Daily Archives: December 9, 2013

NSA trolls World of Warcraft looking for terrorists

E120, e145,

Drone-ing for life in the atmosphere: David Schmale at TEDxVirginiaTech

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One media giant is monopolizing the entire local TV market

E120, media

Water and Wastewater Policy Forum on Capitol Hill – Steven Stockton

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NSA spies on World of Warcraft players

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Wikileaks releases more TPP documents

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Tech giants call for tighter limits on gov’t surveillance

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Geoengineering The Sky is Not ‘Normal’


Rachel Smolker Co-director, Biofuelwatch

In the wake of the climate negotiations in Warsaw, the consensus appears near universal: the international process is not going to deliver, and it is up to countries and communities to go it on their own. For some, that means taking serious and dramatic steps to reduce emissions. For others, like Bangladesh or the island nations, it means finding a way to survive the consequences of climate change with little help from the international community. For all of us, it means facing a future of weather extremes, crop failures and potential disruption of virtually everything on an unprecedented scale. For advocates of climate geoengineering, the failure of global agreement is wind in their sails: “More reasons” why drastic measures such as spewing sulphate particles into the stratosphere, or “fertilizing” the ocean with iron filings, or burning and burying billions of tons biomass (as biochar or “bioenergy with carbon capture and storage”) should be seriously considered and research should be gloriously funded.

Of course the converse argument is that if global agreement on addressing climate change cannot be achieved, how can we possibly expect any global consensus on, or governance of “technomanagement” of the atmosphere where the risks of serious negative consequences, for some people in some places, at least, are so grave?

This worries me profoundly, and apparently others as well. It is why faculty from Johns Hopkins University and American University recently launched a new, Washington DC based “Climate Geoengineering Consortium“.The stated goal of the consortium, perhaps laudable, is “to generate space for perspectives from civil society actors and the wider public, to produce a heightened level of engagement around issues of justice, agency, and inclusion.” Perhaps I am too skeptical, but “generating space” for a debate seems a bit vague. This new consortium recently organized a meeting, slated as a “closed door” meeting of civil society representatives. Closed meetings for civil society always make me a little nervous. Especially when the topic is planetary scale interference with the global commons — the life support systems of our planet!

I’m not sure really how I ended up on the list of invitees, but I decided to attend. The meeting was held in a stark space at Johns Hopkins, with the requisite sleek furnishings and snack plates wrapped securely in sparkling plastic. Nobody in attendance was a shade darker than a bowl of oatmeal, all were dressed in drab, illuminated by glowing computers, tablets and smartphones. Represented were staff from Johns Hopkins and American University, as well as the conservative American Enterprise Institute (Lee Lane), Bipartisan Policy Center, NASA (Mike McCracken), the renowned blogger, Joe Romm, and long time (but now retired) Friends of the Earth director, Brent Blackwelder. There were representatives from U.S. Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, Food and Water Watch and various others. Certainly more diverse than some meetings, but even I could not avoid the sensation of being sort of a token.

Strikingly absent from the event was the single organization (ETC Group) that has been for years already working to raise awareness of climate geoengineering proposals among civil society via their “Hands Off Mother Earth” campaign, and also via their dogged and successful effort to promote a defacto ban on geoengineering through the Convention on Biodiversity. No other NGO has devoted anywhere near the attention to the issue, and yet oddly they were not behind these closed doors.

As expected, the opening remarks focused on reconfirming for us a sense of desperation, as we face global warming already on track to utter catastrophe. No disagreement there. We were told that climate scientists are running scared and so they are increasingly, even if reluctantly, turning to a “Plan B” for the planet. Plan B of course, being none other than, say, dumping sulphate particles into the stratosphere, pouring iron filings into the ocean, or perhaps charring and burying vast quantities of “biomass”.

….(read more).

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

“Fault Lines: Elsipogtog: The Fire Over Water” Friday, Dec 6 at 9:30p ET / 6:30p PT

Al Jazeera America

Published on Dec 4, 2013

What happens when a First Nation says no to fracking? Watch “Fault Lines” this Friday, Dec 6. at ET/6:30p PT to find out what happens when we travel to Mi’kmaq territory in New Brunswick.

Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Right to food wins ‘defensive battle’ in World Trade Organization deal

Opinion: The Bali meeting yielded a flawed ‘trade facilitation’ agreement that still mostly benefits international trade firms.

Enlarge Fake dice are placed by activists from La Via Campesina while they hold a protest against the WTO at the 9th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Bali. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images)

BALI, Indonesia — A tense and acrimonious four-day standoff ended Saturday morning at the World Trade Organization meeting in Bali.

A last-minute objection by Cuba and three Latin American allies held up the agreement Friday night, with Cuba objecting to the hypocrisy of a “trade facilitation” agreement – one part of the so-called Bali package – that ignored the United States’ discriminatory treatment of the island nation under the US trade embargo.

Overnight, text was added to reflect Cuba’s concern even if it did nothing to resolve the issue. Call it the story of the WTO.

Leading up to this week’s meeting, the US and other rich countries had attempted to declare India’s food security program in violation of the WTO’s archaic and biased rules and sought to discipline the program as “trade distorting.”

More from GlobalPost: US opposition to ambitious Indian program a ‘direct attack on the right to food’

India and other developing countries fended off the challenge to these programs, which support small farmers and help feed the hungry. But the final agreement is no green light.

Countries considering such programs would not be protected by the “peace clause” that will shield India and some others for the next four years. And onerous reporting requirements put the onus on the developing country to prove that its stock-holding program is not “trade distorting.”

In return for the modest protections for food security programs, and a vague package of reforms for the least developed countries, developing countries also agreed here to a trade facilitation package that could benefit some of them but might demand more than they can give.

The package comes with binding commitments for developing countries to streamline customs and other trade systems. Though the timetable for fulfilling these commitments is flexible, developed countries have not promised funding to support such improvements.

A cash-strapped government, then, could end up bound to prioritize improving its port computer systems over public health or education.

In the end, the main beneficiaries of trade facilitation measures are transnational firms that are positioned to export and import and are looking for improved access to developing country markets.

And that is the never-ending story of the WTO in the age of globalization. The Bali Package in no way deviates from that script. But the right to food won an important defensive battle in the larger war for a global trading system worthy of the lofty development ideals of the Doha Round.

The next battle will come within four short years, by which WTO members have committed to resolve this issue for good.

If they resume negotiations, they should begin with the original G33 proposal to remove WTO obstacles to Food Security, as over 300 global civil society organizations demanded in a letter last month. A similar call came from civil society groups from the Least Developed Countries, the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Group, and the Africa Group.

They could begin with the simplest solution proposed by India: agreeing to update the antiquated international reference price from the 1980s, which makes any administered price today seem like a massive subsidy.

….(read more).

Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120
Food-Matters http://Food-Matters.TV