Archive for the ‘Global Problem’ Category

Climate Change and Inequality Brewing Global Social Upheaval

April 4, 2014

World Bank chief admits institution’s past mistakes, but has it changed its destructive ways?

- Jon Queally, staff writer

President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, is warning that the combined crises of planetary climate change and rising global inequality in a highly interconnected world will lead to the rise of widespread upheaval as the world’s poor rise up and clashes over access to clean water and affordable food result in increased violence and political conflict.

As Jim Yong Kim warned of the risks of climate change, the UN said food prices had risen to their highest in almost a year. (Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)In an interview ahead of a bank summit next week, Kim predicts that battles over food and water will break out in the next five to ten years as a direct result of a warming planet that world leaders have done too little to address, despite warnings from the environmental community and scientists.

“The water issue is critically related to climate change,” Kim told the Guardian. “People say that carbon is the currency of climate change. Water is the teeth. Fights over water and food are going to be the most significant direct impacts of climate change in the next five to 10 years. There’s just no question about it.”

Despite the acknowledgement of the problem, however, and even as he made mea culpa for past errors by the powerful financial institution he now runs (including a global push to privatize drinking water resources and utilities), Kim laid the blame on inaction on the very people who have done the most to alert humanity to the crisis, saying that both climate change activists and informed scientists have not done enough to offer a plan to address global warming in a way he deems “serious.”

He said: “They [the climate change community] kept saying, ‘What do you mean a plan?’ I said a plan that’s equal to the challenge. A plan that will convince anyone who asks us that we’re really serious about climate change, and that we have a plan that can actually keep us at less than 2C warming. We still don’t have one.”

Kim also acknowledged the threat of unaddressed inequality, saying that access to the internet (mostly through smartphones) in the developing world has created conditions where everyone on the planet knows how other people live, which means that the “next huge social movement” could erupt anywhere at anytime.

“It’s going to erupt to a great extent because of these inequalities,” he continued and said heads of state from around the world have called for “a much, much deeper understanding of the political dangers of very high levels of inequality.”

The question remains: Do these acknowledgements of the dual crisis of a warming, less equal planet from the leader of the World Bank really translate into a transformation of the institution that is well known as one of the key proponents of the policies and projects that have led us to this point.?

According to a new report the World Resources Institute, the answer remains: No.

The new analysis from WRI says that despite Kim’s recent rhetoric and focus on “sustainability” for the bank, the reality “shows that while the World Bank has successfully addressed a number of important economic and social risks in its projects, it is falling short in recognizing climate risks.”

Out of 60 recent World Bank projects assessed, according to researchers, “only 25 percent included features that took climate change risks into account. This shortfall could leave communities vulnerable to extreme weather, sea level rise, and other climate impacts—impacts that threaten to undermine the World Bank’s efforts to eliminate poverty.”

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Noam Chomsky: We Are Moving Towards A Precipice Which Is Of Extreme Danger

March 1, 2014

Posted on February 4, 2014 by dandelionsalad

Dandelion Salad

with Noam Chomsky

EnergyImage by SPIngram via Flickr

VOR Americaon Jan 31, 2014

By Sean Nevins
WASHINGTON (VR)

“Wherever there are structures of domination and control, hierarchy and oppression, they are not self-justifying, [and] should be challenged, and if they can’t demonstrate their legitimacy, overthrown”, said Professor Noam Chomsky in a discussion with Radio VR in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Radio VR recently sat down with the renowned political theorist to discuss a number of topics, including global issues facing humanity. In the video above, Professor Chomsky is asked how the human race should approach collective global problems, such as nuclear proliferation, restructuring of the education system, environmental degradation, and the huge gap between rich and poor.

Professor Chomsky’s answer is below:

“I think the basic thrust of anarcho-syndicalism, anarchism generally, applies everywhere. Wherever there are structures of domination and control, hierarchy and oppression, they are not self-justifying, should be challenged, and if they can’t demonstrate their legitimacy, overthrown. I think that applies to every case you’ve mentioned.”

“It [anarcho-syndicalism] is not a formula for how to deal with, let’s say, environmental destruction, but it lies in the background. Each of the cases you’ve mentioned requires its own type of action.”

“With regard to nuclear proliferation actually we have an answer, the problem is to implement it. The Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] that obligates the nuclear powers to carry out good faith measures to eliminate nuclear weapons. That is actually a legal obligation as was determined by the International Court of Justice back in the mid-90s and it also requires other countries not to develop nuclear weapons. There are, at the moment, several that have outside the NPT — Israel, India, Pakistan, and now North Korea — but there are ways to overcome this.”

“For example, in the case of the Middle East, one way, serious way, to approach it would be to try to establish a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. It’s been formally accepted by the West but only formally. Just last December, there was to be a conference in Helsinki to move forward on this proposal. Israel announced it wouldn’t attend. Iran announced that they would attend with no preconditions and a couple of days later president Obama cancelled the conference. So it didn’t take place. There is pressure to renew it from the European Union, from Russia and mainly the Arab states but unless the United States is willing to significantly participate it’s not going to go anywhere. But there are mechanisms, we can think of ways of overcoming this problem.”

“When you turn to environmental degradation it is a little bit different. It is a horrible problem, we are moving towards a precipice which is of extreme danger, racing towards it and the longer we wait to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels, the worse it’s going to be. But it is not so clear how to do that. It is different from the nuclear threat which in fact at least in principal we know how to get rid of.”

youtube

see

Chomsky on Anarchy and Anarcho-Syndicalism + Transcript + Chomsky: Current Economic System Is ‘Pure Savagery’

If There’s Global Warming … Why Is It So Cold?

Banning Nuclear Weapons – Another Way to a Safer World by Lesley Docksey

The Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction

Noam Chomsky and the Leveretts: Iran and American Foreign Policy: Where Did the U.S. Go Wrong?

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Noam Chomsky: Truth to power

February 27, 2014

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Political theorist Noam Chomsky is one of the world’s most controversial thinkers. Ahead of his trip to Tokyo next month, we catch up with the U.S. activist to get his views on recent geopolitical moves in the region

BY DAVID MCNEILL

SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES

Often dubbed one of the world’s most important intellectuals and its leading public dissident, Noam Chomsky was for years among the top 10 most quoted academics on the planet, edged out only by William Shakespeare, Karl Marx, Aristotle.

An unrelenting critic of U.S. foreign policy since the 1960s, much of his intellectual life has been spent stripping away what he calls America’s “flattering self-image” and the layers of self-justification and propaganda he says it uses to mask its naked pursuit of power and profit around the world.

Now aged 85, Chomsky is still in demand across the world as a public speaker. He maintains a punishing work schedule that requires him to write, lecture and personally answer thousands of emails that flood into his account every week. He is professor emeritus of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, where he has been based for nearly 60 years.

Chomsky will make a rare trip to Tokyo in March, where he is scheduled to give two lectures at Sophia University. Among the themes he will discuss are conceptions of the common good, one deriving from classical liberalism, the other from neoliberal globalization that he predicts will lead to disaster very soon if not radically modified.

“That gives the answer to the question posed in the title of the talk: ‘Capitalist Democracy and the Prospects for Survival,’ ” he says. “The quick answer is ‘dim.’ ”

Tell us about your connections to Japan.

I’ve been interested in Japan since the 1930s, when I read about Japan’s vicious crimes in Manchuria and China. In the early 1940s, as a young teenager, I was utterly appalled by the racist and jingoist hysteria of the anti-Japanese propaganda. The Germans were evil, but treated with some respect: They were, after all, blond Aryan types, just like our imaginary self-image. Japanese were mere vermin, to be crushed like ants. Enough was reported about the firebombing of cities in Japan to recognize that major war crimes were underway, worse in many ways than the atom bombs.

I heard a story once that you were so appalled by the bombing of Hiroshima and the reaction of Americans that you had to go off and mourn alone . . .

Yes. On Aug. 6, 1945, I was at a summer camp for children when the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was announced over the public address system. Everyone listened, and then at once went on to their next activity: baseball, swimming, et cetera. Not a comment. I was practically speechless with shock, both at the horrifying events and at the null reaction. So what? More Japs incinerated. And since we have the bomb and no one else does, great; we can rule the world and everyone will be happy.

I followed the postwar settlement with considerable disgust as well. I didn’t know then what I do now, of course, but enough information was available to undermine the patriotic fairy tale.

My first trip to Japan was with my wife and children 50 years ago. It was linguistics, purely, though on my own I met with people from Beheiren (Citizen’s League for Peace in Vietnam). I’ve returned a number of times since, always to study linguistics. I was quite struck by the fact that Japan is the only country I visited — and there were many — where talks and interviews focused solely on linguistics and related matters, even while the world was burning.

You arrive in Japan at a possibly defining moment: the government is preparing to launch a major challenge to the nation’s six-decade pacifist stance, arguing that it must be “more flexible” in responding to external threats; relations with China and Korea have turned toxic; and there is even talk of war. Should we be concerned?

We should most definitely be concerned. Instead of abandoning its pacifist stance, Japan should take pride in it as an inspiring model for the world, and should take the lead in upholding the goals of the United Nations “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The challenges in the region are real, but what is needed is steps toward political accommodation and establishing peaceful relations, not a return to policies that proved disastrous not so long ago.

How in concrete terms, though, can political accommodation be achieved? The historical precedents for the kind of situation we face in Asia — competing nationalisms; a rising undemocratic power with opaque military spending and something to prove in tandem with a declining power, increasingly fearful about what this means — are not good.

There is a real issue, but I think the question should be formulated a bit differently. Chinese military spending is carefully monitored by the United States. It is indeed growing, but it is a small fraction of U.S. expenditures, which are amplified by U.S. allies (China has none). China is indeed seeking to break out of the arc of containment in the Pacific that limits its control over the waters essential to its commerce and open access to the Pacific. That does set up possible conflicts, partly with regional powers that have their own interests, but mainly with the U.S., which of course would never even consider anything remotely comparable for itself and, furthermore, insists upon global control.

Although the U.S. is a “declining power,” and has been since the late 1940s, it still has no remote competitor as a hegemonic power. Its military spending virtually matches the rest of the world combined, and it is far more technologically advanced. No other country could dream of having a network of hundreds of military bases all over the world, nor of carrying out the world’s most expansive campaign of terror — and that is exactly what (President Barack) Obama’s drone assassination campaign is. And the U.S., of course, has a brutal record of aggression and subversion.

These are the essential conditions within which political accommodation should be sought. In concrete terms, China’s interests should be recognized along with those of others in the region. But there is no justification for accepting the domination of a global hegemon.

One of the perceived problems with Japan’s “pacifist” Constitution is that it is so at odds with the facts. Japan operates under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and is host to dozens of bases and thousands of American soldiers. Is that an embodiment of the pacifist ideals of Article 9?

Insofar as Japan’s behavior is inconsistent with the legitimate constitutional ideals, the behavior should be changed — not the ideals.

Are you following the political return of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? His critics call him an ultranationalist. Supporters say he is merely trying to update Japan’s three outdated charters — education, the 1947 pacifist Constitution and the security treaty with Washington — all products of the U.S. postwar occupation. What’s your view?

It makes sense for Japan to pursue a more independent role in the world, following Latin America and others in freeing itself from U.S. domination. But it should do so in a manner that is virtually the opposite of Abe’s ultranationalism, a term that seems to me accurate. The pacifist Constitution, in particular, is one legacy of the occupation that should be vigorously defended.

What do you make of comparisons between the rise of Nazi Germany and China? We hear such comparisons frequently from nationalists in Japan, and also recently from Benigno Aquino, the Philippine president. China’s rise is often cited as a reason for Japan to stop pulling in its horns.

China is a rising power, casting off its “century of humiliation” in a bid to become a force in regional and world affairs. As always, there are negative and sometimes threatening aspects to such a development. But a comparison to Nazi Germany is absurd. We might note that in an international poll released at the end of 2013 on the question which country is “the greatest threat to world peace,” the U.S. was ranked far higher than any other, receiving four times the votes of China. There are quite solid reasons for this judgment, some mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, to compare the U.S. to Nazi Germany would be completely absurd, and a fortiori that holds for China’s far lesser resort to violence, subversion and other forms of intervention.

The comparison between China and Nazi Germany really is hysteria. I wonder whether Japanese readers have even the slightest idea of what the U.S. is doing throughout the world, and has been since it took over Britain’s role of global dominance — and greatly expanded it — after World War II.

Some see the possible emergence of an Asian regionalism building on the dynamic of intertwined trade centered on China, Japan and South Korea but extending throughout Asia. Under what conditions could such an approach trump both U.S. hegemony and nationalism?

It is not just possible, it already exists. China’s recent growth spurt is based very heavily on advanced parts, components, design and other high-tech contributions from the surrounding industrial powers. And the rest of Asia is becoming linked to this system, too. The U.S. is a crucial part of the system — Western Europe, too. The U.S. exports production, including high technology, to China, and imports finished goods, all on an enormous scale. The value added in China remains small, although it will increase as China moves up the technology ladder. These developments, if handled properly, can contribute to the general political accommodation that is imperative if serious conflict is to be avoided.

The recent tension over the Senkaku Islands has raised the threat of military conflict between China and Japan. Most commenters still think war is unlikely, given the enormous consequences and the deep finance and trade links that bind the two economies together. What’s your view?

The confrontations taking place are extremely hazardous. The same is true of China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone in a contested region, and Washington’s immediate violation of it. History has certainly taught us that playing with fire is not a wise course, particularly for states with an awesome capacity to destroy. Small incidents can rapidly escalate, overwhelming economic links.

What’s the U.S. role in all this? It seems clear that Washington does not want to be pulled into a conflict with Beijing. We also understand that the Obama administration is upset at Abe’s views on history, and his visits to Yasukuni Shrine, the linchpin of historical revisionism in Japan. However we can hardly call the U.S. an honest broker . . .

Hardly. The U.S. is surrounding China with military bases, not conversely. U.S. strategic analysts describe a “classic security dilemma” in the region, as the U.S. and China each perceive the other’s stance as a threat to their basic interests. The issue is control of the seas off China’s coasts, not the Caribbean or the waters off California. For the U.S., global control is a “vital interest.”

We might also recall the fate of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama when he followed the will of the large majority of Okinawans, defying Washington. As The New York Times reported, “Apologizing for failing to fulfill a prominent campaign promise, Hatoyama told outraged residents of Okinawa on Sunday that he has decided to relocate an American air base to the north side of the island as originally agreed upon with the United States.” His “capitulation,” as it was correctly described, resulted from strong U.S. pressure.

China is now embroiled in territorial conflicts with Japan and the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea as well as the air defense identification zone on its contested borders. In all of these cases, the U.S. is directly or indirectly involved. Should these be understood as cases of Chinese expansionism?

China is seeking to expand its regional influence, which conflicts with the traditional U.S. demand to be recognized as the global hegemon, and conflicts as well with local interests of regional powers. The phrase “Chinese expansionism” is accurate, but rather misleading, in the light of overwhelming U.S. global dominance.

It is useful to think back to the early post-World War II period. U.S. global planning took for granted that Asia would be under U.S. control. China’s independence was a serious blow to these intentions. In U.S. discourse, it is called “the loss of China,” and the issue of who was responsible for “the loss of China” became a major domestic issue, including the rise of McCarthyism. The terminology itself is revealing. I can lose my wallet, but I cannot lose yours. The tacit assumption of U.S. discourse is that China was ours by right. One should be cautious about using the phrase “expansionism” without due attention to this hegemonic conception and its ugly history.

On Okinawa, the scene seems set for a major confrontation between the mainland and prefectural governments, which support the construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko, and the local population, which last month overwhelmingly re-elected an anti-base mayor. Do you have any thoughts on how this will play out?

One can only admire the courage of the people of Nago city and Mayor Inamine Susumu in rejecting the deplorable efforts of the Abe government to coerce them into accepting a military base to which the population was overwhelmingly opposed. And it was no less disgraceful that the central government instantly overrode their democratic decision. What the outcome will be, I cannot predict. It will, however, have considerable import for the fate of democracy and the prospects for peace.

The Abe government is trying to rekindle nuclear power and restart Japan’s idling reactors. Supporters say the cost of keeping those reactors offline is a massive increase in energy costs and use of fossil fuels. Opponents say it is too dangerous . . .

The general question of nuclear power is not a simple one. It is hardly necessary to stress how dangerous it is after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which has far from ended. Continued use of fossil fuels threatens global disaster, and not in the distant future. The sensible course would be to move as quickly as possible to sustainable energy sources, as Germany is now doing. The alternatives are too disastrous to contemplate.

You’ll have followed the work of committed environmentalists such as James Lovelock and George Monbiot, who say nuclear power is the only way to save the planet from cooking. In the short term, that analysis seems to have some merit: One of the immediate consequences of Japan’s nuclear disaster has been a massive expansion in imports of coal, gas and oil. They say there is no way for us to produce enough renewables in time to stop runaway climate change.

As I said, there is some merit in these views. More accurately, there would be if limited and short-term reliance on nuclear energy, with all of its extreme hazards and unsolved problems — like waste disposal — was taken as an opportunity for rapid and extensive development of sustainable energy. That should be the highest priority, and very quickly, because severe threats of environmental catastrophe are not remote.

Chomsky at Sophia University (Tokyo)

  •  “The Architecture of Language Reconsidered,” 3:30 p.m., Weds., March 5
  •  “Capitalist Democracy and the Prospects for Survival,” 3:30 p.m., Thurs., March 6 (fully booked)

Global Capitalism Has Written Off The Human Race

February 19, 2014
February 18, 2014

 

By Paul Craig Roberts

The English, French, and communists never had to print $1,000 billion dollars annually to save a handful of corrupt and incompetent financial enterprises. This only happens in “free market capitalism” where the capitalists, with the approval of the corrupt US Supreme Court can purchase the government, which represents them and not the electorate.

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Source: Paul Craig Roberts


Economic theory teaches that free price and profit movements ensure that capitalism produces the greatest welfare for the greatest number. Losses indicate economic activities where costs exceed the value of production, thus investment in these activities is curtailed. Profits indicate economic activities where the value of output exceeds its cost, thus investment increases. Prices indicate the relative scarcity and value of inputs and outputs, thus serving to organize production most efficiently.

This theory doesn’t work when the US government socializes cost and privatizes profits as it has been doing with the Federal Reserve’s support of “banks too big to fail” and when a handful of financial institutions have concentrated much economic activity. Subsidized “private” banks are no different from the former publicly subsidized socialized industries of Great Britain, France, Italy, and the former communist countries. The banks have imposed the costs of their incompetence, greed, and corruption on taxpayers. Indeed, the socialized firms in England and France were more efficiently run and never threatened the national economies, much less the entire world, with ruin as do the private US “banks too big to fail.” The English, French, and communists never had to print $1,000 billion dollars annually to save a handful of corrupt and incompetent financial enterprises.

This only happens in “free market capitalism” where the capitalists, with the approval of the corrupt US Supreme Court can purchase the government, which represents them and not the electorate. Thus, the taxation and money creation powers of government are used to support a few financial institutions at the expense of the rest of the country. This is what is meant by “markets are self-regulating.”

Several years ago Ralph Gomery warned me that the damage done to US labor by jobs offshoring was about to be superseded by robotics. Gomery told me that the ownership of the technology patents is highly concentrated and that breakthroughs have made robots increasingly human in their capabilities. Consequently, the prospect for employment of humans is dismal.

Gomory’s words reverberated with me when I read RT’s February 15, 2014, report that computer and robotic experts at Harvard have constructed mobile machines programmed with the logic of termites to be self-organizing and able to complete complex tasks without central direction or oversight.

RT doesn’t understand the implications. Instead of raising a red flag, RT gushes:

“The possibilities are vast. The machines can be made to build any three-dimensional structure on their own and with minimal instruction. But what is truly staggering is their ability to adapt to their work environment and to each other; to calculate losses, reorganize efforts and make adjustments. It is already clear that the development will do wonders for humanity in space, hard-to-reach places and other difficult situations.”

The way the world is organized under a few powerful and immensely greedy private interests, the technology will do nothing for humanity. The technology means that humans will no longer be needed in the work force and that emotionless robotic armies will take the place of human armies and have no compunction about destroying the humans on whom they are unleashed. The picture that emerges is more threatening than Alex Jones’ predictions. Faced with little demand for human labor, little wonder thinkers predict that the rich intend to annihilate the human race and live in an uncrowded environment served by their robots. If this story has not been written as science fiction, someone should get on the job before it becomes ordinary reality.

The Harvard scientists are proud of their achievement, as no doubt most of the Manhattan Project participants were about their achievement in producing a nuclear weapon. But the success of the Manhattan Project scientists was not very nice for the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the prospect of nuclear war continues to cast a dark shadow over the world.

The Harvard technology will prove to be an enemy of the human race.

This outcome does not have to be, but free market ideologues think that any planning or foresight is an interference with the market, which always knows best (thus, the current financial and economic crisis). Free market ideology stands in the way of societal control and serves the short-term interests of powerful and greedy private groups. Instead of being used for humanity, the technology will be used for the profits of a handful.

That is the intention but what is the reality? How can there be a consumer economy if there is no employment? There cannot be, which is what we are gradually learning from the offshoring of American jobs by global corporations. For a limited period an economy can continue to function on the basis of part-time jobs, drawing down savings, food stamps, and extended unemployment benefits.

However, when savings are drawn down, when the heartless politicians who demonize the poor cut food stamps and unemployment benefits, the economy ceases to provide a market for the offshored goods that the corporations bring home to sell.

Here we see the total failure of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Each corporation in pursuit of greater managerial “performance bonuses” as determined by profits did its part in producing the destruction of the US consumer market and greater misery for all.

Adam Smithian economics applies to economies in which capitalists have some sense of commonality with other citizens of the country like Henry Ford did, some sense of belonging to a country or to a community. Globalism destroys this sense. Capitalism has evolved to the point where the most powerful economic interests, interests that control the government itself, have no sense of obligation to the country in which their business entities are registered. Except for nuclear weapons, international capitalism is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.

International capitalism has raised greed to a determinant force in world history. Unregulated greed-driven capitalism is destroying the jobs prospects of First World labor and the ability of Third World countries, whose agricultures have been turned into export monocultures serving the global capitalists, to feed themselves. When the crunch comes, the capitalists will let the “other” humanity starve.

As the capitalists declare in their high level meetings, “there are too many people in the world.”

Submitters Website: http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Submitters Bio:

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Capitalism-Economic-Dissolution-ebook/dp/B00BLPJNWE/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1362095594&sr=8-17&keywords=paul+craig+roberts

 

How Can We Escape the Curse of Economic Exploitation?

January 10, 2014

Author, historian and political commentator Noam Chomsky. (photo: Ben Rusk/flickr)
Author, historian and political commentator Noam Chomsky. (photo: Ben Rusk/flickr)

go to original article

By Noam Chomsky, AlterNet

09 January 14

 

‘All for ourselves, and nothing for other people,’ can’t be the motto of a functioning society

e are therefore led to inquire into the social arrangements that are conducive to people’s rights and welfare, and to fulfilling their just aspirations – in brief, the common good.

For perspective I’d like to invoke what seem to me virtual truisms. They relate to an interesting category of ethical principles: those that are not only universal, in that they are virtually always professed, but also doubly universal, in that at the same time they are almost universally rejected in practice.

These range from very general principles, such as the truism that we should apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others (if not harsher ones), to more specific doctrines, such as a dedication to promoting democracy and human rights, which is proclaimed almost universally, even by the worst monsters – though the actual record is grim, across the spectrum.

A good place to start is with John Stuart Mill’s classic “On Liberty.” Its epigraph formulates “The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument unfolded in these pages directly converges: the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity.”

The words are quoted from Wilhelm von Humboldt, a founder of classical liberalism. It follows that institutions that constrain such development are illegitimate, unless they can somehow justify themselves.

Concern for the common good should impel us to find ways to cultivate human development in its richest diversity.

Adam Smith, another Enlightenment thinker with similar views, felt that it shouldn’t be too difficult to institute humane policies. In his “Theory of Moral Sentiments” he observed that “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”

Smith acknowledges the power of what he calls the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind”: “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people.” But the more benign “original passions of human nature” might compensate for that pathology.

Classical liberalism shipwrecked on the shoals of capitalism, but its humanistic commitments and aspirations didn’t die. Rudolf Rocker, a 20th-century anarchist thinker and activist, reiterated similar ideas.

Rocker described what he calls “a definite trend in the historic development of mankind” that strives for “the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life.”

Rocker was outlining an anarchist tradition culminating in anarcho-syndicalism – in European terms, a variety of “libertarian socialism.”

This brand of socialism, he held, doesn’t depict “a fixed, self-enclosed social system” with a definite answer to all the multifarious questions and problems of human life, but rather a trend in human development that strives to attain Enlightenment ideals.

So understood, anarchism is part of a broader range of libertarian socialist thought and action that includes the practical achievements of revolutionary Spain in 1936; reaches further to worker-owned enterprises spreading today in the American rust belt, in northern Mexico, in Egypt, and many other countries, most extensively in the Basque country in Spain; and encompasses the many cooperative movements around the world and a good part of feminist and civil and human rights initiatives.

This broad tendency in human development seeks to identify structures of hierarchy, authority and domination that constrain human development, and then subject them to a very reasonable challenge: Justify yourself.

If these structures can’t meet that challenge, they should be dismantled – and, anarchists believe, “refashioned from below,” as commentator Nathan Schneider observes.

In part this sounds like truism: Why should anyone defend illegitimate structures and institutions? But truisms at least have the merit of being true, which distinguishes them from a good deal of political discourse. And I think they provide useful stepping stones to finding the common good.

For Rocker, “the problem that is set for our time is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement.”

It should be noted that the American brand of libertarianism differs sharply from the libertarian tradition, accepting and indeed advocating the subordination of working people to the masters of the economy, and the subjection of everyone to the restrictive discipline and destructive features of markets.

Anarchism is, famously, opposed to the state, while advocating “planned administration of things in the interest of the community,” in Rocker’s words; and beyond that, wide-ranging federations of self-governing communities and workplaces.

Today, anarchists dedicated to these goals often support state power to protect people, society and the earth itself from the ravages of concentrated private capital. That’s no contradiction. People live and suffer and endure in the existing society. Available means should be used to safeguard and benefit them, even if a long-term goal is to construct preferable alternatives.

In the Brazilian rural workers movement, they speak of “widening the floors of the cage” – the cage of existing coercive institutions that can be widened by popular struggle – as has happened effectively over many years.

We can extend the image to think of the cage of state institutions as a protection from the savage beasts roaming outside: the predatory, state-supported capitalist institutions dedicated in principle to private gain, power and domination, with community and people’s interest at most a footnote, revered in rhetoric but dismissed in practice as a matter of principle and even law.

Much of the most respected work in academic political science compares public attitudes and government policy. In “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America,” the Princeton scholar Martin Gilens reveals that the majority of the U.S. population is effectively disenfranchised.

About 70 percent of the population, at the lower end of the wealth/income scale, has no influence on policy, Gilens concludes. Moving up the scale, influence slowly increases. At the very top are those who pretty much determine policy, by means that aren’t obscure. The resulting system is not democracy but plutocracy.

Or perhaps, a little more kindly, it’s what legal scholar Conor Gearty calls “neo-democracy,” a partner to neoliberalism – a system in which liberty is enjoyed by the few, and security in its fullest sense is available only to the elite, but within a system of more general formal rights.

In contrast, as Rocker writes, a truly democratic system would achieve the character of “an alliance of free groups of men and women based on cooperative labor and a planned administration of things in the interest of the community.”

No one took the American philosopher John Dewey to be an anarchist. But consider his ideas. He recognized that “Power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Whoever owns them rules the life of the country,” even if democratic forms remain. Until those institutions are in the hands of the public, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business,” much as is seen today.

These ideas lead very naturally to a vision of society based on workers’ control of productive institutions, as envisioned by 19th century thinkers, notably Karl Marx but also – less familiar – John Stuart Mill.

Mill wrote, “The form of association, however, which if mankind continue to improve, must be expected to predominate, is . the association of the labourers themselves on terms of equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on their operations, and working under managers electable and removable by themselves.”

The Founding Fathers of the United States were well aware of the hazards of democracy. In the Constitutional Convention debates, the main framer, James Madison, warned of these hazards.

Naturally taking England as his model, Madison observed that “In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place,” undermining the right to property.

The basic problem that Madison foresaw in “framing a system which we wish to last for ages” was to ensure that the actual rulers will be the wealthy minority so as “to secure the rights of property agst. the danger from an equality & universality of suffrage, vesting compleat power over property in hands without a share in it.”

Scholarship generally agrees with the Brown University scholar Gordon S. Wood’s assessment that “The Constitution was intrinsically an aristocratic document designed to check the democratic tendencies of the period.”

Long before Madison, Artistotle, in his “Politics,” recognized the same problem with democracy.

Reviewing a variety of political systems, Aristotle concluded that this system was the best – or perhaps the least bad – form of government. But he recognized a flaw: The great mass of the poor could use their voting power to take the property of the rich, which would be unfair.

Madison and Aristotle arrived at opposite solutions: Aristotle advised reducing inequality, by what we would regard as welfare state measures. Madison felt that the answer was to reduce democracy.

In his last years, Thomas Jefferson, the man who drafted the United States’ Declaration of Independence, captured the essential nature of the conflict, which has far from ended. Jefferson had serious concerns about the quality and fate of the democratic experiment. He distinguished between “aristocrats and democrats.”

The aristocrats are “those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.”

The democrats, in contrast, “identify with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interest.”

Today the successors to Jefferson’s “aristocrats” might argue about who should play the guiding role: technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals, or bankers and corporate executives.

It is this political guardianship that the genuine libertarian tradition seeks to dismantle and reconstruct from below, while also changing industry, as Dewey put it, “from a feudalistic to a democratic social order” based on workers’ control, respecting the dignity of the producer as a genuine person, not a tool in the hands of others.

Like Karl Marx’s Old Mole – “our old friend, our old mole, who knows so well how to work underground, then suddenly to emerge” – the libertarian tradition is always burrowing close to the surface, always ready to peek through, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways, seeking to bring about what seems to me to be a reasonable approximation to the common good.

___________________________________________________

Comment: Ego in Economy or Ecology is the problem in the Systemic World (interdependent, impermanent, egoless). Ego is the source of greed and anger (these three are called the triple poisons poisoning the system). Ego (delusion/karma) creates discrimination, inequality, exploitation, extermination (five calamities). Sitting and stopping karma (machine) is to see the truth (of the triple poisons) and serve the truth (of Systemic World, Truth World, limitless life system).

The Confidential Memo at the Heart of the Global Financial Crisis

August 23, 2013
August 22, 2013

 

By Greg Palast

Blowing the lid off of the conspiracy to impoverish the world.

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Reprinted from vice.com

Editor’s note: Make sure you also check out Rob Kall’s Podcast interview with Greg Palast– about the news discussed here and more background on the biggest economic conspiracy theory in the world:

Podcast: Greg Palast; Summers, Obama, Rubin– The Bankster Monsters From Hell

 

When a little birdie dropped the End Game memo through my window, its content was so explosive, so sick and plain evil, I just couldn’t believe it.

The Memo confirmed every conspiracy freak’s fantasy: that in the late 1990s, the top US Treasury officials secretly conspired with a small cabal of banker big-shots to rip apart financial regulation across the planet. When you see 26.3 percent unemployment in Spain, desperation and hunger inGreece, riots in Indonesia and Detroit in bankruptcy, go back to this End Game memo, the genesis of the blood and tears.

The Treasury official playing the bankers’ secret End Game was Larry Summers. Today, Summers is Barack Obama’s leading choice for Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, the world’s central bank. If the confidential memo is authentic, then Summers shouldn’t be serving on the Fed, he should be serving hard time in some dungeon reserved for the criminally insane of the finance world.

The memo is authentic.

I had to fly to Geneva to get confirmation and wangle a meeting with the Secretary General of the World Trade Organisation, Pascal Lamy. Lamy, the Generalissimo of Globalisation, told me,

“The WTO was not created as some dark cabal of multinationals secretly cooking plots against the people… We don’t have cigar-smoking, rich, crazy bankers negotiating.”

Then I showed him the memo.

It begins with Larry Summers’ flunky, Timothy Geithner, reminding his boss to call the Bank bigshots to order their lobbyist armies to march:

“As we enter the end-game of the WTO financial services negotiations, I believe it would be a good idea for you to touch base with the CEOs””

To avoid Summers having to call his office to get the phone numbers (which, under US law, would have to appear on public logs), Geithner listed the private lines of what were then the five most powerful CEOs on the planet. And here they are:

Goldman Sachs: John Corzine (212)902-8281

Merrill Lynch: David Kamanski (212)449-6868

Bank of America: David Coulter (415)622-2255

Citibank: John Reed (212)559-2732

Chase Manhattan: Walter Shipley (212)270-1380

Lamy was right: They don’t smoke cigars. Go ahead and dial them. I did, and sure enough, got a cheery personal hello from Reed — cheery until I revealed I wasn’t Larry Summers. (Note: The other numbers were swiftly disconnected. And Corzine can’t be reached while he faces criminal charges.)

It’s not the little cabal of confabs held by Summers and the banksters that’s so troubling. The horror is in the purpose of the “end game” itself.

Let me explain:

The year was 1997. US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin was pushing hard to de-regulate banks. That required, first, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act to dismantle the barrier between commercial banks and investment banks. It was like replacing bank vaults with roulette wheels.

Second, the banks wanted the right to play a new high-risk game: “derivatives trading”. JP Morgan alone would soon carry $88 trillion of these pseudo-securities on its books as “assets”.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Summers (soon to replace Rubin as Secretary) body-blocked any attempt to control derivatives.

But what was the use of turning US banks into derivatives casinos if money would flee to nations with safer banking laws?

The answer conceived by the Big Bank Five: eliminate controls on banks in every nation on the planet — in one single move. It was as brilliant as it was insanely dangerous.

How could they pull off this mad caper? The bankers’ and Summers’ game was to use the Financial Services Agreement (or FSA), an abstruse and benign addendum to the international trade agreements policed by the World Trade Organisation.

Until the bankers began their play, the WTO agreements dealt simply with trade in goods — that is, my cars for your bananas. The new rules devised by Summers and the banks would force all nations to accept trade in “bads” — toxic assets like financial derivatives.

Until the bankers’ re-draft of the FSA, each nation controlled and chartered the banks within their own borders. The new rules of the game would force every nation to open their markets to Citibank, JP Morgan and their derivatives “products”.

And all 156 nations in the WTO would have to smash down their own Glass-Steagall divisions between commercial savings banks and the investment banks that gamble with derivatives.

The job of turning the FSA into the bankers’ battering ram was given to Geithner, who was named Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation.
Bankers Go Bananas

Why in the world would any nation agree to let its banking system be boarded and seized by financial pirates like JP Morgan?

The answer, in the case of Ecuador, was bananas. Ecuador was truly a banana republic. The yellow fruit was that nation’s life-and-death source of hard currency. If it refused to sign the new FSA, Ecuador could feed its bananas to the monkeys and go back into bankruptcy. Ecuador signed.

And so on — with every single nation bullied into signing.

Every nation but one, I should say. Brazil’s new President, Inacio Lula da Silva, refused. In retaliation, Brazil was threatened with a virtual embargo of its products by the European Union’s Trade Commissioner, one Peter Mandelson, according to another confidential memo I got my hands on. But Lula’s refusenik stance paid off for Brazil which, alone among Western nations, survived and thrived during the 2007-9 bank crisis.

China signed — but got its pound of flesh in return. It opened its banking sector a crack in return for access and control of the US auto parts and other markets. (Swiftly, two million US jobs shifted to China.)

The new FSA pulled the lid off the Pandora’s box of worldwide derivatives trade. Among the notorious transactions legalised: Goldman Sachs (where Treasury Secretary Rubin had been co-chairman) worked a secret euro-derivatives swap with Greece which, ultimately, destroyed that nation. Ecuador, its own banking sector de-regulated and demolished, exploded into riots. Argentina had to sell off its oil companies (to the Spanish) and water systems (to Enron) while its teachers hunted for food in garbage cans. Then, Bankers Gone Wild in the Eurozone dove head-first into derivatives pools without knowing how to swim — and the continent is now being sold off in tiny, cheap pieces to Germany.

Of course, it was not just threats that sold the FSA, but temptation as well. After all, every evil starts with one bite of an apple offered by a snake. The apple: the gleaming piles of lucre hidden in the FSA for local elites. The snake was named Larry.

Does all this evil and pain flow from a single memo? Of course not: the evil was The Game itself, as played by the banker clique. The memo only revealed their game-plan for checkmate.

And the memo reveals a lot about Summers and Obama.

While billions of sorry souls are still hurting from worldwide banker-made disaster, Rubin and Summers didn’t do too badly. Rubin’s deregulation of banks had permitted the creation of a financial monstrosity called “Citigroup”. Within weeks of leaving office, Rubin was named director, then Chairman of Citigroup — which went bankrupt while managing to pay Rubin a total of $126 million.

Then Rubin took on another post: as key campaign benefactor to a young State Senator, Barack Obama. Only days after his election as President, Obama, at Rubin’s insistence, gave Summers the odd post of US “Economics Tsar” and made Geithner his Tsarina (that is, Secretary of Treasury). In 2010, Summers gave up his royalist robes to return to “consulting” for Citibank and other creatures of bank deregulation whose payments have raised Summers’ net worth by $31 million since the “end-game” memo.

That Obama would, at Robert Rubin’s demand, now choose Summers to run the Federal Reserve Board means that, unfortunately, we are far from the end of the game.

Special thanks to expert Mary Bottari of Bankster USA http://www.BanksterUSA.org without whom our investigation could not have begun.

The film of my meeting with WTO chief Lamy was originally created for Ring of Fire, hosted by Mike Papantonio and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Further discussion of the documents I laid before Lamy can be found in “The Generalissimo of Globalization,” Chapter 12 of Vultures’ Picnic by Greg Palast (Constable Robinson 2012).

Follow Greg on Twitter: @Greg_Palast

Submitters Website: http://www.gregpalast.com

Submitters Bio:

Author of the New York Times and international bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse, Palast is Patron of the Trinity College Philosophical Society, an honor previously held by Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde. Palast turned his skills to journalism after two decades as a top investigator of corporate fraud and racketeering. Palast’s reports appear on BBC’s Newsnight and in Britain’s Guardian, Rolling Stone and Harper’s. Palast is best known as the investigative reported who uncovered how Katherine Harris purged thousands of African-Americans from Florida’s voter rolls in the 2000 Presidential Election. Palast directed the US government’s largest racketeering case in history–winning a $4.3 billion jury award. He also conducted the investigation of the Exxon Valdez on behalf of the Alaskan Natives. Palast is recipient of the George Orwell Courage in Journalism Prize for his BBC television documentary, Bush Family Fortunes. Greg Palast’s newest book, Vultures’ Picnic will be released by Penguin Books in November of 2011. Find out more info at VulturesPicnic.org

A Ten-Step Plan To Care for Our Country and World

June 26, 2013
June 24, 2013

 

By Veena Trehan

Imagine if just a fraction of the creativity, time and energy we put into raising our kids was devoted to improving our country and planet. Now make it so through this 10-step plan.

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Meet America, your new child. And planet Earth, her big sis.

Yes, they are your responsibility. For life.

Gone are the days of worshipping mothers. Perhaps 12,000 years ago, our ancestors prayed to the first female goddess. Maternal devotion continued as the Virgin Mary, the Goddess Parvati, and countless others were celebrated worldwide. Yet Ma’s contemporary resonance is lost. Mothers today are often placed in nursing homes and described as nags.  Even when we do value them, their support is rarely a daily or weekly imperative. So let’s drop the talk about the motherland and Mother Earth.


by 
Sunsurfr

Today, we dote on kids. Infants are born unable to hold up their head or speak, with a prodigious talent for pooping. But investment of our time, energy, and creativity fosters the development of their innate talents. Years later, they beam at us while accepting their medical school (or 8th grade) diploma.

For many of us, transforming our world and country–whether through questioning a spying apparatus that leaves Communist governments in the dust, removing toxicity and pollution from production, ensuring workers earn livable wages, or slowing climate change–is compelling, albeit daunting. But raising our children was also. Let’s lose excuses for inaction unworthy of us as parents, like:

“I did so much in the last election. Don’t I get to check out?” You rallied for Barack, contributed to his campaign, and went door-to-door in purple states. Sorry, canvassing superstar, you can’t check off the political participation box til 2017.

You’re logic is as persuasive as: “Boy, am I happy I got up all those nights for my toddler. Woo hoo! I’m disappearing during my son’s adolescence.” Or, for pet owners: “Isn’t it fabulous that caring for Skippy last year excuses me from walking him in 2013?”

“But I can’t possibly live up to my ideals.” Your carbon footprint is the size of Kuwait. You rush into McDonald’s before soccer practice. So really, why try?

That’s like saying you won’t help your kid, who doesn’t earn straight A’s, with her homework. Or take your son, no FC Barcelona shoo-in, to soccer practice. Moving right along…

“It won’t make any difference anyway.” Things may seem hopeless. But what would Jesus, or any person of moral courage, do? The Bible includes few scenes of Jesus sitting down, hands on knees, chin in hands, saying, “Whoa, this is so confusing. I’ll just play tiddlywinks for a few years.” Instead, he is energized by the scope of the challenge.

The growth we expect from our children is absurd, yet achievable by slogging on as an article of faith and devotion.

So act.

Do the right thing. At the simplest level, it is the truth we come to when we embrace humanity.

Remember that life is not a popularity contest (although some of the most uncompromising people would have won the contest, hands down). Life’s journey should showcase your courage and leadership, as it evolves.

For institutions you are a member of,–whether a school, company, university, nonprofit or country–work to change them. Call them out on immoral decisions or leave them.

Ask your friends and family about how they’re involved politically and what they consume. Have difficult conversations.


The world is complicated but act, already. by 
Neetesh Gupta

Look forward. There are many reasons for past inaction. One of the main Hindu holy books, the Bhagavad Gita, is devoted solely to encouraging action when values conflict. Today, powerful corporate and political forces sow confusion and ambivalence. They promote behavior at odds with common values: Buy products associated with happy or cool people, corporations advertise; not those that positively impact your health and the world. Their Whack-a-Mole arguments against sustainable practices belie the blindingly obvious truth: Investment in a broad array of programswould serve the public interest, while slowing the growth of the overfull coffers of the privileged.

It’s time to focus on numbers three and four (assuming your family has two kids). Adopt, America, a child who, in contrast to her developed-country peers, struggles with the second worst child poverty and life expectancy, the worst (the only one lacking) universal health care and paid maternity leave, soaring inequality, middling test performance, and an epidemic of poor health. She is ravaged by the effects of skyrocketing child marketing.

The world, too, has slipped from her maternal perch. As her bounty wanes she throws heated, stormy tantrums. Last week a report predicted between a 3.6-degrees Celsuis and 5.3-degree rise in global temperatures, based on a continuation of current carbon policies. Less than a year ago, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim described the projection of a possible four-degree rise by 2100 as a “doomsday scenario,” coming, as it did, just three years after world leaders agreed to aim to limit the increase to two degrees. Already, only a one-degree Celsuis rise has brought record wildfires, droughts and superstorms.

Meanwhile, corporate investors with economic power seek profits with uncontrolled avarice. Wal-Mart’s six heirs have almost as much wealth as the gross development product of 150 million Bangladeshis. Yet the corporate behemoth refused to sign on to a landmark fire safety accord estimated to cost them 10 cents per garment. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals–including cutting poverty in half and making primary education universal–was estimated to require additional funding of just one-tenth of the US defense budget.

As a parent, you’ve honed the discipline of faith and devotion. Now, bring it to your new progeny.

Here’s a 10-Point Plan You Can Follow:

1. If you don’t believe in a company, don’t patronize it. As consumers, we shape the world for better or worse. If all of us stopped eating Monsanto’s genetically modified products–particularly corn and soy (and animals who eat them)–it would cripple the company while returning us to the healthier diets of our childhood. Win-win.

Screen companies and brands you buy, making it as complicated as you wish. If you don’t have much time, don’t buy from those with negative news stories. Consider not purchasing products unless you understand their ingredients and know they’re safe. More broadly, evaluate these indicators of how the companies you buy from do business: their tax liability (Does the company pay at the rate you do?); whether their workers receive a living wage and are unionized; their political donations; their use of toxic chemicals and levels of pollution; their marketing to kids; their involvement in Third World “accidents”; etc.

The application Buycott can help. This tool can be used to identify the parent company of products, and checks whether your purchase would support specific campaigns you sign on to, including animal welfare, civil rights, economic justice, and other issues.

Each month, stop supporting a corporate bad actor, and tell your friends about what you’re doing.

2. If you’re not willing to abandon a questionable brand (You may, for example just looove your iPhonethough I can personally attest to greater happiness post-iPhone), then be super-active. Be a role model for all of us. Start or sign a petition to end the brand’s corrupt practices. Speak up at the shareholder meeting. Ask a store manager about one issue…then another. Post stories like this on Facebook and Twitter. Most importantly, talk with others about what’s at stake and encourage them to act.

Author James Baldwin describes the most important thing we can do for others as opening the door to spiritual and social unease. Evoking such discomfort builds courage and integrity.

3. Stop being defined by your political party. Politicians apply labels (like “Democrat” or Republican”) and tell you to sign over your brain, wallet and vote. Nonsense.

The majority of Americans support significant measures to address climate change, gun safety, genetically modified food, and job creation programs. Yet, neither party is shepherding through significant legislation. Standing up to your party isn’t a betrayal. We need to encourage our leaders to use the bully pulpit to promote the public interest, especially since, if we had to do it ourselves, many of us would trip out of our heels in climbing to the podium. Make it clear to politicians that your next vote is the price they will have to pay for putting the interests of lobbyists ahead of your own.

4. Push institutions to make better choices.  Few–particularly of the richest–Americans are associated with institutions they believe in a hundred-percent of the time. The energy companies, medical institutions, banks, consultancies, etc. who employ us often recommend and implement practices we know hurt the public. In addition, our schools, religious organizations, and retail stores can often do more to make things better. To use a Department of Homeland Security campaign slogan that can be applied (in a more helpful context) to practices that should be eliminated or improved: “If you see something, say something.”


One of 300 college and university divestment campaigns. by 350.org

With your perspective, you have an especially valuable role to play. Organize or attend a meeting and make your voice heard, even if you don’t have a position of leadership.

Champion divestments from unethical companies. Write a letter to the board. Ask simple questions about conflicts of interest that affect their clients and the world. (And accept thanks when less ethical competitors get buried under lawsuits.) Finally, consider an exit strategy, even it’s ten to fifteen years down the road.

Use alternative models. Push companies and institutions with which you’re associated to adopt economic models that promote employment opportunities and compensation levels that provide security and meet basic needs. Where possible, buy local and/or sustainable, engage in fair trade (on or off label), and grow or make products yourself.

5. Focus on what you can do. Sign and circulate petitions, if you can’t protest as often as you’d like. Measure and reduce your carbon footprint. Divest (and push to have your university’s endowment, your city, and your pension program divest also) from hedge-fund, private-equity, energy, Fortune 500, and banking companies that  evade taxes or prey on clients. Compost. Pledge to make your next car purchase electric or hybrid. Most importantly, tell ten–or a hundred–friends about each step you take and what you plan to do. Credit yourself for pushing things to a tipping point.


by Veena Trehan

6. Do it yourself, if you prefer.  Don’t like the message, location, or thrust of a campaign? Perfect! The cause could use your initiative. Organize your own rally. Arrange your own clothing swap. Develop and share your own list of responsible, like-minded brands. Start your own campaign. Organize a fundraiser or a documentary screening. Teach about an issue. Develop a creative protest sign.

7. Be worthy of your heroes. Be known for your creativity, integrity and moral courage. You’ll find yourself in strong, if surprising, company.

Bring the full power of your personality and talents to your new ambition. Operate from the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, bringing creativity, morality, spontaneity, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts, and problem-solving to the issues around you. You will astound those who may be watching (including that cute person in the mirror).

Think broadly. Don’t count on just-in-time change. Make the let’s-push-for-workplace-flexibility-and-maternity-benefits-now-I’m-pregnant behavior the exception, not the rule. While the speed and power of movements cannot be underestimated, neither can the inertia that arises from our narrow outlook.

8. Make it a habit. Target a specific amount of time to new actions that embody your values. Spend perhaps one percent of your own (or your children’s) sports or TV time on protest–which is itself often an art exhibit, concert, and history lesson wrapped into one. Maybe devote five percent of that sports or TV time to spreading information advocating greater social justice. Commit to daily and monthly activities.

9. Stop looking for the parenting book. Where’s “Your Socially Responsible Child at Age __ “? In the trash. You don’t need a guidebook  to discuss things with your kids, although bookstores with great material (like DC’s “Busboys and Poets”) exist. Show them “Climate Refugees,” “Revolutionary Optimists,” “Newsies,” “Supersize Me,” or a dozen other documentaries. Talk to them about how the Danes by themselves saved their Jews–or about the Underground Railroad, the fight for Indian independence, American muckrakers, or current inspirational leaders.

Have your teenager read “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks,” and discuss Frankie’s epiphany: “It is better to be alone…than to be with someone who can’t see who you are. Frankie realizes, too, that “it is better to lead than to follow,” as she dismisses her priorities of just a few months earlier. “It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people.”

Most importantly, tell your children about what you’re doing. Why do you buy, grow, or make what you do? Simplify, if necessary. A friend overseas tells her kids that a particularly popular brand of fast food is “not food.” Answer your children’s questions, even if they are some of the toughest you hear. Let the answers inform your actions. Honor their wishes: Join them in becoming vegetarians or in helping flood victims.

Involve your children in your own purpose-filled life. Baldwin wrote: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”


Monday’s protest in Brazil. by 
Rogiero Tomaz, Jr.

10. Get inspired. Surround yourself with your heroes. Study the courageous, creative and effective leaders in your industry and the world. Some recent campaigns may impress you:

The #FBrape campaign placed the logos of Facebook advertisers over pictures of maimed women that were posted on their social network; in response, Facebook agreed to quickly take down any misogynistic photos in the future.

The #FitchTheHomeless campaign is trying to make the Abercombie brand (meant for “attractive all-American kids,” according to CEO Mike Jeffries) the new brand of the homeless. While it may be problematic, this creative campaign is the product of genius.

An ad that depicted both the CEO of H&M and an anguished Bangladeshi woman as fashion victims may have produced important social change. Though the ad was never run, some say it moved the largest Bangladeshi buyer of clothes to sign a landmark fire safety accord, and prompted other retailers to follow suit.

Turkish demonstrators sang Les Miserables as they prevented the destruction of a Turkish public park, and, around the world, citizens are protesting the rise in public transportation fares, the misallocation of public funds, economic austerity plans (which kill), and policies that accelerate climate change.

As the greatest (fictional) hero, Casablanca’s Victor Laszlo, once said: “Welcome back to the fight. This time, I know our side will win.”

There’s much more to say, but I’ll sign off. Your children need you.

With peace and justice for all.

Submitters Bio:

Veena Trehan is a DC-based journalist and activist. She has written for NPR, Reuters, Bloomberg News, and local papers.

Why We Allow the Destruction of Our Planet

May 15, 2013

May 13, 2013

 

By David Swanson

It’s not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas. Of course it is.

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It’s not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas.  Of course it is.  And if we had direct democracy, polls suggest we would be investing in green energy.  But saying the right thing to a pollster on a phone or in a focus group is hardly the extent of what one ought sensibly to do when the fate of the world is at stake.

Nor do we get a complete explanation by recognizing that our communications system is in bed with our political system, cooperatively pushing lies about our climate and our budget (defunding wars and billionaires is not an option, so there’s just no money for new ideas, sorry).  Of course.  But when the planet’s climate is being destroyed for all future generations, most of which will therefore not exist, the only sensible course of action is to drop everything and nonviolently overthrow any system of corruption that is carrying out the destruction.

Why don’t we?

Misinformation is a surface-level explanation.  Why do people choose to accept obvious misinformation?

Here’s one reason: They’ve already chosen to accept other obvious misinformation to which they are deeply and passionately attached and which requires this additional self-deception.  The beliefs involved correlate with poor education, so government choices to fund fossil fuels and highways and prisons and Hamid Karzai rather than schools certainly contribute.  But perhaps we should confront the misinformation directly, even while pursuing the creation of an education system worthy of a civilized country.

According to a Newsweek poll, 40 percent of people in the United States believe the world will end with a battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist.  And overwhelmingly those who believe that, also believe that natural disaster and violence are signs of the approach of the glorious battle — so much so that 22 percent in the U.S. believe the world will end in their lifetime.  This would logically mean that concern for the world of their great great grandchildren makes no sense at all and should be dismissed from their minds.  In fact, a recent study found that belief in the “second coming” reduces support for strong governmental action on climate change by 20 percent.

Apart from the corruption of money, whenever you have 40 percent of Americans believing something stupid, the forces of gerrymandering in the House, disproportionate representation of small states in the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the winner-take-all two-party system that shuts many voices out of the media and debates and ballots while allowing Democrats to get elected purely on the qualification of not being Republicans, and a communications system that mainstreams Republican beliefs almost guarantees that the 40-percent view will control the government.

Congressman John Shimkus, a Republican from a gerrymandered monstrosity in southeastern Illinois says the planet is in fine shape and guaranteed to stay that way because God promised that to Noah.

Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma (a state whose citizens get 10 times the representation in the Senate that Californians do — if one can accuse Diane Feinstein of representing anyone), says that only God could possibly change the climate, and we should stop being so arrogant — as if taking $1.4 million in campaign “contributions” from fossil-fuel profiteers and imagining that your positions are purely determined by your access to an all-powerful being who runs the universe on behalf of the 30 percent of the world raised on the same fairy tales as you isn’t an arrogant belief.

Another senator who claims to be a theist but not of the Inhofe-Shimkus variety, publicly denounced an unnamed colleague this week for pushing the don’t-worry-God-is-on-the-job line in a recent meeting.

When a large portion of the population believes that catastrophe is a good thing, rather than a bad thing, and wars are celebrated and crises bring excitement and solidarity to our lives, the influence is toxic.  Of the 40 percent who believe Jesus is on his way, some no doubt believe it more than others, allow it to shape more of their other beliefs and actions.  Of the other 60 percent, some are no doubt influenced to varying degrees by the armageddonists.

Belief in theism itself reaches as much as 80 percent in the United States and includes strong activists for sustainable policies, including some who passionately proselytize using the argument that only theism can save us from our apathy in the face of global warming.  And there is no question that our most dedicated peace and justice activists include some strong religious believers.  But theism is essentially the belief that some more powerful being is running the show.  Perhaps the armageddonists haven’t really found a solution to the problem of evil (“If there is a God, he’ll have to beg forgiveness from me,” said a prisoner in a Nazi camp), but the non-armageddonist theists have never found a logical solution to the problem of free will, either.  Theists can go either way and all make as little sense as each other.  But they must all of necessity promote the notion that a more powerful being is in charge.

And where does that belief show up to damaging effect?  In our politics it shows up primarily as an attitude toward presidents.  While President Obama has spent five years working diligently to destroy our natural environment for all time to come, the largest block of those concerned about global warming have spent their time telling each other to trust in Him, that he works in mysterious ways, that he is up against the Evil One and must be allowed time to succeed in his battle.  You see, the problem with theism is not that some of its spin-off beliefs succeed in an undemocratic system.  The problem is that theism is anti-democratic at its core.  It moves us away from relying on ourselves.  It teaches us to rely on someone supposedly better than we.  And the same 80 percent or so also believe in something called heaven, which renders real life far less significant even for those generations that get to experience it.

This, in turn, fuels a belief in optimism.  We are all told to be optimists regardless of the facts, as if it were a personal lifestyle choice.  Combine that with a belief that everything is part of a secret master plan, and you’ve got a recipe for submissive acceptance.  I’ve had great activists tell me that everything will work out for the best, either because that keeps them going, or because they’ve learned that saying anything else earns them fewer speaking invitations.  Hardcore optimism is compatible with active engagement.  But the net effect is almost certainly a contribution to apathy.

I wish it were needless to say that I am not advocating the equally dumb position of willful pessimism.  I’m proposing the unpopular position of taking the facts as they come, acting accordingly, and acting cautiously when it comes to the fate of generations as yet unborn — even if that caution requires huge sacrifices.

There are other powerful forces weighing against action as well.  There is our love of technology, including our fantasies about inventing our way out of catastrophe, colonizing other planets, re-creating species.  Maybe our senator friend is onto something after all when he points to arrogance.  There is also greed, including our fear that living sustainably would involve living with less of the materialistic crap that currently clutters our lives and fuels our obesity.  There is also the con job continuously played on us by our government that persuades so many of us that we are powerless to effect change.  It’s not enough to believe that the world is being destroyed and that we humans are on our own with the plants and the other animals, if we’ve fallen for the biggest scam governments pull on their people, the lie that says they pay no attention to us.  History teaches the opposite.  People’s influence on their governments is much more powerful than we usually imagine.  It’s weakened primarily by people’s failure to do anything.  Impotence is a self-fulfilling loop.  Those longing for the end of the world are far from alone in imagining that we don’t have the power to make the world over ourselves.  Nonetheless, among the things we should be doing right now is explaining to our neighbors that Jesus isn’t coming back.

Submitters Website: http://davidswanson.org

Submitters Bio:

David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org

Twelve Reasons Why Globalization is a Huge Problem

February 27, 2013

Posted on February 22, 2013by 

Globalization seems to be looked on as an unmitigated “good” by economists. Unfortunately, economists seem to be guided by their badly flawed models; they miss  real-world problems. In particular, they miss the point that the world is finite. We don’t have infinite resources, or unlimited ability to handle excess pollution. So we are setting up a “solution” that is at best temporary.

Economists also tend to look at results too narrowly–from the point of view of abusiness that can expand, or a worker who has plenty of money, even though these users are not typical. In real life, the business are facing increased competition, and the worker may be laid off because of greater competition.

The following is a list of reasons why globalization is not living up to what was promised,  and is, in fact, a very major problem.

1. Globalization uses up finite resources more quickly.  As an example, China joined the world trade organization in December 2001. In 2002, its coal use began rising rapidly (Figure 1, below).

Figure 1. China's energy consumption by source, based on BP's Statistical Review of World Energy data.

Figure 1. China’s energy consumption by source, based on BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy data.

In fact, there is also a huge increase in world coal consumption (Figure 2, below). India’s consumption is increasing as well, but from a smaller base.

Figure 2. World coal consumption based on BP's 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy

Figure 2. World coal consumption based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy

2. Globalization increases world carbon dioxide emissions. If the world burns its coal more quickly, and does not cut back on other fossil fuel use, carbon dioxide emissions increase. Figure 3 shows how carbon dioxide emissions have increased, relative to what might have been expected, based on the trend line for the years prior to when the Kyoto protocol was adopted in 1997.

Figure 3. Actual world carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, as shown in BP's 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy. Fitted line is expected trend in emissions, based on actual trend in emissions from 1987-1997, equal to about 1.0% per year.

Figure 3. Actual world carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, as shown in BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy. Fitted line is expected trend in emissions, based on actual trend in emissions from 1987-1997, equal to about 1.0% per year.

3. Globalization makes it virtually impossible for regulators in one country to foresee the worldwide implications of their actions. Actions which would seem to reduce emissions for an individual country may indirectly encourage world trade, ramp up manufacturing in coal-producing areas, and increase emissions over all. See my post Climate Change: Why Standard Fixes Don’t Work.

4. Globalization acts to increase world oil prices.

Figure 4. World oil supply and price, both based on BP's 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy data. Updates to 2012$ added based on EIA price and supply data and BLS CPI urban.

Figure 4. World oil supply and price, both based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy data. Updates to 2012$ added based on EIA price and supply data and BLS CPI urban.

The world has undergone two sets of oil price spikes. The first one, in the 1973 to 1983 period, occurred after US oil supply began to decline in 1970 (Figure 4, above and Figure 5 below).

Figure 5. US crude oil production, based on EIA data. 2012 data estimated based on partial year data. Tight oil split is author's estimate based on state distribution of oil supply increases.

Figure 5. US crude oil production, based on EIA data. 2012 data estimated based on partial year data. Tight oil split is author’s estimate based on state distribution of oil supply increases.

After 1983, it was possible to bring oil prices back to the $30 to $40 barrel range (in 2012$), compared to the $20 barrel price (in 2012$) available prior to 1970. This was partly done partly by ramping up oil production in the North Sea, Alaska and Mexico (sources which were already known), and partly by reducing consumption. The reduction in consumption was accomplished by cutting back oil use for electricity, and by encouraging the use of more fuel-efficient cars.

Now, since 2005, we have high oil prices back, but we have a much worse problem. The reason the problem is worse now is partly because oil supply is not growing very much, due to limits we are reaching, and partly because demand is exploding due to globalization.

If we look at world oil supply, it is virtually flat. The United States and Canada together provide the slight increase in world oil supply that has occurred since 2005. Otherwise, supply has been flat since 2005 (Figure 6, below).  What looks like a huge increase in US oil production in 2012 in Figure 5 looks much less impressive, when viewed in the context of world oil production in Figure 6.

Figure 6. World crude oil production based on EIA data. *2012 estimated based on data through October.

Figure 6. World crude oil production based on EIA data. *2012 estimated based on data through October.

Part of our problem now is that with globalization, world oil demand is rising very rapidly. Chinese buyers purchased more cars in 2012 than did European buyers. Rapidly rising world demand, together with oil supply which is barely rising, pushes world prices upward. This time, there also is no possibility of a dip in world oil demand of the type that occurred in the early 1980s. Even if the West drops its oil consumption greatly, the East has sufficient pent-up demand that it will make use of any oil that is made available to the market.

Adding to our problem is the fact that we have already extracted most of the inexpensive to extract oil because the “easy” (and cheap) to extract oil was extracted first. Because of this, oil prices cannot decrease very much, without world supply dropping off. Instead, because of diminishing returns, needed price keeps ratcheting upward. The new “tight” oil that is acting to increase US supply is an example ofexpensive to produce oil–it can’t bring needed price relief.

5. Globalization transfers consumption of limited oil supply from developed countries to developing countries. If world oil supply isn’t growing by very much, and demand is growing rapidly in developing countries, oil to meet this rising demand must come from somewhere. The way this transfer takes place is through the mechanism of high oil prices. High oil prices are particularly a problem for major oil importing countries, such as the United States, many European countries, and Japan. Because oil is used in growing food and for commuting, a rise in oil price tends to lead to a cutback in discretionary spending, recession, and lower oil use in these countries. See my academic article, “Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis,” available here or here.

Figure 7. World oil consumption in million metric tons, divided among three areas of the world.

Figure 7. World oil consumption in million metric tons, divided among three areas of the world. (FSU is Former Soviet Union.)

Developing countries are better able to use higher-priced oil than developed countries.  In some cases (particularly in oil-producing countries) subsidies play a role. In addition, the shift of manufacturing to less developed countries increases the number of workers who can afford a motorcycle or car. Job loss plays a role in the loss of oil consumption from developed countries–see my post, Why is US Oil Consumption Lower? Better Gasoline Mileage? The real issue isn’t better mileage; one major issue is loss of jobs.

6. Globalization transfers jobs from developed countries to less developed countries. Globalization levels the playing field, in a way that makes it hard for developed countries to compete. A country with a lower cost structure (lower wages and benefits for workers, more inexpensive coal in its energy mix, and more lenient rules on pollution) is able to out-compete a typical OECD country. In the United States, the percentage of US citizen with jobs started dropping about the time China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Figure 8. US Number Employed / Population, where US Number Employed is Total Non_Farm Workers from Current Employment Statistics of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Population is US Resident Population from the US Census.  2012 is partial year estimate.

Figure 8. US Number Employed / Population, where US Number Employed is Total Non_Farm Workers from Current Employment Statistics of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Population is US Resident Population from the US Census. 2012 is partial year estimate.

7. Globalization transfers investment spending from developed countries to less developed countries. If an investor has a chance to choose between a country with a competitive advantage and a country with a competitive disadvantage, which will the investor choose? A shift in investment shouldn’t be too surprising.

In the US, domestic investment was fairly steady as a percentage of National Income until the mid-1980s (Figure 9). In recent years, it has dropped off and is now close to consumption of assets (similar to depreciation, but includes other removal from service). The assets in question include all types of capital assets, including government-owned assets (schools, roads), business owned assets (factories, stores), and individual homes. A similar pattern applies to business investment viewed separately.

Figure 9. United States domestic investment compared to consumption of assets, as percentage of National Income. Based on US Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

Figure 9. United States domestic investment compared to consumption of assets, as percentage of National Income. Based on US Bureau of Economic Analysis data from Table 5.1, Savings and Investment by Sector.

Part of the shift in the balance between investment and consumption of assets is rising consumption of assets. This would include early retirement of factories, among other things.

Even very low interest rates in recent years have not brought US investment back to earlier levels.

8. With the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, globalization leads to huge US balance of trade deficits and other imbalances. 

Figure 10. US Balance on Current Account, based on data of US Bureau of Economic Analysis. Amounts in 2012$ calculated based on US CPI-Urban of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Figure 10. US Balance on Current Account, based on data of US Bureau of Economic Analysis. Amounts in 2012$ calculated based on US CPI-Urban of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With increased globalization and the rising price of oil since 2002, the US trade deficit has soared (Figure 10). Adding together amounts from Figure 10, the cumulative US deficit for the period 1980 through 2011 is $8.6 trillion. By the end of 2012, the cumulative deficit since 1980 is probably a little over 9 trillion.

A major reason for the large US trade deficit is the fact that the US dollar is the world’s “reserve currency.” While the mechanism is too complicated to explain here, the result is that the US can run deficits year after year, and the rest of the world will take their surpluses, and use it to buy US debt. With this arrangement, the rest of the world funds the United States’ continued overspending. It is fairly clear the system was not put together with the thought that it would work in a fully globalized world–it simply leads to too great an advantage for the United States relative to other countries. Erik Townsend recently wrote an article called Why Peak Oil Threatens the International Monetary System, in which he talks about the possibility of high oil prices bringing an end to the current arrangement.

At this point, high oil prices together with globalization have led to huge US deficit spending since 2008. This has occurred partly because a smaller portion of the population is working (and thus paying taxes), and partly because US spending for unemployment benefits and stimulus has risen. The result is a mismatch between government income and spending (Figure 11, below).

Figure 11. Receipts and Expenditures for all US government entities combined (including state and local) based on BEA data. 2012 estimated based on partial year data.

Figure 11. Receipts and Expenditures for all US government entities combined (including state and local) based on BEA data. 2012 estimated based on partial year data.

Thanks to the mismatch described in the last paragraph, the federal deficit in recent years has been far greater than the balance of payment deficit. As a result, some other source of funding for the additional US debt has been needed, in addition to what is provided by the reserve currency arrangement. The Federal Reserve has been using Quantitative Easing to buy up federal debt since late 2008. This has provided a buyer for additional debt and also keeps US interest rates low (hoping to attract some investment back to the US, and keeping US debt payments affordable). The current situation is unsustainable, however. Continued overspending and printing money to pay debt is not a long-term solution to huge imbalances among countries and lack of cheap oil–situations that do not “go away” by themselves.

9. Globalization tends to move taxation away from corporations, and onto individual citizens. Corporations have the ability to move to locations where the tax rate is lowest. Individual citizens have much less ability to make such a change. Also, with today’s lack of jobs, each community competes with other communities with respect to how many tax breaks it can give to prospective employers. When we look at the breakdown of US tax receipts (federal, state, and local combined) this is what we find:

Figure 12. Source of US Government revenue, by year, based on US Bureau of Economic Analysis Data.

Figure 12. Source of US Government revenue, by year, based on US Bureau of Economic Analysis Data.

The only portion that is entirely from corporations is corporate income taxes, shown in red. This has clearly shrunk by more than half. Part of the green layer (excise, sales, and property tax) is also from corporations, since truckers also pay excise tax on fuel they purchase, and businesses usually pay property taxes. It is clear, though, that the portion of revenue coming from personal income taxes and Social Security and Medicare funding (blue) has been rising.

I showed  that high oil prices seem to lead to depressed US wages in my post, The Connection of Depressed Wages to High Oil Prices and Limits to Growth. If wages are low at the same time that wage-earners are being asked to shoulder an increasing share of rising government costs,  this creates a mismatch that wage-earners are not really able to handle.

10. Globalization sets up a currency “race to the bottom,” with each country trying to get an export advantage by dropping the value of its currency.

Because of the competitive nature of the world economy, each country needs to sell its goods and services at as low a price as possible. This can be done in various ways–pay its workers lower wages; allow more pollution; use cheaper more polluting fuels; or debase the currency by Quantitative Easing (also known as “printing money,”) in the hope that this will produce inflation and lower the value of the currency relative to other currencies.

There is no way this race to the bottom can end well. Prices of imports become very high in a debased currency–this becomes a problem. In addition, the supply of money is increasingly out of balance with real goods and services. This produces asset bubbles, such as artificially high stock market prices, and artificially high bond prices (because the interest rates on bonds are so low). These assets bubbles lead to investment crashes. Also, if the printing ever stops (and perhaps even if it doesn’t), interest rates will rise, greatly raising cost to governments, corporations, and individual citizens.

11. Globalization encourages dependence on other countries for essential goods and services. With globalization, goods can often be obtained cheaply from elsewhere. A country may come to believe that there is no point in producing its own food or clothing. It becomes easy to depend on imports and specialize in something like financial services or high-priced medical care–services that are not as oil-dependent.

As long as the system stays together, this arrangement works, more or less. However, if the built-in instabilities in the system become too great, and the system stops working, there is suddenly a very large problem. Even if the dependence is not on food, but is instead on computers and replacement parts for machinery, there can still be a big problem if imports are interrupted.

12. Globalization ties countries together, so that if one country collapses, the collapse is likely to ripple through the system, pulling many other countries with it.

History includes many examples of civilizations that started from a small base, gradually grew to over-utilize their resource base, and then collapsed. We are now dealing with a world situation which is not too different. The big difference this time is that a large number of countries is involved, and these countries are increasingly interdependent. In my post 2013: Beginning of Long-Term Recession, I showed that there are significant parallels between financial dislocations now happening in the United States and the types of changes which happened in other societies, prior to collapse.  My analysis was based on  the model of collapse developed in the bookSecular Cycles by Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov.

It is not just the United States that is in perilous financial condition. Many European countries and Japan are in similarly poor condition. The failure of one country has the potential to pull many others down, and with it much of the system. The only countries that remain safe are the ones that have not grown to depend on globalization–which is probably not many today–perhaps landlocked countries of Africa.

In the past, when one area collapsed, there was less interdependence. When one area collapsed, it was possible to let cropland “rest” and deforested areas regrow. With regeneration, and perhaps new technology, it was possible for a new civilization to grow in the same area later. If we are dealing with a world-wide collapse, it will be much more difficult to follow this model.

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About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues – oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. The financial system is also likely to be affected.

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Earth Is Dying, Yet Climate And Forest Movements Lack Urgency And Substance

February 27, 2013

 

By Dr. Glen Barry

25 February, 2013
Ecological Internet

Human industrial growth is systematically liquidating the natural ecosystems that are the habitat for humans and for all life. Earth is dying, one logged old-growth tree and tank of gasoline at a time, yet most environmental groups are shilling solutions that are inadequate and ill-conceived – such as logging old-growth forests to protect them. Nothing shows this better than Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network – in an age of mass extinction, abrupt climate change, and ecosystem collapse – wanting us to wipe our asses with toilet paper from “certified” old-growth forest pulp.

A profound lack of understanding exists, even amid the supposedly radical environmental movement, of the seriousness of merging ecological crises. If Gaia – the Earth System or biosphere – is alive, as science has come to understand, then clearly she can die as key ecosystems are destroyed and biogeochemical processes fail. To survive, much less thrive, humanity must stop scraping Earth’s land of life, spewing waste into our air and water, and claiming it can all be certified as sustainably done, while calling it “development.”

Industrial growth’s destruction of ecosystems is undermining the habitability of the planet, threatening the maintenance of conditions necessary for life, by destroying the ecosystems required for a living planet. As key ecosystems are lost, indications are humanity will soon be going extinct, quite possibly taking the biosphere and all life with us.

Life begets life. It is a miracle of nature that life, together in ecosystems, creates conditions necessary for life. Yet multidimensional ecological crises – climate, forests, water, food, overpopulation and inequitable consumption, and others – are undermining life. A time of great dying looms as humans are destroying their habitat, all life, and the Earth System.

Together either we end fracking, tar sands, coal, old-growth logging, overpopulation, and inequitable overconsumption all at once or our one shared biosphere collapses. Not only do we need to protest, but we need the right solutions. These must be derived from the best ecological minds in broad consultation, not by hipster, non-ecologists who have tapped into celebrity and foundation money.

Protection of old-growth forests is a vital climate solution being given short thrift by the self-appointed, often underqualified environmental movement elite. Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace USA’s obstinate support for Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) massive old-growth logging – across an area twice the size of Texas – for throwaway consumer products is a major obstacle to going forward on climate. I have written at length, including at http://bit.ly/rainforest_heist, how virtually every major NGO greenwashes old-growth forest logging in what I have termed the “Great Rainforest Heist.”

In 2009 Lindsey Allen (now Rainforest Action Network’s new acting director, then with Greenpeace Canada) claimed victory and ended a campaign against Kleenex because they agreed to have their old-growth boreal forest clearcuts for toilet paper certified by FSC as being sustainable. Ms. Allen has gone on to greenwash old-growth Gucci shopping bags and Disney books with RAN. Before her, Michael Brune, now chief accountant for Sierra Club, did similarly.

Greenpeace and RAN want us to wipe our asses with old-growth forests. Old-growth forest logging and its terrible impacts upon species, climate, and the biosphere will never end as long they – as members of FSC – falsely certify it as sustainable.

I recently presented a scientific paper in Kerala, India, now being prepared for publication, which seeks to quantify how many terrestrial ecosystems – including old-growth forests – can be lost without biosphere collapse. This is an attempt to set an easily understood threshold for old-growth forest loss, like the 350ppm limit on carbon to avoid abrupt climate change.

Based upon an amazing landscape metric called “percolation,” I hypothesize that a loss of more than 40 percent of terrestrial ecosystems long-term – including old-growth forests – collapses the biosphere. This is the point where critical deterioration in ecosystem connectivity occurs across scale, from landscapes to bioregions and continents, and on to the biosphere. Instead of humanity existing within a context of nature, ecosystems become fragmented, disconnected, and surrounded by humanity.

We are now at 50 percent natural ecosystem loss globally. I conclude that Earth needs to maintain some two-thirds of its land area as natural and seminatural ecosystems to meet local needs and to maintain local and global ecological sustainability. Along with a number of other planetary boundaries, including climate change and biodiversity loss, Earth is already in ecological overshoot and will collapse unless we pull back from the brink.

It is clear that global ecological sustainability and universal well-being depend critically upon protecting old-growth forests and ending fossil fuel emissions. Large, intact, and connected standing old-growth forests are required for local prosperity and ecosystem service continuity – and for an enduring, naturally evolving, global biosphere.

It is still possible to avoid abrupt climate change and global ecosystem collapse – but only if we both dramatically cut fossil fuel emissions AND protect and restore natural ecosystems immediately. Based upon ecological science, an end to their industrial destruction is vital to limiting climate change.

It is time for the climate movement, led by 350.org, to call for protection of all old-growth forests. And for Greenpeace, RAN and other NGOs supporting their logging to re-examine their position and resign from FSC.

Ending poverty doesn’t justify endless ecocidal growth for all, at the ever-advancing cost of liquidating old-growth ecosystems and fouling our atmosphere, an impossible path on a finite planet. Rather the focus for ecologically and socially sustainable development should be meeting basic needs with some of life’s luxuries for all, with a reasonable bit more for those who work hard and are gifted.

Earth’s people want universal democracy, freedom, economic justice, and sustained ecology for everyone, for the whole world, and they want it now. And governments and corrupt NGOs had better get out of the way.

Your biosphere, old-growth forests, human family, and kindred species need you. Go to them now.

Dr. Glen Barry is an internationally recognized political ecologist, environmental advocate, writer, and technology expert. He is well-known within the environmental community as a leading global ecological visionary, public intellectual, and environmental policy critic. Dr. Barry’s work as the President and Founder of Ecological Internet – the Earth’s largest biocentric ecological advocacy web portals – was recently recognized as one of “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” by the Utne Reader. More: http://forests.org/staff/glen.asp

Please support Ecological Internet’s campaigns to protect and restore old
forests at http://www.rainforestportal.org/shared/donate/

 

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