American Empire, CAFTA, Capitalism, CARSI (Central America Regional Security Initiative), Climate Change, Climate Refugees, Coffee Rust Fungus, Collapse of Industrial Civilization, Corporate State, Corporatocracy, Financial Elite, Globalization, Hemileia vastatrix, Inverted Totalitarianism, Maquiladoras, Militarization of Society, Military Industrial Complex, NAFTA, Narcotrafficking, Neoliberal Capitalism, School of the Americas, The Drug War, The Immigration Crisis, US Intervention in Latin America, William Blum, Zapatista
The Blood-Soaked Foreign Policy of the U.S.
Citizens of the First World live in ignorance of their country’s violent imperialistic history. As Joe Bageant said, “Americans are cultivated like mushrooms from birth to death, kept in the dark and fed horseshit.” Nonetheless, the average pleb in America should realize by now that they too will be treated no different from those in the Third World exploited by empire. As illustrated by a recent study, U.S. citizens are mere cardboard cutouts in a façade of democracy with essentially no voice in their government’s actions. The wealthy elite call the shots, determining crucial government policy and the law of the land. When all the propaganda and myths are swept aside, America is revealed to be nothing more than a heartless oligarchy; you and I are simply marketing statistics and consumers, pawns and cogs within capitalist industrial civilization.
Empires weave their own self-serving and grandiose history while the vanquished are left to struggle for survival in the wreckage. A case in point is America’s current immigration crisis and its superficial analysis by the mainstream media which serves only to stoke racial fears amongst the ignorant masses while ignoring uncomfortable and disturbing root causes. The harsh reality is that America has a long history of carrying out covert and overt operations as well as instituting economic policies designed to exploit South and Central America, not to mention much of the rest of the world. One recent example was the 2009 coup of populist left-wing Honduran president Manuel Zelaya by elite military forces trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. Consider the following timeline of American intervention in Latin America since the 1950’s:
‘Free Trade’ for Corporations and Misery for Local Populations
Now consider the trade deals of NAFTA, CAFTA, and other “free trade” globalization schemes which have flooded our southern neighbors with cheap, subsidized produce from U.S. Big AG, decimating small farms and pushing millions off their land and into extreme destitution:
As part of neoliberal restructuring, Mexico would have to re-orientate its economy to the export rather than the domestic market. Mexico was already heavily dependent on trade with the US, but post-1982, Mexico’s dependency has become almost akin to that of a colony. US agricultural products – most notably corn – subsidised by American taxpayers now flooded the Mexican market, undercutting small domestic producers. For Mexican farmers the consequences have been ruinous and have devastated domestic production, a process which continues under the recent government of the National Action Party (PAN)…
…From the implementation of NAFTA in 1994 to 2000, 2 million farmers abandoned their lands. Fewer Mexicans now have access to health care and education than prior to 1980 as public spending has been cut as a result of ‘reforms’. By 2005 50 percent of the population had fallen below the poverty line, pushing some 3.3 million children under the age of 14 into work. Following the government’s agreement to exchange investment rights and trade barriers for loans and financial aid, Mexicans saw huge changes in their circumstances, such that by 1988 the cost of living had risen by 90 percent, while per capita income had fallen by some 50 percent. With the abandonment of social programmes, which alleviated at least some of the worst hardships, many communities in Mexico, with little or almost no help from the state, have had to fend for themselves…
…Much farming has since been replaced by agribusiness and large-scale meat farms, mostly foreign-owned. In recent years, widespread unemployment and the inability of farmers to gain an income from the land have meant that rural towns are being emptied of their inhabitants, leading to a tremendous population drain to the cities and the United States…Impoverished Mexican workers – employed primarily because they are cheaper to exploit than their US and Canadian counterparts – work to produce commodities which have no tangible benefit for their own society…
…The improved leverage of US power over Mexico’s economy is not solely an issue of having a workforce so ‘flexible’ that much of it is forced into sweatshop labour. The maquiladora belt functions effectively as an economic colony, with the local Mexican police, paid for by the Mexican taxpayer, providing the ‘security’ necessary for factories to operate unhindered by nuisance unions and human rights activists.
One of Mexico’s chief exports, then, is labour. Just as profits and goods leave the country, significant amounts of labour time are not reflected in the Mexican economy. Corporations benefit enormously from this win-win situation resulting in the continuing breakdown of society, a state of affairs reminiscent of a colonial economy, albeit without foreign control of what in any case is a pliant government. As a result, Mexican workers in the maquiladoras, notes Delgado-Wise, are little more than ‘manpower for foreign capital’.
While many of the poor seek work in factories owned by foreign companies or quit the countryside for work in the expanding metropolises, others cross into the US. If significant swathes of the arable land of northern Mexico are emptying, this is a trend connected intimately with free trade… – link
Militarizing the ‘Drug War’ and Arming Fascist Governments
So after destroying the means of survival for so many in Latin America, the poor and destitute turn to whatever means necessary in order to stay alive — crime, gangs, and the drug trade. The U.S. has reacted to this lawlessness by militarizing the “war on drugs”, providing even more weaponry and support to fascist governments who can then brutally squash any grassroots social movements which challenge the neoliberal capitalist order. It’s a vicious feedback loop in which the U.S. is forced to combat the very social disintegration of Latin America that U.S. economic policy has created. Thus, a fourth factor in America’s immigration crisis is the neocon militarization of the drug war and support of fascist governments aligned with U.S. corporate interests:
Narcotrafficking, like neoliberal capitalism, it seems, thrives in areas of severe poverty and unemployment where the civilian population is economically and politically disempowered and where state authorities are not powerful or willing enough to prevent the violent conflicts that narcotrafficking has produced. Additionally, for those who now have few opportunities in the traditional and legal sectors of the economy, narcotrafficking proves to be the only lucrative alternative…
…Civil society found itself vulnerable, impoverished and unable to rebuild the damaged and broken social services and infrastructure demolished by structural adjustment and neoliberal policy. Furthermore, the power and influence of the state have weakened in the last two and a half decades to the extent that in some areas drug traffickers operate quite freely and are immune to prosecution…
…With the authorities weakened, the line between the state and the narcotics industry is becoming increasingly blurred. A United Nations report estimated that between 50 and 60 percent of Mexican municipal government offices have been ‘captured or feudalised’ and coopted by narcotrafficking organisations. Mexican intelligence estimates that 62 percent of the Mexican police are presently under the control of the narco trade. According to rank and effectiveness, members of the police forces can receive anywhere between 5 to 70 thousand pesos monthly from cartels, a dramatic net increase on their state salaries. Of the 2.9 million arms given to the Mexican police forces, 57 percent are used in illicit activities.
Human Rights Watch reports that the military, in its purported struggle against the narcos, commits serious abuses against the civilian population, exposing its role rather as an institution of internal colonisation than one protecting society from violence. The same Mexican soldiers – potentially a force which could combat trafficking – are now deserting on a mass scale. Poor working conditions and pay led 217,000 Mexican soldiers to desert between 1993 and 2009. Among them, many leave the army to join the cartels and take their arms with them. One of the most powerful factions, the mercenary army, Los Zetas, was formed by deserters from an elite anti-drug squad of the Mexican army, taking with them their arms and training. Their sophisticated and professional tactics were developed, ironically, from training in the US by the DEA, the FBI and the US military in the war on drugs…
…Historian Miguel Tinker Salas has noted that in the case of Plan Colombia, military spending was intended to crush the strength of rural insurgents and guerrillas to offset the possibility of a popular rebellion, particularly as Colombia had among the worst levels of inequality in Latin America. In Mexico, maintaining a status quo which sees unprecedented levels of inequality and widespread poverty – exacerbated since the 1980s – is likely to involve the increasing use of force in order to quash the threat to the established order posed by social movements and popular revolt, all the more real as Mexico inches closer to collapse. Increasing attacks on organisers and activists of the anti-capitalist Zapatista initiative, La otra campaña, in Chiapas and the prolonged assault on inhabitants of Oaxaca in 2006 remind us that the state will always use military might to repress challenges to its authority and to the socio-economic order. US training of the Mexican military should be viewed in this light, bearing in mind that imperialism has two arms in Latin America – one military, the other economic.
Increasing poverty levels hardly seem to be a top priority for the leaders of the NAFTA signatories. For it is a state of affairs which benefits elites who have no interest in seeing ordinary Mexicans rise from poverty. Vast gaps between rich and poor may seem inexplicably cruel to outside observers, but within is a logic of which NAFTA was a clear expression. Rendering the population more desperate, reducing services and public spending, aggravating society’s vulnerability, rewards the powerful with greater political and economic dominance… – link
Climate Change and the Coffee Rust Fungus
A fourth factor not discussed much is how climate change is wreaking havoc on the major South American crop of coffee which many rely upon for their livelihood and is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil. Coffee rust, known as “roya” in Spanish, first appeared in the region in the 1970s when climate change began to cause higher temperatures and excess rainfall favorable to the moisture-loving fungus. It has since mutated and spread throughout the region. Resistant coffee hybrids that scientists have created can’t keep up with the fast mutating rust fungus which seems to be growing stronger as climate change accelerates. For the past two years, the rust fungus called Hemileia vastatrix has destroyed 30% or more of the coffee harvest in Central America where coffee production employes one-third or more of the population in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua :
All the coffee-producing countries of Central America have seen drops in production of 30% or more in each of the past two years. Some, such as Guatemala, report rising cases of chronic malnutrition in coffee workers’ children. Last week Oxfam cited coffee among other crops in a report that warned climate change was putting back the global fight against hunger “by decades”.
Nicaragua’s problem is particularly acute. Along with neighbouring Honduras, and Burma, it is already one of the three countries most affected by climate change, according to the 2013 Global Climate Risk Index. Nearly a third of its working population, about 750,000 people, depend on coffee directly or indirectly for a living. Coffee provides 20% of GDP. The Nicaraguan government is deeply worried: it has predicted that, because of falling rainfall and rising temperatures, by 2050 80% of its current coffee growing areas will no longer be usable.
This will mean disaster…
Warmer temperatures are also threatening a genetically diverse type of coffee called Arabica which is considered essential to the industry and comprises 70% of global coffee production. According to a recent study, by 2080 global warming will make two-thirds of today’s farms too hot to grow Arabica.
The three countries making up the largest percentage of child migrants that have been flooding the U.S. in recent times are Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. These three countries also happen to be closely allied with the U.S. and its neo-liberal economic model. Nicaragua is an exception to its neighbors. Despite suffering similar losses to its coffee crop from rust fingus, Nicaraguan farmers did not fare as badly because they were supported by the programs of their socialist government, an anathema to America’s ruling oligarchs and neoliberal politicians:
In sharp contrast, Nicaragua, an equally poor country that receives far less U.S. aid because of our government’s hostility toward the Sandinistas, sends far fewer children across the U.S. border. Why? Since coming back into power in 2006, the Sandinistas have enacted strong programs designed to allow the poor to become self-sufficient.
The Immigration Issue: Red Meat for the American Masses
The only way to actually fix the immigration crisis is to address the root causes I have identified above. The response to date from the U.S. government has been to request billions in detention center and deportation funds, launch a PR campaign in the media of Central American countries to dissuade illegal immigration, and increase spending in law enforcement aid through CARSI (Central America Regional Security Initiative). Meanwhile, right-wing politicians fan the flames of racism and xenophobia with calls for militarizing the border to stop the hoards of swarthy barbarians at America’s doorstep. In reality, the current deteriorating social conditions in Central and South America are a direct result of the American corporatocracy and its rapacious economic system as well as anthropogenic climate disruption. The child migrants flooding across America’s border are, to a great degree, victims of U.S. foreign policy and climate change.
david higham said:
A very good essay. I knew of only some of the history detailed here.As a 59 year old Australian, I have always been surprised at the USA’s lack of restraint at intervening in
the affairs of South American countries.No doubt I shouldn’t have been surprised.
That is what empires do,respond to threats real or imagined and arrange things so that they always get the better end of any deal.
I think that large population increase over South America would be a significant factor leading to greater incentive to migrate to the USA.What do others think?
david higham said:
Regarding the possibility of Nicaragua losing 80% of it’s coffee land from production by 2050.The way things are trending climate wise,that will probably be the least of our worries.Large areas will not be able to produce essential food by then.
Meanwhile we still have to cope with a society where a large percentage of the population are living in a parallel universe where climate disruption is not occurring.
“Meanwhile we still have to cope with a society where a large percentage of the population are living in a parallel universe where climate disruption is not occurring.”
Not even education helps these people. For example, see here:
That is an amazing comment!
“You’re not modeling human beings correctly. We have an imagination… You are acting as if we are just material animals.”
This is like what Kunstler relates about the folks who work at Google re. energy: “Dude, we have technology!”
And Kurzweil’s Law of Acceleration? LMFAO. (Although it really is quite alarming and sad and not the least bit funny, when you think about it.) The most bizarre part is how they can use the word “acceleration” at a complete remove from energy.
That’s OK by then with our wonderful technology we will be spread out across the galaxy living on teraformed planets under a dictatorship called the empire and all pigs will be able to fly. One thing I have noticed in Latin America is that they like americans meaning from the US and hate the US government. They realize there is a difference. To bad we don’t.
For the sake of accuracy, the coffee virus is but one small part of a global epidemic of biotic attacks on vegetation of all sorts. Air pollution is highly poisonous to plants, particularly to longer-lived shrubs and trees that incur cumulative damage season after season. The most pernicious effect is the loss of natural resistance to insects, disease and fungus which are causing premature mortality to all species around the world. The number of reports are overwhelming – coffee, vineyards, ash, oak, maple, aspen, every sort of conifer, bananas, coconut, black walnut, sycamore, the list is as long as the list of trees. You can’t even lay all the blame for that (although you can much else) on the industrialized northern empires, because the practice of agricultural burning in the southern hemisphere contributes substantially to what Jack Fishman calls our “toxic atmosphere”. Link to his recent lecture of that title, and excerpts from his book “Global Alert” here: http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2014/07/there-goes-neighborhood.html
In addition to all the obvious losses – in terms of fruit and nuts, lumber, paper, shade, habitat for wildlife, and rain – the loss of a major CO2 sink will contribute to the rapid acceleration of climate change, as will the wildfires that are already at unprecedented levels.
When one steps back and takes in the full scope of what we have done, it’s overwhelming and debilitating to the psyche. This is one reason why I have stepped away from the computer.
mike k said:
Mike, this work of uncovering the tragic truth of our global situation is overwhelming and debilitating to the psyche. At some point in our discovery process we need to start taking care of ourselves and each other almost like a new breed of post PTSD survivors. This is why Carolyn Baker and others are relevant to this need. However, she and others have tended to go overboard with the “we are all doomed to NTE without any hope.” We are for sure in for the collapse of this industrial civilization, which will be horrendous. But certainty regarding NTE is just a mental/emotional construct that is not very helpful in navigating the darkness we are more and more being enveloped in. I posted a poem on Carolyn’s site recently trying to make this point in a roundabout way:
One Final Song
Just give up hope
And seal your doom
You’ll surely feel
Much better soon…
As our daytime light grew dimmer still
It began to slowly erode our will.
When dark figures first appeared
We stood and waited as they neared.
They brought a message neat and tight:
They announced the dying of the Light.
And furthermore they said,
Just give up hope
For soon you’ll all be dead
So seal your doom
And you will feel
Much better very soon
Through fading vision we prayed
And then we swayed
And one by one began to do
As they had said.
No sooner had we signed the pledge
Than a sulfurous rain began to fall
And the newly baptized ones
Went forth as they were told
To bring others into the fold
And soon the world was filled
With those who swallowed the blackest pill
And turned their backs on heaven’s will.
Then almost all as darkness falls
Chant together like those in thrall:
Just give up hope
And seal your doom
You’ll surely feel
Much better soon…
mike: You might wanna rethink that “NTE is just an emotional construct” – it’s even gone mainstream now
Earth Is On The Cusp Of A Sixth Great Mass Extinction
[this is “old” news in that there are so many more factors, including Fukushima, “novel diseases”, and the threat of nuclear war influencing the extinction rate that it’s practically guaranteed]
another is this article
Good poetry, thanks for sharing.
mike k said:
Thanks for your comment Tom. Yes it’s all too probable that NTE is nearer than we might think. My song was aimed at those who want to proclaim some sort of dogmatic certainty about it. None of us are that knowledgeable at this stage of the game. To pretend so is to indulge in a variety of the same hubris that has gotten us in this mess. I also think there may be some hidden psychological payoffs in convincing oneself and others that the game is up and resistance or efforts to find creative alternatives are useless. For myself, I like to set a place at the table for the unknown and unexpected, whether such a guest shows up or not. You never know….
the Heretick said:
Every word you wrote about our neo-colonial foreign policy is true, but do not forget that there are people in every one of these countries who are in cahoots with our masters in the DC/NYC duopoly.
For the common man, the hoi polloi, all we see is job opportunities disappearing; this may be stoked by right-wing politicians, but the people on the supposed left, the “progressives”, they are doing precious little to rein in their benefactors, the landed elite of Wall Street.
As above, so below, inside out/outside in, the same tactics of divide and conquer, oppression and suppression, are being visited upon the American people. We are all just pawns in this deadly game.
Jay M said:
We have truly altered the chemistry of the world system by the mass production of hydrocarbon based motorization and industrial systems that support the burgeoning human population. That same mobilization of energy has empowered the elite groups who have created the age of authoritarian dominance that we live in. In addition the electrical system has ended up wiring together a lot of human opinion via the communication networks: radio, TV. In its day the press was a mechanical means of mobilizing the opinions of the populace. The changes to the energy flows in the world system as a consequence of mining and using all the hydrocarbon energy looks to damage our agriculture and probably drown many cities as the ice disappears. Seems to be happening very fast.
When is the essay coming forth showing that it was actually the Empire of the US that shot down MH17 over eastern Ukraine, to cast blame on Russia? We know the CIA can’t help itself.
There’s enough conspiracy fact that we don’t need to muddy the waters with already-disproven conspiracy theories.
The Ukraine is being subjected to the same asset stripping, pauperization via privatization, and “free market” shake-down as past targeted countries. I was planning an essay on this subject.
…For instance, previous experiments conducted in Kenya have isolated patches of land from megafauna such as zebras, giraffes and elephants, and observed how an ecosystem reacts to the removal of its largest species. Rather quickly, these areas become overwhelmed with rodents. Grass and shrubs increase and the rate of soil compaction decreases. Seeds and shelter become more easily available, and the risk of predation drops.
Consequently, the number of rodents doubles – and so does the abundance of the disease-carrying ectoparasites that they harbor.
“Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission,” said Dirzo, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle.”
The scientists also detailed a troubling trend in invertebrate defaunation. Human population has doubled in the past 35 years; in the same period, the number of invertebrate animals – such as beetles, butterflies, spiders and worms – has decreased by 45 percent.
As with larger animals, the loss is driven primarily by loss of habitat and global climate disruption, and could have trickle-up effects in our everyday lives.
For instance, insects pollinate roughly 75 percent of the world’s food crops, an estimated 10 percent of the economic value of the world’s food supply. Insects also play a critical role in nutrient cycling and decomposing organic materials, which helps ensure ecosystem productivity. In the United States alone, the value of pest control by native predators is estimated at $4.5 billion annually.
Dirzo said that the solutions are complicated. Immediately reducing rates of habitat change and overexploitation would help, but these approaches need to be tailored to individual regions and situations. He said he hopes that raising awareness of the ongoing mass extinction – and not just of large, charismatic species – and its associated consequences will help spur change.
“We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well,” Dirzo said. “Ironically, we have long considered that defaunation is a cryptic phenomenon, but I think we will end up with a situation that is non-cryptic because of the increasingly obvious consequences to the planet and to human wellbeing.”
Nationalities are convenient to corporations, allowing coordinated propaganda efforts applied to the homogenous “citizen” mind, a mind which can be manipulated into buying unnecessary items, working long hours in the name of progress, societal betterment or patriotism. At the same time, with a captive citizen monoculture, through herding behaviors, it is possible to tax them and extract massive amounts of wealth that can be handed to corporations to perform even greater feats of waste, like the F-35 fighter jet, as we try to re-create the cold war for maximum corporate profitability. The sheep hardly complain since “everyone” is being equally maltreated under the “law of the land”, shaped and enacted by the most reasonable and benevolent of uncorrupted lawmakers. Besides everyday low wages, the rubes are encouraged to proclaim their superiority to their third world counterparts “We’re number one!”while the suited Marquis’ of Wall Street bend them over the money changers tables and perform glorious acts of financial rape and pillage. Afterward they’re thrown a few coins, bones or scraps for servicing their masters in the form of glitzy electronic toys, coliseum battles, a tawdry blockbuster film, and GMO foods soaked in Round-up. We could only sink into absolute despair if it were not for the fact that the United States is to become the new Saudi Arabia of energy and dynamo of high-tech industrial expansion. Did you get that Rubes? Saudi Arabia of America, Dynamo. Paint that picture in your minds and let the soma infuse your souls.
xraymike: This spectacular investigative essay pretty much parallels the history of the CIA, an rogue agency not unlike the NSA and Homeland Security now. Thanks for the good read, great links and artwork, and the summing Chomsky video. Keep yourself healthy – mentally, spiritually and bodily – for as long as you can.
James: yeah, how’s that gonna work out, eh? It’s not as if we aren’t up to our necks in problems now. This “drain the remaining resources” tack won’t go on much longer though, since food is becoming scarce and living is becoming more problematic by the day. I give it 5 years or less for the situation to become intolerable for humanity.
It’s just my opinion, but i’m basing it on the rates of decay (of food & water availability, crop yields, etc.) and increases in unmitigated climate change, nuclear radiation spread, infrastructure collapse (including the electrical grid), species die-off, ocean anoxia, heating and acidification), and others (like rising “novel” diseases, war).
News for today on Planet Stupid…
Is the World Making You Sick?
…Miller has spent 30 years hammering out a theory to explain the contemporary surge in perplexing, multi-symptom illnesses—from autism to Gulf War Syndrome—which represent a Kuhnian shift in medicine. She calls her theory “TILT,” short for Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance.
TILT posits that a surprising range of today’s most common chronic conditions are linked to daily exposure to very low doses of synthetic chemicals that have been in mass production since World War II. These include organophosphate pesticides, flame-retardants, formaldehyde, benzene, and tens of thousands of other chemicals.
TILT shows how a person can have a toxic exposure and never recover.
TILT, says Miller, is a two-step process. Genetically susceptible individuals get sick after a toxic exposure or series of exposures. Instead of recovering, their neurological and immune systems become “tilted.” Then, they lose tolerance to a wide range of chemicals commonly found at low doses in everyday life and develop ongoing illnesses.
Along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology policy and technology professor emeritus Nicholas Ashford, Miller co-authored Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes. In 2012, Miller and her colleagues published a study in the family practice journal Annals of Family Medicine. They reported that 20.3 percent of individuals with chronic health issues suffer from some degree of chemical intolerance. That’s one in five—and, says Miller, they become vulnerable to TILT if they endure too much toxic exposure.
Miller is currently working with scientists at Harvard to inform a new generation of studies to document TILT. Her theory has been controversial, particularly for its idea that low-dose exposures, below the accepted toxic threshold, can be disabling. Yet in conversation with Nautilus, Miller was open and friendly, never defensive, even when presented with her critics…
Even if your theory makes sense, what proof is there? Germs can be seen and studied and treated, and the immune system’s different products can be measured and tweaked as well.
There are several types of proof. Nick Ashford and I observed the same patterns of inexplicable new-onset intolerances across very different toxic exposures in over a dozen countries. Sheep dippers using organophosphate pesticides in rural areas of Europe, radiology workers inhaling chemicals while developing films in New Zealand, Gulf War veterans, EPA workers in a remodeled and poorly ventilated office building in 1987, cleanup crews breathing fumes after oil spills. Many would get ill, and a small percentage never recovered. They became exquisitely sensitized, as well as disabled. The second type of proof is what happens when TILT-ed individuals avoid exposures. They begin to get better, even if they don’t completely recover.
How do we know chemicals wreak havoc with our immune systems, especially at low doses?
There are studies in rats bred to be uniquely sensitive to organophosphates, which are extremely potent pesticides. After exposure they exhibit abnormal sleep and increased sensitivity to many other chemicals. There might be humans who are like those rats—genetically susceptible to organophosphate poisoning.
There is also good evidence that toxicants like solvents, pesticides, or volatile molecules from oil spills can travel straight into the brain via the olfactory receptors studding the inner lining of our nose. Animal studies show that intermittent lower-dose exposures can be as toxic as a single higher-dose exposure. If an individual has had too much exposure, sensitization could possibly lead to permanently increased reactivity to chemicals via the limbic system in the brain.
It literally blew my mind. There would be depression, vomiting, and cognitive dysfunction.
There might well be changes in gene expression and cell receptor sensitivity due to ongoing chemical exposure, but while those are very plausible, we don’t really know for sure yet. It remains an open question for research. In terms of discovering the underlying mechanism of TILT, we are at a very early stage of understanding…
Johnny Thush said:
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, Oxfam. et al, seem to follow up after the goons have accomplished their goals by providing you with all you need. Your conclusion will be that what was done, is wrong. An autopsy, if you will, to reassure us by providing prepackaged dissent in the form of reasonable explanation. This is the way it happened. Not explicitly to remind us that we can do nothing about “the way it is” but to provide petitions and blogs to continually guage an insidious control of information. Amnesty had an effort to spread the tale of Pussy Riot, perhaps there is a band in Honduras, that will strip nude to support our corporate interests. We can take to the streets, but power never sleeps. we must, apparently, wait to see what they do next, then read Vitchek or other authors to tell us what happened.
…The modern US Empire has its roots in the Spanish-American War when the US occupied Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines and in the two World Wars. Since World War II, the United States has been a growing global imperial power at war—somewhere—every year. Seymour Melman wrote in March of 2003: “Now, at the start of the twenty-first century, every major aspect of American life is being shaped by our Permanent War Economy.” This has been a prime cause of the hollowing out of the domestic economy.
Rather than fixing the infrastructure, which the American Society of Civil Engineers ranks in its annual report card as a D+, the federal government’s “financing is lavished without stint to promote every kind of war industry, and foreign investing by U.S. firms.” As Seymour points out “there is no public ‘space’ for dialogue on how to improve the quality of our lives. Such topics are subordinate to ‘how to make war.’”
Economy and Empire
An empire must keep its client states happy as well as its transnational corporations profitable. This has resulted in a foreign policy designed for corporate interests and foreign oligarchs. The Wikileaks documents show US secrecy often hides crimes, abuses and unethical behavior linked to corporate interests; it also hides actions of a government that operates not for the public interest but for the profits of transnational corporations; and that is why secrecy is often necessary. We see this most glaringly in the rigged trade agreements being negotiated in secret except for hundreds of corporate advisers who work with the US Trade Representative in writing the agreements.
The flood of migrants coming from Central America is blowback from US foreign policy in the region. Just as NAFTA undermined the Mexican economy, Central American trade agreements have done the same for that region. Further, US support for brutal governments who impoverish their people and support for coups against governments that try to create greater equity have made these nations very difficult to live in. Even US drug policy adds to the misery in these countries. People desperate to survive come North in the hopes of finding a better life. While some cities, most recently Vancouver, seek to become sanctuary cities that protect immigrants, the Obama administration takes the approach of criminalization and deportation.
Not only does Empire foreign policy undermine the federal budget, with 55% of discretionary spending going to the military, but it also undermines the US economy as jobs are shipped overseas and corporations hide trillions of dollarsin assets overseas to avoid paying taxes (see, for example, this article, Boycott Walgreens: The Tax-Dodger On The Corner). Empire economics does not serve the workers in the US or abroad and does not serve the security of people as safety nets are shredded as austerity is needed to fund weapons and war.
The cost of war has escalated. Just one weapons system, the F-35, a fighter jet that has been grounded because it does not work, has cost $49 billion per year since the program begin in 2006. Hayes Brown of Think Progress made a listof what that money could have been spent on instead. It could have bought a mansion for every homeless person, fed every school child in the US, funded every humanitarian crisis or provided global security through the UN or provided funding to rebuild America.
“It is thought that milder winters and warmer summers, amongst other factors, are supporting the anchovy population growth.”
david higham said:
I have been thinking about two questions that Tom asked on the last thread.(I bet you’re amazed at the promptness of the reply, Tom)
1: Does the second law of thermodynamics mean that no human society can persist ?
2: Is there a point in the development of our species where we could have avoided the inescapable progress trap that we are now in?
I can’t see any reason why a hunter gatherer society would not be able to persist.
As long as the climate is habitable and the sun is continuing to supply the energy to keep the whole system functional, that society would be operating under the same constraints as any other animal species. It would be dependent on the energy inflow from the sun,thus unable to support a population bubble which access to fossil fuel allows. It is possible to elaborate further, but I will leave it at that ,as it doesn’t help our present situation.
Re question 2, I think a good argument can be made that the critical point was when we discovered how to smelt metal. Without metal we would not have been able to wreak havoc on the forests with metal axes and saws,and access fossil fuels and develop the industrial civilisation that cannot function without metal.
The ultimate reason,though, is having the intelligence to enable us to discover how to smelt metal and all the other things that lead to an industrial civilisation.
Ernst Mayr stated that intelligence was a lethal mutation. Those of us that realise where industrial civilisation is leading us this century could only agree, I think.
mike k said:
Kali Yuga – the Age of Iron. The age of hardened weapons and hearts.
Bronze age, stone age was all about compassion?
This concerted attempt to erase the responsibilities of thought and volition from our daily lives has produced a nation of couched-out soft touches, easily riled by the most cynically vacuous sloganeering and handily manipulated by the alibis of “morality” and false patriotism. To put it bluntly, no ones home. We are literally absent from our own present. We are elsewhere, not in the real but in the represented. Our bodies, the flesh and blood of it all, have given way to representations: figures that cavort on TV, movie, and computer screens. Propped up and ultra-relaxed, we teeter on the cusp of narcolepsy and believe everything and nothing.
~Barbara Kruger, Remote Control: Power, Cultures, and the World of Appearances
That World Population Growth clock is one of the most terrifying things I have seen in a long time. I am actually glad that I have maybe a few more decades here before I shuffle off this mortal coil. I don’t want to be around for the inevitable genocidal “correction” (similar to a stock market “correction”).
Malthus was right, and Malthusianism is a hard and fast rule as good as Newton’s or any other physical law. At some point, human population will simply grow too large and then mass war, starvation or disease will correct the numbers. It works precisely this way in Nature, and humans are nothing if not animals ourselves. Always remember, not only can’t you fool Mother Nature, but:
Mother Nature Always Bats Last.
~ Robert Lindsay, What I Would Give to See This Clock Run Backwards
“… At some point, human population will simply grow too large and then mass war, starvation or disease will correct the numbers.”
Peak population of children has already occurred, i.e. about 1.9 billion now with no increase expected now through 2050. Working age population in China is already decreasing, falling now at 3.4 million per year and the decrease is accelerating. The fertility rate even in Bangladesh of all places has now fallen to 2.3 from 5 or 6 a few decades ago. There now remain only two countries in the world with large populations (greater than ~50 million) which also have high fertility rates: Nigeria and Pakistan.
Plenty of evil in the world, yet at present there’s no mass starvation, no mass war.
Thanks for the informative links to Rosling’s work.
Using projections from the UN Population Division, Rosling suggests that global population will indeed continue to grow dramatically, but will level off at about 11 billion by the end of the century. He admits we will have to face huge challenges, but that we have reason to hope—that the problems associated with such a huge increase are “surmountable.” “Don’t Panic” informs a mostly uninformed Western audience that many Third World countries have, for decades, been working to decrease birth rates while simultaneously providing better healthcare and reducing poverty.
From the Telegraph’s review of Rosling’s documentary:
And we’d all better hope that [Rosling] is right. Because a near 50 per cent increase in global population by the end of the century is already a done deal. In the BBC programme, [he] explains that the mechanism that will power population growth on such a scale has already—and irreversibly—been put into motion, and to suggest that efforts should be made to limit its growth is to effectively propose a “holocaust” and prepare “the intellectual ground for killing people”. This is because of a phenomenon that Rosling describes as “Peak Child”.
Briefly put, the surge in the number of people on Earth isn’t any longer being caused by more people being born, but is because of those who are alive. There are now more children on the planet than ever (about two billion under the age of 15) but the global decline in birth rates means that the number has leveled off, and is not expected to increase. The reason the global population will continue to rise until around 2100 is because of a “demographic lag” and longer life expectancies.
A reasoned response to Rosling:
Yes, the UN projects that the human population may well peak at around 11 billion in around 100 years, time. Yes, the UN is seeking to end extreme poverty.
We in Population Matters are not reassured.
That is because the programme failed to consider in any detail resource scarcity and depletion, environmental degradation and climate change.
The Global Footprint Network, in association with the WWF and the Zoological Society of London, tell us that humanity is already consuming renewable ecological resources at a rate 50% higher than can be produced sustainably, while non-renewables are steadily depleted. The consequences, which are already with us, are rising resource prices, and environmental degradation. These will of course be increased by a world population some 60% higher than the current level, as well as by rapid industrialisation of countries which have not yet done so.
We cannot be sure to what extent the consequences will be a gradual decline in living standards and quality of life or a series of economic and environmental crises. However, we can be reasonably sure that changes in technological use or affluent lifestyles will be insufficient to avoid one or both of these in the absence of early stabilisation in human numbers.
The programme reported a widespread fall in the birth rate and seemed to leave it at that. In fact, birth rates are increasingly diverse, both between and within countries. The programme acknowledged that birth rates are a variable, not a given – they are affected by a wide range of factors, including the provision of family planning services and clear messages that smaller families are better. Consequently, if we act now, we can reduce that population peak to the enormous benefit of mankind, other species and future generations.
Rosling may be a good statistician, but he is an ecological illiterate. He assumes that ‘demography is destiny’ – that all current trends will continue. He ignores the facts that: while the proportion of people in poverty is shrinking, the actual number of such people in the high fertility countries is rising; the fertility decline he celebrates has recently stalled – the UN increased their 2050 projections by 300 million this year; the danger of discontinuities or ‘tipping points’, leading to a sharp increase in mortality, is visibly approaching (cf the ‘perfect storm’ foreseen by the last UK Chief Scientist); the reduction in fertility rates does not happen automatically, but has taken years of effort, resources and priority to achieve in developing countries; no non-oil country has achieved economic take-off until it reduced its fertility to three births per woman or lower; and the timing of countries’ achievement of replacement fertility radically affects their eventual population equilibrium number, which means there is great urgency in achieving it as quickly as possible.
It is also unclear what Rosling, like Fred Pearce and Danny Dorling, aims to achieve with his complacent message “The population problem is solved – don’t worry about it”. If he succeeded in persuading governments, both donors and recipients, to reduce the still inadequate priority they give to family planning and women’s empowerment programmes, the effects would be: to increase the number of unwanted births, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths, and stunted children; to increase the rate of planetary degradation and the probability of crossing a tipping point, with a rapid increase in premature deaths; to reduce the number of people, the Earth can sustain in the long-term; and to reduce the likelihood of all our children enjoying a decent quality of life. Why does he do it?
For us, the lesson of the programme is not that the population problem is solved but that it is soluble if we take the actions required.
““The population problem is solved – don’t worry about it””
As PM now knows, Rosling said, “Don’t Panic”, i.e. do not descend into emotion and lose the ability to reason. He did not say “don’t worry.” The man spent years in the third world as a doctor working the problem for god’s sake. I’ve not quite resolved why blatant misstatement is so often a part of such organizations.
mike k said:
Intelligence without wisdom is deadly. Compassion – love for all beings – is the foundation of wisdom.
Peaked Oil: Waiting for the Swords to Drop
In the fable that bears his name, Damocles was unnerved in the midst of luxury and power by the threat of a single sword (representing the ever present possibility of failure) hanging precariously over his head. We, who because of cheap oil enjoy luxury and power in our ordinary lives beyond the imagination of the kings of old, live beneath a veritable forest of deadly blades, all of which are just about to fall. Unlike Damocles, we refuse to look up, let alone move out of the zone of impact. When they tell our fable, nobody’s going to believe it.
[the author fills out each of these, a good read]
1. The Price Sword.
2. The Demand Sword.
3. The Capital Sword.
4. The Depletion Sword.
5. The Stock Market Sword.
david higham said:
Thanks for the link, Tom. Your comment there was astute. I hadn’t been to that site before. It is amazing that a supposedly informed person could write an essay on the various swords hanging over us, yet not mention overpopulation and climate disruption.
Look at these humans, safely tucked away in their technological cells, enjoying all the comforts they can imagine to create with their temporary surfeit of fossil fuels. Wealth is measured in ownership of the temporary infrastructure made “lively” by the uninterrupted consumption of the ecosystem and the cemetery of interred carbonaceous bodies within reach of their specialized organs of extraction, to be exhumed and cremated in their machines. They endlessly poke holes in the ground searching for more, their appetite for the nutritious gooey flesh is endless. And upon the bounty gained from this grave robbing enterprise they have striven only for separation from the living world. As the gaseous by-products of necrotic combustion envelop them, they will earn what they have always desired, a complete and everlasting separation from the ecosystem, their chemical infused bodies placed into technological metal boxes for some future resurrection that only the hopelessly insane could ever imagine. As they enjoy their comforts, including a temporary seclusion in the ground awaiting to be reborn into an environment where the dopamine is even more free flowing than before, they arrange a mass murder of future generations. Give light to this horrendous behavior and they look away, as some reptile in their heads has already decided that it must eat now, before someone else does, it feels good and that’s all that matters.
david higham said:
William Catton classified us as a society of detritivores, meaning reliant on the consumption of the accumulated detritus of marine organisms over millions of years.
As usual, our infinite capacity for avoiding reality has come to the rescue for some sections of the populace. Thus, for them, abiotic oil is their reality, or I think I may have mentioned on this site previously about the fundamentalist oil drilling engineer who assured us that god was attending to our limitless demands by creating oil at the centre of the Earth. What a relief.
Nice try, thought this has all been said long ago and better, with predictable consequences for the authors who indulge such views and, unfortunately, anyone close to them. Perhaps the host of this site should simply make a permanent top post from/about Karl and the like and call it a day:
Marx, 1856 Speech: “History is the judge, its executioner the proletariat.”
Marx, frequent quote:, i.e. in “The Eighteenth Brumaire…” “Every thing that exists deserves to perish” (Originally Goethe’s Faust)
Marx, “German Idealogy”: “When the reflections of burning cities are seen in the heavens…and when the ‘celestrial harmonies’ consist of the melodies of the Maresillaise and the Carmagnole, to the accompaniment of thundering cannon, while the guillotine beats time and the inflamed masses scream Ca ira, ca ira, and self-consciousness is hanged on the lamppost.”
Marx, “Oulanem, A Tragedy”
I shall howl gigantic curses on mankind.
Ha! Eternity! She is an eternal grief.
Ourselves being clockwork, blindly mechanical,
Made to be foul-calendars of Time and Space,
Having no purpose save to happen, to be ruined,
So that there shall be something to ruin
If there is a Something which devours,
I’ll leap within it, though I bring the world to ruins —
The world which bulks between me and the Abyss
I will smash to pieces with my enduring curses.
I’ll throw my arms around its harsh reality:
Embracing me, the world will dumbly pass away,
And then sink down to utter nothingness,
Perished, with no existence — that would be really living!
Marx, observation by close acquaintance, “Marx does not believe in God, but he believes much in himself and makes everyone serve himself. His heart is not full of love but of bitterness and he has little sympathy for the human race.” “
and other such suicidal megalomania.
Ken Barrows said:
There is overpopulation when the world wants to increase its population and cannot. With that definition, the Earth is not overpopulated yet. But it will be by 2030
Robert Lindsay has an interesting video and post on the Columbian FARC here.
It’s interesting to note what Chomsky has to say about Columbia and the world today:
What is your analysis of the social movements in Colombia against free trade, extractive mining and privatization of education?
The first thing to do is to stop using the phrase “free trade.” If we observe these treaties, we realize that they are far from free trade, are highly protectionist, and much of the agreement has nothing to do with trade. Basically, they are agreements on investment rights. So the social movements in Latin America are stunning developments. Rural movements against mining in particular are of global significance. Anyone with some degree of literacy should be aware that today we face the possibility of destruction of life on the planet. It is a serious and imminent risk. Scientific reports are tremendously dire. One only has to read the news today to realize there are certain groups trying to deal with the crisis and others trying to accelerate it. At the forefront of confronting the crisis are those who have been considered backward –indigenous peoples of Latin America, Canadian First Nations, Australian Aborigines, the tribes of India and many others. And who are those leading the world deeper into crisis? The U.S. and Canada. The paradox is exceptional: the most economically advanced countries, which have enjoyed the greatest advantages, are the most powerful, and are supposedly better educated, are leading the world to disaster, whereas hitherto considered primitive peoples are trying to save the planet. Unless rich countries learn from indigenous peoples, all are doomed to destruction.
david higham said:
I would include Australia with the US and Canada.The current government, comprised mainly of climate disruption denialists,have just given approval to the development of
an enormous coal mine,I have read that it is to be the largest in the world.
The juggernaut is unstoppable and our fate is sealed.
For sure, Australia. Perhaps we should say the U.S. and its satellite states.
“As soon as I get mine, I’ll quit.” said seven billion people as they admired and envied what others possessed. Those at the top lent some to those at the bottom so they could struggle and labor to bring something of value from the earth and return their loans plus some. But eventually the earth could give no more and those at the top found ways to repossess what little wealth remained at the bottom. With each day the bifurcation and resentment grew stronger as the tools of suppression and intimidation clandestinely took shape. Eventually the United States became a penal colony, watched over by the most pervasive spy network ever conceived and equipped with the largest prison system on earth. All reproductive rights, freedoms of speech, freedom of association and all vestiges of self-determination were lost in an emergency that would never end. People then knew what it was like to be caged and at the mercy of their captors. The propagandists said it would be over, soon, but it was never over as climate chaos, wars and resource depletion kept the doors locked on the asylum. Dropping out was not an option and slave wages were the patriotic rule. And then there was no envy, just a desire to escape at any cost.
Thanks david, though i think he was simply trying to keep it to fossil fuel, it’s hard to ignore these two direct factors that directly impact usage and waste.
James, thanks for those two amazing comments.
Looking around today I saw this over at seemorerocks:
Thursday, 31 July 2014
Methane hydrates in South Atlantic
First evidence of widespread active methane seepage in the Southern Ocean, off the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia
• An extensive active seepage area was discovered north of South Georgia.
• High input of organic matter leads to high rates of formation and emission of methane.
• Gas emissions were restricted to glacially-formed fjords and cross-shelf troughs.
• Seepage might be more common in polar and sub-polar regions than previously thought.
Abstract: An extensive submarine cold-seep area was discovered on the northern shelf of South Georgia during R/V Polarstern cruise ANT-XXIX/4 in spring 2013.
Hydroacoustic surveys documented the presence of 133 gas bubble emissions, which were restricted to glacially-formed fjords and troughs. Video-based sea floor observations confirmed the sea floor origin of the gas emissions and spatially related microbial mats.
Effective methane transport from these emissions into the hydrosphere was proven by relative enrichments of dissolved methane in near-bottom waters. Stable carbon isotopic signatures pointed to a predominant microbial methane formation, presumably based on high organic matter sedimentation in this region.
Although known from many continental margins in the world’s oceans, this is the first report of an active area of methane seepage in the Southern Ocean.
Our finding of substantial methane emission related to a trough and fjord system, a topographical setting that exists commonly in glacially-affected areas, opens up the possibility that methane seepage is a more widespread phenomenon in polar and sub-polar regions than previously thought.
It’s becoming ever more clear that we’re in deep shit. All this methane may eventually make any kind of bomb-dropping or even cigarette lightening “problematic” as the levels climb and waft over inhabited areas.
‘It’s becoming ever more clear that we’re in deep shit.”
And you know this how? Because of the bogus burning ice flow photo there? What was the extent of methane seeps a hundred years ago? Fifty? Two years ago? The term “widespread” is misused in the title, but that’s ok of course. The abstract says “more widespread in polar … regions than previously thought”.
News for realists…
The evolutionary technical forces at work on the human scale have been unshackled from the organic precedents. The resource gradient for humans is no longer the population of wild quadrupeds and plants, but rather whatever the imagination can bring forth in the quest for growth and dominance. The human is mostly interested in personal conquests of various sorts within a social environment, and gives little consideration to their corporeal history that stretches much further than most minds care to travel. They trivially destroy what has taken billions of years to evolve and undermine themselves while entertaining childish fantasies of lives without death and technical growth that can be catapulted into space like malignant metastatic cells to invade and devour some other unfortunate landscape. At this link are some “Oil Boom” photographs: http://www.apimages.com/Search?query=Oil+Boom+Photo+Gallery&ss=10&st=kw&entitysearch=&toItem=15&orderBy=Newest
Was there any debate regarding the need for additional growth before this stampede of greedy apes lurched into North Dakota to poke their probosces into the pools of necrotic goo? I suppose the financial system has issued debt on the assumption that resources are infinite, that the pie always gets larger. But it doesn’t and the collateral goes completely rancid and deteriorates in as little as 100 years. Soon there will be no loans, no growth and few jobs. We’ll be finished and then the deterioration will rapidly overtake us. If we could have stayed where we were in the natural order of things, then we would have fresh air and a lush green planet for millions of years. Instead we’ve eliminated the forces that kept our numbers and greed in check and we began growing like a metastatic cancer. Now we await a catastrophic end. Look at the photographs linked above and observe the cancerous angiogenesis leading to further growth and extraction of energy. The tumors must grow until the system from which they arose can no longer support them and then full remission and/or systemic death occurs.
So scientists have agreed that the mysterious holes in Siberia are likely methane outbursts:
And in other ‘End Times’ news…
Methane Mega-Flares Threaten To Accelerate Global Warming
Ominous news about a new source of greenhouse gases comes from Icebreaker Oden, currently cruising the Arctic Ocean:
Chief scientist Örjan Gustafsson of the University of Stockholm writes:
The Arctic Methane Emergency Group has been warning governments about the potential for a runaway greenhouse event due to methane:
The Climate Dragon’s Breath
Jason Box warns on the danger of letting carbon heat our planet. “Dragon Breath”—a warning of catastrophic climate change ahead?
The Really Scary Thing About Those Jaw-Dropping Siberian Craters
BY ARI PHILLIPS POSTED ON AUGUST 1, 2014 AT 10:39 AM
CREDIT: FLICKR/ STEVE JURVETSON
Russian scientists have determined that a massive crater discovered in a remote part of Siberia was probably caused by thawing permafrost. The crater is in the Yamal Peninsula, which means “end of the world.” It caught hold of the media spotlight in mid-July when it was spotted by oil and gas workers flying over the area. At roughly 200 feet wide and seemingly bottomless, speculation abounded about the cause with the Siberian Times reporting that, “theories range from meteorites, stray missiles, a man-made prank, and aliens, to an explosive cocktail of methane or shale gas suddenly exploding.”
Since this first discovery, two other smaller craters have been spotted in the surrounding regions, fueling even more armchair conjecture. Russian scientists sent to the site are now providing first-hand data showing that unusually high concentrations of methane of up to 9.6 percent were present at the bottom of the first large crater shortly after it was discovered on July 16. Andrei Plekhanov, an archaeologist at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia, who led an expedition to the crater, told The Journal Nature that air normally contains just 0.000179 percent methane.
According to Plekhanov, the last two summers in the Yamal have been exceptionally warm at about nine degrees Fahrenheit above average. Rising temperatures could have allowed the permafrost to thaw and collapse, releasing the methane previously trapped by the subterranean ice. Methane is the primary component of natural gas. The original crater is about 20 miles from a large natural gas plant and the entire Yamal Peninsula is rich in natural gas that is being extensively tapped to help fuel Russia’s natural gas boom.
Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten, a geochemist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, Germany, told Nature that climate change and the slow, steady thaw of the region could be to blame.
“Gas pressure increased until it was high enough to push away the overlying layers in a powerful injection, forming the crater,” he said.
This frame grab made Wednesday, July 16 shows the 200-foot wide crater discovered in the Yamal Peninsula. CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS TELEVISION
While staring down into the abyss of these craters is a scary thought, the release of large quantities of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost is existentially daunting. A study from earlier this year found that melting permafrost soil, which typically remains frozen all year, is thawing and decomposing at an accelerating rate. This is releasing more methane into the atmosphere, causing the greenhouse effect to increase global temperatures and creating a positive feedback loop in which more permafrost melts.
“The world is getting warmer, and the additional release of gas would only add to our problems,” said Jeff Chanton, the John Widmer Winchester Professor of Oceanography at Florida State and researcher on the study. According to Chanton, if the permafrost completely melts, there would be five times the current amount of carbon equivalent in the atmosphere.
Kevin Schaefer, a permafrost scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, told ThinkProgress that there are actually two sources of GHGs released by melting permafrost: methane hydrates that destabilize when permafrost temperatures rise, as has been the case in Siberia, and frozen organic matter.
“Note that the methane hydrate and the decaying organic matter emissions result from two completely different mechanisms,” said Schaefer. “Methane hydrate emissions come from deep permafrost due to purely physical processes. The decaying organic matter emissions come from near-surface permafrost due to purely biological processes.”
He said that as the permafrost thaws, the organic matter will also thaw and begin to decay, releasing CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. “Published estimates indicate 120 gigatons of carbon emissions from thawing permafrost by 2100, which would increase global temperatures by an additional 7.98 percent,” he said.
Schaefer said the phenomenon of the Siberian craters was a surprise to him because he thought the methane would leak out more slowly. Capturing these large bursts of methane before they enter the atmosphere could be possible, according to Schaefer, however extremely difficult.
“The key is drilling into the permafrost before the methane escapes,” he said. “However, creating the infrastructure just to get to these remote locations is daunting.”
He said that capturing the emissions from decaying organic matter would be impossible.
Ted Schuur, a professor of ecosystem ecology at the University of Florida and leader of the Permafrost Carbon Network, told ThinkProgress that the Siberian craters remind him of ‘hot spots’ of methane bubbling that occur both in lakes and undersea in the permafrost zone.
“This could be a terrestrial version that was previously capped by ground ice in permafrost,” he said. “If indeed they are the result of warming permafrost they could be a significant pathway of greenhouse gas release to the atmosphere. As with other processes in the permafrost zone, abrupt changes appear to be as or perhaps more important than slow gradual change.”
A survey of 41 permafrost scientists in 2011 estimated that if human fossil-fuel use remained on a high projection and the planet warmed significantly, gases from permafrost could eventually equal 35 percent of present day annual emissions. In the few years since then, emissions have continued to rise. If emissions are heavily curtailed, greenhouse gases from permafrost could make up as little as around the equivalent of 10 percent of today’s human-caused emissions. This is far lower, but still highly disconcerting.
“Even if it’s 5 or 10 percent of today’s emissions, it’s exceptionally worrying, and 30 percent is humongous,” Josep G. Canadell, a scientist in Australia who runs a global program to monitor greenhouse gases, told the New York Times at the time of the study. “It will be a chronic source of emissions that will last hundreds of years.”
Local folks are calling the holes ” Dragon Mouths”. Looks more like Gia’s sphincter…
Farting in our general direction.
Unfortunately, Vibrio vulnificus is not the first warm water-dwelling bacteria to wreak havoc on swimmers and marine animals. Last summer, officials in Hartford, Connecticut issued a recall of oysters and clams after more than five people reported seafood-related illnesses. The state’s Bureau of Agriculture later linked the illnesses to a warm water-dwelling bacteria, prompting a suspension of shellfish harvests until the fall, when seawater was expected to cool down.
For the last three years, a brain-eating amoeba by the name of Naegleria fowleri – often confined to fresh water in southern states like Arizona and Texas – has infected and killed people in Kansas, Virginia, and Minnesota who swam in warm rivers, lakes, and improperly chlorinated swimming pools. In February, sea otters living off the Alaskan coast contracted Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a warm water-dwelling bacteria that also causes diarrhea and vomiting. In a 2005 New England Journal of Medicine study about a 2004 outbreak in the region also drew a connection to seawater temperatures that rose above 56 degrees Fahrenheit.
Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystem Research, a group of 17 European marine institutes, produced a 200-page report in 2011 that drew connections between climate change, the increasingly warm ocean waters, and the spread of water-dwelling bacteria. The report predicted millions in future healthcare and environmental costs as a result of exposure to contaminated food by humans and marine animals. Researchers focused primarily on bacteria from the genus of Vibrio, which they considered to be by far the most dangerous, causing gastroenteritis, septicemia, and cholera.
Pingback from Surviving Capitalism:
The vilification of people who have concluded that the sixth mass extinction has begun and is unstoppable – usually after many years of sacrifice, activism, scientific and philosophical study, personal reflection, and grief – is wholly unwarranted. As expressed by Mike K, above, the assertion that people who accept the premise that humanity has committed ecocide are deriving some psychological satisfaction from what has to be the most soul-crushing prospect imaginable is unsupported speculation, and highly offensive. In his “poem” he accuses people like me of turning our backs on heaven’s will and hope. Fair enough because as far as I have seen there is no heaven, and hope is a trait that was genetically selected as once very useful for survival – but now, not so much. Hope, far from providing saving grace, is Precisely what enables our species to trash the earth and extirpate all other living things whilst pretending this relentless assault can continue indefinitely. Keep your hope mike k, I prefer my reality. And try not to be so condescending.
mike k said:
Hello Gail. Thanks for your sincere and thoughtful criticism of my poem above. The poem was meant to provoke not only deeper thoughts about NTE, but especially the intense feelings this prospect is bound to arouse. I am not a stranger to this gamut of strong feelings myself. Because I respect the questions you raise, I will wait until tomorrow to give you a fuller response. But I will remark now on one thing you said: “Hope, far from providing saving grace, is Precisely what enables our species to trash the earth and extirpate all other living things whilst pretending this relentless assault can continue indefinitely.”
In my opinion, those of us (pretty much all of us including myself) who are trashing the Earth are not doing it on the basis of hope, but rather out of unconsciousness and addiction and cultural conditioning. We don’t even think about what we are doing, we just do it. Our whole culture from birth puts us on a path to trash the Earth, and not even be aware of it. The economic system encourages us to do it, and technology gives us the tools to do a bang up job of planetary destruction. Not to speak of the thermodynamic imperative that Paul Chefurka and others remind us of. Energy consumption is what we do; we are built for it by nature.
Also, hope is not certainty. Real hope is based in uncertainty. I agree with whoever it was who said that the only thing certain is uncertainty. Having been a devoted student of science and the philosophy of science from my earliest years. I have great respect for the vast ocean of our ignorance of this amazing affair of life in the cosmos. To keep hope open is not to imply that some favored outcome or solution will occur. That would be the “faith” of the fundamentalist. Having considered the evidence for NTE as best I could, my opinion is that we are not at this time knowledgeable enough to come to a definite conclusion about how much time remains for human life on Earth. As in all scientific matters, of course there is room for different conclusions, and I respect those who hold those positions. I respect your ideas about that although I differ with them. There is much to lead one to the understanding that you have expressed. We are as a species in an extremely dire position.
I will try to address the psychological and ethical dimension that my poem tried to explore in a note tomorrow. Thanks for sharing. We need a forum to explore this vital issue of NTE.
It seems we are fairly late in the development of industrial disease to be providing warnings. I would compare it to pleading with a four pack a day cigarette smoker to stop before they get cancer. The problem is, the smoker already has stage IV metastatic cancer, they have a cigarette in their mouth, an IV of chemo dangles from a pole beside them, they’re emaciated and the prognosis is dire.
The problem is that the ecosystem is a tough, competitive place and it eliminates a lot of people, leaving a few well-adapted survivors to carry on and reproduce. If given the chance, any species would like to transition into a system that would provide them with great advantages, everyone survives, plenty of food, fresh water, medical care, and so on. Most people in industrial societies would rather forget their connection to the ecosystem because it really wasn’t such a “nice” place. Things die out there, often in the bloody maul of some predator. Humans think they’re protected from the ecosystem by the technological system and it’s so nasty (mosquitoes, lizards, snakes bugs, hyenas, swamps) it should probably be eliminated if it’s not groomed by IC engines on a weekly basis. So we’re trying to warn the ecosystem (the only semi-sentient part) man, that he should desist from his activity (industrialism) and protect something that he basically reviles and from which he would love to escape and is currently in the process of eating. In addition, most people believe they come from Gods and would rather not admit their natural pedigree.
So, for those of us trying to warn technological man, is it just our own protective delusion that it really isn’t too late and we can turn this thing around even though a rational mind would conclude that it is too late and reform was never an option? Will we continue to protect ourselves with this delusion right up until the first Code Blue event and then panic and run like all the others?
If we face up to the coming catastrophe, then we have to decide if earth will still have a livable environment somewhere for residual humans. The other option is to stick around in what will inevitably become a violent insane asylum liberally dosed with radioactive isotopes and hollow points. (We’re already well down that path).
Even as potentates take off for the Southern Hemisphere the propaganda will continue in the asylum to calm those without hope.
An article from last year worth reading again…
And on the left of the screen I added an icon link to Jason Box’s blog, a world expert on what is discussed in the article above.
The Waste Land
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
mike k said:
The Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical essay by Albert Camus. It comprises about 119 pages and was published originally in 1942 in French as Le Mythe de Sisyphe; the English translation by Justin O’Brien followed in 1955.
In the essay, Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd: man’s futile search for meaning, unity, and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values. Does the realization of the absurd require suicide? Camus answers: “No. It requires revolt.” He then outlines several approaches to the absurd life. The final chapter compares the absurdity of man’s life with the situation of Sisyphus, a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. The essay concludes, “The struggle itself […] is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” (wiki)
New Living Translation
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!
We are each and all Sisyphus, condemned to die whatever we may do. Humankind, and indeed the entire Universe is under the same grim sentence. The question is how will we deal with this reality? Perhaps the absurdity of our position requires an absurd gesture. Life is our Zen koan. We have ingested a red hot ball of metal and we can’t swallow it and we can’t spit it out. Do something!! Einstein said in so many words that our entire approach to life has got us into this impossible situation where the very means we would use to extricate ourselves are responsible themselves for our problems. We have to look elsewhere, transcend, go beyond that thinking which got us into this ultimate dead end.
Is what I have shared above an “answer”? No there is no answer Perhaps my poem (A Final Song) was in the nature of a provocation…..or invitation? “Oh do not ask, What is it? Let us go and make our visit….”
Ok. I’ve had breakfast now. Time to come down out of the clouds…and meet Viktor Frankl, survivor of the death camps. My little poem suggests that hopelessness is not a good basis for living a reasonably happy and helpful life. Not good baggage for a Bodhisatva – one who tries to save all beings from suffering. The imagination that Frankl used to survive may not be “realistic” or scientifically validated, but it worked for him where giving up hope destroyed so many around him.
I have dared to eat many a peach in my life, and don’t regret a single one. And I agree that hope is a survival strategy. And although times have changed, our innate tendencies have not. Some shipwrecked people may have survived because they had hope they would be rescued. Some people may have better survived incarceration in the camps because they had hope of freedom. And people who want to think that there is some outside agent that will magically extricate humanity from our current, ultimate predicament a free to do so. It is simply comforting bullshit however. It is too late – the initial forcing of CO2 release is dwarfed by the amplifying feedbacks which are already underway, the tipping points have been passed and the fastest ever transition to a hot state in earths history is irreversible. We are going to a place where large mammals have never existed before and that is simply because it is incompatible with our metabolism. And that is without even considering all the other catastrophes – such as ocean acidification, sea level rise, mass extinctions, fish depletion, soil loss, water shortages etc etc – that are converging. The most important point I learned – in a futile effort to wake people up to the rather obvious fact that trees all over the world are dying off rapidly due to ozone pollution – is that thanks to the hope of which most are so fond (or you could call it optimism bias or normalcy bias or shifting baselines) people simply will not acknowledge long term threats if it means short term inconvenience. That is hard-wired into our brains and so, we will never realize we have already plunged off the cliff until we are well over the edge and look down…and actually most will never notice at all, and they will smack into the ground, oblivious to the end. Call me a mutant, but I prefer to look.
Also, I have never found my opinions to be incompatible with the philosophy of Camus; indeed I wonder that you cite him and what he you misconstrue his definition of revolt: (also from wiki, entry about Absurdism) Camus states in The Myth of Sisyphus: “Thus I draw from the absurd three consequences, which are my revolt, my freedom, and my passion. By the mere activity of consciousness I transform into a rule of life what was an invitation to death, and I refuse suicide.” “Revolt” here refers to the refusal of suicide and search for meaning despite the revelation of the Absurd; “Freedom” refers to the lack of imprisonment by religious devotion or others’ moral codes; “Passion” refers to the most wholehearted experiencing of life, since hope has been rejected, and so he concludes that every moment must be lived fully….Camus perceives filling the void with some invented belief or meaning as a mere “act of eluding”—that is, avoiding or escaping rather than acknowledging and embracing the Absurd. To Camus, elusion is a fundamental flaw in religion, existentialism, and various other schools of thought. If the individual eludes the Absurd, then he or she can never confront it…For Camus, the beauty people encounter in life makes it worth living. People may create meaning in their own lives, which may not be the objective meaning of life (if there is one), but can still provide something to strive for. However, he insisted that one must always maintain an ironic distance between this invented meaning and the knowledge of the absurd, lest the fictitious meaning take the place of the absurd….The rejection of hope, in absurdism, denotes the refusal to believe in anything more than what this absurd life provides. Hope, Camus emphasizes, however, has nothing to do with despair (meaning that the two terms are not opposites). One can still live fully while rejecting hope, and, in fact, can only do so without hope. Hope is perceived by the absurdist as another fraudulent method of evading the Absurd, and by not having hope, one is motivated to live every fleeting moment to the fullest. In the words of Nikos Kazantzakis’ epitaph: “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”
Note, most importantly – “One can still live fully while rejecting hope, and, in fact, can only do so without hope.”
mike k said:
We all inscribe our unique meanings on the words we use. Actually our whole lives go into the meaning we give to each word we use. Part of the archetypal meaning of the Tower of Babel relates to this inevitable gap between our understandings. For me the word hope is an openness, a lack of specific valuation or expectation. And yet I know that most people use hope to mean a positive expectation, but my “hope” is a confession of my ignorance. It means that on large questions I keep open an attitude of wait and see, while at the same time taking into account as best I can in light of my ignorance, what I think probable outcomes will be. It is sort of like a scientist who forms a hypothesis, but does not have a settled conclusion as to how it will work out. Don’t think that I have concluded that NTE will not happen. On the contrary I think it is very likely. The difference I have with some others is that I am not certain that it will occur.
If you are familiar with the field of meditative practices, perhaps you know that they can be roughly divided into two types: meditations with seed, and those without seed. The first type plants some idea or intention in the mind, the second is without specific intention but operates on the assumption (based on experience) that if we just allow the mind for a time to be free without specific expectation it will settle into an open “empty” and receptive state. My hope is more like that. But of course to try too hard to pin down that meditative state in words and definitions is impossible. “And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, when I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, how should I begin…” Again, let us go and make our visit. As Buddha told Ananda when he asked how to name Buddha’s teaching for those who had not heard it, he said, “Tell them it is come and see for yourself.”
mike k said:
You see I don’t believe in Camus’ Absurd. Not the way he did. Whether his dark thoughts had anything to do with his death by auto crash is an open question in my mind. Like Camus and Dostoyevsky I have wrestled all my life with the Dark Side of life. To surrender to that depressing perspective is not a good idea. I know that from personal experience. Like it or not this world that we are thrown into (Heidegger) is a challenge that needs to be consciously recognized, and demands of us a creative struggle to move towards the light and life in spite of the crushing reality of the dark side. To cede victory to the dark forces on this planet is not in my nature to do. Nor is it necessary. To pretend that one has sure and certain knowledge of our near term extinction is to cede the battle that needs to continue. It is that in Dostoyevsky that I identify with and admire.
mike k said:
“The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.”—Motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Seabees) during World War II. A possible motto for those seeking to avert or soften the impact of NTE?
mike k said:
Gail, your pain, sadness, and anger are true and real responses. I honor and respect that. I only hope that you are finding some of the alchemy that can turn all that into something beautiful – like compassion. The Tibetan practice of Tonglen has helped me in that direction. May all beings be free of suffering and work for the best possible state for everything and everyone. I have no illusion that I am perfect, or have transcended all my and the world’s problems. But I find that framing things in as positive light as I can is helpful to myself and others. From what you wrote I feel you probably think I am a deluded Pollyanna type who can’t face reality. But I feel that I have faced a lot of it. Maybe not quite as much as Candide! But a hell of a lot more than I would wish on anyone else. Try to be forgiving of my awkward attempts to navigate the not so white water rapids of this difficult world. Best wishes to you on your journey… Thanks for sharing.
“…I know a lot of people who privately long for an apocalypse of some kind, a breakdown of the ancient Western code, because then they’d either be dead or free. How fucking horrifying is that? But nobody pulls that trigger, because now we’ve all seen what apocalypses look like. We saw Manhattan in 2001 and New Orleans in 2005 and Thailand in 2004 and the Middle East pretty much any given day…
And that’s where we are, and is it any goddamn wonder at all that the most profitable drugs sold in America for like a decade running have been antipsychotics? The world seems psychotic…”
mike k said:
“The heart that
breaks open can
Hitting bottom takes various forms, and can lead to various outcomes. What results from sustaining such a major hit can be used as a springboard to deeper understanding and possible transformation if one encounters and engages the right kind of help. That help often needs to come from fellow sufferers who have found a way beyond despair. When all our addictive palliatives fail and we fall into the bottomless pit of final defeat, there yet remains a way out and a way up. Only a minute number of those in those depths find a way out without the right kind of help. One of the paradoxes of this kind of suffering is that these victims cling tightly to the very addictions and negative thinking and feeling processes that are the engines and causes of their unhappiness.
“Ye suffer from yourselves. None else compels, None other holds you that ye live and die, And whirl upon the wheel, and hug and kiss Its spokes of agony…” (Sir Edwin Arnold)
May all be delivered from unnecessary suffering.
“…I know a lot of people who privately long for an apocalypse of some kind, a breakdown of the ancient Western code,”
I do this about 10 times a day, but just for a minute or two.
“…who privately long for an apocalypse of some kind”
Privately? Mao, Stalin, Hitler, bin Laden… nothing private about them.
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The Central American Child Migrant Crisis and Neoliberalism
Sunday, 17 August 2014 00:00
Capitalism and Imperialism in Central America
In his 1917 book Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin discussed how capitalist governments and corporations are driven, by necessity, to maximize profits at home in order to maintain their wealth, forcing them to invest capital in underdeveloped countries with weak economies. Many of these underdeveloped countries often have pro-imperialist governments with loose restrictions on labor and natural resource laws, leaving an open door for exploitation. This behavior is central to the nature of capitalism, since its own metabolic growth depends on the expansion of capital and wealth, regardless of the inhumane outcomes.
In El Salvador, U.S. imperialism and its need to strengthen capitalist maximization of profits in the country, especially during the 1980s, contributed to the child migrant crisis. During the Salvadoran Civil War, which lasted from 1979 to 1992, U.S. government bodies like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Agency for International Development (USAID) trained, armed and funded the violent right-wing dictatorships of Roberto D’Aubuisson and José Napoleón Duarte, who favored U.S. privatization of the country’s economy. The El Mozote Massacre, which led to the death of almost a thousand civilians who were suspected of being in favor of a nationalized economy, was perhaps the most ruthless example of this. In years following, thousands more were killed, including notable leftist Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero. As a result of the U.S.-initiated civil war, the country sank deeper into poverty, forcing millions of Salvadoran children to move to the United States.
In Honduras, the same may be said of two important events in the country’s history: the United Fruit Company’s exploitation of wage laborers who in response organized the 1954 general strike and the 2009 coup d’état that removed democratically-elected President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from office. In both scenarios, the United States also trained, armed and funded the country’s military in order to prevent left-leaning forces from nationalizing the country’s economy, which is based primarily on banana and coffee exports. Both events created a number of internal economic, political and social crises within the country, forcing many to head toward the United States, which had and continues to have the means to support itself as a “developed” nation because of its imperialist exploitations abroad. Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous and impoverished countries in the world.
The same holds true for Guatemala.
In 1954, the CIA launched Operation PBSUCCESS, a brutal military coup that ousted leftist and democratically-elected President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán from power. Árbenz was guilty of attempting to curb the monopolization efforts of the United Fruit Company and bring the private corporation into public, national control for the benefit of the country’s working class. During the 1980s, when Guatemala was also experiencing a civil war, the United States showed uncompromising support for right-wing dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt, who slaughtered thousands of indigenous and socialist activists fighting against U.S. privatization. Both events also forced millions out of the country and into the United States.
What do all of these events, which have for the most part been left out of mainstream analyses of the child migrant crisis, have in common? They created the material conditions, mainly economic, that led to mass poverty and oppression in Central America, thus further facilitating the need to leave the Northern Triangle and seek a “better” life in the United States, which has yet to be as brutally pillaged by a superior imperial power.
All of these aforementioned events are dialectically and materially interrelated with the child migrant crisis, which should not be seen as an isolated “thing,” but rather a process that is ongoing and will continue to perpetuate if the conditions that created it continue to stay the same. Capitalism, where the means of production are owned by private individuals with private, profit-maximizing interests, is in its current imperialist stage, as Lenin pointed out, and will continue to create crises like these as long as it continues to exist.
In attempting to understand crises such as these, one must first be able to understand how capitalist imperialism works systemically and how, as a system of interrelated processes and events, it is responsible for a number of crimes against humanity. The bottom line is this: the child migrant crisis is a direct consequence of our dominant economic mode of production, which creates the conditions for periodic crises many are often unable to understand or point out.