Living off-grid becoming illegal

SUBHEAD: The off-grid lifestyle in Costilla County enjoyed by an estimated 800 people is now being threatened.

By Jay Syrmopoulos on 4 November 2015 for Activists Post -

Image above: A trailer with awning, picnic table and wood pile sits behind a PV solar panel in an off grid living arrangement. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: It's clear that local governments and their partners - utility companies, land speculators, developers, constructions outfits, and county employees have an aversion to off-grid living arrangements. Why - because their very own livelihoods based on of services, red tape paperwork, pension padding, cronyism, and blood-sucking taxation are not only unneeded, but unwelcome.]

Across the U.S., local zoning officials are making it increasingly difficult for people to go off the grid, in some instances threatening people with jail time for collecting rainwater or not hooking into local utilities.

As zoning laws have increasingly targeted the off-grid lifestyle, many have moved to the Southwestern U.S. as an escape from overzealous zoning officials.

In Costilla County, Colorado, there has been a major influx of off-grid residents to the San Luis Valley. The combination of lax zoning regulations, cheap property, and an already thriving community of self-reliant off-grid homesteaders has led to many new residents.

The off-grid lifestyle, enjoyed by an estimated 800 people, is now being threatened as county officials have recently made moves to essentially regulate and license the lifestyle into oblivion.

Tensions boiled over during a county commissioners’ meeting in San Louis, Colorado, devolving into a shouting match between homesteaders and police. One of the major points of contention is the county’s attempt to ban camping on your own property, in an effort to force the off-grid homesteaders back onto the grid.

“We are residents who have come to live off the grid. It’s all our land.” … “These are harsh economic times. We have nowhere to go,” twenty-year resident Paul Skinner said.

“We’ve been regulated out of life,” homesteader Robin Rutan told Colorado Public Radio. “I came here because I couldn’t live by the codes [in other regions].”

The county, which requires residents to have a camping permit to live in an RV, “small house” or other camp style home, has started to simply refuse the renewal of these permits.

This is obviously a major problem for homesteaders, who often live in such accommodations while building their permanent residents.

“They started enforcing the changes before they were actually made,” resident Chloe Everhart said.

Everhart said she performed due diligence prior to buying her land, with one of the most important aspects of the plan being a 90-day camping permit. Without a 90-day permit, camping on residential plots is only allowed for 14 days per every three months.

But just as Everhart was arriving, the board of commissioners instructed the planning and zoning commission to no longer issue camping permits.

In spite of her best efforts, Everhart is now an outlaw.

County land use administrator Matt Valdez disputes the claims that the county is trying to regulate people’s lifestyles out of existence. He says that his office has discretion to deny camping permits under existing code and claims that too many new residents were habitually renewing permits meant to be temporary.

“We’re not trying to drive people off their property,” Valdez said.

Valdez said he simply wants to make sure already established rules are followed for aesthetic and safety reasons.

The vilification of people who choose to live an alternative lifestyle is extremely commonplace in modern America.

While there may be legitimate issues that need to be addressed, people have a right to use land that they own in the manner they see fit. To use the technicalities of the law to essentially evict people from land they own reeks of tyrannical overreach and oppression of personal liberty.

Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has been published on Ben Swann’s Truth in Media, Truth-Out, AlterNet, InfoWars, MintPressNews and many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Make HEI pay us for going off grid 9/23/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Off Grid living is illegal 1/26/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Off-grid handcrafted life 12/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Off-Grid Night Lighting 8/14/09

Can "Super Coral" save reefs

SOURCE: Sam Monet (
SUBHEAD: Researchers in Hawaii are using an "assisted evolution" to grow coral to withstand the hotter more acidic oceans.

By AP Staff on 5 November 2015 for the Guardian -

Image above: Juvenile coral is prepared to transplant on to reefs in hopes that the high-performing specimens will strengthen the overall health of the reef. Photograph by Caleb Jones/AP. From original story.

[Note from Source: In the 1970's, acid rain from Germany killed much of Sweden's native forests and lakes.  After the German's initiated green controls, the Swedes replaced their native forests with mono cultured trees that, unfortunately did not and cannot replicate or replace the bio diversity that existed in their native forests.  However, that is better than nothing.  President Ronnie Reagan denied the existence of Acid Rain or ozone depletion, both well documented by the Swedes.]

The super coral might help us, however, if it cannot support the entire ecosystem, the life forms that depend on the existing corals will not survive and will not support the rest of the food chain that is much more complex than a Swedish forest.  Mono cultured coral reefs will not be the same.

I have been writing about and warning the politicians and people of Hawaii about global warming since the very early 1990's.  The direct result of our global greed and ignorance, today it is upon us.

The Ala Wai yacht harbor is much hotter, more polluted, acid and silted than Kaneohe Bay.  What little corals we have, have been bleached in our harbor.  I suggest the real test of the super coral is in Ala Wai harbor.  If it can live and breed here, then it can do that anywhere in Hawaii and similar climate zones world wide.

Researchers in Hawaii are using an "assisted evolution experiment" to grow coral that can withstand the hotter and more acidic oceans caused by global warming

Scientists at a research centre on Hawaii’s Coconut Island have embarked on an experiment to grow “super coral” that they hope can withstand the hotter and more acidic oceans that are expected with global warming.

The quest to grow the hearty coral comes at a time when researchers are warning about the dire health of the world’s reefs, which create habitats for marine life, protect shorelines and drive tourist economies.

When coral is stressed by changing environmental conditions, it expels the symbiotic algae that live within it and the animal turns white or bright yellow, a process called bleaching, said Ruth Gates, director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

If the organisms are unable to recover from these bleaching events, especially when they recur over several consecutive years, the coral will die. Gates estimated that about 60 to 80% of the coral in Kaneohe Bay has bleached this year.

“The bleaching has intensified and got much more serious,” said Gates, of the coral around the bay. Where they once looked for the bleached coral among the h

Gates and her team are taking the coral to their centre on the 29-acre isle and slowly exposing them to slightly more stressful water.

They bathe chunks of coral that they’ve already identified as having strong genes in water that mimics the warmer and more acidic oceans. They are also taking resilient strains and breeding them with one another, helping perpetuate those stronger traits.

The theory they are testing is called assisted evolution, and while it has been used for thousands of years on other plants and animals, the concept has not been applied to coral living in the wild.

“We’ve given them experiences that we think are going to raise their ability to survive stress,” Gates said. She said they hope to see these corals, which will soon be transplanted into the bay, maintain their colour, grow normally and then reproduce next summer.

In early October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said that coral reefs worldwide are experiencing bleaching, calling the event extensive and severe.

“We may be looking at losing somewhere in the range of 10 to 20% of the coral reefs this year,” Noaa coral reef watch coordinator Mark Eakin said when the report was released. “Hawaii is getting hit with the worst coral bleaching they have ever seen.”

And this is the second consecutive year Hawaii has experienced widespread bleaching.

Scientists say some coral has already fallen victim to global warming. About 30% of the world’s coral population has already perished as a result of above average ocean temperatures, El Niño’s effects and acidification.

Image above: Researcher Jen Davidson places a tray of enhanced coral on to a reef during a practice run for future transplants off the island of Oahu. Photograph by Hugh Gentry/AP. From original story.

Gates and her team understand the challenges of scalability and time. Having success locally does not necessarily mean they will be able to scale their project to address a massive, global marine crisis before much of the world’s coral reefs are already gone.

Tom Oliver, a marine biologist and team leader at Noaa’s Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, said the project is scalable with the requisite amount of effort and funding. He said, “the question is not can they do it, it’s can they do it fast enough?”

Oliver said that many reef restoration projects struggle because of the cost and time involved with raising standard coral and planting it in the ocean. “Restoration needs to have brood stock that can handle the changing conditions on reefs,” he

Gates said more research needs to be done before they can begin to address scalability.

In 2013, Gates and her Australian counterpart Dr Madeleine van Oppen, who does coral research at the Australia Institute of Marine Science, won the $10,000 (£6,500) Paul G Allen Ocean Challenge for their proposal to assist coral evolution.

Allen’s foundation then asked them for a proposal to fully fund the idea, which they eventually did with a $4m grant in June. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, has various climate-related projects in his philanthropic portfolio.

Hawaii’s Gates said that while the goal of their project is to help coral survive global warming, there is still a need to end human’s reliance on fossil fuels and to mitigate the emission of greenhouse gasses that cause global warming.

“Even if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, there is still this lag in the atmosphere where climate change will continue for probably hundreds of years,” Van Oppen said. “It’s hard to imagine it’s not going to get worse.”


Kauai's Ala Loa Trail

SUBHEAD: Conference on the history and importance of the historic Hawaiian foot trails on Kauai.

By Richard Spacer on 6 November 2015 in Island Breath -

Image above: Photo looking west along the Kalaloa Trail on the north shore of Kauai. This section of the overall Ala Loa Trail system is still in everyday use.  From (

Last summer (2014) Hope and Tim Kallai organized a trails conference held in Kilauea with a focus on Kauai's Ala Loa Trail. Attorneys, activists, and archaeologists attended from around Hawaii.

The public attended and learned a great deal about ancient historic trails and the legal rights of access to them. The result is 12 videos which are now online on Youtube.

Video above: 1. Richard Stevens. From (

Video above: 2. Tom Pierce. From (

Video above: 3. Allen Murakami. From (

Video above: 4. Jane Naone. From (

Video above: 5. Debbie Chang. From (

Video above: 6. Lucienne De Naie. From (

Video above: 7. Dennis Hart. From (

Video above: 8. Erik Burton. From (

Video above: 9. Teddy Blake. From (

Video above: 10. Alaloa o Manokalanipo. From (

Video above: 11. Questions & Answers. From (

Video above: 12. Trail Workshop Summary. From (

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Ala Loa Trail 4/8/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Trails and Tribulations 2/25/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Sleeping with the Enemy 5/23/11

God Bless the (US) Military

SUBHEAD: Christian sign approving militarism sparks religious freedom fight on US Marine base in Hawaii.

By Chris D,Angelo on 1 October 2015 for the Huffington Post -

Image above: Photo of  "God Bless the Military" sign provided by . From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: How far away can American Christians drift away from the tenants of their religion and into militarism before they wake up? I suppose as far as the Nazis in Germany.]

A large sign was erected on a Hawaii military base in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks with the message, "God bless the military, their families and the civilians who work with them."

Now, 14 years later, a nonprofit religious rights group is demanding it be removed, claiming it violates the Constitution.

In a September 24th message to Col. Sean C. Killeen, commanding officer of Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Oahu, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said the sign is a "brazen violation" of the Constitution's Establishment Clause and "sends the clear message that your installation gives preference to those who hold religious beliefs over those who do not, and those who prefer a monotheistic, intervening god over other deities or theologies."

The group's founder, Mikey Weinstein, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser the sign stands out "like a tarantula on a wedding cake." His group, which now represents 65 active-duty Marines at the base, recommends the sign be moved to the base chapel or removed altogether.

Capt. Tim Irish, a spokesman for the base, said Killeen received the complaint and ordered base staff to research the sign’s origin and its compliance with existing regulations. “MCBH will exercise due diligence to ensure compliance with existing regulations and law, including the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” Irish said.

Not surprisingly, the demand to remove the sign was met with plenty of criticism.

"Only someone with a great misunderstanding of the First Amendment or an axe to grind against religion would claim that such a slogan poses a threat or is in any way unconstitutional," Ron Crews, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said in a press release. "The real threat is posed by those who want to whitewash any reference to God from public discourse -- even ones as innocuous and uplifting as this one."

Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son, was among those who slammed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation via social media.

"The group says it is 'divisive.' You’ve got to be kidding me!" Graham wrote on his Facebook page.
For now, at least, the sign is still there. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation followed up its initial demand with a second on Wednesday -- saying that if the sign is not removed, six more signs should be erected to satisfy Jewish, Muslim, Norse Religious Faith, atheist/agnostic/humanist/secularist, Hindu and Wiccan U.S. Marine clients.

The additional signs, as depicted in the photo illustration below, would contain the same message, but start with "Yehweh bless," "Allah bless," "Odin bless," "Vishnu bless" and "Goddess bless." Another would begin, "There is no god to bless" and end with "We have each other."
Image above: Portion of the additional signs requested by . From original article. Click to see full image.

The Marine complainants, according to the Marine Corps Times, include at least 21 Protestants, while it was "not immediately clear how many of them are Vikings.

In his Wednesday message, Weinstein said he would immediately withdraw his demand for the six additional message boards if the base agrees to move or remove the sign currently on display.


Guide to Hawaiian secession

SUBHEAD: Independence would allow Hawaiian to take full advantage of their unique features and location.

By Ryan McMaken on 4 November 2015 for Mises Institute -

Image above: Painting by Herb Kane of King Kamehameha turning power over to his son in front of his home at the Ahuena Heiau on the Big Island. From (

The BBC reports this week that a secession movement in Hawaii continues to simmer under the surface:
An upcoming election has highlighted the deep disagreement between native Hawaiians over what the future should look like. For some, it's formal recognition of their community and a changed relationship within the US. Others want to leave the US entirely - or more accurately, want the US to leave Hawaii.
Much of the antipathy to Washington DC stems from the grievances of the indigenous population which is quite familiar of how wealthy white ranchers in the late 19th century overthrew the legitimate government of Hawaii and formed  a pro-US puppet government in its stead. Eventually, annexation followed.

Nevertheless, the fact that some Hawaiians want independence does not mean that most do. While it's true that whites are only 25 percent of the Hawaiian population, it's also true that indigenous Hawaiians and other pacific islander groups only comprise ten percent of Hawaii's population.

The largest demographic group in Hawaii is Asian-Americans, who make up 38 percent of the population (not including people of mixed parentage.)

If the secessionists are ever to sell secession to the overall population, they would have to offer something more practical than solidarity with the indigenous population or appeals to local patriotism.

Potentially, the costs of secession could be high if the US decided to regard the Hawaiian government as a hostile regime (thus bringing economic sanctions), and of course, spending by the US government in Hawaii — funded by mainland taxpayers — is extensive.

Practically speaking, however, there is a lot of real estate between the current status quo for Hawaii and full-blown independence. It is unlikely that Hawaii would fully remove the US from the islands any time soon, no matter how unpopular the regime in DC became.

It is likely that Washington would resort to military action before it would be willing to give up its military installations in and around Pearl Harbor. Look, for example, at how the US has held onto Guantanamo Bay, even when Cuba became aligned militarily with the Soviet Union.

However, there is no reason that that Hawaii could not reach a compromise with the US in which Hawaii obtains domestic autonomy while remaining a military ally and resource for the US. The world is full of such arrangement, and many countries have relationships with regions (many of which are islands and overseas territories) that use their own currency and have their own systems of government while remaining part of a larger political body.

It does not follow logically, of course, that Hawaii, even if it were to allow a US military presence, would have to use US currency or submit to US regulations of trade.

In fact, freedom from federally imposed restrictions on trade would be among the greatest benefits for Hawaiians in the case of independence. As Gary Galles noted here in Mises Daily, Hawaii, as part of the US's domestic market, is heavily restricted by the Jones Act. The Jones Act restricts the nature and extent of shipping that can take place in and out of American ports. Galles writes:
Jones Act costs are made clearest in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska, where it most severely limits supply lines.

In 2014, shipping a forty-foot container from Los Angeles to Honolulu reportedly cost more than ten times shipping it to Singapore. Dependent on Jones Act shipped petroleum for three-quarters of its electricity generation, Hawaii’s electricity prices are almost double the next most expensive state.

A 2012 report found that sending a container of household goods from the east coast to Puerto Rico cost more than double that to nearby Santo Domingo. A GAO study found that some Puerto Rico companies had shifted sourcing from America to Canada, due to cost savings from escaping Jones Act restrictions.

Alaska is restricted from shipping oil by tanker to the lower forty-eight states or to Hawaii, due to Jones Act restrictions. The costs are so extensive that the state’s governor is mandated to use “all appropriate means to persuade the United States Congress to repeal those provisions of the Jones Act.”
International trade is restricted by the Jones Act as well, although not in the same way as domestic shipping.

Thanks in part to trade restrictions such as these, the cost of living in Hawaii is notoriously high. For example, in nominal terms, Hawaii has a rather high median income at $59,000.  (The US median is $58,000.) But when adjusted for cost of living, the median income in Hawaii plummets to $50,900.  This disparity is the nation's largest, although, New Jersey comes in just slightly behind Hawaii in this measure.

We can't blame all of this on federal law, of course, as Hawaii is a long way from other major shipping ports, but the fact remains that the Jones Act severely limits what can be shipped from the US mainland, and by whom, while international trade further is controlled by a Congress where only four people out of 535 are from Hawaii.

Thus, economic freedom for Hawaii would allow Hawaiians greater power to control tariffs and trade in a manner that benefited Hawaii rather than special interests far away on the mainland. (Naturally, I prefer unilateral free trade in this regard.) This isn't to say that some Hawaiians never benefit from US trade restrictions. International trade restrictions on sugar are a famous example. But for every pro-Hawaii government regulation, there are countless others that benefit far away interests much more.

The US cannot be faulted for all of Hawaii's inability to take advantage of its geographical advantages. As just one example, we might note that a majority of Hawaiians have long refused to allow gambling on the islands, even though such a move could turn the islands, or a subregion of them, into a Monaco of the Pacific where wealthy Asians and Americans would leave behind thousands of dollars in gambling losses with every trip.

The biggest obstacle to successful secession for the time being, however, is not ideological. As long as the federal money keeps coming in the form of social security checks, welfare checks, and military spending, its unlikely many will want to kill that golden goose. If those checks ever start bouncing, however, and if the feds start to scale back the fiat-money and taxpayer funded largesse, things will start to look very different.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaiian Sovereignty on the line 10/27/15
Ea O Ka Aina: State of Hawaiian sovereignty 9/11/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaiian Sovereignty Issues 9/17/11 
Ea O Ka Aina: Feds Threaten Hawaiian Sovereignty 2/2/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Case for Hawaiian Sovereignty 12/20/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaiian Sovereignty Panel 9/26/09
Island Breath: Hawaiian Nation Part 1 4/25/08
Island Breath: Hawaiian Nation Part 2 5/4/08
Island Breath: Trail against Henry Noa 7/28/07
Island Breath: One Step at a Time with Bumpy 9/3/05
Island Breath: Francis Boyle on Hawaiian Sovereignty 12/28/04


When reform becomes impossible

SUBHEAD: It's cheaper and more effective to let the system collapse than squander treasure attempting reforms.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 5 November 2015 for Of Two Minds -

Image above: Album cover from the original motion picture soundtrack from the movie "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" by Timothy Leary. From (

Collapse begins when real reform becomes impossible. Reforms that can't be stopped by the outright purchase of politicos are watered down in committee, and loopholes wide enough for jumbo-jets of cash to fly through are inserted.

The reform quickly becomes "reform"--a simulacrum that maintains the facade of fixing what's broken while maintaining the Status Quo. Another layer of costly bureaucracy is added, along with hundreds or thousands of pages of additional regulations, all of which add cost and friction without actually solving what was broken.

The added friction increases the system's operating costs at multiple levels. Practitioners must stop doing actual work to fill out forms that are filed and forgotten; lobbyists milk the system to eradicate any tiny reductions in the flow of swag; attorneys probe the new regulations for weaknesses with lawsuits, and the enforcing agencies add staff to issue fines.

None of this actually fixes what was broken; all these fake-reforms add costs and reduce whatever efficiencies kept the system afloat. Recent examples include the banking regulations passed in the wake of the 2008 meltdown and the ObamaCare Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Back in 2010 I prepared this chart of The Lifecycle of Bureaucracy: as bureaucracies expand, they inevitably become less accountable, less efficient, more bloated with legacy staffing and requirements that no longer make sense, etc.

As costs soar, the bureaucracy's budget is attacked, and the agency circles the wagons and focuses on lobbying politicos and the public to leave the budget untouched.

Since accountability has been dissipated, management becomes increasingly incompetent and larded with people who can't be fired so they were kicked upstairs. Staff morale plummets as the competent quit/transfer out in disgust, leaving the least productive and those clinging on in order to retire with generous government benefits.

In this state of terminal decline, the agency's original function is no longer performed adequately and the system implodes from the dead weight of its high costs, lack of accountability, gross incompetence, inability to adapt and staggering inefficiency.

I've covered this dynamic a number of times:

Our Legacy Systems: Dysfunctional, Unreformable (July 1, 2013)
The Way Forward (April 25, 2013)
When Escape from a Previously Successful Model Is Impossible (November 29, 2012)
Complexity: Bureaucratic (Death Spiral) and Self-Organizing (Sustainable) (February 17, 2011)

This generates a ratchet effect, where costs increase even as the bureaucracy's output declines. The ratchet effect can also be visualized as a rising wedge, in which costs and inefficiencies continue rising until any slight decrease in funding collapses the organization.

Dislocations Ahead: The Ratchet Effect, Stick-Slip and QE3 (February 14, 2011)
The Ratchet Effect: Fiefdom Bloat and Resistance to Declining Incomes (August 23, 2010)
The net result of the Ratchet Effect and the impossibility of reform is this: it's cheaper and more effective to let the system collapse than squander time and treasure attempting reforms that are bound to fail as vested interests will fight to the death to retain every shred of power and swag.

Since the constituent parts refuse to accept any real reforms, the entire system implodes. We can look at healthcare, higher education and the National Security State as trillion-dollar examples of systems that become increasingly costly even as their performance declines or falls off the cliff.

This is the lesson of history, as described in the seminal book The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization.

Collapse does not need to be complete or sudden. Collapse tends to be a process, not an event.

Collapse begins when you can't find any doctors willing to accept Medicaid payments, when the potholes don't get filled even when voters approve millions of dollars in new taxes, and when kids aren't learning anything remotely useful or practical despite the school board raising tens of millions of dollars in additional property taxes.

Collapse begins when real reform becomes impossible.


Are resource wars our future?

SUBHEAD: The COP21 summit should be viewed as a kind of preemptive peace conference, before the wars truly begin.

By Michael Klare on 3 November 2015 for Tom Dispatch-

Image above: China diverted much of the Brahmputra River with the Xiawan Dam on the eastern plateau of Tibet before its water reach thirsty India and Bangladesh.  Is this an act of war? From (

At the end of November, delegations from nearly 200 countries will convene in Paris for what is billed as the most important climate meeting ever held.  Officially known as the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the 1992 treaty that designated that phenomenon a threat to planetary health and human survival), the Paris summit will be focused on the adoption of measures that would limit global warming to less than catastrophic levels.

If it fails, world temperatures in the coming decades are likely to exceed 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 degrees Fahrenheit), the maximum amount most scientists believe the Earth can endure without experiencing irreversible climate shocks, including soaring temperatures and a substantial rise in global sea levels.

A failure to cap carbon emissions guarantees another result as well, though one far less discussed.  It will, in the long run, bring on not just climate shocks, but also worldwide instability, insurrection, and warfare.  In this sense, COP-21 should be considered not just a climate summit but a peace conference -- perhaps the most significant peace convocation in history.

To grasp why, consider the latest scientific findings on the likely impacts of global warming, especially the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  When first published, that report attracted worldwide media coverage for predicting that unchecked climate change will result in severe droughts, intense storms, oppressive heat waves, recurring crop failures, and coastal flooding, all leading to widespread death and deprivation.

Recent events, including a punishing drought in California and crippling heat waves in Europe and Asia, have focused more attention on just such impacts.

The IPCC report, however, suggested that global warming would have devastating impacts of a social and political nature as well, including economic decline, state collapse, civil strife, mass migrations, and sooner or later resource wars.

These predictions have received far less attention, and yet the possibility of such a future should be obvious enough since human institutions, like natural systems, are vulnerable to climate change.  Economies are going to suffer when key commodities -- crops, timber, fish, livestock -- grow scarcer, are destroyed, or fail.  Societies will begin to buckle under the strain of economic decline and massive refugee flows.

Armed conflict may not be the most immediate consequence of these developments, the IPCC notes, but combine the effects of climate change with already existing poverty, hunger, resource scarcity, incompetent and corrupt governance, and ethnic, religious, or national resentments, and you’re likely to end up with bitter conflicts over access to food, water, land, and other necessities of life.

The Coming of Climate Civil Wars
Such wars would not arise in a vacuum.  Already existing stresses and grievances would be heightened, enflamed undoubtedly by provocative acts and the exhortations of demagogic leaders.

Think of the current outbreak of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, touched off by clashes over access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (also known as the Noble Sanctuary) and the inflammatory rhetoric of assorted leaders. Combine economic and resource deprivation with such situations and you have a perfect recipe for war.

The necessities of life are already unevenly distributed across the planet. Often the divide between those with access to adequate supplies of vital resources and those lacking them coincides with long-term schisms along racial, ethnic, religious, or linguistic lines.

The Israelis and Palestinians, for example, harbor deep-seated ethnic and religious hostilities but also experience vastly different possibilities when it comes to access to land and water.  Add the stresses of climate change to such situations and you can naturally expect passions to boil over.

Climate change will degrade or destroy many natural systems, often already under stress, on which humans rely for their survival.  Some areas that now support agriculture or animal husbandry may become uninhabitable or capable only of providing for greatly diminished populations.

Under the pressure of rising temperatures and increasingly fierce droughts, the southern fringe of the Sahara desert, for example, is now being transformed from grasslands capable of sustaining nomadic herders into an empty wasteland, forcing local nomads off their ancestral lands.

Many existing farmlands in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East will suffer a similar fate.  Rivers that once supplied water year-round will run only sporadically or dry up altogether, again leaving populations with unpalatable choices.

As the IPCC report points out, enormous pressure will be put upon often weak state institutions to adjust to climate change and aid those in desperate need of emergency food, shelter, and other necessities. “Increased human insecurity,” the report says, “may coincide with a decline in the capacity of states to conduct effective adaptation efforts, thus creating the circumstances in which there is greater potential for violent conflict.”

A good example of this peril is provided by the outbreak of civil war in Syria and the subsequent collapse of that country in a welter of fighting and a wave of refugees of a sort that hasn’t been seen since World War II.  Between 2006 and 2010, Syria experienced a devastating drought in which climate change is believed to have been a factor, turning nearly 60% of the country into desert.  Crops failed and most of the country’s livestock perished, forcing millions of farmers into penury.

Desperate and unable to live on their land any longer, they moved into Syria’s major cities in search of work, often facing extreme hardship as well as hostility from well-connected urban elites.
Had Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad responded with an emergency program of jobs and housing for those displaced, perhaps conflict could have been averted.  Instead, he cut food and fuel subsidies, adding to the misery of the migrants and fanning the flames of revolt.

In the view of several prominent scholars, “the rapidly growing urban peripheries of Syria, marked by illegal settlements, overcrowding, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and crime, were neglected by the Assad government and became the heart of the developing unrest.”

A similar picture has unfolded in the Sahel region of Africa, the southern fringe of the Sahara, where severe drought has combined with habitat decline and government neglect to provoke armed violence.

The area has faced many such periods in the past, but now, thanks to climate change, there is less time between the droughts.  “Instead of 10 years apart, they became five years apart, and now only a couple years apart,” observes Robert Piper, the United Nations regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel.  “And that, in turn, is putting enormous stresses on what is already an incredibly fragile environment and a highly vulnerable population.”

In Mali, one of several nations straddling this region, the nomadic Tuaregs have been particularly hard hit, as the grasslands they rely on to feed their cattle are turning into desert.  A Berber-speaking Muslim population, the Tuaregs have long faced hostility from the central government in Bamako, once controlled by the French and now by black Africans of Christian or animist faith.

With their traditional livelihoods in peril and little assistance forthcoming from the capital, the Tuaregs revolted in January 2012, capturing half of Mali before being driven back into the Sahara by French and other foreign forces (with U.S. logistical and intelligence support).

Consider the events in Syria and Mali previews of what is likely to come later in this century on a far larger scale.  As climate change intensifies, bringing not just desertification but rising sea levels in low-lying coastal areas and increasingly devastating heat waves in regions that are already hot, ever more parts of the planet will be rendered less habitable, pushing millions of people into desperate flight.

While the strongest and wealthiest governments, especially in more temperate regions, will be better able to cope with these stresses, expect to see the number of failed states grow dramatically, leading to violence and open warfare over what food, arable land, and shelter remains.

In other words, imagine significant parts of the planet in the kind of state that Libya, Syria, and Yemen are in today.  Some people will stay and fight to survive; others will migrate, almost assuredly encountering a far more violent version of the hostility we already see toward immigrants and refugees in the lands they head for.  The result, inevitably, will be a global epidemic of resource civil wars and resource violence of every sort.

Water Wars
Most of these conflicts will be of an internal, civil character: clan against clan, tribe against tribe, sect against sect.  On a climate-changed planet, however, don’t rule out struggles among nations for diminished vital resources -- especially access to water.  It’s already clear that climate change will reduce the supply of water in many tropical and subtropical regions, jeopardizing the continued pursuit of agriculture, the health and functioning of major cities, and possibly the very sinews of society.

The risk of “water wars” will arise when two or more countries depend on the same key water source -- the Nile, the Jordan, the Euphrates, the Indus, the Mekong, or other trans-boundary river systems -- and one or more of them seek to appropriate a disproportionate share of the ever-shrinking supply of its water.  Attempts by countries to build dams and divert the water flow of such riverine systems have already provoked skirmishes and threats of war, as when Turkey and Syria erected dams on the Euphrates, constraining the downstream flow.

One system that has attracted particular concern in this regard is the Brahmaputra River, which originates in China (where it is known as the Yarlung Tsangpo) and passes through India and Bangladesh before emptying into the Indian Ocean.

 China has already erected one dam on the river and has plans for more, producing considerable unease in India, where the Brahmaputra’s water is vital for agriculture.  But what has provoked the most alarm is a Chinese plan to channel water from that river to water-scarce areas in the northern part of that country.

The Chinese insist that no such action is imminent, but intensified warming and increased drought could, in the future, prompt such a move, jeopardizing India’s water supply and possibly provoking a conflict.  “China’s construction of dams and the proposed diversion of the Brahmaputra’s waters is not only expected to have repercussions for water flow, agriculture, ecology, and lives and livelihoods downstream,” Sudha Ramachandran writes in The Diplomat, “it could also become another contentious issue undermining Sino-Indian relations.”

Of course, even in a future of far greater water stresses, such situations are not guaranteed to provoke armed combat.  Perhaps the states involved will figure out how to share whatever limited resources remain and seek alternative means of survival.  Nonetheless, the temptation to employ force is bound to grow as supplies dwindle and millions of people face thirst and starvation.  In such circumstances, the survival of the state itself will be at risk, inviting desperate measures.

Lowering the Temperature
There is much that undoubtedly could be done to reduce the risk of water wars, including the adoption of cooperative water-management schemes and the introduction of the wholesale use of drip irrigation and related processes that use water far more efficiently. However, the best way to avoid future climate-related strife is, of course, to reduce the pace of global warming.  Every fraction of a degree less warming achieved in Paris and thereafter will mean that much less blood spilled in future climate-driven resource wars.

This is why the Paris climate summit should be viewed as a kind of preemptive peace conference, one that is taking place before the wars truly begin.  If delegates to COP-21 succeed in sending us down a path that limits global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the risk of future violence will be diminished accordingly.  Needless to say, even 2 degrees of warming guarantees substantial damage to vital natural systems, potentially severe resource scarcities, and attendant civil strife.

As a result, a lower ceiling for temperature rise would be preferable and should be the goal of future conferences.  Still, given the carbon emissions pouring into the atmosphere, even a 2-degree cap would be a significant accomplishment.

To achieve such an outcome, delegates will undoubtedly have to begin dealing with conflicts of the present moment as well, including those in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Ukraine, in order to collaborate in devising common, mutually binding climate measures.  In this sense, too, the Paris summit will be a peace conference.

For the first time, the nations of the world will have to step beyond national thinking and embrace a higher goal: the safety of the ecosphere and all its human inhabitants, no matter their national, ethnic, religious, racial, or linguistic identities.  Nothing like this has ever been attempted, which means that it will be an exercise in peacemaking of the most essential sort -- and, for once, before the wars truly begin.

• Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1.


Pacfic islanders against US "Pivot"

SUBHEAD:President Obama's Pacific Pivot and TPP strategy is proving to be a disaster leading to war.

By Koohan Paik on 4 November 2015 for Common Dreams -

Image above: US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex, and the Japanese Maritime Defense Force ships Shimakaze, Myoukou, Hamagiri and Natusio are pier-side on Okinawa. From Wikipedia.

Last September, I attended a remarkable gathering in Okinawa of impassioned young people from all over the Asia-Pacific. They convened at a critical moment to urgently discuss ramped-up militarism in their region.

Thousands of hectares of exquisitely wild marine environments, peaceful communities and local democracy are now under extreme threat.

Participants hailed from: Taiwan; Jeju (South Korea); the Japanese Ryukyu islands; Indonesia; New Zealand; and the Japanese Ogasawara islands. I was invited to represent Hawaii, where the headquarters for the U.S. Pacific Command (PACCOM) are located, and where decisions are made that have profound consequences for these young activists, and the rest of the world.

These include missile base-building on pristine islands, rampant navy war games that destroy coastlines, reefs and other vital ecosystems, not to mention adding to climate change, pursued with no regard for local opinion.

It's all a result of the "Pacific Pivot," announced by President Obama in 2011, to move 60% of U.S. Navy and Air Force resources from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific. The stated goal is to maintain "balance" in the ongoing battle with China for regional military and economic hegemony.

A particularly dangerous expression in this effort came a few weeks ago, when a U.S. missile-carrying warship challenged China by passing through disputed waters surrounding China's artificial island bases in the South China Sea. It is the latest example of brinkmanship after years of provocative moves by the U.S. in the so-called interest of balance.

But, the grim fact is there is no balance in the Pacific. The little publicized reality is that the United States, located thousands of miles from China’s coast, already maintains over 400 military installations and 155,000 troops in that part of the world. Meanwhile China, even with its newest artificial island-bases in the South China Sea, will have a grand total fewer than ten.

At the conference, entitled "Peace for the Sea Camp" it was noted that one of the most destructive developments has been Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's 2015 campaign to forge a new network of aggressive bilateral agreements with militaries from other countries such as South Korea, the Philippines, Australia -- and most insidiously, Japan -- to augment American dominance.

These alliances are reinforced economically by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an essential component of the fool's endeavor to contain China within its own hemisphere.

However, no one at the conference took sides with one hegemon or the other. China was also criticized for having smothered thousands of acres of healthy reef with concrete and crushed coral, to build its artificial islands.

To be sure, one of the primary purposes of the gathering was to establish a global voice against all military desecration of islands and the seas. Here's the full story on the crisis and resistance.

Outsourcing Military Force
A seismic event took place on the first day of the conference that underscored the gathering with new urgency. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had managed to push through highly unpopular legislation to disempower Japan's "peace constitution," implemented in 1947 by General Douglas MacArthur.

Abe achieved this despite 100,000 protestors shouting "NO WAR" for weeks in front of the Japanese Diet. The following day, Abe's public approval rating plummeted to 38.9 percent.

Now, Japan’s military is permitted to act offensively, no longer only in self-defense mode. It can also surveil other countries for the first time in modern history, and establish a global arms industry (imagine, Honda-quality drones and tanks). According to a Pentagon official, this will give Japan “greater global presence.” According to The Nation’s Tim Shorrock, it will turn Japan into America’s proxy army in Asia.

China is correct to view the watered-down constitution as yet another provocation, especially since it has cleared the way for a turbo-charged reworking of the 64-year-old U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to take effect. The revised treaty essentially encourages Japanese aggression toward its neighbors -- a 20th century scenario that Asia-Pacific people do not want to relive. For them, Abe's politics are like a zombie risen from the dead.

Since taking office in 2012, Abe has boosted the military budget, taken an aggressive stance toward China and has also denied Japan's role in forcing hundreds of thousands of women into sexual slavery for its troops during World War II. He is the perfect, barbaric accomplice to carry out the Pentagon’s audacious designs on Asia.

For islanders like those at the Okinawa conference who live on the front lines of this new world, the new treaty poses immediate threat. It allows four lovely islands in the Ryukyu archipelago to be transformed into state-of-the-art military bases -- with missiles pointed at China. It's a way the U.S. can "outsource" base-building to client states like, in this case, Japan.

Outsourcing base-building is a fairly new Pentagon strategy. It came about partially due to the U.S. wearying of growing global disgust with its foreign basing.

For example, the routine protests of tens of thousands of intractable Okinawans has already succeeded in stalling new base construction there for the past 20 years -- a big headache for the Pentagon. The solution, surrogate base-building, is also an enormous cost-saving measure.

For example, the construction of the Jeju naval base is South Korean in name, but it fulfills the Pentagon's directive to contain China. It will also port U.S. aircraft carriers, attack submarines and Aegis-missile carrying destroyers.

Because the base is "officially" South Korean, costs are externalized -- of construction, of environmental responsibility, and of policing eight years of still ongoing protests. Now four Japanese Ryukyu islands will also be put to service to menace China -- at no direct expense to the U.S.

The Ryukyu basing project, now under construction, would not have been able to move forward without the culmination of a longstanding collaboration between the U.S. and Japan to finalize three milestones during 2015.

The milestones, which work together symbiotically, are: 1) Disabling Japan's pacifist Constitution; 2) Beefing up of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty; and 3) Reaching a TPP agreement which would work hand-in-glove with military force to pair economic dominance with military hegemony. More on this later.

Environmental Impacts
The Ryukyu Islands stretch like a strand of emeralds 900 miles south from mainland Japan to Taiwan. They are rich with crystalline rivers, vital reefs, and endemic flora and fauna. The Japanese people, still coping with the post-apocalyptic effects of a triple-reactor meltdown at Fukushima, understandably celebrate the Ryukus (those which are still pristine) as priceless natural treasures.

But alas, Japan’s government has begun carving up mountains, dredging coral and bulldozing forests in order to rapidly build the massive, multi-island military infrastructure. To witness the lush habitats of hundreds of remarkable species ripped off the face of the Earth is a sobering spectacle, equivalent to the Taliban blasting away the 1,700-year-old Buddha statues carved into Afghan cliffs.

Though the bases would be Japanese in jurisdiction, their function would be essentially American. They are intended to extend the encirclement of China started by South Korea’s Jeju base and those on Okinawa.

Three lush, wondrous islands -- Amami-Oshima, Miyakojima, and Ishigaki -- are now slated for missile-launching capability and live-fire training ranges. On Yonaguni, so far south it is only 69 miles from Taiwan, the plan is to build microwave radar antennas to spy on China -- an activity that would have been illegal before the implementation of the new constitution. Yonaguni residents are not happy. "There's a lot of worry that the island could become a target for attack if a base is built there," a Japanese defense ministry official told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Oddly, the defense ministry first revealed the base construction plans directly to the national media, but not to the island residents. Mayumi Arata, a respected elder of Amami-Oshima, the most northerly island slated for construction, said the only information that people were given was a 15-minute talk by a government official in July 2014. The bureaucrat said troops would be stationed on the island.

Nothing was ever mentioned of the missile base, the radar station, the firing range, the heliport, or any accoutrements. It wasn’t until newspapers published the plans that the people learned they were to be heavily militarized. Anti-base groups quickly formed on all the affected islands, but not without blowback from the draconian Abe regime. On Miyakojima, a lawsuit was filed against the government for blacklisting protestors from employment.

The 275-square-mile island of Amami-Oshima is a place so teeming with biodiversity that it has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. Seventy-three thousand people live on 30 percent of the island. The other 70 percent is comprised of rolling hills that are entirely wild and carpeted with a thick green tangle of endemic, original forest.

A crab-filled mangrove swamp is set inland. Ringing the island is a coral reef with adorable pufferfish noted for sculpting astonishing undersea sand mandalas, and loads of calico-shelled cone snails. Drinkable water bleeds from cracks in fern-covered cliffs. The island is home to 300 species of birds, butterflies as big as your hand, jade and gold frogs, salamanders, sea and freshwater turtles, the unique Ryukyu ayu fish, endemic orchids and rare ficus trees. The small-eared Amami rabbit, one of many species found only here, is sometimes called a “living fossil” because it represents an ancient Asian lineage that has elsewhere disappeared. There has even been a sighting off the coast of the extremely rare North Pacific right whale, a species of which it is believed only 30 remain.

Needless to say, a firing range in the forest and state-of-the-art missile base will decimate Amami-Oshima’s natural wonders. Mamoru Tsuneda, a natural park counselor of the Environmental Ministry, laments, “There are no laws to protect the nature on this island.”

Residents have economic concerns as well. Kyoko Satake, an artist and boutique owner, observed, “We see how the United States has only the very rich or the very poor. That’s because you spend all your money on war. We don’t want to be like that. We want to keep our middle class.”

The most southerly island to be militarized is the 11-square-mile island of Yonaguni. It is strategically positioned less than 100 miles from the uninhabited Senkaku islands, a piece of geography being hotly contested with China. When I visited Yonaguni before the activist gathering began, I saw herds of wild, endemic ponies roaming freely on fenceless pastures and even on streets.

But now their main watering hole has been replaced by bulldozers churning out a radar surveillance station, scheduled for completion in 2017. Entomologists are alarmed that the radar will kill many of the island’s celebrated, but fragile, butterfly species.

As on Amami-Oshima, there has been no transparency in its construction, let alone any kind of Environmental Impact Statement. Residents were told that such information is “top secret.” It wasn’t until the bulldozers began that they saw that the high-intensity microwave antennas were to be only about 600 feet from neighborhoods, including an elementary school. Several mothers with young children decided to move off the island forever.

At a certain point, all this preparation for war becomes indistinguishable from war itself. The fight against terror becomes terror itself. No one knows that better than the Jeju islanders of South Korea, whose farms, fisheries and freshwater springs were destroyed to build a base.

The Okinawans also know it. They live daily with military jets and helicopters searing through the skies. It seems the same hellish fate is in store for all people and creatures of the islands targeted for militarization. A high school science teacher and Amami-Oshima native, Hirohumi Hoshimura, observed, “Tokyo says my island is for defense. But to me, this is my home.”

Meanwhile, defense industries on both sides of the Pacific are salivating. Japan’s Ministry of Defense has a proposed a record-high budget, to equip the new bases with 17 Mitsubishi anti-submarine warfare helicopters, 12 Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, three Northrop Grumman Global Hawk drones, six F-35 fighter planes and Aegis destroyers (both manufactured by Lockheed Martin), one Kawasaki military transport aircraft, three Boeing Pegasus tanker aircraft, and 36 maneuver combat vehicles.

Other purchases include BAE Systems amphibious assault vehicles and mobile missile batteries. And Japanese arms manufacturers have begun – for the first time ever -- producing armaments for export. It’s a merger between militarism and corporate capitalism.

Butter, Guns and the TPP
From a strictly trade perspective, the TPP is confounding. From a geopolitical perspective, it makes a lot of sense. Jean-Pierre Lehmann elaborates in Forbes:

"TPP is a really strange mélange of 12 members, including five from the Americas (Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru and the US), five from Asia (Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam), along with Australia and New Zealand. …

Missing are large Asian economies, notably South Korea, India and Indonesia, all three members of the G20. Also missing of course is China; but that would seem to be deliberate ... to contain China. Thus TPP is above all a geopolitical ploy with trade as a decoy."

Given the dearth of economically significant Asian member nations in the pact, it is not perplexing why many analysts were predicting early on that the whole deal would collapse if Japan never signed on. It finally did in 2013. But as recently as April 19, 2015, gridlock prevailed at a Tokyo meeting between U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Japan's Economic Minister Akira Amari.

The U.S. wanted Japan to eliminate its extremely high tariffs on agriculture -- hundreds of a percent on rice and beef. Japan wanted to sell more cars in the U.S. but wasn't keen to reciprocate by buying American cars.

It took the perceived threat of China establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and other international deals to loosen the logjam. “The growing Chinese presence in the region has prompted Japan and the United States to speed up talks," Masayuki Kubota, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities in Tokyo, told Agence France-Presse at the time. "Japan and the United States are feeling pressed to take the initiative before China crafts its own rules."

So, only eight days after the Tokyo trade meeting flopped in April, Shinzo Abe arrived for a much-regaled week-long visit to Washington. He landed the same day that his Defense Minister Nakatani and Foreign Minister Kishida met in New York with Secretary of State John Kerry and Ashton Carter. There, the four cabinet members settled on a new set of defense guidelines that would expand Japan’s military.

The new guidelines articulated that Japan would now be permitted to take part in “an armed attack against a country other than Japan,” a radical departure from the original treaty.

Other new activities included minesweeping to keep sea lanes open, intercepting and shooting down ballistic missiles, and disrupting shipping activities providing support to hostile forces – all responsibilities that the Ryukyu missile bases would be perfectly positioned to execute.

Apparently, granting Japan military powers was what it took to secure the TPP concessions. The next day, Abe and Obama were all smiles and waves in the Rose Garden, boasting about their new defense treaty in the same breath that they stressed they were committed to reaching a “swift and successful conclusion” to the TPP.

And the very next day, Abe promised Congress he would have "his" legislature dismantle the peace Constitution by summer, so the new defense guidelines could take effect. He got a standing ovation.

It was not the following summer, but rather in autumn, that Abe made good on his word, managing to push through his aggressive interpretation of the constitution, much to the sorrow of the Japanese people. Sixteen days later, like clockwork, the TPP was reached.

TPP - It’s Not Just about Tariffs and Toyotas
When Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in April, “The TPP is as important to me as an aircraft carrier,” he revealed the inextricable connection between the Trans-Pacific Partnership and militarism. Until that statement, the TPP had been treated as nothing other than the biggest, baddest free trade agreement to come along since NAFTA, CAFTA, TTIP and the rest.

However, unlike the TPP, none of these other global trade deals were implemented to thwart a rival world power. President Obama summed things up last spring when he said of the TPP, “If we don’t write the rules, China will write the rules in that region.” So, TPP provides the rules; the Pentagon enforces them.

A look at the map clarifies how forces at play in the Asia-Pacific give a geopolitik context to the TPP. Off the southeast coast of China lies the South China Sea, through which over $5 trillion worth of trade passes annually, after squeezing through the Strait of Malacca. This is also the gateway through which all oil from the middle-east passes before it reaches China, Japan, and South Korea.

Whoever controls the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea controls Asia’s economy, which, in turn, drives the world economy. In order for the U.S. to maintain authority over these far-flung hotspots, it must project military might – the most resented and costly form of power. That’s why Ashton Carter needs the TPP so bad: to justify mega-militarizing Pacific trade routes.

Is it any coincidence that all the Asia-Pacific TPP signatories, with the exception of Japan, Australia and New Zealand, can be found surrounding the South China Sea? Those nations are Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Vietnam. For years, they, along with the Philippines and Taiwan, have been in heated disagreement with China over territory that includes critical sea lanes.

China is claiming most of the sea for itself, a move which would castrate the TPP. (What good is a trade agreement without access to trade routes?) The stakes are so high that China went so far as to build seven artificial islands, totaling 2,000 acres, in the middle of the disputed Spratly Islands. China claims sovereignty over the new islands, as well as the surrounding sea within twelve nautical miles.

In such unpredictable circumstances, solid alliances with the China-vulnerable countries are indispensable to the Pentagon. Their membership in the TPP exacts deference to U.S. hegemony. In exchange, they get the American muscle they need to stake out their own territorial claims, such as the warship that Carter sent directly into the contentious waters surrounding the artificial islands.

This military excess is shaping 21st-century Asia, warping cultures, destroying countless ecosystems, and costing billions of dollars.

Other examples: four Littoral Combat Ships (at about $700 million apiece) have been ported in Singapore; Marines have begun rotating between bases in Australia, Okinawa, Guam and Hawaii. Most ecologically destructive are the unprecedented number of joint naval exercises taking place in the western Pacific with tens of thousands of troops at a time.

Participating militaries come from Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, and Timor Leste.

Across both northern and southern hemispheres, the fury of torpedoes, sonar and bombs blasts through reefs and marine habitats almost year-round with no meaningful environmental regulation whatsoever.

To put it bluntly, the TPP is not merely a set of rules; it locks in and justifies a defense empire to counter China.

But many U.S. lawmakers need more incentive to sign onto any trade deal. "When the administration sells me on this, it's all geopolitics, not economics: We want to keep these countries in our orbit, not China's," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. "I agree with that. But I need to be sold on the economics."

Teens Stand Up to Oppose War Law
In Japan, those who remember the horrors of war have always been stalwart pacifists. So it came as an enormous surprise when legions of the younger generation camped out for a month in front of the Diet, chanting and beating drums, as Abe forced through his despised militaristic legislation.

Spearheading the movement has been Students' Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), a group that skyrocketed to popularity by incorporating a hip-hop aesthetic into its political messaging.

Other organizations sporting their own acronyms have popped up like mushrooms: Teens Stand Up to Oppose War Law (T-ns SOWL), MIDDLEs and even OLDs. Regardless of age, though, they all brandish signs with the same message, such as “War is Over,” “Change the Prime Minister” and “TPP – NO! People’s Pacific Partnership – YES!”

Equally significant is the wide-sweeping, movement of young Asia-Pacific visionaries that seemingly came out of nowhere to organize Peace for the Sea Camp. Its very trans-national quality flies in the face of what a Pentagon official on Guam once told me: “Unlike European countries, Asian countries will never be able to get along – that’s why we’re there, in Asia.”

But they didn’t come out of nowhere; they had emerged from the highly organized Christian movement opposed to base construction on Jeju Island, South Korea.

The ferociously peaceful opposition had attracted pilgrim pacifists from across Asia, and every other peopled continent. They had come to take part in daily religious services that blocked traffic at the gates of the construction site for the past eight years. It was a tearful irony that it was during the Peace for the Sea Camp when the first Aegis-missile destroyer ported at the Jeju base.

One evening of Peace for the Sea Camp was devoted to screening a 2014 Irish documentary about the Jeju navy base protests. The announcer voice-over posited that the completion of the base will herald the beginning of the Cold War in the 21st century, between the U.S. and China.

Hindsight has proven him correct; in only one year, tension has increased with the U.S. race to solidify an anti-China political bloc through Japan’s shady new legislation, trade, and epidemic joint military exercises. Not to mention the inflammatory plan to lasso China with a string of new missile bases in the Ryukyu Islands.

Shortly after the conference, the activists produced a manifesto to articulate the voices of those impacted by the Pacific Pivot. Here is an excerpt:
"We fully understand that this shift will not bring about greater human security but will instead yield the conditions for a far greater risk of war and tremendous environmental destruction.

We further recognize that these changes have been fueled by the global weapons industry, which reaps enormous profits from increased military tension and conflict, while ordinary people and the wider ecosystem suffer the inevitable consequences.

We cannot leave this work to political leaders and governments, which largely answer to corporate interests and the military-industrial complex. We challenge the prevailing assumptions behind the current configuration of geopolitics that takes for granted the precedence of nation-states, military interests, and capitalist accumulation.

We will instead create another kind of geography. Through our Peace for the Sea Camp and similar projects, we are already creating alternative political communities based on a sustainable economy, the ethics of coexistence, and our shared responsibility to preserve peace."

Apparently, the Pentagon official’s belief that Asian countries are incapable of getting along, is wrong.


Trade Deals to boost CO2

SUBHEAD: Despite Paris talks the TPP and TTIP will increase worldwide fossil fuel use and deforestation.

By Staff on 26 October 2015 for -

Image above: Commercial combines work industrial scale wheat field at sunset. From original article.

The climate talks in Paris in December this year are viewed as a last chance for the world's governments to commit to binding targets that might halt our march towards catastrophe.

But in the countdown to Paris, many of these same governments have signed or are pushing a raft of ambitious trade and investment deals that would pre-empt measures that they could take to deal with climate change (see box 1).

What we know of these deals so far, from the few texts that have leaked out of the secretive negotiations, is that they will lead to more production, more trade and more consumption of fossil fuels – at a time of global consensus on the need for reductions.1 In particular, the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are expected to result in increased EU reliance on fossil fuel imports from North America, as well as a restriction of policy space to promote low carbon economies and renewables.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a mega-pact involving 14 countries in Asia and the Americas that was concluded earlier this month, is expected to result in more gas exports from the US to the Pacific Rim countries. The new deals will also extend investor-state dispute settlement provisions which companies are already using through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to reverse moratoriums on fracking and other popular environmental measures implemented by governments.2

Less has been said about how the provisions dealing with food and agriculture in these deals will affect our climate. But the question is vital, because food and farming figure hugely in climate change.

From deforestation to fertiliser use, and from factory farms to supermarket shelves, producing, transporting, consuming and wasting food account for around half of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).3 Since creating new channels for the flow of farm goods and changing regulatory and investment regimes for agribusiness and the food industry are high priorities in the current deals, there will undoubtedly be impacts on climate change – and likely negative ones, unless we do something about it.

We see seven main ways through which the food and agriculture components of today's trade and investment deals will make the climate crisis worse.

1. Increasing production,  and consumption of foods that are big emitters of greenhouse gases
Trade deals, on the face of it, are meant to increase trade. This includes trade in food.
The foods that make the biggest contribution to climate change are: red meat (worst: beef, lamb and pork), dairy (worst: butter and cheese, followed by milk and eggs), fish (worst: wild caught or industrially farmed), poultry, palm oil and highly processed foods (worst: those that are airfreighted). Of course, these are sweeping generalisations.

 There are a lot of studies that try to measure the precise GHG emissions from different foods depending on where and how they are produced.4 But roughly, the picture is what we see in graph 1.

In terms of agricultural production, meat and dairy are the biggest contributors to climate change (see box 2).

Only 11% of all meat produced is traded internationally, but globally speaking, meat production and consumption are projected to rise by 17% by 2024 and outright double by 2050.5 Increased trade is expected to a play a role in that growth and some of this will come from the newest trade agreements, which could shift current meat trade dynamics quite a bit.6

Of course, we cannot predict how much trade and consumption will grow as a direct result of these deals, but the tariff cuts and lower standards are expected to lead to increased supplies and therefore consumption in importing countries. That, after all, is what the industry lobbies are aiming for.

Take, for example, the TTIP. If it is signed, it is going to expand the European market for US beef, both high- and low-quality. (Quotas for hormone-free beef will go up, while sanitary restrictions are going down.7) European quality beef may not be able to compete, leading to a displacement of production to the US.

Under CETA, Canada will be sending more pork, beef and dairy to Europe, while the EU will be exporting more cheese to Canada.

The recently concluded China-Australia free trade agreement (ChAFTA) is expected to play an important role in increased dairy production and trade in the Asia-Pacific region. China imports about 20% of its dairy products and those imports are steadily rising.8

Until now, because of the China-New Zealand trade deal, New Zealand dominated China’s foreign dairy supply. Now Australia is expected to take some of that market.

At the same time, Chinese companies themselves are investing heavily in offshore dairy production in Australia for export back to China.9 They are also expanding their beef production base in New Zealand for export home.10

China’s surging beef imports, which currently are permitted from just a handful of countries, grew by 18% in the first half of 2015.11 Australia now accounts for nearly half of that market because of ChAFTA.12 Thanks to the China-New Zealand deal, China is the biggest buyer of New Zealand lamb and the second biggest buyer of New Zealand beef.

Dairy trade was a very contentious issue in the TPP negotiations – one that reportedly held up the conclusion of the deal. Now that the deal has been concluded, Washington calls the US farm industry “the big winner” in the TPP, as not only US dairy exports are expected to grow significantly but also US beef and pork.

Tariffs and quotas aside, markets are also expected to grow for certain agribusiness companies and their investors due to the watering down of food safety regulations and labelling laws as a result of these new deals.13

This is an important concern for farmers and consumers in quite a number of countries whose governments are negotiating.

Unfortunately, despite statements from political leaders that nothing will change, many of the regulatory changes being pushed for by agribusiness giants involve lowering standards for chemicals, opening markets to cloned meat or genetically modified foods, and dropping disease-related barriers against poultry (avian flu) and beef (mad cow).

Under the TPP, we now know that the US government secured the right to challenge other countries’ food safety standards and to set new norms for the presence of genetically modified organisms in foods.14 This will surely expand the US food industry’s reach, globally.

2. Promoting industrial farming for export over local farms and food systems
Expansion of markets for European poultry and milk powder has long been a key facet of the EU’s trade liberalisation agendas, as African farmers and livestock keepers know. They have been mobilising to stop the dumping of highly subsidised chicken and excess dairy from Europe since years. These struggles are now more and more connected to climate change.

Industrial poultry, after all, are an important source of greenhouse gas emissions. Broilers, which are raised for their meat, produce seven times more GHG emissions than backyard birds. And layers, which are raised for their eggs, produce four times more.15
Chicken consumption is rising in many countries because it is a low-cost meat, and therefore global poultry trade is expected to increase. All of this trade comes from industrial poultry farms, which are higher emitting than backyard or small-scale operations.

Brazilian and EU poultry farms are relatively highest on the climate-unfriendliness scale, mostly attributed to their reliance on soybeans.16 Even in China, where exports are just a small fraction of the country’s production, trade deals are leading to increased imports of feed materials which serve the factory farms that are built with increased levels of foreign investment.

Beyond poultry, experts now say that over the next ten years, increased global meat consumption will raise overall greenhouse gas emissions regardless of improved feed-to-meat conversion ratios in industrial production systems.17

3. Boosting global supermarkets and highly processed foods
The biggest names in food retail are aiming for growth in Asia, as well as Africa and Latin America, through several of today’s new trade agreements. The expansion of global supermarkets brings with it the expansion of processed food production, trade and consumption.

For example, under NAFTA, processed food consumption has skyrocketed in Mexico, bringing with it serious public health problems, and the country’s retail sector has been taken over by large global chains.18

Processed foods – produced by Mondelez, Nestle, Pepsico, Danone, Unilever and the like – are important greenhouse gas emitters, not only because of all the energy used in packaging, processing and transporting the foods, but also because of the emissions generated on the farm.

Processed foods are constructed out of the cheapest raw materials that companies can source from around the globe. One package of standard supermarket food can contain powdered milk from New Zealand, maize from the US, sugar from Brazil, soybeans from Argentina and palm oil from Indonesia – all foods that are high on the emissions scale.

One recent study of a box of Kellogg's breakfast cereal found that eating a 100 gramme serving generates the equivalent of 264 grammes of CO2. Add milk to the cereal and the emissions go up by two to four times. The ingredients accounted for about half the total emissions form the cereal, while manufacturing, packaging and transport contributed the rest.

The researches identified over 20 countries from which the ingredients were sourced, including maize from Argentina, milk powder from the EU, rice from Egypt and Thailand, wheat from Spain and sugar from the US.19
The growth of supermarkets and processed foods also means increased deforestation, and other changes in land and water use, to produce more sugar, maize, soybeans and palm oil – four products that form the backbone of the processed food sector.

For example, in Nigeria, Wilmar, the largest palm oil trading company in the world, plans to expand its oil palm plantations in Cross River State and this, groups on the ground say, will inevitably mean new deforestation.

Through its trade agreements with the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), India has become a major market for Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil, displacing coconut, mustard, groundnut, sesame and other traditional Indian vegetable oils, which were far less damaging to the climate. The same goes for China, the second largest market for ASEAN palm oil after India.

The just-concluded TPP may bring an important upswing in palm oil production, trade and use. “I expect there to be quite a stampede of foreign investment in Southeast Asia when the final text of the agreement is published,” Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, told The Wall Street Journal.20

Specifically, Malaysia's palm oil sector is supposed attract a lot of this stampede, as investors jump in to lock down a new cheap source of oil for the US fast food industry.21

4. Climate cheating: the outsourcing of emissions
One of the effects of trade deals is that manufacturing is being outsourced to low wage countries with few environmental restrictions. The countries where these products are consumed thus appear to have reduced emissions when really those emissions have simply been transferred to the countries where the goods are now produced.

As we see in the case of the US and China, neither country then wants to take responsibility. The same happens with foods.

Trade agreements favour food production in countries with low cost and/or heavily subsidised production, with high emissions levels. These countries have powerful industrial agriculture lobbies (US, Brazil, New Zealand, Europe) and are often heavily reliant on agriculture exports for their foreign revenues (US, Brazil, New Zealand, Ireland, Indonesia, New Zealand, Vietnam). It is highly unlikely that these countries will implement any measures to reduce emissions that might impinge on the competitiveness of their agricultural commodities.

Already we see these countries moving with their companies to head off international efforts to make significant emissions cuts to agriculture, for instance with the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture.

The emissions imported with the foods are not likely to be accounted for by the importing country either. Even if an importing government were to try, measures to reduce imports of certain high greenhouse gas emitting commodities could be challenged as unfair trade restrictions under the new deals.

5. More biofuels
Biofuels are another form of polluting energy which, along with fossil fuels, may get a boost from the latest trade deals. This is especially when investment chapters of trade deals try to “level the playing field” for foreign investors by establishing rules on “national treatment” and “most favoured nation”, which makes access to land for the production of biofuels much easier.

New patenting rules imposed through these deals also make it easier for corporations to engage in technology transfer, knowing that they will enjoy monopoly rights in the signatory countries. Already, EU climate policies have bolstered massive land grabbing in Africa for the production of ethanol for European markets.

China, which currently sources ethanol from so-called free trade agreement partners Pakistan and Vietnam, is also investing heavily now in Brazil for this very purpose (a first ever shipment of Brazilian ethanol for China just left South America).

The Canadian biofuel industry expects to gain a new C$50 million market opening in the EU thanks to CETA.22 Many biofuel crops – sugar cane, sugar beet, sweet potato, oil palm, maize, sorghum, oilseed rape – can be interchangeably used in the food industry, too.

If the TTIP agreement between the US and the EU goes through, modellers say that the US will see a big increase in bioethanol and biodiesel production and exports to the EU who, conversely, will see a big rise in its sugar production and exports to the US.23 The knock-on effects in Brazil, Argentina and China will be important, too.

Despite its poor scorecard in terms of human rights, land rights and carbon emissions, biofuel production is expected to be increasingly promoted as a renewable energy under climate mitigation strategies, and trade and investment deals will be facilitating this.

6. The promotion of local food economies undermined
“Buy national” or “buy local” programmes as well as country-of-origin labelling regulations, are generally considered discriminatory and trade distorting under so-called free trade doctrine.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) did little to discourage these initiatives, but new fangled bilateral and regional trade deals could go much further. The EU particularly wants to gain much more access, for European companies, to US public markets at all levels (federal, state, local) under TTIP.

Food sovereignty advocates and practitioners see this as a potential threat to local food economies that groups have been painstakingly building over the last decades (e.g. food policy council initiatives to support the use of local foods in public services like schools and hospitals).24

Any moves to make “go local” or “use local” illegal in the food sector will automatically result in increased climate destabilization.25

The same is true of initiatives to support “green” purchasing or programmes to require purchasing from small- and medium-sized enterprises in the name of mitigating climate change. Both of these types of effort can be contested by companies as discriminatory.

Free trade agreements and investment treaties typically have an investor-state dispute mechanism that allows companies to challenge governments policies like these. Sometimes the challenge results in huge financial compensation for the company on the losing end of such laws. Sometimes it causes governments to change policy to avoid such lawsuits.

Just like in the energy sector, we need to address consumption to address climate change. Increasing production and trade, or just making it greener, will not alleviate the problem. Since governments agree that 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock and that 74% of these come from beef and dairy, we have a great opportunity to positively eliminate a big part of the climate problem through local initiatives.

But to do this, we need to defeat the trade deals and ideology that claim that promoting “local” economies is anti-free market and somehow bad for us. (It is only bad for the multinationals!)

7. Food security measures made illegal
In 2013, governments prodded by corporate interests, mainly coming from the US, tried to make it a WTO rule that public procurement of food stuffs in times of crisis should be considered a form of trade-distorting farm subsidy.

Many governments purchase farm products from farmers to stabilise markets, provide guaranteed prices and run stockpiles or distribution systems in the public interest. The ravages cause by climate change – floods, drought, typhoons, etc – in a world of deregulation and corporation concentration make food shocks more common and more threatening.

That means these basic food security measures and strong public procurement programme are more and more needed. Ironically, as soon as the Paris climate talks end in December, governments will fly to Nairobi for a WTO ministerial meeting to decide whether such measures will be considered lawful or not under the global trade regime.

Time to stop destabilizing the climate!
Food consumption patterns are shifting. The Western diet is spreading, particularly in the global South, bringing with it problems of health but also increasing climate pressure. (Some people say we need diet change, not climate change.)

Commodity traders, agribusiness firms, retail chains, private equity groups and other kinds of corporations that finance and run the industrial food system have a keen interest in expanding business in those very markets.

Trade agreements are a great tool to do that, but it’s not just a North-South affair. Brazilian companies are competing with Thai counterparts for emerging market shares in Africa, Russia or the Middle East. Australia wants a bigger part of the action in China who is doing more business with the US. And so on.

We have to wake up and do the math. If we want to deal with climate change, we have to cut consumption of some foods and that means cutting production and trade as well. Luckily, it is quite do-able.

But it does require a structural scaling back of “Big Food” and “Big Retail” and those who finance them. Instead, small- and medium-sized farms, processing and markets, supported by public procurement and financing, could do the job better. It requires a push, and bringing the different struggles around climate change together with the struggles for food sovereignty and against corporate-driven trade agreements.

What to do?
  • Join the growing campaigns against major trade deals like TTIP, TPP, RCEP, TiSA and CETA. See for links to key groups and more information.
  • Start a focused campaign on trade, climate and food, to show how trade deals your government is negotiating will specifically affect greenhouse gas emissions from food and get them stopped.
  • Raise the issue of food and food trade in local discussions and actions you’re involved in to battle climate change. Come to Paris for the mobilisations outside the COP21. There will be a “trade” bloc in the street march, demanding a stop to TTIP and CETA and other newfangled trade deals. And there will be a day of action on 9 December dedicated entirely to food, agriculture and climate change.
  • Use your imagination to develop concrete initiatives to reduce (y)our reliance on the industrial food system and shrink demand for their products. Start a boycott action – this is what food industry leaders fear most.
  • Get more aware about the climate impact of the foods you eat and initiate, join or strengthen a local food initiative, be it a coop, school programme, an AMAP (Association for the maintenance of peasant agriculture), a CSA (Community-supported agriculture scheme), farmers’ market...

1 See forthcoming reports from Corporate Europe Observatory,, as well as previous reports from Sierra Club, the Friends of the Earth network, CEO and others compiled at
2 Peter Rossman, "Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Jacobin, 13 May 2015:

3 See La Via Campesina and GRAIN, “Food sovereignty: 5 steps to cool the planet and feed its people”, 5 December 2014,

4 We are not in a position to assess that data here, but hope to do so soon.

5  See OECD-FAO, Agricultural Outlook 2015, 1 July 2015, Seafood trade has already doubled in the last five years and become the most widely traded protein. For more info, see Rabobank,

6 See the “expanded” meat chapter in OECD-FAO, op cit.

7 The allowed tonnage for hormone-free beef might be raised by perhaps 50,000 tonnes per year. This is a hypothetical that analysts are working with, reflecting what the EU offered Canada under CETA.

8 Ed Gannon and Simone Smith, China FTA: Australian dairy to win share from New Zealand”, Weekly Times, 26 May 2015,; “China dairy sector”,,

9 Chinese investors are not the largest foreign landholders in Australia but are buying or bidding for some of the country’s most significant cattle and dairy farm operations. See

10 See for example, Naomi Tajitsu and Charlotte Greenfield, China's Bright to buy 50 pct stake in NZ meat processor, Reuters, 14 Sep 2015,

11  “China's agricultural imports in disarray”, Dimsums, 15 Aug 2015,

12 ”Pengxin may buy two cattle farms in Australia”, China Daily, 2015-8-29,

13 See GRAIN, “Food safety in the EU-US trade agreement: going outside the box”, 10 Dec 2013, and FoEE, GRAIN, IATP and others, “EU-US trade deal threatens food safety”, 5 Feb 2015,

14 Matthew Weaver, “Vilsack: TPP text available in next 30 days”, Capital Press, 6 October 2015,

15 Data are from FAO Global Livestock Environmental Assessment (GLEAM) report, “Greenhouse gas emissions from pig and chicken supply chains”, 2013,

16 Idem, Figure 36, page 55.

17  Idem.

18  See GRAIN, “Free trade and Mexico’s junk food epidemic”, 2 March 2015,

19 Harish Kumar Jeswani, Richard Burkinshaw, Adisa Azapagic, “Environmental sustainability issues in the food-energy-water nexus: Breakfast cereals and snacks”, Science Direct, April 2015,

20 Jake Maxwell Watts, Kathy Chiu and Celine Fernandez, “Company stampede to Southeast Asia seen on Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact,” Wall Street Journal, 7 October 2015,

21 Bernama, “TPP broadens market scope in US, say palm oil experts”, 7 October 2015,

23 John Beghin, Jean-Christophe Bureau,and Alexandre Gohin, “The impact of an EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement on biofuel and feedstock markets”, J Working Paper 14-WP 552, November 2014,

24 See Karen Hansen-Kuhn, “Local economies on the table: TTIP procurement update”, IATP, 13 November 2014,

25 Not all “go local” initiatives in the food sector are better for the climate. But a lot are.

26 FAO, “Major cuts of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock within reach, Key facts and findings” 26 Sep 2013,