Community Advocacy on Environmental and Social Justice

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

These 19 foods are natural remedies that can be used to alleviate many types of pain.


People take a lot of pills today. And sometimes that's ok. But using too many painkillers can really cause damage to your body. So, if your pain is mild to moderate, you should know that nature has provided us with quite a number of natural painkillers. These 19 foods are natural remedies that can be used to alleviate many types of pain. 
Muscle Pain – Ginger
Danish researchers found that regular consumption of ginger could reduce chronic muscle and joint pain, as well as swelling and stiffness within just a couple of months. The credit goes to the main ingredient in ginger – Gingerol, which inhibits the production of pain-inducing hormones. A teaspoon of dried ginger or 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger every day will do the trick. 
Toothaches – Cloves
Powdered cloves are a known home remedy for toothaches and gingivitis. Furthermore, a recent research from the University of California proved it scientifically by isolating the active ingredient that reduces the pain. It is an organic compound called eugenol – a powerful natural anesthetic. ¼ teaspoon every day will help keep your heart healthy, and scientists are saying that it also aids in stabilizing blood-sugar levels and even starts lowering cholesterol levels within three weeks. 
Acid Reflux – Apple Cider Vinegar
If heartburn constantly plagues you, you can stop it with apple cider vinegar. The active ingredients in the vinegar that treat reflux are malic acid and tartaric acid, which quicken digestion and help your body break down fats and proteins. Faster digestion means fewer chances for the stomach to overflow with acids, causing the reflux. By adding just a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water before every meal can prevent acid reflux within 24 hours. 
Earache – Garlic
Often referred to as “nature’s antibiotics”, garlic indeed possesses powerful anti-inflammatory qualities. Experts from the Mexico School of Medicine claim that applying two drops of warm garlic oil into the ear can cure an ear infection in five days. Garlic contains minerals such as selenium, germanium and sulfur, which are all very toxic to most kinds of bacteria. To make your own garlic oil, slowly cook (do not boil) three garlic cloves in half a cup of olive oil for two minutes. Filter the oil and use it as instructed (make sure it’s not too hot). The oil can keep for up to two weeks in the fridge. 
Headaches and join pains – Cherries
Michigan State University found that the daily consumption of a bowl of cherries is highly beneficial for people who suffer from headaches and various joint inflammations. Anthocyanin is the pigment that gives cherries their bright red color. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, ten times more powerful than ibuprofen or aspirin. Anthocyanin actively paralyzes the enzymes that cause tissue inflammation, making cherries the perfect treatment. Eating about 20 cherries every day will do the trick.

PMS – Yogurt
80% of women suffer from PMS-related pain before and during their periods. The reason for the pain is the nervous system’s sensitivity to the changes in estrogen and progesterone levels. A study conducted at Columbia University found that eating two servings of yogurt daily can reduce the intensity of PMS pain by almost 50%. Yogurt is rich in calcium, a mineral that naturally soothes the nervous system, thus preventing painful symptoms despite the hormonal changes. 
Chronic Pains – Turmeric 
Turmeric was found to be three times more powerful than ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. Researchers from Cornell University found that turmeric can heal up to 50% of people suffering from arthritis and fibromyalgia. The active ingredient in turmeric – curcumin, paralyzes the enzyme that causes serial pain. A ¼ teaspoon of turmeric every day will reduce your chronic pain considerably.  
Endometriosis – Oats 
When the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus grows outside the uterus, it may cause a severe and painful inflammation that drags on long after the end of the period. Luckily, an oats-rich diet can reduce up to 60% of the pain within six months. The reason is that oats don’t contain gluten, which can induce inflammation in many women.
 Ingrown Toenails and Toothaches – Salt
An ingrown toenail is a common ailment that affects millions of people around the world. Luckily, it’s easily treatable by using salt-water. Stanford University researchers found that soaking your feet in salt water can heal ingrown-related infections in just four days. Salt is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. To make use of its benefits, add just a teaspoon to a cup of warm water, and then add it to your foot bath to use twice a day until the infection is gone. Additionally, dentists recommend gargling with salt water to treat and prevent gingivitis. Doing this can also help when you’re suffering from a throat infection.
 Indigesti on – Pineapple
Pineapples are a delicious tropical fruit that are rich in protein-breaking enzymes. These enzymes help the body with the digestion processes, speeding it up and reducing stomach pains that come from gas buildups. Researchers at Stanford University found that one cup of fresh pineapple every day can treat pain caused by gas within 72 hours. 
Muscle Pains – Mint
Cramped muscles can be painful for months, especially if they originate from incorrect posture or reoccurring overexertion. A hot bath with ten drops of mint oil, three times a week, is 25% more effective than prescription drugs. The hot water helps relax and loosen the muscles while the mint oil soothes the aching nervous system. Such treatment will also help reduce the frequency of future pain.
 Backaches – Grapes
In a study conducted at the University of Ohio, researchers found that one cup of fresh grapes per day can help improve blood flow to the damaged tissue in the back, sometimes within as little as three hours. The spine is highly dependent on the nutrients and oxygen in the blood, making eating grapes a highly beneficial act.

Good old H2O – we need it to survive, but researchers at Manhattan College in New York found that water can also ease pain from injuries. When body tissue is damaged, it produces a chemical compound called histamine, which causes pain. Water dilutes the amounts of histamine in the blood, thus effectively reducing the level of pain. Water is also essential for the health of the cartilage tissue between our bones, as well as lubricating our joints and the soft tissue in our spine. A well-hydrated body is a well-lubricated machine, which prevents joint pains. Doctors recommend drinking 8 cups of water per day. 
Sinus Pain – Horseradish
Sinusitis is a chronic disease that affects many people. It is effectively a state of infection of the cavities in the skull. Sinusitis causes severe headaches, face pains and can even hinder breathing. German researchers discovered that horseradish can increase the blood flow to the sinuses, decongesting them and draining any obstructions that may cause the infection. Eat a teaspoon of horseradish every day until your symptoms are gone. 
Oral Infections – Honey
Experts from the Dubai Center for Health recommend treating mouth sores, cold sores and other oral infections with honey. Honey contains anti-inflammatory enzymes that destroy viruses and speed up the healing process. To effectively treat such sores, it is recommended that you apply unpasteurized honey directly onto the wounds four times a day. The healing process will take 43% less time compared to OTC ointments and creams. 
Chest Pains – FlaxSeeds
Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogen, a compound that prevents changes in estrogen levels that cause some women pain. All you need to do is to add three tablespoons of flaxseeds to your daily diet. This should help with the pain within 12 weeks. 
Migraines – Coffee
People suffering from chronic headaches or migraines can benefit from drinking coffee. Caffeine improves the stomach lining's ability to absorb medication, increasing its effectiveness by up to 40%. If you’re taking headache medication – take it with a cup of coffee. Cramped Muscles – 
Tomato Juice
Our muscles tend to cramp when our bodies don’t have enough potassium. Diuretics or excessive sweating can cause potassium deficiency. Potassium is a mineral that is essential to our muscles’ health. A study conducted by the University of California found that drinking one cup of tomato juice every day can help ease cramped muscles and prevent future occurrences, thanks to the high levels of potassium in it.

Monday, 26 March 2018

International Seabed Authority: Seabed Mining: Council President Olav Myklebust

“The world is watching and we have to deliver.” This opening remark by incoming Council President Olav Myklebust (Norway) made reference to the highest-profile issue on the agenda of the International Seabed Authority (ISA): the draft regulations for deep-seabed mining. The Council was tasked to consider the regulations together with Member States’ and stakeholders’ comments submitted in 2017 on the current draft, as summarized and thematically grouped in a note issued by the Secretariat. Even before arriving in Kingston, very few participants doubted that the “draft regs” would dominate discussions, given their role in unlocking the flow of monetary benefits into the ISA. Equally, quite a few Member States and stakeholders saw this meeting as an opportunity to ensure that the “regs” put in place the necessary environmental safeguards for a risky activity in the least known global ecosystem: the deep sea.

This brief analysis will assess progress in developing the “building blocks” of the draft regulations, and the priorities identified by the Council in moving forward in the context of the Authority’s transition towards assuming the role of “regulator” of mining activities in the deep seabed.

The exploitation regulations have to “deliver big” in terms of detailing the rights, responsibilities, and obligations needed to manage the transition from exploration (assessing the mineral potential) to commercial exploitation of deep-seabed minerals. The ISA will have to operationalize the concept of the common heritage by regulating all aspects of commercial mining activities in the Area, providing a level-playing field for contractors and sponsoring states, while safeguarding the marine environment. To accelerate progress, the Council opted for an informal format for discussions on the draft regulations. Instead of negotiating a formal decision binding on the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC), the output was a President’s statement with guidance to the LTC. 

Several delegations felt that this approach allowed a frank and more interactive exchange of views, rather than a search for common ground at this early stage in the development of the regulations. In addition, this format facilitated greater understanding of the multi-layered complexity of exploitation.

One of the biggest challenges is certainly the operationalization of the concept of common heritage itself―a legal construct from another era, the brainchild of the New International Economic Order and the efforts to balance power after decolonization and during the Cold War. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), however, provides scant details on how to put it in practice. To bring it to life, the complexities surrounding the economics of deep-seabed mining operations need to be addressed, as well as the scientific and legal complexities around the roles and responsibilities of contractors, sponsoring states, and ISA organs to regulate sustainable mining in fragile oceanic ecosystems.

Following up on past recommendations to engage more with the scientific community to bring in additional expertise, Richard Roth from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was invited to deliver to the Council what many delegates found an informative and engaging presentation. Roth described an independent financial model prepared for the LTC’s consideration with a view to explaining the costs, risks, and advantages of different economic options.

 Addressing solely polymetallic nodules, Roth’s presentation on possible sources of revenues and various sources of uncertainty was carefully crafted to address an audience of non-economists. Nevertheless, “familiarity with basic economic concepts is certainly needed to effectively participate in these discussions,” commented a negotiator. “Some key notions were not addressed in detail in the presentation, such as upfront capital expenses (CAPEX) and ongoing operational ones (OPEX), revenue accumulation, and price volatility. But these parameters will be decisive for the commercial viability of deep-seabed mining activities.” As Roth reminded participants, “investors will only take on a project if discounted future revenues are large enough to provide a return on their investment that is competitive with other investment opportunities.”

A further basic reality in investment practices to keep in mind, according to another expert, is that the higher the level of risk, the higher the rates of return for any given project would have to be to attract the required capital. And this is even more crucial for commercial deep-seabed mining, which is an activity never practiced before at the envisaged scale with unprecedented technological risks. “So, if we follow the traditional economic theory presented in the Council, a higher rate of return would be required to compensate for these increased risks,” commented a participant.

One of the main policy choices brought to the Council’s attention by Roth was on the different options for revenue sharing between contractors and the Authority as the guardian of the common heritage. As explained, the simplest option would be a mass-based model, where a certain amount of money would be paid per dry ton of nodule removed from the seabed. The relevant calculations for the applicable rates, albeit not trivial, are relatively straightforward and include the mass of nodules removed from the seabed and the rate of return required by investors. While this option provides certainty, since the revenue is calculated on the basis of nodule quantity upon extraction, it does not take into account the metals’ price, leaving no space for additional benefits for the common heritage in cases where the gross revenues of the private enterprises grow.

Price is, however, factored into the other two options: a revenue-based model, which was also referred to as “ad valorem” or “royalty-based” during the negotiations (creating confusion among the initiated participants); or a profit-based model that also takes into account costs. While both of these options allow consideration of additional parameters, like price volatility or profitability, they also have disadvantages. They are much more complex, as they require more data, common rules for calculating profitability, depreciation schedules and rates, as well as reporting and monitoring exercises. 

They further necessitate more forecasting and, consequently, generate more uncertainty. Of the last two mechanisms, a workshop on the draft regs held in London in February underscored that the profit-based model may be unrealistic due to the fact that contractors will have to share data on profits, but such data and profit calculations are usually subject to varying business practices, which may raise transparency issues. Additionally, during the Council meeting, Roth also commented that the profit-based model raises more challenges in terms of monitoring, since contractors would have an incentive to under-report profitability with a view to paying a lower share to the ISA.

 These considerations may explain why several states expressed a preference for considering hybrid options.While forecasting models can provide strong insights, they do not deliver definitive answers. As Roth reminded the Council, “even the most sophisticated statistical analysis can only capture past behavior and does not address structural changes on the supply and demand sides.” 

On challenges ahead, Roth did not hesitate to lay down the inherent limitations of his scientific advice on this economic endeavor: when asked about “how much of the common heritage should be utilized and for how much money,” he responded, “this is not a question you want a natural resource economist to answer.” In addition, as Roth clarified following a question from the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, the model prepared by MIT did not take into account environmental externalities and the valuation of ecosystem services. 

As a senior participant with a background in economics noted, “While these environmental concerns are valid and of utmost importance, trying to incorporate them in an economic forecast model is adding further uncertain parameters and is not going to make our results any more certain.” Yet, as several delegations, including Australia, Jamaica, Chile, and Germany, underscored repeatedly at this meeting, environmental concerns require much more consideration in the draft regulations.

The discussion of the environmental dimension of the regulations, albeit compressed into less than a day, served to identify a few bases upon which to expand the regulations. Certain delegations, however, were caught by surprise on the final day of the session when they saw the outcome document issued by the President, which condensed environmental matters into a single and, for some, vague paragraph. As President Myklebust only allowed two-minute interventions dedicated to any serious concern or gap in his draft, a series of record-speed interventions followed.

Many focused on the need to develop regional environmental management plans (REMPs), which has become a common refrain at ISA meetings. Pressure to deliver REMPs with regard to exploration areas has also been applied on the ISA by the UN General Assembly. 

While the Secretariat is hard-pressed to find extra resources to carry out these exercises, the role of REMPs in the context of the exploitation regulations remains unclear. At the closing of the Council meeting, although certain delegations reiterated the point that REMPs should play a “fundamental role” in the regulations, the outcome merely invites the LTC to assess the written comments put forward by Member States and stakeholders on this issue, with a view to making recommendations to the Council in July.

Additional concerns included the need to improve provisions on best environmental practices, best available technology, environmental monitoring, the coherence between preservation reference zones and impact reference zones, chemical emissions, and seabed deformation. According to a veteran, while these concerns may be remedied with appropriate interventions in the draft regulations, “a more fundamental debate needs to take place that will eventually determine the desired level of environmental protection.” As it was, once again, highlighted in a side-event organized by NGOs and marine scientists, the interactions between deep seabed minerals and the host and neighboring marine ecosystems are still vastly unknown, both in terms of their bioprospecting potential and their life-sustaining functions, like oxygen generation. 

Against this additional uncertainty, regulators will have to decide whether to “err on the side of precaution or on the side of best available science.” A sponsoring-state delegate argued emphatically: “We should impose, at first, very high environmental standards to deal with increased uncertainty. These standards may be progressively lowered as science advances.” But different views emerged on this underlying issue in the final minutes of the Council meeting, with some delegations emphasizing the importance to develop “commercially viable” regulations, and others prioritizing “technically, scientifically, and environmentally viable” ones. 

What this choice arguably boils down to, according to an insider, is the uncomfortable fact that stricter environmental regulations increase upfront costs and reduce the margin for monetary benefits. Another long-standing participant, however, reasoned that UNCLOS calls for the “effective protection” of the marine environment because this is undoubtedly to the benefit of humankind.

The number of uncertainties that the ISA Council and LTC have to face in developing the exploitation regulations is staggering. Limited knowledge on essential elements of deep sea marine ecosystems has direct consequences for economic valuations in case of environmental harm: bioprospecting potential may be forever lost, while some of the functions currently performed by these ecosystems may prove costly or impossible to replace. 

The economic side is not uncertainty-free either.In fact, it is quite the opposite, if one takes into account price volatilities, profit-computation problems, or other uncertainties of economic models. And this does not even take into consideration the complexity of determining how monetary benefits will be shared equitably, which is a separate decision-making process, at even an earlier stage under the Finance Committee.

While it is unlikely that the second part of this session of the ISA in July 2018 will entertain substantive discussions on benefit-sharing, it is expected that the Council will still have its plate full with revised financial models, possibly also for the other two minerals under the ISA’s jurisdiction (cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts and polymetallic sulphides).

 In addition, the Council will receive from the LTC a revised set of regulations, as well as a note identifying matters that require further study and a request for further guidance from the Council on certain issues. The requests for Council guidance, according to an observer, will be the “right place” to initiate a substantive discussion on REMPs. For its part, the Assembly will consider a draft Strategic Plan for 2019-2023, the first version of which was presented at a side-event during the Council meeting and will soon be made available for stakeholder comments.

Already thinking ahead to the second part of this annual session, a delegate pondered: “The draft strategy aims to frame the role of the Authority in a changed world. But other than relating existing obligations to the Sustainable Development Goals, can it also indicate more clearly how the regime will benefit the interest of present and future generations?”



  • Average annual population growth rate
    2,654 %
  • Gross birth rate
    36 per 1,000
  • Gross mortality rate
    per 1,000
  • Men
    23,016,937 inhabitants
  • Population density
    80.9 inhab/km²
  • Resident population in rural areas
    74.8 %
  • Resident population in urban areas
    25.2 %
  • Total population
    46,050,302 inhabitants
  • Women
    23,033,365 inhabitants

Thursday, 11 January 2018

‘The Planet Can’t Keep Doing Us A Favour’

‘The Planet Can’t Keep Doing Us A Favour’

By David Cromwell
Sometimes we get so sick of the phrase 'history in the making' that the brain tends to switch off. What is it this time?, we sigh. A new high-tech piece of military technology that will boost US killing power? A big jump in a newspaper's online advertising revenue? The world's best footballer, Lionel Messi, joining 'an exclusive list of adidas athletes to have their own signature product'? Sometimes the 'history' in question only stretches back a few years, maybe a century or two. Only very occasionally, if the claim is truly deserved, does it strech back to the earliest era of written records.
But now, with humanity's huge impact on the planet's climate becoming ever clearer, we need to go back several million years. Because climate-related news of history being made are about the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) reaching 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time CO2 was this high was probably 4.5 million years ago, before modern humans even existed.
Throughout recorded history, up till the Industrial Revolution, CO2 was much lower at around 280 ppm. But large-scale industrial and agricultural activity since then has seen humanity profoundly alter the make-up of the atmosphere and even the  stability of Earth's climate.
'We are creating a prehistoric climate in which human societies will face huge and potentially catastrophic risks,' said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics.
According to Bob Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former UK government chief scientific adviser:
'the world is now most likely committed to an increase in surface temperature of 3C-5C compared to pre-industrial times.'
As Damian Carrington noted in the Guardian, even just 2C is regarded as 'the level beyond which catastrophic warming is thought to become unstoppable.' But social scientist Chris Shaw has warned that even the notion of a single 'safe' global temperature rise is dangerous. He observes that:
'falsely ascribing a scientifically derived dangerous limit to climate change diverts attention away from questions about the political and social order that have given rise to the crisis.' 
But for the corporate media, such questions are essentially taboo, and the global corporate and financial juggernaut, driven by the demands of capital, shows no sign of slowing down. Scientists calculate that humans pumped around 10.4 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere in 2011, the most recent year analysed. A Nature news article reports:
'About half of that is taken up each year by carbon "sinks" such as the ocean and vegetation on land; the rest remains in the atmosphere and raises the global concentration of CO2.'
'The real question now', says environmental scientist Gregg Marland from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina , 'is how will the sinks behave in the future?' And biogeochemist Jim White at the University of Colorado in Boulder warns:
'At some point the planet can't keep doing us a favour.'
In other words, the ability of the planet's natural carbon 'sinks' to soak up humanity's CO2 emissions will diminish, and the atmospheric concentration of CO2 will rise at an increasing rate. What is so dangerous about climate change is not just the high level of CO2 today, but the speed at which it is increasing. In other words, climate change is accelerating.
Brian Hoskins, a leading climate scientist based at Imperial College, London, says:
'To me the striking fact is that human activity has already driven the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to a level more than 40 per cent above the maximum levels it had during the previous million years, and it is going to stay at least this high for thousands of years into the future.'
The very real risk of climate calamity will not be going away for some considerable time.

'It Is Irresponsible Not To Mention Climate Change'

On 20 May, a devastating tornado hit Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, and killed at least 24 people, including nine children, injured around 240 people, and destroyed hundreds of homes and shops, two schools and a hospital. It is not yet clear what the impact of global warming might be on tornadoes. A warmer climate may mean there is more moisture in the atmosphere and therefore more thunderstorms and tornadoes, says Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the UK's Met Office:
'But on the other hand, you might get changes in high-level winds which could decrease tornadoes. So it literally could be either way. We don't know.' (Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent, 'Scientists inconclusive about climate change impact on tornadoes', Financial Times, May 21, 2013; article behind paywall)
Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University, agrees it's 'too early to tell' the impact of global warming on tornadoes, although he added:
'you'd probably go with a prediction of greater frequency and intensity of tornadoes as a result of human-caused climate change.'
For now, at least, it is not possible to directly attribute a particular tornado, even a large one like the Oklahoma event, to global warming. As Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told the New York Times in 2010:
'It's not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there's always an element of both.'
Moreover, as science writer Joe Romm notes:
'When discussing extreme weather and climate, tornadoes should not be conflated with the other extreme weather events for which the connection is considerably more straightforward and better documented, including deluges, droughts, and heat waves.'
However, he also adds:
'Just because the tornado-warming link is more tenuous doesn't mean that the subject of global warming should be avoided entirely when talking about tornadoes.'
In 2011, after a record series of tornadoes in the US, Trenberth had told Romm:
'It is irresponsible not to mention climate change. ... The environment in which all of these storms and the tornadoes are occurring has changed from human influences (global warming).' 
In the wake of the deaths and devastation wreaked by the Oklahoma tornado, Romm has revisited the scientific evidence on global warming and tornadoes, and again highlights Trenberth's remark above.
But on the main BBC News television programmes, science correspondent David Shukman brushed the topic away:
'Tornadoes are nothing new. And so far there's no evidence that over the past century that climate change is causing more of them.'
There was only the briefest mention of climate change, then, by the BBC, and nothing was heard on the main television news programmes from any of the climate scientists who, as noted above, believe there could be a link with global warming. This is standard treatment. The reluctance or inability of BBC News to discuss fully and responsibly the seriousness of global warming, even when reporting related issues such as energy and industry, is something we noted in an alert earlier this year.

'Deniers Want The Public To Be Confused'

But sometimes luck simply runs out for high-profile, highly-paid journalists performing their clunking impressions of 'balanced' journalism. This was the fate that befell Sarah Montague of the much-vaunted BBC Radio 4 Today programme when she interviewed James Hansen on May 17. Hansen, the former senior Nasa climate scientist who first warned the world about catastrophic climate change in 1988, corrected the BBC interviewer when she said in her introduction that the global average temperature had not changed in two decades.
'Well, I should correct what you just said. It's not true that the temperature has not changed in two decades.'
The BBC interviewer blundered on:
'But there was a suggestion that we should have been expecting 0.2 of a degree and it has ...'
Hansen interjected:
'No. If you look over a 30 or 40-year period then the expected warming is about two-tenths of a degree per decade. But that doesn't mean that each decade is going to warm two-tenths of a degree. There's too much natural variability.'
Hansen continued:
'In addition, China and India have been pumping out aerosols by burning more and more coal. So you get from that, not only CO2, but also these particles that reflect sunlight and reduce the heating of the Earth. So [...] it's a complicated system, but there's no change at all in our understanding of climate sensitivity [to rising levels of CO2] and where the climate is headed.'
He was clear that the suggestion that global warming has stalled is 'a diversionary tactic' by deniers of the science. Why are they doing this?
'It's because the deniers want the public to be confused. They raise these minor issues and then we forget about what the main story is. The main story is carbon dioxide is going up and it is going to produce a climate which is going to have dramatic changes if we don't begin to reduce our emissions.'
The interview was an all-too-rare instance of a BBC journalist being confronted by someone who really knew what they were talking about on a vital issue for humanity, and able to put it across in a calm and articulate way that listeners could easily understand. It's not the first time the BBC Today programme has been caught out of its depth on climate science.
The false 'balance' in climate journalism is heavily skewed by the supposed need to share time between climate science and climate science denial. This is irrational 'journalism' by media professionals who have been seduced by a stubborn minority of people who 'refuse to accept that climate change is happening despite the overwhelming scientific evidence', notes Ryan Koronowski. This minority, particularly in the United States, are fanatic about fanning the flames of doubt and are often in powerful positions in the political establishment. These climate science deniers are often also free-market ideologues. Koronowski, deputy editor of Climate Progess, cites a recent study by researchers in Australia which found that:
'people who expressed faith in free-market ideology were also likely to reject [the] scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that burning fossil fuels helps to cause it.'
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study also showed that irrational scepticism towards scientific evidence extended beyond climate change:
'Endorsement of free markets also predicted the rejection of other established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer.'
Indeed, there is a long and shameful history of corporate disinformation and rearguard campaigns of deception to deny science. (See, for example, Andrew Rowell, Green Backlash, Routledge, London, 1996; and Sharon Beder, Global Spin, Green Books, Totnes, 1997.)
For many years now, there has been an overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. A new survey of more than 4,000 peer-reviewed papers showed that 97.1% agreed that humans are causing climate change. Suzanne Goldenberg reported on the Guardian website that:
'[The] finding of near unanimity provided a powerful rebuttal to climate contrarians who insist the science of climate change remains unsettled.'
'The study blamed strenuous lobbying efforts by industry to undermine the science behind climate change for the gap in perception. The resulting confusion has blocked efforts to act on climate change.'
This corporate-led blocking strategy is particularly cruel, indeed criminal on a global scale, given the catastrophic consequences of continued carbon emissions.

The Pan-Tentacled, Wall-Eyed And Parrot-Beaked Global Kraken

Political, military, industry and financial elites who take science seriously are well aware of the pressing reality of climate change, and worry about what it means for their global grip on power. Nafeez Ahmed observes that the US military is becoming 'increasingly concerned about the international and domestic security implications of climate change.' A US Department of Defense (DoD) document, published in February this year, warns that climate change will have 'significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to greater competition for more limited and critical life-sustaining resources like food and water.' Climate change impacts will likely also act 'as accelerants of instability or conflict in parts of the world' and 'DoD will need to adjust to the impacts of climate change on its facilities, infrastructure, training and testing activities, and military capabilities.'
The US military's stance on climate change is, of course, not motivated out of a heartfelt wish to be a benefactor for humanity. As Ahmed points out:
'The primary goal of adaptation is to ensure that the US armed forces are "better prepared to effectively respond to climate change" as it happens, and "to ensure continued mission success" in military operations - rather than to prevent or mitigate climate change.'
The elite response to impending climate chaos extends to capitalism's endless drive to burn ever more dangerous quantities of fossil fuel, even to the extent of moving into the Arctic as the ice melts. Ahmed notes that the region likely holds a massive 25 per cent of the world's remaining undiscovered oil and gas reserves. Fossil fuel companies from the US, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark already have their eyes on this northern prize, 'sparking concerted efforts by these countries to expand their Arctic military presence.'
Methane hydrates lying beneath the Arctic permafrost and the seafloor are tantalisingly now within reach. An attempt by the Tokyo-based state oil company Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation to extract methane from far below the ocean 'shows promise': an odd way to describe a reckless operation that will further tip the balance in favour of climate instability. A Nature news story, 'Japanese test coaxes fire from ice', blithely told readers:
'Reservoirs of methane hydrates — icy deposits in which methane molecules are trapped in a lattice of water — are thought to hold more energy than all other fossil fuels combined. The problem is extracting the methane economically from the deposits, which lie beneath Arctic permafrost and seafloor sediments. But some scientists and policy makers in energy-poor, coast-rich Japan hope that the reservoirs will become a crucial part of the country's energy profile.'
Methane is an even more potent global-warming gas than carbon dioxide. That a country's 'energy profile' may be pumped up by exploiting methane, even as the planet burns, is surely a form of societal madness. It's sad that the madness extends even to the most prestigious of scientific journals. A corporate-friendly Nature editorial this month exhorted, 'Together we stand'. Those are nice-sounding words. But they are an unfortunate echo of the well-known farcical refrain from the UK's discredited 'coalition' government: 'We're all in this together'. The propaganda phrase conveys a convenient myth of a shared society with shared aims: a real democracy, in other words.
The Nature editorial springs from a similarly deluded mindset:
'Protecting the environment is an added cost that many politicians and business leaders would prefer to avoid. Not to bother makes things cheaper. And despite the rhetoric of environmental campaigners, that remains an uncomfortable truth, at least in terms of the climate problem. Carbon emissions are a hallmark of energy use — and it is cheap and available energy that has made the modern world.'
And perhaps destroyed it too. The blinkered editorial continues:
'The economic currency of gross domestic product, for so long used as a benchmark of a country's performance, could be tweaked to include social indicators and how well a country respects environmental criteria, such as the concept of planetary boundaries that should not be exceeded.'
The feeble call to 'tweak' social indicators, albeit to include 'the concept of planetary boundaries that should not be exceeded', is paltry indeed when Nature's editors cannot even acknowledge that powerful and destructive state-corporate forces are defending their 'right' to exploit the planet's resources and keep billions in poverty and servitude. The editors of Nature give little sign that they comprehend the inherent unsustainability of global capitalism, and they seem oblivious to the scale of corporate obstructionism and decades-long disinformation campaigns to thwart substantive action on climate. (Again, for example, see the books by Rowell and Beder, as well as our own books.)
If the world's leading scientific publication has failed us, perhaps we could turn instead to writers such as Edward Abbey. In his classic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, Abbey powerfully and poetically rails against the corporate ravaging of the environment. In one vivid scene, the four titular protaganists overlook the devastation wreaked by a huge strip mine in Arizona:
'Their view from the knoll would be difficult to describe in any known terrestrial language. Bonnie thought of something like a Martian invasion, the War of the Worlds. Captain Smith was reminded of Kennecott's open-pit mine ("world's largest") near Magna, Utah. Dr. Sarvis thought of the plain of fire and of the oligarchs and oligopoly beyond: Peabody Coal only one arm of Anaconda Copper; Anaconda only a limb of United States Steel; U.S. Steel intertwined in incestuous embrace with the Pentagon, TVA, Standard Oil, General Dynamics, Dutch Shell, I.G. Farben-industrie; the whole conglomerated cartel spread out upon half the planet Earth like a global kraken, pan-tentacled, wall-eyed and parrot-beaked, its brain a bank of computer data centers, its blood the flow of money, its heart a radioactive dynamo, its language the technotronic monologue of number imprinted on magnetic tape.' (Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang, Avon Books, 1975/76, New York, p. 159)
Abbey memorably sums up the whole corporate-industrial-military system as 'a megalomaniacal megamachine.' The strong, image-laden language gives a hint of what humanity is up against. It is not a matter of 'tweaking' the system, or asking the megamachine to be nicer. It needs to be dismantled and replaced with a cooperative human society that is ecologically sustainable. A good start would be to challenge the corporate media that limits the possibility of even discussing alternatives to the madness of global capitalism.
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The second Media Lens book, 'NEWSPEAK in the 21st Century' by David Edwards and David Cromwell, was published in 2009 by Pluto Press. John Pilger writes of the book:
"Not since Orwell and Chomsky has perceived reality been so skilfully revealed in the cause of truth." Find it in the Media Lens Bookshop
In September 2012, Zero Books published 'Why Are We The Good Guys?' by David Cromwell. Mark Curtis, author of 'Web of Deceit' and 'Unpeople', says:
'This book is truly essential reading, focusing on one of the key issues, if not THE issue, of our age: how to recognise the deep, everyday brainwashing to which we are subjected, and how to escape from it. This book brilliantly exposes the extent of media disinformation, and does so in a compelling and engaging way.'