Category Archives: Environment

Totalitarianism, American Style

Chris Hedges recently spoke during a panel discussion in New York:

‘We have undergone a transformation during the last few decades—what John Ralston Saul calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion. We are no longer a capitalist democracy endowed with a functioning liberal class that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. Liberals in the old Democratic Party such as the senators Gaylord Nelson, Birch Bayh and George McGovern—who worked with Ralph Nader to make the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the OSHA law, who made common cause with labor unions to protect workers, who stood up to the arms industry and a bloated military—no longer exist within the Democratic Party, as Nader has been lamenting for several years. They were pushed out as corporate donors began to transform the political landscape with the election of Ronald Reagan. And this is why the Democrats have not, as Bill Curry points out, enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s.

We are governed, rather, by a species of corporate totalitarianism, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” By this Wolin means a system where corporate power, while it purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the three branches of government and a free press, along with the iconography and language of American patriotism, has in fact seized all the important levers of power to render the citizen impotent.’

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Zeitgeist’s Peter Joseph on Wealth Illusion, Structural Violence & Hope for Survival

Abby Martin interviews the creator of the Zeitgeist Movement, Peter Joseph, covering everything from the upcoming Zeitgeist Festival in Los Angeles on October 4th to economic and societal solutions to global problems ranging from environmental destruction to mass inequality. (Breaking the Set)

Chris Hedges on Wilful Blindness, Climate Corporatism & the Underground Revolt

Abby Martin speaks with journalist and author, Chris Hedges, going over where the recent mass climate change demonstrations in New York fall short, as well as why he believes revolt is the only solution to restoring a functioning American democracy.’ (Breaking the Set)

Study: Natural gas won’t save us from global warming

Max Ehrenfreund reports for The Washington Post:

‘In his January State of the Union address, President Obama said that natural gas could be a low-emission “bridge fuel” that could allow the U.S. to help slow global warming. Demonstrators at Sunday’s climate protest in New York apparently didn’t get the talking points memo from the White House — many carried signs calling for an end to fracking.

The reality is that shale gas probably won’t have much effect on climate change either way, according to a new study published Wednesday. “If you increase the use of gas, that will actually delay the deployment of renewable energy,” said Christine Shearer of the University of California, Irvine, one of the authors of the study.’

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​Lagos: Africa’s Fastest Growing Megacity

London overtakes Hong Kong as world’s most expensive city

Rupert Jones reports for The Guardian:

‘London has overtaken Hong Kong as the world’s most expensive city to live and work in, with a new study suggesting it is almost twice as pricey as Sydney, and four times more than Rio de Janeiro.

The estate agent Savills said that in London, rising rents and the strong pound had pushed up the typical cost per individual employee of renting somewhere to live and leasing office space to $120,000 (£73,800) a year.

That puts the UK capital well ahead of other global hubs such as New York and Paris which, aside from Hong Kong, are the only other locations where the combined annual costs of renting residential and office space top $100,000 per employee.’

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Capitalism and Climate Change Redux

Rob Urie writes for CounterPunch:

uriecapclim1‘[...] Today the ‘logic’ of capitalism is fully instantiated in the West with privatization of public resources, the granting of extra-personal rights to corporations, the diminution of local and regional governance in favor of corporate privilege and rights and heavily militarized public-private police forces used to enforce corporate ‘rights’ and to protect the privilege of the wealthy. But it is corporate globalism that makes political resolution in any dimension, including environmental issues like global warming, so intractable. Even if local and regional political control could be recovered the ability of large corporations to shift production to areas more fully under corporate-state control means that global issues must be dealt with globally.

The large scale dislocations likely to be caused by global warming, by dead and dying oceans and by ‘private’ control over crop seeds, arable land and water supplies, suggest that current circumstance and trajectory are dire. They also suggest that global warming is only one of a host of related environmental issues in need of rectification. Even without the overwhelming evidence that already exists that environmental degradation and destruction are radically altering the world basic prudence would argue for dramatic measures toward environmental reconciliation. The challenge for / to climate change deniers is that if they are wrong ‘the world’ in any form recognizable to us will no longer exist. The risks of doing nothing versus something to resolve environmental destruction are wildly asymmetrical.’

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How the People’s Climate March Became a Corporate PR Campaign

Arun Gupta writes for CounterPunch:

‘Environmental activist Anne Petermann and writer Quincy Saul describe how the People’s Climate March has no demands, no targets,and no enemy. Organizers admitted encouraging bankers to march was like saying Blackwater mercenaries should join an antiwar protest. There is no unity other than money. One veteran activist who was involved in Occupy Wall Street said it was made known there was plenty of money to hire her and others. There is no sense of history: decades of climate-justice activism are being erased by the incessant invocation of the “biggest climate change demonstration ever.” Investigative reporter Cory Morningstar has connected the dots between the organizing groups, 350.org and Avaaz, the global online activist outfit modeled on MoveOn, and institutions like the World Bank and Clinton Global Initiative. Morningstar claims the secret of Avaaz’s success is its “expertise in behavioral change.”

That is what I find most troubling. Having worked on Madison Avenue for nearly a decade, I can smell a P.R. and marketing campaign a mile away. That’s what the People’s Climate March looks to be. According to inside sources a push early on for a Seattle-style event—organizing thousands of people to nonviolently shut down the area around the United Nations—was thwarted by paid staff with the organizing groups.’

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Breakthroughs Unlikely at Upcoming UN Climate Summit: Interview with Patrick Bond

Naomi Klein on Capitalism vs. the Climate

New ‘zero waste’ store in Berlin may be supermarket of future

CTV reports:

‘A packaging-free supermarket has opened in Berlin, targeting eco-minded consumers by positioning itself as a “zero waste” store.

The concept of “Original Unverpackt” is simple: there is none of the usual superfluous supermarket packaging which either requires extreme levels of urban recycling or results in waste.

Instead, customers bring their own containers (tubs and recycled bags can be bought at the store) and help themselves to dry goods and non-foodstuff items which are stored in giant bins and dispensers.’

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Koch foundation proposal to college: Teach our curriculum, get millions

Dave Levinthal reports for The Center for Public Integrity:

‘In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.

First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.

Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.

And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman — even though he told his wife he’d step down in 2009 after one three-year term.’

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FEMA Is Trying To Get Back $5.8M in Hurricane Sandy Aid Money

Alice Speri reports for VICE News:

‘The US disaster response agency is now asking Hurricane Sandy victims to return millions that it accidentally handed out following the devastating storm, which in the fall of 2012 affected the entire eastern seaboard of the US, from Florida to Maine, and as far west as Wisconsin.

The agency is hoping to recoup some $5.8 million in aid it disbursed to households affected by the “superstorm” that flooded several communities and killed dozens of people while damaging or destroying tens of thousands of homes.

FEMA shelled out some $1.4 billion in aid following the storms — but it is now looking into some 4,500 households it has found to be ineligible for the funds, and it has already sent out letters to about 850 of them asking for its money back, the Associated Press found in an investigation of the agency’s records.’

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Severe black lung returns to 1970s levels

James R. Carroll reports for The Courier-Journal:

fileblacklung.jpg‘Coal miners in Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia are contracting serious cases of black lung disease at rates not seen since the early 1970s — just after preventive regulations were enacted, according to a study published Monday.

Only 15 years ago, progressive massive fibrosis — an advanced form of black lung for which there is no cure — was virtually eradicated, health researchers say. But now, the prevalence of the disease in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia is at levels not seen in 40 years… Black lung is caused by the excessive inhalation of coal dust.’

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Study: Workers who cycle, walk and use public transport are “happier than drivers”

The Daily Mail reports:

No traffic: Including a form of exercise such as walking to the bus stop, and then 'switching off' during the ride to work improves mental and physical well being ‘Active travel’ such as cycling or walking to the bus stop improves well-being, while those who get behind the wheel of a car feel under strain and less able to concentrate, the University of East Anglia suggests.

While most commuters associate public transport with cramped Tube carriages and delays, it appears that they are better off than those in their cars. Including some form of exercise in the daily commute, whether it’s cycling the entire way or simply walking to the train station, improves mental well-being as well as physical.  ‘Switching off’ during a ride on public transport is also beneficial.’

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World population could rise by three billion more than expected

David Usborne reports for The Independent:

‘Life on earth is set to become even more cheek-by-jowl than previously thought, a report by a team of scientists and statisticians warned last night. The study, by researchers from the University of Washington and the United Nations, says there is an 80 per cent chance that by the end of this century the global population could have reached between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion people.’

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Illegal land clearing for commercial agriculture responsible for half of tropical deforestation

Science Daily reports:

‘A comprehensive new analysis released today says that nearly half (49%) of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture. The study also finds that the majority of this illegal destruction was driven by overseas demand for agricultural commodities including palm oil, beef, soy, and wood products. In addition to devastating impacts on forest-dependent people and biodiversity, the illegal conversion of tropical forests for commercial agriculture is estimated to produce 1.47 gigatonnes of carbon each year — equivalent to 25% of the EU’s annual fossil fuel-based emissions.’

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Global Warming President Presides Over Drill-Baby-Drill America

Michael Klare writes for TomDispatch:

‘Considering all the talk about global warming, peak oil, carbon divestment, and renewable energy, you’d think oil consumption in the United States would be on a downward path. By now, we should certainly be witnessing real progress toward a post-petroleum economy. As it happens, the opposite is occurring. U.S. oil consumption is on an upward trajectory,  climbing by 400,000 barrels per day in 2013 alone, and if current trends persist, it should  rise again both this year and next.

In other words, oil is back. Big time.’

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South Downs and New Forest national parks under threat from electricity pipeline plan

Tom Bawden reports for The Independent:

The South Downs and New Forest national parks are potentially under threat from plans drawn up by a major Conservative donor to build a giant electricity pipeline from France to southern England.

Alexander Temerko, a former boss of the Russian oil giant Yukos, is developing an interconnector from the Flamenville nuclear power station in north-west France to the village of Lovedean, near Portsmouth. It would bring enough electricity to power 1.4 million households.

But the electricity grid in the South of England is already operating so close to capacity that Mr Temerko claims he has been told by the National Grid that he cannot plug in his pipeline at Lovedean substation.’

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British oil giant accused of bribery in tussle over Africa’s oldest national park

Jim Armitage reports for The Independent:

‘Contractors and agents working on behalf of a major London-based oil company paid bribes to officials and rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo in their bid to explore for oil in Africa’s oldest national park, according to anti-corruption activists.

Soco International has been conducting studies on whether it is feasible to drill for oil in Lake Edward in Virunga, the Unesco world heritage site made famous by Dian Fossey and the movie Gorillas in the Mist. In April, the park’s head, Emmanuel de Merode was shot and seriously injured by unknown assailants.’

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What?! Another Massive BP Oil Spill Cover-Up? Interview with Greg Palast

Abby Martin speaks with investigative journalist, Greg Palast discussing the most recent penalties against BP, and aspects of the company’s criminality that have been largely overlooked by the rest of the media including a massive oil spill cover-up in the Caspian Sea.’ (Breaking the Set)

Bacteria found in bees show potential as an alternative to antibiotics

Fiona MacDonald reports for Science Alert:

bees‘A team of researchers from Lund University in Sweden has identified a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria (LAB) that come from the honey stomach of bees, and are found in fresh honey, that have an impressive ability to fight pathogens. The honey stomach is one of two stomachs found in bees, and it stores nectar, which worker bees later suck out and store in the hive.

Together, these live bacteria produce a number of active microbial compounds, such as hydrogen peroxide, fatty acids and anaesthetics, that can kill other harmful bacteria – it’s believed that this is the formula that protects the bee colony against collapse. Unfortunately, these LAB are processed out of the honey we buy in shops, but the researchers now believe they could be used to help treat anitibiotic resistance.’

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Chemical Industry using TTIP ‘to attack the precautionary principle’

Axel Singhofen reports for Chemical Watch:

‘The last 12 months have seen a surge of attacks against the EU’s precautionary principle. Some law firms consider it as a potential obstacle to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and UK Conservative MEP Julie Girling considers that “the EU’s expanding embrace of `precautionary’ regulation… may well be the biggest threat” to an agreement being signed off.

Last October, 12 CEOs of mainly chemical companies wrote to the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament, calling for the formal adoption of an “innovation principle” as a counterbalance to “precautionary legislation”, because they were concerned that “the necessary balance of precaution and proportion is increasingly being replaced by a simple reliance on the precautionary principle and the avoidance of technological risk.’

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Market Farces: Horrifying Images of the “Free” Market at Work

akadjian writes for Daily Kos:

 photo child-labor-sm_zpse67cfcab.jpg‘When economists talk about how a market “regulates itself,” what they mean is that markets reach an equilibrium between supply and demand.

This says nothing about whether or not this equilibrium will be a good thing for society. It simply states that if consumers choose what to buy and producers choose what to sell and how to produce it, the market settles on a product distribution and prices.

Lately, many people I know have argued that “free markets” mean something more. They see markets as ethically right or ethically moral, meaning pursuit of profit always somehow leads to a greater good.

Unfortunately, morality isn’t built into markets.’

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Taxpayer-Guaranteed: Nuclear Power’s Insanities

Ralph Nader writes for CounterPunch:

‘The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) – the corporate lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for the disintegrating atomic power industry – doesn’t have to worry about repercussions from the negative impacts of nuclear power. For nuclear power is a government/taxpayer-guaranteed boondoggle whose staggering costs, incurred and deferred, are absorbed by American taxpayers via a supine government regulatory and subsidy apparatus.’

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From Pine Beetles to Disappearing Glaciers, NASA Scientists Tell of “Dramatic” Planetary Changes

Dahr Jamail writes for Truthout:

Trees turning red in forests that have been attacked by the mountain pine beetle near a wildfire site in Montana, July 7, 2011. Some scientists are increasingly worried that as the warming accelerates, trees themselves could become climate-change victims on a massive scale. (Josh Haner/The New York Times)Until very recently, popular thinking assumed that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) was in a “slow” period. However, last year, a study published in Geophysical Research Letters showed that the planet had experienced more overall warming in the 15 years leading up to March 2013 than it had in the 15 years before that. In case there was any doubt that the planet is warming more quickly than previously thought, a study published in the August 22, 2014 issue of Science has verified this.

Another study from July addressed how regional climate systems were synchronizing, after which “the researchers detected wild variability that amplified the changes and accelerated into an abrupt warming event of several degrees within a few decades.” Shortly thereafter, yet another study showed that rapid warming of the Atlantic waters, most likely due to ACD, has “turbocharged” the Pacific Equatorial trade winds. Whenever that phenomenon stops, it is highly likely we will witness very rapid changes across the globe, including a sudden acceleration of the average surface temperature of the planet.

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99% of Sweden’s waste is now reused

Science Alert reports:

‘Swedes generally waste as much as people in other countries, around 461 kilograms per person each year – but only one percent of that is ending up in landfill, thanks to the country’s innovative “recycling” program. While the Scandinavian country focusses primarily on reducing waste and reusing and recycling items, it has an important extra step in the waste cycle – it burns half its rubbish to generate energy.

[...] However, it’s not a perfect solution – there is plenty of controversy surrounding the burning of garbage. Critics are concerned that the process is counteracting any positive affects by sending more toxins into the atmosphere. The WTE process produces filter ash and flue gas, both byproducts that contain dioxins, and environmental pollutant. But Sweden has heavily regulated their WTE plants to reduce emissions and according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the introduction of flue-glad cleaning has reduced airborne dioxins produced to “very small amounts”.’

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In Chad, elephants make a comeback

Celeste Hicks reports for Al Jazeera:

‘[...] The dire situation facing Africa’s elephants has become headline news. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists last month warned that poaching had caused elephant populations to reach a tipping point on the continent where more animals are being killed than are being born.

In Central Africa, the number of elephants has declined by 60 percent in just a decade. Zakouma, however, is bucking that trend. There has not been a single case of poaching inside the 19,000-square-mile park for nearly three years.

That’s very different from the situation at the end of the last decade, when a wave of killings hit the park, near the border with Central African Republic. The number of elephants that inhabit the park for most of the year fell from about 4,000 in 2006 to just 450 by 2011.’

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More US Communities Opting to ‘Go Local’ with Greener Power Supply

Lauren McCauley writes for Common Dreams:

‘In the face of a mounting carbon crisis and the lack of action by commercial utility companies to adopt greener energy solutions, communities across the nation are opting to take hold of the power—literally!—and switch to more local, less polluting energy sources.

Reporting from Sonoma County, California on Tuesday, LA Times reporter Evan Halper highlights this growing trend known as Community Choice Aggregation. Established by law in six states thus far, including California, CCA allows communities to pool their energy load and then direct the purchase of their energy supply while working in partnership with existing utilities, who then deliver the power.

Established by law in six states thus far, CCA is an energy supply model that works in partnership with the region’s existing utility which continues to deliver power, maintain the grid, and provide customer service and billing.’

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Coca-Cola and Its Egregious History

Heather Gray writes for CounterPunch:

‘The Coca-Cola Company is, of course, a capitalist company meaning that its goal is to make money virtually any way possible. It’s good at this. Its market cap today is $168.7 billion according to Forbes.  Since it’s founding in the late 1800’s it is now known to be the most recognized product in the world. Its goal of making money is accomplished regardless of the consequences be it environmental degradation, pollution, abuse of and destabilizing water use, worker assassinations, discrimination in the work place, or the health of individuals drinking its product, to name but a few.  Promoting a product that requires purchase by huge numbers of individuals in order to make a profit necessitates deliberate efforts at creating a positive public image. It’s good at that also but it is simultaneously considered by some as one of the most evil corporations in the world – a designation that suits it well.

Living in Atlanta, the home of Coca-Cola, the time has come for me to begin writing about the company, as Alex Cockburn had wanted. The purpose of this article on Coca-Cola is to share an assortment of some of my personal experiences with the corporation in the past few decades in reference to Atlanta, South Africa and the Philippines. For a fairly comprehensive list of criticisms against The Coca-Cola Company throughout the world that I won’t be referring to please go to: Killer Coke.’

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