Blog Archives

At most, ensure survival – at least, create a healthier world

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The cartoon by Joel Pett (above), Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, states that whether global warming is real or not, the proposed measures are beneficial to everyone.

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Cartoon printed by USA Today in 2009 before the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

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On the left of the cartoon a man asks, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?” On the right the question is answered in the form of a list on a screen, showing what would be gained:

            • energy independence,
            • preserve rainforest,
            • sustainability,
            • green jobs,
            • livable cities,
            • renewables,
            • clean water and air,
            • healthy children, etc., etc.

When discussing how society should respond to climate change, consensus might well be achieved by presenting this cartoon’s message.

 

 

 

 

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Media 97: An inconvenient truth? A Dutch reader notes UK’s ZERO coverage of 40,000 climate change demo in Amsterdam

She writes: “*zero* coverage in the UK over climate demo Sunday 10th in Amsterdam?! 40,000 people at climate change demo in Amsterdam and it RAINED heavily all day … we got soaked to our underwear …)!!”

An online search today saw no UK coverage on the first four ‘result’ pages – only American and European coverage.

Adding wryly: “When 40 yellow vests get together it’s shared all over the planet…

Forty thousand people joined a climate change protest in Amsterdam on Sunday, March 10th, urging the Dutch government to take action on climate change.

The demonstration, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, drew around 40,000 people despite heavy rain, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The high turnout is the proof that people now want a decisive policy on climate from the government,” Greenpeace, one of the march organizers, said in a statement.

The Netherlands could be especially vulnerable to the rising tides brought on by climate change. Much of the country already sits below sea level, and some of its land is sinking.

While the U.S. has been backpedalling out of global climate change agreements like the Paris accord, Dutch lawmakers have passed ambitious climate change laws, seeking a 95% reduction of the 1990 emissions levels by 2050.

In January, however, a Dutch environmental research agency said the government is lagging behind its goals. “We are under sea level, so we really need to do something about it,” said a 21-year-old climate studies student at Amsterdam University.

Students around the world have been leading protests to prompt their governments to address climate change. A worldwide school strike is planned for later this week. Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager widely known for her climate change activism, said on Twitter that at least 82 countries plan to participate in the upcoming protest.

Will British media fail to report the forthcoming school strikes as well as this one?

 

 

 

 

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Reinsurers: heed industry thinktank as droughts, floods, hurricanes and wildfires escalate

 

After a year of disasters (documented in detail here), the reinsurance industry travelled to Monte Carlo for its annual get together  (8-14 September).

Hurricane Irma was accompanied last year by Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, along with earthquakes in Mexico and wildfires in California. In all, there was $136bn of insured losses from natural and man-made catastrophes in 2017 according to Swiss Re, the third highest on record.

A report, “Climate Change and the Insurance Industry: Taking Action as Risk Managers and Investors”, was written by Maryam Golnaraghi, Director, Extreme Events and Climate Risk research programme for The Geneva Association, which is described as the industry’s leading thinktank.

It notes that following the adoption of the Paris Agreement, there has been a burst of initiatives and activities across a wide range of stakeholders to support the transition to a low-carbon economy (mitigation side).

Latest developments include:

  • growing but highly fragmented and in some cases conflicting climate policy and regulatory frameworks at national to local levels and across regions;
  • innovation in clean and green technologies, with some gaining market share;
  • rising interest in green financing, with efforts to reduce barriers to green investment on the part of shareholders, asset managers, standard-setting bodies and rating agencies, and growing demand for low-carbon commodities.

As well as building financial resilience to extreme events and other physical risks by providing risk information, improving distribution channels and payout mechanisms, Ms Golnaraghi reports that the insurance industry is supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy through its underwriting business, investment strategies and active reduction of its carbon footprint.

 

There is no reference to this support in the FTs report of the insurance industry’s response to escalating disasters, summarised as:

  • ‘a wave of merger and acquisition activity’ as insurers and reinsurers reconsider their business models,
  • some are ‘bulking up’,
  • others have decided to get out.

Reinsurance companies should call for immediate greenhouse gas mitigation efforts, as climate change continues to progress and extreme weather is becoming more frequent and dangerous and heed the Environmental Defense Fund warning that if these are not ramped up, last year’s unprecedented disasters may soon become the norm.

 

 

 

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Could the Stroud formula could rescue Broken Britain? Or will tribalism rule?

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For years Stroud District Council has been led by a cooperative alliance of the Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat parties – a ‘rainbow alliance’ (below).

Last May. Gloucestershire County Council’s agenda and minutes post recorded that Cllr Lesley Williams and Cllr Rachel Smith advised that the Labour and Green members had formed a political group called the Labour and Green Cooperative Alliance.  They explained that under the arrangement the Labour and Green members would work cooperatively but would continue to look at issues on an individual basis.

Professor John Curtice summarised the electoral maths: almost half the nation voted for broadly progressive parties in 2015 (49% backed Labour, the LibDems, Greens, SNP or Plaid Cymru, while 51% chose the Tories or Ukip). He considers the impact of a coalition with even one ‘minor party’.

Labour MP Clive Lewis and Green MP Caroline Lucas noted that in the 2017 general election more than 40 local alliances were formed, where almost exclusively Greens put the national interest before that of their party.

It had a huge impact on the vote – more than doubling the average swing away from the Tories.

 

They pointed out the challenges we face:

  • markets that are too free
  • a state that can be too remote,
  • a democracy that still leaves so many voices unheard
  • and climate change on a scale our people and our planet simply can’t cope with. 

Continuing: “It will take a politics that is social, liberal and green to overcome these challenges. No single party or movement has all the answers. We are going to have to learn to cooperate as well as compete to build the society of which we dream. And we are going to have to recognise that the future is not a two-party system but one in which smaller parties grow – both in influence and in their electoral representation”.

They point out that the millions of young people who voted live in a world of social media in which their identities and allegiances are permanently in flux. They like and they share. They flock to one idea, group or party and then another. A politics that is purposeful but also responsive, open and collaborative is needed.

The case for an alliance between ‘progressive’ parties, has been described by Simon Jenkins (above right) as unanswerable:

“In 2015, 49% of voters went for broadly progressive parties, including Labour, the Lib Dems and nationalists. But at elections they fight each other as rivals. As a result, 40 to 50 seats that might have gone to a single left-wing candidate went Tory.

Then, as now, Westminster tribalism won. Machismo required Labour “to contest every seat in the land”. That is apparently more important than denying the Tories a strong majority – let alone winning elections.

MPs Lewis and Lucas end:

“We are from different parties and different political traditions – and we celebrate that because, while we share so much, we can learn much more from each other. If we work together there is nothing progressives can’t achieve.

“The limits of the old politics are there for everyone to see – the limitlessness of the new we are just starting to explore.

Information sought:

People on the mailing list of this website are drawn from many areas of Britain and visitors come from several countries (opposite: eleven in May), the overwhelming majority from America.

British readers, expats and other well-informed readers are asked to send, via comments, any other examples of an effective co-operative alliance within councils and parliaments.

 

 

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Should the Green Party join Corbyn Labour and fight together for social justice and for the planet?

Owen Jones suggests that the Green Party should join Jeremy Corbyn and fight together for social justice and for the planet: “For those attracted to the Green message of a “peaceful political revolution” to end austerity, Corbynism seemed like a natural new home”.

He thinks it is time for the Green Party to join forces with Labour, unite the English and Welsh left under one banner, bring one of the country’s most inspiring politicians into the spotlight and reinvigorate the campaign to save the planet from environmental destruction, adding:

“It’s exactly the arrangement that has existed between Labour and the Co-operative Party for nine decades: indeed, there are 38 MPs who belong to both. Rather than proving the death of green politics, such a pact would give it new life”.

In an act of political sacrifice at the last election, the Green Party stood down candidates across the country to avoid splitting the left-of-centre vote.

A pact could be made, creating the sort of relationship the Co-op Party has with Labour, with dual Labour/Green membership.

There would be Labour/Green MPs just as there are Labour/Co-op MPs today

Significantly more Green MPs would be elected. Climate change would become a genuine political priority. It should also mean Caroline Lucas in the shadow cabinet – and later in government with the environment brief. This would end a pointless division on the British left. Owen Jones continues:

“Lucas herself has been a committed fighter for causes that must be central to Labour’s message. She was right to criticise pre-2015 Labour for failing to challenge the “austerity message”, and has opposed cuts to everything from women’s refuges to schools. Her courage in fighting climate change led to her arrest at an anti-fracking protest in 2013.In many ways, her campaigning zeal echoes that of Corbyn, who she has repeatedly fought alongside. Indeed, it is hardly controversial to point out that Corbyn is closer to Lucas politically than he is to many of his own MPs, and yet absurdly Lucas is a political opponent”.

“Yes, the Green leadership wants Labour to go further – on everything from committing to a shorter working week to more radical taxation. But as someone who agrees with her – that Labour’s offer is not yet radical enough – I believe the Greens’ influence in pushing for greater radicalism would be strengthened, not diluted, in a formal pact”. He ends – after recognising the opposition from some within both parties:

“A red-green alliance is surely overdue. this could be the makings of a formidable political alliance to defeat Toryism and form a government to eradicate social injustice and help save the planet. And surely that prize makes the pain of overcoming partisan differences worthwhile”.

 

Read his article here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/22/greens-labour-jeremy-corbyn

 

 

 

 

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Media 57: corporate control of British & American society

media lens new header

In their latest post, Media Lens say that people on the political left embrace Bernie Sanders because he talks honestly about corporate control of society. We include a summary of their article here, believing that the British media is also, to varying degrees, an ‘arm of the ruling class’.

  • Sanders talks about the causes of vast and shameful inequality in the world’s wealthiest country.
  • He talks about corporate media bias rooted in advertiser funding.
  • He talks about ‘whether or not we think it’s proper for the United States to go around overthrowing governments’.

They see Sanders’ recent discussion with Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks (TYT) show as an astonishing departure from standard, six-second soundbite politics. Imagine a high-profile UK politician talking like this about the media:

‘First of all, we’re talking about the corporate media, right?…We need to break through the fog of the corporate media, which does everything that they can to keep us entertained without addressing the real issues. I’m on the corporate media every single day and you don’t know how hard it is just to try to demand that we begin to talk about the real issues. They really do not want to. They talk about everything under the sun, but not the real issues.’

Sanders is not arguing that the corporate media is merely biased, or unbalanced, in reporting issues; he is arguing that it never talks about real issues.

He offers a jaw-dropping example: ‘Here’s the story. I have been mayor for eight years, Congressman for sixteen, a US Senator for nine years. Do you know how many times people in the media have said: “Bernie, what are you going to do to end poverty in America? This is an outrage! We have 47 million people in poverty, what are you going to do about it, Bernie?” The answer is zero. Not once.’

The remarkable result, as Sanders notes:

‘Concepts of income and wealth inequality, concepts of justice, learning what goes on around the rest of the world [are] never talked about in the corporate media.’

So what is going on? Why won’t corporate media discuss real issues?

Sanders explains: ‘I had to write a letter to the presidents of all of the networks to tell them that on their Sunday shows they never talk about climate change. Almost never talk about it. Why? Well, does it have to do with the fact that they get a lot of coal company and oil company money advertising? I think it does. They don’t talk about it.’

He is correct. The not-for-profit Media Matters for America reported that, despite ever-worsening warnings of the dangers and a long list of broken temperature and other records, media coverage actually declined in 2015. (Much more detail is given in the article, link below). He adds:

‘I want a vigorous effort to address climate change. I mean, I am very worried. I talk to these scientists. This planet is in serious danger. You can’t cuddle up to the fossil fuel industry; you’ve got to take them on.

‘The fact is that big business does not want the public to be alarmed about climate change because people will demand action that will cut into corporate profits’.

‘So the media is an arm of the ruling class of this country and they want to talk about everything in the world except the most important issues. Because if you talk about real issues, and people get educated on the real issues, you know what happens next? They actually may want to bring about change.

‘They are scared to death. They get scared to death of the idea that young people are actually getting involved in the political process and want real change. That working class people are saying, “You know what, we need to end establishment politics and economics, and move in a different direction.” That is their nightmare.’

After a passage about the press coverage shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Corbyn received during the leadership campaign Media Lens editors end:

Like most leftists, we support Sanders’ comments and reject the liberal commentariat for reasons to do with concern for the welfare of all citizens, not just the rich, and above all out of fear for the survival of our species and planet. Business as usual – with corporate power subordinating everything to profit – is now the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. As Klein says, and she is not overstating: ‘If the next president wastes any more time… the climate clock will run out, plain and simple.’


Read the Media Lens article here: http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2016/816-last-chance-president

 

Not before the children? Low media coverage for Corbyn’s environmental policies

The Protecting Our Planet manifesto, launched on 7th August at the eco-hub at Kings Cross in Central London, was covered well by the Ecologist and the Independent plus two business sustainability sites. We quote from the Ecologist:

Promoting the well being of our planet, its people and ecosystems must be at the heart of the Labour Party’s vision of a fairer, more prosperous future.

jc environment

“There is an electoral dimension. To win, we must show we have a modern vision of an innovative country that has a new idea of prosperity and success.

“Our collective aspirations must lie with a greener vision of Britain. And we must reach out to those voters who care deeply about the environment if we are to build the electoral alliance we need.

“Climate change is a threat to our very existence. Tackling climate change will only be effective if social justice is at the heart of the solutions we propose”. After quoting Pope Francis the following aims were listed:

jc env goals

A week later Rupert Read wrote: Corbyn is great, but the Greens are different. Thirteen days later Yvette Cooper followed suit – Corbyn-lite.

As Steve Beauchampé wrote:

“Perhaps the most likely – and intriguing – scenario to that coming to pass would be a coalition between a Corbyn-led Labour, the Liberal Democrats under the auspices of social democrat leftie Tim Farron, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens”. He ends: “Now that really would scare the Daily Mail readers!”

It would disturb most corporate interests and their political dependents even more.

 

Can corporate-ruled America really be described as independent – and truly successful?

As American Independence Day was celebrated on Saturday many will wryly reflect that the country freed itself from one master only to embrace a far more formidable one – the multinational corporate sector, aka “a grubby cabal of privateers”, Monbiot.

Corporate rule works to the advantage only of their hierarchy and shareholders, at the expense of those on lower incomes; successive British governments have also embraced these corporate bedfellows – regardless of the social and environmental consequences.

The Center for Responsive Politics records some of the interactions between Congress and federal agencies (1998-2015) here:

lobbies usa 1998 2015

Corporate dominance skews decision-making in favour of profit maximisation, rather than the satisfaction of basic needs – leading to a high incidence of mental and physical ill-health

The US Council on Foreign Relations describes the findings of the US National Research Council (NRC) and the Institute of Medicine as “a catalog of horrors”.

Two years ago, the conclusion of a major report released by the NRC and the Institute of Medicine revealed the extent of the US’s “health disadvantage”. The report recorded:

  • higher rates of disease and injury from birth to age 75 for men and women, rich and poor across all races and ethnicities,
  • the rate of teen pregnancy, traffic fatalities and heart disease,
  • and the rate of premature births in the US – the highest among the comparison countries and more closely resembling those of sub-Saharan Africa.

Eight people died and – according to local media – forty-one were wounded after an Independence Day shooting in Chicago on July 4th.

Gun2-Violence-Graphic_054144235308

Why are rates of suicide and homicide so high in the United States? PCU contends that it is due to organising society in the corporate interest – the consequence of a consumption-promoting “dream world of materialism and debt and atomisation”- Monbiot.

To all this, add environmental pollution.

A few examples:

miami coastline

In Miami, corporate builders support politicians that deny climate change and, in low-lying south Florida, building goes on.

children drone killed

And above all, the total loss of moral perspective shown by drone-delivered execution without trial – the frequent killing of civilians in other countries.

Arms industries, which spend huge sums to exert influence in the American states where they are located, are the only beneficiaries of the military aggression blackening the country’s reputation.

George Monbiot says “To seek enlightenment, intellectual or spiritual; to do good; to love and be loved; to create and to teach: these are the highest purposes of humankind”. But the corporate world’s pointless and destructive jobs consume millions of the lives of the brightest students – as Monbiot says: “amputating life close to its base”.

The threat of fracking to the Causeway Coast

William Taylor* sends the news that Farmers For Action UK NI supported Protect Our North Coast in protest on Monday 22nd June outside the headquarters of the new Northern Ireland Causeway Coast and Glens Council offices in Coleraine.

william 1 larger

Three Board of Directors of Canadian oil and gas drilling company Connaught Ltd, under the local guise of Rathlin Energy Ltd, including a former Northern Ireland Department of Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt, had been summoned to a Council Workshop, presentation and question session after which Protect Our North Coast and Farmers For Action UK NI backed up by environmental consultants made their case to a sympathetic Council.

William Taylor, FFA UK NI co-ordinator, commented after the meeting that NI agriculture has been through many crises:

  • BSE,
  • foot and mouth,
  • the dioxin crisis
  • and recently horsegate.

He stressed that the last thing needed for the country’s clean and green image is the onslaught of oil and gas exploration leading to fracking and the destruction of picturesque environment with a huge amount of industrial traffic feeding, as much as four 150ft high 24/7 rig sites per sq mile around the North Coast, from Ballycastle to Magillian to Limavady to Garvagh to Ballymoney and drilling threats to Fermanagh and Carrickfergus.

william 2Worst of all, according to local residents of current and previous US drilling/fracking sites are the health problems of air pollution by flaring and other airborne toxic chemicals and the effects on foetus, youngsters and grown-ups that follow. The final nail in the coffin for agriculture would be the huge risk of contaminated water tables, virtually ending the use of farm bore holes in the areas and risk to river health and native species.

In short, Northern Ireland does not need a climate-change-promoting dangerous 20-year pillage by foreign corporates who will cause and leave destruction in their wake for the sake of a dinosaur industry, as renewable energy is Northern Ireland and Europe’s future.

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So say Lancastrians, facing Cuadrilla’s application to extract shale gas at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood on the Fylde Coast.

*William Taylor: Farmers For Action

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

The human race has one really effective weapon, said Mark Twain — “and that is laughter”

Last June, investigative journalist, Felicity Arbuthnot, sent a link to an article by André Vltchek, novelist, investigative journalist, filmmaker and playwright, who reflected that no revelation, no discovery of crimes committed by Western governments and companies leads men and women to demand the immediate resignations of their governments, or the changing of their entire political and economic system.

We add that mainstream mass media misleads the public by sidelining the important and focussing on the trivial:

media trivia

Vltchek continues: “We write and write, film and talk… Huge accusations are made, crimes confirmed… But again: nothing happens!

In a reply to Felicity – strengthened yesterday by Edward Luce’s Financial Times article – I suggested that only humour remains: the revelation that the Emperor has no new clothes, no honesty and no humane feeling.Broken BritainThe reply was accompanied by a collection of cartoons – the best about Britain was by Ingram Pinn – above – but it only reaches a limited audience; ‘saturation coverage’ is needed for a significant impact.

In the FT on Sunday, Luce referred to a ‘potent intervention’ from comedian John Oliver, whose use of the Monopoly board game illustrated the industry’s stranglehold on internet speeds and prompted 4m viewers to jam Washington with complaints. He marvels that:

“Far from catering to our shrinking attention, the comedy shows demand as much of their audience as the most ponderous news channels. Mr Oliver employs four full-time researchers, including two former New York Times journalists. His segments go for 20 minutes between breaks and contain more data than, say, an hour of CNN”.

Luce attributes the increased audience for humour to a collapsing or ‘cratering’ public trust in authority, as few institutions are unscathed in America, or we add, Britain:

  • rising distrust has engulfed the marbled pillars of Congress
  • the Supreme Court
  • the media,
  • the Boy Scouts,
  • corporate America,
  • the Catholic Church and so on.

He expresses two easily challenged reservations about ‘the comedic reach’: it is left leaning, so? And it has no answer to terrorist states that incinerate people (presumably not a reference to CIA drone strikes) stating that only politics can solve such problems.

But the fact is that state politics are totally failing to provide solutions. Could cartoonists and comedians do any worse?

GWhoax (1)

This one certainly presented an agenda and had an irrefutable answer to  critics.