Category Archives: Environment

“Creating Fossil-Fuel-Free Communities Globally” Foreign Policy in Focus

Foreign Policy in Focus

“Creating Fossil-Fuel-Free Communities Globally”

November 18, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

Now that the movement to address climate change at the systemic and cultural level has gained unprecedented momentum, it is critical for us to establish a viable alternative economy that committed citizens around the world can join. The basic unit of that economy should be fossil-fuel-free (FFF) communities.

In these FFF (fossil-fuel-free) communities, to be built from the ground up, nothing eaten or consumed, no form of transformation or communication employed, and no aspect of housing, furniture or utensils will contain fossil fuels (including plastics or fertilizers). Nor will any of these items be produced, transported, or manufactured using fossil fuels.

Such FFF communities can serve as uncompromised building blocks of a truly carbon-zero economy, polity, and culture. Although small at first, such communities will not be dependent for food, energy, or finance on corporations or banks tied to fossil fuels.

Creating such communities will require considerable bravery and sacrifice, and the number of people willing to commit will be limited at first. But recent demonstrations around the world suggest that a critical mass is in place. It will not be long before small-scale FFF communities can become powerful economic and political players that can take on investment banks and oil companies and demand an immediate end to all use of fossil fuels in the place of a vague and open-ended plan to phase out fossil fuels in a manner that does not affect profits.

Such FFF communities make for their small size with their complete independence.

Growing Food

The core of FFF economics will be organic farms that produce 100 percent organic food and transport it without the use of fossil fuels to its citizens. At the beginning, citizens of these communities will encounter a significant drop in the diversity of their diet because the food will be grown at home, or in the neighborhood, or it will be brought in from local farms without the use of fossil fuels.

Food will be sold (or exchanged through barter) in communal markets that encourage collaboration between farmer and citizen, rather than a transaction between a corporation and a consumer. Such markets will serve as the foundation for new patterns of economic exchange that are entirely detached from fossil fuels. We do not have such communities these days, but they were the dominant paradigm for hundreds of thousands of years.

Partial models for self-supporting fossil-fuel-free economies exist today among the Amish (currently the fastest-growing farming communities in the United States). Although the media often portray communities who engage in organic agriculture without the use of machinery as odd, they alone have embraced a sustainable economy while the rest of the United States embraced an unsustainable system of industrialized agricultural production tied to global trade.

Such food production will give young people paying jobs in agriculture and distribution that will be morally dignified—and without the deep alienation created by most modern work. To produce and deliver food in a manner that does not contribute to the destruction of our Earth is a noble act that can inspire many to join the effort. The use of carbon-free transportation, even if profoundly limiting at first, will eventually be seen as acts of moral bravery not merely unpleasant inconvenience.

Making Things

Another critical part of the FFF community will be manufacturing. Production must not involve fossil fuels or plastic in the manufacture, the transportation, or the disposal of products. Moreover, manufacturing for the FFF community must start out 100% local, at least until 100% FFF transportation systems are in place to link communities in the region and across the world.

Local manufacture without the use of fossil fuels will require producing items that will last: desks and chairs, bookshelves and chopping boards, shirts and sweaters, cups and pots that can be used for 20 to 50 years, or longer. That shift means both an end to a commercial, consumption-driven culture and a focus on well-made products. Such manufacture will also guarantee long-term jobs for the next generation.

The greater challenge is how to make integrated circuits and supercomputers without employing fossil fuels. A massive effort will be required to find new technologies that deliver the advanced technologies without falling back on petroleum or coal.

New mechanisms of finance will also be necessary to support this transition. A sturdy sweater that can last for 30 years might cost $400. The current economic system produces cheaper products that don’t last as long and are produced in a manner that destroys the environment. By contrast, if financing were readily available on a small scale, that sweater could be paid off over 10 years and the real cost would be less than a less durable version. Similarly, solar panels financed at zero interest over 30 years are cheaper than using natural gas or coal immediately, even for those with no assets.

The establishment of an FFF currency can be immensely helpful in this process. This currency would represent the contribution of the individual to society and would be backed by agricultural products and other manufactured goods that are produced in the community. As the use of this currency expands across the local economy, and eventually extends to the global economy, it can help support a parallel financial system.

Finally, global trade contributes a great deal to climate change. Shipping goods across the Earth in the search of financial advantage does tremendous damage to the environment through carbon emissions and the destruction of forests and jungles to produce factories and factory farms. Displacing the ecological costs of cheap production to India or China allows people the world over to enjoy cheap products whose sticker prices do not reflect their true cost. FFF communities, whether in Nebraska or New Delhi, offer a meaningful alternative to this destructive cycle.

Changing Culture

At the deepest level, the response to climate change must start with a revolution in people’s attitudes and perspectives, not with innovations in technology and governance. The FFF community can be a space where such a cultural transformation can take place without being interrupted by commercials promoting automobiles or the thoughtless consumption of food. The cult of the self and glorification of immediate gratification promoted in a commercialized economy must be replaced by a culture based on moral philosophy, frugality, humility, and the simple virtue of participation in society. These communities, because of this intellectual and moral independence, can create a culture that offers the earth’s citizens a true alternative to the dominant commercial culture.

Such FFF communities can start to undermine the false assumptions promoted by the ideology of modernity which holds that human condition is improved by excessive consumption, a vast increase in possessions, urbanization, and transportation via private automobiles and airplanes. Without challenging this larger ideological framework, a fundamental social shift cannot take place. Without such a transformation, “going green” will be limited to cosmetic changes within an economy built on fossil fuels (green lipstick on a filthy pig).

FFF communities can introduce a new set of values such that citizens feel that the tasks required to create a society without fossil fuels have greater value than activities destructive to the environment.

The FFF community can also help dethrone the misleading concepts of real estate and private property. For example, a pledge by those joining the FFF community to end their ties to fossil fuels could be central to membership. This action parallels the village contract that was so central to agricultural communities in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and elsewhere up until the establishment of enclosure acts that ended the commons and the promulgation of the concept of real estate. The modern village contract should spell out in a binding, rather than symbolic, manner the responsibilities that each individual has to contribute to the production of food, tools, furniture, transportation, and governance as well as the commitment of the community to provide for the members of the community for a lifetime.

Membership in the fossil-fuel-free community must be open to everyone, not just those with the assets the education or the cultural sensitivities necessary to act green. It’s a dangerous delusion to think that the upper middle class can create a green economy by driving Teslas and installing overpriced solar panels. Everyone should have access to information about the climate crisis, and be qualified for membership in a FFF community. The climate crisis disproportionately affects the poor and the working classes. Their participation in FFF communities, accompanied by access to quality education and other opportunities, will be essential.

At first glance, it seems mysterious that those who risk everything in demonstrations about climate change return home by automobile to eat food produced and cooked with fossil fuels. For all their spiritual commitment, they have not been able to break out of the carbon cycle. But there is no mystery. Breaking away from fossil fuels is not a matter of progressive policies, but of revolutionary politics.

Establishing fossil-fuel free (FFF) Communities

Establishing fossil-fuel free (FFF) Communities

Emanuel Pastreich

October 14, 2019

We came away from the climate march, the climate strike and the enormous swell of political commitment among ordinary citizens in the week leading up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit with a new mandate for action.  Even the commercial media which had previously ignored this climate catastrophe was forced to face the music. Whether it is the strikes at high schools or the declaration of a climate emergency by local governments, we are witnessing a fundamental shift in consciousness in all corners.

But even the positive turn cannot erase the dread of impending catastrophe adumbrated by forest fires in Siberia and the Amazon, the heat waves sweeping India and Europe and the complete failure of the central governments of any major country to make a fundamental commitment to the elimination of fossil fuels even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of impending doom.    

The emphasis so far has been on appealing to top government officials to recognize climate change as a crisis and change policy. Perhaps that was the appropriate first step. But the time has come to move to the next stage.

Sadly, the most committed climate activists, after they are dragged away to prison for their civil disobedience, find themselves washing with warm water heated with coal or natural gas, or even nuclear power and eating vegetables that were shipped on cargo ships and trucks powered by fossil fuels, and wrapped in plastic produced from petroleum. The components in the computers and cell phones they used to coordinate the protests, or write moving articles, were produced using coal and other noxious chemicals in India, in China or in Thailand and the power that drives most internet networks is similarly unclean.

The specialists who conduct research on the impact of climate change have retirement funds tied up in companies with direct, or indirect, ties to fossil fuel profits (often links that are not disclosed to them).

That is to say that protestors may raise attention about climate change to the highest levels, but they return home to a nightmare world wherein there is no escape from the fossil fuels. The individual may have the choice of whether to eat meat, or whether to protest, but he or she has no choice about whether to participate in an industrial economy run according to a bankrupt ideology of consumption and growth. 

Activists can block traffic, or lie down on train tracks, to force politicians to pay attention to their demands, but the vast majority of their actions, from the moment they turn on the lights in the morning and check their email to the last plastic wrapped snack they eat from refrigerator before bed, are tied to fossil fuels. Moreover, they can fight to get articles about climate change in the existing corporate media, or in public textbooks, but there is no broadly circulated newspaper or television news that focuses on climate change.

But if there were a choice, even if the scale was small at first, it would be possible to make every aspect of one’s life into protest action by participating in a global economy, a global intellectual network, which is from start to finish 100% fossil fuel free (FFF). Although bravery and sacrifice are required, such FFF communities are entirely possible. But we are rather told that we must put up with the existing system of dependency on petroleum and coal until such moment as the entire country is net zero.

But if we create large parts of local economies that are 100% fossil-fuel free (FFF), those communities themselves will become powerful economic players that can go toe-to-toe with investment banks and oil companies. Imagine if you had people knocking on your door regularly asking you to become a part of a FFF community which would guarantee that all the energy you use, all the food you eat and all the items in your home are produced without fossil fuels? When that starts to happen, we will have started the real revolution.

Establishing a fossil fuels free (FFF) Community

The general assumption among the vast majority of citizens who are even aware of the threat of climate change is that we will all wait until 2050 and then the government, which has been entirely gutted and privatized) will determine through laws that the entire economy of each nation is transformed into a sustainable. The amount of reporting in the commercial media proposing such a solution is so overwhelming that most people, awash in the half-truths that flow through the smart phone, take this proclamation at face value.

The scientific data shows overwhelmingly that 2050 is far, far, too late. But equally importantly, the current power structure is such that although there are media events about climate change from time to time, there is zero change in your neighborhood. There is no option to select 100% renewable energy, no option to purchase food wrapped in plastic and no meetings of the local citizens to discuss climate change, dependency on petroleum or the other serious problems that we face.

Freedom will start when we have a choice and that choice will only exist if we establish 100% fossil fuel free (FFF) communities around the world on a small scale that will permit committed citizens to opt out of the corrupt system that forces us to use fossil fuels, whether we want to or not. Once there are small communities which are literally 100% FFF (no fossil fuels used in the production or transportation of fabrication of anything employed), there will be the choice for those of conscience to choose (at an initial sacrifice) to join these communities. Without any doubt, many will join. And over time these communities will expand until they become a substantial part of the domestic, and international economy.

Currently, it is possible to participate in protests about climate change. But when the protest is over, for most it is back to normal life in an industrialized society. If we have fossil fuel communities, however, the protest can go on 24 hours a day and a real positive step can be made to stop destroying our Earth now, and not when some politician decides so. We do not need the approval of business leaders or politicians to start that process at the local level. All we need is the will, the vision, the motivation and the tenacity. Such FFF communities give us more than just a good feeling. They bring with them economic independence from a corrupt fossil fuel economy which influences every aspect of the political economy. Those FFF communities can serve as the base for numerous other political, social and educational movements.

The first step for creating FFF (fossil-fuel free) communities at the local level is to gather together a small group of people who pledge to support the community, and each other, for the long term, and to support themselves exclusively on the FFF products produced by this community. There are now, among those willing to be arrested at protests, those who are deeply committed to being vegan. If we have a critical mass of them willing to commit to these FFF communities, and to sink what assets they have into the community in the understanding that those communities will pledge to support them going forward.

There are a few basics for a fossil fuel free community, and they may not be perfect at first, but can be made 100% in a short period of time. The core for our new economy is the establishment of organic farms that produce 100% organic food and transport it without the use of fossil fuels to those who will eat it. At the beginning, those who join these groups will encounter a significant drop in the diversity of their diet, but they can be certain that they have established the foundations for a truly fossil fuel free economy. The food may be grown locally, or brought in from local farms, or grown at home. The point is that fossil fuels do not intrude at any point in the process.

Food can be sold at communal markets in which the collaboration between producer and consumer is a core feature. That is to say that the markets are jointly owned and that the act of buying is linked to a cultural and political act of stepping out of the fossil fuel economy. We can start with one such communal market and then expand them out around the world—what is important is that people are invited to join.

The model of the Amish or the Mennonites is worth considering here. Although we do not have to accept every aspect of their production systems for food without fossil fuels, they offer us best practices that we can use. What we need to make sure is that our communities are expansive and invite in all those who take an interest.

We can create FFF gardens in every corner of the city, like victory gardens in our struggle to win back our economy from the agricultural and transportation corporations who want to make us slaves to petroleum and petroleum byproducts. Give the youth who create this food jobs and pay them in food and currency for their efforts (like the growing of food during WW II but even more extensive). Within a month, we can get a significant chunk of the UK economy made of FFF communities.

It will be critical to come up with fossil fuel free transportation for food and other goods immediately, rather than waiting for corrupt politicians to provide it and to make it clear that making do with limited FFF transportation is not an unpleasant inconvenience for the citizen, but a form of moral bravery, the front line of the battle against climate change. The first step is not technological, but rather attitudinal. If working all day shoveling mulch, or transporting food by cart, or generating electricity on an exercise bike (which is good exercise) is seen as an ethical imperative, much will become possible. If these actions are treated as secondary, something to be left to others, and the narcissism of posting on Instagram dominates our culture, we will not get very far at all.

Transportation reform means reform of the concept of real estate and of community. That we must become social beings again who can share everything and we must give up our private land in order to support ourselves and our community through local food production.

Another critical part of the FFF community must be manufacturing. Establishing FFF manufacturing is an enormous challenge. First you must start making everything yourself, in your community, make it without using fossil fuels. Products, whether desks and bookshelves, or shirts and sweaters, or cups and pots must be made to last for 20-50 years. That means that they must be well-made, that the culture of consumption and constant replacement must be replaced with a culture of sustainability within the FFF community, and we return to local production for most everything.

Starting our own stores that sell only products produced without any fossil fuels and offering jobs to our children and the children of our neighbors in those stores, which we patronize because we are in part owners of them, it is key to creating FFF communities.

It goes without saying that this move is the end of the global trade that we have staked our economy on for the last hundred years. Shipping goods across the Earth does tremendous damage to the environment and also to encourage the inhuman mass production of foodstuffs and other products in certain regions to supply the world. That approach to production and distribution has destroyed local economies and distorted the global economy. It is possible to have trade using entirely renewable energy in the future, but there is no need for it ever to be on this scale.

Some might take this statement as an anti-internationalist, or even anti-Chinese, statement. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is essential that local communities work in an international manner to address climate change long-term. That will be an internationalist project, but it will have nothing to do with global capital investments by the wealthy. It is not anti-Chinese to suggest that China must reinvigorate its local economy and stop the large scale exports that damage the environment by switching back to local, non-polluting manufacturing and agriculture. New technologies can make this process far easier and more effective than was true in the 19th century. Moreover, the shift will make China more independent and more self-sufficient. The same hold true for other nations who have staked their futures on global trade. We must recognize, quickly, that this system is finished.

Finance and Currency

The end of a consumption culture driven forward by corporate advertising must be coupled with a drive to restructure finance and lending to meet the needs of this new community. We must create local banks that lend out money to purchase these products by means of 30-year loans. That is to say that if you buy a shirt, or a desk, that will last for 50 years, it will take a lot of work to make and it will be expensive. But if there is a bank that will lend you money for the purchase immediately using a loan over twenty years to purchase that product, then the product becomes affordable immediately. The same is true for solar or wind power.

It is a tremendous burden to suddenly go out and buy solar panels and have them installed. But if the whole package is funded using a 30-year, or 50-year loan, then it is immediately competitive with paying your monthly bill from the very start. Most people would start using renewable energy immediately.

We need to completely restructure banks, starting with local banks and the banks established by FFF communities. The primary function of banks will be to make rapid conversation to 100% renewable possible. That means that finance must be focused on the small item, not the big infrastructure programs that investment banks love. For example, if a pair of pants that will last for 40 years (and can be passed on and on to the next generation, and is made locally, ends up costing $150, the bank should offer microloans that will make that product cheaper than a pair of pants imported from Vietnam that will last for six months. The bank will serve, starting from the FFF community, to reshape the nature of economics so that loans are primarily concerned with distributing cost for critical investments for sustainability so that those investments are never avoided because they are too expensive. The bank will be cooperative in nature, owned by the members of the community and will not have profit as a goal.

Moreover, the very nature of the economy, whether at the bank of in the newspapers circulated at the FFF community, must fall on long-term development (50-100 years) so that the true cost of petroleum, coal and consumption is manifest. That requires that we transform the study of economics, policy, security and welfare so that all disciplines focus on the long term. We can start this transformation of education from elementary school in the FFF community and quickly expand it around the world.

Part of the process can be the establishment of an eco-currency, a form of money that is completely detached from the fossil fuel banking-industrial-military complex and that ties the state of the environment directly to the value of money. Such a currency can start at the local level, and be expanded in its use at a later date (See “Ecocurrency”).

Education   

More often than not, the solution to the climate catastrophe is presented to us as a matter of technology. Although there are certainly critical new materials that can help us to create energy more cheaply from wind and sun, and that satellites allow us to study the state of the biosphere, it will be the humanities that will be decisive in the response to climate change.

The much-neglected field of philosophy will be central. We need to make study of philosophy central to all of our plans for the future and to recognize that it was the war on metaphysics, epistmelogy and moral philosophy which has brought on the current intellectual crisis that has permitted climate change to reach this stage without any response.

The privileged feel entirely at peace with themselves consuming goods that are produced using fossil fuels in other countries while living in comfortable home with minimal pollution. They are happy to have cheap energy produced by coal power plants as long as those power plants are far away. The ability to conceive of that which is not immediately visible as atrophied for the vast majority of the population. Discussions about philosophy, philosophic topics and scientific discussions about the nature of our human experience should be expanded to be a central part of our lives, replacing the commercial consumption dominated media that takes up most of our lives.

Only strong foundations in philosophy will allow our citizens to step back from the drive to make a profit right now, to satisfy their desires immediately, and think about the long-term. Philosophy does not mean, however, that we must bury ourselves in the abstract writings of Hegel and Heidegger. Rather the essential questions about human existence and the meaning of our experience must be made central in all discourse and the consumer culture aimed at stimulating the amygdala must be ended.

The consumption culture that is destroying us creates profits because it encourages, stimulates, the individual to desire more and bigger, to create an imbalance in the individuals self-perception so that some exterior object must be purchased in order to obtain wholeness. Whether it is the worship of growth or the praise of consumption, the blindness towards how our economic assumptions feed climate change must be overcome.

One critical part of that transformation consists of the discovery of the infinite within. As Leo Tolstoy noted in his masterpiece on this subject “The Kingdom of God Is Within You” there is infinite spiritual depth, infinite intellectual and artistic potential within us, within a blade of grass. Such a spiritual and philosophical understanding of human experience is essential to moving beyond our self-destructive current culture and learning how to control technologies, rather than have technology control us.  

The importance of the humanities goes beyond philosophy. We must create a community in which all citizens can fully express themselves and live deep, meaningful and fulfilling lives without ever feeling a need to do something that requires fossil fuels. Humans did it four tens of thousands of years before. They may have suffered as a result of the lack of modern medicine and they may have been malnourished, but we should not assume their experiences were less spiritually and intellectually.

Odd though it may seem to people whose brains have been rewired by computers and the internet to respond to instant messages, it is possible for you to spend months reading books, writing letters, painting and sketching, exercising, playing music or dancing without employing a single drop of petroleum. Moreover, your memory will improve and you will find it easier to keep track of complex issues in your head as a result. Making things with your hands from clay or wood gives a concrete quality to experience that is effective in addressing the alienation in our society.

 The return of art, literature, and the public debate will greatly improve the state of our society and make us better equipped to respond to climate change. It is hard to imagine such a shift, but within FFF communities we can start the revolution.

 

These fossil fuel free communities require a deep personal commitment. Like members of alcoholics anonymous, we must pledge never to use fossil fuels and support each other so that we do not fall back to our old habit. We must feel a sense of shame, and we should spread that sense of shame broadly. Every time you use fossil fuels to warm your water, you should think that you are killing off children in Chad. Every time you throw away a plastic spoon, you should feel as if you are dumping raw crude oil in the ocean.

 

Restoring the culture of modesty and frugality that has made up much of human history is critical for our future. That will be part of our education programs, our media programs and our approach to evaluating human progress. We must reject the standards by which we have analyzed the world for over a hundred years.

Shame must be a part of that education. Every citizen must think about all the energy and the suffering that went into every drop of petroleum, the pollution and contamination that is behind every bite of processed food, and also the damage done by every little piece of plastic we through away, every piece of fish we waste.

Education about climate change should begin today, not for those who are reading this article, but for those who live in blissful ignorance, or who have been denied educations altogether. We must work outside of our FFF communities to tell every single citizen what is happening to the climate and what needs to be done. We need to think that we are competing against the commercial media that seeks to lull citizens to sleep and render them as harmless consumers. We must, by contrast, must meet them on the street with posters and other readily understood materials to tell them what is going on in terms they can understand. We must go door to door in every neighborhood and tell them the truth and invite them to join us.

We must not make the mistake of assuming that climate change is an issue for the upper middle class, or for progressives. We must seek out working class people, conservative Christians, everyone, and tell them how climate change impacts them.

More importantly, we must make it clear that those who commit to join the campaign against climate change are our friends. We do not want people to just show up for an event, just vote for a candidate. If they are willing to walk with us, and work with us, we will help them for a lifetime. If we have better educations, better connections, we will commit to helping their families, to looking out for their interests, if they join us. It is that sense of community, of a true contract, that is at the core of a political movement that will last for decades.

 

 

Strike DC for Climate Justice (Sept. 23, 2019)

It was no simple matter dragging myself to McPherson Square at 7:30 AM today to participate in the Extinction Rebellion part of today’s STrike DC for Climate Justice. But when I saw the eighty or so dedicated people who were there, I was inspired. One really needs people around one who are committed in order to feel the real confidence to set out on a difficult task. We blocked several intersections and distributed leaflets to the drivers who were forced to wait. The police were relatively understanding and helpful and there were plenty of people who went out of their way to help us.

But it was an incredibly hot day for September and I felt as if our doom had already set it. The activities were more impressive than those in SEoul, but not anywhere near enough.

We are so late and the crowd are still not nearly large enough.

“How to put an end to America’s peculiar institution of death: fossil fuels” The Korea Times

The Korea Times

“How to put an end to America’s peculiar institution of death: fossil fuels”

April 27, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich (with Jonathan Mintram)

One senses palpable excitement among progressives in the United States now that a group of Democrats, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is pressing for a “Green New Deal” that will “transform” the economy and lead the country and the Earth in an environmentally sound direction.

Their ideas are certainly better than the full-throttle push for fossil fuels of the Trump administration, or the fracking rampage of the Obama administration. But if we assess the economic and security issues for the U.S. today in a scientific manner, we must come to the distasteful conclusion that this “Green New Deal” has been overinflated and is sadly insufficient for the task at hand. 

Of course, the progressive media have highlighted for educated upper-middle class readers the corruption of politics and of media by big oil, but it has not even started to scratch the surface of the twisted economic system we live in that forces us to use plastic, gasoline or coal at every turn in our daily lives, while we are fed vague tales of foreboding, and polar bears, that offer no options for action other than waiting for the next election or carrying a tumbler around. 

Something is so deeply wrong in the U.S. that we can no longer ignore it. It is like feeling sick after eating spoiled food. You can try to ignore the pain in your stomach, but eventually you are going to have to throw up if you want to get it out of your system. 

We must face the truth, and recognize that despite the impressive photo ops for the “Green New Deal,” its content is not aimed at immediately ending the use of fossil fuels, or even at giving citizens the means to move their communities to renewable energy on their own. To date, we have not seen a serious effort to refute Naomi Wolf’s questions about the gaping holes in the Green New Deal, big enough to guide a supertanker through. If we adhere to the current system, it will be massive corporations and investment banks that will make best use of such legislation, if it is ever passed, to fund pet projects, or even to promote dangerous geo-engineering.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Democrats friends remain dependent on corporate money (if not directly, then through foundations and NGOs) and they refuse to work with more aggressive organizations because they are not loyal to the Democratic Party. 

But there is another political response out there. We have seen in the protests of Extinction Rebellion, taking place in London and around the world, the emergence of an honest political stance about climate change that addresses the issue head-on and that assumes that unless politics is grounded in action and in the pursuit of truth, it is not politics at all. 

Extinction Rebellion focuses on the climate catastrophe, the massive crisis of our age, and makes human extinction the central issue for its global campaign. Extinction Rebellion is not about flattering politicians, or about schmoozing with corporate CEOs and lobbyists. This political movement is not concerned about hurting people’s feelings and it is not trying to tone down its message to meet requirements for coverage in the corporate media. 

The priority for Extinction Rebellion is shutting down the carbon-based economy immediately and bringing major cities around the world to a standstill in order to do so. 

Extinction rebellion demands that carbon emissions be reduced to zero within six years through a complete remaking of the global economy, and through the creation of a new culture in which consumption is dramatically reduced and basic economic and social values redefined. It would be accurate to describe such policy demands as revolutionary. 

Unlike the feckless Democratic Party, Extinction Rebellion features a section on its webpage “The Truth” that pulls no punches regarding the likelihood of extinction for our children and the destruction of oceans, forests, the Arctic and Antarctic, and humanity itself, that lies before us in the decades ahead

Although Extinction Rebellion’s approach is dismissed by many as extreme, it is, in fact, the only rational political movement out there, the only major one that promotes policies on the basis of scientific evidence, not hopeful thinking. Its legitimacy is increased by the abject failure since the Kyoto Protocols of politicians, intellectuals, and that pathetic institution known as the media, to tell the bitter truth about the mushrooming catastrophe best known by the understatement “climate change.” 

In effect, Extinction Rebellion is saying what should have been said 20 years ago: this entire culture, seeped in petroleum from the beginnings of the consumption economy in the 1950s, must end. 

All of us are guilty. Every time we check our email, every time we take a hot shower, every time we drive to the market or fly to see relatives, we are hammering another nail into the coffin of humanity, into the coffins of our children and grandchildren, not to mention into the innumerable unmarked coffins of other species.

The Peculiar Institution
We are struggling to come to terms with the need for radical action, as opposed to the “progressive” approach that we have been brainwashed to embrace by media sources like “Common Dreams” or “Truthout,” or dishonest intellectuals like Robert Reich, who refuse to acknowledge the scale of the crisis, or its dire implications for humanity. 

We are struggling to acknowledge that the Paris Accords, commonly held up by the progressives as a breakthrough ― from which Trump foolishly walked away ― was never intended as a solution to the impending crisis, but rather as a face-saving political ploy.

Survival demands that we reduce fossil fuels to zero, starting tomorrow, not that we slowly increase renewables to 40 percent by 2030. At this point in the game, donating to progressive causes and waiting for the next election would be a suicidal. 

Nothing less is required than ending this culture of consumption, overturning the assumption that production, consumption and growth are necessities, and asserting that every aspect of our consumption has a direct impact on our planet. 

Equally important, we must make sure that our youth are not misled into accepting dangerous half-measures and bad policies that are being promoted by the very banks and corporations that benefit from the fossil-fuel economy, whether carbon trading, hybrid cars, geo-engineering or next-generation nuclear energy. 

The response of citizens to the inaction of all institutions in the U.S. on climate change (local and central government, corporations, NGOs and educational organizations) must be massive and immediate. We recognize, painfully, that the watchdogs we counted on have become lapdogs in search of ample funding, and are incapable of taking on the fossil fuel powers, no matter how green their rhetoric may sound. 

We must engage in governance ourselves.

350.ORG is a major NGO that provides critical information for the policy debate on climate change. It sent out an email to members on April 23, 2019 that states, 

“On Friday, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced a bold climate commitment: if elected, she would sign an executive order on Day One halting all fossil fuel drilling on our public lands.”

350.ORG praised Warren’s words as an “incredible step,” but although Warren may be a step ahead of the other candidates running for president, from the perspective of a species facing extinction her call sounds hopelessly weak. 

Halt all drilling on public lands? That step is so obvious that we should demand that a candidate who does not support such a policy pull out of the race immediately. A real demand would be a permanent halt to all drilling for oil in the U.S. and in the world. A more substantial, and more convincing, demand would be to make the use of petroleum illegal within a year. 

There is a helpful precedent for such an action (nationally and internationally) in the 1987 Montreal Protocol which banned internationally the use of chlorofluorocarbons that were destroying the ozone layer. We need a “London Protocol” that bans the use of petroleum, coal and natural gas because of the damage to the atmosphere caused by their production and their consumption. Such an international agreement with parallel national bans makes perfect sense and it would be the first step towards forcing a rapid end to their use globally for the generation of energy. 

The political mythology employed by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders is that we are confronting conservatives with different values, men who are greedy and whose limited perspective must be overcome gradually through a political process. 

But the reality is that we are confronting not “conservatives” but rather a massive criminal enterprise that has seized control of our economy, and our culture, and that is destroying, using illegal and immortal tactics, what few institutions remain to regulate its actions. 

The apt analogy for how vested interests have made us addicted to fossil fuels, and encourage us to remain addicted to them, can be found in the morally corrupt use of slavery to drive the American economy in the 19th century.

Slavery exploited unpaid labor without limit to power the economy and to increase profits for southern planters and for the northern banks that financed them. In a sense, slavery provided seemingly cheap energy to power manufacturing and agriculture at a horrendous price that was hidden from view. 

The human qualities of the African Americans who served as “slaves” were denied by a false legal system reinforced by fraudulent science that “proved” racial inferiority. Altogether, slavery debased the politics and the culture of the U.S., creating a society in which criminality was set on a pedestal and worshipped as a unique culture. But the genteel families of the southern states leaned over backwards to avoid seeing this reality. 

The term coined to describe this horrific system was the “peculiar institution,” an expression that suggested the south had some distinctive habits that set it apart. But the “peculiar institution” was only a dishonest manner of referring to a criminal system of exploitation that no healthy society could support.

The response of many progressives (abolitionists) in the 1850s was to fight tooth and nail to keep slavery from spreading to newly admitted states, and to try, through reform, to reduce the cruelty shown to slaves in the south ― and to permit them freedom if they escaped to the free states. But the basic assumption among most reformist “abolitionists” was that slavery was a bad policy that should be slowly reformed.

Similarly, the political debate today in the U.S. is about how to increase the use of wind and solar power, how to make renewable energy financially attractive to corporations, and how to end the extreme policies of the Trump administration of subsidizing coal while taxing renewable energy. 

But this political argument only makes sense if one closes one’s eyes to the fact that fossil-fuel companies are engaging in a massive criminal effort to make us dependent on fossil fuels, a source of energy that not only creates enormous profits, but that is destroying the environment and condemning much of humanity to death. In other words, one must first deceive oneself for the argument to make sense. 

We do not find different perspectives or philosophies among the lobbyists and the politicians who support fossil fuels, or the CEOs and billionaires who derive their wealth from them. We simply are looking at a morally bankrupt drive for profit, a massive criminal conspiracy that seeks to destroy our planet for the sake of profits. 

Extinction Rebellion wants to seize control of the economic system itself and to leave behind the middlemen, the class of educated people who make their living writing articles describing long-term progressive responses, lobbying congressmen with softball proposals that appeal to corporate profits, suggesting that wind power can be “competitive” with coal, and playing down the threat of ecological collapse in the United Nations reports so as to be sure that their research institutes continue to receive funding from organizations dependent on corporations and banks that have an interest in fossil fuels. 

Our John Brown moment
If we are looking for a moment in the battle against slavery that parallels Extinction Rebellion’s decision to mobilize on a massive scale against fossil fuels, the most apposite example is the actions of John Brown and his followers to rebel against slavery. Just as Extinction Rebellion decided to move beyond “progressive” arguments for the elimination of fossil fuels in light of the threat of human extinction, John Brown and his followers declared that because the government promoted the immoral practice of slavery it had no legitimacy. 

John Brown was dismissed by most as the leader of a rebellion and vilified as a rebel and a lunatic by southerners for a century afterwards. But one need only read Brown’s writings to see that his actions were impeccably supported by logic and informed by moral insight. When Brown launched his raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859, the intention was to end the institution of slavery by establishing a new government that would forsake the entire corrupt economic system. Brown’s forces were quickly overwhelmed. He was then tried, found guilty of treason (the first such conviction in American history) and hanged. 

Those who derived their wealth from slavery (the Democratic Party) condemned Brown’s action as a dastardly attack on their way of life. Most progressives in the North (the Republican Party) distanced themselves from the incident, stating they would not interfere in the affairs of slave states.

But let us look at the opening of the “Provisional Constitution and Ordinances” that Brown drafted:

“Whereas slavery, throughout its entire existence in the United States, is none other than the most barbarous, unprovoked and unjustifiable war of one portion of its citizens against another portion, the only conditions of which are perpetual imprisonment and hopeless servitude, or absolute extermination, in utter disregard and violation of those eternal and self-evident truths set forth in our Declaration of Independence. Therefore, we, citizens of the United States, and the oppressed people who, by a recent decision of the Supreme Court, are declared to have no rights which the white man is bound to respect, together with all other people degraded by the laws thereof, do, for the time being, ordain and establish for ourselves the following Provisional Constitution and Ordinances, the better to protect our persons, property, lives, and liberties, and to govern our actions.”

Let us revise this text so that it describes the current crisis and our addiction to petroleum and coal:
“Whereas forcing on us the use of fossil fuels is none other than the most barbarous, unprovoked and unjustifiable war of a small portion of citizens against the great majority, creating conditions of perpetual imprisonment in a catastrophic system that will render the Earth uninhabitable, leading to extinction, in utter disregard and violation of those eternal and self-evident truths set forth in our Declaration of Independence.

Therefore, we, citizens of the United States, as an oppressed people who have been declared by the Supreme Court to have no rights to resist that the fossil-fuel industry come together with others degraded by the laws thereof, do, for the time being, ordain and establish for ourselves the following Provisional Constitution and Ordinances, the better to protect our persons, property, lives, and liberties, and to govern our actions so as free ourselves from the death march of a fossil-fuel-driven economy.”

The moral authority is the same.

Extinction Rebellion takes a non-violent position, which Brown did not. Yet the analogy still holds for Extinction Rebellion in that its members take actions that entail the risk of imprisonment, violence and death.

Turning the tables on institutionalized criminality

Extinction Rebellion makes a demand for a solution, as opposed to the weak reform proposals floated by Democrats that assume from the start that we must compromise with a powerful “conservative” element as part of the democratic process. 

In a sense, Extinction Rebellion harkens back to Frederick Douglass’s warning in the struggle against slavery: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue until they are resisted with either words, or blows, or both.”

Douglass’s words suggest that is not enough to make abstract suggestions about the long-term negative impact of fossil fuels. Rather we must make demands that are uncompromising and concrete about what must be done now. We must insist that this entire criminal and lethal energy system be dismantled immediately. 

John Brown changed the rules of the game when he referred to slavery not as a “peculiar institution” but rather as a criminal action, a “war” on the population. We too must take control of the discourse on energy and start to define the terms of discourse. Carbon emissions are not little inconveniences to be traded away, but rather a direct threat to our survival. 

In other words, rather than responding quickly to the latest atrocity committed by the right wing, we must proactively present to as many people as possible of an entirely new culture and economy that must be implemented in toto now. We cannot support a piecemeal attempt to achieve change while depending on billionaires like Bill Gates and others who are deeply invested in the current economic system, or on Democratic politicians who have a long history of supporting fossil-fuel interests.

There are numerous “conservative” politicians in the U.S. Congress who make statements in committee that dismiss the threat of climate change and even assert that climate change is a fraud. They are funded by the fossil-fuel industry and they frequently call in expert witnesses who have been cultivated by fossil-fuel conglomerates like Koch Industries to provide evidence in support of the claim that fossil fuels are safe. Their research is largely fraudulent and their claims fly in the face of scientific evidence.

The current response of progressive politicians is to bemoan the ignorance, the selfishness, and the short-sightedness of these “conservative” politicians, their “foolish” experts and their “stupid” followers. This attitude is similar to that of Republicans who wanted to limit the use of slavery to the southern states in the 1850s, rather than abolish it.

The issue of climate change is not one of opinions, or of interests, but of law and scientifically verified truth. 

What does the law say?

The law is quite explicit. If a congressman gives testimony in committee, or brings in an expert to give testimony, that suggests that climate change is a fiction or that is not a serious threat, that act is not the expression of a conservative perspective, but is rather the presentation of false testimony. Such actions, according to the law, form a felony offense. At the minimum, the congressman should be forced to resign from his or her office for doing so, and he or she should face jail time. Any expert presenting such false evidence should face similar charges.

And yet there is not a single Democrat with the guts to bring such an entirely logical and perfectly legal charge against the congressmen and expert witnesses who engage in such blatantly criminal activity on Capitol Hill. The fact that this criminal practice has gone on for decades is not an excuse, just as the fact that slavery was practiced for hundreds of years was not an excuse for its immorality. 

If no one in the Congress, if no one among the insider lawyers, lobbyists, consultants and staff who run it, is willing to take such a moral and legal stance, the people must rise up and demand that such criminal activities be punished and the perpetrators should be banned. If enough people protest, politicians will feel the pressure and change their behavior.

Some might say that taking such a hard line would be the equivalent of demanding that hundreds of congressmen, thousands of staffers and lobbyists, resign from office and face prison for their actions. If we want to survive as a species, we should not shy away from such a scenario. We should be ready to embrace it. If the process requires us to press criminal charges against numerous Democrats as well, so be it. 

For that matter, if we find that all the members of Congress are engaged in such criminal actions, at some level or another, it is not only our right, but our moral responsibility, to demand that they all step down and that we be allowed to hold elections that are free from the interference of any organizations linked to these immoral fossil fuel interests.

It is currently accepted practice for congressmen to take contributions from fossil-fuel corporations, and from investment banks that promote fossil fuels. But the promotion of fossil fuels over the last 70 years, often with federal subsidies for refineries and highway systems, was a criminal conspiracy from the start, not a democratic process that represented the will of the people. Whether it was the purchase and destruction of public transport by General Motors, Standard Oil and Phillips Petroleum (operating through front organizations) to increase the dependence of our citizens on the dangerous chemical compound petroleum, or the restructuring of the U.S. military so as to be deeply dependent on petroleum and to be employed primarily to secure supplies of petroleum, there has been a series of policy decisions made that must be recognized as criminal in nature. 

We now know that corporations like Exxon and Shell that provide petroleum were fully aware of the phenomenon of global warming, and of the dangerous impact of their toxic product on the environment, from at least the 1980s, if not earlier. They hid such scientific results and instead hired experts and public relations firms to present misleading and dishonest information to the public through advertising, through doctored academic research and through lobbying while they were fully aware of the scale of the threat. Yet the best that progressive Democrats can do is to grumble about the selfishness of these corporations, and ask struggling citizens for contributions to their campaigns for the next election, or for the election after that.

Ask yourself, what would happen to you if you sold a product that was extremely dangerous to the environment and that killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people globally, and that was likely to lead to the deaths of billions due to global warming? What if you had known since the 1980s about the dangers of your product and had hidden that information, using your tainted wealth to bribe politicians and to promote fake science experts who lied to Congress in order to defend your illegal activities?

Your fate would be quite certain. You would be jailed immediately on conspiracy charges and your entire assets would be seized. You would be criminally liable to pay for the cost of paying for the clean-up of the damage you had wrought far beyond what assets you possessed. 

So what should we do to the fossil-fuel companies that have behaved in precisely this manner and the investment banks and other financial institutions that support them in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of the danger of this product? The situation is absolutely identical. Citizens must demand that these corporations be treated as criminal organizations and that they be stripped of the right to use those ill-gotten funds to defend themselves. Those responsible must be jailed immediately and prosecuted for their crimes over the last four decades. The politicians and lobbyists who assisted them should be subject to the same treatment. 

The assets of corporations like Exxon and Koch Industries, and those of individuals who own those corporations, should be seized in total for the purpose of cleaning up the damage and compensating victims around the world.

There is no need to mope about how much money fossil-fuel companies have to contribute to the election of “conservative” candidates, or how much harder “progressives” must work to win elections in this unfair political environment. Once the assets of these fossil-fuel companies have been seized, once all lobbyists and experts who worked for those companies in their criminal campaigns are blocked from participation in politics (like the disenfranchisement of former Confederate leaders during Reconstruction), we will be in a position to determine what is appropriate policy for the response to climate change based on scientific consensus and in accord with the Constitution. 

We have the right, and the obligation, to demand that politicians who have been bought off by fossil-fuel companies, or by banks and by billionaires linked to fossil-fuel companies, be blocked from testimony to Congress and from participation in the political process. In many cases, we should demand that they resign from their positions immediately. The same applies to think-tank researchers, professors, lawyers, lobbyists and other public personalities who have been involved in this massive fraud. 

The debate in politics must be grounded in unbiased scientific findings, not in opinions. We have allowed corporations to be treated as people and we have allowed fraudulent arguments about the climate to be treated as worthy of attention because they were backed by money. That must all end now. If a small group of citizens effectively articulates a logical position, that can start to transform opinion in the U.S. Without the pursuit of truth as a fundamental principle for politics, however, democracy will be reduced to a farce.

But there is more that we must do. We must condemn advertising in general as a criminal effort to mislead Americans about the dangers of industrial society, specifically about the impact of cars, planes and coal and natural gas dependent industrial production on the environment and on our citizens. 

Advertising is employed as a means of bribing the media, and of undermining its critical role: presenting citizens with the truth. Advertising, and the public relations industry, has rendered journalism a farcical sideshow that distracts us at the very moment citizens must mobilize. As long as the commercial media feeds citizens doctored and distorted information so they cannot make objective decisions, democratic politics is impossible.

We must actively counter this advertising complex that tries to convince us that everything is fine, that suggests that ownership of cars is essential for freedom and that promotes selfishness and self-indulgence, rather than cooperation. We must do so through direct actions such as creating our own citizens’ newspapers, holding teach-ins in public spaces where we explain to citizens exactly how climate catastrophe will destroy our world, and what we must do. 

We must also recognize that the underfunding of public education is not the result of philosophical differences between “liberals” and “conservatives” but rather an intentional effort to dumb down the people so they cannot comprehend the scale of the economic and political?crisis, or find the means to respond.

We must demand that academic research (and journalism as well) be funded by transparent government grants supported by taxes and that other self-interested “research” with hidden agendas be eliminated from the debate on policy in government and among citizens. This is essential for the response to climate change. 

Above all, young people must be trained to think scientifically for themselves and to understand the hidden forces that threaten humanity ― we must make sure that they are not seduced by video games, Youtube videos and pornography into overlooking the danger signs that are all around.

Taking on the false ideologies of free trade and military security
If we want to launch a nationwide campaign to address the terrible truth, rather than the limited messages that the “progressive” media feels comfortable with, we will need to take on the two big monsters that politicians tiptoe around: free trade and military security.

The myth that the international trade of goods is a positive for the citizens of the U.S., and for the world, and that trade should be constantly increased to help us prosper, has been embraced by both political parties, and by most intellectuals in the U.S. since World War II. 

But the massive promotion of trade means not only that corporations can move factories abroad ― and threaten workers and communities with the closure of local factories as a means of obtaining government subsidies, they can offer cheap products to Americans that made abroad and thereby hide the horrific impact that such manufacturing has on the local environment and our shared climate. Every Styrofoam box, every nylon sweater, every plastic toy is not only poisoning our soil, our rivers and our oceans when it is disposed of, but its manufacture did tremendous damage to our climate that has been hidden from us because the manufacturing is in India or Thailand. 

Free trade has seized control of our economy, forcing us to buy products that were made far away, and shipped using tremendous amounts of fossil fuels (often at a cost of local jobs). The pollution created in the manufacture of throwaway products has the exact same impact on the climate over there than it would if the factories were in Kansas or Mississippi. Moreover, transporting goods over oceans for thousands of kilometers produces tremendous emissions. Yet a discussion of this terrible consequence of free trade is avoided even by leftist organizations. 

Moreover, progressive and leftist journals readily accept the deeply flawed systems of measurement for economics like GDP (gross domestic product), “consumption,” “growth” and “development.” The fact that these measurements leave out ecological, social and cultural impact of economic policies and practices, that they make no account for long-term degradation of the soil, water and air are rarely pointed out by intellectuals. Although there have been proposals for alternative systems of measurement, they are hardly discussed, let alone adopted. 

The military has emerged as the massive part of the U.S. domestic economy that is linked at every level to the exploration for, the production of and the consumption of fossil fuels. It is also the world’s greatest polluter and a far larger contributor to climate change than many countries.

The U.S. military is grossly overextended, with hundreds of bases around the world. More often than not, its primary role has become promoting the extraction of fossil fuels and other minerals to power the consumption economy that is destroying our climate. This military has nothing to do with “defense” or “security.”

The U.S. cannot start to adapt serious climate policy until it undertakes a revolutionary change in the military’s role. That change must be grounded in a shift in the definition of security to make mitigation of climate change the highest security concern. Such a shift will not be easy, but it is theoretically possible, and, granted the scale of the crisis, it is absolutely critical. 

Ironically, even as we move away from weapons, we will need the bravery and the discipline of warriors as we go forward to confront the fossil fuel powers. With inspired imagination and steely courage, we can transform the role and the nature of the military from within and from without so that it focuses exclusively on climate change. 

Ultimately, the Department of Defense must be transformed into a “Department of Human Security” or even into a “Department of Climate Change.”All of its corrupt spending on weapons must be eliminated following a carefully organized plan. Whether that is achieved by an institutional transformation, or by shutting down the existing system completely and starting anew, will be decided in the process. 
Conclusion

The word “revolution” comes up in the speeches of Democratic and Republican candidates so frequently these days that it draws nothing but yawns. 

But the abject failure of American lawmakers to postulate a long-term national policy for the response to climate change suggests that U.S politics is mired in mythology and delusions.

The scientific predictions about how climate change will unfold suggest that we will not have any money left for fighter planes, or aircraft carriers, or even for highways and stadiums. We will have to make a greater commitment of resources to surviving climate change than even the Green Party’s presidential candidate Jill Stein thought necessary when she proposed a mobilization on the scale of that for World War II. 

Sadly, there is a revolution is taking place right now in the U.S., but it is happening in all the wrong places. The government is undergoing revolutionary change as the Trump administration strips departments of expertise, punishes those with a sense of responsibility and quickly privatizes functions so that government serves only to increase the wealth of the elite and can no longer serve our citizens. 

We have no time to debate the merits of revolutionary transformations. They are being undertaken right now by the Trump administration. Revolutionary shifts like taxation of renewable energy, subsidization for coal and oil and the removal of science from the policy formation process are taking place right now.

To suggest that we must wait until the next election, or that we must compromise our goals and support Democratic candidates who make lukewarm statements about climate change is to miss the whole point. A reactionary revolution is already taking place. The only question is what we will do in response. 

“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

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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ECOCITY ALLIANCE OF SCIENCE TOWNS (January 2009)

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.

 

 

ECOCITY ALLIANCE OF SCIENCE TOWNS

 

PALO ALTO (UNITED STATES), TSUKUBA (JAPAN) & DAEJEON (KOREA)

 

January, 2009

 

THE CONCEPT

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 PARTICIPANTS

 

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.

 

Long-term:
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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