Water

A Balm to Heal Strip-Mined Mountaintops

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/03/2020 - 5:35am in

Welcome back to The Fixer, our weekly briefing of solutions reported elsewhere. This week: 187 million trees are repairing the shattered summits of Appalachia. Plus, Minneapolis covers the rent for families of homeless kids, and Halifax turns its municipal water system into a hydropower plant.

Coal story, bro

Reforesting is all the rage, but the blasted-off mountaintops of Kentucky hadn’t seen much of it. Strip mined for coal, these summits are often left permanently barren, as trees can’t regrow in the upturned terrain. Not without help, anyway. A story in the Washington Post Magazine highlights the efforts of Appalachian native and “grizzled scientist” Patrick Angel, who, as an employee of the federal Department of the Interior, has led a quiet revolution in the way these mountaintops are treated once the bulldozers depart.

Now, instead of simply being smoothed over, the land is loosened by massive earthmoving machines, after which volunteers descend to plant native trees like chestnuts and oaks. Angel’s post in the government has enabled him to affect systemic change from the inside. Since his efforts began, more than 187 million trees have been planted across the mined mountaintops. And the story only begins there — read about how Angel plans to make these forests a natural resource for uplifting Appalachia’s stagnant economy.

Read more at the Washington Post Magazine

Home schooling

The coronavirus has illuminated an ugly truth about U.S. social services: so many homeless kids get their meals at school that closing those schools could lead to a hunger crisis. The number of homeless American students just keeps growing — last year, there were 1,508,265 homeless kids enrolled in public schools, a 15 percent rise from the 2015/16 school year.

public school studentsStudents in Minneapolis get a visit from education officials. Credit: U.S. Department of Education

Minnesota has 17,000 homeless public school students alone. To tackle this problem, Minneapolis has launched a three-year pilot program to reduce child homelessness with direct rental assistance to their parents. Families at risk of being evicted can get an emergency one-time cash infusion of $1,500. From there, the program will cover rental costs that go above 30 percent of the family’s income. “This program more than anything else is a source of pride,” Mayor Jacob Frey told Next City, adding that 534 kids have been stably housed or prevented from going homeless since the program launched less than one year ago. “It’s not just empty rhetoric. It’s a plan that’s now attached to both dollars and families that are being helped.” 

Read more at Next City

Grow with the flow

Little known fact: After the September 11th attacks, when electricity was unreliable in New York, technology was developed to generate power from the city’s ubiquitous rooftop water towers. As the water flowed down from the tanks, it would be run through turbines that would act as tiny hydroelectric plants. Today, that technology is being used in a major Canadian municipal water system.

Credit: Rentricity

Water flowing through municipal systems travels so fast that it needs to be slowed down before reaching your faucet. Usually this is done with friction-creating devices in the pipelines. A pilot program in Halifax is slowing it down with a turbine instead, which captures the energy released, allowing it to be converted into zero-emission electricity. Since it was installed in 2014, the 31-kilowatt turbine has been producing enough energy to power 25 homes. This power is sold back to the grid, netting revenues of $30,000 annually.

The scale-up potential is enormous. The CEO of Rentricity, the company that manufactures the turbine, says about 75 percent of North American cities have the kind of water systems that the technology could be installed in. “It’s a constantly renewable resource that’s flowing anyway,” said a spokesperson for Halifax Water. In other words, might as well use it.

Read more at CBC

The post A Balm to Heal Strip-Mined Mountaintops appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

History Book on Why Israel’s Military Elite Can’t Make Peace

Postscript are a mail order company specialising in bargain books. I got their latest catalogue through the post today, and looking through it I found a book arguing that the country’s military leaders and the militaristic nature of Israeli society makes it impossible for the country to make peace. This is Fortress Israel – The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country – and Why They Can’t Make Peace by Patrick Tyler, published by Farrrar Straus Giroux. The blurb for it in the catalogue runs

Since its foundation in 1948 Israel has been torn between its ambition to be ‘a light unto nations’ and its desire to expand its borders. Drawing on declassified documents, personal archives and interviews, this epic history demonstrates how military service binds Israelis to lifelong loyalty and secrecy, making a democracy a hostage to the armed forces. A compelling study of character, rivalry, conflict and the competing impulses for war and peace in the Middle East.

This has direct relevance to a recent attempt by the Israel lobby to smear yet another left-wing Labour MP as an anti-Semite. If I recall correctly, it was Richard Burgon, who said that ‘Zionism was the enemy of peace’. This was too much for the Israel lobby, despite the fact that Burgon was not speaking about Jews, but about Zionism. As any fule kno, Zionism is political doctrine, not a race, religion or ethnic group. The largest Zionist organisation in America, for example, is Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel And anti-Zionist and Israel-critical Jewish bloggers like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, David Rosenberg and Martin Odoni, as well as anti-Zionist Jewish denominations and groups such as the Haredi and True Torah Jews, show that Judaism and Jewish identity most definitely is not synonymous with Israel, no matter how many laws Netanyahu passes declaring that Jews across the world are its citizens.

Burgon’s comment wasn’t a statement of anti-Semitic prejudice at all, but a perfectly reasonable opinion. The Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, who now teaches at Exeter University here in the UK, has argued in his books, such as Ten Myths About Israel, that Zionism always implied the removal of the indigenous Arab people. And it also presented very strong evidence that Israel, contrary to its propaganda, was a reluctant participant in its various wars. Rather the Israeli leadership actively sought war, manipulating the Arab nations into striking first through military incursions and the denial of vital water supplies in order to give a false impression of its Israeli peacefulness and non-aggression. Tyler’s book adds yet more support to the view that Israel is indeed the enemy of peace.

It also shows another danger of the Israel lobby’s campaign to silence the country’s critics as anti-Semites. Not only has this led to the appalling smearing of perfectly decent, anti-racist people – one of whom recently died of the shock at her expulsion from the Labour Party, but it is also a danger to proper historical discussion, research and argument. The Israel lobby would like to substitute pro-Israel lies and propaganda for proper, objective history.

They aren’t just an attempt to affect political decisions and opinions, but also an attack on historical fact itself.

Keir Starmer’s 10 Pledges for the Labour Party

I’ve just received a pamphlet from Keir Starmer’s campaign team, promoting him as the future of leader of the Labour Party. It begins with this quote

“I’ve spent my life fighting injustice. I’m standing to be leader of our Labour Party because I’m determined to unite our movement, take on the Tories and build a better future. If all parts of our movement come together, we can achieve anything.”

There’s a brief biography that runs

A Life Devoted to Fighting Injustice

Keir is the son of an NHS nurse and a toolmaker. As a former human rights lawyer, Keir is dedicated to Labour’s core principles of fairness and justice.

He has devoted his whole life to fighting injustice and defending the powerless against the powerful, as his ten-year unpaid battle over the McLibel case goes to show. he has fought against the death penalty abroad, defended mining communities against pit closures, and taken up hundreds of employment rights and trade union cases. After being the Director of Public Prosecutions, he was elected MP for Holborn & St Pancras in 2015, later becoming Shadow Brexit Secretary. Defeating Boris Johnson is a huge task but Keir knows that if we bring our movement together and stay true to our values, we can win, and change Britain for the better.

As leader of the Labour Party, Keir will contine to fight for justice in all its forms: social justice, climate justice, economic justice.

There’s then three columns of endorsement from people such as Dawn French, Rokhsana Fiaz, the elected mayor of Lewisham, Laura Parker, the former National Coordinator of Momentum, Emma Hardy, the MP for Hull West and Hessle, Aneira Thomas, the first baby born on the NHS, Sarah Sackman, a public and environmental lawyer, Alf Dubs, the refugee campaigner, Paul Sweeney, the former MP for Glasgow North East, Ricky Tomlinson, David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, Doreen Lawrence, Konnie Huq, the TV presenter and writer, Mick Antoniw, the member of the Welsh Assembly for Pontypridd, Ross Millard of the Sunderland band, the Futureheads, Lucio Buffone, a member of ASLEF and LGBT+ Labour national committee member, and the Unison General Secretary, Dave Prentis.

The back page contains his ‘My Pledges To You’. He says

My  promise is that I will maintain our radical values and work tirelessly to get Labour in to power – so that we can advance the interests of the people our party was created to serve. Based on the moral case for socialism, here is where I stand.

His pledges are as follows

  1. Economic Justice.

Increase income tax for the top 5% of earners, reverse the Tories’ cuts in corporation tax and clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly of large corporations. No stepping back from our core principles.

2. Social Justice.

Abolish Universal Credit and end the Tories’ cruel sanctions regime. Set a national goal for wellbeing to make health as important as GDP; invest in services that help shift to a preventive approach. Stand up for universal services and defend our NHS. Support the abolition of tuition fees and invest in lifelong learning.

3. Climate Justice

Put the Green New Deal at the heart of everything we do. There is no issue more important to our future than the climate emergency. A Clean Air Act to tackle pollution locally. Demand international action on climate rights.

4. Promote Peace and Human Rights.

No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international  peace and justice.

5. Common Ownership.

Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system.

6. Defend Migrant’s Rights.

Full voting rights for EU nationals. Defend free movement as we leave the EU. An immigration system based on compassion and dignity. End indefinite detention and call for the closure of centres such as Yarl’s Wood.

7. Strengthen Workers’ Rights and Trade Unions.

Work shoulder to should with trade unions to stand up for working people, tackle insecure work and low pay. Repeal the Trade Union Act. Oppose Tory attacks on the right to take industrial action and the weakening of workplace rights.

8. Radical Devolution of Power, Wealth and Opportunity.

Push power, wealth and opportunity away from Whitehall. A federal system to devolve powers – including through regional investment banks and control over regional industrial strategy. Abolish the House of Lords – replace it with an elected chamber of regions and nations.

9. Equality.

Pull down obstacles that limit opportunities and talent. we are the party of the Equal Pay Act, Sure Start, BAME representation and the abolition of Section 28 – we must build on that for a new decade.

10. Effective Opposition to the Tories.

Forensic, effective opposition to the Tories in Parliament – linked up to our mass membership and a professional election operation. Never lose sight of the votes ‘leant’ to the Tories in 2019. Unite our party, promote pluralism and improve our culture. Robust action to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism. Maintain our collective link with the unions.

This is all good, radical stuff, but there are problems. Firstly, his commitment to taking ‘robust action to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism’ and his decision, along with the rest of the Labour leadership contenders, to sign the Board of Deputies’ highly manipulative pledges, means that more people are going to be thrown out of the party without any opportunity to defend themselves, based only the allegations of anonymous accusers. We’ve seen innocents like Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Marc Wadsworth, Mike Sivier, Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni and so many others suspended and thrown out through the party’s kangaroo courts. One poor lady has died through the shock of being so expelled, even though she was a passionate anti-racist. This isn’t justice, it’s a pledge to renew the witch hunt.

As for promoting peace and human rights – how long will that last with the Board of Deputies demanding to supervise everything relating to Jews? Israel is a gross violator of human rights, but the Board has consistently defended it and its deplorable actions. Their demands that Labour adopt the IHRC definition of anti-Semitism was to stifle criticism of Israel by declaring them ‘anti-Semitic’. This pledge might be genuine, but the momentum anyone applies it to Israel the BoD will start howling ‘anti-Semitism!’ again and decent people will start getting expelled. Especially if they’re Jewish.

And his plan for giving Britain a federal constitution doesn’t seem to be a good one. From what I’ve read, it has been discussed before, and while it may solve some problems it creates others. It’s supposed to be no better than the current arrangement, which is why it hasn’t been implemented.

I also don’t back him on Europe. Oh, I’m a remainer at heart, but I think a large part of  the reason we lost the election was because, instead of accepting the results of referendum, Labour pledged itself to return to the EU. This was partly on Starmer’s insistence. He is right, however, that EU nationals in the UK should have voting rights.

But I have to say that I don’t trust Starmer. His campaign team were all supporters of Owen Smith, one of those who challenged Corbyn’s leadership. They include Luke Akehurst, one of the leading figures of the Israel lobby within the Labour Party. Tony Greenstein a few days ago put up a piece arguing that, whatever he claims to the contrary, as Director of Public Prosecutions he always sided with the authorities – the police, military and intelligence services – against everyone else.

My fear is that if he becomes leader of the Labour Party, he will quietly forget these pledges and continue the Blair project.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/02/keir-starmer-is-candidate-that-deep.html

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/02/pauline-hammerton-expelled-for.html

Labour Leadership Contender Keir Starmer Promises to Axe Tuition Fees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/02/2020 - 8:27pm in

Here’s a piece of optimistic news. It was reported in Wednesday’s I, for 12th February 2020 that Keir Starmer has said that he would abolish tuition fees for university students. The article by Hugo Gye runs

Sir Keir Starmer said last night that he would keep Labour’s promise to scrap tuition fees as he vowed to embrace much of the Corbyn agenda.

He said: “Labour must stand by the commitment to end the national scandal of spiralling student debt and abolish tuition fees.”

The leadership front runner also committed to nationalising trains, energy companies, water and the Royal Mail.

Speaking ahead of the first televised hustings in the leadership race, Sir Keir announced 10 pledges which  he said would “unite Labour, defend its radical values and take on the Tories.”

The policies encompass much of what was included in the party’s general election manifesto, but excluded the free broadband idea.

I’m not entirely happy with Starmer, as I believe him to be a man of the Labour right. Tony Greenstein has put up piece showing that he has also sided with the police and authorities against protesters. As part of this, he successfully defended the policeman, whose assault on a man returning home from work during the riots of 2010 led to his death. And his team also includes Luke Akehurst and his cronies. Akehurst is a fanatical Zionist and one of the people behind the anti-Semitism witch hunt in the Labour party. But if Starmer is sincere about the embracing much of Corbyn’s policies – which were genuinely popular – then it shows that he is serious about uniting the party and creating an effective challenge to the Tories and the Thatcherite neoliberalism that is wrecking this country, and impoverishing and killing its people.

Tories Promised Fat Profits to Fracking Companies While Others Starved

Donald Trump made his contempt for environmentalists and public concerns about climate change and global warming very clear this week at Davos. He called them ‘prophets of doom’ and frankly denied the existence of global warming. As I pointed out in a previous post, this is not only in line with what the Republican base believes, but also the propaganda of Trump’s corporate sponsors in the fossil fuel industries. Trump has passed legislation to gut the Environmental Protection Agency and prevent it from publishing anything supporting climate change or global warming. The fossil fuel industry, particularly the billionaire Koch brothers, have also set up a network of lobbying and astroturf fake grassroots pressure groups to try and discredit global warming and the other environmental damage by the oil, gas and coal industries. Those same billionaires also use these networks to close down mainstream academic environmental research, and replace them with laboratories funded by themselves, which publish their approved material denying the reality of global warming.

Mike put up a post this week reporting Trump’s anti-environmentalist stance, and saying that this would be a problem for Britain if Boris Johnson is successful and makes a Brexit deal with America.

But the Tories have already shown their contempt for Green politics. Although Dave Cameron promised that his would be the ‘Greenest government ever’ and put a windmill on the roof of his house, that lasted only as long as he could get his foot in Number 10. The moment he won the election, those promises were dropped and the windmill came off his roof. And that wasn’t all. Cameron, like Trump, strongly favoured the petrochemical industries. While his government cut the welfare budget to leave the poor desperate and starving, he cut the tax for the fracking industry so that they could make even bigger projects. Vickie Cooper and David Whyte discuss this in the introduction to their The Violence of Austerity. They write

Indeed, some sectors have been seen as a vehicle for economic recovery and therefore singled out for special treatment. This partly explains the lack of any meaningful regulatory change in the financial sector but also why some high revenue sectors, such as unconventional oil and gas – or ‘fracking’, are being singled out for special treatment… In July 2013 the government announced that the fracking industry would receive a major reduction in its tax burden. Shale gas producers were told that they would be asked to pay just 30 per cent tax on profits compared to 62 per cent normally paid by the oil and gas industry. In response, Andrew Pendleton of UK Friends of the Earth observed:

Promising tax hand-outs to polluting energy firms that threaten our communities and environment, when everyone else is being told to tighten their belts, is a disgrace. (p. 19).

Fracking is particularly contentious, as not only does it pollute the water table but it also causes minor earthquakes. There have been major protests against it throughout the country, particularly against its operations in Lancashire. The Tories just before the election promised a moratorium on it, but did not refuse to stop it completely.

The Tories’ welfare cuts have led to people starving to death, as Mike’s report this morning about the death of Errol Graham. Mr Graham had problems with anxiety, and could not cope with unexpected changes and social situations. He was afraid to go out and could not meet or interact with strangers. Despite this the DWP stopped his ESA, which meant that he lost his housing benefit. He slowly starved to death. When the bailiffs broke down his door to evict him, he weighed only 4 1/2 stone.

Why are we learning about disabled Errol Graham TWO YEARS after the DWP stopped his benefits and he starved to death?

Obscene! Absolutely obscene!

And he isn’t the only one. 130,000 people have died due to austerity. But while the government is content to let people starve to death, it’s prepared to give vast profits to friends in polluting industries. Reading this, I think there’s little doubt that Boris will resume fracking the moment he’s given the opportunity. And that if and when he makes his wretched deal with Trump, it will signal real danger for our precious ‘green and pleasant land’.

This shows the foul pair’s priorities: the world burns, the poor literally starve to death, but they’re fine so long as polluting industries can foul the planet for profit.

 

Trump’s Climate Denial Is a Danger to Post-Brexit Britain

Yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting and commenting on Trump’s denunciation of Green activists at the Davos summit. He called them ‘prophets of doom’, who were trying to dominate, control and transform the lives of everyone in the world, and announced that he would not change his country’s high carbon economy. He would, though, sign up for planting, restoring and conserving a trillion trees.

This didn’t impress Greta Thunberg, who was also there. Mike quotes her as saying

“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour, and we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else,” she said.

“You say: ‘We won’t let you down. Don’t be so pessimistic.’ And then, silence.”

And she asked: “What will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing… climate chaos that you knowingly brought upon them? That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?”

Beeb wildlife presenter Chris Packham also made a speech about the climate emergency at the BAFTA’s, warning that unless we act to solve the environmental crisis, future generations may look on Trump, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Vladimir Putin and Australia’s Scott Morrison in the same way as mass murderers like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, because of the millions killed through climate change.

Mike also makes the point that while the world’s leaders are doing nothing about climate change, Boris is moving closer to a trade deal with Trump, one that will also make him deny the danger. Mike states that our clown of a prime minister has missed opportunities to make a difference, and asks if he will sell us down the river again for the sake of a few American dollars.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/01/22/trumps-prophets-of-doom-speech-suggests-the-uk-should-not-enter-trade-deal-with-him/

The answer is yes, yes, he will. And it’s for the same reasons Trump and the rest of the Republican party are denying climate change: powerful corporate interests. The Republicans received very generous campaign funding from big industrialists like the Koch brothers and the other heads of the fossil fuel industry. These big businessmen also sponsor fake grassroots organisations and biased scientific think thanks in order to lobby against and discredit climate research and laws to protect the environment. The results have been disastrous. Since he took power, Trump has gutted the environmental protection agency and forbidden it from publishing anything supporting climate change or environmental decline in America. Koch money has seen universities close down proper climate and environmental research and their replacement with laboratories and organisations funded by the brothers and others in the fossil future industry. These present as fact the false information they want the public to hear: that climate change isn’t occurring, and the coal and oil industries ain’t wrecking the landscape. But these industries are. There are a whole sections of the Louisiana swamps that is heavily polluted by oil. The oil pipeline through indigenous people’s land in Idaho that made the news a few years ago was opposed because the indigenous people of the area feared that there would be spillages that would pollute the water they use for drinking and which nourishes their wildlife. They were right to do so. There have been a large number of similar spillages, which have not garnered so much media attention, which have similarly contaminated vast acreages of land. And then there’s the whole fracking industry, and the damage that has also caused the water table in areas where it has been allowed.

These are the industries funding Trump’s campaign. They’re part of the reason why there were right-wing jokers all over the internet yesterday sniggering at Trump’s put down of Thunberg. Trump and his supporters really do believe that environmentalists are some kind of crazy apocalyptic cult with totalitarian aims. There’s a section of the American right that really does believe Green activists are real, literal Nazis, because the Nazis were also environmentally concerned. And the corporate interests sponsoring Trump are the same industries that want to get a piece of our economy and industries.

The Tories have already shown that they are little concerned about the environment. They have strongly promoted fracking in this country, and the book The Violence of Austerity contains a chapter detailing the Tories’ attacks on the environment and Green protest groups. David Cameron’s boast that his would be the greenest government ever vanished the moment his put his foot across the threshold of Number 10.

If Boris makes a Brexit trade deal with Trump, it will mean that our precious ‘green and pleasant land’ is under threat from highly polluting, environmentally destructive industries. It will mean further reductions in funding for renewable energy in favour of oil, gas and coal, attempts in this country to discredit and silence respectable, mainstream climate research and scientists in favour of corporate-sponsored pseudoscience. And there will be further laws and state violence against environmental protesters.

Trump’s climate denial is a threat to the British environment, industry, the health of its people, democracy and science. But Boris depends on him for any kind of successful trade deal.

He will sell out and wreck this country and its people for those dollars offered by Trump and his corporate backers.

Trotsky on the Failure of Capitalism

I found this quote from Trotsky on how capitalism has now outlived its usefulness as a beneficial economic system in Isaac Deutscher and George Novack, The Age of Permanent Revolution: A Trotsky Anthology (New York: Dell 1964):

Capitalism has outlived itself as a world system. It has ceased to fulfill its essential function, the raising of the level of human power and human wealth. Humanity cannot remain stagnant at the level which it has reached. Only a powerful increase in productive force and a sound, planned, that is, socialist organisation of production and distribution can assure humanity – all humanity – of a decent standard of life and at the same time give it the precious feeling of freedom with respect to its own economy. (p. 363).

I’m not a fan of Trotsky. Despite the protestations to the contrary from the movement he founded, I think he was during his time as one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution and civil war ruthless and authoritarian. The Soviet Union under his leadership may not have been as massively murderous as Stalin’s regime, but it seems to me that it would still have been responsible for mass deaths and imprisonment on a huge scale.

He was also very wrong in his expectation of the collapse of capitalism and the outbreak of revolution in the Developed World. As an orthodox Marxist, he wanted to export the Communist revolution to the rest of Europe, and believed that it would be in the most developed countries of the capitalist West, England, France, and Germany, that revolution would also break out. He also confidently expected throughout his career the imminent collapse of capitalism. This didn’t happen, partly because of the reforms and welfare states established by reformist socialist parties like Labour in Britain and the SPD in Germany, which improved workers’ lives and opportunities, which thus allowed them to stimulate the capitalist economy as consumers and gave them a stake in preserving the system.

It also seems to me that capitalism is still actively creating wealth – the rich are still becoming massively richer – and it is benefiting those countries in the Developing World, which have adopted it, like China and the east Asian ‘tiger’ economies like South Korea.

But in the west neoliberalism, unregulated capitalism, certainly has failed. It hasn’t brought public services, like electricity, railways, and water supply the investment they need, and has been repeatedly shown to be far more inefficient in the provision of healthcare. And it is pushing more and more people into grinding poverty, so denying them the ability to play a role as active citizens about to make wide choices about the jobs they can take, what leisure activities they can choose, and the goods they can buy. At the moment the Tories are able to hide its colossal failure by hiding the mounting evidence and having their hacks in the press pump out favourable propaganda. But if the situation carries on as it is, sooner or later the mass poverty they’ve created will not be so easily hidden or blithely explained away or blamed on others – immigrants, the poor themselves, or the EU. You don’t have to be a Trotskyite to believe the following:

Unfettered capitalism is destroying Britain – get rid of it, and the Tories.

‘I’ Review of Art Exhibition on Ecological Crisis and Some Solutions

Also of interest in yesterday’s I was a review by Sarah Kent of the exhibition, Eco-Visionaries, at the Royal Society in London. This was about the current ecological crisis, and showcased some possible solutions to the problem, some of them developed by architects. This included a moving desert city, the Green Machine, which also planted a watered crops as it moved. The article ran

Melancholy humming welcomes you to the exhibition, with a globe suspended in the cloudy waters of a polluted fish tank. This simple installation by the artist duo HeHe neatly pinpoints our predicament: our planet is suffocating.

“The absence of a future has already begun,” declare Ana Vaz and Tristan Bera in a film, Reclaimed (2015). We know this already – according to the UN, we need to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050 if we are to prevent the collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem. So what are we waiting for?

Vaz and Bera highlight the problem. The situation requires a wholesale change in attitude: minor tinkering can’t solve it. We need “reciprocity with nature rather than domination… We are nature.” We are mesmerised by events such as the Arctic on fire, Greenland’s ice-cap melting and Venice drowning. But the scale of the problem is so enormous that we can only watch, “fascinated by the acceleration” of the crisis.

The collective Rimini Protokoli encourages us to confront our imminent extinction. On film we see a tank full of languidly floating jellyfish. They flourish in the warming seas and, with diminishing fish stocks, there’s less competition for the plankton they feed on, so their numbers are increasing dramatically. Humans are similarly multiplying – by 2050, according to the UN, there will be 9.7 billion of us – but unlike jellyfish, we require too much energy to adapt to climate change so, like the dinosaurs, our days are numbered. At the end of the presentation they invite us to go with the words: “Your time is up; you will have to leave.”

The Royal Academy is to be congratulated for hosting an exhibition that tackles this urgent issue, but the show exemplifies the problem. The warnings are persuasive, but the solutions envisaged are pitifully inadequate, mainly by architects who don’t address the catastrophe but instead offer us post-apocalyptic follies. The Green Machine (2014) is Studio Malka’s answer to desertification. Resembling a giant oil rig, this monstrosity trundles across the Sahara on caterpillar treads that plough the ground then sow and water the seeds to produce 20 million tons of food per year. Solar towers, wind turbines and water-capturing balloons create a “self-sufficient urban oasis” for those inside. What percentage of the 9.7 billion will they accommodate, I wonder?

Studio Malka’s Green Machine mobile desert city.

It’s a grim subject, and clearly the ecological crisis requires drastic action across the entire globe and very soon. But I am fascinated by the Green Machine. It reminds me of the giant moving cities that cross the devastated future Earth in the SF film Mortal  Engines. As for how many people such a machine could house, the answer is: very few. Douglas Murray’s book Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture predicts that if we carry on as we are, we will end up with a future in which the rich will inhabit closed, protected environments like the various biodomes that were created in the 1990s, while the rest of humanity will be left to fend for itself in the decaying world outside.

It’s a bleak, dystopian prediction, but one I fear will come true if we carry on electing leaders like Trump and Johnson.

The Fixer: Water under the Bridge

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/01/2020 - 7:00pm in

Welcome back to The Fixer, our weekly briefing of solutions reported elsewhere. This week: farmers and nomads in Darfur find common ground. Plus, coal country students go solar and Wall Street takes a step back from fossil fuels.

United by water

Two hardships of life in rural Darfur are the lack of water and the threat of violence, both exacerbated by climate change and a brutal war that has dragged on since 2003. As the available land — and with it, water — grows ever scarcer, conflicts have flared between settled farmers and camel-herding nomads competing for resources. An attempt to solve both problems at once is showing promise: community-built dams along a seasonal river near El Fasher, the capital of Sudan’s North Darfur state.

The dams, built in collaboration between the two groups, have created water sources that the nomads use along their 600-mile migrations, and that the farmers use to irrigate their fields. By giving the nomads clear routes through the farmland, the project has also brought cooperation as the passing herders sell milk and meat to the farmers, and the farmers offer the herders refuge and harvested crops.

“It was an opportunity to rebuild the old relations,” said one of the farmers of the face-to-face contact. “The government fueled us to fight against each other, but we have realized we were being misused,” said another. In a sign of progress, last September the nomads invited a group of the farmers to one of their weddings. The fields, for their part, have reached new heights of productivity: land that used to support 150 farmers now supports 4,000.

Read more at the Guardian

Studying solar

Many a graduating high school senior in Colorado’s Delta County used to take a job in the local coal industry. That was before two of the county’s three mines closed. Now, they’re either forced to look further afield for coal work, or often, set their sights on a local, lower-paying service industry job.

So several years ago, one of the area’s science teachers began teaching a class on solar arrays: how to build them, install them and make money from them. Described as having a “mad scientist vibe,” teacher Ben Graves wanted to get more of his students on a path toward the electrical trades, where they can earn a living in the area’s fast-growing solar industry. 

Former President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joseph Biden visit a solar array in Colorado. Credit: GPA/Flickr

His efforts have benefitted not just his students, but the school’s budget. In the past four years, Graves’ classes have installed two solar arrays behind the high school. (This year, for their final project, they’ll disassemble one of them and rebuild it.) These arrays now provide 10 percent of the school’s weekday energy demand. “The facilities folks at first waved it away as a class project,” Graves said with a laugh. “Now, maintenance sees it as a real way to reduce demand charges.”

Read more at High Country News

Banking on the climate

Will Wall Street save the climate? Let’s not go overboard, but according to an article in the Atlantic, some of America’s biggest banks are beginning to act a little more responsibly. 

Last month, Goldman Sachs changed its protocols around under-writing fossil fuel projects. Among those changes were a refusal to finance oil exploration or drilling in the Arctic. It follows other banks like Barclays and Societe Generale. It also committed to spending $750 million on what the magazine calls “clean energy and climate-adjacent areas” over the next ten years.

Time will tell if the big investment firms are willing to make the changes that will make a real impact, but any shift away from fossil fuels is a positive development.

Read more at The Atlantic

The post The Fixer: Water under the Bridge appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Meme Showing the Popularity of Labour’s Plan for Renationalisation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 15/12/2019 - 9:09pm in

Another Angry Voice has published an excellent article pointing out that, contrary to what the Conservative media and the Blairites are saying, Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto promises to take back the NHS and the public utilities into public ownership are actually popular. What he believes ruined the campaign was the way the arguments for them were framed. They were too vulnerable to the Tories twisting them to put their own spin on them. For example, the Tories pushed the line that somehow Labour was going to take their children’s inheritance away from them, even though the manifesto would have removed student debt and given proper funding to schools and education. He argues that Labour needs to phrase and the arguments for their reforms better so the Tories can’t do this.

I think it’s a good point, but however Labour phrased the problem, the Tories would still twist it or simply lie, and the article does recognise that they lied during the campaign. But the graph shows very clearly just how popular these policies are.

See: https://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.com/2019/12/why-did-we-reject-evil-santas-presents.html

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