Thursday, 18 June 2009

Groundhog Day

Ilê Ayê II
Worst Case Scenario
Up, Down.

(and, oh yeah, by the way ... World hunger 'hits one billion', that would be 1 in 7, dig it)

Which is real--

This bottle of indigo glass in the grass,
Or the bench with the pot of geraniums, the stained
mattress and the washed overalls drying in the sun?
Which of these truly contains the world?

Neither one, nor the two together.

        Wallace Stevens, 1919.

Altamira AnimaI did this all before, at least several times, it begins to feel like Bill Murray's Groundhog Day, or some kind of obsession; just recently in ... well, not that recently, but last November: World Gone Wrong, then back in June 2006: What has truth?, and further back in January 2006: T for Texas, T for Tennessee, and further still in October 2005: Amazonas - Poder de Deus, the picture itself, by Raimundo Paccó, I picked up from O Liberal in August 2005 ...

Darfur Animathe picture is by Patrick André Perron who titles it Fear, but everything here is ambiguous and it is at least fear mixed with something, even the Wallace Stevens poem is ambiguous, uncertain provenance, Stevens is not well represented in original copies on the web, some kind of copyright problem I guess, even in plain text format this poem is only to be found two or three times and so could be inaccurate, I remember the poem from my days at McGill but I am uncertain about both the exact typography and in particular - the last line, why would he put that final line? when you ask a rhetorical question it is more polite not to immediately answer, makes the reader irrelevant eh? but there it is

Haiti Animaalso by Perron, a girl named Anita sitting on a porch in Haiti, looking at her makes me think of Chris Alexander's Quality without a name, at once ambiguous and excruciatingly precise, when the wags say, "If that is the answer, then what was the question?" this is the question they are hinting at I think ... so many euphemisms ... Charles Taylor's "fullness" ... where was that? ... ah!

We all see our lives, and/or the space wherein we live our lives, as having a certain moral/spiritual shape. Somewhere, in some activity, or condition, lies a fullness, a richness; that is, in that place (activity or condition), life is fuller, richer, deeper, more worth while, more admirable, more what it should be. This is perhaps a place of power: we often experience this as deeply moving, as inspiring. Perhaps this sense of fullness is something we just catch glimpses of from afar off; we have the powerful intuition of what fullness would be, were we to be in that condition, e.g., of peace or wholeness; or able to act on that level, of integrity or generosity or abandonment or self-forgetfulness. But sometimes there will be moments of experienced fullness, of joy and fulfillment, where we feel ourselves there.

        Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, Introduction.

Now, there's a woman, on my block,
She just sit there, as the night grows still,
She say, 'Who gonna take away his license to kill?'

        Bob Dylan, License To Kill, 1983 (YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

Johannes Vermeer Girl with a Pearl EarringRussell Hoban's novel The Medusa Frequency used this image of Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, or Han van Meegeren as the case may be (this whole thing today began with a thumbnail of this girl in the NYT, part of an article on art forgeries ...), on the cover of the edition that I bought, well, it wasn't quite this image eh? another copyright fiasco maybe doubly inverted this time, but an image that was clearly pointed in this direction at least, brings us round to Orpheus and Euridice, a myth with somewhat complicated (and ambiguous) provenance as well ... not to mention judgements as I learn at Wikipedia, there is a murmur of 'descent into the underworld' symmetry in Peer Gynt's run in with the Troll King, the Dovre King, as well

Without handsIn your left eye, first,
I'll scratch you a bit, till you see awry;
But all that you see will seem fine and brave.
And then I'll just cut your right window-pane out.

        Henrik Ibsen, Peer Gynt, Scene 6.

I have been told that the 'G' in Gynt is pronounced as "H" in Norwegian, making it sound more like 'Pair Hoont'

Without handsa photo on the left of some girls from somewhere in Liberia or Sierra Leone sometime in 2002 or 2003 by Brent Stirton, and on the right an unidentified boy from the diamond mines somewhere in Angola or Sierra Leone or maybe even Zimbabwe by photographer unknown, diamond mines you see, not just brutal violence but brutal violence with a motive of some kind ... and I find myself back around yet another circle, to Laing and his, "The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one's mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal."

a dance is it? round & round and back & forth forever?

You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out;
You put your right foot in and you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey-Pokey and you turn yourself around.
And that's what it's all about!

Greenpeace CO2 GermanyHow I heard of it:
New Report Says World Is Warming Faster than Thought.
How I found it:
PIK - Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
PIK - Copenhagen Climate Report: “Inaction is inexcusable”.
Synthesis Report “Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions” (%$#! pdf-file).
Where it came from:
University of Copenhagen.
University of Copenhagen - Climate Change Congress.
Synthesis Report “Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions” (%$#! pdf-file).
And, oh yeah, it's the West's fault:
'The West Is Responsible', interview with Yu Qingtai.
Yu QingtaiYu QingtaiYu QingtaiYu Qingtai
And finally, some credible reaction from Real Climate:
A warning from Copenhagen.
New Report Says World Is Warming Faster than Thought, Volker Mrasek, 06/18/2009.


Is climate change beyond our control? Respected geo-researchers have presented a new prognosis for the global increase in temperature. Yesterday's worst-case scenario is becoming today's reality.

Two degrees -- that value has long been the guideline for international climate policy. Were the increase in average global temperatures held below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), then drastic climate change and long-term irreversible damage -- like the melting of Greenland's glaciers -- could still be avoided. Or so it was thought.

The world may be heating up faster than we thought.
But a new study by an international research team has determined that the two-degree goal is no longer achievable.

Even today's atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are high enough to cause a global increase in temperature of between 2 and 2.4 degrees Celsius. "Drastic and immediate" emissions reductions would be "impossible," the paper, which was presented in Brussels on Thursday, argues. The concentration of these gases will thus continue to increase in upcoming decades. The researchers write: "An overshoot of the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations needed to constrain global warming to 2 degrees Celsius is thus inevitable."

The paper is 39 pages long and includes among its 12 authors Nicolas Stern, a London-based environmental economist, and Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The "Synthesis Report" summarizes the results of the Climate Change Congress that took place in Copenhagen in March -- an event which included roughly 2,500 participants and over 1,400 papers.

The authors write that the report was peer reviewed a second time before publication. It reflects the current stage of climate research and will provide the basis for discussions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December regarding a new climate protection regime to take over once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Essentially, it is an update of the Fourth Assessment Report from 2007, which was written by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That report evaluated papers that are now four years old or older.

The new report doesn't just address the issue of carbon dioxide but also nitrous oxide, methane, and all other greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere as well. Climate researchers calculate their warming effects in "CO2 equivalents" so that they are able to operate with a standardized unit. The amount of greenhouse gases are measured in ppm or "parts per million." The concentration of such gases in the atmosphere was over 460 ppm CO2 equivalents in 2007. At 450 ppm, there is only a 50 percent chance that the temperature increase would stay under 2 degrees Celsius, according to the Copenhagen report, citing a recent study.

Humanity Should Settle on a Four Degree Increase

The global average temperature rose just under 0.8 degrees Celsius from 1850 to 2005. The current warming trend is 0.13 to 0.16 degrees per decade. In 2007, the IPCC assumed that the earth's average temperature could increase anywhere from 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius by the end of this century -- depending on which strategy the international community adopts and by how much greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

According to the current findings, the world is currently on track for the worst-case scenario -- the dynamics of climate change are already larger than feared.

To be on the safe side, people should adjust for a three, four or even five degrees of warming, PIK head Schellnhuber recommended in March at the Copenhagen congress. Should he be right, extreme weather resulting from rising global temperatures could be even more dramatic than assumed up until now.

In the past, the IPCC prepared an entire spectrum of possible emissions scenarios for this century. According to the new report, "some climate indicators are changing near the upper end of the range indicated by the projections or, as in the case of sea level rise, at even greater rates than indicated by IPCC projections." The report continues, "current estimates indicate that ocean warming is about 50 percent greater than had been previously reported by the IPCC."

Konrad Steffen, professor for Environmental Science at the University of Colorado in Boulder, explains what that means. "The forecast for the year 2100 probably needs to be revised at least by a meter or more," he says.

Schellnhuber, who is also a climate consultant for the German government, says he is worried "that we still aren't seeing a large portion of the unavoidable global warming." Dirt particles in the atmosphere, especially sulphate aerosols, have created a certain cooling effect and has prevented a stronger temperature increase at the moment. "If we were to ever install sulphur filters all over the world, then we would already be at 2.5 degree warming," the physicist said.

The new report paints a picture of rising sea levels -- fueled by rapidly melting polar ice caps -- for centuries. "Thus, the changes current generations initiate in the climate will directly influence our descendents long into the future. In fact, global average surface temperature will hardly drop in the first thousand years after greenhouse gas emissions are cut to zero."

'The West Is Responsible', interview with Yu Qingtai by Christian Schwägerl, June 18 2009.

Progress towards a new global climate agreement has been slow. SPIEGEL spoke with China's head climate negotiator Yu Qingtai about Western responsibility for CO2 emissions in China and frustration in the developing world.

SPIEGEL: China is now the largest emitter of CO2 in the world. Is China recognizing its responsibility for climate change?

Yu Qingtai: We take climate change very seriously, but don't forget that we are 1.3 billion people. The difference in per-capita emissions between China and the developed nations is still huge. You can't tell Chinese people that being born in China means being allowed just 20 percent or 25 percent of the CO2 emissions allowed somebody born in Europe.

SPIEGEL: So your emissions will grow from 4.6 tons per-capita until they reach Western levels of 10 to 20 tons per-capita?

Yu Qingtai: No way. We don't want to catch up with the dangerous emission levels in Europe or the US. That would be very bad for the world, and for us. We have to find a different path, a better, sustainable path. But we won't allow the West to stop Chinese people from buying cars in the name of the climate just so they can continue buying cars themselves. That would be totally unacceptable. I am strongly committed to combating climate change, but at the same time I am proud that more and more of my countrymen can afford a car and go to work in a car.

SPIEGEL: So emissions from cars will grow endlessly?

Yu Qingtai: Just look at the new regulations we are introducing for automobile CO2 emissions. We are striving to be as strict as the EU and some of our regulations are stricter than the US. That will transform our domestic car industry. Heavy tariffs will be introduced for large, fuel guzzling cars like SUVs in an effort to encourage the purchase of smaller and more fuel-efficient cars. This applies to both domestically produced and imported cars. Electric cars, on the other hand, will get subsidized.

SPIEGEL: Why isn't China trying to avoid the misguided consumption practices of Western countries in the first place?

Yu Qingtai: We don't want to deny our people the hope for a better standard of living. We are striving to do it in a more sustainable manner. Our national programs to combat climate change are already very ambitious. For example, we are about to improve our energy efficiency by 4 percent each year, we will expand the use of renewables and nuclear energy and we will increase forest coverage to 20 percent. Our track record will not pale in comparison to anybody else's.

SPIEGEL: Why, then, haven't you yet been willing to commit to international CO2 targets and remove obstacles for the US to come along?

Yu Qingtai: Because there is still a fundamental difference between China and the industrialized nations. People look at our impressive growth rates but they forget that we are still a developing nation with tens of millions of people still living in poverty. Western countries are responsible for most of the accumulated CO2 in the atmosphere. Their historic responsibility is undeniable but still some Western countries try to blame the developing world in order to distract attention from their own failures.

SPIEGEL: Do you think that China and the administration of US President Barack Obama will be able to find a compromise?

Yu Qingtai: We already have agreed on joint efforts to develop various technologies for fighting climate change. If you look closely, the US and China face many similar challenges, such as heavy dependence on coal and the need to improve energy efficiency. We have many common interests. So I think we will find more common ground as we move forward.

SPIEGEL: China has become the "world's factory." Have industrialized nations outsourced their CO2 emissions to China?

Yu Qingtai: Chinese scholars reckon that 15 percent to 20 percent of Chinese emissions stem from products that end up in foreign markets, in particular in the US and Europe. We deliver inexpensive products of good quality for the world, but the resulting emissions are counted only as Chinese emissions. The pattern is similarly unfair in other developing nations. So we need to find a way to adjust for that in the international climate negotiations. This has to be taken into account.

SPIEGEL: Still, wouldn't it be in China's interest to become Asia's leader when it comes to the environment?

Yu Qingtai: We are fully aware that it is also in our own national interest to be part in the international fight against climate change. For a country with 1.3 billion people, food security is a major concern. If harvests fail because of frequent extreme weather conditions as a result of climate change, such as droughts and floods, nobody will be able to fully help us meet the challenge of food security. Most of our economic centers are located along the coastlines. If sea levels rise, the whole Chinese and world economy will suffer. That's why we need bold action.

SPIEGEL: Time is beginning to run short. The Copenhagen summit, at which the world hopes to agree on a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, is only five months away. What's your sense of the progress towards an international agreement?

Yu Qingtai: Among developing nations there is a general sense of frustration -- and China shares this frustration. In a United Nations convention 17 years ago, industrialized nations committed to reducing their CO2 emissions and to helpíng developing countries with financial resources and technology transfer to move into a greener future. But only a very few countries have actually tried to live up to their promises.

SPIEGEL: Have you received any convincing offers when it comes to financial assistance?

Yu Qingtai: When we talk about finances, developed nations refer to markets and private companies as a source for additional money. But after years of doing nothing, merely pointing to the markets is an abandonment of your own commitments as governments.

SPIEGEL: Might that be a chance for China to grow into an international leadership role itself?

Yu Qingtai: We invest huge resources in science and technology and have dedicated large chunks of our economic stimulus package to green technology. But still we are a developing country with a relatively lower technological level, and very often we developing countries can't afford the technology we urgently need in order to achieve lower carbon emissions. What we need is a totally new level of cooperation in science and the sharing of the best green technologies.

SPIEGEL: Western companies don't like to share technologies. They want to profit from them.

Yu Qingtai: At the negotiating tables, Western governments tell us they don't own these new technologies, so they can't give them to us. But technology transfer is a commitment undertaken by the national governments of developed nations -- and they should make it happen. We totally respect the intellectual property rights of the companies that develop those technologies. But why not set up a fund to compensate the companies for lost revenues and the sharing of intellectual property while making the most innovative technologies available to the whole world?

SPIEGEL: So the German government would pay Siemens, for example, to offer China their most efficient power plants at a far cheaper price than normal?

Yu Qingtai: Yes, that would be one way of making energy efficient technology more affordable to developing countries. There are many ways to move forward if you have the political will to do it. That will is lacking so far and the result is that the developing world is growing with the help of old, inefficient and carbon-intensive technologies.

SPIEGEL: Do you think an agreement will be found at the UN summit in Copenhagen in December?

Yu Qingtai: I am still an optimist. If we fail, it would influence not only our lives but the lives of generations to come in a very negative way. We have all these different positions and targets in our minds, but we must work seriously to make sure that the Copenhagen conference succeeds. Because in the end, if we don't solve this crisis that affects us all, we will all be hurt.

Returns? Blood Diamonds in Africa, Scott A Morgan, November 15, 2007.

We all remember what happened back in the 1990s. In Sierra Leone and Angola insurgents financed their rebellions by mining illicit diamonds. In Angola the UNITA movement used the trade after both South Africa and the United States ceased their assistance. In the case of Sierra Leone it was a way for the Rebels to purchase Arms to carry their struggle against an unpopular Government. There also have been allegations that Al-Qaida has used the precious stones in a similar way.

To combat this trade Several Governments along with the United Nations and the Diamond Traders wanted to set up a process to ensure that these Gems are mined in a conflict free zone. In some cases rebel forces had set up a quota of a certain amount of the stones to be mined per day. Failure to meet these goals was hazardous to ones health. The lucky ones only had a hand amputated. When the Process came into full effect back in 2003 there was legislation in the US that tied into the Process. The US Legislation is known as the Clear Diamond Trade Act.

However over the last year there have been troubling signs emerging once again from Africa. Once again instability is rearing its ugly head in Africa. Despite promising elections last year Unrest still plagues the Eastern Part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The situation is so troublesome that last December the Process actually swung into action over some missing Diamonds. Over $400 Million of them. And the investigators have a good idea when some of them went to.

Around Christmastime last year some of the above mentioned $400 Million in stone were believed to have been mixed with legimately mined stones in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe was granted access to some of the crucial Diamond Mines and Timber regions of the DRC for its support in assisting the Kabila Regime maintain power after overthrowing the old Mobuto Government. It is believed that the mixed stones entered the Market while in transit to its export sight in South Africa. To this date the status of the investigation has not been made public.

Another conflict site where illicit Diamond mining is going on is in the Ivory Coast. Last Month Belgian Authorities confiscated $ 21 Million Dollars of rough stones that entered the country. A Ban was imposed on stones from the Country after a Cease Fire between the authorities in Abidjan and the Main Rebel Group the New Forces Collapsed in 2005. There are concerns that the stones may be transshipped to London and Antwerp via Mali.

One main area of Concern for the Process is that there is no mechanism that allows for Oversight and Verification. There is also no means to independently verify or audit any information that is collected under the Process. This means that there is no way to check up on the Self-Regulation Processes that the various Countries have in place to ensure that the stones were mined under conditions that do not pay for any conflict. So there are no assurances that the diamonds are conflict free.

World hunger 'hits one billion', BBC, Friday 19 June 2009.

One billion people throughout the world suffer from hunger, a figure which has increased by 100 million because of the global financial crisis, says the UN.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said the figure was a record high.

Persistently high food prices have also contributed to the hunger crisis.

The director general of the FAO said the level of hunger, one-sixth of the world's population, posed a "serious risk" to world peace and security.

The UN said almost all of the world's undernourished live in developing countries, with the most, some 642 million people, living in the Asia-Pacific region.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the next worst-hit region, the figure stands at 265 million.

Just 15 million people are left hungry in the developed world.

"The silent hunger crisis - affecting one-sixth of all of humanity - poses a serious risk for world peace and security," said Jacques Diouf.

"We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world and to take the necessary actions."


The increase in the number of hungry people was blamed on lower incomes and increased unemployment, which in turn reduced access to food by the poor, the UN agency said.

But it contrasted sharply with evidence that much of the developed world is richer than ever before. "It's the first time in human history that we have so many hungry people in the world," said FAO spokesman Kostas Stamoulis, director of the organisation's development department. "And that's a contradiction, because a lot of the world is very rich despite the economic crisis."

Mr Diouf urged governments to provide development and economic assistance to boost agriculture, particularly by smallholder farmers. "Investment in agriculture must be increased because for the majority of poor countries a healthy agricultural sector is essential to overcome poverty and hunger and is a pre-requisite for overall economic growth," he said.

Urban suffering

The UK's international development ministry (Dfid) said the figures were "a scandal" and said it was helping some of the poorest farmers in the world to boost the amount of food they produce.

"In the last year we have pledged more than £900 million to lift millions out of hunger to help farmers boost agriculture production," a Dfid spokesman said.

The UN warns that poor people living in cities will probably face the most severe problems in coping with the global recession, because lower export demand and reduced foreign investment are likely to hit urban jobs harder. Many migrants to urban areas would be likely to return to rural areas, it added, transferring the burden.

Incomes have also dropped "substantially" in some developing countries where families depend on remittances from relatives working abroad. With the financial crisis hitting all parts of the world more or less simultaneously, developing countries have less room to adjust, the UN agency says.

Food prices

Among the pressures is the reality that borrowing from international capital markets is "more limited" in a global crisis, the FAO said.

Food costs in developing countries now seem more expensive, despite prices in world markets declining during the food and fuel crisis of 2006-08, it added. They remained on average 24% higher in real terms by the end of 2008 compared to 2006. "For poor consumers, who spend up to 60% of their incomes on staple foods, this means a strong reduction in their effective purchasing power," the FAO said.


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