Daily Archives: September 17, 2014

Scientists praise and challenge FAO on agroecology

Scientists praise and challenge FAO on agroecology

Nearly 70 scientists and scholars of sustainable agriculture and food systems sent an open letter to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today, praising the organization for convening an International Symposium on Agroecology for Food and Nutrition Security. Given the multiple, overlapping challenges posed by continued food insecurity, rural poverty, climate change, drought and water scarcity, the letter calls for a solid commitment to agroecology from the international community.

According to the letter, agroecology’s broad base in science and society means it is uniquely suited to address today’s challenges in food and agricultural systems. It can be considered a science, a set of practices, and a social movement for food sovereignty and justice. As a science, agroecology integrates multiple disciplines into a “trans-discipline,” drawing on fields such as ecology, agronomy, political economy and sociology. As a set of practices, it can provide multiple benefits to society and the environment, from reducing pollution from agriculture and supporting the conservation of the environment to boosting nutrition security and improving resilience in a changing climate. As a movement, it can address the vitally important issues of distributive and procedural justice in food and agriculture—that is, who gets access to what resources and how to decide. The letter points out that, according to well-established science, social movements and addressing distributive and procedural justice are just as crucial as scientific and technical innovation in sustainably implementing the right to food.

…(read more).

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Playing God

September 16, 2014
by Steve Fraser

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr CC 2.0)

This post first appeared at TomDispatch.

George Baer was a railroad and coal mining magnate at the turn of the 20th century. Amid a violent and protracted strike that shut down much of the country’s anthracite coal industry, Baer defied President Teddy Roosevelt’s appeal to arbitrate the issues at stake, saying, “The rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for… not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men of property to whom God has given control of the property rights of the country.” To the Anthracite Coal Commission investigating the uproar, Baer insisted, “These men don’t suffer. Why hell, half of them don’t even speak English.”

We might call that adopting the imperial position. Titans of industry and finance back then often assumed that they had the right to supersede the law and tutor the rest of America on how best to order its affairs. They liked to play God. It’s a habit that’s returned with a vengeance in our own time.

The Koch brothers are only the most conspicuous among a whole tribe of “self-made” billionaires who imagine themselves architects or master builders of a revamped, rehabilitated America. The resurgence of what might be called dynastic or family capitalism, as opposed to the more impersonal managerial capitalism many of us grew up with, is changing the nation’s political chemistry.

Our own masters of the universe, like the “robber barons” of old, are inordinately impressed with their ascendancy to the summit of economic power. Add their personal triumphs to American culture’s perennial love affair with business — President Calvin Coolidge, for instance, is remembered today only for proclaiming that “the business of America is business” — and you have a formula for megalomania.

Take Jeff Greene, otherwise known as the “Meltdown Mogul.” Back in 2010, he had the chutzpah to campaign in the Democratic primary for a Florida senate seat in a Miami neighborhood ravaged by the subprime mortgage debacle — precisely the arena in which he had grown fabulously rich. In the process, he rallied locals against Washington insiders and regaled them with stories of his life as a busboy at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. Protected from the Florida sun by his Prada shades, he alluded to his wealth as evidence that, as a maestro of collateralized debt obligations, no one knew better than he how to run the economy he had helped to pulverize. He put an exclamation point on his campaign by flying off in his private jet only after securely strapping himself in with his gold-plated seat buckles.

…(read more).

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Naomi Klein: Only a Reverse Shock Doctrine Can Save Our Climate

September 16, 2014
by Joshua Holland

Young girls protest in front of the Polish Ministry of Economy, where a coal industry meeting took place in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

In her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein argues that if we had taken action years ago when scientists first established that human activities were changing our climate, we might have been able to deal with the problem of global warming with only minimal disruption to our economic system. But as we approach a tipping point, and the consequences of climate change come into sharper focus, that time has passed, and we now have to acknowledge that preserving humans’ habitat requires a paradigm change.

But Klein doesn’t just offer us a depressing litany of the damage we’ve already done. She calls on us to seriously rethink the way our economy is structured to address not only climate change, but also other longstanding social problems like persistent global poverty and rising inequality.

BillMoyers.com spoke with Klein about the fundamental challenges – and opportunities – that come from dealing with a warming planet at this stage of the game. Below is a transcript of our discussion that’s been edited for length and clarity.

Joshua Holland: Please briefly lay out the thesis of the book and then we can drill down into a few points.

Naomi Klein: The thesis of the book is that by responding robustly to climate change — in line with what scientists tell us we have to do — we have a once-in-a-century opportunity to solve some of the biggest and most intractable problems facing our economy. I’m talking about creating countless good jobs, rebuilding ailing infrastructure to help protect us from the heavy weather that we’ve already locked in, and lowering our emissions so it doesn’t get markedly worse.

We also have an incredible opportunity to address our most intransigent economic problem, which is inequality within our countries, and also between our countries. We can also have safer, more livable cities and cleaner air. So there is a lot of potentially good news.

The bad news is that we can’t do any of this by just changing our light bulbs or politely lobbying governments behind the scenes. We need to have a robust public debate about what values we want to have govern our society. The argument I make in the first part of the book is that the reason we’ve failed so spectacularly to rise to this existential crisis — and by failed I mean our emissions are up 61 percent since we started working on this issue in the early 1990s — is because the things we have to do clash fundamentally with the core ideology that has reigned in this same period, which is market fundamentalism.

This is a crisis with spectacularly bad timing because it fell in our laps at the very moment that history was being declared over and liberals around the world were exporting this market fundamentalism. They’re telling us we can’t regulate just when we need to regulate and that we can’t invest in the public sphere just when we need to do exactly that. They say there’s no such thing as society, when what we need more than anything is to come together and act collectively.

…(read more).

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Climate Change: The Next Generation | Moyers & Company

http://billmoyers.com/segment/climate-change-the-next-generation/

Climate Change: The Next Generation

September 17, 2014

As world leaders converge for the UN’s global summit on climate and thousands gather in New York for the People’s Climate March, Bill talks to 18-year-old Oregonian Kelsey Juliana, who is walking across America to draw attention to global warming.

Kelsey Juliana comes by her activism naturally – her parents met in the 1990’s while fighting the logging industry’s destruction of old growth forests and she attended her first protest when she was two months old.

Now just out of high school, she’s co-plaintiff in a major lawsuit that could force the state of Oregon to take a more aggressive stance against the carbon emissions warming the earth and destroying the environment. And she’s walking across the United States as part of the Great March for Climate Action, due to arrive in Washington, DC, on November 1.

“You don’t have to call yourself an activist to act,” she says. “I think that’s so important that people my age really get [that] into their heads. As a younger person, I have everything to gain from taking action and everything to lose from not… It’s important that youth are the ones who are standing up because of the fact that we do have so much to lose.”

….(read more).

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This Changes Everything: Naomi Klein Is Right, Unchecked Capitalism Will Destroy Civilization

by Joe Romm Posted on September 16, 2014 at 5:10 pmUpdated: September 16, 2014 at 9:11 pm

This Changes Everything: Naomi Klein Is Right, Unchecked Capitalism Will Destroy Civilization

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Best-selling progressive journalist Naomi Klein has an important new book out, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate.” The author of “No Logo” and “The Shock Doctrine” now “tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth,” as the book jacket aptly puts it.

In diagnosing the unprecedented existential threat humanity faces thanks to our myopia and unbridled greed, Klein has three essential points to make:

  1. Because we have ignored the increasingly urgent warnings and pleas for action from climate scientists for a quarter century (!) now, the incremental or evolutionary paths to avert catastrophic global warming that we might have been able to take in the past are closed to us.
  2. Humanity faces a stark choice as a result: The end of civilization as we know it or the end of capitalism as we know it.
  3. Choosing “unregulated capitalism” over human civilization would be a “morally monstrous” choice — and so the winning message for the climate movement is a moral one.

As an aside, readers may remember that I don’t always agree with Klein on either substance or messaging. And obviously I have quibbles with her book — in particular I am skeptical of some elements of her proposed “cure” (and how she frames them) as I’ll discuss in a later post. But in fairness to Klein, our 25-year dawdling has made the diagnosis (and prognosis) unimaginably graver and thus made all cures look politically implausible, as the pessimistic, do-little “eco-modernists” keep pointing out far too gleefully.

To anyone who thinks attacking unchecked capitalism is not a winning a message (when done correctly), I’d urge you to read the advice of Frank Luntz, the GOP’s top messaging guru, on the subject: “don’t say capitalism” because Americans “think capitalism is immoral.”

The great value in the book lies in Klein’s understanding and elaboration of the three essential points above. Indeed I’m not certain any other book has so clearly spelled out these points. And yet these three points are, arguably, the most important ones for climate hawks, for the (misnamed) “intelligentsia” — indeed, for all homo sapiens — to understand at a deep level, since they clarify the choices we now face in the actions we must now take.

…(read more).

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34 Children Die in Syria from Tainted Measles Vaccine


http://youtu.be/72Zh-qdkP3g?t=2m23s

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The Koch Brothers’ 3-Step Plan to Conquer the Next Generation

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

17 September 14

ight-wing oligarchs dominating our political process, like the Koch Brothers, are wealthy beyond measure. Combined, Charles and David Koch are worth over $100 billion, and make $6 million per hour. That translates to over $1600 per second, which is enough to feed someone on food stamps for an entire year. Compare that figure to the $13 million that former Kroger CEO David Dillon earned in his last year with the company, which he called “ludicrous.” Their only problem is their age – David Koch is 74, Charles Koch is 78. For their class to maintain power over American politics and government, they have to make investments in future generations to ensure their ideology will live on beyond them.

It’s been well-documented by now how the Koch Brothers are sponsoring economic programs at colleges and universities around the country. By itself, this could be interpreted as philanthropy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a billionaire donating some of his wealth to education. But the greater strategy in the Kochs’ chess game isn’t just to make themselves wealthier, but a far more sinister one. That strategy can be broken down into three steps:

1. Defund Public Schools

America’s public schools and universities are all being deprived of state tax dollars slowly but surely. This is not an accident. Model bills written by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (an innocuous-sounding merger of right-wing state legislators and corporate lobbyists) accomplish this goal threefold. First, model legislation aimed at giving corporations huge tax breaks gets passed. Then, model resolutions stating that balancing the budget must take priority over funding public institutions are passed. Finally, ALEC legislators use those resolutions as justification to slash public services, like schools, to the bone in order to plug the gaping budget hole made by corporate tax breaks.

Florida governor Rick Scott has slashed school funding while simultaneously advocating for over $140 million in new corporate tax breaks. Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett has given out $3 billion in corporate tax breaks during his tenure, and has cut education funding by $1 billion. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker cut schools by $1.2 billion and has given out $570 million in corporate tax breaks. On its own, this could be seen as, at best, a radical gamble in economic growth with schools on the line. But when this tactic is repeated in multiple states in different geographical regions, it’s apparent there’s a strategy at play.

2. Make Schools Dependent on Private Entities for Money

At Florida State University, emails from an economics professor in 2008 show that the Koch Brothers were willing to donate millions to the university through their foundation, but only if they had a say in the curriculum that was taught and in the hiring of professors to teach the curriculum. FSU took the donation, and consulted with the Koch Foundation on who would be hired to teach courses that largely vilified government services and promoted the Kochs’ unique brand of libertarian free market ideology. At the time, Florida’s public universities had seen their funding levels fall by 41 percent over the previous five years.

Public universities traditionally depend on state government funding for 53 percent of their operational budgets. But without a dependable key funding source like state governments, colleges and universities are forced to raise tuition, which results in only a privileged class of students able to attend college. Public universities are also forced to come crawling to private interests like Koch-funded foundations for funding, which always comes with strings attached.

3. Ingrain students with Greed-Based Ideology

To be blunt, the Kochs’ economic philosophy is essentially, “Fuck you, I’ve got mine.” In 1980, David Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket. Some of his proposals included killing Medicare and Medicaid, eliminating federal campaign finance laws, doing away with all environmental protections, abolishing the minimum wage, and privatizing water systems, railways, and the post office. Koch also called for eliminating laws that prevent creditors from gouging debtors with high interest rates, deregulating private health insurance companies, and killing the food stamp program.

In the college and high school courses on Libertarian thought offered by the Institute for Humane Studies, a Koch-funded think tank, many of these ideas are taught to unsuspecting and impressionable young students. As the Center for Public Integrity reported, students are taught about how sweat shop workers in third world countries don’t have it so bad, how the federal minimum wage kills jobs, and how the Environmental Protection Agency is bad for the environment.

…(read more).

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