It’s commonly known that capitalism is a voracious over-eater.
But can anything be done to slow down or even stop habitat destruction that threatens the survival of future generations?
Laws and legislation are the framework to address it, says UK-based international environmental lawyer and author Polly Higgins, who will speak on the topic at Mullumbimby Civic Hall on Saturday March 15.
She is promoting the idea that Ecocide, or the destruction of living habitats, should be considered a crime along with genocide and war crimes. She has redrafted Ecocide legislation, which was dropped from UN’s Crimes Against Humanity list when The International Criminal Court was enacted after the Second World War.
Currently that list includes genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
But given nations have always flaunted the rule of law –especially after the atrocities of WW II – how effectual would it be?
PM Abbott, for instance, embraces God as the reason to plunder the natural environment. He said as much to a forestry industry gathering last week.
Supposedly it’s what Jesus would have wanted.
Others however, would prefer to maintain the delicate and largely incomprehensible ecosystem that provides everyone on this planet with a stable climate.
But will that logic prevail since the West’s economic model depends on resource extraction and a questionable interpretation of god/s?
As futurist R Buckminster Fuller said, ‘We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.’
Doors for Ms Higgins’s event open at 6pm and it will be chaired by SCU lecturer in law, Aidan Ricketts (author of The Activists’ Handbook) and myself. Welcome to Country is at 7pm, and a Q&A will follow her talk.
Dear Mr Mike Gallacher
As NSW police minister I thought it important to let you know that a court case instigated by your legal team was thrown out of court and found to have wasted time and your department’s resources.
I know it may sound like a trivial matter, but it was actually a significant test case in civil liberties.
Residents who were peacefully protesting against an unwanted Metgasco CSG test site at Glenugie near Grafton on January 7 this year were arrested on questionable grounds.
It appeared like a fairly sloppy piece of legal work; charges were also changed at the last moment.
But most concerning was that magistrate David Heilpern last week suggested there may have been political interference.
He said, ‘In this case I find myself asking what could possibly be the reason for continuing on with such an innocuous charge in these circumstances?’
I think it’s in the public interest to know who was behind this.
Who pressured a police prosecutor to proceed with ‘vexatious’ charges? It’s possible you know already… but if not, maybe you can find out who it is so they can be made accountable? As you would know, such behaviour undermines the public’s confidence and the capacity of the police to keep law and order.
I believe the police force for the most part carry out their duties professionally; however, directives and the tone of any organisation come from the top. I sincerely hope that you agree that police should not act as private security guards for corporate interests and that this matter should be explained publicly.
Naked in public
There’s never a dull, or even modest, moment in the easternmost part of the nation. Take last week, when nude beach-goers were under Council’s watchful eye in the ordinary meeting.
Despite a staff recommendation to revoke the clothing-optional status of Tyagarah Nature Reserve, councillors deferred it to a stakeholder consultation.
While bathing nude is generally not a threat to the public, there is no doubt that Tyagarah’s Grays Lane, specifically the tea-tree lakes and Tyagarah beach’s sand dunes, is a place where public sex acts are, well umm, performed. And that has unsurprisingly shocked and offended those who were not aware of the activities that exist there.
Nothing like walking little Timmy past a grunting, hairy, fat, masturbating old weirdo to get some beach time.
If a film crew visited daily to collect footage, would the incidents decrease? Maybe the typical pervert would instead revel in a new found celebrity status and become even more of an exhibitionist. Is that even possible? One imagines you’ve reached a plateau of no return with that behaviour.
Interestingly, the same issue was tackled at the Boatharbour Nature Reserve near Lismore years ago, where National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) locked the gate to what had become a seedy pick-up joint. The problem with the tea-tree lakes and beach is that locking up such a large area would be well, impossible, and unfortunately signs alerting the public are regularly stolen or taken down.
Hopefully a solution can be brokered where baring your bum on the Tyagarah beach is allowed and the creeps that frequent a traditional Aboriginal birthing ground are expelled.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
It’s easy to point the finger at the US government for exercising hypocrisy on the world’s biggest budget.
Its economy is driven mainly by warfare and it has an appalling foreign affairs record. It bullies because it can and it suffers from a complete lack of transparency, as exemplified by president Obama’s hostile reaction to whistle-blowing.
But considering societies that kill and mutilate – mostly females – in the name of bronze-age religions, free-market democracy with all its faults has some appeal.
Yes, there is hope for the world’s most influential and powerful entity: consider the recent ambition by a small group of senators across party lines to restore the financial integrity which helped make the US successful in the first place.
The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 is actually a well-known topic within Occupy activist circles, but what is it? To paraphrase the HBO series Newsroom, there are two types of banks: investment and commercial. Investment banks are the gamblers (futures trading, derivatives, hedge funds, etc) while commercial banks are where general savings and cheque accounts are held.
They were separated from each other after the 1930s depression because, when combined, it proved to be unstable for the entire nation – and world. But in 1999, both banking systems were again combined under president Clinton and guess what – there was a financial crash in 2008. The Washington Post online reported on July 12, 2013 that ‘Nobel laureate economist Joe Stiglitz, among many others, fingered 1999’s partial repeal of the [Glass-Steagall Act] law as a contributing factor behind the  financial crisis.’
Why does this matter locally? Any collapse of the US economy affects the West, as it did in the 1930s depression. In 2008, billions were wiped out globally, affecting Australia’s local governments as many held ‘toxic’ assets tied to the US.
Until we can wean ourselves from the US greenback we are stuck with their good or bad decisions.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
Given the upcoming Nimbin Aquarius Festival celebrations in May, it’s a good opportunity to point out the importance of counter culture.
While not particularly a popular notion these days, it is perhaps the most valuable tool a society has. As Frank Zappa once said, ‘Without deviation from the norm, “progress” is not possible.’
Counter culture is mostly known for the 60s hedonistic drug- taking, which spurred psychedelic music, free loving, mismatched colourful clothing and infrequent personal hygiene practices.
But it’s so much more because it challenged the narrative of imperialism, which includes slavery and warfare. Counterculture can also summon that disgusting word intellectualism, the antithesis of slavery and warfare. And anything with the word counter in it obviously means the opposite. Activist Howard Zinn once said, ‘Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.’
Counter culture’s history includes the The Age of Enlightenment (1650 to 1700), Romanticism (1790 to 1840), Bohemianism (1850 to 1910), the Beat Generation (1944 to 1964) and Hippies (1964 to 1974).
And counter culture’s influences were usually fleeting: after the Vietnam war ended in 1972, almost all hippy baby boomers discarded the tie dye for a suit and embraced their planet-wrecking ego.
Counter culture is important because it helped to liberate gay rights, among many other things. Oscar Wilde’s 1895 trial and imprisonment for ‘gross indecency’ seems ludicrous now. With any luck the imprisonment of US private Bradley Manning for spreading transparency via WikiLeaks will seem just as stupid in 100 years.
As for the counterculture of the present, some current Echo staff were present at the Aquarius Festival all those years ago, as were many who still live in this shire. Activist Harsha Prabhu’s efforts to immortalise this region and festival through a book should be wholeheartedly applauded and supported.
It was an important event that generated a significant blip of consciousness forty years ago in May.
Promising the world in 52-pages
I didn’t know the federal Liberal Party had any policies until stumbling upon the ‘Real Solutions for all Australians’, released only a few weeks ago on January 27, 2013.
It’s a glossy 52-page brochure that includes ubiquitous images of boardrooms, hard-hats, baby-kissing, open-cut mining and veggie gardens. And its 15,750 word count has plenty of gushing rhetoric and motherhood statements, along with openly fascist phrases such as, ‘We need to address Australia’s growing workplace militancy.’
It’s basically an uncosted promise of a utopian life, free of pesky unions, lower taxes and wait for it – no carbon tax (it’s mentioned 26 times).
A slightly weird ‘Costed Fully Budgeted’ watermark stamp also appears throughout, obviously as an attempt to correct the seven billion dollar black-hole impression which is yet to be corrected.
It’s light on substance, bereft of big ideas and an all encompassing vision that reflects who we really are. But such is the state of current Australian politics. Anyway, the Mad Monk Abbott team also reckon the nation’s top priorities are more efficient government, building modern infrastructure and improving health and education services. Improving border security, manufacturing innovation, agriculture exports, world- class education and research are also featured as desirable outcomes for Abbott’s vision. But of course not a word on culture and arts.
To pay for it all, they unsurprisingly plan to boost mining exports to the rapidly growing Asian middle-class. Apparently it’s a golden opportunity to send them as much fossil fuels as they can choke on. ‘...estimates suggest that Asian demand could almost double our net energy exports over the next 20 years.’
And the answer to address our obscenly high carbon emissions and climate change complicity is to ‘establish a 15,000-strong Green Army to clean-up the environment.’ Presumably that means dole-bludging moochers will be asked to plant trees or something. What corporate suck-hole stupid fuckwits.
Achieving such ambitious prosperity goals, according to them, is to all but give up on curbing emissions. Their goal of five per cent by 2020 is far behind most other western countries, such as Spain, who in the last three months saw windfarms produce more electricity than any other source for the first time. The UK’s Guardian reports that the country remains on track to meet its goal of generating around 40 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. So okay, Spain is an economic basket case. But if they can achieve that, the Liberals/Nationals obviously just don’t give a shit about future generations or don’t understand CO2.
Fossil fooled again
While the federal Lib/Nat coalition is committed to a renewable target of 100 per cent ignorance, the federal Labor Party’s White Paper (found at www.ret.gov.au) provides the clearest indication yet that the mining industry owns both the major puppet parties.
‘Over the next two and a half decades,’ the exec summary proudly boasts, ‘Australia’s energy production is projected to more than double, largely due to export growth. We are the world’s largest coal exporter and third-largest uranium producer, and in future years will be the world’s second-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter.’ Holy fuck.
Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation said this week that tax breaks for exploration and prospecting have increased from $320 million last year to $550 million this year, while accelerated depreciation for fossil-fuel-intensive assets is now costing the taxpayer a whopping $1.3 billion per year.
We have to remember here that it’s also the federal government’s bright idea to expand fossil fuels, not just the state.
But the federal government has a Clean Energy Future Plan, which claims has begun the ‘necessary long-term transition to a clean energy economy.’ Really? Does it have to be ‘long term’?
No. According to Beyond Zero Emissions’ Zero Carbon Australia Staionary Energy Plan (available at unimelb.edu.au), in ten years we could supply Australians with 100 per cent renewables, including baseload. The plan is based on information from the German Advisory Council on Global Change, and suggests wind and concentrating solar thermal (CST) with molten-salt storage as the two primary technologies.
The climate-change debate often gets muddled by idiotic denialists, but we’re past that now. Low-cost renewable technology will prevail because it is economically more viable.
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki reckons zero carbon is the go. I’d trust a scientist over yabbering idiotic denialists such as Andrew Bolt any day.
Since Australia swapped riding the sheep’s back for coal trucks, enormous PR budgets and legislation became necessary to protect resource extraction revenue and quell dissent. Indeed it takes mass collective hypnosis to convince ourselves that the planet should continue to be polluted with fossil fuels when renewable technology is available.
An interesting hiccup in that unevolved narrative was activist Jonathan Moylan’s prank on the NSW coal industry last week; governments and corporations appear confounded and have yet to figure out what to do about his actions.
He faked a press release from ANZ to highlight the bank’s complicity and investment in destroying the Leard State Forest, west of Armidale, for mining profits. The result was it temporarily wiped $314 million off Whitehaven Coal shares, which is an ANZ investment.
While the government was quick to seize his computer and mobile phone, why haven’t charges been laid? It’s because legal precedent is yet to be established on such activity, Crikey’s Sally Whyte reports.
‘According to Associate Professor Keturah Whitford at the Australian National University’s College of Business and Economics, Moylan could be charged under Section 1041E [of the Corporations Act 2001], but could also face civil action from stakeholders under Section 1041H of the [Corporations] Act. There isn’t an Australian precedent to foreshadow the likelihood of conviction or possible sentences. Whitford says it’s “hard to predict sentencing, but the extent of damage including losses to investors would be taken into account and the fact that he wasn’t personally profiting”.’
Moylan’s inventive media activism is somewhat similar to that of the Yes Men, who use parody and satire to highlight psychopathic corporate behaviour. In the long term, the fossil fuel industry will lose the battle against renewables simply because renewable energy provides a means of production. It’s a simple economic premise not even relevant to environmental destruction.
And in case this all sounds too whacky, James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said in 2008: ‘CEOs of fossil-energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.’
Well said, can’t wait, bring it on.
Slavery and imperialism still rule
Genocide is on our doorstep and it looks like we are complicit. One of our closest neighbours, the West Papuans, are being systematically murdered and enslaved by the Indonesians, says indigenous activist and musician Ronnie Kareni.
It’s a topic we don’t hear much about in the mainstream press, he says, because both Australia and Indonesia benefit from strip- mining the region’s resources and subjugating its inhabitants.
To most Australians, it sits to the left of Papua New Guinea. It’s not something I am proud of, but until I met Kareni and Blue King Brown’s Natalie Pa’apa’a, I had little idea about the place. And that appears to be how the Australian and Indonesian governments like it. The ‘free press’ like it as well, because advertisers who pay their wages are also profiting from the mining and rainforest logging, says Kareni. In light of that, it’s always worth thinking about where your next outdoor ensemble originates from.
Since the Indonesian military occupation in the 1960s, it’s estimated over 100,000 West Papuans have been killed, according to www.freewestpapua.com.au. But Ronnie says studies from Sydney University in 2009/10 claim it to be around half a million.
Its population of 3.5 million has been reduced to around 48 per cent indigenous, with the other half mostly Indonesian. It’s a stark difference to the time before the occupation, he says.
Perhaps invading underdeveloped countries is not personal; after all, the indigenous are just getting in the way of expected returns on investments (ROI). Case in point is that the Freeport gold mine in West Papua is one of the largest on the planet.
It harks back to the days of King Leopold II of Belgium, possibly the most evil imperialist to ever live. This fucker is responsible for the death of an estimated five to 15 million Congolese around the late 1800s. Eventually he was forced to hand over his private enterprise to the Belgian government, but that wasn’t before he extracted a fortune from the Congo. Initially it was ivory, but after a rise in the price of rubber, he enslaved natives to collect sap from rubber plants.
It’s an uncomfortable truth that almost all wealth in human history has been created from slavery and the consumption of finite and polluting resources. Even more uncomfortable is a news cycle generally wasted on petty crime and celebrity gossip. At least we can be thankful that there are other options. To learn more visit www.freewestpapua.com.au.
US Author Derrick Jensen’s philosophy is the catalyst for a film – END : CIV – being shown this week at the Byron Bay Uniting Church.
It’s heartening to know this church wants to expose elite power structures and is a hot-bed for radicalism. Isn’t that what Jesus would want?
The film examines our cultural addiction to violence and environmental exploitation through the construct of civilisation. The word civilisation comes from the Latin ‘civilis’, meaning civil, related to the Latin ‘civis’, meaning citizen, and ‘civitas’, meaning city or city-state.
The rise of cities is where civilisations start, Jensen says, and as it is a ‘collection of people living in numbers so large that they need to import resources’ that construct is not, or can never be, sustainable.
Our way of life is based on violence and slavery, according to Jensen. Our clothes are made largely by slaves from other countries, the meat we consume is farmed without consideration for the animal and diamonds generally have blood on them...
And of course there’s our collective unevolved thirst for oil and other non-renewables. He says we don’t see the violence because ‘we’ve been metabolised’ into the system.
Additionally, ‘We have bought into a strange notion that it’s ok to have to pay to exist on the planet.’ If you don’t pay rent for example, someone with a gun – or more power than you – will come and enforce compliance.
A less emotive and more anthropological analysis of civilisations is by Scott Nearing, author of Civilization And Beyond.
To paraphrase his dense and excellent tome in less than 100 words: civilisation is a means of communication, trade and record keeping. It includes an economy based on a division of labour and specialisation. It has a self-selected and perpetuating oligarchy, utilising a unified political and bureaucratic apparatus.
It requires an adequate labour force to farm, transport and mine, while it supports a large middle-class element of professionals, technicians and semi-parasitic fringe dwellers.
A well trained and financed military for both offence and defence is essential, along with institutions and social practices. And lastly, agreed-upon religions that maintain social conformity.