Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

New South Korean president vows to end use of nuclear power

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Politics, Public Health on June 20, 2017 at 9:44 am

Moon Jae-in said he would lead country
towards a ‘nuclear-free era’ following
fears of a Fukushima-style meltdown

Justin McCurry in Tokyo, The Guardian, Monday 19 June 2017
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has vowed to phase out the country’s dependence on nuclear power, warning of “unimaginable consequences” from a Fukushima-style meltdown.
Moon, a left-leaning liberal who won last month’s presidential election by a landslide following the impeachment and arrest of Park Geun-hye, said he would increase the role of renewable energy and lead South Korea towards a “nuclear-free era”.
Speaking at an event to mark the closure of the country’s oldest nuclear plant, Kori-1, he said: “So far, South Korea’s energy policy pursued cheap prices and efficiency. “Cheap production prices were considered the priority while the public’s life and safety took a back seat. But it’s time for a change.
“We will abolish our nuclear-centred energy policy and move towards a nuclear-free era. We will completely scrap construction plans for new nuclear reactors that are currently under way.”
Moon added that he would not extend the operation of ageing reactors, many of which will come to the end of their lifespans between 2020 and 2030.
Weaning South Korea off nuclear power, however, could take decades, and there is expected to be opposition from construction companies, which have increased technology exports under Moon’s nuclear-friendly predecessors.
The country was the fifth-largest producer of nuclear energy last year, according to the World Nuclear Association, with its 25 reactors generating about a third of its electricity.
The former president Lee Myung-bak saw nuclear as an important source of clean energy, while Park wanted to increase the number of reactors to 36 by 2029.
Moon recognised the role of nuclear power in South Korea’s rapid economic development, but added that Japan’s Fukushima disaster – which prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of people – had convinced him that his country must look to new sources of energy.
“The country’s economic status has changed, our awareness on the importance of the environment has changed. The notion that the safety and lives of people are more important than anything else has become a firm social consensus,” he said.
Anti-nuclear campaigners have long warned of the potentially disastrous consequences of a meltdown at a nuclear plant in South Korea, where many reactors are close to densely populated areas.
The public’s support for nuclear power has weakened since the 2011 Fukushima meltdown and a 2013 corruption scandal over fake safety certificates for reactor parts.
“The Fukushima nuclear accident has clearly proved that nuclear reactors are neither safe, economical nor environmentally friendly,” Yonhap news agency quoted Moon as saying.
“South Korea is not safe from the risk of earthquakes, and a nuclear accident caused by a quake can have such a devastating impact.”
He also plans to close at least 10 ageing coal-fired power plants before his term ends in 2022 and to boost renewables’ share of the energy mix to 20% by 2030.

It’s Time for a Disarmament Race

In Environment, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, Race, War on June 20, 2017 at 8:41 am

By Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Nation. June 12, 2017

When Nelson Mandela walked free, in 1990, after 27 grueling years behind bars, South Africa began the process of emancipating itself from not only from its brutal apartheid regime but also its arsenal of atomic bombs. Like white-minority rule, these awful weapons had weighed heavily on us all, entrenching our status as a pariah nation. Their abolition was essential for our liberation.

Today, North Korea rightly faces the same kind of stigma over its nuclear weaponry. By pursuing such arms, it is behaving as no respectable member of the family of nations should. But too seldom do we hear strong words of censure for others who wield these abominable devices. On the world stage, they present themselves, oxymoronically, as “responsible” nuclear powers.

To realize a nuclear weapon–free world, we must acknowledge that nuclear weapons serve no legitimate, lawful purpose.
All of those who wield nuclear weapons are deserving of our scorn. The development and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction by any state is morally indefensible. It breeds enmity and mistrust and threatens peace. The radiation unleashed by an American or British or French nuclear bomb is just as deadly as that from a North Korean one. The inferno and shock waves kill and maim no less indiscriminately.

With sabres rattling and the specter of nuclear war looming large, the imperative to abolish man’s most evil creation—before it abolishes us—is as urgent as ever. Further arms races and provocations will lead us inexorably to catastrophe. The overwhelming majority of the world’s nations understand this, and are now developing a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons under international law.

They began negotiating the accord at the United Nations in March and will resume their work on June 15. Regrettably, however, all of the nuclear-armed nations, along with several of their allies, are refusing to take part. They claim that their bombs help keep the peace. But what peace can be maintained through threats of annihilation? So long as these weapons exist, we will continue to teeter on the brink.

To realize a nuclear weapon–free world, we must first acknowledge that nuclear weapons serve no legitimate, lawful purpose. That is precisely what the new treaty will do. It will place nuclear weapons on the same legal footing as chemical and biological weapons, anti-personnel landmines, and cluster munitions—all of which the international community has declared too inhumane ever to use or possess.

Some leaders, intent on preserving the status quo, have dismissed this UN process as futile given the resistance of the so-called great powers. But what is the alternative? To wait and hope that the powerful few will one day show enlightened leadership? That would be a very poor strategy indeed for safeguarding humanity. In the absence of tremendous pressure, disarmament will remain but a fantasy.

For too long, the nuclear powers have failed us terribly. Instead of disarming—as they are duty-bound to do—they have squandered precious resources on programs to bolster their nuclear forces. They have held humankind to ransom. But nuclear-free nations are now rising up, asserting their right to live in a safe, harmonious global community, unburdened by this ultimate menace.
Of course, it was not the slaveowners who led the struggle to abolish slavery. Nor was it the Afrikaners who tore down the system of apartheid in South Africa. The oppressed fought for, and ultimately secured, their own freedom. Through collective action, we built the foundations for transformative change, to the benefit of all. This is what we are witnessing today in the arena of disarmament diplomacy.

Every nation will be better off in a world without these “terrible and terrifying weapons of mass destruction,” as Mandela so aptly described them to the UN General Assembly in 1998. Disarmament was a cause dear to his heart. He saw racism, injustice, and the bomb as inextricably linked, and he knew that the arms race, if not curtailed, could only end in oblivion. What we need now is a disarmament race.

Planetary Boundaries

In Climate change, Environment, Politics, Public Health on June 20, 2017 at 12:20 am

By Tom Mayer

Every rational person knows that our planet is under ecological stress, and that human survival on planet Earth over the next several centuries is not assured. What constitutes a sustainable environment for human civilization on planet Earth? Geologists call the last 10,000 years – since well before the start of agriculture – the Holocene epoch. This period was characterized by much warmer temperatures and far less thermal variability than the other 400 thousand years about which we have reliable information. These unusually mild and stable environmental conditions may be necessary for the survival of human civilizations.

Eight years ago twenty-nine eminent environmental scholars (led by Johan Rockström of Stockholm University and Will Steffen of Australian National University) proposed nine quantitative planetary boundaries that, if not violated, would enable indefinite continuation of Holocene like conditions (www.stockholmresilience.org). These nine planetary boundaries defined what these scholars called “a safe operating space for humanity”. The nine planetary boundaries concern these environmental conditions: (1) climate change, (2) biosphere integrity (e.g. species extinction and genetic diversity), (3) land-system change (e.g. destruction of tropical, temperate, and boreal forests), (4) freshwater use, (5) biogeochemical flows (e.g. phosphorus and nitrogen pollution), (6) ocean acidification, (7) atmospheric aerosol loading (particles suspended in the atmosphere), (8) stratospheric ozone depletion, and (9) introduction of novel entities that have undesirable physical or biological effects (e.g. excessive plastic, heavy metals, chlorofluorocarbons).

The environmental scholars defined three risk zones for each of these nine environmental conditions: a safe operating zone, a zone of uncertainty associated with increasing environmental risk, and a crisis zone characterized by high risk and serious danger to the functioning of the Earth System. The nine planetary boundaries were located on the borders between the safe operating zones and the zones of uncertainty. Information about these planetary boundaries was updated three years ago and published in the February 2015 issue of the prestigious journal Science.

According to the 2015 information, three of the nine ecological domains have not yet exceeded their respective planetary boundaries and are thus within safe operating zones: (4) freshwater use, (6) ocean acidification, and (8) stratospheric ozone depletion. On the other hand, four of the nine domains have already surpassed their planetary boundaries: (1) climate change, (2) biosphere integrity, (3) land-system change, and (5) biogeochemical flows. Climate change and land-system change still function within the zone of uncertainty, but biosphere integrity and biochemical flows are now within their hazardous crisis zones. Information about (7) atmospheric aerosol loading and (9) novel entities is currently insufficient to assign reliable global measures, but regional data about these conditions are troublesome.

The scholars who advance the planetary boundaries perspective resolutely maintain scientific objectivity and avoid unprofessional alarmism. Nevertheless they emphasize that their nine environmental conditions are by no means independent and interact strongly with each other. These interactions could produce an unanticipated non-linear (e.g. exponential) response that might propel planet Earth far beyond the Holocene conditions that made human civilization possible. The scholars express particular apprehension about interactions involving climate change and biosphere integrity, which could each have truly disastrous consequences.

Popular Resistance Newsletter: The Corbyn Campaign in Britain as a Template for the U.S.

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Politics on June 12, 2017 at 2:01 am

The shocking election result in the United Kingdom – the Conservatives losing their majority and the creation of a hung Parliament; and Jeremy Corbyn being more successful than any recent Labor candidate – cutting a 20 point Theresa May lead down to a near tie – gives hope to many that the global shift to the right, fueled by the failures of governments to meet the basic needs of their population and growing economic insecurity, may be ending.

People demonstrate on Whitehall, central London, after the British general election result. Prime Minister Theresa May’s party fell short of an overall majority following Thursday’s vote, and plans to work with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party AP
Corbyn is a lifelong activist (as you will see in the photos below), whose message and actions have been consistent. He presented a platform directed at ending austerity and the wealth divide and was openly anti-war. There are a lot of lessons for the Labor Party in the UK from this election but there are also lessons for people in the United States. We review what happened and consider the possibilities for creating transformative change in the United States.

The Corbyn Campaign Results

The Corbyn campaign showed that a political leader urging a radical progressive transformative agenda can succeed. Many in his own party, the neo-liberal pro-war Blairites, claimed Corbyn could not win, tried to remove him from leadership, and sabotaged and refused to assist his campaign.

Corbyn showed he could win the leadership of the UK in the future, maybe sooner than later. While Theresa May is in the process of forming a minority government with a small radical conservative party from Northern Ireland, there has already been a backlash, mass petitions and protests against it and UK history has shown in similar circumstances that the second place finisher, may, in the end form the government. Corbyn is taking bold and radical actions. He is preparing to present a Queen’s speech in which he will say that he and his party are “ready to serve” and will continue to push his program through Parliament. He is calling on other parties to defeat the government in Parliament.

Corbyn protesting for peace in IrelandCorbyn did better than any recent Labor leader. Jonathan Cook, a British political commentator, writes in “The Facts Proving Corbyn’s Election Triumph” that Corbyn received 41 percent of the vote against May’s 44 percent. This was a big improvement in Labor’s share of seats, the largest increase since 1945. Cook points out that Corbyn won more votes than “Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Neil Kinnock, who were among those that, sometimes noisily, opposed his leadership of the party.” Even Tony Blair does not look all that good compared to Corbyn, Cook recounts:

“Here are the figures for Blair’s three wins. He got a 36 per cent share of the vote in 2005 – much less than Corbyn. He received a 41 per cent of the vote – about the same as Corbyn – in 2001. And Blair’s landslide victory in 1997 was secured on 43 per cent of the vote, just two percentage points ahead of Corbyn last night.

“In short, Corbyn has proved himself the most popular Labour leader with the electorate in more than 40 years, apart from Blair’s landslide victory in 1997.”Jeremy Corbyn protesting apartheid

Bhaskar Sunkara, the founding editor of Jacobin, writes that Corbyn was not only campaigning against the Tories and Theresa May, but battling his own party – yet he still “won”:

“This is the first election Labour has won seats in since 1997, and the party got its largest share of the vote since 2005 — all while closing a twenty-four point deficit. Since Corbyn assumed leadership in late 2015, he has survived attack after attack from his own party, culminating in a failed coup attempt against him. As Labour leader he was unable to rely on his parliamentary colleagues or his party staff. The small team around him was bombarded with hostile internal leaks and misinformation, and an unprecedented media smear campaign.

“Every elite interest in the United Kingdom tried to knock down Jeremy Corbyn, but still he stands.”Corbyn protests for National Health Service

The Blairites were taught a lesson by Corbyn. Many of his harshest critics are now changing their tune and embracing Corbyn. Hopefully they will join in creating a party in Corbyn’s image – a party for the many, not the few. Corbyn has rebuilt the mass base of Labor. The party is now the largest in Europe with half a million members. It is time for the “leaders” of Labor to follow the lead of the people and of Jeremy Corbyn.

What can we learn regarding US politics?

Sunkara argues Corbyn demonstrated that a winning campaign strategy is “to offer hopes and dreams to people, not just fear and diminished expectations.” In current US terms that means it is insufficient just to oppose Trump, a positive vision for the future that shows what a candidate and party stand for is needed, e.g. it is not just enough to defend the failing Affordable Care Act and oppose the Republican’s American Health Care Act, you must stand for something positive: National Improved Medicare for All. This is one example of many.

Sunkara provides more detail:Jeremy Corbyn protesing the Iraq War

“Labour’s surge confirms what the Left has long argued: people like an honest defense of public goods. Labour’s manifesto was sweeping — its most socialist in decades. It was a straightforward document, calling for nationalization of key utilities, access to education, housing, and health services for all, and measures to redistribute income from corporations and the rich to ordinary people.

“£6.3 billion into primary schools, the protection of pensions, free tuition, public housing construction — it was clear what Labour would do for British workers. The plan was attacked in the press for its old-fashioned simplicity — “for the many, not the few” — but it resonated with popular desires, with a view of fairness that seemed elementary to millions.Corbyn protesting austerity

“The Labour left remembered that you don’t win by tacking to an imaginary center — you win by letting people know you feel their anger and giving them a constructive end to channel it towards. ‘We demand the full fruits of our labor,’ the party’s election video said it all.”

Corbyn showed how important it is to have the correct analysis on foreign policy. Twice during the campaign, the UK was hit by a terrorist attack. Corbyn responded by telling the truth: part of the reason for terrorism is the UK foreign policy, especially in Libya. He also opposed the use of nuclear weapons. The Conservatives thought these anti-war positions would hurt Corbyn, instead they helped.

This is even more true in the United States with the never ending wars the country is fighting. But, the unspeakable in the United States, as Paul Street calls it, is acknowledging that terrorism is conducted by the US. This taboo subject makes it hard for people to understand that the US is constantly committing acts of terrorism around the world, which lead to predictable blow back from US militarism, regime change and war. No elected official will tell these obvious truths, which the people of the United States would instinctively understand if they were voiced.

Although the U.S. is often portrayed as a ‘center-right’ nation and progressives are called extremists, the reality is that there is majority support for a progressive agenda. There is a developing national consensus in the United States for transformational change, and Bernie Sanders articulated some of that consensus, at least on domestic issues, in his run for president, but the problem is that U.S. elections are manipulated by the elites in power who make sure that their interests are represented by the winner

Sunkara ends his article on Corbyn saying “Also, Bernie Sanders would have won.” We do not know what would have happened in a Trump-Sanders election. The closest example may be McGovern’s 1972 campaign against Nixon which he lost in a landslide. In that campaign, the Democrats deserted their candidate, even the AFL-CIO and big unions did not support McGovern and Nixon demonized him in the media. Would Clinton-Democrats have stood with Sanders or would they have sabotaged him like the party did to McGovern?

A key to Corbyn’s success was retail politics. The population of the UK is 65 million, compared to the US population of 321 million. Retail politics can work in the UK, while in the US paid media advertising drives the campaign, which means money often determines the outcome. This gives great power to big business interests, and while it can be overcome, it is a steep hill to climb.

Despite their significant losses, the Democrats are still controlled by Clinton-Obama Wall Street and war neo-liberals as we saw in the recent DNC chair election where Clinton protégé, Tom Perez, was elected. We are not optimistic that the US can apply the Corbyn model within the Democratic Party because it has been a party representing the oligarchs from its origins as the party of plantation slave-owners.

The duopoly parties that represent Wall Street, war and empire will not allow voices that represent “the many, not the few” to participate in US elections. They shut them out whether they run as an insurgent inside a party, as people learned from the mistreatment of Bernie Sanders by the DNC, or if they run outside of the two parties. The bi-partisans make independent party runs nearly impossible with unfair ballot access laws, barriers to voter registration, secret vote counting on unverifiable election machines, exclusion from the debates and exclusion by the corporate media, who are in cahoots with the bi-partisans.

It Comes Down To Building An Independent Mass Political Movement

We live in a mirage democracy with managed elections, as we describe in the article “Fighting for A Legitimate Democracy By and For the People,” on the long history of wealth dominating politics in the U.S.

Corbyn campaigning for nuclear disarmamentHistorically, transformations have occurred because of mass social movements demanding change and participating in elections through independent parties that have grown out of a movement with candidates from the movement (Corbyn has been involved in every anti-war movement, anti-apartheid, anti-austerity, pro-peace and human rights movements among others). Showing mass electoral support, even without winning, has resulted in significant changes – union rights, women’s voting rights, the eight-hour workday – indeed the New Deal came out of third party platforms. It is important to resist the duopoly parties in order to get to the root of the problems we face; as Patrick Walker explains, the “grassroots resistance must oppose Democrats as well as Trump.”

A broad and diverse social movement whose demands are articulated by an independent party platform has forced one of the two parties to capitulate to the movement or disappear. That still seems to be the most likely path to real change for the US.

Corbyn teaches that we should embrace the radical transformational change that is needed, whether in elections or as a movement, to inspire people to take action and shift the realm of the possible. The people thirst for change as their economic situation becomes more insecure. There needs to be a movement that addresses that insecurity through a human rights lens, or else the insecurity will be channeled towards hatred and violence.

The key first step is to show the many, we are with them; that we are listening and acting consistent with their beliefs. Taking this correct first step, lights the path ahead of us.

Our mailing address is:
402 East Lake Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21212


Militarism versus the environment

In Democracy, Environment, Justice, Peace, Politics, War on June 11, 2017 at 8:58 am

By Tom Mayer, Boulder Camera, 6-10-17

President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget calls for a significant jump in the Pentagon’s vast budget, though it falls short of the historic spending bonanza sought by more hawkish Republicans. Pentagon budget documents released on May 23 call for $574 billion in general defense funding, with an additional $65 billion for supplemental wartime spending, for a total of $639 billion. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)
Many things block significant action about climate change, but the foremost obstacle may be the world’s continuing addiction to militarism. Some 80 percent of countries maintain standing armies, but the United States is by far the world’s deepest militarist addict. U.S. military spending is over a third of the world’s total and exceeds that of the next six largest spenders combined. Whereas no foreign country has a military base in the USA, we have approximately 800 military bases in 70 different foreign countries. Our country is also the worlds leading weapons exporter.

Militarism harms the environment in many different ways. It undermines the trust and cooperative spirit necessary for coordinated action about climate change. At this very moment, militarism is poisoning the relations of the United States with both Russia and China. Yet without environmental collaboration between these three countries no decisive action about climate change is possible. Apparently world political leaders would rather feed their military addictions than rescue the planet from impending disaster.

Militarism is enormously expensive. American military expenditures consume 54 percent of all discretionary federal spending and, in 2015, equaled $1,854 per capita. Such spending expropriates resources desperately needed for building a clean and sustainable economic infrastructure. Moreover, militarism pushes technological innovation in energy-squandering directions rather than along the resource-conserving paths required by a sustainable environment. Military innovations use technologies that make prodigal use of fossil fuels and/or nuclear energy.

Military establishments are dreadful polluters. The Pentagon is the world’s largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels as well as the world’s largest source of greenhouse gasses. The U.S. military uses (on average) over one million barrels of oil per day and generates about 5 percent of current global warming emissions. The Pentagon devours about one-quarter of the world’s jet fuel. Ecologists estimate that the world’s combined militaries produce fully two-thirds of the ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC-113) in our planets atmosphere. Military devices are notorious gas guzzlers. An F-16 Fighter Jet uses 28 gallons per minute. A U.S. battleship consumes 98 gallons per minute. A B-52 Stratocruiser burns 500 gallons in a single minute.

Militarism perpetuates the threat of nuclear warfare, which — needless to say — would have devastating consequences for our planet. A limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would kill around 50 million people. A massive nuclear war would cure the problem of global warming and impose an omnicidal (life destroying) nuclear winter in its stead. The United States has committed itself to a trillion-dollar modernization of nuclear weapons. This means that the nuclear nightmare threatening the Earth will be extended for several generations at least.

Even without warfare, military pollution is staggering. Almost 900 of the EPA’s 1,300 superfund sites are abandoned military bases, weapons production facilities, or weapons testing sites. Nuclear weapons pollution is particularly problematic. Over 5,000 Department of Energy nuclear weapons facilities have required environmental remediation. The former Hanford, Wash., nuclear weapons facility may be the world’s largest environmental cleanup site with a projected budget in excess of $100 billion.

Militarism and the military industrial complex is closely associated with the fossil fuel corporate complex. The U.S. military establishment guarantees energy corporations access to fossil fuel resources. Energy corporations return the favor by endorsing bloated military budgets and supporting the weapons industry. The upshot of this institutional nexus is an environment-corrupting global imperialism. The project of building an American world empire has, since the end of World War II, fomented U.S. aggression in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Congo, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Greece, Yugoslavia, Chile, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iraq, Libya, and Syria (among other places).

And last, but certainly not least, militarism systematically generates warfare, which is catastrophic for both human beings and the environment. Wars have killed about 200 million human beings since 1900 and have wrecked ecological damage that will require centuries to mitigate. The pace of warfare with its concomitant calamities does not appear to be slackening.

In his valuable book “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism” (2009), Barry Sanders writes: “[T]he awful truth” is that “even if every person, every automobile, and every factory suddenly emitted zero emissions, the Earth would still be headed first and at full speed toward total disaster for one major reason. The military — that voracious vampire — produces enough greenhouse gases, by itself, to place the entire globe, with all its inhabitants large and small, in the most imminent danger of extinction” (p.22).


Tom Mayer is a professor emeritus at University of Colorado


Two papers to improve the UN Treaty that Bans Nuclear Weapons

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, Public Health, War on June 9, 2017 at 8:46 am

Hi all
> I wanted to alert you to the release of two new briefing papers about victim assistance and environmental remediation in the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Co-published by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and Article 36, the papers examine the need for including comprehensive and detailed provisions on these topics in the new treaty and lay out specific recommendations for what such provisions should contain.
> The papers are available at: http://www.article36.org/nuclear-weapons/va-er-harvard-papers/
> Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing many of you in New York later this month!
> Best,
> Bonnie
> Bonnie Docherty
> Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection
> Lecturer on Law
> International Human Rights Clinic
> Harvard Law School

Viking Economics: Review

In Cost, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, Public Health, Race, War on June 8, 2017 at 9:17 am

Review of George Lakey’s Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right – and How We Can, Too (2016)

By LeRoy Moore, June 2017

In  January 1979 I met George Lakey at a two-week nonviolence workshop of the Movement for a New Society in Philadelphia. Lakey is a Quaker who for many years taught at Swarthmore College. Author of many books, the latest is Viking Economics. He writes on this topic because we in the U.S. can learn much from the Scandinavian countries about revamping our economy, strengthening democracy, abolishing poverty and creating a society which is fair and just for all.

At the turn of the 20th century the Scandinavian countries were marked by economic hardship, lack of jobs, low wages, long working hours, no security, no health care and education only for those who could pay for it. In the 1970s, when Lakey visited Norway, he found full employment, scant poverty, an efficient infrastructure, plus free health care, education and retirement benefits for all its citizens. His book is a history of what happened, with pointers on how the U.S. might follow their example.

The biggest recent change in the economy of the U.S. and Britain was the 1980s move of Reagan and Thatcher to free corporations to make money that purportedly would trickle down to benefit everyone. This “neoliberal gospel” rapidly spread across the world. By the end of the 20th century it was practiced in the U.S. not only by virtually all Republicans but also by many Democrats, like Bill Clinton. “Too often,” Lakey says, “governments have implemented support measures without charging those responsible for the problems properly,” resulting in “privatization of profits and socialization of costs.”

After the global economic collapse of 2008 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged austerity, “bailing out the owning class at the expense of the majority of the people.” Iceland countered this with its own strategy: “Increase taxes on the rich, reduce taxes on the working class, force banks to write off mortgages for households under water.” The IMF, referring to health care as a “luxury good,” urged the Icelandic government to cut its health-care funding. Challenging the IMF, ordinary Icelanders refused “to accept responsibility for the frenzied behavior of their bankers.” Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, said, “Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net.” Iceland was the hero of the 2008 economic crisis. It survived better than any other nation.

Norway’s story is quite distinct. Late in the 19th century its workers union created the Labor Party that admitted only union members. They rejected the Marxist idea of collectivizing agriculture in favor of protecting family farms. After the Russian revolution of 1917, they joined the Communist International at Lenin’s invitation. By the 1930s the country was highly polarized, as evidenced by Vidkun Quisling’s founding a pro-Nazi political party with a uniformed paramilitary wing that attacked striking workers for their employers. This spurred an increase of conscientious objection which in time led to the Labor Party’s “completely socialist society” that laid the foundation for what Lakey found in Norway in the 1970s. A U.S. economist wrote, “The three things we Americans worry about – education, retirement and medical expenses – are things the Norwegians don’t worry about.”

Researcher Markus Jantti wondered about the chance for upward mobility for young people. How could those from families in the bottom fifth of earners leap to the top fifth. He found that both males and females in Norway, Denmark and Sweden had a much better chance of making this leap than their counterparts in the UK and USA. In Lakey’s words, “It turns out that freedom (shown by mobility and innovation) and equality are not necessarily opposed. In fact, . . .equality supports freedom.” In the Nordic economic design, “the more equality, the more freedom.”

Scandinavian countries had powerful trade unions at just the time unions were being weakened and destroyed in the U.S., England and other countries. They also had far more cooperatives, including banks. “Co-op banks,” says Lakey, “are financially more stable and less likely to fail than shareholder-owned institutions, . . . since they aren’t driven by a need to make profits for investors and huge bonuses for managers.” There are co-ops in all realms: industry, agriculture, dairy, housing, utilities, as well as wholesale and retail operations, and more.

The Nordic countries have virtually wiped out poverty. How did they do this? When it comes to work and poverty, these countries are refreshingly different. In Norway, “jobs, free training and support are available, and working is important for self-respect and the economic productivity of the country. In short, the government’s policy is full employment.” Single parents are encouraged “to hold jobs by having free or affordable childcare available at the work site or near the home.” In addition, “all babies can be born in birth centers and hospitals without regard to income, and all moms and dads can take time off from work with pay to care for the young ones. All parents have access to day care. All parents, whatever their means, get a family allowance for children below the age of 18. . . . Education is free for all. . . . Public transportation is subsidized for all.”

Scandinavians rejected the welfare state and replaced it with “universal services” – “a cooperative system for meeting needs that most people have at various points in their lives.” Instead of regarding the poor as needy, they treat everyone as equal. All work, and all benefit. How they treat crime is important. Rather than punish those who have done wrong, they rehabilitate them, so they can rejoin the community and become taxpayers as soon as possible. The best way to eliminate crime is to give the criminal a job. A study showed “a high association between employment and staying out of trouble.”

Getting everyone to work actually reduces the hours that an individual works. Norwegians work the least number of hours of all the countries of Europe. They are entitled to 25 vacation days every year. There is gender equity. Fathers get a paid leave to care for children. Parents receive a total of 52 weeks of parental leave with full pay. A new mother “has the right to two hours of break time each day to permit breast-feeding.” Also, “either parent has the right to stay home with sick children at least twenty days per year.”

Health care is available to everyone, paid for by the community, not the individual. Lakey says the “so-called ‘market efficiency’” of the U.S. “is actually ‘market wastefulness’ So wasteful in fact that despite the Affordable Care Act (so-called ‘Obama Care’) tens of millions of Americans don’t get covered at all, and countless others who are insured still don’t get the treatment they need.”

Of course, quality health care, free education, good housing, convenient transportation, etc. are expensive. Taxes are high in the Nordic countries. But for them “it’s a truism that paying high taxes results in getting high value.” They seek equality by reducing taxes of the working and middle classes and increasing taxes on the rich – the opposite of what the IMF recommends and what often happens in the U.S. British researchers found that “inequality highly correlates with negative statistics in physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, violence, teenage pregnancy, and child well-being.”

To again consider violence, Norway experienced a terrorist attack in 2011, when Anders Breivik massacred 69 young people of the Workers’ Youth League and injured 110 more. Labor Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, in a speech the next day, said “the proper response to the violence was ‘more democracy, more openness.’” At the memorial service he quoted a girl in the Youth League: “If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show, standing together.”

Lakey’s final chapter focuses on the U.S. He thinks the reason we don’t have universal health care is “because special interests prevented the majority from getting what it was ready for.” He says so much of the U.S. government is out of touch with ordinary citizens. The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United decision . . . opened the floodgates for billions of dollars to enter the electoral system.” But the problem is deeper. An AARP study found that where there are differences “the economic elite – and not the majority—almost always got their way. . . . (T)he majority does not rule – at least in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.”

“It is obvious,” Lakey says, “that the United States is falling in international ratings of equality and freedom and that the policies of both parties are dominated by the economic elite.” But he sees hope in our history of social change by nonviolent means, our growing experience with worker-owned cooperatives, our increased positive appraisal of socialism, and our increasing awareness of the Nordic alternative (to which his book contributes much).

“Change,” he says, “requires hard work. . . . Movements need organizers, communicators, advocates, funders, nurturers, musicians and artists, nonviolent warriors, and ‘foot soldiers,’ as well as visionary designers. All those were present in the Nordic movements that challenged a thousand years of poverty and oppression, took the offensive, and built democracy.”


In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Politics, Public Health on June 6, 2017 at 7:22 am

By Dan Ross, Newsweek, 5-16-17

Two years ago, after Erin Card moved within two miles of the Radford Army
Ammunition Plant in southwest Virginia, she began noticing threads of smoke
that occasionally rose above the heavily wooded site. She started asking
about the source, and was stunned by what she learned: Toxic explosives were
being burned in the open air. ³It just seems crazy to me,² says Card, 36.

There is no proof that the fumes have harmed Card¹s family, which has lived
in the Radford area for more than a decade. Yet her husband has suffered
from cancer (he¹s now in remission), and the eldest of their young boys,
5-year-old Rex, had a cyst by his thyroid removed. “Sometimes,” Card says,
“I feel sick to my stomach with worry.”
The open burning and detonation of hazardous waste explosives is banned in
many countries, including Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. And in the
United States, private industry long ago abandoned the primitive disposal
practice, which is blamed for toxic air, soil and water pollution.

But the U.S. military and Department of Energy have been allowed to continue
the open burning and detonation of explosives and, in a few cases, even
radioactive wastes under a 1980 exemption from the Environmental Protection
Agency. The EPA granted the exemption to provide time to develop better
disposal techniques. Yet today, the U.S. allows open burning and detonation
in at least 39 locations, according to federal data. That includes 31
military sites, at least five Department of Energy operations and one
private business that handles wastes for the Department of Defense.

The government also continues the practice in Guam and the Puerto Rican
island of Vieques, where open detonation, practice bombing and weapons
development have fueled controversy for more than 60 years.

“It¹s crazy that in the 21st century, they¹re still allowed to do it,” says
Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, an environmental
watchdog group monitoring the cleanup of an open burn site at the Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California. Developers hope to
begin construction soon on thousands of homes within a mile of the open burn
site at Lawrence Livermore‹which, Kelley argues will expose residents to a
range of toxic emissions. “It’s an extremely crude technology,” she says.

The latest defense spending bill included an amendment requiring the
National Academy of Sciences to study alternatives to open burning. Senator
Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who helped push through the amendment, has long
championed the cleanup in her home state of Wisconsin at the Badger Army
Ammunition Plant, which used to conduct open burning. “This will ensure that
other sites are not contaminated the way that the Badger site was,” Baldwin
wrote in an email.

But some believe the National Academy’s study (to be completed by June
2018) is mere foot-dragging, since alternatives such as contained
incinerators have long been available, and the Defense Department has faced
calls to use them for decades. As far back as 1991, the EPA told the
Pentagon that “safe alternatives” to open burning and detonation “can and
should be developed.” In 1997, Congress told
<https://www.congress.gov/bill/104th-congress/house-bill/3230&gt; the Defense
Department to move ahead with environmentally clean disposal methods for
munitions, rockets and explosives within five years, but little came of it.

Radioactive Wild Boar Roam Chernobyl and Fukushima Areas

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Public Health on June 5, 2017 at 10:00 pm

31 years after Chernobyl
Half of all wild boars in southwest
Czech Republic are still radioactive —

Associated Press, via Business Insider, January 17, 2017

PRAGUE (AP) — An agency in the Czech Republic says about a half of all wild boars in the country’s southwest are radioactive and considered unsafe for consumption due to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The State Veterinary Administration said Tuesday that radioactive boars still roam the Sumava mountain range on the Czech border with Germany.

It says the animals remain contaminated nearly 31 years after the Chernobyl disaster because they feed on an underground mushroom that absorbs radioactivity from the soil.

The nuclear reactor’s explosion sent a radioactive cloud over Europe.

Cesium, the key radioactive material released, has a half-life of some 30 years. It can build up in the body, and high levels are thought to be a risk.

Similar problems with radioactive wild animals were reported in Austria and Germany.

Radioactive Wild Boar Roam Fukushima

By Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, March 10, 2017

With humans long gone, and robots dying off amid the radiation, Fukushima has become home to ‘something else’. When the exclusion zone was set up almost exactly 6 years ago this week – with the surrounding towns population evacuated to a safe distance – The Mirror reports that hundreds of wild boars, which have been known to attack people when enraged, descended from surrounding hills and forests into the deserted streets.

Now they roam the empty streets and overgrown garden’s of Japan’s deserted seaside town of Namie, foraging for food. However, the people of Namie are scheduled to return to the town at the end of the month, which means the bloody-toothed interlopers have to be cleared. “It is not really clear now which is the master of the town, people or wild boars,” said Tamotsu Baba, mayor of the town. “If we don’t get rid of them and turn this into a human-led town, the situation will get even wilder and uninhabitable.”
Reuters reports that more than half of Namie’s former 21,500 residents have decided not to return and face the wild boars, however, a government survey showed last year, citing concerns over radiation and the safety of the nuclear plant, which is being decommissioned. Wild boar meat is a delicacy in northern Japan, but animals slaughtered since the disaster are too contaminated to eat. According to tests conducted by the Japanese government, some of the boars have shown levels of radioactive element caesium-137 that are 300 times higher than safety standards.
Authorities in the town of Tomioka say they’ve killed 800 so far, but officials there say that’s not enough, according to Japanese media. The latest statistics show that in the three years since 2011, the number of boars killed in hunts has grown to 13,000 from 3,000. But at town meetings earlier this year to prepare for the homecoming, residents had voiced worries about the wild boars. “I’m sure officials at all levels are giving some thought to this,” said Hidezo Sato, a former seed merchant in Namie. “Something must be done.”

Why 3,000 Scientists Think Nuclear Arsenals Make Us Less Safe

In Environment, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, Public Health, War on June 2, 2017 at 9:50 pm

By Max Tegmark, Scientific American, May 26, 2017

Despite what you hear in the news, an atomic war between the superpowers is still the biggest threat.

Delegates from most United Nations member states are gathering in New York next month to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban, and 30 Nobel Laureates, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense and over 3,000 other scientists from 84 countries have signed an open letter in support. Why?
We scientists like to geek out about probabilities, megatons and impact calculations, so we see the nuclear situation differently than many politicians and pundits. From the public debate, one might think that the cold war threat is over and that the most likely way to be killed by a nuke is by being attacked by Iran, North Korea or terrorists, but that’s not what nerdy number crunching reveals. Those media-dominating scenarios could potentially kill millions of people—except that Iran has no nukes and North Korea lacks missiles capable of reliably delivering their dozen or so Hiroshima-scale bombs.
But scientific research has shown that a nuclear war between the superpowers might kill hundreds or potentially even thousands of times more people, and since it’s not a hundred times less likely to occur, the laws of statistics tell us that it’s the nuke scenario most likely to kill you.
Why is superpower nuclear war so risky? First of all, massive firepower: there are more than 14,000 nuclear weapons today, some of which are hundreds of times more powerful than North Korea’s and those dropped on Japan. Over 90 percent of these belong to Russia and the US, who keep thousands on hair-trigger alert, ready launch on minutes notice. A 1979 report by the US Government estimated that all-out war would kill 28-88 percent of Americans and 22-50 percent of Soviets (150-450 million people with today’s populations).
But this was before the risk of nuclear winter was discovered in the 1980’s.Researchers realized that regardless of whose cities burned, massive amounts of smoke could spread around the globe, blocking sunlight and transforming summers into winters, much like when asteroids or supervolcanoes caused mass extinctions in the past. A peer-reviewed analysis published by Robock et al (2007) showed cooling by about 20°C (36°F) in much of the core farming regions of the US, Europe, Russia and China (by 35°C in parts of Russia) for the first two summers, and about half that even a full decade later. Years of near-freezing summer temperatures would eliminate most of our food production. It is hard to predict exactly what would happen if thousands of Earth’s largest cities were reduced to rubble and global infrastructure collapsed, but whatever small fraction of all humans didn’t succumb to starvation, hypothermia or epidemics would probably need to cope with roving, armed gangs desperate for food.
There are large uncertainties in Nuclear Winter predictions. For example, how much smoke is produced and how high up it rises would determine its severity and longevity. Given this uncertainty, there is no guarantee that most people would survive. It has therefore been argued that the traditional nuclear doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) be replaced by Self-Assured Destruction (SAD): even if one of the two superpowers were able to launch its full nuclear arsenal against the other without any retaliation whatsoever, nuclear winter might still assure the attacking country’s self-destruction. Recent research has suggested that even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could cause enough cooling and agricultural disruption to endanger up to 2 billion people, mostly outside the warring countries.
The fact that nuclear powers are taking the liberty to endanger everyone else without asking their permission has led to growing consternation in the world’s non-nuclear nations. This has been exacerbated by a seemingly endless series of near-misses in which nuclear war has come close to starting by accident, and leaders of many non-nuclear nations feel less than thrilled by the idea of being destroyed by something as banal as a malfunctioning early warning-system in a nation that they are not threatening.
Such concerns prompted 185 non-nuclear nations to sign the 1970 Non-Proliferation-Treaty (NPT), promising to remain nuke-free in return for the nuclear nations phasing out theirs in accordance with NPT Article VI, whereby each party “undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”. Nearly 50 years later, many of these “have-nots” have concluded that they were tricked, and that the “haves” have no intention of ever keeping their end of the bargain. Rather than disarming, the U.S. and Russia have recently announced massive investments in novel nuclear weapons. Russia has recently touted a cobalt-encased doomsday bomb reminiscent of the dark comedy “Dr. Strangelove,” and the U.S. plans to spend a trillion dollars replacing most of its nuclear weapons with new ones that are more effective for a first strike.
Adding insult to injury, India, Pakistan and Israel have been allowed to join the nuclear club without major repercussions. “The probability of a nuclear calamity is higher today, I believe, that it was during the cold war,” said former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, who signed the open letter.
This disillusionment from the “have-nots” prompted 123 of them to launch an initiative in the United Nations General Assembly, where the nuclear nations lack veto power. In late 2016, they voted to launch the aforementioned UN negotiations that may produce a nuclear weapons ban treaty this summer. But a ban obviously wouldn’t persuade the nuclear “haves” to eliminate their nukes the next morning, so what’s the point of it?
The way I see it, most governments are frustrated that a small group of countries with a minority of the world’s population insist on retaining the right to ruin life on Earth for everyone else with nuclear weapons. Such “might makes right” policy has precedent. In South Africa, for example, the minority in control of the unethical Apartheid system didn’t give it up spontaneously, but because they were pressured into doing so by the majority. Similarly, the minority in control of unethical nuclear weapons won’t give them up spontaneously on their own initiative, but only if they’re pressured into doing so by the majority of the world’s nations and citizens. The key point of the ban is to provide such pressure by stigmatizing nuclear weapons.
Nuclear ban supporters draw inspiration from the 1997 Ottawa treaty banning landmines. Although the superpowers still refuse to sign it, it created enough stigma that many people now associate mines not with national security, but with images of children who have had limbs blown off while playing in peace-time. This stigma caused leading arms manufactures to half production in response to investor pressure and dwindling demand. In 2014, the Pentagon announced that it was halting landmine use outside of the Korean peninsula. Today, the global landmine market has nearly collapsed, with merely a single manufacturer (South Korean Hanwa) remaining.
The “have-not” negotiators hope that a nuclear ban treaty will similarly stigmatize nuclear weapons, persuading us all that we’re less safe with more nukes—even if they are our own. If this happens, it will increase the likelihood that the “haves” trim their nuclear arsenals down to the minimum size needed for effective deterrence, reverting from SAD back to MAD and making us all safer.
Here is the text of the letter. A list of some of the notable signatories follows.

Nuclear arms are the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited by an international convention, even though they are the most destructive and indiscriminate weapons ever created. We scientists bear a special responsibility for nuclear weapons, since it was scientists who invented them and discovered that their effects are even more horrific than first thought. Individual explosions can obliterate cities, radioactive fallout can contaminate regions, and a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse may cause mayhem by frying electrical grids and electronics across a continent. The most horrible hazard is a nuclear-induced winter, in which the fires and smoke from as few as a thousand detonations might darken the atmosphere enough to trigger a global mini ice age with year-round winter-like conditions. This could cause a complete collapse of the global food system and apocalyptic unrest, potentially killing most people on Earth – even if the nuclear war involved only a small fraction of the roughly 14,000 nuclear weapons that today’s nine nuclear powers control. As Ronald Reagan said: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Unfortunately, such a war is more likely than one may hope, because it can start by mistake, miscalculation or terrorist provocation. There is a steady stream of accidents and false alarms that could trigger all-out war, and relying on never-ending luck is not a sustainable strategy. Many nuclear powers have larger nuclear arsenals than needed for deterrence, yet prioritize making them more lethal over reducing them and the risk that they get used.
But there is also cause for optimism. On March 27 2017, an unprecedented process begins at the United Nations: most of the world’s nations convene to negotiate a ban on nuclear arms, to stigmatize them like biological and chemical weapons, with the ultimate goal of a world free of these weapons of mass destruction. We support this, and urge our national governments to do the same, because nuclear weapons threaten not merely those who have them, but all people on Earth.
William J. Perry, mathematician, US Secretary of Defense 1994-97, AAAS fellow
Peter Ware Higgs, University of Edinburgh, Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics, 2013 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Leon N. Cooper, Brown University, Professor of Science, 1972 Physics Nobel Laureate
Sheldon Glashow, Boston University, Professor of Physics & Mathematics, 1979 Physics Nobel Laureate
Wolfgang Ketterle, MIT, Professor of Physics, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Edvard I. Moser, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Professor of Neuroscience, 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
May-Britt Moser, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Professor of Neuroscience, 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
David Gross, Kavil Institute For Theoretical Physics, Professor of Theoretical Physics, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Leland Hartwell, Arizona State University, Professor, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
Jerome I. Friedman MIT, Emeritus Professor of Physics, 1990 Nobel Laureate in Physics 1990
Paul Greengard, The Rockefeller University, Professor of Neuroscience, 2000 Nobel Laureate Physiology/Medicine, Member, National Academy of Sciences
Roy J. Glauber, Harvard University, Professor of Physics, Emeritus, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Richard J. Roberts, New England Biolabs, Chief Scientific Officer, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
David Politzer, Caltech, Professor of Physics, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Frank Wilczek, MIT, Professor of Physics, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Jack Steinberger, CERN, Physicist, 1988 Nobel Laureate in Physics
J. Michael Bishop, UCSF, Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Immunology, 1989 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
Eric Kandel, Columbia University, University Professor, 2000 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
Martin Chalfie, Columbia University, University Professor, 2008 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
George F. Smoot, University of California at Berkeley, Professor of Physics, Director, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physics
David J. Weinland, 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Dudley Herschbach, Harvard, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Emeritus Prof. of Chemistry, 1986 Chemistry Nobel Laureate
Joseph Hooton Taylor, Jr, Princeton University, James S McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics, Emeritus, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Physics
H. Robert Horvitz, MIT, Professor of Biology, 2002 Nobel Prize in Medicine, 2002 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Serge Haroche, Collège de France, Paris, Professor Emeritus, Nobel Prize in Physics 2012, 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, 1997 Physics Nobel Laureate, Professor of Physics
John C. Mather, Senior Astrophysicist, NASA 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physics
John L Hall, University of Colorado, Boulder CO USA, Professor, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Republic of France Légion d’Honneur (2004)
Robert W. Wilson, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Senior Scientist, 1978 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Klaus von Klitzing, Director, Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Stuttgart, Germany, Professor of Physics, Nobel Prize in Physics 1985
John Polanyi University of Toronto, Professor of Chemistry, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Stephen Hawking, Director of research at Dept. of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge, 2012 Fundamental Physics Prize Laureate for his work on quantum gravity
Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study, Professor of Physics, 1990 Fields Medalist, U.S. National Medal of Science, Kyoto Prize, Breakthrough Prize, NAS member
Sir Michael Atiyah, Edinburgh University & Trinity College Cambridge, Professor of Mathematics, 1966 Fields Medalist
Curtis T. McMullen, Harvard University, Cabot Professor of Mathematics, 1998 Fields Medalist, NAS Member