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Shove Down. We Need to Set a Lot More Places at the Table.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:43
It seemed like a grim consolation prize in the global overpopulation sweepstakes, the notion that mankind's numbers would peak at somewhere in the vicinity of 9-billion before eventually ebbing to a more sustainable level.

Well, so much for that.

A new study says we're heading for 11-billion by 2100 and it could just keep going up after that.

A ground-breaking analysis released on Thursday shows there is a 70% chance that the number of people on the planet will rise continuously from 7bn today to 11bn in 2100.

The work overturns 20 years of consensus that global population, and the stresses it brings, will peak by 2050 at about 9bn people. “The previous projections said this problem was going to go away so it took the focus off the population issue,” said Prof Adrian Raftery, at the University of Washington, who led the international research team. “There is now a strong argument that population should return to the top of the international agenda. Population is the driver of just about everything else and rapid population growth can exacerbate all kinds of challenges.” Lack of healthcare, poverty, pollution and rising unrest and crime are all problems linked to booming populations, he said.

“Population policy has been abandoned in recent decades. It is barely mentioned in discussions on sustainability or development such as the UN-led sustainable development goals,” said Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters, a thinktank supported by naturalist Sir David Attenborough and scientist James Lovelock. “The significance of the new work is that it provides greater certainty. Specifically, it is highly likely that, given current policies, the world population will be between 40-75% larger than today in the lifetime of many of today’s children and will still be growing at that point,” Ross said.

It's no small irony that the UN is hosting summits on climate change and on overpopulation on successive days and yet no one expects either group to focus on the other.   There are several potentially existential challenges facing mankind this century and the odds of getting through them are not on our side.  We either perish or accept that the solution to these threats requires that we solve them all if we're to succeed in solving any of them.  It is really that cut and dried.  Overpopulation, over-consumption, climate change, the freshwater crisis, exhaustion of renewable resources, depletion of non-renewables, the collapse of global fisheries, species extinction and migration, disease and pest migration, inequality global and domestic (of income, wealth and opportunity), the spread of authoritarianism, terrorism, insurgencies and nuclear proliferation - on and on and on.  And yet, even at the UN, we can't acknowledge the obvious ties between overpopulation and climate change.

We're so screwed.

And Speaking of Disappearances...

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:31


It seems like the silence over the disappearing Environment Canada committee discussed in my previous post may have had its precedent set back in 2012, when another strange silence was orchestrated over another disappearance.

Margaret Munro, in The Ottawa Citizen, reports new evidence of the Harper regime suppressing information Canadians have a right to by muzzling our federal scientists. In 2012, the amount of Arctic ice hit its lowest level ever, and Canadian Ice Service scientists wanted to tell us about it, to warn us of its implications.
[Leah] Braithwaite and her colleagues — aware of the national and international interest in the shrinking polar ice — wanted to hold a “strictly factual” technical briefing for the media to inform Canadians how the ice had disappeared from not only the Northwest Passage but many normally ice-choked parts of the Arctic.Having to go through nine approval levels before they could impart the information doomed the effort. Newly-released documents reveal the following:
“Ministerial services” — the sixth layer — cancelled the briefing, the documents say. And the ice service scientists ended up watching as the Canadian media and public got most of their information from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC ), where scientists were quick to give interviews, hold briefings and issue press releases as the ice shattered records as it melted from Baffin Island to the Beaufort Sea.Observers say the case is further evidence of the way the Conservative government is silencing scientists.

“It’s suppression through bureaucracy,” said Katie Gibbs, executive director of Evidence for Democracy (E4D ), an Ottawa-based non-profit pushing for open communication of government science.

“Why is it that we need nine levels of approval for this sort of thing, what’s the justification,” said biologist Scott Findlay, a co-founder of E4D and member of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa.

He said the government’s “Byzantine message control” is not only wasting time, money and resources, but having a “corrosive” effect on the public service.Perhaps naively, Findley also suggested that
federal scientists are professionals and the government should trust them to interact with the media and release information that is in the public interest, such as conditions and changes in the Arctic ice.The development of trust requires a degree of integrity and good mental health on the part of both parties, qualities that, sadly, we have come to discover, Mr. Harper and his minions are deeply deficient in.Recommend this Post

The Union May Survive Intact but Cameron Is Seriously Wounded

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 09:34


According to The Guardian, late polls show Scotland will stay in the United Kingdom.  As Scots went to cast their ballots the No side was up six points, 53 to 47 for the Yes secessionists.

Assuming those numbers hold, the onus is going to fall very heavily on London to come through with its 11th-hour promises of a new deal for the Scottish people.

Already Cameron is facing a rebellion in his caucus over what are seen as giveaways to the north that will have to be paid for by the south.

"Writing in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, [Cameron's rail minister, Claire Perry] warned against giving Scotland 'a whole raft of goodies' which would have to be 'paid for by us south of the border to try and appease the yes voters.'

"Perry wrote: 'The funding formula for Scotland, the rather cobbled together Barnett formula, already delivers per capita funding north of the border well in excess of that spent per head in other parts of the union, and if there is a proposal to allow devolution of local taxation, as well as maintaining the current level of funding from the UK parliament, than that can hardly be equitable for those of us in the Devizes constituency and all other areas in the non-Scottish union."

Like it or not, all three party leaders pretty much went along with the bribe and there'll be hell to pay if they renege in the aftermath.  A win for the No side is not going to end London's problems.  They're only just getting started.

Let's Not Get Too Gushy About Rob Ford

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 09:20


I get it, he's got cancer.  With the sludge that guy has pushed down his gullet and snorted up his nose, quelle surprise!

As our friend, The Salamander, pointed out, where's our concern for other cancer victims like the natives in the cancer villages near Fort Mac on the Athabasca river?  Those are people who have contracted terrible cancers and deformities that others, mainly very well to do just like Rob Ford, could get ever richer.

Unlike Rob Ford, those cancer victims of Athabasca are blameless for their plight.  The shit that got into their bodies wasn't of their doing.  Yet we write them off as collateral damage to what Ignatieff called "the beating heart of the Canadian economy."

As a society we are desperately in need of a recalibration of our moral compass.

What, Were They Completely Out of Helicopter Gunships?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 09:08
Alright punks, recess is over!

Think of your gradeschool principal.  Now visualize that principal clad in body armour, kevlar, clutching a grenade launcher and perched behind the wheel of an armoured assault vehicle.  Why, Mrs. Krabapple, what lovely taste you have in camo.

The militarization of American society continues apace.  Now it's school districts getting the Pentagon's cast offs.  That's right, schools.  Machine guns and grenade launchers and armoured vehicles with run flat tires and bullet proof glass.

"School police departments across the US have taken advantage of free military surplus gear, stocking up on mine-resistant armoured vehicles, grenade launchers and scores of M16 rifles.

"...The Los Angeles unified school district, the nation's second-largest at 710 square miles with more than 900,000 students enrolled, said it would remove three grenade launchers it had acquired because they 'are not essential life-saving items within the scope, duties and mission' of the district's police force.  But the district would keep the 60 M16s and a military vehicle known as an MRAP used in Iraq and Afghanistan that was built to withstand mine blasts."

What kind of fucked-up society needs a school district police department to begin with much less one armed to the teeth with fully automatic assault rifles, armoured vehicles and grenade launchers?

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 07:55
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda McQuaig discusses how a politically-oriented audit of the CCPA fits with the shock-and-awe part of the right's war against independent (and public-minded) though:
In the conservative quest to shape public debate in recent years, no tool has proved more useful than the think tank. Nobody understood this better than the director of the ultra-right wing U.S.-based ATLAS Foundation, who once stated that his mission was “to litter the world with free-market think tanks.”

Mission accomplished. Certainly the Canadian landscape is cluttered with right-wing think tanks — the Fraser Institute, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Montreal Economic Institute, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, the Frontier Institute, just to name a few — all well-funded by a business elite keen to have its message packaged in a manner that makes it appear grounded in serious research.

These right-wing policy shops have played a huge role in implanting an ideology that treats the rich as ‘wealth creators’ who must be freed from government regulation — and whose goodwill must be constantly cultivated, lest they be discouraged from investing. This has boiled down to a simple message — government bad, private sector good — that has become the mantra of our times, the guiding force in shaping public policy.
...
For years, the corporate world has bestowed bountiful, tax-deductible resources on right-wing think tanks, allowing them to baffle the public with this sort of misinformation.

Meanwhile, alone and often ignored by the media, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives keeps churning out quality research exposing the fallacies of the right-wing arguments that have come to dominate our public conversation.

What choice is there for a paranoid, controlling, undemocratic, right-wing government but to call in the auditors?- Meanwhile, Matt Bruenig argues that capitalism in its current form falls far short of any of the theoretical justifications for rewarding greed. Melissa Boteach and Shawn Fremstad note that matters are only getting worse even in the face of what's supposed to be an economic recovery. Andrew Brenier comments on the connection between fossil fuel use and inequality. And Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett discuss what we've learned since The Spirit Level brought the issue to the forefront:
Most important has been the rapid accumulation of evidence confirming the psychosocial processes through which inequality gets under the skin. When we were writing, evidence of causality often relied on psychological experiments that showed how extraordinarily sensitive people are to being looked down on and regarded as inferior.

They demonstrated that social relationships, insecurities about social status and how others see us have powerful effects on stress, cognitive performance and the emotions. Almost absent were studies explicitly linking income inequality to these psychological states in whole societies. But new studies have now filled that gap. That inequality damages family life is shown by higher rates of child abuse, and increased status competition is likely to explain the higher rates of bullying confirmed in schools in more unequal countries.

We showed that mental illnesses are more prevalent in more unequal societies: this has now been confirmed by more specific studies of depression and schizophrenia, as well as by evidence that your income ranking is a better predictor of developing illness than your absolute income.

Strengthening community life is hampered by the difficulty of breaking the ice between people, but greater inequality amplifies the impression that some people are worth so much more than others, making us all more anxious about how we are seen and judged. Some are so overcome by lack of confidence that social contact becomes an ordeal. Others try instead to enhance self-presentation and how they appear to others. US data also show that narcissism increased in line with inequality. The economic effects of inequality have also gained more attention. Research has shown that greater inequality leads to shorter spells of economic expansion and more frequent and severe boom-and-bust cycles that make economies more vulnerable to crisis. The International Monetary Fund suggests that reducing inequality and bolstering longer-term economic growth may be "two sides of the same coin". And development experts point out how inequality compromises poverty reduction.- Stephanie Levitz reports on the Mowat Centre's latest study of income-splitting - which finds that in addition to being grossly inequitable in handing money to the people who need it least, the Cons' pet policy would also siphon billions out of provincial treasuries.

- Connie Walker reports on the Cons' choice to summarily discard any proposals from the Assembly of First Nations and other individuals and groups who want to see both meaningful studies and policy responses to the crisis of murdered and missing aboriginal women.

- Finally, Scott Feschuk rightly skewers Stephen Harper for a foreign policy that's all bluster and no substance.

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 07:49
Here, on Justin Trudeau's remarkable demand that Stephen Harper set up a federal shun registry to make life easier for Trudeau politically.

For further reading...
- Trudeau's Question Period interview is here, with the key passage starting at about the 3:15 mark. And some Libs went so far as to trumpet the demand for a public enemies list as a show of political talent.
- Carlos Tello reports on the RCMP's interest in stigmatizing the environmental movement - which of course matches the Cons' rhetoric. And Alex Boutilier reports that hundreds of public events have already found themselves under secret surveillance over the past few years. So there shouldn't be much doubt that Harper's choice would be to cast a similarly wide (and anti-democratic) net if he were to offer a list of pariahs.
- Finally, Thomas Walkom reminds us that if we're concerned about public health and safety, we should be spending far more time addressing ebola (or similarly threatening diseases), and far less obsessing over the war on adjectives.

Harper's War On The CCPA

Northern Reflections - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 05:11

                                                            http://deslibris.ca

The Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives is in Mr. Harper's sites. Linda McQuaig writes:

Of course, we’re all familiar now with how Stephen Harper suppresses information that contradicts his agenda: blocking the collection of statistics, muzzling government scientists, auditing charities that critique his policies. And yet, somehow the news that the Harper government is conducting a harassing audit on the CCPA manages to break fresh ground.

This time there’s no recourse to the pretence that the audit was random. A Canada Revenue Agency document, obtained through Access to Information, makes it clear that the organization is being audited because its research and educational materials were considered “biased” and “one-sided.”
Does that mean that the Fraser Institute operates without bias? In fact, Fraser is only one of several right wing think tanks in Canada:

These right-wing policy shops have played a huge role in implanting an ideology that treats the rich as ‘wealth creators’ who must be freed from government regulation — and whose goodwill must be constantly cultivated, lest they be discouraged from investing. This has boiled down to a simple message — government bad, private sector good — that has become the mantra of our times, the guiding force in shaping public policy.
CCPA takes a different point of view -- and a much more vigorous approach to its research:

It would be a stretch for the Fraser Institute, for example, to make a claim of academic rigour. Every year, the institute receives widespread media coverage for its “Tax Freedom Day” — designed to make Canadians feel overburdened by taxes — but the research behind this PR gimmick is shoddy, based on wild exaggerations, flawed math and chicanery, according to an analysis done by tax expert Neil Brooks.

For instance, by failing to factor out inflation and income growth, the Fraser researchers concluded that over the previous four decades taxes on Canadians had risen by a staggering 1,550 per cent … when, in fact, they had risen by about 40 per cent, Brooks showed.

And, so, the Harperites have declared war on the CCPA. Imagine what would happen if voters concluded that their government had lied to them shamelessly and consistently.


No Surprise Here- An Update

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 04:50


Tuesday's post discussed the apparent disappearance of a committee made up of representatives from Environment Canada, the Alberta government and oil and gas companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the tarsands. Investigative reporter Mike De Souza provides important new information about this committee on his website.

Putting the heat on Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq in the House of Commons, NDP environment critic Megan Leslie suggested it is time for the Harper regime to stop stalling:

“After seven years of the government’s broken promises to introduce greenhouse gas rules for the oil and gas sector Canadians are still waiting,” Leslie said.

“Now we hear that Environment Canada has stopped talking to the industry and the Alberta government altogether. In fact, the (federal) government-led committee hasn’t met since March 2013. When will this government quit stalling and when will we see the regulations?”
Of course, as is standard operating procedure for this government, Aglukkaq did not answer, preferring to mouth platitudes about what a great job the government is doing in reducing emissions in this country:
“We have taken action on some of the largest sources of emissions in this country, the transportation and the electricity-generation sector” ... “I’m also looking forward to taking part in the UN climate summit in New York next week to speak to Canada’s record in taking action on climate change.”
And this is hardly a time for obfuscation and misdirection:
Environment Canada estimated earlier this year that greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands increased by 307 per cent between 1990 and 2012. The carbon emissions were projected to grow a further 61 per cent before the end of the decade.
A clue as to why the committee's work suddenly ceased may be found here:
Behind closed doors, internal records obtained by Greenpeace Canada through provincial freedom of information legislation revealed that industry lobbyists rejected proposals from the Alberta government to introduce tough rules, and instead suggested delaying action to allow for more “study, analysis and consultation.”Concludes Keith Stewart, a Toronto-based climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Canada:
“This is what happens when a government opens the doors wide to the oil industry and shuts out everyone else ... The upstream oil and gas industry is now the biggest carbon polluter in the country precisely because the Harper government gives in every time they cry poor. Meanwhile, the public foots the ever-rising bill for climate disasters while the oil companies post record profits.”It seems safe to conclude that this is yet more evidence that Stephen Harper is not here for us.
Recommend this Post

The Scottish Independence Campaign and the Velvet Revolution

Montreal Simon - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 00:55


And so it ended, with wild rallies all over the country. After two long years Scotland's amazing referendum campaign is finally over.

And as I write these lines, Scots are heading to the polls to decide whether Scotland should become an independent country.

The campaign ended with a final message from the YES side urging them to take their own future in their hands, and choose hope over fear. 

Our nation is alive with energy and excitement about the future. And the collective democratic awakening in Scotland goes further and deeper than the independence movement alone. For all of this, Scotland is richer. It is this popular energy which gives confidence for Scotland’s future. Together, we can harness the passion, drive and vision that abounds in Scotland today and use it to build a better society.

It ended with a final message from the NO side warning of doom and disaster. 
Read more »

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