gore “helped create the climate,” which is when Gore got cluey and created the Environmental Movement, in his own mind. Look at the obese beaver get called out by Richard Branson.

Again, Planet of the Humans is a tone poem that begins where astronaut Taylor’s lamentations leave off. Gibbs consults anthropologists and psychologists to explain the mental limitations preventing us from getting it. “What differentiates people from all other forms of life is that we’re not only here, but we know that we’re here. If you know that you’re here, then you recognize, even dimly that you’ll not be here some day,” Sheldon Solomon, social psychologist at Skidmore College tells us. “And on top of that, we don’t like that we’re animals. So we don’t like that we’re going to die someday. We don’t like that you can walk outside and get hit by a fucking meteor.” Like the fuel-producing dinosaurs did. Or Climate Change for us. What a fucking feedback loop.

Gibbs closes the film with an appeal, or closing argument, of sorts to viewers, and it’s probably best to let it speak for itself:

There is a way out of this. We humans must accept that infinite growth on a finite planet is suicide. We must accept that human presence is already far beyond sustainability. And all that that implies. We must take control of our environmental movement and our future from billionaires and their permanent war on Planet Earth. They are not our friends. Less must be the new more. And instead of climate change we must at long last accept that it is not the carbon dioxide molecule that’s destroying the planet — it’s us….

This is the nub: We are looking for scapegoats instead of acting radically to save ourselves from extinction. Far from being outliers with their view, the New Yorker’s Jonathan Franzen asks the very same questions the film queries and responds: “What If We Stopped Pretending?

Apparently as anticipated, criticism from fellow Greenies came fast and furious. Though, if you were inclined, you could have pointed out that Moore/Gibbs films have been for years more psychodrama in their approach than documentarian in, say, the mode of Ken Burns; suddenly, fellow environmentalists were complaining vociferously about the accuracy of Moore’s films. Nobody has been more reactive, so far, than Bill McKibben. It’s clear he feels personally bushwhacked. In a Rolling Stone piece, “‘A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement’: Michael Moore Damages Our Most Important Goal,” he bitterly denounces the film’s ethos and damage it is said to have done to the Movement, and avers that it was not only made “in bad faith,” but “dishonorably.” Ouch.

“Basically, Moore and his colleagues have made a film attacking renewable energy as a sham and arguing that the environmental movement is just a tool of corporations trying to make money off green energy,” says McKibben, and continues, “The film’s attacks on renewable energy are antique, dating from a decade ago, when a solar panel cost 10 times what it does today; engineers have since done their job, making renewable energy the cheapest way to generate power on our planet.” It short, the science cited in the film is bad, he says. Gibbs wants to raise consciousness, says McKibben, “But that’s precisely what’s undercut when people operate as Moore has with his film. The entirely predictable effect is to build cynicism, indeed a kind of nihilism. It’s to drive down turnout — not just in elections, but in citizenship generally.”

McKibben also defends his previous championing of biomass energy, saying, “I thought it was a good idea [at the time],” but, he goes on, “And as that science emerged, I changed my mind, becoming an outspoken opponent of biomass. (Something else happened too: the efficiency of solar and wind power soared, meaning there was ever less need to burn anything.)” So, McKibben may justifiably feel as if he’s been called to task for a view he no longer holds. But he’s most irate about the insinuation that he’s a “sell out.” McKibben feels the need to spend much space in the Rolling Stone piece defending his record of achievement over the years. And this may be entirely unfair to his activism.

However, McKibben may be off when he says little science is at play in Planet of the Humans. While it’s true that it relies heavily on anthropological and psychological considerations (because that’s really the concern of the film), Moore and Gibbs do cite a relevant study by Richard York, a much-lauded professor of environmental studies at Oregon State University, who published a peer-reviewed article in Nature magazine, “Do alternative energy sources displace fossil fuels?” His answer is No, not really. Other pieces there suggest similar findings, such as York’s more recent article, co-written with Shannon Elizabeth Bell, “Energy transitions or additions?: Why a transition from fossil fuels requires more than the growth of renewable energy” and the Patrick Trent Greiner (et alia) piece, “Snakes in The Greenhouse: Does increased natural gas use reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal consumption?” They say, No, not really.

In a private communique to me, York clarifies how his work was used in the film, “My research that Gibbs draws on found that in recent decades, nations that have added more non-fossil energy sources don’t typically reduce their fossil fuel use substantially (controlling for economic growth etc.) relative to nations that don’t add a lot of non-fossil energy. Thus, it’s not a simple case where there is a fixed energy demand so that adding renewables necessarily pushes out fossil energy, but rather adding energy sources is typically associated with rising energy consumption.” So, again Gibbs and Moore, if somewhat inarticulately, are drawing attention to renewables a s an expansion of energy options without a significant drop in the use of fossil fuels. “I find the movie frustrating,” writes York, “because I don’t think they do a good job of articulating a vision for action.”

Even a recent Guardian article meant to defend McKibben and the environmental movement against the slights of Planet accidently, it seems, underlined Gibbs’s point. Oliver Milman links to a study touting the extraordinary increase of efficiency in renewable technology designs – a study that brags, “Decarbonization of electric grids around the world by an average of about 30% will result in approximately 17% lower battery manufacturing emissions by 2030.” This, to Gibbs and Moore, is merely improvement (and only a best guesstimate at that) and insufficient for the long haul. Milman writes, “Scientists say the world must reach net zero emissions by 2050 to head off disastrous global heating, which would likely spur worsening storms, heatwaves, sea level rise and societal unrest.” By 2050. That’s exactly why Moore and Gibbs seem to be throwing in the towel. That’s not going to happen.

Moore and Gibbs have put together a sober and quiet response to the reactions of fellow environmentalist against Planet of the Humans. (You could argue that the 17 minute discussion is better than their film.) Once done with watching Planet and listening to rebuttals and getting dismayed, you may want to pull an Edward G. and have a lounge-down with a bev or bone and remember how much you love Being and Nature by watching the Qatsi Trilogy at Documentary Heaven. You could start with Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance. A Palate cleansing after a hard-to-swallow reality check.

Or you could go the whole Earth Abides route, and prefer to see it the late George Carlin’s way. Cynical, but realistic, for a species that just doesn’t seem to give a shit about most things for very long. Distracted from distraction by distraction, as T.S. Eliot puts it. Of course, Carlin’s Way is unavailable to anyone with a family.

Environmental Disaster and Health Crisis in Cerrejon

At Cerrejon (Colombia), the largest open-pit coal mine in Latin America owned equally by BHP (Australia), Anglo American PLC (United Kingdom) and Glencore (Switzerland), the situation of the indigenous people is progressively worsening. Cerrejon Limited has informed the workers that “all the existing shifts will be unified into a single 7-day work, for three days off.” With the enforcement of the new shifts, “workers would go from working 15 to 21 days and the mine would go from 4 to 3 shifts, leaving at least 25% of the current workforce unemployed.” The new shift pattern is likely to aggravate the health of workers as long working hours increase the number of work-related pathologies. Current work shift arrangements have already led to more than “700 pathologies associated with musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular and ear diseases, among others.” As the level of work becomes more stressful, these occupational diseases will start multiplying.

The present-day actions at the Cerrejon mine are one among the myriad manifestations of transnational capital’s cruelty. Cerrejon mine is located in the dry department of La Guajira which is home to more than 900,000 people. 45% of the population is indigenous, with most of the people belonging to Wayuu and the remaining coming from smaller groups such as Arhuacos, Koguis and Wiwas. 8% of the population is Afro-Colombian, thus making La Guajira the department with the highest presence of indigenous people in Colombia. When mining companies arrived in 1983 in La Guajira, they encountered these indigenous people as an obstruction in the path of development. Consequently, the appropriate solution to this problem was the initiation of “development-induced displacement.”

In 1981, the brutal behemoths of mining began shredding the social fabric of indigenous existence and left deep scars of development on the collective psyche of indigenous people. In order to make way for the Puerto Bolivar Port, mining multinationals chose to systematically exterminate the Wayuu village of Media Luna. Paradoxically, negotiations began after the displacement in which “Some 750 residents who lived in Media Luna entered into negotiations with the company for their collective relocation, but were targeted with anonymous threats of violence, which appeared to be linked to the negotiations and later led to the collapse of talks…. Subsequently, the company ordered the village to relocate for a second time and, when seven families refused, a metal fence was erected around their homes and armed guards stationed to watch over – a strategy interpreted to intimidate them into leaving.” This was a particularly counter-intuitive way of conducting negotiations wherein irregular violence, strategically organized arm-twisting and silent terrorization forced the Wayuu into accepting development.

The largest displacement came later in August 2001 when the Afro-Colombian community of the Tabaco village was violently dragooned into fleeing from the region. Eviction happened through the carefully coordinated action of the military, police and armed forces, interspersed with the presence of marauding bulldozers. Ines Perez, one of the victims of the calibrated evisceration of Tabaco, said that “The community was evicted from the land by force, with anti-riot police, in cold blood. We were thrown off our land. They destroyed our homes with machines. They punched us. They hit me and my papa. We were left nearly in a coma, with the houses torn down, in ruins. We’ve been struggling for 13 years and we’re still fighting for our health, for our food, for everything. We are demanding to be relocated and to receive compensation. We just want our lives back.”

Cerrejon mining companies have, till date, no qualms for plundering, gutting and decimating an entire village through an expeditious eruption of violence. Comprehensive reparations, relocation and apportionment of productive lands have not occurred. Even where such processes have commenced, the efforts are insubstantial and inadequate. Samuel Arregoces, a former inhabitant of Tabaco, expresses the plight of those who have been devastatingly relocated and impoverished by the dehumanizing operations of money-grubbing mines: “They destroyed the entire village. They took all our land away. We lost all our livestock, everything. They relocated us to other districts, where we now live in poverty since we cannot grow anything. Where we used to live, where the Tabaco river flows, we grew cassava, maize and bananas. For many years, our cattle grazed the land and we also had fruit trees, but today we have to buy everything. We have become destitute, since we no longer have a village.”

Another catastrophic byproduct of Cerrejon mining operations has been the unprecedented and utter ransacking of regional ecosystems. Open-pit mining is environmentally destabilizing because it “flattens mountains and devastates ecosystems. In this process, forests are clear-cut to expose the tops of mountains, which are then blown off with explosives. Coal is extracted using large machinery and the unused soil and rock are dumped into adjacent valleys, filling them up and creating a flat landscape.” After this, “New, gigantic, flat-topped walls of debris called overburden are dumped between tiny communities and along the periphery of open pit mines. They swallow farmers’ fields, impede the movement of grazing animals, disrupt rivers and streams, and leach poisons into the earth and water.”

The cultural loss associated with this disruptive process is profound as territories are spiritually significant for indigenous collectivities such as the Wayuu. In Wayuu community, communication with ancestors is a part of the primordial ethics of indigeneity and this happens primarily through the interpretation of dreams. The dream world, therefore, is the main modality for dialoguing with spirits and ancestors. But Wayuu people can only dream when they live on their own sacred territories. Correspondingly, when sacred territories are destroyed by open-pit mining, Wayuu lose their ability to dream and get culturally stripped of their distinctive identity.

Apart from cultural loss, Cerrejon mining extractivism has ecologically-materially impacted the department of La Guajira through two phenomena: water scarcity and high levels of pollution. In La Guajira, “people are dependent on tributary streams and their corresponding aquifers as a water source for agriculture, household use, and animal ranching”because the department “is a drought-prone region with two rainy seasons that are unpredictable and inconsistent.” Rivers are, therefore, extremely important for the existence of indigenous communities. Cerrejon Limited has apparently failed to comprehend the importance of rivers and has been trying consistently to completely colonize the rivers.

In 2012, Cerrejon companies had tried to divert 26km of the Rancheria River (the primary source of water) to access the 500 million metric tons of coal contained underneath the river bed. But this planned diversion was met with organized resistance and Wayúu spokesperson Jazmin Romero Epiayu has appropriately described the social unity with which the diversion was met: “In 2012, the proposal of this multinational was to divert the Ranchería River, the principal river we have in our department, and the principal river that feeds the whole department of La Guajira… Since before colonialism this [river] has represented the veins of Mother Earth, Wounmainkat, which is to say, it’s the blood of the earth. And one of the proposals in 2012 was to divert this river we have because below it there were 500 million tons of coal. But what did we say? Us, Wayúu communities, Afro-descendant communities, campesino communities, the union, the magistrates… all these sectors united in protest to stop the diversion of this river.”

Despite the united efforts of the La Guajira community, the Rancheria River has been contaminated by the mining companies. According to a study by Fulbright researchers, the Rancheria River contains high levels of mercury, making it potentially dangerous for consumption. Furthermore, the Cerrejon mine consumes more than 24 million litres of water per day (which is equivalent to the consumption of more than 70,000 people) while the Wayuu people don’t even “have access to the basic requirement of 2 l of water per person per day for cleaning and for preparing food.” Due to the aggravated effects of water scarcity, approximately 5000 children of the Wayuu tribe died in the 2007-17 period.

Not contented with contaminating water, cumulatively increasing the hardships of the Wayuu tribe and killing children, Cerrejon mining companies have embarked on a neo-colonial voyage to divert the Arroyo Bruno stream to the La Puente pit. Bruno stream has 40 million tons of coal reserves under its river bed, a valuable treasure for avaricious mining corporations. On July 8, 2020, the affected communities of La Guajira visited the artificial channel and natural channel of the Arroyo Bruno stream and observed that “the company plugged the natural channel to divert the waters in 3.6 kilometers to the new artificial channel. The alarming thing is that there is no water in either of the two channels. This situation worries the experts…who warn that the Bruno stream is at high risk of disappearing.”

In order to completely colonize the river, the company has tried three times to displace El Rocio, the community living on the bank of Arroyo Bruno. In spite of Cerrejon Limited’s aggressive efforts at strong-arming indigenous people, the general mood is militant in the department and the following statement from the Guajira Dignity Group reflects the anti-imperialist fervor of the masses: “The government cannot continue granting mining titles here, and Cerrejón cannot come every two years and say – we are planning the deviation of this stream – and tomorrow another, and so on. We have to limit this expansion because this is a deserted region and has a limited water supply. Cerrejón cannot continue diverting streams to increase profits.”

Pollution levels in La Guajira are high due to the spontaneous ignition of mined coal, daily coal blasts and coal dispersal happening due to the movement of open-top coal wagons every day. This has led to a staggering number of people afflicted with respiratory diseases, indicated by the fact the 48% of the patients arriving at the local hospital Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady of Pilar) suffer from acute respiratory problems. Air pollution has made the indigenous communities of La Guajira more vulnerable to Coronavirus as it has been found that air pollution is directly correlated to an increased Covid-19 death risk.

In La Guajira, children are more likely to get negatively affected by the presence of toxic materials and pollutants in air, soil and water. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, “Children are more vulnerable to the localized environmental impacts of mining activity than adults – particularly water, air and soil pollution – due to their progressive and incomplete physical development; the fact that they spend more time playing than adults and hand to-mouth behaviour that makes children more likely to ingest pollutants; and their varying stages of mental development, for example, inability to read hazard and warning signs.”

As the Covid-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on La Guajira, it is becoming clear that transnational coal interests have existentially damaged the indigenous communities. Through years of imperialist pillage, multinational mining companies have converted La Guajira into one of the poorest departments of Colombia with 65% of the population living in poverty. Decades of coal mining by corporate giants to quench the coal thirst of Europe and USA has methodically undermined local agricultural arrangements and disallowed indigenous communities from achieving food sovereignty. Eder Arregoces Pinto, president of Chancleta’s community action council, pithily encapsulates the adverse effects of large-scale mono-industrialization: “It [Cerrejón Coal] may be one of the largest coal mines in Latin America but most families here can eat only one meal a day.”

Pollution and water scarcity have drastically weakened the collective health of indigenous communities and now, these immiserated people are left unprotected from the virus. Luz Ángela Uriana, an indigenous woman from Province Reserve in the south of La Guajir, painfully expresses the historical injustice which has been done with them: “What we are demanding of Cerrejón is our children’s health. We are fighting for our rights to live in a healthy territory, in a reserve without pollution, just as it was before Cerrejón came in. Here, we are exposed to mining pollution 24 hours a day. I have children, and if I have to fight against the whole world for them, I will do it. I will go wherever I have to, for my family and to honour the memory of all of the children that have died or fallen sick because of the pollution. How is it possible that we, as Cerrejón’s neighbours, don’t have access to healthcare? We don’t have potable water. We don’t have decent housing. We live in absolute poverty.” The present-day imperative is to help these people fight against the predatory and remorselessly exploitative practices of Cerrejon mining companies.

Contemplating Human Extinction Terrifies Most People: A Strategy for Survival

Any serious study of the relevant scholarly literature reveals at least four possible paths to imminent human extinction, that is, human extinction within five years: nuclear war, the climate catastrophe, the deployment of 5G, and biodiversity collapse.

Moreover, as I have documented previously, under cover of the non-existent ‘virus’ labeled COVID-19, the global elite is conducting a coup against humanity. That is, by bombarding us with fear-mongering propaganda to focus our attention on the ‘virus’, the capacity of virtually all people, including activists, to devote attention to the coup, and to resist it, has been effectively eliminated.

Unfortunately, it has also meant that, despite the extensively documented evidence of the four paths to imminent human extinction, it is even more difficult than usual to get people to focus on this point. This means that engaging people to consider the evidence for themselves is extremely difficult: it is easier to live in delusion, reassured by elite-driven narratives promulgated through education systems and the corporate media which effectively convey the message that there is either no serious cause for concern (yet) or, perhaps, that the time frame allows for an adequate official response in due course. In either case we, as individuals or groups, do not really need to do anything differently; going along with the elite-driven narrative, including time frame, will ensure our survival.

Of course, as those paying attention to the evidence already know, being obedient to the elite-driven narrative is a recipe for extinction. We have already exceeded 2°C above the pre-industrial temperature, the ongoing and rapid deployment of 5G will be catastrophic, biodiversity is already collapsing (and will be seriously accelerated by the rising temperature and deployment of 5G) – for just the latest in the ongoing stream of disasters, hundreds of elephants have recently died in Botswana’s Okavango Delta – and, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, nuclear war is now a greater possibility than at any previous time in human history. For summaries of the evidence and further documentation in each case, see ‘The Elite’s COVID-19 Coup to Destroy Humanity that is also Fast-Tracking Four Paths to Human Extinction‘.

In this article I would like to explain why people are so terrified of the truth and what we can do about it so that an effective response to each of these threats can be implemented (assuming, problematically, that there is enough time).

Why are Most Human Beings so Terrified?

Virtually all human beings are terrified and they are terrified for the same reason: the child-raising process that sociologists like to label ‘socialization’ should be more accurately labeled ‘terrorization’. Why? Because from the moment of a child’s birth, parents, teachers, religious leaders and adults generally regard themselves as responsible for terrorizing the child into obedience of the commands, rules, conventions and laws that define the nature of permissible behaviour in their society.

This means that provided the child responds obediently to parental (or other adult) commands, obeys any rules imposed (by the parents, teachers and religious figures in the child’s life), learns all relevant social conventions for their society and, ultimately, obeys the law, they are allowed to live, recognized as compliant citizens, in their society.

Unfortunately, from society’s viewpoint, evolutionary pressures over vast time scales have led to each human individual being given Self-will to seek out and fulfill their own unique destiny: evolutionary pressures do not predispose any individual to obey the will of another for the simple reason that obedience has no evolutionary functionality.

Consequently, it takes enormous terrorization during childhood to ensure that the child surrenders their Self-will at the altar of obedience. To achieve this outcome and largely unknowingly, parents use a large range of behaviours from the three categories of violence that I have labeled ‘visible’ violence, ‘invisible’ violence and ‘utterly invisible’ violence.

A common element of this terrorization is that the child is frequently threatened with, and/or actually suffers, violence for being ‘disobedient’. Of course, this violence, assuming it is even recognized as such (given that ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence are just that to virtually everyone), is invariably labeled ‘punishment‘ so that we can delude ourselves that our violence is not harmful.

This means that virtually every single individual has been successfully terrorized into being submissively obedient. And, fundamentally, this obedience includes accepting the elite-driven narrative delivered by education systems and the corporate media in relation to issues crucial to human survival.

So despite our preference for believing otherwise, those individuals in our societies who survive the education system capable of thinking for themselves, or even of ‘clear thinking’, are rare. And then they must also survive (preferably by refusing to access it) the propaganda (that is, lies) presented as ‘news’ by the corporate media. Given that another outcome of being terrorized throughout childhood means that most people are very gullible, perceiving lies is a huge challenge in itself.

Of course, this powerless imperative to believe the lies we are told and to behave obediently in response is always reinforced by the fear of violence (‘punishment’), including the fear of social ostracism for resisting elite narratives, but it is also reinforced by other fears: for example, the fear that makes people feel powerless to respond in any meaningful way, the fear of changing their behaviour, and the fear of feeling out of control of their own destiny. After all, if extinction is imminent and we are to avert it, we will need to do some fundamental things – including thinking and behaving – very differently. But we are not allowed to think or behave differently, are we? That would be disobedient.

This can be readily illustrated. When a young child does not get what they need, the child will have an emotional reaction. This will always include fear, it will probably include anger and it will probably include sadness, among other feelings. However, almost invariably, parents behave in a manner intended to prevent the child from having their emotional response (and using this information in formulating the appropriate behavioural response in the circumstance). They do not listen to the child while they express their feelings. Instead, they act to make the child suppress awareness of their feelings.

At its simplest and apparently most benign, the parent might comfort the child in the misguided belief that this is helpful. But it is not, unless you want a submissively obedient child.

Another simple and common way in which we suppress the emotional awareness and, hence, capacity for emotional expression of a child is by giving them food or a toy to distract them from how they feel. The fundamental outcome of this act is that we unconsciously ‘teach’ the child to seek food and/or material items as substitutes for feeling and acting on how they feel. But this is absolutely disastrous.

The net result of this behaviour is that virtually all people in industrialized societies have become addicted to material consumption, and the direct (including military), structural and ecological violence that makes excessive consumption in these societies possible. All so that we can suppress how we really feel.

And, therefore, the very notion of substantially reducing consumption – a central part of any strategy for human survival by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industrial production and transport, checking the collapse of biodiversity by halting the destruction of habitat such as rainforests, denying financial incentive to deploy technology for 5G, ending wars (and the threat of nuclear war) for resources – becomes ‘unthinkable’.

Because the fundamental imperative of materialist societies is ‘Consume!’ (so that corporations can profit). And we do not have the emotional power to disobey that imperative because deep in our unconscious remains the childhood terror of resisting the offered food or toy and insisting on expressing how we feel and behaving powerfully in accord with that. It is far simpler to just put something more in our mouth or use one of our ‘toys’. Who wants to feel scared, sad or angry instead?

In essence, the individual who has been terrorized into obedience is no longer capable of thinking for themself and then behaving in accord with their own Self-will. This means that imperatives of the global elite – mediated through its agents such as governments, education systems and the corporate media and enforced by legal systems, the police and prison cells – are readily obeyed by the vast bulk of the human population.

And because the global elite is insane, this obedience means that we are submitting to the elite coup and complying with its imperatives that are fast-tracking humanity to extinction on four separate paths, as noted above.

To reiterate: At this most critical moment in human history, when a coup is being conducted against us and four separate threats to human existence and all life on Earth require our engaged attention and powerful response, it is almost impossible to get people to even acknowledge these threats, let alone to consider the evidence and act strategically in response.

Which means that profoundly altering our approaches to parenting and education, so that we produce powerful individuals, is critical to any strategy to fight for human survival.

So what can we do?

Well, if you would like to fight for human survival, it would be useful to start by giving yourself time to focus on feeling your emotional responses – fear, anger, sadness, dread…. – to the elite coup and the four most imminent threats.

If you do not do this, you are unlikely to be able to engage meaningfully and strategically in the effort. You will, most likely and unconsciously, simply put your attention elsewhere and go back to what you were doing.

So once you have a clearer sense of your emotional reactions to this knowledge and have allowed yourself time to focus on feeling these feelings, you will be in a far more powerful position to consider your response to the situation. And, depending on your interests and circumstances, there is a range of possible responses that will each make an important difference.

Fundamentally, you might consider making ‘My Promise to Children‘ which will include considering what an education for your children means to you, particularly if you want powerful individuals who can resist violence.

You might consider supporting others to become more powerful.

If you wish to strategically resist the elite coup against humanity, you can read about nonviolent strategy, including strategic goals for doing so, from here: Strategic Aims.

If you wish to powerfully resist the primary threats to human existence – nuclear war, the deployment of 5G, the collapse of biodiversity and/or the climate catastrophe – you can read about nonviolent strategy, including strategic goals to focus your campaigns, from here: Strategic Aims.

You might also consider joining those who are powerful enough to recognize the critical importance of reduced consumption and greater self-reliance as essential elements of these strategies by participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

In addition, you are welcome to consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Or, if you want something simpler, consider committing to:

The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children. See Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening‘.
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not own or use a mobile (cell) phone
  8. I will not buy rainforest timber
  9. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  10. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  11. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  12. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  13. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  14. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Conclusion

Given that submissive obedience is the primary behavioural characteristic of all ‘good citizens’, it is going to take a monumental effort to defeat the elite coup and avert the now imminent extinction of Homo Sapiens. This is because most common human behaviours – from parenting to consumption habits – have been shaped to serve elite interests, and it is these behaviours that must change.

Of course, this is also why lobbying elite agents – such as governments and corporations – cannot work. Apart from the fact that they exist to serve elite interests and obey elite directives accordingly (rather than respond to grassroots pressure which they function superbly to dissipate), governments and corporations cannot meaningfully impact the crises that confront us.

That power is ours but we must use it, and deploy it strategically.