Chris Hedges: The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist specializing in politics and society, spoke at Moravian College on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. Hedges is the seventh Peace and Justice Scholar in Residence at Moravian College. His talk was drawn from his most recent book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.

Rendell and Ridge: From “Militant” Labelers to Terrorist Enablers

by Steve Horn

A new chapter has been added to the shale gas industry’s eco-terrorism, counterinsurgency and psychological operations saga.

In March, NBC News investigative reporter Michael Isikoff revealed that many prominent U.S. public officials are on the payroll of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a group labeled by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. These U.S. officials are lobbying hard to remove the MEK from the list.

Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, after the recent Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project decision — a controversial decision itself — it is a federal crime to provide “material support” for a designated terrorist organization. But legal niceties are apparently of nil concern to those on the dole of the MEK, a list that includes several big name political figures, according to a report written by former Bush Administration attorney and RAND Corporation analyst Jeremiah Goulka. A sample is below: Continue reading “Rendell and Ridge: From “Militant” Labelers to Terrorist Enablers”

The fire next time is now: Environmental historian Angus Wright’s call for a planetary patriotism

by Robert Jensen

Angus Wright has a way of saying things we may not want to hear in a way that’s hard to ignore.

An example: During a meeting of environmentalists about shaping the public conversation on our most pressing ecological crises, folks were wrestling with how to present an honest analysis in accessible language — how to talk about the bad news and the need for radical responses, without turning people off. During the discussion about the effects of climate change, Wright offered a simple suggestion for a slogan: “No more water, the fire next time.”

Those words from a black spiritual, made famous by James Baldwin’s borrowing for his 1963 book “The Fire Next Time,” are usually invoked metaphorically. Wright was suggesting that we might want to consider the phrase literally. After a summer of drought and forest fires in Texas where I live, Wright’s comment reminded me that climate disruption isn’t part of some science-fiction future, but is unfolding around us in ways that are both complex and hard to predict, but devastating simple: We’re in deep trouble, ecologically and culturally, as we try to face up to unprecedented planetary problems in a society in denial.

Wright is one of our most astute observers of these troubles. His willingness to face these issues, and his ability to grasp the interplay of complex systems, is no surprise to readers of his book The Death of Ramon Gonzalez: The Modern Agricultural Dilemma, first published in 1990 and revised for a 2005 edition. Looking at one region in Mexico, Wright explains how political and economic power, combined with the arrogance of experts who believe they have all the answers, have radically changed people, communities, and land — mostly for the worse.

Continue reading “The fire next time is now: Environmental historian Angus Wright’s call for a planetary patriotism”

To the Last Drop

From Al Jazeera‘s excellent Witness series:

The small town of Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta is facing the consequences of being the first to witness the impact of the Tar Sands project, which may be the tipping point for oil development in Canada. The local community has experienced a spike in cancer cases and dire studies have revealed the true consequences of “dirty oil”.

Gripped in a Faustian pact with the American energy consumer, the Canadian government is doing everything it can to protect the dirtiest oil project ever known. In the following account, filmmaker Tom Radford describes witnessing a David and Goliath struggle.

Below the fold you can also watch Dirty Oil, the 2009 documentary on the Alberta tar sands directed by Leslie Iwerks.

Continue reading “To the Last Drop”

Reflections on Nuclear Power

October 1979: Riot police stand behind the blockaded front gate of Seabrook, NH nuclear plant during an anti-nuclear protest by the Coalition for Direct Action (Photo: Ken Kelley)

by Ken Kelley

It seems unimaginable, several decades after accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, to hear people like President Obama tout nuclear power as a clean source of energy. Obama announced $8 billion in taxpayer subsidies last year to build two reactors in Georgia, despite the fact that—from the mining of uranium to the unresolved issue of disposal of highly toxic radioactive waste—nuclear power is the most environmentally dangerous way of generating electricity.

While the Georgia reactors will be the first built in the U.S. since the 1970s, there are over 60 new nuclear plants under construction worldwide, mostly in Asian countries like China, India, and South Korea. Talk of a “nuclear renaissance”as if it were some kind of cultural reawakening—has brought me back to the heyday of the anti-nuclear movement in the late 1970s, when it seemed that the industry was on the ropes and that nuclear power would soon be a thing of the past, leaving only its toxic legacy for future generations to deal with.

I remember one late afternoon on a hot spring day in 1977, as I waited with other members of the Clamshell Alliance to be arrested for the third occupation of the construction site at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.  At dusk, a state trooper led me on to a school bus, packed with chanting protestors.

Continue reading “Reflections on Nuclear Power”

Addicted to Risk

“How else to describe this, but as a form of mass insanity. Just when we know we need to be learning to live on the surface of our planet, off the power of sun, wind and waves; we are frantically digging to get at the dirtiest, highest emitting stuff imaginable…”

The brilliant Naomi Klein delivered this TED talk at on December 8, 2010, in Washington, DC. (A transcript of her speech is to be found below the fold).

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“All That We Share” isn’t enough

by Robert Jensen

A review of All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons/How to Save the Economy, the Environment, the Internet, Democracy, Our Communities, and Everything Else That Belongs to All of Us by Jay Walljasper and On the Commons

The New Press, 2010, 288 pages, $18.95

All That We Share is an exciting and exasperating book. The excitement comes from the many voices arguing to place “the commons” at the center of planning for a viable future. The exasperation comes from the volume’s failure to critique the political and economic systems that we must transcend if there is to be a future for the commons.

In the preface, the book’s editor and primary writer, Jay Walljasper, describes how he came to understand the commons as a “unifying theme” that helped him see the world differently and led him to believe that “as more people become aware of it, the commons will spark countless initiatives that make a difference for the future of our communities and the planet.”

Defining the commons as “what we share” physically and culturally — from the air and water to the internet and open-source software — the contributors recognize that a society that defines success by individuals’ accumulation of stuff will erode our humanity and destroy the planet’s ecosystems. Walljasper calls for a “complete retooling” and “a paradigm shift that revises the core principles that guide our culture top to bottom.” No argument there. Unfortunately the book avoids addressing the specific paradigms we must confront. Is commons-based transformation possible within a capitalist economy based on predatory principles and an industrial production model built on easy access to cheap concentrated energy?

Continue reading ““All That We Share” isn’t enough”