Planet or Profit?

This site is from the  progressive ‘alternative’ on-line news source Truthout that offers free access to readers who want an alternative view to what appears in the predominantly business-oriented corporate-owned press.  The link is to a collection of articles written by Truthout’s staff and contributors since September 2012.  They relate, with a North American slant,  to a wide range of issues relevant to concerns for the ways in which profit-driven human behaviours threaten the future of Spaceship Earth and its species:

As the global impacts of anthropomorphic climate disruption continue to intensify, corporations and the global elite continue to plunder our planet, subjecting areas of the planet that already face fresh-water scarcity issues and other environmental contamination problems to still greater risks from various forms of pollution.

It is not clear whether we have already passed a tipping point such that human survival beyond the next few decades cannot be assured, but what is overwhelmingly clear is that capitalism – and the drive for profits no matter what the threat to the ecosystem all humanity depends upon – is a force for global destruction.

In this space, we’ll gather the work of Truthout writers and contributors as they investigate the overall systemic threats to the ecosystem, how they are imbricated in the organization of our society, possible forms of mitigation, and how specific environments and communities suffer from transglobal corporate profit-seeking.

The 1% to own 50% global wealth by 2016?

Prior to the Davos World Economic Forum of the super-rich and super powerful, the accelerating concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands has been again headlined by researchers.  This article in today’s Guardian describes the startling trend:

Oxfam’s research, published today, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5% … on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016 …  just 80 people own the same amount of wealth as more than 3.5 billion people (down from 388 people in 2010).
 [This BBC website article explores the statistical basis of this and other types of  assertions and Jeremy Williams’ blog has a link to the Oxfam Report]
It is worth considering how this distribution of wealth might relate to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals starting January 2016. 

Eating away our life support systems

The Guardian today has yet another warning of the self-destructive impact of humans on their planet. It revisits the planetary boundaries research of the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and emphasises the unprecedented rate of ‘eating away’ that scientists are now recording as economic growth remains the driving force in modern science.

Since 1950 urban populations have increased seven-fold, primary energy use has soared by a factor of five, while the amount of fertiliser used is now eight times higher. The amount of nitrogen entering the oceans has quadrupled.

Will Steffen of the SRC  is quoted:

“We are clearing land, we are degrading land, we introduce feral animals and take the top predators out, we change the marine ecosystem by overfishing – it’s a death by a thousand cuts. That direct impact upon the land is the most important factor right now, even more than climate change.”

On the same day this headline article in the New York Times reported another scientific meta-analysis of research that reveals the extreme effects of human activity under the title “Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction”.

A more extreme press item on the same report is here. It places the blame on 60 years of neo-liberal capitalism and uses rhetorical language such as ‘breaking our planet’.

2015 International Year of the Soil

According to The Land Institute, soil is every bit as non-renewable as oil, and it is essential for human survival. Healthy soil is the foundation for food, fuel, fiber, and medical products, and is a vital part of ecosystems. It stores and filters water, provides resilience to drought, plays an important role in the carbon cycle, and is the foundation of agriculture and food production.

According to plant geneticist and president of The Land Institute Wes Jackson, and farmer and author Wendell Berry, “our present ways of agriculture are not sustainable, and so our food supply is not sustainable. We must restore ecological health to our agricultural landscapes, as well as economic and cultural stability to our rural communities.”

The United Nations is recognizing and trying to educate the passengers of Spaceship Earth about our vital dependence on this thin layer of mineral and organic matter on the surface of the lithosphere. Therefore the UN has declared this year the IYS.  Just how much impact this  move will have remains to be seen.  if the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development that has just ended is anything to go by, the IYS will not feature greatly in public discourse!

For an article elaborating this Food Tank post see here.

2014 is the hottest year on record

Jeremy Williams blogged this piece today with yet more confirmation of what so many now accept as scientific consensus. The BBC website on the same day carried this article  about how much and where fossil fuel will need to be left in the ground by 2050 as ‘unusable resources’ to ensure that global warming does not exceed 2 degrees Celsius. However, there are still those who see the issue of climate change as unresolved, particularly because of the dependence on computer modelling. One site worth looking at is that made by Judith Curry of Georgia State University. This article ‘Will a return of rising temperatures validate the climate models?’ by Donald C. Morton offers a scholarly and reasoned note of scepticism.

Recommended books

Jeremy Williams is one of my favourite bloggers who, like this case4all.info blog and resource platform, is providing material that aims to raise awareness and promote action on behalf of a sustainable future on Spaceship Earth for all its organic passengers and support systems, though he prefers the ‘make wealth history’ title for his blog rather than the spaceship metaphor. Here is an annotated list of five books that he recommends as 2014 draws to a close. They can be added to ‘Catalogue of Resources: Books’ on this website.

COP20 conflicts

The Lima Conference of the Parties (COP 20) continue their long-running failure to achieve any consensus about international collaboration to cut carbon emissions. Two very different commentaries are to be found from the BBC (12.12.14) on the one hand and from the Murgatroyd Blog (08.12.14) on the other hand. Another surprising contribution to the COP 20 debate came from an international declaration  by Catholic bishops on climate change. They are the leaders of upwards of one billion adherents world-wide – around one seventh of all the people on Spaceship Earth. Jeremy Williams comments on and provides a link to this declaration.

Implications of 4 degree global warming

Jeremy William’s blog is my favourite source of material and links on the issues that relate to the well-being or otherwise of our civilisation’s future on Spaceship Earth. In this week’s blog he introduces the World Bank’s Report “4 degrees: Turn down the heat” which firmly links climate change to human development. Here is an extract:

If the planet continues warming to 4°C, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the new climate normal—a world of increased risks and instability.

The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources change, diseases move into new ranges, and sea levels rise. The task of promoting human development, of ending poverty, increasing global prosperity, and reducing global inequality will be very challenging in a 2°C world, but in a 4°C world there is serious doubt whether this can be achieved at all.

Another Williams blog on the implications of different rates and levels of carbon emissions is here. It is based on the Carbon Brief a website that reports daily on the latest developments and media coverage of climate science and energy policy, with a particular focus on the UK. 

Unpleasant or uninhabitable future?

Lima will be the site for yet another international attempt to frame an agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Today’s semi-optimistic article in the New York Times reports:

“After more than two decades of trying but failing to forge a global pact to halt climate change, United Nations negotiators gathering in South America this week are expressing a new optimism that they may finally achieve the elusive deal.

Even with a deal to stop the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warn, the world will become increasingly unpleasant. Without a deal, they say, the world could eventually become uninhabitable for humans.

The aim of negotiators in Lima is, for the first time, to produce an agreement in which every nation commits to a domestic plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, along the model of the November 2014 United States-China agreement. Negotiators expect that by next March, governments will make announcements similar to those made by the United States and China in November

In order to avoid the 3.6 degree increase, global emissions must peak within the next 10 years, going down to half of current levels by midcentury. But the deal being drafted in Lima will not even be enacted until 2020. And the structure of the emerging deal — allowing each country to commit to what it can realistically achieve, given each nation’s domestic politics — means that the initial cuts by countries will not be as stringent as what scientists say is required”.

A powerful documentary film “Disruption” made before the previous Climate Summit held in New York at the UN on 21 September 2014 to mobilise the largest street protest ever seen against the failure to address climate disruption seriously. The film offers a summary of the scientific evidence about human-induced climate disruption, why we are both simultaneously bystanders and perpetrators and how street demonstrations can contribute powerfully to create ‘social tipping points’ that bring about shifts in values and political change.

For a visual account of the biggest climate march ever see this coverage an the Avaaz.org website.