Month: March 2009

Little Brother Watching Obama in The Evil House

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Just came across “Obama Watch”, which is a service by the World War 4 Report:

Mission Statement

World War 4 Report has been monitoring the Global War on Terrorism and its implications for human rights, democracy and ecology since the immediate aftermath of 9-11. With an international network of contacts and correspondents, we scan the world press and Internet for important stories overlooked by the mass media, and examine the headlines with a critical eye for distortion, deceit and propaganda.

We report on the forgotten wars outside the media spotlight, and seek out unexamined contexts that go beyond mainstream sound-bite coverage. We endeavor to expose the corporate agendas behind the new military interventions, and to find pro-autonomy, anti-militarist voices we can support in the countries under imperialist assault. We especially seek to loan solidarity to land-rooted, stateless, and indigenous peoples—the “Fourth World.”

Above all, we are committed to real journalism (as opposed to mere opinion-spewing and bloggery), and seek through our example to resist its alarming decline. We are fastidiously non-sectarian, and our first loyalty is always to the truth.

Coca-Cola India Foundation & Shashi Tharoor: Greenwashing at its best!

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The long-running and hard working campaign against the extreme behaviour of the Coca-Cola Company – the makers of soft drinks synonymous with The American Empire (which, of course, included trading with Nazi Germany, just like the Bush family and IBM, Ford etc.) – by the India Resource Center, has written an open letter to the celebrity writer, diplomat and capitalist Shashi Tharoor.

He is the perfect “cute”, intellectual poster boy for the celebrity-industrial complex, who after failing to succeed Kofi Annan as Secretary-General of the United Nations (“he came a close second“), has become a figurehead of Coke’s greenwashing front, called the Coca-Cola India Foundation.  Poster-boy responds, showing for all to see just how corporate the UN world and all the rest of those claiming to represent the people (who pay for their extravagant life styles) are:

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Ecosystems Services and IIRSA: Roads and Price Tags all over the Amazon

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The WWF – the ones with the Panda logo – have published a report on the details about “saving” the Amazon rain forest by putting a price tag on every thing, – sorry, assets is probably a better term-, that the rain forest possesses.

The report – Pita Verweij, Marieke Schouten, Pieter van Beukering, Jorge Triana, Kim van der Leeuw and Sebastiaan Hess. Keeping the Amazon forests standing: a matter of values, WWF-Netherlands 2009 – is presented here by Mongobay.

This bizarre fashion of price tagging everything starts with the realisation that the market mechanisms have failed the environment, which is a pretty good observation, but then proceeds to suggest that the very same paradigm of thinking – the economistic, capitalistic reductionist line of thinking – should simply also be applied to “the environment”, since it provides humans with valuable “ecosystems services“. If it is not tagged with a price, why care for it?

While this whole business, as it were, sounds rather disturbing (Can two wrongs make a right? Can a problem be solved from within the paradigm it was created? Einstein famously answered the latter question, of course), the report has some very good bits – it is a very comprehensive report that deserves wider attention, but the price tagging horror really does not appeal very much – at all – to colonos or any of the people we have worked with in the forest. Essentially, it sounds like a lose-lose scenario: either lose the forest or sell it to the highest bidder? And bidding is low these days of financial collapse, so one could hardly imagine worse timing for the publication of this report.

Interestingly, it has a pretty good section on IIRSA, which has been covered again and again here, but the section does not include reference to the Manta-Manaus/Manaos corridor. This goes to show just how big the “biggest infrastructure project in history” is: an otherwise detailed and comprehensive report does not need to list the Manta-Manaus corridor in order to show just how much of a horror show that IIRSA is threatening to be:

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Accion Ecologica under threat or is it a bureaucratic formality?

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Acción Ecológica is an environmental NGO in Ecuador, which includes a wide variety of actors in diverse groups. They do a lot of good work and offer an institutional setting, training and education as well as a platform for action and publication of research to protect the environment against the Ecuadorian state, which is more industrial and progressive than ever.

aeRecently rumours started circulating that there was a plot against Acción Ecológica – that the government, currently in serious stand-offs with the people in connection particularly with the aggressive expansion of the mining industry, wants to shut down Acción Ecológica.

It is unclear what exactly is happening, but the the story is – more or less – that they got a letter from the Health Department (through which the NGO was legalised as a juridical person) saying that their juridical status has expired. The official explanation is that that is the case for all organisations that became legal institutions over 20 years ago (before the Department of the Environment existed) and that it’s just a bureaucratic formality to now get registered as juridical entity via the Dept. of Environment.

On their website Acción Ecológica says that the Health Department said they’d withdraw the juridical status of Acción Ecológica because they have not fulfilled the objectives for which they were set up. Something might smell fishy and Acción Ecológica therefore calls for support.

Another hard-luck story: Climate Change, the Amazon and the Arctic

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In yesterday’s Guardian there is yet “another hard-luck story that you’re gonna hear”:

“Chris Jones, who led the research, told the conference: “A temperature rise of anything over 1C commits you to some future loss of Amazon forest. Even the commonly quoted 2C target already commits us to 20-40% loss. On any kind of pragmatic timescale, I think we should see loss of the Amazon forest as irreversible.” Peter Cox, professor of climate system dynamics at the University of Exeter, said the effects would be felt around the world. “Ecologically it would be a catastrophe and it would be taking a huge chance with our own climate. The tropics are drivers of the world’s weather systems and killing the Amazon is likely to change them forever. We don’t know exactly what would happen but we could expect more extreme weather.”

Massive Amazon loss would also amplify global warming “significantly” he said. “Destroying the Amazon would also turn what is a significant carbon sink into a significant source.””

Just a few days ago new results came out about the loss of arctic ice showing once again that predictions are continuously shown to be way too conservative – positive feedback loops are upon us:

“Amazon dieback is one of the key positive feedbacks brought about by global warming. These are typically runaway processes in which global temperature rises lead to further releases of CO², which in turn brings about more global warming. In the Amazon this happens on a more localised scale but the result, increased forest death, also releases carbon into the atmosphere.

Experts predict that higher worldwide temperatures will reduce rainfall in the Amazon region, which will cause widespread local drought. With less water and tree growth, “homegrown” rainfall produced by the forest will reduce as well, as it depends on water passed into the atmosphere above the forests by the trees. The cycle continues, with even less rain causing more drought, and so on.

With no water, the root systems collapse and the trees fall over. The parched forest becomes tinderbox dry and more susceptible to fire, which can spread to destroy the still-healthy patches of forest.

Other positive feedback effects expected by scientists, are releases of carbon stored in frozen arctic ecosystems and an increase in the sun’s energy absorbed by the planet as ice melts.”

As already mentioned above, new results from the ice front have arrived and the predictions for an ice free Arctic summer is not far in the future:

“The year “2013 is starting to look as though it is a lot more reasonable as a prediction. But each year we’ve been wrong — each year we’re finding that it’s a little bit faster than expected,” he told Reuters.

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and the sea ice cover shrank to a record low in 2007 before growing slightly in 2008.

In 2004 a major international panel forecast the cover could vanish by 2100. Last December, some experts said the summer ice could go in the next 10 or 20 years.

If the ice cover disappears, it could have major consequences. Shipping companies are already musing about short cuts through the Arctic, which also contains enormous reserves of oil and natural gas.”

It’s not looking good.

In a permanent state of exception the Earth is to be a garden as a rule

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Assuming that there is a global crisis – financial, climate change and starvation – and assuming that something could be done about it – what would it be? The initial reaction has been to push for more of the same – more debts to be created in order to keep economic power in the same hands. Maybe a few policy changes to avoid too extreme corruption and self-aggrandisement, removal of some draconian measures, but that’s about it. Spend more, that is way to go. It sounds so simple and in a sense it is: wiping the rich people’s slates clean so that they can lend more money for the poor to spend. If it makes you think of spiralling further down into an abyss we’re on the same wave length.

In order, then, to get the American people to spend more money that they don’t have - the total outstanding credit card debt carried by Americans reached a record $951 billion in 2008, constituting a next level in the financial collapse of a system based on ever-increasing debt – president Obama is suggesting “a $410bn (£290bn) spending bill due to be voted on this week“. Part of this bill seeks to lift some of the extreme anti-Cuban legislation that was introduced during the administration of Bush the Second.

There is no doubt about it, Obama – the man in the White House – gives good speeches, but even an old World Banker takes note of the fact that Obama’s grand plan to save the world and “the hardest working people on Earth” (he says it as if it a good thing??) from their predicaments is insubstantial (These videos gives you an insight from the inside – if you really want to know about all the little sheenanigans of a failed system or just want to see the Emperor of the Free World sit before you in his shiny new clothes. Characteristic of times of crisis he looks and sounds like a rhetorical stooge with a nationalistic appeal “the greatest force of progress and prosperity [and climate change?!]“)

Anyway, the Cuban news is a tangent that invites viewing the world from a Latin American perspective.

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