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Greenwashing the Tokyo Olympic Games

Greenwashing the Tokyo Olympic Games

“The gap between rhetoric and reality is a persistent one when looking at the sustainability of commitments of Olympic Games hosts”.

– Martin Müller, European Urban and Regional Studies, 2015

The organisers of the Olympics have always been into appearances and grand theatre.  And the International Olympic Committee has always been keen in keeping them up, from the barely credible notion of political neutrality to the now popular goal of carbon neutrality.  In 2015, the IOC decided to fully hop on the sustainability bandwagon, though it claimed to have been “an important topic for the IOC for many years”.  Indeed, in the 1990s, the body echoed the sentiments of the UN’s sustainable development plan Agenda 21 by publishing Olympic Movement’s Agenda 21, though that report displays, rather prominently, the company logo of the oil behemoth Shell.  Sustainable development was, according to the then IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch, “totally in conformity with the goal of Olympism, which is to place everywhere sport at the service of the harmonious development of man.”

In its Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC sets out recommendations for three “spheres of responsibility”.  The first: that the IOC adopt sustainability principles and include them “in its day-to-day operations.”  The second: that the organisation “take a proactive and leadership role on sustainability and ensure that it is included in all aspects of the planning and staging” of the games.  The third, as being the “leader of the Olympic Movement”, the IOC will engage and assist the movement’s “stakeholders in integrating sustainability within their own organisations and operations.”

As with other organisations of scale, problematic strategies such as carbon offsetting are embraced. Much is made of making sure that such “efforts” are communicated both internally “via workshops or by circulating infographics” and externally…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Defund the Canadian Military

Defund the Canadian Military

Progressives should be pushing to defund or abolish the Canadian military. But, first we need to stop bolstering its capacity to kill in US and NATO lead wars.

Wednesday the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute and Canadian Voice of Women for Peace released a public letter opposing Canada’s plan “to spend tens of billions of dollars on unnecessary, dangerous, climate destroying fighter jets.” Signatories include Canadian musicians Neil Young, Teagan and Sarah and Sarah Harmer as well as environmentalists David Suzuki and Naomi Klein. The No new fighter jets for Canada statement is also signed by authors Michael Ondaatje Yann Martel and Gabor Maté as well as sitting MPs, former MPs, city councillors, a Senator, MPP and former UN ambassador. Prominent international figures such as Roger Waters, Daryl Hannah and Noam Chomsky have also backed a call addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The jets are expected to cost about $19 billion but the full life cycle cost of the planes will be closer to $77 billion. These resources could fund clean drinking water on reserves, an exhaustive search of all unmarked graves at residential ‘schools’ and plenty of indigenous run cooperative housing. Or “$77 billion could turbocharge a just transition away from fossil fuels”, notes the letter.

While the letter highlights better ways to use the resources, it also points out that “purchasing new jets will entrench fossil-fuel militarism”. Fighter jets consume large amounts of heavy carbon emitting fuel and their high-altitude release point increases the climatic effect.

But, the primary reason to oppose fighter jets is their violent nature. “Canada’s current fleet of fighter jets has bombed Libya, Iraq, Serbia and Syria”, notes the letter. “Many innocent people were killed directly or as a result of the destruction of civilian infrastructure and those operations prolonged conflicts and/or contributed to refugee crises.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climate Justice and Movement Building: An Interview with Brian Tokar

Climate Justice and Movement Building: An Interview with Brian Tokar

Photograph Source: Fibonacci Blue – CC BY 2.0

Adam Aron: What was your personal journey to focus on the ecological and climate crisis?

Brian Tokar: I was lucky enough to go to a high school in New York City that kids from all around the city can take a test to get into. It was very multicultural and it was a very political place. Then I went to university in Boston in the early 70s and became active in a variety of movements. Anti-war and anti-militarism were the main focuses and also anti-nuclear issues. US activism against nuclear power, really started here in New England and spread across the country.

The US government’s response to the Arab oil embargo was to say they were going to build hundreds of nuclear power plants and they were mostly in rural areas. And here in New England we saw an incredible alliance of people who had gone back to the land in the 1970s, with traditional rural dwellers and supporters from the cities. And it turned into a huge movement with some of the biggest civil disobedience actions in US history. It embraced the kind of decentralized organizing that, as a young person who was starting to read in social ecology, I increasingly saw as a big part of the solution – both in terms of confronting the issues at hand, but also in terms of the kind of social transformation that’s absolutely necessary. And at that time I started following energy issues very closely.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Reindigenizing the Anthropocene

Reindigenizing the Anthropocene

This essay is a response to “Redefining the Anthropocene,” by Erik Molvar, which was published on Counterpunch on May 13, 2021. I recommend that it be read first.

First let me first stress that I am not calling out Molvar personally or even specifically here. As a staunch opponent of livestock grazing on public lands, I greatly value the work of the Western Watersheds Project, of which Molvar is the executive director, and I definitely encourage people to support the organization. As for my critique of his article, what I see as an omission his part is common in environmental circles and is by no means his alone. Also, as I attempt to illustrate a bigger picture, I depart from the context of his article, and it’s entirely possible that we are in accord once I do so, and that his omission was merely an oversight.

Secondly, I totally agree with Molvar that we must work to restore “natural, functioning ecosystems” on the planet, and that this work must include both the prevention of “artificially-caused extinctions” and the protection of “healthy ecosystems.” I also support the campaign he mentions that seeks to safeguard 30% of the planet by 2030 and 50% by 2050.

Where Molvar falls short, in my opinion, is in the view he presents of “humanity.” To illustrate what I mean, here are a few snippets:

* “I propose a new definition of the Anthropocene, as the age in which humanity has become not only recklessly out of balance with nature but also an overwhelming negative force of ecological destruction.”

* “By recognizing the Anthropocene as the period where humankind has gotten out of balance with nature…”

* “It’s our fault, as a species. All of it… That’s where humanity, with our monomania for economic growth and exploitation of natural resources, is right now as a species.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Lithium, Cobalt, and Rare Earths: the Post-Petroleum Resource Race

Lithium, Cobalt, and Rare Earths: the Post-Petroleum Resource Race

Thanks to its very name — renewable energy — we can picture a time in the not-too-distant future when our need for non-renewable fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal will vanish. Indeed, the Biden administration has announced a breakthrough target of 2035 for fully eliminating U.S. reliance on those non-renewable fuels for the generation of electricity. That would be accomplished by “deploying carbon-pollution-free electricity-generating resources,” primarily the everlasting power of the wind and sun.

With other nations moving in a similar direction, it’s tempting to conclude that the days when competition over finite supplies of energy was a recurring source of conflict will soon draw to a close. Unfortunately, think again: while the sun and wind are indeed infinitely renewable, the materials needed to convert those resources into electricity — minerals like cobalt, copper, lithium, nickel, and the rare-earth elements, or REEs — are anything but. Some of them, in fact, are far scarcer than petroleum, suggesting that global strife over vital resources may not, in fact, disappear in the Age of Renewables.

To appreciate this unexpected paradox, it’s necessary to explore how wind and solar power are converted into usable forms of electricity and propulsion. Solar power is largely collected by photovoltaic cells, often deployed in vast arrays, while the wind is harvested by giant turbines, typically deployed in extensive wind farms. To use electricity in transportation, cars and trucks must be equipped with advanced batteries capable of holding a charge over long distances. Each one of these devices usessubstantial amounts of copper for electrical transmission, as well as a variety of other non-renewable minerals. Those wind turbines, for instance, require manganese, molybdenum, nickel, zinc, and rare-earth elements for their electrical generators, while electric vehicles (EVs) need cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and rare earths for their engines and batteries.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Crisis of the Natural World

The Crisis of the Natural World

Mountain Goat, North Cascades National Park. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The natural world is in a state of crisis, and we are to blame. We are in the midst of the Sixth Extinction, the biggest loss of species in the history of humankind. So many species are facing total annihilation. Nearly one-third of freshwater species are facing extinction. So are 40 percent of amphibians84 percent of large mammals; a third of reef-building corals; and nearly one-third of oak trees. Rhinos and elephants are being gunned down at rates so alarming that they could be completely wiped out from the wild by 2034. There may be fewer than 10 vaquita—a kind of porpoise endemic to Mexico’s Gulf of California—due to illegal fishing nets, pesticides and irrigation. There are 130,000 plant species that could become extinct in our lifetimes. All told, about 28 percent of evaluated plant and animal species across the planet are now at risk of becoming extinct.

The rapid decline in species has occurred in recent years: 60 percent of the planet’s wildlife populations have been lost in just the last 50 years. Scientists warn that in the coming decades, if we don’t take action, more than 1 million species may vanish from the Earth forever.

Our fellow Earthlings are being overhunted, overfished and overharvested for our food, clothing and medicines. And the ones that we don’t kill are losing their homes as we destroy their natural habitats to make space for our farms and cities and to extract fuels, minerals, timber and other resources for human society. And the habitats that we don’t completely eradicate we pollute with a vast array of toxic elements, from pesticides and plastics to carbon dioxidefracking chemicals and invasive species

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Anti-Global Warming PR

Anti-Global Warming PR

Biomass plant along the Columbia River. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Propaganda may very well have been invented by the Catholic Church in the year 1622. Yet it was transported into modernity by a man known as Poison Ivy and, more importantly, by Edward Bernays, who once said, The significant revolution of modern times is not industrial or economic or political but the revolution which is taking place in the art of creating consent among the governed.

Just as the Catholic Church tried to prevent stepping into modernity by fighting the Reformation, Poison Ivy fought modernity by combatting those who disliked capital. He fought an ideological public relations battle for Rockefeller but also advised Adolf Hitler.

Not only after the unsavoury beginnings of public relations, the true mastermind of PR, Bernays, had even bigger goals. With his help, propaganda became the art of creating consent among the governed. German philosopher Adorno called this the process of mass deception. Decades later, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky named virtually the same thing:manufacturing consent.

A piece of gigantic machinery had been set in motion to create mass consent in support of corporate capitalism. Today a large section of capitalism’s public relations machinery is fighting a new battle – the battle to preserve the profits of mineral extracting corporations and fossil fuel giants. This, of course, means fighting the awareness that global warming is killing our planet. Anti-global-warming PR seeks to fight knowledge like this:

There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which humankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels… There are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Worse Than the Dreyfuss Affair: the Persecution of Julian Assange

Worse Than the Dreyfuss Affair: the Persecution of Julian Assange

It may appear unnecessary to repeat the truism that democracy depends on transparency and accountability, and yet, how often has the democratic order been betrayed by our leaders in the recent past? How often have the media abandoned their watchdog function, how often have they simply accepted the role of an echo-chamber for the powerful, whether government or transnational corporations?

Among the many scandals and betrayals of democracy and the rule of law we recognize the persecution of inconvenient journalists by governments and their helpers in the media.  Perhaps the most scandalous and immoral example of the multinational corruption of the rule of law is the “lawfare” conducted against Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, who in the year 2010 uncovered war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the United States and its NATO allies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In a world where the rule of law matters, these war crimes would have been promptly investigated, indictments would have been issued in the countries concerned.  But no,  the ire of the governments and the media focused instead on the journalist who had dared to uncover these crimes.  The persecution of this journalist was a coordinated assault on the rule of law by the United States, United Kingdom and Sweden, later joined by Ecuador. The instrumentalization of the administration of justice – not for purposes of doing justice, but to destroy a human being pulled more and more people into a joint-criminal conspiracy of defamation, trumped-up charges, investigations without indictment, deliberate delays and covers-up.

In April 2021 my colleague, Professor Nils Melzer, the UN Rapporteur on torture, published a meticulously researched and methodically unassailable documentation of this almost incredible saga…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Spending More on Nukes: STRATCOM’s Nuclear Death Wish

Spending More on Nukes: STRATCOM’s Nuclear Death Wish

Photograph Source: Sgt Samuel Rogers (USAF/Barksdale Air Force Base) – CC BY 2.0

Being sufficiently able at your job is a good thing.  But beware the trappings of zeal.  When it comes to the business of retaining an inventory for humanity’s annihilation, the zealous should be kept away.  But there Admiral Charles Richard was in April this year, with his siren calls, urging the US Senate to consider a simple proposition.  “Sustainment of modernization of our modern nuclear forces … has transitioned from something we should do, to something we must do.”  As Commander of the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM), he was aching to impress the Senate Committee on Armed Services that the nuclear deterrent was there to be polished and improved.

Much of his address as part of the Posture Statement Review should be treated as the conventional lunacy that comes with that cretin-crusted field known as nuclear deterrence.  “Peace is our profession” remains the somewhat obscene motto of STRATCOM, and it is a peace kept by promising the potential extinction of the human species.

For the Admiral, strategic deterrence is the holy of holies.  If it fails, “we are prepared to deliver a decisive response, decisive in every possible way.”  This decisiveness will be achieved “with a modern resilient, equipped, and trained combatant-ready force.”  To avoid the failure of such deterrence also required revisiting “a critical forgotten lesson that deterrence operates continuously from peacetime, through the gray zone, worldwide, across all domains, and into conflict” [Richard’s emphasis].

The fate of the US (Richard humourlessly calls it safety and security) is indelibly linked to an “effective nuclear triad; a reliable and modern nuclear command, control and communications (NC3) architecture; and a responsive nuclear weapons infrastructure.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Would a Deep Green New Deal Look Like?

What Would a Deep Green New Deal Look Like?

Wind turbines in the Columbia Gorge. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The Green New Deal has attracted perhaps the greatest attention of any proposal for decades.  It would guarantee Medicare-for-All, Housing-for-All, student loan forgiveness and propose the largest economic growth in human history to address unemployment and climate change.

But the last of these hits a stumbling block.  Creation of all forms of energy contributes to the destruction of nature and human life.  It is possible to increase the global quality of life at the same time we reduce the use of fossil fuels and other sources of energy.  Therefore, a “deep” GND would focus on energy reduction, otherwise known as energy conservation.  Decreasing total energy use is a prerequisite for securing human existence.

Recognizing True Dangers

Fossil fuel (FF) dangers are well-known and include the destruction of Life via global heating.   FF problems also include land grabs from indigenous peoples, farmers, and communities throughout the world as well as the poisoning of air from burning and destruction of terrestrial and aquatic life from spills.  But those who focus on climate change tend to minimize very real danger of other types of energy production.  A first step in developing a genuine GND is to acknowledge the destructive potential of “alternative energy” (AltE).

Nuclear power (nukes).  Though dangers of nuclear disasters such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are horrific, problems with the rest of its life cycle are often glossed over.  Mining, milling, and transporting radioactive material to supply nukes with fuel and “dispose” of it exposes entire communities to poisoning that results in a variety of cancers.  Though operation of nukes produces few greenhouse gases (GHGs), enormous quantities are released during production of steel, cement and other materials for building nuclear plants…

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Millions of Tiny Cows to Regenerate the Soil

Millions of Tiny Cows to Regenerate the Soil

Earth Day comes and goes every year but nothing seems to ever really change. We are still headed for climate catastrophe, we are still in the midst of a mass extinction, we are still losing our topsoil at an alarming rate. It is time to center food systems, and especially agriculture, in our efforts to address our ecological emergencies and to live more sanely on this Earth. Food systems are central to each of these emergencies for a number of reasons: the direct amount of energy used in the production, processing and transportation of food; the disproportionate emission of greenhouse gases; the toxic chemicals that end up in our waterways; the loss of autonomy that results from the globalization and corporatization of food systems drives human labor into other unsustainable industries, etc. Of particular importance is the land: how much of it is used by agriculture, who uses it and how it is used. The practices of our dominant agricultural paradigms are rapidly degrading and eroding our soils, and we need topsoil to grow food and sustain life. If we continue on our current trajectory, it’s not a stretch to say that we’re doomed.

Any strategy that truly seeks to heal our environment will have to have degrowth as its cornerstone; in terms of land use, degrowth will allow for rewilding and veritable ecosystem restoration. Since human poverty and exploitation and general misery are largely the result of capitalism’s ethos of growth at all costs, degrowth would also result in a more humane and equal society. Changing how we do agriculture is not only about halting the damage we are doing but also reversing course and undoing the damage. We can use agriculture as a tool to restore our soils and the biodiversity they support…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mette Frederiksen, Boris Johnson: Reject Industry PR, Ban Glyphosate, Protect Public Health! 

Mette Frederiksen, Boris Johnson: Reject Industry PR, Ban Glyphosate, Protect Public Health! 

On 9 April 2021, retired physician and health and environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason wrote to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DEPA). She wanted to draw the agency’s attention to the findings that indicate the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup causes high levels of mortality following contact exposure in bumble bees (glyphosate-formulated herbicides are the most widely used weedicides in agriculture across the globe).

This, Mason argued, has led to a decline of bumblebees in Denmark. She asked the agency why it had used “fraudulent science” on glyphosate from the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency, which in turn take their ‘science’ from Monsanto/Bayer, rather than from the direct observations of The Danish Nature Agency.

Mason’s correspondence focused not only on the destructive environmental impacts of glyphosate but also on the devastating human health aspects.

In relation to sanctioning the continued use of glyphosate in Europe, Mason has previously noted that it was totally unacceptable, possibly negligent or even criminal, for the European Union to have allowed a group of plant scientists on the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) – whose knowledge of human physiology was so lacking that they did not recognise that glyphosate has effects on humans – to make decisions that affect human health.

PAFF’s role was pivotal in the decision to re-licence the use of glyphosate in the EU in 2017.

To date, aside from the DEPA acknowledging receipt of Mason’s letter, there has been no response to the issues raised.

As a follow up, Mason has sent the latest insights to DEPA on the Monsanto-Bayer lawsuits in the US. Three cases brought by Lee Johnson, Edwin Hardeman and Alva and Alberta Pilliod have already gone to trial. In each case, the courts found that Roundup caused their cancers and that Monsanto hid the risks of its product.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Biden’s Climate Plan: It’s Too Late for Gradualism

Biden’s Climate Plan: It’s Too Late for Gradualism

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

President Biden gave us his climate plan on March 31. It was buried inside his American Jobs Plan. The 12,000-word Fact Sheet about it released by the White House hardly acknowledges the climate emergency. The plan is presented as a jobs through infrastructure program.

The climate emergency demands a radical and rapid decarbonization of the economy with numerical goals and timetables to transform all productive sectors, not only power production (27% of carbon emissions), but also transportation (28%), manufacturing (22%), buildings (12%), and agriculture (10%). That emergency transformation can only be met by an ecosocialist approach using public enterprise and planning.

Instead, Biden’s plan emphasizes corporate welfare: subsidies and tax incentives for clean energy that will take uncertain effect at a leisurely pace in the markets. Moreover, it does nothing to stop more oil and gas fracking and pipelines for more gas-fired power plants, or to shut down coal-fired power plants. Without out directly saying so, it is a plan to burn fossil fuels for decades to come.

The scale of spending falls pathetically short of what is needed to decarbonize the economy. An effective plan would not only reach zero emissions on a fast timeline. It would also move quickly toward negative emissions, drawing carbon out of the atmosphere because we are already at a carbon level that is triggering dangerous climate change.

Climate Emergency

It’s too late for gradualism. We must at least aim for the “initial target” of 350 ppm (350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) that was proposed 13 years ago by climate scientists James Hansen and colleagues in a 2008 study. Even in that research report Hansen et al. concluded that 300-325 ppm “may be needed to restore sea ice to its area of 25 years ago.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Suez Highlights the Fragility of Globalization

Suez Highlights the Fragility of Globalization

Photo: Suez Canal Authority.

The global supply chain is an elaborately choreographed ballet, nowhere more than in the flow of containers through which 60% of the world’s seaborne trade travels. Calibrating a stream of over 800 million boxes each year entails sophisticated tracking that makes sure containers reach their destination. The system reaches down to the crane operator who stacks each box in a specified position on the ship, and ensures enough empty boxes are on site to load the next shipment.

Last week the ballet turned into a mosh pit, when a character named MV Ever Given stepped out of its choreographed role to disrupt the entire dance. It blocked the world’s most critical trade chokepoint, the Suez Canal, an artery carrying 30% of the world’s container traffic. Effects radiated across the planet. Oil prices ticked upwards. Ships were held up at major ports from Rotterdam to Newark. Store and e-commerce deliveries were delayed. Both Amazon and Ikea had shipments on the Ever Given itself.

In our just-in-time world, where ships act as precisely scheduled floating warehouses, a week’s interruption creates a backlog that lasts a lot longer. It may only take days to relieve the maritime traffic jam and restore normal canal operations. But leading container shippers predict it could take weeks or even months to sort it all out, as off-schedule ships pile into congested ports. The shipping industry was already struggling with impacts of the pandemic on operations and the way it has shifted consumer purchases from restaurants and entertainment to consumer goods. Containers were short in Asia where much shipping emerges, and costs were way up.  Then the canal blockage piled on. It is “going to result in one of the biggest disruptions to global trade in recent years,” reported MSC, the world’s second leading container shipper.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Nuclear Fuel Buried 108 Feet From the Sea

Nuclear Fuel Buried 108 Feet From the Sea

Photograph Source: D Ramey Logan – CC BY-SA4.0

“The most toxic substance on Earth is separated from exposure to society by ½” of steel encased in a canister.” (Blanch)

That eye-opener comes from renowned nuclear expert Paul Blanch in reference to spent fuel rods removed from San Onofre Nuclear Generation Plant buried near the sea on California’s southern coastline 50 miles north of San Diego.

Seventy-three 20-foot tall canisters of highly toxic nuclear spent fuel rods are nestled underground within 108 feet of the Pacific Ocean and not far from Interstate 5 from which passersby catch a glimpse of 73 large rectangular lids poking above ground, thus sealing the most toxic substances on Earth ensconced in ½” dry casks. (Footnote: In contrast, German CASTOR V/19 ductile cast iron casks, with permanent integrated monitoring, are nearly two-feet thick)

What could possibly go wrong on the seashore?

At the outset of San Onofre’s plans for its 73 buried canisters, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself admitted: (1) the thin ½” stainless steel canisters could crack within 30 years (2) there’s no current technology to inspect, repair or replace cracked canisters (3) limited monitoring means leaks may not be detected soon enough. (Source: Sanonofresafety.org) It is not believed the foregoing has changed one iota.

Unfortunately, when it comes to nuclear risks, what can go wrong isn’t known until it actually goes wrong. Then, it’s too late. Which explains the contention of a professional group associated with publicwatchdogs.org that discussed issues of credibility and truthfulness of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission at a public hearing on March 9th, 2021. More on that follows later.

The 73 San Onofre rectangular lids symbolize the final act of decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, remnants of 50 years of nuclear power…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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