Category Archives: Pollution

Embarrassment of Riches-George Monbiot

When it comes to being a voice for our stressed and possibly dying natural environment, George Monbiot’s has no equal.

Please read on. (Hopefully all the links are working as this is a copy, not a reblog. They do work at this end, I checked.)

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Embarrassment of Riches – monbiot.com

Embarrassment of Riches

Posted: 20 Sep 2019 01:22 AM PDT

For the sake of life on Earth, we should set an upper limit on the money any person can amass. (My emphasis)

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian, 19th September 2019

It is not quite true that behind every great fortune lies a great crime. Musicians and novelists, for example, can become extremely rich by giving other people pleasure. But it does appear to be universally true that in front of every great fortune lies a great crime. Immense wealth translates automatically into immense environmental impacts, regardless of the intentions of those who possess it. The very wealthy, almost as a matter of definition, are committing ecocide.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from a worker at a British private airport. “I see things that really shouldn’t be happening in 2019,” he wrote. Every day he sees Global 7000 jets, Gulfstream 650s and even Boeing 737s take off from the airport carrying a single passenger, mostly flying to Russia and the US. The private Boeing 737s, built to take 174 seats, are filled at the airport with around 32,000 litres of fuel. That’s as much fossil energy as a small African town might use in a year.

Where are these single passengers going? Perhaps to visit one of their superhomes, constructed and run at vast environmental cost, or to take a trip on their superyacht, which might burn 500 litres of diesel per hour just ticking over, and is built and furnished with rare materials, extracted at the expense of stunning places.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that when Google convened a meeting of the rich and famous at the Verdura resort in Sicily this July to discuss climate breakdown, its delegates arrived in 114 private jets and a fleet of megayachts, and drove around the island in supercars. Even when they mean well, the ultrarich cannot help trashing the living world.

A series of research papers shows that income is by far the most important determinant of environmental impact. It doesn’t matter how green you think you are. If you have surplus money, you spend it. The only form of consumption that’s clearly and positively correlated with good environmental intentions is diet: people who see themselves as green tend to eat less meat and more organic vegetables. But attitudes have little bearing on the amount of transport fuel, home energy and other materials you consume. Money conquers all.

The disastrous effects of spending power are compounded by the psychological impacts of being wealthy. Plenty of studies show that the richer you are, the less you are able to connect with other people. Wealth suppresses empathy. One paper reveals that drivers in expensive cars are less likely to stop for people using pedestrian crossings than drivers in cheap cars. Another revealed that rich people were less able than poorer people to feel compassion towards children with cancer. Though they are disproportionately responsible for our environmental crises, the rich will be hurt least and last by planetary disaster, while the poor are hurt first and worst. The richer people are, the research suggests, the less such knowledge is likely to trouble them.

Another issue is that wealth limits the perspectives of even the best-intentioned people. This week Bill Gates argued in an interview with the Financial Times that divesting (ditching stocks) from fossil fuels is a waste of time. It would be better, he claimed, to pour money into disruptive new technologies with lower emissions. Of course we need new technologies. But he has missed the crucial point: in seeking to prevent climate breakdown, what counts is not what you do but what you stop doing. It doesn’t matter how many solar panels you install if you don’t simultaneously shut down coal and gas burners. Unless existing fossil fuel plants are retired before the end of their lives, and all exploration and development of new fossil fuels reserves is cancelled, there is little chance of preventing more than 1.5°C of global heating.

But this requires structural change, which involves political intervention as well as technological innovation: anathema to Silicon Valley billionaires. It demands an acknowledgement that money is not a magic wand that makes all the bad stuff go away.

On Friday, I’ll be joining the global climate strike, in which adults will stand with the young people whose call to action has resonated around the world. As a freelancer, I’ve been wondering who I’m striking against. Myself? Yes: one aspect of myself, at least. Perhaps the most radical thing we can now do is to limit our material aspirations. The assumption on which governments and economists operate is that everyone strives to maximise their wealth. If we succeed in this task, we inevitably demolish our life support systems. Were the poor to live like the rich, and the rich to live like the oligarchs, we would destroy everything. The continued pursuit of wealth, in a world that has enough already (albeit very poorly distributed) is a formula for mass destitution.

A meaningful strike in defence of the living world is, in part, a strike against the desire to raise our incomes and accumulate wealth: a desire shaped, more than we are probably aware, by dominant social and economic narratives. I see myself as striking in support of a radical and disturbing concept: Enough. Individually and collectively, it is time to decide what enough looks like, and how to know when we’ve achieved it.

There’s a name for this approach, coined by the Belgian philosopher Ingrid Robeyns: limitarianism. Robeyns argues that there should be an upper limit to the amount of income and wealth a person can amass. Just as we recognise a poverty line, below which no one should fall, we should recognise a riches line, above which no one should rise. This call for a levelling down is perhaps the most blasphemous idea in contemporary discourse.

But her arguments are sound. Surplus money allows some people to exercise inordinate power over others, in the workplace, in politics, and above all in the capture, use and destruction of natural wealth. If everyone is to flourish, we cannot afford the rich. Nor can we afford our own aspirations, that the culture of wealth maximisation encourages.

The grim truth is that the rich are able to live as they do only because others are poor: there is neither the physical nor ecological space for everyone to pursue private luxury. Instead we should strive for private sufficiency, public luxury. Life on earth depends on moderation.

http://www.monbiot.com

Something about Today and the Future

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

Fact: Climate change (CC) is real and getting “realer” by the day.

Fact: Most national governments are subsidizing the fossil fuel industries like there is no tomorrow. (Because they know there isn’t one.)

Fact: A few people (relatively speaking) are concerned; a few love to use CC as a convenient topic of conversation and ranting; most remain content to see consumerism on the rise and honestly either don’t have a clue about climate change (i.e., what it means) or don’t give a flying f**k about it. I’m being observationally honest.

About CC: does it matter if it is a natural event or if it is anthropogenic (OK, man-made!)?

It does only in the sense that, if it is a natural event, nothing man does will make an iota of difference – it will run its course and how “deep” or how “high” it runs is outside of man’s control. So, there is no “option one” here.

If anthropogenic then man has a degree of control over it. He can change the focus of his technology (or ditch it altogether if changing it is too slow) and watch billions die horribly as their citified infrastructure no longer provides the means for health care, food, shelter, heat, water, sewer or and he can watch billions die from fossil fuel (FF) pollution and environmental collapse. 

Any attempts to re-focus global technology from FF to “renewable” or “clean” or “green” technology using the existing template dictated by predatory capitalism is, of course, hopeless. Capitalism is a totally predatory system. To use it, you have to present yourself to the bank with a predatory plan, or a sub-system that will feed the insatiable main god’s appetite for living prey. Anything that intends to curtail the god’s food supply will be mocked, delayed indefinitely, changed, or it will “fail” to meet certain “standards.” If it is economically viable however it will be allowed to proceed and the end result will be no better and likely worse than what it replaced. Do note: the problem isn’t the pollution but the accompanying mindset.

My opinion after a life time of involvement in environmental issues and social change, is that “man” as a species has simply overreached itself through greed and heartless corruption and it is reaping what it has been sowing for thousands of years. It needed only the higher numbers combined with an inhuman and inhumane science and machine-based technology heavily favouring oppression and destruction to bring itself to its own ignoble, fully deserved,  demise. 

If I really feel that way, and I most certainly do, then what words would I have for anyone who does care? Not much, except to say that the future isn’t annihilation, nor on a dead planet nor in some religiously concocted heaven, hell or nirvana. 

“You offer no alternative yet you speak as if there was a future for us?” would be a logical question.

Answer: there always was a future; there always will be a future. What we are living in now is the future we have made for ourselves. It was a short-sighted, dead-end future but it promised so much in terms of power over others; in terms of money and sex and other sources of self-gratification, we felt it was worth the throw of the dice. So we made our Faustian bargain with time; we were loaned stacks of “free” tokens to play with and we’ve played them all and the house won. Now? Now all we have to do is walk out of the casino – it’s about to go down in flames – and figure out how to create a new future – without the “free” tokens (which by the way are nothing more than insane debts of valueless currency owed to non-existent capital power structures fronted by psychopaths).

That’s what self empowerment means. It doesn’t mean smart inventors (and investors) figuring out how to keep your swimming pool filled when the water is running out. It doesn’t mean a hundred, or a thousand “Greta Thunberg” or “David Suzuki” or more political and elected advocates for some Green New Deal (or voting for them); or more never-binding international treaties on CC.

For me it has meant changing my lifestyle in specific and observable (demonstrable) ways. That’s “my” lifestyle, not anyone else’s. Self empowerment is not leading campaigns to change the world, or setting up alternate energy corporations within the existing religious/political/capitalistic agenda. It is all about changing me so I become the change I wish to see. Yeah, old and corny saying but quite valid nevertheless. 

If you still have a couple of minutes, here’s something from George Monbiot… a well-researched journalist with a few very meaningful comments on our times. 

Fossil Rebellion – monbiot.com


Fossil Rebellion

Posted: 12 Aug 2019 04:50 AM PDT

In the midst of climate breakdown, governments around the world are funding and protecting the fossil fuel industry

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 7th August 2019

The tragedy of our times is that the gathering collapse of our life support systems coincides with the age of public disservice. Just as we need to rise above self-interest and short termism, governments around the world now represent the meanest and dirtiest of special interests. In the United Kingdom, the US, Brazil, Australia and many other nations, pollutocrats rule.

The Earth’s systems are breaking down at astonishing speed. Wild fires roar across Siberia and Alaska, biting, in many places, deep into peat soils, releasing plumes of carbon dioxide and methane that cause more global heating. In July alone, Arctic wildfires are reckoned to have released as much carbon into the atmosphere as Austria does in a year: already the vicious twister of climate feedbacks has begun to turn. Torrents of meltwater pour from the Greenland ice cap, sweltering under a 15°C temperature anomaly. Daily ice losses on this scale are 50 years ahead of schedule: they were forecast by the climate models for 2070. A paper in Geophysical Research Letters reveals that the thawing of permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic now exceeds the depths of melting projected by scientists for 2090.

While record temperatures in Europe last month caused discomfort and disruption, in Southwest Asia they are already starting to reach the point at which the human body hits its thermal limits. Ever wider tracts of the world will come to rely on air-conditioning not only for basic comfort but also for human survival: another feedback spiral, as air-conditioning requires massive energy use. Those who cannot afford it will either move or die. Already, climate breakdown is driving more people from their homes than either poverty or conflict, while contributing to both these other factors.

A recent paper in Nature shows that we have little hope of preventing more than 1.5° of global heating unless we retire existing fossil fuel infrastructure. Even if no new gas or coal power plants, roads and airports are built, the carbon emissions from current installations are likely to push us past this threshold. Only by retiring some of this infrastructure before the end of its natural life could we secure a 50% chance of remaining within the temperature limit agreed in Paris in 2015. Yet, far from decommissioning this Earth-killing machine, almost everywhere governments and industry stoke its fires.

The oil and gas industry intends to spend $4.9 trillion over the next 10 years, exploring and developing new reserves, none of which we can afford to burn. According to the IMF, every year governments subsidise fossil fuels to the tune of $5 trillion: many times more than they spend on addressing our existential predicament. The US spends 10 times more on these mad subsidies than on its federal education budget. Last year, the world burnt more fossil fuels than ever before.

An analysis by Barry Saxifrage in Canada’s National Observer shows that half the fossil fuels ever used by humans have been burnt since 1990. While renewable and nuclear power supplies have also risen in this period, the gap between the production of fossil fuels and low carbon energy has not been narrowing, but steadily widening. What counts, in seeking to prevent runaway global heating, is not the good things we start to do, but the bad things we cease to do. Shutting down fossil infrastructure requires government intervention.

But in many nations, governments intervene not to protect humanity from the existential threat of fossil fuels, but to protect the fossil fuel industry from the existential threat of public protest. In the US, legislators in 18 states have put forward bills criminalising protests against pipelines, seeking to crush democratic dissent on behalf of the oil industry. In June, Donald Trump’s government proposed federal legislation that would jail people for up to 20 years for disrupting pipeline construction.

In several nations, led by the Philippines, Global Witness reports, governments have incited the murder of environmental protesters. The process begins with rhetoric, demonising civil protest as extremism and terrorism, then shifts to legislation, criminalising attempts to protect the living planet. Criminalisation then helps legitimise physical assaults and murder. The first stage has now begun in Britain, with the publication by a dark money-funded lobby group, Policy Exchange, of a report smearing Extinction Rebellion. Like all such publications, it was given a series of major platforms by the BBC, which preserved its customary absence of curiosity about who funded it.

Secretly-funded lobby groups – such as the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs – have supplied some of the key advisers to Boris Johnson’s government. He has also appointed Andrea Leadsom, an enthusiastic fracking advocate, to run the department responsible for climate policy, and Grant Schapps, who chaired the British infrastructure Group until last month – promoting the expansion of roads and airports – as Secretary of State for Transport. Last week the Guardian revealed documents suggesting that the firm run by Johnson’s funder and adviser Sir Lynton Crosby has produced unbranded Facebook ads on behalf of the coal industry.

What we see here looks like the denouement of the Pollution Paradox. Because the dirtiest industries attract the least public support, they have the greatest incentive to spend money on politics, to get the results they want and we don’t. They fund political parties, lobby groups and think tanks, fake grassroots organisations and dark ads on social media. As a result, politics comes to be dominated by the dirtiest industries.

We are told to fear the “extremists” who protest against ecocide and challenge dirty industry and the dirty governments it buys. But the extremists we should fear are those who hold office.

http://www.monbiot.com

 

Exceptionalism is not just an American sickness, it’s a collective madness rising as a world destroying tsunami. More and more groups vying with others to make their voices and concerns heard and the louder they get, the more chaos ensues. Hyperbole? Observation says no. It is a fact of “tidal waves” of people sensing the serious unease of the times and honestly having no idea on how to deal with it except by regurgitating old concepts, the favorite remaining war and it doesn’t matter much against whom, or what just as long as there is fighting going on.

Earth has a major problem and it’s called mankind, the pseudo-intellectual species that chose, as a collective, to re-make Earth and its environment into its own image. It’s that simple and that devastating because the only way it could have worked is in the exact opposite direction: man should have known, when a much younger species, to adapt itself to its world. Its intellectual hubris drove it to chose exploitation and oppression over cooperation. The big “Wrong Way: Do Not Enter” sign was torn down and used to make crosses and scaffolds for those who insisted on teaching a better way.

Man chose wrong. A long time ago. The choice, once made, could never be countered because the creature’s body over time kept adapting to non-natural ways of engaging nature, i.e., life. The choice was irrevocable and would begin a string of horrible consequences a few are just beginning to recognize and admit to. The final consequence: the destruction of the planet insofar as the life-sustaining aspects of it goes.

As an environmentalist, as an activist, as an elder, as an observer and as a self empowered individual without any agenda, not even of personal survival because I don’t need that kind of pretend comfort, I’m going to state this as clearly as I can.

I know there is no survival, that all are born to die and that the only thing that matters, if anything does, is what one does in between that beginning and that end. To that I can add with certainty that “man” will continue to run from the stick and after the carrot: there is no longer any choice; there never was any choice once the wrong turn was chosen. Those who thought they could return to nature and choose a different path have been all but eliminated as genocidal fuel for civilization.

As a species man is done for. There is no possibility of turning back the tide of exploitation and oppression because that is the very thing that fuels his civilization. That is what must be understood and admitted to: that oppression, in particular, is the fuel that feeds civilization. Therefore, as should have been obvious since inception, this civilization (as were all preceding civilizations) is an unsustainable concept.

Therefore it should be obvious that any proposed solution based on tried and failed concepts are the re-running of old black and white movies: when you walk out of the theater, nothing has changed: your world did not change into a black and white Pleasantville.

As an intelligent and quite able to reason species, man should have never gotten upon this road but the temptation was just too great to resist. Man adapted itself to pillaging, raping, destroying and killing, all the while thinking it was building ever-after empires.

Man built his cities, his monuments to pride, exploitation, control and the resultant smog (literally, morally and spiritually) spreads over the planet like the fumes that poured out of Mount Doom… but there are no mighty men, no dwarves, no elves, no Hobbits, no wizards and no Ents to extinguish this volcano.

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(Vancouver, May 12, 2019 – from 2000 feet – photo by Sha’Tara)

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

The Prophet Spoke Again

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

The Prophet spoke once more in the latter days, long after any had been and these be the things she said into the minds of those that would listen.

I am not bringing any good tidings, she said to them, therefore it is entirely up to you whether you listen, or fail to listen, for the message will be given even if only the stones of this world, the pavement of its streets or the girders of its highrises hear it.

You will have noticed that your world has changed once again, and in that change it has turned against you. You speak amongst yourselves of climate change; you debate whether it is the works of your own hands, of the world itself or perhaps a combination of both. You do not know and while you are confused, refusing to face the music you yourselves ordered to be written upon skies, seas and lands, you cannot dance. You but plod, and you weary yourselves with petty thoughts of greedy corporate executives and bankers, corrupt politicians and the endless charade of religion. Thinking yourselves wise, you have indeed made yourselves fools; the duck thinking to survive the winter in a child’s wading pool.

You seek answers where there are none! You deliberately ignore your history to fall ever and anon in the same trap your ancestors fell in and died in. You continue to believe that if you replace this puppet with that one; this god with another; this system with a more “environment friendly” one, you can carry on with just such light brush strokes on the old canvas; that you can carry on with no self-sacrifice, no purifying of heart, no transforming of mind, therefore no essential change.

But know this, if you cannot see it for yourselves: your canvas is rotten, even to the frame that holds it together.

That is the sum total of my tidings, to do with as you see fit. I did not come here to make the change for you, I came but to give warning. If you care about each other and particularly if you care about your own children, you will listen. If you do not, I may as well once again take the name of Cassandra and die in the fall of your great and impregnable city.

Is there any hope? I don’t “do” hope, but I am addressing people who believe in such things. So, look about you, anywhere, and see if there is anything truly new rising from your world; from within your many systems: anything you would bet your life and the life of your children upon? Anything that cannot be bought and sold in the global marketplace or corrupted beyond recognition in your high places of government, banking and worship?

Every prophet is mad, I as much as any other who has ever dared incarnate on this world and in my madness I dare imagine that some of you will ponder this and cry out, ‘Yes, we can see how it is coming apart,’ and add, ‘what should we then do?’

As I said, I am not here to give you answers, that was not part of my job description.

Let me remind you that everyone like myself who has come before and given you strict guidance and rules of conduct has been an abject failure because the teaching was imposed, it did not arise from within yourselves, thus it was powerless to change you. Go ahead, read your prophets, the full time, the part time, the ones you defamed, tortured and killed. You could do worse than re-reading “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran. Read other way showers and rule givers and go as far as pondering the voices of those who called themselves saviours and see what you find these many years later.

I will give you hints though, even if it violates my strict self-imposed mandate. Simple hints. First, your civilization as you experience it and as you’ve known it throughout your very short history, is finished. Its days have been measures and found wanting.

Its very nature is inimical to the concept we call life. It has exceeded its limits to growth. It feeds entirely on bloodshed and destruction and many there are who profit from this and many more who rejoice in the results. That is its greatest sin from which it can neither be healed, or ever rise again.

Second hint: if you would do something that has a chance of bearing fruit, though it likely will be but for yourself as an individual, choose the path of the compassionate being. “How” is entirely up to you.

Quote: “A dominant myth is inclusive, in the sense that people feel lost without it. They can’t attribute any sort of human activity to anything else but the myth. They can’t see their way past it. They feel stymied without it.” (Jon Rappoport) and my added comment: “And what is civilization but a dominant myth?”

 

Political Satire, but, What if, or ‘Why not?’

[thoughts from    ~burning woman~    by Sha’Tara]

The creature I am about to describe here has earned itself many sobriquets over the recent years, months, even days and some are getting quite exotic. A few: (borrowed from  https://wolfessblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/12/to-the-end-of-the-loud-illiterate-pretender/

prictator, orangubrat, trumptard, dolt45, trumpussy, and my favourites, presidunce and Agolf Twitler. This set me to thinking about a fitting end to its presiduncy.

In a normal country (don’t worry, there aren’t any of these on this planet) the creature mentioned above, and I have to assume ya-all know by now what that is, wouldn’t be jailed, that’s too normal. Try to imagine the damage it could cause in a real people jail. I know that people in America seem quite unconcerned about the treatment of prisoners in the nation’s endless jail but there has to be a limit as to what helpless prisoners are exposed to.

No, definitely not a jail. It would be put in a zoo designed especially just for it.

The layout of the main retention area would be shaped like the oval office, naturally, we want it to believe it is still in its natural habitat after all.

McDooDoo and KFC would get the contracts to keep the creature fed.

It would be given a sturdy fake cell phone with tones on the buttons and a slobber-proof light-up screen so it could tweet at night.

It would be given stacks of monopoly money to fondle and some tough rubbery human-like dolls, child size and adult, with various coloration of non-white skin-like coverings so it could thrash them about when in a rage. It would also be given an over-sized golf driver to smash up the figures.  Part of the entertainment at this stage would be to hear its wild screams of, “Terrorist!  Rapist! Murderer! Fake refugee! Liar, Thief!”

There would, of course, be a large mud bath where it could go to cool off from the blistering sun where it would repeat some simple mantras like: “Climate change is fake news, fake news, fake news!!!!!” “MAGA, MAGA, MAGA, MAGA!!!!!” “Coal, coal, coal, oh so beautiful coal!!!!!” “Biggly, biggly, biggly, want more food!!!!!”

Near the visitor fence there would be a fake computer stand with a fake Mensa testing board that would ding loudly each time the creature pressed the very large, orange, *1000 POINTS!* button, at which in predictable Pavlovian response it would run to a small trap door where the big mac, large fries, Coke and fried chicken would appear to be ravenously gulped down .

Of the containment fencing, the south fence would be turned into a solid cement wall with these words engraved in it: “Mexico on the Other Side.” To drive the creature crazy (and for the additional entertainment value) there would be a hole in the wall just big enough to allow a human to crawl through and nothing available to plug the hole.

To keep the creature totally happy, if not deliriously so, there would be a full-sized mirror with the words in fake gold on top: PRESIDUNCE AGOLF TWITLER

With enough funding from amused patrons, the rest of the creature’s tribe could hopefully be housed in there also… 

I enjoy dreaming of great endings to otherwise pathetic dramas.