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Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too

Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too

The case for adaptive management by land management agencies has been in the making for a long time, and takes on a new urgency with the changes being forced by the emissions from consumer and industrial combustion of fossil fuels. The case for adaptive conservationby non-governmental organizations takes on its own urgency for the same reason. 

As conceived so far, adaptive management implies adaptation by land management agencies such as the USDA Forest Service. By now, it’s clear as clear can be that, among others, the Forest Service simply must adapt to the new conditions of heat and drought driven by emissions from consumer and industrial combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas. Taken down to cases, the agency must adapt by recognizing which species are unlikely to persist under increasing emissions, and by shifting its management emphasis to species that might hang in there.

At least some in the Forest Service “get it.” For example, consider this November 1, 2016 assessment by Randy Johnson, U.S. Forest Service Research and Development Program: “Forests are changing in ways they’ve never experienced before because today’s growing conditions are different from anything in the past. The climate is changing at an unprecedented rate.” Johnson thus asks, “When replanting a forest after disturbances, does it make sense to try to reestablish what was there before? Or, should we find re-plant material that might be more appropriate to current and future conditions of a changing environment?”

Ya can’t always get what ya want

By forcing change on the set of conditions — temperature, rainfall, snowfall, wind, etc. — that we summarize as climate, we’ve been forcing change on the forests.

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

Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary

Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary

April 26 marks the 33rd anniversary of the 1986 radiation disaster at Chernobyl reactor Number 4 in Ukraine, just north of Kiev the capital. It is still nearly impossible to get scientific consensus on the vast extent of the impacts. The explosions and two-week long fire at Chernobyl spewed around the world something between one billion and nine billion curies of radiation — depending on whose estimates you choose to believe. The accident is classified by the UN as the worst environmental catastrophe in human history.

Chernobyl’s radioactive fallout has been blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths, but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) acknowledges only 56 deaths among firefighters who suffered and died agonizing deaths in the disaster’s immediate aftermath. However, the IAEA’s officially chartered mission is “to accelerate and enlarge the contributions of nuclear power worldwide.” Because of its institutional bias, one can dispute nearly everything the IAEA says about radiation risk.

Also on the low-end of fatality estimates is the World Health Organization which has to have its radiation studies approved by the IAEA! In 2006, the WHO’s “Expert Group concluded that there may be up to 4,000 additional cancer deaths among the three highest exposed groups over their lifetime (240,000 liquidators; 116,000 evacuees, and the 270,000 residents of the Strictly Controlled Zones).” The WHO added to this 4,000 the estimate that “among the five million residents of areas with high levels of radioactive cesium deposition” in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine” predictions suggest “up to 5,000 additional cancer deaths may occur in this population from radiation exposure…”

Alternately, Ukraine’s Minister of Health Andrei Serkyuk estimated in 1995 that 125,000 people had already died from the direct effects of Chernobyl’s radiation. Serkyuk said a disproportionate share of casualties were among children, pregnant women and rescue workers or “liquidators.”

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

Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t

Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t

Every year around Earth Day, I’m reminded of papers I graded in an environmental sociology class. The assignment was to assess your values, explain how you thought you would live as an adult (about 20 years in the future), and then complete an online calculator to find out: If everyone in the world lived like you, how many planets would we need?

The students were all young and idealistic, and most of them cared deeply about the environment. In their papers, they professed how they would live their lives in the most sustainable ways possible — eating vegan diets, avoiding car travel, growing their own food, and so on.

Most were sure they’d find a way to make it work without sacrificing luxuries like international travel.

Then they calculated how many planets would be needed to support everyone in the world living with their ideal lifestyle. Every single student required more than one planet. Most needed about three.

That’s right: If everyone in the world lived like these idealistic, passionate environmentalists, we’d need three planets to produce enough resources for their needs.

These papers hit me hard emotionally. When I was their age, I was them. Their dreams were my dreams — only for me, those dreams are dead.

Even the most committed of them couldn’t get her environmental footprint down to what one planet can provide. There’s almost no way to live in the United States as it is now and be fully sustainable. Attempting to do so requires a constant, overwhelming amount of effort.

I know because I’ve tried to do it myself. It was exhausting, frustrating, and often unsuccessful.

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

The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems

The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems

Photograph by P J Hansen – CC BY-SA 2.0

Sometime in the near future it is highly probable that the Arctic will no longer have sea ice, meaning zero ice for the first time in eons, aka: the Blue Ocean Event.

Surely, the world is not prepared for the consequences of such an historic event, which likely turns the world topsy-turvy, negatively impacting agriculture with gonzo weather patterns, thus forcing people to either starve or fight. But, the problem may be even bigger than shortages of food, as shall be discussed.

Still and all, it’s somewhat consoling to know that the Blue Ocean Event is quite controversial within the scientific community. There are plenty of climate scientists that believe Arctic ice will be there beyond this century. One can only hope they are right because an ice-free Arctic will indubitably create havoc for life on the planet.

However, disturbingly, the prospects for enduring sea ice don’t look good.

Here’s why: Dr. Peter Wadhams (professor emeritus, University of Cambridge) who’s the leading authority on Arctic sea ice (A Farewell to Ice, Oxford University Press) was recently interviewed re the current status of Arctic sea ice, as of 2019, and recorded on TUC radio (live broadcasts on KALW/San Francisco and independent internet radio)

Here are snippets from that interview: Over the past 40 years the loss of Arctic sea ice has rapidly progressed, e.g., from 1976-87 Arctic sea ice thickness decreased by 15%… during the 1990s, thickness decreased by 43% … and today 75% of the sea ice is gone… resulting in an impairment of sea ice albedo, which reflects solar radiation back into outer space by 80-90% with sea ice, but conversely, without sea ice, it absorbs 80-90% of solar radiation into the dark background of iceless water where crucial untold dangers lurk.

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

Delegitimising Journalism: The Effort to Relabel Julian Assange

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

“Your honour, I represent the United States government”.  The Westminster Magistrates Court had been left with little doubt by the opening words of the legal team marshalled against the face of WikiLeaks.  Julian Assange was being targeted by the imperium itself, an effort now only garnished by the issue of skipping bail in 2012. Would the case on his extradition to the US centre on the matter of free speech and the vital scrutinising role of the press?

Thomas Jefferson, who had his moments of venomous tetchiness against the press outlets of his day, was clear about the role of the fourth estate.  A government with newspapers rather than without, he argued to Edward Carrington in 1787, was fundamental so long as “every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”  To Thomas Cooper, he would write in November 1802 reflecting that the press was “the only tocsin of a nation.  [When it] is completely silenced… all means of a general effort [are] taken away.”  The press provided the greatest of counterweights against oppressive tendencies, being the “only security” available.

Not so, now.  The fourth estate has been subjected to a withering.  The State has become canny about the nature of the hack profession, providing incentives, attempting to obtain favourable coverage, and, above all, avoiding dramatic reforms where necessary.  An outfit like WikiLeaks is a rebuke to such efforts, to the hypocrisy of decent appearances, as it is to those in a profession long in tooth and, often, short in substance.

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

EU Threatens to Legalize Human Harm From Pesticides

EU Threatens to Legalize Human Harm From Pesticides

ILSI-Europe Headquarters, Brussels. Photo: PAN Europe

Current EU regulations forbid human exposure to pesticides that are classified as mutagenic, carcinogenic, reprotoxic (toxic for reproduction), persistent or capable of disrupting endocrine systems. By virtue of these and other protective measures EU regulations are considered the gold standard in public protection.

However, experts who are closely linked to industry (or are part of anti-regulation pressure groups) have taken control of the EU’s new Science Advice Mechanism (SAM). These experts have contributed to a report commissioned to reevaluate the EU’s authorisation of pesticides. The report, called “EU authorisation processes of Plant Protection Products”, and published in late 2018, recommends dramatically weakening the EU regulatory system. Especially notable is the adoption of many ideas previously proposed by the chemical industry. For example, the EU currently deems the acceptable level of public exposure to mutagenic pesticides (those that damage DNA) to be zero. The new report recommends scrapping this standard of protection.

The history of the new SAM report is that it was requested by EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. Its purpose was to determine how to act in cases of so-called ‘diverging views’; that is, when media and public interest groups get involved. The request follows a series of major controversies over EU regulatory decision-making. One such controversy was over the herbicide Glyphosate. A “European Citizens Initiative” delivered more than a million signatures to the EU Commission asking for a ban on Glyphosate. Several cities banned Glyphosate. Even a dairy company banned the use of Glyphosate by their farmers.

With this pressure from all over Europe, the EU Commission had difficulty reaching a decision since many EU member states (Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Finland and the U.K) opposed a ban. Ultimately, a very unusual 5-years extension for glyphosate was agreed but soon the discussion will start again.

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

Washington’s Biggest Fairy Tale: “Truth Will Out”

Washington’s Biggest Fairy Tale: “Truth Will Out”

Photograph Source thierry ehrmann – CC BY 2.0

The arrest of Julian Assange has produced rapturous cheering from the American political elite. Hillary Clinton declared that Assange “must answer for what he has done.” Unfortunately, Assange’s arrest will do nothing to prevent the vast majority of conniving politicians and bureaucrats from paying no price for deceiving the American public.

“Truth will out” is a phrase that is routinely recited to keep Americans paying and obeying. Politicians and editorial writers toss this phrase out to simmer down any fears that the government might be conspiring against the people. Actually, “truth will out” is the biggest fairy tale in Washington.

The phrase “truth will out” is first recorded in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Often in Shakespeare’s plays, truths come out only after almost everyone has been conned, stabbed, or screwed. It’s not much better nowadays.

When it comes to politics, “truth will out” should be confined to sarcasm and satire, not to serious pontificating.

Consider the assassination in 1963 of John F. Kennedy. The Johnson administration rushed the Warren Commission to issue a verdict approving the official story of the killing. But the commission announced that the key records would be sealed for 75 years. Truth would out — but not until all the people involved in the coverup had gotten their pensions and died. In 1992, Congress (responding to the uproar provoked by Oliver Stone’s movie on the assassination) shortened the disclosure schedule, but federal agencies are still conniving to withhold key evidence.

The following year, Johnson was running against Barry Goldwater. Folks were warned back then that if they voted for Goldwater, the United States would get involved in a massive land war in Asia. Well, Johnson won and he dragged the United States into the Vietnam War on the basis of totally false claims about the Gulf of Tonkin incident. 

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

Climate Change Parallax

Climate Change Parallax

There exists a very seductive delusion that once we cool (or heat) the planet to the proper temperature that the majority of our ecological ills will be over. This is a dangerous self-dectption. “Climate change” per se is not the problem. Temperature fluctuations (increases) reflect underlying carnage caused to nature by excessive human activity.

Once “global warming” has been defeated, and temperatures have been restored to “normal” levels, it will be clearly evident that nothing has been solved. Environmental deterioration will continue its ugly descent. Here is a small itemization of conditions that will not be addressed by a “normal climate”:

Concrete. The manufacture and overuse of concrete represents perhaps the leading edge of ecological destruction. Endless earth surfaces are being ripped apart and mined to obtain the literal mountains of sand used in concrete manufacture. The manufacture of the cement component is energy intensive and releases voluminous harmful by-products into the air and water. The impervious surfaces created all over the world by indiscriminate use of concrete are entombing the planet in sterile death.

Plastic. The ubiquity and environmental chaos of plastic has been endlessly documented and need not be addressed here. The point is that once temperatures (climate change) have been restored, all of the environmental repercussions of plastic will remain behind.

Habitat destruction. The sine qua non of understanding what is happening to the livability of planet Earth is to recognize that the very land itself, the soil, the surface, the natural face of land itself, continues to be devoured by “growth”. The surface of the Earth is going under, taking with it all of the wonderful aspects of a living breathing natural world, sucking it into an ecological black hole.

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

State of Apocalyptic Nature: A Contract with Gaia

State of Apocalyptic Nature: A Contract with Gaia

As for the individual, every one is a son of his time; so philosophy also is its time apprehended in thoughts. It is just as foolish to fancy that any philosophy can transcend its present world, as that an individual could leap out of his time or jump over Rhodes.

The very fact that something is determined as a limitation implies that the limitation is already transcended. – Hegel

Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and most recently Rawls have all been exemplary practitioners of contract theory.

As is well known, all four of these political theorists began with a particular conception of the state of nature or put into other words man’s original existential situation prior to all forms of government or social contract.

In each case, the state of nature is pre-historical because pre-political.

How each thinker viewed man’s primary condition dictated the course of their further arguments concerning humanity’s fundamental political decisions and actions.

This profound intellectual tradition led most famously to the political beliefs and institutions that founded the United States (at least in theory if not in future practice) and later supplied the world, in part through the consequences of the French Revolution, with today’s democratic principles and ideals especially as they relate to Universal Human Rights.

Although, practically speaking, the fruits of contract theory have by no means been fully applied they nonetheless have provided and arguably still provide the intellectual and spiritual resources for critical projects of reform and even revolution.

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

The Failures of Farming and the Necessity of Wildtending

The Failures of Farming and the Necessity of Wildtending

Kollibri terre Sonnenblume came through Saint Paul late last year and I will never forget his eye contact. It was steady and intimate. He was unafraid of what judgements lay on the other side. I tried my best to keep it, but rather sheepishly, turned away more times than I would have liked. It is dismaying when you find out how much distance you have created in your modern world, when even the child’s act of looking upon another while in conversation presents itself as a trying practice. Kollibri had the ease of someone close to himself—he was never retreating into his iPhone screen, but instead letting his thoughts flow from the inside-out. If all of this sounds elementary, I am happy for the reader, for they have found some connection that is uninterrupted.

I bring this up largely to tie it the larger theme of Kollibri’s book The Failures of Farming and the Necessity of Wildtending, both in its message and its tone. One glides through the cheerful prose with the ease of someone who has smoked the right amount of weed, even as Kollibri confronts the weed industry itself and its environmental impacts. The question the book begins with is a large one—and one much debated before. Are we happier, and better off now, then we ever have been? If we are, that is a little bit horrifying, and it should be no cause to celebrate our own dismal times, but to despair over the rest of time spent. 

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

Yellow Vest Movement Struggles to Reinvent Democracy as Macron Cranks Up Propaganda and Repression

Yellow Vest Movement Struggles to Reinvent Democracy as Macron Cranks Up Propaganda and Repression

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

After five months of constant presence at traffic circles, toll-booths and hazardous Saturday marches,  the massive, self-organized social movement known as the Yellow Vests has just held its second nationwide “Assembly of Assemblies.” Hundreds of autonomous Yellow Vest activist groups from all over France each chose two delegates (one woman, one man) to gather in the port city of St. Nazaire for weekend of deliberation (April 5-7).

After weeks of skirmishing with the municipal authorities, the local Yellow Vests were able to host 700 delegates at the St. Nazaire “House of the People,” and the three-day series of general meetings and working groups went off without a hitch in an atmosphere of good-fellowship. A sign on the wall proclaimed: “No one has the solution, but everybody has a piece of it.”

Their project: mobilize their “collective intelligence” to reorganize, strategize, and prolong their struggle. Their aim: achieve the immediate goals of livable wages and retirements, restoration of social benefits and public services like schools, transportation, post offices, hospitals, taxing the rich and ending fiscal fraud to pay for preserving the environment, and, most ambitious of all, reinventing democracy in the process. Their Declaration ends with the phrase “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I often wonder if they know who coined it.

Yellow and Green Unite and Fight

Particular attention was paid to the issue of the environment, reaffirming the popular slogan: “End of the week. End of the world. Same logic, same struggle.” (It rhymes in French.) The Assembly went further and called on “All persons who wish to put an end to the expropriation of the living to take up a conflictual stance against the present system in order to create, together, a new ecological, popular social movement.”

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

Politics, Democracy and Environmental Rebellion

Politics, Democracy and Environmental Rebellion

Pulp Mill, Longview, Washington. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

A question worth asking is: what conceivable national electoral outcome would resolve the political dysfunction that currently prevents much-needed programs such as solving climate change and mass extinction, national health care, and an end to militarism from being enacted? While setting aside for a moment the national / international divide that facilitated post-War liberalism, class struggle has reemerged to redraw political alignments that lack formal institutions from ‘below’ to move them forward. Would a Democratic sweep in 2020 really change this political landscape?

Focus on elected officials rather than the systemic levers of class control support the carefully crafted posture of great difference between the governing Parties. Political marketing posits the locus of power within personal traits that suborn the class relations the candidates support to a passive role. In the realm of diversions, the passion of anti-Trumpism has been temperedsomewhat since the 2018 mid-term elections by actual Democrats regaining control of the House. As enthusiastically despised as Mr. Trump is, all it takes is a gander at the ‘opposition’ to illuminate the political role that manufactured constraints play.

The near-term political success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is likely attributable to the distance she has kept from the much-despised political establishment. She said so herself. To paraphrase, her constituents are the people who elected her, not her colleagues in congress. This return to politics, to taking one’s case to the people, 1) is the only way forward for left politics and 2) illustrates how institutional constraints are political in the sense that they preclude only those acts and policies that are inconvenient to official interests. Radical policies that benefit the rich are normalized as necessary— e.g. the U.S. war against Iraq and the Wall Street bailouts.

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

What Will You Say to Your Grandchildren?

What Will You Say to Your Grandchildren?

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Facing oncoming climate disaster, some argue for “Deep Adaptation”—that we must prepare for inevitable collapse. However, this orientation is dangerously flawed. It threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy by diluting the efforts toward positive change. What we really need right now is Deep Transformation. There is still time to act: we must acknowledge this moral imperative.

Every now and then, history has a way of forcing ordinary people to face up to a moral encounter with destiny that they never expected. Back in the 1930s, as Adolf Hitler rose to power, those who turned away when they saw Jews getting beaten in the streets never expected that decades later, their grandchildren would turn toward them with repugnance and say “Why did you do nothing when there was still a chance to stop the horror?”

Now, nearly a century on, here we are again. The fate of future generations is at stake, and each of us needs to be prepared, one day, to face posterity—in whatever form that might take—and answer the question: “What did you do when you knew our future was on the line?”

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past few months, or get your daily updates exclusively from Fox News, you’ll know that our world is facing a dire climate emergency that’s rapidly reeling out of control. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a warning to humanity that we have just twelve years to turn things around before we pass the point of no return. Governments continue to waffle and ignore the blaring sirens. The pledges they’ve made under the 2015 Paris agreement will lead to 3 degrees of warming, which would threaten the foundations of our civilization.

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

The Case Against the CIA’s Censors

The Case Against the CIA’s Censors

Carol M. Highsmith • Public domain

I have joined in a lawsuit with four former federal employees to end the government’s censorship of our writings on national security issues.  The current publications review system of our military and intelligence agencies is dysfunctional, inhibiting our ability to participate in national security debates.  The government has a legitimate interest in protecting bona fide secrets, but the review system is opaque, exceeding legitimate national security boundaries and compromising free speech.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden has acknowledged the problem, stating that “although the public cannot be briefed on everything, there has to be enough out there so that the majority of the population believes what they [i.e., intelligence agencies] are doing is acceptable.”

My experience with the Central Intelligence Agency’s review system exemplifies the obstacles that keep legitimate information from policymakers and the public. In last year’s congressional discussions of the confirmation for CIA director Gina Haspel, senior agency officials such as former acting director Mike Morell were permitted to defend her role in the unconscionable practice of torture and abuse in secret prisons during the War on Terror.  The CIA’s publications review board, however, redacted my writings describing her extensive role in these activities.  Her involvement was effectively covered up! For a forthcoming book, the reviewers ordered me to remove a reference to an article in the New York Times that referred to these activities because they claimed the “title” of that article was classified.

My last book, Whistleblower at the CIA, was critical of the CIA’s politicization of intelligence in the 1980s as well as in the run up to the Iraq War in 2003.  The book was held up for 11 months, violating the 30-day time period for review that was part of my original agreement with the CIA; that time frame was affirmed in a 1972 circuit court decision. 

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

Iraq’s WMDs Found…In Russia

Iraq’s WMDs Found…In Russia

White House photo by Eric Draper

In late 2017, actor Morgan Freeman announced in a video created by a who’s who of senior U.S. Intelligence officials that Russia had attacked the United States and that ‘we’ were at war. Freeman, whose net worth is said to be about a quarter-billion dollars, claimed that ex-Soviet ‘authoritarian’ Vladimir Putin, bitter about the dissolution of ‘his’ country, was behind the attack. The terms ‘attack’ and ‘war’ were not qualified as metaphors.

The crudeness of the appeal— provoking naked fear of invading hordes of godless communists led by an evil dictator, had a retro quality that undid thirty years of technocratic upgrading of American agitprop Where is the Reagan-era Patrick Swayze packing a grenade launcher when you need him? Or going back a bit further in agitprop history, where is Kevin McCarthy with a panicked warning about your neighbors going to sleep as good Americans and waking up as communistsstooges of the Kremlin?

Within weeks of Donald Trump’s electoral victory the ‘true American’ press, in the form of the Washington Post, revealed that it had a list of known communists who had infiltrated the U.S. government political websites that were acting as witting or unwitting agents of the Kremlin, current company included. One could be forgiven for imagining that the ‘authoritarian’ Donald Trump was behind the smear.  But no— it appears to have been Ukrainian ‘patriots’ with ties to both the Democratic Party leadership and actual European Nazisthat struck this blow for freedom.

Freedom through censorship might seem an odd construct until it is understood that Kremlin agents are everywhere. By 2017, my friends from New York were suddenly afraid to venture out of Manhattan for fear of encountering a ‘Trump voter.’ (This is true).

 …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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