Fighting the mega-mine #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Fighting the mega-mine

Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson of Shoal Collective talk to Ken Peters-Dodd, a First Nations activist fighting against the construction of a mega-mine project threatening to devastate the environment.

Activists from Australia and beyond are joining forces to prevent what is set to be one of the world’s biggest ecological catastrophes.

The massive Carmichael coal mega-mine will devastate the Great Barrier Reef, contribute massively to global climate change, and further marginalise Australia’s First Nations people.

Adani, the controversial Indian corporation planning the mine, is set to extract 2.3 billion tonnes of coal over its planned 60 years of operation.

It is just one of nine mega-mines planned in Australia’s Galilee Basin that would produce 330 million tonnes of coal. According to Greenpeace, that much coal would fill a train long enough to wrap around the world one and a half times.

It will be exported by train from the Galilee Basin to Abbot Point port on the Great Barrier Reef.

More than one million cubic metres of sea floor would be dredged from the Reef in order to extend the port.

The Reef was seriously damaged by unprecedented levels of bleaching in 2016 and 2017 due to rising sea temperatures, and is at risk of further damage in 2018.

With hundreds more coal ships filling the waters, dredging, extra noise and light pollution, and the risk of coal spills, it is feared that the Adani mine will destroy the Reef completely.

This is just the latest massive mining project to threaten First Nations people’s connections to their lands in Australia.

Since the first days of colonisation, Aboriginal land has been exploited for the benefit of Europeans, and now the same thing is being done to increase  the profits of international corporations.

Like indigenous people the world over, First Nations Australians are fighting against their lands being seized for the benefit of global capitalism.

The Adani project is in financial trouble due to the massive campaign against it in Australia. Globally, 28 banks have now ruled out all or part of the Galilee Basin mining projects.

In December 2017, Adani’s application for a AUD$1bn state loan was blocked by the Queensland Premier. But many more companies are still involved, many of which are are based in London.

Some of the international companies involved include WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, Jefferies, Investec, KY, Marsh, and Baker McKenzie. These companies could also bow to public pressure and withdraw their support from Adani.

Such withdrawals could prove fatal to the project.

In short, it is still possible to stop this project.

A coalition of First Nations activists and groups such as Frontline Action Against Coal and Stop Adani are determined to halt the project in its tracks.

Recently, activists have set up a protest camp near Bowen to oppose the project.

We travelled to Bowen on Australia’s east coast, close to the Abbot Point coal port, and joined both locals and international campaigners for Frontline Action on Coal’s week of action to stop Adani.

Roads were blocked and activists locked themselves to the railway tracks used to export coal.

We interviewed Ken Peters-Dodd, a First Nations elder of the Birriah people, whose traditional country will be affected by the project.

Adani plans to construct the railway line through Birriah land to export the coal to its port. Ken calls on international activists to join the fight against the Adani mine.

He told us: “I am from the Birriah people, of the Bowen river.

I am also from the Widi, the mountain and hill people of the hinterlands.

We are part of the Birri Gubba language group.”

What was the affect of colonisation on your country?

Colonisers came here in the late 1860s.

When they got here their main interest was mining and exploiting the resources on our land. They came with the English police force and began the cutting and logging of our timbers.

The wars and battles carried on for decades.

The massive majority of our people were totally annihiliated.

After that, people were forced to work in pastoralism and cattle.

There was a great roundup and my great grandparents were forcibly moved onto [Christian] missions way up in Cape York and Mission Beach, never to return to their country.

How will the Adani project impact on your people?

The Adani project will have an impact on the environment, our cultural heritage and our rights as caretakers and custodians of our country for generations to come.

The project will also have an impact on neighbouring groups.

It will impact the Juru people, whose country is on the coast where the coal will be loaded onto ships.

It will affect their reefs, wetlands and their rights to protect country.

Were First Nations people consulted by Adani?

There was a process where the company came in and set up a meeting. But it was designed to manipulate and divide people.

People didn’t get the right information [on which] to base their decision.

You had a minority of people only in it for financial gain – influencing the meetings in favour of the mining company.

Expert advice to inform this process was done internally by the company.

Our family was in the negotiations and walked out in disgust at how it was being manipulated.

It was already signed and delivered by the mining company and the company’s lawyers when we walked out.

The financial offerings were peanuts compared to what they would make off the country.

Many of the families never signed.

Can you tell us how you’ve been involved in the campaign against the project?

I’m fully supportive of the campaign against Adani as there’s no difference between Aboriginal and environmental activists standing for ecology, water and the reef.

We’ve gone out and pulled our lines together.

We went on to Abbot Point port with local group Reef Defenders and protested against the project.

With Juru elders we’ve made pledges [to oppose the project].

When we went to Adani’s office to deliver our pledges, they never sent the CEO down to collect them. Adani didn’t want to be seen as having anything to do with it. We’ve also been on campaign roadshows, saying that this project does not have the consent of Aboriginal people.

We had Juru elders, who were part of the negotiations with Adani, speaking about why they didn’t support the project.

We’re encouraging other First Nations peoples to join in and fight this. Our people since day one have been standing in protest, speaking out as custodians of this land.

For over two hundred years we have witnessed the destruction of country and it’s time that we as a people stand up to stop this happening.

It’s a turning point.

We ask all First Nations people to stand in alliance in this struggle.

Is the fight against the Adani project only a struggle for First Nations people?

No. Everyone should participate who has an interest in the impacts these projects will have.

We fully support people from around the world to get involved.

It’s not just a struggle for First Nations people but for everyone who has interests and rights in this country.

We want people to come together and support us on country, build a strong alliance and challenge the separation between First Nations people and the wider Australian people.

The Adani mine will have a massive impact on global climate change for generations to come.

Underground waters are going to be depleted, which will have impacts throughout the Great Dividing Range.

The government has no concern for the future generations, or for the people at all.

[Even if planning permission is legally approved], people can still resist the project and we will carry on our fight to protect our country, including protesting physically and peacefully.

It’s a critical point as it will affect other projects in Australia.

What do you say to those who think that the Adani project is vital for creating new jobs in Queensland?

That’s just a political argument made by people with a relationship with the mining industry, campaigning for their positions.

Everyday Australians know that they won’t get a job: the industry wants a transient community which has no physical connection to country. We need to plan for renewable energy.

Even the other mining industries will feel an impact from this project because the price of coal in the area will be driven down [because of oversupply].

We came together and protested against the Commonwealth Bank and temporarily closed down seven of their branches. [Commonwealth Bank, as well as the other big Australian banks, have now pledged not to finance Adani].

Do you want people internationally to resist the involvement of foreign banks?

Definitely. We send clear support for people globally to put pressure on international banks which may have an interest in funding this project. Go and campaign outside these banks and put pressure on them. We want that clear message to come from people internationally. We’d be prepared to go over and support people in this.

We call on people from all areas: social, political and environmental. We ask people from around the world to support us.

We need to pull together and plan for the future because this project will set a precedent which will diminish the future rights of all First Nations people.

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World scientists’ warning to humanity #auspol #sapol #StopAdani

World scientists’ warning to humanity

By Rex Weyler

Rex Weyler was a director of the original Greenpeace Foundation, the editor of the organisation’s first newsletter, and a co-founder of Greenpeace International in 1979.

Environmental activists and organisations typically try and stay positive, to give people hope that we can change.

Positive signs exist, going back to the historic whaling and toxic dumping bans of the 1980s.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol, reducing CFC gas emissions, led to a partial recovery of the ozone hole.

Birth rates have declined in some regions, and forests and freshwater have been restored in some regions.

The world’s nations have, at least, made promises to reduce carbon emissions, even if action has been slow.

A challenge we face as ecologists and environmentalists, however, is that when we step back from our victories and assess the big picture – the global pace of climate change, forest loss, biodiversity decline – we must admit: our achievements have not been enough.

Children playing near a coal plant in Central Java

25 years ago, in 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” signed by 1,700 scientists, including most living Nobel laureates.

They presented disturbing data regarding freshwater, marine fisheries, climate, population, forests, soil, and biodiversity.

They warned that “a great change” was necessary to avoid “vast human misery.”

This year, on the 25th anniversary of that warning, the Alliance of World Scientists published a second warning – an evaluation of our collective progress.

With the exception of stabilising ozone depletion, they report that “humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.”

A short history of warnings

Environmental awareness is not new.

Over 2,500 years ago, Chinese Taoists articulated the disconnect between human civilisation and ecological values.

Later Taoist Bao Jingyan warned that “fashionable society goes against the true nature of things… harming creatures to supply frivolous adornments.”

Modern warnings began in the 18th century, at the dawn of the industrial age, particularly from Thomas Malthus, who warned that an exponentially growing population on a finite planet would reach ecological limits.

Modern growth advocates have ridiculed Malthus for being wrong, but his logic and maths are impeccable.

He did not foresee the discovery of petroleum, which allowed economists to ignore Malthus for two centuries, aggravating the crisis that Malthus correctly identified.

Rachel Carson ignited the modern environmental movement in 1962 with Silent Spring, warning of eminent biodiversity collapse.

A decade later, in the early days of Greenpeace, the Club of Rome published The Limits To Growth, using data to describe what we could see with our eyes: declining forests and biodiversity, and resources, clashing head-on with growing human population and consumption demands.

Conventional economists mocked the idea of limits, but The Limits to Growth projections have proven accurate.

In 2009, in Nature journal, a group of scientists lead by Johan Rockström published Planetary Boundaries, warning humanity that essential ecological systems – biodiversity, climate, nutrient cycles, and others – had moved beyond ecological limits to critical tipping points.

Melting iceberg in the Southern Ocean

Three years later, 22 international scientists published a paper called ‘Approaching a State Shift in Earth’s Biosphere’ which warned that human growth had “the potential to transform Earth…  into a state unknown in human experience.” Canadian co-author, biologist Arne Mooers lamented, “humans have not done anything really important to stave off the worst. My colleagues… are terrified.”

In 2014 Michael Gerst, Paul Raskin, and Johan Rockström published ‘Contours of a Resilient Global Future’ in Sustainability 6, searching for viable future scenarios that considered both the natural limits to growth and realistic targets for human development. They warned that the challenge is “daunting” and that “marginal changes” are insufficient.

Last year, the UN International Resource Panel (IRP), published ‘Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity’ warning nations that global resources are limited, human consumption trends are unsustainable, and that resource depletion will have unpleasant impacts on human health, quality of life, and future development.

This year, the second “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” alerted us again that marginal changes appear insignificant and that we are surpassing “the limits of what the biosphere can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm.”

The data speaks

The Alliance of World Scientists researchers tracked data over the last 25 years, since the 1992 warning. They cite some hopeful signs, such as the decline in ozone-depleting CFC gases, but report that, from a global perspective, our “changes in environmental policy, human behavior, and global inequities… are far from sufficient.”

Here’s what the data shows:

Ozone: CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) emissions are down by 68% since 1992, due to the 1987 UN Montreal Protocol. The ozone layer is expected to reach 1980 levels by mid-century. This is the good news.

Freshwater: Water resources per capita have declined by 26% since 1992. Today, about one billion people suffer from a lack of fresh, clean water, “nearly all due to the accelerated pace of human population growth” exacerbated by rising temperatures.

Fisheries: The global marine catch is down by 6.4% since 1992, despite advances in industrial fishing technology. Larger ships with bigger nets and better sonar cannot catch fish that are not there.

Ocean dead zones: Oxygen-depleted zones have increased by 75 %, caused by fertilizer runoff and fossil-fuel use. Acidification due to carbon emissions kills coral reefs that act as marine breeding grounds.

Forests: By area, forests have declined by 2.8% since 1992, but with a simultaneous decline in forest health, timber volume, and quality. Forest loss has been greatest where forests are converted to agricultural land. Forest decline feeds back through the ecosystem as reduced carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and freshwater.

Biodiversity: Vertebrate abundance has declined 28.9 %. Collectively, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. This is harrowing.

CO2 emissions: Regardless of international promises, CO2 emissions have increased by 62% since 1960.

Temperature change: The global average surface temperature is increasing in parallel to CO2 emissions. The 10 warmest years in the 136-year record have occurred since 1998. Scientists warn that heating will likely cause a decline in the world’s major food crops, an increase in storm intensity, and a substantial sea level rise, inundating coastal cities.

Population: We’ve put 2 billion more humans on this planet since 1992 – that’s a 35 % increase. To feed ourselves, we’ve increased livestock by 20.5 %. Humans and livestock now comprise 98.5% of mammal biomass on Earth. The scientists stress that we need to find ways to stabilise or reverse human population growth. “Our large numbers,” they warn, “exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realise a sustainable future”

Soil: The scientists report a lack of global data, but from national data we can see that soil productivity has declined around the world (by up to 50% in some regions), due to nutrient depletion, erosion, and desertification. The EU reports losing 970 million tonnes of topsoil annually to erosion. The US Department of Agriculture estimates 75 billion tons of soil lost annually worldwide, costing nations $400 billion (€340 billion) in lost crop yields.

The pending question

“We are jeopardising our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption,” the scientists warn, “and by not perceiving … population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and societal threats.”

The Alliance of World Scientists report offers some hope, in the form of steps that we can take to begin a more serious transition to sustainability:

• Expand well-managed reserves – terrestrial, marine, freshwater, and aerial – to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services.

• Restore native plant communities, particularly forests, and native fauna species, especially apex predators, to restore ecosystem integrity.

• End poaching, exploitation, and trade of threatened species.

• Reduce food waste and promote dietary shifts towards plant-based foods.

•  Increase outdoor nature education and appreciation for children and adults.

• Divest from destructive industries and invest in genuine sustainability. That means phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels, and adopting renewable energy sources on a large scale.

• Revise economic systems to reduce wealth inequality and account for the real costs that consumption patterns impose on our environment.

• Reduce the human birth-rate with gender-equal access to education and family-planning.

These proposed solutions are not new, but the emphasis on population is important, and often overlooked. Some environmentalists avoid discussing human population, since it raises concerns about human rights. We know that massive consumption by the wealthiest 15% of us is a fundamental cause of the ecological crisis. Meanwhile, the poorest individuals consume far less than their fair share of available resources.

Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

As an ecologist, I feel compelled to ask myself: if the last 50 years of environmental action, research, warnings, meetings, legislation, regulation, and public awareness has proven insufficient, despite our victories, then what else do we need to do?

That question, and an integrated, rigorous, serious answer, needs to be a central theme of the next decade of environmentalism.

Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.

Resources and Links:

World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice; eight authors and 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries; BioScience, W.J. Ripple, et. al., 13 November 2017

List of 15,364 signatories from 184 Countries: Oregon State University

Alliance of World Scientists:  Oregon State University

Recovery of Ozone depletion after Montreal Protocol: B. Ewenfeldt, “Ozonlagret mår bättre”, Arbetarbladet 12 September, 2014.

Fertility rate reduction in some regions: UN

Accuracy of Limits to Growth Study: “Is Global Collapse Imminent? An Update to Limits to Growth with Historical Data,” Graham Turner, 2014): Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

“Contours of a Resilient Global Future,” Michael Gerst, Paul Raskin, and Johan Rockström,  Sustainability 6, 2014.

Arithmetic, Population, and Energy: Albert Bartlett video lecture on exponential growth

William Rees, The Way Forward: Survival 2100, Solutions Journal, human overshoot and genuine solutions.

Johan Rockström, et. al., “Planetary Boundaries,” Nature, September 23, 2009.

Anthony D. Barnosky, et. al., “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere,” Nature, June 7, 2012.

Press link for more: Greenpeace

We’re not building clean energy fast enough to avoid catastrophic #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol

At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system

Here are the real reasons we’re not building clean energy anywhere near fast enough.

James Temple

Fifteen years ago, Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution, calculated that the world would need to add about a nuclear power plant’s worth of clean-energy capacity every day between 2000 and 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Recently, he did a quick calculation to see how we’re doing.

Not well.

Instead of the roughly 1,100 megawatts of carbon-free energy per day likely needed to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 ˚C, as the 2003 Science paper by Caldeira and his colleagues found, we are adding around 151 megawatts.

That’s only enough to power roughly 125,000 homes.

At that rate, substantially transforming the energy system would take, not the next three decades, but nearly the next four centuries.

In the meantime, temperatures would soar, melting ice caps, sinking cities, and unleashing devastating heat waves around the globe (see “The year climate change began to spin out of control”).

Caldeira stresses that other factors are likely to significantly shorten that time frame (in particular, electrifying heat production, which accounts for a more than half of global energy consumption, will significantly alter demand). But he says it’s clear we’re overhauling the energy system about an order of magnitude too slowly, underscoring a point that few truly appreciate: It’s not that we aren’t building clean energy fast enough to address the challenge of climate change.

It’s that—even after decades of warnings, policy debates, and clean-energy campaigns—the world has barely even begun to confront the problem.

The UN’s climate change body asserts that the world needs to cut as much as 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions by midcentury to have any chance of avoiding 2 ˚C of warming. But carbon pollution has continued to rise, ticking up 2 percent last year.

So what’s the holdup?

Beyond the vexing combination of economic, political, and technical challenges is the basic problem of overwhelming scale. There is a massive amount that needs to be built, which will suck up an immense quantity of manpower, money, and materials.

For starters, global energy consumption is likely to soar by around 30 percent in the next few decades as developing economies expand. (China alone needs to add the equivalent of the entire US power sector by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.) To cut emissions fast enough and keep up with growth, the world will need to develop 10 to 30 terawatts of clean-energy capacity by 2050.

On the high end that would mean constructing the equivalent of around 30,000 nuclear power plants—or producing and installing 120 billion 250-watt solar panels.

Energy overhaul

There’s simply little financial incentive for the energy industry to build at that scale and speed while it has tens of trillions of dollars of sunk costs in the existing system.

“If you pay a billion dollars for a gigawatt of coal, you’re not going to be happy if you have to retire it in 10 years,” says Steven Davis, an associate professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine.

It’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to see how any of that will change until there are strong enough government policies or big enough technology breakthroughs to override the economics.

A quantum leap

In late February, I sat in Daniel Schrag’s office at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. His big yellow Chinook, Mickey, lay down next to my feet.

Schrag was one of President Barack Obama’s top climate advisors. As a geologist who has closely studied climate variability and warming periods in the ancient past, he has a special appreciation for how dramatically things can change.

Sitting next to me with his laptop, he opened a report he had recently coauthored assessing the risks of climate change.

It highlights the many technical strides that will be required to overhaul the energy system, including better carbon capture, biofuels, and storage.

The study also notes that the United States adds roughly 10 gigawatts of new energy generation capacity per year.

That includes all types, natural gas as well as solar and wind. But even at that rate, it would take more than 100 years to rebuild the existing electricity grid, to say nothing of the far larger one required in the decades to come.

“Is it possible to accelerate by a factor of 20?” he asks. “Yeah, but I don’t think people understand what that is, in terms of steel and glass and cement.”

Climate observers and commentators have used various historical parallels to illustrate the scale of the task, including the Manhattan Project and the moon mission. But for Schrag, the analogy that really speaks to the dimensions and urgency of the problem is World War II, when the United States nationalized parts of the steel, coal, and railroad industries.

The government forced automakers to halt car production in order to churn out airplanes, tanks, and jeeps.

The good news here is that if you direct an entire economy at a task, big things can happen fast. But how do you inspire a war mentality in peacetime, when the enemy is invisible and moving in slow motion?

“It’s a quantum leap from where we are today,” Schrag says.

The time delay

The fact that the really devastating consequences of climate change won’t come for decades complicates the issue in important ways. Even for people who care about the problem in the abstract, it doesn’t rate high among their immediate concerns.

As a consequence, they aren’t inclined to pay much, or change their lifestyle, to actually address it. In recent years, Americans were willing to increase their electricity bill by a median amount of only $5 a month even if that “solved,” not eased, global warming, down from $10 15 years earlier, according to a series of surveys by MIT and Harvard.

It’s conceivable that climate change will someday alter that mind-set as the mounting toll of wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, extinctions, and sea-level rise finally forces the world to grapple with the problem.

But that will be too late.

Carbon dioxide works on a time delay.

It takes about 10 years to achieve its full warming effect, and it stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

After we’ve tipped into the danger zone, eliminating carbon dioxide emissions doesn’t decrease the effects; it can only prevent them from getting worse.

Whatever level of climate change we allow to unfold is locked in for millennia, unless we develop technologies to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a massive scale (or try our luck with geoengineering).

This also means there’s likely to be a huge trade-off between what we would have to pay to fix the energy system and what it would cost to deal with the resulting disasters if we don’t. Various estimates find that cutting emissions will shrink the global economy by a few percentage points a year, but unmitigated warming could slash worldwide GDP more than 20 percent by the end of the century, if not far more.

In the money

Arguably the most crucial step to accelerate energy development is enacting strong government policies.

Many economists believe the most powerful tool would be a price on carbon, imposed through either a direct tax or a cap-and-trade program. As the price of producing energy from fossil fuels grows, this would create bigger incentives to replace those plants with clean energy (see “Surge of carbon pricing proposals coming in the new year”).

“If we’re going to make any progress on greenhouse gases, we’ll have to either pay the implicit or explicit costs of carbon,” says Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

But it has to be a big price, far higher than the $15 per ton it cost to acquire allowances in California’s cap-and-trade program late last year. Borenstein says a carbon fee approaching $40 a ton “just blows coal out of the market entirely and starts to put wind and solar very much into the money,” at least when you average costs across the lifetime of the plants.

Others think the price should be higher still. But it’s very hard to see how any tax even approaching that figure could pass in the United States, or many other nations, anytime soon.

The other major policy option would be caps that force utilities and companies to keep greenhouse emissions below a certain level, ideally one that decreases over time. This regulations-based approach is not considered as economically efficient as a carbon price, but it has the benefit of being much more politically palatable. American voters hate taxes but are perfectly comfortable with air pollution rules, says Stephen Ansolabehere, a professor of government at Harvard University.

Fundamental technical limitations will also increase the cost and complexity of shifting to clean energy. Our fastest-growing carbon-free sources, solar and wind farms, don’t supply power when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. So as they provide a larger portion of the grid’s electricity, we’ll also need long-range transmission lines that can balance out peaks and valleys across states, or massive amounts of very expensive energy storage, or both (see “Relying on renewables alone significantly inflates the cost of overhauling energy”).

The upshot is that we’re eventually going to need to either supplement wind and solar with many more nuclear reactors, fossil-fuel plants with carbon capture and other low-emissions sources, or pay far more to build out a much larger system of transmission, storage and renewable generation, says Jesse Jenkins, a researcher with the MIT Energy Initiative. In all cases, we’re still likely to need significant technical advances that drive down costs.

All of this, by the way, only addresses the challenge of overhauling the electricity sector, which currently represents less than 20 percent of total energy consumption. It will provide a far greater portion as we electrify things like vehicles and heating, which means we’ll eventually need to develop an electrical system several times larger than today’s.

But that still leaves the “really difficult parts of the global energy system” to deal with, says Davis of UC Irvine. That includes aviation, long-distance hauling, and the cement and steel industries, which produce carbon dioxide in the manufacturing process itself. To clean up these huge sectors of the economy, we’re going to need better carbon capture and storage tools, as well as cheaper biofuels or energy storage, he says.

These kinds of big technical achievements tend to require significant and sustained government support. But much like carbon taxes or emissions caps, a huge increase in federal research and development funding is highly unlikely in the current political climate.

Give up?

So should we just give up?

There is no magic bullet or obvious path here. All we can do is pull hard on the levers that seem to work best.

Environmental and clean-energy interest groups need to make climate change a higher priority, tying it to practical issues that citizens and politicians do care about, like clean air, security, and jobs. Investors or philanthropists need to be willing to make longer-term bets on early-stage energy technologies. Scientists and technologists need to focus their efforts on the most badly needed tools. And lawmakers need to push through policy changes to provide incentives, or mandates, for energy companies to change.

The hard reality, however, is that the world very likely won’t be able to accomplish what’s called for by midcentury. Schrag says that keeping temperature increases below 2 ˚C is already “a pipe dream,” adding that we’ll be lucky to prevent 4 ˚C of warming this century.

That means we’re likely to pay a very steep toll in lost lives, suffering, and environmental devastation (see “Hot and violent”).

But the imperative doesn’t end if warming tips past 2 ˚C. It only makes it more urgent to do everything we can to contain the looming threats, limit the damage, and shift to a sustainable system as fast as possible.

“If you miss 2050,” Schrag says, “you still have 2060, 2070, and 2080.”

Press link for more: Technology Review

350 Australia, Adani & the Batman by-election #auspol #qldpol #BatmanVotes #StopAdani

350 Australia, Adani and the Batman by-election

By Glen Klatovsky

Over the last six weeks, 350 Australia has been working with the people of Batman to highlight the issue of the the proposed Adani coal mine.

Hundreds of locals have been getting active as their passion for climate protection comes to the fore.

People have asked why the Adani issue is relevant in inner-city Melbourne — far from Queensland’s Galilee Basin where the mine would be located.

Why 350 should be active in a seat that the Liberal Party are not contesting and why we would not support a progressive candidate for the ALP?

The short answer is: we need to break bipartisan support for the Adani mine.

The Adani company proposes to build the biggest coal mine in Australia, which will operate for more than 50 years, in a brand new coal basin.

If the Adani project goes ahead, other coal mines in the Galilee Basin will undoubtedly follow.

The Adani coal mine is the core question about our response to climate change because, to meet the Paris climate commitments, we have to stop digging up coal.

That means no new coal mines… anywhere.

350 has been central to the #StopAdani campaign.

We have seen this movement grow into one of the biggest social movements in Australia in decades.

There are over 150 #StopAdani groups across Australia and thousands of Australians actively fighting to stop this mine.

In Batman, the concern about Adani was obvious in late January when 350 convened a local community meeting about the issue.

Some 200 locals turned up, about 150 more than we expected!

Whether you live in Batman or near the Barrier Reef, Adani is an issue of national significance – and one that can and should influence the outcome of every election going forward.

Obviously, the current federal government is pro-coal and pro-Adani.

Last year, our Federal Treasurer turned up to Parliament with a big lump of coal in his hand – an embarrassing gimmick to show support for a dying industry.

Meanwhile, despite prevaricating by Bill Shorten, the ALP still stands by support for the Adani coal mine.

What we don’t understand is why the federal ALP has failed to oppose the Adani mine. Two-thirds of Australians oppose the Adani project and the voters of Queensland voted in the ALP state government largely with Adani named as a key reason.

While the federal ALP refuses to oppose the mine, Adani workers can say they have bipartisan support for the project in the halls of power in Canberra.

We know that even without direct federal money for the Adani mine, the Australian government provides billions of dollars of subsidies and other incentives to coal miners in Australia, regardless of which party runs the country.

So 350 is campaigning to get the ALP to oppose the Adani mine. And if there was a Liberal candidate, we would campaign for them to do the same.

350 Australia’s job, backed by 70,000 supporters, more than 150 #StopAdani groups and the two-thirds of Australians polled who oppose the Adani mine, is to fight for our climate and ensure this mine never goes ahead. In order to do that we need to break the bipartisan support for Adani in Canberra.

Regardless of who wins in the seat of Batman, our campaign will not cease. After the by-election, we will continue our efforts to break the all political support for the Adani mine and for coal in Canberra. Given the urgency of climate change, it’s a campaign that, together, we have to win.



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Welcome to the Third Industrial Revolution #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Welcome to the Third Industrial Revolution

Arianna Huffington

In his 2009 book “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis,“ Jeremy Rifkin posed one of the defining questions of our time: in a hyper-connected world, what is the goal of all that unprecedented technological connectivity? “Seven billion individual connections,” he wrote, “absent any overall unifying purpose, seem a colossal waste of human energy.”

Now, I’m delighted that The WorldPost is featuring a new series by Rifkin exploring how the possibilities of an even more connected world can lead to solutions to one of our greatest crises: climate change.

With 2015 widely predicted to supersede 2014 as the hottest year on record, the topic’s relevance and timeliness are obvious. According to analysis by Climate Central, “13 of the hottest 15 years on record have all occurred since 2000 and … the odds of that happening randomly without the boost of global warming is 1 in 27 million.”

‘Thirteen of the hottest 15 years on record have all occurred since 2000 and … the odds of that happening randomly without the boost of global warming is 1 in 27 million.’

At the same time, we’re in a moment of real promise, which is why the series, the “Third Industrial Revolution,” will focus not only on the climate crisis but also on the wealth of innovation, creativity and potential solutions out there, which media too often overlook.

Rifkin, one of our premier scholars and thinkers whose work confronts a range of global challenges, sees the rise of “a new biosphere consciousness, as the human race begins to perceive the Earth as its indivisible community. We are each beginning to take on our responsibilities as stewards of the planetary ecosystems that sustain all of life,” he writes. And this new consciousness is coalescing at a moment when we are seeing a tipping point on climate change — both in terms of awareness and action.

For instance, we have seen an unprecedented commitment to common action by the leaders of the two largest economies in the world — the U.S. and China — to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In September, cities, states and provinces from around the world came together in Los Angeles to make the same commitment and to find practical ways to work together at both the global and local levels.

In June, Pope Francis drew worldwide attention to climate change with the release of his encyclical “Laudato Si,” which elevated the issue to a spiritual challenge and moral imperative. As HuffPost’s Jaweed Kaleem wrote at the time of the encyclical’s publication:

In the lengthy treatise, more broadly addressed to ‘every person’ who lives on Earth, the pope lays out a moral case for supporting sustainable economic and population growth as part of the church’s mission and humanity’s responsibility to protect God’s creation for future generations. While saying that there were natural causes to climate change over the earth’s history, the letter also says in strong words that human activity and production of greenhouse gases are to blame.

Then there is the U.N. summit on climate change, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris, with the goal of reaching a binding international agreement to reduce emissions. As President Obama told Rolling Stone in September, looking ahead to the Paris talks, “we’re now in a position for the first time to have all countries recognize their responsibilities to tackle the problem, and to have a meaningful set of targets as well as the financing required to help poor countries adapt.” If the summit leads to meaningful commitments, Obama said, that will pave the way for future progress: “Hope builds on itself. Success breeds success.”

For all the promise and possibility of official gatherings, much of the change we need will come from outside the halls of power. This is where technological advances and innovations, including the Internet of Things, are especially important. Rifkin sees tremendous potential in this aspect of increased connectivity: “For the first time in history,” he writes, “the entire human race can collaborate directly with one another, democratizing economic life.” Advances in digital connectivity, renewable energy sources and smart transportation are allowing us to responsibly shift the way we see the world and our place in it.

Rifkin labels all this the “Third Industrial Revolution” because, “to grasp the enormity of the economic change taking place, we need to understand the technological forces that have given rise to new economic systems throughout history.”

In the coming weeks, our series will outline the path ahead for the realization of this Third Industrial Revolution. And a range of other voices will join the conversation, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on how the Internet of Things can boost China’s manufacturing base and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on the need for a new, forward-looking narrative for European unity that captures the imagination of young people.

So please join the conversation on climate change, technology and the growing global movement toward solutions. And, as always, use the comments section to let us know what you think. Read the first essay here.

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The World’s Largest Mass Extinction May Have Been Caused by Burning Coal #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

The World’s Largest Mass Extinction May Have Been Caused by Burning Coal.

The Permian Extinction saw over 90 percent of marine species die. New evidence has been discovered that suggests a cause.

By Avery Thompson

Mar 14, 2018

The Permian Extinction, 200 million years ago, was the single greatest species die-off in the history of the world.

Over 90 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species died.

Despite being such a large event, its direct cause has eluded scientists so far.

Theories range from asteroid impacts to volcanic eruptions to increased ocean acidification.

A new study submitted to the journal Global and Planetary Change provides new evidence for a different option: too much burning coal.

The research was conducted by Benjamin Burger, a professor at Utah State University. Burger was studying rock layers in Sheep Creek Valley in Utah when he found some surprising elements in one of the layers.

According to the analysis, the rocks contain high levels of lead, mercury, carbon, and zinc.

Together, these point to extreme levels of coal burning as a cause of the extinction.

Burning coal produces mercury, lead, zinc, and other metals, and as we all know releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

This can lead to high levels of carbon in the rock layer.

Trace amounts of other elements also found in the rocks reinforce the hypothesis.

Burning coal has been one possible explanation for the Permian Extinction for several years, but until now there was never a whole lot of evidence for it.

The idea is that volcanic eruptions released lava that found their way into underground coal deposits built up over previous eons and ignited them.

The fallout released tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increased the acidification of the oceans, and triggered global warming and other forms of climate change.

This study is still awaiting publication, so the finding has yet to be confirmed by peer review. But if the study holds up, it could show us what’s in store for our planet in the present.

It’s no coincidence that coal burning led to the largest mass extinction in the Earth’s history: it’s very bad for life and for the planet.

Right now, we’re in the middle of another mass extinction caused by our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels, and there’s a good chance that our own species could be one of the casualties.

Source: EarthArXiv via The Guardian

Game changer’: New vulnerability to climate change in ocean food chain. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Game changer’: New vulnerability to climate change in ocean food chain

By Peter Hannam

15 March 2018 — 5:00am

Excessive rates of carbon dioxide undermines the health of key micro-organisms in the oceans, potentially undermining the base of critical marine food chains, according to new research by US scientists.

A team of researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) applied techniques from the emerging field of synthetic biology to understand how ocean acidification from the absorption of CO2 is affecting tiny plants known as phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton like these diatoms turn out to be sensitive to ocean acidification, according to new research.

Photo: Scripps Institution/Nature

Phytoplankton are not only a key food source for global fisheries, they are also important to the removal of CO2, much like how trees absorb the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

In a paper published on Thursday in Nature, the team demonstrated how the microscopic plants require carbonate ions to acquire iron from the water to grow.

As CO2 levels rise, the oceans have less carbonate, affecting phytoplankton’s ability to secure sufficient nutrient iron for growth. In fact, the concentration of sea surface carbonate ions are on course to drop by half by the end of this century.

“Ultimately our study reveals the possibility of a ‘feedback mechanism’ operating in parts of the ocean where iron already constrains the growth of phytoplankton,”said Jeff McQuaid, lead author of the study who made the discoveries as a PhD student at Scripps Oceanography.

“In these regions, high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 could decrease phytoplankton growth, restricting the ability of the ocean to absorb CO2 and thus leading to ever higher concentrations of CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere.”

Phytoplankton off New York. The micro-organisms help remove carbon dioxide from the ocean.

Photo: NASA

Andrew E. Allen, a biologist at Scripps and JCVI and the paper’s senior author, said that while the genetics of common animals such as rats or rabbits was well known, the same was not true of marine microbes that play important roles in the global food chain.

The researchers inserted a mutated copy of a gene into phytoplankton cells and tested how it responded to changing ocean chemistry.

“It was a complete game changer,” Professor Allen told Fairfax Media, noting interest in who acidification impacts on phytoplankton had been “a pretty intensive topic of research for the past 10-20 years” given the implication for the food web. Progress, though, had been limited until the new techniques emerged.

“With [synthetic biological] tools like this we can really study the function of a protein in detail to really enable some breakthroughs.”

Professor Allen discovered several iron-responsive genes in diatoms – a type of phytoplankton – in 2008 that had no known function.

DNA analysis of samples that were collected by Mr McQuaid during a trip in the same year to Antarctica revealed one of Professor Allen’s iron genes was not only present in every sample of seawater, but that every major phytoplankton group in the Southern Ocean seemed to have a copy.

The subsequent research centred on the more common of two methods of iron take-up by diatoms.

“In the Southern Ocean, where the temperature decreases the solubility of carbonate, we should already be in the zone where the models project which start to limit iron uptake,” Professor Allen said. “Certainly by 2100…the uptake of iron by this [primary] mechanism could be reduced by 45 per cent.”

While the micro organisms had a secondary way to extract the iron they needed to grow, that method was “a lot more energetically expensive and less efficient”, Professor Allen said.

“If you take away one kind of iron substrate, there could be ripples through the microbial food web.”

Professor Allen credited the now-Dr McQuaid for pulling together a wide-range of scientific fields – tapping experts in molecular evolution, iron and carbonate chemistry, synthetic biology and diatom biology – to “weave a coherent, integrated story”.

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Hotter, Drier, Hungrier: How Global Warming Punishes the World’s Poorest #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Hotter, Drier, Hungrier: How Global Warming Punishes the World’s Poorest


On the outskirts of Kakuma in northwestern Kenya. Always arid, the area has become hotter and drier with the onset of climate change.


Joao Silva/The New York Times

KAKUMA, Kenya — These barren plains of sand and stone have always known lean times: times when the rivers run dry and the cows wither day by day, until their bones are scattered under the acacia trees. But the lean times have always been followed by normal times, when it rains enough to rebuild herds, repay debts, give milk to the children and eat meat a few times each week.

Times are changing, though. Northern Kenya — like its arid neighbors in the Horn of Africa, where Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson paid a visit last week, including a stop in Nairobi — has become measurably drier and hotter, and scientists are finding the fingerprints of global warming. According to recent research, the region dried faster in the 20th century than at any time over the last 2,000 years. Four severe droughts have walloped the area in the last two decades, a rapid succession that has pushed millions of the world’s poorest to the edge of survival.

Amid this new normal, a people long hounded by poverty and strife has found itself on the frontline of a new crisis: climate change. More than 650,000 children under age 5 across vast stretches of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are severely malnourished. The risk of famine stalks people in all three countries; at least 12 million people rely on food aid, according to the United Nations.

A woman washed near a water distribution point in Kakuma. Four droughts have hit the region in the last 20 years.


Joao Silva/The New York Times

A grandmother named Mariao Tede is among them. Early one recent morning, on the banks of a dry stream, with the air tasting of soot and sand, Ms. Tede stood over a pile of dark embers, making charcoal. A reed of a woman who doesn’t keep track of her age, she said she once had 200 goats, enough to sell their offspring at the market and buy cornmeal for her family. Raising livestock is traditionally the main source of income in the region, because not much food will grow here.

Many of her goats died in the 2011 drought, then many more in the 2017 drought. How many were left? She held up five fingers. Not enough to sell. Not enough to eat. And now, in the dry season, not even enough to get milk. “Only when it rains I get a cup or two, for the kids,” she said.

The most recent drought has prompted some herders to plunder the livestock of rival communities or sneak into nature reserves to graze their hungry droves. Water has become so scarce in this vast county — known as Turkana, in northwestern Kenya — that fetching it, which is women’s work, means walking an average of almost seven miles every day.

Ms. Tede now gathers wood to make charcoal, a process that is stripping the land of its few trees, so that when the rains come, if the rains come, the water will not seep into the earth. On the roadside stood what were once sacks of food aid, now stuffed with charcoal, waiting for customers.

Charcoal for sale along the main road in Turkana County. Production is stripping the land of its few trees.


Joao Silva/The New York Times

Further along that same road, in a village blessed with a water pump, a herder named Mohammed Loshani offered up his ledger of loss. From 150 goats a little over a year ago, he had 30 left. During the 2017 drought, 10 died one month, a dozen the next.

“If we get rain I can build back my herd,” he said. “If not, even the few I have will die.” He knew no one who had rebuilt their herds to pre-2011 drought levels.

“If these droughts continue,” Mr. Loshoni said, “there’s nothing for us to do. We’ll have to think of other jobs.”

Women near Kakuma. Food is hard to grow in the region, so raising livestock is the main source of income.


Joao Silva/The New York Times

Poor Rains and You’re ‘Done’

When Gideon Galu, a Kenyan meteorologist with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or FewsNet, looks at 30 years of weather data, he doesn’t see doom for his country’s herders and farmers. He sees a need to radically, urgently adapt to the new normal: grow fodder for the lean times, build reservoirs to store water, switch to crops that do well in Kenya’s soil, and not just maize, the staple.

Rainfall is already erratic. Now, he says, it’s getting significantly drier and hotter. The forecast for the next rains aren’t good. “These people live on the edge,” he said. “Any tilt to the poor rains, and they’re done.”

His colleague at FewsNet, Chris Funk, a climatologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has linked recent drought to the long-term warming of the western Pacific Ocean as well as higher land temperatures in East Africa, both products of human-induced climate change. Global warming, he concluded, seems to produce more severe weather disruptions known as El Niños and La Niñas, leading to “protracted drought and food insecurity.”

Jessica Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona, took the longer view. By analyzing marine sediments, she and her colleagues came to the conclusion that the region is drying faster now than at any time in two millenniums and that the trend may be linked to human activity. That rapid drying in the Horn of Africa, she wrote, is “synchronous with recent global and regional warming.”

A woman collected water from a pit dug in a dry riverbed near Kakuma.


Joao Silva/The New York Times

It falls to James Oduor, the head of Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority, to figure out what to do about the new reality. “In the future,” he said flatly, “we expect that to be normal — a drought every 5 years.”

Mr. Oduor keeps a postcard-size, color-coded map of his country to explain the scale of the challenge: dark orange for arid zones, light orange for semiarid zones, and white for the rest.

More than three-fourths of the land, he points out, is dark or light orange, which means they are water-stressed in the best of times and during droughts, dangerously so. “The bigger part of my country is affected by climate change and drought,” he said. “They’re frequent. They last long. They affect a big area.”

Water is so scarce in Turkana County that fetching it means walking almost seven miles every day, on average.


Joao Silva/The New York Times

Ethiopia is even worse off. FewsNet, which is funded by the United States government, has warned of continuing “food security emergency” in the country’s southeast, where rains have failed for the last three years in a row and political conflict has displaced an estimated 200,000 people.

In Somalia, after decades of war and displacement, 2.7 million people face what the United Nations calls “severe food insecurity.” During the 2017 drought, international aid efforts averted a famine. In the previous drought, in 2011, nearly 260,000 Somalis died of hunger, half of them children, the United Nations reported.

Women waited in the the shade in Turkana Country as an aid group evaluated children for malnutrition.


Joao Silva/The New York Times

‘Five Are Dead, Then 10’

I traveled across Turkana and neighboring Isiolo County in northern Kenya last month. Off the main highway, sandy paths led through sandy plains. A cluster of round twig-and-thatch huts emerged. Dust whipped through the air.

Pastoralists have walked these lands for centuries. The older ones among them remember the droughts of the past. Animals died. People died. But then the rains came, and after four or five years of normal rains, people living here could replenish their herds. Now, the droughts are so frequent that rebuilding herds is pretty much impossible.

“You wake up one morning and five are dead, then 10,” said David Letmaya, at a clinic in Isiolo County where his family had come to collect sacks of soy and cornmeal.

Drawing water in Turkana County.


Joao Silva/The New York Times

These days, shepherds like Mr. Letmaya range further and further, sometimes clashing with rivals from Turkana over pasture and water, other times risking a confrontation with an elephant or a lion from the national park next door.

Almost every night, park rangers can hear gunshots. Herders raid each others’ livestock to replenish their own.

At the Isiolo health center, everyone kept precise count of their losses. One woman said she lost all three of her cows last year and was left now with only three goats. A second said her husband was killed a few years ago in a fight with Turkana herders over pasture, and then, last year, the last of her cows died. A third said she lost 20 of her 30 goats in the last drought.

It was a blazing afternoon, with no respite in sight. One by one, hauling boxes of soy and cornmeal bearing a World Food Program stamp, the women walked back home across the dry plains and the dry riverbeds, resting sometimes under an acacia heavy with nests that weaver birds had made from the dry brush.

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Climate change is a disaster foretold, just like the First World War #auspol #StopAdani

Climate change is a disaster foretold, just like the first world war

Jeff Sparrow

“The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

The mournful remark supposedly made by foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey at dusk on 3 August 1914 referred to Britain’s imminent entry into the first world war. But the sentiment captures something of our own moment, in the midst of an intensifying campaign against nature.

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s 2016 Living Planet Report, over the last four decades the international animal population was reduced by nearly 60%. More than a billion fewer birds inhabit North America today compared to 40 years ago. In Britain, certain iconic species (grey partridges, tree sparrows, etc) have fallen by 90%. In Germany, flying insects have declined by 76% over the past 27 years. Almost half of Borneo’s orangutans died or were removed between 1999 and 2015. Elephant numbers have dropped by 62% in a decade, with on average one adult killed by poachers every 15 minutes.

We inherited a planet of beauty and wonders – and we’re saying goodbye to all that.

The cultural historian Paul Fussell once identified the catastrophe of the first world war with the distinctive sensibility of modernity, noting how 20th century history had “domesticate[d] the fantastic and normalize[d] the unspeakable.”

Consider, then, the work of climate change.

In February, for instance, scientists recorded temperatures 35 degrees above the historical average in Siberia, a phenomenon that apparently corresponded with the unprecedented cold snap across Europe.

As concentrated CO2 intensifies extreme events, a new and diabolical weather will, we’re told, become the norm for a generation already accustomising itself to such everyday atrocities as about eight million tons of plastics are washed into the ocean each year.

It may seem impossible to imagine, that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we’re now in the process of doing.”

This passage from the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert concluded a piece on global warming, which was published way back in 2005. Over the 13 years since, the warnings from scientists have grown both more specific and desperate – and yet the march to destruction has only redoubled its pace.

The extraordinary – almost absurd – contrast between what we should be doing and what’s actually taking place fosters low-level climate denialism. Coral experts might publicise, again and again and again, the dire state of the Great Barrier Reef but the ongoing political inaction inevitably blunts their message.

It can’t be so bad, we think: if a natural wonder were truly under threat, our politicians wouldn’t simply stand aside and watch.

The first world war killed 20 million people and maimed 21 million others. It shattered the economy of Europe, displaced entire populations, and set in train events that culminated, scarcely two decades later, with another, even more apocalyptic slaughter

And it, too, was a disaster foretold, a widely-anticipated cataclysm that proceeded more-on-less schedule despite regular warnings about what was to come.

As early as 1898, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia initiated a conference to discuss international arbitration and limit the arms race taking place in Europe. At its opening session at The Hague, he noted that the competition between nations, in which each country was building up its forces to defend against its neighbours, had “transform[ed] the armed peace into a crushing burden that weighs on all nations and, if prolonged, will lead to the very cataclysm that it seeks to avert.”

Over the next years, the rivalries intensified, leading to further militarisation and a complex series of (often secret) treaties, as, between 1908 and 1913, the military spending of the major powers increased by 50%.

In 1912, the international socialist movement had staged an emergency meeting in Basel in Switzerland in which representatives from almost every nation spoke out for peace.

“The great European peoples are constantly on the point of being driven against one another,” the congress resolved, “although these attempts are against humanity and reason cannot be justified by even the slightest pretext of being in the interest of the people.”

Yet in early 1914, Winston Churchill noted that “the world is arming as it has never armed before”. The eventual declaration of war in August that year was still a shock – but only in the sense that those attending a patient expiring from a long illness might be startled by the death rattle.

The appeals to humanity and reason did not move states jostling for trade and commercial advantages. For the people of Europe, the arms race was disastrous; for specific governments, it made perfect sense, for those who did not compete risked falling behind.

The same might be said today.

From a global perspective, the necessity to abandon fossil fuels cannot be denied. But for individual economies, change risks undermining comparative advantages.

If we don’t sell coal, says Malcolm Turnbull, our competitors will – which was, of course precisely the logic of the British fleet expansion in 1908.

The devastation of the first world war eventually engendered a wave of revolt from a populace appalled at the carnage their politicians had wrought.

Climate change has not yet spurred an equivalent of the mutinies in France or the revolution in Petrograd or the uprising in Berlin.

Yet Labor’s appalling equivocation over the Adani mine – a piece of environmental vandalism for which there can be no justification – illustrates the urgency with which we need a new and different type of politics.

The stakes could not be higher. Lamps are going out all over the natural world … and no one will ever see them lit again.

• Jeff Sparrow is a Guardian Australia columnist

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I Felt Despair About Climate Change—Until a Brush With Death Changed My Mind #auspol #StopAdani

I Felt Despair About Climate Change—Until a Brush With Death Changed My Mind

Leukemia and climate change have more in common than you might think.

By Alison Spodek Keimowitz Mar. 9, 2018 10:55 AM

I was dying.

Not just in the way that we’re all inching inevitably toward our own deaths each moment; I was hurtling toward a specific death with a name, a shape, and a timeline. I was 37 years old and I was dying of leukemia.

I was lying in a hospital bed, so ill that diagnosis, when someone finally named the doom I had been feeling in my body for months, was a relief.

At least the sense of vague terror and impending catastrophe I had been feeling had a name. A cure, in the shape of a stem cell transplant, was possible, but it required the complete and utter dissolution of myself, dangling my broken body over the edge of the very cliff a cure is meant to postpone.

It wasn’t just my body that dissolved in those weeks: My mind and soul were also broken apart, fragmented, and brought to the edge of ruin.

In medical terms, I became depressed, hallucinatory, and delusional. And in medical terms, the team of doctors really didn’t have jack-shit to prescribe me except for patience.

I was visited by a mindfulness practitioner during this time, but I was too far gone for prolonged mindfulness practice, unable to bring myself to a set of exercises that had sustained me prior to illness.

There was simply no self to bring.

Instead my visitor asked me to count to four, in line with my breath. And then to do it again. And to come back to this simple counting whenever I needed it. I could get to four, and then four again. I could get through my pain, my nausea, my misery, for the count of four breaths. And then I could ask myself to do it again.

This practice didn’t make me feel better.

I was still miserable and broken and absent. But it gave me the space to sit with that misery, call it by its name, and know its shape.

That was valuable, just as the name and shape of the leukemia diagnosis had been valuable some months before.

After my stem cell transplant, I was pulled back from that cliff over which I had dangled for many weeks. Many hands took part in pulling me back—doctors and nurses; my husband; my parents; endless numbers of blood donors; and the new cells, a gift from a woman I had yet to come to know, a mother of three across the country, who gave me a new self to inhabit.

None of these people knew if their gifts would have any effect at all, nonetheless they gave them freely, hopefully, and with the knowledge that they had nothing else to offer.

Three months later I returned back to my home, my husband and children, my life.

One year later I returned to work as a professor of chemistry and environmental studies, teaching the same material I had taught before my illness.

Some of it was banal: procedures for balancing chemical reactions, reassuring in their straightforward clarity. But some of it took on a new emotional significance—specifically, teaching about climate change, biodiversity, and extinction.

This planet is dying.

Not just in the way that life on Earth is always, inevitably beginning and ending, that species are rising and falling, that extinction and evolution occur, and that temperature and sea levels cycle dramatically and irregularly.

In the 21st century, Earth is hurtling toward a specific death with a shape, a name, and a timeline.

It is dying of global warming, climate change, extinction, biological annihilation, and ocean acidification.

The exact names and the exact timing is debated, but the overall trajectory of life on Earth is well-understood: We are in the midst of Earth’s sixth mass extinction, and the odds of human civilization reaching the 22nd century are often estimated at no better than 50/50.

When I began teaching environmental change in 2005, I focused on how to build a track away from the cliff of environmental catastrophe.

When I returned to teaching in 2014, I found that I no longer could see a track that turned away from the edge.

We are already locked into catastrophic changes, terrible human and animal suffering, the loss of so much of what makes this Earth itself.

This shift in my thinking was partially the result of what we’ve come to realize is truly possible with regard to environmental change, informed by broader public and scientific discourses on strategies that are moving away from prevention and toward mitigation and adaptation. But it probably mostly came from my new willingness to see and acknowledge the hardest parts of this reality that had been there all along.

I’ve now taught about climate change and biological annihilation four times since my illness. Each time we are closer to that edge.

More carbon emitted.

More warming locked in.

More species gone.

More wildness lost.

More homes destroyed.

More starvation, wars, and human suffering have come to pass.

In conversations about climate, there is a knowledge widely shared but rarely explicitly stated, that we are no longer able to prevent destruction, biological annihilation, and perhaps the end of human civilization as we know it, we are simply postponing it.

Sometimes my students realize this and I watch them crumple into climate nihilism. “If we can’t ‘save the Earth,’ ” they ask, “why bother?

Should I just drive my gas-guzzler and fly everywhere and just give up?”

In contrast with my students’ nihilism, I have found that my response to our hurtling toward the brink is more one of personal grief.

It is made all the more acute by parenting and its attendant opportunities to see the world through the dual lenses of my eyes and my children’s.

Their wonder at the natural world is still untainted, but when I look, I see ghosts of what’s already been lost.

My children barely know the joys of hunting for fireflies on a summer night; there are so many fewer fireflies to find.

Sometimes this fills me with a grief so profound I cannot catch my breath.

In teaching about the Earth, I want to turn away from the hardest material. I construct my syllabus to end with a discussion of air pollution and the Clean Air Act, to show the students that we have wrestled with thorny problems and won in the past. But neither I nor my students are so naïve to think that climate change and biological annihilation can be transformed in the way that acid rain and air pollution were radically transformed, for the better, by a single piece of legislation.

Too much has been lost, and too many more losses are already locked in.

So should we all succumb to nihilism, rage, and grief about our Earth?

Should we all just look away, go on with our small lives, and ignore what is happening around us?

For years I have wanted to look away.

I have thought about no longer teaching about Earth’s destruction because it is so painful.

But every year I teach it again.

I assign my students new readings, articles by scientists and academics, members of my methodical tribe, chronicling, quantifying, and categorizing the losses we are suffering. Their work is academic, but what they are witnessing is much greater than what they can count.

To truly witness this moment on Earth, we can’t just name the species lost.

We must mourn them.

In this work of grief and naming and acknowledgement, my training as a scientist doesn’t help me. But my training in mindfulness does.

Because I learned how to breathe with loss, I can choose not to look away from the hard things, but to sit with them, acknowledge and name the pain, and trust myself to be able to move forward.

This may be what I truly have to offer my students and my children.

Many students come to my classroom already knowing about carbon dioxide, sea level rise, and mass extinction.

What they don’t know, because none of us really do, is how to move forward, how to breathe, and how to live with the knowledge of our own personal and planetary mortality.

But perhaps I can offer them tools to endure with some grace.

To fully process what we are losing on Earth, I had to stop responding only as a scientist.

My way forward comes instead from my experience of illness.

My stem cell transplant wasn’t pointless just because I will, eventually, die of something.

The years I’ve gained, however few or many they may be, are precious beyond measure.

So too with the Earth.

Each generation of humans living in relative abundance, each species saved from extinction for another 50 years, and each wild place left to function and inspire in its wildness, is precious beyond measure.

As I have begun sitting mindfully with the sadness of Earth’s destruction, I have started to incorporate it into myself.

Mindfulness doesn’t decrease my sense of loss, but it reminds me I can get through it, year by year, hour by hour, breath by breath.

It helps me acknowledge the pain, and to start to name it not just as a scientist, but as a human spirit.

It helps me tell my students each autumn that the atmosphere contains more carbon dioxide than it did the autumn before, to write checks to environmental advocacy organizations, to write my representatives to fight the willful blindness I see in our government.

When I was ill, I was terrified, as you might expect for a 37-year-old mother of two kids under age 6, and a disease with a two-year survival rate of 25 percent.

Initially I read all the statistics on prognosis for my disease, my age, my gender. My anxiety began to ease only when I fully acknowledged and named the nearness of death, no matter how I sliced the numbers. By being more present to my suffering on my worst days, by naming it not just clinically but as a full-hearted human desperate to stay alive, I found myself more present to my joy as well. By finally looking mortality in the face, its presence in my soul began to shrink, and I could enjoy the small joys that I could find. I taught my 2-year-old to taste honeysuckle; I showed my 6-year-old cicada shells.

Inevitably, the climate will warm; whole ecosystems will be lost; and someday, there will be a last generation of humans on Earth. But the years we can postpone each loss, and each wild place and creature saved, are incalculably valuable. And so I keep teaching, and processing, and working to stave off the inevitable.

I don’t know if any of those things will truly prevent catastrophic changes on Earth; I suspect not. But I give these gifts freely, hopefully, and in the knowledge that they are all I have to give.

Nothing we can do will prevent the Earth from being deeply transformed.

Maybe the next generation, my children or grandchildren, will be the last to live in large-scale human civilization.

Or, maybe the efforts of me, my students, and millions of other like-minded folks will push back the inevitable collapse for another 100 years, or 500 years, perhaps allowing us to coexist longer with the wonder of wild places and creatures.

There is no preventing the inevitable, but the delay is precious.

It is all we have.

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