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By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 30th October 2015
I’ve often wondered how the media would respond when eco-apocalypse struck. I pictured the news programmes producing brief, sensational reports, while failing to explain why it was happening or how it might be stopped. Then they would ask their financial correspondents how the disaster affected share prices, before turning to the sport. As you can probably tell, I don’t have an ocean of faith in the industry for which I work.
What I did not expect was that they would ignore it.
A great tract of the Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st Century – so far.
And the media? It’s talking about the dress the Duchess of Cambridge wore to the James Bond premiere, Donald Trump’s idiocy du jour and who got eliminated from the Halloween episode of Dancing with the Stars. The great debate of the week, dominating the news across much of the world? Sausages: are they really so bad for your health?
What I’m discussing is a barbeque on a different scale. Fire is raging across the 5000-kilometre length of Indonesia. It is surely, on any objective assessment, more important than anything else taking place today. And it shouldn’t require a columnist, writing in the middle of a newspaper, to say so. It should be on everyone’s front page.
It is hard to convey the scale of this inferno, but here’s a comparison that might help: it is currently producing more carbon dioxide than the US economy. In three weeks the fires have released more CO2 than the annual emissions of Germany.
But that doesn’t really capture it. This catastrophe cannot be measured only in parts per million. The fires are destroying treasures as precious and irreplaceable as the archaeological remains being levelled by Isis. Orang utans, clouded leopards, sun bears, gibbons, the Sumatran rhinoceros and Sumatran tiger, these are among the threatened species being driven from much of their range by the flames. But there are thousands, perhaps millions, more.
One of the burning islands is West Papua, a nation that has been illegally occupied by Indonesia since 1963. I spent six months there when I was 24, investigating some of the factors that have led to the current disaster. At the time, it was a wonderland, rich with endemic species in every swamp and valley. Who knows how many of those have vanished in the past few weeks? This week I have pored and wept over photos of places I loved, that have now been reduced to ash.
Nor do the greenhouse gas emissions capture the impact on the people of these lands. After the last great conflagration, in 1997, there was a missing cohort in Indonesia of 15,000 children under the age of three, attributed to air pollution. This, it seems, is worse. The surgical masks being distributed across the nation will do almost nothing to protect those living in a sunless smog. Members of parliament in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) have had to wear face masks during debates. The chamber is so foggy that they must have difficulty recognising each other.
It’s not just the trees that are burning. It is the land itself. Much of the forest sits on great domes of peat. When the fires penetrate the earth, they smoulder for weeks, sometimes months, releasing clouds of methane, carbon monoxide, ozone and exotic gases like ammonium cyanide. The plumes extend for hundreds of miles, causing diplomatic conflicts with neighbouring countries.
Why is this happening? Indonesia’s forests have been fragmented for decades by timber and farming companies. Canals have been cut through the peat to drain and dry it. Plantation companies move in to destroy what remains of the forest to plant monocultures of pulpwood, timber and palm oil. The easiest way to clear the land is to torch it. Every year, this causes disasters. But in an extreme El Niño year like this one, we have a perfect formula for environmental catastrophe.
The current president, Joko Widodo, is – or wants to be – a democrat. But he presides over a nation in which fascism and corruption flourish. As Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary The Act of Killing shows, leaders of the death squads that helped murder around a million people during Suharto’s terror in the 1960s, with the approval of the West, have since prospered through other forms of organised crime, including illegal deforestation.
They are supported by a paramilitary organisation with three million members, called Pancasila Youth. With its orange camo-print uniforms, scarlet berets, sentimental gatherings and schmaltzy music, it looks like a fascist militia as imagined by JG Ballard. There has been no truth, no reconciliation; the mass killers are still greeted as heroes and feted on television. In some places, especially West Papua, the political murders continue.
Those who commit crimes against humanity don’t hesitate to commit crimes against nature. Though Joko Widodo seems to want to stop the burning, his reach is limited. His government’s policies are contradictory: among them are new subsidies for palm oil production that make further burning almost inevitable. Some plantation companies, prompted by their customers, have promised to stop destroying the rainforest. Government officials have responded angrily, arguing that such restraint impedes the country’s development. That smoke blotting out the nation, which has already cost it some $30 billion? That, apparently, is development.
Our leverage is weak, but there are some things we can do. Some companies using palm oil have made visible efforts to reform their supply chains; but others seem to move slowly and opaquely. Starbucks, PepsiCo, Kraft Heinz and Unilever are examples. Don’t buy their products until they change.
On Monday, Widodo was in Washington, meeting Barack Obama. Obama, the official communiqué recorded, “welcomed President Widodo’s recent policy actions to combat and prevent forest fires”. The ecopalypse taking place as they conferred, that makes a mockery of these commitments, wasn’t mentioned.
Governments ignore issues when the media ignores them. And the media ignores them because … well there’s a question with a thousand answers, many of which involve power. But one reason is the complete failure of perspective in a deskilled industry dominated by corporate press releases, photo ops and fashion shoots, where everyone seems to be waiting for everyone else to take a lead. The media makes a collective non-decision to treat this catastrophe as a non-issue, and we all carry on as if it’s not happening.
At the climate summit in Paris in December, the media, trapped within the intergovernmental bubble of abstract diplomacy and manufactured drama, will cover the negotiations almost without reference to what is happening elsewhere. The talks will be removed to a realm with which we have no moral contact. And, when the circus moves on, the silence will resume. Is there any other industry that serves its customers so badly?
Thirty eight (38) countries worldwide have officially banned the cultivation of GM crops and only 28 actually grow GM crops. The picture painted by the Biotech industry and the U.S. government that GM crops have been accepted by the majority of countries worldwide is therefore quite obviously wrong.
In fact many countries have recently started to put in place regulations to protect their population and environment from the environmental and health damage caused by GM crops.
Sustainable Pulse welcomes additions or edits to the list below from readers / experts from around the Globe – Please contact email@example.com .
Official GM crop cultivation bans:
The picture on GM cultivation bans across Africa is not clear due to the current pressure being put on many African governments by the Biotech industry and the Gates Foundation to lift long-standing bans on the import of unmilled GMO seeds or unmilled GMO food aid, however two countries do still have full legal bans on GM crop cultivation:Algeria (since 2000), Madagascar (since 2002), Asia (4), Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan, Saudi Arabia, Americas (4), Belize, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Europe (28), Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Russia, Serbia, Croatia, Italy, Denmark, Hungary, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Luxembourg, Ukraine (although there is massive GM contamination in the country), Norway, Switzerland
In a move that would make many capitalists’ head explode if it ever happened here, Iceland just sentenced their 26th banker to prison for their part in the 2008 financial collapse.
In two separate Icelandic Supreme Court and Reykjavik District Court rulings, five top bankers from Landsbankinn and Kaupping — the two largest banks in the country — were found guilty of market manipulation, embezzlement, and breach of fiduciary duties.
Most of those convicted have been sentenced to prison for two to five years.
The maximum penalty for financial crimes in Iceland is six years, although their Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments to consider expanding sentences beyond the six year maximum.
After the crash in 2008, while congress was giving American banks a $700 billion TARP bailout courtesy of taxpayers, Iceland decided to go in a different direction and enabled their government with financial supervisory authority to take control of the banks as the chaos resulting from the crash unraveled.
Back in 2001, Iceland deregulated their financial sector, following in the path of former President Bill Clinton. In less than a decade, Iceland was bogged down in so much foreign debt they couldn’t refinance it before the system crashed.
Almost eight years later, the government of Iceland is still prosecuting and jailing those responsible for the market manipulation that crippled their economy. Even now, Iceland is still paying back loans to the IMF and other countries which were needed just to keep the country operating.
When Iceland’s President, Olafur Ragnar Grimmson was asked how the country managed to recover from the global financial disaster, he famously replied,
“We were wise enough not to follow the traditional prevailing orthodoxies of the Western financial world in the last 30 years. We introduced currency controls, we let the banks fail, we provided support for the poor, and we didn’t introduce austerity measures like you’re seeing in Europe.”
Meanwhile, in America, not one single banking executive has been charged with a crime related to the 2008 crash and U.S. banks are raking in more than $160 billion in annual profits with little to no regulation in place to avoid another financial catastrophe.
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Do We Really Create Our Own Reality?
There’s a school of thought in spiritual circles that ascribes to the idea that everything that happens in our lives — the blissful things, the growth edge things, the horrid things — all happens with purpose. This spiritual teaching suggests that everything reflected in our lives is the result of our conscious or unconscious desires, and that when things aren’t going our way, it’s because the blueprint of the subconscious actually desires the very thing we think we don’t want. In other words, we may believe that we want to meet the love of our life, or we may hope to have the cancer cured, but if someone were to muscle test us or read the subconscious mind intuitively, we would discover that at the level of the subconscious, we’re actually terrified of falling in love because of a past heartbreak, or the cancer is meeting some core need for rest, connection, or freedom from a toxic job, for example.
“Wait!” you say. “But I really DO want to find The One!” Or “Hang on a minute! I swear I want to be cured of my cancer.” Or “Watch it now. Are you suggesting that my business is failing because I want it to fail?”
Yes, and no. Those who promote this viewpoint are not suggesting that you CONSCIOUSLY want a crappy love life or cancer or failure in your business. They’re saying you subconsciously want it, and because your subconscious is in charge 95% of the time, this subconscious blueprint will sabotage the very thing your conscious mind wants to create. They say that everything in your life, you create. The good, the bad, the ugly — it’s all up to you.
I find myself simultaneously attracted to and challenged with this viewpoint. The good news is that if this is true, and everything in our reality is the direct out-picturing of our subconscious blueprint, then we are not victims! We are empowered! If we are sick, or broke, or heartbroken, or grieving, or pained with unmet longing for something we don’t yet have, then we should be able to simply change the blueprint by reprogramming the conscious and subconscious mind, something we are increasingly able to do through energy psychology techniques.
I’ve witnessed and personally experienced seemingly miraculous outcomes from those who employ these techniques towards cancer or money issues or the desire for a dream to come true. So that seems kind of awesome. Heal the subconscious blueprint, and voila! Your 3D reality shifts almost instantaneously. You meet the love of your life. The cancer disappears. Your business takes off like a rocket ship to superstardom.
If this is the case, we should always be able to control outcomes in our lives and get what we want. The message is “You can have the perfect life! Whatever you desire, you can have—as long as you do more. Try harder. If you’re not getting everything you want, it’s all your fault—and you can change it.”
But then this sounds like yet another grasping strategy for how to get what the ego wants, a spiritual spin on how to control the Universe. This viewpoint also strikes me as cruel. If a mother loses her child, does this mean she subconsciously wants to lose her baby? Or that her baby subconsciously has a death wish? If a woman has stage 4 cancer but is fighting for her life with every possible treatment, does that mean that, at least subconsciously, she has lost the will to live? Does that mean that Syrian refugees subconsciously wish to be tortured and forced to flee their homes, running for their lives into a world that doesn’t want to welcome them and keep them safe? Does that mean that the poverty-stricken are subconsciously stuck in scarcity thinking? Such a viewpoint doesn’t feel benevolent or loving to me, not one bit. And how can we claim to be spiritual if we’re not deeply rooted in compassion, able to be with someone’s suffering as a source of comfort?
I certainly can’t claim to know how to explain the cause and effect of 3D reality. What if we’re humble enough to acknowledge that the way the Universe operates is one big phat mystery? What if we’re all here for some unspecified purpose, and our souls are here to learn God knows what, and the Universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings—but those blessings may not be wrapped up in nice neat little packages? What if our wishes and desires are duly noted, but in some unseen realm, our souls are in cahoots with a wise, loving Universal Intelligence that participates in orchestrating our reality so that we can learn exactly what we’re here to learn so we can grow closer to whatever you might call God, so we can become more benevolent, more compassionate, more gentle, more humble, more unconditionally loving?
What if the Rolling Stones are right? Maybe we can’t always get what we want, but somehow, we get what we need?
I don’t know how these things work. I played around with these ideas in my upcoming book The Anatomy of a Calling: A Doctor’s Journey from the Head to the Heart and a Prescription for Finding Your Life’s Purpose, which you can preorder here. But I ask more questions these days than I dare to answer.
All I can conclude is that when it comes to spiritual teachings like this, we need to hold our viewpoints lightly. Be curious. Wonder. Be willing to participate in the co-creation of reality. Stay humble. Remain open for awe. If things go the way you wish, stumble into gratitude wholeheartedly. And if not, be exquisitely tender with your heart. Find the gifts in the challenges without blaming yourself or wallowing in a victim story, but also be kind and acknowledge that it is hard to be human, and we’re all doing the best we can.
If nothing else, practice compassion for all beings. Including yourself. BE love. Close your eyes right now and feel it. You are loved. Everything in the universe is conspiring to support you. Everything is going to be okay. . .
In 2007, Gemma Sheridan and two friends went out on a voyage that was to take them from their hometown of Liverpool, across the Atlantic to the Panama Canal and then onward to the Island of Hawaii. The first stage of the voyage went without incident. However, after passing through the Panama Canal into the Pacific, things took a turn for the worse.
One day I was walking around the island looking for crabs and I saw what I thought was driftwood. It was a goat. The goat had been eating leaves when it got its horns stuck and panicked. It was a massive thing and it was all meat, so I tried squeezing at its windpipe and hitting it on the head with a clamshell. It took about 15 minutes to kill and it was pretty gruesome. It showed me how far I was from being able to hurt because even though it was trapped it still took me too long.
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