Archive | Environment

UN Chief Warns World ‘Way Off Track’ on Tackling Climate Crisis as New Report Underscores Need for Bold Global Action

“Let us have no illusions: the climate crisis is already causing calamity and more is to come,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “This is a battle we can—and must—win.”

by: Jessica Corbett,

A fire rages in Bobin, Australia on Nov. 9, 2019, as firefighters try to contain dozens of out-of-control blazes across the state of New South Wales.

A fire rages in Bobin, Australia on Nov. 9, 2019, as firefighters try to contain dozens of out-of-control blazes across the state of New South Wales. (Photo: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued a stark warning about the necessity of ambitious global climate action Tuesday with the release of an annual report detailing the latest science on rising greenhouse gas emissions that drive up air and ocean temperatures, leading to devastating sea level rise and more severe extreme weather.

“Time is fast running out for us to avert the worst impacts of climate disruption and protect our societies from the inevitable impacts to come,” Guterres wrote in a statement included in the new World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, which concluded that 2019 was 1.1°C warmer than the pre-industrial era and concluded the hottest decade on record.

“We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for. We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050,” Guterres continued in the WMO report. “And for that, we need political will and urgent action to set a different path.”

António Guterres@antonioguterres

Let us have no illusions: the climate crisis is already causing calamity & more is to come.

I call on all countries to show more #ClimateAction ambition – and on individuals to hold your governments to account.

This is a battle we can – and must – win. pic.twitter.com/zYtRPyZnbC

Guterres reiterated his warnings and demands for bold action during a Tuesday event to unveil the WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019 (pdf) at U.N. headquarters in New York City.

“The indications are crystal clear. Global heating is accelerating,” Guterres said. “We count the cost in human lives and livelihoods as droughts, wildfires, floods, and extreme storms take their deadly toll. We have no time to lose if we are to avert climate catastrophe. This is a pivotal year for how we address the climate emergency. We have to aim high at the next climate conference in Glasgow in November.”

Although experts worry that the COP26 summit could be derailed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Guterres’ outlined his main focuses for the upcoming meeting:

  1. “National climate plans—the Nationally Determined Contributions, as they are called—must show more ambition.”
  2. “All nations need to adopt strategies to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”
  3. “A robust package of program, projects, and initiatives that will help communities and nations adapt to climate disruption and build resilience.”
  4. “Developed countries must deliver on their commitment to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020.”

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, who joined Guterres at the unveiling event, told U.N. News in an interview that there is increasing public awareness—from young people to the financial sector—of the unparalleled threat posed by the climate crisis, “so there are plenty of good signs that we have started moving in the right direction.”

“Last year emissions dropped in developed countries, despite the growing economy, so we have been [able] to show that you can detach economic growth from emission growth,” Taalas said. “The bad news is that, in the rest of the world, emissions grew last year. So, if we want to solve this problem we have to have all the countries on board.”

The WMO leader highlighted that countries are still failing to meet their commitments under the Paris climate accord, which puts the world on track to endure a global temperature rise of up to five degrees by 2100, so “there’s clearly a need for higher ambition levels if we’re serious about climate mitigation.”

The key takeaways from the WMO’s new #StateofClimate report are:

  • The global mean temperature for 2019 was 1.1±0.1°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Global atmospheric mole fractions of greenhouse gases reached record levels in 2018.
  • The year 2019 saw low sea-ice extent in both the Arctic and the Antarctic.
  • The ocean absorbs around 90% of the heat that is trapped in the Earth system by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.
  • Over the decade 2009–2018, the ocean absorbed around 23% of the annual CO2 emissions, lessening the increase in atmospheric concentrations.
  • As the ocean warms it expands and sea levels rise.

“This annual litany of climate change impacts and inadequate global responses makes for a gut-wrenching read,” Dave Reay, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, told the Guardian Tuesday.

View image on Twitter

Imperial College London professor Brian Hoskins emphasized to the Guardian the importance of the international community continuing to address the climate crisis.

“The report is a catalogue of weather in 2019 made more extreme by climate change, and the human misery that went with it,” he said. “It points to a threat that is greater to our species than any known virus—we must not be diverted from the urgency of tackling it by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible.”

Hoskins’ comments come as experts express concerns that although the coronavirus outbreak will likely reduce planet-heating emissions from China and other countries with high infection rates, the ongoing pandemic “could complicate the challenges of climate change—which presents serious, if longer-term, threats of its own—at a point when it was crucial to make rapid strides,” as MIT Technology Review reported Tuesday.

“Emissions in China are down because the economy has stopped and people are dying, and because poor people are not able to get medicine and food,” Gernot Wagner, a clinical associate professor at New York University’s Department of Environmental Studies, told MIT Technology Review. “This is not an analogy for how we want to decrease emissions from climate change.”

Posted in Environment, UN0 Comments

Nature’s Revenge: Climate Change and COVID-19

by EVAGGELOS VALLIANATOS

Tehachapi, California. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The corona virus pandemic is no accident. Like past global epidemics, it’s a warning that nature has had it with the ecocidal proclivities of man. These outrageous actions are changing climate and are warming and threatening planet Earth. Nature (the Earth) is fighting back. Climate change is sowing pandemic diseases.

Corona virus in America

No vaccine is likely to block for long the spreading death. Like most people of the world, Americans fail to see the broader significance of the pandemic. In addition, Trump and his sidekick, Mike Pence, spread confusion about the virus. Retired general Barry McCaffrey denounced the “Revolting sycophancy by Pence and others in the [Trump] Administration… There are eerie echoes of ‘supreme leader’ adulation to all of this. That Trump tolerates or needs this kind of faux devotion is dangerous in a democracy.” However, with the national attention on the virus, Americans don’t think much about democracy. They are getting ready to bunker down and hide in their homes to avoid infection.

On the grip of the Anthropocene

Such measures of panic have limited value. A bolder and wiser policy is necessary. If heads of state sign an enforceable treaty of ending in the next ten years or so the dependence of their countries on fossil fuels, over fishing, plastics, logging, pesticides, and industrialized farming, there may be a hopeful turnaround in the planet’s spiral towards more potent pandemic diseases, higher temperatures, and catastrophic breakdown.

UN climate experts say humanity has about a decade to prevent “irreversible damage” to the world from the monster of anthropogenic climate. Ten years is the time we need to, at least, limit the chaos of climate change.

I am not predicting the future by saying we need to act fast to save ourselves and the planet from our petroleum nightmares. I am a historian who has been observing American relations with the natural world for decades. I have also studied the dark history of human exploitation of the Earth.

The hubris of capitalism and state communism did so much damage to the Earth, scientists are describing our era as Anthropocene (human epoch). Like giant dinosaurs, men (primarily of the West) turned science and technology into weapons for the conquest of the world, including land, the seas, and the sky.

That “conquest” brought immense and unforeseen calamities: nearly wiping out the rich variety of life and filling the land with poisons and the seas with plastics, oil, and deleterious pollution. You cannot go on killing and forcing to extinction wild animals and plants, including insects, birds, fish, and other countless forms of life on land, rivers, lakes and the seas without a violent response.

According to the British charity, Population Matters, some 10,000 years ago, humans made up 1 percent of the animal population. Wild animals were the overwhelming majority: 99 percent. In 2011, humans ware 32 percent and wild animals 1 percent of the animal population. About 67 percent of non-wild animals were food for humans.

The missing wild animals, even the tiniest, are the species that kept the Earth beautiful, fruitful, habitable and alive.

Mother Earth

The Earth, I think, is still beautiful, fruitful, alive and sacred. The Homeric Hymn to Gaia (Earth) describes the Earth as mother of the gods and wife of heavens, very ancient Mother of All, which nourishes every single plant and animal.

The  ancient Greeks were not alone in venerating the Earth. Many other pre-modern people and Native Americans thought of the Earth as their Mother and Mother of the natural world.

Regulating pollution

Second, I am not an epidemiologist or virologist. I simply don’t like humans harming the environment-natural world because they are harming all plants and animals, including me.

For several decades, starting in the 1970s, I observed admirable efforts in the United States to change the dangerous Biblical obsession with human dominance of nature. Laws passed that said we had to limit our stupidity and greed to ourselves. We had no right to export our religious fanaticism in polluting the air, water, and land and in threatening wildlife, especially already endangered species.

To put teeth to these pioneering laws, President Richard Nixon in December 1970 founded the US Environmental Protection Agency.

I joined EPA in May 1979. That gave me a privileged angle from which to test the mission of EPA: that of protecting human health and the environment.

I never had any doubt that human health and the environment (air, water, wildlife) needed protection. Environmental pollution gave birth to the cancer plague. The cancer pandemic was killing and continues to kill millions.

Newspaper headlines, articles, and books (like the 1962 Silent Spring by Rachel Carson) painted a giant picture of an abused and poisoned world.

I worked for the Office of Pesticide Programs, which administers the widespread use of petrochemical insect and weed killers of enormous deleterious power and reach. My colleagues used to be very quiet about pesticides. But a few raised nagging questions about the safety of those chemicals and the integrity of the very labs testing them.

It turned out, the chemical industry labs had made the testing of chemical pesticides a profitable business, hardly concerned with science or integrity or public health. In 1976, a government scientist, Adrian Gross, caught the country’s largest testing lab, International Bio-Test, committing fraud, an awful and criminal tradition that continues to this day. For example, the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology in Hamburg, Germany, has been following the playbook of IBT, falsifying animal studies for the approval of pesticides.

The realization that pesticides have been dangerous for spraying America’s food and equally dangerous to wildlife, all but destroyed any ideas I had of the EPA being a good and responsible government agency.

I have written extensively on EPA and pesticides. A physician and great environmentalist in the UK, Rosemary Mason, shares my concern about pesticides. She has no doubt pesticides are the greatest health threat to the children and adults in her country.

Merchants of danger

There’s no doubt that powerful pesticides are deleterious to human beings and the natural world. Yet they are sprayed over crops, forests, and bodies of water. Those who control the production and use of pesticides, and the governments that approve those pesticides, are devoid of ethical norms and harm both people and the environment. They are contemptuous of civilization and the life-giving of the natural world. They are deceiving themselves and threatening the rest of us.

This unethical model has been duplicated in the economies of fossil fuels, chemicals, agribusiness, logging, cars, airplanes, and electricity production. These industries, funded largely by giant banks, are triggering global pollution and climate change. Virus pandemics are merely symptoms of these overarching anthropogenic attacks against the Earth.

Sanders and Biden

Ancient Athenians would ostracize and exile such people for ten years. In our modern times, however, not only we don’t ostracize these merchants of danger (corporate executives-oligarchs), but we subsidize them to do more of the same.

Senator Bernie Sanders keeps saying that, if elected president, he would force these guys to play by the rules, play a less hazardous game, even put some of them out of business. He would replace fossil fuels with solar, wind and other renewable zero-carbon alternatives. In that process, he says, the alternative technologies would create 24 million well-paying jobs. Sanders also promises to tax the billionaires behind the war against the Earth.

Former vice-president Joe Biden is not as forthright as Sanders on matters of rapid transition from petroleum to solar power. He does support fighting climate change, however. Yet Biden is beholden to his former boss, president Barack Obama. The Obama factor hangs all over him.

That was me, people

Obama was business as usual. He relied on Wall Street to dissipate the financial meltdown brought to America by Wall Street. Why would he have done such a sellout to the very institutions that nearly destroyed American and world economies? His EPA administrators (a black and a white woman) did nothing out of the ordinary. They even failed to reverse one of the most egregious damages the George W. Bush administration had inflicted on EPA: the destruction of the fabulous scientific document collections of the EPA library. Without those documents of hundreds of studies funded by EPA for several decades, the agency is blind.

Obama was schizophrenic. He cultivated an image of caring for the environment while, at the same time, he feasted with the industry. He used the Clean Air Act of 1970 and reduced the emissions of cars and coal plants. He often spoke with intelligence about climate change. He convinced China joining the United States in fighting climate danger. However, behind Obama’s enthusiasm, there lurk a demon to also do the bidding of the polluters and the oligarchs. He pretended he wanted to tame climate change, but, in reality, he did the bare minimum. He left the chemical industry alone, and did nothing about pesticides or agribusiness. He kept the national lands of the American West (some 450 million acres) open to fracking, oil drilling, mining, logging and feeding millions of cattle: all this destruction of public lands was for private enrichment.

In a speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, November 28, 2018, Obama prided himself for accelerating fracking in the United States: “You wouldn’t always know it, but [oil production] went up every year I was president… Suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer and the biggest gas [producer in the world] — that was me, people,” Obama said.

Epilogue

It’s this terrible Republican-like legacy of Obama that threatens Biden. Yet he is more likely to win the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. Sanders understands that, but keeps fighting. Nevertheless, he is trying to bring Biden closer to his philosophy.

Meanwhile, the corona virus has eclipsed climate change and everything else in America and the world. Yes, people are dying and the shutting down of the country has merits. But unless we connect the virus with the horrors of climate change and the anthropogenic impoverishment of the planet, we imperil ourselves and this beautiful Mother Earth, Mother to All.

Posted in Environment, Health0 Comments

The IPCC’s Worst Case Scenario

null

by ROBERT HUNZIKER

A recent landmark study of massive ice loss in Antarctica and Greenland fulfills the “worst case” prognosis, as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It’s a nightmare come true, as the impact of global warming on the planet’s most significant/biggest masses of ice multiplied six-fold in only 30 years. It wasn’t supposed to happen so unexpectedly, so suddenly.

Studies in the journal Nature conducted by an international team consisting of 89 climatologists reveals an unprecedented rate of ice melt at the planet’s greatest ice masses. They assessed ice loss data from 11 satellites that monitored both Greenland and Antarctica over the past 30 years.

Here’s the horrifying truth: The combined rate of ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica averaged 89 billion tons per year in the 1990s. Yet, by the 2010s (if standing, please sit down) the average rate exploded to 523 billion tons per annum. That’s a shocker. It’s inconvertible evidence that global heat is coming on strong, way too strong, especially for coastal dwellers.

Andrew Shepherd, University of Leeds, and Erik Ivins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California agree that the assessment is a clear sign of global heating at work. In their words: “The satellite measurements provide prima facie, rather irrefutable, evidence.”(Source: Ice Loss in Antarctica and Greenland Increased Sixfold in the Last 30 Years, LiveScience, March 2020)

Therefore, hands down, with the new data in hand, sea level rise of two-feet-plus over the course of the century looks like a done deal. But, if it’s already happening faster (6xs) than scientists thought possible, what does that imply about tomorrow? Could the rate itself increase 8xs or 10xs or more? Then what?

The truth of the matter: Scientists’ models have been off course, meaning way too conservative. Similar to the rampant stock market run to unsustainable heights of recent in contrasts to expectations by a few smart hedge fund managers, global warming has blown apart analyses of the smartest and brightest, and based upon a series of recent studies demonstrating the onset of ecosystems collapsing, e.g., permafrost in the high Arctic collapsing 70 years ahead of expectations (Source: Louise M. Farquharson et al, Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019).

It is likely that global warming has morphed into global heating at its worst and thus more mercurial than ever thought possible. If so, then batten down the hatches as it will soon become politically a necessity to force unified global efforts, like the Marshall Plan, to take steps to combat the biggest threat of all time.

As such, powerful, clear evidence of anthropogenic impact on the climate system, well beyond the forces of nature, is beyond the scope of debate. After all, rising greenhouse emissions and rising temperatures run upwards in parallel fashion, nearly step-by-step, with a lag effect.

Meanwhile, of all the global proposals to combat climate catastrophe, one of the more interesting is World War Zero initiated by former Secretary of State John Kerry, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Ohio governor John Kasich. According to the Terminator: “It’s not a party issue at all because there is no Democratic air or Republican air. We all breathe the same air. There’s no Democratic water or Republican water. We all drink the same water. So don’t fall for those tricks. It’s not a political issue.”

They advocate net zero emissions as soon as humanly possible. Along the way, they grandstand the obvious benefits of conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy, or the onset of a vast renaissance of global business with high-wage jobs galore, similar to the industrial renaissance of the early 20th century conversion from horse and buggy to gasoline-powered vehicles.

Nevertheless, by all appearances, the planet’s climate system has already been radically altered more so than ever before, or at least as far back as ice core evidence of a couple million years ago.

Alas, the risk of major breakdown of ecosystems throughout the planet has never been so prevalent. In fact, it’s already started. Greenland and Antarctica are clear, absolute proof. The overriding question therefore is whether humanity will go to work to mitigate the catastrophe as much as humanly possible.

After all, CO2 emissions and global temperatures have risen in lockstep, but what really counts in the final analysis is the actuality of physical responses, like the measured massive meltdown of the worlds’ largest masses of ice. That’s an incontrovertible fact, yet almost unbelievable, but still a measure of harsh reality.

Postscript: One year ago one of America’s greatest climate scientist Wally Broecker, affectionately known as “the grandfather of climate science,” passed away at age 87. He coined the term “global warming,” and in 1984 warned the House of Representatives that urgent action was required to halt accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere because, in his words, “the climate system could jump abruptly from one state to another with devastating effects.”

Ergo, his warning of 36 years ago now lingers over Congress.

Post-Postscript: During a 2019 BBC interview, James Lovelock (100) the father of Gaia theory said: “There is a real danger of losing our tenure on the planet altogether…. We’ve got to care about this matter of global warming because if we don’t do anything about it, there won’t be anybody here… It’s about time we went back to taking an interest in the environment… What happens to the planet when more CO2 is put into the air? The earth will get hotter. It will heat up to a point where no life on it of our kind will be possible…When tough times come, it’ll be very rapid, indeed.” (James Lovelock, The Vanishing Face of Gaia, A Final Warning, Allen Lane, 2010)

Posted in Environment0 Comments

Peer Pressure? Too Little and Way Too Late for the Climate Emergency

by STAN COX

Photograph by Jeffrey St. Clair

In a Washington Post opinion piece last month, Robert Frank sought to instruct us in how peer pressure can “help stop climate change.” He wasn’t very convincing on that point; he did help, however, to inadvertently make the case that collective efforts, ones much more sweeping than individual role-modeling, are necessary to staving off climate catastrophe.

Franks argued that “social contagion” can trigger a proliferation of climate-friendly actions, writing, “It’s when we consider the effects of our behavior on our peers, and vice versa, that the consequences of individual decisions to reduce carbon use start to grow in importance.” His marquee examples of peer pressure at work were the purchase of hybrid cars and the installation of residential solar energy equipment.

Regarding vehicular example-setting, Franks cited research that measured the power of social contagion by comparing brisk sales of the Toyota Prius since the early 2000s with anemic sales of the Honda Civic hybrid. The popularity of the “distinctively shaped Prius,” he wrote, could be attributed to the power that “environmental status signaling” wields over other potential car buyers.

The Civic hybrid never sold well (and was discontinued in 2015) because—writes Frank, citing research—it has “similar environmental advantages but looks exactly like the standard Civic, except for a subtle badge. The Civic sends a very weak ‘signal’ to onlookers.”

“Status signaling” may have been good for Prius sales, but its effect on the nation’s greenhouse emissions was undetectable. Annual Prius sales peaked in 2013, according to Frank, at 500,000 cars. An impressive number, but it means that the new crop of hybrids came in at just 0.2 percent of the total U.S. car/SUV/pickup fleet that year. Meanwhile, petroleum use in the United States escalated at a rate of 1.3 percent per year from 2012 to 2018, thanks largely to the soaring popularity of pickup trucks and other large vehicles (more social contagion?), along with increased air travel.

The climate emergency has reached a point at which it’s way too late to depend on lifestyle changes and market signaling. Hair-raising scientific reports coming through the UN Environment Program and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018-19 made clear that fossil fuel use must be reduced by 5 to 10 percent annually, starting now. Market forces will never produce such rapid rates of decline, whether or not peer pressure, carbon taxes, or other nudges are applied.

Consider Franks’ other peer-pressure poster child, rooftop solar. It is an excellent home feature to install if you can afford it. But if you do go solar, don’t expect to kick off a climatic revolution. According to Franks himself, “In the average-size Zip code . . . each new installation raised the daily probability of another installation by 0.78 percentage points.”

Such gentle prodding of the market cannot create a solar energy boom, let alone drive fossil fuel use down at the necessarily rapid rate. In fact, history and research show that with economic growth, new energy sources simply add to existing energy supplies; they don’t displace them.

Research by Richard York and Shannon Elizabeth Bell shows, in their words, that “simply promoting renewables will not lead to a full transition. What is necessary is an active suppression of fossil fuels. Simply expanding renewables is unlikely to be effective, since, all else equal, adding more energy to the energy supply suppresses prices and, therefore, helps to spur consumption.”

To be effective, active suppression will require impervious statutory caps on the total barrels of oil, cubic feet of gas, and tons of coal that can enter the U.S. economy, with those caps lowering quickly year by year until they reach zero on schedule. The buildup of wind and solar farms will not be able to proceed fast enough to compensate fully for the necessary withdrawal of fossil energy from the economy; furthermore, there will be permanent technical and ecological limits on the total quantity of renewable energy that can be generated. In short, this society must learn to run on much less energy.

With a smaller energy supply, communities across the country will have strong incentives to mobilize for energy conservation, public transportation, and local renewable energy generation. The necessary transformation of production and consumption must happen through collective action, not status signaling.

America needs to decrease its consumption of energy and other resources, and that is not going to happen one household or one purchase at a time. Driving greenhouse emissions down to zero soon enough to prevent runaway heating of the Earth will require a collective decision, arrived at through democratic processes, to end all fossil-fuel extraction and burning on a crash schedule.

Adapting this economy and society to the rapid elimination of oil, gas, and coal will require a nationwide focus on production that meets everyone’s need for basic goods and services, along with a halt to wasteful or superfluous production. The goal must be sufficiency for all and excess for none.

Robert Frank’s Post piece and his recent book Under the Influence have spurred widespread giddiness over the peer-pressure panacea. Example-setting can indeed be effective—not against greenhouse warming but rather in helping generate creative ideas for adapting, collectively and justly, to universal limits on energy and materials. Such limits must be established right away if we are to eradicate greenhouse emissions before it’s too late.

Posted in Environment0 Comments

Will COVID-19 Kill Globalization?

by JOHN FEFFER

Photograph Source: CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy – Public Domain

At a dinner party in mid-February, an architect told me that he was having a problem finishing his building projects. It was the carpets.

Most wall-to-wall carpeting for big construction projects in the United States, he explained, comes from China. The coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan — and the subsequent shutdown of many Chinese factories — was having a ripple effect across the global economy all the way down to the carpeting in U.S. buildings.

The global spread of a new pathogen has exposed the fragility of modern life. As it moves around the world, the coronavirus has compromised the circulatory system of globalization, dramatically reducing the international flow of money, goods, and people. The disease has done so rather economically, by infecting fewer than 100,000 people so far. Extrapolation and fear have done most of the work for it.

In the world of things, the coronavirus has infected the global supply chains that connect manufacturers and consumers. Port traffic in Los Angeles, the largest U.S. port, declined by 25 percent in February. Container traffic in general was down over 10 percent last month.

Manufacturers that depend on the sourcing of components in far-off countries had already been rethinking their participation in the global assembly line because of tariffs, the costs of transport, and increased automation. This “reshoring” will get a boost from the disruptions of the coronavirus.

People, too, are not moving around as much. Airline service in and out of emerging hot spots — South Korea, Italy — has been cancelled. Airline ticket sales last week were down 10 percent over the same period last year. The cruise industry, after outbreaks on a couple big ships, has taken a major hit.

After blithely ignoring the coronavirus outbreak in China for most of February, markets took a major dive in the final week of the month. The stock market lost $6 trillion in value last week, its worst showing since the financial crisis of a decade ago. This is testament to both the persistence of the disease and the incompetence of certain national leaders, notably Donald Trump. Despite the intervention of the Federal Reserve and other central banks, market volatility continues.

It might seem ridiculous to expect that a pathogen, even one that spreads at the rate of a pandemic, could reverse an economic trajectory that’s more than a century in the making. But the coronavirus outbreak coincides with attacks on economic globalization from many different quarters.

Environmentalists, for instance, have long been skeptical of unrestrained global economic growth. The threat of climate change has sharpened that critique and placed it squarely in the middle of mainstream debate.

Meanwhile, worsening economic inequality has called into question the capacity of economic globalization to lift all boats in a rising tide. Even the IMF has acknowledged the pernicious impact of this inequality (but without engaging in the necessary institutional overhaul to address the problem).

Finally, a slowing of global economic integration over the last decade suggests that the world may already have passed peak globalization.

On top of these systemic challenges, a rising political populism has targeted the global economic elite as the enemy of “the people.” Donald Trump challenged this elite and their orthodoxy of free trade by imposing tariffs on allies and adversaries alike and by withdrawing U.S. participation in big trade pacts, like the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The trade war he began with China has had perhaps the greatest impact. It has hit both economies hard, with job loss, higher bills for consumers, and lost markets for manufacturers and farmers. The recent agreement between Beijing and Washington notwithstanding, most of the tariffs remain in place.

Meanwhile, the UK finally pulled out of the European Union this year, which was a victory for economic nationalists. Populists elsewhere have railed against what Steve Bannon calls the “Davos class.” Neoliberal orthodoxy has given way to pronouncements of America First, Brazil First, and the like.

Such a setback is not necessarily fatal. Globalization has been challenged before by financial crises, pandemics like the Hong Kong Flu, even the specter of Y2K.

This time around, however, the failure of the global community to establish new rules of the road for the economy, the environment, and health care is creating a perfect storm of international disfunction. If something with a relatively low mortality rate like the coronavirus — between one percent and four percent, compared to 50 percent for Ebola — can do such a number on the global economy, perhaps the patient was already suffering from some pretty dire underlying conditions.

Pandemic

When people travel, they bring all sorts of luggage, including pathogens.

Thus was the great era of exploration also the dismal era of genocide. Explorers to the New World brought a panoply of diseases like smallpox and measles that were new to the indigenous communities. The colonial invaders subjected the Americas to war and slavery. But it was those diseases that were largely responsible for a catastrophic reduction in populations up and down the Americas. As many as 56 million people, or 10 percent of the world population at the time, died by the beginning of the 1600s. The mortality rate for the indigenous communities was an astonishing 90 percent.

In exchange, the explorers returned to their native countries with syphilis, a horrible disease to be sure, but it didn’t radically depopulate Europe.

Pandemics are closely associated with the movement of traders and soldiers. Roman soldiers returning from Mesopotamia were responsible for the plague that ravaged the empire in the second century AD, one of several pandemics that helped end Rome’s global dominance. The bubonic plague of the fourteenth century began in China and reached Europe via merchant ships carrying flea-infested rats. In the modern era, soldiers returning home from fighting in World War I spread the Spanish flu, killing up to 50 million people.

This last pandemic was one of the factors behind the collapse of the first wave of modern globalization. Prior to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the world had never been more tightly connected with steamships, trains, and the telegraph serving as the connective tissue. Trade as a proportion of GDP stood at 14 percent on the eve of the war.

The devastation of World War I followed by the flu epidemic dealt a heavy blow to world trade and economic integration. The global economic depression of the 1920s, the rise of various types of nationalism, and a second world war ensured that, by 1945, trade as a proportion of GDP had dropped to a mere 5 percent.

Modern globalization is made possible by modern medicine. A couple of pandemics have broken out since 1945, but they haven’t disrupted the global circulatory system. In the ancient Akkadian language, the word for epidemic disease meant “certain death.” Only recently have medical professionals been able to handle outbreaks of disease on such a scale.

Thanks to a second wave of globalization, trade would rise again to the levels it registered in 1914 — but only by the late 1980s. With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, a third wave of globalization removed more barriers to the movement of goods and money. Even China, a nominally Communist country, joined the World Trade Organization at the end of 2001. It has since offered its own version of globalization through the Belt and Road initiative that places China at the center of a burgeoning network of trade and finance.

The coronavirus, by itself, will not put an end to this most recent wave of globalization. Like the flu pandemic of 1918, it could contribute to a trend of greater fragmentation. Or, by serving as a reminder of how the health of humanity has been mutually dependent across borders for millennia, the latest outbreak could prompt a rethinking of how the world works together.

Things Fall Apart?

China will prove pivotal in determining which direction the world heads.

At the moment, economic pundits in the West are exhibiting a degree of schadenfreude at Beijing’s difficulties. Kenneth Rapoza, for instance, argues in Forbes that “The new coronavirus Covid-19 will end up being the final curtain on China’s nearly 30 year role as the world’s leading manufacturer.” The global assembly line was already shifting away from Chinese sources as a result of Trump’s tariffs, so the pandemic only reinforces this trend.

China could still come out a winner in all of this. No longer dependent on low-end manufacturing, it could invest its surplus capital into an even greater push toward higher value-added production, particularly in the digital sphere. This shift could facilitate a major reduction in the country’s carbon footprint as well.

Much depends on the U.S.-China relationship. Long before the coronavirus crisis, the U.S. policy elite had already moved away from supporting engagement with China. China was already prepared for disengagement. It had laid the groundwork for an alternative globalization, denominated in the renminbi and financed by the country’s considerable trade surpluses. Many countries in China’s vicinity opted to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative and receive financing from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

At the very moment that China and the United States need to forge a new consensus on economy and environment, the two countries are heading in different directions. And that will make it very difficult for the international community, such that it is, to come up with global solutions to what are increasingly global problems such as climate change and pandemics.

Because of the coronavirus, China has rediscovered how dependent it is on the rest of the world — to buy Chinese products, to supply Chinese consumers, to provide raw materials for Chinese business, to service Chinese tourists.

China’s projected growth rate for 2020 has been revised down from 6 percent to 5 percent, but it might drop even further. Sociologist Walden Bello has long argued that the Chinese economy is in fact quite fragile — with overcapacity in the manufacturing sector, a real-estate bubble, high rates of debt, and growing inequality.

With the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing was hoping it could grow its way out of these problems. That strategy depends on a number of unknown variables, which in the short term include the persistence of the pandemic and the results of the upcoming presidential election in the United States.

The coronavirus is a wake-up call for both Beijing and Washington. The new status quo of a revived Cold War between the two hegemons is unworkable. It’s time for another wave of globalization, but this time one that reduces carbon emissions, proceeds more equitably, and strengthens the capacity of international institutions to fight pandemics.

It won’t happen without U.S.-China cooperation. And that won’t happen without a different U.S. president and a different approach in Beijing.

Posted in Education, Environment, World0 Comments

Global Warming on a Rampage

by ROBERT HUNZIKER

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Global warming is not waiting around for the signatories to the Paris climate accord ‘15 to go to net zero emissions 2030/50. Sorry, those bold plans are way too little way too late. Already, across the board, the planet is on a hot streak that defies all projections. It’s starting to look downright scary!

Listen… when Helsinki has no snow in January/February accompanied by inordinate heat, it’s a powerful signal that “something is not right.” According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute: “Monthly records were not just broken, they were shattered with large margins.” (Source: 9 Freaky Phenomena Revealing How Warm This Winter Was, Treehugger, March 3, 2020)

Not only that, across the planet, heat-heat-heat too much heat is altering ecosystems beyond expectations, as, for example, an “uncharted granite island” suddenly emerged from rapidly melting ice in Antarctica, surprising researchers stationed off the coast of the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf, which has the troubling distinction as one of the fastest retreating glaciers in the world. The research team named the new discovery Sif Island.

Similar to global warming’s recent onslaught, Pine Island Glacier also is not waiting around for Paris ’15 signatories to take mitigation steps to avert catastrophic “Global Warming,” which likely will be officially renamed “Global Heating” at some point in time in the near future, not global warming, which term is already out-of-date.

Perilously, Pine Island Glacier experienced yet another monster iceberg calving event February 2020 the size of a U.S. state. Monster calving events used to occur every 5-6-7 years but have become annual events. Making matters scarier yet, “large cracks in the ice shelf are forming in places that scientists hadn’t seen before, such as the middle of the ice shelf.” (Source: Iceberg That’s Twice the Size of Washington Cleaves off Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, in a Sign of Warming, The Washington Post, February 10, 2020)

Scientists are deeply concerned and closely monitoring Pine Island Glacier and nearby Thwaites Glacier for signals of “runaway melting” that would free up inland ice flow. The ice shelves that are calving hold back rapid glacial flow to the sea. According to NASA, just those two glaciers hold back a surrounding region of potential glacial ice flow that could raise sea levels by 4 feet, which is a mere 2% of total Antarctic sea level rise locked in ice.

Therefore, the sudden emergence of Sif Island out of the blue is not a comforting signal. Not only that, but according to Carlos Schaefer, a Brazilian government scientist who’s analyzing recent Antarctica temperatures of 68°F (sizzling hot for Antarctica): “We have never seen anything like this.”

Dreadfully, the entire planet is being hit with hot stuff. French ski resorts had to import snow with helicopters. Snow-less Moscow shattered previous record temperatures by an astonishing 3.5°C.

And, heaping one disaster on top of another disaster, Japan’s Daisen White Ski Resort had to shut down early in January because it was so hot that fake-generated snow melted as soon as it was generated. And, for the first time ever, ever, ever Germany was unable to make ice-wine in any of the German wine regions. The 2019 ice-wine vintage will go down as the first-ever no harvest. It was too hot!

Still, by all appearances, global average temperatures are a misleading indicator for public instruction of global warming’s true impact. Global averages miss the true impact of regional global warming events that have the power to undercut life, as we know it.

For example, Yakutia, an eastern Siberian federal Russian republic, has heated up by more than 3°C preindustrial or three-times the global average, bringing on disastrous results. Yakutia, one-third the size of the U.S., has seen its arable land for farming plummet by more than 50% as a result of cascading permafrost. And, buildings are sagging into the ground, hillsides are collapsing, and lakes suddenly appear throughout the region. Life is turning chaotic.

All of which brings to mind the ever-dicey East Siberian Arctic Shelf where massive quantities of subsea permafrost contains and holds back vast reservoirs of methane frozen in ice in extremely shallow waters, unfortunately. Even though mainstream science believes the risks are low of a major eruption of methane out of the ESAS, which in turn could ignite powerful damaging Runaway Global Warming, there are serious scientists who have studied the ESAS in detail and who adamantly claim otherwise by assigning a high risk to the event, which would take civilization down to its knees by decimating agricultural regions across the planet as well as turning several latitudinal zones uninhabitable.

Meanwhile, according to the IEA (International Energy Agency) fossil fuel companies plan on increasing oil and gas production by 120% to 2030. Demand for oil is irrepressible. And, not only that, China is embarking on mega-mega construction plans for new coal-burning power plants, and so is India, and Japan recently announced its intention of building 22 new coal-burning plants over the next 5 years.

All of that in the face of irrefutable evidence of acceleration of climate change well beyond the influence of natural events. Still, Trumpers refuse to recognize and act upon that reality, thus unofficially blessing other nations increases in fossil fuel usage and thus silently encouraging rejection of Paris ’15. Is that wayward influence a plot hatched in America?

As a result, and with great fanfare, trumpets blaring, and drums rolling, Trump has been crowned “the Worst President for our Environment in History” by nine major green orgs: Alaska Wilderness League Action, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, EDF Action, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society. Trump is Global Warming’s Man of the Year 2019.

The year 2019 is the 43rd consecutive year, since 1977, with both land and ocean temperatures above the global 20th century average. And, of extreme significant deep concern, the global rate of global warming has doubled, specifically since 1977. That is an ominous and clear signal of acceleration of an unwelcoming rate of global warming. Frankly, it’s horrible news. Brace yourself!

Posted in Campaigns, Environment0 Comments

Activists Urging Barclays to ‘Stop Funding the Climate Emergency’ Shut Down Nearly 100 Branches Across UK

“It’s time Barclays pulled the plug and backed away from funding fossil fuels for good,” said a local Greenpeace campaigner.

by: Jessica Corbett,

staff writer

Greenpeace UK shuts down Barclays branch

Greenpeace activists shut down Barclays branches across the United Kingdom on March 2 to pressure the bank to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry. (Photo: Tim Morozzo/Greenpeace)

In a coordinated action to pressure Barclays to stop financing climate destruction, Greenpeace activists on Monday morning shut down 97 of the British investment bank’s branches across the United Kingdom.

“Barclays must stop funding the climate emergency; that’s why we’ve taken action today,” Morten Thaysen, climate finance campaigner at Greenpeace U.K., said in a statement. “From floods to bushfires and record heat in Antarctica, the impacts of this crisis are staring us in the face. Yet Barclays keeps pumping billions into fossil fuel companies at exactly the time we need to stop backing these polluting businesses.”

“Banks are just as responsible for the climate emergency as the fossil fuel companies they fund, yet they’re escaped scrutiny for years,” Thaysen added. “We’ve shut down branches across the country to shine a spotlight on Barclays’ role in bankrolling this emergency. It’s time Barclays pulled the plug and backed away from funding fossil fuels for good.”

Activists across the country disabled the doors at Barclays branches and plastered the buildings with photos of campaigners holding signs that declared: “Stop funding the climate emergency,” “Climate criminals,” and “Stop funding fossil fuels.”

Greenpeace UK@GreenpeaceUK

Thanks to our fantastic friends at @Peopleandplanet, who helped us take the #ClimateEmergency message to @Barclays branches across the UK today. https://twitter.com/peopleandplanet/status/1234451766604898304 …People & Planet@peopleandplanetBrilliant actions across the UK from our friends at @GreenpeaceUK, shutting nearly 100 @Barclays branches

Banks are actively driving the climate crisis – together, we can stop them #BarclaysShutDown #DivestBarclays
273:17 PM – Mar 2, 2020

View image on Twitter

Greenpeace U.K.’s #BarclaysShutdown action was welcomed by fellow climate advocacy groups and activists who praised the group for fighting for a habitable planet:

Greenpeace UK@GreenpeaceUK·Mar 2BREAKING: Greenpeace activists have shut down over 95 @Barclays branches up and down the UK. Banks are continuing to fund fossil fuel companies & Barclays is the worst in Europe. Globally, banks put up $1.9tn for fossil fuels between 2016-2018. #BarclaysShutDown

Image

According to the Rainforest Action Network’s latest fossil fuel finance report card, published nearly a year ago, Barclays poured over $85 billion into coal, oil, and gas companies from 2016 to 2018, and was the sixth largest funder of the fossil fuel industry worldwide. Climate action campaigners and Barclays shareholders alike have urged the bank to phase out its support for dirty energy firms.

In a series of tweets Monday, Greenpeace U.K. showed the impacts of the human-caused climate crisis and pointed out Barclays’ role in funding fossil fuel companies that significantly contribute to global heating:

Greenpeace UK@GreenpeaceUK

Banks like @Barclays are backing the companies wrecking our planet & then denying their actions have consequences.
For them shareholder value comes first – even if it means cashing in on the climate crisis. #BarclaysShutdown
[1/3]

View image on Twitter

202:22 PM – Mar 2, 2020

In response to Monday’s protests, a Barclays spokesperson told BBC News that “we recognize that climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today, and are determined to do all we can to support the transition to a low carbon economy, while also ensuring that global energy needs continue to be met.”

“Greenpeace has a view on these issues to which they are completely entitled, but we would ask that—in expressing that view—they stop short of behavior which targets our customers, and our colleagues, going about their lives in communities around the country,” the bank spokesperson added. 

Although some Barclays customers were reportedly frustrated with Greenpeace’s action, some Twitter users who self-identified as bank customers turned to social media to express support for the group’s decision to shut down bank branches, given the scale of the threat posed by the climate emergency.

“As an ‘old dear’ I am content for the minor inconvenience of temporarily losing access to a bank that invests in the destruction of my grandchildren’s and their grandchildren’s future. Well done, Greenpeace,” tweeted Dianne Woodward, a scientist and educator.

Verity Pabla, founder of the music company I’m Not a Machine, directed her tweet at the bank, writing: “I’m a new Barclays customer, and I fully support this action by Greenpeace U.K. It’s time to shape up your business with immediate effect. Stop funding fossil fuel companies.”

The action also won support from Alan Watson Featherstone, an ecologist, nature photographer, and founder of the conservation charity Trees for Life, which aims to restore the Caledonian Forest in Scotland:

American author and activist Bill McKibben responded on Twitter to the Barclays action, highlighting upcoming protests to pressure the U.S. investment bank JPMorgan Chase, the biggest funder of fossil fuels, to divest from projects wrecking the planet. The actions planned for April 23 are part of the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign launched in January by multiple advocacy groups, including Greenpeace USA and 350.org, which McKibben co-founded.

JPMorgan is a top target of the campaign, which has also set its sights on asset managers and insurance companies. Although JPMorgan announced last week that the bank will stop funding certain fossil fuel extraction projects, McKibben confirmed that it will still “retain the title of the doomsday bank” and face demonstrations by climate activists next month.

Posted in Campaigns, Environment, Health, UK0 Comments

The World’s Waste-Pickers Under Threat

New waste management policies undermine the informal recycling sector in the Global South.   
by: Barcelona Research Group on Informal Recyclers

Waste pickers oppose policies that exclude them from their source of livelihood: recyclable waste. (Photo: Global Alliance of Waste Pickers)

Waste pickers oppose policies that exclude them from their source of livelihood: recyclable waste. (Photo: Global Alliance of Waste Pickers)On the occasion of the Global Waste Picker Day (March 1st), the Barcelona Research Group on Informal Recyclers—in collaboration with EnvJustice, the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers and WIEGO—releases a thematic map of socio-environmental conflicts in the Global South related to informal recyclers, whose livelihoods are put at greater risk due to a global policy shift towards waste management privatization that limits their access to recyclables.

This map (below) documents socio-environmental conflicts involving waste pickers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is a selection of over 50 conflicts from the Environmental Justice Atlas in which waste pickers, citizens and civil society groups are resisting and fighting for social and environmental justice. The map gives visibility to the growing injustices in the waste management sector resulting from wider public policy trends related to privatization, incineration and access restriction in urban space. The conflicts visualize who loses and who benefits from these policy shifts – showing how profits are privatized and how costs are socialized. Waste, once a commons of the poor, is rapidly being converted into a commodity. The social and environmental impacts of this process are closely intertwined, notably pollution and loss of livelihood.

The world is continuously producing more and more waste, with consequent serious health and environmental impacts. In urban areas, domestic waste is accumulating at an even faster pace and landfills fill up quickly. Public authorities, in a desperate attempt to manage the unmanageable, implement new waste management models that are capital-intensive and technology-driven at the cost of more socio-ecologically sustainable alternatives provided by waste pickers. 

Historically, waste pickers have been confronted with dangerous working conditions, social marginalization and persecution. This map shows how this precarious situation is now being worsened by a number of threats that, often as a result of global policy shifts, limit their access to recyclable waste. In what follows, we detail, first, the environmental and social contributions of waste pickers, second, the threats that undermine their livelihood, and third, their forms of resistance to these socio-environmental injustices. In times of crisis, threats to waste pickers are threats to humankind

Waste pickers’ social, environmental and economic contributions

Waste pickers contribute to local economies and the inclusion of socially marginalized groups, to public health and safety, and to environmental sustainability. The informal recycling sector in the Global South sustains a livelihood for about 19 to 24 million people, according to the ILO1. Although historically invisibilized, waste pickers around the world contribute to protecting the earth by collecting, sorting, and selling discarded materials found by door-to-door collection, on the streets, in containers and landfills. Their skills and knowledge about different materials such as metals, plastics, and paper enables them to re-valorize, re-use and extend the life of items cast aside. Their recycling rates are typically high, in the range from 20 to 50 percent, often higher than those achieved by municipal or private companies. In countries like Brazil or South Africa waste pickers do 90 percent of all recycling. In some countries, they are strongly organized in cooperatives and associations, enabling them to voice their claims towards the broader public, engage with civil society and even formally take up municipal waste services. In brief, despite the fact that they provide services to society completely free of cost, their work and rights often only remain insufficiently recognized.

Waste pickers are under threat

In the last decade, threats to waste picker livelihoods in the Global South have been triggered by capital-intensive and technology-driven public policy shifts towards privatization and formalization of the urban waste management sector. We can identify three main types of conflicts: incineration, privatization and urban space restrictions. 

First, technologies such as incineration are typically proposed as “sustainable” solutions to unsolved waste management problems, with large public subsidies from the Clean Development Mechanism. The first incinerator in Africa was built in Ethiopia in 2018 with Chinese investment and Danish technology. National bans on incineration are being challenged from the Philippines to Mexico. Incinerators are popping up like mushrooms, but they might be toxic ones. In cities like Delhiwaste pickers protest against them because they do not want to see their livelihood burnt, while citizens fear air pollution. In terms of climate change, while waste pickers cool down the earth, incinerators warm it up.

Second, companies are now realizing that waste has a monetary value – something that waste pickers have been aware of for decades. This, for example, results in privatization of landfills that displace waste pickers, sometimes leading to violent attacks and repression like in Johannesburg. The closure of problematic landfills has often led to the simple shifting of environmental damage (e.g. Belém and Rio de Janeiro). In general, privatization and the imposition of formal criteria in the public contracting for municipal waste management services have made lives harder for informal waste pickers (e.g. Cairo and Cape Coast). 

Third, restrictions in urban space result into discriminatory impacts on waste pickers such as the prohibition of animal- or human-drawn vehicles (e.g. in Porto Alegre and Montevideo) or the installation of “anti-poor”, “smart” containers (e.g. Buenos Aires and Bogota). In the name of modern, beautiful and hygienic city centers, waste pickers are denied access to certain urban areas, like in Phnom Penh

Resistance and mobilisation for social and environmental justice 

Waste pickers oppose policies that exclude them from their source of livelihood: recyclable waste. They struggle for social rights and the formal inclusion into municipal waste management to escape from precarious and dangerous conditions. They collectively organize to vizibilize their environmental services due to recycling, to fight discrimination and to empower their community. The largest mobilizations can be found in Latin American countries, but also in South Africa and India, among others.

The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers, supported by the NGO WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), is committed to support and strengthen organizations of more than 28 countries that form part of the network. Their aim is to include waste pickers as “actors in decision-making processes, with the goal of improving working conditions for their community, developing knowledge and capacity-building activities, and seeking the recognition and professionalization of their work”. Struggles against incineration have led to the emergence of civil society groups, many of them networked in the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, which has also been supportive of waste pickers and communities fighting against incineration.

While recognition for waste pickers’ contributions is growing in some places, most continue to face social marginalization and highly unsuitable working and living conditions. They often get little support from local governments, who in many cases fail to formally recognize the work and contributions of waste pickers, and instead further restrict their access to waste. Waste picker struggles for social and environmental justice hence continue at various fronts.

Posted in Environment, Health, Spain, World0 Comments

The Call for an Extinction Rebellion

by CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM

Mexican Wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

In the age of coming climate apocalypse, the narcissistic self-regard of humans in their exploitive relationship with the natural world is so disgusting, so utterly reprehensible, so vain and vacuous and unworthy of intelligent beings that it makes me want to repudiate humanism altogether and call for humans to be wiped off the goddamn planet.

The film Planet of the Apes, issued in 1968, had it right when the apes quoted their sacred scrolls:

Beware the beast man, for he is the Devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother’s land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours.

There’s my rant, and enough of it.  I’m part of this absurdist cavalcade aimed at climate doom, I’m the problem as much as anyone else, and I haven’t any high horse on which to climb to judge my fellow beasts.

What I know is this: Humankind as currently organized – organized for ever-more unnecessary consumption – will burn in the hell of a climate-warmed world and will indeed make a desert of the place we called home.

Good riddance?  No way.  I have two daughters, aged 7 and 24, to think about.  Do we actually give a shit about these kids and their future?  Of course not. There are profits to be made.

Which is to say: let’s stab a knife in the back of my daughters and watch them bleed out in the street years hence.  Fuck the kids!  Let them die so we can have more and more in our imperious carbon-intensive moment of profligacy.

Like I said, it’s so disgusting, so dispiriting, that it could turn you into an anti-humanist, someone who might wish the filthy species of entitled shitheads to wipe itself out.

But then again: my daughters.  Humans, sweet and gentle and open and uncorrupted, not yet anyway, not if I can prevent it.

I want them to grow up in the world that I grew up in, a world of lovely natural rhythms, in which the biotic expressions of the complexity and richness of the other-than-human runs riot across the seasons.  Here – look, kids! – is the newness and strangeness and bewilderment of the repeating cycles of nature.   Here is the ground of our being.  Without it, we are nothing.  There is no humankind without nature.

And here, kids, is a smartphone which I smash with a hammer.  My seven-year-old, Josie, who walks the woods of the Catskills with me, finds this destructive idea at least as entertaining as tree identification.  (Note to parents: destroying phones with a hammer works – it is proven by physics.)

The point is this: whenever you feel the terrible weight of misanthropy – I feel it every time I wake up and look in the mirror – think of future generations, your love for them, your honoring of them, and try to militate against our economic system that condemns them to destruction.

I can think of one and only one political movement today that serves this purpose, and it is called Extinction Rebellion.   Check it out.  The idea behind Extinction Rebellion is that if we all get together and disobediently shut down the mad system, we might no longer have to feel ashamed at being the mere beast called man.

Posted in Environment0 Comments

Amazon Onslaught

by ROBERT HUNZIKER

This month Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro proposed a new bill promoting mining, expanded agriculture, and energy production on indigenous lands in the Amazon. Accordingly, private developers as well as private hedge funds will occupy and develop land that’s been home to indigenous people for thousands of years.

Meantime during Bolsonaro’s first full year in office, deforestation increased by 85%. More on this eye-popping number follows.

Of recent, there have been several deeply disturbing developments in the Amazon. Less than two months ago the world’s leading Amazonian scientists, Thomas Lovejoy (George Mason University) and Carlos Nobre (University of Sao Paulo) issued a harsh warning to the people of the world: “Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.” (Source: Amazon Tipping Point: Last Chance for Action, Science Advances, Vol. 5, no. 12, December 20, 2019).

Tipping points are final acts in nature, meaning points of no return for ecosystems, as functionality turns sour. Regarding the vastness of the Amazonian rainforest, its functionality is so worldly powerful that loss is incomprehensible and likely indicative of an impending final act for civilized, as well as uncivilized, life on the planet.

Nevertheless, recklessly flirting with extreme potent danger, the “tipping point warning” by leading scientists is brushed aside by Bolsonaro’s government, as the Amazon rainforest suffers direct attack on all fronts; it’s like an Anti-Climate Change Crusade, meaning, clearing the planet of all life forms, except for humans, but that can only last for so long before “thudding humans” start reverberating throughout the planet.

Already, the belated impact of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming over the decades has only now started clobbering the Amazon with three 100-year droughts, back-to-back-to-back every 5 years. It’s unprecedented, never happened before, until excessive levels of CO2 accumulated in the atmosphere.

According to NASA, serious, likely permanent, damaging episodes of drought in 2005, 2010, and 2015 have literally changed the Amazon, losing its special “carbon sink status.” As such, the Amazon’s sphere of influence in various regions throughout the rainforest transforms from preserving humanity via its powerful “carbon sink” capabilities to morphing into a shameful “carbon emitter,” same as coal-fired power plants spewing CO2, but not as sooty.

Unprecedented 100/year droughts occurring every five years sends a clear resounding signal to the world that something is horribly wrong.

Consider: According to NASA, the timing between drought sequences has impeded regrowth. The rainforest just doesn’t react like it used to. It does not have enough time between droughts to heal itself and regrow. Throughout all of recorded history, this has never been witnessed before. The implications are downright dreadful. (Source: NASA Finds Amazon Drought Leaves Long Legacy of Damage, NASA Earth Science News Team, August 9, 2018)

Meanwhile and regrettably, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, deforestation of the Amazon surged by 85% in 2019. Wall Street brokers would kill for a stock that increased by 85% in one year, and they would not blink an eye over a bloody mess, if necessary, to achieve such spectacular results, which, in a sense, is equivalent to the 85% Amazonian deforestation scenario. Which will likely get worse in 2020.

Not only that, killing indigenous tribal people is on the rise as private adventurers take Bolsonaro’s rightwing sentiments to heart, intruding into the Amazon. They’re armed for self-defense as well as to assault new lands. One never knows when a barefooted half-naked man carrying a thin wooden spear may appear from within the bush on his sacred homeland.

As if the situation couldn’t get much worse, the outlook for 2020 is simply awful! According to MapBiomas, a Brazilian organization in collaboration with universities, NGOs, and technology companies that monitor deforestation: “It would be expected that it will be worse than last year unless something really big happens in the next two or three months to avoid the high season of deforestation that starts in May (2020), according to Tasso Azevedo, coordinator of a group called MapBiomas.” (Source: Victoria Klesty, Amazon Deforestation Could Speed Up In 2020: Expert, Reuters January 15, 2020)

What’s worse than 85% deforestation? Is it 100% or maybe more now that Bolsonaro is so anxious to open up the Amazon to the deep-seated impulses of neoliberal-neocolonial capitalism (1) privatize (2) extract (3) monetize, as quickly as humanly possible, no questions asked.

Going forward, and assuming the Bolsonaro Amazon Extraction Scheme works as planned and passes muster in the hallowed halls of The National Congress of Brazil (Brasilia), it likely puts at risk essential life-sourcing features of the Amazon: Without its wondrous strength and power to generate (1) hydrologic systems (rivers across the sky as far north as Iowa), (2) absorb and store carbon (CO2) and (3) miraculous life-giving endless supply of oxygen, civilization would cease to exist beyond scattered tribes, here and there.

In all, it’s obvious where the Amazonian affair is headed, especially giving consideration to “civilization ceasing to exist beyond scattered tribes, here and there.”

Fortuitously, the infrastructure is already in place for that new world order. There are 305 Brazilian tribes, population 900,000, already in place to teach civilized society how to act and behave and live within natural ecosystems that fundamentally support the planet with vital life-giving resources… for free!

Postscript: An excellent new film by ScientistsWarning.TV (Stuart Scott, Executive Director) “Rollbacks – An Assault Against Life on Earth” is an exposé of Trump’s attack on the environment.

Posted in Brazil, EnvironmentComments Off on Amazon Onslaught

Shoah’s pages

www.shoah.org.uk

KEEP SHOAH UP AND RUNNING

March 2020
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031