It’s time to shout stop on this war on the living world

From The Guardian UK:

Our consumption is trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce

Wednesday 1 October 2014

This is a moment at which anyone with the capacity for reflection should stop and wonder what we are doing.

If the news that in the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) fails to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it’s hard to imagine what could. Who believes that a social and economic system which has this effect is a healthy one? Who, contemplating this loss, could call it progress?

In fairness to the modern era, this is an extension of a trend that has lasted some 2 million years. The loss of much of the African megafauna – sabretooths and false sabretooths, giant hyaenas and amphicyonids (bear dogs), several species of elephant – coincided with the switch towards meat eating by hominims (ancestral humans). It’s hard to see what else could have been responsible for the peculiar pattern of extinction then.

As we spread into other continents, their megafauna almost immediately collapsed. Perhaps the most reliable way of dating the first arrival of people anywhere is the sudden loss of large animals. The habitats we see as pristine – the Amazon rainforest or coral reefs for example – are in fact almost empty: they have lost most of the great beasts that used to inhabit them, which drove crucial natural processes.

Since then we have worked our way down the foodchain, rubbing out smaller predators, medium-sized herbivores, and now, through both habitat destruction and hunting, wildlife across all classes and positions in the foodweb. There seems to be some kink in the human brain that prevents us from stopping, that drives us to carry on taking and competing and destroying, even when there is no need to do so.

But what we see now is something new: a speed of destruction that exceeds even that of the first settlement of the Americas, 14,000 years ago, when an entire hemisphere’s ecology was transformed through a firestorm of extinction within a few dozen generations, in which the majority of large vertebrate species disappeared.

Many people blame this process on human population growth, and there’s no doubt that it has been a factor. But two other trends have developed even faster and further. The first is the rise in consumption; the second is amplification by technology. Every year, new pesticides, fishing technologies, mining methods, techniques for processing trees are developed. We are waging an increasingly asymmetric war against the living world.

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Gay marriage opponents reduced to blabbering incoherently

From Raw Story:

13 Oct 2014

I’m hesitant to be one of those people who declares victory in the battle over same-sex marriage before it’s, you know, actually legal and honored in all 50 states. Remember that desegregation is still being battled in much of the South, even if they do it in more oblique ways than they used to. (Though not always.) It’s never as easy as you think it’s going to be. But the tide really does seem to be turning, so much so that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council got a hostile hearing on Fox News of all places. Raw Story’s David Edwards explains how both Ted Olson and Chris Wallace tore into his notion that same-sex marriage somehow degrades the institution and harms straight couples:

“Do you want the sky to fall because because two people that are living next door to you?” Olson asked. “Court after court has said that allowing people of the same sex to marry the person that they love and be a part of our community, and to be treated equally does no damage to heterosexual marriage. And what court after court after court has said [is] that children living in a same-sex relationship do as well or better that people in other communities.”


“Alright, you and your wife live happily in this house,” Wallace said. “There’s a same-sex couple living here. What’s the damage to you?”

“Let’s talk about the wedding vendors that have been put out of business,” Perkins said.

“I’m not talking about that,” Wallace interrupted. “That’s a different issue. I’m asking you, what’s the impact on you and your family to have these people living next to you.”

Perkins insisted that his children would be “taught values and morals against what I teach as a parent at home.”

Olson pointed out that there was no evidence that heterosexual couples were getting divorced because LGBT people had the right to marry.

Of course, the notion that your neighbors should be denied rights in order to impart your values on your own children would be a double-edged sword, if taken seriously. What if an atheist couple claimed their neighbors should be denied the right to go to church in order to prevent atheist children from getting ideas?

But watching all this go down was another reminder that anti-gay activists are, in a lot of ways, their own worst enemies. They’re so afraid of being called “bigots” that they refuse to make their arguments openly, instead just gesturing at them and hoping people get the hint. The problem with arguing by implication, however, is people have to know what you’re implying. But the real argument for why same-sex marriage supposedly hurts straight marriage is so rarely uttered that people legitimately forget what the argument was. The argument is that by allowing gay people to get married, you “degrade” the institution of marriage and straight people won’t want it anymore because gay people ruined it, merely by existing.

Obviously, that argument relies on bigotry. It’s an argument in favor of segregation, similar to the arguments made in favor of excluding black people from schools and neighborhoods. It so quickly marks the person arguing it as a bigot that it’s understandable that anti-gay activists are wary of making it directly, and instead are reduced to shrugging in its general direction. But they’ve been shrugging so long and are so afraid to make the argument that people forgot what their argument was in the first place.

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Naomi Klein: Diverse Climate Movement United by Love of Place, Need for Water

From Common Dreams:

Speaking in the UK, Canadian author of the new book, ‘This Changes Everything,’ says that our atmosphere should be seen as the biggest political tent of. ‘We’re all under it and we need to start acting like it.’

by Jon Queally

Published on Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Speaking with the Guardian’s Owen Jones in London on Monday night, Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein continued to broadcast the message of her new book, This Changes Everything, by arguing that the anti-fracking movement that has taken hold in the United Kingdom is a prime example of people rising up against the fossil fuel industry in ways that were once unheard of. Though these fights are always grounded in the particulars of local politics and dynamics, Klein says, they also share common bonds that are turning otherwise singular battles into a unified global movement.

“The movement against fracking has been heroic,” Klein said. “People get involved in fighting fracking not because of climate change but because they’re worried about their water. Water is what unites so many of these movements, whether it’s against tar sands, pipelines or fracking, coal mining, it’s water and love of place.”

Klein said the power of the global climate justice movement is not only the number of people involved, but about the movement’s inherent and growing diversity. Asked about the recent People’s Climate March in New York City, which drew more than 400,000 people to the streets ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September, she said: “To me, it was not just the size of it, this march had a quality to it that I’d never seen at a mass environmental demonstration.”

To the applause of the crowd, Klein continued, “I think we need to be very clear about this – the only way you can win against forces with a huge amount to lose is to build a movement of people, many more people, with a huge amount to gain.”

From saving our local natural resources to fighting back against what she called the “brutal logic of austerity,” Klein said the crisis of climate change is offering new ways to organize against the existing neoliberal order that is ravaging our economies and democracies, our ecological systems, and the places where people live.

“Climate is the big tent we’ve been waiting for, and why wouldn’t it be,” she said. “The atmosphere is the biggest tent of all, we’re all under it and we need to start acting like it.”

Watch the full discussion:

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Christian right’s huge dilemma: How social conservatives could doom Republicans

From Salon:

Tension between the GOP and its religious base is a long tradition — but it all may come to a head now. Here’s why

Thursday, Oct 9, 2014

I wrote a piece earlier about the GOP’s “three-legged stool” that stands for “family values, small government and strong national defense” in light of the recent resurgence of jingoistic fear-mongering in the 2014 campaign ads. The commentary on the right has been shifting perceptibly day by day as the threat of ISIS and our renewed military involvement in the Middle East tickled the martial lizard brain into action. But what of the other legs on the stool? The Christian Right is very likely to be on board with whatever military adventures the Republicans push (they usually are) but they are also likely to be agitated at the loss of prestige within the party and what they see as a defeatist attitude toward such issues a gay marriage and contraception.

The right wing firebrands’ reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision not to make a decision on marriage equality this week is instructive. The Tea Party king Ted Cruz wasted no time in condemning the Court saying, “by refusing to rule if the states can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution.” (He went on to bizarrely call the Court’s failure to act “judicial activism at its worst.” Ok.)

Christian Right leader and possible presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said:

“It is shocking that many elected officials, attorneys and judges think that a court ruling is the ‘final word,’” Huckabee said. “It most certainly is not. The courts are one branch of government, and equal to the other two, but not superior to either and certainly not to both. Even if the other two branches agree with the ruling, the people’s representatives have to pass enabling legislation to authorize same sex marriage, and the President (or Governor in the case of the state) has to sign it. Otherwise, it remains the court’s opinion. It is NOT the ‘law of the land’ as is often heralded.”

(And then he stood on the courthouse steps and thundered, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say No gay marriage now! No gay marriage tomorrow! No gay marriage forevuh!”)

In fairness, Huckabee has been out of government for some time now, kicking back, playing guitar on his Fox News gig with his buddy Ted Nugent so he’s probably forgotten how American government works. Still, he probably spoke for many members of the religious right in his anger that the Court didn’t take the opportunity to strike down the abomination of marriage equality, especially since they’d been led to believe that they finally achieved their goal of a conservative majority that would give them everything they want when they want it. Why if it weren’t for decisions allowing corporations “religious liberty” and banning buffer zones at abortion clinics, they wouldn’t have had anything to cheer about in 2014 at all.

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ISIS-ISIL-IS: Thy Name Is Slavery, Rape and Murder

From Huffington Post:

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