Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 20th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
A letter from Bill McKibben
April 20, 2017
Dear Friend of The Nation,
We’re coming up on 50 years since the first Earth Day—and the Trump administration is trying to overturn most of what’s been accomplished over those decades. And it’s trying to do much of it in silence, behind the scenes.
That’s why The Nation, a longtime source of great green coverage, has never been more important. Reporters like Mark Hertsgaard, Zoë Carpenter, and Wen Stephenson have dug deep to discover what’s going on, and their reporting continues to make a real difference. I know that when I write for The Nation, people respond (that’s why I’ve just finished a piece on the big upcoming climate march in Washington, DC, on April 29).
I’m asking you today to support this journalism with a gift. Your contribution will help fund the first-rate environmental reporting you expect from The Nation.
We are facing an ecological disaster. Last year broke every record for global temperatures; Arctic and Antarctic sea ice are melting at record rates; the fossil-fuel industry is using climate know-nothings like EPA head Scott Pruitt to roll back the clock. We can’t afford to be distracted.
If we care about future generations and the most vulnerable communities, we cannot let Trump and his cronies put their interests ahead of the welfare of the earth. We must remain vigilant and informed.
We’re at a tipping point—factual and fearless reporting on the future of our planet could not be more critical than it is right now. I hope I can count on your support today.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
NOV 23, 2016 @ 02:38 PM 60,058
Why Clean Energy Can Withstand Changing Political Winds
Capital Creates Change – Clean-energy-election-hero.
When President Obama first took office in 2008, it was hard to imagine how solar and wind would ever stand on their own as viable alternative sources of energy. Today, solar and wind are so price-competitive that players in the renewables industry were among the few that could afford to be cavalier about who won the U.S. election.
“The increasingly favorable economics of renewables are more important than the presidential election’s impact on the industry, in our view,” says Stephen Byrd, a senior analyst with Morgan Stanley. “Wind and solar are price-competitive in many parts of the U.S. It’s the economics and not the politics that’s driving the use of renewables.”
Over the past seven years, the cost of wind power has dropped from $60-$100 per megawatt-hour (MWh) to around $15-$25/MWh in the middle third of the U.S., and for large solar installations, it’s gone from $100-$300 to $40-$70 per MWh. Wind power is currently the cheapest source of energy in the middle third of the country, with its all-in cost of $15-$25/MWh, comparing with the $55-$65/MWh for a new natural-gas-fired plant.
Driving their growing competitiveness are improvements in wind and solar technology, as well as some technical efficiency gains. Product Tax Credits, passed by Congress in 2015, will now provide the next bridge to ever-improving solar and wind economics going into 2020, although Morgan Stanley’s analysts argue in a recent report that neither depend on tax credits for survival.
“By the next decade, we project that wind and solar will be the cheapest resources in certain parts of the country, without any subsidies,” they state in the report. “Even without the Production Tax Credit, wind would be cheaper than gas-fired power by a wide margin. And by 2017, we project that large-scale solar projects in Texas will require revenue of about $45/MWh, lower than that required for a natural-gas-fired power plant.”
Changing Political Winds
President-elect Donald Trump has yet to lay out a comprehensive energy policy, although his comments during campaign speeches reveal his position on climate-change regulation. In May, he told audiences in North Dakota that he was opposed to the Obama Administration’s regulations “that shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants.”
On the same day, he added: “We’re going to rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions, including the Climate Action Plan. We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to UN global-warming programs.”
Analysts say it isn’t clear whether a new president can cancel U.S. signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement. But the climate-change views of Trump’s coming appointment of the ninth Supreme Court Justice could be crucial, should pending legal challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan ever reach the high court.
Yet, even the failure of the Clean Power Plan wouldn’t slow the growth of renewables, according to the Morgan Stanley report. “Given the favorable economics relative to coal-fired generation of wind power in the middle third of the U.S.; solar in the West and Southwest U.S. and gas-fired generation throughout most of the U.S., we view the impact of the EPA Clean Power Plan as being relatively modest,” says the report.
For more Morgan Stanley Research on clean energy and the impact of changing politics, ask your Morgan Stanley representative or Financial Advisor for the full report, “The US Election: Impacts to Clean Tech and Utilities Skew Positive” (Jul 27, 2016). Plus, more Ideas.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From Fareed’s website of Thursday April 13, 2017:
The Deep Danger of AI
The growing embrace of artificial intelligence and “deep learning” raises an important – and potentially troubling – issue, writes Will Knight in MIT Technology Review. What if we can no longer understand the decisions machines make?
“There’s already an argument that being able to interrogate an AI system about how it reached its conclusions is a fundamental legal right. Starting in the summer of 2018, the European Union may require that companies be able to give users an explanation for decisions that automated systems reach,” Knight says.
“This might be impossible, even for systems that seem relatively simple on the surface, such as the apps and websites that use deep learning to serve ads or recommend songs. The computers that run those services have programmed themselves, and they have done it in ways we cannot understand. Even the engineers who build these apps cannot fully explain their behavior.”
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 27th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Once a month, on Sunday 11am, the Burgtheater main hall is taken over by Ms. Alexandra Foederl-Schmidtdt, the editor of “Der Standard” who chairs a podium-discussion loaded with local and foreign intellectual lights.
She is backed in the endeavor not just by the theater direction and her paper’s foundation, but also by the Erste Bank Foundation and most important by IWM – the Vienna Institute for Human Sciences – an NGO run now by Shalini Randeria, Rector of IWM, Professor of Social Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute in Geneva with strong involvement of Ivan Krastev, Chair of the Board at the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia (Bulgaria).
Look at the ways the USA and the EU Member States are evolving these days, I would like to p0int out the last podium discussion – that of February 19, 2017 titled: “Do We Live In Revolutionary Times? and my intent is also to announce next meeting – it will be held March 5, 2017. The title of the next meeting will be
“EUROPE, USA: WHAT CHANGES WITH TRUMP.”
The panel for the upcoming March discussion, under Ms. Foederl-Schmidt leadership, will include Ivan Krastev of IWM, Judy Dempsey, Senior Fellow Carnegie Europe, Allison Smale, Chief Correspondent of the New York Times in Berlin, Robert Dornhelm, Writer and Film Director, and Jim Kolbe, a former Republican member of US Congress.
Now regarding the February meeting of this EUROPE IN DISCOURSE SERIES:
the question – “DO WE LIVE IN REVOLUTIONARY TIMES” was addressed by Karel Schwarzenberg, former Czech Foreign Minister, Hans Christian Stroebele, a founding member of the Green Party of Germany, Phillip Blom, Writer and history journalist from Vienna, and the magical Agnes Heller, a boiling philosopher, born in Budapest in 1929, fled Hungary in 1956 to Australia, made an impact in many English speaking countries and is listed at 97 years young as emerita at the New School for Social Research in New York.
Among the many points presented in the discussion I will try to mention those that seemed to me as having made most impact.
Prof. Heller wants to start with defining democracy – what does it mean today? States like Iraq, Turkey, or Russia have democracy but these are not the same. We want a Liberal Democracy in the West. But look at Greece, Portugal, or Spain – there is no unity at the EU on their meaning.
The crises, yes – there is something positive in them. People start to see that there is something to lose.
Prof. Blom says that we are not living in a Weimar Republic. We are too rich and have a civil Society. Next revolution will not be in uniform but rather it will come as a normalization process.
The National Socialism was no Socialism, and the Italian Fascism was no Nazism. In 1945 the World was as exhausted as Europe after the Napoleon Wars. The revolution came only in 1956 and he sees today a similarity to 1968. “WE WILL NOT GET FASCISM BUT SOME NEW STUPIDITY!”
Stroebele says that the real question remains the lack of distribution of wealth. The problem is with migrants from a country like Iraq that saw no part in the wealth.
Europe is to be blamed because it used its agriculture power and destroyed the agriculture in
the countries it touched. The corn in the Midwest is cheaper then in Mexico and sending it there makes Mexico poorer. If you want to help – give them money. To this Ms. Heller said
“I loved it.” She wrote a book – “FROM UTOPIA TO DYSTOPIA.”
She added that historians and philosopher do not deal with hope but with facts.
Prof. Heller returned to the subject by saying revolution is a European concept. In the 20’s there was a belief in independence and freedom. This was a political revolution. Today people do not trust this. Also – too few children in Europe. Change is not in the cards.
Stroebele: the French revolution was a revolution of poverty. Now you can build walls but the Africans will come nevertheless.
Heller: you are right – the problem is not European but Global.
Schwarzenberg: We must bring the jobs to Africa.
Blom: Digitalization will lead to less jobs not more. The business model is so damaged it cannot be sustained. We must have politicians that ask what society needs in 30 years.
To have such politicians we must want to have them.
He also said that there will be migration from Mexico, and Trump reheats ideas from 100 years ago under belief that humans are not equal. He may even conclude that Humans are not the most clever apes.
Schwarzenberg’s conclusion was that in Gatopardo: We must change everything in order to remain where we are.
Other events at the IWM building at are:
March 2nd, 6:00 pm — lecture by Rainer Bauboeck
DEMOCRATIC INCLUSION: A PLURALISTIC THEORY OF CITIZENSHIP.
March 9th, 6:00 pm — book presentation by Luuk van Middelaar
A WAY OUT OF CRISIS: THE EU AND THE ART OF POLITICAL IMPROVISATION.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We visited the village of MARSAXLOKK, of La Valetta, Malta, as part of a MSC Splendida cruise of the Western Mediterranean. This was on a beautiful December 21, 2016 – First Winter Day. Our guide insisted in pointing out the difference from the stormy 1998 day – when right after the fall of the Berlin Wall – this bay was host to the first post Cold War meeting between the the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union – Messrs. Gorbachev and H. W. Bush.
I decided right there to post about that old event, that closed the era codified at Yalta by the 1945 interim settlement between Stalin and Roosevelt with only Churchill sitting in. Today we seem to enter an era that replaces the global peace that came after the cold war with a Putin-Trump concordance that has the potential to destroy everything that achieved since the 1990s.
We visited today the village of MARSAXLOKK, of La Valetta, Malta, as part of a MSC Splendida cruise of the Western Mediterranean. This was a beautiful December 21, 2016 First Winter Day, and our guide insisted in pointing out the difference from the stormy 1998 day when right after the fall of the Berlin Wall this bay was host to the first post Cold War meeting between the the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union Messrs. Gorbachev and H. W. Bush.
I decided to post about that old event, that closed the era that was codified at Yalta by the 1945 interim settlement between Stalin and Roosevelt with only Churchill sitting in. Today we seem to enter an era that replaces the global peace that came after the cold war with a Putin-Trump concordance that has the potential to destroy everything that was achieved since the 1990s.
I thought that a new meeting at MARSAXLOKK – BETWEEN PUTIN AND TRUMP – could help both of them open eyes to where they want to lead the global community that by now got glued together in a manner that it is impossible to see any of the old super-powers not cooperating, or not making place for China and India as well, or ignoring the future rise of Africa and Brazil. Could it be that we are the first to call for such a meeting? Is it really far-fetched to attribute to the present two gladiators, that will be active on the global stage into the 2017-2020 years, a sense of the need of covering each other’s back when in the midst of the aspiring powers of China, India, other Asians, and some form of a reformulated Europe. All this while basic concepts of Democracy and Human Rights are being shelved, and replaced with power of oligarchies bent on increased personal gains that leave behind hordes of malcontents – the brew of a new undertow of Despicables a la Les Miserables?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
(To be seen a Monument in Bir?ebbu?a commemorating the Malta Summit)
The Malta Summit comprised a meeting between US President George H. W. Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, took place on December 2–3, 1989, just a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It was actually their second meeting following a meeting that included Ronald Reagan, in New York in December 1988.
During the summit, Bush and Gorbachev would declare an end to the Cold War although whether it was truly such – is a matter of debate. News reports of the time referred to the Malta Summit as the most important since 1945, when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed on a post-war plan for Europe at Yalta.
No agreements were signed at the Malta Summit. Its main purpose was to provide the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, with an opportunity to discuss the rapid changes taking place in Europe with the lifting of the Iron Curtain, which had separated the Eastern Bloc from Western Europe for four decades. The summit is viewed by some observers as the official end of the Cold War. At a minimum, it marked the lessening of tensions that were the hallmark of that era and signaled a major turning point in East-West relations. During the summit, President Bush expressed his support for Gorbachev’s perestroika initiative and other reforms in the Communist bloc.
The U.S. delegation:
James Baker, U.S. Secretary of State
Robert Blackwill, then Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council
Jack F. Matlock, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union
Condoleezza Rice, then Director for Soviet and East European Affairs at the National Security Council
Brent Scowcroft, U.S. National Security Adviser
Raymond Seitz, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs
John H. Sununu, White House chief of staff
Margaret Tutwiler, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Spokeswoman of the Department
Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Robert Zoellick, Counselor of the Department of State
Venue: “From Yalta to Malta”, and back.
The meetings took place in the Mediterranean, off the island of Malta. The Soviet delegation used the missile cruiser Slava, while the US delegation had their sleeping quarters aboard USS Belknap. 
The ships were anchored in a roadstead off the coast of Marsaxlokk. Stormy weather and choppy seas resulted in some meetings being cancelled or rescheduled, and gave rise to the moniker the “Seasick Summit” among international media.
In the end, the meetings took place aboard Maxsim Gorkiy, a Soviet cruise ship anchored in the harbor at Marsaxlokk.
The idea of a summit in the open sea is said to have been inspired largely by President Bush’s fascination with World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s habit of meeting foreign leaders on board naval vessels. The choice of Malta as a venue was the subject of considerable pre-summit haggling between the two superpowers. According to Condoleezza Rice:
“… it took a long time to get it arranged, finding a place, a place that would not be ceremonial,
a place where you didn’t have to do a lot of other bilaterals. And fortunately – or unfortunately – they chose Malta, which turned out to be a really horrible place to be in December.
Although the Maltese were wonderful, the weather was really bad.”
The choice of venue was also highly symbolic. The Maltese Islands are strategically located at the geographic centre of the Mediterranean Sea, where east meets west and north meets south. Consequently, Malta has a long history of domination by foreign powers. It served as a British naval base during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and suffered massive destruction during World War II.
Malta declared its neutrality between the two superpowers in 1980, following the closure of British military bases and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Regional Headquarters (CINCAFMED), previously located on Malta.
Neutrality is entrenched in the Constitution of Malta, which provides as follows, at section 1(3):
“Malta is a neutral state actively pursuing peace, security and social progress among all nations by adhering to a policy of non-alignment and refusing to participate in any military alliance.”
On February 2, 1945, as the War in Europe drew to a close, Malta was the venue for the Malta Conference, an equally significant meeting between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill prior to their Yalta meeting with Joseph Stalin. The Malta Summit of 1989 signalled a reversal of many of the decisions taken at the 1945 Yalta Conference.
Revolutions of 1989
Cold War (1985-1991)
List of Soviet Union–United States summits
New world order (politics)
Jump up^ “An Interview with Dr. Condoleezza Rice (17/12/97)”
Jump up^ www.nytimes.com/1989/12/03/world/…
Jump up^ articles.latimes.com/1989-12-02/n…
Jump up^ articles.chicagotribune.com/1989-…
Jump up^ www.nytimes.com/1989/12/03/world/…
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Those interested in how a near 0 economy could be achieved using existing technology may find this chapter, available at papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?a…
Integrating Vehicles and the Electricity Grid to Store and Use Renewable Energy by David Hodas :
The world could be powered by renewable energy: more energy from the sun hits the earth in one hour than all of the energy consumed on our planet in an entire year.
In Delivering Energy Policy in the EU and US: A Multi-Disciplinary Reader, (Heffron and Little, eds.) (Edinburgh University Press, 2016)
Widener University Delaware Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 16-13
The world could be powered by renewable energy: more energy from the sun hits the earth in one hour than all of the energy consumed on our planet in an entire year.
Achieving a low-carbon economy is less technology dependent than it is dependent on new, well-designed energy law that broadly shifts private incentives towards efficient use of renewable energy using of “game-changing” technology such as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) motor vehicles that could shift the world to a low-carbon economy.
V2G vehicles integrate separate energy conversion systems: the electricity grid and light vehicle transportation fleet by storing electricity from the grid when it is not needed and returning it to the grid when it is needed.
The total U.S. light vehicle fleet power capacity is about 39 times the power generation capacity of the U.S. electrical generation system.
The grid could use power stored in idle V2G batteries whenever needed, yet each vehicle would be tapped only within the constraints of its drivers’ specific schedule and driving needs. 20,000,000 V2G cars (just 10% of the U.S. fleet) with an average peak power rating of only 50 Kw, would have the combined power capacity equivalent to the entire U.S. Electric grid. This fleet would be the backup system for a fully renewable (e.g., solar and wind) energy generation system.
The benefits of a V2G system could be enormous: dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions and the adverse health effects of air pollution from burning fossil fuels and a more robust electric grid. A renewable energy V2G system could replace fossil fuels in many regions of the world.
David R. Hodas
Distinguished Professor of Law
Delaware Law School
4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington DE 19803-0474
302 477 2186 (tel)
302 477 2257 (fax)
drhodas at widener.edu
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 5th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
A MEETING IN THE UN BASEMENT MEANS NOTHING – BUT THE INFORMATION TO FOLLOW UP BY CONTACTING THE SOURCE IS VALUABLE.
SO PLEASE – YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN TO FIND OUT WHAT THE YALE AND COLUMBIA SCIENTISTS CAME UP WITH !!!
Launch of the 2016 – Yale Environmental Performance Index
9 May, 1:15-2:30pm
UN Headquarters – Conference Room 8
Yale University will launch its flagship Environmental Performance Index (EPI) report at United Nations Headquarters in New York City with a discussion event on Monday, 9 May 2016 from 1:15-2:30pm in Conference Room 8. This index ranks 180 countries on high-priority environmental issues including air quality, climate change, and water resources. Now in its 15th year, the EPI provides a scorecard and baseline to assess each country’s performance and inform progress on United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
H.E. Mrs. Janine Coye Felson – Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of Belize to the United Nations
Mr. Elliott Harris – Assistant Secretary-General, Head of the New York Office of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
Ms. Kim Samuel – President of The Samuel Family Foundation and Professor of Practice at the Institute for Studies in International Development at McGill University
Dr. Angel Hsu – Assistant Professor at Yale-National University of Singapore (NUS) College; EPI Principal Investigator
The esteemed panelists will discuss how nations are performing on critical environmental issues – individually and collectively. What portion of the world breathes unsafe air? How many of the world’s fisheries have collapsed? Are countries protecting forests and biodiversity?
The event provides an opportunity for UN Member States, UN staff, civil society and others working to advance environmental policy and implement the SDGs to learn which environmental issues require the most attention and resources. Country representatives will have a chance to see a breakdown of their EPI scores, allowing them a better understanding of which national environmental policies are working and which are not.
About the EPI
The 2016 Environmental Performance Index is a project lead by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (YCELP) and Yale Data-Driven Environmental Solutions Group at Yale University (Data-Driven Yale), the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, in collaboration with the Samuel Family Foundation, McCall MacBain Foundation, and the World Economic Forum.
For more information, please visit:
” title=”http://epi.yale.edu/about” target=”_blank”>www.pelicanweb.org that is edited by Louis T. Gutieres. MOTHER PELICAN JOURNAL is distributed free via the Solidarity-Sustainability Group.
This Journal deals with “Interdisciplinary resources for futures research on solidarity, sustainability, non-violence, human development, gender equality in secular and religious …” They say: “Integral human development includes all dimensions in the life of each person, including the physical, intellectual, pyschological, ethical, and spiritual dimensions. In particular, the spiritual development of each and every human person is crucial for sustainable development.”
The monthly Mother Pelican, started May 2005, is a Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability and it released now an amazing (encyclopedic) May 2016 issue. You can communicate with Gutieres via: the.pelican.web at gmail.com
It srates: “The patriarchal culture of control and domination is the root of all social and ecological violence. It corrupted the original unity of man and woman (cf. Genesis 3:16) and is now disrupting the harmony between humanity and the human habitat. Just as we are now aware that slavery and racism are moral evils, we must become aware that gender discrimination is a moral evil that must be eradicated if solidarity and sustainability are to be attained.
The need to reform patriarchal structures applies to both secular and religious institutions. Overcoming patriarchy is a “sign of the times” to the extent that it fosters authentic gender solidarity and nonviolence for the good of humanity and the glory of God. Given the enormous influence of religious traditions, it is especially critical for religious institutions to extirpate any semblance of male hegemony in matters of doctrine and religious practices.”
THE PELICAN is an ancient symbol of unconditional service. To be a “person for others” requires full awareness of the personal self and also requires sacrifice of the one who serves. The following excerpt from The Physiologus (the author is unknown, circa 4th century CE) captures this ideal:
“The long beak of the white pelican is furnished with a sack which serves as a container for the small fish that it feeds its young. In the process of feeding them, the bird presses the sack against its neck in such a way that it seems to open its breast with its bill. The reddish tinge of its breast plumage and the redness of the tip of its beak fostered the folkloristic notion that it actually drew blood from its own breast.”
The author of The Physiologus found the action of the pelican, interpreted in this manner, to be a symbol of merciful and sacrificial service and thus an apt symbol of Jesus the Christ (Cf. Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34). While professing no affiliation to any specific religious body, the Mother Pelican journal is committed to the promotion of basic Christian values, human rights, social justice, gender equality, and ecological sustainability.
“Ubi caritas et amor,
Deus ibi est.”
I do not delve now into the many articles and attachments of this issue. The material reaches into practically every aspect of what is – and also much of what, unjustifiably, is not front news today. As said, my intention here is to make sure our readers are aware of this resource – specially with Pope Franciscus having stepped into all theses areas that the church was so slow in recognizing earlier.
Nevertheless, I could not resist not posting here the followig item I picked up from MOTHER PELICAN quoting the CLUB OF ROME reaction to a Bernie Sanders comment.
Club of Rome
April 28 at 1:40am ·
During a live debate on CNN, US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders compared climate change to World War II. The Centre for Climate Safety asked Club of Rome member Ian Dunlop to comment on this.
“Responding to climate change goes beyond strengthening the green party. Sanders is absolutely right; a war footage is the sort of response we have to adopt. After WWII the whole economy was turned on its head in the space of one-two years. What we need now is a Government of National Unity.” – Ian Dunlop
Listen to the whole interview here: climatesafety.info/thesustainable…
Club of Rome
Yesterday (April 27, 2016) at 7:24am ·
What’s the ultimate goal of a circular economy? According to Club of Rome member Walter Stahel, it’s to recycle atoms! For that, “we will need new technologies to de-polymerize, de-allow, de-laminate, de-vulcanize and de-coat materials” he explains in an article in Nature. We will also need to revisit our relationship to goods and materials and our policy focus.
Read more about how we may shift to a circular economy here:www.nature.com/news/the-circular-economy-1.19594
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Jane Mayer: How the Koch Brothers Have Changed America
By Lauren Kelley, Rolling Stone
18 February 2016
“The super-rich have become… possibly the most powerful private interest group in America,” says Mayer
ew Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer spent some five years researching the Koch brothers and the vast network of right-wing, ultra-wealthy donors of which they’re a part. In her new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Mayer lays out how this relatively small group of very rich Americans has managed to make views that once seemed radical part of mainstream American thought and life.
Mayer recently spoke to Rolling Stone about how America looks different today because of this network, how the Kochs are trying to influence the next generation, and how they tried to smear her reputation during the reporting process.
You write that the Koch brothers have “used their fortune to impose their minority views on the majority.” What have they accomplished in that respect?
One of their greatest accomplishments is in funding complete confusion on the subject of global warming in America. You can trace something like $25 million from the Koch family and their foundations, just over a three-year period, to organizations that deny the reality of global warming. And you can see that they’ve managed to change public opinion on the subject. Americans have gotten less certain on this issue, as the rest of the world has been going in the opposite direction. And you can see that our Congress has been captured by their interests and those of the fossil-fuel companies, so it will do nothing about global warming.
What are some other examples of how American society looks different today because of the Kochs’ influence?
This has been a 40-year project that Charles and David Koch have been funding with their vast fortunes to try to change the way Americans think. Another of their greatest accomplishments is in turning Americans against the idea of government being a force for good. It’s not they alone who have done this, but they’ve pushed very hard on it, and public-opinion polls show that Americans’ regard for government has just plummeted in recent years.
They’ve also succeeded in many ways in pushing through lawsuits that their donor group has funded. They’ve succeeded in gutting campaign finance laws, so many of the problems we now see in terms of unlimited spending were stirred in the first place by organizations that they’ve helped fund.
Speaking of unlimited funding, let’s talk about Citizens United. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said that they would use overturning Citizens United as a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees, and even Jeb Bush has criticized the decision. What’s so bad about it? What has it wrought?
What Citizens United has done is equate spending money with free speech without limits. What people originally thought it would do is flood the system with corporate money, but in fact something quite different has happened: It’s flooded our system with unlimited money from individual tycoons, who all have very strong opinions.
And by the way, it’s not just Citizens United, there’s a second case, SpeechNow, that was almost entirely cooked up by the Kochs and their allies, that lifted the limit on individual spending.
What’s happened is even more pernicious, in a way, than just unlimited spending. What’s happened is that “dark money” — that is, contributions from undisclosed donors — has exploded. Once individuals and companies and nonprofit corporations could spend as much as they wanted, a new form of spending exploded: spending by groups that claimed to be nonprofit, nonpolitical organizations. They’re called 501(c)(4)s, and they don’t disclose where their money is coming from. In 2006, only two percent of outside political spending came from these dark-money groups — which call themselves social-welfare groups. After 2010, it rose to 40 percent. Almost all of that money was spending on the right. So you’re getting a flood of undisclosed spending by right-wing billionaires and multimillionaires, basically. It’s creating distortions in American politics and American life.
Many studies have shown that the priorities of the super, super rich are really very different from those of the rest of the country. Ninety percent of Americans think Citizens United was a bad idea and that there’s too much money in American politics. But of course the big spenders see it differently, and they’re the ones who are dominating. Majorities of Americans now think that climate change is real, and that mankind is causing it, and something needs to be done about it. But, again, the big private interests have captured the government on that issue, and nothing’s getting done about it. Huge majorities of Americans in both parties want to see Social Security not weakened but strengthened. The very, very rich want to privatize it; they want to shred it. They don’t want to pay for it. They don’t need it.
On issue after issue, the super-rich have become, because of Citizens United and the other court cases associated with it, possibly the most powerful private interest group in America today.
The Koch brothers and many of these other billionaire donors are not young; they won’t live forever. What does that mean for the future of their project?
It’s a great question, and I think the answer is unknown. But what they’ve got are self-perpetuating foundations. Foundations are weird creatures in American politics — they’re perpetual forces of unaccountable money and influence. And they’ve got tremendous private foundations on the right that have been built up purposely to try to change American politics, starting in about 1970. The Kochs’ foundations are among them, but they’re not the only ones by any means. They’re funding think tanks, they’re funding university programs, they’re funding junkets for judges to try to teach them to be more suspicious of environmental regulations. Their network is functioning on so many different levels, I don’t know whether it will require specific people running it or not. I think we’ll probably know 10, 15 years from now.
One of the things that popped out at me when I was doing research for this book is that Charles Koch has always looked at the youth of the country as the most promising recruits for his movement. And you can see that he and his brother and their allies have been focusing an awful lot of their efforts on bringing kids into their network. Some of the people they work with describe the students like bottles of wine: They’re very valuable early on, but with age they became much more valuable, because they become more prominent and powerful in society as they move up in it. It’s a movement that counts on kids being drawn into it.
One thing I always wonder about these guys is: Why are they doing this? Do they genuinely believe they have a better version for America, or are their efforts purely self-serving?
I think it’s all of the above. I think that Charles Koch is a true believer in his own vision of what a perfect society would be. And he hasn’t really changed his view very much since the late Sixties, when the group he belonged to was described as Anarcho-Totalitarian by William F. Buckley. They were so far to the right that conservatives like Buckley viewed them as the fringe; they are so anti-government that they bordered on anarchy. I have papers and documents I describe in the book, in which Charles Koch talks about how he wants to fund and build a movement that will be radical, that will destroy the “statist paradigm,” as he calls it. He really believes it. Some of his ideas that seemed so crazy and fringe back in 1980, such as abolishing the IRS and the EPA, you’re hearing those same ideas now echoing among the Republican presidential candidates. So these ideas have really gained a lot of traction through the years, in part because of their funding. Do they really believe it? Yes, they truly believe it. And is it good for their bottom line? That too.
It sounds like your experience writing this book was a bit harrowing. The Kochs really went after you.
They play very rough. I’ve been a reporter for a long time, covering wars, the CIA, presidencies and a lot of very powerful organizations. But the Kochs are the only people I’ve ever covered who have hired a private investigator to try to dig up dirt and plant untrue stories about me in order to hurt my reputation. And it’s not just me; they’ve used private eyes to try to discredit people throughout their lives, including their own brothers. There are four Koch brothers, and the two we know of, Charles and David, have spent 20 years litigating against the two other ones, Fred and Bill. They hired private eyes to go through each other’s garbage.
But, you know, that’s what reporting is all about: trying to speak truth to power, and holding accountable those who’ve got tremendous power — especially people who don’t even run for office and want to change American politics.
# Buddha 2016-02-18 13:45
“Mayer lays out how this relatively small group of very rich Americans has managed to make views that once seemed radical part of mainstream American thought and life.”
While at the same time, make views of Progressivism (universal healthcare, strong public education and subsidized universities to keep tuition low, investment in infrastructure, support of unions and decent wages, etc) seem today to be “extreme” and “impossible” and “pie in the sky”. The actions of the Kochs and their ilk have yielded us people like the Clintons who tell us that we should only aim to achieve that which the Republicans will agree to do together.
+19 # reiverpacific 2016-02-18 18:23
“And he hasn’t really changed his view very much since the late Sixties, when the group he belonged to was described as Anarcho-Totalitarian by William F. Buckley.”(Quote).
This shows just how far they’ve gone and succeeded: Buckley would actually be seen as a “Liberal” these days.
One thing the article didn’t touch on is that these bastards are two of the biggest polluters in the US -even the World- through their extractive companies, which is linked to their anti-climate-change stance.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
November 28, 2015
The Reign of Absurdiocy
There is no such thing as “international terrorism”.
To declare war on “international terrorism” is nonsense.
Politicians who do so are either fools or cynics, and
Terrorism is a weapon. Like cannon. We would laugh at
somebody who declares war on “international artillery”. A
cannon belongs to an army, and serves the aims of that
army. The cannon of one side fire against the cannon of the
Terrorism is a method of operation. It is often used by
oppressed peoples, including the French Resistance to the
Nazis in WW II. We would laugh at anyone who declared war
on “international resistance”.
Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military thinker,
famously said that “war is the continuation of politics by
other means”. If he had lived with us today, he might have
said: “Terrorism is a continuation of policy by other
Terrorism means, literally, to frighten the victims into
surrendering to the will of the terrorist.
Terrorism is a weapon. Generally it is the weapon of the
weak. Of those who have no atom bombs, like the ones which
were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which terrorized
the Japanese into surrender. Or the aircraft which
destroyed Dresden in the (vain) attempt to frighten the
Germans into giving up.
Since most of the groups and countries using terrorism have
different aims, often contradicting each other, there is
nothing “international” about it. Each terrorist campaign
has a character of its own. Not to mention the fact that
nobody considers himself (or herself) a terrorist, but
rather a fighter for God, Freedom or Whatever.
(I cannot restrain myself from boasting that long ago I
invented the formula: “One man’s terrorist is the other
man’s freedom fighter”.)
MANY ORDINARY Israelis felt deep satisfaction after the
Paris events. “Now those bloody Europeans feel for once
what we feel all the time!”
Binyamin Netanyahu, a diminutive thinker but a brilliant
salesman, has hit on the idea of inventing a direct link
between jihadist terrorism in Europe and Palestinian
terrorism in Israel and the occupied territories.
It is a stroke of genius: if they are one and the same,
knife-wielding Palestinian teenagers and Belgian devotees
of ISIS, then there is no Israeli-Palestinian problem, no
occupation, no settlements. Just Muslim fanaticism.
(Ignoring, by the way, the many Christian Arabs in the
secular Palestinian “terrorist” organizations.)
This has nothing to do with reality.
Palestinians who want to fight and die for Allah go to Syria. Palestinians – both
religious and secular – who shoot, knife or run over Israeli soldiers and civilians
these days want freedom from the occupation and a state of their own.
This is such an obvious fact that even a person with the
limited IQ of our present cabinet ministers could grasp it.
But if they did, they would have to face very unpleasant
choices concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So let’s stick to the comfortable conclusion: they kill us
because they are born terrorists, because they want to meet
the promised 72 virgins in paradise, because they are
anti-Semites. So, as Netanyahu happily forecasts, we shall
“live forever by our sword”.
TRAGIC AS the results of each terrorist event may be, there
is something absurd about the European reaction to recent events.
The height of absurdiocy was reached in Brussels, when a
lone terrorist on the run paralyzed an entire capital city
for days without a single shot being fired. It was the
ultimate success of terrorism in the most literal sense:
using fear as a weapon.
But the reaction in Paris was not much better. The number
of victims of the atrocity was large, but similar to the
number killed on the roads in France every couple of weeks.
It was certainly far smaller than the number of victims of
one hour of World War II. But rational thought does not
count. Terrorism works on the perception of the victims.
It seems incredible that ten mediocre individuals, with a
few primitive weapons, could cause world-wide panic. But it
is a fact. Bolstered by the mass media, which thrive on
such events, local terrorist acts turn themselves nowadays
into world-wide threats. The modern media, by their very
nature, are the terrorist’s best friend. Terror could not
flourish without them.
The next best friend of the terrorist is the politician. It
is almost impossible for a politician to resist the temptation
to ride on the wave of panic. Panic creates “national unity”,
the dream of every ruler. Panic creates the longing for a
“strong leader”. This is a basic human instinct.
Francois Hollande is a typical example. A mediocre yet
shrewd politician, he seized the opportunity to pose as a
leader. “C’est la guerre!” he declared, and whipped up a
national frenzy. Of course this is no “guerre”. Not World
War III. Just a terrorist attack by a hidden enemy.
Indeed, one of the facts disclosed by these events is the
incredible foolishness of the political leaders all around.
They do not understand the challenge. They react to
imagined threats and ignore the real ones. They do not know
what to do. So they do what comes naturally: make speeches,
convene meetings and bomb somebody (no matter who and what
Not understanding the malady, their remedy is worse than
the disease itself. Bombing causes destruction, destruction
creates new enemies who thirst for revenge. It is a direct
collaboration with the terrorists.
It was a sad spectacle to see all these world leaders, the
commanders of powerful nations, running around like mice in
a maze, meeting, speechifying, uttering nonsensical
statements, totally unable to deal with the crisis.
THE PROBLEM is indeed far more complicated than simple
minds would believe, because of an unusual fact: the enemy
this time is not a nation, not a state, not even a real
territory, but an undefined entity: an idea, a state of
mind, a movement that does have a territorial base of sorts
but is not a real state.
This is not a completely unprecedented phenomenon: more
than a hundred years ago, the anarchist movement committed
terrorist acts all over the place without having a
territorial base at all. And 900 years ago a religious sect
without a country, the Assassins (a corruption of the
Arabic word for “hashish users”), terrorized the Muslim
I don’t know how to fight the Islamic State (or rather
Non-State) effectively. I strongly believe that nobody
knows. Certainly not the nincompoops who man (and woman)
the various governments.
I am not sure that even a territorial invasion would
destroy this phenomenon. But even such an invasion seems
unlikely. The Coalition of the Unwilling put together by
the US seems disinclined to put “boots on the ground”. The
only forces who could try – the Iranians and the Syrian
government army – are hated by the US and its local allies.
Indeed, if one is looking for an example of total
disorientation, bordering on lunacy, it is the inability of
the US and the European powers to choose between the
Assad-Iran-Russia axis and the IS-Saudi-Sunni camp. Add the
Turkish-Kurdish problem, the Russian-Turkish animosity and
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the picture is still
far from complete.
(For history-lovers, there is something fascinating about
the reemergence of the centuries-old struggle between
Russia and Turkey in this new setting. Geography trumps
everything else, after all.)
It has been said that war is far too important to leave to
the generals. The present situation is far too complicated
to leave to the politicians. But who else is there?
ISRAELIS BELIEVE (as usual) that we can teach the world. We
know terrorism. We know what to do.
But do we?
For weeks now, Israelis have lived in a panic. For lack of
a better name, it is called “the wave of terror”. Every day
now, two, three, four youngsters, including 13-year old
children, attack Israelis with knives or run them over with
cars, and are generally shot dead on the spot. Our renowned
army tries everything, including draconian reprisals
against the families and collective punishment of villages,
These are individual acts, often quite spontaneous, and
therefore it is well-nigh impossible to prevent them. It is
not a military problem. The problem is political,
Netanyahu tries to ride this wave like Hollande and
company. He cites the Holocaust (likening a 16-year old boy
from Hebron to a hardened SS officer at Auschwitz) and
talks endlessly about anti-Semitism.
All in order to obliterate one glaring fact: the occupation
with its daily, indeed hourly and minutely, chicanery of
the Palestinian population. Some government ministers don’t
even hide anymore that the aim is to annex the West Bank
and eventually drive out the Palestinian people from their
There is no direct connection between IS terrorism around
the world and the Palestinian national struggle for
statehood. But if they are not solved, in the end the
problems will merge – and a far more powerful IS will unite
the Muslim world, as Saladin once did, to confront us, the
If I were a believer, I would whisper: God forbid.
N.B.: My articles can be read
The current article will be available within hours of this email being sent out.
Also my books are now online uriavnery.com/en/
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We liked the following because we like Obama’s intervention on Climate Change where he decided to go to China in order to engage them in tackling the issue – something that follows Nixon & Kissinger in their opening up of China.
Los Angeles Op-Ed
Niall Ferguson: Think Kissinger was the heartless grandmaster of realpolitik? What about Obama?
October 26, 2015
PHOTO: Henry A. Kissinger–then President Nixon’s National Security Adviser–stands with Le Duc Tho, a member of Hanoi’s Politburo, outside a suburban Paris house in June, 1973.
Most Americans still think of Barack Obama as a foreign policy idealist. That is certainly how he presents himself: Just replay the tape of his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
Some argue, he said, “for a return to the rules that applied for most of human history … the belief that power is a zero-sum game; that might makes right; that strong states must impose their will on weaker ones; that the rights of individuals don’t matter; and that in a time of rapid change, order must be imposed by force.”
The president said he would much rather “work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law.” He prefers “resolving disputes through international law, not the law of force.”
Yet that speech ended oddly. Having berated both Russia and Iran for their misdeeds, Obama invited them to work with him to resolve the Syrian civil war. “Realism,” he concluded, “dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and ultimately stamp out ISIL.”
Wait — realism? Isn’t that the hard-nosed — not to say amoral — approach to foreign policy commonly associated with Henry Kissinger?
Having spent much of the last decade writing a life of Kissinger, I no longer think of the former secretary of State as the heartless grandmaster of realpolitik. (That’s a caricature.) But after reading countless critiques of his record, not least the late Christopher Hitchens’ influential “Trial of Henry Kissinger,” I also find myself asking another question: Where are the equivalent critiques of Obama?
Hitchens’ case against Kissinger, which is as grandiloquent as it is thinly documented, can be summed up as follows: He was implicated in the killing of civilians through the bombing of Cambodia and North Vietnam. He failed to prevent massacres in Bangladesh and East Timor. He fomented a military coup in Chile. Also on Hitchens’ charge sheet: the wiretapping of colleagues.
In history, no two cases are alike. The Cold War is over. The technology of the 2010s is a lot more sophisticated than the technology of the 1970s. Still, this president’s record makes one itch to read “The Trial of Barack Obama.”
Take the administration’s enthusiastic use of drones, a key feature of Obama’s shift from counterinsurgency to counter-terrorism. According to figures from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, drone strikes authorized by the Obama administration have killed 3,570 to 5,763 people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan, of whom 400 to 912 were civilians and at least 82 were children.
And those are just the strikes by unmanned aircraft. The Oct. 3 attack on an Afghan hospital run by Doctors Without Borders is a reminder that U.S. pilots also stand accused of killing civilians, not only in Afghanistan but also (since August 2014) in Iraq and Syria. One estimate puts the civilian victims of the U.S.-led air war against Islamic State at 450.
This is a lawyerly administration, so it insists on the legality of its actions, even when drones kill U.S. citizens. But not everyone is convinced. In the words of Amnesty International, “U.S. drone strike policy appears to allow extrajudicial executions in violation of the right to life, virtually anywhere in the world.”
Critics such as Hitchens also hold Kissinger accountable for lives lost as an indirect result of U.S. policy. So what about the number of lives lost as an indirect result of Obama’s policy in the Middle East, where he helped topple a dictator in Libya but failed to do so in Syria? Estimates vary, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the death toll of the Syrian civil war at 330,000, of whom nearly 112,000 have been civilians.
And let’s not forget Egypt, where Abdel Fattah Sisi has restored a military dictatorship. In 2013, Sisi’s first year in power, Egyptian courts handed out 464 death sentences. This year former President Mohamed Morsi — democratically elected in June 2012 and overthrown 13 months later — was sentenced to hang, along with more than 90 other Muslim Brotherhood members. Yet Obama restored U.S. military aid to Egypt in March. Help me out here: In what way does Gen. Sisi differ from Gen. Pinochet?
As for wiretapping, there really is no contest. Kissinger is said to have bugged 13 government officials and four reporters. Edward Snowden’s revelations make it clear that Obama is in a different league. On his watch, the National Security Agency collected not only the metadata of phone calls by 120 million Verizon subscribers but also — thanks to the PRISM surveillance program — the content of email, voice, text and video chats of an unknown number of Americans. Between April 2011 and March 2012, according to an internal NSA audit leaked by Snowden, there were 2,776 breaches of the rules supposedly governing surveillance of citizens and foreigners in the U.S.
There is disenchantment with Obama’s foreign policy these days. In recent polls, nearly half of Americans (49.3%) disapprove of it, compared with fewer than 38% who approve. I suspect, however, that many disapprove for the wrong reasons. The president is widely seen, especially on the right, as weak. In my view, his strategy is flawed, but there is no doubting his ruthlessness when it comes to executing it.
As Hitchens surely would observe if he were still around, a great many liberals today apply a double standard when they judge the foreign policies of Nobel Peace Prize laureates Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama. If you think Kissinger didn’t deserve his Nobel, then neither did Obama.
Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University and senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford. He is the author, most recently, of “Kissinger 1923-1968: The Idealist.”
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From: Wolfgang Obenland wolfgangobenland at globalpolicy.org
Is the UN fit for the ambitious new Sustainable Development Agenda?
The e-mail is as follows but we have further misgivings. We think the question is not just financial – it should be approached also from an angle that asks if the UN in its present form is capable to lead to the accomplishment of what it suggested to do following the Paris 2015 meetings. Can the UN be expected to lead to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and to lead the actions required by the need to change the path of global warming?
Will the UN follow willingly the leadership of Pope Francis and that of a joint Obama-Xi pact?
As you know, over one hundred Heads of State and Government will gather this week to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda is intended to make the United Nations (UN) ‘fit for purpose’, but it is important to ask, ‘whose purpose will it be fit for’?
We would like to share the latest Global Policy Forum report which warns that the changing funding patterns of the UN and its development system reveal alarming trends. These trends include a growing gap between the scale of global problems and the (financial) capacity of the UN to solve them; a growing share of non-core and earmarked contributions in UN finance; and the outsourcing of funding and decision-making to exclusive global partnerships.
Funding of all UN system-wide activities is around US$40 billion per year. While this may seem to be a substantial sum, it is smaller than the budget of New York City, less than a quarter of the European Union budget, and only 2.3 per cent of the world’s military expenditures. Many Member States, particularly the large donors, pursue a dual approach of calling for greater coherence in UN development activities while at the same time increasing their use of earmarked funding. This pick- and- choose dynamic has opened the space for corporate sector engagement. Increasingly the UN is promoting market-based approaches and multi-stakeholder partnerships as the business model for solving global problems. Driven by a belief that engaging the more economically powerful is essential to maintaining the relevance of the UN, this practice has harmful consequences for democratic governance and general public support, as it aligns more with power centers and away from the less powerful.
Fit for Whose Purpose? Private Funding and Corporate Influence in the United Nations, released today, gives a comprehensive overview of current UN funding trends and ends with a summary of findings and policy recommendations to counter the new ‘business model’ of global governance and to make the United Nations really ‘fit for purpose’, fit for the purpose of a democratic and inclusive global governance. Detailed and specific, the demands range from adopting measures to limit earmarked funding as a percentage of total funding, to strengthening the rules and tools governing engagement with the business sector, and to establishing an intergovernmental framework for partnership accountability.
You can Download full report here (PDF, 2,5 MB): www.globalpolicy.org/images/pdfs…
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From the Boulder , Colorado, National Renewable Energy Laboratories – Victoria Healey victoria.healey at nrel.gov
September 22, 2015
This week the Solutions Center, in partnership with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and other international experts, published a report, “Policies to Spur Energy Access”, which reveals policy options for developing countries to engage the private sector in creating market solutions to energy access. The report discusses the regulatory and policy frameworks that can enable decentralized solutions and attract private sector investment. The report also notes that creating a robust market for energy services requires policymakers to address broader market issues. Policymakers can catalyze private financing and build human capacity to meet the needs of an emerging market. Because energy access impacts a wide range of development goals—poverty alleviation, health, education, agriculture, disaster planning and the environment—integrating the efforts of various public ministries can streamline energy access and leverage wider resources. The second part of this two-volume report includes in-depth case studies of public-private programs for financing energy access in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico and Nepal. The case studies focus on the policy decisions that underpin each program and their impact on energy access for underserved populations. Along with this report, the Solutions Center has engaged additional international experts on energy access to offer assistance to policymakers via the Ask an Expert program.
The report can be accessed and downloaded at cleanenergysolutions.org/news/po….
If you have questions about this report you may contact Terri Walters ( terri.walters at nrel.gov) and Vickie Healey ( victoria.healey at nrel.gov).
Project Leader, Clean Energy Solutions Center
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From: Seth M. Siegel <email@example.com>
Sent: Thu, Sep 17, 2015 3:30 pm
Subject: A Milestone in My Life
Earlier this week, my book Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World was released. Thanks to significant pre-sales and a smart sales executive at my publisher, Barnes & Noble agreed to put the book on the New Non-Fiction table found at the entrance to all of the bookseller’s stores. Walking in and seeing the stack of books was a remarkable experience, a milestone. (See photo.)
Let There Be Water is, I believe, an inspiring book, and I hope many more readers find their way to it. Not only does every concerned citizen need to learn about the coming water crisis. As Israel has shown, we also need to know that concerted action can lead to great outcomes. It is what binds society together. At a time of cynicism and distrust of government, the renewal of our water systems can be a vehicle for renewing trust and faith in our institutional ability to take on a major task and get something important done.
Aside from the already great joy this project has brought me, if Let There Be Water plays some role in getting people to think about water policy and, from that, changes in how we manage our water occurs, I could have no greater reward for my efforts.
Seth M. Siegel
PRAISE FOR LET THERE BE WATER: Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Prime Minister of Uganda Ruhakana Rugunda, Edito-in-Chieg Arianna Huffington, co-author of Start-UP Nation Dan Senior and former US Diplomat.
THE SEPTEMBER 9th POSTING:
From Africa to China, How Israel Helps Quench the Developing World’s Thirst: The untold story of Israeli hydrodiplomacy, from the 1950s until now.
by: Seth M. Siegel, Sept. 9 2015
Seth M. Siegel is an entrepreneur, writer, and lawyer in New York.
In November 1898, Theodor Herzl arranged a meeting with the German emperor, Wilhelm II, to obtain help in creating a Jewish state in the land of Israel. In their conversation, the Kaiser praised the work of the Zionist pioneers, telling Herzl that, above all else, “water and shade trees” would restore the land to its ancient glory. Four years later, Herzl had a lead character in his political tract-cum-novel Altneuland (“Old-New Land”) say of Jewish settlement in Palestine: “This country needs nothing but water and shade to have a great future.” Another character predicts that the water engineers of the Jewish homeland will be its heroes.
Utopian novels set the bar high, and Altneuland is nothing if not a utopian novel. Yet even before statehood, Zionists made remarkable strides in putting the land’s limited water resources to good use. They drained swamps, drilled wells, and developed irrigation systems. By the 1960s, Israel had developed a nationwide system of underground pipes to transport water from the relatively water-rich north to the Negev desert in the south. Israeli engineers also developed the system known as drip irrigation, which simultaneously conserves water and increases crop yields. Later, Israel would pioneer desalination technology. Combining scientific advances with efficient management, the Jewish state is now in no danger of running out of water. In fact, it provides large amounts from its own supplies to the West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan, while each year exporting billions of dollars’ worth of peppers, tomatoes, melons, and other water-intensive produce.
Herzl imagined something else, too, in Altneuland. Following the establishment of a Jewish national home, his protagonist announces, Jews will need to come to the aid of the suffering people of Africa, whose “problem, in all its horror, . . . only a Jew can fathom.” Israel’s founding generation took this admonition to heart. In 1958, Golda Meir, then Israel’s foreign minister, created a department whose mission was to help developing countries—particularly in Africa—overcome problems of water, irrigation, agriculture, education, and women’s status. The department, whose name translates loosely as loosely Center for International Cooperation, was known by the Hebrew acronym Mashav.
In its early years, the Mashav initiative was warmly embraced by African states as well as countries in Asia and South America. When she became Israel’s prime minister in 1969, Meir saw to it that the African program continued to get the support it needed. But then came the 1973 Yom Kippur war, in the aftermath of which, at the urging of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, every sub-Saharan nation broke diplomatic relations with Israel and expelled the Mashav specialists. Traumatic as it was for Meir—she “had been messianic about her African program,” writes Yehuda Avner in The Prime Ministers—it was a much greater misfortune for the many Africans who had benefited from the now abruptly terminated programs.
In the 1980s, some African countries expressed interest in renewing ties. Ethiopia restored relations in 1989, and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa followed suit in 1993 with the signing of the first Oslo agreement. Today, Israel provides training in water management, irrigation, and other areas for specialists from more than 100 countries, 29 of them in Africa.
Moreover, Israeli water innovation for the developing world is no longer only the province of government. Consider, for example, Sivan Yaari: a diminutive thirty-something whose NGO utilizes solar power and Israeli technology to help bring clean water and electric power to people living in small and often remote African villages. Born in Israel, raised in France, and educated in the U.S., Yaari spent a summer working for the UN in isolated parts of Senegal, where water pumps were either broken or in disuse because villagers had no money for the fuel needed to run them. “They ended up digging bore holes a few kilometers away,” Yaari says, “to get filthy water they had to carry back to their villages.”
Her answer was Innovation: Africa (in shorthand, i:A), an organization that installs not only water pumps but similarly solar-powered electricity for light bulbs and vaccine refrigerators in medical clinics. It now runs water projects in seven African countries, and Yaari has plans for expansion. “It turns out,” she explains, that
there is a lot of underground water in Africa. You just have to know where to look for it. The bigger problem facing African water-assistance programs is that as soon as the aid professionals leave the villages, the systems begin to break down and the people are no better off than before.
To overcome this, Innovation: Africa has created a system that seems impervious to breakdown, vandalism, or theft—and that can be run remotely from Israel. The concept is deceptively simple. Once a source of potable underground water is located, a rented diesel-powered drill is brought in to reach it, a water pump is inserted into the shaft, properly sized solar panels are installed and connected, and water is drawn out and deposited into an adjacent water tower, from where gravity propels it to destinations all around the village. In addition, the waterlines are connected to a drip-irrigation system installed alongside the solar panels, enabling the villagers to plant seeds and harvest the produce.
Thousands of miles away, in Tel Aviv, i:A’s technology chief Meir Yaacoby has created a device to monitor and manage each African water system from the office. By means of whatever wireless service is available locally (Yaari: “They may not have shoes, but the adults have cell phones”), frequent messages keep Yaacoby updated with key information on, among other things, the quantity of water in the tower and any problems with the equipment. He also receives a constant Internet feed on local weather conditions. If it the outlook is for hotter weather than usual, or if a cloudy spell threatens to block solar rays, he can pump more water into the tower as a precaution; if rain is in the offing, he can stop and restart drip irrigation as needed by a particular crop at any given stage in its growing cycle. If the system itself develops a mechanical problem, he is apprised within minutes and can send detailed information for repairing it to a local engineer. Every part of the system can also be automated, making it infinitely scalable.
These drip-irrigation systems are having another, unexpected effect. Yaari cites a village in Uganda as a representative case study. Beyond providing more food for the village and relief from hunger, the system has enabled the villagers to sell their surplus at the market. “With the extra money, they’ve bought chickens and developed a poultry farm,” she reports. In addition, “Once you begin providing water, the children aren’t filling jerry cans with muddy water and they can wash. They also stay healthy; a large number of the children had been getting sick from drinking unclean water.” And there are still other benefits: “The children, especially the girls, had been walking two to three hours a day fetching water,” she says. “They would come back exhausted and filthy. Now, with water being pumped, they can go to school.”
If the animating humanitarian spirit of Mashav is alive and flourishing in 2015, bringing sustenance to destitute and water-deprived people around the world, Israel has also used its water knowhow to improve its commercial prospects and ameliorate its diplomatic isolation. To date, more than 150 countries have welcomed Israeli assistance or technology in addressing their water problems. One notable one is China.
Despite the country’s enormous natural resources, the PRC has long been plagued with water problems. Many farming regions are inefficient and wasteful when it comes to water usage; infrastructure is overburdened and superannuated, losing enormous amounts in leaks; sewage treatment is often inadequate; and lax enforcement of environmental laws has led to the severe deterioration of many sources of freshwater.
In the early 1980s, having previously rebuffed decades of diplomatic overtures from Israel, the PRC permitted teams of Israeli water engineers to come—secretly—to survey collective farms in the southern province of Guangxi. The engineers recommended the use of drip irrigation, as well as Israeli seeds that would be better suited to the soil and climate. The Chinese agreed, but demanded that any markings suggestive of Israeli origin be removed from the equipment and seed packaging. Three years later, again in secret, a team of Israeli hydrologists and geologists was invited to help develop an irrigation plan for the semiarid Wuwei district south of the Gobi desert. In time, creeping closer to recognition, the Chinese proposed that Israel send an irrigation and water-utilization expert to Beijing and in return they would send a tourism specialist to Israel.
From these highly guarded beginnings, formal diplomatic ties were finally established in 1992. When, twenty years later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Beijing to meet with his counterpart Li Keqiang, water management was still high on the Chinese agenda, but now openly so. To Netanyahu’s proposal that, as a pilot project, an Israeli consortium be engaged to redo the entire water infrastructure of a small Chinese city, Li replied by designating one of his ministers to assist in picking the city. A little over a year later, a joint Israeli-Chinese committee announced the selection of Shouguang, a city of slightly more than one million people—small, by Chinese standards—as the test site.
“I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” said one senior Israeli official, “but if we perform well here, we will have the opportunity to help rebuild the water systems of cities all over China.” Whatever one’s view of Communist China’s domestic behavior or global ambitions, the potential economic benefits to Israel of such an enterprise are undeniable—to say nothing of the independent moral value of significantly improving the living conditions of millions of ordinary Chinese citizens.
This essay is adapted from Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World by Seth M. Siegel, to be published next week by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Copyright © 2015 by the author.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 16th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From GeorgeSoros.com, September 16, 2015
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
In the attached essay George Soros says that assuring the success of the new Ukraine should be the top priority of the European Union. In ‘Ukraine and Europe: What Should Be Done?’ Mr. Soros argues that of all the divisive crises that the EU faces – the euro, Greece, migration and the British EU referendum – the external threat posed by Russian aggression towards Ukraine should be treated as the most urgent, as it has the possibility of uniting the European Union. From that unity, the “spirit of solidarity” that “characterized the European Union’s early days” could be recaptured, helping to solve these other crises. In the essay, George calls on Ukraine’s allies to do “whatever it takes” to help the new Ukraine succeed. Though Ukraine and its allies cannot prevail militarily over a Russia willing to risk armed conflict, they can “outbid Russia financially” – an expenditure that Mr. Soros argues should be thought of as a defense expenditure. He describes the current €3.4 billion EU contribution to the IMF-led rescue package for Ukraine is “wholly inadequate”.
Ukraine & Europe: What Should Be Done?
By: George Soros
New York Review of Books: Oct. 8, 2015 Issue
Because of the structural defects of the euro, the European authorities have had to become masters of the art of muddling through one crisis after another. This practice is popularly known as kicking the can down the road although it would be more accurate to describe it as kicking the can uphill so that it keeps coming back. But Europe now faces at least five crises at the same time: four internal ones—the euro, Greece, migration, and the British referendum on whether to remain in the EU—and an external one, Russian aggression against Ukraine. The various crises tend to reinforce one another. Both the public and the authorities are overwhelmed. What can be done to arrest and reverse the process of disintegration?
Obviously five crises cannot all be solved at the same time. There is a need to give preferential treatment to some of them without neglecting any. I have been strenuously arguing that Ukraine should be given top priority. The internal crises tend to divide the European Union into debtor and creditor countries, the UK and the Continent, as well as “arrival” and “destination” countries. By contrast, an external threat like the Russian aggression against Ukraine ought to unite the European Union.
There is a new Ukraine that is determined to become the opposite of the old Ukraine. The old Ukraine had much in common with the old Greece that proved so difficult to reform: an economy that was dominated by oligarchs and a political class that exploited its position for private gain instead of serving the public. The new Ukraine, by contrast, is inspired by the spirit of the Maidan revolution in February 2014 and seeks to radically reform the country. By treating Ukraine like a second-class Greece that is not even a member of the European Union, Europe is in danger of turning the new Ukraine back into the old Ukraine. That would be a fatal mistake because the new Ukraine is one of the most valuable assets that Europe has, both for resisting Russian aggression and for recapturing the spirit of solidarity that characterized the European Union in its early days.
I feel I am in a strong position to make this argument because I have an intimate knowledge of the new Ukraine through both my Ukrainian foundation and my own involvement in the country. At the beginning of this year, I developed what I called “a winning strategy for Ukraine” and circulated it among the European authorities. I also outlined this strategy in these pages.*
I argued that sanctions against Russia are necessary but not sufficient. President Vladimir Putin has developed a very successful interpretation of the current situation with which to defend himself against the sanctions. He claims that all of Russia’s economic and political difficulties are due to the hostility of the Western powers, who want to deny Russia its rightful place in the world. Russia is the victim of their aggression. Putin’s argument appeals to the patriotism of Russian citizens, and asks them to put up with the hardships—which include financial instability and shortages—that the sanctions cause. The hardships actually reinforce his argument. The only way to prove Putin wrong is by establishing a better balance between sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine.
My “winning strategy” advocates effective financial assistance to Ukraine, which would combine large-scale budgetary support with affordable political risk insurance, along with other incentives for the private sector. Coupled with the radical economic and political reforms that the new Ukraine is eager to introduce, these measures would turn it into an attractive place for investment. The linchpin of economic reforms is the restructuring of the state gas monopoly, Naftogaz, moving from the current artificially low prices for gas to market-determined prices and providing direct subsidies for gas purchases to needy households.
The political reforms center on establishing an honest, independent, and competent judiciary and media, combating corruption, and making the civil service serve the -people instead of exploiting them. These reforms would also appeal to many people in Russia, who would demand similar reforms. That is what Putin is afraid of. That is why he has tried so hard to destabilize the new Ukraine.
If Ukraine’s allies combined the sanctions against Russia with effective assistance for the new Ukraine, no amount of propaganda could obscure the fact that Russia’s economic and political problems are caused by Putin’s policies. He could, of course—in clear violation of the Minsk II agreement of February 11, 2015—prevent the new Ukraine from succeeding by launching a large-scale military offensive. But that would be a political defeat for Putin. It would reveal the falsehood of his interpretation of the conflict with Ukraine; and a military conquest of part of eastern Ukraine would place a heavy economic and political burden on Russia.
President Putin has gained a temporary tactical advantage over Ukraine because he is willing to risk large-scale and even nuclear war while Ukraine’s allies are determined to avoid a direct military conflict with Russia. This has allowed him to alternate between hybrid war and hybrid peace at will, and he has exploited this advantage to the full. Ukraine cannot prevail over Russia militarily because President Putin can mobilize more and better-armed forces than Ukraine and its allies on the battlefield. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had to learn this lesson at great cost. But surely Europe and the US can outbid Russia financially.
This argument for European and American support had some impact among Ukraine’s allies but my assertion about their willingness to provide large-scale financial support proved to be wrong, at least until now. I attribute this to two factors. One is the Greek crisis, which was an outgrowth of the euro crisis and set a bad example for the European Union to follow in Ukraine. The other is the Minsk agreement itself that, for reasons explained below, induced the European authorities to continue keeping Ukraine on a tight financial leash.
The euro crisis has created an acute shortage of funds for budgetary purposes. The EU budget of E145 billion is only about one percent of the GDP of the member states, but Europe is barely growing and member states are clamoring to reduce their contributions to the EU budget. The shortage of funds is particularly acute in the eurozone, which has no budget of its own.
The European authorities under German leadership mishandled the Greek crisis. They started out by providing emergency loans to Greece at punitive interest rates; they imposed their own program of reform and micromanaged it instead of allowing Greece to take ownership and control of the reforms; and they always lent too little too late. The Greek authorities are far from blameless but the primary responsibility lies with Germany because it was in charge. The Greek national debt has become unsustainable but the European authorities are now unwilling to write down their loans to Greece.
A dispute over this point between them and the IMF has greatly complicated the recent and current negotiations. The authorities have corrected some of their mistakes—for instance, they insist on “bailing in” rather than “bailing out” bondholders (bailing in requires bondholders to write down the value of their bonds). But they repeat others. The biggest mistake has been to treat Ukraine in the same way as Greece. The new Ukraine seeks to be the opposite of Greece and, although it is not a member, it is actively defending the European Union against a military and political threat from Russia.
As I argued in my original case for a winning strategy, helping Ukraine should be treated as a defense expenditure. Seen in this light, the current E3.4 billion contribution from the European Union to the IMF-led rescue package for Ukraine is wholly inadequate. The European Union has the appropriate fiscal tool—the Macro-Financial Assistance mechanism (MFA)—that, with appropriate modifications, could be used to overcome the shortage of funds in the EU budget. The MFA allows the European Union to borrow funds from the financial markets, making use of its almost completely unused triple-A credit.
The EU budget has to allocate only 9 percent of the amount lent to Ukraine as a noncash reserve requirement against the possibility of a future default. In comparison, US budget rules imposed a 44 percent noncash reserve requirement on the latest $1 billion credit guarantee the US gave Ukraine, so the budgetary burden of the $2 billion US contribution to the IMF-led assistance package is actually greater than that of the European Union. But the MFA framework -agreement expired in 2009 when the Lisbon Treaty was introduced and needs to be renewed in order to be used on a larger scale. Allocating 1 percent of the EU budget to the defense of Ukraine seems appropriate; this would allow the European Union to contribute as much as E14 billion annually to the IMF-led assistance program—a contribution that would be large enough to allow for the European Union to do “whatever it takes” to help Ukraine succeed.
The Minsk II agreement of February 2015 followed a major military defeat inflicted on Ukraine by the separatists, strongly assisted by Russia. Ukraine was desperate for a cease-fire and negotiated under duress. The Minsk II agreement guaranteed a special status to the separatist enclaves in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and implied that Ukraine would subsidize them. President Putin exploited his advantage by keeping the text of the agreement deliberately ambiguous. It called for the Ukrainian government to negotiate with representatives of the Donbas region without specifying who they are.
The agreement was signed by Presidents Putin, Poroshenko, and François Hollande, and by Chancellor Angela Merkel. This has set a trap for the last two. They wanted an agreement bearing their signatures to hold; if it fails it must be Russia that scuttles it, not Ukraine. They were also anxious to avoid a military confrontation. This attitude led them to tolerate Russian and separatist violations of the cease-fire yet to insist that Ukraine should observe it to the letter. By taking a neutral position on the question of how President -Poroshenko would meet the requirements of the ambiguous agreement, they reinforced President Putin’s advantage.
After the agreement was reached, Ukraine came close to financial collapse because of delays in delivering the second IMF-led rescue package until March 11, 2015. The low point was reached in February when the Ukrainian public lost confidence in the national currency, the hryvnia. Official transactions were suspended and the hryvnia traded on the black market between thirty and forty to the dollar that day. Since then the currency has recovered to about twenty to twenty-five hryvnia to the dollar. A precarious financial stability has been reestablished but only at the cost of accelerated economic contraction. The sudden drop in the exchange rate led to higher inflation, a substantial drop in living standards, and a large reduction in imports; this has helped to narrow the trade deficit. At the same time, the budget has benefited from lower expenditures on social benefits for the general public and on the wages of government employees.
When I visited Ukraine this April, I found a troubling contradiction between objective reality, which was clearly deteriorating, and the reformist zeal of the new Ukraine that was under tremendous economic, political, and military pressure but still moving forward with its reforms, which were having a cumulative effect.
During 2014, the reform program for a new Ukraine was in the planning stage; only in 2015 did it result in a large number of laws being passed to meet the requirements of the IMF and, more recently, the Minsk agreement. Even so, the oligarchs—industrialists who use political influence to enrich themselves—were more experienced in defending their interests than the reformers were in curbing them. Just when the economy was on the brink of collapse and political tensions were at a peak, the government had to face a challenge from the most powerful oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky, who tried to use his militia to retain his control over a subsidiary of Naftogaz. The government was forced to resist this and managed to defeat him.
That was a turning point. Since then, the central bank has been exercising strict control over the banking system, although recapitalizing the banks will take time. Other oligarchs, notably Dmytro Firtash and Rinat Akhmetov, are being reined in. Regrettably, this happens on a case-by-case basis and not yet by the application of the rule of law. Efforts to reform the police and introduce online services in government and transparency in official procurement have made more progress. But the reformers are encountering resistance at every step and the general population is increasingly dissatisfied both with the slow speed of reforms and the continued decline in living standards. So the stress under which the reformers operate continues to increase and may reach a breaking point at any time.
The Greek crisis greatly intensified Ukraine’s problems by diverting the attention of the European authorities from Ukraine and reinforcing their tendency to treat it as yet another Greece. The effect on Chancellor Merkel has been especially detrimental. She had behaved as a truly European leader in standing up to President Putin but remained hesitant about giving wholehearted support to Ukraine. When it came to Greece, she abandoned her characteristic caution in order to prevent a Greek exit from the euro. This brought her into conflict with her own party and her minister of finance, Wolfgang Schäuble, who had the backing of her party. While she managed to keep Greece in the eurozone, at least for the time being, she used up much of her political capital in the process. The loss will be sorely felt by the new Ukraine, which needs all the support it can get in complying with the Minsk agreement.
The ambiguity of the Minsk agreement has forced the two sides into a charade where the task is to pass the obligation to make the next move to the other side. Kiev has been a fast learner. Under prodding from its allies it established the special status of the Donbas enclaves by passing a law that quoted the ambiguous text of the Minsk agreement verbatim. This has created a financial problem for President Putin by starving the enclaves of funds until they are willing to hold elections in accordance with Ukrainian law.
But it would be risky for Ukraine’s allies to push President Poroshenko too far in making unilateral concessions to the separatists. As the recent bloodshed in front of the Ukrainian parliament demonstrated, ultranationalist elements are on the verge of rebellion. In short, the political and economic condition of the new Ukraine is extremely precarious.
A critical examination of the recent Greek negotiations reveals where they went wrong. Greece should not have taken precedence over Ukraine and Ukraine should not have been treated as yet another Greece. A similar examination of the Minsk agreement leads to a more equivocal conclusion. Ukraine’s European allies fell into a trap, but the current impasse has brought one important benefit: it has stopped Russia from carrying its cease-fire violations beyond the point where it can deny them. It would be a pity to lose this advantage.
This analysis leads logically to a new winning strategy for Ukraine. Ukraine still should be reinstated as the top priority of the European Union because the new Ukraine is one of its great assets. Every effort should be made not only to preserve the new Ukraine but to assure its success. If by helping Ukraine the European Union could effectively rebuff the Russian menace, then most of the European Union’s other priorities would fall into place; if it fails, the other objectives would be pushed further out of reach.
How can the success of the new Ukraine be assured? The analysis on which the original winning strategy was based remains valid. It was and is clear that President Putin can always show Russia to be stronger than Ukraine and its allies by escalating its use of force. Ukraine cannot militarily prevail over Russia. This means that it cannot regain its territorial integrity, at least in the short term, but it can maintain its moral and political integrity. When it comes to a choice, the latter is by far the more important. The new Ukraine is eager to undertake radical economic and political reforms. It has a large population and a battle-tested army willing to defend the European Union by defending itself. Moreover, the spirit of volunteerism and self-sacrifice on which the new Ukraine is based is a highly perishable good: if it is depleted it will take a generation to replace it.
Chancellor Merkel has put the political and moral integrity of the new Ukraine under tremendous stress by pushing President Poroshenko to observe the Minsk agreement to the letter even if President Putin does not. This brought the benefit, however, of keeping the military conflict within bounds, an achievement that needs to be preserved. Attaining some degree of political and military stability has to be one of the objectives of a winning strategy.
It is the second part of the winning strategy that is missing. Ukraine’s allies have to decide and declare that they will do “whatever it takes” to enable Ukraine not only to survive but to introduce far-reaching economic and political reforms, and to flourish in spite of President Putin’s opposition. This approach would require significantly more money than is available within the current budget of the European Union. The two prongs of this updated winning strategy—keeping military conflict within bounds and providing Ukraine with adequate financial support to carry out radical reforms—have to be carefully reconciled because they are liable to interfere with each other.
The original strategy called for Ukraine’s allies to declare their commitment to do “whatever it takes” at the end of June in conjunction with extending the sanctions on Russia. The European Union missed that deadline. The next opportunity will arise at the end of the year and it should be combined with a promise to reduce the sanctions on Russia if it fulfills its obligations under the Minsk agreement. This will greatly enhance the chances of success by offering a significant material reward to Russia for abiding by the Minsk agreement as well as a -face-saving way out of its conflict with Ukraine.
The prospects of the Minsk agreement holding have greatly improved over the past few months. The weakness of oil prices and the further downward slide of the ruble have put renewed pressure on the Russian economy. But the decisive factor has been the decline in Russian oil production. Output has been falling year over year, and for the first time, both the quantity and quality of the petroleum output fell this year between the months of June and July. This means that the sanctions are biting and the lack of spare parts is accelerating the depletion of existing oil fields. Putin could compensate his cronies for their financial losses by allowing them to take over the properties of the less reliable oligarchs; but the only way he can arrest a general decline of the oil industry is by having some of the Western sanctions lifted. This consideration now outweighs the threat that the eventual prosperity of the new Ukraine poses. The fact that the period of maximum danger has passed without a large-scale military attack indicates that Putin has chosen to rely on more subtle means to destabilize the new Ukraine.
It is all the more important that Ukraine’s allies should embrace the modified winning strategy outlined here. The change in Putin’s attitude gives them more leeway to do so. They can provide some immediate financial support to Ukraine in order to relieve the financial and political stress without provoking countermeasures from Russia. And they must prepare the ground for a declaration at the end of the year promising to do “whatever it takes” to help the new Ukraine to succeed. That means that they must start to establish an MFA framework agreement now because the process will take several months to complete. It cannot begin without prior approval from the German Ministry of Finance.
There are some welcome signs that Chancellor Merkel is moving in the right direction. She moved far ahead of the German public and business community when she used her leadership position to forge European unanimity in imposing sanctions on Russia. It was only after the downing of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine that the German public caught up with her. She took an uncharacteristic political risk in order to keep Greece in the eurozone. She faced intense internal opposition, but that did not stop her from taking another bold step by announcing that Germany will process as many as 800,000 asylum seekers in 2015.
By doing so Germany has set a positive example for other member states to follow; it also has implicitly abandoned the Dublin Regulation, which requires asylum seekers to register and remain in the country of arrival and has been a source of friction between the “-arrival” and “destination” countries. This has brought about a dramatic shift in public attitudes toward asylum seekers. There has been an outpouring of sympathy that started in Germany and spread to the rest of Europe. If this trend gained momentum, it could lead to a positive resolution of the migration crisis.
Chancellor Merkel has correctly recognized that the migration crisis could destroy the European Union, first by causing a breakdown of the Schengen Treaty, which allows free movement within Europe, and eventually by undermining the common market. It would be an appropriate continuation of her recent risk-taking actions if she now combined firmness toward Russia with greater trust and support for Ukraine. The United States is -already more firmly committed to the new Ukraine than most European governments; President Obama could therefore play a constructive role in persuading Chancellor Merkel to move in this direction. With their joint support, the new winning strategy for Ukraine has a realistic chance of success. And success in Ukraine should give the European Union enough momentum to find a positive resolution of the various other problems it faces.
Chancellor Merkel’s bold initiative toward asylum seekers could have far-reaching effects. She has challenged the German anti-euro party, but that party was already divided in its opposition to immigrants and is likely to collapse under the weight of public sympathy for asylum seekers. This may encourage President Hollande to take on the National Front in France, which is split by the animosity between its founder and his daughter; and it may encourage Prime Minister Cameron to successfully challenge the anti–immigrant agitation of UKIP. This could transform the political landscape of the European Union.
There is a danger that Europe’s preoccupation with the migration crisis could once again divert attention from what in my judgment is an even more fundamental issue: the fate of the new Ukraine. This would be a tragic error. As I have argued here, the new Ukraine is the most valuable asset that Europe has. Losing it would cause irreparable harm: it could create a failed state of more than 40 million people and become another source of refugees. But by helping the new Ukraine, the European Union could save itself. By doing “whatever it takes” to enable the new Ukraine not only to survive but to flourish, the European Union would achieve a dual objective: it would protect itself from Putin’s Russia and it would recapture the spirit of cooperation and solidarity that used to fire people’s imagination in its early days. Chancellor Merkel has already -rekindled that spirit toward asylum seekers. Saving the new Ukraine would truly transform the political landscape in Europe.
*“A New Policy to Rescue Ukraine,” The New York Review, February 5, 2015.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From Laura Musikanski: The Happiness Alliance – Home of the Happiness Initiative and the GNH (Gross National Happiness) Index
Hi Friend of the Happiness Alliance,
Happiness is important to a new economic paradigm, the sustainability of our future and your happiness.
You are one of 61K people who took the Gross National Happiness Index and, in doing so, are the happiness movement. And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agrees – happiness, wellbeing & sustainability are important.
Who is the OECD? Here is a little history lesson. The OECD is the international organization that first started collecting Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers and comparing them for all countries. As such, they became a major force pushing GDP to the forefront for policy makers and our society. The backstory is that the superpowers got together after WWII and decided the best way to end future world wars was to bind their economies together (anybody remember Bretton Woods in history class?). The measure they decided to use for economic success was GDP. The term “globalization” had not been coined yet, and the full effects of exponential growth of production, pollution and GDP were still to come. About ten years ago the OECD, and many others, started seeing that wider measures of well-being were needed.
So what? October 13-15 in Guadalajara, Mexico is the OECD’s Fifth World Forum on statistics, knowledge and policy “transforming policy, changing lives.” We will be there (chat with us at our booth), as will be nef, Richard Layard, Jeffrey Stiglitz, Gus O’Donnell and so can you.
There is no fee to participate, but you must apply as a participant by August 31. Send an email to wellbeing at oecd.org to apply as a participant.
There is more news from our project:
Our latest tool, Happiness for the Depressed, takes a real look at how to address depression. It is quickly becoming one of our more popular tools in part because it does not to give a bandaid to real problems.
And for the data and policy geeks, our second of a four essays that will constitute a white paper on the happiness movement has finally been published. The peer review process is no joke – but we are grateful to the Journal for Social Change for the input and editing. The essay is Measuring Happiness to Guide Public Policy Making. The end includes a grid of the areas included by different measures.
Community activists – check out the wonderful work Laura Hannant had been leading in the Creston, British Columbia region. Elected and appointed officials from the city, region and community boards came together with volunteers to measure and now manage the happiness and wellbeing of the community as part of a three year long project.
Academics and Researchers – check out the article covering the research Professor David Pendery did with four different universities in Taiwan. He is particularly concerned with the happiness and wellbeing of Chinese youth.
Laura Hannant and David Pendery both plan to be at the OECD fifth world forum and share a booth with the Happiness Alliance.
Last, please keep using the Gross National Happiness Index for your life and for your group. If you have not tried the new platform, check it out! You can create a group with one click. If you have, please let us know what you think and of any problems ( info at happycounts.org)
Laura Musikanski, other volunteers & the board of the Happiness Alliance.
P.S. We need donations to help us cover costs for posters, handouts and a banner for the OECD forum. If you can help, please donate here!
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Last night – August 18, 2015 – in New York City – we went to Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center to listen to a performance of perfection – Joshua Bell playing Bach – the Chaconne dating from 1720 and the Violin concerto in E major dating to “before 1730.”
I thought this became a subject for our website because of an article by Lars Gustafsson that was part of the printed program brochure that was handed out to us. The title “THE STILLNESS OF THE WORLD BEFORE BACH” – the fact that we might think that it might seem there was no great music before Bach – BUT THERE MUST HAVE BEN SOMETHING THERE BEFORE 1720.
Then I thought = wait the steam engine was developed over a period of about a hundred years by three British inventors. The first crude steam powered machine was built by Thomas Savery, of England, in 1698. Savery built his machine to help pump water out of coal mines – only in 1781 James Watt patented a steam engine that produced continuous rotary motion.
So we can say that the development of the steam engine, that brought about the industrial revolution, went on in parallel with the development of music that started with Bach and if we may say continued with Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart.
Could we say that some form of life did exist before we started to use coal en-masse and invented concepts of economic growth and development? What was the life we replaced? What was the cultural expressions we lost when accepting the progress in music?
The Gustafsson article stimulates our thoughts.
Gustafsson – since the late 1950s has produced poetry, novels, short stories, critical essays, and editorials. He gained international recognition as a Swedish writer with literary awards such as the Prix International Charles Veillon des Essais in 1983, the Heinrich Steffens Preis in 1986, Una Vita per la Litteratura in 1989, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for poetry in 1994, and several others. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His major works have been translated into fifteen languages, and Harold Bloom includes Gustafsson in The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (1994). John Updike offered high praise for Gustafsson’s The Death of a Beekeeper in his collection of criticism, Hugging The Shore.
Gustafsson said once “I listen. I listen and I look. Creativity knows no rules. You can get an idea for a novel from a little something someone says, or just a face you see. A rabbi once told me that when God spoke to Moses in that bush, it wasn’t in a thundering voice; it was in a very weak voice. You have to listen carefully for that voice. You have to be very sharp.”
In May 2009, Lars Gustafsson declared that he would vote for the Pirate Party in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament
Lars Gustafsson: The Stillness of the World Before Bach
There must have been a world before
the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor partita,
but what kind of a world?
A Europe of vast empty spaces, unresounding,
everywhere unawakened instruments
where the Musical Offering, the Well-Tempered Clavier
never passed across the keys.
where the soprano line of the Passion
never in helpless love twined round
the gentler movements of the flute,
broad soft landscapes
where nothing breaks the stillness
but old woodcutters’ axes
the healthy barking of strong dogs in winter
and, like a bell, skates biting into fresh ice;
the swallows whirring through summer air,
the shell resounding at the child’s ear
and nowhere Bach nowhere Bach
the world in a skater’s stillness before Bach.
published in New Directions Paperback NDP656, “The Stillness of the World Before Bach: New Selected Poems” by Lars Gustafsson.
Yes – there was a harmonious world even without the sound of Bach – that is what I took from the above poem.
Surely, I did not transform this into a feeling that this was a better world – simply I picked up that it was still a livable world that could exist with simpler pleasures.
Nevertheless we are thankful to Bach for having shown us the way to perhaps a higher level of civilized pleasures. How does this translate to the Steam-engine thought that we understand today as a step backwards – because of the dependence on fossil fuels?
But this would be a wrong conclusion – it would be more correct to see that we can get all those benefits from higher technologies like we get from Bach’s music, if we only opt to use Renewable Energy and even higher tech methods that allow us similar results without that pesky dependence on oil and coal. Gustafsson was right in in opting for the Pirates in his search for true enlightenment in a corrupt world.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Naomi Klein: ‘The Economic System We Have Created Also Created Global Warming.”
Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel, writes: “Can we still stop global warming?” – “Only if we radically change our capitalist system” – argues author Naomi Klein.
By Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel
28 February 2015
PIEGEL: Ms. Klein, why aren’t people able to stop climate change?
Klein: Bad luck. Bad timing. Many unfortunate coincidences.
SPIEGEL: The wrong catastrophe at the wrong moment?
Klein: The worst possible moment. The connection between greenhouse gases and global warming has been a mainstream political issue for humanity since 1988. It was precisely the time that the Berlin Wall fell and Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History,” the victory of Western capitalism. Canada and the US signed the first free-trade agreement, which became the prototype for the rest of the world.
SPIEGEL: So you’re saying that a new era of consumption and energy use began precisely at the moment when sustainability and restraint would have been more appropriate?
Klein: Exactly. And it was at precisely this moment that we were also being told that there was no longer any such thing as social responsibility and collective action, that we should leave everything to the market. We privatized our railways and the energy grid, the WTO and the IMF locked in an unregulated capitalism. Unfortunately, this led to an explosion in emissions.
SPIEGEL: You’re an activist, and you’ve blamed capitalism for all kinds of things over the years. Now you’re blaming it for climate change too?
Klein: That’s no reason for irony. The numbers tell the story. During the 1990s, emissions went up by 1 percent per year. Starting in 2000, they started to go up by an average of 3.4 percent. The American Dream was exported globally and consumer goods that we thought of as essential to meet our needs expanded rapidly. We started seeing ourselves exclusively as consumers. When shopping as a way of life is exported to every corner of the globe, that requires energy. A lot of energy.
SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to our first question: Why have people been unable to stop this development?
Klein: We have systematically given away the tools. Regulations of any kind are now scorned. Governments no longer create tough rules that limit oil companies and other corporations. This crisis fell into our laps in a disastrous way at the worst possible moment. Now we’re out of time. Where we are right now is a do-or-die moment. If we don’t act as a species, our future is in peril. We need to cut emissions radically.
SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to another question: Are you not misappropriating the issue of climate change for use in your critique of capitalism?
Klein: No. The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. I didn’t make this up. The system is broken, income inequality is too great and the lack of restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.
SPIEGEL: Your son Toma is two-and-a-half years old. What kind of world will he be living in when he graduates from high school in 2030?
Klein: That is what is being decided right now. I see signs that it could be a radically different world from the one we have today — and that change could either be quite positive or extremely negative. In any case, it’s already certain that it will at least in part be a worse world. We’re going to experience global warming and far more natural disasters, that much is certain. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic warming. We also have time to change our economic system so that it does not become more brutal and merciless as it deals with climate change.
SPIEGEL: What can be done to improve the situation?
Klein: We have to make some decisions now about what values are important to us and how we really want to live. And of course it makes a difference if temperatures only rise by 2 degrees or if they rise by 4 or 5 degrees or more. It’s still possible for us humans to make the right decisions.
SPIEGEL: Twenty-six years have passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded in 1988. We have known at least since then that CO2 emissions from the burning of oil and coal is responsible for climate change. Yet little has been done to address the problem. Haven’t we already failed?
Klein: I view the situation differently given the enormous price we will have to pay. As long as we have the slightest chance of success or to minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.
SPIEGEL: Several years ago, the international community set a target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Do you still consider that to be achievable?
Klein: Well, it’s still a physical possibility. We would have to immediately reduce global emissions by 6 percent a year. The wealthier countries would have to carry a greater burden, meaning the United States and Europe would have to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Immediately. It’s not impossible. It is just profoundly politically unrealistic under our current system.
SPIEGEL: You are saying our societies aren’t capable of doing so?
Klein: Yes. We need a dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we need to do and our current political reality. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.
SPIEGEL: Is a society focused on economic growth at all capable of fighting climate change successfully?
Klein: No. An economic model based on indiscriminate growth inevitably leads to greater consumption and to greater CO2 emissions. There can and must be growth in the future in many low carbon parts of the economy: in green technologies, in public transportation, in all the care-giving professions, in the arts and of course in education. Right now, the core of our gross domestic product is comprised of just consumption, imports and exports. We need to make cuts there. Anything else would be self-deception.
SPIEGEL: The International Monetary Fund makes the opposite claim. It says that economic growth and climate protection are not mutually exclusive.
Klein: They’re not looking at the same numbers as I am. The first problem is that at all these climate conferences, everyone acts as if we will arrive at our goal through self-commitments and voluntary obligations. No one tells the oil companies that, in the end, they are really going to have to give up. The second problem is that these oil companies are going to fight like hell to protect what they don’t want to lose.
SPIEGEL: You seriously want to eliminate the free market in order to save the climate?
Klein: I am not talking about eliminating markets, but we need much more strategy, steering and planning and a very different balance. The system in which we live is overly obsessed with growth — it’s one that sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth that are clearly not good. It’s clear to me that my position is in direct conflict with neo-liberalism. Is it true that in Germany, although you have accelerated the shift to renewables, coal consumption is actually increasing?
SPIEGEL: That was true from 2009 to 2013.
Klein: To me that is an expression of this reluctance to decide on what is necessary. Germany is not going to meet its emissions targets in the coming years either.
SPIEGEL: Is the Obama presidency the worst thing that could have happened to the climate?
Klein: In a way. Not because Obama is worse than a Republican. He’s not. But because these eight years were the biggest wasted opportunity of our lives. The right factors came together in a truly historic convergence: awareness, urgency, the mood, his political majority, the failure of the Big Three US automakers and even the possibility of addressing the failed unregulated financial world and climate change at the same time. But when he came to office, he didn’t have the courage to do it. We will not win this battle unless we are willing to talk about why Obama viewed the fact that he had control over the banks and auto companies as more of a burden than as an opportunity. He was a prisoner of the system. He didn’t want to change it.
SPIEGEL: The US and China finally agreed on an initial climate deal in 2014.
Klein: Which is, of course, a good thing. But anything in the deal that could become painful won’t come into effect until Obama is out of office. Still, what has changed is that Obama said: “Our citizens are marching. We can’t ignore that.” The mass movements are important; they are having an impact. But to push our leaders to where they need to go, they need to grow even stronger.
SPIEGEL: What should their goal be?
Klein: Over the past 20 years, the extreme right, the complete freedom of oil companies and the freedom of the super wealthy 1 percent of society have become the political standard. We need to shift America’s political center from the right fringe back to where it belongs, the real center.
SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, that’s nonsense, because it’s illusory. You’re thinking far too broadly. If you want to first eliminate capitalism before coming up with a plan to save the climate, you know yourself that this won’t happen.
Klein: Look, if you want to get depressed, there are plenty of reasons to do so. But you’re still wrong, because the fact is that focusing on supposedly achievable incremental changes light carbon trading and changing light bulbs has failed miserably. Part of that is because in most countries, the environmental movement remained elite, technocratic and supposedly politically neutral for two-and-a-half decades. We are seeing the result of this today: It has taken us in the wrong direction. Emissions are rising and climate change is here. Second, in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself. The approach that you have is too technocratic and small.
SPIEGEL: If you attempt to solve a specific problem by overturning the entire societal order, you won’t solve it. That’s a utopian fantasy.
Klein: Not if societal order is the root of the problem. Viewed from another perspective, we’re literally swimming in examples of small solutions: There are green technologies, local laws, bilateral treaties and CO2 taxation. Why don’t we have all that at a global level?
SPIEGEL: You’re saying that all the small steps — green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals — are meaningless?
Klein: No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can’t delude ourselves that it’s enough. What I’m saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don’t become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That’s the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.
SPIEGEL: You don’t appear to be counting on the collective reason of politicians and entrepreneurs.
Klein: Because the system can’t think. The system rewards short-term gain, meaning quick profits. Take Michael Bloomberg, for example …
SPIEGEL: … the businessman and former New York City mayor …
Klein: … who understood the depths of the climate crisis as a politician. As a businessman, however, he chooses to invest in a fund that specializes in oil and gas assets. If a person like Bloomberg cannot resist the temptation, then you can assume that the system’s self-preservation capacity isn’t that great.
SPIEGEL: A particularly unsettling chapter in your book is about Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group.
Klein: Yes. I wouldn’t have expected it.
SPIEGEL: Branson has sought to portray himself as a man who wants to save the climate. It all started after an encounter with Al Gore.
Klein: And in 2006, he pledged at an event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative that he would invest $3 billion in research into green technologies. At the time, I thought it was truly a sensational contribution. I didn’t think, oh, you cynical bastard.
SPIEGEL: But Branson was really just staging it and only a fraction of that money was ever spent.
Klein: He may well have been sincere at the time, but yes, only a fraction was spent.
SPIEGEL: Since 2006, Branson has added 160 new airplanes to his numerous airlines and increased his emissions by 40 percent.
SPIEGEL: What is there to learn from this story?
Klein: That we need to question the symbolism and gestures made by Hollywood stars and the super rich. We cannot confuse them with a scientifically sound plan to reduce emissions.
SPIEGEL: In America and Australia, a lot of money is spent on efforts to deny climate change. Why?
Klein: It’s different from Europe. It’s an anger that is similar to that held by those who oppose abortion and gun control. It’s not only that they are protecting a way of life they don’t want to change. It’s that they understand that climate change challenges their core anti-government, free-market belief system. So they have to deny it to protect their very identity. That’s why there’s this intensity gap: Liberals want to take a little bit of action on climate protection. But at the same time, these liberals also have a number of other issues that are higher on their agenda. But we have to understand that the hardcore conservative climate change deniers will do everything in their power to prevent action.
SPIEGEL: With pseudo-scientific studies and disinformation?
Klein: With all of that, of course.
SPIEGEL: Does that explain why you are connecting all of these issues — the environment, equity, public health and labor issues — that are popular on the left? Is it out of purely strategic considerations?
Klein: The issues are connected, and we also need to connect them in the debate. There is only one way that you can win a battle against a small group of people who stand to lose a lot: You need to start a mass movement that includes all the people who have a lot to gain. The deniers can only be defeated if you are just as passionate as them, but also when you are superior in numbers. Because the truth is that they really are very few.
SPIEGEL: Why don’t you believe that technology has the potential to save us?
Klein: There has been tremendous progress in the storage of renewable energies, for instance, and in solar efficiency. But climate change? I, in any case, don’t have enough faith to say, “We’ll come up with some invention at some point, so let’s just drop all other efforts.” That would be insane.
SPIEGEL: People like Bill Gates view things differently.
Klein: And I find their technology fetish naïve. In recent years, we’ve witnessed some really big failures where some of the smartest guys in the room screwed up on a massive scale, be it with the derivatives that triggered the financial crisis or the oil catastrophe off the coast of New Orleans. Mostly, we as people break things and we don’t know how to fix them afterwards. Right now, it’s our planet that we’re breaking.
SPIEGEL: Listening to you, one might get the impression that the climate crisis is a gender issue.
Klein: Why would you say that?
SPIEGEL: Bill Gates says we need to keep moving forward and come up with new inventions to get the problem, and ultimately our complicated Earth, under control. You on the other hand are saying: Stop, no, we have to adapt ourselves to this planet and become softer. The US oil companies are run by men. And you, as a critical woman, are described as hysterical. It’s not an absurd thought, is it?
Klein: No. The entire industrialization was about power or whether it would be man or nature that would dominate Earth. It is difficult for some men to admit that we don’t have everything under control; that we have amassed all this CO2 over the centuries and that Earth is now telling us: Well, you’re just a guest in my house.
SPIEGEL: A guest of Mother Earth?
Klein: That’s too cheesy. But you’re still right. The oil industry is a male-dominated world, a lot like high finance. It’s very macho. The American and Australian idea of “discovering” an endless country and that endless resources can be extracted is a narrative of domination, one that traditionally casts nature as a weak, prone woman. And the idea of being in a relationship of interdependence with the rest of the natural world was seen as weak. That’s why it is doubly difficult for alpha men to concede that they have been wrong.
SPIEGEL: There’s one issue in the book that you seem to steer clear of. Although you revile the companies, you never say that your readers, who are customers of these companies, are also culpable. You also remain silent about the price that individual readers will have to pay for climate protection.
Klein: Oh, I think that most people would be happy to pay for it. They know that climate protection requires reasonable behavior: less driving, less flying and less consumption. They would be happy to use renewable energies if they were offered them.
SPIEGEL: But the idea isn’t big enough, right?
Klein: (laughs) Exactly. The green movement spent decades educating people that they should compost their garbage, that they should recycle and that they should ride their bikes. But look at what has happened to the climate during these decades.
SPIEGEL: Is the lifestyle you lead climate-friendly?
Klein: Not enough. I bike, I use transit, I try to give speeches by Skype, I share a hybrid car and I cut my flying to about one-tenth of what it was before I started this project. My sin is taking taxis, and since the book came out, I’ve been flying too much. But I also don’t think that only people who are perfectly green and live CO2-free should be allowed to talk about this issue. If that were the case, then nobody would be able to say anything at all.
SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, we thank you for this interview.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Can Bolivia Chart a Sustainable Path Away From Capitalism?
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 on Truthout – By Chris Williams and Marcela Olivera, Truthout | News Analysis
FOR THE FULL ARTICLE PLEASE GO TO: truth-out.org/news/item/28778-can…
I will post here some excerpts of this very interesting and long article – this with my thinking of the latest changes in Greece
and wondering if rhetoric is true change and how can Greece fare in a capitalist world with management outside its borders but vested interests residing also in the country itself. Will there be a Greek Pachamama in Europe’s future? Will the Tsipris Greece be the Morales of an ALBA Charge of anti-capitalist rhetoric in Europe?
Bolivia offers a case study on the impact of climate change, people’s resistance to exploitation and racist oppression, and the potential for genuine change from below.
The number of conflicts over natural resource extraction and refining, road building and pipeline construction, and forest and water use have all steadily grown under Morales.
Ruthless extraction of Bolivia’s bountiful natural resources has concentrated the natural and social wealth of the country in a small group at the top of society, and exposed Bolivians to an extreme degree of imperial intrigue and attempted subjugation.
In stark contrast to monoculture farming, several hundred different varieties of potato are grown in the Bolivian Andes, as a resilient subsistence food by 200,000 small-scale farmers.
With the melting of the Andean mountains ice and climate change farmers no longer know how community can grow food because “it now rains at all different times, and it’s drier for longer. This place did not used to be as hot as it is now.”
Higher average temperatures will lead to an increase in evaporation, causing soils to dry out. In turn, drier soils will increase erosion and loss of topsoil, an effect that will be compounded by two other effects of a warmer climate.
But for all of Morales’ rhetorical championing of “buen vivir,” Gudynas believes that the MAS government instead operates more along the lines of a new form of Keynesian neoliberalism, or what he calls “neo-extractivismo.”
And despite a change in official rhetoric, and some welcome redistribution of wealth, Morales’ policies are practically the same as his predecessors’ with respect to natural resource extraction.
“We have lost an opportunity for something based on our self-organization and self-management.”
“The people do not decide; the government decides. Despite the constitution guaranteeing rights for indigenous people and Mother Earth, those policies are not implemented; they are just words.”
As through so much of its history, the small Andean nation of Bolivia sits at the center of a whirlwind of political, social and climatological questions. Arguably, no other country thus far in the 21st century raises the question of an “exit strategy” from neoliberal capitalism more concretely, and with greater possibility and hope, than Bolivia. That hope is expressed specifically in the ruling party, MAS, or Movement Toward Socialism. The country’s leader, former coca farmer and union organizer Evo Morales – South America’s first indigenous leader since pre-colonial times – was overwhelmingly elected to his third term of office in 2014. Morales has broadly popularized the Quechua term pachamama, which denotes a full commitment to ecological sustainability, and public hopes remain high that he’ll guide the country toward realizing that principle.
Bolivia has seen impressive and consistent economic growth since Morales’ first election victory in 2006, including the establishment of government programs to alleviate poverty and attain the social equity goals promised in his campaign. However, this growth has primarily rested on an expanded and intensified exploitation of the country’s natural resources, principally from fossil fuel production, mining, and the growth of large-scale, mono-crop agriculture and manufacturing.
This economic growth has also created what the Bolivian non-governmental organization CEDLA (Centro de Estudios Para el Desarrollo Laboral y Agrario) calls the rise of a new bourgeoisie comprised of Santa Cruz agriculture producers, traders from the west of the country and small mining producers. The Bolivian government also believes that a new class is emerging, and will become Bolivia’s new dominant group. Carlos Arce, researcher from CEDLA, says in an article in the Bolivian press:
A new type of entrepreneur has emerged from the popular classes. These emerging strata are mostly traders and are also present in the cooperative sectors, especially in mining. This new type of entrepreneur saves more and has a more austere mentality, in the classical Weberian sense. Within the state, representatives of this strata interface with middle-class intellectuals and other sectors of society, seeking to build alliances with small urban and rural producers that respond to the prerogatives of the market.
The so-called “plural economy” institutionalized by the government recognizes the state, communitarian, private and cooperative forms of economic organization. It also puts the state in direct control of the plans for economic development. In other words, the Bolivian people are the owners of the natural resources, but it is the state that administers and industrializes these natural resources.
In Arce’s view, the government exalts this new “emerging bourgeoisie.” The government’s program of a plural economy “facilitates the alliance of these market-driven sectors with key sectors of international capital. This opens the door to transnational corporations and makes permanent their presence.”
In December 2014, the Financial Times reported on the rise of a new indigenous bourgeoisie in El Alto, less constrained by older cultural ties of thrift, and striving for greater wealth, more ostentatious luxury buildings and opulent traditional clothing.
On the other hand, while many journalists and analysts have focused on the accomplishments of the Morales’ government, few have looked at the state of the labor force, unions and labor conditions. Research by local organizations shows that finding secure employment has become very difficult. According to the Bolivian Labor Ministry’s own data just 30 percent of the labor force in Bolivia has a secure and formal job, with almost 70 percent working in the informal sector. These workers have no employment security, which makes people more dependent on welfare protections and programs that have become more elaborate and extensive in recent years.
Bolivia’s geography is very diverse: The verdant and tropical Amazonian lowlands give way to the austere beauty of the highlands and snow-capped peaks of the Andes that ring the capital, La Paz. Bolivian elevations range from 130 to 6,000 meters above sea level dividing the country into three distinct geographical areas: the high plateau, the Andean valleys and the eastern lowlands.
Given all of these factors, Bolivia offers a case study on the impact of climate change, people’s resistance to exploitation and racist oppression, and the potential for genuine change from below.
Much of that resistance was formed in response to centuries of relentless extraction of the country’s minerals, semi-precious and precious metals, and guano. Following the privatization of Bolivia’s public airline, train system and electric utility, in 1999, the government sold the water and sanitation system of Cochabamba to a transnational consortium. Over the following five months, mass demonstrations and violent confrontations with the police and military forced the government to cancel the contract and keep the water supply in public hands. This popular struggle for public control of water became recognized worldwide as the Cochabamba Water War.
Marcela Olivera is a water commons organizer based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. After graduating from the Catholic University in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Marcela worked for four years in Cochabamba as the key international liaison for the Coalition for the Defense of Water and Life, the organization that fought and defeated water privatization in Bolivia. Since 2004, she has been developing and consolidating an inter-American citizens’ network on water justice named Red VIDA.
Chris Williams is an environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. He is chairman of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute and adjunct professor at Pace University in the department of chemistry and physical science. His writings have appeared in Z Magazine, Green Left Weekly, Alternet, CommonDreams, ClimateandCapitalism.com, Counterpunch, The Indypendent, Dissident Voice, International Socialist Review, Truthout, Socialist Worker and ZNet. He reported from Fukushima and was a Lannan writer-in-residence in Marfa, Texas. He recently was awarded a Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
You Think Sarah Palin Is Incoherent? Listen To Jeb Bush.
January 26, 2015
By Bill Scher of The Campaign for America’s Future www.ourFuture.org
Many people are having a good laugh watching Sarah Palin’s unintentionally hilarious speech to a conservative gathering in Iowa over the weekend. But Palin is never going to get anywhere near the White House.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco Friday, someone else gave a painfully incoherent speech. “And since the speaker really could end up in the White House, it’s actually worth your attention.”
Jeb Bush’s address to the National Automobile Dealers Association attracted much positive press. He was willing to challenge conservative orthodoxy on immigration and education. He sounded like an adult, eschewing sophomoric right-wing zingers.
He maturely identified problems facing average Americans and offered ideas to solve them.
Sounds refreshing. There’s just one problem. When you pay attention to what he is saying, the speech doesn’t make any sense.
Take this passage:
Far from spreading opportunity, our government now gets in the way, each and every day. Another law, another tax, another fee, or another regulation – it all stands in the way of a new business, a new invention, a new job and most importantly, rising income for American families. The great stories that were told here today of successful dealerships – it’s harder today to do exactly what you all have done to achieve earned success.
In other words, government is making things so hard for business … that auto dealers are doing really well.
In fact NADA just announced that, “Light-vehicle sales for 2014 amounted to 16.4 million units up 5.8 percent from 2013 making 2014 the year with the highest sales since 2006.” Also, truck sales are up 17.5 percent from last year. And the NADA annual report from May summing up 2013 said “the annual financial profile of America’s franchised new-car dealerships—shows a robust and highly competitive industry that is helping boost the U.S. economy. Last year, for example, dealerships employed more than 1 million people in their communities.”
Now here’s Jeb talking about economic growth and taxation:
Our nation’s economy used to grow at 3.5 to 4 percent, that was the norm throughout all but the last 15 years … we had a stable and growing middle class … now, in spite of the last few months which have been good economic news, the new normal if you talk to the smart people that decide these things, the new normal is 1.5 to 2 percent growth. And the challenge with that is, if we’re to grow at that rate, kind of the European economic model, we’re not going to be able to build the kind of capacity for people to pursue their dreams as they see fit … No amount of exotic forms of taxation proposed by our president or the progressives in this country comes close to the kind of revenue that government would get if we were to grow at 3.5 or 4 percent a year.
Jeb tries to shrug off the “last few months” as some sort of meaningless fluke. But we’ve had back-to-back quarters of growth faster than what Jeb desires: 4.6 and 5 percent.
Furthermore, despite this being his first 2016 stump speech, Jeb seems to have not updated his numbers since the recent boomlet. “The smart people” at the Federal Reserve and the National Association of Business Economics foresee a solid year for growth in 2015 at around 3 percent.
And contrary to Jeb’s attack on progressives, all this growth is happening after President Obama installed the most progressive tax code in 35 years.
When talking about the history of growth, Jeb is forced to deride “the last 15 years” of subpar performance, encompassing his brother’s tenure without calling him out by name. But his brother’s record matters in this history. George W. Bush famously cut taxes, only to preside over the biggest economic recession since the Great Depression. Before that, President Clinton simultaneously experienced strong economic growth while raising taxes on the wealthy.
So why is Jeb using “fuzzy math” to pit progressive taxation against economic growth?
Jeb’s ideological blinders get stronger as he turns to how he would improve economic growth. His first prescription: “We need to reform our health care system … Obamacare is clearly a job killer.”
Huh? Let’s check the record: The Obama economy has created more than 10 million private sector jobs since of the recession in mid-2009 (Obamacare was signed into law March 2010). Compare that to the Bush economy, which lost 462,000 private sector jobs.
We proved that we can simultaneously regulate health care and create jobs. But we can’t fail to regulate Wall Street and still create jobs.
The final bizarre part of Jeb’s address was his recommendations for energy policy.
Talking as if we are still living in George W. Bush’s America, Jeb complains that we are too dependent on foreign oil: “$300 billion left our country to countries that either are unstable and could hate us if there was regime change, or already do hate us.” But once again contradicting himself, he acknowledges how energy independent we’ve become in recent years, following his critique by observing “the United States is fast becoming the largest producer of oil and gas in the world.”
In fact, on Obama’s watch we’ve slashed the amount of oil we import from those awful regimes, because of the oil and gas boom Jeb lauds and Obama’s environmental regulations Jeb ignores.
Jeb proceeds to praise the fracking-fueled rise in natural gas production, and when describing his energy policy recommendations, he insinuates federal regulators are acting in a hostile way to the industry: “Washington shouldn’t try to regulate hydraulic fracking out of business. It should be done reasonably and thoughtfully to protect the natural environment, but it shouldn’t be done with the intent of paralyzing it.”
Who in Washington is Jeb talking about trying to kill fracking? Not President Obama. Here’s what Obama said about fracking in the 2014 State of the Union address: “America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades. One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”
In turn, the EPA has done nothing to paralyze fracking – as Jeb himself mentioned, we’re number one!
Instead, the EPA is working on methane emission regulations so natural gas lives up to the promise of being a net benefit for the climate. This regulatory strategy has been chosen precisely to negate the push to ban fracking. Jeb’s argument is textbook straw man, undercut by his own admission of the oil and gas boom happening under Obama.
Jeb wants to be seen as the grown-up in the 2016 field, the one person big enough to resist pandering to fringe right-wing factions, the one person you can trust to govern in a serious manner. But his incoherent policy speech is not serious, however soberly it was delivered. He is honest enough to mention the good things that have happened in the last six years, but not brave enough to acknowledge how they happened and adjust his ideological assumptions in response. As a result, his stump speech is incoherent mush.
He may be relatively sane compared to Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee or Chris Christie. He may even be more competent than his brother. But we should have a high bar for who becomes president. This contradictory mess of a speech falls well short.