"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

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“It’s ecological imperialism.” Extinction, The New Environmentalism & The Cancer In The Wilderness

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2015 at 4:23 pm
Wolf-in-Yellowstone-

Say goodbye to the Grey Wolf. Photo: USFWS.

Oldspeak: “Homo sapiens are out of control, a bacteria boiling in the petri dish; the more of us, demanding more resources, means less space for every other life form; the solution is less of us, consuming fewer resources, but that isn’t happening. It can’t happen. Our economic system, industrial consumer capitalism, requires constant growth, more people buying more things.” –Christopher Ketcham

“Therein lies the conundrum Kimosabe. The imperative of infinite growth on a finite and fragile planet.  As the megafauna of Earth are forced ever faster on their Baatan Death March toward extinction, Industrial Civilization drones on. Earth is being transformed into one big corporate monoculture. The “environmental movement” has been co-opted, corporatized and monetized, fundraising in the wake of Faux “Victories” for the environment. Climate marches and activism organized by these entities are seen as “making your voice heard“, in reality amounting to nothing more than a more jovial “2 minutes Hate brought to you by Wall Street. The attitudes espoused by these so called “new environmentalists” are truly disturbing and ecocidal. We are indeed, the cancer in the wilderness. We are the cancer cells in the body of our world. And the only thing that stops this exceedingly virulent strain of cancer, Homo sapiens sapiens is extinction.  Our fate is as sealed as those of our fellow megafauna.” –OSJ

Written By Christopher Ketcham @ Counter Punch:

The word is in from the wildlife biologists. Say goodbye in North America to the gray wolf, the cougar, the grizzly bear. They are destined for extinction sometime in the next 40 years. Say goodbye to the Red wolf and the Mexican wolf and the Florida panther. Gone the jaguar, the ocelot, the wood bison, the buffalo, the California condor, the North Atlantic right whale, the Stellar sea lion, the hammerhead shark, the leatherback sea turtle. That’s just North America. Worldwide, the largest and most charismatic animals, the last of the megafauna, our most ecologically important predators and big ungulates, the wildest wild things, will be the first to go in the anthropogenic extinction event of the Holocene Era. The tiger and leopard and the elephant and lion in Africa and Asia. The primates, the great apes, our wild cousins. The polar bears in the Arctic Sea. The shark and killer whale in every ocean. “Extinction is now proceeding thousands of times faster than the production of new species,” biologist E.O. Wilson writes. Between 30 and 50 percent of all known species are expected to go extinct by 2050, if current trends hold. There are five other mass extinction events in the geologic record, stretching back 500 million years. But none were the result of a single species’ overreach.

I’ve found conversation with my biologist sources to be terribly dispiriting. The conversation goes like this: Homo sapiens are out of control, a bacteria boiling in the petri dish; the more of us, demanding more resources, means less space for every other life form; the solution is less of us, consuming fewer resources, but that isn’t happening. It can’t happen. Our economic system, industrial consumer capitalism, requires constant growth, more people buying more things. “I will go so far as to say [that] capitalism itself may be dependent on a growing population,” writes billionaire capitalist blogger Bill Gross, Forbes magazine’s Bond King. “Our modern era of capitalism over the past several centuries has never known a period of time in which population declined or grew less than 1% a year.” Growth for growth’s sake, what Edward Abbey called the ideology of the cancer cell.

The biologists, who in my experience tend to loathe the Bill Grosses of the world, begin to sound like revolutionaries. The most radically inclined among them – their goal to save some part of the planet from human domination and keep it wild and free (free of bond managers for sure) – agree that human population will have to halt entirely, and probably decline, in order to protect non-human biota. Then the biologists begin to sound like misanthropes, and they shut their mouths.

“What’s wrong with misanthropy?” I ask Leon Kolankiewicz, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who has written extensively about the human population footprint and its disastrous effect on biodiversity. “The human race,” I tell him, “has proven to be a bunch of assholes.”

Kolankiewicz laughs. My attitude, he observes, is not a very good tool for marketing conservation, given that the market, after all, is made up of people. We’re supposed to make biodiversity appeal to the buyer, the public, as something useful. We talk about ecosystem services – ecosystems that service us. “It’s a completely wrongheaded approach to conservation, of course,” says Kolankiewicz. “It’s raw anthropocentrism. There’s a lot of nature that isn’t particularly useful to people.”

Industrial-strength Homo sapiens could function without much trouble on a vastly simplified, even depauperate, planet, one wiped nearly clean of its fantastic variety of life. I read in Science magazine not long ago, for example, that Earth could lose 90 percent of the species that produce oxygen – not 90 percent of total biomass, mind you, just the diversity of the oxygen producers – and this would hardly make a dent in our modern lives. One of the conservation statistics that Kolankiewicz had encountered in recent years, one that he said “just blows me away,” shows that the combined biomass of the living 7.2 billion human beings, along with the few species of animal we have domesticated – dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens – now constitutes at least 95% of the entire biomass of all extant terrestrial vertebrates on Earth. That is, all of the living specimens of wild mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles, more than 20,000 species in total, constitute a mere 5% of the aggregate living cellular tissue of all vertebrates. “Almost total usurpation of the biosphere for the benefit of one species alone,” says Kolankiewicz. “It’s ecological imperialism. Given this tragic reality, how can any sentient, caring person not be a bit of a misanthrope?”

We talk about the remaining places on Earth where the imperial species has not usurped the biosphere, where the bears and the wolves and the tigers roam, where the little babbling bipeds with their iPhones might get eaten, and we agree that these places can be called wilderness. We agree that the language of the 1964 Wilderness Act best defined those places: “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man,” where the land retains “its primeval character and influence.” Observe the original meaning of that word, trammeled. It means to shackle, to hinder, to chain, to make un-free. An untrammeled ecosystem is one where man may be present but does not dominate, where the willed self-propelling processes of nature have not been subjugated entirely to human ends. (Kolankiewicz observes that it is from willed that etymologically we get the word wild.) Wilderness, among its other purposes, is to be a refuge for wild animals and plants, their evolution to remain unmolested and unhampered. There is a practical argument here – the preservation of a genetic pool evolving without help or hindrance from us (as we busily meddle with and wipe out genetic diversity elsewhere) – and a transcendent one, related to the not-so-transcendent fact that when we do away with wilderness we are also doing away with the crucible of natural forces which birthed our ancestors out of the muck and which shaped our character as a species. Without wilderness, we lose two million years of evolutionary heritage. We lose our deep-seated and long-standing relations with the non-human; we lose the awareness, the consciousness, of a natural environment not arranged entirely for human convenience. We lose our capacity, in the words of Howard Zahniser, the primary author of the Wilderness Act and its principal mover, “to know ourselves as the dependent members of a great community of life…to know the wilderness is to know a profound humility, to recognize one’s littleness, to sense dependence and interdependence, indebtedness, and responsibility.” Kolankiewicz tells me to read Wallace Stegner’s famous Wilderness Letter of 1960, issued as a public rebuke to the Kennedy administration. I tell him I know it well. “Without any remaining wilderness,” wrote Stegner, “we are committed wholly, without chance for even momentary reflection or rest, to a headlong drive into our technological termite-life, the Brave New World of a completely man-controlled environment.”

Kolankiewicz admits to a strain of Luddism in his blood, a dislike of technocrats, and certainly he is not the kind of environmentalist one finds salaried in the cubicles of the Big Greens in DC – by which I mean the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the half-dozen other multi-billion-dollar enviro-nonprofits. Peter Kareiva, the chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, is more typical of the breed. He’s an optimist, he’s people-friendly, full of bright ideas that promise hopeful partnerships with corporate business, expressive in his love of technological progress as the ultimate fix to conservation troubles, unabashed in the belief that good management applying the scientific method can handle any challenge no matter how frightful, and thoroughly dismissive of what he calls “the wilderness ideal.” In the new geologic era scientists are calling the Anthropocene – an era in which “humans dominate every flux and cycle of the planet’s ecology and geochemistry” – Kareiva believes that conservation has reached a threshold from which there is no turning back. Climate change, a world-encircling shroud of domination, is the most pressing fact of the Anthropocene. There is no place untrammeled by man, no ecosystem self-willed, and wilderness is therefore dead. Embrace the painful truth, says Kareiva: We are de facto planetary managers, and though hitherto we have been lousy at the job of management – selfish and self-aggrandizing, thoughtlessly destructive – we will not cease to dominate. And this is a good thing, as the very consciousness of our power as totalitarian managers of nature may be a blessing: It compels us not to question this power – for Kareiva it is unquestionable – but to become wise managers, like Plato’s philosopher kings, full of noblesse oblige, tyrannical but enlightened. So much for profound humility.

Let’s hear at length what Kareiva has to say about this “new vision for conservation”:

Conservation should seek to support and inform the right kind of development – development by design, done with the importance of nature to thriving economies foremost in mind….Instead of scolding capitalism, conservationists should partner with corporations in a science-based effort to integrate the value of nature’s benefits into their operations and cultures. Instead of pursuing the protection of biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake, a new conservation should seek to enhance those natural systems that benefit the widest number of people, especially the poor. Instead of trying to restore remote iconic landscapes to pre-European conditions, conservation will measure its achievement in large part by its relevance to people, including city dwellers. Nature could be a garden….

The notion of a gardened planet managed for “thriving economies foremost in mind” is a radical departure from the environmentalism of the 20th century, such that the Big Greens have marketed a nomenclature to describe the new thinking. They call themselves, variously, “ecomodernists,” “post-modern greens,” “neo-greens” or, simply, the “new environmentalists,” and their goal is the implementation of “eco-pragmatism.” Their most important departure from the old environmentalism is the jettisoning of any concern about the limits to economic and population growth. If human population doubled between 1804 and 1927, and doubled again between 1927 and 1974, and almost doubled again to 7.2 billion today, with the latest forecasts projecting more than 10 billion people by 2100, the New Enviros bid us look to nanotechnology, genetically modified crops and animals, laboratory meat, industrial fish farms, hydroponics, optimized fertilizers and bio-friendly pesticides, geoengineering (mass climate modification), more efficient transportation networks, electric cars, denser cities (with more people efficiently packed in them), unconventional oil deposits, safe nuclear energy, wind and solar arrays, smart grids, advanced recycling, and much else in the techno-arsenal to keep the human species from crashing against the wall of planetary carrying capacity. “There really is no such thing as a human carrying capacity,” writes Erle Ellis, a professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, in an op-ed in the New York Times. “We are nothing at all like bacteria in a petri dish…. Our planet’s human-carrying capacity emerges from the capabilities of our social systems and our technologies more than from any environmental limits.”

The ideological shift in the New Environmentalism represents a historic alliance of conservation with the doctrines of industrial growth capitalism – which is to say, this can no longer be called conservation in the traditional sense. It has not arisen in a vacuum, but is the logical culmination of 30 years of corporatization of the Big Greens, as enviros starting in the 1980s degenerated into a professionalized, business-funded interest group and began to operate like the businessmen they once saw as the adversary. Consider that the president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy today, Mark Tercek, is a former managing director and partner at Goldman Sachs.

The advent of the New Environmentalism frames a central conflict to unfold in coming years in the conservation community. What happens to wilderness in a world where it is managed for the economic benefit of the “widest number of people” and not for the health of the inhabitants of the wild? And what if, as Leon Kolankiewicz notes, large parts of wild nature are found irrelevant to “thriving economies”? Whither wilderness if industrial capitalism’s expansion is our only measure of its value? And overarching all this: What happens to human beings – psychologically, spiritually, morally – when we no longer have an escape from the confines of our technological termite hill?

 

China Is Turning Its Irreplaceable Fish Breeding Grounds Into Smartphone Factories

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2015 at 1:49 pm

A wetland in China Zhao jian kang/Shutterstock

Oldspeak: “We have divorced ourselves in our imagination from the real world of common experience and enclosed ourselves in a cloud of personal desires and fears, images and thoughts, ideas and concepts… What kind of world can a man create who is stupid, greedy and heartless?Nisargadatta Maharaj

The disappearance of China’s wetlands is yet another example of the globe’s most populous nation sacrificing food production capacity to maintain its dominance in manufacturing. The process has generated a bounty of goods for US consumers—including the device on which I’m writing this piece and probably the one you’re using to read it: indeed, smartphones.

But it has also put severe pressure on the country’s ability to feed its population. More than 40 percent of China’s arable land has been degraded by some combination of erosion, salinization, or acidification—and nearly 20 percent of it is polluted with heavy metals, whether by industrial effluent, sewage, excessive farm chemicals, or mining runoff.” -Tom Philpott

“We are bearing witness to the kind of world described by Maharaj 40 years ago. We are obviously ensconced in personal clouds of desire, fear, images, thoughts, ideas, and concepts, at almost every moment of our increasingly zombified waking state in the form of screens and their blizzards of ‘content’ provided most prominently by the Grand Dame of Filter Bubbles I like to refer to as Facetwigram. The stupidity, greed and heartlessness that produced this “bounty of goods” has precipitated Earth’s 6th and fastest progressing mass extinction & global ecological collapse. We are literally in the process of destroying our biosphere; with it, our ability to produce food and water in order to enable the continued growth and development of our technosphere and “economic development”.  This heedless, ecocidal madness cannot continue for very much longer.” -OSJ

Written By Toh Philpott @ Mother Jones:

A sixth of the globe’s fish catch comes from waters off China’s coasts. Yet the nation’s industrial push is imperiling that 15 million-ton annual haul. Fully 60 percent of the China’s wetlands have been paved over for development projects—and much of what’s left is under threat of more of the same.

Between 2000 and 2013 alone, China’s total coastal wetlands shrank by about 23 percent.

That’s the conclusion of a jarring new report (hat tip to the New York Times) by the US-based Paulson Institute, the Chinese State Forestry Administration, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Coastal wetlands are the breeding and feeding grounds for fish, migratory birds, and other creatures. They also buffer coastal cities from the sea’s caprices by absorbing energy from storm-roiled waves—an increasingly important function as climate change proceeds apace. Over the last half century, the report found, China has developed more than half of the coastal wetlands in its temperate northern regions and nearly three-quarters of the mangrove forests and 80 percent of coral reefs along its southern coast. Losses accelerated between 2003 and 2013—in that time frame alone, China’s total coastal wetlands shrank by about 23 percent.

To address the situation, the Chinese government decreed earlier this year that intact wetland acreage should not fall beneath a “red line” of 131.8 million acres, which it established as a minimum for ecological stability in its coastal regions and to maintain wild fisheries. The problem is, the report states that remaining coastal acreage already hovers at just above that level, and there are plans in place to develop another 1.4 million acres by 2020.

The consequences are dire. China’s wetlands are “irreplaceable and integral parts of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway” for migratory birds, providing “critical breeding, staging and over-wintering sites” for 246 species, including 22 that are listed as globally threatened, the report found.

Then there are those prodigious fisheries off China’s coast. They’ve been “over-fished for a long time,” the report states, and to pave is to remove the breeding and nursery sites that replenish them.

The disappearance of China’s wetlands is yet another example of the globe’s most populous nation sacrificing food production capacity to maintain its dominance in manufacturing. The process has generated a bounty of goods for US consumers—including the device on which I’m writing this piece and probably the one you’re using to read it: indeed, smartphones.

But it has also put severe pressure on the country’s ability to feed its population. More than 40 percent of China’s arable land has been degraded by some combination of erosion, salinization, or acidification—and nearly 20 percent of it is polluted with heavy metals, whether by industrial effluent, sewage, excessive farm chemicals, or mining runoff. These are chilling numbers, given that China has just 0.2 acres of arable land per capita—less than half of the global average and a quarter of the average for OECD member countries. (The United Sates has 1.2 acres per person.)

Now wetlands destruction is threatening the nation’s fisheries. No wonder it’s looking elsewhere for food production, investing in farmland in Africa, South America, and Central Asia, and buying up 64 percent of the globe’s internationally traded soybeans.

Water Scarcity Remains Largely Marginalized In Climate Talks

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2015 at 1:08 am
Credit: WaterAid

Credit: WaterAid

Oldspeak:”I don’t understand this. Yes, reducing carbon emissions are important. But water scarcity, is at least as important. Without water, everything goes to shit.  As our high-energy/high-carbon biomass grinder of a civilization, which has depleted in 2,000 years, the amount of biomass it took 400 fucking million years to create, water is being voraciously and unsustainably consumed by it’s energy and agricultural systems. 40 % of the world is already dealing with water problems. Nearly 2 billion are drinking water contaminated with shit. With billions more humans on the way, where will the fresh water come from?! Mars?! Don’t hold your breath. Do count on water wars proliferating though. Because whether we pay attention or not, human kind is running out of fresh water. ” -OSJ

 

Written By Thalif Deen @ Inter Press Service:

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 20 2015 (IPS) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week turned the spotlight on the “record number” of extreme weather-related events the world is witnessing these days.

With an eye on the upcoming climate change talks in Paris, he warned that in the South Pacific, entire islands are at risk, largely threatened by a sea-level rise.

In southeast Brazil, they’re suffering through the worst drought in 80 years. In California, it’s the worst drought in a century – plus wildfires.

In Malawi, there are record floods. And in the Arctic, whole villages are in danger, said Kerry, speaking at the Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies on Oct.15.

Despite Kerry’s admonition, the role of water remains a relatively neglected issue in the run-up to the Paris talks, while the primary focus has been on carbon emissions.

Reinforcing the need for water security, Louise Whiting, Senior Policy Analyst on Water Security & Climate Change at UK-based WaterAid, told IPS the world’s poorest are affected most by climate change, which is felt primarily through water: too much (flooding and rising sea levels), too little (droughts), at the wrong time (unpredictable weather patterns) or of the wrong quality (too salty or polluted).

The more than 650 million poor and marginalised people who rely on unsafe water sources will be increasingly vulnerable as these sources are highly exposed to climate-related threats.

For example, she pointed out, floods can inundate tube-wells, and natural sources of fresh water can become contaminated with salty seawater.

And in the lead-up to this year’s U.N. climate talks from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris, WaterAid is calling on the international community to make water security, which includes first and foremost having access to water, sanitation and hygiene, a priority when it comes to helping poor countries adapt to climate change.

Whiting said adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities improve people’s health, education and economic stability, making them more resilient to climate change.

‘We must also ensure that money flows from the people that caused the problem to those least able to cope with it.”

In 2010, the U.N. General Assembly voted on a resolution that recognized water and sanitation as a human right.

And U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly said that safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are crucial for poverty reduction, crucial for sustainable development and crucial for achieving any and every one of the Millennium Development Goals, which end December.

But the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders on Sep. 25, also singles out water and sanitation as key issues in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda.

By 2030, the United Nations is hoping to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all; improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials; and substantially increasing water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity, and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.

Whiting told IPS WaterAid will be focusing on improving access to safe water and a decent toilet for poor communities.

“Through our work we increase water storage capacity and strengthen monitoring of water supplies so droughts can be detected early. Where flooding is a problem, for example in Bangladesh, we make infrastructure more robust where necessary, and we also help communities come together and assess their own vulnerability so they can demand better services from their governments”

WaterAid is also helping 29 communities across West Africa cope with water scarcity and becoming more resilient to climatic threats, particularly by helping them improve the way they manage their own water resources.

In Burkina Faso, where the dry season already lasts for up to eight months a year, many communities live a precarious existence. Climate change will only exacerbate their situation.

WaterAid is combining additional boreholes, sand dams and improvements to existing wells alongside training local people to become water experts.

These experts, she said, are revolutionising communities’ abilities to control their own water supply by measuring water levels, monitoring rainfall, pre-empting threats and spotting emerging data patterns, so they know what water can be used, at what times of day, and in what quantities.

They are also feeding that data into government monitoring schemes, to help build a more cohesive national picture of climate patterns across the country.

“Nature doesn’t care whether you are a poor subsistence farmer in Burkina Faso or an accountant in California,” Whiting said.

“Climate change will impact us all. However, it will impact those who have contributed the least to the problem the hardest.”

World leaders gathering in Paris must commit to providing the technical and financial support that is needed to help poor countries adapt to the coming changes, she declared.

According to the United Nations, about 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, but 663 million people are still without, and at least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated.

Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent.

The U.N. also points out that water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

This article is part of IPS North America’s media project jointly with Global Cooperation Council and Devnet Tokyo.