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The Environment Fights Back

Jeffrey SachsJeffrey Sachs is Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Through Project Syndicate he is a regular contributor to Webdiary. His last piece was Escaping George Bush’s Future.

by Jeffrey Sachs

Our political systems and global politics are largely unequipped for the real challenges of today’s world. Global economic growth and rising populations are putting unprecedented stresses on the physical environment, and these stresses in turn are causing unprecedented challenges for our societies. Yet politicians are largely ignorant of these trends. Governments are not organized to meet them. And crises that are fundamentally ecological in nature are managed by outdated strategies of war and diplomacy.

Consider, for example, the situation in Darfur, Sudan. This horrible conflict is being addressed through threats of military force, sanctions, and generally the language of war and peacekeeping. Yet the undoubted origin of the conflict is the region’s extreme poverty, which was made disastrously worse in the 1980’s by a drought that has essentially lasted until today. It appears that long-term climate change is leading to lower rainfall not only in Sudan, but also in much of Africa just south of the Sahara Desert – an area where life depends on the rains, and where drought means death.

Darfur has been caught in a drought-induced death trap, but nobody has seen fit to approach the Darfur crisis from the perspective of long-term development rather than the perspective of war. Darfur needs a water strategy more than a military strategy. Its seven million people cannot survive without a new approach that gives them a chance to grow crops and water their animals. Yet all of the talk at the United Nations is about sanctions and armies, with no path to peace in sight.

Water stress is becoming a major obstacle to economic development in many parts of the world. The water crisis in Gaza is a cause of disease and suffering among Palestinians, and is a major source of underlying tensions between Palestine and Israel. Yet again, billions of dollars are spent on bombing and destruction in the region, while virtually nothing is done about the growing water crisis.

China and India, too, will face growing water crises in the coming years, with potentially horrendous consequences. The economic takeoff of these two giants started 40 years ago with the introduction of higher agricultural output and an end to famines. Yet part of that increased agricultural output resulted from millions of wells that were sunk to tap underground water supplies for irrigation. Now the water table is falling at a dangerous pace, as the underground water is being pumped much faster than the rains are recharging it.

Moreover, aside from rainfall patterns, climate change is upsetting the flow of rivers, as glaciers, which provide a huge amount of water for irrigation and household use, are rapidly receding due to global warming. Snow pack in the mountains is melting earlier in the season, so that river water is less available during summer growing seasons. For all of these reasons, India and China are experiencing serious water crises that are likely to intensify in the future.

The United States faces risks as well. Midwestern and southwestern states have been in a prolonged drought that might well be the result of long-term warming, and the farm states rely heavily on water from a huge underground reservoir that is being depleted by over-pumping.

Just as pressures on oil and gas supplies have driven up energy prices, environmental stresses may now push up food and water prices in many parts of the world. Given the heat waves, droughts, and other climate stresses across the US, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere this year, wheat prices are now shooting up to their highest levels in decades. Thus, environmental pressures are now hitting the bottom line – affecting incomes and livelihoods around the world.

With rising populations, economic growth, and climate change, we will face intensifying droughts, hurricanes and typhoons, powerful El Niño’s, water stress, heat waves, species extinctions, and more. The "soft" issues of environment and climate will become the hard and strategic issues of the twenty-first century. Yet there is almost no recognition of this basic truth in our governments or our global politics. People who speak about hunger and environmental crises are viewed as muddle-headed "moralists", as opposed to the hard-headed "realists" who deal with war and peace. This is nonsense. The so-called realists just don’t understand the sources of tensions and stresses that are leading to a growing number of crises around the world.

Our governments should all establish Ministries of Sustainable Development, devoted full-time to managing the linkages between environmental change and human well-being. Agriculture ministers by themselves will not be able to cope with water shortages that farmers will face. Health ministers will not be able to cope with an increase in infectious diseases due to global warming. Environment ministers will not be able to cope with the pressures on oceans and forests, or the consequences of increasing extreme weather events like last year’s Hurricane Katrina or this year’s Typhoon Saomai – China’s worst in many decades. A new powerful ministry should be charged with coordinating the responses to climate change, water stress, and other ecosystem crises.

At the global level, the world’s governments should finally understand that the treaties that they have all signed in recent years on climate, environment, and biodiversity are at least as important to global security as all of the war zones and crisis hotspots that grab the headlines, budgets, and attention. By focusing on the underlying challenges of sustainable development, our governments could more easily end the current crises (as in Darfur) and head off many more crises in the future.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2006


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The "New Order" Liberals' push for extreme danger.

The small-minded and pig-headed attitude of Howard insisting on expensive and dangerous Nuclear Power stations, which produce expensive power - clearly indicates to me that his U.S. masters have demanded just that.

You can bet "London to a brick on" that the U.S. Military/Corporate will "offer" to fund them.

I emailed Mr. Gary Nairn, the Liberal Representative for Eden-Monaro on Monday, 4 September 2006 as follows.


I am concerned about Nuclear proliferation and consider the debate on whether we should have Nuclear Reactors with enriched Uranium, is a major step backwards.

Could you please confirm or deny that Silex Systems Ltd: received an exclusive License and Development Agreement in November 1996, for the application of SILEX Technology to uranium enrichment which was signed with the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) the largest supplier of enrichment services in the world.  This means that enrichment of Uranium has been practiced at Lucas Heights?

Yours sincerely,

E.W. Graham.  J.P."  End of quote.

I have not received a reply nor an acknowledgement of that contact.

COMMENT:  I remind the voters of Eden- Monaro that our electorate has many lakes which would be seriously considered by the U.S. contractors as available and cheap cooling for their enterprise.

My introduction to the prospect of a "Nuclear" world was dramatically  highlighted by the movie "On the Beach".  This was made in Frankston Victoria and, as a Sailor at F.N.D., I was an extra.

Thank God for the reasoning of the Stern Report.

Why jump from a "frying pan into the fire"?

There is no truth - just the powers that be.


Why not try for a different direction?

 phil kendall "Well, terrorism as his number one, of course - to keep the sheople crazy-scared ineffective".

They complain about the media not reporting than they complain about the media reporting things. Like terrorist attacks and the like. Why bother  going over them all, AGAIN?

The real thing about the media and politics is that they are not saying exactly the things Phil Kendall and like want to hear. A little too reality based for the just close your eyes and click your shoes three times crowd.

The rest of the post is some type of religious like ranting and experience.

With a new site any chance of a new start? God, surely the site can improve on crap like this?

Richard: Surely, Jay, Phil's as entitled to his point of view as you are to yours?

The final push, back to the dark-ages

Subtitle: neoCons crippling our compassion in the New World (dis)Order.

Howard wants to blame all problems on some 'god.'

What problems?

Well, terrorism as his number one, of course - to keep the sheople crazy-scared ineffective.

Then there's the drought, a possible consequence of 'the real biggie,' the feared climate-change catastrophe.

All some god's fault; in case of terrorism it's Islam & their drive for a Caliphate[1] and by giving 'god' a serve, we are being 'shown' (if 'only' by innuendo) that drought (with or without a CO2 greedastrophe®) just can't be Howard's fault.

With the suggestion of chaplains for the kiddies, Howard's trying blame divorce (as an example of all such generic 'bad moods') on some god; 'heaven-forbid' any suggestion that bad education followed by worse TV has anything to do with the disgusting and terminal 'dumbing-down' of the sheople. (Almost by definition, sheople just follow orders; but they could wake up if they wished. Sadly, they won't even wish it; that'd just be too hard. Basically daaarlings, it's all too hard.)

'God' will fix it up (perhaps - or not, but that's where any 'fault' lies), all of these problems are simply too hard for our 'greatest local maximum of all time,' our peculiar political 'genius,' JWHoward.

Apart from the stunned-mullet gone TV-comatosed sheople, the AL-bloody-P shares lot's a the blame (as does the venal MSM, both for despicably selling us out), and last but by no means least, the meanest of the utterly mean, the even more disgusting pro-neoCon, pro-Liberal (usually also pro-US and pro-Israel) supporter/agitators, who are, very definitely since Iraq (with 'warm-up' on SIEV-X), no longer 'just' criminal rip-off supporters but now outright proxy-murderers with it.



[1] Caliphate. A 'diabolical' construct, if you'll pardon the 'dip' into detested religio-speak, 2nd (in detestation level) only to Ameri-speak (spit, spit!) The suggestion of a caliphate (not only for themselves, but to be imposed by force on us) being the aim of any significant number of Muslims is so loony-ludicrous that it simply beggars belief; the fact that a large lump of the sheople seems to have swallowed the suggestion shows just how far they (that lump of sheople) have come - or better: gone, as in down the (mental) tubes. Apart from the '1984' connotations, I'm reminded if Asimov's 'Foundation' series. There are just too many pieces 'clicking into place' for it all to be coincidence; we don’t have time to recover before the next (psyop!) blow lands. Like all 'good' propaganda (actually bad, it's designed specifically to corrupt the sheople's decision-making processes), there's some 'reality' to hang their lies upon. Like saying "If it can save some innocent (Anglo) life, the NSA/CIA uses (illegal!) phone-tapping and even torture." Never mind the grotesque number of innocent lives cruelly and deliberately 'pink-misted' by the US military, they (the hapless 'collateral' victims) are mostly only (A-rab) towel-heads anyway.

Really again daaarlings: I reckon we have here the ultimate proof that there is no 'god;' the triumph of evil is so toadally® comprehensive (and the consequent mass-suffering in store as the planet burns up in the greedastrophe) that no 'god' (as touted as a putative 'salvation,' aka 'life after death' mechanism) would ever allow it, no; not even for the smallest part of a pico-nano-sec.

Universe the Sequel - from the horse's mouth

Roger, I appreciate your sentiments regarding our “higher intelligence” and the labels we use to articulate our beliefs and so on. Personally I treat labels as labels and usually have no idea what they really mean. Labels are only a convenient form of communication and usually have no specific relationship to the individual; specially the god label. The problem as I see it is that individuals place too much importance on labels, which in reality are purely ideas in the mind (that only exist in the mind), and less importance on behaviour and direct relationship; that is behaviour we can control, or our own behaviour.

As long as we live in a world of labels it will be impossible to cut through all the shit and establish who we (individuals) really are. Sadly, most of us don’t really want to know who we are, for in doing so we may be confronted with someone who doesn’t fit our idea of a decent and honest human being. We may discover that the person we think we are only exists in our own deluded minds.

Humans will succeed in topping themselves in an historical blink, unless, of course, we decide to exercise our choice to be honest, cooperative and come to terms with the fact that many of those we choose to lead us are simply no good. Funny, for the guts of most religions would agree with this.

This is the only solution that will change the course of humankind. It won’t happen, for all the above is nothing more than an idea in the mind of a deluded homo sapien, who will quite happily surrender his body (at the right time) for the rats and cockroaches to feast on.

Maybe that’s what humans were really designed for: fodder for rodents and cockies.

PS. I had a few words with god the other day and it quietly informed me you are correct. It has got no idea what the hell it was doing but hoped that Jay White may buy the franchise for Universe MK1, so it can get on with Universe the Sequel – opening in another dimension near you, just after Armageddon. It also mumbled something about "higher intelligence appeared to be a good idea at the time, but hell, no one is perfect." Funny that, for god sounded just like another deluded human being.

Fiona: There’s always cremation, Phil, if you don’t want to be a feast for cockroaches and rats. And, ultimately, there’d not be any difference in greenhouse gases (I think…).

I'll Get On This Horse

Phil, our precarious existence makes perfect sense when you say "There is no God". The other side of that premise is populated with energetic convolutions that in the end reside in a pusillanimous retreat to the destination where "we are all sinners; and unworthy".

I see farmers are praying for rain. Let's hope God is not deaf though I find it hard to imagine that He will go to the extraordinary lengths of pushing individual atoms of water around and adjusting the energy levels of millions of tons of the various gaseous components of the air just to satisfy that earnest plea.

It seems that we want the master of the universe to be the on-call micro-manager of what we don't like or cannot cope with.

God's track record is poor but at least hope costs nothing. Or does it?

Solar power for Mildura

There's a bit of good news today. The Federal and Victorian State governments have agreed to a joint grant of $125 million to Solar Systems to build the world's largest solar power generating facility at Mildura.

Spades vs. bloody shovels, and a shameless pro-Howard hussy

Subtitle: Is there any hope at all?

Thesis: That the world is dominated by lying and murdering thieves, aka the kleptoctracy.

Subsidiary thesis: That the situation is not just not in we the people's interest, it is completely catastrophic.


I'm looking at snippets from a few recent posts or linked stuff.

From the headline article, this: "And crises that are fundamentally ecological in nature are managed by outdated strategies of war and diplomacy."

From here[1], this: "... for placing the world and its dwindling resources in the hands of a small cadre of obscenely-wealthy western plutocrats."

From there[2], this: "The push for a US ‘nuclear primacy’ over Russia is the factor in world politics today which has the most potential for bringing the world into a nuclear conflagration by miscalculation."

From another[3], this: "Even as Iraq verges on splintering into a sectarian civil war, four big oil companies are on the verge of locking up its massive, profitable reserves, known to everyone in the petroleum industry as ‘the prize.’"

(I find the 'hiding' of links behind possibly if not totally unrelated or even anonymous text sometimes annoying but worse; you can't 'google' the link. So I'm gunna list all my links in 'clear text' - OK, Eds?)


Over the years, one goes from starry-eyed young'n to tired-eyed TV-addict or, if one manages to largely 'escape' TV, then perhaps to a slit-eyed shrewdie. Obviously, my world-view is not through a boob-tube stupidly, so I still have some morals and awareness, as I presume would most of you too, dear readers (excepting any right-wing proxy-murder apologists, who are invited 'out.' Haw; 'right' out! Geddit?) So seeing the world more or less as-it-is (see my thesis) rather than as-they-propagandise it (i.e. Hollywood etc), we have a problem: i.e. how to stop the rot. If it is stoppable at all, that is; the alternative being the old bend-over and kiss your ass goodbye.


Oh, and the shameless pro-Howard hussy? We-e-ell, we could do 'No names, no pack drill' - but I won't tease, I mean Fran Kelly of RN/Breakfast. Yesterday I noted an item aired on RN/Breakfast including this bit from Biden, D-Del.:

"Like heck, we can't tell the Iraqis what to do," the senator said. "It's our blood and treasure. ... We should tell them now, 'Get a political settlement, or you're on your own, Jack.' "

This tasty morsel goes toadally® undocumented; it's part of the 'International wrap' (or some such detested Ameri-Speak, spit spit!) with which they start the program, sourced from (amongst others, they sometimes say) CNN. Which can obviously include material from FOX News, as here. In case you don't know, FOX News is held by some 'in low esteem' - another way of saying it can be hopelessly biased (the only question then being just some or all of the time?) A curious choice? I don't think so, I think it's deliberate. This illustrates a pattern with the AusBC; they broadcast 'selected' items as news often without documenting the source, and leaving absolutely no 'audit trail.' This 'ugly habit' is not restricted to the AusBC, SBS can be equally guilty. In the last few days there have been items on the RAMSI 'raid.' (The use of the word 'raid' (often associated with 'police') is possibly (IMHO 99%) more detested Ameri-Speak but whatever; the action itself is almost always deplorable, as here.) An SBS report included a reporter's estimation that whatever was happening was not supported by the local public, offering as evidence possible 'Vox-pops.' Daaarlings, how democratic!

AusBC and SBS 'bashing' is a favourite sport of the right-whingers, it's a cynical exercise to intimidate the public broadcasters on the one hand, and say "See!" on the other; if a public broadcaster happens to criticise Labor, say, the right-whingers say "See! - It must be true, coming from the AusBC and/or SBS Maoists!" But more often the reverse; if the govt is criticised - perish the thought! - well, it simply can't be true, say the right-whingers; see again the same taunt: "Maoists!" (Talk about ugly, lying propaganda...)

From Chris Shaw (g'day) on 'irises'[4]:

"To arms!..... my kingdom for a horse!
Who will ride with me?"

Well again, me for one. A properly functioning democracy needs transparent and true info, the 'commercial' MSM are seemingly (IMHO paradoxically) excused for pushing (ugly, lying!) propaganda[5]. Only prerequisite (for my riding with Chris) is that the AusBC and SBS both revert to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Like calling B, B & H's actions neither more nor less than what they truly are: deliberate and ghastly mass-murders for oil.

A final comment: After breathing comes eating/drinking. Essentially, all else is optional, from shelter through flat-screen TVs to Ferraris and so on 'up'. I don't see any requirement a) to allow the world's population to balloon beyond Malthusian[6], or b) to allow the world's resources to be monopolised by lying, thieving and murdering criminals, let alone c) to allow the world to be ruled by the very same lying, thieving and murdering criminals and their prostitute-puppet politicians aided and actually abetted by a venal and lying presstitute-MSM including big bits'a the AusBC & SBS. So just why do we allow these obscenities, especially since we've long been able to see the coming catastrophe?



[1] ICH/Mike Whitney
Putin Gets Mugged in Finland

[2] Something to read
Submitted by Phil Moffat (g'day) on October 19, 2006 - 8:52pm.
Specifically, Phil's link: globalresearch/F. William Engdahl
The Emerging Russian Giant Plays its Cards Strategically

[3] The soothing balm.
Submitted by Bob Wall (g'day) on October 17, 2006 - 10:48pm.
Specifically, Bob's link: AlterNet/Joshua Holland, 'a little soothing oil'
Also given by Phil Moffat as 'Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil'

[4] SBS under attack?
Submitted by Chris Shaw on October 23, 2006 - 9:34am.

[5] theAus/Alan Wood
Ignore the doomsday prophets

Wood has obviously never heard of, or deliberately ignores the 'precautionary principle:' "Global warming is taking place, but how fast it will proceed, what its causes and consequences are, and what can, or should, be done to attempt to mitigate it are still matters of legitimate debate, not the subject of a phony scientific consensus." On one side we have Wood, Lomborg et al bent on cheering-on the rip-offs and destruction, and on the other people of concience & compassion trying to save the world - a much more reasonable aim, yes?

[6] Malthusian adj. of Malthus's doctrine that the population should be restricted so as to prevent an increase beyond its means of subsistence.  Malthusianism n. [Malthus, name of a clergyman] [POD]

Loved that confidence in

Loved that confidence in the existence of "the next century", Roger Fedyk, but think that the wake up call coming from 2100 might be a bit late.

My Money is on the Rats

“Who cares whether we are "the first failed western nation”? The real scenario is an uninhabitable world. A failed civilisation."

Homo sapiens are hell bent on turning “higher intelligence” into an oxymoron (of sorts), if we have not already done so.  Really it’s only a matter of time until we disappear into our own brain waves, or die of something that crawls out of CP’s lunch box or worse.

Mother Earth will most probably get rid of us sooner or later, but She will keep cockroaches and rats because they are kind and gentle, well at least from Her perspective.

So, if you were Mother Earth would you continue with the higher intelligence thing?

Anthropomorphism rules, OK?

Phil, I am always intrigued by our penchant for anthropomorphising. "Mother Earth/Nature", "Father God", all make nonsense of our higher brain function.

There are no such entities, as we all know, but they serve what seems like a useful purpose in making the complex systems of our existence more amenable to our grasping needs.

We have turned a deaf ear to our animalistic connection, and higher brain function has turned the instinctual into rapaciousness without limit. In defence of the "dumb animals", not a single one would step out of its existential ambit to engage in conduct as death-dealing as the human species.

For those who would like to promote the idea of a creator's "intelligent design", I think that that next century will be a real wake-up call if not the death of religion as a force motif for a life well lived. The rot started with such nonsense as this from Genesis; "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it". We've fulfilled our end of the deal and now we see the consequences. The biblical writers were very plainly not prescient and totally unaware that their musings were an invitation to participate in an unmitigated disaster. If only God really knew what He/She was doing?

The eternal cockroach

Phil Moffat: Actually no, I would not put my money on the rats. As we all depart they will gorge themselves on us, eating themselves out of house and home just as we are doing. Then they too will die and rot, in their billions. They are like us, too smart for their own good.

I would put my money on the cockroaches.

And yes Phil Kendall, you are right, but the signs have been far more obvious these past ten years. While Howard slept, someone pulled the plug on the bathtub. And no one noticed the tap was still running. Certainly not Beazley et al. Anyway, I am out of here – I am being eaten alive by a plethora of insects of every shape and size. Might be a sign of rain.

Mother Earth

Speaking for her (we are, after all, on first name terms), Phil, definitely not.

Rats are intelligent, inquisitive, sometimes lazy, always entertaining, and utterly charming little beasts. The four whom I have known and loved all had quite distinctive and delightful personalities. And all four were nicer than most humans that I've encountered. The world would be far better left to Rattus rattus and his/her associates.

Don't know if I agree with you about cockroaches, however.

A failed civilization?

Jenny: All this has been on the map for a very long time, much longer than the time it started to impinge on public consciousness...."Howard's blindness” echoes "Keating’s blindness" and so on, before him. Of course none of these people were blind – they were probably very well informed indeed – but they acted in terms of short-term benefit, exactly the way that the electorate does.

These issues go far beyond party politics. By naming Howard, you suggest that a different party would make different, significant policies that would alter the outcome. They won't. They will act in terms of their own short-term interests, just as the present government does. That is the nature of a political party.

Who cares whether we are "the first failed western nation”? The real scenario is an uninhabitable world. A failed civilisation.

Amen Brother!

At the heart of our problems is the ingrained, hardwired, millennium-proven, greed- and power-driven culture that says only the strong survive. It has been thus for all of mankind's existence except for the past two decades when our population became too big for our planet.

Sachs talks about a scenario that is identified by a new imperative: co-operation, consultation and a new-found care for the environment and our fellow-man. I don't necessarily buy it.

There is a darker and more brutal scenario which will allow millions, if not billions, to die because it makes better economic sense. Nature itself deals with over-population of species in just such a way. We are not immune to either nature or our own worst but finely-honed instincts for survival.

His lasting legacy

Roger: Rather makes you wonder if we are not going to be the first failed western nation. We started off as the driest continent on earth, so we did not have much water in the system to begin with. And it may well be that our populate or perish philosophy of the past has become within 50 years one of having populated at our peril.

It also makes one wonder where China would be today had it not introduced its one child policy.

As for Africa, and some South Asian countries, your last statement may well be the tragic outcome. With tens of millions affected by HIV/Aids (and other infections diseases) across those regions, combined with drought driven starvation and war in large parts of Africa, one would expect to see a major decline in population over the next 30 years. Then of course there is the possible bird flu epidemic hanging over their and all our heads.

The biggest mistake we can make is to somehow think that we are going to be immune from all that. And we have clearly been living as if we think we are. At least, some of us have. It may well be that Howard's environmental blindness with all its consequences will be his lasting legacy for this country.

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