Climate Change

Rome Summit Takes Bold Step Toward Agroecology

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/10/2019 - 3:32am in

By Timothy A. Wise

This was originally published at Common Dreams.

The Climate Action Summit at the UN last month was widely considered a disappointment, failing to garner the kinds of government actions needed to address the climate crisis. Sadly, the same can be said for actions on agriculture and climate change, despite a well-publicized commitment of $790 million to “to enhance resilience of over 300 million small-scale food producers in the face of mounting climate impacts.”

That is not because the investment isn’t needed. It is, desperately. Small-scale farmers in developing countries are already bearing the brunt of climate change yet they have received little of the promised funding to help them adapt to drought, flooding, heat, and other climate changes.

These new initiatives won’t bridge that gap. Just as government actions to date are proving far too weak to address the climate emergency, these agriculture programs support familiar measures that have thus far failed to help small-scale farmers. Some measures have left them even more vulnerable to climate change.

We need a more decisive shift. Fortunately, government leaders took a major step in that direction gather in Rome next last week at for a different summit, the annual meetings of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). They will be discussing approved an expert report on agroecology, an innovative and cost-effective way a more promising innovation to  address rising hunger and malnutrition while helping farmers adapt to climate change. A host of recent UN reports calls for just this sort of break.

“Agroecology is the only solution we have to address the multiple crises we are facing,” said Aisha Ali Aii Shatou of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa to the government representatives at the summit.

When the solutions are part of the problem

The new $790-million agriculture initiative is driven by recommendations from the Global Commission on Adaptation (CGA), which is co-chaired by Bill Gates, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva. Its report, “Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience,” has as one of its core initiatives enhancing the resilience of smallholder producers.

Unfortunately, the Commission largely doubles down on the misguided effort to “modernize” agriculture in developing countries by encouraging farmers to adopt precisely the sorts of fossil-fuel-intensive practices that have made agriculture one of the greatest contributors to global greenhouse-gas emissions. As I saw in researching my book, Eating Tomorrow, crop diversity and soil fertility often decline as a result.

In its recommendations, the commission includes agroecology only as an afterthought, warning that we need to improve “the evidence-base for the effectiveness of adopting different agroecological approaches” – as if we don’t know enough yet to act.

They clearly hadn’t read the new expert report on agroecology and other innovations for sustainable food systems, released July 3 by the CFS’s High Level Panel of Experts. The expert report, two years in the making, is clear on the urgent need for change. “Food systems are at a crossroads. Profound transformation is needed,” the summary begins. It goes on to present a wide range of evidence that such methods have been shown to simultaneously increase soil fertility, diet diversity, and food security for small-scale farmers.

Agroecology promotes just the kinds of soil-building practices that “agricultural modernization” often undermines. Multiple food crops are grown in the same field. Compost and manure, not fossil-fuel-based fertilizer, are used to fertilize fields. Biological pest control decreases pesticide use. Researchers work with farmers to improve the productivity of their seeds rather than replacing them with commercial seeds farmers need to buy every year and douse with fertilizer to make them grow. As the expert report documents, soil fertility increases over time, and so do food security and climate resilience.

Agroecology: a proven response to the failing policies of the present

The growing global interest in agroecology comes in response to the widespread failures of input-intensive programs like the Gates-inspired Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Fed by heavy doses of government subsidies for commercial seeds and synthetic fertilizers, AGRA has promoted monocultures of a few staple crops, decreased crop and diet diversity, undermined soil fertility, and produced disappointing gains in productivity and farmer incomes. Global Hunger Index scores remained in the “serious” to “alarming” category for 12 of the 13 AGRA countries.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its influential report on “Climate Change and Land,” echoed the urgent need for change and the direction that change should take: “[I]ncreasing the resilience of the food system through agroecology and diversification is an effective way to achieve climate change adaptation….”

Fortunately, in Rome government leaders were forward-looking. Many recognized that business as usual, in the face of climate change, is not an option. They moved beyond the failed policies of the present, endorsing agroecology as the kind of innovation farmers need to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

As African farmer Aisha Ali Aii Shatou told the summit, “Agroecology allows small-scale producers a dignified life, producing affordable, healthy food in healthy conditions. It eliminates dependence on costly inputs and adopts practices which regenerate seeds and soils while mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.”

The CFS next year will take up the challenge of translating this visionary report into practical policies.

Author attended the UN’s Committee on World Food Security summit in Rome October 14-18 as a civil society delegate.

Timothy A. Wise directs the Land and Food Rights Program at the U.S.-based Small Planet Institute and is a Senior Researcher at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute. Wise is the author of Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food (The New Press).

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Pleas for Help.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/10/2019 - 12:54pm in

Entomology, the branch of zoology focusing on insects, is not a sexy area of research. As a consequence it has been relatively neglected. Yet, insects are vitally important for life.

Alarmingly, they are disappearing worldwide.

So neglected has been entomology that the credit for the first scientific confirmation of that disappearance can be attributed largely to Krefeld-based German amateur entomologists in a 2017 paper.

Australian scientists are attempting desperately to fill that gap. And it needs to be filled.

(source)
Butterflies Australia website

(source)
Zoos Victoria. State Wide Integrated Fauna and Flora Teams Moth Tracker.

Concerned Australians can contribute.

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This incoming summer promises to be a nightmare, with drought, bushfires, and likely new temperature records. Australian scientists wrote an open letter to Scott Morrison, asking for his intervention to fight the extinction crisis threatening Australian flora and fauna.

Let’s see what Morrison’s reply will be.

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Flying foxes are attempting to adapt to these fast-paced changes. They don’t seem to be too successful.

(source)
Incidentally, they are important pollinators. Apparently, plants are not flowering as usual and flying foxes are trying to find food: another stress shock for all pollinators. And how long will it take until farmers start demanding a culling?

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Individual initiatives will not solve this problem. It requires collective action.

(source)
But sometimes individuals can help. That is an example. Maybe you could as well?

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So, you agree that climate change is anthropogenic and implies an existential threat but you don’t approve of Extinction Rebellion. Perhaps you dislike their methods; you find that kind of protests distasteful, ineffectual, or even counterproductive. Or maybe what you dislike are the individuals who take part in that movement.

Well, there’s an easy solution. Come up with a better idea and put it in practice yourself. Do something beyond bitching, because that isn’t good enough. Put your ass on the line, as they are doing. Either that or fuck off. (I could say that to many, but right now I have you in mind, David Llewellyn-Smith).

ScoMo Appoints Craig Kelly As Minister In Charge Of Guarding The Bee

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 28/10/2019 - 8:32am in

Craigg Kelly

Following news over the weekend that Prime Minister ScoMo had banned a member of his Government Craig Kelly from appearing on the ABC’s Q&A program comes news that the reason for the banning was that Mr Kelly has been promoted to Cabinet as Minister in charge of guarding the Bee.

“In my Government if you have a go you get a go,” said the Prime Minister. “Craig has definitely had a go…at a lot of people and for this reason I see him as being a valuable asset to my Government as guardian of the bee.”

“Craig will work day and night in the bowels of parliament house having no contact what so ever with friends, family, lobbyists or the media in order to keep that bee and my government safe.”

When asked why the Prime Minister was so keen to ‘silence’ Mr Kelly the Prime Minister replied: “No one is silencing Craig Kelly. We’re just making it a little bit harder fro him to talk to anyone. Besides guarding the bee is an important job.”

“I had penciled in the former member for Warringah Tony Abbott for the role should he have won his seat at the last election.”

Mark Williamson

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

In Sydney then come and see out live show November 8th.

Tix here: http://www.thenewsagencyvenue.com/shows/eoyextravaganza

Climate Change as Threat to National Security.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 27/10/2019 - 1:20pm in

A whiff of madness surrounds the Morrison freak show, their minions in the Commonwealth bureaucracy and sycophants in the Murdoch press-titute. The term "climate emergency" was banned, declared taboo, anathema. Caca.

And yet, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Climate change poses a 'direct threat' to Australia's national security. It must be a political priority

Climate change is expected to increase the severity of natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region, straining Australia’s ability to respond through humanitarian missions and fuelling more climate migration. Vlad Sokhin/UNICEF handout Chris Barrie, Australian National University
This is part of a new series looking at the national security challenges facing Australia, how our leaders are responding to them through legislation and how these measures are impacting society. Read the rest of the series here.

It is evident from Australia’s increasingly severe droughts and record-breaking heatwaves that time is running out to take action on climate change.

Yet, despite persistent calls from eminent scientists to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels, a call to action has gone unanswered by our political leaders.

And we aren’t just facing an environmental threat alone in Australia – there are significant implications for our national security and defence capabilities that we haven’t fully reckoned with either.

This point was made abundantly clear in a speech prepared for Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell at an event in June, excerpts of which have been recently published by the media. It noted that Australia is in

the most natural disaster-prone region in the world … [and] climate change is predicted to make disasters more extreme and more common.
If the predictions are correct, [climate change] will have serious ramifications for global security and serious ramifications for the ADF [Australian Defence Force].

 What kinds of security risks do we face?Climate change works as a threat multiplier – it exacerbates the drivers of conflict by deepening existing fragilities within societies, straining weak institutions, reshaping power balances and undermining post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding.

This year’s IISS Armed Conflict Survey noted how

climate-related drivers for armed violence and conflict will increase as climate change progresses.

The survey points out that the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that escalated into civil war was preceded by the country’s deepest and most prolonged drought on record. One study has found the drought was two to three times more likely to happen due to climate change, and that it helped fuel migration to large cities, which in turn exacerbated the social issues that caused the unrest.

In May 2018, I was among numerous experts who provided evidence to a Senate committee examining the potential impacts of climate change on Australia’s national security.
 Increased climate migration and disastersOne of the biggest threats I identified was the possibility of mass migration driven by climate change.

There will be nearly 6 billion people in the Asia-Pacific region by 2050. And if the region has become increasingly destabilised due to climate change, many people will likely be affected by rising sea levels, water and food shortages, armed conflicts and natural disasters, and desperate to find more secure homes.

This is already happening now. Since 2008, it’s estimated that an average of 22.5 million to 24 million people have been displaced globally each year due to catastrophic weather events and climate-related disasters.
Read more: US military strategists warn that climate is a 'catalyst for conflict'
And a new World Bank report estimates that 143 million people in three developing regions alone – sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America – could become climate migrants by 2050.

They will migrate from less viable areas with lower water availability and crop productivity and from areas affected by rising sea level and storm surges. The poorest and most climate-vulnerable areas will be hardest hit.

Australia, with its very low population density, will likely be an attractive place for climate migrants to attempt to resettle. The World Bank has called on Australia to allow open migration from climate-affected Pacific islands, but successive governments haven’t exactly been open to refugees and asylum seekers in recent years.
Read more: Refuge City, a new kind of city for our times
If we don’t have a plan in place, our estimated 2050 population of 37.6 million could be overwhelmed by the scale of the national security problem.

Other experts agreed. American climate security expert Sherri Goodman described climate change as a “direct threat to the national security of Australia”, saying the region is

most likely to see increasing waves of migration from small island states or storm-affected, highly populated areas in Asia that can’t accommodate people when a very strong storm hits.

Australia would also struggle to respond to worsening natural disasters in our region either caused by or exacerbated by climate change.

As part of the Senate inquiry, the Department of Defence noted an “upwards trend” in both disaster-related events in the Asia-Pacific region and disaster-related defence operations in the past 20 years.

As alluded to in the speech prepared for Campbell in June, we could easily find ourselves overwhelmed by disaster relief missions due to the severity and scale of future weather events, or due to a series of events that occur concurrently in dispersed locations.

This would stretch our available first responder forces – defence, police, ambulance, firefighters and other emergency services – even in the absence of any other higher priority peacekeeping missions around the world.
 Recommendations for a way forwardThe Senate report listed 11 recommendations for action by national security agencies and the government.

Among these were calls for:

  • the government to develop a climate security white paper to guide a coordinated government response to climate change risks
  • the Department of Defence to consider releasing an unclassified version of the work it has undertaken already to identify climate risks to the country
  • the government to consider a dedicated climate security leadership position in Home Affairs to coordinate climate resilience issues
  • and the Department of Defence to create a dedicated senior leadership position to oversee the delivery of domestic and international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as climate pressures increase over time.

Some of these findings were contested. In their comments, the Coalition senators made a point of saying how well the government has been doing on climate change in the defence and foreign affairs portfolios. Sufficient strategies are in place

to ensure Australia’s response to the implications of climate change on national security is well understood and consistent across the whole of government.

They also considered that a separate recommendation on defence emissions reduction targets fell outside the spirit of the inquiry. They did not support it.
 A lack of urgency and responseThe findings in the report are a cause for concern. The recommendations lack timetables for action and a sense of urgency.

The Senate committee also admitted its own shortcomings. For instance, it couldn’t adequately examine the potential impacts of climate change on Australia’s economy, infrastructure and community health and well-being due to a lack of substantial evidence on these issues.
Read more: Senate report: climate change is a clear and present danger to Australia's security
Furthermore, and most worryingly, it seems the government just doesn’t care enough. It has yet to table a response to the report more than a year later.

A welcome development would be if the government announced a climate change security white paper that clearly spells out where ministers stand on the issue and the specific measures we need to take to prepare for the threats ahead. It would also dispel the concerns of many Australians about our future readiness.

But the Coalition’s response to the Senate report is breathtakingly complacent and smacks of reckless negligence since Australia is on the front line when it comes to climate change and our national security faces undeniably serious risks.

Climate change is already presenting significant challenges to governance, our institutions and the fabric of our societies. It’s time we recognise the potential threats to security in our region, as well.

The Conversation

Chris Barrie, Honorary Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Politics and the Anthropocene: Interview with author Duncan Kelly on ‘a puzzle, a problem, a dilemma’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 21/10/2019 - 10:04pm in

In his new book Politics and the Anthropocene (Polity), Duncan Kelly, Professor of Political Thought and Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge, considers how this new geological era could shape our future by engaging with the recent past of political thought and the potential for democratic politics to negotiate this challenge. In this interview he speaks to Robert McLachlan, Distinguished Professor in the School of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University, who writes on climate and the global ecological crisis at planetaryecology.org.

Politics and the Anthropocene: Interview with author Duncan Kelly on ‘a puzzle, a problem, a dilemma’

Robert McLachlan: Today we seem to be seeing the convergence of several factors: the ecological crisis; an apparent change in democracy such as the decline of the traditional political parties; the rise of social media; and the emergence of ‘fake news’. Is their simultaneous emergence a coincidence? They seem to be related.

Duncan Kelly: They are related in some way. The climate crisis, and our awareness of it, is connected to a deep-seated worry about the future of democracy and its ability to cope with crises that affect the lived environment. Also, the post-truth phenomenon is much more easily seen through the prism of the climate catastrophe, because it’s such an obvious space in which actors can disagree. The disagreements can be curated in particular spaces, especially online ones which allow people to filter their viewpoints and find out what they think they want to hear, and then see more of what they think they want to know. There must be connections between those things, although it’s difficult to say if one causes the other.

Some people argue that because democratic politics is so (relatively speaking) new, the fact that it’s in a slump or crisis is only what we should have expected. All political regimes rise and fall. Democracy as we know it, for most people, is only 100 years old. And even then, it was hardly equality for everyone. It still doesn’t signify for most people in most places anything beyond the most rudimentary equality, where everyone gets a vote. We’ve become accustomed to democracy over several generations, but there’s no reason to think it will last forever.

RM: So if we believe in the future of democracy, we need to be constantly reminding people of what it is and its value.

DK: Absolutely. But so many clever and interesting people over the last 70 years have argued that the best thing about democracy is that it is so minimal that you can disaggregate the value from the process. If all you want is a fairly thin account of democracy as a procedure –everyone has citizenship, everyone has the right to vote, democracy is just about the competition for votes between the politicians and the rest of us, the politicians get on and do what they want and leave us alone to do what we want – then that’s the best you can have. But that suggests that democracy itself doesn’t have any intrinsic value; it’s just a process.

RM: In climate change circles, it’s discussed whether this global-scale ecological problem is a fundamental difficulty for democracy. Perhaps it’s only a difficulty for this very thin democracy?

DK: I think so. Because we so readily think of democracy as bound up with nations and territories and states that have their own interests and populations which are supposed to come first, it’s difficult to see the possibility of democracy as a procedure that can unify a set of interests between states. This is why international agreements are so very difficult to achieve. That’s before you even get down into the detail of what people are trying to discuss, like treaties and regulations. International cooperation is massively difficult.

RM: It’s difficult, and we don’t have many positive examples.

DK: That’s true. One of the things I tried to do in The Politics of the Anthropocene is to say that even the sorts of examples that we have of large-scale international management and cooperation, from the League of Nations after the First World War through to the United Nations and the Sustainable Development Goals, all come packaged in ways that have their inequalities baked into them from the outset. Assumptions about civilisation and hierarchies, racial and economic exclusions, are so deeply entrenched in the mindsets of the people who were involved with them that they were bound to run into the limits of their own imagination quite quickly.

RM: You nonetheless write that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5ºC report is a ‘radical political document’.

DK: I think it is! Their reports, both 1.5ºC and the more recent one on land use, have become increasingly radical, in tone and in message. The language through which the radicalism is expressed is often very, very flat – and has to be, because it’s not supposed to be an overtly political document. However, that slogan, ‘1.5 to stay alive’, was incredibly radical. It captured something of the zeitgeist. People do recognise that temperature is a very obvious manifestation of climate change, even if you read David Wallace-Wells’s recent popular book, just laying out in narrative fashion what is already happening and what is inescapably going to happen. It won’t take much warming for humans to become unable to survive in certain climates. So where should the action be, politically, in response to this document? It does seem to be another instance where an environmental conclusion becomes a motivation for individuals: you think ‘what can I do to change my behaviour?’ Though whether it opens up the possibility for large-scale political or corporate change is a really difficult question.

RM: You’re strongly opposed to fatalism, of both the optimistic kind (‘technology and markets will save us’) and the pessimistic (‘we’re doomed, why bother trying?’). That suggests that fatalism has to be overturned first, before we can make progress.

DK: I think so. Although it sounds glib to say so, often one needs a crisis to motivate political change. Yet it’s a very difficult gambit, a tragic dilemma. If there is a climate crisis then that might motivate people to think differently, but it could also make action impossible. In politics we need to keep options open. That’s one thing that mainstream politicians are very well aware of. But their reason for keeping options open is to delay decisions, because decisions constrain their capacity to manoeuvre. Looked at the other way around, what people who think about politics want to ensure is that there’s a way of seeing the world differently from just the constraints that are taken as given: namely, the idea that there’s no possible alternative to the current system.

Image Credit: (Sam Saunders CC BY SA 2.0)

RM: Is that something that is provided by activists like Extinction Rebellion? Many people are inspired by them, but some are alarmed that it looks undemocratic and out of control.

DK: I can see both sides! When people feel strongly enough to march, mainstream politicians have to take them seriously. And people are going to think, ‘Is it really that bad? Have I misunderstood?’ But there could be many things that people might want to think about on how they might engage with climate change. Not everyone is going to want to stand in the streets. But they can help raise awareness, and in doing so, they are able to help us think about how we might change the narrative and the vision. And that’s crucial.

RM: You write about the limits to growth. It’s striking that the whole idea of limits to growth has been studied for several hundred years. We appear now to be bumping right up against those limits, and yet there’s still no consensus on whether economic growth can or should continue forever.

DK: And it’s very difficult for politicians to get out of this mindset, too. Economic growth helps fund them. It supports the regime that has been, historically speaking, successful. The idea of perpetual growth is the kind of hope or panacea that allows you to get to the point of Donald Trump or Elon Musk. It allows you to say: ‘Look, as a species we’ve come up against these sorts of crises in the past, and economic advancement or necessity has fuelled technological innovation which has solved particular problems.’ To me, that’s precisely one of those ‘optimistic fatalist’ arguments that we should be worried about. Because at some point one of these crises is going to be so big and so difficult and so intractable, that that might be the end. But that’s also a difficult position to think about politically, because if you think it’s the end times, then what’s the point in doing anything?

RM: There’s another scenario which is almost as bad, in which you do have continued economic growth and continued ecological decline, and the debate doesn’t move forward.

DK: Yes, it’s a very difficult thought for most people to get their head around. In people’s everyday lives, however they make their living, they’re often told that (in this individualistic society) if you work hard, you’ll do well, and if you do well, you’ll make money, and you make money because the system is geared towards growing and expanding in perpetuity. This is a system of political and social order whereby people assume that what they do matters only for them, and that they are the fundamental unit of analysis: societies that people for shorthand call ‘neoliberal’. Even since the Second World War, you can see that along with the ideology of economic growth, there’s been an increasingly rapid series of ecological crises. There has to be some sense in which we might wonder about the balance between the environment we inhabit and our actions within it and our effects on other species. Many economists and political theorists have, in fact, been thinking about this for a very long time.

RM: So do we need to defeat neoliberalism before we can solve ecological problems? Or is neoliberalism more of a superficial phenomenon, a symptom?

DK:  It’s more a symptom. Values will change. The narratives that we tell about the values that we share, or that we’d like to share, will change. That’s just the ebb and flow of human societies. Neoliberalism is not eternal, just like the so-called Thirty Glorious Years of Keynesian economic growth was not eternal. One of the lessons of politics, if there is one, is that nothing lasts forever. So the spaces are always open. The question is, what triggers a shift in the narrative? Is it necessarily a crisis, an explicit recognition of failure? Or can people change the narrative because they have better arguments? And the capacity to mobilise them! Plenty of people have better ideas about economics than boilerplate neoliberal editorials in certain newspapers, but no capacity to bring them to bear on mainstream party politics: that’s a real disconnect.

But I do think that it’s possible for politicians to change the game both from within, and for the game to be changed from without. In the Scottish independence vote, 16-year-olds were allowed to vote. In the UK we see different sorts of cleavages and interests, depending on age, education and geography – all within a very disparate and disunited UK. You could easily see a radical shift if the voting age were lowered to sixteen. Some people think it should go lower; some people think it’s ludicrous to change it. If there is going to be transformation, it’s going to come mostly from the younger generation.

Image Credit: (Gabriel Civita Ramirez CC BY SA 2.0)

RM: A related question, ‘What do we actually owe the future?’, also never seems to arrive at a consensus view.

DK: This debate has been going on for at least 70 years. The connections between science, politics, policy and internationalism in debates about intergenerational justice are incredibly difficult. Why I began and ended my book with a discussion of what the Anthropocene opens up in thinking about competing timeframes for understanding politics and history now is that the issue of intergenerational justice strikes most of us as difficult to think about. It’s easy to say, ‘I’d like the world to be better for my children.’ But what does that mean? How do we think about the timeframe involved in that? Most parents hope to see their children live to adulthood and begin to flourish. But at least there’s an overlap of generations. You see your children and perhaps your grandchildren. But what does justice require into the very, very long future?

The best work in this area in the past 50 years has butted up against a problem of timing. Can we really imagine the mindsets of other humans hundreds of years after our deaths? Or how our actions will be judged by them? And what we owe to these distant others? There’s more here than just the way we know our actions have an impact on their future environment. To go back a step: thinking about intergenerational justice going forward might require us to think more about it looking backward. How did we get here? That’s why I think that historians of political and economic ideas might have more to say about a puzzle, a problem, a dilemma like the Anthropocene.

RM: The dominant strand in climate change responses is all about technology, legal remedies, economics and so on. My impression is that you think that’s not going to be enough.

DK: It may be – it may be that’s just what we do, we muddle through. That’s democracy’s history! It may have some grand origin moments, and crises; it may ebb and flow. It might not survive into the future, and that might be no bad thing. There may be better or different ways of doing politics.

But although I see a need to challenge the perspective through which we do our politics, it may be that doesn’t happen; but our politics will nonetheless have to cope with what the climate throws at it, and what that means for massive displacement of people and resources, when places become uninhabitable. When populations do move, when resources do shift between the Global North and the Global South – if we still call them that – then politics will have to deal with it. This goes back to whether or not it’s crisis that motivates political change, or whether political change can come without the need for war, revolution or, in this case, climate epoch-alypse.

Although I don’t think there are any obvious answers as to what we should do in the face of massive climate displacement and a challenge like the Anthropocene, we need to see politics as a problem space that always has to be kept open, that avoids the thought of an inbuilt teleology or fatalism or the belief that it only ever works within the contours and constraints of an ideological system that says, ‘This is the only way. There is no alternative.’

Much of the most interesting work, in theory and in practice, in the history of political and economic ideas over the past hundred years and more has been precisely geared towards teaching us that politics is not just about process, it’s not just about constraint, it’s not just about an ideology. It’s about seeing a shifting, human predicament, moving forward in time and space, and seeing people’s ways of dealing with values and conflicts over resources. Putting them in historical perspective and saying: ‘Look, there are a whole series of different ways we could do this. Some of them are less stupid than others. Maybe we should try them?’ And that’s it. That’s all I’m in any position to say.

Duncan Kelly is Professor of Political Thought and Intellectual History in the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. He is a co-editor of the journal Modern Intellectual History, and has written broadly on the history of modern political ideas. This interview touches on themes from his most recent book, Politics and the Anthropocene (Polity Press, 2019), and he is currently working on an intellectual history of the First World War.

Robert McLachlan studied mathematics at the University of Canterbury and Caltech, focusing on scientific computing, and is now Distinguished Professor in the School of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University, New Zealand. He writes on climate and the global ecological crisis at planetaryecology.org. In a recent article for Scientific American Blogs, he argued that the framing of anthropogenic climate change as a global tragedy of the commons was slow to be discovered, slow to be appreciated and has yet to achieve widespread popular recognition.

Note: This interview gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.


Protest tactics matter

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 21/10/2019 - 8:00pm in

By 2353NM   Those that demonstrated around the world for ‘Extinction Rebellion’ recently have certainly been making headlines. Pity it is for the wrong reasons. On an intellectual level, their point is sound — unless there is meaningful and urgent efforts across the world to mitigate climate change, there is an environmental (and by inference economic)…

The post Protest tactics matter appeared first on The AIM Network.

The people are the change. Time to step out of our comfort zone and make it happen.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 20/10/2019 - 1:13am in

Poster on lamppost with the slogan do you want a future of decency equality and real social justicePhoto by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Oh, the irony of it. Boris Johnson makes law and order the central plank of the Queen’s Speech. After having spent 9 years telling us about how we could no longer afford our public services and imposing cuts to every part of our public and social infrastructure, his response to the consequences is astonishing.

Austerity has been about removing the cornerstones of a healthy society, increasing poverty and inequality and abandoning people to privation and hardship. Johnson’s logical response should have been a reversal of the politics of austerity; instead, it was to tighten up on law and order. You couldn’t make it up if you tried.

Cuts have had and are continuing to have consequences. One element of the breakdown of society has been the huge increase in knife crime. As campaigners warned earlier this year, spending on youth services has been decimated; an analysis of figures compiled by the YMCA in England and Wales showed that the average spend per local authority had fallen drastically.  In 2010 it stood at £7.79m and will fall next year to £2.45m. Denise Hatton the CEO of the YMCA said at the time that ‘the impact of these cuts were visible across the country’ and that youth services had a ‘significant role’ to play in reducing the numbers of young people carrying weapons.

Some media sources chose to report this emphasis on law and order announcement in positive terms. Others like Frances Crook, the Chief Executive from the Howard League for Penal Reform were less complimentary referring to it as ‘the politics of the lynch mob…currying favour by stirring up hate’ and she later tweeted ‘increasing punishment is a race to the bottom of politics.’

A Labour frontbencher’s response was less understandable when they said that Johnson’s proposals were ‘just an uncosted wish list which the government has no intention and no means to deliver’. As Deborah Harrington, one of GIMMS advisors commented “What has the cost got to do with it?  If we can afford to hurt people does it make it ok? Would we applaud the government if it had both the intention and the means to deliver more cruelty?

Criticising the government by continuing to frame the debate in monetary terms of affordability is not only insensitive but also fails to acknowledge the cruelty that has already been meted out by a government more interested in delivering its ideological priorities and serving its corporate friends by using a false household budget metaphor to justify it.  Those on the opposition benches should not be trying to score points in a ping pong battle of who is more fiscally prudent but should be rejecting this damaging model outright. Instead of fixating on the state of the public accounts we should be considering instead the effects of government spending and policy decisions on a nation, its economy and citizens. That is the only measurement that counts.

To reduce people’s lives to monetary concerns is an affront to those who have suffered at its hands, particularly in the light of the comments of Therese Coffey, the newly appointed Secretary of State at the DWP, who this week denied that government cuts were driving children into poverty. She challenged a June 2019 report carried out by the Child Poverty Action Group which charted the damaging effects of the two-child policy on parents and shamefully defended other reforms to the benefit system which have been equally harmful, despite the evidence piling up against them.

In a display of arrogance, she claimed she was the ‘only person in government who’s got a PhD in science’ and referred to ‘product lines’ and ‘balance sheets’ for analysing whether welfare was working. The evidence of poverty, hunger and destitution are clearly not enough for her. She also talked about how the benefits of increased prosperity could be shared with everyone in society as if somehow those benefits were dependent on a strong economy. This will not be the first time that a Conservative minister has trotted out this lie when the truth is that a strong economy depends on a healthy nation and a government serving public purpose through sufficient spending.

When ministers fail to recognise the human dimensions of their policies then we are in serious trouble. Worse still, when a Church of England bishop complained about the stench in an underground tunnel where many homeless people were sleeping, which subsequently resulted in community protection notices being served threatening them with fines of £20,000 if they continued to sleep there it shows how far we have descended into indifference about the consequences of government policies. Whilst she sympathised with their plight, she had nothing to say about the origins of it. One of the group said ‘our belongings were taken and thrown away without warning, sleeping backs and all. We were harassed under the 1824 vagrancy Act and then without warning a grate was installed expelling us from the best shelter in the area and the closest thing we had to a home. The tunnel now sits warm and empty and unused at night while we sleep outside.’

We have too often accepted the notion that homelessness and hunger are the result of the inadequacy of individuals rather than a direct effect of cuts to public spending which is a deliberate policy choice by the government and has no relationship with the state of the public accounts. The government in its spending and other policies has ignored the social determinants of health whether of body and mind or the economic well-being of society as a whole.

In other news this week according to joint research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Centre for Cities, there are excessive levels of hidden unemployment in towns and cities across Britain which are not included in official government statistics. The study revealed that if this hidden unemployment was included national estimates would jump from 4.6% to 13.2% and would raise the official level of 1.3 unemployed to almost 4.5m. It reported a clear north/south divide and figures showed that in many northern cities such as Liverpool, Sunderland and Dundee approximately one in five people were likely to fall into this category.

Whilst the Conservatives have consistently lauded their record on unemployment claiming that around 3 million jobs have been created, the government has not only been creative in its presentation of employment figures, but it has also overseen a huge growth in self-employment, work on zero-hours contracts and agency work as well as the growing gig economy. Record employment levels don’t tell the full story and belie the actual quality of the work being undertaken as people struggle simply to survive in any way they can. The harmful effects of low incomes and employment insecurity on individuals, families and the wider society are daily in evidence.

Unemployment and underemployment is a scourge and yet is a political choice made by the government of the day.  It doesn’t have to be like this.  In the post-war period governments pursued full employment as policy objectives as a matter of course. From the 70s onwards in the belief that pursuing such policies would increase inflation successive governments have equally chosen to make a political choice to leave millions of people unemployed, underemployed or in insecure low paid jobs. In this way, it took economic power out of the hands of working people and gave it to employers, who could use it to keep wage costs down at huge human cost.

A public sector job guarantee challenges this gross assumption and offers a serious alternative which not only acts as a price anchor for wages, gives people the dignity of work at a fair wage and good working conditions but also and more importantly operates as macroeconomic stabiliser smoothing out the ups and downs of the business cycle offering increased economic stability for all.

At a moment in history when we face the challenges of dealing with the climate crisis and addressing the huge disparities in wealth which exist across the globe, we need an alternative model. It is shocking, as Oxfam pointed out earlier this year, that the world’s 26 richest people own as much as the poorest 50%. Worse still to realise that these facts are not down to a natural state of affairs driven by the ‘market’ as if it was a living breathing entity directing the orchestra but by human intervention and deliberate political action it  should be the lightbulb moment which drives us to challenge the prevailing narratives which have suggested that money is scarce and public services unaffordable. When a train boss for the TransPennine Express is rewarded by a 44% pay rise including a bonus and pension boost whilst people struggle to put food on the table to feed their children and live hand to mouth with scarce or no savings to fall back on then we surely must know that something has gone terribly wrong.

In his speech, Johnson referred to ‘a momentous new environment bill’ – a lodestar by which we will guide our country towards a cleaner and greener future’ Meanwhile Extinction Rebellion activists were disrupting London life, with over a thousand being arrested and risking a police record for protesting. Extinction Rebellion demands that the government declares a climate emergency and legally commits to reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2025. This will require huge public investment and a willingness to run deficits, which is nowhere indicated in the government’s position and, indeed, runs counter to its free-market beliefs.

The actions required are global in scale and demand attention now. They demand strong national governments to work cooperatively to deliver a global public purpose agenda aimed at addressing the climate crisis and the social injustices which blight the planet. They require national governments as monopoly currency issuers to undertake directed spending programmes through a Green New Deal and Job Guarantee programme. And, importantly, to legislate for a green path towards sustainable living.

This can only be achieved if our representative democracy is strengthened to ensure that elected politicians are there to serve the public purpose and not their own careers in a revolving door which allows them to influence policy at the behest of big business for future rewards such as directorships with handsome salaries.

Extinction Rebellion activists say that the civil approach has not worked and therefore the only course of action left to raise awareness is direct. Certainly, they are right in that as it stands our political system exists to deliver corporate benefits dedicated to unsustainable growth and profit motives which do not coincide with the best interests of the health of the planet or human survival. Without electoral reform and radical change to restore public confidence in electoral democracy, we run the risk that corporations become the arbiters of greenness in the promotion of ‘eco-capitalism’ aimed at keeping the growth and profits status quo in place whilst promoting the idea that we can have our ‘green’ cake and eat it.

We are very aware of the scale of the problem of addressing the climate crisis and solving social injustice. It is a perennial problem and every step forward meets resistance. But that never means we shouldn’t try and that we can’t succeed. Understanding how governments fund their agendas remains central to that success. We leave the last few words on the subject to the historian, playwright and socialist thinker, Howard Zinn:

History is instructive. And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper. Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy. And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place.”

 

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The post The people are the change. Time to step out of our comfort zone and make it happen. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

The End of the World as We Know It?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/10/2019 - 8:52am in

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time an article like Liam Mannix’s “The End of the World as We Know It: Are we on the Brink of a Mass Extinction?” (October 17) sees the light of the day in Australia. (If readers know of similar articles in overseas newspapers considered serious, please, let me know).

That it appears in The Sydney Morning Herald (although it has recently suffered financially, it remains our Antipodean equivalent of the The New York Times), suggests readers should read it.

----------
Personally, I don’t want to add much to Mannix’s article, so that readers can decide for themselves. I won’t suggest any, but it’s easy to come up with Google searches on the subject. Readers may find different perspectives on the subject.

Still, there is something I must explain. There is good reason to believe the world is entering uncharted waters, which means that one’s prognostications become more dependent on one’s location in the pessimist/optimist continuum. Alas, I am chronically pessimistic.

I’d also like to remind Mannix and readers that Homo sapiens is an animal species (if readers went through his article, they’ll understand that) and I’d like to suggest them having a careful look at Craig Welch’s “Arctic Permafrost is Thawing Fast. That Affects us All” (National Geographic, September issue).

Finally, I invite readers to read the “Scientists’ Declaration of Support for Non-Violent Direct Action Against Government Inaction Over the Climate and Ecological Emergency” (Reuters coverage on October 13)

Cops crackdown on Extinction Rebellion—defend the right to protest

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 4:40pm in

Extinction Rebellion (XR) actions blocking traffic and producing dozens of arrests have ignited a media backlash. Police have launched a major crackdown. In Sydney and Brisbane they used “wrist locks” to arrest non-violent protesters that in Sydney saw 75-year-old environmental scientist, Martin Wolterding, sent to hospital for checks on a swollen wrist and bruising.

In Sydney they imposed ridiculous bail conditions on
arrested protesters, banning them from the city and from associating with other
members of XR.

Extinction Rebellion advises activists to be polite
and respectful towards police. Some think that they can be won over. XR members
in London have chanted, “Police, we love you—we’re doing this for your
children.”

But the police can never be on our side. Their job is
to “maintain order”—to ensure the continuation of business as usual. There is a
long history of brutal police treatment of protesters, trade unionists and
Indigenous people.

The police’s role is to defend the rich and powerful.
Behind them are governments and corporations who are profiting from destroying
the planet.

Labor Premier Annastacia
Palaszczuk’s new anti-protest laws have drawn comparisons—including from Labor
Party members—to the bad old days of Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Palaszczuk has
branded protesters “sinister” and “ridiculous” in an effort to justify laws
that mean possessing a “locking device” could result in a two year jail
sentence.

Peter Dutton dialled up the hysteria further,
demanding protesters lose welfare payments and face mandatory jail terms. He
also incited right-wing vigilante action, suggesting, “People should take these
names and the photos of these people and distribute them as far and wide as
they can so that we shame these people.”

All this represents an attack on the basic right to
protest—for doing nothing more than disrupting traffic.

The Extinction Rebellion protests have shown that
there is a movement of people prepared to take disruptive action for the
climate. This can inspire more people to take action.

But blocking traffic alone will not force change. The
climate movement needs clear demands and a strategy to link up with the unions
and the working class. Extinction Rebellion’s demand for a climate emergency
declaration has been taken up by numerous governments while they carry on
polluting with business-as-usual.

The movement needs to put the issues of jobs, and
public investment in renewable energy and public transport, at its centre.

The post Cops crackdown on Extinction Rebellion—defend the right to protest appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Replace Liddell with renewable energy—no extensions for coal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 4:38pm in

The ageing Liddell coal power station is at the heart of a
battle over the future of energy generation in Australia.

Liddell, in NSW’s Hunter Valley, was
commissioned in 1973 and is at the end of its 50 year lifespan. Its original
2000 megawatt capacity has been reduced to 1680 megawatts, AGL estimates.
Running the turbines any harder would result in failure. In the February 2017
heatwave, three of the plant’s four turbines broke down.

AGL had planned to close it by 2022. But
in August it caved to pressure from the Federal Government and announced it
would keep Liddell operating until April 2023.

A week after AGL’s announcement, Energy
Minister Angus Taylor unveiled an inquiry into its closure. A task-force would
consider, “everything from extension to replacement with like-for-like
capacity”. Government money to keep Liddell running was “on the table”
according to Taylor.

An assessment by WorleyParsons found it
would cost $920 million for an extra five years of operation.

Taking up the Morrison government’s
support for Liddell should be a priority for the climate movement.

Australia has some of the highest per
capita emissions in the world and electricity generation is the largest source
of domestic emissions. There needs to be a fight to replace coal power with
renewables.

The climate movement’s history of
concentrating on coal mines means climate activists are locked into opposing
projects in communities that are often dependent on mining, with little ability
to point to an alternative source of jobs.

The narrow focus on
stopping Adani in the lead up to the Federal election meant the Coalition could
pose as defenders of mining jobs. There were big swings to the right in mining
communities in Queensland and in the Hunter in NSW. Targeting coal for export
to India also does nothing to deal with Australia’s domestic emissions.

Campaigning against
Liddell is different. The fact that any coal power removed from the grid has to
be replaced poses the question of large-scale job creation in renewable
energy—and how to reduce Australia’s emissions.

But AGL plans to
partly replace Liddell with new gas projects. Its plan involves investing up to
$400 million in a 252-megawatt Newcastle gas facility.

Liddell needs to be shut down and replaced
with public renewable energy. There must be a job guarantee for Liddell
workers. The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is calling for the NSW
government to set up a Hunter Transition Authority to direct significant
investment to the area.

Government investment in jobs could
revitalise and transform the Hunter, making it into a hub for generating and
distributing renewable energy for a sustainable future.

By Adam Adelpour

The post Replace Liddell with renewable energy—no extensions for coal appeared first on Solidarity Online.

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