Reforestation in Ethiopia: This way lies hope.

Despite our rapidly advancing technology, and the years of research into carbon capture, photosynthesis still seems to be our best option for pulling large amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere. This is why global deforestation has been such a big problem. It has not only been releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere, it has also been destroying many of the systems we have in place that act as a carbon sink, further amplifying the effects of the hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 that we’ve already released into the atmosphere. We’ve known for decades that reforestation, among other strategies rooted in the use of plants for photosynthesis, was a readily available, effective means of slowing the warming of the planet, though insufficient to stop it alone. As with so many other available actions, we have yet to make a concerted effort to do this, as a species.

Ethiopia has been no exception to the global deforestation trend, but they have recently taken steps showing what that collective action could look like. It’s a way that a government can use its resources, with the help of the people, to make a real difference:

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The endless fight for the future of humanity

For the last year or two, every time I sit down to write about climate change, I keep running into the same wall: Without a radical change to how the entire global economy functions, and who it serves, humanity has no future.

There are endless arguments to be had about to what degree renewable energy can replace fossil fuels, what role nuclear power should play, how much efficiency we can wring out of our technology, how we can make food production sustainable, and so on, but none of that really deals with the central, driving force that has destabilized our climate and pushed us into a hellish future of accelerating global warming. The global economy is designed to maintain and concentrate the wealth and power of those who are already wealthy and powerful, at the expense of everyone else. The fires in Brazil demonstrate this pretty well – The neo-fascist regime headed by known terrorist Jair Bolsonaro, and the conservatives who support him in places like the United States, have gone beyond being willing to burn the world to rule the ashes. Now, it seems, they prefer the ashes to any other option.

In fact, the conservative movement in general seems pretty hostile to most of the planet, and most of the people on it, so maybe it shouldn’t have taken me so long to realize that they don’t have much incentive to act. They might not like the smell, or the annoying ash fall, but in general, they seem to think that if most of humanity burns, the world will be better off for it. Their oddly karma-like view of poverty – that it shows a moral failing on the part of the poor – means that no matter how much blood and misery the future brings, it’s either a good thing, or it’s all just an “unfortunate necessity”. We don’t have enough money to house the homeless, despite the millions of homes standing empty. Not everybody can have safe drinking water, despite more and more of the world’s fresh water being turned into private property to be sold for profit. No matter what we’re talking about, there’s always a reason why it’s… not “OK”, exactly, but a necessary reality that most of humanity cannot have the resources needed for a good life.

And in the background, a handful of people profit off of the artificial scarcity. The reason we have so many homes standing empty is that housing the homeless doesn’t generate profit, and having a limited number of adequate homes allows landlords to charge more for the homes people are allowed to live in. While people around the world get sick from drinking water contaminated with industrial waste and bacteria, companies like Nestle are declaring the world’s fresh water sources to be their property, so that they can force people to pay higher prices for bottled water.

It may be that there really aren’t enough resources for everyone to have access to clean water, sufficient food, and adequate housing, but that’s not a claim we’ve ever really tested. We’ve started from the default assumption that there’s not, and therefore it’s OK that those problems are made worse and worse as a tiny number of people hoard more and more money. As long as access to the planet’s resources is governed by assumptions like that, we will never be able to deal with problems like climate change. We can’t feed everyone, so we shouldn’t try. We can’t house everyone, so we shouldn’t try. In fact, anyone who does try is evil for doing so.

Mark Fisher proposed that for a lot of people, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. For a lot of people, that seems to be less a matter of acceptance than it is one of preference – the end of the world would be better than the end of capitalism.

For Bolsonaro and those who support him, this has gotten to the point of actively playing chicken with the extinction of humanity, and unless they are stopped, no progress we manage to scrape around the edges will be enough. The effort that I’ve put into reducing my personal carbon footprint is meaningless in the face of the methane released through natural gas production, or more recently the burning of the Amazon rain forest. Individual action was never a viable solution for a problem this scale.

So it’s hard to know what to write about. For a time my approach was to focus on obvious first steps, like generating power from sewage, but so long as we have billionaires hoarding access to the resources we need, every tiny bit of progress requires far, far more effort than we have time for. We’re on a different planet now – one that was once hospitable to human civilization, but is becoming less so with each passing year. We’ve entered an age of endless recovery, in which we stagger from one climate-fueled crisis to the next. Never again will there be a time when those who value money over life cannot make the case that there’s simply too much going on for us to afford what’s needed. They would rather see billions die than give up their power.

The only path forward that I can see is to take away their power, just as they’ve taken away our entire world. The conservatives say that if we raise taxes on the money hoarders, they’ll take their hoards and go somewhere else. Fine. We’ll take over the resources they leave behind, put them to use, and then follow them to their new lairs to do it again. Maybe, in time, they’ll all get on one of Elon Musk’s rockets and go to eat their money on Mars.

Even if that does happen, though, there will never be a time when that struggle is over. There will always be people who can’t tell when they’ve had enough, and who think the rest of humanity exists to feed their bottomless appetites. No matter the society we build, we will always have to be on guard. That means empowering the powerless. That means breaking down barriers of prejudice and bigotry. If people have to fight for basic rights and equality, that’s energy they can’t spend fighting for humanity as a whole. That means fighting until everyone has access to food, and healthcare, and shelter, and education, and leisure time, so that they have time and energy to hold the line, to live lives they find fulfilling, and to fight for an even better world.

What does it mean to care about the wellbeing of sex workers?

Once again, Oliver Thorne has created an important, informative video on an issue laden with controversy and bad intentions.

 

For those who can’t see, at the beginning and end, Ollie is in a dressing room applying makeup. During the portions where he talks about gambling, and magic, he illustrates his points with card tricks, combined with a gambling scenario in which he plays the role of the House, in a three-piece suit and a leather armchair, casually demonstrating how he holds all the cards, and the sex worker, presented as the viewer (Based on camera angles) isn’t even allowed to keep hold the cards in their hand, having them replaced with jokers as the various entrapping rules are described.

Important context for understanding what’s happening in Latin America

I think the closed captions cover the material OK, but the TL:DR is this: Aid for Latin American countries has often come with strings attached. Leaders who don’t give favorable deals to wealthy nations and corporations (and “favorable” means “keeps the tropical country poor”), the people sent to talk to them start getting less friendly. Over time, the nice people in suits are replaced by “do what we say or you’ll die. Badly.” And if you don’t take the money in the first place? Well, then we just skip that step.

The United States, and the corporations protected and served by the United States, have done a LOT of harm to the global south, while the population of this country has, for the most part, turned a blind eye. Until we accept what we’ve been doing, and stop doing it, it is right and just for every poor country to view the United States as a hostile power. So far, we haven’t learned. We continued these atrocities under Democratic and Republican presidents, and congresses, and it sure looks like we’re continuing them now.

A vision of the future from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is fighting an uphill battle, but I think she’s fighting it well. She seems to be one of the very few politicians who can grasp the scale of the problem we’re facing, including the difficulty many of us have seeing a path forward. This is… Far more optimistic than I feel right now, but it does represent something that we are capable of doing.

Fox was never news

First off, sorry for the long silence. I’ve been working on other projects, and they’re taking most of my energy. I’m mainly dipping back in to relay a reminder that Fox News was NEVER anything more than a propaganda factory, even though there’s a history of everybody pretending they were news.

 

“Turning the page” – how the GOP has gotten away with a series of criminal presidents

Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Bush, Trump – five Republican presidents who grossly violated the law at various points in their careers, and were pardoned preemptively, or just allowed to get away with it. Clinton was “punished” for lying about sex, but not for the people he bombed to distract from that lying.

We need to end the trend of holding presidents above the law, and the GOP is at the forefront of political criminality. There is no justice but the justice we make, and ignoring the crimes of Republican presidents for the sake of “moving on” has taught them that they are above the law.

Hope for the holidays: What it looks like when Republicans accept reality

Over the past year, hope has been a bit hard for me to find. One climate report after another came out, like the slow tolling of a Doomsday bell, ringing out across the world, only to be swallowed by the howling chaos of rising authoritarianism in the United States, and around the world. Things are not good, and try though I might, I can’t find any clear signs that they’re going to get better any time soon. It feels like we’re headed for a confrontation between a global civilization falling off a cliff, while a tiny handful of people claim the billions of parachutes they control belong to them, and them alone.

The one sliver of hope I can see for humanity is the fact that we have all the tools we need to make planet-wide progress on both adapting to the warming climate, and ending our contribution to the problem. In the coming year, I’m planning to spend a lot more time adding my voice to the many who have already made the case for that claim. We, and most of the rest of multicellular life on this planet, are headed for extinction right now, but we don’t have to suffer through that horror. We could build a better world, we’re just not doing it nearly fast enough.

Case in point: Georgetown, Texas; population somewhere over 70,600, and the largest city in the U.S. to be run on 100% renewable energy. The Republican mayor of the town is enthusiastic about the change, not just because it’s the right thing to do for the future of our species, but also because it’s the smart thing to do from the oft-touted “fiscal conservative” perspective: [Read more…]