Archive for the month “November, 2014”

Digital Pamphlet: Do We Live on a One Party Planet?

Introducing a new digital pamphlet designed to connect the dots on advanced-stage, 21st Century neoliberalism

/The Rules

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We now all live on a One Party Planet.

This is a provocative claim, pregnant with meaning and implication. If it’s true in the way we believe it to be, it means there is an identifiable form of totalitarianism casting a shadow over the entire human race.  It means that there is a force so broad, so enmeshed within the logic of modern global power, that the solutions we all work toward in the specific struggles we care most about – be that rampant inequalities in income and opportunity, widespread poverty, or climate change are all facing it. Not a force that lives in any single person, organization or structure, but that is ephemeral in the way that all ideology is ephemeral.  It transcends and thereby unites the leadership of the vast majority of political parties, governments and corporations that have any proximity to global power. But for all this, it is also specific, definable, and visible through the right lenses.  Which means it can be challenged.

It’s got many names but we call it Neoliberalism, because that fits it well enough and is very common, recognizable currency. It’s not primarily an economic agenda; it’s a moral philosophy.  As Margaret Thatcher, one of its seminal champions herself said, “economics are the method, the object is to change the heart and soul”.

It is defined by a circular and hermetically sealed logic, in three parts. Firstly, that survival of the fittest through eternal competition between self-interested parties is, practically speaking, the only law upon which human society can realistically be ordered; secondly, that, in the moral hierarchy, financial wealth equates with life success which equates with virtue; and thirdly that man [sic] is, if not an island, then, at most, a part of an archipelago of islands of shared interests, answerable only to himself, his peers and, possibly, his God, in that order. To see only the familiar economics – i.e. belief in small government, low taxes, the sanctity of private property and private industries, and free markets, particularly in labor, all of which feed, above all else, the double-headed hydra of profit and economic growth – and not connect it back to the moral philosophy is to miss the point.

To back up this provocative claim, we have released a pamphlet today called, The One Party Planet.

News update

Coal Rush in India Could Tip Balance on Climate Change
The New York Times
India’s coal mining plans may represent the biggest obstacle to a global climate pact to be negotiated at a conference in Paris next year. “If India goes deeper and deeper into coal, we’re all doomed,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and one of the world’s top climate scientists. “And no place will suffer more than India.”

UN report: Climate change has permanently ruined farmland the size of France
The Independent, UK
There may be those who feel the apocalyptic plot of the new Hollywood film Interstellar seems a bit far-fetched, with humans forced to look for an alternative planet because this world can no longer feed them. But it has been given credence by a new United Nations report that has found that the destruction of the environment has left an area of farmland the size of France useless for growing crops.

NASA Shows Stark Year in the Life of CO2
Climate Central
This animated video shows what your atmosphere looks like in carbon dioxide (CO2). And it’s not a pretty sight. Nasa provides a stark and stunning view of a year in the life of our planet as humans continue to emit greenhouse gases that warm the planet. The animation comes courtesy of one of the highest-resolution computer models in existence.

Oil Prices Are Dropping. So What?
Politico Magazine
The global oil supply has increased and demand has weakened, prices are down to about $80 a barrel, a more than 25 percent drop since June, and recently fell to a three-year low. What should we make of this shakeup? Will it scramble the economy or upend global politics? The United States  leading energy thinkers on how dropping oil prices matter the most—or don’t—for Washington.

The Future of Oil Supply: An Interview with Dr. Richard G. Miller
Steve Andrews, ASPO-USA
Dr. Richard G. Miller, trained as a geologist, joined BP as a geochemist in 1985. He studied peak oil matters since 1991, when BP asked him the following year to devise a wholly new way to estimate global oil resources. In 2000, he was tasked with creating an in-house projection of global future oil demand and supply to 2030. The model he created was updated annually through 2008; then the effort was disbanded and he moved on to his present work consulting on peak oil.

Eight Pitfalls in Evaluating Green Energy Solutions
Gail Tverberg
Does the recent climate accord between US and China mean that many countries will now forge ahead with renewables and other green solutions? I think that there are more pitfalls than many realize.

Don’t Ask How to Feed the 9 Billion
Mark Bittman, The New York Times
The difference between you and the hungry is not production levels; it’s money. There are no hungry people with money; there isn’t a shortage of food, nor is there a distribution problem. There is an I-don’t-have-the-land-and-resources-to-produce-my-own-food, nor-can-I-afford-to-buy-food problem.

Questions We Should Have Asked about Technology
Jerry Mander, originally published by Between the Lines
The transcript of Jerry Manders talk at the recent International Forum on Globalization teach-in, Techno-Utopianism and the Fate of the Earth, which took place October 25th-26th in New York City

Debate: Interstellar and climate change

We didnt run out of planes and television sets. We ran out of food.

Acclaimed director Christopher Nolans new film Interstellar is inspired by the work of Kip Thorne, an American theoretical physicist formerly with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and who was the scientific consultant and an executive producer for the film. Interstellar depicts a world where a blight threatens Earths ability to support life, causing civilization to regress into a failing agrarian society. Its protagonist is part of a team of astronauts who travel through a wormhole in search of a new habitable planet (call it a more sophisticated prequel to James Camerons Avatar). The movie has generated much debate, much of it to do with the movies connection to (or lack of) climate change and related themes, with opinion divided. Here are some samples:

Why Interstellar ignores climate change (The Atlantic)
Interstellar and the climate culture wars (Powerline blog)
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/11/interstellar-and-the-climate-culture-war.php

Interstellar” solves climate change by incoherently jetting into space (Grist)
http://grist.org/living/interstellar-solves-the-problems-of-a-ruined-earth-by-jetting-into-outer-space/

Wikipedia entry for Interstellar

T. Vijayendra: You Too Brutus!

Why climate scientist James Hansens exhortation to embrace nuclear power is just wishful thinking

T. Vijayendra, POI Founder- Member

Climatologist James Hansen is the former head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world’s leading advocates of the dangers of climate change. Last year, he joined senior scientist Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institutions Department of Global Ecology; prominent hurricane researcher Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Tom Wigley, a senior research associate at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in calling on those influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power to embrace nuclear power. The scientists said renewables cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires and that there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power. They asserted that continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanitys ability to avoid dangerous climate change.

Responding to the open letter by Hansen and others, some U.S. anti-nuclear activist groups, spearheaded by the Civil Society Institute and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), called for a global phasing out of nuclear power since wind and solar deployment, in the United States in particular, is far outpacing the development and construction of new reactors. The Civil Society Institute is an advocacy group focused on clean energy issues and climate change, and the NIRS is a Maryland-based anti-nuclear activist group. Read more…

Report: Forests As Food Producing Habitats

Forests have been serving as food basket of several communities across India. Why can’t we think of it as an ally against hunger?

GOI Monitor

(An article based on a a new report: Forests As Food Producing Habitats: An Exploratory study of Uncultivated Foods and Food & Nutrition Security of Adivasis in Odisha, by Living Farms, Odisha)
If maintained sustainably, forest can also be a source of income for the communities. Here villagers packing Sitaphal (sweet apple) in Udaipur district, Rajasthan.
IN ANDHARILIM village of Rayagada district, Odisha, very few people are able to recall a famine around 30-35 years ago. During that time, the villagers survived on honey (with some mud), green leaves and tubers, bamboo shoots etc. Raw siali seeds and mahua also came in handy. 
In Ghettijharan village of distant Sundargarh district, uncultivated forest food also saw the community through a time of scarcity 50 years ago. 
In Palamau of Chota Nagpur region, most of the people obtained a good supply of flowers, fruits, barks, roots and tubers which provided immunity to the district from famine.
These facts hold true for other parts of the country where people have been traditionally sourcing some part of their diet from forests. The cultivated lands, on the other hand, face starvation deaths in times of drought or flood as there’s no natural resource to fall back upon. But we rarely recognise forest as an able ally in the fight against hunger and food insecurity.
In fact, the mainstream media looks at consumption of uncultivated foods mostly as a sign of backwardness and poverty. Year after year, stories of deaths of tribals after consuming mango kernel soup are reported. Governments are also seen actively dissuading them from consuming such foods. On the other hand, forest department has always focused on plantation revenues ignoring the real value of unmarketed forest foods.
A study by Living Farms, Odisha, points out how uncultivated foods are not only safe, but also diverse and nutritious. Focussed on select villages of Rayagada and Sundargarh districts, the study also dwells on socio-economic changes that are making it difficult to access the forest produce due to shrinking tree cover.
Read article
ALSO READ:
Centre for International Forestry Research discussion paper: Food Security and Nutrition: The Role of Forests.FAO conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition 

News update

Stakes are high as US plays the oil card against Iran and Russia
Larry Elliott, The Guardian UK
With the help of its Saudi ally, Washington is trying to drive down the oil price by flooding an already weak market with crude. As the Russians and the Iranians are heavily dependent on oil exports, the assumption is that they will become easier to deal with. Washington is trying to drive down prices by flooding the market with crude but risks collateral damage to its own shale industry.

The Collapse of Oil Prices and Energy Security in Europe
Ugo Bardi
Written version of the brief talk given by Bardi at the hearing of the EU parliament on energy security in Brussels on Nov 5, 2014.

India set to defy warnings on coal’s climate impact
Climate News Network
While even China, the world’s leading coal producer, begins to recognise the fuel’s serious polluting effects (as with its recent emissions pact with the U.S.), India has announced it aims to double production to meet soaring energy demand. Piyush Goyal, Minister of State for Power, Coal, New and Renewable energy, says India needs to dig twice as much coal as it does today if it is to meet its soaring energy demand.

We Have Just Witnessed The Last Gasp Of The Global Economy
Brandon Smith, Alt-market.com
I believe that the admissions of financial danger by internationalists, the sharp drop in stocks at the beginning of fall, the reversal of the political theater, and the fact that mainstream investors now recognize the illegitimacy of the markets yet continue with the scam anyway, signals the last gasp of the global economy. I expect increasing market instability from this point on, as well as numerous geopolitical distractions which will be blamed for the fiscal chaos.  

How to Shrink the Economy without Crashing It: A Ten-Point Plan
Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute
Is it possible, at least in principle, to manage the process of economic contraction so as to avert chaotic collapse? Such a course of action would face daunting obstacles. There is no significant constituency within society advocating a deliberate, policy-led process of degrowth, while there are powerful interests seeking to maintain growth. Nevertheless, managed contraction would almost certainly yield better outcomes than chaotic collapse—for everyone, elites included. The following modest ten-point plan is an attempt to do so.

Why warnings on climate spark aggressive denials
Climate News Network
If you don’t like the message on climate change, it seems that the answer is to shoot the messenger. A new book argues that death threats and abuse illustrate how climate change messengers are being demonised in a way that is without parallel in the history of science.

How Green Are Those Solar Panels, Really?
National Geographic
As the world seeks cleaner power, solar energy capacity has increased sixfold in the past five years. Yet manufacturing all those solar panels, a Tuesday report shows, can have environmental downsides.
Fabricating the panels requires caustic chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid, and the process uses water as well as electricity, the production of which emits greenhouse gases. It also creates waste. These problems could undercut solars ability to fight climate change and reduce environmental toxics.

Oxfam Report on Extreme Inequality

From Oxfamindia.org

*In 2014 the richest 85 people on the planet owned as much as the poorest half of humanity.
*The net worth of India’s billionaires is enough to eliminate absolute poverty in the country twice over.
*A few Indians have enough money for several lifetimes while millions struggle for 1 sq meal/day

Even It Up: Its Time To End Extreme Inequality
Click here to download the report

Today, global outrage against this has become raucous—the Occupy movements, Arab Spring, street protests by millions of Brazilians demanding increased spending on basic entitlements reflect the anger. This narrative of obscene inequality based on injustice and denial of basic rights calls for urgent action if we want to live socially-just, inclusive and equal world.

Since the global financial crisis the number of billionaires has doubled. A tax, of just 1.5 percent, on their wealth in that period could have raised enough money to save 23 million lives in the poorest countries.

Oxfam’s latest research has found that if India stopped inequality from rising, they could lift 90 million more people out of extreme poverty by 2019.

Inequality is not inevitable; it is the result of deliberate political and economic choices. Market fundamentalism and the capture of power by elites are two powerful drivers of inequality that go a long way to explaining the extremes we see today.

Recent mass demonstrations from Chile and Brazil to Iceland and Hungary have shown that people around the world are unwilling to stand for unfair tax systems and a lack of quality services. People are concerned that their governments are acting not in their interests, but on behalf of national and international elites. Governments must be forced to listen to the people not the plutocrats. This is why Oxfam is joining a growing movement campaigning for an end to extreme inequality, and asking decision-makers everywhere what they will do to make this a reality.

Unequal numbers

  • The top 1% globally controls 46% of the world’s wealth.

  • Seven out of 10 people live in countries where the gap between rich and poor is greater than it was 30 years ago.

  • The richest 85 people on the planet own as much as the poorest half of humanity.

  • These 85 people grew $688m richer each day in 2013-14.

Did you know?

  • In India, billionaires increased from two in the 1990s to 65 in 2014.

  • Net worth of India’s billionaires is enough to eliminate absolute poverty in the country, twice over.

  • More than half of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India is channelled through tax havens.

  • The Indian government spends almost twice as much on its military as on health.

  • Money that can be invested to tackle inequality is diverted by tax breaks & public-private partnerships.

  • If India stops inequality from rising, it can end extreme poverty for 90 million people in just five years.

The India solution

  • If India stops its rising inequality, we can rescue 90 million people from extreme poverty by 2019.

  • Reducing inequality by 36 percent reduction can eliminate extreme poverty and save another 83 million people.

What our government can do

  • Prioritise policies that redistribute money and power.

  • Reject market fundamentalism and oppose the special interests of powerful elite.

  • Provide living wages and decent working conditions.

  • Protect the rights of workers and give them a say in decision-making.

  • Ensure fair taxation, so those most able to pay contribute more.

  • Provide free public services such as health and education to help tackle inequality.

  • Universal child benefits, old-age pensions, unemployment protection etc have an equalising effect.

  • Economic policies must tackle economic and gender inequality together.

    To read more and to download the report, click here.

News update

Oil Price Slide No Good Way Out
Gail Tverberg
The world is in a dangerous place now. A large share of oil sellers need the revenue from oil sales. They have to continue producing, regardless of how low oil prices go unless they are stopped by bankruptcy, revolution, or something else that gives them a very clear signal to stop.

Oil Price Fall Threatens US Oil Production
Steve Austin, Oil-price.net
A falling oil price is good for the US consumer and good for the US economy. Transport costs feed into the price of every physical product, so if oil gets cheaper, everything gets cheaper. If the oil price falls too far, however, the USAs recent fracking boom will come to an end. Forces are at play to end the USAs projected energy independence and return the country to dependence on the Middle East for its fuel supplies. The USAs long-term key supplier, Saudi Arabia, doesnt want to lose grip on its best customer.

Peak oil vs mean reversion: why trees don’t grow to the skies  
Rajeev Thakkar, Livemint
There are differing views on the significance of peak oil theory, when peak oil will be reached and the production quantity then. Also, the impact on the global economy is not certain. I am no geologist or scientist. But I am a firm believer in the application of mean reversion and the effect of balancing factors in any economic system. Hence, when oil or commodity prices shoot up relentlessly in one direction, a balancing decline becomes a possibility.

29 Bullets That Tell All about Climate Challenge
Mark Fischetti, Scientific American
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released it final report crystallizing 13 months of work by more than 800 scientists. The “synthesis report” gives a no-nonsense assessment of how the climate is changing, what is causing the change, the impacts the changes will have on us and the planet, and the “mitigation” steps we should take to prevent the impacts from getting worse.

The End of the Market Economy
John Michael Greer
One of the factors that makes it difficult to think through the economic consequences of the end of the industrial age is that we’ve all grown up in a world where every form of economic activity has been channeled through certain familiar forms for so long that very few people remember that things could be any other way. Another of the factors that make the same effort of thinking difficult is that the conventional economic thought of our time has invested immense effort and oceans of verbiage into obscuring the fact that things could be any other way.

Stop Growing or Meet the Four Horsemen?
Mary Odum
Americans are now receiving unsubtle messages from the universe that perhaps we have reached our limits, and it is time to stop trying to grow the economy. The four horsemen of pestilence, famine, war, and death are emerging on a global basis, as energy inputs wane and the global economic system begins to turn down. Yet feedback from the system is still telling our system to grow expand, when perhaps it would be wiser to expend more energy on resilient contraction.

Climate depression is for real. Just ask a scientist
Madeleine Thomas, Grist.org
From depression to substance abuse to suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, growing bodies of research in the relatively new field of psychology of global warming suggest that climate change will take a pretty heavy toll on the human psyche as storms become more destructive and droughts more prolonged. For your everyday environmentalist, the emotional stress suffered by a rapidly changing Earth can result in some pretty substantial anxieties.

News update

Why the Fracking Phenomenon Will Leave Us High and Dry
Asher Miller, Post Carbon Institute
A new, landmark report shows that hopes of a long-term golden era in American oil & gas production are unfounded.

Eight Pieces of Our Oil Price Predicament
Gail Tverberg
A person might think that oil prices would be fairly stable. Prices would set themselves at a level that would be high enough for the majority of producers, so that in total producers would provide enough–but not too much–oil for the world economy. The prices would be fairly affordable for consumers. And economies around the world would grow robustly with these oil supplies, plus other energy supplies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work that way recently.

Is there really an oil glut?
Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
Yes, the price drop has only just occurred, and, of course, we cant expect that it will have an immediate affect on consumption. But, increased consumption would likely take the oil markets back above $100 per barrel since small changes in supply and demand tend to move the oil price sharply. At the $100 level no one would be calling the situation a glut.

How can oil as dirty and destructive as the tar sands be profitable? Massive subsidies.
Priceofoil.org
A new report by Oil Change International, Cashing in on All of the Above: U.S. Fossil Fuel Production Subsidies under Obama, demonstrates the huge and growing amount of subsidies going to the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. every year. In 2013, the U.S. federal and state governments gave away $21.6 billion in subsidies for oil, gas, and coal exploration and production.

IPCC Report Says Climate Change Is ‘Severe, Widespread and Irreversible’
Bill McKibben, Ecowatch
Breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry won’t be easy, especially since it has to happen fast. It has to happen, in fact, before the carbon we’ve unleashed into the atmosphere breaks the planet. I’m not certain we’ll win this fight—but, thanks to the IPCC, no one will ever be able to say they weren’t warned.

Why We Can’t Ditch the 2 C Warming Goal
Jonathan Coomey, EcoWatch
The warming limit approach is the most powerful analytical way of thinking about the climate problem that the climate science and policy community has yet devised. So the answer is not to “ditch the 2 C limit,” but to use it to show (in Victor and Kennel’s words) that “politicians … pretend that they are organizing for action when, in fact, most have done little.

Hydropower May Be Huge Source of Methane Emissions
Bobby Magill, Climate Central
Reservoirs and hydropower are often thought of as climate friendly because they don’t burn fossil fuels to produce electricity. But what if reservoirs that store water and produce electricity were among some of the world’s largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions?

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world
New Scientist
As protests against financial power sweep the world, science may have confirmed the protesters worst fears. An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.

Terrifying US cluelessness on interest rates suggests politics is powerless
Andrew Critchlow, The Telegraph UK
Clues to the current market turmoil can be found in the Scottish referendum, the Ebola outbreak, and a set of seventeen dots. The last of these are the “dots diagrams” that the US Federal Reserve uses to illustrate where its officials think interest rates will be in the future. They provide a glimpse inside the decision-making process of the main monetary control room in the world. And the picture that emerges is, frankly, terrifying.

Two Talks with Bill McKibben 7th November, Hyderabad

Bill McKibben, American environmentalist, author and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming, heads 350.org, which recently organised the Peoples Climate March in New York, attended by an estimated 400,000 people. McKibben is the winner of the 2013 Gandhi Prize, Right Livelihood Award or the Alternative Nobel, and the Thomas Merton Prize. He holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. Foreign Policy listed him under their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe called him “probably America’s most important environmentalist.”

Talk 1. Dirt-E-Talk,  7th November, Telugu University

The ‘Dirt-E-Talks’ series is an initiative to break the myth that fossil fuel based development is the only way for India to prosper. ‘Dirt-E-Talks’ is a small effort to kick start a mainstream discussion, largely amongst the youth, that will challenge the status quo of how India perceives and acts on its energy needs. These seminars will not only introduce important concepts like energy equity, unsustainable growth parameters, economic impacts of dependence on fossil fuel, but will also provide a platform for audiences to learn and interact with communities resisting dirty energy projects. Stories from frontline communities will leave a long lasting impact on people, urging them to think about injustice and inequalities arising out of current systems of generating energy.

Date :   Friday 7th November 2014
Venue: NTR Auditorium, Telugu University
Time :  5PM-8 PM

Online Registration, Confirmation & Seat Reservation: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1py6R2SFpOgQtNf1Zzpnc6-D9aphvJMycRBhOvGqJbeI/viewform

Talk 2. Overcoming Energy Poverty without Dirty Energy, 7th November, St. Pious College for Women

Panel: Sri V Rajamani, Former Secretary, MoEF, Prof Kodandaram, Sagar Dhara (POI Founder-Member), Dr Thimma Reddy, K Raghu and othersDate: 7 November 2014 Time: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Venue: St. Pious College for Women, Snehapuri Colony (Behind IICT, Habshiguda-Nacharam Road).
For more information, contact Babu Rao Kalapala at: baaaac

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