Kenya is known to have a thriving agricultural sector due to its favorable climate and fertile soil. But for the past 10 years, the East African nation’s sugar industry has declined at an alarming rate. CGTN’s Terry Wangari was in Western Kenya to find out why.
President Donald Trump says a claim by former national security adviser John Bolton that Trump wanted to withhold security aid from Ukraine until it helped secure investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden is patently “false.” (Jan. 27
This is an urgent question, and one might expect that universities around the world would mobilize their collective resources to address the issue — across all cultures, all languages and all traditions of human learning. The challenge is huge, but publishing and internet technologies for the global diffusion of information and sharing of analysis now make this daunting task conceivable.
The impediments to achieve this kind of reflection are not technological ones. Rather the major constraints we face are those imposed by the existing institutional structures, habits of mind and the natural human reticence to re-examine what we have come to regard as established truths.
At the very least, for example, universities around the world need now to re-think their curricula on agriculture, climate change and human ecology. Yet this will not be easy because colleges and universities everywhere have established approaches to these topics reflected in their different departments, institutes, research traditions, and outside funding sources from government agencies, to private foundations or profit-driven corporations.
Nevertheless, some general truths are now apparent and deserve to be affirmed in all university teaching. Scientists are making it clear that our only long term hope of survival is to learn collectively — and very quickly — how to re-insert the human species within the natural and enduring bio-geo-chemical cycling of Earth’s ecosystem.
Species that have failed to live within their ecological constraints in the past have been met with extinction.
We will be no exception to this general rule of ecosystem function.
The problem is simple: no population can outlive its food supply, and humans cannot produce food.
This is not for lack of will power or for lack of ingenuity or insufficient technology. It is due to the simple fact that we do not and cannot photosynthesize.
This means that we live — at best — on the second trophic level in a complex ecosystem. In fact, if we eat meat, fish, or eggs or we drink milk we are on the tertiary trophic level or above, linked back through an ever-precarious food chain to Earth’s “primary producers” — the photosynthesizers.
In short, our lives depend directly upon those species that continue to function as the primary producers in Earth’s ecosystem. However we may wish it, we cannot command their behavior. We may like to think that through the more than 10,000 years of agricultural development we have come to “control” nature, but this is not so. Indeed, quite the opposite is true. “Nature” has come to control us in very specific ways. Because of our increased dependence upon grain-based agriculture and our relatively recent conversion through the “green revolution” to petro-intensive agricultural technologies we have now committed our species to a non-renewable future.
Since no population can outlive its food supply, no human population whose food supply depends for its production upon non-renewable resources will be able to outlive their finite supply in the long run. In short, fossil-fuel based agriculture is suicidal for our species, yet it is everywhere being embraced at an ever increasing speed all around the world.
Further, with our species habit of generating waste and conducting virtually endless campaigns of destructive warfare our perpetually expanding economies of consumption are rapidly destroying the habitat required for primary producers to survive.
Moreover current political leaders are intent upon spending billions of dollars in silly and futile attempts to “embrace the next frontier” in space — as if this has any meaning four our collective survival on this planet. We already know that plants and their supporting soils do not and cannot exist under the conditions found on anything we can hope to “reach” in the known future, so why are public tax-payers dollars being expended in this fanciful delusion? Of course, the aerospace corporations stand to make billions of dollars profiting from these delusions, but citizens need now to reaffirm some basic truths and regain control from the corporations of the basic institutions of democracy that purport to govern in their interest.
We are in desperate need at this point of some sober leadership that understands the role of humans in our complex ecosystem. We are going to have to make some hard choices for humans to achieve sustainability in this complex ecosystem. We already inhabit a life-supporting environment — in fact, the only one in the known universe, as far as we can tell. Without this kind of understanding and vision for our collective survival as a species, we will have no chance of enduring what is in store for us in a climate-changing world.
The “human miracle” is not that we are set apart from nature, but that we now realize we can only survive sustainably as a part ofnature. If we do not come to that collective awareness and readjust our behavior in line with this new understanding, everything we have come to depend upon in the fossil-fuel moment will soon come to a crashing and rudely shocking halt.
“Just take the case of agriculture….”
The litany of disaster is by now as alarming as it is familiar. Coral reefs are dying, tropical rain forests are being destroyed, ocean acidification is disrupting the food chain in all the world’s oceans, sea- level is on the rise around the globe and topsoil is everywhere eroding at rates that are orders of magnitude greater than it is being created — chiefly because of our accelerated combustion of fossilized carbon.
Scientists inform us that we are, in fact, in the midst of the “sixth great extinction” in Earth’s long and unfolding drama of life. At this point, the extinction dynamic seems to be driven primarily by the collective illusions and both the unconscious and the deliberate behavior of one of the ecosystem’s component species. We are, as zoologists have observed, a late-arriving bipedal mammalian omnivore with a highly exaggerated sense of self-importance. As it turns out, we are the disruptive species in the ecological mix, and it now appears that our cumulative behavior may well engender our collective extinction.
The chilling yet sober fact is that our much-vaunted “intelligence” as a species may not prove to be adaptive in evolutionary terms. If we cannot learn to behave within the species constraints of the complex ecosystem in which we have evolved it will not end well for us. Worse yet, if we think we can dominate Earth’s ecosystem and bend it to our purpose of continuous species expansion, we are sadly misinformed and most certainly will hasten our own demise.
Shakespeare in his day appears to have had more awareness of the linked character of Kings and things in the ecosystem then we do today. In his play, Hamlet, the central character, Hamlet himself, reflects out loud to Claudius the King:
“HAMLET […] we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service, two dishes, but to one table; that’s the end.
CLAUDIUS Alas, alas.
HAMLET A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
CLAUDIUS What dost thou mean by this?
HAMLET Nothing but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
To meet the growing demand for global understanding on these questions new institutions have emerged both within and beyond existing universities in recent years. Organizations like the Worldwatch Institute, created by Lesteer Brown, led the way decades ago, followed by organizations like the World Resources Institute, the Stockholm Resilience Center, the Post-Carbon Institute, and many, many more. All of these institutions can help in their own way, and they have enriched the exchange so far in very important domains.
This is not a task for the natural sciences alone. Indeed, the insights of the natural sciences may prove to be the first and most easily agreed upon terrain for exchange. Beyond this, however, our scope of consideration will need to expand to include the humanities, philosophy, ethics and all historical disciplines as well as the full range of human cultural achievements conveyed to us though the evolving understanding of anthropology. These perspectives can now all assist us in addressing the looming question: What must we learn to survive as a species?
Calls are growing for the Senate to call witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, after The New York Times published details about former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book. In the book, Bolton writes that President Trump personally told him in August that he wanted to maintain a freeze on $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until Ukraine turned over materials related to former Vice President Joe Biden and supporters of Hillary Clinton in Ukraine.
The New York Times broke the story on Sunday, one day after President Trump’s legal team began its defense of the president. During Saturday’s opening arguments, White House deputy counsel Mike Purpura claimed the Democratic case for impeachment is based on assumptions, and Trump’s attorney Pat Cipollone accused the Democrats of attempting to overturn an election. Trump’s lawyers will continue their opening arguments Monday, after the Democratic House impeachment managers wrapped up their three days of opening arguments on Friday.
We speak with Dan Friedman, a reporter in the D.C. bureau of Mother Jones who focuses on foreign influence and national security.
Democrats have renewed their demand for US President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton to be called to testify in the president’s impeachment trial.
It follows Mr Bolton reportedly claiming that Mr Trump wanted to freeze aid to Ukraine unless it investigated his rival, Democrat Joe Biden.
The claims, apparently made in a book manuscript, are central to the trial due to resume later on Monday.
Mr Trump denies the charges.
But they could damage his defence.
Mr Trump told reporters last week that he did not want Mr Bolton to testify, citing national security concerns.
The president is alleged to have withheld military aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into starting a corruption investigation into Mr Biden, and his son Hunter.
President Trump has repeatedly branded the impeachment proceedings a “witch hunt”.
What do the new reports allege?
On Sunday, the New York Times cited excerpts from an unpublished book by Mr Bolton, who was fired from the White House in early September.
They included claims that Mr Trump told Mr Bolton in August that he wanted to withhold $391 million security aid to Ukraine until officials there assisted with probes into Democrats, including Mr Biden.
After a disaster happens, we want to know, could something have been done to avoid it? Did anyone see this coming?
Many times, the answer is yes. There was a person — or many people — who spotted a looming crisis and tried to warn those in power. So why didn’t the warnings lead to action?
This week on Hidden Brain, we look into the psychology of warnings. We’ll turn to an unusual source — an ancient myth about the cursed prophet Cassandra — to understand why some warnings fail. We’ll travel 40 feet below the ground to talk to a modern-day Cassandra, and we’ll speak with a government official who managed to get his warnings heard. There’s also a gory (and fictional) murder plot, and even some ABBA.
Welcome to Transition Studies. To prosper for very much longer on the changing Earth humankind will need to move beyond its current fossil-fueled civilization toward one that is sustained on recycled materials and renewable energy. This is not a trivial shift. It will require a major transition in all aspects of our lives.
This weblog explores the transition to a sustainable future on our finite planet. It provides links to current news, key documents from government sources and non-governmental organizations, as well as video documentaries about climate change, environmental ethics and environmental justice concerns.
The links are listed here to be used in whatever manner they may be helpful in public information campaigns, course preparation, teaching, letter-writing, lectures, class presentations, policy discussions, article writing, civic or Congressional hearings and citizen action campaigns, etc. For further information on this blog see: About this weblog. and How to use this weblog.
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