Category Archives: environment

Rising Seas

LOK133SE0043-204x136Doing research for my current book project, I came across an amazing series by the photographer Kadir Van Lohuizen on Sea Level Rise.

At the right is one of his images, this one taken in Bangladesh, where the subsiding delta is combining with typhoons and rising sea levels to imperil millions of farmers and other poor people.

Screen-Shot-2014-06-23-at-4.37.49-PM-888x589Van Lohuizen’s project focuses on the impact of sea level rise in a number of countries around the world, from threatened island nations like Kiribati to abandoned corners of wealthy nations like East Yorkshire in Great Britain.

Kadir Van Lohuizen’s Rising Sea Level project can be viewed online.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under environment, media

Climate Wake Up Call from the Establishment

RiskyBusinessCaptureViaRiskyBusinessYouTubeThe political and economic establishment in the United States has finally woken up to the threats posed by climate change.

In a new report, appropriately entitled Risky Business, members of the business and policy-making establishment sound the alarm call about the potentially cataclysmic impact of climate change on the US economy.

Published by an economic modeling firm that normally works for the fossil fuel industry, Risky Business predicts starkly apocalyptic scenarios over the coming two centuries: more than a million homes and businesses along the nation’s coasts could flood repeatedly before ultimately being destroyed; agriculture will become impossible in Midwest, the nation’s grain belt; heat and humidity will become so intense that spending time outside will become impossible in much of the eastern half of the United States.

What does the group propose should be done about this dire situation? According to the summary article in the New York Times, many of the power brokers involved in the report are in favor of imposing a tax on carbon emissions.

A step in the right direction, but adequate to the horrifying scenarios depicted in the report? Not half likely! What we clearly need is a wholesale reorganization of the economy away from the cardinal principle of headlong, heedless growth. Not much about that in Risky Business.

Leave a comment

Filed under class war, democracy, environment

Inter-Imperial Rivalry and Intensified Resource Exploitation

imperialismThe recent Sino-Russian gas deal needs to be seen as part of a broader shift in global power relations. From a uni-polar world dominated after the end of the Cold War exclusively by the United States, a multi-polar global contest is emerging. The major powers challenging US world hegemony are China and Russia, and the recent gas deal helps cement their growing alliance.

As Michael Klare has documented in The Race for What’s Left, the upshot of this emerging multi-polar world is an increasing inter-imperial rivalry to gain access to as much of the world’s hydro-carbon energy resources as possible. This is, of course, terrible news for the environment, and for the sustainability of life on the planet.

Ashley Smith recently published an excellent article tracking these rising inter-imperial rivalries. It concludes with a ringing call to climate justice activists to interrupt the planet-destroying machinations of both new and old imperial powers.

Leave a comment

Filed under environment, imperialism

Too little, too late

nigerian oil spillThe chief executive of Shell is scheduled to visit Nigeria, according to a recent article, to win support for clean-up efforts in the Niger Delta.

This after a Unep report called for $1 billion to clean up oil spills in Ogoniland, which, according to Nigerian government data, number more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000 alone.

After decades of inaction, Shell is finally making some moves in the right direction. Undermining such moves, however, is the fact that Shell blames spills on attacks on its installations – rather than on decades of lax environmental standards, evident in the flaring of methane that is a part of everyday life for residents of the Delta.

Leave a comment

Filed under environment, imperialism

Sanitation and Sexual Violence

A-slum-in-India-010Two days ago, two teenage girls were gang raped and then murdered outside a village in Uttar Pradesh in India. The girls were looking for a place to defecate.

According to a report by WaterAid, 2.5 billion people live without access to a domestic toilet. This forces women and girls to walk to isolated spots, often early in the morning, in order to relieve themselves. This is precisely what these two girls were doing when they were waylaid and attacked.

The Times of India quoted the police in another district of Uttar Pradesh as saying that 95% of cases of molestation and rape occur while women are seeking sites to defecate.

One in three people around the world lack access to basic sanitation.

As WaterAid puts it:

Being forced to defecate by rivers, in fields or in alleyways not only puts women and girls at greater risk of sexual violence and harassment; it is also a major public health risk. The practice pollutes natural waterways and spreads diseases, notably diarrhoea, a major cause of death in children in the developing world. Every day, around 1,400 mothers will lose a child to this disease, brought about because of a lack of access to basic sanitation, clean water and hygiene services. Research estimates that just putting an end to open defecation worldwide would see this figure drop by over a third.

WaterAid and other charities are calling for new Sustainable Development goals to address this global crisis. It’s worth remembering, however, that lack of access to basic sanitation and the sexual violence that it helps perpetrate are a product of increasing global inequality. Global institutions of governance such as the World Bank have been exacerbating rather than ameliorating these conditions.

Leave a comment

Filed under environment, gender

Waterworld

antarticaHard on the heels of news that the Western Antarctic ice sheet has already begun to collapse, and that this collapse is now unstoppable, satellite observations have revealed that Antartica is shedding twice as much ice as previously estimated.

160 billion tonnes of water are currently finding their way into the world’s oceans, a new report reveals. Nearly 90% of this huge meltdown is coming from the Western ice sheet. The new images reveal that significant melt off is taking place across the continent.

The collapse of the Western ice sheet would cause a calamitous 13 feet of sea level rise.

The implications for the world’s cities, the great majority of which lie in coastal areas, are terrifying.

Leave a comment

Filed under environment

Austerity doesn’t work

austerity doesn't workAusterity doesn’t work, according to an article in today’s New York Times. The article focuses on the fact that the middle class in the US is falling behind its peers in other developed countries.

What is particularly interesting about the article is buried in the graph reproduced here. The nations – like the US, Britain, and Greece – where harsh austerity measures were introduced following the financial crash of 2008 all demonstrate a sharp downturn in the economic status of their middle classes, while those that did not implement such measures have continuously rising curves of middle class affluence.

The central assumptions behind the article are that growth is essential to maintaining middle class status. Seen from an environmental angle, the economic downturn has actually been a beneficial phenomenon since it has put the brakes on the developed world’s headlong expansion. But this is not much of a salve to the situation of struggling people in places like the US. And elites have continued to expand their grossly large incomes by investing in developing countries, meaning that carbon emissions have continued their inexorable, suicidal rise.

We clearly need an alternative economic system, one that benefits average people while not wrecking the planet’s ecosystems.

Leave a comment

Filed under class war, environment, Uncategorized