Category Archives: Environment

“Inconvenient parallels between responses to the Holocaust and to climate change” Korea Times

Korea Times

“Inconvenient parallels between responses to the Holocaust and to climate change”

January 13, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

(with Alexander Krabbe

A comparison between the culture of denial and self-deception that swept Europe during the Holocaust and the disgraceful failure of so-called “advanced nations” to take even the most basic steps to address the catastrophe of climate change may strike readers as a painfully stretched analogy that undermines the authors’ credibility.

Sadly, the resistance to this analogy that we have encounterd suggests the depth of the denial of climate change that lurks among intellectuals, and extends to the entirety of the educated classes around the world. For, if truth be told, the consequences of global warming and the resulting accelerated climate change will be far deadlier for humanity than the Holocaust, leading to the deaths of hundreds of millions, or billions, as agriculture collapses in the face of spreading deserts and the oceans die as a result of warming waters and increasing acidity.

That we can read about this catastrophe in newspapers and refuse to end our thoughtless consumption of fossil fuels and our mindless plunge into a fantasy of immediate gratification without concern for future generations suggests nothing less than mass psychopathology.

The analogy to the Holocaust is imperfect and tentative, but it explains how a shadow has fallen between the knowledge of catastrophe and actual action. It offers precedents for the psychology of educated people who fall over backwards to deny an obvious disaster, who refuse to admit that their daily actions had anything to do with the radical crimes carried out in secret.

We can imagine a future date, if humanity manages to survive in some form, at which this brutal truth of how those with the learning to grasp the problem who pretended that they had nothing to do with this suicidal process will be forced out into the open and the public will be forced to take responsibility for the immensity of the crime that we have committed, and face the bitter fact that we betrayed future generations every time we drove to the market in a car or typed on a computer using energy generated by coal.

The denial of the Holocaust was not limited to the refusal of Germans to acknowledge the systematic rounding up of Jews (and other undesirables) for transport to concentration camps and on to death camps. The denial of this crime spread around the world, including all the nations of Europe. Educated people in France, Spain, Italy, Belgium and elsewhere knew full well that Jews in their country, and elsewhere, were being rounded up and sent to their deaths. It was an open secret. There were a handful of people who pursued the issue, who looked at the facts (disappearing Jews, threats of violence and a rhetoric of annihilation) and were led inevitably to the unpleasant explanation for what was occurring.

Even intellectuals in the relatively free nations of the United States and the U.K. were swept up in the systematic denial of the reports of the Holocaust and those brave eye witnesses who testified as to what was happening were dismissed. Officially, the Allied governments claimed that did not learn about the Holocaust until the first liberations of concentration camps in 1944, but in fact they were fully aware of the number (in the millions) who were being killed by 1942 and deliberately avoided offering any assistance.

Moreover, in 1980 the American historian and journalist Walter Laqueur found out that the British had already cracked the encrypted code of the SS in 1941 and constantly listened to the radio traffic of the Nazis. In 1996 Richard Breitman published British listening records that included success reports from the German “SD-Einsatzgruppen” and police battalions, about the “extermination of the Jews” during the summer of 1941. There was no doubt as to what was happening.

Szmul Zygielbojm of the Polish government took tremendous personal risks in June 1942 to smuggle detailed reports about industrialized mass murder to London. Although the Daily Telegraph did mention his materials eventually, it was on page five of a six page newspaper (similar to the treatment that catastrophic climate change receives these days). Zygielbojm met with “indifference, disbelief or even suspicion,” eventually took his life after his wife and son were killed during the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.

Refugees trying to escape persecution, such as the passengers of the ship the German liner MS St. Louis that came to the U.S. in 1939 were turned back without any serious discussion of the reasons the passengers were fleeing. The U.S. even turned away 20,000 Jewish children fleeing Nazi Germany in much the way that refugees from climate change (whether in Central America or Syria, or Northern Africa) are turned back without a second thought from the U.S., Canada or Japan today.

The use of Jews as slave labor to aid the German economy (and the economies of other countries), the misuse of the property confiscated from Jews in Germany, and across Europe, profits generated through budgets related to the “Final Solution” project were deep secrets that had real financial benefits.

The point is not to berate the Europeans for what they did then, but rather to suggest that the mentality was strikingly similar to what we see today. Fossil fuels (petroleum and coal above all) are dirty and immoral sources of energy and wealth whose catastrophic implications for the environment have been carefully hidden from sight while the immediate consequences are disguised through misleading reports in the corporate media that understate their deadly implications.

The best and the brightest of so-called “advanced nations” have their fingers all over this crime, whether in the promotion of economic theories that ignore climate change and assume that growth and consumption are necessary, or policy reports that vastly understate the gravity of the situation, or media reports that fail to mention “climate change” when reporting massive hurricanes, forest fires or droughts.

The number of people who are dying now, and who will die in the future, are carefully guarded by these gatekeepers, much as the mass killings of Jews were hidden from the writings of professors, journalists and government officials in Paris and Budapest, in Berlin and Rome, during the 1940s. Similarly, today we see educated people distracted by trivialities like Trump’s temper tantrums, and unable to focus on the disaster that stares them in the face.

We created this cognitive dissidence and we are all guilty. The industry of death around us has been hidden with our permission and with our consent. Factories in China or Vietnam use coal that destroys the ecosystem and pollutes the local region so that rich nations can enjoy inexpensive products without having to consider the price paid by our precious Earth. We pat ourselves on the back for being environmentally friendly because we do not have the domestic pollution we had in the 1960s and 1970s. But the unspeakable damage to our shared ecosystem is the same, whether the factory is in downtown Paris, or in rural Myanmar.

How is such an approach different from the scheme whereby placing the death camps in Poland allowed all of Europe to enjoy a false sense of innocence? As the recent Hungarian movie “1945” (directed by Ferec Torok) shows, the confiscation of the possessions of Jews was a massive industry that was assiduously covered up by those involved. It was too easy to blame the entire project on a small group of SS officers.

The current project of death encompasses the production of petroleum, the entanglement of the U.S. dollar with the use of petroleum, and the creation of fraudulent mechanisms like “carbon trading” that distract us from the necessary steps such as banning the use of fossil fuels. The myth that market mechanisms can solve the problem is embraced by environmental groups that limit their discussions to the most superficial solutions.

Even more grotesque is the transformation of the military in the U.S. (and elsewhere) into a massive consumer of petroleum and massive producer of carbon emissions that devotes its work to promoting wars to secure only more petroleum and natural gas, and thereby to create petroleum wealth for a select few. The generals embrace the mission of “security” while ignoring the real security threat of climate change. The scale of the horror is so great that many prefer to simply play stupid and let the insane project proceed unimpaired.

Today we deny the deaths of millions in wars over oil and the death of tens of millions as the consequence of climate change globally.

We can understand the mass pathology behind the killing of the Jews, or the embrace of fossil fuels, through a comparison with incest. Incest, sexual relations between close family members, is ethically offensive and disruptive behavior in our society. It results in tremendous psychological damage for victims (and at some level all family members involved are victims) that last for a lifetime.

There is a disturbing pattern in incest. Although disputes between family members about money or power often spill out into the open where they can be addressed by the family as a whole, and can be resolved, incest is often swept under the rug. Families try to maintain a semblance of normality for years, or even for decades, pretending that the unspeakable relationship does not exist. The same behavior is true for other forms of child abuse.

Similarly, when addressing the denial of climate change, we must confront the capacity of humans to embrace false narratives at the family level, the national level and the global level that spare them the pain of facing the truth and taking responsibility. We must recognize the ability of humans to deny the truth despite the tremendous damage that such action causes them over the long-term.

Such was most the mentality of thoughtful people in Prague, in Budapest or in Warsaw who felt comfortable sitting at cafes sipping their favorite drinks, reading intellectually complex novels and discussing the weather, or enjoyed the latest movies with friends while avoiding any mention of the mysterious disappearance of Jews from their neighborhood. They even struggled to block out the memories of evictions and roundups they had witnessed.

Of course the Gestapo and other fascist groups were so dangerous that silence was demanded. Yet the totalitarian system could never have been established if citizens had not practiced psychological denial for long enough to allow totalitarian rule to take root. The willingness of educated Germans to ignore the Nazi Party’s actions from 1933 on allowed that organization to establish a system that would eventually make criticism impossible.

Eventually those who tried to help Jews, homosexuals, dissidents, disabled people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, communists, POWs, critical authors, Sinti and Romanies were charged with crimes that demanded immediate and brutal punishment.

Although the Trump administration has made climate change a topic that government officials are not allowed to discuss, let alone respond to, discussing the topic is not illegal yet. Nevertheless, the brutal suppression of the protests against the Keystone SL tar sands pipeline last year, including ridiculously long prison sentences, suggests that it is entirely possible that the debate on climate itself will be criminalized in the years ahead, forcing us to make even more difficult decisions at even greater sacrifice.

We who fight for climate justice must recognize that we may not have much time before not only is radical climate change unavoidable, but also before the discussion of the topic is made impossible. Creating a sustainable future may require profound sacrifice and moral courage that goes beyond any “carbon trading” schemes that have been floated by multinational investment banks.

Climate change is already killing millions around the world, and will kill hundreds of millions in the years ahead. Yet the vast majority of the well-off (and well-off means those who make more than $US40,000 a year) are indifferent to the relationship between their overheated homes, their minivans, their imported cheap products, or their offices with ridiculously high ceilings in the lobbies and glass and steel exteriors that require vast amounts of energy to keep at a comfortable temperature, and climate change. They do not see, or they do not want to see, a link between the hurricanes devastating the coasts, the spreading deserts, the increases in forest fires, and their own daily actions.

In a grotesque burlesque that has become commonplace, we remark to each other as a greeting that the weather is so cold. Yet we are fully aware that today’s winters are so warm that flowers continue to bloom into December, and beyond. We intentionally wear heavy jackets when we go out, willing to put up with the inconvenience because the ritual somehow reassures us that the climate has not changed at all.

The painful pursuit of truth

There were brave men and women who risked their lives, and often more importantly, their relations with their own families and friends, to get the truth out about the Holocaust. More often than not their stories were dismissed as exaggerations. It was assumed that the unfortunate deaths of a few Jews were being exaggerated into a fantastic mass murder. The arguments for dismissing their stories (and such arguments are made even today) were based on the assumption that the fascists could not possibly have engaged in something so terrible and that the populations of Europe could not possibly have allowed something on that scale to happen. In effect, the scale of the crime made the task easier, not harder.

The psychology we see today regarding climate change is identical. The reports produced by scientists based on the scientific method that speak of massive destruction are dismissed or ignored because they are Pollyannish. The rosy predictions made by politicians, television personalities, columnists and businessmen, constructed from self-interest, ego and primitive denial are embraced by many as a precious salve for their deeply troubled collective conscience.

The scale of the catastrophe, which threatens humanity with extinction, is so large that those who embrace the culture of denial find it easy to dismiss. But there is no scientific basis for such dismissal. If anything, multiple mass extinctions from prehistoric times suggest that such scenarios are all too possible. That bitter reality is detailed in Elizabeth Kolbert’s book “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” (2014). Certainly the current massive die-out of insects, amphibians, and reptiles indicate that the process of extinction is inexorably working its way up the food chain towards us.

It is no longer a secret that a small group of billionaires are making a fortune off of encouraging waste among the population and forcing us to be dependent on fossil fuels, often using taxpayers’ money to subsidize this addiction to a dangerous energy source. They are fully aware of the crime that they are engaged in and they are informed about the coming catastrophe. Yet they march forward towards mass destruction, much as the leaders of the Third Reich did when they started their invasions of Eastern Europe and Russia, knowingly launching a catastrophe that destroyed them as well.

Just as a small group of intellectuals, such as Austrian-German Orientalist Adolf Wahrmund (1827-1913), pushed fake science about Jewish inferiority in Europe from the late 19th century, and tried to convince French and Germans that the contradictions of capitalism could be traced back to racial characteristics of Jews, a circle of fraudulent “experts” have made a fortune from paybacks from fossil fuel industry to push their denial of, or understatement of, climate change.

These professional deniers and scientists for hire such as Fred Seitz, Robert Jastrow (founder of the notorious George C. Marshall Institute) and William Nierenberg pawn off fake science using glossy brochures and fancy PPT presentations with the criminal intention of misleading the public about a national security crisis. The process is immoral and illegal, but even today is described in the media as merely matter of differing opinion ― much as rabid anti-Semitism was treated in Europe from the late 19th century.

Today’s professors, lawyers, doctors or businessmen and reporters contribute to the promotion of a fossil fuel-based economic system that defines the economy in terms of consumption and waste. They are amply rewarded for their work, through consulting contracts, through their connections to corporations pushing automobiles or fossil fuels, or through other financial links. They shamelessly discuss economics while ignoring the impact of wasteful energy consumption on the environment and they promote “free trade” while ignoring the tremendous emissions that result from the transportation of products across the world by container ships. This shameless work forms a perfect parallel to the pseudo-science of racial inferiority promoted by anthropologists and physiologists in pre-war Europe like Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927) who provided Hitler with his roadmap for systematic “scientific” attacks on Jews.

The Washington Post reported in November 2017, that the U.S. became the biggest polluter per capita in the world and that it has the most climate change deniers of any country. Such an extreme situation could not have been reached without the massive collaboration of countless American intellectuals in this institutionalized death march.

Some intellectuals have written books about the magnitude of climate change that receive attention in the mainstream media. For example, Naomi Klein has written, and spoken, in a persuasive and blunt manner about the scale of the threat to humanity, saying that the Earth is “fucked” by the false promise of perennial growth on a planet with limited resources. Her “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” published in 2014, is a rare example of a widely read book that suggests that the economic and ideological assumptions of our society will be fatal.

So also Clive Hamilton, an Australian professor who is a member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of his country, published a powerful critique of flawed economic policies “Growth Fetish” in 2003, and the trenchant “Requiem for a Species” in 2010. Hamilton suggests that even the experts behind the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have vastly underestimated the dangers ahead because of economic and political pressures.

But most climate change discourse has been laughable and pathetic. The most representative artifacts of this culture of understatement are former Vice President Al Gore’s two inconvenient movies: “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006) and “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” (2017). Both films are more a promotion of Al Gore than a serious effort to address the threat of climate change. The saccharine narratives assume unwarranted optimism that multinational corporations that pursue profit can solve this catastrophe if only upper middle-class citizens raise their awareness of climate change. The movie avoids any consideration of serious actions such as the categorical prohibition of the use of fossil fuels, or even heavy taxing of pollution.

The road forward

2018 was a turning point in the modern Holocaust of climate change. The vastly increased warming of the North Pole led to a smaller difference in temperature relative to the equator, which disrupted the Northern Hemisphere’s jet stream. The result has been reduced air circulation at the altitude of nine to 12 kilometers with the consequence of minimal seasonal variations around the world. The resulting extreme rainfall in Italy, the unprecedented drought in Germany, the massive fires in California and Greece show that extreme climate is a reality, but governments, and their citizens are incapable of articulating responses on the appropriate scale.

Most of us lack the bravery, and the intellectual clarity, necessary to face the ugly truth of climate change and its roots in our culture and habits. We have externalized the problem and therefore are unable to move to the next step of changing our behavior so as to make progress.

There is still hope. We see a rising awareness of climate change around the world that makes an honest discussion about the scale of the threat possible. But we cannot allow half-truths and rosy projections to delude us. The struggle ahead will be profound and disorienting. We will have to challenge the consumption-based economics that underpins every aspect of our current ideology. The circumstances may be entirely different, but a moral bravery on a par with that which was required to confront the Holocaust will be demanded of us if we wish to find a solution.

“국가 운영 시스템의 붕괴 보여준 미세먼지 대책” 중앙일보


“국가 운영 시스템의 붕괴 보여준 미세먼지 대책”

2018년 5월 3일

임마누엘 페스트라이쉬

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“Bringing the world together to respond to the East China Sea oil spill” The Korea Times


The Korea Times

“Bringing the world together to respond to the East China Sea oil spill”

February 17, 2018

Emanuel Pastreich




Last month’s oil spill in the East China Sea has produced the greatest ecological disaster to hit East Asia. The East China Sea spill is only surpassed in the history of oil spills by the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a catastrophe from which the ecosystem is still far from recovering.

The collision of a Panamanian tanker, carrying Iranian petroleum, and the Chinese cargo ship CF Crystal on January 6 released almost a million barrels of condensate, an acutely toxic chemical that is highly volatile.

Condensate spreads quickly and is much harder to contain than crude. It spreads with water currents, exposing all marine organisms in its path. Never has such a large amount of condensate been released into the environment. It will kill or poison a wide range of marine animals, moving far beyond the expanding oil spill in the East China Sea.

If we combine this disaster with the degradation of the biosphere brought about by warming oceans, the acidification of seawater and overfishing, we are confronted with a catastrophe.

Yet you would never guess that anything had ever happened from reading the newspapers in Korea and Japan, let alone those of the United States and China. The overwhelming focus has been on the PyeongChang Olympics, with a few words about a nuclear threat from North Korea thrown in here and there. Even the antics of Donald Trump seem to be far more important than this devastating spill.

As of this moment, I have not seen any advisories about eating seafood products, and the governments of Korea and Japan have not established rigorous inspection regimes for marine produce.

For that matter, a keyword search of Jeju Island’s leading newspapers Halla Ilbo and Jeju Ilbo revealed almost no articles about the risks posed by this disaster. Newspapers in Okinawa and Kyushu, the regions likely to suffer the most serious consequences, had more reports, but they were incidental and not investigative.

Denial and distraction are not going to make this catastrophe go away. There is a serious risk that hundreds of thousands of people will be subject to tremendous health risks from contaminated seafood, and from contaminated water. Entire fishing communities will be economically devastated, and their inhabitants will be in danger.

We do not have much time to end this taboo. It is time for Korea, Japan, China and the entire international community to come together and to talk honestly about how we will clean up this disaster and how the ecosystem will be restored over the next few decades. That process will require close cooperation and the development of new technologies and new treatments. We will have to work together, as a team, to assure the safety and health of residents in the areas immediately affected, and to tell the region honestly how they will be impacted.

This oil spill, more than the North Korean nuclear weapons program, is shaping up to be a major security issue for the region that will require hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade or more.

It is essential that we put together a comprehensive plan to respond to this oil spill quickly and implement it rapidly and systematically. We must use scientific means to assess the dangers and to give reliable information to the world.

We need global cooperation to come up with a solution for the short term, the medium term and the long term. We must bring together players from government, research and industry in all the nations impacted to formulate and to implement a response. We also need citizens to be involved in the process, both providing information to experts and paying close attention to expert opinions and to other information related to the oil spill.

In the long term, we must strengthen regulations concerning the shipping of petroleum products. Most importantly, we must recognize that this tragedy was unnecessary and that we must quickly end the use of such dangerous fossil fuels that kill tens of thousands in Asia, not only through oil spills, but through air pollution.

This effort requires a literal revolution in the nature of government. Government around the world is increasingly weak, responding primarily to the demands of corporations, not citizens. Governments lack the expertise for analysis, and also are unable to carry out long-term plans. Politicians are only interested in the next election. Academics are forced by evaluation systems to spend their time writing for obscure academic publications and are discouraged from interacting with the public, or with government officials, who most need their help.

Citizens are distracted from facts by social media and by entertainment that has blocked out real news. We wander around blinded by a forest of electronic stimuli that induces impulsive purchases and indulges the grotesque cult of self. There is no space left for serious contemplation of the future of our Earth.

Will the United Nations handle this crisis? I would not hold my breath. The U.N. was not permitted to play a role in the clean-up after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill. And it has not been able to handle much else over the past few decades. Its funding has been cut and it is made into a beggar for budgets, not a leader in ethical campaigns.

There was no power on Earth capable of telling BP to turn over its platform and clear out of the way so that the Deepwater Horizon leak could be handled by experts selected on the basis of their objectivity. The entire world watched the Gulf of Mexico destroyed, but no one could compel BP to do anything. In effect, there was no government.

So how will we respond to this threat? Will we just stare at our cell phones, slurp cafe lattes with our friends and discuss our vacation plans? Will we play stupid, as our children are poisoned by unknown chemicals in fish? Will we obsess over frivolous matters while the oceans die, forests turn to deserts, societies collapse into anomie and neighbors become indifferent strangers?

Maybe, just maybe, this catastrophe, combined with similar catastrophes around the world, will force us to reinvent the concept of citizenship, and of government. Perhaps we can start to consider ourselves as citizens of the Earth who have a responsibility to act.

Perhaps this terrible challenge will force us to work together and thereby affirm what a community is, and what a government is, in a positive and meaningful sense. Perhaps we can establish something beyond global governance, a form of “Earth management” that addresses our relationship to the entire Earth.

Governance is necessary, on a global scale, if we want to respond to the terrible damage inflicted on our planet by unlimited development. All actions must be assessed in terms of long-term impact on our environment, and our primary concern must be the well-being of the people.

The stock market should not have any impact on the formulation of policy in response to this oil spill, or to any ecological crisis. If anything, the government should be empowered to restrict the functions of the stock market so as to encourage, and to force, a rapid move away from our dangerous dependence on fossil fuel.

This oil spill is about the mistakes of the crew only in the most limited sense. The dangers of transporting petroleum, and the negative impact on our environment of emissions, have been known for decades. The solution is a fundamental shift away from fossil fuels supported by extensive funding from the government, and strict rules that will require high levels of efficiency and insulation, and demand the immediate elimination of automobiles that employ petroleum.

We need to change not only how we invest our money and plan our economy but also to reform our culture and our habits. Consumption and growth can no longer be the standards by which we determine success. The addiction to petroleum, the advertising to encourage people to purchase automobiles, and the massive investment in highways at the expense of other welfare programs must be questioned as part of our larger response to the oil spill.

Finally, we must face the painful truth that the expensive hardware that our militaries have procured is useless in addressing this oil spill, or other environmental disasters such as spreading deserts and rising seas. We must redefine “security” decisively for our age and move beyond the limited and the confrontational concept of “alliance.” We must embrace the U.N. charter in its true spirit and transform our militaries into transparent and effective parts of society that address real security threats. The foremost threat, according to scientific inquiry, is climate change.

One organization that could play a critical role in coordinating our response to the East China Sea oil spill is the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS) in Seoul. The TCS is the sole organization run jointly by the governments of the China, Japan and Korea. The secretariat has proven itself to be extremely effective under the leadership of Secretary-General Lee Jong-heon and has played a critical role in coordinating policy.

This crisis, however, will take that role to a new level. We need an environmental assessment program for water and air quality, and long-term biological monitoring. But they can also work together to increase vessel traffic risk assessment and predict hazardous crossing areas. A whole range of vessel traffic control improvements and improved response protocols should be discussed.

We must enhance and organize the cooperation between governments, between research institutes, between NGOs, and between citizens in Asia to respond to this massive oil spill.

Moreover, this project can be seen not as a temporary step, but rather the next stage of Earth management aimed at the response to climate change and environmental degradation on a global scale. We will be creating new paradigms for universal application: for how to break down a complex problem into parts and assign it to experts from fields such as engineering, biology, demographics, oceanography, statistics and politics.

But we must explain what our response to the oil spill is for citizens and give them a compelling ethical motivation to contribute to the effort. That will require experts in philosophy, ethics, history, art, and literature. We will need artists to make compelling representations of this otherwise abstract disaster and writers to compose compelling phrases.

We will need to rebuild communities, to help fishermen whose communities are devastated, and to resettle people. That requires budgets, but it also requires moral courage and self-sacrifice. Let us pull the region, and the world, together to address this crisis properly and give humanity some hope.

“The Next Economic Crisis” (JoongAng Daily)

January 31, 2017

“The Next Economic Crisis”

JoongAng Daily

Emanuel Pastreich



Recent data suggests that in terms of unemployment, bankruptcies and declining exports, Korea’s economy is in worse shape today than it was before the 1997 IMF crisis.

But this time around, the United States and other Western countries have far weaker economies and growing economic nationalistic agendas suggest that getting a bailout will be difficult. Any large-scale loans, judging from what happened in Greece, will come at tremendous cost to sovereignty.

If we look at the question of liquidity, it seems that a foreign bailout would most likely come from China — and at the very moment that China is enraged with Korea’s decision to deploy the Thaad missile defense system. That would be a tough deal to reach, even for the best Korean negotiators.

But there is also the distinct possibility that there will not be any foreign bailout that is politically acceptable to Koreans. That might mean Korea will have to create its own capital and its own reform.

But to my amazement, there is no discussion in the Korean media about how Korea is going to respond to this crisis. The time has come to break the taboo and start an open discussion about what Korea will do and how we will reform the entire Korean economic system.

First and foremost, banks should be highly regulated, very predictable and extremely boring. Speculation and quick profits should be actively discouraged by law. Elaborate financial instruments make regulation difficult and they open the door to manipulation.

We need to make sure that regulators of banks are capable, inspired and highly motivated men and women — and that they have the authority to make sure that banks follow strict rules on the use of their reserves. We need to create a new class of regulators, and I hope that they will be young and ambitious and free to make decisions without their elders pressuring them. We need to go back to the original Confucian system and have young people take exams as a form of higher service to the nation. The exams should not test facts but demand the taker provide solutions to difficult problems based on ethical principles. We need civil servants who are proud of their high standards and are not easily corrupted by the large amounts of money flowing through the system.
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“Peer-to-Peer Science: The Century-Long Challenge to Respond to Fukushima” (Foreign Policy in Focus September 3, 2013)

Foreign Policy in Focus

“Peer-to-Peer Science: The Century-Long Challenge to Respond to Fukushima”

September 3, 2013.

Emanuel Pastreich

(with Layne Hartsell)



More than two years after an earthquake and tsunami wreaked havoc on a Japanese power plant, the Fukushima nuclear disaster is one of the most serious threats to public health in the Asia-Pacific, and the worst case of nuclear contamination the world has ever seen. Radiation continues to leak from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi site into groundwater, threatening to contaminate the entire Pacific Ocean. The cleanup will require an unprecedented global effort.

Initially, the leaked radioactive materials consisted of cesium-137 and 134, and to a lesser degree iodine-131. Of these, the real long-term threat comes from cesium-137, which is easily absorbed into bodily tissue—and its half-life of 30 years means it will be a threat for decades to come. Recent measurements indicate that escaping water also has increasing levels of strontium-90, a far more dangerous radioactive material than cesium. Strontium-90 mimics calcium and is readily absorbed into the bones of humans and animals.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) recently announced that it lacks the expertise to effectively control the flow of radiation into groundwater and seawater and is seeking help from the Japanese government. TEPCO has proposed setting up a subterranean barrier around the plant by freezing the ground, thereby preventing radioactive water from eventually leaking into the ocean—an approach that has never before been attempted in a case of massive radiation leakage. TEPCO has also proposed erecting additional walls now that the existing wall has been overwhelmed by the approximately 400 tons per day of water flowing into the power plant.

But even if these proposals were to succeed, they would not constitute a long-term solution.

A New Space Race

Solving the Fukushima Daiichi crisis needs to be considered a challenge akin to putting a person on the moon in the 1960s. This complex technological feat will require focused attention and the concentration of tremendous resources over decades. But this time the effort must be international, as the situation potentially puts the health of hundreds of millions at risk. The long-term solution to this crisis deserves at least as much attention from government and industry as do nuclear proliferation, terrorism, the economy, and crime.

To solve the Fukushima Daiichi problem will require enlisting the best and the brightest to come up with a long-term plan to be implemented over the next century. Experts from around the world need to contribute their insights and ideas. They should come from diverse fields—engineering, biology, demographics, agriculture, philosophy, history, art, urban design, and more. They will need to work together at multiple levels to develop a comprehensive assessment of how to rebuild communities, resettle people, control the leakage of radiation, dispose safely of the contaminated water and soil, and contain the radiation. They will also need to find ways to completely dismantle the damaged reactor, although that challenge may require technologies not available until decades from now.

Such a plan will require the development of unprecedented technologies, such as robots that can function in highly radioactive environments. This project might capture the imagination of innovators in the robotics world and give a civilian application to existing military technology. Improved robot technology would prevent the tragic scenes of old people and others volunteering to enter into the reactors at the risk of their own wellbeing.

The Fukushima disaster is a crisis for all of humanity, but it is a crisis that can serve as an opportunity to construct global networks for unprecedented collaboration. Groups or teams aided by sophisticated computer technology can start to break down into workable pieces the immense problems resulting from the ongoing spillage. Then experts can come back with the best recommendations and a concrete plan for action. The effort can draw on the precedents of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but it must go far further.

In his book Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science, Michael Nielsen describes principles of networked science that can be applied on an unprecedented scale. The breakthroughs that come from this effort can also be used for other long-term programs such as the cleanup of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the global response to climate change. The collaborative research regarding Fukushima should take place on a very large scale, larger than the sequencing of the human genome or the maintenance of the Large Hadron Collider.

Finally, there is an opportunity to entirely reinvent the field of public diplomacy in response to this crisis. Public diplomacy can move from a somewhat ambiguous effort by national governments to repackage their messaging to a serious forum for debate and action on international issues. As public diplomacy matures through the experience of Fukushima, we can devise new strategies for bringing together hundreds of thousands of people around the world to respond to mutual threats. Taking a clue from networked science, public diplomacy could serve as a platform for serious, long-term international collaboration on critical topics such as poverty, renewable energy, and pollution control.

Similarly, this crisis could serve as the impetus to make social networking do what it was supposed to do: help people combine their expertise to solve common problems. Social media could be used not as a means of exchanging photographs of lattes and overfed cats, but rather as an effective means of assessing the accuracy of information, exchanging opinions between experts, forming a general consensus, and enabling civil society to participate directly in governance. With the introduction into the social media platform of adequate peer review—such as that advocated by the Peer-to-Peer Foundation (P2P)—social media can play a central role in addressing the Fukushima crisis and responding to it. As a leader in the P2P movement, Michel Bauwens, suggests in an email, “peers are already converging in their use of knowledge around the world, even in manufacturing at the level of computers, cars, and heavy equipment.”

Here we may find the answer to the Fukushima conundrum: open the problem up to the whole world.

Peer-to-Peer Science

Making Fukushima a global project that seriously engages both experts and common citizens in the millions, or tens of millions, could give some hope to the world after two and a half years of lies, half-truths, and concerted efforts to avoid responsibility on the part of the Japanese government and international institutions. If concerned citizens in all countries were to pore through the data and offer their suggestions online, there could be a new level of transparency in the decision-making process and a flourishing of invaluable insights.

There is no reason why detailed information on radiation emissions and the state of the reactors should not be publicly available in enough detail to satisfy the curiosity of a trained nuclear engineer. If the question of what to do next comes down to the consensus of millions of concerned citizens engaged in trying to solve the problem, we will have a strong alternative to the secrecy that has dominated so far. Could our cooperation on the solution to Fukushima be an imperative to move beyond the existing barriers to our collective intelligence posed by national borders, corporate ownership, and intellectual property concerns?

A project to classify stars throughout the university has demonstrated that if tasks are carefully broken up, it is possible for laypeople to play a critical role in solving technical problems. In the case of Galaxy Zoo, anyone who is interested can qualify to go online and classify different kinds of stars situated in distant galaxies and enter the information into a database. It’s all part of a massive effort to expand our knowledge of the universe, which has been immensely successful and demonstrated that there are aspects of scientific analysis that does not require a Ph.D. In the case of Fukushima, if an ordinary person examines satellite photographs online every day, he or she can become more adept than a professor in identifying unusual flows carrying radioactive materials. There is a massive amount of information that requires analysis related to Fukushima, and at present most of it goes virtually unanalyzed.

An effective response to Fukushima needs to accommodate both general and specific perspectives. It will initially require a careful and sophisticated setting of priorities. We can then set up convergence groups that, aided by advanced computation and careful efforts at multidisciplinary integration, could respond to crises and challenges with great effectiveness. Convergence groups can also serve as a bridge between the expert and the layperson, encouraging a critical continuing education about science and society.

Responding to Fukushima is as much about educating ordinary people about science as it is about gathering together highly paid experts. It is useless for experts to come up with novel solutions if they cannot implement them. But implementation can only come about if the population as a whole has a deeper understanding of the issues. Large-scale networked science efforts that are inclusive will make sure that no segments of society are left out.

If the familiar players (NGOs, central governments, corporations, and financial institutions) are unable to address the unprecedented crises facing humanity, we must find ways to build social networks, not only as a means to come up with innovative concepts, but also to promote and implement the resulting solutions. That process includes pressuring institutions to act. We need to use true innovation to pave the way to an effective application of science and technology to the needs of civil society. There is no better place to start than the I

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This proposal was made to the cities of Palo Alto, Tsukuba and Daejeon in 2009 and we added Shenzhen in 2010. Although we were able to arrange three meetings between representatives of Palo Alto, Tsukuba and Shenzhen in 2010, ultimately the proposal was not followed up on. I do see the discussion, however, as historically significant and I look forward to a day when we can begin the conversation again.







January, 2009



There is a tremendous demand today for an ecologically sustainable urban environment that reduces radically waste, minimizes energy usage, has a positive impact on the world’s climate, and improves the health of citizens and the livability of urban spaces. In order to achieve such a transformation in cities across the country, however, we must first establish several model ecocities quickly which are sensitive to the needs of the particular country and function efficiently with the support of citizens. Those model ecocities will be the inspiration for other efforts within the country to create next-generation ecocities that handle in the most modern and most environmentally nonintrusive manner garbage disposal, water management, parks, wild spaces, alternative energy, insulation, transportation etc.

The best place for a cutting edge ecocity is in a city of relatively small dimensions because it can be transformed more rapidly than larger urban communities. Moreover, that city should be home to a major technology cluster in which access to the most advanced research in all fields relevant to an ecocity are readily available. Finally, because the threat of climate change is global, the effort to develop a model ecocity at the local level using all available technologies from the research cluster should be part of a global effort. Comparing notes, exchanging strategies, even sharing the costs of developing a cutting-edge ecocity between several cities can have great benefits and the international component will draw greater attention to the effort itself domestically and globally.




The three cities that would be at the center of this Ecocity Alliance from the start will be Palo Alto, home to Stanford University and at the center of Silicon Valley, Daejeon, home of KAIST, Korea’s leading technical university and multiple research institutes and Tsukuba (Japan), home of Tsukuba University, RIKEN, AIST and other scientific research institutes. Each of these cities is close to a larger metro city (San Francisco, Tokyo and Seoul, respectively) and each has outstanding faculty and research facilities related to all fields required to establish a next-generation ecocity.


THE SIGNIFICANCE of the Ecocity Alliance



Not only can the three cities share their strategies, their technical expertise and their ideas, the international exchanges between experts, parents and school children engendered by this effort will be a source of excitement and stimulation. Moreover, these exchanges will allow citizens to fully grasp the global nature of the environmental crisis. High school students will have the opportunity travel to the other “sister ecocities” to conduct studies (or perhaps do joint studies with their peers in the other countries via the Internet). Costs for purchasing materials, or hiring consultants, can be split between the three cities.


As each city becomes a model ecocity for its own country, the benefits to the research institutes will only increase, and the livability of the cities will make them more attractive to faculty.


Concrete Steps:

Short term:
Establish closer working relations among Asian countries on environmental and energy issues. Participants will effectively identify possible areas for collaboration and learn from other cities.
Medium term:
Establish benchmarks for ecocities and initiate formal sister ecocity connections; establish a system for objectively evaluating achievements of ecocities using the Yale Index or the UNDP index at the local level.
Efforts will be made to strengthen ties to international organizations, to engage in dialogue on curricular change with educators and students from urban studies and architecture programs, and to encourage practical change in how city planning is viewed on the level of local government.


Demonstrate the impact of local changes on national policy; demonstrate a measurable effect on global environmental indicators; establish global standards for ecocities.
Determine criteria for recognition as 1) beginning ecocity 2) established ecocity 3) advanced ecocity.

Award recognition, opportunities for investment, etc. for cities that reach the advanced level.
Establish an EMN (Ecocity Mayor’s Network).
Publication, in multiple languages, of a manual for setting up an ecocity.

1) To publish materials in multiple languages outlining basic strategies for reducing energy use and improving the environment in coordination with other organizations. These materials are aimed at local government and citizens.
2) To build close working relationships between local governments to discuss common concerns and put forth proposals for cooperation.
3) To arrange for the joint purchases of materials (such as solar cells) in large quantity so as to reduce the cost.
4) To administer a system for the open exchange of information concerning strategies and technologies.
5) To organize ecocity conferences and symposiums.
6) To undertake joint applications by multiple ecocities to international organizations for funding.
7) To establish evaluation criteria for assessing the progress of Ecocities and creating incentives for ecocities in cooperation with central governments and international organizations.
8) To promulgate new standards for measuring growth that take into account environmental factors; also translating and popularizing these standards at the local level. To recommend and to advise in the implementation of careful evaluation programs for environmental issues at the local level using Yale Index, UNDP index or some other standard.

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“Bring back the five-year plan” (JoongAng Daily October 27, 2016)

JoongAng Daily

“Bring back the five-year plan”

October 27, 2016

Emanuel Pastreich

There was a time when Korea’s best and brightest drafted meticulous five-year plans for the development of technologies as part of a 30-year vision for Korea’s future needs. Starting in 1962 and continuing until 1981, these plans set out goals and mobilized resources to build expertise, construct infrastructure, obtain technology and assure a broad understanding among the population of the challenges that Korea faced.

Such five-year plans continued until 1996, although they lost their focus on infrastructure and technology. However, long-term government support for science and technology remains in place, such as the “basic plan for developing biotechnology” through 2026.

Such research and development, however, focused too much on creating products for global markets, rather than technology aimed at addressing directly the threats that Korea faces.

The time has come for the re-establishment of five-year plans for Korea, but with the adaptation to climate change, and the mitigation of energy consumption, as the primary goal.

But development should consist of forecasting the future and planning for it based on three points.

First, what will be the state of the environment in Korea in 10, 20 or 30 years? What will be the sea level and the frequency of droughts, super-storms and flash floods? What will be the state of the soil, of forests, of agricultural land and of fish populations?

Second, what technologies will be available by that future date granted the current rate of technological evolution? How can those technologies be implemented quickly to assure that Korea is carbon-free and can respond to threats?

Third, how long will it take to design and implement the new infrastructure based on that technology so as to respond in time to future climate threats?

We should start with a five-year plan that requires all buildings to employ solar panels and be properly insulated by 2021. The plan would involve industry, academia and government and cover technology, commercialization, citizens’ education and urban planning with a focus on empowering local groups to participate. Solar film to place on windows and cutting-edge insulation materials should be quickly adopted. Other plans should be implemented for the response to super-storms, to rising sea levels, and to protect forests and oceans and farmland.

These five-year plans should not be aimed only at producing products for export, but rather at meeting the challenges of protecting Korea against the threats of climate change. Preparations for responding to rising seas and a warmer climate must be carried out as a national security agenda without a fixation on markets.

Finance for these projects must be generated increasingly within Korea, and finance must be increasingly directed toward the concrete demands of the response to climate change at the national level, and not toward speculation or short-term investments unrelated to the national interest.

Ultimately, this crisis may force us to go back to the drawing board and ask whether industries like shipbuilding, automobile manufacturing, steel and petrochemicals will lead Korea’s future in light of the overwhelming threat of climate change. The government must show bravery, true leadership, by mapping out the equivalent of a war-time economy to integrate emerging technologies with infrastructure demands to respond over the long term to this profound threat. There can be no sacred cows.

The government must put in place a series of five-year plans for industrial development with a set of concrete goals for reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels, increasing insulation, efficiency, awareness and the broad adoption of new technologies, and more importantly, systems of technology, habits, policy and culture that will allow Korea to reach its goals very rapidly. Moreover, the manner in which Korea innovates to achieve these goals more rapidly than other industrialized nations will become in itself a valuable product that Korea can share with the world.

Two sets of five-year plans should be put in place. One for adaptation to climate change and one for mitigation of climate change. Both are equally important, and both must be closely linked to be successful. Moreover, the plans require a change in the culture, the habits, the assumptions of Koreans, and also massive reforms in finance, trade and investment policy that will set Korea free of oil money and petroleum imports and make it a global model.

Great Law of the Iroquois, the “seventh generation” and the crisis of climate change

Perhaps the greatest example of law in the United States is the “Great Law of the Iroquois,” a constitution in which the Iroquois asserted that in all planning we must consider what the impact will be for people in the next century. I would agrue that government in Joseon Korea also had something of this vision, but how profoundly different from what we see today. Is there a means to bring back that Seven generation stewardship in our lost age, facing climate disaster?

“Great Law of the Iroquois – which holds appropriate to think seven generations ahead (about 140 years into the future) and decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit their children seven generations into the future. ”

The Real Problem with the enviroment

“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

Gus Speth

Professor at Vermont Law School

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Earth Citizens Organization

I have taken up the cause of the Earth Citizens Organization and I ask that you join with me.
Thank you.
On September 11, 2013, EARTH CITIZENS ORGANIZATION (ECO) was formed to develop leaders committed to making a difference in their lives and communities for a healthier and sustainable world.
Since that date, ECO’s focus has been on providing training and education, developing training facilities, and organizing community events that help people live mindfully and get healthier naturally. Through these actions, ECO desires to catalyze a shift that will change the future of the world to one of peace and sustainability. We call this collaborative effort the Earth Citizen Movement. Our goal is reaching 1% of the world’s population and to help them incorporate Earth Citizenship into their lifestyle and daily choices.


ECO was named to reflect our belief that we are all citizens of the Earth and share the responsibility to care for the Earth’s well being in every way. Sharing this idea and creating changes in our daily lives is the essence of the Earth Citizen Movement.


The seed of the Earth Citizen Movement was planted by one person when he started teaching exercise at a public park in South Korea 30 years ago. This person was Ilchi Lee. He believed, and still believes, that hope for a better world lies in awakening the greatness in human nature, and has dedicated his life to helping people harness their brain potential. It was through his dedication and spirit that ECO was created.

Throughout his life, Ilchi Lee has strived to help millions of people worldwide enhance their physical, mental, and spiritual capabilities by learning to control and direct the energy of their brains. He has formed several non-profit and for-profit organizations, authored over 30 books, including New York Times Bestseller “The Call of Sedona,” and organized numerous events to help bring that vision to fruition.



ECO plans to expand its education to develop Earth Citizen Leaders by creating an online education system and building Earth Citizens Learning Centers in major cities, including its main campus in Northern Arizona.

Earth Citizen Learning Center in Arizona is an educational center where people can visit, experience and learn all aspects of sustainable living such as healthy eating, natural health, organic farming, sustainable housing, renewable energy and water-recycling. ECO Learning Center will provide training programs targeted towards young leaders of our community.