I’m seeing a lot of wrangling over the recent (15+ year) pause in global average warming… when did it start, is it a full pause, shouldn’t we be taking the longer view, etc.
These are all interesting exercises, but they miss the most important point: the climate models that governments base policy decisions on have failed miserably.
I’ve updated our comparison of 90 climate models versus observations for global average surface temperatures through 2013, and we still see that >95% of the models have over-forecast the warming trend since 1979, whether we use their own surface temperature dataset (HadCRUT4), or our satellite dataset of lower tropospheric temperatures (UAH):
Whether humans are the cause of 100% of the observed warming or not, the conclusion is that global warming isn’t as bad as was predicted. That should have major policy implications…assuming policy is still informed by facts more than emotions and political aspirations.
And if humans are the cause of only, say, 50% of the warming (e.g. our published paper), then there is even less reason to force expensive and prosperity-destroying energy policies down our throats.
I am growing weary of the variety of emotional, misleading, and policy-useless statements like “most warming since the 1950s is human caused” or “97% of climate scientists agree humans are contributing to warming”, neither of which leads to the conclusion we need to substantially increase energy prices and freeze and starve more poor people to death for the greater good.
Yet, that is the direction we are heading.
And even if the extra energy is being stored in the deep ocean (if you have faith in long-term measured warming trends of thousandths or hundredths of a degree), I say “great!”. Because that extra heat is in the form of a tiny temperature change spread throughout an unimaginably large heat sink, which can never have an appreciable effect on future surface climate.
If the deep ocean ends up averaging 4.1 deg. C, rather than 4.0 deg. C, it won’t really matter.
Roy W. Spencer received his Ph.D. in meteorology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981. Before becoming a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2001, he was a Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where he and Dr. John Christy received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites. Dr. Spencer’s work with NASA continues as the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has provided congressional testimony several times on the subject of global warming.
Dr. Spencer’s research has been entirely supported by U.S. government agencies: NASA, NOAA, and DOE. He has never been asked by any oil company to perform any kind of service. Not even Exxon-Mobil.
A new report in Science News Magazine (1-25-2014) by Bruce Bower details a reevaluation of the view that the Rapa Nuians, the native inhabitants of Easter Island (Rapa Nui), were responsible for the collapse of their population and society due to over exploitation of natural resources and the destruction of the rain forest on their island, a view recently popularized by Jared Diamond in his book Collapse (2005).
As Bower reports, the anthropologist Maria Mulrooney has published the results of her studies of the Rapa Nui culture (Journal of Archeological Science, December 2013) based on new radiocarbon dates from archeological sites on the island. She has concluded that after the clear cutting of the forest in the 1500s, to make room for agricultural production, the population of Rapa Nui remained sufficiently vibrant to carry on food production and continue their cultural development.
Exactly when the Rapa Nui arrived on Easter Island is unknown but it was on or before 1200 A.D. or so. Mulrooney maintains they had a thriving culture which was still going strong even after their “discovery” by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Sunday 1722. This would indicate that they had not suffered “collapse” as a result of forest clearance.
Roggeveen reported that the island had about 2000 to 3000 inhabitants. He was the first to report on the moai– the giant statues (erected as religious symbols as part of an ancestor cult) for which the island is famous. They were all in place and standing when he was visiting the island (for less than two weeks). In his short time there he managed to kill a dozen or so natives and so his estimate of the population may be incorrect as many people fled and hid out until after he left.
The Spanish showed up in 1770, claimed the island for King Carlos III, then sailed away. The moai were all standing and the people were still engaged in agriculture. Captain Cook showed up in 1774 and noticed some of the moai had fallen but there was no sign of cultural “collapse.”
Bower quotes Mulrooney as saying, “Deforestation did not equal societal failure on Rapi Nui. We should celebrate the remarkable achievements of this island civilization”
Yet the culture did end up almost completely destroyed. After Capitan Cook’s visit Europeans visited more regularly in the 19th Century. It has been suggested that Rapa Nui’s decline may have been caused by the introduction of European diseases. By the early 1800s most of the moai had been toppled and the society had broken up into warring factions.
Peruvian slavers invaded in the 1860s and carried away 1500 of the 2000 or so Rapa Nuians into bondage in the mines of Peru. By 1878 only 111 natives were still living on the island. 97 per cent of the cultural memory of the people had been lost after contact with the Europeans. The greatest loss may have been that of rongorongo, the native writing system of Rapa Nui, and the only writing system created by any Polynesian group. All of those who knew the writing system died in the mines of Peru or from European introduced TB which ravaged the survivors.
Chile annexed the island in 1888. The Rapa Nui were given citizenship in 1966 but they no longer rule on their island. Of the 6000 or so people living on the island today about 3600 are Rapa Nui. The archeologist Carl Lipo is quoted as saying, “The idea of societal collapse on Rapa Nui has long been assumed but there is no scientific basis for it.” He is referring to a self induced collapse. Their traditional culture was destroyed, and the people today are trying to reinvigorate it, but it is a bum rap to blame them for the loss of their civilization.
Russian oil output, the largest in the world, reached 10.59 million bpd (barrels per day) in October, setting the record for the country’s post-Soviet period, Energy Ministry data showed.
The landmark was reached due to Rosneft increasing production at the Vankor field in the Krasnoyarsk Region, the Vedomosti paper reports.
The output at the field was 18.3 million tons last year, with the company planning Vankor reach 25 million tons annually.
Another influential factor is the larger amount of Gazprom-produced gas condensate, which has now reached 350,000 bpd.
The country’s total output in October reached 44,773 million tons, which is 1.3 percent higher than during the same period last year.
According to the International Energy Agency, Russia’s all-time production of black gold reached its peak at 11.41 million bpd in 1988, when it was still part of the Soviet Union.
The production of oil in Russia has been steadily growing since the setback caused by the global financial crisis in 2008, which saw output falling to about 9.8 million bpd.
In September 2009, it exceeded a monthly level of 10 million bpd, with the country overtaking Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer the next year.
Oil and gas remain the No.1 source of income for Russia, as hydrocarbons account for 80 percent of the country’s export.
The hypothesis for a single, simple, scientific explanation underlying the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW.
Whatever is happening in the great outdoors regarding actual climate, inside the minds of men overwhelming evidence indicates that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is a self-sustaining narrative that is living off our mental capacity, either in symbiosis or as an outright cultural parasite; a narrative that is very distanced from physical real-world events. The social phenomenon of CAGW possesses all the characteristics of a grand memetic alliance, like numerous similar structures before it stretching back beyond the reach of historic records, and no doubt many more cultural creatures that have yet to birth.
Having painted a picture CAGW from a memetic perspective in fiction last December [link], I realized that many people instinctively sense the memetic characteristics of CAGW, and typically express this in blogs or articles as relatively casual comments that cite memes or religion. Yet these folks appear to have no real knowledge of how truly meaningful and fundamental their observations are. Hence I have written a comprehensive essay which attempts to fill in this knowledge gap, and indeed proposes that the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW is dominated by memetic action, i.e. CAGW is a memeplex.
Note: a ‘meme’ is a minimal cultural entity that is subject to selective pressures during replication between human minds, its main medium. A meme can be thought of as the cultural equivalent to a gene in biology; examples are a speech, a piece of writing (‘narratives’), a tune or a fashion. A memeplex is a co-adapted group of memes that replicate together and reinforce each other’s survival; cultural or political doctrines and systems, for instance a religion, are major alliances of self-replicating and co-evolving memes. Memetics101: memeplexes do not only find shelter in the mind of a new host, but they will change the perceptions and life of their new host.
Because the memetic explanation for CAGW rests upon social and evolutionary fundamentals (e.g. the differential selection of self-replicating narratives, narrative alliances, the penetration of memes into the psyche causing secondary phenomena like motivated reasoning, noble cause corruption and confirmation bias etc.) it is not dependent upon politics or philosophies of any stripe, which tend to strongly color most ‘explanations’ and typically rob them of objectivity. Critically, a memetic explanation also does not depend on anything happening in the climate (for better or for worse). CO2 worry acted as a catalyst only; sufficient real-world uncertainties at the outset (and indeed still) provided the degree of freedom that let a particular ‘ability’ of memeplexes take hold. That ability is to manipulate perceptions (e.g. of real-world uncertainty itself), values, and even morals, which means among other things that once birthed the CAGW memeplex rapidly insulated itself from actual climate events.
Homo Sapiens have likely co-evolved with memeplexes essentially forever (Blackmore), therefore they are a fundamental part of us, and indeed no characteristic of CAGW appears to be in the slightest bit new, quite the contrary. Underlining this ancient origin, one class of memeplexes folks are familiar with is: ‘all religions’. Yet these fuzzy structures are by no means limited to religion; science has triggered memetic themes before and extreme politics frequently does so, and there have even been historic memeplexes centered on climate. This does not mean CAGW is precisely like a religion, but being similarly powered by self-replicating narratives creates the comparable characteristics that many have commented upon.
Using a great deal of circumstantial evidence from the climate blogosphere and support from various knowledge domains: neuroscience, (economic) game theory, law, corporate behavior, philosophy, biological evolution and of course memetics etc., the essay maps the primary characteristics of CAGW onto the expected behavior for a major memeplex, finding conformance. Along the way, contemporary and historic memeplexes (mainly religious) are explored as comparisons. The essay is long, book-sized, because the subject matter is large. I guess an essay describing all of climate science would be very long, so one exploring the entire memetic characteristics of CAGW plus I hope enough context for readers to make sense of that, is similarly so.
The context is extremely broad, ranging from why pyramid building evolved in Egypt to a passionate cry against kings, priests, and tyranny in a radical women’s journal of the early nineteenth century. From the impact of memeplexes on the modern judicial system courtesy of Duke Law, to the ancient purpose of story-telling and contemporary attempts to subvert this, along with a plot analysis of the film Avatar. From the long and curious tale of an incarnation of ‘the past is always better’ meme currently rampant on the internet, to the evolutionary selection of fuzzy populations in biology and the frankenplex multi-element cultural creature that is CAGW. From the conflict related death-rates in primitive tribes versus modern states, to analysis of corporate social responsibilities after the Enron and banking sector crises. From memetic chain letters that stretch back to the hieroglyphs (Letters from Heaven), to the analysis of social cross-coalitions via game theory within the perspective of economics. From the concept of ‘the Social Mind’ courtesy of neuro-scientist Michael Gazzaniga, to pressure upon religions by aggressive atheism as promoted by Richard Dawkins. From modification of theistic memes in the Old to the New Testament, to notions of Gaia and telegraph wires and wing-nuts. Plus memetic sex, witchcraft, cults, Cathars, concepts of salvation, Communism, hi-jacking altruism, Lynsenkoism, lichen, psychologizers, National Socialism, de-darwinisation, that ugly term ‘denier’, and much more.
The reason for this huge breadth and depth is that memeplexes are deeply integrated into both our psyche and our societies; this level of vision and historical context is necessary to uncover the entities, to identify their actions with as much distancing from what remains of ‘ourselves’ as can be achieved.
In counter-weight to this very broad context, the essay is richly laced throughout with quotes from many of the main players and commenters in the climate blogosphere (plus from newspapers and other publications too), much of which will be pretty familiar to followers of the climate debate. These quotes cover luke-warmers, skeptics and Consensus folks, plus politicians, philosophers, psychologists and others as regards their views on CAGW, yet all are chosen and brought together for their focus on the memetic aspects of the phenomenon. There are also plenty of deeper topics specific to the sociological aspects of CAGW that most denizens of the climate blogosphere will recognize and can get their teeth into, some contentious. For instance, a look at Richard Dawkins’ immersion within a rampant memeplex (while this would seem to be both controversial and ironic, when one realizes that we’re all immersed to some extent in several memeplexes, irony tends to morph to introspection). A brief view of a different Stephan Lewandowski paper (i.e. NOT either of the ‘conspiracy ideation’ ones) in which he highlights the very type of inbuilt cultural bias that has then led him blindly to produce those very challenged and troubled works! An exposé of memetically induced cultural bias in a recent paper on ‘Professionals’ Discursive Construction of Climate Change’, that in my opinion undermines the objectivity of the work and robs the conclusions of any real meaning. A very interesting take on Mike Hulme’s stance as revealed by the memetic perspective. A glimpse of the ‘shall-we shan’t-we dance’ tentative cross-coalition between the Christian and CAGW memeplexes. The constant references to grandchildren within CAGW advocacy texts. Both the laudable and the lurking memetic content in philosopher Pascal Bruckner’s essay ‘Against Environmental Panic’. Numerous views of sociological comment by atmospheric scientist Judith Curry or at her blog Climate Etc from a memetic perspective. Plus a delve into one of pointman’s very interesting climate related essays, strong language and classic climate quotes explained via memetics, and more…
While CAGW skeptics might at first blush celebrate the possibility of a single, non-climate related, non-partisan, science-based theory that explains the whole complex range of CAGW’s social characteristics, acceptance of this theory also requires acceptance of a couple of pretty uncomfortable truths, and the ditching of at least one touchstone used by many (but by no means all) climate change skeptics. These issues are all expounded in the essay, but I summarize here:
- Acceptance of the memeplex explanation requires us to rethink what ‘self’ means, and how our opinions, perceptions, and even morals are formed and maintained, with an implication that our ‘self’ is much more about the societal groups we’re immersed in than about what’s intrinsically inside our heads. The fact that we don’t really ‘own’ ourselves, is challenging.
- Acceptance of the memeplex explanation requires a rejection of the ‘scam’ or ‘hoax’ theory as a root cause of the CAGW phenomenon, and as a primary motivator for the vast majority of CAGW ‘adherents’. (Note this does not rule out the fact that scams / hoaxes and other negative social phenomena may be attached to the memeplex as secondary structures – this is in fact common for major memeplexes). The essay spends quite some length saying why this is so.
- Whatever downsides are observed to stem from the social phenomenon of CAGW, memeplexes in general often contribute major net advantages to their host societies, sometimes very major. The balance between positive and negative aspects of a major memeplex are not easy to determine except long in retrospect and with access to the ‘big picture’ (all attributes and all impacts across all of society). Hence we cannot yet know the balance of this equation for CAGW. The positive aspects are not typically intuitive.
- As already mentioned, the memetic explanation is virtually independent of actual climate events. Hence dangerous climate scenarios are not ruled out. It simply means that no scenarios are ruled out, from the very dangerous to the utterly benign, and it is very much in the memeplex’s interests to keep the situation that way. Memeplexes wallow in uncertainty and confusion.
Many commenters in the climate blogosphere have written to the effect that: ‘it isn’t and never was about the science’. I happen to agree, very little of the CAGW phenomenon is about the science. The memetic perspective reveals why this is; not in terms of political or financial motivations but in the objective terms of the underlying social mechanisms, which are independent of (and enable) all such motivations.
Despite the essay’s length, I hope you will take the journey to acquiring a memetic perspective. Here [ memeplex summary ] is a very distilled summary of each section of the essay below this text, with a list of references, in which a few regular contributors might find their names. Please note that the work is not a ‘paper’, containing no proofs or supporting mathematics, excepting a couple of references to Game Theory and the Price Equation. And merely for convenience, I have written as though the memeplex hypothesis is true, i.e. that CAGW is a memeplex and that this characteristic dominates the social effects. It is just extremely cumbersome throughout hundreds of references to make them all conditional – so I haven’t. Yet by no means does that mean the hypothesis is true, or at least wholly true in the sense that the memetic effects are dominant. Readers must form their own opinions regarding that, no doubt which opinions will be colored by the memeplexes they’re already immersed in J. I think most folks will find it an interesting and enjoyable ride though. The complete essay is here [link]: (Note: this Post text doubles as the essay Foreword, so you can skip that).
P.S. while I intend to issue further Revs of the essay with some extensions plus feedback / corrections applied, in practice this may only happen on a very long timescale, or possibly not at all as my time is extremely pressured. Please keep an eye on www.wearenarrative.wordpress.com for any up-Revs or additional information. Note: the novella Truth from the WUWT post above is now available (free) at Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/273983 or within the anthology ‘Engines of Life’ also at Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/334834, or at Amazon here.
Nearly 30% of all large clinical trials in the United States have gone unpublished five years after their completion, often because those running them—pharmaceutical companies—don’t want their results known.
This failure to share information represents an ethical violation on the part of companies and organizations that are obligated to tell trial participants about testing results, scientists wrote in the British Medical Journal.
These experts say approximately 250,000 people took part in the 29% of trials that haven’t been published. Considering only those trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry, the number rose to 32%.
This “violates an ethical obligation that investigators have towards study participants,” Christopher Jones of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, New Jersey, who worked on the study, told The Guardian.
Jones and his colleagues said changes must be made “to ensure timely public dissemination of trial data.”
Pharmaceutical manufactures are currently required to register all trials and report their results with the government through the database Clinicaltrials.gov. It is a global register and the largest such database in the world. But the study demonstrates that many companies are ignoring this requirement.
Síle Lane, director of campaigns at the U.K.-based AllTrials Campaign, told The Guardian that database postings are critical to science and, consequently, to patients. “There’s no excuse for not publishing results but a huge public health benefit to having a complete picture of what was found in trials conducted on treatments currently available to patients,” she said. “[For example,] trials from around the world are used to make UK prescribing decisions. So information from those trials is vital for UK regulators and researchers.”
Drug makers are sometimes motivated to not publish clinical trial information in order to hide details of side effects or outright failures of new treatments. They also try to avoid disclosing data that might help their competition.
Richard Stephens, a cancer patient who has been in five trials, told The Guardian that it’s important for testing to be made public.
“I would ask every researcher and every research funder out there to do all they can to make their results available. Patients become participants to add to knowledge and to eliminate uncertainties. Hiding results, no matter what the reason, isn’t in that spirit at all. In fact it is a betrayal of our trust,” Stephens said.
To Learn More:
Scientists Alarmed Over Ethics of Drug Trials Remaining Unpublished Up to Five Years After They’re Finished (by Sarah Boseley, The Guardian)
Non-Publication of Large Randomized Clinical Trials: Cross Sectional Analysis (by Christopher W. Jones, Lara Handler, Karen E. Crowell, Lukas G. Keil, Mark A. Weaver, Timothy F Platts-Mills; British Medical Journal)
Big Drug Firms Mobilize Patient Groups to Lobby against Publication of Secret Drug Testing Data (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Drug Companies Still Outsourcing Dangerous Trials to Poor Nations (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Britain’s first nuclear plant in 20 years is a bet energy prices will rise. Experts say the new Hinkley Point facility will be “the most expensive power station in the world” and if the bet fails, the deal will prove “economically insane”.
“The Government is taking a massive bet that fossil fuel prices will be extremely high in the future,” the Telegraph quotes Peter Atherton and Mulu Sun, who analysed the finances of British energy companies for stockbroker Liberum Capital.
The deal to construct two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in southwest England – the world’s first nuclear deal since Fukushima disaster – was agreed by the UK, Electrcite de France SA (EDF) and China. To have a guaranteed return on the estimated $26 billion investment, the plant owners need the cost of fossil fuel such as oil and gas to rise dramatically.
The Liberum analysts estimate the minimum energy price would need to stand above £121 per megawatt hour within ten years, which means the wholesale price of gas would have to go up by about 127 percent over that period. Wholesale prices were about £60 last year, according to the energy watchdog Ofgem.
This is the equivalent to an oil price of well above $200 a barrel, compared with about $110 this week, the Telegraph reports.
“We are frankly staggered that the Government thinks it is appropriate to take such a bet and underwrite the economics of this power station. We are flabbergasted that it has committed future generations of consumers to the costs that will flow from this deal,” the Liberum Capital analysts say.
The $26 billion (£16 billion) price tag of the two reactors would be enough to build gas-fired power stations with output eight times higher, Liberum calculated.
“For the cost of £16bn for the 3,200MW to be built at Hinkley, the UK could build 27,000MW of new gas-fired power stations, solving the ‘energy crunch’ for a generation.”
- EDF to scoop £1bn a year from new plant (dailymail.co.uk)
- A tale of two nuclear Cities: Fukushima and Britain’s nuclear future at Somerset (panokroko.wordpress.com)
MOSCOW – Russian state oil giant Rosneft has plans to extract oil in the next 100 years and sees no significant threat from the increase in shale gas production in the United States, CEO Igor Sechin told journalists Sunday.
“We have a 100 year work prospect,” Sechin said. “As for the shelf, we have no other alternative. In general, oil needs to be extracted,” he said adding that the US shale production is high-cost, which makes it impossible for export.
US media reports said this week the United States was expected to leapfrog Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas this year thanks to a surge in US fuel production driven by technology that allows energy companies to tap into oil and gas in underground shale rock formations.
As US energy extraction and production have gone up, imports of natural gas and crude oil have fallen by 32 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in the last five years, the Wall Street Journal said.
Sechin said Rosneft, which has 1.5 percent of world’s explored reserves, was interested in international partnership and would adhere to high environmental standards.
He has accused the activists of the non-profit environmental organization Greenpeace, who were detained last month by Russian authorities after staging a “peaceful protest” against oil drilling in the Russian Arctic, of pursuing commercial interests.
“Look at those who pay them, who is their sponsor,” Sechin told journalists.
Rosneft currently holds 46 licenses for Russian offshore deposits worth 42 billion tons of oil equivalent. The company has signed agreements on cooperation with US oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil, Italy’s Eni and Norway’s Statoil.
- Rosneft President Igor Sechin On Working Visit To China (eurasiareview.com)
The death toll from three days of protests over a cut in fuel subsidies in Sudan has reached to nearly 30.
Protests broke out in the country on September 23 following a government decision to lift fuel subsidies to raise revenue.
According to initial reports, seven people died during the protests, but a hospital source in Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman said the bodies of 21 people had been received since the protests began on September 23. That announcement put the death at nearly 30 people.
The source also stated that all the victims were civilians.
Activists are scheduled to hold fresh protests in the capital on Thursday.
On Wednesday, security forces fired tear gas and used force to disperse the demonstrators in Khartoum and Omdurman.
The demonstrators burned vehicles in a hotel car park near Khartoum International Airport, and a petrol station in the area was also set alight.
On September 24, protesters stormed and torched the offices of the ruling National Congress Party in Omdurman.
Sudan’s Education Ministry announced that schools in the capital would remain closed until the end of the month.
Sudan has been plagued by running inflation and a weakening currency since it lost billions of dollars in oil revenues after South Sudan gained independence two years ago, taking with it some 75 percent of crude production of the formerly united country.
… The Sudanese embassy in Washington said in a press release that the lifting of fuel subsidies was due to the US economic sanctions.
“Due to continuing economic sanctions against the peoples of Sudan, the Government of Sudan lifted subsidies for gasoline. Some citizens violently protested this necessary economic measure by burning government buildings, gasoline stations, shopping malls and private property. Some also attacked the police, who defended themselves while protecting public and private property,” the embassy said.
It also denied imposing an internet blackout.
“The Government of Sudan did not block internet access. Among other targets, violent protesters burned facilities of Canar Telecommunications Company, which hosts the core base of internet services for Sudan. These fires resulted in continuing internet black outs across Sudan,” it added.
“The Government of Sudan and Canar Telecom have now partially restored internet service and will work until internet access is fully restored”.
Renesys Corp., a company that maps the pathways of the Internet, said according to Associated Press that it could not confirm whether the blackout was government-orchestrated. But the outage recalls a similarly dramatic outage in Egypt, Sudan’s neighbour, when authorities shut off Internet access during that country’s 2011 uprising.
“It’s either a government-directed thing or some very catastrophic technological failure that just happens to coincide with violent riots happening in the city,” said senior analyst Doug Madory. He said it was almost a “total blackout.”
On Monday, the Sudanese cabinet formally endorsed a decision that has been circulated the night before by which prices of gasoline and diesel were increased by almost 100%.
A gallon of gasoline now costs 21 Sudanese pounds ($4.77 based on official exchange rate) compared to 12.5 pounds ($2.84).
Diesel also went from 8 pounds ($1.81) a gallon to 14 pounds ($3.18).
Cooking gas cylinders are now are priced at 25 pounds ($5.68) from 15 pounds ($3.40).
The cabinet also raised the US dollar exchange rate for importing purposes to 5.7 pounds compared to 4.4. The black market rate now stands at 8.2.
Senior Sudanese officials including president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir have defended the measure saying the only alternative would be an economic collapse as the state budget can no longer continue offering the generous subsidies on petroleum products to its people.
Sudan’s oil boom that fuelled an unprecedented economic growth and a relative prosperity over the last decade came to an end with the independence of South Sudan which housed around three quarters of the crude reserves prior to the country’s partition. … Full article
Recent reports about the Pakistan government’s plan to allot thousands of acres of land to foreign countries and private corporations are alarming to say the least. The proponents of the plan argue that this agricultural outsourcing will attract foreign investment, helping the country to reduce its debts while generating greater productivity and rural employment. However, there is little evidence that this plan will offer any major advantages to the rural poor. Far from benefiting the poor, in fact, one is concerned that peasants may be displaced from their lands to ensure access to foreigners. Moreover, if the land that will be given away is indeed lying “idle” as some reports have claimed, why not distribute it amongst landless farmers to ensure their food security instead of privileging the needs of foreign countries? Giving large chunks of land to other states that want to secure food availability for their population goes against the very logic of sustainable local and national development, especially in times of severe food crises that Pakistan is currently facing.
Given the history of exploitative work conditions in Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, it is very likely that the new corporate farms will function like colonial plantations. According to wikipedia, “a plantation is a large farm or estate, usually in a tropical or subtropical country, where crops are grown for sale in distant markets, rather than for local consumption.” Colonial planters, like today’s advocates for corporate farming, saw themselves as investors and innovators of commercial agriculture. The history of plantations in South America, Asia and the Caribbean tells us that far from eradicating poverty, this kind of intensive transnational agriculture accelerates dependency while weakening food sovereignty among the poorer nations.
In Pakistan, there has already been a radical neglect of important livelihood issues as the country has increasingly became embroiled in a series of security crises. A lot more ink has been spilled on explaining the proliferation of religious and sectarian violence, than on the effects of economic factors in feeding these movements. Missing in these analyses is a discussion of enduring forms of structural violence that lie in extreme disparities of wealth, diminishing protections for vulnerable populations like peasant farmers, the mass movement of rural workers to urban slums, and the increasingly precarious access to food. Far from serving the poor, the state has often resorted to a militarized response in order to suppress poor peoples’ struggles for land and sustenance. This is all the more reason for us to suspect the government’s claims of “rural investment” as a justification for its proposal to lease land to foreign investors.
At the military farms in Okara, for example, tenant farmers have been struggling to retain access to the land that they have been tilling for almost a century. Since 2000, the farmers have been defying the military’s edict to impose a new tenancy system of contract farming. They have refused to sign onto a cash tenancy system because it does not guarantee secure, long-term access to the land. In fact, the contract system will make them more vulnerable to evictions. During the course of their struggle, the mazarin (landless peasants) have discovered that the military farmlands are actually owned by the Punjab Government, as the military’s official lease expired long before the creation of Pakistan.
The tenant farmers see the new contract system as a threat to their subsistence and food security. I recall talking to Nazeer Bola, a tenant farmer, about what gave the tenant farmers the will to defy the military in 2003. He simply answered, “We knew that as soon as we accept this contract system, we will be thrown out of these lands. We can accept death but we don’t accept this contract system.” Nazeer gave the example of the slum-dwellers of Karachi to illustrate what life would be like for the mazareen if they lost their rights over their lands. He argued that in contrast with the extreme poverty in the cities, even the poorest group in the village (like the lower caste kammis) had a marla (a small plot) where they could grow enough food to survive, whereas being destitute in the city meant having no place to sleep and no land to grow one’s food.
Instead of giving away land to serve other people’s food needs, the government needs to provide greater support for farmers like Nazeer Bola by ensuring their access to land, as well as by facilitating policies such as farmer cooperatives that can hold distributors accountable and collectively promote the interests of rural families.
- Cambodia’s sugar rush leaves farmers feeling bitter at ‘land grab’ (guardian.co.uk)
According to declassified data Russia holds 17 billion tons of oil and 48 billion cubic meters of gas. Moscow believes revealing the extent of the vast reserves will lead to a surge of investment in the extraction and production of hydrocarbons.
The country’s recoverable oil reserves in the C1 category (proven reserves) totals 17.8 billion tons; category C2 (preliminary estimated reserves) is 10.2 billion tons, according to data collected on January 1, 2012.
Meanwhile, gas reserves were equally bountiful at 48.8 trillion cubic meters C1 category; gas stores of the C2 category is estimated at 19.6 trillion cubic meters.
The Minister of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation Sergey Donskoy said the resource potential for these kinds of mineral resources remains one of the most significant in the world. “I am convinced that the opening of this data will give a powerful impetus to investment in reproduction and production of hydrocarbons,” he said. He also added that Russia’s potential for the mineral resources is one of the most significant in the world.
Russia’s available hydrocarbon potential will be able to provide the nation’s growing economy for 30 years, according to expert estimates put out by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and the Federal State Commission on Mineral Reserves.
Meanwhile, increased exploration of mineral resources consistently exceed the level of production, the minister said, noting that last year 49 oil fields were discovered.
Last week, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a government decree that removed the lid of secrecy on oil reserve data.
Earlier, President Putin, explained the necessary level of cooperation that exists between the domestic fuel and energy sector and foreign investors, called the former level of secrecy “an obvious anachronism.”
Putin also called on the development and approval of a new classification of Russian oil and gas reserves as close as possible to international standards.
Before the release of the official data Russia was placed second in the world by gas reserves after Iran, with 32.9 trillion cubic meters, and eighth by crude oil reserves, after Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and UAE, with 11.8 trillion cubic meters of oil.
- Russia ranked world leader in shale oil reserves (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In a historic decision this May, Guatemala’s Supreme Court of Justice sentenced former dictator General Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison for the genocidal massacres of indigenous people in the 1980s. Many Guatemalans hoped that the judicial process against the top criminals of the country’s “dirty war” would finally bring justice—but ten days after the decision, the Constitutional Court reversed the judgment.
While the Guatemalan people protest this violation of the rule of law, the processes of genocide initiated 30 years ago by Ríos Montt’s massacres continue today by other means.
In the last decade, the expansion of oil palm plantations and sugarcane production for ethanol in northern Guatemala has displaced hundreds of Maya-Q´eqchi´ peasant families, increasing poverty, hunger, unemployment and landlessness in the region, according to a new Food First report by Alberto Alfonso-Fradejas, “Sons and Daughters of the Earth: Indigenous Communities and Land Grabs in Guatemala.”
There is a major contradiction here: at the same time that the former General Ríos Montt is convicted for genocide, the Guatemalan government allows the oligarchy, allied with extractive industries, to displace entire populations without concern for the human cost. In many cases, these land grabs result in the murder and imprisonment of rural people who resist the assault.
Genocide against the indigenous peasant population in Guatemala no longer has the face of a military dictatorship supported by the United States. Now it is the corporations, the oligarchy and the World Bank who push peasants off their lands.
In today’s Guatemala, land and resource control is increasingly in the hands of a small oligarchy of powerful families allied with agri-food companies. At the center of this power are fourteen families who control the country’s sugarcane-producing companies (AZAZGUA); five companies controlling the national production of ethanol; eight families that control the production of palm oil (GREPALMA); and members of the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial, and Financial Associations (CACIF).
Together these powerbrokers are accumulating land and wealth with the support of investment from international institutions such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE). The convergence of multiple global crises—finance, energy, food and environment—has directed corporate investment into land-based resources such as agrofuels, minerals, pasture and food. The situation in Guatemala is extremely violent, part of a global trend where agrarian, financial and industrial interests are grabbing control of peasant lands and resources.
Can land grabs be considered genocide? In many ways, land grabbing is a new form of genocide. Ricardo Falla’s study “What Do You Mean There Was No Genocide?” analyzes the definition of genocide and its characteristics. According to Falla, of the five acts that define genocide, two were most prominent in Guatemala: “the massacre of the members of a group,” and “the intentional subjection of a group to living conditions which will lead to their total or partial physical destruction.”
The first genocide was against the Ixil peoples during the reign of Ríos Montt. The second genocide is enacted today through the privation of the Q´eqchi´ peoples’ means of survival through land grabs. Hundreds of families have been displaced. They do not have land on which to produce food or live, and they are denied their cultural and community identity. These conditions undermine their ability to survive, and lead to their displacement, and in many cases death.
The historic genocide trial this May came about through the peoples’ long struggle to defend their rights. The Ríos Montt conviction is a condemnation of impunity. The oligarchy did everything possible to impede the trial while continuing to displace the indigenous peasant population with the support of international investment and a legal system that favors land grabbing to the detriment of the people.
On May 20, the Constitutional Court overturned the conviction, with two of the five judges opposing the decision. Pablo de Greiff, UN Special Rapporteur for the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence stated, “No legal decision is inconsequential, even if it is revoked.” The Inter-American Court of Justice issued a statement criticizing the verdict for violating international obligations assumed by the state and preventing the people from seeking justice. Multiple organizations and authorities have spoken out against the court’s decision, arguing that it overstepped its bounds, violated legal provisions, and endorsed the corrupt mechanisms upon which impunity is built in Guatemala. The decision bolsters evidence that Guatemala’s top court lacks political independence and is tied to the country’s economic and ruling elite.
On May 24, thousands of people demonstrated and delivered a letter with more than a thousand signatures to the Court demanding that the decision be reversed. In Argentina, Chile, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru, thousands more marched in solidarity to the Guatemala embassy demanding justice.
If we fail to judge and condemn the massacres committed thirty years ago, what hope is there for the Mayan Q’eqchi’, Xinka, Mam, Kaqchikel and other indigenous peoples currently being displaced and massacred by extractive corporations with the support of the state and international institutions? The people continue to courageously resist and defend their lives, lands and identities. How shall we express our solidarity?
Leonor Hurtado is a fellow at Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy. A native of Guatemala, she has spent decades defending human rights and indigenous rights, and supporting indigenous resistance to the expansion of extractive industries.
Photo: Caracol Producciones
- Survivors Reluctant to Testify in New Genocide Trial (ipsnews.net)
- Guatemalans protest annulment of dictator’s genocide conviction (workers.org)
- Israel’s Hand in Guatemala’s Genocide (phantomreport.com)