The US and Brazil announced an agreement to promote private-sector development in the Amazon rainforest. US officials said a $100 million fund will be established to “protect biodiversity” by supporting businesses in hard-to-reach areas of the forest. As if to drive home how cynical all this is, just days later Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro in his address to the UN General Assembly unabashedly asserted his right to go on destroying the Amazon, saying it is a “fallacy” to describe the Amazon as the heritage of humanity and a “misconception” that its forests are the lungs of the world. (Image via Veganist)
A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the “rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil,” risks “jeopardizing food security for the planet.” The effects of global warming have led to “shifts of climate zones in many world regions,” further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases.” (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)
Deforestation in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon rainforest rose more than 88% in June compared with the same month a year ago—the second consecutive month of rising forest loss under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. According to data from the Brazilian Space Agency, deforestation totaled 920 square kilometers. An analysis by BBC finds: “An area of Amazon rainforest roughly the size of a football pitch [soccer field] is now being cleared every single minute.” This accelerated destruction is directly rooted in Bolsonaro administration policies, that have undermined the work of IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, effectively gutting enforcement. Fines for illegal forest clearing and seizures of illegal timber have plummeted to record lows since he took office. (Photo via Mongabay)
Biodiversity is declining globally at rates “unprecedented” in human history, and the rate of species extinction is accelerating, warns a landmark report from the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The Global Assessment, approved at the 7th session of the IPBES in Paris, foresees grave impacts for people around the world. “The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” (Photo: Wikipedia)
In Episode 24 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the historic strides toward liberation of the cannabis plant in 2018, from the four corners of the Earth. Yet under capitalism, every advance also opens new contradictions. With the rise of "corporate cannabis," traditional small growers in places like California's Emerald Triangle stand to be pushed off the market as Central Valley agribusiness gets in on the act. Burdensome regulations and heavy taxation have kept some growers on the black market—and big police raids in the Emerald Triangle have continued even after "legalization." High taxes on cannabis have also actually closed the legal space for California's "compassionate care" providers—those who make free or discounted medical marijuana available to the ailing. There are concerns about the corporate privatization of ancient cannabis landraces long grown by small cultivators around the world. Meanwhile, even as overall cannabis arrests have dropped under more tolerant laws and enforcement policies in many states and localities, the racial disparity in those arrests that continue (e.g. for public use) is unabated. In a positive development, California has passed a "cannabis equity" law to address such concerns. But even the federal Farm Bill that just legalized industrial hemp and cannabinoids derived from it irrationally keeps cannabinoids derived from "marijuana" (high-THC strains) illegal. Weinberg calls for challenging the "marijuana" stigma, recognizing that cannabis liberation is an urgent question of human rights and racial justice, and adopting a stance of permanent struggle in fighting for it. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
President Trump announced that the US and Mexico have reached an agreement on a new trade deal called the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement, which will ultimately terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump called Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto from the White House to announce the new deal. Among a number of changes to NAFTA, both parties agreed to a provision that would require a significant portion of vehicles to be made in high-wage factories, a measure aimed to discourage factory jobs from leaving the US. Trump said he is in communication with Canada about a new trade deal, but is unsure if it will be part of the US-Mexico Trade Agreement. The Trump administration expects the new pact to be signed by the end of November. (Map: CIA)
China is denying claims aired by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that up to a million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in "re-education camps" in Xinjiang region. But Beijing appears to be imposing harsh surveillance and restrictions on freedom of worship on Muslims throughout China, even requiring those making the pilgrimage to Mecca to be fitted with GPS tracking devices. Yet such methods almost always prove counter-productive, leading to resentment that only fuels the unrest that Chinese authorities are responding to. This week saw mass protests in Weizhou, Ningxia province, after authorities attempted to demolish a newly built mosque which they said had not received construction permits. After days of protest, authorities backed down and agreed to postpone the demolition. (Photo of protest at Weizhou Grand Mosque from Weibo via BBC News)
In Episode Six of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reads and discusses selections from CS Lewis' classic work The Abolition of Man, and explores its relevance in light of the contemporary dilemmas posed by biotech and artificial intelligence. Conservative Christian moralist Lewis paradoxically developed a quasi-anarchist critique of technological society, with ideas closely mirroring those of his contemporary George Orwell—despite the fact that the two were on opposite sides of the political divide. But Lewis went beyond even Orwell's dark vision in foreseeing an actual end to humanity itself, as it has been understood for millennia, and its replacement by a conditioned post-humanity stripped of all dignity and reason. Recent technological "advances" have made this possible more literally and completely than Lewis could have imagined. Listen on SoundCloud. (Image: Earth First! Newswire)
Thousands of Uighurs, members of the indigenous Muslim and Turkic people of China's far-western Xinjiang region, have been detained in "political education camps," while authorities are placing sophisticated facial-recognition technology even in remote villages to enforce restrictions on residents' movements. DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types are being collected from all residents as a part of the surveillance program. The measures come amid a wave of arrests of Uighur community leaders on charges of "religious extremism." (Photo: Mvslim.com)
Under diplomatic pressure, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed the Fairbanks Declaration on Arctic climate—but with caveats about how the US will not "rush" to change policy.
An Aleppo-based seed research center, forced by the war to flee to Beirut, has made an emergency request for seed stock from a "doomsday" vault on a remote Arctic island.
South America remains a huge market for Monsanto's GM seeds, but grassroots resistance may be starting to affect the company's bottom line.