This story has been on its way for a very long time. I recall the possibility being discussed when I was in University studying Microbiology in the 1970’s. We are our own worst enemies. We don’t use antibiotics intelligently and this is the result – bugs that become immune to the best weapons we have against them.
Update on this story here. It’s not as bad as it first sounded. Thx Alan T. for the research.
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U.S. health officials on Thursday reported the first case in the country of a patient with an infection resistant to all known antibiotics, and expressed grave concern that the superbug could pose serious danger for routine infections if it spreads.
“We risk being in a post-antibiotic world,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, referring to the urinary tract infection of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman who had not traveled within the prior five months.
Frieden, speaking at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C., said the infection was not controlled even by colistin, an antibiotic that is reserved for use against “nightmare bacteria.”
The infection was reported Thursday in a study appearing in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. It said the superbug itself had first been infected with a tiny piece of DNA called a plasmid, which passed along a gene called mcr-1 that confers resistance to colistin.
“(This) heralds the emergence of truly pan-drug resistant bacteria,” said the study, which was conducted by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of mcr-1 in the USA.”
The study said continued surveillance to determine the true frequency of the gene in the United States is critical.
“It is dangerous and we would assume it can be spread quickly, even in a hospital environment if it is not well contained,” said Dr. Gail Cassell, a microbiologist and senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School.
But she said the potential speed of its spread will not be known until more is learned about how the Pennsylvania patient was infected, and how present the colistin-resistant superbug is in the United States and globally.
The colistin-resistant gene was found last year in people and pigs in China. That discovery followed a different superbug gene that emerged in India in 2010.
In the meantime, Cassell said people can best protect themselves from the superbug and from other bacteria resistant to antibiotics by thoroughly washing their hands, washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly and preparing foods appropriately.
She said experts have warned since the 1990s that especially bad superbugs could be on the horizon, but few drugmakers have attempted to develop drugs against them.
“The medicine cabinet is threadbare because not enough has been done.”
With truths like this laying about on the ground around us, is it any wonder some of us get discouraged about our prospects.
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The notion of “externalities” has become familiar in environmental circles. It refers to costs imposed by businesses that are not paid for by those businesses. For instance, industrial processes can put pollutants in the air that increase public health costs, but the public, not the polluting businesses, picks up the tab. In this way, businesses privatize profits and publicize costs.
While the notion is incredibly useful, especially in folding ecological concerns into economics, I’ve always had my reservations about it. Environmentalists these days love speaking in the language of economics — it makes them sound Serious — but I worry that wrapping this notion in a bloodless technical term tends to have a narcotizing effect. It brings to mind incrementalism: boost a few taxes here, tighten a regulation there, and the industrial juggernaut can keep right on chugging. However, if we take the idea seriously, not just as an accounting phenomenon but as a deep description of current human practices, its implications are positively revolutionary.
To see what I mean, check out a recent report [PDF] done by environmental consultancy Trucost on behalf of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) program sponsored by United Nations Environmental Program. TEEB asked Trucost to tally up the total “unpriced natural capital” consumed by the world’s top industrial sectors. (“Natural capital” refers to ecological materials and services like, say, clean water or a stable atmosphere; “unpriced” means that businesses don’t pay to consume them.)
It’s a huge task; obviously, doing it required a specific methodology that built in a series of assumptions. (Plenty of details in the report.) But it serves as an important signpost pointing the way to the truth about externalities.
Here’s how those costs break down:
The majority of unpriced natural capital costs are from greenhouse gas emissions (38%), followed by water use (25%), land use (24%), air pollution (7%), land and water pollution (5%), and waste (1%).
So how much is that costing us? Trucost’s headline results are fairly stunning.
First, the total unpriced natural capital consumed by the more than 1,000 “global primary production and primary processing region-sectors” amounts to $7.3 trillion a year — 13 percent of 2009 global GDP.
(A “region-sector” is a particular industry in a particular region — say, wheat farming in East Asia.)
Second, surprising no one, coal is the enemy of the human race. Trucost compiled rankings, both of the top environmental impacts and of the top industrial culprits.
Here are the top five biggest environmental impacts and the region-sectors responsible for them:
The biggest single environmental cost? Greenhouse gases from coal burning in China. The fifth biggest? Greenhouse gases from coal burning in North America. (This also shows what an unholy nightmare deforestation in South America is.)
Now, here are the top five industrial sectors ranked by total ecological damages imposed:
It’s coal again! This time North American coal is up at number three.
Trucost’s third big finding is the coup de grace. Of the top 20 region-sectors ranked by environmental impacts, none would be profitable if environmental costs were fully integrated. Ponder that for a moment: None of the world’s top industrial sectors would be profitable if they were paying their full freight. Zero.
That amounts to an global industrial system built on sleight of hand. As Paul Hawken likes to put it, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.
This gets back to what I was saying at the top. The notion of “externalities” is so technical, such an economist’s term. Got a few unfortunate side effects, so just move some numbers from Column A to Column B, right?
But the UNEP report makes clear that what’s going on today is more than a few accounting oversights here and there. The distance between today’s industrial systems and truly sustainable industrial systems — systems that do not spend down stored natural capital but instead integrate into current energy and material flows — is not one of degree, but one of kind. What’s needed is not just better accounting but a new global industrial system, a new way of providing for human wellbeing, and fast. That means a revolution.
“The Pentagon was first instructed by Congress in 2007 to incorporate climate change into its long-term security planning.
But Republicans in Congress have gone on to block the military from preparing for a warmer future, cutting funds for intelligence gathering or testing low-carbon jet fuels.”
As I’ve said, the climate change nay-sayers no longer have to just sow doubt about the scientific consensus, now they have to confront the world’s militaries and insurance industries – both of which don’t care a fig about political spin. And both of which who have to ‘get it right’ or their very missions or survival are on the line.
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Global warming is changing the way the US trains for and goes to war – affecting war games, weapons systems, training exercises, and military installations – according to the Pentagon.
The defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, will tell a high-level meeting of military leaders on Monday that the Pentagon is undertaking sweeping changes to operation systems and installations to keep up with a growing threat of rising seas, droughts, and natural disasters caused by climate change.
“A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions,” Hagel wrote in his introduction to a Pentagon report out today. “We are considering the impacts of climate change in our war games and defence planning scenarios.”
But with Monday’s report, climate change moved from potential threat to an immediate factor in a wide range of operational and budgeting decisions.
“It makes it a reality that climate change indeed is a risk today, and we need to plan, programme and budget for it now and into the future,” said Sherri Goodman, chief executive of the military advisory board, a group of former generals and other high-ranking officers that studies US national security.
From now on, the military will factor climate change into a host of day-to-day decisions, a senior defence official told a conference call with reporters.
“It’s about being baked into things we are already doing, and incorporated into all the other things we are doing,” he said.
Those decisions could include war games, training exercises, and purchasing decisions – which could all be affected by conditions such as sea-level rise, heat waves, and drought.
War games scenarios would now factor in floods or storms instead of assuming optimal conditions, said Goodman. “You could make the game more complex with sea-level rise, and extreme weather events.”
She said the navy would have to test sonar and other systems under the changing ocean chemistry. The military will have to adapt to hotter temperatures.
One of the biggest and most costly decisions ahead is the location of some 7,000 US military sites.
As the report acknowledged, US military installations and personnel are already exposed to climate change. The Hampton Roads area in Virginia – which houses the biggest concentration of US forces – already floods during high tides and severe storms, and could see an additional 1.5 feet of sea level rise in the next 20 years.
Meanwhile, military bases in the south-west are coping with water and electricity shortages, under recurring droughts. Arctic land-based installations are shifting because of melting permafrost, while retreating sea ice is changing naval requirements.
The Pentagon is not planning a wholesale relocation of bases, the officials told the call. But they said the military was already bringing in sandbags and moving generators out of basements in low-lying areas. It was also shelving ideas for new construction on flood plains.
Other potential changes include cuts to outdoor training exercises – because of heat waves, or increased weapons maintenance costs and repairs because of heat and dust.
“As we think about changing weather patterns we have to think hard about where operations might be conducted and whether we need to change the assumptions about what kind of air breathing conditions … what kind of sea state we might expect in an operating environment, and what impact they might have.”
The report said troops could also be at greater risk of infectious diseases, which spread more rapidly in hotter temperatures.
Hagel in comments to reporters at the weekend said the Pentagon anticipated an increase in humanitarian missions, because of natural disasters and recurring famines.
He also said the Arctic presented a growing military challenge.
“We see an Arctic that is melting, meaning that most likely a new sea lane will emerge,” he said. “We know that there are significant minerals and natural deposits of oil and natural gas there. That means that nations will compete for those natural resources. That’s never been an issue before. You couldn’t get up there and get anything out of there. We have to manage through what those conditions and new realities are going to bring in the way of potential threats.”
The Pentagon was first instructed by Congress in 2007 to incorporate climate change into its long-term security planning.
But Republicans in Congress have gone on to block the military from preparing for a warmer future, cutting funds for intelligence gathering or testing low-carbon jet fuels.
Officials told the call that planning for the future would help bring down climate-related costs.
“There is a lot you can do to mitigate risk and lower the cost of risks if you acknowledge the risk exists,” the officials said.
– I’ve thought for sometime now that the U.S. military would eventually try to block access by soldiers to social commentary and criticism so that they would remain motivated if they are asked to go out and suppress social unrest in the U.S.
– To be fair, in this article they are suppressing a different kind of information. But the principle is the same and what we see here will be the thin edge of the wedge making its entry.
– The kind of unrest we’re talking about here is what will surface in the U.S. eventually, if the gap between the rich and poor keeps growing, if the weakening of the U.S. dollar keeps undermining the very fabric of people’s entire financial lives (even as the wealthy walk away with immense profits) and if the growing threats of climate change are not addressed and hundreds of thousands of people along the U.S. coastlines begin to find their lives, their futures and their properties vanishing beneath the rising waters.
The U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets.
According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from reading stories published by The Intercept on the grounds that they may contain classified information. The ban appears to apply to all employees—including those with top-secret security clearance—and is aimed at preventing classified information from being viewed on unclassified computer networks, even if it is freely available on the internet. Similar military-wide bans have been directed against news outlets in the past after leaks of classified information.
A directive issued to military staff at one location last week, obtained by The Intercept, threatens that any employees caught viewing classified material in the public domain will face “long term security issues.” It suggests that the call to prohibit employees from viewing the website was made by senior officials over concerns about a “potential new leaker” of secret documents.
The directive states:
We have received information from our higher headquarters regarding a potential new leaker of classified information. Although no formal validation has occurred, we thought it prudent to warn all employees and subordinate commands. Please do not go to any website entitled “The Intercept” for it may very well contain classified material.
As a reminder to all personnel who have ever signed a non-disclosure agreement, we have an ongoing responsibility to protect classified material in all of its various forms. Viewing potentially classified material (even material already wrongfully released in the public domain) from unclassified equipment will cause you long term security issues. This is considered a security violation.
A military insider subject to the ban said that several employees expressed concerns after being told by commanders that it was “illegal and a violation of national security” to read publicly available news reports on The Intercept.
“Even though I have a top secret security clearance, I am still forbidden to read anything on the website,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. “I find this very disturbing that they are threatening us and telling us what websites and news publishers we are allowed to read or not.”
– Here’s another news article, below, that reveals that the Pentagon is preparing for mass civil insurrection in the U.S. The combination of the information these two articles is interesting in it implications.
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Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown
Social science is being militarised to develop ‘operational tools’ to target peaceful activists and protest movements
A US Department of Defense (DoD) programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various agencies. The multi-million dollar program is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”
Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”
Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” The project will determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social contagians by studying their “digital traces” in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”
Twitter posts and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised.”
Another project awarded this year to the University of Washington “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate,” along with their “characteristics and consequences.” The project, managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity,” and will cover 58 countries in total.
– Strong words, these. But my own frustrations with all that is not happening run deep as well. When you can see that the car is being driven in the wrong direction and you can see that things are going to work out badly, how long should you persist in politely asking the driver to turn?
Until you are financially at risk? Until your health is at risk? Until your life and the lives of your children are at risk?
– There have to be limits.
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“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle.” —Frederick Douglass, 1857
Fuck Earth Day.
No, really. Fuck Earth Day. Not the first one, forty-four years ago, the one of sepia-hued nostalgia, but everything the day has since come to be: the darkest, cruelest, most brutally self-satirizing spectacle of the year.
Fuck it. Let it end here.
End the dishonesty, the deception. Stop lying to yourselves, and to your children. Stop pretending that the crisis can be “solved,” that the planet can be “saved,” that business more-or-less as usual—what progressives and environmentalists have been doing for forty-odd years and more—is morally or intellectually tenable. Let go of the pretense that “environmentalism” as we know it—virtuous green consumerism, affluent low-carbon localism, head-in-the-sand conservationism, feel-good greenwashed capitalism—comes anywhere near the radical response our situation requires.
So, yeah, I’ve had it with Earth Day—and the culture of progressive green denial it represents.
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But why Frederick Douglass? Why bring him into this? And who am I to invoke him—a man who was born a slave and who freed himself from slavery, who knew something about struggle, whose words were among the most radical ever spoken on American soil? Who the hell am I? I’ve never suffered racial or any other kind of oppression. I’ve never had to fight for any fundamental rights. I’m not even a radical, really. (Nor am I an “environmentalist”—and never have been.) All I want is a livable world, and the possibility of social justice. So who am I to quote Frederick Douglass?
Let me tell you who I am: I’m a human being. I’m the father of two young children, a 14-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, who face a deeply uncertain future on this planet. I’m a husband, a son, a brother—and a citizen. And, yes, I’m a journalist, and I’m an activist. And like more and more of us who are fighting for climate justice, I am engaged in a struggle—a struggle—for the fate of humanity and of life on Earth. Not a polite debate around the dinner table, or in a classroom, or an editorial meeting—or an Earth Day picnic. I’m talking about a struggle. A struggle for justice on a global scale. A struggle for human dignity and human rights for my fellow human beings, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable, far and near. A struggle for my own children’s future—but not only my children, all of our children, everywhere. A life-and-death struggle for the survival of all that I love. Because that is what the climate fight and the fight for climate justice is. That’s what it is.
Because, I’m sorry, this is not a test. This is really happening. The Arctic and the glaciers are melting. The great forests are dying and burning. The oceans are rising and acidifying. The storms, the floods—the droughts and heat waves—are intensifying. The breadbaskets are parched and drying. And all of it faster and sooner than scientists predicted. The window in which to act is closing before our eyes.
Any discussion of the situation must begin by acknowledging the science and the sheer lateness of the hour—that the chance for any smooth, gradual transition has passed, that without radical change the kind of livable and just future we all want is simply inconceivable. The international community has, of course, committed to keeping the global temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above the preindustrial average—the level, we’re told, at which “catastrophic” warming can still be avoided (we’ve already raised it almost one degree, with still more “baked in” within coming decades). But there’s good reason to believe that a rise of two degrees will lead to catastrophic consequences. And of course, what’s “catastrophic” depends on where you live, and how poor you are, and more often than not the color of your skin. If you’re one of the billions of people who live in the poorest and most vulnerable places—from Bangladesh to Louisiana—even 1 degree can mean catastrophe.
But the world’s climate scientists and leading energy experts are telling us that unless the major economies drastically and immediately change course—leaving all but a small fraction of fossil fuel reserves in the ground over the next four decades—we are headed for a temperature rise of four or five or even six degrees C within this century. The World Bank haswarned that four degrees “must be avoided.” But we’re not avoiding it. Global emissions are still rising each year. We’re plunging headlong toward the worst-case scenarios—critical global food and water shortages, rapid sea-level rise, social upheaval—and beyond.
The question is not whether we’re going to “stop” global warming, or “solve” the climate crisis; it is whether humanity will act quickly and decisively enough now to save civilization itself—in any form worth saving. Whether any kind of stable, humane and just future—any kind of just society—is still possible.
We know that if the governments of the world actually wanted to address this situation in a serious way, they could. Indeed, a select few, such as Germany, have begun to do so. It can be done—and at relatively low cost. And yet the fossil-fuel industry, and those who do its bidding, have been engaged in a successful decades-long effort to sow confusion, doubt and opposition—and to obstruct any serious policies that might slow the warming, or their profits, and buy us time.
As I’ve said elsewhere, let’s be clear about what this means: at this late date, given what we know and have known for decades, to willfully obstruct any serious response to global warming is to knowingly allow entire countries and cultures to disappear. It is to rob the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet of their land, their homes, their livelihoods, even their lives and their children’s lives—and their children’s children’s lives. For money. For political power.
These are crimes. They are crimes against the Earth, and they are crimes against humanity.
What, are you shocked? The same industry, the same people committing these crimes—while we subsidize them for their trouble—have been getting away with murder along the fence lines and front lines for generations.
What is the proper response to this? How should I respond?
Remain calm, we’re told. No “scare tactics” or “hysterics,” please. Cooler heads will prevail. Enjoy the Earth Day festivities.
The cooler heads have not prevailed. It’s been a quarter-century since the alarm was sounded. The cooler heads have failed.
Really? You want extreme? Business as usual is extreme. Just ask a climate scientist. The building is burning. The innocents—the poor, the oppressed, the children, your own children—are inside. And the American petro state is spraying fuel, not water, on the flames. That’s more than extreme. It’s homicidal. It’s psychopathic. It’s fucking insane.
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Coming to grips with the climate crisis is hard. A friend of mine says it’s like walking around with a knife in your chest. I couldn’t agree more.
So I ask again, in the face of this situation, how does one respond? Many of us, rather than retreat into various forms of denial and fatalism, have reached the conclusion that somethingmore than “environmentalism” is called for, and that a new kind of movement is the only option. That the only thing, at this late hour, offering any chance of averting an unthinkable future—and of getting through the crisis that’s already upon us—is the kind of radical social and political movement that has altered the course of history in the past. A movement far less like contemporary environmentalism and far more like the radical human rights, social justice and liberation struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Does that sound hopelessly naïve to you? Trust me, I get it. I know. I know how it sounds.
And yet here I am. Because I also know that abolishing slavery sounded hopeless and naïve in 1857, when Frederick Douglass spoke of struggle.
What I’m talking about is not a fight to “solve the climate crisis.” That’s not possible anymore. But neither is it simply a fight for human survival—because there are oppressive and dystopian forms of survival, not to mention narcissistic ones, that aren’t worth fighting for.
What I’m talking about is both a fight for survival and a fight for justice—for even the possibility of justice. It’s a fight that transcends environmentalism. It requires something of us beyond the usual politics and proposals, the usual pieties. It requires the kind of commitment you find in radical movements—the kind of struggles, from abolition to women’s, labor and civil rights, that have made possible what was previously unimaginable.
Because our global crisis—not merely environmental but moral and spiritual—is fundamental: it strikes to the root of who we are. It’s a radical situation, requiring a radical response. Not merely radical in the sense of ideology, but a kind of radical necessity. It requires us to find out who we really are—and, nonviolently, in the steps of Gandhi and King and many others, to act. In some cases, to lay everything—everything—on the line.
And it requires us to be honest, with one another and with ourselves, about the situation we face. We’ll never have a movement radical enough, or humane enough, until we are.
That is, until Earth Day is buried—and a day of reckoning begins.
It’s likely to be a familiar story to my scientist colleagues in Australia, the UK, the US, and elsewhere around the world.
But if you’re not a scientist and are genuinely trying to work out who to believe when it comes to climate change, then it’s a story you need to hear, too. Because while the New Zealand fight over climate data appears to finally be over, it’s part of a much larger, ongoing war against evidence-based science.
From number crunching to controversy
In 1981, as part of my PhD work, I produced a seven-station New Zealand temperature series known as 7SS to monitor historic temperature trends and variations from Auckland to as far south as Dunedin in southern New Zealand.
A decade later, while at the NZ Meteorological Service in 1991-92, I revised the 7SS using a newhomogenization approach to make New Zealand’s temperature records more accurate, such as adjusting for when temperature gauges were moved to new sites. For example, in 1928, Wellington’s temperature gauge was relocated from an inner suburb near sea level up into the hills at Kelburn, where—due to its higher, cooler location—it recorded much cooler temperatures for the city than before.
With statistical analysis, we could work out how much Wellington’s temperature has really gone up or down since the city’s temperature records began back in 1862 and how much of that change was simply due to the gauge being moved uphill. (You can read more about re-examining NZ temperatureshere.)
So far, so uncontroversial.
But in 2008, while I was working for a NZ government-owned research organization—the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)—we updated the 7SS. And we found that at those seven stations across the country, from Auckland down to Dunedin, there was a warming trend of 0.91ºC (1.63ºF) between 1909 and 2008.
NIWA’s raw data for their official temperature graph shows no warming. But NIWA shifted the bulk of the temperature record pre-1950 downwards and the bulk of the data post-1950 upwards to produce a sharply rising trend… NIWA’s entire argument for warming was a result of adjustments to data which can’t be justified or checked. It’s shonky.
Hide’s attack continued for 18 months, with more than 80 parliamentary questions being put to NIWA between February 2010 and July 2011, all of which required NIWA input for the answers.
The science minister asked NIWA to reexamine the temperature records, which required several months of science time. In December 2010, the results were in. After the methodology was reviewed and endorsed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, it was found that at the seven stations from Auckland to Dunedin, there was a warming trend of 0.91°C between 1909 and 2008.
That is, the same result as before.
But before NIWA even had time to produce that report, a new line of attack had been launched.
Off to court
In July 2010, a statement of claim against NIWA was filed in the High Court of New Zealand under the guise of a new charitable trust: the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust (NZCSET). Its trustees were all members of the NZ Climate Science Coalition.
The NZCSET challenged the decision of NIWA to publish the adjusted 7SS, claiming that the “unscientific” methods used created an unrealistic indication of climate warming.
The trust ignored the evidence in the Meteorological Service report I first authored, which stated that a particular adjustment methodology had been used. The trust incorrectly claimed this methodology should have been used but wasn’t.
In July 2011, the trust produced a document that attempted to reproduce the Meteorological Service adjustments, but it failed to do so, instead making lots of errors.
On September 7, 2012, High Court Justice Geoffrey Venning delivered a 49-page ruling, finding that the NZCSET had not succeeded in any of its challenges against NIWA.
Justice Venning described some of the trust’s evidence as tediously lengthy and said, “It is particularly unsuited to a satisfactory resolution of a difference of opinion on scientific matters.”
Taxpayers left to foot the bill
After an appeal that was withdrawn at the last minute, late last year the NZCSET was ordered to pay NIWA NZ$89,000 (US$74,000) in costs from the original case, plus further costs from the appeal.
But just this month, we have learned that the people behind the NZCSET have sent it into liquidation as they cannot afford the fees, leaving the New Zealand taxpayer at a substantial, six-figure loss.
Commenting on the lost time and money involved with the case, NIWA Chief Executive John Morgan said, “On the surface, it looks like the trust was purely for the purpose of taking action, which is not what one would consider the normal use of a charitable trust.”
This has been an insidious saga. The trust aggressively attacked the scientists instead of engaging with them to understand the technical issues, they ignored evidence that didn’t suit their case, and they regularly misrepresented NIWA statements by taking them out of context.
Yet their attack has now been repeatedly rejected in Parliament, by scientists, and by the courts.
The end result of the antics by a few individuals and the trust is probably going to be a six-figure bill for New Zealanders to pay.
My former colleagues have had valuable weeks tied up in defending against these manufactured allegations. That’s time that could have profitably been used further investigating what is happening with our climate.
But there is a bigger picture here, too.
Merchants of doubt
Doubt-mongering is an old strategy. It is a strategy that has been pursued before to combat the ideas that cigarette smoking is harmful to your health, and it has been assiduously followed by climate deniers for the past 20 years.
One of the best-known international proponents of such strategies is US think tank the Heartland Institute.
Just to be clear: there is no evidence that the Heartland Institute helped fund the NZ court challenge. In 2012, one of the trustees who brought the action against NIWA said that Heartland had not donated anything to the case.
The Heartland Institute also has a long record ofworking with tobacco companies, as the letter on the right illustrates. (You can read that letter and other industry documents in full here. Meanwhile, Heartland’s reply to critics of its tobacco and fossil fuel campaigns is here.)
The invisible hand waves goodbye to America’s most delusional CEO.
Once upon a time, hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert was living a Wall Street fairy tale. His fairy godmother was Ayn Rand, the dashing diva of free-market ideology whose quirky economic notions would transform him into a glamorous business hero.
For a while, it seemed to work like a charm. Pundits called him the “ Steve Jobs of the investment world.” The new Warren Buffett. By 2006 he was flying high, the richest man in Connecticut, managing over $15 billion thorough his hedge fund, ESL Investments.
Stoked by his Wall Street success, Lampert plunged headlong into the retail world. Undaunted by his lack of industry experience and hailed a genius, Lampert boldly pushed to merge Kmart and Sears with a layoff and cost-cutting strategy that would, he promised, send profits into the stratosphere. Meanwhile the hotshot threw cash around like an oil sheikh, buying a $40 million pad in Florida’s Biscayne Bay, a record even for that star-studded county.
Fast-forward to 2013: The fairy tale has become a nightmare.
Lampert is now known as one of the worst CEOs in America — the man who flushed Sears down the toilet with his demented management style and harebrained approach to retail. Sears stock is tanking. His hedge fun is down 40 percent, and the business press has turned from praising Lampert’s genius towatching gleefully as his ship sinks. Investors are running from “Crazy Eddie” like the plague.
That’s what happens when Ayn Rand is the basis for your business plan.
Crazy Eddie has been one of America’s most vocal advocates of discredited free-market economics, so obsessed with Ayn Rand he could rattle off memorized passages of her novels. As Mina Kimes explained in a fascinating profile in Bloomberg Businessweek, Lampert took the myth that humans perform best when acting selfishly as gospel, pitting Sears company managers against each other in a kind of Lord of the Flies death match. This, he believed, would cause them to act rationally and boost performance.
If you think that sounds batshit crazy, congratulations. You understand more than most of America’s business school graduates.
Instead of enhancing Sears’ bottom line, the heads of various divisions began to undermine each other and fight tooth and claw for the profits of their individual fiefdoms at the expense of the overall brand. By this time Crazy Eddie was completely in thrall to his own bloated ego, and fancied he could bend underlings to his will by putting them through humiliating rituals, like annual conference calls in which unit managers were forced to bow and scrape for money and resources. But the chaos only grew.
Lampert took to hiding behind a pen name and spying on and goading employees through an internal social network. He became obsessed with technology, wasting resources on developing apps as Sears’ physical stores became dilapidated and filthy. Instead of investing in workers and developing useful products, he sold off valuable real estate, shuttered stores, and engineered stock buybacks in order to manipulate stock prices and line his own pockets.
Eddie’s crazy didn’t stop there. As a Wall Street creature fantastically out of touch with the kind of ordinary folks who shop at Sears, he inserted his love of luxury into the mix, trying to sell Rolex watches and $4,400 designer handbags through America’s iconic budget-friendly brand.
As his company was descending into Randian mayhem, Lampert continued to cheerfully inform stockholders that his revolutionary ideas would soon produce earth-shattering results. Reality: Sears has lost half its value in five years. Since 2010, Sears has closed more than half of its stores. Sears Holdings is financially distressed and Lampert’s own hedge fund has reduced its stake in the company. The Sears store in Oakland, California, open for business with boarded-up windows, has even been cited for urban blight.
– This story is a first for New Zealand but it will not be the last.
– All around the world, antibiotic resistance, among virulent strains of bacteria, is rising as a result of the indiscriminate and careless application of antibiotics.
– The problem is that people are prescribed a course of antibiotics but they only take part of them. They decide, all on their own and against medical advice, that they feel fine and don’t need to finish the entire course.
– But what happens, when you are taking a course of antibiotics, is that the weakest of the bugs succumb first to the drugs and it takes until near the end of the course before the strongest and most resistant of the bugs succumbs.
– So, if you stop early, you’ve only killed the weakest ones and the strongest one survive and carry on.
– When such bugs pass through person after person, each of whom doesn’t complete the course, the net effect is like a filter that acts to concentrate and strengthen and nastiest of the bugs.
– And, eventually, the bugs strength and resistance is such that antibiotics will no longer touch them.
– People have misused antibiotics in this way since they were invented.
– For a long time, the answer to increasing resistance was to invent or discover a new antibiotics to deal with the bugs that had become resistant to other antibiotics.
– But, it has become more and more difficult to invent or discover new antibiotics even as the abuse of the existing antibiotics continues.
– So, the net effect world-wide is that the bugs are getting stronger and the antibiotics less effective and there will be a time, soon, when we will return to the bad-old-days; the way they were before we had antibiotics.
– So, unless we discover some new antibiotics, those bad-old-days, which are soon to come again, will be upon us. And simply being near someone with, say, tuberculosis could be a death sentence.
– Think about this the next time someone coughs near you in public.
– There are several morals to this story, if such things appeal to you:
– (1) No single rain drop thinks it is responsible for the flood.
– (2) Electing politicians who don’t ‘believe’ in science is a sure guarantee of future pandemics.
– (3) Thinking about where you live in terms of population density, the quality of your medical care and the level of intelligence among your politicians – these things are in your best interest.
– (4) If you think this is not happening around you, you’ve been ignoring science and the warnings it has been issuing for a long time now.
– And remember, nature doesn’t care what you ‘believe’. And nature bats last.
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He died fighting a superbug that no antibiotic in the world could touch.
Wellington teacher Brian Pool is believed to be New Zealand’s first victim of an aggressive superbug, caught while he was overseas, that is resistant to every type of antibiotic.
Pool, 68, spent most of the last six months of his life in quarantine, unable to leave his room even to sit in the courtyard.
“It was sad because we couldn’t give him a hug, we couldn’t really kiss him,” twin sister Maureen Dunn said.
“He just wanted to get out in the sun, and we couldn’t take him out.
“Being his twin sister, I would be the one who always rescued him . . . it was terrible, but there was nothing we could do.”
Her brother died on July 6, from complications caused by a stroke and unrelated to the bug.
But doctors say his immune system was weakened by fighting the nightmare bacteria.
The adventurous teacher, known for his quirky sense of humour, was living in Vietnam and teaching English when he suffered a brain haemorrhage on January 6.
He had surgery in Vietnam, where part of his skull was removed to relieve pressure on his brain, and was flown to New Zealand.
In Wellington Hospital, he was immediately isolated, a standard precaution for overseas patients.
Tests revealed he was carrying a strain of bacterium known as KPC-Oxa 48 – a “pan-resistant” organism that repels every kind of antibiotic.
“Nothing would touch it. Absolutely nothing,” Wellington Hospital clinical microbiologist Mark Jones said yesterday.
“It’s the first one that we’ve ever seen that is resistant to every single antibiotic known.
“This man was in the post-antibiotic era, and this is why so many agencies over the world are raising alarm bells.”
Earlier this year, British chief medical officer Sally Davies described resistance to antibiotics as a “catastrophic global threat” that should be ranked alongside terrorism.
New Zealand hospitals are already seeing increasing cases of multi-resistant “superbugs”, which can be treated by only a limited number of expensive antibiotics.
Dunn said the family was frightened, and even Mr Pool’s doctors did not seem to know what the superbug might do.
“They were shit scared, to put it bluntly, in case these bugs were transferred to another patient or taken out into the community.”
– But it is only just now beginning to reach the evening news as plausible news.
– We have just a few greedy, self-centered people and corporations to thank for the fact that their misinformation has been instrumental in delaying humanities waking up on these threats until it is virtually too late.
– Some of us remember how Mussolini ended up. I wonder, when the damages are finally appreciated, if these folks may fare the same. I won’t cry any crocodile tears for them; that’s for sure.
-By their actions many, many millions will die, cities and nations will fall, species innumerable will go extinct and most of our descendants will have less than optimal lives to look forward to; if they manage to live through the changes that are coming.
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The world is hurtling toward a stark future where the web of life unravels, human cultures are uprooted, and millions of species go extinct, according to a new study. This doomsday scenario isn’t far off, either: It may start within a decade in parts of Indonesia, and begin playing out over most of the world — including cities across the United States — by mid-century.
What’s more, even a serious effort to stabilize spiraling greenhouse gas emissions will only stave off these changes until around 2069, notes the study from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, published online Wednesday in the journal Nature. The authors warn that the time is now to prepare for a world where even the coldest of years will be warmer than the hottest years of the past century and a half.
“We are used to the climate that we live in. With this climate change, what is going to happen is we’re going to be moving outside this comfort zone,” biologist Camilo Mora, the study’s lead author, told NBC News. “It is going to be uncomfortable for us as humans and it will be very uncomfortable for species as well.”
– I don’t think the best of our idealists are going to be going out on Greenpeace ships any more to protest politely. Not when they stand to lose the most of their young lives sitting in Russian prisons for the crime of idealism and the crime of trying to wake people up to the stupidity and danger gathering all around us.
– The days or holding signs and protesting peacefully are withering away all over the world as people realize that none of that has been effective. And now it is become downright dangerous.
– I first read that an ecologically sane world and the world of Capitalism may not be compatible bedfellows on this planet back in 2008 when I read The Bridge at the Edge of the World by James Gustave Speth; Yale University. He is and has been a major leading light in all things environment in the U.S. and he’s been a team player all along. So, this was a hard conclusion for him to come to.
– In the article, below, Naomi Klein tells us that others up and down the line are coming to the same conclusions.
– If what we’ve been doing isn’t working and losing is not an option for those of us who love this world and our children, then quite simply, new measures will be needed.
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Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.
In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.
But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).
Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”
There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.
Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.
Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012,Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” by Theodore Roosevelt
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