Category Archives: rain forests

Decimation of the Rainforests and the Money Men

During August thousands of fires ravaged the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and Bolivia. Some are still burning. In the wet ecosystem of the rainforest fires are not a natural phenomenon, they are started by people, mostly well-organized criminal gangs that profit from illegal logging and land clearance.

Brazil’s right-wing President, Jain Bolsanaro, took office in January; since then deforestation in the country has doubled, there have been 87,000 fires in the Amazon, the highest number since 2010. Funding to Brazil’s Environmental Protection Agency, IBAMA, has been cut by 25%, including monies allocated for prevention and control of fires, which was slashed by 23%, he has publicly attacked organizations working to protect the rainforest, like Guardians of the Forest (made up of indigenous people), and turned a blind eye to environmental crimes.

By dismantling “all the state organs that enforce environmental protection,” Alfredo Sirkis, director of the Brazil Climate Center, says Bolsonaro is inciting environmental crimes and facilitating deforestation; through his words and deeds he is complicit in the environmental crimes being perpetrated. A spokesman for Guardians of the Forest told Human Rights Watch, “If we were to wait for the authorities to act there will be nothing left.”

80,000 acres a day

The World’s rainforests are the lungs of the planet. They soak up greenhouse gas emissions, affect wind currents and rainfall patterns and produce the oxygen we need to survive. They provide habitat for hundreds of animals, thousands of birds and tens of thousands of plants: around 25% of modern pharmaceuticals are derived from ingredients found in rainforests.

In 1950 they covered around 15% of the earth’s land surface.  Now, due to intensive deforestation, it’s down to just 6%. According to Scientific American, “most experts agree that we are losing upwards of 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest daily, and significantly degrading another 80,000 acres every day on top of that. Along with this loss and degradation, 135 plant, animal and insect species are disappearing every day………as the forests fall.”

In 2015 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) claimed that “over the past 25 years the rate of net global deforestation has slowed down by more than 50 percent”.  However, according to the World Resources Institute, that trend has reversed; 2018 “was the second-highest on record for tree cover loss, down just slightly from 2016. The tropics lost an area of forest the size of Vietnam in just the last two years.” If this unimaginable level of carnage continues unabated it is feared that in less than 40 years there will be none left.

The consequences of a world bereft of rainforests are too horrific to contemplate, but one thing is clear: it would then be too late to do anything meaningful about climate change and the environmental calamity more broadly. Currently, deforestation and forest degradation rank as the second highest cause of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, producing around 15% of the total. As the children of the world have been rightly demanding, radical action is needed now, not in twenty-five or thirty years’ time, but now.

The causes of deforestation

There are various causes of deforestation; while logging is an issue, particularly in Indonesia where 80 percent of timber exports are illegal, the major cause is animal agriculture. Huge tracts of land are cleared to graze cattle, grow feed for animals and for biofuels. Animal agriculture is a principle cause of greenhouse gas emissions – producing, the UNFAO say, 14.5% of the anthropogenic GHG emissions that are driving climate change. It also uses approximately 70% of all agricultural land, and is the primary cause of biodiversity loss, animal extinction and water pollution. If deforestation and climate change are to be tackled, reducing consumption of animal produce needs to be a priority. This is something we can all do; it just requires commitment and a sense of social/environmental responsibility.

A recent study into the impact of farming on the planet concluded that “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication [when a body of water becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients which induce excessive growth of algae], land use and water use…it is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” it states, “as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

The research, which is the most comprehensive to date, found that “beef cattle raised on deforested land result in 12 times more greenhouse gases and uses 50 times more land than those grazing rich natural pasture,” and states that producing 100g of beef “results in up to 105kg of greenhouse gases, while tofu produces less than 3.5kg.” Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by 75% (an area equivalent to the US, China, the European Union and Australia combined), the study states, and we could still feed everyone.

In response to this summer’s fires in the Amazon a coalition of environmental groups came together, which included Friends of the Earth, Action Network, Rainforest and Amazon Watch. They called for a Global Day of Action for the Amazon and issued a damning statement to those responsible for the destruction.

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro is, they made clear, primarily to blame for the fires and the increase in deforestation since he took office, due to his “regressive, and racist policies and his explicit encouragement to ‘open the Amazon for business’.” But, it is multinational companies that have created the “conditions for profiteering at the expense of the lungs of the earth – and these same companies are poised to profit further as today’s fires open up the door for tomorrow’s plantations and ranches.” Behind deforestation is big business and the multinational banks.

Global commodity traders are the “key drivers of deforestation in the Amazon”; companies like Cargill, a US based agriculture corporation, or JBS, an American food processing company, or Marfrig Global Foods, a Brazilian beef producer, and, according to their website, “one of the world leaders in the production of hamburgers, with processing capacity of 232.000 tons per year”.

The products these companies make are sold by large-scale retailers all over the world: E. Lecrerc has over 500 shops in France and 112 outside the country; Stop & Shop (the name says it all), a US supermarket chain with 415 outlets; Costco, another American conglomerate, and US mega corporation, Walmart, which has 11,389 stores. Behind these corporations sit the money men. The key players are BlackRock (an American investment management corporation); US investment bank, JPMorgan Chase; Santander (Spanish Bank); BNP Paribas (French Bank); HSBC (UK-based bank) and others. “These financiers not only enable the destruction of our forests – they profit from it.”

The driving force

Behind the banks and corporate traders is the Neo-Liberal socio-economic model; these powerful organizations operate within, and are determined to uphold, the confines of its doctrine, they are driven by the values and motives inherent in the Ideology of Money, and demonstrate no concern for the natural world, or human well-being.

Together with the consumer society that it relentlessly promotes and depends on, Neo-Liberalism, sits at the polluting heart of deforestation and the wider interconnected environmental catastrophe. Under its profit-bound ethos, everything is regarded as a commodity, everyone seen as a consumer. Competition and division are inherent, selfishness and greed, the antithesis to what is needed, are fostered.

Within the present construct and modes of living it is hard to see how the necessary action to curb deforestation could be initiated. In an attempt to halt the carnage in 2008 the UN set up Redd (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). A mechanism through which developing countries are encouraged to improve forest management and developed nations can contribute to a fund to facilitate and support such schemes. It may contribute to encouraging conservation and places a degree of responsibility, albeit voluntarily accepted, on rich nations, but it will not stop deforestation.

A completely new approach to so-called development as part of far reaching systemic change is urgently needed, together with a shift in public attitudes: away from self-centered activity, competition, and the aggrandizement of the individual and/or the nation state. Humanity is one, individual but united. This essential fact needs to be recognized and acted upon. Not as a vague philosophical or psychological catchphrase, but as a principle of truth from which a new socio-economic model can be created; one that serves the needs of all through sharing, encourages simplicity of living, harmlessness and social/environmental responsibility.

Amazonia in Flames

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Will It Take To Declare A Climate Emergency?

Students march in Melbourne, Australia. Source AAP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burning down our home

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

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

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

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

Houston, TX. 2017. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Adding fuel to the fire

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

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

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

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

New York City. Erik McGregor.

Declaring a climate emergency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the future?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Vanishing World: Rainforests

East Creek investigation finds clearcutting rare intact old-growth on Vancouver Island


Rainforests are a crucial feature of Earth’s biosphere. Apart from being critical to Earth’s climate and vital carbon sinks, the major player in Earth’s hydrological (water) cycle, a massive producer of oxygen and home to most of the world’s species, rainforests are the home of a large Indigenous human population. They are also the source of many vital resources, including medicines, used by humans around the world.

However, the vast range of ecological services that rainforests have provided for the 400 million years of their existence, and which have been critical to the survival of Homo sapiens since we first walked the Earth 200,000 years ago, are not measured and valued by accountants and economists. Have you ever seen a balance sheet or set of national accounts that includes an entry for ‘Value of ecological services taken from nature and on which life and our entire production of goods and services depend’?

Because these services have been available without the need for human management or intervention, and given the primitive conception of accounting and economics that humans use, the ecological services of rainforests are given no monetary value. Hence, essential ecological services are treated as worthless by virtually everyone in the industrialized world. As a result, modern industrialized humans have decided to systematically destroy the rainforests in order to extract a vast amount of short-term profit for the benefit of a few and the temporary satisfaction of many. So if we do not value ecological services such as oxygen and water generation as well as climate and weather-moderating capacities, what is it that we do value by destroying rainforests?

A small proportion of rainforest is logged to provide attractive rainforest timbers – such as teak, mahogany, ebony and rosewood – for a variety of decorative purposes, including making furniture, which can last hundreds of years.

However, a much wider range and vastly greater quantity of rainforest trees are cut or burnt down for purposes such as the following: acquiring timber used in construction, clearing land to establish cattle farms so that many people can eat cheap hamburgers, clearing land to establish palm oil plantations so that many people can eat processed (including junk) foods based on this oil, clearing land to establish palm oil and soy bean plantations so that some people can delude themselves that they are using a ‘green biofuel’ in their car (when, in fact, these fuels generate a far greater carbon footprint than fossil fuels), mining (much of it illegal) for a variety of minerals (such as gold, silver, copper, coltan, cassiterite and diamonds), and logging to produce woodchips so that some people can buy cheap paper, including cheap toilet paper.

In essence then: We trade the essential life-giving and sustainably-available ecological services of Earth’s rainforests, also home to Indigenous peoples and countless wildlife, for hamburgers and other processed junk foods, carbon-intensive ‘biofuels’, paper and some building and furniture materials, as well as some minerals. Obviously, some humans are far from clever at ‘making deals’.

But if you think that is bad, consider this: ‘by one estimate, a hectare of livestock or soy is worth between $25 and $250, while the same hectare of sustainably managed forest can yield as much as $850’ harvesting, depending on the location, such products as medicinal plants, rubber, nuts and fruits while benefitting from a range of ecotourism services and research opportunities. Of course, you have to know how to manage the forest sustainably to yield this much income but that sort of intelligence is rare and invariably escapes those focused on destruction for short-term profit.

So how bad is this rainforest destruction? Well, worldwide we are currently destroying rainforests for these unsustainable and mainly short-term products at the rate of 80,000 acres each day.

Moreover, beyond the devastating impact this has on Indigenous peoples, forcing increasing numbers of them to leave their destroyed homes in the rainforest to try to survive elsewhere, this rainforest destruction is also the key driver of species extinctions globally with one million species of life on Earth threatened with extinction. As reported in the recent Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services researched and published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – the scientific body which assesses the state of biodiversity and the ecosystem services this provides to society – ‘Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history. The IPBES Global Assessment ranks, for the first time at this scale, the 5 direct drivers of change in nature with the largest global impact. So what are the culprits behind nature’s destruction?’ Number 1. on the IPBES list is ‘Changes in land and sea use, like turning intact tropical forests into agricultural land’.

Let me briefly illustrate the nature and extent of this destruction by discussing rainforests in just three locations (the Brazilian Amazon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia/West Papua) where the destruction of rainforest was greatest in 2018 and which are representative of elsewhere around the planet where even World Heritage listed areas are ongoingly under threat.

The Brazilian Amazon

While the Amazon in South America occurs in several countries, two-thirds of it lie within the borders of Brazil. Unfortunately, since his fraudulent election in 2018, the neofascist, corrupt and insane president Jair Bolsonaro – see the definition of sanity, which Bolsonaro does not come close to meeting, in “The Global Elite is Insane Revisited” – has promptly eliminated years of painstaking effort by committed indigenous and environmental activists to convince previous governments to protect the Brazilian Amazon from the worst corporate and other depredations.

For just a taste of the documentation on Bolsonaro’s actions in accord with elite interests and to the detriment of Indigenous and environmental well-being, see the following articles/report.1

The key drivers of rainforest destruction in the Amazon are soy production and cattle ranching. Brazilian soy accounted for 14.3% of the country’s total exports, generating $31.0 billion in 2017, while cattle exports accounted for about $5.4 billion. Because Brazil leads the world in exports of both of these commodities, it is the world market for these products that is driving these industries to aggressively expand activities to the detriment of the rainforest and Indigenous peoples.

But the Amazon is huge, you might say: Does it matter if we destroy some of it for soy and cattle farming? Well, one recent study suggested that deforestation of 20–25% of the Amazon would be the tipping point beyond which it would cease to be a functioning rainforest ecosystem and this, as you might expect, would be catastrophic. Moreover, recent severe droughts appear to be ‘the first flickers of this ecological tipping point’ suggesting that it is already imminent.

So, to reiterate, the key driver of rainforest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon is consumer-generated demand for certain products in other parts of the world. And while the US and European countries play critical roles in destruction of the Amazon, China is the largest importer of agricultural products from Brazil so its government and consumers are complicit too. For example, as China’s demand for Brazilian soy surges due to the trade war between the United States and China, ‘it could drive further ecological catastrophe: 13 million hectares (50,000 square miles) in the Amazon and Cerrado could ultimately be cleared to meet this additional demand.’

The point then, is this: governments and ordinary people (in their role as consumers) in other parts of the world can play a vital role in defending the Amazon and its Indigenous peoples by choosing what they buy from Brazil. Boycotting rainforest timber, beef and soy bean products are powerful options to consider. But don’t forget, there is no point simply identifying and boycotting Brazilian timbers, beef and soy beans. If you want impact on the total market (to prevent one country’s timber, beef and soy beans being substituted for another’s), then you must boycott them all (unless you can clearly identify the source of the product as local and sustainable). Obviously, this takes commitment. The future of the Amazon depends largely on enough of us making that commitment.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa

The rainforests of the Congo Basin in central Africa are the second largest on Earth. Much of this rainforest lies within the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crippled by corrupt government for decades and a new president elected earlier this year who has inherited a corrupt and inefficient state apparatus.

Unfortunately, therefore, rainforests in the Congo have long been under siege on several fronts. With rebel soldiers (such as the Rwanda-backed M23), miners and poachers endlessly plundering inadequately protected national parks and other wild places for their resources, illegal mining is rampant, over-fishing a chronic problem, illegal logging (and other destruction such as charcoal burning for cooking) of rainforests is completely out of control in some places, poaching of hippopotami, elephants, chimpanzees and okapi for ivory and bushmeat is unrelenting (often despite laws against hunting with guns), and wildlife trafficking of iconic species (including the increasingly rare mountain gorilla) simply beyond the concern of most people.

The Congolese natural environment – including the UNESCO World Heritage sites at Virunga National Park and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, together with their park rangers – and the Indigenous peoples such as the Mbuti (‘pygmies’) who live in them, are under siege. In addition to the ongoing mining, smaller corporations that can’t compete with the majors, such as Soco, want to explore and drill for oil.2

Unfortunately too, as with rainforests elsewhere, ‘What Happens in the Congo Basin Doesn’t Stay in the Congo Basin’: it impacts on regions across Africa playing a part, for example, in recent droughts in Ethiopia and Somalia causing millions of people to depend on emergency food and water rations.

As with the Amazon, you have some powerful options to consider if you want to save the Congolese rainforests and their Indigenous peoples. Again, refusing to buy rainforest timbers, conflict minerals and wildlife products is a good start but remember that key minerals in your computer and mobile phone are illegally sourced from the Congo so your thoughtful consideration of minimizing how many of these devices you own can play a part too. For a fuller account of this exploitation and its destructive impact on the rainforests and its Indigenous peoples, with references to many other sources, see ‘500 years is long enough! Human Depravity in the Congo’.

Indonesia and West Papua

Indonesia has the most extensive rainforest cover in Asia – and is home to hundreds of distinct Indigenous languages and over 3,000 animal species including Sumatran tigers, pygmy elephants, rhinoceros and orangutans – but the forests are being systematically degraded and destroyed. Rainforest cover has steadily declined since the 1960s when 82 percent of the country was covered with forest; it is less than 50 percent today. The rainforest is being destroyed by logging, mining, large-scale agricultural plantations (especially for palm oil), colonization, and subsistence activities like shifting agriculture and cutting for fuelwood. Much of the remaining cover consists of logged-over and degraded forest although large areas, including of the island of Kalimantan/Borneo (shared with Malaysia and Brunei), have been stripped bare.

Logging for tropical timbers and pulpwood (to make paper) is the biggest cause of rainforest destruction in the country where as much as 75 percent of the logging is illegal. Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of tropical timber, which generates more than $US5 billion annually. And more than 48 million hectares (55 percent of the country’s remaining rainforests) are concessioned for logging. Destruction of the rainforest in Indonesia has opened up some of the most remote places on Earth to development: as rainforests in less remote locations have been decimated, timber corporations have stepped up practices on the island of Kalimantan/Borneo and the occupied West Papau, where great swaths of forests have been cleared in recent years. In fact, 20 percent of Indonesia’s logging concessions are in West Papua, despite ongoing resistance by West Papuans.

Unfortunately, the fastest and cheapest way to clear rainforests for plantations is by burning. Hence, every year ‘hundreds of thousands of hectares go up in smoke as developers and agriculturalists feverishly light fires before monsoon rains begin to fall. In dry years – especially during strong el Niño years – these fires can burn out of control for months on end, creating deadly pollution that affects neighboring countries and causes political tempers to flare’.

Mining operations, including for coal, also have a devastating impact on the rainforests and their peoples. By far the worst of these projects, however, is the gigantic gold, silver, and copper mine in occupied West Papua, run by Freeport-McMoRan. As widely documented, the mining company has dumped appalling amounts of waste into local streams, rendering downstream waterways and wetlands ‘unsuitable for aquatic life’. Relying on large payments to Indonesian police and military officers, the mining operation is ‘protected’; this has resulted in many West Papuans being killed.

The waste from the mine, estimated by Freeport at 700,000 tons each day, covers several square miles and Government surveys have found that tailings from the mines have produced levels of copper and sediment so high that almost all fish have disappeared from vast areas of wetlands downstream from the mine.

Like other powerful corporations in Indonesia (and elsewhere), Freeport-McMoRan is well aware that there is little official interest in its abuses of local people and the environment as long as corrupt officials are given sufficient incentive to ignore them. As elsewhere in many parts of the world, therefore, corporate access to resources includes serious human rights abuses and persistent conflicts between companies and local communities which is ignored by corrupt politicians.

Apart from the rainforest itself and the millions of people who live in them, destruction of the rainforest threatens the habitat of iconic species like Sumatran tigers and orangutans, as well as many others, and plays a part in destroying the climate too.

But the damage does not stop with the issues noted above. Forests across the world are being destroyed to make fabrics for clothing we wear every day. Fabrics like rayon, viscose and modal are all made from trees and, every year, more than 120 million trees are cut down to make clothing. This is done by companies such as Forever 21, Under Armour, Foot Locker, Prada Group and Michael Kors. You can join the Rainforest Action Network in campaigning to get these laggard companies to adopt responsible sourcing policies for their forest-based fabrics.

Bizarrely, while its incredible rainforests, along with its coral reefs and beaches, play a part in attracting tourists from across the world to see Indonesia’s charismatic native species – such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Komodo dragons, whale sharks, sea turtles and manta rays – and to experience its adventure and dive destinations, this tourism also contributes significantly to the destruction as rainforests make way for tourist facilities.

So, as with Brazil and the Congo, you can boycott rainforest products from Indonesia and other countries where rainforests are being destroyed. Along with suggestions made earlier, responsible choices about the clothing you wear and the tourist destinations you choose (or boycott) will all make a difference.

The ‘Big Picture’ Fight for the Rainforests: What can we do?

A great deal. Halting rainforest destruction might be a complex undertaking but it is imperative if we are to have any prospect of preserving life on Earth. So I hope that you will consider the many options I have offered above and those I mention now and do as many as you can, even if you are already working on other critical issues such as the climate and the struggle to end war and the threat of nuclear war.

If you want easy options, you can support the campaign efforts of organizations that defend rainforests, Indigenous peoples and wildlife such as the Rainforest Action Network, the Rainforest Information Centre, the Rainforest 4 Foundation and Rainforest Rescue which work closely with Indigenous and local communities while campaigning against the governments and corporations destroying rainforests, as well as the banks and insurance companies that support this destruction.

If you recognize the pervasiveness of the fear-driven violence in our world, which also drives the massive over-consumption of resources by people in industrialized countries then consider addressing this directly starting with yourself and by reviewing your relationship with children.3

If you wish to campaign strategically in support of Indigenous peoples and local communities in their struggles to halt the destruction of Earth’s rainforests.4

The governments and corporations that profit from the destruction of the rainforests are deeply entrenched and not about to give way without strategically focused campaigns to make it untenable and unprofitable for them to do so. This will include convincing key personnel, whether company directors of corporations involved in rainforest destruction, cargo ship owners, trade unionists (in many industries) and the many other agents involved in the rainforest destruction-to-customer supply chain, as well as ordinary consumers of rainforest products, to make conscious choices about the products they supply, use and/or buy. So strategy is imperative if we are to get corrupt and/or conscienceless governments and corporations, as well as people further removed from the source of the destruction, to end their role in rainforest destruction before it is too late.

The big deforestation drivers are timber, palm oil, cattle and soy while mining, oil drilling, clothing and dam construction all play significant roles too, depending on the country. And, as reported by the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project): ‘The ABCD (The Archer Daniels Midland Company [ADM], Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus Company) trader companies have a large impact on countless commodity supply chains. For example, they represent up to 90% of the global grain trade. With a wide array of clients that go from Nestlé to McDonald’s, their role in managing deforestation risk is crucial’ and, so far, grossly inadequate.5

Given the strategic sophistication necessary to tackle this complex problem effectively, if you want to view a 15 minute video of (or read a couple of short articles about) the inspirational Melbourne Rainforest Action Group (MRAG) that successfully led a national campaign from 1988 to 1991 to halt imports of rainforest timber into Australia, you can view it here: ‘Time to Act.’

In those cases where corrupt elites control or occupy countries, such as those controlling Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and West Papua, it might be necessary to remove these corrupt governments as part of the effort thus helping to restore the political space for local populations to defend rainforests and their rights.

You might also consider joining the global network of people resisting violence in all contexts by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.’

But if you do nothing else while understanding the simple point that Earth’s biosphere, including its rainforests, cannot sustain a human population of this magnitude of whom more than half endlessly over-consume, then consider accelerated participation in the strategy outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth.’

Or, if none of the above options appeal or they seem too complicated, consider committing to The Earth Pledge

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

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

Feeling overwhelmed? Still prefer something simpler?

I wish I could, in all sincerity, offer you that option. If it were still 1990, I would. But the time for simple actions to make a difference is long past and time is now incredibly short.

In essence, you have a choice: understand and act on the crucial importance of rainforests before we destroy their integrity and lose them completely. Or help to accelerate the human rush to extinction as a consequence of failing to do so.

  1. Bolsonaro Caps Natives’ Lands, Pleasing Farmers in One of First Acts,” “Rainforest on Fire: On the Front Lines of Bolsonaro’s War on the Amazon, Brazil’s Forest Communities Fight Against Climate Catastrophe,” “Bolsonaro’s Clearcut Populism. ‘The Barbarism has Begun’,” this report from Amazon Watch: “Complicity in Destruction II: How northern consumers and financiers enable Bolsonaro’s assault on the Brazilian Amazon” and “Amazon Deforestation Accelerating Towards Unrecoverable “Tipping Point”.”
  2. For a taste of the reading on all of this, see “Virunga National Park Ranger Killed in DRC Ambush,” “The struggle to save the ‘Congolese unicorn’,” “Meet the First Female Rangers to Guard One of World’s Deadliest Parks” and “The Battle for Africa’s Oldest National Park.”
  3. If you want to understand and address the fundamental cause of violence in our world, see “Why Violence?” and “Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.”
  4. See “Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.”
  5. See “Revenue at risk: Why addressing deforestation is critical to business success” which contains a long list of hundreds of companies (on pages 39-46) which are making zero effective effort to end their rainforest-destroying business practices.

Earth Day is 24/7, and Every Hour and Every Minute of Every Day According to Local Activists

For us to maintain our way of living, we must tell lies to each other and especially to ourselves. The lies are necessary because, without them, many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.

— The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen

Part One — I am scrambling to get this first part of the Earth Day two-part article series up and running while I work hard Friday night to write the second, more sobering part of what Earth Day 2019 is and, unfortunately, what it is not.

I like going local by looking at global issues. I will talk about the reality of recycling products as a big scam. I will write about all this chatter from millionaires like Naomi Klein and now the leadership of the so-called alternative web journalist site, The Intercept. I watched the interview and the live-illustration by Molly Crabtree, “We Can Be Whatever We Have the Courage to See,” which, according to Klein’s millionaire husband, Avi Lewis, has had 4 million hits already as of April 18, 2019.

Hits on the internet, and this Lewis fellow declares this as a huge win for Mother Earth, for “the movement, and, surely, a grand win for the New Green Deal. This can be so dishearenting to hear the idiocy around these moments and digital expressions. Earth systems are in total collapse, and it’s more than some Canadian writer’s world view or the Holly-wood-ization of the world seen through the looking glass of the two dirtiest countries’ liberal spokespeople: Canada and USA.

Daily, it becomes more and more delusional on all aisles of the political manure pile, but also on all fronts of mainstream media and fake alternative media. The Press is out to lunch, man, big time. Having Today’s (4/18) Democracy Now:

We can be whatever we have the courage to see.” That’s the message of a stunning new video released by The Intercept, Naomi Klein and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple Wednesday that imagines a future shaped by the Green New Deal. It’s called “A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” The film was co-written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez herself, along with Avi Lewis, the co-founder of The Leap. We speak with Avi Lewis and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple about the power of art to create social change.

Crabtree’s new thing is as follows:

As an award-winning animator, she has pioneered a new genre of live-illustrated explainer journalism, collaborating with Jay Z, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The ACLU and The Equal Justice Initiative to tell stories about America’s prison system and history of institutional racism.

“Live-illustrated explainer journalism”! Wow. That’s a whole other book to write about, what this all means to humanity’s greater and greater loosening of its grip on sanity. In any case, the part two of my Earth Day hit will look at this new-fangled mixed up and same old Capitalism loving soft shoe bull crap lying about what has to be done to mitigate a world without ice. Because that’s the fact, Jack, so bullet trains and cool ass urban jobs and folks like Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, a Canadian self-proclaimed Jewish couple with Jewish children, well, they are living the good millionaires’ liberal lifestyles, and, the revolution and the rebellion will not live in the belly of the controlled opposition which they are very centered inside.

Interesting the power centers in Canada vis-a-vis the family lines of both Klein and Lewis, from Wikipedia, really are at the top of elites. I bring this up to point out that the narrative around climate change and the New Green Deal and poverty and envirogees and starvation and physically harming toxins in this Mad Mad Mad World of Consumerism CANNOT be shunted into elitist and vain-glory liberal and pro-Capitalist politics or centers of non-profit gobbledygook:

Avi Lewis is the great grandson of Moshe Losz (Lewis), an outspoken member of the Jewish Bund who left Svislach, Poland (today Belarus), after being interrogated by the Russians and threatened with death or the Gulag for his political activity. He left for Montreal in 1921, with his wife Rose (née Lazarovitch) and three children. Avi Lewis is the grandson of former federal NDP leader David Lewis and the son of former Ontario NDP leader and diplomat Stephen Lewis and journalist Michele Landsberg. Avi Lewis is married to journalist and author Naomi Klein; his sister Ilana Landsberg-Lewis is the executive director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Naomi Klein was born in Montreal, Quebec, and brought up in a Jewish family with a history of peace activism. Her parents were self-described “hippies” who moved to Montreal from the U.S. in 1967 as war resisters to the Vietnam War. Her mother, documentary film-maker Bonnie Sherr Klein, is best known for her anti-pornography film Not a Love Story. Her father, Michael Klein, is a physician and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her brother, Seth Klein, is director of the British Columbian office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Before World War II, her paternal grandparents were communists, but they began to turn against the Soviet Union after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. In 1942, her grandfather, an animator at Disney, was fired after the 1941 strike,[ and had to switch to working in a shipyard instead. By 1956 they had abandoned communism. Klein’s father grew up surrounded by ideas of social justice and racial equality, but found it “difficult and frightening to be the child of Communists”, a so-called red diaper baby.

Klein’s husband, Avi Lewis, was born into a well-connected political and journalistic family; he works as a TV journalist and documentary filmmaker. The couple’s only child, son Toma, was born on June 13, 2012. (Wikipedia)

I continue to question the elite’s role in furthering the decline of people and third world societies, and those playing around with apocalypse (art, education, performing, documentaries, non-profit complex) and those seeing green as the new non-profit profit industry, or green washing or green pornography thing, or green whacking or green is the new black towering inferno of lies, as in profits for all and great new renewable energy jobs and business pretty much as usual thinking.

You see, I just taught at a Toledo, Oregon, school, actually both HS and elementary schools. I will write about that, too. Youth that are really bad, according to one teacher (math) who hails from New Jersey but went to school in Massachusetts, taught there, Vermont, Eugene, OR, Bullhead City, AZ, and now Toledo. She told me that hands down this high school was the worst place she ever taught at.

She’s got 14 or more years under her belt as a traveling teacher, and now she lives in Newport with her highly-paid (compared to Toledo or Newport wages) husband who works for Oregon State University (average undergraduate/grad tuition — for a state school in a dumpy town, Corvallis,  is:  $11,166 for Oregon residents and $30,141 for out of State students and the 2019 graduate school tuition & fees are $14,061 for State residents and $24,483 for others). Interesting, this 50 year old-ish teacher with a middle class wage and state retirement portfolio, and a second wage earner in the mix, and they are white, so there is probably inherited well in the mix, telling me, a part-timer, 62, precarious worker (a substitute teacher, come on!), that in her limited scope, Toledo, Oregon (not Ohio) has the worse students in both Junior/Senior High School in her realm of teaching.

Image result for Toledo OR paper mill

This town is Koch Brothers-polluted with a paper-mill run by Georgia Pacific which is owned by the billionaire Koch brothers who despise poor people, hence the dirty water, the dirty air, the dangerous jobs and the low pay for parents and those future workers barely getting through high school (many want to quit and go to Jobs Corps or get their GED’s while pumping gas).

What makes these students “the most destructive to school property and the most disruptive and disrespectful,” according to the East Coast teacher, we’ll talk about that too, soon, in a future article. Or what makes a teacher declare that in the public school realm, that too will be addressed.

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

You know, all that paper the Klein-Lewis family uses for their copy and books, manuscript and TV scripts, etc., hmm, where does that shit come from? What are the consequences of all that paper use/misuse? All that virgin paper used in Congress, in political halls of injustice, and, yes, colleges and PK12?  Really, come on — these children are coughing up a storm from the pulp mill pollution. These youth I talked with several times are broken and need alternatives to classrooms with broken lights, peeling paint, and rows of desks — they are so down on themselves, so not confident they will go anywhere in life, so traumatized and broken, so chronically seized with negativity and put-downs and self-loathing . . . or self-delusional.

I guarantee, Earth Day to them is a day off, since it falls on the bizarre holiday of Easter Sunday/take off/Monday!

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

Back to Part One —

Local Environmentalists Meet Inside for some Presentations — A Far-Cry from the Earth Days I Organized in Spokane! 

Celebration in Newport is April 22, at the public Library

The first “earth” day started really with nuts and bolts issues focusing on stopping air and water pollution, using a more sexy crisis as a platform for marching:  awareness around the annual increasing depletion of whale populations worldwide. That was in 1970, and the iconic blue and humpback whales were plastered all over posters and some were paper mâché giant icons that led the marchers on a pathway of civic engagement and political action tied to the planet’s degraded ecosystems, including those in cities.

On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to bring voice to the planet and hold corporations responsible in large part for the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the U.S. and around the world, smog alerts were common, turning deadly. This fortified leading scientists and health experts to connect growing air, water, food and soil pollution to developmental delays in children, respiratory ailments and cancers in both young and old.

Almost 50 years ago — biologists supported by universities that were not so beholden to corporate influence and censorship — proved global biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants. We were just beginning as citizens to see how timber cutting and plowing over the rain-forests of the world for animal feed crops – to just name a few heavy-handed human scale degradations – could exponentially expand creating a much different – and lesser — world.

Those big events across the globe, especially the first earth day in Washington DC, pushed politicians, media and the average citizen to become aware of ecological challenges. The US Congress and President Nixon responded to the pressure, and in July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as significant environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

For Lincoln County – with three branch campuses of Oregon Coast Community College, and with the OSU Hatfield Center and a plethora of environmental and conservation groups, 2019 Earth Day is more like a whimper than a roar . . . a pebble splashing in the big blue Pacific Ocean.

It’s a huge body of water now hobbled with acidification fueled by the world’s oceans absorbing 93 percent of all carbon dioxide expelled through fossil fuel burning and forest burning.

Hypoxia, or dead zones, buffet the oceans around here, and from time to time, these oxygen-squeezed sections have huge marine species die-off’s. Sometimes fish like halibut just flee the waters nowhere to be found.

Towns like Newport, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Waldport and Yachats depend on whale watching, beach tourism, sport fishing and, of course, commercial fishing, yet we have significant issues tied to clear-cutting forests up to the ocean (or Highway 101); solid waste (bio-waste) dispersal on land and into watersheds; and significant fracturing of natural ecosystems through construction, road building and dike deployment to “hold back” natural sea and freshwater flooding. Our estuaries were once amazing natural systems of biological and hydrologic ebb and flow.

Interestingly, the Earth Day theme for the big groups organizing it last year was “End Plastic Pollution.” Many organizations – thousands – were working on ending single-use plastics and promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, as well as pushing for 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability, and changing human behavior concerning plastics.

That has become the strategy of non-profits and grassroots groups – educating citizens so they can become active players in demanding governments and corporations control and clean-up plastic pollution.

Most environmental issues, whether it’s stopping the slaughter of whales or curbing pesticide use, go to the core of the topic at hand by looking for frameworks from which to regulate. Part of the Earth Day celebrations I have been involved in as a coordinator in Spokane, Auburn and El Paso included passionate and knowledge voices who have lead movements, written books, directed documentaries and risked their lives to stop wanton destruction of, say, the Amazonian rain-forest.

Yes, getting entire groups of people and communities (including the colleges I taught at and for which I acted as sustainability coordinator) to take personal responsibility for whichever consumptive practice is producing more and more negative environmental effects, such as plastics, involves educating them on how to live a life of reducing, refusing, reusing, recycling and removing.

In one more year, 2020, the 50th anniversary of earth day arrives, but this year’s theme is Protect our Species. That includes the threatened and endangered species that are both rare, like the white rhino, snow leopard or the killer whale pod living in the Puget Sound, and once ubiquitous like butterflies, turtles, lizards, what have you.

However, there are more threads to the environmental quilt that are not just frayed, but outright missing in huge patches.

We are losing many insect species, and birds around the world are becoming fewer in terms of sheer numbers and diversity. Writer and researcher Elizabeth Kolbert made popular the science community’s assessment that we are in the Sixth Mass Extinction.

Kolbert:

Regarding the Anthropocene, on some level that’s neither here nor there. You could say that a meteor strike is natural in the sense that it’s part of the cosmos or whatever. But a meteor strike is unusual, and its effect is an unusual and devastating one for many other species. So I don’t think whether we are “natural” or not is the issue. Obviously, we’re having a very dramatic impact on the planet and on other species. And if you want to say that’s natural, fine. And if you want to say it’s unnatural, fine. We need to decide whether we like the impact we’re having, not whether we’re natural or not.

I am pretty new to the Central Oregon Coast—as in four months. Part of my journey into communities is I get to know the people, the systems within community structures – especially services tied to youth, aging, poverty and social justice – and the built and ecological environments.

I’m teaching PK12 in the schools. I just became a member of both Surfrider and the American Cetacean Society. I also am closely tied to Oregon’s writing communities, and my hope is to get more involved in the ones out here on the coast.

I’ve met some dedicated people on microplastic beach clean-ups and the big SOLVE beach clean-up. I’ve made an effort to listen to subject matter experts in order to glean from them knowledge I need to move forward as writer and activist.

I posed four fundamental questions to many environmental and conservation-minded people, tied to the value, meaning and effectiveness of Earth Day awareness and celebration campaigns —

  1. Students ask, “What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.
  2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — you are concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?
  3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past few years tied to the environment?
  4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.”

For Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager of Surfrider Foundation, his eye is on individual habits and consumption choices: “Consider the source and eventual fate of your purchases and consumption habits – think about that before you buy it. From foods to plastics, we need to understand the full impacts of what we purchase and consume. Buy local, reduce consumption or avoid “single-use”, compost, grow food and plant trees.”

It makes sense to look at the area’s youth as future leaders in the movement to stop the pollution and mitigate the effects of global warming. Martin Desmond, 67, is a volunteer for Citizens Climate Lobby and has been in Newport for six years. He states: “The most effective action that students can take is to become involved with getting carbon reduction legislation passed at the local, state, and federal levels.”

For someone who has been here on the coast for 46 years, Scott Rosin, 70, has a simple answer for students to abide by:

Be aware of your effect on the environment every waking minute and act accordingly in a positive manner. If you can transcend to effective action instead of bogus rationalizations or despair, do so.

While Earth Day can be a day of celebration and self-congratulatory homilies, I know false hope, greenwashing (using environmental and ecological language to make money and still not stop pollution and degradations), and all those adults in the room telling youth and activists to “just take baby steps” will not turn the tide, so to speak, on the great melting of polar and glacial ice. We are talking about scientists who are independently looking at a world without ice in the coming hundred to three hundred years.

For 42-year-old Plybon, with 19 years as a resident of South Beach, he is concerned about several big issues the country and Lincoln County have to face. Again, this earth day story is not for the faint of heart: “Climate change and water,” Plybon stated. “The inhabitability of our earth will be the challenge of the next generations – that’s not an environmental issue, that’s an everybody issue. Today’s kids are asking what next, will we have a place to live?”

Rosin, on the other hand, goes right back to the plastics on the beaches and in the oceans, which now account for millions of marine birds perishing as well as turtles, seals and sea lions, whales and dolphins choking or starving to death. Every apex predatory in the ocean – those that we end up eating – has microplastics in their blood and flesh.

“Plastic pollution in the environment and particularly the ocean is a death sentence for most animals larger than mice, as surely as the Yucatan Meteor was sixty-six million years ago. The difference is that event and outcome (to channel T. S. Eliot) was practically instantaneous (a bang,) whereas what we face will take years (a whimper.)”

Celebrating wilderness is probably the best bet for any Earth Day participant. Get out in the woods, on the mountaintops, in the rivers and ocean. Remember those powerful spiritual moments in nature and then fight for those same memories for future generations to experience.

For Plybon, making large connections to one species has been amazing.  “Fishing in Alaska with my dad —  behind the big sockeye run — for trout, everything makes sense. My family and existence, the idea of ‘salmon nation,’ the connections of the forest and wildlife to a single species’ migration and reproduction make this world feel fragile and inexplicably connected.”

Desmond too has family memories about deep connections to nature:

We took our grandkids to Yellowstone several years ago when Lillian was four years old and Evan was one and a half years old.   While Yellowstone is known for its unique geothermal features and large numbers of bison, elk, grizzly bears, and wolves, our Evan got the most pleasure out of watching ground squirrels crawl up to his shoes while we were illegally feeding them.  For Lillian, she remembers swimming near Mammoth where a hot spring pours into Gardiner River.  Our granddaughter Lillian has now collected 12 junior ranger badges from national and state parks.

Finally, anyone working hard on conservation and fighting to restore and preserve the environment can get philosophical, as Rosin did when I asked him about his most memorable time in wilderness: “The illusion of the ‘natural’ life I believed I was once living has evaporated to the point I that I can no longer mentally conjure it. Once, respite only required paddling beyond the breakers and keeping my back to the shore. Now I know what floats around me.”

Here, for a list of Monday’s Newport speakers:

Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport Group and 350 Oregon Central Coast will be sponsoring an Earth Day celebration from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Monday, April 22nd at the Newport Public Library.

Mark Saelens, District Manager for the Solid Waste District of Lincoln County, will speak about the county’s recycling and sustainability efforts. Saelens is a former Newport City Councilor.

Martin Desmond, volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport group, will give an update of HB 2020, the carbon reduction bill that is moving through the Oregon State Legislature. The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction is expected to pass out the bill on Earth Day. Desmond will briefly speak about the development of climate action plans for Lincoln County.

Rio Davidson, owner of Cascade Coast Solar, will discuss the potential of solar energy installation in commercial and residential homes in Lincoln County. Cascade’s solar systems typically pay for themselves and start saving money on energy bill in seven years to ten years.

Jason Gonzales, the Forest and Watershed Campaign Organizer of Oregon Wild, will speak about impacts to forests in the Oregon Coast Range. Gonzales grew up near Sierra Nevada mountains, exploring the granite domes, freezing rivers, and giant pines on public lands around Yosemite National Park.

Aimee Thompson of Thompson’s Sanitary Services will discuss current recycling and disposal procedures. Thompson’s is offering free compost, Saturday April 20 near its main office, 7450 NE Avery Street, Newport, in celebration of Earth Day while supplies last, limited to one pick-up load per person.

Organizations that will have informational tables include Oregon Wild, Cascade Coast Solar, Thompson’s Sanitary Services, Lincoln County Community Rights, Friends of Yaquina Lighthouse, Oceana Natural Foods Co-Op, Citizens Climate Lobby – Newport group and 350 Oregon Central Coast. Light refreshments will be served.

We will also be serving light refreshments.  Thanks for your interest.

***

Note: I attempted to get a more “diverse” set of responses from a more diverse set of interviewees — youth, teachers, poor people, tribes people. I wrote the above article for the local Newport Times News, for Friday’s edition (not sure it will make it in). I have to say the new normal is outright fear of answering questions posed to people by writer/journalists — as in fear of reprisals (not sure which ones), fear of being in print media, and many more issues, including not having approval of the various employers to speak as a teacher or tribal member on some environmental board.

I got one woman’s take, late, after my deadline for the local Wednesday and Friday newspaper; I will include her responses here, since I think they are important. Joy also is the Oregon Chapter leader for the American Cetacean Society, for which I just finished a naturalist certification course under her auspices.

1. Every year the most common question I get from students and people I talk with about deep ecology and ecosocialism is,

“What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.

JP: “Everyone can do the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse/Repurpose, Recycle, and Rot (compost). Start with number one Reduce. Buy less by buying only what you really need and will use. Choose durable items that will last. Buy gently used, shop at garage sales and thrift stores.”

2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — are you concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?

JP: “Our oceans! Over 2/3 of the earth is ocean. The ocean is critically linked to our survival on earth and is under attack in multitudes of ways. Pollution of all types, chemical, industrial, plastic, and coastal development are destroying habitat. Ocean acidification is a huge problem. It negatively impacts the food web as well as fisheries. The world needs to focus on ocean health.”

3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past 10 years (or more if it’s the same community) tied to the environment?

JP: “I grew up in the Midwest in an area and time where the environment was only looked at as a resource to be used for farming. My children however, grew up in a time and place where they learned to recycle, to compost and garden, and to take walks to pick up garbage while in elementary school. They and their generation learned a better way to take care of the environment. We still have a long way to go but society can make positive change.”

4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.” A couple of sentences.

JP: “I have so many it is hard to choose just one. I’ve been fortunate to spend time in many environments from deserts to forests to the ocean.
I recall hiking along the Umpqua River outside of Roseburg. I was by myself, it was so quiet and peaceful, just the sounds of nature and deer for company. Of course, being surrounded by blue whales is an incredible experience!”

5. Name, age, organization/affiliation, is this your home (where) and for how long? Joy Primrose, 53, Oregon since 1992 — ACS Oregon Chapter President

Earth Day is 24/7, and Every Hour and Every Minute of Every Day According to Local Activists

For us to maintain our way of living, we must tell lies to each other and especially to ourselves. The lies are necessary because, without them, many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.

— The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen

Part One — I am scrambling to get this first part of the Earth Day two-part article series up and running while I work hard Friday night to write the second, more sobering part of what Earth Day 2019 is and, unfortunately, what it is not.

I like going local by looking at global issues. I will talk about the reality of recycling products as a big scam. I will write about all this chatter from millionaires like Naomi Klein and now the leadership of the so-called alternative web journalist site, The Intercept. I watched the interview and the live-illustration by Molly Crabtree, “We Can Be Whatever We Have the Courage to See,” which, according to Klein’s millionaire husband, Avi Lewis, has had 4 million hits already as of April 18, 2019.

Hits on the internet, and this Lewis fellow declares this as a huge win for Mother Earth, for “the movement, and, surely, a grand win for the New Green Deal. This can be so dishearenting to hear the idiocy around these moments and digital expressions. Earth systems are in total collapse, and it’s more than some Canadian writer’s world view or the Holly-wood-ization of the world seen through the looking glass of the two dirtiest countries’ liberal spokespeople: Canada and USA.

Daily, it becomes more and more delusional on all aisles of the political manure pile, but also on all fronts of mainstream media and fake alternative media. The Press is out to lunch, man, big time. Having Today’s (4/18) Democracy Now:

We can be whatever we have the courage to see.” That’s the message of a stunning new video released by The Intercept, Naomi Klein and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple Wednesday that imagines a future shaped by the Green New Deal. It’s called “A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” The film was co-written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez herself, along with Avi Lewis, the co-founder of The Leap. We speak with Avi Lewis and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple about the power of art to create social change.

Crabtree’s new thing is as follows:

As an award-winning animator, she has pioneered a new genre of live-illustrated explainer journalism, collaborating with Jay Z, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The ACLU and The Equal Justice Initiative to tell stories about America’s prison system and history of institutional racism.

“Live-illustrated explainer journalism”! Wow. That’s a whole other book to write about, what this all means to humanity’s greater and greater loosening of its grip on sanity. In any case, the part two of my Earth Day hit will look at this new-fangled mixed up and same old Capitalism loving soft shoe bull crap lying about what has to be done to mitigate a world without ice. Because that’s the fact, Jack, so bullet trains and cool ass urban jobs and folks like Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, a Canadian self-proclaimed Jewish couple with Jewish children, well, they are living the good millionaires’ liberal lifestyles, and, the revolution and the rebellion will not live in the belly of the controlled opposition which they are very centered inside.

Interesting the power centers in Canada vis-a-vis the family lines of both Klein and Lewis, from Wikipedia, really are at the top of elites. I bring this up to point out that the narrative around climate change and the New Green Deal and poverty and envirogees and starvation and physically harming toxins in this Mad Mad Mad World of Consumerism CANNOT be shunted into elitist and vain-glory liberal and pro-Capitalist politics or centers of non-profit gobbledygook:

Avi Lewis is the great grandson of Moshe Losz (Lewis), an outspoken member of the Jewish Bund who left Svislach, Poland (today Belarus), after being interrogated by the Russians and threatened with death or the Gulag for his political activity. He left for Montreal in 1921, with his wife Rose (née Lazarovitch) and three children. Avi Lewis is the grandson of former federal NDP leader David Lewis and the son of former Ontario NDP leader and diplomat Stephen Lewis and journalist Michele Landsberg. Avi Lewis is married to journalist and author Naomi Klein; his sister Ilana Landsberg-Lewis is the executive director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Naomi Klein was born in Montreal, Quebec, and brought up in a Jewish family with a history of peace activism. Her parents were self-described “hippies” who moved to Montreal from the U.S. in 1967 as war resisters to the Vietnam War. Her mother, documentary film-maker Bonnie Sherr Klein, is best known for her anti-pornography film Not a Love Story. Her father, Michael Klein, is a physician and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her brother, Seth Klein, is director of the British Columbian office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Before World War II, her paternal grandparents were communists, but they began to turn against the Soviet Union after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. In 1942, her grandfather, an animator at Disney, was fired after the 1941 strike,[ and had to switch to working in a shipyard instead. By 1956 they had abandoned communism. Klein’s father grew up surrounded by ideas of social justice and racial equality, but found it “difficult and frightening to be the child of Communists”, a so-called red diaper baby.

Klein’s husband, Avi Lewis, was born into a well-connected political and journalistic family; he works as a TV journalist and documentary filmmaker. The couple’s only child, son Toma, was born on June 13, 2012. (Wikipedia)

I continue to question the elite’s role in furthering the decline of people and third world societies, and those playing around with apocalypse (art, education, performing, documentaries, non-profit complex) and those seeing green as the new non-profit profit industry, or green washing or green pornography thing, or green whacking or green is the new black towering inferno of lies, as in profits for all and great new renewable energy jobs and business pretty much as usual thinking.

You see, I just taught at a Toledo, Oregon, school, actually both HS and elementary schools. I will write about that, too. Youth that are really bad, according to one teacher (math) who hails from New Jersey but went to school in Massachusetts, taught there, Vermont, Eugene, OR, Bullhead City, AZ, and now Toledo. She told me that hands down this high school was the worst place she ever taught at.

She’s got 14 or more years under her belt as a traveling teacher, and now she lives in Newport with her highly-paid (compared to Toledo or Newport wages) husband who works for Oregon State University (average undergraduate/grad tuition — for a state school in a dumpy town, Corvallis,  is:  $11,166 for Oregon residents and $30,141 for out of State students and the 2019 graduate school tuition & fees are $14,061 for State residents and $24,483 for others). Interesting, this 50 year old-ish teacher with a middle class wage and state retirement portfolio, and a second wage earner in the mix, and they are white, so there is probably inherited well in the mix, telling me, a part-timer, 62, precarious worker (a substitute teacher, come on!), that in her limited scope, Toledo, Oregon (not Ohio) has the worse students in both Junior/Senior High School in her realm of teaching.

Image result for Toledo OR paper mill

This town is Koch Brothers-polluted with a paper-mill run by Georgia Pacific which is owned by the billionaire Koch brothers who despise poor people, hence the dirty water, the dirty air, the dangerous jobs and the low pay for parents and those future workers barely getting through high school (many want to quit and go to Jobs Corps or get their GED’s while pumping gas).

What makes these students “the most destructive to school property and the most disruptive and disrespectful,” according to the East Coast teacher, we’ll talk about that too, soon, in a future article. Or what makes a teacher declare that in the public school realm, that too will be addressed.

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

You know, all that paper the Klein-Lewis family uses for their copy and books, manuscript and TV scripts, etc., hmm, where does that shit come from? What are the consequences of all that paper use/misuse? All that virgin paper used in Congress, in political halls of injustice, and, yes, colleges and PK12?  Really, come on — these children are coughing up a storm from the pulp mill pollution. These youth I talked with several times are broken and need alternatives to classrooms with broken lights, peeling paint, and rows of desks — they are so down on themselves, so not confident they will go anywhere in life, so traumatized and broken, so chronically seized with negativity and put-downs and self-loathing . . . or self-delusional.

I guarantee, Earth Day to them is a day off, since it falls on the bizarre holiday of Easter Sunday/take off/Monday!

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

Back to Part One —

Local Environmentalists Meet Inside for some Presentations — A Far-Cry from the Earth Days I Organized in Spokane! 

Celebration in Newport is April 22, at the public Library

The first “earth” day started really with nuts and bolts issues focusing on stopping air and water pollution, using a more sexy crisis as a platform for marching:  awareness around the annual increasing depletion of whale populations worldwide. That was in 1970, and the iconic blue and humpback whales were plastered all over posters and some were paper mâché giant icons that led the marchers on a pathway of civic engagement and political action tied to the planet’s degraded ecosystems, including those in cities.

On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to bring voice to the planet and hold corporations responsible in large part for the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the U.S. and around the world, smog alerts were common, turning deadly. This fortified leading scientists and health experts to connect growing air, water, food and soil pollution to developmental delays in children, respiratory ailments and cancers in both young and old.

Almost 50 years ago — biologists supported by universities that were not so beholden to corporate influence and censorship — proved global biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants. We were just beginning as citizens to see how timber cutting and plowing over the rain-forests of the world for animal feed crops – to just name a few heavy-handed human scale degradations – could exponentially expand creating a much different – and lesser — world.

Those big events across the globe, especially the first earth day in Washington DC, pushed politicians, media and the average citizen to become aware of ecological challenges. The US Congress and President Nixon responded to the pressure, and in July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as significant environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

For Lincoln County – with three branch campuses of Oregon Coast Community College, and with the OSU Hatfield Center and a plethora of environmental and conservation groups, 2019 Earth Day is more like a whimper than a roar . . . a pebble splashing in the big blue Pacific Ocean.

It’s a huge body of water now hobbled with acidification fueled by the world’s oceans absorbing 93 percent of all carbon dioxide expelled through fossil fuel burning and forest burning.

Hypoxia, or dead zones, buffet the oceans around here, and from time to time, these oxygen-squeezed sections have huge marine species die-off’s. Sometimes fish like halibut just flee the waters nowhere to be found.

Towns like Newport, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Waldport and Yachats depend on whale watching, beach tourism, sport fishing and, of course, commercial fishing, yet we have significant issues tied to clear-cutting forests up to the ocean (or Highway 101); solid waste (bio-waste) dispersal on land and into watersheds; and significant fracturing of natural ecosystems through construction, road building and dike deployment to “hold back” natural sea and freshwater flooding. Our estuaries were once amazing natural systems of biological and hydrologic ebb and flow.

Interestingly, the Earth Day theme for the big groups organizing it last year was “End Plastic Pollution.” Many organizations – thousands – were working on ending single-use plastics and promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, as well as pushing for 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability, and changing human behavior concerning plastics.

That has become the strategy of non-profits and grassroots groups – educating citizens so they can become active players in demanding governments and corporations control and clean-up plastic pollution.

Most environmental issues, whether it’s stopping the slaughter of whales or curbing pesticide use, go to the core of the topic at hand by looking for frameworks from which to regulate. Part of the Earth Day celebrations I have been involved in as a coordinator in Spokane, Auburn and El Paso included passionate and knowledge voices who have lead movements, written books, directed documentaries and risked their lives to stop wanton destruction of, say, the Amazonian rain-forest.

Yes, getting entire groups of people and communities (including the colleges I taught at and for which I acted as sustainability coordinator) to take personal responsibility for whichever consumptive practice is producing more and more negative environmental effects, such as plastics, involves educating them on how to live a life of reducing, refusing, reusing, recycling and removing.

In one more year, 2020, the 50th anniversary of earth day arrives, but this year’s theme is Protect our Species. That includes the threatened and endangered species that are both rare, like the white rhino, snow leopard or the killer whale pod living in the Puget Sound, and once ubiquitous like butterflies, turtles, lizards, what have you.

However, there are more threads to the environmental quilt that are not just frayed, but outright missing in huge patches.

We are losing many insect species, and birds around the world are becoming fewer in terms of sheer numbers and diversity. Writer and researcher Elizabeth Kolbert made popular the science community’s assessment that we are in the Sixth Mass Extinction.

Kolbert:

Regarding the Anthropocene, on some level that’s neither here nor there. You could say that a meteor strike is natural in the sense that it’s part of the cosmos or whatever. But a meteor strike is unusual, and its effect is an unusual and devastating one for many other species. So I don’t think whether we are “natural” or not is the issue. Obviously, we’re having a very dramatic impact on the planet and on other species. And if you want to say that’s natural, fine. And if you want to say it’s unnatural, fine. We need to decide whether we like the impact we’re having, not whether we’re natural or not.

I am pretty new to the Central Oregon Coast—as in four months. Part of my journey into communities is I get to know the people, the systems within community structures – especially services tied to youth, aging, poverty and social justice – and the built and ecological environments.

I’m teaching PK12 in the schools. I just became a member of both Surfrider and the American Cetacean Society. I also am closely tied to Oregon’s writing communities, and my hope is to get more involved in the ones out here on the coast.

I’ve met some dedicated people on microplastic beach clean-ups and the big SOLVE beach clean-up. I’ve made an effort to listen to subject matter experts in order to glean from them knowledge I need to move forward as writer and activist.

I posed four fundamental questions to many environmental and conservation-minded people, tied to the value, meaning and effectiveness of Earth Day awareness and celebration campaigns —

  1. Students ask, “What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.
  2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — you are concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?
  3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past few years tied to the environment?
  4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.”

For Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager of Surfrider Foundation, his eye is on individual habits and consumption choices: “Consider the source and eventual fate of your purchases and consumption habits – think about that before you buy it. From foods to plastics, we need to understand the full impacts of what we purchase and consume. Buy local, reduce consumption or avoid “single-use”, compost, grow food and plant trees.”

It makes sense to look at the area’s youth as future leaders in the movement to stop the pollution and mitigate the effects of global warming. Martin Desmond, 67, is a volunteer for Citizens Climate Lobby and has been in Newport for six years. He states: “The most effective action that students can take is to become involved with getting carbon reduction legislation passed at the local, state, and federal levels.”

For someone who has been here on the coast for 46 years, Scott Rosin, 70, has a simple answer for students to abide by:

Be aware of your effect on the environment every waking minute and act accordingly in a positive manner. If you can transcend to effective action instead of bogus rationalizations or despair, do so.

While Earth Day can be a day of celebration and self-congratulatory homilies, I know false hope, greenwashing (using environmental and ecological language to make money and still not stop pollution and degradations), and all those adults in the room telling youth and activists to “just take baby steps” will not turn the tide, so to speak, on the great melting of polar and glacial ice. We are talking about scientists who are independently looking at a world without ice in the coming hundred to three hundred years.

For 42-year-old Plybon, with 19 years as a resident of South Beach, he is concerned about several big issues the country and Lincoln County have to face. Again, this earth day story is not for the faint of heart: “Climate change and water,” Plybon stated. “The inhabitability of our earth will be the challenge of the next generations – that’s not an environmental issue, that’s an everybody issue. Today’s kids are asking what next, will we have a place to live?”

Rosin, on the other hand, goes right back to the plastics on the beaches and in the oceans, which now account for millions of marine birds perishing as well as turtles, seals and sea lions, whales and dolphins choking or starving to death. Every apex predatory in the ocean – those that we end up eating – has microplastics in their blood and flesh.

“Plastic pollution in the environment and particularly the ocean is a death sentence for most animals larger than mice, as surely as the Yucatan Meteor was sixty-six million years ago. The difference is that event and outcome (to channel T. S. Eliot) was practically instantaneous (a bang,) whereas what we face will take years (a whimper.)”

Celebrating wilderness is probably the best bet for any Earth Day participant. Get out in the woods, on the mountaintops, in the rivers and ocean. Remember those powerful spiritual moments in nature and then fight for those same memories for future generations to experience.

For Plybon, making large connections to one species has been amazing.  “Fishing in Alaska with my dad —  behind the big sockeye run — for trout, everything makes sense. My family and existence, the idea of ‘salmon nation,’ the connections of the forest and wildlife to a single species’ migration and reproduction make this world feel fragile and inexplicably connected.”

Desmond too has family memories about deep connections to nature:

We took our grandkids to Yellowstone several years ago when Lillian was four years old and Evan was one and a half years old.   While Yellowstone is known for its unique geothermal features and large numbers of bison, elk, grizzly bears, and wolves, our Evan got the most pleasure out of watching ground squirrels crawl up to his shoes while we were illegally feeding them.  For Lillian, she remembers swimming near Mammoth where a hot spring pours into Gardiner River.  Our granddaughter Lillian has now collected 12 junior ranger badges from national and state parks.

Finally, anyone working hard on conservation and fighting to restore and preserve the environment can get philosophical, as Rosin did when I asked him about his most memorable time in wilderness: “The illusion of the ‘natural’ life I believed I was once living has evaporated to the point I that I can no longer mentally conjure it. Once, respite only required paddling beyond the breakers and keeping my back to the shore. Now I know what floats around me.”

Here, for a list of Monday’s Newport speakers:

Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport Group and 350 Oregon Central Coast will be sponsoring an Earth Day celebration from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Monday, April 22nd at the Newport Public Library.

Mark Saelens, District Manager for the Solid Waste District of Lincoln County, will speak about the county’s recycling and sustainability efforts. Saelens is a former Newport City Councilor.

Martin Desmond, volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport group, will give an update of HB 2020, the carbon reduction bill that is moving through the Oregon State Legislature. The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction is expected to pass out the bill on Earth Day. Desmond will briefly speak about the development of climate action plans for Lincoln County.

Rio Davidson, owner of Cascade Coast Solar, will discuss the potential of solar energy installation in commercial and residential homes in Lincoln County. Cascade’s solar systems typically pay for themselves and start saving money on energy bill in seven years to ten years.

Jason Gonzales, the Forest and Watershed Campaign Organizer of Oregon Wild, will speak about impacts to forests in the Oregon Coast Range. Gonzales grew up near Sierra Nevada mountains, exploring the granite domes, freezing rivers, and giant pines on public lands around Yosemite National Park.

Aimee Thompson of Thompson’s Sanitary Services will discuss current recycling and disposal procedures. Thompson’s is offering free compost, Saturday April 20 near its main office, 7450 NE Avery Street, Newport, in celebration of Earth Day while supplies last, limited to one pick-up load per person.

Organizations that will have informational tables include Oregon Wild, Cascade Coast Solar, Thompson’s Sanitary Services, Lincoln County Community Rights, Friends of Yaquina Lighthouse, Oceana Natural Foods Co-Op, Citizens Climate Lobby – Newport group and 350 Oregon Central Coast. Light refreshments will be served.

We will also be serving light refreshments.  Thanks for your interest.

***

Note: I attempted to get a more “diverse” set of responses from a more diverse set of interviewees — youth, teachers, poor people, tribes people. I wrote the above article for the local Newport Times News, for Friday’s edition (not sure it will make it in). I have to say the new normal is outright fear of answering questions posed to people by writer/journalists — as in fear of reprisals (not sure which ones), fear of being in print media, and many more issues, including not having approval of the various employers to speak as a teacher or tribal member on some environmental board.

I got one woman’s take, late, after my deadline for the local Wednesday and Friday newspaper; I will include her responses here, since I think they are important. Joy also is the Oregon Chapter leader for the American Cetacean Society, for which I just finished a naturalist certification course under her auspices.

1. Every year the most common question I get from students and people I talk with about deep ecology and ecosocialism is,

“What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.

JP: “Everyone can do the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse/Repurpose, Recycle, and Rot (compost). Start with number one Reduce. Buy less by buying only what you really need and will use. Choose durable items that will last. Buy gently used, shop at garage sales and thrift stores.”

2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — are you concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?

JP: “Our oceans! Over 2/3 of the earth is ocean. The ocean is critically linked to our survival on earth and is under attack in multitudes of ways. Pollution of all types, chemical, industrial, plastic, and coastal development are destroying habitat. Ocean acidification is a huge problem. It negatively impacts the food web as well as fisheries. The world needs to focus on ocean health.”

3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past 10 years (or more if it’s the same community) tied to the environment?

JP: “I grew up in the Midwest in an area and time where the environment was only looked at as a resource to be used for farming. My children however, grew up in a time and place where they learned to recycle, to compost and garden, and to take walks to pick up garbage while in elementary school. They and their generation learned a better way to take care of the environment. We still have a long way to go but society can make positive change.”

4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.” A couple of sentences.

JP: “I have so many it is hard to choose just one. I’ve been fortunate to spend time in many environments from deserts to forests to the ocean.
I recall hiking along the Umpqua River outside of Roseburg. I was by myself, it was so quiet and peaceful, just the sounds of nature and deer for company. Of course, being surrounded by blue whales is an incredible experience!”

5. Name, age, organization/affiliation, is this your home (where) and for how long? Joy Primrose, 53, Oregon since 1992 — ACS Oregon Chapter President

The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems

Sometime in the near future it is highly probable that the Arctic will no longer have sea ice, meaning zero ice for the first time in eons, aka: the Blue Ocean Event.

Surely, the world is not prepared for the consequences of such a historic event, which likely turns the world topsy-turvy, negatively impacting agriculture with gonzo weather patterns, thus forcing people to either starve or fight. But, the problem may be even bigger than shortages of food, as shall be discussed.

Still and all, it’s somewhat consoling to know that the Blue Ocean Event is quite controversial within the scientific community. There are climate scientists that believe Arctic ice will be there beyond this century. One can only hope they are right because an ice-free Arctic will indubitably create havoc for life on the planet.

However, disturbingly, the prospects for enduring sea ice don’t look good.

Here’s why: Dr. Peter Wadhams (professor emeritus, University of Cambridge) who’s the leading authority on Arctic sea ice (A Farewell to Ice, Oxford University Press) was recently interviewed re the current status of Arctic sea ice, as of 2019, and recorded on TUC radio (live broadcasts on KALW/San Francisco and independent internet radio).

Here are snippets from that interview: Over the past 40 years the loss of Arctic sea ice has rapidly progressed; e.g., from 1976-87 Arctic sea ice thickness decreased by 15%… during the 1990s, thickness decreased by 43% … and today 75% of the sea ice is gone… resulting in an impairment of sea ice albedo, which reflects solar radiation back into outer space by 80-90% with sea ice, but conversely, without sea ice, it absorbs 80-90% of solar radiation into the dark background of iceless water where crucial untold dangers lurk.

Accordingly, the Arctic has experienced “the biggest transition of albedo on the planet.”1 The consequences are unimaginably challenging, kinda like trying to calculate, beforehand, what happens when fallen into an ontological rabbit hole, or in other words, expect the unexpected!

Not only that but the Arctic is already a hothouse in the hemisphere. For example, permafrost samples in the Yukon near Dempster Highway registered temps, as of April 2019, nearly 2°C higher than at any point in time over the past 10,000 years.2

As far as that goes, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) suggests an upper limit, or guardrail, of 2°C post-industrial temperature. If exceeded, primary ecosystems that support life are at risk of breaking down.

In fact, aside from the Arctic, pivotal ecosystems are already starting to break down around the world, especially in the rainforests of Puerto Rico and Mexico (experiencing high temperature variations of 2C) where, shockingly, arthropods are disappearing, nearly en masse; as well as documentation of over 100 separate locations of Flying Insect Armageddon in Europe (likely caused by toxic chemicals) registering mass losses of 75% over a few decades, which characterizes an extinction event!

As for the Arctic sea ice scenario, one critical question is not discussed in public: What happens next?

What happens when all of the sea ice is gone?

According to the tenacious climate scientist Paul Beckwith, the “refrigerator effect” is lost in the Blue Ocean Event, meaning the “water temperature is not pegged close to the freezing point when there is no ice left to melt.”3

Thereafter, by default, the only major source of ice remaining in the Northern Hemisphere will be Greenland. Thenceforth, the “Center of Cold” in the Northern Hemisphere will shift to Greenland, no longer the Arctic, likely shifting from the North Pole to approximately 73° North Latitude or the center of Greenland4 … Then what?

Unfortunately, that creates a whole new category of risks as weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere depend upon jet streams (20K to 39K feet above sea level) that rely upon the “Center of Cold” over the North Pole interceding with warm air currents from the tropics to generate jet stream gusto. If the “Center of Cold” shifts, who knows for sure what’ll happen to the crucial jet streams?

The short answer may be the jet streams will go bonkers more so than ever before.  Of course, to a lesser degree, this is already happening right now and causing extreme weather events like massive flooding in the Midwest: Hello, Kansas.

As of 2019, all-time record-setting heavy weather hit the U.S. with humongous amounts of snow throughout the northern Midwest as a result of slow-moving wobbly jet streams that loop and bring Arctic weather directly south. Believe it or not, the resultant massive flooding (also record-setting) may be a minor event in the context of a newly released chilling study about the impact of Arctic sea ice loss, as follows:

The study of ancient ice cores by a team from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Cambridge and University of Birmingham found “major reductions in sea ice in the Arctic” cranked up (temperature amplification as a result of no Arctic sea ice) Greenland regional temperatures “by 16° C in less than a decade.”5

According to the study:

This work confirms the significance of sea ice for past abrupt warming events…  This is important because changes in sea ice have profound consequences on both global and local scales, including impacts on global climate and local ecosystems.6

Significantly, if the “Impact of Abrupt Sea Ice Loss on Greenland” scenario were to recur, it would create havoc, and panic within a decade. Could it happen? Well, it happened in the past without the assistance of human-influenced GHG emissions. Therefore, the answer seems to be: Yes, it could happen again. End of Story!

But, on second thought: The 16° C increase in temps in less than a decade is difficult to fathom, even though the paleoclimate record shows it did happen. After rereading the British Antarctic Study again, and again, it goes without saying that a temperature increase of “16° C within a decade” would destroy most life. One can only hope that the British Antarctic Survey team made a big fat mistake, or there are extenuating circumstances of some kind or other.

But, make no mistake about this: Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions today are rip snorting faster than almost any paleoclimate time scale, likely setting a new 62-year record for CO2 emissions in 2019. Precariously, that feeds directly into increased planetary heat and loss of more Arctic sea ice. The end results cannot be good, an understatement.

According to NASA, Global Climate Change – Vita Signs of the Planet:

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient or paleoclimate evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten (10) times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

Meanwhile, according to the aforementioned interview with Dr. Peter Wadhams: Currently, the Arctic is heating up about 4xs faster than the rest of the planet… the temp difference between the Arctic and the tropics is dropping precipitously … thus, driving the jet streams less… creating meandering jet streams… in turn, producing extreme weather events throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in mid latitudes where most of the world’s food is grown.

Not only is future food production seriously at risk, but as well, massive quantities of buried seabed methane (much more powerful in its initial years at influencing global warming than CO2) in the Arctic could release suddenly because of loss of albedo, no longer reflecting solar radiation out into space, rather absorbing it down to massive quantities of CH4 (methane) under seabed permafrost, which is:

The greatest single threat we face… It would be a catastrophe because the temperature would suddenly rise… It wouldn’t rise smoothly.1

But, really, honestly, come on now, something’s gotta (hopefully) be wrong with the aforementioned British Antarctic Survey’s scientific data. Could it be a misplaced decimal point?

Astonishingly, it is factual data. In the simplest of terms, Greenland’s 16° C temperature increase in less than a decade is mind-blowing, especially in consideration of the survey team’s statement that it: “Confirms the significance of sea ice for past abrupt warming events.”

Hmm! Déjà vu, the Arctic sea ice scenario today seems curiously similar to the British Antarctic Study. Prospectively, that’s really horrible news!

  1. Dr. Peter Wadhams.
  2. CBC News, “Arctic is Warmest It’s Been in 10,000 Years, Study Suggests,” April 12, 2019.
  3. Paul Beckwith, climate system scientist, University of Ottawa.
  4. Paul Beckwith.
  5. Louise C. Sime, et al, “Impact of Abrupt Sea Ice Loss on Greenland Water Isotopes During the Last Glacial Period”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 5, 2019.
  6. Ibid.

Yes, The Paris Climate Agreement Sucks

The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 was a big deal as 195 nations agreed to take steps to mitigate global temperatures to +2°C, but preferably +1.5°C, post-industrial or over the past 250 years. When temperatures exceed those levels, all hell breaks loose with our precious life-support ecosystems.

Today, we’re already more than halfway to that first temperature guardrail but accelerating fast. Problematically, the latency effect of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions impacting global temperature is several years; similarly, a household oven turned to 450°F doesn’t immediately go to 450°F. Earth’s atmosphere, similar to that oven, takes time (years and years) to respond to GHGs that essentially turn up its thermostat.

Implementation of Paris ‘15, however, is another matter. With four years of hindsight, the original Paris Agreement appears to be nothing more than “hope springs eternal.”

The 2015 compilation of 195 signatories (subsequently 197) to the UNFCCC Paris Agreement was a great PR event. And, it was a very good wake up call regarding the seriousness, and dangers, of climate change. However, looking back at its origins, it was DOA.

For starters, ever since the ink dried, CO2 emissions have gone up and are now accelerating, as fossil fuel usage had its largest increase in seven years in 2018, prompting the prestigious Met Office Hadley Center/UK to issue a strong warning: “During 2019, Met Office climate scientists expect to see one of the largest rises in atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration in 62 years.”

Thus, on the heels the of Paris ’15 Agreement, CO2 emissions took a short breather but then took off and never looked back. In fact, the largest increase since 1957. Counter-intuitively, the Paris ’15 Agreement, unbeknownst to participants at the time, somehow (mysteriously) served to launch accelerating CO2 emissions.

Not only have GHGs started going gangbusters once again; additionally, there’s a very challenging “land use” issue with the Agreement, which is one more category of failure. Human land use is responsible for about one-quarter or 25% of global anthropogenic emissions. Also, land abuse severely constrains/limits/reduces terrestrial carbon sinks, thereby defeating nature’s moderation and balance of CO2, not too hot, not too cold for the past 10,000 years of the Holocene Era.

The land use imbroglio is the subject of an important new study: “Achievement of Paris Climate Goals Unlikely Due To Time Lags In The Land System” by Calum Brown, et al, Nature Climate Change, February 18, 2019.

According to the study, meeting the Paris Agreement requirement of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5°C or 2°C “requires substantial interventions in the land system, in the absence of dramatic reductions in fossil fuel emissions.”

Well then, in that case, as previously alluded to, “dramatic reduction in fossil fuel emissions” has become a bad joke. Therefore, “land use” takes on new significance to limit temperatures to 1.5°C or 2°C. But, in reality, land use is, has been, and remains a disaster in the making.

Commitments to implement provisions of the Paris Agreement are called NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions). Of the 195 countries that committed NDCs (representing 96.4% of global GHG emissions) no major industrialized country has yet matched its own ambitions for emission reductions.

Clearly, nobody is serious about curbing climate change and its consequence of global warming. The global motto seems to be: Let the chips fall where they may!

However, avoidance is a dangerous game as very big problems loom right now today as the planet’s three major sensitive areas to global warming are literally crumbling apart: (1) the Arctic (2) Antarctica and (3) Northern Hemisphere permafrost.

But, nobody lives in those areas to physically see it happen. Then again, scientists that take field trips to where nobody lives are horrified, aghast, dumbfounded by the rapidity of change. Time and again, year-over-year, they express disbelief at how much faster ecosystems are changing, especially in the context of paleoclimate history, ten times faster in many instances. That’s a formula for sure-fire disaster.

Meanwhile, one hundred countries have explicitly identified mitigation strategies involving “land use” with a common strategy of increasing forest “carbon sinks” by reducing deforestation and/or increasing reforestation. However, deforestation increased by 29% between 2015-16 in Brazil and by 44% in Columbia, and the net result of overall deforestation and land-use shows no real progress for years.

Furthermore, the voluntary aspect of nations fulfilling NDCs means that NDCs are not required to be demonstrably achievable. That appears to be a weak link in the Agreement.

Worse yet, most countries have no defined plans for implementation. Not only, countries like Australia have already abandoned emissions targets for their energy sector. And, some countries have issued contradictory objectives, for example, Scotland, which issued world-leading climate policies also simultaneously provided financial support for fossil fuel extraction.

Other examples of contradictory policies include Indonesia’s Forest Moratorium policy designed to reverse state-sponsored palm oil plantations that decimate rainforests. Their plan is confusing, and it’s counter-productive, as it temporarily slows down deforestation in some areas while increasing deforestation in other areas. Which is it supposed to be?

In fact, both Indonesia (rainforest) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (rainforest) deforestation rates exceed that of brazen Brazil (rainforest) by 1.5-to-2 times in spite of Paris ’15 commitments.

Equally concerning, voluntary commitments within countries are not enforceable, another shocker. Both China and India “encourage” reforestation via “voluntary tree planting by all citizens.” This approach is fraught with numerous issues. For example, effective leadership in localities is but one issue.

Meanwhile, on a global basis (1) China and India, since 2017, have increased emissions by 4.7% and 6.3% respectively, (2) China’s Development Bank is financing hundreds of new coal-fired plants in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, (3) Brazil is opening up its rainforests to massive development like there’s no tomorrow (4) France, Germany, and Japan have increased coal use (5) France scrapped some major plans to meet GHG reductions because of public pushback (6) Four U.S. states (Washington, Alaska, Colorado, and Arizona) rejected anti-fossil fuel initiatives in the most recent 2018 elections… and the list goes on, but the point is made.

In the future, it is likely that climate change mitigation will not be implemented until climate disaster strikes first. Then, expect public outcry: “Do something!”

Australia’s 2018 heat wave may be an early preview of one of many potential climate disasters in the near future that will serve as a catalyst for public outcry, pleading for help, do something!

Australia sizzled like a blazing-hot oven in late 2018 as temperatures exceeded 42°C (107°F). According to National Geographic: Sarah Gibbens, Bats Are Boiling Alive in Australia’s Heat Wave, d/d January 9th, 2019, asphalt melted on highways and animals and fish died by the thousands. Australian National University in Canberra predicts summer temperatures of up to 122°F in years ahead.

As for one more example of what may motivate the public, once Wall Street/Lower Manhattan as well as Miami Beach are repeatedly hit by flooding from high tide surges, there will be public outcry: “Do something!”

But, by then, the response will be: Do what? It’s already too late!

Postscript:

The various dependencies (and acknowledged insufficiencies) of the actions planned in support of the Paris Agreement mean that achievement of the 1.5°C (or even a 2°C) goal is highly unlikely.

— Calum Brown, et al, “Achievement of Paris Climate Goals Unlikely Due To Time Lags In The Land System”, Nature Climate Change, February 18, 2019.

CO2 on Track for Largest Rise in 62 Years

Around the world, atypical climate change grows increasingly threatening to all life on the planet, principally because of excessive CO2 emissions. Paradoxically, this is happening on the heels of the Paris 2015 climate accord among nations of the world.

But, didn’t almost all of the countries of the world pledge to cut back greenhouse gas emissions?

Oh yes, they did, but CO2 emissions set new records year after year after year. Ever since Paris 2015 nothing positive has happened to halt global warming, almost nothing!

Granted, it’s true that renewable installations, especially in China, are hot items but so is fossil fuel usage, which had its largest increase in seven years in 2018. Ya gotta wonder: Where’s Waldo/Paris2015?

By all appearances, pledges to reduce greenhouse gases at Paris 2015 are fatigued because the climate system is staggering and sending early warning signs of rapid deterioration of key ecosystems that support life, which, in large measure, is caused by ever increasing bursts of CO2 emissions.

On January 25, 2019, the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK issued a dismal CO2 forecast: “Faster CO2 Rise Expected in 2019.”

During 2019, Met Office climate scientists expect to see one of the largest rises in atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration in 62 years.

As of today, 4 years since Paris 2015, CO2 is supposed to be plateauing or leveling, flattish, not roaring ahead in a 62-year ascendency to new record highs as it continues to ratchet up. Something’s horribly amiss about the pledges by countries to reduce CO2 emissions in order to minimize the risks of climate change/global warming. Those pledges are going backwards, falling into a deep black abyss.

Indeed, part of the problem is a function of the failure of natural carbon sinks to draw down CO2 like years past. This problem (gulp-gulp) is a double negative whammy as natural carbon sinks, like tropical rainforests (think the Amazon) and sweeping meadows with tall swaying grasses (think the Russian Steppes), keep humanity humming along in a Goldilocks planet, not too hot, not to cold, but maybe coming to an abrupt end, which implies too much climate stress with subsequent human warfare over depleting food supplies.

Meantime, “Climate Change Thugs” lead some of the world’s most powerful countries and summarily reject Paris 2015. Consequently, the countries that should be leading a WWII-effort Marshall Plan to convert to 75%-100% renewables are knee-deep in obstructionism and antagonism, which goes to prove an ancient Far East maxim: “Disastrous leadership delivers disastrous results.”

In fact, disaster is already staring society right in the face with extra-alarm flashing red lights warning of collapsing food webs in tropical rainforests, which is ample evidence that anthropogenic climate change is already happening right under society’s collective noses.1

It goes without saying that a 40-year study of loss of a major food web in a pristine tropical rainforest, which happens to be a protected nature preserve, is mind-boggling beyond words, stuff that brings on sleepless nights, leaving serious students of climate change speechless.

The scientists of the rainforest study believe they are already seeing today what the IPCC predicted for climate change in 2040. Worse yet, a collapsing pristine rainforest is a powerful harbinger of the unraveling of natural life support ecosystems. Nothing could be worse! Ergo, it is remarkable that major countries ignore this symptom of impending disaster for all, rich and poor alike.

If major countries took the loss of a food web in a pristine rainforest seriously, there would be a declaration of war announced to advance renewable energy ASAP! But, no, there are no major initiatives announced by major countries, nothing on the order of a Marshall Plan.

According to a lead scientist of the rainforest study:

The central question addressed by our research is why simultaneous, long-term declines in arthropods, lizards, frogs, and birds have occurred over the past four decades in the relatively undisturbed rainforests of northeastern Puerto Rico. Our analyses provide strong support for the hypothesis that climate warming has been a major factor driving reductions in arthropod abundance, and that these declines have in turn precipitated decreases in forest insectivores in a classic bottom-up cascade.2

After a certain thermal threshold, insects no longer lay eggs, and their internal chemistry breaks down. This is what happens in the rainforests when global warming cranks up temperatures to 2.0C, or above, which coincidentally is the upper barrier that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) set as a guardrail to prevent serious consequences of global warming.

The rainforests are living proof of the IPCC warning of a “guardrail at 1.5-2.0C” above pre-industrial temperatures beyond which climate change negatively impacts (destroys) ecosystems that support life.

Indeed, in a separate study of a biosphere reserve in western Mexico, scientists found similar results over a period of 34 years, 1980 to 2014. Temperatures increased by 2.4°C and biomass of insects, and arthropods in general, declined 8-fold, which is a sobering omen of very tough times ahead for any species that depends upon ecosystems for survival, which includes pretty much everybody.

So, as it happens, future climate change is already here 20 years ahead of schedule as found in the planet’s most pristine areas where humans seldom, if ever, tread, and it’s deadly!

Postscript: To get personally involved with an organization that’s meaningful, go to:

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Get involved at:  ScientistsWarning.org.

  1. The referenced study: Bradford C. Lister and Andres Garcia, Climate-Driven Declines in Arthropod Abundance Restructure a Rainforest Food Web, Proceedings of the National Academies.
  2. Ibid.

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.