Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Polly Higgins: Ban 'ecocide' - crimes against nature and peace

Catching up on emails marked 'to do' today I realized I really needed to take a look at the work of one Polly Higgins, barrister, author and activist. Just peek at her website: THIS IS ECOCIDE. Looks like I have another book to read but for now here's (some of?) her YouTube videos:

Polly Higgins wrote a guest article at TreeHugger: COP16: Cancun - Corporate and Complicit and The Ecologist helped her kick-start her campaign earlier 2010: Ecocide: making environmental destruction a criminal offence.

Ecocide she defines as "the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished" - which initially looks like just a call for tighter pollution control and doesn't connect to conflict. But throughout the videos above that link is mentioned several times.

Examples of ecocide are cases such as the destruction from tar sands oil extraction, Amazonian logging, oceanic plastic pollution, damage from oil extraction in the Niger Delta, the Bingham Canyon copper mine in Utah which Higgins claims "account for the death of more people than all forms of violence including war". A fifth chapter could be added to the Crimes Against Peace currently handled by The International Criminal Court (ICC) right after Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Crimes of Aggression: Ecocide.

To follow: Ecocide is a crime' on Facebook | Polly Higgins on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Read "Crude World" by Peter Maass

News about the oil business, campaigns against it's foul play, news about pollution incidents, academic studies dealing with the many implications of the importance of oil and similar reports are not infrequent. Quite a few entries at this present blog deals with oil. But how about a first hand account of visits to the oil business hotspots of the world? From an acknowledged journalist with a critical approach and an open mind. About 220 pages telling the stories of the people living from or in the shadow of oil extraction... that's Crude World.

Chances are you'll gobble it up like a SUV does gasoline but there's plenty in its ten creatively titled chapters to digest more thoroughly. Scarcity, introducing with the stories of a poster-boy whistleblower from inside the number one consuming nation, USA; Plunder, about the disturbingly overlooked textbook case of Equatorial Guinea; Rot, taking us down the polluted rivers of the Niger Delta; Contamination, continues with stories from the misery of the Ecuadorean jungle; Fear, dives into the psychology of the oil business and the ignorance and innocence of its workers; Greed, is composed of a handful of stories about the callousness of the oil business even when operating inside the West; Desire, is a bit of the impossible to ignore story of the Gulf Wars; Alienation, has the perhaps most scary story of the ghost country called Saudi Arabia; Empire, is a peek below the surface of the apparently feel-good story of Russia; and Mirage ends off the book with a similarly critical look at the naive story of the Boliviarians in Venezuela.

Around the world indeed. Plenty of facts but served in dishes of true stories. Warmly recommended.

Can't help quoting a few good quotes about the US relation to the Middle East:

“Let our position be absolutely clear. An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
- US President Jimmy Carter, 1980

“Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states in the area are vital to US national security. The United States remains committed to defending its vital interests in the region, if necessary through the use of military force, against any power with interests inimical to our own.”
- US President George Bush in “National Security Directive 54”

“Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop ten percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten America's friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.”
- Dick Cheney, August 2002

Democracy Now! interviewed Peter Maass during the BP oil "spill" in the Mexican Gulf:

Also, he's talking for hours on YouTube! About the book in general...

...about Russia...

...about Nigeria...

...about Iraq...

...and about related subjects in many more recordings.

Regarding the Iraq War... was it about oil then? To Maass it turns out it's not whether the war was about oil - it's how it was about oil.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mexicans march in support of drug cartel

Perhaps you thought the year 2029 scenario mentioned in my summary of Gwynne Dyer's Climate Wars was a bit far fetched? Granted, Mexican states being ruled by warlords is a bit imaginative. So is reality.

Read Narco Blog / Mexicans March in Support of “ La Familia” Drug Cartel:
In an unprecedented event, on Sunday citizens of the Apatzingan community expressed support for La Familia drug cartel by organizing a march.  In recent days life has become so dangerous in Apatzingan that people have had to remain locked in their homes and losing their freedom to come and go. The recent Government coordinated attack was on the La Familia Michoacana Drug Cartel.  One of the clashes resulted in the death of Nazario Moreno, considered the leader of La Familia Michoacana.

Nazario’s death has provoked reactions from members of the drug cartel that have led to retaliation on some of the Michoacan local authorities.  The community of Apatzingan organized a march to protest the violence and over 500 people participated. The message was clear, showing outrage against federal forces that “attacked “ the town in recent days, leaving 11 people dead, including innocent bystanders.

The demonstration showed the support for La Familia Michoacana, in the Central Plaza by carrying signs that read messages like “Viva La Familia Michoacana”, “Nazario lives in our hearts” and “Get Out PFP.”
 Even the town mayor is in:
"The insecurity is not caused by the delinquent groups. It is the federal police, who, pardon me, but they go into houses, in almost the entire municipality."
 - Mayor Genaro Guizar
"[La Familia started as] a vigilante group to counter local street crime and law enforcement corruption. Now, La Familia Michoacana uses drug proceeds to fuel their agenda that encompasses a Robin Hood-type mentality — steal from the rich and give to the poor."
 - anonymous DEA officer

More sources: Los Angeles Times / Michoacan peace march turns into rally for La Familia drug lord, AP / Mexicans march in support of 'Craziest' kingpin.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ecowar - The Movie

A compilation of video clips from three years of blogging about the links between natural resources and conflict. Watch environmentalists get beaten up, wars for oil, repression for diamond profits, over-consumption and pollution causing natural disasters and more.

Contains raw footage from French Greenpeace, Palestinian farmers and Australian tree huggers. Contains two short clips from Al Jazeera news reports (Palestine and Somalia). Also contains some short clips from documentaries that are copyrighted but included in 'Fair Use': "A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash" (trailer), "The Age of Stupid" and "When the Water Ends". These movies are great and should be watched in their entirety:

Thursday, December 09, 2010

"Climate Wars" by Gwynne Dyer (a review / rip-off)

With a title like Climate Wars this book looks "alarmist" even to someone sick and tired of being called just that. But actually, it is far less dramatic than the action paced science fiction that may come to mind. Written by a veteran soldier with academic degrees in military history and years of experience in journalism. Based mainly on the projections made by army analysts of the world from the prognoses in the IPCC 2007 report.

For those of us with academic backgrounds in ecological science and/or a couple of years of climate debate behind us several of its chapters are climate change science and policy repetition. But for me - working on mapping the links between natural resources and conflict - chapter 1 is a great summary with extra insights to the geopolitics of predicted climate change impacts.

And the factual chapters are interspersed with scenarios which are great and briefly outlined below. Being eager to dissect the book for information I find the structure of the factual / non-scenario chapters a bit too mixed up to help make the book as a whole more of a page turning thriller. COP15, for example, is summarized in chapter 6, Real World Politics. Perhaps I could have done with the part about the Copenhagen Accord [p. 209]:
Only a last minute intervention by the British, Americans and Australians, who called for an adjournment and used it to bundle the hapless Rasmussen out of the chair [My emphasis. I have a thing about the obvious incompetence of the Danish prime minister], prevented the 'Copenhagen Accord' from being formally rejected at the plenary session. During the recess, they managed to negotiate a last minute compromise in which the accord was neither accepted or rejected. It was simply 'noted'. And with that, everybody went unhappily off to bed and thence to the airport.
But not only is that entire chapter about COP15 - the topic is mentioned several other places in the book. Similar little issues with, for example, the necessary scientific explanations which come and go in different chapters. Exactly where they are needed, perhaps, if you don't know them already and isn't a "book dissector" like me. And underlining the fact that diplomacy and war are each others extensions.

The Dyer scenarios

The future scenarios are not predictions. They are more like not unlikely cases told with some necessary filling from Dyer's imagination. The longer into the future one tries to imagine the more uncertainty is in play - but the first scenarios are quite imaginable. Although summed up in chronology below they are not necessarily interlinked while also not mutually exclusive.

Incident scenarios:
  • Scenario 2, Russia 2019: The Colder War. The oil and gas revealed beneath the melting North Pole and the new trade routes opening between fewer and fewer icebergs does not lead to war between Russia and the USA. Of course. But it does lead to a lot of discussions on interpreting traditions for drawing sea borders as well as incidents of alleged violations of said disputed borders. Not just regarding drilling but also with incidents of detained fishermen. After years of non-violent conflict - during which the negotiations under UNFCCC has suffered greatly - Russia comes out much stronger: Its northern shores have benefited most from new sea routes due to their head start with a strong fleet of sea ice capable ships and well settled infrastructure, they have strong claims for some of the new resources and it's all coupled with some positive climatic impacts on the nations agriculture.
  • Scenario 3, United States 2029: The US-Mexican border is finally sealed off forcefully and completely after surges of refugee influx caused by runaway desertification in a country whose farmers are already struggling financially. The United States of Mexico collapses and several northern regions are effectively ruled by warlords. Inside the USA a strong ethnic group of Mexican heritage is increasingly in opposition to the rest of the country.
  • Scenario 4, Northern India 2036: India and Pakistan have shared glacier fed rivers for their water supply for decades although otherwise having a periodically hostile relationship. Droughts worsened by climate change, growing populations and increasing consumption have tempted governments to blame the hardships of their peoples on externalities - the neighbours - and forced Pakistan to ration food. After years of fragile peace a military coup and an attack on a dam escalates into an exchange of nuclear warheads. The result is hundreds of millions of casualties and two devastated countries still ruled by the same governments.
  • Scenario 7, China 2042: During the '30ies two kinds of terrorist groups are added to the ones previously known to be desperate enough: some from disgruntled oil exporting countries experiencing unforeseen financial losses and some from within the West made up of "leftists" furious at their governments for doing much too little of what they have been asking for (renewable energy etc.) while stepping up efforts on what they have been arguing against (geo-engineering, nuclear power etc.). The former cannot attack inside the West and instead aim at those of their neighboring countries who have begun exporting, for example, sunlight generated power. The latter accomplishes some minor attacks on airlines and even a more serious one on a nuclear power plant. While the world heats and the people of the West become increasingly divided over geo-engineering suddenly China and Indonesia acts without anyone's agreement. The Earth is dimmed by "artificial volcanic sulfur" being released into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, shortly after the project has begun working a real mega-size volcanic eruption triples the effect. The following years harvests fail world wide: hundreds of million of people die from starvation and almost as many from the armed conflicts, local genocides and mass-migration it incites.
  • Scenario 1, The Year 2045:The EU has collapsed and the Northern Union of Scandinavia, Poland, Germany, Benelux and France is fending off hordes of immigrants while the north of Italy has separated itself from the south of Italy. Russia is enjoying relative prosperity due to positive effects on its agriculture but is also facing some trouble over disputed Siberian territories eyed by a re-united China. Britain and Japan is guarding their shores fiercely while stacking nuclear arms. Temperatures are up and still rising.
  • Scenario 6, United States and United Kingdom 2055: The American people never learned to understand the problem of climate change. Peak oil hits hard and the globalized food trade largely collapses: "in this new and unforgiving world, self-sufficiency was the sole basis for security" [p. 182]. Gulf Coast states are devastated by hurricanes and floods, California's agriculture collapses from perpetual drought. A third party - called "The Goddies" - gains major political influence and the borders are shut tight. Similarly in Europe, the northern countries are getting overrun by people leaving the southern EU states. European Union collaboration starts to strain as food aid is sent south and northern borders tighten despite treaties. Increasingly, the border patrols sealing off Africa and the Middle East is made up of soldiers from northern Europe but eventually these countries decide to pull back and guard only their own territories.
Multi-year scenarios:
  • Scenario 5: A Happy Tale: Sincere and determined action is taken to combat climate change - but only after conversely harsh shocks from peak oil causing price leaps, a series of brutal natural disasters around the world and a Bangladesh threat a radical geoengineering initiative on their own if the rest of the world does not cooperate in combination shake up humanity. Global diplomacy works - but too late and too little. A green society keen on geoengineering is created but only some are fortunate enough to survive with it.
  • Scenario 8, Wipeout: 150-200 years into the future the average temperature has climbed by about 9 degrees from failure to curb climate change. Two groups of civilized settlements survive along the Arctic shores and small, more primitive societies here and there where conditions allow. Inland territories on continents suffer complete desertification. Increasingly, the oceans start to smell like rotten eggs. A process is being initiated in which hydrogen sulfide is being released to deteriorate the quality of air for all breathing forms of life while also breaking down the ozone layer. Which in turn will help scorch the remaining life in ultraviolet radiation. Only the harshest and luckiest life forms will make it to the other side of the "greenhouse extinction" event. A phenomenon that was known to paleontologists, not climatologists. The progress of which no human will live to experience, only few will recognize as it starts.
So, Dyers book is really good. But my own will be even better ;-)

Related info
Video interview with transcript: Democracy Now!, July 2010 / Gwynne Dyer on "Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats", Gwynne Dyer at Wikipedia, Gwynne Dyer's website. Plus the following video interviews / speeches:

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