Friday, November 17, 2017

Is It Fear?

After digesting yesterday's essay by UBC prof William Rees about how humanity is suffocating other forms of life on our planet, I was left wondering what they're afraid of, why aren't they talking to us about what is happening, right now, beneath our own feet?

As Rees pointed out, "We are clever enough to document — in exquisite detail — various trends that portend the collapse of modern civilization, yet not nearly smart enough to extricate ourselves from our self-induced predicament.

For a decade, perhaps a bit more, I've been covering one major report after another on research documenting the alarming collapse of non-human life - insect, mammals, birds, sea mammals, fish, the lot. Some species have fallen extinct but the worrisome problem is that virtually all species are in severe decline, often upwards of 66% of their numbers over the past 40 years which, of course, coincides with the advent of neoliberalism.

Even in Canada, everything from casual windshield “surveys” to formal scientific assessments show a drop in insect numbers. Meanwhile, domestic populations of many insect-eating birds are in freefall. Ontario has lost half its whip-poor-wills in the past 20 years; across the nation, such species as nighthawks, swallows, martins and fly-catchers are down by up to 75 per cent; Greater Vancouver’s barn and bank swallows have plummeted by 98 per cent since 1970. Heard much about these things in the mainstream news?

Scientists estimate that at the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago, H. sapienscomprised less than one per cent of the total weight of mammals on the planet. (There were probably only two to four million people on Earth at the time.) Since then, humans have grown to represent 35 per cent of a much larger total biomass; toss in domestic pets and livestock, and human domination of the world’s mammalian biomass rises to 98.5 per cent!

It took all of human history — let’s say 200,000 years — for our population to reach one billion in the early 1800s, but only 200 years, 1/1000th as much time, to hit today’s 7.6 billion! Meanwhile, material demand on the planet has ballooned even more — global GDP has increased by over 100-fold since 1800; average per capita incomes by a factor of 13. (rising to 25-fold in the richest countries). Consumption has exploded accordingly — half the fossil fuels and many other resources ever used by humans have been consumed in just the past 40 years.

As the Bonn climate summit wraps up it reveals how ineffectual our nations have become and why they'll never succeed in bringing climate change under control. They're still treating climate change as a standalone crisis. They imagine they're dealing with a disease but it's really just one of several symptoms of the greater threat that confronts us - ourselves.

You cannot take climate change in isolation of its companion threats that are also existential. Climate change cannot be separated from over-population and over-consumption of our planet's finite resources.  Rees pointed it out beautifully. It took our species 200,000 years to reach one billion and just another 200 years to increase that more than seven fold and, in the course of those same 200 years, GDP has swelled about a hundred fold. That's hundreds of times more production, more consumption, more waste, more pollution and contamination of every form imaginable. And what are our politicians doing? With their corporate partners they're obsessively pursuing perpetual, exponential growth. Every foot is on the gas pedal but nobody's hands are on the wheel.

That's not democratic leadership. That's nihilism.

They can't even respond to climate change beyond purely gestural proposals - carbon taxes. What exactly is that going to do? Nothing, it's a sop.

Rees didn't write an op-ed. He penned an essay. He wasn't expressing an opinion. He was writing from fact, scientific knowledge documented in "exquisite detail." His was not some dodgy belief-based construct. That's the crap peddled to us by our political caste, the nihilists.

Surely we have reached a point where you have to ask yourself why you're supporting and empowering nihilists. Why? The science has been pouring in for more than a decade. There's a mountain of research and analysis and it's compelling. 

What's your problem? Is it simply too much to take in? Can you not get your mind around the enormity of the change that has set in over just the past forty years? Do you, like our leaders, need to pretend this isn't happening or that it's not immediate or a mortal threat to our civilization?

Farewell to Nova Scotia?

Nova Scotia could become Canada's second island province thanks to climate change and sea level rise.

Mayor David Kogon of Amherst, N.S., said sea levels are projected to rise in the Bay of Fundy over 15 to 20 years to the point where the Isthmus of Chignecto will flood, even without a storm surge.

The isthmus is a narrow, low-lying strip of land that is about 20 kilometres at its narrowest point.

"If the Isthmus of Chignecto, which is all that connects Nova Scotia to New Brunswick, is flooded out, then Nova Scotia will be surrounded by water," said Kogon in an interview Thursday, adding that with the right storm the isthmus could flood sooner.

"If the highway and rail line are under water, you've completely cut Nova Scotia off from the rest of mainland Canada."

I know, I know, Newfoundland is also an island only it's Newfoundland and Labrador, right? Not the same thing.

Fossil Fuels Built the World's Biggest Sovereign Wealth Fund. Now Norway Wants to Ditch Fossils.

When it comes to fossil energy, Canadian politicians have been - well - f#@kups.  That's doubly true for those idiots in Alberta.

Way back when there was a Wild Rose premier who understood what Alberta had, how to realize the benefit of it and how to avoid the built-in perils. That gentleman was Peter Lougheed.

Lougheed knew that oil wealth was volatile. It was a boom and bust commodity that could, in cycles, overheat an economy and then collapse it. He advocated for slow, controlled development and for setting the riches aside to avoid overheating the economy.

After Lougheed left his successors followed their own path, let' er rip. And all the misery and woes that Lougheed had warned them about came to pass - again and again and again.

Across the Atlantic, the Viking crowd had heard Lougheed's words and took them to heart.  Norway began to manage its North Sea oil reserves according to Lougheed's formula. They treated their oil bounty for what it was, a windfall that belonged to all Norse, today and into the future. And so little Norway came to own the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, today in excess of a trillion dollars.

Now, seeking to safeguard that mountain of cash, Norway's sovereign wealth fund is moving to divest many billions in oil and gas stocks. Norway, it seems, realizes this Carbon Bubble is going to burst and doesn't want to be around for the big pop.

Wow, first it was the Saudis who announced plans to sell off Aramco and now Norway wants out.

Norway, which relies on oil and gas for about a fifth of economic output, would be less vulnerable to declining crude prices without its fund investing in the industry, the central bank said Thursday. The divestment would mark the second major step in scrubbing the world's biggest wealth fund of climate risk, after it sold most of its coal stocks.

"Our perspective here is to spread the risks for the state's wealth," Egil Matsen, the deputy central bank governor overseeing the fund, said in an interview in Oslo. "We can do that better by not adding oil-price risk."

Imagine if we could write the next two paragraphs about Ottawa and Alberta:

Built on the income that western Europe's largest energy supplier has generated for more than 20 years, the fund's investment decisions are guided by ethical rules encompassing human rights, some weapons production, the environment and tobacco. Norway's fossil-fuel investments are coming under increasing scrutiny from a public that aims to be a climate leader without jeopardizing one of the world's highest standards of living.

The fund has doubled in value over the past five years and was just given the go-ahead to boost its stock holdings to 70 per cent of its portfolio from 60 per cent to help drive returns. The government, which also controls Statoil ASA and offshore oil and gas fields, was forced to withdrew cash from the fund for the first time last year to meet spending commitments after oil prices dropped.

If only but, of course, we can't. Alberta took the Mardi Gras route and now faces the very real risk of bitumen becoming a stranded asset leaving the provincial and federal governments holding the bag for the costs of cleaning up the environmental devastation known as Athabasca.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

It's Called "Competitive Displacement" And There Are No Winners.

Competitive displacement is what happens to native species when humans come to dominate an ecosystem. Those native species are displaced, often by way of extinction. William Rees, professor emeritus of human ecology at the University of British Columbia, says the already severe loss of biodiversity points to imminent environmental collapse.

A curious thing about H. sapiens is that we are clever enough to document — in exquisite detail — various trends that portend the collapse of modern civilization, yet not nearly smart enough to extricate ourselves from our self-induced predicament.

Even in Canada, everything from casual windshield “surveys” to formal scientific assessments show a drop in insect numbers. Meanwhile, domestic populations of many insect-eating birds are in freefall. Ontario has lost half its whip-poor-wills in the past 20 years; across the nation, such species as nighthawks, swallows, martins and fly-catchers are down by up to 75 per cent; Greater Vancouver’s barn and bank swallows have plummeted by 98 per cent since 1970. Heard much about these things in the mainstream news?

Too bad. Biodiversity loss may turn out to be the sleeper issue of the century. It is caused by many individual but interacting factors — habitat loss, climate change, intensive pesticide use and various forms of industrial pollution, for example, suppress both insect and bird populations. But the overall driver is what an ecologist might call the “competitive displacement” of non-human life by the inexorable growth of the human enterprise.

On a finite planet where millions of species share the same space and depend on the same finite products of photosynthesis, the continuous expansion of one species necessarily drives the contraction and extinction of others. (Politicians take note — there is always a conflict between human population/economic expansion and “protection of the environment.”)


One needs look no further to explain why wildlife populations globally have plunged by nearly 60 per cent in the past half century. Wild tigers have been driven from 93 per cent of their historic range and are down to fewer than 4,000 individuals globally; the population of African elephants has imploded by as much as 95 per cent to only 500,000 today; poaching drove black rhino numbers from an already much reduced 70,000 in 1960 to only 2,500 individuals in the early 1990s. (With intense conservation effort, they have since rebounded to about 5,000). And those who still think Canada is still a mostly pristine and under-populated wilderness should think again — half the wildlife species regularly monitored in this country are in decline, with an average population drop of 83 per cent since 1970. Did I mention that B.C.’s southern resident killer whale population is down to only 76 animals? That’s in part because human fishers have displaced the orcas from their favoured food, Chinook salmon, even as we simultaneously displace the salmon from their spawning streams through hydro dams, pollution and urbanization.

The human band-wagon may really have started rolling 10 millennia ago but the past two centuries of exponential growth greatly have accelerated the pace of change. It took all of human history — let’s say 200,000 years — for our population to reach one billion in the early 1800s, but only 200 years, 1/1000th as much time, to hit today’s 7.6 billion! Meanwhile, material demand on the planet has ballooned even more — global GDP has increased by over 100-fold since 1800; average per capita incomes by a factor of 13. (rising to 25-fold in the richest countries). Consumption has exploded accordingly — half the fossil fuels and many other resources ever used by humans have been consumed in just the past 40 years. (See graphs in: Steffen, W et al. 2015. The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration. The Anthropocene Review, Volume: 2 Issue: 1, page(s): 81-98.)

Yes, our species is dominating the world but that doesn't mean we're winning, just that we may be the last losers in a human-driven extinction event. And don't look to your leaders for help. They're far more responsible than the rest of us for this. They have steered us on this nihilistic trajectory. And even Cap'n Selfie will not veer from this path. All he'll do is drag us ever nearer the edge.

Will doctor Reese's warning stir us to action? Of course not. His will just be the most recent and powerful warning to end up straight down the memory hole. I've been writing about this at least as far back as 2008. Here are some links - here and here and here and here and here. There are plenty more if you want to search this blog.

These reports and studies going back a decade and more confirm the professor's argument that humans are profoundly clever in documenting "in exquisite detail" this building trend toward collapse but "we're not nearly smart enough to extricate ourselves" from this nightmare of our own making.

WTF? Now It's "Pollution Denial"?

Remember those climate change deniers?  Well they may still find solace in the bosom of the CBC but by and large they're now thoroughly discredited. Although they seem to have found new territory to work their R.J. Reynolds magic. This time it's air pollution.

The meme goes like this, "Modern air is too clean." That clean air, just not good for you, nope. If you can't feel the very air you breathe, you're missing out. It's the very sort of thing that appeals to a deviant like Donald J. Trump.

Despite report after report linking air pollution to deterioration of the lungs, heart and brain, Prof Robert Phalen believes the air is “too clean” for children.

After all, everybody needs a bit of immune-system-boosting dirt in their lungs.

“Modern air is a little too clean for optimum health,” he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the world’s largest scientific societies, in 2012.

“My most important role in science is causing trouble and controversy,” he added.

Now the director of the air pollution health effects laboratory at the University of California, Irvine, is set to be appointed as a scientific adviser by Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

But Phalen isn’t alone. Pollution denial is starting to appear outside the US, in countries where the air is much more toxic.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Today in Extinction News

What a week it's been on the mass extinction front. It began with an official US delegation to the Bonn climate summit that tried to turn it into a fossil fuels trade show. Sort of like pushing cigarettes at a lung cancer symposium. All class, America. All class.

Then there was the report out of the International Energy Agency that concluded the United States will pass Saudi Arabia at its peak in the extraction and sale of gas and oil by 2025.  Washington has served notice. As far as the US and fossil fuels are concerned, it'll be burn baby, burn.

Now it's Brazil's turn in the dirty energy spotlight. It seems the Brazilians figure that old Carbon Bubble has to burst sometime and they want to get as much of their fossil fuel reserves on the market before that happens.

Brazil is planning a fire-sale of its oil resources before shrinking global carbon budgets push down demand and prices, environmental groups have warned.

The focus of concern is a government proposal for up to $300bn in tax relief to companies that develop offshore oilfields that opponents claim would use up 7% of humanity’s emission budget if global warming is to be kept below 2C.

Climate Observatory, WWF, Greenpeace and other groups say the subsidies could spark a get-it-out-of-the-ground race with fossil fuel rivals such as the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway and the UK.

The accusations contradict Brazil’s position at this week’s climate talks, where the country’s negotiators have urged the world to be more ambitious in cutting carbon emissions.

“The country is doing the exact opposite – increasing emissions and opening itself up to big oil with billionaire subsidies at a time when the country still tries to recover from its worst recession,” said Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of Climate Observatory.

Every Now and Then Justin Comes Through

A pleasant surprise from prime minister Justin Trudeau - he pissed off the gangster/president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. Good one, Justin.

Trudeau said he told Duterte about the need for the rule of law in the Philippines, and also made a friendly offer of support to help the Philippines move forward.

Trudeau said Duterte — whose violent crackdown on drug dealers and drug users by his government’s forces have left thousands dead — was receptive to the comments during what the Canadian prime minister called a very cordial and positive exchange.

Duterte, however, seemed to remember it differently.

“I said, ‘I will not explain. It is a personal and official insult,’” he told a news conference later Tuesday of his discussion with Trudeau. “‘It angers me when you are a foreigner, you do not know what exactly is happening in this country. You don’t even investigate.’”

Relax Rodrigo, settle down. After all you made a new BFF, a guy who likes the cut of your jib, the Mango Mussolini himself.

Two Creepy Cops, Same Day

Look who is gracing the CBC web site this morning. Why it's those two creepy cops, Harper's own Julian Fantino and Toronto Police stalwart, James "Give'em the full clip" Forcillo.

Forcillo has been arrested for breaching his bail conditions.

Fantino is celebrated for cutting the ribbon on his new business - a marijuana shop. That's right, Julian the guy who equated legalizing pot with "legalizing murder" has seen the light and the light is green.

The two of them, they're just creepy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bannon Gets Buyer's Remorse

Steve Bannon couldn't get enough of Alabama Republican Roy Moore. Trump endorsed Moore's opponent, Luther Strange, for the Republican senate nomination but Bannon went for Moore. When the Moore scandal broke, the besotted Fenian attacked the Amazon/Bezos/Washington Post conspiracy to take down the Tea Party favourite, his boy Roy.

I pretty much knew all that anyone should need to know about Moore when I read that, as an army captain in Viet Nam, Moore had crafted himself a bed built of sandbags so his soldiers couldn't frag him while he slept. Then it turned out Moore wasn't leading his men up Hamburger Hill or the Ia Drang valley. They were a unit of MPs guarding Vietnamese prisoners or war who might or might not have been fighting for the north. They were REMFs, "rear echelon mother f#@kers" who must have had thoughts about offing Roy but not because he was going to lead them into insane risks in combat. Roy must've figured they wanted him to eat a frag grenade because he deserved to die - and Roy knew it.

Now all those women, five to date, have come out to accuse Repug Roy, of messing with underage kids. No, not exactly fuckin'em but giving them the Louis C.K. once-over. Molesting them a bit, no penetration.

Sean Hannity has rallied to Moore's side and his show's advertisers have drawn a line and decided to beat feet, following advertisers from previous fiascos.

And now, the curiously florid Steve Bannon, is getting cold feet. He's even seemingly contemplating where he'll bury the remains.

Bannon said late last week that "I will put him in a grave myself" if he finds that Moore lied to him about the accusations leveled against him in a Washington Post article. There's been no public reaction by Bannon to a press conference Monday held by a fifth woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was 16 years old.

Initially, Bannon referred to the Washington Post's report as an orchestrated political attack. "The Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump, is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore," he declared in a speech in Manchester last week after the story broke. He has also railed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over Moore, calling it a "desperate attempt" for him to hold onto power.

Bannon has seen Moore as the means to challenge establishment Republicans, throwing his support behind Moore during the primary against President Trump's and Senate Republicans' preferred candidate, incumbent Sen. Luther Strange. Moore beat Strange handily in the recent primary election.

CBS News has confirmed that Bannon has told those close to him that he's not comfortable with the sexual harassment accusations, though he also suspects the story might be part of a GOP establishment hit job to sink Moore's candidacy. But his friends have advised him that it's unlikely that all the accusations are without merit, and they think he should distance himself from Moore soon.

I'm left wondering if Roy Moore isn't being seen by moderate Republicans (who are already rightwing extremists) as an opportunity to purge the GOP of the very ultra right extremists they invited into the party when they imagined they could control them. It ain't a civil war until the other party strikes back.

There's blood in the water and the Big Sharks are circling like buzzards.

Burn Baby, Burn

If America has its way, your grandkids' chances of coping with climate change, already iffy, will be a lot worse. If anything the United States is poised to be the unchallenged bad boy of fossil fuels for the next several decades at least according to the International Energy Agency.

By 2025, the growth in American oil production will equal that achieved by Saudi Arabia at the height of its expansion, and increases in natural gas will surpass those of the former Soviet Union, the agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook. The boom will turn the U.S., still among the biggest oil importers, into a net exporter of fossil fuels.

“The United States will be the undisputed leader of global oil and gas markets for decades to come,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg television. “There’s big growth coming from shale oil, and as such there’ll be a big difference between the U.S. and other producers.”

The agency raised estimates for the amount of shale oil that can be technically recovered by about 30 per cent to 105 billion barrels. Forecasts for shale-oil output in 2025 were bolstered by 34 per cent to 9 million barrels a day.

The U.S. industry “has emerged from its trial-by-fire as a leaner and hungrier version of its former self, remarkably resilient and reacting to any sign of higher prices caused by OPEC’s return to active market management,” the IEA said.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Is Trump Steering America Away From Democracy?

The headline in Foreign Policy, "Trump Isn't Sure if Democracy is Better Than Autocracy," is jarring. It would be so much less troubling if America wasn't already so far down the road in that very direction. Harvard prof Stephen Walt, like a latter day Paul Revere, sounds the warning.

What a difference a couple of decades make. Back in the early to mid-1990s, Americans (and some others) were pretty much convinced that U.S.-style liberal democracy was the wave of the future worldwide. The Warsaw Pact had crumbled, Latin American dictatorships were turning to the ballot box, human rights were spreading, and liberal institutions were all the rage. Francis Fukuyama famously described mankind as having reached the “end of history,” and Tom Friedman was telling useveryone had to don the “Golden Straightjacket” and embrace DOSCapitalism 6.0. The main exemplar of this system, of course, was the mighty and successful U.S. of A.

Fast-forward to 2017, however, and autocracy seems back in vogue. Russia has reverted to de facto dictatorship, Chinese President Xi Jinping has consolidated more power than any leader since Mao, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has undertaken a wide-ranging purge of potential opponents and consolidated vast power in his own hands. Egypt is once again governed by a brutal and corrupt military dictatorship, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has cracked down on journalists and academics, purged the government, and put thousands in jail, and he is slowly strangling what once seemed to be a promising experiment in moderate Islamic government. No one quite knows what sort of government will eventually emerge in the remnants of a shattered Syria, but it is a safe bet it won’t be democratic. And the ruling parties in Hungary and Poland are headed in authoritarian directions, openly rejecting liberal ideals, and would probably be ineligible for European Union membership if they were applying for it today.

Meanwhile, what does the United States government have to say about these trends? Under Donald Trump, mostly words of praise. The Divider-in-Chief seems entirely comfortable with — and maybe even a little envious of — the various autocrats who are richer or more powerful than he is (or both) and free from those inconvenient constitutional constraints and checks and balances that keep getting in the way of Trump’s feuds, whims, and destructive impulses. This is the president, after all, who called our justice system a “laughingstock,” said he regretted not having more control over it, and fired FBI head James Comey because he wouldn’t offer the president unswerving personal loyalty and shut down the Russia investigation. He’s also the guy who suggested we don’t really need a State Department because “I’m the only one that matters.” Now there’s a guy who thinks the ideal system of government is one where a leader gets to do whatever he wants. Sorry, Donald, but that’s precisely the system of government that Americans have long rejected and that many sacrificed their lives to prevent being imposed here.

But instead of standing up for America as a beacon of democracy, Trump congratulated Xi Jinping on his acquisition of even more power, meekly accepted Chinese dictates about talking to the press, and has nothing but good things to say about the ambitious Saudi crown prince (despite the latter’s chaotic program and repeated foreign-policy blunders). Indeed, like any good parvenu, Trump seems easily dazzled by vulgar displays of excess and unable to distinguish between the interests of the United States and the self-interest of his extended family. As Edward Luce sagely observed in the Financial Times, the affinity between the House of Saud and the House of Trump is if anything over-determined. And don’t forget his earlier bromance with Vladimir Putin, which Trump has been forced to downplay amid continuing suspicions of collusion between Russia and Trump and/or his advisors back in the 2016 campaign.

Needless to say, this behavior is a sharp departure from past U.S. practice. To be sure, the United States has often been inconsistent in its support for democracy and all-too-willing to ally with dictators and tyrants when there were important strategic issues at stake. But it is one thing to acknowledge tradeoffs between core political values and other interests and sometimes to favor the latter, and quite another to cast off our ideals completely and rush to praise those who trample on them daily. To do so is also bad strategy, as it squanders something that has been a valuable diplomatic asset in the past: namely, the belief that the United States did in fact stand for something other than naked self-interest, even if its actual performance fell short of its own professed ideals.


This reversal of fortune is not what people expected in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, but it is also not surprising. Instead of moving from strength to strength, the world’s major democracies have all suffered a series of self-inflicted wounds over the past 25 years. The United States invaded Iraq on false pretenses, bungled the occupation, and then suffered a financial crisis that could have been avoided with greater regulatory oversight. America’s domestic political order became increasingly dysfunctional, with public confidence in politicians sinking to new lows (and without considerable justification). Even worse, hardly anyone of consequence was held accountable for these screw-ups, reinforcing public perceptions of an out-of-touch and self-protective elite and fueling the populist wave that Trump exploited so successfully (and quickly betrayed).

So is it time to sound the death knell for democracy? If the 1900s were the “American Century,” will the 2000s be a new Age of Autocracy? Not so fast. ...The United States and other democracies have had a pretty bad run over the past two decades (in part because they were in such good shape they could afford to be stupid), but they retain a capacity for self-correction (as the recent elections in Virginia and New Jersey suggest). It is also worth remembering that the United States recovered faster from the 2008 crisis than almost anyone else, an achievement for which Barack Obama never got enough credit.

Where I part company with Dr. Walt is that nowhere does he address what he defines as "democracy" and what distinguishes it from autocracy. It's the "demos" part that concerns me. Demos - rule by the common citizen. Demos - an equal say and an equal chance.

The Republicans' "tax reform" is not an exercise in democracy. It is about as undemocratic as legislation can be.  It's the handiwork of a "bought and paid for" Congress whose members no longer even try to conceal or pretend that they're in service to their sponsors, the 1%. They now speak of their corruption quite openly, presumably because they know the voting public won't retaliate.

Then there's the research paper out of Princeton in 2014 by professors Gilens and Page that convincingly demonstrated that government "of the people, by the people, for the people" had been displaced by oligarchy in service to the richest of the rich. The Republican tax bill is just a culmination of that transition.

Getting rid of the Mango Mussolini won't repair the rot on Capitol Hill.

#Thee Too

If Harvey Weinstein did anything good in his life it may be the role he played in bringing sexual harassment of women to the forefront. Harvey did a lot to expose the licentious nature of his stomping grounds, Hollywood, where the "casting couch" has been the stuff of jokes for generations.

Harvey did for show biz what a host of fundamentalist preachers have done for the evangelists going back to Jimmy Swaggert,  Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Eddie Long and others. It's no wonder these evangelical fundamentalists support a self-confessed serial sexual predator president or now rally behind alleged teen molester, Roy Moore. Those two guys must seem like part of the family.

Now old wounds are being revisited. An article in The Atlantic stirs the nasty embers of Bill Clinton's sordid past and reminds us of how far women have come since Anita Hill bravely testified before the Senate about what she had endured from Clarence Thomas.

Every traditional bastion of male power is coming under the spotlight. Politics is foremost. News reports indicate that the Weinstein Effect is sweeping state houses across the US as women are emboldened to confront their abusers.

Politics and sex scandals go hand in hand. Wiki has a list of US sex scandals going back to 1776 featuring names such as Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, James Buchanan, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding and John Kennedy. Remember, those were from the days when the press considered presidential peccadilloes off limits.

From 1970 on the list includes members of Congress and it's a real tsunami of debauchery, straight and gay.

Now the Europeans are taking a look at their own history of sexual abuse/harassment. Deutsche Welle published this graphic.

Oddly enough the Scandinavian countries seem to be the hotbed of harassment, especially Sweden where 81% of women report having been sexually harassed at least once since age 15.

Scandinavia, of all places — regarded as a group of model countries in terms of gender equality — produced some strikingly negative results. In Sweden 81 percent of women stated that they had been sexually harassed in one form or another from the age of 15 onwards. These rates are similarly high in Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland. Three out of four French women have also experienced sexual harassment. At the other end of the scale is Bulgaria, where just 24 percent of women indicated that they had been harassed at some point in their lives. The levels are similarly low in Romania and Poland.

"We found that in certain member states it's less likely that women will talk about incidences of sexual violence or harassment with other people," says [Joanna Goodey, of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights]. She explains that history has had a hand in the fact that in Sweden, for example, it is normal nowadays to report sexual assaults. Unlike in eastern Europe, gender equality has been a subject of discussion there for many years, she points out.

Are we really on the verge of a tide change on sexual harassment and women's rights? In The Guardian, Jessica Valenti writes that, for women, the sheer scale of this thing is exhausting.

Meanwhile a self-admitted serial sexual predator remains ensconced in the White House. Wake me up when he's run out on a rail.

It's 15,000 Voices This Time. The Message is the Same. Change or Die.

In 1992, 1500 scientists warned the world to change or die. 25-years later it's the same message only this time it carries the signatures of 15,000 scientists.

This new cautioning — which gained popularity on Twitter with #ScientistsWarningToHumanity — garnered more than 15,000 signatures.

William Ripple of Oregon State University's College of Forestry, who started the campaign, said that he came across the 1992 warning last February, and noticed that this year happened to mark the 25th anniversary.

Together with his graduate student, Christopher Wolf, he decided to revisit the concerns raised then, and collect global data for different variables to show trends over the past 25 years.

Ripple found:
A decline in freshwater availability.
Unsustainable marine fisheries.
Ocean dead zones.
Forest losses.
Dwindling biodiversity.
Climate change.
Population growth.

There was one positive outcome, however: a rapid decline in ozone depletion.

"The trends are alarming, and they speak for themselves," Ripple said, though he notes the improvement in the ozone hole illustrates that humanity can make change when needed.
"The scientists around the world are very concerned about the state of the world, the environmental situation and climate change," Ripple said. "So this allows them to have a collective voice."
Growing middle class and its carbon footprint

"Since 1992, carbon emissions have increased 62 per cent," Ripple said. "And the global average temperature change has paralleled that. Also since 1992, we have two billion more people on Earth, which is a 35 per cent increase."

However, he notes that there has been a rapid decline in fertility rates, but said that likely won't show up in the data until later.

One of the chief concerns is population growth, but not in terms of numbers. Instead, the focus is on our ecological footprint with an increase in consumerism that puts a toll on the environment.

The Rampaging Middle Class

"What is happening is that the global middle class is growing, and it's growing extremely rapidly," said co-author Eileen Crist, a professor at Virginia Tech's Department of Science and Technology in Society.

That comes from the very positive outcome of getting people out of poverty. But there's a catch.

"But what sometimes people miss … they miss what's happening in the middle," Crist said. "Which from an ecological perspective of the planet is the most significant event: the rapid rise of the global middle class, which is now more than three billion people in the world and it's expected, by 2050 or so, to rise to five billion people."

And it's the middle class where people begin to increase their carbon footprint: they buy appliances and cars, eat more meat and travel.

In August I wrote a post in which I tried to estimate just how much our per capita ecological footprint, measured in GDP, had increased since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. The only reliable stats I found were for England. It worked out to roughly a 30 to 40 times increase per person.

One of the most elusive statistics to hunt down is per capita GDP growth. It is a measure of output but it also reflects energy and resources consumed, production of goods, services and waste. Record keeping in Britain has allowed per capita GDP to be charted from today back to 1270. The results are impressive. Per capita GDP first reached 2,000 pounds (adjusted to 2013 sterling) in 1832. By 1900 the Industrial Revolution had swelled that to 4,800 pounds per capita. The 12,000 pound mark fell in 1970. That doubled again to 24,000 pounds per capita GDP in the year 2000, increasing to 28,000 just before the crash of 2008. To make sense of this, the average Briton's production increased from 4,800 pounds in 1900 to close out that century at 24,000 pounds per capital GDP. In the course of one century, the 20th, that's a five fold increase in per capita GDP. In 1900 the global population stood at 1.6 billion. We closed out that century at just over 6 billion and now stand at 7.5 billion. Taking total per capita GDP in 1900 and total population in 1900 we have now grown humanity's ecological footprint by something in the order of 30 to 40 times. And we're still trapped in perpetual, exponential growth.

Reading this again I realize my calculations omitted one critical factor, the decline in rates of mortality/the increase in longevity over that same period. Not only has our production/consumption (GDP) gone up and our overall population soared but we're also living longer by an order of two, even three decades since 1900. If nothing else that makes the 30-40X estimate pretty safe.

And yet our political leadership, across the world, still clings to neoclassical economics and the slavish pursuit of perpetual, exponential GDP growth. That is their orthodoxy and, even though it has now reached a level of toxicity, they have no interest whatsoever in changing course no matter how many scientists urge just that.

Comey Goes Biblical on Trump's Ass

Former FBI director, James Comey, is using Trump's favourite medium, Twitter, to fight back against the Mango Mussolini.

In one of his latest tweets, he quoted a sermon from the late English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon about the difference between a truth and a lie.

“If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is light as a feather and a breath will carry it.” Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1855).

— James Comey (@Comey) November 11, 2017

The tweet included a picture of the Great Falls of the Potomac. Comey explained hours later that he included the picture because he likes it and it reminded him of his favourite Bible verse. Quoting Amos 5:24, he said, "But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

A Britain Great No Longer

Between Brexit and Trump, Britain has become Great no more. At least that's how Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff from 1995 to 2007 sees it.  The worst part, according to Powell, is that his nation's decline into irrelevance has been entirely self-inflicted.

As Simon Fraser, the former Foreign Office permanent secretary, said in a speech last week: “It is hard to call to mind a major foreign policy matter on which we have had a decisive influence since the referendum.” To put it even more cruelly: we have rendered ourselves irrelevant.

Even if we did still have influence, we don’t have any attention to spare for the rest of the world because all of our efforts are going into the destructive process of Brexit. Just as blood goes to the stomach when you have a large meal, so most of our civil servants and diplomats are working on dismantling our EU membership rather than on maximising our influence around the world, – and paradoxically we are taking on thousands more to do so in the pursuit of less bureaucracy.

We can’t even get the negotiations with the EU right, even though that is supposed to be the government’s principal objective, because cabinet ministers cannot agree on what they want the end state of our relations with the EU to be. Our interlocutors in Brussels are giving up because they have nothing to engage with. And meanwhile the Brexiters are gearing up to blame the Europeans and our own quisling civil servants.

Britain has historically been the strong and stable democracy in Europe on which others – both the Europeans and the US – could depend. In the first world war, in the second, in the cold war and in building a liberal, free-trading and open Europe, we played a central role. We took pride, as Douglas Hurd put it, in punching above our weight. Now we have taken to punching each other in a polarised and uncertain country. Italy appears more politically stable, and France far more internationally relevant.

What puzzles our friends and erstwhile allies most is that all of this is self-inflicted. We didn’t have to give up the two pillars on which our nation has depended for so long. And we didn’t have to do so when we had nothing with which to replace them.

Oh well, perhaps Britain is retreating from the world order at an auspicious time. The fabric of our global community is fraying. Consensus is harder to forge and, even then, often brittle. Even the Dreadnought nations now sail into dangerous waters. Punching, whether above or below one's weight, becomes increasingly pointless in an era of Perma-War.

It's Not Just the Depth of the Challenge, It's the Magnitude.

Let this idea soak in for a minute. A report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research concludes that Europe's only hope of meeting its Paris greenhouse gas emissions commitments will require  the phasing out of all fossil fuels, including natural gas, by 2035.

That's the decarbonization of Europe in just 17 years. It's not just banning diesel cars or shuttering all coal power plants. It's the lot - home heating, electrical supply, trucks and cars, the lot in a breathtakingly short interval of 17 years.

That would be a Herculean undertaking for Europe's advanced economies - if they could afford it. Much of the EU membership, however, is plagued by one weakness or another. Some states are broke or almost there. Others are wracked with social or political turmoil. Then there's Poland where "coal is king" and they're proud to admit it.

Can Europe do it? Possibly but it's hard to see how. Even if they could find that extra mountain of Euros where do they find the political will or the public support for the sacrifice this would entail?

Meanwhile, 2017 is expected to set a record for fossil fuel consumption. Over the past couple of years fossil fuels seemed to have plateaued. 

The expected jump in the carbon emissions that drive global warming is a “giant leap backwards for humankind”, according to some scientists. However, other experts said they were not alarmed, saying fluctuations in emissions are to be expected and that big polluters such as China are acting to cut emissions.

Global emissions need to reach their peak by 2020 and then start falling quickly in order to have a realistic chance of keeping global warming below the 2C danger limit, according to leading scientists. Whether the anticipated increase in CO2 emissions in 2017 is just a blip that is followed by a falling trend, or is the start of a worrying upward trend, remains to be seen.

Let's see. 2018 is a hop, skip and a Black Friday away. Emissions have to peak by 2020 and then begin to plummet (which would require governments to intervene to shut down high carbon fossil fuels such as bitumen) and just keep free-falling for years until the GHG beast is slain. That means we'll need to bring on stream massive amounts of alternative clean energy beginning in 2021 to replace the fossil fuels we'll be abandoning plus meet the growing needs of a still burgeoning global population.  Do you see any signs of that happening where you live?

The longer we wait - and we do so love to wait - the more the challenge grows in both depth and magnitude. Meanwhile, across the far north, nature is stirring.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dr. Hedges Diagnoses the Disease That Is Neoliberal Globalism.

Chris Hedges writes that, in order to fully grasp the disease of neoliberalism, it helps to take stock of the symptoms.

The disease of globalized corporate capitalism has the same effects across the planet. It weakens or destroys democratic institutions, making them subservient to corporate and oligarchic power. It forces domestic governments to give up control over their economies, which operate under policies dictated by global corporations, banks, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. It casts aside hundreds of millions of workers now classified as “redundant” or “surplus” labor. It disempowers underpaid and unprotected workers, many toiling in global sweatshops, keeping them cowed, anxious and compliant. It financializes the economy, creating predatory global institutions that extract money from individuals, institutions and states through punishing forms of debt peonage. It shuts down genuine debate on corporate-owned media platforms, especially in regard to vast income disparities and social inequality. And the destruction empowers proto-fascist movements and governments.

There are within America’s corporate power structures individuals, parties and groups that find the hysterical, imbecilic and irrational rants of demagogues such as Trump repugnant. They seek a return to the polished mendacity of politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They hope to promote the interests of global capitalism by maintaining the fiction of a functioning democracy and an open society. These “moderates” or “liberals,” however, are also the architects of the global corporate pillage. They created the political vacuum that the demagogues and proto-fascist movements have filled. They blind themselves to their own complicity.

The 400 richest individuals in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population, and the three richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the U.S. population. This social inequality will only get worse as the weak controls that once regulated the economy and the tax code are abolished or rewritten to further increase the concentration of wealth among the ruling oligarchs. Social inequality at this level, history has shown, always results in these types of pathologies and political distortions. It also, potentially, presages revolution.

Attack the symptoms and the state will be passive. Attack the disease and the state will be ruthless.

Once Trump’s base begins to abandon him—the repression in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a good example of what will happen—the political landscape will turn very ugly. Trump and his allies, in a desperate bid to cling to power, will openly stoke hate crimes and violence against Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, progressives, intellectuals, feminists and dissidents. He and his allies on the “alt-right” and the Christian right will move to silence all organs of dissent, including corporate media outlets fighting to restore the patina of civility that is the window dressing to corporate pillage. They will harness the power of the nation’s substantial internal security apparatus to crush public protests and to jail opponents, even those who are part of the faux resistance.

The Fox is Guarding the Hen House. Really, No Kidding. It's True.

The Trump government has just awarded a $2.83 million contract for security at its Russian installations including the US embassy in Moscow and its consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

The US embassy in Moscow is to be guarded by a company owned by a former head of KGB counter-intelligence who worked with British double agent Kim Philby and young Vladimir Putin, after cuts to US staff demanded by Russia. 

Elite Security, a private company and the oldest part of the eponymous holding, was founded in 1997 by Viktor Budanov and his son Dmitry, according to a Russian business registry.

A 2002 article posted on the site of Russia's foreign intelligence service identified Mr Budanov as a major general in the agency who became a Soviet spy in 1966 and retired a year after the collapse of the USSR.

His long work in Soviet and Russian intelligence could raise questions about whether the guard services contract poses a security or intelligence risk to the US mission.

The Telegraph's request for comments went unanswered by Tillerson's State Department.

The White On the March

An estimated 60,000 white supremacists took part in a torchlight parade through the streets of Warsaw this weekend.

Police estimated 60,000 people took part in Saturday’s event, in what experts say was one of the biggest gathering of far-right activists in Europe in recent years.

Demonstrators with faces covered chanted “Pure Poland, white Poland!” and “Refugees get out!”. A banner hung over a bridge that read: “Pray for Islamic Holocaust.”

The march organised by far-right groups in Poland is an annual event originally to mark Poland’s independence in 1918. But according to Nick Lowles, from UK anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate, it has become an important rallying point for international far-right groups.

Many carried the national white-and-red flag while others held banners depicting a falanga, a far-right symbol dating to the 1930s. A demonstrator interviewed by state television TVP said he was on the march to “remove Jewry from power”.

“It was a beautiful sight,” the interior minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, said. “We are proud that so many Poles have decided to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday.”

Take It From Mitt

Mitt, son of George (beloved former governor of Michigan), Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and Republican presidential candidate in 2012, offers a cogent take on Alabama's whack-job senate candidate, Roy Moore, in this tweet:

Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.

— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) November 10, 2017

Well put, Mitt. Almost makes us want to forget what an elitist jerk you are.

Meanwhile, judge Roy's problems just keep getting worse.  Theresa Jones, a former deputy district attorney who worked alongside Roy when he was a prosecutor, says that old rascal was known for chasing young skirt.

I was a deputy DA in Gadsden with Roy Moore. I have no doubt these stories have validity. Roy was known to eschew dating his own age and preferred teenagers. I challenge all of my colleagues in the Bar and on the bench at that time to come forward to support that Roy Moore should not be elected to represent the place of my birth and my home for many years. Teresa D.Jones, Sarasota Florida

Last Night's SNL Opener

You Won't Like These Odds

A new report has identified 27 ways a heatwave can cause human death. And, if we keep up with our fossil fuel fondness, up to 75 per cent of humanity may at risk of one of those 27 outcomes.

[Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii] and colleagues report in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes that they worked through the medical literature to discover in as much detail, and in as many ways as possible, how heat can kill a warm-blooded mammal equipped by evolution to maintain a constant body temperature of 37°C in normal conditions.

“We know of many cases where people have died as a result of heatwaves. However, why people died is a question whose answer is scattered”, Dr Mora said.

Their study focussed on seven vital organs – heart, brain, intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs and pancreas – and five physiological mechanisms triggered by heat: for the medically-minded, these are ischaemia, heat cytotoxicity, inflammatory response, disseminated intravascular coagulation and rhabdomyolysis.

That meant 35 possible combinations, and of these, they found 27 different pathways in which extreme heat could lead to organ failure and then death. Any one of these, or a combination, could kill.

Dr Mora and his colleagues have already warned that lethal heat waves will become a more frequent hazard: by 2100, if humans go on burning fossil fuels under the notorious business-as-usual scenario, 75% of us could be at risk. He has also warned that climate change could be happening faster than many researchers expected and that rising temperatures could actually reduce harvests, especially in the tropics.

The story goes on with really grisly details of what can go wrong within the human body. If you want that detail use the first link at the top. 

“Dying during a heatwave is like a terror movie with 27 bad endings to choose from,” said Dr Mora. “It is remarkable that humanity overall is taking such a complacency on the threats that ongoing climate change is posing.”

Friday, November 10, 2017

And the Prize for "Least Affordable City in North America" Goes To...

Yeah, Vancouver, the city where your kids have zero chance of being able to afford to live where they were born and raised.

Thanks, Ottawa, you assholes and, by "assholes" I mean every prime minister going right back to Brian Mulroney and up to and including Justin Trudeau with all his fancy new immigration offices across China.

As if we needed another reason to despise Ottawa.

Why Ottawa and Edmonton Must Move Now Against Tar Sands Operators

Federal and Alberta governments have created a nightmare in Athabasca, a massive environmental catastrophe in waiting.  The threat comes from toxic tailing ponds so huge they're visible to the naked eye from space. And for too many years, decades now, our governments have given the energy industry a pass on cleaning up their mess. From the Pembina Institute.

Back in the early 1970s, the Alberta government effectively made a Faustian bargain. It allowed the oilsands industry to keep on mining, despite the sector not knowing how to clean up its fluid tailings waste — the assumption being that future technologies would solve the problem. Unfortunately, no silver bullets have been discovered, and the industry has kicked the can down the road on this mess for the last 50 years. In the meantime, the oilsands’ tailings ponds have grown so massive they impound a globally unprecedented 1.3 trillion litres of toxic waste. These tailings are unlike any other industrial by-product in the world; they contain residual hydrocarbons, a cocktail of toxic chemicals, and fine particles of clay and silt that remain suspended for centuries in a sort of artificial quicksand.

This grim situation should deeply concern all Canadians. By allowing oilsands tailings ponds to continue to grow, the Alberta government is signing up all of Canada for decades of further uncertainty and risk. If any of these ponds were to breach, an unimaginable environmental disaster would result, affecting the Mackenzie River Basin as far as the Arctic Ocean. Moreover, according to recent estimates by Environmental Defence Canada, these ponds represent as much as $50 billion in total clean-up costs — of which only $1.3 billion is held in securities. All of the major political parties in Alberta seem strangely quiet on one of the largest fiscal issues facing the province. Should the oilsands mining sector face bankruptcies in the coming decades, the environmental and fiscal liability of these ponds would inevitably become a burden borne by Albertan and Canadian taxpayers.

We must face the uncomfortable reality that the future economic viability of oilsands mining in the context of the 21st-century global energy transition is uncertain at best. It follows that companies must be held accountable for addressing their environmental impacts today, while they are still around to do so. After five decades of procrastinating, the time has come for the Alberta government to finally step up and lift the substantial weight of these liabilities off the shoulders of Canadians.

The "Bought and Paid For" Tax Reform Bill

The menacing face of Congressional corruption is being exposed in the Republican's tax reform bill. They can't hide it any longer. They've stopped even trying to deny it. They're bought and paid for, have been for some years, and now they have to do their patrons' bidding.

Even Senator Lindsey Graham admits the Republicans are at a 'fish or cut bait' moment with their affluent owners.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday became the latest Republican to admit the GOP is trying to ram through massive tax cuts for the rich to satisfy its wealthy donors, telling a journalist that if the party’s tax push fails, “the financial contributions will stop.”

Lindsey Graham says “the financial contributions will stop” if tax reform fails.

— Alan Rappeport (@arappeport) November 9, 2017

David Sirota, reporter with the International Business Times, responded by noting that it is both “laudably honest for Graham to admit this” and “a repulsive glimpse of how politicians see so many public policies as private financial transactions between them and their donors.”

As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) has made a similar comment recently, complaining that his donors are pressuring him to pass tax cuts or “don’t ever call me again.”
Critics had the same response to Graham as they did to Collins: “Dude, you’re not supposed to actually admit that out loud.

It’s nice to see Republicans in Congress looking out for the people who really matter: their wealthy donors.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) November 9, 2017

This is
(A) true
(B) an incredible thing for so many Republican lawmakers to say out loud this week.

— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) November 9, 2017

In a heroic effort to save the middle class, @GOP will pass #TrumpTaxScam because their wealthy donors will stop bankrolling their campaigns if they don’t.

— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) November 9, 2017

They keep saying the quiet part out loud

— Sam Stein (@samstein) November 9, 2017

Republicans are literally out here warning each other that their big donors will stop writing checks if they don’t do their bidding.

— Matt Ortega (@MattOrtega) November 9, 2017

Will this ever sink in with Republican voters. These guys are saying, "We're on the take, we're on the pad, we're on the payroll and we're not working for the voting public. We're in service to the guy with the chequebook."

It's interesting that the decline and collapse of Rome and its empire were also marked by the rise of transactional democracy. If you were rich enough you could buy pretty much whatever you wanted from the Senate. Today, if you're rich enough, you get to buy pretty much what you want from the Congress of the United States of America. And one of the things those rich folks expect for their money is that tax reform bill that will see 80 per cent of the benefits flow to the top 1 per cent.

Well That's Not Very Polite

In the pages of the world press Justin Trudeau has suddenly gone from pretty boy to bad boy. Our prime minister has made waves by purportedly sabotaging the Trans Pacific Partnership talks at the APEC summit.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sabotaged a pact to salvage a multibillion-dollar, 11-nation Pacific Rim trade deal at the last minute, surprising leaders of the other nations, including Australia's Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Trudeau failed to show up at a meeting late on Friday that was set to officially revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that had been negotiated on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the Vietnamese coastal city of Danang.

Wait a second, he's Canadian. Our leaders don't just "fail to show up" leaving a gaggle of other world leaders in the lurch. That would be rude. I'm not even sure Trump would do that.

"There were a lot of unhappy leaders left sitting there," said an official who was in the meeting.

All 11 foreign ministers of the grouping had agreed on Thursday night to revive the agreement that was rejected by US President Donald Trump days after he took office.

But Mr Trudeau raised issues at the last minute that forced Japan's Prime Minister Shino Abe, who is chair of the gathering, to announce the meeting had to be abandoned.

Mr Turnbull has been spruiking the benefits of the TPP since arriving in Danang on Thursday, telling an APEC leaders' reception the pact "creates rules of the road to match the new economic world in which we're living".

"It aims at old hidden trade barriers like corruption and new ones like data protectionism," he said.

Mr Trudeau's walk-out is deeply embarrassing for Canada's Trade Minister Franois-Philippe Champagne, who has agreed to the deal.

Officials expected that the leaders would simply rubber-stamp what had already been agreed by the trade ministers, despite the agreement being unpopular in Canada.

This is completely weird. It's the diplomatic equivalent of ditching the bride at the altar - times ten.

Growth as Theft, Ch. 2

The previous item, reposted from December, 2011, addresses growth as theft. The subject also came up today in an item in The Guardian.

In the medieval legend made famous by the brothers Grimm, the German town of Hamelin is besieged by a plague of rats, until the mysterious pied piper appears and agrees, for a fee, to rid them of the infestation. The mayor then reneges on payment and the piper exacts a savage revenge on the town’s ingrates by luring away their children, who are never seen again.

The tale could also be an allegory for today’s grim intergenerational smash-and-grab – the global economy. As environmentalist Paul Hawken put it: “We have an economy where we steal the future, sell it in the present, and call it GDP.”

Like the hapless mayor of Hamelin, elected officials all over the world are today blindly pursuing growth-as-usual, while the gathering climate catastrophe rumbles ever closer. We adults may, if we’re lucky, get to die peacefully in our beds, but it’s our children who will be left to pay the ecological piper. 

Pope Francis, the first pontiff from the global south, weighed in powerfully on the moral arguments against the havoc to the biosphere wrought by neoliberalism: “The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market.”

Geophysicist Dr Brad Werner made waves five years ago with the publication of his paper titled: Is Earth F**ked? (the asterisks are his). When pressed for an answer to his own question, he ventured: “more or less”. In his analysis, the system itself is incapable of internally responding to the deepening ecological crises that encircle civilisation. The only possible hope, he suggested, lay in active resistance. He identified this as “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers and other activist groups”.

With politicians failing to step up to the climate challenge, what are the alternatives? One intriguing experiment in direct democracy has just concluded in Ireland, where a government-appointed Citizens’ Assembly composed of a nationally representative group of people selected at random heard detailed expert testimony on climate change from a range of experts. No lobbyists or politicians were allowed in the room.

The result: 13 recommendations for sharply enhanced climate action were overwhelmingly endorsed early this month, including citizens being personally prepared to pay more tax on high-carbon activities
. The recommendations will now be discussed in parliament.

Democracy may be dysfunctional, but rumours of its death have, perhaps, been exaggerated.

The Irish example suggests that, left to ourselves, the public, we will probably do the right thing where, when important problems are left to the system, our political caste, it persistently shows itself incapable of internally responding to the crises that encircle civilization. They can't get us out from under neoliberalism. They embrace neoliberalism. And you'll never find effective responses to climate change by entrusting the problem to neoliberals.