Archive for the ‘Global Problem’ Category

Human activities are jeopardizing Earth’s natural systems, health of future generations

July 28, 2015

New report calls for action to ensure future health, environmental sustainability, showing that solutions are within reach

Date:
July 15, 2015
Source:
The Lancet
Summary:
A new report calls for immediate, global action to protect the health of human civilization and the natural systems on which it depends. The report provides the first ever comprehensive examination of evidence showing how the health and well-being of future generations is being jeopardized by the unprecedented degradation of the planet’s natural resources and ecological systems.
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FULL STORY

Scientists are concerned that global environmental change represents a growing threat to human health.
Credit: © underworld / Fotolia

A new report released by The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, calls for immediate, global action to protect the health of human civilization and the natural systems on which it depends. The report, Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch, provides the first ever comprehensive examination of evidence showing how the health and well-being of future generations is being jeopardised by the unprecedented degradation of the planet’s natural resources and ecological systems.

“This Commission aims to put the health of human civilizations, and their special relationship with the larger biosphere, at the centre of concerns for future planetary sustainability. Our civilization may seem strong and resilient, but history tells us that our societies are fragile and vulnerable. We hope to show how we can protect and strengthen all that we hold dear about our world,” says Dr Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancetand one of the report authors.

The report was written by a Commission of 15 leading academics and policymakers from institutions in 8 countries, and was chaired by Professor Sir Andy Haines of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK. It demonstrates how human activity and development have pushed to near breaking point the boundaries of the natural systems that support and sustain human civilizations.

“The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Planetary Health Commission has issued a dire warning: Human action is undermining the resilience of Earth’s natural systems, and in so doing we are compromising our own resilience, along with our health and, frankly, our future,” said Dr Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “We are in a symbiotic relationship with our planet, and we must start to value that in very real ways. Just as Foundation leaders 100 years ago took a holistic view and launched the field of public health, the Commission’s report marks a paradigm shift for a new era of global public health, one that must be integrated with broader policy decisions.”

The Commission warns that a rising population, unsustainable consumption and the over-use of natural resources will exacerbate these health challenges in the future. The world’s poorest communities will be among those at greatest risk, as they live in areas that are most strongly affected and have greater sensitivity to disease and poor health.

“We are on the verge of triggering irreversible, global effects, ranging from ocean acidification to biodiversity loss,” says Professor Haines. “These environmental changes — which include, but extend far beyond climate change — threaten the gains in health that have been achieved over recent decades and increase the risks to health arising from major challenges as diverse as under-nutrition and food insecurity, freshwater shortages, emerging infectious diseases, and extreme weather events.”

Concerns that global environmental change represents a growing threat to human health are underlined by two new research articles being published in conjunction with the report. One article, published in The Lancet, quantifies for the first time the human health implications of declines in animal pollinators (such as bees and other insects). The study, led by one of the report Commissioners, Dr Samuel Myers, from Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, USA, shows that global declines in animal pollinators could lead to up to 1.4 million excess deaths annually (an increase in global mortality of 2.7%) from a combination of increased vitamin A and folate deficiency and increased incidence of non-communicable diseases like heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. The research shows that these health effects would be experienced in both developed and developing countries.

The second study, also led by Dr Myers, and published in The Lancet Global Health, quantifies for the first time a major global health threat associated with anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The study shows that reductions in the zinc content of important food crops as a response to rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will place between 132-180 million people at new risk for zinc deficiency globally by around 2050. In addition, these nutrient reductions will exacerbate existing zinc deficiency for billions around the world. Zinc deficiency leads to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths from infectious disease because of reduced immune function.

Solutions to these clear and potent dangers are within reach, say the Commission authors, but the world needs to take decisive, coordinated action to protect the environment and secure the health of future generations.

The Commission outlines a range of beneficial policies and actions that can be taken by governments, international organisations, researchers, health professionals and citizens that are good for both health and the environment. Examples include benefits from reduced air pollution, healthy diets with more fruit and vegetables, active transport (walking and cycling), reduced urban heat stress from green spaces, and increased resilience to coastal flooding from intact wetlands and mangroves. In addition, the report identifies some major gaps in evidence and the research that is needed. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Integrated social, economic and environmental policies: Policies and initiatives need to be designed to promote more efficient use of current resources to allow for the replenishment of natural systems. They should also spur innovation and make sustainable practices more mainstream, such as reducing waste and developing resilient cities.
  • Better governance: Leaders need to take initiatives to reduce the risks to health and vital ecosystems, and implement policies to reduce subsidies that block sustainable practices, encourage behavioral change, incentivize the private sector, support research, and promote public discourse. To help ensure that Planetary Health is at the center of national policy, governments should give responsibility for monitoring trends and developing policies to a body that answers directly to the Head of State.
  • Improved health systems: Environmental health needs must be integrated into health budgeting and purchasing. In addition, as environmental threats will be characterised by surprise and uncertainty, health systems must be designed for resilience, planning for potential risks and adapting quickly to meet challenges and restore services.
  • A reorganisation and expansion of our knowledge on Planetary Health: There are substantial gaps in knowledge that can be closed with the expansion of trans disciplinary research, improved understanding of the links between health and environmental change and potential adaptation strategies, building integrated surveillance systems and reporting on progress nationally and internationally.

Events announcing the release of the report will be held in New York City, USA, and in Johannesburg, South Africa on 16 July, 2015, and in Los Angeles, USA, on 17 July, 2015. Additional launches are planned in Australia, Chile, China, Kenya, Pakistan, and UK.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by The Lancet. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Sarah Whitmee, Andy Haines, Chris Beyrer, Frederick Boltz, Anthony G Capon, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Alex Ezeh, Howard Frumkin, Peng Gong, Peter Head, Richard Horton, Georgina M Mace, Robert Marten, Samuel S Myers, Sania Nishtar, Steven A Osofsky, Subhrendu K Pattanayak, Montira J Pongsiri, Cristina Romanelli, Agnes Soucat, Jeanette Vega, Derek Yach. Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch: report of The Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on planetary health. The Lancet, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60901-1
  2. Samuel S Myers, K Ryan Wessells, Itai Kloog, Antonella Zanobetti, Joel Schwartz. Effect of increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the global threat of zinc deficiency: a modelling study. The Lancet Global Health, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/S2214-109X(15)00093-5

Cite This Page:

The Lancet. “Human activities are jeopardizing Earth’s natural systems, health of future generations: New report calls for action to ensure future health, environmental sustainability, showing that solutions are within reach.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 July 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150715212204.htm>.

Mother Earth Day 2015: Regenerating the Soil and Reversing Global Warming

May 9, 2015

“The elimination of fossil fuels for all but the most limited and essential purposes is necessary but not sufficient to allow our descendants a fair chance for a healthy and prosperous future. Enhancing carbon biosequestration in terrestrial ecosystems is also essential.”  Wayne A. White,Biosequestration and Ecological Diversity p.118 (CRC Press 2013)

The standard gloom and doom discourse surrounding global warming and climate change has infected the body politic with a severe case of depression and disempowerment. So starting today April 22, embracing what the United Nations has designated as the “Year of the Soil,” let’s look at our planetary crisis from an entirely different, and more hopeful perspective.

The good news is that the global grassroots, farmers and consumers united, can reverse our suicidal “business as usual” food, farming, energy, and land use practices. Harnessing the awesome power of Regenerative Organic Agriculture and reforestation, we can literally suck down enough excess (50-100 ppm of CO2) heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and naturally sequester it in our plants, trees and soils.  Regenerative Agriculture and Earth Repair practices can not only mitigate, but also, in combination with drastic reductions (80-90 percent) of fossil fuel emissions in our food and farming, transportation, housing, utilities, and industrial sectors, actually reverseglobal warming.

Regenerative Agriculture and Forestry

If you’ve never heard about the amazing potential of regenerative agriculture and land use practices to naturally sequester a critical mass of CO2 in the soil and forests, you’re not alone. One of the best-kept secrets in the world today is that the solution to global warming and the climate crisis (as well as poverty and deteriorating public health) lies right under our feet, and at the end of our knives and forks. Changing our food and farming systems, along with changing our “business as usual” political system and energy policies, is the key to our survival and well-being.

Transforming and regenerating our planet’s 28 billion acres of cropland, grassland and forests, as well as urban areas of the planet, is the challenge—not only for Mother Earth Day 2015, but for the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Global Organic Regeneration and Earth Repair is the key to drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our current unsustainable food, farming and deforestation practices (which now produce the majority of greenhouse gas emissions).

Regenerative Earth Repair is the absolute prerequisite for ramping up plant and forest photosynthesis and sequestering in the soil several hundred billion tons of excess atmospheric CO2 over the next two decades.

A global campaign of Earth Repair and Regeneration can buy us the precious time we need to move away from fossil fuels to a global economy based upon renewable energy. Global Regeneration will dramatically improve soil fertility, crop yields, soil water retention, crop resilience, and food quality, thereby helping to mitigate and reverse global poverty, malnutrition and deteriorating public health.

Before we look how we can sequester up to 200 percent of current human greenhouse gas emissions through regenerating the planet’s croplands (four billion acres), pastures and rangelands (14 billion acres), and forests (10 billion acres), let’s look at what Michael Pollan, the U.S.’s most influential writer on food and farming, has to sayabout plant photosynthesis, regenerative grazing, and carbon sequestration:

Consider what happens when the sun shines on a grass plant rooted in the earth. Using that light as a catalyst, the plant takes atmospheric CO2, splits off and releases the oxygen, and synthesizes liquid carbon–sugars, basically. Some of these sugars go to feed and build the aerial portions of the plant we can see, but a large percentage of this liquid carbon—somewhere between 20 and 40 percent—travels underground, leaking out of the roots and into the soil. The roots are feeding these sugars to the soil microbes—the bacteria and fungi that inhabit the rhizosphere—in exchange for which those microbes provide various services to the plant: defense, trace minerals, access to nutrients the roots can’t reach on their own. That liquid carbon has now entered the microbial ecosystem, becoming the bodies of bacteria and fungi that will in turn be eaten by other microbes in the soil food web. Now, what had been atmospheric carbon (a problem) has become soil carbon, a solution—and not just to a single problem, but to a great many problems.

Besides taking large amounts of carbon out of the air—tons of it per acre when grasslands are properly managed… that process at the same time adds to the land’s fertility and its capacity to hold water. Which means more and better food for us…

This process of returning atmospheric carbon to the soil works even better when ruminants are added to the mix. Every time a calf or lamb shears a blade of grass, that plant, seeking to rebalance its “root-shoot ratio,” sheds some of its roots. These are then eaten by the worms, nematodes, and microbes—digested by the soil,in effect, and so added to its bank of carbon. This is how soil is created: from the bottom up.

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

A recent article in the Guardian summarizes Regenerative Agriculture:

Regenerative agriculture comprises an array of techniques that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Typically, it uses cover crops and perennials so that bare soil is never exposed, and grazes animals in ways that mimic animals in nature. It also offers ecological benefits far beyond carbon storage: it stops soil erosion, remineralises soil, protects the purity of groundwater and reduces damaging pesticide and fertiliser runoff.

With these basic concepts of photosynthesis and Regenerative Agriculture in mind, what do we need to do?

(1) Regenerate croplands, eliminate GMOs, pesticides, monocultures, chemical fertilizers, and tillage. If we can mobilize the global grassroots to promote and adopt regenerative organic agricultural practices (“organic and beyond”) on the Earth’s four billion acres of cultivated farmland, we can drastically reduce our use of fossil fuel inputs and slash greenhouse gas emissions; produce healthier, climate-resistant crops and nutrient-dense food; and meanwhile sequester large amounts of carbon in our degraded, de-carbonized soils. Our agricultural soils have lost25-75 percent of the soil carbon they once had before the onslaught of unsustainable agricultural practices.

As the must-read 2014 Rodale Institute White Paper explains:

In practical terms, regenerative organic agriculture is foremost an organic system refraining from the use of synthetic pesticides and inputs, which disrupt soil life, and fossil-fuel dependent nitrogen fertilizer, which is responsible for the majority of anthropogenic N2O emissions. It is a system designed to build soil health.

Regenerative organic agriculture is comprised of organic practices including (at a minimum): cover crops, residue mulching, composting and crop rotation. Conservation tillage, while not yet widely used in organic systems, is a regenerative organic practice integral to soil-carbon sequestration.

As the Rodale research indicates, and is echoed by numerous other field trials across the globe, Regenerative Organic practices on cultivated farmlands across the world can, over the next few decades sequester 40 percent of current human greenhouse gas emissions.

(2) Regenerate grasslands and pasture lands, eliminate factory farms. Even more encouraging, as Rodale and others, including Quivira Coalition and the Savory Institute, point out, by adopting regenerative grazing practices on the earth’s seriously degraded 14 billion acres of pastureland and grassland (there is 3.5 times as much pasture land and rangeland on the Earth as there is cultivated farmland), we can eventually sequester an additional 71 percent of all current greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words by eliminating inhumane, unhealthy and heavily polluting factory farms or CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), which now produce 2/3 of all global meat and animal products, and by putting billions of the Earth’s 70 billion farm animals back on the land, we can regenerate, through planned rotational “mob” grazing, and the production of grass fed beef and dairy, and pasture-based pork and poultry, the 14 billion acres of rangeland and pastureland that are our most strategic “sink” or depository for excess CO2 in the atmosphere.

Last year Dr. Richard Teague of Texas A&M explained the principles of planned rotational (“mob”) grazing to a House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources (June 25, 2014):

The key to sustaining and regenerating ecosystem function in rangelands is actively managing for reduction of bare ground, promoting the most beneficial and productive plants by grazing moderately over the whole landscape, and providing adequate recovery to grazed plants…

Regenerative grazing and pasturing on a global scale will require the dismantling of the entire factory farm system, freeing billions of farm animals from their animal prisons or CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and putting them back out onto the land to graze and forage where they belong. Once CAFO and GMO crop subsidies are reduced and removed, and once the pent-up market demand for healthier, more humanely produced meat, dairy and eggs can be harnessed, the factory farm/GMO industrial food and farming system will begin to collapse.

With billions of animals released from intensive confinement (including freeing herbivores from unnatural, unhealthy GMO grain diets), marketplace pressure will encourage farmers and ranchers to adopt herd management strategies that replicate natural or wild herd habits. This involves herbivores rotationally grazing only the top grasses of small pastures, for short periods of time, defecating and urinating and forcing the stubble into the topsoil. After the grasses recover, then the herd or flocks are returned for a few days to harvest the most nutritious grasses again. With omnivores (pigs and chickens), free range or pasturing practices will similarly restore animal and soil health as well.

The current factory farm system takes the naturally grazing cattle off pasture to enormous feedlots to fatten them up with corn, soybeans, cotton seed cake, cotton gin trash, sludge-fertilized hay, and waste industrial products. Cows, sheep, and other herbivores are not grain, GMO, or garbage eaters by choice. Their preferred foods are mixed grasses.

Regenerative grazing is not something new, but rather a rediscovery of the beneficial animal welfare and environmental practices that were “normal” (buffalo and elk on the grasslands of the US, wildebeest herds in Africa, communal grazing practices worldwide) before the advent of industrial farming and CAFOs.

One very important benefit of grass-fed beef, sheep, goats and dairy, and pastured poultry and pigs—a benefit which is already starting to drive consumers away from factory farmed foods—is that grass-fed or pastured animal products are qualitatively healthier than CAFO products, higher in Omega 3 and “good” fats, and lower in animal drug residues and harmful fats that clog arteries, destroy gut health and cause cancer.

(3) Regenerate forests and wetlands, end deforestation. By halting unsustainable land use and deforestation of the planet’s remaining 10 billion acres of forest (deforestation is now responsible for a full 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions), by re-planting species-appropriate trees on five billion deforested rural and urban acres, by incorporating sustainable forest management practices on existing forests, and by integrating agro-forestry practices on existing farms and ranches (and restoring wetlands), we can drastically reduce carbon emissions while sequestering billions of tons of excess carbon in our forest lands and in reforested rural and urban environments.

As permaculture author Michal Pilarski explains in his “Carbon Sequestration Proposal for the World,” we can reverse global warming by:

I.    Reforestation/Afforestation of 5 billion acres worldwide = 150 billion tons of carbon sequestration.

II.    Earth repair and improved ecosystem management of existing forests and all other terrestrial ecosystems = 100 billion tons of carbon sequestration.

Earth repair and reforestation of our cities, forests, marshes, savannas, grasslands, steppes, and deserts could eventually add up to a total of 250 billion tons of carbon sequestered. This translates into removing over 100 ppm of excess CO2 from the atmosphere and putting it into the soil and forests. This level of carbon sequestration would bring atmospheric carbon dioxide levels down to where they were in the early 1800s, if carried out in combination with slashing human-caused carbon emissions.

According to biosequestration expert, Wayne White, if we could just stop all tropical deforestation, and maintain the health of our forests, the increased photosynthesis of this massive forest growth would sequester a full 69 percent of all human greenhouse gas emissions. (Biosequestration and Ecological Diversity p. 93)

Too many forests have been degraded, or clear-cut, or over-grazed and even over-fertilized with nitrogen. Too much land has been developed, exploited, and then abandoned. The solutions to our forest crisis are similar to organic farming solutions. We need to practice sustainable forestry management strategies that restore the mycorrhizal and other forest fungi, and replant clear-cut areas with high-density, species-appropriate plantings. We need to manage this reforestation, including thinning and pest control. We need to avoid the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers because they damage fungi and other microorganisms, which are the foundations of a successful reforestation program. With reforestation and restoration of the forest floor microorganisms, our forests will be able to sequester billions of tons of carbon.

Critics of the Earth Repair strategy

A number of critics of our Earth Repair strategy have told me and other regeneration activists that we should not talk about natural sequestration of CO2 in the soil, nor the enormous Regenerative potential of organic food, farming,and forestry, because this “positive talk” will distract people from the main task at hand, drastically reducing fossil fuel emissions and taking down King Coal and Big Oil.

Of course we need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels, extractivism and overconsumption into conservation, sustainable living and renewable energy. We must all become climate hawks and radical conservationists. But we must also become advocates of Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Forest/Land Use.

Unite the Food, Forest, and Climate Movements

The large and growing anti-GMO, organic food, and natural health movement in the U.S., for example, of which I am a part, must begin to think of ourselves as climate and food activists, not just advocates for natural health, small farmers/ranchers, animals and food justice. Given that the GMO, factory farm and industrial food and farming system seen as a whole (production, chemical crop inputs, processing, transportation, waste, emissions, deforestation, biofuel/ethanol production) is the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing even the transportation, utilities, housing and industry sectors, climate activists need to start thinking of ourselves as food activists as well.

There will be no organic food, nor food whatsoever, on a burnt planet. Nor will there ever be a 90-percent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution without a transformation of our food and farming and land use practices, both in North America and globally.

We must begin to connect the dots between fossil fuels, global warming and related issues, including world hunger, poverty, unemployment, toxic food and farming, extractivism, land grabbing, biodiversity, ocean destruction, deforestation, resource wars, and deteriorating public health. As we regenerate the soil and forests, and make organic and grass-fed food and fiber the norm, rather than just the alternative, we will simultaneously develop our collective capacity to address all of the globe’s interrelated problems.

Breaking through the silos of single-issue campaigning and limited constituency organizing (“my issue is more important than your issue”), we will be able to expand our global grassroots Movement to include everyone who cares about climate, health, justice, jobs, sustainability, peace and democracy.

Some pessimists argue that the Global South (China, India, Africa, Asia, Latin America), where most of the world’s population lives, is too preoccupied with moving beyond poverty and creating jobs, to put a priority on reversing global warming, reducing emissions, and natural sequestration.

But the extraordinary thing about de-industrializing food and farming, restoring grasslands and reversing deforestation—moving several hundred billion tons of carbon back from the atmosphere into our soils, plants and forests—is that this Organic Regeneration will not only reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate, but will also stimulate hundreds of millions of rural (and urban) jobs, while qualitatively increasing soil fertility, water retention, farm yields and food quality.

Earth Repair holds the potential not only to restore forests and grasslands, recharge aquifers, restore and normalize rainfall, but also to address and eliminate rural malnutrition, poverty, unemployment and hunger. Regenerative agriculture and land use—which will require both enormous political struggle and unprecedented marketplace pressure—will lead to healthy soils, healthy forests, healthy climate, healthy food, healthy animals, healthy people, healthy societies.

As 350.org and other climate campaigners point out, we’ve got to force the fossil fuel corporados and Wall Street banksters to leave 2/3 or more of the remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground. We can basically burn 825 billion tons more of fossil fuels out of the 2.785 trillion remaining, but no more, according to scientific consensus, before we reach the point of no return, whereby climate change morphs into climate catastrophe.

To stay within our carbon budget, we’ve got to stop the fracking, the tar sands, the pipelines, the bomb trains, King Coal, and nuclear madness.

But we’ve got to do more than just protest, resist and divest. We must shut down King Coal and Big Oil’s greenhouse gas pollution, yes; but we must also suck down and naturally sequester over the next 20 years, several hundred billion tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases through the qualitatively enhanced photosynthesis of regenerative farming, ranching and land use.

We must make peace with the living Earth and restore our biotic community.

According to scientific consensus, soon to be formally ratified by the nations of the world at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015, fossil fuel emissions—now spewing out 8.5 billion tons of carbon annually (i.e. 32.3 billion tons of CO2 in 2013 and again in 2014) into the atmosphere and the oceans—must peak and go to zero by 2050. Unfortunately, even if every country moves to zero emissions by 2050, we will still find ourselves way past the danger zone at 480 ppm or higher of CO2.  Only a mass global campaign of Regenerative Agriculture and land use, combined with dismantling the Fossil Fuel Empire, will suffice.

So who will actually carry out this global campaign of Earth Repair and Organic Regeneration? Of course we must continue, and, in fact vastly increase, our pressure on governments and corporations to change public policies and marketplace practices. But in order to overturn “business as usual” we’re going to have to inspire and mobilize a vastly larger climate change coalition than the one we have now. Food climate and economic justice advocates must unite our forces so we can educate and mobilize a massive grassroots army of Earth Regenerators: three billion small farmers and rural villagers, ranchers, pastoralists, forest dwellers, urban agriculturalists, and indigenous communities—aided and abetted by several billion conscious consumers and urban activists.

We don’t have the time or space here for a full Earth Repair strategy, but here are five things we can start to do immediately on this Mother Earth Day 2015:

(1)    Educate yourself, your friends, and your family on the basic principles of Earth Repair      and Regenerative Organic Agriculture. Here’s an annotated bibliography to help you get started.

(2)    Join an activist organization dealing with food and farming, forest preservation or climate. If you’re already an activist, get your group to connect the dots between fossil fuel emissions reduction and natural carbon sequestration.

(3)    Boycott all GMO, chemical-intensive and CAFO foods. Purchase organic and 100-percent grass-fed or pastured products. Push the organic community top go beyond the minimum standards of “USDA Organic” to food and farming practices that are climate-friendly, re-localized and regenerative, as well as organic.

(4)    Support the organizations that are educating and agitating for regenerative agriculture and land use. These groups include:

Organic Consumers Organization, The Carbon Underground, IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), NavdanyaInstitute  for Agriculture and Trade Policy, The Rodale Institute, Quivira Coalition, The Savory Institute, and others.

(5)    Change the climate conversation from gloom and doom to one of positive solutions. We’ve got 20 years left to turn things around, but we need to start our Regeneration International campaign now, Mother Earth Day 2015.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico sister organization,Via Organica.

 

Give ‘Em Hell, Bernie

April 30, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty)
Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty)

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

29 April 15

 

any years ago I pitched a magazine editor on a story about Bernie Sanders, then a congressman from Vermont, who’d agreed to something extraordinary – he agreed to let me, a reporter, stick next to him without restrictions over the course of a month in congress.

“People need to know how this place works. It’s absurd,” he’d said. (Bernie often uses the word absurd, his Brooklyn roots coming through in his pronunciation – ob-zert.)

Bernie wasn’t quite so famous at the time and the editor scratched his head. “Bernie Sanders,” he said. “That’s the one who cares, right?”

“Right, that’s the guy,” I said.

I got the go-ahead and the resulting story was a wild journey through the tortuous bureaucratic maze of our national legislature. I didn’t write this at the time, but I was struck every day by what a strange and interesting figure Sanders was.

Many of the battles he brought me along to witness, he lost. And no normal politician would be comfortable with the optics of bringing a Rolling Stone reporter to a Rules Committee hearing.

But Sanders genuinely, sincerely, does not care about optics. He is the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person. If he’s motivated by anything other than a desire to use his influence to protect people who can’t protect themselves, I’ve never seen it. Bernie Sanders is the kind of person who goes to bed at night thinking about how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor.

This is why his entrance into the 2016 presidential race is a great thing and not a mere footnote to the inevitable coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. If the press is smart enough to grasp it, his entrance into the race makes for a profound storyline that could force all of us to ask some very uncomfortable questions.

Here’s the thing: Sanders is a politician whose power base is derived almost entirely from the people of the state of Vermont, where he is personally known to a surprisingly enormous percentage of voters.

His chief opponents in the race to the White House, meanwhile, derive their power primarily from corporate and financial interests. That doesn’t make them bad people or even bad candidates necessarily, but it’s a fact that the Beltway-media cognoscenti who decide these things make access to money the primary factor in determining whether or not a presidential aspirant is “viable” or “credible.” Here’s how the Wall Street Journal put it intheir story about Sanders (emphasis mine):

It is unclear how much money Mr. Sanders expects to raise, or what he thinks he needs to run a credible race. Mr. Sanders raised about $7 million for his last re-election in Vermont, a small state. Sums needed to run nationally are far larger.

The Washington/national press has trained all of us to worry about these questions of financing on behalf of candidates even at such an early stage of a race as this.

In this manner we’re conditioned to believe that the candidate who has the early assent of a handful of executives on Wall Street and in

Hollywood

and Silicon Valley is the “serious” politician, while the one who is merely the favorite of large numbers of human beings is an irritating novelty act whose only possible goal could be to cut into the numbers of the real players.

Sanders offers an implicit challenge to the current system of national electoral politics. With rare exceptions, campaign season is a time when the backroom favorites of financial interests are marketed to the population. Weighed down by highly regressive policy intentions, these candidates need huge laboratories of focus groups and image consultants to guide them as they grope around for a few lines they can use to sell themselves to regular working people.

Sanders on the other hand has no constituency among the monied crowd. “Billionaires do not flock to my campaign,” he quipped. So what his race is about is the reverse of the usual process: he’ll be marketing the interests of regular people to the gatekeeping Washington press, in the hope that they will give his ideas a fair shot.

It’s a little-known fact, but we reporters could successfully sell Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or any other populist candidate as a serious contender for the White House if we wanted to. Hell, we told Americans it was okay to vote for George Bush, a man who moves his lips when he reads.

But the lapdog mentality is deeply ingrained and most Beltway scribes prefer to wait for a signal from above before they agree to take anyone not sitting atop a mountain of cash seriously.

Thus this whole question of “seriousness” – which will dominate coverage of the Sanders campaign – should really be read as a profound indictment of our political system, which is now so openly an oligarchy that any politician who doesn’t have the blessing of the bosses is marginalized before he or she steps into the ring.

I remember the first time I was sold on Bernie Sanders as a politician. He was in his congressional office and he was ranting about the fact that many of the manufacturing and financial companies who asked him and other members of congress for tax breaks and aid were also in the business of moving American jobs overseas to places like China.

Sanders spent years trying to drum up support for a simple measure that would force any company that came to Washington asking for handouts to promise they wouldn’t turn around and ship jobs to China or India.

That didn’t seem like a lot to ask, but his fellow members treated him like he was asking for a repeal of the free enterprise system. This issue drove Sanders crazy. Again showing his Brooklyn roots, Bernie gets genuinely mad about these things. While some pols are kept up at night worrying about the future profitability of gazillionaire banks, Sanders seethes over the many obvious wrongs that get smoothed over and covered up at his place of work.

That saltiness, I’m almost sure of it, is what drove him into this race. He just can’t sit by and watch the things that go on, go on. That’s not who he is.

When I first met Bernie Sanders, I’d just spent over a decade living in formerly communist Russia. The word “socialist” therefore had highly negative connotations for me, to the point where I didn’t even like to say it out loud.

But Bernie Sanders is not Bukharin or Trotsky. His concept of “Democratic Socialism” as I’ve come to understand it over the years is that an elected government should occasionally step in and offer an objection or two toward our progress to undisguised oligarchy. Or, as in the case of not giving tax breaks to companies who move factories overseas, our government should at least not finance the disappearance of the middle class.

Maybe that does qualify as radical and unserious politics in our day and age. If that’s the case, we should at least admit how much trouble we’re in.

Congratulations, Bernie. Good luck and give ’em hell.

Climate Economists: Global warming will create “an environment so hostile…

April 22, 2015

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Climate Economists: Good and Bad

Excerpt from David Ray Griffin, Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis? (Clarity Press, 2015)
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Since the 1970s, when he essentially founded the economics of climate change, William Nordhaus had been considered its preeminent authority. According to a fellow economist, the optimal economic policy had for decades been simply “what Bill Nordhaus said.” This view had been unquestioned, said a 2013 article, “until 2006, when the British government published a new review of climate change, led by Sir Nicholas H. Stern.”

Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics, had served as the Chief Economist of the World Bank. The review that he led was published as The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review, usually called simply the Stern Review. This publication , which gave the world a radically different view of the economics of climate change, led to a new era in the field — a transition from the Nordhaus era to the Stern era.

“In the era before the Stern Review,” say Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth Stanton, “economic models of climate change were typically framed as cost-benefit analyses.” This framing has been preeminently exemplified by Nordhaus. Although he called global warming “the major environmental challenge of the modern age,” he did not express a sense of urgency about it. In his 2008 book, he said: “Neither extreme – either do nothing or stop global warming in its tracks – is a sensible course of action.” The central question, Nordhaus said, was: “How to balance costs and benefits.”

One especially startling statement came in a discussion about the sea-level rise that would be caused by the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets: “Although it is difficult to envision the ecological and societal consequences of the melting of these ice sheets,” Nordhaus said , “this situation is clearly highly undesirable and should be avoided unless prevention is ruinously expensive.” It is startling to suggest that, if we find avoiding the melting of these ice sheets “ruinously expensive,” we should just let them melt.

 

Nordhaus’s 2013 book expressed a somewhat greater sense of urgency. Nevertheless, he continued to focus on cost-benefit balance, saying that “good policies must lie somewhere between wrecking the economy and wrecking the world.”

According to the Stern Review, by contrast, climate change “demands an urgent global response,” because “what we do in the next 10 or 20 years can have a profound effect on the climate in the second half of this century and in the next.” The Review, however, did not reject the cost-effective approach. It simply said, in one of its most quoted statements: “The [economic] benefits of strong, early action on climate change outweigh the costs.”

The analyses of climate change by economists, say Ackerman and Stanton, have “rarely portray[ed] the most recent advances in climate science.” Instead, they tend to be “out of date by several years, if not decades.” With Nordhaus primarily in mind, they said in an article with Ramón Bueno, “there is no reason to cling to outdated, unduly rosy estimates, rather than following the best, most recent findings of climate scientists.”

Fortunately, say Ackerman and Stanton, “the Stern Review broke new ground by synthesizing the current knowledge in climate science and setting a new standard for good climate-economics analysis, using up-to-date inputs from climate science.”

Although Nordhaus has not been guilty of science denial – indeed, he has publically debated with deniers – his analysis, Stanton, Ackerman, and Ramón Bueno, have written, “could be called risk denial — accepting a (very optimistic) picture of the most likely climate outcomes, but paying little or no attention to worst-case risks.” This risk denial is dangerous, they said, because “[w]hen climate economists — and the policy makers they advise — fail to understand the well-established findings of climate science, the result is likely to be too little emission reduction, too late.”

 

In spite of the growing scientific consensus over the decade that sea-level rise will be catastrophic for people and agriculture, Nordhaus continued to exude optimism, saying that “human societies can adapt to [sea-level rise] without catastrophic losses.” Because most poor countries will in the future be much richer, he advised, they “will be able to protect themselves against climatic extremes just as Miami and Rotterdam do today.” When that is impractical, people can simply migrate.

Stern’s 2013 writings expressed a very different picture of what climate economists should be doing. Although the Review had already said that the “economics of risk” should be made central, his new writings put even more focus on it, saying that economists must present climate change as “a problem of risk management on an immense scale,” which most economists had not done.

Stern’s approach to climate economics is a return to that pioneered by William R. Cline, who in 1992 published the first American book on the subject – The Economics of Global Warming — which favored “an aggressive course of abatement.” Aggressive abatement, he said, was “justifiable on economic grounds alone.” He differed with Nordhaus on this point, he said, mainly because of the latter’s “excessive total discount rate.”

Employing a 6% discount rate as an example of one that is much too high, Stern pointed out that in 100 years, a unit of benefit would be valued 339 times lower, meaning we would care 339 times less about people alive 100 years now than we care for the present generation. This comes close to saying, Stern said, “forget about issues concerning 100 years or more from now.”

The primary basis for advocating high discount rates, said Stern, is “the unwarranted assumption that future incomes will almost certainly be much higher than now.” This assumption “is simply not credible.” Economic modelers such as Nordhaus, he said, need to factor in the possibility that global warming will create “an environment so hostile that physical, social, and organizational capital are destroyed.”

David Ray Griffin is emeritus professor of philosophy of religion at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University. He has written 30 books. His most recent book is Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis? (Clarity (more…)

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Murders of Earth’s Defenders: The Deadly Trend Continues

April 21, 2015
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‘The world is standing idle whilst people on the frontline of the struggle to protect the environment are getting killed’

The “overarching theme” of the killings last year, which averaged more than two a week, involved disputes over control and use of land, but they also included incidents involving pollution, wildlife conservation, and illegal fishing. (Photo: Global Witness)

“How many more people will die before the world takes notice?”

That’s a question posed by the organization Global Witness, whose new report, How Many More?, exposes what it calls a “hidden crisis” of murders of those who defend the earth from environmental destruction.

The “overarching theme” of the killings last year, which averaged more than two a week, involved disputes over control and use of land, but they also included incidents involving pollution, wildlife conservation, and illegal fishing. This year’s report also found a spike in the deaths of those protesting hydroelectric dams.

The organization, which campaigns for transparency of global resource extraction, states that in 2014, 116 environmental and land defenders were killed—40 percent of whom were Indigenous. The report states that lack of accessible information makes that a likely conservative figure.

As one member of the Panamá community from the Bajo Aguán valley in Honduras states, according to the report: “Here the police, the military, prosecutors, judges, all of them are ready to defend the owners of the big farms, while we are the ones who are dying.”

“Environmental defenders are fighting to protect our climate against ever-increasing odds.”
—Billy Kyte, Global Witness
The report reflects the continuation of a deadly trend, as last year’s figures reflect a 20 percent increase from those documented in 2013.

The report documents killings in 17 countries, though roughly three-quarters of them took place in Central and South America. The country with highest number of killings was Brazil with 29, followed by Colombia with 25, and the Philippines with 15.

Honduras has the dubious distinction of being the country with the most such killings per capita. The Central American county is home to one of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winners, Berta Cáceres, who’s been involved in a years-long campaign to stop a dam that threatens to displace her Indigenous community off their ancestral land. “They follow me. They threaten to kill me, to kidnap me, they threaten my family. That is what we face,” Cáceres is quoted as saying in the report.

Among the deadly incidents noted in report:

On 24 October 2014, Henry Alameda, an indigenous Lumad leader from the Southern Philippines, was dragged from his house, taken to a forested area and shot dead by a paramilitary group. Alameda was an active council member of MAPASU, an organization strongly protesting against mining operations and plantations in Caraga region.”

Global Witness emphasizes the challenges of finding the perpetrators of these crimes, though in some cases it has been able to point to paramilitary groups or private security guards. Yet, the report states, “The true authors of these crimes—a powerful nexus of corporate and state interests—are escaping unpunished.”

Unless real action is taken to protect these often invisible eco-defenders, agreements at the UN climate talks (COP21) taking place in Paris later this year “will ultimately ring hollow,” Global Witness declares.

It’s time, the report states, for governments to take action—and for civil society to exert pressure on governments to protect these land defenders.

“Environmental defenders are fighting to protect our climate against ever-increasing odds,” Billy Kyte, a campaigner at Global Witness, said in a media statement.

“Now more than ever we need to start holding governments and companies to account for the rising death toll on our environmental frontiers,” Kyte continued. “The secrecy around how natural resource deals are made fuels violence and must end. It’s time for the international community to stand up and take notice.”

The report adds: “The world is standing idle whilst people on the frontline of the struggle to protect the environment are getting killed. The time for action on these killings is now.”

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Randy Hayes: The 9 Boundaries That Ensure a Healthy Planet

April 15, 2015

Harvey Wasserman. (photo: rosencomet.com)
Harvey Wasserman. (photo: rosencomet.com)

By Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News

14 April 15

 

andy Hayes is a great green lifer.

Decades ago he founded the Rainforest Action Network, still one of the major players in the save-the-Earth infrastructure. Now he runs Foundation Earth.

Never one to comprise, Randy has gone beyond his fair share of assorted jail stints and come out more dedicated than ever.

“We need to double the world’s forests,” he told me last week over smoothies in the nation’s capital. “It’s a major part of solving the climate crisis.”

The world’s biggest industry, he added, is industrial agriculture. No one does more damage, nowhere is there more potential for constructive change.

We met in the presence of the great Brent Blackwelder, long-time president of Friends of the Earth, as gracious a human being as you’ll ever meet. And a bona fide giant in the campaign to save our planet. His accomplishments could more than fill the rest of this article, and then some.

In the course of our strategizing, Randy mentioned a new piece of his tireless work: “Nine Planetary Ecological Boundaries” employed to establish guidelines for investments in agriculture. As many of us campaign to divest major capital funds from their Earth-killing investments in King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes & Gas), Randy is working to do much the same in the corporate reaches of growing mass quantities of edibles (not all of it actually qualifies as food, which is part of the problem).

Luckily, Randy was ready to join me on my Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show this week. Listen here:

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/audio/postId/5578830?url=http%3A%2F%2Fgreenpowerwellnessshow.podbean.com%2Fe%2Fsolartopia-green-power-and-wellness-hour-040715%2F

And here are his nine great Planetary Boundaries. If we work hard enough, they just might help us survive …

Basic Conditions for Life

The planet supports all life via the earth’s natural systems. These systems are self-organizing and self-repairing within limits. When these limits are exceeded, the natural biophysical system starts to disintegrate making existence harder for the entire web of life and certainly us humans. In 2009, a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists identified a set of planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come alongside these natural systems. Scientists are clear on one reality: crossing certain boundaries will generate abrupt or irreversible biophysical changes and reduce the planet’s ability to support life. We have no definitive idea how many important dimensions there are to the global life-support system. While imperfect, this framework is important and helpful.

These nine boundaries are as follows: freshwater use, land-system change, biosphere integrity (diversity), chemical dispersion, climate change, ocean acidification, biochemical flows (nitrogen and phosphorus cycles), stratospheric ozone depletion, novel entities (modified organisms) and atmospheric aerosol loading (air pollution).

All the boundaries are closely linked. Scientists have techniques to quantify the health of most of the boundaries, while others require more research. It is an important indicator and feedback system to ensure a healthy planet and hence a healthy human context.

Smart Bankers & Investors

Smart bankers and investors need to have their investments respect these boundaries and help maintain global ecological stability and livability. This is a key to all economic stability. To achieve this, bankers and investors need loan seekers to disclose ecological impacts or potential impacts to the planetary systems. Bankers and investors also need internal analysis of the data and adjustments to the economic activities they want to fund.

The nine planetary boundaries are:

    1. Stratospheric Ozone Depletion: The stratospheric ozone layer in the atmosphere filters out ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. If this barrier thins, ultraviolet radiation will reach the ground and damage terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, causing increased occurrences of skin cancer in humans. The reduction of the Antarctic ozone hole was proof that thinning can and will occur if we do not remain on the path set by the Montreal Protocol Treaty.
    1. Biosphere Integrity: The rate of biodiversity loss (terrestrial and marine) has escalated in the past 50 years, driven primarily by land use change for industrial agricultural use. This has resulted in ecosystem damage and species extinction. When a species goes extinct, its function in the web of life is lost. If, for example, the extinct species is a key crop pollinator, you can imagine the damage done to farmers and the ability to feed people. Research is underway to gather data and understand variables that will help shape a boundary.
    1. Chemical Dispersion and the release of novel entities: Emissions of toxic and long-lived substances such as synthetic organic pollutants, heavy metal compounds and radioactive materials represent some of the key human-driven changes to the planet. These compounds can have potentially irreversible effects on living organisms and on the physical environment (by affecting atmospheric processes and climate). Even when the uptake and bioaccumulation of chemical pollution is at sub-lethal levels for organisms, the effects of reduced fertility and the potential of permanent genetic damage can have severe effects on ecosystems far removed from the source of the pollution. Persistent organic compounds have caused dramatic reductions in bird populations and impaired reproduction and development in marine mammals. Further research is needed.
    1. Climate Change: This planetary boundary has likely already been transgressed, as evidenced by the loss of summer polar ice. Continued pressure through deforestation techniques (especially tropical rainforests) will push Earth’s systems past the tipping point. A precautionary approach would be to not continue on this path to avoid potentially cataclysmic consequences.
    1. Ocean Acidification: Oceans absorb a quarter of human CO2 emissions, transforming them into carbonic acid and altering ocean chemistry and water pH. This process is devastating to coral and plankton populations, which are critical to a balanced, functioning ocean. Upsetting the bottom of the food chain can pull the rug out from under the entire food pyramid. While all the boundaries are closely linked, ocean acidification is directly associated with and a result of climate change.
    1. Freshwater Use: Human consumption is directly responsible for the loss of freshwater supplies. It is estimated that by 2050, approximately half a billion people will suffer from lack of access to freshwater. A boundary has been proposed to help manage local, regional, and continental needs.
    1. Land-system Change: The global population continues to grow by the billions. Agricultural development to feed this population has caused the destruction of forests, wetlands, prairies, and other vegetation systems. This alters water flows and the natural cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in soil. In developing a boundary, the function, quality, and spatial distribution of a tract of land must be considered.
    1. Biochemical Flows (Nitrogen and Phosphorus Cycling): Human industry and agricultural practices have altered natural cycles of these two elements, both of which are essential to plant growth. Human activity converts exorbitant amounts of atmospheric nitrogen into reactive nitrogen, which pollutes waterways and coastal zones. Over application of phosphorus fertilizers can have huge regional impacts; such as killing off shrimp populations in the Gulf of Mexico or creating dead zones in the oceans.
  1. Atmospheric Aerosol Loading: This boundary is proposed to combat the effects of aerosols on Earth’s climate system. Aerosols interact with water vapor and affect cloud formation and global and regional atmospheric circulation. Each year, an estimated 800,000 people die from consistently breathing aerosol-polluted air. However, interactions between aerosols and the atmosphere are complex, and this has hindered the clear characterization of this boundary.

In summary, we depend daily on biophysical processes for the food on our plate and the air we breathe. We are embedded in and connected to life support systems like biodiversity and eight others. Increasingly, bankers and investors get this connection. An injury to another species is an injury to humanity. The market must stop investing in industries destructive to the planetary boundaries if we are to support continued existence!


Harvey Wasserman’s “Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, AD 2030” is atwww.solartopia.org. He is senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, and writes regularly for www.freepress.org. He and Bob Fitrakis have co-authored four books on election protection, including “Did George W. Bush Steal America’s 2004 Election?,” “As Goes Ohio: Election Theft Since 2004,” “How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008,” and “What Happened in Ohio.”

 

Planetary Suicide

February 11, 2015
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Every so often a nonfiction book comes along that, because of its objective, comprehensive coverage of a hot topic, should be carefully read with a highlighter in hand by everyone. That new book is“Unprecedented” by David Ray Griffin. Be warned, this book will probably bum you out. It presents the most readable treatment of the global warming and climate change issue that anyone could wish for. It is not an emotional rant, but rather a carefully organized and detailed discussion. Most significantly, with carefully documented sources, it allows a reader to fully appreciate the compelling and overwhelming scientific evidence supporting a negative view of our planet’s and civilization’s future.

Sadly, I suspect that the many climate deniers who most need to read such a book and learn all the facts will probably not do so. However, for the greater number of sensible people who do believe that the planet is, or is likely to be, on a path to unspeakable disaster, this book is a most useful resource to better understand, debate and actively support faster and more effective political action by the US and other nations.

I was more motivated than most others to read this book because I recently completed a trip into the Antarctic. With my own eyes I saw evidence of what Griffin discusses, including sea-level rise resulting from melting ice and higher ocean temperatures. I find this particular problem perhaps the most compelling of a number of global environmental changes that threatens humanity. Why? Because sea-level rise has been going on for a long time, eating up coastal lands all over the world. But now sea-level rise is accelerating and at such a rapid rate that virtually all major coastal cities are extremely threatened.

Emissions already in the atmosphere spell tragedy for 316 US cities where 3.6 million people live, according to a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And without forceful action, things will only get worse.

People may not care much about a few islands disappearing. But untold millions of people will face the need to escape cities worldwide that will not be able to cope with and survive many feet of higher oceans flooding their infrastructure, streets and housing. Where will those millions of people go? How will such deep economic disaster be managed by governments?

What I saw in Antarctica was the melting away of glaciers on mountains. Even more startling was seeing unbelievably large tabular, rectangular icebergs in the ocean near Antarctica, often with dimensions of a mile or more. These are pieces of ice sheets that are increasingly breaking off because of warmer air and water. Third, is the shrinkage of some penguin home sites because of higher temperatures.

Will technology come to the rescue? I am old enough to remember the 1960s when there was a passionate argument that rising population and consequent food shortages spelled global doom. It did not happen. Why? Because various technologies came to the rescue and greatly expanded food production. This and other disaster scenarios that never come to pass foster an attitude of technological optimism. This blocks both political action and public demands for emergency solutions to ecological catastrophe tied to climate change and global warming. So, will there be a technological solution enacted fast enough to prevent this new nightmare scenario? It is a lot to hope for. It is being called geoengineering. It includes methods to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to reflect sunlight. Griffin pays just a little attention to geoengineering and not in the final section of the book where it belongs.

A major problem with all those trying to get the public, the media and the political world to focus on fast actions to sharply cut carbon dioxide emissions now is that they fear attention to geoengineering will make it harder to take rapid actions to replace dirty technologies with green ones. Two new related reports on climate intervention by the US National Academy of Sciences support more geoengineering research. But the head of the research project noted “we need to do more now to reduce emissions, which is the most effective, least risky way to combat climate change.”

The best strategy is to pursue both approaches, emissions reduction and geoengineering, with vigor, but this is not emphasized by Griffin or many others sounding alarms about climate change. With so much at stake, to depend on either approach by itself is foolish. To wait until emissions reduction does not greatly cut global disaster threats to develop a geoengineering solution is crazy.

Another cautionary note to the many trying to broaden public passion and government action is to stop saying things like what Griffin says at the end of his book: “Given our refusal to cut emissions over the past 30 years, it is already too late to save the kind of world that has been hospitable to human being since the rise of civilization.” Ok, maybe that pessimistic view has some credence. But it also can feed broad public disinterest because it is too late and makes it difficult to take gutsy political action and spend big money on remedies.

As Griffin noted, a 2013 Pew poll found that only 28 percent of Americans believe climate change should be a top priority of federal politicians. What an utterly dismal situation. A more recent 2015 poll found that the segment of the US population having the strongest views for addressing climate change are Hispanics and, conversely, Republicans have the least concern about it. Unless a large majority of people take responsibility for contributing to planetary suicide the worst scenarios are likely to come true.

I urge everyone who reads this book to get at least three other people to also read it. If pessimism, selfishness and narcissism prevail, concern about future generations will be largely disregarded. Can most people give high priority to the strong possibility that the human race as we know it today does not survive? The subtitle of Griffin’s book is “Can civilization survive the CO2 crisis?” Read the book and you are likely to say No! Then the question is: Are you now motivated to speak up and work to avoid perilous decay and doomsday?

 

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Joel S. Hirschhorn is the author of Delusional Democracy – Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. His current political writings have been greatly influenced by working as a senior staffer for the U.S. Congress and for the (more…)

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Is it Too Late to Save the Planet?

January 24, 2015

SavingthePlanet012415

Our planet’s ecosystem is under duress and human activity and human behavior as the main culprits. It’s time our species stops contributing to the problem and starts becoming the solution.

Entropy:

  1. Physics – a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
  1. lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.

Having fun in the sun last summer was no sweat for people living on the East Coast – literally. As the rest of the country sweltered, Easterners were experiencing cooler-than-normal temperatures last summer. It was a gift to any climate-denying member of Congress who happened to be living in Northern Virginia, for example. “Proof” that global warming is a hoax.

Westerners weren’t so fortunate.  The weirdly cool weather on the East Coast was matched by weirdly warm and dry weather on the West Coast.  Specifically in South California.  Each is an example of what climate scientists call an anomaly. Like a Republican or Democrat in Congress who cares more about serving the people than getting re-elected – anomalies happen in all times and places.

Hence the question Amy Davidson posed in a recent article in the New Yorker (“Our Hottest Year, Our Cold Indifference”):  Will indifference to climate science one day be an anomaly?

We know that the planet’s ecosystem is under duress. We know that everything from biodiversity to ocean chemistry is being degraded, that entropy due to global population growth and human activity is a major cause.  We know that climate change is not some sci-fi fantasy anymore. It is happening, the signs are abundant, and, as Davidson rightly points out, too many of our leaders – and I dare say, too many voters – are indifferent. “The planet is changing, and we are close to the time when trying to check climate change will be like trying to redirect El Niño with canoe paddles.”

She’s right, of course.  But two things often missing in cautionary tales about our beleaguered planet are 1) a policy prescription for the government and 2) an action  program for the rest of us. Specifically, there’s rarely any mention of conservation as a kind of categorical public-policy imperative.

It isn’t enough to decry lower oil prices as a disincentive to dependence on fossil fuel. Global population stands at a staggering 7.3 billion and will continue to rise for the next few decades if not longer. Nobody wants to talk about population in part because most everything that can be done about that issue has already been or is being done. Yet the numbers are still rising, will continue to rise, and cannot be reversed without some catastrophic event — a pandemic, major asteroid impact, or nuclear holocaust. No one wants that, it probably won’t happen, and no one wants to hear, read, or think about it.

So there’s nothing we can do, right?  Wrong.

The science is clear – human activity and human behavior are changing the planet, and not in a good way.  Astrophysicist Adam Frank put this point into sharper focus: “The defining feature of a technological civilization is the capacity to intensively ‘harvest’ energy. But the basic physics of energy, heat and work known as thermodynamics tell us that waste, or what we physicists call entropy, must be generated and dumped back into the environment in the process.” Globally, we generate around 100 billion megawatt hours of energy every year and dump 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere and oceans, not to mention rivers, coal slurry impoundments (“sludge ponds”), aquifers, and underground “sequestration”, all of which goes a very long way to explaining the  overheating planet and acidifying oceans.

We’re in control and reckless which is why the planet is out of control and threatened.  As a species, we will either modify our behavior or perish, but not before we drive many other species into distinction (a process well underway).

Still, we’re not doomed.  Not yet, anyway. Maybe we can change.  Maybe out indifference will give way to our instinct for survival in time.  Maybe we will come to understand that we have to conserve in order to survive, reorganize our cities and societies, depend less on long-distance transport and travel, and do more on a local level. We have to drive fewer cars fewer miles, build mass transit systems, and subsidize riders for being good citizens. We have to consume less and conserve more of everything — from water and fossil fuel to wildlife and rain forests. We have to do a much better job of protecting the atmosphere, oceans, topsoil.

Our species has caused this problem and there will be a lot more of us either contributing to the problem or becoming the solution in the future. We have to learn to do more with less. A lot less. It probably won’t happen any time soon on the scale that’s needed, but it will happen sooner or later because it has to.  Let’s hope it won’t be too late.

Changing the System Requires Seeing It Clearly

January 21, 2015
OpEdNews Op Eds 1/21/2015 at 08:11:37By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
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From flickr.com/photos/24662369@N07/4461795143/: NASA GOES-12 Full Disk view March 25, 2010
NASA GOES-12 Full Disk view March 25, 2010
(image by NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

The recent killing of 13 workers at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has elicited powerful reactions around the world. A mass march in Paris attracted many heads of state, including Francois Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Yet their slogan of solidarity “We are Charlie Hebdo” was challenged by the National Antiwar Coalition in the US in a powerful January 16th statement entitled “We are not Charlie Hebdo.” UNAC pointed out the massive global terrorism of France, Israel, the US, and the imperial nations as they hypocritically claim they are fighting terror and defending freedom and civility. In reality, they are manipulating the public to advance the demonization of Islam, their global imperial designs, and the myth that they are against violence and terrorism.

Commentator Robert Parry wrote a long analysis for Consortium News on January 18thdistinguishing the “Anti-realist” Neocons from their “Realist” predecessors in the US government. Perry speaks of the effectiveness of “perception-management” as the Neocons manipulate the public to elicit support for their wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Libya, and elsewhere. Parry concludes:

“What the neocons have constructed through their skilled propaganda is a grim wonderland where no one foresees the dangers of encouraging Islamist fundamentalism as a geopolitical ploy, where no one takes heed of the historic hatreds of Sunni and Shiite, where no one suspects that the U.S. military slaughtering thousands upon thousands of Muslims might provoke a backlash, where no one thinks about the consequences of overthrowing regimes in unstable regions, where no one bothers to study the bitter history of a place like Ukraine, and where no one worries about spreading turmoil to nuclear-armed Russia. Yet, this neocon madness — this “anti-realism” — has been playing out in the real world on a grand scale, destroying real lives and endangering the real future of the planet.”

I want to point out, however, a description is not an analysis, and true as it may be that the Neocons endanger the real future of our planet, a deeper analysis points toward the world-system as a whole that is endangering the future of our planet. Nor is it simply enough to resist imperialism and capitalism without posing a genuinely practical alternative. The world-system as a whole has evolved from the early-modern rise of capitalism within the context of the early-modern development of the system of sovereign nation-states. These two developments belong together: the political form hosts the economic form and provides legal enforcement and protection for those who have accumulated massive concentrations of private wealth. As social-scientist Christopher Chase-Dunn expresses this in Global Formation: Structures of World Economy (1998):

“The state and the interstate system are not separate from capitalism, but rather are the main institutional supports of capitalist production relations. The system of unequally powerful and competing nation-states is part of the competitive struggle of capitalism, and thus wars and geopolitics are a systematic part of capitalist dynamics, not exogenous forces.” (61)

Whether “Realists” or “Neocons” or progressive democrats are in power makes little effective difference.

Whether “Realists” or “Neocons” or progressive democrats are in power makes little effective difference. Inherent in the system is the drive to colonize and control the world in the service of the 1%, as James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer made clear in Empire With Imperialism (2005). It is not a matter of “Realists” versus “Antirealists” coming to power. It is not a matter of a popular movement to elect Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders as President. If we want a future on this planet it must be the global system itself that undergoes fundamental change.

Neither is it enough to stop the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project and/or the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement. Stopping these disastrous initiatives will not change the system. Neither will electing Democrats or some Green Party candidate to the US Congress. The evil marriage between capitalism and the system of sovereign nations will not tolerate the substitution of democratic socialism within the system of sovereign states. Sovereign states exist as inherently a war-system (as was pointed out by Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, and G.W.F. Hegel), and a war-system invites imperialism and requires a capitalist industrial military complex. To institute democratic socialism means simultaneously to rid the world of militarized sovereign states.

If our analysis is to go to the root of the problem, then we must re-envision both economic capitalism and its political embodiment in militarized sovereign nation-states. Our analysis also requires that we move to a planetary perspective. No longer can we tolerate a world fragmented into multiple competing, greedy corporations or multiple militarized lawless sovereign states. The reality of our human situation is that we are one species, one human reality, living within one fragile planetary ecosystem. Our vision must be global and our solution must be global.

Our vision must convert the economics of greed with absolute winners and losers to a planet-wide ecologically sound economics of cooperation, resource sharing, and mutual empowerment. Simultaneously, the mirror image of a global economics of sustainability is a global earth federation under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Politics and economics mirror one another (as Karl Marx and many others have pointed out). We must have a politics that can place the common good of the Earth and its citizens before the private goods of nations and corporations. Only an Earth Federation government with real power to make and enforce laws for the common good of all can achieve this.

The history of anthropogenic climate change alone should make my argument convincing to all reasonably mature, rational people (which leaves out about half the U.S. Congress). Already, by the 1992 U.N. Climate Conference at Rio de Janeiro, the scientific evidence was overwhelming and the urgency of our situation was well known. In spite of this massive evidence that we are destroying the very planet that supports human life, and despite similar massive conferences at Johannesburg in 2002 and Copenhagen in 2009, the nations and corporations of the world today (more than two decades later) continue to destroy the ecosystem of the Earth unabated.

The system of warring sovereign nations animated by the system of globalized corporate greed is in principle incapable of change to the degree required to save the planet for future generations. Only a transformed planetary system, uniting humanity where we belong under a global social contract, is capable of creating a viable future for the Earth and its living creatures.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth establishes a new economic system (global public banking directed toward sustainability and the planetary common good) and a new political system–a democratically elected World Parliament with the mandate to protect the planetary ecosystem, end poverty, demilitarize the nations, and protect human rights worldwide.

If we have a genuine insight into the nature of the world system, then it will be clear what a number of great thinkers from Albert Einstein to Carl Jung have stated: you cannot solve fundamental problems on the same level from which the problems arose in the first place. Yet that is exactly what we are trying to do by attempting to “manage” or “modify” global capitalism and the militarized sovereign states. We need to move to a higher level of thinking, and fast, for our planet is in danger as never before in human history.

We need to think truly globally, which means to think in terms of a global, democratic economics and politics. The pattern for this is there for all to see in the Earth Constitution. It is time we rise to the higher level from which our earlier problems will not so much become solved as dissolved. It is time to unite humanity in a global social contract–a democratic Federation of the Earth. It may well be now or never.

http://www.radford.edu/gmartin

Glen T. Martin is professor of philosophy and chair of the Peace Studies Program at Radford University in Virginia. President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), the Institute on World Problems (IOWP), and International (more…)
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Comment: The artificial pyramidal system (5 fictitious bodies: nation, corporation, media, education, religion with 5 calamities: delusion, bondage, discrimination, exploitation, extermination) must be changed to natural Indra-net system (5 factual bases; nature, community, communication, cooperation, holiness – wholly wholesome way world – with 5 bliss: awakening, freedom, equality, love, peace), from central power concentration (materialism, militarism, money-ism, me-ism) to centerless life centers (5 Ss of the global system: Systemic, Sustainable, Saving, Safe, Simple, 5 Ls of the global ethic: Law, Life, Love, Liberation, Lielessness with 5  Rs of material flow: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rearrange, Restore and 5 As of information flow: Access, Assess, Agree, Action, Advise). The Buddha taught us that all living beings are karma-heirs, -possessors, -machines, -resorts and that we must first still bad karmas (sitting meditation) and see dharmas (awakening) in nirvana (windless of karmas, absolute peace conditioned by nothing worldly, karmic) in the ultimate supra-mundane truth (before karmas, triple poisons of greed, anger, and delusion in the triple learning of morality, concentration, and prognosis: penetration).

http://missourizencenter.org/Paradigm_Shift.pdf

Rosan Daido (Yoshida)

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Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse

January 21, 2015

Four decades after the book was published, Limit to Growth’s forecasts have been vindicated by new Australian research. Expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon
Piles of crushed cars at a metal recycling site in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Piles of crushed cars at a metal recycling site in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Alamy
Graham Turner and Cathy Alexander
Monday 1 September 2014 21.15 EDT
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The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticised as doomsday fantasy since it was published. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history”.

It doesn’t belong there. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.

Limits to Growth was commissioned by a think tank called the Club of Rome. Researchers working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world’s economy and environment. Called World3, this computer model was cutting edge.

The task was very ambitious. The team tracked industrialisation, population, food, use of resources, and pollution. They modelled data up to 1970, then developed a range of scenarios out to 2100, depending on whether humanity took serious action on environmental and resource issues. If that didn’t happen, the model predicted “overshoot and collapse” – in the economy, environment and population – before 2070. This was called the “business-as-usual” scenario.

The book’s central point, much criticised since, is that “the earth is finite” and the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods etc would eventually lead to a crash.

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So were they right? We decided to check in with those scenarios after 40 years. Dr Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its department of economic and social affairs, Unesco, the food and agriculture organisation, and the UN statistics yearbook). He also checked in with the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the BP statistical review, and elsewhere. That data was plotted alongside the Limits to Growth scenarios.

The results show that the world is tracking pretty closely to the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario. The data doesn’t match up with other scenarios.

These graphs show real-world data (first from the MIT work, then from our research), plotted in a solid line. The dotted line shows the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario out to 2100. Up to 2010, the data is strikingly similar to the book’s forecasts.

limits to growth
Solid line: MIT, with new research in bold. Dotted line: Limits to Growth ‘business-as-usual’ scenario.
limits to growth
Solid line: MIT, with new research in bold. Dotted line: Limits to Growth ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. Photograph: Supplied
limits to growth
Solid line: MIT, and research in bold. Dotted line: Limits to Growth ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. Photograph: Supplied
As the MIT researchers explained in 1972, under the scenario, growing population and demands for material wealth would lead to more industrial output and pollution. The graphs show this is indeed happening. Resources are being used up at a rapid rate, pollution is rising, industrial output and food per capita is rising. The population is rising quickly.

So far, Limits to Growth checks out with reality. So what happens next?

According to the book, to feed the continued growth in industrial output there must be ever-increasing use of resources. But resources become more expensive to obtain as they are used up. As more and more capital goes towards resource extraction, industrial output per capita starts to fall – in the book, from about 2015.

As pollution mounts and industrial input into agriculture falls, food production per capita falls. Health and education services are cut back, and that combines to bring about a rise in the death rate from about 2020. Global population begins to fall from about 2030, by about half a billion people per decade. Living conditions fall to levels similar to the early 1900s.

It’s essentially resource constraints that bring about global collapse in the book. However, Limits to Growth does factor in the fallout from increasing pollution, including climate change. The book warned carbon dioxide emissions would have a “climatological effect” via “warming the atmosphere”.

As the graphs show, the University of Melbourne research has not found proof of collapse as of 2010 (although growth has already stalled in some areas). But in Limits to Growth those effects only start to bite around 2015-2030.

The first stages of decline may already have started. The Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08 and ongoing economic malaise may be a harbinger of the fallout from resource constraints. The pursuit of material wealth contributed to unsustainable levels of debt, with suddenly higher prices for food and oil contributing to defaults – and the GFC.

The issue of peak oil is critical. Many independent researchers conclude that “easy” conventional oil production has already peaked. Even the conservative International Energy Agency has warned about peak oil.

Peak oil could be the catalyst for global collapse. Some see new fossil fuel sources like shale oil, tar sands and coal seam gas as saviours, but the issue is how fast these resources can be extracted, for how long, and at what cost. If they soak up too much capital to extract the fallout would be widespread.

Our research does not indicate that collapse of the world economy, environment and population is a certainty. Nor do we claim the future will unfold exactly as the MIT researchers predicted back in 1972. Wars could break out; so could genuine global environmental leadership. Either could dramatically affect the trajectory.

But our findings should sound an alarm bell. It seems unlikely that the quest for ever-increasing growth can continue unchecked to 2100 without causing serious negative effects – and those effects might come sooner than we think.

It may be too late to convince the world’s politicians and wealthy elites to chart a different course. So to the rest of us, maybe it’s time to think about how we protect ourselves as we head into an uncertain future.

As Limits to Growth concluded in 1972:

If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.

So far, there’s little to indicate they got that wrong.

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Economics Commodities
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