Recognising the Environmental Impact of Consumption

Tena koutou
While the NZ Government’s decision to  declare a climate emergency  in New Zealand is to be applauded-  currently there appear few mechanisms  to   achieve a carbon-neutral  government by  2025. Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s touted response to  have all  government vehicles  electric,  is a case in  point of the contradictions in  environmental  policy. There is an  urgent  need for all  citizens to recognise the  impact of product and service consumption.
While electric cars will  reduce carbon  emissions through  vehicle  exhaust pipes, the production of the required number of  electric vehicles will  result in  further destruction of our environments-  lithium  mining for batteries ,  steel  production,  plastics production. to  name just  a few.  A sleight of hand process that  reduces emissions in  one area and replaces it with  more consumption in  another-  is simply deceitful  and will  not improve our environmental impact. Any  climate “emergency planning (an  ’emergency’  implies a short -term  problem- this is not a short-term issue)  must  also  address the collateral  bio-diversity loss that  is occurring in New Zealand and everywhere in  the world.
As a recent Israeli  study  amply demonstrates;  production of inert ‘stuff’  by  humans now literally out-weighs  the living  things on  this planet https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/09/human-made-materials-now-outweigh-earths-entire-biomass-study
We are replacing  living entities with  dead inert  matter at  a rapidly  increasing rate-  a recipe not just  for  an  emergency,  but a planetary  disaster.
While moving to  a steady  state economy is the only plausible  response to   the disaster rapidly unfolding  on our little plant; current levers of power and influence globally and in New Zealand clearly will not allow that  to  happen in  the short -term.
Consequently ,  rather than moving gently and steadily to  a slow-down  and cessation of human  ‘growth’ ,  we are  rushing headlong and ever faster  towards the precipice of environmental  catastrophe,  before we  fall over…and reach ‘steady-state’  in a way  that  will  cause huge immediate human  and other species’ suffering  and death.
To   hopefully avoid that precipitous  fall, I would suggest a measure that  will  in a relatively short  time ,  allow all  members of New Zealand society to   appreciate we cannot continue  this headlong dash  to  oblivion.
A requirement  that all animate and non-animate goods   and services in New Zealand carry  a warning label  which  indicates how much  the product has impacted on  both  climate change ( positive or negative) but also  ( and more crucially)  biodiversity. The labeling could be something similar to   cigarette warning labels and provide an  opportunity for purchasers to  be aware of the environmental  impact  of their purchase,  to  compare  goods’  environmental impact  and to encourage producers to  reduce their  environmental  footprint..
Over time this labeling would also  provide an opportunity for government  to   additionally tax those products and services  that  were  high in  environmental  impact,  once public support had reached an  acceptable level.
From  there, the public debate on how to  implement a  sustainable  steady  state economy  could proceed.
As you will  be well  aware, as you see the  data continue to   pile in at  an  ever increasing rate  on  global  warming and bio-diversity loss ,  we now  have little time and opportunity  to change our trajectory.
nga mihi

Footnote
The response to  my email   from  New Zealand’s Ministry of the Environment  courteously noted my suggestions,  but declined to  support it,noting that there were some unnamed private New Zealand companies interested in such  an idea.
Subsequently my daughter has suggested that  there would be web  companies out there who  could develop  an  app  which   could provide information online  for ‘consumers’  on  the relative  carbon  footprint and impact on  biodiversity of products being sold.
Yes please!

Human Crises & Saving the Planet

Human Crises & Saving the Planet
Human Crises & Saving the Planet

Can  the  COVID-19  pandemic create a change of heart in humanity,  and create a more just  and sustainable world?

As we have seen in  the past few weeks of the Coronavirus (or COVID19) outbreak, mankind continues to seek to  eliminate all  risk to itself.

Craig Murray  elicits a lucid outline of the  contradictions in  such  an  approach. All  living things are mortal. If we were immortal,  the consequences for the planet would be even more horrendous than they  are now.

Man’s current predilection for moving him or herself rapidly around the globe has allowed what  would have been  a very localised outbreak in Wuhan  city, Yunan province,  China, to become a global  epidemic in  a few short weeks.  The response  therefore in  most countries in  the world has been  to  eliminate  movement to  reduce transmission . Airline passenger numbers globally  have dropped precipitously and factory production has stalled,  resulting in a remarkably fast  transition to  an  (at  least  temporarily)  cleaner world and where other  animals  and vegetation retake  their rightful  place on the planet .

Other strategies however like  those used to  contain  tourists in  their cruise ships when a COVID19 infection occurs on-board by  circulating air in  the closed-system air conditioning units of the ships to  every passenger,  or the U.K.s initial  strategy  of  ‘herd immunity’, or simply blind ignorance  as in Sweden or the United States, where lockdowns    have largely failed to  occur because  of economic slowdown  fears, and have  instead vastly increased the risk of contagion and thus increased long-term economic risks considerably.

However we also  know that  that  the more transmission human  to  human  that  occurs,  the more likely  humans  will   adapt to  the new  virus, as will  the virus itself adapt to  humans and  thereby reduce its impact  on  the body  once infected. An acknowledgement that  all  humans (as do  most other species)  have large amounts of “foreign”  living entities in their bodies  which  are constantly adapting to  the  changing human bioome, permits us to be more cognizant (even welcoming)  of new bacteria and viruses that invade our bodies.

But we also need to  acknowledge that  those humans whose bodies are already  compromised by  other health issues  are much  more at  risk  from  this new  virus in  our bodies.  To  save as many lives as possible,  we need to  slow the onslaught on our medical  systems to  a  manageable level and thus help  reduce the death  rates..

The response to COVID19  has  exemplified the frailties of humans.  Our  insistence that   economic activity  and ‘taming’  (destroying) our living world  take precedence over all   other matters, has been  shattered by  our new global  understanding that  the interconnected world we have created in  the past few decades puts us all  at  immediate risk   when  new biological  threats occur.

COVID19  has also presented in  stark  terms the  childishness and stupidity of many of our leaders:  from the U.K prime minister Boris Johnson   happily shaking hands with COVID19  victims on   a hospital  visit  and now recovering  himself after being in Intensive Care, to  the pathetic tantrums of Donald Trump  petulantly  threatening to  de-fund the vital role of the World Health Organisation because they  clearly demonstrate the bizarre  inadequacies  of the for-profit  U.S.  ‘public’  health  system.

Perhaps though it is the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro  who  epitomises all  that is wrong with  such  politicised state leadership;  where  decisions are made not in  the interest of the country and its human  population (let along other living entities there) but in  the interests and petty ignorance of the leader alone-  so  he can  cling to  power regardless of the  devastation and death  mounting around him, But we also  see some other bizarre  enactments of the frailties of the democratic process;  in Belarus, or in Nicaragua where the Sandinista government appears to  basically deny they have a problem,  or Sweden,  relying on  a rogue epidemiologist to  undertake an  experiment in ‘herd immunity’  on its older people and other  vulnerable populations. Sadly Hercule Poirot’s ‘little grey  cells’  are not in  evidence  in  any of these so-called ‘leaders’.

Politicians and mainstream  media have continued their ongoing  scaremongering about Russian  threats  to  “our  way  of life”;  and/or the Chinese apparently ( according to  many  Western politicians and MSM)  for some obscure reason choosing to hide the fact  that  they had a pandemic for more than  two  weeks  from  their local  population and the world, and have been  covering up  the data  ever since . Why?-  well  because they  are ‘evil people’ basically and not like us!- and because ultimately, if the United States is to  retain  its  rapidly diminishing status as the ‘exceptional  nation’,   it is going to  have to  bomb the hell  out of any up-and-coming nation that  threatens its imperial  hegemony in  the world..

As had been noted by  the World Health Organisation and many other epidemiologists, the Chinese government response to  the Wuhan  pandemic has been rapid and responsive and effective. More effective than other country’s response to date. However the mainstream  media and other Western  commentators like to  spin  it,  the reality is that  the amazing reduction in   deaths and  infections in Wuhan  and across China has not been because “China is an authoritarian  state’,  but because it has mobilized all  aspects of society; businesses,  state organisations and community  organisations in a very  systematic way, and not because, as one U.S.  epidemiologist  has said:  the most important( reason) is that the impact of physical distancing achieved in China has been hard to accomplish elsewhere, mostly because of the freedoms we correctly value in liberal democracies’. That  commentary  is  simply a sad  reflection of  many Western  countries’ lack  of will,  leadership and a cultural awareness of community and society rather than  pure individuality and how  the  short term  imperatives of  the business economy ‘trumps’  everything else, including  people’s well-being in our individualist  neo-liberal  world.

Knowing when  a series of similar cases is in  fact  an epidemic is extremely difficult for any health  agency;  and  given  that  COVID-19  is a totally new virus,  the response to  the epidemic in Wuhan  was surprisingly fast. The work  done in Wuhan is described in  detail  here. Western media continue  to belittle that response and cast  doubt on  the  accuracy  of the data  while all  the time  providing misleading death  figures by  often excluding  non hospital  deaths,  and particularly people in  aged care facilities,  or people with  other morbidities like cardiovascular disease who  would not have died at  that time  without COVID-19 complications .

In a few years  once the politics of all  this faded on  to  something else,  we will  find that the death  rate in Europe and the U.S.  was substantially  higher than  has been  reported to  date. The equation is simple- what is a ‘normal’ death  rate for a particular time period and location ,  and what  was the rate under COVID-19?

Western  oriented  states continue to collaborate with  the United States in  enforcing  sanctions against  North  Korea,  Iran,  Cuba, Syria, Russia and Venezuela, to name a few,  in  the ongoing hope that  the sanctions will  cause enough deaths and deprivation for their populations to  rise up  against  their “evil  governments”. ( We know we’re on  the ‘right side’ don’t we?)

Some writers have subsequently that  the world must   and will  change because of COVID19: that  we will  become more caring and connected communities,  that   neo-liberalism  has demonstrated its  complete indifference, callousness  and  incapacity to  respond to such  global  crises  and the human  suffering it causes,  and will  go  down the plug-hole of history,  or even that greed  and selfishness  will  be  inexorably replaced by  caring and just  communities. Sadly ,  it is very  unlikely that  any of those hoped for  responses will  occur in the sort to  medium  term.

For as long as this economic system  can  continue  to  exploit our living world and our less fortunate human populations,  and a few people can make a huge amount of money;  then  the depredation of this planet will  continue and the planet  will  continue  its path to  destruction.

It is not by  the goodness in  people’s hearts, or lecturing by  this or that  environmental  group  or the Extinction Rebellion,  that  much  of the world’s populations will  begin  to  interact  in  sustainable  ways with  our living world;  it will  be because  they  are forced  to make pragmatic changes that  allow they and their families and communities to survive in  a rapidly changing  climate and green  world.

However there is hope.  As we  plunge headlong ever faster to  environmental  global  disaster,  global  shocks to  our fragile and  senseless economic system will  begin  to  multiply. Insurance companies will  go  bankrupt,  debt-ridden incompetent governments will  increasingly  become unable to   prop  up existing  exploitative  companies,  world tourism and air-traffic will  decline precipitously,  and people’s livelihoods will  steadily become re-oriented towards sustainable  activities and “essential’  service.

 

Then,  and only then,  will  we begin  the journey  back  to  a  sustainable world where we can live in  harmony  with our fellow living beings.

As the tongue in cheek  image from  Facebook  demonstrates, we are indeed seeing  animals and birds and presumably other more invisible species,  reclaiming their birthright in  our human oriented  environments as  human  busi-ness recedes. So  many humans are now rejoicing in  being  able to once again   interact  with our fellow species   …

Other New Antarctica Links

Sustainable Agriculture: It is possible


Momento Mori – Unpopular Thoughts on Corona Virus

https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus

https://www.moonofalabama.org/2020/03/is-the-coronavirus-really-more-dangerous-than-the-flu.html#more

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00548-w

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/16/number-coronavirus-pandemic?

How China Broke the Chain of Infection

COVID-19: How the Media Hyped the Public Into an Anti-China Frenzy

New Research Shows Anti-Coronavirus Drugs Could Be Produced for Pennies

People ‘shed’ high levels of coronavirus, study finds, but most are likely not infectious after recovery begins