Archive for the ‘Environmental concerns’ Category

Beholding 2014

By Richard Falk
Written on December 31, 2013

2013 was not a happy year in the chronicles of human history, yet there were a few moves in the directions of peace and justice.

What follows are some notes that respond to the mingling of light and shadows that are flickering on the global stage, with a spotlight placed on the main war zone of the 21st century – the Middle East, recalling that Europe had this negative honor for most of the modern era except for the long 19th century, and that the several killing fields of sub-Saharan Africa are located at the periphery of political vision, and thus their reality remains blurred for distant observers. Read the rest of this entry »

The Chomsky/Vltchek worldview

By Richard Falk

Recently I read On Western Terrorism: from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare, published in 2013 by Pluto Press here in London, and consisting of a series of conversations between Chomsky and the Czech filmmaker, journalist, and author, Andre Vltchek, who is now a naturalized American citizen.

Vltchek in an illuminating Preface describes his long and close friendship with Chomsky, and explains that these fascinating conversations took place over the course of two days, and was filmed with the intention of producing a documentary. The book is engaging throughout, with my only big complaint being about the misdirection of the title—there is virtually nothing said about either Hiroshima or drone warfare, but almost everything else politically imaginable!

Vltchek, previously unknown to me, consistently and calmly held his own during the conversations, speaking with comparable authority and knowledge about an extraordinary assortment of topics that embraced the entire global scene, something few of us would have the nerve to attempt, much less manage with such verve, insight, and empathy. After finishing the book my immediate reaction was that ‘Chomsky knows everything’ and ‘Vltchek has been everywhere and done everything.’

Omniscience and omnipresence are not often encountered, being primary attributes commonly attributed by theologians to a monotheistic god! Leaving aside this hyperbole, one is stunned throughout by the quality of the deep knowledge and compassion exhibited by these two public intellectuals, and even more by their deeply felt sympathy for all those being victimized as a result of the way in which the world is organized and Western hard power has been and is being deployed.

The book left me with a sense of how much that even those of us who try to be progressive and informed leave untouched, huge happenings taking place in domains beyond the borders of our consciousness. It suggests that almost all of us are ignoring massive injustices because they receive such scant attention from mainstream media and our access to alternative sources is too restricted. And, maybe also, the capacity for the intake of severe injustice is limited for most of us.

The book is well worth reading just to grasp this gap between what we care about and what is actually worth caring about. Read the rest of this entry »

Up and up in the developing world

By Jonathan Power

Never in the history of mankind have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.

The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Great Britain, took 150 years to double its output. The US which industrialised later took 50 years. Both countries had a population of less than 10 million when they industrialised. Today China and India with populations over a billion each have doubled their output in less than 20 years – and many other developing countries have done as well.

According to the UN’s recent Human Development Report– which everyone should read on line – it is more exciting than most novels – reports that by 2050 Brazil, China and India will account for 40% of the world’s output. The combined incomes of eight developing countries – Brazil, Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey – already equals that of the USA.

Their success is boosting the fortunes of many of the poorer countries, not least in Africa, because of higher levels of trade, investment and capital inflows and, perhaps most critically, India’s sale of affordable medicines and medical equipment.

The most important engine of growth of the developing South is their own domestic markets. Read the rest of this entry »

Change happens – But How, Why, When and Where?

By Johan Galtung

A century ago humanity, particularly in the West, was at the beginning of a major revolution, from horse culture to car culture. Today there are still (FAO-UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2008) 59 million horses, but (2010) more than 1 billion cars (in 1986 only half of that). In other parts of the world, like Japan and China, there was a revolution to cars, but from bicycles–Beijing went from 6 million bicycles to 4 million cars over a period of 20 years, only from 1990. Japan had an intermediate scooter stage–like in India, Southeast Asia–less so in China.

Imagine 19th century in the West: horses everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

The US cliff, swamp, quagmire: Two major proposals

By Johan Galtung

There is more than the fiscal cliff to meet the naked eye.

Wise people – Borosage, Krugman, Stiglitz – some of them economists, see neither the fiscal deficit nor the US debt but the lack of growth as the key problem. They point to Clinton years and how, through growth, the Debt/GDP ratio went from a half to a third. This is important, but then there is a fourth consideration: some Americans are suffering out there. “16 percent” comes up very often, of people and families below the poverty line, not knowing for sure where the food comes from the next day, not having medical insurance. Macroeconomics is blind to human basic needs, yet there may even be solutions hidden in it.

But after the Clinton years came somebody else; increasing expenditure with enormously costly wars making conflicts even worse, and in addition lowering the revenue by reducing taxes on the super-rich. That a fiscal deficit would rear its ugly head, fed by such policies year after year, was a foretold conclusion. Democracy protects the president with a golden parachute, similar to that enjoyed by the CEO of a bankrupt company. But rightly so: he was elected, even re-elected. US voters, you asked for it and you got it! Read the rest of this entry »

Apollo’s curse and climate change

By Richard Falk

The fertile mythic mind of ancient Greece gave us a tragically relevant tale, told in different versions, of how the Greek god Apollo laid a curse of the beautiful and humanly captivating Cassandra. According to the myth Apollo was so moved by Cassandra’s beauty and presence that he conferred the gift of prophesy enabling her to apprehend accurately the future. Yet the gift came with a rather large macho string attached: he expected in return that Cassandra would agree to become his love partner, but she by tradition was sufficiently attached to her virginity and pride as to refuse Apollo’s crude entreaty.

Angered by such defiance, Apollo laid upon this innocent young woman a lethal curse: she would continue to foretell the future but she would never be believed. Such a twin destiny drove Cassandra insane, surely a punishment of virtue that was perversely exacted. Or are we as mortals expected always to cast aside our morals and virtue whenever the gods so demand?

The sad story of Cassandra is suggestive of the dilemma confronting the climate change scientific community. Read the rest of this entry »


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