Don’t Mourn, Organize!

I am as sad today as I have ever been about the state of our nation.  But luckily for me I am a student of history, and I recall the dying words of Joe Hill, an organizer from the early 20th century:

 “Don’t mourn, organize!”

Let his words carry you forward as we send these cretins packing.

Mobilized is a site dedicated to building the foundation for a better society.  One that is more fair to all life, human and otherwise.  And so we have made efforts to avoid politics and focus on offering solutions here.  Yet to build a proper foundation, one must always clear away obstacles and level the ground.  It’s sadly the case in the United States of America, and many other countries, that the ground is littered with pebbles, stones, and giant chunks of granite.  So it falls to me to take a moment to get out a backhoe, and work to remove the obstacles.  Which is why I am today taking on the bums who seek to destroy citizens rights to Privacy and Bodily Autonomy.
We saw them pervert the legal process to take away women’s rights and we know from their own words that they intend to do far more harm to the public.  Those goals, if enacted, would also prevent Mobilized from achieving any of its’ goals.  That’s why, with apologies, I am making this essay very, very partisan and nakedly political.

A couple of points to ponder –
  • I note that on Friday evening, I took lots of video footage of the protest rallies that erupted after Roe v. Wade was overturned unjustly.  One reel is simply 8 minutes of protestors marching.  At about 50 people for every 10 seconds, that rate indicates  thousands were in attendance.  There was, as well, a totally different rally at the Federal Courthouse… and one that had spontaneously closed Market St. before all 3 groups converged around 7pm.
  • I mention the crowd size to note – – that’s far larger than the size of the crowd that attacked the Capitol on 1-6-21 yet  not one personal went to jail yesterday. Non-violent civil disobedience works.
  • In contrast, some hate-filled bigot ran his monster truck into the protestors in Iowa yesterday.  The Christo-Fascists resort to violence as their first choice nowadays.  There is no need to stoop to their level.
So, reader, you are not alone.  Once again, America is under threat from Theocratic wannabe dictators, and once again we shall defeat them.
What to do?  Well the most obvious thing is to utterly defeat the GOP in the Senate and in the House.  Every one of us should be taking every extra bit of time and/or money we have and putting it towards that goal.  But that’s just one option.  Here I am compiling some stuff I wrote earlier:
FLOOD. THE. ZONE.
  • Biden can act, now: Send federalized government doctors to all 50 states to solely perform abortions.  Setup free clinics on Federal Lands in each Gilead-State.  Let the GQP howl and piss and tie the bastards up forcing them to file endless lawsuits.
  • The Congress can act, now: Pass the 49-years late codification of RvW into law.  At a minimum put these f**kers on record, force them to vote publicly.  End the filibuster and pass it anyhow.  Also pass Universal Healthcare, so that women could actually afford to have kids and not even need abortions.
  •  The DC administration can act, now: 38 states have ratified the ERA, it is a goddamn constitutional amendment already.  It solely needs the bureaucrats to do the final steps to make it a law.  The Congress has no role in that, cannot oppose it in any way because their role has been done for years.  The states finished ratifying it 2+ years ago, so the only hurdle remaining is recording it into the record.  Once complete, the entire argument of SCOTUS vanishes.
  •  States can act too: California Governor Newsom isn’t the only sane governor.  Expect more to step up to make access become easier.
  •  Pack the courts.  Add 8 more justices, for a total of 17: 13 to match the existing Judicial Districts, and 4 At-Large.  Fight tooth and nail to get them installed, don’t settle for anything less than 13 total.  We have for the entirety of our Republic had courts packed with right-wing reactionaries who only on occasion did the right thing by the public.  Enough of that, it’s time for a court that is not in thrall to the rich and powerful.  Our Democratic Experiment demands it.
  •  “Two can play at this game.”  If the government is going to deny the right of Privacy to 1/2 the population, it’s time for the other half to know how that feels.  Mandatory vasectomies for any male under 30 years old.  Viagra is banned, even by prescription, unless under direct visual in person supervision of a doctor.  The user is not allowed to choose the doctor.

 

 

It may be too pessimistic to call this week’s events the last hurrah for democracy or the idea of self-governance.  But it is surely the Democratic Party’s last chance to do something or face oblivion.  We have waited 50 years for them to be anything other than milquetoast water carriers for the rich and powerful.  They have talked a good game but have not delivered since the New Deal 8 decades ago.  So yes, this next year is make or break for them. It’s time to accomplish the reversal of this intrusion into the privacy of hundreds of millions of citizens – – and doing so will be the bare minimum required to protect the Republic.

We know from the history of Weimar Germany and other places that this nascent Theocratic power grab can evolve rapidly into full-on Fascism, and so it’s easy to feel like this is America’s last chance to stop them.  All I can do is point out that most likely it’s not. Several times before, we faced this threat and defeated it… starting with those hate-filled goons with belt buckles on their hats who infected the soil of Plymouth Rock centuries ago.  The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution repudiated their delusions, just as all of England and Europe had done when they booted them in the first place.  The fact that 6 partisan hacks on the SCOTUS share those delusions is unfortunate, but it’s not one that cannot be overcome.  In very short order, we may well be exiling these Neo-Pilgrim goons too.

Now I’m passing the pen over to a dear friend, who can put this moment in a deeper context.  They are a lesbian who has been involved in this fight since the early 1980’s. “…let’s be clear, the white European heteronormative patriarchy is just doing what they do best…making their issues the problem of the oppressed.  Like racism, which they’ve made the problem of POCs, women having unregulated pleasure is a man’s problem and we should be targeting their reproductive “rights”.  But as someone who has never fit in for any number of reasons, I know for every one of them, there’s two of me and if you’re lucky, you can survive together while just being careful – of where you go and what you reveal.  Privacy is not a right, it’s a craft.” – anonymous commenter

So, it’s time to get in the streets, to gum up the works, and to force change via non-violent civil disobedience.  I’ve already begun, you know, because I went down to the demonstration, to get my fair share of abuse….

 

“As China looks to the Future, America is Stuck in the Past”

Antonio Carvallo “China is thinking of the future, while the United States wants to return to the past”.

(Image by Continents and contents)

The dispute for global hegemony that we are experiencing scares us because of the danger of the use of nuclear weapons. We see that there are leaders who are quite unbalanced and lacking in empathy, who might be willing to use them.

However, there is a caricaturing, a demonisation of China, a country which, although it applies trade and production policies that are not too different from those of the rest of the planet, does have other concepts, other values, a different way of interpreting democracy, human rights, what they consider to be the common good.

This collision between the Western way and the Eastern way of seeing the world is usually very poorly analysed in the mass media, which is why, from Presenza and accompanied by one of our leading international analysts, we could say, Antonio Carvallo, we are going to try to look a little beyond the prejudices and propaganda. Thank you, Antonio, for being with us.

Good. Thank you very much, Mariano, for inviting me.

Yes, I think it’s important that we can talk about these issues and your point of view always helps us to think a little bit beyond where we had put ourselves, sometimes you get into a drawer and well, sometimes you have to run away from the walls a little bit.

That happens to us all these days, doesn’t it?

Yes, yes. Let’s start by giving some kind of context to this. Let’s try to briefly describe this macro scenario in which this strong confrontation between China and the United States has been going on for a few years now.

Well, I believe that the broader framework is that of the decline of the United States as a superpower, of its hegemony; although it did not fully configure itself as an empire because China has been growing since it became an independent country in 1948, when its revolution was completed and the government of the Communist Party was consolidated. They had to start from scratch to develop China into the 20th century.

And then the United States, during that whole period, looked down on them. However, China’s support to Korea made them withdraw from Korea. And then from Vietnam, and all their various adventures in Asia were pushed back by the power and the resistance that China and the Soviet Union represented at that time.

So, from then on, the United States has gone backwards because China entered a period of economic development progression and consolidation of its modern society, which is unprecedented historically, and that led to a change in the relationship with the traditional powers, basically the United States and the clones of the United States in Europe and Japan.

Don’t forget that the United States maintained since the end of the World War II an occupation force in Europe of approximately 100,000 troops at all times. Mainly concentrated in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe. Another one in Japan by the way.

In addition, Europeans had to continue paying for the Marshall Plan, war reparations and compensating the US. Europe remained subordinated. They were giving instructions, because US were the ones running NATO, and still do. This body, under the pretense of being a defensive organization, was a kind of rubber stamp they used to kind of give legitimacy and to “legalize” their other military adventures, because fundamentally one of the main sources of exports for America is the military industry, as we know very well.

In that context, they need to legitimize their role in the different conflicts they have created since the end of the Cold War. Then come the wars in the Middle East and afterwards all the different interventions you can imagine, always with American military intervention, as a way to “stabilize” the disorder, and of course increasing their arms exports.

I think that China’s growth and its powerful position, especially in terms of trade, is something that is becoming increasingly evident in terms of technology, but perhaps the decline of the United States is something that is sometimes left invisible, because they continue to control the major media.

And of the big mechanisms such as the United Nations. You have seen how, for example, Antonio Guterres has been very timid in all these events because they have everything under their thumb, they knock on your door and say, “if you don’t do this, there will be consequences”, they are bullies! They have taken international relations to this point, and that’s what they are doing at the moment with the European Union, that’s why you see that the leaders of the European Union are bureaucrats, because they haven’t won popular elections, none of their parties have any political responsibility towards the general public. So, they say the most unbelievable things like Russophobia, what it is, how to justify it, they seem to legitimize the attitude that the Western states and the United States have taken towards Russia.

And well, going back, we have left a little bit the development of China to talk briefly about the case of Ukraine, because that defines the relations between Russia and China and the agreement that exists and that has represented a resistance to American impositions. So, there is a whole power struggle. There is a very buffoonish stage where many statements are made in front of the media, which in turn distort the news all the time, creating fake news, like everywhere else, and everything is done in front of the television. So, what Biden says or what Putin says or the Russian foreign minister says. Then what the various heads of the European Union say, Ursula von der Leyen on the one hand and afterwards another one appears, which is the head of the Council, Charles Michel who is in Belgium, and then there is the secretary for relations, who is Borrell and the heads of state as necessary, and undoubtedly the NATO secretary general, Stoltenberg. All of them win television space and make inflammatory and always very insulting statements and threats of very low level and without touching any of the substantive points in relation to Russia.

Russia has been holding these talks since the end of last year, you remember we had another conversation on radio, he said that if they continued to move eastwards there was going to be a very serious problem, because there had been continuous NATO advances into new states of the former USSR, which now became independent on Russia’s own initiative, became independent, Germany re-unified, a number of events that were based on good faith, good will and the initiative of the Perestroika people at that time. It’s not that they had to fight a war of liberation, none of them, Russia let them go, because the Russian Communist Party decided to disband the USSR by their own initiative, because it was no longer effective, because economically they had problems and they realised that the world had changed and they had to adapt to the new moment.

And there, going back to the case of China. So, it’s a bit like what happened with China, it went through stages in its internal development, while it was consolidating as a society internally. It was pulling people out of poverty, developing education systems, moving from a basic manufacturing activity to a real technology industry, as you rightly pointed out, and it began to advance in areas that already represent acute competition with the European states and the United States.

So, the West have started to say that they have to contain China and they have to contain Russia, what kind of language is that? We are living in a world of equals, of human societies that are equivalent, that have the same needs, the same conditions and so on. Yet there are those who say that others have to be contained, they are like despots, like bullies in a primary school, something of that kind. They have also had a very great inability to adapt because they have been stuck in the old world.

If you look at the slogans of the most recent leaders of the United States, they have Trump’s slogan: “We need to be Great again”, that is, with a sense of nostalgia that there is a certain greatness or power that the United States has already lost, and Trump as a candidate is going to give it back to them. In other words, he wanted to bring the past into the present, but it is not clear why. Now this other old man who is already senile, 79 years old, comes along and says “We have to build back better again”, we have to continue to be better, build better as with more resistant materials, etcetera, but both are nostalgic for the past and have no vision of the future.

Meanwhile, China is thinking only about the future. It is saying well, we are establishing through the Silk Road investment relations in all parts of the world, we are trying to bring in some of our experience and at the same time secure the raw materials we need, because we are a very large population in a relatively small territory and we want to be in contact with the whole world, but not aggressively, not by selling them arms and not by creating conflict, but partnerships.

Of course, it seems to me that this is the big difference, because for decades we have been dependent on the United States for its currency, for its thuggish force, which also imposed a model of life on us, and now we are beginning to generate a certain dependence on China too, because it is through technology, let’s say, that it can offer us greater developments and is often equated with them, but I think that the difference that you were making, not the thugs and the other more collaborative thing, is the subtle and enormous difference.

Indeed, because in the world to come, being the numbers we are, in the sense that we are going to become 8 billion people by the end of this year, according to most statistical sources, we are going to be more and more, after 20 years we are going to be 10 billion, that is, the inter-relationship between all of us in the same territory of the planet is going to be more and more interdependent. So, to say that now we are all dependent on China… We will all inevitably depend on each other for one reason or another, as it already happens today, but it is not a hegemonic dependence, it is like dependence in a family group, in a work group, in a club, in any human activity. Nobody can cut themselves off, nobody can create the conditions as historically, very briefly, very reduced, that the United States had by exception enjoyed since the end of World War II.

Because the great colonial empires of the past confronted each other and destroyed each other. And the same thing happened in Japan with America, they got crushed.

US had already sent an “Expeditionary Force”, as they called it, during WW I, and they moved about 4 million troops between the United States and Europe and fought on some of the western war fronts, gaining a lot of experience, above all they perfected all their systems of logistics, of transporting troops, of transporting materials across the Atlantic. In other words, they were very well prepared because they anticipated that the great confrontation between the empires of Germany and England would inevitably take place a few years later.

The ideology of Nazism interpreting that feeling in the defeated Germany, which still remained powerful, industrially, and in internal infrastructure. On the other hand, the British Empire, already declining because India was becoming independent, India and Gandhi, remember when the war broke out, said that they were going to postpone their libertarian cause, but to take it up again at the end of the war, that was already a fact, the British couldn’t sustain themselves. India was the great engine that allowed the empire, and Britain, to live; and Africa too, of course.

So, the United States took all and imposed its currency. It created the whole financial system of the world afterwards and took it all. It took it all! It’s a poker player who doesn’t know what happened to the cards and suddenly finds himself with all the stakes in front of him, and that’s what he’s been doing for the last 70 years, taking advantage and subordinating the rest. And now it’s over, because the world is changing and the US is stuck.

Antonio, you were talking about just that, about the need for the United States to get back to that situation of hogging all the chips in this poker game and China thinking about the future, as examples. You spoke of the world to come, of that future, are the aspirations of the peoples of the world compatible with the future that China is trying to build? We have a minute for you to tell me that.

I think so, because in that sense Mariano, the Chinese are reasonable, they are not doing things that would lead them to dominate the rest, to impose themselves on the rest, they want to collaborate, they want to work and at the same time they want to share. They want to collaborate; they want to work and at the same time they want to share. They have the concept of the common good, not the hegemon. I think they feel contempt for the ideology of “the winner wins all” which lies at the heart of Neo-Liberalism.
The same as I think fundamentally of the peoples of Europe, not the leadership that exists at the moment, who are all subordinate to NATO and the United States, the people.

The same with the peoples of Africa, when I came to this conversation, you were discussing what is happening in Latin America. We are all growing in one way or another according to the primary needs, of the societies we live in, but the world is moving towards a synthesis.

It is this process, that I see in today’s leadership is not been taken into account, it is out of sight for them. There is not even a remote idea of human intentionality, they believe they can suppress it, that they can contain it, according to their language. So, they are doomed to failure.
A few more cannon shots here or there, a few more conflicts, a proxy in Ukraine, how long will it last? Already their economy is collapsing as a result of their own sanctions, everywhere. In the United States they have already 12 per cent inflation. The latest opinion poll on Biden’s support is 36 percent of the American population supporting him, last week it was 42 percent. The American people are desperate and they are going to throw him out, and if he continues to do this adventurism and to generate a war that nobody needs, indebting the people of the United States by issuing money and donating to buy weapons is just crazy.

And, well, it may take a few more months before they realize that, so it’s very difficult to put an end date on the conflict, but it’s inevitable that people are going to realize, they’re going to take to the streets, naturally, the people of Europe are going to take to the streets very soon to protest about it. And if all the bureaucrats in the European Union have to be thrown out, they will be thrown out.

That would be so nice.

I would love that.

We’re going to see the dominoes falling.

Because we believe in people, Nelsy, as humanists we do. Of course not, we can’t imagine a world of repetition of American hegemonism. It’s suffocating.

Mariano, close. I’m sorry, it’s just that I can’t avoid this thing, how is it that I made the image and I said there’s something more beautiful.

It is because of these images that we always like to talk to Antonio Carvallo to open a floodgate that allows us to regain hope. Sometimes looking at the media, at the news, things get a bit dark. That’s good, to allow us to keep dreaming, to keep feeling, to keep beating. Thank you, Antonio Carvallo.

We have to ask ourselves questions with the things that we experience with ourselves and that make common sense. Because that is what prevails, that is what is human.

The People’s Summit for Democracy

People’s Summit – Bulletin June 8th

(Image by Mídia Ninja)

The People’s Summit for Democracy, an event organised by activists, social movements and left-wing groups from all over the Americas, has begun in Los Angeles, in contrast to the 9th Summit of the Americas, an event that brings together heads of state from the American container, businessmen and political leaders. The People’s Summit for Democracy began with debates, workshops and panels.

By Marcos Felipe for Ninja’s collaborative coverage of the People’s Summit.

In the face of the exclusionary character of the IX Summit of the Americas organised by the United States, mainly by excluding the participation of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the People’s Summit aims to be the voice of Latin America and of those directly affected by neoliberal capitalism and US imperialism. The People’s Summit will focus on issues of migration, immigration and human rights, as well as denouncing the neoliberal agenda of the US in Latin America and the Caribbean, the high rate of homelessness in the US, police violence against black people and the disastrous actions of the US government in the face of Covid-19.

Addressing world leaders gathered in Los Angeles for the 9th Summit of the Americas, the People’s Summit began with a demonstration on Migration and Human Rights for the Americas. The protest took place in downtown Los Angeles, with the participation of numerous organisations such as ANSWER Coalition, CHIRLA, Mídia Ninja, SEIU 721, BAJI, AJLA, SALVA, PWC and International Peoples Assembly. Maria Galvan, coordinator of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, denounced that the Summit of the Americas does not bring issues that matter to the people, such as migration and the legalisation of housing for all.

Photo Mídia Ninja

In front of the Los Angeles City Hall, at the Meeting of Solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, the indigenous leader Toya Manchinery highlighted the contradiction of Bolsonaro’s participation in the Summit of the Americas to address the issue of the Amazon rainforest. The leader, who is coordinator of COICA (Coordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin), highlighted how Bolsonaro’s policies are destroying the Amazon and attacking countless indigenous peoples. In his speech, Toya spoke of the union of indigenous peoples and the whole world to share resources and democracy, and denounced that a country is not democratic if there are people living on the streets and hungry.

Photo Mídia Ninja

The programme of debates at the Peoples’ Summit began with the theme “Democracy for whom? The consequences of US intervention in America”. It was opened by Manolo dos Santos, coordinator of the Peoples’ Forum and member of the Articulated Commission of the International Peoples’ Assembly, and also by Andrónico Rodríguez Ledezma, Bolivian political scientist and president of the Bolivian Chamber of Senators.

The first session of the panel discussed how the political agreements of the Organisation of American States (OAS) act to favour the interests of the rich and facilitate US intervention in Latin America. Political leaders questioned the impact of the US on democratic processes and the lives of thousands of people in Latin America. The event was attended by people from various countries of the American continent. Cuban journalist Cristina Escobar took part in the panel and stated that the actions of the US in her country are indescribable, being aggravated in the Trump administration and maintained by the Biden administration. Cristina reiterated in her speech the need for sovereignty of Cubans to decide their own destiny, not according to Washington’s interests. Gail Walker, executive director of Pastors for Peace, also emphasised Cuban autonomy: “As people we do not want the United States to control what democracy means. The truth is that Cuba lights the way”. In addition to Cristina, Alina Duarte, Fidelina Mena Corrales, Gail Walker and Xochitl Sánchez, from other countries in the Americas, were present on the panel.

Photo Mídia Ninja

The second panel of the Summit dealt with the internationalism of the peoples, under the theme “Solidarity across borders: the construction of an internationalism of the peoples”. The panel brought together discussions from different organisations from around the world. They shared the perspectives of their struggles, looking for ways to build solidarity with unity and across differences. The panel focused on examples of resistance to US imperialism. Participants included: Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, David Adler, Angelica Salas, Leonardo Luna, Izett Samá Hernández, Rev. Karlene Griffiths Sekou and Claudia de la Cruz. Claudia de la Cruz (Peoples Forum NYC), noted in her speech: “We do not defend what we do not know and we do not live and die for what we do not love. One of the aspects of solidarity, of internationalism, is to love our class. To love the poor and the working-class people all over the world”.

Photo Mídia Ninja

The third panel brought reflections and denunciations of the US blockade of Cuba, with proposals from young leaders of social movements. It was pointed out that the US economic blockade prevents the Cuban population from obtaining fundamental resources for their lives and well-being, and restricts the people of the United States from consuming the benefits of Cuban health, culture, economy and art, especially the production of Cuban youth, who fight for solidarity and not for profit and exploitation. Participants suggested alternatives to end the blockade and build solidarity among peoples. The panelists also compared the different ways in which the US and Cuba manage their policies and their people. Present on the panel were: Ashley Elias, Danaka Katovich and Deja Gaston.

Photo Elijah Gannaway

The fourth panel addressed health as a human right around the globe, under the title “People over profit: health as a human right around the world”. The Covid-19 pandemic made clear the extent to which profits are worth more than human lives, especially in the United States, where more than a million people died and many could not afford treatment. The speakers discussed how social struggles and solidarity can confront the privatisation of health care and promote public health for all. The speakers were: Dr. Ana Malinow, Dr. Bita Amani, Tynetta Hill-Muhammad, Carlos Marroquin, Bill McKibben, Dr. Tania Crombet Ramos and Sameena Rahman.

Two workshops were also held on the first day. The first, which dealt with youth political organising strategies, discussed how to share political campaigns and actions. The workshop promoted examples of social media advocacy and virtual connections to bring organisations from around the world closer together. The second workshop addressed the struggle of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) subjects, explaining how it works and which countries are beneficiaries. The workshop was organised by the National TPS Alliance. It addressed the issue of TPS under Trump and the current push in the White House and Congress for TPS beneficiaries to have permanent visas.

In addition to panels and workshops with leaders and specialists, the People’s Summit organised spaces for dialogue and exchange on various topics. On 8 June, the labour situation and its challenges in the contemporary world were discussed, as well as the different forms of organisation and strategies to face these challenges, based on community and inclusive articulations. The session “Labour Exchange” discussed privatisation and the discrepancy between labour laws and wage injustice. Another topic discussed in the sectoral exchange area was the issue of abolition of prisons and police. Siwatu-Salama Ra from Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and Freedom Team told a powerful story about her experience in prison, addressing how change is possible through the practice of the concepts of feminism and abolition.

Photo Elijah Gannaway

At the end of the first day of the People’s Summit, a plenary session was held on the struggle for democracy. The main point of the session was to question how the United States can defend democracy in others if it uses its force and power to prevent the building of real grassroots democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the same plenary, perspectives of movements and organisations that really fight for the expansion of democracy, for the interests of the majority, the poor and the workers, instead of the rich and the elites, were discussed. Participants in the plenary session were: Tina Orduno Calderón, Kosmik Force, Dr. Melinda Abdullah, Pablo Alvarado, Phillip Agnew and Citlalli Hernández.

The original article can be found here

The UN climate panel still doesn’t understand technology – and it matters

Source: RethinkX

With the Sixth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) being released, it’s important to revisit the climate scenarios that are its centerpiece. These scenarios form the basis of the climate science community’s modeling and projections, which in turn affects governance and investment decisions across the world. Trillions of dollars and the policymaking of the entire planet thus ride upon these climate scenarios, and so the cost of getting things wrong is extremely high.

Scenarios past and present

The previous generation of climate scenarios published in the Fifth Assessment Report in 2014 were known as Representative Concentration Pathways, or RCPs. The RCP scenarios were labeled according to the amount of radiative forcing expected by the end of the century in each case. Radiative forcing is the scientific term for the change in the balance between the Earth’s incoming and outgoing energy. The Fifth Assessment Report focused on four of these scenarios, with RCP2.6 having the least warming and thus being the “best case”.

In the eight years since then, a new generation of scenarios has been developed for the Sixth Assessment Report, referred to as Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, or SSPs. The five main SSP scenarios are also labeled according to radiative forcing, but in addition each has a subtitle that tells a story about an imagined future:

  • SSP1-1.9 – Sustainability (Taking the Green Road)
  • SSP1-2.6 – Middle of the Road
  • SSP2-4.5 – Regional Rivalry (a Rocky Road)
  • SSP3-7.0 – Inequality (A Road Divided)
  • SSP5-8.5 – Fossil-Fueled Development (Taking the Highway)

Flaws in climate scenarios

A scenario is only as plausible as the assumptions it makes. Unfortunately, the technology assumptions made in both the RCP and SSP scenarios are not remotely plausible, and as a result they are extremely misleading. If there were even one scenario that made genuinely plausible assumptions, then the others could be useful for comparison. But the lack of any properly plausible one means that, taken together, these scenarios will only cause harm by leading decision-makers and the public badly astray.

First and foremost, all RCP and SSP climate scenarios get technology wrong because they fail to understand the forces that drive technological change, how quickly the shift to new technologies occurs, and how quickly old technologies are abandoned as a result.

Our team at RethinkX has shown that the same pattern of disruption has occurred hundreds of times over the last several thousand years. Again and again, for technologies of all kinds – from cars to carpenter’s nails, from arrowheads to automatic braking systems, from insulin to smartphones – we see that technology adoption follows an s-curve over the course of just 10-20 years. The first phase of the s-curve is characterized by accelerating (or “exponential”) growth, which is driven by reinforcing feedback loops that make the new technology increasingly more competitive while at the same time making the old technology increasingly less competitive.

Unfortunately, the RCP and SSP climate scenarios show no sign that their authors understand technology disruption at all. For example, the “best case” RCP2.6 scenario in the Fifth Assessment Report published in 2014 assumed that less than 5% of global primary energy would come from solar, wind, and geothermal energy combined in the year 2100.

Source: Adapted from Van Vuuren et al., 2011, and IPCC, 2014.

In reality, the exponential trend in the growth of solar and wind power had already been clear for over two decades at the time the Fifth Assessment was published in 2014, and the trend since then has only continued – as shown in the chart below.

(Note that the vertical axis of the chart is logarithmic, increasing by a factor of 10 at each major interval, which means the trajectory is exponential).

On their current trajectory, which has been extraordinarily consistent for over 30 years, solar and wind power will exceed the RCP2.6 assumption for the year 2100 before 2030, 70 years ahead of schedule on an 86-year forecasting timeframe.

This is an egregious error that was entirely avoidable. The energy sector has shown every sign of becoming a textbook example of disruption for more than 15 years, and technology theorists were noticing the signs well before 2014. Indeed, Tony Seba – co-founder of RethinkX – had already published an analysis of the energy disruption in his book Solar Trillions in 2010.

Since 2014, the exponential growth of solar power has become common knowledge, as have similar trajectories for batteries and electric vehicles. It is therefore completely inexcusable that the same mistakes have continued in the new SSP scenarios for the Sixth Assessment Report in 2022. The SSP5-8.5 scenario, for example, is titled “Fossil Fueled Development”. Here is its description:

This world places increasing faith in competitive markets, innovation and participatory societies to produce rapid technological progress and development of human capital as the path to sustainable development. Global markets are increasingly integrated. There are also strong investments in health, education, and institutions to enhance human and social capital. At the same time, the push for economic and social development is coupled with the exploitation of abundant fossil fuel resources and the adoption of resource and energy intensive lifestyles around the world.

This logic around “rapid technological progress” is not just wrong, it’s backwards. The faster we make technological progress, the less fossil fuels we will use. The more global markets are integrated and the more human and social capital we have, the faster we will decarbonize.

The SSP3-7.0 scenario contains the same error:

Technology development is high in the high-tech economy and sectors. The globally connected energy sector diversifies, with investments in both carbon-intensive fuels like coal and unconventional oil, but also low-carbon energy sources.

Again, the basic premise here is false. Technological progress will result in less fossil fuel development, not more. The collapse of coal demand is already well underway in the wealthy countries of the Global North, and all fossil fuels in all countries will follow suit as clean technologies rapidly disrupt the energy and transportation sectors over the next two decades.

The SSP2-4.5 scenario assumes that, “The world follows a path in which social, economic, and technological trends do not shift markedly from historical patterns.” But the authors of this scenario do not understand what those historical patterns of technological change actually are.

As our research at RethinkX has shown, the pattern throughout history has been an s-curve of rapid technology adoption over the course of just 20 years or less once new technologies become economically competitive with older ones – as is now the case for clean energy, transportation, and food technologies. The data throughout history simply do not support the assumption that the shift to new, clean technologies will be slow and linear between now and the year 2100.

The SSP1-1.9 scenario, “sustainability”, is allegedly the most sustainable, but this too is based on false assumptions – namely that lower material, resource, and energy intensity are necessary for reducing environmental impacts, and that they are compatible with increasing human prosperity. Neither is true. The solution to environmental impacts is not less energy, transportation, and food. That would be like thinking that if your house is on fire, the solution is to extinguish some of the flames. That’s madness. The solution is to put the fire out, which means switching rapidly and completely to clean energy, transportation, and food.

If we want to be truly sustainable, we must have a superabundance of clean energy, clean transportation, and clean (i.e. non-animal-derived) food that slashes our environmental footprint and gives us the means to restore and protect ecological integrity worldwide. Any attempt to mitigate our ecological footprint by reducing economic prosperity would be disastrous because the scale of cutbacks needed to have any significant effect on sustainability would be utterly catastrophic to the global economy and geopolitical stability.

Projections to 2100… seriously?

It is worth stepping back a moment and recognizing that the RCP and SSP scenarios make quantitative projections to the year 2100. This in itself is flatly preposterous.

Five thousand years ago, you could have made a reasonably accurate prediction about what life would be like 80 years in the future. After all, not much changed from one generation to the next. Your children’s lives were likely to be very similar to your parents’ lives.

Five hundred years ago, in the year 1522, it would have been considerably more difficult to make an accurate prediction about life 80 years hence. The invention of the moveable-type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg 80 years earlier in around 1440 had helped turbocharge the Renaissance, setting the stage for the Scientific Revolution. Life in 1602 was still quite similar to life in 1522, but an explosion in the growth of useful knowledge was laying the groundwork for massive social, economic, political, and technological transformations to come.

A century ago, in 1922, it would have been very hard for anyone to predict with any accuracy what the world 80 years in the future, in 2002, would be like. Nobody could have imagined the role that nuclear weapons or computers or the Internet would play in our lives, for example.

Today, it is absolutely impossible to predict in any detail what the world will be like 80 years from now, around the year 2100. The rate of technological change is so fast now that our team at RethinkX never makes any quantitative forecasts more than 20 years into the future, because to do so is undisciplined in the formal sense. And technological progress is only accelerating.

Although we cannot know what the world will be like in 2100, we can say that it is implausible to presume the conditions and constraints of today will continue to hold. And this is why we can say that all of the RCP and SSP climate scenarios are implausible: they all presume life in 2100 will be more or less the same as today – still governed by material scarcity, regional resource conflicts, food insecurity, demographic transitions, health and education challenges, and even fossil fuel use. None of these makes even the slightest sense in the context of technologies that we fully expect to see from mid-century onward.

So, what happened? Why did the RCP and SSP climate scenarios get technology so wrong?

Anti-technology sentiments in conventional environmental orthodoxy

At least part of the explanation for fundamental errors and misunderstandings around technology we see in the RCP and SSP climate scenarios is that they were developed by a small group of academic authors operating inside an ideological bubble.

One of the features of this ideological orthodoxy is that it holds long-standing anti-technology sentiments dating back over two centuries to the rise of Romanticism and Transcendentalism. On the one hand, the orthodoxy holds that the arc of history ought to be viewed largely through the lens of human behavior and institutions, minimizing or outright rejecting the causal power of technology to shape societies. There even exists a pejorative term, technological determinism, that is used to label and reflexively dismiss any claims that technology has played a key role in steering the course of human affairs across the ages. Yet, at the same time, this orthodoxy holds technology largely to blame for the massive ecological footprint humanity has imposed upon the planet.

It can’t cut both ways. Either technology has enormous causal power, or it doesn’t.

If it does, then that means technology is also the key to transforming our world in positive ways – including achieving genuine sustainability. We don’t see this accurately reflected anywhere in the RCP or SSP climate scenarios because it runs contrary to the anti-technology sentiments of the prevailing orthodoxy.

When you don’t know enough to know you’re being fooled

The climate science community failed to realize the importance of consulting technology experts in the development of climate scenarios. Instead, they made the mistake of relying on conventional forecasts for technologies like solar and wind power from incumbent energy interests such as the International Energy Agency and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This would be a bit like relying on Blockbuster Video to accurately forecast the future of streaming video, or Kodak to forecast the future of digital cameras, or the American Horse & Buggy Association to forecast the future of automobiles.

The charts below show the laughably poor forecasting track record of the IEA and U.S. EIA.

 

 

Note that the unreliability of these two ‘authoritative’ sources was already clear when the Fifth Assessment Report was published in 2014. Would you depend on advice in a critical situation from someone who had gotten things wrong over and over again?

More cynically, it’s very difficult to see how the IEA or U.S. EIA making the same “errors” year after year for almost two decades could be an honest mistake. At the same time, it’s very easy to imagine that there are powerful incentives for these incumbents to ignore technological change, or even to deliberately troll others about it.

Regardless, trusting the wrong sources and failing to consult actual technology experts was an inexcusable mistake that the climate science community is unfortunately continuing to make.

Predicting the future is hard

The future is obviously uncertain, and the further ahead we look, the blurrier the picture becomes. At first, it might seem reasonable to err on the side of conservativism – after all, if you don’t know exactly how the world will change in the future, isn’t it best just to assume it won’t change much from the present? The answer is no, but the reason why this logic is flawed is rather subtle.

There are dozens of major dimensions and countless minor ones along which change can occur, all of which move us away from our present condition. The fact that these changes are unpredictable does not imply that the noise will somehow cancel out and leave us close to where we started.

By analogy, imagine assembling a complex machine like a car. If you don’t follow the exact steps in the exact order with the exact parts, you aren’t going to end up with a working car. And if you randomize the assembly process, you’re going to end up with a useless pile of junk. This is why tornadoes don’t spontaneously assemble new cars when they pass through a junkyard. The reason why has to do with entropy: there are almost infinitely more ways to incorrectly assemble things than to correctly assemble them.

This analogy helps show why any movement through a large possibility space is only likely to take you away from your current position. This is why the future will be very different from the present, even though those differences are unpredictable.

So, how should we deal with all the uncertainty of the future? The correct response is indeed to construct multiple scenarios that chart the general trajectory and broad outlines of possible futures based on plausible assumptions about what might change between now and then. The trouble with the RCP and SSP climate scenarios, however, is that none of them make plausible assumptions about technological progress.

Refusing to admit past mistakes only feeds conspiracy theories

The climate science community has made very serious technology forecasting errors in its climate scenarios, but has so far refused to acknowledge and take responsibility for them. This is a losing strategy.

Failure to admit and correct the technology forecasting errors in climate scenarios plays right into the hands of conspiracy theorists, because the longer we refuse to admit we’ve made mistakes, the more it looks like they were deliberate. These mistakes are too large to brush under the rug, and so there is no painless option here. We either admit we were fools, or we look like we are liars.

Admitting our mistakes and taking the heat for it is the right move. The alternative only indulges the worst extremist narratives that claim the scientific community has deliberately inflated the threat of climate change and misrepresented our options for solving it in order to advance an agenda of more taxation and more government control over private industry and individual consumer choices.

The public needs to be able to trust the environmental science community, and they can’t do that until we come clean about how wrong we’ve gotten renewable energy and other technologies in our climate scenarios. The longer we pretend nothing happened, the more our legitimacy will erode in the public sphere at a time when trust of scientific authority is already low in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting technology wrong in climate scenarios does real harm

Given the enormous stakes involving trillions of dollars and all of the world’s policymaking, the errors around technology in the RCP and SSP climate scenarios have had serious consequences. They have misled policymakers and the public alike into believing that the only means to solve climate change are punitive – that we must atone for our past environmental sins by sacrificing human prosperity, tightening our belts, and giving up our indulgent personal lifestyles. They have demonized the prosperity of the rich nations of the Global North as unsustainable, and condemned the aspirations of poorer countries of the Global South as unattainable. They have led nations to waste time and resources trying fruitlessly to achieve sustainability through austerity, when this approach is hopelessly counterproductive as I have previously explained.

Austerity cannot solve climate change even in principle, let alone in practice. Prosperity has always been a necessary precondition for solving big problems, both personal and collective, and so it is the only real path to sustainability as well. Technological progress in general will inevitably play an outsized role in bringing the prosperity we need to tackle major challenges to billions worldwide, and specific technologies like solar power and electric vehicles will give us the tools we need to directly reduce emissions and draw down carbon. The IPCC climate scenarios must reflect these facts so that we can all make well-informed decisions about how best to solve climate change together.

Source: RethinkX

The Disruption of Slavery Unveils Fastest Path to End Today’s Wars

Source: Rethink X

Fence in the colours of the national flag of Ukraine, photo by Tina Hartung on Unsplash

We are now at a crossroads in history, and no path forward looks pleasant. The war in Ukraine is killing innocent civilians, disrupting lives, and shaking the markets in energy, food and other commodities, making us wonder how we let ourselves become so complacent in trading with Russia, whose government has shown such little respect for the rights of its neighbors and its own citizens.

The obvious path seems to be to boost oil, gas, coal, food and metals production from friendly countries. Cut ourselves off from Russian oil, Russian gas, Russian grains, metals and other commodities as much as possible by getting them from elsewhere, and fast.

Unfortunately, this is no easy task. Russia is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and gas, as well as a bewildering array of other materials: wheat (of which they are the world’s largest exporter), ammonia fertilizers (made from natural gas), iron and nickel (used in making steel), gold and titanium, platinum and palladium (used by the oil industry), neon (for lasers used by the electronics industry), cobalt and rhenium. Do you have any spare rhenium lying around?

The harder answer is to reduce our dependence on oil, gas, coal, wheat, precious metals, rare elements and other such things as much as possible, by getting energy from solar power, wind power, and batteries (SWB), producing agricultural products from precision fermentation and cellular agriculture (PFCA), and radically reducing our materials use through dramatic increases in the efficiency of transportation and production through electric vehicles (EVs), autonomous electric vehicles (A-EVs) and Transport-as-a-Service (TaaS).

A rapid reshaping of the world economy will be painful in the short term. Prices of many products we take for granted will go way up. There will be job losses. This ‘worse-before-better’ dynamic is often seen in complex systems. To build a business, you might have to invest and go deeply into debt first – things get worse financially before they turn the corner and get better.

The same will happen with getting out of fossil fuels and industrial agriculture. But in the long run, the build-out in SWB energy and PFCA food and agriculture will mean lower prices, a decentralization of production, and greater political stability.

The steam engine enslaved before it liberated

We have been through similar situations before, where disruptions have had major geopolitical consequences – sometimes negative, sometimes positive. Understanding this complex relationship can help us to navigate the risks and opportunities today.

One of the most geopolitically consequential disruptions took place a couple centuries ago. It illustrates how a disruption can have immediate negative implications but longer term positive impacts that can end up driving a total social, economic and cultural transformation.

For centuries shipwrights filled in the gaps between the boards of their vessels with hemp or other materials. They would slather the surface with tar or pitch to protect the wood from being eaten by worms. Ultimately this did not stop the worms, or keep barnacles and weeds from growing below the waterline, weighing the ship down and slowing its travel. So, periodically, ships would need to be hauled out of the water, scraped clean, and re-tarred.

But a Sunday stroll in May 1765 changed that, and much else, forever. Steam engines had been around for decades, but they were not very efficient. They took a lot of energy to power a pump that was both slow and unreliable. But on that walk in Scotland, twenty-nine-year-old James Watt got the idea to separate the engine’s condenser, which would always be kept cold, from the steam cylinder itself, which was always warm, and to use a valve to connect them. This innovative arrangement was about five times more efficient than existing engines. It took only about 20% as much fuel to do the same amount of work.

This is part of the ‘pattern of disruption’ – a new technology is radically better than an incumbent, and therefore quickly displaces the old technology.

Thanks to Watt’s invention, more-powerful, faster, more-efficient and more-reliable steam engines kicked off an industrial revolution. They were first employed in the mines that supplied the metals to make machines. Their steady power enabled mechanized factories to spin thread and weave fabric, turn wood, and drill metals in a way that was uneconomical with earlier engines. (And, ironically, as they got more efficient, they used more fuel, something we have explored in a previous post.)

In northwest Wales, Parys Mountain was one of the largest copper deposits known in the world at the time. It had been exploited since the Bronze Age because the deposits were near the surface, where they were easy to access. But unfortunately, the ore was not very high grade which meant it took a lot of energy, and therefore a lot of coal, to refine it into metal product. So much coal that it was actually easier to bring the ore to the coal than coal to the ore.

But Watt’s engines changed this equation. They not only made metals easier to obtain and fabric easier to produce, they made it easier to mine for the coal that fuelled those machines and, in later years, to build steam-powered trains and steam-powered ships. They drove a revolution in materials, energy, and transportation all wrapped up in one.

They would also turn out to be the solution to the shipworm problem.

Industrialized mining began at Parys in 1775 and within fifteen years, it was the largest copper mine in the world. Ore was loaded onto ships and brought south to Swansea, where there were coal reserves that could be exploited due to Watt’s steam engines. By 1790 British mines were producing more than 75% of the world’s copper.

Just ten years after Watt’s steam engine patent, the entire British Navy was clad with copper bottoms over a period of just two years from 1779 to 1781. According to Gareth Rees in ‘Copper Sheathing: An Example of Technological Diffusion in the English Merchant Fleet’: “copper sheathing not only solved the problems of worm and hull fouling [like barnacles and weeds], but actually improved sailing speed as an unexpected and welcome by-product.”

This is another part of the ‘pattern of disruption’ – the unintended consequence of a seemingly unrelated problem in shipping being solved by a better water pump.

Amidst all these wonderful unintended consequences was one horrific side-effect. Copper-clad ships travelled about 15% faster, meaning that an 80-day Atlantic crossing could be cut by about 12 days. All ships that went to tropical waters and that needed to move quickly benefited from copper bottoms. Yet there was one kind of merchant ship that benefited financially from greater speed more than any other: slave traders.

Slave trading ships, too, went from less than 10% having copper bottoms to more than 70% having copper bottoms over a period of just two or three years, at the same time as the Navy fleet. This allowed slavery to become more efficient, because fewer enslaved people ended up dying on the ships during transport.

The database at SlaveVoyages.org, a project funded by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities, suggests that the death rate was about half on a copper-bottom ship, compared to one without sheathing. Prior to 1780, the proportion of enslaved people lost during a trans-Atlantic voyage was approximately 20%. After the early 1780s, this decreased to about 10%.

The unexpectedly rapid demise of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery

Speaking before the UK Parliament in 2019, environmentalist and TV presenter David Attenborough said:

“There was a time in the 19th century when it was perfectly acceptable for civilised human beings to think that it was morally acceptable to actually own another human being for a slave. And somehow or other, in the space of 20 or 30 years, the public perception of that totally transformed.”

Many historians argue that the key driver of the end of slavery was economics: its decline in profitability. Others argue that it was the rise of abolitionist humanitarian campaigns. The heroic resistance of enslaved people is another important factor. But one of the most critical developments that provided the enabling context for all of these factors is usually overlooked. An overarching factor that enabled and amplified many of the other factors bringing about the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and of the institution of slavery itself, was a technology disruption: the steam engine.

This, first of all, was the key disruption that transformed the economics, making slave labour ultimately uneconomical. The same device that greatly improved the productivity of mining, and that enabled the entire factory system of industrial production, also made muscle labor, for the most part no longer cost-competitive against machine labor – and increasingly so. No wonder, then, that the collapse of the slave trade happened so rapidly within the same time-frame as disruptions take to scale.

 

Number of People Transported per Year in the Atlantic Slave Trade. Data from SlaveVoyages.org

The total history of the slave trade shows a ‘hump-shaped’ curve – with a sharp increase from about 1650 to 1750 and a peak era that lasted roughly from 1750 to 1850. But then, over only a few years, the entire trade came to a halt. In 1849, 76,654 people were brought from Africa across the Atlantic, a number substantially higher than the average of 63,853 people brought per year in the 1750-1850 period. But in 1850, the number of people transported was half of 1849, and 1851 was half of 1850. Fifteen years later, the trade had ended completely.

The technology disruption that had, at first, helped make the slave trade more efficient – contributing to an increase in its profits – ultimately facilitated its complete collapse as the machine labor turned out to be an order of magnitude cheaper and more efficient than slavery.

Of course, this doesn’t mean technology disruption was the only factor – but it’s hard to see how this rapid, sudden collapse of slavery would have been possible without it.

Back in the late 1700s, the UK’s Slave Trade Act 1788 had tried to make the appalling conditions of the trans-Atlantic slave trade more ‘humane’. Sadly, this was all by small, incremental steps, none of which ultimately challenged the institution of slavery itself – rather like the small half-measures and tiny behavioural changes we talk about today in relation to climate change.

The Act, for instance, mandated more space per enslaved person being transported on British slaver vessels – “1.67 slaves per ton up to a maximum of 207 tons burthen, after which only 1 slave per ton could be carried”.

The earliest impact of the steam-engine disruption alleviated the conditions of slavery further. Applying copper-sheathing to the undersides of slave ships made the trade even more humane, by allowing ships to travel faster, thus cutting the death rate per voyage.

But ultimately, while purporting to make slavery more ‘humane’ these measures really only contributed to entrenching its existence. What made the trade most humane was simply ending it, which became not just feasible, but economically desirable thanks to the total transformation of the economics of the industrial landscape following the steam-engine disruption. Those new economics helped lay the foundations for seismic political and cultural shifts as people recognised entirely new possibilities in how to organise labor and run societies.

It was not just the trans-Atlantic slave trade that collapsed quickly. So did the entire institution of slavery. In the UK, the ‘Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions’, was founded in 1823. By 1833, just ten years later, they had succeeded in their goal. In the US, the institution of slavery also collapsed over just a few years, going from being legal in about half of the states in 1860, to illegal everywhere just five years later. The ultimate collapse of slavery did not, of course, happen peacefully. While the transformation of economic forces ushered in by the steam-engine changed incentives, risks and opportunities, the eruption of the American Civil War illustrates how the unravelling of slavery as an institution was often a violent process.

Ukraine war as precursor to the Age of Freedom?

The steam-engine, of course, ended up doing a lot more than just disrupting slavery. By ushering in the industrial mechanisms of production and manufacturing, it also led us into the age of fossil fuels – and with it, of course, climate change.

It laid the foundation for the geopolitical order that emerged through the twentieth century premised on centralized domination of scarce oil, gas and coal resources. Now we are dependent on what economist Nathan Hagens calls ‘energy slaves’ – fossil fuels that do more work per hour by being burned in combustion engines than a person could ever hope to do. A motor vehicle that only turns a small portion of its fuel into motion is bearable when these fuels are cheap and easy to get. These same products also serve as the feedstocks to make fertilizers that grow the grains we feed to cattle, who turn a small percent of their inputs into milk or meat.

In this system of fossil fuel ‘energy slaves’, Russia is a formidable if not pre-eminent power – given its monopoly over so much of the world’s oil, gas and grain. The war in Ukraine has highlighted the geopolitical dangers of this system. But the unfolding of the ‘pattern of disruption’ in relation to slavery highlights how quickly this system could be replaced with something far better. Rather than simply focusing on the minutia of the fossil fuel system and Russia’s domination of it, this pattern suggests that the most effective path ahead is to disrupt the energy sources that are so crucial to Russian power. As RethinkX’s work has shown, that disruption has already begun. Over the next two decades, the disruption of the energy, transport and food systems by SWB, PFCA and TaaS will make the industries that underpin Russia’s geopolitical clout completely obsolete. European net-zero strategies and commitments illustrate the direction in which the global economy is now inexorably moving.

Yet the war in Ukraine also illustrates that freeing ourselves from fossil fuel ‘energy slaves’ might be as difficult as ending the millennia-old institutions of human slavery was in the past, maybe even involving wars as deadly and devastating over the next decade or two of accelerating disruptions.

But when the task is complete and we live in an ‘Age of Freedom’ where we no longer need fossil energy to power our lives, to move ourselves and our goods, or animals to supply our food, we will look back on how we live today and its attendant geopolitical horrors with the same sense of disgusted fascination that we now feel about keeping other people in bondage.

Source: Rethink X

An Apartheid State (of Mind)

Gaia Talks/The Earth Speaks is a Mobilized Co-Production. Produced by Missy Crutchfield and Jeff Van Treese.

Ronnie Barkan is an Israeli dissident and BDS activist.
As a serial disrupter to apartheid representatives, he recently stood trial in Berlin along with two fellow activists (“Humboldt3”) for speaking up against representative Aliza Lavie and her direct responsibility for Israeli crimes.
Barkan negates the patently false liberal-Zionist discourse, offering instead a narrative that challenges the very foundation of the Zionist race-state in Palestine as a supremacist endeavor which practices colonialism and apartheid since the day of its inception.

This conversation took place in early February, 2022.

Read more about and from Ronnie Barkan here

Roses.

America loves to think of itself as a rose, in bloom.  We trumpet our freedoms and strength as if they are bright red petals on a summer day.  It’s a damn shame though, that for most of the world, for 6 or 7 decades now, they look at us… and they only see the thorny stem.

It was merely August, 7 months ago, that I decried the pointless and fruitless war in Afghanistan.  It wasn’t ever necessary, was doomed to failure, and represented a complete failure by our leaders to learn any lessons from history.

I am a pacifist.  War is not the answer, and we’ve had 15,000 years to figure that out.  Over and over again old grudges birthed new conflicts.  So I decry this stupid war as well, the one Putin has started because he has nearly completed looting his home nation of Russia and now needs new lands to loot.  It is a pattern seen over and over again, so the fact that he is the most successful mob boss in the history of the world should not blind us to the fact he is also just another tinpot dictator flailing about in an effort to preserve his gains.

Those are points 1 and 2: war is bad, and this bum is pretty run of the mill.  Point 3 is less obvious, but the Ambassador from Kenya made it very well in his speech the other day: nurturing grudges from the past does no good, it’s better to look ahead and build a better future.  This is something that is still possible, even though it seems unlikely with tanks rolling into Ukraine.

Point 4: it’s shockingly hypocritical how we have chosen to ignore so many other conflicts because this one feels ‘closer to home’ for our politicians.  Syria has been mired in a water war for 8 years at least, too bad for them.  Yemen has been trying to throw off the yoke of their Saudi neighbors, but gosh darn it Mohammed Bone Saw is our ally; so you Yemeni’s get to die.  Gosh darn it.  But oh look, Europe has gotten it’s feathers ruffled because 20 years ago a bunch of venal politicians lied to each other and now tempers have flared about it.

Point 5: We must go back to my very first statement: learning from history is a MUST.  We failed to do so in our last 4 wars – – and pretty thoroughly lost them all.  We failed to do so at the beginning of WWII, when we chose to let Spain fall to the Fascists, namely to some guy named Franco.

Not all of us, natch.  Many Americans rightly saw the looming threat, and formed the Lincoln Brigade.  They fought and bled and died alongside the Republicans in Spain.  They lost, but they were on the right side of history.  And so it is with point #5… we need to be on the right side of history here.

For 9 decades, since fall of 1945, the entire planet has lived under the shadow of the mushroom cloud.  It has, to put it mildly, clouded our judgment.  Most folk have pretended since 1991 that the cloud had lifted, but of course nothing at all had changed.  And so now two very large armies are skirmishing in the winter mud outside of Kiev, and mothers across the planet are wondering how they will be able to shelter their children if fallout comes their way.

It’s unfortunate that the Russian people are going to be victimized just as the Ukraine’s people are.  They didn’t want war.  But they are trapped under his murderous sway, just as with Stalin and Lenin before him.

Pete Seeger told us that even pacifists should defend their home if it was invaded.  For years I wrestled with that, I told myself that pacifism means nothing if it is not absolute.  Fact is Seeger was right.  And Putin isn’t just invading Ukraine.  He is laying the groundwork for another time of soviet-style darkness for the whole world.

The rose that America deems itself to be cannot fail this time to prevent the rise of Putin-style Fascism.  It galls me to say it, but this time we must set aside points 1 through 4 because #5 outweighs them all.  This war was preventable, yet it is here, now.  We made a deal with Ukraine when they gave up their nukes, we promised to protect them.  Before all that we founded the United Nations and wrote the UN charter, which specifically demands action in defense of basic democracy and human rights.  For these reasons, and for the ideals that we clung to as we defeated Hitler, this madman must be stopped.  Don’t let Putin’s paid lackeys Carlson and Trump pull the wool over your eyes.  After all, they have labored for ages to undermine the ideals of freedom and democracy.

So it comes to this: it’s time for the thorns.

I’m appalled at myself to be calling for war.  So be it, the time for diplomacy came and went, regardless of how I felt about it.

I am a pacifist, though I never have been much of one.  My hope now is that the Allies act swiftly, and fully.  Don’t ‘half-ass’ it like we did in Viet nam, Iraq, etc.  Make a plan and commit to it.  Make plans not just for the battles but also for their aftermath.  And do it now.  There should not need to be a Lincoln Brigade stood up this time, governments should take the initiative.

The lessons of the Nuremberg trials were stark, and clear, and demanded that we never forget why that war was fought.  Once again a madman seeks to enslave the world, starting with his next door neighbor.  This time we need to rise against the threat, early enough to prevent a global catastrophe.


This version of “Morning Dew” features the song’s author, Bonnie Dobson.  It also has a calmness to it that I appreciate, as an older dude.  Of course it’s the most famous anti-nuke song of all time, it has been covered by just about everybody.  I first heard it done by Blackfoot, their version is a barn-burner.  Nazareth, too, tore the walls down with their cover.  But I’m old.  And tired, and this version sums it up best.  No war, no nukes.  The endgame is too horrifying to contemplate.


 

“Rather than form nations that looked ever backward into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known,” Kimani said.

https://www.npr.org/2022/02/22/1082334172/kenya-security-council-russia?

 

https://truthout.org/articles/chomsky-outdated-us-cold-war-policy-worsens-ongoing-russia-ukraine-conflict/

 

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/02/ukraine-russia-invasion-putin-kyiv-interview.html

 

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/christopherm51/ukraine-bomb-shelters-russia-attack-kyiv

 

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/44296/what-putins-options-in-ukraine-really-look-like

 

“People who place themselves in the camp of Vladimir Putin are not patriots, they aren’t America First, they aren’t Christians, and they aren’t pro-life.

They’re also not people who get to drape themselves in the flag, or invoke allegiance to this nation, or feign offense at kneeling football players, or spout some red, white, and blue nationalistic nonsense—because they never cared about any of it.” – John Pavlovitz

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2022/02/23/when-americans-support-murderous-foreign-dictators/?

In Chile, A different and courageous alternative with new ideas and proposals for leadership

“We are a different, courageous alternative with new ideas and proposals”, Susana López

(Image by Nicolás Filipic)

A good way to describe Susana Lopez is to read her facebook wall where many former students of this young teacher from Ovalle greet her and remember her. “The teacher taught me the values of honesty and nonviolence. “Aunt Susana always had a space for us, to listen to us and give us advice. “Thanks to the teacher I decided to study law to be able to defend the weakest and those who nobody takes into account”.

And so, hundreds of messages of love, affection and respect for the person who is now running for Congress for the first time.

“It was very difficult for me to make up my mind because of the exposure that a candidacy for national deputy demands, and on top of that, on the ballot paper, I am in the centre and first on the list”, says Susana, laughing at this paradox.

President of the Coquimbo region of the Humanist Party, it was the members of Humanismo in the region who decided to proclaim her, “it is important that people know that this candidacy does not arise, like all the others, in an office in Santiago, but that it is the people of the territory who decide”, she says, affirming that she is not part of any political caste where other candidates run again and again and make a career playing with the hopes of the people.

“It is incredible, but there are candidates from the parties that have shared power over the last thirty years who promise what they have never done before, and then the question arises: how long will people allow themselves to be fooled into voting for them again? That’s why this candidacy makes sense, because we want to be a different, brave alternative with new ideas and proposals.

What are these proposals?

The Law of Political Responsibility, presented by our deputy Laura Rodriguez in 1990, and which was never dealt with, proposes the revocation of the mandate of any authority or elected official who does not fulfil his or her campaign promises within a period of one year.

A Law of Worker Ownership through which all companies that share profits with their workers can have some kind of tax exemption, since we believe that the capital-labour relationship has to be seen from a new perspective where the most important thing is the Human Being and not money.

The creation of an Environmental Social Tribunal, neighbours working together with the judiciary so that those who pollute go to jail, enough of paying fines to continue ruining our ecosystem.

Popular Water Committee to put an end to the plundering of water in our communities and the business of water trucks which is an abuse for our people, especially the peasantry.

We are going to put pressure on the authorities so that we have an oncology centre of excellence in our region, it cannot be that families have to migrate to be able to have cancer treatments, we need political decision to understand that health is a right for the whole country and not only for those who live in Santiago.

We are concerned about violence against women, every day we know of more cases and nobody does anything. We are going to put pressure on the decision makers to create shelters run by women in the main cities of our region.

As I am a teacher and I experience the problems of education on a daily basis, we are going to propose a Law on Education for Nonviolence, where students, parents and teachers are taught tools for conflict resolution through active nonviolence.

The enthusiasm does not wane in Susana who defines herself as an ordinary person, “my father was a taxi driver to Sotaqui, I have always lived the values of work, honesty and love, also good and decent people have the right to get involved in politics and Humanism has a history of coherence and transparency that make it unique”.

This reference has its roots in the fact that the Humanist Party was the first to be legalised in the midst of the dictatorship (1986).

“When I joined the Humanist Party, 15 years ago, I found a proposal that fitted perfectly with what I needed, the idea of simultaneous social and personal change seemed wonderful to me and resonated with me, with the personal work I could recognise my strength and rely on my virtues to remove the suffering look on the bad things that had happened to me”,

“We Humanists were the only ones who marched together with the people without anyone running us off and we were in the assemblies that took place at the time, and we want this support to be translated into votes to be able to change history”, she says with strength and conviction.

“If Pamela Jiles, being the only humanist deputy, was able to turn the tide and achieve the withdrawal of the AFP and with that put food on the table for hundreds of Chilean families, can you imagine what a humanist bench could achieve”, Susana says and says goodbye, walking calmly through the streets handing out flyers and smiles to those who pass by.

The closeness that people feel with Susana is because she is genuine and shows herself as she is, and as a neighbour told her: “it is time for people like you to represent us”.

Source: Pressenza

La Via Campesina: The UN Food Systems Summit is hogwash. It is a threat to peoples’ food sovereignty

La Via Campesina’s Press Statement | September 22nd 2021, Harare:

La Via Campesina is among scores of other social movements of organized small-scale food producers, workers and indigenous people boycotting the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), slated to take place in New York – September 23rd, 2021. Peoples’ movements are united in condemning the illegitimacy of this ‘summit’ and in denouncing the attempt by transnational corporations to usurp the institutional spaces within the United Nations.

Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSM) that comprise social movements including La Via Campesina has pointed out that the pre-summit events held in July are now erecting parallel governance structures. UNFSS is undermining the existing institutions and multilateral bodies responsible for developing global policy frameworks for food and agriculture. Several member states are left wondering what this Summit intends to achieve and whether its outcomes would be binding upon developing national policy frameworks. It will override the existing institutions such as the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and forebodes a corporate takeover of the global food governance.

For sure, the global food systems must undergo a radical overhaul. Rising hunger, ecological harm from food production, including deforestation, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, decimated fisheries, polluted waters, growing rural poverty, the continued repression of peasant and indigenous movements worldwide, displacement and climate crises – all point to the need for urgent transformation. The demand to transform the global food system and skew it in favour of small-scale food producers has been a long-standing one, stated first during the Civil Society Forum in Rome in 1996.

Yet when the Secretary-General of the United Nations announced two years ago that a Food Systems Summit (FSS) would be held in late 2021, the news was puzzling. Why did the Secretary-General initiate this food summit in partnership with the World Economic Forum – a private sector body – when the FAO hosted all the previous editions after specific mandates from the Members States? To leave no further doubt about the corporate interests driving the Food System Summit, the Special Envoy appointed for the Summit, Agnes Kalibata, is the president of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). This Gates/Rockefeller funded agency is pushing high input, high tech agriculture and GMO seeds. Founded in 2006, this Alliance has worked in 13 African countries to increase productivity for 30 million smallholder farming households by encouraging industrial farming adoption. Despite AGRA’s promises of doubling crop productivity and incomes while halving food insecurity by 2020, backed by billions of donor dollars, it has been unable to provide documentation of delivering on these goals. AGRA’s failures on the continent and Ms Kalibata’s apparent conflicts of interest in her role as UNFSS Special Envoy resulted in broad resistance from social movements and civil society.

The farce of ‘inclusiveness.’

The Summit organizers follow a multi-stakeholder approach as against a multilateral arrangement. Multilateral Summits, based on human rights, with transparent decision-making processes and accountability mechanisms, are meant to prioritize the voices of rights-holders and hold governments responsible for upholding those rights. But this “UN Food Systems Summit” is based on the idea of “multi-stakeholder” – treating all stakeholders as equal, without considering power imbalances or their position in the system. This fiction of equality leaves the powerful both unchallenged and unaccountable, hiding or ignoring any conflicts of interest. By conflating private corporate interests with the public interest, it overrides and erases the latter. To advertise “inclusiveness”, it has proliferated a dizzying array of platforms, dialogues, consultations, committees, documents and forums for participation. Private citizens and governments are being drawn into these processes. Some of these are open, but many are for invited participants, bypassing and undermining autonomous, democratic organizations while favouring hand-picked individuals. The entire process lacks transparency and legitimacy. Who is making decisions? On what grounds? Who is accountable? To whom?

The guise of progressive language

In July this year, La Via Campesina was among the members of the CSM that co-organized counter mobilizations – to call out the unacceptability that has come to define this year’s food systems summit. A wide variety of attendees came together and catalyzed and amplified a counter-narrative to the official proceedings. With critical articles and pieces published in major media outlets, and several thousands of #FoodSystems4People posts on social media seen by potentially 10 million users, the counter-mobilization succeeded in reaching a broad public with its vision for genuine transformation of unsustainable food systems.

This organized resistance rattled the organizers of the official Summit. In response, they have now ramped up the use of progressive language (“sustainability”, “nature-positive-solutions”, “planetary boundaries”, “women’s empowerment”, etc.) and references to human rights in their documents. But the primary orientation of the FSS remains firmly rooted in the corporate interests that initiated it rather than the demands and rights of people producing food and those most impacted by current food systems. It continues to confirm a narrow range of scientific partisans data while ignoring the traditional and experiential knowledge of small-scale farmers, indigenous, peasant, and rural peoples. Digitalization, genetic modification, precision agriculture, and other chemical-, capital-, and fossil fuel-heavy approaches are taking centre stage because these so-called solutions are the most profitable to corporations (at the expense of the environment and farmers’ livelihoods).

As the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food notes, “Intensive industrial agriculture relies on high-input, high-output agricultural systems, dominated by large-scale specialized farms. Ever since Governments started adopting the Green Revolution in the 1950s, the world’s food systems have been increasingly designed along industrial models, the idea being that if people can purchase industrial inputs – synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and carbon-reliant machines – then they can produce a large amount of food. Productivity was not measured in terms of human and environmental health, but exclusively in terms of commodity output and economic growth.”

Unfortunately, the UN Food Systems Summit ignores all these warnings and continues to bat for an intensive corporate-led agricultural model that masquerades as “solutions”.

Forebodings of a new global governance structure?

This Summit attacks from the front and will undermine existing global policymaking spaces and institutions like FAO and the CFS. Instead, it erects a parallel architecture to suit agribusiness interests. The Summit organizers are now encouraging stakeholders to form “coalitions of action” to implement “solutions”. Governments are encouraged to develop “national pathways” with stakeholder coalitions, many of which will inevitably be dominated by those who can afford to fund them. Middle and Low-income countries are vulnerable to entering “coalitions” with investors and philanthrocapitalists, such as the Gates Foundation, to carve out “national pathways” profitable for their coalition partners.

The resistance to this parallel structure is coming from within the official Summit too. In her resignation letter (dated August 25/21), Dr Kristy Buckley, Chair of the UNFSS Governance Action Area, derided the attempts to view the global food governance “through the lens of innovation, finance, technology and data, with no regard to human rights, gender, and Indigenous Peoples”. Her statement is a vindication of what social movements have been warning for a long time.

The real solution to climate crises, hunger, distress migration and extreme poverty lies with the people. It must emerge from the principles of food sovereignty and social justice. It must recognize food as a fundamental human right and not as a commodity for speculative trade. It must respect the diverse agroecological small-scale food systems that exist in our territories.

The “UN Food Systems Summit” of 2021 is an anti-thesis to these principles and threatens peoples’ food sovereignty. La Via Campesina will not remain silent. The UNFSS has no mandate, legitimacy, or authority to extend beyond September 23rd, 2021. We must prevent the Summit’s corporate affiliates from further embedding the multi-stakeholder structure into the UN food and agriculture agencies. Throughout this week, La Via Campesina’s member organization will hold counter mobilizations in Asia, Africa and Europe. Our North American members and allies will be holding a virtual counter-summit on September 23rd to expose the real agenda behind this Summit while also presenting the elements of the radical transformation we seek in the global food systems.

Source: La Via Campesina

Our Population Challenge Beyond Climate Change

Do we plan for a secure and better life, or carry on blindly toward a minefield of lethal limits? 

 

By Brian McGavin, writer and environmentalist, is a director of Scientists Warning Europe. 

Most people are left in ignorance by politicians and mainstream media, who rarely think beyond the here and now. When informed about unsustainable consumption and human population growth they are shocked or deny the depth of interconnected challenges and the steps we need to take for a sustainable future, that go well beyond action on climate change.

 

The media invariably cloak population growth in terms of ‘increased demand’ – which narrow thinking growth economists portray as ‘good’ for growth. The key driver of overpopulation is at best ignored for ‘downstream’ sticking plaster responses by politicians and too often by ‘Greens’ who target ‘rights’ over ecological and resource realities.

 

“There is no social justice on a wrecked planet” –Brian McGavin

 

The type of powerful question put to former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – and his reply was notable. We need to frame more clear questions to our politicians like this.

 

“Human population growth has more than doubled in the past 50 years. The planet cannot sustain this growth. I realize this is a poisonous topic for politicians, but it’s crucial to face. Empowering women and educating everyone on the need to curb population growth seems a reasonable campaign to enact. Would you be courageous enough to discuss this issue and make it a key feature of a plan to address climate catastrophe?”  

Sanders responded unambiguously: “Well, Martha, the answer is yes.”

 

Issue avoidance

A WWF reference to ‘mitigate human and elephant conflict’ in a newsletter doesn’t shout ever more human overpopulation pressure as a causal factor, or anything WWF wants to do about this. WWF advertising is a constant reset button of ‘save’ animals and give money so we can fight this decline – and it has been going on for over 50 years as our amazing bio-diversity crashes. NGOs and politicians need to engage in a much more honest dialog.

We face Systemic Population Denialism that is intellectually bankrupt and dangerously ignorant.  Where drastic exaggeration is used by people resistant to reality. When we raise our voices, we are obstructed by ill-informed media commentators with predicable recycled challenges on ageing population scares and how we need to increase births and immigration. Low birth-rate countries like Japan are NOT suffering a socio-economic crisis – and there are still 38 million people in the Tokyo metropolis alone!

Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger observes:

‘Good democracy relies on good information’.

 

Professor John Beddington, UK Government Chief Scientist in March 2009 warned that:

Our food reserves are at a 50-year low, but by 2030 we need to be producing 50% more food, we will need 50% more energy, and 30% more fresh water.”  

In 2017 over 20,000 scientist in 189 countries signed a Second Warning to Humanity, warning that humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in solving foreseen environmental challenges and most of them are getting much worse.

We simply don’t have the time for a gradualist message and we have to speed up the timeframe for action in people’s minds. Simplistic propositions by ill-informed, growthist commentators that developed economies were ideally placed to take in Africa’s exploding populations need shredding. Nor are we facing a ‘fertility collapse’, as growth pundits try to claim.

If governments won’t talk population, then they are not serious about cutting emissions, ensuring food supplies and a secure quality of life for our future.

At the heart of green politics is the simple premise that our prosperity depends completely on a healthy, functioning planet. Go on abusing the planet, go on ignoring climate change, go on ignoring population growth, and all else fails – including our deepest yearning for human rights.  (Jonathon Porritt, environmentalist)

We face huge interconnected challenges but it is easier to attract support for simple projects like saving a forest, than addressing ‘big-picture’ global problems. Major environmental groups keep their marketing too simple for the scale of the problems. Many environmental problems impact poor communities, but the social justice movement shows little interest in working with environmentalists on key challenges like biodiversity, resource depletion and overpopulation, deeming the latter as a racist agenda. We need to be clear and assertive not apologetic.

Environmental groups like XR and WWF talk about climate breakdown and ecological collapse but refuse to acknowledge the underlying over population demand driver, as they see it as ‘divisive, threatening or toxic’.

Unless we work collectively and stop creating wilful barriers of ignorance, because it might disturb people’s beliefs and comfort zones, we are leading our children to the abyss. A toxic intergenerational contract.

 

The ‘coercion’ taboo

Population concern organisations often run scared of any hint of population coercion. This can’t be sustained much longer as key resources decline and societies start to fall apart. In fact, society readily accepts values that could be interpreted as ‘coercive’ for the common good, with legal sanctions on the ‘freedom’ to drive at high speed in built up areas and fiscal incentives to discourage harmful behaviour. If we are to have any chance of a sustainable future we need to ‘incentivise’ fewer births rather than more, through the tax system and increase understanding so people make informed, socially responsible decisions in family size rather than merely saying it’s an individual choice.

 

Many people driven by self-centred beliefs will completely ignore calls for socially responsible decisions if this is all we are prepared to say. Yet social justice lobbies call for us to change to a vegan diet and travel less to compensate for ‘unavoidable’ population growth pressures.

 

 A long-term sustainable population is a ‘life-affirming’ message with many benefits for living standards and reduced infrastructure pressures.

 

Several countries, like Taiwan, Japan, Iran and Bangladesh) have transitioned to lower birth rates without coercion.

What about the rights of children to a sustainable future, rather than the ‘rights’ of parents to have large families?

 

The Ageing Population Scare – a transition not a crisis. The challenge of supporting aging populations is grossly over emphasized.  We spend more on cosmetics than we will need to support a temporary rise in older people. It is a phony argument that we need more people and more immigration to support ageing populations. Young people generally cost society more – in crime, in education and other ways. With typical short-term vision, we forget that all these extra young people get old too and will need support. The media and politicians never highlight this.

Mainstream media invariably frames any population decline as a ‘bad’ that has to be reversed for our continued well-being and economic growth.

 

A typical example appeared in The Times (UK) July 4, 2019 headlining Italian birth rates fall to lowest since 1861, “Prompting fears that the country is facing a sharp demographic decline.” “Russia is facing an even graver demographic crisis after the UN warned that its population could fall to half the present level by the end of the century.”

 

Another country with a ‘worryingly’ declining population is ‘stagnant’ Japan.  Yet the greater Tokyo metropolis is currently the world’s most populated city at around 38 million. Japan is well organised and on current fertility rates is projected to leave the list of world’s largest cities to be replaced before 2100 by Lagos at 88 million, Kinshasa 83m and Kabul in 10th place at 50m. (Population predictions for the world’s largest cities in the 21st century, Daniel Hoornweg, University of Ontario and Kevin Pope) 2017).  These cities are already chaotic at their current populations. Imagine them facing such numbers.

 

Sustainable numbers and UN Goals

The Second Scientists Warning to Humanity in 2017 listed 13 action points. The last point (m) said: “estimating a scientifically defensible sustainable human population size for the long term. Rallying nations is the UN’s job, but how do we define a long-term sustainable population?   

Global population is still growing at 1.036% a year and consumption at 3% a year, with resources declining rapidly.

Using Global Footprint data, the current average ecological footprint per capita would mean a sustainable population size for the long term would now be around 4.4 billion. But since there is no allowance made in this regularly updated snapshot for leaving any bio-capacity to conserve biodiversity, or depletion of non-renewable resources and enabling developing countries to reach more equitable living standards, we have to look at a lower population stabilisation nearer 3 billion – a number endorsed by respected ecologists like David Pimentel and Paul Ehrlich.

 

Unless we work collectively and stop creating wilful barriers of ignorance, because it might ‘disturb people’s beliefs and comfort zones’, our society and much of the planet’s bio-diversity will collapse before the end of the century, as critical food, energy and water resources become ever scarcer. Some might survive in an oppressive dystopia. We must plan for an equitable and responsible transition that preserves much of the diversity of our planet and a viable future for our children.

 

Cycle of silence.

Media coverage of environmental issues varies but remains historically low given its critical importance. There has been an upswing of concern with climate change and Extinction Rebellion protests but the media soon drifts back to celebrity gossip, economic growth and sport.

 

Today’s social media, with its narrow-framed ‘follow’ tags and identity politics, too often fails to see a wider connected picture. Dealing with complex issues on Twitter in 140 characters is practically impossible in a chain of slogans and responses. Celebrity manufactured social media gossip is off the scale of any proportionality and meaning. The baby boomer generation, not content with hoovering up household wealth and pensions of the generations below them are stealing from the future to pay for the present, while millennial media bubbles obsess with identity politics and seeking ‘safe space’. What matters is shaping the complex interactions and events we are all living through – absurd house prices, growing ecological collapse and the declining hope that tomorrow will be better than today

 

We are facing multiple and urgent global challenges, while the sheer stupidity of global turf wars for domination in fragile countries across the Middle East and Africa continue. We must appeal to sanity and the wider issues we must tackle.

 

Overpopulation and demand drives people to destroy the very resources they need to survive – freshwater, soils and forests. The social justice movement shows no interest in working with environmentalists. They simply have no concept of the impact of endless growth in our numbers and demand on biodiversity, infrastructure pressures and food security.

Religious extremism, from fundamentalist Christians, to ultra-orthodox Jews, to patriarchal Muslim cultures who all believe large families are integral to their beliefs and ignore the multiple environmental and social impacts is another barrier to sustainability. The denial of fertility management support translates into coercive child-bearing.

.

Given the immense challenges that will likely see starvation and conflict over remaining resources in the lifetime of people alive today, why would we think it better to create energy shortages, food shortages, lowered quality of life, a housing crisis, grid-locked traffic, bio-diversity loss, and many more calamities caused by ever increasing population pressures?

 

A lower population offers an enormous upside to environmental and social problems.

 

  • We avoid awful things like mass starvation, resource wars, rising pollution and catastrophic bio-diversity loss.

 

  • Small families in developing countries helps parents to afford their children’s education.

 

  • Ever more people simply drives humanity to a lower and lower standard of living.

 

  • Climate breakdown is an acknowledged danger, yet governments ignore the simple, most cost effective step we can take to reduce emissions – having fewer children. Several studies have shown this. (See drawdown.org and Wynes and Nicholas).

 

A number of tactics are widely used to grossly exaggerate claims and suppress discussion. There are common sense answers to all these challenges.

 

  • Population shaming Worrying about population growth and advocating for stabilisation and reduction is motivated by morally reprehensible characteristics like racism.
  • Population growth is good. Economies thrive with more people – increasing consumption. Population and technology gamble will resolve environmental problems of more people. Population fatalism Population may be a problem but there’s nothing we can do about it. Don’t scare the kids is a new media angle since climate warnings by teen activists.
  • Large families are caused by poverty. But large families amongst the rich go unnoticed. Regular TV shows showcase large families without any thought of the impact on others.
  • Lack of infrastructure is the fault of austerity not demand. Lack of housing and hospital beds is blamed on government cutbacks. We simply turn swords into ploughshares and infrastructure will be delivered. But the need to reduce total throughput and impact is ignored.
  • China’s former One-Child policy was coercive and denied ‘human rights’. In fact, China’s one-child policy was widely supported by the people because they were well informed by the government on the benefits. It lifted millions out poverty, helped China’s spectacular rise in living standard and only applied to people in cities. People in rural areas could have two children.  Now China has dropped the limit, with a still huge population because it swallowed the scare that there will be too few young people to support the transient phenomenon of an ageing population.
  • The Ageing Population Scare – a transition not a crisis. The challenge of supporting aging populations is grossly over emphasized. We spend more on cosmetics than we will need to support a temporary rise in older people. It is a phony argument that we need more young people and more immigration to support an ageing population. Young people generally cost society more – in crime, in education and many other ways. We forget they get old too and will need support. The media and politicians never highlight this.
  • Malthus was wrong. We are doing fine. Thomas Malthus’s essay in 1798 on the Principle of Population, predicting mass starvation if human numbers kept on rising, was only wrong in his timing. He couldn’t then know of the one-time binge the discovery of fossil fuels would give to global economic growth and how oil enabled the development of intensive agriculture.

 

Population Ignorant statements

Many media commentators ignore “doomsday” warnings, not because there is no supporting evidence, but because it does not fit with their long-held convictions of how the world works. Other tactics include ‘the practice of ‘Defamation’ to censor inconvenient truths.

Being a ‘National Treasure’ appears to be a license to talk rot.  (Alex Massie. The Spectator, 26/9/2013). Take the case of Sir David Attenborough. The poor booby is another neo-Malthusian. Which is another reminder that expertise in one area is no guarantee of good sense in another.

 

Australian bishop raps Green Party campaign on population fears 19/8/ 2010. Bishop Anthony Fisher. “The fears of a population explosion are absurd. Australia has close to the lowest population density in the world. Most of our country by far is uninhabited.”   (Yes – it’s desert!)

 

We have to change the mind-set of political leaders. Swedish Minister Ylva Johansson said her country “would take in refugees and “improve its population demographics with a smile.”

 

Brian McGavin, writer and environmentalist, is a director of Scientists Warning Europe. 

 

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