Category Archives: Water

The Indy 500 Polar Ice Cap Marathon

Eureka! The Vavilov Ice Cap set unheard of speed records a couple of years ago in a massive “surge” and left climate scientists… well, speechless!

The Vavilov Ice Cap, located in the Russian High Arctic has, for years, cruised along at a speed of about 2 inches per day. But, along the way it was the recipient of an anthropogenic turbo-charged-CO2 infusion (scientists didn’t say that), setting all-time world speed records of 82 feet per day in a massive “surge.”

Hand-wringing scientists were aghast, confused. After all, ice caps are supposed to move by “inches,” not by 82 feet per day! Especially considering the mean average annual temperature at Vavilov Station of −16.5°C. Which is b-b-brittle cold.

Additionally, ice caps are very stable. The term “ice cap” refers to a specific type of glacier, a stable slow-moving glacier. That’s how it’s always been, until Vavilov hit the scene!

Vavilov Ice Cap is on October Revolution Island in the Arctic between the Kara Sea and Laptev Sea. It is a polar desert where frigid temps and dry weather should keep ice firmly tethered to bedrock. But, not Vavilov; it’s like a wild horse. As September 26, 2018, it is slipping/sliding at 15-35 feet per day, much faster than its long-term average of 2 inches. The Vavilov is 1,000 to 2,000 feet or 1/3rd of a mile thick, covering over 700 square miles.

Not only did Vavilov set all-time speed records but the scientists, after explaining they’ve never seen acceleration like Vavilov, raised a warning flag about the possibility that “other currently stable ice caps” may be more vulnerable than expected. Oh, really!1

They go on to say the rapid collapse of Vavilov has significant ramifications for glaciers in other polar regions, especially “those fringing Antarctica and Greenland,” where Sea Rise Monsters hang out.

Once again, similar to the same old story of scientists surprised by how fast things are happening, Vavilov caught them off guard: “Climate models don’t take this kind of surge into account.”2

Still, it’s important to realize that scientists have very limited historical data on glaciers in the world’s remotest locations, and without further study, the authors of the Vavilov report are reluctant to boldly claim that “climate change was/is the villain.” It’ll require considerable more study before drawing conclusions.

Yet, common sense would seem to indicate that some kind of warming is behind such an unusual shift in the speed. What else could it be? In time, more answers will become available. As for now, scientists are scratching their heads in disbelief.

Significantly, Vavilov breaks open a new dimension that should haunt the world’s major players. Previously, it was believed that large bodies of ice could only respond slowly to changing climate conditions. That’s dead wrong!

But then again, the entire Arctic is experiencing anomalous sea ice breakup of monstrous proportions. For example:

The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer… a phenomenon scientists described as scary.3

Here are the gritty details: The Arctic sea north of Greenland has always, always, always been frozen rock solid, until now. Over the years, scientists labeled it “the last ice area,” a moniker that has now been crushed by global warming.

“Scary,’ wrote Thomas Lavergne, a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, in a retweet of a satellite-gif of the blue water penetrating white ice and exposing hundreds of miles of the Greenland coastline. “In February, the Kap Morris Jesup weather station in the region is usually below -20C, but earlier this year there were 10 days above freezing and warm winds, which unlocked the ice from the coast.”2

Whoa! Something is horribly amiss: It’s “usually below -20C” but instead it was above freezing for 10 consecutive days in February, in the middle of winter at the North Pole, and just to top off how ridiculous the year has been, an enormous ice cap elsewhere in the Arctic is moving at 15-25 feet per day after surging 82 feet per day!

The world is upside down and awry! You’ve gotta wonder: What climatic event(s) could possibly rival the implicit dire forecast of an ice cap speeding towards collapse?

Postscript:

Our globe is under new dramatic environmental pressure: our globe is warming, our ice caps melting, our glaciers receding, our coral is dying, our soils are eroding, our water tables falling, our fisheries are being depleted, our remaining rainforests shrinking. Something is very, very wrong with our eco-system.

— Richard Lamm, American politician, writer, attorney

  1. “Unprecedented Ice Loss in Russian Ice Cap”, University of Colorado at Boulder, EurekAlert! September 19, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Jonathan Watts. “Arctic’s Strongest Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record”, The Guardian, August 21, 2018.

Trump Trade Revealed: Another Rigged Corporate Deal

Since the Clinton era, when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was created, global trade has been written by and for big corporations at the expense of people’s health, worker’s rights and the environment. Trump Trade – through the renegotiation of NAFTA – continues that approach.

In some areas, people might argue the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) makes improvements over NAFTA, although many details are still being withheld. From what we do know, overall, it is a step backward for people and planet. And it undermines the US’ relationship with Canada and Mexico, as Geoffrey Getz of the neo-liberal Brooking’s Institution writes, “Trump’s aggressive, threatening approach succeeded in eliciting modest concessions from two of its closest trading partners.”

Trump is claiming a political victory merely by reaching an agreement, but it is not a victory for people or planet, as will be described below. Trump Trade should be rejected. If we are to achieve a new model of trade that protects the environment, workers and democracy, we need to demonstrate that rigged corporate trade will be rejected every time it is brought forward. The time to organize to stop this agreement is now.

Energy and the Environment

Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) because a mass social movement made it unacceptable and it could not pass in Congress. Some of the provisions in the TPP are included in the USMCA.

Like the TPP, the USMCA contains polluter-friendly non-binding terms on the environment; e.g., the text “recognizes that air pollution is a serious threat to public health,” but includes no single binding rule to reduce air pollution.

The Sierra Club reports the USMCA takes a significant step backward from environmental protections included in the last four trade deals by failing to reinforce a standard set of seven Multilateral Environmental Agreements that protect everything from wetlands to sea turtles. The absence of environmental enforcement continues the failed corporate trade of the Clinton-Obama eras.

Trade agreements could be designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but climate change is not even mentioned in the USMCA. Greenhouse gas emissions will increase. The Sierra Club reports the deal’s lack of binding environmental standards allows corporations to evade US environmental laws by shifting jobs and toxic pollution to Mexico where environmental policies are weaker. It reinforces the US’ status as the world’s largest outsourcer of climate pollution.

Some keys to preventing greenhouse gas emissions are ‘Buy American’ and ‘Buy Local’ laws that provide incentives for locally-produced goods. The USMCA negates those laws, requiring that industries based in Canada and Mexico be given equal access to US government contracts.

The USMCA exempts oil and gas corporations that have, or may have, government contracts for offshore drilling, fracking, oil and gas pipelines, refineries, or other polluting activities from reforms to Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. These intensely polluting corporations would be allowed to challenge environmental protections in rigged corporate trade tribunals.

Trump Trade preserves a NAFTA rule that prevents the US government from determining whether gas exports to Mexico are in the public interest. This creates an automatic gas export guarantee, which will increase fracking, expand cross-border gas pipelines, and increase dependency on Mexican climate-polluting gas.

The USMCA gives corporations extra opportunities to challenge proposed regulations before they are final, and to repeal existing regulations. This makes it harder to put in place environmental regulations or rollback the pro-polluting regulations of the Trump era.

Food and Water Watch summarizes:

The energy provisions will encourage more pipelines and exports of natural gas and oil that would further expand fracking in the United States and Mexico. The text also provides new avenues for polluters to challenge and try and roll back proposed environmental safeguards, cementing Trump’s pro-polluter agenda in the trade deal.

Food and Health

The USMCA undermines food safety and health by making it more difficult to regulate and inspect foods. It limits inspections and allows food that fails to meet US safety standards to be imported. Food and Water Watch states that it requires the US to “accept imports from Mexico with less scrutiny than from other countries. The deal even creates new ways for Canada and Mexico to second-guess US border inspectors that halt suspicious food shipments, which would have a dangerously chilling effect on food safety enforcement.”

USMCA does not require Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL), nor dolphin-safe labeling and makes GMO labeling more difficult. It uses the requirement that food labels reflect ‘sound science’ to prevent accurate labeling.

USMCA serves Monsanto and other giant agro-chemical corporations by allowing unregulated GMOs, rolling back Mexico’s regulation of GMOs, and letting chemical giants like Monsanto and Dow keep data on the safety of their pesticides secret for 10 years. USMCA is designed for agribusiness, not family farmers and consumers.

Like the TPP, the USMCA increases the cost of pharmaceutical drugs through intellectual property protections that go “significantly beyond” NAFTA. USMCA gives pharmaceutical companies at minimum 10 years of market exclusivity for biologic drugs and protects US-based drug companies from generic competition, driving up the price of medicine at home and abroad.

Worker Rights and Jobs

The Labor Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Trade Negotiations (LAC) explained they do not oppose trade, but, “We oppose a set of rules made largely by and for global corporations that reward greed and irresponsibility at the expense of hardworking families across the globe.” They describe the USMCA as moving backwards from the original NAFTA in many areas important to working families:

including with respect to ‘Good Regulatory Practices’ (code for using this trade agreement to attack important consumer, health, safety, and environmental protections), Financial Services (providing new tools for Wall Street to attack efforts to rein in its continuing abuses), and affordable medicines (extending monopolies for brand name pharmaceuticals at the expense of affordability).

Similar to the environment sections, the labor sections do not provide enforcement mechanisms. Citizen’s Trade Campaign writes:

“There is a ground breaking labor annex that could help eliminate Mexican protection contracts and boost labor rights there — but only if currently absent enforcement mechanisms are added.”

As the Labor Advisory Committee states, “Unenforced rules are not worth the paper they are written on.”

Summarizing the impact of USMCA, Citizen’s Trade Campaign states:

Mexican workers will continue to be horribly exploited, American jobs will continue to be outsourced, the environment will continue to be degraded and the wages for workers in all three NAFTA countries will continue to decline.”

Corporate Trade Tribunals

A major area of concern has been ISDS, trade tribunals where corporations can sue governments if new laws or regulations undermine their profits. ISDS empowers corporations to attack environmental and health laws in trade tribunals made up of three corporate lawyers and receive monetary judgments worth billions from tax dollars. The USMCA reduces but does not eliminate the unjustifiable and indefensible ISDS settlement mechanism, which privileges foreign investors over communities regarding access to justice.

After three years, ISDS would be eliminated with Canada and dramatically scaled back with Mexico with some unacceptable exceptions. After that, US and Canadian investors would use domestic courts or administrative bodies to settle investment disputes with another government. Are there workarounds to this ISDS reform that protect investors; e.g., will domestic courts seize assets within their country to repay investors, as a US court did for a Canadian mining company this year?

Regarding Mexico, the new process is designed to protect oil and gas industry investors from the privatization of Mexico’s oil and gas sector. Global Trade Watch writes, “several additional sectors were added, including railways and infrastructure. . . followed by an open-ended list, which could provide problematic flexibility for investors to argue that their investments qualify.” In other words, what looks like ISDS reform contains a giant loophole for corporations to continue to sue governments.

Under NAFTA, corporations can receive exorbitant awards for “expected lost profits.” Under USMCA, investors can only be compensated for losses that they can prove on the “basis of satisfactory evidence and that is not inherently speculative.” How this is interpreted is up to the courts.

USMCA Continues US Imperialism and Corporatism

Popular movements in Mexico urge the incoming government to reject USMCA in an Open Letter To Andrés Manuel López Obrador And The Legislators Of MORENA. They decry the secret nature of the negotiation and the agreement as an attack on Mexico’s sovereignty. They argue the agreement will “further open up our economy for the sole benefit of the large U.S. transnational corporations, with an even greater subordination of our government to the dictates of U.S. foreign policy and its measures of internal security and migration.”

The letter describes the election of MORENA and Obrador as the people voting “to expel the oligarchy that has governed us, along with their paid servants.” The incoming government was given a clear mandate that includes rejecting corporate trade agreements. To create the transformation promised in the election requires Mexico to have full control of its resources and wealth to ensure the well-being of the population, with full rights and liberties. They see rejection of USMCA as a “first step toward reclaiming our nation.”

They urge incoming President Obrador to see this as part of the “mafia of power” that he ran against. They describe how Trump pressured the weakest negotiator, Mexico, with the right wing Peña Nieto administration, and used that to threaten Canada with exclusion and 25% tariffs if they did not agree.

Roger Jordan writes, the new agreement is an act of corporate imperialism by the United States:

Under the new deal, both Mexico, a country historically oppressed by US imperialism, and Canada, a lesser imperialist power that has long been a key US ally, made significant concessions in the face of US demands that the continental pact be refashioned to make it an even more explicit US-led protectionist trade bloc.

As the US struggles to retain power as a global empire, UMCA shows that “through ‘America First’ economic nationalism and the ruthless assertion of its interests against ostensible allies and rivals alike,” it will do what it must “to prevail in the struggle for markets and profits.”

Just as the TPP was President Obama’s attempt at economic domination of Asia, USMCA is part of President Trump’s economic war against China, which has already included “tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods.” Jordan explains how USMCA sent a message to China, writing:

It grants the US effective veto power over any attempt by Canada or Mexico to negotiate a free trade pact with a ‘non-market economy,’ a clear reference to China. This includes the right to transform USMCA into a bilateral agreement, excluding the third member if it has ratified such a free trade deal.

Stop Corporate Trade

There is still time to stop USMCA. Leaders are expected to sign the deal on December 1 at the G-20 meeting. Then President Trump has 60 days to report to Congress on changes to US law that are required by the agreement. Within 105 days of the agreement being signed, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) must complete a study of the agreement’s economic impact. Congress will have to pass legislation to implement USMCA.  After Congress receives the final bill from the president, it has 90 days of being in session to act on it under Fast Track rules. It is unlikely that all this can be accomplished before the 2019 legislative session.

Now that we know more about the contents of the new NAFTA, we need to mobilize to stop its ratification and implementation by Congress. If we are to win a new model of trade that raises the bar on protection of workers, the environment and democracy, we must show, as we did with the TPP, that rigged corporate trade will be stopped by a popular movement.

Charting a Jagged Course through the Apocalypse

If something cannot go on forever, it will stop

— Economist Herbert Stein

Those who live in the reaches of the Arctic Circle tend to convey the same humbling lesson: Mother Nature calls the shots and survival depends upon preparing for her mood swings. It’s an adage that will take on increasing relevance as history unfolds because disaster has been baked into our future. Decades ago a whole series of events was set into motion and it may be too late to break their momentum. Civilization will be tested as large swathes of the globe become uninhabitable. While it might be tempting to seek refuge in the form of denial or nihilism, doing so won’t prevent what’s coming down the pike.

It’s Much Worse than You Think   

The indicators are hard to miss. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached levels not seen for nearly a million years. Roughly half of India’s population (which tips the scales at over a billion) currently faces extreme water scarcity and within two decades India’s demand for water will likely rise to twice the available supply. Moreover, by the end of the century scientists assess that population centers across the Middle East will confront “temperature levels that are intolerable to humans.” Which is a polite way of describing a death trap. One that will probably snap shut even if emissions are somehow kept within internationally agreed upon levels.

At some point our system’s requirement for infinite economic growth will hit the limits of a finite planet. As the ensuing collision transpires there will be widespread famine, mass migration, and disease. Thus setting the stage for military conflict on a global scale. People rarely go gently into the night when their backs are thrust against a wall. For instance, it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising if Pakistan and India end up in a nuclear war over water rights to the Indus river system.

This kind of regional clash can spread like a contagion, dragging larger actors into the fray. Daniel Ellsberg, who briefed the Kennedy administration on President Eisenhower’s nuclear war plans, believes that it’s a miracle there hasn’t already been a nuclear war. Given the veritable litany of close calls, he asks “Could we survive another 70 or 100 years without nuclear winter?” To which Ellsberg responds “It’s unlikely.” Other high-ranking Pentagon insiders share Ellsberg’s assessment. Former Defense Secretary William Perry claims that “The likelihood today of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than during the Cold War.”

According to one official who studied the topic at length, economically crippling the United States would only take something in the ballpark of a half dozen sub-megaton nuclear devices detonated in strategically vital cities. The core subset of such targets includes financial hubs (e.g. New York, Chicago, and San Francisco), ports (e.g. Los Angeles, Savannah) and cities with internal waterway access (e.g. Toronto). A strike of this nature is well within the reach of current nuclear powers.

Hope as a Form of Procrastination

Most Americans shrug and quietly hope that experts like Ellsberg and Perry are wrong. But hope can sometimes make things worse. By postponing a much needed reality check. What if it’s too late? What if, as Ellsberg warns, we’ve dramatically underestimated the likelihood of nuclear war? What if civilization is about to perform an epic face-plant, leaving only feudal vestiges of the economy and infrastructure?

Enter John Mosby, the nom de plume of a Special Forces alumnus who has cultivated a keen interest in the decline of empires. Mosby’s insights about survival are drawn from a combination of academic research, piles of military documents, and his own first-hand participation in what he mordantly labels as “nation-building” operations. Mosby is an army veteran who has seen with his own eyes what happens in a country when the state ceases to function.

We’re All Rick Grimes Now 

The future that Mosby envisions isn’t for the faint of heart. In the aftermath of a collapse he expects that the United States would give way to “historically typical failed-state neo-tribalism.” Afghanistan is a textbook example. A destination that the Department of Justice refers to as “largely lawless, weak, and dysfunctional.” In other words, hungry country where groups of farmers struggle to eke out a living amidst mafia-style networks and despotic warlords.

In a setting like this it’s only natural that communities would band together for their common defense. Evolution has programmed us to do so. This, according to Mosby, will be vital for survival. As a lone individual you’ll succumb to the environment. Presumably starve to death or perhaps get run over by a pack of marauders. Only as a member of a larger community do you stand a chance. When the going gets tough, the tough posse up.

This emphasis on social collaboration is noteworthy because it contrasts sharply against the stereotype of the lone survivalist. Crouched down in a basement with their freeze-dried food and ammunition. In fact, Mosby predicts that the billionaire crowd is unlikely to survive over the long run despite their high-end designer bunkers. Mosby concedes that “to some degree, the patrician classes CAN buy their way out of some trouble.” However, once society has been steamrolled by calamity, Mosby asserts that “the masses of people will start looking for leadership, towards people who can offer them security in the form of food and protection.”

The oligarchs, with their self-justifying philosophy of radical individualism, are unlikely to acquire this degree of trust. Because it’s not something you can buy. Mosby says that “It is about being the person who puts the tribe before himself.” He concludes “the super-rich probably don’t have that ability.” The financial strip mining of the middle class that followed the events of 2008 stands in testimony.

The bad news is that tribalism is hardly a utopia. Mosby observes that it will be characterized by “continuous endemic violence” and that — given the state of modern armaments — it will result in “catastrophic losses to all parties involved.” Again, Afghanistan comes to mind. Where the typical life expectancy is approximately 50 years. A place so hazardous that it has garnered a reputation as the graveyard of empires.

Or consider Great Britain after the Romans finally lost their grip in 410 A.D. With the Romans gone the island quickly passed into a dark age where it was relentlessly invaded by northern tribes. Wave after wave of conquering Angles, Saxons, and Vikings. Life was uncertain. Death was everywhere. Something as basic as red meat was a luxury that few could afford. The aftermath of a nuclear exchange will almost certainly result in comparable instability and deprivation. Suffice it to say, in the wake of such a catastrophe there will be a sizable contingent of survivors who’ll wish that they’d simply perished at ground zero.

Out of the Ashes

In spite of the gloomy desolation of the post-apocalypse, there’s still a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. History will not end. Yes, it’s true, civilizations fall. But after a rocky transition period new ones emerge from their remains. And as centuries pass fiefdoms unite and fledgling nations are born. While the Romans left England to fend for itself, the turmoil of Britain’s lost years gradually gave way to the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. The rule of monarchs, which persisted for millennia, was supplanted by rule of law.

In due time established ideologies like socialism and capitalism will be abandoned for doctrines that produce better results. Technology will continue to progress and yield ever more fearsome weapons. Confronted with near term extinction the human species will be obliged to learn from its mistakes and evolve beyond destructive tendencies. Otherwise Mother Nature will relegate the human race to Darwin’s wastebasket and dutifully move on with new experiments.

Homespun Terrorism

For years now NSA and the Pentagon have feared foreign terrorists poisoning aquifers and municipal water supplies.

Come to find out, forget those foreign terrorists!  The poisoning is already happening, internally, homespun! ISIS and al Qaeda are not needed. We’re poisoning our own people without the assistance of professional terrorists.

It’s homespun terrorism, right here in the good ole US-of-A, and the Trump administration is turbo-charging that terrorism by hacking apart the EPA.

Want proof: Ask any long-standing EPA employee about it: They’re aghast!

Trump’s motto: “Make EPA Ineffective Again.”

The Trump administration, after heavy lobbying by the chemical industry, is scaling back the way the federal government determines health and safety risks associated with the most dangerous chemicals on the market.1

Here’s what citizens need to know about Trump’s EPA Wrecking Crew: The new mandate at EPA is to focus on “possible harm caused by direct contact with a chemical in the workplace or elsewhere,” meaning that once disposal of chemicals takes place there is no longer a cause for restricting or banning the toxic chemical.

According to the New York Times’ article:

The E.P.A. has in most cases decided to exclude from its calculations any potential exposure caused by the substances’ presence in the air, the ground or water.

Or, here’s another way to look at it: If toxic chemicals happen to show up in your drinking water, well, too bad!

In that regard, it just so happens that a North Carolina resident named Emily Donovan recently appeared before a congressional subcommittee EPA hearing and asked this revealing question: “Who in authority can tell me if the 16 mystery PFASs I found in the tap water at my children’s public school are safe to drink?”2

The answer to Ms Donovan’s question: Nobody knows for sure if the water at her child’s school is safe to drink, but it does contain 16 different alliterations of base chemicals PFAS.

Wow! “Sixteen mystery PFAS chemical compounds,” and nobody knows if that drinking water is safe for children… It’s not!

Emily Donovan lives near Cape Fear, NC where discharges from chemical plants are responsible for high levels of PFAS or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluorralkyl chemical substances. Recent government testing shows PFAS to be dangerous to health “at much lower doses than previously thought,” as well as linked to cancer. But not to worry, Trump (cough, cough) is in charge now.

In point of fact, PFAS is one of the biggest emerging health threats to public water systems throughout America. Whew, not to worry, Trump is in charge now! And because of its pervasiveness, it’s now a bipartisan issue in Congress. That’s an unbelievable accomplishment!

For example, in a Congressional subcommittee meeting about the EPA’s handling of toxic chemicals, the following was said by a representative: “What is the timeline?’ asked Republican Rep. Tom Upton of Michigan, who spoke of one community in his state ordered not to drink its contaminated water for nearly a month this summer.”3

Imagine no faucet water for a month… think about it! Who’d want to drink it thereafter, forever thereafter?

Republican Congressman Upton also released a report showing groundwater at the military base in Battle Creek, Michigan with PFAS levels “up to 757 xs higher” than EPA safety standards. That’s enormous: Multiply 757 times a salary of $25,000; it equals $19 million in salary; 757xs anything is big, especially when it comes to toxic chemicals! That’s a disaster-plus-plus scenario!

Not only that, peer-reviewed studies of tens of thousands (10s of 1,000s) of people in the Ohio River Valley exposed to PFAS found “probable links to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, hypertension and high cholesterol.”3

But not to worry, Trump’s (ahem!) in charge now.

According to Peter Grevatt, head of the EPA’s water division, the EPA is considering formal declaration that the specific PFAS, although no longer manufactured, be classified as hazardous substances. Really?

That’s the good news!

Here’s the bad news: Mr. Grevatt claims the aforementioned PFAS compounds are not… “the no. 1 challenge we face.”

A much bigger problem exists: Tens of thousands (10s of 1,000s) of versions of PFAS exist actively today, widespread throughout the country. In other words, the toxic chemical juggernaut is totally out of control, dispersed throughout the USA, similar to turning armies of ISIS lose on American communities, but in this case Made in America.

Not only, but according to the Environmental Working Group, the EPA itself, on an internal basis, piles danger upon danger: “The Scariest Trump Appointee You’ve Never Heard Of” is Nancy Beck straight out of the American Chemistry Council ($9 million lobbying, mostly to Republicans) to serve as Deputy Assistant Administrator of the EPA to: “Protect you, your family, and the environment from potential risks from pesticides and toxic chemicals.”4  You’ve gotta be kidding!

Ms Toxicity Nancy’s career includes: (1) crafting political agendas for the chemical industry for years; (2) reprimanded by a congressional committee for “very disturbing attempts to undermine EPA science”; (3) serving as a vocal critic of EPA safety findings in the face of “her own fundamentally flawed approach to chemical safety issues.”3

During the G.W. Bush administration, she was criticized by the National Academy of Sciences for her “fundamentally flawed approach to chemical science.”  Now, she’s in charge!

“Beck has been described as a “powerful critic” of EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS program, which researches chemical toxicity. IRIS assessments have traditionally played a big role in informing the rules that EPA and state governments adopt to protect people from toxic chemicals.”3

Well, well, well… now that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have finally started to wise-up as to the depth and breadth of America’s toxic chemical problems, poisoning its own citizens, the Trump administration installs the archenemy of the “strongest and best EPA rulings.”

Good gracious! People should assemble in the streets and demand a recall! After all, it is known that EPA career-employees have expressed “concern,” actually “deep concern” about changes in implementation rules since Beck arrived.5

Not only is Toxic Nancy in charge but also timeliness now becomes a critical issue as school officials wonder about toxic water at fountains in school hallways. The new school year just started.

“How do we create that sense of urgency?” Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, asked Peter Grevatt, head of the EPA’s office of drinking water. ‘PFAS in Michigan is scaring people more than the Flint water crisis.”3

Maybe Trump should hold one of his infamous political rallies in Flint. He could have those life-sized poster boards of supporters in the background standing behind him (many of the supporters standing behind him are cutout poster boards of people) hold up signs saying, “Trump for Clean Water.”

Wonder if Michael Moore could be convinced to stand amongst the cutout poster boards of people in the background behind Trump? That would be special and, of course, very convincing of Trump’s sincerity.

A smiling Michael Moore (maybe a poster board cutout of him, maybe not) standing behind Trump, holding up a sign: “Trump for Clean Water.”

Postscript:

Unacceptable levels is powerful. It tells the story of toxic chemicals in just about every aspect of our lives, and the egregious lack of regulation. Our ability to protect our families is at stake.

— Joan Blades, Progressive Political Activist

  1. Eric Lipton, “The Chemical Industry Scores a Big Win at the E.P.A.”, The New York Times, June 7, 2018.
  2. “Congress Wants EPA to More Quickly Regulate Unsafe Chemicals”, AP News, September 6, 2018.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Melaine Benesh, Legislative Attorney, Environmental Working Group, May 2, 2017.
  5. Politico.

Human Extinction by 2026?

There is almost unanimous agreement among climate scientists and organizations – that is, 97% of over 10,000 climate scientists and the various scientific organizations engaged in climate science research – that human beings have caused a dramatic increase in the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide released into Earth’s atmosphere since the pre-industrial era and that this is driving the climate catastrophe that continues to unfold.

However, there is no consensus regarding the time frame in which this climate catastrophe will cause human extinction. This lack of consensus is primarily due to the global elite controlling the public perception of this time frame with frequent talk of ‘the end of the century’ designed to allow ongoing profit maximization through ‘business as usual’ for as long as possible. Why has this happened?

When evidence of the climate catastrophe (including the pivotal role of burning fossil fuels) became incontrovertible, which meant that the fossil fuel industry’s long-standing efforts to prevent action on the climate catastrophe had finally ended, the industry shifted its focus to arguing that the time frame, which it presented as ‘end of the century’, meant that we could defer action (and thus profit-maximization through business as usual could continue indefinitely). Consequently, like the tobacco, sugar and junk food industries, the fossil fuel industry has employed a range of tactics to deflect attention from their primary responsibility for a problem and to delay action on it.

These well-worn tactics include suggesting that the research is incomplete and more research needs to be done, funding ‘research’ to come up with ‘evidence’ to counter the climate science, employing scholars to present this ‘research’, discrediting honest climate scientists, infiltrating regulatory bodies to water down (or reverse) decisions and recommendations that would adversely impact profits, setting up ‘concerned’ groups to act as ‘fronts’ for the industry, making generous political donations to individuals and political parties as well as employing lobbyists.

As a result of its enormous power too, the global elite has been able to control much of the funding available for climate science research and a great deal of the information about it that is made widely available to the public, particularly through its corporate media. For this reason, the elite wields enormous power to shape the dialogue in relation to both the climate science and the time frame.

Therefore, and despite the overwhelming consensus noted above, many climate scientists are reluctant to be fully truthful about the state of the world’s climate or they are just conservative in their assessments of the climate catastrophe. For example, eminent climate scientist Professor James Hansen referred to ‘scientific reticence’ in his article ‘Scientific reticence and sea level rise‘, scientists might be conservative in their research – for example, dependence upon historical records leads to missing about one-fifth of global warming since the 1860s as explained in ‘Reconciled climate response estimates from climate models and the energy budget of Earth‘ – and, in some cases, governments muzzle scientists outright. But many of the forces working against full exposure of the truth are explained in Professor Guy McPherson’s article ‘Climate-Change Summary and Update‘.

However, in contrast to the elite-managed mainstream narrative regarding the climate time frame, there is a group of courageous and prominent climate scientists who offer compelling climate science evidence that human beings, along with millions of other species, will be extinct by 2026 (and perhaps as early as 2021) in response to a projected 10 degree celsius increase in global temperatures above the pre-industrial level by that date.

Before outlining the essence of this article, it is worth noting that the website on which it is posted is Arctic News and the editors of this site post vital articles on the world’s climate by highly prominent climate scientists, such as Professor Peter Wadhams (Emeritus Professor of Polar Ocean Physics at Cambridge University and author of A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic), Dr Andrew Glikson (an Earth and paleoclimate scientist who is a visiting fellow at the Australian National University), Professor Guy McPherson who has written extensively and lectures all over the world on the subject, and ‘Sam Carana’, the pseudonym used by a group of climate scientists concerned to avoid too many adverse impacts on their research, careers and funding by declaring themselves publicly but nevertheless committed to making the truth available for those who seek it.

So, in a few brief points, let me summarize the evidence and argument outlined in the article ‘Will humans be extinct by 2026?’

The Climate Science of Destruction of the Biosphere

In the Arctic, there is a vast amount of carbon stored in soils that are now still largely frozen; this frozen soil is called permafrost. But as Arctic temperatures continue to rise and the permafrost thaws, in response to the warming that has occurred already (and is ongoing) by burning fossil fuels and farming animals for human consumption, much of this carbon will be converted into carbon dioxide or methane and released into the atmosphere. There is also a vast amount of methane – in the form of methane hydrates and free gas – stored in sediments under the Arctic Ocean seafloor. As temperatures rise, these sediments are being destabilized and will soon result in massive eruptions of methane from the ocean floor. ‘Due to the abrupt character of such releases and the fact that many seas in the Arctic Ocean are shallow, much of the methane will then enter the atmosphere without getting broken down in the water.’

Adversely impacting this circumstance is that the sea ice continues to retreat as the polar ice cap melts in response to the ongoing temperature increases. Because sea ice reflects sunlight back into Space, as the ice retreats more sunlight hits the (dark-colored) ocean (which absorbs the sunlight) and warms the ocean even more. This causes even more ice melt in what becomes an ongoing self-reinforcing feedback loop that ultimately impacts worldwide, such as triggering huge firestorms in forests and peatlands in North America and Russia.

More importantly, however, without sea ice, storms develop more easily and because they mix warm surface waters with the colder water at the bottom of shallow seas, reaching cracks in sediments filled with ice which acts as a glue holding the sediment together, the ice melt destabilizes the sediments, which are vulnerable to even small differences in temperature and pressure that are triggered by earthquakes, undersea landslides or changes in ocean currents.

As a result, huge amounts of methane can erupt from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean and once this occurs, it will further raise temperatures, especially over the Arctic, thus acting as another self-reinforcing feedback loop that again makes the situation even worse in the Arctic, with higher temperatures causing even further methane releases, contributing to the vicious cycle that precipitates ‘runaway global warming’.

‘These developments can take place at such a speed that adaptation will be futile. More extreme weather events can hit the same area with a succession of droughts, cold snaps, floods, heat waves and wildfires that follow each other up rapidly. Within just one decade [from 2016], the combined impact of extreme weather, falls in soil quality and air quality, habitat loss and shortages of food, water, shelter and just about all the basic things needed to sustain life can threaten most, if not all, life on Earth with extinction.’

The article goes on to outline how the 10 degree increase (above the pre-industrial level) by 2026 is likely to occur. It will involve further carbon dioxide and methane releases from human activity (particularly driving cars and other vehicles, flying in aircraft and eating animal products, as well as military violence), ongoing reduction of snow and ice cover around the world (thus reflecting less sunlight back into Space), an increase in the amount of water vapor (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere, a falling away of ‘aerosol masking’ (which has helped reduce the impact of emissions so far) as emissions decline, as well as methane eruptions from the ocean floor. If you would like to read more about this and see the graphs and substantial documentation, you can do so in the article cited above: ‘Will humans be extinct by 2026?’

The Ecology of Destruction of the Biosphere

Not that these scientists, who focus on the climate, discuss it but there are other human activities adversely impacting Earth’s biosphere which also threaten near-term extinction for humans, particularly given their synergistic impacts.

For example, recent research has drawn attention to the fact that the ‘alarming loss of insects will likely take down humanity before global warming hits maximum velocity…. The worldwide loss of insects is simply staggering with some reports of 75% up to 90%, happening much faster than the paleoclimate record rate of the past five major extinction events’. Without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses.

Moreover, apart from ongoing destruction of other vital components of Earth’s life support system such as the rainforests – currently being destroyed at the rate of 80,000 acres each day – and oceans which is generating an extinction rate of 200 species (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects and reptiles) each day with another 26,000 species already identified as ‘under threat’ some prominent scholars have explained how even these figures mask a vital component of the rapidly accelerating catastrophe of species extinctions: the demise of local populations of a species.

In addition, relying on our ignorance and our complicity, elites kill vast areas of Earth’s biosphere through war and other military violence, subject it to uncontrolled releases of radioactive contamination and use geo-engineering to wage war on Earth’s climate, environment and ultimately ourselves.

Separately from all of this, we live under the unending threat of nuclear war.

This is because insane political and corporate elites are still authorizing and manufacturing more of these highly profitable weapons rather than dismantling them all (as well as conventional weapons) and redirecting the vast resources devoted to ongoing military killing (US$1.7 trillion annually) to environmental restoration and programs of social uplift.

By the way, if you think the risk of nuclear war can be ignored, you might find this recent observation sobering. In a review of (former US nuclear war planner) Daniel Ellsberg’s recent book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Earth and paleoclimate scientist Dr Andrew Glikson summarized the book as follows:

This, then, is the doomsday machine. Not simply the existence of fission weapons or unspeakably destructive hydrogen bombs, but the whole network rigged together: thousands of them on hair-trigger alert, command and control equipment built in the 1970s and ’80s, millions of lines of antique code sitting on reels of magnetic tape or shuffled around on floppy discs even now. An architecture tended by fallible and deeply institutionalized human beings.

So, irrespective of whether elites or their agents or even we acknowledge it, Earth’s biosphere is under siege on many fronts and, very soon now, Earth will not support life. Any honest news source routinely reports one or another aspect of the way in which humans are destroying the Earth and perhaps suggests courses of action to respond powerfully to it. This, of course, does not include the insane global elite’s corporate media, which functions to distract us from any semblance of the truth.

How did all this happen?

How did human beings end up in a situation that human extinction is likely to occur within eight years (even assuming we can avert nuclear war)? And is there any prospect of doing enough about it now to avert this extinction?

To answer the first question briefly: We arrived at this juncture in our history because of a long sequence of decisions, essentially made by elites to expand their profit, power and privilege, and which they then imposed on us and which we did not resist powerfully enough.

In any case, the key questions now are simply these: Is it too late to avert our own extinction? And, if not, what must we do?

Well, I am not going to dwell on it but some scientists believe it is too late: we have already passed the point of no return. Professor Guy McPherson is one of these scientists, with a comprehensive explanation and a great deal of evidence to support it in his long and heavily documented article ‘Climate-Change Summary and Update‘.

So, the fundamental question is this: If we assume (highly problematically I acknowledge) that it is possible to avert our own extinction by 2026, what must we do?

Because we need to address, in a strategic manner, the interrelated underlying causes that are driving the rush to extinction, let me first identify one important symptom of these underlying causes and then the underlying structural and behavioral causes themselves. Finally, let me invite your participation in (one or more aspects of) a comprehensive strategy designed to address all of this.

As in the past, at least initially, the vast bulk of the human population is not going to respond to this crisis in any way. We need to be aware of this but not let it get in our way. There is a straightforward explanation for it.

Fear or, far more accurately, unconscious terror will ensure that the bulk of the human population will not investigate or seriously consider the scientific evidence in relation to the ongoing climate catastrophe, despite its implications for them personally and humanity generally (not to mention other species and the biosphere). Moreover, given that climate science is not an easy subject with which to grapple, elite control of most media in relation to it (including, most of the time, by simply excluding mention of key learning from the climate scientists) ensures that public awareness, while reasonably high, is not matched by knowledge, which is negligible.

As a result, most people will fearfully, unintelligently and powerlessly accept the delusions, distractions and denial that are promulgated by the insane global elite through its various propaganda channels including the corporate media, public relations and entertainment industries, as well as educational institutions. This propaganda always includes the implicit message that people can’t (and shouldn’t) do anything in response to the climate catastrophe (invariably and inaccurately, benignly described as ‘climate change’).

A primary way in which the corporate media reports the issue but frames it for a powerless response is to simply distribute ‘news’ about each climate-related event without connecting it either with other climate-related events or even mentioning it as yet another symptom of the climate catastrophe. Even if they do mention these connections, they reliably mention distant dates for phenomena like ‘heatwaves’ repeating themselves and an overall ‘end of century’ time frame to preclude the likelihood that any sense of urgency will arise.

The net outcome of all this, as I stated above, is that the bulk of the human population will not respond to the crisis in the short term (as it hasn’t so far) with most of what limited response there is confined to powerlessly lobbying elite-controlled governments.

However, as long as you consider responding – and by responding, I mean responding strategically – and then do respond, you become a powerful agent of change, including by recruiting others through your example.

But before I present the strategy, let me identify the major structural and behavioral causes that are driving the climate catastrophe and destruction of the biosphere, and explain why some key elements of this strategy are focused on tackling these underlying causes.

The Political Economy of Destruction of the Biosphere

The global elite ensures that it has political control of the biosphere as well as Space by using various systems, structures and processes that it largely created (over the past few centuries) and now controls, including the major institutions of governance in the world such as national governments and key international organizations like the United Nations.

It does this, for example, so that it can economically utilize, via the exploitative mechanisms of capitalism and its corporations (which the elite also created), domains of the biosphere rich in resources, particularly fossil fuels, strategic minerals and fresh water. The elite will use any means – including psychological manipulation, propaganda issued by its corporate media, national educational institutions, legal systems and extraordinary military violence – to achieve this outcome whatever the cost to life on Earth.

In short, the global elite is so insane that its members believe that killing and exploiting fellow human beings and destroying the biosphere are simply good ways to make a profit. Of course, they do not perceive us as fellow human beings; they perceive and treat us as a great deal less. This is why, for example, the elite routinely uses its military forces to attack impoverished and militarily primitive countries so that they can steal their resources.

But they are happy to steal from those of us living in western economies too, with Professor Barbara G. Ellis issuing the latest warning about yet another way this could easily happen.

Anyway, because of elite control of governments, it is a waste of time lobbying politicians if we want action on virtually all issues that concern us, particularly the ‘big issues’ that threaten extinction, such as the climate catastrophe, environmental destruction and war (especially the threat of nuclear war). While in very limited (and usually social) contexts (such as issues in relation to the right of women to abortions or rights for the LGBTQIA communities), when it doesn’t significantly adversely impact elite priorities, gains are sometimes made (at least temporarily) by mobilizing sufficient people to pressure politicians. This has two beneficial outcomes for elites: it keeps many people busy on ‘secondary issues’ (from the elite perspective) that do not impact elite profit, power and privilege; and it reinforces the delusion that democracy ‘works’.

However, in the contexts that directly impact elite concerns (such as their unbridled exploitation of the biosphere for profit), politicians serve their elite masters, even to the extent that any laws that might appear to have been designed to impede elite excesses (such as pollution generated by their activities) are readily ignored if necessary, with legal penalties too insignificant to deter phenomenally wealthy corporations.

Of course, if any government does not obey elite directives, it is overthrown. Just ask any independently-minded government over the past century. For a list of governments overthrown by the global elite using its military and ‘intelligence’ agencies since World War II, see William Blum’s book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II or, for just the list, see ‘Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List’.

How does the elite maintain this control over political, economic, military, legal and social structures and processes?

The Sociology of Destruction of the Biosphere

As explained in the literature on the sociology of knowledge, reality is socially constructed. That is, if an individual is born or introduced into a society in which particular institutions are in control and behaviors such as chronic over-consumption, unlimited profit-making, rampant exploitation of the environment and grotesque violence against (at least some) people are practiced, then the typical individual will accept the existence of these institutions and adopt the behaviors of the people around them even though the institutions and behaviors are dysfunctional and violent.

But while the sociology of knowledge literature recognizes that children ‘must be “taught to behave” and, once taught, must be “kept in line”’ to maintain the institutional order, this literature clearly has no understanding of the nature and extent of the violence to which each child is actually subjected in order to achieve the desired ‘socialization’. This terrorization, as I label it, is so comprehensive that the typical child quickly becomes incapable of using their own intellectual and emotional capacities, including conscience and courage, to actually evaluate any institution or behavior before accepting/adopting it themselves. Obviously then, they quickly become too terrified to overtly challenge dysfunctional institutions and behaviors as well.

Moreover, as a result of this ongoing terrorization, inflicted by the significant adults (and particularly the parents) in the child’s life, the child soon becomes too (unconsciously) afraid to resist the behavioral violence that is inflicted on them personally in many forms, as outlined briefly in the next section, so that they are ‘taught to behave’ and are ‘kept in line’.

In response to elite-driven imperatives then, such as ‘you are what you own’ to encourage very profitable over-consumption, most people are delusionarily ‘happy’ while utterly trapped behaving exactly as elites manipulate them – they are devoid of the psychological capacity to critique and resist – and the elite-preferred behavior quickly acquires the status of being ‘the only and the right way to behave’, irrespective of its dysfunctionality.

In essence: virtually all humans fearfully adopt dysfunctional social behaviors such as over-consumption and profit-making at the expense of the biosphere, rather than intelligently, conscientiously and courageously analyzing the total situation (including the moral and ecological dimensions of it) and behaving appropriately in the context.

Given the pervasiveness and power of elite institutions, ranging from those mentioned above to the corporate media and psychiatry, resistance to violent socialization (of both children and adults) requires considerable awareness, not to mention courage.

And so our fear makes virtually all of us succumb to the socialization pressure (that is, violence) to accept existing institutions and participate in widespread social behaviors (such as over-consumption) that are dysfunctional and violent.

The Psychology of Destruction of the Biosphere

This happens because each child, from birth, is terrorized (again: what we like to call ‘socialized’) until they become a slave willing to work and, in industrialized countries at least, to over-consume as directed.

Under an unrelenting regime of ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence, each child unconsciously surrenders their search in pursuit of their own unique and powerful destiny and succumbs to the obedience that every adult demands. Why do adults demand this? Because the idea of a powerful child who courageously follows their own Self-will terrifies adults. So how does this happen?

Unfortunately, far too easily and, strange though it may seem, it is not just the ‘visible’ violence (such as hitting, screaming at and sexually abusing) that we normally label ‘violence’ that causes the main damage, although this is extremely damaging. The largest component of damage arises from the  ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that we adults unconsciously inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day. Tragically, the bulk of this violence occurs in the family home and at school.

So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themself thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioral dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, mothers, fathers, teachers, religious figures and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioral responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioral outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (for instance, by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behavior that is generated by their feelings (for example, by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for the biosphere because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviors, including some that are violent towards themself, others and/or the Earth.

Moreover, terrorizing the child has many flow-on effects. For example, once you terrorise a child into accepting certain information about themself, other people or the state of the world, the child becomes unconsciously fearful of dealing with new information, especially if this information is contradictory to what they have been terrorized into believing. As a result, the child will unconsciously dismiss new information out of hand.

In short, the child has been terrorized in such a way that they are no longer capable of learning (or their learning capacity is seriously diminished by excluding any information that is not a simple extension of what they already ‘know’). This is one important explanation why some people are ‘climate deniers’ and most others do nothing in response to the climate catastrophe.

Consequently, under this onslaught of terror and violence, the child surrenders their own unique Self and takes on their socially constructed delusional identity which gives them relief from being terrorized while securing the approval they crave to survive.

So if we want to end violence against the biosphere, we must tackle this fundamental cause. Primarily, this means giving everyone, child and adult alike, all of the space they need to feel, deeply, what they want to do, and to then let them do it (or to have the emotional responses they naturally have if they are prevented from doing so).

For some insight into the critical role that school plays in reducing virtually all children to wage slaves for employment in some menial or ‘professional’ role or as ‘cannon fodder’ for the military, while stripping them of the capacity to ask penetrating questions about the very nature of society and their own role in it, see ‘Do We Want School or Education?’

In summary, given that human society is so dysfunctional, beginning with the fact that human beings do not know how to parent or educate their children to nurture their unique and extraordinary potential, humans face a monumental challenge, in an incredibly short time frame, to have any chance of survival.

And we are going to have to fix a lot more things than just our destruction of the biosphere if we are to succeed, given that ecologically destructive behavior and institutions have their origin in dysfunctional psychology, societies and political economy.

To reiterate, however, it is our (often unconscious) fear that underpins every problem. Whether it is the fear getting in the way of our capacity to intelligently analyze the various structures and behaviors that generate the interrelated crises in which we now find ourselves or the fear undermining our courage to act powerfully in response to these crises, acknowledging and dealing with our fear is the core of any strategy for survival.

So what’s the plan?

Let’s start with you. If you consider the evidence in relation to destruction of our biosphere, essentially one of two things will happen. Either you will be powerful enough, both emotionally and intellectually, to grapple with this evidence and you will take strategic action that has ongoing positive impact on the crisis or your (unconscious) fear will simply use one of its lifelong mechanisms to remove awareness of what you have just read from your mind or otherwise delude you, such as by making you believe you are powerless to act differently or that you are ‘doing enough already’. This immobilizing fear, whether or not you experience it consciously, is a primary outcome of the terrorization to which you were subjected as a child.

So, if you sense that improving your own functionality – so that you can fully access your emotional responses, conscience and courage – is a priority, try ‘Putting Feelings First‘.

If you already feel able to act powerfully in response to this multi-faceted crisis, in a way that will have strategic impact, you are invited to consider joining those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘, which outlines a simple plan for people to systematically reduce their consumption, by at least 80%, involving both energy and resources of every kind – water, household energy, transport fuels, metals, meat, paper and plastic – while dramatically expanding their individual and community self-reliance in 16 areas, so that all environmental concerns are effectively addressed. You might also consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

If you are interested in nurturing children to live by their conscience and to gain the courage necessary to resist elite violence fearlessly, while living sustainably despite the entreaties of capitalism to over-consume, then you are welcome to make ‘My Promise to Children‘. To reiterate: capitalism and other dysfunctional political, economic, military, legal and social structures only thrive because our dysfunctional parenting robs children of their conscience and courage, among many other qualities, while actively teaching them to overconsume as compensation for having vital emotional needs denied.

If you are interested in conducting or participating in a campaign to halt our destruction of the biosphere (or any other manifestation of violence for that matter) you are welcome to consider acting strategically in the way that the extraordinary activist Mohandas K. Gandhi did. Whether you are engaged in a peace, climate, environment or social justice campaign, the 12-point strategic framework and principles are the same.

The two strategic aims and a core list of strategic goals to end war and to end the climate catastrophe, for example, are identified in ‘Campaign Strategic Aims‘ and, using these examples, it is a straightforward task to identify an appropriate set of strategic goals for your local environment campaign. As an aside, the strategic framework to defend against a foreign invading power or a political/military coup, to liberate your country from a dictatorship or a foreign occupation, or to defeat a genocidal assault is explained in ‘Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy‘.

If you would like a straightforward explanation of ‘Nonviolent Action: Why and How it Works‘ and an introduction to what it means to think strategically, try reading about the difference between ‘The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of Nonviolent Actions‘.

If you anticipate violent repression by a ruthless opponent, consider planning and implementing any nonviolent action according to the explanation in ‘Nonviolent Action: Minimizing the Risk of Violent Repression‘.

Finally, if you are going to do nothing in response to this crisis, make it a conscious decision to do nothing. This is far preferable to unconsciously and powerlessly doing nothing by never even considering the evidence or by simply deluding yourself. It also allows you to consciously revise your decision at some point in future if you so wish.

Conclusion

The evidence in relation to destruction of the Earth’s biosphere, leading to ongoing and rapid degradation of all ecosystems and their services, is readily available and overwhelming. The many and varied forms of destruction are having synergistic impact. An insignificant amount of the vast evidence in relation to this destruction is sampled above.

There is a notable group of prominent climate scientists who present compelling evidence that human extinction will occur by 2026 as a result of a projected 10 degree celsius increase in global temperatures above the pre-industrial level by this date. The primary document for this is noted above and this document, together with the evidence it cites, is readily available to be read and analyzed by anyone.

Largely separately from the climate catastrophe (although now increasingly complicated by it), Earth’s sixth mass extinction is already advancing rapidly as we destroy habitat and, on our current trajectory, all species will soon enter the fossil record.

Why? Because we live in a world in which the political, economic, military, legal and social structures and processes of human society are utterly incapable of producing either functional human beings or governance mechanisms that take into account, and respect, the ecological realities of Earth’s biosphere.

So, to reiterate: We are on the fast-track to extinction. On the current trajectory, assuming we can avert nuclear war, some time between 2021 and 2026 the last human will take their final breath.

Our only prospect of survival, and it still has only a remote chance of succeeding, is that a great number of us respond powerfully now and keep mobilizing more people to do so.

If you do absolutely nothing else, consider rearranging your life to exclude all meat from your diet, stop traveling by car and aircraft, substantially reduce your water consumption by scaling down your ownership of electronic devices (which require massive amounts of water to manufacture), and only eat biodynamically or organically grown whole food.

And tell people why you are doing so.

This might give those of us who fight strategically, which can include you if you so choose, a little more time to overturn the structural and remaining behavioral drivers of extinction which will require a profound change in the very nature of human society, including all of its major political, economic, military, legal and social institutions and processes (most of which will need to be abolished).

If this sounds ‘radical’, remember that they are about to vanish anyway. Our strategy must be to replace them with functional equivalents, all of which are readily available (with some briefly outlined in the various documents mentioned in the plan above).

‘It won’t happen’, you might say? And, to be candid, I sincerely believe that you are highly probably right. I have spent a lifetime observing, analyzing, writing about and acting to heal dysfunctional and violent human behavior and, for that reason, I am not going to delude myself that anything less than what I have outlined above will achieve the outcome that I seek: to avert human extinction. But I am realistic.

The insane individuals who control the institutions that are driving extinction will never act to avert it. If they were sane enough to do so, they would have been directing and coordinating these institutions in taking action for the past 40 years. This is why we must resist them strategically. Moreover, I am only too well aware that the bulk of the human population has been terrorized into powerlessness and won’t even act. But our best chance lies in offering them our personal example, and giving them simple and various options for responding effectively.

It is going to be a tough fight for human survival, particularly this late in the ‘game’. Nevertheless, I intend to fight until my last breath. I hope that you will too.

What Future Awaits the Babies of 2018?

Some of you will hate me for what I am about to write.

I’m quite accustomed to it.

It used to be acceptable to ask questions about what future can be expected for children brought into our world now, this world with its increasingly grim environmental prognosis. At one time the bleak forecasts were mostly about extreme heat and pollution. Present projections involve far more: oceans acidifying at dizzying speed and full of microplastics which have now entered the food chain, possible massive methane eruptions from underneath polar ice caps which are melting at a phenomenal rate, water wars driving mass migration which in the future will dwarf anything we have seen so far, the list goes on. But instead of making the debate about children and population growth more relevant than ever: oddly, most of what was once known as “The Left” now considers the subject taboo. Lefties galore, just like right-wingers, will now tell you that everyone has the right to have children and no one should be “shamed” about it. Many also assert that our planet can easily support two or three times its current number of humans … “if we only (do such-and-such, all pitch in to do this or that)…” … which we will certainly NOT all do. As if we had the right, anyway, to keep wiping out other species faster and faster to make that even theoretically possible.

The truth – from my perspective, obviously — is that, however horrifying the forecast for our planetary future becomes, almost no one wants to admit that it is THAT bad. The decision to have children is widely considered to be a Human Right. Even many of us who accept the likelihood of these dire environmental scenarios want to believe that “it will all work out somehow”, that technological solutions will be developed, that humans can adapt to anything.

But above all, many of us who don’t yet have children consider a life without children somewhere in our future to be a tragic and horrifying thing to contemplate. Our genetic and cultural programming is so strong that we will go to almost any lengths to convince ourselves that things are “not that bad” yet, and that whatever horrors are headed our way, they are far enough in the future to make such a grim decision unnecessary.

Full disclosure: I have two grown daughters. I love them more than anything else that has come along in my long life. And when we were pregnant with Honourable Daughter Number 1, I was already having this debate with myself and with her mother. That was in 1987. At that time the Ozone Hole was the growing threat.

That was more than 30 years ago.

I have told both of my daughters that I would not make the same decision today that I made in 1987 and again in 1992. It hurts them to hear it, and it hurts me deeply to say it to them.

Here in Germany where I live as an American Refugee, the population has shrunk from 88 million at the time I first moved here (1987) to 80 million today. Germans are afraid of becoming extinct as a national group. The German government pays people to have children through a generous program of financial support for young parents called “Kindergeld”. This is a government which appears, in some ways, to be pretty concerned about our planet’s future. But it has obviously not connected the dots when it comes to actual humans dealing with actual environmental disaster, in a future that may not be so far off. The governing coalition’s most powerful political party, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), places great value on “family-friendly” politics. The party and the government it led at the time moved to abandon nuclear energy and develop renewables after Fukushima; the CDU and the succeeding governments it has led since then have done some relatively progressive things in the environmental arena, although the current edition is backsliding badly at the moment.

But to admit that the world may be a terrifying place by the time these babies are adults is simply out of the question for them. And it certainly will not help them, or any other political party, to win elections.

Every day, I see happy young women proudly pushing their new babies around our peaceful little village here in baby carriages and strollers. Some of them are Germans. Some of them are refugees and immigrants who appear to feel that they have finally found a safe place to live a normal life. And to a great many in both groups, “a normal life” means having babies. It is what they have always wanted. I look into the faces of these innocent new arrivals and I try to imagine what they will face in 30 years, even if Germany remains the island of relative affluence and economic stability which it is today. But for a vast number of Germans and Americans and people all over the world, a life without children would be incomplete.

And therein lies the crux. Most of us who make that decision are thinking less about that new baby’s future than about our own futures … our own happiness … our own sense of fulfillment. Of course, we plan to do everything within our power to give that child a good life.

Unfortunately, it no longer lies within our power to give those babies a secure future, as I see it. No amount of money in the bank or property amassed, no expensive education, will keep plastic out of the food chain or prevent the planet from overheating drastically. If such a thing were even possible at this late date, it would require a worldwide consensus and fast, decisive, emergency mandatory action. Governments which routinely compete and make war or proxy war against one another would have to drop their jockeying for power and cooperate rapidly to save the planet.

It is, of course, true that a great many young people are largely unaware of the alarming new scientific forecasts which have recently been published, along with urgent appeals from groups of major scientists urging world leaders to take corresponding action. All of this is far beyond the extremely limited imaginative capacity of a great many of our fellow humans. Many of them (especially in the USA) tend, in any case, to be highly skeptical of this whole thing, if they do not label it outright as a “hoax”.

What would it take to make such prospective parents see that the danger is real, urgent, and unparalleled in human history? to convince them that a baby born now – or if not that baby, the next generation — is increasingly likely to face a terrible future?

It would take governments and media and authority figures willing to speak what they now know to be the truth, about what is highly likely and growing more so.

It would require these governments and elites and their presstitute media to take off the Happy-Face Mask, and make the real news the headline story, every day. It’s time.

Glencore and Other Mining Corporations Make Record Profits and get Away with Murder Literally

Glencore, according to statistica.com is the world’s largest mining company by revenues. As a way of introduction, here is what statistica.com has to say about Glencore.

Glencore-Xstrata is a public limited company founded in 1974 by Marc Rich whose headquarters are based in Baar, Switzerland and also has registered office based in Saint Helier, New Jersey. Glencore-Xstrata is also a mining company whose headquarters are based in the United Kingdom. On May 2nd, 2013, the current company was established through a merger between Glencore and Xstrata. Glencore-Xstrata is the third largest family owned business in the world and was ranked number 10 on the list of Fortune Global 500 in 2015. Glencore Xstrata is the leading mining company in the world with estimated revenue earned in 2017 of $205 billion, on a rebound from 2015 (US$ 147billion) and compared to the best year so far, 2012 (US$237billion). Net earnings have skyrocketed in 2017 to US$ 5.8 billion, more than 4 times higher than in 2016 (US$ 1.4 billion).

The four next mining corporations in world ranking include BHP Billiton, Australia; British-Australian Rio Tinto; China state-owned Shenhua Energy, and Vale, Brazil. Their mining practices may not differ a lot from those of Glencore’s. However, what distinguishes Glencore is its particularly aggressive business style. Aggressive from all points of views – tax avoidance, corruption, total neglect for employees as well as communities they work in, non-responsiveness to critique.

Though it looks like Glencore’s aggressive business model is paying off. Glencore’s tax rate negotiated in Switzerland is next to zero. The Canton of Zug, where the city of Baar, seat of Glencore’s headquarters (HQ) is located, is the number one tax haven in Switzerland.  Glencore pays 0.2% taxes on its net earnings.

Glencore is exploiting developing countries to the maximum, not respecting any social and environmental laws or even humanitarian standards, brushing them aside and pushing ahead – poisoning and killing people on their way with toxic effluents from their mining practices, no regard, no attention to their fate, to their families, irrespective of whether they have been working for a Glencore mine, when they are sick they are out, no compensation; or whether they are just living in the contaminated environment, in communities on their own plots, exposed on a daily basis to water-ways and soil polluted with cancer-causing deadly heavy metals. The average life expectancy in South American mines is between 32 and 40 years for mine workers. Glencore leaves hardly any tax money or royalties in the country they exploit, on average about one cent per dollar of net earnings, as their tax residence is Switzerland.

This article looks specifically at an event which I witnessed and was able to interview victims about, at Glencore’s copper mine in Espinar, near Cusco, Peru, some 4,200 m above sea-level. Gold is a side product. Where there is copper, there is almost without fail also gold to be found and vice-versa. The mining and refining of both metals is highly toxic, leaving poisonous heavy metals, such as mercury, cyanite, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, lead and many more disease-causing toxins in water, soil, and air, poisoning fauna, flora and humans.

On April 3, 2018, a dozen or so indigenous unarmed, women – the poorest of the poor –protested with their bare hands in defense of their only water way left, a small stream. Glencore wanted to deviate it – totally illegally – for Glencore’s use. The women were attacked by police in full riot gear, beaten with batons. It is openly known that Glencore, like other mining corporations, literally buys the national or local police services for this type of abject brutality.

The police were helped by Glencore’s own security forces. All this was recorded on video and in photos. Arriving the following day on location with a group of locals, we interviewed several of the victims. See also my earlier article on the subject

As the above essay went to press, I wrote directly to Glencore’s CEO, Ivan Glasenberg, suggesting a personal meeting to discuss the event and the general circumstances that led to it. Mr. Glasenberg replied promptly through his director for Sustainable Development (sic), who proposed to meet – which we did, in a neutral place, a hotel lobby in Bern. The Glencore delegation consisted of the Sustainable Development director and her lawyer.  I was alone.

What transpired during a roughly two-hour non-confrontational, rather peaceful dialogue, I recorded in an Aide-Memoire, asking for their approval, comments or suggestions for change. The answer a few days later was a full rejection, saying none of the contents of the AM reflected our conversation. This is, of course, a flagrant lie. Under the circumstances, I decided to make the gist of our two-hour conversation public, as reflected in the Aide-Mémoire.

The conversation covered three key topics

  1. Beating of unarmed indigenous women in Alta Huata, Espinar, Cusco Province, Peru, by Police and Glencore’s Security Forces on 3 April 2018;
  2. Glencore’s contamination of water, soil, air, flora, fauna and humans by toxic chemicals used in the mining process; and
  3. Blood and urine samples – people who are sick from intoxication with mine effluents, working for the mine and/or living in the close vicinity of the mine, sought testing their blood and urine for heavy metals. They were never given the results from the tests from medical doctors, clinics and laboratories. Why?

Addressing point by point, starting with the Beating of unarmed women – the dozen or two bare-handed indigenous women were protesting in defense of their water against Glencore workers, wanting to deviate, actually steal the little stream for Glencore’s own use. They were brutally beaten by national police in government issued riot gear – imagine, in riot gear! – with the help of Glencore’s own security forces. This happened around noon on 3 April, when the women were alone, even more defenseless, while village men were working at the mine or in their small agricultural plots.

According to several accounts from the local population as well as from people in the town of Espinar, Glencore intended to reroute the small stream providing the only water source for the six or so villages higher up on the mountain. This is further corroborated by the large pile of big-sized pipes, deposited on the land next to the small stream. A nearby gigantic earth moving machine and fresh tracks traversing the small water way were also clear signs that water deviation works were planned.

In the early morning hours of 4 April, we went to Glencore’s copper mine at Alta Huata, about 4,200m above sea level, to meet with the mistreated women and to interview them. Still affected by indignation and pain, some of them under tears, showed us their badly bruised body parts. Evidence of the police assault and aggression by Glencore’s security forces is available as independent testimony in the form of short videos and photographs. An elderly woman (65) was beaten so severely, she was resting and moaning in a rickety stone shack which apparently was destroyed by Glencore’s bulldozers the week before and hastily rebuilt by the local population. The woman had pain all over her body, could not move, and got no medical attention, no pain medication – nothing – she was a ‘high risk’ case. Later, we learned, she was miraculously recovering with the care of the villagers.

The villagers told us they wanted to file a complaint with the local police which did not receive them. It is clear, if Glencore hired the police to do their dirty work, they, the police, will not receive the villagers’ complaint. It’s a revolving-door corruption at every level that is being practiced. I wonder whether Glencore’s boss, Mr. Glasenberg, is aware of it. If not, then at least this article which will be sent to him should remind him that he is complicit in serious crimes of his company by letting them happen.

During our meeting, the Glencore ‘sustainable development’ people said the workers were only doing repair work when the women appeared interfering with their job. Another flagrant lie. But how could they know? They are repeating what they are told by their people on the ground. And whenever they go to visit the area, we understand, they never set foot in the affected villages, to talk to the people or to the mayor, but only talk the inside-talk to Glencore insiders, another revolving door approach to resolving problems by being blind to them and keeping perpetuating the lies. The sustainable development people of Glencore also denied that Glencore had anything to do with the beating, that Glencore could not control the police. They dismissed the assertion, against all evidence on video, that Glencore’s security forces were also involved and, of course, that they actually called and hired the police in the first place.

Later we talked to villagers who lived in the mine-surrounding areas. With anguish, sadness and even resignation, they told us that contamination of water, soil, air, flora, fauna – and humans was evident. It appeared in the water ways and was reported in soil samples. Plants adjacent to water courses, rivers and effluents from the mine, were all contaminated by heavy metals, poisoning animals, as well as humans. Farm animals became sick and often died.

Many inhabitants of the mine-surrounding communities, so we were told, including by the former mayor, were sick with cancer and other terminal diseases which were caused by contact with, or ingestion of, contaminated water or food. To purify water efficiently from heavy metals – cyanide, mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium and more – a complex and expensive process is required. It’s called reverse osmosis. In most cases, mining companies do not use this process. In the case of Glencore and Espinar, reverse osmosis is not in use, leaving the effluent waters highly and dangerously polluted.

We talked to several people, some working for the mine, others just living in the immediate vicinity of the mine – say, in a radius of 1 to 5 km. All said, they felt sick; their bodies hurt, they had respiratory problems and many suspected having different types of cancers, mainly lung cancer. The disease rate increased the closer they lived to the mine.

One of the peasants said that young people in his neighborhood were dying “like flies” from cancer. He added that the average life expectancy of people living near the mine was drastically reduced. He also said, that most people by now are just resigned to their fate and were tired of protesting and being frustrated, because Glencore would not respond and do nothing for them. They felt helpless.

To top it off, Glencore’s Sustainable Development people said that Glencore received certification from the municipality that the effluents from their mine were clean and not contaminated by the mine, and that it was common knowledge that the water was not potable, ridiculously ascertaining that contamination occurred naturally in these mountainous streams. This abject manipulation of the truth would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. But the people have no recourses to hire lawyers, and even if they would have the money to do so, no lawyer, no judge, no court would take on a case against Glencore. They are afraid to confront the mobsters from where the money flows – corruption at infinitum! Glencore’s sustainable development representatives rejected all responsibilities for the contamination and said they had no knowledge about the disease rates reported by the local population. They were never informed.

Well, if they didn’t know, they must know now. And Mr. Glasenberg would do well sending an HONEST delegation to Espinar to verify with neutral experts on location the veracity of this account and of the account of the victims. Question is, of course, will there be uncorrupt neutral experts daring to tell Glencore the truth?  And even if that were the case, what would Glasenberg do about it? Glasenberg is the key person. It’s a family business, one of the world’s largest, so if he wants to change the way Glencore does business, he can do it.

Who manages Glencore’s mines on the ground?  Mainly locals, we were told. In Espinar, Peru, it’s a Peruvian. This has two purposes. First, a Peruvian is familiar with the local ‘habits’ of how the ‘turntable’ turns, how to buy favors and how to threaten potential adversaries; and, second, if something goes wrong – like in the present case of brutally beating of inoffensive women, deadly contamination and people dying from cancers caused by intoxication from mine effluents – they, at Swiss HQs can say, we didn’t know; nobody told us. The we didn’t know effect seems to be effective, so effective, in fact, that the entire conversation of two hours was annihilated by the sustainable Glencore people. Even though the conversation took place as recorded, the sustainable people deny its contents.

We also talked with people who lived in the vicinity of the mine, who are feeling ill for years and worsening, mostly the lungs, but also their respiratory and nervous system, yet mine management not only ignores them, but also prevents them, directly or indirectly, from getting their blood and urine samples tested, paid for by the victims themselves. We were told that many of the people living in the communities near the mine, including the people who spoke with us, consulted doctors, clinics, hospitals, laboratories on their own, to get their blood and urine tested for heavy metals. They never received the test results back from these medical establishments.

The truth is beyond suspicion. These medical facilities, are either bought by Glencore, or they fear Glencore to a point that they prefer not to hand out negative health results, of which they know from where they emanate.  The people also said that they get absolutely no medical support from Glencore. They pay their medical expenses from their own pockets and yet, they are refused to see the test results.

Diseases stemming from heavy metals have often long gestation periods; i.e., cyanide and mercury do not necessarily lead to immediate symptoms, rather the impact may be slow, because heavy metals accumulate in the body and are not evacuated as other toxins may be. They affect over time the nervous system, respiratory tracts, the heart and often cause cancer and lead to early death. It is well known that mine workers in general in developing countries have a drastically reduced life expectancy; i.e., in some parts of Peru and Bolivia an average of around 35 years.

The director of the Sustainable Development Department appeared to be shocked. She was unaware, she said, and in an outburst of good will, she offered that any of the people who were sick and concerned may call her directly. Of course, none of this was even acknowledged once they received the Aide-Mémoire.

The moral of this story is multi-fold. There is Glencore, the largest mining corporation in the world, largely a family business, with Ivan Glasenberg, main shareholder, at the helm. He could personally intervene, stop the abuse and high crime, bringing about ‘as clean mining’ as there is, respecting environmental and social ethical rules, regardless of whether the country, where they operate, in this case Peru, is corrupt and can be bought. Glasenberg, the CEO, could become a shining example for ethics in mining which would bode well for the company as well as for the host country, Peru, and not least for their country of residence, Switzerland. The cost of implementing ethical environmental and social standards would hardly make a dent in Glencore’s net earnings, but the gains in positive reputation and improved image are priceless.

On the other hand, you have Switzerland that offers this UK-Swiss mining corporation their tax haven as residency. Yet, the Swiss Government does absolutely zilch, nothing, nada to impose and enforce certain standards of ethics to Glencore and other corporate sinners enjoying the Swiss tax paradise. Talking with people from a so-called Ethics Department (sic) in the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the hush answer was, if we are too strict with them, they will leave Switzerland – and as an after-thought, besides, they [these corporations] have their own standards of due diligence and we trust that they adhere to them. If they don’t, then it’s up to their host country; i.e., in this case Peru, to enforce their laws.

Here you have it. The Swiss Government, the paradise for banking and finance and corporate ‘well-being’, the epicenter of neoliberal economics, where privatization reigns, is knowingly and intimately complicit in the crimes committed by these corporations. No wonder the lawmakers, the Swiss parliamentarians, are entitled to sit in as many corporate boards of directors they please – against all rules of ethics and ‘conflict-of-interest’ guidelines of OECD, of which Switzerland is a member. This built-in lobby of parliamentarians is making the laws in their favor, operating on a ‘legal basis’, not unlike a white-collar mafia.

Climate Change, Extreme Weather, Destructive Lifestyles

Throughout the world heat waves, flooding and uncontrollable wildfires have caused widespread havoc, lives have been lost, homes destroyed, livelihoods ruined.

Unprecedented levels of heat have been recorded in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. According to The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) record cold May temperatures were registered in “northeastern Canada and the northern Atlantic Ocean, off the southern coast of Greenland.” Global temperatures for the first five months of the year were the highest on record for a La Niña year; higher temperatures, “lead to more frequent and long-lasting heat waves causing adverse environmental impacts.”

These extreme weather patterns are the ferocious signs and sights of climate change in 2018, and, because so little is being done to tackle the causes, year on year they become more and more intense. Planet Earth is becoming a world in which the extreme becomes the expected, the disastrous the everyday.

How bad must it get?

The year began with the coldest first week of January on record for numerous cities in eastern America; freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall swept across Europe in March as the “Beast From the East” hit. Britain was severely affected, with up to three feet of snow in some areas and temperatures down to minus 10ºC.

Floods have affected East Africa killing dozens of people, tropical cyclones hit Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen and Oman, dust storms killed hundreds in India, and Pakistan had an intense heat wave with temperatures exceeding 40ºC. Heavy rains and 70 mph winds in Bangladesh caused landslides, deaths and injuries. California had the largest wild fires ever recorded, and down under, Australia is becoming the ‘Land of Drought’ according to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

A heat wave of unprecedented temperatures scorched Europe and Japan, where 40ºC (104ºF) temperatures were recorded, 30 people died and thousands needed medical treatment for heat related conditions. A month earlier Japan had some of the worst floods in its history, more than 200 people lost their lives and almost 2 million people were evacuated; the Caribbean is bracing itself for this year’s hurricane season, while “still recovering from last year’s devastation,” which, the UNFCC say, was “the costliest on record”.

The list of extreme weather events across the word is endless; extremes that are increasingly normal as the impact of man-made climate change become more and more apparent, and yet little is being done to address the primary causes. How bad does it have to become before substantive action is taken to reverse the terrible damage we are doing to the natural world?

The mechanics of climate change

Climate change is being triggered by global warming; Global warming, described by NASA as “the unusually rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature…primarily due to the greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels” occurs, “when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.” This happens when so-called greenhouse gases (Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O), being the three main culprits) clog the lower levels of Earth’s atmosphere. This leads to a range of effects: The planet overall becomes warmer (average ground temperature rises), causing “extreme weather events and other severe natural and societal impacts” to become more frequent; glaciers in the Arctic region melt sending huge quantities of water into the ocean, which raises the sea level, oceans are made warmer and expand, further contributing to rising levels. As the sea level rises land is flooded, cities, towns and villages are threatened, lives lost, homes destroyed, communities ripped apart, people displaced.

Man-made greenhouse gases (GGE) are produced by a range of sectors and activities: Animal agriculture produces the largest amount (18% of the total according to the UN, other sources put the figure much higher), followed by electricity and heat production, transportation and industry – all through burning fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas. GGEs have been increasing since the industrial revolution, leading to a rise in global ground temperatures, which to date has reached about 1ºC above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures continue to increase at around 0.17ºC per decade.

One degree doesn’t sound like much but, as the extreme weather events show, the effect of this modest rise on the climate is huge, the consequences far reaching, potentially catastrophic.

In 2015 the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was reached and signed by every country in the world; under President Trump America has since pulled out. Hailed as historic, its central aim is to keep global rises in temperature “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Even if these rather optimistic targets are met, a recent study by an international team of scientists writing in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests, “there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.” The BBC report that the group believe 2ºC of warming “could turn some of the Earth’s natural forces [forests, oceans and land] – that currently protect us – into our enemies…As the world experiences warming, these carbon sinks could become sources of carbon and make the problems of climate change significantly worse.”

If this occurs they forecast the climate stabilizing at “a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today.” This would mean that some parts of the Earth would become uninhabitable. In order to avoid this nightmare scenario the authors make clear that “a total re-orientation of human values, equity, behavior and technologies is required. We must all become stewards of the Earth.” This requires a major shift in human attitudes.

Unhealthy destructive lifestyle

Climate Change and the environmental disaster in its various colors is the result of human activity and complacency; we have poisoned the oceans, rivers and streams, cleared 85% of the world’s tropical rainforests, mainly for livestock, and are turning healthy land into desert; we are filling the air we breathe with toxins, creating dead zones in the oceans and causing the eradication of species at an unprecedented rate. Collectively we seem to have no respect or love for the natural environment and whilst some people are acting responsibly, the majority fails to see the connection between lifestyle and disaster and appear content to treat the planet like a giant rubbish tip.

The natural order has been thrown into disarray by the widespread adoption of a selfish, destructive way of life: A particular lifestyle, or collection of related ‘lifestyle choices’, are responsible for the production of man-made greenhouse gases that are triggering the extreme weather patterns we are seeing all around the world.

Hedonism and consumerism sit at the heart of the unhealthy mode of living that is driving the catastrophe and making us ill; mankind’s relentless consumption of stuff, the vast majority of which is not needed, combined with an animal-based diet (common to 97% of the global population), has created a cocktail of chaos within the natural world, bringing about the greatest crisis in the history of mankind. It is a materialistic lifestyle that the global economy, and by extension the corporate state depends on and ceaselessly promotes. This is why, despite the intense urgency of the environmental issue, we hear little on mainstream media and virtually nothing from governments, who are more concerned with economic growth and petty domestic politics than the stability and health of the planet.

The harmony of the natural world has been thrown into chaos by the same approach to life that has separated us one from another, and fuelled internal conflict resulting in a global mental health epidemic. In all areas, where there should be unity and right relationship we see enmity, discord and disease. Restoring the planet to health and creating a world in which human beings can live healthy peaceful lives are inextricably linked. Both require a fundamental change in values, a shift away from divisive modes of living built on competition and greed to inclusive ways in which social/environmental responsibility is cultivated and embraced.

Such ideas are not new and are frequently championed, but the prevailing socio-economic ideology actively works to suppress such principles, and powerfully promotes values of division and selfishness. Despite this widespread conditioning, an unstoppable current of change can be seen sweeping the world; social responsibility is growing apace, and perennial values of goodness – cooperation, tolerance and sharing – are increasingly influencing the minds of men and women everywhere.

To galvanize this global movement a major public education program should be undertaken by governments and schools to increase awareness of climate change and lifestyle and create a sense of urgency and engagement. Change can be slow, but these are extraordinary times, and there is a growing recognition that if we unite all things are possible. If not, if we continue in the selfish, greedy, divisive ways of the past, the weather patterns will become more extreme and unpredictable, the air and waterways will become more toxic, loss of life will increase and the associated environmental ills will deepen. The choice is ours.

Hothouse Earth

An interesting new study:1 lays out the pathway for Earth entering a Hothouse Climate State.

Our planet is still in danger of becoming a ‘Hothouse’ Earth despite our current efforts to manage global warming.

Counter-intuitively, that sounds like a breath of fresh air, meaning, get the bad news out of the way ahead of time so people can brace for it, no surprises. Assuming the Hothouse Planet happens, certain areas would be uninhabitable as global temps crank up to 4C-to-5C beyond pre-industrial. The planet would be gnarled and unattractive, a nasty place to live, no more Goldilocks climate. And, all kinds of warfare would breakout as mobs vie for tillable land.

The article’s general thesis is that, as of today, the planet retains its Goldilocks “not too hot, not too cold” swagger because of a series of natural mechanisms that “maintain a balance,” for example, carbon sinks, like the ocean or like the Amazon Rain Forest keep the balance in place. In fact, the study identifies ten tipping elements that maintain a balance for the planet, any one of which, once out of whack, would cascade into all the others, bringing on the onset of a hothouse planet.

Assuming the world exceeds the 2C pre-industrial marker set by the Paris Agreement, the study envisions a dangerous out of control spiral downwards, as planetary mechanisms crash in domino fashion, resulting in a planetary climate hothouse. Maybe that’s what happened to Venus (865F, CO2 950,000 ppm) millennia ago.

According to the PNAS article, hothouse prevention is reducing carbon emissions ASAP with countries working together towards a common goal, including decarbonization, enhancement of carbon sinks, blah-blah-blah. Stop right there! The U.S. is already out of the “deal” and furthermore it’s a pipe dream to assume countries will come together globally to save the planet. Since the dawn of civilization, tribes, then empires, then nation/states have been fighting like cats and dogs locked together in a crowded teeny-weeny room.

Here’s the issue as outlined by the study: It only takes one of the mechanisms to break down and topple all of the others. Ipso facto, that presents a problem today. The “tipping elements,” of which there are ten, include: (1) thawing permafrost (2) loss of coral reefs (3) loss of Arctic summer sea ice. Those three mechanisms alone, according to some pretty smart scientists, are already goners, or very, very close to goners.

What if the “tipping elements” mentioned in the study have already “tipped” or tip way ahead of plan? Then what happens, as the world grinds away towards reduction of carbon emissions whilst on the pathway to 2C? After all, scientific models have been pretty shabby now for decades, missing nasty climate events by a country mile. Time and again, the science is behind the climatic events, not ahead, not by a long shot.

Therefore, the Planet Hothouse study poses an interesting supposition: What if climate scientists have been way too optimistic, too sanguine, too upbeat and not scaring people nearly enough?

In point of fact, there’s a strong rationale for questioning the validity of climate models. For example, frequently scientists say how “surprised” they are at “how much faster things are happening than models predicted.” This happens way too often to find comfort in science models.

After several years of repeatedly hearing apologetic scientists claim the climate system is not following their models, meaning, bad stuff is happening much faster than models predicted, it becomes increasingly obvious that climate change could be closer to an out of control beast than anybody realizes. After all, the track record is all about “surprised scientists.”

The “science is late to the party” phenomena is not necessarily the fault of scientists as climate change (crisis) is on an unprecedented pathway, not following any playbooks. Come to find out, there’s no script, only models.

For example, when questioned about collapsing ice in West Antarctica, Adrian Jenkins, glaciologist, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge said: “It was just beyond our concept that a glacier would melt that fast.”

Really! “Beyond our concept that a glacier would melt that fast!”

Helen Amanda Fricker, glaciologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and her team found that from 1994 to 2012, the amount of ice disappearing from all Antarctic ice shelves, not just the ones in the Amundsen Sea, increased 12-fold, from six cubic miles to 74 cubic miles per year. That was six years ago; it’s only gotten worse. Increased 12-fold… you’ve gotta be kidding…. that’s like comparing the performance of the Wright brothers to the Apollo moon landing!

“I think it’s time for us scientists to stop being so cautious about communicating the risks.” (Helen Amanda Fricker) Oh, finally, reality hits home!

The “Mass Balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017,”2 shows the rate of ice loss from West Antarctica increasing from 53B to 159B tonnes per year. Nobody came close to predicting that in 1992, in 2002, or in 2012. No models said that would happen at that rate.

In fact, similar to the stock market, West Antarctic ice loss is in a bull market that just won’t quit, exceeding all expectations, blowing away all predictions.  Not only, but two recent studies found Antarctic melt, similar to the stock market, at a “record-breaking rate.” Therefore, warning that sea level rises could have catastrophic consequences for cities. Duh!

Consider: Antarctic ice loss has accelerated threefold in the last five years; that’s a faster rate than the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which increased from 15,000 to 25,000 over the past five years or a powerhouse 67% in a raging bull market. Still, stocks look like wimps compared to Antarctica’s 5xs faster rate of ice loss. Curiously, and maybe not so coincidentally, the faster stock markets rise, the faster ice melts.

Greenland’s surface melt doubled from 1992-2011. According to Isabella Velicogna, University of California:

Nobody expected the ice sheet to lose so much mass so quickly… Things are happening a lot faster than we expected.

“Happening a lot faster than we expected” has become the motto of climate science. “Nobody expected it to lose mass so quickly.” These expressions, or rather exasperation retorts, are indicative of a climate crisis that is rapidly galloping ahead of the science.

Maybe the Hothouse Earth study in PNAS is on-track but too late to the party.

Which begs the million-dollar question: What if 2C hits much sooner than the models expect?

Then what?

The answer is straightforward: The world turns into a hellhole much faster than the models predicted.

  1. “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene,” Will Steffen, Johan Rockström et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), August 6, 2018.
  2. Nature, 219-222 (2018).

India: The State of Independence

India celebrates its independence from Britain on 15 August. However, the system of British colonial dominance has been replaced by a new hegemony based on the systemic rule of transnational capital, enforced by global institutions like the World Bank and WTO. At the same time, global agribusiness corporations are stepping into the boots of the former East India Company.

The long-term goal of US capitalism has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system of trade underpinned by export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the global market and debtThe result has been food surplus and food deficit areas, of which the latter have become dependent on agricultural imports and strings-attached aid.

Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes, as occurred in Africa, trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico or, more generally, deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar: the displacement of traditional, indigenous agriculture by a corporatized model centred on transnational agribusiness and the undermining of both regional and world food security. The global food regime is in effect increasingly beholden to unregulated global markets, financial speculators and global monopolies.

India, of course, has not been immune to this. It is on course to be subjugated by US state-corporate interests  and is heading towards environmental catastrophe much faster than many might think. As I outlined in this previous piece, the IMF and World Bank wants India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture and has been directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies and run down public agriculture institutions.

The plan for India involves the mass displacement of people to restructure agriculture for the benefit of western agricapital. This involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. A 2016 UN report said that by 2030, Delhi’s population will be 37 million.

One of the report’s principal authors, Felix Creutzig, says:

The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.

The drive is to entrench industrial agriculture, commercialise the countryside and to replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India. It could mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work (India is heading for ‘jobless growth’). Given the trajectory the country seems to be on, it does not take much to imagine a countryside with vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly degrading to become a mere repository for a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides.

The plan is to displace the existing system of livelihood-sustaining smallholder agriculture with one dominated from seed to plate by transnational agribusiness and retail concerns. To facilitate this, independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and those farmers that are left will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

Some like to call this adopting a market-based approach: a system in the ‘market-driven’ US that receives a taxpayer farm bill subsidy of around $100 million annually.

The WTO and the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture are facilitating the process. To push the plan along, there is a strategy to make agriculture financially non-viable for India’s small farms. The result is that hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to cash crops and economic liberalisation.

The number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022 the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.

For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising their income levels, this does not address the core of the problem affecting agriculture: the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, lack of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes.

Take the cultivation of pulses, for instance. According to a report in the Indian Express (September 2017), pulses production increased by 40% during the previous 12 months (a year of record production). At the same time, however, imports also rose resulting in black gram selling at 4,000 rupees per quintal (much less than during the previous 12 months). This has effectively driven down prices thereby reducing farmers’ already meagre incomes. We have already witnessed a running down of the indigenous edible oils sector thanks to Indonesian palm oil imports on the back of World Bank pressure to reduce tariffs (India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils in the 1990s but now faces increasing import costs).

On the one hand, there is talk of India becoming food secure and self-sufficient; on the other, there is pressure from the richer nations for the Indian government to further reduce support given to farmers and open up to imports and ‘free’ trade. But this is based on hypocrisy.

Writing on the ‘Down to Earth’ website in late 2017, Sachin Kumar Jain states some 3.2 million people were engaged in agriculture in the US in 2015. The US govt provided them each with a subsidy of $7,860 on average. Japan provides a subsidy of $14,136 and New Zealand $2,623 to its farmers. In 2015, a British farmer earned $2,800 and $37,000 was added through subsidies. The Indian government provides on average a subsidy of $873 to farmers. However, between 2012 and 2014, India reduced the subsidy on agriculture by $3 billion.

According to policy analyst Devinder Sharma, subsidies provided to US wheat and rice farmers are more than the market worth of these two crops. He also notes that, per day, each cow in Europe receives subsidy worth more than an Indian farmer’s daily income.

How can the Indian farmer compete with an influx of artificially cheap imports? The simple answer is that s/he cannot and is not meant to.

In the book The Invention of Capitalism, Michael Perelmen lays bare the iron fist which whipped the English peasantry into a workforce willing to accept factory wage labour. A series of laws and measures served to force peasants off the land and deprive them of their productive means. In India, we are currently witnessing a headlong rush to facilitate (foreign) capital and turn farmers into a reserve army of cheap industrial/service sector labour. By moving people into cities, it seems India wants to emulate China: a US colonial outpost for manufacturing that has boosted corporate profits at the expense of US jobs. In India, migrants – stripped of their livelihoods in the countryside – are to become the new ‘serfs’ of the informal services and construction sectors or to be trained for low-level industrial jobs.

Even here, however, India might have missed the boat as it is not creating anything like the number of jobs required and the effects of automation and artificial intelligence are eradicating the need for human labour across many sectors.

India’s high GDP growth has been fuelled on the back of debt, environmental degradation, cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population, including public sector workers, has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories per head than it did 40 years ago.

Amartya Sen and former World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu have argued that the bulk of India’s aggregate growth occurred through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder. Furthermore, Global Finance Integrity has shown that the outflow of illicit funds into foreign bank accounts has accelerated since opening up the economy to neoliberalism in the early nineties. ‘High net worth individuals’ (i.e. the very rich) are the biggest culprits here.

While corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans, they have failed to spur job creation; yet any proposed financial injections (or loan waivers) for agriculture (which would pale into insignificance compared to corporate subsidies/written off loans) are depicted as a drain on the economy.

Making India ‘business friendly’

PM Modi is on record as saying that India is now one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The code for being ‘business friendly’ translates into a willingness by the government to facilitate much of the above, while reducing taxes and tariffs and allowing the acquisition of public assets via privatisation as well as instituting policy frameworks that work to the advantage of foreign corporations.

When the World Bank rates countries on their level of ‘ease of doing business’, it means national states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations, the more ‘business friendly’ a country is.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ entails opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds with farmers working to supply transnational corporations’ global supply chains. Rather than working towards food security based on food sovereignty and eradicating corruption, building storage facilities and dealing with inept bureaucracies and deficiencies in food logistics, the mantra is to let ‘the market’ intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control; the very transnational corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights thereby indicating that the ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about letting the market decide.

Foreign direct investment is said to be good for jobs and good for business. But just how many get created is another matter – as is the amount of jobs destroyed in the first place to pave the way for the entry of foreign corporations. For example, Cargill sets up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people; but what about the agricultural jobs that were deliberately eradicated in the first place to import seeds or the village-level processors who were cynically put out of business via bogus health and safety measures so that Cargill could gain a financially lucrative foothold?

The process resembles what Michel Chossudovsky notes in his 1997 book about the ‘structural adjustment’ of African countries. In The Globalization of Poverty, he says that economies are:

opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished. (p.16)

The opening up of India to foreign capital is supported by rhetoric about increasing agricultural productivity, creating jobs and boosting GDP growth. But India is already self-sufficient in key staples and even where productivity is among the best in the world (as in Punjab) farmers still face massive financial distress. Clearly, productivity is not the problem: even with bumper harvests, the agrarian crisis persists.

India is looking to US corporations to ‘develop’ its food, retail and agriculture sectors. What could this mean for India? We only have to look at the business model that keeps these companies in profit in the US: an industrialised system that relies on massive taxpayer subsidies and has destroyed many small-scale farmers’ livelihoods.

The fact that US agriculture now employs a tiny fraction of the population serves as a stark reminder for what is in store for Indian farmers. Agribusiness companies’ taxpayer-subsidised business models are based on overproduction and dumping on the world market to depress prices and rob farmers elsewhere of the ability to cover the costs of production. They rake in huge returns, while depressed farmer incomes and massive profits for food retailers is the norm.

The long-term plan is for an overwhelmingly urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Walmart-type supermarkets that offer a largely monoculture diet of highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.

Various high-level reports have concluded that policies need to support more resilient, diverse, sustainable (smallholder) agroecological methods of farming and develop decentralised, locally-based food economies. There is also a need to protect indigenous agriculture from rigged global trade and trade deals. However, the trend continues to move in the opposite direction towards industrial-scale agriculture and centralised chains for the benefit of Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer and other transnational players.

Devinder Sharma has highlighted where Indian policy makers’ priorities lie when he says that agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. Some 60% of the population live in rural areas and are involved in agriculture but less than 2% of the annual budget goes to agriculture. Sharma says that when you are not investing in agriculture, you are not wanting it to perform.

It is worth considering that the loans provided to just five large corporations in India are equal to the entire farm debt. Where have those loans gone? Have they increased ‘value’ in the economy. No, loans to corporate houses left the banks without liquidity.

‘Demonetisation’ was in part a bail-out for the banks and the corporates, which farmers and other ordinary folk paid the price for. It was a symptom of a country whose GDP growth was based on a debt-inflated economy. While farmers commit suicide and are heavily indebted, a handful of billionaires get access to cheap money with no pressure to pay it back and with little ‘added value’ for society as a whole.

Corporate-industrial India has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the hand outs and tax exemptions given to it. The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year. And data released by the Labour Bureau shows that in 2015, jobless ‘growth’ had finally arrived in India.

So where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of agricultural workers who are to be displaced from the land or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise small-scale village-level industries that currently employ tens of millions?

Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Now we have dogma masquerading as economic theory that compels developing countries to adopt neoliberal policies. The notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and the concept of poverty depoliticised and separated from structurally embedded power relations, not least US-driven globalisation policies resulting in the deregulation of international capital that ensures giant transnational conglomerates are able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.

Across the world we are seeing treaties and agreements over breeders’ rights and intellectual property being enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Large corporations with their proprietary seeds and synthetic chemical inputs are trying to eradicate traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers

Corporate-dominated agriculture is not only an attack on the integrity of ‘the commons’ (soil, water, land, food, forests, diets and health) but is also an attack on the integrity of international institutions, governments and officials which have too often been corrupted by powerful transnational entities.

Whereas some want to bring about a fairer, more equitable system of production and distribution to improve people’s quality of lives (particularly pertinent in India with its unimaginable inequalities, which have spiralled since India adopted neoliberal policies), US capitalism regards ‘development’ as a geopolitical tool.

As economics professor Michael Hudson said during a 2014 interview (published on prosper.org under the title ‘Think Tank Times’):

American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could further accelerate the corporatisation of Indian agriculture. A trade deal now being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific, the RCEP would cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food.

RCEP is expected to create powerful rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. It could allow foreign corporations to buy up land, thereby driving up land prices, fuelling speculation and pushing small farmers out. If RCEP is adopted, it could intensify the great land grab that has been taking place in India. It could also lead to further corporate control over seeds.

Capitalism and environmental catastrophe joined at the hip

In India, an industrialised chemical-intensive model of agriculture is being facilitated. This model brings with it the numerous now well-documented externalised social, environmental and health costs. We need look no further than the current situation in South India and the drying up of the Cauvery river in places to see the impact that this model has contributed to: an ecological crisis fuelled by environmental devastation due to mining, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture based on big dams, water-intensive crops and Green Revolution ideology imported from the West.

But we have known for a long time now that India faces major environmental problems, many of which are rooted in agriculture. For example, in an open letter written to officials in 2006, the late campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, and the soil is alive and porous, at least half of this rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers, or ‘groundwater tables’. Save argued that the living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs gifted free by nature.

Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.

Save went on to note that while the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. Much of this is mindless wastage by a minority. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.

According to Save, more than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Maharashtra, for example, has the maximum number of big and medium dams in the country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters.

One acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. This could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).

While rice is suitable for rain-fed farming, its extensive multiple cropping with irrigation in winter and summer as well is similarly hogging water resources and depleting aquifers. As with sugarcane, it is also irreversibly ruining the land through salinization.

Save argued that soil salinization is the greatest scourge of irrigation-intensive agriculture, as a progressively thicker crust of salts is formed on the land. Many million hectares of cropland have been ruined by it. The most serious problems are caused where water-guzzling crops like sugarcane or basmati rice are grown round the year, abandoning the traditional mixed-cropping and rotation systems of the past, which required minimal or no watering.

Unfortunately, policy makers continue to look towards the likes of Monsanto-Bayer for ‘solutions’. Such companies merely seek to break farmers’ environmental learning ‘pathways’ based on centuries of indigenous knowledge, learning and practices with the aim of getting farmers hooked on chemical treadmills for corporate profit (see Glenn Stone and Andrew Flach’s paper on path-breaking and technology treadmills in Indian cotton agriculture).

Wrong-headed policies in agriculture have already resulted in drought, expensive dam-building projects, population displacement and degraded soils. The rivers are drying, farmers are dying and the cities are creaking as a result of the unbridled push towards urbanisation.

In terms of maintaining and creating jobs, managing water resources, regenerating soils and cultivating climate resilient crops, agroecology as a solution is there for all to see. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are now making a concerted effort to roll out and scale up zero budget agroecological agriculture.

Solutions to India’s agrarian crisis (and indeed the world’s) are available, not least the scaling up of agroecological approaches which could be the lynchpin of rural development. However, successive administrations have bowed to and continue to acquiesce to the grip of global capitalism and have demonstrated their allegiance to corporate power. The danger is that without changing the capitalist relations of production, agroecology would simply be co-opted by corporations and incorporated into their global production and distribution chains.

In the meantime, India faces huge problems in terms of securing access to water. As Bhaskar Save noted, the shift to Green Revolution thinking and practices has placed enormous strain on water resources. From glacial melt in the Himalayas that will contribute to the drying up of important rivers to the effects of temperature rises across the Indo Gangetic plain, which will adversely impact wheat productivity, India has more than its fair share of problems. But despite this, high-level policy makers are pushing for a certain model of ‘development’ that will only exacerbate the problems.

This model is being driven by some of the world’s largest corporate players: a model that by its very nature leads to environment catastrophe:

… our economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption. Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.

— Jason Hickel

While politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi might be facilitating this economic model and all it entails for agriculture, it is ultimately stamped with the logo ‘made in Washington’. Surrendering the nation’s food sovereignty and the incorporation of India into US financial and geopolitical structures is the current state of independence.

Final thoughts

Neoliberalism and the drive for urbanisation in India have been underpinned by unconstitutional land takeovers and the trampling of democratic rights. For supporters of cronyism and manipulated markets, which to all extents and purposes is what economic ‘neoliberalism’ across the world has entailed (see thisthis and this), there have been untold opportunities for well-placed individuals to make an under-the-table fast buck from various infrastructure projects and privatisation sell-offs.

According to the Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development, the doubling of income inequality has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, struggles (violent and non-violent) are taking place in India. The Naxalites/Maoists are referred to by the dominant class as left-wing extremists who are exploiting the situation of the poor. But how easy it is to ignore the true nature of the poor’s exploitation and too often lump all protesters together and create an ‘enemy within’. How easy it is to ignore the state-corporate extremism across the world that results in the central state abdicating its redistributive responsibilities by submitting to the tenets of Wall Street-backed ‘structural adjustment’ pro-privatisation policies, free capital flows and largely unaccountable corporations.

Powerful (mining) corporations are shaping the ‘development’ agenda in India and have signed secretive Memorandums of Understanding with the government. The full backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land in order to hand it over to mineral-hungry industries to fuel a wholly unsustainable model of development. Around the world, this oil-dependent, urban-centric, high-energy model of endless consumption is stripping the environment bare and negatively impacting the climate and ecology.

In addition to displacing people to facilitate the needs of resource extraction industries, unconstitutional land grabs for Special Economic Zones, nuclear plants and other projects have additionally forced many others from the land.

Farmers (and others) represent a ‘problem’: a problem while on the land and a problem to be somehow dealt with once displaced. But food producers, the genuine wealth creators of a nation, only became a problem when western agribusiness was given the green light to take power away from farmers and uproot traditional agriculture in India and recast it in its own corporate-controlled image.

This is a country where the majority sanctifies certain animals, places, rivers and mountains. It’s also a country run by Wall Street sanctioned politicians who convince people to accept or be oblivious to the destruction of the same.

Many are working strenuously to challenge the selling of the heart and soul of India. Yet how easy will it be for them to be swept aside by officialdom which seeks to cast them as ‘subversive’. How easy it will be for the corrosive impacts of a rapacious capitalism to take hold and for hugely powerful corporations to colonise almost every area of social, cultural and economic life and encourage greed, selfishness, apathy, irretrievable materialism and acquisitive individualism.

The corporations behind it all achieve hegemony by altering mindsets via advertising, clever PR or by sponsoring (hijacking) major events, by funding research in public institutes and thus slanting findings and the knowledge paradigm in their favour or by securing key positions in international trade negotiations in an attempt to structurally readjust retail, food production and agriculture. They do it by many methods and means.

Before you realise it, culture, politics and the economy have become colonised by powerful private interests and the world is cast in their image. The prevailing economic system soon becomes cloaked with an aura of matter of factuality, an air of naturalness, which is never to be viewed for the controlling hegemonic culture or power play that it really is.

Seeds, mountains, water, forests and biodiversity are being sold off. The farmers and tribals are being sold out. And the more that gets sold off, the more who get sold out, the greater the amount of cash that changes hands and the easier it is for the misinformed to swallow the lie of Wall Street’s bogus notion of ‘growth’ – GDP.

If anyone perceives the type of ‘development’ being sold to the masses is actually possible in the first instance, they should note that ‘developing’ nations account for more than 80% of world population but consume only about a third of the world’s energy. US citizens constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians.

Consider that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and if you scale this to 46 years then humans have been here for just four hours. The Industrial Revolution began just one minute ago, and in that time, 50% of the Earth’s forests have been destroyed.

We are using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have also poisoned the rivers, destroyed natural habitats, driven species to extinction and altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere – among many other things.

Levels of consumption were unsustainable long before India and other countries began striving to emulate a bogus notion of ‘development’. The West continues to live way beyond its (environmental) limits.

This wasteful, high-energy model is tied to what ultimately constitutes the plundering of peoples and the planet by powerful transnational corporations. And, as we see all around us, from Libya and Syria to Afghanistan and Iraq, the outcome is endless conflicts over fewer and fewer resources.

The type of ‘progress and development’ and consumerism being sold makes beneficiaries of it blind to the misery and plight of the hundreds of millions who are deprived of their lands and livelihoods. In Congo, rich corporations profit from war and conflict. And in India, tens of thousands of militias (including in 2005, Salwa Judum) were put into tribal areas to forcibly displace 300,000 people and place 50,000 in camps. In the process, rapes and human rights abuses have been common.

If what is set out above tells us anything, it is that India and other regions of the world are suffering from internal haemorrhaging. They are being bled dry from both within and without:

There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations – the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.

— Noam Chomsky.

Underpinning the arrogance of such a mindset is what Vandana Shiva calls a view of the world which encourages humans to regard man as conqueror and owner of the Earth. This has led to the technological hubris of geo-engineering, genetic engineering and nuclear energy. Shiva argues that it has led to the ethical outrage of owning life forms through patents, water through privatization, the air through carbon trading. It is leading to appropriation of the biodiversity that serves the poor.

And therein lies the true enemy of genuine development: a system that facilitates such plunder, which is presided over by well-funded and influential foreign foundations and powerful financial-corporate entities and their handmaidens in the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

If we look at the various western powers, to whom many of India’s top politicians look to for inspiration, their paths to economic prosperity occurred on the back of colonialism and imperialist intent. Do India’s politicians think this mindset has disappeared? The same mentality now lurks behind the neoliberal globalisation agenda hidden behind terms and policies like ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘ease of doing business’, making India ‘business friendly’ or ‘enabling the business of agriculture’.

Is India willing to see Monsanto-Bayer, Cargill and other transnational corporations deciding on what is to be eaten and how it is to be produced and processed. A corporate takeover spearheaded by companies whose character is clear for all to see:

The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture with agribusinesses like Monsanto, WalMart, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and ITC in its Board made efforts to turn the direction of agricultural research and policy in such a manner as to cater their demands for profit maximisation. Companies like Monsanto during the Vietnam War produced tonnes and tonnes of ‘Agent Orange’ unmindful of its consequences for Vietnamese people as it raked in super profits and that character remains.

— Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Behind the World Bank/corporate-inspired rhetoric that is driving the overhaul of Indian agriculture is a brand of corporate imperialism which is turning out to be no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was in England for its peasantry. The East India company might have gone, but today the bidding of elite interests (private capital) is being carried out by compliant politicians, the World Bank, the WTO and lop-sided, egregious back-room trade deals.