Degeneration Nation 2018: The Darkest Hour
"They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn." — Bob Dylan, 1975, Blood on the Tracks
The Darkest Hour: Degeneration
Welcome to Degeneration Nation 2018. The frightening truth is that our "profit-at-any-cost" economy and global empire, run by and for the one percent and multi-national corporations, aided and abetted by an out-of-control Congress and White House, is threatening our very survival.
Our system of democracy, global co-existence, our physical and mental health, and the health of the living Earth—our climate, soils, forests, wetlands, watersheds and oceans—is rapidly degenerating. The rhythms of nature—the atmosphere, the soil carbon cycle, the water cycle and the climate—are unraveling.
Which is more frightening? The destruction of the environment and the climate that sustain human civilization as we have known it? Or the collapse of democracy and the rise of endless war and fascism?
Even though many are still either in denial or preoccupied by the daily struggle for survival, the most serious threat that humans have ever encountered in our 150,000-year evolution is global warming and severe climate change.
A growing corps of climate experts have warned us repeatedly that we must stop burning fossil fuels. We must eliminate destructive food, farming and land-use practices. And we must draw down enough carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Earth's atmosphere through enhanced natural photosynthesis (regenerative food, farming and land use), to return us to 350 parts-per-million (ppm), or better yet to pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm.
According to the majority of climate scientists we are fast approaching the point of no return, whereby global warming and climate change will morph into runaway global warming, melting of the polar ice-caps, catastrophic sea rise, evermore deadly forest fires, climate chaos, global crop failures, famine and societal disintegration. This point of no return could arrive as soon as 25 years from now—that is if we don't stop releasing greenhouse gases and start drawing down "legacy" CO2 from the atmosphere into our soils through regenerative food, farming and land use.
As world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen wrote:
"If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current levels to at most 350 ppm…"
Global warming you ask? But what about the threat of nuclear war with North Korea or Iran? What about Trump's recently reported statement that a strategic terrorist attack in the U.S would likely enable the Republicans to maintain control of Congress in 2018?
What about the fact that 62 million Americans actually voted for Donald Trump in November 2016 (65 million voted for Hillary and 92 million were too disgusted or demoralized to vote at all), and that most of these 62 million people still support him?
Or how about the Harvard-University of Melbourne study that found "the share of Americans who think that rule by the armed forces would be a 'good' or 'very good' thing rose from one in 16 in 1995 to one in six in 2014?"
What about increasing police brutality, misogyny, homophobia, racism, threats against immigrants, mass deportations, drug addiction, a crumbling infrastructure and rampant unemployment and poverty?
And what about public health? A recent Rand Corporation study that found that 60 percent of Americans suffer from at least one chronic health condition such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis; 42 percent have two or more of these illnesses; and that these chronic diseases now account for more than 40 percent of the $3.5 trillion that people are handing over to Big Pharma and the medical industrial complex?
What about the U.S.'s endless, now trillion-dollar wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and a dozen other countries?
It's not just the U.S. and North America that have degenerated to unprecedented levels.
Up until now most of global civil society, rather than united in a common global campaign to reverse climate change, deteriorating public health, poverty, forced migration and war, remains divided by national borders, ethnic identities, single- or limited-issue organizing, and class and gender divisions.
The rise of authoritarian and fascist regimes, and the weakening of a common sense of purpose, cooperation and solidarity have brought us to a dangerous precipice.
Will global civil society wake up in time, break down the walls and issue silos that divide us, connect the dots between all of our burning issues, and unite across borders in a common global campaign for survival and regeneration?
Beyond the Darkest Hour: Regeneration
The good news is that there are a number of positive signs that people in the Americas, and all over the world, especially the youth, are waking up. These signs include:
- An emerging world view or ideology is replacing the traditional paradigms of "unlimited growth" or "sustainability." It's called "Regeneration." This new paradigm, unlike the outdated ideologies of corporate capitalism or state socialism, has the power to unite the global grassroots—farmers, consumers, businesses and policymakers—in a joint campaign to reverse climate change and restore the environment. Regenerative food, farming and land use, coupled with 100-percent renewable energy, scaled up globally on the Earth's 22 billion acres of farmland, rangeland, wetlands and forests, has the potential to not only mitigate, but to actually reverse global warming. Regenerative farming and land use can do this by drawing down through enhanced photosynthesis the 200 billion tons of excess carbon lodged in the atmosphere and sequestering it in our living soils and biota. At the same time, this global regeneration can dramatically reduce conflict and rural poverty among the world's 3.5 billion small farmers and rural villagers. Regenerative food and farming, focused on revitalizing soil and plant health, and on improving the economic situation of the world's small farmers and rural villagers, also has the power to clean up the environment and qualitatively improve the nutritional density and quality of our foods, thereby eliminating the major causes of malnutrition, chronic disease and toxic exposure.
- Every nation in the world, except for the Trump administration in Washington, DC, has signed onto the Paris climate agreement to move to zero fossil fuel emissions by 2050. Many nations have also signed on to the "4 for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate Initiative, a bold international policy initiative to draw down enough excess atmospheric carbon through regenerative food, farming and lan- use practices to not only mitigate, but actually reverse, global warming.
- Renewable energy has begun to replace fossil fuels. It is now cheaper to invest in wind and solar than to build new coal plants. Soon it will be more profitable to install solar and wind power than to keep existing fossil fuel plants running. Electric cars and trucks will likely replace gas-powered vehicles within the next few decades. Investors and public institutions are starting to divest billions, and eventually trillions, of dollars from the fossil fuel industry.
- A critical mass of the global grassroots is starting to wake up and resist—North, South, East and West—organizing politically, slowly but surely developing climate-friendly and equitable solutions to our most pressing problems: climate, poverty, war, deteriorating public health, forced migration, unemployment and political corruption. In the U.S., progressive and radical forces, led by youth, women and minorities, will likely soon sweep the majority of corrupt politicians from office, not only in the nation's 40,000 cities, towns and counties, but at the federal level as well. Similar trends are emerging in dozens of other countries as well, even in repressive dictatorships such as China, Russia and Iran. The bottom line is that people all over the world are fed up with corrupt politicians and greedy businessmen. There is no future for the youth, nor for any of us without fundamental change and regeneration.
- Polls now indicate that the most popular national politician in the U.S. today is democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, who will likely run and be elected President of the U.S. in 2020. Similarly polls indicate that Lopez Obrador, with politics similar to Sanders, will be elected President of Mexico in July 2018. Similar progressive leaders are emerging in many countries, many of them youth, women and minorities.
The darkest hour is indeed before the dawn. We've hit bottom here in the U.S., and in most of the countries of the world. The situation is dire. Time is short. But there's still time to turn things around. For information on the emerging Regeneration International movement click here.
Join the growing U.S. network of citizen lobbyists pushing for regenerative policies—Citizens Regeneration Lobby.
Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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OlgaMiltsova / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.