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.
He said he is a ‘powerful tool’, in the media and yes, he is a tool.
‘I have an article on drink driving that I reckon would fit great on the pages of The Echo,’ was the email opener, and that seemed innocuous enough.
It was a ‘cold call’ email from an Australian public relations company spokesperson, and he offered at first glance what looked like a news item. And when I checked his website, the penny dropped. I had wasted my time: the opening paragraph said they spread ‘a brand’s message through creative and colourful content strategy’.
Indeed one of the ‘articles’ posted gushed in support of the fossil fuel industry. So I asked, ‘Are you shilling a product in the guise of it being “content”? Just a thought – no accusations here, just curiosity.’
While it seemed slightly antagonistic to keep questioning his integrity (he eventually had enough of me), it is reasonable to be fiercely protective of information. After all, we live in an age where there are more employed in the public relations sector than journalism. It’s a recent tipping point, and one that many people would know. But not everyone.
Which leads us to the US news and entertainment website, BuzzFeed.
The Guardian last week reported that it is swimming in cash, raised primarily from presenting advertorial, or advertising that looks like news editorial. It strikes at the heart of ‘old’ news media because the two have always been separated. And for good reason: journalism that operates without fear or favour is the most valuable.
Anyway, the point is that there is a push, through newly discovered social media principles, to encourage us to interact with products so we might end up buying them. It’s a clear departure from traditional news gathering and makes the credibility of news unclear.
On the bright side, a new journalism venture worth a reported $250 million has been launched between eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald is one of the few voices that question the powerful and elite, so let’s hope he has the courage to ask whether eBay should be taxed more in light of the effect eBay has on traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
It’s common knowledge that to get to the front bench in modern politics, it helps to be privately educated and a lawyer. Other prerequisites may or may not include willingness to cut the throat of your opponents and sell your offspring. So, who is the biggest psychopath? Let’s find out…
TONY ABBOTT – Minister for woman’s issues and presumably the PM.
Safe electorate of Warringah on Sydney's North Shore.
Likes flat earths, God, misogyny and sport, especially bicycles and swimming.
As a Rhodes Scholar he studied politics and philosophy and got ‘a solid second’, according to The Guardian. But by most accounts he mostly played sport and honed his bullying skills at Oxford.
A Rhodes Scholar, by the way, is not such a hard gig to get. It’s part of a production line for ‘world leaders’ established by British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Toned Abbs is proof that connections are more important than ability.
Doesn’t like media, the climate, accountability, transparency, round earths, scientists, gays, fact and reason.
Ironically was a boat asylum seeker himself and wants them stopped. Abbs is clearly the worst example of a ‘leader’ this nation has ever seen.
WARREN TRUSS – Deputy prime minister, minister for infrastructure and regional development.
Electorate of Wide Bay, Queensland (includes Noosa, Gympie). Office in Maryborough
Ex-Kingaroy farmer and councillor, Truss is often mistaken for a wardrobe or hatstand. He can also easily camouflage himself against beige wallpaper, making it hard for predators to spot him. Just slashed $150,000 in Byron Shire infrastructure funding last week and it’s fair to say more is to come.
JULIE BISHOP – Foreign affairs minister.
Division of Curtin, Western Australia. North of Fremantle and Eastern beach suburbs of Perth
As a corporate lawyer in the 1980s, she represented mining company CSR and tried to stop dying asbestos victims getting compensation in what remains Australia’s greatest single industrial disaster. An estimated 1,000 people died who were living and working near the mine at Wittenoom, WA. Now minister for foreign affairs, she is contributing to the decline of Australia’s international reputation. She’s divorced, childless and the only woman in Toned Abbs’s cabinet. Nickname: ‘Token Deathstare’.
ERIC ABETZ – Minister for employment, minister assisting the prime minister on the public service.
Tasmanian senator located in Hobart
Eric Abetz was born in Germany, migrated to Tassie then studied law. After that he spent roughly ten years in obscurity before politics.
Fun fact: Eric Abetz is the great-nephew of SS-Brigadeführer Otto Abetz, Nazi ambassador to Vichy France from 1940 to 1944.
GEORGE BRANDIS QC – Attorney-general, minister for the arts.
Queensland senator based in Brisbane
The Liberals are not known for their sense of humour, empathy, imagination or love of the arts, and Brandis is no exception. But there is comedic value in that he is minister for the arts; he said on ABC TV’s Q&A last year that he doesn’t even listen to music.
He’s also a Queen’s counsel (QC), which is slightly higher up the lawyer food-chain. He developed a large law practice in the mid 1980s specialising in trade practices law, and then in 2003 made a 20-minute speech describing the Green party as Nazis.
And Brandis likes a rort: it was revealed in 2011 that he had billed the taxpayer for attending the wedding of Sydney radio shock-jock Michael Smith. Possibly dangerous, so maintaining eye contact is recommended, although staring into the soulless vacuum of psychopathy is not advised. Best to avoid.
JOE HOCKEY – Treasurer.
Treasurer Hockey is of Armenian and Palestinian decent, a Roman Catholic and a republican.
Electorate of North Sydney
Given that his heritage comes from an oppressed minority, one would expect him to have more empathy for people trying to escape persecution. Prior to public office he completed an arts-law degree, then became a banking and finance lawyer of no considerable note. This Sydney-sider has been in public office since 1996, loves rugby union and bashing the public service.
Enjoys strip-mining public assets and denying essential services for the poor and disadvantaged.
BARNABY JOYCE – Minister for agriculture.
Electorate of New England (Armidale, Tenterfield etc). Office in Tamworth
Pardon me, Joyce, is that another taxpayer-funded event you attended? This high profile Nationals MP can sometimes be mistaken for an iguana.
After he studied commerce, he became an accountant and is now minister for agriculture and public rorts.
Though never short of an opinion or colourful metaphor, I recall he didn’t want to answer my direct question on whether he supports government accreditation of the the renewable industries.
Currently, renewable industries such as solar, wind and hydro are regulated by fossil fuel companies. What could possibly go wrong?
One redeeming feature is that he’s crossed the floor 19 times (ie disagreed with his own party), but alas, he’s best mates with Gina Rinehart. Was ridiculed for his economic thesis, but told me he still stands by it.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE – Minister for education.
Division of Sturt, inland next to Adelaide
After he graduated with a diploma of legal practice he became a solicitor in 1991, but then was elected to public office in 1993.
And while that made him the youngest current member of the Australian parliament, it also makes him one with the least amount of real-life experience.
Pyne is a Roman Catholic and republican, likes ice-cream and is easily distracted by bright colours. Also a big fan on the war on drugs, Broadway musicals and the sound of his own voice.
NIGEL SCULLION – Minister for Indigenous affairs.
Nigel is a NT senator and was a fisherman before joining the Country National Party. Wait, what? Where’s the law degree? Represents Australia’s largest federal electorate boundary: The Northern Territory.
IAN MACFARLANE – Minister for industry.
Division of Groom, west of Brisbane. Includes Toowoomba
This Kingaroy-born National now lives in Toowomba and likes to drill, baby, drill.
Known for his raspy voice, ability to cut red tape and make babies cry, he relishes the job of convincing farmers that plonking drilling rigs on their property is ‘co-existing’.
KEVIN ANDREWS – Minister for social services.
Menzies electorate: City of Manningham, spreading along the Yarra River from Bulleen to Wonga Park, in Melbourne. Office in
As a former Howard government Liberal MP, Andrews has a long history of racism and bigotry. He implemented the controversial WorkChoices labour market reforms, revoked on character grounds the visa of Dr Mohamed Haneef and cut Australia’s refugee intake from African nations in 2007.
This Victorian ex-barrister is a Roman Catholic and is a member of the Lyons Forum, a socially conservative Christian faction within the God-fearing coalition. God help us.
MALCOLM TURNBULL – Minister for communications.
Division of Wentworth, eastern beach suburbs of Sydney
Bob Brown told me once, ‘there are two things you can see from outer space: the great wall of China and Malcolm Turnbull’s ego’.
And well, why not. He was far richer than anyone else in parliament until Clive Palmer and has also done much more than the rest; from representing high-profile personalities as a lawyer to inventing the internet. He’s also been a journalist, investment banker and venture capitalist.
And while he appears politically centrist, don’t be fooled.
Like his colleagues, he wants to sell Australian land and companies to overseas corporations and embraces global free market fanaticism at the expense of nation building.
He had a hard time defending his inferior broadband network, but to his credit looks awkward and uncomfortable next to everyone else in the cabinet. They’re all idiots, aren’t they, Malcolm?
Roman Catholic, republican and spoonfed.
SCOTT MORRISON – Minister for stopping immigration and border protection.
Electorate of Cook in South-eastern Sydney. Office in Cronulla
Don’t ask questions about asylum seekers or our concentration camps – I won’t be answering them.
Look over there, there’s an adorable cat on the internet. Isn’t X-Factor on?
Scott Morrison will hopefully, at one point, be tried for crimes against humanity.
Ironically his background is actually tourism – after receiving an honours degree in applied science at NSW Uni for economics and geography, he then went on to be managing director of Tourism Australia. Now contributes to Australians’ reputation as bigoted arrogant thugs.
GREG HUNT – Minister against the environment.
Division of Flinders in Victoria. Includes outer southern suburbs on the Mornington Peninsula including Dromana, Hastings and Portsea.
Enjoys wrecking the climate for future generations through rigorous debate.
Okay, so he’s another lawyer, having graduated from Melbourne Law School with first class honours as well as Yale University. Hunt was adviser to the odious South Australian Alexander Downer before being elected as member for Flinders in 2001.
He confused everyone when he said recently he uses Wikipedia to source information – high school students would be ridiculed for such stupidity.
Bravo, well played.
PETER DUTTON – Minister for health, minister for sport
Electorate of Dickson, Qld. North-western suburbs of Brisbane, including Albany Creek, Kallangur and Strathpine.
This Liberal Queenslander was a cop for nine years, working on the drug squad in Brisbane.
He then studied business in 1991 but then five years later became a pollie. And he’s just 42 years old.
BRUCE BILLSON – Minister for small business.
Electorate of Dunkley. South eastern outskirts of Melbourne; it includes the suburbs include Frankston, Frankston North, Frankston South, Langwarrin, Langwarrin South, Mt Eliza, Mornington and Seaford, and parts of Baxter and Skye.
This bureaucrat turned pollie entered politics in 1996 and was educated at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He worked at Hastings Shire Council as a ‘manager of corporate development’ before being an adviser to Victorian Minister for natural resources, and then policy adviser to the shadow minister for the environment, Rod Kemp.
ANDREW ROBB AO – Minister for trade and investment.
Electorate of Goldstein is in inner city bayside Melbourne. It extends from Elsternwick on the north, Beaumaris in the south, the Frankston railway line in the east and Port Philip Bay in the west.
Andrew was a power-broker behind the scenes before emerging as a political contender. As federal director and campaign manager for John Howard in the 1996 federal election campaign, he helped overthrow Keating and then settled us in for a 13-year run of being relaxed and comfortable.
As a youngster, Robb gained an economics and agricultural science degree from Victoria’s La Trobe University, and has sat on many corporate boards. He’s a Roman Catholic and has a history of suffering from depression, which may or may not be related.
DAVID JOHNSTON – Minister for defence.
This little-known Liberal senator from Western Australia graduated in law in 1979 and then became a barrister in Kalgoorlie and Perth. His area of expertise, according to himself, is criminal, mining, native title and administrative law. He entered politics in 2001
MATHIAS CORMANN – Minister for finance.
The WA Liberal senator and lawyer joined the party in 2007 and became an Aussie after migrating from Belgium. Roman Catholic and only 43.
Note: this article has been amended from print to include electorates and which state the senators come from.
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
Remember the inconvenient Al Gore? He’s written a new book entitled The Future – Six Drivers Of Global Change, and was on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show last week (which you can only get here by paying for Murdoch’s Austar/Foxtel channels).
The two brought up the current global system which, as we all know, is inherently flawed. When Jon Stewart said capitalism was a ‘voracious overeater’, Gore launched into an interesting tirade.
‘We have two powerful tools to shape our future. One is democracy, the other is capitalism. And the alternatives to democracy have been tried and found to be disastrous. The alternatives to capitalism have also been not so great. Capitalism as we all know allocates resources efficiently, balances supply and demand, is more conducive with higher levels of freedom and it unlocks a higher level of human potential. But in spite of that, it
is now associated with market disruptions which are bigger and more frequent... Short-termism is one example.
‘Thirty years ago stocks were held on average for seven years. That was rational. And now it’s seven months. Here in New York and in London, 60 per cent of the trades on the stock exchange are now made by these algorithmic “flash trades” – it happens in milliseconds. That’s not really investing. So we have a flash crash where the market drops a thousand points and comes back again in 20 minutes and they have no idea why it is happening...’
‘Capitalism the way it currently operates needs to be reformed’, Gore says. ‘Our democracy has been hacked – it’s been taken over.
‘It no longer operates the way our founding fathers intended it to. Anonymous donors, big corporations, big money, might makes right... the lobbyist and special interest groups are now in control.
‘You can’t do anything without begging for permission and it’s time that we took our democracy back. And it can be done.’
‘Only the little people pay taxes,’ said the late American billionaire Leona Helmsley in 1983, who ironically spent jail time for tax evasion. Since then, there is little doubt that elaborate tax evasion methods have become more complicated and seemingly less regulated for the super rich and corporations.
Now thankfully the population, at least in the UK, have had enough. US coffee corporation Starbucks has been copping public protests after paying ’no corporation tax in the UK for the past three years,’ The Guardian reports. Along with Amazon and Google, they were accused by a committee of British MPs of an ‘immoral’ use of secretive jurisdictions, royalties and complex company structures to avoid paying tax on British profits.
What’s wrong with paying taxes? Let’s be real: government is a type of socialism. We pay taxes because we all use roads and hospitals. It’s considered part of the social contract, a theory that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and in part addresses the authority of the state over the individual. Clearly society suffers when rich individuals and corporations aren’t taxed at comparable rates to an ‘ordinary’ individual.
And fewer taxes for the rich fits neatly into the idiotic narrow conservative views peddled by simpletons such as Hockey and Abbott – ie ‘investment will suffer’. There is no evidence to that claim and is simply a scare tactic by the greedy. Also the social contract is not talked about by politicans because by and large they are are failing at it.
Greek philosopher Plato is reputed to have said, ‘When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.’
Given that sound logic, stimulating or reviving economies couldn’t be simpler: make super-rich corporations pay more tax by closing the loopholes. Change in the short term here is unlikely of course because the Liberal, Nationals and Labor parties – along with mainstream media – know who their masters are.
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.
‘Byron Bay to Bradley’ was held last week at the Community Centre as part of the Global Days of Actions. It was in solidarity with US Army Private Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking the WikiLeaks ‘Collateral Murder’ video.
It made international headlines in April – though it was filmed in 2007 – and depicts three airstrikes from a US Apache helicopter in New Baghdad. At least eleven people were killed in the airstrikes, including two journalists working for Reuters. The US army has kept Manning in isolation since his arrest on May 29, according to www.bradleymanning.org, and he needs at least $50,000 to defend himself. He is facing 52 years imprisonment and is under suicide watch.
Leaking footage of US soldiers wilfully killing unarmed civilians is more than a military PR nightmare – it highlights humanity’s futile endeavours with wars that are invariably over religion, sovereignty, resources and ideology. US national security was not threatened by this action, however The New York Times reported that Manning is also accused
of leaking over 240,000 classified intelligence reports and diplomatic cables involving the war in Afghanistan. That is a threat to US national security, and most likely the reason he will be jailed for most of his life. WikiLeaks defended disclosure of the material, saying transparency is essential to democracy.
‘The Taliban have already stated they are reading the documents, looking for names and will go and kill any Afghan listed as being an informant or connected to those who worked with/for NATO,’ a forum contributor to Manning’s site says. ‘With this security leak, informants now see that they are not safe and fewer – or perhaps none – will be willing to come out with information.’ So is Manning hero or villain?
Arguably one of the images that was instrumental in changing the American public’s views on the Vietnam War was of the execution of a Viet Cong guerrilla by South Vietnam’s national police chief. Mainstream media (NBC and AP) captured that moment in 1968, and the comparison with Manning’s helicopter footage is evident.
New technologies have the ability to spread over larger areas of population than ever before. It can be dangerous and is a powerful tool, and one that should always be used with extreme care so it doesn’t endanger lives.
Anything that ends wars, un-winnable or not, is in humankind’s ultimate interest. It’s probably the reason the mothership hasn’t arrived from outer space yet.
As George Carlin said, ‘we are but monkeys with baseball caps and machine guns.’