…Having set in motion a process aimed at allowing corporations play dangerous games with nature and human health, it is perhaps only logical that Mandelson is now a grubby lobbyist himself. In his current capacity as chairman of two consultancies, Mandelson habitually attends the annual conferences of the Bilderberg Group and other gatherings for the world’s political and business elite. To use his own words, Mandelson always appears “intensely relaxed” when surrounded by the “filthy rich”. It is not hard to understand why. He has worked tirelessly to allow Europe be captured by his corporate chums.’
‘Taken for granted in the climate change discussion is the assumption that nature or the environment is something that can or should be commodified, yet the structure of capitalism is such that it seeks to commodify everything, including human life (labor) and the environment (land and natural resources). The commodification of nature and the environment, inherent in the capitalist system, is problematic in its own right. Within this economic system, land, as well as labor, are seen as a commodity – something that can be purchased – and an essential part of industry. Yet what does it mean to say that something like “labor” and “land” are commodities? Karl Polanyi, the great economist, anthropologist, philosopher and sociologist, argued that both are not created as something to be sold. Labor is essentially human activity, a necessary part of life. Land, synonymous with nature, is not produced by man and in fact, encompasses man as a part of itself. When we sell the right to harm the natural environment, we are effectively selling something that is not ours.
Yet many seek to solve the climate change crisis through market mechanisms and through the buying and selling of rights to pollute or degrade the natural environment through things like carbon taxing and trading. This is effectively selling the rights to pollute something that is not ours to sell. Many economists have proposed the idea of a carbon economy, where a market would be created for the trading of carbon permits, where states, corporations, or even individuals would be given a certain allocation of permissible carbon emissions and those permits could be sold or traded. While this raises many important issues with regard to rich countries taking advantage of poor, underdeveloped countries, as well as leaving much room for manipulation by states and corporations, one of the fundamental problems has to do with permitting pollution so long as an agent is able to pay. When polluters are fined for actions that have an adverse effect on the environment, the wrongness of the action remains intact. When carbon permits are offered (pollution permits), it is as if the action of pollution is now permissible, and the wrongness of the act is absolved.’
‘State lawmakers in Missouri last week revived an effort to significantly curtail local planners’ ability to adopt the type of smart-growth policies long touted by urban developers, demographers, and climate scientists. The bill, which sailed through the state’s lower chamber this past Monday, represents the latest victory for a onetime fringe movement that has spent the past two decades slowly gaining traction among conservatives by warning of an actual, real-life U.N.-orchestrated global takeover.
The specific target of the Missouri legislation may be well-known to heavy consumers of conservative media, but most Americans have probably never heard of it: Agenda 21, a nonbinding resolution that was signed by President George H.W. Bush and 177 other world leaders at the end of the United Nations’ 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The effort was hailed at the time as an important, albeit voluntary, action plan to promote sustainable development in the face of a rapidly expanding global population, but ultimately failed to become much more than a feel-good Democratic talking point back in the United States. In 2012 a full 85 percent of Americans didn’t know enough about the U.N. resolution to have an opinion on it, according to a poll commissioned by the American Planning Association that summer.
Not everyone forgot about it, however. Agenda 21 remained front and center for a subset of right-wing conservatives who warned that it was a harbinger of a looming new world order that would culminate with the seizure of land and guns, and an end to the American way of life. If that last part sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel written by Glenn Beck, well, that’s because it is. But what began as a far-fetched conspiracy theory has since transformed into an effective, almost methodical movement to block the type of “livability” initiatives that President Obama and his allies have made a priority. If you look past the black helicopters in the anti-Agenda 21 origin story, you’ll find a series of smart-growth-blocking victories at the state and local levels in nearly every corner of the country…’
‘Western countries are using aid to Africa as a smokescreen to hide the “sustained looting” of the continent as it loses nearly $60bn a year through tax evasion, climate change mitigation, and the flight of profits earned by foreign multinational companies, a group of NGOs has claimed.
Although sub-Saharan Africa receives $134bn each year in loans, foreign investment and development aid, research released on Tuesday by a group of UK and Africa-based NGOs suggests that $192bn leaves the region, leaving a $58bn shortfall. The report says that while western countries send about $30bn in development aid to Africa every year, more than six times that amount leaves the continent, “mainly to the same countries providing that aid”.’
‘Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., is on a roll. After successfully passing a budget amendment back in May that basically forbids the Pentagon from acknowledging climate science — despite the fact that the Department of Defense considers doing so to be vital to national security — his newest effort prohibits both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers from spending “to design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.”
“Spending precious resources to pursue a dubious climate change agenda compromises our clean-energy research and America’s infrastructure,” McKinley said on the House floor, according to the WV Gazette. “Congress should not be spending money pursuing ideologically driven experiments.” Neither amendment is likely to get past the Democrat-controlled Senate, of course, but they remain nonetheless a fascinating exercise in anti-science sentiment among House Republicans (only five Democrats supported the most recent amendment).’
‘Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage producer, has been ordered to shut down its bottling plant in Varanasi, India following local complaints that the company was drawing excessive amounts of groundwater. After an investigation, government authorities ruled that the company had violated its operating license.
…This is not the first time that the company has been in trouble in India for unsustainable water extraction practices. In 2004 a bottling plant in Plachimada, Kerala, was closed for excessive water consumption. Later Kerala passed legislation that allows Coca-Cola to be sued for as much as $47 million in damages as result of the operations. And last year, community organizers in Charba, Uttarakhand, defeated Coca-Cola’s plans to build a new factory as soon as the proposal went public.’
- Coca-Cola’s Varanasi plant shut after pollution board order
- Authorities Cancel License for Coca-Cola’s Mehdiganj Plant
- Opposition Grows to Coca-Cola’s Expansion Plans and Current Operations
- War On Want: Coca-Cola – The Alternative Report
- Coca-Cola just part of India’s water ‘free-for-all’
- CSE Report on Pesticides in soft drinks
- Report on Pesticide Residues and Safety Standards of Beverages Makers
- Criticism of Coca-Cola
‘When severe water cuts began to hit Aleppo province in early May, residents started referring to a “water war” being waged at the expense of civilians. Images of beleaguered women and children drinking from open channels and carrying jerry cans of untreated groundwater only confirmed that the suffering across northern Syria had taken a turn for the worse. However, lost in the daily reports was a far more pernicious crisis coming to a head: a record six-metre drop in Lake Assad, the reservoir of Syria’s largest hydroelectric dam and the main source of water for drinking and irrigation to about five million people.
Under the watch of the Islamic State group – formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - levels in Lake Assad have dropped so low that pumps used to funnel water east and west are either entirely out of commission or functioning at significantly reduced levels. The shortages compel residents in Aleppo and Al Raqqa to draw water from unreliable sources, which can pose serious health risks. The primary reason behind the drop appears to be a dramatic spike in electricity generation at the Euphrates Dam in al-Tabqa, which has been forced to work at alarmingly high rates.’
‘The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is just two to three millimeters long but its impact is devastating. Of the thousands of mosquito species, this one bears primary responsibility for one of the world’s deadliest and fastest growing diseases. In the past 50 years, incidence of Dengue Fever has multiplied by 30 according to the WHO, spreading from nine countries in 1970 to over 100 today. There is no vaccine or cure for the painful virus known as Breakbone Fever, and of the 50-100 million people infected each year, over 20,000 die.
Aedes Aegypti has spread with this epidemic, and has become the target of efforts to control the disease. But while solutions such as mass spraying of toxic chemicals have proved expensive, ineffective and environmentally damaging, scientists hope to use the insect as the agent of its own destruction. British biotech firm Oxitec is tackling the problem through pioneering genetic modification (GM) of the Aedes Aegypti. Scientists breed large numbers of the insects in laboratories and inject the sperm cells of males with a lethal gene. When the mosquito is released into the wild and mates with a female — always of the same species – the deadly transgene is passed on and the offspring dies.’
‘Dubai has risen in a new list of the world’s top destinations for international travellers and is expected to welcome nearly 12 million visitors this year. London topped the annual MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index for the third time in four years but Dubai rose two places to fifth globally, behind Bangkok, Paris and Singapore.
Visitor figures for the emirate this year represent an increase of 7.5 percent on 2013. This has helped boost the position of Dubai ahead of New York and Istanbul – both of which ranked higher than Dubai last year. MasterCard added that Dubai is one of the fastest growing cities in the global top 10, and is on track to overtake Paris and Singapore within five years.’
‘A Nicaraguan committee approved a proposed route on Monday for a $40 billion shipping channel across the Central American country that would compete with the Panama Canal.
The committee of government officials, businessmen and academics approved a 172 mile (278 km) route from the mouth of the Brito river on the Pacific side to the Punto Gorda river on the Caribbean that was proposed by executives from the HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd (HKND Group).
The Hong Kong-based HKND group, which is leading the project, is headed by Chinese lawyer Wang Jing, who also heads Chinese company Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group.’
‘Throughout California’s desperately dry Central Valley, those with water to spare are cashing in. As a third parched summer forces farmers to fallow fields and lay off workers, two water districts and a pair of landowners in the heart of the state’s farmland are making millions of dollars by auctioning off their private caches. Nearly 40 others also are seeking to sell their surplus water this year, according to state and federal records.
Economists say it’s been decades since the water market has been this hot. In the last five years alone, the price has grown tenfold to as much as $2,200 an acre-foot — enough to cover a football field with a foot of water. Unlike the previous drought in 2009, the state has been hands-off, letting the market set the price even though severe shortages prompted a statewide drought emergency declaration this year. The price spike comes after repeated calls from scientists that global warming will worsen droughts and increase the cost of maintaining California’s strained water supply systems.’
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
– Albert Einstein
As the world struggles with how to deal with the slow motion apocalypse of global climate change it becomes more and more apparent that we are trapped in “the kind of thinking” that got us here. While I don’t want to wear out Einstein’s quotability, his other little piece of wisdom that we need to keep top of mind is this: ”Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Our failure of imagination regarding the ever-increasing production and use of fossil fuels will, over time, kill billions of us and irreversibly change all life on the planet. It is a failure of imagination, not at a policy level but at the level of civilization. It’s not a lack of knowledge — we have a staggering amount of information and analysis, a frightening compendium of what we are doing to ourselves and every other species on the planet. We keep piling it on, study after study, dire warning after dire warning, irrefutable science, actual evidence of melting ice-caps, the virtually unprecedented level of agreement on the part of scientists about where we are headed. Additional information is already hitting up against the principle of diminishing returns.
‘Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 500 million acres of land in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean was acquired or negotiated under deals brokered on behalf of foreign governments or transnational corporations. Many such deals are geared toward growing crops or biofuels for export to richer, developed countries – with the consequence that small-holder farmers are displaced from their land and lose their livelihood while local communities go hungry.
The concentration of ownership of the world’s farmland in the hands of powerful investors and corporations is rapidly accelerating, driven by resource scarcity and, thus, rising prices. According to a new report by the US land rights organisation Grain: “The powerful demands of food and energy industries are shifting farmland and water away from direct local food production to the production of commodities for industrial processing.” Less known factors, however, include ‘conservation‘ and ‘carbon offsetting.”
- Land taken over by foreign investors could feed 550m people, study finds
- Conservation vs Communities – The Plight of the Sengwer
- Indigenous Kenyans evicted in the name of ‘conservation’
- Kenyan families flee Embobut forest to avoid forced evictions by police
- Ogiek are violently evicted from ancestral home in Kenya
- Kenyan Government torches hundreds of Sengwer homes in the forest glades in Embobut
- How the World Bank is implicated in today’s Embobut Evictions
- Status of Forest Carbon Rights and Implications for Communities, the Carbon Trade, and REDD+ Investments
‘At first they were little more than fleeting sightings of naked figures on the edge of the forest. But as the days went by, the men and boys grew bolder, venturing into the village to pilfer pots and vegetables before disappearing back into the safety of trees. After they were first glimpsed by other people on the outskirts of an Asháninka indigenous community on the upper reaches of Brazil’s Envira River, “a few dozen” members of an unnamed Amazonian tribe finally made contact with a settled population 20 days ago. That came four years after a tribal group, reportedly from the same Amazonian tribe, were filmed from the air in 2010. When the images were released in January 2011, they created a worldwide sensation.
It is believed the tribe had been driven across the border from their centuries’ old nomadic existence by the activities of illegal loggers and possibly drug-traffickers operating in their traditional territories in Peru. Brazil’s Indian Affairs Department, Funai, confirmed that the group had taken the momentous decision to make contact at the village of Sympatico in the state of Acre, more than a week’s travel by foot and canoe from the nearest road. Sympatico, just 25 miles from the border, is very close to the area where a tribe group was filmed four years ago. It is estimated that there are at least four such communities living in Acre, constituting a population of around 600. A further two tribes are believed to occupy territory in Peru. But no one knows exactly how many individuals there are now living in the pristine forest of the western Amazon.’
‘President Hassan Rouhani’s government has quintupled its spending on solar power projects in the last year, taking advantage of Iran’s 300-odd days of sunshine a year that make its vast sun-kissed lands one of the best spots on earth to host solar panels. While being good for the environment, the panels also offer rural Iran steady power amid uncertainty over the country’s contested nuclear program as it negotiates with world powers.
And as the Islamic Republic cuts back on subsidies that once made gasoline cheaper than bottled mineral water, a push toward self-sustaining solar power could help the government save money and bolster its sanctions-battered economy. “A big change is in the making in Iran,” said Saman Mirhadi, a senior official in charge of solar projects. Iran, home to some 77 million people, is a fossil-fuel powerhouse, even in the crude-oil rich Middle East. It is home to both the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves and massive natural gas reserves. However, sanctions have cut into the country’s refining and production capabilities.’
‘Abby Martin interviews Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, journalist for The Guardian, about a recent article he wrote concerning the Pentagon’s multimillion dollar project to study peaceful protest movements and prepare for the collapse of industrial society due to factors ranging from income inequality to climate change.’ (Breaking the Set)
‘Some of the recent media coverage about the fact that more than 50 people in Peru – the vast majority of them indigenous – are on trial following protests and fatal conflict in the Amazon over five years ago missed a crucial point. Yes, the hearings are finally going ahead and the charges are widely held to be trumped-up, but what about the government functionaries who apparently gave the riot police the order to attack the protestors, the police themselves, and – following Wikileaks’ revelations of cables in which the US ambassador in Lima criticized the Peruvian government’s “reluctance to use force” and wrote there could be “implications for the recently implemented Peru-US FTA” if the protests continued – the role of the US government?’
‘BP wants a federal judge to order restitution — plus interest — of what it says are hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments to some businesses that claimed losses due to the 2010 Gulf oil spill. In a Friday court filing, BP points to a revised policy for calculating losses that was approved by the court in May. The company says the court should order recalculation of awards paid prior to that change.
Meanwhile, BP continues its legal fight on a related issue: whether businesses have to prove they were directly harmed by the spill to collect money. A district court and an appeals court have ruled that, under the settlement BP agreed to, proof of direct harm isn’t needed. BP has said it plans a Supreme Court appeal on that issue.’
‘The United States is currently engulfed in one of the worst droughts in recent memory. More than 30% of the country experienced at least moderate drought as of last week’s data.
In seven states drought conditions were so severe that each had more than half of its land area in severe drought. Severe drought is characterized by crop loss, frequent water shortages, and mandatory water use restrictions. Based on data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the states with the highest levels of severe drought.
In an interview, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meteorologist Brad Rippey, told 24/7 Wall St. that drought has been a long-running issue in parts of the country. “This drought has dragged on for three and a half years in some areas, particularly (in) North Texas,” Rippey said.’
‘The world’s oceans face irreparable damage from climate change and overfishing, with a five-year window for intervention, an environmental panel said Tuesday. Neglecting the health of the oceans could have devastating effects on the world’s food supply, clean air, and climate stability, among other factors.
The Global Oceans Commission, an environmental group formed by the Pew Charitable Trust, released a report (PDF) addressing the declining marine ecosystems around the world and outlining an eight-step “rescue package” to restore growth and prevent future damage to the seas. The 18-month study proposes increased governance of the oceans, including limiting oil and gas exploration, capping subsidies for commercial fishing, and creating marine protected areas (MPAs) to guard against pollution, particularly from plastics.’
‘How do we quickly get power to a remote village sitting miles off the grid or a bunch of homes hit by a natural disaster? “Not very easily”, would usually be the answer, but now we have ’the PowerCube’, a new ‘pop-up’ solar station that can be transported via shipping container and installed anywhere with the push of a button.
Developed over the past seven years by Ecosphere Technologies, a technology and licensing company in the US, the PowerCube is completely self-contained, remotely monitored and controlled, and can be manufactured in three different sizes to match standard shipping container varieties. The first model will be released this month.’
‘Abby Martin goes over the effect war games have on the environment, citing the US and China engaging in the world’s largest naval exercise, as well as how the use of sonar testing harming millions of marine mammals.’ (Breaking the Set)
‘Adding lithium to drinking water supplies could help to reduce suicide rates, according to a team of psychiatrists. Naturally-occurring levels of the chemical are to be measured in supplies in Scotland and compared with suicide rates in the population it serves. It follows similar studies in the US and Japan which found that suicide rates are higher in areas where there are low levels of lithium in the drinking water.
The chemical is a common treatment for bipolar disorder but is found in many water supplies. The project was announced at the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ International Congress in London. Lithium levels will be measured by postcode and compared with Scottish Health Survey and NHS statistics. The team will also test the impact of adding lithium to water supplies just as fluoride is added to prevent tooth decay.’
- Lithium reduces risk of suicide in people with mood disorders, review finds
- Should lithium be added to drinking water to help prevent suicide?
- Adding lithium to the taps ‘could lower suicide rates’
- Lithium in the Water Supply
- Lithium in drinking water has ‘anti-suicide’ effect
- Lithium in water ‘curbs suicide’
- Lithium drugs found to reduce suicide risk
- Lithium (medication)
‘Robert David Steele, former Marine, CIA case officer, and US co-founder of the US Marine Corps intelligence activity, is a man on a mission. But it’s a mission that frightens the US intelligence establishment to its core. With 18 years experience working across the US intelligence community, followed by 20 more years in commercial intelligence and training, Steele’s exemplary career has spanned almost all areas of both the clandestine world. Steele started off as a Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer. After four years on active duty, he joined the CIA for about a decade before co-founding the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, where he was deputy director. Widely recognised as the leader of the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) paradigm, Steele went on to write the handbooks on OSINT for NATO, the US Defense Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Special Operations Forces. In passing, he personally trained 7,500 officers from over 66 countries.
In 1992, despite opposition from the CIA, he obtained Marine Corps permission to organise a landmark international conference on open source intelligence – the paradigm of deriving information to support policy decisions not through secret activities, but from open public sources available to all. The conference was such a success it brought in over 620 attendees from the intelligence world. But the CIA wasn’t happy, and ensured that Steele was prohibited from running a second conference. The clash prompted him to resign from his position as second-ranking civilian in Marine Corps intelligence, and pursue the open source paradigm elsewhere. He went on to found and head up the Open Source Solutions Network Inc. and later the non-profit Earth Intelligence Network which runs the Public Intelligence Blog.’
- Robert Steele at LIBTECHNYC: The Open Source Everything Manifesto
- The Open-Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth and Trust by Robert David Steele
- A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change
- The Crisis of Civilizatiion (Documentary)
- Robert David Steele’s Book Reviews
‘About a quarter of India’s land is turning to desert and degradation of agricultural areas is becoming a severe problem, the environment minister said, potentially threatening food security in the world’s second most populous country.
India occupies just 2 percent of the world’s territory but is home to 17 percent of its population, leading to over-use of land and excessive grazing. Along with changing rainfall patterns, these are the main causes of desertification. “Land is becoming barren, degradation is happening,” said Prakash Javadekar, minister for environment, forests and climate change. “A lot of areas are on the verge of becoming deserts but it can be stopped.”‘
‘Last year we reported on teenage inventor Boyan Slat’s plans to create an Ocean Cleanup Arraythat could remove 7,250,000 tons of plastic waste from the world’s oceans. His proposal for an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms received a lot of criticism – but now, just over a year later, Boyan is back with the results of a year-long investigation that shows his invention does offer a feasible method to rid the world’s oceans of plastic pollution. In fact, he claims that a single array could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 10 years.
The year-long study sought to determine if Boyan Slat’s array is indeed a feasible ocean cleanup method. The result? According to the independent experts who have read the full 530-page report (which is even wrapped in plastic recovered from the oceans): it is. Slat’s proposed Ocean Cleanup Array uses natural ocean currents and winds to passively transport plastic towards an anchored collection platform. Large booms extend outwards at angles to direct debris towards the collection platform, and solid floating barriers prevent sea life from getting entangled in the array.’
‘A reservoir of water three times the volume of all the oceans has been discovered deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The finding could help explain where Earth’s seas came from. The water is hidden inside a blue rock called ringwoodite that lies 700 kilometres underground in the mantle, the layer of hot rock between Earth’s surface and its core. The huge size of the reservoir throws new light on the origin of Earth’s water. Some geologists think water arrived in comets as they struck the planet, but the new discovery supports an alternative idea that the oceans gradually oozed out of the interior of the early Earth.’
‘Without any pre-training or restrictions in partner choice among chimpanzees, researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, found for the first time that chimpanzees housed in a socially complex, contained setting spontaneously cooperate with multiple partners of their choosing. This finding, which addresses long-standing doubt about the level of cooperation chimpanzees are able to spontaneously achieve or understand, is published in the June 12 issue of PeerJ.
“Cooperation among primates has attracted considerable research because of the evolutionary implications that such research has for human behavior and the ubiquity of cooperation among wild primates,” says lead author Malini Suchak, PhD. “Cooperation is often regarded as less puzzling than altruistic behavior, but only in an evolutionary sense. In the moment, cooperation often consists of a series of potentially complex decisions involving a choice of partners. When multiple partners are available, an individual must consider with whom to cooperate, if that individual has been a good partner previously, how much to invest in the partner, what to expect in return and if the cooperation will yield more benefits than solitary effort,” Suchak continues.’
‘A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”
Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”‘
‘Peter Mandelson’s willingness to act as a battering ram for Western multinationals knew few bounds… During his four years in Brussels, Mandelson pushed the EU’s agenda to new extremes. In the past, trade negotiators had traditionally focused on cutting or removing taxes levied on imports and exports. A 2006 policy paper called Global Europe - drawn up at Mandelson’s behest – pushed for that scope to be enlarged. It committed the EU to strive towards dismantling a range of “barriers” encountered by firms doing business abroad. Workers’ rights and environmental standards across the world would be vigorously challenged if they harmed corporate profits, the paper inferred. Sadly, this agenda has gained more momentum than Mandelson could have dreamed.