Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Road from the Failed Recall in Wisconsin to the Failed State in Mali is Not Long; & It Runs Through North Carolina

Salvador Dali - Oasis (1946)

And the worst news, as Birol told Reuters, is that, “When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius [11°F], which would have devastating consequences for the planet.” Joseph Romm, IEA: Global CO2 Emissions Hit New Record In 2011, Keeping World On Track For ‘Devastating’ 11°F Warming By 2100, Climate Progress, 5-25-12

Climate change, population growth and environmental destruction could cause a collapse of the ecosystem just a few generations from now, scientists warned on Wednesday in the journal Nature. The paper by 22 top researchers said a “tipping point” by which the biosphere goes into swift and irreversible change, with potentially cataclysmic impacts for humans, could occur as early as this century. The warning contrasts with a mainstream view among scientists that environmental collapse would be gradual and take centuries. Agence France Press, Environmental collapse now a serious threat: scientists, Raw Story, 6-6-12

The Road from Failed Recall in Wisconsin to the Failed State in Mali is Not Long; & It Runs Through North Carolina

By Richard Power

In a recent status on my Facebook page, I vented some of my frustration with President Barack Obama:

POTUS, I note that you delivered a high school commencement speech in Joplin, Missouri, and framed the address around the disaster that laid waste to the town just about a year ago now. POTUS, as you know, it wasn't simply a tornado that devastated Joplin, it was Climate Change; and yet, just as in recent SOTUs and Earth Day remarks, you did not even mention the Climate Crisis. A commencement address is an opportunity to inspire young people and motivate them to face the challenges of their future. To deliver a 2012 commencement address anywhere and not include an urgent call for action on Climate Change is a missed opportunity; but to deliver one in a town devastated by the consequences of runaway Climate Change, and NOT EVEN MENTION IT, is unconscionable.

One brilliant but cynical friend commented, "His paymasters are corporations and Wall St. What do you expect him to say?"

But off-line, a wise woman quietly offered me an alternate take, "Maybe that's all he can do, maybe that was his statement." Just to go there and speak about the calamity, without being able mention what caused it. Maybe he is that constrained by the political realities.

Of course, these perspectives are only seemingly contradictory, and both are spot on.

It is tempting to write about POTUS, I have a lot to say about these last four years, and the November 2012 election, but not here, not now ... On this day, I will simply refer you to The Blame Obama Syndrome, a recent post from the indomitable Robert Parry of Consortium News. It is a must-read. It is the most important piece on Barack Obama since Eric Alterman's Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency is Impossible, for Now (The Nation, 7-7-10)

Nor am I going to indulge in post mortem on the defeat of Wisconsin Recall, for everything you need to know about that story, I commend you to Arun Gupta's In Wisconsin, An Ominous Crucible of US Politics, Guardian, 6-6-12 and Joan Walsh's Walker wins one for the plutocrats, Salon, 6-6-12.

All I will say for now about the defeat of the recall in Wisconsin is that it is a profoundly disturbing portent not only for the future of the USA (which seems to grimmer and dimmer with each election cycle), but also for the future of human civilization.

Walker and his ilk are anti-woman, anti-Earth, anti-science, anti-life (anti-christ). After all, Walker's first act upon entering office after the U.S. electorate rolled over and went back to sleep in 2010 is to reject stimulus money for a high-speed rail.

Indeed. the road onward from the failed recall in Wisconsin dead ends in a failed state ala Mali, and it runs through North Carolina.

Some lawmakers will go to great lengths to deny the reality of climate change. But this week, North Carolina lawmakers reached new heights of denial, proposing a new law that would require estimates of sea level rise to be based only on historical data—not on all the evidence that demonstrates that the seas are rising much faster now thanks to global warming. The sea level along the coast of North Carolina is expected to rise about a meter by the end of the century. Kate Sheppard, North Carolina Wishes Away Climate Change, Mother Jones, 6-1-12

And the road from Wisconsin through North Carolina to Mali is not only shorter than you think it is, it is a fast track.

MALIcious Neglect

It was about ten years ago I started talking about how the Climate Crisis would not only melt the glaciers and raise the sea levels, but also aggravate other risks across the whole spectrum, e.g., the phenomenon of failed states would happen more frequently and instances of it would manifest on an accelerated curve. Well, Mali is a tragically perfect example of what I was talking about. Humanitarian organizations were ready for the drought, but not for the collapse of the political system. No one was. This is climate war, and its horrors will not be contained to the African continent alone.

From my perspective, those responsible for the corporatist disinformation campaign that promotes climate denialism, and those political leaders who either knowingly deceive (i.e., the zombie cultists formerly known as Republicans) AND those who know better but refuse, out of cowardice, to act with the urgency required (i.e., corporatist "Democrats") are guilty of climate war crimes. Someday I hope the worst of them are brought before the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Ecocide is not only a crime against humanity, it is also a crime against nature.

And though the humanitarian community did an outstanding job of preparing for the drought, through early-warning and well-coordination preparation, they could not have been prepared for the rapid deterioration of the country’s political condition. Enter climate change. Security analysts often refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” or “accelerant of instability” - a phenomenon that exacerbates a range of existing problems. Mali is a textbook case of this. Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, Migration, militias, coups and climate change in Mali, Reuters Alertnet, 5-15-12

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by fighting in northern Mali and dozens have been subjected to arbitrary detention, extra-judicial executions or sexual violence including rape, Amnesty International said today ... “After two decades of relative stability and peace, Mali is now facing its worst crisis since independence in 1960,” said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher who has just returned from a three week research mission to the country. “The entire north of the country has been taken over by armed groups who are running riot. Ten of thousands of people have fled the region, creating a humanitarian crisis in Mali and in neighbouring countries.” Amnesty International, Mali’s Worst Human Rights Situation in 50 Years, 5-16-12

Rio+20 and Beyond

So I was walking UPhill in DOWNtown San Francisco, and had a full head of steam. In front of me stood a mother and her two little boys, waiting for the light. One of the little boys dropped his soccer ball, and it rolled into traffic and started gaining momentum as it careened DOWNhill. The little boys ran out into the traffic to get it. Their mother caught up with them and pulled them back to the sidewalk. I told her I would go get it for them, and went running after it, weaving through the traffic. FAR below, it finally hit a curb. Some young guy on his way home from work (he clearly played soccer) caught it with his foot, and kicked it to two homeless veterans ensconced in a shuttered door way a little way down Kearney St. When I arrived, they turned it over to me without hesitation, and requested no recompense whatsoever. Nevertheless I gave them each an Andrew Jackson, and then trudged back UPhill to the grateful mother and her astonished little boys. As I was handing it to them, I realized it was the Earth. The soccer ball was a globe, with all the continents on bold colors, painted on it. So if you see the planet rolling DOWNhill fast, go after it and save it for the children. Even if you were headed in the other direction.

Isis, the Mother, Gaia, the Planet Earth, She is the vessel that contains the oneness of all life here on this orb. She is crying out for recognition and respect. Will She be heard in Rio? (It is a soccer town, after all.)

It is this epic contest between a destructive and dying outmoded paradigm and a life enhancing emergent paradigm that will be the most significant aspect of Rio+20. The outcome of this contest will determine the future of humanity. It will not enter the negotiations, which can only be the lowest common denominator in the current context of corporate influence. But it will provide the energy for the People's Summit, and many government initiatives at Rio Centro. This contest will continue beyond Rio, in every country, in every village and town, every farm and workplace, every home and street. None of us are immune to the crisis, or the response to it. None of us are bystanders. We are all immersed in processes that are either threatening the planet and our own future, or finding creative ways to shape a sustainable and just future. Every day is an earth summit in our lives. And each of us is negotiating our collective fate on the earth. Vandana Shiva, A Global Call: Eco Warriors, Arise!, The Asian Age, 6-1-12

No Problems, Only Solutions

"I tell them there's no problems, only solutions," that's what John Lennon sang in Watching the Wheels (1981). Of course, that song was released posthumously, having been recorded in 1980, not long before he was shot dead outside the Dakota. But I digress ...

Here are glimpses into several recent studies, all of which emphasize the dazzling opportunity wrapped in this dire challenge, and also offer viable solutions:

Humans are using 50 percent more resources than the Earth can provide, and unless fundamental changes are made in the way we produce energy, food, and if we cannot curb our consumption of other natural resources that number will continue to skyrocket, according to a new report. Released today by the the World Wildlife Fund, The Living Planet Report, warns that if humans cannot shift their behavior by 2030, even two planets will not be enough to support modern society. Common Dreams, Report: 'Over-Consumption' Threatening Earth, 5-15-12

With growing climate chaos and desertification, biodiversity decline, ocean pollution and forest decimation, the interlinked crises brought about by human action are threatening the very capacity of the earth to sustain life. Defining a political framework for changing course, the policy advocacy organisation World Future Council presents an emergency policy agenda consisting of 24 tipping-point policies that need to be implemented globally to preserve a habitable planet. World Future Council, Earth Emergency: World Future Council Issues Global Policy Action Plan, 6-5-12

By 2050, in a world with more people, carbon emissions must be half of today's levels. Impossible? No. A number of different energy analyses show how it can be done. Dutch energy consulting firm Ecofys published a technical study in 2010 called "The Energy Report" that demonstrates how the world could reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Greenpeace has a plan called "Energy [R]evolution". Even the International Energy Agency has one: it's called the "450 Scenario". There is no lack of technical knowledge about how to cut emissions and still keep the lights on. Some countries have already started. Stephen Leahy, For an Ailing Planet, the Cure Already Exists, IPS, 6-1-12

Tens of millions of new jobs can be created around the world in the next two decades if green policies are put in place to switch the high-carbon economy to low-carbon, the UN has said. Between 15m and 60m additional jobs are likely, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep). These are net gains in employment for the world economy, taking into account any job losses in high-carbon industries that fail to transform. Achim Steiner, executive director of Unep, said: "The findings underline that [the green economy] can include millions more people in terms of overcoming poverty and delivering improved livelihoods for this and future generations. It is a positive message of opportunity in a troubled world of challenges." Fiona Harvey, Switching to a green economy could mean millions of jobs, says UN, Guardian, 5-31-12

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and