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We Should Aspire to be Peasants

We Should Aspire to be Peasants

Painting by Johann Ludwig Ernst Morgenstern – Public Domain

Rising food prices — as the USDA has forecast for 2022 — may seem like a good thing for farmers.

After all, who wouldn’t like to see some more cash? Farmers, like everyone else, have been through a lot lately. Years of stagnant or falling farm income in many ways paralleled the stagnant wages of so many Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic sent shockwaves through our supply chain, crashing farm prices and disrupting markets.

But the story is not so simple.

Inputs – that’s where the problem lies. Whether it’s fertilizer, seed, machinery or fuel, farmers are having to pay more to grow our nation’s food. The war in Ukraine has led to fuel and fertilizer shortages, another component of the soaring input costs.

Clearly, corporations are also price gouging. With every aspect of agriculture being highly consolidated, it’s easy for companies to do as they wish, as just four firms control over 60% of our seed, another four determine what happens with 75% of fertilizer in the U.S., and still four others set the terms for over 75% of grain sales. Meanwhile, some corporations, instead of allowing farmers to repair their own machinery, require them to seek out pricey company-authorized technicians when things break down.

Corporate agribusiness controls the food system, racking up profits while farmers and consumers dance to their tune.

So, what’s the answer, who should we look to in times like these?

Peasants, that’s who. Peasants actually produce food for their families and communities, not commodities for the global economy.

Most American farmers probably think it laughable to see peasant farming as a model. American farmers are told that they feed the world, while peasants work small acreages and think in terms of food diversity and food sovereignty, not mono-cultures and global markets.

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

We are One Species

We are One Species

Homeless camp and salmon mural under Morrison Bridge, Portland, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The world is a mess, in both social and ecological terms, mired in unjust and unsustainable systems. Responsibility for this condition is not shared equally. Powerful nations define world politics that has produced dramatic wealth inequality, and rich nations contribute more to global warming and ecosystem collapse. But along with efforts to change those conditions and address the crises today, we should reflect on how we got here. How did one species end up so fractured?

First, it should be uncontroversial to assert the antiracist principle, anchored in basic biology, that we are one species. There are observable differences in such things as skin color and hair texture, as well as some patterns in predisposition to disease based on ancestors’ geographic origins, but the idea of separate races was created by humans and is not found in nature.

There are no known biologically based differences in intellectual, psychological, or moral attributes between human populations from different regions of the world. There is individual variation within any human population in a particular place (obviously, individuals in any society differ in a variety of traits). But there are no meaningful biologically based differences between populations in the way people are capable of thinking, feeling, or making decisions. We are one species. We are all basically the same animal.

Although we are one species, there are obvious cultural differences among human populations around the world. Those cultural differences aren’t a product of human biology; that is, they aren’t the product of any one group being significantly different genetically from another, especially in ways that could be labeled cognitively superior or inferior. So why have different cultures developed in different places?

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The American Empire Self-Destructs, But Nobody Thought That It Would Happen This Fast

The American Empire Self-Destructs, But Nobody Thought That It Would Happen This Fast

Photograph Source: Phil Dolby – CC BY 2.0

Empires often follow the course of a Greek tragedy, bringing about precisely the fate that they sought to avoid. That certainly is the case with the American Empire as it dismantles itself in not-so-slow motion.

The basic assumption of economic and diplomatic forecasting is that every country will act in its own self-interest. Such reasoning is of no help in today’s world. Observers across the political spectrum are using phrases like “shooting themselves in their own foot” to describe U.S. diplomatic confrontation with Russia and allies alike. But nobody thought that The American Empire would self-destruct this fast.

For more than a generation the most prominent U.S. diplomats have warned about what they thought would represent the ultimate external threat: an alliance of Russia and China dominating Eurasia. America’s economic sanctions and military confrontation have driven these two countries  together, and are driving other countries into their emerging Eurasian orbit.

American economic and financial power was expected to avert this fate. During the half-century since the United States went off gold in 1971, the world’s central banks have operated on the Dollar Standard, holding their international monetary reserves in the form of U.S. Treasury securities, U.S. bank deposits and U.S. stocks and bonds. The resulting Treasury-bill Standard has enabled America to finance its foreign military spending and investment takeover of other countries simply by creating dollar IOUs. U.S. balance-of-payments deficits end up in the central banks of payments-surplus countries as their reserves, while Global South debtors need dollars to pay their bondholders and conduct their foreign trade.

This monetary privilege – dollar seignorage – has enabled U.S. diplomacy to impose neoliberal policies on the rest of the world, without having to use much military force of its own except to grab Near Eastern oil.

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Four Reasons Civilization Won’t Decline: It Will Collapse

Four Reasons Civilization Won’t Decline: It Will Collapse

Photograph Source: Studio Incendo – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

As modern civilization’s shelf life expires, more scholars have turned their attention to the decline and fall of civilizations past.  Their studies have generated rival explanations of why societies collapse and civilizations die.  Meanwhile, a lucrative market has emerged for post-apocalyptic novels, movies, TV shows, and video games for those who enjoy the vicarious thrill of dark, futuristic disaster and mayhem from the comfort of their cozy couch.  Of course, surviving the real thing will become a much different story.

The latent fear that civilization is living on borrowed time has also spawned a counter-market of “happily ever after” optimists who desperately cling to their belief in endless progress.  Popular Pollyannas, like cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, provide this anxious crowd with soothing assurances that the titanic ship of progress is unsinkable.  Pinker’s publications have made him the high priest of progress.[1] While civilization circles the drain, his ardent audiences find comfort in lectures and books brimming with cherry-picked evidence to prove that life is better than ever, and will surely keep improving.  Yet, when questioned, Pinker himself admits, “It’s incorrect to extrapolate that the fact that we’ve made progress is a prediction that we’re guaranteed to make progress.”[2]

Pinker’s rosy statistics cleverly disguise the fatal flaw in his argument.  The progress of the past was built by sacrificing the future—and the future is upon us.  All the happy facts he cites about living standards, life expectancy, and economic growth are the product of an industrial civilization that has pillaged and polluted the planet to produce temporary progress for a growing middle class—and enormous profits and power for a tiny elite.

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

Fukushima Takes a Turn for the Worse

Fukushima Takes a Turn for the Worse

Photograph Source: IAEA Imagebank – CC BY 2.0

Tokyo Electric Power Company-TEPCO- has been attempting to decommission three nuclear meltdowns in reactors No. 1 No. 2, and No. 3 for 11 years now. Over time, impossible issues grow and glow, putting one assertion after another into the anti-nuke coffers.

The problems, issues, enormous danger, and ill timing of deconstruction of a nuclear disaster is always unexpectedly complicated by something new. That’s the nature of nuclear meltdowns, aka: China Syndrome debacles.

As of today, TEPCO is suffering some very serious setbacks that have “impossible to deal with” written all over the issues.

Making all matters nuclear even worse, which applies to the current mess at Fukushima’s highly toxic scenario, Gordon Edwards’ following statement becomes more and more embedded in nuclear lore: “It’s impossible to dispose of nuclear waste.” (Gordon Edwards in The Age of Nuclear Waste From Fukushima to Indian Point)

Disposing of nuclear waste is like “running in place” to complete a marathon. There’s no end in sight.

As a quickie aside from the horrendous details of the current TEPCO debacle, news from Europe brings forth the issue of nuclear power emboldened as somehow suitable to help the EU transition to “cleaner power,” as described by EU sources. France supports the crazed nuke proposal but Germany is holding its nose. According to German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke: “Nuclear energy could lead to environmental disasters and large amounts of nuclear waste. (Source: EU Plans to Label Gas and Nuclear Energy ‘Green’ Prompts Row, BBC News, Jan. 2, 2022) Duh!

Minister Lemke nailed it. And, TEPCO is living proof (barely) of the unthinkable becoming thinkable and disastrous for humanity. Of course, meltdowns are never supposed to happen, but they do.

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

Bright Green Lies Torpedoes Greens

Bright Green Lies Torpedoes Greens

Bright Green Lies (Monkfish Book Publishing, 2021) grumbles and growls like a rambunctious thunderstorm on an early spring day opening up darkened clouds of acid rain across the world of environmentalism, including celebrated personalities.

According to Bright Green Lies authors Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert: “We are writing this book because we want our environmental movement back.” As such, they charge ahead with daggers drawn, similar to Planet of the Humans (2019-20), nobody spared.

As explained therein, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) brought on the environmental movement as well as establishment of the EPA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. She did not call for “saving civilization,” which is the common rallying cry today (“Civilizations Last Chance” by Bill McKibben or Lester Brown, “The Race to Save Civilization”). Rachel Carson called for “saving nature.”

“Today’s environmental movement stands upon the shoulders of giants, but something has gone terribly wrong… Mainstream environmentalists now overwhelmingly prioritize saving industrial civilization over saving life on the planet.” (pgs 26-27)

Losing the essence of environmentalism is part of the true grit of Bright Green Lies, a smart book that fascinates and teases the mind with solid usage of the “laws of physics” as it drills down into the depths of the nuts and bolts of green energy, renewable devices, and how this dream of Green has gone off track.

Bright Green Lies is a very controversial book within the environmental community because it is “deep green” in the sense that their argument leaves almost no room for modern-day civilization, and it is overly critical of today’s brand of environmentalists.

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

J. Edgar Hoover’s Legacy: Spying On Democracy

J. Edgar Hoover’s Legacy: Spying On Democracy

Photograph Source: United States Library of Congress – Public Domain

The surveillance activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Portland and other American cities earlier this year is reminiscent of FBI-CIA-NSA efforts to disrupt anti-Vietnam protest groups in the 1960s and 1970s.  In 2021, FBI agents, dressed in plainclothes,  were embedded in Portland’s racial justice protests.  Agents alerted local police to potential arrests. The Department of Justice and its Office of the Inspector General must investigate these activities closely because they replicate the illegal activities of the FBI’s counterintelligence program during the Cold War.

The FBI has been conducting domestic surveillance operations since its inception in the 1920s, marking nearly a hundred years of violating the First Amendment of the Constitution.  Very few of these operations involved the investigation and gathering of evidence of a serious crime, the only justification for FBI surveillance.  J. Edgar Hoover, appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation in1924, amassed illegal powers of surveillance that enabled him to conduct extra-legal tracking of activists, collect compromising information, and even to threaten and intimidate sitting presidents.

Hoover created the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) in the 1950s to counter the activities of the Communist Party in the United States, but it morphed into a program of covert and illegal activities to disrupt numerous political organizations, particularly the anti-Vietnam war and civil rights organizations of the 1960s and 1970s.  He exaggerated the threat of communism to ensure financial and public support for the FBI.  (The Pentagon similarly exaggerates the Russian and Chinese threats to elicit greater defense spending, such as the record-setting budget that President Biden signed on Monday.)  When Supreme Court decisions made it more difficult to prosecute individuals for their political opinions, Hoover formalized a covert “dirty tricks” program that included illegal wiretaps, forged documents, and burglaries.

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

JFK Revisited: Oliver Stone and the New JFK Fact Pattern

JFK Revisited: Oliver Stone and the New JFK Fact Pattern

When Oliver Stone first ambles through Dealey Plaza in Dallas in the opening frames his new documentary JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, I couldn’t help but think the man is a soldier. Rumpled, restless, and searching, the 75-year old director looks around the scene of the murder of President John F. Kennedy with the gaze of a combatant and a survivor.

Stone is the dogged veteran of a culture war that has been going on for thirty years since the release of his 1991 Oscar-winning feature film, JFK, a struggle to define American history that ripples through the culture with every new development in the ever-evolving JFK story. He is also a Vietnam veteran who did a dangerous tour of combat duty, as depicted his 1987 film Platoon. The man risked his life for his country, I thought, a sacrifice that few of his harshest critics have ever made.

When I shared that thought with Stone in a telephone interview, he demurred. “Serving as a soldier doesn’t give me any better political insights than someone who did not,” he insisted, with the modesty that has recurred in our occasional conversations over the years. As film critic Ann Hornaday observed in a recent Washington Post piece that was actually fair to the Oscar-winning director. “To spend time with Oliver Stone is to enter a different kind of looking glass,” Hornaday wrote, “A man often caricatured as wild-eyed provocateur is thoughtful, easygoing and generous even at his most contrarian.”

Knowing Stone personally, I can say the canard that he is a fabulist or a fanatic is unfounded and unfair. In person, he is thoughtful, playfully aggressive, and occasionally insecure. The word “encyclopedic” does not do justice to his knowledge of American history or the cinema or politics…

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To Keep Fossil Carbon Out of the Air, Just Stop Pulling It Out of the Earth

To Keep Fossil Carbon Out of the Air, Just Stop Pulling It Out of the Earth

Expectations for the 2021 COP26 climate summit were always low. They had dimmed even further by the time the prominent climate activist Vanessa Nakate of Uganda spoke from the main stage on the Glasgow conference’s next-to-last day.

Nakate chided her audience for sleepwalking toward catastrophe: “We see business leaders and investors flying into COP on private jets. We see them making fancy speeches. We hear about new pledges and promises. … I have come here to tell you that we don’t believe you.” She added, “I am here to say, prove us wrong.”

Throughout the summit, people of all ages and backgrounds had rallied in the streets outside to demand effective climate action, climate justice, an end to exploitation, and other policies through which the world’s governments might prove Nakate wrong.

On November 5, more than 8,000 children, teenagers, parents, and teachers marched through the city, calling on the generation now in power not to ruin the future for generations who follow. The next day, a surge of more than 100,000 climate marchers demanded an end to fossil fuel investments, a global conversion to renewable energy financed by wealthy countries, and reparations for Indigenous communities.

Tuntiak Katan, a member of the Shuar nation in Ecuador, reminded reporters that “Indigenous peoples already protect 950 million hectares of land worldwide.” Affluent nations, he said, must “abandon extractivism and get the oil, mining and agribusiness companies out of our territories, and apply a holistic vision, combined with the vision of the indigenous peoples.”

The Glasgow marchers’ goals were both necessary and achievable, but they knew all too well that fossilized COP summits have failed the world twenty-five times since 1995, and COP26 would be no different.

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Code Red on FacingFuture.TV

Code Red on FacingFuture.TV

Photograph Source: Emertz76 – CC BY 2.0

FacingFuture.TV recently hosted a preview of the upcoming IPCC 2021 UN climate report, which report guides the gathering of dignitaries from around the world meeting in Glasgow this November to discuss, analyze, and decide how to deal with global warming/climate change.

According to the Code Red interview, the IPCC is taking off its ultra conservative facemask of prior years to reveal a surly cantankerous grim sneer on a darkened background. In short, climate change is much worse than the IPCC has previously been willing to admit.

The FacingFuture.TV interview features Mark Andersen, CEO of Strategic News Service, Brian Wright a natural medicine expert, and Peter Carter an IPCC expert reviewer. The threesome expressed dismay over the failure of the general public to “get the climate change message” clearly enough to force policymakers to take some kind of massive urgent all-hands-on-deck immediate without hesitation corrective measures to head off an undeviating course of surefire destruction.

The following snippets from that interview underscore a level of frustration and a sense of urgency as a clarion call for anybody and everybody to demand an immediate halt to fossil fuels.

What’s new with the IPCC?

For starters, according to Dr. Carter, the new report is a “definitive report.” Its conclusions are definite. In other words, the IPCC is taking the issue much more seriously than ever before. This is the first report to state that global climate change is “unequivocally caused by human activities.”

Moreover, previous IPCC reports inadvertently gave the impression that society has plenty of time until 2050 to make the necessary changes, which has unintentionally served to bolster the interests of the fossil fuel industry and extend forecasts for future production by the International Energy Agency.

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

Why the Troubled U.S. Empire Could Quickly Fall Apart

Why the Troubled U.S. Empire Could Quickly Fall Apart

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The U.S. wars lost in Iraq and Afghanistan showed imperial overreach beyond what even 20 years of war could manage. That the defeats were drawn out for so many years shows that domestic politics and the funding of the domestic military-industrial complex were, more than geopolitics, the key drivers of these wars. Empires can die from overreach and sacrificing broadly social goals for the narrow interests of political and economic minorities.

The United States has 4.25 percent of the world’s population yet accounts for about 20 percent of global deaths from COVID-19. A rich global superpower with a highly developed medical industry proved to be badly unprepared for and unable to cope with a viral pandemic. It now wrestles with a huge segment of its population that seems so alienated from major economic and political institutions that it risks self-destruction and demands the “right” to infect others. Refusing to accept lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates in the name of “freedom” mixes a frightening stew of ideological confusion, social division, and bitterly rising hostility within the population. The January 6 events in Washington, D.C., showed merely the tip of that iceberg.

Levels of debt—government, corporate, and household—are all at or near historical records and rising. Feeding and thereby supporting the rising debts is the Federal Reserve with its years of quantitative easing. Officials at the highest levels are now discussing the possible issuance of a trillion-dollar platinum coin to have the Fed give that sum in new credit to the U.S. Treasury to enable more U.S. government spending. The purpose goes far beyond political squabbling over the cap on the national debt…

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Deconstructing Electric Vehicles on the eve of Glasgow COP26

Deconstructing Electric Vehicles on the eve of Glasgow COP26

A lead human-interest story in the weekend Wheels section of a major Canadian newspaper is about a 2-car family’s transitioning from a hybrid to an EV as they “try to be more sustainable”. They upgrade their daily car every few years to seek “improvements in fuel efficiency, reliability and technology”. Electric vehicles (EVs) are feted by the automobile and ecojustice sectors as part of the “just transition” to a future “carbon-neutral”, happy, dignified quality of life. Another news item from the Wheels section was about the costs of home EV battery chargers costing about $2000; the chargers are plugged into electric outlets (electricity commonly supplied from fossil fuels or nuclear reactors), while the costs will be “quickly re-couped in government rebates” as public transportation subsidies continue their decline. So much for the climate emergency and for human justice, for morality and taking responsibility for mounting climate-caused human deaths and mass migration. Nothing in the newspaper about the indignation of ordinary, common people worldwide, especially among the young.

Since the 1988 Congressional definitive testimony of James Hansen and other climate scientists, there is no discourse about “Stop”: elimination of fossil fuel emissions quickly morphed into adaptation and mitigation which is now replaced by “transition”. EVs is a representative example of focusing on one small part, conveniently deleting the whole. The whole EV picture must include externalities, life cycle analysis, consideration of non-essential production, impacts of its production on basic human needs, the urgent timeline due to non-linear climate processes, regional climate and sociopolitical processes and who EVs actually serve, EV’s effects on carbon sinks, pertinent facts about human and climate history, loss and damage obligations and debt to people totally impacted and totally innocent regarding the climate emergency, alternatives, elucidating who is served in a “just transition”.

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The Four Layers of Reality — and Why We’re Only Allowed to Talk About One

The Four Layers of Reality — and Why We’re Only Allowed to Talk About One

No matter which mainstream media segment you’re currently watching, I can promise you it’s not getting to the heart of any issue. By definition they only participate in surface level analysis. For example, there are three or four levels of reality we should be discussing when we talk about any United States election. And by “discussing,” I mean “screaming about,” and by “screaming about,” I mean “freaking out about.” So, let’s freak out – shall we?

Quick tangent – I got made fun of as a kid for “freaking out” or “spazzing out” all the time, but when you think about it — when you really think about it — shouldn’t we all be freaking out? When you look around and so few people are enjoying their lives and so many people are struggling or oppressed, and there are new and bizarre illnesses and viruses to worry about, and all of our so-called leaders are goddamn corrupt morons — shouldn’t we all be spazzing out? If you look at our current reality, it’s all spazz-worthy.

Anyway, we have three or four levels of reality that we should be discussing all the time because they’re incredibly important. But, generally speaking, American politicians and media don’t talk about the deeper layers. In fact, they only talk about the surface layer (because they’re corporate tools).

So, using this past presidential election as an example: Layer one was — Who’s going to win? Biden or Trump? That’s the surface layer. It was fair to talk about it and fair to debate it. But if we stop at that and don’t dig deeper, we don’t actually know anything about reality

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The Path to a Livable Future Cannot be the Path We’re On

The Path to a Livable Future Cannot be the Path We’re On

Stan Cox has pulled off quite a feat with his latest book The Path to a Livable Future: A New Politics to Fight Climate Change, Racism, and the Next Pandemic. In a relaxed, inviting style, Cox sets unorthodox ideas in a persuasive human and environmental context.

Cox explains:

“The path to a livable future now involves not just reforming an unjust system, or budgeting a little more here and there to ‘underserved’ communities, but abolishing marginalization itself. By co-creating movements from all sectors of society, we organize in ways that are inclusive, open, democratic, and diverse. This is how we become unstoppable, and how we seed our present struggles with the dignified future we collectively envision.” [Italics added]

To be clear: Cox aims to promote radical action in the best sense, that is, by getting down to basics, to roots. Here is Cox:

In my previous book, The Green New Deal and Beyond, I focused tightly on the climate emergency and national public policies that will be necessary to end it. In this book, which zooms out to a wide-angle view of an entire society in rapid flux, I look to the movements now demanding the kind of transformation that’s necessary to get us all through the multiple, entangled emergencies that finally captured the nation’s attention in 2020.

Simply put, The Green New Deal and Beyond [April 22, 2020] is a ‘top-down’ approach grounded in national public policy, whereas The Path to a Livable Future is a ‘bottom-up’ approach grounded in grassroots movements collectively joined. The two books work in tandem to describe the essential ‘transformation’ Cox champions. However, that is just the beginning. Early on, Cox writes:

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Climate Change Viewed From the Attic of the World

Climate Change Viewed From the Attic of the World

Photograph Source: NASA, Janderk Jan Derk – Public Domain

Thirteen thousand feet high on the far side of the Himalaya mountains, we have entered the past and the future at the same time. We are a medical expedition and also a pilgrimage, consisting of doctors, nurses, Buddhist clerics, supernumeraries like me, and a large staff of guides, muleteers, and camp tenders. We are bound for the isolated villages of Upper Dolpo, a remote region of northwestern Nepal, land of the snow leopard — both the actual animal and The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen’s nonfiction classic. We are traveling the same trails Matthiessen walked in 1973.

As a medical mission, our purpose is to provide primary health care to people who rarely, if ever, see a clinician. As pilgrims, our purposes are as varied as our individual identities. Mine is to make peace with the anger and grief that have dogged me since finishing a pair of books, one on climate change, the other on extinction. They left me heartsick. My delight in the beauty of the world had been joined to sorrow at its destruction, and the two emotions were like cellmates who refused to get along. Their ceaseless argument soured the taste of life. I hoped that a long walk — about 150 miles in this case — might cure the resultant moral ache. (The story of that walk provides the backbone of my new book, The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss.)

The trails we followed led us into the past in the sense that the high Himalayan world — Sanskrit’s “abode of snow” — is a relic of the Pleistocene, a land of glaciers, vast spaces, stony rubble, and frigid rivers…

…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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