Archive for the ‘Environmental concerns’ Category

The Von Weizsäckers, Germany’s Kennedys

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

President Richard von Weizsäcker passed away 31 January and was very much celebrated in Germany for his brilliant presidency to normalize a Germany with a troubled past, even divided on top of that. But, by and large leaving out his global perspectives mentioned below.

His brother Car Friedrich was a nuclear physicist turned peace activist with a wonderful peace program, in one word: Weltinnenpolitik, world domestic policy (well, it depends on the country, some domestic policies are better than others; I would go for a Swiss coalition governance, federalism, direct democracy).

The president’s nephew Ernst Ulrich is an energy-environment leader, in Germany and through the UN in the world.

I have/had the privilege of knowing them all, and my tribute to Carl Friedrich when he passed away is an editorial dated 2 July 2012. Richard kindly sent greetings to the symposium on “Peace Studies and World Domestic Policy” on the occasion of my 80th birthday.

President John F. Kennedy also had a brother, Robert F. Kennedy; both murdered in (by?) the USA. The president’s nephew, Robert F. Jr., recently published three articles at Other News. Information That Markets Eliminate where, in a position to know, he tells the story of the USA-Cuba past: “JFK’s secret negotiations with Fidel”, “Sabotaging U.S.-Cuban detente in the Kennedy Era” and the future: “We have so much to learn from Cuba”. The titles say it all: efforts, thwarted by CIA; time to catch up. Read the rest of this entry »

A visit to NATO’s HQ in Brussels: Nuclear weapons, fear and blame

By Gunnar Westberg

A memory: Russia as a candidate for NATO membership

Members of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, IPPNW, have for many years regularly visited the NATO Headquarters in Brussels. We also had good contacts with Russian military officers and Foreign Office politicians. In the middle of the nineties members of NATO’s commission on Nuclear Weapons asked if we could arrange a meeting in Moscow, “because we meet the Russians only under very formal circumstances”. Some open discussions over the vodka were hoped for.

We arranged the meeting and got a group of leading Russian military brass and politicians on the participant list. But NATO hesitated. We were told they could not afford the trip… Finally only one officer, a Canadian, came from Brussels. So there we were with a group of disappointed Russian officers. The NATO representative in Moscow showed up for a couple of hours. She assured the meeting that the relationship between NATO and the Russian military leaders was excellent. Actually, she was looking forward to the time, not too far away, when Russia would be a member of NATO.

That was the dream. But more and more countries from the dissolved Warsaw pact became NATO members. And the connections deteriorated step by step. Read the rest of this entry »

Pope Francis and religious cosmopolitarianism

By Richard Falk

Richard Falk

January 10, 2015

Points of Departure

Perhaps, the most hopeful recent development in human affairs is the emergence of Pope Francis as the voice of global conscience. Although Francis speaks with papal authority to the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, he also increasingly speaks with human authority to the rest of us. How significantly this voice will resonate might be viewed as the ultimate test as to whether ‘soft power’ is overcoming the geopolitical death dance that imperils the human species as never before.

When visiting occupied Palestine in May of 2014 Francis prayed at the notorious Israeli separation wall in Palestine that the World Court had ordered dismantled as unlawful back in 2004. The pontiff chose to pray near a scrawled graffiti that read ‘Pope, we need some 1 to speak about justice.’ While in the Holy Land Francis articulated what justice should mean in relation to the Palestinian reality: the pope called the existing situation ‘increasingly unacceptable,’ defied Israel by speaking of the ‘State of Palestine’ while touring the West Bank, and urged the establishment of a ‘sovereign homeland’ for the Palestinian people where there would be freedom of movement (so long denied).

By this visit and declaration, Pope Francis indirectly underscored the ethical insight of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu that after the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, the great symbolic moral challenge directed at the conscience of humanity is the empowerment and liberation of the Palestinian people. Such an affirmation also confirms Francis’ credentials as an independent world leader who will not defer to Washington’s craven submission to Israel’s continuous trampling upon Palestinian rights.

More broadly, Pope Francis has made it repeatedly clear that he is a critic of global inequality and of a capitalist world economic system that has produced ‘plunder of nature,’ a ‘frenetic rhythm of consumption,’ and worship of ‘the god of money.’ Above all, according to the German cardinal, Walter Kasper, this is a pope who “wants to lead faith and morality back to their original center” in authentic religious experience.

Such leadership is definitely taking a form that Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s report card

By Jonathan Power

Will the real Barack Obama be allowed to stand up? The New York Times’ columnist and Nobel Prize winner for economics, Paul Krugman, writes in “Rolling Stone, “Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential presidents in American history”.

You wouldn’t know this if you observed the swing towards the Republicans in the recent Congressional elections – the same Republican Party that has implemented a scorched-earth policy against many of Obama’s initiatives.

The truth is he’s made more of a go of it than much of the media has reported.

He came into power inheriting the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. He has emerged as the only full-bloodied Keynesian Read the rest of this entry »

The Environment: Very holistic, very dialectic

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

“Trees won’t save the planet” is the title of an article in INYT (21-22 Sep 2014) by Nadine Unger, professor of atmospheric chemistry at Yale University. Her thesis: The conventional wisdom–that planting trees serves carbon capture–is wrong; it is all much more complex.

Photosynthesis is only one factor. Another factor for global warming is how much of the solar energy is absorbed by the earth’s surface and how much is reflected. Trees, being dark, absorb; the net balance may be chilling in the tropics and warming elsewhere.

But there is more to it. Trees emit VOCs, “volatile organic compounds”, for their own protection. Mixing with pollution from cars and industry “an even more harmful cocktail of airborne toxic chemicals is created”, producing methane and ozone. Research at Yale seems to indicate that this affects global climate on a scale similar to surface color and carbon storage capacity.”

Trees and soil also breathe oxygen and release CO2. The Amazon forest produces oxygen during the day and reabsorbs at night; a closed system. Moreover, eventually trees die or burn and “the carbons finds its way back into the atmosphere”. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo: Nuclear abolition now !

By TFF’s Board

Lund, Sweden August 6, 2014 – Hiroshima Day

The Nuclear Age – risk of omnicide and our new responsibilities

Nuclear weapons came into the world and were used for the first time in 1945. Their specific feature as weapons of mass destruction and “omnicide” – able to kill us all – has changed what it means to be alive on this earth and to be responsible for its existence.

Until nuclear weapons, human beings could not decide whether or not to end project humankind and project planet earth.

Today we know that the arsenals and missile projection methods are such that a few decision-makers, or a technical malfunction, could blow up enough of the world to make the living – if any – envy the dead.

We live in the Nuclear Age. It means living with the permanent daily threat of extinction. Read the rest of this entry »

Worse world or better world?

By Jonathan Power

War is all over the place. It seems. Not just Syria and Iraq but now inside Pakistan. Not to mention Somalia and Sudan. Yet paradoxically there has never been less war.

Sweden’s Uppsala University Conflict Data program is about to publish its results for 2013. It reports that the number of conflicts in the world increased by one between 2012 and 2013 – pace all the press and TV coverage which sometimes gives the impression that half the world is going up in smoke.

Since the Cold War ended the number of conflicts claiming more than 1,000 deaths has declined by 50%. There were 15 conflicts of this size in the early 1990s. Today there are only seven.

In 2013 six peace agreements were signed – which is two more than the year before.

The number of democratic countries was 69 at the end of the Cold War. Today there are around 120. The number of autocracies has declined in that time from 62 to 48.

The American foreign policy elite appears unaware of these trends. Read the rest of this entry »

Citizenship in the 21st century – reforms versus radical structural change

By Richard Falk

[ This post was previously published online at the website of the Global Transition Initiative, which is dedicated to promoting “Transformative Vision and Praxis.” It responds to an essay on global citizenship written by Professor Robert Paehlke, who cogently advocates the formation of a Global Citizens Movement, including indicating how it might become effective.
What seems important about such dialogue is the recognition that given the realities of this historical period, it is increasingly necessary for political thought and action to proceed by reference to human interests as well as being responsive to national, local, ethnic, and religious interests and values. A feature of modernity that is being rightly questioned from many angles is the presumed radical autonomy of human interests, especially the modernist illusion that the co-evolutionary dependence on nature and the environment was being superseded by the marvels of technological innovation.
One way back to the future is to rethink political community – its boundaries and essential features – from the perspectives of participants, with citizenship being the secular signature of belonging and engagement, and ultimately, the sustainability not just of the community, but of the species.

Reading Robert Paehlke’s carefully crafted essay on global citizenship provides the occasion both for an appreciation of his approach and some doubts about its degree of responsiveness to the urgencies of the present or more specifically its adequacy in relation to the call for ‘transformative vision and praxis’ that lies at the heart of the ‘Great Transition Initiative.’

Paehlke is on strong ground when he ventures the opinion that the planetization of citizenship is an indispensable precondition for the establishment of global governance in forms that are both effective and fair. His insistence that global governance to be legitimate must address ethical issues as well as functional ones associated with sustainability is certainly welcome. He is also persuasive in advocating the formation of a global citizens movement (GCM) that takes advantage of the networking and mobilizing potential of the Internet, combining an initial focus on local challenges while nurturing a global perspective.

His deepest sympathies clearly lie with a pluralistic and decentralized GCM that operates, at least for the foreseeable future, without leaders or a common program of action, and as such is likely in his words to be “less threatening” to the established order (p.3). But here is where my analysis and prescriptive horizons departs from his: if a transformative global movement is to emerge from current ferment, then it seems strategic to become more threatening, not less. Flying below the radar is not the kind of praxis that will awaken the human species from its long and increasingly dangerous world order slumber. Read the rest of this entry »

Peace Economics: Making Money Doesn’t Need to Hurt

By Jelena Mair

Business and Peace are not mutually exclusive. Business does play a crucial role in society. More so, business impacts and depends upon its surrounding. It impacts the
social well-being of people and planet, whether intentionally or unintentionally, both locally and globally through the chosen ways of operation and production.

Equally, does business play a key role in contributing to economic development, peace and stability in the areas where it operates. Business provides jobs and revenue to local markets; sets examples of sustainable business practices and can provide support for various social programs through strategic social investment.

In short, business is an inherent aspect of our society, and therefore, if we are striving for a more peaceful and sustainable world, for-profit private enterprises are the most crucial actors in achieving this goal. Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking free: Choosing a better human future

By Richard Falk

I have long believed that prospects for a hopeful human future depend on radical and visionary feelings, thought, and action. Such an outlook reflects my view that the major challenges of our time cannot be met by thinking within the box, or implementing the realist agenda of doing what it is feasible while disregarding what is necessary and desirable. For instance, with respect to climate change such a conventional approach avoids asking what needs to be done to give future generations positive life prospects, but seeks, at best, to do what seems politically feasible at the moment, that is, far too little.

This means not putting a cap on energy or water use, not limiting carbon emissions or prohibiting fracking, continuing to encourage economic growth, and refusing to question consumerism. In effect, this conventional approach does not meet challenges, but at most seeks to defer and mitigate harmful effects to the extent possible. In effect, it opts for a worse human future, and remains in bondage to the deformities wrought by clearly deficient neoliberal prescriptions for human fulfillment.

Against this background, it was a personal breakthrough to meet Jeff Wilson who is, Read the rest of this entry »


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