2008年11月27日 星期四

To bail or not to bail …....

Saul Landau
Progresso Weekly
November 27 - December 3, 2008

Saul Landau, an internationally-known scholar, author, commentator, and filmmaker on foreign and domestic policy issues. Landau's most widely praised achievements are the over forty films he has produced on social, political and historical issues, and worldwide human rights, for which he won the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award, the George Polk Award for Investigative Reporting, and the First Amendment Award, as well as an Emmy for "Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang." Landau has written over ten books, short stories and poems. He received an Edgar Allen Poe Award for Assassination on Embassy Row, a report on the 1976 murders of Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his colleague, Ronni Moffitt.

He is a senior Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Saul Landau is the author of A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD (Counterpunch A/K) whose more than 40 films are available on DVD from http://roundworldproductions.com/Site/Films_by_Saul_Landau_on_DVD.html.

To bail, or not to bail: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageously low gas mileage,
Or to take measures against a sea of warming vehicles,
And by opposing end them?
They have not born the whips and scorns of time,
Auto conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
The “Heartbeat of America” has suffered a major myocardial infarction. In one year, Chevrolet --as American as apple pie -- has slashed 25,000 jobs and closed a dozen of its U.S. factories. General Motors’ auto parts manufacturer, Delphi, went into declared bankruptcy -- another 14 factories and 25,000 more jobs gone by 2010. Don’t worry, however, GM’s competitors, Ford and Chrysler, also announced major bad health news. By 2012, Ford will eliminate at least 55,000 jobs.

The once haughty CEOs of the auto industry strutted through the Halls of Congress giving orders. Now they beg, in vain, for bail out money -- although it’s not clear what they would do with it. Wired.com reported that GM North America president Troy Clarke emailed 29,000 employees: “Your elected officials must hear from all of us now on why this support is critical. ... This level of economic devastation far exceeds the $25 billion of government support that our industry needs to bridge this current period.” (Nov. 12, 2008) Reuters reported that GM dealers received a letter from GM sales chief, Mark LaNeve, encouraging them to do something about “the deepest crisis our industry has ever faced.”

Even the United Auto Workers Union conceded billions of dollars in hard-won gains to keep the factories open. They let the companies cut the retired auto workers’ health benefits. But the workers don’t accuse the UAW of selling out. They understand that the cars they made do not compete with Toyota and Honda. The trendy SUVs, Hummers and other heavy gas drinkers slowly rust away on auto dealers’ lots -- many of which have already shut down. The Big Three’s real gold mine was the phenomenal growth of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) during the 1990s, rising from 7 percent of the total car and truck market at the beginning of the decade to roughly 20 percent by the end. (Mark Brenner and Jane Slaughter, Labor Notes, www.alternet.org, Nov. 19, 2008)

The elite economists and members of the business and chattering classes wring their hands in despair. The U.S. economy has revolved around the car for almost a century. Think of the millions of miles of highways built for it and its big brother, the truck. Think of the infinite number of parking garages and lots. Think of how each house has at least a one, if not a three car garage. How will we get to work, take the kids to school, shop, get away from the house and family, or -- for teenagers -- find a place to have sex?

As Congress debates what to do to save the car industry, few Members consider the incompatibility of life ruled by the automobile and the continuation of life itself. Indeed, if China, India, Brazil and other “developing” countries continue to produce cars, along with the Western, Japanese and Korean factories, the earth’s climate will become less hospitable for human beings -- even if the techno geniuses figure out how to use fuels more harmonious with Nature than gasoline. Think of what the manufacture of cars entail -- the amount of metals, chemicals, plastics and other less than healthy products! Think of the waste on concrete, steel and other material to build endless garages and ribbons of highway.

The car and the city never got along unless one believes rush hour in the major capitals of the world make cities hot. Then there’s pollution, stench and frustration, not to mention the amount of resources cities must spend to meet the needs of the auto. Delphi’s CEO Steve Miller signaled what was at stake: “I want you to view what is happening at Delphi as a flash point, a test case, for all the economic and social trends that are on a collision course in our country and around the globe.” (Brenner and Slaughter)

Some of my friends have already converted their cars’ engines to burn used McDonald’s grease; others await the electric versions run off power generated by the sun or wind. None of them, however, can conceive of living without their cars.

How does one confront the reality of Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”? Unless we change our ways, he warned and keeps warning, the environment cannot sustain our species. Gore’s alerts focus on the mantra of continuous and unthinking growth.

The city itself presents a basic challenge. Stare at the skylines of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco or Detroit! Skyscrapers that require heating and cooling 24/7, 365 days a year -- buildings in which nothing gets produced! Tens of thousand or millions of cars enter and leave underground or above ground garages each weekday -- for which the drivers pay do their vehicles occupy a space. The cars’ occupants often produce nothing tangible. From their offices, they send out millions of emails relating to businesses that often produce nothing you can touch, invoices, statements about stock and bond sales. At lunch hour, many race to their cars to meet a friend or lover for a meal -- or drive to a motel for a “nooner.” Then, back into the car, back into the garage and back into the artificially cooled or heated office to manufacture more data on the computer.

The late afternoon rush hour often begins before 4 p.m. and endures until 7. Drivers or passengers allow the frustrations of their unproductive day to simmer or sometimes boil inside of them.

The car has also become an instrument used by temporarily psychotic drivers: road rage. Others have developed a highly unnatural relationship between themselves and their mobile pieces of metal and plastic -- some give them pet names! Think of the car as an instrument people use to kill each other or themselves. Or, think of the car as the weirdest way ever invented to transport people. Vast social entities -- cities like Los Angeles -- virtually require inhabitants to own at least one such vehicle.

Don’t think of the manufacturing process in which over nearly a century workers have sacrificed their physical and mental health over smoky, noisy, fast moving assembly lines. How can one conceive of life without the ubiquitous car? Indeed, even more remote: what will we do with the cities replete with non-productive skyscrapers and garages? Fanatic “deep ecologists” have even hinted at a Khmer Rouge (of Cambodia during the late 1970s) solution -- without the killing fields -- and call for the gradual extinction of cities and other technology deemed destructive to Nature.

What does President Obama think? He will confront demands to save, at any cost, the auto industry and the millions of jobs connected to it. He might start his era of change by reversing the old slogan: “What’s bad for GM is good for America -- and the rest of the world.”

Then, he might think of constructing public transportation -- jobs for millions -- in a scientific and efficient manner, much the same way he ran his presidential campaign.

2008年11月16日 星期日












2008年11月15日 星期六

Will Population Control Solve the Climate Crisis?

Simon Butler
Green Left Weekly
November 8, 2008

At best, population control schemes focus on treating a symptom of an irrational, polluting social and economic system rather than the causes. In China, for instance, such measures haven’t solved that country’s environmental problems.

At worst, populationist theories shift the blame for climate change onto the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Third World.

They do not address the reasons why environmental damage, or even instances of overpopulation, happen in the first place and they divert attention away from the main challenge facing the climate movement — the urgent need to construct a new economy based on environmentally sustainable technologies and the rising of living standards globally.

For at least 200 years, “overpopulation” has been used to explain a host of social problems such as poverty, famine, unemployment and — more recently — environmental destruction.

Between 1798-1826, the conservative English economist and clergyman Thomas Malthus published six editions of his influential Essay on the Principle of Population, which argued that population growth inevitably outstrips food production.

Malthus’ argument was that the English working class was poor because they were too numerous, not because they were exploited. He opposed welfare or higher wages because, he said, that would allow the poor to survive, and breed, compounding “overpopulation” and leading to more poverty.

Malthus was wrong about food production. In the last two centuries, food production has grown faster than population — his theories nevertheless gained wide acceptance among the English elite of the day because they provided a convenient excuse to blame the poor for their own predicament.

In the 1960s, Malthus’ anti-human ideas were resuscitated by a new generation of conservative theorists who argued that the people of the global South remained hungry because there were too many to feed. US environmentalist Paul Erlich, in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb, argued for population control measures in the Third World to, he said, avert an ecological crisis.

Populationists like Erlich usually don’t question the unequal allocation of resources on a global scale. Nor do they admit that high birth rates in the Third World are largely a response to dire poverty.

Instead, they look at the world’s resources as though they were dividing up a pie: reduce the world’s population and those remaining will each get a bigger slice. They fail to address the question of power and, therefore, unequal access to global resources.

Most environmentalists who believe that population control is necessary would still reject the most extreme forms of the populationist argument.

But the fact remains that the real driver of climate change is not population growth but a market economy locked into burning fossil fuels for energy. The corporations that profit most from taking the lion’s share of global resources are the same polluting industries that, today, are resisting the necessary shift away from carbon-based economies.

Populationists tend to downplay the question of power. As renowned US ecologist Barry Commoner commented, populationist solutions to environmental destruction are “equivalent to attempting to save a leaking ship by lightening the load by forcing passengers overboard”.

He went on to ask the question that populationists tend to ignore: “One is constrained to ask if there is not something wrong with the ship”.

The world is not experiencing runaway population growth. Global population is growing, but the rate of growth is slowing. It peaked in the 1960s and has been in decline ever since. Global population grew by 140% between 1950 and 2000. Experts predict a further rise of 50% between 2000 and 2050, and just 11% in the 50 years after that.

The simplistic view that population control is the main way to reverse runaway climate change can obscure debate over other measures. These include: the rapid replacement of fossil fuel-generated energy with renewables; improvements in energy efficiency; and the introduction of sustainable agricultural methods.

In rich countries such as Australia, we need to campaign for environmental outcomes that sharply reduce Third World poverty, including cancelling debt owed to First World nations.

It is well documented — including in the wealthy countries — that birth rates fall as living standards rise. Furthermore, the greater economic independence women have, and the more control women have over their own bodies, the fewer children they have. Development, along with women’s emancipation, is the best contraception.

It is undeniable that parts of the world are overcrowded, and that land degradation through over-logging, erosion, over-hunting, over-fishing and poor waste disposal are massive problems in the countries of the global South.

These social, economic and environment problems are interlinked, and point to the real causes of overpopulation and environmental destruction of the Third World — extreme poverty. Liberty and justice and rights for the poor, especially women, have to be our concern.

2008年11月1日 星期六

世界自然基金會 : 我們將需要兩個地球來維持我們目前的生活方式

世界自然基金會 (WWF)

瑞士,格蘭德 -人類對地球自然資源需求不斷增加,超出了地球承載力的近1/3,這使全球正走向生態信貸短缺的未來。

這是最新一期 WWF(世界自然基金會)地球生命力報告中發出的警告,除了全球自然資源和生物多樣性的持續減少,越來越多的國家正陷入永久或季節性缺水的狀況。

WWF全球總幹事詹姆士.李普(James Leape)說:「全球正關注的是高估金融資產所導致的後果,但如今整個人類社會要面對的卻是生態信貸的短缺,這是由於人類低估環境資產而造成的,而環境 資產卻是所有生命和繁榮的基礎。我們大多數人都在利用或者逐漸透支異地的生態資本,來維持現有的生活方式和經濟增長。如果我們對於地球的需求繼續以同一速 度增加,到21世紀30年代中期,我們將需要兩個地球來維持我們目前的生活方式。」




ZSL 編輯Jonathan Loh說:「我們在生態方面採取的方式與金融機構在經濟方面採取的方式相同,都在尋求速成,而不適當考慮後果,這樣的全球生態危機帶來的後果比目前經濟崩潰更為嚴重。」

由化石燃料以及土地污染所產生的碳排放量在人類足跡中比例最大,並成為氣候變化的主要誘因。經過全面分析,環球足跡網絡得出地球的生態足跡,也就是生 產我們消費的所有資源和消納我們產出的所有廢棄物所需的全球(平均)生物生產土地面積(包括陸地和海洋),為人均2.7全球公頃。而現有人均生態承載力的 最高限僅為2.1全球公頃。

GFN執行理事Mathis Wackernagel博士說:「持續的生態赤字將導致嚴重的經濟後果,資源局限性和生態系統崩潰將引發大規模的物價上漲,隨之投資價值下降,而食品和能源價格也會暴漲。」

美國和中國的國家生態足跡最大,它們的生態足跡總額分別達約21%的全球生物承載力,但美國公民的人均生態足跡量是9.4全球公頃,而中國公民人均量 是2.1全球公頃。生物承載力在全球的分佈不均,美國、巴西、俄羅斯、中國、印度、加拿大、阿根廷和澳大利亞八國擁有全球超過一半的生物承載力。其中三個 國家的人口和消費模式使其成為生態負債國,生態足跡大於其國家生物承載力,這三個國家是美國(生態足跡是國家生物承載力的1.8倍)、中國(生態足跡是國 家生物承載力的2.3倍)和印度(生態足跡是國家生物承載力的2.2倍)。

雖然中國的人均生態足跡比歐盟低得多,但中國和歐盟消費資源的速度都是其生物承載力生產速度的2倍以上。2005年,中國的足跡貿易的逆差為 1.65億全球公頃,比德國或玻利維亞的總生物承載力還要大。2005年,中國進口和出口足跡分別占國際貿易總足跡的9%和6%,而在1961年,相應數 值分別為5%和不到1%,可謂增加迅猛。

2008年的報告中首次計算了水足跡。新的水足跡度量標準顯示出商品形式的水的意義所在,例如,生產一件棉質的T恤需要2900升水。人均每年消費 124萬升水(約一個奧運會游泳池一半的水量),從美國人均每年消費248萬升水到也門人均每年消費61.9萬升水,消費水量因國家而異。由於氣候變化, 約50個國家目前正承受著中度或重度的缺水壓力,常年或季節性缺水的人口數量預計也會增加。

報告還提出了一些關鍵的「可持續性楔形」概念,如果結合這些概念,可以穩定生態環境並扭轉日益惡化的生態環境,避免陷入生態負債的狀況,避免給全球支 持系統帶來持久損害。針對氣候變化這一重大挑戰,報告顯示了一系列有效的、可再生的、低排放的「楔形」方法,可滿足2050年前預期的能源需求,還能削減 60%至80%的碳排放量。考慮將生態系統方法納入到消費、發展和貿易中會極大地有助於保護世界重要的生物資源。

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WWF 中文網站編者按:

報告及包括視頻在內的多媒體資料可在 wwf.extranet.largeblue.net 上找到,密碼:mA1aGb73

全球生態足跡正以不斷加快的速度惡化。2006年WWF地球生命力報告顯示,當年的生態足跡超出了2003年的25%(2008年地球生命力報告 ——生態足跡超過2005年的30%),2050年左右人類將需要兩個星球(2008年地球生命力報告——2030年人類將需要兩個星球)。


2008地球生命力報告專題網站 http://www.wwfchina.org/aboutwwf/miniwebsite/2008LPR/

點擊下載《地球生命力報告》中文 http://www.wwfchina.org/wwfpress/publication/policy/ChineseLPR2008.pdf

點擊下載地球生命力報告》英文 http://assets.panda.org/downloads/living_planet_report_2008.pdf