Renewable Energy

Adani won’t commit to fresh funding deadline for $16.5b Carmichael mine #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Indian energy company Adani has refused to say when it expects to raise enough money to start its controversial $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine after admitting it would not meet its self-imposed March deadline for the project.

By Mark Ludlow

With the company struggling to convince banks to lend money for the $6.7 billion first stage of the Central Queensland project and Labor leader Bill Shorten now openly opposing it, Adani is under pressure to make a funding commitment sooner rather than later.

It comes as Adani Renewable chief executive Jennifer Purdie admitted in a submission to the Energy Security Board that new thermal generation, such as coal-fired power, would be more expensive than existing generation assets in the National Energy Market.

Adani Australia chief executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj earlier this month vowed to go ahead with the Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin, despite a “flood of misinformation” from critics and the project becoming a lightning rod for environmental activists who want to stop any new coal mines in Australia.

Adani Australia head Jeyakumar Janakaraj won’t commit to a funding deadline for the Carmichael mine.

But Adani has yet to commit to a new deadline for the project, which has been in the planning and approval process for almost a decade.

The company claims the project will create 10,000 new jobs in regional Queensland, but this figure has been widely disputed by critics.

A spokeswoman for Adani said there were no plans to set a new deadline for funding, saying the company had already shown its commitment by investing $3.3 billion in Australia so far.

“We remain 100% committed to the Carmichael Project. We are confident of securing finance,” the spokeswoman said.

Adani has also yet to sign a royalties agreement with the Palaszczuk Labor government, with Treasurer Jackie Trad saying they were still waiting for the company to formally agree to the terms following an in-principle agreement last May.

Adani was an issue in the Batman byelection in Victoria last weekend, but Labor sources played down the party’s tough new stance against the project as being a defining factor in Ged Kearney’s victory.

Adani – which wants to export its coal to India – has in recent weeks been more vocal in spruiking its renewable business in Australia. It aims to establish 1500 megawatts of renewable energy generation, including solar, wind and pumped hydro, by 2022.

Despite critics claiming Adani’s investment in renewables was to mollify those opposed to the Carmichael mine – which would be the biggest open-cut coal mine in Australia – the Indian company is one of the world’s 15 biggest developers of solar power, with 1218 megawatts in operation and 1300 megawatts under construction in India. It also has 12 megawatts of wind power in operation and 140 megawatts under construction.

Ms Purdie said the company was committed to building a renewables business in Australia.

In a submission to the Energy Security Board, she backed the Turnbull government’s National Energy Guarantee – the Coalition’s proposed mechanism for the energy sector to drive down carbon emissions – but said the best chance of it building a sustainable renewable business in Australia was to have secure, reliable and affordable power.

“If consumers need to choose between affordability and reduced emissions, in almost every instance they will choose affordability,” Ms Purdie said in the submission.

Ms Purdie said new thermal generation, such as coal or gas, is going to be more expensive than older existing assets that have been depreciated.

“On this basis, it seems highly likely that the cost of energy going forward is going to be more expensive than it has historically been, for at least the next few years,” she said.

“Fundamentally, however, we should be designing the energy transition so that Australia has a global competitive advantage through a globally competitive energy prices and availability given the quality and diversity of our energy resources.”

Press link for more: AFR.COM


Offshore Wind no longer needs a subsidy. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Dutch zero-sum win for Vattenfall

Swedes secure subsidy-free permit for 750MW Hollandse Kust Zuid

Image: Prinses Amalia wind farm, Netherlands (Eneco)

Vattenfall has won the right to build the up to 750MW Hollandse Kust Zuid 1&2 offshore wind farm in the Netherlands on a subsidy-free basis.

The Swedish company beat rivals including Innogy and Statoil to develop the project due online in 2022-23.

The project developed by Chinook, a subsidiary of Vattenfall’s Dutch arm Nuon, is set to be the first offshore wind farm in the world to be constructed without subsidy.

Dutch Economic Affairs and Climate Minister Eric Wiebes said: “Thanks to drastically lower costs, offshore wind farms are now being constructed without subsidy.

“This allows us to keep the energy transition affordable. Innovation and competition are making sustainable energy cheaper and cheaper, and much faster than expected too.”

Bids were submitted on 21 December with officials judging submissions on a range of quantitative and qualitative criteria including completion time, output and risk management.

The construction of the 700MW to 750MW wind farm is expected to involve an investment of more than €1.5bn.

Industry sources said the project could feature next-generation offshore turbines such as GE’s 12MW Haliade-X officially launched earlier this month.

Under the terms of the concession, Vattenfall is allowed to build turbines with a maximum tip height of 300 metres and rotor diameter of 250 metres.

Vattenfall said it will now make final preparations for Hollandse Kust Zuid 1&2 including the design of the wind farm. It will also finalise the tender process for major components.

““Winning the bid for Hollandse Kust Zuid is a result of our continuous cost reduction efforts along our entire value chain and the solid track record and portfolio approach of our company,” said Vattenfall wind head Gunnar Groebler.

“We are very happy to enlarge our contribution in making the Dutch energy system more sustainable and support our customers, large and small, on their way to become climate smarter,” he added.

Press link for more:

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.

Press link for more:

The temperature is rising … and so is the death toll #bushfire #auspol #nswpol #springst #StopAdani

I’ve investigated the impact of climate change driven extreme weather on public health for 20 years.

The research shows the links between the two couldn’t be clearer – extreme weather events such as severe heatwaves, bushfires and supercharged storms are placing Australian lives at risk.

The threats to our lives from extreme weather isn’t limited to heatwaves, but extends to more severe storms and floods and more intense and ‘out of season’ bushfires. Photo: AFP

As we continue to burn fossil fuels such as coal and gas, more carbon pollution is released into our climate system, causing more intense, more severe and more frequent extreme weather events, which in turn, will continue to place increasing pressure on health systems, emergency services and our communities.

Globally, we’ve just experienced the hottest five year period ever recorded, stretching from 2013 to 2017, and this month parts of Queensland were hit with a severe heatwave, breaking February averages by more than  10 degrees.

The reality is that Australia will become warmer and drier as a direct result of intensifying climate change as heatwaves continue to become hotter, longer, and more frequent.

Severe heatwaves are silent killers, causing more deaths since the 1890s than all of Australia’s bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes, floods and severe storms combined.

Over the past decade, severe heatwaves around Australia have resulted in deaths and an increased number of hospital admissions for heart attack, stroke, respiratory illness, diabetes and kidney disease.

Older people, young children, and those with chronic health conditions are at high risk, but so are outdoor workers and our emergency responders.

In January 2009, Melbourne suffered three consecutive days of above 43 degrees, while elsewhere in Victoria it came within a whisker of 49.

There were 980 heat-related deaths during this time, which was around 60% more than would normally occur at that time of year.

Morgues were over capacity and bodies had to be stored in refrigerated trucks.

A few years earlier in 2004, Brisbane experienced a prolonged heatwave with temperatures reaching up to 42 degrees in February, which increased overall deaths by 23%.

The threats to our lives and livelihoods from extreme weather isn’t limited to heatwaves, but extends to more frequent and more severe storms and floods, more intense and ‘out of season’ bushfires, and widespread and prolonged drought.

Of course, we’re used to extreme weather in Australia, so much so that it is embedded in our cultural identity.

From ancient Indigenous understandings of complex seasons and use of fire to manage landscapes, to Dorothea McKeller’s 1908 poem My Country, to Gang Gajang’s 1985 anthem Sounds of Then (This is Australia), we sure like to talk about the weather.

But climate change is making these events more and more deadly, and we can’t afford to be complacent.

So what do we do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from extreme heat and other events?

We can check in with our friends, family and neighbours on extreme heat days and we can strive to make our health services more resilient and responsive, but this doesn’t deal with the cause.

Without rapid effective action to reduce carbon emissions we’re locking ourselves into a future of worsening, out of control extremes.

Ultimately, to protect Australians from worsening extreme weather events and to do our fair share in the global effort to tackle climate change, we have to cut our greenhouse gas pollution levels quickly and deeply.

Reducing our carbon pollution means a healthier Australia, now and in the future, with fewer deaths, fewer ambulance call-outs, fewer trips to the hospital, and reduced costs to the health system.

The only thing standing in the way of Australia tackling climate change is political will.

Professor Hilary Bambrick is a member of the Climate Council and heads the School of Public Health and Social Work at QUT.

Press link for more: Canberra Times

50 years since climate change was first seen. Now time is running out #auspol #qldpol #sapol #StopAdani

It’s 50 years since climate change was first seen.

Now time is running out |

Richard WilesFri 16 Mar 2018 01.47 AEDT

Making up for years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. Climate polluters must be held accountable

Scientists attribute 15-40% of the epic rain of Hurricane Harvey to climate change.’ Photograph: Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images

Fifty years ago, the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) delivered a report titled Sources, Abundance, and Fate of Gaseous Atmospheric Polluters to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association for the fossil fuel industry.

The report, unearthed by researchers at the Center for International Environmental Law, is one of the earliest attempts by the industry to grapple with the impacts of rising CO2 levels, which Stanford’s researchers warned if left unabated “could bring about climatic changes” like temperature increases, melting of ice caps and sea level rise.

The year was 1968, and the term “global warming” would not appear in a peer-reviewed academic journal until 1975. Famed Nasa scientist James Hansen would not testify before Congress that “global warming has begun” for another 20 years. And the US would not enter into – only to later pull out of – the Paris climate accord for nearly half a century.

The anniversary of SRI’s report to the API on climate change represents not just a damning piece of evidence of what the fossil fuel industry knew and when, but a signal of all that we have lost over the decades of policy inaction and interference. It should also serve as a potent motivator in the fight for climate accountability and justice.

At the time, CO2 levels in the atmosphere stood about 323ppm. The planet was warming but was still well within the historical norm. Sea levels had risen by about 4in compared with 1880 levels. The report, however, cautioned that “man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the Earth” and that “significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000”.

Those predictions proved to be correct: by the turn of the century, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen to 369ppm, causing a temperature increase of nearly half a degree over pre-industrial averages. Today, virtually all climate scientists agree there is little or no chance the world can stay within the goal of 1.5C, the limit of what scientists believe to be safe.

With each decade of delay and denial the impacts and costs of climate change have continued to mount

Over the next 20 years, the scientific community and policymakers around the world began to reach a consensus on the threat posed by rising CO2 levels. Scientists at least one major oil company, Exxon, did their own climate modeling, which agreed with the scientific consensus. During this period a budding movement to cut emissions began.

To counter and slow down that effort to address climate change, the fossil fuel industry began its long and powerful strategy of climate denial and obstructionism. Even though they knew the science, they also realized that attempts to control emissions could seriously damage their bottom lines.

In 1998, as the first global attempt to rein in climate pollution, the Kyoto protocol, was headed to the Senate for ratification, API circulated what has come to be known as the Victory Memo, a detailed road map to undermining science and promoting denial of climate change. According to API’s top strategists: “Victory will be achieved when: those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear to be out of touch with reality.”

California’s deadly wildfires which were set up by five years of drought.’ Photograph: Kurod/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

The memo’s end goal was clear: create doubt about science where none existed, deceive the media and Congress about the risks of climate change, and block the momentum that was building to address rising emissions through the Kyoto protocol, a precursor to the Paris accord. ExxonMobil alone would go on to spend upwards of $30m on ads, front groups, and pseudoscience intended to carry out the plan. That’s in addition to the cash that flooded the coffers of climate deniers in Congress who are rewarded amply for willful ignorance.

API’s strategic deception campaign was a success, which is why we now stand at the brink of the highest global temperature considered safe. Just what it will mean to cross that line remains an ongoing question for atmospheric scientists, but we’ve already started to get a glimpse and it doesn’t look good.

The damage is all around us, from hurricanes on steroids – scientists attribute 15-40% (8in-24in) of the epic rain of Hurricane Harvey to climate change – to California’s deadly wildfires which were set up by five years of drought, followed by record snowfall, then record heat that turned huge areas of the state into tinderboxes. In 2017 there were 16 separate billion-dollar disasters in the US, resulting in a total of $306bn of damages, nearly $100bn more than the second highest year 2005 (Katrina). While technically climate change did not “cause” these disasters, most of the carnage was aggravated in some way by climate change and the fossil fuel emissions that cause it in the first place.

Other impacts are more long-term and irreparable. Anyone born after 1985 has never experienced a month with average temperatures that fall below the historical norm and, without action, probably never will. Mass coral bleaching events due to warming waters and ocean acidification have rendered large swaths of some of the ocean’s most diverse ecosystems lifeless. The vanishing Arctic ice cap appears already to be affecting global weather patterns, and the loss of ice in Antarctica may have reached a tipping point that many now view as irreversible, a development that will require tough and costly decisions for coastal cities.

It never had to be this way. But with each decade of delay and denial the impacts and costs of climate change have continued to mount. Now taxpayers are left holding the bill for a literal rising tide of impacts that pose the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. Meeting that challenge must begin with accountability on the part of climate polluters, and justice for citizens who did nothing to cause the problem other than drive to work and heat their homes when they had no other alternatives.

We can’t turn back the clock, but we can turn off the fossil fuel firehose that’s been pumping CO2 into our atmosphere and demand that those who left it running help foot the bill for the cleanup. Already we’ve seen cities like New York, San Francisco, and other coastal cities file lawsuits against climate polluters, seeking to recover costs associated with planning for and adapting to a warming world. With massive costs facing hundreds more cities and no remedy in sight, more litigation will follow.

Making up for 50 years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. But taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden alone. The API and its climate polluters knowingly and deliberately caused this mess. They must help pay to clean it up.

Richard Wiles is the executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity

Press link for more: The Guardian

Global warming puts nearly half of species in key places at risk: report #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

An elephant splashes at sunset in the waters of the Chobe river in Botswana in 2015.

(CNN)About half of all plants and animals in 35 of the world’s most biodiverse places are at risk of extinction due to climate change, a new report claims.

“Hotter days, longer periods of drought, and more intense storms are becoming the new normal, and species around the world are already feeling the effects,” said Nikhil Advani, lead specialist for climate, communities and wildlife at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The report, a collaboration between the University of East Anglia, the James Cook University, and the WWF, found that nearly 80,000 plants and animals in 35 diverse and wildlife-rich areas — including the Amazon rainforest, the Galapagos islands, southwest Australia and Madagascar — could become extinct if global temperatures rise.

The 35 places were chosen based on their “uniqueness and the variety of plants and animals found there,” the WWF said.

“The collected results reveal some striking trends. They add powerful evidence that we urgently need global action to mitigate climate change,” the report said. A corresponding study was also published by the scientific journal Climate Change.

If temperatures were to rise by 4.5 degrees Celsius, animals like African elephants would likely lack sufficient water supplies and 96% of all breeding ground for tigers in India’s Sundarbans region could be submerged in water.

An Indian tigress wearing a radio collar wades through a river after being released by wildlife workers in Storekhali forest in the Sundarbans, some 130 kilometers south of Kolkata, in 2010.

However, if temperature rise was kept to below 2 degrees Celsius — the global target set by the landmark Paris Climate Accord in 2015 — the number of species lost could be limited to 25%.

“This is not simply about the disappearance of certain species from particular places, but about profound changes to ecosystems that provide vital services to hundreds of millions of people,” the WWF said in its report.

CNN’s Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report

Press link for more: CNN.COM

The Market Can’t Solve a Massacre or the #ClimateCrisis #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #sapol #neoliberalism

By Patrick Blanchfield

The massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one month ago today, left seventeen children and school staff dead.

It was the third highest-casualty mass shooting at an educational institution in American history (after Virginia Tech—32 dead—and Sandy Hook—27) and the ninth highest-casualty single-shooter mass shooting in modern American history.

Assembling such ranked lists, surveying body count subtotals, and tracking the fatalities balance sheet is nauseating, and it was perhaps in the spirit of that enterprise that South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds told NPR the day afterward: “You have to recognize, our most valuable assets are our kids.”

As a Republican with an “A” rating from the NRA, it would be entirely defensible to say Rounds’s words are belied by his deeds: He may say children are our greatest “assets,” but he certainly seems to value an NRA endorsement far more. But what’s striking about Rounds’ phrase isn’t its hypocrisy, but the way it captures a central truth about contemporary American politics.

Our political rhetoric, like our moral imagination, uses the vocabulary and logic of the market, of assets and investments, of incentives and innovation.

Your personal health is an asset, which you must safeguard through savvy navigation of insurance markets, shopping for doctors and medications, and close-reading complicated medical bills.

Immigrants, too, are assets, human resources whose financial contributions to their communities and potential for entrepreneurship become the pivot on which we hang appeals for empathy and support (This man being tragically deported by ICE is a successful small business owner!

This drowned child refugee could have been the next Steve Jobs!). And so on.

There is a word to describe this state of affairs, a word that describes both the way we’ve organized our current political and economic system, and the way we have let that system shape our social and emotional lives.

That word is neoliberalism.

What is neoliberalism?

The many competing definitions can be confusing and even misleading. And, since the history of neoliberalism has played out in many different countries, what the word denotes in one place is not necessarily the same in others. But we shouldn’t let nuance and complexity dissuade us from using the term, because neoliberalism is an incredibly powerful concept for understanding not just contemporary American life and politics in general, but our reactions to gun violence and school shootings specifically.

Neoliberalism is at once a subspecies of capitalism and a model of governance, a vision of what politics can and should be.

It sees political and social life almost exclusively through the lens of the free market, and asks us to consider ourselves and our fellow citizens primarily in terms of our economic activities: as consumers, as workers, as competitors, as human resources.

Under neoliberalism, in other words, the individual is less a human subject with rights that entail obligations from the government, but rather a variable in a broader calculus of efficiency, a site for maximizing revenue and minimizing expenditure.

Simply put, neoliberalism is about the withdrawal of government responsibility for political problems in favor of market-based “solutions” and individual “choices.”

In a very granular and insidious way, neoliberalism narrows the bounds of what counts as a “political” problem as such.

Dramatic political change becomes increasingly unthinkable, dismissed as unrealistic, impracticable, and naïve.

Transmuting hopes for radical transformation into market-based “innovation” as a primary driver of social change, neoliberal governance recedes into technocratic administration, busying itself with ever-more-arcane and bloodless policy tweaks intended merely to keep capital flowing smoothly and efficiently.

Meanwhile, as state responsibility for political problems evaporates, individuals are left to pick up the slack, obligated to perform vast amounts of compensatory emotional and material labor even as they grow ever more vulnerable, atomized, and overwhelmed.

Not coincidentally, neoliberalism has become our dominant system against the backdrop of decades of corporate deregulation, privatization, and the dismantling of social services, developments that it celebrates and champions.

The emotional and political landscape of American gun violence and school shootings specifically reads like an atlas of neoliberalism.

To be sure, our singular problem with gun murder—of which mass shootings are only a fractional percentile, one with no real analogue anywhere in any other nation in the world, neoliberal or otherwise—has deep roots in America’s unique history of ethnic cleansing, racial oppression, globalized militarism, entrenched inequality, and violent ideologies of masculinity; these forces shape how gun violence plays out in and determines which Americans must bear its traumas most. But how our society has chosen to frame and respond to the problem of mass shootings, and school shootings specifically, over the course of the past two decades illustrates neoliberalism’s corrosiveness.

Consider, first, the scope of mainstream reactions to mass shootings.

The problem of random massacres in public spaces is a properly political problem.

It strikes at the core of our basic ability to live together and interact safely with each other in the public sphere. And yet the primary themes in responses of our politicians from across the political spectrum have been disavowal, indifference, resignation, and opportunism.

Conservatives who are otherwise unabashed about endorsing heavy-handed and repressive responses to the evils of terrorism respond to gun massacres by waxing theological and proclaiming that evil cannot be “legislated.”

Liberals, meanwhile, have long operated from a position defined by a self-fulfilling preemptive concession to “reality” whereby entertaining the idea of an outright gun ban is taboo, foreclosed from the get-go.

Whatever one may think of a total gun ban as either a moral or a practical matter, the fact that it is a position currently espoused in public by precisely zero national-level politicians is significant.

The outcome of any political debate partially reflects a middle ground defined by the most extreme positions espoused by mainstream political actors.

American politics accommodates plenty of extreme positions, and the Republican party has been particularly successful in normalizing and leveraging the obstinacy of its most extreme politicians and constituents to consistently move policy and discourse rightwards.

Yet while voices calling for an elimination of the minimum wage or abortion bans are commonplace among conservatives, the signal absence of prominent Democrats stridently demanding a blanket gun ban—even as an ideal principle, deployed for purposes of bargaining—markedly predetermines the entire national conversation on guns.

The idea that the Democratic party is militantly dead-set on nationwide gun confiscation or the repeal of the Second Amendment is simultaneously laughable and a potent staple of paranoiac right-wing fantasies.

The reality is that many Democrats leap to pacify this fear as a token of their reasonableness. For decades now the horizon of political imaginability for gun control has thus been constricted from the outset, and the party has long condemned itself to measures that are so much triage and tinkering, to fundraising off the NRA rather than targeting the problem of money in politics or arms industry influence more broadly, and to publicity stunts and cynical legislative bids that are more about expanding the security state than about sustainably lowering gun deaths.

Even an assault weapons ban, despite its undeniable potential as a wedge issue, has long been seen by most Democrats as a nonstarter.

In the immediate wake of Parkland, the DCCC’s first instruction to Democrats was to avoid “politicizing” the massacre, steer clear of gun ban talk, and mirror the Republican language of “Thoughts and Prayers” themselves.

To be clear: Blame for America’s longstanding inertia on mass shootings cashes out differently for our two main parties.

Republicans playing hardball is not the same thing as Democrats playing catch-up. But the causes of this inertia, which have everything to do with the influence of market incentives—from corporate money to regulatory capture to political careerism—implicate each party, and have produced a state of affairs that is bigger than both of them.

For the sake of appearing “reasonable” and “realistic,” and for the sake of preserving their continued electability and “political capital” (a thoroughly neoliberal concept), our political elites reject responsibility for what could not more obviously be a political problem: mass murder in public spaces.

In consequence, a kind of fatalistic resignation has settled over most Americans—a common wisdom that, on guns, nothing can or will ever get done.

Very literally, Americans teach their children to understand the intrusion of rampaging killers with assault rifles as a random force of nature analogous to a fire or an earthquake.

But neoliberalism means that as government responsibility recedes, and as the bounds of what is politically imaginable constrict, other players step in to pick up the slack—and make a buck.

The social contract gets traded in for a profusion of End User Agreements, gig opportunities, and handshake deals with grifters and loan sharks.

The mushrooming market for security equipment in schools and on college campuses reached $2.68 billion in 2017 alone, and school districts around the country have steadily devoted increasing sums to security even as their overall budgets have dwindled.

These products look and sound like weapons and gear from America’s endless wars abroad: bulletproof whiteboards, School Shooter Kits (complete with tourniquets and trauma dressing), The Barracuda (a reinforced doorstop), The Raptor (a web-based “visitor management system,” the ad copy for which asks “Are you ready to take the next steps in protecting your school?”).

The market isn’t just for school administrators. Parents can buy their kids bulletproof backpacks and folders or invest in literal ballistic security blankets (available with free shipping from Walmart). This burgeoning cornucopia of products for protecting children does little to address the fact that not all schools and parents are equally capable of buying them, of course. But that’s neoliberalism for you: The choices and the opportunities to ameliorate societal problems exist, but only if you can afford them.

The withdrawal of political responsibility in favor of market solutions occurs without any correlative empowerment of the citizen as a consumer—in fact, as American inequality increases and social mobility drops, the end result is quite the opposite.

While the private sector flourishes, public institutions are hollowed out, and the people who depend on them are left in ever-more-precarious conditions.

It should not be surprising—although it is rarely observed—that the overwhelming majority of school shootings have thus far occurred in public, not private schools, even as our leaders pursue massive cuts to federal expenditures on public school safety (including funds used for post mass-shooting trauma counseling).

Meanwhile, advocates for the further hollowing out of the public sector seize on school massacres as an opportunity to argue for increased homeschooling.

The enrichment of the private sector is only one consequence of the neoliberal abdication of political responsibility for a political problem.

The other half of the picture is the burden that devolves from the government onto private individuals.

This burden demands labor and energy, but the costs are not just material.

They are emotional, too. Neoliberalism is not just a way of organizing political economy.

It imposes a regime of feelings and behaviors as well.

Neoliberalism doesn’t just pull the rug of basic social welfare out from under people’s feet—it makes them responsible for getting back on their feet, and blames them for landing on their ass in the first place.

And so in schools across the country, Americans make their children participate in Active Shooter drills.

These drills, which can involve children as young as kindergartners hiding in closets and toilet stalls, and can even include simulated shootings, are not just traumatic and of dubious value.

They are also an educational enterprise in their own right, a sort of pedagogical initiation into what is normal and to be expected.

Very literally, Americans teach their children to understand the intrusion of rampaging killers with assault rifles as a random force of nature analogous to a fire or an earthquake.

This seems designed to foster in children a consciousness that is at once hypervigilant and desperate, but also morbid and resigned—in other words, to mold them into perfectly docile citizen-consumers. And if children reject this position and try to take action, some educational authorities will attempt to discipline their resistance out of them, as in Texas, where one school district has threatened to penalize students who walk out in anti-gun violence actions, weaponizing the language of “choices” and “consequences” to literally quash “any type of protest or awareness.”

It’s not just children that the neoliberal system demands suffer the burden of responsibility for its failure to deal with school shootings.

Even as legislators crush teachers’ unions and ask educators to do ever-more labor—to act as test-prep coaches and job trainers, substitute parents and grief counselors—they also seriously contemplate giving them guns.

Many do this without ever really thinking too much about the emotional and cognitive onus that puts on them: not just to foster creativity and learning while safely controlling access to a firearm in overcrowded classrooms, but to be prepared, at any moment, to exercise lethal force against an assailant who may even be one of their own students.

Teachers, the people on the front lines of a broken system, are demanded, unremunerated or with the promise of meager “bonuses,” to reconcile its contradictions: to educate, but also to be constantly ready to kill. The on-the-face-of-it obscenity of this as a “solution” to anything falls out in favor of dithering over incentives and efficiency, to Trump promising that “Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent.”

Only two weeks after Parkland, both Democrat and Republican leadership decided to forgo any legislative debates over gun control and instead agreed to focus on a project with bipartisan appeal—deregulating banks.

Meanwhile, the massacres continue.

And so after each new bloodbath America’s leaders call on the general public to perform mass rituals of affective labor—moments of silence, sending thoughts and prayers, rituals that are excruciatingly draining, formulaic and tokenistic, and utterly useless.

When people reject these rituals as hollow, they are shamed, condemned for “politicizing” or “capitalizing” upon tragedy, a prospect anathema to the neoliberal status quo, which seeks to depoliticize everything. And, like Trump after Parkland, authorities blame victims and their communities for failing to prevent their own murder by not adequately performing as unpaid forensic profilers, social media surveillance professionals, and police informants. The blame is especially fierce when the shortcomings of the authorities and current laws have been exposed and humiliated, as in Parkland, where police responded to incidents involving the future shooter at his home no less than 39 times in seven years, and where multiple armed officers wasted precious minutes waiting outside the school as gunfire continued instead of going in. This apportionment of blame should not be surprising: Under neoliberalism, the system can never fail you, you can only fail it—and your suffering is the proof that you deserve it.

Perhaps the most twisted and tragic feature of the neoliberal script for how American society metabolizes mass shootings is a hollowing out of grief itself.

Americans have constructed an elaborate series of increasingly familiar rituals and performances for honoring the “sacrifice” of exemplary victims of senseless, entirely preventable butchery while doing precious little about it.

Yet this heartbroken, anguished praise of children and teachers who are martyred holding open doors or shielding other people from gunfire indexes how normal and inevitable the demand for these acts—the ultimate unpaid, supererogatory labor—has actually become in our system. If you pay attention, you’ll notice how the statements of school security professionals and the scripts for active shooter response trainings inevitably emphasize delaying or containing the shooter, slowing their progress, keeping them in one place. We expect unarmed people to rush killers carrying military-grade weapons, to improvise weapons and stage ambushes, to use their own bodies as barriers, to soak up bullets and force shooters to reload, to buy time and keep them localized until the authorities arrive. In the tight confines of a classroom or school hallway, facing high-powered rifles firing bullets designed to cause massive wounds, that can penetrate multiple bodies, and can turn flying fragments of shattered bone into devastating projectiles, the carnage this entails is beyond description—and yet we ask people to volunteer for it as part of our safety protocols. It is hard to imagine a more nutshell image of contemporary American neoliberalism than this: Demanding our citizens, training our children, to throw themselves like human sandbags against a problem that we decline to attempt to solve.

None of this has to be this way.

If the essence of neoliberalism lies in the denial of responsibility and the foreclosure of the political, the first step is to recognize this, to take responsibility, repoliticize the political, and demand radically better and more.

Corporations and the individual consumers cannot possibly fix our national problem of gun violence. But mobilized coalitions of politically conscious citizens can.

Nor can change come from our political elites, especially since, only two weeks after Parkland, both Democrat and Republican leadership decided to forgo any legislative debates over gun control and instead agreed to focus on a project with bipartisan appeal—deregulating banks.

In the wake of Parkland, the brave voices of student survivors have been a clarion call and beacon of hope. Once, our nation forced generations of school children to respond to the threat of thermonuclear war by hiding under desks in Duck and Cover drills. Those children grew up, leaving the existence of that threat—our world’s massive nuclear arsenals—unchanged, normalized away from regular consciousness.

It is frankly incredible and genuinely inspiring that today, a generation raised with Active Shooter drills has responded to trauma and horror not by disavowing or normalizing it, but by confronting it head-on. What these young people are demanding is properly political and legitimately radical: not just an opportunity not to be the next victims, but that there not be any next victims at all. Their testimony and demands should galvanize us into reflection, solidarity, and action.

America cannot and must not leave it to them to save us from neoliberalism, from gun violence, or from ourselves.

Press link for more: Splinter News

The “Adani Curse” #auspol #sapol #qldpol #BatmanVotes #StopAdani

THE “Adani curse” has hit Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a poll finding most of his constituents want a review of the Queensland coal mine.

By Malcolm Farr

Malcolm is national political editor of

His 40 years in journalism include the past 22 years in Canberra.

He has also worked for newspapers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Rome for The Australian, The Daily Mirror, the Brisbane Sun, The Daily Telegraph, and the International Daily News. Rides a motorbike without falling off…so far.

Adani has been a huge political problem for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and now Mr Turnbull could be asked to explain himself.

Mr Turnbull has consistently attacked Mr Shorten with the claim he is supporting the mine when in Queensland but opposing it when in the Melbourne seat of Batman which goes to a by-election on Saturday.

It now has been revealed that two-thirds of voters in Mr Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth and 60 per cent in Brisbane want a review of the environmental approval given the project, according to a survey released today by the Australia Institute.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said the Labor Party would back the Adani mine if it proved financially and environmentally viable. Picture: David Mariuz / AAPSource:AAP

The ReachTEL survey could indicate the Prime Minister will have a conflict with his own voters.

“Adani isn’t just a potent issue in Batman.

It’s an issue on the government and the Prime Minister’s plate, right now,” said Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director at The Australia Institute.

Ms Bennett said a majority of voters in the Liberal-held seats of Wentworth and Brisbane Aldo opposed using taxpayer’s money subsidising coal projects like Adani.

“Most agree that Australia must halt the expansion of coal mining and fast-track building renewables and storage to reduce the worsening impacts of climate change,” she said.

Last week the Prime Minister gave the project by the Indian company his personal backing.

“All of that permitting has been done. They are entitled to develop it in accordance with those permits,’’ he said.

“As to whether it is commercially or financially viable, that is a matter for the company. They have got to decide.”

But he accused Mr Shorten of being two-faced on the issue.

Alice Henderson, with her daughter Josie, opposes the Adani mine proposal and will itake the issue to the ballot box when she votes in Batman’s by-election on Saturday. Picture: Ian CurrieSource:Supplied

“So when Bill Shorten is in Queensland and says: ‘Oh, I am in favour of the mines’, and then goes down to Melbourne and says: ‘I am against it’, you can see what a risk that is to jobs, to investment to the economic future and security of Australia, because it is completely two-faced,” Mr Turnbull said.

Labor has argued it would back the mine if it proved financially and environmentally viable.

However, it has been wary of angering Queensland voters who see the project as a source of many jobs, and doesn’t want to clash with Batman voters deciding whether to vote Labor or Greens.

Last week Mr Shorten said he now opposed the mine and yesterday was backed by Opposition finance spokesman Jim Chalmers.

“It hasn’t passed all the environmental tests yet, that is just a statement of fact and you can try all you like to pretend this is something other than a factual realisation that it hasn’t yet passed all the environmental tests and it hasn’t passed all of the commercial tests,” Mr Chalmers told Sky News.

Protesters opposing the Adani mine held a rally on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra on February 5. Picture: Kym Smith Is the Adani coal mine dead?Source:News Corp Australia

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Lessons We Can Learn From Cape Town’s Water Crisis. #auspol #sapol #StopAdani

Lessons We Can Learn From Cape Town’s Water Crisis

By David Suzuki

Canada has more freshwater per capita than most countries, but not as much as we might think, and that’s a problem.

Many of us in Canada take water for granted, despite drinking water problems in First Nations communities. World Water Day, on March 22, reminds us that as the human population continues to grow, putting greater demand on all resources, and as climate change exacerbates drought in many places, we can’t be complacent.

Our cities may not be running out of water yet, but people in Cape Town didn’t expect their water supply to go dry.

The four-million residents of South Africa’s second-largest city could see their taps turned off by May 11, called “Day Zero” — or sooner, if people don’t obey severe water restrictions.

“People didn’t believe anything like this could happen, but I think the reality has dawned on everyone and it is pretty tense,” University of Cape Town hydrologist Piotr Wolski told Smithsonian magazine.

piyaset via Getty Images

Cape Town is entering its fourth year of drought — the worst in 100 years, with an average of 234 millimetres of rainfall a year for the past three years, less than half the average since 1977.

Wolski says climate change is a big part of the problem, but so is city mismanagement.

Cape Town isn’t the only city with these problems.

Others, including São Paulo, Beijing, Cairo, Jakarta, Indonesia, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo and Miami, all face water shortages related to climate change, population growth, waste and mismanagement.

Depleted supply is only one result.

As more water is drawn from underground aquifers, land is sinking, disrupting road and transit infrastructure and building foundations.

As water for agriculture becomes increasingly scarce, food prices rise, which can lead to conflict and human migration.

Canada has more freshwater per capita than most countries, but not as much as we might think. Although water covers 70 per cent of Earth’s surface, only 3 per cent is fresh. Canada has about 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater, but only 7 per cent of renewable freshwater. (A lot is stored in glaciers, lakes and aquifers that aren’t being replenished, or at least not fast enough to replace usage.) As our agricultural and industrial activity expand and population grows, water demands grow and more sources become polluted.

Cape Town introduced a number of measures to combat its crisis.

People are restricted to 50 litres of freshwater a day, going down to 25 after Day Zero — although average consumption is still about 95 litres a day.

Europeans average 100 litres a day, and Canadians each used about 250 litres a day in 2013, down from 330 in 2005, not including industrial, commercial and other uses. Consumption has been declining as more people install low-flow shower heads, faucets and toilets.

Cape Town’s government is also trying to diversify its water supply by drilling for groundwater and building desalinization and water recycling plants, and has imposed higher fees on those who use more than a certain limit.

With freshwater shortages looming, it’s wasteful to use drinking water to flush toilets and water lawns. Although recycling or re-using toilet water, or “black water” — about one-third of water use in the average household — is difficult, although not impossible, because of bacterial contamination, grey water from baths, showers, sinks, dishwashers and laundry machines can be treated and used to flush toilets, water plants and gardens, even wash clothes. That can save as much as 70 litres of water a day per person.

It also bewilders me that in Canada, where most people can get clean drinking water from the tap, so many pay more for bottled water than gasoline, which creates more plastic and raises issues around corporations profiting from water supplies.

One lesson from places like Cape Town is that we should start tackling the issue now rather than waiting until it becomes a crisis. We must get better at conserving water, preventing water pollution and protecting natural ecosystems like forests and wetlands that filter and store water while also preventing flooding. Beyond the obvious ways to conserve household water, we should also rethink our obsession with lawns that need constant watering, and discourage luxuries like private swimming pools.

Some say our next major wars could be about water rather than resources like oil. If we in Canada and elsewhere plan properly, that needn’t be the case.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

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Press link for more: Huffington Post

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