There is no shortage of social justice causes trumpeted by the West† with a revolving medley of “child actorvists” at the forefront. The logical observer may question whether these endless multi-billion dollar campaigns have had any tangible effect at all, except in serving as a stalking horse for mass-mediated interferences in the affairs of other nations.
Whether it is about immigration, education or the whitewashing of terrorists, they are there, ready with their scripted messages. The latest sensation happens to be Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg who is trying save humanity from an environmental apocalypse by playing truant from school. Manufactured doyens however conveniently overlook real progress in the activist areas they were groomed for, revealing a strong pattern of bias in the process.
On Friday Aug 9 2019, more than a million Indians planted 220 million trees in a single day, with each tree representing a resident of the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). According to state government official Awanish K. Awasthi: “The pits are geo-tagged and the saplings carry a QR code. So we can record how many saplings are planted and where.” The BBC had earlier cast doubts on whether Ethiopia had actually planted 350 million trees in July due to the lack of a verification mechanism.
This was not India’s first afforestation feat. In 2016, nearly 800,000 volunteers in UP planted 50 million trees in a single day while a year later,66 million saplings were embedded in just 12 hours by volunteers in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.
India has targeted a total forest covercomprising33 percent of its landmass by 2030. While this initiative was launched under the general rubric of climate change, there were more immediate issues at stake. The spectres of desertification and groundwater depletion were enough to mobilize ordinary Indians into action.
The sheer design, organization and coordination involved in the Indian undertaking may be studied for years to come. Once verified, the afforestation model can be adapted in fields ranging from big data, artificial intelligence, sharing economy to contingency planning. A somewhat similar mobilization model was employed when Cyclone Fani hit eastern India during the first days of May. As The Conversation reported on May 13:
A record 1.2 million people (equal to the population of Mauritius) were evacuated in less than 48 hours, and almost 7,000 kitchens, catering to 9,000 shelters, were made functional overnight. This mammoth exercise involved more than 45,000 volunteers.
After studying the grim statistics for Hurricane Maria (Puerto Rico, US; 2017), Hurricane Harvey (Texas, US; 2017) and Cyclone Idai (Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe; 2019), the authors concluded that the “world can learn from” from the Indian experience.
Yet, the momentary fascination with India’s mass mobilization skills dissipated just as quickly as the storm itself. The global risk researcher, stupefied by hours of BBC programming, was left to wonder: Where are those follow-up in-depth analyses? How come the world only came to know of India’s recent tree-planting milestone through a brief Associated Press report? Isn’t climate change the dernier cri?
One could excuse the BBC for disregarding Uttar Pradesh’s greening exploits as it was too busy fabricating videos on “large-scale protests” in Kashmir along side usual suspects like Al Jazeera and Reuters. Even Malala Yousafzai stepped forward to test the waters, only to be summarily rebuffed.
There may be other reasons behind the neoliberal media’s indifference here. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had earlier committed the cardinal sin of renaming the city of Allahabad as Prayagraj. This is a complete no-no in a West that inevitably sides with militant Islam. Take a look at Serbia, Syria, Libya and Myanmar, amongst numerous other examples. Additionally, India’s a forestation campaign (2016 to 2030)was being undertaken outside the ambit of parasitic Western NGOs at a paltry outlay of $6 billion. India was showing the way in cost savings and volunteer-based sustainability, without the need for star-studded events that child actorvism thrives on.
New Delhi’s indigenous efforts since 2015 were therefore deemed unsatisfactory by Extinction Rebellion superstar Thunberg. She pilloried India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a February 2019 video post:
“Dear Mr Modi, you need to take action now against the climate crisis, not just talking about It because if you keep going on like this, doing business as usual, and just talking about and bragging about the little victories, you are going to fail. And if you fail, you are going to be seen as one of the worst villains in human history in the future. And you don’t want that” (Emphasis added).
Do not seek a scintilla of sanity in the outburst above. Instead, note the timing: It was posted during the run-up to the April-May 2019 Indian general elections where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won by a landslide victory, surpassing expectations thanks to neoliberal hissy-fits typified by the likes of Thunberg.
Does Thunberg consider the planting of 50, 66 and 220 million trees overnight– involving schoolchildren no less – as one of those insignificant “little victories”?Who is doing the talking and bragging and who is doing the actual planting here? One of India’s other “little victories” was in lifting 271 million people – numbering more than half the EU population– out of poverty in a mere 10 years.
If Thunberg’s views aren’t reflective of Western neoliberal racism, tell me what is? Here is where racial supremacist undercurrents are cleverly masked by the clarion call of “social justice”. Nothing non-Westerners do is good enough unless it involves and profits vested Western interests. Neoliberals and their neoconservative cousins feel they are entitled to run the affairs of other nations. If the line is not toed, an army of “child actorvists” are ready to selectively name and shame national leaders. How is this different from the use of child soldiers and human shields by an assortment of violent thugs and jihadis? And much like jihadis, a false flag calamity inflicted on a child actorvist would reap international sympathy for the “cause”, would it not? We shall see what the future holds…
Quite tellingly, when it comes to the question of extinction, French-Lebanese author Amin Maalouf sums up the prevalent Western hypocrisy perfectly: “Threats to pandas cause more emotion than threats to the extinction of Christians in the Middle East”. Another child actorvist, Bana Alabed, has been roped in to hasten that particular genocide.
The Incurably Colonized
Instead of India’s Modi, Thunberg could have trained her guns on Southeast Asian politicians for allowing the West to dump millions of tons of highly-toxic trash throughout the region. (India had another “little victory” by banning them). It cannot get more pathetic than Pakistani garbage appearing in an illegal Malaysian dumpsite! Is Thunberg really as environmentally literate as she claims to be? The organized crime networks involved in the regional garbage racket are also into money laundering, smuggling, organ harvesting and human trafficking.
Neoliberals and neoconservatives however have a soft spot for Southeast Asia (sans Mynamar) for a good reason: Its leaders and societies have an incurable inferiority complex towards all things Western, rendering them supine and receptive to machinations from the other side of the world. The region hosts innumerable Western-backed NGOs and affiliates whose sole role is to disrupt and shape the local political process. That is, when they are not discriminating against native talent, native ideas and native solutions. For a region that has had several developmental head-starts over India, Southeast Asia has yet to produce world-class scientists, innovators and products of any import, making it easy for West to offer their “expertise” and goods at huge costs. The media in “Asian values” bastions like Malaysia and Singapore are more likely to celebrate Thunberg’s theatrics than investigate real Asian success stories.
Just like neoconservatism, neoliberalism neatly divides the world along classic colonial lines. Can George Soros and his neoliberal backers claim a single success story from the countless “social justice” agitprops unleashed worldwide? Instead, such interventions have left behind a string of broken, emasculated and dysfunctional societies. Women and children are the biggest victims here. One could also include Thunberg’s Sweden in the list of nations facing a surge in sexual violence against women and children. Swedish schools are no longer safe and somehow no child activist has emerged to publicize this highly-proximate issue.††What is the celebrated “female education activist” Malala Yousafzai actually doing?
The idea that the East and West can cooperate, compliment and compete on an equal footing is an anathema to neoliberal and neoconservative minds. It is in “redundant societies” however where neoliberals find the most fertile ground for its destructive agendas. Redundant societies are ones the world would scarcely miss in case its populations were magically rendered extinct overnight –short-term raw material and supply chain disruptions notwithstanding. Is that the core idea behind Extinction Rebellion? Fewer humans are great for the environment, no?
A nation less contaminated by the neoliberal agenda is a nation poised for growth and technical breakthroughs. Look at the world around us: the relatively nationalistic South Korea, Japan, China and India (the “effective Asia”), Israel, Russia, and Eastern Europe are already challenging the West’s dominance in many critical areas. Even Iran is not doing too badly considering the circumstances.
In the meantime, one hopes that Thunberg will encounter flotsams of plastic as she yachts towards the upcoming UN powwow in New York. If so, these may turn out to be trash that were supposedly repatriated by Southeast Asian nations but which were dumped enroute by ships. To avoid “baseless allegations” like these, Thunberg could try some real environmental work by researching, tabulating and verifying claims that all repatriated trash had indeed reached their destinations in toto, as claimed. Maybe, this is a task too arduous for Thunberg. Let’s leave such little details to an Indian schoolgirl’s future dissertation, shall we? After all, she would have literally had her hands soiled in planting the future while others talked the big talk at big money events.
† The author defines the West as nations west of the Metternich line in Europe as well as the Anglo-American world, including geographically-dispersed nations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It does not refer to European Civilization.
†† Anyone researching this topic should scrupulously avoid Google.
Increasing Frequency of Cyclones and Flooding Portends Worse Problems
Sixteen years ago on August 29th, hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana coast causing widespread damage that was estimated at $125 billion. This year, by a remarkable coincidence, hurricane Ida hit on the same date, again August 29th. The weather service holds the end of August though the beginning of September as the period with the highest likelihood of tropical cyclones hitting the Louisiana coast. In light of this, perhaps the coincidence is not quite as uncanny.
While not as large as Katrina, hurricane Ida was more powerful with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour. That is in line with climate scientists who now believe extreme weather events will tend to increase in both severity and frequency unless something is done about global warming.
Another example has been the heat wave last June in the Pacific Northwest in which hundreds of people died. Canada set an all-time-high temperature record of 49.6 degrees Celsius in the village of Lytton. The chance of all this happening without human-induced global warming is about 1 in a 1000. However, the warming makes the event 150 times more likely.
Following Ida was hurricane Larry. Also powerful, it formed in the Atlantic but luckily for the Atlantic coast chose a path straight north. These recurring extreme weather events have caught the attention of scientists. Thus Myhre from the Center for Climate Research in Norway and his coauthors find a strong increase in frequency and confirm previously established intensity. They collected data for Europe over a three-decade period (1951-1980) and repeated the process for 1984-2013. This historical data also allowed them to develop climate models for the future, and, as one might imagine, the future is not rosy.
Expanding their horizon, the authors note that historical and future changes in Europe follow a similar pattern. This does not hold when including the US, Japan and Australia which are likely to experience bigger changes. Given intensity and frequency going hand in hand and also that the study considered natural variability alone, we can only dread the inclusion of human forcing through climate drivers like greenhouse gases.
For coastal residents, sea level rise adds to the hazard. Worse, it is now a problem for people several miles inland. In South Florida, drainage canals are used to return water to the ocean after storm and flooding events; the difficulty now lies in rising sea levels that hinder the efficiency of the drainage canals.
Residents as far away as 20 miles inland have noticed water coming up their driveway, a new and frightening portend of the future. The South Florida Water Management District oversees the canals. It raises and lowers the gates controlling flow to the ocean or vice versa. Thus they can open the gates to release flood water from storms to the ocean.
The problem now is that the ocean level in the Atlantic during some storms is higher than the water level inland so they cannot open the gates — that would simply bring in more water.
All of these happenings are clearly not a happy future prospect … unless we take global warming seriously and act soon.
Human activity the common link between disasters around the world
Disasters such as cyclones, floods, and droughts are more connected than we might think, and human activity is the common thread, a UN report released on Wednesday reveals.
The study from the UN University, the academic and research arm of the UN, looks at 10 different disasters that occurred in 2020 and 2021, and finds that, even though they occurred in very different locations and do not initially appear to have much in common, they are, in fact, interconnected.
A consequence of human influence
The study builds on the ground-breaking Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment released on 9 August, and based on improved data on historic heating, which showed that human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years. António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General described the IPCC assessment as a “code red for humanity”.
Over the 2020-2021 period covered by the UN University, several record-breaking disasters took place, including the COVID-19 pandemic, a cold wave which crippled the US state of Texas, wildfires which destroyed almost 5 million acres of Amazon rainforest, and 9 heavy storms in Viet Nam – in the span of only 7 weeks.
Whilst these disasters occurred thousands of miles apart, the study shows how they are related to one another, and can have consequences for people living in distant places.
An example of this is the recent heatwave in the Arctic and cold wave in Texas. In 2020, the Arctic experienced unusually high air temperatures, and the second-lowest amount of sea ice cover on record.
This warm air destabilized the polar vortex, a spinning mass of cold air above the North Pole, allowing colder air to move southward into North America, contributing to the sub-zero temperatures in Texas, during which the power grid froze up, and 210 people died.
COVID and the Cyclone
Another example of the connections between disasters included in the study and the pandemic, is Cyclone Amphan, which struck the border region of India and Bangladesh.
In an area where almost 50 per cent of the population is living under the poverty line, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns left many people without any way to make a living, including migrant workers who were forced to return to their home areas and were housed in cyclone shelters while under quarantine.
When the region was hit by Cyclone Amphan, many people, concerned over social distancing, hygiene and privacy, avoided the shelters and decided to weather the storm in unsecure locations. In the aftermath, there was a spike in COVID-19 cases, compounding the 100 fatalities directly caused by Amphan, which also caused damage in excess of 13 billion USD and displaced 4.9 million people.
The new report identifies three root causes that affected most of the events in the analysis: human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, insufficient disaster risk management, and undervaluing environmental costs and benefits in decision-making.
The first of these, human induced greenhouse gas emissions, is identified as one of the reasons why Texas experienced freezing temperatures, but these emissions also contribute to the formation of super cyclones such as Cyclone Amphan, on the other side of the world.
Insufficient disaster risk management, notes the study, was one of the reasons why Texas experienced such high losses of life and excessive infrastructure damage during the cold snap, and also contributed to the high losses caused by the Central Viet Nam floods.
The report also shows how the record rate of deforestation in the Amazon is linked to the high global demand for meat: this demand has led to an increase in the need for soy, which is used as animal feed for poultry. As a result, tracts of forest are being cut down.
“What we can learn from this report is that disasters we see happening around the world are much more interconnected than we may realize, and they are also connected to individual behaviour”, says one of the report’s authors, UNU scientist Jack O’Connor. “Our actions have consequences, for all of us,”
Solutions also linked
However, Mr. O’Connor is adamant that, just as the problems are interlinked, so are the solutions.
The report shows that cutting harmful greenhouse gas emissions can positively affect the outcome of many different types of disasters, prevent a further increase in the frequency and severity of hazards, and protect biodiversity and ecosystems.
Blue sky thinking: 5 things to know about air pollution
Around 90 per cent of people go through their daily lives breathing harmful polluted air, which has been described by the United Nations as the most important health issue of our time. To mark the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, on 7 September, UN News explains how bad it is and what is being done to tackle it.
1) Air pollution kills millions and harms the environment
It may have dropped from the top of news headlines in recent months, but air pollution remains a lethal danger to many: it precipitates conditions including heart disease, lung disease, lung cancer and strokes, and is estimated to cause one in nine of all premature deaths, around seven million every year.
Air pollution is also harming also harms our natural environment. It decreases the oxygen supply in our oceans, makes it harder for plants to grow, and contributes to climate change.
Yet, despite the damage it causes, there are worrying signs that air pollution is not seen as a priority in many countries: in the first ever assessment of air quality laws, released on 2 September by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), it was revealed that around 43 per cent of countries lack a legal definition for air pollution, and almost a third of them have yet to adopt legally mandated outdoor air quality standards.
2) The main causes
Five types of human activity are responsible for most air pollution: agriculture, transport, industry, waste and households.
Agricultural processes and livestock produce methane, an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, and a cause of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Methane is also a by-product of waste burning, which emits other polluting toxins, which end up entering the food chain. Meanwhile industries release large amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter and chemicals.
Transport continues to be responsible for the premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, despite the global phase out of dangerous leaded fuel at the end of August. This milestone was lauded by senior UN officials, including the Secretary-General, who said that it would prevent around one million premature deaths each year. However, vehicles continue to spew fine particulate matter, ozone, black carbon and nitrogen dioxide into the atmosphere; it’s estimated that treating health conditions caused by air pollution costs approximately $1 trillion per year globally.
Whilst it may not come as a great shock to learn that these activities are harmful to health and the environment, some people may be surprised to hear that households are responsible for around 4.3 million deaths each year. This is because many households burn open fires and use inefficient stoves inside homes, belching out toxic particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead and mercury.
3) This is an urgent issue
The reason that the UN is ringing alarm bells about this issue now, is that the evidence of the effects of air pollution on humans is mounting. In recent years exposure to air pollution has been found to contribute to an increased risk of diabetes, dementia, impaired cognitive development and lower intelligence levels.
On top of this, we have known for years that it is linked to cardiovascular and respiratory disease.
Concern about this type of pollution dovetails with increased global action to tackle the climate crisis: this is an environmental issue as well as a health issue, and actions to clean up the skies would go a long way to reducing global warming. Other harmful environmental effects include depleted soil and waterways, endangered freshwater sources and lower crop yields.
4) Improving air quality is a responsibility of government and private sector
On International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, the UN is calling on governments to do more to cut air pollution and improve air quality.
Specific actions they could take include implementing integrated air quality and climate change policies; phasing out petrol and diesel cars; and committing to reduce emissions from the waste sector.
Businesses can also make a difference, by pledging to reduce and eventually eliminate waste; switching to low-emission or electric vehicles for their transport fleets; and find ways to cut emissions of air pollutants from their facilities and supply chains.
5)…and it is our responsibility, as well
At an individual level, as the harmful cost of household activities shows, a lot can be achieved if we change our behaviour.
Simple actions can include using public transportation, cycling or walking; reducing household waste and composting; eating less meat by switching to a plant-based diet; and conserving energy.
The Website for the International Day contains more ideas of actions that we can take, and how we can encourage our communities and cities to make changes that would contribute to cleaner skies: these include organizing tree-planting activities, raising awareness with events and exhibitions, and committing to expanding green open spaces.
How clean is your air?
You may well be wondering exactly how clean or dirty the air around you is right now. If so, take a look at a UNEP website which shows how exposed we are to air pollution, wherever we live.
The site indicates that more than five billion people, or around 70 per cent of the global population, are breathing air that is above the pollution limits recommended by the World Health Organization.
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