People in older cultures, connected to community and place, held close in a lineage of ancestors, woven into a web of personal and cultural stories, radiate a kind of solidity and presence that I rarely find in any modern person. Whatever the measurable gains of the Ascent of Humanity, we have lost something immeasurably precious.
military & warfare
Louis Proyect writes: As a rentier state, Iran’s economy was based on handouts rather than the production of manufactured goods. Cheap oil and subsidies made the massive use of pumps feasible just as was the case in neighbouring Syria. Groundwater extraction nearly quadrupled between the 1970s and 2000 while the number of wells rose five-fold.
From National Geographic: Already battered by decades of shoddy environmental policies, which had hobbled agriculture and impoverished its inhabitants, villages across rural Iraq and Syria were in no state to navigate the extra challenges of climate change. When ISIS came along, many of them quickly emerged as some of the deep-pocketed jihadists’ foremost recruiting grounds.
From Down to Earth: GDP does not reveal the ground truth about progress in development. The top 10% of Indians control the wealth basket while the common people—more than one billion—slide down along ‘Hunger Index’. While the government flaunts a surging economy, prevalence of hunger in India is at the “high end of serious category”.
Ethnic differences have been widely considered the cause of the Rohingya genocide. However, these reports show that the killings and forced displacement of several of Myanmar’s minority communities may also be fuelled by global corporations’ growing interest in the Rakhine’s mineral wealth, and the competing geopolitical interests of the United States, China, India and Bangladesh.
Huffington Post reports: India ranks 132nd out of 152 countries on a new index that measures the commitment by a country towards reducing inequality. The index is composed of 21 data points with varying weights; including health and education, share of tax revenue in the GDP, share of tax exemptions, minimum wage and maternity benefits.
From Chronicle.com: In his new book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, Stanford University professor Walter Scheidel puts forth the following thesis: that historically, it took four kinds of violent ruptures –mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolution, state failure, and lethal pandemics– to reduce widespread inequality.
It is not often that an article about climate change becomes the most hotly debated item on the internet. But David Wallace-Wells’ lengthy essay published in New York Magazine did exactly that. The full text of the essay –admittedly a worst-case scenario- which has kicked up a firestorm of debate online, along with selected responses.
With the U.S. and Russia headed for a direct confrontation in Syria, the war in that country is moving a new, more dangerous phase. The Syrian war often seems like a big confusing mess but one factor that’s not often mentioned could be the key to unlocking the conflict: the struggle to control energy markets.
This review by Alice Friedmann of Nafeez Ahmed’s new book has 3 parts: 1) Why states collapse for reasons other than economic and political 2) How Bio-Physical factors contribute to systemic collapse in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria 3) Predictions of when collapse will begin in Middle-East, India, China, Europe, Russia, North America
From Countercurrents.org: Human cultural evolution can be regarded as an enormous success in many respects. However, thoughtful observers agree that civilization is entering a period of crisis. As all curves move exponentially upward: population, production, consumption, etc, one can observe signs of increasing environmental stress, while the existence of nuclear weapons threaten civilization with destruction.
We face awesome global environmental challenges. Climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity… Now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together.
Please don’t read this unless you are feeling strong. This is a list of 13 major crises that, I believe, confront us. From Trump to climate change, this multi-headed crisis presages collapse. And there’s no hope of exiting the ‘other side’ if political alternatives are shut down. Sorry to say that it’s not happy reading.
The Intercept reports: This startling five minute video from the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations University depicts an “unavoidable” future of brutal and anarchic supercities and offers an apocalyptic list of ills endemic to this new urban environment. In addition, “Growth will magnify the increasing separation between rich and poor,” the narrator warns at one point.
Soumya Dutta writes: Pakistan is a dry country, with average annual rainfall of less than 250 mm, less than our desert district of Bikaner. The Indus, which India is now threatening to block, irrigates around 70% of the ‘food basket’ farmlands in Punjab & Sindh; it’s literally the life line for the people of Pakistan.
Rahul Varman writes: Bauxite or iron mines are opened up by grabbing people’s lands and homes against great resistance, and UAVs and other increasingly sophisticated weapons are used to quell this resistance. The corporate sector benefits both from the mining, as well as the demand for weapons, demand which is independent of the vagaries of the market system.
Colin Todhunter writes: There is a notion that we can just continue as we are, with an endless supply of oil, endless supplies of meat and endless assault on soil, human and environmental well-being that intensive petrochemical agriculture entails. Given the statistics, this is unsustainable, unrealistic and a recipe for continued resource-driven conflicts and devastation.