Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The REAL truth about Palestine in response to Danny Ayalon

The REAL truth about Palestine in response to Danny Ayalon


Intersstingly enough 22,000 pictures on Palestine have just surfaced in the US Library of Congress. This collection depict the country that the Zionists say did not exist! See


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Our Invisible Revolution

“Did you ever ask yourself how it happens that government and capitalism continue to exist in spite of all the evil and trouble they are causing in the world?” the anarchist Alexander Berkman wrote in his essay “The Idea Is the Thing.” “If you did, then your answer must have been that it is because the people support those institutions, and that they support them because they believe in them.”

Berkman was right. As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are no longer hidden.

It appears that political ferment is dormant in the United States. This is incorrect. The ideas that sustain the corporate state are swiftly losing their efficacy across the political spectrum. The ideas that are rising to take their place, however, are inchoate. The right has retreated into Christian fascism and a celebration of the gun culture. The left, knocked off balance by decades of fierce state repression in the name of anti-communism, is struggling to rebuild and define itself. Popular revulsion for the ruling elite, however, is nearly universal. It is a question of which ideas will capture the public’s imagination.

Revolution usually erupts over events that would, in normal circumstances, be considered meaningless or minor acts of injustice by the state. But once the tinder of revolt has piled up, as it has in the United States, an insignificant spark easily ignites popular rebellion. No person or movement can ignite this tinder. No one knows where or when the eruption will take place. No one knows the form it will take. But it is certain now that a popular revolt is coming. The refusal by the corporate state to address even the minimal grievances of the citizenry, along with the abject failure to remedy the mounting state repression, the chronic unemployment and underemployment, the massive debt peonage that is crippling more than half of Americans, and the loss of hope and widespread despair, means that blowback is inevitable.

“Because revolution is evolution at its boiling point you cannot ‘make’ a real revolution any more than you can hasten the boiling of a tea kettle,” Berkman wrote. “It is the fire underneath that makes it boil: how quickly it will come to the boiling point will depend on how strong the fire is.”

Revolutions, when they erupt, appear to the elites and the establishment to be sudden and unexpected. This is because the real work of revolutionary ferment and consciousness is unseen by the mainstream society, noticed only after it has largely been completed. Throughout history, those who have sought radical change have always had to first discredit the ideas used to prop up ruling elites and construct alternative ideas for society, ideas often embodied in a utopian revolutionary myth. The articulation of a viable socialism as an alternative to corporate tyranny—as attempted by the book “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA” and the website Popular Resistance—is, for me, paramount. Once ideas shift for a large portion of a population, once the vision of a new society grips the popular imagination, the old regime is finished.

An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites. Social upheaval without clear definition and direction, without ideas behind it, descends into nihilism, random violence and chaos. It consumes itself. This, at its core, is why I disagree with some elements of the Black Bloc anarchists. I believe in strategy. And so did many anarchists, including Berkman, Emma Goldman, Pyotr Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin.

By the time ruling elites are openly defied, there has already been a nearly total loss of faith in the ideas—in our case free market capitalism and globalization—that sustain the structures of the ruling elites. And once enough people get it, a process that can take years, “the slow, quiet, and peaceful social evolution becomes quick, militant, and violent,” as Berkman wrote. “Evolution becomes revolution.”

This is where we are headed. I do not say this because I am a supporter of revolution. I am not. I prefer the piecemeal and incremental reforms of a functioning democracy. I prefer a system in which our social institutions permit the citizenry to nonviolently dismiss those in authority. I prefer a system in which institutions are independent and not captive to corporate power. But we do not live in such a system. Revolt is the only option left. Ruling elites, once the ideas that justify their existence are dead, resort to force. It is their final clutch at power. If a nonviolent popular movement is able to ideologically disarm the bureaucrats, civil servants and police—to get them, in essence, to defect—nonviolent revolution is possible. But if the state can organize effective and prolonged violence against dissent, it spawns reactive revolutionary violence, or what the state calls terrorism. Violent revolutions usually give rise to revolutionaries as ruthless as their adversaries. “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster,” Friedrich Nietzsche wrote. “And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Violent revolutions are always tragic. I, and many other activists, seek to keep our uprising nonviolent. We seek to spare the country the savagery of domestic violence by both the state and its opponents. There is no guarantee that we will succeed, especially with the corporate state controlling a vast internal security apparatus and militarized police forces. But we must try.

Corporations, freed from all laws, government regulations and internal constraints, are stealing as much as they can, as fast as they can, on the way down. The managers of corporations no longer care about the effects of their pillage. Many expect the systems they are looting to fall apart. They are blinded by personal greed and hubris. They believe their obscene wealth can buy them security and protection. They should have spent a little less time studying management in business school and a little more time studying human nature and human history. They are digging their own graves. More


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Angola: Head of State appoints Ecocide Convention Work Team

The Angolan head of State José Eduardo dos Santos Wednesday in Luanda ordered the setting up of a Work Team to study and draft proposals for incorporation in the country’s legal system of the Ecocide Convention, Angop learned from an official source.

Angolan head of State José Eduardo dos Santos

Ecocide is defined as the destruction or degradation of various ecosystems in a certain territory, through human action or others, putting at stake the full development of the resources by the population.

The United Nations has decided to discuss, approve and promote among the member states an International Convention against the Ecocide, aiming to protect the earth and its living species against the evil and hold legally accountable the institutions, organisms, organisations and their leaders found responsible for the phenomenon.

Internally, the Executive is required to set up national mechanisms of combat against the ecocide, promotion of the enforcement of the law and regulation of the cooperation with the international organisms and organisations involved in the protection of the environment, its technical assistance and exchange of information.

The just appointed Work Team is coordinated by the minister of Environment and includes representatives of the ministries of Energy and Water, Interior, Oil and National Defence.

According to the source, The Work Team is expected to conduct a deep study on the Ecocide Convention draft, by analysing the impact the phenomenon might have on the country’s legal system.

It is also the Work Team’s duty to create a legal framework for the country’s economic development, promote and facilitate international cooperation and provide technical assistance to prevent the ecocide, the source said.

The body is also tasked with arranging and promoting inter-sectoral programmes of information, publicity and social awareness, through environmental education campaigns and identifying and protecting the communities based in threatened areas. More


Angola: Head of State appoints Ecocide Convention Work Team

The Angolan head of State José Eduardo dos Santos Wednesday in Luanda ordered the setting up of a Work Team to study and draft proposals for incorporation in the country’s legal system of the Ecocide Convention, Angop learned from an official source.

Angolan head of State José Eduardo dos Santos

Ecocide is defined as the destruction or degradation of various ecosystems in a certain territory, through human action or others, putting at stake the full development of the resources by the population.

The United Nations has decided to discuss, approve and promote among the member states an International Convention against the Ecocide, aiming to protect the earth and its living species against the evil and hold legally accountable the institutions, organisms, organisations and their leaders found responsible for the phenomenon.

Internally, the Executive is required to set up national mechanisms of combat against the ecocide, promotion of the enforcement of the law and regulation of the cooperation with the international organisms and organisations involved in the protection of the environment, its technical assistance and exchange of information.

The just appointed Work Team is coordinated by the minister of Environment and includes representatives of the ministries of Energy and Water, Interior, Oil and National Defence.

According to the source, The Work Team is expected to conduct a deep study on the Ecocide Convention draft, by analysing the impact the phenomenon might have on the country’s legal system.

It is also the Work Team’s duty to create a legal framework for the country’s economic development, promote and facilitate international cooperation and provide technical assistance to prevent the ecocide, the source said.

The body is also tasked with arranging and promoting inter-sectoral programmes of information, publicity and social awareness, through environmental education campaigns and identifying and protecting the communities based in threatened areas. More


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How solar and EVs will kill the last of the industry dinosaurs

Several years ago, Tony Seba, an energy expert from Stanford University, published a book called Solar Trillions, predicting how solar technologies would redefine the world’s energy markets and create an investment opportunity worth tens of trillions of dollars.

Most people looked at him, he says, as if he had three heads. That was possibly because the book was written before the recent plunge in the cost of solar modules had taken effect, and before most incumbent utilities had woken up to the fact that solar – even with minor penetration levels – was turning their business models upside down.

Seba is now working on a new book, with even more dramatic forecasts than his first. His new prediction is that by 2030, solar will make the fossil fuel industry more or less redundant. Even more striking is his forecast that electric vehicles will do the same thing to the oil industry by around the same date.

The predictions are made on the basis that the cost of solar and EV batteries will continue to fall, while the cost to consumers of sourcing energy from fossil fuels through the grid or liquid fuels will continue to rise. Before the decade is out, Seba says, both technologies will pass a tipping point that will eventually sweep the incumbents aside, just as technology and cost developments have done in the computer, internet, media, photographic and telecommunications industries.

“I am incredibly optimistic that by 2030, nuclear, coal, gas, big hydro, and oil will be all but obsolete,” Seba toldRenewEconomy in an interview in San Francisco last month. “The world will be mostly powered by solar and wind, and most new vehicles will be electric. The architecture of energy markets is going from centralized to distributed – in liquids and the electric market.”

The working title for the book is “Disrupting energy – how Silicon Valley is making coal, nuclear, oil and gas obsolete.” It is pinned on the theme that decentralised generation and storage will replace the centralised, hub and spoke model that has prevailed for the last century. The impact of decentralised generation is already being felt. The striking part of Seba’s prediction is the speed with which it will happen.

First, on the technology cost issue. For EVs, Seba says the success of Tesla – in sales and in reputation – has changed the conversation around EVs, particularly after it won the 2013 Car of the Year award.

“Basically, EVs were supposed to be expensive and underpowered and weak and 50 years away. Tesla showed all that was wrong. The EV will do to oil what solar will do to coal, nuclear and gas. EVs are a disruptive technology, there is no doubt about that.

“The propaganda says that it is too expensive and has little range. But if you look at the cost curve of batteries, even Detroit is saying that by 2020 lithium-ion batteries will be at $US200/kWh.

“The tipping point for the mass market to move from internal combustion engines to EVs is between $US250 and $US300/kWh. Once it gets to $US100/kWh, it is all over. I think we will get to $US250/kWh by 2020. By 2030, when batteries are at $100/kWh, gasoline vehicles will be obsolete. Not on their way out, obsolete.” Seba thinks that mass migration will start around 2018 to 2020.

On solar it is a similar story. “When I wrote my first book, a lot of people looked at me like I had three heads,” Seba says. “They thought I was way too optimistic because the conversation then was about grid parity for solar in 2060, or 2070.

“And what you hear is the same thing we heard 20 years ago, that this is not going to happen, that it is difficult, that power needs specialised scale, that it can only be done like this. When in fact, over the last few years, a country like Germany has pioneered the move from a few dozen central power plants to more than a million producers.

“Australia has done the same thing. Bangladesh has a million solar installations. So the poorest people in one of the poorest countries are adopting solar unsubsidised. Solar is already cheaper than grid – what people are paying for electricity – in dozens of countries already. And that is despite huge fossil fuel subsidies.

“The sun is more democratic than any other source of energy. Coal is in pockets, gas is in pockets, oil is in pockets. The sun shines a little bit more in some places than others, but everyone gets sunshine. And the thing about solar, is that it can be built on a distributed basis.”

Can solar really be built on a scale that would meet the bulk of the world’s electricity needs? Seba points to the computer industry, where he worked in the 1990s, and to the internet and telecommunications. All three were dominated by huge, centralised technologies. All three industries have been turned upside down by new “distributed”, or hand-held devices. He says the same thing will happen in electricity.

“This is not in the future. We are going from big centralised power plants to decentralised generation, to decentralised storage, and to decentralised distribution.

“It is just a matter of policy makers understanding this and making regulations appropriately. In India, about $30-40 billion goes to subsidise diesel. The grid there is already obsolete. It went down and 500 million people didn’t notice, because they are not on the grid.

“If they stop subsidising diesel and put it into solar, they could bring 100 million people a year into solar. If all you do is stop subsidising diesel, you can, in five years, bring solar electricity to 500 million people who are not on the grid today.

The biggest threat from all this radical change is to the traditional utility model, Seba says. “Utilities as we know them are over. They are the land line telephone companies of 20, 30 years ago. We will start using them as back-up, as world goes distributed and every house has solar, and factories do the same, and they are stuck with these stranded investments.

“What they will try to do is to keep jacking up prices – which makes solar even more affordable. It will be this death spiral. You will see bankruptcies. Finally, it will not make sense.

He says markets will be redesigned, and there will be huge opportunities for new companies – he dubs them the Ebays of the electricity world – that can aggregate and trade distributed production, and that can manage the process. More


Monday, August 19, 2013

Where are the environmental movement’s leaders?

The history we grow up with shapes our sense of reality — it’s hard to shake. If you were young during the fight against Nazism, war seems a different, more virtuous animal than if you came of age during Vietnam.

I was born in 1960, and so the first great political character of my life was Martin Luther King, Jr. I had a shadowy, child’s sense of him when he was still alive, and then a mythic one as his legend grew; after all, he had a national holiday. As a result, I think, I imagined that he set the template for how great movements worked. They had a leader, capital L.

As time went on, I learned enough about the civil rights movement to know it was much more than Dr. King. There were other great figures, from Ella Baker and Medgar Evers to Bob Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Malcolm X, and there were tens of thousands more whom history doesn’t remember but who deserve great credit. And yet one’s early sense is hard to dislodge: the civil rights movement had his face on it; Gandhi carried the fight against empire; Susan B. Anthony, the battle for suffrage.

Which is why it’s a little disconcerting to look around and realize that most of the movements of the moment — even highly successful ones like the fight for gay marriage or immigrant’s rights — don’t really have easily discernible leaders. I know that there are highly capable people who have worked overtime for decades to make these movements succeed, and that they are well known to those within the struggle, but there aren’t particular people that the public at large identifies as the face of the fight. The world has changed in this way, and for the better.

It’s true, too, in the battle where I’ve spent most of my life: the fight to slow climate change and hence give the planet some margin for survival. We actually had a charismatic leader in Al Gore, but he was almost the exception that proved the rule. For one thing, a politician makes a problematic leader for a grassroots movement because boldness is hard when you still envision higher office; for another, even as he won the Nobel Prize for his remarkable work in spreading climate science, the other side used every trick and every dollar at their disposal to bring him down. He remains a vital figure in the rest of the world (partly because there he is perceived less as a politician than as a prophet), but at home his power to shape the fight has been diminished.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the movement is diminished. In fact, it’s never been stronger. In the last few years, it has blocked the construction of dozens of coal-fired power plants, fought the oil industry to a draw on the Keystone pipeline, convinced a wide swath of American institutions to divest themselves of their fossil fuel stocks, and challenged practices like mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking for natural gas. It may not be winning the way gay marriage has won, but the movement itself continues to grow quickly, and it’s starting to claim some victories.

That’s not despite its lack of clearly identifiable leaders, I think. It’s because of it.

A Movement for a New Planet

We live in a different world from that of the civil rights movement. Save perhaps for the spectacle of presidential elections, there’s no way for individual human beings to draw the same kind of focused and sustained attention they did back then. At the moment, you could make the three evening newscasts and the cover of Time (not Newsweek, alas) and still not connect with most people. Our focus is fragmented and segmented, which may be a boon or a problem, but mostly it’s just a fact. Our attention is dispersed.

When we started five years ago, we dimly recognized this new planetary architecture. Instead of trying to draw everyone to a central place — the Mall in Washington, D.C. — for a protest, we staged 24 hours of rallies around the planet: 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries, what CNN called “the most widespread of day of political action in the planet’s history.” And we’ve gone on to do more of the same — about 20,000 demonstrations in every country but North Korea.

Part of me, though, continued to imagine that a real movement looked like the ones I’d grown up watching — or maybe some part of me wanted the glory of being a leader. In any event, I’ve spent the last few years in constant motion around the country and the Earth. I’d come to think of myself as a “leader,” and indeed my forthcoming book, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, reflects on that growing sense of identity.

What I do sense, however, is that it’s our job to rally a movement in the coming years big enough to stand up to all that money, to profits of a sort never before seen on this planet. Such a movement will need to stretch from California to Ecuador — to, in fact, every place with a thermometer; it will need to engage not just Chevron but every other fossil fuel company; it will need to prevent pipelines from being built and encourage windmills to be built in their place; it needs to remake the world in record time.

However, in recent months — and it’s the curse of an author that sometimes you change your mind after your book is in type — I’ve come to like the idea of capital L leaders less and less. It seems to me to miss the particular promise of this moment: that we could conceive of, and pursue, movements in new ways.

For environmentalists, we have a useful analogy close at hand. We’re struggling to replace a brittle, top-heavy energy system, where a few huge power plants provide our electricity, with a dispersed and lightweight grid, where 10 million solar arrays on 10 million rooftops are linked together. The engineers call this “distributed generation,” and it comes with a myriad of benefits. It’s not as prone to catastrophic failure, for one. And it can make use of dispersed energy, instead of relying on a few pools of concentrated fuel. The same principle, it seems to me, applies to movements.

In the last few weeks, for instance, helped support a nationwide series of rallies called Summerheat. We didn’t organize them ourselves. We knew great environmental justice groups all over the country, and we knew we could highlight their work, while making links between, say, standing up to a toxic Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, and standing up to the challenge of climate change.

From the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, where a tar-sands pipeline is proposed, to the Columbia River at Vancouver, Washington, where a big oil port is planned, from Utah’s Colorado Plateau, where the first U.S. tar-sands mine has been proposed, to the coal-fired power plant at Brayton Point on the Massachusetts coast and the fracking wells of rural Ohio — Summerheat demonstrated the local depth and global reach of this emerging fossil fuel resistance. I’ve had the pleasure of going to talk at all these places and more besides, but I wasn’t crucial to any of them. I was, at best, a pollinator, not a queen bee.

Or consider a slightly older fight. In 2012, the Boston Globe magazine put a picture of me on its cover under the headline: “The Man Who Crushed the Keystone Pipeline.” I’ve got an all-too-healthy ego, but even I knew that it was over the top. I’d played a role in the fight, writing the letter that asked people to come to Washington to resist the pipeline, but it was effective because I’d gotten a dozen friends to sign it with me. And I’d been one of 1,253 people who went to jail in what was the largest civil disobedience action in this country in years. It was their combined witness that got the ball rolling. And once it was rolling, the Keystone campaign became the exact model for the sort of loosely-linked well-distributed power system I’ve been describing.

The big environmental groups played key roles, supplying lots of data and information, while keeping track of straying members of Congress. Among them were the National Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, and the National Wildlife Federation, none spending time looking for credit, all pitching in. The Sierra Club played a crucial role in pulling together the biggest climate rally yet, last February’s convergence on the Mall in Washington.

Organizations and individuals on the ground were no less crucial: the indigenous groups in Alberta and elsewhere that started the fight against the pipeline which was to bring Canadian tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast graciously welcomed the rest of us, without complaining about how late we were. Then there were the ranchers and farmers of Nebraska, who roused a whole stadium of football fans at a Cornhuskers game to boo a pipeline commercial; the scientists who wrote letters, the religious leaders who conducted prayer vigils. And don’t forget the bloggers who helped make sense of it all for us. One upstart website even won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the struggle.

Non-experts quickly educated themselves on the subject, becoming specialists in the corruption of the State Department process that was to okay the building of that pipeline or in the chemical composition of the bitumen that would flow through it. CREDO (half an activist organization, half a cell phone company), as well as Rainforest Action Network and The Other 98%, signed up 75,000 people pledged to civil disobedience if the pipeline were to get presidential approval.

And then there was the Hip Hop Caucus, whose head Lennox Yearwood has roused one big crowd after another, and the labor unions — nurses and transit workers, for instance — who have had the courage to stand up to the pipeline workers’ union which would benefit from the small number of jobs to be created if Keystone were built. Then there are groups of Kids Against KXL, and even a recent grandparents’ march from Camp David to the White House. Some of the most effective resistance has come from groups like Rising Tide and the Tarsands Blockade in Texas, which have organized epic tree-sitting protests to slow construction of the southern portion of the pipeline. More


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

U.S. Arctic Ambitions and the Militarization of the High North

With back-to-back chairmanships, it gives both countries an opportunity to increase cooperation on initiatives that could enhance the development of a shared North American vision for the Arctic.

The U.S. has significant geopolitical and economic interests in the high north and have released a new national strategy which seeks to advance their Arctic ambitions. While the region has thus far been peaceful, stable and free of conflict, there is a danger of the militarization of the Arctic. It has the potential to become a front whereby the U.S. and other NATO members are pitted against Russia or even China. In an effort to prevent any misunderstandings, there are calls for the Arctic Council to move beyond environmental issues and become a forum to address defense and security matters.

In May, Canada assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council where they will push for responsible resource development, safe shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities. The Arctic Council is the leading multilateral forum in the region and also includes the U.S., Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. During the recent meetings, members signed an Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic which seeks to improve coordination and planning to better cope with any such accidents. In addition, China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, along with Italy were granted permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. With the move, China has gained more influence in the region. The potential for new trade routes that could open up would significantly reduce the time needed to transport goods between Europe and Asia. The Arctic is an important part of China’s global vision, as a place for economic activity and a possible future mission for its navy. In order to better reflect the realities of politics in the high north, there are calls to expand the Arctic Council’s mandate to also include security and military issues.

Writing for the National Post, Rob Huebert of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute explained that, “One issue that has not received much attention is the need to discuss the growing militarization of the Arctic. While the Arctic Council is formally forbidden from discussing military security in the Arctic, the time has arrived to rethink this policy.” He went on to say, “The militaries of most Arctic states are taking on new and expanded roles in the region that go beyond their traditional responsibilities, which may create friction in the region.” Huebert also stressed that, “These new developments need to be discussed to ensure that all Arctic Council member states understand why they are occurring, and increase the confidence of members that these new developments are not about a conflict in the Arctic, but about the defence of core strategic interests.” He further added, “It is easy to see how both the Americans and Russians will become increasingly concerned about the security steps that the other is taking. But now is the time for all to openly discuss these developments so that old suspicions and distrusts do not resurface.”

As part of efforts to strengthen Arctic security cooperation, in June, the Northern Chiefs of Defence Meeting was held in Greenland. It brought together representatives from the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Gen. Charles Jacoby, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) also attended the event. The second annual gathering was used as an, “opportunity for direct multilateral and bilateral discussions focused on Northern issues. Topics discussed included the sharing of knowledge and expertise about regional operational challenges; responsible stewardship of the North; and the role Northern militaries can play in support of their respective civil authorities.” The Northern Chiefs of Defence meeting has become an essential forum to address common Arctic safety and security concerns.

Ahead of Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to attend the Arctic Council Ministerial Session in May, the White House unveiled a National Strategy for the Arctic Region. It outlined strategic priorities including advancing U.S. security interests, pursuing responsible stewardship and strengthening international cooperation. The document acknowledged competing environmental and economic goals, but in the end sets an aggressive agenda for the exploitation of Arctic oil, gas and mineral reserves. In addition, the strategy recommended enhancing national defense, law enforcement, navigation systems, environmental response, as well as search-and-rescue capabilities in the Arctic. It also builds off of National Security Presidential Directive-66 issued by the Bush administration in 2009. In coordination with the new plan, the U.S. Coast Guard has released their Vision for Operating in the Arctic Regionwhich will work towards improving awareness, modernizing governance and broadening partnerships. According toJames Holmes, professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College, the Coast Guard and Air Force could become the military’s odd couple in defending America’s Arctic front.

Several months back, Congressman Don Young testified in front of Armed Services Committee in support of Alaska national defense priorities. He proclaimed, “We must be able to project power into the Arctic environment and extensive Arctic training is needed to do that.” Some have pointed out that the true nature surrounding U.S. plans to shift additional missile interceptors to Alaska is not to protect against a North Korean threat, but is instead aimed at control over Arctic resources. Meanwhile, there have also been renewed discussions about Canadian participation in the U.S. anti-ballistic missile shield, a move that could damage relations with Russia and China. In order to enhance its presence and security in the Arctic, the U.S. is increasing cooperation with Canada. This includes expanding joint military exercises and intelligence gathering operations in the region. Professor Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research has described Washington’s militarization of the Arctic as part of the process of North American integration.

In December 2012, the U.S. and Canada signed the Tri-Command Framework for Arctic Cooperation which is part of efforts to further merge USNORTHCOM, Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) and NORAD. A press release explained that the framework is designed to, “promote enhanced military cooperation in the Arctic and identify specific areas of potential Tri-Command cooperation in the preparation for and conduct of safety, security and defense operations.” USNORTHCOM, CJOC and NORAD have also pledged to work closer together with regards to planning, domain awareness, information-sharing, training and exercises, capability development, as well as in the field of science and technology. In the coming years, the Arctic will become an even more important part of North American perimeter security.

While the Arctic remains a region of strategic interest to the alliance, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently rejected a direct NATO presence. For a number of years, Norway has been pushing for NATO to increase its focus in the Arctic and have called for more joint northern exercises. Even though NATO has yet to truly define its role in the area, Arctic member countries are stepping up military and naval operations in the high north. In the future, NATO’s mandate could include economic infrastructure and maritime security. It could also serve as a forum for discussing Arctic military issues. Expanding NATO activity in the region might signal the militarization of the Arctic which could raise tensions with both Russia and China.

There are fears that the Arctic could become an arena for political and military competition. With potential new shipping routes and countries further staking their claims to the vast untapped natural resources, defending strategic and economic interests may lead to rivalries in the region. There is also the possibility that conflicts which originate in other parts of the world could spillover and affect the stability of the Arctic. More


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Permaculture Solution – an Interview with Warren Brush

Community Projects, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, General, Society — by Leslee Goodman July 4, 2013

Interview by Leslee Goodman of the Moon Magazine

Warren Brush [see author profile] describes himself as a certified permaculture designer and teacher, a mentor and storyteller. He is co-founder ofQuail Springs Learning Oasis & Permaculture Farm, a former cattle ranch located in California’s Cuyama Valley — one of the remotest places within a three-hour drive of Los Angeles you can imagine — where his team demonstrates and teaches permaculture design principles and practices.

Prior to creating Quail Springs, Brush and his wife, Cynthia Harvan, began a program for homeless youth in Santa Barbara, California, which they then expanded to include children and teens from diverse racial, social, and economic groups. Wilderness Youth Project (WYP), an independent nonprofit organization, mentors diverse youth and families by taking them into nature. Each year, WYP spends many days in the Cuyama Valley, tracking animals, learning earth skills, building shelters, tending fires, and stewarding the land.

The Wilderness Youth Project is still taking kids into the wilds, but in 2004, Brush and Harvan, with the help of a Santa Barbara foundation, acquired Quail Springs. They moved to the land to lead the caretaking and development of the ranch as a permaculture learning and demonstration project. Since then, many dedicated and inspired people have taken part in developing the organization that Quail Springs is today—and people have come from all over the world to learn permaculture design principles and practices. In addition to permaculture design and application for food production, Quail Springs teaches natural building, Earth-based skills such as foraging, sacred hunting, tanning, and fiber arts, and offers Sustainable Vocations, a permaculture design-certification program for young people aged fifteen to twenty-five.

Brush and his permaculture design company, True Nature Design, are often called to consult and teach internationally. He recently returned from a five-country teaching stint in Europe just in time to teach a two-week permaculture design course for international development and social entrepreneurship. He was kind enough to speak with me by phone one afternoon while a local Chumash leader was teaching. His is a hopeful vision for the Future of Food. – Leslee Goodman

The MOON: You’ve been quoted as saying that permaculture is now feeding more people than all the world’s aid programs combined. That’s a pretty remarkable claim. Please tell us more.

Brush: That’s actually a quote from Geoff Lawton, of the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia, an organization created by Bill Mollison, who is considered “the father of permaculture.” Lawton made that statement four years ago, in 2009, from PRI’s own research. I find it a credible claim. Around the world, nearly two and one-half million people have completed the Permaculture Design course, which is a seventy-two hour course that teaches the basic methodology of permaculture, which is about consciously designing with nature to achieve highly efficient and stable systems.

The reason it’s credible is that, when you mimic natural systems, rather than the monocrop systems of corporate agriculture we’re accustomed to, we can produce up to ten times the nutrition per square foot. For example, when you plant food in multiple layers like you would see in a forest — even if you’re just planting a raised bed — you get ten times the productivity of a monocrop. And at the same time you’re building soil, you’re recycling wastes, you’re providing valuable ecological services that mimic nature, which the monocrop system does not. You don’t see monocrops in nature. You see diversity in nature.

The MOON: So why do you think that corporate agriculture hasn’t jumped on the permaculture bandwagon?

Brush: Because Permaculture is a decentralizing movement. It can’t be done on a large scale without involving many people, which is an entirely different way of farming that looks more like times past, when we had communities of small farmers. Rather than one farmer having five thousand acres, permaculture has a thousand people each farming five acres. Which is a much more stable way of producing food — for people, if not for profit.

However, a lot of corporate agriculture is starting to look to permaculture for improving efficiency and profits. Estimates are that the modern agriculture system uses ten calories of energy to produce one calorie of food. That is completely unsustainable. Yes, we’re producing a huge amount of food, but we’re mining resources in order to achieve it. At some point our caloric savings account is going to be depleted. We’re burning through energy capital at an appalling rate. We’re stealing from our children and grandchildren in order to produce cheap food today, which is something that no sustainable — or ethical — culture in the world has ever done, or would ever do.

A lot of people who are doing large-scale agriculture find that at first they get high yields, but over time, as the soil is depleted, they have to keep buying more and more fertilizers, pesticides, treated seeds, and so on, from a corporate suppler. If they were left to an open market, where their food had to compete without government subsidies, they wouldn’t be able to make a profit — and so they wouldn’t farm that way. So much of the modern agriculture system is surviving only because of government subsidies in support of corporate profits. But we’re starting to see farmers in the United States and all over the world who are really desperate for change. We get a lot of farmers coming to us who are looking for ways to wean themselves from the huge industrialized energy inputs that they have to pay for. The only way to have manageable scale profitability is to mimic nature as closely as you can. It’s only when you push against nature that it costs energy — which ultimately costs money.

This applies not just to agriculture, but to urban design, architecture, water management systems, everything. Look at Las Vegas. The whole thing is designed to survive only with huge energy inputs in the form of fossilized sunlight, or oil — to deliver water, to keep buildings cool, to power neon lights, to ship food and everything else people need to live. It’s a huge energy sink, which represents poor design.

The MOON: I thought the Green Revolution was the hope for feeding the world. What happened? Isn’t it true that corporate agriculture is the reason why only two percent of Americans can work at farming and feed two hundred twenty million of us… with food to export to the rest of the world? Can permaculture compete with this level of productivity?

Brush: Consider the overall ecological footprint of the so-called Green Revolution. It isn’t “green”! The level of productivity that corporate agriculture has achieved is not sustainable. The UN commissioned a study of the effects of the Green Revolution in Africa. The study involved twenty-seven leading scientists in different disciplines — agriculture, hydrology, soil science, sociology, ecology — and the results were published in a document headlined, “The Green Revolution Has Failed Africa.” The report detailed how the Green Revolution created centralized systems of food production, which are extremely vulnerable to disruption. It created widening disparity between rich and poor. It destabilized entire cultures, where people no longer know how to produce their own food, and the system too often doesn’t provide it for them. And we’ve exported this system globally.

Moreover, a lot of the calories our food system now produces are empty calories — they fill people up but they provide poor nutrition. If fact, they’re carrying toxins and compounds that the body doesn’t know what to do with, and so we’ve got biocides showing up in our fat cells. We’re starting to see cancer rates skyrocket as increasing chemicals find their way into food and housing environments. In the U.S., we’re seeing the whole host of health effects related to obesity from this type of food system.

Plus, it takes ten times the energy input for each calorie output in the American food supply system. We’ve spent something like two hundred and fifty million years of fossilized sunlight — in the form of fossil fuels — in the last fifty years. That’s something that can’t continue. It takes ninety-eight tons of plant material, degrading over millions of years of pressure, and heat, to become a barrel of oil, which is stored sunlight energy. We’ve designed all of our systems — energy, manufacturing, transportation, agricultural, how we move goods and water — around these intense forms of stored sunlight. That’s a finite resource.

Sustainable systems work on real-time sunlight. All of our ancestors, every sustainable society, works with real-time sunlight. That’s really the definition of sustainability: meeting the energy needs of human settlements — and even perhaps a surplus — with real-time sunlight. Throughout history we’ve had oil wars — because oil is that intense, stored sunlight in the form of liquid energy. Before petroleum we had whale oil wars. Before that we had olive oil wars. It’s all based on an understanding that stored sunlight energy can change the dynamic of how you work on the land. You couldn’t send an army to conquer another people if they had to feed themselves at the same time. They had to be able to carry food with them — stored sunlight energy — or take it from the people they conquered. I have a really strong belief that the degradation of our food system by Western agriculture — where we’ve lost the genetic diversity of our food, we’ve lost the bioregional relationship with the land — is responsible for the depression, despair, and dissatisfaction so many people feel.

In Santa Barbara County ninety-seven percent of food dollars leave the county, and at the same time, nearly ninety-six percent of the food grown in Santa Barbara County leaves the county, as well. So we incur these huge energy and transportation costs moving things around. Which means we don’t have a stable, secure food system. An increase in gasoline prices, a truck drivers’ strike, an interstate shutdown — can disrupt our food supplies. And at the same time, we don’t have a local food culture in this country anymore. Culture used to derive from our landscape, which affected everything — our food, our architecture, our clothing, our music — it all came from place. Now we’re part of a globalized homogenized culture — which is to say, no culture. I think that’s a loss for humanity. When you no longer have culture it means you’ve lost your sustainable way of living.

The MOON: You’ve touched on numerous problems with corporate agriculture, but at the same time, it’s what’s feeding most of us. Can you be more definitive in outlining the problems with it?

Brush: A big obvious one is economic. It costs more to produce food the way we’re doing it now than it returns financially. It couldn’t survive without government subsidies. Most of the farmers in America are welfare farmers. They’re being subsidized to do what they’re doing — and they’re not happy about it. They’re not proud of it.

The other primary problem with corporate agriculture lies at the foundation of all food production: soil. Our soil is measurably, quantifiably, being degraded wherever you see current industrialized agricultural practices applied. We are losing arable land, while we’re increasing population. We’re losing topsoil. We’re losing soil fertility. Farmers have to apply increasing amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to be able to maintain yields.

Agricultural practices must build soil or they will not last. The more biocides and chemical fertilizers you add, the more you degrade the soil’s biology — its ability to work for you and for the plants. Agriculture depends on soil microbiology — a soil food web — that modern agriculture doesn’t honor and, in fact, destroys.

A third problem is tillage. Tillage physically disrupts the soil microbiology. Large-scale mechanical plowing and harvesting are practices that came to us out of northern Europe, which is a very unique, temperate microclimate that benefited from thousands of years of forests building very deep soils. That history and microclimate doesn’t exist throughout the world, but we’ve exported this type of farming to tropical climates and arid climates and grasslands, and the soil is not able to withstand it. Plowing inverts the soil and destroys all the microbiology that nature tries to regenerate.

Modern agriculture is also based on export crops. Wherever you see monocrops, you’re seeing food for export out of the community. Farmers all over America go to Costco to get their food because they don’t eat what they grow. Farming communities can’t even feed themselves because they’re only growing garlic, or carrots. It’s a crazy time we’re in! And it’s so unstable. The Green Revolution has not only destabilized our ecology, but it’s also destabilized our economy, our culture, our understanding of how to grow food.

When you say “only two percent of the people” have to be farmers now — as if there’s something wrong with farming — that’s a bad sign. If the people who are growing our food are considered less valuable than people doing something else, there’s something wrong with our priorities. Every culture in the world was completely integrated with its food production system. Food production was a core part of their culture. People are so cut off from that now; they’re cut off from the knowledge that sustains their own existence. They’re so out of touch with how the choices they make affect their environment, their planet, that they don’t seek the scars they’re creating all over the world. In the United States we don’t see how many people around the world are suffering because we’re still mining their resources in order to maintain the lifestyle we live.

It’s said that it would take five Earths to give everyone the lifestyle enjoyed by people in the United States. Of course there aren’t five Earths, so the American way of life is totally unsustainable.

There’s also a loss of beauty involved with our present way of doing things. I think that sense of beauty and connectedness is what so many Americans are craving. I would be interested to see whether the rise of modern agriculture and industrialization parallels the rise in depression.

In permaculture, we’re trackers. We’re constantly looking at feedback loops to see what’s working; what’s not working; and make adjustments. That requires looking at things holistically. If you’re looking at agriculture as something separate from your waste streams, from how you get your water, from your housing, transportation, your forests and wildlands, then you’re working against, not with, nature.

This linear, silo-thinking is causing great damage to the Earth. Everything cycles; everything is interconnected. We can make changes, we can feed people in a way that restores, rather than damages, the Earth but we need many, many people to start to grow gardens; to start buying local foods, and to be in relationship with the people who provide food that they do not provide for themselves.

There is a re-localization going on. We see it in the Slow Food movement, in the Slow Money movement; in the Transition Town movement; in the community-based natural building movement. And it’s beautiful. I believe people are communal by nature. We’ve evolved over thousands and thousands of years as village beings. There’s a depression that results from being isolated and “independent” and ultimately suckling from the udder of mass consumerism, rather than from the udder of the land and community that surround us and supports us and our future generations. It’s not only a philosophical thing; it’s also very pragmatic.

If you want stability and resilience for your family and community you need a diverse, local food system. If you live in a city in the U.S., you’re nine meals away from living in a food desert. If you don’t have trucks coming in, you’re nine meals away from being out of food. That’s not stability, or security and nowhere is there resiliency for you and your family if you live that way.

The permaculture movement can change that — and the reason we’ll be successful is that we’re a grassroots movement without a head. We go under the radar of corporate regulations, government funding or interference because we’re simply a collection of ethics and principles that guide our design methodologies around the world. Wherever these design principles go — whether to a village in northern Liberia or the backyards of Beverly Hills — they create beauty in alignment with nature.

Can these design principles feed the world? Yes! But it’s not going to look like the model we have now. It’s like Einstein said: You can’t solve a problem using the same consciousness that created it. We have to change our consciousness — and I believe design is the way to do it because it’s endlessly creative. There’s not one way — every situation will have its own solution.

That’s why so many young people come to Quail Springs. They know intuitively — they have a whole-body awareness — that the way we’re doing things is not right, and they want to learn another way. And the truth is, the problems of the world are increasingly complex, but the solutions are embarrassingly simple.

The MOON: So what are the set of ethics and principles that make up permaculture?

Brush: Real basically, permaculture is a design science that harmonizes with natural systems, and it involves a set of ethics and principles that guide that process.

For example, consider an orchard. People plant a single type of fruit tree in long rows, so many feet apart, with so many feet between the rows, and nothing — but perhaps orchard grass — in between. That is common in modern agriculture, but it is something you never see in nature. What you see in nature is forests made up of many kinds of trees and other plants growing in multiple layers: root layers, the FBI layer — fungi, bacteria, and insects — herbaceous layers, low-growing shrubs, mid-story plants and over-story plants. Some climates have emergent plants; plus, there’s vining, and animals, and an incredibly diverse and integrated pattern that nature recreates over and over again wherever you see a natural forest.

Now nature doesn’t always grow forests with human food needs in mind, but permaculture is about mimicking natural designs for human settlements. So we design our food system borrowing nature’s pattern, applied to human needs for food, forage, and fodder. As it turns out there’s a vast history of humans practicing food forestry — in Asia, among the Mayans, and the Moroccans — you find thousands-of-years-old food forests. So here at Quail Springs we’re cultivating our own little food forest.

When we started to plant it out, we were unsure of ourselves because it felt counter to what we’d been acculturated to. We planted it out, mimicking the succession process that would take place if nature was going to create a forest. Some plants are pioneers and prepare the environment for succeeding plants, creating over time a forest that would be heavy in food for humans.

We’re in a very unique environment out here. We’re in a dryland environment that gets six inches of rain a year. In fact, this past year we only received four inches of rain. So we have a very slow-growing food forest compared to if you were in, say, a tropical environment. We planted all kinds of things: root crops, low-growing mints and dryland herbs, mid-growing Jerusalem artichokes, higher-growing elderberries, datura and many types of native plants; mid-story stone fruits — plums and apricots — plus apples, jujubes. Then we put in a nitrogen-fixing over-story, which also provides shade to mitigate the heat we have here. The over-story includes plants like robinia, or black locust, which we coppice (cut back so that new shoots grow). We’ve got some kinds of fast-growing dryland poplar, which provide leaf litter to build up the soil. Or whole system is based on building soil while we grow food, and as we grow our forest, we create a micro-climate that supports an increasing variety of plants. It’s a long-term strategy within our more immediate food farm system.

We were visited by a university professor of orchard science, who took one look at what we were doing and said, “You’re going to have to rip out half these plants because there is no way that this apricot tree is going to reach full expression here, and you’re going to get fewer apricots.”

Food forestry takes a completely opposite approach however. Food forestry says, “Yes, you’re right; we’re going to get fewer apricots. But within the same three-dimensional space in which that apricot tree is growing are also twenty or more other animals and plants that are going to provide a rich variety of foods — and therefore offer ten times the nutrition.”

It happened that the following week one of the top food forest advisors in the world was here. He looked at our baby food forest, shook his head, and said, “You’re going to have to double your plantings.” That’s the permaculture approach.

And that’s just one aspect of it. Next, I might consider, “How are my human wastes going to be dealt with in a way that contributes to the functioning of the system?” One of ways we did that was to build an orchard toilet — a movable toilet that could return some of our wastes to the soil. Then we realized that for integrated pest management we could run our chickens and turkeys and ducks through the orchard. They not only ate the bugs, they also provided fertilizer. Plus, since they were getting all that protein in the form of insects, it cut down on the food we had to provide for them.

One thing I want to emphasize: permaculture is not a farming, or gardening, technique. It’s a design methodology — in this case applied to agriculture. But you could apply it to anything — to buildings, to waste cycling, to water harvesting. I think people get confused about that. They say things like, “Should I do organic gardening, or should I do permaculture?” Organic gardening can be incorporated; biodynamics can be incorporated.

The MOON: Are you able to feed yourselves from your efforts? How many of you are there at Quail Springs?

Brush: Right now we are providing about eighty percent of the food needs for our permanent residents — which are about seventeen to twenty of us. It fluctuates a bit with our travel schedules. Also, bear in mind that the food forest is our investment in future food production. We also have a more conventional garden that produces food for our immediate needs.

We’re just babies at this. We started Quail Springs nine years ago, but we’re operating on a two-hundred year plan, which will ultimately be a thousand-year plan: How can we provide a yield for ourselves now, while simultaneously build up the soil and increasing the land’s productivity for future generations?

Another thing we’re doing, which is a really big story, is rejuvenating our springs, which most people believed had died. The Cuyama Valley has been deforested and overgrazed and deep wells have drained the groundwater. As a result, most of the springs, as well as the river, are completely dried up. Ours was just a trickle nine years ago — and then, only at night when the trees weren’t transpiring. Now we’re getting sixty gallons a minute.

The MOON: Wow! How did you do that?

Brush: We did a mix of things. One was intense planting. A lot of people deforest riparian areas, thinking the trees are soaking up all the water, but we did the opposite: we planted. We did a lot of earthwork to flow the water, spread it, and sink it. We built a gabion* system. We removed the cattle, which had been here for over one hundred years, and that allowed the land to revegetate. And there’s a whole lot more to the story than that. The bottom line is that, through a whole variety of interesting watershed management practices we’ve been able to restore our springs, even through this severe drought that southern California is currently experiencing.

This is one of the problems I’m most often called in to address: how to rejuvenate springs. The most difficult problem is usually political. We understand the science, the methodology; what’s more typically lacking is the willpower.

The MOON: How so?

Brush: The politics of place and profit prohibit it. Say you’re on Lake Victoria, Kenya. The mountaintop where all the springs used to flow used to be communal land, which was stewarded for the benefit of the tribe. But when they adopted a westernized system of land ownership, the water was no longer managed for the common good. People sold off their land, and deforested it, and all but a few of the springs dried up — and those few flow at just a fraction of their previous output. So no solution can be implemented without the agreement of the landowners.

Here at Quail Springs, we’re the farthest privately owned property up a particular canyon in Cuyama Valley, surrounded on three sides by national forest. It’s ironic, but we can go into the forest and take timber, or we can overgraze — totally legally — with just a simple permit. But if we want to go into the forest and do reclamation work, slowing erosion or reforesting, we have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an environmental impact report. Our regulations have been created for the benefit of industry. The cattle and timber industries are gatekeepers for a lot of the regulations that have to do with our forests. So we have to be Ninja-like, and work under cover of darkness, so to speak, if we want to benefit the land in the national forest.

I just completed an eighteen-program tour in five countries in Europe, and they are so much further ahead in terms of stewarding their landscape. In Germany, there is no clear-cutting allowed, whatsoever. They have a rejuvenation program for all their forests, which encourages the people to do many, many small beneficial things on behalf of the forests. One of the lead forester in one of my forestry classes was so excited because so many things we were advocating are things they’re already doing in their forest department. America is behind — and really setting itself up for catastrophic failures if we don’t change. When you have your regulatory system held captive by the industries it’s supposed to regulate — industries which are mandated to make a profit for the few, even if it’s at the expense of the environment and the society — it’s not going to last. It can’t be sustained. I really hope that Americans wake up and make a turn, because it’s exciting to design our way out of this. We know how to do it. We just need the political will.

To give you another example, according to California building law you cannot build a non-toxic house. We worked with a person on the code committee of the national Green Building Council; we worked with the head of the California County Building Officials Association. I mean, we worked with the top people in the country, and they couldn’t advise us on a way to legally build a nontoxic house. Basically our laws have been set up to mandate the use of highly industrialized, processed materials that have a lot of chemicals in them. That can’t be maintained over time, either. But no political administration wants to tackle it. They continually say, “Let the next administration handle it,” because they know it will be a fight.

But change will come. We can either design our way out of our present situation, or change will be forced upon us as a result of crisis.

The MOON: That leads into the question I have about one of the permaculture principles outlined on a website you recommend: One of the principles advises that, “The permaculture approach is to focus on the positives, the opportunities that exist rather than the obstacles, even in the most desperate situations.” Why is that? It seems to me that you have to point out the problems with our present system to show people why change is necessary. If I didn’t know about the horrors of corporate farming, why wouldn’t I keep supporting it? It’s cheaper!

Brush: It’s because people get overwhelmed. There’s so much evidence that things have to change; I don’t think people are unaware of the problems. But when you call attention to the problems without giving a solution, people become paralyzed. They run into a wall of impossibility. They think, “Oh my God, the problems are so big, there’s nothing I can do.” So we have to give them possibilities. Scientists around the world are presenting the data that systems are crumbling — ecologically, socially, culturally. Plus there’s mounting anecdotal data such as extreme weather events. But focusing on the problems is like exercising by only lifting weights — only contracting your muscles. You have to stretch them the other way, too. Because I believe it’s the same muscle. We designed our way into this mess, and now that we know better, we can design our way out. We can apply conscious design to whatever the conditions and circumstances of our lives are now. And that, I believe, is exciting.

I tell my students, “You know, we can never go back. We don’t want to go back to something behind us. What we want to do is forge into the future in a way that’s never before been seen that also honors where we’ve been. I’d like to see us incorporate indigenous living — the values of sustainability and stewardship — into the science that we’ve since acquired. That way of living is highly productive, highly decentralized, highly egalitarian, and the profits stay within the community — meaning there is far less debt enslavement that benefits a tiny group.

I don’t think Americans are against hard work; I think we’ve bought into a view of wealth that it’s related to dollars, rather than wealth that we create with our hands, our ingenuity, our love. That kind of wealth is beautiful. It’s reflected in the food we eat, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear. It’s a way of life that involves listening — listening for your calling. This is actually the root of the word, “vocation.” Vocare… it means to name, or invoke, one’s calling, one’s gift, that which you can share with the world.

*Gabion: a basket or cage filled with earth or rocks, usually as some form of support or abutment.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

China warns it will execute serious polluters

There are carrot and stick approaches to tackling pollution. China is reaching for the stick. The country announced Wednesday that it is willing to impose the harshest possible penalty on polluters. From Reuters:

Polluted River

Chinese authorities have given courts the powers to hand down the death penalty in serious pollution cases, state media said, as the government tries to assuage growing public anger at environmental desecration. …

A new judicial interpretation which took effect on Wednesday would impose “harsher punishments” and tighten “lax and superficial” enforcement of the country’s environmental protection laws, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“In the most serious cases the death penalty could be handed down,” it said.

The announcement comes at a time when China is attempting to turn a new leaf in environmental protection following decades of unchecked pollution and a slew of anti-pollution protests.

China also said it is reducing the amount of damage that must be caused by a polluter before they are prosecuted. From South China Morning Post:

The [new judicial] interpretation … states that a person can be convicted if he or she causes pollution that seriously injures a person. Previously, an incident would have had to result in a death before a person was convicted.

And only one death arising from an incident will be enough to see a sentence increased, rather than three deaths.

[Court spokesman Sun Jungong] said the lowering of the threshold for convicting polluters demonstrated authorities’ determination to “fight and deter environmental crimes”. …

[T]he interpretation details 14 activities that will be considered “crimes of impairing the protection of the environment and resources”.

Dumping radioactive substances into sources of drinking water and nature reserves, and incidents that poison more than 30 people or force more than 5,000 people to be evacuated, will be considered environmental pollution crimes for the first time.