Monday, December 31, 2012

North Korean leader, in rare address, seeks end to confrontation with South

SEOUL | Mon Dec 31, 2012 (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for an end to confrontation between the two Koreas, technically still at war in the absence of a peace treaty to end their 1950-53 conflict, in a surprise New Year speech broadcast on state media.

The address by Kim, who took over power in the reclusive state after his father, Kim Jong-il, died in 2011, appeared to take the place of the policy-setting New Year editorial published in leading state newspapers.

Impoverished North Korea raised tensions in the region by launching a long-range rocket in December that it said was aimed at putting a scientific satellite in orbit, drawing international condemnation.

North Korea, which considers North and South as one country, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is banned from testing missile or nuclear technology under U.N. sanctions imposed after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear weapons tests.

"An important issue in putting an end to the division of the country and achieving its reunification is to remove confrontation between the north and the south," Kim said in the address that appeared to be pre-recorded and was made at an undisclosed location.

"The past records of inter-Korean relations show that confrontation between fellow countrymen leads to nothing but war."

The New Year address was the first in 19 years by a North Korean leader after the death of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un's grandfather. Kim Jong-il rarely spoke in public and disclosed his national policy agenda in editorials in state newspapers. More


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rhamis Kent Permaculturist, on Islam & Earth Repair

In our first podcast, Krystina sits down with Rhamis Kent, a Permaculture consultant who travels all over the Middle East and North Africa advising governments and organizations on how they can engage in ecosystem restoration in order to increase biodiversity and sustain plant, animal, and human life.

In this interview, they discuss his recent article entitled “Restoring the Amanah Through Earth Repair: Islam, Permaculture, and Ecosystem Restoration Work.” Download the podcast here.

Krystina Friedlander: I want to start by asking you about Ibn Khaldun, a Tunisian historiographer who lived in the 14th century. You wrote that he warned people about the “pleasures of civilization.” What might he say about what we’re seeing now in terms of environmental degradation and industrialization?

Rhamis Kent: Well, I think it’s a proof to what he’s pointing to in his work. The Muqaddimah is a book where he’s examining the causes for the rise and fall of civilizations. As far as what he means by the “pleasures of civilization,” I think the easier things become, the more convenient our day-to-day living becomes, the more distanced we are from really understanding what it is that we need in order to sustain our lives, the more distance we have between ourselves and the natural world. There’s this artificial separation, a misunderstanding of exactly where we are oriented within that order. It creates a type of lethargy where you become very disoriented, and you don’t realize the impact your actions are having on the things you actually need in order to survive. Ibn Khaldun, he called it very accurately, and we’re seeing the advanced stages of some of the types of decline that he’d spoken of in his work. More


Sunday, December 23, 2012

West Antarctic Ice Sheet warming twice earlier estimate

A new analysis of temperature records indicates that the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming nearly twice as fast as previously thought.

US researchers say they found the first evidence of warming during the southern hemisphere’s summer months.

They are worried that the increased melting of ice as a result of warmer temperatures could contribute to sea-level rise.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The scientists compiled data from records kept at Byrd station, established by the US in the mid-1950s and located towards the centre of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS).

Previously scientists were unable to draw any conclusions from the Byrd data as the records were incomplete.

The new work used a computer model of the atmosphere and a numerical analysis method to fill in the missing observations.

The results indicate an increase of 2.4C in average annual temperature between 1958 and 2010.

“What we’re seeing is one of the strongest warming signals on Earth,” says Andrew Monaghan, a co-author and scientist at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to determine that there’s warming going on during the summer season.” he added.

Top to bottom

It might be natural to expect that summers even in Antarctica would be warmer than other times of the year. But the region is so cold, it is extremely rare for temperatures to get above freezing.

According to co-author Prof David Bromwich from Ohio State University, this is a critical threshold.

“The fact that temperatures are rising in the summer means there’s a prospect of WAIS not only being melted from the bottom as we know it is today, but in future it looks probable that it will be melting from the top as well,” he said.

Previous research published in Nature indicated that the WAIS is being warmed by the ocean, but this new work suggests that the atmosphere is playing a role as well. More



Monday, December 17, 2012

Resources: Three New IISD knowledge-bases For Sustainable Development

Announcement from Monday, 17 December 2012

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is pleased to announce the launch of three new knowledgebases for sustainable development policy makers:

Land Policy & Practice

Forests Policy & Practice

Chemicals and Wastes Policy & Practice

These knowledgebases are part of our suite of knowledge management projects tracking international activities addressing sustainable development issues. Each knowledgebase is managed by the International Institute for Sustainable Development(IISD) Reporting Services. Funding for Land Policy & Practice, Forests Policy & Practice and Chemicals and Wastes Policy & Practice has been provided by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Knowledgebase content is researched and written by our team of thematic experts.

Features of each knowledgebase include:

  • Summaries of activities (publications, meetings, statements and projects) by a range of actors, and an option to search the summaries by several categories (region, actor, action or issue);
  • An archive of all posts to the site, organized by date;
  • A clickable world map, enabling users to view the latest news by region (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean, Near East, Northern America, and South West Pacific);
  • A link to subscribe to LAND-L, FORESTS-L or CHEMICALS-L, to join our moderated community announcement lists for policy-makers and practitioners, as appropriate;
  • A link to the most recent Update, a periodic newsletter of recent posts to the knowledgebase, distributed via email through the respective listserv;
  • A Calendar of upcoming international events related to land, forests or chemicals and wastes policy;
  • A link to our iCalendar, which automatically updates your own calendar program with upcoming related events; and
  • A link to our RSS feed.

IISD manages and is fully responsible for the content posted on Land Policy & Practice, Forests Policy & Practice, and Chemicals and Wastes Policy & Practice. Information on United Nations activities is provided in cooperation with the UN system agencies, funds and programmes through the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB).

Land Policy & Practice, Forests Policy & Practice, and Chemicals and Wastes Policy & Practice join IISD’s other knowledge management tools:

In early 2008, during preparations for the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, IISD Reporting Services launched its first knowledge management site, Climate Change Policy & Practice. This knowledgebase supported efforts by the sustainable development community to track the various activities undertaken by international actors addressing climate change. Our work on our flagship publication, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, positioned us to make this transition into monitoring the implementation of international multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). Our teams, which attend the MEA negotiations, track the decisions that the international community has taken and understand the wide variety of actors involved in each arena. As 2012 comes to a close, we are pleased to bring you the latest additions to our knowledge management work, and to expand our efforts to track implementation of the agreements that we have reported on for the past 20 years.

For further information on our knowledge management activities, please contact Lynn Wagner, Senior Manager, Knowledge Management Projects ( To provide us with information about your land or forests related activities, please contact Lauren Anderson, Content Editor ( To provide us with information about your chemicals and wastes activities, please contact Faye Leone, Content Editor (

IISD Reporting Services' Knowledge Management Products
Policy & Policy
Sustainable Energy
Policy & Policy
Climate Change
Policy & Policy
Policy & Policy
Policy & Policy
Small Island
Developing States
Policy & Policy
Regional Coverage
Latin America
& Caribbean
Regional Coverage

Monday, December 3, 2012

Break the grip of corporate power to secure our future

Neoliberal dogma forbids the intervention required to stop climate change. To save the planet we must articulate a new politics

Humankind's greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address. By the late 1980s, when it became clear that man-made climate change endangered the living planet and its people, the world was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine whose tenets forbid the kind of intervention required to arrest it.

Neoliberalism, also known as market fundamentalism or laissez-faire economics, purports to liberate the market from political interference. The state, it asserts, should do little but defend the realm, protect private property and remove barriers to business. In practice it looks nothing like this. What neoliberal theorists call shrinking the state looks more like shrinking democracy: reducing the means by which citizens can restrain the power of the elite. What they call "the market" looks more like the interests of corporations and the ultra-rich. Neoliberalism appears to be little more than a justification for plutocracy.

The doctrine was first applied in Chile in 1973, as former students of the University of Chicago, schooled in Milton Friedman's extreme prescriptions and funded by the CIA, worked alongside General Pinochet to impose a programme that would have been impossible in a democratic state. The result was an economic catastrophe, but one in which the rich – who took over Chile's privatised industries and unprotected natural resources – prospered exceedingly.

The creed was taken up by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. It was forced upon the poor world by the IMF and the World Bank. By the time James Hansen presented the first detailed attempt to model future temperature rises to the US Senate in 1988, the doctrine was being implanted everywhere.

As we saw in 2007 and 2008 (when neoliberal governments were forced to abandon their principles to bail out the banks), there could scarcely be a worse set of circumstances for addressing a crisis of any kind. Until it has no choice, the self-hating state will not intervene, however acute the crisis or grave the consequences. Neoliberalism protects the interests of the elite against all-comers.

Preventing climate breakdown – the four, five or six degrees of warming now predicted for this century by green extremists like, er, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and PriceWaterhouseCoopers – means confronting the oil, gas and coal industries. It means forcing those industries to abandon the four-fifths or more of fossil fuel reserves that we cannot afford to burn. It means cancelling the prospecting and development of new reserves – what's the point if we can't use current stocks? – and reversing the expansion of any infrastructure (such as airports) that cannot be run without them.

But the self-hating state cannot act. Captured by interests that democracy is supposed to restrain, it can only sit on the road, ears pricked and whiskers twitching, as the truck thunders towards it. Confrontation is forbidden, action is a mortal sin. You may, perhaps, disperse some money for new energy; you may not legislate against the old.

So Barack Obama pursues what he calls an "all of the above" policy: promoting wind, solar, oil and gas. Ed Davey, the British climate change secretary, launched an energy bill in the House of Commons last week whose purpose was to decarbonise the energy supply. In the same debate he also promised that he would "maximise the potential" of oil and gas production in the North Sea and other offshore fields.

Lord Stern described climate change as "the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen". The useless Earth summit in June; the feeble measures now being debated in Doha; the energy bill and electricity-demand-reduction paper launched in Britain last week (better than they might have been, but unmatched to the scale of the problem) – all expose the greatest and widest-ranging failure of market fundamentalism: its incapacity to address our existential crisis.

The 1,000-year legacy of current carbon emissions is long enough to smash anything resembling human civilisation into splinters. Complex societies have sometimes survived the rise and fall of empires, plagues, wars and famines. They won't survive six degrees of climate change, sustained for a millennium. In return for 150 years of explosive consumption, much of which does nothing to advance human welfare, we are atomising the natural world and the human systems that depend on it.

The climate summit (or foothill) in Doha and the sound and fury of the British government's new measures probe the current limits of political action. Go further and you break your covenant with power, a covenant both disguised and validated by the neoliberal creed. More