TPP vs. Democracy

SUBHEAD: Leaked draft of secretive trade deal spells out plan for corporate power grab.

By Sarah Lazare on 26 March 2015 for Common Dreams -
(http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/03/26/tpp-vs-democracy-leaked-draft-secretive-trade-deal-spells-out-plan-corporate-power)


Image above: Illustraion of Mickey Mouse holding a map of corporate sponsors of TPP. From original article.

Newly leaked classified documents show that the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, if it goes through as written, will dramatically expand the power of corporations to use closed-door tribunals to challenge—and supersede—domestic laws, including environmental, labor, and public health, and other protections.

The tribunals, made infamous under NAFTA, were exposed in the "Investment Chapter" from the TPP negotiations, which was released to the public by WikiLeaks on Wednesday.

"The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states," said Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor. "This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies."

Responding to the leak, Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, declared: "With the veil of secrecy ripped back, finally everyone can see for themselves that the TPP would give multinational corporations extraordinary new powers that undermine our sovereignty, expose U.S. taxpayers to billions in new liability, and privilege foreign firms operating here with special rights not available to U.S. firms under U.S. law."

The document reveals that negotiators plan to recycle language from past trade agreements to create the controversial "investor-state dispute settlement" system (ISDS). Under this framework, multinationals would be granted a parallel legal system in which they can sue governments, and therefore taxpayers, for loss of "expected future profit," with the power to overrule national laws and judicial systems.

The language included in this draft is even worse than previously thought, because it excludes a minor safeguard included in a version leaked in 2012.

Public Citizen noted in a press statement that the latest draft "abandons a safeguard proposed in the 2012 leaked TPP investment text, which excluded public interest regulations from indirect expropriation claims, stating, 'non-discriminatory regulatory actions... that are designed and applied to achieve legitimate public welfare objectives, such as the protection of public health, safety and the environment do not constitute indirect expropriation.'"

Such ISDS tribunals have become a cornerstone of so-called "free trade" deals and are included in 3,000 accords world-wide, according to The New York Times. They have been used to attack toxic bans, environmental regulations, access to medicines, and safety laws.

However, their inclusion in the TPP is expected to have an even greater impact, given the number of countries involved in the pact and the size of their economies.

Under negotiation since at least 2008, the deal includes the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. These nations together represent 40 percent of the world's GDP, making this the largest trade deal yet.

Analysts say the new revelations have broad implications.

"The TPP would empower companies from New Zealand, Australia and Japan with new rights to attack our federal and local laws," said Patrick Woodall, Research director and senior policy advocate for Food & Water Watch, in a statement released Thursday. "For example, one natural gas company has already challenged a fracking moratorium in the Canadian province of Quebec under NAFTA’s investment provisions."

Woodall added, "These corporate lawsuits have a chilling effect on communities that want to protect their citizenry but lack the resources to defend against a colossal corporate lawsuit, including the more than 250 localities (including New York state) that have banned or imposed moratoriums on fracking."

Furthermore, Sean Flynn, associate director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at American University, warned that the TPP "would give new rights to private companies to challenge limitations and exceptions to copyrights, patents, and other intellectual property rights."

"The text contains the same provisions that are being used by Eli Lilly to challenge Canada’s invalidation of patent extensions for new uses of two medicines originally developed in the 1970s," wrote Flynn. "The same language is also being used by Philip Morris to challenge Uruguay’s regulation of advertising on cigarette packages as an 'expropriation” of their trademarks.'"

"But the TPP language goes farther," Flynn added. "It includes a new footnote, not previously released as part of any other investment chapter and not included in the U.S. model investment text—clarifying that private expropriation actions can be brought to challenge 'the cancellation or nullification of such [intellectual property] rights,' as well as 'exceptions to such rights.'"

The leaked chapter is dated January 20, 2015, meaning the text was drafted before the last two negotiation sessions in February and March. Nonetheless, experts say this and other leaks provide the best—and only—public information about what the deal holds in store, given the intense secrecy of the talks.

The cover of the chapter stipulates it must remain classified "four years from entry into force of the TPP agreement or, if no agreement enters into force, four years from the close of the negotiations"—in what the Times says is likely an acknowledgement of the "sensitivity" of the secret tribunals.

Global civil societies had already mounted vigorous opposition to the deal for years, with unions, environmental groups, anti-militarist movements, and feminist organizations from New Zealand to the Japan voicing concern that the agreement will harm ordinary people. Groups across the U.S. have staged mounting protests against an ongoing attempt by the administration of President Barack Obama to fast track the accord to completion.

Wednesday's revelations are likely to add to controversy over the deal.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is negotiating two other secret trade deals: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement.

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Big Ag Big Threat

SUBHEAD: A menacing mix in antibiotic resistance, herbicides, heavy metals and factory farms.

By Lynne Peeples on 24 March 2015 for Huffington Post  -
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/24/antibiotic-resistance-herbicides-heavy-metals_n_6935626.html)


Image above: Detail of aerial photo of beef feedlot. A recently released batch of aerial photographs by British artist Mishka Henner show that factory farming is taking its toll on our planet. In addition to producing nutrient-poor "food" rife with GMOs, these farms are literally carving swaths of death through the American landscape. Henner's shocking photos provide bird's eye proof of the destruction that follows when industrial beef farming moves into town.  From (http://inhabitat.com/mishak-henners-apocalyptic-photos-show-how-factory-farming-is-destroying-the-american-landscape/mishak-henner-feedlot-photography-3/).

Two common Big Agriculture production practices -- feeding antibiotics to livestock and spraying herbicides on conventional crops -- each face condemnation from the environmental community.

And there's been plenty of new fodder in the last week: One study predicted that antibiotic use in livestock will soar by two-thirds globally from 2010 to 2030, and another declared that Monsanto's popular Roundup herbicide is "probably carcinogenic to humans."

The latest research may merge the herbicide and antibiotic battle lines. The use of common herbicides, such as Roundup, Kamba and 2,4-D, according to a study published on Tuesday, may help drive antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic-resistant infections take the lives of more than 23,000 Americans every year. The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are among major groups warning of the dire threat posed to public health. Antibiotic resistance stemming from overuse in livestock also is the target of a bill re-introduced in Congress on Tuesday.

Environmental health advocates predict the use of herbicides will continue to rise as farmers plant more genetically modified seeds engineered to survive weedkillers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently approved Enlist seeds, which are designed for use with a mix of 2,4-D and glyphosate, the chief ingredient in Roundup.

In some cases, combinations of herbicides and antibiotics in the new study made bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics, or had no effect. But more often, it had the opposite effect. If the disease-causing bacteria -- E. coli and salmonella -- were exposed to high enough levels of herbicide, the researchers found that the microbes could survive up to six times more antibiotic than if they hadn't been exposed to herbicide. They studied five common classes of the drugs: ampicillin, chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, kanamycin and tetracycline.

"In a sense, the herbicide is 'immunizing' the bacteria to the antibiotic," said Jack Heinemann, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He noted that the levels of herbicide tested in the study were above legal limits for residues on food, but lower than what's commonly applied to commercial crops.

The new finding builds on emerging evidence that multiple environmental contaminants may play a role in the rise of antibiotic resistance. Swedish researchers reported in September that antibiotic residues and heavy metals in the environment -- even at "infinitesimally low" concentrations -- may team up to drive the growth of antibiotic resistance. In addition to metals potentially leaching into the environment from other industries, construction or health care facilities, some farmers use arsenic in animal feed and as a pesticide. Mercury can also contaminate fish meal, while copper is common in swine fodder.

"This could be an important contributor" to antibiotic resistance, Dan Andersson, lead author of that study and a microbiologist at Upsalla University in Sweden, told The Huffington Post in October.

Mark Silby, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, noted an "important parallel," between the heavy metal and herbicide studies. "Low-level antibiotics can be of considerable importance in the evolution of antibiotic resistance, by means which we may not be very good at anticipating," he said.

Most research in the past has looked at chemicals or other contaminants in isolation, rather than as the cocktail that typically lingers in the environment -- especially near farms -- and is enlisted in modern agricultural practices. Livestock feed, and the fields on which animals graze, may contain traces of antibiotics, herbicides and heavy metals.

Heinemann, too, emphasized that "combinations of exposures to what we think of as different kinds of chemicals can matter."

He also pointed to the core issue of the overuse of antibiotics in both medicine and agriculture. His team's study was published the same day that Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) re-introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. The bill has the support of 50 city councils and more than 450 medical, consumer advocacy and public health groups.

"Right now, we are allowing the greatest medical advancement of the 20th century to be frittered away, in part because it's cheaper for factory farms to feed these critical drugs to animals rather than clean up the deplorable conditions on the farm," Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, said in a statement Tuesday. "My legislation would save eight critical classes of antibiotics from being routinely fed to healthy animals, and would reserve them only for sick humans and sick animals."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers voluntary guidance to the pharmaceutical industry on the use of antibiotics in livestock, including a request that drugmakers change their labels by December 2016 to exclude uses for growth promotion. The FDA hasn't imposed a ban or mandatory restrictions.

Advocates are not impressed, pointing to potential loopholes in the voluntary guidance.
Slaughter's bill has faced steep opposition since its first iteration in 1999. In the last Congress, according to a press release from her office on Tuesday, 82 percent of lobbying reports filed on her bill came from “entities hostile to regulation.”

Slaughter is among experts and advocates who largely blame the pressing public health problem on the routine administration of low doses of antibiotics to cattle, swine, chickens and other livestock. Just as an incomplete course of antibiotics can result in the rise of a more virulent infection in a person, this use in animals -- often to prevent the spread of disease or to simply promote growth -- means bacteria that can withstand the drugs will survive, reproduce and pass on their resistance to the next generation of bugs on the farm.

Food animals receive about 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. Livestock antibiotics are thought to affect human health via multiple pathways: direct or indirect contact with food, water, air or anywhere urine or manure goes.

While some fast food brands and retailers have begun eliminating medically-important antibiotics from their supply chains, the agriculture industry maintains that its practices are critical for livestock health and not a significant contributor to the rise of antibiotic resistance. The Animal Health Institute, which represents pharmaceutical companies, suggested that the herbicide and heavy metal studies further support their case.


Image above: No this is not a computer circuit-board. It's your Big Mac under construction. It's also a wider view of photo above, is just part aerial photo by Mishka Henner of beef feedlot runoff.  Antibiotics and GMO contaminants such as pesticides and glyphosate and 2-4-D in urnine and fecal matter coolect in runoff and end in toxic pools. This is reason enough to eat free range grass fed beef (if you are going to eat beef at all).  From (http://inhabitat.com/mishak-henners-apocalyptic-photos-show-how-factory-farming-is-destroying-the-american-landscape/mishak-henner-feedlot-photography-3/).

"These studies are further indications that antibiotic resistance is a very complex issue and there are non-antibiotic compounds that can select for resistance," Ron Phillips, vice president of legislative and legal affairs with the group, told HuffPost in an email. "That's why simple solutions will only waste resources while not addressing the real issue. We must address the issue of antibiotic resistance with careful, science-based" approaches.

Charla Lord, a spokeswoman for Monsanto, added that her company was taking a closer look at the "very complicated" study. She said more research is needed to identify what components in the herbicide may be linked to any effects.

Amy Pruden, an expert on antibiotic resistance at Virginia Tech, agreed that the studies "definitely complicate things" and add evidence that "it's not just antibiotics that contribute to the problem."

Pruden emphasized the need for "a really broad management plan that thinks comprehensively about all the things that contribute to the failure of antibiotic treatment." She noted that antibiotic overuse, including in livestock, is far from off the hook. "It's common sense that antibiotics themselves are the core issue," she said. "It's just that even if we cut way back on them, we still might have work to do and other things to think about."

Silby agreed. "Obviously, sick animals should be looked after appropriately, but the large-scale use of antibiotics as growth enhancers has almost certainly been a significant driver of antibiotic resistance."

See also:
Ea O Ka Ania: NZ dairy model isn't Mahaulepu 3/9/15

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The Death of Coal

SUBHEAD: Rapidly decaying coal industry reveals fate of all fossil fuels, argue researchers at Carbon Tracker Initiative.

By Lauren McCauley on 24 March 2015 for Common Dreams -
(http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/03/24/death-us-coal-exemplifies-need-paradigm-shift-global-energy-system)


Image above: The Kayford Mine, a mountaintop removal project near Charleston, West Virginia. (Photo: Dennis Dimick/cc/flickr)From original article.

A new report released Tuesday by the London-based Carbon Tracker Initiative warns that the crash of U.S. coal markets is but a harbinger of things to come for all fossil fuel investments.

The report, The U.S. Coal Crash – Evidence for Structural Change (pdf), found that the slump in coal prices has forced more than two dozen U.S. coal companies into bankruptcy over the past three years.

With the rise of renewable energy and a growing call for countries to adapt their energy infrastructures for a more carbon-constrained future, the authors of the report argue that the crash of the U.S. coal economy "provides an excellent example of how the future may pan out globally and with other fuels as the world moves to a low-carbon economy."

According to the study, the market's demise has been driven by a combination of factors, including: lost market share to cheap shale gas, the falling cost of renewable energy sources, and increased environmental protections and industry regulation—driven largely by the Environmental Protection Agency. Further, international markets in Asia have similarly moved to adapt their energy usage in the face of growing concern over carbon emissions.

"The roof has fallen in on U.S. coal, and alarm bells should be ringing for investors in related sectors around the world," said Andrew Grant, Carbon Tracker’s financial analyst and report co-author. "These first tremors are amongst the clearest signs yet of a seismic shift in energy markets, as high carbon fuels are set to be increasingly outperformed by lower carbon alternatives."

On Monday, the international market research firm Macquarie Research warned investors that the outlook for U.S. coal producers is "increasingly bleak," and the sector is likely to undergo "a wave of bankruptcies."

Where the U.S. coal market was historically tied to economic growth, as Carbon Tracker notes, "there is now clear evidence" that the two indicators have been "decoupled."

"The Dow Jones Total Market Coal Sector Index is down 76 percent in the last five years compared with the Down Jones Industrial Average that grew by 69 percent in the same period," says the report.

Andrew Logan, director of the oil and gas program at Ceres, a sustainable investment organization, said, "We’ve known for decades that coal posed serious health and environmental risks, but now coal has also become an investment risk as countries take serious actions to clear their air and protect the climate."

Logan added that investors have now taken up the call of environmentalists and are now "pushing for coal and other fossil fuel companies to face facts and adapt their business models to thrive in a carbon-constrained world."

The warnings come amid a growing call for universities and other large endowments to divest their holdings from fossil fuel companies. Last week, the Guardian newspaper publicly challenged the world's two largest foundations, the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust, to pull their combined $70 billion from fossil fuel investments.

It is worth noting that these market shifts have occurred without any global climate deal or U.S. federal measures specifically labelled "carbon" or "climate." Leaders are set to meet in Paris in December to hash out an international climate agreement.

"The evolution of the U.S. energy sector is far from over," the report continues. "Companies and investors by and large underestimated the risks in U.S. coal and did not see the way the wind was blowing until it was too late, and suffered very material losses because of it."


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Fed up with factory farming

SUBHEAD: Is factory farming destroying the planet? These five films have an answer!

By Beth Kelly on 25 March 2015 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2015/03/fed-up-with-factory-farming.html)

http://www.islandbreath.org/2015Year/03/150325hdfbig.jpg
Image above: What does factory farming look like on Kauai? It might look like a milk factory dairy. Like the Pierre Omidyer proposed Hawaii Dairy Farm in Mahulepu Valley. In the case of the illustration above we have superimposed a image of the Aurora "Organic" Dairy over the red line boundary of the proposed Hawaaii Dairy Farm to get an idea. We used GoogleEarth and an mirror image of an aerial photo of the Aurora "Organic" Farm in Boulder, Colorado and adjusted the scale and perspective as best we could. From (http://www.cornucopia.org/horizon-factory-farm-photo-gallery/aurora-factory-farm-photo-gallery/). See also (http://www.auroraorganic.com/). Graphics by Juan Wilson. Click to embiggen.

Food is something that we take for granted in the modern world. We go to huge grocery stores, buy incredible amounts of food, and don't give much more thought to it. We might even assume that idyllic farmers are working hard to grow and harvest the best quality and most nutritious food possible. The problem is that this assumption is quite naïve.

Modern agriculture is about as far from this rustic portrait of a small family farm as possible. Farm operations today are more like an industrial factory that cranks out food on an assembly line. Health and nutrition are often sacrificed in favor of efficiency and profits.

A number of recent documentaries expose the harmful effects of agribusiness and factory farming. Here are five documentaries that lift the curtain and show us behind the scenes of modern agriculture:

More Than Honey (2012)

Video above: Official Trailer for movie "More than Honey". From (https://youtu.be/2NT05qEJxUk).

This film takes a close look at bees and their relationship with humankind. It examines a wide variety of honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, Australia, and China in an attempt to discern what factors account for the widespread decline of the bee population due to colony collapse. More Than Honey suggests that modern chemical pesticides play a large role in destroying bee populations and discusses the dire consequences if bees should become extinct. Viewers rave about the film's breathtaking cinematography, as it is a visually stunning film with a well-told story.



Farmageddon (2011)

Video above: Trailer for movie "Farmageddon" From (https://youtu.be/IH_my56FkuQ).

This film is a wake up call for those who are unaware of the way the Federal Government acts against smaller farmers all over America. It details the way that small organic farmers producing healthy and nutritious foods are systematically harassed by the United States government. This harassment is motivated by the influence that large corporate agribusinesses have on the government. By raising awareness of these issues, people will protest the dominance of big business in agriculture and give small family farms a new future.



Food, Inc. (2008)

Video above: Official trailer for "Food Inc." From (https://youtu.be/5eKYyD14d_0).

A penetrating look at the industrialized production of food in the United States, this film shows that both animal and plant farming produces food that is not only unhealthy and harmful to the environment, but abuses and oppresses both animals and human employees. The companies that claim to take care of our needs are actually exploiting us for gain. Food, Inc. insists that we can make a difference. By changing our buying practices and voting, we can let these money-hungry companies that we want change.



King Corn (2007)

Video above: Trailer for King Corn. From (https://youtu.be/Pr5HQrgg9mM). See full length film here (http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/king_corn_2007/).

Two college friends go on journey through the American food supply. They begin by moving from Boston to Iowa, where they farm one acre of corn. Along the way, they examine how government subsidies create incentives to overproduce corn as well as the consequences of this overproduction. The two also show the prominence of high fructose corn syrup as a cheap food ingredient and the problems this causes for the American diet. The film chronicles the plight of small family farms that cannot compete against the huge agribusinesses that control the industry.



Crude Impact (2006)

Video above: Trailer for "Crude Impact". From (https://youtu.be/EwyAA2Zt8CI). See full length film here (https://vimeo.com/33552646).

Our modern society is powered almost exclusively by fossil fuels. Crude Impact takes a critical look at an environmental crisis that is being created by this reliance, spreading awareness to energy and gas companies, major corporations, and the general public who seek to find solutions for this crisis. From global warming to overpopulation, this film takes a hard look at the way using fossil fuels affects human culture. It also examines the issue of “peak oil.” As demand for energy increases, supplies of fossil fuels will dwindle. The resulting exponential rise in the cost of energy could be devastating. The film also examines some potential solutions that would mitigate this disaster.



These films challenge us to critically examine where our food comes from. When we have the facts, we can call for change, seek out healthy alternatives, and use our purchasing power to demand the production of healthy food. In addition, we can call upon our leaders to change the system for the better and pay more attention to the sources of our food. Otherwise, we may jeopardize our health and our environment all for the sake of “good-tasting” food.

See also:
Ea O Ka Ania: NZ dairy model isn't Mahaulepu 3/9/15

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To save Future live in Present

SUBHEAD: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” because, if not at hand, it is nowhere.

By Wendell Barry on 23 March 2015 for Yes Magazine -
(http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/together-with-earth/wendell-berry-climate-change-future-present)


Image above: Turning around from the 13th and Webster intersection where the Ameritrade Park sign is, you will see the third largest mural in the nation. The gigantic painting of Omaha's past, present, and future covers the east side of the Energy Systems Building. From (http://www.beepbeep.org/4delos/archives/2010/06/meg-saligmans-fertile-ground.html).

This excerpt consists of two numbered parts. The first was written in 2013 and the second in 2014.

I. [2013]

So far as I am concerned, the future has no narrative. The future does not exist until it has become the past. To a very limited extent, prediction has worked. The sun, so far, has set and risen as we have expected it to do. And the world, I suppose, will predictably end, but all of its predicted deadlines, so far, have been wrong.

The End of Something—history, the novel, Christianity, the human race, the world—has long been an irresistible subject. Many of the things predicted to end have so far continued, evidently to the embarrassment of none of the predictors.

The future has been equally, and relatedly, an irresistible subject. How can so many people of certified intelligence have written so many pages on a subject about which nobody knows anything? Perhaps we need a book— in case we don’t already have one—on the end of the future.

None of us knows the future. Fairly predictably, we are going to be surprised by it. That is why “Take...no thought for the morrow...” is such excellent advice. Taking thought for the morrow is, fairly predictably, a waste of time.

I have noticed, for example, that most of the bad possibilities I have worried about have never happened.

And so I have taken care to worry about all the bad possibilities. I could think of, in order to keep them from happening. Some of my scientific friends will call this a superstition, but if I did not forestall so many calamities, who did?

However, after so much good work, even I must concede that by taking thought for the morrow we have invested, and wasted, a lot of effort in preparing for morrows that never came. Also by taking thought for the morrow we repeatedly burden today with undoing the damage and waste of false expectations—and so delaying our confrontation with the actuality that today has brought.

The question, of course, will come: If we take no thought for the morrow, how will we be prepared for the morrow?
I am not an accredited interpreter of Scripture, but taking thought for the morrow is a waste of time, I believe, because all we can do to prepare rightly for tomorrow is to do the right thing today.

The passage continues: “for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” The evil of the day, as we know, enters into it from the past. And so the first right thing we must do today is to take thought of our history. We must act daily as critics of history so as to prevent, so far as we can, the evils of yesterday from infecting today.

Another right thing we must do today is to appreciate the day itself and all that is good in it. This also is sound biblical advice, but good sense and good manners tell us the same. To fail to enjoy the good things that are enjoyable is impoverishing and ungrateful.

The one other right thing we must do today is to provide against want. Here the difference between “prediction” and “provision” is crucial.

To predict is to foretell, as if we know what is going to happen. Prediction often applies to unprecedented events: human-caused climate change, the end of the world, etc. Prediction is “futurology.”

To provide, literally, is to see ahead. But in common usage it is to look ahead. Our ordinary, daily understanding seems to have accepted long ago that our capacity to see ahead is feeble. The sense of “provision” and “providing” comes from the past, and is informed by precedent.

Provision informs us that on a critical day—St. Patrick’s Day, or in a certain phase of the moon, or when the time has come and the ground is ready—the right thing to do is plant potatoes. We don’t do this because we have predicted a bountiful harvest; history warns us against that.

We plant potatoes because history informs us that hunger is possible, and we must do what we can to provide against it. We know from the past only that, if we plant potatoes today, the harvest might be bountiful, but we can’t be sure, and so provision requires us to think today also of a diversity of food crops.

What we must not do in our efforts of provision is to waste or permanently destroy anything of value. History informs us that the things we waste or destroy today may be needed on the morrow. This obviously prohibits the “creative destruction” of the industrialists and industrial economists, who think that evil is permissible today for the sake of greater good tomorrow. There is no rational argument for compromise with soil erosion or toxic pollution.

For me—and most people are like me in this respect—“climate change” is an issue of faith; I must either trust or distrust the scientific experts who predict the future of the climate. I know from my experience, from the memories of my elders, from certain features of my home landscape, from reading history, that over the last 150 years or so the weather has changed and is changing. I know without doubt that to change is the nature of weather.

Just so, I know from as many reasons that the alleged causes of climate change—waste and pollution—are wrong. The right thing to do today, as always, is to stop, or start stopping, our habit of wasting and poisoning the good and beautiful things of the world, which once were called “divine gifts” and now are called “natural resources.”

I always suppose that experts may be wrong. But even if they are wrong about the alleged human causes of climate change, we have nothing to lose, and much to gain, by trusting them.

Even so, we are not dummies, and we can see that for all of us to stop, or start stopping, our waste and destruction today would be difficult. And so we chase our thoughts off into the morrow where we can resign ourselves to “the end of life as we know it” and come to rest, or start devising heroic methods and technologies for coping with a changed climate. The technologies will help, if not us, then the corporations that will sell them to us at a profit.

I have let the preceding paragraph rest for two days to see if I think it is fair. I think it is fair. As evidence, I will mention only that, while the theme of climate change grows ever more famous and fearful, land abuse is growing worse, noticed by almost nobody.

A steady stream of poisons is flowing from our croplands into the air and water. The land itself continues to flow or blow away, and in some places erosion is getting worse. High grain prices are now pushing soybeans and corn onto more and more sloping land, and “no-till” technology does not prevent erosion on continuously cropped grainfields.

Climate change, supposedly, is recent. It is apocalyptic, “big news,” and the certified smart people all are talking about it, thinking about it, getting ready to deal with it in the future.

Land abuse, by contrast, is ancient as well as contemporary. There is nothing futurological about it. It has been happening a long time, it is still happening, and it is getting worse. Most people have not heard of it. Most people would not know it if they saw it.

The laws for conservation of land in use were set forth by Sir Albert Howard in the middle of the last century. They were nature’s laws, he said, and he was right. Those laws are the basis of the 50-Year Farm Bill, which outlines a program of work that can be started now, which would help with climate change, but which needs to be done anyhow.

Millions of environmentalists and wilderness preservers are dependably worried about climate change. But they are not conversant with nature’s laws, they know and care nothing about land use, and they have never heard of Albert Howard or the 50-Year Farm Bill.

II. [2014]

If we understand that Nature can be an economic asset, a help and ally, to those who obey her laws, then we can see that she can help us now. There is work to do now that will make us her friends, and we will worry less about the future. We can begin backing out of the future into the present, where we are alive, where we belong. To the extent that we have moved out of the future, we also have moved out of “the environment” into the actual places where we actually are living.

If, on the contrary, we have our minds set in the future, where we are sure that climate change is going to play hell with the environment, we have entered into a convergence of abstractions that makes it difficult to think or do anything in particular. If we think the future damage of climate change to the environment is a big problem only solvable by a big solution, then thinking or doing something in particular becomes more difficult, perhaps impossible.

It is true that changes in governmental policy, if the changes were made according to the right principles, would have to be rated as big solutions. Such big solutions surely would help, and a number of times I have tramped the streets to promote them, but just as surely they would fail if not accompanied by small solutions.

And here we come to the reassuring difference between changes in policy and changes in principle. The needed policy changes, though addressed to present evils, wait upon the future, and so are presently nonexistent. But changes in principle can be made now, by so few as just one of us.

Changes in principle, carried into practice, are necessarily small changes made at home by one of us or a few of us. Innumerable small solutions emerge as the changed principles are adapted to unique lives in unique small places. Such small solutions do not wait upon the future. Insofar as they are possible now, exist now, are actual and exemplary now, they give hope. Hope, I concede, is for the future.

Our nature seems to require us to hope that our life and the world’s life will continue into the future. Even so, the future offers no validation of this hope. That validation is to be found only in the knowledge, the history, the good work, and the good examples that are now at hand.

There is in fact much at hand and in reach that is good, useful, encouraging, and full of promise, although we seem less and less inclined to attend to or value what is at hand. We are always ready to set aside our present life, even our present happiness, to peruse the menu of future exterminations. If the future is threatened by the present, which it undoubtedly is, then the present is more threatened, and often is annihilated, by the future.

“Oh, oh, oh,” cry the funerary experts, looking ahead through their black veils. “Life as we know it soon will end. If the governments don’t stop us, we’re going to destroy the world. The time is coming when we will have to do something to save the world. The time is coming when it will be too late to save the world. Oh, oh, oh.” If that is the way our minds are afflicted, we and our world are dead already.

The present is going by and we are not in it. Maybe when the present is past, we will enjoy sitting in dark rooms and looking at pictures of it, even as the present keeps arriving in our absence.

Or maybe we could give up saving the world and start to live savingly in it. If using less energy would be a good idea for the future, that is because it is a good idea. The government could enforce such a saving by rationing fuels, citing the many good reasons, as it did during World War II.

If the government should do something so sensible, I would respect it much more than I do. But to wish for good sense from the government only displaces good sense into the future, where it is of no use to anybody and is soon overcome by prophesies of doom.

On the contrary, so few as just one of us can save energy right now by self-control, careful thought, and remembering the lost virtue of frugality. Spending less, burning less, traveling less may be a relief. A cooler, slower life may make us happier, more present to ourselves, and to others who need us to be present.

Because of such rewards, a large problem may be effectively addressed by the many small solutions that, after all, are necessary, no matter what the government might do. The government might even do the right thing at last by imitating the people.

In this essay and elsewhere, I have advocated for the 50-Year Farm Bill, another big solution I am doing my best to promote, but not because it will be good in or for the future. I am for it because it is good now, according to present understanding of present needs. I know that it is good now because its principles are now satisfactorily practiced by many (though not nearly enough) farmers.

Only the present good is good. It is the presence of good—good work, good thoughts, good acts, good places—by which we know that the present does not have to be a nightmare of the future. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” because, if not at hand, it is nowhere.







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USA's "regime change" days over

SUBHEAD: As a weapon of international deception America is finding that "regime change" isn't working anymore.

By Ben Tanosborn on 22 March 2015 for Tanosborn Online -
(http://www.tanosborn.com/columns/2015/regime-change-us-failing-weapon-international-deception)


Image above: Graphic for article titled "The USA Creates Terrorists to Overthrow Governments in the Third World, Arab and Muslim Countries!" From (http://12160.info/profiles/blogs/the-usa-creates-terrorists-to-overthrow-governments-in-the-third).

For years, Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried,” has served as Americans’ last word in any political discussion which requires validation of the US government, no matter how corrupt or flawed in its behavior, as the best in the planet, comparatively or by default.

Never mind the meaning that Mr. Churchill had intended back in 1947, or how the international political panorama has changed during the past seven decades.

These remarks were made by Britain’s prime minister before the House of Commons a few months before there was a changing of the guards in the “Anglo-Saxon Empire” as the Brits gave away their colonial hegemony in favor of the super-influential economic and military power represented by the United States.

And that was symbolically marked by Britain’s relinquishing its mandate in Palestine, and the creation of Israel.

Such reference to democracy in the quote, explicitly defining it as a “government by the people,” basically applied to Britain and the United States at the close of World War II; but such condition has deteriorated in the US to the point where the “common people” no longer have a say as to how the nation is run, either directly or through politicians elected with financial support provided by special interests, undoubtedly expecting their loyalty-vote.

Yet, while this un-democratization period in our system of government was happening, there were many nations that were adopting a true code of democracy, their citizens having a greater say as to how their countries are governed.

Recognizing such occurrence, however, is a seditious sin for an American mind still poisoned by the culture of exceptionalism and false pride in which it has been brainwashed.

And that’s where our empire, or sphere of influence, stands these days… fighting the windmills of the world, giants that we see menacing “American interests,” and doing it under the banner of “for democracy and human rights.”

Such lofty empire aims appear to rationalize an obscene military budget almost twice as large as those of Russia, China, India and United Kingdom combined! Americans, representing less than 5 percent of the world’s population, are footing a military bill almost twice as large as that expended by half of the world’s population.

If that isn’t imperialistic and obscene, it’s difficult to image what other societal behavior could be more detrimental to peace and harmony in this global village where we all try to co-exist.

Empires and global powers of the past most often resorted to deposing of antagonistic foreign rulers by invading their countries and installing amicable/subservient puppet rulers.

The United States and the United Kingdom, perhaps trying to find refuge, or an excuse, in their democratic tradition, have resorted to regime change “manipulations” to deal with adversary governments-nations. [Bush43’s Iraq invasion stands as a critical exception by a mongrel government: half-criminal (Dick Cheney-as mentor), and half-moronic (George W. Bush-as mentee).]

Regime change has served the United States well throughout much of the Americas from time immemorial; an endless litany of dictators attesting to shameless in-your-face puppetry… manipulations taking the form of sheer military force, or the fear of such force; bribery of those in power, or about to attain power – usually via military coup; or the promise of help from the Giant of the North (US) in improving economic growth, education and health.

 Kennedy’s 1961 Alliance for Progress proved to be more political-PR than an honest, effective effort to help the people in Latin America… such program becoming stale and passé in Washington by decade’s end; the focus shifting in a feverish attempt to counter the efforts by Castro’s Cuba to awaken the revolutionary spirit of sister republics in Central and South America (Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua…).

After almost two centuries of political and economic meddling in Latin America under the Monroe Doctrine (1823) banner, much of it involving regime change, the US is finally coming to terms with the reality that its influence has not just waned but disappeared. Not just in nations which may have adopted socialist politics, but other nations as well.

The United State's recent attempt to get other regional republics to label Venezuela (Maduro’s leftist government) as a security threat not only met with opposition from the twelve-country Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) but has brought in the end of an era. It’s now highly unlikely that secretive efforts by the CIA to effect regime change in Latin America will find support; certainly not the support it had in the past.

To Washington’s despair, similar results, if for other reasons, are happening throughout North Africa and the extended Middle East; certainly not the results the US had hoped for or anticipated from the revolutionary wave in the Arab Spring, now entering its fifth year. It is no longer the flow of oil that keeps Washington committed to a very strong presence in the Middle East. It is America’s Siamese relationship with Israel.

But if regime change is no longer an effective weapon for the US in Latin America or the Middle East, the hope is still high that it might work in Eastern Europe, as America keeps corralling Russian defenses to within a holler of American missilery.

Ukraine’s year-old regime change is possibly the last hurrah in US-instigated regime changes… and it is still too early to determine its success; the US counting on its front-line European NATO partners to absorb the recoil in terms of both the economy and a confrontational status now replacing prior smooth relations.

Somehow it is difficult to envision an outcome taking place in Ukraine which would allow the United States a foothold at the very doorsteps of Russia; something totally as inconceivable as if China or Russia were contemplating establishing military bases in Mexico or any part of Central America or the Caribbean.

The era of using regime change as a weapon of mass deception may have already ended for the United States of America… and hopefully for the entire world

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Despite dead oil bounce

SUBHEAD: The perfect storm for oil hits in two months: US crude production to soar just ss storage runs out.

By Tyler Durden on 22 March 2015 for Zero Hedge -
(http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-21/perfect-storm-oil-hits-two-months-us-crude-production-soar-just-storage-runs-out)


Image above: A compromised oil storage tank at Chevron Empire facility in Gainsville, Georgia, on 28 September 2005, after Hurricane Katrina. From (http://www.katrinadestruction.com/images/v/damaged+energy+facilities/ChevronEmpire27Sept05_20028-katrina-oil-spill.jpg.html).

Less than two weeks ago we warned that based on the current oil production trend, the US may run out of storage for crude as soon as June.

This is what we said back in early March when the BTFDers were hoping WTI in the low $40s would never again be seen:
Come June, when all available on-land storage is exhausted, each incremental barrel will have to be dumped on the market forcing prices lower and inflicting further pain on the entire US shale complex (just as Q1 results are released which will invariably show huge writedowns as companies will no longer be able to hide behind the SEC-mandated accounting trick that made Q4 results appear respectable). Here's Soc Gen:  "...oil markets can be impatient and prices could drop considerably lower. As we have written previously, we are currently more concerned about downside risk than upside risk."
Since then, as expected, crude tumbled to new post-Lehman lows, confirming the global deflationary wave is raging (for more details please see China), and WTI only posted a rebound on quad-witching Friday as another algo-driven stop hunt spooked all those who were short the energy complex.

The problem is that despite the latest "dead oil bounce" we have since had to revise our forecast for full US oil storage, and pulled forward the date when this will happen in the aftermath of the latest API inventory data.

Recall that earlier this week API reported, and EIA later confirmed, that for the 10th week in a row there was a "massive 10.5 million barrels (far bigger than the 3.1 million barrel expectation) and a 3 million barrel build at Cushing. If this holds for DOE data tomorrow (and worryingly API has tended to underestimate the build in recent weeks) it will be the biggest weekly build since 2001."

The DOE indeed confirmed all of this.

It also means that at the current rate of record oil production, storage will be exhausted in under two months, some time in mid-May. At that point, with no more storage to buffer the record oil production, the open market dumping begins and prices of WTI will crater as every barrel will have to be sold at any clearing price, since the producers will have no other choice than to, literally, dump the oil.

In other words, a perfect storm is shaping up for oil some time in late May, early June.

And then we learned something even more startling. 

As the Platts oil blog reports, even as oil prices continue to fall amid flat demand and near-record supply, "North Dakota is likely to see a “big surge” in production this June, potentially besting another supply record even if prices continue to crater, according to Lynn Helms, director of the state’s Department of Mineral Resources."

What make things worse is that this time the production "surge" will have nothing to do with game theory, or beggaring thy oil producing neighbor in hopes that the other, more levered guy goes bankrupt first.

This surge will be largely propelled by two factors: a state-mandated time limit on drilling and the expected trigger of a major oil tax incentive, Helms said.
Here is how Bakken production has looked like in recent months:

Helms, the state’s top oil and gas official, reported last week that North Dakota oil production fell about 3%, or about 37,000 b/d, to 1.190 million b/d from December’s all-time high of 1.227 million b/d. The reduction was expected as sweet crude prices averaged $31.41/barrel in January, down from $40.74/b a month earlier and the statewide rig count fell by 21 to 161.

But Helms said he doesn’t expect production to tumble dramatically, even as prices continue to fall, and even though he expects the statewide rig count to “bottom out” at about 100 rigs. Production, he said, will likely remain between 1.1 million b/d to 1.2 million b/d over the next few months.
Nothing surprising.

And then this will happen: "Bakken production could suddenly skyrocket, by nearly 10%, or an additional 75,000 b/d, to 100,000 b/d in June, Helms said." This means that despite low prices and production curtailments throughout much of North America, oil production in North Dakota could actually shatter a new record this summer!
This is mainly due to a backlog of between 800 to 1,000 uncompleted wells statewide, about 125 of which need to be completed by the end of June in order to comply with state requirements to complete drilling within a year.

At the same time, operators may wait until June, when a major oil tax incentive known as the “large trigger” is expected to go into effect. The large trigger, which is aimed at boosting Bakken production at times of low crude prices, enters into force when the WTI crude price averages below $55.09/b for five consecutive months.

If that incentive is triggered, which Ryan Rauschenberger, North Dakota’s tax commissioner, said he expects will happen, the majority of wells will be exempt from a 6.5% oil extraction tax for as long as two years.

With that tax break in effect and hundreds more wells running up against one-year state deadlines, production in North Dakota could continue to surge even beyond the summer.
“We’re going to ride these waves of production increases,“ Helms said.

And that, coming just as US spare oil capacity hits its limit, is precisely what all those BTFDers who bought first junk bonds, and most recently, a desperate scramble in follow-on equity offerings by the universe of cash burning US shale companies, is precisely what they did not want to hear. Because no amount of Fed ramblings about the ever weaker US economy will offset what is about to be a veritable oil tsunami.

The time to buy asset may be when there is blood on the streets, but the moment to dump crude (and buy deep OTM puts) will be precisely when the majority of investors and algo-programming math PhDs realize that in just about two months the streets are about to become black, covered entirely in oil.

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Kicked to the curb

SUBHEAD: The squalor is awesome, we’re even too lazy to clean up the junk that is just lying around.

By James Kunstler on 23 March 2015 for Kunstler.com -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/kicked-to-the-curb/)


Image above: Dumpster full of plastic packaging, cheap products, and wasted food. From (http://seeclickfix.com/issues/212960-overflowing-dumpster-and-illegal-dumping).

I begin to understand why the death of Ferguson, Mo, teen Michael Brown sent such shock waves through America last year. He truly symbolized our country: an overgrown, oafish, wannabe thug making one bad choice after another until his final, suicidal lurch against authority — followed by all the exculpatory lying on his behalf: the “gentle giant,” hands up, don’t shoot!

This is exactly how America acts on the world stage these days. We are the Michael Brown among nations, high on exceptionalism, stoned on entitlement, swaggering moronically from one place to another grabbing what we feel like, smashing things up as we go.

Also, as in the case of the actual Michael Brown, supposedly sentient observers do not have the guts to call bullshit on all the excuses we make for ourselves. Has any self-styled presidential candidate made a peep about America’s idiotic campaign to make Ukraine the 51st state? Has Hillary (“It’s Her Turn”) Clinton asked publically why the US is egging on NATO to stage military exercises on the Russian border?

Do we still have a senate Foreign Relations Committee, and does it convene once in a while? Is The New York Times so preoccupied with its “Gay Cities” index it forgot that the world is full of serious conflicts and hazards that extend beyond the choosing of apartment décor?

Likewise, there are obvious reasons why we’re so busy demonizing Vladimir Putin. He’s the only serious adult on a stage full of special ed students. When Vlad goes on vacation what does the American media do?

It launches into raptures of speculation about his “love child” — because in this country any political leader foolish enough to step out of the spotlight for a few minutes will be gleefully unmasked as a “cheater,” a lothario (because, despite our ultra-pornified 24/7 twerk-o-rama culture, we apparently think sex is bad), so then the peanut gallery can enjoy the grotesque spectacle of apology and the inevitable punishment that follows despite any apologies. Vlad walked out of a winter Olympic venue fourteen months ago and said, simply, “I’m divorcing Lyudmila….” End of story. Oh, and Vlad also doesn’t subscribe to the current American notion that being homosexual is a major life achievement. That truly offends!

This also explains America’s obsession with cartoon superheros, and especially characters who enjoy high-tech prosthetics for projecting power — all those robo-soldiers and cops, and the fabulous American Sniper with his thousand yard kill-shot.

Without all this magic we’d be revealed as weaklings, our vitality sapped by decades of Froot Loops, Cheez Doodles, and Pepsi, our brains shriveled by untold hours of conditioning by way of Grand Theft Auto V, Dark Souls II, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

What do foreign leaders think when they have concluded their mystifying sessions with our Secretary of State, the haircut-in-search-of-a-brain, John Kerry. Do they look around the floor of their ministerial offices to see if any sawdust leaked out of his head?

Has anyone actually looked around and noticed what a scabrous sight American towns and cities present these days? There are places here in the old Yankee northeast that Borat would be ashamed to call home. We live amidst so much delaminating plastic it’s a wonder that virtually everybody doesn’t have cancer.

The squalor is awesome, and to make matters worse, we’re even too lazy to clean up the stuff that is just lying around on the ground — and certainly too lazy to try to grow anything in that ground if it didn’t promise to grow up looking like a pepperoni stick or a corn dog.

America’s moment of getting kicked to the curb by other nations is at hand. I don’t think it will be a kinetic war, not right away, but it will be a hearty financial beat-down, and many of the members of our insane clown posse in Europe are going to feel the beat-down, too. America tried, at the very last moment, to join the new BRICs development bank.

Who finally decided that? Barack Obama? John Kerry? Jack Lew: the Three Stooges? Get gold. If you can.

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Hawaii protests TPP Summit

SUBHEAD: Congress refused to pass Fast Track legislation that would allow the TPP to be rushed through.

By Staff on 15 March 2015 for Citizen's Trade -
(http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/blog/2015/03/15/hawaii-islanders-protest-outside-secretive-tpp-trade-summit/)


Image above: Protesters at site of TPP Summit on Big Island reveal location of secret dealings. From original article.

As trade negotiators from throughout the Pacific Rim met at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in March 2015 with a goal of pushing the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to completion, residents from across the Big Island and beyond gathered outside for a protest deriding the proposed pact as a “back-room deal for the one percent.”

“The last thing we need is another race-to-the-bottom trade agreement that hurts the economy, the environment and public health in our state and beyond,” said Koohan Paik of Honokaa. “There is a reason that the TPP is being negotiated in the shadows, and that’s because when people find out about it, they’re horrified.”
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Many in Hawai`i were awakened to the types of dangers TPP could bring after the world’s largest chemical corporations pushed preemption bills in the Hawaii state legislature, taking away Hawai`i County’s right to “home rule” in regulating genetically modified crops and associated experimental pesticide use.
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Jim Albertini, long-time peace activist and farmer from Kurtistown said, “This is the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) of the Pacific. It grants corporate domination over county, state, and national sovereignty. It threatens jobs, the environment, sacred sites, labor rights and will increase the gap between rich and poor. It will increase militarization in the Asia-Pacific.”
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The TPP is a 12-nation trade and investment agreement that would set rules governing approximately 40% of the global economy.  It’s 29 separate chapters cover not only traditional trade matters such as tariffs and quotas, but also medicine patents, environmental protections, food safety standards, financial regulations, Internet protocols, energy policy, public procurement and more.
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Despite being under negotiation for five years now, U.S. negotiators still refuse to let the public see their TPP proposals, while simultaneously granting hundreds of corporate lobbyists special “cleared advisor” status that provides them access to negotiating texts.  What’s known about the TPP comes largely from leaked documents first published by groups such as Citizens Trade Campaign and WikiLeaks.
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Albertini added, “When negotiators refuse to tell the public what they’re proposing in our names, it begs the question, ‘What are they trying to hide?’  Leaked documents suggest they’re hiding another back-room deal for the one percent that enriches big corporations at the expense of almost everybody else.”
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The U.S. Congress has refused to pass Fast Track “trade promotion authority” legislation that would allow the TPP to be rushed through the approval process, circumventing ordinary congressional review, amendment and debate procedures.  Fast Track legislation failed last year after nearly all House Democrats and a sizable bloc of House Republicans announced their opposition, and many freshman in the current Congress have also announced their opposition to Fast Track in recent weeks.
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“Fast Track for the TPP is dead,” said Paik.  “Why foreign negotiators would accept some of the draconian things that U.S. negotiators are demanding is baffling, given that Congress is either going to amend any deal it receives or quash it altogether. You’d think they’d want assurances that the TPP could move forward unimpeded before selling out their nations’ sovereign ability to protect things like access to medicine, family farms and financial safeguards.”

[IB Publisher's note: Koohan Paik sent these links of photos of demonstrations against TPP during meetings on Hawaii last week.  See photos here (http://malu-aina.org/?p=3039) and here (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.718488031603148.1073741830.710570195728265&type=1)] 

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Update Maui GMO ban repeal

SUBHEAD: County has a duty to honor the will of voters, and to protect the health and safety of its citizens.

By Staff on 15 March 2015 for the Shaka Movement -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2015/03/update-maui-gmo-ban-repeal.html)


Image above: On September 10th, 2014, Monsanto crew members Gerard Manuel, left, and Rommel Angale, right, count corn sprouts in a field of test hybrids in a breeding nursery near Kihei, Hawaii. (Matthew Thayer/AP/The Maui News) From (http://www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2014/11/maui_voters_pass_gmo_ban_but_j.html).

On Monday night, March 9th, just hours before the court hearing that had been scheduled on December 16, Judge Mollway issued a continuance (postponement) until March 31. The judge’€™s reasons for doing this were because it somehow came to her attention that there were two bills before the State legislature seeking “€œto prohibit county ordinances abridging the rights of farmers and ranchers to use agricultural practices not prohibited by federal law.”€ The judge rhetorically asked, “€œIs there any dispute that the enactment of either of these bills would nullify the ordinance at issue in this case?”€

With the help of our allies at the Center for Food Safety, we were able to come to court the next morning with a letter from Senator Russel Ruderman (chair of the State Senate Committee on Agriculture) explaining to the judge that the two bills she sited were “effectively “€˜dead”€™ for this legislative session.”€ A copy of the letter is available here.

As the hearing progressed, Judge Mollway requested two additional briefs from our counsel, which we consider to be of significant importance. The first is our response to the County of Maui’s motion (joining with the industry) asking the Judge to dismiss SHAKA’€™s complaint and case against the industry (for the harms they are inflicting upon the public health and the public trust resources of Hawaii) as well as the county officials (for their failure to certify and implement the citizen’€™s initiative approved in last November’€™s election). A copy of our brief in response is available here.

Secondly, the judge asked for a 2500 word memo, just from our lawyers, on the harm of keeping in place the injunction the industry and the County conspired to ask the federal court to order on November 13, 2014 (9 days after the election); An order, by federal authority, enjoining the County from “€œpublishing or certifying, enforcing, or otherwise acting upon the ordinance.”€

The federal court, basing it’€™s judgement upon the “€œstipulated agreement”€ between the County and the industry, ordered that this prohibition would remain in place “€œuntil March 31, 2015, or until further order of this court.”

The memorandum that Judge Mollway requested will be the first opportunity that we will have to bring to the court the issue of “€œharms”€, which are the very foundation of the ordinance we together passed, and the attack on the wellbeing of the people of Hawaii, (our soils, our waters, and our future) represented by the bioengineering activities of Monsanto and Dow Chemical and their associates in the biotechnology chemical industries. This brief is due by Friday, March 13, and will be available on this website at that time.

The memorandum in opposition to Maui County’€™s motion to dismiss SHAKA’€™s case includes the following:

“€œThe rush with which the County and the Industry have sought to invalidate the Ordinance in the Federal Court action does not support granting this Motion. All the agreements to dispose of this case in an expedited fashion were made between the Industry and the County before SHAKA was allowed to intervene and state an objection.

The Industry and the County never contacted SHAKA regarding its position on the expedited briefing schedule and the injunction, despite being aware of this pending State Court action and SHAKA’€™s interest in the Federal Court action. Simply because the Industry and the County are seeking to terminate this case in four months does not justify dismissing the State Court action and giving greater weight to the Federal Court action."

“The County’€™s actions and statements since the Ordinance was first introduced under the voter initiative power make plain that the County does not “€”and will not” €”support the Ordinance. Although the County attempts to argue that it “€œhad no opportunity to enforce the ordinance because it has been subject to the restraining order issued in the Robert Ito Farms case[,]”€ this is an overstatement. The County itself agreed to a stipulation with the Industry subjecting the County to the restraining order. The County enjoined itself."

“Ultimately, it is the County’€™s job to enforce ordinances that are adopted by its electorate. This is regardless of whether County officials oppose the law or whether the officials consider the law “controversial.”€

Once the Maui electorate approved the Ordinance into law, the County was obligated to certify the election results approving the Ordinance and properly implement the law. The County refused to implement the Ordinance, so SHAKA sought declaratory and injunctive relief in this action in order to have the Ordinance enforced."

“Not only did the County have a duty to honor the will of its voters, but it also has a continuing duty to protect the health and safety of its citizens and the natural resources. Under the Public Trust Doctrine, the County has a significant duty to preserve and protect environmental resources for current and future generations.

As a result of the County’€™s inaction and failure to protect these interests, the necessary protections to Maui’s environment, public health, and natural resources demanded by Maui voters have been compromised."

 See December 2014 memorandum here (http://www.mauigmomoratoriumnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Filed_Memo_in_Opposition_to_County.pdf)

In response to Judge Mollway’s request at the March 10th hearing, SHAKA’€™s lawyers today filed a brief explaining the “€œbalance of harms”€ alleged by the industry compared with the harms being inflicted upon our environment and island communities. The issue is central to the injunction that expires on March 31st that till now has prevented the certification of the November election result and the Moratorium we voted for. The document is available here.

In the most relevant section the memorandum states – “€œAt stake is ongoing damage to the environment, potentially serious health problems associated with continuing practices, threats to Native Hawaiian culture and practices, and the integrity of our own election process. These interests are significantly concrete and cannot be remedied by money damages.

 They are significantly greater than the corporate profits that the Industry relies on to justify the injunction. These harms are, for all intents and purposes, irreparable and imminent”€

A more extensive discussion and elaboration on each of these points (referencing testimony submitted to the court in form of declarations by Maui residents and expert witnesses) is contained within the memorandum.

See March 2015 memorandum here (http://www.mauigmomoratoriumnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BriefOnTheBalanceofHarms.pdf)

SHAKA Movement
See http://www.mauigmomoratoriumnews.org/
PO Box 970538
Paia HI 96779

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Adjusting to a Finite Planet

SUBHEAD: Today's interpretation of the 5th Amendment on the "Taking" of private property is a threat to the planet.

By Erik Zencey on 11 March 2015 in the Daly News -
(http://steadystate.org/adjusting-the-fifth-to-a-finite-planet-part-1/)


Image above: The shoreline in Mahaulepu near Waiopili Stream. Grove Farms and Hawaii Dairy Farm corporation (controlled by billionaire Pierre Omidyer) plan to develop a commercial mega-dairy operation that will threaten this delicate ecosystem aquifer with tons of urine and fecal matter runoff every day. As it Waiopili Stream is the most contaminated with entero coccus bacteria tracked by the Surfrider Kauai organization. Is it the right of the private property owner to make money in this way? Photo by Juan Wilson.

Infinite-Planet Thinking is deeply embedded in our political economy. It’s there in the expectation that investments will pay off at a continually compounding rate [1]. It’s there in the unquestioned consensus among elected officials that economic growth is always good–that it can’t possibly ever be uneconomic [2] growth, costing us more in lost natural and social capital than we gain from additional consumption.

It’s there in expressions of concern that some key indicator–housing purchases or starts, car sales, or purchases of other durables–has failed to rise from year to year or quarter to quarter. In a steady state, sustainable economy suited to the planet we actually inhabit, indicators like those wouldn’t rise continually. (Most would fall considerably before leveling off, because policy would promote durability and repairability [3], and manufacturers would be given incentives to use modular construction that would allow regular updating of only those components that need it.) Automobile sales would decline steadily [4], because a sustainable civilization would invest in mass transit and rapid inter-city rail, turning the private automobile into a major expense that most of us would willingly do without.

One less-obvious place that infinite planet thinking clashes with reality is in American Constitutional law, particularly the case law that has amplified one particular clause of the Fifth Amendment: the clause that forbids government from taking private property for public use without “just compensation.”

The harms that the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause was intended to prevent were familiar to American colonists, as Britain had forced them to bear the costs of war (French and Indian, the Revolution itself) by quartering troops in private homes and by seizing without payment horses, wagons, farm produce, and silage. For a century and a half after the ratification of the Constitution, the Takings Clause was construed to apply only to that kind of physical invasion of property or a taking of title.

Thus, in 1915, when the City of Los Angeles expanded its boundaries and enclosed an existing brickyard that was then held to be in violation of nuisance laws and attendant zoning regulations, no compensation was due to the owner whose operations had been summarily shut down (Hadachek v. Sebastian [5]). No physical encroachment, no loss of title, no taking.

That interpretation was overturned in 1922, in Pennsylvania Coal v. Mahon, in which the Supreme Court held that a regulatory change could constitute a taking if the regulations go “too far” in limiting uses of the property.

How far is too far?

The court had difficulty saying. Over time, one sturdy guide emerged: following its decisions in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City (1978) and Kaiser Aetna v. United States (1979), and using language first proposed in a 1967 law review article [6], the court is most likely to find that a regulatory taking has occurred if a property owner has reasonable, investment-backed expectations [7] to develop the property in ways that new regulation forbids, and no other avenue of development or use is likely to provide a similar return.

A full-scale review and critique of Takings case law from a steady state, finite planet perspective would be useful, but no scholar has yet done such thing. Among the trends visible in Takings case law is this one: in a crowded world that lacks ecological resilience, some acts that would otherwise pass for private become decidedly public in their character and consequence. Thus, a person who plants ornamental cedar trees can see them condemned as public nuisances, and cut without compensation, if they carry a form of tree disease fatal to nearby apple orchards (Miller v. Schoene, 1928).

A property owner who wants to fill in a wetland to build a house finds that he can’t–and that he should have known that when he bought the property (Claridge v. New Hampshire Wetlands Board, 1984).

 Whether a man can build houses on land he owns becomes a matter of public interest if the land happens to be environmentally sensitive barrier island, newly protected by coastal zoning laws (Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 1992). And whether the owner of an auto parts store can expand her building is not simply a private decision if the addition would encroach on greenspace the town plan identifies as both a future bikeway and an environmentally useful drainage swale (Dolan v. City of Tigard, 1994).

The problem: under current interpretations of the Takings Clause, ecologically wise decisions about wetlands, barrier islands, and drainage swales require financial compensation to landowners affected by them, making preservation of ecosystem services prohibitively expensive. In Lucas and Dolan, the public was required to compensate the landowner at market prices for preventing the socially undesirable construction.

A spate of hurricanes [9] has shown how valuable barrier-island ecosystem services [10] can be. If the public has to buy those services back, parcel by parcel, at market prices, suffering the billion-dollar property losses brought by storms begins to look like the least-cost option.

This perverse situation follows logically from the infinite-planet assumptions that lie behind our Anglo-Saxon tradition of property law. An infinite planet has ecosystem services galore–so much that loss of services from any single ecosystem leaves “enough, and as good” remaining. The words are English philosopher John Locke’s, who held that individuals have a right to take from the commons only if their taking meets this proviso.

But Locke went on to argue that once money is invented, private appropriation for sale to others leads to economic growth, which can go on forever, releasing us from this limit. “He, that incloses Land and has a greater plenty of the conveniencys of life from ten acres, than he could have from an hundred left to Nature, may truly be said, to give ninety acres to Mankind.”

Locke is all too obviously an infinite planet thinker [11]. Our property law, built on his precepts, finds that a taking occurs when public authority preserves environmental values from private development. We need to reset the Fifth Amendment’s default and run it the other way, to hold that a taking occurs when property owners deprive their fellow citizens of ecosystem services.

Anyone who proposes to develop a plot of land should be required to show that the loss of ecosystem services to the public will be insignificant–that the proposed act meets Locke’s original criterion. If it doesn’t, the property owner should be required to pay the cost of mitigation, or of ecosystem restoration elsewhere, or of providing equivalent services from built capital.

Unfortunately, this is just the line of development the Roberts court foreclosed in its 2013 decision in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District [12], the latest in the Court’s infinite-planet Takings tradition. (As Donella Meadows once wryly noted [13], if you want to know where the leverage points are in a complex system, look for where the system’s power is pushing hard in exactly the wrong direction.)

If no equivalent mitigation or replacement is possible, and if there is a reasonable, science-backed expectation that loss of those particular ecosystem services would diminish human wellbeing, then the public has legitimate authority to prevent the destruction of those services without providing compensation.

To argue differently is to argue that title to property conveys the right to hold civilization hostage. It’s to argue that if the public wants to secure the blessings of ecosystems to future generations, they’ll have to pony up and buy their children’s future from private owners, parcel by parcel, at current market rates.

That’s not only unrealistic and intergenerationally unjust, it risks the loss of civilization in order to protect the property interests of individuals within that civilization. That’s a very odd thing to do.
Next: three paths forward.


Article printed from Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy: http://steadystate.org
URL to article: http://steadystate.org/adjusting-the-fifth-to-a-finite-planet-part-1/
URLs in this post:

[3] policy would promote durability and repairability: http://www.eesc.europa.eu/?i=portal.en.press-releases.29603

[4] decline steadily: http://www.cnu.org/node/5500

[10] valuable barrier-island ecosystem services: http://www.chnep.org/2013agendas/CAC4-17-13_EcosystemServicesReport.pdf

[12] Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District: http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=fb794def-e8a7-4ccb-b518-da9776e10305

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