Crimes against the Planet

Is it just me, or should there really be such a thing as Crimes Against the Planet. I’ve heard about Ecocide, but I think that word is too restrictive for the crime I had in mind. I was thinking about wilfully committing destructive acts against the Earth as a whole, such as knowingly increasing carbon emissions while trying to pass it off as “green technology”.

Let’s take hydrogen, for example. Big oil and gas companies, like BP and Shell, are touting hydrogen as one of the clean sources of energy for the future. At first glance, it looks like a good idea. Burn hydrogen and you produce water, superclean. What they don’t say is how hydrogen is produced. On an industrial scale, it is extracted from natural gas. A recent study by researchers from Cornell and Stanford Universities shows that, if we take into account the whole production cycle of hydrogen, greenhouse gas emissions are higher than if natural gas was burnt as such in the first place, without going to the trouble of converting it into hydrogen. And that is even taking into account the use of carbon capture and storage technologies to produce so-called blue hydrogen. So far, the production of green hydrogen from renewables is still not a viable option economically, and won’t be for some time.

Promoting hydrogen as “part of creating a long-term carbon-free future” is a lie. What probably isn’t a lie is that “the hydrogen economy could generate $140 billion in annual revenue by 2030” (for the oil and gas industry, obviously).

Now, what do you call someone who burns down your house, someone who kills your crops, someone who floods your village, someone who kills your friends, your neighbours, your family, your children and grandchildren for generations to come … intentionally, for the sole purpose of making more money? These people are not just common criminals, in my humble opinion. They rank up there with the Hitlers and the Pol Pots of this world.

And what are we doing about it? Absolutely nothing. Of course, how could I know, will you say? They don’t exactly advertise the fact that they are deceitful little shits. And their PR machine is quite impressive. Who wouldn’t believe them? Politicians believe them – although, that’s not really any indication of their trustworthiness. Cities are ordering fleets of hydrogen buses. Hyrogen production plants are being given planning permissions. Shouldn’t we expect at least our “leaders” to do their homework? How far up or down the chain does complicity go?

And what about you and me? It is not fair to expect you or me to know whether or not every “solution” put forward to solve the climate crisis will actually work or will add to the problem. That’s our politicians’ job before they implement these so-called solutions. Well, that is if they bother to do fuck all, of course. But now, you can’t say “I didn’t know about the issues with hydrogen” anymore. Now, you know! I just told you. And what are we doing about it? Are we writing to First Aberdeen and Aberdeen City Council asking them to scrap their order for 15 hydrogen buses? Or to the Scottish government demanding them to un-endorse the hydrogen industry until production is possible without harming the planet? Remember what Edmund Burke said and do something. Anything. Don’t become complicit to crimes against the planet by not doing anything. I don’t mean specifically about hydrogen. Change your lifestyle. Keep informed and don’t go for the first crackpot conspiracy theory you find on facebook or twitter. Keep really informed and do use your common sense. Then, inform others. And first of all, accept that the world and your life are changing, radically and a lot faster than you expect. So you must change too, not only to adapt to these new circumstances, but mainly to keep our planet liveable for all, human and others. I never said it would be a comfortable ride.

Once again, don’t become complicit to Crimes Against the Planet!

Copyright toa55

Code Red for Humanity

Is it just me, or do you too think humans suffer more and more from Goldfish Memory Syndrome?

On Monday 9th August 2021, the latest IPCC report was published. The title of the press release on the UN’s website sums it up quite neatly: Secretary-General Calls Latest IPCC Climate Report ‘Code Red for Humanity’, Stressing ‘Irrefutable’ Evidence of Human Influence. A few other soundbites are “alarm bells are deafening” and “billions of people at immediate risk” and also “affecting every region on Earth”, with a clear conclusion: “We must act decisively now”.

That was Monday. I watched the BBC news on Tuesday, the very next day (I think it was the lunchtime edition, but it might have been the 6 o’clock one). Guess how many times the Climate Report was mentioned… Yup! Zero times! I’d set my stopwatch to time the different topics on the news, hoping that the IPCC report would at least cover a good portion of that day’s edition, and this is the result (all times approximate), in order of appearance:

  • Exam results (10 minutes)
  • Prince Andrew (4 minutes)
  • NHS waiting lists (3 minutes)
  • Latest Covid news (1 minute)
  • The role of AI in dementia treatment (3 minutes)
  • A short piece about the terrorist who was shot by police (2 minutes)
  • Princess Latifa (1 minute)
  • Labour winning back elections (5 minutes)
  • Messi going to PSG (2 minutes)
  • The weather forecast (1 minute)

 Over the next few days, we saw dramatic pictures of wildfires, but the climate report was hardly ever mentioned. Now, it’s Thursday. Since Monday, we’ve seen several interviews with Olympians at every edition of BBC Breakfast, but climate scientists? Nope… Plenty of controversy about the better-than-usual exam results all over the country, but is it really relevant when the planet is dying because of us? Isn’t it rather counter-productive? Our sole purpose of “educating” our children is still to equip them for a bright career, making loads of money to spend on all kinds of “stuff” that needs producing, thus making the planet uninhabitable even faster.

So, after just one day, the news was old, the sense of urgency had faded, even gone, and we were back to our old habits. Sad, really.

Buy, baby, buy!

Is it just me, or is there something intrinsically wrong with the way businesses promote their “green” credentials? Okay, don’t laugh, I know “business” and “green” are pretty much incompatible, but bear with me for a moment.

I am convinced quite a few businesspeople are genuinely concerned about the environment, climate change, and other planetary issues, but … they are still businesspeople running a business. Do you remember April 22nd? Or June 5th? My more environment-conscious fellow humans will identify these dates respectively as Earth Day and World Environment Day. Now, close your eyes and think back to these days and the few days before and after. Think about your inbox. (What, have you gone insane???) No, I assure you, this is all relevant.

I remember receiving a lot of emails from different “environment-conscious” organisations and companies promoting their wares on these days that are meant to increase awareness of environmental issues and planet-wide problems that all of us need to tackle. “Buy our organic cotton T-shirts” or “2 for 1 on our fairtrade coffee” or “Our whole range is made from FSC-certified wood. Special promotions now!”. So the overall message is “Buy, baby, buy!”. I didn’t get any messages saying “Be kind to the Planet. Don’t buy anything on Earth Day” or “To help protect nature, our web shop will be closed on World Environment Day.” Of course, if you need something, do buy the planet-friendly option, but think before you buy.

“So, what’s the point you’re trying to make?” will you say.

I was just wondering whether it is even possible for organisations who want to be really planet-friendly to survive in the global economic system we live in. Windfarms and solar arrays are touted as the solution to reduce CO2 emissions from electricity production. They are definitely better than coal and gas powered plants, but our aim is still perpetual economic growth. Power stations, whether using fossil fuels or renewables, must still produce enough energy to enable businesses to produce ever more, to enable them to live in our system, whether they want to be kind to the enviornment or not. And this is not viable for our Planet. 

About nationalism and patriotism

Making America great again, Brexit and all that…

Is it just me, or do you find it baffling too that, while more than ever aware of the planet-wide climate emergency and the impact it will have on their own lives, and certainly on their children’s lives, people still vote for Trumps, Johnsons and Bolsonaros. The Thunbergs of this world don’t get elected. People go for promises of fatter wallets and increased spending power, but only for themselves to the exclusion of “others”, ones who don’t belong to their own group. They mistakenly believe that less for others means more for themselves. Increasingly, the more we take, collectively or individually, the worse off we all are.

In a world where the severity of the effects of climate change is directly related to our level of consumption, grabbing as much as possible for our own little gang is entirely counter-productive. Even though it is considered as patriotic – after all, we are doing everything we can to help our compatriots achieving a “better life”, including ourselves, obviously – it is extremely short-sighted. But that is precisely the aim of all movements trending right now, whether it’s Making American Great Again, Brexit or any other populist movement worldwide. The idea is that we have been ruled for too long by “others” and we want to take control again, with the deluded aim of becoming more prosperous, better off, richer, you name it. It is never with the intent of sharing our own wealth with more people.

The effect of this is a race towards ever increased consumption between competing groups (nations) worldwide. If I can grab it before you do, I will be better off, right? This is totally incompatible with the capacity of our planet to sustain life. Even most politicians, with the exception of a few more mentally challenged ones, do understand and concede that. Nowadays, they will even admit it publicly and pretend to try and do something about the challenges we face, if only about climate change. One thing at a time, thinking of overpopulation and resource depletion are way too much to tackle at once for them, and certainly for their electorate.

So let’s stick to climate change for now. It is known that climate change is due to an increase of “carbon” emissions. This can be CO2, methane or other greenhouse gases. Emissions caused by human activity are now also causing positive feedbacks, amplifying the effects of human emissions. Think of melting permafrost releasing more greenhouse gases, the reduced capacity of oceans to store carbon dioxide or the increased release of carbon dioxide by spreading bush and forest fires worldwide. What nobody is acknowledging, is that this race towards perpetual economic growth (i.e. ever increasing consumption) is totally incompatible with fighting climate change. Our quest for so-called wealth and a better life for “our own” is the main cause of the current climate emergency. No wind farm or electric car is ever going to change that. As long as nations (groups, communities, individuals) compete with each other to grab the biggest share of the pie, all efforts are doomed to fail, unfortunately. However laudable the aim of “improving lives in our communities” may be, the result will always be catastrophic, if not for our generation, definitely for our children’s.

Let’s take the example of Brexit. Leaving aside the issue of the (un)democratic nature of the referendum and the fact that 62 percent of registered voters in Britain did NOT vote for leaving the EU, in my opinion, all the wrong arguments were bandied about during the referendum campaign. Arguments in favour of leaving the EU are exactly the opposite of what was presented to the public. Outside the EU, Britain’s economy will very probably shrink, which is a huge argument in favour in the fight against climate change, admittedly the biggest threat to all on the planet. It certainly is not limiting immigration or avoiding the so-called extortionate “membership fees” paid to Brussels every year, both total fallacies that are easily debunked. On the other side of the debate, the argument in favour of Britain remaining in the EU is that it would ensure enduring prosperity as part of the largest economic block on earth. This too is the wrong argument if we want to counter the “biggest threat to our survival”. The argument should have been that cooperation between the largest number of nations is essential at this time, again for the same reason. And what better way is there than being part of a Union of nations?

So, on the one hand, it is essential that economies fold back on themselves and get more autonomous (de-globalisation). This is all in favour of patriotism and even nationalism. Indeed, people should take back control of their own economies, but only by becoming less reliant on others. On the other, it is also crucial that cooperation gets established on a trans-national level to combat global emergencies like climate change. In this respect, I am all for the smallest possible autonomous economic units, down to the level of communities. But I am also for the most extensive cooperation possible between those units, up to the highest level.

Sadly, that is not what voters voted for.