Waiting for a resolution to the triple crisis of climate, energy and the economy? Alex interviews Gareth Renowden, co-host of New Zealand’s “The Climate Show” on the big stories. From Beijing, Li Yan, Greenpeace East Asia climate coordinator, on China’s emissions and coal dependence. Plus “Tip of the Iceberg News” points you to important blog posts and audio you may have missed. Music from Deva Prewal. Radio Ecoshock 120905 1 hour.
Welcome back to another season of Radio Ecoshock! I am your tour guide, Alex Smith.
In this week’s program we travel the world. From New Zealand, we’ll hash out our disturbed weather, with the co-host of The Climate Show, Gareth Renowden.
Then it’s off to Beijing, for a report straight from China. Greenpeace Asia Campaigner Li Yan is our guest.
We’ll cap that off with “Tip of the Iceberg News” – my welcome back round up of world-shaking developments, pointers to great audio, blogs and articles, and four big trends in the alternative/activist scene.
Our music artist this week is Deva Premal. Find her at White Swan Records, or at her web site here.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Coming back from my annual vacation, I find the world as mad as ever. So much happened, I need help just trying to grasp it all. Who better than Gareth Renowden, co-host of “The Climate Show” out of New Zealand? Gareth is a climate blogger, truffle specialist, farmer, radio personality, and now author of a new sci-fi book titled “The Aviator, the Burning World“.
Gareth and I agree the top story is the record ice melt-back in the Arctic. We’ll be doing a special on that next week, with super specialists like Jennifer Francis from Rutgers, and Mark Serreze from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Tune in next week for that on Radio Ecoshock.
We also talk about another under-reported story: the serial drowning of major cities in Asia by extreme precipitation events. In the Philippines, Manila suffered a major flood, and then Beijing China got six months of rain in 24 hours. Even the capital of the African country of Niger ended its horrible drought with half a year’s worth of rain in a day.
I raise this question with Gareth? I’ve just been going through a study which shows humans tend to be pessimistic about other people, but optimistic about themselves. We worry about an unstable climate, but think it won’t really affect me that much. That may be one reason why even developed countries refuse to plan for things like heavy rainstorms or rising seas. Do you see signs we are getting ready for what is coming?
Gareth replies, no, not for what he thinks is coming. But some countries are adding risings seas into their planning process – unlike legislators in one southern U.S. state which specifically prohibited including any global warming planning. New Zealand for example, is looking at how they might protect their coastlines from rising seas.
“The Climate Show” has been out of production since last spring. Co-host Glenn Williams, formerly a radio reporter for Radio New Zealand, has moved with his family to London England. His broadcasting gear has just arrived in the UK. Gareth expects they will work through the technology needed to hook up again (each in a different day, spanning the globe) to produce more Climate Shows. It will be tricky, considering the pair do both an audio and video recording at the same time, but all things are possible in the Skype world. Regular guest John Cook of skepticalscience.com will join them as well.
We move on to look at Gareth’s new science fiction book. It’s now on Amazon.com and amazon.uk, as well as Smashwords, with more outlets to come. From the book’s web site:
“Here’s how cover designer Dylan Horrocks described The Aviator on Facebook.
“Gareth Renowden’s novel The Aviator is a light-hearted journey (by state-of-the-art airship) around a world transformed by climate change and subsequent political collapse. Rock God Evangelists, super-rich survivalists, back-to-nature primitivists, heavily armed luddites, goats with the secret of eternal youth, and a horny artificial intelligence with a taste for bluegrass and classic Hollywood films; The Aviator is a Gulliver-esque romp through a future we hope won’t come to pass. It’s out soon, with a cover by yours truly.“
Find out more here.
I think science fiction is a great medium for trying to pull together a future no one has ever experienced. We are heading into decades of fundamental changes in our climate, our energy and resources. It’s going to be hard to understand, and very disruptive to our economy, agriculture, everything we do.
Toward the end of the interview, I ask whether New Zealand might be one of the best places to escape to, when climate change hits in full force. Renowden says their location, and the surrounding cooling sea currents, should keep their two big islands habitable. But no country is an island, as they say. If the rest of the world becomes destabilized, life in New Zealand will be hard as well. At least they still have a large farming industry. Maybe New Zealand could still feed itself.
Gareth says he thinks Al Gore may have started the idea that South Sea Islanders forced out by rising seas would relocate in New Zealand. There have been some discussions, but it’s not as settled as that. However, just because of the economics, there are more New Zealand citizens on some Pacific Islands than original Polynesians. In any event, as the largest and wealthiest country in the region, it does seem likely people from atolls that flood as the seas rise will become climate refugees to New Zealand.
You can listen to/download my interview with Gareth Renowden (25 minutes) here.
It’s hard to believe a hard action organization like Greenpeace could even exist in state-controlled China. But Greenpeace China has been there since 1997.
Let’s face it. Emissions have dropped slightly in the former biggest polluter, the USA. The largest global warmer is now China. Maybe that’s not surprising as the world’s most populous country industrializes. Not only are they bringing their own people up into middle class lifestyles we all wanted here – there continue to be “the world’s workshop” producing consumer goods as well.
What can we do? I had an illuminating talk with Li Yan. She’s the East Asia coordinator for the Atmosphere and Energy Campaign, based out of Beijing.
I’m sorry I don’t have time to transcribe this important interview. But you can download or listen to it separately here (20 minutes long).
Coal continues to be the big reason China’s emissions are so high. Western media, and too many bloggers, keep plugging the meme that “China is opening one new coal plant a week”. Li Yan says about 52 coal plants did open during the peak of electrification back in 2008 or 2009, making an average of one a week – but coal plant construction has dropped since then. It’s no longer true.
The government is also taking steps to close the smaller and older inefficient coal plants. Those produced way too many emissions compared to the energy produced.
China has also become the world leader in production of alternative energy. They have installed more wind power than any other country on the planet. However, Li Yan says even though China is also the world’s largest maker of solar panels, only about five percent of that production is installed in China. The rest is exported to Europe, North America and the rest of the world. Greenpeace is calling on China to install more solar power at home.
We had a fascinating discussion about the way state-run media reports on climate change. In North America, we hear lots about the strange weather, and weather disasters, while reporters and weather people studiously avoid saying the words “climate change” or “global warming”. We even take bets when watching TV, to see if they can get through a whole story about the drought, or record heat waves and fires, without ever mentioning the underlying cause. Some of the talking heads we do get, especially on Fox, are only there to deny there is any climate change.
Li Yan says state TV, radio and press accepts climate science, without a doubt. China has suffered terribly from drought, heat, and floods. In July, the capital city of Beijing got about 6 months’ worth of rain in just 24 hours a day. It was the heaviest rainfall in Beijing in 60 years, with 10 killed. The streets and homes were flooded. If this can happen in the most developed city in China, the capital, people there are wondering how bad it will get.
Climate change is often given as the reason for these weather disasters on state TV, but Li Yan say, they do not go all the way and connect the cause to coal burning. That could be improved.
Coal is one of the number one targets of Greenpeace’s atmosphere campaign in China, and throughout Asia. The Chinese people are suffering from terrible air pollution, and coal is the main culprit. It also helps poison both the soil and the water. This localized pollution, as opposed to global warming, is one of the primary concerns of the Chinese people.
We hear a lot of third party opinions about China, and some outright hostile propaganda – so don’t miss this chance to hear straight from Beijing, with Li Yan of Greenpeace.
Pointers to hot material you may have missed…
There’s no way to do anything but skim over some world-shattering news, along with developments in the alternative movement. And so…it’s time for…”Tip of the Iceberg News!…!!”
THE ECONOMY IS SINKING
The macro-economy is sinking. The United States is set for a leveraged buyout, Bain Capital style. That’s where you raid a company, or country with a few million in campaign donations, load up the victim with unrepayable debt, while paying out big-time fees heading for a tax-free trip to the Cayman Islands.
Get the details from one of the best pieces of American journalism in a generation, Matt Taibbi’s article “Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital” in the online version of Rolling Stone Magazine.
In Europe, Spain is going down. So far about 17% of all the money in Spanish banks has left the country. One bank has already been nationalized. The others bought billions in Spanish government debt with bail-out money poured in by the European Union.
Spain makes Greece look tiny in comparison. Spain’s collapsed economy and real estate is a sink-hole threatening to drag down the even larger magnificent Ponzi debt scheme of Italy – and then it’s a sleigh ride all the way down for the European Union.
China is holding a garage sale, and still can’t get rid of overstocked warehouses. It seems their overseas customers are broke. The government has announced more money printing to save their economy once again. Production is down, people are losing their jobs. It’s very serious – for China, and for the whole world economy.
In the U.S., helicopter Ben Bernanke has already offered bailout number 3 – billions more dollars hot off the government printing presses and into the hidden accounts of bankers and hedge funds. You know it’s bad when the bailouts come. Don’t sit up late waiting for your check.
Despite all that, I don’t expect a big crash any time soon. Remember, even after the 50 billion dollar Ponzi fraud by Bernie Madoff was exposed and documented, it took another 8 years for the man to fall. See the documentary film “Chasing Bernie Madoff” with whistleblower Harry Markopolos. You’ll see how the system never works to protect you.
Here’s a link to the trailer.
While the big news is about the melting Arctic, runner-up is the giant drought this year in America.
When the Mississippi dries up, so that barges can’t make it up the river, you know we are in trouble. Cattlemen sold off their beef, as feed prices soared. Expect cheap meat now; stick it in the freezer, because next year is going to make you want to become a vegetarian. Do it! It’s good for you, and good for the planet.
America is the world’s grocery store for the over-populated poor. Even though food prices are already rising, the Obama administration has not changed the policy of diverting huge amounts of corn into ethanol production. We’ll burn up some family’s dinner, just getting to the corner store for a soda.
Get ready to grow your own, or at least make friends with farmers.
Hey, Fukushima is so yesterday. Except this Japanese triple nuclear melt-down just keeps ticking along, like a slow motion atomic bomb.
Check out this collection of You tube clips from the Japanese news service NHK. It’s hard to believe how poorly the Japanese are responding to the world’s worst nuclear accident.
This same source, listed as NibiruMagick2012 also does an interesting news update, which includes things like volcanoes, storms, and climate change news. Don’t let his nickname throw you off. I’ve got some good tips from his You tube channel, with pretty well daily news blasts that ordinary news doesn’t carry. His channel is here.
The Japanese government announced they will study the health impacts – great idea, starting only 18 months too late. The government is also going to allow foreign experts to offer ideas. They are negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA is the body responsible for pushing nuclear power around the world, so they should unreliable. But it’s better than just relying on Tepco and the government in Tokyo.
In a surreal move, various government agencies are already planning an alleged “clean-up” of the Fukushima region, even though radioactive cesium has a half-life of 30 years. The other elements released in the accident, up to an including both uranium and plutonium, last hundreds of thousands of years. We are already seeing artist’s conceptions of green spaces and new industries in the radioactive hot zones. It’s pathetic, a terrible lie for Japan.
According to nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds.com, the reactor cores are likely no longer molten, just brilliant hot metal blobs that ran way no one knows where. The 3 reactors buildings are still unapproachable without risking lives. They are still building up explosive hydrogen daily, and require nitrogen to be pumped in to avoid more explosions. An earthquake or any technical problem with the pumps, the gerry-rigged pipes, or the electricity supply, could still lead to more radioactive explosions.
Tepco, the operator, has attempted to strengthen the Reactor Four fuel pool building, also wrecked in the explosions. All that fuel, from 40 years of operation, plus the hot fuel bundle just removed before the accident, is still balanced dangerously several stories above the ground. Another major earth quake could drop all that fuel, likely poisoning central Japan, including Tokyo, and likely the whole northern hemisphere. They’ve had plenty of earthquakes since. The government is moving far too slowly to get the fuel out.
Radioactive water is still leaking all over the site, including into the turbine halls. We don’t know how much has reached the water table, or the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese government either doesn’t know, doesn’t want to know, or doesn’t want to tell you.
Other than that, Fukushima is doing fine. You must listen to a great radio podcast with anti-nuclear campaigners Helen Caldicott interviewing Arnie Gundersen, in the free August 20th podcast. Download it from ITunes, or from this page at radio4all.net Just right click the red arrow at the bottom of the page to download this essential podcast of “If You Love This Planet”.
I play a short excerpt in this Radio Ecoshock show where Helen calculates up to 3 million people could die from the Fukushima accident radiation. Gundersen counters it might “only” be 1 million, since about two thirds of the radiation was blown out into the Pacific, instead of back on to the Japanese mainland. Lucky weather saved many Japanese people, but huge numbers will still die prematurely due to radiation. The damage will pass down through several generations.
And don’t miss this article in Counterpunch. It details how the Japanese Yakuza – the gangsters – are providing disposable workers for TEPCO to help “clean up” Fukushima. According to the article, Japanese criminal organizations have been involved in the nuclear industry for a long time.
I’m seeing four big trends in the alternative/activist/Occupy scene.
A rising tide of people realizes climate change, energy depletion, and economic collapse are inevitable.
Trend One: there is a chorus of famous writers, bloggers, and scientists who are publicly mourning the passing of the Holocene age, and our descent into the Anthropocene – the age brought about by humankind. Many of our favorite plants and animals will not survive the change. Everything will shift underneath us, like a climate quake.
Author Chris Hedges, returning as I am from a summer get-away in Nature, has a touching piece titled “Life Is Sacred“. Find it at the truthdig blog at the Rolling Stone Magazine web site. Or find the link in my blog at ecoshock.info. Hedges knows we are already on the path toward ecological destruction, at least in human terms. Like me, he fears for the times of his children.
Trend Two: As I’ve covered in past Radio Ecoshock shows, with guests like Paul Kingsnorth – there is an even louder chorus calling for a quick downfall of the industrial system. As one of my listeners wrote in email, many believe human extinction is on its way. We need to consider a hospice society, making the way out less painful, perhaps even more joyful.
Carolyn Baker of “Speaking Truth to Power” has written a great article on Collapse Fatigue. Lots of commentators on blogs like Zero Hedge are becoming jaded about any predictions of a financial collapse. The whole mad Ponzi system, which Max Keiser calls the “Casino Gulag”, just keeps on dancing in midair. Until, like Bernie Madoff, some outside force or even intervenes, and the music stops?
Trend Three: Some fairly famous figures and movement leaders are bailing out. It’s not just that people are burned out, hitting their heads against the immovable wall of human insanity. They are going quiet, moving to rural areas in some cases, or just hanging out in cities. It’s like an “Atlas Shrugged” – abandoned but not by industrialists, an extinct breed supplanted by corporate raiders – but by those seeking an alternative.
Michael C. Ruppert was the subject of the movie “Collapse”.
Last April Ruppert left the online community he helped found, at collapsenet.com. Collapse Network is still going, check it out. I subscribe to their pay news service, and find it really handy.
Now Ruppert has gone to Colorado with his dog. Mike hasn’t exactly gone silent. He still has his popular radio program at PRN on Sunday evenings. But he’s out of here.
I know others. It’s a really bad sign when activists and leaders decide it’s futile.
Trend Four: Related to all the above, many people are now seeking out spiritual practices as way to cope with the unbearable weight of knowing. Ruppert is trying a mix of American Indian shamanism and Alcoholic Anonymous.
Two leaders from Transition US, Michael Brownlee and Lynette Marie Hanthorn are proposing “Deep Transition“. They are seeking ways to digest our lurch into mass suicide. It is really a new beginning, a hard evolution into a type of humanity that can live in nature?
Download that Lifeboat Hour show on Deep Transition, September 2nd edition guest hosted by Carolyn Baker here.
I’m worried, in our distress, some people will turn away from science and activism, toward ancient superstitions that took us centuries to overcome. There’s a lot to talk about here, and we will, in the coming season of Radio Ecoshock.
In our next Radio Ecoshock show we hear three top scientists on the record melt-down of Arctic sea ice. One guest will be Jennifer Francis, the Rutgers University atmospheric scientist who leads observations on the way the sea ice melt is changing our climate, throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It’s some of the most urgent science on the block, with your life in the balance.
We’ll also hear from Dr. Cecelia Bitz, helping us understand how the Arctic climate works, and why it matters so much. Plus Mark Serreze, the Director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center – explaining the new record low levels of ice. It’s the biggest story in many thousand years.
After that, you’ll get a surprise special on the unbelievable tipping point developing as we air-condition the planet. Followed by a whole program on developments in what I see as our only response for now: the transition town movement.
Personally, I spent a month at our rural village retreat. We added more insulation, 120 Watts of solar power, a handy garden shed, and a large garden fence – six feet high to keep out the deer and other pests.
My most important time was spent getting to know more of my neighbors there. Small communities are still functioning, with people helping people. I like it, and hope to move there.
It’s not much, but that’s about all I can do at this point. I’m back in the city, diving through news, reports, and truly helpful tips from listeners like you. Write me any time. The address is radio [at] ecoshock dot org.
Gear up for another nail-biting season, with Radio Ecoshock.
I’m Alex Smith. As always, I thank you for listening, and caring about your world.