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B4. Radical Ecology

How the migrant caravan sparked a movement

Waging Nonviolence - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 09:41

by Jeff Abbott

Thousands set out by foot from Esquipulas, Guatemala on Oct. 21. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

After a long, grueling journey, the first groups of Honduran migrants and asylum seekers began arriving in Tijuana on Nov. 14 in hopes of finding asylum and opportunity in the United States. Thousands more follow closely behind.

Having left San Pedro Sula on Oct. 13, the thousands of men, women and children from Honduras braved the elements for over a month to reach the United States in hope of escaping violence, poverty and state repression.

The first caravan sparked a movement. Small groups of migrants formed across Honduras and El Salvador in the weeks following the first caravan. Now at least four caravans are in route towards the United States in hope of finding new opportunities in the north.

The second caravan grew to nearly 1,500 migrants and refugees by the time it reached the Guatemala town of Esquipulas on Oct. 21. Cesar Isaguirre, a single father who is originally from Choluteca, Honduras, walked in front of the second caravan. Isaguirre sang “JOH Es Pa’ Fuera Que Vas” — which translates to “Juan Orlando Hernández you are going out” — a popular song written by Honduran singer Macario Mejia that gained popularity in the lead up to the illegal re-election of the Honduran president in 2017, with others echoing the lyrics.

“The situation is critical in our country,” Isaguirre explained, while walking down the highway on his way out of Esquipulas. “There was no money to help us when our village flooded, but there was money to repress the people that are trying to go to the United States in search of a better life.”

The choice for Isaguirre was not easy. “It is a very difficult decision to make,” he said. “You have to leave your family, your children without knowing what will happen in route to the United States.”

As the second caravan reached the Mexican border, two more caravans of Salvadorans quickly set out from El Salvador in the hopes of reaching the United States. These caravans grew as they crossed Guatemala and Mexico, reaching nearly 2,000 people in each caravan, according to La Jornada.

The caravan of migrants has become a new phenomenon in the mass migration of people from the region. The large groups provide a means of security for the people as they seek to reach the United States.

The caravans largely formed via social media, namely Facebook and WhatsApp. Members coordinated ahead to determine the date for leaving via these platforms. Other groups are still organizing future caravans from the region, including another from El Salvador, which is set to leave on Nov. 17.

Crisis in Central America

Hondurans have faced a situation that has grown increasingly dangerous since the U.S.-backed coup d’état against President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. A far-right wing government assumed power following the coup and quickly began to set in motion polices that favored investment by transnational companies over social programs.

Hondurans have seen the costs of common goods and services steadily rise as a result of the privatization. Basic services — such as energy, health care and education — have become nearly unobtainable for many.

“The government is only dedicated to stealing from the people,” said Nube Reyes, who decided to migrate with her husband and young daughter from Tegucigalpa, Honduras just three days before the caravan arrived at the Guatemalan border. “The cost of electricity, water and food keeps going up. We decided to immigrate in order to find a better life.”

A migrant peers through the fence at Guatemalan riot police on the border between Guatemala and Mexico on Oct. 28. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

Communities have faced increased violence from gangs and from the state as the right-wing Partido Nacional concentrated power. By 2012, Honduras was widely seen as one of the most dangerous countries in the world. This violence especially affected the youth. As the situation deteriorated, the number of Hondurans seeking to migrate began to go up.

In 2015, the United States and the governments of Central America proposed the Alliance for Prosperity as a means to resolve the migration of people from across the region. The plan focused heavily on promoting investment and militarization and, according to analysts, did little to address the causes of migration from the region. For many on the caravan, the financial aid sent to the region has done little to benefit their lives.

“They are obliging us to go,” Isaguirre said. “The aid that they send never makes it to the people in need.”

The situation grew even worse following the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernández in November 2017. The election was widely seen as fraudulent, and Hondurans mobilized to protest the theft of the presidency from opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla.

Among the key frustrations driving so many to leave the region is the crisis in quality employment. For those lucky enough to find work, they face poor conditions and poor pay. Little opportunity exists for those over 35 years old.

Many Guatemalans joined the caravans as they passed through the country. They are seeking the same opportunities that have motivated many Hondurans.

“There is no employment in our country,” said 42-year-old Alexander Paz from Guatemala City, who joined the caravan after learning about it on social media. “I am not seeking to stay in any other country. My destination is the United States.”

Other Guatemalans who joined the second caravan echoed Paz.

“I need work,” said Salvador Hernández, a 64-year-old from San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala. He joined the caravan after learning about it on the news, with hopes of finding work to help support his 14 children. “I owe money, and there is no work in my town. I came here to find the means to struggle for my children. If I find work en route [to the United States] I will stay [in Mexico].”

Facing the 21st century border

The Trump administration has viewed the caravans as a threat to national security and ordered the deployment of thousands of troops to the U.S. border with Mexico. Yet this is not the only obstacle the caravans have had to overcome as they progress through Guatemala and Mexico.

The caravans of Central Americans have faced an intensification of border security, with police and military being deployed to the border between Guatemala and Honduras, as well as to the Mexican border to stop the groups from leaving. Following the first caravan, Donald Trump ordered the governments of Central America to do everything they could to stop the caravan from advancing.

Police and immigration check points dotted the highways to discourage the migrants from taking buses. Some small groups successfully reached the Guatemalan border town of Tecun Uman by bus.

Mexican marines patrolled the river and a Mexican federal police helicopter periodically circled overhead. Their presence, along with that of Guatemalan police and military, only added to tensions between the migrants and officials.

The militarization of the borders is part of what has been called the 21st century border, which was developed as the 2008 Merida Initiative. The plan escalated the war on organized crime in Mexico and led to greater control of the southern border by the government.

In 2014, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the formation of the Southern Border Program, which further intensified border security in southern Mexico. These measure led to the rapid increase in the detention of migrants seeking to reach the United States.

The caravans of migrants and asylum seekers have faced this intensified border as they attempt to reach the United States.

On Oct. 28, these tensions erupted when migrants broke down the gate blocking the entrance into Mexico. Guatemalan police responded with tear gas, but the caravan pushed through the police line.

Hours later, another clash with Mexican federal police began when the second caravan of Hondurans attempted to pass the gate blocking their way into Mexico. A small group of young Hondurans threw rocks at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Immigration officials had promised to open the way for asylum seekers, but repeatedly failed to provide the means.

During the clash, Henry Diaz, a 26-year-old migrant from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was killed when a rubber bullet struck him in the head. Mexican federal officials stated that the police had no weapons, but journalists and migrants at the scene contested this. The following day the caravan was forced to cross the Suchiate River.

Migrants cross the Suchiate River on Oct. 29. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

“We made the decision to cross the river because they would not let us pass on the bridge,” said Gerson Romero, a young Honduran migrant. “It was a difficult journey for many of us, especially the women with children. But thank God we all made it.”

They continued their progress through Mexico towards the United States. “We are not afraid of what lay in front of us,” Romero explained. “We ask God to guide our path forward.”

The mass exodus of people from Central America has brought the crisis in the region to the forefront of the conversation in the United States. The thousands of people fleeing the region are a testament to the impacts of the U.S. foreign policy in the region.

“I’m not afraid of the people, but I’m afraid of the repression of Donald Trump,” Isaguirre said. “I’m worried he will repress us like the government of our country. We are going to find a better life.”

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

LISTEN: Jeff Conant of Friends of the Earth on Greenwashing of Palm Oil Industry

Global Justice Ecology Project - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 07:51
This week’s Earth Watch guest is Jeff Conant of Friends of the Earth (FOA). Conant and Sojourner Truth host Margaret Prescod discuss the greenwashing of the palm oil industry. Friends of the Earth and World Rainforest Movement co-authored... Read More
Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

People of Color Trans, Two-Spirit, and Womens Action Camp Coming Up This Fall

Earth First! Newswire - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 17:55

from Earth First! Newswire

This camp is a space for:
Vouched in women of color, who are cis, trans and gender non conforming, any and all femme, non binary and non men identifying folx. i. e. =NO DUDES=

Financial Support
Currently in the process of raising funds. We would really like to be able to offer travel funds + compensation for workshop facilitators.

This gathering is for a People of Color Trans Two-spirit Women Action Camp(POC TTWAC) on occupied land this Fall 2k18 to build skills, foster solidarity, and share knowledge. We oppose the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, capitalism, white supremacy and cis heteropatriarchy. We individually and collectively gather with the intention to challenge the heteronormative and commodifying lens that has colonized indigenous communities. Building skills and sharing knowledge to empower POC on an individual and communal level. Sharing practical skills so that we can spread knowledge in all 4 directions to arm our communities to ready ourselves for the protection of our people and the earth against corporate greed, genocide, resource extraction and the growth of colonization.

Our Objectives
-To provide a space for participants to develop skills that are not usually accessible to TTWOC (trans, two-spirit, women of color) in order to establish autonomy from white supremacist and patriarchal systems.
-To engage in conversations that are usually not prioritized because TTWOC are constantly on the defense against white supremacy and patriarchy. Conversation such as Colorism, Transphobia, disability, Anti-blackness, Privilege regarding documented status, economic privileges……
-To build relationships with other TTWOC folks in our communities organizing in different capacities, with the intention to build trust and solidarity along our intersections.

To learn more or donate, click here.

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Photo of the Month: 25th anniversary of 1st North American Temperate Forest Conference & preview of 2019 Forest Convergence

Global Justice Ecology Project - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 08:32
Cree Trapper Tent w/ moon during the First Whapmagoostui major gathering of Cree, Innu and Inuit Indigenous Peoples. It was photographed by Orin Langelle in 1993 during a documentary expedition with Anne Petermann to the James Bay region.... Read More
Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Climate Justice Forum: Federal Court Block of Keystone XL, Lake Railroad Bridge Litigation & Water Quality Permit, Paradise Ridge & California Fires, Highway 95 Expansion in Appeals Court, Bunker Hill Mine Reopening 11-14-18

Wild Idaho Rising Tide - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 13:00

The Wednesday, November 14, 2018, Climate Justice Forum radio program, produced by regional, climate activist collective Wild Idaho Rising Tide, features news and reflections on a Great Falls federal court order blocking Keystone XL pipeline construction, litigation crowdfunding and an Idaho water quality permit for a second, Lake Pend Oreille railroad bridge, fires on Paradise Ridge and in northern California, Court of Appeals arguments against Highway 95 eastern expansion near Moscow, and EPA-proposed reopening of the Bunker Hill Mine in Kellogg.  Broadcast for six years on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow, every Wednesday between 1:30 and 3 pm Pacific time, on-air at 90.3 FM and online, the show describes continent-wide resistance to fossil fuel projects, the root causes of climate change, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her KRFP DJ.

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

GE Chestnut Tree: ‘Trojan Horse’ Aimed at Opening Door to Risky GE Trees

Global Justice Ecology Project - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 11:35
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  11/14/2018           Steve Taylor +1.314.210.1322              Genetically Engineered American Chestnut Tree Called Trojan Horse’ Aimed at Opening Door to Commercialize Risky GE Trees Opponents accuse researchers of seeking USDA approval... Read More
Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Judge Halts Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

Earth First! Newswire - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 10:57

by Hillary Beaumont / VICE News CA

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, demonstrating on the Dodge Street pedestrian bridge during rush hour in Omaha, Neb., on Nov. 1, 2017. Photo by Nati Harnik/The Canadian Press

A Montana judge blocked Trump’s presidential permit, saying the environmental analysis fell short of a ‘hard look.’

A judge in Montana has halted the construction of Keystone XL, one of the most controversial pipelines in North America.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled in favor of the Indigenous Environmental Network and Northern Plains Resource Council, who had argued that Trump violated several laws by approving the pipeline that would carry crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to Nebraska.

The Obama administration had stopped the project due to concerns about its greenhouse gas emissions, but two days after he took office, President Donald Trump approved it with a presidential permit. The court case sought an injunction against that permit.

In granting it, the judge ruled the state department’s analysis under Trump “fell short of a ‘hard look’” on the following points: the effects of current oil prices on the pipeline’s viability, the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, a survey of potential cultural resources, and an updated modeling of potential oil spills and recommended mitigation measures.

“The major spills that occurred between 2014 and 2017 qualify as significant,” the judge wrote. The department would have looked at those spills in its 2014 environmental review if that information had been available, he wrote.

But, similar to a recent Canadian court decision that sent the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion back for additional consultation and review, the U.S. court decision is not a death blow to Keystone XL. It simply means the Trump administration must go back and complete a proper assessment before approving the project.

Dallas Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, tweeted, “This is a win for Lakota, the Oceti Sakowin and other Tribal Nations, for the water, and for the sacredness of Mother Earth. This decision vindicates what we have been saying all along: Trump’s approval of this pipeline was illegal, violated environmental laws and was based upon fake facts. Our legal fight has been for the benefit of all life along the proposed route of this Canadian tar sands pipeline.”

“This pipeline is the enemy of the people and life as we know it,” he added. “It must be stopped.”

Neither the State Department nor TransCanada, the company that owns the pipeline, have commented on the decision. The company previously called the project a “safe, reliable and environmentally responsible way to deliver crude oil to markets in the U.S.”

The $10 billion TransCanada pipeline would run from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, bringing oil from Alberta’s oil sands south through the US.


Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Honduran Caravan, Climate Displacement and NVCD

Extinction Rebellion - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 02:27

How do you get from those walking en masse from poverty and repression in Honduras to the US border to the effects of climate change in Bangladesh and back again? What do these two seeming unrelated situations mean for acts of non-violent, civil disobedience? For us?

Well, let’s start with this little observation; “With the rise of Sea-level up to one meter only, Bangladesh could lose up to 15% of its land area under the Sea water and around 30 million people living in the coastal areas of Bangladesh could become refugees because of climate change impacts.”[1] As recently as last year over 800,000 Rohingya were forcibly expelled from Myanmar into squalid camps along the coast of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. These camps are places they are now going to have to call home for a very long time.

Now turn to Honduras where the US president has used the mid-term elections to vilify the approaching 7,200 person strong caravan as a threat to national security. The idea of the caravan was developed as a direct action response by activists working on migration issues seeking ways to delegitimise the current right oriented government.[2] The organisers are probably overwhelmed at what the caravan has become, possibly even shaking their heads in disbelief. Those walking the 2446 kilometre route[3] are fleeing poverty and violence at home and dreaming of better, safer lives for their families in the US. The response from the US has been a threat to cut international aid to Honduras, as well as reinforcing military units at the US border.[4]

The EU experienced its own wave of irregular migration in 2015 and almost fell apart at the seams trying to stem the flow of one million plus asylum seekers and migrants to its shores. The EU and its constituent countries have tried multiple methods to keep people away, for example by attempting to introduce a quota system[5] to ‘manage the burden’, by doing suspected bilateral deals with Libyan militias[6] to retain migrants in countries leaving them open to risks of abuse, kidnapping, torture and being sold into slavery,[7] and through the much-vaunted but ethically dubious EU Turkey deal, which ships back one Syrian refugee who entered Greece irregularly for one who has legally entered the asylum process in Turkey.[8]

All these people have faced repeated hardship and exposure to violence and abuse at all stages of their journey. They are marching because the range of options facing them at home span from limited opportunities to generate an income to fear, torture and war. If we add the effects of climate change into this toxic mix, we can rest assured that the numbers on the move will only grow. There is already a body of thought directly linking climate change to the migration flows into Europe. Time Magazine quotes the Centre for Climate and Security as saying the “drought (in Syria between 2006 and 2011), in addition to its mismanagement by the Assad regime, contributed to the displacement of two million in Syria. That internal displacement may have contributed to the social unrest that precipitated the civil war. Which generated the refugee flows into Europe.”[9] Having worked in humanitarian aid, I have seen that agencies are already planning for this contingency and have been doing so for a number of years now. The humanitarian analysis is not alone. The US Defence Department in 2014 labelled climate change a “threat multiplier” saying, “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”[10]

The Honduran caravan is a great example of non-violent, civil disobedience in action. Just 7000 people who moved collectively garnered (a) sustained media coverage of their plight (b) a number of  governments scrambling to manage and contain public opinion, including the Honduran State, and (c) public sympathy to a greater or lesser extent depending on which country you are sitting in but either way they have polarized the issue in people’s minds. That’s a lot of power granted to very few people, who are often travelling with little more than the shirts on their backs. The caravan is disruptive and testing the ability of opponents to function, this we can clearly see in governmental responses. The large scale migration flow into Greece and Italy severely tested the supranational EU’s ability to function and still does. That said, these movements are very high risk and can fail, in many cases ending lethally for the participants, but activists can draw significant lessons from witnessing how the actions of a few people, who in this case are the so-called dispossessed, can shake the systems of the mighty.

Marches like this can work to shift public opinion on the thorniest of issues if those involved remain committed to the principles of non-violence. Those working to support all refugees and migrants on the move would do well to start building the case for the impact climate change is having on their reasons for leaving home in the first place. They should also seek to build alliances at all stages along their route with the broadest range of actors possible, not just the usual suspects like civil society organisations, legal groups and religious leaders but also municipalities, local business owners and small to medium enterprises, even taxi and truck drivers who often know smuggling routes and the dangers within them better than most. A broad coalition of support can protect activists from harm, motivate others to join and counter negative and alarmist arguments by those who seek to control a situation through division and fear. A broad coalition of support will legitimise civil disobedience. Some have equated the caravan with the spirit of the 1930 salt march in India[11] and though this may be a stretch it is a comparison that is not without merit.

One of the key principles of non-violent direct action is unity. Successful campaigns require the participation of a diversity of political, social and economic and groups and sectors of society, because by definition a movement’s legitimacy and strength lies in its mobilization of large numbers of civilians, this usually requires a coalition of groups and organizations.[12] That is the unity of people. The Hondurans are marching because they also have a unity of purpose that allows them to make sacrifices for goals that are meaningful to their daily lives.

Climate change will push more people to collective actions of civil disobedience in order to provide what they believe is best for themselves and their families. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimates that in the 6 years between 2008 and 2014, an annual average of at least 22.5 million people were displaced by the direct threat or impact of floods, landslides, storms, wildfires and extreme temperatures.[13] If the sea levels rise as is being predicted in Bangladesh, the Rohingya, unwanted, stateless and unloved in their former and current homes, have little to lose in getting on the road and marching too. I, for one, hope it does not come to that and that through the actions of Extinction Rebellion, others are marching for them so they may never have to.














Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Call to Action For Honouring What Dies

Extinction Rebellion - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 01:50
By April Griefsong Today (Saturday) has been all about water.  I have spent time walking the earth between camp and car, to prepare for some students visiting from the local University.  The sun was shining when they left home, so they were sadly unprepared for the crazy weather that caught them between the dogs trust car park and camp.  Unfortunately, it was so wet we couldn’t even keep the fire lit – the Gods were throwing buckets out the sky.  With typical forethought, Sarah had filled flasks before the downpour, so we could at least warm them with a hot cuppa.  Susanna, Omar and Zac were really insightful and quick to pick up on Sarah’s fascinating depth of knowledge of how HS2 are repeatedly ignoring directives and breaking EU law in their destruction of ecosystems.

I got a chance to introduce them to Extinction Rebellion and we are all keen for them to begin filming soon – conversations between me, Sarah and Niki, as well as any visitors who may join us.

An hour later, still water logged, we were joined by Nick’s wildlife walkers, who instead took shelter with us, and I used all my valley-aquired fire wisdom to court a warming blaze.  It became a village building day and fed the inspiration for this action I am calling to.

The security rushed to the fence with cameras – watching us watching them – while a kestrel watched us all from above…….

 A Plea to all you folks – wise , old, young and bold

You are needed.  The tree people need you.  After a day of human-centred road tethering – bring your hearts and bodies to the waters and life sustaining London.  Bear witness to yourself and each other – to your NEEDEDNESS of one another.





My dear friends,  sisters,  brothers,  mycelium roots of my hearts

As the head hearts of these Lands

Court the media minded moguls

In a language they may recognize,

I call those of us

Who have studied with the crystal core heart

In song, dance and worship –

Walkers; healers; singers; deep feelers;

Story tellers; sweatlodgers; shape changers, all.


And….a prostrate plea to those distant in place

Connected in ancestry, aching in consequences

Grief talkers; nonviolence walkers; spell breakers; system thinking shakers

Already deep down and in –

Elder us into village.


Rock, stone, feather and bone

Hear me call

Let’s bring us home.


All of us who have woven ourselves

Into the myth of these Lands

All Characters in Search of A Better Catastrophe


Join me in a day of Beauty Making

With great care and respect

Honouring and giving gratitude

For the wetlands on the veldt

The wastelands between bright London lights

And someplace wilder

The shadowlands;  out of sight.

A place on the edge of extinction.


Bring tools and voices for collaborating with trees.

Vegan food to feast together.

Bring your neurodiverse gifts and griefs

To unite hearts and inspire courage.

Bring water from where you lay.

Build an altar to Lords and Ladies of Decay.


Rock, stone, feather and bone

Hear me call

Let’s bring us home.


Sunday 18th November from 10am till we need to depart

Colne Valley Wildlife Protection Camp, Harvil Road, Uxbridge UB9 6JW             

Prepare for the waters to bless us back.  (Wellies and waterproofs.)

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Montana Hunter Attacked by Bear Northwest of Columbia Falls

Earth First! Newswire - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 16:39

by Associated Press / The Missoulian

A Montana man is recovering from a bear attack that occurred while he was hunting northwest of Columbia Falls.

KECI-TV reports the attack happened at about 9:25 Sunday morning.

Pause Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:00 Stream TypeLIVE Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% 0:00 Fullscreen 00:00 Mute

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry says the victim and a second man were hunting when one of them was attacked. The victim was airlifted to Kalispell Regional Medical Center where he was in stable condition. The nature of his injuries was unknown.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials were investigating.

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Next Generation ‘May Never See the Glory of Coral Reefs’

Earth First! Newswire - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 16:20

by Jonathan Watts / The Guardian

Bleached coral in Guam in 2017. Photograph: David Burdick/AP

Undersea forests, bleached and killed by rising ocean temperature, might disappear in a few decades, experts warn.

Children born today may be the last generation to see coral reefs in all their glory, according to a marine biologist who is coordinating efforts to monitor the decline of the world’s most colourful ecosystem.

Global heating and ocean acidification have already severely bleached 16 to 33% of all warm-water reefs, but the remainder are vulnerable to even a fraction of a degree more warming, said David Obura, chair of the Coral Specialist Group in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

“It will be like lots of lights blinking off,” he told the Observer. “It won’t happen immediately but it will be death by 1,000 blows. Between now and 2 degrees Celsius, we will see more reefs dropping off the map.”

Obura added: “Children born today may be the last generation to see coral reefs in all their glory. Today’s reefs have a history going back 25 million to 50 million years and have survived tectonic collisions, such as that of Africa into Europe, and India into Asia. Yet in five decades we have undermined the global climate so fundamentally that in the next generation we will lose the globally connected reef system that has survived tens of millions of years.”

The warning follows a landmark UN climate report that upgraded risk assessments for corals following faster-than-expected global bleaching. Scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that if warming reached 2C, currently very likely in the next 50 years, there would be a more than 99% chance that tropical corals would be eradicated.

“Most available evidence suggests that coral dominated ecosystems will be non-existent at this temperature or higher,” said the IPCC study, which was approved by all 195 nations in the UN last month.

As well as losing one of the most beautiful and biodiverse habitats on earth, the UN report warned of severe knock-on impacts to fisheries and millions of people living in coastal communities, who will lose vital sources of income and be less protected from storms.

Corals are often described as undersea forests, but they are declining far more quickly than the Amazon. Along with the Arctic and high-mountain landscapes, the reefs – which have evolved over hundreds of millions of years – are likely to be among the first ecosystems to be wiped out by the climate crisis. A temperature rise of just 1 to 2C can trigger an evacuation of the algae upon which corals depend, draining them of colour and making the structure more brittle. These bleaching events can be temporary if waters cool, but the more frequent they are and the longer they last, the greater the risk of irreparable damage.

But that is exactly what is happening. Bleaching was first observed in 1983. It was seen on a global level in 1998, then 2010, then for three consecutive years from 2015 to 2017.

“Coral bleaching events are growing so severe and so frequent around the planet that reef systems are fragmenting into isolated pockets,” said Obura. “Some of these will undoubtedly survive this century, but the highest scientific evidence tells us that, unless we do everything to limit warming to 1.5C, we will lose 99% of the world’s coral reefs in coming decades.”

Eleven of the 29 World Heritage reefs have already suffered bleaching. On current trends, UNESCO predicts this will rise to 25 by 2040.

More widely, at highest risk are reefs off of Saudi Arabia, Madagascar, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea, which are likely to suffer bleaching long before the global average 2043. Those with a greater – though still slim – prospect of survival may be off of Egypt, Australia (including the Great Barrier Reef), Cuba, Indonesia and the Philippines.

But there are other threats beyond warming and acidity. Off the Philippine island of Palawan, once pristine reefs have been badly damaged by sewage run off from tourists resorts, pollution from boats and reckless fishing, including the pumping of cyanide into the coral structure to stun fish that float out and get scooped up and sold off for Chinese home aquariums.

According to Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, it is a calamity that this is happening in the Coral Triangle, which ought to be a refuge because it is one of the ocean regions most resilient to climate change “Even in the Philippines, we are fast losing our coral,” he said. “We need to reduce stress from overfishing, coastal development, pollution, mining, tourism and climate change.”

Although some conservationists are risking their lives to prevent this, economic pressures continue to grow and chances of coral survival are slim. The IPCC report noted that even if temperatures were held to 1.5C, between 70% and 90% of reefs would be lost.

A few of the more than 800 coral species have already been declared extinct, but as long as the major reef builders continue to exist, there is a faint possibility that this complex systems can be rebuilt if temperatures stabilise.

Scientists like Obura are increasingly turning to advocacy rather than just observation, but they say the last great function of corals might be to teach humanity to care better for other ecosystems.

“I’m of a generation of scientists watching them disappear. It’s very depressing,” he said. “Above 1.5C, in about 50 years, they will be ecosystems of legend, with beautiful virtual recreations and a treasure of historic, fantastic movies and images, but very little to see in real life.”

“We are trying to do more than record the decline by making activist statements. We need to get the message out that we must stop this happening to other eco-systems. That’s what motivates me. If we don’t take this lesson to restrict warming, then we’ll face much more of an impact.”

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Climate denial, California style

REDD Monitor - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 13:17
On 15 November 2018, a public meeting will take place to discuss the California Tropical Forest Standard. The debate so far about the proposal to include REDD offsets in California’s cap and trade scheme reveals that the California Air Resources Board is heavily biased in favour of carbon trading and is not interested in addressing […]
Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Lessons on building democracy after nonviolent revolutions

Waging Nonviolence - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 11:05

by Jonathan Pinckney

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In 2011, Egypt began a political transition following a nonviolent revolution. There was tremendous optimism both from within the country and abroad that the transition was likely to lead to a democratic outcome. In 2014, Burkina Faso also began a political transition after a nonviolent revolution overthrew longtime authoritarian President Blaise Compaoré. While many admired the revolution, its unfavorable conditions — low levels of economic development and a region that was less conducive to democracy — made the prospects for democratic advancement less optimistic. Yet, today, Egypt is once again under autocratic rule, following a 2013 coup by General Abdel-Fatah al-Sissi. Popular mobilization defeated a similar coup in Burkina Faso in 2015, and the country has now had democratic elections, putting it on the road to a long-term sustainable democracy.

What explains these differences? Why do some nonviolent revolutions end in democracy while others do not? And is nonviolent resistance really that much of a factor in promoting democracy in the first place? These are the questions that I examine in a new monograph from ICNC press: When Civil Resistance Succeeds: Building Democracy after Nonviolent Uprisings. The monograph builds on statistical research into 78 political transitions initiated by nonviolent resistance from 1945 to 2011, as well as interviews and in-depth examination of three particular transitions: Brazil’s transition away from military rule in the 1980s, Zambia’s transition away from single party rule in the 1990s, and Nepal’s transition away from monarchy in the 2000s. It focuses first on building our understanding of these questions using the best tools of social science research, and second on generating practical lessons that activists, political leaders and external actors interested in helping promote democracy after nonviolent revolutions can apply to their own situations.

The first major takeaway from the research is that nonviolent resistance does encourage democratic progress, even in very unfavorable circumstances. Out of the 78 political transitions initiated by nonviolent resistance, 60 ended with at least a minimal level of democracy. This is a much higher proportion than political transitions initiated through any other means. This strengthens the findings of earlier research that found that nonviolent resistance led to more democracy than violent resistance.

The second major takeaway is that when nonviolent revolutions fail to lead to democracy, this typically happens because of two specific challenges, which I refer to as the challenges of transitional mobilization and street radicalism. If these challenges are successfully resolved, then democratic outcomes are much more likely. If they are not successfully resolved, then countries tend to revert to non-democratic regimes, or end up with a hybrid regime mixing some elements of democracy and autocracy.

The first challenge is transitional mobilization. Nonviolent revolutions typically involve very high levels of social mobilization, with huge numbers of people from all walks of life pushing for positive change. Yet often after an initial democratic breakthrough this mobilization significantly declines. This is a problem because establishing democracy involves much more than simply removing a dictator. There are many more milestones on the road to democracy, and if popular pressure isn’t there for each one of them, then transitions can easily become derailed.

I highlight three lessons for maintaining mobilization during transitions after nonviolent revolutions. The first is to foster independent sources of civic pressure. It is difficult during a political transition to keep independent civil society groups vibrant and pushing for the needs of ordinary people. Often groups that were independent from the state enter politics en masse during the transition, undermining their independent voice and becoming too focused on gaining power. Or they become too professionalized, often because of connection to international donors, losing their “movement” character and connection to ordinary people. Neither entering politics nor professionalization are inherently bad things, and often both can be very useful. But it is crucial to maintain some independent voices that can sustain or escalate pressure for the sake of democratic change.

The second lesson for maintaining mobilization is to not put too much faith in your leaders. There is a strong tendency in many movements to personalize one’s opponents as wholly evil and one’s own leaders as wholly good. This tendency can lead to a belief that if your leaders could only be in positions of power then democratic progress would naturally follow. But the sad truth is that even good people who have gone through great sacrifices as part of a movement can also be corrupted by power. So, during political transitions, when movement leaders may be entering positions of political power for the first time, it is critical that they are judged based on their actions not on their history.

The third lesson is to build and maintain a positive vision of the future. Pro-democracy movements often focus on negative goals to mobilize people against dictators. It can be easier to unite a diverse coalition around getting rid of a particularly hated leader, rather than having hard conversations about what the future will look like once the leader is gone. But having those hard conversations is crucial because, once the hated leader or regime is gone, people need a reason to continue to engage in activism.

The second challenge is preventing what I call street radicalism. This challenge is in some ways the mirror image of the challenge of transitional mobilization. Nonviolent revolutions can provide strong signals that the tools of nonviolent political action can be wielded powerfully to achieve particular political goals. In the uncertainty of a political transition, this often means that there is a breakdown in building new regular avenues of politics and a common return to the streets. New institutions are delegitimized, and factions focus on using the most extreme tactics of nonviolent (and sometimes violent) resistance to gain short-term power advantages.

Street radicalism during transitions can prevent new institutions from forming, disrupt the creation of normal politics, and often lead to an authoritarian resurgence as ordinary people get fed up with the disruptions and uncertainty of politics. For example, in 2006 a primarily nonviolent resistance movement ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. In the following years, back and forth campaigns by Shinawatra’s “Red Shirt” supporters and their “Yellow Shirt” opponents severely undermined Thailand’s economic and political stability, leading to a 2014 military coup that ended the country’s democracy and has led to a dictatorship ruled over by former General Prayut Chanocha.

The first lesson on preventing street radicalism is to be careful when using highly disruptive protest tactics. Nonviolent resistance has many important “weapons” in its arsenal that can be very effective in disrupting social, economic and political life. This is what makes it a potent way of fighting injustice and oppression. But when these tools are deployed for selfish ends, or called upon too readily when new political institutions are still weak, they can backfire. Short-term gains achieved through disruption often rebound against the activists gaining them as ordinary people’s lives are destabilized.

The second lesson is to focus mobilization on new institutional channels. Political regimes, to be stable over the long-term, need to develop regular norms of interaction and participation. Movements can help to direct these norms in a democratic direction by focusing activism on institutional channels. For instance, one major feature of most political transitions is the writing of a new constitution. Activism can focus on directing the rules of that constitution towards expanding freedoms and human rights protections, setting up an institutional environment that can protect democracy for a long time to come.

The third lesson is to not shut out everyone from the old regime. Accountability for past crimes, particularly grievous human rights abuses, is central to any meaningful democratic tradition. But often the focus in political transitions moves beyond accountability to punishment and vindictiveness towards all those associated with the old regime. This creates a whole class of political players who have political skills but now no way of exercising them, and no reason to buy into the new democratic politics. They can thus often turn into a potent force seeking to undermine new democratic politics and preventing the creation of new institutions.

Maintaining mobilization and preventing street radicalism certainly aren’t the only challenges that political transitions after nonviolent revolutions face. Specific countries have their own unique challenges related to any number of different aspects of democratic progress. I focus on these challenges for two reasons. First, we see their dynamics across many different kinds of contexts. Second, they are characteristics of political transitions that are most open to change by those interested in promoting democracy.

It is important to emphasize as well that these lessons are meant to inform, rather than to limit, the choices that activists and politicians make during political transitions. There is no simple recipe for creating democracy after a nonviolent revolution, and the ways that these challenges, general as they are, will develop in particular countries will vary widely.

Nor does the successful resolution of these challenges necessarily guarantee that one’s country will remain a robust democracy indefinitely into the future. For instance, while Brazil’s transition in the 1980s was a good example of both high mobilization and low street radicalism, recent years have brought significant challenges to that country’s democracy, captured most recently by the election to the presidency of far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro. However, getting a country through the uncertainty of a political transition through high mobilization and low street radicalism tends to put countries on a stronger path towards a freer and more democratic future.

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Stop Biodiversity Loss or We Could Face Our Own Extinction, Warns UN

Earth First! Newswire - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 18:28

by Jonathan Watts / The Guardian

Deforestation in Indonesian to make way for a palm oil concession. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace

The world has two years to secure a deal for nature to halt a ‘silent killer’ as dangerous as climate change, says biodiversity chief.

The world must thrash out a new deal for nature in the next two years or humanity could be the first species to document our own extinction, warns the United Nation’s biodiversity chief.

Ahead of a key international conference to discuss the collapse of ecosystems, Cristiana Pașca Palmer said people in all countries need to put pressure on their governments to draw up ambitious global targets by 2020 to protect the insects, birds, plants and mammals that are vital for global food production, clean water and carbon sequestration.

“The loss of biodiversity is a silent killer,” she told the Guardian. “It’s different from climate change, where people feel the impact in everyday life. With biodiversity, it is not so clear but by the time you feel what is happening, it may be too late.”

Pașca Palmer is executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – the world body responsible for maintaining the natural life support systems on which humanity depends.

Its members – 195 states and the EU – will meet in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, this month to start discussions on a new framework for managing the world’s ecosystems and wildlife. This will kick off two years of frenetic negotiations, which Pașca Palmer hopes will culminate in an ambitious new global deal at the next conference in Beijing in 2020.

Conservationists are desperate for a biodiversity accord that will carry the same weight as the Paris climate agreement. But so far, this subject has received miserably little attention even though many scientists say it poses at least an equal threat to humanity.

The last two major biodiversity agreements – in 2002 and 2010 – have failed to stem the worst loss of life on Earth since the demise of the dinosaurs.

Eight years ago, under the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, nations promised to at least halve the loss of natural habitats, ensure sustainable fishing in all waters, and expand nature reserves from 10% to 17% of the world’s land by 2020. But many nations have fallen behind, and those that have created more protected areas have done little to police them. “Paper reserves” can now be found from Brazil to China.

The issue is also low on the political agenda. Compared to climate summits, few heads of state attend biodiversity talks. Even before Donald Trump, the US refused to ratify the treaty and only sends an observer. Along with the Vatican, it is the only UN state not to participate.

Cristiana Paşca Palmer, the UN’s biodiversity chief. Photograph: Herman njoroge chege/IISD/ENB

Pașca Palmer says there are glimmers of hope. Several species in Africa and Asia have recovered (though most are in decline) and forest cover in Asia has increased by 2.5% (though it has decreased elsewhere at a faster rate). Marine protected areas have also widened.

But overall, she says, the picture is worrying. The already high rates of biodiversity loss from habitat destruction, chemical pollution and invasive species will accelerate in the coming 30 years as a result of climate change and growing human populations. By 2050, Africa is expected to lose 50% of its birds and mammals, and Asian fisheries to completely collapse. The loss of plants and sea life will reduce the Earth’s ability to absorb carbon, creating a vicious cycle.

“The numbers are staggering,” says the former Romanian environment minister. “I hope we aren’t the first species to document our own extinction.”

Despite the weak government response to such an existential threat, she said her optimism about what she called “the infrastructure of life” was undimmed.

One cause for hope was a convergence of scientific concerns and growing interest from the business community. Last month, the UN’s top climate and biodiversity institutions and scientists held their first joint meeting. They found that nature-based solutions – such as forest protection, tree planting, land restoration and soil management – could provide up to a third of the carbon absorption needed to keep global warming within the Paris agreement parameters. In future the two UN arms of climate and biodiversity should issue joint assessments. She also noted that although politics in some countries were moving in the wrong direction, there were also positive developments such as French president, Emmanuel Macron, recently being the first world leader to note that the climate issue cannot be solved without a halt in biodiversity loss. This will be on the agenda of the next G7 summit in France.

“Things are moving. There is a lot of goodwill,” she said. “We should be aware of the dangers but not paralysed by inaction. It’s still in our hands but the window for action is narrowing. We need higher levels of political and citizen will to support nature.”

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

REDD in the news: 5-11 November 2018

REDD Monitor - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 08:54
REDD-Monitor’s round-up of the week’s news on forests, climate change, and REDD. For regular updates, follow @reddmonitor on Twitter. 5 November 2018 Forests Week: More than two decades pushing back against the theft of the world’s forests Environmental Investigation Agency, 5 November 2018 Founded in 1984 with a focus on wildlife crime, we first began working to […]
Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

A Growers diary from 2018

Extinction Rebellion - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 08:54

My 2018 season on the farm began with rain and lots of it. I had vivid dreams about the irrigation pond at the back of my caravan slowly filling my home while I slept.

The rain and the cold delayed the planting of crops and meant our two acres of asparagus lay dormant. We took advantage of the heavily sodden ground to dig docks out of the first acre of asparagus. We hoped to see spring soon.

Spring came with the first two swallows. It was a very short spring. The trees all blossomed and then greened in unison; the different shades of fresh greens were really beautiful. The asparagus responded with a bumper harvest over a month and a half. Some days we took 100-200 kg a day from the two fields. Spring flipped to summer very quickly.

We loved summer’s first month. We could plant whenever we wanted, not having to worry about sodden ground anymore. The seedlings responded well to the damp earth and constant sun. Then we started to miss the rains. I threw up while weeding the parsnip field. We began to really notice how hot it was. We missed breezes. We became obsessed with weather reports. The rains always seemed to miss us. The ground hardened. The irrigation ponds shrank.

A tame jackdaw named Morgana became part of the team. Driven into someone’s kitchen by hunger and thirst. We fed her by hand and she’d dosed with me in the hotbox that was my caravan during lunch. Sometimes we had 2-hour siestas to get through the hottest part of the day. We’d never needed siestas the 2 previous years I’d worked on the farm.

The summer continued. The grass browned. The crops suffered. We planted cabbages, kale and broccoli into sand. The soil blew off the fields into our eyes. I had to wear glasses to protect mine, which became red and itchy, my eyesight so blurred I couldn’t see properly. We drained both ponds. That had never happened in my time there or during the grower’s 16 years producing crops. We prayed for rain. It didn’t come.

The crops started wilted. Some started dying. We became desperate. We started taking water from the river. Bringing it back up to the farm in a water tanker. We fed our wilting crops sparingly through 120-metre-long irrigation pipes. We realised the true value of water. We we’re thankful then for that wet cold spring, which filled our rivers so they still ran during the drought. The rains that had kept local reservoirs full enough, so we could still water tunnel crops with mains water.

The river kept our crops alive. We heard other farms weren’t so lucky, losing whole plantings of crops twice over.

Rain finally came. We drank the 50 ml caught in the rain gauge with champagne I had saved for a special occasion. The rain had some effect, most of all on our morale, which had been waning as the summer continued. But we still needed to take from the river to truly feed the crops.

The news spoke of UK crops failing and lettuce was sailed across the Atlantic. Brexit talks continued with no definite or security.

The crops managed to survive through our sheer force of will and luck. Luck that someone had leant us that tanker; luck that the rivers and reservoirs still had enough water for us to feed our crops with. We were tired from the effort. I thought about it all and what it meant if that luck ran out.

My 6 month season ended. I felt emotionally and physically battered. I’d thought we’d had time. I thought we’d change it before it all happened; before the climate truly broke down. Then I, a Western, got a taste of how the other half of the planet lives, the half that truly knows what climate change means. Food insecurity. I saw what that looked and felt like. It was terrifying to contemplate what happens when the luck run out. I thanked whatever’s up there for the March rains which filled our pond, reservoir and rivers. Do we hope to based our food security on the luck of the weather? Because we can’t be certain about how the weather behaves anymore. 2018 was a year of ice and fire, neither of which we were ready for; I know I wasn’t.

I have a sadness in me I didn’t have before this year and before this season. It’s the sadness that comes from dead hope. From truly feeling what dying, sterilised earth feels like and that we are heading for big, uncomfortable changes.

From my comfortable position as a Westerner I’ve cared about the environment almost in the way you care for a pet. I got upset about it, signed petitions about plastic in the oceans and the extinction of species, tried to champion the natural world through my art and chose to work in organic farming. But it was only this year that I realised that I’M in danger. My little taste of food insecurity, which must be laughably small in comparison to what African or Middle Eastern farmers experience, made me realise how little we are ready for the dramatic breakdowns in the status quo of our weather. Which are going to happen. This was a year of ice and fire; the Beast from the East to The Grapes of Wrath.

I still carry this sadness in me. It pops up regularly; snatches away happy moments; the pointed end of the stick bursting my optimistic bubble. I guess that’s why I wanted to write this for Extinction Rebellion, because they acknowledge this sadness, this dire experience that we are apathetically allowing to happen, but they are showing such energy in response to it. They speak common sense and they speak it loudly so we can all hear and maybe have enough time to change. They call up the utter nonsense and self-interest that has infested out politics and our systems and they inspire me to continue.

Next year I will still be growing crops; my partner and I will be renting a market garden from the start of 2019 and we plan to incorporate all kinds of plants and habitats to benefit the wildlife which shares the land, but I now know that these actions also benefit me, that protecting nature isn’t an act of sacrifice or parenthood, but one that means I too can keep living on this earth.

Written by Rebecca Mackay

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

‘No Benefits’ to Planned Release of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Global Justice Ecology Project - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 08:37
The release of the GM mosquito poses risks, including the incidental release of some biting female GM mosquitoes during the experiments. While Target Malaria claims that the number will be small, nevertheless, since GM female mosquitoes can bite humans and spread disease, the release of biting females still poses some risk to local people.
Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

Extinction Rebellion – Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night

Extinction Rebellion - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 06:40

On the 31st October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. The awareness of this action’s long-term significance may have escaped him at the time. With swathes of people turning against the Catholic Church, which had been the most powerful force in Europe for countless years, any doubts about its effect cannot have lasted long.

On the 31st of December 2018, Extinction Rebellion issued a “Declaration of Rebellion” against the British Government. The event was passionate and inspiring. One hopes it will have a similarly galvanising effect as Luther’s hammers had upon the Church. Indeed, it will need to if we are to survive the ecocide standing before us.

This time of year has a feeling of rebellion. The haze of Summer, which somehow seeps well into September, starts to lift. Suddenly we are plunged into darkness and our clocks go back. An extra hour’s sleep never feels quite enough. Halloween is a time for Trick or Treat – far more of an American tradition than a British one. There’s something anarchic about the whole idea that I find appealing – the act of sanctioned, carnivalesque begging. Is giving sweets to strangers paying homage to that sense of hospitality we fear losing, or are we symbolically paying tribute to monsters we have no way of controlling?

Imagine if this practice happened constantly throughout the year? The Trick aspect of Trick or Treat is presented as a last resort if children do not get the treats they want. But really Trick is more of a word for the whole masquerade of Halloween, and its anti-authoritarian semblances, for dressing up as ghouls and ghosts. Halloween is about joyful anonymity through masquerade. It feels in some sense like an age-old protest. Or at least an exorcism of bad spirits.  

Costume parties run into November. And in Britain unlike the US we have Guy Fawkes Night. When I was a child, it always struck me as unpleasant to celebrate someone’s execution with bonfires and burning effigies. It took an imagination like Alan Moore’s to reinvent the Guy Fawkes imagery as an act of rebellion against a future British fascist state in his comic V for Vendetta to symbolically spin something out of Guy Fawkes’ vengeance at years of smouldering mannequins. On the night of the 3rd November, I sat in a plush London cinema watching the film version; a tear ran down my cheek at the inhumanity and the cruelty the film portrays. The message is very much that a certain ruthlessness, based on revenge, is if not necessary then at least inevitable for a mass popular uprising. The lead characters “V” and “Evie Hammond” delight in gleeful destruction – art as political violence.

In some senses, the Extinction Rebellion is similar – more subtle and much more forgiving than the swashbuckling anarchist of the aforementioned tale. Rather than taking pleasure in chaos, Extinction Rebellion presupposes that worldwide chaos is already occurring. Waking people up to their fate involves not blaming or taking out our anger on those who stand against us: the government and big business. Their resistance involves presenting us with half measures to global warming: they cannot face up to destruction, they will waver until the last minute to Midnight. It is only through grieving the extinction that is presently happening that we can hope to change the status quo. People do not know what they have until it is gone. Sadness is powerful and also political. Meanwhile, we have to be creative and artistic against a backdrop of violence and destruction. We have to speak truth to the emotions that lay in the realm beyond a climate apocalypse: both a collective mourning for what we are losing and a collective joy in what we are building anew.

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

To those willing to look into the abyss

Extinction Rebellion - Sun, 11/11/2018 - 13:00

By Justine Huxley of

It seems we have entered a new phase in our journey of self-destruction, and the ecological and social collapse we have suspected to be on the horizon is now coming to meet us.

Protecting ourselves from hopelessness no longer serves us.  As many enlightened activists have told us (such as Scilla Elworthy, nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize), only if we walk towards the  darkness and not away from it, can we be transformed and be of real service to others or the world.

I cannot shake off the image of an individual facing a life-threatening illness.  Confronted with a potentially terminal diagnosis, making rapid outer changes in lifestyle is immediate, driven by the determination to live.  But surrendering to the real possibility of death is behind the deeper change – change which could be viewed through the lens of reconciliation.  Reconciliation with our own mortality and with how our individual life has been lived often leads to reconciliation with our family, to making peace with our enemies, and to decisions – made with a sharply awakened consciousness – about which values to live by if time might be limited.

I’ve seen awe-inspiring change made by people in these situations.  I’ve seen people drop grudges and let go of fixed patterns overnight, in a way that seemed almost unbelievable to those around them.  I’ve seen people give up long-held defences and open to the beauty and spontaneity of life. It’s as if a secret reveals itself about what it means to be human.  The seriousness also catapults us beyond the limits of the physical body and into the journey of the soul. Something much bigger than our own individual life makes its presence felt – whether we call that God, or experience it through the power of human love and our existence in a web of  relationship with others.

All this happens when we are brave enough to go beyond denial, to embrace despair and be changed by it.  And miracles are possible in this space.

Sitting with this theme of reconciliation, I feel a call to reach inward – to ask my own heart how I can love more fearlessly – not just those close to me, but our whole human family and those around the world whose lives are already being torn apart.  How can I allow my heart to be broken by it all – by the beauty of what we are destroying, by the melody of a solitary blackbird, or by those pregnant moments before first light, as a dark winter night awakens into day. How can I live the knowledge that mystery is present even in the midst of what is falling apart?

I also feel a call to reach outwards –  to colleagues, activists and spiritual companions – to make space for retreat and discernment.  Not to give up on outer action which is critical, but to explore in parallel this inner work of reconciliation and see if we can source the resilience that comes only from being in touch with the depths.  How can we prepare honestly for what is coming? How can we act with integrity, and keep acting from that place, even on the days when it all seems futile?  How can we meet this with the full depth of our spirituality – with both the ferocious passion and the ruthless inner detachment that real service demands?

To those willing to look into the abyss – may our love and connection with each other and with Earth make this a time of meaning –  and sustain us in the times to come.

Categories: B4. Radical Ecology

The truth behind Antarctica’s fast-melting ice

Extinction Rebellion - Sun, 11/11/2018 - 02:30

By Kate Goldstone




Antarctica, which has long been thought to be relatively safe from vast ice melts, has proved us wrong. It’s actually in just as much trouble as the Arctic.

Plenty of people believed the ice on Antarctica wouldn’t melt as fast as the Arctic. Then, in April 2017, scientists claimed Antarctica’s ice might actually be melting a lot faster than anyone predicted. It matters because Antarctica is home to 90% of the world’s ice. If it keeps melting this quickly, and the continent’s massive ice sheets go, we’re looking at profound worldwide effects including mass flooding.

What’s going on, and is the trend continuing? Here’s what you need to know.


How Arctic and Antarctic sea ice differ

Because the Arctic and Antarctics’ geography is different, so is their ice. The Arctic ocean is partly enclosed, mostly surrounded by land. Its ice is less mobile and floes tend to clump together into thick ridges. Ridge ice has a longer life cycle and stays frozen for longer. The region is home to 5.8 million square miles of sea ice in winter, reducing to roughly 2.7 million square miles by the end of the summer.

The Antarctic is totally different. Made up of land surrounded by ocean, the sea ice there moves freely and drifts faster. There are fewer ice ridges as a result, and the lack of a land boundary to the north means the ice naturally floats northwards into warmer waters before melting. Winter sees about 6.9 million square miles of Antarctic ocean covered in sea ice, but by the end of the summer there are only around 1.1 million square miles of it left.


Clear warnings in 2017

April 2017 saw the first reports of Antarctica’s ice melting faster than previously predicted, thanks to the discovery of a network of lakes and streams under the continent’s ice shelves which created a destabilising influence on the ice above. The study was published in the journal Nature and revealed the process is taking place in areas where scientists didn’t think there was any liquid water. As global temperatures keep rising, the speed of the damage can only increase. The team examined satellite images dating as far back as 1973 as well as aerial images snapped by military aircraft way back in the 1940s. And the results were a shocker – some of the streams flowed for 75 miles, and some of the lakes were several miles across.

A few months later in November 2017 a study examined the east Antarctic Totten ice shelf, finding it unexpectedly vulnerable to warming waters. And still governments failed to react, never mind act. March 2018 saw scientists announce more of the Totten Ice Shelf was floating than they’d predicted. Multiple different types of supporting evidence proved the point. Now it looks a lot like a certainty. If Larsen C and Totten melt, the world’s sea levels will rise as much as 5 metres. Totten could easily contribute a 3m sea level rise all on its own.


Another equally clear warning in 2018

In August 2018, more headline news surfaced about Antarctica’s ice. It appeared a couple of enormous glaciers to the east of the region had lost ice mass disturbingly quickly in the years since the millennium. The results hinted that forecasts for sea level rise this century will have to be revised upwards, but nobody knows exactly how much. While it’s obvious the ice in Antarctica is melting frighteningly quickly, the complex dependencies and inter-dependencies that make it happen aren’t at all clear.

So far most molten Antarctic ice has come from the west of the continent. The Antarctic Peninsula is under particular threat, reaching out into the ocean and exposed to warmer waters, and the Larsen C ice sheet, which famously cracked in 2017, is also to the west. East Antarctica has long been thought to be more stable, cut off from the planet’s weather systems by powerful spinning gales that stop the warmth getting anywhere near. On the other hand it’s so remote that scientists have spent decades guestimating what might happen instead of actually measuring. But they keep getting it wrong. In 2015 one piece of research hinted the region was putting on extra ice, not losing it, but closer examination revealed it was simply not true.

Even if Totten disappears, we probably won’t see a 5m rise by 2100. There’s such a lot we don’t know about the behaviour of Antarctic ice and the many factors a big melt depends on. It apparently takes hundreds of gigatonnes of ice to raise sea levels by just one millimetre, and Totten isn’t anywhere near that level… yet. But it might speed up, and we have no idea how fast the melting could ultimately become once we pass a tipping point, also unknown.

There are more unknowns around the effect of the geology underneath the continent, the shape of the bedrock itself. And the channels running from underneath the Totten link it to the ocean give warmer water the access it needs to potentially kick off a runaway melt.

Only one thing is clear. The original consensus was far too cautious. Now we know for sure Antarctica is losing ice mass hand over fist. It has been losing ice for years. And nobody knows where the tipping point is.


The effects of runaway sea level rises

The cities under the most threat from rising sea levels also happen to be amongst the biggest on the planet, the most financially, socially and culturally important. Alexandria in Africa, The Hague in Europe, Miami in North America and Rio de janiero in South America are all at risk, home to a total of 10 million people, almost all of whom would be displaced. Ten million migrants from just four cities… that’s hard to deal with. And it’s only the tip of the iceberg, if you’ll forgive the pun. On every continent, in every sea-facing country, we’d have to build vast amounts of new housing stock for migrants.

Cities don’t operate in isolation, either. Every drowned city means drowned transport networks, communications networks, power, utilities and food networks, all left under water permanently. Wildlife will suffer just as badly, forced out of natural habitats. It actually doesn’t bear thinking about… but it’s happening all the same. As UN environment chief Erik Solheim said before last year’s Bon conference, “[We] still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future.”


What are governments doing about Antarctic ice loss?

Antarctic ice melt is driven by climate change. Governments are not doing enough about climate change. All over the world those in power are still prevaricating, delaying, discussing and disagreeing while Rome burns. It’s our job to force them to act. Will you join us?


Categories: B4. Radical Ecology