Category Archives: Environment

Amazonia in Flames

On 28 October 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil with 55.1% of the vote and with a gigantic help from Cambridge Analytica.

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 2019 in Davos Switzerland, Bolsonaro made a sumptuous presentation, “We Are Building a New Brazil”. He outlined a program that put literally Brazil up for sale, and especially the Brazilian part of Amazonia. He was talking particularly about Brazil’s water resources, the world’s largest, and the rain forest – offering a huge potential for agricultural development and mining.

None of the world leaders present at the WEF, precisely those that regularly meet pretending to save the planet, reacted to Bolsonaro’s statement on the Amazon region. They all knew who Bolsonaro was and is. They knew that the man had no scruples and would destroy – literally – the world’s lungs. They did nothing. They stayed silent in words and deeds, applauding the neonazi for his openness to international business and globalization.

Today, on the occasion of another similar world event, the meeting of the G7 in Biarritz, France, French President Macron accused Bolsonaro of lying when he talked and pledged environmental consciousness after taking office, about protecting the Amazon area. Macron was joined by Germany in threatening Brazil with canceling the trade agreement with Mercosur, if he would not immediately undertake to stop the “wildfires”. They have most likely nothing to do with ‘wild’ as they, according to all circumstantial evidence, were planted in a concerted effort to rid the rich Amazon territory of the life-sustaining jungle, so as to make the newly gained flame-deforested land accessible for private agri-business and mining.

Mind you, the G7 is another self-appointed totally illegal group of industrialized, rich countries (similar to the G20); illegal, because they have been approved by nobody, not by the UN or any international body. They became rich mostly on the back of poor developing nations that were and are still colonized for hundreds of years. The G7 count today about 10% of the world population and are controlling 40% of the globe’s GDP.

Despite the fact that nobody, other than themselves, ratified their existence and their machinations, they believe they can call the shots of how the world should turn and function. They have no official backing by anybody, especially not the people across the globe, who, with a vast majority are fighting globalization. It’s a useless structure – RT refers to them as “The Unbearable Pointlessness of G7” – but their power lays in the rest of the world’s silence, their silent acceptance of the G7’s arrogant wielding of the scepter of power.

So, would Bolsonaro take them seriously, knowing that he is one of them and they are fully sharing his ideology of profit first, shoving environmental and social values down the muddy waters of the Amazon River? Hardly. He knows they are hypocrites. He knows that they make a bit of noise, because they have to. It makes for good public relation and propaganda – so people don’t go on the barricades. He knows that starting this coming Monday, 26 August, when the G7 summit will be history, that anything the Macrons of this world so impressively said, will fade away. The media will concentrate on other ‘news’ – and the forest fires will burn the life stream of Amazonia away – to make room for corporate profit-making by the elite few.

Never mind the Constitutional protection of indigenous people and their land. Bolsonaro backed by evangelists and his military junta will rapidly dismantle any remaining protection for the ecosystem and native communities. His argument goes that the native people’s land is sitting on huge reserves of natural resources that belong to Brazil and may be concessioned to private corporations for mining, exploitation of agriculture and lumber.

The indigenous folks are people who have for thousands of years made a peaceful living in the Amazon. They are the gatekeepers of Amazonia; they are the people who may carry our genes from the present killer civilization to the next, hopefully less of a killer one, when mankind has finally managed to destroy itself. It will not destroy the planet. Never. The planet will just get rid of the nefarious elements of annihilation – mankind – and renew itself. As has happened many times in the past – a new civilization will eventually be born – and, yes, the world’s indigenous people, the likely only survivors, may carry on our DNA, possibly to the next attempt at humanity.

The fires have so far in about 20 days since they were discovered, consumed at least 74,000 ha of tropical rain forest. The smoke is already trespassing the border to Argentina and affecting the provinces of Formosa, Jujuy, Corrientes, Catamarca, La Rioja, Santa Fe and may have already reached Buenos Aires. NASA reports that about 3.2 million square kilometers of South America are covered by smoke.

The flames are massive and are devastating the jungle at a rapid pace. Amazonia comprises one of the world’s largest rainforests, also known as Mother Earth’s lungs – without which humanity – and fauna and flora might not survive.

According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the fires increased by 83% – almost double – from what they were last year, and, not coincidentally, at least 68% of protected areas have been affected. The Brazilian Space Research spotted 72,000 fires, of which 9,000 last week alone. The Amazon is home to 34 million people, including over 350 indigenous groups.

At the onset of the G7 conference, Mr. Macron twittered:

“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”

The destruction of the Amazon is indeed a crime of first degree. Accordingly, there are protests around the world against Bolsonaro’s “free for all” mining, lumbering, land and water grabbing policies. The eco-warriors Extinction Rebellion (XR) organize widespread protests, and in front of London’s Brazilian Embassy protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Bolsonaro’s got to go!”.

While the Brazil fires catch world attention, there are jungle fires even larger than those in Amazonia burning down other parts of the world’s oxygen-generating lungs. Bloomberg cites NASA data, according to which last Thursday and Friday, 22 and 23 August – in two days alone – more than 6,900 fires were recorded in Angola and about 3,400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), about 5 times as many as in the same two days in the Brazilian Amazon region. The destruction of the jungle in Africa progresses virtually unnoticed and is hardly reported in western media. Bloomberg is an exception. Why is that?

Could it be that the same globalized corporations interested in Brazil’s natural resources underlaying the Amazon forests are also interested in those enormous reserves of minerals and hydrocarbon resources of Central Africa? Have they – DRC, Angola and possibly others been encouraged tacitly or directly by Bolsonaro and his clan to let the jungle burn? There are plenty of Brazilian corporations which have a vivid interest in Angola, another former Portuguese colony.

Despite the G7 apparent concern to protect the world’s lungs in Amazonia, they seem to be oblivious about the Central African rain forest devastation. The massive African fires too advance rapidly and extinguish another part of the world’s lungs. But these fires are not on the G7 radar or agenda for discussion, and nobody is threatened with sanctioning if the respective governments remain hapless onlookers.

In 2008, a so-called Amazon Fund, the first UN REDD+ initiative for the protection, preservation and monitoring of the Amazon region was created (UN REDD+ = reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks).

Germany and Norway – and others – have accused Brazil for not having properly invested their contribution into the Fund. Norway has recently blocked a payment of US$ 30 million destined for the Fund. Germany had blocked already in early August the equivalent of US$ 39 million for different Amazon protection programs to be financed by the Fund. But Bolsonaro, in a nonchalant manner, dismissed the blocked payments, suggesting that Germany should use the funds for reforestation of Germany.

In the case of Brazil, the threats by the Macron-Merkel duo – and others – seem to have had at least at the outset the effect that Bolsonaro is mobilizing the military to help extinguish the fires. Will he succeed? Does he want to succeed? In any case will the media continue reporting on progress once the G7 have gone home?  Will the world’s outcry be loud enough to force a concerted effort, possibly UN led to fight and extinguish these fires that are menacing not only to destroy a key oxygen generator for life on mother earth, but also a UNESCO protected world heritage?

What Will It Take To Declare A Climate Emergency?

Students march in Melbourne, Australia. Source AAP.

The Embassy Protectors Defense Committee is calling on the US State Department to drop the federal charges against us. On May 16, federal forces invaded the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC in violation of the Vienna Convention and arrested four Embassy Protectors even though we were there with permission of the elected government of Venezuela.

Visit www.DefendEmbassyProtectors.org to send them an email, learn more and donate to the defense fund.

The Earth’s lungs are on fire. Forest fires are burning in greater numbers and with greater frequency and intensity than in the past. They are fueled not just by conditions connected to the climate crisis, such as drought and intense storms, but also by unfettered exploitation for profit.

We are living in a climate emergency without an emergency response. At a time when fossil fuels must be kept in the ground, the United States is increasing extraction of oil and gas and is rapidly becoming the world’s greatest climate threat. The corporate duopoly parties are slow to respond.

This week, we look at efforts by activists to raise awareness of the climate emergency and to directly confront those who are responsible for it.

Map showing heat (the red dots) and smoke in Bolivia and Brazil detected by a satellite August 14, 2019. WildfireToday.com.

Burning down our home

The Amazon Rainforest, which produces 20% of the world’s oxygen and has sequestered as much as 25% of the carbon from fossil fuel use worldwide, is now burning at an increased rate. There are 84% more forest fires in the Amazon this year than during the same period in 2018. Fires are destroying old-growth forests and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Each acre of rainforest lost means less capacity to serve as a carbon sink, less production of oxygen and less biodiversity, functions critical for survival.

This increase in fires can be directly attributed to changes in policies under the Bolsonaro administration. Environmental protection standards have not been enforced and stripping land for cattle has increased. As a result, Norway and Germany, which have invested millions of dollars to protect the Amazon, are pulling their funding from Brazil.

While Bolsonaro lets the fires rage and even jokes about it by referring to himself as “Nero,” the Bolivian government is acting quickly to put out the fires that have crossed its borders. They purchased aircraft to assist with evacuations and carry water and they deployed troops to help firefighters. Activists around the world protested outside Brazilian Embassies on Friday to pressure its government to take action.

Fires are also burning in the Arctic, in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. Nancy Fresco from the University of Alaska reports, “The evidence shows that overall, fires in the far North are becoming bigger, hotter and more frequent. …As these [carbon] releases fuel further warming, climate change is causing more climate change, which affects the entire planet.”

Houston, TX. 2017. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Adding fuel to the fire

At a time when general wisdom tells us to keep fossil fuels in the ground, the United States is gearing up to be the biggest extractor of oil and gas in the 2020s. Global Witness estimates the US will account for 61% of new oil and gas production globally, which will be 20 times more than Russia and 40 times more than Saudi Arabia. The state of Texas alone will produce almost four times more than Canada and ten times more than Russia and Brazil. Of the top ten oil and gas producers, seven of them are states in the US.

A quarter of the US’ new fossil fuel production is expected to occur on federal land and the other three quarters will be on private land. Global Witness recommends a moratorium on drilling public lands and ending fossil fuel subsidies to private companies.

Activists aren’t waiting for these policy changes. Protests and other acts of resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure continue. In Minnesota, people locked down to the gates of an Enbridge office, halting work on the Line 3 pipeline that will carry tar sands oil. The Standing Rock Sioux continue to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline. Recently, they filed a new motion in court against the pipeline because the environmental study used to support Energy Transfer Partner’s permit was flawed. The company is seeking to double the volume of oil it is transporting even though the current pipeline has leaked at least ten times since it opened in 2017.

Pipeline fighters in Maryland had a victory this week when a judge denied TransCanada’s attempt to use eminent domain to gain access to land that is part of a public rail trail, a perversion of the whole concept of eminent domain that was viewed as a threat to Maryland’s sovereignty. And pipeline fights continue against the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana.

New York City. Erik McGregor.

Declaring a climate emergency

Multiple groups have been pushing candidates to support a major mobilization to address the climate crisis through a green economy, akin to the transformation to a war economy achieved during World War II. At that time, factories switched from making consumer goods to making military equipment and weapons. Many people contributed to the effort by rationing goods, gathering scrap materials, planting victory gardens and learning new skills.

This year, the Sunrise Movement, which champions the idea of a Green New Deal, has been pushing the Democratic National Committee to hold a specific presidential debate on the climate crisis. The DNC voted down a resolution in support of such a debate over the weekend even though climate activists stormed the room and protested the vote.

Daphne Wysham reminds us that the failures to address the climate crisis are bipartisan. Although oil and gas companies are scrambling for investors, a new study by the Center for Sustainable Economy found that Democrat Tim Geithner and Republican Richard Kayne are financing new oil terminals in Oregon. Of course, it was President Obama who takes credit for expanding oil and gas production in the US, and around the world, and President Trump who is continuing the expansion. We outlined the presidential misleadership on climate by the Obama and Bush administrations. Amy Westervelt shares a letter written to President Carter in 1977 by Frank Press warning of climate catastrophe.

Howie Hawkins, a candidate seeking the Green Party nomination for president who brought the idea of the Green New Deal to the United States, wrote this week that the next president must declare a climate emergency on Day One in office, just as Trump did with the border wall. Hawkins explains that declaring a climate emergency gives the president the power to take significant actions, which he lists (see image to the right). Hawkins also calls for an Office of Climate Mobilization and investment in the Global Green New Deal.

Hawkins has put forward his own version of the Green New Deal that includes cutting military spending by 75%. This would not only make more funds available for necessary projects, but it would also limit the military’s ability to be the greatest single user of fossil fuels on the planet.

This week, Bernie Sanders put forward the best climate proposal of all Democratic candidates seeking the nomination thus far. His plan includes a series of positive steps but he still needs to be pushed for more. Sanders would move to clean, sustainable electricity by 2030 but it is not until 2050 that he calls for an end to the fossil fuel economy. This is not consistent with climate science. Sanders only vaguely confronts the biggest polluter on the planet, the Pentagon.

J. P. Sottile writes that we have to confront militarism to address the climate crisis. Not only are wars fought for oil, but military vessels defend waterways so that oil and gas can be transported. He describes the negative military-fossil-fuel-industrial cycle:

…every year the U.S. political system reflexively funds a world-dominating defense budget that directly benefits the oil industry, client states and the entire hydrocarbon-based economy. Basically, it’s a global protection racket that generates huge profits for defense companies that sell weapons to the Pentagon. And the U.S. government also pushes arms sales abroad, particularly to oil-rich clients like those in the Middle East. All of those arms sales sustain thousands of jobs in states and congressional districts around the U.S. That, in turn, creates constituencies for members of Congress who collect millions in campaign contributions from both the defense and oil industries to make sure they can maintain de facto subsides for their weapons and their oil. Taxpayers and consumers complete the circuit through their “contributions” to the empire’s public-private partnership: They get to keep on buying oil, gas and plastic, while paying taxes for the military. It’s a perpetual ATM fueled by oil.

JOIN THE PEOPLE’S MOBILIZATION TO STOP THE US WAR MACHINE AND SAVE THE PLANET. September 20 to 23 in New York City.

Fridays for Future Rally in Berlin. Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP

What about the future?

The next decade is full of threats and full of potential. There is much that needs to change but it is up to us to change it.

The climate crisis is here. We need to take action now because we are already behind in the game. On September 20, there will be a climate strike led by youth. We urge you to support it no matter your age. See StrikeWithUs.org. The Extinction Rebellion is planning a fall of resistance beginning with the strike on September 20 and lasting into October. See ExtinctionRebellion.US. These are both global initiatives.

Connected to the climate crisis are other great threats – the United States stoking conflict with Great Powers, including Russia and China and driving other countries to obtain nuclear weapons to protect themselves from western powers are moving us closer to the possibility of a nuclear war. Underlying the climate crisis is the capitalist economic system that values profit over life and protection of the planet. This system is literally fueling fires in the Amazon. Extreme wealth inequality and exploitation are inciting unrest, which is then used to justify surveillance and repression. We are in a hot mess in more ways than one.

There are signs for optimism. More and more, various movements are discovering their relationships to each other and are collaborating on actions. This is critical to learn from each other and to build the popular power necessary to shift what is possible.

These crises are also opportunities for tremendous transformation. People around the world are experimenting with new ways of living and structuring our societies. Brian Tokar of the Institute for Social Ecology describes local initiatives and how they can be scaled up regionally and globally. The Zapatistas recently announced the expansion of autonomous municipalities in Chiapas. Activists in France and Puerto Rico are creating direct democratic structures through general assemblies to make decisions about their future.

We have the opportunity now to think outside the box. To organize in our communities and connect with others throughout the country and around the world. We are building solidarity from person to person across movements and across borders. Together we have the power to create a new world.

Canada’s PM Trudeau Supports Brazil’s Environmentally Criminal President not the Amazon Rain Forest

By now most environmentally conscious people understand that Jair Bolsonaro is a bad guy. Brazil’s president has scandalously blamed environmentalists for starting fires burning in the Amazon region, after having called for more “development” of the huge forests.

Canadians are lucky we have a prime minister who is not such an embarrassment and understands environmental issues, right?

While Justin Trudeau has called for better protection of the Amazon, his  government and Canadian corporations have contributed to the rise of a proto fascist Brazilian politician who has accelerated the destruction of the ‘planet’s lungs’.

In 2016 Workers Party President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in a “soft coup”. While Canadian officials have made dozens of statements criticizing Venezuela over the past three years, the Trudeau government remained silent on Rousseff’s ouster. The only comment I found was a Global Affairs official telling Sputnik that Canada would maintain relations with Brazil after Rousseff was impeached. In fact, the Trudeau government began negotiating — there have been seven rounds of talks — a free trade agreement with the Brazilian-led MERCOSUR trade block. They also held a Canada Brazil Strategic Dialogue Partnership and Trudeau warmly welcomed Bolsonaro at the G20 in June.

Bolsonaro won the 2018 presidential election largely because the front runner in the polls was in jail. Former Workers Party president Lula da Silva was blocked from running due to politically motivated corruption charges, but the Trudeau government seems to have remained silent on Lula’s imprisonment and other forms of persecution of the Brazilian left.

With over $10 billion invested in Brazil, corporate Canada appears excited by Bolsonaro. After his election CBC reported:

For Canadian business, a Bolsonaro presidency could open new investment opportunities, especially in the resource sector, finance and infrastructure, as he has pledged to slash environmental regulations in the Amazon rainforest and privatize some government-owned companies.

Canada’s support for right-wing, pro-US, forces in the region has also favored Bolsonaro. Since at least 2009 the Canadian government has been openly pushing back against the leftward shift in the region and strengthening ties with the most right-wing governments. That year Ottawa actively backed the Honduran military’s removal of social democratic president Manuel Zelaya. In 2011 Canada helped put far-right Michel Martelly into the president’s office in Haiti and Ottawa passively supported the ‘parliamentary coup’ against Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo in 2012. In recent years Canada has been central to building regional support for ousting Venezuela’s government. The destabilization efforts greatly benefited from the ouster of Rousseff and imprisonment of Lula. Brazil is now a member of the Canada/Peru instigated “Lima Group” of countries hostile to the Nicolás Maduro government.

Ottawa has long supported the overthrow of elected, left leaning governments in the hemisphere. Ottawa passively supported the military coup against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and played a slightly more active role in the removal of Dominican Republic president Juan Bosch in 1965 and Chilean president Salvador Allende in 1973. In Brazil Canada passively supported the military coup against President João Goulart in 1964. Prime Minister Lester Pearson failed to publicly condemn Goulart’s ouster and deepened relations with Brazil amidst a significant uptick in human rights violations. “The Canadian reaction to the military coup of 1964 was careful, polite and allied with American rhetoric,” notes Brazil and Canada in the Americas author Rosana Barbosa.

Along with following Washington’s lead, Ottawa’s tacit support for the coup was driven by Canadian corporate interests. Among the biggest firms in Latin America at the time, Toronto-based Brascan (or Brazilian Traction) was commonly known as “the Canadian octopus” since its tentacles reached into so many areas of Brazil’s economy. Putting a stop to the Goulart government, which made it more difficult for companies to export profits, was good business for a firm that had been operating in the country for half a century. After the 1964 coup the Financial Post noted “the price of Brazilian Traction common shares almost doubled overnight with the change of government from an April 1 low of $1.95 to an April 3 high of $3.06.”

The company was notorious for undermining Brazilian business initiatives, spying on its workers and leftist politicians and assisting the coup. The Dark side of “The light”: Brascan in Brazil notes, “[Brazilian Traction’s vice-president Antonio] Gallotti doesn’t hide his participation in the moves and operations that led to the coup d’état against Goulart in 1964.”

Gallotti, who was a top executive of Brascan’s Brazilian operations for a couple decades, was secretary for international affairs in the Brazilian fascist party, Acao Integralista. Gallotti quit the party in 1938, but began working as a lawyer for Brascan in 1932.

Historically, Canadian companies empowered fascists in Brazil. Today, corporate Canada appears happy to do business with a proto-fascist trampling on Indigenous rights and fuelling climate chaos. Ottawa has also enabled Bolsonaro. At a minimum the Trudeau government should be pressed to follow French President Emmanuel Macron’s call to suspend free-trade negotiations with MERCOSUR until Bolsonaro reverses his wonton destruction of the earth’s ‘lungs’.

On Day One, the Next President Should Declare A Climate Emergency

The next president should declare a Climate Emergency, which will give the president powers to act rapidly and decisively to confront the climate crisis. The president should also create a cabinet-level Office of Climate Mobilization for the coordination of all federal agencies in mobilizing the nation’s resources to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean renewable energy by 2030.

On July 29, I signed the 350 Action’s Day One Pledge, which asks presidential candidates to take four steps their first day in office:

  1. Reject all new federally-approved coal, oil, gas, and other fossil fuel project permits.
  2. Phase out oil and gas drilling and fracking on public lands and off our coasts.
  3. Rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.
  4. Ask Congress to investigate the fossil fuel industry’s role in misleading the public and stalling climate action, and to prepare to hold the industry accountable.

I am still the only presidential candidate to have signed the pledge to date.

350 Action’s Day One Pledge is certainly a good start on climate action. I think their call for presidential actions to immediately curtail fracking and new fossil fuel projects is particularly important. Those actions are the immediate cutting-edge demands of the climate movement now.

If we don’t stop these projects, we will be locked into at least three or four decades of greenhouse gas emissions because that is how long investors expect to profit from their investments. If we let these projects develop – new fracked-gas and fracked-oil wells, pipelines to transport fracked gas and oil, gas-fired power plants, and more – it will be too late to stop a climate holocaust.

I believe the president should take more actions on Day One. My campaign platform goes much farther and is centered around an Ecosocialist Green New Deal, which includes an Economic Bill of Rights for economic and environmental justice as well as a Green Economic Reconstruction Program for zero emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030 in all productive sectors – agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings as well as electric power production.

Office of Climate Mobilization

On Day One, the president should ask Congress for the authority to set up a cabinet-level Office of Climate Mobilization to plan and coordinate among all federal agencies an emergency mobilization to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030.

The analogy here would be the Office of War Mobilization during World War II. The federal government nationalized or built a quarter of all US manufacturing capacity during the war in order to turn industry on a dime into the Arsenal of Democracy to defeat the fascist Axis powers. We need to do nothing less to defeat climate change.

Our ecosocialist Green New Deal would do one thing very differently. After World War II, the federal government handed back the war production facilities, many of them built at public expense, to the super-rich and their giant corporations. We will build and develop these Green New Deal factories as worker cooperatives so that everybody working in them receives their full, fair, and equitable share of the value they create with their labor.

Declare the Climate Crisis a National Emergency

On Day One, the next president should declare a Climate Emergency. The next president should seek the cooperation of Congress, but not be deterred from acting on the climate crisis if faced with another do-nothing Congress. By declaring the climate crisis a national emergency, the president is empowered by existing laws with many authorities to address the climate crisis without congressional approval.

Most of the emergency power legislation relates to threats to national security. Congressional, presidential, Pentagon, and intelligence reports and policy documents have identified climate change as a national security threat since 1990, with increasing urgency as the years have gone by.

The climate-change deniers in the Trump administration may have deleted climate change from the list of national security threats in their National Defense Strategy documents since 2017, but if the fact-challenged Trump administration can declare an emergency to divert military funds to an unneeded wall on the Mexican border, the next president will have far more grounds in government reports and policy documents for declaring a climate emergency.

What could the president do with emergency powers? Some lawyers have begun to look into this, and here are some of the powers they think the president would have:

  • Reorganize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), now captured by the fossil fuel industry, into the Federal Renewable Energy Commission (FREC) with the new mission of enabling a rapid shift to clean renewable energy.
  • Divert military construction funds to building clean renewable energy.
  • Suspend oil leases because they add to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Use emergency powers to respond to industrial shortfalls to support clean renewable energy.
  • Extend loan guarantees to critical industries to support renewable energy.
  • Instruct the Department of Transportation to use its broad power to “coordinate transportation” during national emergencies to restrict gasoline-powered truck and vehicle transportation while expanding electrified rail transportation.
  • Use US votes in the IMF and World Bank to ban funding for fossil fuel projects.
  • Declare a ban on eminent domain for fossil fuel infrastructure.
  • Mandate that federal agencies weigh the climate impact of their decisions.
  • Reward proposals for government contracts based on their impact on climate change
  • Instruct the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require corporations to disclose their vulnerability to climate impacts.
  • Close the loophole in EPA regulations that exempts agribusiness from reporting the greenhouse gas emissions of cattle, unlike other agricultural products.
  • Require projects subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires analysis and mitigation of environmental impacts, to include measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental Justice and a Global Green New Deal

From Day One, the next president should also prioritize using the public money spent on climate action to uplift the economies of poor communities by spending the funds directly on projects in those areas under community direction instead of passing the funds through state governments that have neglected these communities.

From Day One, the next president should ask Congress to appropriate funds for a Just Transition for workers and communities who lose jobs and tax revenues due to economic conversion to demilitarized green production in the military, fossil fuel, and other economic sectors. The Just Transition should guarantee five years of wage, benefit, and local tax revenue maintenance as the country transitions to a clean energy and demilitarized economy. In the meantime, the president should use the powers and resources available under an emergency declaration to support a Just Transition for workers and communities.

From Day One, the next president should advocate for and contribute substantial resources to a Global Green New Deal, where the rich countries help the poor countries develop by jumping over the 19th century fossil age into the 21st century solar age. The solution to the climate crisis will be international, or there won’t be a solution.

Replacing the climate-denier-in-chief now occupying the White House is only the first step. Brazil’s aggressive deforestation of the Amazon is a carbon climate bomb. China is building 700 coal plants along its Belt and Road Initiative. The Gulf autocracies are mobilized politically across the world to stop any transition away from oil and gas. Russia just launched a barge with the first of at least seven planned floating nuclear power stations to power its massive expansion of offshore oil and gas extraction in the Arctic Ocean.

The next president will have to employ an aggressive and sophisticated mix of diplomatic and economic incentives to help the whole world commit to a rapid transition to clean energy and climate safety. The US will find many allies among most of the countries of the world who have pushed for much more aggressive climate action in the UN-sponsored climate summits. These nations include most of the poor countries that are bearing the most immediate and biggest burdens of climate change. The climate change already baked in by greenhouse gas in the atmosphere now means it is already too late for some of the island nations. Twenty-four of the world’s 33 largest river deltas are already being damaged by rising seas, adversely affecting 500 million people. The UN forecasts up to 1 billion climate refugees by 2050 who will be forced to move due to rising seas, excessive heat, or drought in their home communities.

Trade agreements and a carbon tax, which serves as a tariff on high-carbon imports, will be part of the policy mix. The massive public investments needed for the energy revolution will be a huge economic stimulus and a big incentive for countries to join in the economic boom of converting all productive systems to zero emissions and clean power, from regenerative agriculture and zero-waste manufacturing to electrified transportation and green buildings. We must also realize that this kind of global investment and coordination will require an international ecosocialist economic democracy where productive facilities are largely socially owned and democratically administered to meet the basic needs of all within ecological limits.

The ruling classes of many powerful countries with vested interests in fossil fuels will resist. But there are more of us than there are of them. We cannot leave our futures in their hands anymore if we want to survive.

That is a tall order compared to signing on to 350 Action’s Day One Pledge of minimal commonsense climate actions. But none of the major party candidates have signed yet. That is just another case in point for why we need Green Party candidates campaigning for real solutions – because the major parties do not.

 “Child Actorvism” and the Extinction Agenda of Neoliberal Racists

There is no shortage of social justice causes trumpeted by the West† with a revolving medley of “child actorvists” at the forefront. The logical observer may question whether these endless multi-billion dollar campaigns have had any tangible effect at all, except in serving as a stalking horse for mass-mediated interferences in the affairs of other nations.

Whether it is about immigration, education or the whitewashing of terrorists, they are there, ready with their scripted messages. The latest sensation happens to be Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg who is trying to save humanity from an environmental apocalypse by playing truant from school.  Manufactured doyens, however, conveniently overlook real progress in the activist areas they were groomed for, revealing a strong pattern of bias in the process.

On Friday Aug 9 2019, more than a million Indians planted 220 million trees in a single day, with each tree representing a resident of the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP).  According to state government official Awanish K. Awasthi: “The pits are geo-tagged and the saplings carry a QR code. So we can record how many saplings are planted and where.” The BBC had earlier cast doubts on whether Ethiopia had actually planted 350 million trees in July due to the lack of a verification mechanism.

This was not India’s first afforestation feat. In 2016, nearly 800,000 volunteers in UP planted 50 million trees in a single day while a year later, 66 million saplings were embedded in just 12 hours by volunteers in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.

India has targeted a total forest cover comprising 33 percent of its landmass by 2030.  While this initiative was launched under the general rubric of climate change, there were more immediate issues at stake.  The spectres of desertification and groundwater depletion were enough to mobilize ordinary Indians into action.

The sheer design, organization and coordination involved in the Indian undertaking may be studied for years to come. Once verified, the afforestation model can be adapted in fields ranging from big data, artificial intelligence, sharing economy to contingency planning.  A somewhat similar mobilization model was employed when Cyclone Fani hit eastern India during the first days of May. As The Conversation reported on May 13:

A record 1.2 million people (equal to the population of Mauritius) were evacuated in less than 48 hours, and almost 7,000 kitchens, catering to 9,000 shelters, were made functional overnight. This mammoth exercise involved more than 45,000 volunteers.

After studying the grim statistics for Hurricane Maria (Puerto Rico, US; 2017), Hurricane Harvey (Texas, US; 2017) and Cyclone Idai (Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe; 2019), the authors concluded that the “world can learn from” from the Indian experience.

Yet, the momentary fascination with India’s mass mobilization skills dissipated just as quickly as the storm itself. The global risk researcher, stupefied by hours of BBC programming, was left to wonder: Where are those follow-up in-depth analyses? How come the world only came to know of India’s recent tree-planting milestone through a brief Associated Press report? Isn’t climate change the dernier cri?

One could excuse the BBC for disregarding Uttar Pradesh’s greening exploits as it was too busy fabricating videos on “large-scale protests” in Kashmir alongside usual suspects like Al Jazeera and Reuters. Even Malala Yousafzai stepped forward to test the waters, only to be summarily rebuffed.

There may be other reasons behind the neoliberal media’s indifference here. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had earlier committed the cardinal sin of renaming the city of Allahabad as Prayagraj. This is a complete no-no in a West that inevitably sides with militant Islam. Take a look at Serbia, Syria, Libya and Myanmar, amongst numerous other examples. Additionally, India’s afforestation campaign (2016 to 2030) was being undertaken outside the ambit of parasitic Western NGOs at a paltry outlay of $6 billion. India was showing the way in cost savings and volunteer-based sustainability, without the need for star-studded events that child actorvism thrives on.

Neoliberal Selectivity

New Delhi’s indigenous efforts since 2015 were therefore deemed unsatisfactory by Extinction Rebellion superstar Thunberg.  She pilloried India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a February 2019 video post:

Dear Mr Modi, you need to take action now against the climate crisis, not just talking about it because if you keep going on like this, doing business as usual, and just talking about and bragging about the little victories, you are going to fail. And if you fail, you are going to be seen as one of the worst villains in human history in the future. And you don’t want that. (Emphasis added).

Do not seek a scintilla of sanity in the outburst above. Instead, note the timing:  It was posted during the run-up to the April-May 2019 Indian general elections where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won by a landslide victory, surpassing expectations thanks to neoliberal hissy-fits typified by the likes of Thunberg.

Does Thunberg consider the planting of 50, 66 and 220 million trees overnight – involving schoolchildren no less – as one of those insignificant “little victories”? Who is doing the talking and bragging and who is doing the actual planting here? One of India’s other “little victories” was in lifting 271 million people – numbering more than half the EU population – out of poverty in a mere 10 years.

If Thunberg’s views aren’t reflective of Western neoliberal racism, tell me what is? Here is where racial supremacist undercurrents are cleverly masked by the clarion call of “social justice”. Nothing non-Westerners do is good enough unless it involves and profits vested Western interests. Neoliberals and their neoconservative cousins feel they are entitled to run the affairs of other nations. If the line is not toed, an army of “child actorvists” are ready to selectively name and shame national leaders. How is this different from the use of child soldiers and human shields by an assortment of violent thugs and jihadis? And much like jihadis, a false flag calamity inflicted on a child actorvist would reap international sympathy for the “cause”, would it not? We shall see what the future holds…

Quite tellingly, when it comes to the question of extinction, French-Lebanese author Amin Maalouf sums up the prevalent Western hypocrisy perfectly: “Threats to pandas cause more emotion than threats to the extinction of Christians in the Middle East”. Another child actorvist, Bana Alabed, has been roped in to hasten that particular genocide.

The Incurably Colonized

Instead of India’s Modi, Thunberg could have trained her guns on Southeast Asian politicians for allowing the West to dump millions of tons of highly-toxic trash throughout the region. (India had another “little victory” by banning them). It cannot get more pathetic than Pakistani garbage appearing in an illegal Malaysian dumpsite! Is Thunberg really as environmentally literate as she claims to be?  The organized crime networks involved in the regional garbage racket are also into money laundering, smuggling, organ harvesting and human trafficking.

Neoliberals and neoconservatives, however, have a soft spot for Southeast Asia (sans Mynamar) for a good reason: Its leaders and societies have an incurable inferiority complex towards all things Western, rendering them supine and receptive to machinations from the other side of the world. The region hosts innumerable Western-backed NGOs and affiliates whose sole role is to disrupt and shape the local political process. That is, when they are not discriminating against native talent, native ideas and native solutions. For a region that has had several developmental head-starts over India, Southeast Asia has yet to produce world-class scientists, innovators and products of any import, making it easy for West to offer their “expertise” and goods at huge costs. The media in “Asian values” bastions like Malaysia and Singapore are more likely to celebrate Thunberg’s theatrics than investigate real Asian success stories.

Just like neoconservatism, neoliberalism neatly divides the world along classic colonial lines. Can George Soros and his neoliberal backers claim a single success story from the countless “social justice” agitprops unleashed worldwide? Instead, such interventions have left behind a string of broken, emasculated and dysfunctional societies. Women and children are the biggest victims here. One could also include Thunberg’s Sweden in the list of nations facing a surge in sexual violence against women and children. Swedish schools are no longer safe and somehow no child activist has emerged to publicize this highly-proximate issue. †† What is the celebrated “female education activist” Malala Yousafzai actually doing?

Redundant Societies

The idea that the East and West can cooperate, compliment and compete on an equal footing is an anathema to neoliberal and neoconservative minds. It is in “redundant societies” however where neoliberals find the most fertile ground for its destructive agendas. Redundant societies are ones the world would scarcely miss in case its populations were magically rendered extinct overnight – short-term raw material and supply chain disruptions notwithstanding. Is that the core idea behind Extinction Rebellion? Fewer humans are great for the environment, no?

A nation less contaminated by the neoliberal agenda is a nation poised for growth and technical breakthroughs.  Look at the world around us: the relatively nationalistic South Korea, Japan, China and India (the “effective Asia”), Israel, Russia, and Eastern Europe are already challenging the West’s dominance in many critical areas. Even Iran is not doing too badly considering the circumstances.

In the meantime, one hopes that Thunberg will encounter flotsams of plastic as she yachts towards the upcoming UN powwow in New York. If so, these may turn out to be trash that were supposedly repatriated by Southeast Asian nations but which were dumped en route by ships. To avoid “baseless allegations” like these, Thunberg could try some real environmental work by researching, tabulating and verifying claims that all repatriated trash had indeed reached their destinations in toto, as claimed. Maybe, this is a task too arduous for Thunberg. Let’s leave such little details to an Indian schoolgirl’s future dissertation, shall we? After all, she would have literally had her hands soiled in planting the future while others talked the big talk at big money events.

† The author defines the West as nations west of the Metternich line in Europe as well as the Anglo-American world, including geographically-dispersed nations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It does not refer to European Civilization.

†† Anyone researching this topic should scrupulously avoid Google.

One Woman’s Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions, Seaweed, Wave Energy

Symbioses — prolonged associations between organisms often widely separated phylogenetically — are more common in biology than we once thought and have been neglected as a phenomenon worthy of study on its own merits. Extending along a dynamic continuum from antagonistic to cooperative and often involving elements of both antagonism and mutualism, symbioses involve pathogens, commensals, and mutualists interacting in myriad ways over the evolutionary history of the involved ‘partners.’

— Gregory G. Dimijian, “Evolving Together: The Biology of Symbiosis”

It’s about being really committed. I tell students who are not any smarter than their peers that this takes hard work … to work on one question for five to seven years.

— Sarah Henkel on what it takes to study for and gain a doctorate in marine sciences

One never knows the waters a science-based article will dip into when a writer features one of OSU-Hatfield’s multidisciplinary researchers. Scientists look at very focused questions while naturalists and generalist ecologists look at systems from a broader range, but that interplay is less friction than analysis. As a journalist, my job is to dig deep and find those connections.

For Sarah Henkel, looking at how human-made structures affect what happens at the bottom of the sea is both fascinating and important to all human-activities in and around marine systems.

However, one scientist’s invasive species is another scientist’s opportunistic species. She’s got creed in the study of the benthic zone (what’s happening on the ocean’s bottom) and wave energy.

In her office at Hatfield, Sara and I recognize that the world of ecology is evolving due to innovative research and new questions scientists and policy makers are no longer afraid to ask.

She’s not atypical – a smart scientist who is open to fielding a wide-range of inquiries.

Because of the heavy footprint humans have put upon the environment in the form of cutting down entire forests and jungles, as well as geo-engineering the planet through fossil fuel burning and all the chemicals released in industrial processes, newer challenges to both our species’ and other species’ survival end up in the brains and labs of scientists.

To say science is changing rapidly is an understatement.

One Floating Piece of Debris Can Change an Entire Coast

For Henkel, she wonders what the effects of one pilon, one mooring anchor, and one attached buoy have on ecologies from the sea floor, upward.

The ocean, once considered immune to humanity’s despoilments, is as far as its chemical composition and ecological processes fragile with just the right forcers. HMSC is lucky to have dedicated thinkers like Sarah Henkel working on questions regarding not only this part of the world, but globally.

Students working with Sarah gain varying knowledge she’s accomplished through transitions from inland girl growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, where creeks, deciduous forest and terrestrial animals enchanted her and her sibling, to marine scientist in Oregon.

“Ever since I was in third grade, I knew I was going to be a marine biologist,” she says while we talk in her office at Hatfield. When a child, she visited a “touch tank” at a museum near her home and was completely fascinated with the horseshoe crabs.

Posters of benthic megaflora – seaweed and eel grass – adorn her office walls at HMSC. We’re talking about kelps like bull whip, feather boa, deadman’s finger, witch’s hair, studded sea balloons, and Turkish towel displayed on posters.

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Symbiosis, Cooperation, Opportunism, Invasiveness? That is the Question.

While we talk about kelp/seaweed, she shifts to invasive species like Undaria pinnatifida which hitched onto debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Over a dozen species on a worldwide list of invasive species were on broken dock moorings that washed up near Newport. Three — Undaria pinnatifida, Codium fragile, and Grateloupia turuturu — are particularly hazardous.

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Some of Henkel’s work looks at one gene expression, say, in Egregia menziesii, to uncover how the species responds to various conditions. Some big issues dovetail to Undaria pinnatifida playing havoc in Australia and New Zealand.

Her fundamental question is how can certain invasive species establish niches in very different waters from where they evolved. Looking at temperature and salinity tolerances as well as desiccation limits of species helps cities, states and countries manage opportunistic invasives that not only thrive in new places, but push out endemic species.

East Coast-West Coast: Transplantation

Henkel’s a transplant herself, from Virginia, with a science degree from the College of William and Mary. She tells me that she was lucky to have gotten into a gifted and talented high school program where she attended half a day every morning, then getting bused back to her home school in the afternoon — for three years.

“It [Virginia Governor’s School] was set up like a college, with professors and curriculum more like college-level courses.”

She then transplanted herself to California State University–Fullerton in 2000 to work on a master’s degree. Then, further north, to UC-Santa Barbara for a doctorate in marine sciences.

The final thrust northward was in 2009, to OSU, where she has been ever since.

We laugh at the idea of humans also being an invasive or transplanted species: She brings up a place like San Francisco Bay which is considered by scientists as a “global zoo” of invasive species with as many as 500 plants and animals from foreign shores taking hold in Frisco’s marine waters.

“Scientists think there are more invasives in San Francisco Bay than there are native species.”

She, her husband Will, and their six-year-old live in Toledo because, as she says, “there’s no marine layer to contend with and Toledo has a summer up there.” Mountain biking is what the family of three enjoy – from Alsea Falls, to Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood.

If We Build It, Will They Come, Leave or Morph?

“The biggest issue facing wind and wave energy developers in the environmental arena is the high level of uncertainty regarding environmental effects will be difficult to reduce that uncertainty.” – Sarah Henkel

After her Ph.D, from UC-Santa Barbara, Sarah sent out more than a dozen applications for professorships and research positions to universities.

What got her into the OSU Family was her work at a California-based Trust looking at decommissioning offshore oil platforms.

“What sorts of animals are living on platforms? Do you cut them off at the top to allow navigation and then preserve whatever’s grown on it?” Artificial reefs are attractive in increasing species like corals, sponges, fish and crustacean, but she emphasized that’s mostly done in tropical locations. Henkel says she was a strong candidate for OSU because of the school’s work on the effects of wave energy equipment and lines on the ecosystem up here off Newport.

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The marriage between Henkel’s knowledge of benthic ecosystems and the need to understand not only what the moorings of wave energy machines do to fauna like boney fish, crabs, and other species, but also what happens to the mechanisms that are immersed in water as they capture the wave energy was perfect for OSU.

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She points out wind turbines also have anchoring systems and superstructures; however, the actual energy-capturing mechanisms are high in the air as opposed to wave energy devices.

Wave Energy, Blue Energy: No Slam Dunk

“The industry recognizes the value of looking like they are being good environmental stewards,” she says, pointing out her ecological expertise melds well with the industry’s ideal of sustainable, renewable clean energy.

Her role with the Pacific Marine Energy Center is to coordinate all the science concerned with the ecological effects of wind energy – both the siting, building, and operation of any wave energy array.

OSU is looking at wave energy while the other members of PMEC are studying tidal energy (University of Washington) and river energy (University of Alaska).

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The idea of studying sediment changes caused by anchors and structures located on the bottom – at the grain size level – may not be considered “sexy” when one thinks of marine biology; however, for Henkel the benthic zone is where it’s at.

“The classic question for artificial reefs is attraction versus production: Can there be more fish overall with this additional habitat, or is that artificial habitat attracting fish away from natural reefs?”

The permitting process for the wave energy site off Newport has been both Byzantine and slow, and it’s ironic that in her 10 years at OSU, she’s not had any opportunity to do the field observations and data collecting she was hired to head up. In that decade, Henkel said a 1/3 scale wave energy device was put into the ocean out here for seven weeks.

Henkel is not stuck in limbo, however, since she is conducting research into other aspects of the benthic region with far-reaching implications for our coastal economy.


Crabs on the Move

When we think of the Dungeness crab, most realize it’s Oregon’s leading commercial seafood product; it brought in an estimated $75 million in 2018. Henkel posed a question that many crabbers have had in their minds for years: How far will crabs travel in search of food?

In 2018, Henkel and a colleague from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration superglued acoustic tags onto legal-sized Dungeness crabs near the mouth of the Columbia River and off Cape Falcon.

Acoustical receivers helped the team learn the frequency and distance crabs moved in rocky versus sandy habitat – data that, again, will help understand possible impacts of wave energy testing on marine reserves.

Those 10 tagged crabs in sandy environs near the Columbia left the region within a week; the transmitter, at a price of $300 each, went with them.

Most know that crabbers prefer sandy areas for their pots because of fewer entanglements compared to rocky bottoms.

“It’s interesting because I’ve done a lot of sampling of benthic habitat and there just isn’t a lot of food down there,” Henkel told Mark Floyd of OSU. “There’s usually only very small worms and clams, yet there’s an enormous crab harvest each year and most of that is from sandy-bottomed regions.”

Good science means marching on, so another 20 crabs were tagged and then dropped in waters near Cape Falcon, a rocky benthic zone. Her findings were surprising: “Four of those crabs left the region right away, while the other 16 stayed an average of 25.5 days. One stayed for 117 days.”

“Even though it’s a small sample size, it’s clear that habitat can influence crab movement,” Henkel told Floyd. “The crabs in the rocky areas had more to eat, but they often also have mossy bellies, which may not be as desirable commercially. Commercial crabbers like to target migrating crabs in sandy areas that tend to have smooth bellies.”

Chemical Outflows Studied

Other interesting projects she’s been involved with include a 2012 study of marine species living in Newport waters to see if the Georgia-Pacific containerboard plant outfall pipe, located 4,000 feet off Nye Beach, may be exposing some marine life to contaminants.

In fact, it was the City of Newport that requested OSU researchers look at a variety of species, including flatfish (speckled sand dab), crustaceans (Dungeness crab and Crangon shrimp), and mollusks (mussels and olive snails) because they might be bioaccumulating metals and organic pollutants at different rates.

Henkel and colleague, Scott Heppell, found contamination of those species was not at levels of concern: “There was some concern that metals and organic pollutants may be bioaccumulating in nearby marine life. We tested for 137 different chemicals and only detected 38 of them – none at levels that remotely approach concern for humans.”

New Student Archetypes: Funding at the Whim of New Anti-science Administration

We discuss what characteristics current science students possess compared to when she was a young undergraduate science major in the late 1990s. “We see a lot more students who want their science to matter … they want to be studying things that will improve society.”

This social awareness also has created more collaborative and supportive learning environments, she stresses. “When I was a student, we had the attitude that we didn’t want anyone to see our data until we publish it.”

Now, she emphasizes, there is so much data coming in from all angles; for instance, one project can get 1,000 photos a minute just of one marine species in its habitat. Part of the sharing may stem too from being more socially conscious and concerned than the cohorts for Henkel when she first started school.

Other concerns are tied to this recent shift in administrations – from Obama to Trump. There was a lot of support for renewables under previous administrations, but now under Trump so much is up in the air for scientists working on research projects tagged as “climate change” or “renewable energy,” even those research projects around species protection.

Two large grants the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management manage are at stake.

The Scientist’s Toolbox: Adaptation

To adapt, Sarah says, wave energy research is now looking at developing, promoting and deploying small machines near navigational buoys and aquaculture operations, where batteries die in six months; in the case of aquaculture, automatic feeding machines run on batteries, but with a wave-energy generating device supplying constant power, there would be no gap in the power.

On top of that, thousands of research and navigational buoys in our oceans have batteries that need constant replacing and disposal. Wave energy at the sites would be a constant energy source and reduce waste from battery disposal.

Making lemonade – new breakthroughs in blue energy — out of lemons – subsidies and tax breaks in the billions for the oil industry but none for blue energy – is also part of the scientist’s philosophy.

Sarah’s big takeaway when talking about the power of the Hatfield campus is that students get to work with other agencies and collaborate on real projects. “Not many students can be destined for a job in the Ivory Tower,” she said. Seeing other scientists from other agencies in different roles gives students at HMSC so many more avenues for career paths.

Henkel may be a sea floor expert, but she still knows that looking at how seabirds react to/interact with wind turbines and wave energy fields is important, as is studying the electromagnetic frequency fields created by blue energy generation.

She’s on a mission to get down to the granular level of things, but in the end, each little piece of the puzzle is hitched to the big thing, called the ocean!

Earth 4C Hotter

A decade ago several prominent climate scientists discussed the prospects of a 4C Earth. Their concern was qualified “… if greenhouse gases do not slow down, then expect a 4C Earth by 2055.” Of course, that would be catastrophic, and one can only assume those scientists must have recognized real risks. Otherwise, why address the issue of 4C by 2055 in the first instance?

Not only that but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, AR4 (2007) addressed the 4C issue and a 2009 International Climate Conference at Oxford, “4 Degrees and Beyond” discussed the consequences at length; e.g., deserts in southern Europe, sea levels up 2 metres by 2100, unleashing a “carbon time bomb” in the Arctic, half of the world uninhabitable, etc.

Well, well, well…now that greenhouse gas emissions have sped up by 60% since 2010, not slowed down for a minute, the IPCC is talking about holding global average temps to 2.0C, preferably 1.5C, and they say the world has 12 years to tackle global warming (actually, nowadays it’s “global heating” because of massive heat intensity in certain regions of the planet) or all bets are off.

Because prominent scientists addressed the issue of a 4C planet and because climate scientists, in general, are constantly apologizing for being too conservative, too timid in their forecasts as actual climate change buries their predictions with a dagger to the heart, it is a worthwhile exercise to look at a 4C world. It could happen within current lifetimes just like the scientists speculated 10 years ago. But, of course, nobody knows for sure. After all, it helps to brace oneself ahead of time, just in case.

In all, based upon how conservatively low scientists’ predictions have been for so long, maybe 4C is realistic by 2055. But, beware if it happens, infernal regions of the planet will consume vast swaths of ecosystems and life forms like a monster arising from the darkest of caves.

Fortunately, this article is a fictional tale of what 4C would look like based upon predictions by prominent scientists 10 years ago. And, even though it may be considered heresy to suggest 4C within current lifetimes, who knows, maybe those same scientists no longer believe 4C could happen by 2055, but with GHGs zooming up, it would appear kinda inconsistent not to believe it any longer.

In 2010 the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK said average temperatures would likely be 4C above pre-industrial by 2055, “if greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) did not slow down.” Well, guess what’s happened to GHGs? Asking the question is the answer.

And, worse yet, it would bring in its wake a 16C rise in Arctic temperatures where at least twice the amount of carbon already in the atmosphere is frozen in time, waiting to be released via permafrost thawing. And, +16C would do it fast.

Accordingly, recent scientific field studies found thawing permafrost 70 years ahead of schedule in the High Arctic. Yes, 70 years ahead of schedule!1

That’s absolutely horrible news and but one more example of mind-blowing shock and awe with rapidity of climate change vis a vis scientists’ expectations.

What happens if 4C hits by 2055?

The short answer has gotta be: Pandemonium reigns supreme!

According to the scientific forum 4 Degrees Hotter: “Less than a billion people will survive.” Expect, on average, more than a million human global warming deaths every week. As such, mass graveyards stacked with bodies would become a new normal.

Prominent climate scientists were quoted in the 4 Degrees Hotter article:

According to Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of Europe’s most eminent climate scientists, director of the Potsdam Institute: “At 4C Earth’s … carrying capacity estimates are below 1 billion people.”

Echoing that opinion, professor Kevin Anderson of the prestigious Tyndall Centre for Climate Change stated:

Only about 10% of the planet’s population would survive at 4C.

A global average of 4C means land temperatures would be 5.5C-6C hotter, especially inland from coasts. The tropics would be too hot for people to live and most of the temperate regions would be desertified.

As a result, half of the planet would be uninhabitable. Populations would be driven towards the poles. Over 136 port cities each with populations of one-half to one million would require sea walls or translocation of nearly one-half billion people.

In Europe, new deserts would spread to Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey as the Sahara figuratively leaps across the Straits of Gibraltar. In Switzerland, summer would be as hot as Baghdad today. Europe’s population would be forced into a “Great Trek North” in order to survive.

Even as recently as this century, the European heat wave of 2003 killed 35,000, but it was only a sampler of what too much heat does to the human body.2

At the time, and according to the New Scientist, in 2003:

The EPI says it is confident that the August heat wave has broken all records for heat-related deaths and says the world must cut the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

But, today, that’s a bad joke with CO2 in 2003 at 378 ppm. Today it’s 410. Therefore, “must cut the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming” has been a total bust!

Temperature bands, called iostherms, will shift towards the poles faster than ecosystems can keep up. Thus, most ecosystems will collapse with breakdown of organic material, leading to ever-greater emissions of carbon self-perpetuating hands-free on autopilot, defined as runaway global warming.

Paleoclimate research suggests that the last time temperatures were 4C above pre-industrial; eventually, there were no large ice-sheets on the planet. Sea levels were 65-70 metres (213-229 feet) higher than today. Yet, ice sheets take considerable time to lose mass, even when it’s really hot. Thus, the sea level rise to 2100 would likely be only a few metres. But, still, get serious; it only takes a couple of metres for unmitigated disaster.

In a 4C world, temperatures would vary considerably on a worldwide basis. The Amazon, the Sahara-Sahei-Arabia region, India, and northern Australia would have higher temperatures than the average at any other place on Earth.

Already, Australia gave a recent “Preview of Hot Earth” late in the year 2018 in real time when record-breaking temperatures hit hard. More than 20,000 bats dropped dead in over two days as temps in northern Australia hit 42°C (107°F). Hundreds of thousands of bony herring, golden and silver perch and Murray cod died in Darling River because of extreme climate. Fruit on trees cooked from the inside out.3

That happened in today’s world while average global temperatures have only reached approximately 1C above post-industrial. What if 4C becomes reality or anything above 1C, like 2C or 3C? Then, what of northern Australia and other overly sensitive heat regions of the planet?

Meanwhile global average temperatures for July 2019 were the hottest ever since 1880. And, CO2 in the atmosphere is at its highest reading in 400,000 years, a period of time when atmospheric CO2 ran 180 ppm (low) to 280 ppm (high).

As of today, CO2 at 410 ppm has powered thru the 280-ppm ceiling of the past 400,000 years like a hot knife thru butter, and even more remarkable yet, it only took a couple hundred years to break a 400,000-year record. Hands down, that’s an all-time geologic speed record.

Thus, the human experience has turned into a vast experiment filled with unknowns because there are no comparisons throughout human history. Earthlings have shattered all records of the past 400,000 years. What happens next is a gamble.

All in all, it’s somewhat puzzling that scientists are not beating the drums about the threat of a 4C world hitting earlier than expected. Maybe they are… but privately.

  1. Louise M. Farquharson et al, “Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic”, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019.
  2. “The 2003 European Heatwave Caused 35,000 Deaths”, New Scientist, October 10, 2003.
  3. “Thousands of Australian Animals Die in Unprecedented Heatwave”, The Scientist, January 17, 2019.

Sick of being a Guinea Pig

Some corporations and governments have used the US public as guinea pigs in uncontrolled experiments conducted without the public’s approval. They were often gambling with our well being when they introduced new products or conducted risky tests. In contrast, there were usually few risks for the CEOs or government officials in charge of these unacknowledged experiments.

If serious harm occurred, it was often very difficult to link the harm to the product or action due to: 1) the long lag time for the development of many diseases; and 2) other possible causes. Moreover, any damages awarded to the injured parties were usually small compared to the product’s profits. The damage awards were viewed simply as a cost of doing business. However, for the victim or his family, money was poor compensation for death or for a disease or disability.

For example, executives of cigarette companies misled the public about how addictive cigarettes were and the horrific damage they caused. Corporations paid fines, but not the executives. Note cigarettes are still on the market.

In the years before the financial crisis of 2008/2009, Wall Street introduced complex investment products that were marketed as being very safe. Unfortunately, rating agencies and regulators abrogated their responsibilities. As a result, these really risky products led to the crisis in which millions of people in this country alone lost their homes and jobs. None of the corporate leaders on Wall Street went to jail for these crimes, and many even received large bonuses.

Exxon began research on climate change about 40 years ago and an internal report concluded that results could be catastrophic and that burning of fossil fuels was a key contributor. Later Exxon shifted its strategy to opposing action on climate change. Due partly to Exxon, the necessary transition from fossil fuels has still not occurred. We are already seeing the impact of a changing climate and it’s likely to become much worse.

More recently, all Boeing 737 Max planes were grounded after two of them crashed killing everyone on board. The Federal Aviation Administration, despite concerns about the process, had allowed Boeing to perform some of the safety inspections. Apparently major problems with the flight control system and its instructions were missed. Will the Boeing CEO and other officials face trial or pay any fines?

There are numerous other products for which corporations misled the public about their safety. Truth and public responsibility have frequently taken a back seat to excess greed. Making matters worse, political appointees chosen to head regulatory agencies often gave priority, despite strong objections from the dedicated staff, to corporate interests over the public interest.

Given this past record, isn’t it finally time for the US to act proactively when a new product is developed, that is, to follow the precautionary principle? If there are legitimate concerns raised about a product, more testing must be performed before the product can be marketed. After all, it is far better to prevent the marketing of a product than being forced to deal with its possibly irreversible impact when it’s shown to be harmful.

Currently, there is a huge push for 5G (fifth generation) technology by the telecommunications industry. According to the industry, 5G offers greater bandwidth than 4G by using the largely untapped much higher portion of the millimeter wave spectrum. Due to its increased speed, 5G is touted as facilitating the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), that is, it will allow smart appliances, self-driving cars, etc. to connect to the internet and to talk to one another. 5G will likely complement 4G for some time. Perhaps more importantly, 5G will also be a major new revenue source for industry.

Because the higher millimeter wave frequencies don’t travel very far, tons more microwave antennas will be required. These antennas will be much smaller than those for 4G and will be ubiquitous, for example, on street signs, traffic signals and utility poles. However, privacy and surveillance issues may become even more of a concern with 5G given that these antennas are so close together.

The Federal Communications Commission under its Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, has adopted rules essentially removing most of the control by local governments to approve or deny placement of cell towers or to consider health or environmental effects for placement. However, on August 9th, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for Washington, DC Circuit ruled against the part of the FCC deregulation that exempted telecoms from considering the environmental and historic preservation reviews for the placement of 5G antennas.

5G also raises new concerns about health as there are few independent studies documenting its safety. Moreover, some independent studies recently have suggested that the health risks are of concern.

During a February 6, 2019 Senate Committee hearing on 5G, telecommunications industry representatives replied to a question from Senator Richard Blumenthal about industry support for independent health and safety studies. The response was: There are no industry backed studies to my knowledge right now.” Blumenthal replied, “So, we are flying blind here on health and safety”.

Isn’t it time to say no to being a guinea pig? Demand that the FCC and Congress stop the rollout of 5G until independent studies demonstrate its safety.

In addition, given the huge societal changes that are rapidly occurring as a result of the steady stream of technological developments, shouldn’t we say whoa and discuss the implications before going ahead? People, not corporations and their new technology, should determine our future.

Condescension and Climate Change: Australia and the Failure of the Pacific Islands Forum

It was predictably ugly: in tone, in regret, and, in some ways, disgust.  Australia emerged from the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting isolated, the true spoiler of the party which saw 17 states facing the obstinacy of one.  It had taken place on Tuvalu, some two hours flight north of Fiji.  The capital Funafuti is located on vanishing land; the island state is facing coastal erosion, the pressing issue of salinity, the very crisis of its existence.

Pacific Island leaders were already wise to the accounting cosmetics of Canberra’s accountants prior to the Forum.  It reeked, for instance, of a gesture for permissive pollution to the tune of $500 million: we give you money to boost “resilience” and sandbag your countries against rising water levels; we will keep polluting and emitting with expanded fossil fuel projects because that is what we are good at.

Alex Hawke, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, called the cash promise the “most amount of money Australia has ever spent on climate in the Pacific”.  As Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga explained, “No matter how much money you put on the table, it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing.”  That right thing was a reduction in emissions, “including not opening your coal mines”.

The PIF leaders were also aware about what disruptive role Australia was going to play.  Australian politicians of the past and present have done little to endear themselves to a forum they have only recently felt more interest in because of China’s increasingly conspicuous presence.  In 2015, when Tony Abbott held the reins of power, his culturally challenged immigration minister Peter Dutton, in conversation with the prime minister, quipped rather darkly that “time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door.”  The remark was a response to a meeting on Syrian refugees which had been running late, or on “Cape York time”, as he put it.

Ahead of the leaders’ forum, an annotated draft of the Pacific Islands Forum declaration revealed a sprinkling of qualifications, repudiations and rejections on the part of the Australian delegation.  The comments from August 7 sought to restrict any total decarbonisation, bans on the future use of coal power plants, opt out clauses for the 1.5C limit in temperature rise, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and the very mention of the term climate change.

When it came to proceedings, Prime Minister Scott Morrison showed his true garish colours: Australia was a small contributor to emissions; it was a global problem, and so others had to do more.  In short, the weak excuse of any emission producing state.  Besides, he kept trumpeting, Australia was a leading investor in the sector of renewables.

Back in Australia, the Australian broadcaster and regular vulgarian Alan Jones was busy attacking the leaders of the gathering, most notably New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who had suggested that Australia “had to answer the Pacific” on the climate change issue.  A sock, he suggested, should have been strategically placed down her throat.  He subsequently suggested that this was a “wilful misrepresentation of what I said obviously distract from the point that she was wrong about climate change and wrong about Australia’s contribution to carbon dioxide levels.”

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was sickeningly unimpressed, having expressed open admiration for New Zealand’s efforts to combat climate change.  “Easy to tell someone to shove a sock down a throat when you’re sitting in the comfort of a studio.  The people of the Pacific, forced to abandon their homes due to climate change, don’t have that luxury.  Try saying it to a Tuvaluan child pleading for help.”

Michael McCormack, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, added the most revealing touch on Australia’s position at the PIF during a revealing business function in the rural town of Wagga Wagga on Friday.  (McCormack, it should be noted, is on record as disputing evidence of an increase in global temperatures.)  With an address heavy with bruising paternalism, he thought the PIF leaders were bellyaching, needlessly lamenting their fate.  He admitted “getting a bit annoyed when we have people in those sorts of countries pointing the finger at Australia and saying we should be shutting down all our resources sector so that, you know, they will continue to survive.”  He had little doubt they would continue to do so, due to the “large aid assistance from Australia” and “because their workers come here and pick our fruit, pick our fruit grown with hard Australian enterprise and endeavour and we welcome them and we always will.”  The only thing lacking in the statement was a Boris Johnson-styled garnish: a reference to cannibalism, or the toothy water melon smiles.

A neat summary of the entire encounter between the Pacific Island leaders and Australia was provided by Tuvalu’s Sopoaga.  “You [Scott Morrison] are concerned about saving your economy in Australia… I am concerned about saving my people in Tuvalu.”

The final communique proved lukewarm and non-committal, a feeble reiteration of existing understandings that climate change was a serious matter.  Bainimarama supplied an acid opinion on the final text.  “We came together in a nation that risks disappearing to the seas, but unfortunately, we settled for the status quo of our communique.  Watered-down climate language has real consequences – like water-logged homes, schools, communities, and ancestral burial grounds.”  Sopoaga was even more dramatic in assessing the response to the weakened language of the communique.  “There were serious arguments and even shouting, crying, leaders were shedding tears.”

Sadly, the main Australian opposition party would not have done much better.  Efforts on the part of Senator Penny Wong to claim a drastically different Labor approach must be put to rest. This is a party torn on the subject of King Coal, energy costs and renewables.

The hysterical aspect to PIF is that Australia’s denuding contribution will only serve to damage its own interests.  In the short-term, Chinese diplomats will be delighted by the self-sabotaging efforts of the Morrison government.  Beijing’s Special Envoy to the Pacific, Ambassador Wang Xuefeng, was on hand to tell the forum that “no matter how the international situation evolves, China will always be a good friend, partner and brother of Pacific Island Countries.” Expect a surge of interest towards the PRC in the forthcoming months.

A longer term consequence is also impossible to ignore.  Fine to joke about having refugee islanders pick the fruit of your country, but to do so requires places to grow fruit.  Rising sea levels may will cause the dreaded vanishing of the island states, but it will also submerge a good deal of Australia’s precariously placed coastal cities.  What a bitter, if not deserved, outcome that would be.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Sustainable Development

[W]hy do so many assume that a ‘Green New Deal’ won’t just empower those same forces that have run havoc upon the world for the past half century and just cause more death and starvation than has already been suffered under Globalization?
Matthew Ehret, 2019

Sustainable development, the concept, was advanced in 1987 by the United Nations in “Our Common Future,” aka The Bruntland Report, in which it was defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In truth, the Report, intended for “those who shape policy and make decisions that affect the course of development and the condition of the environment”, has served as justification for sustained growth: “A five to tenfold increase in manufacturing output will be needed”; “Painful choices have to be made.” In an alarming display of ecological ignorance, there was admission of guaranteed biological destruction: “Efforts to save particular species will be possible for only relatively few of the more spectacular and important ones.”

Not long thereafter, the concept of sustainable development was boosted by organizations with clout. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) produced in 1991 “Caring For The Earth: A Strategy For Sustainable Living,” a declaration of principles by a coalition of conservation organizations, supported by “sponsors” and “collaborators” that included national develop agencies, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The IUCN therein defined sustainable development as “improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems.” In the same year, the Trilateral Commission published a book, Beyond Interdependence, in which, in a chapter titled “The Growth Imperative and Sustainable Development”, the authors declared that “The maxim of sustainable development is not ‘limits to growth’; it is ’the growth of limits’,” a direct attack on the Club of Rome’s 1972 “The Limits To Growth.”

Sustainable development was quickly introduced into the educational system. In 1992, educators all over the U.S. were receiving a slick promotional brochure for a book, “World Resources 1992-93: A Guide to the Global Environment.” A few weeks later, the book was sent gratis to key educators. A publication of the World Resources Institute (WRI), it was promoted as “the overpowering challenger in the contest for primacy among environmental almanacs”. WRI described its goal as an organization “to help….. grapple with one of our time’s most pressing questions: How can societies meet human needs and nurture economic growth without destroying the natural resources and environmental integrity that make prosperity possible (emphasis added). WRI was supported financially by Corporate Property Investors, Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation, and foundations for Weyerhaeuser, Amoco and Shell Oil. A category “Corporate Associates” included Waste Management, Inc., Monsanto, Chevron and E. I. duPont de Nemours, with “cooperating organizations” including the World Bank, the Overseas Development Association, and other organizations devoted to growth and resource exploitation (current WRI support here).

The Federal Government championed sustainable development from the beginning. In 1992 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a report (230-R-93-005) to Congress with “EPA is … assisting regional, state, and local efforts to promote sustainable development … The Nation can only achieve and maintain sustainable development when its citizens understand the concept and embrace it as a national priority.” President Clinton’s 25-person Council on Sustainable Development was co-chaired by Dow Chemical vice president David Buzzelli. Eight representatives had corporate ties (e.g., Chemical Manufacturer’s Association, the Committee for Economic Development, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Business Council for Economic Development), whereas the five environmentalists were administrators for “Big 10″ environmental organizations, themselves recipients of corporate largesse. And why be surprised? The Council just mirrored Clinton and his Vice President, as they expressed the view that “We will renew America’s commitment to leave our children a better nation … whose leadership for sustainable global growth is unsurpassed” (emphasis added).

In 1972, the Club of Rome published “The Limits To Growth” grounded on a study of five factors: resource depletion, industrial output, pollution, agriculture, and population growth, and the dynamics of their interactions. Conclusions of the study were a harsh warning regarding limitations that our beautiful home planet places on human activities, because system collapse was predicted for the middle of the current Century if a “business-as-usual” model were to be maintained, which, despite much political posturing, has been the case. There have been periodic updates of the study. Such “doomsday” talk has not been what industrial and financial interests have wanted to hear, and since publication there has been much criticism of “The Limits To Growth” from economists and the business community. However, a recent “40 year update”, a 2014 study released by the University of Melbourne, reveals that the business-as-usual scenario of The Limits To Growth “… aligns well with historical data that has been updated for this paper.” Data came from the UN and federal sources. That the gravity of this global situation is not front-and-center news is itself a reflection of media ownership.

Sustainable development, in sum, was captured early on by global financial forces the life blood of which is unending growth. As history confirms, it has proven to be a highly manipulable concept for a corporate/political/media network to normalize in the public mind. The suggestion of sustainability indicates things are going to be just fine, so it has been employed as a kind of mass tranquilizer. As the sustainability idea has advanced over the decades, discussions surrounding it have shifted easily, as required, between ‘development’ and ‘growth.’ Among the UN’s many laudable Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as peace and the eradication of poverty, one also finds the advancement of “inclusive and sustained economic growth” in which “business and the private sector” are to play a key role, this expressed in its Agenda 2030. The admittedly “supremely ambitious” Agenda 2030 looks like 15,000 words of wishful thinking considering the profit-driven interests that have been — and that are intent on remaining — at the helm. The banking world certainly has lost no time in the creation of “green financial instruments” for the Green New Deal.

The prospect of the Green New Deal becoming morphed into Sustainable Development by another name is real, given the powerful forces so adept at co-opting and repackaging things to serve their own ends. The development/growth debate has long been dominated by business interests, economists, advertisers and corporate journalists, with biologists neglectfully absent. And yet, it all boils down to biology, for when species “overshoot” the capacities of their environments to support them, collapse is the result. Our species is certainly unique in the ability to modify ecosystems (typically at the expense of other life forms) as a means of staving off the impacts of our having exceeded — as we know we have — earth’s ability to support our resource-hungry billions. But we are not immune to natural laws, and this party cannot last forever. It’s not clear, exactly, how it will play out in the long run, but one thing is certain: Ultimately, we shall find out.