|Some people may wonder why this YouTube starts halfway through a panel discussion from the Rebellious Media Conference at the weekend.
I certainly did. So I dug deep down in my appallingly scratchy notes and typed up a paraphrase of what Mark Curtis had said – the first speaker on the panel.
Warning – it’s not verbatim – it is interpolated from my illegible handwriting.
“War and the Media” : Panel Discussion : Rebellious Media Conference
[…Tests the audience’s general knowledge about the world’s longest serving dictators…] It’s “Our Man in Oman”, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said.
We don’t hear much about Oman. Why is that ? Let’s make two assumptions, first, that journalists can read, and second that they are following government sources.
For the UK Government, foreign policy is increasingly about oil. UK has been developing relationships with the Gulf States. There is a policy of deepening support for the most undemocratic states in the region.
Britain continues to project military power. You can see this in a hundred years of UK foreign policy – just read a few speeches.
This is not what we are being told in the media. Was this a war for oil ? Is the Pope a Catholic ?
In the media, the view [expressed] is that Britain is about supporting democracy in the Middle East.
This country has two special relationships. The special relationship with the United States [of America] is about consumerism and investment.
The other special relationship is much less [publicly] known [communicated]. Saudi Arabia since 1973 […]
A problem – Saudi Arabia is funding radical Islam.
And when Cameron […] in Bahrain…I wonder what they were talking about ?
When Britain provides arms, the media reports that it contradicts our policy of promoting democracy – to maintain them in power. We don’t have a policy of upholding democracy. They are our allies. We don’t want them to fall.
It is a newer, clearer tone that George Monbiot uses in his piece “The nuclear industry stinks. But that is not a reason to ditch nuclear power“. He seems to have lost his dirty annoyance with filthy anti-nuclear activists and moved onto a higher plane of moral certitude, where the air is cleaner and more refined.
He is pro-technology, but anti-industry. For him, the privately owned enterprises of atomic energy are the central problem that has led to accidents both of a radioactive and an accountancy nature. “Corporate power ?”, he asks, “No thanks.” The trouble is, you can’t really separate the failings of nuclear power from the failings of human power. It’s such a large, complex and dangerous enterprise that inevitably, human power systems compromise the use of the technology, regardless of whether they are publicly or privately owned. For a small amount of evidence, just look at the history of publicly-managed nuclear power in the United Kingdom. Not exactly peachy. And as for those who claimed that a “free” market approach to managing nuclear power would improve matters – how wrong they were. In my view, on the basis of the evidence so far, nobody can claim that nuclear power can be run as an efficient, safe, profit-making venture.
Many news articles now follow a predictable path. Some awe-inspiring, statistics-shaking weather event hits town – in the case of Joplin, literally. Then some people muse about whether these extreme events could have anything to do with Global Warming. Then some other people smother the idea very publicly. “No one weather event can be attributed to Climate Change !”, they insist, and yes, in the grand scheme of things they’re right – you cannot say for certain that one freak tornado, hurricane, flood or storm can be cast iron guaranteed to have been caused by atmospheric heating and increased sky water vapour. There is No Connection, official, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and donate to a worthy clean-up cause.
Twenty-five years ago today, Reactor Four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant ruptured, and explosions sent highly toxic and radioactive material up into the atmosphere.
We still live in the fallout plume of Chernobyl, a shadow that haunts us with future risk if the new Shelter Implementation Plan programme is not financed :-
In the light of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Multiple Nuclear Accident in Japan, and the setting of an official exclusion zone, it is important to re-consider whether the low-risk-of-high-damage nuclear power technology should continue to be used in action taken against low-risk-of-high-damage Climate Change.
Governments and other institutions have been checking and re-checking nuclear power facilities and holding talks :-
The central lesson of both Chernobyl and Fukushima is that over time, engineering systems degrade, constructions rust and crumble, human operations become slack, and small chances can add up to have big consequences.
Public information has been created to help the newsreading public get to grips with the new reality of nuclear power. We cannot rely on nuclear power. Nuclear power stations break down, sometimes without warning. Nuclear power always poses a risk. Sometimes there are spills, leaks and emissions of dangerous gas – sometimes there are fires or explosions – and there is always the danger that somebody might misuse the fuel or waste :-
The Japanese Government and nuclear power industry did not respond to the warnings issued in 2007 in Japan after an earthquake caused a radioactive leak at a nuclear power plant :-
Neither do they appear to have responded adequately to warnings of cracks in reactors, which have been known about for a long time. It is possible that reactor cracking, or other neutron damage, may have played a part in the release of radioactive chemicals still ongoing at Fukushima Dai-ichi. Only careful study will confirm or deny this, but engineers may not be able to get close enough to find out for some time as the radiation levels are so high :-
Can the United Kingdom now listen to warnings about cracked nuclear power reactors at home ? :-
“Cracked reactors may force closure of nuclear plants : Terry Macalister : The Guardian, Thursday 2 December 2004”
“Documents reveal hidden fears over Britain’s nuclear plants : Unexplained cracks in reactor cores increase likelihood of accident, say government inspectors : John Vidal and Ian Sample, The Guardian, Wednesday 5 July 2006”
“More checks on reactors ordered after cracks found : John Vidal and Ian Sample, The Guardian, Thursday 6 July 2006”
It is being admitted that not enough is known about the effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear power plant accidents. Let us only hope that our governments feel it necessary to spend the money to find out :-
What have we learned about Nuclear Power in the last month or so ?
That freak weather events can knock out plants :-
That, even if the weather stays clement, that Nuclear Power plants can experience unplanned outage :-
[ UPDATE : Don’t tell me. I know the images are mostly from India, but the music is Punjabi… ]
“Draft of national climate change policy finalised : Noor Aftab : Monday, February 21, 2011 : Islamabad : The draft of National Climate Change Policy has been finalised after two years of deliberations and now the Environment Ministry would present it to the federal cabinet for final approval, the sources told The News here on Sunday. The sources said the recommendations in the draft would certainly test the government’s commitment as it has been proposed to go for alternative energy resources instead of using fossil fuel, considered one of the major reasons for environmental degradation. The sources said the draft recommendations prepared by a core group of the Environment Ministry mainly focuses on two areas including adaptation and mitigation with an aim to enable the country to cope with fast increasing environmental challenges. One of the top officials of the Environment Ministry told this correspondent that continuity of casual approach towards environmental sector has now made economic managers and policy makers feel the heat as environmental degradation has started costing five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Pakistan…”
“Sunday, February 20, 2011 : UK to keep helping Pakistan’s flood victims: Sayeeda Warsi : LAHORE: Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a British cabinet minister of Pakistani-origin, said on Saturday that the United Kingdom would continue supporting Pakistan in the post-flood operations. “Today I have been heartened to see and hear how the UK is helping millions of people in Pakistan rebuild their lives, but there is much more to do, with widespread malnutrition and the risk of disease outbreaks,” Warsi said while talking to reporters in Islamabad. The primary purpose of Warsi’s visit to Pakistan is to learn how the country is recovering, what more needs to be done, and to see how more than Rs 27.7 billion from British people is supporting the flood victims. “When I was here exactly six months ago in August at the peak of the floods with the UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell I saw scenes of devastation,” the British lawmaker recalled. She said that some areas of Sindh were still under water, adding that reconstruction of millions of houses, bridges and schools that were destroyed would take years…”
The documentary evidence shows that America’s business interests often outweigh its political progress. Yet it’s perhaps more concerning that, increasingly, corporate America is at risk of damaging good environmental governance.
With all the talk of free markets in international trade, the Coalition Government in the United Kingdom has felt the pressure to open up the back door to American energy businesses, whose highly-paid sales representatives in slick suits want us to buy their dirty energy projects – just take a look at the upcoming UK Energy Bill and its proposals for Electricity Market Reform.
American companies seem poised to sweep in and take all our public non-subsidy “support” for building new nuclear power plants. Viewers of a sensitive political disposition should look away now as this is a Wikileak :-
The country that brought you the engineering industry that brought you the giant Gulf of Mexico giant oil spill now wants to bring you unsafe deepwater drilling in Britain’s Continental Shelf – and the UK’s new Energy Bill would let them do that without demonstrating any learning from the BP April 2010 fiasco :-
There’s lots of talk in the energy sector and the financial markets about the American shale gas miracle “gamechanger” and how it can be replicated in Europe and across the world, and not enough discussion about the environmental dangers :-
It’s good to talk about local environmental damage from “unconventional” gas, but what’s not being discussed so widely is that these “new” resources of Natural Gas aren’t really very green, and neither are the “traditional” resources – in some cases they’re not much better than coal :-
We know that the Americans always seek to protect the interests of American-owned businesses – and we know they do that for the best of intentions – to keep America wealthy (except it’s really only a few people in America that have any wealth, but anyway…)
Yet I think there should be a limit to how far we have to bend over backwards to accommodate their needs for economic recovery.
To export all their dirty energy technology to Europe is just not helpful, and I think we should say no, no, no.
The key question tonight in Queensland is : how safe can we make the house before morning ?
The second key question that should tonight be asked in Queensland Australia is : are the damages from Climate Change likely to be more expensive than changing our energy sources to stop it ?
“27 January 2011 : Australia floods: PM Julia Gillard unveils new tax : Julia Gillard announces the details of the new tax : Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a new tax to help pay for devastating floods that she says will cost A$5.6bn ($5.6bn; £3.5bn) in reconstruction. Ms Gillard said the 12-month tax, starting from 1 July, would be levied on those earning A$50,000 or more, and those affected by floods would not pay. “We should not put off to tomorrow what we are able to do today,” she said…”
“Gillard warms to permanent disaster fund : Phillip Coorey : February 1, 2011 : THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is prepared to entertain the idea of a permanent natural disaster fund if it helps win the support of key independents in both houses. But she is not prepared to bend on the details of her one-off $1.8 billion levy to help with flood reparations in Queensland. As negotiations began with independents yesterday before the legislation for the flood measures is tabled in Parliament next week, Ms Gillard would not rule out a permanent fund. ”We’re happy to have a conversation about the longer term,” she said. But the floods, she said, were ”an extraordinary circumstance which requires a response in the short term”…”
Irony alert ? “Typhoons ? They happen all the time. It’s just a little local storm. Nothing to worry about. Happens every season or so. The locals know how to read the warning signs, and head to high ground or build their huts on stilts. Power lines down ? Oh, they’ll be strung back up in no time. And the rice paddies will benefit from all that extra rain.”
Watch out China – here comes Megi :-
People, animals and crops are likely to lose their favourite watering holes over the next few decades, not just in “poor” countries, but just about everywhere :-
The growing hole in water supplies is going to interfere with food security, and it’s going to interfere with human community survival, but it’s also going to interfere with energy production. In fact, it’s doing that already, as competition for water in Peru between food, grazing, people and energy shows most clearly :-
What’s the story on the United Kingdom ? :-
“Adapt now to keep farming’s water flowing : October 20, 2010 : Agricultural and horticultural businesses could face damaging water shortages in the coming decades as a result of climate change. Adaptation across the whole industry is needed to meet the impending challenge…”
“UK crops to face water supply crunch, may relocate : LONDON | Mon Oct 18, 2010 : …Agricultural crops in Britain may need to be moved to new areas as the threat of both drought and flooding rises in the coming decades, a report commissioned by the Royal Agricultural Society of England said on Monday. The report said climate change was expected to produce higher temperatures, drier summers and wetter winters across much of England. “This is likely to mean reduced river flow and less water available for agriculture,” said one of the report’s authors, Alison Bailey, of the University of Reading’s School of Agriculture, Policy and Development…”
And the United States of America ? :-
“…The study found that water withdrawals in California are estimated to be greater than 100% of the available precipitation in 2050…”
“…10/20/2010 : Contact: Joan Moody : PHOENIX, AZ—At a meeting of water leaders from the seven Colorado River Basin states in Phoenix today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the Department of the Interior has chosen the University of Arizona as home base for a regional Climate Science Center and selected the Colorado River Basin for the launch of the first U.S. water census since 1978. “The Colorado River Basin is ground zero for assessing the effects of climate change on our rivers and taking creative management actions to head off the related dangers posed to our water supplies, hydroelectric power generation and ecosystems,” the Secretary said. “We are with you for the long haul to protect our region and its water.”…”
“Examining the Water Crisis and Climate Change : UUSC understands that there is a global water crisis, which is the product of shifting and competing political and economic interests, depletion from environmental contamination, climate change, over-extraction, and increasing human population. As a human-rights organization, UUSC recognizes the urgent need to respond. Climate justice is a central theme of UUSC’s Environmental Justice work. More people are losing their access to clean, affordable water in the United States and in other nations, and too often, the victims are people in low-income communities, women, and racial and ethnic minorities…”
Please consider signing the ONE.org petition to the International Monetary Fund to freeze Pakistan’s national debt.
The country has been subject to a cataclysm, most likely made worse by Global Warming, which is most likely mostly caused by humankind’s fossil fuel burning, mostly caused by the actions of rich people in the West and North :-
“OVERVIEW : The sheer scale of the floods in Pakistan is staggering and the country will need all its available resources to help it recover from this crippling crisis and to fight long-term poverty. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) – the institution that oversees debt repayments – can play a key role in this. Ensuring all of Pakistan’s debt is frozen for 2 years would mean an extra $6 billion available to help those affected.”
This is how I signed :-
Dear Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF Managing Director,
Please help freeze Pakistan’s debt to ensure the country’s poorest people are able to recover from the devastating floods.
I believe it is an ethical and economic inevitability that, since global economic instability will continue, all debts to undeveloped nations will need to be permanently frozen or annulled.
The aid, development and emergency organisations are struggling to make their funds cover all the current needs and disasters, and the situation is being made worse by Climate Change, and will only deteriorate.
The poor are unable to pay back, and these debts therefore are becoming odious as well as untenable.
I think it would be appropriate to begin the process of recognition of this evolution by starting with Pakistan, whose people are suffering unimaginable catastrophe to their agricultural way of life, and are at high risk in the short-term of malaria, respiratory disease and water-related digestive system infections.
If you are in the United States of America, or Europe, you can afford to buy insurance against disaster. In Pakistan, you can’t, and anyway, in this case the disaster is so overwhelming, a normal risk-based financial product simply couldn’t restore the cropland, livestock, homes, public utilities and water sources for something like 20 million people.
Insurance is all about “all for one and one for all”. For Pakistan it’s too late, too impossible, for insurance.
Go on – show you’re an altruistic human and ask for Pakistan’s national debt to be frozen !
Let’s be one, and all for Pakistan.
“We have to believe what we are witnessing with our own eyes — floods, fires, melting ice and feverish heat: from smoke-choked Moscow to water-soaked Pakistan, to soaring temperatures in the US and a deteriorating landscape in the High Arctic, our planet seems to be having a breakdown. It’s not just a portent of things to come but real signs of very troubling climate change already under way.”
“Tell Congress not to weaken Clean Air Act protections : As the EPA prepares to set standards for global warming pollution from power plants, refineries and other major polluters, some members of Congress want to weaken the Clean Air Act and give industries free rein to dump harmful pollution into our air…”
“With January to August 2010 found to be tied for the hottest year on record by NOAA, new analysis from NRDC shows that it wasn’t just daytime temperatures that’ve been soaring. In fact, 37 states in the US set record high nighttime temperatures this summer…”
Somebody took a big spoon and starting stirring the Atlantic and the Pacific, and this is what we got : ocean-scale coffee cream swirls – a cluster of major storms with the potential to wreak significant havoc.
Are records being broken ? Yes. Is it all getting worse, really ? Probably :-
Will the long-term future for much of inundated Pakistan resemble a country-wide-scale New Orleans – destroyed and mostly deserted ?
Where will the people go ? Or will they rot and die in “temporary” camps ?
What will become of those stranded in their villages – they stayed to protect the land – they didn’t realise the floodwaters would be like never before – coming to take away their livelihoods and possibly their lives.
“US envoy warns Pakistan of flood funding shortfall : By SEBASTIAN ABBOT (AP) : 16 September 2010 : KARACHI, Pakistan — The world will only be able to fund around 25 percent of the tens of billions of dollars needed to rebuild Pakistan after the floods, and its government will have to make up the shortfall, the U.S. envoy to the country warned Thursday. Richard Holbrooke said America would not condition its assistance to the country, but warned that the U.S. Congress might not be generous if it felt that Pakistan was not taxing its own citizens enough. Pakistan’s rich have traditionally not paid much tax on their income or their property — either because they evade them or are exempt — and the country’s collection rates are among the lowest in the world…Monsoon rains triggered massive floods six weeks ago that spread across the country and are still continuing in parts of the south. Some 8 million people have been made homeless in what Pakistani and U.N. officials have said is one of the largest humanitarian disasters in living memory…”
People often talk about the weather in relation to Climate Change, but neglect to talk about the possible obvious and inevitable side-effects – hunger and starvation.
Frontline Club will screen the film “The Hunger Season” on 1st October 2010, and follow it with a panel discussion hosted by BOND and Oxfam UK :-
“Across the world a massive food crisis is unfolding. Climate change, increasing consumption in China and India, the dash for Biofuels are causing hitherto unimagined food shortages and rocketing prices. This has already provoked unrest and violence from the Middle East to South America and there is no end in sight in the coming months. The people who are going to be most sorely affected are those already living on the razors edge of poverty, those dependent on food aid for their very survival. As commodity prices have risen by 50%, the UN Agencies have barely half the budget they need to meet the needs of 73 million hungry people they are currently feeding…”
Biofuel targets may not be the only factor behind food price rises :-
“In The Great Hunger Lottery, the World Development Movement has compiled extensive evidence establishing the role of food commodity derivatives in destabilising and driving up food prices around the world. This in turn, has led to food prices becoming unaffordable for low-income families around the world, particularly in developing countries highly reliant on food imports. Nowhere was this more clearly seen than during the astonishing surge in staple food prices over the course of 2007-2008, when millions went hungry and food riots swept major cities around the world. The great hunger lottery shows how this alarming episode was fueled by the behaviour of financial speculators, and describes the terrible immediate impacts on vulnerable families around the world, as well as the long term damage to the fight against global poverty…”
Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister says that the international response to the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan is “absolutely pitiful” :-
People won’t be moved. There’s no use hoping for an outpouring of charitable giving and energetic aid organisation – the world is suffering too many ongoing parallel disasters to be able to scramble effectively for this – the biggest ever (probably).
A similar situation exists with Climate Change policy, or rather the incredible inertia against taking the obvious first steps towards meaningful Carbon Dioxide emissions reductions.
People are too busy with their Facebook, their Twitter, their own personal financial nemeses (is that the plural of “nemesis”, really ?) to be able to form a coherent “movement”, as Bill McKibben, Al Gore and others wish us to mobilise into :-
“Why has extreme weather failed to heat up climate debate? The world is experiencing the hottest weather on record but politicians have failed to respond. They need a wake-up call…”