Hawaiian Island swallowed by sea

SUBHEAD: Hurricane and rising seas claim East Island of French Frigate Shoals in Marine National Monument.

By Jessica Corbett on 24 October 2018 for Common Dreams -

Image above: East Island in Hawaii before it was swallowed up by the Pacific Ocean after a powerful hurricane struck the region. Photo from Chip Fletcher. From original article.

Offering a warning of what's to come as human-caused global warming increasingly exacerbates extreme weather, scientists have determined that Hurricane Walaka—one the Pacific's most powerful storms ever—washed away a remote and ecologically important 11-acre island in Northwestern Hawaii.

East Island was part of French Frigate Shoals in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat, "a critical habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles."

While researchers expected that the gravel and sand island, perched atop a coral reef, would eventually disappear into the rising seas, the discovery—facilitated by satellite imagery—caught Chip Fletcher, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Hawaii, and his colleagues by surprise.

"I had a holy shit moment, thinking 'Oh my God, it's gone,'" said Fletcher, who had conducted research on the island in July. "It's one more chink in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled."

The extent of the ecological damage and whether the island will ever return is still unknown, but about a seventh of the entire population of Hawaiian monk seals—one of the most endangered marine mammals—was born on East Island, and more than half of all Hawaiian green sea turtles—which are classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act—had nested on it.

Image above: An 11-acre island in Hawaii has disappeared because of storm surges. “This event is confronting us with what the future could look like.” Photo from Chip Fletcher. From original article.

Randy Kosaki, the monument's deputy superintendent for research and field operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said the French Frigate Shoals have now lost two islands in the same number of months.

"The take-home message is climate change is real and it's happening now," concluded Kosaki. "It's not a hoax propagated in China as some folks have said," an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's remarks that resurfaced during his campaign.

"These small, sandy islets are going to really struggle to persist" as the seas rise because of anthropogenic global warming, Charles Littnan, director of NOAA's protected species division, told the Huffington Post. "This event is confronting us with what the future could look like."

Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, concurred that the island's disappearance is a warning to humanity. "We're going to see a lot of these stories in the years ahead, and every one will be so sad," he tweeted.

The take-home message is climate change is real and it's happening now.


Marshall Islanders H-Bomb Victims

SUBHEAD: The Bravo H-bomb test had an unexpected wind shift heavily contaminating many populated atolls.

By Dahr Jamail on 24 October 2018 for TruthOut -

Image above: Islanders from nuclear weapons test-damaged Rongelap Atoll march on 1 March 2014 while holding banners marking the 60th anniversary of the Bravo hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in Majuro. Photo by Isaac Marty.From original article.

A dozen years before Jiji Jally was born in the Marshall Islands, the US conducted the Bravo test, the single largest above-ground nuclear detonation in the world.

The US’s nuclear bomb testing in the Marshall Islands amounted to the equivalent of detonating 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every single day for 12 years. The Bravo test on Bikini Atoll alone was the nuclear equivalent of more than 1,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs.

Jally’s family, like hundreds of others, has lived with the scars of this ever since.

“Everybody I know in the Marshall Islands has stories of cancer in their families,” Jally, who lives in Tumwater, Washington where she works as a court and medical interpreter, told Truthout.

Her brother died in 2012, leaving behind his wife and two young boys. Given that he died in the Marshall Islands, which lacks any facilities to diagnose and treat cancer, the cause of his death is unknown. But Jally explained that he had a tumor, and believes it was from cancer.

“Then my cousin passed a few years ago, who was in her mid-thirties,” she added. “And she died of breast cancer, and left three boys and a girl behind.”

For Jally, working as a medical interpreter highlighted the health care disparity her Marshall Islands community faces, even here in the US. She has therefore become an advocate for their right to health care.

“People from the Marshall Islands are moving out of there looking for healthcare,” Jally said. “But some of them come to Washington and are told they don’t qualify for health insurance or health care.

A Marshallese man in our community is undergoing chemo from his cancer that he got from the bombings, and now he has to stop his chemo because he can’t afford to continue the treatment. It’s really sad to me what we are having to go through just to get health care now, given what happened.”

The injustice of this is not lost on her or on others in her immediate community. However, most Americans have little understanding of what the US government has inflicted on the Marshallese people.

“The Cold War was not ‘cold’ for the Marshallese…it was hot,” Holly Barker, who is a professor at the University of Washington and a commissioner on the Republic of Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission (a three-person commission with the goal of advancing nuclear justice for the Marshallese people), told Truthout.
“‘Cold’ communicates the privilege of being far from the testing locations and not having to live with firsthand experiences with nuclear weapons.”
President Donald Trump recently announced plans to remove the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, a move which many fear could ignite a new nuclear arms race. The INF had banned all short and mid-rang nuclear and non-nuclear missiles, and helped to eliminate thousands of land-based missiles. Trump has also promised to build new nuclear weapons.

As a deadly reminder of the lingering health impacts from nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War, untold numbers of Marshall Islands residents continue to seek healthcare, and justice, for having unwittingly been made human test subjects to nuclear tests.

According to Barker, multiple types of cancer continue to beset the Marshallese. Adequate healthcare might be a first step toward justice – but so far, that step is far from realized.

Marshall Islands' Cancer Rate "Extreme"
In 1947 the US made an agreement with the UN to create a strategic trusteeship territory across islands of Micronesia, an area covering three million square miles comprised of two thousand islands.

Just five days after obtaining the agreement with the UN, the US Atomic Energy Commission established what it called the Pacific Proving Grounds and shortly thereafter began testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and underwater across the region.

One-hundred-and-six tests over a dozen years were conducted, many of them extremely high yield. While the Marshall Islands testing were only 14% of all US nuclear tests, they comprised nearly 80% of the total nuclear yields detonated by the US.

Many Marshall Islands residents were exposed to radiation and nuclear fallout, and many of the islands remain contaminated to this day. Through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990, money was paid to the Marshal Islanders as compensation for their exposure to the testing, but generations later the problem persists.

There are no exact numbers regarding how many people across the Marshall Islands were impacted, directly or indirectly, by the nuclear tests. Although the US government — like the governments of so many colonial powers — has minimized the consequences of its testing, its effects continue to this day.

“Does ‘affected’ mean those exposed to radioactive fallout, those whose land was vaporized and no longer exists on this planet?” Barker asked. “Is it people whose land will be contaminated for thousands of years into the future, is it the people whose chromosomes/DNA are mutated by the mutagenic properties of radiation?”

Barker, who has been studying the plight of the Marshallese for decades, admits that coming up with exact numbers is difficult and the numbers remain unknown.

“It is difficult because it plays into US efforts to minimize the numbers of people and islands whose health and land were damaged and injured by the testing program,” she said. “It is not just health and environmental damage, however. The political system was altered, the culture, the economy, and the language, among other things.”

In the late 1990s, a study published in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society, found that cancer rates in the Marshall Islands, caused by the combination of exposure to nuclear test fallout, malnutrition, and other factors associated with the rapid westernization of their society, were “alarming,” according to the study.

Neal Palafox with the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns Medical School, who authored the study along with four colleagues, told the media at the time the study was released that the incidence of cancer in the Marshall Islands was “extreme.”

The study compared the rate of various cancers found in the Marshallese to rates in the US. “Cancer incidence rates were higher in virtually every category in the Marshall Islands compared with the United States for the period 1985-1994,” the study said.

As just one example, the study found liver cancer rates in the Islands to be 15 times higher in males and 40 times higher in females compared to rates for those cancers in the US.

The study referenced the 67 nuclear tests conducted across the islands, and added that “increases in leukemia, breast cancer and thyroid cancer after radiation exposure have been well established, especially in childhood exposures.”
Erasing History
Rachael Hoffman, a Marshallese woman living in Everett, Washington, works with Barker in educating the public and younger generations about what the US government did in the Marshall Islands.

Every year she helps organize a Remembrance Day ceremony marking the March 1, 1954, detonation of the Bravo Bomb.

Her grandmother developed thyroid cancer that she attributes to the nuclear tests, and received some compensation from the government for it. With that money, she was able to move to the US, along with some of her relatives, during the 1980s.

“67 nuclear bombs were tested in the Marshall Islands in a 12-year span,” Hoffman told Truthout. “People were relocated from island to island, and to this day people remain displaced from nuclear testing.”

Hoffman discussed how the rapid westernization of the culture led to a poor diet taking a toll on the health of the Marshallese.

“During the testing a lot of the food was imported because people were overcrowded on these islands they were relocated to,” she explained. “The crops and fish were poisoned, so people couldn’t eat off the land, so they had to rely on canned food which caused high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.”

There were four main coral atolls of the Marshall Islands that were primarily impacted, and the people living on those have the highest numbers of cancer cases.

“These are the people who own the nuclear story because they are the ones facing the radiation directed illnesses and diseases and death that has come from all of this,” Hoffman said.

Today she works towards engaging younger people in the Marshallese community, both in the US and on the islands, “so they can know their story, know their history, otherwise that story will be lost.”

Hoffman said that is one of the main reasons she works annually to organize the Remembrance Day, so that these stories are not lost.

“The young people have no idea how bad the nuclear testing was that was done to our people,” Hoffman said, “because it’s definitely not taught in schools.”

Lack of Care
In the Marshall Islands, there is practically no medical diagnostic ability, no forensics, and not even an oncologist, according to Jally, Hoffman and Barker. This makes it challenging to find accurate numbers of cancer incidence.

“We know that many people died on the outer islands, for instance, with symptoms that sound like cancer,” Barker said. “Thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer are all issues.”

Thomas Hamilton is an endocrinologist and thyroid disease specialist who did groundbreaking research on the impacts of the nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands community.

In a 1991 report he produced for Physicians for Social Responsibility, Hamilton stated, “The testing of nuclear weapons on these islands…has had profound direct and indirect effects on the health of the Marshall Islands residents as well as on their environment and culture.”

Hamilton concluded that the initial exposure of the Marshallese from the 1954 Bravo test “could probably have been prevented entirely or significantly reduced” by evacuating the residents prior to the test, as had been done prior to other tests; evacuating them immediately after the test; or at least postponing the detonation for when it was known the winds would not bring the fallout atop the Marshallese people.

The report points out that additional exposure could have been prevented by postponing the return of people who had been evacuated to the islands, or evacuating them again “when it was known that their body burdens of radionuclides were steadily increasing.”

Needless to say, the just, humanitarian and ethical thing for the US government to do would have been not to conduct nuclear testing in the region in the first place, let alone in an area where people lived.

The report was also critical of the US Department of Energy’s studies of the health impacts of the nuclear tests on the Marshallese, saying the DOE’s studies had “significant limitations.”

Hamilton told Truthout that his work studying the health impacts on the Marshallese from the nuclear tests “was not welcomed by the US government,” and pointed to the fact that as recently as 2013 a government study on the topic went to great lengths to invalidate the results of some his work.

While it has now been decades since Hamilton was deeply engaged in his studies of the testing’s health impacts on the Marshallese, he told Truthout that the findings of one of his studies, published in 1987, showed that the nuclear fallout went “quite a bit further” than the DOE had acknowledged.

“The Bravo test had an unexpected wind shift that caused heavy contamination in many atolls, but certainly on Rongelap Island, so those folks were allowed to stay where the fallout, which was like snow on the ground and kids were playing in it,” Hamilton said. “And it was two to three days before those people were evacuated.”

Hamilton added, “I was surprised in 2013 that they [US Government] mentioned my study, so they are somehow still concerned there’s an article out there saying their studies weren’t as complete as they should be.”

Meanwhile, Barker argues that, since the Marshall Islands was a US territory when the testing occurred, the Marshallese deserve the same standard of cancer care as Americans (at least those who can afford decent health insurance).

“But as it is, people have to leave the country and all that is familiar and comfortable to them at the time when they need the most support and comfort,” Barker said.

Meanwhile, like so many other Marshallese, Jally struggles to live with what was done to her people.

“I grew up there not knowing the history of our country,” she said. “I graduated high school and became a parent and didn’t really know the history until I started working with the community as a medical interpreter.”

Jally explained that her elders have spoken very emotionally of the bombings, telling her, “Yes, that happened to us and we lived through it.”

“The old folks watch these films about what happened and they tear up, and a lot of their families have died from cancer or because they are diabetic,” she concluded. “There is a lot of trauma in our community from this.”


Rewilding Your Lawn

SUBHEAD: Now that we've entered the Anthropocene you need to do your part in supporting the living environment.

By Amy Brady on 28 July 2018 for Orion Magazine -

Image above: Photographs of a yard gone wild. From original article.

Jeff VanderMeer, award-winning author of Borne and the Southern Reach Trilogy, is also an avid environmentalist. 

As part of his desire to make outdoor spaces more habitable for birds and insects, he’s embarked on a yard rewilding project that involves letting native grasses and plants (many of them deemed “weeds” by some less-than-pleased neighbors) take over his lawn.

If you follow the author on Twitter, you may have read his amusing—and educational—anecdotes about the project. Here, we discuss the yard project in more depth, including the benefits a wild yard provides for local wildlife and what others can do to improve their own neighborhood ecosystems.

AB: What inspired you to re-wild your yard?
JV: I was the writer-in-residence at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York in 2016 and lived in a house with a very lively bird population. I started putting out feeders. 

Then Trump was elected president and my stress level went through the roof. We returned to our home in Florida and, to distract myself from the news, I put up a lot of bird feeders and tried to emulate the things that we’d loved about upstate New York.

We got several more birds than in the past, although I’d always been an avid birdwatcher. The feeders made me feel like I could help semi-urban wildlife and migrating birds in the moment, which was important at a time when I felt useless and worn down by the news.

I then began investigating how to make the yard more bird and bee and butterfly friendly. Given that our attempts at a “normal” lawn had always led to bare dirt, I figured nothing would grow. 

But as soon as we gave the yard over to whatever would naturally grow there, we had a great burgeoning of 
plant, insect, and animal life. We even have, ironically enough, a fair amount of grass in the yard now.

AB: What do you hope to achieve by doing this? Do you anticipate an environmental impact?
JV: I already know we’re creating a safe haven for migratory birds. We’re also helping to cement a corner of an unacknowledged greenway for raccoons and possums and other nocturnal animals, none of which have been a bother. They also eat insects and are beneficial in other ways. 

I’ve also seen more toads and frogs and in general a healthy little ecosystem quietly building up. Contrary to the generalizations people make about non-traditional yards, we’ve not seen any ticks. Either the possum eats those or they just aren’t present.

In addition, we’ve had some exciting finds, like Florida lupine growing in one part of the yard. Florida lupine is rare these days and should be encouraged.

Does all this mean much in the grand scheme of things? I don’t know. But it acknowledges that in addition to dealing with things on the macro level, you can support the environment in your own backyard by not using pesticides and, while not letting things look totally unkempt, support life rather than a mono-lawn that nothing else can thrive on.

AB: You’ve said on Twitter that your neighbors are less than thrilled. How would you sum up their response to your yard?
JV: I think it’s accurate to say that the “neighbor complaint” has become in my mind an existential threat from The Neighbor. By that I mean I feel like I need to anticipate the possible objections to what I’m doing, and thus The Neighbor is always on my mind. 

This is probably very unfair to the actual neighbor in question, which is why I keep everything very anonymous [on Twitter] and try to acknowledge that it’s the system and our assumptions at the neighborhood association and city government level that are flawed.

We also have lots of lovely neighbors, and even the neighbor who complained is not automatically not-lovely. But the system is crap. 

The fact that I can grow weeds only so long as they’re in a straight line and look like a garden—or put up a white fence around a part of the mayhem to ritualistically create a “lawn”—is hilarious and also a bit depressing to me. 

A traditional “lawn” is really about signs and symbols and status. What we’re really talking about is whether you admit life onto your property or decide to kill it off.

Image above: Photographs of a yard gone wild. From original article.

AB: What kinds of wildlife have entered your yard since starting this project?
JV: In addition to a regular polite possum and raccoon, we have many more bats out at night. We also have a wealth of birds that we didn’t have before. For example, the thrashers are out in force and very comfortable. 

We’ve had migrating grosbeaks, a first, and we have almost all of the Florida woodpeckers in our yard: downy, hairy, red bellied, flickers, and pileated. They used to be much rarer sightings. We also have a resurgence of snakes and tree frogs and toads of all kinds. 

We used to have a few skinks, pretty big ones, and now we have a lot more. And more bees. And tons of different kinds of plants—too many for me really to go into. Except, of course, the famous one, Fred the Weed, a giant wild lettuce.

Fred blew down in a storm, but is currently convalescing and plotting his return. I’m only just learning more about the plants in our yard, and some are likely invasive, but I must admit that paying attention to what’s growing in the yard has made landscapes so different for me in general. I used to think of plants as the backdrop for animals, but now I see acutely the plant life and how it’s growing. 

I feel like when we visit other people’s houses I can tell a lot about them just from the yard. I’m grateful to Jenn Benner, an Orlando friend, who helped me identify a lot of these plants.

AB: Have any of these lifeforms inspired new characters or settings in your writing?  
JV: This sense of plants being in the foreground will definitely seep into my fiction. The fact that I know individual cardinals and individual downy woodpeckers—that I can see them interacting with other individual birds—is also something that will influence my work. 

Somehow the whole world is now more alive than before, which is, to be honest, also painful, because suddenly I’m aware that even yards that seem green and healthy are actually sterile spaces. 

That’s hard to take. It’s also quite frankly hard to take when I find a vole dead in the yard, a victim of some passing cat. 

Luckily, we don’t get cats much—I chase them away and sometimes squirt them with orange juice, which they hate. In a sense, I feel very connected to this little piece of land and I feel it in my body when something goes wrong.

Image above: Photographs of a yard gone wild. From original article.

AB: Do you have any tips for readers who’d like to do something similar with their yards?
JV: I’d say let the space speak to you and really observe what’s going on. Go with the flow of what seems to grow well—don’t try too hard to push back against what nature tells you needs to happen. 

And before uprooting a plant, make sure you know what you’re doing. Early on I wound up taking out some beneficial plants and leaving some that weren’t from pure ignorance. And be aware that herbicides aren’t really any better than pesticides in many cases.

Bring in a local specialist for a consult, even if you don’t want them to do any actual landscaping. 

Finally, where possible, do leave some dead leaves around, especially in places in shade, where they’ll help form good habitats for toads and worms. These are really beneficial creatures that will only add to the richness of the place.

AB: Do you have any suggestions for people living in urban and suburban areas who want to have a positive environmental impact but who can’t let their yards grow wild?
JV: You can always do something. Even a few potted plants that your local nursery says are good for butterflies or birds can be of use. 

Even a small bird feeder can be of use, too. 

In that case, I’d learn what migratory birds pass through your area, what they tend to eat, and when they tend to appear. 

Keep in mind that birds might take as long as a month to find a new feeder and deem it safe. 

Finally, and this is controversial in some areas, keep in mind that outdoor cats do kill lots of birds. There’s no two ways about it. 

So keep your cat inside if at all possible. If your cat seems too energetic for that, all apologies, but you may need to increase your efforts in engaging and playing with your cat inside.

AB: What has been the most rewarding thing about this project?
JV: Rewilding the yard has largely saved me from situational depression, which means I can be more effective in my other, wider environmental efforts. 

Also rewarding has been the daily connection, in some form, to our environment. It is so important to our health in general to understand what it is we’re losing and what we need to save and why.


Trump ditching INF Treaty

SUBHEAD: Experts sound alarms after Trump confirms plans to ditch nuclear arms control treaty with Russia.

By Jessica Corbett on 20 October 2018 for Common Dreams -

Image above: The US presidency wears down the occupant of the White House. Trump appears to have degenerated worse than most in less than two years in office. This photo of Trump was taken last Saturday. He looks unhealthy, worn out, disheveled and miserable. Who's doing his hair? From original article.

Trump says that he is abandoning the INF treaty, basically confirms a renewed arms race, and absolves himself from any responsibility to lead efforts to reduce nuclear tensions around the globe.

Concerns are mounting after President Donald Trump confirmed on Saturday that he will withdraw from a Cold War-era nuclear arms control treaty with Russia following reports that National Security Adviser John Bolton had been pushing the plan behind closed doors despite warnings from experts that ditching the agreement "would be reckless and stupid."

The Guardian had reported Friday that Bolton and an ally in the White House have been working to convince members of the administration to support the United States withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) on the grounds that Russia is violating it. Nuclear arms control experts and others rapidly responded with alarm.

Many agreed that Russia's alleged violation "merits a strong response" but noted a withdrawal could alienate European allies and raise the chances of armed conflict.

The president's comments on Saturday spurred more alarm, with Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association calling the looming withdrawal "an epic mistake."

Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey agreed. "This is a colossal mistake," he told the Guardian. "I doubt very much that the U.S. will deploy much that would have been prohibited by the treaty. Russia, though, will go gangbusters."

"By declaring he will leave the INF Treaty, President Trump has shown himself to be a demolition man who has no ability to build real security," responded Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. "Instead, by blowing up nuclear treaties he is taking the U.S. down a trillion dollar road to a new nuclear arms race."

Journalist Glenn Greenwald tied the update to broader narratives about the Trump administration's relationship with Russia, and in particular President Vladimir Putin:
This is a major (and dangerous) provocation toward Russia by Trump that - like his lethal arms to Ukraine, the bombing of Assad's forces, & sanctions/expulsions - should cause anyone who peddled the "Putin-controls-Trump-with- kompromat" conspiracy tripe to apologize in shame.
 Trump revealed his withdrawal plans to reporters after campaign event in Nevada on Saturday. "Russia has violated the agreement. They've been violating it for many years. I don't know why President [Barack] Obama didn't negotiate or pull out," he said. "And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons [while] we're not allowed to."

While claiming he would be receptive if both Russia and China concluded, "'Let's all of us get smart and let's none of us develop those weapons," under current circumstances, Trump appears hellbent on making more weapons.

"If Russia's doing it and if China's doing it and we're adhering to the agreement, that's unacceptable," he said. "So we have a tremendous amount of money to play with with our military."

"We are going to terminate the agreement and we are going to develop the weapons. If we get smart and if others get smart, and say 'Let's not develop these horrible nuclear weapons,' I would be extremely happy with that," he added. "But as long as somebody's violating that agreement then we're not going to be the only ones to adhere to it."

The signing of the INF treaty during the nuclear arms race of the Cold War, as CNN pointed out, had "marked a watershed agreement."

It required both Russia and the United States to eliminate ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.

The treaty "wasn't designed to solve all of our problems with the Soviet Union," but was "designed to provide a measure of some strategic stability on the continent of Europe," explained former State Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby, now a CNN military and diplomatic analyst.
"I suspect our European allies right now are none too happy about hearing that President Trump intends to pull out of it."

Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association outlined in a pair of tweets the impact a withdrawal could have on American foreign relations:
Our response to Russia’s INF Treaty violation shld be guided by the following:
  • Ensure Russia doesn't gain a military advantage
  • Keep allies on our side
  • Ensure Russia left holding bag if treaty collapses
  • Exhaust all diplomatic options
Withdrawal is not in keeping with these principles.
Withdrawal would make the problem far worse by:
  • Removing all constraints on Russia’s production and fielding of the illegal 9M729 missile
  • Dividing NATO
  • Allowing Russia to blame US for killing the treaty
  • Undermining US leverage to attempt to bring Russia back into compliance
And thanks to the president's warmonger of a national security adviser, the INF treaty isn't the only arms control agreement with Russia currently under threat of termination. As the Guardian reported:
Bolton and the top arms control adviser in the National Security Council (NSC), Tim Morrison, are also opposed to the extension of another major pillar of arms control, the 2010 New Start agreement with Russia, which limited the number of deployed strategic warheads on either side to 1,550. That agreement, signed by Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev, then president of Russia, is due to expire in 2021. 
"This is the most severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s," said Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute. "If the INF treaty collapses, and with the New Start treaty on strategic arms due to expire in 2021, the world could be left without any limits on the nuclear arsenals of nuclear states for the first time since 1972."
Responding to the developments in a series of tweets, Alexandra Bell, a former senior arms control official at the State Department who is now at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said:
"Trump says that he is abandoning the INF treaty, basically confirms a renewed arms race, and absolves himself from any responsibility to lead efforts to reduce nuclear tensions around the globe."

"This administration has damaged, perhaps irreparably, an international order that has served U.S. interests for decades, turned a blind eye to catastrophic climate change, corroded our govt, [and] poisoned our national discourse," she added. "Now it will ask you to fund a nuclear arms race..

Egomania and Bad Taste

SUBHEAD: Trump hangs ‘Tacky’ fantasy painting of himself with former GOP presidents in White House.

By Maxwell Tani & Tracy Conner on 14 October 2018 for the Daily Beast -

Image above: Painting by Andy Thomas of "The Republican Club", with the addition of Donald Trump. A print now hangs in the White House. From original article.

President Trump’s latest addition to White House decor is a kitschy fantasy painting that shows him relaxing with Republican presidents of the past—an update to a best-selling image commonly found in tourist gift shops and online galleries.

The print, “The Republican Club” by Andy Thomas, could be seen in the background of a photo tweeted by 60 Minutes, which aired an interview with Trump on Sunday night.

It shows a slimmed-down Trump sandwiched between Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, directly across from Abraham Lincoln. Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and both Bushes are also in the imaginary scene.

Amateur art critics sneered on social media that the artwork was “tacky,” “a travesty,” or “blasphemy.” Some said it looked like the political version of the famous “dogs playing poker” painting.

But one person was thrilled to learn that it was hanging on the wall of Trump’s office—the artist himself.

Thomas told The Daily Beast that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), a fan of the artist’s work, gave the print to Trump.

“He had actually given a me real gracious call to tell me how much he liked it,” Thomas said of Trump. “He was very complimentary. He made a comment that he’d seen a lot of paintings of himself and he rarely liked them.”

The painting is the latest in a well-known series by Thomas that depicts past presidents from each party hanging out together. Thomas’ first, which was finished in 2008, included Republicans—minus Trump—playing poker. A subsequent portrait showed Democratic presidents playing pool.

When Thomas decided to add the current president, he said, he found “Trump hard to paint” because of his skin tone and smile, but made him the center of attention anyway.

He said that as far as he knows, no other president has his artwork. He said Issa has both the Democratic and Republican prints hanging in his office and commissioned a portrait of himself from Thomas, who also paints cowboys.

“He’s a really friendly guy and he said, ‘If I get a chance, I’m going to show this to Donald,’” Thomas said.

Still he never expected Trump would call to thank him and was shocked when his wife told him he should be home at a certain time for a call.

“You can’t imagine how happy that made me,” he said.

Thomas stressed that while the painting with Trump is getting the most attention, his presidential art is bipartisan. And he said he didn’t want to discuss his own political views.

“I challenge people to look at the paintings and see if they can figure it out,” he said.

Other cosmetic changes Trump has been made to the White House have also been panned, with detractors calling them “drab” and “gaudy.”

In an effort to make the West Wing less of what he described as a “dump,” last year Trump redecorated the Oval Office with gold drapes and gold-hued upholstery.

And to ensure no one forgets about his electoral accomplishments, a map of results of his 2016 victory is hanging in the West Wing.

Image above: Born in 1844, Cassius Marcellus Coolidge first painted dogs playing poker in 1894. This one is titled "A Friend in Need". From (http://www.warmunart.com/story-dogs-playing-poker-painting-series/).


SCOTUS halts youth climate case

SUBHEAD: With Kavanaugh in place on Supreme Court likely to close lawsuit against fed not controlling greenhouse gases.

By Jessica Corbetton 20 October 2018 for Common Dreams -

Image above: Demonstration in April 2017 in St. Paul MN by children wanting Federal Government take responsibility for not controlling greenhouse gases and imperiling life their lives. From original article.

In a move author and activist Naomi Klein denounced as "disgraceful and enraging," the U.S. Supreme Court has halted a lawsuit brought by 21 American children and young adults that aims to hold the federal government accountable for its ongoing failure to adequately curb greenhouse gas emissions to battle the global climate crisis.

The decision came in response to a last-ditch effort by the Trump administration to kill the "potentially landmark" case ahead of the trial slated to begin in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon on Oct. 29.

The case has been tied up in the legal system for three years. Just this week, District Court Judge Ann Aiken reaffirmed that the youth plaintiffs can credibly claim that the government has violated their due process rights.

The Supreme Court, however, stayed discovery and the trial in an order (pdf) issued Friday, demanding a response from the plaintiffs' legal counsel by Wednesday afternoon.

Michael Gerrard, director of Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia, called the move "highly unusual" and "reminiscent of their stay of the Clean Power Plan."

Farron Cousins, a radio host and executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, tied the development to the upcoming midterms, tweeting:
There was one glimmer of hope this week when this case was allowed to proceed to trial, and in an instant, this guy took it away. Future generations are getting screwed, and I hope they remember who did this. Vote like your life depends on it! https://www.climateliabilitynews.org/2018/10/19/supreme-court-kids-climate-case-roberts/ 
While the high court's one-page order provoked public outrage, Julia Olson of Our Children's Trust, co-counsel for the youth plaintiffs, remained optimistic and said the team plans to file their reply on Monday.

"We are confident once Chief [John] Justice Roberts and the full court receive the youth plaintiffs' response to defendants' mischaracterization of their case, the trial will proceed," she said.
"As the Supreme Court has recognized in innumerable cases, review of constitutional questions is better done on a full record where the evidence is presented and weighed by the trier of fact. This case is about already recognized fundamental rights and children's rights of equal protection under the law."
As E&E News noted, "Roberts' action came hours after Jeffrey Wood, a top political appointee at the Department of Justice, said there is no such right. Speaking at a law conference in San Diego, Wood said the right to a safe climate that the plaintiffs demand 'simply does not exist,' adding that the government is still preparing for trial."

Several observers pointed out that the Supreme Court had previously allowed the case to proceed, back before the contentious new Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced now-retired Anthony Kennedy. Environmental attorney Jeffrey Gracer remarked: "A newly configured Supreme Court seems poised to close the courthouse doors. But the tide of #ClimateAction cannot be stopped."

Jeffrey Gracer tweeted;
Justice Kennedy previously denied a stay in this climate change case brought by children who simply want their day in court. A newly configured Supreme Court seems poised to close the courthouse doors. But the tide of cannot be stopped.
See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Case against Trump proceeding 10/18/18

Living in a Shitstorm

SUBHEAD: Get over despair. The big problems won't be fixed. A planetary adjustment is at hand.

By Chris Jordan on 17 October 2018 for Huffington Post -

Image above: Man hanging onto "Caution" sign as braking storm wave breaks. From internet.

[IB Publisher's note: My advise to the author of this piece... Get over the despair. The big problems won't be fixed. A planetary adjustment is at hand. There is much work to be done by the survivors. Some places will be much safer than others. If you are not in one, find such a spot. Abandon your dependence on "The System" to a degree you never imagined (ditch the car,  the grid, discount retailing and the  information cloud as soon as possible. Hunker down with people you trust and can work or trade with. Entertain each other until the new dawn. P.S. This is the 7,000th post to this blog. Where does the time go?] 

Like all of you, I pay close daily attention to the increasingly grotesque environmental and political shitshow we are witnessing unfold before our astonished eyes. The question is how to respond.

I have never at the same time felt such a strong desire to make a positive difference and less empowered to do so.

In my own psyche, something has shifted on a foundational level.

Most conversations now, even among my wisest and most engaged friends, lead down familiar rabbit holes that end in shrugged shoulders, dumb jokes that mask disempowerment and worn out memes about “solutions” that are infinitesimal in proportion to the scale of the problems.

Ask young people what two words most characterize our future and the response is as instant as it is ubiquitous: “We’re fucked.”

The most relevant internet comment people seem to be able to muster is “vote,” which raises a whole separate conversation, but the crux for me is, “Of course ― and what else?” Politics is an increasing disaster that can be seen as both a cause and a symptom.

I try to step back to a meta-perspective in the hope of achieving a clearer-headed view, but the wide-angle picture becomes even more chaotic. The panopticon turns out to be a Halloween hall of mirrors.

And in this space I find myself steeped in the familiar feeling of dread that I had before going to Midway Island to photograph dead albatrosses whose stomachs are filled with plastic.

To take the next step forward, I know I must face something dark that lies inside of myself, but I can’t quite make out what it is ― something so taken for granted that I don’t see it, like the water we swim in, right in front of our nose but invisible.

Yet its presence is just strong enough to swing the needle of my internal compass in its direction.

The abyss I went to encounter on Midway was grief, which at the time I knew little about and thought was the scariest feeling there is to bear.

Now the form of a new monster emerges through the mist, a hundred times more frightening than grief, a lurking layer in the psyche that possesses the horrible power to drain individual and collective life force. It carries such strong cultural taboos that even naming it risks a kind of social suicide.

But I can no longer deny its residency in my consciousness, like a new roommate who showed up uninvited and now sleeps in my bed next to me and walks with me everywhere I go. I wonder if it accompanies you too. It is that state of mind we call despair.

On uttering the awful term, I realize I know barely anything about it. In my 14 years of individual and group therapy, I don’t recall any of the therapists or clients ever mentioning it, and I have rarely if ever read anything about it or heard discussion of it.

One thing I can observe about it right away is, in the same way I was grief averse, I am exponentially more despair averse. Admitting despair feels like surrendering the game for lost. An abhorrent kind of giving up seems to lie at its core.

At least grief expresses itself in the cathartic flow of tears, with the possibility of moving through to the other side.

Despair presents as an existential energy sink, like bleeding from an artery, a black hole that if approached pulls inescapably toward implosion and emotional collapse.

Acknowledging despair may amplify it, but denying it may feed it even more. The unconscious defense mechanism is avoidance:

Keep up a hopeful facade, say something positive, focus on trivia, talk about solutions, point to some small evidence of improvement somewhere, quote a self-help one-liner, any old cliche will do.

I wonder what it would mean to allow for some measure of despair as a natural response to the ever more fucked-up realities of our world.

Can despair be held and contained as a natural human experience alongside fear, anger, rage, grief, joy, beauty and love?

Or does it somehow diminish or cancel out everything else?

Perhaps there is something empowering and transformative that comes from standing in despair’s crucible.

Given we may create the very depression we fear by holding despair at bay, I want to know what happens if we take the risk of looking all the way into that darkness.

Let us consider the possibility that there may be value in exploring the territory of despair together, embracing it not as an exercise in negativity or capitulation but as a liberating doorway we can step through toward the healing of our relationship with each other and the world.


Case against Trump proceeding

SUBHEAD: Blockbuster ruling on Children's Climate Change suit will proceed to trial October 29th.

By Julia Conley on 16 October 2018 for Common Dreams  -

Image above: A young gird holds a poster of Planet Earth supporting children's lawsuit.  From original article.

Twenty-one children and young adults were looking forward on Tuesday to bringing their climate lawsuit against the federal government to trial in the coming weeks, following a U.S. District Court ruling arguing that the plaintiffs have made a convincing case that the Trump and Obama administrations have failed to curb carbon emissions even as they knew of the pollution's myriad harmful effects.

Judge Ann Aiken handed down the ruling late Monday in a court in Eugene, Oregon, affirming that the plaintiffs can credibly claim that their due process rights have been violated by the government and fossil fuel companies—an argument the young people are more than ready to make in court starting October 29, when the case is set to go to trial.

Following the decision, 21-year-old Tia Hatton said in a statement, "My fellow plaintiffs and I have our eyes set on one thing: our trial date...We—my lawyers, our experts, and my co-plaintiffs and I—are ready to make our case against the U.S. federal government and their deliberate energy policy that cause catastrophic climate change."

The lawsuit, Juliana vs. The United States, was first filed in 2015 under the Obama administration, with the 21 plaintiffs, then ranging in age from eight to 19, arguing with the help of Our Children's Trust that the government's actions that have worsened carbon emissions have "violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources."

The children pointed to increasingly frequent and destructive extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and droughts in their hometowns across the U.S. as evidence of their claim, and since then have called expert witnesses including climate scientist James Hansen and economist Joseph Stiglitz to bolster their case.

The young people "proffered uncontradicted evidence showing that the government has historically known about the dangers of greenhouse gases but has continued to take steps promoting a fossil fuel based energy system, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions," said Aiken in her ruling.

Aiken dismissed President Donald Trump as a defendant in the lawsuit, but she did so "without prejudice"—meaning the youths can bring a case against him later on. Other Trump administration officials who head government agencies can still be named in the current case.

"The District Court continues to provide well-reasoned decisions that narrow and appropriately frame the heart of this case for trial," said Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children's Trust. "We are ready to bring all of the facts forward and prove these youths' case once and for all."

The federal government has for three years attempted to have the case dismissed by arguing that extreme weather events and pollution levels happen around the world, not only in the U.S., and that, as one Justice Department lawyer put it in 2016, "There simply is no constitutional right to a pollution-free environment." Aiken vehemently rejected the argument:
Where a complaint alleges knowing governmental action is affirmatively and substantially damaging the climate system in a way that will cause human deaths, shorten human lifespans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, and dramatically alter the planet's ecosystem, it states a claim for a due process violation. To hold otherwise would be to say that the Constitution affords no protection against a government's knowing decision to poison the air its citizens breathe or the water its citizens drink.
"Judge Aiken's blockbuster decision lays out in extremely precise detail the factual and legal issues in our case which remain to be resolved at trial," Alex Loznak, a 21-year-old plaintiff, said.

"Having contributed extensive personal testimony and research to help develop our case's factual record over the past several years, I am confident that our arguments on the remaining disputed issues will ultimately prevail in court. We still need a full and fair trial to prove our case. October 29, here we come!"

Three Deprivation Narratives

SUBHEAD: I’d like to think that it possible for everyone to have safe and comfortable shelter.

By Chris Smaje on 7 October 2018 for Small Farm Future -

Image above: Poster from 1974 showing peasant life in rural China titled "Reporting to Chairman Mao". From (https://chineseposters.net/posters/e13-451.php).

I’ve been reading Lynn T. White’s book Rural Roots of Reform Before China’s Conservative Change (Routledge, 2018). I couldn’t honestly recommend it as a light bedtime read, but it’s absolutely fascinating nonetheless.

Here I just want to reflect on the case of a rural migrant mentioned by White thus:
“A twenty-five-year-old legal migrant from Henan to Suzhou explained in 1994 why he was so much more productive on the delta: “We used to spend three months doing farm work, one month celebrating the Spring Festival, and eight months in idle time every year.”
Now he was a restaurant waiter, working fourteen hours each day, seven days a week – but receiving 400 yuan (about US$50 a month, which was four times his previous Henan wage).
When asked whether he thought he was working too hard, he replied with great eloquence….“No, it is better than sitting idly by watching people in cities getting rich. The conditions here are not bad at all.
Color TV, electric heating, free meals – these are great. What I like most here is that I can take a shower every day. I was not able to take a bath during the entire winter at home. It would be too cold to do so in the river.” (p.354)
This example poses some potentially awkward questions for those like me who advocate for a small farm future – for more Henan and less Suzhou, so to speak. Could I look this man in the eye and tell him that he should have stayed on the farm? My answer to that, emphatically, is no.

But I think the implications of what he said are worth pondering. The first reason he gave for leaving the farm draws from a relative deprivation narrative – why molder away in rural poverty while city people make so much more money?
The last reason he gave draws from an absolute deprivation narrative – back home, he couldn’t even take a shower during the winter!

This individual story fits easily into the dominant narrative of our times – people naturally seek prosperity, and when the opportunity arises will therefore move from countryside to city, and also from poorer countries to richer ones in search of it.

Good luck to them – so long as the national and international economies are structured the way they are, I have zero sympathy for the anti-immigration rhetoric of right-wing populism, and little sympathy for left-populist peasant romanticism either.

But if you aggregate this one man’s journey across the global billions, urban and rural, who share his impoverished starting point, I can’t see this strategy of wealth-through-urbanization-and-economic-growth working.

For one thing, while the global economy is certainly capable of lifting millions of people out of poverty in some places – China foremost among them – I don’t think it’s structurally or physically capable of doing it adequately everywhere.

If, like me, you number among the top few hundred million in global wealth then that may not concern you much. Possibly it doesn’t concern a man like the Henan waiter either.

And much as I’d like to think that such persistent inequalities would prompt the poor into political action to achieve a fairer distribution of the world’s resources, the fact is this only happens in historically unusual circumstances, as occurred in early 20th century China.

If economist Minqi Li, whose book China and the 21st Century Crisis (Pluto, 2016) I’m currently ploughing my way through (it’s another bedtime no-no, I’m afraid), is to be believed, these circumstances are also likely to occur in the mid-21st century, and will probably result in the end of the global capitalist order.

Let me throw in another China book while I’m at it – David Bandurski’s Dragons in Diamond Village: Tales of Resistance in Urbanizing China (Melville House, 2016) – a much better candidate for bedtime reading, which shows vividly why somebody like this waiter may get richer in the city but will always be watching other people get richer still.

Having corresponded recently with David (more on that anon), he pronounces himself pessimistic about the opportunities for resistance in Xi’s China. Time will tell.

Quite apart from the limited economic capacity of the global political economy to lift adequate numbers of people out of poverty, the other side of it is the limited environmental and energetic capacities to do so.

If you aggregate the single migrant journey from Henan to Suzhou I’ve described here among all those similarly lacking in the food, shelter, comfort and entertainment that many of us take for granted, the consequences will quite simply be environmentally catastrophic and untenable long-term unless you buy into ecomodernist fantasies that it’s all manageable through nuclear power, GM crops and the like.

So here we come to a third deprivation narrative – contemporary people pursuing eminently justifiable and personally rational goals deprive others, most especially future generations, of the opportunity to do likewise.

The only way I see out of this morass is to detoxify the first and third of these deprivation narratives while focusing relentlessly on the second.

I’d like to think that it should be possible for everyone in the world to have safe and comfortable shelter (including access to tolerably warm bathing water) and an adequate diet (I’m not so sure about the color TV…or the free meals: isn’t there a capitalist story doing the rounds that the latter are a myth?)

But to achieve that sustainably so that future generations don’t go without I think we’re going to have to let go of the relative deprivation story, the “people in cities getting rich”, by sharing the wealth around much more fairly.

Well, it’s a plan – and it’s been tried before, notably in China by one Mao Zedong. The aforementioned Minqi Li seems to be among the cohort that’s reevaluating Maoism positively, for example analyzing Mao’s Cultural Revolution as an attempt to “save the revolution” through “the dictatorship of the proletariat” (p.18).

Personally, I struggle to justify the enormous destructiveness, misery and cruelty of it in those terms, when it seemed to be at least as much about saving the power of Mao Zedong through the dictatorship of Mao Zedong.

I find Lynn White’s analysis more interesting – in his view, the disasters of Mao’s Great Leap Forward followed soon after by the power vacuum created by the Cultural Revolution fostered considerable local economic autonomy in China from the 1960s, and it was this bottom-up economic dynamism rather than the top-down reforms of the post-Mao government that laid the foundation for the country’s transformation into today’s huge industrial-capitalist power.

I do find Li’s prognosis for how that transformation is likely to end in tears quite convincing, however.

So no, I’m not too keen on Maoist solutions to economic inequality. My preference is for agrarian populist solutions to it – which essentially means getting more people into farming and paying them better for it.

Low economic returns to agriculture have often been a historical fact, but they’re not intrinsically an economic one. Still, the questions remain – is such a populist solution likely to occur, and how could it happen?

My answers to that are ‘no’ and ‘with great difficulty’, but it’s the only solution that strikes me as likely to be successful long-term, so the long march back to Henan-with-hot-showers is the one I want to devote my thinking to.

White and Li’s books have helped me to see that a little more clearly, though still through a glass darkly. I’ll try to elucidate it more in future posts.


Uncomfortable Truth about Hawaii

SUBHEAD: The illegal takeover of the Hawaii was an act of war and never resolved with peace.

By Keanu Sai on 16 August 2018 for University of Hawaii -

Image above: Still frame from video of  Na Moolelo Lecture Series lecture at University of Hawaii-Windward Community College. See below.

[IB Publisher's note: A mahalo to Craig Davies, of Kauai, for the link to this lecture on Hawaiian history and loss of independence.]

Dr. Keanu Sai is a political scientist specializing in international relations and public law, as well as a faculty member at the University of Hawaii-Windward Community College and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Hawaii College of Education.

He addressed the concept of “act of war,” as well as its implications and consequences in the context of international law. The discussion, “An Uncomfortable Truth: Hawaii has been in a State of War with the United States since 1893,” took place on June 13.

Na Moolelo Lecture Series: The Na Moolelo Lecture Series is an opportunity for the public to learn from Hawaiian cultural experts, historians and other museum professionals who prompt discussion of Hawaiian history and culture as well as museum practices.

The free series supports Iolani Palace’s mission to preserve and share Hawaii’s unique cultural and historical qualities with the community.

Video above: Still frame from video of lecture "An Uncomfortable Truth: Hawaii in a State of War" by Dr. Keanu Sai.


Capitalism and ecological collapse

SUBHEAD: Our consumer economy will be the "Final Solution" for organic life on Earth.

By Ed Simon on 9 October 2018 for History News Netrwork -

Image above: Chiseled upside down into the stone embankment of the Elbe River four centuries ago, at a time of historic drought, are the words "If you see me, weep!" From (https://twitter.com/lfulg/status/1022831523920310279).

Four centuries ago, somebody starving in the drought afflicted Elbe region in what is today the Czech Republic, anonymously chiseled onto the stone of the receding river bank a warning.

Here, along the river where one day American and Soviet troops would meet on their duel approach to Berlin, a graffito made by unknown hand marks 1616 as the oldest year recorded on one particular “Hunger Stone”, and on that surface there is a memento mori which reads

“Wenn du mich sicht, dann weine.” 

This summer, among the hottest recorded, and the Elbe once again receded to the point where observers could read that ominous missive:

“If you see me, weep.”

Something to tattoo on the brain with the Monday release of the United Nations Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change.

Authored by 91 scientists, representing 40 countries and based on over 6,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies, the conclusions of the commission are horrifying.

According to Coral Davenport at the New York Times the climatologists discovered that if “greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit” by 2040, radically earlier than had been thought, meaning that most readers of this article will bear witness to “inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty.”

A child born today will have just turned the drinking age in a world where close to all of the coral reefs will be extinct and where massive storms like Hurricane Florence or Hurricane Maria, which has nearly destroyed a Puerto Rico abandoned by the government of the United States, will be common.

Where the social, cultural, and economic affects of climate change will be recorded not on revealed hunger stones, but in pandemics, wars, famines, and genocides exacerbated by the effects of higher temperatures.

Brandon Miller and Jay Croft at CNN write that we’ll see in starker detail the horrific results of industrial man-made global warming earlier than in two decades, with the report concluding that humanity has “only till 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change.”

Alterations to human behavior which might hasten the worst effects of climate change are technically possible, though the study’s authors doubt such change is politically feasible, as it would require direct action on the part of the industrial economies of the world, something with “no documented historic precedent.”

Myles Allen of Oxford University explained that “we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime” if we’re to stave off an ecological apocalypse which we now understand isn’t centuries in the future, but rather mere decades, if not years.

We already see the effects in the increasing ferocity of storms, the droughts that mark not just the developing world, but increasingly North America and Europe, and in the wildfires, which have burnt their way across the west.

As the world’s temperature rises we see an equivalent political slow burn, nations increasingly moving toward the delusional reactionary nationalisms as a means of punishing refugee populations often affected either directly by climate change or by the civil strife made possible by it.

For as Mark Fishcetti describes the Syrian civil war in Scientific American, Human-induced drying in many societies can push tensions over a threshold that provokes violent conflict” – a reality that if the Trump administration pretends to deny, has long been acknowledged by the Pentagon.

Climate change has resulted in civilization catastrophe before.

Historian John Kelly notes in The Great Mortality, his book on the Black Death of fourteenth-century Europe, that pestilence was furthered by “climactic and ecological instability,” the bubonic plague encouraged by weakened immune systems brought on by drought and famine.

Polymathic anthropologist Jared Diamond has considered how climate change brought collapse in cultures as varied as the Anasazi and Maya or the medieval Norse settlements of Greenland, writing that the “collapse of industrial civilization… could assume various forms, such as the worldwide spread of diseases or else of wars, triggered ultimately by scarcity of environmental resources.”

Arguably the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia and the Indus River Valley were felled by climate change, and one wonders if the peasants of Sumer were as despondent as that German speaker on the Elbe who asked future generations to weep, or if they were rather as myopic as we are, saying of such changes that “This too shall pass” while what expires is civilization itself?

Humans are unable to imagine the actual passing of their way of life. A sense that history changes has been novel for most cultures, even apocalyptic minded ones, as medieval paintings which depict Christ as a Flemish peasant or ancient Judeans as Florentine nobleman can attest.

The idea that the past was radically different from the present and that tomorrow will be distant from today is an innovation of Renaissance humanism and then modernity.

Rather, it’s always been easier to imagine that your world will literally pass into oblivion than that the values your civilization holds dear might disappear (or need to disappear).

During those lean times on the Indus River, on the Euphrates, or the Elbe, women and men may have dreamt of the end of days, but they couldn’t have quite dreamt of us. The myths that structured their world precluded it.

Lest we be too arrogant, ours is not so different a perspective, for as the literary theorist Frederic Jameson famously noted, it is “easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.”

Similar for the hungry penitent in the temple to all the gods of Sumer, or to the starving medieval pilgrim who could envision the return of Christ, but not that he might look different from those who populated his world.

Limited perspective is the wage of any totalizing ideology, and all eras are structured by such paradigms.

As a priest in Moloch’s temple or a monk in a medieval monastery had their religions, so have we ours, but the cracked gods of our world differ in one important respect – only capitalism’s Mammon has the capability of bringing about the apocalypse.

Only capitalism was able to inaugurate a new geological epoch in the Anthropocene; unique is our dominant ideology’s status in being able to obliterate all of humanity.

IPCC Co-Chair Debra Roberts said that the report is a “line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” but what should disturb us most is the authors’ accurate alarm at the lack of political will to avert catastrophe.

In the United States the coal, oil, and gas industries’ obfuscate, high percentages of Americans believe the lie that climate change is a hoax (while record heat affects the Midwest this October), and the Trump administration trashes the Paris Accords.

Noam Chomsky has said that the Republican “party is dedicated to racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life."

There is no historical precedent for such a stand, with modern fascism directly correlated to the increasing chaos of climate change itself.

Roy Scranton in We’re Doomed. Now What? writes that as the “gap between the future we’re entering and the future we once imagined grows ever wider, nihilism takes root in the shadow of our fear…. [Y]ou can see it in the pull to nationalism, sectarianism, war, and racial hatred. We see it in the election of Donald Trump.”

What must be reckoned with is how this situation was directly engendered by industrial capitalism, and in particular by the partisans of its most extreme ideological manifestations of libertarianism and neoliberalism who have provided cover for policies that have enflamed the crisis.

Past centuries were circumscribed by their worldviews, be it medieval Catholicism, or classical Roman Augustan paganism, or the varied gods of Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia.

Even the most visionary of individual perspectives must be limited by a culture’s dominant way of thinking, but while our adherence to the market is as all-encompassing as a Babylonian’s loyalty to Marduk, it is only our dark religion which actually threatens Armageddon.

Unfettered, unregulated, capricious, vampiric capitalism has brought us to the brink, and the mass inability to comprehend this fact evidences how ingrained said ideology is.

Our blinders are such that human tragedy that is attributable directly to our economic system is often naturalized as simply being “The way that things are,” thus precluding even the possibility of different ways of arranging our world.

Death due to differing ideologies is always interpreted as conscious and preventable, but capitalist tragedy is simply understood as how life operates.

Consideration of those who have died because of capitalism (and those who will, which may yet include us all) doesn’t require a cover-up.

So inured are we to seeing capitalism as its own imposed ideology that we fail to understand its death toll. Franco-Bulgarian philosopher Tzvetan Todorovwrote that “remembrance of our own woes prevents us from seeing the suffering of others,” and while true, the converse is also accurate.

While admitting that capitalism provided for unprecedented class mobility and technological innovation, an honest consideration of its death toll in any hypothetical Black Book of Capitalism would have to include not just the obvious fatalities of those who died in industrial accidents or whose lives were shortened by their labor, but indeed the victims of colonialism, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and of fascismo corporativo, which is simply capitalism driven to its horrifying end.

Invisibility of such atrocities through normalization is a species of what the philosopher Louis Althusser termed “interpellation,” that is to say that we’re all molded subjects of the ideology that governs our world so that we mostly hold uncritical assumptions about capitalism’s normativity.

Writer William T. Vollmann addresses future generations in his new tome on climate change Carbon Ideologies, explaining that “We all lived for money, and that is what we died for.” As 2040 approaches our ignorance is a form of collective suicide.

The Editorial Board of theWashington Post writes that future “Historians will look in absolute astonishment” that not only did our governments and corporate elite fail to halt climate change, but that our policy makers “actually pushed in the wrong direction.”

That’s assuming that there will even be any historians left after the climate change horseman of pestilence, famine, war, and death gallop across the scorched and burning world, their riders named “Deregulation,” “Bottom Line,” “Market,” and “Profit.”

An August environmental impact statement prepared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concedes that far from being a “Chinese hoax” as Trump has alleged, the average temperature will rise seven degrees by century’s end.

Quite a wide gulf between what the Trump administration knows to be true and what his deluded believers will swallow.

Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, and Chris Mooney at the Washington Post write that the Trump “administration did not offer this dire forecast … as part of an effort to combat climate change,” for their “analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.”

Why prevent collapse when Trump concludes that there is still so much money to be made in not averting disaster?

This is the nightmare logic of scarcity capitalism, the macabre calculus which is content to let millions of people starve in the third world and that will ultimately exterminate refugees who dare to escape a parched landscape, all so that the economic status quo can be maintained before the process kills us all.

The puritanism of corporate eco-individualism which configures environmental protection as simply a matter of driving a Prius or taking short showers is moral contrition or personal branding rather than policy, a quasi-theological sacrifice before the altar of the dying Earth.

What’s actually required is a massive, international, eco-socialist mobilization of governments and industries that are responsible for this calamity. Because right now capitalism’s final solution is nothing less than complete ecological collapse.

In his 1888 autobiographical Ecce Homo, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche eerily predicted that the 20th century would witness “wars as have never happened on earth.”

With chaos brought about by the scarcity resulting from climate change, we may reevaluate how prescient Nietzsche was about the last century, realizing that he was perhaps actually off by a hundred years.


What's omitted in IPCC report

SUBHEAD: The scariest thing about the IPCC Report — it’s the watered down, consensus version.

By Jon Queally on 9 October 2018 for Common Dreams -

Image above: A burned truck and structures are seen at the Butte Fire on September 13, 2015 near San Andreas, California. California governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in Amador and Calaveras counties where the 100-square-mile wildfire has burned scores of structures so far and is threatening 6,400 in the historic Gold Country of the Sierra Nevada foothills.Photo by David McNew. From original article.

If the latest warnings contained in Monday's report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—which included pronouncements that the world has less than twelve years to drastically alter course to avoid the worst impacts of human-caused global warming and that nothing less than keeping all fossil fuels in the ground is the solution to avoid future calamities—have you at all frightened or despondent, experts responding to the report have a potentially unwelcome message for your already over-burdened heart and mind:
It's very likely even worse than you're being told.
After the report's publication there were headlines like: "We have 12 years to act on climate change before the world as we know it is lost. How much more urgent can it get?" and "Science pronounces its verdict: World to be doomed at 2°C, less dangerous at 1.5°C" and "A major new climate report slams the door on wishful thinking."

But as Jamie Henn, co-founder and the program director for the international climate group 350.org, stated in a tweet on Tuesday, the "scariest thing about the IPCC Report" is the fact that "it's the watered down, consensus version. The latest science is much, much, much more terrifying."

Henn was actually responding to Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann who was pushing back against those criticizing the IPCC report as too "alarmist" in its declarations and warnings.

"If anything," Professor Mann declared, "it is the opposite. Once again, with their latest report, they have been overly conservative (ie. erring on the side of understating/underestimating the problem.)"

This is very possibly true and there is much scientific data and argument backing this up.

As Henn and Mann both indicate, the IPCC report is based on the consensus view of the hundreds of scientists who make up the IPCC – and its been consistently true that some of the most recent (and increasingly worrying) scientific findings have not yet found enough support to make it into these major reports which rely on near-unanimous agreement.

According to Durwood Zaelke, founder of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, speaking to The Guardian in the wake of the latest IPCC report, it "fails to focus on the weakest link in the climate chain: the self-reinforcing feedbacks which, if allowed to continue, will accelerate warming and risk cascading climate tipping points and runaway warming."

In August, as Common Dreams reported, research published by Johan Rockström and his colleagues at the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden found that it is precisely these feedback loops and tipping points that should most frighten and concern humanity.

While nascent and not conclusive in its findings—two of the reasons you won't find it referenced in the IPCC report—the study warned that humanity may be just 1°C away from creating a series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

Quoted in Tuesday's Guardian article about the dangers of ignoring potential tipping points, Nobel prize laureate Mario Molina, who shared the award for chemistry in 1995 for his work on ozone depletion, said:
"The IPCC report demonstrates that it is still possible to keep the climate relatively safe, provided we muster an unprecedented level of cooperation, extraordinary speed and heroic scale of action. But even with its description of the increasing impacts that lie ahead, the IPCC understates a key risk: that self-reinforcing feedback loops could push the climate system into chaos before we have time to tame our energy system, and the other sources of climate pollution."

The purpose of recognizing the terrifying predictions is not to instill fear, however, climate campaigners and advocates for bold solutions say.

In a paper authored last year—titled Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: A New Strategy for the Climate Movement—Margaret Klein Salamon writes that while a World War II-style mobilization is necessary to achieve the kind emission cuts and energy transformation that science now mandates, understanding the stakes does not necessarily mean being debilitated by that knowledge.

In an op-ed for Common Dreams, she argued "that intense, but not paralyzing, fear combined with maximum hope can actually lead people and groups into a state of peak performance.

We can rise to the challenge of our time and dedicate ourselves to become heroic messengers and change-makers."

And as Rajiv Sicora, senior manager of research for The Leap, wrote to his group's supporters in an email on Tuesday:
"This is not the time to turn away, whether in fear or in active denial of the facts. This is a time to use our fear as fuel: because the report also makes clear that the worst effects of global warming can still be prevented, and the urgency of transformative change should excite and empower all of us who are fighting for justice anyway."