Death At Your Convenience

Sitting at home looking out of the window, thinking, what ‘tops’ I should order online. Notthcafjwb3e a lot of thinking going into it, just cost and when they’ll get here. Easy, convenient, saves me some hassle. I can always send them back if I don’t like them.

News Flash!

An experiment carried out in Oxford Street London in 2007 by University College London and New Jersey School of Public Health to examine the effects of car pollution on asthma sufferers. The trial lasted just two hours but revealed:

  • Increased asthmatic symptoms
  • Reduced lung capacity
  • Inflammation of the lungs.

Why? While diesel cars/trucks etc. emit less CO2 than petrol cars they generate 100 times more particulates driving for a similar distance. Particulates ‘interfere with the respiratory system’ and 90% of these deadly dust bombs come from diesel cars.

“Our study illustrates the need to reduce pollution in order to protect people’s health.” Professor Fan Chung.                   www.sciencedaily.com

Nearly a decade ago and still nothing is done!!

Altogether now – Breathe In!

  • Fine particulate matter is responsible for several tens of thousands of premature deaths annually in the US.
  • Diesel emissions increase the severity and duration of asthma attacks.
  • Diesel exhaust is especially dangerous containing nearly 40 hazardous pollutants.

Hold Your Breath!

Ultra-fine particulates – less than 2.5 microns can be absorbed into the blood and cause damage.         www.ehhi.org/reports/exhaust/summary

Exhale! Quickly! Ah, fresh air.

Mountain lake

Meanwhile, in 2015 the EU issued directive E6 to limit dangerous car emissions. Sometime later a study found that only 62 cars out of 200 passed the test! www.theguardian.com

th[2]In 2016 the myth of cleaner car emissions was exposed.thUZ27UX9O Volkswagen, Mitsubishi and the rest of the robber barons were found to be hoodwinking the public to increase their profits. Now we can add the three (3) largest truck manufacturers in Europe to the unscrupulous bandits. They have been fined €3 billion by the EU for organizing a ‘cartel’ to keep prices artificially high and, agreeing to hold back engine innovation that would have reduced pollution. www.dwnews.com

Hot town summer in the city – my lungs feel so damned gritty!

Did you know that goods moved by road were three (3) times higher than rail or water combined? In 2015 there were 299,000 HGV drivers in the UK. This number is on the increase. In 2008 the figure was 320,000, so as the economy continues to improve so will the number of trucks and thus pollution.            www.gov.uk

The rise of the white van man:

thodw4cg54There were 3.6 million in UK in 2015 that equals 10% of all road traffic and an increase of 18% on 2013/2014. They travelled 4.5 billion miles in 2014, up 20%. And what’s worse their numbers are expected to double by 2040. Wow! 4.5 billion miles, that’s a truck load of shit going into the atmosphere. Don’t forget to breathe now.

www.van-excellence-report-2015-2016pdf

Peaceful Paris:

A wander down the Champs Elysees, a stroll by the River Seine then melt in to a café, ah, the life of ease in a romantique environment.

thVWJRZYWDRoad traffic causes 66% of NOx emissions + 50% of particulate emissions. The Deputy Mayor of Paris suggests it causes 42,000 premature deaths each and every year.

And now back to our purchase of ‘tops’!

Q Whom do you buy from? The top five ranking are in billion pound sales:

Amazon – £4.4 bn

Tesco –    £2.9 bn

Argos – £1.9 bn

John Lewis – £1.5 bn

Next – £1.3 bn

www.retail-week.com

There’s a lot of jobs involved and a lot of savings BUT at what cost.

Thinking.

Thinking.

Do some good….Join Robin Hood!

 

Driven Mad

thUZ27UX9O

Two guys in the USA looking at car emission issues were puzzled as to why American cars waltzed through the tougher emission testing whereas the European cars had difficulty. They decided to carry out a number of tests to see if they could come up with an easy solution, and to prove that cleaner cars could be efficient and still retain their power. They tested Volkswagen vehicles. The storm began!

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/11883343/

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen­_emissions_scandal

The exposé of Volkswagen over the emissions from their diesel cars has led to a bonanza of enquiries about emissions.  We are all now aware that we have been systematically lied to for decades by the automobile industry.

An examination of the testing techniques employed to determine the degree of emissions by Which?  consumer group has revealed a devastating picture of deceit by all the leading manufacturers. The extent of the deception is quite staggering when laid adjacent to the number of deaths associated with the pollution from cars.

Incredibly, 97% of all diesel cars give out nitrogen oxide (NOx) a highly toxic substance. The Which? sponsored tests by Emissions Analytics (EA) under the auspices of Imperial College London (ICL) has burst the protective bubble around the manufacturers. Which? describes the previous lab-tests as, ‘so seriously flawed they’re meaningless’. www.theguardian.com  January 2016.

Another dynamic of testing is that in colder conditions the emissions become worse, e.g. below 18C. A mechanism in the engine closes down which in turn facilitates more miles per gallon (mpg) but at the expense of greater toxicity. Obviously the manufacturer will highlight the better mpg and say nothing about the toxic emissions. Beware marketing!! Professor Ricardo Martinez-Botas of the ICL was taken aback and ‘shocked’ by the findings.  Daily Mail 23/06/2016

The Guardian further reports that by 2020 London will introduce an ultra-low emission zone.

Q? Why ultra-low, why not a definitive NO! Why wait until 2020?

Both car producers and politicians have been aware of the adverse effects of NOx and yet we wait to take action. The technology exists to produce cars of nil NOx emissions!! Note the words of Sir Malcolm Green professor of respiratory medicine when he says that such pollution is ‘shortening people’s lives’.

We may never know the full extent of the death rate from car pollution or how badly it affects asthma sufferers. Particulates from diesel cars are the deadliest form of air pollution and can easily trigger an attack of asthma. We know it brings on emphysema and bronchitis but what else.

  • The number of diesel cars in UK has risen from 1.6million 1994 – 12 million to date.

thE0TWUDA5The death toll is frighteningly high. The Mail online January 2016 suggests a figure of 30,000 annually with 23,500 directly related to diesel cars. The Guardian 2014 gave figures of 42,000 with 29,000 associated.

  •   NOx levels in UK are ‘far above safe levels for human health’. Mail online
  • NOx is at illegally high levels in several British cities. Guardian April 2016

Q?  Why have our politicians allowed this travesty to continue?

The answer may surprise you. Since 1993 the EU has introduced directives (E) to mitigate the pollution. In 2005 E5 was passed, in 2015 we had E6, therefore as far as the politicians are concerned the car industry has been pushed decidedly in the right direction. Hurrah? NO!

  • Those suffering from the effects of the pollution are not dancing in the street.

Taking the sum of 30,000 deaths per annum in UK, add some 40,000 from France and then the rest of Europe and we have well over 100,000 deaths due to exhaust pollution. One hundred thousand + deaths per year! If these souls were war dead, major ceremonies would have been held, plaques would have been placed in various venues and bronze statues raised in honour of our dead. But hey, most deaths are just a scattering of ordinary Joe’s.

thIQB7HPADA staggering death tally and the silence of our politicians’ hammers home a truth, a terrible truth – profit before people. As the death toll rises the EU is set to permit double the official limit of toxic emissions until 2021 and at 50% above thereafter. (Guardian) These targets I can only assume are based on the lab-tests so discredited by Which?.

Our leaders may suggest that their rationale is governed on the available science.

  • They encouraged people to buy diesel.
  • They are allowing the continuation of the pollution, beyond 2021.
  • We have the technology to build better engines. Now!
  • Since 1993 they have had knowledge of the cause and effect of car pollution.
  • The death toll is rising.
  • The number of cars on our roads will continue to increase. Pollution? Dah!

Roads

Roads go on

While we forget, and are

Forgotten like a star

That shoots and is gone.

Edward Thomas 1878 – 1917

The failure to insist on the use of better technology is an act of disdainful arrogance by the parties, the manufacturers and the politicians. The only conclusion to be drawn is that they are in cahoots. That our politicians skewed the advantage to industry is a surreptitious abrogation of their elected responsibility. It illustrates in graphic detail their utter contempt for the concept of democracy.

Q? What was the industry’s motivation? Profit!

Q? Will it ever end? Volkswagen is to pay $15 billion in compensation to USA drivers. Is this the necessary sting in the tail?

Do some good…..Join Robin Hood.

The Common Good and Trade Unions.

Europe is in the midst of an economic and social crisis, deepened by the migrant situation. At times like these we all tend to look at our own basket of goods and become a little self-oriented. However, throughout the ages, pioneers, our conscience, have tried to steer us in the direction of a better society. A society that does respect the right of the individual within a community made up of active and participatory citizens. And a goal of working towards a society that gives prominence to the notion of the common good.

This is an area were the Trade Union (TU) movement could take the lead. It has the resources and the organisation to have an immediate impact.

To speak of the common good is to open a can of worms for several reasons. Some philosophers will immediately jump up and scream of Utilitarianism (what’s best for the majority). Other politically minded servants of the present establishment will merely shout ‘bunkum’! Loudly, of course! Others on the left in politics will nod and add their wisdom; ‘good luck with that’. Those on the far left will raise their banner and advise; ‘call for revolution’!

Without doubt it is a tall order and needs a unity of purpose that has dissipated over the last few decades. Once there was a definite class aspect to politics but now it is much more diverse with ‘identity politics’ Fukuyama (p438) a whole host of interest groups pursuing their own campaign. In so doing the opposition to right-wing government’s has weakened considerably.

The poor have no champion. Once it was the Trade Union movement and then the Labour Party but both have been weakened over the past decades. To some the Labour party has lost its soul as it searched for credibility from the business class. The TU’s have never quite recovered from the Winter of Discontent of 1979 and the years of Thatcherism.

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_of_Discontent

Identity politics is a gift of huge magnitude for the 1 percent. As it disperses the opposition into small and at times, irrelevant bodies who shout a lot then drive home for a ready-made meal. Alternatively, they agree to meet at the out of town shopping centre (Mall) for a big mac. Here they castigate those who go to football matches, are at home watching TV or hanging around the betting shop all day. Meanwhile, other campaigners are demanding a halt to air pollution.

Individualism is the cry of the day by the horde that cannot see beyond the mirror. It is also the cry of the neo-liberal economists whose view is the predominant one and the voice of the austerity economic programme. These economists opine that we are all rational individuals that know what we want and act accordingly. But wait, pay heed to the wisdom of Ha-Joon Chang (p194):

“There cannot be such a thing as an individual without society”.

Contrast the ‘rational individual’ opinion with that of the philosopher Jürgen Habermas who suggests that the press feed us celebrity gossip and we behave as “mindless consumers”. The quest to be in fashion, regardless, that garment suits or not. The insistence, almost, of only wearing a designer item and having the name brazen across the garment. Leaves me in little doubt, I’m with Habermas!  www.britannica.com/biography/Jurgen-Habermas

Consider also the opinion of John Stuart Mill, “One whose desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam engine has no character.” Sandel (p51)

The Santa Clara University adopts a stance that the common good is unattainable because it’s in direct conflict with a pluralist society. And that a pluralist outlook is more in tune with our individualistic approach to life. Pluralism suggests that interest groups counter each other and thus create a political balance. I dealt with this issue on my previous post Europe: Moving Politically Right by quoting Francis Fukuyama that powerful interest groups with substantial funds seriously undermine democracy. www.scu.edu/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/the-common-good

Moreover, the common good and pluralism are not conflicting ideologies. One of the premier thinkers of pluralism Isaiah Berlin notes that we have to be thoughtful, listen carefully and sympathetically to the needs and wishes of others; therefore we are in the same ballpark. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralism_(political_philosophy)

Furthermore, when we examine the philosophy of the neo-pluralists the political understanding is in tune with other thinkers, “the political agenda is biased towards corporate power”. This analysis gains wide support from Francis Fukuyama and others illustrates that we cannot rely solely on a balance of interests to aid democracy. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralism_(political_theory)  In essence we need people power!

Jim Hightower is unequivocal: “The corporations don’t have to lobby the government any more. They are the government.” Chang (p172)

The Workers Struggle

The demise of class politics makes it more difficult, in some ways to create the environment to promote the common good. The sheer number of diverse groups with their niche political views means it’s harder to find common ground. Nonetheless, I believe it can be achieved, the philosopher John Rawls maintains that we can find, “certain general conditions that are [   ] equally to everyone’s advantage”. Sandel (p143) My list would be:

  • Free health care. An end to the slicing down of the NHS.
  • Clean Air Act. An approximate 40,000 deaths annually in UK.
  • A focus on good education for ALL.
  • Municipal community services, e.g. sports centres, swimming pools etc. What Michael Sandel (p243) refers to as the ‘infrastructure of civic life’.

This leads nicely onto the view of Karl Popper, as cited by Bryan Magee (p80)

“We must demand that unrestrained capitalism give way to economic interventionism”.

A view that finds resonance with Noam Chomsky, (p217) “…it’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations”.

Building a powerful foundation for the common good would be a long term project. However, the TU movement has the wherewithal to be the standard bearer which can raise the issue of the common good, not as a political crusade but as an essential part of everyday life.

To achieve this end the TU’s would have to stand independent of the Labour Party on this specific agenda to reach as wide an audience as possible. The Labour party has not done much for the working class since 1945. The economy and what’s best for business has dominated their thinking.

A Potted History

Back in 1969 the then Prime Minister (PM) Harold Wilson tried to introduce laws to limit TU activity and hold wages down – In Place of Strife. Ironically, his plans were scuppered by James Callaghan, who ten years later would attempt something very similar when he broke the 1974 Social Contract agreement which lead to the Winter of Discontent 1979.

It proved to be a disaster for the Labour Party. Callaghan had made several errors of judgment which lead to the electoral victory of Margaret Thatcher.

Eighteen years later, and with most of the gains of 1945 privatized (A beautifully orchestrated hoodwink of the populace). In came Tony Blair, and the expectation, was that he would rescind the anti-union laws that had been enacted by Thatcher’s governments. Not a finger lifted!

www.libcom.org/history/1978-1979-winter-of-discontent

www.news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7598366.stm

The poor have gained very little from the Labour Party except for numerous platitudes. The TU’s also stand bereft, constrained by the power of the law while successive governments have allowed unrestrained capitalism. More privatization, welfare cuts and some 800,000 + zero hours contracts; the poor continue to pay for the banking crisis.

Here then, is a new recruitment drive for the TU’s; a fight for the common good. A simple programme that few could disagree with but with the powerful message that we should all gain from the wealth created. The TU’s are in a strong position to organise local and national meetings to promote the single agenda.

thVWJRZYWDHowever, if I were a member of the 1% I would not be too worried as too many high ranking Union officials are in a position to declare, ‘I’m alright Jack’. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) are trapped in their mindset, “the way we help business” in its opening blurb. The very strong Stalinist tendencies of the Left in politics suggest that they would want to dictate policy as viewed from their particular bent. www.tuc.org.uk

I revert back to Popper to put them in the picture:

“The fact that change is never going to stop renders the very notion of a blueprint for a good society nonsensical,” Magee (p116).

This then is the prime reason we cannot have a list of demands to suit every possible group with a political agenda. Moreover, it should not develop into a left V right shoot out at the OK corral. The common good is for the benefit of the community as a whole e.g. clean air!

“The environment is mine,” said the individual.

“And mine!” said another.

“Ours,” said their sister. It’s time we bound hands.

But first let us begin our campaign with an online petition whereby those who sign up, agree, that they will only vote for the political party that commits to enforcing the policy in the next parliament.

Colour doesn’t matter, policy does!   Power is the peoples.

Do some good – join Robin Hood.

Ha-Joon Chang      Economics: The User’s Guide.

Noam Chomsky     How the World Works.

Bryan Magee         Popper.

Michael Sandel      Justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capitalism: Taming the Beast.

Capitalism is not the best fit for a decent society. This is becoming increasingly clear as the world becomes more accessible to all. Nonetheless, it is an essential tool in building and developing the science and technology required to house a good society. At present there is no alternative and little sign of one on the horizon. Therefore, to enhance human progress all we can do is rein-in, to prevent the worst excesses of the beast.

Left unbridled, capitalism has no conscience, no heart, no sense of justice. Recent history tells the story.

 

  • DDT used between 1945 – 1972 when it was banned from use as an agricultural insecticide having been linked to ecological degradation and testicular cancer. www.en.m.wikipedia.org
  • Thalidomide – released in 1957 in Germany as a sedative or hypnotic. Soon it was used to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women. The result was over 10,000 births worldwide with a 50% death rate. The survivors had severe disabilities.

“The thalidomide disaster is one of the darkest episodes in pharmaceutical research history”. www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalidomide

And now we are under threat from genetically modified organisms. No! – GMO! www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/apr/16/eu-new-gm-genetically-modified-foods

The shenanigans of the business world are similarly dark. Enron was the biggest thST67FT30bankruptcy in US history until WorldCom.  Enron hid $$billions in debt before their bubble burst. WorldCom used loose accountancy methods to maintain their share price. Profit the main motivation!

These events led to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The law was passed by Congress to prevent fraudulent accounting activities by corporations and, “…the wilful destruction of evidence to impede a Federal investigation”.  Five companies in all were cited.

www.en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarbanes-Oxley_Act

It would be good to think that the law was changed because the politicians were looking after the best interests of the ordinary people. Unfortunately, these companies went OTT and cost shareholders a lot of money. It shows just how untrustworthy business truly is.

In the UK in 2014 Tesco the large supermarket also used loose accountancy to suggest they had £300 million more in their coffers than they actually had.  Now we have the Volkswagen debacle and the fixing of diesel car emissions. It appears that the EU politicians knew the details in 2013 but kept quiet about it. Who can Ordinary Joe trust?

thIQB7HPADHow many people are dying annually from poor air quality in our major cities? We need a new Clean Air Act!

The Harvard economist Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox sums up the market quite succinctly,

“In short, markets are not self-creating, self-regulating, self-stabilizing, or self-legitimizing”. P22

Honest government is the only way to control the excesses of the market place. There are so many known examples of poor business practice. But how many remain hidden? It would seem that governments will only act in times of crisis.

Every economic crash has had at its base the obsessive pursuit of profit. The most recent major crash of 2008 left a sound of anguish the world over, and we are still experiencing the reverberations today. “This period also ranks among the most horrific in US financial history.”  Paul Kosakowski, www.investopedia.com

The main cause lies with the government of America and their decision to repeal the 1933 Glass – Steagall Act in 1999. The act had regulated the banking sector. Once removed, at the behest of the big boys, the saliva drooled and the wolves howled their hunger for some ripe pickings. Deregulation was the key element in the great crash but had its foundation in American Republicanism.

In the wake of the crash many other devious scams have been unearthed.

  • Libor – the fixing of the bank lending rate.
  • Foreign exchange – forex – fixing of the rate.
  • PPI – false insurance policies

How many other double deals have yet to be uncovered?

American Republicanism arrests our development by its insistence on the political stance of individualism and the free market economy. This belief system is supported by the neo-classical economists who promulgate the notion that we are all individual self-interest motivated consumers. However, such a premise negates the power of marketing and dismisses the colossal amounts spent on advertisement. It also promotes the view that the market is the benefactor of society.

As consumers we are often tricked by marketing ploys into making a purchase by the placement of goods on supermarket shelves. By the need to belong, this has many of us following trends: fashion, phones and food etc. Note also the spending of $£ billions on building a ‘brand’ name with the subliminal message that nothing else is quite as good. Marketing is the markets sheep dog!

 

 

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.