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A ‘growing’ awareness.

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The pun is deliberate!

Just at the moment there seems to be an incredible explosion of awareness about the need to change. Won’t say anymore other than from the day of the Winter Solstice, less that two weeks away, I will be publishing a number of posts about this new awareness and the implications, the positive implications, for the coming years.

To set the tone, I am republishing an article that appeared on the website of the organisation Nature Needs Half. I am grateful for their permission to so do.


Nature Needs Half in the Earth Island Journal

Originally published in the Earth Island Journal by William H. Funk

Conservation group promoting an ambitious new proposal for wilderness protection

During the last half century conservationists around the world have won some impressive victories to protect wild places. Here in the US, the Wilderness Act preserves some 110 million acres of public land. Private holdings by groups like The Nature Conservancy safeguard tens of millions of additional acres. The idea of protecting ecosystems from industrial development has spread around the world. There’s the Mavuradonha Wilderness in Zimbabwe, the El Carmen ecosystem in northern Mexico, Kissama National Park in Angola, and the Tasmanian Wilderness in Australia, to name just a few stunning parks and preserves; UNESCO’s world heritage list includes 197 sites of special beauty and/or biodiversity.

Photo by Trey Ratcliff Nature Needs Half has set out an unbelievable challenge: to formally, legally set aside one half of Earth’s land and water as interconnected natural areas.

Photo by Trey Ratcliff Nature Needs Half has set out an unbelievable challenge: to formally, legally set aside one half of Earth’s land and water as interconnected natural areas.

But conservation biologists now recognize that these sanctuaries are limited in what they can accomplish precisely because they are special — which is to say, rare. Parks and preserves are all too often islands of biological integrity in a sea of human development. To really protect natural systems, healthy biomes need to be the rule, not the exception.

To achieve that vision, The WILD Foundation, a multinational NGO based in Boulder, Colorado, is pushing a bold concept called “Nature Needs Half.” In a world in which even the wealthiest governments routinely abdicate their responsibilities toward future generations and the environment, Nature Needs Half has set out an unbelievable challenge: to formally, legally set aside one half of Earth’s land and water as interconnected natural areas.

This is, of course, a hugely ambitious endeavor, opposing as it does the assumption that Earth’s resources are here to be exploited solely by humans. We live in what some have called the “Anthropocene,” the Age of Man, a world in which every aspect of physical being, from the oceanic depths to the troposphere, has been radically altered by humankind. Rivers are being dammed, forests leveled, oceans emptied and wildlife eradicated. It’s not a pretty picture, but as an empiric truth it’s difficult to refute. Consider a few facts:

The long-term acidification of the oceans by our ongoing buildup of industrial carbon dioxide is killing off coral reefs around the world, resulting in the loss of a critical barrier to storm surge and further endangering coastal areas at heightened risk from rising seas and stronger and more frequent storms.

Hydropower is increasingly being developed in South America, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, preventing the migration of anadromous fishes and destroying the elaborate flood-regime ecosystems of biomes like the Amazon.

The accelerating rate of animal and plants extinctions under the twin hammers of climate change and habitat loss is being compared to Earth’s five other extinction events that followed catastrophic geophysical change such as meteor impact or sudden tectonic shifts. In the case of the sixth great extinction, however, the root cause is purely biotic: us. Either from directly causing species decline through poaching, habitat conversion and the introduction of competitive exotic species, or by indirectly altering ecosystems through our industrial assault on the planet’s atmosphere, one in eight birds, one in four mammals, one in five invertebrates, one in three amphibians, and half of the world’s turtles are facing the eternal night of extinction.

Given those facts, the Nature Needs Half goal is startling in the grandiosity of its vision and the ambitious range of its projects. It is also, in a word, fair. “Half the world for humanity, half for the rest of life, to make a planet both self-sustaining and pleasant,” is how eminent naturalist E.O. Wilson explains the idea in his book The Future of Life. Other endorsers include marine explorer Sylvia Earle and the Zoological Society of London. And while the scope and scale of Nature Needs Half is unprecedented, conservation groups such as the World Wildlife Fund recognize that connecting biodiverse “hotspots” must guide preservation efforts.

The stated goal of Nature Needs Half is “to ensure that enough wild areas of land and water are protected and interconnected (usually at least about half of any given ecoregion) to maintain nature’s life-supporting systems and the diversity of life on Earth, to ensure human health and prosperity, and to secure a bountiful, beautiful legacy of resilient, wild nature.” Underlying this objective is the assumption that humanity, despite its often destructively “unnatural” behavior, is inescapably a part of life on Earth, and that efforts to preserve and protect untrammeled wilderness areas are ultimately means of assuring that the ecosystem services people depend upon are available to us in the distant future. We’re all in this together, and the sooner H. sapiens gets that through its pointy little head, the better off we’ll all be.

How is “protected” defined? The International Union for the Conservation of Nature defines it quite flexibly: “A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.” Thus any number of means may be put into play to preserve land, from conservation easements in Virginia to armed ranger patrols in Namibia; what matters is the end result, namely the retention of naturally functioning ecosystems over time.

During the past two decades scientists have determined that the planet’s ecoregions need at least 50 percent ecological integrity, and in some cases more, to ensure the survival of their biological productivity over the long term. (In plain language, “ecological integrity” means that an area’s biodiversity and basic processes are mostly intact.) The goals of Nature Needs Half simply echo the empirical scientific reality: to function over time the world’s biomes need at least half of their structural integrity preserved from human alteration. We are currently falling short of that. A recent report from Yale’s Environmental Performance Index states that just17 percent of Earth’s terrestrial areas and inland waters, and less than 10 percent of marine areas, are currently protected (though for many parks and refuges in poorer countries this protection is often illusory), while about 43 percent remains relatively open and undeveloped, with low human populations and generally undamaged ecosystems.

Nature Needs Half is pursuing its aim in two simultaneous directions: the protection of at least half of the planet’s mostly intact contiguous wilderness areas — concentrating on Eurasian boreal forests, the Amazon basin and Antarctica — and the identification and protection of those fragments or hotspots of abundant biodiversity that have become isolated islands in a sea of human activity.

The aims of Nature Needs Half are precisely the kind of bold approach, rooted in cutting-edge science, which our increasingly desperate times call for. In an Anthropocene of radical climate change and accelerating species extinctions, nothing less than a grand vision of what might yet be achieved will bring about the preservation of our remaining unspoiled landscapes. As the most farsighted wilderness preservation program on Earth, Nature Needs Half promises to be the kind of revolutionary undertaking that, if its aims are fully or even mostly achieved, will be looked back on centuries from now as perhaps the most important attainment in modern human history.

William H. Funk
William H. Funk is a freelance writer, documentary filmmaker and environmental lawyer living in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. His work explores the confluences of the natural world, history, culture, law and politics, and as an attorney he has had broad experience with land preservation and endangered species. He may be contacted at williamfunk3@icloud.com or williamhfunk.weebly.com


Rather puts my next book chapter, Community, into perspective; that chapter being published in thirty minutes time.

Breaking the silence

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The second essay this week from George Monbiot

Part of me feels that I am being sucked in to too much ‘doom and gloom’ with the republication of this recent essay from George Monbiot.  I guess it’s a fine balance between spreading the word about the reality of life, in this case in the United Kingdom, or living in sweet innocence of the current state of affairs of ‘man’. But I found George Monbiot’s essay so shocking, in terms of the terrible inequality in British life, that it really did deserve the widest promulgation.

All I can offer in mitigation is that in thirty minutes time, I publish the next chapter of my book: How humans view dogs However, because this chapter is nothing more than setting the scene for the main chapters in Part Five, thirty minutes later comes leading chapter, specifically on Love, under the overall theme of Part Five: What we need to learn.

Your feedback, as always, would be wonderful.


Breaking the Silence

December 2, 2014

It’s time to bring the Highland Spring south, and, like Scotland, introduce democracy to this quasi-feudal nation.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 3rd December 2014

Bring out the violins. The land reform programme announced by the Scottish government is the end of civilised life on earth, if you believe the corporate press. In a country where 432 people own half the private rural land(1), all change is Stalinism. The Telegraph has published a string of dire warnings, insisting, for example, that deer stalking and grouse shooting could come to an end if business rates are introduced for sporting estates(2). Moved to tears yet?

Yes, sporting estates – where the richest people in Britain, or oil sheikhs and oligarchs from elsewhere, shoot grouse and stags – are exempt from business rates: a present from John Major’s government in 1994(3). David Cameron has been just as generous with our money: as he cuts essential services for the poor, he has almost doubled the public subsidy for English grouse moors(4), and frozen the price of shotgun licences(5), at a public cost of £17m a year.

But this is small change. Let’s talk about the real money. The Westminster government claims to champion an entrepreneurial society, of wealth creators and hard-working families, but the real rewards and incentives are for rent. The power and majesty of the state protects the patrimonial class. A looped and windowed democratic cloak barely covers the corrupt old body of the nation. Here peaceful protestors can still be arrested under the 1361 Justices of the Peace Act. Here, the Royal Mines Act 1424 gives the Crown the right to all the gold and silver in Scotland(6). Here the Remembrancer of the City of London sits behind the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons(7), to protect the entitlements of a Corporation that pre-dates the Norman conquest. This is an essentially feudal nation.

It’s no coincidence that the two most regressive forms of taxation in the UK – council tax banding and the payment of farm subsidies – both favour major owners of property. The capping of council tax bands ensures that the owners of £100 million flats in London pay less than the owners of £200,000 houses in Blackburn(8,9). Farm subsidies, which remain limitless as a result of the Westminster government’s lobbying(10), ensure that every household in Britain hands £245 a year to the richest people in the land(11). The single farm payment system – under which landowners are paid by the hectare – is a reinstatement of a mediaeval levy called feudal aid(12): a tax the vassals had to pay to their lords.

If this is the government of enterprise, not rent, ask yourself why capital gains tax (at 28%) is lower than the top rate of income tax. Ask yourself why principal residences, though their value may rise by millions, are altogether exempt(13). Ask yourself why rural landowners are typically excused capital gains tax, inheritance tax and the first five years of income tax(14). The enterprise society? It’s a con, designed to create an illusion of social mobility.

The Scottish programme for government(15) is the first serious attempt to address the nature of landholding in Britain since David Lloyd George’s budget of 1909. Some of its aims hardly sound radical until you understand the context. For example it will seek to discover who owns the land. Big deal. Yes, in fact, it is. At the moment the owners of only 26% of the land in Scotland have been identified(16).

Walk into any mairie in France or ayuntamiento in Spain and you will be shown the cadastral registers on request, on which all the land and its owners are named. When The Land magazine tried to do the same in Britain(17), it found that there was a full cadastral map available at the local library, which could be photocopied for 70p. But it was made in 1840. Even with expert help, it took the magazine several weeks of fighting official obstruction and obfuscation and cost nearly £1000(18) to find out who owns the 1.4 km2 around its offices in Dorset. It discovered that the old registers had been closed and removed from public view, at the behest of a landed class that wishes to remain as exempt from public scrutiny as it is from taxes. (The landowners are rather more forthcoming when applying for subsidies from the rural payments agency, which possesses a full, though unobtainable, register of their agricultural holdings). What sort of nation is this, in which you cannot discover who owns the ground beneath your feet?

The Scottish government will consider breaking up large land holdings when they impede the prospects of local people(19). It will provide further help to communities to buy the land that surrounds them. Compare its promise of “a fairer, wider and more equitable distribution of land” to the Westminster government’s vision of “greater competitiveness, including by consolidation”(20): which means a continued increase in the size of land holdings. The number of holdings in England is now falling by 2% a year(21), which is possibly the fastest concentration of ownership since the acts of enclosure.

Consider Scotland’s determination to open up the question of property taxes, which might lead to the only system that is fair and comprehensive: land value taxation(22). Compare it to the fleabite of a mansion tax proposed by Ed Miliband, which, though it recoups only a tiny percentage of the unearned income of the richest owners, has so outraged the proprietorial class that some of them (yes Griff Rhys Jones, I’m thinking of you(23)) have threatened to leave the country. Good riddance.

The Scottish government might address the speculative chaos which mangles the countryside while failing to build the houses people need. It might challenge a system in which terrible homes are built at great expense, partly because the price of land has risen from 2% of the cost of a house in the 1930s to 70% today(24). It might take land into public ownership to ensure that new developments are built by and for those who will live there, rather than for the benefit of volume housebuilders. It might prevent mountains from being burnt and overgrazed(25) by a landowning class that cares only about the numbers of deer and grouse it can bag and the bragging rights this earns in London clubs. As Scotland, where feudalism was not legally abolished until 2000(26), becomes a progressive, modern nation, it leaves England stuck in the pre-democratic past.

Scotland is rudely interrupting the constructed silences that stifle political thought in the United Kingdom. This is why the oligarchs who own the media hate everything that is happening there: their interests are being exposed in a way that is currently impossible south of the border.

For centuries, Britain has been a welfare state for patrimonial capital. It’s time we broke it open, and broke the culture of deference that keeps us in our place. Let’s bring the Highland Spring south, and start discussing some dangerous subjects.



1. http://bit.ly/1vi0kuK

2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/11262856/Future-bleak-for-grouse-shooting-and-deer-stalking.html

3. http://www.andywightman.com/?p=3975

4. Defra has tried to pass this off as payments for “moorland farmers”, but all owners of grazed or managed moorlands, of which grouse moors are a major component, are eligible. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cap-boost-for-moorland

5. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/apr/22/cameron-blasted-battle-shotgun-licence-fees

6. The Land Reform Review Group, 2014. The Land of Scotland and the Common Good.


7. http://www.monbiot.com/2011/10/31/wealth-destroyers/

8. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/29/why-do-we-pay-more-council-tax-than-knightsbridge-oligarchs

9. This assumes that a house in Blackburn valued at £69,000 in 1991 would cost around £200,000 today. http://www.blackburn.gov.uk/Pages/Council-tax-charges.aspx

10. http://www.monbiot.com/2014/03/03/the-benefits-claimants-the-goverment-loves/

11. Defra, 31st August 2011, by email.

12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feudal_aid

13. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/sep/22/charge-capital-gains-tax-main-residencies-says-housing-expert

14. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/99ae5756-1d89-11df-a893-00144feab49a.html#ixzz3Kexs2dL2

15. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/11/6336

16. http://www.andywightman.com/?p=3816

17. http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/issue/land-issue-14-summer-2013

18. http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/issue/land-issue-14-summer-2013

19. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/11/6336

20. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/policy/capreform/documents/110128-uk-cap-response.pdf

21. Compare the figures, Agriculture in the United Kingdom 2013: http://bit.ly/1vLQSi4
to the figures in the 2011 version: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/agriculture-in-the-united-kingdom-2011

22. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/21/i-agree-with-churchill-shirkers-tax

23. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/04/griff-rhys-jones-mansion-tax-soft-option

24. The Land Reform Review Group, 2014. The Land of Scotland and the Common Good. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/Review/land-reform/events/FinalReport23May2014

25. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/19/vote-yes-rid-scotland-of-feudal-landowners-highlands

26. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/law/17975/Abolition

Written by Paul Handover

December 5, 2014 at 00:00

A Vision for Nature

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Another powerful essay from George Monbiot.

Despite this now being December and NaNoWriMo is behind me, all 53,376 words of it, the next few weeks are still going to be demanding.

I have three more chapters to write plus adding a guest preface and an overhaul of Part One of the book.  In other words, December is still a busy book month, albeit without the word-count pressures of NaNoWriMo.

All a long-winded way of me saying that I will present articles seen elsewhere if I think they are of interest to all of you readers.

Which brings me to another powerful essay from George Monbiot that he published a few days ago and is republished here with George’s very kind permission.


A Vision for Nature

November 27, 2014

As governments tear down the rules that defend our wildlife from extinction, here’s a positive attempt to stop the wreckage.

By George Monbiot. posted on the Guardian’s website, 21st November 2014

One of the fears of those who seek to defend the natural world is that people won’t act until it is too late. Only when disasters strike will we understand how much damage we have done, and what the consequences might be.

I have some bad news: it’s worse than that. For his fascinating and transformative book, Don’t Even Think About It: why our brains are wired to ignore climate change, George Marshall visited Bastrop in Texas, which had suffered from a record drought followed by a record wildfire, and Sea Bright in New Jersey, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. These disasters are likely to have been caused or exacerbated by climate change. He interviewed plenty of people in both places, and in neither case – Republican Texas or Democratic New Jersey – could he find anyone who could recall a conversation about climate change as a potential cause of the catastrophe they had suffered. It simply had not arisen.

The editor of the Bastrop Advertiser told him “Sure, if climate change had a direct impact on us, we would definitely bring it in, but we are more centred around Bastrop County.” The mayor of Sea Bright told him “We just want to go home, and we will deal with all that lofty stuff some other day.” Marshall found that when people are dealing with the damage and rebuilding their lives they are even less inclined than they might otherwise be to talk about the underlying issues.

In his lectures, he makes another important point that – in retrospect – also seems obvious: people often react to crises in perverse and destructive ways. For example, immigrants, Jews, old women and other scapegoats have been blamed for scores of disasters they did not create. And sometimes people respond with behaviour that makes the disaster even worse: think, for instance, of the swing to UKIP, a party run by a former City broker and funded by a gruesome collection of tycoons and financiers, in response to an economic crisis caused by the banks.

I have seen many examples of this reactive denial at work, and I wonder now whether we are encountering another one.

The world’s wild creatures are in crisis. In the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife. Hardly anywhere is spared this catastrophe. In the UK, for example, 60% of the 3,000 species whose fate has been studied have declined over the past 50 years. Our living wonders, which have persisted for millions of years, are disappearing in the course of decades.

You might expect governments and officials, faced with a bonfire of this magnitude, to rush to the scene with water and douse it. Instead they have rushed to the scene with cans of petrol.

Critical to the protection of the natural world are regulations: laws which restrain certain activities for the greater public good. Legal restrictions on destruction and pollution are often the only things that stand between species and their extinction.

Industrial interests often hate these laws, as they restrict their profits. The corporate media denigrates and demonises the very concept of regulation. Much of the effort of those who fund political parties is to remove the regulations that protect us and the living planet. Politicians and officials who seek to defend regulation will be taken down, through campaigns of unrelenting viciousness in the media. Everywhere the message has been received.

The European Commission has now ordered a “review” of the two main pillars of the protection of our wildlife: the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive. It’s likely to be the kind of review conducted by a large tracked vehicle with a steel ball on the end of a chain. The problem, the Commission says, is that these directives could impede the “fitness” of business in Europe.

But do they? Not even Edmund Stoiber, the conservative former president of Bavaria who was appointed by the Commission to wage war on regulation, thinks so. He discovered that European environmental laws account for less than 1% of the costs of regulation to business: the lowest cost of any of the regulations he investigated. “However, businesses perceive the burden to be much higher in this area.” So if these crucial directives are vitiated or scrapped, it will not be because they impede business, but because they are wrongly perceived to impose much greater costs than they do.

The UK chancellor, George Osborne, claimed in 2011 that wildlife regulations were placing ridiculous costs on business. But a review by the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, concluded the claim was unfounded.

In the United Kingdom, whose leading politicians, like those of Australia and Canada, appear to be little more than channels for corporate power, we are facing a full-spectrum assault on the laws protecting our living treasures.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, now passing through the House of Commons, would oblige future governments to keep deregulating on behalf of business, regardless of the cost to the rest of society. The government’s Red Tape Challenge at first insisted that no new regulation could be introduced unless an existing one is scrapped. Now two must be scrapped in exchange for any new one.

Cameron’s government has set up what it calls a “Star Chamber”, composed of corporate executives and officials from the business department, before which other government departments must appear. They must justify, in front of the sector they regulate, any of the rules these business people don’t like. If they are deemed insufficiently convincing, the rules are junked.

Usually, governments go to some lengths to disguise their intent, and to invent benign names for destructive policies. Not in this case. A Star Chamber perfectly captures the spirt of this enterprise. Here’s how a website about the history of the Tudors describes the original version (my emphasis):

“The power of the court of Star Chamber grew considerably under the Stuarts, and by the time of Charles I it had become a byword for misuse and abuse of power by the king and his circle. … Court sessions were held in secret, with no right of appeal, and punishment was swift and severe to any enemy of the crown. Charles I used the Court of Star Chamber as a sort of Parliamentary substitute during the years 1628-40, when he refused to call Parliament. Finally, in 1641 the Long Parliament abolished the hated Star Chamber, though its name survives still to designate arbitrary, secretive proceedings in opposition to personal rights and liberty.”

Yes, that is exactly what we’re looking at. I suspect the government gave its kangaroo court this name to signal its intent to its corporate funders: we are prepared to be perfectly unreasonable on your behalf, trampling justice, democracy and rational policy-making to give you what you want. We are putting you in charge. So please keep funding us, and please, dear owners of the corporate press, don’t destroy our chances of winning the next election by backing UKIP instead.

Then there’s the Deregulation Bill, which has now almost run its parliamentary course. Among the many ways in which it tilts the balance even further against defending the natural world is Clause 83, which states this:

“A person exercising a regulatory function to which this section applies must, in the exercise of the function, have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth.”

So bodies such as the Environment Agency or Natural England must promote economic growth, even if it directly threatens the natural wonders they are charged with protecting. For example, companies could save money by tipping pollutants into a river, rather than processing them or disposing of them safely. That means more funds for investment, which could translate into more economic growth. So what should an agency do if it is supposed to prevent pollution and promote economic growth?

Not that the government needs to bother, for it has already stuffed the committees that oversee these bodies.

Look, for example, at the board of Natural England. Its chairman, Andrew Sells, is a housebuilder and major donor to the Conservative Party, who was treasurer of the thinktank Policy Exchange, which inveighs against regulation at every opportunity. Its deputy chairman, David Hill, is also chairman of a private company called the Environment Bank, whose purpose is ”to broker biodiversity offsetting agreements for both developers and landowners.” Biodiversity offsetting is a new means of making the destruction of precious natural places seem acceptable.

The government has recently appointed to this small board not one but two Cumbrian sheep farmers – Will Cockbain and Julia Aglionby – who, my encounters with them suggest, both appear to be fanatically devoted to keeping the uplands sheepwrecked and bare. There’s also a place for the chief executive of a group that I see as a greenwashing facility for the shooting industry, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. And one for a former vice-president of Citibank. The board members with current or former interests in industries that often damage the natural world outnumber those who have devoted their lives to conservation and ecology.

So what do we do about this? You cannot fight assaults of this kind without producing a positive vision of your own.

This is what the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts have done with the publication of their Nature and Wellbeing Green Paper. It’s a proposal for a new act of parliament modelled on the Climate Change Act 2008. It obliges future governments to protect and restore the living world. It proposes targets for the recovery of species and places, a government agency (the Office for Environmental Responsibility) whose role is to ensure that all departments help to defend wildlife, and Local Ecological Networks, which devolve power to communities to protect the places they love most.

I have problems with some aspects of this proposal, not least its enthusiastic embrace of the Natural Capital Agenda, which seeks to persuade us to value nature by putting a price on it. This strategy is, I believe, astonishingly naïve. To be effective, you must open up political space, not help to close it down by accepting the premises, the values and the framing of your opponents. But I can see what drove them to do it. If the government accepts only policies or regulations that contribute to economic growth, it’s tempting to try to prove that the financial value of wildlife and habits is greater than the financial value to be gained by destroying them, foolish and self-defeating as this exercise may be.

But I’ll put this aside, because their proposal is the most comprehensive attempt yet to douse the bonfire of destruction on which the government is toasting our wildlife like marshmallows. The Climate Change Act and its lasting commitments are just about the only measures that oblige this government to restrict greenhouse gases. It remains a yardstick against which the efforts of all governments can be judged. Should we not also have similar, sustained protection for wildlife and habitats? Only lasting safeguards, not subject to the whims and fads of passing governments, can defend them against extinction.

The Nature and Wellbeing Act is a good example of positive environmentalism, setting the agenda, rather than merely responding to the policies we don’t like. We must do both, but while those who love wildlife have often been effective opponents, we have tended to be less effective proponents.

It will be a struggle, as the times have changed radically. In 2008 the Climate Change Act was supported by the three main political parties. So far the Nature and Wellbeing Act has received the support of the Liberal Democrats (so after the election both their MPs will promote it in parliament) and the Green Party. The Conservatives, despite the green paper’s desperate attempts to speak their language, are unreachable. And where on earth is Labour? So far it has shown no interest at all.

If you care about what is happening to the living world, if you care about the assault on the enthralling and bewitching outcome of millions of years of evolution for the sake of immediate and ephemeral corporate profits, join the campaign and lobby your MPs. The Nature and Wellbeing Act will succeed only through a movement as big as the one that brought the Climate Change Act into existence. Please join it.



Sometimes, I wonder if such essays, as powerful and well-written as they are, are not just too terrible a commentary on how things are just now.  My justification for republishing them is simply from the point of view that the more the awareness of good ordinary people is enhanced as to these present times, the better the odds that there will be a sufficient social and political reaction to bring this madness to a halt.

Written by Paul Handover

December 2, 2014 at 00:00

The God of Growth.

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A grim reminder of these mad times.

I am conscious that in thirty minutes, my latest draft chapter of the book of the same name as this blog is published. Published under the heading of Faith in goodness.

It seems entirely at odds with the theme of today’s post, the reposting of a recent essay from George Monbiot.  But in a sense the two posts are compatible. Because what George Monbiot writes about, so elegantly in my opinion, is a window into the lives of those in power, politics, and in money.  Whereas, down at street level, so to speak, down where ordinary people lead ordinary lives, one finds a huge gap between the ambitions of the ‘top table’ and decent, everyday folk who are basically good people.

So with that in mind, on to George Monbiot’s essay of the 18th November, published in this place with his kind permission.


The Insatiable God

The blind pursuit of economic growth stokes a cycle of financial crisis, and wrecks our world.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th November 2014

Another crash is coming. We all know it, now even David Cameron acknowledges it (1). The only questions are what the immediate catalyst will be, and when it begins.

You can take your pick. The Financial Times reports today that China now resembles the US in 2007 (2). Domestic bank loans have risen 40% since 2008, while “the ability to repay that debt has deteriorated dramatically”. Property prices are falling and the companies that run China’s shadow banking system provide “virtually no disclosure” of their liabilities. Just two days ago, the G20 leaders announced that growth in China “is robust and is becoming more sustainable” (3). You can judge the value of their assurances for yourself.

Housing bubbles in several countries, including Britain, could pop at any time. A report in September revealed that total world debt (public and private) has reached 212% of GDP (4). In 2008, when it helped to cause the last crash, it stood at 174%. The Telegraph notes that this threatens to cause “renewed financial crisis … and eventual mass default.” (5) Shadow banking has gone beserk, stocks appear to be wildly overvalued, the Eurozone is bust again. Which will blow first?

Or perhaps it’s inaccurate to describe this as another crash. Perhaps it’s a continuation of the last one, the latest phase in a permanent cycle of crisis, exacerbated by the measures (credit bubbles, deregulation, the curtailment of state spending) which were supposed to deliver uninterrupted growth. The system the world’s governments have sought to stabilise is inherently unstable, built on debt, fuelled by speculation, run by sharks.

If it goes down soon, as Cameron fears, in a world of empty coffers and hobbled public services, it will precipitate an ideological crisis graver than the blow to Keynesianism in 1970s. The problem that then arises – and which explains the longevity of the discredited ideology that caused the last crash – is that there is no alternative policy, accepted by mainstream political parties, with which to replace it. They will keep making the same mistakes while expecting a different outcome.

To try to stabilise this system, governments behave like soldiers billeted in an ancient manor, who burn the furniture, the panelling, the paintings and the stairs to keep themselves warm for a night. They are breaking up the post-war settlement, our public health services and social safety nets, above all the living world, to produce ephemeral spurts of growth. Magnificent habitats, the benign and fragile climate in which we have prospered, species that have lived on earth for millions of years, all are being stacked onto the fire, their protection characterised as an impediment to growth.

David Cameron boasted on Monday that he will revive the economy by “scrapping red tape” (6). This “red tape” consists in many cases of the safeguards defending both people and places from predatory corporations. Today, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill is passing through the House of Commons (7), spinelessly supported, as ever, by Labour. The bill seeks to pull down our protective rules to “reduce costs for business”, even if that means increasing costs for everyone else, while threatening our health and happiness. But why? As the government boasted last week, the UK already has “the least restrictive product market regulation and the most supportive regulatory and institutional environment for business across the G20.” (8) And it still doesn’t work. So let’s burn what remains.

This bonfire of regulation is accompanied by a reckless abandonment of democratic principles, not least of equality before the law. In the House of Commons on Monday, Cameron spoke for the first time about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (9). If this treaty between the EU and the US goes ahead, it will grant corporations a separate legal system to which no one else has access, through which they can sue governments passing laws that might affect their profits. Cameron insisted that “it does not in any way have to affect our national health service” (10). (Note those words “have to”.) Pressed to explain this, he cited the former EU trade commissioner, who claimed that “public services are always exempted” (11).

But I have read the EU’s negotiating mandate(12), and it contains no such exemption, just plenty of waffle and ambiguity on this issue. When the Scottish government asked Cameron’s officials for an “unequivocal assurance” that the NHS would not be exposed to such litigation, they refused to provide it(13). This treaty could rip our public services to shreds for the sake of a short and (studies suggest (14,15)) insignificant fizzle of economic growth.

Is it not time to think again? To stop sacrificing our working lives, our prospects, our surroundings to an insatiable god (16)? To consider a different economic model, which does not demand endless pain while generating repeated crises?

Amazingly, this consideration begins on Thursday. For the first time in 170 years, parliament will debate one aspect of the problem: the creation of money (17). Few people know that 97% of our money supply is created not by the government (or the central bank), but by commercial banks in the form of the loans they issue (18). At no point was a democratic decision made to allow banks to do this. So why do we let it happen? This, as Martin Wolf has explained in the Financial Times (19), “is the source of much of the instability of our economies”. The parliamentary debate won’t stop the practice, but it represents the opening of a long-neglected question.

This, though, is just the beginning. Is it not also time for a government commission on post-growth economics? Drawing on the work of thinkers like Herman Daly, Tim Jackson, Peter Victor, Kate Raworth, Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill, it would investigate the possibility of moving towards a steady state economy: one that seeks distribution rather than blind expansion; that does not demand infinite growth on a finite planet. It would ask the question that never gets asked: why?

Why are we wrecking the natural world and public services to generate growth when that growth is not delivering contentment, security or even, for most of us, greater prosperity? Why have we enthroned growth, regardless of its utility, above all over outcomes? Why, despite failures so great and so frequent, have we not changed the model? When the next crash comes, these questions will be inescapable.



1. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/16/red-lights-global-economy-david-cameron

2. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e13e2cf8-6e48-11e4-bffb-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz3JP5QF3et

3. G20, November 2014. Brisbane Action Plan. http://bit.ly/1xk6mLR

4. Luigi Buttiglione et al, September 2014. Deleveraging? What Deleveraging? Geneva Reports on the World Economy 16. http://www.voxeu.org/content/deleveraging-what-deleveraging-16th-geneva-report-world-economy

5. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11129108/Mass-default-looms-as-world-sinks-beneath-a-sea-of-debt.html

6. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/16/red-lights-global-economy-david-cameron

7. http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2014-15/smallbusinessenterpriseandemployment.html

8. G20, November 2014. Comprehensive Growth Strategy – United Kingdom. http://bit.ly/1yPuIv7

9. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/04/british-government-leading-gunpowder-plot-democracy-eu-us-trade

10. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm141117/debtext/141117-0001.htm#14111713000002

11. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29181332

12. http://bit.ly/1xYr3L6

13. http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/scottish-government-demands-nhs-ttip-guarantees-1-3589393

14. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/15/us-trade-deal-with-europe-hype

15. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22429932.800-ttip-beware-the-treatys-empty-economic-promises.html

16. http://pollystreaming.com/South-Park-Season-13-Episode-3-Margaritaville_v5905

17. http://www.positivemoney.org/2014/11/uk-parliament-debate-money-creation-first-time-170-years/

18. https://www.positivemoney.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Backbench-Briefing-Note.pdf

19. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7f000b18-ca44-11e3-bb92-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2zsutuZis

The book! Part Three: Greed, inequality and poverty

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I read this out aloud to Jeannie last night, as I do with every post that is published, and found this chapter really didn’t flow.  I’m making the mistake of including too many words of direct quotations, many of which are not easy to follow.

So just wanted to let you know that if this strikes you the same way, you are not alone! ;-)

It is, of course, just the first draft, but nonetheless …. wanted you to read this first.


Greed, inequality and poverty

Just three words: greed; inequality; poverty.

Just three words that metaphorically come to me like a closed, round, wooden lid hiding a very deep, dark well. That lifting this particular lid, the metaphorical one, exposes an almost endless drop into the vastness of where our society appears to have fallen.

That this dark well, to stay with the metaphor, is lined with example after example of greed, inequality and poverty is a given.

One might conclude that examining any of those examples is pointless, not in terms of the reality of our world, but in terms of influencing the views of a reader. If you are a reader who is uncertain about the current levels of greed, inequality and poverty then it’s unlikely that a few examples, or a few hundred examples, are going to change minds. (One might argue that you wouldn’t be reading this book in the first place!)

Thus when I was digging around, looking for insight into how and why we, as in society, are in such times, I was looking for core evidence. Very quickly, it struck me that the chapter title really should simply have been: Inequality. Because inequality, by implication, is the result of greed and results in poverty.

In November, 2014, at the time I was drafting this book, a new report was issued by the Center of Economic Policy Research (CEPR) on the latest (American) Survey of Consumer Finances. It painted a picture very familiar to many: the rich becoming richer while those with less wealth are falling further and further behind.

David Rosnick of the CEPR, and one of the report co-authors, made this important observation:

The decline in the position of typical households is even worse than the Consumer Finances survey indicates. In 1989, many workers had pensions. Far fewer do now. The value of pensions isn’t included in these surveys due to the difficulty of determining what they are worth on a current basis. But they clearly are significant assets that relatively few working age people have now.

Sharmini Peries, of The Real News Network, in an interview with David Rosnick, asked:

PERIES: David, just quickly explain to us what is the Consumer Finance Survey. I know it’s an important survey for economists, but why is it important to ordinary people? Why is it important to us?

ROSNICK: So, every three years, the Federal Reserve interviews a number of households to get an idea of what their finances are like, do they have a lot of wealth, how much are their house’s worth, how much they owe on their mortgages, how much they have in the bank account, how much stocks do wealthy people own. This gives us an idea of their situations, whether they’re going to be prepared for retirement. And we can see things like the effect of the housing and stock bubbles on people’s wealth, whether they’ve been preparing for eventual downfalls, how they’ve reacted to various economic circumstances, how they’re looking to the long term. So it’s a very useful survey in terms of finding out how households are prepared and what the distribution of wealth is like.

PERIES: So your report is an analysis of the report. And what are your key findings?

ROSNICK: So, largely over the last 24 years there’s been a considerable increase in wealth on average, but it’s been very maldistributed. Households in the bottom half of the distribution have actually seen their wealth fall, but the people at the very top have actually done very well. And so that means that a lot of people who are nearing retirement at this point in time are actually not well prepared at all for retirement and are going to be very dependent on Social Security in order to make it through their retirement years.

PERIES: So, David, address the gap. You said there’s a great gap between those that are very wealthy and those that are not. Has this gap widened over this period?

ROSNICK: It absolutely has. As, say, the top 5 percent in wealth, the average wealth for people in the top 5 percent is about 66 percent higher in 2013, the last survey that was completed, compared to 1989. By comparison, for the bottom 20 percent, their wealth has actually fallen 420 percent. They basically had very little to start with, and now they have less than little.

PERIES: So the poorer is getting poorer and the richer is getting extremely richer.

ROSNICK: Very much so.

To my way of thinking, if in the period 1989 through to 2013 “the average wealth for (American) people in the top 5 percent is about 66 percent higher” and “for the bottom 20 percent, their wealth has actually fallen 420 percent” it’s very difficult not to see the hands of greed at work and a consequential devastating increase in inequality.

In other words, the previous few paragraphs seemed to present, and present clearly, the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, comparatively speaking, and that it was now time for society to understand the trends, to reflect on where this is taking us, if left unchallenged, and to push back as hard as we can both politically and socially.

I wrote that shortly before another item appeared in my email ‘in-box’ in the middle of November (2014), a further report about inequality that, frankly, emotionally speaking, just smacked me in the face. It seemed a critical addition to the picture I was endeavouring to present.

Namely, on the 13th October, 2014, the US edition of The Guardian newspaper published a story entitled: US wealth inequality – top 0.1% worth as much as the bottom 90%. The sub-heading enlarged the headline: Not since the Great Depression has wealth inequality in the US been so acute, new in-depth study finds.

The study referred to was a paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, based on research conducted by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. The paper’s bland title belied the reality of the research findings: Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913.

As the Guardian reported:

Wealth inequality in the US is at near record levels according to a new study by academics. Over the past three decades, the share of household wealth owned by the top 0.1% has increased from 7% to 22%. For the bottom 90% of families, a combination of rising debt, the collapse of the value of their assets during the financial crisis, and stagnant real wages have led to the erosion of wealth. The share of wealth owned by the top 0.1% is almost the same as the bottom 90%.

The picture actually improved in the aftermath of the 1930s Great Depression, with wealth inequality falling through to the late 1970s. It then started to rise again, with the share of total household wealth owned by the top 0.1% rising to 22% in 2012 from 7% in the late 1970s. The top 0.1% includes 160,000 families with total net assets of more than $20m (£13m) in 2012.

In contrast, the share of total US wealth owned by the bottom 90% of families fell from a peak of 36% in the mid-1980s, to 23% in 2012 – just one percentage point above the top 0.1%.

The report was not exclusively about the USA. As the closing paragraphs in The Guardian’s article illustrated:

Among the nine G20 countries with sufficient data, the richest 1% of people (by income) have increased their income share significantly since 1980, according to Oxfam. In Australia, for example, the top 1% earned 4.8% of the country’s income in 1980. That had risen to more than 9% by 2010.

Oxfam says that in the time that Australia has held the G20 presidency (between 2013 and 2014) the total wealth in the G20 increased by $17tn but the richest 1% of people in the G20 captured $6.2tn of this wealth – 36% of the total increase.

I find it incredibly difficult to have any rational response to those figures. I am just aware that there is a flurry of mixed emotions inside me and, perhaps, that’s how I should leave it. Nonetheless, there’s one thing that I can’t keep to myself and that this isn’t the first time that such inequality has arisen, the period leading up the the Great Depression of the 1930s comes immediately to mind, and I doubt very much that it will be the last.


Unless the growing catalogue of unsustainable aspects of this 21st century, a few of which have been the focus of this Part Three, brings about, perhaps in many different ways, a force for change that is unstoppable.

But before that is explored in Part Four, there is the one final element of the greed, inequality and poverty theme of this chapter that must be aired; the issue of poverty.

Contrary to my anticipation, the figures for poverty trends can be read in many ways and don’t give a clear-cut uniform picture. Nevertheless, it does’t take a genius to work out that the future, especially for young people, could be alarming.

Today, the poor people are the young. Today, the young are heading into a future that has many frightening aspects.

Take the present population numbers, the mind-boggling scale of the use of energy in these times, not to mention the levels of debt across so many countries (on the 14th November, 2014, the Federal Debt of the USA was about $18,006,100,032,000), possible unsustainable global climate change trends, and is it any wonder that those born in the period 1928 to 1945 (I was born in 1944), the generation that has been called the Silent Generation, must be wondering what the future holds for their children and grandchildren and what they or anyone can do today and tomorrow, to prevent these future generations sinking into oblivion.

I came across a quotation from Simon Caulkin, the award winning management writer: “It’s all the product of human conduct!”

Yes, Simon is right. Only human conduct will find that sustainable, balanced relationship with each other and, critically, with the planet upon which all our futures depend. Yet, something nags at me; a half-conscious doubt that starts with the word ‘but!’ Not that it doesn’t all come down to human conduct; not a moment’s hesitation on that one. But there’s still that half-conscious doubt. A doubt that starts to take shape on the back of that wonderful quotation from Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Then from that half-conscious place in one’s head comes another word. The word: Faith. Faith in us, as in faith in humanity. Faith that not only can we change our relationship with ourselves, with our communities and, above all, with our planet, but that we will. Faith that we, as in mankind, will embrace the many beautiful qualities of the animal that is so special to so many millions of us: our dogs. Not just embrace but pin our future on the premise that adopting the qualities of love, trust, honesty, openness and more, qualities that we see daily in our closest animal companions, is our potential salvation.

Thus comes the end of this set of depressing aspects of our 21st century. Time to move on in this story of learning from dogs and envelope ‘Of change in thoughts and deeds’; the title of the next section of this book. For we truly need a change to a better future.

1923 words Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

Written by Paul Handover

November 18, 2014 at 00:30

Wherein lays the truth?

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It is said that the first casualty in war is truth!

Ansel Adams

In yesterday’s post Vested interests, perhaps, I featured an article brought to my attention by dear friend, Dan Gomez. Namely an article featured in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper that was headlined: ‘There is NO climate crisis': Man-made global warming is a lie and not backed up by science, claims leading meteorologist.

Dan’s strong belief is that labelling the natural change in the world’s climate as anthropogenic global warming (AGW) serves governments and many large institutions incredibly well because it offers greater leverage to raise taxes.  In other words, Dan has no doubt that the climate is changing, but as a result of natural forces that go back long before the days of man.  In other words, it is being ‘sold’ as the direct result of man’s activities because it makes it easier to apply taxes and levies for purposes not related to climate matters.

As John Coleman was reported as saying:

John Coleman, who co-founded the Weather Channel, claims that the belief humans are causing climate change is not backed up by science.

In an open letter attacking the UN, the 80-year-old from San Diego, said that what ‘little evidence’ there is for global warming points to natural cycles in temperature.

‘There is no climate crisis,’ he wrote. ‘The ocean is not rising significantly. The polar ice is increasing, not melting away. Polar bears are increasing in number. ‘Heat waves have actually diminished, not increased. There is not an uptick in the number or strength of storms.

‘I have studied this topic seriously for years. It has become a political and environment agenda item, but the science is not valid.’

Now I am as sceptical about the workings of governments as the next man. But I find it incredibly difficult to believe that AGW is a myth, hoax or conspiracy.  There is a wall of science to say that we, as in man, are dangerously close to going over the edge, going beyond ‘tipping points’ from which there is no returning.

A quick dip into Wikipedia tells us [my emphasis]:

Scientific understanding of the cause of global warming has been increasing. In its fourth assessment (AR4 2007) of the relevant scientific literature, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that scientists were more than 90% certain that most of global warming was being caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities. In 2010 that finding was recognized by the national science academies of all major industrialized nations.

Affirming these findings in 2013, the IPCC stated that the largest driver of global warming is carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and land use changes such as deforestation.

Only last Wednesday there was an item on Naked Capitalism that opened [again, my emphasis]:

J.D. Alt: Have We Passed the Tipping Point of Biological Collapse?

alt1The squiggle illustrated here may look like the Ebola virus, but it isn’t. The resemblance is just an eerie coincidence. It’s actually a graphical snapshot of the classic “Predator-Prey Model.” This mathematical exercise, first developed in the 1920s, serves as the introductory basis for a more recent NASA funded effort which produced—amidst a brief flurry of news and commentary last spring—the startling conclusion that a complete collapse of modern civilization may now be “irreversible.”

The NASA study involved the creation and running of a more elaborate model—HANDY (Human and Nature Dynamics)—which simulates the human consumption of naturally replenishing systems, as well as (intriguingly, given today’s news cycle) wealth and income inequality between two classes of citizens: “Elites” and “Commoners.” Now a new study, just released by the World Wildlife Fund, reports a grim statistic suggesting the abstract mathematics of the HANDY Model may be more than just a theoretical exercise. According to the WWF, in the last forty years—from 1970 to 2010—the Earth has lost over HALF (52%) of its wildlife population.

There are yards and yards of solid information all over the internet about our changing climate. The loss of wildlife, the destruction of forests and wild lands is beyond argument, and those aspects of this ‘modern’ world are most certainly the direct result of man’s activities!  Our inability to stop growing as a global population is insane.  Our inability to stop seeing continual economic and material growth as a ‘good thing’ is insane. We need massive change  – now!

Therein lays the problem.  Because, whether or not there is an approaching climate catastrophe as a result of man’s activities is, in a very real sense, irrelevant. If that seems a bizarre thing to write, I mean it is irrelevant in terms of what you and I, ordinary people trying to lead civilised lives, can do to make a difference.

Patrice Ayme recently published a post under the title of Total Plutocracy covering the death of Christophe de Margerie when his jet hit a snow plough on a Moscow runway at midnight, flipped on its back, caught fire, and skidded across. All four on board died.

Now the accidental death of any person is a tragedy, make no mistake, but as Patrice revealed in his post, this particular accident did raise some interesting aspects.  Here’s a little of what Patrice wrote:

With 200 billion Euros in revenue, TOTAL SA is not far behind the French government budget. TOTAL’s profits are 14 billion Euros (“Soyons serieux!” laughed Margerie). It pays nearly no tax in France, having concentrated there its money losing refineries.

Other countries get nearly all their fuel from French refineries; TOTAL has also a green light to frack in Britain. So this is not just a French situation. TOTAL is one of the five great oil companies concentrating the fossil fuel firepower. Those companies have the best technology. Some of TOTAL’s specialties are very deep water drilling, and using steam to extract tar oil in Canada.

What was de Margerie doing at midnight? Flying back to France, after meeting with Putin and Medvedev, late at night.

That’s how these guys are: great fun. Putin was recently invited to Milan for a big time European meeting. He arrived several hours late to visit with Merkel, who was not amused. After keeping her up past midnight, he motored to Berlusconi’s mansion, and the two plutocrats reveled together until 4 am. (We don’t know how many female teenagers were in attendance to further their studies.)

The next European meeting was at 8am, and Putin showed up.

Supposedly Margerie had just told Medvedev and Putin to cool it with Ukraine. At least that’s the massaging message Margerie’s minions floated after his death.

Why was Margerie so important to the Russian dictators? Because the six “supermajor” oil companies have the advanced technology. After all, they recruit from the best universities in the world (that’s paid by taxpayers). TOTAL SA was the spearhead of high tech development for hydrocarbon production in Russia. Among other things, it’s helping to build a gas liquefaction plant in the far north, to load special ships with methane (something TOTAL does with Qatar, in the world’s largest such installation).

Once a ship is fully loaded, it has several times the explosive power deployed at Hiroshima (such a catastrophic accident has not happened yet, but it’s just a matter of time).

When citizen Lambda dies, Mr. Anybody, nobody official cares. When a major plutocrat dies, our leaders, even our socialist leaders, weep, and present the accident as a national, even international tragedy.

Is the death of a plutocrat worth that much more, that all this public weeping has to occur?

And, by the way, who and what has authorized Mr. Margerie to lead his own foreign policy? Who authorized him to make nice with thermonuclear dictators? To the point of allowing their survival?

I recommend that you read it in full for it says so much about what is wrong with these present times: so much inequality and so many abuses of power.

Just the other day the Guardian newspaper published an article under the title of: Richest 1% of people own nearly half of global wealth, says report.

The richest 1% of the world’s population are getting wealthier, owning more than 48% of global wealth, according to a report published on Tuesday which warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession.

According to the Credit Suisse global wealth report (pdf), a person needs just $3,650 – including the value of equity in their home – to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens. However, more than $77,000 is required to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and $798,000 to belong to the top 1%.

“Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets,” said the annual report, now in its fifth year.

On October 8th, George Monbiot published an essay in The Guardian newspaper under the title of The Toll-Booth Economy.  The opening lines set the theme.

Corporate power is the real enemy within, but none of the major parties will confront it.

The more power you possess, the more insecure you feel. The paranoia of power drives people towards absolutism. But far from curing them of the conviction that they are threatened and beleaguered, it becomes only stronger.

On Friday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, claimed that business is under political attack on a scale it has not faced since the fall of the Berlin wall. He was speaking at the Institute of Directors, where he was introduced with the claim that “we are in a generational struggle to defend the principles of the free market against people who want to undermine it or strip it away.” A few days before, while introducing Osborne at the Conservative party conference, Digby Jones, formerly the head of the Confederation of British Industry, warned that companies are at risk of being killed by “regulation from Big Government” and of drowning “in the mire of anti-business mood music encouraged by vote-seekers.” Where is that government and who are these vote-seekers? They are a figment of his imagination.

Read the full essay here.

Yes, one could go on and on.

Indeed, I will. Go on with just one more reference.  From the Smithsonian. An article that started, as follows:

Five Conflicts and Collapses That May Have Been Spurred by Climate Change

Earth’s changing climate has been a spectre in centuries of civil conflict and, at times, the collapse of whole civilizations

By Natasha Geiling
October 20, 2014

Is climate change a matter of national security? In a warming world, sea-level rise, drought and soil degradation are putting basic human needs such as food and shelter at risk. In March, the U.S. Department of Defense called climate change a “threat multiplier,” saying that competition for resources “will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions—conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

Connecting climate change to a global increase in violence is tricky, and attempts to make such a link receive a fair amount of criticism. A hotter planet doesn’t automatically become a more conflict-ridden one. The 2000s, for instance, saw some of the highest global temperatures in recorded history—and some of the lowest rates of civil conflict since the 1970s.

But there are historical examples of civilizations that did not fare well when faced with drastic environmental change, and those examples may offer a window into the future—and even help prevent catastrophe. “We can never know with 100-percent certainty that the climate was the decisive factor [in a conflict],” says Solomon Hsiang, assistant professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. “But there’s a lot of cases where things look pretty conspicuous.”

Read the five historical examples and realise that we are not immune.

Earlier on I ventured the idea that whether or not an approaching climate catastrophe was a result of man’s activities was, in a very real sense, irrelevant.  Because of the lack of individual power to make a real difference, especially a political difference.

What is relevant is improving the way we govern ourselves. The abuses of money and power are too widespread to be ignored.  We need to start with strong local democracies and thence building a system of global governance that really is of the people by the people for the people.

Phew – I need a dog to hug!

The truest of love between a man and a dog!

Hazel providing the ‘love-in’.

Vested interests, perhaps.

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I’m being very brave and stepping into the climate change cauldron!

Learning from Dogs has been posting a wide range of items for well over five years. Indeed, today’s post is number 2,238!

Over those five years, my position regarding climate change or global warming has been pretty clear: a belief in the proposition that man’s behaviours are changing the very climate of our planet.  For instance, a little over a year ago I posted under the title Sceptical about global warming?  It opened:

Learning from Dogs is not a blogsite about climate change!

Why, you may ask, do I start today’s post with that sub-heading?  Because, I am conscious that many of my posts do touch on this subject.  For example, just two days ago there was Breaking news.  Then there was the piece about the climate implications for Phoenix, Arizona.  Followed the next day by the changes in the flow of the jet stream across the North Atlantic with all the weather implications for North-West Europe.

Indeed, as the heading to today’s post makes clear, this is also about the changes going on to our planet.

Learning from Dogs is about a different way of living and behaving.  A campaign, if one wants to call it that, to show that the way that modern man is living is corrupt.  Not with a big ‘C’ but still in the sense of living a dishonest life.  Learning from Dogs attempts to show that our wonderful dogs, a source of so much love and pleasure for so many millions, offer us an example of a life in and of this planet.

If there was ever a time in the history of man when we needed being reminded of our frailty and vulnerability, it is now.  As the following so starkly illustrates.

Peter Sinclair of Climate Crocks recently republished an item from Skeptical Science that opened up as follows:

A new study of ocean warming has just been published in Geophysical Research Letters by Balmaseda, Trenberth, and Källén (2013).  There are several important conclusions which can be drawn from this paper.

  • Completely contrary to the popular contrarian myth, global warming has accelerated, with more overall global warming in the past 15 years than the prior 15 years.  This is because about 90% of overall global warming goes into heating the oceans, and the oceans have been warming dramatically.

Then last week-end, Dan Gomez, friend for over 40 years, sent me the following:

Weather Channel Founder: Global Warming Science ‘Not Valid’

Meteorologist John Coleman, who co-founded The Weather Channel, says the claim that human activity is leading to global warming is no longer scientifically credible.

Instead, the “little evidence” there is for rising global temperatures points to a “natural phenomenon,” Coleman asserts.

In an open letter to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), he wrote: “There is no climate crisis. The ocean is not rising significantly. The polar ice is increasing, not melting away. Polar bears are increasing in number.

“Heat waves have actually diminished, not increased. There is not an uptick in the number or strength of storms.

“I have studied this topic seriously for years. It has become a political and environmental agenda item, but the science is not valid.”

Coleman says he based his views on the findings of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (not to be confused with the U.N. panel), a body of scientists and scholars who assess the science of global warming.

“There is no significant man-made global warming at this time. There has been none in the past and there is no reason to fear any in the future,” says Coleman, who was the original meteorologist on “Good Morning America.”

“Efforts to prove the theory that carbon dioxide is a significant greenhouse gas and pollutant causing significant warming or weather effects have failed.

“There has been no warming over 18 years.”

The U.N.’s IPCC argues that their research shows man-made global warming will lead to extreme weather events becoming more frequent and unpredictable, the Express in Britain reported.

Climate expert William Happer, a professor at Princeton University, expressed support for Coleman’s claims.

“No chemical compound in the atmosphere has a worse reputation than CO2, thanks to the single-minded demonization of this natural and essential atmospheric gas by advocates of government control [of] energy production,” Happer said.

“The incredible list of supposed horrors that increasing carbon dioxide will bring the world is pure belief disguised as science.”

What Dan had seen was an article in the UK Daily Mail that, in turn, was echoed on the US WesternJournalism blogsite.  Here’s how that Daily Mail story opens:

Climate change has been proven to be a lie, according to a leading meteorologist.

John Coleman, who co-founded the Weather Channel, claims that the belief humans are causing climate change is not backed up by science.

In an open letter attacking the UN, the 80-year-old from San Diego, said that what ‘little evidence’ there is for global warming points to natural cycles in temperature.

‘There is no climate crisis,’ he wrote. ‘The ocean is not rising significantly. The polar ice is increasing, not melting away. Polar bears are increasing in number. ‘Heat waves have actually diminished, not increased. There is not an uptick in the number or strength of storms.

‘I have studied this topic seriously for years. It has become a political and environment agenda item, but the science is not valid.’

The WesternJournalism post runs with the story explaining (in part):

John Coleman, the original meteorologist for ABC’s Good Morning America and the founder of The Weather Channel, which launched in 1982, wrote an open letter to the UCLA’s Hammer Forum urging them “to re-examine their plan” for their forum, scheduled for this past Thursday, after they announced their experts, both of whom believe in climate change science.

Coleman has made his position against climate change science clear in the past.

“There is no significant man-made global warming at this time, there has been none in the past and there is no reason to fear any in the future. Efforts to prove the theory that carbon dioxide is a significant ‘greenhouse’ gas and pollutant causing significant warming or weather effects have failed. There has been no warming over 18 years.”

The Weather Channel founder cites professors from Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard Smithsonian Observatory, and the University of Alabama, along with “9,000 Ph.D scientists” who agree with him.

“Yet at your October 23 Hammer Forum on Climate Change you have scheduled as your only speakers two people who continue to present failed science as though it is the final and complete story on global warming/climate change. This is a major mistake.”

Coleman urged the UCLA group to reconsider, noting he is not a “flat Earther,” or a “paid shill of the Koch Brothers.”

In a discussion yesterday with Dan, he was of the clear mind that, yes, the climate is changing, as it always has over eons of time, but that the degree of change that is directly attributed to man’s affairs is minute.  Then all around me I see sign after sign, read article after article, that we, as in mankind, are relentlessly ‘fouling our own nest’ and the time left for us to learn how to live sustainably on this planet is fast running out.

Can we get to the truth? The topic will be continued tomorrow!


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