It was with a sense of optimism tinged with experience that I sat down to listen to BBC Environment Analyst Roger Harrabin’s first of his three part series on the climate timed to coincide with forthcoming Paris talks. I know how such programmes are put together, how interviews are solicited, conducted, edited and juxtaposed to form a narrative. I also know the subjectivity involved.
At the start we get an American politician who doesn’t believe that mankind has any influence on the climate and who is also a creationist. Her inclusion concatenated climate change “sceptism” with a denial of evolution. There was no need to have her in the programme at its start except to place in the listener’s minds such an association, which was not shared by anyone else in the programme.
Near the beginning of the programme Roger Harrabin said; “Out and out rejection of climate science has mostly passed.” This is a straw man. In reality, only a very few rejected climate science, and they were regarded by most who took an interest in climate science as being eccentric, irrelevant and wrong. Their importance was often exaggerated as many in the media paraded them as being representative of the “sceptic” movement. For many years anyone who was regarded as having non-mainstream views (often arbitrarily judged) was obliged to go through the ritual of admitting that the world has warmed, that carbon dioxide was a greenhouse gas and that mankind was responsible for the carbon dioxide increase, despite these being commonly accepted and not part of the real debate. A few years ago the presenter on a BBC TV programme introduced Lord Lawson and added that for the purposes of the discussion they are all assuming that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas! Thankfully that loaded question had been assigned to the past until Roger Harrabin’s programme that is when Matt Ridley went through this credo.
Matt Ridley is described as a lukewarmer in that he favours the lower end of estimate of transient climate response, TCR (1.5°C – 4.0°C). There is nothing unusual in holding that view as it is held by many “mainstream” climate scientists. So much so that the IPCC reduced the lower bound of TCR from 2.0°C to 1.5°C in response to debates about TCR in the scientific and “sceptic” community.
Later in the programme another contributor introduced another illogical twist. She said she prefers “lukewarmist to climate denial,” as if there was a choice between the two. The implication is that deniers have become lukewarmists which is absurd. Roger Harrabin says Ridley now finds himself inside the IPCC’s big tent but misses the point that it was the IPCC that changed. Interesting isn’t it, Matt Ridley is still a lukewarmer, and not acknowledged as being within the mainstream even when Ridley’s views agree with the IPCC (the epitome of “mainstream” science opinion and “consensus”). Being a “sceptic” or a “lukewarmer” seems to be more about where you come from than the scientific views you hold.
It was also said that the debate about climate science has moved on from the stubborn and simplistic and onto what to do about it. Again, this is incorrect. The main motivation for scientists and “sceptics” is to find out what is exactly going on, and as we find out more we realise that some of we thought was wrong and that there is so much more we don’t know. For example, today we have a different view of decadal climatic variations compared to forced variations than we did a decade ago, and improving our understanding of such variations is essential to contemplating what to do. If anyone thinks the debate has been “stubborn and simplistic” they are mistaken.
Then we have a nice example of doublespeak. A professor states an opinion about climate science and then says there is too much uncertainty to decide if his opinion is correct! Another point is that lukewarmers do not, as a whole, say that the “pause” in annual average surface temperature is because we exaggerated the heating effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Another contributor was irked by the “media focus” on the “pause.” Presumably she is also somewhat irritated by those scientists who are constantly coming up with explanations for it, more than 35 at my last count, most of which are unreported by the media. She adds that she always knew it would rise in fits and starts so perhaps the real problem was that there was not enough media focus on this in the 1990′s when the world warmed fairly rapidly!
Then we have reference to the loss of sea ice in the Arctic referring to the 2007 low. Perhaps the contributor and the programme’s editor is unaware with what has been happening to Arctic ice cover in the past few years?
Roger Harrabin then talks of those suffering from extreme weather events after the 1°C increase already experienced. This is a controversial area in the journals but is also a subject on which the IPCC has already proclaimed: There is no increase in extreme weather events as a result of climate change.
Roger Harrabin concluded the programme by saying that the world’s warming is largely driven by humans. Yet the IPCC AR5 says; “It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together. The best estimate of the human induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.”
The observed warming since 1950 is about half of the warming observed since pre-industrial times so without mentioning timescales Roger Harrabin’s statement is misleading. It seems that one can refer to post-1950 or pre-industrial periods without qualification to get a good quote.
Thus at the end Roger Harrabin abandons mainstream science and consensus altogether in a programme supposed to be about the science of climate change. Overall the broadcast was an intellectual shambles. It is a rewriting of history worthy of the reporting of the war between Oceania and Eurasia.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference is having its 21st meeting in Paris towards the end of 2015. (Hence COP21 or conference of parties)
We’ve been told this is the ‘last effective opportunity’ to keep global warming to ‘a limit safe for humanity.’
However we are reassured by the fact there have been previous last chances, and this website predicts that COP21 will not be the last ‘last chance.’
Previous ‘Last Chance’ UN climate summit deadlines:
Last chance! – Bonn, 2001 – A Global Warming Treaty’s Last Chance. That teetering edifice that is the Kyoto Protocol gets some emergency repair work this week as delegates from 180 countries gather in Bonn to work out problems that threaten to scuttle the deal altogether. – Time Magazine, 16 Jul 2001
Last chance! – Montreal, 2005 – In an open letter to delegates at the Montreal environmental summit, beginning today, campaigner Mark Lynas explains why action on climate change can no longer be stalled. “I’m scared. For 15 years I’ve watched international progress on climate change get slower and slower, even while the pace of global warming seems to get ever more rapid. With time running out for the global climate, your meeting in Montreal represents a last chance for action.” – The Independent, 28 Nov 2005
Last chance! – Bali, 2007 – World leaders will converge on Bali today for the start of negotiations which experts say could be the last chance to save the Earth from catastrophic climate change. Bali could be the last chance to avoid the worst effect of global warming, said Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth. – The New Zealand Herald, 3 Dec 2007
2007: Philip Clapp, head of the Washington-based National Environment Trust, says: “Fifteen years of international negotiations have not yet produced a comprehensive agreement that will get developed countries to begin serious reductions.”He adds: “The framework for such an agreement must come out of the Bali meeting. The scientists are telling us that this is the world’s last shot at avoiding the worst consequences of global warming.” – The Independent, 2 Dec 2007
Last chance! – Poznan, Poland, 2008 – The world will “suicide” if it cannot strike a strong climate pact soon, Australian environmental scientist Tim Flannery has warned. Professor Flannery, who is attending a UN climate summit in Poland, expressed dismay at the slow progress. “Resistance is a suicidal tactic,” the former Australian of the year, scientist and author told reporters in Poland. “This round of negotiations is likely to be our last chance as a species to deal with the problem.” The Age, 9 Dec 2008
2008: Humanity is approaching the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change, according to WWF’s analysis of the latest climate science.The warning comes during UN climate talks in Poznan, Poland.“Governments in Poznan must agree to peak and decline global emissions well before 2020 to give people reasonable hope that global warming can still be kept within limits that prevent the worst,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s global climate initiative. – WWF, “Poznan provides last chance to curb climate change” 5 Dec 2008
Last chance! – Copenhagen, 2009 – The world faces a final opportunity to agree an adequate global response to climate change at a U.N.-led meeting in Copenhagen in December, the European Union’s environment chief said on Friday. It is now 12 years since Kyoto was created. This makes Copenhagen the world’s last chance to stop climate change before it passes the point of no return, European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told a climate conference in Budapest on Friday. – Reuters, Feb 27 2009
2009: Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, has warned of “catastrophic consequences” unless a new international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions is reached.Climate change is “simply the greatest collective challenge we face as a human family”, Mr Ban said in a speech on Monday in Seoul. He urged international leaders to reach a deal to limit their countries’ carbon emissions at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December. – The Telegraph, 10 Aug 2009
2009: “No one said the road to Copenhagen would be easy. But the agreement we all hope to reach in Copenhagen next year represents the last chance to bring climate change under control before it is too late. There is progress, but we need to step up the pace. With resolve, cooperation and imagination, we can conclude an agreement at the end of next year, delivering the ambitious global action that is needed.”
Speech by Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner responsible for environment at a Climate Change Conference, 31 October 2008, Prague
2009: The Copenhagen summit is the world’s last chance to save the planet from “catastrophic” global warming, according to a major study led by Lord Stern of Brentford, the country’s leading authority on climate change.Without an international agreement to limit global warming, temperatures are likely to rise by 9F (5C) by the end of the century – triggering mass migration, warfare and world hunger, according to the report. – The Telegraph, 2 Dec 2009
Last chance! – Cancun, 2010 – A sense of foreboding is one of the few points of general agreement among the 15,000 participants congregating for the next two weeks on this long thin strip of land, marooned between a wide lagoon and the Caribbean Sea. Jairem Ramesh, the Indian environment minister, sees it as the “last chance” for climate change talks to succeed; Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate chief, believes a disappointing outcome would “put the whole process in danger”. – The Telegraph (UK), 29 Nov 2010
Last chance! – Durban, 2011 – Rev. Dr. Olav Fyske Tveit, who leads the World Council of Churches, says the upcoming climate conference in South Africa is mankind’s ‘last opportunity’ to address climate change. This week the World Council of Churches general secretary, Reverend Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, called the United Nations UNFCCC COP 17 meeting a “last opportunity for the international community to be responsible in addressing climate change”, and called on the meeting to “act now for climate justice.” – Spero News, 27 Nov 2011
2011: Durban climate change meeting is “the last chance”. Attended by over 200 countries, this week’s major UN conference has been described by many experts as humanity’s last chance to avert the disastrous effects of climate change.Together with around 20 000 delegates from nearly 200 countries, Ferrial Adam, the climate change and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, will be attending the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which gets under way in Durban in the next two weeks, towards negotiating a new climate regime. – UCANews, 28 Nov 2011
Last chance! – Doha, 2012 – Tomorrow: the earth’s last chance with climate change? Tomorrow, the whole world talks about irreversible global warming as this year’s international climate change summit begins. Participating are 195 countries (almost all of the United Nations). There are two concurrent meetings: the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol; and the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They will take place from Monday, November 26, 2012 to Friday, December 7, 2012 at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha, Qatar. – The Examiner, 25 Nov 2012
Last chance! – Warsaw, 2013 – Is the Warsaw Climate Change Conference a last-chance summit? The Warsaw Climate Change Conference opened on Monday 11th November. After the 2012 failure of Doha, this summit could represent a turning point in the fight against global warming. “Global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak this decade, and get to zero net emissions by the second half of this century,” announced Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC in a press release dated 8th November. “We have the money and technology, the knowledge and the new economic models to get the job done in time,” she confirmed before describing the next two years as “a critical period to act faster on climate.” – Sustainable Mobility, 14 Nov 2013
Last chance! – Lima, 2014 – Last chance: Change needed for climate negotiations in Lima 2014. WWF issued the following statement today from Samantha Smith, Leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, as the UN climate talks drew to a conclusion: “A repeat performance next year would be disastrous, not just for the progress of these negotiations, but more importantly for vulnerable communities everywhere and the natural world on which we all depend…By the time we get to next year’s meeting in Lima, we urgently need to have political will, real commitments, and a clear path to a comprehensive and fair agreement in Paris 2015, where a new global agreement on climate change has to be signed.” – WWF Global, 23 Nov 2013
Last chance! – Paris, 2015: Scientists are calling on world leaders to sign up to an eight-point plan of action at landmark talks in Paris. The key element is the goal to limit global warming to below 2C by moving to zero carbon emissions by 2050. The UN meeting in December is “the last chance” to avert dangerous climate change, according to the Earth League. – BBC News 22 Apr 2015
Ever since allegations that Saddam Hussein’s WMD program were “sexed up” to give the UK reason for joining the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the BBC has been “cowed,” a claim that seemed vindicated following last month’s US attack of an Afghan hospital.
On October 3rd, the US carried out a sustained bombing raid on a Medecins Sans Frontiere hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The attacks continued every 15-minutes for over an hour and involved five separate strafing runs. By the time it was over, at least twenty two people had been killed.
According to Counterpunch : “The hospital was deliberately set ablaze by incendiary weapons, and the people inside not incinerated were killed by a spray of bullets and anti-personnel flechettes.”
US officials initially claimed the attacks were an accident. However, this was refuted by MSF, who pointed out that not only were the US fully aware of the precise coordinates of the hospital, but that they had also called the US army during the strike itself begging them to stop, to no avail.
Eventually, as Media Lens has noted, US officials changed their story, claiming that the attack was justified because the Taliban had been using the hospital as a “base” – effectively admitting that it had indeed been deliberately targeted. MSF completely denied that claim as well, and noted that the claim “amounts to an admission of a war crime.”
So why was it that on October 15th, the BBC News at Ten was still claiming that the hospital had been “mistakenly bombed” by the US – a claim disputed by MSF from the start, and which even US officials themselves later admitted was a lie?
To answer this question requires an appreciation of the way in which the BBC has, over many years, been cowed and intimidated into an attitude of almost total subservience towards the foreign policy agenda of Britain and its allies.
Of course, the BBC has always been an instrument of the British state, established by statute in 1928 and run by a governor appointed by the Prime Minister. As Seumas Milne has pointed out: “There is no point in romanticizing a BBC golden age. The corporation was always an establishment institution, deeply embedded in the security state and subject to direct government control in an emergency…[with] around 40 percent of the staff… vetted by MI5.”
Yet within this framework there was, for a time, some degree of freedom to make programs that challenged the status quo.
Particularly irksome to the Conservative government of the 1980s were three in particular – Maggie’s Militant Tendency, a Panorama special on the influence of the far right in the Conservative party; Real Lives, featuring an extended interview with the Irish republican leader Martin McGuinness; and a documentary about a secret British intelligence satellite. The latter program, which was never broadcast, even triggered a raid by Special Branch on the BBC’s Glasgow offices – but, Milne notes, “By [that] time… preparations to sack the director general were far advanced.”
Thatcher installed the “fiercely anti-union” Marmaduke Hussey as BBC Chairman, and, following discussions with Rupert Murdoch, Douglas Hurd and security advisor Victor Rothschild, forced Alasdair Milne (Seumas’s father) to resign as director general. The move had its intended effect.
As Seumas Milne put it: “This was a No 10 coup by any other name – and one from which the BBC has never fully recovered. Once the government had demonstrated it could not only manipulate the license fee to ensure BBC compliance, but summarily dispatch its leadership at barely one remove, what BBC director general or chair would do anything but bend the knee or jump ship?”
Of course, the message still needs reiterating from time to time.
Shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, BBC Radio Four’s Today program broadcast an interview with the journalist Andrew Gilligan in which he claimed that the British government had “sexed up” its notorious ‘intelligence dossier’ on Iraqi weapons, deliberately including information it “probably knew” was untrue.
We now know such claims were entirely correct.
But Alastair Campbell, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Director of Communications desperately sought blood. An inquiry was launched, with a suitably supine judge appointed to lead it; Lord Hutton was a former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, who had presided over the system of notorious ‘Diplock courts’ which abolished the right to trial by jury (The Diplock courts had been an innovation of Brigadier Frank Kitson, whose manual on counter-insurgency instructed that “the activities of the legal services have to be tied into the war effort in as discreet a way as possible). Hutton proved himself true to his mentor’s understanding of ‘judicial neutrality’ – and its disposability in matters of war.
During the inquiry, it was revealed that the wording of the dossier had indeed been altered to make a stronger case for war; that Alastair Campbell had requested these changes himself; and that the serious reservations of Intelligence experts about the intelligence presented was indeed known to the government. Nevertheless, Hutton’s conclusions completely exonerated the government, concluding that Gilligan’s accusation of “sexing up” the dossier was “unfounded”, and that the BBC’s editorial and management processes were “defective”.
Effectively, the BBC was being told: yes, what you reported was true; but how dare you broadcast it? The BBC was breaching another of Brigadier Kitson’s principles – that it is not only “legal services” that “have to be tied into the war effort” – but media as well.
The Director-General, Greg Dyke, and the Chairman Gavyn Davies were forced to resign; whilst those who had fabricated evidence in order to justify an illegal war of aggression got off, and continue to get off, scot-free.
The BBC has been cowed ever since. As a report by the Independent on the Hutton inquiry ten years on noted: “Damage was done to the BBC news room, which caught a chill. If this episode had never happened and Dyke had served a full term in charge, then ‘I think their journalism might have been a bit braver,’ he says. ‘I think the place was really shocked by losing the chairman and director general together over one issue.’”
Kevin Marsh, the Today program editor at the time of Gilligan’s broadcast, agreed there had been what the Independent called a “chilling effect on the BBC’s reporting” and noted that the new Deputy Director General Mark Byford, placed in charge of journalism, was “very cautious”.
Threats to funding are another good way the government can keep the BBC’s reporting ‘in line’ (whilst always, of course, maintaining the appearance of ‘hearty debate’). As already noted, Seumas Milne reports that “manipulating the license fee” had been a means of “ensuring compliance” in the 1980s; and so too today. With the ten-year renewal of the BBC’s charter looming, David Cameron remarked to a busload of journalists shortly before this year’s general election that he was “going to close down” the BBC.
“Some people on the bus regarded it as funny” said BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson, “but they generally didn’t work for the BBC. The people who did regarded it as yet another bit of pressure and a sort of sense of ‘don’t forget who’s boss here’…. We didn’t know at the time, of course, that he would carry on [as Prime Minister], but given that that was a possibility, given the timing of charter renewal … it’s quite a thing to say.”
And it bore results. Even the BBC’s so-called ‘attack dog’, John Humphrys of the Today program, has proved himself extraordinarily adept at avoiding the real issues. When he interviewed David Cameron in the days following the murder of thirty eight tourists at the beach resort of Sousse in Tunisia on June 26th of this year, for example, Britain’s destruction of neighboring Libya was not even mentioned. This is despite the fact that Libya had been the origin of just about every other terrorist attack in North Africa since 2011 – from the Al-Amenas attack in Algeria, to the storming of Timbuktu in Mali in 2012, to the growth of Boko Haram in Nigeria, to the Bardo museum attack in Tunisia itself just three months earlier.
Indeed, the day after that interview, the Tunisian authorities revealed that the Sousse attacker had, too, trained in Libya. But that was no surprise. Every serious analyst knows that the massive increase in the capability of the region’s death squads in North Africa is a direct consequence of Cameron’s war on Libya, which effectively handed control of the entire country – along with its arms depots – over to the region’s paramilitaries.
Does John Humphrys honestly not know any of this? Or does he just understand that he is not to raise it? To question the war on Libya is, it seems, completely taboo on today’s BBC.
However, the Cameron interview did produce results. Of the Al-Qaeda splinter group brought to power by British and US destabilization of Iraq and Syria (again, not mentioned by Humphrys), Cameron said: “I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State.” But that is what they call themselves, Humphrys pleaded. “So-called [Islamic State]…would be better,” Cameron replied. The BBC have referred to them as “the group calling themselves Islamic State” ever since.
On the one hand, of course, Cameron’s argument that they are neither Islamic (as understood by the majority of Muslims), nor are they a state is correct. Yet his indignation is hardly consistent. After all, his own organization, the Conservative Party should, by rights, have fallen foul of the Trade Descriptions Act long ago. Genuine conservatism, as its founder Edmund Burke well understood, was about opposition to radical – and especially revolutionary – change, on the grounds that it undermined stability, tradition and social order.
He was vehemently opposed, for example, to the nature of British colonial rule in India for precisely its destructive impact on a civilization he argued demanded respect. No one who believed in such a philosophy could ever support wars of ‘regime change’ such as those wrought on Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya; yet John Baron was the sole Conservative MP to vote against the attack on Libya. Should the BBC, then, not be referring to Cameron’s organization as the “group calling itself the Conservative Party”?
I recently lodged a formal complaint with the BBC about their coverage of Syria. I was not really expecting it to be upheld – after all, guess who was adjudicating the complaint? None other than the BBC itself (being the only broadcaster officially exempt from investigation by Ofcom, the official regulatory body). But their grounds for rejecting my complaint were most revealing.
I had complained about their broadcasting, without comment, of a claim that President Assad had used chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 when, I argued, this was far from proven. The UN investigation team had only found that chemical weapons had been used, but had not attributed blame (and had no brief to do so). However, I pointed out, the leader of a previous UN team, Carla Del Ponte, had earlier in the year suggested that it was the Syrian opposition, not the government, that had been using such weapons.
Furthermore, the authors of an independent investigation by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had concluded that “We do not claim to know who was actually behind the attack of 21 August in Damascus. But we can say for sure that neither do the people who claim to have clear evidence that it was the Syrian government.”
The BBC’s response was that whilst “You are right to point out that the UN did not establish that the Syrian government was responsible…. Nevertheless a number of governments concluded that the Syrian government was responsible.” Guess which governments? No prizes here – they mention only three: The UK, the US and France; that is, the three leading cheerleaders and patrons of the terrorist war against Syria, who had been desperate for a legal veneer to a bombing raid on that country since 2011, and who therefore had every interest in portraying the Syrian government as the perpetrator; and at least two of whom had very recent ‘form’ in manipulating intelligence for the purposes of justifying war. Yet, for the BBC, their judgments – which had even been opposed by the authors of the study from which they claimed to have derived them – are, apparently, unassailable. It is as if nothing has been learnt from Iraq.
But, of course, the reality is that the BBC has indeed learned their lessons from Iraq – or rather from Hutton – only too well: foreign policy can be ‘debated’ of course: but only in terms of its wisdom. Its ‘intelligence findings’ must never be questioned – and certainly not its noble aims.
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
BBC perspective on Arviat polar bears – those not included in the last mark-recapture study
In a polite but misleading article today in a BBC magazine (The polar bears are coming to town) about the relationship of polar bears and Inuit in Arviat, Western Hudson Bay, there is no mention of the on-going feud between Nunavut Inuit and Canadian polar bear scientists regarding invasive research.
Nor is there a mention of the fact that according to the most recent research, there has been no trend in sea ice conditions since 2001.
Find Arviat on the map of Western Hudson Bay study area provided by Lunn and colleagues (2013, 2014) in their mark-recapture study report (below) discussed in detail in my last post. Area “A” – where Arviat is located – was not included in the last mark-recapture survey because Nunavut won’t allow invasive research on polar bears.
Lunn et al. 2013, 2014. Map of study area.
The issue of the invasive research involved in polar bear mark-recapture studies around Churchill, Manitoba (chasing bears with helicopters, drugging them, extracting a tooth, tattooed, and attaching satellite radio collars or ear tags), has been so strenuously objected to by the Inuit of Nunavut that they have refused to allow the necessary field research permits for these activities (previous posts here, here, and here). See also the guest post by Kelsey Eliasson Invasive Research is Alive and Well in Canada
Arviat is in Nunavut and so mark-recapture work was not permitted there in 2011 – which is why Lunn and colleagues could not include those bears in their survey. Lunn et al. did not mention this conflict in their government report (2013) or in the version of it that is destined for publication (2014). They offered no reason why they did not survey in the Nunavut portion of Western Hudson Bay (Area A), which was included in the aerial survey conducted by Stapleton and colleagues (2014) and previous mark-recapture studies.
The author of today’s BBC essay (Irish anthropologist Martina Tyrrell) seems not to know about the invasive research issue or the lack of trend in sea ice conditions revealed in the mark-recapture study report (Lunn et al. 2013), because this is what she said about polar bear visits to Arviat:
“Over the past decade, however, encounters have been on the increase. Camping south of the community in summer is no longer safe, and autumn berry picking – an important subsistence activity usually undertaken by women and children – is now fraught with danger. Bears increasingly wander the streets of Arviat, particularly in late autumn.
At this time of year, regular announcements of bear sightings are made on local community FM radio, schools are sometimes closed early and the usually lively streets are eerily quiet. Halloween trick-or-treating, once so wild and fun-filled, has been all but wiped out, for fear of unwanted encounters not with ghosts or demons but with wandering bears.
What is driving this change in the polar bears’ behaviour?
Many Arviarmiut blame polar bear tourism in neighbouring Churchill – 250km to the south – for encouraging the animals to look for food in human settlements.
But there are other theories. Some Inuit think the bear population in the region is growing. Many scientists, on the other hand, put the blame on habitat loss – according to this theory it’s the desperation of hungry bears facing decreased ice seasons in a rapidly warming Arctic that leads them to approach the town. They have always gathered on the coastline at this time of year, awaiting the formation of the sea ice that is their winter hunting ground, but usually at a greater distance.” [my bold]
Read the rest here.
One of those “theories” is easily refuted by the Lunn et al. report (2013, 2014; Fig. 5): there has been no trend in sea ice breakup or freeze-up of Western Hudson Bay sea ice since 2001. Just the usual year-to-year variation, which can be fairly large:
[Observations since then have been consistent with that conclusion, for both breakup dates and freeze-up]
Therefore, there may simply be more bears than previously – or Arviat is being visited by more bears as a result of the increased polar bear tourism in Churchill or the increased vigilance of their Polar Bear Alert program. Either way, the sea ice “theory” (see graph below from Lunn et al. 2013) can be ruled out.
Lunn, N.J., Regehr, E.V., Servanty, S., Converse, S., Richardson, E. and Stirling, I. 2013. Demography and population assessment of polar bears in Western Hudson Bay, Canada. Environment Canada Research Report. 26 November 2013. PDF HERE
Lunn, N.J., Servanty, S., Regehr, E.V., Converse, S.J., Richardson, E. and Stirling, I. 2014. Demography and population assessment of polar bears in Western Hudson Bay, Canada. Environment Canada Research Report. July 2014. PDF HERE [This appears to be the version submitted for publication]
Stapleton S., Atkinson, S., Hedman, D., and Garshelis, D. 2014. Revisiting Western Hudson Bay: using aerial surveys to update polar bear abundance in a sentinel population. Biological Conservation 170:38-47. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320713004618#
I am unreservedly delighted at Jeremy Corbyn’s election. He made a quite excellent speech, specifically rejecting an attack on Syria, marketization in the NHS and the new anti-union legislation. Hopefully the scale of his victory will give pause to the Blairites who will realise they are not as all-important as they thought.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the vast majority of the Labour establishment, as represented by the people in that hall, are hostile to Corbyn. The question now is whether Corbyn can overhaul party mechanisms in such a way as to bring the opinions of the membership to bear on policy and override that right wing “elite” who have been in charge of the party.
The first few weeks are key. Most Blairites are above all careerists. If they think Corbyn can carry through his personal dominance into control of policy and party mechanisms, then many of the Blairites will look at their constituency members and suddenly discover they had left-wing principles after all. If the Blairites think that a resistance and undermining campaign against Corbyn will succeed (and there will certainly be one), they will go for that. In short, most “Blairites” are out for themselves and will join what they perceive will be the winning side Corbyn’s winning margin, and the fact he won overwhelmingly among full members, gives him a very strong base.
I have shared anti-war and pro-Palestinian platforms with Jeremy, and have the greatest respect for him. I also expect that he will have the strength to stand against both the smothering blandishments and the attacks of the neo-con establishment. The “Corbyn’s election is a disaster” narrative is being pushed by the BBC relentlessly in every question and comment – for example they just asked Ed Miliband “In retrospect was it a mistake for you to resign the day after the election?”, the clear sub-text being that Corbyn’s election was undesirable.
Ever since I realised that Blair’s New Labour was entirely subservient to the neo-con agenda I have regarded Labour as the enemy, as a fake opposition so close to the Tories as to make no difference. I viewed its leadership as utterly unscrupulous careerists fully signed up to a vicious pro-wealthy agenda at home and completely subservient to US/Israeli foreign policy abroad. This new careerism tied in very nicely with a pre-existing rotten borough corruption in Scotland and Northern England. I utterly detested the Labour Party.
So it is difficult for me to find the Labour Party led by a man whom I know, much respect, and with whom I disagree on almost nothing except Scottish independence. I also continue to believe that once consolidated, Jeremy will make it clear he has no hostility to Scottish independence and will support a second referendum whenever the Scottish government wants it.
But the problem is that the Labour Party hierarchy, and particularly their parliamentary party, is still full of people who are neo-cons, Red Tories, appallingly corrupt, careerists and in several cases war criminals. To know what attitude to adopt to the Labour Party must depend on how the battle for control of the party pans out. The scale of Corbyn’s victory, and the total rejection of the direct interference of Tony Blair, give Corbyn a great start. Those Blairite bastions – the Guardian and the BBC – are spluttering incoherently.
Jeremy Corbyn has just won the battle for party leadership. But the battle for control of the Labour Party just started.
It is an astonishing fact that, despite near universal recognition now that the war in Iraq was a disaster, no major British social institution is headed by a single one of the majority of the population wo were opposed to the war.
Every Cabinet Minister actively supported the war. Of the fifteen Tory MPs who rebelled and voted against the war, not one is a minister. Civil servants officially have no politics but privately their opinions are known. There is not one single Permanent Under Secretary of a UK government department who was known to be against the war and most were enthusiasts. Simon Fraser, PUS at the FCO, was an active Blairite enthusiast for the war. Though no Blairite, the Head of MI6 Alex Younger was also an enthusiast.
The BBC was of course gutted following its revealing of the truth about Iraqi WMD, and the subsequent murder of David Kelly. Following the ousting of Greg Dyke, both Governors and Directors-Generals have been known supporters of the war. Of the 107 bureaucrats in the BBC who earn over 100,000 pounds pa, insiders estimate that only five were opponents of the war. Craig Oliver – who has now left the BBC for Cameron’s media operation – and James Purnell are absolutely typical of the BBC Iraqocracy.
Every current editor of a UK national newspaper supported the Iraq war. At the time of the war there was one editor opposed – Piers Morgan – who subsequently became a derided and marginalised figure. Not only are the editors firmly from the neo-con alliance, but the high profile commentators who cheered on the war – David Aaronovich, Nick Cohen, Melanie Phillips, John Rentoul, Rod Liddle etc. – have all seen their careers flourish. None has suffered from their appalling lack of judgement. There is no similar raft of commentators who were against the war who enjoy such constant media promotion and massive salaries. Many, like Peter Oborne, have suffered unexpected career glitches. There is no head of a major TV channel in the UK who was against the war in Iraq.
The theme runs through all the public professions. Of the hundreds of academics who took firm positions against the Iraq War, I cannot find a single example who went on to become a University Vice-Chancellor or Principal. By contrast actual war criminals Richard Dearlove and Valerie Amos were parachuted into academic leadership posts. The Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces were all true believers, compared to the massive scepticism that existed among senior officers.
The Iraq test even extends into the heads of institutions apparently quite unrelated, such as City of London banks and insurance companies. There are a tiny number of heads of FTSE 100 companies who were against the war.
It is not that there is an Iraq test. It is that Iraq is the touchstone for adherence to the neo-liberal consensus. All these professionally successful people share a number of attitudes, of which support for the Iraq War is a good indicator. There is a very strong correlation between support for the Iraq War and fierce Zionism. But there is also a strong correlation between support for the Iraq War and support for austerity economics. The strongest correlation of all lies in support for the Iraq War and for “business-friendly” tolerance of corporatism, TTIP, multinational tax avoidance, low taxation and marketization of public services including in education and health.
To return to where I started, the quite extraordinary thing is that there is a near-universal recognition in wider society that the Iraq War was both completely unjustified and a dreadful strategic blunder. Yet its support is a major pre-condition for membership of the governing elite.
The answer of course lies in its value as an indicator for a broad range of neo-liberal consensus attitudes. That is why both the SNP and Jeremy Corbyn provide such a threat to the Establishment, through denying those attitudes. The fascinating thing is that the SNP and the Labour Party could be the only public institutions in the UK of any note with an anti-Iraq War leadership. The significance is that, in slightly different ways, both the prominence of the SNP and of Jeremy Corbyn are the result of a public revolt which the Establishment has been trying, absolutely desperately, to cut off.
Ed Miliband did not actually vote against the Iraq War, contrary to popular myth. Having both the Labour and SNP parties led by people who reject the raft of values symbolised by the Iraq test, who have broken through the depleted uranium ceiling, is a massive, massive threat to the meritlessocracy. Institutional control appeared to be complete and impermeable. Suddenly they face the danger of the opinions of ordinary people carrying weight. Expect the media control mechanisms to whir into still greater overdrive.
The propaganda machine in the west is once again ramping up and spewing out one false claim after another about the shoot down of MH17 last year over eastern Ukraine and each story is more absurd than the one before it. On the 13th of August the British newspaper, mistakenly called The Independent, made the bizarre claim that Russia has “stoked tensions with the West by burning Dutch flowers in what is regarded as a political statement over the investigation into the Malaysian Airlines flight disaster headed by The Netherlands.”
The Independent states that its source for this garbage rests on unnamed “critics” and then goes on to repeat the NATO party line that Russia is trying to block the facts from coming out.
Just two days before this the BBC claimed a leak from the Dutch investigation indicated Russian missile parts were found at the site. However they failed to mention later that Dutch investigators refuted this mysterious leak and stated their investigation did not conclude that at all. Both these stories made sure to repeat that Russia had blocked a UN tribunal from being formed to look into the crash and punish those responsible.
Dr. Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian Ambassador to the UK and former deputy foreign minister, captured the situation in this statement made on July 31, 2015, in regard to the call for a UN tribunal,
“Why the rush? Is it to help the investigation, or rather to replace it? Progress towards justice must be seen. So far, we have seen nothing. Our partners preferred to conduct a vote that is impossible to explain by any other motive than seeking a fresh pretext for pointing a finger at Russia. It is only to be regretted that the unity and authority of the Security Council has once again become hostage to political ambitions having nothing to do with either justice or a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Ukraine in its entirety. For its part, Russia will continue to seek both.”
He went on to correctly point out that the only ones blocking the findings of the investigation from coming out are the NATO countries and its ally Australia who refuse to release any of the findings of the investigators and have delayed the report until October of 2015. Russia is not blocking anything. It was the first country to demand a full and independent investigation into the matter and, to ensure that, helped to pushed through Security Council Resolution 2166 on July 21, 2014 that deplored the incident, stressed the need for a full, thorough and independent investigation in accordance with civil aviation guidelines, called for the involvement of the International Civil Aviation Organization, called for securing the crash site and safety of investigators and demanded that those responsible be held accountable.
What did the Americans and their puppets in Kiev do? Nothing except to launch an immediate and intense propaganda campaign against Russia going so far as to pin responsibility on President Putin personally. They even claimed that they had evidence. But they have produced none. Russia asked them for this purported evidence multiple times and each time they were met with silence followed by another volley of propaganda aimed at confusing the western public and covering up the fact that they do not want the Dutch report released for if that investigation had evidence that Russia was involved we can be sure it would have been plastered all over the mass media long ago, instead of these small leaks that drip out on a regular basis to keep the pot boiling.
While NATO engaged in propaganda games Russia insistently called for a transparent, independent and honest investigation, quickly supplied to the investigators its satellite and radar data, eyewitness reports, and technical information regarding Buk missile systems and offered to assist in the investigation. The Americans have said nothing about any of this information of course because all of it points to their allies in Kiev being responsible for the shoot down and because the United States was involved or became complicit by protecting its allies from facing responsibility for their actions.
As for the MH17 tribunal demanded by the probable culprits the United States and its dependencies in NATO and Kiev, Russia was correct to reject that demand and correct to veto the draft resolution.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the push by NATO countries for a UN tribunal to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the shoot down was an intentional provocation against Russia. There was no other purpose for this NATO initiative than to use it to demonize the Russian leadership, to increase the negative war propaganda being put out by the NATO alliance and ultimately to use it as justification for further aggression against the peoples of east Ukraine and Russia.
There must be no doubt in any reasonable person’s mind that the only result of the creation of such a tribunal by the Security Council was to be an indictment against President Putin himself accusing him of some type of command responsibility. Once Putin was indicted as a war criminal, the anti-Russian propaganda in the west would increase beyond even the intense levels it now has reached.
We saw what happened to President Milosevic of Yugoslavia when the Yugoslav tribunal indicted him with war crimes at a point during the NATO attack in 1999 when the French and Germans were looking for a political solution. The US driven indictment, arranged through their agent Louise Arbour, effectively killed a political solution since as Arbour stated, and I paraphrase, “you can’t negotiate with a war criminal.”
The same happened to Muammar Gaddafi. The International Criminal Court, again through its US marionettes in the prosecution, labelled him a war criminal and used it to justify their destruction of Libya. Both Milosevic and Gaddafi ended up dead at NATO’s hands.
What’s more the UN Charter does not give the Security Council the right or jurisdiction to create these ad hoc tribunals and in fact this possibility was explicitly excluded when the International Court of Justice was created which has very limited jurisdiction and none over criminal matters. Of course tribunals have been created as a matter of fact despite this problem but an illegal precedent is still illegal no matter how many times it is repeated.
It is clear that the ad hoc tribunals previously set up for Yugoslavia and Rwanda were set up during a period when Russia was under the sway of President Yeltsin and others willing to act in US interests without caring about the implications for Russian and world interests. Russia, and China lost all control over the funding, staffing and running of these tribunals from the very beginning which, from the personal experience of this writer and other defence counsel, are controlled at all levels by western intelligence assets.
The indictments and evidence at these tribunals are concocted against selected accused for three reason; to defame the leaders targeted, to justify the western aggression against these countries, and finally to cover up the real role of the west in these wars.
A further problem with the proposed MH17 tribunal was the claim that it was a matter under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, that is, a matter of international peace and security. The fact that the other ad hoc tribunals have been created under Chapter VII reveals their true political nature. But in the case of MH17, no such argument can be validly made since there has never been an example of a plane being brought down in any circumstances that has triggered the use of Chapter VII of the UN Charter. No call was made by anyone to create a UN tribunal with regard to the downing of the Iranian, Libyan and Korean airliners or even the downing of the plane carrying Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General, in 1961. It seems when western interests might be affected, the less that is known, the better.
But there was another problem with the proposal that reveals its true political nature. A court can only try those accused of a crime determined to have taken place and can only try accused against whom there is evidence. In regard to MH17 there is the NATO propaganda on one side claiming Donbass militias were involved, aided and abetted by Russia, but without any evidence of this being produced, and, on the other hand, evidence supplied by eye witnesses, air traffic controllers, Ukrainian military pilots and Russian radar plots that indicate that it was more likely shot down by a Ukrainian government Sukhoi jet fighter. In any case, whatever the facts really are, the investigation is not complete and not complete because the NATO alliance refuses to release information that is necessary to make a determination as to who is responsible and what their motives were.
Since NATO is not willing to offer this information to investigators now nor to make it public why would they do so if a tribunal were created? They would not. They would have used that tribunal as a forum to bash Russia, fabricate evidence and used it to justify even more western aggression.
The proposal was clearly a trap for Russia and so its veto of July 29th was welcome news. Russia will continue to face criticism from the usual suspects in NATO and more ravings by Samantha Power in the Security Council and more bizarre stories in the western press that it is trying to stop “justice” or is afraid of the investigation, but better to treat these false accusations with a dismissive wave of the hand than to have taken the bait and be faced with the constant harassment, and injustice that would have surely followed if such a tribunal had been approved.
But the constant propaganda clearly signals the intent of the NATO countries and that is to try to overthrow the government of Russia one way or another. Russia avoided the NATO tribunal trap, but there is no doubt that other traps will be set and one of them and perhaps the most important is the propaganda trap we in the west must learn to recognise and avoid so that we do not fall into the worst trap of all, supporting aggression that profits the few but risks the nuclear annihilation of us all.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto, he is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and he is known for a number of high-profile cases involving human rights and war crimes.
BBC’s HARDtalk program interviewed the former president of Georgia and fugitive from Georgian justice, Mikheil Saakashvili, on July 15. Saakashvili was appointed last month to the post of “governor” of the region of Odessa by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. While some important questions were asked of him–the criminal charges he faces in Georgia, his appointment as a foreigner to govern one of Ukraine’s most important cities and industrial regions–questions on other subjects were avoided. These included questions about the Odessa Massacre of May 2, 2014, the subsequent failure of authorities to properly investigate, the vigilante justice currently prevailing in the streets of Odessa and the plans of the Kyiv government to privatize the remaining state-owned industries and services of Ukraine, many of which are located in Odessa.
BBC also avoided questioning Saakashvili over his role as then-president of Georgia in provoking a war in South Ossetia in 2008, including his decision to intensely shell the capital city of the territory. (The BBC host voiced the Western interpretation that Saakashvili’s unfortunate adventure in 2008 led to “Russian occupation” of former regions of the country, including South Ossetia and Abkhazia.)
The corporate media in both the UK and US are attempting to portray the Iranian desire to have the arms embargo lifted, as a new and extraneous demand that could torpedo the nuclear deal. This is an entirely false portrayal.
The issue has been included in the talks since, quite literally, the very first Iranian position document. And there is a reason for that. It is absolutely part and parcel of the issue and in no way extraneous to it. If there were any real journalists employed by the corporate media, that is obvious right on the face of UN Security Council Resolution 1747 of 2007 which imposed the arms embargo. The sole and exclusive reason given for the arms embargo is Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme. And it specifically states that, once the nuclear proliferation issue is resolved, the embargo will be lifted.
Paragraph 13 reads:
(b) that it shall terminate the measures specified in paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
and 12 of resolution 1737 (2006) as well as in paragraphs 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 above as
soon as it determines, following receipt of the report referred to in paragraph 12
above, that Iran has fully complied with its obligations under the relevant
resolutions of the Security Council and met the requirements of the IAEA Board of
Governors, as confirmed by the IAEA Board;
It is the United States, not Iran, which is introducing extraneous factors, banging on about Yemen, Iran and Hezbollah, which are nowhere mentioned in the Security Council Resolutions.
The way this is being reported in the media is the exact opposite of the truth. The United States is attempting to welch on a deal which was not only open, but forms the very text of the security council resolution. None of the BBC’s highly paid analysts, reporters, or guest commenters is capable of noting this basic fact.
A truly disgraceful piece of distortion from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet.
The title of this film is a clear hint of the propaganda to come, based, as ever, on the fatuous ‘two sides’ narrative. There was no ‘war’, only another orchestrated massacre, a campaign of civil terror, in order to maintain Israel’s wicked, illegal siege. From the first minute of this shoddy film, one just wants to urge Doucet: tell the truth, give the context!
Yes, children suffer and die, but why is this happening? Why have so many Palestinians been murdered? Why have over 500 children been slaughtered? Why are an entire population, notably the children, so deeply traumatised? Tell the truth, provide the context!
Israel is the aggressor force. Gaza is the key target. It lies in ruins. Yet, this truly despicable film affects to argue that Sderot is part of the same ‘war zone’.
Continual reference is made to Israel targeting populated areas from where, it’s claimed, Hamas were launching rockets, just part of the loaded message that Hamas are largely responsible for the carnage.
A key section of the film is given over to Hamas fighters, youth camp training and wielding weaponry. But there’s not a single frame of an Israeli soldier, or the mass military operation engaged in the attempted annihilation of Gaza’s people. There’s no questioning, either, of how Israel has socialised so much of its youth to hate and fear Palestinians.
Standing at a Hamas training camp, Doucet laments: “For the outside world it’s hard to comprehend why parents would put children in situations like this.” But there’s no exploration of how Israel as a militarist, occupying state has conditioned so much of its own population to join in the historic oppression and mass murder of Palestinians. Indeed, the word ‘occupation’ is never used.
At one point, Doucet sits with the smiling Gazan kids and asks one of them: ‘Why do you want to be a journalist?’ The child replies in lovely innocence: ‘So I can tell people what’s going on in wars like this one’. If only Doucet could aspire to that same basic aim. One might ask Doucet, in turn: Why do you want to be a stenographer rather than a journalist?
We see more pictures of Gaza’s ruins. Doucet says: “The donors promise a lot. But politics on all sides gets in the way.” This is the extent of her ‘explanation’ of the carnage Israel has caused, the devastation it’s unleashed, its refusal to help rebuild.
Doucet’s grating commentary, over inappropriately lilting music, continues, with affected questions on whether the hate and suspicion can ever be overcome.
A scene of more families coming to settle in Israel’s border locale raises not a word of comment on the nature of Israel’s land appropriation, historic displacement of people and enduring occupation. The indoctrination of Israeli children in defending this is never mentioned, nor is the stark privilege of Israeli kids against the appalling conditions and despair of the children in Gaza. Doucet just smiles and says nothing of the staggering disparities.
I hope the families that Doucet interviewed in Gaza get to see how they’ve been used and exploited in this shabby, deceitful film.
An end credit announces that both Israel and Hamas could be indicted for war crimes, and that: ‘In May and June there were more rounds of rockets fired from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes’, the clear inference, as throughout this deeply-loaded film, that Israel is always ‘responding’ to provocative weaponry.
This is one of the worst examples of ‘two sides’ reportage ever shown. Israel couldn’t have hoped for a greater piece of mitigating hasbara. Doucet’s film is one of the most shameful pieces of ‘war journalism’ ever put out by the BBC.
She doesn’t lack human empathy for the suffering Palestinian kids, such as little Syed, still haunted by the murder of his brother and three cousins on Gaza’s beach. What she lacks, much more profoundly, is a sense of compassionate duty to say why these appalling things happened, and are still happening, to name the principal perpetrators, to be a witness for truth and justice.
Doucet’s film is an abuse of journalism, and, in its pretentious evasions, an abuse of Gaza’s suffering children.
There’s a massive spike in cancer cases in Argentina that is strongly associated with glyphosate-based herbicides. These herbicides are a huge earner for agribusiness. But don’t worry, Patrick Moore says you can drink a whole quart and it won’t harm you. Who needs independent testing? He says people regularly try to commit suicide with it but fail. They survived – just. So what’s the problem? Perfectly safe. Patrick Moore says he is ‘not an idiot’. So he must be right. Right?
Anyway, all that scare mongering about GMOs and glyphosate is a conspiracy by a bunch of whinging lavishly funded green-blob types. Former UK environment minister Owen Paterson said as much. He says those self-serving anti-GMO people are damaging the interests of the poor and are profiting handsomely. They are condemning “billions” to lives of poverty.
He voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq, which has led to the death of almost 1.5 million Iraqis. His government has plunged millions into poverty and food insecurity in the UK. He now wants to help the poor by giving them GM courtesy of self-interested, corporations and their lavishly paid executives. What was that about self-serving, lavishly funded groups? As a staunch believer in doublespeak, hypocrisy and baseless claims by self-appointed humanitarians with awful track records, Paterson’s sound-bite smears and speeches are good enough for me.
So with that cleared up, hopefully we can move on.
Then there’s all that ‘anti-capitalist twaddle’ (another pearl of wisdom from Patrick Moore) about smallholders being driven from their lands and into poverty due to a corporate takeover aimed at expanding (GM) chemical-intensive agriculture. I showed Mr Moore a paper by an economics professor who had studied the devastation caused by the above in Ethiopia. That’s where the ‘anti-capitalist twaddle’ retort came in. As I’m also a staunch believer in the power of baseless, ill-informed abuse, I was once again convinced.
What about all that rubbish about GM not having enhanced the world’s ability to feed itself? You know, all that stuff about the way it has been used has merely led to greater food insecurity. Nonsense. I watched a prime-time BBC programme recently. Some scientist in a white coat in a lab said that GM can feed the world. He’d proved it in his lab. In reality (not in a lab), the fact it hasn’t done anything of the sort over the past 20-odd years doesn’t matter. He wore a white coat and held GM patents, so he definitely knows best!
I once read that industrialised agriculture is less productively efficient than smallholder agriculture that feeds most of the world. And then I read that the world can feed itself without GMOs. According to all of this, it is current policies and the global system of food production that militate against achieving global food security.
That’s just a big old load of rubbish put together by a bunch of conspiracy mongers. Who are these people? Food and trade policy analysts, political scientists, economics professors and the like. A bunch of whining anti-capitalist promoters of twaddle. None of them have studied molecular biology so how can they possibly be qualified to talk on this? I’d rather listen to a man in a lab who says GM can feed the world. He’s much more qualified to speak on politics, trade, the environment or anthropology than a bunch of lefties who don’t know one side of a petri dish from the other.
I happen to believe a profitable techno-fix is the way to go. A techno-fix that comes courtesy of the same companies whose global influence and power are helping to destroy indigenous agriculture across the world. But this is for the good of the traditional smallholder because these companies really, really care about the poor. Okay, okay, I know the top execs over at Monsanto are bringing in a massive annual cheque – but $12.4 million per year helps motivate a CEO to get out of bed in the morning and to develop empathy with the poor – unlike that elitist, self-serving green blob lot who rake in big money – according to hero-of-the-poor, the handsomely rewarded millionaire Owen Paterson… err, let’s swiftly move on.
To divert your attention away from all that scare mongering, conspiracy theory twaddle, I want you to concentrate solely on the science of GM and nothing else. But only on the version of ‘science’ as handed down from the great lawgiver in St Louis which creates it in its own image, not least by dodging any problematic questions that may have prevented GM from going on the market in the first place. Some troublemaker recently wrote a book about that, but someone said it wasn’t worth reading – so I didn’t bother (‘Altered Genes, Twisted…’ something or other – the word escapes me; it doesn’t appear in my lexicon).
So how about joining like-minded humanitarians and the handsomely-paid people over at big bioworld? We believe in mouthing platitudes about freedom and choice while serving interests that eradicate both. And let me add that scientists know that anyone who disagrees with them is just plain dim. C S Prakash recently posted a claim that implied such on Twitter. He’s a molecular biologist, so it must be true. Of course, there are scientists who disagree with us but they are quite clearly wrong – wrong methodology, wrong findings, wrong career turn – we’ll make sure of that!
In finishing, let me make the case for GM clear, based on logic and clear-headed rationality. There are those who are just too dim to understand any of the issues to do with GM so they should put up, shut up or go away and read or write about conspiracy theories on their blogs or in their peer-reviewed non-science journals that aren’t worth the paper they are written on given that the ‘peers’ in question are probably also a bunch of left-leaning wing nuts.
By comparison, unlike those self-serving ideologues, we are totally non-political. Okay, we might be firmly supporting a neoliberalism that is dominated by unaccountable big corporations which have captured policy-making space nationally and internationally, but any discussion of that is to be avoided by labelling those who raise such matters as politically motivated. We get you to focus on ‘the science’ – that is ‘our science’ – and nothing else. The fact that some of us tend to label anyone who disagrees with us as anti-science, anti-capitalist, socialists or enemies of the poor (or even ‘murdering bastards‘) says nothing at all about our political agenda.
And the lavish funds and powerful strategic position of big agribusiness means the pro-GMO lobby can smear, exert huge political influence and also restrict choice by preventing the labelling of GM food. You see, too much choice confuses people. We take the public for fools who will swallow anything – hopefully GMOs and our sound-bite deceptions.
So rests the case for GMOs. Eloquently put? I certainly think so. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m paid to.
Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.