Alice Springs

March for Science or March for Reality?

March for Science or March for Reality?

By Laurance M. klauss

Shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, it was announced that a March for Science would be held Washington DC and in a host of other cities in the United States and around the world to protest the new Administration’s apparent anti-science agenda—from denial of climate change to dismantling the EPA, to budget priorities that will cut key science programs throughout the country—and to lobby for science-based policymaking as well as support for scientific research to address the challenges of the 21st century.


Meanwhile the Trump administration’s anti-science actions continue.

 Attorney General Sessions announced just this week that he was disbanding the National Commission on Forensic Science, which advises the federal government to enhance national standards in this area.
I have no idea how the Marches for Science—now over 400 in number across the globe—will play out, and how the media will interpret them.

 A series of worrisome tweets emanating from the March for Science twitter account over the past week, following similar early statements made on the groups website that were subsequently removed, claimed that scientific research promotes violence and inequity in society. 

These have been disavowed but the variety of mixed communications from leaders of the march over the past months suggests at the very least that the organization encompasses a wide diversity of agendas.
This is not surprising. After all, the scientific community has never been a one-issue community, like, say, the anti-abortion movement.

 And the current administration is pushing so many different buttons at the same time, with various attacks on fundamental rights, privacy, diversity, and freedom of expression, that these are bound to get caught up in any movement that promotes openness and free-inquiry, the hallmarks of the scientific enterprise.
Despite any such concerns, a host major science organizations, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to Union of Concerned Scientists, have signed on as supporters of the March, and are urging their members to join their local marches and speak out for science-based public policy on April 22.


If the event becomes a ‘March By Scientists’ rather than a March for Science—namely if it is dominated by scientists labeling themselves as such, in costumes like white lab coats, rather than by members of the general public supporting evidence-based public policy—that too could be problematic. 

The March for science could then appear as a self-serving political lobbying effort by the scientific community to increase its funding base.
Let’s imagine that this is not the case, and the organizers are wildly successful in attracting hundreds of thousands or million of marchers across the globe this coming Saturday.

 It is still reasonable to wonder what the long-term impact of the marches might be. 

After all, following the worldwide March for Women, in which millions of people marched around the world in support of women’s rights, the Trump administration reacted with a deaf ear. 

Just this past week the President signed legislation allowing states and local governments to withhold federal funding for Planned Parenthood, for example.
The situation is different in this case however, and it may have nothing directly to do with science policy, or even in those areas where science should play a key role in affecting policy.
Every week, the alternative realities invoked by the Trump administration are being demonstrated, by events, to be vacuous. 

The administration claimed it would immediately end, and then fix, problems with Obamacare, and failed miserably. Donald Trump campaigned against foreign military intervention, and this week alone initiated unilateral bombings in Syria and Afghanistan. 

Donald Trump pledged to immediately revise NAFTA, forcing Canada and Mexico to the table to make a better deal. 

Nothing has happened.
He promised Mexico would pay for a wall. 

However the first $2 billion installment for a wall was included in the budget proposal he presented to Congress, compensated by cuts in funding in key areas of science, but also in support of the arts and humanities in this country.
He promised to drain the swamp, but he removed restrictions on lobbyists entering government, and as the New York Times reported just this week, he has filled his administration with them, including individuals who are already facing conflict of interest allegations because of their former activities lobbying the organizations they now run.
He lobbied against Wall Street, but former Wall Street leaders dominate his cabinet and economic advisory groups.
He said he would release his taxes after his inauguration and has not. 

And he claimed he would immediate increase growth and the economy, but as the Wall Street Journal reported just this week, projections for growth of the economy have decreased sharply in recent months, as have retail sales, and the consumer price index.


These are just a few of the immediate and obvious inconsistencies. 

Further, as administration policies on energy and the environment take effect, citizens in communities with drinking water at risk from environmental threats will find that programs to avert further deterioration have been cut, and coal mining communities will find that the natural gas glut has much more to do with the continuing demise of coal than Obama’s efforts to improve air quality in the US by restricting coal plants, which, whatever Trump may claim, are bad for the environment. 

(Indeed as the New York Times reported this week, more than 200,000 tons of coal ash residue each year are produced by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and this has been making its way into groundwater, potentially affecting drinking water supplies, even as the EPA is now delaying compliance with rules enacted to enhance the safe storage and disposal of coal ash.).
The very essence of science, indeed that which is motivating the March for Science, involves skeptical inquiry and a reliance on empirical evidence and constant testing to weed out false hypotheses and unproductive or harmful technologies as we move toward a better understanding of reality: A willingness, in short, to force beliefs and policies to conform to the evidence of reality, rather than vice versa.


Unlike its perception among much of the public and its presentation in many schools today, science is not simply a body of facts, but rather a process for deriving what the facts are. 

This process has helped us uncover hidden secrets of the Universe that never would have been dreamed of and producing technologies that have not only been largely responsible for the standard of living enjoyed by the first world today, but have also increased lifespans around the world. 

With this process the very possibility of “alternative facts” disappears.
By providing such a constant and sharp explicit and observable contrast between policy and empirical reality, the Trump administration can encourage a new public skepticism about political assertions vs. reality, and a demand for evidence before endorsing policies and the politicians who espouse them—the very things that most marchers on April 22nd will be demanding. 

This skepticism is beginning to manifest itself in data. 

A Gallup poll result on April 17 indicated that only 45 percent of the public believe President Trump’s promises, a drop of 17 percent since February.
In this regard, it is worth remembering the words of the Nobel Prizewinning physicist, Richard Feynman, who said: For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. 

Or, as the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick more colorfully put it: Reality is that which continues to exist even when you stop believing in it.
The Trump Administration is discovering that obfuscation, denial, and hype may work when selling real estate, but in public arena eventually reality has a way of biting you in the butt. And the public is watching. 

The March for Science may be lucky to capitalize upon a growing awareness that there is no Wizard behind the curtain. The number of marchers, their backgrounds, or even their myriad messages may not drive the success of the March. Rather, it may be driven by the harsh examples coming out every day that reality exists independent of the desires or claims of those in power. 

In this case, the greatest asset the March for Science has going for it may be Donald Trump himself.

Press link for more: Scientific American

Scientists March For Truth. #auspol 

Scientists to take to the streets in global march for truth.

By Mark Lynas
March for Science on 22 April will see scientists and supporters at more than 500 locations stand up for evidence-based thinking.


Scientists and science supporters will take to the streets in a global March for Science on 22 April . 

What began as a small Facebook group in the US capital, Washington DC has spiralled into a global phenomenon that will now see marches and other events in more than 500 locations around the world, from Seattle to Seoul.
It is great news that so many people are prepared to stand up and defend the need for evidence-based thinking and the scientific method. 

But it is also a sad comment on our times that a March for Science is needed at all. 


Post-truth populism has infected democracies around the world, scientific objectivity is under threat from multiple sources and there seems a real danger of falling into a modern dystopian dark age.
It is clear that the old days of scientists staying in the lab, publishing papers in scholarly journals, and otherwise letting the facts speak for themselves are over. 

As the Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes reminds us: “The facts don’t speak for themselves because we live in a world where so many people are trying to silence facts.” 

In her book, Merchants of Doubt, Oreskes wrote about these efforts from the tobacco industry onwards; science denialist attempts that are paralleled in today’s climate sceptic, anti-vaccine and anti-GMO movements.


These campaigners against truth take great pains to deny the existence of scientific consensus on their different issues. 

The fact that 97% of the peer-reviewed literature on climate change supports the consensus that most of global warming is human-induced is dismissed as mere elitism. 

But as Dr Sarah Evanega, director of the Alliance for Science at Cornell, writes: “The values we defend are those of the Enlightenment, not the establishment.” 

Expertise is real, and we reject it at our peril.

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the March for Science, and what may prove to be its most enduring legacy, is its truly global nature. 

Science is not western; it is everywhere and for everyone. 

I have worked with Alliance for Science colleagues to help get marches off the ground in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Uganda, Venezuela, Chile and other places.

 In between long Skype calls about logistics, fundraising, and media outreach I watched the lights flash on as the number of marches on the global map kept on increasing. 

It was like watching the world light up with knowledge.
Bangladesh March for Science’s lead organiser Arif Hossain says: “I am marching to let the world know that we are united for science in Bangladesh. 

We have 160 million people to feed in the changed climate, and together we will make a better day with science and innovation.”
Although the issues of most concern vary in different locations, appreciation of the need for science is global. As Nkechi Isaac, an organiser of the March for Science in Abuja, Nigeria, says: “Science is revolutionary.

 It holds the key to constant development and improvement for addressing climate change, food shortage and challenges in medicine. Science holds the solution to our food security.”
Nigerians can testify to the tragic effects of anti-science activism. Efforts to eradicate polio in the country were held up for years because of conspiracy theories spread by those suspicious of modern medicine and vaccines. People die when science is denied.
So here’s what we will be marching for.

 It’s time to enter the post-post-truth era. 

And there is no time to lose.

• Mark Lynas is a science and environment writer and a visiting fellow at the Alliance for Science at Cornell University.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Climate of Hope #auspol #doughnuteconomics 

Michael Bloomberg Says Cities Must Now Lead The Way On Climate Change

Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope 

Outside of Washington, D.C., however, the prospects for climate action look more favorable. You can point to what’s happening at the city level, where mayors are promoting low-carbon buildings, electric cars, and more resilient infrastructure. You can point to the energy industry in general, which seems more concerned with market signals than political signals. And you can point to how strong majorities of Americans want politicians to accept and face up to global warming.
In their new book, Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope, the former executive director of the Sierra Club, argue that a beyond-D.C. approach offers the best opportunity for dealing with climate change. Mayors have more autonomy than national leaders, they say. They’re more accountable to voters for dealing with climate-related problems like pollution and extreme weather events. They originate most of the emissions that cause climate change, and they face the greatest threats from its impacts. And urban populations are generally more supportive of climate action than rural ones.
“Mayors tend to be more pragmatic and less ideological than national legislators, because they are more accountable to voters, and more visible,” former New York City Mayor Bloomberg writes. “The public can see what mayors do, while it’s harder to understand what elected officials at the state level do . . . and much harder at the federal level.”
Empower Cities To Lead
If cities are going to be centers of climate action, they need more tools for the job. “Giving more cities authority to take action on their own–particularly on energy and transportation–is one of the most important steps we can take to address climate change,” Bloomberg writes in the book.
If the Trump administration decides to leave the Paris climate agreement, Bloomberg says U.S. cities should consider joining the accord in their own capacity. “Washington will not have the last word on the fate of the Paris Agreement in the U.S.–mayors will, together with business leaders and citizens,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed last year.
That independence could also include allowing them to make choices independent of state or federal authority on where they buy electricity (only six states currently sanction this). Twenty-five U.S. cities have now committed to buy all their power from renewable sources.
Or it could mean borrowing money for climate investments more easily. Only 4% of the world’s cities currently have their own credit ratings, enabling them to enter financial markets, Pope says. Others don’t have the power to raise taxes, including many in Africa and South America.

Press link for more: fastcompany.com

The Solution Is Global Equality #auspol 

The Solution To Extremism Is Global Equality

By Stephan Said
The solution to extremism surrounding us today is global equality. 

To stop the religious, ethnic, and political extremism killing people from Colorado Springs, to Baghdad, San Bernardino and Bamako — to stop the environmental extremism that is burning up our planet — we must stop global inequality, imperialism and greed.
The entire human race is faced with a great ideological dilemma. 

We cannot separate ISIL, planned-parenthood shooters, or global warming. From extreme violence to extreme weather, extremism is rising like the oceans around us because the moral bankruptcy of our troubled world is pushing people and our planet to extremes — suicide bombings and natural disasters.
What we are witnessing is the failure of all existing ideologies and socio-economic systems on earth to have created a sustainable society in which we live in peace. 

We are all responsible for this failure. 

We have destroyed the cradle of civilization, killed millions and created the biggest refugee crisis in generations, for the control of the oil that is making the ice caps melt. 

Anyone who is angry is justified.
However mistaken violent extremism is as a response, it is offering would-be recruits a way to do something to change this unjust world not tomorrow, but today. 

If we want to win this war, we can only do so by lifting a higher, universal ideology by which humankind can live in peace with each other and with nature.
This ideological war is as old as human civilization, and so is the answer. 

No civilization is sustainable unless all of its members are treated as equals, and unless that civilization lives in harmony with nature.

Writers such as Arundhati Roy, Thomas Piketty, Nicolas Henin and Naomi Klein have drawn these connections in recent articles. But, the fact is, humankind has known the deal for thousands of years. We don’t have time to waste restating the obvious. It is urgent. The human race is facing its long-anticipated day of reckoning with its own failure to create a just world.
We have to pick up the torch where Martin Luther King, Jr. left it. 

The cause of global warming and of rising violence between us on earth is due to social and economic inequality. The answer is to organize a mass, global non-violent movement for equality.
We must get beyond the institutional language of a “more equitable world.” Equality is a universal way of being that must become a new socio-economic order that commits to and promises the idea that all people everywhere live equally with each other and nature.
We must demand a united global society across borders. 

We must demand every human being is cared for, fed, housed, educated, given equal voice and dignity, everywhere. We must demand a world in which humankind restores everything we take from nature. 

We must demand that we leave our world better than we found it, not selfishly for our children, but out of deference to the laws of nature itself.


First and foremost we must demand this of ourselves, as it will take unbelievable tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness to do so. 

Then, we must demand this of our governments, religions, political parties, and economic forces, and we must be willing to go into the streets non-violently demanding this global shift.
When we accept that we are all equals with each other and nature, we will not be able to be manipulated and separated from each other by false notions such as ethnicity, religiosity, nationality, or superiority of any kind. This is the only way to peace.
Peace is not impossible. 

I know, because I am the impossible.

 My aunt and cousins from Mosul, Iraq are now refugees because ISIL occupied their next-door neighbors’ house. 

The U.S. sent fighter jets and bombed it to the ground. They had to abandon everything and are somewhere across the border in Turkey.
My father’s Iraqi, Muslim family are refugees for the same reason that my mother’s Austrian, part-Catholic part-Jewish family were refugees and imprisoned or died in Dachau, Mauthausen and Auschwitz.

 Including my cousins’ children today, 6 consecutive generations of my family have been refugees as Catholics, Jews, and Muslims, because of inequality.
With all sides of the prevailing conflict consuming our world today within me, I’ve spent my life studying the single cause of war and hatred simply to be at peace with and construct my own identity. Inequality is the single cause of the chaos enveloping our world.
The majority of us on earth, in every country, in every religion, of every ethnicity knows what we have to do. 

Many people, parents, teachers, governments, and organizations are already working on the systemic shift necessary for the survival of humankind and our planet.

 I have given my entire career and written countless songs to build such a movement. But now, we must come together and turn our demand into action.
We are faced with the task of creating a new global socio-economic model sufficient to create sustainable peace on earth. A mass non-violent movement demanding that all people live equally with each other, loving each other, caring for our planet, is the only solution. 

We have to start today.
Press link for more: Huffington Post

“The Anthropologist ” 

Susan Crate visited Siberia with her daughter and a film crew in tow.
Thus began a seven-year journey that crisscrossed the globe and resulted in a concise yet urgent documentary on how climate change has affected communities from Siberia and the South Pacific to the Andes and Chesapeake Bay.
The Anthropologist follows George Mason University environmental anthropology professor Susan Crate and her daughter, Katie Yegorov-Crate, as they talk to primarily indigenous people about the effects of disappearing permafrost, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and other climate-related phenomena.
Released in 2015 by Ironbound Films, the 78-minute movie will be screened in multiple venues around Fairfax County throughout the next month in celebration of Earth Day on Apr. 22.
GMU will host a 4:00 p.m. screening of The Anthropologist on Apr. 17 at the Johnson Center Cinema as part of the office of sustainability’s Earth Week.
Crate helped organize the first Earth Day at GMU with English professor David Kuebrich in 2005.
The film will also screen at 4:00 p.m. on Apr. 23 at the Stacy C. Sherwood Center in Fairfax during the city’s 32nd annual Spotlight on the Arts Festival, and the Northern Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club will sponsor a 6:30 p.m. screening on May 16 at the Angelika Film Center in Merrifield’s Mosaic District.
Crate, who will be present for question-and-answer sessions at all three scheduled showings, hopes to see a continuation of the “very positive” response that the documentary has gotten from audiences since its world premiere on Nov. 13, 2015 at the documentary film festival Doc NYC.


“I’m hoping that it will do what it’s done in other places in terms of raising local awareness about climate change and helping people to see the importance of how we make decisions in our own lives,” Crate said.
Crate started working with indigenous communities in Siberia in the late 1980s, when it was part of the Soviet Union.
Since 1991, she has focused specifically on the Viliui Sakha, a Turkic-speaking group living on the Viliui River in the country’s northeastern region, since she studied their summer solstice festival for her master’s thesis in folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Ironbound Films first approached Crate about recording her field work for a documentary in 2008.
Directors Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, and Jeremy Newberger had previously done a film called The Linguists that examined disappearing languages, and they were interested in following it up with a look at how communities are responding to climate change.
The filmmakers received Crate’s name from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which provides funding for her expeditions through its office of polar programs.
Crate says that she was initially hesitant about allowing a film crew to join her at the field site, since she worried that their presence would interfere with her research. However, she changed her mind after considering that a movie could raise more awareness about climate change, making the issue more accessible to general audiences.
“I realized that a lot of people did not get climate change just with the science shown to them,” Crate said. “They really needed something different to understand it, so I thought maybe this will contribute to a greater understanding by the public of climate change if they could actually see people who are being affected now.”
Crate helped the documentarians file a proposal with the NSF, and they eventually got a $50,000 grant to film her summer 2010 expedition to Sakha villages in Siberia.
As they watched Crate’s work with different communities, the filmmakers realized that there was another more personal angle that they could explore: the parallel mother-daughter relationships between Crate and her daughter, and famed 20th-century anthropologist Margaret Mead and her still-living daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson.
Katie Yegorov-Crate, who was 13 when filming on The Anthropologist started, has accompanied her mother on trips to Siberia since she was six months old. She also has family in the region, since that is where Crate met her father.
“The problems with climate change and the way that it’s affecting her family there really hit home for [Katie],” said Crate, who made sure that her daughter had some say in what would be included in the documentary. “[The filmmakers] thought this would be a great way to engage young people in the film and get their attention.”
After filming Crate’s work in Siberia, the documentary crew asked if they could accompany her to other regions where they could observe the effects of climate change on local communities.
She ultimately traveled to Kiribati, a nation composed of islands in the South Pacific that is being affected by rising sea levels, and the Andes in Peru, where local residents are observing the impact of melting glaciers.
Crate also visited coastal communities along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia to get a glimpse of how climate change is affecting people in the U.S.
While she describes the experience less as a surprise than a confirmation of her understanding of the effects that climate change is having on indigenous communities, Crate says that she was struck by people’s resilience and ability to adapt even as environmental challenges, such as diminishing water and other resources, substantially altered their daily lives.
Most of the people that Crate met over the course of the documentary rely on nature to make a living, either growing their own crops or herding animals for food. They had a range of reactions to their newfound circumstances and uncertain future, from apathy or defeatism to calls to action.
As an anthropologist, Crate sees the world’s hesitant response to climate change as the result of “western consumer societies” where humans have become disconnected from the natural world, making it difficult for people to truly grasp the consequences of climate change since they often do not directly see them.
“Our culture is very separated,” Crate said. “We buy everything from the store. We don’t grow our own food. We don’t have that understanding of that dependence, because we think we can just go to the store.”
Though she says that she does not want to get political, Crate argues that the U.S. has a particular responsibility to address climate change due to the amount of influence it wields on the world stage.
The current White House administration’s decision to roll back regulations designed to enforce compliance with the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sends an unfortunate message to the rest of the world, Crate says.
Regardless of what the federal government does, though, taking action and building communities on local, regional, and state levels continue to be crucial to protecting the environment and fighting climate change, according to Crate, a Fairfax City resident who serves on the city’s environmental sustainability committee.
The City of Fairfax environmental sustainability committee advises the city council on policies and programs related to the environment, promoting resource conservation, self-sufficiency, and the use of alternative and renewable energy.
Crate hopes that the upcoming screenings of The Anthropologist will give Fairfax County residents a better understanding of climate change while also inspiring them to get involved in their communities.
“People are very moved by the human stories that [the documentary] shows,” Crate said. “It’s more like storytelling than trying to jam science down people’s throats or force people to think a certain way based on scientific fact. When you actually can see the effect that it’s having on people’s lives, I think it’s much more powerful.”

Press link for more: Fairfax Times

The Dance of Death #climatechange #neoliberalism #auspol 

The Dance of Death

By Chris Hedges

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build.

 They seek to destroy. 

They are agents of death. 

They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. 

Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated.

 Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished.

 Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch.

 Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. 

Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future.

 Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. 

State repression is indiscriminant and brutal.

 And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse.

 Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus.

 The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. 

Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population.

 The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.
The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war.

 President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. 

When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.
“The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.”
The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. 

The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. 

No longer can any individual nation collapse. 

World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”
Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” 

Their illusions condemn them. 

They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it.

 Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.
“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.” 
The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.
Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.

 It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II. 
“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”
The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”
A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”
Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.
“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”
These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.
“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”
The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

Press link for more: commondreams.com

Carbon dioxide levels rising at record pace. #auspol #science 

Carbon dioxide levels rose at record pace for 2nd straight year | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015.
The two-year, 6-ppm surge in the greenhouse gas between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record. And, it was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
“The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”
Globally averaged CO2 levels passed 400 ppm in 2015 — a 43-percent increase over pre-industrial levels. In February 2017, CO2 levels at Mauna Loa had already climbed to 406.42 ppm.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory. Further information can be found on the ESRL Global Monitoring Division website. (NOAA)

Measurements are independently validated
NOAA has measured CO2 on site at the Mauna Loa observatory since 1974. To ensure accuracy, air samples from the mountaintop research site in Hawaii are shipped to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, for verification. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which first began sampling CO2 at Mauna Loa in 1956, also takes independent measurements onsite.
Emissions from fossil-fuel consumption have remained at historically high levels since 2011 and are the primary reason atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing at a dramatic rate, Tans said. This high growth rate of CO2 is also being observed at some 40 other sites in NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
The greenhouse effect, explained
Carbon dioxide is one of several gases that are primarily responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere. This “greenhouse effect” maintains temperatures suitable for life on Earth. Increasing CO2 levels trap additional heat in the atmosphere and the oceans, contributing to rising global average temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm between about 10,000 years ago and the start of the Industrial Revolution around 1760.

Press link for more: NOAA

Climate Change impact irreversible #auspol #wapol 

Climate change impact on Australia may be irreversible, five-yearly report says

The Tarkine wilderness area in Tasmania

An independent review of the state of Australia’s environment has found the impacts of climate change are increasing and some of the changes could be irreversible.
The latest State of the Environment report, a scientific snapshot across nine areas released by the federal government every five years, says climate change is altering the structure and function of natural ecosystems in Australia, and is affecting heritage, economic activity and human wellbeing.
It warns climate change will result in “location specific vulnerabilities” and says the most severe impacts will be felt by people who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Record high water temperatures caused “widespread coral bleaching, habitat destruction and species mortality” in the marine environment between 2011 and 2016, it says.

The minister for energy and the environment, Josh Frydenberg, was due to release the report card on Tuesday morning.
In a column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the report indicates the impact of changing weather patterns is being felt in the ocean, on the Great Barrier Reef and on land, affecting biodiversity and species habitat.
“While carbon emissions per capita have declined from 24.1 tonnes in 2011 to 22.2 tonnes in 2015 and energy efficiency improvements are reducing electricity demand, the report makes clear that, for the world to meet its Paris goals, there is much more to do,” Frydenberg says.


The minister says the report makes clear Australia needs to prepare for changes in the environment and “put in place a coordinated, comprehensive, well-resourced, long-term response”.
He warns that failure to do so “will have a direct and detrimental impact on our quality of life and leave a legacy to future generations that is inferior to the one we have inherited”.
The minister says the report presents the government with a mixed picture. “Good progress has been made in the management of the marine and Antarctic environments, natural and cultural heritage and the built environment – while pressures are building in relation to invasive species, climate change, land use and coastal protection,” he says.
Frydenberg says the doubling of Australia’s population in the past 50 years and growing urbanisation “have all combined to contribute to additional pressures on the environment”.
Australia’s heavily populated coastal areas are under pressure, as are “growth areas within urban environments, where human pressure is greatest”, the report finds.
Grazing and invasive species continue to pose a significant threat to biodiversity.
“The main pressures facing the Australian environment today are the same as in 2011: climate change, land use change, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and invasive species,” the report’s summary says. “In addition, the interactions between these and other pressures are resulting in cumulative impacts, amplifying the threats faced by the Australian environment.
“Evidence shows that some individual pressures on the environment have decreased since 2011, such as those associated with air quality, poor agricultural practices, commercial fishing, and oil and gas exploration and production in Australia’s marine environment.
“During the same time, however, other pressures have increased — for example, those associated with coal mining and the coal-seam gas industry, habitat fragmentation and degradation, invasive species, litter in our coastal and marine environments, and greater traffic volumes in our capital cities.”

The report criticises the lack of “an overarching national policy that establishes a clear vision for the protection and sustainable management of Australia’s environment to the year 2050”.
It points to poor collaboration, gaps in knowledge, data and monitoring and a lack of follow-though from policy to action.
“Providing for a sustainable environment both now and in the future is a national issue requiring leadership and action across all levels of government, business and the community,” it says. “The first step is recognising the importance and value of ecosystem services to our economy and society.
“Addressing Australia’s long-term, systemic environmental challenges requires, among other things, the development of a suite of stronger, more comprehensive and cohesive policies focused on protecting and maintaining natural capital, and ongoing improvements to current management arrangements.”
Late last year, the government established a review of its Direct Action climate policy. The current policy has been widely criticised by experts as inadequate if Australia is to meet its international emissions reduction targets under the Paris climate change agreement.
Shortly after establishing the review, Frydenberg ruled out converting the Direct Action scheme to a form of carbon trading after a brief internal revolt. Many experts argue carbon trading would allow Australia to reduce emissions consistent with Paris commitments at least cost to households and businesses.
The Direct Action review still allows for the consideration of the potential role of international carbon credits in meeting Australia’s emissions reduction targets – a practice Tony Abbott comprehensively ruled out as prime minister – and consideration of a post-2030 emissions reduction goal for Australia.
The review also requires an examination of international developments in climate change policy, which is code for an assessment of what is happening on global climate action in the event the US pulls out of the Paris climate agreement.
The New York Times reported last week that the White House was fiercely divided over Trump’s campaign promise to cancel the Paris agreement.
Its report said Trump’s senior strategist Steve Bannon wanted the US to pull out of the Paris agreement but Bannon’s stance was being resisted by the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who are concerned about the diplomatic fallout.
The Turnbull government has already indicated that it intends to stay the course with the Paris agreement, and has argued it would take the US four years to withdraw from the deal under the terms of ratification.
But if the US withdraws from Paris, internal pressure inside the Coalition will intensify, and the prime minister will face calls from some conservatives to follow suit.
In his column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the Coalition is doing good work on the environment and the conservative parties in Australia have been responsible for establishing legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and programs such as the Natural Heritage Trust and the first mandatory Renewable Energy Target.
“The task now is to build on this proud Coalition tradition and to use this report to continue the good work the Turnbull government is already doing across so many areas of environmental policy,” he says.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Car sick, we’re poisoning our kids. #auspol #wapol #science

A short, simple factsheet on the impacts of traffic pollution on children’s health

By George Monbiot, published on monbiot.com, 5th March 2017
I wrote this short factsheet for a local school suffering high levels of air pollution, that are caused in part by the parents, sometimes driving their children just 100 metres up the road. Part of the problem is that many people are unaware of the link between pollution and health issues.
When I looked for a summary – in clear and simple language, that most parents can quickly understand – of the damage that traffic pollution can do to children, I could not find one. Nor could the transport campaigns I consulted. So I decided to write my own.
Please feel free to reproduce it, adapt it and use it as you wish. Please also let me know whether and how it can be improved.
If you find it useful, you might like to ask your school to circulate it among the parents by email or on social media, or to print it out and stick it in places (such as classroom doors) where it is likely to be seen.
If we could circulate such materials widely among schools, we could make a material difference to the health of our children (and the rest of the population).

What Traffic Fumes Do to Our Children
Every year, we discover more about the harm being done to our children by the fumes that cars and other vehicles produce.
The more we learn, the worse it looks. In polluted places, the damage to their health can be very serious.
By driving them to school and by sitting in our cars with the engines idling, we are helping to poison our own children.
Here is what we now know about the harm that traffic pollution can do to children:
It can damage the growth of their lungs. This means that the lungs of children who have been affected don’t work so well. The damage can last for the rest of their lives.
It raises the risk of asthma and allergies. For children who already have asthma, pollution can make it worse.
It can damage the development of their brains. 

Air pollution can reduce children’s intelligence, making it harder for them to learn.
It can change their behaviour and reduce their happiness. Air pollution has been linked to anxiety, depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.
It raises the risk of heart disease later in their lives.
It can cause cancer, both in children and when they become adults.
Unborn children can also be affected by the pollution their mothers breathe. Air pollution is linked to babies being born prematurely and small.
Pollution inside your car can be much worse than pollution outside, because the fumes are concentrated in the small space.
We don’t mean to do this to our children. But once we know how much we are hurting them, we can stop it, by changing the way we travel. Walking and cycling are ideal.
Groups like Living Streets can help schools to turn this around. Together we can protect our children from harm.
The information sources for this factsheet can be found at https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2016/6/EHP299.acco.pdf, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26825441, http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001792, https://www.rcplo ndon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution, https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1306770/, http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/air-pollution/children-and-air-pollution.html and https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/05/the-truth-about-londons-air-pollution

Press link for more:Monbiot.com

Australia’s Record-Breaking Summer #Climatechange #Auspol 

Australia’s record-breaking summer heat linked directly to climate change

By Natasha Gieling

The record-breaking heat seen across southeast Australia in the last few months was made 50 times more likely by climate change, according to new analysis that links the heat directly to global warming.
Southeast Australia was struck by three major heatwaves in January and February, with temperatures climbing as high as 113°F (45°C) in some places. 

On February 10, Sydney Airport recorded its hottest February day on record, with temperatures hitting 109°F (42°C). 

The heat was also uncharacteristically persistent — Observatory Hill in Sydney saw temperatures reach above 95°F (35°C) for nine consecutive days in January, breaking a 120-year old record. 

Elsewhere, the consistent heat was even more extreme: in Moore, New South Wales, there were 52 consecutive days with temperatures above 95°F (35°C).
The study, conducted by the World Weather Attribution Program at Climate Central, used climate model simulations and observational data analysis to understand how climate change, caused by an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, might have made these heat events more likely. 

They found that climate change made the average temperatures seen this summer in Australia 50 times more likely, and made the maximum summer temperatures 10 times more likely.
“In the past, a summer as hot as 2016–2017 was a roughly 1 in 500-year event,” the researchers wrote. “Today, climate change has increased the odds to roughly 1 in 50 years — a 10-fold increase in frequency.”

The analysis also warns that heat events like these — both punctuated heatwaves and long stretches of above-average temperatures — are likely to become more frequent as climate change continues.

 In the future, according to the study, heat events like the one this summer could happen as frequently as every five years — and will likely be more intense, with temperatures averaging at least 1.8ºF (1°C) warmer than they were in the past.
The connection between heat waves and climate change has strong scientific support. In 2015, eight papers published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society’s attribution report — an annual report that explains extreme weather events from a climate perspective — all linked climate change to heatwaves, showing that climate change clearly made heatwaves either more likely, more intense, or both.
According to data from NASA and NOAA, 2016 was the hottest year on record. 

Before that, both 2015 and 2014 held that distinction.

 In fact, 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001.

Press link for more: Think Progress