Hat tip for this to Mike Connelly
Posts Tagged ‘Environment’
If peace ever comes to Syria, and the government of Bashar al-Assad is replaced, that unfortunate country’s troubles will be far from over. Any future Syrian government will have to cope with 1 million refugees from Iraq, and 1 million of its own citizens displaced from the land by years of drought.
Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times recently quoted from an appeal by Abdullah bin Yehia, Syria’s food and agriculture representative to the United Nations, for $20 million in aid for Syria’s drought victims.
Yehia was prophetic. By 2010, roughly one million Syrian farmers, herders and their families were forced off the land into already overpopulated and under-served cities. These climate refugees were crowded together with one million Iraqi war refugees. The Assad regime failed to effectively help any of them, so when the Arab awakenings erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, Syrian democrats followed suit and quickly found many willing recruits from all those dislocated by the drought.
Friedman reported that the population of the Middle East has increased four-fold in the past 60 years, more than any other part of the world. At the same time, according to the International Journal on Climatology, the region has steadily grown warmer, with many more warm nights and fewer cool days. He went on to say -
And then consider this: Syria’s government couldn’t respond to a prolonged drought when there was a Syrian government. So imagine what could happen if Syria is faced by another drought after much of its infrastructure has been ravaged by civil war.
And, finally, consider this: “In the future, who will help a country like Syria when it gets devastated by its next drought if we are in a world where everyone is dealing with something like a Superstorm Sandy,” which alone cost the U.S. $60 billion to clean up? asks Joe Romm, founder of ClimateProgress.org.
So to Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are funding the proxy war in Syria between Sunnis and Shiites/Alawites, all I can say is that you’re fighting for control of a potential human/ecological disaster zone. You need to be working together to rebuild Syria’s resiliency, and its commons, not destroying it. I know that in saying this I am shouting into a dust storm. But there is nothing else worth saying.
Responsibility doesn’t just lie with the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia. It lies with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to an even greater degree. Syria is Russia’s main remaining ally in the Middle East, and Putin is committed to propping up the Syrian regime. For Russia to provide effective aid to Syria’s drought victims would do as much to stabilize Syria as sending its government more weapons to put down rebellion.
Click on Wikileaks, Drought and Syria for the full article by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times. Hat tip to Joshua Chacon for the link.
The world’s governments are worried about contamination of fish and farm produce from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The graphic above, taken from the Korea JoonAng Daily, shows the world’s reaction. The graphic below shows the specific bans on food imports by South Korea.
Is the danger exaggerated? Maybe it is. There’s no way to be sure except to let people eat contaminated fish and farm produce and see what happens. I wouldn’t want to try the experiment.
Is this an argument for getting rid of nuclear power? Maybe it is. South Korea gets more than a third of its electricity from nuclear generating plants. Are they in a position to give that up?
If (1) we don’t want to burn oil from deep water drilling or tar sands processing, natural gas from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or coal produced by mountaintop removal, (2) we’re worried about global warming from burning fossil fuels and (3) we’re not ready to give up the blessings of industrial civilization, we’d better be sure we have something in reserve.
At the very least, the world’s people need to make sure that nuclear power plants are operated by managers who don’t have financial incentives to cut corners on safety. We need to be sure they are located on geologically stable sites, run by top-notch experts according to stringent standards and decommissioned on their due dates.
Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and its concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing faster than scientists predicted.
The main likely culprits: (1) Oil and gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, (2) cow flatulence, manure and other effects of livestock farming and (3) the melting Arctic permafrost. The Arctic is heating up at twice the rate the rest of the world is warming.
Global warming is not milder winters and warmer summers. It is a potentially catastrophic change in climate, weather patterns and sea levels, and it already is beginning.
The priority of the governments of the United States and other industrial nations should be negotiating international treaties to limit greenhouse gasses and mitigate climate change—not agreements such as the TPP which give corporate wish lists the force of international law.
Typhoon Haidan: climate change is increasing the intensity of extreme weather events by Paddy Ashdown, former leader of Britain’s Liberal Democratic Party, for The Guardian.
U.S. Methane Study Says Emissions 50 Percent Higher Than EPA Estimates by Seth Borenstein for the Associated Press.
Arctic permafrost leaking methane at record levels, figures show by David Adam in, The Guardian. The Arctic is heating up at twice the rate the rest of the world is warming.
Everything you need to know about climate change, an interactive FAQ from The Guardian.
Hat tips for these links to Mike Connelly.
The latest health issue for the elderly: ‘observation purgatory’ in hospitals by June McCoy for The Guardian. Hat tip to naked capitalism.
Medicare’s payment structure gives hospitals an incentive to designate elderly patients as “observations” rather than “admissions.” This means less care for the patient and higher bills for their families.
23andMe is Terrifying But Not for the Reason the FDA Thinks by Charles Seife for Scientific American. Hat tip to naked capitalism.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered a genetics testing company to stop selling its products until it can prove its tests are accurate. But the writer says the real danger is creating a genetics database on millions of Americans that could be tapped by Big Brother.
Activist Malpractice by Michael Donnelly for Counterpunch. Hat tip to Mike Connelly.
The writer slams Democrats, liberals and fake environmentalists who facilitate the Alberta tar sands mining, mining by mountaintop removal in Appalachia and clear-cutting of forests in Oregon.
Canada to file Arctic seafloor claim this week by the Canadian Press.
As the Arctic icecap melts, Canada, Russia and Denmark (which owns Greenland) are mapping their northern continental shelves and staking claims to the floor of the sea. Canada’s claim will be the size of the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba combined.
Nicaragua canal boosts China power by Arnie Seiki for Asia Times.
China and Nicaragua have signed an agreement that would give China the right to build a canal across Nicaragua rivaling the Panama Canal. While it’s long way from signing an agreement to actually building a canal, it is a sign of China’s emergence as a global power, and not merely an east Asian power.
Independent marine biologists—those not working for fishing companies—say the world’s fishing stocks are in peril, mainly from overfishing. The chart above, from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, shows their best information on what is happening to the world’s stocks of ocean fish. It’s not good.
We Americans could get along without eating fish, but many people in the world could not. And the oceans, which cover three-quarters of the world’s surface, are a vital part of the world’s ecology. We don’t know how it would be affected by a large die-off of marine life.
The idea that humanity could lose virtually all of the world’s ocean fish is so staggering I can’t get my mind around it, let alone make a constructive suggestion.
What’s needed is some sort of global authority with the power to set rules for catching and fish enforce them. Unfortunately the world is going in the opposite direction. National governments are giving up their sovereignty, all right, but to global organizations set up to protect corporations against undue environmental restrictions.
The World’s Billionaires List in Forbes
Billionaires: Decline of the West, Rise of the Rest by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh for Triple Crisis.
Forbes magazine’s annual list of the world’s billionaires indicates there are still more billionaires in the United States than in any other country, but the rest of the world is catching up. China has the second largest number of billionaires and Russia has the third, followed by Germany, India, Brazil and Turkey.
The new list reflects the growth of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) relative to the United States, western Europe and Japan. Broad and Cavanagh wrote that it also reflects growing inequality throughout the world. The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim of Mexico, has a net worth of $73 billion, equal to 6.2 percent of Mexico’s GDP. The third richest is Amacio Ortega, the Spanish retail king, who accumulated a fortune of $57 billion in a country where a fourth of the work force are unemployed. If you’re wondering, the world’s second richest billionaire is Bill Gates and the fourth richest is Warren Buffett.
The Most Important Labor Strike in the World Is Happening Right Now by David Callahan for Common Dreams.
Millions of workers across Indonesia are on strike, demanding a higher minimum wage (it is now about $200 a month) and a universal health plan. This is important for U.S. workers because Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world after China, India and the United States, is a giant sweatshop which helps depress wages worldwide.
The sooner Indonesia follows the path of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, and develops a sizable middle class, the better not only for Indonesia, but for the United States, because Indonesia will become more of a potential market for U.S.-made goods and less of a magnet for how-wage employers. Labor unions historically have helped bring wage-earners into the middle class.
Will the House of Saud pivot to China? by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times
Turkey’s Choice: Chinese Missile Defense or NATO? by Semih Idiz for Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse.
The Turkish government is negotiating to obtain a missile defense system from the Chinese Precision Machinery Import and Export Company, which also supplies military technology to Syria, Iran and North Korea. The Turks said the Chinese bid is lower and offers technology transfer withheld by Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and other western bidders. This is another example of the fact that China is now a global power, and not a regional east Asian power.
As I read about how killer jellyfish are spreading over the oceans and crowding out other forms of marine life, I feel (not for the first time) as if I were a minor character in a bad science-fiction disaster story.
But killer jellyfish are no joke. Jeffyfish can survive where other species do, many have deadly stings and they prevent the other species from coming back once they establish their dominance.
Click on the following links for more.
Jellyfish are taking over the seas and it may be too late to stop them by Gwynn Guilford for Quartz.com. Hat tip to Barry Ritholtz’s The Big Picture.
Korea’s plan to shred a jellyfish plague with robots could spawn a million more by Christopher Mims for Quartz.com.
They’re Taking Over! by Tim Flannery for the New York Review of Books
Jellyfish surge in the Mediterranean threatens environment — and tourists by Giles Tremlett for The Guardian.
Deadly jellyfish to bloom in north Australian waters by Carolyn Herbert for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Jellyfish clog pipes of Swedish nuclear reactor forcing shutdown by the Associated Press.
They are all worth reading in their entirety, along with the comment threads, but here are some highlights, with links.
The preferred business model today is to make it so that no one owns anything: everything is unbundled, instead of owning it, you lease or rent it and the moment you can’t pay it all goes away. This is what “cloud” computing is about: a revenue stream. Lose your revenue, lose everything. Ownership of DNA sequences, ownership of seeds, effective ownership of your intellectual property because it appears in someone else’s pipe (like Google using people’s endorsements without compensating them), you will own nothing, and all surplus value you produce in excess of what you need to (barely) survive will be taken from you.
To put it another way, the current business model is value stripping.
We’re going to hit the wall. We’re going to have fight a dystopic panopticon police state in which ordinary people are not allowed to own anything of real value, let alone keep any of the real value they create. We’re going to do this while the environment comes apart, while we get battered by “extreme weather events”, droughts, water shortages and hunger.
That’s the baseline scenario. That’s what we have to be ready to deal with, to change as much as we can, to radically mitigate to save hundreds of millions or billions of lives, and to make billions of lives good, instead of meaningless existential hells.
A World in Which No One Is Listening to the World’s Sole Superpower by Dilip HIro for The Nation.
Back during the Vietnam Conflict, a friend of mine remarked that the United States government had the power to kill all the North Vietnamese and the power to kill all the South Vietnamese, but it did not have the power make Vietnamese obey it. Mao Zedong was wrong. Not all political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.
The U.S. government still spends almost as much on its military as the rest of the world put together, but it is less and less able to impose its will on the rest of the world. As Dilip Hiro wrote, even nominal allies of the United States, even governments that were installed by the U.S. military, refuse to follow President Obama’s lead.
The willingness of a President to engage in military action does not give him credibility. Instead successive military interventions have drained U.S. strength, and the rest of the world perceives this. We Americans would have done better to hold our military strength in reserve until we really need it to defend the nation.
I don’t think this is due to weakness of will, and I don’t think things would be better if John McCain or Mitt Romney were in the White House. I think it is due to long-standing lack of understanding by American leaders that power is not a substitute for understanding.
How a Shopping Mall Becomes a Killing Zone by Philip Jenkins for the American Conservative.
Philip Jenkins in this article described the ingenuity of Somali Al Shabaab terrorists and how they were able to hold out so long and kill so many people in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. Instead of attacking the mall, rented a store, built up an arsenal, scouted out the mall and only then began their slaughter.
Terrorism, whatever its roots may be, is a real threat. It is just not the kind of threat that can be met by invading countries or firing killer drones at suspicious characters in remote villages. It is a threat to be met by good police and intelligence work.
Science confirms: Politics wrecks your ability to do math by Chris Mooney for Grist.
A psychological experiment showed that not only does political bias cloud people’s understanding of statistics, and that a better understanding of statistics leads not to greater objectivity, but to a greater ability to defend their biases. This is true of both liberals and conservatives.
Ground Gives Way, and a Louisiana Town Struggles to Regain Its Footing by Michael Wines in the New York Times.
A growing sinkhole, hundreds of feet deep and as large as 20 football fields, swallows up trees and houses in southern Louisiana. It is like the opening scene of a horror movie.