Category Archives: Renewables

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.

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

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

— Bill Kucha, founder of 350 Oregon Central Coast

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

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

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

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

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

See the source image

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

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

DriftCr_2013_Mar_29_10719.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo of deforestation

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

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

What is the Jordan Cove LNG Project?

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

Why should we care?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Earth Day: Conflict Over The Future Of The Planet

Photograph from climate march in Washington, DC, Union of Concerned Scientists.

On this Earth Day, it is difficult to look at the state of the planet and the current political leadership and see much hope. In “Junk Planet” Robert Burrowes writes a comprehensive description of the degradation of the atmosphere, oceans, waterways, groundwater, and soil as well as the modern pollution of antibiotic waste, genetic engineering, nanowaste, space junk, military waste and nuclear, a description of a planet degraded by pollution impacting our bodies and health as well as the planet’s future.

Burrowes includes another form of waste, junk information, that denies reality; e.g., climate change, the dangers of extreme energy extraction and food polluted by genetic engineering, pesticides, and depleted soils. This false reporting results in policies that create a risk of ecosystem collapse.

Political and economic elites want people to believe these problems do not exist. Those in power seek to protect profits from dirty energy rather than transition to 100 percent clean energy. They seek to protect agribusiness food, pesticides, and genetically modified foods rather than transform food to organic, locally grown foods using regenerative agriculture. They deny the reality of environmental racism rather than correct decades of racism and provide reparations. They seek to put profits ahead of the health and necessities of people as well as ahead of protecting and restoring the planet.

Despite this, a growing portion of the public understands these realities and is taking action to challenge the system. People know, for example, as activist Steven Norris writes, that they should be concerned about the impact of carbon infrastructure on their communities and the planet.

Last week, David Buckel, a nationally known advocate for gay rights and the environment, died in a self-immolation suicide as a wake-up call to save the planet. He wrote in a note:

Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result – my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.

The undertow being created by organized resistance is growing, and so is the push back against it. In order for this conflict to be resolved, the conflict must be heightened as is occurring now.

Tree-Sit Protest Of Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia Metro News.

People Power Escalates

As we write this, tree-sits are growing in West Virginia where people are putting their bodies on the line to prevent the destruction of trees and habitat to build the Mountain Valley pipeline for fracked gas. In Virginia, Red Terry started a tree-sit on Easter weekend to protect her land from destruction. She remains, despite the company with law enforcement support, denying her food and water — something illegal against prisoners or during war. As trees are felled she remains, as do protesters in Pennsylvania, who are also doing tree-sits. Their stubborn courageous should encourage each of us.

In Louisiana, a water protector locked herself into a cement-filled barrel placed in the trench of a horizontal directional drill to block construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Eleanor Goldfield reports this is part of the Battle of the Bayou, a coalition of groups and individuals standing against the destruction of a fragile environment, facing arrest and creating a future together.

In Maryland, people blocked construction then escalated to a tractor blockade to prevent the construction of a compressor station that will bring fracked gas from the Mid-Atlantic to the Dominion export terminal in southern Maryland. People who fought the export terminal for years are now joining with neighboring counties fighting gas infrastructure and mounting a campaign against the Maryland Department of the Environment as Governor Hogan pushes $100 million in gas infrastructure.

People are taking protests to corporate offices as a busload of Lancaster, PA people did when they brought a 12 foot stretch of pipeline to a meeting room, singing songs and chanting, asking “How does it feel to be invaded?” In Bellevue Washington, protesters constructed a small longhouse blocking the main entrance to the corporate headquarters of an energy company.

California’s Governor Jerry Brown was protested when he came to speak at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Hundreds of people  protested Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania over his pro-fracking policies. More politicians will be held accountable in this election year by angry constituents.

The industry recognizes that pipeline protestors are having an impact. Canada is having a hard time moving tar sands and fracked gas because protests are stopping pipeline investment. Oil companies are successfully being pressured to examine the risks to the environment and human rights from their actions. Washington activists defeated the largest oil-train terminal in the nation.

Protests are successfully resulting in cities divesting from banks who fund fossil fuel projects. Europe’s largest bank, HSBC just announced it will no longer fund oil or gas projects in the Arctic, tar sands projects, or most coal projects. Corporations realize they are investing in stranded assets that may not pay off and they may be held legally accountable for causing climate change.

Exxon Knew protest. Photo by Johnny Silvercloud.

Litigation Raises Risks

Corporations and the federal government are facing lawsuits from individuals, organizations and state and local governments over climate change and environmental degradation. Protesters are using the courts to underscore the urgent necessity for action by using a climate necessity defense.  Courts are beginning to accept it, but protesters willingly understand they risk incarceration.

Exxon Mobil is facing a raft of litigation arguing the company was aware of climate risks but continued to mislead the public and to pollute. State and local governments are seeking damages and calling for a federal criminal investigation. Litigation highlights the science of climate change and demonstrates how oil giants made immense profits while billions of dollars of cost from climate change; e.g., immense storms and sea level rise, are borne by individuals and governments. Most suits were brought by coastal communities but recently Colorado communities are suing oil corporations over climate change-caused droughts and fires.

ExxonMobil tried to stop state investigations in Massachusetts, New York, and Texas over misleading investors for years about climate change risks. The judge issued a sharp rebuke with prejudice preventing an appeal and allowing the investigations to continue. Oil companies are no doubt behind new legislation in states to give severe penalties to people protesting “critical infrastructure”.

Future generations from Our Children’s Trust have brought eight suits against the federal government over the destruction of the environment claiming a public trust over the atmosphere. A suit filed by 21 youth in Washington has overcome government efforts to dismiss the case and will be going to trial after both the trial court and Ninth Circuit rejected the government.

Environmental racism is also being challenged. Recently a court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Civil Rights Act for decades of inaction over complaints filed by residents of Flint, MI. Hundreds of complaints about environmental racism have been made to the EPA. An ultimate case of racism is coming up in the Supreme Court when it considers whether the United States must abide by treaties made with Indigenous Peoples. The long history of racism from the founding of the US by colonizing land inhabited by millions, followed by ethnic cleansing of the Indigenous who lived there, is on trial. If treaties are law, as they should be, this will empower Indigenous People more.

Climate Our Future from People’s Climate March by Reuters.

Change Is Being Created, Transformation Is Coming

The undertow of protest is having an impact. Corporations fear they will be held accountable for the damage they have done. Governments and elected officials are aware the people are angry and their careers can end with the new political culture created by people power.

The beginning of change always begins with education and changing ourselves. While we know systemic change is necessary, people are also educating themselves about their own own lifestyles. Thirty-six-year-old Daniel Webb was conscious of the dangers of plastic and decided to keep all of his plastic for a year gathering 4,490 items, 93% were single-use plastic, and just 8 were biodegradable. He made a mural of his plastic to educate others.

The US uses 500 million plastic straws every day. Whenever we order a drink, we request no straws and share this fact. This consciousness has permeated the culture, now many restaurants only bring straws when asked, and people are organizing “Don’t Suck”  and “Be Straw Free” campaigns to eliminate plastic straws.

More people spend their money consciously using it to buy organic and local, eating less meat and boycotting factory farm foods. We have more power with our dollar than with our vote in a manipulated “democracy” disguised as an oligarchy.

People are also making changes at the community level. Edmonston, a working-class town with a median income of $19,000 in Maryland, took small steps to going green. In the early 2000s to ameliorate stormwater flooding, they gradually remade their town into a green town, empty lots turned into community gardens and rain barrels were added. Now they have permeable pavement, solar panels, fruit trees for food and native plant landscapes with leaves collected by the city and composted.

In Brooklyn, people began reclaiming land with a vacant lot turned into a nearly 2-acre community space with garden beds, an outdoor movie screening area, a pumpkin patch, and an educational production and research farm. They then got data on vacant lots in the city and put bi-lingual signs on them that said: “This land is your land” and told people how to get control of the area, linking them to a website to help. Since 2011, communities have transformed over 200 sites. Municipalization, or fearless cities, may be a key for creating change toward socializing energy into a public service resulting in transformative cities. These changes are not only about the environment and climate justice but are also about economic, racial and social justice.

Despite the government continuing to invest in dirty energy, clean energy is growing.  Wind farming is creating jobs in red states like Texas. The Solar Foundation mapped solar jobs by congressional district as solar is the fastest growing source of new energy. Research has been developed on a state-by-state basis to make the United States 100% renewable by 2050. With a national mobilization it could happen more quickly.

There are many challenges at the national level with corrupt federal agencies tied to polluting industries, but people pressure is still having an impact. The Federal Energy Regulatory System (FERC) which has been in bed with the oil, gas, and nuclear industries since its founding, indeed it is funded by those industries, has been the focus of a more than four-year pressure campaign by Beyond Extreme Energy. This June 23-25 they will be holding a Crack the FERC protest campaign to escalate pressure. The protest coincides with the Poor People’s Campaign as addressing the  environmental crisis is linked to economic inequality, racism, and other issues.

The environmental crisis and the mishandling of climate change are issues that are going to make the 2020s a decade of transformational change. In order for people to create transformative changes, we need a well-educated activist community.

The Popular Resistance School will begin on May 1 and will be an eight-week course on how movements grow, build power and succeed as well as examine the role you can play in the movement. Sign up to be part of this school so you can participate in small group discussions about how to build a powerful, transformational movement.

Ending Pollution Requires a Change in Attitudes

Pollution has become an everyday affair; a murderous way of life which, according to a report published in The Lancet, is responsible for the deaths of at least nine million people every year. The air we breathe is poisoned, the streams, rivers, lakes and oceans are filthy, — some more, some less — the land littered with waste, the soil toxic. Neglect, complacency and exploitation characterize the attitude of governments, corporations and far too many individuals towards the life of the planet, and its rich interwoven ecological systems.

The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, which is yet another cry for urgent collective action, found that pollution is responsible for a range of diseases that “kill one in every six people around the world”. This figure, while shocking, is probably a good deal higher because “the impact of many pollutants is poorly understood.” The landmark study establishes that we have reached the point when “deaths attributed to pollution are triple those from Aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined.”

Our selfish materialistic way of life is having a devastating impact on all forms of life; unless there is a major shift in attitudes the numbers of people dying of pollution will increase; contamination of the oceans will increase, deforestation and desertification will continue, and the steady destruction of all that is beautiful and naturally given will intensify. Until one day it will be too late.

Plastic oceans, poisoned air

Even climate change deniers cannot blame the natural environment for the plastic islands that litter the oceans, or the poisoned water and contaminated air. Pollution results from human activity, it “endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies.” A sense of intense, life-threatening urgency needs to be engendered, particularly amongst the governments and populations of those countries that are, and have historically been, the major polluters — the industrialized nations of the World.

Although China has now overtaken the USA in producing the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions, as the New York Times reports, America (which has 5% of the world’s population but produces 30% of the world’s waste), “with its love of big cars, big houses and blasting air-conditioners, has contributed more than any other country to the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is scorching the planet…. In cumulative terms, we [the US] certainly own this problem more than anybody else does,” said David G. Victor, a longtime scholar of climate politics at the University of California.

Russia and India follow the USA as emitters of the most greenhouse gases; then comes Japan, Germany, Iran and Saudi Arabia, which the World Economic Forum relates, has “on a per-country average, the most toxic air in the world.” Australia, Canada and Brazil should also be included amongst the principle polluters; as Brazil’s economy has grown so have the quantities of poisonous gas emissions, their effect made worse by deforestation of vast areas of the Amazon rain forests.

Indonesia, too, warrants our attention. This small country (3% of the global population) in the middle of the South Seas is a major polluter: It has the third largest expanse of tropical forest after the Amazon and Congo, and is cutting down trees at the highest rate on the planet; it produces approximately 5% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, is the second-largest contributor to marine plastic pollution after China and has some of the dirtiest water in south east Asia – only a third of the population having access to clean drinking water.

China also has a problem with polluted water; IBT reports that “Government analysis found that more than 80% of the water from its wells was not safe to drink…while about 60% of its groundwater overall was of poor or extremely poor quality.” Water pollution has reached serious levels in America as well: according to the Water Quality Project 32% of bays, 40% of the country’s rivers and 46% of its lakes are “too polluted for fishing, swimming or aquatic life.” The Mississippi River, which is amongst the most polluted rivers in the world, “carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico every year. The resulting pollution is the cause of a coastal dead zone the size of Massachusetts every summer.”

Polluted rivers result in contaminated oceans; chemical fertilizers, detergents, oil, sewage, pesticides and plastic waste flow into the sea from inland waterways. Some pollutants sit on the surface of the ocean, many collect on the seabed where they are ingested by small marine organisms and introduced into the global food chain. The shocking condition of the seas was highlighted recently in the BBC production Blue Planet II. In a sequence that moved many to tears, an Albatross, having been at sea for weeks looking for food, was filmed feeding its chicks with bits of plastic collected from the surface of the ocean.

Recent research has identified 10 rivers as the source of 90% of the plastics in the oceans. Deutsche Welle reports that all of them run through densely populated areas where waste collection or recycling infrastructure is inadequate. Three of these filthy tributaries are in China, four more run through China, two — the Nile and the Niger (regularly the scene of oil spills) — are in Africa. The list is completed by the Holy Ganges in India, which serves as rubbish dump (almost 80% of urban waste is thrown into the river), utility room, bathroom, burial chamber and sacred temple.

Plastic waste is produced everywhere, but five Asian countries produce 60% of the global total, currently 300 million tons (only 10% is recycled): China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. If nothing changes it’s predicted that by 2025, plastic consumption in Asia alone could increase by 80 percent to over 200 million tons, and global consumption could reach 400 million tons. Greenpeace estimates that roughly 10% of all plastic ends up in the Oceans where it is thought to kill over a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals.

The statistics around pollution are numerous, shocking and all too depressing. Here’s a taste:

  • 5,000 people die every day through drinking unclean water.
  • About 80% of landfill items could be recycled.
  • 65% of deaths in Asia and 25% of deaths in India are due to air pollution.
  • Chronic obstructive respiratory disease (caused by burning fossil fuels indoors) is responsible for the death of more than 1 million people annually.
  • Over 3 million children under five die annually from environmental factors.
  • Worldwide, 13,000-15,000 pieces of plastic are dumped into the ocean every day.
  • At least two-thirds of the world’s fish stocks suffer from plastic ingestion
  • For every 1 million tons of oil shipped, approximately 1 ton is wasted through spillage.
  • A million plastic bottles are sold worldwide every minute; forecast to increase by 20% by 2021.
  • Around 1,000 children die in India annually due to diseases caused by polluted water.
  • There are more than 500 million cars in the world; there could be 1 billion by 2030.
  • Shoppers worldwide use approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags annually. This translates to about a million bags every minute and the number is rising.

Criminal neglect

Pollution and the environmental catastrophe more broadly is the result of insatiable consumerism, selfishness and individual and collective irresponsibility. It flows from a materialistic approach to living, rooted in desire and an unjust economic system that demands unbridled consumerism for its survival. Ideologically rooted Corporate Governments imprisoned in nationalism, and obsessed with short-term economic growth feed the system and the most important issue of the time is relegated to an afterthought, rarely spoken about by politicians who seem to believe that limitless development and mass consumerism is of greater importance than the health of the planet.

Designing policies that will clean up the air, the seas and rivers, and will preserve forests and farmland, should be the priority for all governments around the world, particularly the industrialized nations, who have been responsible for producing the majority of the filth and for cultivating the consumer culture that is perpetuating the crisis. But whilst governments need to take a leading role to stop pollution, individuals, all of us, need to change the way we think and how we live. It is imperative we consume less and that decisions regarding purchases should be made firstly with environmental considerations in mind.  Sufficiency and simplicity of living need to replace abundance, complacency and indulgence.

This demands a major shift in attitudes, not in 25 years, not in a year, but now. As Pope Francis rightly states in his groundbreaking papal letter ‘Care for Our Common Home’, “Our efforts at [environmental] education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature. Otherwise, the paradigm of consumerism will continue to advance, with the help of the media and the highly effective workings of the market.”

The ‘market’, aided by the media, is not concerned by such liberal considerations as the welfare of the planet and the health of human beings; it is a blind monster with a compulsion for profit, and if the ecological networks within which we live are to be purified and healing is to take place it needs to be rejected totally. A new way of thinking is required that moves away from divisive selfish ways to inclusive, socially/environmentally responsible behavior based on a recognition that the environment we live in is not separate from us and that we all have a duty to care for it. This requires a fundamental change of attitudes.

“If we want to bring about deep change, we need to realize that certain mindsets really do influence our behaviour.” And, whilst there are many exceptions to this, the prevailing, carefully cultivated ‘mindset’ is a materialistic, self-centered one in which responsibility is passed to someone else, usually a government. It is a mindset that has been conditioned virtually from birth by the motivating mechanism of reward and punishment. This crude tool encourages deceit, undermines humanity’s essential goodness and relies on the stimulation of materialistic, hedonistic desire – the very thing that is fueling the environmental crisis – for its success. It is a method that may well work with corporations and to a limited degree with individuals, but a more potent and cleaner way to change the behavior of the population at large is the Way of Awareness: Awareness that we are brothers and sisters of one humanity, that cooperation, not competition is an inherent aspect of our nature and that that we are all responsible for the world in which we live. It’s up to us, each and every one of us, to consciously live in an environmentally responsible manner – no matter the cost or inconvenience, and to begin to repair the terrible damage we have done and continue to do to the natural world.

Survival? Symptoms Of Breakdown

If the human species survives long enough, future historians might well marvel at what passed for ‘mainstream‘ media and politics in the early 21st century.

They will see that a UK Defence Secretary had to resign because of serious allegations of sexual misconduct; or, as he put it euphemistically, because he had ‘fallen short‘. But he did not have to resign because of the immense misery he had helped to inflict upon Yemen. Nor was he made to resign when he told MPs to stop criticising Saudi Arabia because that would be ‘unhelpful‘ while the UK government was trying to sell the human rights-abusing extremist regime in Riyadh more fighter jets and weapons. After all, the amount sold in the first half of 2017 was a mere £1.1 billion. (See our recent media alert for more on this.) Right now, the UK is complicit in a Saudi blockade of Yemen’s ports and airspace, preventing the delivery of vital medicine and food aid. 7.3 million Yemenis are already on the brink of famine, and the World Food Programme has warned of the deaths of 150,000 malnourished children in the next few months.

Meanwhile, Robert Peston, ITV political editor, and Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News political editor, have seemingly never questioned the British Prime Minister Theresa May about the UK’s shameful role in arming and supporting Yemen’s cruel tormentor. Nor have they responded when challenged about their own silence.

Future historians will also note that British newspapers, notably The Times and the ‘left-leaning’ Guardian, published several sycophantic PR pieces for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ‘a risk-taker with a zeal for reform’. ‘Is he taking on too much too fast?’, asked a swooning Patrick Wintour, the Guardian‘s diplomatic editor. Martin Chulov, the paper’s Middle East correspondent, waxed lyrical about the Crown Prince’s ‘bold move’ in arresting senior royals, a prominent Saudi billionaire and scores of former ministers as part of a ‘corruption purge’. The dramatic action was designed to ‘consolidate power’ while bin Salman ‘attempts to reform [the] kingdom’s economy and society’. As Adam Johnson noted in a media analysis piece for Fairness in Accuracy And Reporting, the Guardian‘s coverage was akin to a ‘breathless press release.’ A follow-up article by Chulov, observed Johnson, ‘took flattering coverage to new extremes’. The ‘rush to reform’ was presented uncritically by the paper, painting the Crown Prince as a kind of populist hero; ‘a curious framing that reeks more of PR than journalism.’

Meanwhile, Richard Spencer, Middle East editor of The Times, wrote articles proclaiming, ‘Prince’s bold vision drives progress in Saudi Arabia’ and ‘It’s wrong to blame all terror on the Saudis’, featuring such propaganda bullet points as:

The Saudis are on our side, arresting militants and giving us vital intelligence.

In October 2017, The Times even ran a four-part series promoting a Saudi conference to attract investment in the head-chopping kingdom with the lure of ‘sweeping social and economic reforms’. As for any awkward questions about the brutality Saudi Arabia was inflicting on Yemen, well, they were swept away.

Historians examining media archives from this time will also observe that Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Tony Blair’s government, opined that the UK had been ‘misled’ about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction:

Top-secret US intelligence casting serious doubt over [Saddam Hussein’s] destructive capabilities was not shared with Britain.

As a result, claimed Brown, Blair was ‘duped‘ into invading Iraq. And thus ‘duped’ into shared responsibility for the deaths of around one million Iraqis.

‘Mainstream’ news journalists blandly reported Brown’s miserable excuses without demur. They failed to mention that former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter had comprehensively dismissed the propaganda notion of Saddam as a threat well before the US-led invasion of March 2003. Ritter’s team had concluded that Iraq had been ‘fundamentally disarmed‘, with anything that remained being simply ‘useless sludge’ because of the limited ‘shelf-lives’ of chemical and biological weapons. This crucial information was already available by October 2002, five months before the invasion, in a handy short book that somehow ‘escaped’ the attention of the British government, including Brown, and that of a compliant corporate media that broadcast endless Western propaganda.

Nevertheless, millions of people around the world marched against the Iraq war before it began, because they did not swallow the torrent of deceits emanating from Washington and London. Brown, however, had always backed Blair to the hilt, telling the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war in 2010 that Blair took ‘the right decision for the right reasons’ and insisting that ‘everything that Mr Blair did during this period, he did properly’.

Future historians will also study the media hysteria in 2017 over ‘Russiagate‘ that focused obsessively on outraged claims of supposed pivotal Russian interference in Trump’s election as US President. But, as US investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald noted:

Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence.

Greenwald is not saying that there was definitely no Russian interference. But the ‘evidence’ for decisive intervention presented thus far is unconvincing, to say the least. The crucial point is that Western corporate media have only ever given minimal coverage to major longstanding US government efforts to intervene in other countries – from propaganda campaigns, meddling in foreign elections, and all the way up to assassinations, coups and full-blown invasions. A Time magazine cover story in 1996 even boasted that US interference helped Boris Yeltsin to be re-elected as president of Russia:

Exclusive: Yanks to the Rescue. The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win.

The historical record will also reveal, in apparent blindness and deafness to this extensive record of US criminal behaviour, that BBC News journalists based there frequently end up gushing about the greatness of ‘America’. It is a rite of passage that demonstrates their bona fides as servants of power.

It will not surprise future historians that prestigious press and broadcasting awards were given to those who reported within the limits circumscribed by established power. Such rewards were few for those who dared to expose crimes by the West or ‘our’ allies.

One of these ‘allies’, arguably the most important in the Middle East, is Israel. Earlier this month, Priti Patel resigned as Britain’s minister for international aid after it had been revealed that she had had numerous secret meetings with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while on a ‘family holiday’. She had also visited an Israeli military field hospital that treats Al Qaedi-affiliated fighters. Following her trip, Patel had actually wanted to send UK aid to the powerful Israeli army, even while cutting Palestinian aid to vital projects in Gaza. The episode briefly opened ‘a small, opaque window on the UK’s powerful Israel lobby’, observed Jonathan Cook. But the topic of the Israel lobby is seemingly taboo in polite British society. Laura Kuenssberg quickly deleted a tweet she had sent out quoting an unnamed senior Tory MP complaining about the ‘corrupt’ relationship that has enabled Israel to ‘buy access’ in Westminster.

Perhaps, then, it was no surprise that when the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories published a strongly-worded report in New York on October 26, 2017, the resulting media silence was deafening. Michael Lynk, a Canadian professor of law and a human rights expert, called on the world to hold Israel accountable for fundamental violations of international law during fifty years of occupation. This was especially timely with the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration that effectively stole Palestine from the Palestinians who were ‘ethnically cleansed‘ from the land that became the state of Israel.

Lynk encouraged the international community to take ‘unified actions on an escalating basis’ to declare the occupation illegal and to demand Israel’s withdrawal. Gaza, he said, was ‘in misery’, and Israel’s continued illegal occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem was a ‘darkening stain’. Despite the seriousness of these charges, and their authoritative UN source, we could not find a single mention in the UK press or on the BBC News website. Scholars in the future will marvel at this stunning media obedience to Western power, obtained without visible coercion.

‘An Existential Threat to our Civilisation’

Undoubtedly, what will appall future historians most is that the urgent calamitous risks of human-induced climate change were well known, but that nothing was done to stop the looming chaos. Worse than that: powerful private business, financial and economic elites, and the governments they had essentially co-opted, forged ahead with policies that accelerated the climate crisis.

The evidence has already been unequivocal for many years. In November 2017, a comprehensive review of climate science by thirteen US federal agencies concluded in a 477-page report that evidence of global warming was ‘stronger than ever’. They said that it was ‘extremely likely’ – meaning with 95 to 100% certainty – that global warming is human-induced, mostly from carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

One climate scientist said:

A lot of what we’ve been learning over the last four years suggests the possibility that things may have been more serious than we think.

The language was couched in typical scientific caution. But the horror at what was unfolding was surely not far from the surface of academics’ minds.

And yet, in a further sign of the short-term insanity that drives state and corporate policy, governments continued to channel huge sums of public money into planet-killing industries. European states, including the UK government, gave more than €112bn (£99bn) every year in subsidies to support fossil fuel production and consumption.

In 2016, gas companies spent €104m in intensive lobbying campaigns to try to encourage European policymakers to accept the myth that natural gas is a ‘clean fuel’ in an attempt to ‘lock in’ fossil fuels for decades to come. Moreover, fossil fuel companies lobbied hard behind the scenes of the Paris climate talks, as well as follow-up negotiations, to manipulate outcomes in their private favour. After all, cynical corporate madness has no boundaries when profits are the overriding concern. Absurdly, the text of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change did not even include the words ‘fossil fuels‘. Scientists warned that fossil fuel burning is set to hit a record high in 2017.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that 2017 is set to be one of the top three hottest years on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO also noted that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have ‘surged at unprecedented speed’ to the highest level in 800,000 years

The signs of ecological breakdown are all around us. Last month, a new study revealed that the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years. The results had ‘shocked scientists’. This matters hugely because flying insects are, of course, a vital component of a healthy ecosystem upon which we are crucially dependent for food, water and oxygen. Robert Hunziker observes succinctly that this ecosystem, ‘the quintessential essence of life on our planet’, is breaking down. Our life support system is being destroyed.

One of the many symptoms of this breakdown that is likely to overwhelm human society is mass migration as a result of climate change. Tens of millions of people will be forced to move because of climate disruption in the next decade alone. This flood of human refugees will make the numbers of those who fled the Syrian conflict into Europe look like a trickle.

Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said:

What we are talking about here is an existential threat to our civilisation in the longer term. In the short term, it carries all sorts of risks as well and it requires a human response on a scale that has never been achieved before.

However, if governments really were motivated to protect the public, as they always claim when amplifying the threat of terrorism, they would have already announced a halt to fossil fuels and a massive conversion to renewable energy. A landmark study recently showed that global pollution kills nine million people a year and threatens the ‘survival of human societies’. If terrorism was killing nine million people every year, and the very survival of human society was threatened, the corporate media and politicians would be reacting very differently. But because it’s global pollution, merely an economic ‘externality’, private power can continue on its quest for dominance and profits.

The situation now is truly desperate. We are literally talking about the survival of the human species. There will be those who declare, either with black humour or a morally-suspect flippancy, that ‘the planet would be better off without us’. But we surely cannot so casually dismiss the lives and prospects of literally billions of people alive today and their descendants too.

Government policies are driven primarily by short-term political gain and corporate power, so there needs to be a massive public demand for control of the economy towards sustainability. The alternative is no human future. But just at a time when public resistance and radical action are most needed, social media networks owned and controlled by huge corporations are suppressing dissent. A major part of the struggle for human survival, then, will be to overcome the unaccountable media corporations and tech giants that are attempting to define what is deemed ‘acceptable’ news and commentary.

Want to Help Coal Miners? Plan for the Future

Announcing its plans to eliminate rules reducing carbon pollution from power plants, the Trump Administration framed the repeal as necessary to prevent the demise of the coal industry and its miners. Predictably, environmentalists refuted this rationale, but they aren’t alone. Robert Murray, CEO of coal giant Murray Energy Corporation, is on record saying Trump “can’t bring [coal jobs] back.”

Coal executives recognize market forces, not public health and environmental protection laws, are driving coal to the margins. Ignoring that reality only deepens the harm to working people in coal country.

Far from the “War on Coal” alleged by Trump appointees, a government war supporting coal has been waged for many years, including subsidies that add up to about one billion dollars annually. Below-market fees charged for extracting coal from publicly-owned land in Montana and Wyoming by themselves constitute a gift to coal corporations comparable to all federal support for renewable energy.

Even so, coal produced only about 15% of all energy in the U.S. last year and the coal industry has faced declining market share and a string of bankruptcies and loss of market share over the past decade. Low prices for natural gas, reductions in demand from abroad, and technological improvements are eroding coal’s market. Researchers from Columbia University found public health and environmental protections instituted under President Obama account for just three to five percent of coal’s declining sales.

Coal-dependent areas would be wise to heed the lessons of Rochester, New York, whose one-time top employer, Kodak, stubbornly resisted the market’s shift from film to digital photography. This led to the company’s demise and the devastation of the region’s economy.

When facing circumstances like Rochester’s, guiding change proactively, and not having the terms dictated to you, is the best way to adapt with minimal loss of jobs and wealth. In Colstrip, Montana, where over half of the working-age adults are employed in the coal industry, outside utilities are shutting down coal-fired power plants. These shutdowns leave locals a shrinking window in which to build other businesses or flee the community.

Coal states across the country face a similar future, and while heel-dragging may help coal company owners maximize their profit in the short-term, it does nothing for coal miners and their families.

A new strategy for these places is needed. Declining domestic demand no longer can be replaced by foreign buyers like China, which is leading the world in adding solar and wind capacity and is eliminating coal plants.

“We are setting ourselves up to miss the boat,” says Karl Unterschuetz, head of business development at Itek Energy. “The U.S. is poised to be a global leader in renewable energy if we would just move away from coal.” Itek, based in Bellingham, Washington, is one of only five major solar panel manufacturers in the U.S., and faces an uphill battle against competitors in China, Germany and other nations thinking forward on energy.

Renewable energy already succeeds in the marketplace, and is a high-value industry employing far more people than coal, with decades of growth to come. Furthermore, decentralizing our energy supply carries the added benefit of greater durability and resistance to widespread power loss in the event of severe storms, sabotage, or other disruptions.

Beyond embracing renewable sources of power, we can adapt to our changing economy by taking that billion-dollar handout currently pocketed by coal companies and invest it into infrastructure for entrepreneurial opportunities – such as high-speed internet –  in coal communities.

The sooner government officials accept that coal’s life cycle has run its course, the greater the opportunity for coal communities to build positive alternatives and self-reliance, and perhaps avoid disaster.

Bury All Fossil Fuel Protesters in the Ground

What do you say about this fellow – practicing to be a Jesuit priest. Yale Law School. His family involved in California politics since the 1930s. His great-grandfather here from Germany for the great California Gold Rush, 1852.

Yes, that genocidal, land-thieving time of California’s history

Gold’s a devilish sort of thing. You lose your sense of values and character changes entirely. Your soul stops being the same as it was before.

— The Treasure of Sierra Madre.

The attacking party rushed upon them, blowing out their brains and splitting their heads with tomahawks. Little children in baskets, even babies had their heads smashed to pieces or cut open. Mothers and infants shared the same phenomenon…many of the fugitives were chased and shot as they ran…The children, scarcely able to run, toddled towards the squaw for protection, crying with fright, but were overtaken, slaughtered like wild animals, and thrown into piles… One woman got into a pond hole, where she hid herself under the grass, and concealed her papoose on the bank in a basket, she was discovered and her head blown to pieces, the muzzle of the gun being placed against her skull and the child was drowned in the pond.

— Captain Jarboe among the Achomawi people of the North-east.

Oh, these bizarre and ignorant politicians, like Brown, yesterday (11/13/17), in Bonn, setting up his philosophy in life, after 79 years on planet earth, 79 years on the stolen lands of native indigenous peoples massacred for gold, for land, and poisoned by the tailings and mercury of the Gold Lust, and, well, the fact that California, thanks to German immigrants like Jerry Brown’s great grandfather, August Schuckman, went from 150,000 Natives right before the Rush down to 16,000 by 1900.

The following are some examples of this mini holocaust.

Clear Lake Massacre ended in disaster as more than a hundred Indians, women, and children were murdered,1852.

The Hayforlk Massacre ended up in even more disaster, following the killing of a white settler, more than one-hundred and fifty Indians were killed, with that they took the three last remaining survivors, most likely to have been a woman and her two children who were sold as slaves.

In 1854 Indian Agent R. McKee plead to the troops to keep peace between the Indians and the settlers, after the Massacre of Klamath River which was the result of forty or fifty brutal Native’s deaths. Any Indians who attempted to seek justice and made amends for their mistakes were rejected by the whites who depended on genocide, or the death to the pleading Indians as the solution to the problem.

The Fresno Massacre of 1854, began when white settlers attempted to bring perpetrators to justice, they invaded and killed an unspecified number of Native Americans, this was the effect of the invasions failure for justice. Klamath County citizens resolved by killing all Indians carrying guns, which most Indians were armed.

Here he was, the great Green Governor, on an 11-day trip around the world, dealing with people – Native Americans and water protectors and those fighting on the front lines of climate change – chanting “keep it in the ground . . . keep it in the ground” (fossil fuels, and the byproducts of fracking) during his speech at the “American Pledge” event.

The protestors had banners, yelled “keep it in the ground” and other chants, as a clear reference to Jerry Brown’s backing of fracking, both offshore and on land in California, and also the governor’s cap-and-trade policies that just might prove catastrophic to the Huni Kui People of Acre, Brazil, and other indigenous communities around the globe.

Brown strongly supports the fossil fuel industry in California, and his recent talk with right-wing, radical anti-climate change activist Ryan Zinke, US Interior Secretary under Trump, belies Brown’s inability to hold on to anything spiritual around this existential threat or critical of these Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Capitalism, War, Climate Warming, Environmental/Cultural Genocide.

As always, these pedicured politicians cannot deal with The People, with the noise that is supposed to be democracy, expression and free speech, even a politician like Brown who once hung around the New Age scene and was called Moonbeam, all of which was parodied in the rock scene in a piece called “California Über Alles”, written by Jello Biafra and performed by him with his punk rock band Dead Kennedys.

Here, the typical capitalist, typical Yale graduate of legal misgivings, Brown, today in Bonn:

I wish we have could have no pollution, but we have to have our automobiles. In the ground, I agree with you. In the ground. Let’s put you in the ground so we can get on with the show here.

This is very California. Thanks for bringing the diversity of dissent here, the visibly disturbed Brown continued.

A video of Brown’s reaction to the protest is available here.

This is the sum total of California’s love of this man (the state has been re-electing him forever), whose family has been riding roughshod over politics, in the legal arena and in the state’s planning for decades. Brown earlier this year went after critics of his oil industry-written cap-and-trade bill, AB 398.

Again, the Governor who wants water protectors and other indigenous groups protesting him “put in the ground,” states it like it is with NPR in July 2017: Critics are using “forms of political terrorism that are conspiring to undermine the American system of governance.” In an interview with David Greene of NPR (National Public Radio).

They can joke, like Weinstein jokes, but, these comments are windows into these devils’ souls. Again, this simple-minded and racist approach to seeing the 80 percent of the world is Brown’s in a nutshell, and all the others in the political arena making pacts with the devil:

“When cities and states combine together and then join with powerful corporations, that’s how we get stuff done,” said Governor Brown at today’s event at the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, the exhibition space sponsored by U.S. non-federal leaders at COP23. “We’re here, we’re in and we’re not going away.”

Those darn powerful corporations. Tell that to the more than 100 tribes in California before the Spanish invasion, and the Gold Rush a hundred years later:

The estimated number of Indians killed by new diseases passed on by settlers is around 60% of all the Natives living combined. The white settlers killed and sold the scalps and severed heads of Native Americans, at 25 cents for the scalps, and at more than $5 for the severed heads. $1,000,000 were recovered to the government for the selling of these items. An estimated 4,000 Native children were sold as slaves to settlers. The prices the enslaved children were up to $60 for the young boys and up to $200 for young girls.

Brown’s refused to ban fracking, and all that toxic waste from oil companies put into underground water supplies have gotten a green light from the Gov. He’s incentivizing oil and gas big time in California. According to a news release from the Indigenous Environmental Network.

His cap-and-trade extension includes provisions written by oil lobbyists that prevent state and local agencies from directly limiting carbon emissions from oil refineries. He has also failed to shut down the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, where the largest methane leak in U.S. history forced thousands to flee their homes in 2015.

Just five days ago at Bonn, a newly released Center for Biological Diversity report points to more than three-quarters of California’s oil is as “climate-damaging” as Canadian tar sands crude. “Oil Stain: How Dirty Crude Undercuts California’s Climate Progress” pinpoints eight of the state’s 10 largest-producing oil fields that are producing “very dirty crude with greenhouse gas emissions comparable to tar sands oil.”

This is the state of America, calling for Native American environmental groups, indigenous groups from around the world and their non-native allies to be buried in the ground. Funny stuff from old California (not).

Ninawa Nuneshuni Kui, President of the Huni Kui People of Acre, Brazil, told reporters at Bonn yesterday (11/13/17) that Jerry Brown’s “American Pledge” –which is based on this smoke and mirrors and environmentally racist carbon trading deal — would inevitably precipitate destruction and displacement: both of the land and the cultural resources and the people.

I wanted to leave a message here, for humanity and all of planet, that the peoples need to join to defend Mother Nature, the soil, water and air because they are being threatened. And humanity needs Nature to survive. So I want to say that Nature and the air are not a means of commerce for anyone and it’s every human’s right to live in peace. Jerry Brown’s ‘American Pledge’ will lead to the displacement of my people and the destruction of my territory. We need to respect the rights of Nature and humans beings that need her to survive.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s report claims that twenty-six energy companies including the state’s three major investor-owned utilities, Occidental, Chevron, and NRG—all with business before the state—donated $9.8 million to Jerry Brown’s campaigns, causes, and initiatives, and to the California Democratic Party since he ran for Governor.

Download the report here.

Read the report “How Green Is Jerry Brown?” at Consumer Watchdog.

For more information on Jerry Brown’s environmental policies, go here.

In the end, though, these climate summits and all the dickering with the devils — giant multinational outfits in finance, banking, Big energy, Big Military Industrial Complex, Big Ag, Big Medicine, Big Chemicals, Big PR, Big War — will get you the same comments from the same people in power:  “If we don’t extract the minerals and the oil and gas and cut down the timber, then the Chinese and Russians will.”

That’s the folly of this game, this Kabuki Theater, these COP 23’s or COP 30s or COP 99s:

“Most of these critics ride around in cars and fly in airplanes, so what we have to do is get the end goal in sight,” Brown later said of the protesters.

This is how these elites roll, my friend. And until we are serious about the destruction of species and cultures, destruction of land and soil, and until we rip the bowels from the billionaires and the military and financial mercenaries, and until we downsize, retrench, go very local, shift the paradigms, and reinvent humanity to think small and be small, then that’s their bottom line, is it not?

The millionaires and billionaires and their Little Eichmann’s have us trumped: We all drive, we all go on Disney cruises, we all throw away things, we all consume, we all can’t wait for Black Friday, we all invest, we all benefit from war-weapons-weather disruption, we all are Americans, we all are for technology, we all live better lives through chemistry and computing and genetic engineering and nanotechnology; we all are willing to give up our freedoms, our rights, our agency, if we can still get to the all-you-can-eat drive-through after Black Friday’s great consumer orgy.

hallelujah, hhallelujah la olam, masha’allah

People Act Where US Fails On Climate

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 10: Protesters march during a demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline on March 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Thousands of protesters and members of Native nations marched in Washington DC to oppose the construction of the proposed 1,172 Dakota Access Pipeline that runs within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The climate crisis is upon us. It seems that every report on climate conditions has one thing in common: things are worse than predicted. The World Meteorological Report from the end of October shows that Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) are rising at a rapid rate and have passed 400 parts per million. According to Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, “the changes we’re making today are occurring in 100 years, whereas in nature they occur in 10,000 years.”

The United States is experiencing a wide range of climate impacts from major hurricanes in the South to unprecedented numbers of wildfires in the West to crop-destroying drought in the Mid-West. In October, the General Accounting Office reported that the US has spent over $350 billion in the last decade on disaster relief and crop insurance, not counting this year’s hurricanes. These costs will continue and rise.

We are past the time to make a major commitment to the transformation we need to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. Imagine the benefits that such a commitment would have in creating a cleaner environment, better health and more jobs and, if structured in a way that is democratized and benefits the public, in ending environmental racism and economic injustice.

Climate talks in Germany

The 23rd session of climate talks is taking place right now in Bonn, Germany. The United States formally withdrew from its commitment to the Paris climate treaty, but delegations of people from the US are in attendance to show their commitment to addressing the climate crisis. A group of organizations, such as 350.org and Indigenous Environmental Network, presented their climate platform as “the people’s delegation.” They are calling for a just transition to a fossil-free future and an end to market schemes to offset carbon use.

The people are expressing their demands for more action on the climate in multiple protests around the COP23. Ahead of the climate talks, on Saturday, November 4, tens of thousands of people marched in Bonn to demand an end to fossil fuels. The march kicked off a series of direct actions and alternative events to take place during the talks. On November 8, the one year anniversary of the election of Donald Trump, activists organized a “Climate Genocide” day of action in Bonn and around the world. On Saturday, November 11, thousands marched in Bonn again to protest the use of nuclear energy. The talks conclude on November 17.

The Trump Administration sent a delegation to the climate talks with the goal of protecting the fossil fuel industry. John Cushman of Inside Climate News writes: “The U.S. is straddling a climate credibility gap, with the Trump administration’s policies on one side of an abyss and what the government’s own scientists know about climate change with increasing certainty on the other.”

100% renewable energy is necessary and possible

If there is to be any possibility of mitigating the climate crisis, then action must be taken immediately to end the use of dirty energy, otherwise lower carbon emissions and sequester carbon. While some are saying that we have 18 years before we hit the limits of our “carbon budget,” scientists Stephen Davis and Robert Socolow report that when all sources of carbon and carbon commitments are taken into account, we will hit the limit in 2018.

Organizations and government agencies have pointed out that the Paris climate treaty goals are not enough to mitigate the climate crisis. On Tuesday, the United Nations Environment Program released a report calling for faster and more rapid cuts in emissions than are outlined in the treaty. This can be achieved by closing coal plants and moving to renewable sources, improving energy efficiency, protecting and planting more forests and changing agricultural practices to sequester carbon in soil.

The good news is that it is possible to reduce carbon quickly, and it will lower energy costs, improve health and create jobs. A study released at the COP23 shows that we can move to zero carbon energy worldwide by 2050. This would be largely based on solar energy with additional energy from wind, water and a small percentage from biomass, although biomass is not considered to be a sustainable source of energy.

David Schwartzman reminds us that although we have the knowledge and resources to move quickly to 100% renewable energy, two major obstacles are the Military Industrial Complex and capitalism. He writes: “All is contingent on the growing strength of multi-dimensional, transnational class struggle, [and] on the convergence of movements for climate, energy, environmental justice and for peace and demilitarization.”

Reaching our goal

Just as is necessary for other struggles, achieving our goals of mitigating the climate crisis in a way that is sustainable and equitable will require the dual track approach of resistance and constructive programs. There are signs that this work is being done in the North America.

Resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure is working. This summer, Enbridge stopped its North East Direct gas pipeline project in New England. This fall, TransCanada withdrew its Energy East Pipeline project, which would have transported “1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota across the country through a 4,500-kilometre route that would end at a terminal in Saint John, New Brunswick.”

There is strong opposition to pipelines throughout the United States, from the ongoing fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Bayou Pipeline to multiple pipelines in MichiganPennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. And efforts continue to stop the first fracked gas refinery and export terminal on the East Coast as it nears completion. The terminal being built by Virginia-based Dominion Energy in the Cove Point neighborhood of Maryland (the first to be built in such a densely-populated area) will drive fracking in the Utica and Marcellus shales and raise gas prices in the US.

Pipeline companies report that their biggest problem is opposition to their projects. It should come as no surprise that the industry is fighting back. This was very obvious in the #NoDAPL protests at Standing Rock. Chase Iron Eyes, who is being prosecuted for inciting a riot against the Dakota Access Pipeline, will be using a necessity defense to demonstrate that he was acting out of necessity to protect water his family relies on.

This week, pipeline protesters in Massachusetts were met with police dogs and stun guns. Mark Hand recently discovered that the industry is “in the ‘early stages’ of putting together a campaign to counter opposition to fracking and pipelines,” including creating grassroots groups.

Some communities are protecting themselves by banning projects. South Portland, Maine has spent over $1 million to defend its pipeline ban. Ohio activists recently won a court victory allowing them to vote on local fracking bans. Others are taking on the banks that fund the projects. On Monday, more than 200 people painted a giant mural on the street in front of Wells Fargo, creating an effective street blockade in the process.

Food is a large contributor to carbon emissions through animal cultivation for meat, destroying forests for crops and transportation of food over long distances. The UN urged this week that we move to a meat-free and dairy-free diet for the climate (and it would also be good for our health).

Our food system could contribute to the solution. Organic farming practices can sequester large amounts of carbon in the soil. On top of that, the large food co-operative, Organic Valley, announced this week that it is committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2019, starting with community solar projects. Rooftop solar is “creating well-paying jobs at a rate that’s 17 times faster than the total U.S. economy.”

manipadma2-2-640x381 (1)Our climate imperative

If we are to have a livable future, we must act rapidly. Failure to act will have devastating impacts. Studies suggest that there may be as many as one billion climate refugees by 2050. Climate change is contributing to migration into cities and poverty, causing food insecurity. People in North America are not immune to this, as recent hurricanes, wildfires and droughts reveal.

The climate crisis is also bad for our health and will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year.  In addition to direct effects, such as heat stroke, injuries from catastrophes and longer allergy seasons and mental health impacts from stress, the climate crisis is also increasing vector-borne diseases.

Every crisis offers an opportunity for radical positive transformation. As we act to address the climate crisis, let’s do it in ways that change systems so they are equitable, just and non-discriminatory. Our actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change can work to democratize the economy through cooperatives, energy creation by individuals on their rooftops and land, public banks and gift economies, to improve our health through clean water, air, organic foods and low cost public transit, and to bring peace to the world by ending US imperialism.

It can be so, if we act with intention to make it that way.

The BBC’s Climate Denialism: Coverage Of Hurricane and the South Asian Floods

In J.G. Ballard’s classic novel, The Drowned World, people are struggling for survival on a post-apocalyptic, overheating planet. A ‘sudden instability in the Sun’ has unleashed increased solar radiation, melting the polar ice caps and causing global temperatures to rise by a few degrees each year. Once-temperate areas, such as Europe and North America, have become flooded tropical lands, ‘sweltering under continuous heat waves’. Life has become tolerable only within the former Arctic and Antarctic Circles.

The frailty of ‘civilisation’ and the attempts to cope with psychological changes in the human condition as a result of the catastrophe are laid bare. It is a frightening surreal vision of the human predicament by a master novelist. At one point, one of the characters is asked about his life before the apocalypse. He answers, ‘I’m afraid I remember nothing. The immediate past is of no interest to me.’

Hurricane Harvey has provided a genuinely terrifying glimpse of a global Ballardian dystopia that may actually be humanity’s fate. And yet, even now, corporate media are suppressing the truth.

On August 25, the category 4 Hurricane Harvey, with 130 mph winds, made landfall near Corpus Christi on the southern coast of Texas. Harvey’s progress then stalled over Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, dumping enormous ‘unprecedented’ quantities of water, creating ‘a 1-in-1,000-year flood event’. To date, 50 people have been killed, around one million residents have been displaced and 200,000 homes have been damaged in a ‘path of destruction’ stretching for over 300 miles. The Washington Post reported that:

the intensity and scope of the disaster were so enormous that weather forecasters, first responders, the victims, everyone really, couldn’t believe their eyes.

The total financial cost of Harvey is yet to be determined. But, according to the governor of Texas, damages will likely be in the range of $150 billion to $180 billion, exceeding the $118 billion cost of Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005. Around 80 per cent of Hurricane Harvey victims do not even have flood insurance; many had skipped buying insurance believing it to have been a ‘low-risk gamble’.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus surveyed the deaths and devastation caused by Harvey and said bluntly: ‘this is what climate change looks like’. He added:

The symbolism of the worst flooding disaster in U.S. history hitting the sprawled-out capital city of America’s oil industry is likely not lost on many. Institutionalized climate denial in our political system and climate denial by inaction by the rest of us have real consequences. They look like Houston.

BBC News reported that Harvey had actually shut down almost a quarter of the US capacity for oil refining.

Other societal factors have played their part in worsening the crisis. Dr Andrew King, a climate extremes research fellow at the University of Melbourne, observes that Houston is the second-fastest growing city in the US, adding:

As the region’s population grows, more and more of southern Texas is being paved with impermeable surfaces. This means that when there is extreme rainfall the water takes longer to drain away, prolonging and intensifying the floods.

As Robert McSweeney and Simon Evans note in a piece for Carbon Brief:

The rising population also changes flood risk in some unexpected ways. Parts of Houston are subsiding rapidly as a result of people extracting too much groundwater’.

Moreover:

The US government was warned 20 years ago, in a National Wildlife Federation report, that its flood insurance programme was encouraging homes to be built, and rebuilt, in flood-prone areas of the country. […] Two decades on, the author of the report says a flood event like Hurricane Harvey “was inevitable”.

Meanwhile, halfway around the planet in South Asia, an even greater climate-related catastrophe was taking place. Reuters observed that ‘the worst monsoon floods in a decade’ have killed over 1,400 people across India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Around 41 million people have been displaced. That number is simply staggering. And in areas with little infrastructure and financial resources, the consequences are almost unthinkable. The Times of India reported that rains had brought Mumbai, a city of 18 million people, ‘to its knees’.

E.A. Crunden wrote in a piece for ThinkProgress that the crisis:

is alarming aid officials, who say the issue is spiraling into an unprecedented disaster.

Francis Markus, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told the New York Times of his concern that the disaster in South Asia might not get the attention it needs:

We hope people won’t overlook the desperate needs of the people here because of the disasters closer [to] home.

Although coverage of the monsoon flooding in South Asia was not entirely absent in British media by any means, it was swamped by the coverage devoted to Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. We conducted a ProQuest newspaper database search on September 4 for the period since August 25 (the day Hurricane Harvey hit Texas). Our search yielded just 26 stories in the UK national press on the South Asian flooding, while there were 695 articles on Harvey. Thus, coverage from the US dominated South Asia by a factor of almost 30 to 1, even though the scale of deaths and flooding was far greater in the latter. There was some good coverage of both, notably in the Guardian. But the general trend was glaring. Somehow, people in South Asia just don’t matter as much as Americans; or Westerners in general.

Similarly, Ben Parker, a senior editor at IRIN, a non-profit group specialising in humanitarian news, consulted databases of online news stories and noted that ‘US media last week [August 24-31] mentioned Hurricane Harvey at least 100 times more than India’. As for the rest of the world, the gap was smaller: non-US media gave 3-4 times as much attention to Harvey as to the monsoons.

‘Grossly Irresponsible To Leave Climate Out Of The Picture’

An excellent Facebook post by climate scientist Michael Mann, republished by the Guardian, began with a simple question that was routinely missing from ‘mainstream’ coverage, especially on BBC News:

What can we say about the role of climate change in the unprecedented disaster that is unfolding in Houston with Hurricane Harvey?

Mann noted that the rise in sea level and moisture in the atmosphere, both the result of global warming, had created a ‘combination of coastal flooding and heavy rainfall [that] is responsible for the devastating flooding that Houston is experiencing.’ Moreover, rising global temperatures had created a pool of deep warm water in the Gulf of Mexico that had helped to feed the power of Hurricane Harvey. Other potential factors of human-induced climate change involve changes in atmospheric pressure systems that stalled the progress of Harvey and kept it ‘locked in place’ over Houston to devastating effect.

Mann concluded:

While we cannot say climate change “caused” Hurricane Harvey (that is an ill-posed question), we can say that it exacerbated several characteristics of the storm in a way that greatly increased the risk of damage and loss of life. Climate change worsened the impact of Hurricane Harvey.

James Hansen, the former senior NASA climate scientist who first warned the public of the dangers of global warming back in 1988, told Democracy Now! that ‘there is a clear link between climate change and stronger hurricanes’. He warned:

You know, we have not yet felt the full impact of the gases that are already in the atmosphere, just because of the delays in the system. It takes decades for the ocean to warm up and for ice sheets to melt. So there’s consequences for young people that are already built into the system.

However, these consequences are routinely ignored. Closely monitoring British newspaper coverage of Harvey, Carbon Brief observed:

The UK print media has been relatively silent on the relation between climate change and Hurricane Harvey.

David Roberts noted in a piece for Vox that ‘it’s grossly irresponsible to leave climate out of the picture’. That, however, is overwhelmingly what the BBC did in its coverage. With our limited resources, there is simply no way for us to monitor the entirety of BBC News output across television, radio and the internet. But it is significant that when the flagship BBC News at Ten programme on BBC1 had extensive coverage of Harvey on three successive nights (August 28-30), there was not a single mention of global warming. This is simply appalling. Likewise, when BBC2’s Newsnight devoted fully 14 minutes on August 29, climate change was glaringly absent.

BBC television coverage seemed to be shaped almost entirely by a ratings-driven desire to provide dramatic footage: flooded residential neighbourhoods and highways, interviews with rescuers and those rescued, residents trying to go about their normal business, such as going to the supermarket, on kayaks. BBC North American correspondent James Cook was even filmed on a helicopter guiding a rescue boat towards two residents waiting to be picked up from the water.

BBC coverage was also devoted to Trump’s visit, how presidential it made him look, and how he had, so far, skillfully managed to avoid a ‘Hurricane Katrina’ moment of glib indifference that had fatally damaged the presidency of George W. Bush.

At one point on BBC News at Ten, for a few nanoseconds, it sounded like BBC North America editor Jon Sopel was going to mention the unmentionable when he uttered the words:

And the biggest question of them all…

Was he about to raise the issue of a possible connection with global warming? And, if so, what the world needed to do about it? No.

And the biggest question of them all: as Louisiana stands next in the path, has Tropical Storm Harvey done his worst, or is there more devastation to come?

Certainly, that was a significant question. But the biggest question of all was whether abrupt and dangerous climate change means there is far worse devastation to come for all of us? Again, to emphasise, night after night, BBC News simply avoided any mention of climate change.

To its credit, the BBC did publish an article on its website, ‘Hurricane Harvey: The link to climate change’; and it is possible they made reference to it somewhere in their television or radio coverage. But this hardly compensated for the seeming reluctance to utter the words ‘climate change’ in its extensive coverage over several days.

Killing Debate; Killing the Planet

It is not merely that this climate silence is an abhorrent dereliction of the BBC’s supposed responsibility to the public which pays for it. In not addressing climate change – indeed, not giving it the very prominent coverage it deserves – the BBC is obstructing the public debate that is vital to prevent climate catastrophe. In effect, the BBC is firmly on the side of the state and corporate forces that have been fighting a decades-long, heavily-funded campaign to prevent the radical measures needed to avoid climate chaos.

Given that the BBC isn’t even mentioning climate change in any meaningful sustained way, they are also avoiding any rational discussion of root causes and what needs to be done to tackle the terrifying threat of climate instability and societal breakdown. One day, historians may look back at archive footage of BBC News in 2017 and marvel at the inane, blind, ignorant reporting and commentary.

Could it be that BBC News editors took a decision not to ‘politicise’ Hurricane Harvey by discussing climate change? (The BBC did not respond when we challenged them about it on Twitter; see here and here). Naomi Klein hit that argument on the head with a cogent article in which she argued that:

Now is exactly the time to talk about climate change, and all the other systemic injustices — from racial profiling to economic austerity — that turn disasters like Harvey into human catastrophes.

Klein continued:

The records being broken year after year — whether for drought, storm surges, wildfires, or just heat — are happening because the planet is markedly warmer than it has been since record-keeping began. Covering events like Harvey while ignoring those facts, failing to provide a platform to climate scientists who can make them plain, all while never mentioning President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords, fails in the most basic duty of journalism: to provide important facts and relevant context. It leaves the public with the false impression that these are disasters without root causes, which also means that nothing could have been done to prevent them (and that nothing can be done now to prevent them from getting much worse in the future).

Klein called for an ‘informed public debate about the policy implications of the crisis’ we have all just witnessed. Crucially, that needs to address the urgent need to switch to renewable energy: an issue ‘with jarring implications for the dominant industry in the region being hit hardest: oil and gas.’

The Guardian‘s George Monbiot noted that ‘most reports on Hurricane Harvey have made no mention of the human contribution to it.’ Like Klein, Monbiot rejected the argument that it is wrong to ‘politicise’ Harvey right now:

I believe it is the silence that’s political. To report the storm as if it were an entirely natural phenomenon, like last week’s eclipse of the sun, is to take a position. By failing to make the obvious link and talk about climate breakdown, media organisations ensure our greatest challenge goes unanswered. They help push the world towards catastrophe.

As usual, however, Monbiot kept quiet about his own paper’s role in pushing a consumerist, high-energy, aspirational lifestyle in conformity with the planet-devouring capitalism that, the Guardian‘s editors tell readers, only needs to be made a little bit kinder; a classic liberal delusion.

Imagine if, day after day, BBC News and other major corporate media featured stories about children dying in a hospital with unexplained breathing difficulties. There would be interviews with anguished parents and teachers, with the doctors and nurses who were desperately treating the children, with political leaders keen to be seen responding in a decisive and compassionate manner. Imagine that the cause of the childrens’ breathing difficulties was simply ignored in media reports: a leak from a nearby chemical factory releasing toxic gases into the air, with the prevailing winds dumping the gases in the vicinity of a local school. Would we not be justifiably appalled that news coverage was covering up the facts? And that the media was letting the factory owners and politicians off the hook?

To put everything in perspective, Earth is entering its sixth mass extinction event in geological history, posing a ‘frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization’, according to a new study co-authored by Professor Gerardo Ceballos at the University of Mexico. All five previous mass extinction events were natural. This is the first one caused by human activity, not least a dangerous increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases that may well cause runaway heating. The authors warn that:

The window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most. […] All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on bio diversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life including human life.

The truth is, on a national and global scale, corporate media are effectively covering up the root causes of this mass extinction event: rampant capitalism that mostly benefits a tiny elite of bankers, financiers, big business and the politicians that shape state policy on their behalf. Corporate media are an intrinsic component of these same state-corporate interests: they are the PR wing of a vast world-encircling system that is burning the planet. And it’s all sold with a smile as ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, ‘open markets’, ‘aspiration’ and other ‘Western values’.

In his book, Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy, Canadian philosopher John McMurtry noted that ‘the regime’ of state-corporate power:

depends throughout on keeping knowledge silenced and repressed. This is its Achilles’ heel. As soon as people see through it and flag it to the surrounding community, the collective trance on which it depends begins to lose its power.1

A principal function of the corporate media is to keep uncomfortable truths about elite power, not least its role in driving humanity towards climate chaos and mass extinctions, ‘silenced and repressed’. We must resist this with every fibre of our being.

  1. Pluto Press, London, 2002, p. 84; italics in original.

Climate Change Demands an End to Excess and Greed

Man-made climate change, and the interconnected environmental catastrophe more broadly constitute the most urgent crisis facing humanity. It has come about as the result of a certain way of life, a materialistic approach to living in which greed and excessive consumption has been championed.

Voracious consumerism and values based on individual material success, competition and division lie at the very heart of the crisis, and if global warming, desertification, pollution, and the destruction of ecological systems are to be arrested, a fundamental change in attitudes and behaviour is needed. Without this, little of substance can be achieved – technological advances, whilst crucial in breaking the dependency on fossil fuels, are not on their own enough. It’s a way of life – principally a developed world way of life – that needs to drastically change, as the Cloudburst Foundation states: “Balancing the carbon cycle requires much more than technological solutions. It requires a paradigm shift in how we approach economic growth and development”: a shift away from excess, socio-economic injustice and environmental vandalism to sustainability, social-environmental responsibility and sharing.

A new Approach

Together with deforestation, burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) to meet humanity’s insatiable appetite for energy, most of which feeds industry, is the major source of the greenhouse gases that are generating climate change. Whilst nations’ production of these noxious elements vary, global emission’s overall are reducing, and despite some developing countries increasing their output, emission levels appear to have finally peaked; the task now before us is to drastically reduce them. Central to this work is the need to inculcate a new approach to how we live: to change the values that determine our actions and to alter the relationship we have with one another and the natural environment.

The most noxious greenhouse gases are Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous oxide (N2O).  Of these CO2 is the biggest culprit, making up almost 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. It enters the atmosphere, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains, “Through burning fossil fuels, solid waste, trees and wood products, and as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement),” and is extracted or ‘sequestered’ (from the atmosphere) when it’s absorbed by plants.

Of the total amount of CO2 cast into Earth’s atmosphere from fossil fuels in 2015, Carbon Brief relates that, “41% came from coal, 34% from oil, 19% from gas, 5.6% from cement production and 0.7% from flaring.” Almost half of all CO2 emissions remained in the atmosphere; a third was absorbed by plants and 26% by the oceans. The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil to meet the demand for electricity and heat is the sector responsible for the largest amount of global greenhouse gas emissions, making up 25%. This is followed, the EPA says by agriculture (crops and livestock) and deforestation. Coming in a close third is industry with 21% of all greenhouse gas emissions, then transportation at 14%.

China emits almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions and is the world’s biggest polluter, followed by America with around 15%, then the European Union (28 countries) with 11%. Europe has made substantial reductions in emissions and in 2015 they were down 22% compared with 1990. India, with a fifth of the World’s population and global business ambitions is pouring greenhouse gases out at an alarming rate; in 2015 emissions were up 5.2% on the previous year, to 6.3% of the global total.

If we are to halt climate change, and begin to heal the natural environment, we must stop burning fossil fuels and turn to alternative sources of energy (solar and wind e.g.) for the majority of our energy needs. This process is well underway in certain countries: According to the Climate Reality Project, Germany, which produces 21% of the EU’s greenhouse gases is meeting 78% of its electricity demand from renewable sources. In 2015, Sweden proposed a plan to eliminate all fossil fuel usage in the country and immediately increased investment in solar, wind, energy storage, transport and smart grids; Costa Rica met 99% of its electricity needs from renewables in 2015. Denmark drew 42% of its energy from wind turbines in the same year and aims to be fossil fuel free by 2050; Nicaragua supplied 54% of all electricity production from renewables in 2015 and is aiming for 90% by 2020. America, which has the second highest wind energy capacity in the world (after China) is generating only 13% of its electricity from renewables, but an optimistic study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that the US “could reduce emissions by nearly 80% in 15 years.”

While these and other examples offer hope, renewables currently only account for 2.4% of global energy consumption and 4.7% of electricity generation. If the Paris Agreement of limiting the increase in global temperatures to 2˚C, or 1.5˚C (above pre-industrial levels) has any hope of being achieved a massive increase in renewables is needed, coupled with a reduction in the overall energy demand. A study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) shows that for net emissions to peak by 2022, renewable sources of energy would need to increase by around 5% per year. In order to achieve this target a move away from lifestyles and economies built around consumerism and excess is essential. This necessitates a shift in attitudes from selfishness and greed, abundance and endless consumption, to sufficiency, sharing and environmental responsibility. It also demands a radically different economic system, one that is sustainable and just. As the Cloudburst Foundation puts it, “To truly reverse global warming we must overturn the current economic and development systems at play, and work to create alternatives that benefit not just some but all.”

At the heart of such alternatives must be sharing, cooperation and a profound sense of group responsibility. Such principles arise quite naturally from the realization that humanity is one, a fact that is strengthened when we express such qualities. We are brothers and sisters of one-humanity, and we have a duty of care for one another and the Earth itself.

Taking Responsibility

The current economic system is fed by endless consumerism, so too is climate change. It is our constant demand for stuff, much of which is made in the factories of the developing world — where workers are poorly treated, have no or few rights and are badly paid — that is perpetuating the industrial demand for energy, which is met by burning fossil fuels.

If we are to halt global warming, reverse the destructive effects of climate change and allow the planet to heal, our approach to how and what we consume needs to fundamentally change and the materialistic value system, which promotes competition, selfishness and greed, rejected. Simplicity, sufficiency and responsible consumption need to be inculcated and encouraged, in place of expediency, waste and ignorance.

Systemic change to alter the socio-economic conditions in which we all live is desperately needed, but more importantly a shift in thinking, a change in consciousness is imperative, and this is taking place within large numbers of people, particularly young people who in many areas lead the charge. Governments have a duty to listen and act, to introduce policies based on environmental considerations; to produce electricity from clean sources (not fossil fuels and certainly not nuclear) to provide efficient and cheap public transport systems run on renewable energy; to promote environmental awareness campaigns to educate and inform the public; to incentivize the use of renewable energy sources and to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. And individuals have a responsibility to elect politicians that prioritize environmental issues, to act in an environmentally positive manner, to consume responsibly and to reduce consumption. After the economic crash in 2008/9 there was a sharp drop in the production of greenhouse gases in Europe as a result of reduced industrial activity — people felt uncertain and were buying less stuff, which is what is required.

The impact on the environment should be the first factor for consideration when making any and all purchasing decisions, including food, services and utilities: Find an electricity/gas supplier that is fed from renewable sources, a bank that invests in environmentally sensitive companies and projects; be serious, be responsible. Research the choices available, look into the ethos of the company making the product, find out how the item is manufactured or grown and the environmental (and human) impact of production, how long will it last — the longer the better — what resources does it use and were employed in its manufacture and development, cultivation, etc., etc. Buy secondhand, reuse and recycle whenever possible, become a conscious consumer. Transportation is responsible for 14% of all greenhouse gases; this is made up of airline travel, rail and cars/vans/lorries, etc. If you’re buying a vehicle, go electric. If you have a diesel car or van — the most polluting type of vehicle — sell it immediately (preferably scrap it) and replace it with either a hybrid or an all-electric model; in fact, don’t buy a vehicle unless there is really no other option. If you’re travelling – holiday or work – go by train or bus, don’t fly unless it’s absolutely essential; use public transport, walk or cycle as much as possible.

The responsibility for halting climate change rests firmly with each and every one of us. Our individual actions can either inflame the crisis or strengthen the collective fight to heal the natural environment in which we live and usher in a new day in which humanity lives in harmony with the planet.