Greece: Democracy to Dictatorship.

Unity

Unity

A world apart

A world apart

 

 

A Greek tragedy, it could be a re-write of the Shakespearian play Julius Caesar. The Brutus in this modern version is of course the EU. Perhaps a more apt correlation is that of Timon of Athens which is about bankruptcy and the failure of powerful Lords to refuse loans.

Act 1. Scene 1 Servant: ‘His means most short, his creditors most strait:’

It would be great to read a Shakespeare play on the present debacle. How the faceless bureaucrats of the EU forced their diktat on Greece in defiance of the peoples voice. How might Shakespeare have penned the death of democracy and the rise of the machine?

Other great writers come to mind, George Orwell – 1984 and Aldous Huxley – Brave New World. How may they have told the story about a David in his struggle for independent thought against the might of a Goliath?

There is consensus among journalists that the deal to keep Greece in the euro zone was harsh:

  • ‘brutal negotiations – punitive deal’ Financial Times
  • Euro zone leaders made Greece surrender much of its sovereignty. Reuters + NYT
  • ‘ultimatum’ NYT
  • ‘painful and humiliating agreement’ Economist
  • ‘no reason to consider the summit a success’     Sachische Zeitung

The ensuing debate has battle lines drawn. Daniel Stelter a German writer – Beyond the Obvious suggests that the problem is the euro which is ‘flawed’. (France 24 en) He has support in this analysis from two Nobel Prize winning economists; Paul Krugman – ‘a fateful error’ (p168) and Joseph Stiglitz ‘a political project’ (p276) not one based on sound economic analysis.

Stiglitz p275 identifies one of the problems: “In fact, the ECB continually threatens not to buy the sovereign bonds of the countries of the euro zone, unless they do as it says”.

Jacques Rupnick while supporting the deal qualifies himself by suggesting that closer fiscal integration is necessary. In doing so he is accepting the argument that the euro is the problem. Without the euro being reformed the problems will continue. The notion was that the euro would bring the different economies together; “The last decade has proved that to be illusory”. NYT

Of course the economists’ who-fly-the-flag for austerity support the deal and the Austrian School of Economics. There are several ‘schools’ of economic thought so who says the austerity mob has got it right? Being a follower of a school of thought denies the opportunity to think of alternatives.

The Greeks were given three (3) days to force law changes through their parliament to be introduced by Wednesday 15 July 2015:

  • Accept the Eurozone’s 2012 fiscal compact, which includes an independent fiscal council. Thus the Greek government cannot make decisions on its own.
  • Must introduce EU banking rules.
  • Overhaul their legal system.
  • Raise retirement age to 67 by 2022
  • Must make the statistical agency independent. It seems the EU doesn’t trust the Greeks to be honest!!!
  • Further spending cuts.
  • Raise taxes + VAT to 23% EU average = 20%

Failure to comply with the package will result in Greece being denied a sufficient loan to pay back the €3.5 billion it owes to creditors due on 20 July 2015. This is indeed a crackdown. The faceless have brought out the whip and are lashing the Greeks into submission.

One of the main creditors the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has come out against the EU proposals suggesting they are too harsh and won’t actually work! Hm. The EU negotiators were aware of the IMF report but paid it no heed. This suggests to me a strict adherence to their preferred goal – make Greece suffer; perhaps as a warning to others. Telegraph 15/07/2015

The IMF decision may have been strongly influenced by the Americans on the committee. The Yanks wanted a debt relief solution but the EU disagreed. A debt relief package would have seen a huge chunk of the debt chopped-off making it easier for Greece to repay the remainder.

Now we have the big boys at loggerheads. Fight! Fight! Fight! School playground rules, please!

It would seem that the FT called this one right by suggesting it was a ‘punitive deal’. It’s a mess caused by the € euro and the failure to implement it properly in the first instance.

Trying to hold such diverse economies together under present conditions will merely stave off the inevitable collapse. Bull by the horns comes to mind.

Why try hard to keep Greece in?

If Greece is allowed to bail out other weak economies may have to follow: Spain, Italy and Portugal among them. These are being given help under the table at the moment.

Another possible reason is that Greece has more migrants knocking on its door than Italy which has got all the publicity. If Greece opted out it could give all the migrants a free bus pass to Europe and that would cause all kinds of ramifications. A political storm is already blowing!

 

Do some good….join Robin Hood

Paul Krugman    End This Depression Now

Joseph Stiglitz    The Price of Inequality

 

 

 

War: Shit Street!

 

 

  • Refugee camp

Is there shelter from the storm? Most people know that war is hell; others have been desensitized by movies and war games. However, there is no fiction in reality. Those who have witnessed it know it is no fantasy. In recent years war has come to affect people in every country in one way or another.

An article in the www.nyt.com/2015/20/06 taking its information from the UN (UNHCR) tells us that there are around 60 million refugees in the world. The Economist uses the same figure but gives it a concrete context by linking it to the population of Italy; that’s a lot of people. Side Bar:

  • The new term for refugees is ‘displaced persons’. Displaced is a nice word but does not give sufficient gravity to the situation. Running from hell is not exactly being displaced; it’s fleeing for your life. We are not talking of a set of keys that you know will turn up.

There is no shortage of war zones. Middle East: Syria, Yemen and Iraq with the spread of Islamic revolution by ISIS. Sub-Sahara Africa with: Somalia, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, with another Islamic group Boko Haram. The surprise area for some will be Columbia in South America.

Why is there such a fire burning around the globe? A main reason is political power as in Syria where the dictatorial Assad regime is in conflict with groups seeking more democratic rights. The consequences are that nearly 50% of the population has been forced to flee their homes. Many have simply fled within the country but some 4 million have scattered abroad.

Neighbours, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and war torn Iraq have taken many Syrians in. The NYT suggest Egypt has 138,000; the Economist says Turkey has 1.7 million. It’s important to get the numbers right as aid being sent to the accommodating nations requires solid numbers to meet the need.

  • ISIS has driven an approximate 2.6 million Iraqis from their homes.

The civil war in Syria has affected 5 / 6 of its neighbours directly. However, the ramifications go much further. Thousands have made a dash for Europe or America. For Europe they have travelled to Libya, which itself is in turmoil, to find passage across the Mediterranean Sea. There is not a warm welcome in Europe because in their travels they meet up with other refugees from various parts of the world who are also escaping hell.

It is understandable that they want to flee the hell of their home nations to find the perceived stability elsewhere. The problem is that America is trying on a daily basis to stem the flood of migrants from South America. Europe, in a period of austerity, and a history over the last 20 years of conflict in the Balkans and presently in Ukraine, is panicked by the flow.

The influx of migrants has caused a political storm in Europe, which has seen a rise in radical parties. Politicians can’t ignore this trend. Hungary, is debating whether to construct a 100 mile fence to stop migrants crossing over from Serbia as numbers have increased from 30,000 to 100,000 in the past year. There is a huge cost in both political and financial terms in trying to cope with increasing numbers.

There are many poor people in the UK; some estimates suggest upward of 2.7 million families are affected. A large influx of economic migrants can have a direct impact on the poor by forcing wages down, putting pressure on housing and waiting lists for doctors, dentists etc. Thus little surprise that most poor people will not welcome migrants.

th67LNBAFYIn sub-Sahara Africa an estimated 15 million refugees have been forced from their homes. Ethiopia, houses an approximate 665,000 mainly from Somalia and South Sudan. An interesting point made by the NYT report was that most African refugees stay in Africa. Another point raised by the Economist is that 85% of refugees have sought shelter in developing countries.

It may appear cruel on those fleeing hell but developing nations often don’t have the resources to cope with an influx of refugees. Ethiopia is such a case. This country is still a recipient of foreign aid of over £200 million just to sustain their own population.

Unfortunately, those fleeing horror face further danger of exploitation. Even if they manage to reach the UK or USA they are used as cheap labour or forced into the sex trade. When it comes to humans there is no depth to their barbarity. The continued struggle in Columbia has caused the uprooting of around 6 million, 136,000 in 2014 alone. A further 360,000 have fled abroad to adjoining nations or perhaps trying to reach the USA.

If only there was an easy solution but being tied to politics, fear and cost there is no straightforward option. It is at a time like this that we witness the selfish gene come to the fore and this gene can be very erratic, and cruel.

Let Me Breathe, Please!

thLQSH1L46To accept the political outlook of compromise, the adage, ‘the art of the possible’ is to ride on a broken down train. Naturally progress on such a train will be slow, if at all.

When you come to the conference table with the proviso of compromise you are not being true to yourself or to the people you purport to represent. With the mindset that there is no alternative, there is no alternative. Politicians who follow such a pedantic logic congratulate each other on their political wisdom. So they arrive at a meeting with a tin of beans and leave with a teaspoonful and on the way out smile at the mirror before smiling for the camera.

Meanwhile, for 21 years representatives of world governments have been meeting to discuss the climate and the dangers inherent in sizable change. The next meeting will take place in December 2015 in Paris France. Each delegate will arrive with their tin of beans and having eaten something more upmarket will leave; not forgetting to smile at the mirror before smiling for the camera.

Therefore, can we expect a decisive response in December or will we be served with the leftover beans on a plastic plate? The view of scientists is overwhelmingly in favour of cutting CO2 emissions. But politicians don’t represent scientists, they represent business interests. Business enterprises have had at the very least 21 years to prepare a long-term strategy, but are still to be found having a tantrum in the background. Anything that effects profit adversely makes them cry.

One has to ask if it would do any good to present our politicians with a portfolio of factual information. I suspect not. Nonetheless:

American Medical Association

“Our AMA … supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report and concurs with the scientific consensus that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that anthropogenic [human] contributions are significant.” (2013)

Global temperature increased by more than 1.4oF over the last century.

The AMA is one of several bodies that have put their name to the argument that climate change is a reality. Check out the web site!!!

www.climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

An anonymous poll was carried out with 10,200 scientists being contacted of whom 3146 responded:

Question #1: When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

About 90% of all the scientists and 97% of the climate scientists said temperatures had risen.

Question #2: Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

About 82% of all the scientists and 97% climate scientists agreed that human activity is a significant contributing factor.

http://www.wunderground.com/resources/climate/928.asp

A large number of studies have been done and the findings are:

New Picture

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/images/science/models-observed-human-natural-large.jpg

This is a worthwhile site to visit. It is a question and answer piece and very informative. In one answer I came across the following statement: “… carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for at least 800,000 years”.

U.S. Global Change Research Program // Karl S Thomas et al

Thus at the meeting in December will we witness China, America and India come to the conference table and agree to give up the use of coal? Coal is deemed to be the worse polluter of the fossil fuels. Unfortunately, I think not!

All delegates may attend with their tin of beans but leave with less than their teaspoonful because the big boys will not compromise on issues that their industry makes mega-bucks from. And there you have the proof – the short-term interests of business are more important than the long-term health of our planet.

If I was a betting man I would wager £50 that no jaw-dropping decision will be taken, that some kind of fudge will be reached. Politicians will raise their shoulders in a gesture as if to say ‘what did you expect’. However, they will be united in agreeing that it is a good deal. They will smile for the camera and argue that everyone got something out of it. As for the planet and our health, well, that’s another matter.

Let’s pray for rain.

Another telling piece of information was to be found in theguardian.com/2015/jun/22/. In the capital of Chile such was the smog that an environmental emergency was declared: the 7 million residents were warned not to do any physical activity, over 1.7 million vehicles were ordered off the roads and 1300 businesses were closed. It was the driest June in 40 years and the prospect of rain is weeks away.

In the last months we have heard of similar stories from Paris France, London England and Delhi India. This is an increasing phenomenon.

Do some good…..Join Robin Hood!

Water: Too Good to Waste!

thNG4Z4Y0DWe are nearing a crisis of our own making, water the most important element in our lives is draining away. Drip, drip, drip; land is drying, plants are dying. While 70% of the earth is covered by water only 3% is drinkable and of that an approximate 2% is ice. The ice of Antarctica and of the Arctic is showing increasing signs of melt which could devastate coastal areas. To add to the nightmare 50% of our wetlands have gone. This has a tremendous impact on wildlife.

The burden grows heavier with the knowledge that some two (2) million people die annually, mainly children, from diarrheal diseases.th7E749LQY

www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity

The poorer regions of the developing world suffer the brunt of water shortage. Sub-thH8D57ZHVSahara Africa has enduring problems which show no signs of abating. The situation is made worse by, “Weak governments, corruption, mismanagement of resources, poor long-term investment and lack of environmental research…”. Conflict has made it difficult to make improvements; Ivory Coast, which split north & south four years ago. The on-going troubles which confront the nations of Darfur, Nigeria, Mali and Ethiopia conflict or famine here continues to wreak havoc. Surprisingly, Ethiopia is the most water abundant in the region.

www.cfr.org/world/water-stress-sub-saharan-africa/p11240

??? “Too often, where we need water we find guns” Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

Overall, 25% of Africa’s population suffer from water stress. (www.cfr.org) Whereas, Ethiopia has sufficient water, the country of South Africa is one of the poorest in water terms. However, S. Africa has some 589 dams out of a total of 980 in the region. Here lies the key, S. Africa has the infrastructure and has better managed their resources and crucially has the means. We spend £/$ billions on aid in Africa and nothing seems from the outside to have improved.

Q? Is much of the charitable donation we make feeding war and corruption and not the people?

In Pakistan, the situation is reaching danger point. Population is increasing by three (3) million per year and the water table is falling which has led the World Bank to conclude that Pakistan, “…is already one of the most water stressed countries in the world”. Its neighbour India has a developing water crisis.

With population growing by 15 million annually and the water table falling all over the country the situation is becoming critical. Some districts have to have water trucked in. A major problem is the unregulated digging of irrigation wells of which there are an estimated twenty-one (21) million. With the water table falling and more wells being dug; how long before the government take control. www.theguardian.com

th6IKNYANAAlso, according to The Guardian, countries that have reached their water peak include: Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In Saudi Arabia and Yemen it is understood that their water table is falling by six (6’) feet year on year. In Saudi Arabia over a 20 year period the aquifers have been seriously depleted which has had an impact on its grain crop. The country now has to import 15 million tonnes annually. Yemen will now need to import all its grain.

A running commentary on the problems facing Iran and Tehran in particular can be accessed via ‘Our Man in Tehran’. A series of articles is available at NYT World 2015/05/05. The issues are similar to many nations: water table depletion, rising population in Tehran which has tripled over the last thirty (30) years, made worse by a fall in average rainfall.

The great and the powerful are not immune to the rigours of water stress. China will face immense problems as water use is at a peak which will affect grain and rice production. The World Bank considers that China will face, “… catastrophic consequences for future generations”.

America may be mighty but it cannot escape the power of nature. It will need all the super heroes it can muster to get itself out of this problem. The US is a massive food producing country be it: grain, rice, soybean etc. However, a report by Ceres reminds us all, “Producing food, after all, requires more water than almost any other business on Earth”. Whereas we may drink 4 litres of water a day, it takes 2000 litres to produce our food. www.theguardian.com

  1. www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/05/11/405946749/why-food-companies-should-be-more-afraid-of-water-scarcity

thJSHFW8FRCalifornia seems particularly parched at present. The recent drought conditions may force a rethink on water supply and usage. Southern California gets nearly all its water from the Colorado River. To the north it is around 20%. Betting odds on there being a shortage of river flow on the Colorado has increased from 33% to 50%, not good odds. At present Lake Mead is only 38% full. The region needs a mighty downpour which incidentally may be helped by El Nino.

www.m.utsandiego.com/news/2015/may/11/colorado

Meanwhile, the California Department of Resources is predicting a huge increase in population.

2009                       2020                       2030

28m                       41m                       75m

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/water_scarcity

There is a sting in the tail for all of us that we need to take seriously. “Water use is growing twice as fast as population”. (November 2014) www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/scarcity.shtml

All the warnings are out there; well signposted but have not yet captured the imagination. The general media have not deduced the seriousness of our plight. Governments keep the lid on it perhaps hoping it might go away or don’t want to upset business. Meanwhile, the press feed us celebrity gossip and we become ‘mindless consumers’. (Philosopher Jürgen Habermas).

We cannot halt the use of water; everything we do is directly linked to it. We need constant reminders that only 1% is drinkable and that many millions don’t have the luxury of clean water. The potential of water wars in the developing world is very real. The prospect of severe rationing in the developed nations is increasingly likely.

It is equally obvious that we have the technology and the wherewithal to find solutions. One of our greatest attributes as human beings is devising solutions to extremely difficult problems. We are inexhaustible in our ingenuity.

One solution comes from a surprising source, Unilever, one of the world’s giant’s in chemical production. In Iowa State, they are paying soybean farmers 10c a bushel to adopt sustainable water practices. We should all cheer Unilever so where they lead others will follow.

The second enterprising solution is the use of solar power to distil water by nearly boiling it. Bedouins’ in the town of Dahab use a system called AquaDania’s WaterStiller which has proven five (5) times more efficient than other methods. (Wikipedia.org. as above).

These are practical initiatives which highlight the ingenuity of people. Finding a political solution will prove much too difficult in a liberal landscape. Politics is a blinding force; it strips the brain of the means to think beyond its narrow confines. Power and greed come to the fore and side-line any ethical approach. Thus the libertarians will sit back, enjoy a drink, toss a few coins in a charity box and turn a blind eye to the death and sheer hell of people struggling to survive.

People in the West are so afraid of taking a decisive step for fear that they will be castigated as erstwhile colonialists. They don’t want to be seen in any sense of appearing to dictate policy. These liberals suffer from historical restitution. They favour self-determination without thought of consequence, they hide behind a motto of; let them run their own affairs, find their own way. Give them some money to ease the stress.

Meanwhile, dictators, dictate and fascists terrorize but then, it’s none of our business. However, the ordinary Joes’ of Africa, Asia and the Middle East are making it our business by leaving their homeland in droves to find a better life. Immigration then becomes a major political and social issue.

One way to overcome our ‘lazy eye’ is to have strict guidelines on the use of foreign aid and to monitor its implementation. If wells are vital to ensure clean water then we only give aid for that purpose, to provide and maintain. Corruption is siphoning off £/$ millions from the real need. We desperately need an array of methods to circumvent those who indulge themselves in the proceeds of corruption.

Furthermore, we must stop treating Africa as a car-boot-sale venue. Humanitarianism is not a business tool and should never be used as such.

Do some good…..join Robin Hood

 

 

Environment: Save It!

th[3]It’s a war of attrition against the gangsters who have no compunction in raping the planet for profit. It’s a war about the education of our politicians who seem awestruck by the wealth and the power of the big boys. They are as schoolkids, posters in their bedroom, dreaming of one day being as famous as their favourite star. The big difference is that kids grow up. Politicians will spout that they’re tied by the art of what’s possible and the eternal need to compromise. If I wasn’t choking on exhaust fumes I might accept their excuse.

The alarming stories about climate change just keep on running. In a report by www.france24.com/en/20150327- they outline a damning report by the European SpacethS6MBC7KN Agency, published in the journal Science which relates to the shrinking of the ice mass around Antarctica. The ice mass is the bulwark which prevents the permanent collapse of glaciers covering the southern continent. Think of it as a dam holding back an ocean. The study based on satellite measurements over the period 1994 – 2012 suggest that the ice mass has shrunk by almost 20%. The study also highlighted the speed of the melt:

  • In the period 1994 – 2003 there was little difference.
  • However, in 2003 – 2012 melting accelerated markedly.

If the ice mass is destroyed it will cause glaciers to slip into the ocean bringing a rise in sea levels. A rise of one (1) metre could prove devastating in many coastal regions. Separate studies of the South Pole are just as worrying. A report published in December 2014 found that thawing had trebled the number of glaciers falling into the Amundsen Sea. Two further studies in that year concluded that melting in Western Antarctica could lead to a sea rise of one (1) metre.

  • The real worry is that the process is likely to be irreversible!!!

The North Pole is also under threat, NYT 2015/04/24. The Arctic Council made up of interested nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the USA are due to meet soon. Their biennial meeting will be held on Baffin Island in Nth Canada. The others are concerned by the actions and intentions of Russia. The Russians have started to exploit oil from the Kara Sea and there is a worry that further exploration could damage the fragile environment.

It seems to be the way of business and politicians in general that they act first then wait for us to react before they consider the need to think. But unless they think and think quickly about the North and South Poles many communities will be devastated.

thINHWQFFZWe desperately need more scientific study on as many aspects of the environment as we can imagine. A report in the New Scientist of work carried out by Norwegian scientists on the potential damage or otherwise of microbes in the Arctic; coupled with the study of marine phytoplankton which may also hold a danger to the environment.

It’s all very technical but microbes in warmer climates draw to a halt at 40C but the little buggers in the Arctic continue producing methane at 270C. Worryingly, Arctic soils contain twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere which leads to one estimate that the thawing of the permafrost could cause a similar problem as deforestation.

Another problem comes from the phytoplankton as their dark bodies can absorb more sun which could cause the Arctic sea to warm up by 20%. Obviously, this has effects on the ice mass and the rate of melt.

  • Methane: 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Away from the possible danger of the Arctic our politicians hold meetings, talk, eat and talk some more; arrange another meeting where they will talk and eat and talk again, at our expense. Little wonder that the process of change takes so long. The Arctic Council meets biennially; it’s not important enough in the busy schedule of our leaders to meet more frequently. Perhaps they are on a diet!! If it wasn’t so serious I might laugh at their lackadaisical attitude and contribute to their gym fees.

Meanwhile, politicians may be battering your eardrums with how they are spending huge amounts of money trying to improve the environment. Investment in renewable energy rose to $270bn worldwide, with nearly 50% coming from developing countries, e.g. China. France24.com/en/

I feel better now!!thDC82LPF2

Hold on! In an interview for, theguardian.com/environment/ on 2015/04/13 Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank called for the scrapping of subsidies and a carbon tax. Kim made the point clearly, “We need to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies now”. Why was he so agitated? It seems that governments around the world are currently spending $1 trillion per year to subsidize fossil fuels. One trillion $$$! That figure certainly puts spending on renewables deep into the shadows.

  • The irony – our taxes are being used to help kill the planet and therefore us.

They’re killing us but the profits excellent!

At a subsequent meeting in Hong Kong, Jim Yong Kim made another bold speech about climate change; he told delegates at the Nobel Laureates Symposium that climate change is a ‘fundamental threat’ to development. He warned that a sea rise of 15cm /6inches coupled by severe cyclones could inundate Bangkok by 2030s. This was based on a study by the Potsdam Institute.

A Japanese delegate, Ryoli Noyori, Nobel Prize winner for chemistry 2001 told the assembled that Japan has many coastal cities susceptible to floods. “But unfortunately, the government has not done enough in counter measures”. France24.com/en/2015/04/23

Several of the points raised by Jim Yong Kim are very relevant. He suggests that Africa needs to develop its hydroelectric potential as it only makes use of 1% of possible production. However, one major project has caused some controversy. A hydroelectric dam across the Blue Nile in Ethiopia would be the largest in Africa but is causing Ethiopia’s neighbours some misgivings. A study has raised a number of issues:

  • With the Aswan High Dam (Egypt) there will be 2 large dams on the one river.
  • Need to look carefully at aspects of the build.
  • Egypt & Sudan might not get water during drought periods.
  • Sudan might use more water for irrigation and so affect the amount of water to Egypt.
  • 60% of Egypt’s water comes from the Nile.
  • It will produce too much electricity and therefore needs an infrastructure e.g. pylons to transmit the electricity and an organised way of selling it.

Don Blackmore an Australian water specialist has warned: “The International community needs to focus on the Nile as a matter of urgency”. Theguardian.com/environment 2015/04/13

Water and its supply will become critical in the future but is already a major problem in Africa according to UNICEF as it estimates that 157m people in East & Southern Africa do not have access to clean and safe water.

The situation is deemed to get far worse. The UN warns that “…the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit”. www.cbsnews.com/news/gambian Even in America the warning signs are imminent with www.USAtoday.com reporting that within the next decade 40 states can expect to have water shortages. Note that California is witnessing its worst ever drought. Will the bulb light up in republican land?

  • It really doesn’t matter what aspect of the environment you look at, it all needs saving!

Where are the peoples’ army?

There are many environmentalists, individual and groups but their voice is never raised in unison. Theirs is a disparate tone and because of that separation is sadly weakened. There are too many groups defending their own garden plot; too many individuals who think because they recycle they are doing their bit. Many tribes and tribal chief’s, each certain that their methodology and environmental agenda, is the true noble path to pursue. Unfortunately, therein lies the cog which maintains the raison d’etre of the market system.

All the groups, too many to mention, ply their wares with a swagger as though they have achieved something. They have achieved nothing! They have not stopped one demi-kilo of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. They are as midges to the big boys, to be swatted as an irritant. At the very least the environmental groups could convene a conference before national elections to endorse the political party which pledges the best deal for the environment. Such an endeavour could bring the environment to a much wider audience within the country and beyond.

Further demonstration will be to flag up where the government has failed throughout their term in office. It requires a sustained and well marketed approach, perhaps to include intensive programmes of activity in marginal seats. Show the intellectual rationale of the environment lobby by coming together. Put the environment first and parochialism into the dustbin of history.

The environmentalists are as guilty as politicians of putting politics above the welfare of the planet.thTXFQFN0B

Save Santa’s Homeland!!!!

Do some good…..join Robin Hood.

Environment: It Needs Oxygen!

 

th[3]Are politicians deaf to the cry of the wild that they would rather subsidise fossil fuel than promote a green environment?

A reminder: Government should benefit the people not those in power. Wang Fuzhi

Should we believe politicians and the faceless bureaucrats that the world will be saved by the buying and selling of carbon emissions? I dealt with some aspects of selling pollution in my previous post: Environment: It’s Dying. What is really interesting is the number of developing countries who are taking part in this market oriented money making enterprise. There are several projects initiated by UN-REDD Programme aimed at preventing further deforestation and degradation of forests in developing countries.

Madagascar is one such country which has allocated 705,588 carbon credits for a project in the Makira Forest. The Makira Forest of 400,000 hectares (1,500 sq. miles) is a sizable area. A number of projects are underway to convince the local communities that there is an alternative to deforestation. However these prevention techniques are small in scale e.g. one will take 30 years to offset 32 million tonnes of CO2. A second will avoid 1.6 million metric tonnes over a 25 year period. http://phys.org/news/2013-09-massive-carbon-credit-sale-madagascar.html

 

  1. The world emits 32 gigatonnes annually.

Other projects in Africa include Tanzania which has sold some credits for $US 200,000 in forest conservation. A further hope is to encourage eco-tourism. Trains and boats and planes go jollying by, burning fossil fuel but it’s ok because they’ll pay. An earlier project received $US 1.9 million over a four year period 2010 – 2013. Tanzania Daily News

Why the focus on Developing Nations?

Madagascar is losing an approximate 100,000 hectares (386 sq. miles) each year to burning for agriculture. Zambia is losing between 250,000 – 300,000 hectares annually, predominately in the making of charcoal for heating in business and the home.

thFTLUIBEWIn South America the situation is even worse. Peru, Brazil and Ecuador etc. the region is losing an estimated 13 million hectares year on year. In December 2014 the UN held climate talks in Peru, which has some of the worse deforestation in the region. Brazil attended but continues with accelerated deforestation under their president Rouseff, a former head of an oil company. The conclusion of the meeting was to replant 20 million hectares of trees. However, in the period 2001 – 2012 some 36 million was lost to agricultural expansion. The guardian2014/12/09

There is little sign of abatement as, theguarian2015/01/28 reports. Roads run deep into the Amazon where oil and gas blocks are now much bigger than those of Texas e.g. 730,000 sq.km. The setting up of National Parks has prevented some incursions but deforestation continues apace. Ecuador, who signed an agreement in 2007 to prevent further road building changed tact under economic pressure. So much for contracts! Bolivia too is open for business.

They’re killing us but the profit is excellent!

The talks in the capital Lima had been an initiative of Germany in 2011 and thus termed the Bonn Challenge. As we can see – they are doing the mad dog thing – chasing their tail. Not very successful based on the amount of forest lost. Scientists believe that around 17% of CO2 emissions – more than what America produces each year – is caused by deforestation especially in tropical areas. www.phys.org as above

The economic rationale of the region fits well with the self-interest theory as examined by Dani Rodrik p249 the Harvard economist, “In the case of global warming, self-interest pushes nations to ignore the risks of climate change”. This would appear to be the case in South America. But if we keep in mind the carbon emissions of deforestation (more than America) can we justify allowing these countries to simply cut and burn at will irrespective of the consequences to climate change. The Globalization Paradox

Dani Rodrik p277 gives an emphatic yes in principle to developing countries finding their own way. “The right approach would be to have China, and indeed all emerging nations, free to pursue their own growth policies”. As we travel down Rodrik Road and allow carte blanche development for ‘emerging’ nations, he argues that it would be ‘reasonable to expect’ that these nations would not pursue policies that would lead to huge trade balances. An alternative might be, “Every nation has responsibility”, Ottimar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research; quoted: www.blogs.reuters.com   2015/04/13

Rodrik’s prime concern is the sanctity of the market, not the environment. Large trade balances in favour of China or India could swing the pendulum of power, and, power is the name of the game. Why with the economic power at their behest would China / India not seize the opportunity to dictate world policy just as others have done, past and present?

It was and is ‘reasonable to expect’ America to pursue policies that aid the world economy and environment. At present US oil is $10 a barrel cheaper than the world average but is not for sale abroad. America has used its might in agriculture and pharmaceuticals to run roughshod over the globe. Because it has held the economic power America has the political power and has used it to their benefit. Why would China / India be any different? www.economist.com/news/united/2015/04/02

Moreover, it was the market that has brought us to this jammed road intersection and, still pursues a profit before people mentality. The market is about satisfying the demands of the 1%. The poor, the world over, still get scraps from the table.

Furthermore, the notion that developing countries need to push forward with industrialization to counter poverty is such balderdash. Recent demonstrations in Brazil and Venezuela and many parts of Europe prove categorically that the poor do not share in the wealth of the nation. Both China and India have horrific records when it comes to alleviating poverty. Or giving due consideration to the environment.

According to Reuters.com 2015/04/13 China will overtake America as number-one in carbon emissions and will do so this year. India is expected to leapfrog Russia into fourth (4th) place in the deadly table. Both countries, assuming present trends will surpass America and the EU together.

China has recently been accused of dumping chemical waste in Inner Mongolia. In a report for france24_en Observers, when the villagers protested they were met with rubber bullets and tear gas. Farmers from Doquintala village have reported that their crop is reduced by 33% and, the fruit trees have died. The ground water has been contaminated and instances of cancer and thrombosis have sharply increased over the last decade. For me Rodrik’s argument that we can ‘reasonably expect’ does not stack up. Check my post on Rodrik and India: No ‘Cover’ for Child Labour

It is a bazaar situation, this whole concept of carbon credits. The West gives the credits to developing countries and then buys them back. Some may suggest that its charity but it is not; there is profit to be made on both sides of the transaction. Bet you can’t guess who takes the larger slice of the cake.

thXJDRNI6QWhat is happening is that we are walking our way through an ocean of sludge because we don’t know any better. We are tied into the neoliberal economic school of thought; within which the market is enshrined in a golden casket that cannot be tampered with for fear that a world calamity will unfold.

Sadly it is a belief shared by many of our leaders and by powerful international bodies: UN, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. As far as they are concerned the market is the prime motivator for change. These are people with clout; they are in effect the Praetorian Guard of the 1%. The super rich, the big boys!

However, it is not just the developing nations that are screwing up our planet. Australia has made a hash of the coral reef and every nation has contributed to the shrinking of Antarctica. Where are our defenders, the peoples’ army? My next post will look at these and other contributing issues.

Do some good…….join Robin Hood

 

 

Environment: It’s Dying!

th[3]Governments must accept responsibility and therefore must lead in defending the environment. Voters must make politicians fully aware that their vote is dependent on a credible environmental programme. The media too have a critical part to play in keeping the public informed. Investigative journalists need to prize-open the dark chest that hides the secrets of ‘hidden subsidies’ that governments presently give to business. Only then can the electorate use their vote rationally.

Progressive media are the vanguard, the elite force of the people. It is to them that we must look to unearth / expose every crevice where government and the big boys try to hide their devious dealings. We need individuals who have the expertise and whistle-blowers to make sure we are kept in the loop. Of this elite group the investigative journalist is a member of the Sherwood Forest brigade.

To emphasise the point, two pieces of evidence from Reuters, 2015/01/29 + 2015/02/5 respectively. Based on Pew Research Center USA, 87% of scientists polled believe people cause climate change but only 50% of the public agree. Secondly, 70% of democrats think that human activity is causing global warming whereas, only 27% of republicans do. However, the UN is 95% certain that ‘we’ do cause global warming. Although the evidence is US based the public are no better informed elsewhere.

Ha-Joon Chang (p268) is unequivocal in his assessment, “There is no doubt that CAZe0jAWgAANZ5_[1]climate change, mainly caused by our material production and consumption activities, threatens human existence”. This is a stark and somewhat dramatic statement but it is in keeping with the scientific view. Economics: The User’s Guide

Concerned?

  • Scientific consensus states that carbon emissions must be reduced by 80% by 2050 to avoid a temperature rise of more than 2%. www.carbonneutral.com
  • Emissions from burning of coal, oil and gas are rising to record levels and are not yet falling. UN Panel on Climate Change November 2014.
  • “…policy makers must realise that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuel within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2C goal”. Dr Christophe McGlade UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, quoted in www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30709211
  • International Conference to be held in Paris December 2015; the talks are to seek a limit on the increase of CO2 in order to put off a rise of 2C (3.6 F) as this could spark off dangerous climate change. www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31872460
  • In a recent interview on France24 news, 2015/04/02 Janos Pasztor a UN representative commented that ‘ours should be the last generation to make decisive change’. To wait any longer will be more expensive and more difficult. While acknowledging he was hopeful he thought it unlikely that agreement would be reached at the UN Inter-Governmental Conference on climate change, in Paris.

It’s Good News Week

The International Energy Agency has reported that CO2 emissions have remained stable in 2014 for the first time in 40 years. One main reason is thought to have been the reduction in coal burning by China. It is good news because it shows what can be done and how it can be done. Governments must now invest heavily on research into credible alternative energy supplies. This can be funded in part by a carbon tax on the main polluting industries.

thRDY1YUN6STOP burning coal: China – USA – Russia

Unfortunately the experiment with wind power has failed. Wind power needs the back-up of a power station in the event that the wind doesn’t blow or blows too strongly. Nuclear power has a nasty offshoot condemning our offspring to generations of worry. What a legacy!

A tax scheme has been put forward by professor William Nordhaus of Yale University. In this way everyone is made aware of the true cost of the product’s carbon footprint.

Oh hell, the downside!

Bp the oil giant has recently published its Energy Outlook up to 2035. It predicts that CO2 emissions will exceed levels scientists say pose a threat to climate change. The report accepts that the burning of fossil fuels is unsustainable and that concerted action is necessary.

  • CO2 will increase 1% per year to 2035
  • Oil use will increase by 0.8% per annum – 2035
  • China will become the biggest consumer of petroleum
  • Global demand for energy will increase by 37%
  • Use of natural gas will grow fastest.
  • Use of coal will continue to increase but at a lower rate.
  • Asia Pacific will outstrip Europe for gas imports.

Is this a catalogue of doom?

Carbon emissions are expected to rise by 25% by 2035; significantly above recommendations. Wow! The Telegraph 2015/02/22

They’re killing us but the profits are excellent!!!

What Can Be Done?

Sadly, we cannot trust business to have our best interest in mind. There are too many instances of bad business for them to be trusted by anyone. I have written recently about the effects of diesel vehicles. Diesel: The Killer in our Midst. Read the post.

Writing about the market in the early 1990s author Charles Handy (p19) made his view clear, “The market left to itself, would not work”. What a portent of the 2008 crisis; when unrestricted the market imploded. Handy (p31) goes on to caution us that, “It is only a tool, and tools are not for worshipping”. The Hungry Spirit

Support for Handy’s view comes from Ha-Joon Chang (p456) who does not mince his words, “The economy is much bigger than the market. We will not be able to build a good economy – or a good society – unless we look at the vast expanse beyond the market”. Chang and others are thinking of government and of the jobs and business it generates. J E Stiglitz (pxlv111) is far more damning of the market when he poses a question of what capitalism has brought us, “… inequality, pollution, unemployment, and, most important of all, the degradation of values to the point where everything is acceptable and no one is accountable”. The Price of Inequality

The business class and the market have not won any rosettes over the years; recent thNAOKWJPUexamples include:

  • The selling of derivatives which was a major cause of the crisis which engulfed the world in 2008.
  • The rigging of the Libor and foreign exchange rates to maximise profit at everyone else’s expense.
  • Tax avoidance on a massive scale. Nearly every MNC multi- national company.
  • Not paying corporate tax in the country where they do business.

There are a thousand + other cases; just too many to mention. A major downside of the market was identified by Charles Handy (p23) “Anything that is unpriced is ignored by the market…” As the environment has no profit margin it is not given any consideration. This has been recognised by world leaders who have put a price on pollution, as Chang (p395) points out, “Today we buy and sell the rights to pollute (carbon trading)”.

Since 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was first agreed it has developed into a major trading sector. The world is divided into CO2 blocks whereby countries and industries are given a target of CO2 emissions. Their emissions are measured by the number of ‘credits’ issued. If a country / industry does not use all of its credits it can sell the remaining ones to another business. A company which is likely to overshoot its target, (cap) can buy the unused credits and continue to pollute.

Read an original report on Kyoto: www.oocities.org/yosemite/rapids/Rapids/

The Price of Credits

In 2009 ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia paid $8000 for the carbon already trapped in the trees of a local forest. The deal would offset three (3) years of the company’s carbon footprint. Thus as long as the trees are not cut down and the carbon released the company can continue with its present carbon policy. The company wants the scheme to run for the next hundred years. www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/

The BBC interviewed a company selling carbon credits for £5.50 per tonne. The BBC questioned this and sought clarification from an oversight body, Climate Care and were told that ‘credits’ should be sold at £1.00 per tonne. However, later the BBC found that Climate Care was selling ‘credits’ at £7.50 per tonne on their website. Can business be trusted? www.redd-monitor.org/2013/01/22/

Another interesting deal is one between the American states of Louisiana and California. In this instance Louisiana could earn in the region of $550 million & $1.6bn by selling the carbon captured by their cypress and tupelo trees. California must reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and can achieve this by paying Louisiana not to chop down their trees. www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2015/03/

A further example which clearly illustrates how the market in pollution is growing comes from Byron Shire Council in Australia. Here, the council initiated a new Landfill gas flare project for which they won government approval. The scheme brought them 6,616 carbon credits. The council sold these credits to a Queensland State energy provider @ $22.60 per credit and profited to the tune of $149, 521.60 This programme is named the Carbon Farming Initiative. www.byron.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/2014/03/31 For me the word farming conjures up thoughts of the growing of food, our very sustenance and certainly not the dealing in CO2 which is slowly killing us.

There are a host of other examples which will be dealt with in the follow up to this post. Suffice to say that the pollution market is big and about to become vast. Unfortunately wherever profit is involved rationale goes out the window. Some individuals have bought ‘credits’ from dealers thinking that they have made an investment only to discover that there is a time limit on the ‘credits’ and they quickly become useless. Look out for fraudsters!

thKF8B2C69Nonetheless, the market is growing, “Carbon will be the world’s biggest commodity market, and could become the world’s biggest market”. Louis Redshaw, Barclays Capital. Whoopee!!!! www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_credit

They’re killing us but the profits are excellent!

Do some good … join Robin Hood