Archive for June, 2008

Biofuel use ‘increasing poverty’

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

The replacement of traditional fuels with biofuels has dragged more than 30 million people worldwide into poverty, an aid agency report says.

Oxfam says so-called green policies in developed countries are contributing to the world’s soaring food prices, which hit the poor hardest.

The group also says biofuels will do nothing to combat climate change.

Its report urges the EU to scrap a target of making 10% of all transport run on renewable resources by 2020.

Oxfam estimates the EU’s target could multiply carbon emissions 70-fold by 2020 by changing the use of land.

The report’s author, Oxfam’s biofuel policy adviser Rob Bailey, criticised rich countries for using subsidies and tax breaks to encourage the use of food crops for alternative sources of energy like ethanol.

“If the fuel value for a crop exceeds its food value, then it will be used for fuel instead,” he said.


Extreme Weather Events Can Unleash A ‘Perfect Storm’ Of Infectious Diseases, Research Study Says

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

An international research team, including University of Minnesota researcher Craig Packer, has found the first clear example of how climate extremes, such as the increased frequency of droughts and floods expected with global warming, can create conditions in which diseases that are tolerated individually may converge and cause mass die-offs of livestock or wildlife.

The study, published June 25 by PloS (Public Library of Science) One, an online peer-reviewed research journal, suggests that extreme climatic conditions are capable of altering normal host-pathogen relationships and causing a “perfect storm” of multiple infectious outbreaks that could trigger epidemics with catastrophic mortality.


Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

– I’ve been murmuring for sometime now that the folks who have organized and sponsored these climate disinformation campaigns may well be held responsible for crimes against humanity in the future once folks see the full consequences of their malfeasance. And I am glad to see that someone like James Hansen with some serious credibility has put the idea out there publicly.

– Some will say that those who run these big corporations are just doing their jobs; just following orders; just doing what they have to do so they can hang onto their jobs. And the corporate folks themselves will say that if they didn’t do it, someone else would.

– Well, they’ll say all that, but it doesn’t cut any slack with me.

– When WWII ended, we had the Nuremberg Trials and the issue of whether or not soldiers could plead that they were ‘just following orders from their superiors’ was looked at as a possible defense. But the answer from the judges was ‘No’.

“The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

– They said that even each lowly soldier had the responsibility to make a judgment whether or not what he or she was doing was immoral or not.

– So, the corporate CEOs who’ve put the might of their business’ money behind climate disinformation campaigns; whose orders were they following? And the answer is, they were following the aggregate will of the many shareholders they work for. And the will of those many shareholders, above all else, was and is to maximize the company’s profits – to increase their own.

– When you look at the causal connections, it’s hard to know where to hang the blame but, the fact is, the buck has to stop somewhere. These corporate entities, and those who run them, cannot be allowed to conduct disinformation campaigns designed to protect their profits at the cost dissuading humanity from reacting appropriately to an impending global disaster.

– At the deepest level, I think responsibility lies with those who, through their shortsightedness, allowed corporations to become equal to sovereign citizens and to develop levels of power equal or exceeding that of many nation states. I’ve talked about this before here.

– But, in the shorter term, those who sat in the board rooms and made cold-blooded decisions in favor of protecting their corporation’s profits (and their own jobs) and ignored the likely consequences to humanity’s future (and, indeed, the biosphere’s future) – these folks need to be held accountable. They’ve traded all of our future’s and our children’s futures away for some transient baubles.

– So, I agree strongly with Hansen on this issue; these folks need to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, foractively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

· Testimony to US Congress will also criticize lobbyists
· ‘Revolutionary’ policies needed to tackle crisis

James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech (pdf) to the US Congress – in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming – to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the “perfect storm” of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

In an interview with the Guardian he said: “When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that’s a crime.”


Surveillance Bill: The Worst of All Worlds

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

– The steady erosion of our liberties and the unending decent into ever and ever more partisan politics bodes ill for what was once the world’s most enlightened nation state.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Months of troubled negotiations over new surveillance legislation ended in the House of Representatives today, with the approval of the so-called FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Hailed in some quarters as a “ compromise” after the capitulation of the Protect America Act of 2006, the new surveillance bill is nothing of the kind: on core issues of privacy and accountability, there is no compromise, since little in the measure honors those two values.

Since the New York Times‘s revelation of massive illegal surveillance by the NSA, electronic privacy has been a battlefield for claims of executive power and civil liberties. In 2006, the Administration used the shadow of midterm Congressional elections to stampede both Houses into temporary authorization of sweeping new powers in the Protect America Act (PAA). The measure’s grants of new authority had sunset clauses, which expire either immediately before or after the 2008 elections.

The PAA set the scene for another legislative bait-and-switch: On the cusp of national election contests, the Administration rang alarms of crisis, claiming the nation is losing spying capabilities. Legislators inclined to protect civil liberties weighed their exposure to soft-on-security attacks against their allegiance to constitutional values. Either way–in terms of raw power or partisan advantage–the Administration and its supporters win.


– research thanks to Michael M.

Pray-in at S.F. gas station asks God to lower prices

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Rocky Twyman has a radical solution for surging gasoline prices: prayer.

Twyman – a community organizer, church choir director and public relations consultant from the Washington, D.C., suburbs – staged a pray-in at a San Francisco Chevron station on Friday, asking God for cheaper gas. He did the same thing in the nation’s Capitol on Wednesday, with volunteers from a soup kitchen joining in. Today he will lead members of an Oakland church in prayer.

Yes, it’s come to that.

“God is the only one we can turn to at this point,” said Twyman, 59. “Our leaders don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. The prices keep soaring and soaring.”


In Fertile India, Growth Outstrips Agriculture

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

JALANDHAR, India — With the right technology and policies, India could help feed the world. Instead, it can barely feed itself.

India’s supply of arable land is second only to that of the United States, its economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, and its industrial innovation is legendary. But when it comes to agriculture, its output lags far behind potential. For some staples, India must turn to already stretched international markets, exacerbating a global food crisis.


– Research thanks to Rolf A. 

– This article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, a friend of mine suggests the website :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

Federal Report: Warming = More Harmful Climate Extremes

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

The first thorough federal review of research on how global warming may affect extreme climate events in North America forecasts more drenching rains, parching droughts (especially in the Southwest), intense heat waves and stronger hurricanes if long-lived greenhouse gases continue building in the atmosphere.

The report is distinct from last month’s federal review of specific impacts of warming on agriculture, ecosystems, coasts and the like in the United States, focusing instead on how weather patterns will change. It also largely echoes, at the regional level, findings on global impacts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year.


– This article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, a friend of mine suggests the website :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

Poem – Under many stars

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Here, amid the weeds
of these centuries, I rise.
Seeking light and duration
up from the soil and seas of another world.

The long rise; the single cell, the multiple,
fleet of form and bright of eye, we gather
and rise in complexity and imagination
beneath the wheeling sun above
and the shifting plates, below.

Again and again, we come to self-consciousness
spewing poetry and conquest, cities and literature.
Proud and driven, we sing the animal’s song
in a higher key; procreating, building, consuming.

Always the rise, always the fall, beneath a different star.
Technological children, impulsive and uncontrolled.
Pressed onward by those same biological imperatives
that fueled our original rise from the mud and the struggle.

Those same imperatives now freed by our intelligence,
those same imperatives now pushing us from behind,
while we stare into the mirror of our imagined futures
thinking ourselves Gods - as we sleepwalk to our end.

Thinking we are aware, imagining that we see the game entire.
Looking for enemies without the gate
when they are no further than our next desire, within.
Driven by our imperatives before we plunge on that self-same sword.

I have been here many times before and I will come again
beneath different stars with different eyes and chemistry.
I have yearned for immortal freedom before
and died by my own hand and these deep imperatives.

But someplace, among the stars, I will rise and transcend
the very reproductive urges that gave me birth.
And I will become, not the arrow of mindless imperatives,
but the intentional form of a greater wisdom
as this very dirt finally finds the path to immortality
and all that lies beyond, to the end of time.


- from Samadhimuse: :arrow:

Upsetting the oil drum

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

The big push from the hard right is that the solution to our gasoline problem is unlimited drilling in the United States. This is roughly like saying the solution to losing your 100,000 dollar a year job is to fish harder for coins under your couch.

The global consumption of oil is roughly 86.8 million barrels per day. The meme the right is pushing, as always, is ANWR and unrestricted coastal drilling. The best estimates of unrestricted drilling in the US put about 25 billion barrels of oil, which sounds like a great deal, until you realize that this is less than a year of global oil demand. The reality is that the United States is the most drilled in area of the world, having had the petroleum economy more, longer, and harder, than any other place in the world. If there were easy oil to be had, we would have it.

The cost of that effort is not making things that we can sell for oil that is much easier to get at. The cry of ANWR for ever is the Republican Party telling everyone that they have no faith in the American worker, the American entrepreneur, or the free market system. It is them telling everyone that Americans cannot make things the rest of the world wants to buy. Import substitution does not in general work, because it is almost always more expensive than trading, and focusing on what can be done better inside the national unit, rather than trying to do less worse at what it does worst.

Let me repeat that. ANWR forever is a giant middle finger at everyone who works in America at any job that exports.


The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

This worrisome research article has appeared in a peer reviewed journal. It’s not telling us anything that we didn’t already know, but it does catalogue the situation and help us steer clear of the hyperbole.

Environmental scepticism denies the seriousness of environmental problems, and self-professed ’sceptics’ claim to be unbiased analysts combating ‘junk science’. This study quantitatively analyses 141 English-language environmentally sceptical books published between 1972 and 2005. We find that over 92 per cent of these books, most published in the US since 1992, are linked to conservative think tanks (CTTs). Further, we analyse CTTs involved with environmental issues and find that 90 per cent of them espouse environmental scepticism. We conclude that scepticism is a tactic of an elite-driven counter-movement designed to combat environmentalism, and that the successful use of this tactic has contributed to the weakening of US commitment to environmental protection.