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How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

NPR

September 11, 2020

By Laura Sullivan

 

Landfill workers bury all plastic except soda bottles and milk jugs at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon. Laura Sullivan/NPR

Note: An audio version of this story aired on NPR’s Planet Money. Listen to the episode here.

Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups.

None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried.

“To me that felt like it was a betrayal of the public trust,” she said. “I had been lying to people … unwittingly.”

Rogue, like most recycling companies, had been sending plastic trash to China, but when China shut its doors two years ago, Leebrick scoured the U.S. for buyers. She could find only someone who wanted white milk jugs. She sends the soda bottles to the state.

But when Leebrick tried to tell people the truth about burying all the other plastic, she says people didn’t want to hear it.

“I remember the first meeting where I actually told a city council that it was costing more to recycle than it was to dispose of the same material as garbage,” she says, “and it was like heresy had been spoken in the room: You’re lying. This is gold. We take the time to clean it, take the labels off, separate it and put it here. It’s gold. This is valuable.”

But it’s not valuable, and it never has been. And what’s more, the makers of plastic — the nation’s largest oil and gas companies — have known this all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite.

This story is part of a joint investigation with the PBS series Frontline that includes the documentary Plastic Wars, which aired March 31 on PBS. Watch it online now.

NPR and PBS Frontline spent months digging into internal industry documents and interviewing top former officials. We found that the industry sold the public on an idea it knew wouldn’t work — that the majority of plastic could be, and would be, recycled — all while making billions of dollars selling the world new plastic.

The industry’s awareness that recycling wouldn’t keep plastic out of landfills and the environment dates to the program’s earliest days, we found. “There is serious doubt that [recycling plastic] can ever be made viable on an economic basis,” one industry insider wrote in a 1974 speech.

Yet the industry spent millions telling people to recycle, because, as one former top industry insider told NPR, selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn’t true.

“If the public thinks that recycling is working, then they are not going to be as concerned about the environment,” Larry Thomas, former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry, known today as the Plastics Industry Association and one of the industry’s most powerful trade groups in Washington, D.C., told NPR.

In response, industry representative Steve Russell, until recently the vice president of plastics for the trade group the American Chemistry Council, said the industry has never intentionally misled the public about recycling and is committed to ensuring all plastic is recycled.

“The proof is the dramatic amount of investment that is happening right now,” Russell said. “I do understand the skepticism, because it hasn’t happened in the past, but I think the pressure, the public commitments and, most important, the availability of technology is going to give us a different outcome.”

Here’s the basic problem: All used plastic can be turned into new things, but picking it up, sorting it out and melting it down is expensive. Plastic also degrades each time it is reused, meaning it can’t be reused more than once or twice.

On the other hand, new plastic is cheap. It’s made from oil and gas, and it’s almost always less expensive and of better quality to just start fresh.

All of these problems have existed for decades, no matter what new recycling technology or expensive machinery has been developed. In all that time, less than 10 percent of plastic has ever been recycled. But the public has known little about these difficulties.

It could be because that’s not what they were told.

Starting in the 1990s, the public saw an increasing number of commercials and messaging about recycling plastic.

“The bottle may look empty, yet it’s anything but trash,” says one ad from 1990 showing a plastic bottle bouncing out of a garbage truck. “It’s full of potential. … We’ve pioneered the country’s largest, most comprehensive plastic recycling program to help plastic fill valuable uses and roles.”

These commercials carried a distinct message: Plastic is special, and the consumer should recycle it.

Industry companies spent tens of millions of dollars on these ads and ran them for years, promoting the benefits of a product that, for the most part, was buried, was burned or, in some cases, wound up in the ocean.

Documents show industry officials knew this reality about recycling plastic as far back as the 1970s.

Many of the industry’s old documents are housed in libraries, such as the one on the grounds of the first DuPont family home in Delaware. Others are with universities, where former industry leaders sent their records.

At Syracuse University, there are boxes of files from a former industry consultant. And inside one of them is a report written in April 1973 by scientists tasked with forecasting possible issues for top industry executives.

Recycling plastic, it told the executives, was unlikely to happen on a broad scale.

“There is no recovery from obsolete products,” it says.

2020 forward: Facemasks, Personal Protective Equipment – a new genre of pollution and microplastics, global in scale

It says pointedly: Plastic degrades with each turnover.

“A degradation of resin properties and performance occurs during the initial fabrication, through aging, and in any reclamation process,” the report told executives.

Recycling plastic is “costly,” it says, and sorting it, the report concludes, is “infeasible.”

And there are more documents, echoing decades of this knowledge, including one analysis from a top official at the industry’s most powerful trade group. “The costs of separating plastics … are high,” he tells colleagues, before noting that the cost of using oil to make plastic is so low that recycling plastic waste “can’t yet be justified economically.”

Larry Thomas, the former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry, worked side by side with top oil and plastics executives.

He’s retired now, on the coast of Florida where he likes to bike, and feels conflicted about the time he worked with the plastics industry.

“I did what the industry wanted me to do, that’s for sure,” he says. “But my personal views didn’t always jibe with the views I had to take as part of my job.”

Thomas took over back in the late 1980s, and back then, plastic was in a crisis. There was too much plastic trash. The public was getting upset.

Garten Services, a recycling facility in Oregon, where paper and metals still have markets but most plastic is thrown away. All plastic must first go through a recycling facility like this one, but only a fraction of the plastic produced actually winds up getting recycled. Laura Sullivan/NPR

In one document from 1989, Thomas calls executives at Exxon, Chevron, Amoco, Dow, DuPont, Procter & Gamble and others to a private meeting at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington.

“The image of plastics is deteriorating at an alarming rate,” he wrote. “We are approaching a point of no return.”

He told the executives they needed to act.

The “viability of the industry and the profitability of your company” are at stake.

Thomas remembers now.

“The feeling was the plastics industry was under fire — we got to do what it takes to take the heat off, because we want to continue to make plastic products,” he says.

At this time, Thomas had a co-worker named Lew Freeman. He was a vice president of the lobbying group. He remembers many of the meetings like the one in Washington.

“The basic question on the table was, You guys as our trade association in the plastics industry aren’t doing enough — we need to do more,” Freeman says. “I remember this is one of those exchanges that sticks with me 35 years later or however long it’s been … and it was what we need to do is … advertise our way out of it. That was the idea thrown out.”

So began the plastics industry’s $50 million-a-year ad campaign promoting the benefits of plastic.

“Presenting the possibilities of plastic!” one iconic ad blared, showing kids in bike helmets and plastic bags floating in the air.

“This advertising was motivated first and foremost by legislation and other initiatives that were being introduced in state legislatures and sometimes in Congress,” Freeman says, “to ban or curb the use of plastics because of its performance in the waste stream.”

At the same time, the industry launched a number of feel-good projects, telling the public to recycle plastic. It funded sorting machines, recycling centers, nonprofits, even expensive benches outside grocery stores made out of plastic bags.

Few of these projects actually turned much plastic into new things.

NPR tracked down almost a dozen projects the industry publicized starting in 1989. All of them shuttered or failed by the mid-1990s. Mobil’s Massachusetts recycling facility lasted three years, for example. Amoco’s project to recycle plastic in New York schools lasted two. Dow and Huntsman’s highly publicized plan to recycle plastic in national parks made it to seven out of 419 parks before the companies cut funding.

None of them was able to get past the economics: Making new plastic out of oil is cheaper and easier than making it out of plastic trash.

Both Freeman and Thomas, the head of the lobbying group, say the executives all knew that.

“There was a lot of discussion about how difficult it was to recycle,” Thomas remembers. “They knew that the infrastructure wasn’t there to really have recycling amount to a whole lot.”

Even as the ads played and the projects got underway, Thomas and Freeman say industry officials wanted to get recycling plastic into people’s homes and outside on their curbs with blue bins.

Liesemer’s job was to at least try to make recycling work — because there was some hope, he said, however unlikely, that maybe if they could get recycling started, somehow the economics of it all would work itself out.

“I had no staff, but I had money,” Liesemer says. “Millions of dollars.”

Liesemer took those millions out to Minnesota and other places to start local plastic recycling programs.

But then he ran into the same problem all the industry documents found. Recycling plastic wasn’t making economic sense: There were too many different kinds of plastic, hundreds of them, and they can’t be melted down together. They have to be sorted out.

“Yes, it can be done,” Liesemer says, “but who’s going to pay for it? Because it goes into too many applications, it goes into too many structures that just would not be practical to recycle.”

Liesemer says he started as many programs as he could and hoped for the best.

“They were trying to keep their products on the shelves,” Liesemer says. “That’s what they were focused on. They weren’t thinking what lesson should we learn for the next 20 years. No. Solve today’s problem.”

And Thomas, who led the trade group, says all of these efforts started to have an effect: The message that plastic could be recycled was sinking in.

“I can only say that after a while, the atmosphere seemed to change,” he says. “I don’t know whether it was because people thought recycling had solved the problem or whether they were so in love with plastic products that they were willing to overlook the environmental concerns that were mounting up.”

But as the industry pushed those public strategies to get past the crisis, officials were also quietly launching a broader plan.

In the early 1990s, at a small recycling facility near San Diego, a man named Coy Smith was one of the first to see the industry’s new initiative.

Back then, Smith ran a recycling business. His customers were watching the ads and wanted to recycle plastic. So Smith allowed people to put two plastic items in their bins: soda bottles and milk jugs. He lost money on them, he says, but the aluminum, paper and steel from his regular business helped offset the costs.

But then, one day, almost overnight, his customers started putting all kinds of plastic in their bins.

“The symbols start showing up on the containers,” he explains.

Smith went out to the piles of plastic and started flipping over the containers. All of them were now stamped with the triangle of arrows — known as the international recycling symbol — with a number in the middle. He knew right away what was happening.

“All of a sudden, the consumer is looking at what’s on their soda bottle and they’re looking at what’s on their yogurt tub, and they say, ‘Oh well, they both have a symbol. Oh well, I guess they both go in,’ ” he says.

Unwanted used plastic sits outside Garten Services, a recycling facility in Oregon. Laura Sullivan/NPR

The bins were now full of trash he couldn’t sell. He called colleagues at recycling facilities all across the country. They reported having the same problem.

Industry documents from this time show that just a couple of years earlier, starting in 1989, oil and plastics executives began a quiet campaign to lobby almost 40 states to mandate that the symbol appear on all plastic — even if there was no way to economically recycle it. Some environmentalists also supported the symbol, thinking it would help separate plastic.

Smith said what it did was make all plastic look recyclable.

“The consumers were confused,” Smith says. “It totally undermined our credibility, undermined what we knew was the truth in our community, not the truth from a lobbying group out of D.C.”

But the lobbying group in D.C. knew the truth in Smith’s community too. A report given to top officials at the Society of the Plastics Industry in 1993 told them about the problems.

“The code is being misused,” it says bluntly. “Companies are using it as a ‘green’ marketing tool.”

The code is creating “unrealistic expectations” about how much plastic can actually be recycled, it told them.

Smith and his colleagues launched a national protest, started a working group and fought the industry for years to get the symbol removed or changed. They lost.

“We don’t have manpower to compete with this,” Smith says. “We just don’t. Even though we were all dedicated, it still was like, can we keep fighting a battle like this on and on and on from this massive industry that clearly has no end in sight of what they’re able to do and willing to do to keep their image the image they want.”

“It’s pure manipulation of the consumer,” he says.

In response, industry officials told NPR that the code was only ever meant to help recycling facilities sort plastic and was not intended to create any confusion.

Without question, plastic has been critical to the country’s success. It’s cheap and durable, and it’s a chemical marvel.

It’s also hugely profitable. The oil industry makes more than $400 billion a year making plastic, and as demand for oil for cars and trucks declines, the industry is telling shareholders that future profits will increasingly come from plastic.

And if there was a sign of this future, it’s a brand-new chemical plant that rises from the flat skyline outside Sweeny, Texas. It’s so new that it’s still shiny, and inside the facility, the concrete is free from stains.

Chevron Phillips Chemical’s new $6 billion plastic manufacturing plant rises from the skyline in Sweeny, Texas. Company officials say they see a bright future for their products as demand for plastic continues to rise. Laura Sullivan/NPR

This plant is Chevron Phillips Chemical’s $6 billion investment in new plastic.

“We see a very bright future for our products,” says Jim Becker, the vice president of sustainability for Chevron Phillips, inside a pristine new warehouse next to the plant.

“These are products the world needs and continues to need,” he says. “We’re very optimistic about future growth.”

With that growth, though, comes ever more plastic trash. But Becker says Chevron Phillips has a plan: It will recycle 100% of the plastic it makes by 2040.

Becker seems earnest. He tells a story about vacationing with his wife and being devastated by the plastic trash they saw. When asked how Chevron Phillips will recycle 100% of the plastic it makes, he doesn’t hesitate.

“Recycling has to get more efficient, more economic,” he says. “We’ve got to do a better job, collecting the waste, sorting it. That’s going to be a huge effort.”

Fix recycling is the industry’s message too, says Steve Russell, the industry’s recent spokesman.

“Fixing recycling is an imperative, and we’ve got to get it right,” he says. “I understand there is doubt and cynicism. That’s going to exist. But check back in. We’re there.”

Larry Thomas, Lew Freeman and Ron Liesemer, former industry executives, helped oil companies out of the first plastic crisis by getting people to believe something the industry knew then wasn’t true: That most plastic could be and would be recycled.

Russell says this time will be different.

“It didn’t get recycled because the system wasn’t up to par,” he says. “We hadn’t invested in the ability to sort it and there hadn’t been market signals that companies were willing to buy it, and both of those things exist today.”

But plastic today is harder to sort than ever: There are more kinds of plastic, it’s cheaper to make plastic out of oil than plastic trash and there is exponentially more of it than 30 years ago.

And during those 30 years, oil and plastic companies made billions of dollars in profit as the public consumed ever more quantities of plastic.

Russell doesn’t dispute that.

“And during that time, our members have invested in developing the technologies that have brought us where we are today,” he says. “We are going to be able to make all of our new plastic out of existing municipal solid waste in plastic.”

Recently, an industry advocacy group funded by the nation’s largest oil and plastic companies launched its most expensive effort yet to promote recycling and cleanup of plastic waste. There’s even a new ad.

New plastic bottles come off the line at a plastic manufacturing facility in Maryland. Plastic production is expected to triple by 2050. Laura Sullivan/NPR

“We have the people that can change the world,” it says to soaring music as people pick up plastic trash and as bottles get sorted in a recycling center.

Freeman, the former industry official, recently watched the ad.

“Déjà vu all over again,” he says as the ad finishes. “This is the same kind of thinking that ran in the ’90s. I don’t think this kind of advertising is, is helpful at all.”

Larry Thomas said the same.

“I don’t think anything has changed,” Thomas says. “Sounds exactly the same.”

These days as Thomas bikes down by the beach, he says he spends a lot of time thinking about the oceans and what will happen to them in 20 or 50 years, long after he is gone.

And as he thinks back to those years he spent in conference rooms with top executives from oil and plastic companies, what occurs to him now is something he says maybe should have been obvious all along.

He says what he saw was an industry that didn’t want recycling to work. Because if the job is to sell as much oil as you possibly can, any amount of recycled plastic is competition.

“You know, they were not interested in putting any real money or effort into recycling because they wanted to sell virgin material,” Thomas says. “Nobody that is producing a virgin product wants something to come along that is going to replace it. Produce more virgin material — that’s their business.”

And they are. Analysts now expect plastic production to triple by 2050.

 

[Cat Schuknecht contributed to this report.]

[Laura Sullivan is an NPR News investigative correspondent whose work has cast a light on some of the country’s most significant issues. Sullivan is one of NPR’s most decorated journalists, with three Peabody Awards and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Batons. She joined NPR in 2004 as a correspondent on the National Desk, covering crime and punishment issues. She joined NPR’s investigations unit in 2010. Her investigative reports air regularly on All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Full bio]

 

 

 

Further reading:

Face Masks: A Danger to Our Planet, Our Children & Ourselves

 

We Are Many.  The Oppressors Are Not.

We Are Many. The Oppressors Are Not.

August 3, 2021

By Hiroyuki Hamada

 

Kadhim Hayder (1932-1985), title unknown, Iraq

 

I remember chatting with a man from Iraq in 2016.  He was driving a taxi in Germany.  I wrote about him in one of my essays [1]:

“Last month, I was chatting with an Iraqi taxi driver in Berlin. My 12 year old son and I took a cab from the Museum for Contemporary Art to our hotel. I couldn’t help but ask the cab driver why he ended up in Berlin. He said it was something to do with the availability of the visa. He stressed that he had to leave because he didn’t like Islam. He said Muslims were killing each other.

 

I felt very slightly sad because he sounded like he had to say that to prove that he wasn’t a “terrorist”. I told him that it was the US that supported Saddam when it was convenient. Then, the US flipped, changing its policy, as doing so became more convenient. I asked him, Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, same old story, no?

 

Then he said something unexpected. He said it was a “people’s revolution”. “We stood against Saddam”.  He was referring to the first gulf war in 1991. He went on to describe how it didn’t go as people wished, and it brought about the devastating trade embargo, more war, ISIS and so on.  His voice was passionate.  I felt the anger and frustration against war and imperialism that I also feel myself, in his voice.”

The imperial war against countries that defy the US hegemonic imperatives involves a few steps.  The target population is deprived of their basic necessities by economic embargo, trade sanctions, travel restrictions and demonization of its leader.  The society is destabilized by the lack of resources and economic activities.  The opposing forces in the country are generously funded by the empire to build a momentum against the defying “regime” in the name of “revolution,” “democracy,” “freedom” and etc. The communities are divided.  The institutions are compromised to serve capital, adding more confusions and predicaments to the population.

Quite often this is sufficient enough to silence those who defy such interventions and it results in an overthrow of the existing order.  The society is transformed to suit the colonial policies concocted by western industries, which result in resource extraction, privatization, financialization, exploitation of cheap labor, construction of US military bases and so on.

Quite a few middle eastern countries have defied such interventions resulting in proxy wars and western military interventions.

That was the war on terror which continues to this day as the US forces are freely employed against the world according to its “war on terror legal framework,” while its measures are still in place as restrictions against our legal rights as well as restrictions at airports and so on.

Many of us raised our voices against the obvious crime of invading other countries, colonizing them and subjugating them.  To my surprise there were people who objected to our assertion saying that if we didn’t invade them, they would have invaded us, they were “terrorists,” and so on.

Enormous profits were generated by this huge public project, war, at the expense of the people in the war torn countries as well as oppressed people in some of the richest countries of the world. No one was held accountable for deaths and destruction.  The war to save people from terrorists was a huge capitalist project to expand the power and wealth of hardened criminals who call themselves politicians, philanthropists, businessmen, intellectuals, patriots, academics, and so on.

Clockwork eyes by Mick Ryan

The underlining mentality of neocolonial violence is based on prejudice against the peoples of the targeted countries.  Those peoples, who reside within countries governed by “leaders” who have sworn to obey imperial policies, are subjected to tighter measures of exploitation and subjugation in order to serve the interests of the imperial institutions. The predicaments of the subject population—poverty, social unrest, and corruption, which stem from the economic subjugation, justify the mental superiority among westerners, falsely proving the inferiority of the “barbaric” population which must be “assisted” by westerners.  If the leader of a colonized country attempts to amend the unfair situation by implementing policies that serve that country’s own people, the western authority would mobilize policies to remove such an element.  The policies are firmly backed by the prejudice amongst the imperial population.  Simple slogans and key words such as “he is killing his own people,” “save the children,” “regime,” “dictatorship” and “genocide” can trigger the colonial mentality as well as the white savior mentality in the imperial population.

“In the cage there is food. Not much, but there is food. Outside are only great stretches of freedom. Nicanor Parra Bird Nightmare by Mick Ryan”

Fast forward to 2021–the era of war on virus. We are experiencing a massive wealth transfer to the rich and powerful, which can be best described by Jeff Bezos thanking his workers and customers for his rocket ride. [2] The cynical exploitative violence inflicted against workers is found in all sectors across the country, creating destruction of small community businesses, massive homelessness, suicide surge, spike in drug related deaths.  Lockdown measures are wreaking havoc in vital social relations, which must now be reorganized.

The virus event has turned the dwindling healthcare system into mask wearing, social distancing and getting injected with extremely lucrative experimental genetic modification drugs—which are surrounded by  unprecedented numbers of injuries and deaths, far surpassing all combined prior vaccine injury and death reports to the CDC reporting system VAERS.  The lockdown measures and profit oriented measures against the virus further narrowed the capacity of the general healthcare system, resolution in huge numbers of patients without vital care for their urgent conditions. Destroying the healthcare system for the sake of saving lives is only an aspect of the current mobilization.  The education system, which has been under attack for generations by corporate forces, has received a blank check to fire faculties, turn classes into online tutorials, and pursue a new mission to create obedient workers for the Forth Industrial Revolution.  The financial institution has accelerated its herding of the population into the digital realm where people are conditioned, commodified, and exploited as data.  In every industry, a massive restructuring process for profit is occurring in the name of Covid measures.

Now, I understand that respiratory illnesses can be very dangerous.  If you look up articles from pre-Covid time, you find desperate calls from healthcare professionals screaming about the risk of flu epidemics due to the lack of facilities and resources. This has become reality after Covid, as massive death tolls have resulted from nursing home lockdowns.  Profit oriented treatment options have been promoted while effective options were restricted, resulting in yet even more deaths and hospitalizations.  But statistically, all these deaths in the US had not exceeded the range of year to year variation in death rate.  This crucial fact has been observed in various countries.  The Covid situation, if anything, is very much a man-made event. It can not be described as a deadly pandemic comparable to the bubonic plague. This should shatter virus event narratives propped up by “cases“ concocted by unreliable PCR tests—its inaccuracy has been highly criticized by many scientists—including the inventor of the PCR test himself–due to its arbitrary results depending on the degree of amplification in search of the targeted DNA fragments. [3][4]

The above observation is strictly based on the opinions of numerous healthcare professionals, doctors, and scientists across the globe. At the very least, it must be recognized that there are significant disagreements within the field of science on every aspect of Covid-19, its treatments, and lockdown measures. [5][6]

However, none of those are examined in a serious manner by the establishment.  In fact there are many instances of healthcare professionals being disciplined for reporting cases of vaccine injury, speaking against the treatment policies, and questioning the prevalent assumptions regarding the virus.  Healthcare professionals are actively forced to play along with the official Covid narrative.

For the general public the mixed emotions over the contradictions have turned to frustration, and the frustration has turned anger as if we are stuck in a pressure cooker made with official narratives and structural impediments of lockdowns and forced vaccine injection.  The heat and pressure have broken down the social fabric as our daily routines are dictated by “new normal.”

So many things have happened since last year.  But somehow things don’t seem to fit in right places in our heads.

We mark our sense of time and space with traditional events, daily routines and our common knowledge.  When we lose those, we are left with a series of elements and dynamics without those markers.

But alternate markers have been provided by those who have deprived us of the markers.  Our lives are marked with lockdowns, masks and social distancing–the “new normal”.

Now we mark our lives with it.

We are told that there is a deadly disease out there and the only solution is to vaccinate.  Our life and death are determined by one of the largest corporate entities, the medical industrial complex.

Just as the war on terror was described as a “crusade”—legitimizing the twisted religious and cultural superiority of the colonizers, disguising white man’s burden as humanitarian obligation —  the war on virus crowns “science” as its guiding force.  However, needless to say, the credibility of the “science” is proportional to the accompanying might of wealth and power—just as the facts of war are bought and sold as “journalism”. Propaganda lies fill the air as those who oppose are marked as “others” who  deserve to be castigated as being outside of the protection of the gated community.

This way of framing—the medical industrial complex—is useful in understanding the dynamics within the capitalist hegemony.  However, such an entity is also a part of the media industrial complex, non profit industrial complex, political industrial complex, and of course military industrial complex.  In short, our lives are dictated by multiple dynamic forces of oligarchs, orchestrating a “reality” which firmly manifests as a capitalist framework—a cage to condition our lives based on its imperatives.

Patrice Letarnec’s Human Zoo project

As the current virus mobilization reframes our society, obliterating existing values, norms and beliefs, the corporate institutions and their owners are consecrated as absolute beings which determine our life and death. This is why decrees legitimated by the “emergency”  are acceptable political means now.  This is why large corporations have gained enormous wealth.  This is why our lives are herded into the digital realm where we are commodified, conditioned to be exploited, and truncated to be stripped of the mystery of life and the unknown.

But where do the anger and frustration go?

The US establishment is well aware of the boiling anger and frustration over the situation.  The momentum of anger is cultivated and it is being shaped to put the people against each other—an old corporate duopoly trick, which has grown steadily as a dynamic tool of social engineering in the US.  The ghosts of the Civil War still determine the means of enslavement, while allowing the ruling class to preside over the theater of “democracy,” “freedom” and “humanity”—a manufactured “reality.”  Individualism, self-determination and a sense of freedom based on the sacrifices of many oppressed people are a privilege only allowed to people with economic security.  This is a part of the reason why the resistance against the Covid lockdown measures encompasses a reactionary element.  In particular, erroneously defining the trajectory as “socialism” or “communism”.  This ironic twist, the capitalist oppression being blamed on the enemy of capitalists, once again reveals the mechanism of the imperial duopoly as well as the expansion of the exploitative violence against a formerly economically secure segment of the population, which will require tighter measures of draconian restrictions.

It is not a coincidence that the red states have embraced the opposing positions while the blue states firmly adhere to the official narratives on vaccines and lockdown measures.  The subject populations are allowed to choose the mode of enslavement, but the slight differences in the choice are big enough to activate colonial hatred toward each other.  The unresolved historical pain, emotion and grudge have found urgent expression against “enemies” among us.  A fight between teeth baring wolves and cunning foxes, as Malcolm X would call it, channels the anger and frustration safely within the capitalist framework.  The media, politicians and major institutions carefully instigate conflicts among the people by demonizing opponents over vaccines and lockdown measures, while protecting “pandemic” narratives one way or the other.

Some people might think that things must get worse before it gets better. Things can certainly get worse but it looks like it only means more fragmentation of communities and destabilization of institutions, which allows further erosion of people’s interests by the capitalist domination along with justifications for its draconian measures.  This probably gives a comfortable feeling for those privileged ones in gated communities. This also accompanies the exacerbation of fascist momentum, which always justifies the forces of western imperial hegemony—remember how the Trump phenomenon pushed neoliberal policies, which are embraced by the both corporate parties, while justifying anything else to oppose Donald Trump, who was largely perceived as an obvious caricature of the narcissistic failing empire?  The US capitalism moves forward while oscillating left and right within the acceptable spectrum of imperialism.

In short, everything is under control according to those who destroyed the middle eastern countries.  The only difference is that now the target is us. We are under attack.  Some of us are demonized by the establishment to play the role of scapegoats.  Some of us are praised as heroes saving lives and sacrificing themselves. Our communities are being destroyed to be further consumed by the colonizers of humanity and nature.

Crying tree – Ontario, Canada, 2021

The war on virus is meant as a crucial background of destabilization and fear which helps extract huge amount of public spending in the name of saving lives, saving environment and saving people’s livelihoods—which are all under attack by the savagery of the very capitalist domination.   Since the war on virus is largely targeting the public money, we are bombarded with an unprecedented amount of wholesale propaganda narratives, as if we are thrown into the process of corporate electoral process—we are supposed to vote yes to those lucrative capitalist fixes for the capitalist problems by going along with the narratives.  Public outcries against the policies are safely consumed among the populations as people are forced to fight among themselves.  Moreover, the war on virus is meant to be a perpetual war.  Inconceivable “mistakes” will be made, victories would be declared here and there, facts will be revealed when convenient, while much of the facts are distorted to prop up the pretense of this vast protection racket scheme by the oligarchs.  One step forward, and one step backward, our lives swirl within the torturous theater of the “medical crisis,” but the real solution is never to be found within it.  The empire can not lose the war but the empire has no intention of winning the war either, for the winning can destroy the domesticated momentum of the in-fighting among the people, as well as an assortment of “activism” backed by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, which effectively drives capitalist agendas in the name of “our democracy”.  After all, we are many.  The oppressors are not.  The mechanism of the domestication must be kept in place to tame the masses within the feudal hierarchy of money and violence.  Meanwhile, fear, doubt and real threat against our livelihood in the form of economic strangulation continue to force us to swallow the protection racket deal with the criminal enterprise.

Ultimately, the trajectory points to a complete domestication of our species through management of all means of production, its products, and the distribution system.  As the peoples become products themselves with biotech procedures, the social relations within the digital realm seamlessly merge with the fabricated reality, virtually cementing the feudal hierarchy of the absolute power.

As we operate within social media outlets, as we present our identities within their frameworks, and as we are injected with genetic modification  drugs to modify our physical response to the natural world, we have already stepped into a dangerous stage which might very well spell the end of our species as we know it.

The Arsenal, 1928, Diego Rivera

What could Iraqis do as they suffered the deadly embargo and invasions?  The question is ours now.  Unfortunately, many of those who stood with the empire are still insisting on fighting the imperial war as we have become the targets of the war, demonizing our community members as enemies, repeating slogans and talking points to justify the imperial restructuring, as our communities fall apart to be devoured by the colonizers.  It is no coincidence that those who oppose the current mobilization are accused of being racists, conspiracy theorists, or fascist worshipers—just as not agreeing with bombing brown people would be accused of letting brown children die by the hand of a “dictator.”

Our real enemy is not the “antivaxxers,” or the gullible people swallowing the corporate propaganda.  The real enemy is the imperial oligarchs who are shaping our society in order to continue their ways of exploitation and subjugation.  They are shaping the capitalist cage to squeeze the last remnants of our imagination and our connection to humanity and nature.  How can we defy the colonization of humanity and nature?  How can we be a part of the resistance against the criminal pyramid scheme which is bound to implode with its destructive nature?  How can we build our ways to be in harmony with ourselves, with each other and with nature?  We are a part of the countless people who have held the dream of such a harmony.  We stand strong with them in solidarity.  We are many. The oppressors are not.

 

[1] Hiroyuki Hamada, How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together? September 23, 2016

[2] Lauren Elizabeth, Jeff Bezos Made Some Revealing Comments After His Trip into Space. July 20, 2021

[3] Apoorva Mandavilli Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive. Maybe It Shouldn’t Be.  August 29, 2020

[4] International Consortium of Scientists External peer review of the RTPCR test to detect SARS-CoV-2 reveals 10 major scientific flaws at the molecular and methodological level: consequences for false positive results.  November 27, 2020

[5] Off Guardian 12 Experts Questioning the Coronavirus Panic March 24, 2020

[6] Dr. Mike Yeadon Bitchute MICHAEL YEADON – HELA INTERVJUN – [SVENSK UNDERTEXT] June 8, 2021

 

[Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony. In 1998 Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He lives and works in New York.]

Assetization – Turning Things into Assets in Technoscientific Capitalism

MIT Press

Paperback

ISBN: 9780262539173

“How the asset—anything that can be controlled, traded, and capitalized as a revenue stream—has become the primary basis of technoscientific capitalism”

 

In this book, scholars from a range of disciplines argue that the asset—meaning anything that can be controlled, traded, and capitalized as a revenue stream—has become the primary basis of technoscientific capitalism. An asset can be an object or an experience, a sum of money or a life form, a patent or a bodily function. A process of assetization prevails, imposing investment and return as the key rationale, and overtaking commodification and its speculative logic. Although assets can be bought and sold, the point is to get a durable economic rent from them rather than make a killing on the market. Assetization examines how assets are constructed and how a variety of things can be turned into assets, analyzing the interests, activities, skills, organizations, and relations entangled in this process.

The contributors consider the assetization of knowledge, including patents, personal data, and biomedical innovation; of infrastructure, including railways and energy; of nature, including mineral deposits, agricultural seeds, and “natural capital”; and of publics, including such public goods as higher education and “monetizable social ills.” Taken together, the chapters show the usefulness of assetization as an analytical tool and as an element in the critique of capitalism.

Free download via MIT Press: [“The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding from Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.”]

https://direct.mit.edu/books/book/4848/AssetizationTurning-Things-into-Assets-in

 

[Kean Birch is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at York University, Toronto. Fabian Muniesa is Senior Researcher at the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation (CSI), a research center of Mines ParisTech]

 

The Mechanism of Invisible Hand, Invisible Cage, and Invisible Empire over Humanity and Nature

Dissident Voice

February 9, 2021

By Hiroyuki Hamada

 

 

When the whole society becomes a theater of absurdity, the puppeteers become kings and queens of insanity. The society loses its logic, history, facts, honesty, sincerity, creativity and imagination, as  the monstrous imaginations of the deranged ruling class devour humanity and nature.

The invisible cage of authoritarianism comes in the shape of a bottomless pyramid.  Fear and hopelessness fill the dimly lit bottom layers. Layers and layers separate us, alienate us and dehumanize us. The? pain of “others” becomes your gain.  The power of oppressors becomes your safety: The safety of living in the dangerous imaginations of the kings and queens.

But? such a thought vanishes as quickly as our minds get flooded back with the numbing noises of the insane theater, while our remaining logic, seriousness and honesty are ridiculed and attacked by fearful fellow humans with cynicism, hopelessness and cowardliness.

The world doesn’t look like that at all for those who belong to the club of kings and queens. The unruly mass with no understanding of the righteous path of “humanity” has been inherently expendable for them. This has been shown over and over: colonization of natives by Europeans, enslavement of African people, genocides of many sorts.

But one also sees the same blunt inhumanity embedded among us today:  homelessness, deaths by treatable diseases, hunger, deaths by substance abuse, suicide, poverty, refugees, mass incarceration, state violence, the psychological torture of alienation.  The kings and queens don’t recognize those as issues to be solved with their resources.  Instead those issues represent forms of punishment for those who fail to secure viable positions within the capitalist hierarchy.  The fear of the punishment and the fear of the authority work together to lock us in positions in the hierarchy, forcing us to protect our positions which systemically and structurally threaten our well-being 24/7; we live in a system of structural extortion.

As we have become free-range people in the “divine farm” of modern-day kings and queens, we have lost our access to the fundamental material reality. A sterile cage with screens, mandatory injections, electronic tracking within the invisible fence; human mice for profits, feed for data harvesting, an ever greater degree of spiritual death. It is not hard to start connecting the dots to see how things can lead into a grim future.

But what does such a fear do to the population, which has tolerated an assortment of abuses as their “punishment”? To those who manage to ignore their fellow humans living on the streets as invisible beings or fail to feel the pain of those being cornered into substance use and desperate acts of self-destruction?

Would they believe the words of those who question, or the words of the ruling class promising a glorious future of AI, green capitalism, genetic engineering, digitization and financialization?

And before we ask such a question, one must wonder if such a question is even allowed when the socioeconomic/political trajectory of the empire has been firmly within the imperial framework of the two capitalist political parties.

The capitalist hierarchy absorbs what it needs by allocating special positions within it:  Natural resources, narratives, facts, history, people, political ideologies or anything that sits in time and space.  The kings and queens monopolize them— material resources as well as people with skills and knowledge are captured to serve.  Once monopolized, the valued items are commodified, to be distributed in ways that benefit those same kings and queens.

Meanwhile such a process occurs in layers and layers, projecting myths, exploitative narratives, false history and erroneous facts onto our collective consciousness—a fake reality which covers our eyes while we push our mortal bodies around in the real world.

The images projected onto our psyche vary according to our positions in the hierarchy.  Each narrative validates and justifies our positions in the hierarchy. Kings and queens find themselves to be worthy rulers of the universe, while the masses see themselves as freedom loving people who do their best in a world of opportunities.

In such an equation authoritarianism presents itself as a swinging pendulum between fascism and social democracy as it moves forward on the capitalist path in space and time.  The carrot and stick carefully manage projected images to stay within the capitalist framework of acceptable ideas. Corporate politics and corporate activism play crucial roles in making the pendulum swing, therefore ensuring that the capitalist interests always go forward while appearing to be “democratic”.

Those who rely on terrorist tactics of various sorts attempt to resist the system by attacking the valuable, captured elements that work for the system.  The damage compromises social dynamics in ways that deprive those who are already deprived, while dividing the population that should be uniting to dismantle the oppressive system.

Guided by agent provocateurs and corporate NGOs, righteous anger against oppressors turns into a justification for draconian measures, destruction of communities for urban renewal, and a catalyst for new projects of exploitation.

As a set of capitalist imperatives pushes the capitalist contradiction to the limit, completely depriving people’s ability to reconcile the false perceptions and the material reality, it is time for an urgent mobilization to change the trajectory of exploitation into a new field with a new set of rules.  We are told that enemies are coming, a natural disaster is coming or a disease is coming, forcing us to mobilize ourselves to adjust to a new path of plundering for the kings and queens.

Any crisis, real or not, against the backdrop of a hierarchical structure imposes two sets of momentum that keep us within the capitalist farm.   The first set has to do with fear of the authority, which keeps our frustration directed against ourselves, each other and oppressed “others”, while firmly gripping the destabilized psyche of the population—creating an ironic psychology of supporting oppressive authority against our own interests.   The second set has to do with the material constraints imposed by the particular crisis—we become enemies to each other fighting amongst ourselves to survive.   We are put in the capitalist cage.   And we are forced to protect our cage, which is constructed with vertical strength to withstand fear of the authority, horizontal strength to withstand   attacks by competitors, and a solid floor to prevent one from falling down from the position in the hierarchy. The whole structure is held together with violent force of exploitation and subjugation.

“The Great Reset”

“The Great Reset” is packaged as a “great solution”.  Just like how the ruling class has marketed “green capitalism”—carbon trading, carbon capture, reforestation, and other resource exhausting green schemes and technologies for profit, it’s designed to prop up capitalism but it is also intended to transform capitalism to have more effective control of social relations while keeping the capitalist hierarchy intact.  Capitalism is getting a new OS, and it needs to be restarted.  Just as “green capitalism” has destroyed real environmentalism in the name of saving the planet, it is designed to destroy anti-capitalist activism in the name of “revolution”.

One of the prominent leftist tools under a capitalist framework has been grass roots activism to affect state regulations and state guidelines to contain momentums of exploitation and subjugation created by Wall Street as well as capitalist social institutions.  The stock market guided economy (falsely advertised as the only system that works) allows the ruling class to dominate social policies according to their interests; it prioritizes ruling class wealth accumulation while sacrificing social relations among the general population; it is extremely inefficient, unstable and economically unjust. The capitalist state has been a great tool in ensuring the interests of the ruling class to be a priority. The socialist revolution takes over the capitalist state, it nationalizes corporate entities and sets up the economy, education and the rest of social institutions and social relations to be guided by people’s interests.  Various incarnations of the above strategies to counter capitalist exploitation and encroaching imperial hegemony have attempted to do two major things. First, they have prioritized people’s interests by emphasizing projects that benefit the general population while providing social safety nets, infrastructure for the people, environmental regulations and so on. Second, they have allowed economic activities based on people’s needs which can grow organic community dynamics based on humanity and nature.

“The Great Reset,” on the other hand, is a project of the ruling class meant to take away those measures from the people and utilize them to further solidify their dominance over the people.  Since the owners of the farm are plenty rich already, they won’t need a big farm. Their social engineering skills as well as the greater control over the economy will be put to a test in building a sustainable farming business with a smaller herd.

This is why it seems that all activism has turned into enforcing or defying the various virus lockdown measures which have been instrumental in enforcing the trajectory of “The Great Reset.” Remember how all environmental activism was swallowed by the single idea of reducing carbon emission? Fearmongering slogans of apocalyptic narratives involving climate change, strong NGO guided activism, and corporate science emphasizing the topic of global warming have created the huge snowballing momentum to fight climate change at all costs, sidelining and co-opting all other important environmental activism. This has also contributed to the idea that it is no longer relevant to insist on being a part of systematic efforts in dismantling the capitalist system and building an alternate system which allows humanity and nature to prevail in harmony;  we are told that we don’t have time to build socialism anymore. We are encouraged to be a part of green solutions by the capitalists as a result.

We are being told that casino capitalism for profits must end to introduce “stakeholder capitalism”.  But of course, since the notion is coming from the profiteers who have colonized, corporatized, militarized and financialized, we can presume that they are talking about ensuring their own interests by directly guiding the economic decisions instead of continuing the show called the economy by the “invisible hand.” We are told that we should be provided with universal basic income, free housing and other social services as long as we follow the regulations and policies of public-private partnership.  What sort of conditioning will we be subjected to after being deprived of our inherent relationships to ourselves, to each other, to our communities and to nature, forced to be a part of destructive industrial farming, digitalization of everything with massive resource extraction, colonization of our communities with multinational franchises and enslavement of our souls in the invisible cage of indoctrination and propaganda?  We already have such a system in the US—it’s called mass incarceration in the private prison system.  We are being told that the economy must not be merely guided by growth and it must be replaced by a sustainable one.  However, coming from those who have greatly restricted meaningful economic growth among the general population in order to subject livelihoods to the brutal capitalist framework, what they really mean is to restrict productive social relations among the people so that they must subsist with bare minimum requirements, eventually cornered to be a smaller herd, more manageable with less resources—an economic solution which can only be conceived by criminal minds. Who knows what role vaccines will play in it.  Who knows what sort of living hell people will be subjected to as our lives are treated like numbers in high frequency trading, or our entire lives are put on hold by AI customer representatives.

Note how the policies will be designed to be achieved by co-opting leftist agendas.  The invisible hand has been busy building a brand new invisible cage to perpetuate the violent reign of kings and queens in the name of “revolution”—a fascist revolution that is.

Now, I would like to emphasize that these trajectories are not set in stone. The problem is that those possibilities are highly unlikely to be examined by concerned people within the capitalist framework. There is a structural problem in the system. Let me go back to the pendulum.  Just like any other capitalist social institution, the capitalist political institution serves the ruling class;  it can serve as a crime laundering devise. As soon as a topic involving criminal activities is destined to be “political”—it dissociates itself from criminal elements and becomes “legitimate”. Various social institutions kick in to support such a view since they are all funded by the ruling class—media presents it as such, legislature codifies it as such, executive branch executes it as such, judicial branch judges it as such, academics support it as such, educational institution cements it as such and so on. It becomes normalized to be a part of social policies. Once the topic is on the political table embellished with a glorious history and myths of the nationhood of the United States of America, the topic becomes officially “political”, not criminal, and it is now safely and generously handled by the corporate entities.

The rendered topic floats in an artificial realm of political myths, tradition, and the gladiator battle culture of political authorities as a commodified symbol representing a fictitious version of the actual topic. Ordinary people can’t approach it coherently for what it is anymore unless they are rich and influential enough to access all moneyed social institutions.  Moreover, all the criminal records of officials are discarded, forgiven and forgotten as a new regime comes in every four years.

This is how destructive foreign policies of colonialism, corporatism and militarism, and exploitative predatory domestic policies of all sorts have been implemented against people in the name of freedom, justice and humanity.  This is how environmental concerns have turned into “green capitalism”.  This is how we are being mobilized today under the guise of virus lockdowns.

People watch and cheer the pendulum swing between political extremes within the capitalist framework.  Bits and pieces of awareness beyond the imperial framework can only be perceived with tools approved by the framework, effectively keeping those with the awareness within the ideas of the ruling class.  If you hold a world view that does not fit in it, you end up being categorized as a supporter of a political villain or simply labeled as “fascist”, “communist” and so on.  Needless to say those terms are solely defined by acceptable ideas, acceptable history and acceptable myths of the capitalist hegemony.  The fact that the US government has supported fascist regimes across the globe while brutally intervening against socialist countries across the globe won’t be admitted for instance.

How Capitalist Hierarchy Shapes Ideas

If one holds a view that defies the prevalent narrative, the individual can become a target of the authority as well as a target of multiple political extremes within the capitalist hegemony.  For instance, if you oppose Israeli war crimes from an anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist position, you can be persecuted as a dissident by the establishment, while being labeled as anti-Semitic by supporters of Israeli policies. (You may also be labeled a Zionist shill by those who believe that Jews are taking over the world and so on).  The position that points out that Israel is a crucial part of the imperial structure, serving the imperial hierarchy while benefiting from its generous support, cannot be fully discussed due to how narratives are formed by the network of the imperial institutions.

The political pendulum doesn’t only create an illusion of “democracy”, it also defines what is acceptable while tearing communities apart. It utilizes its violence as a springboard to perpetuate and strengthen its grip on the exploited. That’s why the living hell for Palestinian people keeps functioning as a devise for imperialism—the more Palestinians suffer, the more anti-Semitic sentiment emerges, which in turn justifies Israeli violence, which in turn serves the imperial agendas. That’s why victims of Katarina had to be victimized by “urban renewal” after going through the gravely tragic event. Capitalist hegemony does not allow an honest discussion because imperialism is kept invisible by default, the capitalist cage is invisible and the guiding hand of capitalists is invisible. The capitalist framework simply corners people into having dead-end arguments. Period.

With the virus situation, we are told that there are good people who wear masks and stay home and bad people who selfishly defy the rules and spread “conspiracy theories”.  The dynamics among acceptable narratives within the capitalist framework create the circular arguments of a screaming match. These dynamics exclude and belittle any understanding which goes beyond the artificial range of ideas created by the capitalist institutions:  you are fake news, you are a denier, you are a conspiracy theorist, you are a grandma killer, communists are taking over and so on. Without recognizing this mechanism, any attempt to unify the momentums will result in a populism which emulates the existing social structure—another reactionary revolution at best, but more likely it will create more divisions and destabilization among the people, resulting in perpetuation of the capitalist hierarchy. This is why there is no discussion of accountability for the death and suffering created by lockdown measures and there is no discussion about the meaning of why we are going through a structural shift.  And when the deaths and sufferings will be put on the political table, financial vultures will devour them in the emerging social impact bond markets (see studies by Wrench in the Gears).

The invisible hand that is supposed to guide us to freedom, justice and humanity has created an empire ruled by the unprecedented accumulation of power for the few.  The invisible hand has created an invisible cage over us, and it has been blinding us and dividing us, allowing the ruling class to exploit us and subjugate us.

Now, it must be clearly stated that what we perceive as the dystopian future of The Fourth Industrial Revolution—AI, blockchain, digitalization, financialization, green capitalism and so on—can’t be separated from the invisible hand and the invisible cage. It cannot be allowed to be defined by capitalist institutions as a “legitimate political topic” instead of what it really is. The newly built cage hasn’t been built, but if we fail to see it for what it is in its context, we will simply be forced to embrace some version of it as one of the “legitimate” capitalist trajectories. That’s how it works when our society is a theater of absurdity.

I want to live a life that breaks open the invisible cage and firmly shake hands with nature and humanity.  If you have stuck around this far with me, I trust that you feel the same…or not. Either way, we must start our conversations.

Further Readings

Wrong Kind of Green Website

John Steppling Website

Winter Oak Website

Wrench in the Gear Website

 

[Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony. In 1998 Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He lives and works in New York.]

The Great Reset: The Final Assault on the Living Planet [It’s Not a Social Dilemma – It’s the Calculated Destruction of the Social, Part III]

The Great Reset: The Final Assault on the Living Planet [It’s Not a Social Dilemma – It’s the Calculated Destruction of the Social, Part III]

November 28, 2020

By Cory Morningstar

 

Part three. This is the final segment of a three-part investigative series. [Part 1] [Part 2]

 

Artificial intelligence, Automation – & Cyberwarfare

 

Announced at the Global Inclusive Growth Summit on October 21, 2019, the Imperative 21 RESET campaign was launched to the public on September 13, 2020. A front campaign of The Business Roundtable, the six founding coalition partners are The B Team, JUST Capital, B Lab, Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP), Inclusive Capitalism and Conscious Capitalism. [Further reading: The Business Roundtable/CURT a Systematic Destruction of Labor]

 

“It’s an unprecedented coalition of business networks that have come together to raise our ambition. Not just to help our individual CEOs succeed,  we’ll do that for sure. But to actually bring their voices together to help shift culture. So that the pushback on the BRT [Business Roundtable] from different business publications or other people within the business community lessens. So there’s less of a headwind culturally for this type of leadership.”

 

Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab and B Corporations [Source]

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is described as, “systems that combine sophisticated hardware and software with elaborate databases and knowledge-based processing models to demonstrate characteristics of effective human decision making.” [Source] The World Economic Forum recognizes AI as “the engine of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. [Source] AI as applied/ utilized by social media platforms is trained with an objective and exploitative function: target users with ads for maximum ad revenue, by highlighting the newsfeed ensuring users remain on the platform for as many hours, minutes and seconds as possible. This function is highlighted by The Social Dilemma, while, ultimately, the sole function of every corporation, that of increasing revenues and maximizing profits – ad infinitum, is kept opaque.

Any technology that has power can be corrupted. In this respect, AI is perhaps the most dangerous. Hacking (PC, mobiles, viruses) is accomplished by injecting code – code that can be then detected. Deep learning, referred to as artificial intelligence, is a giant array of numbers. The AI models are self-modifying on a continuous basis, thus, it is unknown how hacking AI can – or will – be aptly detected. [Source: October 5, 2018, The Artificial Intelligence Race and the New World, Order, Council on Foreign Relations – The Malcolm and Carolyn Wiener Lecture on Science and Technology]. “Imagine tens of millions of numbers in the deep learning algorithm that’s updating itself anyway, because it’s getting more data, retraining itself. Some bad people just tweak a few numbers and all of a sudden, it might be out of control.” [Source] Meaning, for example, a hacker may succeed in turning autonomous vehicles into autonomous weapons that kill people en masse. Imagine fully autonomous nuclear weapons or autonomous nuclear power plants, the hacking of which – or malfunction of – could result in the annihilation of an entire nation, or the entire planet.

Here again, it is more important what both The Social Dilemma and the Center for Humane Technology do not divulge, rather than what they do. The Fourth Industrial Revolution cannot come into fruition without the 5G infrastructure that will run the Internet of Things. “Smart” cities must be understood within the context of global policing and the military industrial complex. Cybersecurity will be the battle space of the 21st century.

“The potential for nuclear escalation in a conventional conflict with autonomous systems is compounded by the way that autonomous systems could enable adopters to fight faster than those operating non-autonomous systems do at present… A military force that is heavily invested in AI could essentially enable faster operations by autonomous systems relative to remotely-piloted or inhabited systems. Some Chinese scholars have hypothesized that this trend could result in a “battlefield singularity,” in which the pace of action on the battlefield eclipses the speed of human decision-making.” [Source]

Remarks to the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Convention, October 4, 2016, as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, Washington, D.C.:

Q:  “You didn’t mention about autonomous systems. In light of the third off-set strategy, what is your thinking about letting in the future autonomous systems make lethality decisions without a human in the loop?”

 

A:  “I purposely didn’t talk a lot about the technology behind the third off-set because in a audience like this, you get that the most important thing is the operational concepts and the organizational constructs that employ that technology. But let me state this, state it this way.  There will be some instances where operations are happening at machine speeds and we will have to rely upon A.I. and autonomy to actually fight.” [Source]

Automation bias is when humans effectively surrender their judgment to machines:

“Of particular concern in the design of intelligent decision support systems is the human tendency toward automation bias, which occurs when a human decision maker disregards or does not search for contradictory information in light of a computer-generated solution which is accepted as correct. Operators are likely to turn over decision processes to automation as much as possible due to a cognitive conservation phenomenon and teams of people, as well as individuals, are susceptible to automation bias.” [Further reading: Automation Bias in Intelligent Time Critical Decision Support System, AIAA 1st Intelligent Systems Technical Conference, 20-22 September, 2004]

To fully comprehend this risk, a cognitive conservation phenomenon, one must contemplate the Stanislav Petrov incident.  In 1983, the satellite-based Soviet Oko nuclear early warning system detected that an intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile had been launched by the United States. The automated system reported, with the “highest” confidence, that a U.S. missile strike was underway. Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, on duty, was responsible for alerting his Soviet superiors of the attack. The siren sounded while a large screen instructed “launch” in bold red letters. The siren continued to sound as the computer identified a secondary, third, fourth and fifth missile launch, changing its instruction from “launch” to “missile strike.” Doubting the accuracy of the computer system, Petrov did not react with counter missiles, later explaining “I had a funny feeling in my gut”. He resisted falling victim to automation bias and reported a system malfunction to his superiors, rather than responding with a counter strike. Rather than launching a nuclear war. Rather than ceding his own judgment to a machine. If this had of been a fully autonomous system, as desired by global technocrats, the counter strike would have been automatic, likely unimpeded by human intervention.

[In his own words: Ex-Soviet officer Stanislav Petrov reported a possible 1983 US missile launch as a false alarm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7EmLf4Xlq0]

In 2003, U.S. army investigators found that automation bias was pervasive within the “Patriot community”, which espoused a culture of “trusting the system without question”. “Patriot operators” exhibited an “unwarranted and uncritical trust in automation. In essence, control responsibility [was] ceded to the machine.” [Source]

“The more a country fears that, in a world without using autonomous systems, its ability to retaliate to a nuclear strike would be at risk, the more attractive autonomous systems may appear.”

 

A Stable Nuclear Future? The Impact of Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence, December 2019

6G promises increased bio-cybernetic identity (identity critical service architecture, sensing based machine learning, distribution of trust) and cyber security. Now consider activity that is deemed criminal by larger society. Rather than obtaining physical keys and/or passwords to acquire access, one will require biometric access. That is, heads (face recognition), eyes (retina scanning), and/or hands.

The AI arms race between China and the US is already well underway (with China having launched its blockchain in April 2020, for global commercial use). The idea that regulation and safeguards cab be applied to AI, ensuring both privacy and data are protected, borders on the edge of a collective psychosis. Such are the lies we tell ourselves in order to sleep at night.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Its Impact on Occupational Health and Safety, Worker’s Compensation and Labor Conditions”, September, 2019:

“In FIR [fourth industrial revolution], nonstandard employment will be common. As a result, it is difficult to receive OHS services and compensation. Excessive trust in new technologies can lead to large-scale or new forms of accidents. Global business networks will cause destruction of workers’ biorhythms, some cancers, overwork, and task complexity. The social disconnection because of an independent work will be a risk for worker’s mental health. The union bonds will weaken, and it will be difficult to apply standardized OHS regulations to multinational enterprises.”

The Unfinished Network includes Ashoka, Aspen Institute, Ford Foundation, For Freedoms, Georgetown University, Imperative 21, the Max Steinbeck Charitable Trust, McCourt, Mil M2, PolicyLink, and The Shed.

Tristan Harris, co-founder, The Center for Humane Technology. ” By tapping into the power of communities, creative media and new technology, Unfinished connects thought leaders, culture shapers, policy makers and innovators to provoke ideas, elevate unheard voices and pursue collaborations for greater impact. Unfinished is headquartered in New York City and its network partners span the world.” [Source]

Rather than a collective demand from the citizenry to terminate the foray into unchartered territory, fully recognized as extremely dangerous and high-risk by those pushing the technologies forward, a discourse is manufactured. Fearing global opposition, the public is safely re-routed and encouraged to, “demand” a future that respects “humane technology”, with adherence to the precautionary principle, kept both out of sight and out of mind. In public relations, this is referred to as “crisis management”. That is, getting ahead of a crisis – monitoring, controlling and shaping public perception at all times. The wish for a “humane technology” is one that will not come true.

Smash the Smartphone

As of July 2020, there were over 290 million Facebook users in India. With 2.6 billion monthly active users, 98% of active Facebook users access the platform via mobile, with over 90% of Facebook’s ad revenues coming in via the device. [Source] Mobile advertising has become the lion’s share of Facebook’s total advertising revenue in recent years, growing from a mere 11% in 2012 to a whopping 92 percent in 2018. This translates to over 50 billion U.S. dollars in annual mobile ad revenues.” [Source]

Graph: Share of Facebook's mobile advertising revenue from 2012 to 2018, Source: Statista

Graph: Share of Facebook’s mobile advertising revenue from 2012 to 2018, Source: Statista

 

In the fiscal quarter ending March 31, 2020, 98% of Facebook’s revenue was generated through advertising. The social network’s global mobile sponsored stories account for approximately half of this advertising revenue – while approximately 50% of Apple’s revenue came from a single device, the iPhone. [Source] [Source]

Facebook revenues at a glance:

-Approximately 2.7 billion monthly active users

-98% of Facebook users access the platform via mobile

-Over 90% of ad revenues are earned via mobile

-98% of revenue was generated through advertising in 2020

-The network’s global mobile sponsored stories account for approximately half of the advertising revenue

Harris is quick to point out that, “The solution isn’t abstinence, the solution is connection.” [Thrive Global interview with Tristan Harris, April 9, 2017] Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. The solution isn’t connection – via the mobile, the solution is abstinence.

More than just abstaining, the solution has to be for everyone who owns a smartphone to trash it – never looking back. It is fact that “the fourth industrial revolution [“Great Reset”] flows through a mobile”. [Source] The smartphone is the conduit. Although the smartphone is the key to unlocking future nightmares, it’s also very much a double-edged sword. In the same way it serves to uphold the Fourth Industrial Revolution architecture, unveiled to the public as the “Great Reset”, without the smartphone, this very foundation would collapse like a house of cards. The truth is, if no one purchased smartphones, they would give them away in cereal boxes.

But this window is closing.

In the 2030 6G era, “smart phones are likely to be replaced by pervasive XR experiences through lightweight glasses”. [“Virtual (VR)11, 12 augmented (AR)13, and mixed reality (MR) technologies are merging into XR, which encompasses wearable displays and interaction mechanisms that create and maintain perceptual illusions.”] [Source: 6G Research Visions 1, September 2019]

“In the most advanced countries, today’s digital consumers (using PCs and smartphones) will likely become tomorrow’s augmented customers, adopting emerging technologies such as AI (via smart speakers) and immersive reality.”

 

— The Mobile Economy 2019, GSMA Intelligence, [Source]

It is critical to note that a vast majority of internet users (91%) now use mobile devices exclusively to go online. [Source] This is significant for a couple of reasons. First of all, this sheds much light on the ever devolving critical thinking skills by those in the West most impacted and captured by the mobile phone. Detailed information, required for in-depth critical thinking, is largely impossible to decipher and analyze using a tiny mobile device.

One should know full well by now that the success of corporate products with names preceded by the word smart – are hinged on the hope that the “consumer”, or targeted demographic, is vacuous. Anything “smart” serves capital first and foremost. Humans have survived successfully for millennia without mobiles. All we require for our survival is healthy food, clean water, clean sanitation, and shelter. And as social animals, we seek physical community, companionship, joy, and love.

The Internet Society, The United Nations & The World Economic Forum

On September 25, 2018, the Internet Society (ISOC), situated in the US and Switzerland, partnered with Facebook to expand internet connectivity in Africa. [Source] Since then, IXP [internet exchange points] workshops have been held in Morocco, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Togo, Lesotho, Burundi, Mauritius, Guinea, Benin and Chad. [Source] Internet Society partners include Access Now (a tentacle of Avaaz) [1] and Center for Democracy & Technology. The Board of Directors, serving as the Center for Democracy & Technology’s governing body, includes Julie Brill,Corporate Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft and Philippa Scarlett, Former Deputy Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, The White House. Advisory council members include affiliates of the Charles Koch Institute, RAND Corporation, Walmart, Facebook, Twentieth Century Fox, Amazon, MasterCard and Verizon. [Full list]

The Center was founded in 1992 by internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. Widely referred to the “Fathers of the Internet,” Cerf and Kahn co-designed the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet”, with both having held executive positions at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Cerf serves as Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google since October 2005 with a focus on the future of tech in areas such as artificial intelligence. Since 2010, Cerf has served as a Commissioner for the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development while Kahn serves as chairman, CEO and president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. Cerf also serves as member of the UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, and was present at the launch of the Panel’s first report, “The Age of Digital Interdependence” released on June 10, 2019. [Source]

The Internet Society “is leading and facilitating the multi-round meetings for the Stakeholders Dialogue to collect, compile, and submit the inputs of the worldwide professionals and experts for future governance of the Internet.”

“I used to think it was a funny joke to say [that] the thing I worry about is 100,000 refrigerators attacking [the] Bank of America. That’s not a joke anymore.”

 

— Vint Cerf, 2020

In January 2019, the UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation convened. Created at the behest of the UN Secretary-General the year prior, such a high-level panel is rare, with only around 20 having been convened in the UN’s 70-year history. The 20-strong panel is co-chaired by Jack Ma, founder of Aliba, member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, Foundation Board of World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community, Member of the Board of Trustees, World Economic Forum, Global Board of Directors, The Nature Conservancy, co-founder and board of the Breakthrough Energy Ventures (with a focus on nuclear), and Melinda Gates:

“In his appeal to a UN panel of experts led by philanthropist Melinda Gates and Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Secretary-General António Guterres called on its members to reflect on the risks and benefits of our digital age – the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. ‘We need new thinking and innovative ideas to harness the benefits and manage the risks of this digital age,’ he said via video-link, while urging the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation to reflect on how technology could accelerate the 2030 Agenda on sustainable development.”

Handover of the Report of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation to Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

 

Serving the 20-throng panel is “His Excellency” Mohammad Al Gergawi, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Cabinet Affairs and The Future, Chairman of the UAE Council for the Fourth Industrial Revolution; Fadi Chehadé, partner at ABRY in Boston, a private equity firm, and advisory board member with the World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution; Dr. Cathy Mulligan is a Visiting Research Fellow at Imperial College Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering, a Senior Research Associate at University College London in Blockchain and a Fellow and Expert Member of the World Economic Forum’s Blockchain Council; Marina Kolesnik, co-founder of internet ventures and Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum. [Full list]

“Growing opportunities created by the application of digital technologies are paralleled by stark abuses and unintended consequences. Digital dividends co-exist with digital divides. And, as technological change has accelerated, the mechanisms for cooperation and governance of this landscape have failed to keep pace.”

 

— June 10, 2019, “The Age of Digital Interdependence” — Report of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation

At this same time, the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace meeting took place where a more candid, somber and cautionary tone presided, with the UN’s Fabrizio Hochschild, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, remarking:

After years of unbridled optimism – justified optimism – surrounding the development of digital technologies of cyberspace, we now have come to the sober realization that those positive developments carry downsides.

 

We’re at the point of asking ourselves, will emerging technologies contribute to peace overall or will they undermine it? Will they generally further access to sustainable development or will they further inequality? Will they facilitate respect for human rights or will they provide new tools to those who wish to contain or violate the realization of human rights?

 

Some 30 States have the capacity to defend themselves and those capacities are daily being built up. But where does that leave the other 163 countries that don’t have such a capacity, or the financial means, or political means to defend themselves?” [Source]

The high-level panel chaired by Gates and Ma has proposed three models: a Digital Commons Architecture (DCA), a Distributed Co-Governance Architecture (CoGov) (voluntary solutions rather than legal instruments), and a reformed Internet Governance Forum (IGF+) (enhances and extends the IGF established in 2005). The proposed “Digital Commons Architecture” would aim to synergise efforts by governments, civil society and businesses to ensure digital technologies promote the SDGs under the pretext of addressing risks of social harm, in addition to developing certification schemes for high-risk technologies such as “autonomous intelligent systems” operated by artificial intelligence (AI). [Source: The Age of Digital Interdependence Report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, June 10, 2019] AI and cybersecurity certification schemes represent another lucrative emerging market, with billion dollar certification schemes having served to greenwash, thus secure, the continued plunder of the planet since the early 1990s. Such schemes can serve as a key apparatus in providing and/or maintaining the required social license to operate.  [The EU cybersecurity certification framework]

“Think of personal data as the digital record of “everything a person makes and does online and in the world.”

 

– Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class, World Economic Forum, January 2011

The panel also placed an emphasis on Blockchain. In 2017, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) piloted the “Building Blocks” project in Sindh, Pakistan, employing the Ethereum Blockchain to distribute aid and test biometrics. This program falls under SDG #2, “zero hunger” (an emerging market in the poverty economy), and #17, partnerships. Following the test-run with 100 citizens, the second phase was then rolled out in Jordan at two refugee camps. This phase commenced with 10,000 refugees, then scaled to 100,000. The next phase is to increase the refugee participants to 500,000. Whereas in the Pakistan pilot, smartphones were used for the transactions, the Jordan project switched over to a private blockchain – with eye-scanning hardware to confirm the identity of those receiving aid. Refugees received a debit in the form of a “virtual wallet”  to be spent exclusively within the giant WFP-contracted supermarkets (“hypermarkets”). Checkout would be authorized via the IrisGuard “EyePay”.

 

“Syrian refugees receive foodstuff through the iris scan service launched by the World Food Program at Tazweed centre in the Al-Zaatari refugee camp, in Mafraq, Jordan, near the border with Syria, November 23, 2016.” Reuters/Muhammad Hamed [Source]

The first major testing ground, the Zaatari Refugee Camp, encloses 80,000 displaced citizens (150,000 in 2013) – with nearly 60%  of the displaced (55.8%, January 2020) under 17 years of age. Overseen by 44-45 organizations such as USAID, UKAID and NGOs including Oxfam, ACTED and IRD, Zaatari [2] is now referred to as one of the many growing permanent settlements: thousands of acres of land, holding tens of thousands of displaced people, enclosed within barbed wire fence perimeters, contained by police and military. Today, these open prisons, created by imperialist aggression against targeted sovereign states, are being redesigned and redefined as “liveable cities” and “smart cities. In 2014, it was reported that Zaatari costs approx. a half million dollars per day to run (with half a million pieces of bread and 4.2m litres of water distributed daily.) The second testing ground, the Azraq Camp (holds roughly 40,000 displaced peoples in 2020) would result in 100,000 blockchain transactions (totaling 1 million dollars) and retina scans. The WFP has a record of every transaction – with data as a new asset class. These transactions and iris scans will remain on the blockchains utilized (both public and private) – for eternity. In this video overview, the imperial destabilization and attempted annihilation of Syria is framed as a “civil war”, while the data harvesting itself is framed as privilege. Building Blocks is growing and set to expand.[Source][Source] [Source][Source] Jordan remains the second largest refugee host per capita worldwide with 650,000 – 750,000 displaced peoples. [Source]

The World Food Programme has three foundation partnerships: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Corporate supporters include PepsiCo, MasterCard, and Unilever. [Corporate Partners]

“Personal data is the new oil of the Internet and the new currency of the digital world.”

 

Meglena Kuneva, European Consumer Commissioner, March 2009, Personal Data

On June 11, 2020, UN Secretary-General Guterres announced the issuance of his report, Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, “on the impact of rapid technological change on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets”. High Level Speakers included: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, Ajay Banga, Chief Executive Officer, MasterCard, Nick Read, Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone Group, Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utolkamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), “Baroness” Joanna Shields OBE, Chief Executive Officer, BenevolentAI, and Andrew Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Internet Society. [Source]

June 11, 2020, The State of the Digital World Today / Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, Klaus Schwab:

“Since the onset of Corona Virus, internet usage has increased by 70%, the use of communication apps has increased by 300%, and virtual collaboration tools by 600 percent. And some video streaming services have grown twenty fold.”

Schwab goes on to point out that this increase is only true for those connected to the internet. And that 30 years after the invention of the world wide web (1989) by Timothy John Berners-Lee, global internet users comprise just 53% of the world population. To accelerate the goal of internet access and consumption by every human being on Earth, the World Economic Forum has developed a joint action plan with the ITU, the World Bank, GSMA and industry partners. The plan seeks immediate acceleration of private public partnerships in 170 countries with a focus on digital infrastructure, user expansion, digital identity and digital payment systems and currencies. Schwab: “This fast-track partnership is deeply encouraging. A number of our partners have highlighted that we have made more progress in the last four months than in the last ten years.” [June 10, 2020]

“It is clear so the COVID-19 crisis is a watershed moment for digital infrastructure and services. Digital is the fabric of our post-covid lives. We will continue to rely on technology more and more. Unless we rapidly tackle the challenge to bring high quality universal internet access to all we will not be able to build inclusive economies or achieve our system.”

 

World Economic Forum founder and CEO Klaus Schwab, June 10, 2020

Data Centers: A Hyperscale Tsunami of Renewable Energy Consumption is Underway

ANSHUN, CHINA – MARCH 13: Aerial view of Tencent’s biggest data center under construction in the mountainous area of the hinterland on March 13, 2018 in Anshun, Guizhou Province of China. As Tencent’s chairman Pony Ma Huateng referred in a media briefing in Beijing, his firm will continue to mine vast amounts of data to bolster a number of businesses including its own. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

“It has recently been discovered that data-intensive algorithms, such as at-scale machine learning training algorithms, are much more energy-intensive than was previously assumed.”

The Hyperconnected World of 2030–2040, 2019 [Source]

 

“The international data corporation estimates that 152,000 new devices will be connecting to the internet every minute by 2025.”

 

“This will become completely unsustainable by 2040.”

 

— Anders Andrae, Senior Expert of Energy Efficiency, Emission Reduction, Sustainability and Life Cycle Assessment, Huawei Technologies, Sweden

Disconnected from the natural world, Western academia, sciences et al., continue to assign names to technology belonging to the very things being lost or systematically destroyed: “walled garden” (“a closed ecosystem in which all the operations are controlled by the ecosystem operator” i.e. Facebook and Google), “walled gardens of things” (constraint), “spiderweb of things” (transformation), “asteroid belt of things” (collapse), islands of things (growth), data center server “farms”, the internet and digital “ecosystems”, “apple”, Amazon, the “cloud”, “pollinators”. The list is endless.

“Behind the peaceful image of a white cumulus is a less poetic reality, that of data centres composed of thousands of servers that not only need plenty of energy to run, back up and store your files, but also air conditioning, 24 hours a day.”

 

What Colour is the Cloud, June 21, 2019

The Social Dilemma, the Center for Humane Technology, and society at large, may speak of climate change, yet what is not addressed, in addition to militarism being a key driver of climate change, is the growing energy demand of information communications technology (ICT) which includes traditional data centers (server farms), network services, and hyperscale data centers. There is growing alarm over the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions belonging to the exponential growth of the ICT industry. Of particular concern are the hyperscale data centers which are owned and operated by corporations Microsoft, Google, and Apple, etc. [“Hyperscale refers to the capability of an IT [information technology] system or architecture to scale exponentially and rapidly to respond to demand that is increasingly heavily.”][Source] There are now over 8 million data centers littering the planet, with 541 hyper scale data centers worldwide. At present, there are currently 176 more hyper scale data centers in development.

In 2017, data superseded oil, becoming the world’s most valuable commodity.

Often described as the “cloud”  – successfully conjuring up a comforting perception that nothing exists beyond your device or laptop) – servers exist in real-world data centres. Information technology spending on data center systems worldwide in 2020 alone is estimated at USD 208 billion. [Source] On January, 15, 2020, Technavio released a report stating “hyperscalers” have invested approximately USD 200 billion in capacity expansion and opening of new data centers. For just a moment, contemplate the fact that those who promise an illusory “stakeholder capitalism” will spend billions to house data, while the subjugated and vulnerable remain homeless.

“We are using an immense amount of energy to drive this data revolution. It has real implications for our climate.”

 

— Jane Kearns, environment and technology expert, MaRS Discovery District, Toronto

The sheer magnitude and size of hyperscale data centers place enormous power demands upon global energy resources. Cisco estimates that by 2021, traffic within hyperscale data centers will have quadrupled, with hyperscale data centers accounting for approx. 55% of all data center traffic. [Source] At the local level, hyperscale data centres embody colossal electricity demand loads, adding pressure to electricity grids which are often already operating under duress. This is especially true for smaller or impoverished countries. Ireland is forecasting that 30% of their entire national grid will be earmarked for data center power consumption by 2028. One only needs to reflect upon the sheer enormity of these facilities proliferating the globe, to recognize the dire ecological impacts and consequences that lie ahead – upon an already plundered and decimated landscape and biosphere.

To ignore the ecological impact behind the exponential growth of ICT (information and communications technology), infrastructure, paramount for the Fourth Industrial Revolution to materialize, is in itself, a deliberate sleight of hand. A hypocritical genre of climate denialism practised and perfected by self-identifying liberals and progressives. At a moment’s notice, this faux left can be assembled on cue by those that preside over the non-profit industrial complex.

2017: Construction on the USD 1 billion 970,000-square-foot hyperscale Facebook data center. The 328-acre site became operational in 2019. At present, Facebook has 12 hyperscale data centers, nine in the U.S. and three in international markets amounting to nearly 15 million square feet of data center space completed or under construction, with several million more feet in the planning stages. [Source]

ICT (Information and Communications Technology)

Today the ICT industry represents the largest growing consumer of energy on the planet, with greenhouse gas emissions on par, or, more likely, far in excess of aviation. Depending on scope, in 2020 ICT accounts for up to 8% of the total global electricity. [Source] At the current rate of growth, approximately 9% each year (2018), the total electricity consumption of ICTs is projected to require 20% of the world’s electricity by 2025, and 30% all energy produced by 2030. [Source]

As concerns over data center energy consumption mount, obtaining the required data in order to ascertain the level of ecological damage resulting from the data centers becomes even more difficult. As criticisms of the industry grow, the global energy demands by data centers are being deliberately skewed downwards. Downward estimates are able to withstand scrutiny, due to the simple fact that there are no nationally reported statistics for data centers – and no global records. In a global corporatocracy, where hyper centers are privately owned by Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, et al., it is of little surprise that the tremendous energy consumed within these vast infrastructures is kept deliberately obscure. [3]

In 2010 there was a broad consensus that worldwide, data centers consumed approximately 194 TWh (terawatt-hours of electricity) of energy, representing about 1% of total demand. This is on par with the entire energy consumption of Iran that same year. [Source] In 2017, the EIA repeated this number for the year 2014: “Data centres worldwide consumed around 194 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity in 2014, or about 1% of total demand. Although data centre workload is forecast to triple by 2020, related energy demand is expected to grow by only 3% thanks to continued efficiency gains.” In 2018, the figure for global energy consumption by data centers was said to have increased to 205 TWh. [“A 6% rise in power use with data-center computing growing by 550%”] [Source]

Today we can reflect on the past decade. Data centers have undergone “a ten-fold increase in traffic with a 25-fold jump in worldwide storage.” [Source] Yet, in 2020, data center consumption continues to be largely cited as approximately 200 TWh per year – (1% of global electricity consumption).

In 2011 Emerson Network Power stated that there were 509,147 data centers worldwide, taking up 285.8 million square feet of space – the equivalent of 5,955 football fields.

Again, reflect upon the annual cited consumption of data centers over the ten year time frame: 194 TWh in 2010, and ten years later, in 2020, 200 TWh. The estimate of 1% global energy consumption is referred to for both 2010 and 2020 – despite adding, roughly, 7.5 million data centres.

The 200 TWh of energy consumption per year claim (that remains flat) claim is further challenged by the European Union’s own research that concluded European data centers consumed 130 TWh in 2017, a 25% increase from 2014 (104 TWh), while Greenpeace reported China’s data industry to amount to 160 TWh in 2018. Together, these two figures alone suggest an annual total of 290 TWh. [Source] Further, consider that the consumption does not remain flat in the EU, despite having the newest, therefore most efficient, data centers.

In 2015, Siemens reported the global power demand for data centers as 416.2 TWh (far exceeding the UK’s total consumption, approximately 300 TWh).

Adding an additional 100 TWh to the 290 TWh cited above (the EU and China), in 2016, a Berkeley laboratory report for the US government estimated that the country’s data centres could require over 100 TWh of electricity a year by 2020, the rough equivalent of 10 large nuclear power stations. [Source] In 2017, data centers in the US alone used more than 90 TWh, the rough equivalent of 34 coal-powered plants generating 500 megawatts of power each. [Source]

2015 graphic, Siemens

In 2017, Hewlett Packard cites the energy consumption by data centers worldwide at 400 TWh:

2017 Hewlett Packard Presentation [Source]

While in 2018, “Nature”, Bloomberg, IEA, etc., continued to promote 200 TWh.

2018 Nature graphic

2018 Nature graphic

 

 

On January 6, 2020, the Uptime Institute assessed the global consumption of data centers as high as 500 TWh per annum. [Bashroush & Lawrence, 2020]. For some added perspective, 500 TWh is the equivalent of 50 large nuclear power stations:

“It seems likely that the annual consumption of energy by data centers is somewhere between 400 terawatt-hours (TWh) and 500 TWh, depending on what is counted as a data center. To put things in perspective in terms of demand, research by Uptime Institute Intelligence shows that every time an image is posted on Instagram by the Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo (who at the time of writing has the highest number of followers on the platform), his more than 195 million followers consume nearly 30 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy to view it.”

 

Beyond PUE: Tackling IT’s wasted terawatts, Uptime Institute Intelligence report, Jan 6, 2020

The most dire assessments on the growing magnitude of energy consumed by communications technology and data centers comes from Anders Andrae, senior researcher at Huawei Technologies in Sweden. At the October 2017 Nordic Digital Business Summit Andrae forecast that communications technology may account for more than 20 percent of global energy consumption (20.7%) by 2025, accounting for 5.5% of the world’s total carbon emissions. These numbers represented the expected case scenario taking into account future energy efficiencies.

In respect to growing the exponential growth of data centers, Andrae cautions that data center energy consumption could increase a staggering 15-fold by 2030, amounting to roughly 11% of the global demand.

"The share of ICT of global electricity usage: 2015 to 2025 with and without high global energy efficiency gains" [p. 18, Andrae, Anders, 2017/10/05, Total Consumer Power Consumption Forecast]

“The share of ICT of global electricity usage: 2015 to 2025 with and without high global energy efficiency gains” [p. 18, Andrae, Anders, 2017/10/05, Total Consumer Power Consumption Forecast]

[p. 18, Andrae, Anders, 2017/10/05, Total Consumer Power Consumption Forecast]

In Andrae’s worst-case scenario, it is suggested that communication technologies could use as much as 51% of global electricity in 2030. In this scenario, “CT [communication technologies] electricity usage could contribute up to 23% of the globally released greenhouse gas emissions in 2030”.

[Annual electricity efficiency (EE) improvements were calculated at 15% (best), 10% (expected), and 5% (worst). From 2022, for EE only, 5% is assumed possible for all scenarios as the authors expect it will become more difficult to improve the electricity efficiency via Moore’s Law.] [p. 28, Andrae, A.S.G.; Edler, T. On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030. Challenges 2015, 6, 117-157.]

“The results shown in Figure 9c imply that the data centers and FAN [Fixed Access Networks] could drive a staggering 66% of the global CT electricity use in 2030, with fixed access Wi-Fi 15% and data centers 26%.” [p. 24, Andrae, A.S.G.; Edler, T. On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030. Challenges 2015, 6, 117-157.]

Figure 8. "Share of communication technology of global electricity usage 2010–2030 As shown in Figure 8 [], the share of CT Sectors, depending on scenario, in 2010 is 8%–14%, in 2020 6%–21% and in 2030 8%–51%, respectively.' [p. 22, Andrae, A.S.G.; Edler, T. On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030. Challenges 2015, 6, 117-157.]

Figure 8. “Share of communication technology of global electricity usage 2010–2030 As shown in Figure 8 [], the share of CT Sectors, depending on scenario, in 2010 is 8%–14%, in 2020 6%–21% and in 2030 8%–51%, respectively.’ [p. 22, Andrae, A.S.G.; Edler, T. On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030. Challenges 2015, 6, 117-157.]

[p. 21, The share of different sections of ICT of global electricity use in 2015 and 2025, Andrae, Anders, 2017/10/05, Total Consumer Power Consumption Forecast]

[p. 21, The share of different sections of ICT of global electricity use in 2015 and 2025, Andrae, Anders, 2017/10/05, Total Consumer Power Consumption Forecast]

[Andrae, Anders, 2017/10/05, Total Consumer Power Consumption Forecast]

In regard to the Internet of Things, Andrae suggests that billions of internet-connected devices alone could produce 3.5% of global emissions within a ten year timeline, growing to 14% of global emissions by 2040. [Source]

And as bleak as these scenarios are (with even the best case scenarios projecting substantial increases in emissions) – the overall situation is much worse for one simple reason: the authors’ reliance on renewable energies as a means of mitigating overall impact (damage):

“However, until 2030, globally-generated renewable electricity is likely to exceed the electricity demand of all networks and data centers.” [Abstract, On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030]

 

“We believe that CT driven optimization of the electricity systems is a strong trend and a prerequisite for renewable power sources.” [p. 17, On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030]

 

“However, the trend of using renewable power is strong [157,158] and likely many data centers can be run GHG efficient, even if they do not find ways to reduce the absolute electricity usage.” [p. 17, On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030]

 

“To mitigate the worst-case scenario for climate change related to CT, the challenges related to introducing renewable electricity need to be overcome.” [p. 27, On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030]

 

“It seems though that planned power saving measures and innovation will be able to keep the electricity consumption of ICT and the World under control.” [p. 25, 2017, Total Consumer Power Consumption Forecast]

 

“Despite evident risks, it seems though that planned power saving measures and innovation will be able to keep the electricity consumption of ICT and the World under some kind of control.” [p. 2, 2019, Projecting the chiaroscuro of the electricity use of communication and computing from 2018 to 2030]

Yet, when one acknowledges the reality that industrial scale renewable energy is not sustainable – a key premise in modelling the ecological impacts of data centers (minimizing impact) – all such assumptions go straight out the window.

Here we can add that Andrae predicted that data centers on their own could produce 1.9Gt (or 3.2% of the global total) of carbon emissions by 2025. [Source] The DXC Technology white paper published in November, 2016 [Data centers play key role in Reducing GHG emissions] estimated that while consuming approx. 3 percent of global electricity, data centers worldwide already accounted for approximately 2% of total GHG emissions:

“Worldwide, it is estimated that data centers consume about 3 percent of the global electric supply and account for about 2 percent of total GHG emissions. That’s about the same as the entire airline industry. Producing electricity consumed by data centers will result in the release of 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2020, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.” [Source]

What becomes lost in discussion, amidst a declared planetary emergency, is the fact that we are adding exponentially to our energy consumption, cancelling out any real emission reductions. The massive growth of data centers that began in the US is now standard in Europe, with hyperscale data centers now expanding into South Asia where average year round temperatures for the humid region hover around 27 degrees Celsius. All while according to studies, approx. 40 percent of the total energy that data centers consume is due to the sensitive cooling [4] requirements of IT technologies. July 9, 2019: “With a projected compound annual growth rate of 13 percent, APAC [Asia Pacific] could eventually surpass the United States and European market.” [Source] In South Asia, a region of deep poverty where 20% of the world’s population reside, 2017 research suggests “that by the end of this century climate change could lead to summer heat waves with levels of heat and humidity that exceed what humans can survive without protection.” [Source]

At the May 2018 Around the World Conference in Canada, Andrae reiterated that ICT infrastructure cannot slow its overall electricity use by 2025, even with most optimistic improvements in data center and network technology. In 2019, Andrae increased his projection: “ICT infrastructure cannot slow its overall electricity use until 2030 and it will use several times more TWh than today. [p. 3, Projecting the chiaroscuro of the electricity use of communication and computing from 2018 to 2030, February, 2019]

Based on the aforementioned information (in addition to that which follows), it is safe to suggest that the energy consumed by data centers worldwide today is an extremely conservative  400-600 TWh – in line with 3-4% of all electricity produced on the planet – and far exceeding the greenhouse gas emissions produced by aviation.

In February 2019, Andrae published an update of his calculations and forecasts presented in 2015. In this study Andrae suggests we may see an increase in the energy demand of data centers worldwide to 1,929 TWh by 2030. For this calculation, Andrae calculated the global energy consumption of data centres in 2018 at 211 TWh. [Andrae, Anders, 2019/02/28, Predictions on the way to 2030 of internet’s electricity use]

On January 2020, CBC News reported that Andrae now expects that the world’s data centers alone will account for a colossal 651 TWh of electricity in the next year:

“Anders Andrae, a researcher at Huawei Technologies Sweden whose estimates are often cited, told CBC News in an email he expects the world’s data centres alone will devour up to 651 terawatt-hours of electricity in the next year. That’s nearly as much electricity as Canada’s entire energy sector produces. And it’s just the beginning.”

 

[Jan 2, 2020, ‘Completely unsustainable’: How streaming and other data demands take a toll on the environment] [International Journal of Green Technology, 2019, Comparison of Several Simplistic High-Level Approaches for Estimating the Global Energy and Electricity Use of ICT Networks and Data Centers, Anders S.G. Andrae]

In 2018, the total amount of electricity generated from the wind industry was 1 263 TWh, with the total from solar industry constituting 562 TWh. [5]

Corporate Damage Control – Hyperscale Greenwash

“We’ll also need vigorous development and deployment of emerging technologies — such as energy storage, advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage — that boost the availability of carbonfree energy around the clock.”

 

— Google: Moving toward 24×7 Carbon-Free Energy at Google Data Centers: Progress and Insights, Oct 2018

“Hyperscalers” such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft gloss over the growing concerns over their massive energy consumption by securing renewable-power purchase agreements. With unlimited budgets for public relations campaigns communication strategies, branding, and marketing, the corporate entities heavily publicize commitments to large-scale renewable energy initiatives. “net zero”, and “carbon negative” storytelling. Corporate press releases boast of commitments toward 100 percent renewable energy, as well as the promotion of investments in “*carbon free” energy sources. On September 19 2019, Google, which identifies itself as the “largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world”, announced they had made “the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history”. These investments enable Google to declare it matches 100% of its global annual electricity consumption (for all global operations including data centers), through direct purchases of renewable energy. In layman’s terms – this is called offsetting – without mention of the word itself. It is nothing new and not nearly as exciting as Google would have you believe. Referred to as “CO2 colonialism” by indigenous peoples, offsetting is the means to privatize the skies and Earth’s forests while continuing to expand emissions.

[“Each Google facility is connected to its regional power grid just like any other electricity consumer; the power mix in each region usually includes some carbon-free resources (e.g. wind, solar, hydro, nuclear), but also carbon-based resources like coal, natural gas, and oil. * We define carbon-free energy as any type of electricity generation that does not directly emit carbon dioxide. This includes renewable like solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, and biomass. Nuclear power is also carbon free. In the future, our framework can be extended to other technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, that are yet to be deployed at scale but could enable carbon-free power generation from additional sources.] [Source: Google: Moving toward 24×7 Carbon-Free Energy at Google Data Centers: Progress and Insights, October 2018]

Apple announced in 2018 that all of its facilities worldwide including its data centers are now powered by renewable energy. By saturating the public relations spin with never-ending references to wind and solar, this greenwash is made palatable to the liberal class – the non-profit industrial complex having successfully framed these two technologies as “clean”. The “carbon free” energy sources that do not make the headlines are those most sought by the corporate sector: biomass, nuclear, and capture carbon and storage (CCS).

“Amazon committed to achieve “net zero” emissions by 2040, which means it would need to offset any remaining emissions from its operations through investments in carbon removal projects… Amazon is following in the footsteps of another Seattle-area tech behemoth. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced it would spend $1 billion on “carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies,” as part of an effort to offset the software company’s emissions across its entire history.”

 

June 23, 2020, Amazon creates a $2 billion climate fund, as it struggles to cut its own emissions

And despite the fact that “renewable energy” is neither “clean”, nor “green”, nor “emissions free”, as marketed, on September 18 2019, Fortune reported “only 12 percent of Amazon’s Loudoun County data centers and 4.0 percent of Google’s are powered by renewable energy, despite their promise to shift to 100 percent renewable energy”.

Amazon owns nearly half of the cloud market. In July, 2019, it was reported that the annual revenues of Amazon Web Services, had grown to $15.5 billion in the global cloud infrastructure market with revenues of $32.4 billion. Data center industry leaders recognize Amazon Web Services (AWS) as “the invisible foundation of much of the internet.” Microsoft sits at second place, with 15% of the market share. [Source] This same week, Amazon launched a network of new data centers situated in Bahrain, increasing what Amazon cites as “availability zones” to 69 zones across 22 geographic regions, with plans to build nine new zones in Indonesia, Italy and South Africa. Today, Amazon Web Services spans “77 availability zones within 24 geographic regions around the world, and has announced plans for 15 more Availability Zones and 5 more AWS Regions in India, Indonesia, Japan, Spain, and Switzerland.” [Source] Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, is a co-founder of Breakthrough Energy, launched in 2015 (alongside Mission Innovation at COP21 in Paris), with a keen focus on both nuclear and carbon capture and storage technology now being marketed to the public (a key aspect of expanding data center energy consumption). Between March and October, 2020, during the said pandemic, US billionaires saw their “net worth” rise by almost $1 trillion with Bezos on top with a net worth of approx. 200 billion USD. Here we can infer, that the person whose corporation now leads in mass global land degradation, resource use, energy consumption and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions, is also the wealthiest. All while Amazon continues to exploit its workers. All while those in the Global South face literal starvation. This is your new “stakeholder capitalism” as touted by World Economic Forum et al.

On September 14, 2020, Google released its most asinine statement to date: “As of today, we have eliminated Google’s entire carbon legacy (covering all our operational emissions before we became carbon neutral in 2007) through the purchase of high-quality carbon offsets. This means that Google’s lifetime net carbon footprint is now zero. We’re pleased to be the first major company to get this done, today.”

Here we must note that “net zero” has nothing to do with zero emissions, that carbon offsets, an instrument of imperialism and colonialism, do nothing to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions – and that Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, are all co-founders of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (launched in 2015), which houses a $1 billion energy venture fund. Other co-founders of the coalition include aforementioned Jack Ma, and Marc Benioff. Breakthrough’s Mission Innovation, with its focus on nuclear, has partnered with 24 member states in addition to the EU.

“The [Google] white paper also highlights other technologies that could help bridge the gap between renewable power’s inherent intermittency and the consistent needs of its facilities, including “advanced nuclear, enhanced geothermal, low-impact hydro, long-duration storagegreen hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage.” These are the same list of technologies that utilities, states and countries with zero-carbon commitments are planning to rely on to reach their goals.”

 

Sept 14, 2020, Google Pledges 24/7 Carbon-Free Energy by 2030 [Emphasis added]

More to the point – even if renewable energies at scale were in fact a solution (which they are not), effectively replacing fossil fuel energies and lowering greenhouse gas emissions – this newly produced energy is effectively being devoured by the ICT sector. Here we witness the Jevons paradox; the easier it is to consume the product, the greater the increase in consumption. In 2019, coal was the world’s largest source of electricity, representing 35.18% of the total (despite a 3% year-on-year fall), followed by natural gas (23.52%), hydro (16.54%), nuclear (10.52%), wind (5.44%), other fossil fuels (3.47%).  Solar accounted for 2.71%, biomass and waste accounted for 2.24%, with “other renewable” coming in at 0.4%. [Source]

Damage Control by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

Academia, propped up by media – financed and owned by the ruling class – reacts swiftly in such instances. They are aided by those that worship at the altar of capital. [6] A broad consensus is formed that the growing trepidation surrounding exponential energy use and greenhouse gas emissions – corresponding with an exponential growth of data centers – is unfounded. To counter the concerns they cite rapid efficiency gains, and growth in renewable energies at scale (being built into the assumptions). The more the information generates concern, the greater the response by the gatekeepers. In this particular instance the issue is quickly reframed, utilizing the argument that the massive uptake in energy consumption will result in future efficiencies, or, that the growth is countered by rapid increased efficiencies, adding that cloud providers (such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Salesforce, etc.) are rapidly moving to zero emissions sources. A 2008 report produced by the World Wildlife Fund is an example of one such paper cited as a response to Andrae’s bleak assessment: ” A report [May 2008] from the World Wildlife Fund estimated that by 2030 efficiencies from smart devices and systems can potentially reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 8 gigatons, a figure approaching one quarter of total global emissions in 2018.” Here it can be noted that the World Wildlife Fund, which bears responsibility for the displacement and torture of Indigenous and tribal peoples (see the work of Survival International), is leading the charge to financialize nature in partnership with the World Economic Forum and other conservation NGOs.

“One has to search very hard to find a truthful statement from WWF. Lies have become their stock in trade.”

 

conservation ecologist Dr. Mordecai Ogada

 

“The drivers for more energy use are simply too great to be offset by efficiency gains.”

 

Jan 2020, Data center energy use goes up and up and up

The “decoupling” of growth and greenhouse gas emissions has become the preferred method of storytelling by global institutions such as UN-WEF et al., reverberated by those serving capital.

Another prime example is the public relations effort at Ericson: “Ericson, ICT and the climate – Have you ever worried how your online activities impact the climate? According to this report, the true impact may be a lot smaller than you think. [Source] The ICT sector’s carbon footprint could be reduced by over 80 percent if all electricity consumed came from renewable energy sources. [p. 3] 50 years – For the carbon emissions of a person making a transatlantic return flight, a smartphone could be used for over 50 years.” [p. 5] [A quick guide to your digital carbon footprint Deconstructing Information and Communication Technology’s carbon emissions, February 2020] In theory, that a smartphone (of obsolete design) could be used for over 50 years, is perhaps true – yet in reality, Westerners with money (and more importantly, access to debt), replace their smartphones with a new one every two years on average.

In addition to the magic trick of 7.5 million data centers coming online – with little to no added impact to global energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions, is the complete omission of embodied energies and vast “natural resources” (biological communities) extracted (plundered) for the infrastructure. The stunning growth of the data center industry and its increasing demand for energy presents a stark ecological cost to our natural world – with ecosystems already collapsing due to the effects of industrial civilization, driven by the capitalist economic system. It is a tragic irony that this acceleration commences alongside alarm over climate change and protection of biodiversity feigned by the ruling class and industry.

[Source of graphic: Estimating a Data Center’s Electrical Carbon Footprint, White Paper 66, 2010. Note the 10-year life cycle of the data center itself.]

Woke Imperialism

If one considers that the production phase of a smartphone represents 90% of the direct energy consumption – we can safely assume the production required for hyperscale data center technologies, and subsequent impacts of such, are gargantuan.

The “green economy” can only flourish on the foundation of imperialism. Electronic devices are made from rare metals and rare earth elements which can only be extracted and refined using vast amounts of energy. More often than not, these are water-intensive processes. In the process of resource theft, it is those most vulnerable and impoverished who mine the required metals – in countries kept deliberately, and permanently, destabilized by foreign corporate interests and colonial states. Such destabilization and foreign interference will persist until the targeted state becomes depleted of the resource. In addition, land, forests and water become barren toxic wastelands, poisoning all life and the biosphere itself. The “great reset” of the global economy is the rebooting of imperialism and colonization of the Global South.

 

 

Add to this the fact that the Fourth Industrial Revolution architecture, built upon, dependent upon, 5G and 6G communication internet technologies, may very well require more metals than the Earth can provide. As a result, industry has already begun its pursuit of yet another emerging market –  seabed mining, at scale.

And as oligarchs forge ahead with their plans to mine the planet’s oceans as the next terrain for industrial plunder, global tech giants have yet another vision of what the full colonization of oceans may entail. On September 14, 2020 Microsoft announced “underwater data centers are a go” after its researchers retrieved the prototype  sealed capsule of a data center, off the shores of Orkney Islands, Scotland, where it had been submerged in the spring of 2018. [Source] The experiment, Project Natick was the second carried out by Microsoft. The first capsule was submerged off the California coast in 2014.

Energy intensive recycling, on almost every level, has proven to be a spectacular failure – and yet it has morphed into another trillion dollar industry. For this reason, storytelling, to convince the citizenry to believe that recycling will be a key component of mitigating environmental impacts and destruction going forward, will persist.

Added to the aforementioned issues, to which we are collectively blind, or perhaps oblivious to, is the obsolescence by design. In most cases, the life span of a data center is typically 10 years at best. Hyperscale data centers are expected to last between 15 and 20 years. These short life spans are still out of sync with the far faster pace of the internet technologies (IT) that comprise the centers with a vast amount of the components being replaced at a 2-5 year refresh cycle: “Hyperscalers use IT equipment for only a few initial years of its much longer useful life, and for them that’s it. It’s onto the next best CPU, or the next best storage technology.”[Source]

In addition to this accelerating nightmare, coolants for data centers require toxic/hazardous chemicals, while large diesel generators are required for power shortages and outages. Consider that the Apple data center which was planned for Athenry, Co. Galway, Ireland, but scrapped in 2018 would have required 144 large diesel generators as back-up for when there was no wind, or insufficient renewable energy production, to support the power demands. [Source] In addition to diesel generators, battery (lead acid) back-ups are required for power shortages. This leads to another nightmare, now unfolding.

Lithium.

Here we must take into account, the escalating global tensions as power shifts to China. Rare earth metals and minerals are coveted by the world’s most powerful states. Access to these geographical regions, where the metals and minerals are found in abundance, is today a non-negotiable imperative for imperial governments and the transnational corporations they serve.

“A 2018 Bloomberg New Energy Finance report forecasted that Li-ion technology will comprise 40 percent of all data centre backup batteries by 2025, and that in the hyperscale sector, Li-ion will become the predominant battery technology, accounting for 55 percent of UPS [Uninterruptible Power Supply] batteries.” [October 23, 2019]

January 11. 2020: “The uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is the cornerstone of the modern data centre, and is one of the primary culprits of inefficient usage of hardware. Traditional lead-based batteries are becoming increasingly redundant… Huawei’s SmartLi UPS solution answers the call by leveraging the company’s cutting-edge Li-ion battery technology and delivering a ‘reinvention’ of the power supply system for the next generation of data centres… Reliability is further enshrined within the product with its 10-year, 5,000 cycle lifetime.” [Source: The importance of the lithium-ion battery for future data centers]

No further do we need to look, to see the “green energy transition”, as imperialism, quantified, than the November 11, 2019 coup in Bolivia, a country holding vast reserves of Earth’s lithium. (The single largest lithium deposit in the Salar de Uyuni, a salt pan, is so massive, it can be seen from space.)

 

Musk on Twitter, July 25, 2020: ""We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it."

Musk on Twitter, July 25, 2020: “”We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.”

 

On July, 25, 2020, billionaire and SpaceX founder Elon Musk responded to a comment directed toward him on Twitter. The comment read: “You know what wasn’t in the best interest of people? The U.S. government organizing a coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia so you could obtain the lithium there.” Musk responded with “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” Evo Morales, the first Indigenous president of Bolivia, overthrown in a coup, responded to Musk, drawing attention to the massacres that resulted from the coup, with a reminder of the Bolivian peoples’ sovereignty and self-determination: “We will always defend our resources!” That Musk is a grotesque human being, yet celebrated in our rapidly devolving Western culture, as a person to be both worshipped and emulated, speaks to our declining ability to even recognize the world’s problems, much less solve them. The Western worldview, which Musk et al. espouse, is founded on white supremacist ideology, an ideology shared by a large component of those that identify as liberal or progressive. Subjected to centuries of conditioning, generation after generation, this racist ideology hums beneath the global, capitalist economic system. A conditioned populace no longer recognizes it.

Further, the global race toward blockchain technology, dependent on the colossal expansion of militarized 5G networks, has already begun. On April 25, 2020, China launched the world’s largest Blockchain network (BSN) as the country rapidly transitions to digital central bank currency, digital wallets, digital identifications, automation, IoT, AI and biometrics at scale. On August 10, 2020, China rolled out its international website with Google and Amazon Web Services listed as cloud service providers. This vast lead in central bank digital currency (CBDC), digitalization and 4IR technologies, is recognized as a major security threat to the US. [Source]

Data centers are the heat engines of the internet. Eight million running 24/7 in order to meet the global demand. A demand now set to expand exponentially under Fourth Industrial Revolution digitalization. The more data produced – the more the storage infrastructures must expand. This growth will be unprecedented.

Here we can momentarily contemplate the World Economic Forum’s stakeholder capitalism storytelling, best described as a public relations rebranding exercise. Data centers are proliferating, while approximately 1 billion people, after 270 years of industrial revolutions, still have no access to electricity.

5G as Catalyst for Voracious Energy Consumption

The IEA forecasts that data and digital services will result in global internet traffic doubling by 2022. Internet of Things (IoT) connections (“a prevalent system in which people, processes, data, and things connect to the Internet and each other”, Cisco), will triple from 9.1 billion in 2018 to 25 billion in 2025, while global IoT revenue will quadruple to $1.1 trillion (a fourfold increase from 2018). The exponential growth of these devices is driven by “intentional obsolescence”. Mobile subscribers are projected to approach 6 billion by 2025. A projected 79% of all internet users will use smartphones exclusively to access content (up from 60% in 2018). [“In the most advanced countries, today’s digital consumers (using PCs and smartphones) will likely become tomorrow’s augmented customers, adopting emerging technologies such as AI (via smart speakers) and immersive reality.”] [Source: The Mobile Economy 2019, GSMA Intelligence] The exponential growth of digitalization [7], coupled with rapid growth of smartphone and social media users in Asia Pacific, followed by Africa, will drive unprecedented exponential growth in data center and network services.

According to Cisco, 60% of the world’s population will be online by 2022. But that was predicted in 2018 – prior to the COVID-19 “great reset”. By June 11, 2020, online access had reached 53% (Klaus Schwab), and in July 2020 the number of global internet users worldwide was reported as having reached 59% (Statista). That’s a full two years ahead of schedule.

“ICT systems give a non-negligible contribution to world electricity consumption and carbon dioxide (CO 2) footprint. This contribution will sustain since the increased demand for user’ s connectivity and an explosion of traffic volumes necessitate continuous expansion of current ICTs services and deployment of new infrastructures and technologies.”

 

November 8, 2019, Greener, Energy-Efficient and Sustainable Networks: State-Of-The-Art and New Trends

Of particular concern is the rapid growth of streaming video and gaming. By 2022 traffic from internet video is projected to have doubled from 2019, with online gaming projected to quadruple – amounting to 87% of consumer internet traffic by 2022. [Source] In addition to this dismal reality, emerging fourth industrial revolution technologies (5G, blockchain, virtual reality) will place further demands on our energy consumption, our natural world, and our collective well-being. While reading and contemplating these analyses and resulting data, it is important to bear in mind that these were compiled prior to “COVID-19, The Great Reset“. Recall Schwab, on June 11, 2020, proudly sharing the fact that some video streaming services have already grown twenty fold during this “watershed moment”.

“As blockchain applications become more widespread, understanding and managing their energy-use implications may become increasingly important for energy analysts and policy makers.”

 

— Data Centres and Data Transmission Networks, On track, International Energy Agency, June 1, 2020

Graph: “A recent IDC study claims that by 2025, worldwide data traffic will have grown by 61 percent to 175 zettabytes, with roughly 75 percent of the population having at least one data interaction every 18 seconds.” [Source]

The energy intensive 5G cellular networks serve as the very foundation of the new global architecture, as designed and sought by the ruling class. ICT experts suggest that “thanks to a combination of massive MIMO antennas, legacy networks in multiple bands and the massive proliferation of small cells”, 5G networks will consume three and half times more electricity as present 4G networks. [Source, October 30, 2019] A more recent report by ABI Research forecasts 5G energy consumption to increase by a magnitude of 61 times by the end of this decade:

“By 2028, 5G is expected to overtake LTE [Long-Term Evolution]. By this stage, both 5G NR Radio Access Network (RAN) and SA core network will be fully commercialized. As such, 5G energy consumption is expected to increase by 61x from 2020 to 2030.”

 

— September, 2020, ABI Research, Environmentally Sustainable 5G Deployment: Energy Consumption Analysis and Best Practices

As a tool for deployment of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the World Economic Forum seeks social license by leveraging the biodiversity crisis (caused by these very people, entities and institutions) as a means to obtaining social licence. That feigned concern for the ecology of the planet, and health of all life, quickly reveals itself when one becomes aware of the environmental threats that come with 5G, as well as the associated health risks, to all life forms. Although 403 scientists and doctors (as of September 23, 2020) across the European Union have signed a declaration calling for all 5G roll-out plans to be stopped, such appeals to the EU, and the World Health Organization, have been met with silence. “Listen to the science” and “unite behind the science”, but only when the science serves capital. The 2018 emerging risks report, from the European Commission’s SCHEER (Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks) committee calls attention to the potential effects on wildlife due to increases of electromagnetic radiation.

Worse, but par for the course, those tasked with protecting capital, in servitude to the hand that feeds, have deliberately framed very real 5G concerns as “conspiracy theory“, in a calculated effort to roll out 5G with as little dissent as possible.

“The overall energy and emission impacts of 5G are still uncertain.”

 

— Data Centres and Data Transmission Networks, On track, International Energy Agency, June 1, 2020

 

“The data streamed by an autonomous car would completely fill an average laptop’s 240GB hard drive in less than a minute.” [Source]

 

“5G will prompt Energy Consumption to Grow by staggering 160% in 10 years” [Source]

 

Automation at scale, artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning, 3D printing, blockchain, crypto currencies, autonomous vehicles, virtual and augmented reality, Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), precision agriculture, gene editing, robotics, “smart” cities: the list is endless and ever expanding as the world’s most powerful technocrats lead the transition from bricks to mortar, to an online, digitalized fourth industrial revolution education for our children, fourth industrial revolution healthcare (ehealth, digital medicine) and an automated global workforce. With this digitalization, comes the merger of human with machine: augmentation and neuro-technological brain enhancements. Cybersecurity will be the battle space of the 21st century. Emerging technologies that drive militarism, including Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), drone targeting, and hypersonic weapons are predicted to become the norm, further dividing and destroying.

“Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Tuesday that electricity consumption will double if the world’s car fleets are electrified, increasing the need to expand nuclear, solar, geothermal and wind energy generating sources.” — Reuters  [8]

A permissioned blockchain ‘ecosystem’ “is the key infrastructure-of-infrastructures that allows the vertical integration of cloud computing, 5G communications, industrial IOT, AI and big data, with fintech and other application-level services overlayed on the stack”. [Source] 5G broadband is the instrumental network that transports the data – with data centers as the heat engines. Together, they create a digital technosphere, purposely eroding our physical biosphere, coupled with a coming ecological nightmare which will be unprecedented in scale. All under the guise of climate mitigation and the protection of biodiversity.

The following is an excerpt from the article “The World in 2030. Hyper-connected and Hyper-fragmented”, authored by Mark Leonard, Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, and past Chairman of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Geo-economics:

“Connectivity can cause conflict… Rather than creating a harmonious global village, we increasingly recognise that the very same forces that have brought people together and broken down boundaries between peoples and nations are leading to nationalism, protectionism, and a desire for control. The world of 2030 will therefore likely be more closely bound together than at any time in history, but also one where political fragmentation is at an all-time high. It will be a world in which connections between people and countries become instrumentalised and weaponised… The Digital Revolution has brought people together in a single connected web and is going to lead to further fragmentation of societies…

 

Migration and the movement of people will be weaponised and will also be the defining topic for politics, even more so than already now and both in countries which are scared for their existence due to demographic changes and countries that are experiencing migration influxes. Moreover, international law and institutions will grow increasingly weaponised: the idea of lawfare, using the norms and processes of these institutions to damage the opponent, is going to be a very well-known concept. We thought of law and institutions as a constraint on competition and a way of regulating our relations in the past. They will now become a core means and field for competition at the same time.” [Source]

To further demonstrate the illusory concern over the biodiversity crisis, being leveraged with COVID-19, by the World Economic Forum et al., as a means of ushering in the “great reset” as rapidly as possible, satellites are already being launched into space that will support the 5G and 6G networks, connecting  trillions of devices. On November 11, 2019 SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network, owned by Elon Musk, rocketed 60 satellites into orbit. This followed a launch of 60 SpaceX satellites launched in May 2019. By February 2020, SpaceX had launched five batches of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit – with a long-term goal of 30,000.

But Musk is far from alone in his quest to dominate the sky. There are 57,000 satellites planned through 2029. “When there are 50,000 satellites in the sky, ‘you’ll see the sky crawling,’ says Tony Tyson, a University of California Davis astronomer and physicist. ‘Every square degree will have something crawling in it.'” In addition, unregulated rocket launch emissions will further impact the global atmosphere while adding enormous quantities of space debris. [Source] While “corona” serves to distract a global populace, a virus Klaus Schwab describes as “mild” in his book COVID-19 The Great Reset, one thing is clear – billionaires are the most dangerous virus of all.

“Soon, Earth may be blanketed by tens of thousands of satellites, and they’ll greatly outnumber the approximately 9,000 stars that are visible to an unaided human eye.”

 

January 29, 2020, The night sky is increasingly dystopian

The absolute lack of regard for the subsequent harm that this will inflict upon nocturnal sentient animals and fauna is beyond pathological. The arrogance is blatant, astounding, and unequivocal. In addition to physiological harm, this new and unprecedented form of light pollution will disrupt navigation and migration patterns that have evolved within animals, birds, and insects, over millennia.”The rhythm of life is orchestrated by the natural diurnal patterns of light and dark, so disruption to these patterns impacts the ecological dynamics.” [The Hague]

The Dire Ecological Impacts & Consequences that Lie Ahead

Here it is imperative to note the consolidation of power happening in real time. World Economic Forum founder and CEO Klaus Schwab refers to this consolidation as a new global architecture; the new global governance. The following dates of are of paramount significance. On May 18, 2018, the World Bank partners with the United Nations. On June 13, 2019, the World Economic Forum partners with the United Nations. On March 11, 2020, the World Economic Forum partners with the World Health Organization (a UN body) launching the COVID Action Platform, a coalition of 200 of the world’s most powerful corporations. This number would quickly swell to over 700. On this same day, March 11, 2020, the WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic. The UN-WEF partnership firmly positions Word Economic Forum at the helm of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, also referred to as the Global Goals), which they are frothing at the mouth to implement. This is not because they care about poverty, biodiversity, the climate, or world hunger. Marketed with holistic language, dressed with beautiful images of brown smiling children, SDGs represent the new poverty economy (impact investing/social impact bonds) and emerging markets. Children as human capital data to be commodified on blockchain linking behaviour to benefits. Coercion has been repackaged as empowerment. The human population to be controlled via digital identity systems tied to cashless benefit payments within the context of a militarized 5G, IoT, and an augmented reality environment. A world where every function of nature is monetized, to be bought, sold and traded on Wall Street.

"Around $6 trillion a year will need to be invested to deliver the SDGs, most of it in emerging markets."

“Around $6 trillion a year will need to be invested to deliver the SDGs, most of it in emerging markets.”

 

Fourth revolution technologies, in particular 5G and the ICT, fall under the SDG #9: “Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”; 9c: “significantly increase access to ICT and strive to provide universal and affordable access to Internet in the LDCs (least-developed countries) by 2020”. These are central to the goals of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). A critical component toward the full implementation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (“Industry 4.0”) is digitalization. In the EU, 4.0 digitalization is being rolled out under the EU Green Deal in service to Klaus Schwab.

“Around $6 trillion a year will need to be invested to deliver the SDGs, most of it in emerging markets.”

 

At Last… Climate Consensus on the Magic Mountain, February 3, 2020, SYSTEMIQ

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a term largely accredited to Schwab. He describes it as being “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.” The World Economic Forum website adds that it will impact “all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.” [Source] One may question why collectively, we would accept an architecture that will further destroy the natural world – to become only further disconnected from our natural world. A world that will be further devastated by the very global architecture purported to save it.

“Once we can access people’s thoughts and people’s emotions, we have to create a space that enables people to think freely, to think divergent and creative thoughts.  And in a society where people fear having those thoughts, the likihood of being able to enjoy progress is significantly diminished.” [The Fourth Industrial Revolution | Full Version, World Economic Forum, April 13, 2016]

 

“The very idea of humans being some sort of natural concept is really going to change. Our bodies will be so hightech, we won’t be able to really distinguish between what is natural and what is artificial”

 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution | Full Version, World Economic Forum, April 13, 2016

In closing this segment, we can juxtapose Andrae’s suggestion that communications technology may account for more than 20% of global energy consumption by 2025, with this observation articulated by The Guardian’s John Vidal back in 2017: “The industry has encouraged the idea that the digital transformation of economies and large scale energy efficiencies will slash global emissions by 20% or more.”

Thus, the power elite intend to crush the informal sectors and whole societies in the Global South – and across the world, in order to usher fourth industrial revolution digitalization, utilizing COVID-19 as the catalyst. Under the guise of protecting the biosphere and mitigating climate change, the “Great Reset”, decades in the making, has been foisted upon us by the ruling class. The new global architecture masks its intentions with illusory concern over ecological crises that they created. That they accelerate. To “slash global emissions by 20% or more” by rolling out an infrastructure that may well translate to 23% of all global emissions by 2030. At the cost of further plundering the Earth. At the cost of a growing, collective mental duress.

Imperative 21: Allies for System Change, a Virtual Convening of the Skoll World Forum - April 1, 2020

Imperative 21: Allies for System Change, a Virtual Convening of the Skoll World Forum – April 1, 2020

 

This depraved psychosis only makes sense when one understands that “action on climate” is not about mitigating climate change. Rather, it serves as an opportunity to “reset” capitalism as it teetered on the verge of collapse with global debt having reached a staggering 253 trillion dollars. [The global debt has since ballooned to a whopping 272 trillion dollars.] We are embarking on an inescapable and irreversible technological enslavement.

“Who survives? Amazon, Netflix, Google, Comcast, Facebook, et al. Those who control the screens control the world. It is a new morning in hell.”

 

John Steppling, Morning in Hell, October 7, 2020

The more that states, industries, institutions, platforms and devices rely on data and internet interconnectivity to function, the more our global energy consumption will soar.

Assessing “the silicon footprint, [and the] environmental impact of hyperconnected technologies”, the Institute for the Future concludes, “These facts considered together increase the probability that the net environmental impact of a hyperconnected world will be negative.” [The Hyperconnected World of 2030–2040; made possible by the support of the Office of Director of National Intelligence; IFTF convened a team of technology experts and researchers to look at the future of the hyperconnected world in a day-long workshop in 2019.]

The ruling classes intend to assign monetary value to nature, global in scale. The monetization of “social and human capital” will follow. This would entail the greatest transformation to the economic system in modern history. “Natural capital” valuation is expected to replace GDP (Gross Domestic Product) with nature to be bought, sold and traded on Wall Street. This, coupled with “protected areas” that would further displace Indigenous peoples. In addition to data as the new oil, classifying nature as an asset class represents a global corporate coup of the commons. With capitalism having reached its limits, and physical labour now disposable, to be replaced by automation/robotics, data and nature represent new and untapped emerging markets. Utilizing the very real fact that nature is vital to all life, we are told to believe that it can only be valued properly by humans if monetized (i.e. “natural capital” and “payments for ecosystem services”). Yet consider this: In just a few months the World Health Organization (partnering with the World Economic Forum on March 13, 2020), and the United Nations (partnering with the World Economic Forum on June 11, 2019) – in unison with the sycophant institutions, academia, sciences, media and NGOs that serve them. et al. – effectively utilized cognitive sciences, psychology, conformity and fear, to convince an entire global population that masks must be worn in order to save lives. In this same way, if they truly desired to convince a population that it is critical to protect nature against development, industry, privatization, corporate capture and monetization – as nature is vital to all life, and should be respected as such, they could easily do so. They do not – because it is they, primarily, who are wholly responsible for the bulk of the plunder they wish to continue. The global decimation of nature, from which they build and retain their fortunes and status.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has caused and will continue to cause mass upheaval, displacement, severe impacts, and untold suffering to the peasantry, Indigenous, working class and those belonging to the informal economy. The middle class will not be spared. Yet this depraved new global architecture, dangerous to life, human, sentient and biological, is pushed forward despite advanced knowledge of foretold tragedy – solely for the pursuit of money, profits and power. It is this very fact that shows us unequivocally and irrevocably that promises for a just transition, green deals, new deals, build back better schemes, are nothing but empty, hollow assurances, void of intent. These are the lies they tell. Promises and assertions that are nothing more than alibis.

Western and ruling class ideologies have played a crucial and cruel role in the violent transformation of the peoples, ecosystems and biosphere. The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents the most violent transformation of all. For as long as the ruling class is allowed to exist, social and environmental justice remain pipe dreams.

The ruling class has weaponized the power of both fear and conformity against us. That Covid-19 is the catalyst to usher in a new global architecture, that is the 4IR, is not conjecture, not “conspiracy theory“, but a fact. Full compliance is the goal. A physical transformation away from our physical world, towards a full embracing of an artificial, digital, virtual world, is being engineered, right before our very eyes. The social engineering of a collective consciousness. Social license is being harvested to reset the capitalist system – under the guise of a climate emergency and saving the planet. This we know: the planet will not be saved by those that have destroyed it.

 

 

End Notes:

[1] The September 11, 2020 article “The Social Dilemma Wants You to Delete Facebook”, is somewhat disingenuous, with the film’s emphasis on deleting notifications, rather than the social media platform. Yet what is of interest, and on the mark, is the reference to a TED Talk by Eli Pariser explaining “filter bubbles are the result of internet platforms’ race to feed users the information that will keep them coming back.” Pariser should know – as a co-founder of both Avaaz and Upworthy – with cofounder Chris Hughes of Facebook.

[2] “The sprawling camp, which is divided into 12 districts across 13 square kilometres, is surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by police and military. Refugees cannot leave without permission. If they want to move to a city elsewhere in the country, they need a Jordanian sponsor guaranteeing financial support – a condition that leaves many stuck in the camp.” [Source]

[3] Gov.UK: “We asked our hosting providers, Amazon Web Services, UKCloud and Carrenza, to tell us how much electricity we use, and how much CO2 we produce. Only one of our providers, UKCloud, agreed to give us data about our electricity usage. For Amazon and Carrenza, we made a guess about the amount of electricity we use, assuming a percentage of our monthly bill. In addition, neither Amazon nor Google currently shares information about how much CO2 their data centres produce.” [Source]

[4] Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the International Energy Agency (IEA), and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) have concluded that room air conditioners alone — the typical window and split units used in most homes — are set to account for over 130 gigatons (GT) of CO2 emissions between now and 2050. That would account for 20–40% of the world’s remaining “carbon budget” (the most we can emit while still keeping global warming to less than 2?C above pre-industrial levels — the goal set at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015).” [Source] “If room air conditioners have a massive emission, then it is hard to imagine the immense emissions that is occurring on the industrial scale.”

[5] In 2018, the total amount of electricity generated from renewables was 6 586 TWh. Renewable hydro accounted for about 63% of this (4 149 TWh), followed by wind energy (1 263 TWh), solar energy (562 TWh), bioenergy (523 TWh), geothermal energy (88 TWh) and marine energy (1 TWh). [Source: IRENA – Renewable energy highlights, July 1, 2020]

[6] “But data centers are rapidly becoming more energy efficient, and new research suggests there’s no longer a close link between more cloud computing and more energy use. A report published Thursday in Science credits the progress to better management, more efficient hardware and the rise of “hyperscale” data centers created by tech giants…The data-center industry’s 20% annual improvement in energy intensity dwarfs all other major parts of the economy. The power used today by data centers, 1% of the global total, is roughly the same as it was in 2010… This new research is the first major attempt to compile a bottom-up view of data-center energy use in a decade. Researchers based their work on reports published by Cisco Systems, Inc., Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the International Energy Agency, among other sources.” [Source]

[7] The Cisco Annual Internet Report, 2018-2023 predicts that by 2023, there will be 299.1 billion global mobile application downloads, up from 194 billion global mobile application downloads in 2018. By 2023, there will be 29.3 billion global devices and connections (3.6 devices and connections per capita), up from 18.4 billion devices and connections in 2018 (2.4 devices and connections per capita). Similarly, Gartner forecasts that 14.2 billion connected things will be in use in 2019, and that the total will reach 25 billion by 2021, producing immense volume of data. [Source]

[8] Quote added on December 4, 2020 after initial publication. [Source] Full quote as follows: “Total electricity power consumption obviously will increase. I mean when everything, when all transport goes electric, or road transport going electric, it will approximately double the electricity usage, um total electricity usage. Like I said, because most of its at night, [charging batteries], that doesn’t mean a doubling of the power plant. But we will need to increase the amount of solar and wind, geothermal, hydro, [and] nuclear, I think is fine. Like I said, in order to solve the needs of electric vehicles.” — AxelSpringer Award Talk with Questions from other CEOs, December 1, 2020 [Source]

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, Internationalist 360, Tortilla con Sal, and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WATCH: Ella Baker: “The Fight for Freedom Every Day”

WATCH: Ella Baker: “The Fight for Freedom Every Day”

“Life-long human rights activist and movement organizer, Ella Baker, addresses 1974 Puerto Rico solidarity rally about the need for every person to make the struggle for human dignity and freedom every day.”

TRANSCRIPT:

Friends, brothers, and sisters in the struggle for human dignity and freedom. I am here to represent the struggle that has gone on for three-hundred or more years — a struggle to be recognized as citizens in a country in which we were born. I have had about forty or fifty years of struggle, ever since a little boy on the streets of Norfolk called me a nigger. I struck him back. And then I had to learn that hitting back with my fists one individual was not enough. It takes organization. It takes dedication. It takes the willingness to stand by and do what has to be done, when it has to be done.

A nice gathering like today is not enough. You have to go back and reach out to your neighbors who don’t speak to you. And you have to reach out to your friends who think they are making it good. And get them to understand that they–as well as you and I–cannot be free in America or anywhere else where there is capitalism and imperialism. Until we can get people to recognize that they themselves have to make the struggle and have to make the fight for freedom every day in the year, every year until they win it.”

[Source: Peaceable Power”]

Lockdown Therapy for Capitalism

Lockdown Therapy for Capitalism

April 23, 2020

By Hiroyuki Hamada

 

Vogue, Special Edition: Freedom on Hold. The issue has sold out. 

A migrant worker’s child sleeps on a highway in locked-down New Delhi, India, March 29, 2020. On March 30 2020, 8 year-old Rakesh Musahar died of hunger as his family struggled to make ends meet during the lockdown. Rakesh hailed from the Mahadalit Musahar community. He was a ragpicker & sold junk in the market. His father Durga Prasad Musahar was a porter. Rakesh died on Mar 26. His family waited for several hours for local admin. officials to come & make arrangements. However, nobody arrived. Dejected, Durga Prasad & a few other locals finally carried the boy’s body on a cart and cremated him.” [Source] REUTERS – Adnan Abidi

One might think that artists wouldn’t mind being isolated and having more time in studios on account of the current Coronavirus situation.  After all, we spend an enormous amount of time alone, and isolation allows us to have uninterrupted amounts of time to let our imaginations fly.But there are other elements in play when we examine creativity.  For example, it is crucial that we feel safe to expose all our senses to our environment so that we ground our minds properly to our surroundings, harmoniously with all our channels open.

When the “lockdown” started I was at an art residency in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  I lived in a communal setting with twenty other artists and writers.  As soon as public spaces became inaccessible and “social distancing” became the norm at the residency, many of the fellow artists experienced lack of productivity.  I felt an immediate blockage to my making process.

Perhaps, since our society does not make artists’ activities a priority, this might be the last thing one would consider as a serious “problem”.  And to a lesser extent such a concern might be secondary to many artists themselves who will be subjected to enormous economic difficulties.

It is “understood” that this is a “crisis” and we must “fight together“ against our “common enemy” which is the virus.  
But who could blame those of us who are very much suspicious of such a momentum, as we hear “decrees” being issued to dictate our social activities while all instruments of state violence and repression are in place to regulate our behaviors.  
After all we live in the same society which has baselessly demonized Muslims while bombing, colonizing and destroying their countries in the name of “war on terror”.  Young black people have been openly demonized to justify gentrification, mass incarceration, exploitation through substandard labor conditions and so on and so forth in the name of “war on drug” and “tough on crime”.

We know that a “crisis” presents opportunities and tools for the ruling class to shape and perpetuate the social structure.  The system in which they thrive is always “too big to fail” while oppressed people keep failing so that they are safely cornered into hopelessness, cynicism and complacency to the feudal order of money and violence.

Caption: “I’ve joined @voguearabia in the fight against Covid-19 to support their #stayhome campaign, and emphasize the importance of safe habits during the pandemic. #strongertogether

Townships are in lockdown — but many Africans fear hunger more than Covid-19. In South Africa, three people have been killed as police have attacked crowds with whips and rubber bullets for defying a lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Five more were killed in Kenya, including a 13-year-old boy hit by a stray bullet fired by police enforcing a stay-at-home order in Nairobi. In Uganda, soldiers shot and injured two people for riding on a motorbike during a curfew, Population of Kenya: 51.39 million (2018). Deaths with/from COVID19 in Kenya: 14 (April 21, 2020), Getty images, Source

It is not a speculation that there are people who prosper and even benefit during an economic crisis—as smaller business owners struggle, large corporations and banks benefit from huge government subsidies, giving them more power to buy failing small businesses, for example.  And it is a fact that many of those people have enormous economic power to shape the policies that can benefit themselves. It is not a speculation that they would appreciate having strict measures of control against the people by limiting their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to travel, or by installing means of surveillance, check points and official certifications for activities that might give freedom to the people beyond the capitalist framework.  It is not a speculation that they would benefit from moving our social interactions to the digital realm, which can commodify our activities as marketable data for the advertising industry, insurance industry and any other moneyed social institutions Including education, political institution, legal institution, and financial institution.  Such matters should be seen within the context of the western history being shaped by unelected capitalists with their enormous networks of social institutions.  In fact, private foundations and NGOs are working with governmental organizations and global institutions to implement potentially dangerous policies of draconian measures as well as financialization of our activities for sometime.  According to researchers—Cory MorningstarAlison McDowell and others, the potential impact of the transformation which is about to take place through the Internet, block chain technology, artificial intelligence, and etc. under the banner of the fourth industrial revolution can be devastatingly inhumane to our species’ path.  Examining those matters must not be subjected to being labeled as “conspiracy” and dismissed.

Needless to say, a draconian momentum against the capitalist hierarchy accelerates hardships of “invisible people” who struggle against economic deprivation and social repression.  How do homeless people “stay home”?  How do people in jail practice “social distancing”?   How are people vulnerable to domestic violence protected?   How do small business owners continue to stay in business?  How do poor people survive while public services and spaces are eliminated, while affluent people are stock piling in their generously equipped gated communities.  How do people with addiction stay sober?  How do people with suicidal tendency secure their dwindling connection to humanity?

Food distributed to homeless migrant workers in New Delhi. The painted circles on the ground are to maintain social distancing. Vikram Patel, Harvard Medical School, April 17, 2020:  “Since the first case was reported in late January, there have been (as of 15 April) about 400 confirmed deaths. During this same period of roughly 75 days, if we extrapolate data from recent years on mortality, over 1.5 million Indians will have died due to other causes.” [Population of India: 1.3 billion (2018). Deaths with/from Covid: 603 (April 21, 2020)]

But those discussions are rare among us.  A hint of doubt can trigger those people who are “fighting together”.  Because once our creative minds learn to live safely in an authoritarian framework of draconian rules and decrees, the narrow framework restricts our thoughts and ideas.  Our minds get weaponized to uphold the authoritarianism as a path to “democracy”, “freedom”, “justice” and “humanity”, which have been mere euphemisms to describe blank checks given to the ruling class.  Once people turn into soldiers of the authoritarianism, the path to the ”solutions” is paved by their  relentless adherence to corporate political parties, official decrees and carefully concocted narratives within the capitalist framework.  Our discussions cease to be mutually respectful exchange, instead, they become battle grounds in which dissenting voices are vetted, attacked and eliminated.

A society that can’t sustain artists is a society that kills minds to care, understand, empathize and share.  A society that enforces its imperatives with fear instead of trust in humanity deprives a healthy mechanism to guide itself.

As I see how public sentiment is developing over the virus situation, I must mention one more thing.  There has been a proven method of silencing anti-capitalist voices within our society, used by media, political figures, corporate dissidents and others.  It requires a few steps.

First, amplify the voices of people who willingly sacrifice those who they consider to hold lower positions than they do in demanding their righteous positions within the capitalist hierarchy.  The voices might come from racist nationalists, patriarchal misogynists, flag waving anti-immigrant activists or heartless Trump supporters demanding old people to die during the coronavirus pandemic.  Those people recognize that an aspect or a policy of the establishment will compromise their lives—after all they are also oppressed by the capitalist order.  However, they do embrace the capitalist order in essence.  They do not tolerate sharing their positions with people who they despise.

Second, claim that you are with victims of racism, misogyny or xenophobia, or old people who are vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.

Third, falsely equate an anti-capitalist perspective with that of those political villains.

Forth, dismiss those who are calling out the ruling class agenda as “racist”, “misogynists”, “fascist worshiper” and so on.

This method has been very effective.  I am sure that anyone who has expressed a concern over capitalist domination can recall being labeled as what they actually oppose.

The method achieves a few things at the same time.  First, it obscures the mechanism of capitalist hierarchy. Second, it divides people who should be fighting against the system together—obscuring the meaning of class struggle.  Third, it augments the capitalist hierarchy.  Forth, it vitalizes the political legitimacy of corporate political parties which utilize the division.  Needless to say, the narrative of division is actively generated by corporate political parties as well.

It is imperative that we recognize the predicaments of the people who are most oppressed within our society, while we firmly recognize the dynamics within the capitalist hierarchy, and stay away from being a part of the mechanism which safely turns our predicaments into driving forces of capitalism.

I hope above writing can generate much needed discussions on the topic among us.

[Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony. In 1998 Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He lives and works in New York.]

Feudal Japan’s Edo and the US Empire

Feudal Japan’s Edo and the US Empire

Dissident Voice

March 25, 2020

by Hiroyuki Hamada

 

After the warlord period of 15th century, Japan was united by a few families and then by a shogun family.  The period is called the Edo period. They disarmed civilians and established a mild caste system. The country was closed except for a few ports controlled by the central government, travel restrictions were put in place and certain technological developments were prohibited. The Edo period also had an interesting feature called sankinkoutai. It forced regional leaders to march across the country in formal costumes along with their armies in order to alternate their residences between their home regions and the capital of the feudal Japan, Edo.  It also forced leaders’ wives and family members to remain in Edo at all times. It was an elaborate system to keep the hierarchical structure intact.

The reign lasted a few centuries with no conflicts within the country until the US forced Japan to open in order to use its ports for the whaling business. I’ve been suspecting that the aim of some people among the ruling class circle is to establish such a closed hierarchical system which can function in a “sustainable” manner. But, of course, it is not exactly a system of equality and sharing as it would be advertised. The notion of “sustainable” is also very much questionable as we see blatant lies hidden behind carbon trade schemes, nuclear energy, “humanitarian” colonialism rampant in Africa and other areas, and so on.

Detail from a handscroll painting depicting the sankin kôtai procession of the lord of Iyo-Matsuyama han. Date unknown. National Museum of Japanese History

 

I mentioned the special feature, sankinkoutai, since I see an interesting parallel between it and “representative democracy” within the capitalist West today.  Of course, we don’t have such an obvious requirement among us, but similar dynamics occur within our capitalist framework. Our thoughts and activities are always subservient to the moneyed transactions guided by the economic networks. Our economic restrictions can force us to make decisions to do away with our needs—we might abandon our skills, interests, friendships, life styles, philosophies, ideologies, community obligations and so on. In fact, some of us are forced to live on streets, die of treatable illness, and suffer under heavy debt during our struggles. In a way, we surrender our basic needs as hostages to the system just as the Japanese regional leaders had to leave their family members under the watch of the Shogun family. Moreover, the more our thoughts differ from that of neoliberal capitalist framework, the more we must put our efforts into adjusting to it. Some of us might be labeled as “dissidents,” and such a label can create obstacles in our social activities. This functions similar to the fact that Japanese feudal regional leaders who were further away from the capital geographically had to put more efforts in marching across the country, requiring them to expend more resources. In the capitalist system, this occurs economically as well; those who are already oppressed by the economic strife must spend more resources to conform to the draconian measures to survive.

Now, one might wonder why regional leaders had subjected themselves to such an inhumane scheme. The march across the country was considered as a show of strength and authority; it was a proud moment to put on their costume to show off. The populations across the country were forced to respect this process with reverence and awe. There were strict regulations regarding how to treat such marches.

This situation can be compared to our political process: the presidential election in particular, in which our powers and interests are put in the corporate political framework to be shaped, tweaked, and distorted. Sanctioned by capitalist mandates and agendas, political candidates march across the nation while people proudly cheer their favorites. The more complicit with the capitalist framework the candidates are, the more lavish “the marches.” This forces the contents of political discourse to remain within the capitalist framework while marginalizing candidates and their supporters whose ideas are not obedient to it. “Representative democracy” within a capitalist framework can be one of the most powerful ways to install the values, beliefs and norms of the ruling class into minds of the people whose interests can be significantly curtailed by those ideas. All this can be achieved in the name of “democracy,” “free elections,” and so on.

Since people’s minds and their collective mode of operations are deeply indoctrinated to be a part of the capitalist structure, any crisis would strengthen the fundamental integrity of the structure. I heard a Trump supporter saying that “people should be shook up a little.” That’s actually a very appropriate description. When you shake their ground, people will try to hold onto whatever they think is a solid structure. Some of us might, however, try to hold onto a Marxist perspective, for example. That, of course, provokes reactions by those who go along with the capitalist framework because they will feel particularly threatened, sensing that their entire belief system might fall. Examination of facts and contexts during the time of crisis can generate divisions and opportunities to control and moderate opposing views.

Capitalist institutions are dominated by this mentality which might explain the extremely quick mobilization of the draconian restrictions and the demand for more restrictions during the time of “crisis”.  Economic incentives as well as self-preservation within the system force people to engage actively in unquestioning manner.  For example, we have observed concerted efforts in mobilizing media, government agencies, legal system and so on to “combat” “drug issues”, “inner-city violence” and so on which has led to mass incarceration, police killings and “gentrification” of primarily minority communities.  Needless to say, 9/11 has created enormous momentum of colonial wars against middle eastern countries.  No major media outlets or politicians questioned blatant lies surrounding WMD claim against Iraq, for example.  As a result, many countries were destroyed while one out of a hundred people on the planet became refugees.  Draconian regulations became normal, racism and xenophobia among people intensified and the term “global surveillance” became household.

This situation requires further examination since there are a few layers which must be identified.  First, we must recognize that there is an industry that commodifies “dissenting voices”.  The people who engage in this have no intention of examining the exploitive mechanism of capitalist hierarchy.  Some of them typically chose topics of government wrongdoings in contexts of fascist ideologies (jews are taking over the world, for example), space aliens and so on.  The angles are calibrated to keep serious inquiries away but they nonetheless garner major followings.  When certain topics fall into their hands, discussing them can become tediously unproductive as it prompts a label “conspiracy”.  It also contributes in herding dissidents toward fascist ideology while keeping them away from understanding actual social structure.

Second point is related to the first, when the topic enters the realm of “conspiracy”, and when we lose means to confirm facts, many of us experience cognitive dissonance.  The unspoken fear of the system becomes bigger than any of the topics at hand, and some of us shut down our thought process. As a result, we are left with hopelessness, cynicism and complacency.  This is a major tool of the system of extortion.  It makes some of us say “if there is a President who tries to overthrow capitalism, he or she will be assassinated”.  Such a statement illustrates the fact that understanding of violent system, fear and complacency can firmly exist in people’s minds without openly admitting to it.

Third, aside from the unspoken fear toward the destructive system, there is also unspoken recognition that the system is inherently unsustainable to itself and to its environment.  The cultish faith in capitalist framework is upheld by myths of white supremacy, American exceptionalism and most of all by our structural participation to it.   Any cult with an unsustainable trajectory eventually faces its doomsday phase.  It desires a demise of everything, which allows cultists to avoid facing the nature of the cult.  It allows them to fantasize a rebirth.  This in turn allows the system to utilize a catastrophic crisis as a spring board to shift its course while implementing draconian measures to prop itself up.  “The time of survival” normalizes the atrocity of structural violence in reinforcing the hierarchical order, while those with relative social privilege secretly rejoice the arrival of “the end”.

Any of those three dynamics can be actively utilized by those who are determined to manipulate and control the population.

Now, there is another interesting coincidence with the Japanese history.  The title Shogun had been a figurehead status given by the imperial family of Japan long before the Edo period.  Shogun is a short version of Seiitaishogun, which can be translated as Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force Against the Barbarians. The title indicates the nature of the trajectory more bluntly than the US presidency which is also Commander in Chief — which has engaged in numerous colonial expeditions over the generations. But as I mentioned above, the Edo period was not a time of fighting “barbarians”. It was a time of a closed feudal system and its hierarchy was strictly controlled by its customs and regulations.  The current trajectory of our time prompts one to suspect the inevitable path to be a similar one.

Our thoughts and ideas have been already controlled by capitalist framework for generations.  We knowingly and unknowingly participate in this hostage taking extortion structure.  While shaken by crisis after crisis, we have gone through waves of changes, which have implemented rigid social restrictions against our ability to see through lies and rise above the feudal order of money and violence.

I do understand that the above discussion is very much generalized.  One can certainly argue against validity of the parallel based on historical facts and contexts.  Some might also argue the Edo period to be far more humane on some regards, in terms of how people related to their natural surroundings, or the system being actually sustainable, for instance.  But I believe that my main points still stand as valid and worthy of serious considerations.  Also, it is not my intention to label, demean and demonize policy makers of our time in cynical manner. My intention is to put the matter as a topic of discussion among those who are concerned in a constructive manner.  The comparison was used as a device for us to step back from our time and space in evaluating our species’ path today.

Lastly, as I describe the historical trajectory of the US empire, one can not not examine the nature of the current coronavirus panic “lockdown”. Although the incident is still very much developing some of us have already raised many questions.  This article is from a Chinese state media outlet repeating questions raised by some regarding the origin of the Coronavirus. The questions are serious ones which can easily topple entire official US narratives on the matter and beyond.

If the illness has originated from the US military facility as it has been concluded by some and the US has covered it up and blamed the illness on China, the US didn’t only expose its own citizens to the virus, but it knowingly caused deaths and sufferings among its own people. It erroneously blamed China for not acting fast enough against the situation, while adding the coronavirus deaths to the US annual flu deaths—which is always high due to its dysfunctional healthcare system.

According to the allegations, some elected officials might have even profited from this murderous situation.

Subsequently, it stands to reason to question what has motivated the US to act in such a drastic manner against the virus after knowingly tolerating the deaths being caused by the virus for a few months.

Some points to keep in mind are:

1. A social crisis exacerbates structural violence against an already oppressed population leading to augmentation of ruling class interests.

2. A crisis allows bailout measures for those who are already being served generously by the system.

3. A crisis allows codification of draconian policies to further restrict an already oppressed population.

4. A crisis justifies the existence of the authoritarian system.

5. All of the above are various aspects of capitalist hierarchy to serve itself by harming its own people.

Please also refer to articles by Cory Morningstar on the topic.

When a crisis situation is identified in mobilizing the population, one common technique to contain dissenting voices is the use of false equivalency. For example, in discussing the US imperial war against Syria, one might have said that Russia was bombing just like the US.  However, needless to say, Russia was invited by the Syrian government to fight West-backed al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups in Syria.  The liberation efforts by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies brought back Syrian people to their own communities which were devastated by the US proxy war against Syria.

In the case of coronavirus situation, Chinese government detecting a disease epidemic so that it can allocate sufficient medical care to its people is very different from the US totally ignoring medical threats regularly and suddenly deciding to “care” in aimlessly draconian ways.

This Facebook post by Phil Greaves concisely lays out the difference:

“China:

 

-Lockdowns in only the most affected areas.

-Quarantine and hospital treatment for ALL suspected cases.

-Masks provided for everyone, no “two-meter” bullshit.

-200 million CPC members & volunteers mobilised to serve the elderly & vulnerable with food and medicine.

-ALL wages paid in full for anyone off work due to the virus, for the entire duration.

 

95% production regained after 4 weeks.

 

Britain:

 

-Nationwide house-arrest.

-Shuts down nearly the entire economy, sacks millions of workers, does not guarantee pay for even half of them.

-Gives the banks hundreds of billions.

-Massively reduces healthcare capacity.

-Allows supermarket chains to exploit panic buyers.

 

Economic depression inevitable.”

It is also very different for the Chinese government to regulate circulation of false information in order to implement its policies effectively from the US censoring legitimate questions about its ineffective policies and its active policies to harm its own people and “others”.

The differences in the approach of the two countries toward the peoples across the globe during this time of crisis are also very clear.  While China is reaching out to other countries to help their struggles — sending medical equipment and experts to those countries — the US is actively punishing some of the hardest hit countries with trade sanctions, trade embargo and demonization campaigns against them.

Corona panic incident is yet another milestone in clearly marking inhumanity of the imperial order perpetuated by the western hegemony.

 

[Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony. In 1998 Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He lives and works in New York.]

“Virus or No Virus, We Can’t Lose Our Voice”: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities

Black Agenda Report

March 18, 2020

By Ann Garrison

 

“Coronavirus is just an extension of the war that we’ve been forced to fight under capitalism.”

 

“We’re assisting people who suddenly have no income and are stuck in their homes for the foreseeable future.”

Cheri Honkala has been organizing in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, one of the US’s most devastated, post-industrial communities, for over 30 years. As of the 2010 census, Kensington was 38.9% Hispanic of any race, 37.4% non-Hispanic white, 14.8% non-Hispanic Black, 6.2% Asian, and 2.7% all other. And it’s beginning to be threatened by gentrification.

Cheri is one of the founders of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC), and her work has been so impressive that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein asked her to be her running mate  in 2008.

I asked her how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting Kensington.

Ann Garrison: Cheri, are you seeing cases of coronavirus there in your neighborhood yet? Does anyone have access to testing?

Cheri Honkala: No, we have no idea if we’ve come into contact with anyone who has the virus yet. There’s no testing, but we’ve most likely been exposed. Most of the poor people in Kensington go to St. Christopher’s Hospital, and a doctor working in the ICU there has tested positive. That will affect Kensington because he saw Kensington patients before testing positive, and because there is, for now, one less doctor working in Kensington.

Public clinics are postponing appointments at the last minute and rescheduling for July due to the virus, but these are services that people need now. We already have bad health. Our health has never much mattered, but there are good, caring doctors and nurses in the system.

“We already have bad health.”

Someone from the public health center said they’re moving to online appointments, but poor people don’t have computers to be talking to their doctors and getting checkups through the phone. We know that people in other parts of the world like Canada and Australia now have access to testing and an equitable response to the virus because they have universal healthcare. But we don’t have that. We seem to be moving further towards the privatization and corporate takeover of all public services and health access. And under the guise of protecting our health, it seems like they’re going to be scooping people up soon, with or without their permission, and putting them who knows where.

AG: Has Philadelphia’s Public Health Department  reached out to you in any way? Have you tried to reach out to them?

CH: No. Philadelphia is one of the poorest large cities in the country. PPEHRC and the Poor People’s Army  have been absolutely overwhelmed both in Philadelphia—where our headquarters is—and throughout the country. We’re assisting people who suddenly have no income and are stuck in their homes for the foreseeable future, if they can hold onto their homes.

We’re helping a woman who’s being released from the hospital to homelessness, a victim of domestic violence needing to get into safe housing, and people needing psychiatric care but not able to get into the hospital. And those are just a few examples of who we’re trying to help. Coronavirus is just an extension of the war that we’ve been forced to fight under capitalism. It’s not just the virus, but that’s made it worse.

The media is fear-mongering, and misinformation is spreading. Corporations, politicians, and poverty pimps are rushing to profit from this moment. Not only have they not reached out to us, but they’re hiding from us because they are either working remotely from home, or they’re operating from the politics of scarcity.

AG: As I write this it’s 49 degrees in Kensington and 49 degrees here in Berkeley, where there are roughly 1,000 homeless people on the street, in a city of roughly 125,000. But it’s still morning out here and it’s well past noon there. It’s not the dead of winter, but it’s not a good day to be homeless in either place, or to live in a house or apartment that doesn’t have heat. It’s not a good day to recover from coronavirus or any kind of cold or flu, especially if you don’t have running water to wash your hands. Do you have any estimate of how many people are facing one or both hardships there in Kensington, a city area of roughly 25,000?

CH: There are about 2000 homeless people on the streets in Philly on any given night. Because of advocacy efforts before the coronavirus, no one’s utilities can be shut off. But that doesn’t mean that utilities that were already shut off can be turned back on.

AG: At the 2016 Green Party Convention in Houston, you shared films about Kensington and said that you thought frontline communities should emulate the Black Panther Party. Could you talk about that here?

CH: For decades, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign has been teaching people how to reclaim abandoned houses across the country and reclaim land. And to grow food to feed ourselves. We need to move in our organizing work from a reformist model to a revolutionary model. Corporations and the rich are never going to care about us, never going to take care of us, so it’s time we get organized and reclaim our basic economic human rights to food and housing. And whether or not we have health care shouldn’t even be up for negotiations.

AG: Is the PPEHRC supported solely by donations and volunteers?

CH: We are trying to be the US version of the Zapatistas . We are separate from the nonprofit charity model, and are funded by individuals and small foundations. No banks and no corporations.

AG: Are you a 501(c)3?

CH: We have a 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor that accepts tax deductible donations for us.

AG: During the March 15 presidential debate, both candidates said repeatedly that victims of coronavirus must be “made whole” by financial support if they and their families lose work or housing after coming down with coronavirus. And I kept thinking about all the people who have already lost both, those living on the streets or in other desperate circumstances, who haven’t been “made whole.” Suddenly the welfare of all members of society is of concern because even those most marginalized can spread the disease to the upper echelons by going to work, not getting tested, or not seeing a doctor. The New Yorker published a report headlined, “How Much Is the Coronavirus Infecting World Leaders and Disrupting Governments? 

I’m sure you have something further to say about this.

CH: This coronavirus is infecting the upper classes, so they’ll look for ways to protect themselves, but it’s not about protecting us. As a formerly homeless mother I’ve always known that we and our children have never mattered. And I’m very clear that they try to create an us and them scenario–a deserving and undeserving poor. We know the reality is that most people are only a paycheck away from a disaster like the coronavirus. Those of us in frontline communities more than ever need to demand and take back our right to food, clothing, housing, and medical care, because we can’t sit on the sidelines waiting for someone to save us. That’s not gonna happen. We need to link arms and remember that all we have is each other, and we’d better get organized to take housing, to take land, to take back a future for ourselves and our children.

We know they’re going to use this as an opportunity to do more homeless encampment sweeps, enact curfews with the pretense of caring about our health, fast-tracking homeless mothers and their kids into foster care and adoption.

It’s really important right now that we check in on our brothers and sisters who are in prisons, nursing homes, and packed into one-room shelters. We have to advocate for them because authorities are not going to take care of them without pressure.

AG: Tell me what else you’d like to say about coronavirus in poor and homeless communities.

CH: It all comes back to the slogan we’re raising that we need to put #LivesOverLuxury, while they put the elite luxury class over any of us. They’re killing us. That’s why we’re taking this message to both the DNC and RNC, virus or no virus, because we can’t lose our voice, and we fundamentally need a different society to respond to ongoing crises like this that will only escalate.

The coronavirus has exacerbated class divisions. Our kids who were attending schools that weren’t good to begin with and are now supposed to attend them online, but many lack access to home computers. People are staying home and not making any money from jobs that are on pause, and they’re waiting for essential health services.

It’s also important that there’s a whole section of people who don’t speak English as their first language, and they’re already being targeted by ICE and state agents. But we’re going to continue to practice the politics of love where we aim for a different kind of society where we take care of each other. At a time when big nonprofits aren’t here, we are continuing to operate with boots on the ground out of necessity. Not that we’re being careless or not taking the virus seriously, but the reality of people’s economic situation is real and that’s what we’re going to be hearing over the days to come. Maybe the utility shutoffs, evictions, and foreclosures are on pause right now, but those bills aren’t going away, and people are losing money every day this goes on.

“The coronavirus has exacerbated class divisions.”

We encourage people to join the Poor People’s Army. We need to make sure we keep our eyes wide open, and keep the propaganda on TV from separating us, isolating us, and disempowering us. Join us at livesoverluxury.com  and plan on coming to the Democratic Convention in July.

On July 13th, at 4 p.m., we will be in Milwaukee to demand our share of the 67 cents of every single dollar that goes to feed the war machine and deny poor and working class people their right to health care, food, housing, and dignity.

We have nothing to lose because we are already on the frontlines, already sentenced to death by gun violence, economic violence, cuts in food stamps and public housing, and, for many outside this country, sanctions. Our government, both Democrats and Republicans, chooses war and corporate profits over ending poverty and homelessness. We see the abundance in our country, and the #PoorPeoplesArmy is organizing to take it back by practicing the politics of love. Coronavirus or not, we are moving forward in an army led by the poor. Capitalism has buried our loved ones for years. It’s time we bury it.

AG: What if the convention’s canceled, as seems likely right now?

CH: Eventually there will be a convention and an election. People can follow us on Facebook  or our website  for any sudden changes.

AG: OK. I want to close by sharing links to videos about your work in Kensington and beyond that you showed at the Green Party Convention in 2016. Readers can watch them here: The Philadelphia Story  and Homeless Hero .

Thank you, Cheri, for sharing everything you’ve said here, and for everything you do.

CH: Thank you too.

 

[Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann@anngarrison.com.]

Listen: What Do We See When We See Earth? Reading Act II of Cory Morningstar’s Research into the NGO Industrial Complex

Listen: What Do We See When We See Earth? Reading Act II of Cory Morningstar’s Research into the NGO Industrial Complex

Ghion Journal

September 18, 2019

“Listen: What Do We See When We See Earth? Reading Act II of Cory Morningstar’s Research into the NGO Industrial Complex”

 

By Stephen Boni

 

 

The planet Earth; the strange, beautiful, indifferent, often brutal, often tender home we inhabit, exists in a way that’s so much bigger, so much more complex, so much more mysterious than any civilization human beings can set on top of it.

When you step out of whatever shelter you’ve got each morning, all of that astonishing simply presented timelessness is just there. In all its IS-ness. On the land and in the air. I’ve written this before in other essays. If you’re really dialed in, you can feel the whole thing breathe. The pure being of this place, even with all of the concrete, fumes and trash we’ve imposed on it, is an enormous overwhelming pulse. It is it’s own inspiration, in a sense.

Despite cars and computers and nuclear fission and human beings, Earth itself remains stubbornly, ahistorically, gloriously uninterested in what we’re up to.

I used to believe this. I used to believe this was at least a piece of the ultimate truth that would necessarily live beyond my ability to comprehend.

But climate change has taught me something else. Earth reacts to what we’ve lain on top of it, underneath it and above it. It’s reacting right now. It’s been reacting for centuries. It’s not indifferent; not in the way I previously thought. And it’s heated reaction to our pollution, our war, our methane, and our ever-increasing carbon emissions is killing some of us—and may kill a whole lot more of us down the line.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There’s a scene from the much-maligned Zabriskie Point, the 1970 counterculture film by Italian director Michaelangelo Antonioni, in which an American family, tourists, drive up to the edge of an extraordinary canyon. A geological testament to Earth’s paradox of constant change and absolute stillness. And the father of the family gets out of the car to look at this sublimity and says something to the tune of “wow, honey, this would be a great spot for a restaurant and a gift shop. We could make some real money up here.”

It’s a quick scene. The voices of the actors are muffled by the naturalistic sound design, the interference of car and wind. But it lands like a mule-kick. Antonioni set the film in the U.S. for a reason. In 1970, as now (though dwindling), we’re the hegemon. It’s our culture that sees nature as a chance to make a buck, and thus afford us luxuries that take us further away from the Earth on which our feet are planted (and what gives us life in the first place). He gives America too much credit, of course. The logic of capitalism is a near worldwide phenomenon and the United States is perhaps the current greatest devotee.

In Act II of her 6-part series about what lies behind today’s deceptively youth-driven climate justice movements, the independent investigative journalist/activist Cory Morningstar delves into non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the members of the corporate elite who conceive them, run them, and use them to redirect the passionate energies of young people, who want us to get off this toxic carbon carousel, towards profit-making projects.

You can listen to The Words of Others podcast to hear a reading of Act II, The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg: The Inconvenient Truth Behind Youth Co-Optation.

What Morningstar gets at in her research is this: the wealthy philanthropists, marketers, economists, politicians and corporate players are merely more well-heeled versions of the middle-class family man looking out and finding a way to unsee the massive canyon in Zabriskie Point. Although they understand that climate change is real, that the choking of earth’s ecosystems through waste and pollution is real, they don’t gaze upon this destruction as an impetus to abandon capitalism as a system. They don’t kneel down in shame and gratitude and rejoicing that we yet can remake our relationship to our home, this Earth.

Instead, they see it as a way to make a buck.

But they can only make a buck off of this rolling catastrophe if they shove a quiet, thoughtful teenager in front of us. Galvanize us through heart and empathy. And redirect our tender emotions not into collective ecosystem restoration, but rather into “make-a-buck” solutions that will only serve to reproduce our separation from this home, from one another, and from the ineffable meaning that could nurture our brief time here.

And I can’t help thinking how paltry it all is.

When you read about kids across the country getting off school to take part in the climate strike, pay attention to who stands behind brave Greta Thunberg. Pay attention to who talks after her.

Who is waiting there to channel your energy to heal this place into the weightless unmeaning futility of make-a-buck?

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening.

 

[Stephen Boni is both Ghion Journal’s current editor and a contributing writer. His main interest is in analyzing the workings of empire and exploring ways to dismantle and replace systems of oppression. A conflicted New Englander with an affinity for people, music and avoiding isms, he lives in Oakland, California with his wife and young daughter.]