Planet Watch
Chernobyl

Podcast: Chernobyl and nuclear fear in Ukraine

In Episode 121 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the grim irony that on the week of International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, Russian regime and state media figures issued blatant threats to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war. This follows criminal recklessness by Russian forces at the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya nuclear plants, which itself constituted an escalation on the ladder of nuclear terror. These events clearly illustrates how nuclear power and weapons constitute a single unified threat, and make imperative our deconstruction the industry propaganda about how the “no safe dose” dictum is now obsolete (no, it isn’t, actually), and sophistries such as the “Banana Equivalent Dose.” Amid the relentless plans to revive the nuclear industry in US, China is undertaking a major thrust of nuclear development, with similar plans afoot in France. And this as economies are increasingly based on energy-intensive and socially oppressive activities like “crypto-mining.” Nonetheless, respectable environmentalists now advocate a continuance of reliance on nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels. But their assumptions are predicated on the continuance of dystopian “normality“—exactly what needs to be challenged. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
Verizon

Podcast: against ‘normalcy’ III

In Episode 107 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues his rant against the ubiquitous propaganda that normalizes the oppressive and dystopian pre-pandemic normality—or, as it is now incorrectly rendered, “normalcy” (sic). The opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by 2020’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis is now being squandered. The fashionable COVID denialism of the anti-vaxxers is ironically complicit in the actual crimes of the pharmaceutical industry, such as the instating of a “vaccine apartheid“—failing to make the vaccine available to Africa and the much of the Global South. Just at the moment that socialist ideas are being legitimized in mainstream discourse again, the drum-beat for “normalcy” (sic) means less pressure for an urgently mandated public expropriation of corporate cyber-overlords such as Verizon, as well as Big Pharma and Big Oil. Meanwhile, consumerist and technocratic pseudo-solutions, such as the bogus notion of reducing one’s personal “carbon footprint,” obscure the systemic nature of the problem. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: IBEW)

Planet Watch
anthropocene

Glasgow: ‘climate-vulnerable’ protest ‘compromise’ pact

The COP26 UN climate summit concluded a deal among the 196 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement on long-delayed implementation measures. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a “compromise,” and indeed it was saved through eleventh-hour haggling over the wording. Just minutes before the final decision on the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India, backed by fellow major coal-producer China, demanded weaker language on coal, with the original call for a “phase-out” softened to “phase-down.” And even this applies only to “unabated” coal, with an exemption for coal burned with carbon capture and storage technology—a technofix being aggressively pushed by Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, in a propaganda blitz clearly timed for the Glasgow summit. Another corporate-backed fix that allows polluters to go on polluting was also embraced at Glasgow: the pact calls for establishment of a global carbon-trading market in 2023. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Planet Watch
extinction rebellion

Podcast: anarchism and the climate crisis

With the inauspicious opening of the Glasgow climate conference, activists around the world are increasingly looking to local action as an alternative to the moribund United Nations process on addressing what has been called a “Code Red for humanity.” In Episode 95 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the ideas of Social Ecology and radical municipalism, developed by the late Vermont anarchist thinker Murray Bookchin, and how they provide a theoretical framework for localities struggling to lead from below on the climate question. Examples discussed include the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the Rojava Kurds in Syria, and the community gardens and ongoing struggles for reclaimed urban space on New York’s Lower East Side. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: East River Park Action)

Planet Watch
Arenal

Denmark, Costa Rica to launch no-fossil-fuel bloc

Denmark and Costa Rica jointly announced that they are launching an alliance of nations committed to setting a firm date to completely phase out use and production of fossil fuels. The two countries hope to present the initiative, tentatively dubbed the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance (BOGA), at the upcoming UN climate summit in Glasgow. Nearly 60 countries have made some sort of net zero emissions pledge, but only a handful of those have actually set a target in law or enacted bans on new fossil fuel exploration and production. An International Energy Agency report released earlier this year found that new fossil fuel exploration needs to halt by 2022 in order to keep warming within the limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. (Photo: Flickr/photodiscoveries via weather2travel.com)

The Amazon
Amazon Fires

Brazil’s Amazon is now a net carbon source: study

The Amazon has long played a vital role in balancing the global carbon budget, but new evidence suggests the climate scales are tipping in the world’s largest rainforest. Now, according to a study published in Nature, the Brazilian Amazon is emitting more carbon than it captures. Southeastern Amazonia, in particular, switched from being a carbon sink to a carbon source during the study period. Emissions were high in 2010, when the study began, because of a dry El Niño year, and researchers expected to see emissions return to normal afterward. But this never happened. The reason: emissions from forest fires—which have accelerated dramatically under President Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo via Mongabay)

Planet Watch
Innu

Innu Nation sues Hydro-Quebec

The Innu Nation of Labrador announced that it is seeking $4 billion in damages from Hydro-Quebec over its mega-dam on the Upper Churchill River. The suit, filed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland & Labrador, seeks compensation for the theft of ancestral Innu land to build the Churchill Falls hydro-electric project, leading to devastation of their community’s culture and way of life. “The impact of Churchill Falls has been felt across generations of Innu,” said Grand Chief Etienne Rich. He charged that Hydro-Quebec and the provincial utility in Newfoundland, now called Nalcor Energy, “stole our land and flooded it in order to take advantage of the enormous hydro potential of the Churchill Falls. This project was undertaken without consulting us and without our consent.” New York City is pinning many of its hopes to cut carbon emissions on imported Canadian hydropower, but environmentalist opponents point to the impact of planned hydro projects on indigenous lands. (Image: Innu Nation)

Planet Watch
Cumbre de los Pueblos

Madrid climate talks a total bust

Nearly half a million demonstrators gathered in Madrid as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) opened more than two weeks ago, with young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg the star of the show at a mass rally. But despite being the longest climate summit yet, the affair ultimately amounted to little. Nearly 27,000 delegates came together with the supposed aim of finalizing the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement, which is to officially take effect in 2020—settling mechanisms for international cooperation under Article 6 of the deal. But, unable to agree on terms, delegates finally invoked “Rule 16” of the climate process—allowing them to put off the critical decisions for another year. This means there will have been no progress when COP26 is convened in Glasgow in November 2020. UN Secretary General António Guterres tweeted that he was “disappointed” with the results of COP25, and that “the international community lost an important opportunity.” (Photo: Global Justice Ecology Project)

Planet Watch
emissions

UN climate change conference opens in Madrid

The 2019 UN Climate Change Conference opened in Madrid—originally planned for Chile, but changed due to the political instability there.  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders to select the “path of hope.” He characterized this choice as: “A path of resolve, of sustainable solutions. A path where more fossil fuels remain where they should be–in the ground–and where we are on the way to carbon neutrality by 2050. That is the only way to limit global temperature rise to the necessary 1.5 degrees by the end of the century.” (Photo: cwizner/Pixabay)

Planet Watch
air pollution

UN releases bleak report on ’emissions gaps’

The UN Environment Program has released its tenth annual report on “emissions gaps,” finding that the current rate of global carbon emissions will lead to an average temperature rise of 3.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by 2100. The report was completed by international scientists and specialists to assess where countries are in terms of their emissions levels versus where they need to be to avoid the worst damage from climate change. Inger Andersen, the executive director of the program, wrote in the foreword that “[o]ur collective failure to act strongly and early means that we must now implement deep and urgent cuts… This report gives us a stark choice: set in motion the radical transformations we need now, or face the consequences of a planet radically altered by climate change.” (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

Planet Watch

UN report on climate change calls for urgent action

A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the “rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil,” risks “jeopardizing food security for the planet.” The effects of global warming have led to “shifts of climate zones in many world regions,” further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases.” (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)