Refugees

We have breached the first tipping point.

 Two critical tipping points have been breached. This is the critical moment in an evolving system when feedback becomes strong enough to continue on its own without any further input. The tipping point is that moment when a gradual increase becomes unstoppable because the feedback maintains its own momentum. There is nowhere to go under these circumstances, and nothing can be done to prevent it continuing. It is the point when an everyday infection turns epidemic.

We have now breached the edge from two events. One is a remarkable collapse of summer sea ice in the Arctic with enormous consequences, especially on the Gulfstream, which is driven by the flood of cold water that emerges from under the Arctic ice. Now that summers are going to be more and more ice-free the permanent disruption of the Gulfstream becomes more likely. With it will come, inevitably, a change in temperatures and weather in North America and Europe. It may herald an ice age, but it is more likely, according to current thinking, to create even more dangerous weather patterns than we have experienced hitherto.

The other event is the extraordinary growth of methane being exhausted into the air, especially in Siberia that has gained more heat than anywhere else. Some is from clathrates under the ocean floor, and some from the melting of the permafrost. These emissions are now many many times greater than science had expected, and it is feared that they have reached a point where they are feeding back on themselves and are becoming unstoppable.

Together they have brought us to the first tipping point, as this will set off more.

As methane is some 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in heating the planet, further heat is now expected to proceed at an extremely fast rate. It is likely that from here on the consequences of what we have been doing will impact on our lives more severely every year. Larger hurricanes, catastrophic fires, burning temperatures, endless droughts and fierce storm surges are to be the norm.

Together, the feedback loops now in place in the Arctic and in Siberia will inexorably build on themselves. The time when we could have curtailed this disaster has passed. Hanging on to a 2oC limit was a mistake. Thinking of limits when feedback cuts in is ridiculous. Some will continue to argue that we can still do something. Politically, socially, and militarily this is highly unlikely.

If we had listened to the science ten years ago we may not now be in this fix. In 2006 on the PlanetExtinction website my banner said “we have eight years to stop …”, only eight years to end the use of fossil fuels and reverse the trend. It seems that I was over optimistic. We had six.

We are not going to stop the juggernaut of greed that is determined to destroy this beautiful earth, all for the sake of profit, so what can we do under the circumstances? The end-game will be played out in its own time, and will be dealt us by Gaia. But we, the ordinary people, need to protect our lives and our children and what we can of our heritage. There are many schemes and proposals such as Transition Towns, and of these we may take our pick.

Essentially we need ways to increase our personal and social resilience while coming into communities that are dedicated to preserving what matters most. It means training ourselves from today onwards in the ancient trades of farming and clothing, of healing and shelter.

At the same time we need to consider the moral issues, for they will determine how we will react in stress. We need to discuss our options in advance of the coming catastrophe. For example, a sea rise of some metres in Australia would create more than a million refugees. In shock, destitute, desperate for food and lodging, how would any community that has set out to preserve itself handle such an influx? Governments would be compelled to maintain order with reflexes that are likely to be draconian, and political bullies would take advantage of the panic for their own ends.

How does a Morality of Survival deal with this and many similar situations? If not publicly aired, and quickly, our ability to respond is likely to be overwhelmed by events.

Ideally, governments should take the lead, and provide nurture and guidance where it is needed. Frankly, I think this is highly unlikely. It therefore comes down to us, as individuals and as communities, to find our way through the mess that is coming.

We cannot hide our heads and pretend there is still time left to change this world into a better place. From here on we will be more and more at the mercy of the grim forces we have unleashed.

If we continue to direct our efforts towards modifying the rush to insanity, we will have wasted our time and will be thrashed by the outcome. It is now time to become Survivors.

Caught in the cross fire of futility and cant

Mike Carlton :

THE scene is now all too familiar. There is the coffin draped in the Australian flag and topped by a slouch hat and medals, borne from the aircraft by solemn young men in khaki.

A chaplain in vestments and a lone piper walk before it, past the saluting colonels and captains. Somewhere in the background there are grandparents struggling to hold it together for the sake of a grieving widow and her stricken, bewildered children.

The rest of us watch this on television for our one minute, 45 seconds of couch compassion and then get on with the really important news: the Roosters have sacked their coach, a celebrity chef has lost a Good Food Guide hat, and halfwits have trolled a TV star on Twitter.

When are we going to cry out that enough is enough? When are we going to rise up to demand that not one more husband, father, brother, mate, should die in this bloody, treacherous and futile war in Afghanistan?

When will we, the Australian people, shout with one voice that the war is lost and it’s time to bring our soldiers home, not in 2014 but now. I have seen too much of this in my lifetime. In World War II we fought for a noble cause, the defeat of German Nazism, Italian Fascism and Japanese militarism.

Since then, from Korea to Afghanistan via Vietnam and Iraq, we have become enmeshed in failed conflicts fomented in folly and ignorance, and buttressed by the lies and deceit of politicians, generals and, yes, the media.

Korea, the so-called forgotten war, was to stop the march of godless communism.

It ended with 340 Australian dead, although not in a permanent peace but an armistice in which great armies still confront each other.

Vietnam, you will remember, was justified by the domino theory, which held that if South Vietnam fell the rest of south-east Asia would topple to communism as well, all the way to Indonesia. Better to stop them there than here, was the cry.

We lost 521 men killed for that lie.

In Iraq, it was to wipe out al-Qaeda and to seize Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. It would be a “cakewalk”; the US Marines would be garlanded with flowers in the streets of Baghdad, “greeted like liberators”, we were told. Australia’s chief contribution to that war was to pump $221.7 million into Saddam’s bank account for “transportation costs” in the still-unpunished Australian Wheat Board scandal.

Afghanistan was to go after al-Qaeda yet again. When Osama bin Laden was caught not there but, magically, a stone’s throw down the road from the Pakistan Military Academy, the war somehow morphed into a fight against the Taliban, a murderous bunch of Islamic fanatics to be sure, but of no conceivable security threat to Australia. So far it’s 38 Australians killed and counting – dying not for their country, as our mealy-mouthed leaders would have us believe, but in defence of the venal and thuggish Karzai regime.

The cant and the hypocrisy keep coming. We are there to get the job done, to see the mission through. But we learn nothing from history. When we eventually quit Afghanistan, as the British did in the 19th century and the Soviet Union in the 20th, the place will revert to what it always was , a violent wasteland of warlords growing opium poppies. What fools we are.

 IT’S not only the dead. It’s the wounded, too, the hundreds if not thousands of men who carry the physical and mental scars of battle for life.

At Christmas 1966 I was an ABC war correspondent in Vietnam, tape-recording greetings from our Diggers to be broadcast to their families on their hometown radio stations.

There was one bloke lying in an American military hospital outside Saigon. Drips and drains trailed from the bed covers tented over him and he was groggy from the painkillers, but he was glad to hear an Australian accent among all the Yanks and he managed to mumble a cheerful greeting to mum and dad and his little sister somewhere in the Riverina. Don’t you worry, getting better, be home soon.

When I left his room I asked a nurse what had happened to him. “His balls were blown off by a landmine,” she said. “But he doesn’t know it yet.”

I saw worse in that war. Corpses fried by napalm; a village well in Cambodia filled with a reeking stew of human remains; dying soldiers crying out for their mothers, as dying soldiers do. But I am haunted today by the memory of that young man because he was my own age, just 20, and I have wondered ever since what happened to him. Perhaps he made it OK. Perhaps he committed suicide like so many of his fellow Vietnam vets. I do not know.

We treat our wounded veterans differently these days. They and their families are better cared for. But the terrible toll accumulates still, hidden from our sight and our minds. In a couple of weeks, one of our former commanders in Afghanistan, retired Major-General John Cantwell, will publish a book of his memoirs, Exit Wounds.

I’ve seen an advance copy. Read it and weep.

US report on reasons for no longer supporting Israel

•   Israel, given its current brutal occupation and belligerence cannot be salvaged any more than apartheid south Africa could be when as late as 1987 Israel was the only “Western” nation that upheld diplomatic ties with South Africa and was the last country to join the international boycott campaign before the regime collapsed;
 
•   The Israel leadership, with its increasing support of the 700,000 illegal settlers on the occupied West Bank is increasing out of touch with the political, military and economic realities of the Middle East;

•   The post Labor government Likud coalition is deeply complicit with and influenced by the settlers’ political and financial power and will increasingly face domestic civil strife which the US government should not associate itself with or become involved with;

•   The Arab Spring and Islamic Awakening has, to a major degree, freed a large majority of the 1.2 billion Arab and Muslims to pursue what an overwhelming majority believe is the illegitimate, immoral and unsustainable European occupation of Palestine of the indigenous population;
 
•   Simultaneous with, but predating, rapidly expanding Arab and Muslim power in the region as evidenced by the Arab spring, Islamic Awakening and the ascendancy of Iran, as American power and influence recedes, the US commitment to belligerent oppressive Israel is becoming impossible to defend or execute consistent given paramount US national interests which include normalizing relations with the 57 Islamic countries;

•   Gross Israeli interference in the internal affairs of the United States through spying and illegal US arms transfers. This includes supporting more than 60 ‘front organizations’ and  approximately 7,500 US officials who do Israel’s bidding and seek to dominate and intimidate the media and agencies of  the US government which should no longer be condoned;
 
•   That the United States government no longer has the financial resources, or public support to continue funding Israel. The more than three trillion dollars in direct and indirect aid from US taxpayers to Israel since 1967 is not affordable and is increasingly being objected to by US taxpayers who oppose continuing American military involvement in the Middle East. US public opinion no longer supports funding and executing widely perceived illegal US wars on Israel’s behalf. This view is increasingly being shared by Europe, Asia and the International public;

•   Israel’s segregationist occupation infrastructure evidenced by legalized discrimination and increasingly separate and unequal justice systems must no longer be directly or indirectly funded by the US taxpayers or ignored by the US government;

•   Israel has failed as a claimed democratic state and continued American financial and political cover will not change its continuing devolution as international pariah state;
 
•   Increasingly, rampant and violent racism exhibited among Jewish settlers in the West Bank is being condoned by the Israeli government to a degree that the Israel government has become its protector and partner;
 
•   The expanding chasm  among American Jews objecting to Zionism and Israeli practices, including the killing and brutalizing of Palestinians under Israeli occupation,  are gross violations of American and International law and raise questions within the US Jewish community regarding the American responsibility to protect (R2P) innocent civilians under occupation;
 
•   The international opposition to the increasingly  apartheid regime can no longer be synchronized with American claimed  humanitarian values or US expectations in its bi-lateral relations with the 193 member United Nations.

For full report and astonishing list of authors.

Droughts bring revolution and war

Climate Change And The Syrian Uprising (By Shahrzad Mohtadi}

A drought unparalleled in recent Syrian history lasted from 2006 to 2010 and led to an unprecedented mass migration of 1.5 million people from farms to urban centers.

Because the Assad regime’s economic policies had largely ignored water issues and sustainable agriculture, the drought destroyed many farming communities and placed great strain on urban populations.

Although not the leading cause of the Syrian rebellion, the drought-induced migration from farm to city clearly contributed to the uprising and serves as a warning of the potential impact of climate change on political stability.

For whole article click here.

 

Hunger Games and cars before people

The rich world is causing the famines it claims to be preventing, by George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 14th August 2012

I don’t blame Mo Farah, Pele and Haile Gebrselassie, who lined up, all hugs and smiles, outside Downing Street for a photocall at the prime minister’s hunger summit. Perhaps they were unaware of the way in which they were being used to promote his corporate and paternalistic approach to overseas aid. Perhaps they were also unaware of the crime against humanity over which he presides. Perhaps Cameron himself is unaware of it.

You should by now have heard about the famine developing in the Sahel region of West Africa. Poor harvests and high food prices threaten the lives of some 18 million people. The global price of food is likely to rise still further, as a result of low crop yields in the United States, caused by the worst drought in 50 years. World cereal prices, in response to this disaster, climbed 17% last month.

We have been cautious about attributing such events to climate change: perhaps too cautious. A new paper by James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, shows that there has been a sharp increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers. Between 1951 and 1980 these events affected between 0.1 and 0.2% of the world’s land surface each year. Now, on average, they affect 10%. Hansen explains that “the odds that natural variability created these extremes are minuscule, vanishingly small”. Both the droughts in the Sahel and the US crop failures are likely to be the result of climate change.

But this is not the only sense in which the rich world’s use of fuel is causing the poor to starve. In the United Kingdom, in the rest of the European Union and in the United States, governments have chosen to deploy a cure as bad as the disease. Despite overwhelming evidence of the harm their policy is causing, none of them will change course.

Biofuels are the means by which governments in the rich world avoid hard choices. Rather than raise fuel economy standards as far as technology allows, rather than promoting a shift from driving to public transport, walking and cycling, rather than insisting on better town planning to reduce the need to travel, they have chosen to exchange our wild overconsumption of petroleum for the wild overconsumption of fuel made from crops. No one has to drive less or make a better car: everything remains the same except the source of fuel. The result is a competition between the world’s richest and poorest consumers, a contest between overconsumption and survival. There was never any doubt about which side would win.

I’ve been banging on about this since 2004, and everything I warned of then has happened. The US and the European Union have both set targets and created generous financial incentives for the use of biofuels. The results have been a disaster for people and the planet.

Already, 40% of US corn (maize) production is used to feed cars. The proportion will rise this year as a result of the smaller harvest. Though the market for biodiesel is largely confined to the European Union, it has already captured seven per cent of the world’s output of vegetable oil. The European Commission admits that its target (10% of transport fuels by 2020) will raise world cereal prices by between 3 and 6%. Oxfam estimates that with every 1% increase in the price of food, another 16 million people go hungry.

By 2021, the OECD says, 14% of the world’s maize and other coarse grains, 16% of its vegetable oil and 34% of its sugarcane will be used to make people in the gas guzzling nations feel better about themselves. The demand for biofuel will be met, it reports, partly through an increase in production; partly through a “reduction in human consumption.” The poor will starve so that the rich can drive.

The rich world’s demand for biofuels is already causing a global land grab. ActionAid estimates that European companies have now seized five million hectares of farmland – an area the size of Denmark – in developing countries for industrial biofuel production. Small farmers, growing food for themselves and local markets, have been thrown off their land and destituted. Tropical forests, savannahs and grasslands have been cleared to plant what the industry still calls “green fuels”.

When the impacts of land clearance and the use of nitrogen fertilisers are taken into account, biofuels produce more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels do. The UK, which claims that half the biofuel sold here meets its sustainability criteria, solves this problem by excluding the greenhouse gas emissions caused by changes in land use. Its sustainability criteria are, as a result, worthless.

Even second generation biofuels, made from crop wastes or wood, are an environmental disaster, either extending the cultivated area or removing the straw and stovers which protect the soil from erosion and keep carbon and nutrients in the ground. The combination of first and second generation biofuels – encouraging farmers to plough up grasslands and to leave the soil bare – and hot summers could create the perfect conditions for a new dust bowl.

Our government knows all this. One of its own studies shows that if the European Union stopped producing biofuels, the amount of vegetable oils it exported to world markets would rise by 20% and the amount of wheat by 33%, reducing world prices.

Preparing for the prime minister’s hunger summit on Sunday, the international development department argued that, with a rising population, “the food production system will need to be radically overhauled, not just to produce more food but to produce it sustainably and fairly to ensure that the poorest people have the access to food that they need.” But another government department – transport – boasts on its website that, thanks to its policies, drivers in this country have now used 4.4 billion litres of biofuel. Of this 30% was produced from recycled cooking oil. The rest consists of 3 billion litres of refined energy snatched from the mouths of the people that David Cameron claims to be helping.

Some of those to whom the government is now extending its “nutrition interventions” may have been starved by its own policies. In this and other ways, David Cameron, with the unwitting support of various sporting heroes, is offering charity, not justice. And that is no basis for liberating the poor.

30,000 drones to monitor US citizens

A recent Department of Defense report to Congress as well as a number of media investigations have exposed government plans to deploy tens of thousands of drones over the US mainland in the coming years.

An investigative report published over the weekend by the Christian Science Monitor cited the government’s own estimates that “as many as 30,000 drones could be part of intelligence gathering and law enforcement here in the United States within the next ten years.”

Since Obama signed the bill, hundreds of drones have already begun flying over the US to spy on and monitor the population. A recent ABC News investigative report entitled “UAVs: Will Our Civil Liberties Be Droned Out?” outlined the possibility of drones buzzing overhead becoming “a fact of daily life.”

ABC News reported: “Drones can carry facial recognition cameras, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors. And they can be armed.”

“Among the most eager to fly domestic drones are America’s police departments,” the report stated. “In Texas, a Montgomery county sheriff’s office recently said it would deploy a drone bought with money from a Department of Homeland Security grant and was contemplating arming the drone with non-lethal weapons like tear gas, rubber bullets or Taser-style rounds.”

The ABC News report identified “political protests” as one of the activities that can be monitored by drones.

Read whole article here.

Draining aquifers feeds rising sea levels

Humanity’s unquenchable thirst for fresh water is driving up sea levels even faster than melting glaciers, according to new research. The massive impact of the global population‘s growing need for water on rising sea levels is revealed in a comprehensive assessment of all the ways in which people use water.

Trillions of tonnes of water have been pumped up from deep underground reservoirs in every part of the world and then channeled into fields and pipes to keep communities fed and watered. The water then flows into the oceans, but far more quickly than the ancient aquifers are replenished by rains. The global tide would be rising even more quickly but for the fact that manmade reservoirs have, until now, held back the flow by storing huge amounts of water on land.

Read it here.

Rush to buy up Africa

Almost 5% of Africa‘s agricultural land has been bought or leased by investors since 2000, according to an international coalition of researchers and NGOs that has released the world’s largest public database of international land deals.

The database, launched on Thursday, lifts the lid on a decade of secretive deals struck by governments, investors and speculators seeking large tracts of fertile land in developing countries around the world.

The past five years have seen a flood of reports of investors snapping up land at rock-bottom prices in some of the world’s poorest countries. But, despite growing concern about the local impacts of so-called “land grabs”, the lack of reliable data has made it difficult to pin down the real extent and nature of the global rush for land.

Read full report in the Guardian here.

Rising Sea Level Threat to Coastal US

About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research.

If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century.

By far the most vulnerable state is Florida, the new analysis found, with roughly half of the nation’s at-risk population living near the coast on the porous, low-lying limestone shelf that constitutes much of that state. But Louisiana, California, New York and New Jersey are also particularly vulnerable, researchers found, and virtually the entire American coastline is at some degree of risk.

full article click here.

Catastrophic flood could sink Sydney suburbs

The Hawkesbury Nepean Valley in Sydney’s outer suburbs has a history of massive floods, and while there has not been a big one for more than a century, plans are in place for such an event.

The suburbs of Penrith and Emu Plains straddle the high banks of the Nepean River in what is a typical picture of Australian suburbia – lots of brick houses, probably built around the 1960s and ’70s. But up to 70,000 people would have to be evacuated if a major flood was to hit the area.

The suburbs sit in a flood plain, and if a flood like the one which hit in 1867 was to occur, the whole area could go under. 

Read more.