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There are no ‘persons unknown’

Jeremy Williams’ blog is consistently worth following

Make Wealth History

I was quite struck by a briefing last week from the New Economics Foundation, reporting on community opposition to fracking. It highlights a high court injunction that has been taken out by the company Ineos, banning people from interfering with their fracking activities. It is addressed to ‘persons unknown’, and threatens said persons with prison, fines or seizure of assets for obstructing the frackers in any way.

The local community is furious about this, naturally. As Rebecca Winson from NEF says, “they are not ‘persons unknown’. They are neighbours, locals, builders, farmers, pensioners, gardeners, healthcare workers, carpenters and even beekeepers, all with strong links to the towns and villages they are prepared to fight for”.

This reminded me of Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything. In the book she argues that industrial capitalism has always needed ‘sacrifice zones’ – marginal places where resources or fossil fuels could be…

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The sources of transport emissions

Make Wealth History

A few days ago I wrote about why we need to pay more attention to transport emissions. Today I want to look at where transport emissions come from, and what the biggest challenges are. It won’t take long. Here’s a hasty graph drawn from the Committee on Climate Change figures for 2012:


For better or worse, international aviation and shipping aren’t covered by national emissions plans. They’re treated through separate agreements, such as the one on aviation negotiated this year. That doesn’t mean we can ignore it, but it does mean that the government won’t feel much obligation to act on aviation or shipping.

The bit it can focus on is domestic emissions, and it’s very obvious what the biggest problem is. So what do we mean by surface transport? Here’s how that divides up:


By some distance, the biggest source of transport emissions is cars – and…

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The Restorative Economy

Make Wealth History

Restorative-EconomyOne of my most interesting freelance jobs over the last couple of years has been a series of background papers for a new Tearfund campaign. I’ve been waiting to see what would come out of it at the end of the process, and last week the campaign finally launched. It’s called ordinary heroes, and it brings together the development and sustainability agendas in a new and important way.

There is much to celebrate about the number of people lifted out of poverty, rising global life expectancy, and the spread of education. But as long as climate change and other planetary boundaries are in overshoot, those gains remain fragile. What’s more, the billion or so people who haven’t yet shared in the gains of the last half century may be locked out. To finish the task, development agencies need to talk to us in the rich world too.

The campaign…

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Inexorable global warming

This article from the Guardian reports that April 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded since records began and by the largest increase ecer recorded, This puts in doubt the viability of the 1.5 or 2 degree warming limit targets set by the UN for controlling global warming,  The article contains a dynamic graphic to illustrate the inexorable rise in recorded global temperature. It also reports the concentration of CO2 reaching over 400 parts per million, well above the limit of 350 ppm regarded by many as the desired level for containing the impact of the ‘greenhouse effect’ that is the major factor in  the rise of global temperatures.

Death of the fossil fuel industry

This substantial article by journalist Nafeez Ahmed offers a detailed analysis of scenarios for transition to a post-carbon economy. The central role of fossil fuels in the dynamic growth of economies and human impact upon the planet will inevitably lead to major upheavals and the rate of the transition will determine the weight of disruption on societies around the world.

“…there will be upheaval. Today’s fossil fuel incumbency remains in denial, and is unlikely to accept the reality of its inevitable demise until it really does drop dead.

The escalation of resource wars, domestic unrest, xenophobia, state-militarism, and corporate totalitarianism is to be expected. These are the death throes of a system that has run its course.

The outcomes of the struggles which emerge in coming decades — struggles between people and power, but also futile geopolitical struggles within the old centers of power (paralleled by misguided struggles between peoples) — is yet to be written.”


Possible transition?

The quote below is from an article that provides an overview  of the transition that the author envisions if our invasive human species is to avoid collapse of the civilisation that we have created:

“a cultural transition from seeking happiness in material excess to seeking happiness in material sufficiency and spiritual abundance. It will require an institutional transition from corporate rule to deep democracy.”

There are many such articles available, not so much in the mainstream corporate-controlled media, but in self-funding ‘progressive’ websites – in this case The article is entitled “Time to grow up into a living earth  economy”. It contains a concise summary of the assumptions (dominate nature, venerate money; centralise power) behind the failed economic system that is pushing us rapidly to socio-ecological collapse:

The current failed system is a collective human creation based on human choices made over thousands of years in response to the unfolding circumstances of history. In the big picture, these choices reflect three foundational assumptions:

  1. It is our human right to dominate nature.
  2. Money is wealth and therefore a suitable object of sacred veneration.
  3. Social order depends on institutions that centralize power in the hands of the few to rule over the rest of us so long as these institutions are subject to the discipline of the market and/or a system of popular elections.

If we step back and examine these assumptions, most of us immediately recognize profound fallacies:

  1. Our human existence depends on the health of nature and the systems by which Earth’s community of life self-organizes to maintain the conditions essential to the existence of all life.
  2. Real wealth is living wealth — those things with real intrinsic value, beginning with the land we depend on to grow our food and the water we depend on to quench our thirst. Money is useful in facilitating the exchange of things of real value but has no intrinsic value in itself
  3. Life exists only in living communities that self-organize in response to diverse and ever-changing local conditions to create and maintain the conditions essential to their own existence. There is no equivalent in nature of the centralized command-and-control structures we humans currently favor. That is because they block the community’s ability to self-organize in response to the ever-changing local needs and circumstances characteristic of any living system.

These three assumptions are part of the ideology of power and greed that has reached its peak with the rise of neo-liberal values (see George Monbiot’s brilliant critique of neo-liberal ideology here) in recent decades that has accelerated human expansion and the destruction of nature, that has enormously concentrated wealth and power, and that has turned homo sapiens into an invasive species that has exceeded the capacity of Spaceship Earth to ensure a sustainable future for ‘business-as-usual’.

Hot news about March 2016

This article records the dramatic evidence from NASA of global warming, complete with maps and graphs. Non-believers in human caused climate change are still arguing that this evidence is the result of natural causes – nothing to do with human activity!  Do all these NASA and other scientists just spread this evidence as ‘propaganda’ simply to boost their egos and job prospects, as some people believe? Such changes within in Earth’s geological time span are extremely and unusually rapid. Particularly disturbing is the information about the high acceleration of melting of Arctic and Greenland which may have very immediate and powerful effects particularly on the northern hemisphere. The maps indicate that the northern hemisphere has the greatest regional temperature increases.