Friday, December 31, 2010


A stunning film rerun for the New Year.

No embed is available. To watch the full movie go HOME.

Let's remember also that the acronym H.O.M.E. stands for Healing Ourselves and Mother Earth. From here forward the focus will be on water. The oceans are warming and the ice is melting. The amount of water remains that same but it won't come and go from our places in the old ways. The only way that we can move back toward a balance between humans and nature is to stop the destruction and return forests to the land and carbon to the soil. That is the Good Work of the 21st Century.

Let's do it!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

HAPPY 2011

Here we are entering the second decade of the 21st Century. The first one was what is referred to in Oregon as a "doozey". Chances are that the second decade will be a double doozey. Go figure. I can't, so here are some simpler things.

Time has lost its old meaning for me. How do I read the clock? My beard is longer and grayer. My body is older. My eyes are clearer. My spirit is younger. All I can think of to say is that I like it this way and feel incredibly grateful.

2011 will be my year to return to full-time work -- for the forest and in service to its Queen. I'm not sure exactly how things will unfold but I know that I am sitting in one of the most special (and threatened) places in the world. I hope that we don't mess it up too badly. Maybe we can even begin to heal some of the damage that has already been done.

I have a strong sense that new forms of spirit-in-action are emerging. I will be part of that movement. My assignment is as yet unclear but I know that, as I show up to do my work, I will be asking more and more for your prayers and support for myself and others. Nothing can be accomplished alone. We do it or we don't. We destroy or we renew. It's that simple. Enough said.

I offer a prayer for each and everyone of us -- that, in this great catastrophe or labor of birth, we may know our place, our love, our joy and our work. So be it.

Big tree hugs to all,


Monday, December 27, 2010



via World Resources Institute

This map shows a world of opportunity for restoration of forest landscapes.
Stopping additional deforestation and degradation is a critical part of global efforts to fight climate change. Much of the conversation is focused on countries where forests are disappearing at a rapid rate, such as Brazil and Indonesia.
But recent research suggests huge opportunities for restoration of forest landscapes as well. The Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) with WRI, South Dakota State University, and IUCN have produced an updated map showing where global forests have great potential for recovery. While many maps show forest loss, this one is the first of its kind to show areas where forests could be regained. This has significant implications for climate negotiators that are working to reduce and reverse carbon emissions from forests.

The Potential for Forest Restoration

The forest landscape restoration opportunity map does not indicate the location of individual restoration sites, only wider landscapes where restoration opportunities are more likely to be found. Nor does it indicate or prescribe any particular type of restoration intervention (e.g. spontaneous regrowth or planting). Its goal is to show lands with characteristics that indicate restoration opportunities.
The map shows that restoration opportunities are prominent on all continents. Many countries, not least in Africa, that have had their forests exposed to deforestation and degradation long ago will find rich opportunities to contribute to REDD-plus through forest landscape restoration.
An estimated billion and a half hectares of deforested and degraded forest land offer opportunities for forest landscape restoration, either wide-scale or mosaic type (an area almost equivalent to Russia). About two thirds of the potential is on deforested lands; the rest is in degraded forests and woodlands.
Additional restoration opportunities -— mainly for protective purposes – are scattered within the world’s croplands.
The restoration opportunities are typically not located in areas of ongoing deforestation and degradation; they tend to occur where degradation and deforestation have already made their mark.
These areas should not all be restored in the same fashion. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each forest landscape is unique and needs its own restoration design which responds in a balanced way to societal preferences and needs. Lands that are currently used for crop production or grazing, for example, are not suitable for wide-scale restoration. They may, however, offer opportunities for restoration in mixed land-use mosaics. Many historically deforested areas belong to this category.

Co-Benefits of Forest Restoration

One of the most attractive features of this approach to restoration is its many co-benefits. The Convention on Biological Diversity at its recent meeting in Nagoya (October 2010) agreed on a target to restore 15 percent of degraded ecosystems by 2020. Properly implemented REDD-plus initiatives could bring benefits for biodiversity and climate while also improving livelihoods and food security.

The Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration

The Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) is a worldwide network that unites influential governments, major UN and non-governmental organizations, companies and individuals with a common cause. We believe that ideas transform landscapes. The partnership provides the information and tools to strengthen restoration efforts around the world and builds support for forest landscape restoration (FLR) with decision-makers and opinion-formers, both at local and international level.
This preliminary map was prepared for the GPFLR by the World Resources Institute, South Dakota State University and IUCN, and is the starting point for a global assessment of restoration potential.
For More Information, Contact:
The map has been produced with support from PROFOR and the Forestry Commission of Great Britain for the GPFLR by the World Resources Institute (WRI), South Dakota State University (SDSU) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of these organizations.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Nightlights and colors for Christmas in Rio Branco

Christmas colors in the market

It has been said that in Rio Branco color expresses the people's will for happiness.

So let's make merry.

Boas festas para todos.

Big hugs, too.


'Tis the time for the good news -- the people and the land can be healed.

Re-posted from Treehugger.

From Wangaari Maathai's Billion Tree campaign to lush permaculture landscapes in Jordan, we've seen how individuals and communities can reverse desertification and bring life back to arid soils. Now a new dramatized documentary brings us the story of Yacouba Sawadogo, an illiterate African farmer whose pioneering techniques have, according to one expert, done more for soil conservation in the Sahel region of Africa than all of the national and international soil experts combined. It's amazing stuff.

Using, and then enhancing, traditional "zai" techniques for restoring degraded land, which involve planting seeds directly into pits that have been enhanced with small handfuls of composted dung, Yacouba Sawadogo has spent over a quarter century experimenting with his soils, and then teaching his fellow farmers, resulting in the successful rehabilitation of farmland, the regrowth of forests, and attention from international media and non-profit organizations who wanted to learn more about Sawadogo's techniques.

Now a new documentary, that includes a dramatization of Sawadogo's life, and the struggles he has faced in gaining acceptance for his approach, is set to bring his story to a broader audience. The movie traces Sawadogo's story from his early education, through his days researching and developing his farming techniques, to his recent journey to the USA to participate in an Oxfam panel on greening the Sahel.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Read Glenn Greenwald's brilliant comparison: The NYT spills key military secrets on its front page
and Naomi Klein's Sweden, Britain, and Interpol Insult Rape Victims Worldwide for a fuller understanding of what is going on.

An empire in decline is not a pretty thing.

Fox News Pundits Call for Julian Assange's Assassination -- As if anyone needed additional proof Fox News is a propaganda organization, here is a video of Fox News pundits demanding Julian Assange's assassination. Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, is called a "traitor" and "treasonous" and supposedly broke "every law of the United States."

Call for murder on live TV. This is your world, folks.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Due to rain and cloudy skies I didn't get to see it in real time. So, I'm grateful for this time lapse video of Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse on December 21, 2010 from 1:10 AM EST (6:10 GMT) to 5:03 AM EST (10:03 GMT) from Gainesville Florida. Music is Claude Debussy Nocturnes: Sirènes.


On this day, 22 years ago, Chico Mendes was gunned down by ranchers who were enraged by his activism on behalf of protecting the forest and the people of Acre.

Several years ago Brazil's leading TV network O Globo presented a 55-episode mini-series that chronicled the development of Acre entitled "Amazônia: From Galvez to Chico Mendes". The story built from the earliest days of the rubber boom to the emergence of the Peoples of the Forest Movement.

During the 1980s Chico Mendes struggled relentlessly and with great courage as his comrades were harassed and killed. His leadership came to be recognized far from Acre and the Brazilian Federal Government began to respond by taking some of the land out of the hands of the ranchers and placing it into protected reserves. Understanding the threat that he had become, he gave a speech in Rio de Janeiro predicting his murder. Despite the warnings and premonitions, he returned to Acre saying:

"I do not want flowers in my burial, because I know that they are to be pulled out of the forest! I only want that my murder serves to end the impunity of the killers in Acre who, under the protection of the police force of 75, have already killed 50 people like me, seringueiro leaders, pledged to defending the Amazonian Forest and making of it an example that it is possible to progress without destroying. I go to Xapuri to the meeting with death."

And that is what happened on 22 December 1988, soon after he arrived home to be reunited with his family. At his funeral his comrades carried his coffin through the country-side reciting the prayer of the rubber-tapper which is a version of the familiar "Our Father" or Lord's Prayer:

Rubber tree who art in the jungle
Multiplied be your days
Let your milk come to us
To be made into our rubber
As well in the press as in the crate
For the support of our families
Today and for all the days
Forgive us our ingratitude
Our anger as we confront
The evil things of the boss
Help us to free ourselves
From the spikes of the shark

At the end the TV documentary Amazônia, a very beautiful song is sung. Its lyrics say:

And this sun that shines so bright
Over the forests I come with love
Filling the chests of each Acreano
With nobility, constancy and value
Invincible and giants at wars
Let's imitate the unmatchable example
Of the great river that struggles with earth
Wins and enters the sea (still) fighting
I was a star of our flag

The light of that star that was and is Chico Mendes lives on. It is celebrated in many ways -- in public monuments, in street names and, most importantly, in Acre State programs seeking to realize sustainable development.

Spiritual traditions such as the Santo Daime musical doctrine (explained here and here) continue to deliver messages from the spirit world about the mission of Chico Mendes. Here is a hymn received by Solon Brito who is a son of Master Counselor and Santo Daime Storyteller Luiz Mendes.

The hymn says:


Here he comes, here he comes
here he comes, there he is coming
Slowly approaching
And following our Master

Chico rei, Chico rei
Chico rei has arrived
Chico rei here on earth
He was a martyr and made history

Chico rei, Chico rei
You are here with joy
Chico rei here on earth
He is the patron of ecology

Let's all my brothers
Believe the good news
What is bad within itself destroys itself
What is good is always renewing

This is the new time
The new announcement
Of Divine Holy Spirit
Queen of the Forest
Be warned my brothers

This is the new time
Of the plant world
Be warned my brothers
And deliver us from all evil

This is the new time
Of the plant world
I say goodbye to my brothers
My name is IAOP
In the spiritual life

It has been said and is said
The Santo Daime in everything adds up
Long live the new era
And the mystery of the Amazon
This and the new era

Let's change the consciousness
This is serious
The warning singing
Now is science



Tuesday, December 21, 2010


An oldie-but-goodie with nearly 15 million views at Youtube is a perfect Solstice message. Yes, bad thinking can be reversed.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Winter/Summer Solstice (the longest/shortest night) and a full moon and a full lunar eclipse is a rare event, INDEED!  The US Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years. Since the first year of the study, they say there is only one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21. But whether it was in 1638 or in 1703, as stated in the video, all agree that it is a rare and special day. Perhaps, it might be that way with our differences -- we can disagree on the details AND see something larger.


A neat animation of the eclipse, including times, is here. And there's lots more information about solstice here and here.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

(How, Why, Where and When)

Let's start with a brilliant 4-part series in which the BBC documents how consumerism was marketed across the political economic spectrum from propaganda to public relations to politics and from past to present.

The reason that consumerism ends up as the dominant societal form is not only that it serves as a mechanism for social control but it also provides a way to generate capital for continued economic growth when government financing reaches its limit. The demand for more and more capital now trumps ideologies even in the case of China where markets and consumerism are outrunning rational planning.

The contradictions of relentless capital accumulation are succinctly captured by David Harvey:

I believe that David Harvey is correct in asserting that we need to change our mode of thinking. It starts with asking at least some of the right questions. So, what prevents this?

Paul Krugman offers the most recent example of the dominance of wealth over the questions we ask in his post "Wall Street Whitewash": "Last week all four Republicans on the [US bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission] voted to exclude the following terms from the report: “deregulation,” “shadow banking,” “interconnection,” and, yes, “Wall Street.""

And President Obama has made a mockery of his campaign slogans of YES WE CAN and A CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN by following President Clinton's precedent of striking insider deals with the super-rich and the bankers, and then claiming a victory for the people.

I believe that the father of public relations Edward Bernays could be smiling.

It is nevertheless possible to remember that no matter what political and economic constraints are operating upon "leaders", for us ordinary folks, ACTION is the antidote for despair and WE are the antidote for ME. Through action and relationship it is possible to discover a SELF that is connected to everyone and everything else. A SELF who is no longer driven by the myopia of "me and mine" is our hope and salvation. Interconnection is an aspiration and a potential that exists in everyone. We need to celebrate and practice its possibility.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


A new apartment building rises high above a line of diesel trucks bringing fuel to a thermal electric plant in Rio Branco.

Cheap energy realized either through lower-cost sources (like hydro, solar, wind, etc), or more production, or greater efficiency inevitably stimulate development and increased consumption which leads to an even greater demand for even more energy and even more destruction of nature's resources and services. This short-term energy benefit and longer-term increased consumption was first recognized 150 years ago and is known as the "Jevons Paradox". It has been brilliantly applied to modern times in a new analysis by David Owen.

The only way to counter the long-term negative effects is to make all forms of energy (new and old) more expensive either by taxing them or making them pay fully for environmental and social side-effects or by limiting supply. The reason that even so-called "sustainable development" destroys is because it stimulates greater consumption of stuff and all stuff comes from the earth.

I watch this great drama of energy, development and consumption playing out from a small city state capital in western Brazil where the local newspaper is already noting that the regional plans for more energy from hydro may need to be revised because climate change and expected longer and more frequent droughts will limit the anticipated energy production of the new and proposed dams.

In the longer-term dams lose efficiency because the associated roads, human migrations and forest degradations drive a positive feedback of forest fragmentation, drying, vulnerability to fire and ultimate deforestation that further extends the frequency and intensity of drought and further limits energy production from hydro. Put simply, if governments or individuals don't limit energy consumption, nature will -- the shift from forest to cerrado (which has happened before) is nature's form of deforestation.

The greatest tragedy of all will be that the new hydro-electric projects in western Amazônia will supply energy primarily to the distant industrial and population centers of Brazil's South while the local land and its peoples will suffer the costs.


Raimundo Irineu Serra (Mestre Irineu)

Françisco Alves Mendes Filho Cena (Chico Mendes)

Today is the anniversary of the birth of two great men who received their missions from deep in Brazil's western-most state of Acre when it truly seemed as the end of the world. But for them it was the center of the universe and a place from which they could launch their visions into the world.

Mestre Irineu (December 15, 1892 — July 6, 1971) was born in the northeastern state of Maranhão and migrated to Acre where he became a rubber-tapper and later founded the syncretic (mixing African, Indian and Christian elements) religion of Santo Daime which has since spread around the globe.

Following Mestre Irineu's birth by 52 years, Chico Mendes (December 15, 1944 – December 22, 1988) was a Brazilian rubber tapper in Acre, and a unionist and environmental activist. He fought to stop the burning and logging of the Amazon rainforest to clear land for cattle ranching, and founded a national union of rubber tappers in an attempt to preserve their profession and the rainforest that it relied upon. He was murdered in 1988 by ranchers opposed to his activism.

The life and actions of Chico Mendes live on as a global movement for rainforest protection and sustainability and most recently inspired the campaign of Marina Silva who garnered an astounding 20 million votes in the first round of the Presidential election and placed the Green agenda on the center stage of Brazilian politics.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Bishop Erwin Kräutler

Largely unnoticed in the Anlgosphere's mainstream media, last week, Bishop Erwin Kräutler received one of the 2010 Right Livelihood Awards for his work on behalf of Brazilian indigenous peoples in a ceremony before the Swedish Parliament. This honor is widely considered as the "Alternate Nobel Prize."

Bishop Kräutler has been an unwavering ally of indigenous peoples and social movements opposed to Brazil's Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River for over two decades. He accepted his award in a moving speech on behalf of all who work for social justice among the indigenous peoples of Brazil. Here is his extraordinary speech:

Speech by
Bishop Erwin Kräutler
6 December 2010

Mister Speaker, Hon. Members of Parliament, dear Recipients of the Right Livelihood Award, Excellencies, dear Friends,

In this very special and unique moment I traverse the Atlantic Ocean in thoughts and emotions. I am leaving Stockholm for the southern hemisphere and embarking on the majestic Amazon, sailing up river to reach one of its major tributaries, the Xingu River. For forty-five years I have journeyed with the peoples of that region. They are the indigenous peoples who have lived there for thousands of years. They are the river people who have their homes on the river banks. They make their living from fishing and small family farming. They are the thousands and thousands of families who have migrated from all the States of Brazil in search of better living conditions during the last decades.

They are the people to whom I dedicate my life, they are the people whom I love and I know and they are the people who love me. The reason for that is simple: 45 years ago, in 1965, when I came to Brazil, to Amazonia, to the Xingu, they realized that I did not come in search of wealth or advantages. I came to serve these daughters and sons of God. They are women and men who journey with me. Together we defend their dignity, human rights and our environment, our common home on mother earth. Eco - logy - from the Greek οἶκος – means: "home"! These people know very well that they will not survive if Amazonia continues to be disrespected and razed. And they know that planet Earth will suffer irreversible consequences by this cruel destruction. This will be the true apocalypse.

It is a fact that those who are against the unscrupulous destruction of environment, against those, who have not the slightest respect for the human being, against those who seek immediate and incredible profits, who oppose the ambitions of many politicians and entrepreneurs, put their lives at risk. Slander, defamation and death threats are the weapons to frighten and silence those who raise their voices against the aggressions to human dignity.

This is one of the reasons why the Public Security Authorities decided to put me under the protection of the Military Police of the state of Pará on June 29th, 2006. These authorities consider themselves responsible “for the physical integrity of the bishop of the Xingu”. From that day on, armed military police accompany me wherever I am and go in my home-region around the Xingu. This evening, they have a day off.

I accept the Right Livelihood Award in the name of those who fight with me today, on behalf of the indigenous peoples, Amazonia and human rights. I accept it also in the name of the dozens of people who have given their lives, whose blood has been spilled and who were brutally assassinated because they opposed the systemised destruction of Amazonia. Among these murdered, I cite two people, who worked with me side by side.

US-American born Sister Dorothy Mae Stang lived twenty-three years on the Transamazon Highway and was murdered there in 2005. I remember my first meeting with her in 1982 very well. She said: “I want to work among the poorest of the poor.” It wasn’t the first time that someone spoke to me this way, and I told her several things to give her an idea about the reality at the Xingu. To my amazement, she didn’t ask any further question and started to live in the midst of the poor. From time to time she returned to Altamira, to get in contact with representatives of the administration to demand the rights of the farmers or denounce abuses and threats from land robbers or large land-holders.

It didn’t take that long for the first threats to appear. The self-called “owners” of the lands began to slander and defame her. This difficult, tiring and most exhausting life, Dorothy lived until that fateful Saturday, February 12th, 2005, until seven thirty in the morning, when she was shot. This crime was programmed in minute detail. Those responsible for her death were not those men who were convicted and who are in jail. It was the 15th of February 2005 when I buried Sister Dorothy. Never in my life have I felt my heart so invaded by so many sentiments. Even today I cannot describe what I really felt at that moment.

The second person I want to remember here today is Ademir Alfeu Federicci called “Dema”. For many years a new category of conquistadors has appeared in Amazonia. They are the notorious land grabbers who usurp public lands. They use paramilitary forces to defend their interests. They use political and financial influence to maintain their ownership of immense areas of land. The families of small farmers are targeted by these so-called proprietors. One of these victims was Dema. Ademir Alfeu Federicci rose up against these proprietors. As a community leader, he always defended the rights of the small farmer and fought for better days for the rural man and woman.

On August 23rd, 2001, Dema wrote a letter in support of the investigative work the Federal Police was doing on the land grabbers. Two days later he was brutally shot in his home in Altamira. He fell down in front of his wife Maria da Penha. His last words were: “Maria, take care of our children!” Then he passed away. Until today the investigation of Dema’s murder has not been completed. He was killed, because he raised his voice against the hydroelectric project of Belo Monte.

The Belo Monte Project appears to be sacrosanct, unquestionable and assumes the air of being a veritable historical subject. Human beings, families and communities are no longer protagonists of their own history. They were not heard, they were silenced before the project was planned and elaborated in Brasilia, a project that never took into consideration the legitimate rights and preoccupations of the population of the Xingu. All those who are quoting this project are immediately labled as “enemies of progress”, or “against development”.

It is amazing, when we think of the size of Amazonia (a little more than half the size of the whole Brazil), that the principal problem has to do with the ownership (possession) and use of land. The majority of the other problems have their roots in this principal problem:

- Rural violence is linked to the concentration of land ownership and the most shameful impunity with which the criminals are honoured. They kill and nothing happens! If they are arrested, they will be released the next day! If they are convicted, they are circulating freely on the streets on the next day .
- There is a lack of public policy that encourages the preservation of Amazonia, this gigantic biome. Amazonia is “unique” its biodiversity is “exceptional”! Nothing in the whole world exists that is comparable to this region, the marvel of God`s creation. Brazil is responsible for the largest part of this biome, Amazonia.
- Another huge problem is the trafficking of human beings. Young people of both sexes are lured with the promises of a better life and ample wages into the exterior. They are caught in the international network of prostitution! They dream of waging a better life, they have dreams for the future. But they are forced to live in the hell of slavery and brutality.

Child-prostitution in Amazonia is often organized by people from the upper strata of society. They are politicians, business people or merchants. They lure, promise, use and abuse and nothing happens to these sexual criminals - corruption is their language.

This award has been given to me because of my commitment on behalf of the indigenous peoples, their human rights and dignity. I have always found a specific mission in defending these people, who are the survivors of centuries of massacres. In the decade of the 1980’s in the context of the National Constituent Assembly, we considered it our goal to implement indigenous rights in the Federal Constitution. It was essential to encourage the indigenous peoples’ own leadership to assume their own protagonist action and to write their own story. We started to build an “alliance” between the indigenous peoples and organizations of the non-indigenous society.

Tonight, I take the opportunity to call the international community’s attention to the pain, despair and insecurity of the Guarani-Kaiowá people in South Mato Grosso. The indigenous people are confined to small areas, their young people see no prospect for their future and the suicide rate among them is alarmingly high. Factory owners who use modern slave labour are treated like heroes by the official administration. I am totally worried about the violation against the Guarani-Kaiowá. The current government is ignoring this cruel genocide in progress before their eyes. But we must not close our eyes to these crimes!

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury! I gratefully accept the award on behalf of all these women and all these men who have been together with me in this struggle and who have never lost. I would like to thank all those, who have supported me during the last years, and those who have proposed my work to the Right Livelihood Award jury. I would like to express my deep gratitude for the Right Livelihood Award. I am honoured with the award at a moment, when our struggle on behalf of the indigenous people, dignity and human rights are taking on new dimensions and greater importance in the face of the development projects that threaten Amazonia. Those anti-ecological projects of enterprise will have a huge and destructive impact on everyone sitting here in Stockholm this evening, on all people living on earth.

I am honoured to accept this award by the Right Livelihood Foundation as international recognition and support of our total commitment to this work. I promise to continue for as long as God grants me life.

Thank you very much!

Monday, December 13, 2010

(and the readers of Dot Earth)

Covering the protest march at the climate talks in Copenhagen (credit: Andrew Revkin)

One of the persistent themes at Andrew Revkin's NY Times Dot Earth blog is that a new non-fossil fueled, non-polluting, affordable energy is the essential necessity for making our civilization's tenure on earth sustainable. Revkin has given the theme the tag-line of ENERGY QUEST.

Many scientists and no-lesser a techno-light than Bill Gates support this view. Nevertheless, I would like to challenge it. Energy demand is a derivative of both our needs and desires for more and more consumption multiplied again and again by more and more people. Energy facilitates consumption and development; the more it facilitates, the greater the cumulative impact. More energy often exacerbates the problem as in the Jovens Paradox.

The basic Paul Erhlich equation -- PAT=I -- Population times Affluence times Technology equals the Impact on the earth system is firm. Yes, technology can offer cleaner energy or more efficient processes but, like the new lane the the freeway, the benefits are short-lived. The march of more humans wanting/needing more stuffs is inexorable until reaching limits that cannot be transcended. Science and technology can tweak the variables but they can not change the equation. New energy forms are needed, especially as oil peaks, but the techno-optimism that seems as a sub-text of the "energy quest" simply is not justified. We are still analogous to bacteria growing in a test tube (even in the event that new test tubes are discovered).

[Note -- December 16, 2010. Exponential change is real. The Antarctica ice sheet is disintegrating much faster than almost anybody imagined. There's a recent report and full discussion at Climate Progress.]

David Suzuki has portrayed the dilemma brilliantly in a very short video called TEST TUBE. Please take a minute to view it.

Here's my challenge: Please show how the quest for energy can change this. Is not believing that new energy solves issues of sustainability similar to trading in derivatives? Can we wiggle around the limits to cumulative consumption? Who, how, what sets the limits? And when?

At the end of the day, there's only one way...

Photo via Sand in the Gears

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Because they give me hope.

15 year-old Rodney Owen McCarthy explains what he learned in the London street protests against increased school tuition:

They can't stop us demonstrating, they can't stop us fighting back, and how ever much they try to imprison us in the streets of London, those are our streets. We will always be there to demonstrate, we will always be there to fight... We are no longer that generation that doesn't care, we are no longer that generation to sit back and take whatever they give us. We are now the generation at the heart of the fight back.

I'm not replaying 1960's power-to-the-people tapes. I'm hoping that today's youth will be able lead and teach us about a better future than the one being pissed down on us by our leaders.


Rio Negro near Manaus on December 10, 2010    NASA story and photos here.

Widespread, severe drought gripped much of the Amazon Basin in 2010, straining the network of water that makes up the Amazon River. By December 3, one of the Amazon’s largest tributaries, the Negro River, reached a record-low 13.63 meters at the port in Manaus.

The fluctuations are consistent with climate models for the region, which project heavier rainfall in the wet season, especially in the western and northern parts of the Amazon, and less precipitation in the dry season, especially in the southern Amazon. This year's drought helped spur a large increase in wildfires and a spike in forest degradation in recent months.
If the weird weather (3 Amazon droughts in the last 12 years) continues the Amazon forest may become a net contributor of carbon to the atmosphere. Here's a recent report from Reuters:

Special report - Weird weather leaves Amazon thirsty
By Stuart Grudgings

CAAPIRANGA, Brazil (Reuters) - The river loops low past its bleached-white banks, where caimans bask in the fierce morning sun and stranded houseboats tilt precariously. Nearby sits a beached barge with its load of eight trucks and a crane. Its owners were caught out long ago by the speed of the river's decline.

This is what it looks like when the world's greatest rainforest is thirsty. If climate scientists are right, parched Amazon scenes like this will become more common in the coming decades, possibly threatening the survival of the forest and accelerating global warming.

The environmental and economic consequences could be huge -- for Brazil, for South America, for the planet.

An intense months-long drought through November drained the mighty Negro river -- a tributary of the Amazon -- to its lowest since records began in 1902, drying up the network of water that is the lifeblood of Brazil's huge Amazonas state. More than 60,000 people went short of food and many lacked clean drinking water as millions of dead fish contaminated rivers.

It was a "once in a century" kind of weather event. The weird thing is, it came just five years after another severe Amazon drought that meteorologists had described in the same way. Last year, massive floods in the region killed dozens and made hundreds of thousands homeless, fitting a pattern of more extreme weather that climate models forecast for this century.

Years like this add credence to predictions that by the middle of this century, the forest will suffer "mega-droughts" lasting years, killing trees en masse.

That in turn would reduce rainfall over the remaining forest, creating a vicious cycle that would turn much of the Amazon into a savannah-like state by 2100. Ecologists and climatologists say there may come "a tipping point" after which the death of the forest becomes self-sustained by higher temperatures, dwindling rain levels and destructive fires.

The latest drought came as little surprise to Erli Perreira, a skinny 19-year-old who was fishing for his family's dinner in the shadow of the barge, which lay on a tributary of the Solimoes river about 60 miles (100 km) from the central Amazon city of Manaus. The sun has been getting hotter for years, he said, making it impossible to work in the fields after mid-morning and causing his fish catch to plunge during the annual "burning season" when farmers take advantage of the dry conditions to clear the forest with fire.

"Many things in the Bible are coming to pass," said Perreira, wearing a soaked Guns N' Roses T-shirt and holding a gasping fish in one hand. "At the End of Times many things change, like the sun getting hotter."

Their predictions may be less biblical, but climate scientists and ecologists are worried too. As leaders gather this month for a new round of global climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, the recent weather extremes have sent climate scientists around the world scrambling to study whether they represent a freak or a more sinister sign of climate change.

Rosie Fisher, a project scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Colorado, has always viewed apocalyptic Amazon scenarios with a dose of scepticism. Many of the complex models that seek to map future climate, including NCAR's own, show that Amazon rainfall may in fact change little over this century.

But she got a shock when she saw maps showing the paltry rainfall over the Amazon this year, less than half average annual levels. The drought of 2005 was severe, but maps showing water deficits over the region this year painted an even drier picture.

"The map that I'm looking at now looks like the extreme bit of my scenario, and it's happening right now. I'm genuinely quite alarmed by this," said Fisher, who specializes in the interactions between climate and forests.

"In some ways it kind of reminds me of when they figured out than the Greenland ice sheet was melting much faster than the climate models predicted it would."


Accounting for more than half of the world's remaining rainforest, the Amazon's trees are a vital global air conditioner, helping to keep the world cool by soaking up atmospheric carbon totalling about 2 billion tons each year. When they die or wither, as they did in large numbers during the 2005 drought, they become part of the global-warming problem by releasing carbon.

The 2005 drought released more greenhouse gases than the annual emissions of Europe and Japan, an international study found last year, showing how the forest can shift rapidly from carbon sink to source. If that study was right, this year's drought is likely to have released at least as much carbon.

"We don't need a big catastrophe in the Amazon to change the earth's system, we just need that sink to disappear," said Oliver Phillips, an ecologist at Leeds University who co-authored the study.

The Amazon -- spanning nine countries and viewed as the world's greatest caldron of biodiversity -- is expected to be hotter by the end of the century than it has been since before the last Ice Age. Depending on greenhouse gas emissions, climatologists say a rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (5.4-9 degrees Fahrenheit) is likely.

For the region's people, who still largely live off its land and water, that is likely to mean an ever tougher struggle to survive. Brazil's agriculture boom, which has seen it become one of the world's breadbaskets, would also be at risk from a breakdown of the region's great rain-making machine.

The consequences for the forest's mind-boggling universe of fauna and flora and for the fight against global warming could also be grave. A large-scale Amazon "dieback" is among a handful of potential events that could drastically intensify climate change, along with the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and the breakdown of the Gulf Stream ocean current. In some ways, it is the most worrying of all because of the speed it could occur and the huge amount of carbon it could pump into the atmosphere as trees die -- estimated at about 15 years worth of human-caused emissions.

"You can have a lot of the carbon released within a few decades whereas the ice sheet is going to take many hundreds of years," said Peter Cox, a professor of climate system dynamics at the University of Exeter in Britain.

"The Amazon, if it happens, will be more catastrophic because there's this feedback between drying and fire and fire and carbon dioxide release that is quite fast."


About 870 miles (1,400 km) southeast of Manaus, the east of Brazil's Mato Grosso state may be an early indicator of what the worst case scenario could look like. Here the country's expanding cattle and soy farming frontier collides with the forest, often with fiery consequences.

This year's drought turned the region around the huge protected Xingu indigenous Indian park into a tinder box. Fires, often set by small-time farmers to clear their land, raged indiscriminately through farmland and forest.

The number of fires in Mato Grosso -- which means thick forest -- surged to more than 36,700 so far this year from 8,135 last year, razing cattle pasture, killing livestock and often jumping into the region's remaining pristine forest. A NASA satellite image from the period shows a huge pall of smoke blanketing the Centre of South America.

For Edimar dos Santos Abreu, it was an exhausting few months. As chief of a new six-member fire brigade trained by the U.S. Forest Service's elite "smokejumper" firefighters, he was in charge of putting out the blazes across the sprawling region.

"We would hardly arrive back home before getting a call about another fire," said the soft-spoken 36-year-old.

One of the 30 or so fires they tackled this year lasted nine days, he said. And unlike in the past, fires that spread to the forest continued to burn at night -- a stark sign of the drier conditions.

"I think what we're seeing in Mato Grosso is a dieback process. It's a process that's going to take 15 or 20 years to come to a new equilibrium," said Daniel Nepstad, a U.S. ecologist with 26 years of experience in the Amazon.

Fires continuing to burn and even intensify at night, when normally in the Amazon they would be extinguished by dew and falling temperatures, are a particularly worrying sight.

"You could get into a situation where there are mega-fire conditions -- we see that in California," said Nepstad, who is a senior scientist for Brazil's Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM).

John Carter, a Texan who has been a rancher in the region for 15 years and who set up the fire brigade, is no bleeding-heart environmentalist. "I don't really care about the biodiversity -- it's just a consequence," says the 44-year-old, a veteran of the first Gulf War who has had his fair share of violent showdowns in the often lawless Amazon region.

But he says the warming of the region since he arrived is striking and increasingly threatens farm production as well as the forest. Without keeping more forest intact, "we're probably shooting ourselves in the foot for short-term gains in the next 20 years," he said.

"I don't have any doubt that if we don't get our act together in the next five years it might be a little bit too late because of the drying effect of logging and further deforestation and wildfires. By 2030-2040, we're just going to have a big brush pile."

Indigenous Indian farmers who used to plant their fields in August now do so in October or November because of the later rains. Among fields whose blackened fence posts betray the fires that raged here weeks earlier, chief Damiao Paridzane leaned on his hoe and spoke wistfully of a youth spent under trees and fruit before the "white man" made contact with his Xavante (Warrior) tribe.

Now, the 1,000 people or so in his community live on a reserve east of the Xingu park that has been almost totally deforested and widely invaded by land-grabbers.

"If I was born today, I would be born weak because there isn't nature, there isn't forest or good air for us to breath," said the 58-year-old. "The climate has worsened and will get hotter. If this cassava I'm planting doesn't get rain we will get thin because of these changes."


Farmers, loggers and land speculators have destroyed nearly a fifth of the original Amazon forest, but the rate of destruction has fallen dramatically in the past few years. About 2,700 square miles (7,000 square km) was lost in 2008-09, a more than 70 percent fall over five years, a dramatic change that the government says is largely a result of better monitoring and enforcement of laws.

But that is only part of the story in a region the size of western Europe where Brazil's environmental agency has just six helicopters. The fall in deforestation also coincided with a slump in global commodity prices and a worldwide recession, suggesting that it could be a temporary lull.

"I think we're in the eye of a hurricane," said Carter, whose Alianca da Terra (Alliance of the Land) group is working with farmers to improve their environmental and fire-prevention standards. "When people don't have cash and they're leveraged to the hilt they're not going to spend money on deforestation."

Even if deforestation directly caused by human intervention were to fall to zero, the balance of evidence suggests that the forest is intensely vulnerable in a warming world.

A World Bank report this year drawing on 24 global climate models and Japan's Earth Simulator super-computer predicted a slighter wetter Amazon in the relatively unspoiled northwest this century with increasing droughts in the south. But once effects on vegetation from warmer temperatures, deforestation, and greater fire risk were taken into account, it concluded that there was a "substantial probability" of Amazon dieback with a particularly severe and near-term risk in the east.

Carlos Nobre, one of Brazil's leading climate scientists at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), said there was a danger that global falls in deforestation would lull the world into a false sense of security. Even if deforestation globally falls to zero, the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions implies "massive change" in forests like the Amazon, he said.

"Everybody will go home and say 'OK, the forests are safe, biodiversity will be preserved.' No, that's not the case," he said. "It's a very serious situation."

As in 2005, climate scientists say this year's drought was probably caused by a warming of the north Atlantic ocean that causes air over the Amazon to descend, hampering the formation of rain clouds. Some models show that trend intensifying as the planet warms.

By far the scariest reading on the Amazon's future comes from the British Met Office's Hadley Centre, whose models show a disastrous rise in regional temperature of 8 degrees Celsius (14.4 Fahrenheit) or more by the end of the century. Under that scenario, the forest retreats to a tiny fraction of its current size.

Other studies have shown that a transition to seasonal forest with longer dry seasons, like those in parts of Asia, is a more likely outcome than scrubland this century. But that could still raise the Amazon's vulnerability to fire and have a severe impact on biodiversity, said Oxford University ecosystem science professor Yadvinder Malhi.

"There could be quite a decline in many tropical species. Some insects and lizards may struggle to cope with warming of 4-5 degrees (Celsius)," he said.


Calling when the forest could pass an irreversible tipping point is an inexact science, depending on complex interactions among the temperature, atmosphere, rainfall and deforestation.

The changes are not all bad news. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can fuel tree growth and drought resistance by stimulating the photosynthesis process in some species, for example. Nobody knows for sure how the Amazon's thousands of different tree species will adapt to warmer temperatures and increased droughts.

Many of them are hardy breeds, thanks to deep roots that probe 50 feet (15 meters) or more in search of moisture that keeps them alive during droughts. Studies have found that trees in the Borneo rainforest die much more easily than their Amazon counterparts given the same drought levels.

Brazil's Nobre said that the forest even in areas like Mato Grosso had not yet hit the tipping point -- at least not in terms of changing climate.

"We don't observe any long-term change in rainfall," he said. "Climatically, it's very far from a tipping point."

INPE's research has found that deforestation of the Amazon would have to reach 40 percent, double its current level, to trigger a widespread dieback. But in areas like Mato Grosso, where the remaining forest is fragmented and subject to dry winds and fire, the process is visibly speeding up.

"In those degraded areas, if they continue to use fire, you might reach a point of no return," Nobre said.

In a forest patch the size of a city block in Mato Grosso, Paulo Brando's boots crunch through brittle leaves and twigs among scorched tree trunks.

Every three years, the patch is burnt as part of an experiment to compare its resilience to an untouched plot of forest next to it. The result is a sad, wounded landscape -- what Brando, an ecologist with the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, calls an "impoverished" ecosystem.

Up to half the species have been lost and the carbon stored in the vegetation is down by a third over three years. Grasses have invaded the sun-exposed forest floor, providing kindling for future fires, and temperatures are a full 5 degrees Celsius (9 Fahrenheit) higher than in the patch that still has its cooling green canopy.

"If wetter forest becomes drier, those fires are likely to be very intense because you have lots of fuel. If you start having a source of ignition in dry years you're likely to get to this point very quickly," said Brando.

Nearly 30 percent of the Amazon is within 6 miles (10 km) of a potential fire source, such as a farm or a road.

While the scientific jury may still be out on how more extreme weather will affect the forest, the region's inhabitants are already suffering the consequences. For the second time in five years, drought in Amazonas state, which is the size of Alaska, brought the surreal site of cars driving where people swam just weeks earlier. Some residents desperate for food scooped up endangered manatees from shallow rivers.

Officials in Manacapuru, a small city on the Solimoes river near Manaus, say the extremes of recent years have prompted an influx of environmental migrants.

"It's a consistency of extremes," said vice mayor Joao Messias. "Our city here is literally full. It has filled up a lot after these big floods and droughts."

In the smaller town of Caapiranga, which was mostly cut off from boat transport by the drought, residents complained that many foods had doubled in price and that their crop land had yet to recover from the devastation caused by 2009's floods.

From his shack by the side of a dried-up lake, Manuel Ferreira de Matos squinted through a pair of battered spectacles at the distant water that glistened like a mirage more than a kilometre away.

"By the time I get back home from the fields, I'm dying of thirst," said the 57-year-old father of seven.

"Before I could walk all day, no problem, but now I can't stand it -- it's like the sun got closer."

(Editing by Claudia Parsons and Jim Impoco)

ARE WE THERE YET? (Moving Beyond Cancún)


Unless you live in a fool's paradise such as the US Congress or the tourist beaches of Cancún, the basic reality in a highly populated world is that there are limits -- limits to deficit spending of either the earth's or the economy's capital.

The UN meetings in Cancún did manage to end on a mildly hopeful note by gaining agreements on some small steps and putting off the hard stuff until the future. Commenting on the UN meetings Andrew Revkin says,
"What a difference a year makes. Climate talks ended in Copenhagen one year ago in raucous, then deflated, division, with the resulting accord noted, but not formally embraced, by the nearly 200 countries aiming to make good on an 18-year-old pledge under the first climate treaty to limit dangerous human-driven warming.

In Cancún, perhaps because the pressure was off to “seal the deal,” nearly all of the world’s nations rallied late Friday night around Mexico’s foreign secretary, Patricia Espinosa, and the text she offered as a rough template for an eventual global climate agreement."

Grist's Kate Shepard says of the newly hopeful tone of agreement, "It's Not Perfect But It's a Deal."

At the moment, at least, these are positive small steps in a larger playing field that has, unfortunately, looked pretty grim. The reason is that we are still deficit-spending our future.

Bill McKibben lays out why There's No Longer A Happy Ending at Cancún.

William D. Cohan lays out The Bankrupt Bargain on Taxes in the U.S.

David Harvey lays out Why We Are Stuck in the world.

Bottom line is that the ecology and the economy are running on separate but parallel unsustainable tracks toward what seems like a wall. Perhaps, if we can overcome our fear of the dark, there's a tunnel passage that is a transition toward a post-fossil-fueled future. But, we must first embrace a simple truth...


Friday, December 10, 2010



Having grown up in the Chicago neighborhood tradition under the senior Mayor Daley, I found this story absolutely delightful.

Andrew Sullivan, raised and steeped in the tradition of the corner pubs in Great Britain, asked "Where are the authentic corner pubs in America?" and readers began to send pics. One was of a watering hole in Chicago called the Brehon Pub.

Then a reader wrote...

I got a chuckle out of seeing that you used the Brehon Pub to illustrate your post on "authentic" Chicago bars. Brehon (which means judge or lawyer in Gaelic) actually had the least authentic of origins.

It was started in the '80s by federal and state authorities as a sham business (under the name "the Mirage"). Its sole purpose was to catch City of Chicago building and liquor inspectors soliciting bribes from taverns. Those friendly bartenders were all FBI agents and undercover cops. A bunch of people went to jail. When the scandal was over, the place remained a bar under a new name. Not exactly the beginning you'd expect for a cozy neighborhood Irish watering hole.

And one more thing about Chicago pubs. Historically the rule in Chicago was as long as you paid city officials their smallish brides, pretty much anyone could open a bar. That meant, unlike other cities, the early gay bar scene in Chicago was not dominated by the Mafia (Mayor Daley's men would never have let another organization horn in on the bribery income stream). The US's first gay leather bar (Gold Coast) was established in Chicago in the 1950s - a couple of decades before such things were tolerated in other cities. In the late '70s, when federal authorities raided a gay bar named Carol's, the owner (Richard Farnam aka "Mother Carol") led a protest march of 5,000 people on City Hall.

We may not be the most progressive of cities politically, but don't touch our bars.

December 14, 2010: There's a cool follow-up story of saving a popular pub in Chicago from a predator developer.



Riot troops defend Westminster against a siege of students enraged by the passage of tuition increases.

Yes, truth seems stranger than fiction. Even the royal family was attacked (in England?). Wow! The political anomalies are running parallel with the weather anomalies. Who knows, maybe the Thames will freeze.

Thursday, December 09, 2010



A few interesting updates from December 9, 2010:

"Whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they have not been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. Yet look what has happened to them. They have been removed from Internet … their funds have been frozen … media figures and politicians have called for their assassination and to be labeled a terrorist organization. What is really going on here is a war over control of the Internet, and whether or not the Internet can actually serve its ultimate purpose—which is to allow citizens to band together and democratize the checks on the world’s most powerful factions," – Glenn Greenwald.

Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has pledged solidarity with WikiLeaks and its besieged founder Julian Assange.

Some good questions from E.D. Kain:
If the publisher of a small website dedicated to the dissemination of the state-secrets of the Chinese government were operating their publishing outfit out of the United States and published a bunch of leaked Chinese state secrets (both on their website and through various larger media organizations) and the Chinese government declared that a violation of Chinese law, should the US government arrest and detain and possibly extradite that person to China?

Let’s assume for a moment that this person is a United States citizen. Is he guilty of treason against China? Let’s assume he is Canadian. Would it be reasonable to say this person was violating Chinese law and should be tried and possibly executed in China? Does Chinese law trump civil rights and civil liberties for non-Chinese citizens? Do China’s legitimate security concerns outweigh the civil liberties of non-Chinese citizens? Of American citizens?

One last question: Should all the media outlets who published the material they received from Assange be punished in kind? If not, why are they held to different standards? If so, what does this say about freedom of the press?

Internet and social media expert Clay Shirky offers an excellent discussion of these and other difficult questions surrounding WikiLeaks and transparency in the Information Age.


by Tom Chivers in The Telegraph

Horrifying video footage showing 15 people including two Reuters journalists being shot dead by a US Army Apache helicopter gunman, taken from the helicopter's gun camera, appalled the world when it was released on Wikileaks.
The crew were heard laughing at the "dead b-----ds" and saying "light 'em up!" and "keep shooting, keep shooting".

The US military has refused to discipline the helicopter's crew, saying that there were "insurgents and reporters in an area where US forces were about to be ambushed. "At the time we weren't able to discern whether (Reuters employees) were carrying cameras or weapons."

The brother of one of the dead Reuters journalists was sceptical: "My question is how could those highly skilled American pilots with all their hi-tech information not distinguish between a camera and a rocket launcher."

Guantanamo Bay operating procedures 

The "Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta", the US Army manual for soldiers dealing with prisoners at Camp Delta, was released on Wikileaks in 2007. Human rights groups were concerned to discover that according to official guidelines, prisoners could be denied access to the Red Cross for up to four weeks. It also showed that inmates could earn "special rewards" for good behaviour and cooperation - and that one such "reward" was a roll of toilet paper.


In 2008, Wikileaks published "the collected secret 'bibles' of Scientology", including some of internal workings and strange practices of the controversial Church. It showed that there were eight "levels" of "Operating Thetans", with Level Eight being the highest, that Scientologists can aspire to. It also instructed adherents to carry out difficult-to-understand "drills" including: "Find a tight packed crowd of people. Write it as a crowd and then as individuals until you have a cognition. Note it down." The drills were written by the Church founder L Ron Hubbard himself. Lawyers for the Church of Scientology attempted to force Wikileaks to take the information down, calling it the "Advanced Technology of the Scientology religion", but the site refused.

Climate Research Unit emails 

More than 1,000 emails sent over 10 years by staff at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit were posted on Wikileaks after being accessed by a hacker. They appeared to show that scientists engaged in "tricks" to help bolster arguments that global warming is real and man-made. One said: "I've just completed Mike's Nature [the science journal] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline." The report was described by sceptical commenters as "the worst scientific scandal of our generation". The head of the CRU, Professor Phil Jones, stepped down from his role in the wake of the leak, although following a House of Commons inquiry which found that he had no case to answer he was reinstated.

Australian internet blacklist

Last year, as the Australian government plotted a "great firewall of Australia" intended to prevent internet users in that country from seeing websites which the government deemed unsuitable, Wikileaks got hold of the proposed blacklist. It published them despite warnings from Bjorn Landfeldt, a University of Sydney professor involved in creating the list, that the list "constitute[d] a condensed encyclopedia of depravity and potentially very dangerous material" and "the concerned parent's worst nightmare" as children would inevitably seek it out. About half of the listed items were not child pornography or anything similar, but included Wikipedia entries, YouTube videos, fringe religious sites, fetish, straight and gay pornography, and even a travel agent's website and one of a dentist in Queensland.

Trafigura's Minton Report 

In 2009 the internet went crazy over oil trading company Trafigura's attempts to block publication of an internal study about the health effects of waste dumping in Africa. The draft report, written by scientific consultant John Minton, said that the chemical processes Trafigura used to clean the dumped gasoline was amateurish and would probably have left dangerous sulphur compounds untreated. It was said that these compounds could cause severe burns to the skin and to the lungs, permanent ulceration, corneal damage, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of consciousness and death to people who came into contact with it. The Guardian gained possession of the report, but Trafigura took the newspaper to court to gain an injunction. However, Wikileaks also had received the report, and within hours the information that The Guardian was legally prevented from publishing was all over Twitter.

BNP membership 

The names, addresses and occupations of 13,500 members of the far-Right British National Party were released on to Wikileaks in 2008. The list included the names of several police officers, senior members of the military, doctors and professors. It came as senior military figures warned that the BNP's politics were "fundamentally at odds" with the values of the British military, and BNP figures said that the "establishment" was trying to "derail" the party. At least one person on the list was fired from their job after it was revealed that they were a member of the BNP.

Sarah Palin's email account 

Ahead of the 2008 US Presidential Election, Republican candidate John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin had her private Yahoo email account hacked by Anonymous, an online group best known for an ongoing battle with the Church of Scientology. Two emails, her contact list and various family photos were posted to Wikileaks. The McCain campaign described it as a "shocking invasion of the governor's privacy and a violation of law". It was found that Mrs Palin had been using the private account for official business, and it was alleged that this was to avoid American public record laws.

9/11 pager data 

More than 500,000 pager messages sent in the United States on the day of the September 11 attacks were published to Wikileaks in November last year. Some were from federal and local officials, but most were from ordinary people. There was a debate over whether the release was legitimately in the public interest, revealing personal messages such as "I'm ok & love you..xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox". A Wikileaks spokesman defended the leak, saying that it represented "one more building block to getting a full picture of what happened on that day."

'How to stop leaks' document 

In a delightful twist, a British military manual - the Defence Manual of Security, or Joint Services Protocol 440 (JSP440) - specifically dealing with how best to avoid leaks was leaked onto the site in October last year. It warned that the Chinese "[have] a voracious appetite for all kinds of information; political, military, commercial, scientific and technical" and that spying is no longer like "the novels of John Le Carre". Journalists are listed in the document as one of the "threats" to security, alongside foreign intelligence services, criminals, terrorist groups and disaffected staff. In an even more self-referential moment, a Pentagon document naming Wikileaks itself as a threat to national security was leaked - to Wikileaks.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

(where we prevent climate change anymore)


via Treehugger

There's No Longer A Happy Ending Where We Prevent Climate Change Anymore: Bill McKibben (Video)

by Matthew McDermott, New York, NY  on 12. 6.10

Down in Mexico at the COP16 climate conference, Andy Revkin of the New York Times just posted a video interview he did with environmental campaigner and thinker extraordinare Bill McKibben, which is really worth a view. McKibben is perhaps slightly less articulate then he can be, but heck this is unedited footage shot across a table; and besides, it's the conversational interplay between McKibben and Revkin that is as important as anything specific said.
At one point Revkin emphasizes the importance of climate change being a problem of clean energy--which it is, but not the sum of it. McKibben challenges:

The basic issue of the planet right now is that it's disintegrating. That's even more basic than the fact that we have to keep developing and people need energy and all that. There's no way anyone is going to develop anything, including energy or anything else, if their whole friggin country is washing away.
Which is to my mind exactly correct. Contrary to the oft-repeated environmental position, climate change is not the problem of our generation and for future generations. Climate change is a symptom of the larger problem of humans using resources (be they energy, food, land, water, nearly everything) at rates that are in excess of the planet to regenerate them perpetually. As a species, as nations and as societies we have have yet to recognize that we our actions are crashing into the hard ecological limits of the carry capacity of the planet. The logic, economic and social, which once held true in previous generations regarding waste, energy and resource usage, simply no longer applies. Until we recognize that internally and externally in our laws, our actions, and our thoughts, we are still on a path to collapse. And even once on that path, the destination is still not pleasant.

As McKibben aptly says,

There's no happy ending where we prevent climate change anymore. Now the question is, is it going to a miserable century or an impossible one, and what comes after that. So we work incredibly hard to build a movement that finally, eventually, is able to take advantage of some opening in, political or natural, in order to drive through real change. And god knows if we can do it. But we will definitely keep trying because there are millions of people around the world who are. And here's what's interesting: The most interesting thing about the pictures and everything from 360 is everybody in them almost is poor, black, brown, Asian, young. That's what the world is and that's what this movement is.
Right on Bill, and Andy for bringing the video.

Lest that sound depressing, the difference between doing nothing on climate change and the worst-case scenarios coming to pass (which for the most part they all have so far, surpassing them in some cases) and blunting the impact through mitigation and adaptation efforts, which getting a global climate treaty is a key part, is the difference between McKibben's impossible century and a difficult, miserable in places, but survivable one.

(Stormy Colors)

Riding the bus home into a darkened sky from an approaching storm, the sun behind me lit the colors brilliantly.