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Posts Tagged ‘Climate change’

extreme weatherBusiness as Usual

It was news to me but apparently something that passes for normal practice these days is the buying and selling of weather derivative contracts, financial products bought and sold by industrial corporations and the financial services industry for the purpose of making a profit out of climate instability.

These aren’t just fly-by-night insurance scams but standard, widely used products designed and marketed by energy companies and industrial giants such as Enron and Koch Industries.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

So when for example, representatives of the energy industries in Britain stand in front of a Parliamentary Select Committee and argue that taxes on their products, those “Green Levies” designed to be redirected into renewable energy sources should be scrapped, we need to realise that they do so in the knowledge that for them, and their brothers in globalised industry, it doesn’t matter if the climate further destabilizes – they’re going to make huge profits from selling insurance products to those on the front line (those who can afford them, of course), then trading said products on the “free” market.

Caught in the StormA Vested Interest

Why bother then to confront and grapple with the causes of climate instability? All you need to do to stay in business is to analyse, predict, then profit from climate change and the worldwide imperative to adapt.

To put it another way these are companies – including energy companies – that have a vested financial interest in continued climate change. Some might even call this an incentive to keep fear of the consequences of weather instability in the forefront of people’s minds, (fear after all is the most effective tool to apply when selling insurance) without actually having to do anything about it.

Big Data

Technically weather derivatives are financial products rather than insurance policies and like any other comparable construction can be traded on the derivatives market. Given the way in which such products are structured, and the fact that payouts are triggered based on observed weather conditions rather than specific losses, information and data analysis are at the core of this expanding market. Whoever has first access to the most refined data is going to be streets ahead of their competitors. So it’s no surprise to hear that the first significant “big data” acquisition has been made by agricultural giant Monsanto, with its purchase of data science company Climate Corporation.

14rain6Another Day, Another Dollar

Scarcely a day goes by without reading of some new way that corporations have found to infiltrate the legislative process, corrupt the path of scientific impartiality, or influence the flow of information reaching the public. These people never sleep it seems.

By binding farmers to an inescapable genetically modified merry-go-round in which the company at the centre receives cash flow from all directions Monsanto makes virtual serfs of its clients. Blinding them with modified science and a vast body of data that only they control adds another link to the chain of dependency Monsanto has “creatively” engineered to tighten its grip on the world’s food production and save us all from starvation.

4269sotmr-weather-insurance-crisis-disaster-resizeGroundup

We need to forget about the fantasy of globalised business producing creative, innovative solutions to the climate crisis and helping us out of this mess. Their creativity has been solely in the service of protecting and maximizing profit margins whatever the weather, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Politics has sold its soul, lured by the dangling carrot of limitless economic growth, seeming to spend most of its time justifying the appropriation of common resources for the benefit of private organisations and facilitating the destruction of Nature by non-sustainable development.

We know that big changes are coming, that some will be within our powers to manage and many won’t. Genuinely creative ideas, techniques, strategies and solutions are arising, often quite literally, from the ground up, as fledgling organisations such as the Transition Network, the Occupy movement and many others bypass the established chain of command and take matters into their own hands. Such groups are at least offering a body of fresh ideas, and a blueprint or framework for a sustainable alternative. But those who believe that we can buy, sell, or bargain our way out of trouble are living in an absurd dream.

For a concise and readable analysis of so-called weather derivatives see the article below.

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Stuff we’ve known about for years that scientists have just “discovered”

There’s no need to look far and wide these days to see the results of the ceaseless efforts of science to improve our lives and to share with us the brave, bright light of its knowledge. Let’s see what its high priests have been up to and offer them a virtual pat on the back for their trouble:

Face of Buddha

“Meditation Makes You More Creative”
ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2012) — Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and her fellow researchers at Leiden University, published 19 April in Frontiers in Cognition. Read the full article here:

Congratulations to Lorenza and her fellow researchers. However, even a cursory look at the vast body of knowledge on meditation shows us that for thousands of years, in cultures worldwide, people have practised one form of meditation or another as a way, for example of cooperating with the body’s inner wisdom, improving concentration, living life in a more continually rejuvenated state, finding balance, creative expression, and spiritual insight, to name just a few possible motivations. The list is long and well documented. In our Western societies, despite having been largely reduced to a means of dealing with stress and inducing relaxation the art of meditation has been around for a good 40 or 50 years now.  There’s no argument here, and no need for more research – we know already!

The Family Concert

Jan Steen – The Family Concert

“Making Music Together Connects Brains”

ScienceDaily (Nov. 29, 2012) — Anyone who has ever played in an orchestra will be familiar with the phenomenon: the impulse for one’s own actions does not seem to come from one’s own mind alone, but rather seems to be controlled by the coordinated activity of the group. Read the full article here:

Music, the oldest form of expression known to mankind influences virtually every physical, intellectual and emotional process we have at our disposal. Ancient civilizations all over the world knew what music could do and why they used it. It is meant to connect minds and spirits – that’s what it does and what it’s for.  It is only relatively recently in our societies permeated with the shallow philosophy of materialism that we’ve fallen into the trap of regarding music as a trivial, non-essential commodity, a peripheral aspect of human life. Music – however we experience it – has the innate power to connect minds and spirits – we know this even if we don’t know it. That’s why we make music – to connect with others and to connect with Nature and with Spirit.

deforestation“Human-Caused Climate Change Signal Emerges from the Noise”

ScienceDaily (Nov. 29, 2012) — By comparing simulations from 20 different computer models to satellite observations, Lawrence Livermore climate scientists and colleagues from 16 other organizations have found that tropospheric and stratospheric temperature changes are clearly related to human activities. Read the full article here:

So now we know – and it’s only taken 50 years to reach this blindingly obvious conclusion. Does the “debate” carry on for another 50 years or may we now conclude that it’s time to actually do something/anything that puts the health of the biosphere on at least an equal footing with the needs and requirements of mankind?

thin ice“Greenland and Antarctica ‘have lost four trillion tonnes of ice’ in 20 years”
Damian Carrington
The Guardian, Thursday 29 November 2012 19.04 GMT

More than 4 trillon tonnes of ice from Greenland and Antarctica has melted in the past 20 years and flowed into the oceans, pushing up sea levels, according to a study that provides the best measure to date of the effect climate change is having on the earth’s biggest ice sheets. The research involved dozens of scientists and 10 satellite missions and presents a disturbing picture of the impact of recent warming at the poles.  Read the full article here:

They’re kidding, right? Are things happening much faster than expected? Could this possibly mean that mainstream science, on whose calculations and predictions worldwide governmental policies with regards to the protection of the global environment have been based for three generations have got their sums wrong – again?

BugsLifeWallpaper800

“Those bugs ‘are going to outsmart us’ ” 
Article by: Josephine Marcotty, Star Tribune Updated: November 24, 2012 – 6:41 AM
As nature adapts to chemicals and genetically engineered seeds, farmers face new threats. It is what scientists and environmentalists regard as one of nature’s great ironies: Fifteen years ago, genetically engineered seeds promised to reduce the amount of poisons used on the land, but today they are forcing farmers to use more — and sometimes more toxic — chemicals to protect their crops. Read the full article here:

There are so many talking points in this illuminating article that I don’t quite know where to start, so I’ll go straight to the part that struck me most – the final sentence.  A Minnesota farmer, glumly surveying his genetically modified, pesticide saturated crop that nevertheless still can’t escape disease, weeds or widespread insect damage comes to a realisation: “Rotate. That’s how you get rid of it,” he said. “Rotate, rotate, rotate.”

“Crop rotation: The successive cultivation of different crops in a specified order on the same fields, in contrast to a one-crop system or to haphazard crop successions.” (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Here are a few more words on crop rotation that apply to all growers, even those who eschew organic methods: fundamental; elementary; age-old; essential; simple; basic; common; sense. Has it really taken agribusiness until the year 2012, the year in which the virtual disappearance of the once limitless American prairies is openly spoken about  to conclude that that which is in the interests of the pesticide and GM multinationals is, in the long-term in the interests of no-one and nothing else? Next thing you know they’ll be telling us they’ve discovered that the soil is actually a living organism that must be nurtured and protected in order for us to reap the benefits without decimating the ecosystem. At which point they’ll probably slap a patent on it.

We live in wondrous times, that’s for sure. And who knows, maybe one day soon science will even discover that the basic rule of life can be encapsulated in just one archaic phrase, well known to non-scientists in its many variations but nevertheless largely ignored: “You reap what you sow“. But don’t hold your breath.


“What we can see depends heavily on what our culture has trained us to look for.”

Nell Irvin Painter, American historian

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Autumn apple treeWent into town yesterday and spent the best part of the afternoon shopping for a birthday present for a 14-year-old girl. What the hell can you buy them that doesn’t constantly emit electronic beeps? The sun shone, the sky was blue and the streets were busy and bustling with shoppers. People wore t-shirts and airy summer clothes while I, wearing a light jacket was overdressed and soon felt it. I saw several people, including a postman, wearing shorts. Surreally some shop windows were already decked out in variations on traditional Christmas themes – all sparkly snowflakes, jolly Santas, and red-nosed reindeer.

The terraces fronting the bars and restaurants were crowded with people lazily taking in the sunshine or struggling to control their restless kids. The traffic warden busily writing out my parking ticket was in shirtsleeves but still sweated profusely as we amicably agreed that, yes I was a few minutes too late, and no, it didn’t merit a 65 euro fine (he let me off with a token gesture). Later a friend told me that her sister had organised a family barbecue for that evening. This is in late October.

Strange Fruit

In the barn where I have my workshop the swallows whistle and swoop. “Normally” they’d be halfway to South Africa by now. Outside in the orchard and in all the surrounding orchards apples and pears still hang on the trees or fall rotting to the ground. After the bizarre late winter/early spring when blossoms appeared in February only to be stung to death by the sharp frost in April the harvest has been so poor that farmers simply can’t gather enough fruit to cover the costs of picking it. Alternatives to allowing the crop to rot seem not to exist, at least if you take the taciturn farmers at their word. Only the language of money appears to play any part in the decision-making, and the market, as always has the final word.

Last night it rained, an unhurried, unrelenting downpour that went on all night, flooding part of the garden, as it has done every night for the past week. There’s barely enough wind to blow the leaves from the trees or rustle the feathers on the busy green woodpecker whose territory we share.

tree with lights

Tree by Christi Sobel

Black is White

There are those who say that climate change isn’t happening, won’t happen, or that even if it does we shouldn’t waste our time worrying about it – it’ll be somebody else’s problem by the time it manifests. Others say that climate change, while acknowledged, is not caused by the ruinous industrial activities of humanity but is simply the consequence of a natural cycle. There are people –  the desperate politician, the global industrialist, and the ubiquitous surprised scientist who will tell you that black is white, night is day, and God is in his heaven, as long as they can get you to buy whatever it is they’re peddling. I say: believe the evidence of your own eyes, if nothing else.

Growth

For almost five decades we’ve read all the books, seen all the documentaries, and heard all the warnings (remember The Club of Rome back in 1968?) and still nothing has been done, even to slow down the inevitable. On the contrary, the blind, primeval striving after industrial and economic growth is the only thing on the agenda, at least in the “developed” world. Meanwhile the less fortunate are the first to experience just what the consequences of climate change are going to be for us all.

The  fact that all this is still a subject deemed worthy of chatter and debate rather than decisive action would be cause for despair if it wasn’t for the inescapable truth in the  conclusion made by filmmaker Yann Arthus Bertrand: that it’s simply too late to be a pessimist. ‘Do what you can’ is I suppose the only option we ever have. Support the right organisations, make your voice heard whenever opportunity arises, and minimize your own impact if possible. Me, I’m picking apples.

Temperatures “slightly above normal for the time of year”, says the weatherman on the radio. Who’s he kidding? One thing is certain: “normal” isn’t what it used to be. Personally I believe we’ve seen the last of normal.

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Jack Angelo

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