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Tom of TomDispatch writes:
Here, in a nutshell, is the world of 2020, as seen by Michael Klare, whose expertise in energy, scarce resources, and the politics of war is well known: "For now, expect the dragon ascendant, the eagle descending, the South rising, and the planet possibly trumping all of these." In other words, while the first decade of the twenty-first century still looked at least somewhat like the world of 1999, by 2020, this planet will have a genuinely different look to it. Momentous shifts in global power relations and a changing of the imperial guard, just now becoming apparent, will be far more pronounced by that year as new actors, new trends, new concerns, and new institutions dominate the global space.
Klare tracks all of this from China's rise to America's relative descent and the increasing power and energy of the global South. But that's only part of his canny, wide-ranging analysis of where we'll be a decade from now. The kicker is that "blowback," still a political concept today, will become a natural one by 2020. As Klare writes of the imperial and other politics of the planet to come: "Nonetheless, all of this is the norm of history, no matter how dramatic it may seem to us. Less normal -- and so the wild card of the second decade (and beyond) -- is intervention by the planet itself. Blowback, which we think of as a political phenomenon, will by 2020 have gained a natural component. Nature is poised to strike back in unpredictable ways whose effects could be unnerving and possibly devastating."
The "blowback effect" -- nature paying us back for our operations against her -- is a new concept that grounds this typically provocative and carefully thought out piece by Klare.From TomDispatch this afternoon: A New Year's look deep into the future, taking up the fate of China, the United States, the Global South, and nothing short of a planet ready to strike back by 2020 -- Michael T. Klare, "The Second Decade, The World in 2020" http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175186/
The Second Decade: The World in 2020
By Michael T. Klare
As the second decade of the twenty-first century begins, we find ourselves at one of those relatively rare moments in history when major power shifts become visible to all. If the first decade of the century witnessed profound changes, the world of 2009 nonetheless looked at least somewhat like the world of 1999 in certain fundamental respects: the United States remained the world’s paramount military power, the dollar remained the world’s dominant currency, and NATO remained its foremost military alliance, to name just three.
By the end of the second decade of this century, however, our world is likely to have a genuinely different look to it. Momentous shifts in global power relations and a changing of the imperial guard, just now becoming apparent, will be far more pronounced by 2020 as new actors, new trends, new concerns, and new institutions dominate the global space. Nonetheless, all of this is the norm of history, no matter how dramatic it may seem to us. Read more.
I am hugely excited for 2010! Last week we launched our Coal Free Zone delivering 500 stockings with candy coal and an informative flier about how folks in my Northwest community of Vashon Island are - despite our best intentions and misconceptions - "Coal Consumers." (36% of Puget Sound Energy's power portfolio is coal-fired.) People were surprised, but received our "Naughty or Nice?" message with good humor.
I'm ecstatic that local conversations about energy and stewardship have served as a catalyst for another transformative project - a Vashon Community Credit Union, currently being spearheaded by the un-stoppable Rex Stratton. And there's a growing buzz about alternative currency, community solar, electric car manufacturing and more. It's a thrilling time to take ownership of change we want rather than waiting for it from Washington, Copenhagen or anywhere else.
As I saw dozens of requests for funding come through over the last few days, I didn't want to add to the onslaught. The generosity of Backbone's network of friends has kept us afloat through hard times, and now we are seeing a bright light at the end of the tunnel of scarcity. A recent anonymous grant is going to allow us to rebuild our part-time office staff. The Nathan Cummings grant is a mandate for an amazing project opportunities for skill sharing, image creation and trainings across the country.
I'm honored that our first event of 2010 is to welcome the Seattle area to hear the progressive populist, indefatigable, prolific genius activist and Backbone Campaign advisory board member David Swanson, Tuesday, January 5, 7:30 - 9pm downstairs at Town Hall in Seattle. (Enter on Seneca Street.) See below or online here.
So - whether you want to make that last minute end of year contribution HERE, or just want to look forward to collaboration and sharing inspiration in the new year - here's my end of year email and sincere wishes of gratitude for my great Board, collaborators, volunteers, and supportive family. And deepest wishes for a joyful and transformative New Decade! I'm honored and grateful to be facing it with all of you.
Start off your New Year with a celebration of Democracy and your role in it. Hear author, activist, and Backbone Campaign advisor David Swanson speak about how We the People can take the reigns of our democracy and transform this country.
"Daybreak offers a powerful and compelling picture of what real change in America could look like. The world needs more true advocates of democracy like David Swanson!" -- Thom Hartmann
January 1 will usher in the last year of the first decade of a new millennium and ten consecutive years of the United States conducting war in the Greater Middle East.
Beginning with the October 7, 2001 missile and bomb attacks on Afghanistan, American combat operations abroad have not ceased for a year, a month, a week or a day in the 21st century.
The Afghan war, the U.S.'s first air and ground conflict in Asia since the disastrous wars in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960s and early 1970s and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's first land war and Asian campaign, began during the end of the 2001 war in Macedonia launched from NATO-occupied Kosovo, one in which the role of U.S. military personnel is still to be properly exposed  and addressed and which led to the displacement of almost 10 percent of the nation's population.
In the first case Washington invaded a nation in the name of combating terrorism; in the second it abetted cross-border terrorism. Similarly, in 1991 the U.S. and its Western allies attacked Iraqi forces in Kuwait and launched devastating and deadly cruise missile attacks and bombing sorties inside Iraq in the name of preserving the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait, and in 1999 waged a 78-day bombing assault against Yugoslavia to override and fatally undermine the principles of territorial integrity and national sovereignty in the name of the casus belli of the day, so-called humanitarian intervention.
Two years later humanitarian war, as abhorrent an oxymoron as the world has ever witnessed, gave way to the global war on terror(ism), with the U.S. and its NATO allies again reversing course but continuing to wage wars of aggression and "wars of opportunity" as they saw fit, contradictions and logic, precedents and international law notwithstanding.
"Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled." --Richard Feynman
The same sort of public relations wizardry that once convinced a sizeable portion of Americans that cigarette smoking was harmless, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, that Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet, and that John Kerry's war record was fraudulent, is now convincing an increasing number of our citizens that global warming is at least of little consequence, or, at most, a massive hoax.
This trend is reported by the Pew Research Center which, in August, 2006, found that 77% of the public believed that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming. In October, 2009, that number had dropped to 57%. In the same period, the percentage of those who denied that there is such evidence increased from 17% to 33%. An early Pew poll found that "global warming ranked dead last among 40 concerns ranked by the 1503 respondents to the poll."
Unfortunately, as John Adams observed, "facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Here are some of those stubborn facts:
- The decade of the 2000s was the warmest on record, containing eight of the ten warmest years.
- The summer Arctic ice cap is likely to disappear completely in 30 to 40 years. This alarming trend is reported by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and McGill University (Canada). Ice reflects 80% of solar radiation, while the open sea absorbs 80% of the radiation, which means that an open Arctic Ocean is certain to heat up the atmosphere.
- Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means that it "captures" incoming solar radiation. This is fortunate, for without atmospheric CO2, most of the earth would be too cold to support human life. These facts were discovered by John Tyndal in 1859 and confirmed by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. But with the advent of the industrial revolution and the massive consumption of fossil fuels, the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has almost doubled to nearly 390 parts per million today.
- Methane is about 22 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and vast amounts of methane are being released in the warming arctic tundra and from the warming oceans (in the form of methane cathrate).
Climate change skeptics have succeeded in convincing much of the public that global warming is a live issue of contention among climate scientists. The facts tell us otherwise. For example, in December, 2004, Science Magazine (AAAS) reported:
By Medea Benjamim
One year ago, the brutal Israeli 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip shocked the world, leaving some 1,400 people dead, thousands more wounded, as well as hospitals, schools, prisons, UN facilities, factories, agricultural processing plants and some 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion, the plight of the people of Gaza continues unabated:
- Despite pledges of money for reconstruction, Israel refuses to allow in the machinery necessary to clear the rubble or the materials needed to rebuild--banning cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum and tar. Many who were made homeless during the bombing are still living in tents amidst the onset of another cold winter. Desperate, some are reverting to the ancient techniques of building homes made of mud.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on How to Tackle Climate Change: “We Must Go from Capitalism to Socialism”
We speak with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about climate change, the Copenhagen summit and President Obama. Chavez calls the COP15 summit undemocratic and accuses world leaders of only seeking a face-saving agreement. “We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet,” Chavez says. “That requires a change in the economic model: we must go from capitalism to socialism.”
From TomDispatch this evening, a fabulous near end-of-year piece by Rebecca Solnit on our apocalyptic imagination versus the real apocalypse that may await us -- Rebecca Solnit, "Terminator 2009, Judgment Days in Copenhagen."
Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch regular and author of A Paradise Built in Hell, recently watched Terminator 2 on a TV set in New Orleans, the Superdome where thousands were trapped after hurricane Katrina just out the hotel window. In a fever dream, possibly from swine flu, she conjurs up Sarah Palin ("a Terminator cyborg sent from the future to destroy something -- but what?") and the film's heroine Sarah Connor, attempting to save the human race from a plague of Terminators, but in the wrong apocalypse. How comfortable, she thinks, T2's apocalypse now seems in which our own intelligent machines set out to destroy us when, unfortunately, it's our perfectly dumb ones that seem determined to do the actual deed, while the leaders of the world's major greenhouse gas emitters fail to agree in a meaningful way at Copenhagen and elsewhere.
Like Solnit's state in New Orleans, our world might be mistaken for a fever dream of some sort. After all, the Terminator who, in T2, saves John Connor (and so the world), is now the governor of California, a "state with an uncertain shoreline," thanks to globally rising waters, a conservative who has nonetheless tried to deal with climate change. She considers the governor releasing California's 2009 "climate adaption strategy" on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, which "with even modest further rises in sea-level... will disappear entirely. Hasta la vista, baby." And assesses our world and its fate from the coast of California to Copenhagen.
This marvelous post manages to catch the dark edge of a difficult and dangerous situation, but in the normal Solnitsian fashion, with hope for what we -- all of us -- can still do. She concludes:
"The learning curve for so many of us, for so many people and even nations, has been speeding up impressively. If we had 40 years to figure it all out, we might be headed toward just the sort of victory that civil society has, in fact, achieved on so many other environmental and human-rights ideas. But there aren’t decades to spare. It needs to happen now. It should have happened even before the last century ended.
"Even in my fever dream, with the Superdome just out the window, I couldn’t help noting the key axiom repeated in Terminator 2: 'The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.'
"So here’s the lesson: there are no superheroes but us.
"And here’s the question: what are you going to do about it?"
It’s clear now that, from her immovable titanium bangs to her chaotic approximation of human speech, Sarah Palin is a Terminator cyborg sent from the future to destroy something -- but what? It could be the Republican Party she’ll ravage by herding the fundamentalists and extremists into a place where sane fiscal conservatives and swing voters can’t follow. Or maybe she was sent to destroy civilization at this crucial moment by preaching the gospel of climate-change denial, abetted by tools like the Washington Post, which ran a factually outrageous editorial by her on the subject earlier this month. No one (even her, undoubtedly) knows, but we do know that this month we all hover on the brink.
I’ve had the great Hollywood epic Terminator 2: Judgment Day on my mind ever since I watched it in a hotel room in New Orleans a few weeks ago with the Superdome visible out the window. In 1991, at the time of its release, T2 was supposedly about a terrible future; now, it seems situated in an oddly comfortable past.
What apocalypses are you nostalgic for? The premise of the movie was that the machines we needed to worry about had not yet been invented, no less put to use: intelligent machines that would rebel against their human masters in 1997, setting off an all-out nuclear war that would get rid of the first three billion of us and lead to a campaign of extermination against the remnant of the human race scrabbling in the rubble of what had once been civilization. Read more.
Climate conference in Copenhagen ends with statement of intent
After two weeks of delays, theatrics and frantic deal-making, the U.N. climate-change talks concluded in Copenhagen early Saturday with a grudging agreement by the participants to "take note" of a pact shaped by five major nations, including the United States.
By Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder, The New York Times | Seattle Times
The key elements of the Copenhagen Accord, worked out among the United States, China, Brazil, India and South Africa, on Friday:
- Nations agreed to cooperate in reducing emissions "with a view" to scientists' warnings to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above preindustrial levels.
- Developing nations will report every two years on their voluntary actions to reduce emissions. Those reports would be subject to "international consultations and analysis," a concession to the United States by China, which had seen this as an intrusion on its sovereignty.
- Richer nations will finance a $10 billion-a-year, three-year program to pay for poorer nations' projects to deal with drought and other climate-change impacts, and to develop clean energy.
- They also set a "goal" of mobilizing $100 billion-a-year by 2020 for the same adaptation and mitigation purposes.
After two weeks of delays, theatrics and frantic deal-making, the U.N. climate-change talks concluded in Copenhagen early Saturday with a grudging agreement by the participants to "take note" of a pact shaped by five major nations, including the United States.
The final "Copenhagen Accord," a 12-paragraph document, was a statement of intention — not a binding pledge to begin taking action on global warming — a compromise seen to represent a flawed but essential step forward.
Many delegates of the 193 countries that had gathered left Copenhagen in a sour mood, disappointed that the pact lacked so many elements they considered crucial, including firm targets for mid- or long-term reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions and a deadline for concluding a binding treaty next year. Read more.
DC AREA DISARMAMENT PLANNING
WHEN: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - 7:00pm
WHERE: St. Stephen's Church - Auditorium, 16th St & Newton St., NW (1525 Newton Street, NW, Washington, DC 20010-3103) - Green line, Columbia Heights Station
In the wake of President Obama's repeated advocacy for "the peace of a world without nuclear weapons," many things are happening on the Nuclear Disarmament front.
The next six months represent historic opportunity for disarmament progress, or a perilous descent into another "generational commitment" to further Weapons Development, at enormous cost. (Currently the US alone spends $52+ Billion a year on nukes.)
Please join us for a review of disarmament progress, proposals on the table, likely prospects for the near and further terms, and what we, the people, can do to help secure the peaceful future that we deserve.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference - May 2010, United Nations, New York City - This periodic review (every 5 years) of the "mother treaty" for nuclear disarmament is driving the disarmament bus right now. Diplomatic positioning for this May treaty is ongoing. Of course, so much depends on what the US brings to the table beyond our president's rhetoric. Including:
Renewal of the START Treaty with Russia - December 2009?
Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) - Spring 2010 (Possible) - Signed in 1996 but rejected by the US Senate in 1999, the CTBT still must be approved by 67 US Senators before it goes into effect. . .
Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) - Language pending. (Advocated by Secretary of State Clinton in her signal USIP nuclear policy speech.)
Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone
Mayors For Peace/Cities Are Not Targets (CANT)
Legislative Opportunities (HR 1653, H Res. 333, H Res. 278, HR 515, HR 644, more?)
Planning for Potential Actions:
I just returned from the US Labor Against the War Assembly in Chicago, December 4-6. There were lots of high points, including the fact that oil workers from the U.S. got together with the heads of the oil unions in Iraq and Venezuela.
But for me the most exciting part was the release of a new 28-minute DVD entitled "Why Are We in Afghanistan?" I admit to being biased, as I participated in the early drafts of the DVD, but I think it will be a great tool for educating and mobilizing union members to oppose the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Education about the facts and the costs of the war was the number one item in USLAW’s Plan of Action; the hope is to show it at union meetings at all levels. There’s also a ten-minute version.
We have our work cut out for us. Many people who opposed the Iraq war are torn about the war in Afghanistan. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was and is a haven for Al Qaeda cells. "Why Are We in Afghanistan?" helps to answer these doubts. Click "Read more."
By David Rovics
The signs up all over the airport and various places elsewhere in town are calling it Hopenhagen, but everybody I know is calling it Cop-enhagen, which seems far more appropriate. The international media has been giving this lots of coverage, and rightly so. Of course much of the media is unable to walk and chew gum at the same time, so other things, such as the reason the protests are happening in the first place, can get lost.
Tomgram: Martin Chulov, Is Iraq's Next Crisis Ecological?
By Martin Chulov | TomDispatch.com
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: If you were struck by the way President Obama arrived in Oslo -- not as a peacemaker, but as a warrior president who, despite mentioning or quoting Martin Luther King six times in his Nobel Prize speech, was mainly intent on justifying war and defending the U.S. as “the world’s sole military superpower” -- consider reading what the real King had to say. Check out his 1967 speech in opposition to an American counterinsurgency war then being escalated by a Democratic president who had hopes of building a Great Society at home: “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”
With each passing day, the transfer of power from American forces to the Iraqi government looks less like a peaceful exchange and more like a bloody descent into chaos. On December 8th, a series of bombings in Baghdad killed at least 121 people and struck two Iraqi government institutions, an appeals court and the Finance Ministry. Those institutions had only recently been relocated after a similarly devastating attack in October, that killed 155 and wounded 500, destroyed their previous buildings. Iraq’s security situation remains grim enough that one Iraqi politician said, “We can only hope that not every day will turn into Bloody Days.”
Iraqi politics, too, remain in a state of some disarray. After months of bickering, a veto handed down by Iraq’s vice president for sectarian reasons, a constitutional crisis, and an 11th-hour emergency deal, parliament finally agreed to have a national election, the country’s first since 2005, even if delayed for two months. Given the recent “successes” of nearby elections in Iran and Afghanistan, there’s no guarantee that another debacle won’t ensue when the Iraqi people head for the polls in March.
And if that process, set in motion by the U.S. invasion and occupation, doesn’t plunge Iraq into the abyss, then the next great crisis to visit the country just might. With crucial international climate negotiations heading into the final stretch in Copenhagen and a warming planet the outcome of whatever weak agreement results, Martin Chulov’s report on the great Iraqi drought couldn’t be more timely. It was written for the upcoming issue of a quarterly magazine we greatly admire, World Policy Journal, and is being posted here thanks to the kindness of that magazine’s editors. It represents the beginning of what we hope is a long relationship -- with TomDispatch posting a provocative piece from each new WPJ issue. (You can, by the way, subscribe to the magazine by clicking here.)
Baghdad correspondent for the British Guardian, Chulov offers the most vivid and extensive account yet of the massive drought that is turning significant parts of what was once “the fertile crescent” into a dust bowl. This ecological crisis is itself part of a larger Middle Eastern drought, and possibly of a series of intense global droughts ranging from Australia to the American West, that may presage a new weather planet. Andy
The Dust Bowl of BabylonAre Crippling Droughts the Next Great Threat to Iraq? By Martin Chulov
[This report appears in the winter 2009/10 issue of World Policy Journal and is posted here with the kind permission of the editors of that magazine.]
BAGHDAD -- From his mud brick home on the edge of the Garden of Eden, Awda Khasaf has twice seen his country’s lifeblood seep away. The waters that once spread from his doorstep across a 20% slab of Iraq known as the Marshlands first disappeared in 1991, when Saddam Hussein diverted them east to punish the rebellious Marsh Arabs. The wetlands have been crucial to Iraq since the earliest days of civilization -- sustaining the lives of up to half a million people who live in and around the area, while providing water for almost two million more.
The waters vanished after the First Gulf War due to a dictator’s wrath; over the next 16 years, they ebbed and flowed, but slowly started to return to their pre-Saddam levels. By 2007, with no more sabotage and average rains, almost 70% of the lost water had been recovered. Now it’s gone again. This time because of a crisis far more endemic: a devastating drought and the water policies of neighboring Turkey, Iran, and Syria. These three nations have effectively stopped most of the headwaters of the three rivers -- the Tigris, Euphrates, and Karoon -- that feed these marshes.
“Once in a generation was bad enough,” says Awda, a tribal head and local sheikh in the al-Akeryah Marshlands, who also advises the Nasiriyah governorate on water issues. “Twice could well be God’s vengeance.”Read more.
Two months ago, we launched www.StopTheChamber.com to expose the U.S. Chamber’s deception, astroturfing, lobbying excesses and election manipulation. We called for the firing of Chamber CEO Tom Donohue, criminal and congressional investigations of Donohue and the Chamber, and companies to quit the Chamber in protest of its extremist policies. The Chamber has a budget over $100 million to defeat health care for all, environmental protection, and banking regulation.
We recently increased to $200,000 our reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue for engaging in criminal conduct. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh picked up on that story last week. And, guess what? We have been flooded with hundreds of profanity laced threats of violence! Characteristics of the treats we have received show clear signs of a coordinated attack. See VR co-founder Brad Friedman’s article at The BRAD BLOG about the wave of threats. The Chamber itself has attempted to intimidate us by saying that it is considering legal action against us and peddling defamatory information to the press.
And how did we respond? We filed a formal complaint with the FBI with copies of all the threats and asked that it conduct a swift investigation to hold those responsible accountable. Now, it is crucial that we continue to respond to this attempted intimidation by strengthening our efforts. Will you help us show the 'right' that its thuggish behavior will not be tolerated?
We want to place more ads and send more press releases exposing the corrupt practices of the Chamber and its CEO. In the past month, major companies such as Apple, PG&E, Mohawk Paper and Exelon have quit the Chamber because of their conduct, and even the White House condemned their extremist positions. Please help us with a donation.
Join our campaign by signing on here. Join thousands of others who have let the Chamber and its board members know that its conduct will no longer be tolerated. From the site you can also send a letter to your Congress members asking them to launch an investigation of the Chamber.
Please send this alert to your friends asking them to sign on. We need everyone to speak up in order to stop the Chamber’s pay-to-play lobbying. Let's get the Chamber out of our way as we work to clean up the environment, provide health care for all, and have honest and transparent elections.
Shell Wins Rights To Iraq's Giant Manjoon Oil Fields
By Sinan Salaheddin and Tarek El-Tablawy | Huffington Post
Iraqi officials cheered and clapped as the first oil field up for bid went to a major international consortium at the opening of the country's biggest postwar auction Friday. But from there, the chill set in.
Oil executives from around the world made deals on only two fields, both in Iraq's relatively stable south, while shunning six others in regions with sporadic violence – and where the risk outweighs the profits that the Iraqi government is offering.
Iraqi officials portrayed the day as a success because they secured deals that will ramp up production in the two giant fields. But the lack of energetic bidding highlighted Iraq's difficulties in turning its wealth of oil – the world's third largest reserves – into a financial bonanza.
Energy experts say Iraq has been tightfisted in the deals it has offered major producers. There is also a long-running feud between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurds over control of petroleum reserves in the north.
Security is yet another issue, particularly in central Iraq and areas north of the capital. Read more.
Here's a portion of Tom Englehard's introduction on this (dangerously and sadly) timeless topic: Let me be blunt about what amazes me when it comes to global warming. In the U.S., it’s largely an issue for Democrats, “progressives,” liberals, the left, and I simply don’t get that. Never have. If the word “conservative” means anything, the key to it must be that word at its heart, “conserve”; that is, the keeping or not squandering of what already is, especially what’s most valuable.
And for us humans, what’s better than our planet? It’s the only home we’ve got and -- though I was one of those 1950s boys who read H.G. Wells and Isaac Asimov, as well as plenty of pulp sci-fi, and spent too much time dreaming about other planets and the stars -- probably the only one we’ll ever have. For us, there is nowhere else. Wreck it and you wreck us.
...Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and TomDispatch regular, explains just why conservatives and everyone else around should board the global-warming express, and pull hard on the brake cord before it’s too late. You can, by the way, catch a TomDispatch audio interview with McKibben on President Obama and climate-change politics in the U.S. by clicking here. Tom
Climate Change as Just Another Political Problem
When it comes to global warming, however, this is precisely why we’re headed off a cliff, why the Copenhagen talks that open this week, almost no matter what happens, will be a disaster. Because climate change is not like any other issue we’ve ever dealt with. Because the adversary here is not Republicans, or socialists, or deficits, or taxes, or misogyny, or racism, or any of the problems we normally face -- adversaries that can change over time, or be worn down, or disproved, or cast off. The adversary here is physics.
Physics has set an immutable bottom line on life as we know it on this planet. For two years now, we’ve been aware of just what that bottom line is: the NASA team headed by James Hansen gave it to us first. Any value for carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere greater than 350 parts per million is not compatible "with the planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” That bottom line won’t change: above 350 and, sooner or later, the ice caps melt, sea levels rise, hydrological cycles are thrown off kilter, and so on.
And here’s the thing: physics doesn’t just impose a bottom line, it imposes a time limit. This is like no other challenge we face because every year we don’t deal with it, it gets much, much worse, and then, at a certain point, it becomes insoluble -- because, for instance, thawing permafrost in the Arctic releases so much methane into the atmosphere that we’re never able to get back into the safe zone. Even if, at that point, the U.S. Congress and the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee were to ban all cars and power plants, it would be too late. Read more.
By Dave Lindorfff
When I was back in eighth grade, my science teacher, Mr. Malone, a brittle old man with a shock of white hair and a stern classroom demeanor, but a sharp sense of humor, had made a banner that ran across the top of the blackboard. It read: “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.”
I used to ponder at that admonition every morning back in 1962, and its message did sink in, as I think it did in the minds of every student in the class who wasn’t just falling asleep in the back of the room, or idly daydreaming. Students in that class went on to become brain surgeons, genetic engineers, writers, computer scientists, horticulturalists and lawyers. I don’t think too many of us are conspiracy theorists.
Why We Left Our Farms to Come to Copenhagen
Speech of Henry Saragih, general coordinator of Via Campesina at the opening session of Klimaforum
By La Via Campesina | Copenhagen, 7th December 2009 | Common Dreams
Tonight is a very special night for us to get together here for the opening of the assembly of the social movements and civil society at the Klimaforum. We, the international peasant movement La Via Campesina, are coming to Copenhagen from all five corners of the world, leaving our farmland, our animals, our forest, and also our families in the hamlets and villages to join you all.
Why is it so important for us to come this far? There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, we would like to tell you that climate change is already seriously impacting us. It brings floods, droughts and the outbreak of pests that are all causing harvest failures. I must point out that these harvest failures are something that the farmers did not create. Instead, it is the polluters who caused the emissions who destroy the natural cycles. So, we small scale farmers came here to say that we will not pay for their mistakes. And we are asking the emitters to face up to their responsibilities.
Secondly, I would like to share with you some facts about who the emitters of green house gases in agriculture really are: new data that has come out clearly shows that industrial agriculture and the globalized food system are responsible of between 44 and 57% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Read more.
HUNGER STRIKERS ARRIVE AT ONE MONTH WITHOUT FOOD RESOLVED IN CALLS FOR WORLD TO TAKE ACTION ON ROOT CAUSES OF CLIMATE CHANGE | Press Release
Seven climate justice activists from around the world have entered the fourth week of a water-only hunger strike,having gone totally without food since November 6. They have been joined by hundreds of solidarity fasters, from 22 different countries, including Romania, Honduras, and the Central African Republic.
Recent announcements from world leaders – including President Obama – indicate that a legally-binding international climate treaty won’t be signed at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen this December. The members of the ’Climate Justice Fast!’ remain resolute, insisting that both world leaders and the global public must use the much-anticipated summit as an opportunity ‘to shift away from business-as-usual and start addressing the root causes of the climate crisis – fossil fuels, over consumption, and a socio-economic paradigm that rewards abuse and exploitation of people and the planet.’
Anna Keenan, a 23 year-old Physics graduate from Australia and one of the key organizers of Climate Justice Fast! explains,“I am doing this hunger-strike because I am inspired by the philosophy of Albert Einstein – that problems can't be solved at the level of awareness that created them.” “In order to solve the climate crisis, we must challenge the assumptions that fossil fuels are ‘cheap’ forms of energy, that infinite economic expansion on a finite planet is possible, and that people and places are expendable commodities.”
Diane Wilson, a 61-year old fisherwoman from Texas part who is participating in the hunger strike, adds that “by rectifying the root causes of climate change, we are confident that our political demands – like commitments from wealthy, high-emitting countries to reduce the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere to 350 ppm and to pledge 195 billion USD per year for adaptation efforts in countries most vulnerable to climate change – will be met as well.”As the global hunger strike enters its fourth week, the diverse members of Climate Justice Fast! show no sign of abandoning their fasts or easing their moral call for immediate, effective action on climate change. The hunger strikers intend to fast at least until the end of the Copenhagen talks, which conclude on December 18. A number of the hunger strikers will be present inside the UN climate summit.
Energizer Bunnies: Turning Rabbits into Green Fuel
By Tara Kelly | Time
Sweden's Tommy Tuvuynger and his team of professional hunters don't have to go far to find their prey. Tuvuynger is employed to keep down rabbit numbers in the Swedish capital, Stockholm. The rabbit population there has exploded over the past few years thanks to owners setting free their pets. Last year the eradication squad killed 6,000 of the furry critters, which are not native to Sweden. When the city started killing the rabbits in 2006, officials realized they would have to dispose of their carcasses. At around the same time, the European Union passed a law that makes it illegal to dispose of raw meat or carcasses in landfills. Solution: use the bunnies as fuel to heat Swedish homes.
When German newspaper Der Spiegel broke news of the novel fuel source last month, many Swedes were outraged. "It feels like they're trying to turn the animals into an industry rather than look at the main problem," says Anna Johannesson of the Society for the Protection of Wild Rabbits. Johannesson and other wildlife campaigners recommend spraying the park with a chemical that makes shrubs and plants unappetizing to the animals. Tuvuynger, though, has little sympathy for that argument. "If you do that you only move the problem 100 meters away. Overpopulation is not good for the animals' well-being because they use up limited natural resources for survival, so shooting them is the only answer." Read more.
Bill McKibben of 350.org wrote:
We don't organize events for their own sake--there needs to be a strategy to make them worth your effort, because your time is this movement's most precious commodity.
Here's our sense of what will be happening at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, and why we're hoping some of you will start or join a candlelight vigil at a strategic or iconic location in your community on Dec. 11th or 12th.
The weekend for these vigils falls smack in the middle of the two-week Copenhagen talks. President Obama just announced that he will visit Copenhagen on December 9th--and there's no doubt that he'll deliver a rousing and eloquent speech. The following day, December 10th, he'll go on from Copenhagen to Norway to collect his Nobel prize.
We need to send a signal to say that speeches and prizes are good, but action is what's really required--enough action to head us back towards 350 parts per million.
Obama will bring an emissions target to the table in Copenhagen, a bittersweet development in this political drama. Sweet because having any sort of commitment from the U.S. increases the chances of global collaboration on a climate deal, bitter because US emissions target represents a paltry 3% reductions below 1990 levels--far from the ambitious cuts scientists say are necessary to get back to 350.
"The Obama administration's decision to continue the Bush administration's policy of refusing to join the international treaty banning antipersonnel landmines is a reprehensible rejection of the most successful disarmament and humanitarian treaty of the past decade," HRW said. [Read the full statement from Human Rights Watch.]
The Obama administration announced yesterday that it would not be joining a treaty signed by 158 other countries to ban landmines. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the decision "lacks vision, compassion, and basic common sense."
The group was also stunned by the manner in which the decision was apparently made and subsequently announced.
Although anti-landmine activists and congressional leaders had been urging the administration to begin reviewing the treaty for months, Obama administration officials never indicated that it had even started the process. Read more.
EFF to Represent Yes Men in Court Battle Over Chamber of Commerce Action | Electronic Freedom Foundation
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP Also Joins in Free Speech Fight
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, will defend the Yes Men and other activists in a lawsuit filed against them by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over political criticism of the Chamber's stance on climate change legislation.
In mid-October, the activists staged a "press conference" in which the Chamber of Commerce ostensibly reversed its position and promised to stop lobbying against strong climate change legislation -- a stance that has caused numerous Chamber members to leave the organization. As has been widely reported, before the press conference was even completed, a Chamber of Commerce representative rushed into the room and revealed that the Chamber's position on climate change legislation had not in fact changed.
"The action was a brilliant piece of political theater, but it had a serious purpose: calling attention to the Chamber's political activities," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "This is core political speech, protected by the First Amendment. We're very pleased that Davis Wright Tremaine -- with its long, successful history of protecting free speech rights of Americans -- has joined us in helping these activists battle a transparent attempt at censorship."
"U.S. courts have recognized that political parody lies at the heart of the First Amendment," said Davis Wright Tremaine LLP partner Bruce Johnson. "Even if the party parodied refuses to giggle--or even panics and sues--free speech will ultimately triumph. We look forward to a prompt dismissal of this case and a reaffirmation of the rights of all Americans to poke fun at the pompous and powerful." Read more.
Maine says NO to Nestle again!
By Jamilla El-Shafei, Organizer | Save Our Water | Kennebunkport, ME
Once again, Maine voters said NO to Nestle! Activists in the communities which surround the Branch Brook Aquifer, located in the southern part of the state handily defeated a water extraction ordinance on a referendum vote in the town of Wells. The ordinance, written under the direction of the Nestle Corporate lawyers, would have opened the door to large scale bottled water extractors. The vote was 3,194 against large scale extraction and 1,420 for, a 69.2% margin!!! This was a stunning defeat for the corporation who was ousted from McCloud, California and in Shapleigh and Newfield, Maine. This was convincing testimony that a grassroots campaign cannot be replaced by slick marketing and Greenwashing.
This was a classic David and Goliath battle. Activists were armed with photocopies to educate citizens about the dangers of corporate control of their groundwater resources but Nestle waged an unprecedented advertising blitz. They spent hundreds of thousands of advertising dollars to influence the vote in the small seaside community. However, their campaign backfired, as the townspeople were overwhelmed and annoyed by the barrage of ads and the appearance that Nestle was trying to "buy their vote."
Still, it was not enough that Nestle was pouring money like water into the campaign to play "spin the bottle," to convince people that they are good environmental stewards. Their PR firm resorted to employing many dirty tricks such as printing the WRONG POLLING HOURS on not just one advertising piece which they mailed to every household, but two! A mistake they said! but twice?! It is a tired old election trick the opposition employees when they are loosing.
Home to a worldwide summit on climate change in early December, Denmark is setting a global example in creating clean power, storing it, and using it responsibly. Their reliance on wind power to produce electricity without contributing to global warming is well known, but now they're looking to drive the point home with electric cars. To do this, they've partnered with social entrepreneur Shai Agassi and his company Better Place.
PBS’ NOW investigates how the Danish government and Better Place are working together to put electric cars into the hands of as many Danish families as possible. The idea is still having trouble getting out of the garage here in America, but Denmark be an inspiration.
Will so much green enthusiasm bring about a "Copenhagen Protocol"? This show is part of a series on social entrepreneurs at work that PBS’ NOW calls "Enterprising Ideas."
By Dave Lindorff
It would be easy to read too much into the few statewide races that were decided last night, but I think it’s fair to say that the results in New Jersey and Virginia, where Republican gubernatorial candidates won--in New Jersey’s case knocking off a well-funded Democratic incumbent--that the results were a blow to the Barack Obama/Rahm Emanuel strategy of playing to the right, of avoiding confrontation in Congress and of ignoring the progressive voters whose enthusiasm and effort back in the 2008 campaign put Obama in office.