Friday, August 30, 2019

Oooh, Taking Trudeau to Task

The Tyee's Mitchell Anderson writes that prominent Liberals are pretty hypocritical in castigating Brazilian thug Bolsonaro over the fires raging in the Amazon. Oopsie!
This week, former Liberal cabinet ministers Allan Rock and Lloyd Axworthy wrote an op-ed calling for international intervention to save the Amazon rainforest, now in flames due largely to the reckless policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

The two both ask and answer their own question in the Globe and Mail piece. 
“Is it acceptable that a single government can unilaterally adopt environmental policies that put millions at risk?” they write. “It is urgent that the international community find ways to influence rogue states whose irresponsible policies accelerate global warming and undermine the collective effort to address the existential threat posed by climate change.” 
It’s a comfortably sanctimonious argument, especially from inside the glass house of Canadian climate policy.
...Canada was recently ranked last of the G7 economies in terms of meaningful climate action — tied with the U.S. under Donald Trump. Of all the G20 countries, Canadians produce the most greenhouse gases per capita. 
While the Justin Trudeau government touted its pledge of $15 million to fight Amazon wildfires on behalf of the planet, this represents only 0.5 per cent of the $3.3 billion in taxpayer subsidies that Canada shovels at the fossil fuel sector each year.

...Local Canadian governance is even more of a climate embarrassment. Ontario Premier Doug Ford just announced the province will appeal its legal loss challenging the constitutionality of federal carbon pricing to the Supreme Court of Canada. The government is well on the way to spending all of the $30 million earmarked for this effort. The provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are likewise entwined in the same expensive and useless political theatre, tying up scarce court resources in the process. 
And $30 million is also the price tag of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s so-called “war room” dedicated to hectoring the many critics of the oil sands and its massive climate footprint.
...Bitumen extraction now employs only 0.1 per cent of the Canadian workforce — fewer people than green energy — produces 11 per cent of national carbon emissions and some years results in less provincial revenue than booze and gambling. 
Canada remains on track to miss yet another international climate commitment. Under the Paris Agreement we pledged to cut emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Instead, they are likely to exceed that target by about 40 per cent.
...There always seems something more politically pressing than saving the planet — carbon tax theatre in Ontario, Ottawa-bashing in Alberta, outright racism in Quebec. Elsewhere in the world, Bolsonaro insults the attractiveness of the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron and demands an apology before accepting international aid to fight Amazonian fires originating from his policies. Trump claims that windmills cause cancer.

...Politics continues to utterly fail in meeting the existential threat of a destabilized climate. Our exploding human agency leaves us philosophically unprepared for the present, let alone the future.
For all the Liberal party posturing on the eve of a federal election, Canada remains one of the worst global climate offenders. Blaming others in an effort to distract voters from your own inaction is the opposite of leadership.

A Little Progressive Inspiration for the Labour Day Weekend


Roosevelt's doctors concluded it would be too dangerous to remove the bullet and so Roosevelt carried it for the rest of his life. If you're interested, you can find more information here.

Kim Campbell Rooting for Dorian to Take Out Mar-a-Lardo

Former prime minister Kim Campbell has stirred up a controversy by tweeting that she's rooting for Hurricane Dorian to take out Trump's resort, Mar-a-Lago.

I suppose that's beneath the decorum expected of a Canadian prime minister but, goodgawdamn, I was saying the very same thing just yesterday as I scoured the internet for maps of Florida and the latest track of the hurricane that largely spared the usual Caribbean victims.

Dorian has derailed Trump's Thug Life pilgrimage to Viktor Orban's Poland while he waits anxiously to learn if Dorian will trash Mar-a-Lardo or his Doral golf resort.

Campbell doesn't think much of the Mango Mussolini. In a tweet from January, she called Trump a "motherf**ker".

Are We Willing to Lose This Without Even Putting Up a Fight?

How do you not show up to fight against an existential threat?  It's existential. It imperils your very existence.

Jason Kenney's Canada, Scott Moe's Canada, Doug Ford's Canada as well as Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau's Canada is a nation that has little stomach for fighting a clear threat to our continued existence. They're what you could call the Business As Usual club, or BAU.

Most of them talk a good game but they're just blowing smoke up your arse. The glaciers are disappearing, ice caps are melting, sea ice is vanishing, sea levels are rising, we have heatwaves inside the Arctic Circle in the dark of the polar winter, the tundra is thawed and dried and burning, the permafrost is exposed to release its once safely sequestered bounty of methane and CO2, man and nature now compete to see which can set fire to the most woodland, crops fail from heavy flooding in one region and flash droughts in other areas. To feed our nearly 8 billion strong brood we're farming our stocks of arable land to exhaustion and contaminating our lakes and rivers with blue-green algae caused by the runoff of agricultural chemicals. Our dwindling stocks of wilderness are being consumed and we are denying other creatures the habitat without which their numbers plummet by more than half. Species are going extinct at rates unknown in the history of our civilization.  Where they can find a clear path, plants and animals are migrating poleward. We rarely talk about it but our leaders, civilian and military, are bracing for mass human migration from homelands that are becoming uninhabitable by people seeking nothing more than survival.

Yet we're in a pissing contest over a $30/tonne carbon tax. While we're at it our purported leaders are vying to persuade us that they alone can ramp up Canadian production of the highest-carbon, lowest value, climate wrecking ersatz petroleum there is. Let that sink in for a minute.

Some are questioning whether we've already left it too late, already ordained the collapse of our ecosystem, our biosphere.

Cristiana Paşca Palmer, the executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, said the destruction of the world’s biggest rainforest was a grim reminder that a fresh approach was needed to stabilise the climate and prevent ecosystems from declining to a point of no return, with dire consequences for humanity. 
“The Amazon fires make the point that we face a very serious crisis,” she told the Guardian. “But it is not just the Amazon. We’re also concerned with what’s happening in other forests and ecosystems, and with the broader and rapid degradation of nature. The risk is we are moving towards the tipping points that scientists talk about that could produce cascading collapses of natural systems.” 
The world’s environmental crises are an increasing concern in international politics. Deforestation of the Amazon was high on the agenda of this week’s G7 meeting in Biarritz, France. In September, world leaders will gather in New York for a climate action summit. Next year, they are scheduled to get together again for a nature summit before a UN biodiversity conference in Kunming, China, in October.
Conferences, they're good. There was a summit in 2015 at which the community of nations pledged to do whatever it took to limit climate change not to 2 degrees Celsius but to just 1.5 C. A freshly minted prime minister proclaimed that "Canada's back" but, since then has been mainly backsliding. Mr. Trudeau has been falling further and further behind even meeting Stephen Harper's emissions goals. But what about that 2015 stuff and the 'Canada's back' business? Oh, I see, that was just more horse shit.

Some are already throwing in the towel. The Guardian has a video of Alan Cookson who has spent four years leading volunteer beach cleaning efforts on the Welsh coast. He's quitting, finding the plastics onslaught insurmountable. He says it's like "mopping up a flood."

Yesterday I wound up watching a couple of travel videos from Deutsche Welle. They focused on Southeast Asian destinations, including once pristine Thai resorts. It was disheartening to watch huge hordes of European tourists quite happily swimming amidst a sea of plastics, beaches covered in the stuff. People still pay big dollars for the privilege. I had to ask myself what have we become? Is this 'terminal-stage humanity'?

Homo Sapiens have a terrible, potentially lethal flaw. It has various labels. Some have called it 'landscape amnesia' but I prefer 'creeping normalcy.'  We get used to 'what is today.' It becomes our new normal. The past is forgotten, extinguished, no longer relevant. Why not swim in a mess of plastic when that's normal?  Why not, through weight of numbers alone, thoroughly, perhaps permanently, trash once pristine ecosystems when that's normal?

Do you think that pigs stuffed into those industrial barns find that little metal cage anything but normal?  That is the pig's normal until something else comes along, usually something worse and often involving knives.  We may be more intelligent, more sentient than the pig but, damn, if we don't behave a lot like them.  And we may be heading for a similarly abbreviated fate because that's what Business As Usual has in store for us.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

"This Is Our Country, Not Theirs"

A Freudian slip? Probably more like a white nationalist dog whistle.

The Trump campaign issued a communique to the Trump faithful attacking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Democrats who advocate abolishing the Electoral College.

The final remark, underlined, "This is our country, not theirs."

I expect that will become the unofficial motto for next year's Republican campaign. America is white. It is not for the others, especially the brown people and the black people.  Full-bore fascism, bloody fang and claw.

US Cities Most at Risk from Climate Change Are the Least Prepared

If you're from Newark or Los Angeles, Miami or New Orleans, when it comes to climate change it sucks to be you.

A real estate web site,, crunched the numbers from the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative to rank American cities according to their climate change risks and preparedness. It sounds counterintuitive but they found where the risks are greatest the preparedness is poorest.
When examining the 20 cities Clever spotlighted by income, those with higher rates of poverty rank lowest in readiness and highest for risks. The top five low-readiness/high-risk cities have large black and Latino populations, while the five cities at the top of the rankings for climate readiness that rank lower on risk have larger white populations.
When looking at the poverty rates of the largest 100 cities, the pattern still follows: The poorer the city, the higher its vulnerability to climate change, and the lower its preparedness for those impacts.
...Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption should help reduce future climate change impacts, and those efforts are necessary. But places like Newark, New York City, and many cities across the South are experiencing climate change right now. It’s great that Seattle and Austin are getting their acts together, but the poorer, less-white cities are where the needs are greatest.

While All Eyes Are On the Amazon...

Yes it's a terrible thing. Yes the deliberately set fires ravaging the Amazon rain forest may have dire impacts on climate change, what are called 'knock-on effects.' Yes we should be worried.

Only let's focus on the bigger picture, a world on fire.

The satellite photo above isn't the Amazon. It's last year's fires, also deliberately set, to clear the jungles of Indonesia to make way for plantations to produce palm oil for world markets. At one point the country was ablaze from one end to the other, the smoke being carried north to blanket much of east Asia. And many of those fires are still burning. Here's a crew tending a palm oil plantation fire last month:

An article in The New York Times reports that wildfires are now also sweeping through Africa. From Africa to South America, Europe to North America from the Mexican border into the high Arctic, fire.
While the Brazilian fires have grown into a full-blown international crisis, they represent only one of many significant areas where wildfires are currently burning around the world. Their increase in severity and spread to places where fires were rarely previously seen is raising fears that climate change is exacerbating the danger. 
Hotter, drier temperatures “are going to continue promoting the potential for fire,” said John Abatzoglou, an associate professor in the department of geography at the University of Idaho, describing the risk of “large, uncontainable fires globally” if warming trends continue. 
This year has so far seen a dramatic increase in wildfires in some arctic regions that traditionally rarely burned.
Since July, fire has charred about six million acres of Siberian forest, an area roughly the size of the state of Vermont. In Alaska, fires have consumed more than 2.5 million acres of tundra and snow forest, leading researchers to suggest that the combination of climate change and wildfires could permanently alter the region’s forests.

Those forests were once considered massive "carbon sinks." They held and safely sequestered enormous quantities of CO2 drawn from the air. Now they've transformed into "carbon bombs."
Some researchers warn that as fires strike places where they were previously rare, it threatens to contribute to a feedback loop in which wildfires potentially accelerate climate change by adding significant amounts of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere.
...One reason that arctic wildfires are particularly concerning is that in addition to trees and grassland burning, peat also burns, a dirt-like material in the ground itself that releases much more carbon dioxide when it burns than do trees per acre of fire. In the past, peat fires in northern climates were rare because of moisture that is now disappearing as the region becomes warmer and drier.
Gee, the Liberals are right. We are in the clutches of a genuine "climate emergency." The 'saying' is one thing but the 'doing' is another altogether. When it comes to action, the Libs are all hat and no cattle.  A piddling carbon tax makes a farce of their bold emergency declaration. But I digress.

Southeast Asia is eager to get in on the palm oil bounty and, you guessed it, they're also turning into pyros.

A similar pattern is playing out in Southeast Asia, where 71 percent of peat forests have been lost across Sumatra, Borneo and peninsular Malaysia between 1990 and 2015. In many cases the forests were replaced by farms that produce palm oil, which is used in everything from cookies to cologne and is one of the most important crops in the region. 
In 2015, the smog and haze from the peatland fires was so severe that it may have led to the premature death of 100,000 people, according to a study released the following year.
You could be forgiven for asking yourself if these recurrent and global patterns are consistent with a civilization focused on bolstering its prospects for survival.

This Is Gonna Hurt

It's said that some people see a half-glass of wine as half-empty. Others will see the glass half-full.

I see walls. Screw the damned glass.

The wine glass business is a reference to Andrew Nikiforuk's latest article in The Tyee where he contrasts two schools of thought - the BAU, the Business as Usual camp, and the GND, the Green New Deal camp, both of whom he argues, convincingly, are full of crap.  What they have in common, and it's very dangerous, is that they both approach climate change as a standalone problem, something that can be fixed, will be fixed. That's where they're both full of crap.

Most of our governments that claim to care likewise approach climate change as a standalone threat and those that do, including our own, are likewise full of crap. They will pour a little money and a little effort into averting catastrophic climate change only they'll fail. They will fail because it isn't a standalone threat. It is an existential peril, to be sure, but just one. There are others and they're all intertwined.

I don't care how strenuous your efforts are to put out the kitchen fire if the rest of the house is already ablaze. You're fighting a losing battle.

A dozen years ago when I started this blog I would recite a catalogue of natural and man-made challenges that confronted mankind, everything from global warming to the freshwater crisis and disease migration to terrorism and nuclear proliferation. It was quite an array.  I asked readers to help me make sense of these things, what were we looking at?

It took a while but eventually I noticed that there were a few common threads that ran through these perils.  Pollution was one. That included greenhouse gas emissions that were driving atmospheric loading into the lethal zone. Overpopulation was another. Finite planet, infinite numbers of humans, end of humanity. A third was our rapacious over-consumption of the planet's resources. It wasn't just that we were overburdening Earth's capacity for replenishing the very resources all life depends upon. The worst part was that our global civilization, especially the developed world, was mortally dependent on consuming about twice the available resources into perpetuity.

We were stuck on auto-pilot. 18th century economics, 19th century industrialism, 20th century geo-politics, all of which began to lose their utility four or five decades ago which tragically coincided with the rise of neoliberalism.

How much difference do you think a carbon tax will make to the staggering loss of biodiversity? What about our critical exhaustion of our stocks of arable soils, our farmland? Walls, walls and walls and we have no response to any of them except a hapless effort on global warming, a miniscule carbon tax.

What Is It With Scumbags and Proroguing Parliaments?

Who can forget how Stephen Harper, aided and abetted by a dim and spineless Governor General, pulled his fat out of the fire by proroguing Parliament as the 2007/2008 Great Recession rolled over the world. Canada was beset by another hapless Liberal leader those days, one Michael Ignatieff, who decided he had nothing better to do over the weeks of that suspension and the ensuing Christmas holiday than to finish off a book about his maternal line, the Grants. You read it? Didn't think so.

Across the pond the Brits have a similar constitutional thug, Boris Johnson. What's his excuse, his crisis? Brexit and a halloween deadline. Harper didn't want Parliament getting up to no good while he wrestled with an economic disaster he somehow didn't see coming.  Johnson likewise has Westminster under house arrest while he tries to browbeat the European Union into submission.

The Euros do not seem to be impressed. 
The European parliament’s coordinator on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt, said the move was unlikely to deliver a stable future relationship. “‘Taking back control’ has never looked so sinister,” he wrote. “As a fellow parliamentarian, my solidarity with those fighting for their voices to be heard. Suppressing debate on profound choices is unlikely to help deliver a stable future EU-UK relationship.”
Unlike that Liberal leader's farcical performance there are signs that Johnson's opposition MPs, including a few Tories, won't waste the next five weeks but may return prepared to put the Conservative government down.

So what is Johnson's game? The director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, Tom Kibasi, writes that Boris is getting prepared to call out Britain's own deplorables:
This is a government that intends to realign Britain to the US and is set to govern just like US Republicans – cut taxes first, then maintain spending to blow up the deficit before using that to justify far deeper spending cuts.

So why would the public believe what Johnson says? The real secret of populists, from Donald Trump to Matteo Salvini to Johnson, is the conflation of transgression with truthfulness. The willingness to engage in bigotry and violate hard-won social norms against racist, homophobic or misogynistic language convinces people that these politicians “speak their mind” and “say what they think”. Paradoxically, their lack of virtue confirms their veracity. 
Their bigotry is the result of calculation rather than miscalculation – and the predictable howls of outrage from critics only serves to amplify the message. The upcoming election will turn on whether Johnson is found out for what he is: Trump with a thesaurus, whose real agenda of a Brexit for the elite is disguised behind the thin veneer of a few spending announcements that come after a desperate decade of the degradation of Britain at home and abroad.
Thug Life

Mad Dog Nips at His Master's Heels

He didn't last very long but, while he did, former defense secretary, Marine general James Mattis, was considered to be the sane, calm voice inside the Trump administration. Now Mattis has penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal critical of Trump's 'wrecking ball' divisiveness, domestically and among America's vital allies.

An oft-spoken admonition in the Marines is this: When you’re going to a gunfight, bring all your friends with guns. Having fought many times in coalitions, I believe that we need every ally we can bring to the fight. From imaginative military solutions to their country’s vote in the U.N., the more allies the better. I have never been on a crowded battlefield, and there is always room for those who want to be there alongside us.
Nations with allies thrive, and those without them wither. Alone, America cannot protect our people and our economy. At this time, we can see storm clouds gathering. A polemicist’s role is not sufficient for a leader. A leader must display strategic acumen that incorporates respect for those nations that have stood with us when trouble loomed. Returning to a strategic stance that includes the interests of as many nations as we can make common cause with, we can better deal with this imperfect world we occupy together. Absent this, we will occupy an increasingly lonely position, one that puts us at increasing risk in the world. 
...Unlike in the past, where we were unified and drew in allies, currently our own commons seems to be breaking apart. What concerns me most as a military man is not our external adversaries; it is our internal divisiveness. We are dividing into hostile tribes cheering against each other, fueled by emotion and a mutual disdain that jeopardizes our future, instead of rediscovering our common ground and finding solutions. 
All Americans need to recognize that our democracy is an experiment—and one that can be reversed. We all know that we’re better than our current politics. Tribalism must not be allowed to destroy our experiment. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Another Great Reason Not to Vote Liberal

Justin Trudeau's unforgivable sin was when he broke his promise on electoral reform. That, and a decade of Stephen Harper, is what gifted him his false majority. Like Harper before him, Trudeau rode into power on an undemocratic vote, garnering the support of fewer than two out of five voters. He came to power without the informed consent of slightly more than three out of five electors.

But wait, there's still hope. Both the Greens and the NDP intend to campaign on electoral reform.
“In an era where so-called populists like Donald Trump or Doug Ford can get to power, it’s incredibly important that we ensure that no one can get power in Canada with less than the majority of the popular vote yet have 100 per cent of the power,” said May. “We must prevent that from ever happening by getting rid of first-past-the-post now, because it is the only election system, other than preferential voting, that allows that kind of distortion to happen when a party with a minority public support can gain a false majority.”
Our last, best hope may be to reduce the Liberals to a bare minority and force them to do what they promised or else fall. It's worth the risk.

"Clinging to Fantasies"

Years ago when I stumbled across the Dark Mountain collective I was drawn to how it was a place for 'people tired of the lies society tells itself.'

Now with the fires beginning to singe our feet, the Tyee's Andrew Nikiforuk writes that we're doubling down on those lies.
Global elites are now offering ordinary people two salvation stories for our digital entertainment. 
Both delusional stories are being served on the Internet with bags of virtual popcorn. 
One is the so-called Green New Deal, and the other is Business As Usual, which comes in both liberal and autocratic formats.
Business as Usual - BAU
The BAU refrain is simple: trust the status quo and its armies of technocrats, because they’ll make things great again. 
The BAU crowd maintains that nothing is really wrong with our failing global economic Ponzi schemes or the broken air conditioning unit that controls the climate. 
According to the BAU crowd, there is only one route to greatness: we must deregulate and reduce taxes for the rich in order to promote growth and jobs. 
The BAU program also encourages citizens to attack its critics, climate migrants, scientists or anybody else who questions the insanity of its approach.
The Green New Deal - GND
Proponents of the GND claim they have a plan to transform the globe’s massive fossil fuel infrastructure into 100-per-cent renewables over the next decade. 
In just 10 years, they say, we can pivot (a favourite word for elites these days) to a greener and saner world than the one based on a century of fossil fuel reliance. 
The GND movement says it will drive carbon emissions down toward zero with the goal of thwarting rising seas, maverick storms, heat waves and ocean acidification. 
In the process, the GND aims to employ lots of people, end poverty, and perhaps racism too.
...If we divide the days of the year up based on total energy use, he writes, fossil fuels — oil, coal and natural gas — powered the globe for 321 days in 2018. (Fossil fuels provide more than 80 cent of the energy we consume.) 
Dams and nuclear power kept the lights on for 15 days. 
Renewables or repeatables (solar panels and wind turbines need to be replaced every 50 years or so) only energized the globe for about 29 days. And most of that energy came from biomass or wood burning. 
The GND wants to turn 29 days into 321 days of primary power — in a decade.
I'm pleased that Nikiforuk concurs with what I've been writing for many years. Climate change is not a stand-alone threat. It's not the disease. It is just a symptom of a far more lethal contagion that also incorporates other deadly symptoms - overpopulation, over-consumption and more. You can't fix any of them unless you fix them all.
BAU pretends that expensive fossil fuels like fracked oil or bitumen can replace cheap conventional stuff with no global economic contraction. They can’t. 
GND pretends that renewables can provide the same quality of energy as fossil fuels with no global upheaval. They can’t. 
Both ignore the limits imposed when 7.7 billion human beings are consuming the planet, and the dire consequences for biodiversity. Any way you look at it, overpopulation is part of the problem. But not in the BAU and GND worldviews. 
These two battling narratives also fail to take into account the fragility of the global financial system. It is now sustained by low — or negative — interest rates and a fossil fuel industry sustained by cheap credit.
Nikiforuk cites a University of Minnesota prof, Nate Hagens' theory of the great amoeba.
He says the world is in the grip of energy-consuming amoeba, or what some critics used to call the technological-industrial complex. 
The omnivorous blob, a sort of “unthinking, mindless, energy-hungry superorganism,” is autonomous. We are no longer in charge or driving this crazy bus. It has swallowed us. 
Every fossil fuel user belongs to the amoeba, just as a starling and its neighbours belong to a murmuration
Because almost every good and service (and solar panel) starts with a fossil fuel fire, the amoeba can’t really think of a world where power is not consumed vigorously and mindlessly. 
And without fossil fuels, the amoeba would shrink and die. 
Almost every so-called environmental problem, from deforestation to nitrogen imbalances to vanishing fisheries, is largely a product of the metabolism of the energy-consuming amoeba. 
Hagens thinks the world needs a non-partisan conversation about this reality, and about how to prepare for a 30-per-cent drop in energy consumption. 
He says civilization has three options: it can muddle on, bend or break.
BAU or GND, take your pick. Either way, we lose.
The BAU crowd thinks we can grow the amoeba, and all will be great again. 
The GND thinks we can green the amoeba and right all that is wrong. 
Listening to these two camps trying to clobber each other while denying reality brings to mind a delightful line from an equally absurd scene in the film Dr. Strangelove.
“Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here! This is the war room!” 
We’ve begun to experience collapse in all spheres of life. Collapse can be both slow and rapid. It is a series of unending emergencies. 
Instead of responding or preparing, we’re cheering on a fight between fantasies.
I have long argued that our best, perhaps only way out of this is to treat Earth, our one and only biosphere, as the sine qua non of our survival. We either choose to live in harmony with nature or we will impair nature in ways that extinguish ourselves.

The Earth has a natural and finite carrying capacity. It can only take so much. Mankind went beyond the environment's limits sometime in the early 1970s and we have relentlessly taken increasingly more ever since. We've grown in numbers, we've grown in appetites, we think nothing of demanding ever more, tying the anchor of perpetual exponential growth tightly around our own necks.

This is the only planet we have. Just this one. Yet we consume resources at a rate that would require 1.75 planet Earths to support.

We don't have options. There are no easy fixes. Either we go into what Lovelock called 'sustainable retreat' or we die off by our own hand. We have to depopulate this planet. The Earth, back in the 70s was able to support about 3 billion humans. Since then we've grown more populous, individually larger, longer lived, and far more voracious. The last analysis I saw concluded that the planet can now carry only about 2 billion humans.  We're closing in on 8 billion. Do the math.

Are you prepared to slash you consumption, your standard of living by a third, maybe half? I hope so because I know you're not prepared for Option B.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Okay, Junior, So What's the Plan?

It's been widely reported that the massive fires currently sweeping the Amazon rainforest will be the hot topic at this year's G7 summit. It seems that the fires have some world leaders literally soiling their dainties. Why?

We see a lot of fires these days. The less fortunate among us can spend weeks, months drawing that fine particulate matter into our lungs. Wildfires can now extend from the Rio Grande into the high Arctic, well inside the Arctic Circle.

So what has the G7 boys quaking in their boots over the Amazon?  An item that appeared on the NBC News web site yesterday explains that the fires sweeping the rainforest aren't just Amazonia's problem. They're not just South America's problem. They're a threat to all of us.
"The effects of forest destruction in the Amazon don't stay in the Amazon. They affect us all," said Robin Chazdon, professor emerita at the University of Connecticut who has studied tropical forest ecology.

"There are large negative consequences for climate change globally, as the fires contribute to carbon emissions," she added. If the rainforests are "not allowed to regenerate or be reforested, they will not be able to recover their high potential for carbon storage." 
The vast swaths of rainforest play an important role in the world's ecosystem because they absorb heat instead of it being reflected back into the atmosphere. They also store carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, ensuring that less carbon is released, mitigating the effects of climate change, scientists say. 
...Roel Brienen, a professor at the University of Leeds in England who has studied the Amazon basin for more than 15 years, said the current level of deforestation is worrying for what it means to the loss of biodiversity and the release of more carbon into the atmosphere. 
"If we kill enough forest, we may be tipping the Amazon into a new, much drier state, and it may turn into a savanna," Brienen said in an email. "This would be a great loss to our planet and almost means game over for our battle against climate change."
Whoa, wait, what - did you get that? 'Game over for our battle against climate change,' WTF? In fairness, the climate science types have been warning us for years that we're in the grip of a process that's not linear, not safely predictable. The global climate is not as robust as we like to imagine. We're on very thin ice and a long way from the safety of shore.

What happens in the Amazon doesn't stay in the Amazon. Sufficient damage to the rainforest could leave parts of America's breadbasket states without enough rainfall even as the farmers of that region deplete the once mighty Ogalalla aquifer. Food insecurity, we'll be talking a lot about that over the next decade.

It's one thing when you've got an angry wasp after you. It's another thing altogether when the entire nest wants you dead. We have taken the single-wasp approach when considering climate change. Impact by impact, severe weather event by severe weather event. Penny packets.  By getting our nose up close enough to one tree we don't have to see the entire forest. That's the way our political leadership seem to like it.

We're just a couple of months away from the general election and you would think the recently proclaimed 'climate emergency' would be on every politician's lips, the top priority. As if.

Mulroney's successor, Canada's short-lived and first female prime minister, Kim Campbell, dropped a clanger when, in 1993, she said 'an election is no time to discuss serious issues.' She got punished pretty severely for that and other election gaffes, her party reduced to just two seats, neither of those her own.

Ms. Campbell shouldn't have been punished. She was only saying what her contemporaries understood. Election campaigns are for telling whoppers, feeding the voting public a diet rich in horse shit before returning them to the stables of irrelevance for another four years. Justin Trudeau lied his ass off in 2015 and, so eager were we to see Harper sent packing, that we went along with it or, at least, almost two out of five electors, enough to cement a strong majority, went along with it.

We'll have to live for another four years with whatever wounds we inflict on ourselves, each other and the nation this October.

With climate change impacts rolling in from all directions, four years is now a critical chunk of time, time that's running out.  What is done or neglected to be done over four years can now turn catastrophic, irreparable.

Ignatieff made an ass out of himself when he proclaimed the Athabasca Tar Pits the 'beating heart of the Canadian economy for the 21st century.' His successor won't say that but he sure subscribes to the notion. His new and improved Trans-Mountain pipeline is Canada's ticket to a high-carbon future.

Now you might find Trudeau's high-carbon energy policy incongruous with his vow to avert catastrophic climate change. It's not. He knows he can't have both but that doesn't matter. For the Liberals, like the Conservatives, only one of those goals is real, credible. The other one is a sop, fodder for the nitwits going to the polls this October. Which is which? What do you think? Ever get the sense that someone is blowing smoke up your ass?

Okay, we're in a state of climate emergency. The atmosphere is befouled, forests from the equator to the reaches of the polar Arctic are afire, heatwaves sweep our cities, the oceans continue to acidify and sea levels inexorably rise threatening our coastal cities. We've got this synergy going where one impact amplifies the others. The perils are not linear. They're coming in chunks now and they're coming on faster with each passing year. We can see it. We can feel it. We can smell it. We can draw it deep into our lungs. The only thing we can't do is have a grown up talk about it.

An election is no time to discuss serious issues.

These are not things for discussion in petro-states such as our own. Sort of like how the tobacco industry discouraged loose talk about the perils of a three-pack-a-day smoking habit.

It wasn't just Big Oil that adopted the RJ Reynolds disinformation model and applied it to the climate change debate. Our politicians did much the same and they are targeting the same people that Big Tobacco and Big Oil targeted - us. And, if they'll do that to us, how much do you imagine they really care about your young grandkids?

No, with time running out and the future so precarious, this election is time for some straight talk on serious issues. It may be our last chance to have a meaningful discussion on this national emergency, our final chance to make our will felt.

Where do the Tories see the world and Canada in ten years, twenty years? What do they foresee climate change to have done by then? How do they perceive the country's needs in terms of adaptation. What do they consider Canada's obligations in terms of mitigation, slashing greenhouse gas emissions? How do they square those things with their high-carbon energy policies?

How do the Liberals answer each of those questions? No more bullshit. This time let's have a grownup discussion with all the cards on the table.

The status quo is no longer an acceptable plan. When you proclaim a state of emergency to exist, the status quo is, by definition, no longer acceptable. You have to respond, things have to change, interests have to conform to the acknowledged perils.

We got hoodwinked last time with platitudes about 'Real Change Now' and promises about electoral reform, social licence, First Nations reconciliation, tankers and pipelines. An elaborate tissue of lies.

It's not enough to ask for our votes because you're less odious than that other jerk. You're both still jerks and the moment we're caught up in is a terrible time for electing jerks.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Amazon is Never Far From It's Tipping Point

One fact distinguishes the Amazon from other forests. It's also the Amazon's Achilles Heel.

While other forests hold a good deal of their biomass in the soils, almost all of the Amazonian biomass is in the trees and plants. The soil is all but barren, leached out by millennia of torrential rains.
Nowhere else in the world is the number of animal and plant species as high as in the Amazon rainforest. Not even the rainforests in Asia or Africa can compare. The Amazon region has more species per square kilometer than in the whole of Europe.

Beyond that, there are tens of thousands of plant species, including countless medicinal plants, over 2.5 million insect species, 1,300 kinds of birds, 430 mammals, over 3,000 fish species, hundreds of different amphibians and reptiles. Numerous species are discovered every year, and many have yet to even be been seen by us humans. 
These rainforests are a gigantic accumulation of biomass. Their plants grow on several levels, like floors in a building. There are tree giants that grow to a height of 60 to 80 meters. Then, there is the middle tree level. Below, it is very dark and humid, because the crowns of the trees are so close together that they act as a green blanket. 
In this rainforest "universe," there are infinite niches for animals — thanks to an abundance of food, like leaves, seeds, fruits and nutrients. Everything is in the plants. As is the CO2 the trees extract from the atmosphere and store as they grow. All the while, they produce oxygen. 
The amazing thing is that the soil is as poor in nutrients as the vegetation is rich. The humus layer, which is that dark, organic stuff in the soil that develops when plants or animal matter break down, is minimal nearly everywhere. The soil in the Amazon rainforest is the poorest and most infertile in the world. If one cuts down the forest, it is irretrievably lost. The humus layer is quickly washed out. Three years after clearing the forest (at the latest, nothing will grow there. What remains is washed out, worthless soil.
This accounts for why the Amazon is populated by small tribes each village a considerable distance from the next. Agriculture is impossible leaving the villagers dependent on hunting and gathering, each tribe in its own territory. It's why they have not formed a culture, a civilization.

However, researchers have found evidence that, some 2,500 years ago, there did exist a civilization in the rainforest.  The evidence is in the form of carbon, biochar, that was tilled into the soil to a depth of several feet by some unknown people who once lived in that area.

More than two thousand years later these soils remain rich, fertile and black. The researchers have named the area "Terra Preta" or black soil.

The lesson from this is one that can serve the entire world. We are facing a food security disaster due to the degradation of our farmland. Through reckless application of agri-chemicals (fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides) and exhaustive farming we've depleted the essential carbon from the soil in some places, such as China or India, to the point of desertification. We're cutting our own throats.

It has been argued that the Amazon is reaching a tipping point beyond which it will not be able to recover, gone, in practical terms, forever. It may be too late for the Amazon but it's not too late for Europe or the United States or Canada. It's really a matter of finding the political will to act but, given our pathetic response to climate change, it's hard to imagine we'll ever find that essential will.

He Must Be Somebody's Useful Idiot, But Whose?

It's been a little unnerving this week watching Donald Trump's descent into lunacy.

If you're having trouble keeping up with the Madness of Donald, Vox has a handy summary but it only covers Monday to Wednesday. There's a lot you have to add onto that to make it a week. Today, for example, the Orange Bloat branded the chairman of the Federal Reserve an 'enemy' for complaining that Trump's erratic trade wars were making the bank's job chaotic. Right after that Trump 'hereby ordered' American corporations to abandon China and come home.

There are websites now, such as 'What the Fuck Just Happened Today' that keep a daily log of this lunatic's ramblings.

Yesterday, for example, senior Republicans had to intervene to derail Trump's plan to cut $4 billion in foreign aid. Trump then mused about issuing an executive order to end 'birthright citizenship,' something that is enshrined in the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Trump appeared before a veterans' group, telling the audience that he wanted to award himself the Medal of Honor only his aides said he couldn't. A guy can always dream, I suppose.

Trump is plainly showing signs of steadily worsening mental deterioration. It's no longer just a matter of endless, self-serving and grandiose lies. Yet there's no sign of anyone around him considering removing Trump from office as provided for under the 25th Amendment. Why not?

Could it be that Trump is someone's useful idiot?

The law books are full of cases of the unscrupulous taking advantage of the mentally impaired, especially if they're wealthy or powerful.

Cui bono? Who stands to gain from Trump's mental infirmities?  Take a few minutes. Ask yourself who benefits from keeping Trump inside the Oval Office. You'll need a pen and paper, trust me.

There are the obvious names - Putin, Netanyahu, Kim Jong Un and the broader Thug Club.  There are people who benefit enormously from an erratic, enfeebled White House. There are others who reap more tangible gains such as America's richest of the rich, the oligarchs, corporations liberated from unwanted regulations. There is the radical right that now have their own, especially John Bolton, in senior cabinet posts. There are the white supremacists, the neo-nazis, the gun nutz - they love Trump. He may be a mental basket case but he has a lot of fans who want need him to remain in office.

For some, Trump is tax cuts the nation cannot afford. For others, Trump is a blank cheque for utterly reckless military spending. The Christian Right love the guy no matter that there's not a Christian instinct in their president - they want, he delivers.

For some, Trump is a wrecking ball seemingly eager to tear down the very alliances that were instrumental to America's rise to power and global security.

Mad or not (just kidding, he's mad), Trump is a very useful idiot to a great many people and institutions that have much to gain from every wound he inflicts on the United States and the American people.

Here's something else to keep in mind. Those with so much to gain from their useful idiot are probably even more unnerved by Trump's mental deterioration. Some may want to consolidate their gains. Others might want to cut their losses and withdraw. Still others might be tempted to make bold plays while America remains confused and weak.

That's creepy.

Obviously, That's the Cure, But We're Not Having It.

A 'global climate strategy.' That's what we need. Four words - don't hold your breath.

The Guardian's Larry Elliott is spot on when he contends that our 'green' gestures are all well and good but our only hope is for our leaders to forge a global climate strategy.

There's nothing new in this claim, no novel wisdom. We've known it all along. We have to act as a global community, all pursuing just one goal - survival. People of the world, unite!

It sounds good, in theory. Only it's a non-starter in practice. If you can't get Justin Trudeau to shut down the tar pits of Athabasca, it isn't going to happen. If you can't get China and India to tear down all their coal-fueled power plants, ditto.

As Hans Joachim Schellnhuber warned at the 2015 Paris climate summit, averting catastrophic climate change is entirely dependent on an 'induced implosion' of the fossil fuel industry.  Any sign of that on the horizon? No, that's not happening. To the contrary we're encouraging the carbon energy giants to expand. We're lavishing subsidies, direct and indirect, on them. We're even building pipelines for them. Does that sound like the foundation for a 'global climate strategy'?

Here's the thing. There is no uniform human experience to climate change. Poor countries and rich countries will experience this very differently. There's a good chance it's already too late for many, perhaps most, of those little brown people from the poorest and most vulnerable lands.

Those in 'steerage' class will feel the lash of climate change sooner than we of the upper decks. Some research suggests they'll be the guinea pigs for 'climate departure' that, sometime in the next decade, will send them reeling.

Camilo Mora leads a team of climate scientists at the University of Hawaii. In 2013 they released a paper predicting a new phenomenon, "climate departure," would set in starting in the early 2020s and spreading, region by region, to most of the populated parts of the world by 2047.

Climate departure isn't about conditions getting hotter. It is about the absence of cold years. It is a new climate in which every year after departure will be hotter than the hottest year before the shift. No more cold years only steadily hot, extremely hot years. Mora phrased it rather eloquently: "The coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past." 
Climate departure will be experienced differently in different regions. The cooler your existing climate the easier it will be to endure. However if you're from a warm/hot climate, it promises to be hellish. Climate departure may devastate agriculture, make working in fields difficult even dangerous, and claim the lives of those that typically succumb in heat waves - the very young and the elderly. 
Among the places identified as the first to experience climate departure are the Caribbean and Central America. That could be upon them in less than five years. What climate change is already inflicting on Central America is well chronicled. Crop failures have triggered famine. Nicaragua is the most recent country to urge its people to find sustenance from the local critters, iguana. Unfortunately it's a stop-gap measure at best. Honduras promoted the iguana diet four or five years earlier. The locals have grown so fond of iguana and especially iguana eggs that the creatures are nearing extinction levels. 
So if this is the plight of today's Central America, what will happen when climate departure hits? I suppose it's safe to say "nothing good."
Now, if I had mistakenly had a truckload of manure dumped on my neighbour's lawn, it would only be right that I come over with my wheelbarrow and shovel and help clean up the mess. If, as nations, we were as morally upright, we might help these casualties of our very own industrialism. Only our own energy policy demonstrates there's nothing morally upright with us. Just the opposite. There'll be no 'global climate strategy' for us.

There's a Cannon Loose on the Gun Deck

Donald Trump's descent into madness took another dive today when the Mango Mussolini first tried to chew the head off the chairman of the Federal Reserve before 'hereby ordering' US companies to leave China.
Donald Trump ordered US companies to leave China on Friday after launching another blistering attack on Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, asking “who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or [China’s] Chairman Xi?” 
Moments after Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, warned the US central bank was facing a “new challenge” as it deals with the Trump administration’s seesaw trade policies and ongoing dispute with China, Trump went on a Twitter rampage calling for a US boycott.

One Down...

Yes, I know how callous that sounds given that, I suppose, David Koch couldn't have been all bad. He must have done something good beyond greasing the path for America's descent into oligarchy. However, one half of the legendary 'Koch Brothers' is no more.

Oh yeah, he donated $100 million USD to fund cancer research, which is what got him in the end, prostate cancer. Still they kept Dave going for 20 years which is a lot more than the plebs tend to get.

In 2010 Grist called him a 'billionaire polluter' who claimed that global warming is a good thing.
One of the wealthiest men in the world, Koch has used his billions for decades to promote the extremist, anti-regulatory, right-wing political groups like Americans for Prosperity that now organize under the Tea Party banner. “I’ve never been to a tea-party event,” Koch told reporter Andrew Goldman, even though he hosted AFP’s “Defending the American Dream” tea-party hooplain Washington, D.C., last year. 
Fueled by his fear that the greenhouse gas pollution generated by Koch Industries might be limited by government regulation, Koch promotes a fantasy about benefits of a changing climate:

Koch says he’s not sure if global warming is caused by human activities, and at any rate, he sees the heating up of the planet as good news. Lengthened growing seasons in the northern hemisphere, he says, will make up for any trauma caused by the slow migration of people away from disappearing coastlines. “The Earth will be able to support enormously more people because a far greater land area will be available to produce food,” he says.
The Koch Bros. were, in fact, the four sons of Fred Koch who feared that they might tear themselves apart over their inheritance - and so they did. Those feral pups, eh?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Life and Times of Justin Trudeau - The Long Read, The Guardian

Justin Trudeau is featured in The Guardian's latest "Long Read." The title - "Justin Trudeau: the rise and fall of a political brand" - has something for everyone, fan and critic alike.

I won't go into the content. Fact is I didn't read it all. I found it pretty tedious. You may think it's terrific.

Just wanted to let you know.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Who Knew? Climate Scientists Have Been Underestimating Climate Change. It's Time to Fix That.

If the recent deluge of climate change reports is getting on your nerves - there's no nice way to put this, it's worse than you've been told.

Scientific American takes a look at this long-recognized problem and what we can must do to fix it.
Consistent underestimation is a form of bias—in the literal meaning of a systematic tendency to lean in one direction or another—which raises the question: what is causing this bias in scientific analyses of the climate system? 
The question is significant for two reasons. First, climate skeptics and deniers have often accused scientists of exaggerating the threat of climate change, but the evidence shows that not only have they not exaggerated, they have underestimated. This is important for the interpretation of the scientific evidence, for the defense of the integrity of climate science, and for public comprehension of the urgency of the climate issue. Second, objectivity is an essential ideal in scientific work, so if we have evidence that findings are biased in any direction—towards alarmism or complacency—this should concern us. We should seek to identify the sources of that bias and correct them if we can.
The article, written by prominent scientists Naomi Oreskes, Michael Oppenheimer and Dale Jamieson, previews their new book, 'Discerning Experts.'
In our new book we explored the workings of scientific assessments for policy, with particular attention to their internal dynamics, as we attempted to illuminate how the scientists working in assessments make the judgments they do. Among other things, we wanted to know how scientists respond to the pressures—sometimes subtle, sometimes overt—that arise when they know that their conclusions will be disseminated beyond the research community—in short, when they know that the world is watching. The view that scientific evidence should guide public policy presumes that the evidence is of high quality, and that scientists’ interpretations of it are broadly correct. But, until now, those assumptions have rarely been closely examined. 
We found little reason to doubt the results of scientific assessments, overall. We found no evidence of fraud, malfeasance or deliberate deception or manipulation. Nor did we find any reason to doubt that scientific assessments accurately reflect the views of their expert communities. But we did find that scientists tend to underestimate the severity of threats and the rapidity with which they might unfold.
A defensive herd mentality or 'safeguarding the messenger.'
Among the factors that appear to contribute to underestimation is the perceived need for consensus, or what we label univocality: the felt need to speak in a single voice. Many scientists worry that if disagreement is publicly aired, government officials will conflate differences of opinion with ignorance and use this as justification for inaction. Others worry that even if policy makers want to act, they will find it difficult to do so if scientists fail to send an unambiguous message. Therefore, they will actively seek to find their common ground and focus on areas of agreement; in some cases, they will only put forward conclusions on which they can all agree. 
The push toward agreement may also be driven by a mental model that sees facts as matters about which all reasonable people should be able to agree versus differences of opinion or judgment that are potentially irresolvable. If the conclusions of an assessment report are not univocal, then (it may be thought that) they will be viewed as opinions rather than facts and dismissed not only by hostile critics but even by friendly forces. 
Playing it safe.
A second reason for underestimation involves an asymmetry in how scientists think about error and its effects on their reputations. Many scientists worry that if they over-estimate a threat, they will lose credibility, whereas if they under-estimate it, it will have little (if any) reputational impact. In climate science, this anxiety is reinforced by the drumbeat of climate denial, in which scientists are accused of being “alarmists” who “exaggerate the threat.” In this context, scientists may go the extra mile to disprove the stereotype by down-playing known risks and denying critics the opportunity to label them as alarmists. 
Many scientists consider underestimates to be “conservative,” because they are conservative with respect to the question of when to sound an alarm or how loudly to sound it. The logic of this can be questioned, because underestimation is not conservative when viewed in terms of giving people adequate time to prepare. (Consider for example, an underestimate of an imminent hurricane, tornado, or earthquake.) In the AR4 WAIS debate, scientists underestimated the threat of rapid ice sheet disintegration because many of the scientists who participated were more comfortable with an estimate that they viewed as "conservative" than with one that was not. 
The combination of these three factors—the push for univocality, the belief that conservatism is socially and politically protective, and the reluctance to make estimates at all when the available data are contradictory—can lead to “least common denominator'' results—minimalist conclusions that are weak or incomplete.
The authors contend that science needs to get past 'univocality' and consensus to present more raw opinion to our political caste, the decision makers. To me that sounds like embracing futility.

How many of these craven political grifters, from our country or any other, would hesitate to exploit uncertainty? How many of them even act on the watered-down consensus?  Our prime minister? Hell no. Despite the recent warnings of the urgent need to slash GHG emissions by half by 2030, the Dauphin is still using Harper's emissions cuts targets and failing to meet even those. Every damned Conservative and Liberal politician in this country is a petro-pimp. That's what they need from the scientific community - more wiggle room.

Honesty is good, always. There's nothing wrong with the science types admitting they've been putting a lot of water in our wine. But to suggest that honesty has any currency with our decision makers is the height of naivete.

The Smell of Fear

There have been reports of late suggesting that America's CEOs have had something of an epiphany. It seems they're becoming deeply concerned about the wellbeing of the Average Joe. Some are even saying the public interest must now come ahead of their shareholders. Wow, altruism breaks into the boardroom.

Don't count on it.

New York Times opinion columnist, Farhad Manjoo, writes that America's CEOs are fearful of a recession - because they sense it could trigger a revolution.
It isn’t the potential of downturn itself that has them alarmed — downturns come and downturns go, but whatever happens, chief executives, like cats, tend to land on their comfortably padded feet. 
Instead, the cause of their fear appears to be something more fundamental. As Alan Murray, the C.E.O. of Fortune, writes in a cover story chronicling the C-suite anxiety: “More and more C.E.O.s worry that public support for the system in which they’ve operated is in danger of disappearing.” They’re worried that when the next recession breaks, revolution might, too. This could be the hour that the ship comes in: The coming recession might finally prompt the masses to sharpen their pitchforks and demand a reckoning.
...The American economy hasbeen growing for more than a decade, stock indexes recently hit new highs, and the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low.

And yet the vast majority of Americans will not look back on the last decade as years of fat and plenty. This was a gilded expansion, a decade of creaking wage growth and profoundly unequal outcomes. The number of Americans receiving food stamps is 40 percent higher now than in 2008, yet we have twice as many billionaires as we did a decade ago.
...This week, in a statement widely feted by well-meaning Davos types, the Business Roundtable — an association of chief executives of nearly 200 companies, including Apple, Amazon, General Motors and Walmart — declared that the era of soulless corporatism was over. The Business Roundtable once held that a corporation’s “paramount duty” was to its shareholders. Now, the Roundtable is singing a new, more inclusive tune. A corporation, it says, should balance the interests of its shareholders with those of other “stakeholders,” including customers, employees, suppliers and local communities.

In other words: no more Mr. Terrible Guy.
...Yay? It’s nice that C.E.O.s have vowed to turn over a new leaf. But their statement lacks any call for greater structural changes in the American economy — changes to how companies are taxed or regulated, or how executives are paid, or how they should be judged.
And because a public corporation’s most direct incentives — including the C.E.O.’s pay — remain tied to stock performance, there’s no reason to believe that corporations will voluntarily move away from pleasing shareholders alone, despite the new, high-minded ideals. In fact, the fanfare surrounding the Roundtable’s empty statement could be read as an effort to stave off structural economic reform rather than accelerate it. It’s a way for the C.E.O.s to tell us that they’re on the case, so we don’t have to resort to something unthinkable, like a Warren presidency. 
If I sound cynical, it’s only because I’m not a complete idiot. In the Trump era, America’s C.E.O.s have become masterful at talking out of both sides of their mouths. They’ll rush to issue virtue-signaling denunciations of the latest outrage from PresidentTrump in order to please their woke, restless customer bases, while on the down low, they’ll champion his tax cuts and regulatory dismantling. And when the president gets too rowdy, they’ll tell him to knock it off over a friendly dinner
It’s all a game to the moguls in charge. Their greatest fear is that we’ll stop playing.
For years Chris Hedges has warned that America has entered a pre-revolutionary state. He compares it to a pot of water on a stove. You never know how long it will take to reach the boil but you do know that it's certain to happen.

Hedges is one of those who has made at least a cursory study of revolution, well past Crane Brinton's and others' primers. He knows that revolutionary change is unpredictable, chaotic and, more often than not, violent. Those who instigate it usually take it in the neck when subsequent waves of revolts and power grabbers they have not foreseen sweep in.

(If you're not familiar with Brinton's 1938 classic, "Anatomy of Revolution," there's a good 9-page summary of it available here, free, in PDF.)

Think of It As the Colour of Prosperity

To the whingers it's blue-green algae, the toxic growth that fouls our rivers and lakes and triggers massive coastal dead zones but Nixon vice-president and jailbird Spiro Agnew knew those types as 'nattering nabobs of negativity.'

Okay, it's not ideal for your pets. These three little guys splashed around in it one afternoon and were dead of liver failure before the next sunrise, but hey, we have to eat after all. That blue-green algae is a by-product of agricultural chemical runoff that puts food on your table.

Here's what Lake Winnipeg looks like:

It's smelly and yucky and gross. It's also laced with neurotoxins.  You think that's bad, you oughta see what's going on in China, a.k.a. The Peoples Republic of Neurotoxins R Us.

This post isn't really about algae. It's about our global indifference to the increasing backup of all forms of pollution and contamination.  To borrow a few lines from the previous post:
Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Robbing the poor to pay the rich. Robbing the future to pay the present. 
That's the way we like it and we're damned good at it. 
Sure it's a one way street to the cliff edge. Sure, there's a day of reckoning. Still, that's the way we like it.
The algae, that's the easy stuff. You can see it from space, you can splash in it, you can burn your skin and self-inflict neurological damage, you can even kill your dogs, but there is so much more.

Speaking of neurotoxins, lead is a winner. You've probably heard of Flint, Michigan's problem with toxic levels of lead in the municipal water supply and the fiasco that ensued from a state government in no great rush to come to the rescue. Now it's Newark, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's turn in the spotlight.
No amount of lead is considered “safe,” but the federal government has set a limit of 15 parts per billion in drinking water. At one point, tests in Flint revealed lead levels at over 100 ppb. In July, a test showed Newark water lead levels at 55 ppb. In both cases residents say the city’s denials and delays came at a cost to their wellbeing. 
“The mayor keeps saying that this isn’t like Flint,” Newark resident Shakima Thomas told Grist way back in November. “It is the same as Flint in the way that they tried to cover it up. We were victimized by this administration. They gamble with our health. They put politics first before justice.” 
And that pattern appears to be continuing. Some experts say they already have a good idea of where the “next, next Flint” might be.
These are not insurmountable threats. All it takes is government willing to spend money to protect citizens. When members of Congress got wind they were drinking contaminated water they sprang into action.
Given the proper incentive though, she said, change can happen fast — like when Washington, D.C. discovered it had a lead problem back in 2004. “They got that taken care of very quickly, by comparison,” she said, “because there were members of Congress drinking the water.”
Such is life in the era of Every Day Low Taxes

The Man We Call Prime Minister - a Brazen Little Hussy

Justin Trudeau, continuing on this year's campaign theme of 'I'm better than that jerk' is warning that our chances of fighting climate change will be dead as a National Lampoon's dog if we don't return the Liberals to power.

There it is kids.  Pipeline Pete is our last, best chance, our only hope, and, if we don't see that, we're toast. Those grandkids? Screw'em, they're fried.
"If we don't demonstrate that we can take real, tangible actions on the environment and continue to get the support of Canadians, no Canadian government's going to bother defending the environment anymore," Trudeau tells CBC senior writer Aaron Wherry in Promise and Peril: Justin Trudeau in Power, released this week. 
"It'll be seen as an electoral loser. And I can't have that, we can't have that, we can't afford ... Canada can't afford that," Trudeau told Wherry.
Is Trudeau the better bet than Scheer on the environment? Yes, no question. Should that translate into our votes? No, not at all. We're in the opening stages of a climate emergency. It's like every house from Newfoundland to British Columbia is about to catch fire. It's against that threat that the candidates are to be measured, not against each other.

Churchill spoke of emergencies when he said that "It is not enough that we do our best. Sometimes we must do what is required." That, and that alone, is the litmus test for leadership in times of emergency. On that test, both Scheer and Trudeau are dismal failures.