Category Archives: Methane emissions

A Positive Vision For What The Green New Deal Could Be

We interviewed Dahr Jamail about his new book, “The End of Ice,” for our podcast, Clearing the FOG, this week. It will be available Monday. Jamail describes the grim reality of human-caused climate distortion. The bottom line is: It is here. It is accelerating. We need to take swift action to attempt to mitigate it and adapt to it as best we can.

The Green New Deal was introduced this week by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey. It is best described by Jason Grumet, head of a conservative Washington, DC think tank, as “a mirror that allows anyone to see their own interest.” It is a resolution that Members of Congress can support because it doesn’t challenge their corporate donors while it gives the illusion of addressing the climate crisis.

The Green New Deal has received mixed responses from the climate justice movement. Some see it as a positive because the idea was introduced in Congress, while others raise serious concerns that its contents leave too much wiggle room for things to stay the same. What becomes of the Green New Deal is up to us to determine.

This photograph taken on December 4, 2009 shows a glacier in the Everest region some 140 km (87 miles) northeast of Kathmandu. The Himalayan glaciers provide water for more than a billion people in Asia, but experts say they are melting at an alarming rate, threatening to bring drought to large swathes of the continent within decades. (Photo/Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)

The Climate Crisis is Here

Dahr Jamail stated that while the amount of climate devastation he described in his book is severe, new reports since his book show the climate crisis continues to worsen. In January, scientists reported that Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica has a giant hole under it, two-thirds the size of Manhattan, and is melting faster than they thought. It alone could raise sea level globally by two feet.

Another new study finds that ice in the Himalayan Mountains is melting faster than the global average and could practically disappear in this century. They write that if we continue with the same level of carbon emissions, global temperatures will rise by 4.2º to 6.5ºCelsius by the end of the century, far higher than the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5ºC and far more disastrous.

It’s not as if our lawmakers are unaware of the crisis. US intelligence analysts cited the climate crisis as a significant threat to global stability in their recent Worldwide Threat Assessment because of loss of resources like water and resultant migration. They also alerted Congress members that some US military bases are at risk because of rising seas and storms.

The most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which is considered a conservative document, calls for immediate action to attempt to keep the increase in temperature below 1.5ºC to give the best chance of human adaptation. The current levels of fires, storms, drought and more are the result of a 1ºC temperature rise, and they will worsen exponentially as the temperature goes up. The IPCC states, “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require ‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.”

Climate activists visited 50 congressional offices December 10 demanding support for a Green New Deal. (Rachael Warriner)

The Door is Open for a Green New Deal

The Green New Deal, which could create such a transition, is an idea that has finally broken through into the mainstream public dialogue. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has been working on it since she won her seat last November. She started with the idea of having a Green New Deal committee, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected that and created a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis headed by Congresswoman Kathy Castor instead. The committee has little power. It can neither subpoena witnesses to testify in hearings nor draft legislation.

In his analysis of the blue wave, which he calls a “corporate wave,” Nick Brana of Movement for a People’s Party describes the committee as “a public relations stunt for the fossil fuel industry.” He says, “It is worse than nothing to have a committee that pretends to be doing something while ensuring that nothing gets done to address climate change and other urgent environmental crises.”

This week, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced “H. Res. 109 – Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” It is a resolution, not a bill, that provides a framework for the Democrat’s Green New Deal. It is remarkably vague. It does not even contain keywords such as “oil,” “gas,” “coal,” “nuclear,” or “fossil fuels.”

Several groups have criticized the resolution. The Indigenous Environmental Network listed a number of concerns, from the use of terms that would permit market mechanisms for managing carbon, which would allow fossil fuel companies to keep extracting oil and gas, to not specifying what is meant by clean and renewable energy to failing to recognize the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations, and more. Food and Water Watch cited significant omissions in the resolution, writing that it needs to “halt the expansion of fossil fuels immediately, ensure that the transition to 100% renewable energy happens by 2035 at the latest, [and] exclude dirty energy sources like nuclear power…”

Whitney Webb explains that the Green New Deal leaves a lot for corporations to like and views it as an effort timed to benefit the Democrats in the 2020 elections, rather than a serious attempt to address the climate crisis. She compares it to the Green Party’s version of the Green New Deal, which calls for an immediate halt to investment in fossil fuels, 100% renewable energy by 2030, defined as wind, solar, tidal and geothermal, the creation of a Renewable Energy Administration tasked with supporting the development of cooperatively-owned energy and reducing the military by 50% to help finance the transition.

Community-owned solar panels (From the Institute for Local Self Reliance)

A Vision for a Green New Deal

Even if it is primarily an election season ploy for Democrats, to the millions of people who worry about the climate crisis and are pushing for solutions, the Green New Deal is an opportunity to define the transformations we need. That’s how Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson views it. He calls on “the Left to intervene” to make sure the Green New Deal doesn’t support the “market-based capitalist extractive system.” Akuno states that an ideal Green New Deal would prioritize reparations through financial compensation and decolonization.

Susan Scherarth and Sean Sweeney write that market mechanisms must be replaced with the concept of energy democracy, “public and social ownership of energy, to serve both social and ecological needs…” They view energy as a public good and a human right, not a commodity. Other writers argue that the Green New Deal must include a new agency that supports the development of energy cooperatives, much like the Green Party’s Renewable Energy Administration proposal. The Backbone Campaign takes that even farther with Solutionary Rail, a plan to create electric rail that moves people, freight and locally-produced renewable energy around the country. We interviewed Bill Moyer and Steve Chrismer about it on Clearing the FOG in 2016.

Current industrial farming techniques contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Elizabeth Henderson writes that sustainable agriculture must be part of the Green New Deal and outlines what that looks like. It includes support for agricultural cooperatives and family farms, unions for farm workers, regenerative farming and a just transition to end factory farms and the use of toxic chemicals.

Financing the Green New Deal is another opportunity to have an impact on transforming the economy. Ellen Brown describes how using a network of public banks to finance the transition to the new energy economy would not only avoid using tax dollars but would also generate a return to the government. We have long argued that instead of the profits from the transition going to Wall Street, they could be used to finance a universal basic income, which would reduce or eliminate poverty.

These are just some of the ideas that could be used to fill in the gaps of the Green New Deal and ensure it is both transformational in a way that ends wealth inequality and effectively addresses the climate crisis. Adam Simpson interviewed Johanna Bozuwa of the Democracy Collaborative, Anthony Torres of the Sierra Club and Evan Weber of the Sunrise Movement about their ideas for creating a new economy through the Green New Deal. We need to keep the public debate going on these issues to generate a common vision of what the Green New Deal could be.

From SeeWhatGrows.org.

What Next?

There are many ways that we can make a transformative Green New Deal a reality even with a Congress that is bought by the polluting industries who profit by destroying the planet and hope to profit from attempting to fix it. The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led movement focused on the Green New Deal, is organizing people to impact Congress with their current week of action. They led protests in Congress over the past few months.

To win, there will have to be a movement outside of Congress that builds a national consensus for what the Green New Deal must be. If you are a member of an activist or community group of any kind, you can generate discussion and action about it.

On top of that, we need to continue the current work to shut down new fossil fuel and nuclear infrastructure, create democratized renewable energy programs and push for policies at the local level that put in place the changes we need to transportation, housing, food and farming, and the economy. There is something for everyone to do in their community.

Through all of this, we need to prioritize the voices and wisdom of those who are the most impacted by our current dirty energy and unfair economy and respect the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations to control what happens on their land.

The Green New Deal as a concept has arrived. Where it goes from here is up to us.

Complacency and the Environmental Catastrophe

Ask any reasonably well-informed person what the cause of climate change is and the chances are they will say greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s), but they would only be partially correct. While it is true that man-made GGE’s are clogging Earth’s lower atmosphere, trapping heat and resulting in widespread climate change, the underlying 21st century cause, in contrast to the 19th and early 20th century when information was scarce, is something much more personal and lethal: complacency. Widespread complacency among politicians, big business and to a lesser degree, the general public, is the reason why, despite the various cries for restraint, global GGE’s continue to increase.

Complacency is why air pollution is getting worse in cities and towns across the world, leading to a range of health problems and premature deaths; complacency has caused the destruction of the planet’s rain forests, 85% of which have been lost through human activity, and it’s why the oceans have been poisoned and robbed of fish. Complacency is fueling the greatest extinction of animal and plant species in our history, it’s setting forests alight, filling the oceans and rivers with plastics and other pollutants, and is the reason why the ice mass in the North Pole is melting at unprecedented rates, leading to rising sea levels, flooding and the erosion of land, destroying homes and natural habitats, taking lives, displacing people – potentially millions.

It is complacency, which a wise man once described as the root of all evil, that is causing all of this and more – the ‘I’m all right, Jack’ mentality’. And no matter how many reports are published and forecasts made, or how often someone speaks or writes about what is the greatest crisis in human history, few listen, even fewer act and nothing substantive changes, certainly nothing that matches the scale of the catastrophe. Do people even know there is a crisis, really? The level of apathy amongst governments and corporate power beggars belief, as does the lack of coverage in mainstream media, such as the BBC. Environmental issues should be headline news every single day, but scan the websites and publications of the mass media and the environment is barely mentioned.

Complacency is reinforced by greed and ignorance, greed for limitless profits, short-term gain and material comfort and ignorance of the scale, range and urgency of the crisis, and of the connection between lifestyle and environmental ruin. The fact that animal agriculture is responsible for more GGE’s than any other sector, for example, is not common knowledge, and when it is known, changes in behavior, where they occur at all, are slow. Cutting out meat, fish and dairy reduces a person’s individual GGE’s more than any other single factor. In a positive sign, and for a range of reasons, more people than ever are adopting a vegan diet, particularly in Europe and America. But globally 90% of the population continues to eat animal produce, and this needs to dramatically change. Dissipating ignorance and cultivating greater awareness is badly needed; to this end, a coordinated public information program is needed throughout the world; this is a worldwide crisis and, as all those working in the area know, it requires a unified ‘Environment First’ response.

S.O.P.: Save Our Planet

Restoring the planet to health is the major need of the time; together with a shift in lifestyles, this requires economic systemic change and a reorientation of political priorities. Knowing there is an environmental crisis, claiming to be concerned but doing little or nothing is pure hypocrisy; to their utter shame the vast majority of politicians are environmental hypocrites; weak and devoid of vision. T,hey constitute the very embodiment of complacency; they are indebted to big business and have repeatedly shown that they cannot be relied on to initiate the radical policies needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground and repair the environmental carnage mankind has caused.

The number one priority of governments around the world is ‘the economy’. This is the sacred cow around which they tiptoe and to whom they make their reverential offerings in the hope of being blessed by limitless economic growth, no matter the environmental cost. Where they exist at all, Government policies to reduce GGE’s are designed and limited by the impact they will have on economic development; as such they remain totally inadequate.

Development takes place within the constructs of an unjust system that is dependent on constant consumption, encourages greed, produces huge quantities of waste, and is maintained by the relentless agitation of desire. These thoroughly negative elements work to the detriment of human beings and are the driving impulses behind behavior that has led to, and is perpetuating, the environmental crisis. The system demands that irresponsible consumption not only continues, but deepens and expands into areas of the world hitherto relatively untouched by its poison; it obstructs environmentally responsible policies and lacks the flexibility required to face the challenges, certainly within the time-scale needed if the planet is to be restored to health. Given these facts, the only sane, rational solution is to change the system to one that allows for an urgent meaningful response: a sustainable and just system based on altogether different principles and reasons for being. Neo-liberalism is not a living organism without alternatives, as some devotees of mammon would have us believe: it is a man-made structure and can therefore be redesigned to meet the urgent social and environmental needs of the time.

Systemic change and shifts in government policy will not just happen by themselves, it is up to all of us to demand that the environment becomes the number one priority for governments across the world. At the same time, we all need to examine how we live and ensure that we do so in a way that is determined, first and foremost, by environmental considerations – not by pleasure, convenience and comfort, as is often the case, but by love, for living in an environmentally responsible way is an act of love.

The decisions we make today and in the coming years will affect life on Earth for thousands of years to come. Sacrifices and the breaking of habits are required and within the spirit of collective individual responsibility these should be gladly accepted. Every political, business and lifestyle decision needs to be taken with an understanding of how it affects the environment, and a simple question posed: ‘will this action add to or reduce GGE’s’? If it will increase them, then don’t do it.

Consider how you get around: do you really need that fossil-fueled car (private ownership of cars needs to be drastically reduced, particularly in cities)? What you buy and who you shop with, who supplies your energy and does it come from renewable sources? Where you go on holiday and can you avoid flying and go by train or bus? If not, go somewhere else. What do you eat? If your diet is based on animal produce then reduce your intake. Shop based on need, buy secondhand, limit how often you wash clothing, reduce waste, boycott environmentally abusive companies, write to your political representatives, call for a national public information program; live responsibly and encourage family and friends to do likewise.

Complacency, apathy and hypocrisy coalesce to form the most noxious causes of climate change and environmental vandalism, and until this Trinity of Destruction is overcome, and the crisis is taken seriously by the political class, corporations and the public at large, nothing substantive will take place; and unless fundamental change occurs, and urgently, life on Earth will become increasingly uncomfortable, ecosystems will continue to collapse, and one dark day, in the very near future, it will be too late. The Shroud of Complacency needs to be thrown off now, today, and widespread action rooted in environmental awareness initiated; where there is concerted, sustained action therein lies hope.

Democracy Or Extinction

What will it take for governments to take real action on climate? When will they declare an emergency and do what needs to be done? How much concerted, peaceful public action will be required to disrupt the current economic and political system that is driving humanity to the brink of extinction?

Meanwhile, climate records continue to tumble. 2018 was the hottest for the world’s oceans since records began in the 1950s, continuing a deeply worrying trend. Moreover, the last five years were the five hottest. The consequences are likely to be catastrophic. The oceans are crucial to the Earth’s climate; they absorb more than 90 per cent of the heating generated by greenhouse gases. Yet another sign of serious climate disruption is revealed with seemingly no impact on the juggernaut of economic ‘growth’ and government decision-making.

John Abraham, one of the authors of the new scientific study on this alarming rise in ocean temperatures, said:

We scientists sound like a broken record. Every year we present the science and plead for action. Not nearly enough is being done. We can still tackle climate change, but we must act immediately. We have the means to make a difference, we lack only the will.

It is, of course, heartening to see scientists finally being this outspoken. But it is not accurate to keep repeating the mantra, as many well-intentioned people do, that ‘we’ lack ‘the will’. Who is the ‘we’ here? Big business, powerful financial interests and corporate lobbies have fought tooth and nail to oppose any substantive action. They have battled hard over decades to obscure, rubbish and downplay the science – with huge sums devoted to disinformation campaigns – and to bend government policy in their favour.

US environmentalist Bill McKibben recently observed of the fossil fuel lobby that:

The coalition ha[s] used its power to slow us down precisely at the moment when we needed to speed up. As a result, the particular politics of one country for one half-century will have changed the geological history of the earth.

One could argue that there is a lack of public will to expose and counter corporate power in collusion with nation states; that there needs to be a grassroots revolution to overturn this destructive system of rampant global capitalism. Perhaps there needs to be a revolution in human consciousness; an increased awareness of what it is to be fully human that respects ourselves, other species and the planet itself. Most likely, all of the above. If so, it is vital to say and do much more than merely say, ‘we lack only the will’.

Take the ad-dependent, establishment-preserving, Corbyn-hating Guardian. It obfuscated along similar lines in an editorial sparked by the record-breaking ocean temperatures. Global warming, the editors said:

can still be tackled if we act immediately; this is a test of will, not ability.

But where is the Guardian‘s systemic analysis of root causes of climate chaos and what needs to be done about it? The Polish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, who was murdered by right-wing paramilitary forces one hundred years ago this month, warned that global capitalism would lead to environmental destruction. This is not a defect of capitalism, she argued, but an inherent feature of a system that is rooted in brutality, gaping inequality and the unsustainable extraction of natural resources.

In her discussion of Luxemburg’s legacy, Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Bath, noted:

This is evident in the recent decision of Brazil’s new far-right president, Bolsonaro, to “integrate the Amazon region into the Brazilian economy”. This would expand the authority and reach of powerful agribusiness corporations into the Amazon Rainforest – threatening the rights and livelihoods of indigenous people and the ecosystems their lives are entwined with.

This destruction of indigenous peoples and ecosystems has been inflicted on the continent since Columbus ‘discovered’ America in 1492. Globally, the process intensified during the Industrial Revolution and, in more recent decades, with the rise of destructive ‘neoliberal’ economic policies pursued with ideological fervour by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and later acolytes. No wonder that Luxemburg saw a stark choice between ‘socialism or barbarism’. Today, the choice is most likely ‘socialism or extinction‘.

To any reader unsettled by the scare word ‘socialism’, simply replace it with ‘democracy’: a genuinely inclusive system where the general population has proper input and control, and does not simply have its wishes overridden by a tiny elite that enriches itself at our, and the planet’s, expense.

Media Barbarism

As we have long pointed out, the corporate media are a crucial component of this barbaric and destructive system of global capitalism. Our previous media alert highlighted that even the very names of ‘our’ newspapers propagate a myth of neutral, reliable news (‘Express‘, ‘Telegraph‘, ‘The Times‘, ‘The Observer‘) or a stalwart defender of democracy (‘The Guardian‘). And, as we have also noted, BBC News promotes itself as a trusted global news brand because it supposedly ‘champions the truth’.

Propaganda is what Official Enemies – such as North Korea, Iran or Russia – pump out. But not ‘us’. Thus, BBC Newsnight will readily grant BBC correspondent John Sweeney the resources to compile a condescending report on Russia’s Sputnik News:

Sputnik UK is well-named – it’s a tin can that broadcasts its curious one-note message to the universe: Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.

Recall that Sweeney is a serial Western propagandist who welcomed, indeed pushed for, the invasion of Iraq. He wrote in the Observer in January 1999:

Life will only get better for ordinary Iraqis once the West finally stops dithering and commits to a clear, unambiguous policy of snuffing out Saddam. And when he falls the people of Iraq will say: ‘What kept you? Why did it take you so long?’

If, by contrast, a BBC correspondent had repeatedly called out the UK media’s ‘one-note message’ in boosting the war crimes of Bush and Blair – an extremely unlikely scenario – would they still have a major BBC platform? Of course not.

Or consider a recent BBC News article that proclaimed:

Facebook tackles Russians making fake news stories

That fake news is a systemic feature of BBC coverage, and the rest of Western ‘mainstream’ media, is virtually an unthinkable thought for corporate journalists. Try to imagine Facebook taking action against BBC News or the Guardian, or any other ‘mainstream’ outlet for their never-ending stream of power-friendly ‘journalism’.

Try to imagine BBC News critically examining Western propaganda, including its own output, in the same way that it treated Russian propaganda in this BBC News at Ten piece by Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford.

Try to imagine Guardian editor Katharine Viner being made accountable for the fake viral Guardian exclusive last month that Trump’s former campaigner manager Paul Manafort had held secret talks with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy. She has simply kept her head down and tried to stonewall any challenges.

Try to imagine BBC Question Time host Fiona Bruce being punished by her BBC bosses for brazenly misleading viewers about Labour being behind the Tories in the polls. Or for her poor treatment of Labour guest panellist Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, who described the BBC’s behaviour as a ‘disgrace’. Bruce is married to Nigel Sharrocks, Chairman of the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board which earns significant sums of money from the BBC. There is no mention of this on Fiona Bruce’s Wikipedia page; nor is there a Wikipedia page on Sharrocks himself.

Veteran journalist John Pilger, effectively barred from the Guardian since 2015, and largely shunned by the corporate media, is clear that:

Real journalists act as agents of people, not power.

Such a simple powerful truth shames all those editors and media ‘professionals’ masquerading as journalists on BBC News, ITV News, the Guardian and elsewhere. When was the last time you saw a BBC News political editor truly challenging any Prime Minister in the past few decades, rather than uncritically ‘reporting’ what the PM has said or even fulsomely praising them?

Pilger was asked how journalism has changed in recent years. He responded:

When I began as a journalist, especially as a foreign correspondent, the press in the UK was conservative and owned by powerful establishment forces, as it is now. But the difference compared to today is that there were spaces for independent journalism that dissented from the received wisdom of authority. That space has now all but closed and independent journalists have gone to the internet, or to a metaphoric underground.

He continued:

The single biggest challenge is rescuing journalism from its deferential role as the stenographer of great power. The United States has constitutionally the freest press on earth, yet in practice it has a media obsequious to the formulas and deceptions of power. That is why the US was effectively given media approval to invade Iraq, and Libya, and Syria and dozens of other countries.

Pilger added his strong support for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks:

The truth about Iraq and Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia and many other flashpoints was told when WikiLeaks published the revelations of whistle-blowers. […] Julian Assange is a political refugee in London for one reason only: WikiLeaks told the truth about the greatest crimes of the 21st century. He is not forgiven for that, and he should be supported by journalists and by people everywhere.

In reality, Assange has been ignored, traduced, ridiculed and smeared by corporate journalists; not least by the Guardian which capitalised on his and WikiLeaks’ work.

Living Through the Worst-Case Scenario

Returning to the pressing issue of climate catastrophe, we are currently living through the worst-case scenario considered by climate scientists. According to a recent study in Nature, global temperatures could rise by a massive 5C by the end of this century. To understand the appalling seriousness of this, Professor John Schellnhuber, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, warned several years ago that:

the difference between two degrees and four degrees [of global warming] is human civilisation.

In other words, we are talking about the end of human life as we know it; perhaps even human extinction.

Rob Jackson, an Earth scientist at Stanford University and the chair of the Global Carbon Project, which tracks worldwide emissions levels, warns of the huge risk of assuming that humanity will be able to develop technology to remove carbon directly from the atmosphere any time soon:

It’s a very dangerous game, I think. We’re assuming that this thing we can’t do today will somehow be possible and cheaper in the future. I believe in tech, but I don’t believe in magic.

And even the most magical high-tech fixes removing carbon or blocking sunlight will not be able to resurrect, for example, the 98 per cent and 75 per cent of insects already wiped out in Puerto Rican jungles and German nature reserves, respectively. These insects are the key to the survival of the entire food chain; when they are dead, they will remain dead, and we will die with them.

Instead of magic, scientists are increasingly calling for immediate radical action. But their urgent calls make, at best, a tiny splash for a day or two in the corporate news bubble; and then the ripples die away, leaving an eerie, deathly silence.

Almost in desperation, climate experts say that:

it may still technically be possible to limit warming to 1.5C if drastic action is taken now. [our emphasis]

Scientific research shows that the impacts of climate change could be mitigated if a phaseout of all fossil fuel infrastructure were to begin immediately. The internationally agreed goal of restricting global warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is still possible, say scientists. But it is:

the choices being made by global society, not physics, which is the obstacle to meeting the goal.

Worse still, the scientific analysis:

[does] not include the possibility of tipping points such as the sudden release of huge volumes of methane from permafrost, which could spark runaway global warming.

We have now had three decades of increasingly alarming reports from climate scientists since the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up in 1988. Last October, the IPCC warned that we only had 12 years left to turn things around, taking radical action now. But alarm bells from scientists have not, and will not, stop governments in their tracks. Only peaceful and massive concerted action from citizens around the world stands a chance of doing that at this desperately late stage.

Tidepools, Dungeness Crabs, Serenity-Fed Beaches and Recreation a Thing of the Past?

There is no greater failure than the failure to respond to this ecological crisis. We need a wartime-speed mobilization and a just transition to race to zero greenhouse gas emission and to take carbon out of the atmosphere in order to restore a safe climate. We are called to heroism in this hour of grave consequences. We still have an opportunity to fight for all humanity and all life on Earth to avert the worst of the disaster as it is still technically and economically possible.

— Bill Kucha, founder of 350 Oregon Central Coast

Sometimes being a journalist and fiction writer puts me in a compelling world of everyone else’s narratives and predicaments. Small towns, flyover states, even countries like Mexico and Vietnam where the average Western reader holds some bizarre beliefs about the places and the people. The universal truths, though, abound, especially in small towns. I have a deep well of respect for people I just meet but get to know deftly, and this idea that small towns have small town thinkers is balderdash.

These people I meet on my journey keep me going on, even though I know we are cooked as a society (planet), as well as all modern cultures, because of the convalescing power of 7.8 billion people on earth ravaging, pillaging and trashing the planet in a race for more, more, more incubated in and encouraged by the insanity of religions and economic systems that have cemented the me-myself-and-I egocentricity into each generation, here and now and into those yet born.

I’m in Otis, Oregon, a spit of a town near Lincoln City in the county of the same name, along the Central Coast of Oregon, a most gorgeous and biodynamic place. So breathtaking that these towns of Newport, Depoe Bay, Yachats and Lincoln City are magnets for those dreaded invasives called California Erectus.

Last week (Jan. 14-19) I ended up at a nighttime lecture series at a small community college, Oregon Coast CC, for a lecture by two divergent characters, Bill Kucha, an artist and environmental activist strumming his folk guitar and slide-projecting some of his canvas art, and then first with Evan Hayduk, restoration specialist with the Midcoast Watersheds Council.

Hayduk had his Power Point all warmed up to tell the 50-plus attendees the challenges to this central coast with inundation from melting waters caused by global warming. This lecture was wonky and science driven, a good way to contrast a science team’s work through the auspices of a non-profit environmental group, and the work of the artist, Bill, who had been a teacher at the small community college since 1976.

See the source image

The entire suite of issues surrounding the impacts of climate change/warming are interesting for many of us who like to drill down into ecosystems challenges/forces/impacts generated by humans as we utilize some heady (and indigenous people’s) systems thinking approaches to figuring just how quickly and messily the impending distruptions to civilization and natural systems will face us down.

Tidal wetlands were part of the main course in this scientific evening, and Hayduk and his small team have looked at the sea level rise (SLR) predictions as they will play out in some of Oregon’s 23 central coast estuaries. These are unique ecosystems that provide so much for humanity, to include the beauty of the varied and strangely adapted flora and fauna, but also the water filtering and tidal surge buffering benefits for all living things.

DriftCr_2013_Mar_29_10719.jpg

Evan made it clear early on that two-thirds of shrub and forested marshes have been lost due to human development – farms, homes, roads, industries and logging. The fight – if it is even a legit tussle – is to work on what will happen to the tidal Sitka spruce and forested swamps over the course of 150 years, where the projected (very conservative) sea level rise will be eleven and a half feet (11.5 feet) by 2060 (why the climate scientists always feed us conservative projections I still do not fathom).

These swamps in the estuary life zone are vital to the nursery environment of protected waterways for Chinook, chum, and Coho salmon as well as for sole, anchovy and shellfish when they are vulnerable small fry. Imagine, plowing-over and diking-away these truly amazing ecosystems that are positive carbon sinks, help reduce flooding from storm surges, and provide filtered water from creeks and rivers coming to the sea from higher up and deep in the Oregon Central coast highlands and mountains.

The crowd was compliant and attentive, and again, after more than 40 years in the trenches around conservation-environmental activism and all the other aspects of my life galvanized to social justice, restorative justice, poverty, policing, education and imperialism, I get a déjà vu from the same good people and well-intended projects mired in the cesspool that is corporate control of all ecosystems, all urban and rural planning opportunities, and all of our citizen rights to health, happiness, and safety.

Preaching to the choir is one term people use, and this night it was the choir that was hopeful that some good and dramatic change might occur through the work of guys like Hayduk and the artistic philosophy of Bill Kucha.

The proposal was clear: strategic planning and working with shutting down the harvesting and clear cutting of forests owned by private entities (40% of Oregon forests are held privately). Evan repeated that 35 percent of Oregon’s carbon emissions come about because of the poor forest practices of the state’s mostly evergreen woods.

Carbon released into the atmosphere, and its relationship to melting ice and larger ocean waves and more turgid, unpredictable weather systems is rock hard in the evidentiary trail, even given how ignorant politicians are around the entire climate change issue. It seems baby steps are for this existential crisis, however, here on the Oregon Coast, the Oregon State marine sciences wonks have been studying the Newport line, a geographic pathway from Newport out into the ocean, now going on sixty years. The work is a concerted study of ocean acidification, dead zones (oxygen-free sections of the ocean bottom), parasitic and deadly algae blooms and the amount of non-point pollution coming off roads, industries, clear cuts and agriculture. From an article written Feb. 2018, the reporter is detailing the great work and early beginnings of this Newport Line:

The existence of the Newport Line was critical in bringing to the region the most sophisticated, extensive system of ocean monitoring ever developed. In 2014, the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), a massive federally funded ocean monitoring program, followed the Newport Line to deploy a section of the Endurance Array, a network of moored buoys, cables and gliders that collects colossal amounts of data.

OOI monitoring data have documented the increasing occurrence and severity of bottom hypoxia (low oxygen) along the Oregon coast in the summertime. Other measurements are now contributing to our understanding of ocean acidification, a result of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. Newport Line data helped scientists to identify the “warm blob” of ocean water that lingered off the Oregon coast from 2014 to 2016, wreaking havoc with oceanic food webs.

As oceanographer Angel White jokes, “What do they say about time series? Never start one and never end one.” Some climate phenomena cycle on the scale of decades, so even the Newport Line’s 56-year record might only capture a single cycle.

Regular monitoring is generally regarded as the job of government, not universities, so many local oceanographers feel that NOAA and other agencies should foot most of the bill. White and other scientists who rely on Newport Line data recently submitted a letter to potential funding agencies encouraging continued support. The Newport Line has served as a foundation for studying the impacts of climate variability and ecosystem response … the length and consistency of the Newport time series provide a powerful context for studying ecosystem impacts from unpredictable changes of the ocean and climate variability, they wrote.

I used to teach hundreds of students a year for decades as a community, university and alternative school teacher, and my English classes were always steeped in the issues of the day, and those that are affecting youth when they turn middle aged and old. The planet was always a big part of the courses, and like it or not, so was history and politics. The number of students coming to my college classes who were shocked by the knowledge base of an English prof around technology, science, and engineering was always high. Many students learned for the first time not just what the voices of the people’s history of the United States are (Howard Zinn, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz) but also the voices of Rachel Carson, John Lilly, Lois Gibbs, Tim DeChristopher, Winona LaDuke, et al.

Clearly, PK12 is failing these youth, and their lack of understanding of basic systems – natural, ecological, geophysical, etc. – is not just sad but dangerous. That’s not to say political insipid’s like Reagan or Sen. Inhofe and the heads of Shell, Exxon and PB are any better off intellectually.

At this OCCC lecture (the 32nd in a run of presentations), an on-going series since 1993 called the Williams Lecture series after former professor at OSU and OCCC and a noted revisionist historian, William Appleman Williams, Bill Kucha let the audience know that the Newport City Council, under the auspices of Mayor Sandra Roumagoux, just signed on Nov. 5, 2018 a “proclamation recognizing climate change awareness.”

We shifted to some folk songs and environmental ecosophy by Bill, who was citing Paul Hawken’s latest book, DrawdownThe Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.

Bill also walked the audience through the current battle to reshape the narrative on climate catastrophe and paradigm shift away from fossil non-renewable energy. He talked deeply about Oregon’s “100 by 50” proposal of having the state on 100 % renewable energy by 2050. He talked about Our Children’s Trust, groups of youth around the country (but started in Eugene) taking the on the US government by going to federal court to sue them for the irreparable damage done to their futures by their policies at the behest of the fossil fuel giants.

There was talk about the Buddhist philosophy around not arousing “hungry ghosts” and “learning how to become awake” in this big time of  change and one where we all are seeing things being destroyed, which for Bill gives us the purpose now of “being a bridge for change. . . . We are the first generation to face climate change and the last one that can fix it.”

There were moments where Bill got choked up, looking at the ways young people might be able to plug into this crisis moment. He talked a lot about finding joy in the world.

Interestingly, the Capitalist world, especially in predatory consumeristic capitalism, the “hungry ghosts” are corporations using propaganda, war on nations, and violence turned on their own people and land to accomplish the ungodly desire of wealth accumulation and unending resource exploitation at any cost.

I might have justified my 60-mile round trip in my 19-year-old three-cylinder Chevy Metro to get to the talk as a necessary journey of enlightenment, both mine and any readers reading this piece, but in reality, I am a male of white privilege, with a vehicle and a place to call home in a country that has invaded other countries and supports the largest war machine ever seen by humankind with millions of deaths since 1945 by direct and indirect soft warfare or direct overt wars. I faced gale force winds and monsoon downpours to get there, but no rain of terror by US-made bombers or drones dropping Hell-fires missiles around me.

There is a luxury embedded in talking about  a New Green Deal, carbon taxing and decrying regular poor people for flying in jets to see loved ones or go to Disneyland, when one is living in a country that sells trillions a year in war equipment, bullets and bombs in the name of “never negotiating our lifestyle and exceptionist mentality to anyone or anything.”

I remember giving food offerings to the hungry ghosts at Buddhist monasteries in Vietnam, called Vu Lan day or month. Don’t upset those departed, these living spirits, or else bad luck befalls you, that’s what the scientists from Hanoi joked about, but sort of believed, too.

Hungry ghost” is one of the six modes of existence (Six Realms). Hungry ghosts are pitiable creatures with huge, empty stomachs. They have pinhole mouths, and their necks are so thin they cannot swallow, so they remain hungry. Beings are reborn as hungry ghosts because of their greed, envy and jealousy. Hungry ghosts are also associated with addiction, obsession, and compulsion.

Guys like Bill have a deep line of hope and look toward times past when many saw the world thousands of years ago as centered around a gift economy, one where commodities were not utilized in trade or daily work was not slave wage labor.

He sees this time of the Anthropocene as hope rising, and he thinks today we have a new face of humanity emerging, one that is “not egocentric, is willing to make contact with nature, and is willing to pray and ask for forgiveness.”

The audience listened to his songs, and looked at his haunting images. What the audience left with from both Evan and Bill is the bearing witness of all these calamities calls for action; and Bill emphasized the very idea of this great turning occurring now – a time unfolding where we are learning what it means to be human and how to ask for forgiveness by being healing, caring and heartfelt.

This shift of consciousness around sustainability is featured in Joanna Macy’s film, The Great Turning.  Here is the basic expression Bill was all jazzed up about at the lecture:

In the Agricultural Revolution of ten thousand years ago, the domestication of plants and animals led to a radical shift in the way people lived. In the Industrial Revolution that began just a few hundred years ago, a similar dramatic transition took place. These weren’t just changes in the small details of people’s lives. The whole basis of society was transformed, including people’s relationship with one another and with Earth.

Right now a shift of comparable scope and magnitude is occurring. It’s been called the Ecological Revolution, the Sustainability Revolution, even the Necessary Revolution. We call it the Great Turning and see it as the essential adventure of our time. It involves the transition from a doomed economy of industrial growth to a life-sustaining society committed to the recovery of our world. This transition is already well under way.  [source]

Hope is an interesting thing, and I align myself mostly with the Beyond Hope under girder in Derrick Jensen’s essay of the same title:

Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ’50s and ’60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

Does anyone really believe that Weyerhaeuser is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone really believe that Monsanto will stop Monsantoing because we ask nicely? If only we get a Democrat in the White House, things will be okay. If only we pass this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. If only we defeat this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. Nonsense. Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they’re getting worse. Rapidly.

My point of going to the lecture and reporting on it and discussing it deeply is not to rain on anyone’s parade, especially those who have the gumption to study the problem and face the challenges of tackling it personally, collectively, politically, economically and spiritually.

photo of deforestation

But the forces of evil and the force of big energy are grotesque and powerful. Just here on the coast, in Coos Bay, the proposed Canadian fracked gas pipeline terminal at Jordan Cove coming from Canada, Wyoming, Colorado and other states to bring in fracked gas. Over 400 streams and creeks will be crossed, and in Oregon, 230 miles of clear-cut forests (two football fields wide) will take the pipeline which will have 70 percent fracked gas from Canada and 30 percent from Rocky Mountain states from Malin in the southwest part of the state to Coos Bay on the Oregon coast.

The American and capitalist calculus– jobs over safety, income over community health, paychecks over the rights of nature – is a tough formula to beat in a society that is addicted to oil and expects oil prices to be low (compared to Turkey and Eritrea at $10 a gallon!).

What is the Jordan Cove LNG Project?

  • 230 miles, 36 in diameter, Liquefied Natural Gas pipeline
  • Jordan Cove Project is owned by Veresen, a Canadian Company
  • Using all Russian Steel to construct the pipeline
  • Will run through 400 streams and waterways including underneath the Klamath River, Rogue River, and Coos Bay
  • First fracked Gas Export Terminal on the west coast-Located at Coos Bay, Oregon
  • 4 billion dollar project so it’s twice the size of the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline)
  • All of the natural gas being exported will be sold to companies in Asia, Japan already having an agreement with Jordan Cove

Why should we care?

  • Pipeline would run through traditional tribal lands and burial sites of the Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk, Modoc and Klamath Tribes of Northern California and Southern Oregon
  • “We live on 10,000-year-old ancestral land along the Trinity River, which is a tributary of the Klamath River. What effects the Klamath affects us.” -Thomas Joseph- Hoopa
  • 80 miles of old growth forest will have to be clear cut for the pipeline
  • 8 of those acres are home to endangered spotted owls
  • 300 landowners will have the pipeline running through their property with the use of eminent domain
  • Pipeline comes as close as 200 ft from the front door of some of these residents
  • A “leak” with a LNG pipeline would be an explosion with a 600 ft blast radius
  • on both sides of the pipeline has to be cleared to ensure that a wildfire won’t heat up the pipe
  • Several miles of the pipeline will run through recent wildfire areas
  • It is estimated that 2 tankers per week would be needed to maintain the LNG in the pipeline
  • Tankers would be crossing frequent migration areas of up to 7 species of endangered whales, including the Grey Whale in their route to and from Japan
  • This will spike the level of ship strikes in the whale population     [ source]

For Bill and his 350.org Oregon and for Evan who is looking at the effects of sea level rise coming into estuaries, the thought of that methane coming through Oregon is not a happy one. Then, add to that the transfer of that fracked energy into carbon pollution, plus the amount of electricity needed to bring the fracked gas down to minus-260 degrees (Jordan Cove would by the largest user of electricity in Oregon), and we have the quintessential dilemma facing a capitalist world of transnational money, transnational consolidated power in the hands of the .01 percent versus the loss of wildlands, forests, species and even individual land owners’ property.

The Lakota Sioux prophecy states there will be a big black snake (pipeline) that will come to the land and bring destruction to the people and the earth. That big black snake for Oregon is the Jordan Cove pipeline.

Our power comes from our ancestors standing behind us, holding us up to have the strength to face anything. As tribal people, we know that possession of the earth is not an actual thing, so we are using our power to protect the earth and water from the abuse and destruction of greedy corporations. Our stewardship of the earth has been passed down to us from thousands of generations that have done the same.

My little Inupiaq heart is both constricted and expanded for my brothers and sisters at Standing Rock. And I can feel in my bones that the voice of our people will be heard, and every American will join us in protecting the earth for generations to come, by defeating corporate greed and killing the black snake before it ever takes a breath.

—   Tara Dowd, an enrolled Inupiaq Eskimo, was born into poverty and now owns a diversity consulting business. She is an advocate for systemic equity and sees justice as a force that makes communities better.  [ Inlander]

 

Crimes against the Earth

Dear Caesar
Keep Burning, raping, killing
But please, please
Spare us your obscene poetry
And ugly music

— From Seneca’s last letter to Nero

The excavation of more than 600 billion tons of toxic carbon and hydrocarbon geological remains of previous biospheres and their transfer to the atmosphere as carbon gases constitutes nothing less than insanity leading to global suicide. With estimated profitable carbon reserves in excess of 20,000 GtC (Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change, including oil shale, tar sand, coal seam gas, further emissions would take the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere back to early Eocene (~55-40 million years ago) and Mesozoic-like (pre-65 million years ago) greenhouse atmosphere and acid oceans conditions, during which large parts of the continents were inundated by the oceans. Most likely to survive the extreme transition over a few centuries would be grasses, some insects and perhaps some birds, descendants of the fated dinosaurs. A new evolutionary cycle would commence. Survivors of Homo sapiens may endure in the Arctic.

Figure 1. Global warming by January 2018 relative to 1951-1980

Since about 542 million years ago, acting as the lungs of the biosphere, the Earth’s atmosphere developed an oxygen-rich composition over hundreds of millions of years, allowing emergence of breathing animals.

A critical parameter in Drake’s Equation, which seeks to estimate the number of planets that host civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy, is L – the longevity of technological civilizations. Estimates of L range between a minimum of 70 years and 10,000 years, but even for the more optimistic scenarios, only a tiny fraction of such planets would exist in the galaxy at the present time. It is another question whether an intelligent species exists in this, or any other galaxy, which has brought about a mass extinction of species on the scale initiated by Homo sapiens since the mid-18th century and in particular since 1945..

The history of Earth includes six major mass extinctions defining the end of several periods, including the End-Ediacaran, Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Each of these events has been triggered either by extra-terrestrial impacts (End-Ediacaran and K-T), massive volcanic eruptions, or methane release and related greenhouse events. Yet, with the exception of the proposed role of methanogenic bacteria for methane eruptions, the current Seventh mass extinction of species constitutes a novelty. For the first time in its history, the biosphere is in crisis through biological forcing by an advanced form of life; i.e., of a technological carbon-emitting species.

The distinct glacial-interglacial cycles of the Pleistocene (2.6 million years ago to 10,000 years ago), with rapid mean global temperature changes of up to 5 degrees Celsius rises over a few thousand years, and, in some instances shorter periods, forced an extreme adaptability of the Genus Homo. Of all the life forms on Earth, only this genus mastered fire, proceeding to manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum, split the atom and travel to other planets, a cultural change overtaking biological change.

Possessed by a conscious fear of death, craving a god-like immortality and omniscience, Homo developed the absurd faculty to simultaneously create and destroy, culminating with the demise of the atmospheric conditions that allowed its flourishing in the first place. The biological root factors which underlie the transformation of tribal warriors into button-pushing automatons capable of triggering global warming or a nuclear winter remain inexplicable.

Inherent in the enigma are little-understood top-to-base mechanisms, explored among others by George Ellis, who states:

Although the laws of physics explain much of the world around us, we still do not have a realistic description of causality in truly complex hierarchical structures.1

66 million years ago, huge asteroids hit the Earth, extinguishing the dinosaurs and vacating habitats, succeeded by the flourishing of mammals. At 56 million years ago, in the wake of a rise of atmospheric CO2 to levels near-800 parts per million, the monkeys made appearance. About 34 million years ago, weathering of the rising Himalayan and Alps sequestered CO2.  Earth was cooling, the Antarctic ice sheet formed and conditions on land became suitable for large, warm blooded mammals.

About 5.2 to 2.6 million years ago, in the Pliocene, with temperatures 2 – 3oC and sea levels 25+/-12 meters higher than during the 15th to 18th centuries, the accentuation of climate oscillations saw the appearance of the genus Paranthropus and the genus Homo. At least about one million years ago the mastering of fire by Homo Erectus, about a quarter of a millennium ago the appearance of Homo sapiens, and about 8,000 years ago the stabilization of the interglacial Holocene, saw the Neolithic and urban civilization.

Since the industrial age about 1750 and in particular from 1950, a period denoted as the Anthropocoene2, deforestation and climate change led to the demise of an estimated 10,000 species per year due to destruction of habitats, ever increasing carbon pollution, acidification of the hydrosphere.

Planetcide stems back to deep recesses of the human mind, primeval fear of death leading to yearning for god-like immortality. Once excess food was produced, fear and its counterpart, violence, grew out of control, generating murderous orgies called “war“, designed to conquer death to appease the Gods.

From the Romans to the Third Reich, the barbarism of empires surpasses that of small marauding tribes. In the name of freedom they never cease to bomb peasant populations in their small fields. Only among the wretched of the Earth is true charity common, where empathy is learnt through suffering.

War is a synonym for ritual sacrifice of the young. From infanticide by rival warlord baboons, to the butchering of young children on Aztec altars, to the generational sacrifice such as in WWI, youths follow leaders blindly to the death. Hijacking the image of Christ, a messenger of justice and peace, fundamentalists promote a self-fulfilling Armageddon, while others see their future on space ships and barren planets. Nowadays a cabal of multi-billionaires, executives and their political and media mouthpieces are leading the human race and much of nature to ultimate demise, with little resistance from the majority of people, either unaware or too afraid to resist the slide over the cliff.

Humans live in a realm of perceptions, dreams, myths and legends, in denial of critical existential factors3 in a world as cruel as it is beautiful. Existentialist philosophy allows a perspective into, and a way of coping with, all that defies rational contemplation. Ethical and cultural assumptions of free will rarely govern the behavior of societies or nations, let alone an entire species.

And although the planet may not shed a tear for the demise of technological civilization, hope on the individual scale for the moment is possible. Going through the black night of the soul, members of the species may be rewarded by the emergence of a conscious dignity devoid of illusions, grateful for the glimpse at the universe for which humans are privileged for the fleeting moment:

Having pushed a boulder up the mountain all day, turning toward the setting sun, we must consider Sisyphus happy.

— Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942

• Revised from “Planet Eaters

  1. “Physics, complexity and causality”, Nature, 435: 743, June 2005.
  2. cf. Steffen, Crutzen and McNeill, Ambio, 36, 614-621, 2007.
  3. Janus: A summing up, Arthur Koestler, 1978.

Veneration Of Power Leading To Climate Catastrophe

In a recent media alert, we presented a few rules that journalists must follow if they are to be regarded as a safe pair of hands by editors and corporate media owners. One of these rules is that ‘we’ in the West are assumed to be ‘the good guys’. This seriously damaging narrative, flying in the face of historical evidence and endlessly crushing state policies, ensures that the public is kept ignorant and pacified. The consequences have been deadly for millions of the West’s victims around the world, and now mean climate catastrophe that could end human civilisation.

First, take the recent devout coverage following the death of George Herbert Walker Bush, US President from 1989-1993, and Vice-President under Ronald Reagan from 1981-1989. When a (former) Western leader dies, the raw propaganda is often at its most fawning and servile. On Bush’s death, ‘mainstream’ media outlets broadcast and published eulogies and fanciful words of praise, divorced from reality. For example, BBC News channelled former President Barack Obama:

George HW Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey.

The Clintons – like the Bush dynasty, part of the US ruling class – added their own gushing propaganda tribute:

Few Americans have been – or will ever be – able to match President Bush’s record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it.

Referring to the massive US attack following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, ‘impartial’ BBC News launched into full-blown Orwellian newspeak:

The subsequent battle proved to be a triumph for American military expertise and a major boost for the nation’s morale.

Likewise, the Guardian‘s obituary described Bush Senior’s devastation of Iraq as ‘triumphant’; ‘the president did not put a foot wrong’; ‘his most impressive achievement’; ‘Bush’s masterly management of the first Iraq war’; and so on, in an elite-friendly script that was essentially a press release from the very centre of US power.

The cruel reality of Bush’s ‘most impressive achievement’, as we noted in a 2002 media alert, was that Iraq’s entire civilian infrastructure was targeted and largely destroyed under the rain of bombs. All of Iraq’s eleven major electrical power plants, as well as 119 substations, were destroyed. 90 per cent of electricity generation was out of service within hours; within days, all power generation in the country had ceased. Eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit and destroyed, wrecking flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power. Four of Iraq’s seven major water pumping stations were destroyed. According to Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, the allied bombardment:

effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq – electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry and health care.1

Under the 88,500 tons of bombs – the equivalent of seven Hiroshimas – that followed the launch of the air campaign on January 17, 1991, and the ground attack that followed, 150,000 Iraqi troops and 50,000 civilians were killed. The Guardian‘s glowing obituary omitted all of these brutal facts. The Observer, the Guardian‘s Sunday sister paper, sang from the same hymn sheet, describing the former head of the CIA and US president as:

an American patriot with a deep sense of duty.

The guff piece was written by serial propagandist Simon Tisdall who has variously been a foreign leader writer, foreign editor and US editor for the Guardian. Tisdall waxed that:

Bush set great store by civility in public life. As Republican candidate in 1988 he called for a “kinder, gentler nation”. He was, quintessentially, a decent man, with a taste for the lifestyle of an English country gentleman.

Bush’s ‘most admirable quality’, opined the Guardian man, was ‘his deep sense of public duty and service.’ That word ‘service’ again, repeated over and over like a mantra. But who was really being served by Bush’s violence?

The Guardian devoted a section of its website to Bush Sr, featuring headlines such as:

A different command”. How Bush’s war shaped his work for peace’

a man of the highest character’

The “dear dad” dedicated to faith, family and country’

Steady hand during collapse of communism’

“Dear Bill.” Clinton heralds letter from Bush as source of lasting friendship

When Official Enemies portray their Glorious Leaders in this way, western commentators routinely sneer with derision. Al Abunimah, editor of Electronic Intifada, highlighted the above litany of nonsense in a single tweet, and rightly scorned the Guardian as ‘a bastion of regime propaganda and sycophancy to powerful elites.’

Meanwhile, BBC News, like the rest of the corporate media, virtually canonised Bush as a saintly agent of Western benevolence. Even his ‘service dog’ Sully paid a ‘touching last tribute‘, sleeping beside the late President’s casket. We were to understand that Sully was heart-broken after long years spent devotedly serving his ‘master’. In fact, he had been assigned to assist Bush in the summer of 2018, just a few months ago.

By glaring contrast, a Morning Star editorial gave an honest assessment of Bush Sr’s contribution to the world, summed up as:

A lifetime in the service of imperialism.

Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs, listed numerous appalling crimes and abuses of human rights carried out by Bush, almost entirely buried by sycophantic journalists on his death, and concluded:

Coverage of George H.W. Bush’s death proves that Noam Chomsky’s media theory is completely true.

‘Mainstream’ media professionals do not know, or do not care, what Bush actually did in his life. Perhaps they also assume that the public do not know or care either. Obedient journalists have simply buried the destruction and mass death wreaked on Iraq in the Gulf War. In his Bush obituary, Nick Bryant, the New York-based BBC News correspondent, brushed all this away and stuck to the standard deception of ‘mistakes were made’ in Iraq. By ‘mistakes’, Bryant meant that the US encouraged the Kurds and Shia-dominated south to revolt against Saddam Hussein, but then failed to offer sufficient backing. Under BBC ‘journalism’, Bush’s ‘mistakes’ do not include mass killing and destruction. That is simply unthinkable.

The truth is that the corporate media, the BBC very much included, do not care about the deadly effect of mass sanctions and infrastructure destruction on Iraq through the 1990s, up to the 2003 Iraq War. Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, reported that 4,000 more children under five were dying every month in Iraq than would have died before Western sanctions were imposed. A total of half a million children under five died, amongst a total death toll of over one million Iraqis. There is clearly no need or desire for western corporate media to dwell on Bush Sr’s role in such horrors.

Nor do corporate journalists care about his service to death, torture, secret assassinations, and propping up of dictators in his role as head of the CIA. They do not care that, as Vice-President, Bush refused to apologise for the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 over the Persian Gulf by the US warship Vincennes on July 3, 1988. All 290 people on board the plane were killed, including 66 children. Instead, he said callously:

I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are. … I’m not an apologize-for America kind of guy.

Clearly, most corporate journalists do not care that Bush shares responsibility for the multiple bloodbaths that soaked Latin America in the 1980s. They do not care that Bush was, as historian Greg Grandin notes, an ‘icon’ of ‘brutal US oppression in the Third World’. They do not care that Bush invaded Panama in 1989, in the biggest deployment of US force since the Vietnam War, ostensibly to capture former US ally Manuel Noriega on charges of drug trafficking. US planes heavily bombed populated areas, resulting in the estimated deaths of 3,000 Panamanians. Grandin says that the ‘lasting impact of the Panama invasion’ is the US wars that followed in subsequent decades. On Bush’s death, the corporate media did their job of whitewashing his blood-soaked legacy; just as they covered for his crimes when he was in power.

‘Climate Catastrophe Now Inevitable’

All this matters because the media’s veneration of Bush, and western leaders generally, is a glaring symptom of a deep truth about the corporate media: their primary function is to project a severely distorted view of world events, one that embodies state and corporate priorities rooted in power and short-term profit at any cost.

The public is perennially starved of rational facts about the real state of the planet, and the greed-driven policies that hold sway over electorates and even over global ecosystems. The appalling consequence is that we are now certainly headed for climate catastrophe. Even a few within the corporate media have started to admit as much. Science writer Robin McKie noted in the Guardian that:

Climate catastrophe is now looking inevitable.

McKie added that the US has produced around one third of the carbon dioxide responsible for global warming:

Yet it has essentially done nothing to check its annual rises in output. Lobbying by the fossil fuel industry has proved highly effective at blocking political change – a point most recently demonstrated by groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, which helped persuade President Trump to pull out of the Paris agreement, thus dashing the planet’s last hope of ecological salvation.

He cited environmentalist Bill McKibben:

The coalition [fossil fuel lobby] used its power to slow us down precisely at the moment when we needed to speed up. As a result, the particular politics of one country for one half-century will have changed the geological history of the Earth.

Global carbon emissions reached a new high in 2018. In other words, nothing of real significance has been achieved in thirty years of supposedly trying to cut emissions – other than making the problem very much worse – and we now only have a decade to completely turn things around. The blocking effects by powerful industry lobbies and corporate-captured political ‘leaders’, hugely underreported by the corporate media, are a disaster for the human race. Stefan Rahmstorf, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, highlighted a new analysis of carbon emissions by the Carbon Research Project and said:

See how easily we could have solved the climate crisis if we had started in 2000! Only 4% reduction per year. Now we need 18% per year. You can thank climate deniers, lobby groups and cowardly politicians for this delay.

Kevin Anderson of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Research concurred:

Spot on by [Rahmstorf]. The academic community also take some responsibility for all too often remaining quiet about completely irresponsible decisions. Just listen to the roar of complicit silence over the UK’s shale gas plans, the new oil platform, airport & road expansion.

Renowned climate scientist Michael Mann declared:

We’ve got a LOT of work to do folks. After flat-lining for 3 years, CO2 emissions have now ticked up two years straight. This is no time for climate change denying/delaying politicians. We must vote them out & elect in their place politicians who will LEAD on climate.

He added:

It is no longer enough for politicians to just say the right things about climate change. They must demonstrate a commitment to meaningful actions & specific policies aimed at rapid reductions in carbon emissions. We are now officially starting to run out of time…

Julia Steinberger, Associate Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Leeds, put the scale of the challenge succinctly:

If people had ANY idea of the harm and loss that is coming our way with #ClimateBreakdown, they would stop driving, flying, eating meat, overheating and overconsuming pretty much instantly, and work tirelessly to build new low carbon societies.

Instead, powerful industry lobbies are working tirelessly to block the radical action that is required.

A new Met Office study shows that the UK summer heatwave this year was made thirty times more likely by the human impact on climate. Met Office scientist Peter Stott issued a deadly warning:

Humanity just won’t be able to cope with the world we are heading for.

Last year, Arctic News editor Sam Carana pointed out the dangers of methane, a highly potent global warming gas:

As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, it seems inevitable that more and more methane will rise from its seafloor and enter the atmosphere, at first strongly warming up the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean itself – thus causing further methane eruptions – and eventually warming up the atmosphere across the globe.

A giant ‘burp’ of methane gas could happen suddenly and increase global temperatures rapidly. If this sounds like a scare story, Harold Wanless, Professor of Geology and a specialist in sea level rise at the University of Miami, puts it in perspective:

Scientists tend to be pretty conservative. We don’t like to scare people, and we don’t like to step out of our little predictable boxes. But I suspect the situation is going to spin out of hand pretty quickly. If you look at the history of warming periods, things can move pretty fast, and when that happens that’s when you get extinction events.

I would not discount the possibility that it could happen in the next ten years.

In summary, scientists are calling for immediate large cuts in carbon emissions. Given the normally conservative pronouncements by overly cautious experts, such warnings should stop us all in our tracks. Climate scientists are virtually screaming at those running our political and economic systems to make drastic changes now.

However, at the start of a new UN climate conference in Poland, the follow-up to the 2015 Paris summit, a BBC News article observed starkly:

The gap between what countries say they are doing and what needs to be done has never been wider.

In other words, the dangers of rapid and cataclysmic global warming are now so glaring that some degree of urgency is being communicated occasionally, very occasionally, from within the corporate media. It would hurt establishment media credibility too much in the eyes of the public were that otherwise.

Safe ‘national treasure’ David Attenborough has become more outspoken of late. He addressed the UN conference:

We’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.

He told the BBC:

All over the world there are people who are suffering as a consequence [of climate change] whose voices have not been heard.

Last week, the Daily Mirror went as far as putting Attenborough’s warning on its front page:

Time Is Running Out To Save Planet

But the daily diet of ‘news’ pumped out by the major news media is still a massive distraction from the huge widespread changes in society, politics and the economy that are needed immediately. Why is the climate crisis not a vital component, perhaps even the primary component, of news reporting on the economy, business, commerce, politics, and Parliament? Why is it usually restricted to science and environment ‘stories’? For instance, how often does the BBC’s business editor, Simon Jack, address the climate crisis in his reports? Never, if our occasional sampling is indicative. Nor does he ever respond to our polite challenges to do so. The same applied to the recently departed BBC economics editor, Kamal Ahmed. This is a gross dereliction of duty by the BBC to the public who pays for it.

Are we supposed to obsess over slight changes in interest rates, currency exchange rates, the FTSE 100 index, and the size of the UK economy, even while the planet’s natural resources are plundered, ecosystems collapse, and the mass loss of species accelerates? Why are these much latter, more crucial numbers and facts about the state of the planet not routinely cited in corporate media reporting on the state of business and the economy? Perhaps we are supposed to regard the number of rivets on the Titanic a reliable measure of the ship’s robustness, even as it plummets beneath the waves.

Just consider the US news media reporting on the appalling forest wildfires in California last month. Although scientists have stated clearly that climate change is a significant factor in these catastrophic wildfires, national US television networks made the link with climate in less than four per cent of their reports on the calamity. We are not aware of any similar study of UK television coverage. But it was certainly apparent that BBC News at Ten made very little mention of the links between global warming and the Californian wildfires, just as climate was glaringly absent from its coverage of this summer’s drought in the UK.

It is true that the burgeoning grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, and the remarkable 15-year-old Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, are not entirely absent from news coverage. But, given the stakes, their activism and their urgent messages to society as a whole would be making headlines every day in a sane media system. Extinction Rebellion are calling for peaceful mass civil disobedience to demand:

an immediate reversal of climate-toxic policies, net-zero emissions by 2025 and the establishment of a citizen’s assembly to oversee the radical changes necessary to halt global warming.

During one recent climate protest that blocked five major bridges in central London, one protester said:

We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed.

Extinction Rebellion issued a stark warning:

Our aims may be ambitious. But we are striving for nothing less than the fate of our planet.

The inspiring clip that goes along with these words depicts suffragettes, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others pushing for positive changes in the world. Thunberg has explained in very simple and powerful terms how and why she became so motivated to do something about climate change. It happened in school at the age of nine:

They [teachers] were always talking about how we should turn off lights, save water, not throw out food. I asked why and they explained about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.

Now, at 15, her commitment to go on school strike to devote herself to climate activism is an inspiration to many around the world, including the Extinction Rebellion movement. She has a succinct riposte to those who accuse her of neglecting her education:

Some say I should be in school. But why should any young person be made to study for a future when no one is doing enough to save that future? What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians?

The time has passed for the public to rely on political leaders taking the right steps to tackle the climate crisis. As Thunberg said in her speech to the UN climate conference:

So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.

As ever, it is up to each one of us to ensure that this change happens.

  1. Quoted Mark Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995.

Tampa Bay Rebellion

If the constant hurricanes and wildfires didn’t get your attention, the scientific bombshell should have.  In October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report, Global Warming of 1.5 °C.  The panel is a UN body of thousands of scientists that analyses all the latest scientific papers to draw conclusions.  They found that in order to have a decent chance of avoiding the runaway climate change found above 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, we must aim to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 (based on 2010 levels), and then reach zero emissions by the middle of this century.

These numbers, and the scale of challenge they represent, horrified many people.  But I haven’t seen much reporting on what it means for specific countries. The United States emits higher levels of greenhouse gases per person than most nations, so the cuts must necessarily be even deeper.  I invite more statistical minds to improve on them, but according to my rough calculations based on population size and global emissions share (neither of which has changed drastically since 2010), in order to do its fair part the United States must cut emissions by around 85% in the next twelve years.

The IPCC’s recommendations are buttressed by calls for a global 20% cut in material consumption levels, dropping coal use by around two thirds, oil in half, and natural gas by a third, all by 2030.  Again, all of these targets will need to be higher in wealthy, high consumption countries.  Look at the figures and ask yourself if the IPCC, scientists with an inclination to say nothing they can’t prove, are appealing for anything other than the bare minimum of what they think might be necessary.  We need to aim higher than these goals to have a chance of at least meeting them.

It is on the basis of all this that on October 31st, over one thousand people in the United Kingdom launched a giant campaign of non-violent direct action in Parliament Square.  Under the name Extinction Rebellion, they are demanding that the government declare a state of emergency over climate breakdown, enact legally binding “wartime mobilisation” policies to get the country to net zero emissions by 2025, and for the building of citizen’s assemblies to oversee the transition.  Roadblocks and actions have continued throughout November with the involvement of thousands more.  The May government is accused, among other infractions, of overriding democracy by ramming through unpopular fracking and airport expansion measures.

An International Declaration of Rebellion invites people of other nations to join them leading up to a coordinated action day on April 19th.  The same week as the Parliament Square event, thousands of people in western Germany protested and blocked a coal train to try and stop the further expansion of a lignite mine into a 12,000-year-old forest.  On December 2nd there will be a launch event for Extinction Rebellion US in Washington D.C.  Groups are preparing under the banner in Canada, Sweden, New Zealand and many other countries and cities.  The call for international rebellion is building on fertile ground.

There are numerous reasons why you may not have heard about these protests, the most obvious being the drama of the midterm elections.  We should care about who is put in office. The Trump administration’s assault on the environment is representative of an increasingly desperate fossil fuel industry.  But when it comes to climate change, we haven’t the luxury of obsessing over it, as the click-dependent media that helped to put him in power would have us do. If our movements are strong, worthy politicians will seek to follow them.  Largely independent of Trump, plans are in the dirty pipeline to expand two major sources of greenhouse gases in Tampa Bay, and they have so far been met with almost no opposition. Nothing makes the people destroying our environment happier than silence.

Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach is the only coal burning plant located around Tampa Bay, and is one of the largest in the state.  Operator Tampa Electric (TECO) sent out a customer letter in May of this year detailing their hopes for modernisation.  The plan is to retire one antiquated coal-and-gas-fired unit and convert another to a modern natural gas unit (two primarily coal-fired units would remain in use).  It sounds like progress. This conversion, however, is gambling on the long-term continuation of the American fracking boom and all of its associated problems (fracked wells now provide two thirds of U.S. natural gas production).  The Trump government has spent the last two years trying to remove rules that oblige oil and gas companies to at least try to plug methane leaks, rather than letting it vent into the atmosphere, and those attempts can be expected to continue.  Because methane is some 86 times more potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, fracked gas is arguably just as bad for the climate as coal, if not worse.  This proposal is not progress at all.

If we believe fracking is unsuitable for Florida, it’s hard to see why we should financially support it happening in other places.  Tampa Electric says the project, if implemented, will cost $1 billion, take ten years to finish, and should be expected to last thirty-five or forty.  These numbers should set alarm bells off in the heads of all climate activists considering the small window of time we have left.  Are we going to let them expend all this money and effort to make a one-time conversion that will make no discernable difference to electricity emissions?

The company has made much of its investments in solar, including one project at Big Bend itself, which they brag is the biggest in Tampa Bay.  The array produces 23 megawatts (MW) of electricity, or approximately 1.35% of the amount currently produced at the fossil power station.  Other projects are expected to bring their total solar to 600 MW, or 7% of their total generation, by 2023.  But sunny Florida ranks a sad 8th in total solar generation nationwide, with California producing over ten times our capacity and powering 17% of their grid.  TECO has the means to expand these solar plans rapidly rather than give a money stream to the fracking industry, and that’s where the majority of the $1 billion budget should be going (aside from the decommissioning costs of the coal units).

This investment is even worse when you consider that natural gas, whether fracked or not, is now in direct competition with renewables to replace coal, and TECO’s current funding of solar amounts to a mere $50 million.  In the decade leading up to 2016 their profits almost doubled to $250 million.  CEO Nancy Tower earned $1.5 million last year, while CEO of parent company Emera, Robert Bennett, earned almost $2.2 million.  All that matters in judging a proposal in terms of climate change is whether it lines up with the goals of the IPCC report, not whatever positive framing a company might use to present it to the public.  Construction is expected to begin in June 2019.

When it comes to the various failures of the big green NGOs in this country, nothing stands out like their disregarding of the climate change impacts of aviation.  Going on a flight is the most damaging climate choice that an individual can make. A fully-booked return trip from London to New York produces around 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per person (with the average American carbon footprint being about 19 tonnes a year).  Planes use vast amounts of kerosene over vast distances, with a global warming effect that is, according to the IPCC, around 2.7 times higher than the carbon emissions they produce (due partially to the height at which planes operate).  While aviation currently accounts for about 5% of global warming, it is also the fastest growing sector, at a time when other industries are at the very least under pressure to shrink their emissions.  The 20,000 planes in the air today are projected, under a business as usual scenario, to number 50,000 by as soon as 2040.  The EU predicts that if this exception continues to be made for aviation its share of global CO2 output could be 22% by 2050.

The ballooning of the sector hugely outstrips all slight improvements in fuel efficiency, as most of the significant gains on this front have already been made.  Alternative fuels (like hydrogen) and tech designs (like solar planes) remain little more than public relations stunts  Even if such routes were feasible, planes are expensive, so airlines keep them in service for decades, and are not likely to retire them early and build new ones without massive political pressure.  Until a pathetic voluntary offset deal was struck in 2016, aviation was routinely ignored by national and international climate treaties because governments didn’t want to admit a simple fact: the only way to get a large cut in airline emissions is a large cut in the number of flights.  Despite American driving habits, flying already makes up 12% of all transport emissions nationally (it’s not clear how, or if, this number includes international flights).

With this information in mind, it’s possible that what is slated to happen at Tampa International Airport is even worse than what is happening at Big Bend  The publicly owned airport has already spent a billion dollars on part one of a three phase plan, and intends to spend another billion.  It involves turning the airport into what some have called a “mini-city“, complete with offices, retailers, hotels, restaurants, and a giant car rental centre, with phase two expected to begin in late 2019.  More alarmingly, the final phase of the project is designed to expand capacity from the 19.6 million passengers of 2017, to accommodate 34 million in the coming years as demand grows.  This is classic expansionist spin: by building the extra gates and capacity, the airport is helping to stoke the increase in demand.

“It’s critical that we keep this airport up to date and support this kind of growth for the next twenty to thirty years,” Hillsborough County Aviation Authority chair Robert Watkins said in February.  I’m sure it will seem like a wonderful investment when Tampa is hit by a seventeen foot storm surge that puts the runways underwater.  In a world where oil consumption must be cut in half within twelve years, is it logical or fair to allow an airport to almost double its emissions?  Or should all that effort perhaps go into alternative modes of travel? If you’re currently objecting that our economy is highly dependent on flights from tourists, seasonal visitors and retirees, you are correct, and should be very angry at business people and politicians who for decades have argued that this is a sustainable model.  Luckily, CEO Joe Lopano (projected compensation for this year: $625,000, one of the highest paid airport CEOs in the country) has another plan, which is to have Tampa International achieve carbon neutral status.  There’s just one problem: it only includes emissions from planes when they’re within the perimeter of the friggin’ airport.

Given the almost complete lack of dissenting voices against these projects from either the press or local environmentalists (with the quiet exception of Sierra Club), direct action that causes disruption and draws attention is the only tactic that is going to drag them into public consciousness in anything like the speed that is necessary.  These actions would be demanding and potentially dangerous. Last summer five workers were burned to death at Big Bend whilst trying to clean underneath an active boiler.  Airports are terrifying places to contemplate breaking the law.  But climate activists managed interventions against runway expansions at Heathrow Airport and other UK airports in the years immediately following the attacks on the London Underground, and the introduction of the “liquids as bombs” terrorism approach that annoys fliers to this day.  The U.S., with its paranoid and highly armed security apparatus, offers more challenges. But like all the others, we must overcome or subvert them.

The Extinction Rebellion protests are aimed primarily at political targets in capital cities.  Aside from the issue of geographic barriers that we face from way down here, actions against actual emission points are still important, and can supplement and build momentum for the general idea of the non-violent uprising (and we can, of course, find worthy structural targets closer to home should we so choose).  If we don’t oppose these plans that go full throttle in the wrong direction, and oppose them hard, they will make a mockery of any commitments our region makes — in the present or future — to 100% renewable energy. Climate change work that focuses on what we build at the expense of what we close down is missing the fundamental point.

Individuals can only choose honestly for themselves, but we must be brutally honest about what is a reason for holding back and what is an excuse.  As a childless, partially youthful white male, I have certain advantages when it comes to confrontational protest. But I’m also a green card holder in an age where even green card holders and American citizens are not safe from deportation, and it seems as if almost anything can happen.  I’m still more afraid of climate change than I am of the government. The chances are good that you also have room to maneuver in assisting with such actions.  As ever, we need supporters, such as legal experts, child care givers, drivers, writers, medics and mental health experts, cooks, artists and funders.  That means we need you.

This is a call to all the good people who support local businesses, care about plastic and straw pollution, voted to ban offshore oil drilling and expand transit spending in Hillsborough, decry the red tide and go on climate change demonstrations  Now or never is the time for commitment and sacrifice. In my article on the Rise Up Climate march in St. Petersburg in September, I raised questions about whether it was worth our finite efforts to force a transition in a part of the world that is incredibly vulnerable to already locked-in climate change.  I still think that is an important discussion. But whether we remain here or not, there is now no doubt that we have a responsibility to suffocate major sources of greenhouse gas emissions on our doorsteps. If we fail to see any developments on this front, if the community appears to have insufficient will to survive, it will only become worthy of abandonment in another sense.  Tampa Bay is heading for extinction. The architects of that extinction are banking on our indifference. Are you ready to rebel?

• The Extinction Rebellion Tampa Bay planning page can be found here. The first meeting will be in the next few weeks.

Fracking Filthy Fuel

Burning fossil fuels is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), and, greenhouse gas emissions (water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O)) are the principle cause of man-made climate change. Given this fact, governments throughout the world should be moving away from fossil fuels and investing in, and designing policies that encourage development of, renewable sources of energy. But the British Conservative government, despite public opinion to the contrary, has all but banned the construction of onshore wind turbines and is encouraging fracking in England. The Tories are the only UK political party to offer support for this regressive form of energy production, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens having all promised fracking bans should they gain political office at the next general election.

Hydraulic fracking is the process of releasing gas and oil from shale rock: huge quantities of water, proppant (usually sand) and chemicals are injected at high-pressure into hydrocarbon-bearing rocks, rocks that can be up to a mile down and were once thought to be impermeable. This process of fracturing (or cracking) forces the rocks to crack open, and gas held inside is released and allowed to flow to the surface.

Shale gas is a fossil fuel, and when combusted produces GGE, albeit at around 50% less than coal or oil, but GGE nevertheless. The leading fracking company in Britain is the energy firm Cuadrilla. An organization that according to its website, aims “to be a model company for exploring and developing shale gas in the UK,” they state that they are “acutely aware of the responsibilities this brings, particularly with regard to safety, environmental protection and working with local communities.” Really?

After protests by the local community and various court cases (Lancashire County Council had refused drilling rights, but the Secretary of State ignored community voices and approved the company’s request on appeal), Cuadrilla recently commenced fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire. However, as in 2011 when the company was forced to abandon drilling, work was suspended for two days out of four because of earthquakes. Tremors measured 0.5 on the Richter scale, which breached the seismic threshold established following the 2011 earth tremors. Instead of abandoning the project as the local community and environmental groups are demanding, the firm’s chief executive, Francis Egan, wants the Government to raise the threshold.

Another Regressive Step

America is home to hydraulic fracturing, where it’s been taking place for decades. Greenpeace states that as of 2012 the “fracking industry [in USA] has drilled around 1.2 million wells and is slated to add at least 35,000 new wells every year.” Fracking has led to US oil production increasing faster than anytime in its history, resulting in lower domestic gas prices. The US Energy Information Administration record that around two thirds of gas is now produced by fracking and almost half the countries crude oil.

Shale gas is spoken of as a positive alternative to coal, but it’s just another filthy fossil fuel that is adding to GGE, which in turn are driving climate change. Fracking has a substantive impact on the natural environment and the health of those living within the surrounding area. Earthquakes, air pollution, soil pollution, carcinogenic chemical leakage and contaminated groundwater are the primary risks.

An enormous amount of water, which needs to be transported to the site incurring significant environmental costs, is required in the fracking process. The amount of water used varies per well: between 1.5 and 10 million gallons is required every time a well is fractured. Greenpeace relates that, “in 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water were used to fracture just 35,000 wells in the United States.” The water is mixed with various chemicals to make fracking fluid, a toxic cocktail that can be further contaminated by “heavy metals and radioactive elements that exist naturally in the shale.” A significant portion of the frack fluid returns to the surface “where it can spill or be dumped into rivers and streams…fracking fluids and waste have made their way into our drinking water and aquifers. Groundwater can be contaminated through fracking fluid and methane leakage and the energy companies have “no idea what to do with the massive amount of contaminated water it’s creating,”

In addition to water and soil pollution, fracking adds to existing levels of air pollution as methane gas is released into the atmosphere through leaks and venting. A study conducted by Cornell University found that “over a well’s lifetime, 3.6 to 7.9 percent of methane gas escapes” in this way. Unlike CO2, which sits in the atmosphere for centuries or millennia, methane only lasts for decades, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserts that it warms the planet by 86 times as much as CO2 before then degrading to become CO2.

Many countries recognize the retrogressive nature of fracking and have passed legislative bans or moratoriums; England is the only country within the UK where it is currently allowed. More than 100 fracking licenses have been awarded by the government, but in order to start fracking they need permission from the local council. Fracking is universally unpopular amongst the communities where sites are located or proposed; on 13th October the Gasdown-Frackdown action saw thousands of people from six continents take to the streets demanding an end to fracking and calling for long-term investment in renewable sources of energy. Fracking is not an environmentally sane way to meet the energy needs of a country. It is part of the problem not the solution and it should be rejected totally. What is required is a global energy strategy rooted in environmental sustainability. As Friends of the Earth rightly say, “a 21st Century energy revolution based on efficiency and renewables, not more fossil fuels that will add to climate change.”

Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2) Do renewable manufacturers have enough capacity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postscript:

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

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

We Can No Longer Afford A Fossil Fuel Economy

#WeRiseForClimate protest in San Francisco, September 8, 2018 from 350.org flickr

The Global #RiseForClimate actions are just one example of many that the climate justice movement is building the power needed to transform the economy and put in place policies to confront climate change.  The ingredients exist for the climate justice movement to rapidly succeed. A challenge is not knowing how much time we have. Scientists have been conservative in their estimates, and feedback loops could rapidly increase the impacts of climate change.

The costs of not acting are high. The benefits of investing in a clean energy economy would be widespread. We need to keep building the movement.

Source: New Climate Economy

The Climate Crisis Is Already Devastating

The urgency of the climate crisis is obvious and cannot be reasonably denied. ABC News reported about the horrific California wildfires, saying there is an “undeniable link to climate change.” They wrote, “Experts have said that rising temperatures linked to climate change are making the fires larger, more dangerous and more expensive to fight.” This year’s fires broke records set by last year’s fires, leading Governor Jerry Brown to describe them as the “new normal” caused by years of drought and rising temperatures.

Researchers at Columbia University and the University of Idaho reported in 2017 that human-caused warming was drying out forests, causing peak fire seasons across the West to expand every year by an average of nine days since 2000. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the 2017 fire season cost more than $2 billion, making it the most expensive fire season on record.

Extreme heat is becoming more common because of climate change. Since 2001, 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have occurred. Records were broken all over the world this year. Record heat is also contributing to more ferocious stormsStorms with heavy rain and high winds are increasing, as the Union of Concerned Scientists warns.

Michael Mann, an atmospheric science professor at Penn State University, clarifies the science:

What we can conclude with a great deal of confidence now is that climate change is making these events more extreme. And its not rocket science, you warm the atmosphere it’s going to hold more moisture, you get larger flooding events, you get more rainfall. You warm the planet, you’re going to get more frequent and intense heat waves. You warm the soils, you dry them out, you get worse drought. You bring all that together and those are all the ingredients for unprecedented wildfires.

Our Lives Matter from #RiseOnClimate Flickr

Economic Cost of Climate Impacts Is Rising

Global warming will hit the US economy hard, particularly in the South. The Richmond branch of the Federal Reserve Bank cites a study that finds refusing to combat climate change could utterly devastate the South’s entire economy. The Fed notes, “higher summer temperatures could reduce overall U.S. economic growth by as much as one-third over the next century, with Southern states accounting for a disproportionate share of that potential reduction.”

There is a correlation between higher temperatures and lower factory production, lower worker productivity and lower economic growth. An August 2018 report found:

The occurrence of six or more days with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit reduces the weekly production of U.S. automobile manufacturing plants by an average of 8 percent.

Ironically, the oil and gas industry, which is accused of undermining climate science, is now asking government to protect it from the impacts of climate change. When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, swamping Houston, it caused an immediate 28 cents per gallon increase in the price of oil. After Harvey a Texas commission report sought $61 billion from Congress to protect Texas from future storms. Joel N. Myers, of AccuWeather, predicted in 2017 that the total losses from Harvey would reach “$190 billion or one percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.” The cost of a 60 mile seawall along the Texas coast is initially projected to be $12 billion.

Harvey broke the record set by Hurricane Katrina, which cost $160 billion.  The 10 most destructive hurricanes caused an estimated $442 billion in losses. Out of 27 extreme weather events in 2016, researchers for the American Meteorological Society have correlated 21 of them to human-caused climate change.

A 2018 Climate Change Assessment report for California estimated climate change:

could soon cost us $200 million a year in increased energy bills to keep homes air conditioned, $3 billion from the effects of a long drought and $18 billion to replace buildings inundated by rising seas, just to cite a few projections. Not to mention the loss of life from killer heat waves, which could add more than 11,000 heat-related deaths a year by 2050 in California, and carry an estimated $50 billion annual price tag.

Impacts are seen throughout the United States. A report found that “since 2005, Virginia has lost $280 million in home values because of sea-level rise.” A 2018 study found coastal properties in five Southeastern states have lost $7.4 billion in potential value since 2005. The 2017 Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report estimates the lost value of flooded structures and land at over $19 billion. Additionally, Hawaii’s roadways, bridges and infrastructure will cost $15 billion to repair and replace. The National Flood Insurance Program is losing $1.4 billion annually largely due to claims in 284 coastal counties. The Congressional Budget Office finds the program is already $20.5 billion in the red even after the government forgave $16 billion in debt last fall.

These are just some of the many costs — food, agriculture, fishing, oceans, storms, fires, droughts, heat, flooding and more are going to worsen significantly.

Climate change could be the cause of the next economic collapse due to the cost of climate damage, an insurance industry crisis, or stranded assets, as over-investing in carbon energy has caused a fragile carbon bubble.

Equity, Justice, #WeRiseForClimate from Flickr

The US Can Transform To A Climate Justice Economy Now

While there has been progress on clean energy, it is inadequate and sporadic compared to the urgent needs. We need dramatic escalation with clear goals — keep fossil fue ls in the ground, use agriculture and wetlands to sequester carbon, deploy renewable energy, build climate justice infrastructure and transition to a new economy based on sustainability, democracy and equity.

This week, the world’s largest wind farm opened. It can power 590,000 homes in the UK. Another planned wind farm could provide the power for 2 million homes. The world is only scratching the surface of the potential of wind and solar.

We can no longer afford the old carbon energy economy. A new climate economy would add $26 trillion to the global economy by 2030, a conservative estimate. It will create 65 million new jobs and prevent 700,000 premature deaths. This transformation provides an opportunity to create the future we want based on economic, racial and environmental justice.

Just as we are underestimating the high costs of climate change, we have also “grossly underestimated the benefits and opportunities unlocked by smart, connected, distributed energy technologies,” David Roberts writes in Vox. We will look back after the transition and wonder why we waited as we will see “the benefit of quieter, safer, more livable cities and better respiratory health, we’ll wonder why we ever put up with anything else — why we nickel-and-dimed the transition to electric buses, long-haul trucks, and passenger vehicles; why we fought over every bike lane and rail line.” We can also implement Solutionary Rail – a network of electrified railroads that also serves as an energy grid serving rural areas and relieving roads of trucks.

The 2018 New Climate Economy Report reports time is running out; extreme damage from climate change is being locked in. We need a sustainable trajectory by 2030. The developing world needs infrastructure and much of the developed world’s infrastructure is failing. The report finds, “The world is expected to spend about US$90 trillion on infrastructure in the period up to 2030, more than the entire current stock today. Much of this investment will be programmed in the next few years.” We need to spend this on creating a new sustainable economy.

Adele Peters quotes Helen Mountford, lead author of the Global Commission project:

If we get that infrastructure right, we’re going to put ourselves on the right path. If we get it wrong, we’ll be very much stuck on that wrong pathway.

The report examined five areas: cities, energy, food and land use, water, and industry. Building sustainable, efficient, clean energy infrastructure will reduce health costs, and increase productivity and innovation. This requires policy based on equity, cutting fossil fuel subsidies while increasing the price of carbon, and investing in sustainable infrastructure.

The good news is we have the ability and technology to make the transition. We know what works. We lack the leadership, but this leadership void can be filled by the people. When we lead, the leaders will follow.

As the crisis hits and national consensus solidifies, people will need to demand a new economy based on equity, fairness, democratized energy and serving the necessities of the people and planet. This new democratized economy could include a federal buyout of the top US-based, publicly-traded fossil fuel companies. It could include the reversal of disastrous privatization with nationalization of key industries and public ownership of energy utilities to serve the public interest, rather than private interests.

Polling on risks of climate change. Yale Program on Climate Communication, 2018

National Consensus Is Solidifying For Climate Action

Despite mis-leadership by power holders and lack of commercial media coverage, people know climate change is having major negative impacts and want to action taken to confront it. Yale reports that polls show 83% want research funded on alternative energy, 77% want CO2 regulated as a pollutant, 70% want strict limits on CO2 from coal-fired power plants, and 68% even favor a carbon tax on polluters.

Obama’s policies on climate were inadequate, and he led massive building of oil and gas infrastructure. The current administration denies climate change exists, hides research on climateis reversing Obama’s positive steps and opposes the national consensus. This is going to lead to a climate justice boomerang. More storms and the cost of climate change will cause people to rebel and demand the transformation political elites have refused.

There is an impressive mobilized movement; not just the Global #RiseForClimate, but people putting their bodies on the line and risking arrest to stop carbon infrastructure. Activists are successfully delaying the approval of pipelines, often with Indigenous leadership as their rights are crucial for climate justice. Activists are arguing their resistance against polluters is being done out of climate necessity and are sometimes succeeding.

Oil companies are being sued for hiding the truth about climate change – former scientists are exposing them – and are now being forced to disclose climate change risks to shareholders.  Activists are confronting investors of carbon infrastructure and insurance companies on coal. Workers are confronting unions on the issue. Youth are suing for a livable climate future.

The movement is building power. The path needed is clear, but escalation is urgent.