Any & every little thing of interest we find and have a moment to share-
Click on the headlines to comment & Share
Click the Orange >>>
and get the feed.
Any & every little thing of interest we find and have a moment to share-
Click on the headlines to comment & Share
Click the Orange >>>
and get the feed.
In Chiapas Mexico the Zapatistas are reviving and recouping ancient Mayan knowledge to plant permanent food forests for the 21st century
Beginning in 2015, Mayan students, education promoters, and other Zapatistas began the process of constructing 18 multi-species food forests at autonomous schools in several climatic zones of Chiapas, Mexico ranging from mile-high oak/pine forests to lowlands rain-forest jungles.
Food forests represent an ancient, alternative agricultural system which can provide food, medicine, and many other useful products through mimicking the ecology of a young forest. The ancient Mayan civilization was one of many cultures around the world which utilized perennial food forests to meet their basic needs.
Food forests today represent both a revival and a recuperation of ancestral agricultural practices, it is also a practical response to the bankruptcy of contemporary commercial agriculture and food distribution systems. Within today’s modern Mayan communities, Zapatista educators, students, and activists are uncovering, documenting, and utilizing a rich reservoir of biological knowledge still practiced by their parents and grandparents, and have studied contemporary Food Forests in Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Mexico, Morocco, United States, and Vietnam.
Donations are urgently needed to pay for food, transportation and educational materials at quarterly workshops with Zapatistas in the three climatic zones. Additionally, there is a need for funds to establish native stingless (melipona) and Apis bee hives; rustic nurseries will eventually be needed at all eighteen of the Zapatista food forests.
Eventually, there may be opportunities for others to actually get their hands dirty on the ground in Chiapas; for the moment we ask that you consider planting a food forest where you live and that you also donate what you can to the Zapatista food forests of Chiapas, Mexico. As a multi-species, organic, perennial system, food forests are beneficial to human beings everywhere and to our Mother Earth who especially needs help in this moment of deep capitalism-driven crisis and rapid climate change.
Pyriproxyfen is manufactured by Sumitomo Chemical-"strategic partner" of Monsanto.
February 2, 2016
Technical note on microcephaly and vector related diseases Aedes aegypti: the dangers of approaches with larvicides and chemical sprays - fogging
Abrasco produced technical notes with reflections, questions and guidance proposition-
Original report in Portuguese - GM watch article based on report.
The exponential growth of the dengue epidemic (in 2015, the Ministry of Health recorded 1,649,008 probable cases of the virus in the country and an increase of 82.5% of deaths in the previous year). The territorial expansion of the infestation by Aedes aegypti attest to the failure of national control strategy. With the emergence of the virus zika epidemic, affecting even more harmful to humans, it is urgent to review our policy and of Aedes infestation control program to prevent the occurrence of epidemics by arboviruses. Several factors are involved in causing this health tragedy. It is a complex phenomenon. For Abrasco, degradation of living conditions in cities, inadequate sanitation, particularly with regard to the ongoing difficulty of access to water, poor garbage collection, sewage, neglect of care of public spaces and private - are the main responsible for this disaster.
epidemic rise of contex
The health situation in which emerges microcephaly epidemic must be analyzed considering the serious problems that are present in the social and environmental reality in which cases occurred and the operating model of vector control. The spatial distribution by place of residence of mothers of newborns with microcephaly (or suspects) is higher in the poorest areas, with precarious urbanization and environmental sanitation inadequate, with water providing intermittently, a fact that leads these people to store home unsafe water, very favorable conditions for breeding of Aedes aegypti, constituting a "breeding" that should not exist, and which are subject to mechanical removal.
Some facts that need to be questioned and investigated can justify the introduction and spread of Zika virus. It is necessary to assess which contexts and contingencies existed and occurred in 2014 in the emergence of local cases of microcephaly. We can suggest some by leaping to the eye, such as:
1) In the Northeast, especially in the periphery of their metropolitan areas, such as Recife, there may have been increasing environmental degradation, exist in them all the conditions for maintaining the high density of Aedes aegypti, the low environmental sanitation indicators related to water, to sanitation, to the immense presence of solid waste from the households and rainwater drainage deficiencies. Regarding this issue, the Journal RADIS Communication and Health Fiocruz (n.154, July 2015) provides an insightful article on environmental sanitation showing its lag and serious not yet solved problems, which is aggravated by the evidence that there will be a delay years in the National Plan of Sanitation (PLANSAB) with fiscal adjustment. 
2) The continued use of larvicidal chemicals in the drinking water of these families for more than 40 years without, however, entail a reduction in the number of cases of diseases caused by Arboviruses. In 2014 it was introduced in the drinking water of the population in households and public roads a new larvicide the pyriproxyfen. As technical guidance of MS  this larvicide is a juvenile hormone analogue or juvenoid, with the mechanism of action of inhibiting the development of insect adult characteristics (eg, wings, maturation of the reproductive organs and external genitalia), keeping with aspect "immature" (nymph or larva), that acts on endocrine disruption and is teratogenic and inhibits the formation of the adult insect.
3) The intensification of migration processes by attracting large enterprises whose workers are finding themselves in precarious sanitary conditions in the area around industrial centers (such as the Suape, Pernambuco, with workers from other regions and states of the country and Pecém-CE with the presence of thousands of Koreans);
4) World Cup 2014, large mass event, had a subsede in Recife (Pernambuco Arena). Installed in São Lourenço da Mata (HDI 0.614), it is in an area with poor sanitary conditions. the highest concentration of cases of microcephaly originally notified (600 suspected cases) in these areas was observed;
5) Fragility of epidemiological surveillance of municipalities and states in the differential diagnosis, investigation of arboviruses and entomological differentiation;
6) difficulties in conducting surveillance of Zika and Chinkungunya, to treat them as "soft dengue." Bichon that the vectorial capacity of Aedes aegypti to transmit the virus Zyka and Chikungunya in our country is not yet properly studied or by entomologists in our social and environmental contexts. Hence fit questions: what did the dengue cases become more serious, it was once considered a benign disease from 1779 to 1950, without causing sequelae and no hematological changes, according to the WHO data? How is the immune system of the population before the chemical model of vector control and adopted by the ongoing MS in the country for about 30 years?
The strategies adopted by MS
Despite the reasons and uncertainties that are to determine the occurrence of microcephaly epidemic, the path to what is called "coping" was to strengthen the "fight" against mosquitoes by repeating what has been adopted for more than 40 years without success. We call society's attention to this issue. For what reasons, in spite of all the inefficiency of indicators, the MS continues to use the same approach for the control of mosquito that transmits the dengue virus, a disease whose transmission also depends on other elements? Even triggering various trainings for health professionals working in situation rooms to improve the diagnosis and reporting of cases of the new viral diseases; remains without integrating the actions of Epidemiological Surveillance, Health and Health Promotion. The problem that we want to highlight in this Note alert technology is at the core of vector control model, given the increased use of larvicide and adulticide for the Aedes aegypti, whereas according to the guidelines adopted by MS since 2014, kicks to the orientation of the technique Ultra Low Volume (ULV)  with Malathion 30% diluted with water, covering the whole national territory.
One must also question the use of chemicals on a scale that ignores the biological and environmental vulnerability of individuals and communities. The consumption of such substances by the public health care only to their producers and marketers of these poisons. Are inputs produced by a very lucrative business cartel, which operates throughout the world and that even with evidence of the risks caused by organophosphates and pyrethroids, of which we know so many deleterious effects, have had the support of international agencies of Public Health, as the Revolving Fund of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). A simple consultation of the chemical safety data sheets of these products delivered by companies to public health authorities shows that these products, such as the Malathion, are neurotoxic to the central and peripheral nervous system, and cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and symptoms of muscle weakness, including the concentrations used in vector control. The environmental toxicity is recommended to avoid its use in the environment, which has not been observed since its release is done the way here we denounced. Such agencies constitute decision-makers for the purchase and distribution of poisons to all countries associated with the United Nations (UN). The suppliers are the same cartel producing pesticides companies operating in agriculture, making it also toxic and chemical-dependent. This model, post-World War II, we emphasize also imposed itself to the control of vector-borne diseases in public health.
The chemical control technologies of the vectors were introduced widely in Brazil since 1968 and can not be disregarded that their origin is due to the chemical weapons of mass destruction, widely used by the US Army at that time in Vietnam War . The adoption of a UBV treatment technique was a practice introduced during the same period and, not coincidentally, one of the first documents of its regulation was drafted by the US Army. 
This same logic has already been adopted to provide a solution through genetic modification and other inaccurate, unreliable and dangerous biotechnology to ecosystems, focusing on the action only in the mosquito, without taking into account the effects on non-target organisms. Attention should be given to British company Oxitec in research and commercialization of transgenic mosquitoes, whose factory was established in Campinas-SP in 2013 and in 2014 obtained authorization from CTNBio for marketing of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), and on this question Abrasco published Technical Note .
The focus in the mosquito and the consequences for human health
The invisible hand of the damage to the environment and human health arising from the use of chemicals in vector control, has not been properly studied or revealed to vulnerable populations, including public health workers. Its harmful effects are totally disregarded both the worsening of viruses, as the emergence of other diseases such as allergies, immunotoxicity, cancer, hormonal disorders, neurotoxicity, among others.
We stress the simplistic in dealing with the issue on the part of MS that reduces causality Dengue, the Zika and Chicungunya, focusing actions in an attempt to eliminate or reduce the vector, which should be replaced, insist, by the action of nature measures intersectoral to intervene in the social, economic and environmental context. To eliminate the mosquito-oriented action by MS over, too, poisoning humans. But this is not recognized on the contrary, there is a concealment of these dangers. The official voices repeat to make several absurdities as true: "The doses of larvicides are so low and low toxicity that we can put in the drinking water without danger". 
This unpreparedness also leads to argue that the epidemic is a public health problem that justifies the use of "fogging", even with known toxic chemicals such as Malathion, a true health nonsense. This product is an organophosphate pesticides considered by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as potentially carcinogenic for humans .
So, in an attempt to eliminate the mosquito humans are being affected by acute effects (morbidity and mortality) and slow death, gradual, invisible and that is hidden. In addition to the acute illness, chronic caused by such products appear in the medium and long term, most of them so-called "idiopathic", ie, undefined or unknown causes, which are not diagnosed or if you want investigated.
It happens that in the XXI century, in the case of diseases transmitted by Aedes aegypti, there was another complication in terms of Public Health, as two new viruses come into our country, for whose disease - Chikungunya and Zika - had no experience in clinical management and or epidemiological.
Dengue and the epidemiological surveillance system
The surveillance system of most health services not adequately investigated this new reality. Now, with the tragedy of the emergence of cases of microcephaly, it turns out this technical and managerial unpreparedness. Historically these public health issues are immersed in "reasons of state", unknown by most of society. We must ask: What are these reasons? To do so, simply examine the official documents of MS on vector control.
In this sense, it is pedagogical examine the emanating guiding documents of MS. This is the case, for example, the TECHNICAL NOTE No. 109/2010 CGPNCD / DEVEP / SVS / MS  to combat dengue, which are well illustrated the misconceptions that signaled here, ie, the increased use of motorized and costal UBV in households and public roads. It reiterates the various absurdities committed in the vector control of Aedes aegypti and MS insists on maintaining and expanding.
Poisoning the poor
In Brazil, Dengue has become an endemic disease outbreaks and this needs to be taken once and for all. What are the specific areas of greatest viral circulation? Precisely those inhabited by the poorest people, who have the worst immune and without adequate sanitation conditions, which will worsen as newspaper news SAO PAULO LEAF, edition of 01/11/2016. And why not disclose these vulnerabilities to its own population? Above technical note mentions the other in No 118/2010, which makes a composite parameter, with which seeks to introduce environmental indicators .
Is that it does only for the "delimitation of areas that require further intensification of the actions of combating vector". That is, the application of poison (insecticides and larvicides) has increasing the toxicity on the immune system.
The NT 109/2010 also said that "the controlling shares larval to be implemented are geared mainly to the sources reduction activities creating mosquito (water tanks, many tanks, tires, etc.)." In doing so, it is assumed that water tank is breeding mosquito and therefore must be "treated" with poison. It turns out that drinking water should have guaranteed its potability. Why the shares do not affect the cleaning and protection of reservoirs for storing the most precious liquid for life? How is it possible to accept the loss of potable water to the poorest? Yes the poor, precisely those who are most vulnerable. That equity is that in which those who should be the most protected and are, paradoxically, the most exposed to situations of chemical harm by those who should protect them? The claim that the population is passive also follows this vertical and authoritarian model. It gives priority to power poison against insects disregarding the danger to humans and thus nothing more needs to be done.
Also in NT 109/2010 MS argues that successful control of vector-borne diseases can be attributed to pesticides when cites as a reference for its justification in this document "National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council. Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. National Academy Press, Washington ". We emphasize that MS is the highest authority in health and should be guided by the precautionary principle when it puts the issue related to human exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Also it reads that due to the increasing deterioration of mosquito resistance process to insecticides, one of the main tasks of the Expert Committee on Pesticide WHO (WHOPES) is finding new biocides for which there are no resistant insects, with no opening for other methods, non-hazardous, control. It is well demonstrated that the resistance acquired by the mosquito is demonstrating the unsustainability of chemical-dependent vector control model, as is already known for many years that the poisons develop and / or increase the frequency of carriers insect resistance mechanisms to insecticides and larvicides, as has been happening with the Aedes aegypti.
In addition to NT 109/2010 admits that "all pesticides that are used in public health - for market reasons - are products originally developed for agriculture, and there is none that has been developed exclusively for use in health." And it cites as support parameter of the success of the measure, the research conducted in Singapore to assess possible impact of the use of the various measures used in fighting a dengue epidemic in the country. Why not examine our own experiences, after all we have a time control vector more than 40 years. Are they not edifying?
More poisons, more resistance more poisons
It used the example of the organophosphate insecticide temephos (commercially known as ABATE®), 1%, introduced in Brazil in 1968 as larvicide in drinking water especially in the North and Northeast Brazil, whose impacts on people's health have not been studied. We know that despite the mosquito resistance of finding the MS continued to use it until the exhaustion of its stock, despite having been shown resistance in target insects and abundant toxicological information of potential risks to human health.
The continued addition of other larvicides substitutes in drinking water people give up today without any concerns about its final concentration as a guiding MS standards is indicated dilution of larvicidal only considering the physical volume of the container and not by the amount domestic water in the container. In 1998, a formal warning about this dilution error was made by chemists, doctors and sanitary engineers recognized, but nothing has changed! Stubbornly until today the official documents of MS recommend adding the larvicide in water tanks considering only the physical volume and not the amount of water that actually exists within.
An aggravating fact is that in Pernambuco and other regions of the Northeast there are frequent water rationing. Therefore, it is worth asking: how long the people of these regions drink poisoned water? Not careful and lack of caution, the introduction of larvicides classified as insect growth regulators (IGR) occurs upon further abusive Technical Notes regarding the "despotabilização" drinking water.
We understand that here is the master key to discuss why the MS acknowledges and supports this model. Behind you are the WHO and PAHO to the institutional weight of their committees of "pesticide" that there is no dialogue with the committees: environmental, sanitation and health promotion. Those Committees, who are prescribing the use and regulation of the purchase of the control input vector to the world are imperial. Are such organisms convincing and give the nod to the bidding process by national governments.
The growth regulators larvicides such as diflubenzuron and novaluron, introduced in place of temephos, appear problematic. In Recife, it was conducted effect study on the health of workers that apply found the occurrence of methemoglobinemia; also know its metabolites have several toxic effects, and which are not considered. These results were widely reported in the II Seminar Fiocruz Dengue Network in November 2010 in the city of Rio de Janeiro; the First Health and Environment Symposium in 2010 in the city of Bethlehem and the 10th. Brazilian Public Health Congress in 2012, in Porto Alegre.
With its centralized policy sectors of the MS responsible for vector control contraindicate that municipalities adopt other independent means of chemical use. Even before the conclusion of the ineffectiveness of the model used. Municipalities uselessly spend their meager resources on hazardous chemicals and make the health workers act only at this point, exposing them even to poisons.
Insisting that strategy, there was, in 2014, the introduction of pyriproxyfen larvicide, and even though is its toxicity as teratogenic and endocrine disruption to the mosquito, was considered to have low toxicity. And, once again, the MS suggests its use in drinking water, to be added in tanks and water tanks, irrespective of the amount of water inside, making higher concentration when water shortages situations  .
On products that have teratogenic effect on arthropods, which the norms for registration of pesticides would be prohibited its use in agriculture, for food safety reasons, we ask how to accept the use of drinking water for human consumption? What about this usage in an epidemic context of birth defects? In the State of Emergency in Public Health of National Importance, recently decreed by MS, as the mainstream media news is being advocated the use of larvicide directly into cars kites distributing water in regions of the Agreste and Sertao the Northeast. We caution that this is the latest absurd and reckless health measure imposed by the managers of the chemical model of vector control.
Although the NT 109/2010 recognizes that "The inclusion of intersectoral actions such as regular water supply and solid waste collection, constitutes a fundamental activity to impact on reducing vector density Aedes aegypti," little is proposed in this sense. We insist on the question: why is maintained vector control centered on a program that for over 40 years has shown ineffective and inefficient to do it? It must be, therefore, a strategy focused on the identification and elimination of breeding and Environmental Sanitation. What in fact is being done for the regular supply of water on the outskirts of cities? How can people protect waters reserved for consumption? Why although many cities have regular garbage collection is still observed a tremendous amount of solid waste disposed in the daily environment? What is being done to take care of this issue? And urban rainwater drainage? And the sewage?
Another noteworthy NT 109/2010 when he says that "the biggest problem lies in" space and residual adulticide ", regretting that the poisons available are restricted only to" groups of organophosphates and pyrethroids. In organophosphate the offer is restricted to Malathion (space) and Fenitrothion (residual) ". We clarify that the reference to the term "space" refers to use in nebulizers (Ultra Low Volume - UBV, known as "fogging" or costal equipment). The above poisons, it is known, as I have said, that the Malathion is a potent carcinogen for animals and has recently been recognized as potentially carcinogenic to humans by IARC WHO . It is worth highlighting that many products used in vector control of Aedes aegypti as Fenitrothion, Malathion and temephos have been studied since 1998, the Fundamental Chemistry Department of UFPE and shown to have potentially carcinogenic effects for humans. The recommendations by the Ministry of the use of Malathion are in the document Recommendations on the use of Malathion emulsion Aqueous-EA 44% for Aedes aegypti control in space applications Ultra Low Volume UBV, 2014 . With the adoption of these sprays poisoning is potentially even wider and more dangerous.
No pun intended, so we arrive at the bottom, in terms of lack of understanding of environmental determination procedures and care in the prevention of diseases related to vectors, to which are added the national and international interests strangers to public health issues and related to consumption of pesticides agendas.
Where is the environmental sanitation?
A question that begs to be put here with complete outrage: why were not prioritized until now the environmental sanitation activities, a strategy that seems to get further away?
By the way, if you visit the outskirts of large cities and so-called special areas socially vulnerable where the needs are of all kinds, will see itself as serious health situation that no amount of poison can resolve the vector control, it added the fact that people will have a severely compromised health.
Urban and sanitation policies are generally disjointed. The precarious living conditions, urbanization and environmental sanitation, characteristic context of the vast majority of cases of microcephaly, reflect a model of development and urban policies that reaches the poor, as historically disenfranchised by abysmal social inequality in Brazil. Unfit housing suitable for household water storage, located on steep or wet areas with poor infrastructure and urbanization and poor sanitation. A context that reflects the social illness that meant better infrastructure and better services for the middle and upper classes. The example of inequality in access to drinking water in Brazil is emblematic of this asymmetry of access. The per capita consumption can vary in a city from 30 to 500 liters / person / day. One of the expressions of this inequality is the weekly rotation of access or intermittent water supply. The vast majority of cases of microcephaly occurred in cities with serious problems casters or flashing, where the poorest are more days without water per week and the richest or has no rotation or flashing or have a few days. The water crisis and poor management of sanitation services also has imposed the rotation or flashing the entire cities, and even the collapse of supply, the scene of many cases of microcephaly in the Northeast.
Faced with the ineffectiveness of the Aedes aegypti control methods, the gravity of the situation deepens. In Pernambuco, the State Department of Health (SES) has notified MS, on October 28, 2015, the existence of 29 cases of microcephaly that year, which was more than double what had been happening in previous years. It is noteworthy that only 07 states had the practice of mandatory reporting of congenital malformation. In December 2015 it was confirmed that 14 states had a prevalence of high microcephaly. The proportion of new cases in Pernambuco became frightening. On November 18, 2015, the Ministry decreed the state of emergency in Public Health of National Importance, a situation that had been adopted only in 1917, with the occurrence of Spanish flu. As reported by the Diario de Pernambuco, on 01.20.2016, the number of suspected cases of microcephaly rose to 3,893. The recordings were made in 764 municipalities distributed in 21 Brazilian states. Until that date, it was reported 49 deaths from this malformation. The total of such deaths, 05 had confirmed the presence of Zika virus. Although we know that, in a situation of maternal exposure to the virus, and this surpassing the placental barrier, it is expected that the fetus also expose. In this field there are still many issues in the research process. According to MS information, Pernambuco remains the state with the highest number of suspected cases (1,306), representing 33% of total registered across the country. 
Should be alert and noted that the entry into Brazil of Zika virus was not accompanied by a knowledge of its dispersion by epidemiological and entomological surveillance. A series of measures, all centered on the practice of using poisons intensified, upon acceptance of a direct relationship between microcephaly and Zika virus. As an additive have a recommendation for repellent use of pregnant women . With that DEET (N, N-dimethyl-meta-toluamide) is being sold without restriction for pregnant women, another trivialization of chemical exposure .
The epidemiological situation of crisis of diseases transmitted by Aedes aegypti is even more serious and important to say that here in Brazil, between 2014 and 2015, there were about 1.5 million cases, half the state of São Paulo. Because in this state, which occur periodically Dengue epidemics that previously recorded very few deaths, and in that period there was unusually more than 400 deaths associated with complications of dengue? Does this fact is related to the information that, in São Paulo, has intensified vector control with the use of Malathion in chemical fogging? This poison has been used since 2001 to 30% in the final formulation, in nebulization process, the Superintendency of Endemic Disease Control (SUCEN), and in the second half of 2014, was introduced by MS a new formulation of Malathion diluted in water [ 17] containing undeclared emulsifiers and stabilizers. The rationale for this substitution was the lowest cost. Can there be some association between exposure to Malathion and considered this as mortality increased by complications of Dengue? Who are those who died? Are elderly, those with chronic diseases, children? You need to know more. The population exposed to malathion was investigated? The possibility of these deaths are associated with exposure to Malathion was suggested and researched? We emphasize that due to the massive and continuous use of such toxic substance that research needs to be performed.
Finally, we claim from the competent authorities to adopt the following measures:
1) Immediate review of vector control model. The focus should be on BREEDING THE DISPOSAL not the mosquito as the center of the action; with the suspension of the use of chemicals and the adoption of mechanical cleaning methods and environmental sanitation. The reservoirs of drinking water use cleaning measures and water quality protection and guarantee its potability;
2) In public health campaigns to control Aedes aegypti, immediate suspension of the use of malathion or any other organophosphate, carbamate, pyrethroid or organopersistente, either in air or mist curtains treated with poison (impregnated mosquito nets). Replace the use of these products by mechanical barriers, cleaning, vacuuming, telagem windows, doors and other measures;
3) In the measures taken by the Ministry to control Aedes aegypti in their larval and adult forms, immediate suspension of pyriproxyfen (0.5 L) and all growth inhibitors such as diflubenzuron and novaluron, or any other chemical or biological product in drinking water.
The Abrasco manifests itself through the agency of the Thematic Groups of Health and Environment; Worker's health; Health Surveillance; Promoting Health and Sustainable Development and also Popular Education in Health, about microcephaly epidemic. The document aims to deepen reflections, questions and make statements that can guide public policy on preventive intervention against the outbreak.
I have the world’s worst hair cut. It is uneven, hacked and does nothing to flatter my features. For the first few days after I cut it, my hair was also super dirty, sticking straight up with a Pomade of bug spray, sunscreen and Cuban dirt.
While so many in the United States were being driven to distraction by the biggest deals of a lifetime on Black Friday, I was in Cuba, taking a pair of scissors to my head as I looked down a mountainside at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay. I could see the base, which straddles the sparkling bay, cutting the Cuban people off from rich fishing waters and full access to their land. A representative of the Cuban government told us that the Department of Guantánamo lags behind the rest of the nation in economic development because they have expected an invasion to come from the base since 1903, when the United States seized the land. “Why invest in an area that is just going to be destroyed by bombs?” she asked.
Standing at this spot, I could see the sacred — mountains, valleys, rainbows, water, skies that almost sing with gorgeousness — and the profane — occupation, militarization, torture, abuse, indefinite detention. I was there with 13 other friends from Witness Against Torture. We were spending our Thanksgiving week far from our families, camping out at the Mirador overlooking the U.S. Naval Base. We were being hosted by the staff of La Gobernadora restaurant and lounge. From the look out, we could see the U.S. base that has occupied more than 100 square kilometers of Cuban land for over a century and imprisons 107 men in torturous conditions.
We camped. We prayed. We worked to transform a random international tourist spot — not to mention local make out spot, where the night staff drink rum from the bottle and blast reggaeton music toda la noche — into a place to honor. We wanted to connect and extend ourselves towards the men our nation has demonized and forgotten — hoping our songs, chants and prayers were carried by the wind, refracted by the sun, swept along by the rain, and carried along by every bird that flew overhead.
After a while, though, I needed to do just a little more than fasting and camping. I needed just a little more suffering. I was here — close this exact spot — 10 years ago, when Witness Against Torture was born. That time, in December 2005, 25 of us walked about 100 kilometers from Santiago de Cuba to the Cuban military checkpoint that guards the entrance to a Cuban military territory that surrounds the U.S. naval base. We fasted then as well, camping out at the Cuban checkpoint and calling U.S. SOUTHCOM to request entry onto the base. That time, we hoped that the United States would press charges against us for traveling to Cuba, giving us an opportunity to put the Bush administration’s torture program on trial. They declined.
What drew me back to Guantánamo? What propelled me away from my husband and three small children during Thanksgiving week? I returned 10 years after our original mission because so much has changed for me — I am now a wife and a mother — and so little has changed about the criminal injustice of indefinite detention, abuse and torture.
Relations between the United States and Cuba have changed. Travel restrictions have loosened. Embassies have opened in both countries. We are not breaking any laws by being here, but we are doing something no one has done before, and the Cuban people were with us. They are sick of being occupied, sick of being exploited, sick of Guantánamo being synonymous with torture the world over, when it should bring up visions of gorgeous beaches, fat healthy fish and rigorous mountain climbing.
That’s why I needed a little more than fasting and camping. That’s why I needed a little more suffering. And that’s why I opted to give myself the world’s worst haircut. As I sawed and hacked off hanks of hair, I recalled all the names we had read earlier in the day. The names and stories of 107 men still held at Guantánamo, many in solitary confinement, many on hunger strike, many still subjected to forced feeding.
Mohammed Ahmad Said al Edah is a 52- or 53-year-old citizen of Yemen. As of November 16, 2015, he has been held at Guantánamo for 13 years and 10 months. As of January 2010, the Guantánamo Review Task Force had recommended him for transfer to Yemen provided that certain security conditions were met.
Abd al Malik Abd al Wahab is a 35- or 36-year-old citizen of Yemen. As of January 2010, the Guantánamo Review Task Force had recommended him for continued detention. A parole-like Periodic Review Board later recommended him for transfer. As of Nov. 16, 2015, he has been held at Guantánamo for 13 years, 10 months.
I wanted to get back to my kids, my husband and my domestic routine. I yearned to wash dishes (and my hair) and read books. But I didn’t want to forget what we were able to do on that mountaintop. I didn’t want to forget what people of good will are able to accomplish. We established an outpost of prayer and intention, and showed the world that people from the United States still care about what happens here.
I wanted to leave Cuba with more than a sunburn, a stomach ache and pile of really beautiful, moving photographs of our work here. I wanted to leave Cuba changed and doubly committed to changing the life circumstances of the men who are stuck in the worst form of hell — life in limbo. We are living in an age of borderless war, pervasive terror and prevailing fear. We can trace many of the origins of this to 2001, the launch of the U.S. war on the people of Afghanistan and the delivery of a planeful of Arab and Muslim men into U.S. custody on Cuban soil in 2002. Guantánamo — the wholesale shackling, torturing and confining of men without charge or evidence — was the beginning of a new and grim chapter in our nation’s history.
I keep thinking about what my children and grandchildren will ask me about this time when they are older. I want to be able to tell them that I stood on the side of the outsider, that I was not afraid, that I kept the flame of peace afire and held onto my humanity by never losing sight of anyone else’s humanity. That’s why I embarked on this journey, to be able to look my children in their big beautiful eyes and say, “I tried. I am trying.” But, the first thing they said when they saw me was, in fact, “Hi Ma, what happened to your hair?”
Last week, the liberal Senator appeared for one of her regularly scheduled
“office hours” with her Massachusetts constituents, this one in Hyannis,
and, as a local paper reported, she had nowhere to run.
Elizabeth Warren appeared at one of her Senatorial office hours with her Massachusetts constituents, one voter who identified himself as a Warren supporter, John Bangert, stood up and objected to her recent vote, in the middle of the horrific attack on Gaza, to send yet another $225 million of American taxpayer money to Israel for its “Iron Dome” system. Banger told his Senator: “We are disagreeing with Israel using their guns against innocents. It’s true in Ferguson, Missouri, and it’s true in Israel . . . The vote was wrong, I believe.” To crowd applause, Bangert told Warren that the money “could have been spent on infrastructure or helping immigrants fleeing Central America.”
But Warren steadfastly defended her “pro-Israel” vote, invoking the politician’s platitude: “We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.” According to the account in the Cape Cod Times by reporter C. Ryan Barber, flagged by Zaid Jilani, Warren was also asked about her Israel position by other voters who were at the gathering, and she went on to explain:
“I think the vote was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right. America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”
Warren said Hamas has attacked Israel “indiscriminately,” but with the Iron Dome defense system, the missiles have “not had the terrorist effect Hamas hoped for.” When pressed by another member of the crowd about civilian casualties from Israel’s attacks, Warren said she believes those casualties are the “last thing Israel wants.”
“But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself,” Warren said, drawing applause.
Warren even rejected a different voter’s suggestion that the U.S. force Israel to at least cease building illegal settlements by withholding further aid: “Noreen Thompsen, of Eastham, proposed that Israel should be prevented from building any more settlements as a condition of future U.S. funding, but Warren said, ‘I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.'”
In her defense, Warren has long been clear that this is what she would do. Her Senate campaign website still contains statements such as “it is a moral imperative to support and defend Israel” and “as a United States Senator, I will work to ensure Israel’s security and success.”
During her time in the national spotlight, Warren has focused overwhelmingly on domestic issues, rarely venturing into foreign policy discussions. Many of those domestic views, particularly her strident-for-D.C. opposition to banks, have been admirable, elevating her to hero status for many progressives.
But when Warren has spoken on national security, she has invariably spouted warmed-over, banal Democratic hawk tripe of the kind that she just recited about Israel and Gaza. During her Senate campaign, for instance, she issued wildly militaristic – and in some cases clearly false – statements about Iran and its nuclear program that would have been comfortable on the pages of The Weekly Standard.
Even as conservative Democratic Senate candidates from red states such as Nebraska’s Bob Kerrey were vehemently condemning the threat of war against Iran during their campaigns, Warren was claiming (contrary to the U.S. Government’s own assessment) that “Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons”, adding: “I support strong sanctions against Iran and believe that the United States must also continue to take a leadership role in pushing other countries to implement strong sanctions as well.” Those claims about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons remained her position even after she was told that they squarely contradict the U.S. intelligence community’s clear assessment of Iran’s actions.
In related news, the British newspaper The Telegraph yesterday published the names of all 504 children who were killed in Gaza over the last 50 days by Israel. In the last week, Israel deliberately destroyed an entire large residential apartment building after giving its residents less than an hour to vacate, leaving more than 40 families homeless, and also destroyed a seven-story office building and two-story shopping center (the video of the apartment building destruction is online and ugly to watch).
Echoing Benjamin Nentayahu (and Hillary Clinton), Elizabeth Warren’s clear position is that Israel bears none of the blame for any of this. Or, to use her words, “when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.” Such carnage is the “last thing Israel wants.” The last thing. That, ladies and gentlemen, is your inspiring left-wing icon of the Democratic Party.
From The Intercept
Contact the author:
Many of you reading this article study science for the admiration of the scientific method and the desire for more knowledge. Now that the field of science and, in particular, biopharmaceutical science, has attracted the attention of venture capitalists, the love of money has perverted the scientific method.
Originally, I studied biology because it was the closest I could get to “truth”. I felt I could help reduce suffering by helping the people all others had forsaken. I found that was not the intent of the pharmaceutical industry when I worked on an antiviral drug that causes over a million pediatric casualties a year. Those casualties only happened to children in the developing world, so the company decided the drug had no market and therefore the project was not funded. I decided at that time that I would no longer work to “make a CEO wealthy.”
I then went to a company that provided biopharmaceutical therapies for rare genetic disorders. The CMO was a very dedicated doctor. He was that firefighter who, against all odds, knows there’s a child on the second floor of a burning building and is determined to save her. He would settle for nothing less than providing his patients with the opportunity to become independent, healthy adults. After working there for several years, the limos started pulling up out front....
The company changed directions; it started looking for “larger markets” and went in a direction divergent from what originally attracted myself and so many others.
With little experience in that field, clinical trials in that “larger market” model failed. To feed the market’s voracious appetite for big returns, management then turned to the company forte of rare genetic disorders: If you can’t get $30 from 100,000 customers, you then will have to get $300,000 from 10 customers.
The focus of this very tightly knit group of dedicated scientists shifted from science to getting to market as fast as possible. It perverted the science, it perverted the truth, it put children’s safety at risk, and it created an unhealthy work environment as well. Upper management used the excuse that families affected by this disease were pleading with us to help them as soon as possible because they were losing time. Although this is true, it was our dedication as scientists to provide patients with the safest and most effective therapy, which takes time.
The truth was, upper management wanted to get the drug, any drug, to market to appease “The Street”. Management shifted from a science and medicine-led process to a profit/market lead. Good scientists who spent many years of their lives working on these rare genetic disorders were forced out because they were not willing to forsake the science in the interest of their company’s stock price.
The two directions may work for a period of time. As many in business state, if there is a need, the market can provide. But, what if the need is a matter of life and death? How much will that market bear when it comes to the life of your child? Only the number crunchers will know.
There are too many of us who have forgotten our love of science and our dedication to help reduce suffering. Can you imagine what science would be like if money were not an issue? What if you could work on what you are passionate about? What if you could run into that burning building with all the protections you needed to save that child left behind?
-Lisa Argento Martell
U.S. military spending is extremely high by historical standards.
The biggest piece of military spending is the budget of the Department of Defense, the DOD's annual “Green Book” makes clear that it has seen higher spending under President Barack Obama than ever before in history. Here are the numbers in constant 2016 dollars,
thanks to Nicolas Davies,
>Who apparently had the patience to extract these numbers from this Document<
By David Simpson and Jane Lapiner
David Simpson and Jane Lapiner travelled to Paris from their home in Petrolia, California late last fall to attend and report on the United Nations climate summit. This is their summary report
A friend called the day after the late-night conclusion of the Conference of the Parties 21 (COP 21), the much-heralded United Nations climate summit in Paris last month. He knew that Jane Lapiner and I had participated in the UN event and he wanted to share with us his pleasure at the acceptance of the Paris Agreement by 195 nations. He was very happy and thought we would be, too. “HappY”is not exactly what I was feeling at the time. Nor was Jane. Neither of us were exactly unhappy, either, at the outcome of the long process that culminated on the evening of the 12th of December.
It was not, in fact, until our friend called, filled with enthusiasm for the vaunted Paris outcome, that I realized that what I really was at the conclusion of COP 21 was scared. Still scared. The same fear that had eaten at us leaving COP 19 in Warsaw in 2013 and again leaving COP 20 in Lima in 2014 gnawed once again.
With some significant variants, COP 21 held truer to UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) form than we had hoped: hammer out a modest agreement favorable to the richest countries and their economic interests, provide sufficient inducements or threats to convince the poorer nations to go along, call it an incomparable victory, chortle about it before the world press and then go home. Go home, that is, if you’re home is still standing and unflooded.
That’s where the fear comes in. It comes from the recognition eating at the edge of our awareness that there are deep vulnerabilities that once again could have been more adequately addressed in the process but were not. Some of the original fear had to do with the fact that earlier in the weeks before both COP19 and 20 huge typhoons had wreaked havoc on the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. One, Super Typhoon Haiyan, in November 2013, was savage on an historic level. It killed 6000 people and rendered a million more homeless in a few hours. A map of the world’s weather just after COP21 itself looked like a crowded dart board where every one of the numerous darts represented either a massive flood or a famine-threatening drought We’ve lived on the north coast of California for 45 years, long enough to know that great storms are not unusual here either. Storms that form far to the northwest in the Gulf of Alaska strike land here first on their easterly track. They strike with unabated, ocean-bred ferocity, their strength often driving them across the entire continent. Add a little more intensity from a warmer ocean or steeper pressure gradients and the enhanced wind and rainfall will start our watersheds unraveling. Waiting for us at home though, after COP 20 last year was not stormy weather but instead the early stages of what was to prove an intense drought in California. Drought or deluge! Our new climate reality?
But in Paris there was little concern about recent weather. We had just witnessed an expression of out-and-out jubilation that took place in the 1500 seat plenary room late in the evening of the 12th of December. It was infectious. The celebration was for the completion of the long, tough deliberations between representatives of the 195 nations or ‘parties’ gathered in the suburban Le Bourget convention center. It was an attempt to forge an agreement that could help modify human-induced climate change and thus, it was hoped, change the course of the future for human beings and their civilizations. Important stuff!
Many people in the huge room had actually shed tears of joy and relief that closing night. Humankind had just taken real steps, it seems, to dodge the bullet and avoid a grim fate. We seemed to have a chance. The leaders of the COP basked in the warmth of the seemingly endless ovation and sought to be magnanimous in their acknowledgements, through smiles and hand gestures, of their debt to the whole crew.
Even in the press room, hardened reporters from many nations who were gathered around the scores of big TV monitors let out hoots of delight and applauded loudly for Laurent Fabius, a decorous man who is long time Secretary of State for France and served as President of COP 21. Fabius first gave in without discussion to last-minute US demands, clearly driven by a desire not to be encumbered legally, for two substitutions in the agreement text in which the imperative “shall” became the conditional “should”. (How different human history since Moses might have been had God decreed it to be written that “Thou should’t kill?) Minister Fabius then pounded his desk with what looked to be a rather flimsy gavel given the weight of the occasion, and declared the deal done. The Paris Agreement had been confirmed by Ministers from 195 nations. And the self-congratulations began in earnest.
There followed that night another two to three hours of brief speeches, most by Ministers or higher ranking representatives of most of the 195 nations but a few at the very end were representatives of civil society. Almost all joined with greater or lesser fervor the unrelenting din of praise though a few voiced concerns in moderation. It wasn’t until almost the last speech that an alternative view of the event first emerged in earnest in the great plenary room. A girl from India named Aneessa, no more than 18 years old, passionately represented the Climate Justice perspective.
The lack of ambition in this room is palpable. You did not “achieve” anything. All you achieved was silencing the voices who stood in your path, and allowing power to run its course. You achieved
business as usual.
Still, the celebrative spirit prevailed. By the time the quibblers, the unimpressed and the overtly critical (Can one ever forget ‘the niggling nabobs of negativity”?) started to creep out of the broom closets where the coerciveness of such blatant satisfaction had momentarily stuffed them, the world press had already weighed in. It, too, at first, pretty much followed the celebrative party line but with fairly strong caveats. Justin Gillis in an analysis for the New York Times (12/12/15) managed to communicate the ambiguity surrounding the COP even in its so-called victory. “The Agreement itself,” he wrote, “will not save the planet.” But, he went on, “ the political system of the world is finally responding in a way that scientists see as commensurate with the scale of the threat.” In an effort at resolving ambiguity if nothing else, one is forced to ask, had we really dodged the end of the world?
What the Math Tells Us
Not hardly. Celebrate as you will, the math said that given the total of the voluntary emissions reductions and financial commitments (INDC’s – Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) of each of the Parties (Nations), world average temperatures were likely to increase to a peak of over 3 degrees C warmer than when they started their fated rise early in the industrial revolution. Since less than one degree C has already created such meteorological havoc, 3 degrees is sure-fire catastrophe. Even the target of 2 degrees C determined at COP 17 as the highest livable rise was now attracting the grim sobriquet of genocide among representatives of the most vulnerable nations, AOIS (Alliance of Small Island States) and the LDC (Least Developed Countries). Salymeel Huk, a brilliant and kindly Bangladeshi scientist with the International Institute for Environment and Development expressed that 2 degrees C means over 100 million people in low-lying countries will likely be displaced or dead. A new lower target—1.5 degrees C—arose early on at the conference with considerable backing and even made it into the agreement text but only on an ‘if possible’ basis.
It is worth being reminded that the affable, intense climate scientist, Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change at the University of Manchester in England, had informed us in Paris that it was a well-kept secret that a 1.5 degree rise was “already in the rear view mirror” and that only a complete elimination of all use of fossil fuels by 2030—less than 15 years off—would allow us to hold at even the much maligned 2 degrees C. (It’s sobering, in this regard, to recall Selameel Huq’s estimates of losses to low-lying populations at that temperature rise which, according to Anderson’s time-line, is now ordained.) This was the stark reality against which the “ambition” of participating parties and organizations must be judged.
Anderson’s carbon accounting might be painful in its unflinching rigor but it is certainly more reliable than the way the fossil fuel people like to count. That’s known as ‘negative carbon emissions accounting’. It occurs when carbon pollution is ostensibly removed from the atmosphere--as opposed to preventing these emissions from entering the atmosphere in the first place-- and then stored in underground in abandoned mines or emptied oil reservoirs or sequestered in soil or forests thus making a somehow calculable amount of space available for more emissions.
This class of technological solution is called Carbon Sequestration and Storage (CSS) Few if any of these “solutions” have yet been proven to work on a real-world level and some even in concept are out-and-out preposterous (changing the PH of the ocean, for instance, or shooting massive quantities of reflective particles into the stratosphere to repel sunlight) Big polluters love them like they love the idea of carbon trading. They provide unsubstantiatable rationales for the continuation of such pollution even though there is in actuality no more available space “out there” for their emissions.
For them, sequestration and storage, and the dishonest science and accounting that goes with it extends the rationales supporting the otherwise bleak future their industry faces. It is economic black magic, lengthening their corporate working lives far beyond what the atmosphere can bear. It is apparently based on the assumption that the laws of physics can be ignored without great consequence. For us mortals, especially those living in the wrong places, it is the end of life as it has been known.
The real downside, though, of this form of accounting—and why my friend’s good cheer over the Agreement worried me so—is that, according to Pete Smith, Professor of Soils and Global Change at the U. of Aberdeen (Scotland, UK)….
It risks giving us a false sense of security that we will be able to engineer our way out of climate problems….people will likely take false comfort that technology will save us.
This may be the point at which we have arrived--seeking false comforts, a new form of denial. The fossil fuel companies—those
Gods of the Markets and Ultimate Purveyors of Power--are facing their seemingly inevitable demise. And indeed, if we are to survive, they can’t, or at least not for much longer and not in their present form. They are seeking, though, at least temporary absolution and societal permission through unlikely but certainly polluting technologies and we need to be clear about that.
The Hardest News from Paris
This is the hardest news from Paris. A last insult from the coal, oil and gas guys is that they are right now, in this post-Paris euphoria, lining up at the doors where the Feds hand out money for technical climate change research. In their case the research is for projects like CSS and new twists on biofuels and GM crops which succeed only at keeping the companies in the game a little longer and waste better research opportunities. Meanwhile emissions continue to build at unacceptable rates.
We are playing Russian Roulette with the climate and every year more of the cylinders of the gun to our heads are loaded until there are no empty chambers, no homelands—eco-regions—that are not under climate siege. We, the thousands gathered in Paris all returned to homelands, too many of which are coming to fit into the UNFCCC category of nations suffering ‘Loss and Damages’.
A Simple Choice
We have a simple choice before us. We can continue for an indefinite, probably short time, to accept the enterprises, modestly rearranged, of the fossil fuel giants--the so-called ‘low carbon economy’. (It’s pretty much the rule that when you see ‘low carbon economy’ it means that the fossil fuel industry still has a hand on the throttle as do many other large corporate entities who damage or pollute much of what they touch and then have the temerity to call what they do Green.) The ‘low carbon economy’ can only promise us a brief extension of consumer comforts and convenience while the planet continues to heat up.
Or we can take up the torch of the “Just Transition”, a massive societal reconfiguration that requres mobilization on the level of what we accomplished in order to win the 2nd World War. This will indeed involve a lot of hard but exhilarating work and likely the only shot we’ll have at long term survival.
What then will be the role of the UNFCCC? This is another thing that scared us about our friend’s pleasure at the Paris outcome--how little seemed to be getting done through the COP process relative to what science—and increasingly what the weather outside our windows—was telling us. We recognized that we were going home from this enormous planet-wide dialogue with insufficient assurance that we were on a path that will promise some level of security down the line from the vagaries of a climate going rogue.
Though it was pleasurable to see such a near-unity of celebration for it, the Paris Agreement is still thin soup given the urgency of the need. It is also important to keep in mind, even though it too is frightening, that the amount of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere annually still has not peaked. It is still growing and at 400 parts per million is as high as at any time in the past 800,000 years. So how are we going so far astray when the consequences are already staring us in the face? In the Paris Agreement it says that we should work to get to the peak of global emissions “as soon as possible”. How’s that for precise temporal boundaries? What about “immediately”?
The Corporate Presence
The answer is tied up with the question about the UNFCCC’s future role and about how it does its business. There has always been a fairly strong corporate presence in the functioning of the organization. It has been there, in fact, from the first environmentally-oriented UN summit in Stockholm in l972. COP 19 in Warsaw in 2013 was referred to as “the corporate COP”. Corporate logos, literature and banners were ubiquitous. The government had organized a week-long coal summit right in the middle of the COP which was just then struggling with the budding awareness that dirty old King Coal was doomed. Increasing corporate dominance, though, was becoming the rule in public life. Frustration with the size of this presence in the Polish National Stadium was the main reason that over 800 civil society reps walked out two days before the event ended.
COP 21, if anything, was more corporate. Business associations and coalitions that were largely new seemed everywhere. There were venues both within and without the COP established for the convenient access of corporate representatives to people from governments and commercial associations all over the world. Around $U.S. 40 million of the $170 million it cost the UNFCCC just to bring off this event came from corporate “sponsors”, including two of France’s major energy producers, EDF and Engie. Everywhere contacts between business and government, business and business, were being made, lessons learned, new terminologies discussed.
The IETA and Climate Smart Agriculture
The IETA. (International Emissions Trading Association) the hard-core carbon trading reps were there again running side events and lengthy carbon business tutorials for hundreds of black-suited climate commerce neophytes who were seeking instruction on the new Green tools, the language, and the new synchronicities and cross-over advantages that might make possible the full-on deals of the future.
One event we attended in IETA’s conference room was especially troubling. The topic of the panel discussion was Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), the corporate sector rookie that promises to help bring new Green tools and techniques to farmers all over the world from large to very small. It is seen as the agricultural companion to REDD +, the mechanism developed through the UNFCCC to employ carbon offsets and trading as a means of protecting native forests from abusive and often illegal harvest. (Responsibilities for these outcomes too often lie at corporate doors.) It ostensibly allows a natural forest to retain its carbon or become more effective carbon sinks. It does not, though, avoid the dangers of inaccuracy and corruption inherent in calculating carbon values nor does it take into account the needs of the indigenous communities that have lived in and preserved these forests for millennia.
The Climate Smart Ag. people waxed poetic about improved crop yields which at the same time vastly improve soil and reduce water use. You don’t have to really strain to get to the commercial current running underneath—the sales of manufactured nitrogen fertilizers and GMO seeds. The people running this discussion would have had a little more credibility if “they” weren’t Cargill, Kellog, Yara (the large French synthetic fertilizer manufacturer) and other mammoth corporate agribusiness entities working to expand their markets and revenues. Seems that, in addition to higher crop yields,(and indebtedness to the fertilizer manufacturers) there are carbon credits available for improved soils—like the forests in REDD+ deals, the soil itself in CSA actions fills the role of carbon sinks which can be translated into carbon credits and be bought and sold by those seeking to extend their right to burn fuels and produce emissions maybe in a whole other part of the world. Topsoil For Sale! Get your carbon-rich soil right here? You gotta love the market.
We Mean Business
Just down the hall from IETA the latest Business Kids on the block had their new gaming-the-system center. The We Mean Business Coalition advertising “ economic opportunity through bold climate action” put out a daily newsletter for the two weeks of the conference, The Bottom Line. The terminology employed by The Bottom Line is shamelessly “business speak” but with a wrench toward the faux environmental. Such terms as “sustainable growth”, “green economy”, “climate smart” pepper their pages. It’s as if they had just discovered “environmentalism” entirely anew, a basically foreign language they were trying with limited success to speak.
The organization prides itself on “helping to secure economic opportunity through bold climate action.” It brags of forming a coalition of 280 companies and 144 major investors with access to over $ 26 trillion US. This collection of financial interests lined up under their slick corporate logos, is amassing troops once more on the border of a green world they have in the past only known how to exploit. But they have renewed enthusiasm to connect nature with business.
Picture this; Associations like We Mean Business and the IETA are like huge battleships, each with their own defending fleets of Destroyers-- corporations, lobbyists, consultancies, lenders or other, smaller associations or coalitions, their brands subsumed under one larger brand or banner in an enormous Armada. They are arming themselves, gaining the language of comity with the environment and environmentalism but all the time preparing to sail into new foreign waters and to attack non-profit social heretics, anti-neoliberals and would-be regulators with the true flag of Markets Uber Alles unfurled like the Jolly Roger while the crews with swords clenched between their teeth join in and sing as best they can the anthem of the new world order, The Markets Shall Decide.
Other business Armadas are the Low CarbonTechnology Partnerships Initiative (LCTPi) with its 82 Destroyer-corporations, The World Business Council for Sustainable Development ,WBCSD with over 200 Destroyer-Corporations under their aegis and the International Energy Agency (IEA), IETA with 48 Destroyer-Corporation and 24 Consultants (Cruisers?) and others. I suspect if one were to study the provenance of these great fleets, the majority of them would turn out to be quite new. Also salient is how many of them have the words Climate, Sustainable, Carbon, Environmental, Eco or Green both in their titles and painted prominently somewhere on their hulls.
If, by the way, you think this battleship analogy attributes an unlikely level of aggressiveness to world corporate climate enterprise, read the following from Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the WBCSD. Bakker overtly claims on the association website that we need to “accomplish a massive level of transformation…the LCTPi Is the vehicle for this change and it will deliver transformational low-carbon solutions that are good for the planet as well as being good for business”. Who needs government leadership when we’ve got the LCTPi? Who needs environmentalists any more? Certainly not the planet! And remember what Calvin Coolidge said, The Business of the Planet is Business. Did I get that right? The blue planet, third planet from the sun, The Planet Business.
If only that $16 trillion that the We Mean Business Coalition hordes away didn’t come with requirements to repay and with a solid profit, we might actually be able to restore some of the planet’s natural wealth. Or how about those US $80 to 100 billion the villainous fossil fuel corporations get each year from government subsidies worldwide to help them find more oil that we can’t any longer afford to burn or even unearth If only “giving back to the source” were a more compelling value rather than, let’s say “Unleashing innovation.” This is a role regularly invoked by business in their suggestions of how they help--usually preceded or followed by “Unlocking investment.” These ambitious concepts summon up images of a flock of young, extremely well paid Silicon Valley hi-tech engineers in their underwear swinging around creative new-age offices on ropes, or maybe of a rabid pit bull let loose in a pre-school.
There is one more example of corporate influence on the climate change challenge, this one both categorically different from the We Mean Business coalition or the IETA and only slightly less untrustworthy. A 27 year old organization named Conservation International held a side event late in the first week of COP21. It was a well-organized discussion, propitiously named Business + Nature, (I swear I didn’t make it up. Had I, I wouldn’t have had the temerity to put Business first) with a panel composed of heavy gauge corporate execs including Rob Walton who has just stepped down after running Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, for 22 years. (Rob, his sister and two brothers each have a net worth estimated to be over US $34 billion.) Rob is also an officer of the CI Board of Directors. Leading off the whole presentation was Peter Seligmann, CEO and co-founder of CI.
The curious might ask what Rob Walton was doing at the UN climate summit and being treated with respect bordering on adulation. What credentials did he have to permit him to pontificate in front of an officially ordained international audience on what business might be able to do for nature? To label CI’s game “elitist” would be a very large understatement. Their projects often have some limited environmental value but rarely include consideration of benefits for impacted communities. The worldview into which their enterprise fits has no place, it would seem, for concepts such as labor, unions, equity, indigenous rights, fair-share, living wage or any of dozens of other terms used to describe tools that help meet the real needs of communities, families and individuals who actually inhabit the places where corporations operate or the places that are affected by those operations
Only one thing has been consistent in the advance of climate change and the predictions of that advance by scientists. The many science panels, rather than being heavy-handed in their predictive capacity have almost always been too cautious. The ongoing retreat of the great glaciers of the world, the calving off the enormous chunks of land ice into the sea, the frequency of return of massive storms, heat waves and flooding, the fires that never get put out--all continue to leap further ahead of studiously projected expectations and create God knows what feedback loops. And here we are announcing with great pride and enthusiasm that “we” have come to an agreement to do what amounts to a very little bit and maybe we’ll step it up in a few years or maybe not; it’s up to each country.
The overall sense of the agreement to most close observers is that coal, oil and gas are on their last legs and that the future of solar and other renewables is here. That may be but it would be foolhardy in the extreme to take it as a done deal. Nothing is a done deal in the Paris Agreement. Everything is qualified, limited, cautious, partial, conditional, non-committal. And non binding—to be reviewed in five years and then again in another five years and…..
Now we have another well-founded fear--when COP 21’s timid initiatives don’t work and things get worse as they are bound to and the status quo powers, led still by the zombie oil companies, claim that their demented technological solutions alone are doable, we panic and go for the bio engineering okey doke. We let them start filling the sky and the sea with yet even more unmanageable crap all in the name of new urgency. Or maybe they finally succeed in convincing us that we can count the uncountable and base actions on the smoke and mirrors of so-called carbon markets. Should we trust the corporations which have done so much to create this mess by giving them their head in trying to clean it up?
If the job that most needed to be done in Paris was to get high-level representatives of 195 countries into one big room, so to speak and to come out with a document onto which they all signed, and which committed them all, sort of, to take some modest steps on climate change, then COP 21 was a success.
If that job was, instead, to agree to work together immediately and vigorously, as science says is required, to launch an all-out effort to restore damaged ecosystems, protect endangered communities and try to save our civilization from massive damage caused by fast-moving human-driven climate change, then we failed
What’s left to us now is dramatic action—what should have been undertaken 20 years ago. We need to wire and/or rewire much of the planet in the next 15 years turning entirely to renewable sources of energy and at whatever expense. (There will be some places where ‘unwiring’ is more appropriate.) The bad news is that it is logistically far the greatest challenge human kind has faced and it will cost hugely in dollars, labor, material. The good news is that it is technically feasible--solar is already as cheap or cheaper than equivalent fossil fuel installation and operation. And there is more than enough money out there in the world still. Some of it just needs to be redirected. We can do this. We have no choice but to try. There are no real alternatives and no further excuses.
For those who might think that Marching Orders are no more than a useless cry in the dark: what actually provides cause for hope is not necessarily anything that the UN has done or failed to do. It relates to the tremendous momentum currently behind alternative energy. According to a formal announcement just today (January 18th, 2016) distributed by the UNFCC itself to the 3000 members of the COP 21 Accredited Press Corps, solar energy is now cheaper to produce than oil or gas. (Coal production is already in rapid decline, especially in the US.) It makes what has been known in the energy industry for a while sort of official. Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon himself announced that alternative energy installation and distribution has recently added new employment in the US at five times the rate of the fossil fuel industry. Fifteen years to rewire the world seems, in this new light, just a little but less unlikely.