Daily Archives: November 24, 2018

The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation And Human Rights: Robin Blackburn


The American Crucible furnishes a vivid and authoritative history of the rise and fall of slavery in the Americas. For over three centuries enslavement promoted the rise of capitalism in the Atlantic world. The New World became the crucible for a succession of fateful experiments in colonization, silver mining, plantation agriculture, racial enslavement, colonial rebellion, slave witness and slave resistance. Slave produce raised up empires, fostered new cultures of consumption and financed the breakthrough to an industrial order.

Not until the stirrings of a revolutionary age in the 1780s was there the first public challenge to the ‘peculiar institution’. An anti-slavery alliance then set the scene for great acts of emancipation in Haiti in 1804, Britain in 1833–8, the United States in the 1860s, and Cuba and Brazil in the 1880s. In The American Crucible, Robin Blackburn argues that the anti-slavery movement forged many of the ideals we live by today.

‘The best treatment of slavery in the western hemisphere I know of. I think it should establish itself as a permanent pillar of the literature.’ Eric Hobsbawm

The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery: 1776-1848 (Verso World History Series): Robin Blackburn


In 1770 a handful of European nations ruled the Americas, drawing from them a stream of products, both everyday and exotic. Some two and a half million black slaves, imprisoned in plantation colonies, toiled to produce the sugar, coffee, cotton, ginger and indigo craved by Europeans. By 1848 the major systems of colonial slavery had been swept away either by independence movements, slave revolts, abolitionists or some combination of all three. How did this happen?

Robin Blackburn’s history captures the complexity of a revolutionary age in a compelling narrative. In some cases colonial rule fell while slavery flourished, as happened in the South of the United States and in Brazil; elsewhere slavery ended but colonial rule remained, as in the British West Indies and French Windwards. But in French St. Domingue, the future Haiti, and in Spanish South and Central America both colonialism and slavery were defeated. This story of slave liberation and American independence highlights the pivotal role of the “first emancipation” in the French Antilles in the 1790s, the parallel actions of slave resistance and metropolitan abolitionism, and the contradictory implications of slaveholder patriotism.

The dramatic events of this epoch are examined from an unexpected vantage point, showing how the torch of anti-slavery passed from the medieval communes to dissident Quakers, from African maroons to radical pirates, from Granville Sharp and Ottabah Cuguano to Toussaint L’Ouverture, from the black Jacobins to the Liberators of South America, and from the African Baptists in Jamaica to the Revolutionaries of 1848 in Europe and the Caribbean

The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800 | Robin Blackburn


The Making of New World Slavery argues that independent commerce, geared to burgeoning consumer markets, was the driving force behind the rise of plantation slavery. The baroque state sought—successfully—to feed upon this commerce and—with markedly less success—to regulate slavery and racial relations. To illustrate this thesis, Blackburn examines the deployment of slaves in the colonial possessions of the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, the English and the French. Plantation slavery is shown to have emerged from the impulses of civil society, not from the strategies of individual states.

Robin Blackburn argues that the organization of slave plantations placed the West on a destructive path to modernity and that greatly preferable alternatives were both proposed and rejected. Finally, he shows that the surge of Atlantic trade, predicated on the murderous toil of the plantations, made a decisive contribution to both the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the West.

100 Special Planes and $2.5 Billion per year for Sulphate Geoengineering – NextBigFuture.com

Researchers reviewed all lofting technologies that seem plausible as methods to put 100,000 tons per year of sulphur to an altitude of up to ~20 km in 2033. The program then scales to 5 million tons per year. Their main research involved engaging directly with commercial aerospace vendors to elicit what current and near-term technology platforms can achieve at what cost. We have met or corresponded directly with: Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Gulfstream, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman; GE Engines, Rolls Royce Engines; Atlas Air, Near Space Corporation, Scaled Composites, The Spaceship Company, Virgin Orbit, and NASA, the latter in respect of its high-altitude research aircraft fleet.

They eliminated aerostats and hoses because the technology is not ready or untested. Modified business jets, noted prominently in McClellan et al (2010, 2012) study, are incapable of reaching altitudes above ~16 km. High payload, high altitude aerostats have been hypothesized but not yet successfully tested, and in all events, are operationally fragile, unable to operate in adverse weather conditions. Tethered hoses are even less technologically mature and to-date untested. Military fighters such as the F-15 have reached altitudes of ~18 km in the context of record-setting ballistic climbs in ideal conditions, but they are incapable of either sustained flight or regular operations at such altitudes.

They estimate total development costs of $~2 billion for a special airframe, and a further $350 million for modifying existing low-bypass engines. These numbers are toward the lower end of McClellan et al (2010, 2012) range of $2.1 to $5.6 billion and significantly below the TU Delft students’ estimates of $14 billion for its purpose-built Stratospheric Aerosol Geoengineering Aircraft, or SAG.

The required SAIL plane is equivalent in weight to a large narrow-body passenger aircraft such as the A321, or in Boeing terms, sized between the 737–800 and the 757–200. In order to sustain level flight in the thin air encountered at altitudes approaching ~20 kms, SAIL requires roughly double the wing area of an equivalently sized airliner, and double the thrust, with four engines instead of two. (While maximum thrust requirements of most aircraft are defined by takeoff, SAIL’s engines are configured to perform at high altitudes.) At the same time, its fuselage would seem stubby and narrow, sized to accommodate a heavy but dense mass of molten sulfur rather than the large volume of space and air required for passenger comfort. SAIL would therefore have considerably wider wingspan than length. Its compact fuselage, however, would sit behind a conventional manned cockpit. While it is easy to imagine SAIL migrating to unmanned cockpits over time, under current certification rules, it would be substantially faster and therefore cheaper to certify the aircraft with onboard pilots.


The preliminary design for SAIL calls for a length of ~46 m, a wingspan of ~55 m, and a wing area of ~250 m2, with an aspect ratio of ~12:1. The maximum structural payload would be ~25 t, with maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of ~100 t, operating empty weight (OEW) of ~50 t, and maximum fuel load of ~32 t. The aircraft would have 4 wing-mounted low-bypass engines, modified for high-altitude operations with an aggregate take-off thrust of ~25–30 t and a thrust-to-weight ratio of ~30%. (GE Engines considers its F118 engine adequate, noting that it powers the NASA Global Hawk aircraft to similar altitudes; its Passport 20 engine may similarly be capable. Rolls Royce suggests its BR710 or BR725 engines.) The design will require a smaller fifth centerline auxiliary power unit for bleed air and onboard combustion of the molten sulfur payload.

Environmental Research Letters – Stratospheric aerosol injection tactics and costs in the first 15 years of deployment

Researchers reviewed the capabilities and costs of various lofting methods intended to deliver sulfates into the lower stratosphere. They lay out a future solar geoengineering deployment scenario of halving the increase in anthropogenic radiative forcing beginning 15 years hence, by deploying material to altitudes as high as ~20 km. After surveying an exhaustive list of potential deployment techniques, they settle upon an aircraft-based delivery system. They conclude that no existing aircraft design—even with extensive modifications—can reasonably fulfill this mission. However, they also conclude that developing a new, purpose-built high-altitude tanker with substantial payload capabilities would neither be technologically difficult nor prohibitively expensive. They calculate early-year costs of ~$1500 per ton of material deployed, resulting in average costs of ~$2.25 billion per year over the first 15 years of deployment. They further calculate the number of flights at ~4000 in year one, linearly increasing by ~4000 per year. They conclude by arguing that, while cheap, such an aircraft-based program would unlikely be a secret, given the need for thousands of flights annually by airliner-sized aircraft operating from an international array of bases.

A Very Grim Forecast | by Bill McKibben | The New York Review of Books

Bill McKibben   November 22, 2018 Issue

Global Warming of 1.5°C: An IPCC Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Available at www.ipcc.ch
Diane Burko: Grinnell Mt. Gould #1, #2, #3, #4, 2009; based on USGS photos of Grinnell Glacier at Glacier National Park, Montana, between 1938 and 2006. Burko’s work is on view in ‘Endangered: From Glaciers to Reefs,’ at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., until January 31, 2019. The accompanying book is published by KMW Studio.

Though it was published at the beginning of October, Global Warming of 1.5°C, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is a document with its origins in another era, one not so distant from ours but politically an age apart. To read it makes you weep not just for our future but for our present.

The report was prepared at the request of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the end of the Paris climate talks in December 2015. The agreement reached in Paris pledged the signatories to

holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

The mention of 1.5 degrees Celsius was unexpected; that number had first surfaced six years earlier at the unsuccessful Copenhagen climate talks, when representatives of low-lying island and coastal nations began using the slogan “1.5 to Stay Alive,” arguing that the long-standing red line of a two-degree increase in temperature likely doomed them to disappear under rising seas. Other highly vulnerable nations made the same case about droughts and floods and storms, because it was becoming clear that scientists had been underestimating how broad and deadly the effects of climate change would be. (So far we’ve raised the global average temperature just one degree, which has already brought about changes now readily observable.)

…(read more)

‘It’s happening, it’s now,’ says U.S. government report on climate change

Published on Nov 23, 2018 PBS NewsHour

On Friday, the federal government released its most dramatic report yet on the effects of climate change. According to scientists, the country is already experiencing serious consequences from rising global temperatures, including more frequent and severe storms, fires and flooding. John Yang talks to Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University.

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Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story

ro*co films
Published on May 27, 2014

This gripping political thriller tells the story of Lee Atwater, the blues-playing rogue whose rambunctious rise from the South to Chairman of the GOP positioned him as kingmaker and political rock star. Characterized as “the most evil man in America” by one of his enemies, he helped elect 3 Republican Presidents with his vision of politics as war. As mentor to both Karl Rove and George W. Bush, many credit him with America’s tremendous shift to the right. But when illness strikes, this legendary cynic embarks on a controversial deathbed search for redemption.

Climate Change Is Already Hurting U.S. Communities, Federal Report Says : NPR

November 23, 2018 2:02 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered

Climate change is already causing more frequent and severe weather across the U.S., and the country is poised to suffer massive damage to infrastructure, ecosystems, health and the economy if global warming is allowed to continue, according to the most comprehensive federal climate report to date.

The fourth National Climate Assessment is the culmination of years of research and analysis by hundreds of top climate scientists in the country. The massive report details the many ways in which global climate change is already affecting American communities, from hurricanes to wildfires to floods to drought.

“Climate change is already affecting every part of the United States, almost every sector of the United States, be it agriculture or forestry or energy, tourism,” says George Mason University professor Andrew Light, who is one of the report’s editors. “It’s going to hurt cities, it’s going to hurt people in the countryside, and, as the world continues to warm, things are going to get worse.”

President Trump, numerous Cabinet members and some members of Congress have questioned whether climate change is caused by humans or whether it is happening at all.

…(read more).

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Who should own South Africa’s land? – BBC News

The People’s Seat: Speak up on climate change #TakeYourSeat