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State of the Empire: Reviewing 2019

State of the Empire: Reviewing 2019

Zero Anthropology

December 31, 291

 

WATCH: The Global Climate Ghetto – The Environmental Crisis from the Perspective of the Global South

WATCH: The Global Climate Ghetto – The Environmental Crisis from the Perspective of the Global South

December 14, 2019

Transcript by Geraldine Ring

 

“And the third group, are the anti-ecological environmentalists. They who love trees, forests and organic food, but find no inconsistency between their environmentalist ideology and discrimination, racism and colonialism. In their conceit, they believe that they can be anti-fascist and hate blacks, Asians, immigrants and embracing discriminations against women, the working class and the poor. And you howl Coltrane, as he asks simply with Diana, Dylan, Mali, Masekela, ‘Where are you? Sing me a song of consolation and ascension, send me to Google at the river Congo to find dead souls in the Amazonian forest, take me on a sudden Guernica trip to hear them black bodies singing.’ They’re burning flesh.”

In this lecture, Ambassador Lumumba Di-Aping, Chair of Rights of Future Generations Working Group, voices a critical analysis of the impact of climate change, especially on non-emergent poor countries of the South. [Hosted by the V&A Museum in conjunction with the Sharjah Architecture Triennial and the Royal College of Art London. October 4, 2018]

 

Transcript

Introduction

Adrian Lahoud, Dean of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art, London:

Let’s start in 2009 during the Copenhagen climate conference. Lumumba is the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations and chair of the G77 plus China group of 132 developing nations. For the first time in the history of that group the chair has forged an agreement between them that they will negotiate as a single block. The crowds waiting outside of the Vela Centre in Copenhagen are seized by a concern. Will an accord be signed in the wake of Kyoto, and what will be the agreed global average temperature increase. Will it be 1.5 degrees, 2 degrees, etc.?

Unbeknownst to everyone else the G20, a group of the most powerful economies on the planet, had been meeting in secret with a proposal that they had agreed upon to commit the planet and its people to an average 2 degree temperature increase. Then somebody leaked the text to Lumumba Di-Aping.

And so with President Obama flying back to Washington content in the notion that the secret G20 agreement had been sealed and would soon be adopted by all the other Earth’s nations, Lumumba called a press conference – you can hear a fragment of it in the piece next door – and delivered an extraordinary speech, shattering the callous façade of agreement that northern countries were preparing for their poorer neighbours. I have no doubt it will be remembered as one of the greatest, and most significant, political interventions in our lifetimes.

So at great personal risk and sacrifice, Lumumba broke with all the protocols of diplomatic speech – the secrecies, the silent disparities, the resigned subjugations. He spoke truth to power. He described the text as climate genocide, and indeed it was. He accused the G20 of trying to colonize the sky, as indeed it was. For hidden in the scale of the global average temperature increase were the differentiated hazards and vulnerabilities of climate impact. As Lumumba said, it would have meant certain devastation in Africa. Lumumba did something else that is extremely important. He connected the language of numbers in climate negotiation to an existential calculation: a calculation of life and death. We should heed his lesson. Lumumba has been an incredible inspiration to many people. Please join me in welcoming him to the stage tonight.

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Lumumba Di-Aping:

Good evening, good evening. It is a real honour to stand in front of you to deliver these remarks on the tectonic challenge of climate change. As you all know, this tectonic challenge is man-made. It is a civilizational, moral and existential challenge – to humanity today, tomorrow, and for the future generations. If not addressed properly, the effects of this ecological challenge will be catastrophic to all future generations. Be they from the west or from the south, be they white, black, yellow or in-betweens. These remarks are thus driven by a certain consciousness. And an enduring determination and a vigilant critique of anti-ecological knowledge, immaturity and environmental dis-enlightenment, bent on not only denying science, but one that has marshalled successfully so far a grand strategy to render impotent any moral, social, economic and political, or categorical transformative leadership.

These remarks are against the haunting suffering of 99% of the human family. They are personal outrage against horrid violence inflicted against humanity. I represented the Global South as their chief negotiator in the trenches of Copenhagen in 2009. These remarks am I telling it like it was. A naked experience. They are remarks aimed at igniting, for the interests of the future generations of the world for a robust, truthful and just discourse on climate change.

But before I proceed, let me take this opportunity for a world of dedication to my family Ulysses Henry Epping and Sonja D. Epping and to Dom Henry Walsborough of Ampleforth. May your wings be strong. May your days be long. Safe be your journey. Each of you bears inside of you a great gift of love which you have given me abundantly. May bring you light and warmth and the pleasure of giving, as you have always done. Eagerly savour each day the taste of its warmth, of its mouth. Never lose sight of the thrill and the joy of living. Son, may you grow up to be true, may you always know the truth, and see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous. We stand upright and be strong and may you stay forever young.

Now, now if you were born in Africa. If you went to school there and if you were fortunate, or perhaps unfortunate enough to have had a British Council sent English teacher who admired and taught you Charles Dickens, COP15 would have descended upon you the way a thousand ton of slab of concrete nightmare have done. A diluvial desolation, a hell of other implacable global injustice and bull everywhere.

You would have seen COP15 chairperson, the Honorable Prime Minister of Denmark, presiding over the UNF Triple C Court of Chancery, which – to paraphrase Dickens – gives to the many might the means of abundantly wearing out the right and the downtrodden global poor, the means of exhausting patience, courage and negating hope, and the means to deject, close the minds and overthrow the brains, and break the hearts, and the means to force them to succumb and sign an accord and a pact that not only denies their humanity, but cages them to watch helplessly their entire nation, countries and state drowning slowly under water, savaged by the extreme hurricanes, rains, heatwaves, droughts, fires and getting torched red and scorched yellow – and ultimately incinerated like Giacometti’s men and women and you needn’t recall Eichmann.

There is not one honourable man, woman among the UNF Triple C Chancery lead negotiators. And developing countries have known, have been experiencing, and witnessing the world that is to come. The new normal to arrive. Desolation. In that UNF Triple C Chancery, dominated by G8 plus China and India and India’s delegation, it was all pretence. And you ask, “On a 2 degree Celsius pathway? Are you serious?” And they come down the slinging, with their prepared answers, “The perfect, the perfect is the enemy of the good”. You come to your senses. There is not one honourable man, woman among the UNF Triple C Chancery lead negotiators. Their well-rehearsed sermon was “Two degrees on a legally-binding plate. Call it a pact. Mitigation and adaptation – pledges without any commitment to emission reduction targets. No technology transfer, no finance.” They repeated this sermon ad infinitum and sang it like a hymn and, as it turned out it, it was one, from a secret text – known only to them. And thank God, it was leaked by a rat, as the Guardian put it, years later.

See, the UNF Triple C have been turned into an attrition arena, a holding spectacle purposely – purposely intended to preclude forever any attempt to reduce ambitions forever, or until perhaps 2030, 2050, when the burden shifts to advanced developing countries in the future generations. See the UNF Triple C, COPS, have been turned into “this is spectacle, historically”. And they kept giving this atrocious, vicious, malice co-ordinated against all demands for deep emission cuts, all negative emissions.

This belligerent animosity towards developing countries, in general, has always come from three groups in the alliance – and this is very important. The first group is the quintessential Western establishment type with their apologist among the intelligentsia, particularly their juris economistas aided by journalists and editors. And the second group are the clevers, the ID 77 insiders and members. They are adept diplomats, sophisticated, delicate and dexterous representatives of the new economically superior emergent block in cahoots with developing countries, fossil fuel heavyweights. They apply their finance for infrastructure muscles in Asia, Africa and Latin America to force their will. They have become the poor countries’ and LDCs’ main trading partners. And the third group, are the anti-ecological environmentalists. They who love trees, forests and organic food, but find no inconsistency between their environmentalist ideology and discrimination, racism and colonialism. In their conceit, they believe that they can be anti-fascist and hate blacks, Asians, immigrants and embracing discriminations against women, the working class and the poor. And you howl Coltrane, as he asks simply with Diana, Dylan, Mali, Masekela, “Where are you? Sing me a song of consolation and ascension, send me to google at the river Congo to find dead souls in the Amazonian forest, take me on a sudden Guernica trip to hear them black bodies singing.” They’re burning flesh.“The first group is the quintessential Western establishment type with their apologist among the intelligentsia, particularly their juris economistas aided by journalists and editors..”

But Copenhagen continues. The game is on and it’s the only game, the only one in town, so be, shape up. You remember Ruth’s first words in her seminal work, ‘The Barrel of a Gun’. For I count myself an African and there is no cause I hold dearer. Be, or the only legacy you live. Ulysses your son is a burden of absolute unforgettable, unforgivable shame, the burden of having signed to the total destruction of his world, the future generations’ world. It’s 3 o’clock. You are holding an espresso, double shot. You remember Mahmoud Darwish. You aim the sea, sky and earth at me, but you cannot root that continent out of me. You cannot root my son out of me, and not his generations – never. And time goes on, negotiating. It’s midnight now. You are in Copenhagen. The negotiation texts are over a thousand page. And it’s freezing cold. So you say to yourself, two degrees is four degrees, three degrees and they simply feast, two degrees the riches are theirs. Two degrees, we are dead and they are not. Two degrees, do they care? Four degrees, and we don’t live and they won’t live. Do they know? Shouldn’t they care? We will rise and they will wise. We can rise and they won’t rise. Five degrees, we are shades and they are hues. Six degrees and the world is fire. We are on fire. Our breath is gone. We are done and the world end done. Six degrees, we are all done. Done. Done.

Diplomatically, the G8 in the leadership of the US, China and India where the main culprit diplomatically, the USA, negotiated on the basis that what of society does wrote the wars of Sparta and Athens. The powerful exact what they can and then we have to comply. In such a world, it is no use that the destitute poor of the South must suffer what they must. And Africa has a peculiar position in climate change negotiations as a non-industrial bloc of nations that has contributed near zero emissions since the heralding of the Anthropocene, the geological age of man-making.

Since the 15th century Portuguese endeavours in despised islands to the advent of the Industrial Revolution in England in 18th century, Africa has, had been a colony, denied the dignity of being human, denied freedom and free will, justice and development. And thus to understand the predicament of an African negotiator, or the African negotiators, one has to first recall that until mid-1950s Africa was not part of the global affairs – the global affairs and politics of the multilateralism. Until 1950s, African states were colonies, not equal member states in the global scene. A non-white, and in particular the African was deemed sub-human, a useless harmful stock of a Negro race whose temperament and capacity were peculiarly suited to hard labour, not least because they were significantly less susceptible to physical pain than white man. And further, it was common perspective among the elites that slavery was, is, and will be needed for the regeneration of contemporary European cultures. And, of course, all of this was justified and justifiable for the incomplete humanity of the state. Thus, if colonies demise, they become freedom, then the metropolis gives herself the right to be the new robbers, the ravagers. As long as they cannot rule, cannot be rulers and owners, they are men of knowledge after all.

In a recent article by Sir Robert Tony Watson, a distinguished and respectable scientist and a former director of the United Nations, inter-IPCC, three degrees, he said the following, “Three degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees, Europe in permanent drought. Vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert.” And he goes on, “The prospect of a five degree warming has prompted some of the world leading climate scientists to warn of the end of the human civilization.” This elegantly-phrased paragraph embodies profound truth about the challenge and calamity of the climate change in what it states and what it curiously omits. A curious omission in that important passage which forces us to ask, “What does science say about the climate change in Africa?, what is the state of affairs on climate in Africa? And what bearing did it have on its position on Copenhagen and Paris Agreement?

The conclusion of the fourth assessment report by IPCC is that in all four regions, in all seasons, the median temperature increase lies between three degrees and four degrees Celsius – roughly one point five times the global mean. But as African we knew that is the real situation, the actual reality we live. Africa is already suffering from climate change – even with the admission of IPCC itself, which is a highly respectable report. “Africa’s major economic sectors are vulnerable to current climate sensitivities with huge economic impact and this vulnerability is exacerbated by existing developmental challenges such as enduring poverty, complex government, institutional dimensions, limited access to capital including markets, infrastructure and technology, ecosystem degradation and complex disasters and conflict”. And this brings us to some very important considerations. I want to highlight here. What limit on warming does this require globally? And the answer is simple. Keeping temperature increase in Africa to below 1.5 degrees Celsius requires a global goal of less than 1 degrees Celsius. Keeping it below 2 degrees Celsius requires a global goal of less than 1.3 degrees Celsius. And we are asked to sign for 2 degrees. Further, what emission reduction that is required for 2050. The answer again, “Limiting temperature increase requires limiting GHG concentrations and emissions. Limiting concentrations to 350 ppm CO2 yields. 350 ppm yields 14% chance of exceeding 2 degrees Celsius globally, and a considerable chance of exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Even temperatures and risks of these levels are arguably unacceptable to Africa. To limit concentrations to 350 ppm CO2 emissions must be limited to 750 Gigaton CO2, and that is between 2000 and 2050. And of this amount 330 Gigatons has been used between 2000 and 2008, leaving the world with 420 Gigatons.

Lesser level of ambition have been misleadingly presented as consistent with keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius. And we are reading the same report of the IPCC. “In particular, developed countries have called for a 50% global ambition reduction by 2050 from 1990 levels. This, however, entails a risk of more than 50% exceeding the 2 degrees Celsius, and it would not be reasonable therefore to characterize this as a 2 degrees pathway. Even if you were to say it’s a 2 degree pathway, it’s not. Even an 85% global cut by 2050 entails the risk of exceeding 2 degrees Celsius of around 25%.”

We go to the question of allocation. How should the budget of this global resource then be allocated? We call for a sustainable approach. And a sustainable approach to climate change requires the Earth’s emission budget to be set at levels that avoid dangerous climate change. An equitable approach to climate change requires the Earth emissions budget to be allocated fairly, because part of the critical issues that we face are related to issues of economic inequality. An equitable approach to climate change was thus the central issue. And Nicholas Stern stated, “If the allocations of rise to emit any given year took a greater account both of history and of equity, in stocks rather than throughput flows then rich countries would have rights to emissions levels, which were less than two tonnes per capita. The negotiations of such rights involve substantial financial allocations at $40 per tonne CO2. A total world allocation of 30 Gigaton would be worth 1.1 trillion.” Mind you, in 2009, a barrel of oil was priced as 100-115 euro. Will asked Annex I countries to take an allocation of 390 Gigaton CO2, based on their population ratio, 20% of the world population and non-Annex I would be allocated a 1,270 Gigaton. And the basis of this is the concept of contraction and convergence so that Annex I would actually use 640 Gigatons. More than their fair allocation. Whether it’s borrowing, or the inevitable – the West, obviously, until there is a new way of producing energy would need significant allocation.

Let me proceed, and bring to your attention another issue. And that would be around the goals for mid- and long-term cuts for Annex I. The scenario we assumed in 2009 was that Annex I countries would cut their emissions by at least half by 2017, and become neutral by 2050. We are in 2018. Nothing has been done. None. On this scenario, the 20% of the world’s population in Annex I countries would still have used 640 Gigaton. That’s more than 60% of the total global budget and more than 40% of the remaining global budget. In a fairer world, they should have compensated, or should compensate developing countries for their overuse of a trillion-dollar resource, providing some financial and technology transfer, but of course that was not to be. On that issue. non-Annex I countries would still need to cut emissions drastically, if global emissions are to remain within the budget of the 350 ppm. But, of course, as I have said, the clevers were having none of it.

We wanted developed countries to have ambitious cuts, but then Annex I countries have to accept less of the burden of cutting their own emissions. On technology, there are a number of issues that are important. The level of technology and financing required by non-Annex I depends on, one, the number of tons of GHG to be reduced, and the cost per tonne of reducing emissions. The cost in total was around 489 billion euro. That is, if the average cost per tonne is 60 euro, which was then huge discount, because if you compare it with the barrel oil, the barrel of oil was 115. If we use the 100 euro as the base, the total financing required for the deal was 814 billion euros. I think that table gives you the full calculation.

What I would say, is that recent estimates put cost and damages from climate change into trillions. One recent study by Allianz Insurance suggests that, the value of assets at risk from sea level rise in port facilities alone by 2050 could exceed 22 trillion dollars. And you ask yourself, if the value at risk of inaction in a sum just for those cities is 22 trillion, and the value of action of a real solution is a trillion why would you choose that pathway? Other issue that was contested was the issue of adaptation cost. We cannot adapt without deep emission reductions by Annex I countries, without major financing technology transfer for emissions reductions by Annex I countries, major financing of producing actual opportunity cost. And I think, even speaking about adaptation was not acceptable for them. The final issue that bedeviled the negotiations was the issue of the institutions.

Achieving climate change resolution requires new institutions for mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and finance. It would require a major mobilization to help people address inevitable damage associated with current and permitted work, and it will require a major effort to deploy technologies in all countries within the next five to ten years. We are talking about 2009. As others have said, that was the essence of the position of the African group. That’s the perspective I tried to persuade Annex I, the major polluters, and the major polluters from the South. In our view, this was an equitable framework for global climate policy, a policy that is transformative and does not hide behind economics of the 1% who control the global economy and their ideologies – its skepticism, denialism, all the rest. Ascriptions of radicalism, derision and vilification were the answers we received from Annex I countries, particularly after they managed to convert Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to abandon the African position which was approved on the 12th African Union summit and in the Algiers declaration an African common platform to Copenhagen. In that spirit, originally Zenawi on the 3rd of September 2009 announced that, “We will never accept any global deal that does not limit global warming to the minimum unavoidable level, no matter what levels of compensation assistance are promised to us. If needs be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of the continent.” Those the words of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

“Fanon said, ‘The colonized man will manifest his aggressiveness against his own people.'” And, of course, the EU managed to persuade Meles Zenawi to abandon the agreed African Union position. On the 15th of December 2009. Zenawi issued a joint press release with President of France Nicolas Sarkozy. Sure you all remember him. Which declared that the African Union’s position on Copenhagen was a 2 degrees Celsius temperature target, 10 billion dollars in fast-track financing, 100 billion euros in long-term financing. We were shocked. We condemned the position as a betrayal of Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “The two-degree target condemns Africa to incineration and no modern development.” And when I asked President Sarkozy in the negotiation, he said to me, “Ask Meles”. So I asked Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and he said, and I quote, “I want cash, not SDRs (Special Drawing Rights).” Later on it transpired that he secured 1 billion US dollars to fight terrorism in Somalia. Fanon said, “The colonized man will manifest his aggressiveness against his own people.” I will stop.

“And so you ask yourself, why talk about damage when we know we are really talking about mortality, death, social degradation, and annihilation.”Copenhagen has thus failed because of three reasons, and these three reasons will continue destroying any attempt to stop ecological degradation. The first reason – sorry, I mean two reasons. The first reason: the problem embedded in Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. And it states, “The ultimate objective of the convention is to achieve a stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The truth is that climate change has already reached dangerous levels, dangerous levels that makes this stabilization impossible. Second, is the fiction of the plausibility of two degrees Celsius pathway. The two degrees Celsius pathway, the dictated perspective of the EU is a repetition of what I would deem a eurocentric perspective that dominates its occidentalism, the basis of its scientific moral and economic approaches to the climate change challenge. It is fully consistent with position and practices in world history. It is a perspective that defines what the maximum tolerable temperature on the basis of what it perceives to be acceptable levels of damage, rather than avoidance of all damage. And so you ask yourself, why talk about damage when we know we are really talking about mortality, death, social degradation, and annihilation. In view of that, the African position in the negotiations called for 45 degrees emission reduction by developed countries by 2020. That’s now gone. Finance for adaptation of 150 billion immediately as SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) from the IMF, and a global 500 billion in fast-track financing and another 5% of developing countries GNP in longer term financing and transfer of technology. Our logic was very simple. Countries like United States had then a budget of over 3.7 trillion dollars and they spent annually five to six hundred billion in defence alone. The 2008 bailing of Wall Street, you would recall, was well above a trillion. And they are questioning, or they’re claiming, that climate change is not financeable.

We have to reject the signing of Copenhagen Agreement for all those reasons. And of course with the collapse of Copenhagen we come to the reality of the Paris Agreement which is what we are facing now, or dealing with now. My own perspective. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in 2016, had been hailed as a major diplomatic success. It is indeed a tour de force, a rhetorical one that requires careful, critical and sign-centric reading. The Agreement reads as follows, “This Agreement aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.” And the question is, “how?”. And I read again, “first by holding the increase in the global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels.” The strategic intent of Paris response would have been truly noble, if not for the sad fact that it was killed off by the fraternity of the ”shoulds”. There’s nothing legally binding in Paris Agreement. It’s all “shoulds”. Second, the reality and magnitude of existential crisis that we face as Africans is straightforward: keeping temperature increase in Africa to below 1.5 degrees Celsius requires a global response of less than 1 degrees Celsius. Keeping the temperature below 2 degrees Celsius requires a global goal of less than 1.3 degrees Celsius, and we are holding as a great achievement a non-committal position of maybe 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“What Paris Agreement begat us thus is a median temperature increase that lies between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius in Africa – roughly 1.5 times of the global average.”What Paris Agreement begat us thus is a median temperature increase that lies between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius in Africa – roughly 1.5 times of the global average. You calculate. It is therefore academic to talk of other purposes of the Paris Agreement. What is the use of dissecting intentions of increasing the ability to adapt to adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development in a manner that does not threaten food production? What food production if you are in the territory of a 4 degrees Celsius? What poverty reduction? Africa is already buried 20 metres under poverty threshold. What sustainable development if we can’t survive? But, it had to be done in Paris, elegantly. COP20 had to yield and succumb to this end. This is because all the COPs, ever since the very beginning, have been largely a concerted effort to exclude the authority and the legitimacy of genuine science.

When they talk policy, they basically leave science alone. This rejection of science and scientific evidence has led to the systemic marginalization and former exclusion of the African continent, the small island states and the global poor South and 80% of humanity from Earth’s future. The Paris Agreement vision, strategic intent remains a normative high note that was disembowelled by history. It would have been a stellar ground-breaking outcome had it been adopted in 1950s. Furthermore, even if we discount the science and the plight of the poor who constitute more than 80% of the world population, its purpose, moral aim and ambitions lack the necessary delivery mechanisms. Because by deregulating its own climate contributions, it institutionalises the tragedy of the Commons. Which, in the first place, led to the crisis chain, and which will now further fail its strategy.

And this is what has been provided by IPCC fifth report. Climate change is already having negative impacts on Africa. It is impacting the health of land and marine-based ecosystems and the health of food security, of many of the regions and most vulnerable people. This rejection, is not only against the poor, it is also against future generations who have right and moral obligations against the current generations. We are thus obligated, morally, to make sacrifices for common good of humanity, but equally on behalf of posterity. And in truth, these obligations are not intolerable, as some economies want to convince us. And in the context of climate change these obligations can be achieved by freeing ourselves from fossil fuel addiction, by moving fully towards a renewable energy, an ecologically sustainable world and economy. Our challenge is rampant individualism, and not scientific or technological challenge anymore. And there is no economic or financial difficulties here.

The world has produced so much material wealth, so much knowledge that it can today – if governments were supportive and full range of renewable technologies were deployed that renewable energy could count for almost 80% of the world’s energy supply within four decades. By the way, that was the IPCC Renewable Energy report in 2011. It was announced in Abu Dhabi. And the necessary investment in renewables would cost only one percent of the global GDP. One percent of global GDP can in four decades generate 80% of our energy needs globally. This approach could keep greenhouse gas concentrations less than 450 ppm (parts per million). That level IPCC thinks is safe level beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic or irreversible. There is nothing radical in this. It is not as radical for example as Bill Gates mission to Microsoft in 1980. A computer in every desk and every home. 1980. Today, everyone of us has at least two three devices. If there is a will, it can be done.

And this brings me to a critical aspect of this tectonic challenge. Leadership, or lack of it. Recently, the Secretary General of the United Nations said that climate change is moving faster than we are. If we don’t change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change with disastrous consequences for people and all natural systems that sustain us. I would say to the Secretary General: Your Excellency, urgent action and leadership is what is needed, because – as you have rightly said – we have the moral and economic imperatives to act, as the ferocity of this summer’s wildfires and heatwaves shows the world is changing before our eyes. At least, the West have started to experience and see what we have been living with since 1950.

“The world needs a real solution and it is not Paris Agreement. What we need therefore is a UN to act to stop ecological degradation, because with that taking place there cannot be peace with a runaway climate change, there can be no peace.”If that’s the case and we agree with the Secretary General, what is critically needed is a critical review of the Paris Agreement, because it has not addressed the reality of the dangerous situations we are in. We must have the courage to call a spade one. The world needs a real solution and it is not Paris Agreement. It is within your powers, and your mandate, and your character – and I am speaking here to the Secretary General – to act  to fulfil the purposes of the United Nations in Article 1. Article 1 of the United Nations Charter says that the purposes of United Nations is to maintain international peace and security, and to that end to take effective collective measures for prevention. What we need therefore is a UN to act to stop ecological degradation, because with that taking place there cannot be peace with a runaway climate change, there can be no peace.

So let me conclude in humility. Let me say the Prime Minister of this country, Theresa May. Because yesterday she made a very important speech, referring to honourable Diane Abbott. There are billions of Diane Abbotts and their children out there whose rights to survival and their very humanity are being denied by the position of the UK in climate change which is fundamentally cynicism and ecological denialism in practice. So lead by the example. There can be no freedom which the UK speaks of champion. There can be no freedom, no democracy and upholding of fundamental rights if your policies deny the women of the South and their children their very right to existence and equity. And I would say the same thing to the Labourite and the Labour and to honourable Corbyn, there is nothing progressive and there is everything reactionary in a Labour Party that continues to follow Ed Miliband’s neoliberal pathway of 2 degrees Celsius that condemns Africa and small island states into drowning. There is nothing progressive in that climate neoliberal colonialism. There can be no justice at your home turf without global justice. You and McDonnell and Momentum would in full class consciousness, would have become another climate Trumpiskite. So let’s stand up. Let’s stand up for the rights of future generations, for the rights of earth, for rights of humanity.

 

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Climate Crimes

“Adrian Lahoud’s large-scale immersive video installation, [] explores the complex relationship between air pollution and the migration of refugees. It illustrates how atmospheric particles originating in the wealthy nations of the global north – Europe, USA, China, and others impact the global south, contributing to desertification and migration.

The research builds on an event that took place during the 2009 UN climate change conference, where Sudanese diplomat Lumumba Di-Aping argued that industrialisation in these regions in the global north was contributing to ‘climate genocide’ in Africa.” [Source]

“There is a strange sympathy between the atmospheric particles that float through the sky and the human beings who migrate across the ground and then across the sea. Each body sets the other into motion: the particle bodies flow from north to south; the human bodies move from south to north.”

 

— Adrian Lahoud

 

 

The Militarisation & Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict

The Militarisation & Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict

November 2014

“The Militarisation & Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict”

By ALEXANDER DUNLAP, Global Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK & JAMES FAIRHEAD, Anthropology, Justice and Violence Research Centre, International Development, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

 

“Policies addressing climate change are driving major transformations in access to global land, forests and water as they create new ‘green’ markets that reinforce, and attracts the financial grid and its speculators. This leads us to examine the rise of state violence and subsequent environmental policies in forests, transferring into both ‘fortress’ and ‘participatory’ conservation, enhancing this relationship with new environmental commodity markets. We go on to document how the new and intensifying commodification of the environment associated with climate change is manifest in conflicts linked to the UN-REDD+ programme, industrial tree plantations (ITPs), and land-use practices associated with conservation and biofuels. We trace conflicts to business practices associated with land acquisitions and mining practices which claim to address climate change and mitigate ecological crises. This paper thus grapples with systemic issues of the modern industrial economy and the mechanisms legitimising and advancing the militarisation and marketisation of nature.”

 

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales who was forced to resign during a horrific coup d’état that took place on November 10, 2019. With an estimated 9,000,000 tons, Bolivia holds about 43% of the world’s known lithium reserves. Lithium is the backbone of a “Global Green New Deal – the popular term for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (as sought by World Economic Forum, now partnered w/ the UN) The Lithium ABC countries are — A-rgentina B-olivia & C-hile. Photographer: STR/AFP via Getty Images

INTRODUCTION

There is more to ‘climate and security’ than worrying whether people fight more in increasingly bad weather. Policies addressing climate change are driving major transformations in access to global land, forests and water as they create new commodities and markets for carbon, biofuels, biodiversity and climate-secure food. The emergence of these new ‘climate change commodities’ reinforces, and also attracts the financial grid and its speculators. What interests us in this paper is how the advent and expansion of these new commodities and their markets generate or prolong conflicts. ‘Climate conflicts’ become manifest in these new economic and political orders that, we argue, arise around these markets, driving ‘land grabs’, ‘water grabs’ and ‘green grabs’, and which are further animated by food and energy securitisation in the face of new climatic threats.

It is our contention, then, that pressing links between climate change and security are to be perceived through these mitigation markets and the resource capture and militarisation associated with them. It is our worry that
current discourses that ‘securitise’ climate change are actually part and parcel of these markets, and thus play a part in bringing about the very insecurities that they might purport to address. Moreover, these discourses nourish these new global ‘green’ markets that remain dependent on resource intensive structures and a military-industrial complex to police them. Climate Security, in the tradition of mainstream development, assumes the continuation of the industrial and financial economy as the implicit reason for mitigation and adaptation, and fails to address, or even acknowledge at times, the inherent environmental insecurity and widespread degradation built into this industrial economy. The popular and widespread belief that environmental  degradation and climate change directly induces and intensifies conflict, thus risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in a second way by extending and intensifying the existing political and industrial economic relationships dependent on growth imperatives and the subsequent consumption and usurpation of the natural environment.

To proceed, we review literatures on climate-conflict/security to render visible the violence in land frontiers. We then examine the rise of state violence and subsequent environmental policies in forests and protected areas,
and how these relationships transfer into both the ‘fortress’ and ‘participatory’ conservation, that are now enhanced by ‘green’ or environmental commodity markets. We go on to document how the new and  intensifying commodification of the environment associated with climate change is manifest in land conflicts linked to the UN-REDD+ programme, industrial tree plantations (ITPs), and land-use practices associated with conservation and ‘offsetting’.

We trace conflicts to business practices associated with land acquisitions and mining practices which claim to address climate change and mitigate ecological crises – expanding our analysis to embrace such Orwellian concepts as ‘sustainable mining’ and ‘green uranium’. This paper thus grapples with systemic issues of the modern industrial economy and the mechanisms legitimising and advancing the militarisation and marketisation of nature.

These concerns are generally pushed to the margins, if not neglected in their entirety by the climate conflict debate, requiring immediate reflection and thoughtful action.

  • Climate Conflict and the Problem of Political Economy
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  • COUNTERINSURGENCY AT THE CONJUNCTURE OF STATE AND NATURE: POLITICAL FORESTS
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  • With Devastation Comes (Market) Opportunity: ‘Green’ Markets and Land Control
  •  

  • Self-Fulfilling Climate-Conflict?
  •  

    Download the paper: The_Militarisation_and_Marketisation_of

     

    Climate and War: Bill McKibben’s Deadly Miscalculation

    Climate and War: Bill McKibben’s Deadly Miscalculation

    November 6, 2019

    By Luke Orsborne

     

     

    Source: British Psychological Society

    In late June 2019, author and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben produced an article for the New York Review of Books whose headline echoed a growing awareness of the significant role of US militarism in our current ecological crisis. The hook, unfortunately, appeared to be little more than a ruse to entice those who harbor legitimate concerns about the military’s role in the climate crisis in order to then minimize those concerns. What followed was a presentation of selective information, including a superficial critique of US military energy efficiency, that in the end only obfuscates the true cost and context of US militarism as it applies to the health of people and the planet. The result was that rather than highlighting the need for deep structural change which involves putting an end to aggressive US foreign policy, McKibben came across as a cautious cheerleader for the continued centrality of US militarism in global affairs as we enter into an increasingly chaotic, climate destabilized world. This dangerous stance only bolsters the propaganda of so-called “humanitarian interventionism” and a world order built upon violent, neoliberal imperialism.

    June 12, 2019: “Since the beginning of the post-9/11 wars, the U.S. military has emitted 1.2 BILLION metric tons of greenhouse gases. The Pentagon is the world’s single largest consumer of oil and a top contributor to climate change.” [Source]

    McKibben begins his article by admitting that the US Department of Defense is a major consumer of fossil fuels, but then makes the deceptive claim that the “enormous military machine produces about 59 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.” Using selective information from a paper entitled Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War by Professor Neta Crawford of Boston University, a paper which he references heavily for his piece, McKibben goes on to dishonestly downplay the role of the US military in the climate crisis. According to McKibben, this average of 59 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions (which according to Crawford’s paper, the figure between 2001-2017 is actually closer to 70 million) “is not a particularly large share of the world’s, or even our nation’s, energy consumption.” McKibben adds, “Crawford’s careful analysis shows that the Department of Defense consumes roughly a hundred million barrels of oil a year. The world runs through about a hundred million barrels of oil a day. Even though it’s the world’s largest institutional user of energy, the US military accounts, by Crawford’s figures, for barely 1 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

    In fact, this was not at all the conclusion that Crawford drew from her research. While McKibben mischaracterizes Crawford’s paper as “comprehensive,” Crawford is, by contrast, careful to note that there are in fact several unknowns and unexplored areas when it comes to calculating the fuel use of the military, all of which suggest that the total usage is likely significantly higher than McKibben concludes. She spells out the various sources of military emissions clearly, both those considered and those left unknown, in list form toward the beginning of her paper:

    “1. Overall military emissions for installations and non-war operations.

    2. War-related emissions by the US military in overseas contingency operations.

    3. Emissions caused by US military industry—for instance, for production of weapons and ammunition.

    4. Emissions caused by the direct targeting of petroleum, namely the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties.

    5. Sources of emissions by other belligerents.

    6. Energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.

    7. Emissions from other sources, such as fire suppression and extinguishing chemicals, including Halon, a greenhouse gas, and from explosions and fires due to the destruction of non-petroleum targets in warzones.”

    Crawford then clarifies by stating that her focus is “on the first two sources of military GHG emissions—overall military and war-related emissions” and that she will “briefly discuss military industrial emissions.” According to Department of Energy data used in Crawford’s analysis, the total greenhouse gas emissions from the DOD between 2001-2017 was approximately 1.212 billion metric tons. But in the very next section, which McKibben fails to mention, Crawford estimates what the emissions burden of the industrial production of military hardware and munitions might entail. Her calculations are perhaps somewhat rudimentary, but they nonetheless suggest a much greater potential for military produced GHGs than McKibben is willing to admit. If Crawford’s estimates are correct, the combined total of industrial production related emissions and commonly measured military operating emissions would triple the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted in sustaining our current military infrastructure. Crawford states:

    “The estimate above focuses on DOD emissions. Yet, a complete accounting of the total emissions related to war and preparation for it, would include the GHG emissions of the military industry. The military industry directly employs about 14.7 percent of all people in the US manufacturing sector.  Assuming that the relative size of direct employment in the domestic US military industry is an indicator for the portion of the military industry in the US industrial economy, the share of US greenhouse gas emissions from the US based military industry is estimated to be about 15 percent of total US industrial greenhouse gas emissions. If half of those military related emissions are attributable to the post-9/11 wars, then US war manufacturing has emitted about 2,600 million megatons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas from 2001 to 2017, averaging 153 million metric tons of CO2e each year.”

    Furthermore, Crawford goes into more detail in the Appendix as to why the estimates of CO2e impacts are likely understated. Firstly, she notes that the military documents the impact of methane released from fuel consumption as 25 times as potent in its warming potential as compared to CO2, but the IPCC puts this number at 35. In fact, on shorter time scales, scientists have shown that methane is 85 times or more as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2.

    Secondly, she draws attention to the fact that the additives in jet fuel are not accounted for when tabulating the effects of GHG emissions, suggesting significant unknowns. She states that “While the Department of Energy figures and the calculations here include nitrous oxide and methane, it is possible that the additional effects of high altitude water vapor and additives for jet fuel combustion, which are not included in these calculations, may be significant.”

    The third point she brings to bear is the lack of inclusion of all the sources of fuel used by the military in their bookkeeping. One of these sources is known as bunker fuel which, as Crawford writes, is excluded from emission accounts as part of the Kyoto Protocol.

    Barry Sanders, author of The Green Zone, The Environmental Costs of Militarism, has also written about bunker fuel. Along with this “off the record, ghost stuff,” as he refers to it, Sanders has enumerated various other ways in which the military has been able to underplay its fossil fuel usage. Among these are the unaccounted for fuel used by interdependent contractors in increasingly privatized warzones, and the no cost fuel provided at times by partner nations like Kuwait.

    According to the high end of Sanders’ estimates, which do not include the emissions incurred from weapons manufacture, the total percentage of military emissions from the direct burning of fossil fuels may be more like 5 percent of total US emissions. This figure also does not take into consideration other factors touched upon by Crawford, mentioned above, like emissions from ongoing oil fires, which lasted in some cases for months, and the effect of cement production and equipment operation during post war reconstruction, a significant contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases. Crawford also recognizes that the militaries of all parties drawn into US-led wars have an unaccounted for carbon footprint when honestly examining the total emissions costs of the American war machine.

    These additional factors make calculating the true cost of war next to impossible but, in pure greenhouse gas emissions terms, the numbers are clearly significantly higher than what McKibben has suggested. The counter to this conclusion is that even if the military GHG emissions were in the neighborhood of 5 percent of total US emissions (and it’s possibly higher than this), this is still a much smaller number than the rest of the US economy, which is essentially the argument that McKibben has already made. While 5 percent is not an insignificant figure, this line of argument fails to understand the systemic nature of our problem by making the common mistake of focusing narrowly on GHG emissions. It is an entirely reductive and simplistic lens that dangerously distorts, rather than clarifies humanity’s global, interconnected crisis.

    Mosaic Solar. Further reading: From Stable to Star – The Making of North American “Climate Heroes”

    After completely misrepresenting the calculations found in Crawford’s paper and restricting debate to the evaluation of deflated GHG emissions figures, McKibben takes a further misstep by having us believe that rather than being a hindrance to resolving the climate crisis, the military can actually be a vital asset. While admitting that the military absorbs a massive amount of money each year from American taxpayers, even going so far as to repeat the widely circulated statistic that the US spends as much as the next seven countries combined on its massive defense budget, McKibben seems to believe in some ways this could in fact be a good thing. He suggests that the technologies developed by the military’s R&D could be utilized in the civilian sector, saying that “The military-industrial complex may not be the single best place to conduct R&D, but given current political realities, it is likely to be one of the few places where it’s actually possible.”

    In fact, any genuine grassroots movement that is interested in tackling issues as large as the collapse of human civilization and the destruction of global biotic communities would be less interested in acquiescing to “current political realities” which include a $1.25 trillion war budget, and more interested in engendering the kind of struggle needed to define those realities along the lines of an actually livable, equitable future.

    The text reads “The Navajo Nation encompasses more than 27,000 square miles across three states – New Mexico, Utah + Arizona – and is the largest home for indigenous people in the U.S.. From 1944 to 1986, hundreds of uranium and milling operations extracted an estimated 400 million tons of uranium ore from Diné (Navajo) lands.  [1][Source: jetsonorama: stories from ground zero, August 31, 2019]

    Military R&D is not geared toward saving the planet from human destruction. Any overlaps with so-called green technological development is secondary to its primary, narrow framework of creating efficient systems of killing to protect a national agenda set by the interests of the wealthy elite. This framework, more often than not, runs contrary to environmental protection. From the radioactive contamination of people and land caused by the use of depleted uranium, to the pollution of drinking water, to the creation of hundreds of superfund sites across the US, America’s military is well understood to be not just a massive source of greenhouse gases, but one of the largest polluters on the planet.

    Furthermore, military R&D is often more about lining the pockets of weapons manufacturers than simply developing an effective end product. Waste and cost overruns are a regular feature in the development of military hardware. The F-35 fighter jet, for example, is expected to cost over a trillion dollars over the course of its sixty year lifespan. In a movement that is looking to maximize efficiency of resource usage, it would clearly make more sense to directly fund efforts to that end, rather than relying on the tangential work of an institution engaging in the most unsustainable activities ever conceived: spending trillions of dollars directly destroying land and infrastructure which is then rebuilt.

    What McKibben further fails to acknowledge in his article is that the US military has fostered an atmosphere for intensified global destabilization, international distrust, and environmental degradation at a time when the need for global cooperation and environmental stewardship has never been more clear. Accepting the prioritization of US military spending over the dedication of national resources toward environmental research, habitat restoration, and climate mitigation, as McKibben does, is worse than defeatism. It is ultimately a collusion with the most murderous institution in living memory at the expense of genuine social progress or even human survival. While mainstream environmental groups often shun or disavow direct action that involves property destruction or widespread social disruption used as a tactic to secure the survival of the species, a tactic which is increasingly viewed through the lens of a militarized state as a form of terrorism, these nonprofits often have no qualms about tacitly, or even explicitly, supporting an institution that uses organized mass violence in order to further the very political ends which have brought humanity to the brink of extinction.

    November, 2016, Standing Rock: The U.S. Army attempts to evict Oceti Sakowin encampments from treaty lands. Photo by Rob Wilson Photography [Source]

    What this translates to is perhaps the most critical point presented in this article, which is that as corporate controlled governments and the officials within them are unable to come to meaningful agreements that could at least slow the process of ecological collapse, Bill McKibben is giving a pass to an institution whose job directly involves sowing violent discord around the world. Military adventurism is part and parcel to a world that is enmeshed in competition for resources, power, and strategic high ground rather than cooperation. To not point this out, and to instead highlight the supposedly positive role that the military will play, represents the betrayal of any vision of a decent future for life on earth under the cover of “current political realities”, which in fact is the reality of collective annihilation. The millions of victims of countless forms of Western imperial aggression stand as a testament to that fact, and the distortions and omissions of Bill McKibben cannot be tolerated by people who stand for justice and a livable future.

    And while McKibben praised the military for “doing a not-too-shabby job of driving down its emissions—they’ve dropped 50 percent or so since 1991,” he neglected to mention in his article that it was this hyper competitive culture of US militarism that helped turn up the pressure on negotiators for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol in order to exempt militaries around the world from greenhouse gas accounting. The author of the paper Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization, Tamara Lorincz, described the successful efforts of government officials, military brass, and oil industry insiders working together to keep military carbon pollution off the ledgers. She quotes lead Kyoto negotiator Stuart Eizenstat, then Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing:

    “We took special pains, working with the Defense Department and with our uniformed military, both before and in Kyoto, to fully protect the unique position of the United States as the world’s only super power with global military responsibilities. We achieved everything they outlined as necessary to protect military operations and our national security. At Kyoto, the parties, for example, took a decision to exempt key overseas military activities from any emissions targets, including exemptions for bunker fuels used in international aviation and maritime transport and from emissions resulting from multilateral operations.”

    Rather than standing up for environmental protection, the military, as one would expect, sought to preserve not simply US supremacy, but a global order in which militarism in general continues to play a central role in the affairs of humanity. Fewer regulations are better for weapons manufacturers around the globe, and the US is also the leading weapons exporter on the planet.

    In her paper, Lorincz goes on to quote President Clinton appointee, Secretary of Defense William Cohen who said, “We must not sacrifice our national security… to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”  In 2015, the non-binding Paris Climate Accords put an end to the accounting exemption set forth in Kyoto, but without an enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance, it did not explicitly mandate military reductions, leaving it up to individual nations to address those concerns as they saw fit. The priorities of the nation were further clarified when in 2019, in a paper about the grave danger posed by climate change, published by the US Army War College, the military’s role as protector of a pathological order again came on display. The paper stated, “The U.S. military must immediately begin expanding its capability to operate in the Arctic to defend economic interests and to partner with allies across the region…This rapid climate change will continue to result in increased shipping transiting the Arctic, population shifts to the region and increased competition to extract the vast hydrocarbon resources more readily available as the ice sheets contract. These changes will drive an expansion of security efforts from nations across the region as they vie to claim and protect the economic resources of the region.” There is no call in these words to change the kind of thinking that would have nations fighting over the last barrels of oil in a climate destabilized world. There is no reason to believe that a nation that learned nothing positive from the genocide it was founded upon will relinquish its death grip on power, even if it brings the entire planet into ecological chaos.

    One of the interesting developments under Trump, the belligerent corporatist who walked away from an ineffectual Paris Climate Accord on the heels of pipeline expansionist and drone warrior Barack Obama, is the fact the military’s attention to climate change is not confined to just one paper. Members of the military community have continued to point out the looming danger of climate change. Even into the strange days of Trump, climate has been an ongoing concern from more vocal members of the Pentagon, and has led to figures like Bill McKibben pointing to their role as advocates for addressing the climate. “…the Pentagon, when it speaks frankly,” McKibben opined, “has the potential to reach Americans who won’t listen to scientists.” Perhaps it is this understanding of the pro-military psyche of the highly propagandized American populace that led him several years earlier to pen an article for The New Republic entitled “A World at War” in which he proclaims “We’re under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII.”

    In his opening commentary, he attempts to capture our militarist imagination with images of a supposed war that greenhouse gases are waging against us and the planet as a whole. “Enemy forces have seized huge swaths of territory; with each passing week, another 22,000 square miles of Arctic ice disappears,” he tells us. Instead of listening to scientific and military experts, “we chose to strengthen the enemy with our endless combustion; a billion explosions of a billion pistons inside a billion cylinders have fueled a global threat as lethal as the mushroom-shaped nuclear explosions we long feared.” When McKibben assures us that this comparison is not some figure of speech, he reveals another facet of his dangerous thinking when it comes to climate change and war. “But this is no metaphor. By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal: Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory, sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments. (Over the past few years, record-setting droughts have helped undermine the brutal strongman of Syria and fuel the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.)”

    McKibben’s primary intent appears to be one of mobilizing the American people to rise to the challenge of facing climate change, as if we are preparing for World War II. But by framing greenhouse gases, or the combustion of fossil fuels, as a wartime enemy, he commits several grave mistakes. The primary mistake is the reality that wars are not waged by greenhouse gases or machines, but by the people who produce and control the profit and power driven systems that enable their proliferation. While McKibben perceives that the image of war is useful in that it provides an opportunity to appeal to America’s wartime nostalgia and perhaps mobilize those “Americans who won’t listen to scientists,” it falls short of the more accurate perspective that it is the belief in the actual economic system and technologically driven framework which organizes the institutions of power into a war on humanity and the planet.

    McKibben can’t bring himself to call capitalism, militarism, and technologically centred consumerism as enemies of the people to be resisted. To excuse him for his particular framing as a kind of practical rhetorical decision is to overlook the dangerous obfuscations that arise and tendencies which are amplified as a result of such a framework. While McKibben nurtures our dangerously sanitized vision of patriotic history, he simultaneously lets off the hook and further empowers some of the most significant perpetrators of the crisis by maintaining our faith in a mythic US military practicality. As previously mentioned, it is not simply the significant and under reported greenhouse gas emissions of the military that is the problem. It is also the diversion of needed resources to unsustainable war making. It is the creation of a global order based in mistrust and brutal competition that fuels consumerism. It is the dangerous empowerment of militarized and paramilitary security forces at a time when the world is becoming increasingly unstable.

    And when McKibben characterizes President Assad as the “brutal strongman of Syria”, rather than describing his more nuanced role as a popularly supported leader in the face of US, Israeli, and Gulf State directed aggression, he moves beyond the abstractions of WWII imagery and into direct support for American imperialist interests. His tacit support for the US war machine was further evidenced when he concluded that with the emergence of “green” tech, “The day will come when blocking the strait of Hormuz or blowing up a petrol station will be an empty threat – and that will be a good day indeed.” This of course is a shot at the enemy of American and Israeli elite, Iran. What such a remark avoids is any pretense of a future without US foreign meddling, whether that be in the form of toppling leaders like Iran’s former Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh at the behest of oil interests, or the US implementation of destabilizing sanctions in more recent years. While McKibben might lament the oil wars, his alignment with popularly held US prejudices is right out of the same neoconservative playbook which spawned George Bush’s axis of evil. In a world where the destabilizing climate will become one of many factors that both increase the likelihood of war and provide opportunities to devise profit-garnering narratives of so-called “humanitarian intervention,” McKibben is making it clear that his trust ultimately lies not with the people who suffer under the boot of military aggression and capitalist exploitation, but rather with a power structure that is quite literally killing us.

    Kids in Hanano, East Aleppo, 24 hours after liberation from Nusra Front-led occupation, by the SAA and allies. December 2016 [Photo: Vanessa Beeley, Source]

    Playing fast and loose again with the reality of the linkages between war, environmental exploitation, and climate change, McKibben declared in an opinion piece for The Guardian: “No one will ever fight a war over access to sunshine – what would a country do, set up enormous walls to shade everyone else’s panels? …A world that runs on sun and wind is a world that can relax.” Beyond the obvious fact that wars were fought long before oil became a hot commodity, perhaps the most glaring deception in McKibben’s arsenal is that war will be significantly reduced simply by the widespread adoption of “green” tech. But if you examine McKibben’s phrasing, he doesn’t say “no one will ever fight a war over access to  the components needed to manufacture green technology.” Rather, it is access to sun or wind, he says, that won’t spur bloodshed. This may be true, but he is implying for the casual reader that access to sun and wind is the same as access to raw materials and technological products that transform wind and sun into electricity. Nothing could be further from the truth, and his careful word choice is extremely deceptive. It is a bit like the kind of lie one might tell if one were operating from a war mentality, justifying the creation of false propaganda meant to rally people around a national cause that is sold as being for the greater good. “Wars can’t be fought over sunshine” makes for a clever, if duplicitous, slogan in a nation whose populace has grown less supportive of the oil wars they are funding with their tax dollars. But perhaps a bit of sleight of hand is good for the cause. The ends justify the means, as the saying goes. But do they really?

    Another saying is that truth is the first casualty of war. If you are waging a war against amorphous greenhouse gases rather than acknowledging the war that has been initiated against life by technology and profit centred networks of capitalists, security forces, and politicians of all stripes, then your distorted framework sets the tone for more distortions. But as Medea Benjamin points out in her critique of McKibben’s call for a kind of wartime climate mobilization, “Some of the worst state responses to climate disruption already look like war.” As a means to demonstrate the ugliness of actual wars rather than promulgating simplistic, mythologized narratives, she refers to the Congolese forced labor which was used during WWII to extract uranium that went into the atomic bombs that would needlessly kill over one hundred thousand Japanese civilians.

    McKibben assures us “…it’s important to remember that a truly global mobilization to defeat climate change wouldn’t wreck our economy or throw coal miners out of work. Quite the contrary: Gearing up to stop global warming would provide a host of social and economic benefits, just as World War II did.” As a reactive, crisis induced scramble for solutions from the same mindset that produced our problems, this kind of blind triumphalism has no time to soberly internalize both the hard limits of a growth-based economic system on a finite planet, and the deep tragedy of a world which had plunged itself into the bloodiest war in human history. Such triumphalism is ultimately incapable of seeing how the true lessons of war and the belief in a mythological progress continue to be ignored as we move into climate chaos.

    This belief in a technologically driven progress which can be found in McKibben’s writing, and which often centers the discussion on an unerring belief in green jobs and economic prosperity over the reality that continued economic growth disrupts global ecologies, mirrors the kind of post WWII optimism which accompanied the so-called Great Acceleration. The Great Acceleration refers to the rapid economic growth seen during the war and the years following, which had an enormous impact on the environment. Ecologist and cellular biologist Barry Commoner concluded that, “The chief reason for the environmental crisis that has engulfed the United States in recent years is the sweeping transformation of productive technology since World War II. … Productive technologies with intense impacts on the environment have displaced less destructive ones. The environmental crisis is the inevitable result of this counter-ecological pattern of growth.” If one considers the radical changes humans have made to the planet on a geological timescale, it is easy to recognize that rather than representing a fundamental break from an older mindset, the rapid push for so called renewables is simply the machine of planetary consumption shifting gears.

    In a critique of one aspect of this intensifying technological paradigm, Bill McKibben warns about the potential dangers of things like artificial intelligence in his book Falter, but when he calls the military industrial complex one of “the few places where it’s actually possible” to conduct research and development, his warnings ring hollow. In this world of great acceleration, cultures that value their modern consumerist lifestyle over unbroken forests, that don’t put up serious objections to continued growth and warfare, issue in the next wave of technological “innovation” which further speeds up the process of planetary destruction. If McKibben believes that the military will help develop the next generation battery technology to power electric cars, he should be aware those batteries emerge from a larger gestalt of full spectrum dominance, where better and faster applies first to maintaining a kind of material superiority that, if taken to the logical extension of automated warfare, threatens to launch our technosphere past the ability for humans to meaningfully react.  The crisis, then, when seen through the lens of technological innovation and war, only accelerates the destruction of life.

    It is in this reality, where violence and exploitation undergirds the accelerations of modern consumer society, and green tech in fact relies on raw materials lying in often contested ground, that the US Department of the Interior finalized a list of thirty five “critical minerals” in 2018. In the Summary for the final document, the department declared that “The United States is heavily reliant on imports of certain mineral commodities that are vital to the Nation’s security and economic prosperity. This dependency of the United States on foreign sources creates a strategic vulnerability for both its economy and military to adverse foreign government action, natural disaster, and other events that can disrupt supply of these key minerals.” Among the thirty five minerals considered to be part of this “strategic vulnerability” were indium, tellurium, lithium, cobalt, and the rare earth elements, all of which are important components of corporate manufactured “green” technology.

     

    What this translates to, of course, is that while wars won’t likely be fought over sunlight, the materials needed to produce “green” technology may indeed be the subject of significant future conflicts. This becomes increasingly clear when one looks more closely at the reality on the ground. For example, the very same nation which contained the highly concentrated uranium ore exploited for the atomic bomb, a nation with a legacy of Western colonial oppression and violent internal conflict, also produces over 60 percent of the world’s supply of cobalt, which is used in the cathode of lithium ion batteries. In 1961, shortly after gaining its independence from nearly 80 years of Belgian colonial rule, the newly elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, was assassinated with direct assistance from the United States. The result would be a decades-long rule by a US-friendly autocrat followed by his overthrow and subsequent mass violence that intersected with the Rwandan genocide in which millions of people were killed.

    Violence within the Congo has long relied on the control of mines for sources of income with which to pay fighters and buy weapons and supplies. One study showed the direct correlation between mineral prices, which went up with growing consumer demand, and the rise of violence. The understanding of this connection between mining operations and violent conflict led to the creation of Section 1502 of the 2010 Dodd Frank Act, which stipulated that companies refrain from purchasing minerals sourced from conflict areas. A Global Witness study, however, found that almost 80% of companies “failed to meet the minimum requirements of the U.S. conflict minerals law.”

    With the majority of large mines in the Congo currently owned by China, a nation whose supposed threat to the US was emblazoned in Obama’s strategic Asia Pivot, competition for these resources will likely only go up at a time when “green” tech is being demanded with the urgency of human survival. With an estimated 30 percent of global reserves, and 95 percent of current global production, China is also the global leader in the highly polluting regime of rare earth mineral extraction and processing. To think conflict will simply decrease at the same time there is an increased dependency on unevenly distributed “critical minerals” is beyond naive.  Growing competition between the US and China in exploiting Africa’s resources are an indication of one potential conflict that lies ahead. While China increases its investment on the continent, dozens of private military contractors from countries such as the US, the UK, France, Russia, and the Ukraine are operating in a variety of African nations, protecting mines, serving as bodyguards, as well as a multitude of other security related missions.

    Among those looking to capitalize on both security contracts and the increased interest in minerals is the founder of the infamous private mercenary group Blackwater, Erik Prince, who has reportedly expressed his desire to profit from cobalt mines in the Congo as well as rare earth minerals in Afghanistan.

    Erik Prince: founder and former CEO of the private mercenary company Blackwater, now known as Academi

    Erik Prince: founder and former CEO of the private mercenary company Blackwater, now known as Academi

     

    Prince has been embroiled in numerous controversies, and his involvement in the minerals trade is highly suggestive of the troubling world order McKibben is trying to gloss over. In 2007, Blackwater contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians during what has come to be known as the Nisour Square Massacre. Three contractors involved in the killing were sentenced to thirty years in prison, one of whom would go on to serve a life sentence for murder. In 2010, Blackwater would go on to pay a $42 million settlement to the State Department which, as reported in the New York Times, was in response to crimes that “included illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan, making unauthorized proposals to train troops in south Sudan and providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers…”.

    In 2014, Prince went on to oversee the illegal creation of retrofitted crop dusting planes that could be used as part of a private aerial attack force to be contracted in Africa. As part of a counterinsurgency effort in Sudan to protect oil fields, detailed in the Intercept, “Prince’s $300 million proposal to aid [Sudan President] Kiir’s forces explicitly called for ground and air assaults, initially to be conducted by a 341-person foreign combat unit. Prince’s forces would conduct “deliberate attacks, raids, [and] ambushes” against “rebel objectives,” to be followed by “continuous medium to high intensity rapid intervention”, which would include “search [and] destroy missions.” These proposed operations, which were never fully implemented, were done under the cover of various front companies and were hidden from other executives of Prince’s own company, Frontier Services Group (FSG), who believed the contract would merely entail surveillance services.

    More recently, Prince made a pitch to the Trump administration to send 5,000 contracted mercenaries to topple the government of Venezuela.

    It is against this backdrop that Erik Prince announced in 2019 the formation of an investment fund that will capitalize on the increased demand for electric car batteries. Looking to bring cobalt and other minerals to market, Prince told the Financial Times, “For all the talk of our virtual world, the innovation, you can’t build these vehicles without minerals that come from generally weird, hard-to-access places.” According to Reuters, by mid-2019, a subsidiary of Frontier Services Group, in which Erik Prince serves as executive director and deputy chairman, filed with the Congolese business registry for the purpose of “‘the exploration, exploitation and commercialisation of minerals’, forest logging, security, transport, construction and ‘all financial, investment and project financing operations, both public and private.'”

    In addition to looking to further exploit labor in the Congo, Prince has also reportedly been exploring the potential to profit from the spoils of a war-torn Afghanistan. Expressing a desire to privatize the war in Afghanistan, an effort which would be funded in part by increased mining operations, the details of his plan were further revealed in a BuzzFeed article, where Prince was quoted as advancing “a strategic mineral resource extraction funded effort that breaks the negative security economic cycle.”

    His interest rests on a backdrop in which Afghan president Asraf Ghani in 2017 gave the green light for US corporations to begin developing the country’s mineral supply, including rare earth elements, which are used in wind turbines and LED lights. In response to the president’s enthusiasm for incoming US investment, Donald Trump’s White House issued the following statement: “They agreed that such initiatives would help American companies develop materials critical to national security while growing Afghanistan’s economy and creating new jobs in both countries, therefore defraying some of the costs of United States assistance as Afghans become more self-reliant.” Trump was counting on America’s longest war to finally begin paying off, and Erik Prince, a significant financial contributor to the Trump campaign, whose sister Betsy Devos was subsequently appointed as Secretary of Education, may end up being one those beneficiaries.

    This is the reality of resource exploitation and war, where large corporations and privatized military forces work as adjuncts to the wars of nation states, reaping multi-million dollar contracts, profiting from natural resources whose sale does little to benefit the impoverished citizens of the nations they are stolen from. The economic disparity engendered by such free market predation can only lead to greater sources of conflict. And now we are being told by the IPCC that in order to have a chance at avoiding the 1.5°C aspirational target set in the Paris Climate Accord, we need to some how scale up  “green” technology in order to reduce global carbon emissions to the tune of 45% by 2030. Under such seemingly impossible circumstances, one can’t help but wonder how many of the jobs to be created by the Green New Deal’s push for mass renewable energy development will include private military contractors guarding mineral mines and supply chains in order to keep profitable the nearly unquestioned human and environmental exploitation which powers our unsustainable lifestyles.

    "The so-called ‘Greta Scenario’ describing net 0 carbon emissions by 2025... the demand outlook for copper is going to be significant. What’s more incontrovertible is security of supply... success in finding new sources of copper is declining. In fact, much of the known copper resources today represents 'the work of our grandfathers.'"

    “The so-called ‘Greta Scenario’ describing net 0 carbon emissions by 2025… the demand outlook for copper is going to be significant. What’s more incontrovertible is security of supply… success in finding new sources of copper is declining. In fact, much of the known copper resources today represents ‘the work of our grandfathers.'”

     

    While images of indigenous resistance to oil pipelines have captured the imagination of the environmental left, the reality is that land grabs in the name of “green” infrastructure is also a growing reality. The new rush to exploit the minerals of Africa is one such example. Another involves the Saami people, whose protest of a copper mine in Norway that would disrupt the land and traditional lifestyles of indigenous herders and fishers, was ignored. With the decision to permit the mine, Trade and Industry minister Røe Isaksen said, “Obviously, most of the copper we mine in the world today is used for transporting electricity. If you look at an electric car for example, it has three times the amount of copper compared to a regular car”.

    While demand for access to land rich with minerals will rise, most of the pathways mapped out by the IPCC for limiting global temperature to 1.5°C incorporate the unrealistic use of massive tracts of land for capturing carbon out of the atmosphere. This is the response to a projected timeline in which emissions are not adequately brought down, and the resulting carbon overshoot must be compensated for with so called negative emissions technologies. Such scenarios paint a picture in which areas twice the size of India must be cultivated for biomass. The question is, whose land will be used? Who will be forcibly removed? Taken together, this so-called fourth industrial revolution of “green” technology has all the hallmarks of a militarily-enforced manifest destiny, in which the technologically advanced, hyper consumptive way of life for wealthy nations is violently preserved at the expense of both the planet and lives of impoverished people around the globe. In reality, the likely failure of such hail mary carbon reduction schemes will affect everyone in a rising tide of scarcity and violence, as the global elites rely upon these same kinds of security and military institutions they’ve always turned toward in order to maintain hold on a crumbling order that they packaged as our salvation.

    A WKOG parody advertisement that is more and more difficult to detect in the year 2019. NGOs and “environmental leaders” are more and more, openly functioning as key instruments of US imperialism.

    In addition to the fact that contested land and minerals needed for a world powered by “green” tech could easily play a role in future conflicts, so long as militaries are economically supported and culturally celebrated, fossil fuels will remain a strategic commodity for armies around the world. As a dense, portable, and storable source of energy, fossil fuels will continue to be the central source of power for military vehicles. Imagine trying to run tanks, destroyers, and fighter jets on solar or wind charged batteries. While the notion of using biofuels in the military is increasingly gaining traction, most vehicles will not run on 100% biofuels, instead requiring a mixture with a standard petroleum derivative. For example, jet fuel made from biomass, known as bioject, can only be mixed at up to a 50% blend. Furthermore, the production of biofuels remains largely energy inefficient and land intensive. The mass adoption of biofuels would likely displace arable land at a time when global population is growing, droughts and extreme weather is increasing, and fantastical schemes to sequester carbon through the cultivation of massive carbon sinks will already be driving up food prices. Rising food prices, of course, is yet another potential source of conflict, so “greening” the military is no surefire method to reduce global tensions.

    And so long as militaries, whether American or otherwise, have a critical need for fossil fuels, petroleum will remain a strategic commodity. This means that even if the United States were able to somehow convert its military to be entirely fossil fuel free, if other nations remain reliant upon the use of fossil fuels even if only for their military, control of the world’s oil supply will remain a strategic objective. What all of this suggests is that far from being a preventative measure for military violence, a switch to “green” tech, will likely have little if any impact on war, and in some cases may in fact become a pretext for colonialist land grabs and armed conflict. Only a dedicated anti-war, anti-imperialist movement that intersects with environmental protection, that loudly condemns the crimes and excesses militarism and consumer culture, rather than seeing them as constructive platforms for our future on earth, can have any hope in bringing about peace, and a stable, livable world.

    In April 2016, The Climate Mobilization published the paper Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: A New Strategy for the Climate Movement. The paper weighs heavy with American exceptionalism. Notes of nationalism and cultural superiority waft throughout the document. [Source]

    Many Westerners have bought into the “war propaganda” of this global push for a “green” tech fueled, militarily enforced capitalism. As both the economic and environmental situations deteriorate, perhaps the push for widespread adoption will indeed reach the kind of fevered pitch Bill McKibben advocates. This could very well come at a time when the militaries which avoided substantive critique and were instead elevated as potential allies in the “climate fight” come on full display. In this future where comforting narratives like McKibben’s steer the populace away from the much darker truth, manufactured humanitarian disasters provide the palatable cover for the dirty work of securing access to raw materials needed for battery production and wind turbines by armies whose bases are hardened for sea level rise, yet whose tactical vehicles are still necessarily dependent upon dense fossil fuel power. At this time of great uncertainty, a genuine dissent which had languished under the spell of false promises of “green” technology and ignored the mass violence that underpins modern industrial society, emerges out of necessity from the growing direness of global crop failures and economic breakdown. This growing dissent, which threatens the illegitimate power held by the global elites, is met with heavy repression that draws upon decades of unimpeded surveillance tech implementation, the militarization of global police forces, and the use of private security. The participants in such a movement would have done well to have heeded the reality that the private contractor TigerSwan, which had operated inside of Afghanistan and Iraq in support of the US war efforts, had been mobilized against protesters during the militarized crackdown at Standing Rock under the watch of President Obama. Nations which had celebrated their institutions of violence while dismissing the real threats such a framework posed, would fall under the shadow of the very security forces they had funded to the detriment of systemically oriented solutions.

    This is the nightmare that any genuine climate movement would openly seek to avoid, but it is a nightmare that is well under way. Rather than obfuscating the multifaceted threat that a culture of tech driven consumerism and militarism plays in an increasingly resource scarce, climate destabilized world, such a movement would seek to highlight those connections between planetary exploitation, violence, and the climate crisis as a means to deescalate the potential for future global wars, all while acknowledging the reality that climate catastrophe is now an inevitability. It is increasingly clear that we will not stay below the 1.5°C aspirational target set forth in the toothless Paris Climate Accords, and the 2°C target will not likely be respected either.  Widespread disruption is now an inevitablility. Which begs the question, what sort of framework will humanity adopt in approaching this future? Will it be one of a triumphal war rhetoric, “practical” alliances with the military industrial complex, and the downplaying of the disastrous consequences of militarism?

    Clive L. Spash, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria, This Changes Nothing: The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality, Globalizations, 2016 Vol. 13, No. 6, 928–933

    Clive L. Spash, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria, This Changes Nothing: The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality, Globalizations, 2016 Vol. 13, No. 6, 928–933

     

    Climate change at its core is about conflict. It is a conflict between how humans live with each other and with the planet, and this conflict builds on centuries of violence and exploitation that are enmeshed, often unseen by the privileged, within the economic, social, and political systems to this day. We can either face our own discomfort and confront the structures of violence that have brought us to this turning point in human history, or we can soothe ourselves with comfortable narratives and allow the internal conflicts inherent in the system to catapult us far beyond the breaking point. With the primary focus currently being on narrow and insufficient technological approaches to a holistic problem of violence and exploitation, a broad and genuine environmental and social justice movement has yet to materialize. While climate catastrophe is now inevitable, its scale has yet to be determined. The underlying social conflicts we refuse to engage with today become the amplified armed conflicts of tomorrow. Only when people join together, rejecting mass consumer culture embodied in capitalism and enforced through militarism, to instead create leverage through sustained civil disobedience and the creation of ecologically minded communities that view life as sacred, can the kind of radical demands needed for the potential of a livable future be realized.

    In all likelihood, such resistance will be met with the kind of structural State (and non State) violence that Bill McKibben ignores, but to refrain from the kind of resistance that opens the door to structural change, and to ignore the reality of deep structural violence, only guarantees a violent collapse, as heavily armed and economically stratified societies run up against the hard limits of physics. Indeed, we are now faced with the potential that no matter how great our efforts, the everyday materialism and violence that makes our system function, and the steepness of the changes now required, may prove too daunting to adequately address. How people choose to deal with this reality is yet to be seen, but it is better to have such conversations now than in the midst of bloody social breakdown. Solace can be found in the solidarity of peers, among those who would both work for a better future or stand at your side when such a future is no longer possible. Rather than masking reality with feel good propaganda that profits the wealthy, it is our decision to move with a fierce and loving intent from within a darkness we are able to acknowledge, that gives us the capacity to be both carriers of genuine transformation in a troubled yet salvageable world, and steadfast companions in one that is doomed.

     

    [Luke Orsborne contributes time to the Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective. You can discuss this article and others at the Climate Change and War group on social media.]

     

    [1] Continued: These mining + processing operations have left a legacy of potential exposures to uranium waste from abandoned mines/mills, homes and other structures built with mining waste which impacts the drinking water, livestock + humans. As a heavy metal, uranium primarily damages the kidneys + urinary system. While there have been many studies of environmental + occupational exposure to uranium and associated renal effects in adults, there have been very few studies of other adverse health effects. In 2010 the University of New Mexico partnered with the Navajo Area Indian Health Service and Navajo Division of Health to evaluate the association between environmental contaminants + reproductive birth outcomes. This investigation is called the Navajo Birth Cohort Study and will follow children for 7 years from birth to early childhood. Chemical exposure, stress, sleep, diet + theireffects on the children’s physical, cognitive + emotional development will be studied. Billboard: JC with her younger sister, Gracie (who is a NBCS participant). #stopcanyonmine” [Source]

    Watch: Banking Nature

    Watch: Banking Nature

    October 30, 2019

     

    In “Banking Nature”, directors Denis Delestra and Sandrine Feydel document the growing movement to monetize the natural world, and to turn endangered species and threatened areas into instruments of profit.

    2014. 90 minutes

    This film investigates the financialization of the natural world.

    PrintProtecting our planet has become big business with companies promoting new environmental markets. This involves species banking, where investors buy up vast swathes of land, full of endangered species, to enable them to sell “nature credits.” Companies whose actions destroy the environment are now obliged to buy these credits and new financial centres have sprung up, specializing in this trade. Many respected economists believe that the best way to protect nature is to put a price on it. But others fear that this market in nature could lead to companies having a financial interest in a species’ extinction. There are also concerns that—like the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008—the market in nature credits is bound to crash. And there are wider issues at stake. What guarantees do we have that our natural inheritance will be protected? And should our ecological heritage be for sale? [Source: Via Decouvertes Production]

    Grand Prize of the City of Innsbruck nature film festival. Jury statement:

    “Whoever thought that capitalizing natural resources could be a solution for our ecological crisis knows better now: thanks to the investigative approach of the directors. It is clear that the protection of endangered species should not be left to multinational companies and financial consultants. Although the topic is highly complex, the film remains exciting to the very end. The development to profit from nature as revealed by the film is frightening.”

    9 AWARDS & 24 sélect. internationales

    Voir la liste complète/To see the list

     

    A Letter From the Yankton Sioux Territory

    A Letter From the Yankton Sioux Territory

    A Native community suffers massive flooding, far from the eye of the media

     

    Sierra Club

    October 14, 2019

    By Jacqueline Keeler

     

     

    Photos by Jacqueline Keeler

     

    On Tuesday, October 8, members of the media were held in rapt attention as Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate change activist, visited the tribal lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, the Native American nation that three years ago spearheaded a historic campaign against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

    “The #FridaysForFuture movement stand [sic] in solidarity with your struggles and hardships,” the climate strike teenager announced in a tweet the day before, during a visit to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, “and the struggles of all Indigenous peoples in protecting their land, water, and traditions.”

    Thunberg’s expression of solidarity for the struggles of Indigenous peoples was no doubt heartfelt. Before visiting Pine Ridge and Standing Rock, Thunberg had rallied with youths in Iowa City, Iowa. On her way between Iowa and Pine Ridge, she drove right drove past the Yankton Sioux reservation, where the community of Lake Andes has been struggling to stay above water since a “bomb cyclone” hit the region in March. If Thunberg had wanted to see firsthand “the struggles of all Indigenous peoples,” she could have stopped at Lake Andes, where she could have born witness to the neglect still endured by so many Native American communities.

    I visited the Yankton Sioux reservation in early October, and even I—a Native person used to seeing how Indigenous communities are poorly treated—was shocked by what I saw there.

    Hundreds of Native children have spent the past six months living in homes flooded by water. The main road to town, Highway 18, just reopened in September. Then, just two weeks after the reopening, another epic storm brought 11 inches of rain in 24 hours. The new road washed out, and homes once again flooded. Residents now rely on a much longer and rutted dirt road to get to town and school. During heavy rains, runoff also makes that road impassable.

    “Our community is literally drowning,” the tribe declared in an August 12 statement released even before the latest spout of rains, “due to State negligence and indifference to the health and well-being of our people.” But state and federal officials have offered little to no help. There’s a National Guard unit based on the reservation, just 20 miles away in the town of Wagner, where the tribal offices are located. Tribal members say the Wagner National Guard unit has extensive bridge-building and water-treatment equipment to deal specifically with water disasters, and a trip from Wagner to Lake Andes usually takes just 15 minutes. But when the tribe asked Governor Kristi Noem to mobilize the guard, the South Dakota governor refused the tribe’s request.

    The Trump administration has also turned a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis on the Yankton Sioux reservation. After the most recent rains and flooding, the White House issued an emergency declaration for 25 counties in South Dakota, including the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The Yankton Sioux Tribe and the county that contains the reservation, Charles Mix County, were not included. Some Yankton tribal members speculate that the lack of action by both the state and federal governments may be due to their active support of Standing Rock Sioux during the Dakota Access Pipeline fight.

    “It’s like we live in a third-world country and we are forgotten,” Lauren Crowe, a Yankton Sioux resident of Lake Andes, told me. “No one cares.”

    If Thunberg had visited Lake Andes, she would have seen that the children living at the tribe’s White Swan housing have skin ailments like ringworm and impetigo. The standing water in and around their homes has tested positive for E. coli. Local residents told me that one child has been treated for E. coli and another, a four-year-old, contracted MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, at the hospital. Students from White Swan housing are being teased in school because, despite washing their clothes, other students can detect the smell of mold on them. In the past week, three families have made the difficult choice to abandon their homes because their children rely on nebulizers or have pneumonia and are having difficulty breathing.

    On the Yankton Sioux reservation, the flooding of a home’s basement can be a major catastrophe. Many of the small homes are occupied by two to three generations, and before the flood the basements were used not only for storage but also as living quarters. As water seeped through the walls of the basements, furniture and beds were destroyed— a total loss for families who cannot afford to replace them. Since many families stored clothing in their basements, some children are now going to school without winter coats and boots.

    As the black mold continues to grow in their homes, community volunteers suit up to clean the homes of elders or the disabled who cannot complete this task themselves. One resident returned home from the hospital after an organ transplant with his wife and seven kids to find black mold growing in the fridge.

    Some residents are hesitant to turn on their basement furnaces, fearful they will release toxic mold spores into their homes. Yet winter has already descended upon the Great Plains. A snowstorm blanketed the western part of South Dakota earlier this month, and nighttime temperatures are now below freezing.

    Since their homes smell of sewage, many Lake Andes residents prefer to eat meals together at the community center where neighbors volunteer to make meals three times a day. In the mornings, grandmothers gather early to drink their coffee together, unable to stand the smell of their homes.

    But the community center, which also contains the gym and tribal police station, is a precarious refuge: It has flooded four times since March. Across the road is a sewage-treatment station, which has also been underwater and is now sandbagged. Tribal authorities watch it carefully; if it fails, sewage will back up and the entire community of 65 houses will have to be evacuated.

    The ongoing flooding and displacement are, in a way, history repeating itself. The families that live in tribal housing at Lake Andes are mainly the descendants of the village of White Swan that once existed on the Missouri River. Like the town of Cannonball on the Standing Rock Reservation, it was flooded by the Army Corps of Engineers to build a hydroelectric dam in the 1950s. A series of dams were constructed under the Pick-Sloan Plan that selectively flooded and displaced Native American farmers and communities up and down the Missouri River. The Army Corps of Engineers later rebuilt Cannonball at Standing Rock. White Swan, however, was never rebuilt.

    The Corps of Engineers did relocate the 19th-century, white clapboard Episcopal church of St. Philip the Deacon and hundreds of graves. But not all of the bodies were moved. In 1999, when water was lowered behind the Fort Randall dam, caskets and funeral objects were revealed to still be in place.

    The water standing in the basements and pooling around the homes of Lake Andes likely also contains hazardous runoff from the intensive farming practices of the Native community’s white neighbors. The Yankton Sioux reservation is heavily “checkerboarded.” That is, after the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887, land was allotted per tribal member, and any land “leftover” was opened up to homesteading. (Famously, one of those homesteading families was that of novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose family resided on Dakota land). So in many places on the Great Plains, land ownership alternates from between tribal and nontribal.

    Driving across southeastern South Dakota from Iowa and Nebraska, a visitor sees neat and tidy farms stretching to the horizon—seemingly the realized vision of Thomas Jefferson’s dreamed-of agrarian republic. The price of this intensive farming of the formally wild prairie, however, is a poisoning of the lakes and groundwater with nitrates and phosphates from fertilizers and factory farms.

    Lake Andes, once a popular resort destination, now experiences fish die-offs from algae blooms. Two winters ago, the lack of oxygen in the lake due to algae blooms killed many fish, which were then locked in winter ice—a haunting image that briefly took the Internet by storm.

    Tribal members say they have been warned against allowing their dogs to swim in the lake water. Water from this same watershed is now filling people’s homes.

    It’s too bad tribal leaders in Standing Rock did not look south to their relatives downriver on the Missouri and bring Thunberg to witness the suffering of Dakota children living in inundated houses.

    During the epic battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the water protectors wore T-shirts and carried signs that said, “mni wiconi,” Lakota for “water is life.” While it’s true that water is life, it’s equally true that water can be death. America’s policies of displacement and “development” of our Dakota and Lakota homelands have turned water into a death sentence for our communities. As the Yankton Sioux tribal leaders put it, “we are literally drowning.”

     

     

    [Jacqueline Keeler is a Diné/Ihanktonwan Dakota writer and contributor to The Nation, Yes! Magazine, Truthout, The New York Times, High Country News, and many other publications. She is the editor of Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears and author of forthcoming Standing Rock to the Bundy Standoff: Occupation, Native Sovereignty, and the Fight for Sacred Landscapes.]

    Global Netwar 2019

    Global Netwar 2019

    mill u

    October 24, 2019

    By Jay Taber

     

     

    INTRODUCTION

    In 1994, an indigenous movement emerged that would forever change the face and the language of resistance. The Zapatista were arguably the first grassroots movement to utilize the full potential of a decentralized communications structure known as “netwar”, which is shorthand for networked psychological warfare.

    Effective netwar as demonstrated by the Zapatista relies on the strategic use of all available forms of communication–including street art, public gestures, signage, text and audio/visual expressions, all of which relate to an overall theme that is apparent and memorable. Such communications must also stand in sharp contrast to those of the opposition, in order to clearly distinguish your values from theirs.

    Mobilization of netwar is more complex. It relies on time and place, the kinds of resources you have, and the challenges in front of you. Through their own mobilization, the Zapatista were able to maintain a discourse that would not be replaced by the opposition.

    The most profound outcome of the 1999 WTO protests is the appearance of the netwar construct in American politics. The “Battle in Seattle” was fought not only in the streets, but also in the infosphere. The WTO protests were the first to take full advantage of the extremely dense and wide-reaching alternative media network which uses the internet. The use of “media special forces” is one of the hallmarks of netwar and informational conflicts.

    The WTO protests were the Chiapas insurrection come to America. Like the Zapatista netwar, the conflict was one of networks versus markets. 

    On January 1st, 1994, to coincide with implemetation of the NAFTA free trade agreement, the then unknown Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) launched an armed insurrection in Chiapas state against the Mexican government.

    The flexible and improvised communications infrastructure used by the Direct Action Network was a significant feature in the protests. One of the dictums of netwar is that netwar actors have a much greater interest in keeping communications working, rather than shutting them down. The dense and diversified communications used by the Direct Action Network could not have been significantly harmed by any action less than a total media and communications blackout in Seattle. Not only is such an action impossible for the economic and social costs which would result, but a blackout of the required magnitude would be the informational equivalent of unconditional surrender by the establishment. Future protests will be even more information intensive. Both protesters and their opponents will have to come to terms with the implications of netwar and the struggle for information, understanding and “topsight.” Because the ultimate prize in a netwar conflict is understanding, not opinion, it is the quality of information, not the quantity, which determines the final outcome.

    The essential conditions for victory in a netwar conflict are also the conditions which make waging netwar possible: the shared understanding of a situation which demands direct action. In many ways, the victory of the Direct Action Network was implicit in the fact that so many people understood the conflict and were willing to act on that understanding.

    The streets of Seattle showed what democracy looks like.

    NETWORKS

    In 2001, RAND analysts David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla wrote in their seminal paper Networks and Netwars and the Fight for the Future, that the deep dynamic guiding their analysis is that the information revolution favors the rise of network forms of organization–the next major form of organization to come into its own to redefine societies–and in so doing, the nature of conflict and cooperation. The rise of networks, they argued, means that power is migrating to nonstate actors, and that whoever masters the network form stands to gain the advantage.

    In 2003, their colleague Paul de Armond, research director for the Public Good network, observed,

    “We are on the cusp of the biggest movement of social transformation that has hit this country in a generation. Among other things, that means the number of potential recruits is more than we’ve seen since the 1960s.”

    Building on the work of Ronfeldt, de Armond, and Arquilla, I remarked in my 2005 book War of Ideas, “The challenge for those devoted to training and nurturing agents for social change is in providing programs that focus on the specific tools these agents will need–to develop research and analysis capacity in a manner similar to intelligence and security capabilities conducted during military warfare.”

    With the hostile takeover of all mainstream media by private equity investors early in the 21st Century, investigative journalism died in mainstream newsrooms. This void in mass communication has since been supplanted with propaganda created by public relations (PR) firms hired by transnational corporations.

    To counter this demise of reporting on vital issues, volunteer citizen journalists and a handful of independent reporters have taken up this essential task. Simultaneously, activist scholars turned to blogging about social conflict online. The challenge for these volunteers and independents is learning the principles of communications in conflict, which is not taught in journalism school, nor commonly understood.

    As an example, citizen journalists, reporters and bloggers routinely violate the core principle of social conflict, which is to never repeat the talking points of your opposition. For some reason, they almost always begin their articles by stating their opposition’s talking points, and then refute them. Unfortunately, this means that everyone is discussing their opponents’ position—not theirs. Long story short, repetition sinks in.

    NETWAR

  • Storytelling is of special significance to network organizations because it is the means by which they encourage members to identify with and act on behalf of the network.
  •  

  • When network organizations compete in storytelling with other organizations, they engage in narrative netwar.
  •  

  • In traditional wars, if one disables the leadership or normal channels of communication, the war is won. In netwar, the network adjusts quickly, continuing on the offensive on some fronts, and establishing alternative channels of communication.
  •  

    The central feature of informational conflicts is the struggle for understanding and knowledge, as opposed to more traditional conflicts which focus on controlling territories or resources. Netwar conflicts are struggles for understanding and information. The more inaccurate the assessment of opposing forces, the greater the advantage to the side which possesses “top-view”—comprehensive and realistic understanding.

    Netwar refers to social conflict in which the protagonists use network forms of organization and related doctrines, strategies, and sometimes technologies. Netwar players are likely to consist of dispersed organizations, small groups, and individuals who communicate, coordinate, and conduct their campaigns in a consultative and collaborative manner without a central command.

    Netwar is inherently less violent than other forms of conflict, particularly when it involves non-governmental organizations dedicated to human rights and peace causes. One of the first full-blown manifestations of netwar was the Zapatista conflict in Chiapas. The networked intervention of international groups placed very real limits on the use of violence by the Mexican government in suppressing the insurrection.

    Research separates facts from misinformation by finding the evidence that enables judgment. Information is the facts that matter; knowledge is information in a framework. Research and analysis is using what you do know to find out what you don’t.

    The use of political diplomacy for purposes of constraining political violence is not only ineffective; it is inappropriate and signals those who use violence that their opponents lack the moral disposition to counter aggressiveness.

    Misguided or cowardly reformers who engage them thus, do so at grave risk to a community.

    PUBLIC HEALTH MODEL

    In the body politic, social pathogens of aggression that surface in the form of such things as racism, fascism, homophobia, and xenophobia can be viewed and approached in a manner similar to public health.

    Each of these ideological diseases have origins, histories, distinct characteristics, and can be studied, monitored, and analyzed asking the same basic questions used by the Centers for Disease Control and the Institutes for Public Health:

  • Where does it come from?
  • What conditions allow it to prosper?
  • How is it transmitted?
  • What is its life cycle?
  • What causes it to become dormant?
  • Can it be eradicated?
  •  

    To make room for democracy, it is first necessary to circumscribe political violence. The Public Health Model of community organizing defines political violence as the suppression of free and open inquiry. The remedy of rendering ineffective the agents who practice political violence requires both training and structured reflection.

    INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY & TACTICS

    Concerned citizens and good government groups are frequently blind-sided by an opposition playing by a different set of rules. Part of this is put down to the fact that the models they bring to these situations don’t work. Often, their response to a problem is in a complete vacuum of information. While it’s real easy to get a lot of people involved in a community response, it’ll usually be ineffective because they don’t know what they’re up against.

    Research provides the facts and builds a knowledge base. That knowledge is filtered through analysis to determine strategy. Operational research guides the tactics used to accomplish the strategy. In netwar, multiple groups adopt their understanding of the situation to develop the strategy and tactics most favorable to their situation.

    The creation of discursive monoculture—intended to dominate all discussion of vital issues—is the result of a strategy by the power elite to prevent counter-power narratives from entering mainstream consciousness. Through hostile takeovers of government, media, and the non-profit industrial complex, the financial sector in the last decade has accomplished what official censorship and political repression could not: the mobilization of progressives in support of neoliberal fascism.

    The financial sector capture of media, academia, and civil society indicates a future of diminishing consciousness—a future where fantasies about political power enable the murder of indigenous activists and unembedded journalists with impunity. In A World of Make Believe, I elaborated on the fact that privatized mass communication now dominates public opinion to such a degree that all public discussion of vital issues is choreographed by PR firms.

    In Controlling Consciousness, I observed that the donor elites that set the civil society agenda benefit from Wall Street’s vertical integration of controlling consciousness, allowing them to fabricate news, as well as to integrate advertising with government propaganda. In order to maintain credibility, the non-profit PR firms subservient to the power elite, i.e. Avaaz, need to first establish a noble reputation, often using the tried-and-true method of poverty pimping—an effective and largely undetected tool in the art of social engineering.

    As I remarked in R2P: The Theatre of Catastrophe, under the neoliberal model of global conquest, social media marketing agencies like Avaaz, Purpose, and Amnesty International function as stage managers for the power elite in choreographed productions where neoliberal heroism can be enacted. These constructed events–that urge neoliberal military interventions in countries like Mali and Burundi—then draw in civil society as participants of moral catastrophe, where they actually become complicit in crimes against humanity.

    The ulterior strategy of Avaaz as the ‘Great White Hope’ in other venues, subsequently allowed this social media marketing agency to easily herd so-called progressives to line up behind the neoliberal imperial campaigns in Libya and Syria–where Avaaz literally designed and managed the PR campaign for NATO and the US–in order to present the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra as the good guys in ‘white helmets’. Networked psychological warfare (Netwar) is not hard to grasp; it just isn’t discussed anywhere, making communication the invisible environment.

    CONCLUSION

    In 1991, Amnesty International eagerly acquiesced to the $11 million Wag the Dog public relations campaign–devised for the Pentagon by the Hill & Knowlton PR firm–to generate support for the US invasion of Iraq, and in 2012, AI was an enthusiastic cheerleader in support of the escalated bombing of Afghanistan by NATO.

    In 2015, Amnesty International–in one of the most egregious examples of the nihilism that now characterizes the human rights industry–endorsed the organized crime initiative to freely engage in human trafficking of women and children for sex slavery through the decriminalization of the prostitution industry–rather than choosing to support the Nordic model of decriminalizing the victims, but not the perpetrators.

    In 2015-2016 Amnesty International supported–and continues to support—US and NATO military aggression in countries like Libya and Syria, which is bolstered by the public relations campaigns of Avaaz and Purpose–Wall Street-funded marketing agencies with deep ties to the very heart of the military industrial complex. By unthinkingly supporting AI, these ‘peace and justice’ centers become complicit in these war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Many so-called ‘peace and justice’ centers in the United States are still oblivious to the ongoing betrayal of human rights by Amnesty International (AI), which—like Human Rights Watch– has become increasingly corrupt over the past two decades. This brief overview is intended to help dispel the mistaken notion that AI is sacrosanct, and to prompt the pious poseurs–that comprise the purity networks in the US–to begin basing their policies, programs and associations on facts, rather than on outdated fantasies about the Human Rights Industrial Complex.

    In order to transition from these preconceived fantasies to research-based reality regarding human rights, these ‘peace and justice’ centers will need to reorient themselves to doing research related to digital netwar, rather than reflexively responding to press releases by Amnesty International, or to the social media propaganda by AI public relations associates Avaaz and Purpose. Until these local nodes of ostensibly noble causes do research, they will remain a notably unconscious milieu—infantile consumers, rather than informed and engaged citizens.

     

    For further reading, see The Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico.

     

     

    [Jay Thomas Taber is a retired journalist whose investigations exposed institutional corruption, organized crime, and media complicity. In 2000, he was presented the Defender of Democracy award for his work that led to the convictions of Christian Patriot militia members in Seattle for making bombs to murder human rights activists.

    Jay received his MA in Humanities and Leadership at New College of California, where he designed the graduate program Activism and Social Change. He was a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal from 2005-2017, and communications director of the Public Good network (US and Canada) for 22 years.

    Jay is the author of Communications in Conflict–published by IC magazine in 2013–and Anti-Indian Movement on the Salish Sea, a six-part special report published by the Center for World Indigenous Studies in 2018. Shining a Light, an interview with Jay for SHIFT magazine (Australia), was published in 2015. He is the creator of INSiGHT.]

    I’ll Tell You Why The 99% Is Not In Revolt

    I’ll Tell You Why The 99% Is Not In Revolt

    Popular Resistance

    October 16, 2019

    By Cliff Willmeng

    “I’ll Tell You Why The 99% Is Not In Revolt”

     

    The Natural Capital Coalition, that seeks the assigning of monetary value to nature, global in scale, promotes the Green New Deal.

    The Natural Capital Coalition, that seeks the assigning of monetary value to nature, (the financialization of nature) global in scale, promotes the Green New Deal.

     

    A Response to Ralph Nader

    We do the work.

    Well-known political commentator and activist Ralph Nader was recently featured in a Truthdig article titled, “Why Aren’t the 99% Revolting?”. The points made in the article sharply illustrate the scale of growing crisis and conflict across the US and globally. It covered issues as wide-ranging as medical care, climate change, and the titanic disparity of global wealth distribution. It concluded with the following, hollow statement. “I could go on and on. Pick up the pace, readers. Senator Elizabeth Warren has correctly called for “big structural changes.”

    Of course, we are all asking ourselves the same thing. How bad does it have to get before widespread rebellion? How many unarmed people of color will be gunned down by police? How many civil rights are going to be stripped? How rich can the elites get off of our labor? How much pain do we all need to feel before we rise up? It’s a natural question to ask by anyone suffering the nature of US capitalism. Unfortunately, Nader’s article rings tone-deaf. Like so many liberal arguments, it places the burden of rebellion on working class people while ignoring the mechanisms that kill revolt wherever and whenever it threatens to spark into life.

    Although the elements that prevent substantial rebellion are many, they really boil down to just three. They are the not for profit industry, the leaders of what is currently mislabeled as, “The union movement”, and the Democratic Party. These three elements, all loyal to each other and working in unison, act as the front-line protective mechanism for US capitalism and the political class that serves it.

    Many of you will be tempted to flail at this stage of the discussion. Aren’t the Republicans so much worse? Why would anyone attack the forces that are on our side after all they have done, even if they have some traits we may disagree with? The answer is quite simple. These forces are not allied with the types of changes our world desperately needs. They are not there to build, nor even prepare the ground for those types of changes. They act, instead, as the professional brokers of negotiated surrender for communities, workforces, and the environment. They are not building movements; they are preventing them.

    What is a Movement?

    What is a movement anyway? We hear the term tossed about as often as references to Martin Luther King Jr in every venue from the election of politicians to online petitioning. Although movements have changed the course of US politics for centuries, the essential qualities of movements are nearly forgotten today. In the 50 years that have passed since the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, the definition of “movement” has become the possession of the same institutions that have been most consistent in keeping new movements from forming.

    Let’s look at some basic qualities of movements throughout history:

    1. Although movements may build their own leadership, they do not look for change to come from above. Instead, movements build politically independent power from below.
    1. Movements understand that injustice is not an accidental or coincidental outcome of the political system, but the system working according to design.
    1. All movements, recognizing the systemic nature of the problem, will organize ways to break the rules of that system, not simply appeal to it.
    1. Through building independent political power and organized mass disobedience, movements force the system to do things it was otherwise unwilling to do.

    All of these qualities, synonymous with victories and grassroots power historically, are omitted from the dominant and promoted activism of today. Let’s take a look at who is writing the current narrative.

    The Not For Profit Industrial Complex

    Alongside any injustice taking place nationally, a cottage industry of professional activists and organizations arises. This occurs as soon as any outrage, protest, or other grassroots formation builds to the point of exerting even a minor amount of uncontrolled political power. As soon as sufficient people and attention are involved, not for profit organizations will be dispatched to commandeer, tame, and control the process. The not for profits are funded by foundations, dark money donors, or otherwise politically connected individuals. It’s easy to see why communities or other efforts fall into their influence. They have staff, networks, and resources that we don’t normally possess at the grassroots level. But in the end, they will lead people into the predictable forms of activism that have been the hallmark of the last 50 years of retreat before Wall Street and Washington D.C. The not for profits help you feel better about negotiating the terms of your defeat. They will not lead an effort, however, that threatens the political and economic elites in any meaningful way.

    The Union Leadership

    The US working class has been on a downward spiral for generations. Once a power that shook the ground and terrified the rich, and sent their politicians scrambling for ways to save US capitalism, the unions have seen decades of defeated strikes and retreat. Today, despite historic popularity, unions continue to lose strikes and membership, all the while handing hundreds of millions of dollars of hard-earned dues money over to politicians. What happened to the thunderous power of the labor movement? Was this what rank and file workers wanted?

    After record-setting strikes in the 1930s and 1940s, US financial interests were able to gain dominant influence within union leadership. Throughout the 1950s revolutionaries were expelled from locals as the labor bureaucracy strengthened its ties and acceptance of the generalized dominance of the rich and powerful. The unions became a force that negotiated better conditions of exploitation and traded their power for a comfortable relationship with the bosses and political class. It became so dominant of a strategy that union officials coined the Orwellian term, the “Team Concept”, which promotes the idea that CEOs and workers can overcome their opposing interests and work together. It has meant ruin for the American working class and an unparalleled race to the bottom for workers globally.

    Today the strategies of major victory are all carefully avoided within the union hierarchy. Even when places like Puerto Rico show definitively the effectiveness of efforts like a general strike, any discussion around such an idea is opposed by union leaders in the US. Why? Because it would risk the relationship of the union leaders and the owners of industry and government.

    The result is that 13 million union members, who could collectively bring the functioning of the largest capitalist economy to a halt, have been reduced to scripted measures and political spectatorship.

    The Democratic Party

    All resources, assets, time, labor, money, ideas, organizing and initiative are offered to and consumed by this dominant organization of US business interests. The Democratic Party, we are informed, is the alpha and omega of our efforts to organize for justice. The power of the Democratic Party is so accepted that conventional activism has come to mean a simplified lobby effort aimed to influence their operations or talking points. No movement in history started out with the hope that electing the right politicians would save us. No movement ever exploded onto the world stage with the position that powerful interests were open to moral persuasion. But this is the promoted conclusion and focus leveraged upon all grassroots formulations.

    When we accept this conclusion, that we can’t build a movement independent of the Democratic or Republican parties, by what force do we expect that they will change? And, even more, if we accept that the Democratic Party is our only political path forward, what specifically are the costs of maintaining that relationship? Given the nature of the Democratic Party, its owners, its ability to co-opt and control entire populations, what is the opportunity cost to staying within its good graces? It can only be one thing: The disarming of our power and any real threat of revolt. That is the price to ride.

    The consequences of this are not academic nor intellectual. Simply look at the state of the environment, the conditions in any major city, the US prison population, the decline of the working class, the wars, systemic racism, poverty and deepening crisis everywhere and you will see the objective consequences of a people outsourcing our power to politicians.

    The potential for forceful and effective revolt will be defined by its relationship to these three political forces. The more ties that exist between threatened rebellion and these forces, the more predictable and inert that rebellion will become.

    Is There Any Other Way Forward?

    Yes. Organized revolt has built occupations, urban insurrections, general strikes, and formed politically-independent organizations throughout history. The labor movement, the abolitionists, and the civil rights struggles all created political power sufficient to throw the system onto its heels and compel deep changes to government and industry. The examples aren’t confined to history either. In places like Kentucky and Virginia, rank and file teachers defied all convention and organized statewide strikes resulting in historic wage increases. Within the last five years, rebellion against racism and police brutality erupted in cities after the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson. Standing Rock saw a historic assembly of First Nations to protect the water of the Missouri River from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Just this year a general strike in Puerto Rico removed Gov. Ricardo Rosselló from power. And let’s not forget that the work stoppage of rank and file airline attendants that defeated Trump’s attempt to keep the US government closed. It took all of 48 hours for that victory.

    In every moment throughout history, forces from below threaten to find expression. It means the system has had to develop elaborate mechanisms to keep these forces in check, predictable, and historically inert. The role of regular people then, the working class, has to be to recognize how we are being maneuvered and by whom, and to overcome those mechanisms so we can build something powerful, independent and existentially threatening to the old order. If we can achieve that, revolt is only a moment away. And when it happens, it will rise to the level of the crisis that compelled it.

    References:

    Ralph Nader: Why Isn’t the 99% Revolting?

    https://www.truthdig.com/articles/ralph-nader-why-isnt-the-99-percent-revolting/

     

     

    [Cliff Willmeng is a registered nurse, writer, and activist in grassroots labor and environmental struggles. Born in Chicago, Cliff co-founded the Chicago Direct Action Network after participating in the historic uprising against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, 1999. As a union carpenter in UBC Local 1, he was in the leading body of Carpenters For a Rank and File Union which organized successful fights for building trades members across Chicago. After moving to Colorado, Cliff was at the center of the fight against oil and gas drilling known as “fracking”, and helped to found Labor For Standing Rock in 1996. He ran for Boulder County Commissioner as an independent socialist and union official in 2018, receiving nearly 13,000 votes. Cliff lives with his wife and two children today in Minneapolis, Minnesota.]

     

    Greta Thunberg, Green Barbarism and #ClimateStrike

    By Azhar Moideen

    Greta Thunberg,
    Image Courtesy : Twitter/@GretaThunberg

     

    Every few years, in a crisis situation, a child captures the attention of the world and plays a huge role in convincing nay-sayers, silencing critics and seemingly ties the hands of the global ruling establishment into taking swift action. It happened in Afghanistan more than once, in Iraq and recently in Syria.

    Now it has happened all over the world thanks to the passionate and compelling Greta Thunberg. In a world devoid of real adult heroes, children become unlikely superheroes to look up to. In just about a year after Thunberg began striking school to protest, alone, outside the Swedish Parliament, she has appeared on the cover of Time, featured in a Vice documentary, addressed climate and political conferences including the World Economic Forum and the United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit, published a collection of her speeches (under the Penguin catalogue), won praise from world leaders, influenced the European Union’s budget and she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. All this, for spearheading a global climate strike, which included protests in India.

    ‘India’s Greta Thunberg’: Seven-year-old Licypriya Kangujam from Manipur

    In most respects, mobilising millions of people the world over, including trade union representatives, for what became the largest climate protest ever, is no mean feat. However, if the past be our guide, the working class should be cautious while extending support. Instead of being carried away by the number of people mobilised and the positive media coverage Thunberg got, the Third World needs to ask whether the movement has their best interest in mind. After all, even Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai was used by Western imperialist interests and discarded when she spoke against them.

    Alongside the meteoric rise of Thunberg, last year bears witness to dubious new environmental NGOs such as Extinction Rebellion and We Mean Business. Over the same period, ideas like the Green New Deal also captured new ground. Investigative reportage (such as by Cory Morningstar) exposes the non-profit-industrial complex that boosts and benefits from the popular surge of interest that ‘influencers’ gain.

    The coterie managing Thunberg’s media appearances include the world’s biggest philanthropic foundations, whose contributions to the climate debate have essentially weakened plans to mitigate the effects of climate change. Their interests controlled the negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement, which treats worst-case scenarios as an acceptable 50:50 chance. Dire warnings of negotiators from developing countries were conveniently forgotten.

    These handful of philanthrocapitalists, despite contributing 0.1% to climate finance, have significantly influenced the climate debate: developing and promoting voluntary, market-based and bottom-up approaches can only be deemed a failure. They have erased the radical nature of grassroots environmental movements and propped up capitalist-friendly solutions such as carbon-trading instead. They call for “net-zero” emissions by pushing technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage, which have delivered poor results so far and only offset fossil fuel emission—or burn even more fossil fuel through Enhanced Oil Recovery.

    If this is not enough, they now plan to implement “negative emissions” technologies such as the unproven BECCS, which, apart from uncertain benefits and large known nitrous oxide emissions, also requires vast tracts of land, fertilizer production and freshwater consumption. One scenario, for example, would require land three times the size of India. Such requirements have already led to large-scale land grab. Researchers are already talking of a new type of appropriation of nature called ‘green grabbing’. No wonder, the likes of Extinction Rebellion pit themselves against established climate activist groups.

    The Green New Deal is another new buzzword, advertised through glitzy ad campaigns and supermodels. It is well known that funding NGOs such as Extinction Rebellion helps corporates mobilise people into backing a consensus created by them. Political leaders such as Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States (US), whose plans amount to Climate Imperialism, will end up forcing debt onto poor countries to purchase US-manufactured climate tech.

    These “clean” technologies demand large amounts of minerals, which are currently being mined from Third World countries in unsafe environmentally-hazardous conditions. This is social engineering under the guise of action against climate change. And Greta Thunberg is their figurehead.

    Thunberg famously was invited to make a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos and what she said was replete with the talking points and keywords these organisations use. She later appeared on a video sponsored by the WEF, along with David Attenborough and Jane Goodall, who frequently espouse neo-Malthusian ideas such as blaming over-population for climate change—a debunked racist myth being revived in climate-mitigating talks. They also raise fears over migrants and climate refugees, which later popped up in banners during the Climate Strike. All this, when the average American’s annual carbon footprint is around 2,000 times that of a Chad resident, and the average Briton’s carbon dioxide footprint in a day matches that of a Kenyan in an year.

    The WEF, composed of big capitalist firms from all over the world, recently announced a Strategic Partnership Framework with the UN—a move roundly criticised for weakening of the role of nations in global decision-making. Apart from the Paris Agreement, they have dipped their toes into collaborations with Bill Gates’ Mission Innovation to develop instruments for public-private investment in clean energy.

    Their promotion of “nature-based” climate solutions got a big boost when Thunberg and George Monbiot ran a campaign endorsing it. The list of “allies” they mention include the main promoters of the UN’s REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme as a carbon-trading mechanism, including The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, and Nature4Climate.

    The businesses which are planning to use these solutions to drive indigenous communities from their sources of livelihood and mint a seven-fold return on an annual investment of US$320 billion include Unilever, whose CEO is on the record that such climate action is the only way to grow the economy. No wonder, Shell has announced $300 million for it while burning fossil fuels. And the UN quietly complies.

    Gone are the days when equity and common but differentiated responsibilities were integral to climate negotiations. Thunberg advocates that elected representatives “listen to the scientists”, but the background paper of the UN Climate Action Summit, United in Science, prepared by a “scientific advisory committee” abandoned any references to equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, thus placing the major burden of future mitigation on India and other developing countries.

    The Climate Strike that led up to the Summit backed the call to declare a Climate Emergency, a move that could pave the way for governments to dig into public money to support green big business under the pretence of taking urgent action. Urgency has replaced equity as a basic element of climate action, poorer nations be damned.

    It should not surprise that in all these plans, there is no talk about anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, the bedrock of the radical environmental movement. No understanding that the exploitation of labour and nature go hand in hand. No mention that the US military is the biggest institutional polluter, producing more greenhouse gas emissions than most countries on the planet. No denunciation of war, an inevitable corollary of Imperialism, as a significant cause of environmental damage. No account for the colonization of the atmospheric space that is needed for the use of fossil fuels for the development of the global South. No acknowledgement that the effects of climate change exacerbates already existing global inequality, and environmentalism itself delivers enhanced revenue streams for corporations under this system. No space for indigenous people who fought for the cause, nor people’s agreements on climate change (which they led) that recognised that what was needed was the end of capitalism.

    Capitalism is “in danger of falling apart” and the bourgeoisie are here to save it. This is environmental activism brought to you by the captains of the industry. The ‘NGO-ization of resistance’ ensures that there is a manufactured consent for the ruling class agenda – the ‘unlocking’ of public money to finance huge capital investments. Class consciousness has been erased and the oppressed are made to identify with the oppressor. It is no different in India.

    The people organising the protests claim most Indians lack awareness about the issue and that the only ones conscious are the middle and upper class elites. They hide the fact that the poor, organised by progressive and democratic mass movements, are fighting for some measures required for mitigation—provision of public transport, prioritising basic needs over luxuries, and radical redistribution of wealth. They forget that adivasis are at the forefront of the fight against capitalism and its destruction of the environment.

    Thunberg was one of the favourites to win the Nobel Peace Prize this year. It did not happen. But there will be more of her and #ClimateStrike in the near future. “We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change,” says she, but what we see is capitalist “solutions” that demand our acquiescence. The rhetoric of the Left, of women’s empowerment, poverty-reduction, fighting inequality, rights of the disabled, and so on will all be used.

    The  should not be distracted—it will not be long before imperialist attacks are sold under the name of the environment and, closer to home, authoritarianism is greenwashed. It is either Socialism or Climate Barbarism.

     

    [Azhar Moideen is doing his Masters in Humanities at IIT Madras.]

    To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough

    To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough

    Greanville Post

    October 16, 2019

    “To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough”

    By Rainer Shea

     

     

    As I’ve watched young people around the world take part in the climate actions of the last month, I’ve gotten the sense that I’m watching a spectacle which has been orchestrated to create the illusion that we’re still in an earlier, more stable time for the planet’s climate. Legitimate as the passion and commitment of this generation of teen climate activists is, their efforts are being packaged by the political and media establishment in a way that encourages denial about our true situation. These ruling institutions neither want us to recognize the real solutions to the crisis, nor do they want us to see the irrecoverable and massive damage that’s already been done to the climate. We’re told that if we restructure capitalism with the help of the “green” corporations and NGOs that are backing Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, a catastrophic outcome can be prevented. Supposedly radical politicians like Bernie Sanders promise that by making an appeal for corporations to partially reduce emissions within a capitalist framework, we can save the world. People want to believe the claims of these “green” capitalists because they want to believe that our living arrangements won’t fundamentally need to change in order for humanity to survive.

     

    Sustainable Brands website, August 30, 2019 [Source] [Extinction Rebellion website]

    These sources of false hope let Western capitalist society continue to ignore the primary role that imperialism and militarism have in the climate crisis, to view the capitalist governments as legitimate, and to not try to break away from the philosophy of capitalism and endless growth. The lifestyle tweaks that we’re told will save the planet—eating less meat, carpooling, flicking off the light when you leave the room—won’t be able to solve the problem even if society were to largely adopt them. The climate solutions that the capitalists present to us are designed to make us feel better while we keep letting the system move us closer to apocalypse.

    To survive, we must recognize two truths about this crisis: that it’s no longer possible to avert a substantial catastrophe, and that global capitalism must be toppled in order for the human race to have a future. Once we understand the former fact, it becomes easy to accept the latter.

    When you examine the state of the world, it’s not hard to see that something needs to drastically change. Extreme inequality amid neoliberal policies and rampant corporate power has made the Western countries in many ways part of the so-called Third World. As American power declines, the imperialist wars are continuing and tensions between the most powerful countries are escalating. Another global recession looms at the same time as a stable and comfortable life has become impossible even for most Americans to attain. Refugees are fleeing the worst dangers in their home countries, and are being met with inhumane treatment by the reactionary governments of the core imperialist nations. All of these capitalist crises are intertwined with the climate collapse that’s threatening the foundations of civilization.

    The goals of the Paris climate agreement, which require reducing emissions by around 45 percent before 2030 so as to avoid a 1.5 degree Celsius warming, most definitely aren’t going to be met. Global greenhouse gas emissions hit a record high in 2018, indicating that we’ll be at 1.5 by 2030. The climate feedback loop will quickly turn this into 2 degrees in the following years, which will turn into somewhere between 3 and 5 degrees by 2100. It’s estimated that with just 2 degrees of warming, sea level rise will engulf 280 million people, earthquakes will kill 17 million, and over 200 million will die from droughts and famine.

    Just ten years from now, this transition will be far enough along that the basic structures of capitalist society will no longer be stable. In June, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights issued a report which said that more than 120 million people could be forced into poverty by 2030 due to the destroyed property and resource scarcity that climate change-related disasters will cause. In response, more social services will be cut, society will become more militarized, and more immigrants will be deported, imprisoned, or left to die in disease-riddled concentration camps.

    Such cruelties against the victims of climate change are realistic, and are all already being carried out because in a world that’s falling to pieces, the feeling of desperation drives a survival instinct that makes people devalue the lives of their fellow human beings. Capitalism, with its fixation on competition, is a key driver behind this impulse to exclude and eliminate the immigrants who seek to share in the West’s relative stability. This is why Philip Alston, the author of the U.N.’s June report, said that barring radical systemic change, “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”

    As the warming continues, increasing food and water scarcity, flooding, deadly heat waves, epidemics, and inequality will set off wars and civil unrest. Where stable states still exist, the prevailing paradigm will range from heightened government vigilance to outright martial law. Otherwise, borders will become less clearly defined and the existing governments will lose their power, making for a global version of the Middle East in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Syria. The vacuum will be filled with militant groups. In the Arab world these new monopolies on violence have been ISIS and Al Qaeda, and in North America they could easily become white supremacist paramilitaries.

    None of this can be prevented by voting for Democrats, or changing one’s personal lifestyle, or participating in climate demonstrations that are sanctioned by the corporatocracy. The momentum of the climate’s destabilization is unstoppable, and the fascistic political forces that have emerged amid the crisis aren’t going away. However, my message with this essay isn’t to become apathetic in the face of what’s happening to us, but to embrace a worldview of realism that allows us to actually combat the problem.

    We in the Western world must take guidance from the colonized people who are struggling for their liberation from imperial control and the capitalist carbon economy. Our goal should be not to reform capitalism, but to overthrow the capitalist centers of government and replace them with ecosocialist power structures. This is what the Chavistas are trying to do in Venezuela, which is moving towards an ecosocialist revolution where the country weans itself off from dependence on oil markets. Bolivia, whose socialist president Evo Morales has given the environment legal protections that are equivalent to human rights, provides further inspiration for the new systems that we’re capable of building.


    The path to taking over the power of the state and seizing the means of production, as the socialists in these countries are trying to do, requires building mass movements that aren’t co-opted by the influence of the capitalist class. Our objectives need to be unambiguous: an end to capitalism and an end to all forms of imperialism, which entails decolonization.

    The people of Venezuela and Bolivia are lucky to have been able to use electoral means to install a government that attempts to pursue these goals. In the U.S., where electoral politics are rigged against third parties and a deadly police state has been created, freedom will only be gained by working to usurp the authority of the capitalist state. India’s Maoist gurriellas (or the Naxalites) are doing this by taking territory away from their region’s government, as are Mexico’s communist Zapatistas. These groups are building strongholds for the larger movements to take down capitalism, which gain greater potential for victory the more that capitalism’s crises escalate; capitalist regimes that are under threat of being overthrown can already be found in Haiti and Honduras, whose U.S.-backed governments may well soon be ousted through sustained proletarian rebellions.

    To replicate these liberation movements worldwide, we must stop denying the extremity of the crisis and fight capitalism with the knowledge that we’re fighting for our survival. To commit to their battle against India’s corporate-controlled government, the Naxalites have had to experience the desperation of living in a severely impoverished underclass that’s increasingly suffering from water shortages amid the climate crisis. We Westerners can’t be kept complacent by the fact that our conditions are marginally better than theirs.

    In the coming years, we’re not going to be living out a scenario where capitalism changes itself into something sustainable. We’re counting down to the collapse of civilization’s current configuration and, in my view, all that can save us now is the construction of a new ecosocialist civilization in its place.

     

    [Rainer Shea uses the written word to deconstruct establishment propaganda and to promote meaningful political action. His articles can also be found at Revolution Dispatch]