OUR PLUNDERED COMMON HOME – Pope Francis (a.k.a. Jorge Mario Bergoglio) demands action against environmental ruin and global warming

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“Our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. (…) This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. (…) The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” [READ IT ALL HERE]

POPE FRANCIS / JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO 
(2015 Encyclical Letter [READ IT ALL HERE])
Wikipedia

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DEMOCRACY NOW!

Democracy Now
“In his long-awaited encyclical on the environment and climate change, Pope Francis has called for swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” He called for a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a “throwaway” consumer culture, and an end to “obstructionist attitudes” that sometimes put profit before the common good. Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical “imperative” for believers and nonbelievers alike that should supersede political and economic interests. A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. “We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet,” he said. We speak to Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” She has been invited to speak at the Vatican, where she will speak at the “People and Planet First: The Imperative to Change Course” conference. And here in New York is Nathan Schneider, columnist at America magazine, a national Catholic weekly magazine published by the Jesuits.”

WATCH IT! 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES:

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Pope Francis on Thursday called for a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change, blending a biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action.The vision that Francis outlined in a 184-page papal encyclical is sweeping in ambition and scope: He describes relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment and says apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness are to blame.The most vulnerable victims, he declares, are the world’s poorest people, who are being dislocated and disregarded.

Francis, the first pope from the developing world, used the encyclical — titled “Laudato Si’,” or “Praise Be to You” — to highlight the crisis posed by climate change. He places most of the blame on fossil fuels and human activity, while warning of an “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequence for all of us” if corrective action is not taken swiftly. Developed, industrialized countries were mostly responsible, he says, and are obligated to help poorer nations confront the crisis.“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods,” he writes. “It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

READ ON

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A graffiti image of Pope Francis in Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or, France.

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Full text of pope’s statement on environment and exploitation

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The Guardian

“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish. Industrial waste and chemical products utilised in cities and agricultural areas can lead to bioaccumulation in the organisms of the local population, even when levels of toxins in those places are low. Frequently no measures are taken until after people’s health has been irreversibly affected.

These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. To cite one example, most of the paper we produce is thrown away and not recycled. It is hard for us to accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary: plants synthesise nutrients which feed herbivores; these in turn become food for carnivores, which produce significant quantities of organic waste which give rise to new generations of plants. But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet…” Pope Francis

David Suzuki: “If it ain’t working, change the darn thing!”

David Suzuki in this interview about facing the reality of climate change and other environmental issues from Moyers & Company.

FAST FOOD NATION: Eric Schlosser’s discoveries about how cheap and fast junk-food is produced in the U.S.

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Eric Schlosser’s first book, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (2001), an international best-seller translated into more than 20 languages, and filmed by Richard Linklater in 2006, aims to expose the reality of how food is produced in the U.S.A. Amazed by the “size and power of the fast-food industry and the speed at which it had grown”, Eric Schlosser’s award-winning investigation is highly enlightening about issues such as “the impact of McDonald’s on American industry, the role of fast-food marketing in changing the American diet, the obesity epidemic among American children, and the huge political and economic influence of the big agribusiness firms” (Food Inc., pg. 6).

Schlosser’s work as journalist has been published in Atlantic Montly, Rolling Stone, The Nation and New Yorker, among others. He’s also the author of Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labour in the American Black Market (2003) and Chew On This (2006, with co-author Charles Wilson). In an interview which opens the book Food, Inc. – How Industrial Food Is Making Us Sicker, Fatter and Poorer And What You Can Do About It (edited by Karl Weber), Schlosser revealed some of his main influences: “The writers whom I’ve admired most, the ones who have inspired me most, threw themselves into the big issues of their day. They didn’t play it safe, hold back, or write for the sake of writing. Writers like Upton Sinclair, John Dos Passos, George Orwell, Arthur Miller, Hunter S. Thompson – they were willing to take risks and go against the grain.”

Awestruck Wanderer has selected some of Eric Schlosser’s discoveries about the food industry, including the dark side of strawberries, the labour conditions of meat-packing workers,  and other incovenient truths that Ronald McDonald doesn’t want you to know about. Check this out:

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THE DARK SIDE OF STRAWBERRIES 

“When you think of the California economy, you think of high-tech industries like Silicon Valley, you think of Hollywood. You don’t think of poor, desperate migrants picking fruits and vegetables with their bare hands. But at the heart of the state’s economy is this hard, ugly reality. (…) You know, I love strawberries. But when most people see a display of strawberries in their local supermarket, they don’t realize that every one of those strawberries has to be very carefully picked by hand. Strawberries are very fragile and easily bruised. So if you want to produce a lot of strawberries in California, you need a lot of hands to pick them. And during the past 30 years those hands have belonged to people who are likely to be in the state illegally, who are willing to work for substandard wages in terrible conditions.”

 MEATPACKING AND SLAVERY WAGES

“I spent a great deal of time in meatpacking communities, which are sad, desperate places. Meatpacking used to be one of the best-paid jobs in the country. Until the late 1970s, meatpacking workers were like auto workers. They had well-paid union jobs. They earned good wages, before the fast-food companies came along. It upset me to find that the wages of meta-packing workers had recently been slashed, that they were now suffering all kinds of job-related injuries without being properly compensated. California has been exploiting migrant workers from Mexico for a hundred years. But that form of exploitation had, until recently, been limited to California and a handful of Southwestern states. Now it seemed to be spreading throughout the United States.”

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CORPORATE SUPPRESSION OF TRUTH

“Robby Kenner, the director of Food Inc., has said that his film is not just about food, it’s also about threats to the First Amendment and the desire of some powerful corporations to suppress the truth. I would agree with that description of his film, and it also applies to my book. Both of us, while investigating America’s industrial food system, were struck by the corrupting influence of centralized power. Whenever power is concentrated and unaccountable – whether it’s corporate power, governmental power, or religious power – it inevitably leads to abuses… When you talk about the food industry, you’re talking about something fundamental: an industry whose business practices help determine the health of the customers who eat its products, the health of the workers who make its products, the health of the environment, animal welfare, and so much more. The nation’s system of food production – and who controls it – has a profound impact on society.

Here’s an example. One of the major themes of Fast Food Nation and Food, Inc. is the power of corporations to influence government policy. Again and again, we see these companies seeking deregulation – and government subsidies. They hate government regulation that protect workers and consumers but love to receive taxpayer money. That theme has implications far beyond the food industry. The same kind of short-sighted greed that has threatened food safety and worker safety for years now threatens the entire economy of the USA. You can’t separate the deregulation of the food industry from the deregulation of financial markets. Both were driven by the same mindset. And now we find ourselves on the brink of a worldwide economic meltdown. But in times of crisis we are more likely to see things clearly, to recognize that many of the problems in our society are interconnected. The same guys who would sell you contaminated meat would no doubt sell you toxic mortgages, just to make an extra buck.

Beyond Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser

PUBLIC HEALTH DISASTER

81YRoRKdF2L“The administration of President George W. Bush was completely in bed with the large meatpacking and food-processing companies. As a result, food safety regulations were rolled back or ignored. These industries were pretty much allowed to regulate themselves. And tens of thousands of American consumers paid the price, with their health. The big chains are pretty much operating the way they always have. They want their products to be cheap and taste everywhere exactly the same. That requires a certain kind of production system, an industrial agriculture responsible for all sorts of harms. And the fast-food chains want their labor to be cheap as well. The fundamental workings of this system haven’t changed at all since Fast Food Nation was published. At the moment, about two-thirds of the adult population in the United States is obese or overweight. That’s the recipe for a public health disaster, and if the number grows much higher, it will be a monumental disaster.

It’s possible to go to the market, buy good ingredients, and make yourself a healthy meal for less than it costs to buy a value meal at McDonald’s. But most people don’t have the time or the skills to do that. It’s a hell of a lot easier to buy your meal at the drive-through. I can understand why a single parent, working two jobs, would find it easier to stop at McDonald’s with the kids rather than cook something from scratch at home. But we’re looking at the long list of harms, this fast, cheap food is much too expensive. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one-third of all American children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes as a result of poor diet and lack of exercise. So when we talk about bringing healthy food to every American – yes, it probably means spendind more money on food. But you can spend that extra money on food now, or spend a lot more money later, treating heart disease and diabetes.

The obesity epidemic is costing us about $100 billion a year.  The medical costs imposed by the fast-food industry are much larger than its annual profits – except the industry isn’t paying those medical bills. Obesity may soon surpass tobacco as the number-one cause of preventable death in the United States. (…) Companies that sell healthy foods should earn large profits; companies that sell junk food shouldn’t!

A PERVERSE SYSTEM

“The fast-food industry didn’t suddenly appear in a vacuum. The industry’s growth coincides neatly with a huge decline in the minimum wage, beginning in the late 1960s. When you cut people’s wages by as much as 40%, they need cheap food. And the labor policies of the fast-food industry helped drive those wages down. For years, the industry has employed more minimum-wage workers than any other – and has lobbied for lower minimum wages. So we’ve created a perverse system in which the food is cheap at fast food restaurants because they employ cheap labour, sell products that are heavily subsidized by the government, and sell them to consumers whose wages have been kept low. We’re talking about a race to the bottom. We shouldn’t have a society where the only food that’s readily affordable is unhealthy food.

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Interview with Eric Schlosser about Fast Food Nation:

Food Inc. (full documentary):

Peter Singer and Eric Schlosser, “Moving Beyond F.F. Nation”:

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Recommended further reading:

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If you enjoyed this post, please share the links with your friends in social media, support independent blogging, and add strenght to the collective effort to spread awareness and change. Cheers, fellow wanderers!

“I’ve seen the future,” Naomi Klein says, “and it looks like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina” (Vogue Magazine, August 25 2014)

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Noami Klein portrayed by Vogue: “Born in Montreal in 1970, Klein grew up the daughter of left-wing American parents who moved to Canada because of the Vietnam War and continued their progressive politics there: Her mother, Bonnie Sherr Klein, was part of Canada’s first feminist film studio, while her father, Michael Klein, M.D., built innovative public health centers.

Over the last decade, Klein’s research trips—to Indonesia, Poland, Gaza, Sri Lanka, New Orleans after Katrina, et cetera—and her frequent public appearances have often kept her and Lewis in different places, many of which aren’t pleasant. Klein was reporting for Harper’s in Baghdad in 2004, for instance, when the occupation in Iraq descended into terrifying bloodshed. She says it’s the scariest place she’s ever been.

It will be released soon the film of This Changes Everything, a documentary aimed at people who won’t read her book. Both book and film strike a delicate balance between stoking the energizing fear of impending disaster (“I’ve seen the future,” Klein says, “and it looks like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina”) and offering a glimpse of hope…” – Read it all here

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5 Crucial Lessons for the Left From Naomi Klein’s New Book

You can’t fight climate change without fighting capitalism, argues Klein in This Changes Everything.

BY ETHAN COREY AND JESSICA CORBETT

In her previous books The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) and NO LOGO: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs (2000), Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein took on topics like neoliberal “shock therapy,” consumerism, globalization and “disaster capitalism,” extensively documenting the forces behind the dramatic rise in economic inequality and environmental degradation over the past 50 years. But in her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (due in stores September 16), Klein casts her gaze toward the future, arguing that the dangers of climate change demand radical action now to ward off catastrophe. She certainly isn’t alone in pointing out the urgency of the threat, but what sets Klein apart is her argument that it is capitalism—not carbon—that is at the root of climate change, inexorably driving us toward an environmental Armageddon in the pursuit of profit. This Changes Everything is well worth a read (or two) in full, but we’ve distilled some of its key points here.

1. Band-Aid solutions don’t work.

“Only mass social movements can save us now. Because we know where the current system, left unchecked, is headed.”

Much of the conversation surrounding climate change focuses on what Klein dismisses as “Band-Aid solutions”: profit-friendly fixes like whizz-bang technological innovations, cap-and-trade schemes and supposedly “clean” alternatives like natural gas. To Klein, such strategies are too little, too late. In her drawn-out critique of corporate involvement in climate change prevention, she demonstrates how profitable “solutions” put forward by many think-tanks (and their corporate backers) actually end up making the problem worse. For instance, Klein argues that carbon trading programs create perverse incentives, allowing manufacturers to produce more harmful greenhouse gases, just to be paid to reduce them. In the process, carbon trading schemes have helped corporations make billions—allowing them to directly profit off the degradation of the planet. Instead, Klein argues, we need to break free of market fundamentalism and implement long-term planning, strict regulation of business, more taxation, more government spending and reversals of privatization to return key infrastructure to public control.

2. We need to fix ourselves, not fix the world.

“The earth is not our prisoner, our patient, our machine, or, indeed, our monster. It is our entire world. And the solution to global warming is not to fix the world, it is to fix ourselves.”

Klein devotes a full chapter of the book to geoengineering: the field of research, championed by a niche group of scientists, funders and media figures, that aims to fight global warming by altering the earth itself—say, by covering deserts with reflective material to send sunlight back to space or even dimming the sun to decrease the amount of heat reaching the planet. However, politicians and much of the global public have raised environmental, health and ethical concerns regarding these proposed science experiments with the planet, and Klein warns of the unknown consequences of creating “a Frankenstein’s world,” with multiple countries launching projects simultaneously. Instead of restoring an environmental equilibrium, Klein argues these “techno-fixes” will only further upset the earth’s balance, each one creating a host of new problems, requiring an endless chain of further “fixes.” She writes, “The earth—our life support system—would itself be put on life support, hooked up to machines 24/7 to prevent it from going full-tilt monster on us.”

3. We can’t rely on “well-intentioned” corporate funding.

“A great many progressives have opted out of the climate change debate in part because they thought that the Big Green groups, flush with philanthropic dollars, had this issue covered. That, it turns out, was a grave mistake.”

Klein strongly critiques partnerships between corporations and major environmental groups, along with attempts by “green billionaires” such as Bill Gates and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson to use capitalism to fighting global warming. When capitalism itself is a principal cause of climate change, Klein argues, it doesn’t make sense to expect corporations and billionaires to put the planet before profit. For example, though the Gates Foundation funds many major environmental groups dedicated to combating climate change, as of December 2013, it had at least $1.2 billion invested in BP and ExxonMobil. In addition, when Big Greens become dependent on corporate funding, they start to push a corporate agenda. For instance, organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund, which have taken millions of dollars from pro-fracking corporate funders, such as Shell, Chevron and JP Morgan, are pitching natural gas as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal.

4. We need divestment, and reinvestment.

“The main power of divestment is not that it financially harms Shell and Chevron in the short term but that it erodes the social license of fossil fuel companies and builds pressure on politicians to introduce across-the-board emission reductions.”

Critics of the carbon divestment movement often claim that divestment will have minimal impact on polluters’ bottom lines. But Klein argues that this line of reasoning misses the point, quoting Canadian divestment activist Cameron Fenton’s argument that “No one is thinking we’re going to bankrupt fossil fuel companies. But what we can do is bankrupt their reputations and take away their political power.” More importantly, divestment opens the door for reinvestment. A few million dollars out of the hands of ExxonMobil or BP frees up money that can now be spent developing green infrastructure or empowering communities to localize their economies. And some colleges, charities, pension funds and municipalities have already got the message: Klein reports that 13 U.S. colleges and universities, 25 North American cities, around 40 religious institutions and several major foundations have all made commitments to divest their endowments from fossil fuel stocks and bonds.

5. Confronting climate change is an opportunity to address other social, economic and political issues.

“When climate change deniers claim that global warming is a plot to redistribute wealth, it’s not (only) because they are paranoid. It’s also because they are paying attention.”

In The Shock Doctrine, Klein explained how corporations have exploited crises around the world for profit. In This Changes Everything, she argues that the climate change crisis can serve as a wake-up call for widespread democratic action. For instance, when a 2007 tornado destroyed most of Greensburg, Kansas, the town rejected top-down approaches to recovery in favor of community-based rebuilding efforts that increased democratic participation and created new, environmentally-friendly public buildings. Today, Greensburg is one of the greenest towns in the United States. To Klein, this example illustrates how people can use climate change to come together to build a greener society. It also can, and indeed must, spur a radical transformation of our economy: less consumption, less international trade (part of relocalizing our economies) and less private investment, and a lot more government spending to create the infrastructure we need for a green economy. “Implicit in all of this,” Klein writes, “is a great deal more redistribution, so that more of us can live comfortably within the planet’s capacity.”

Reblogged from In These Times

Watch below Naomi at the Peoples Social Forum (Ottawa, 2014)

Starbucks Coffee and the Ideology of Ethical Consumption – by Slavoj Zizek

Zizek2

perverts-guide-to-ideology“Starbucks coffee! I’m regularly drinking it, I must admit it. But are we aware that when we buy a cappuccino from Starbucks we also buy quite a lot of ideology? Which ideology?

You know, when you enter a Starbucks store, it’s usually always displayed in some posters their message: “Yes, our cappuccino is more expensive than others,” but, then comes the story: “We give 1% all our income to some Guatemalan children to keep them healthy, for the water supply for some Saharan farmer, or to save the forest, to enable organic growing for coffee, or whatever or whatever.”

Now, I admire the ingenuity of this solution. In the old days of pure, simple consumerism, you bough a product, and then you felt bad: “My God, I’m just a consumerist, while people are starving in Africa . . .”

So the idea is that you had to do something to counteract your pure, destructive consumerism. For example, you contribute to charity and so on.

What Starbucks enables you is to be a consumerist, without any bad conscience, because the price for the countermeasure, for fighting consumerism, is already included into the price of a commodity. Like, you pay a little bit more, and you’re not just a consumerist, but you do also your duty towards the environment, the poor, starving people in Africa, and so on and so on.

It’s, I think, the ultimate form of consumerism.”

SLAVOJ ZIZEK. The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
A film by Sophie Fiennes. Download (kick ass torrent).
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Illustrations by Steve Cutts

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More at http://www.stevecutts.com

Noam Chomsky in 3 Doses: Manufacturing Consent (documentary), Profit Over People (interview), Imperial Ambitions (ebook)

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“It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste.” ― Noam Chomsky

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Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media

Funny, provocative, and surprisingly accessible, MANUFACTURING CONSENT explores the political life and ideas of Noam Chomsky, world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist. In a dynamic collage of new and original footage, biography, archival gems, imaginative graphics and outrageous illustrations, the film highlights the evolution of Chomsky’s philosophy, his probing analysis of mass media, and his critique of the forces behind the daily news. MANUFACTURING CONSENT stands as the definitive work on Chomsky, favoring a documentary style that encourages viewers to question its own workings, as Chomsky himself encourages his listeners to extricate themselves from the media’s “web of deceit” by undertaking a course of “intellectual self-defense.” Winner of 22 international awards and honors including the Gold Sesterce (Nyon), Gold Apple (Oakland), Gold Hugo (Chicago), Gold Conch (Bombay); three Audience Choice awards, and the “Most Loved By Public” rating at the Sydney International Film Festival. – CINEDIGM

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In this first collection of interviews since the bestselling 9-11, our foremost intellectual activist examines crucial new questions of U.S. foreign policy

Timely, urgent, and powerfully elucidating, this important volume of previously unpublished interviews conducted by award-winning radio journalist David Barsamian features Noam Chomsky discussing America’s policies in an increasingly unstable world. With his famous insight, lucidity, and redoubtable grasp of history, Chomsky offers his views on the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the doctrine of “preemptive” strikes against so-called rogue states, and the prospects of the second Bush administration, warning of the growing threat to international peace posed by the U.S. drive for domination. In his inimitable style, Chomsky also dissects the propaganda system that fabricates a mythic past and airbrushes inconvenient facts out of history.

Barsamian, recipient of the ACLU’s Upton Sinclair Award for independent journalism, has conducted more interviews and radio broadcasts with Chomsky than has any other journalist. Enriched by their unique rapport, Imperial Ambitions explores topics Chomsky has never before discussed, among them the 2004 presidential campaign and election, the future of Social Security, and the increasing threat, including devastating weather patterns, of global warming. The result is an illuminating dialogue with one of the leading thinkers of our time — and a startling picture of the turbulent times in which we live.

DOWNLOAD EBOOK ( 226 pgs, 2005, epub)

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On The Verge Of Climate Collapse // George Monbiot’s book “Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning”

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A FAUSTIAN PACT

In Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, written in 1590 (and that would later inspire Goethe’s Faust), he tells the story of a brilliant scholar, “glutted with learning’s golden gifts”, who reaches the limits of human knowledge. Bored by terrestrial scholarship, he plots, by means of necromancy, to break into

…a world of profit and delight
Of power, honor, of omnipotence.

When, he believes, he has acquired his demonic powers, spirits will fetch him everything he wants:

I’ll have them fly to India for gold,
Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,
And search all corners of the new-found world
For pleasant fruits and princely delicates.

So Faustus draws a circle and summons the Devil’s servant, Mephistopheles. He offers him a deal: if the Devil will grant him 24 years in which to “live in all voluptuousness”, Faustus will, at the end of that period , surrender his soul to hell. Mephistopheles explains the consequences, but the doctor refuses to believe him.

Think’st thou that Faustus is so fond to imagine
That, after this life, there is any pain?
Tush, these are trifles and mere old wives’ tales.

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So the bargain is struck and signed in blood, and Faustus acquires his magical powers, With the help of a flying “chariot burning bright”, he takes a sightseeing tour around Europe. He performs miracles. He summons fresh grapes from the southern hemisphere in the dead of winter.  After 24 years, the devils come for him.  He begs for mercy, but it is too late. They drag him down to hell.

If you did not know any better, you could mistake this story for a metaphor of climate change.

Faust is humankind, restless, curious, unsated. Mephistopheles, who appears in the original English text as a “fiery man”, is fossil fuel. Faust’s miraculous abilities are the activities fossil fuel permits. 24 years is the period – about half the true span – in which they have enabled us to live in all voluptuousness. And the flames of hell – well, I think you’ve probably worked that out for yourself… Our use of fossil fuels is a Faustian pact.

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To doubt, today, that manmade climate change is happening, you must abandon science and revert to some other means of understanding the world: alchemy perhaps, or magic.

Ice cores extracted from the Antarctic show that the levels in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and methane (these are the two principal greenhouse gases) are now higher than they have been for 650.000 years.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have been rising over the 20th century faster than at any time over the past 20.000 years. The only means by which greenhouse gases could have accumulated so swiftly is human action: carbon dioxide is produced by burning oil, coal and gas and by clearing forests, while methane is released from farms and coal mines and landfill sites.

As CO2 and methane levels in the atmosphere increase, the temperature rises. The concentration of carbon dioxide, the more important of the two, has risen from 280 parts per million parts of air (ppm) in Marlowe’s time to 380 ppm today. Most of the growth has taken place in the last 50 years. The average global temperature over the past century has climbed, as a result, by 0.6º Centigrade. According to the World Metereological Organization, “the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest in any century during the past 1.000 years.

Already sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk to the smallest area ever recorded. In the Antarctic, scientists watched stupefied in 2002 as the Larsen B ice shelf collapsed into the sea (see The Guardian’s Antarctica Sends 500 Million Tonne Warning of the Effects of Global Warming, 20 March 2006, by John Vidal).  A paper published in Science magazine concluded that is disintegration was the result of melting caused by a warming ocean.

Almost all the world’s glaciers are now retreating. Permafrost in Alaska and Siberia, which has remained frozen since the last Ice Age, has started to melt. Parts of the Amazon rainforest are turning to savannah as the temperatures there exceed the point at which trees can survive… The World Health Organization estimates that 150.000 people a year are now dying as a result of climate change… All this is happening with just 0.6 ºC of warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a committee of climate specialists which assesses and summarizes the science, estimated in 2001 that global temperatures will rise between 1.4 and 5.8º C this century. (…) Professor Martin Parry of the UK’s Metereological Office estimates that a rise of just 2.1º C will expose between 2.3 and 3 billion people to the risk of water shortages. The disappearance of glaciers in the Andes and the Himalayas will imperil the people who depend on their meltwater, particularly in Pakistan, western China, Central Asia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization warns that “in some 40 poor, developing countries, with a combined population of 2 billion, crop production losses due to climate change may drastically increase the number of undernourished people, severely hindering progress in combating poverty and food insecurity.”

HEATGEORGE MONBIOT
Heat – How to Stop the Planet From Burning
(Doubleday Canada, 2006, 277 pgs. Buy at Amazon.)
Read on at http://www.monbiot.com

BROKEN REPUBLIC (Penguin Books, 2011) – The “World’s Biggest Democracy” according to Arundathi Roy

DSC05338DSC05331DSC05332DSC05333Photos from Arundhati Roy’s Broken Republic

INDIA: THE WORLD’S BIGGEST DEMOCRACY? By E.C. Moraes @ Awestruck Wanderer 

AA1998: while we were reaching the end of the 20th century, India was testing nuclear weapons. The civilization which gave to the world masters of wisdom such as Gandhi and Sidarta Gautama, Ambedkar and Tagore, was very un-wisely on the brink of war.  It was like a reawakening of the politics of the Cold War, in which both the U.S. and the Soviet Union had atom bombs at their disposal, with both India and its next-door-neighbour Pakistan with weapons of mass destruction pointing at one another. The scars of Partition still imprinted in memory. Sad news, indeed. It’s as if, instead of learning from History (Hiroshima and Nagasaki: “the horror, the horror!”), some governments just won’t let go of this very lousy idea of messing with nuclear warfare – a situation so brilliantly mocked by Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr. Strangelove.

One of India’s greatest writers, Booker-Prize winning novelist Arundhati Roy, instead of writing a follow-up for The God of Small Things (1997) – widely considered a masterpiece of contemporary literature – felt she had to devote herself to write about the political reality of her nation’s turmoil. She accused India’s government of dangerously throwing fuel to a fire of nationalist pride with the Hindu H-Bomb. “When you have dispossession and disempowerment on this scale as a result of corporate globalization”, she told David Barsamian, “the anger that it creates can be channeled in bizarre and dangerous ways. India’s nuclear testes were conduced to shore up people’s flagging self-esteem. India is still flinching from the cultural insult of British colonialism, still looking for its identity.” (The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile, p. 37) Nuclear warfare on the hands of India and Pakistan was certainly no reason to celebrate, argued Arundhati Roy, who feared the worst might end up happening  -she finished one of her articles with apocalyptic imagery: “This world of our is 4.600 million years old. It could end in an afternoon.” (read The End of Imagination at Outlook Magazine)

broken-republic-arundhati-roy1Arundhati Roy’s political essays also denounce fiercely the Human Rights abuses in Kashmir, where India’s army imposes its rule with the colossal force of half-a-million soldiers (the largest military occupation in the world), crushing with violence all the demands of independence made by Kashmiris. Opposing the recent wave of celebration of India’s “economic miracle” and skyrocketing GDP, Arundhati Roy states that we shouldn’t be fooled by the ideology marketed by “experts in economics”. One shouldn’t measure the success of a nation by the number of new billionaires it produces each year. And wealth going into the pockets of large corporations and their politicians should never be confused with Common Wealth or Social Justice. She argues that India is a fake democracy, a society still deeply hierarchical, clinging to its rigid Caste System, with obscene rates of deaths by starvation and mass suicides by empoverished peasants (since 1997, it’s estimated that 200.000 of them have killed themselves, often by drinking Monsanto’s pesticides). Arundathi Roys, in her BBC interview, stated that no less than 800 million people in India live on less than 20 rupees a day (which means: 30 cents of a dollar).

According to Roy, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, India aligned with the U.S.A. and the Indian state decided to open its gates to all the marvels of Free Market and “Development”. When the new century dawned, however, the September 11th attacks on New York and Washington were to be followed by a surge of islamophobia, fueled by the Yankees “War on Terror” that was beggining to plan its military invasions and bombings of Afheganistan. In India, this epidemic of islamophobia caused disaster, a re-awakening of communal violence, culminating in tragedy: in Gujarat, 2002, Muslims were massacred  by Hindu nationalists in a pogrom which killed at least 2.000 people and forced at least 150.000 out of their homes. Welcome to the “World’s Largest Democracy”.

Is Indian Capitalism working? If we look at growth rates and skyrocketing GDP, oh yes Sir! But let’s not get blinded by economists and their statistics: India is a country ravaged by famine: “836 million people of India live on less than 20 rupees a day, 1.500.000 malnourished children die every year before they reach their first birthday. Is this what is known as ‘enjoying the fruits of modern development’?” (ROY, Broken Republic, pg. 154).

The Indian State also has to deal with another kind of menace, the “inner enemy”, those dozens of thousands of Indians, called “Maoists” or “Naxalites”, who decided to insurrect in armed rebellion. They want nothing less than to overthrow the Indian State. “Right now in central India, the Maoists’ guerrilla army is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with sub-Suharan Africa”, writes Arundhati Roy (pg. 7).

In 2006, India’s prime minister described the Maoists as “the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country”, a statement which Roy considers very exaggerated.  By magnifying in discourse the danger posed by the Maoist guerrilla, by painting in the media a portrait of them as cruel terrorists, the Indian government aims, argues Arundhati Roy, to justify its war measures against the poorest of its citizens. Quite honest in revealing the masters who he serves, the prime minister also told the Parliament in 2009: “If Left Wing extremism continues to flourish in important parts of our country which have tremendous natural resources of minerals and other precious things, that will certainly affect the climate for investment.” (B.R., pg. 3)

For a quick example of the “tremendous natural resources”, it’s enough to mention that “the bauxite deposits of Orissa alone is worth 2.27 trillion dollars (twice India’s gross domestic product)” (pg. 23). In order for the mining corporations to have access to this precious things, India needs to be turned into a Police State. It needs to wage war against the hungry, desperate and destitute people who live in this very “profitable” lands, against the people who revolt against being displaced, impoverished and opressed. To simply leave the bauxite in the mountains seems out of the question for the government and the industrialists, of course, who have eyes only for the money that can be made and not to the environmental damage and social havoc that such procedures of extraction will cause. The alliance between a neo-liberal state and its corporate friends leads to a situation in which military power and police repression are massively used to enforce the so-called Free Market. In order to clear the way for the corporations to extract their profits from India’s natural resources, genocide is seen as an acceptable means, if only you preach in the media that a terrorist threat to national security needs to be crushed.

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Comrade Kamla, member of the Maoist guerrillas.

“What are we to make of the fact that just around the time the prime minister began to call the Maoists the ‘single biggest internal security challenge’ (which was a signal that the government was getting ready to go after them) the share prices of many of the mining corporations in the region skyrocketed? The mining companies desperately need this war… To justify the militarization, it needs an enemy. The Maoists are that enemy. They are to corporate fundamentalists what the Muslims are to Hindu fundamentalists. (…) Here’s a maths question: if it takes 600.000 soldiers to hold down the tiny valley of Kashmir, how many will it take to contain the mounting rage of hundreds of millions of people?” (31-34)

Arundhati Roy speaks from experience: she went to witness first-hand what’s happening in the areas where India’s State and the Maoist guerrilla clash. She tells the tale in Walking With The Comrades, one astonishing feat of investigative journalist that proves how courageous Arundathi Roy really is. She puts herself in danger in order to see for herself what’s going on there, in order to be able to write truly about the battle for the “mineral-rich forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal – homeland to millions of India’s tribal people, dreamland to the corporate world.” (pg. 42) It seems to be a situation with many similarities with Mexico’s conflict in Chiapas, where the Zapatista’s armed insurrection confronts the Mexican State in its tendency to favour corporate plunder of indigenous lands.

“The antagonists in the forest are disparate and unequal in almost every way. On one side is a massive paramilitary force armed with the money, the firepower, the media, and the hubris of an emerging Superpower. On the other, ordinary villagers armed with traditional weapons, backed by a superbly organized, hugely motivated Maoist guerrilla fighting force with an extraordinary and violent history of armed rebellion.” (pg. 39)

India’s Constitution, adopted in 1950, “ratified colonial policy and made the state custodian of tribal homelands. Overnight, it turned the entire tribal population into squatters on their own land.” (pg. 43) Dispossessed of their right to livelihood and dignity, the tribal people became pawns in the Big Business game. “Each time it needed to displace a large population – for dams, irrigation projects, mines – it talked of ‘bringing tribals into the mainstream’ or of giving them ‘the fruits of modern development’. Of the tens of millions of internally displaced people (more than 30 million by big dams alone), refugees of India’s ‘progress’, the great majority are tribal people.” (pg.  43) Here we have an example of what Bruno Latour calls The Modernization Front. In India, The Modernization Front, in order to protect corporate interests (after all, corporations are vehicles of Progress…), won’t refrain from engaging in a war against its own people. A War that Arundhati Roy prefers to call by another name: Genocide.

ArundhatiIn the 10-hour drive she untertook through areas known to be “Maoist-infested”, she noted: “These are not careless words. ‘Infest/infestation’ implies disease/pests. Diseases must be cured. Pests must be exterminated. Maoists must be wiped out. In these creeping, innocuous ways the language of genocide has entered our vocabulary.” (pg. 45) She walks for hours and hours each day, along with the comrades, under the shining and vehement sun, carrying a backpack filled with essentials for jungle-survival – and when it comes the time for sleep, she doesn’t mind that much not having a roof over her head. Resting on a sleeping-bag on the forest floor, she celebrates her “star-spangled dormitory” (pg. 63): “It’s my private suite in a thousand-star hotel. (…) When I was a child growing up on the banks of the Meenachal River, I used to think the sound of crickets – which always started up at twilight – was the sound of stars revving up, getting ready to shine. I’m surprised at how much I love being here. There is nowhere else in the world I would rather be.” (pg. 57-60)

While she walks with the comrades, she knows some areas they’re crossing run the risk of going underwater because of Mega Dams. Since Independence, 3.300 big dams were built, and the amount of displaced is estimated in over 30 million people.

“The Bodhgat Dam will submerge the entire area that we have been walking in for days. All that forest, that history, those stories. More than a hundred villages. Is that the plan then? To drown people like rats, so that the integrated steel plant and the bauxite mine and aluminium refinery can have the river? (…) There was a time when believing that Big Dams were the ‘temples of Modern India’ was misguided, but perhaps understandable. But today, after all that has happened, and when we knoe all that we do, it has to be said that Big Dams are a crime against humanity.” (pg. 142-143)

 In the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, 45% of its cadre are women. The so-called Maoists or Naxalites consist mainly of people from the lowest caste of India’s piramidal society: the Untouchables, the pariahs of India, those who are treated as human scums, crushed underneath a heavy weight of hierarchical machinery. When the Prime Minister said the Maoists were a grave security challenge, “the opposite was true”, argues Roy, who remembers that the rebels were being decimated in a Purification Hunt destined to “send the share-value of mining companies soaring” (pg. 80)

What it all boils down to is a clash between Corporate Capitalism, on the one side, and the majority of the population, on the other. In times where ideologies of Free Trade reign, the exploration of natural resources is made not in order to provide for the commonwealth of the whole of society, but for private profits gained through ecocidal and genocidal means.

“Allowing ‘market forces’ to mine resources ‘quickly and efficiently’ is what colonizers did to their colonies, what Spain and North America did to South America, what Europe did (and continues to do) in Africa. It’s what the Apartheid regime did in South Africa. What puppet dictators in small countries do to bleed their people. It’s a formula for growth and development, but for someone else. (…) Now that mining companies [in India] have polluted rivers, mined away state borders, wrecked ecosystems and unleashed civil war, the consequence of what the coven has set into motion is playing out like an ancient lament over ruined landscapes and the bodies of the poor.” (pg. 170)

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“If the motion picture were an art form that involved the olfactory senses – in other words, if cinema smelled – then films like Slumdog Millionaire would not win Oscars. The stench of that kind of poverty wouldn’t blend with the aroma of warm popcorn.”  – Arundathi Roy

Arundathi Roy’s political thought is so intensely relevant nowadays because she is one of the fiercest critics of what goes by the name of “Democracy” nowadays. States that impose with authoritarian means – including military atrocities and police brutality – the policy of Free Market (which means: let’s protect the private interests of wealthy corporations and billionaires!), call themselves “democracies”. India is often called the world’s biggest democracy, and yet “the Indian State, in all its democratic glory, is willing to loot, starve, lay siege to, and now deploy the air-force in ‘self-defense’ against its poorest citizens.” (pg. 186) So we have to distinguish between Ideology / Propaganda (“India is a Democracy, a Fast-Growing Economy, with a State concerned in providing Security from terrorists”) from Reality (there are a lot of natural resources that corporations are eager to get a hold of… if only the people are thrown out of the way!).

The essential question to be asking is this: what about the future of the planet? If the current model of development continues, what will happen to mankind as we move towards a future that’s bound to be filled with ecological crisis and all the cataclysms ensuing from Climate Change? In India, there’s “several trillion dollars’ worth of bauxite, for example. And “there is no environmentally sustainable way of mining bauxite and processing it into aluminium. It’s a highly toxic process that most Western countries have exported out of their own environments. To produce 1 ton of aluminium, you need about 6 tons of bauxite, more than a 1000 tons of water and a massive amount of energy. For that amount of captive water and electricity, you need big dams, which, as we know, come with their own cycle of cataclysmic destruction. Last of all – the big question – what is the aluminium for? Where is it going? Aluminium is a principal ingredient in the weapons industry – for other countries’ weapons industries…” (p. 211)

Such is the suicidal logic of the Powers That Be, a situation so bleak that many of us are worrying about Mankind’s path: are we following a road that will lead to our own extinction? Does our future hold new horrendous explosions of Atom Bombs and civil wars?  Will Corporate Capitalism be allowed to proceed with its ecocidal practices and its obscene tendencies to concentrate wealth in a few hands (while millions die from hunger and curable diseases)? How to shift direction in order for us to slow down this process that has been turning Planet Earth into an Ecological Wreck? This is how Arundathi Roy finishes this deeply moving and concerning book, Broken Republic:

“Can we expect that an alternative to what looks like certain death for the planet will come from the imagination that has brought about this crisis in the first place? It seems unlikely. The alternative, if there is one, will emerge from the places and the people who have resisted the hegemonic impulse of capitalism and imperialism instead of being co-opted by it. Here in India, even in the midst of all the violence and greed, there is still hope. We still have a population that has not yet been completely colonized by that consumerist dream. We have a living tradition of those who have struggled for Gandhi’s vision of sustainability and self-reliance, for socialist ideas of egalitarianism and social justice. We have Ambedkar’s vision, which challenges the Gandhians as well as the socialists in serious ways. We have the most spectacular coalition of resistance movements, with their experience, understanding and vision. Most important of all, India has a surviving adivasi population of almost 100 million. They are the ones who still know the secrets of sustainable living.

The day capitaism is forced to tolerate non-capitalist societies in its midst and to acknowledge limits in its quest for domination, the day it is forced to recognize that its supply of raw material will not be endless, is the day when change will come. If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate-change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives low down on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers… It is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past but may really be the guides to our future. To do this, we have to ask: Can you leave the water in the rivers, the trees in the forest? Can you leave the bauxite in the mountain? If they say they cannot, then perhaps they should stop preaching morality to the victims of their wars.” (pg. 214)

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ALGEBRA OF INFINITE JUSTICE – DOWNLOAD

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LISTENING TO GRASSHOPPERS – DOWNLOAD