The Oligarchy’s Plans for Our Future Keep Getting Dumber

Caitlin Johnstone discards the high-flown dogma around space colonization and challenges readers to accept themselves and life on planet Earth.  

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

It’s rare to get a billionaire to share their grand plans for the future, which is weird because billionaires pretty much rule the world. Whenever they do, though, it’s always something incredibly sociopathic, like replacing all jobs with billionaire-owned automation/AI and giving people a Universal Basic Income set by the billionaire-owned government. Or loading all the humans onto rocket ships and sending them to live on Amazon Space Dildos.

Billionaire Elon Musk, who hates unions and wants to implant AI into human brains, has been continuing this trend of idiotic plutocratic futurology with a new campaign to detonate nuclear weapons on the planet Mars. This is not because Musk hates Mars, but because he wants to colonize it; the idea is to vaporize the red planet’s polar ice caps and throw carbon dioxide into the air to ultimately make the planet more habitable.

Scientists are voicing skepticism that such a plan could even work, before even opening up the “Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should” debate. Sending nuclear weapons into space for any reason whatsoever should receive an outright rejection from all of humanity, since getting nukes into earth’s orbit has been the wet dream of war machine engineers for decades and pretending they went to Mars would serve as an ideal cover story to circumvent international space treaties until it’s too late to prevent it.

Musk claims he wants to colonize Mars because a new dark age ensuing from a third world war appears “likely,” and he wants to ensure that there will be humans living off of the planet to re-populate it after we wipe ourselves out here. Rather than pouring wealth, brainpower and resources into pushing for a change in the status quo which has set the world’s nuclear-armed powers on a collision course for a world military confrontation that will destroy our biosphere, this billionaire has decided it’s better to nuke Mars so that a back bench of reserve humans can live on a desert space rock.

This is the class of people who are calling the shots in our world. These are the minds who are choosing our fate for us. I wouldn’t trust them to run a gas station.

And Elon Musk is one of the saner billionaires.

I’m going to take a lot of flak for saying this, but I honestly believe that the impulse to colonize space is one of the more pernicious cultural mind viruses in our society. I mean, think about it: we’ve got a planet right here for which we are perfectly adapted, and we’re burning it to the ground while looking up at a red dot in the sky going “You know I bet if I nuked that bitch I could build a hermetically sealed house on it someday.” How much more insane could you possibly get?

I’m pushing against a cultural dogma that’s been mainstream doctrine for generations, but I really find all this blather about adventure and the indomitable human spirit of exploration quite tedious and idiotic when it comes to space colonization. We’ve got creatures swimming in our own oceans with brains many times larger than our own, and we’re killing them all off before we’ve even developed any kind of real theory about what they’re doing with all that extra gray matter. There are parts of the moon that are better explored than vast expanses of our own seas. We don’t even know what consciousness is, and science is largely uninterested in answering this question. I don’t believe the spirit of exploration and adventure is what’s driving our longing to break for the stars. I think it’s nothing but garden variety escapism.

We’ve all got that one friend or family member who’s completely miserable and is always quitting jobs and relationships and moving house and changing their diet in a desperate attempt to find happiness. They rearrange their lifestyle for the umpteenth time and they’re barely settled in before their gaze lands on some other aspect of their life and they think, “That’s the source of my unhappiness right there. If I can only escape from that, I’ll be happy.”

Such people are exasperating to be around, because you can see what they’re doing and you just want to sit them down and go “The problem is in you, babe. Moving won’t help; your inner demons will follow you every time. You’ve got to stay put and deal with your issues.”

Looking for Escape Routes

Our species reminds me of that type of personality right now. So many of us are looking forward to some escape route coming from outside of us to rescue us from ourselves; some are looking forward to the second coming of Jesus, some are looking forward to the aliens coming in to save the day, some are looking forward to the Democrats or the Republicans finally capturing the whole entire government and setting things right with the world, and some are looking forward to billionaires setting up a space colonization program so we can get off this accursed blue orb before we destroy it. But there is no deus ex machina here. No one’s going to save us from ourselves. Even if we do succeed in running away from home, we’ll inevitably bring the same inner demons with us that got us into this mess in the first place.

We’ve got to turn inward and evolve beyond our self-destructive impulses. The only way out is through. The mind virus of celestial escapism stops us from doing this, because it offers us yet another false promise of deus ex machina. It lets us run away from doing the hard but necessary real inner work, just like doing drugs or binging on Netflix or any other kind of escapism.

Can you try a little thought experiment for me? Imagine, just for a moment, if we took space colonization off the table. Completely. Forever. We just decided that it’s never going to happen and we all moved to accept that. Really imagine it. Really put yourself there for a minute.

What does that change in you? What does that change about your attitude toward our future? If we’re honest with ourselves, I think it would change quite a bit. For me, when I take space conquest off the table, it takes me in a direction that just so happens to look extremely healthy. It makes me say, “Oh, okay, so we’ll obviously have to get rid of the status quo of endless war and ecocide, since those will ruin this place, and that will mean radically changing our relationship with each other and with our ecosystem. It will mean getting women around the world full reproductive sovereignty and education since that’s proven to reverse population growth. It will mean ceasing to think like a cancer, believing that endless growth is a virtue. It will mean ceasing to believe that the existence of trillions of humans is the best our species can hope for, when we have yet to even scratch the surface of our own potential on a large scale. And I suppose it will mean getting together and figuring out how to detect and neutralize the threat of apocalyptic meteor strikes, too.”

Imagine

Imagine that. Imagine if instead of trying to figure out how to fill the sky with trillions of mediocre humans we turned inward, healed our inner demons, and realized our full potential. Such a world would be a paradise. I know from my own experience that humans are capable of so very, very much more than what we have attained so far; we really haven’t scratched the surface at all. If we’re going to explore, the direction of that exploration ought to be inward.

I really think the mainstream idea that we can always make a mad dash for the black emptiness in the sky if things go to shit here keeps us from truly confronting our urgent need to preserve the ecosystemic context in which we evolved, and which there’s no evidence that we can live without.

I mean, we don’t even know that space colonization is possible. As of yet we have no evidence at all that humans are sufficiently separate and separable from Earth’s biosphere for survival apart from our ecosystem to be a real thing. Humans aren’t really separate “things;” they’re a symbiotic collaboration of organisms with ecosystems of their own, all of which as far as we know are entirely dependent on the greater ecosystem from which we blossomed. So far all our attempts at creating independent biospheres have failed miserably, and the closest we’ve come to living in space has consisted of nothing but glorified scuba excursions: visits to space stations fully dependent on a lifeline of terrestrial supplies. That’s the difference between flying and jumping. It might be as delusional as our brains thinking they can hop out of our skulls and live independently of our bodies, or some river eddies saying they’re moving to dry land.

And even if it is possible, why would you want it? Do people not know what space is? Are they aware that it’s nothing but boring desert wasteland that’s really, really, hard to get to and survive on? Have you ever been trapped for a long time surrounded by nothing but man-made things, like on an airplane or a cruise ship? Picture that, but way worse and for much longer. It would be a sterile, artificial existence; even if you managed to bring in plants and animals it would be ordered in a man-made way that is no more natural than the saplings grown on traffic islands. At best it would be like being in a mall your entire life. You’d be cut off from the primordial thrum of your home world. There’d be no real life there. No real soul.

Imagine never feeling the starry spatter of a shower of rain on your face. Imagine never ever again hearing the roar of wind on a wintry night or experiencing the thunder of the ocean on a big surf day. Imagine never again being blown away by the brightness of a rainbow or the thrilling crack of lightning or the astonishing beauty of a sunset or the first rays of springtime sunshine fondly warming the back of your neck. Imagine never again coming across a friendly squirrel or a shy possum or a little feast of wild blackberries. Imagine never again lying in the dappled light filtered through a magnificent tree. I don’t know about you but I would just miss the breeze playing in my hair too terribly to ever leave. I love it here and it loves me like a mother loves her child. This is not just my home, I grew from the earth as surely as a mushroom or a seahorse. I am a part of the earth and the earth is a part of me. We belong together. 

It’s easy to feel helpless. The wise ones do not have any money and therefore any power. We are being run by a handful of coddled man-children and it seems like they might have the last word. But I have been thinking about Rupert Sheldrake’s ideas on morphic resonance a lot lately and I’m increasingly convinced that even just one of us bringing consciousness to an aspect of our collective darkness is enough to wordlessly and instantly inform the herd. So, do me a favor if you are willing. Go and run one more experiment for me. Go outside now and place your hand on the ground and say to the Earth these words — “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.” Say it as many times as you feel like. Say it, and mean it. 

And then let’s see what happens next. 

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




US Agriculture Needs 21st-Century New Deal

Three scholars look at what can be done for U.S. farms, where bankruptcies were already at a 10-year high before the floods this past spring. 

Jeff Jorgenson looks over a partially flooded field he farms near Shenandoah, Iowa, May 29, 2019. (AP/Nati Harnik)

By Maywa Montenegro, University of California, Davis; Annie Shattuck, University of California, Berkeley, and Joshua Sbicca, Colorado State University

The Conversation 

These are difficult times in farm country. Historic spring rains – 600 percent above average in some places – inundated fields and homes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that this year’s corn and soybean crops will be the smallest in four years, due partly to delayed planting.

Even before the floods, farm bankruptcies were already at a 10-year high. In 2018 less than half of U.S. growers made any income from their farms, and median farm income dipped to negative $1,553 – that is, a net loss.

At the same time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that about 12 years remain to rein in global greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Beyond this point, scientists predict significantly higher risks of drought, floods and extreme heat.

And a landmark UN report released in May warns that roughly 1 million species are now threatened with extinction. This includes pollinators that provide $235 billion to $577 billion in annual global crop value.

As scholars who study agroecology, agrarian change and food politics, we believe U.S. agriculture needs to make a systemwide shift that cuts carbon emissions, reduces vulnerability to climate chaos and prioritizes economic justice. We call this process a just transition – an idea often invoked to describe moving workers from shrinking industries like coal mining into more viable fields.

But it also applies to modern agriculture, an industry which in our view is dying – not because it isn’t producing enough, but because it is contributing to climate change and exacerbating rural problems, from income inequality to the opioid crisis.

Reconstructing rural America and dealing with climate change are both part of this process. Two elements are essential: agriculture based in principles of ecology, and economic policies that end overproduction of cheap food and reestablish fair prices for farmers.

Since the mid-1930s, the number of U.S. farms has declined sharply and average farm size has increased.

Climate Solutions on the Farm

Agriculture generates about 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from sources that include synthetic fertilizers and intensive livestock operations. These emissions can be significantly curbed through adopting methods of agroecology, a science that applies principles of ecology to designing sustainable food systems.

Agroecological practices include replacing fossil-fuel-based inputs like fertilizer with a range of diverse plants, animals, fungi, insects and soil organisms. By mimicking ecological interactions, biodiversity produces both food and renewable ecosystem services, such as soil nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration.

Cover crops are a good example. Farmers grow cover crops like legumes, rye and alfalfa to reduce soil erosion, improve water retention and add nitrogen to the soil, thereby curbing fertilizer use. When these crops decay, they store carbon – typically about 1 to 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per 2.47 acres per year.

Cover crop acreage has surged in recent years, from 10.3 million acres in 2012 to 15.4 million acres in 2017. But this is a tiny fraction of the roughly 900 million acres of farmed land in the U.S.

Another strategy is switching from row crops to agroforestry, which combines trees, livestock and crops in a single field. This approach can increase soil carbon storage by up to 34 percent. And moving animals from large-scale livestock farms back onto crop farms can turn waste into nutrient inputs.

Advocates say sustainable farming methods are less vulnerable to impacts      of climate change than conventional large-scale farming.

Unfortunately, many U.S. farmers are stuck in industrial production. A 2016 study by an international expert panel identified eight key “lock-ins,” or mechanisms, that reinforce the large-scale model. They include consumer expectations of cheap food, export-oriented trade, and most importantly, concentration of power in the global food and agricultural sector.

Because these lock-ins create a deeply entrenched system, revitalizing rural America and decarbonizing agriculture require addressing systemwide issues of politics and power. We believe a strong starting point is connecting ecological practices to economic policy, especially price parity – the principle that farmers ought to be fairly compensated, in line with their production costs.

Economic Justice on the Farm

If the concept of parity sounds quaint, that’s because it is. Farmers first achieved something like parity in 1910-1914, just before America entered World War I. During the war U.S. agriculture prospered, financing flowed and land speculation was rampant.

Those bubbles burst with the end of the war. As crop prices fell below the cost of production, farmers began going broke in a prelude to the Great Depression. Unsurprisingly, they tried to produce more food to get out of debt, even as prices collapsed.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal included programs that directed public investments to rural communities and restored “parity.” The federal government established price floors, bought up surplus commodities and stored them in reserve. It also paid farmers to reduce production of basic crops, and established programs to prevent destructive farming practices that had contributed to the Dust Bowl.

An Agricultural Adjustment Administration representative in his office, Taos County, New Mexico, December 1941. The agency was created under the New Deal to reduce farm surpluses and manage production. (Irving Rusinow)

These policies provided much-needed relief for indebted farmers. In the “parity years,” from 1941 to 1953, the floor price was set at 90 percent of parity, and the prices farmers received averaged 100 percent of parity. As a result, purchasers of commodities paid the actual production costs.

But after World War II, agribusiness interests systematically dismantled the supply management system. They included global grain trading companies Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill and the American Farm Bureau Federation, which serves primarily large-scale farmers.

These organizations found support from federal officials, particularly Earl Butz, who served as secretary of agriculture from 1971 to 1976. Butz believed strongly in free markets and viewed federal policy as a lever to maximize output instead of constraining it. Under his watch, prices were allowed to fall – benefiting corporate purchasers – and parity was replaced by federal payments to supplement farmers’ incomes.

The resulting lock-in to this economic model progressively strengthened in the following decades, creating what many scientific assessments now recognize as a global food system that is unsustainable for farmers, eaters and the planet.

A New ‘New Deal’ for Agriculture

Today the idea of restoring parity and reducing corporate power in agriculture is resurging. Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have included it in their agriculture positions and legislation. Think tanks are proposing to empower family farms. Dairy delegates to the regulation-averse Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation voted in December 2018 to discuss supply management.

Along with other scholars, we have urged Congress to use the proposed Green New Deal to promote a just transition in agriculture. We see this as an opportunity to restore wealth to rural America in all of its diversity – particularly to communities of color who have been systematically excluded for decades from benefits available to white farmers.

This year’s biblical floods in the Midwest make any kind of farming look daunting. However, we believe that if policymakers can envision a contemporary version of ideas in the original New Deal, a climate-friendly and socially just American agriculture is within reach.

Maywa Montenegro, UC President’s postdoctoral fellow, University of California, Davis; Annie Shattuck, Ph.D candidate, University of California, Berkeley, and Joshua Sbicca, assistant professor of sociology, Colorado State University. All three  authors belong to the American Association of Geographers, a funding partner of The Conversation.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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The 9% Lie: Industrial Food & Climate Change

Ronnie Cummins challenges the widely used official estimate of greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. agriculture.

By Ronnie Cummins
Independent Science News for Food and Agriculture

The Climate Emergency is finally getting the attention of the media and the U.S. (and world) body politic, as well as a growing number of politicians, activists and even U.S. farmers.
This great awakening has arrived just in time, given the record-breaking temperatures, violent weather, crop failures and massive waves of forced migration that are quickly becoming the norm. Global scientists have dropped their customary caution. They now warn us that we have to drastically reduce global emissions – by at least 45 percent – over the next decade. Otherwise, we’ll pass the point of no return – defined as reaching 450 ppm or more of CO2 in the atmosphere sometime between 2030 and 2050 – when our climate crisis will morph into a climate catastrophe. That’s when the melting polar ice and Arctic permafrost will trigger catastrophic sea rise, fueling deadly forest fires, climate chaos, crop failures, famine and the widespread disintegration of society as we know it.
Most people now understand that we must quickly move to renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar, and reduce our fossil fuel emissions as much as possible. But it’s far less widely understood that energy conservation and renewables can’t do the job alone.

Ending Massive Emissions

Alongside the massive political and economic campaign to move to 100 percent (or nearly 100 percent) renewable energy as soon as possible, we must put an end to the massive emissions of our corporate-dominated food and farming system and start drawing down and sequestering in our soils and forests billions of tons of “legacy” CO2 from the atmosphere, utilizing the enhanced photosynthesis of regenerative farming, reforestation and land restoration.

Regenerative agriculture refers to farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. This results in both carbon drawdown and improved water infiltration and storage in soils. Regenerative practices include:

  • Reduction/elimination of tillage and use of synthetic chemicals.
  • The use of cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures.
  • Integrating animals with perennial and annual plants to create a biologically diverse ecosystem on the farm.
  • Grazing and pasturing animals on grass, and more specifically using a planned multi-paddock rotation system.
  • Raising animals in conditions that mimic their natural habitat.

If regenerative food, farming and land use – which is essentially moving to the next stage of organic farming, free-range livestock grazing and eco-system restoration – are just as essential to our survival as moving beyond fossil fuels, why aren’t more people talking about this? Why is it that moving beyond industrial agriculture, factory farms, agro-exports and highly-processed junk food to regenerating soils and forests and drawing down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere to re-stabilize our climate is getting so little attention from the media, politicians and the general public?
New Poll Data

The International Food Information Council Foundation released a poll on May 22, 2019, that found that “22 percent [of Americans] had heard of regenerative agriculture and 55 percent said they had not heard of it but were interested in learning more.”

Why don’t more people know about the incredible potential of regenerative agriculture, or more precisely regenerative food, farming and land-use practices, to fix our climate, restore the environment, improve the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities and produce more nutritious food? Why is it that the U.S. and global climate movement until recently has focused almost exclusively on reducing emissions through renewable energy?
Our collective ignorance on this crucial topic may have something to do with the fact that we never learned about these things in school, or even college, and until recently there was very little discussion of regeneration in the mass media, or even the alternative media.
But there’s another reason regeneration as a climate solution doesn’t get its due in Congress or in the media: powerful corporations in the food, farming and forestry sector, along with their indentured politicians, don’t want to admit that their current degenerate, climate-destabilizing, “profit-at-any-cost” production practices and business priorities are threatening our very survival.

And government agencies are right there, helping corporate agribusiness and Big Food bury the evidence that these industries’ energy-intensive, chemical-intensive industrial agricultural and food production practices contribute more to global warming than the fossil fuel industry.

The 9 Percent Claim

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) repeatedly claim that industrial agriculture is responsible for a mere 9 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. As the EPA explains, GHG “emissions from agriculture come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils and rice production.”

After hearing this 9-percent figure regurgitated over and over again in the media, most people draw the conclusion that food and farming aren’t that important of a factor in global warming, especially when compared with transportation, electricity generation, manufacturing and heating and cooling our buildings.

What the EPA, USDA, Big Ag, chemical, and food corporations are conveniently hiding from the public is that there’s no way to separate “U.S. agriculture” from our “food system” as a whole. Their faulty math (i.e. concealing food and farming emissions under the categories of transportation, manufacturing, etc.) is nothing but a smokescreen to hide the massive fossil fuel use and emissions currently belched out by our enormously wasteful, environmentally destructive, climate-destabilizing (and globalized) food system.
USDA and EPA’s 9-percent figure is ridiculous. What about the massive use of petroleum products and fossil fuels to power U.S. tractors and farm equipment, and to manufacture the billions of pounds of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are dumped and sprayed on farmlands?
What about the ethanol industry that eats up 40 percent of our chemical- and energy-intensive GMO corn production? Among other environmental crimes, the ethanol industry incentivizes farmers to drain wetlands and damage fragile lands. Taking the entire process into account, corn production for ethanol produces more emissions than it supposedly saves when burned in our cars and trucks.

What about the massive release of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from factory farms and the GMO, monocrop industrial grain farms that supply these feedlots and CAFOs with animal feed?
What about the methane emissions from the fracking wells that produce the natural gas that is used in prodigious amounts to manufacture the nitrogen fertilizer dumped on farmlands – fertilizer that then pollutes our waterways and creates oceanic dead zones as well as releasing massive amounts of nitrous oxide (300 percent more damaging than even CO2) into our already oversaturated atmosphere?
What about the 15-20 percent of global fossil fuel emissions that come from processing, packaging (most often non-recycled plastic), refrigerating and transporting our highly processed (mainly junk) food and agricultural commodities on the average 1,500 miles before they reach the consumer?
What about the enormous amounts of GHG emissions, deforestation and ecosystem destruction in the international supply chain enabling Big Box stores, supermarket chains and junk food purveyors to sell imported cheap food, in many cases “food-like substances” from China and overseas to undernourished and supersized U.S. consumers?
What about the enormous emissions from U.S. landfills where wasted food (30-50 percent of our entire production) rots and releases methane, when it could be used to produce compost to replace synthetic fertilizers?
A more accurate estimate of GHG emissions from U.S. and international food, farming and land use is 44-57 percent, not the 9 percent, as the EPA and USDA suggest.
We’re never going to reach net zero emissions in the U.S. by 2030, as the Green New Deal calls for, without a profound change, in fact a revolution, in our food, farming, and land use practices.

This essay is part of The Organic Consumers Association’s Regenerative Agriculture campaign. To sign their petition in support of a Green New Deal that puts regenerative food, farming, and land use front and center, sign here if you’re a farmer, and here if you’re an activist or a green consumer.

Ronnie Cummins is the co-founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association. He is also the founder of Via Orgánica, a network of organic consumers and farmers based in Mexico.

This article is from Independent Science News for Food and Agriculture.

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Labor and Environment Movement’s Complex Stance on Green New Deal

Aviva Chomsky reports on the complexities of labor’s response to the Green New Deal and little-known divisions over the plan within the environmental movement.

By Aviva Chomsky
TomDispatch.com

When it comes to heat, extreme weather, wildfires, and melting glaciers, the planet is now in what the media increasingly refers to as record territory, as climate change’s momentum outpaces predictions. In such a situation, in a country whose president and administration seem hell-bent on doing everything they conceivably can to make matters worse, the Green New Deal (GND) seems to offer at least a modest opening to a path forward.

You know, the resolution introduced this February in the House of Representatives by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Edward Markey (D-MA). Unsurprisingly, the proposal has been roundly attacked by the right. But it’s stirred up some controversy on the left as well. You might imagine that labor unions and environmental organizations would be wholeheartedly for a massive federal investment in good jobs and a just transition away from fossil fuels. But does organized labor actually support or oppose the Green New Deal? What about environmental organizations? If you’re not even sure how to answer such questions, you’re not alone.

That 14-page resolution calls for “a new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal era.” Its purpose: to reduce U.S. carbon emissions to net zero within a decade, while guaranteeing significant numbers of new jobs and social welfare to American workers. Read it and you’ll find that it actually attempts to overcome historical divisions between the American labor and environmental movements by linking a call for good jobs and worker protection to obvious and much-needed environmental goals.

In the process, the GND proposal goes impressively far beyond the modest goals of the Paris Climate Accords and other international agreements. It supports specific, enforceable targets for bringing climate change under control, while drawing clear connections between social, labor, and environmental rights. Acknowledging in blunt terms the urgency of making systemic change on a rapidly warming planet, it calls for the kind of national mobilization Americans haven’t experienced since the end of the Second World War. Described that way, it sounds like something both the labor and environmental movements would naturally support without a second thought. There is, however, both a history of mistrust and real disagreement over issues, which both movements are now grappling with. And the media is doing its part by exaggerating labor’s opposition to the proposal, while ignoring what environmental organizations have to say.

One Green New Deal controversy focuses on the future role of fossil fuels in that plan. A number of environmental organizations believe that such energy sources have no place in our future, that they need to stay in the ground, period. They cite climate science and the urgent need to move rapidly and drastically to eliminate carbon emissions as the basis for such a conclusion. As it happens, the Green New Deal avoids directly challenging the fossil-fuel industry. In fact, it doesn’t even use the term “fossil fuels.”

From another perspective, some unions hope that new technologies like carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) will make those fuels more efficient and far cleaner. If the addition of carbon to the atmosphere could be reduced significantly or offset in some fashion, while humanity still burned natural gas, oil, or even coal, they say, jobs in those sectors could be preserved. And the unions have other concerns as well. They tend, for instance, to look skeptically on the GND’s promises of a “just transition” for displaced fossil-fuel workers like coal miners, given the devastation that has fallen on workers and their communities when industries have shut down in the past. They also fear that, without accompanying trade protections, polluting industries will simply export their emissions rather than reduce them.

Being more of a statement of purpose than an elaborated plan, the Green New Deal is short on both detail and answers when it comes to such issues. The actual roadmap to achieving its goals, the proposal states, “must be developed through transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses.” Both unions and environmental organizations are already mobilizing to make sure their voices are part of the process.

The right wing was quick to mockingly publicize the Green New Deal not just as thoroughly unrealistic but as utterly un-American. Under the circumstances, perhaps it’s not surprising that a recent poll found 69 percent of Republicans but only 36 percent of Democrats had heard “a lot” about it. Similarly, 80 percent of Republicans already “strongly opposed” it, while only 46 percent of Democrats strongly supported it. And 40 percent of those polled said that they had heard “mostly negative” things about it, while only 14 percent had heard “mostly positive” things. One reason for this disparity: Fox News has devoted more time to the topic than any other television news outlet. And President Trump naturally pitched in, tweeting that the GND would eliminate “Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military.”

Such claims, however fantastical, have already spread widely. But even the mainstream media has tended to play up the negative.

Both right-wing and mainstream media outlets have promoted the idea that unions are in firm opposition to the Green New Deal, frequently exaggerating and distorting the nature of what opposition there is. As for the concerns of environmentalists, readers would largely have to follow radical online publications or search out the websites of green organizations.

Media & Labor Movement

The Washington ExaminerFox News, and other right-wing outlets have waxed gleeful every time representatives of organized labor, including Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, have critiqued or expressed reservations about the Green New Deal, a topic on which the rest of the mainstream media has also run stories. Labor’s position is, however, significantly more complicated than any of them have acknowledged.

In an hour-long interview at the Economic Club of Washington in April — reported in the Examiner under the headline “AFL-CIO Opposes Green New Deal” — Trumka actually devoted less than 30 seconds to responding to a question on the topic. Asked if he supported the GND, he replied “Not as currently written… We weren’t part of the process, and so the workers’ interest really wasn’t completely figured into it. So we would want a whole lot of changes made so that workers and our jobs are protected in the process.” Not exactly a wholesale rejection.

His brief reaction echoed a March letter from the AFL-CIO Energy Committee to Ocasio-Cortez and Markey signed by the presidents of the United Mine Workers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Among other things, it protested the absence of a labor voice in drafting the proposal. It also focused on the potential loss of jobs, as well as the fact that the GND was “not rooted in an engineering-based approach” to climate change, reflecting union hopes that improved technologies might allow the U.S. to meet climate goals while still extracting and burning fossil fuels (and so preserving jobs in that sector of the economy).

Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, a long-time ally of the coal, oil, and gas industries, a climate-change denier, and a reliably anti-union vote in Congress, first noted the existence of the letter in a tweet headlined: “The @AFLCIO, which represents 12.5 million workers & includes 55 labor unions, slams the #GreenNewDeal.”

Both the right wing and the mainstream media largely agreed with his interpretation. The Washington Post, for instance, headlined its article “AFL-CIO Criticizes the Green New Deal,” while the Examiner called the federation the “latest opponent” of the resolution.

Two facts were, however, missing in action in this reporting. First, the members of the AFL-CIO Energy Committee come from only eight unions, most of them deeply dependent on the fossil-fuel industry. In that sense, it doesn’t represent the federation as a whole. Second, the letter itself was more nuanced than the media coverage suggested and even its signers were far from unanimous. True, one of them, Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers International Union of North America, claimed to be unalterably opposed to the GND, saying it was “exactly how not to” address infrastructure and climate change. Linking them, he wrote, would cause “social and economic devastation.” In contrast, in an article ignored by the media and headlined “Labor Champions a Green New Deal,” another signer, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, suggested that the letter actually supported the GND.

The Energy Committee’s letter laid out its own vision of how to address the coming crisis through:

“[the] development and deployment of technologies like solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, carbon capture and utilization, battery storage, and high speed rail that limit or eliminate carbon emissions. We know that the increase in natural gas production has lowered emissions in the power sector and provided a new source of construction and manufacturing jobs. We must invest in energy efficiency in the industrial and commercial sectors, retrofits and upgrades to schools and public buildings, and to make our communities safe and resilient. All of these investments must be paired with strong labor and procurement standards to grow family-sustaining, middle class union jobs.”

Much of this sounds like it’s aligned with the language of the GND, which also calls for increased efficiency, retrofits, upgrades, and labor guarantees. The differences may seem subtle, but are worth mentioning. The Energy Committee emphasizes investment in new carbon capture and storage technology, while the GND advocates only “proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as land preservation and afforestation.” For obvious reasons, CCUS is the preferred path of the fossil-fuel industry itself: it’s an aspirational technology that will require massive federal investment in big energy and holds out the promise (however illusory) that fossil fuels can continue to be extracted and burned. Many environmental organizations argue that its development is not just a gift to fossil-fuel companies, but a pie-in-the-sky distraction from the real work of ending the use of oil, coal, and natural gas.

The Energy Committee’s letter also advocated increasing the use of natural gas as part of a path to lowering carbon emissions — and it’s true that natural gas does emit less carbon than burning either coal or oil. In fact, until recently, the shift from coal- to natural-gas-fired power plants played a role in slightly lowering U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Still, natural gas is a fossil fuel, and the more we burn, the more we contribute to climate change. It in no way falls into the GND’s category of “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.” And keep in mind that, even during a decade of reductions, the United States still emitted far more greenhouse gases per capita than most other countries and, in the last two years, its carbon dioxide emissions have begun to rise again. Our per capita emissions are still way above those of, say, Europe or Japan. Shifting to a slightly cleaner fossil fuel while continuing to burn so much carbon does little to avert catastrophic climate change.

These disputes are real. Nevertheless, the right wing caricatured the AFL-CIO response to paint the GND as an outlandish, anti-worker proposal.

From the left, the environmental organization Friends of the Earth also caricatured the AFL-CIO stance, writing: “With the energy committee’s position, the AFL joins climate deniers like the Koch brothers, the Republican Party, and Big Oil. We encourage the AFL and other unions within it to rethink this position.” Such language only exacerbates any labor-environmental divide, while ignoring union concerns that workers in affected industries will be paying the true price for lowering carbon emissions.

Friends of the Earth could have focused instead on Richard Trumka’s words at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit. The Federation, he insisted, does not question climate science. 

“I learned something about science in the mine. When the boss told us to ignore the deadly hazards of the job… that sagging timber over our heads… that Black Lung cough… science told us the truth. And today, again, science tells us the truth: climate change threatens our workers, our jobs, and our economy.” 

He then asked one question: “Does your plan for fighting climate change ask more from sick, retired coal miners than it does from you and your family? If it does, then you need to think again.”

Or as Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants and a strong Green New Deal supporter, put it:

“The skepticism really comes from a place of generally being opposed to something that they believe is going to be an attack on their jobs, their livelihoods, and their communities… We have to do things like show communities that have been hurt that we actually mean what we say when we say ‘leave no worker behind.’”

For the unions, an emphasis on trade is also critical from both an environmental and a labor perspective. United Steelworkers President Gerard elaborated

“The USW has aggressively demanded that climate policies include strong trade measures to ensure American jobs in energy-intensive and trade-exposed industries are not decimated by U.S. corporations evading pollution-control regulations by shipping factories to countries that ignore pollution.” 

Why Labor Hesitates: A Tangled History

While a skeptic could read Gerard’s stance on trade as no more than a narrow self-interest in preserving jobs in the face of a planetary crisis, it’s also a crucial issue purely from a climate-change perspective. In addition to the shift from coal to natural gas, another factor in the slight decline in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions until recently was deindustrialization and the outsourcing of industrial production to Mexico, China, or Vietnam, which represents a thoroughly illusory reduction in carbon emissions. The atmosphere, of course, doesn’t care whether a factory is located in the United States or China, since total global emissions are what’s warming our planet.

While the AFL-CIO leadership has been cautious about the Green New Deal proposal, some unions have enthusiastically hailed it, among them public and service sector ones. With its 2 million members, the Service Employees International Union, not currently affiliated with the AFL-CIO, signed on wholeheartedly at its convention in early June. The 50,000-strong Association of Flight Attendants soon seconded that position as its president, Sara Nelson, explained that, in her industry, “it’s not the solutions to climate change that kill jobs. Climate change itself is the job killer,” since extreme weather and increased turbulence are grounding more flights and making air travel more dangerous. 

Maine’s state federation and a number of labor councils followed suit, as have quite a few union locals. While the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, for instance, has been reluctant to endorse the Green New Deal, at least one of its locals has signed on. “We’re all about green jobs,” declared Lou Antonellis, the business manager of local 103 in Boston. “We’ve been promoting green technology for a long time.” (For a fuller list of labor endorsements, click here.)

There is a context — think of it as a deeply tangled history — that lies behind the complexity of labor’s response to the Green New Deal. As a start, labor in the United States has rarely spoken with a unified voice. In addition, the union movement is now distinctly on the defensive. The unionized share of the labor force has fallen from a high of 35 percent in the 1950s to less than 11 percent today, thanks to a combination of deindustrialization, automation, cutbacks, attacks on the public sector, and a virulent corporate backlash against unions that began in the 1970s. Mass production powerhouses like the auto workers, steel workers, and miners — all in sectors in which a fossil-fuel-free future is challenging to imagine — have been hit the hardest, a situation that provides some context for their suspicions about climate-change proposals.

The weak position of organized labor in the United States also contributes to the AFL-CIO’s opposition to the notion that the planet’s biggest polluting states need to make the biggest reductions. As a result, its stance on international climate agreements lags well behind the international union movement. The AFL-CIO, for instance, opposed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol because it required greater reductions from the biggest polluters and, since then, has consistently supported the U.S. government position that wealthy countries should not be required to meet emissions reductions standards unless poor countries do, too. 

Environmental Organizations & the Green New Deal

You wouldn’t know it from the media coverage, but environmental organizations are also divided on the Green New Deal. Many of them feel the proposal is too weak. Its language, they say, still allows for fossil-fuel extraction, use, and export, and for the expansion of nuclear energy.

The GND, after all, aims not at zero carbon emissions, but at “net-zero.” In translation, that means carbon dioxide emissions could continue as long as some kind of offset system was implemented to compensate for them. Even as the AFL-CIO Energy Committee argues that net-zero goes too far, many environmental organizations critique the GND’s unwillingness to opt for “zero emissions.” In fact, even zero emissions raises red flags for some environmentalists, who point out that nuclear power, despite its non-renewable nature and devastating potential environmental consequences, remains a zero-emissions form of energy production. Instead, many environmental organizations advocate that we move to energy sources that are both 100 percent renewable and zero emissions.

Like the unions, such radical environmental organizations complained that they were left out of the discussion leading up to the Green New Deal proposal and had no chance to push for moving more quickly to 100 percent renewables and what they call “100 percent decarbonization.” While they, like the unions, call for a “just transition,” their focus tends to be on indigenous and other front-line communities affected by fossil-fuel extraction as well as workers in those industries. Unlike the labor critiques, this environmental position has gotten scant attention in the mainstream media.

Many of the 600 signers of a letter outlining the radical environmental critique of the GND were small, local or faith-based organizations. Some of the large mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund were conspicuously absent from the signatories. Others like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, 350.org, the Sunrise Movement, the Rainforest Action Network, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and Amazon Watch did, however, sign on. So, notably, did the Labor Network for Sustainability, the most radical voice in the labor movement working in support of climate-change action.

The Indigenous Environmental Network wrote:

“We remain concerned that unless some changes are made to the resolution, the Green New Deal will leave incentives by industries and governments to continue causing harm to Indigenous communities. Furthermore, as our communities who live on the frontline of the climate crisis have been saying for generations, the most impactful and direct way to address the problem is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We can no longer leave any options for the fossil fuel industry to determine the economic and energy future of this country. And until the Green New Deal can be explicit in this demand as well as closing the loop on harmful incentives, we cannot fully endorse the resolution.” 

Other organizations like 350.org signed on to the Green New Deal despite reservations. Greenpeace lauded it, while cautioning that “the oil, gas, and coal industry will fight this tooth and nail while continuing to dump pollution into our atmosphere. In order to get us to the green future we want, federal legislation MUST also halt any major oil, gas, and coal expansion projects like pipelines and new drilling.”

The Future of the GND

Despite challenges from parts of both the labor and the environmental movements, which its sponsors had undoubtedly hoped would be among its strongest supporters, Markey and Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal resolution has gone a remarkably long way toward putting a genuine discussion of what an effective and just climate policy might look like in the public arena for the first time. For grassroots environmental organizations, labor unions, nongovernmental outfits, Congress, and the media, as heat waves multiply, the Arctic burns, and extreme weather of every sort becomes everyday news, the question of what is to be done is finally emerging as a subject to contend with, even in the 2020 presidential election campaign. In policy discussions, the urgency of the climate crisis is being acknowledged for the first time and the question of how to radically lower carbon emissions while prioritizing social justice is coming to the fore. These are exactly the debates that are needed in this all-hands-on-deck moment when human civilization is itself, for the first time in our history, in question.

Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts and a TomDispatch regular. Her most recent book is Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal.”

This article is from TomDispatch.com.

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The Great Reckoning

From a vantage point in the not-too-distant future Andrew J. Bacevich looks back on 2019 as a year when, in retrospect, it was clear the United States had  passed a point of no return.

By Andrew J. Bacevich
TomDispatch.com

[Editorial note: This remnant of a manuscript, discovered in a vault near the coastal town of Walpole, Massachusetts, appears to have been part of a larger project, probably envisioned as an interpretive history of the United States since the year 2000. Only a single chapter, probably written near the midpoint of the 21st century, has survived. Whether the remainder of the manuscript has been lost or the author abandoned it before its completion is unknown.] 

Chapter 1: The Launch

From our present vantage point, it seems clear that, by 2019, the United States had passed a point of no return. In retrospect, this was the moment when indications of things gone fundamentally awry should have become unmistakable. Although at the time much remained hidden in shadows, the historic pivot now commonly referred to as the Great Reckoning had commenced.

Even today, it remains difficult to understand why, given mounting evidence of a grave crisis, passivity persisted for so long across most sectors of society. An epidemic of anomie affected a large swath of the population. Faced with a blizzard of troubling developments, large and small, Americans found it difficult to put things into anything approximating useful perspective. Few even bothered to try. Fewer succeeded. As with predictions of cataclysmic earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, a not-in-my-lifetime mood generally prevailed.

During what was then misleadingly known as the Age of Trump, the political classes dithered. While the antics of President Donald Trump provoked intense interest— the word “intense” hardly covers the attention paid to him — they also provided a convenient excuse for letting partisan bickering take precedence over actual governance or problem solving of any sort. Meanwhile, “thought leaders” (a term then commonly used to describe pontificating windbags) indulged themselves with various pet projects.

In the midst of what commentators were pleased to call the Information Age, most ordinary Americans showed a pronounced affinity for trivia over matters of substance. A staggering number of citizens willingly traded freedom and privacy for convenience, bowing to the dictates of an ever-expanding array of personalized gadgetry. What was then called a “smartphone” functioned as a talisman of sorts, the electronic equivalent of a rosary or prayer beads. Especially among the young, separation from one’s “phone” for more than a few minutes could cause acute anxiety and distress. The novelty of “social media” had not yet worn off, with its most insidious implications just being discovered.

Divided, distracted, and desperately trying to keep up: these emerged then as the abiding traits of life in contemporary America. Craft beer, small-batch bourbon, and dining at the latest farm-to-table restaurant often seemed to matter more than the fate of the nation or, for that matter, the planet as a whole. But all that was about to change.

Scholars will undoubtedly locate the origins of the Great Reckoning well before 2019. Perhaps they will trace its source to the aftermath of the Cold War when American elites succumbed to a remarkable bout of imperial hubris, while ignoring (thanks in part to the efforts of Big Energy companies) the already growing body of information on the human-induced alteration of the planet, which came to be called “climate change” or “global warming.” While, generally speaking, the collective story of humankind unfolds along a continuum, by 2019 conditions conducive to disruptive change were forming. History was about to zig sharply off its expected course.

This disruption occurred, of course, within a specific context. During the first two decades of the 21st century, American society absorbed a series of punishing blows. First came the contested election of 2000, the president of the United States installed in office by a 5-4 vote of a politicized Supreme Court, which thereby effectively usurped the role of the electorate. And that was just for starters. Following in short order came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which the world’s (self-proclaimed) premier intelligence services failed to anticipate and the world’s preeminent military establishment failed to avert.

Less than two years later, the administration of George W. Bush, operating under the delusion that the ongoing war in Afghanistan was essentially won, ordered U.S. forces to invade Iraq, a nation that had played no part in the events of 9/11. The result of this patently illegal war of aggression would not be victory, despite the president’s almost instant mission accomplished declaration, but a painful replay of the quagmire that U.S. troops had experienced decades before in Vietnam. Expectations of Iraq’s “liberation” paving the way for a broader Freedom Agenda that would democratize the Islamic world came to naught. The Iraq War and other armed interventions initiated during the first two decades of the century ended up costing trillions of taxpayer dollars, while sowing the seeds of instability across much of the Greater Middle East and later Africa.

Then, in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast, killing nearly 2,000 Americans. U.S. government agencies responded with breathtaking ineptitude, a sign of things to come, as nature itself was turning increasingly unruly. Other natural disasters of unnatural magnitude followed. In 2007, to cite but one example, more than 9,000 wildfires in California swept through more than a million acres. Like swarms of locusts, fires now became an annual (and worsening) plague ravaging the Golden State and the rest of the West Coast. If this weren’t enough of a harbinger of approaching environmental catastrophe, the populations of honeybees, vital to American agriculture, began to collapse in these very same years.

Americans were, as it turned out, largely indifferent to the fate of honeybees. They paid far greater attention to the economy, however, which experienced its own form of collapse in 2008. The ensuing Great Recession saw millions thrown out of work and millions more lose their homes as a result of fraudulent mortgage practices. None of the perpetrators were punished. The administration of President Barack Obama chose instead to bail out offending banks and large corporations. Record federal deficits resulted, as the government abandoned once and for all even the pretense of trying to balance the budget. And, of course, the nation’s multiple wars dragged on and on and on.

Through all these trials, the American people more or less persevered. If not altogether stoic, they remained largely compliant. As a result, few members of the nation’s political, economic, intellectual, or cultural elites showed any awareness that something fundamental might be amiss. The two established parties retained their monopoly on national politics. As late as 2016, the status quo appeared firmly intact. Only with that year’s presidential election did large numbers of citizens signal that they had had enough: wearing red MAGA caps rather than wielding pitchforks, they joined Donald Trump’s assault on that elite and, thumbing their noses at Washington, installed a reality TV star in the White House.

To the legions who had found the previous status quo agreeable, Trump’s ascent to the apex of American politics amounted to an unbearable affront. They might tolerate purposeless, endless wars, raise more or less any set of funds for the military that was so unsuccessfully fighting them, and turn a blind eye to economic arrangements that fostered inequality on a staggering scale. They might respond to the accelerating threat posed by climate change with lip service and, at best, quarter-measures. But Donald Trump in the Oval Office? That they could not abide.

As a result, from the moment of his election, Trump dominated the American scene. Yet the outrage that he provoked, day in and day out, had this unfortunate side effect: it obscured developments that would in time prove to be of far more importance than the 45th American president himself. Like the “noise” masking signals that, if detected and correctly interpreted, might have averted Pearl Harbor in December 1941 or, for that matter, 9/11, obsessing about Trump caused observers to regularly overlook or discount matters far transcending in significance the daily ration of presidential shenanigans.

Here, then, is a very partial listing of some of the most important of those signals then readily available to anyone bothering to pay attention. On the eve of the Great Reckoning, however, they were generally treated as mere curiosities or matters of limited urgency — problems to be deferred to a later, more congenial moment.

Item: The reality of climate change was now indisputable. All that remained in question was how rapidly it would occur and the extent (and again rapidity) of the devastation that it would ultimately inflict.

Item: Despite everything that was then known about the dangers of further carbon emissions, the major atmospheric contributor to global warming, they only continued to increase, despite the myriad conferences and agreements intended to curb them. (U.S. carbon emissions, in particular, were still rising then, and global emissions were expected to rise by record or near-record amounts as 2019 began.)

Item: The polar icecap was disappearing, with scientists reporting that it had melted more in just 20 years than in the previous 10,000. This, in turn, meant that sea levels would continue to rise at record rates, posing an increasing threat to coastal cities.

Item: Deforestation and desertification were occurring at an alarming rate.

Item: Approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic were seeping into the world’s oceans each year, from the ingestion of which vast numbers of seabirds, fish, and marine mammals were dying annually. Payback would come in the form of microplastics contained in seafood consumed by humans.

Item: With China and other Asian countries increasingly refusing to accept American recyclables, municipalities in the United States found themselves overwhelmed by accumulations of discarded glass, plastic, metal, cardboard, and paper. That year, the complete breakdown of the global recycling system already loomed as a possibility.

Item: Worldwide bird and insect populations were plummeting. In other words, the Sixth Mass Extinction had begun.

All of these fall into the category of what we recognize today as planetary issues of existential importance. But even in 2019 there were other matters of less than planetary significance that ought to have functioned as a wake-up call. Among them were:

Item: With the federal government demonstrably unable to secure U.S. borders, immigration authorities were seizing hundreds of thousands of migrants annually. By 2019, the Trump administration was confining significant numbers of those migrants, including small children, in what were, in effect, concentration camps.

Item: Cybercrime had become a major growth industry, on track to rake in $6 trillion annually by 2021. Hackers were already demonstrating the ability to hold large American cities hostage and the authorities proved incapable of catching up.

Item: With the three richest Americans — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet —controlling more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the entire population, the United States had become a full-fledged oligarchy. While politicians occasionally expressed their dismay about this reality, prior to 2019 it was widely tolerated.

Item: As measured by roads, bridges, dams, or public transportation systems, the nation’s infrastructure was strikingly inferior to what it had been a half-century earlier. (By 2019, China, for instance, had built more than 19,000 miles of high-speed rail; the U.S., not one.) Agreement that this was a problem that needed fixing was universal; corrective action (and government financing), however, was not forthcoming.

Item: Military spending in constant dollars exceeded what it had been at the height of the Cold War when the country’s main adversary, the Soviet Union, had a large army with up-to-date equipment and an arsenal of nuclear weapons. In 2019, Iran, the country’s most likely adversary, had a modest army and no nuclear weapons.

Item: Incivility, rudeness, bullying, and general nastiness had become rampant, while the White House, once the site of solemn ceremony, deliberation, and decision, played host to politically divisive shouting matches and verbal brawls.

To say that Americans were oblivious to such matters would be inaccurate. Some were, for instance, considering a ban on plastic straws. Yet taken as a whole, the many indications of systemic and even planetary dysfunction received infinitely less popular attention than the pregnancies of British royals, the antics of the justifiably forgotten Kardashian clan, or fantasy football, a briefly popular early 21st century fad.

Of course, decades later, viewed with the benefit of hindsight, the implications of these various trends and data points seem painfully clear: the dominant ideological abstraction of late postmodernity — liberal democratic capitalism — was rapidly failing or had simply become irrelevant to the challenges facing the United States and the human species as a whole. To employ another then-popular phrase, liberal democratic capitalism had become an expression of “fake news,” a scam sold to the many for the benefit of the privileged few.

“Toward the end of an age,” historian John Lukacs (1924-2019) once observed, “more and more people lose faith in their institutions and finally they abandon their belief that these institutions might still be reformed from within.” Lukacs wrote those words in 1970, but they aptly described the situation that had come to exist in that turning-point year of 2019. Basic American institutions — the overworked U.S. military being a singular exception — no longer commanded popular respect.

In essence, the postmodern age was ending, though few seemed to know it — with elites, in particular, largely oblivious to what was occurring. What would replace postmodernity in a planet heading for ruin remained to be seen.

Only when…

[Editor’s note: Here the account breaks off.]

Andrew Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular and the author most recently of “The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory,” is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a Washington, D.C., think tank in formation.

This article is from TomDispatch.




Only Enlightened Collectivism Can Save Us

We are witnessing a mass extinction and no amount of rugged individualism is going to solve it, writes Caitlin Johnstone.

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

Individualism cannot save humanity from the crises it faces. It’s not the right tool.

There is a widespread belief that if we just eliminated all collectivist impulses within our society, we could eliminate all our problems. That the government which causes so much bloodshed and oppression wouldn’t be harmful if we can shrink it down to a minor role, or even to nonexistence, and the corporate powers which attach themselves to governments would thereby lose power over individuals. Let individuals take care of themselves however they see fit, with no collectivist power interfering in their affairs, and the world will sort itself out in a harmonious way.

This will never happen.

The most common argument for why this will never happen is that the world is full of awful people, and if you place the will of the individual over the will of the collective, the awful people will be able to do a lot more awful things. The people who are sociopathic enough to destroy the environment and exploit others for profit will be able to exert more influence over the total wellbeing of the world than those who aren’t, and there’ll be no safety nets in place protecting those who are born into under-privileged situations. Individuals like mothers who aren’t as capable of earning money would frequently find themselves dependent on the kindness of a man who may or may not be kind. Such a society would claim to be just, since it makes the same demands of everybody, but due to real circumstances could only ever be gravely unjust.

This argument is of course true, but it’s not the primary reason that individualism cannot save us.

Looming Ecosystem Collapse

The primary reason individualism cannot save us is that it depends upon competition. If everyone is an individual whom the collective will neither help nor hinder, we’re all going to have to compete for opportunities and resources on a shrinking world of limited opportunities and resources. A society that is pouring all of its energy and creativity into the drive of the individual to get ahead of the other individuals will never be able to overcome the fundamental problem of looming ecosystemic collapse, setting us instead on a massive rat race to be the first to destroy the environment for profit before someone else does. Which is why strict adherents to individualism must tell each other fairy tales about the ecosystem being fine in order to avoid cognitive dissonance.

In reality, we are witnessing a mass extinction the likes of which we haven’t seen since the end of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, with some 200 species going extinct every single day. The very ecosystemic context in which we evolved is vanishing underneath us. More than half the world’s wildlife has vanished in 40 years, and the worldwide insect population has plummeted by as much as 90 percentFertile soil is vanishing, and so are forests. The oceans are choking to death, 90 percent of global fish stocks are either fully fished or overfished, the seas are full of microplastics, and phytoplankton, an indispensable foundation of earth’s food chain, have been killed off by 40 percent since 1950. Science keeps pouring in showing that global warming is occurring faster than previously predicted, and there are self-reinforcing warming effects called feedback loops which, once set off, can continue warming the atmosphere further and further regardless of human behavior, causing more feedback loops.

We’re never going to compete our way out of this situation. We need to turn around, all of us, together. Now. Sure, in an entirely individualist paradigm we’d see some people inventing renewable energy sources and new materials which would compete with more ecocidal existing models, but that wouldn’t suddenly make it unprofitable to keep destroying the rainforests or pouring poison into the atmosphere. If we had centuries for more environment-friendly models to rise to the top we might have a chance, but we don’t have centuries to turn this thing around, we have years. Relying on human ingenuity directed by nothing other than competition and profit will not focus our efforts with anything like the necessary urgency.

Human-Carbon Link

Individualists know this, which is why their ideology relies so heavily on denialism of scientific consensus regarding the disappearance of the ecosystemic context in which our species evolved. I’ve studied the arguments of this denialism closely, and personally have found nothing that couldn’t be swiftly debunked with a little research. The science showing the warming effect of man’s carbon-releasing industrial activities has been public knowledge since it was discovered in 1896 by a man named Svante Arrhenius. Nobody accused him of being a pawn in a globalist conspiracy at the time; the scientific world simply noted his discovery with an “Oh cool yeah, that makes sense.” One of his colleagues even suggested setting fire to unused coal seams in order to increase global temperature, because back then milder winters sounded like a nice idea. It wasn’t until this line of scientific inquiry became threatening to the fossil fuel industry that it turned into a radically politicized debate propelled by Koch-funded research teams and Fox News.

The door is closed to solving our problems via rugged individualism anyway. The arguments for individualism have been used by right-wing mainstream political parties to cut taxes, slash social programs, kill minimum wage hikes and roll back regulations on corporations, but never, ever actually end up shrinking government beyond that. The war machine continues to swell, as does the increasingly militarized and surveillance-happy police state and all the other aspects of government which do actual harm to actual people. The arguments for individualism are only ever used to make things more comfortable for the oligarchs, never less.

We’re never going to overcome the oligarchic oppression machine and create a healthy world without extensive, mass-scale collaboration. Individualists argue “Hey, we can collaborate too! We just don’t want to be forced to by the collective.” Okay, but you don’t. And even if you did, how much energy would you have left over to throw into extensive mass-scale collaboration after having to spend so much of it competing with your neighbors to survive? Probably very little.

So, collaboration by the entire collective is the only answer. The problem is that malignant manipulators come in and hijack our healthy impulse to collaborate with each other and get us collaborating in the interests of power instead. That’s all the so-called “Resistance” to Trump is in America; it’s the herding of the populist left into support for the Democratic Party, which has no agenda other than the preservation and profit of existing power structures. All of our healthy impulses toward collectivist solutions to our problems have been thwarted by the fact that the ruling class is so adept at narrative control, which they are able to use to manipulate us into collaborating in ways that benefit them instead of collaborating to toss them out on their asses and build a healthy world.

So, collectivism by itself is worthless. What we need is not just our healthy impulse to collaborate, but to collaborate in a wise and intuitive way that is not manipulated by the propaganda narratives of the powerful. We need an enlightened collectivism in which we all collaborate toward the good of the whole, not because we’ve been manipulated into it, nor even just because we’ve been convinced to by compelling arguments, but because we’ve become wise and compassionate enough to understand that that’s what’s best for everyone. This means fundamentally changing how our minds operate. It means a collective evolution into a wildly new relationship with thought.

Is that a big ask? Of course. Evolution always is. But it’s either that or extinction. We will either change from an ego-driven species that can be manipulated by fear and greed into an enlightened species that is not bound by mental narratives, or we will die. We absolutely have the freedom to pass or fail this test, but we’re necessarily going to end up taking it. In fact, we are taking it currently.

This transformation might be called “socialism” or “communism” or some other “-ism” in the future, but in reality it will be something unlike anything we’ve ever tried before. It won’t be merely a change in how power and resources are distributed, it will be a fundamental change in what humans are and how we operate, both as a collective and as individuals.

The belief that humanity can and must undergo a profound psychological transformation if we’re to survive isn’t flaky “out there” spiritualism, nor is it in fact “spiritual” at all; it’s a political position just as mundane and valid as the belief that the working class can and must rise up against the plutocracy. There isn’t actually any mechanism in place preventing us from doing this; the only thing stopping it is our not wanting it badly enough yet.

Humans were never meant to operate as individuals. We’re not descended from solo creatures like tigers or polar bears, we’re descended from monkeys, group-oriented throughout our DNA. We need each other. It’s how our brains and nervous systems are wired. There’s no getting out of this. We’re going to wake up together or not at all. We’re going to evolve together or die together.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.




As Costs of Climate Crisis Grow, Protest Movement Escalates

Long term campaigns to decarbonize the economy and demand emergency climate policies are getting stronger, write Kevin Zeese and  Margaret Flowers.

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
PopularResistance.org

The warnings of climate chaos are coming so fast they are difficult to keep up with. Storms, heatwaves and climate-related weather disasters are increasing at a rapid pace. The leadership of the two corporate-dominated political parties are trying to keep the climate issue out of the 2020 campaign, but the movement is becoming too big to ignore.

Climate justice protests against fossil fuel infrastructure, politicians and the media are also growing. An industry publication describes how activists are “driving pipeline rejections” reporting, “From large, interstate pipelines to small lines connecting towns and neighborhoods, anti-fossil fuel activists have proven highly successful at blocking, through regulations or lawsuits, new natural gas infrastructure in the Northeastern United States.”

Reports of Climate Chaos 

Several reports in recent weeks are expressing new concerns about the climate crisis.

An MIT study published last week found that we may be “at the precipice of an excitation” of the carbon cycle. Authors reported that when the rate at which carbon dioxide enters the oceans pushes past a certain critical threshold, it can trigger a reflex of severe ocean acidification that lasts for 10,000 years. The history of the earth shows that over the last 540 million years, this has coincided with four of the five great mass extinctions. Today’s oceans are absorbing carbon at an order of magnitude faster than the worst case in the geologic record, even though humans have only been extracting carbon for the last 100 years. This is likely to be similar to past global catastrophes potentially culminating in the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

A June 20  report by the Center for Climate Integrity found that U.S. coastal communities face more than $400 billion in costs over the next 20 years, much of it sooner, to defend themselves from inevitable sea-level rise.

Related to this, a study published May 20 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that coasts should plan for 6.5 feet of sea level rise by 2100. Ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland could cause far more sea-level rise than previously thought.

These reports are forcing the power structure to face the reality of the climate crisis.  Last month, Moody’s Analytics examined the economic impact of the failure to curb planet-warming emissions in The Economic Implications of Climate Change. Moody’s warns there will be a $69 trillion price tag by 2100 due to the far-reaching economic damage of the climate crisis. They warned: “There is no denying it: The longer we wait to take bold action to curb emissions, the higher the costs will be for all of us.”

These reports come at a time of increased climate-caused disasters.

  • This year, wildfires have scorched more than 1.2 million acres in Alaska, making it one of the state’s three biggest fire years on record. Fires are spreading farther north into the Arctic, burning more intensely and starting earlier in the year as climate models have suggested. On July 4, Anchorage hit 90°F, breaking the city’s all-time record by 5 degrees. Alaska’s statewide average temperature was 7.9°F above average, according to NOAA’s latest National State of the Climate report. For the first time in the 95-year record, the year-long July-to-June average temperature for Alaska as a whole was above freezing.
  • Around the world, global warming has clearly contributed to an increase in extreme fires from tropical rainforests to boreal evergreen forests, and they are often linked with heatwaves. Fires pose new threats to places that aren’t used to experiencing them, including temperate mid-latitude forests near regions with dense populations, as shown by unusual wildfires in places like Germany during last summer’s European heatwave and drought. There is rapid growth of unusually extreme fires burning across South America, Australia, and western North America like the extreme fires in California and Canada last year.
  • In Indian Country, according to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, weather on the Northern Great Plains has been getting more variable, erratic and destructive. In 2011, the Northern Plains faced a rash of wildfires and drought, followed in 2012, by severe flooding. Occasionally, these take the form of high-powered storms, like tornadoes that ravaged South Dakota reservations in 2016, or the ice storm of 2018, or the bomb cyclone of 2019. A bomb cyclone, last March occurred when an unseasonably hot column of air shot suddenly upward and collided with the frigid high atmosphere sending barometric pressure plummeting. In seconds, the sky erupted bringing devastating wind, storm, and flooding. Homes and ranches of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation were hit like a missile, more than 500 homes were left uninhabitable. Click here for information on how you can help.
  • Washington, D.C., just experienced nearly a month’s worth of rain in an hour. According to a paper published in the journal Nature, these intense rains are a byproduct of man-made climate change.
  • Last month was the hottest June on record globally. In Europe, there were record heat waves that sent Europe’s temperatures soaring to 114 degrees Fahrenheit.

Despite these realities, there is inadequate action by most nations of the world especially the United States.  President Donald Trump dismissed the need for climate action during the G-20 summit in Japan, saying he doesn’t want to take action to confront the emergency because such a move would threaten corporate profits. As experts have warned, if we do not confront the climate emergency now, we will pay much more later.

DNC Resisting Climate Debate 

In the 2020 election cycle, the Democratic Party is resisting climate change as an issue even though 15 of its presidential candidates, more than 50 of its member organizations in the states, and a slew of progressive organizations that make up its voting base, some armed with petitions bearing over 200,000 signatures, are calling for the Democratic National Committee to hold a separate climate-focused debate. On June 10, the executive committee of the Democratic Party in Miami-Dade County — the U.S. metropolitan area considered most vulnerable to sea-level rise — voted unanimously to urge Democrats to devote one of the 12 Democratic presidential debates to the climate crisis.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez, who rejected a climate-focused debate, tried to explain the party’s opposition in post on Medium, saying it would be impractical to hold a single-issue forum. His refusal led to hundreds of activists sitting in at the DNC headquarters, including sleeping overnight, before the first debate, demanding a debate on climate change.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a  resolution asking Congress to declare that global warming is an emergency and demanding a massive mobilization of resources to protect the U.S. economy, society and national security. They called for “a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive-scale to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency and to restore the climate for future generations.”

Billionaire Tom Steyer has entered the 2020 race pledging to spend $100 million and focus his campaign on climate change. In his first television advertisement, he focused on the corruption of government and the economy and on climate. He said: “You look at climate change, that is people who are saying we’d rather make money than save the world.”

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins has put forward an ecosocialist Green New Deal that not only transitions to a clean energy economy but remakes the economy and creates an economic bill of rights while cutting the military budget by 75 percent.

The Climate Justice Movement’s Growing Power

The movement is building power and impacting the direction of the U.S. and the world, but the response by those supporting the status quo was shown in France recently when on the hottest day in French history climate protesters were brutally tear-gassed for demanding climate action. 

This action, occurring in Paris where the Paris Climate Accord was reached, adds to the heightening of the conflict. The inadequate Paris agreement showed the movement must do more than rely on international agreements.

Third Phase 

A longtime labor and climate activist, Jeremy Brecher, describes the climate movement entering a third phase. In the first phase, the man-made climate crisis was confirmed and the movement focused on international agreements and lobbying governments. The second phase arose when the Copenhagen agreement failed, leading to a protest movement against fossil fuel infrastructure, protests of fossil fuel corporations and against investors funding climate-destroying infrastructure.

The third phase centers around a global Green New Deal. It involves protests,  electoral demands, and challenging inaction of fossil fuel-funded politicians. He points to groups like Sunrise, Extinction Rebellion and the Student Strike for Climate as examples of this phase. It is a meta-movement that integrates, environmentalism, ecological restoration, social justice, racial equality, workers’ rights, restorative agriculture, and many other challenges to our unjust and unsustainable world order into a practical program.

Climate protests, which have been ongoing for a decade, are having victories. Recently, two major oil pipelines for carrying crude oil from Canada’s tar sands region were called into question as judges in Minnesota overturned a key approval for a proposed pipeline and Michigan’s attorney general threatened to shut down an aging pipeline under the Great Lakes. These were the latest setbacks for a series of five pipelines designed to transport tar sands that have either been canceled or delayed. The other projects include Energy East and Northern Gateway, both of which were canceled, and Trans Mountain expansion and Keystone XL pipelines, both of which are on hold.

On July 13, climate activists from Beyond Extreme Energy held a protest outside Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) commissioner Cheryl LaFleur’s home in Massachusetts. They demanded that LaFleur vote “no” on all new fossil fuel infrastructure. Jordan Engel listed the 100 people responsible for killing the planet. Holding people accountable is becoming a reality in this new phase of climate activism.

People are connecting the issue of militarism with climate. In Maine, 22 people were arrested protesting spending on Navy ships urging “Fund Climate Solutions, Not Endless War.” The facts are in, the Pentagon is a top global climate polluter. Popular Resistance and other organizations are organizing the People’s Mobilization to Stop the U.S. War Machine and Save the Planet on Sept. 22 and 23, while the UN High Commission meets, and encouraging people to participate in other actions that weekend, the Climate Strike and Puerto Rican Independence Day March. In our most recent interview on Clearing the FOG, we spoke with David Schwartzman, author of “The Earth is Not For Sale,” about ending Fossil Fuel Militarized Capitalism.

Extinction Rebellion brought the protest movement to The New York Times.  On June 24, 70 were arrested demanding the Times cover the climate crisis as a global emergency. During a sit-in on 8th Avenue they chanted “Report the urgency, this is a climate emergency!” On Monday, Extinction Rebellion D.C. demonstrated at the Capitol

The movement continues to grow. More than 7,000 colleges and universities across the globe declared a climate emergency on July 10 committing to mobilize on the crisis.  This month, more than 70 health organizations called for urgent action on “one of the greatest threats to health America has ever faced,” calling it the cancer of climate change.” They cite storm and flood emergencies, chronic air pollution, the spread of diseases carried by insects, and heat-related illnesses. Extreme heat has been the leading cause of weather-related deaths.

The movement is having an impact and industry and politicians know it. Long term campaigns to stop climate infrastructure, force banks and investors to divest from the fossil fuel industry and demand emergency climate policies are getting stronger.

At the beginning of July, after a meeting of OPEC in Vienna, their Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said, “there is a growing mass mobilization of world opinion… against oil,” children “are asking us about their future because… they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry.” Barkindo added the “mobilization” was “beginning to… dictate policies and corporate decisions, including investment in the industry.”

In testimony to British lawmakers this month, famed scientist and environmental advocate David Attenborough said, “We cannot be radical enough in dealing with the issues that face us at the moment. The question is: what is practically possible? How can we take the electorate with us in dealing with these things?” It is the job of the climate movement to push political systems to respond.

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers co-direct Popular Resistance.

A version of this article first appeared on PopularResistance.org.




The Danger of Getting Sidetracked

What this story really shows is how the corporate media derails meaningful debates and draws us all into a modern version of bread and circuses, writes Jonathan Cook.

By Jonathan Cook
Jonathan-Cook.net

I really do not wish to write about Mark Field, the British government minister who assaulted a climate change activist last week, grabbing her by the neck and violently marching her out of a City of London dinner while all the hundreds of other wealthy diners watched either impassively or approvingly. But whatever my wishes, it seems I must.

I don’t wish to write about Mark Field, because the media have constructed a debate that is limited to one matter only, even if there are apparently innumerable variations of that one issue to be raised.

Did Field behave like a gentleman or a knave? Is it reasonable that he believed the woman posed a danger? Is his apology enough? Were the climate change activists trespassing and, if they were, did that justify Field’s actions? Has he broken the ministerial code of conduct? Would we still be outraged if the activist were a man? Should he resign? Is his outburst evidence he is a wife beater? And so on.

When we engage in these debates, they seem important. As if we are fighting for the health of our societies; or upholding key values, or at the very least the rule of law. As if it shows we care. As if it can make things a little better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which is exactly why I don’t want to write about Mark Field. Because the reality is that things won’t get better while we allow ourselves to be manipulated into these kind of ring-fenced debates.

There is a reason why the corporate media quickly escalate simple stories like Mark Field’s into such apparently elaborate and polarizing public discussions. And the reason is to stop other kinds of debates, much more vital ones, from taking place that these stories would naturally provoke if we had a truly free media. We are being offered the modern version of bread and circuses.

Strip away the narrow, sectarian party politics in play here, and there is nothing debatable about Mark Field’s actions. He is caught on camera – his face full of rage, not fear – violently grabbing an activist who clearly poses no threat to him and who is, in fact, simply walking behind his chair. Field pushes her up against a wall, then seizes her by the back of the neck and frog-marches her out of the dining hall. If you feel it necessary, you can also factor in that the activist is a woman and the government minister a man.

Simple Situation

Either way, what is shown in the video is an entirely unjustified attack on a peaceful protester. Had the roles been reversed, the activist (whether a man or woman) would have been immediately arrested for assaulting a government minister. The activist would now be in jail with lawyers arguing over whether bail should be allowed. So why isn’t Mark Field now in the same predicament?

The point is that anyone who wishes to make the argument any more complex than the one I just outlined is doing so either in bad faith or because they have listened too credulously to others who have spoken in bad faith. Which includes the entire spectrum of the state-corporate media, including its supposedly liberal components like the BBC and the Guardian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the story about Mark Field really illustrates is how effective the corporate media is in derailing meaningful debates about the state of our societies. The media offer us a placebo – a public arena for largely empty arguments that we are encouraged to become deeply invested in emotionally. We are offered two easy options and must choose to rally to the cause of one of those tribes – left or right. And through righteous anger, for or against, we feel temporarily cured of a deeper dissatisfaction or sense of foreboding.

The reality is that these public debates are simply gladiatorial contests offering instant – and hollow – gratification. They have as much concrete meaning in terms of changing the substance of our societies, of addressing the injustice and unsustainability of our political and economic systems, as does cheering a football team.

That is not to argue that denouncing an assault on a peaceful protester is wasted energy, or that rationalizing it – as so many people on the right are currently doing – is not deeply ugly. The treatment of protesters by the state and its agents, or of women by men, are important matters for public discussion. But that is not why the media are so willingly fueling the row about Mark Field’s actions.

Deflecting Attention

The debate is not being used as an opportunity to clarify how our society should view acceptable behavior; it is being actively promoted by a ruling class to deflect our attention from the deeper contextual issues the Mark Field episode highlights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allowing two sides in a debate about whether he behaved appropriately is already to have conceded the progressive argument. It is to accept that there is room for discussion, that the video evidence is not conclusive in itself.

This is a contest where the stakes are so immaterial to the corporate media that each outlet can afford to take either side of the debate and know it will make no meaningful difference. They can berate Mark Field or sympathize with him, and it will make no odds to anyone or anything but Field and possibly the victim of his assault.

And the very cynical fueling of this debate by the state-corporate media, one that may last days or even weeks, can then be cited as seemingly persuasive evidence that the media truly is a pluralistic forum for public discussion, where all sides are represented, where everyone is given a voice. Contrived debates like this one will be used as ammunition to shunt media critics like myself further into sidings, showing how vigorous, relevant and on the side of the underdog the “mainstream” media really is.

This is the primary purpose of the state-corporate media. To draw our energies away from real issues hiding in plain sight towards obvious ones of only specific or marginal significance, and then persuade us that we are in fact engaged with the most vital issues of the day.

Personalities, Not Power Structures

This is precisely why the media are obsessed with individuals and personalities – celebs, sporting heroes, royal family members, actors, politicians, world leaders – not the actual power structures that dictate the patterns of our lives, that determine the chances of us gaining redress or justice, that offer the key to extricating ourselves from the economic and environmental ruin we are hurtling towards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If necessary, Mark Field can be sacrificed by the power structures that dominate our lives (though usually only temporarily – think of other government ministers who have found themselves briefly ousted from power and then quickly rehabilitated, such as Boris Johnson or Liam Fox) because the mechanisms that protect these power structures are far more important than the punishment or humiliation or any lone individual.

Consider two much deeper issues desperately struggling to gain any traction as they are smothered by the media’s gleeful furor over the Mark Field story.

One concerns the event Mark Field attended. It was an annual dinner at Mansion House, the official residence of the mayor of the City of London. The City of London is not the Mary Poppins’ way of saying “London.” It is a tiny, secretive enclave within Britain, a state within a state located in the heart of London. Seen another way, it is a kind of British Vatican, though one that worships money alone.

Corrupt Fiefdom

It abides by its own rules, financial and criminal, creating effectively a tax-haven within the UK that cannot be policed by any of the usual watchdogs. The City of London has managed to continue unreformed from its medieval origins into the modern era for one reason alone: it is the perfect way for a wealthy elite to maintain their power and privilege by bypassing the imperfect democratic system operating outside its concrete shores, in the rest of the U.K. The City of London is a deeply corrupt fiefdom inside a slightly less corrupt Britain. If the mafia were given the chance to make themselves look legit, they might create in Italy something very much like the City of London.

Those attending the dinner are drawn from either Britain’s wealth elite, or those who serve them and aspire to join them. Figures such as Field, a minister in the Foreign Office, and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, who addressed the dinner, oil some of the wheels of this exclusive club partially out in the open, through U.K. politics. But they oil other wheels in the shadows, through their activities in the City of London. What precisely they get up to in the City is difficult to know given the secrecy, and all the harder to now learn about after Field’s ruling party has worked so assiduously to hobble Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks platform that was established to help whistleblowers expose the more shadowy activities of our rulers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The City of London is the biggest weapon in the armory of the ruling elite’s class war against the British – and global – public. It is a vacuum sucking up public finances to further enrich the wealthy and leave the masses reeling from austerity policies, while using the media to bolster the impression that it is a hub of wealth creation.

That’s why you almost never hear anything about the City of London. Our supposed representatives, politicians and corporate media alike, are happy to keep the veil mostly drawn across this pocket of power. It is not just that they do not want to take it on, they are already very much part of the power structures it has designed both to preserve itself and shield itself from meaningful criticism.

As long as we are talking about Mark Field’s attitude to women, we are not talking about his and his government’s active collusion with the most regressive, secretive, unaccountable rotten borough in the UK – a city-state located geographically inside Britain, but operating outside its strictures.

Mark Field’s attack could have provided an opportunity to examine this powerful relic of medieval Britain, to consider who the City of London really serves, and to wonder why the political class are cozying up to it rather than trying to eradicate it as a dangerous behemoth of Britain’s surviving feudal order. The City of London is integral to a system of ever-accelerating wealth hording by a global elite that is economically unsustainable. But in response, the media willingly amplify a loud culture war and simplistic identity politics precisely so no other kind of debate stands a chance of being audible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other, even more obvious issue the activists were trying to draw attention to was the threat posed to the environment, to other species and to our own future by the preposterous, self-serving premise – espoused by the City of London and its politician and media cronies – of endless economic growth based on the exploitation of the planet’s finite resources.

Late Waking to Emergency

We are now facing a climate emergency – or rather some of us are finally and very belatedly waking up to a climate emergency that has been many decades in the making. We have come to it so late because the wealth elite represented at the City of London dinner have used the key power structures at their disposal – the political and media establishments – to deceive us, to keep us sleepwalking towards oblivion as they have carried on plundering the planet, destroying the biosphere, and stashing away their inordinate wealth.

The state-corporate media has not only downplayed climate change but is still doing so, as credibly as it can manage given the relentless scientific evidence that human society is hurtling towards an abyss.

In fact, many of the journalists responding to Mark Field’s attack have lost no time in using it as a way to further alienate the public from climate change activism. They have presented those prepared not simply to wait quietly for us all to be driven over the cliff-edge as a nasty, uncouth, potentially violent rabble. They have done this even as the video footage shows the women who protested at the Mansion House dinner were dressed in evening gowns and remained entirely peaceful as they sought to gain attention for the most urgent and catastrophic issue of our time.

There should be no debate that they are right, that we live in a rotten and rotting system of power that has blindly invested all its energies in perpetuating a feudal system of wealth creation for a ruling class, even as the futures of our children – all our children – hang in the balance.

Yes, Mark Field, his face red with indignation, looked like a man who had lost the plot, who was filled with an overwhelming sense of his own entitlement, and who was deeply threatened – not by violence from the protesters but by arguments he simply has no way of addressing rationally.

The real debate we need urgently to engage with is not whether Mark Field is a wife-beater or misogynist. It is how we deal with the power structure he represents, the system he is a loyal servant of. For that psychopathic system is ready to beat us all, men and women alike, into the dust, to keep extracting the last ounce of wealth from a dying corpse, to obliterate our futures.

Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth.

This article is from his blog, Jonathan Cook.net. 




Fake Meat: Big Food’s Attempt to Further Industrialize What We Eat

We need to decolonize our food cultures and our minds of food imperialism, writes Vandana Shiva.

By Vandana Shiva
Independent Science News

Food is not a commodity, it is not “stuff” put together mechanically and artificially in labs and factories. Food is life. Food holds the contributions of all beings that make the food web, and it holds the potential of maintaining and regenerating the web of life. Food also holds the potential for health and disease, depending on how it was grown and processed. Food is therefore the living currency of the web of life.

As an ancient Upanishad reminds us “Everything is food, everything is something else’s food.”
Good food and real food are the basis of health.
Bad food, industrial food, fake food is the basis of disease.
Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine.” In Ayurveda, India’s ancient science of life, food is called “sarvausadha” the medicine that cures all disease.

Industrial food systems have reduced food to a commodity, to “stuff” that can then be constituted in the lab. In the process both the planet’s health and our health has been nearly destroyed.

Planetary Impacts 
Seventy five percent of the planetary destruction of soil, water, biodiversity, and 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from industrial agriculture, which also contributes to 75 percent of food-related chronic diseases. It contributes 50 percent of the greenhouse gases driving climate change. Chemical agriculture does not return organic matter and fertility to the soil. Instead it is contributing to desertification and land degradation. It also demands more water since it destroys the soil’s natural water-holding capacity. Industrial food systems have destroyed the biodiversity of the planet both through the spread of monocultures, and through the use of toxics and poisons which are killing bees, butterflies, insects, birds, leading to the sixth mass extinction.
Biodiversity-intensive and poison-free agriculture, on the other hand, produces more nutrition per acre while rejuvenating the planet. It shows the path to “zero hunger” in times of climate change.
The industrial agriculture and toxic food model has been promoted as the only answer to economic and food security. However, globally, more than 1 billion people are hungry. More than 3 billion suffer from food-related chronic diseases.

It uses 75 percent of the land yet industrial agriculture based on fossil fuel intensive, chemical intensive monocultures produce only 30 percent of the food we eat. Meanwhile, small, biodiverse farms using 25 percent of the land provide 70 percent of the food. At this rate, if the share of industrial agriculture and industrial food in our diet is increased to 45 percent, we will have a dead planet. One with no life and no food.

The mad rush for fake food and fake meat, ignorant of the diversity of our foods and food cultures, and the role of biodiversity in maintaining our health, is a recipe for accelerating the destruction of the planet and our health.
GMO Soya is Unsafe

In a recent article How our commitment to consumers and our planet led us to use GM soy,” Pat Brown, CEO & founder of Impossible Foods, says: “We sought the safest and most environmentally responsible option that would allow us to scale our production and provide the Impossible Burger to consumers at a reasonable cost.”

Given the fact that 90 percent of the monarch butterflies have disappeared due to Roundup ready crops, and we are living through what scientists have called an “insectageddon,” using GMO soya is hardly an “environmentally responsible option.”

In writing this, Pat Brown reveals his ignorance about weeds evolving to resist Roundup and becoming “superweeds” now requiring more and more lethal herbicides. Bill Gates and DARPA are even calling for the use of gene drives to exterminate amaranth, a sacred and nutritious food in India, because the Palmer Amaranth has become a superweed in the Roundup Ready soya fields of the U.S.

At a time when across the world the movement to ban GMOs and Roundup is growing, promoting GMO soya as “fake meat” is misleading the eater both in terms of the ontology of the burger, and on claims of safety.

The “Impossible Burger” based on GMO, Roundup sprayed soya is not a “safe” option.

Zen Honeycutt and Moms across America just announced that the Impossible Burger tested positive for glyphosate. “The levels of glyphosate detected in the Impossible Burger by Health Research Institute Laboratories were 11 X higher than the Beyond Meat Burger. The total result (glyphosate and its break down AMPA) was 11.3 ppb. Moms Across America also tested the Beyond Meat Burger and the results were 1 ppb.

“We are shocked to find that the Impossible Burger can have up to 11X higher levels of glyphosate residues than the Beyond Meat Burger according to these samples tested. This new product is being marketed as a solution for ‘healthy’ eating, when in fact 11 ppb of glyphosate herbicide consumption can be highly dangerous. Only 0.1 ppb of glyphosate has been shown to destroy gut bacteria, which is where the stronghold of the immune system lies.”

Recent court cases have showcased the links of Roundup to cancer. With the build up of liabilities related to cancer cases, the investments in Roundup Ready GMO soya is blindness to the market.

Or the hope that fooling consumers can rescue Bayer/Monsanto.

There is another ontological confusion related to fake food. While claiming to get away from meat, “fake meat” is about selling meat-like products.

Pat Brown declares “we use genetically engineered yeast to produce heme, the “magic” molecule that makes meat taste like meat — and makes the Impossible Burger the only plant-based product to deliver the delicious explosion of flavor and aroma that meat-eating consumers crave.”

I had thought that the plant-based diet was for vegans and vegetarians, not meat lovers.

Big Food & Big Money Driving Fake Food Goldrush

Indeed, the promotion of fake foods seems to have more to do with giving new life to the failing GMO agriculture and the junk food industry, and the threat to it from the rising of consciousness and awareness everywhere that organic, local, fresh food is real food which regenerates the planet and our health. In consequence, investment in “plant-based food companies” has soared from nearly zero in 2009 to $600 million by 2018. And these companies are looking for more.

Pat Brown declares, “If there’s one thing that we know, it’s that when an ancient unimprovable technology counters a better technology that is continuously improvable, it’s just a matter of time before the game is over.” He added, “I think our investors see this as a $3 trillion opportunity.”

This is about profits and control. He, and those jumping on the fake-food goldrush, have no discernible knowledge, or consciousness about, or compassion for living beings, the web of life, nor the role of living food in weaving that web.

Their sudden awakening to “plant-based diets,” including GMO soya, is an ontological violation of food as a living system that connects us to the ecosystem and other beings, and indicates ignorance of the diversity of cultures that have used a diversity of plants in their diets.

Interconnections

Ecological sciences have been based on the recognition of the interconnections and interrelatedness between humans and nature, between diverse organisms, and within all living systems, including the human body. It has thus evolved as an ecological and a systems science, not a fragmented and reductionist one. Diets have evolved according to climates and the local biodiversity the climate allows. The biodiversity of the soil, of the plants and our gut microbiome is one continuum. In Indian civilization, technologies are tools. Tools need to be assessed on ethical, social and ecological criteria. Tools/technologies have never been viewed as self-referential. They have been assessed in the context of contributing to the wellbeing of all.

Through fake food, evolution, biodiversity, and the web of life is being redefined as an “ancient unimprovable technology.” That ignores sophisticated forms of knowledge that have evolved in diverse agricultural and food cultures in diverse climate and ecosystems to sustain and renew the biodiversity, the ecosystems, the health of people and the planet.

The Eat Forum, which brought out a report that tried to impose a monoculture diet of chemically grown, hyper-industrially-processed food on the world has a partnership through FrESH with the junk food industry, and Big Ag such as Bayer, BASF, Cargill, Pepsico amongst others.

Fake food is thus building on a century and a half of food imperialism and food colonization of our diverse food knowledges and food cultures.

Big Food and Big Money are behind the Fake Food Industry. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are funding startups.

We need to decolonize our food cultures and our minds of food imperialism

The industrial West has always been arrogant, and ignorant, of the cultures it has colonized. “Fake Food” is just the latest step in a history of food imperialism.

Soya is a gift of East Asia, where it has been a food for millennia. It was only eaten as fermented food to remove its anti-nutritive factors. But recently, GMO soya has created a soya imperialism, destroying plant diversity. It continues the destruction of the diversity of rich edible oils and plant-based proteins of Indian dals that we have documented.

Women from India’s slums called on me to bring our mustard back when GMO soya oil started to be dumped on India, and local oils and cold press units in villages were made illegal.

That is when we started the “sarson (mustard) satyagraha” to defend our healthy cold pressed oils from dumping of hexane-extracted GMO soya oil.

Hexane is a neurotoxin. While Indian peasants knew that pulses, or legumes, fix nitrogen, the West was industrializing agriculture based on synthetic nitrogen, which contributes to greenhouse gases, dead zones in the ocean and dead soils. While we ate a diversity of “dals” in our daily “dal roti” the British colonizers, who had no idea of the richness of the nutrition of pulses, reduced them to animal food. Chana became chick pea, gahat became horse gram, tur became pigeon pea.

We stand at a precipice of a planetary emergency, a health emergency, a crisis of farmers livelihoods. Fake food will accelerate the rush to collapse. Real food gives us a chance to rejuvenate the earth, our food economies, food sovereignty and food cultures. Through real food we can decolonize our food cultures and our consciousness. We can remember that food is living and gives us life.

Boycott GMO Impossible Burger. Make tofu. Cook Dal.

Vandana Shiva is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, and alter-globalization author.

This article is reprinted from Independent Science News under Creative Commons license.




The Madness of Fossil Fuel Subsidies

A system worried about global warming and the health impacts of air pollution should stop aiding companies that produce those public threats, writes Niklas Hagelberg.

 By Niklas Hagelberg
in NAIROBI, Kenya
Inter Press Service

Fossil fuels — oil, gas, coal and their derivatives — pollute the atmosphere and emit the greenhouse gases that are ramping up global heating to dangerous levels. And governments around the world are subsidizing this pollution.

Historically, governments used fossil fuel subsidies for a variety of reasons, including to promote energy independence, encourage industry and cushion the poorest in society.

But they never took sufficient account of what economists call “externalities” such as air pollution and the resulting impacts on our health.

There is a special kind of madness in a system that funds the healthcare burden from asthma, respiratory diseases and lung cancer, and at the same time funds companies that pollute the air and contribute towards these health issues in the first place.

Ordinary people pay the price three times over — taxes for healthcare, taxes to support fossil fuel subsidies and then the ultimate price of compromises to their health. Air pollution claims the lives of 1-in-9 every year and is the single biggest health risk facing people across the world. Fossil fuel subsidies often fail to benefit targeted groups and are a significant drain on national budgets.

Redirecting Resources

Global fossil fuel subsidies cost taxpayers about $400 billion. Imagine if these public resources were directed to finance sustainable development, clean energy and climate action.

Fossil fuel subsidies disproportionately benefit the top oil majors, help their profit margins and serve as a powerful disincentive to develop renewable energy. They also reduce the available pot of resources for investment in renewables.

Countries that heavily subsidize these fuels of the past are stifling the current and future business and economic opportunities that renewable energy provides.

Redirecting the money used for fossil fuel subsidies has the potential to accelerate our ability to address the global climate crisis, and ensure a just decarbonization. The additional resources could also be used for other development priorities such as health, education or infrastructure.

The planet can no longer afford these subsidies. We should move to scrap them as soon as possible and make the switch to a green economy.

Changing Energy Landscape 

The energy transition is happening now, all around us. The growth rate of renewables is three times faster than fossil and nuclear fuel, with record growth rates in solar and wind power. 

However, despite the rapid pace of change, the bulk of all our power for heating, lighting, cooking, transport and industry still comes from fossil fuels.

A major way to reduce air pollution — which exceeds World Health Organization safety levels in many cities around the world — is to switch more quickly away from fossil fuels. We should eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, except for liquefied petroleum gas cooking programs.

UN Environment, in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Institute for Sustainable Development Global Service Initiative, has developed a methodology to measure fossil fuel subsidies, providing comparable data to allow the tracking of national and global trends.

The report helps governments to understand the extent of the problem (for example what percentage of their Gross Domestic Product they spend on fossil fuel subsidies) and take action to reduce or abolish these subsidies.

Niklas Hagelberg is coordinator of the Climate Change Programme at UN Environment.

This article is from Inter Press Service.