Archive | Environment

‘Demoralizing’ New Michael Moore Film Attacks Climate Movement at a Time When Solutions Should be at the Forefront, Say Critics

“Throughout, the filmmakers twist basic facts, misleading the public about who is responsible for the climate crisis.”

byEoin Higgins,

The new film from Michael Moore is coming under fire from climate activists.

The new film from Michael Moore is coming under fire from climate activists. (Photo: POTH/publicity still)

A new film produced by documentarian Michael Moore is angering environmental activists who say filmmaker Jeff Gibbs plays fast and loose with the facts, attacks the wrong targets, and even ends up arguing for ecofascist solutions to the climate crisis.

“Throughout, the filmmakers twist basic facts, misleading the public about who is responsible for the climate crisis,” wrote University of California Santa Barbara professor Leah Stokes of the film for Vox.

“We are used to climate science misinformation campaigns from fossil fuel corporations,” she continued. “But from progressive filmmakers? That’s new.”

Leah Stokes@leahstokes

Michael Moore’s new climate film is full of misinformation about clean energy and climate activists.

Given the film’s loose relationship to facts, I’m not even sure it should be classified as a documentary.

My latest in @Vox. …

In “Planet of the Humans” (POTH), Gibbs focuses on what he sees as the false promises of renewable, green energy solutions to the climate crisis and a dismissal of the climate activist movement as the hurdles for decisive action to address the crisis.

Climate science writer Ketan Joshi, in a scathing review of the film, wrote that the film’s “outright lies about wind and solar are serious and extremely harmful.”

“Wind and solar aren’t just technological tools with enormous potential for decarbonization,” wrote Joshi. “They also have massive potential to be owned by communities, deployed at small scales with minimal environmental harm, and removed with far less impact on where they were than large power stations like coal and gas. They do incredible things to electricity bills, they decentralize power (literally and figuratively), and with more work they can be scaled up to properly replace fossil fuels.”

Naomi Klein@NaomiAKlein

Thank you for writing this. It is truly demoralizing how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change. There are important critiques of an environmentalism that refuses to reckon with unlimited consumption + growth. But this film ain’t it. …

Ketan Joshi@KetanJ0

Folks, I had to do it. A big blog / fact check on @MMFlint and @jeffgibbstc spectacularly bad #PlanetoftheHumans film. It’s lazy, wrong, old and harmful.

It is dot points from climate denier blogs from 2012, and it’s horrific how widely it’s spread. …

View image on Twitter

Heated newsletter writer Emily Atkin, in a post enumerating questions on the film for Gibbs and Moore, wondered why POTH avoids backing up its claims on energy.

“This movie repeatedly claims that humans are better off burning fossil fuels than using renewable energy,” said Atkin. “But it also fails to cite any peer-reviewed science on lifecycle emissions, which show the cumulative impact of different renewable energy sources. Why?”

In a more disturbing move, Gibbs promotes population control as the best answer to the warming of the planet. 

“There’s a reason that Breitbart and other conservative voices aligned with climate denial and fossil fuel companies have taken a shine to the film,” Earther‘s Brian Kahn wrote last week. “It’s because it ignores the solution of holding power to account and sounds like a racist dog whistle.”

That sentiment was echoed by Joshi, who noted that the film’s emphasis on prioritizing white American voices was in line with its argument on population control.

“The film features a parade of—solely—white Americans, mostly male, insisting the planet has to reduce its population,” wrote Joshi. “There is no information provided on which people in the world need to stop fucking, but we can take a guess, based on the demographics of the people doing the asking.”

Films for Action, in a post on POTH, said that while questions of population growth are “complicated,” the movie’s proposal of poulation degrowth does not acknowledge those complexities.

“It’s true we can’t keep growing forever, in the same way we can’t keep consuming the Earth forever, but in high-consumption countries, populations are already declining, and in areas where populations are still growing, the ‘impact on Earth’ is still low compared to the impact of ‘rich’ nations,” the group wrote. “The truth is, pinning our problems on population lets industrial capitalism off the hook—what Daniel Quinn called the culture of maximum harm.”

POTH has also been criticized for its treatment of climate activists. As Stokes wrote for Vox, the timing of such an argument seems counterproductive to solving the climate crisis. 

“Perhaps the most insulting thing is that this film comes at a time when the youth climate movement is finally gaining momentum,” wrote Stokes. “Young women like Greta Thunberg and Varshini Prakash have helped climate change break into the mainstream. Rather than bolster the work of the Sunrise Movement, Fridays for Future, or Zero Hour, it undermines these activists’ achievements by sowing confusion and doubt.”

Posted in Environment, Politics0 Comments

Amid Dual Crises of Climate and Covid-19, World Leaders Told ‘Empty Words Will Not Help Us’

“Despite promising statements, the [Petersberg] dialogue did not result in firm commitments to a green and just recovery.”

by: Jessica Corbett,

German Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze participates in the Petersberg Climate Dialogue XI.

German Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze participates in the virtual Petersberg Climate Dialogue XI on April 24, 2020. (Photo: BMU/Christoph Wehrer)

As the year’s first major meeting of climate ministers—held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic—wrapped up Tuesday, climate campaigners welcomed world leaders’ calls for a “green recovery” from the ongoing public health crisis but demanded that the lofty rhetoric be matched by ambitious, detailed plans and actions.

“This pandemic has upended climate diplomacy and climate meetings until next year but countries, especially major emitters, must continue working to deliver strong commitments on climate ambition this year that put the world on a 1.5°C degree pathway.”
—May Boeve,

Ministers from a few dozen countries came together online for the Petersberg Climate Dialogue (PCD) XI. The two-day annual meeting was co-hosted by Germany and the United Kingdom. The U.K. will also host the next U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26), which was set for November but is postponed because of the outbreak.

The German and British hosts announced last week that the livestreamed event would “focus on how we can organize economic recovery after the acute crisis management, and how countries can proceed with ambitious climate action despite the postponement of COP26. The goal is a green recovery.”

May Boeve, executive director of global environmental advocacy group, said in a statement Tuesday that “despite promising statements, the [Petersberg] dialogue did not result in firm commitments to a green and just recovery. The climate crisis has not taken time off so our response to the COVID-19 pandemic must also be up to the challenge of climate breakdown.”

Boeve, whose organization has joined with hundreds of groups fighting for a just recovery, added:

This pandemic has upended climate diplomacy and climate meetings until next year but countries, especially major emitters, must continue working to deliver strong commitments on climate ambition this year that put the world on a 1.5°C degree pathway. This must go alongside efforts to regenerate economies and social welfare measures. In fact they reinforce each other—it’s possible to make economic recovery measures that put people and the planet first.

The choices being made right now will shape our society for years, if not decades to come. Solutions for economic and social recovery must center on principles of justice, care, community empowerment, and international solidarity for the safety and long-term resilience of the most vulnerable. The choices must put people first, and accelerate our action against the climate crisis. We need a truly interconnected global approach which first and foremost invests in the safety and health of all people.

Fridays for Future Germany, the country’s chapter of the global youth climate movement launched by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, tweeted a demand for bold action ahead of a speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to PCD Tuesday.

“What we need is a clear commitment to increased climate goals that are in line with [1.5°C] degrees,” the group declared. “Empty words will not help us here—with the voice of hundreds of thousands of strikers we say: #FightEveryCrisis!”

EU Climate Action@EUClimateAction

Day of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue.
Tune in at 15.10 CET to follow live speeches by Chancellor Merkel, @antonioguterres , @TimmermansEU , @AlokSharma_RDG & more on #GreenRecovery plans and next steps to tackle the #ClimateCrisis … #PCD11

View image on Twitter

In her address, Merkel reiterated her support for raising the European Union’s emissions reduction target for 2030 to as high as 55%. According to Euractiv:

The chancellor also said it was now time to “prove our steadfastness,” because the climate must not be excluded from the economic stimulus packages currently being put together.

Merkel’s speech came after officials from Germany and the U.K. promoted a green recovery in comments to the Associated Press. As Britain’s Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “The world must work together, as it has to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, to support a green and resilient recovery, which leaves no one behind.”

However, Jennifer Morgan, executive director of advocacy group Greenpeace International, told the AP that “we are seeing the internal documents from industries indicating that they are trying to use this moment where public money is being put back into the economy to prop up their industries.” She specifically pointed to the oil and aviation industries.

“It’s just really important, particularly with the oil industry, to note that this type of volatility that we’re seeing right now, it’s a rehearsal for what climate chaos will bring to the oil market in the future,” she said. “These are risky investments. They were risky investments before this crisis, and they are risky investments moving forward.”

Jennifer Morgan@climatemorgan · Apr 28, 2020

As @antonioguterres said “The highest cost is the cost of doing nothing.”

The #ClimateCrisis does not stop for #Covid19.

Alongside a just, low carbon, green and sustainable recovery – needed for all of our sakes – we must have system change to #BuildBackBetter.
#PCD11 (1/2)

Jennifer Morgan@climatemorgan

(2/2) This unprecedented time calls for unprecedented action, reform, courage and hope. And brave collaborative leadership.

No doubt the biggest challenge in the long careers of @antonioguterres and Chancellor #Merkel, with people’s support, they will fulfil this task.#PCD11

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who also delivered a speech to PCD Tuesday, similarly emphasized the importance of moving away from energy practices that have contributed to the climate crisis.

“Looking forward, public funds should invest in the future, by flowing to sustainable sectors and projects that help the environment and climate,” said Guterres. “Fossil fuel subsidies must end, and carbon must have a price and polluters must pay for their pollution.”

Guterres’ speech, which outlined “six climate-related actions to shape the recovery,” echoed his public remarks on the 50th annual Earth Day last week as well as a Tuesday op-ed he published the New York Times.

“For years, we have failed our young by damaging the planet and failing to protect the people most vulnerable to crises,” he wrote for the Times. “We have a rare and short window of opportunity to rectify that—by rebuilding a better world, not reverting to one that is good for only a minority of its citizens.”

“We must act now to tackle the coronavirus globally for all of our sakes,” he declared, “and, at the same time, pursue immediate ambitious climate action for a cleaner, greener, more prosperous, and equitable world.”

Posted in Environment, Health, Human Rights, Politics, UN, World0 Comments

Two Truths from the Pandemic No One Is Mentioning


Two truths at least are certain in this post-pandemic world:

1) Humans have so dominated the world, destroying much of non-human life and systems in the process, that the world has struck back in recoil and seeks to readjust the balance.

2) Human sustenance systems are far too large and unwieldly to be effective and the smaller the system or operation the more efficient, useful, friendly, or supportive.

The first truth is of course the one that the current organizers of the world, the ones who have brought this crisis upon us, do not want to believe.  To believe that, they would have to acknowledge that the global-liberal-capitalist-guided environment they have worked centuries—or, to be more precise, 75 years—to create has so damaged the environment that it can no longer function.  It is not merely that we have engineered a world warming so fast, with   ancillary die-outs of so many other species and ecosystems, that it has finally caught up to us, the bipedal species that thought it was in charge.  It is more, that we have almost eliminated all other species than those that serve us (only less than 5 per cent of the species on earth can be called wild any more)  to the point that the earth needs to seek a way to reestablish a balance. A global pandemic is a simple way to begin that.

Now it is hardly surprising that the Henry Kissingers and other satraps of the present system want  to create another worldwide capitalist world, only this time a little more dictatorial than in the past to crush any nasty pandemic that might stand in the way of progress.  But the earth is telling us that the capitalist world is using her up, fouling her systems, killing off species useful and needful to her, and no one species however sapient can be allowed to do that.

It is saying that here we have the one chance to reorder our values, restructure our relationship with nature, create an economic arrangement that does
not depend upon using the treasures we call resources as rapidly and recklessly as we can.  The one chance to reposition our species as one among many, and a humble one at that, instead of thinking ourselves superior and dominant.

The second truth follows neatly from the first.  Clearly all the large systems we have evolved to solve our problems and govern our lives have failed, some most dramatically so.  When a crisis hit, no one depended on international institutions to do anything useful—no one even thought the United Nations should meet!—and all the globalists at once fell upon national governments to save them, ignoring the whole edifice of internationalism cobbled up since World War II.

But as it turned out most of those national systems sputtered and backstepped and went around in circles too, the only partial exceptions being oriental-rooted autocracies in the East.  The United States, by far the most powerful and richest, dithered for days without any leadership and no one knew whether the medical side or the political side would step up; in the end it was a  little bit of both and a lots of neither.  The European Union was completely silent, and the feeble states of Italy, Iran, UK, and the rest could only cry Panic and shut as much down as they could, regardless of consequences.

As it turned out, the U.S. national instruments were inadequate, ill-managed, and inefficient.  States tried to move up, as in New York, but they little knew what strategies to pursue for the long term much less what machines to get for the short. Where actual achievements were made, and lives saved, it was at a much more local level, where doctors and nurses could touch and see and know the needed steps to success.

The lesson is that, if anything really useful—and ecologically sound—is to be done in the future it should best be done at a local level.  It is there, and there only, that we can all heed the call sent out by Pope Francis in the wake of the pandemic: “We have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world.”  That’s the only way to survive the pandemic, and to get about the business of a non-capitalist ecological salvation.

Posted in Campaigns, Environment, Politics0 Comments

Trump policies kill birds: Why it matters

By Tina Landis

Trump policies kill birds: Why it matters

Geese flying. Photo: National Park Service.

In a move that will increase corporate profits and further weaken regulatory powers, the Trump administration is relaxing criminal penalties under the migratory bird law for industry-related bird deaths. For the past 50 years, industries were fined for bird deaths caused by their operations such as oil pits, mining sites, telecommunication towers and other hazards. 

For instance, after a 2016 incident where thousands of snow geese perished in the acid-laden waters of the Berkeley Pit — a Butte, Mont. Superfund site — the mining company instituted a noisy arsenal of fireworks, drones and remote-controlled boats to scare birds away from the pit to avoid further fines. 

Recently, following assurances from Trump officials that conservation measures were voluntary, a road and tunnel construction project in Virginia destroyed the nesting grounds of 25,000 shorebirds. The American Petroleum Institute tried to place the blame on the birds(!) in a regulatory report, stating that “The birds themselves are the actors, colliding or otherwise interacting with industrial structures.” 

More companies seeking profits at the expense of the environment will likely follow suit without intense public pressure to do otherwise. 

Former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe stated that the law’s threat of penalty acted as “a brake on industry” and likely has saved billions of birds. “Removing that obligation, if it stands, over the next several decades will result in billions of birds being casualties,” said Ashe. “It will be catastrophic.”  ( 

New policy adds fuel to fire of bird mortality

This increase in bird mortality at the hands of the aggressively anti-environment Trump administration comes on top of a broader onslaught ravaging bird populations throughout North America due to climate change and land use practices. Since 1970, a one-third decline in the bird population has occurred throughout the continent from the Arctic tundra to the Gulf Coast. ( 

As the world warms up, migratory patterns and food sources are shifting, adding more stressors on bird survival rates. Land use changes that increase development and agriculture are destroying vital nesting habitats and poisoning species. 

Why does it matter? Each species acts as a cog in the factory of the ecosystem providing a service to the functioning of the whole. Remove or deplete too many cogs and the factory no longer functions resulting in ecosystem collapse. Birds play a vital role in spreading seeds of plants in their droppings, reducing insect and rodent populations, and in some cases acting as a food source for larger birds of prey. 

“Birds are important indicator species, because if an ecosystem is broken for birds, it is or soon will be for people too,” said Brooke Bateman, Ph.D., National Audubon Society senior climate scientist. (Audubon News) 

How can we stop bird decline and climate change?

First, we must build a strong and sustained environmental movement. Trump’s rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act further endanger bird populations. Both of these acts were passed in the 1970s as a result of the mass upsurge in the progressive movement. Only sustained mass pressure from below will change policies at the top regardless of who is in office.

We also need to fight for climate justice and for an uprooting of the for-profit system that puts the goals of corporations above the livability of the planet. We need to rethink where we live to preserve and restore vital habitats. Instead of building ever-expanding surburbs, we need to maintain and restore wildlands and build eco-cities filled with green spaces and vertical gardens integrated into buildings where bird and insect populations can thrive. (Basdogan and Cig, 2016)

We must shift to regenerative agricultural practices that partner with the ecosystem and away from the agribusiness model that requires intensive chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that poison bird and insect populations. (Food Tank) 

We need to clean up Superfund sites like the Berkeley Pit so that humans and other species cease being poisoned. Renowned mycologist Paul Stamets developed mycoremediation — bioremediation methods that utilize mycelium — that successfully remove heavy-metal, toxins and radioactive materials from water and soil resulting in a toxin-free environment at a much faster rate and lower cost than traditional remediation methods.(Watson, PressBooks)  

Now more than ever with the climate crisis looming, we need more measures protecting ecosystems, not less. But as the Trump administration has shown time and again, their priority is the profits of big business and a complete disregard for the health of people and the planet. 

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A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman


Photograph Source: The Institute for Inclusive Security – CC BY 2.0

Last year, we all watched in horror as the Amazon rainforest burned at an unprecedented rate. We cannot afford to lose it, especially amid a climate emergency. It’s vast greenery releases oxygen and stores carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that causes of global warming. The death of the Amazon would mean the end of life on Earth.

Indigenous peoples of the Amazon have been on the frontlines of protecting the rainforest since colonization began.

Joênia Wapixana, from the Indigenous nation of Wapichana, is the first Indigenous woman elected to the Chamber of Deputies in Brazil. She recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Congresswomen Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

She came to share her concern over the imminent dangers that now threatens the very existence of the Amazon rainforest, as well as the survival of the Indigenous Tribespeople who call it home. Joênia is the only Indigenous representative in the Brazilian Parliament.

I had the opportunity to interview her during her visit.

She is extremely worried about human rights violations against Indigenous peoples of the Amazon that are ever-growing in frequency and severity, as well as the Amazon ecosystem itself. Wapixana sees both as global issues that falls under international affairs.

According to Wapixana, the rights of Indigenous peoples of Brazil are being constantly attacked and the current conditions in the Amazon promote their genocide. “The violations of our rights, the paralyzation of the demarcation of Indigenous lands, the invasions of our territories, have only grown in the second year under the government of Bolsonaro.” She also says that new projects, like a recently passed mining bill, reinforce the use of violence against Indigenous.

Congresswoman Wapixana came to the United States because she believes we can help. She says that the violation of human rights should be an issue for all people, regardless of race, color, creed, or colonial borders, and that while 98.7% of the Amazon is Indigenous land, she sees the rainforest, being the lungs of the planet, as belonging to everyone. Along with that sense of ownership comes responsibility. As a result, all of humanity has a duty to protect the Amazon.

One thing that the United States government can do to assist in the protection of the Amazon is to build measures and pass laws that prohibit the advancement and circulation of products that are being illegally extracted from the Amazon, like soy, timber and minerals, that enter the market as a direct result of the exploitation of Indigenous territories there.

“We have seen a lot of growth of products leaving Brazil without any fiscalization or monitoring. Measures could be put into place, with the national congress through administrative mechanisms, so that these products don’t arrive in the United States as products that are fruits of illegal invasions on Indigenous territories and which may contain, shall we say, situations that are contributing to the genocide of indigenous peoples in Brazil,” Wapixana reiterates.

The destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the threat of extinction to Indigenous Nations who have ancestral lands there weighs heavy on her heart. She wants us to preserve the world for our children and grandchildren.

“We, Indigenous peoples, for many years have been reinforcing these values that come from our ancestors. This is not just an ideological discourse or a vague thought, but are necessary actions that we need to take to fight the climate crisis so future generations are not doomed…and to make sure that, in a few years’ time, we, as Indigenous peoples, will not be relegated to books and the past.”

Additionally, Joênia sees women as being an important part of saving the Amazon, ending the climate crisis, protecting the rights of all and shaping our shared global future. “I encourage them to take an increasingly leading role in the defense of rights. It’s also essential to build policy to strengthen women, especially Indigenous women, who still have a dream of being a part of the decision-making process in their countries.”

Despite the dire warnings she brings, Congresswoman Wapixana remains hopeful, closing with:

“É possível construir um mundo melhor, um mundo mais sustentável, um mundo mais justo, um mundo que tenha o respeito à diversidade étnica, cultural, e ambiental.”


“It’s possible to build a better world, a more sustainable world, a more just world, a world that has respect for ethnic diversity, cultural and environmental.”

We must join forces to build a better future and ensure our mutual survival. We are all connected. We will rise or fall, together. The time to act is now. Stand with Indigenous, save the Amazon.

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Living in climate crisis: the pandemic and the need for revolution

By Tina Landis

Confirmed cases of coronavirus as of March 29. Darkest red signifies over 100,000 confirmed cases. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As I write this article, most of the nation is living under shelter-in-place orders with all non-essential services shut down — although the federal government’s determination of “non-essential” is questionable when weapons manufacturers continue to operate while the Environmental Protection Agency shutters its doors. Regardless, the pandemic has plunged the system into what many are calling a depression. Millions have become jobless overnight and face an uncertain future.

A great leveling is occurring across borders, race and all income levels within the 99 percent as we are left to fend for ourselves while the billionaires at the top sack the coffers. But people are beginning to organize themselves. Mutual aid groups have been established around the country to help the most vulnerable in their communities. Organizations are delivering surplus masks and gloves to medical facilities that are lacking. At the same time, the federal government is using the pandemic as an opportunity to transfer enormous amounts of wealth to the billionaire class and demonstrating that they couldn’t care less about the people.

We are living the climate crisis and this is how it will continue to evolve without united action from below. It is not some far off distant problem. It is happening now.

Scientists have warned that the severity and spread of pandemics and vector-borne diseases will increase with climate change. As ecosystems are disrupted by land use changes and deforestation and wildfires and droughts increase, the natural balance between species is disrupted causing disease to proliferateThe warming climate is altering migration patterns and habitat loss sends wildlife into closer proximity to humans.

Disease ecologist Thomas Gillespie stated: “Major landscape changes are causing animals to lose habitats, which means species become crowded together and also come into greater contact with humans. Species that survive change are now moving and mixing with different animals and with humans.”

As the world heats up, viruses adapt to survival at higher temperatures that are closer to body temperature, making it harder for our immune systems to fight. 

Vector-borne illnesses like malaria, dengue and Lyme disease are also spreading into new territories as the climate warms and the expansion of suburbs into fractured forested areas increase contact. “Altering the ecosystem affects the complex cycle of the Lyme pathogen. People living close by are more likely to get bitten by a tick carrying Lyme bacteria,” Gillespie says.

Deforestation has been linked to the outbreak of Ebola, Zika and Nipah viruses. The blame lies not with the small farmer but rather with big agribusiness and the global finance sector. Sixty-eight percent of the top influential companies and financial institutions who oversee forest-risk supply chains have no anti-deforestation policy, and of the remainder, only 19 percent have anti-deforestation commitments for all their commodities. Profits are the priority and products like palm oil and soybeans for biofuel are a cash crop that disregard sustainability.

Today, we are seeing the results of more than a century of capitalist plunder. Until now the climate crisis has been mainly felt at the local or regional level through floods, wildfires, droughts and extreme weather events. Now, in the time of the coronavirus, we are all living the global catastrophe together. If we fail to act, our future is clear. If we continue on with the profit-driven system of capitalism, the majority will suffer while the disaster capitalists squeeze every last profit out of us as we are driven to extinction. But it is not too late and there is another way — people’s power.

Workers run the world —which became crystal clear as the economy collapsed when most of us went on lockdown. The capitalist class are merely parasites serving no purpose for society. The U.S. health care system is completely incapable of addressing the pandemic due to the fact that its main function is not about care but to make profits for a few.

The pandemic demonstrates the need for a complete restructuring of society and a transformation to a socialist system that utilizes the world’s resources to protect public health, provide for all, and restore and protect the life-giving systems of the planet.

We need an uprooting of the system to put people and the planet first. We can’t wait for crumbs thrown to us from above. We need to organize ourselves, nationalize the health care system and medical supply factories, take over the industries and banks, and use that wealth to de-carbonize our infrastructure. We need to take the wealth of the billionaires that was stolen from our labor and use it to create a system that provides for us all.

In these days of social distancing, we must organize remotely and lay the groundwork for the struggles to come when we can come together in the streets and workplaces to demand what is ours.

Posted in USA, Environment, Human RightsComments Off on Living in climate crisis: the pandemic and the need for revolution

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.

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.

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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.”

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Nature’s Revenge: Climate Change and COVID-19


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.


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.

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The IPCC’s Worst Case Scenario



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)

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


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.

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