America’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at the prestigious Arctic Council biannual meeting in Finland, christened the Arctic meltdown: “A wonderful economic opportunity for international trade.” In a nutshell, here’s a critique of the Secretary’s advice: An ice-free Arctic reduces travel time for shipping lanes between Asia and the West by three weeks, which qualifies as one of the biggest transport revolutions since cargo planes first crossed the Atlantic in the early 20thcentury.
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Less of What We Don't Need
Stories about Less of What We Don't Need.
The mobilization against climate change continues to build, gaining new social layers beyond the initial circles of environmental activists and tending toward a systemic critique of capitalist productivism with its underlying competition for profit. Particularly significant is the fact that young people are joining the struggle. On March 15 more than a million people, a majority of them youth, went on strike for the climate around the world in response to the call by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. The movement is very deep, although at present it is limited to the major countries of the Global North. It reshuffles cards, upsets agendas and puts all the actors — politicians, trade unions, associations, social movements — on notice to answer two fundamental questions:
- Why are you not doing everything possible to limit to the maximum the terrible catastrophe that is growing day by day, and to do so in compliance with democracy and social justice?
- How dare you leave such a mess to your children and grandchildren?
Scratch the surface of the current plans to decarbonise the economy and replace it with renewable energies and beneath it lays the same logic that has made the UK the 6th richest country in the world. Britain is planning to go green through a new phase of resource and wealth extraction of countries in the global south.
At the heart of our economic system fuelled by the City of London is a belief that the UK and other rich countries are entitled to a greater share of the world’s finite resources irrespective of who we impoverish in doing so, or the destruction we cause.
This green colonialism will be delivered by the very same entrenched economic interests, who have willingly sacrificed both people and the climate in the pursuit of profit. But this time, the mining giants and dirty energy companies will be waving the flag of climate emergency to justify the same deathly business model.
La Rinconada, which lies at over 5km above sea level, is the highest settlement in the world; a gold mining town, a concentration of misery, a community of about 50,000 inhabitants, many of whom have been poisoned by mercury. A place where countless women and children get regularly raped, where law and order collapsed quite some time ago, where young girls are sent to garbage dumps in order to ‘recycle’ terribly smelling waste, and where almost all the men work in beastly conditions, trying to save at least some money, but where most of them simply ruin their health, barely managing to stay alive.
Tucked away in volume three of the technical data for Britain’s £53bn high speed rail project is a table that shows 20m tonnes of concrete will have to be poured to build the requisite 105 miles of track, culverts, bridges and tunnels. It is enough, it has been calculated, to pave over the entire city of Manchester.
Cement, the key component of concrete and one of the most widely used manmade materials, is now the cornerstone of global construction.
The way trade works in the global economy is absurd. It hurts small farmers, increases emissions and lines corporate pockets. But we can stop it.
Capitalist dynamics are at the very heart of the current crisis that humanity faces over global warming. When we talk of “global warming,” we’re talking about the rapid — and on-going — rise in the average world-wide surface and ocean temperature. Thus far a rise of 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, two-thirds of this temperature increase has occurred since 1975. A one-degree rise in temperature might seem like no big deal. As the NASA scientists point out, however, “A one-degree global change is significant because it takes a vast amount of heat to warm all the oceans, atmosphere, and land by that much.” We know that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels is at the heart of the problem. For many centuries the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ranged between 200 and 300 parts per million. By the 1950s the growth of industrial capitalism since the 1800s had pushed this to the top of this range — 310 parts per million.
Seemingly overnight, the Green New Deal has arrived. Given the sorry state of our environment, what possible objections could there be? In this case, plenty – and they all trace back to the Green New Deal’s deeply complex and surreptitious ties to UN Agenda 21.
Those who claim that Agenda 21 amounts to little more than a right-wing rant or is somehow anti-Semitic are at best seriously misinformed. Those who buy into the carefully crafted jargon of Sustainable Development, Smart Growth, Redevelopment and the Green New Deal are similarly misinformed and need to know that the environmental movement has in fact been highjacked by the Agenda 21 plan.
Our modern industrial economy traces a straight line from resource extraction to manufacturing to sales to waste disposal. Since Earth has finite resources and limited ability to absorb pollution, the straight-line economy is unsustainable; it is designed for eventual failure.
Why not make the economy circular, with waste from one process feeding into other production processes, thus dramatically reducing the need both for resource extraction and for the dumping of rubbish? We should mimic nature: it’s a central ideal of the ecology movement, with roots in indigenous wisdom worldwide.
Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Betasamosake Simpson explains why "green growth" isn't enough to save the planet.
The most common introductory example we use when we teach kids about interdependent ecosystems is insects. They may seem gross and small compared to the charismatic megafauna, we say, but insects play all sorts of important roles: pollinating plants, breaking down organic matter, feeding bigger animals. Without insects the whole web would collapse. I don't think many of us who have given this lesson actually contemplated the mass death of the world's insects as a possibility, imminent or otherwise. We should have.