World heritage forests burn as global tragedy unfolds in Tasmania | Environment | The Guardian

A global tragedy is unfolding in Tasmania. World heritage forests are burning; 1,000-year-old trees and the hoary peat beneath are reduced to char. Fires have already taken stands of king billy and pencil pine – the last remaining fragments of an ecosystem that once spread across the supercontinent of Gondwana. Pockets of Australia’s only winter deciduous tree, the beloved nothofagus – whose direct kin shade the sides of the South American Andes – are now just a wind change away from eternity. Unlike Australia’s eucalyptus forests, which use fire to regenerate, these plants have not evolved to live within the natural cycle of conflagration and renewal. If burned, they die.

Aerial footage captured by the ABC shows just some of the 42,000 hectares that have been burnt across the state To avoid this fate, they grow high up on the central plateau where it is too wet for the flames to take hold. But a desiccating spring and summer has turned even the wettest rainforest dells and high-altitude bogs into tinder. Last week a huge and uncharacteristically dry electrical storm flashed its way across the state, igniting the land.

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Source: World heritage forests burn as global tragedy unfolds in Tasmania | Environment | The Guardian

New Zealand: Where WWII veterans now beg for food

Even three terms of gouging education, welfare and the land could not have prepared us for this appalling action by the New Zealand Government. We have sunk to the lowest. For shame, Prime Minister Key.

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His hard-earned pension was snatched away after he took part in a demonstration.

Selywn Clarke, your country has let you down. And it has a lot to answer for.

The condition of the 28th Maori Battalion veteran on the streets of the Northland township of Kaitaia has been concerning locals, many of whom have offered him food items.

Mr. Clarke’s pension was cut entirely following the veteran’s failure to appear in court following his participation in a land occupation.

“The people who were arrested that day are the people who have rights to that land. The land does not belong to Ngāi Takoto neither does it belong to the government.” Mr. Clarke told Maori Television.

He has been begging at busy scenes including a Kaitaia market for money.

“I thought I would receive the pension for the rest of my life, but now it’s been cut and I’m here seeking…

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Eco-tourism worth billions trumps value of Kinder Morgan project, new report argues | National Observer

Jan 22, 2016,  Charles Mandel

A new report tears into the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline extension application, saying the company’s environmental assessments show a lack of scientific rigour and unsubstantiated assumptions surrounding the fate, behaviour and toxicity of diluted bitumen.

“Their conclusions are fraught with an unacceptable degree of uncertainty, are not supported by the scientific literature, and often not supported by their own information,” asserts the executive summary of the report from the British Columbia-based Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Titled Our Threatened Coast: Nature and Shared Benefits in the Salish Sea, the report shows an oil spill of diluted bitumen would have devastating consequences for the region’s wildlife and coastal tourism.

The report contends a large oil spill near Turn Point at the northern end of Haro Strait – which separates Vancouver Island and the B.C. Gulf Islands from Washington State’s San Juan Islands – has a 95 per cent chance of reaching killer whales if they are anywhere near the area at the time.

A 60 per cent chance exists of oil contamination on the surface within a 3,800 kilometre centred on Haro Strait after a spill at Turn Point. The report notes that Haro Strait is one of the most routinely traveled areas in the Salish Sea for resident killer whales.

The report cited a City of Vancouver estimate that the economic impact of a large oil spill in the city’s Burrard Inlet could exceed $2-billion.

Ali Hounsell, a spokesperson with Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project, told National Observer: “Trans Mountain has been diligent in assessing risks posed by oil tankers in a comprehensive manner and developed and proposed a number of risk control measures to mitigate such risks.”

The report defines the Salish Sea as one of the world’s largest coastal seas, spanning from the western entrance of the Juan de Fuca Strait to the top of Georgia Strait and bottom of Puget Sound.

The name reflects and honours the Coast Salish, the areas’s first human inhabitants.

“We really need to look at the real value of this place,” said Ross Dixon, a program manager at Raincoast and a co-author of the report with Raincoast biologist Misty MacDuffee.

“Everyone is making decisions on Kinder Morgan and all these other proposals, the shipping of fossil fuels through the region, and we don’t really understand the true value of this place.”

Among the examples cited in the report is the Tsleil-Waututh Nation – the People of the Inlet – whom the report says have acted as stewards of their rivers, streams, forests and beaches with an “over-arching obligation to ancestors and future generations alike.”

The report notes that those obligations form the basis for the nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative, which is sanctioned by the Tsleil-Waututh chief and council and specifically developed to stop the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project.

Carleen Thomas of the Scared Trust Initiative told National Observer: “Our ancestors have taken care of this home place for us for millennia and so it is our sacred obligation to continue that work.

“It is the heart of our people. It’s the heart of our traditional territory. It means everything to us.”

read more: Eco-tourism worth billions trumps value of Kinder Morgan project, new report argues | National Observer

Reforestation in Norway: showing what’s possible in Scotland and beyond – Rewilding Britain, George Monbiot

Reforestation in Norway: showing what’s possible in Scotland and beyond Scotland and Norway suffered large-scale deforestation over centuries but over the last 100 years the trees have been returning to Norway. It could be happening in Scotland too Much of SW Norway was once deforested. Now it has more trees and more people than the Highlands of Scotland.

Rewilding Britain 20 Jan 2016. Incredibly, some people think that the reason there are no trees growing across great swathes of Scotland is that they can’t grow in these places – it’s too wet, it’s too windy, the soil is too thin. But they’re wrong. Look at the landscape in Scotland today and you’ll see a diverse mix of trees hanging on the edges of streams and gullies and rock faces. They’ve survived for centuries in extreme fringe locations where grazing mouths can’t reach them. ‘Southwest Norway has an overall population density higher than the Scottish Highlands. It has reforested, largely through natural regeneration, since the late 19th century’ The forests of Scotland could return – if deer numbers were reduced to a level the land can support, if land wasn’t burned to favour shooting birds, and if livestock was managed alongside woodland as it is in many other countries. Reforesting is a part of rewilding. Rewilding is about dedicating areas of land to nature, where nature decides the outcome. We can see what that might mean for Scotland by looking across the water to southwest Norway – an area almost identical to Scotland in climate and geology.

Read more…: Reforestation in Norway: showing what’s possible in Scotland and beyond – Rewilding Britain

Climate change fails to top list of threats for business leaders at Davos | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian

The high profile UN summit on climate change in Paris appears to have had little impact on the decision making and worries of global business leaders. Despite concerns about its impact on extreme weather events, such as recent flooding in the UK, climate change failed to register near the top of the list of business threats, according to a survey of 1,400 CEOs from around the world compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and published at Davos this week. Davos 2016: worries mount for world’s business leaders Read more Instead, over-regulation was listed as the biggest threat to business (by 79% of CEOs), followed by geopolitical uncertainty (74%) and other key threats including cyber attacks (61%). In contrast, climate change and environmental damage was mentioned as a threat to business growth by just 50% of CEOs. The findings were similar to a separate survey of 13,000 business leaders produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF). It also found a relative absence of concern about climate change and environmental risk amongst business leaders. Business leaders from developed countries listed fiscal crisis and cyber-attacks as their biggest concerns, while in emerging and developing economies the biggest concern was unemployment, underemployment and energy price shocks. “No executive considers failure of climate mitigation and adaptation as the number one risk for doing business in his/her country,” states the report. By contrast, a wider survey of economists, academics and civil society also produced by the WEF listed climate change as the biggest potential threat to the global economy in 2016. A failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation was seen as likely to have a bigger impact than the spread of weapons of mass destruction, water crises, mass involuntary migration and a severe energy price shock. PwC suggested that contrary to its findings CEOs were concerned about the impact of climate change. “We don’t believe a low score in one question reflects overall thinking and action on it,” a spokesperson told the Guardian. “A quarter of all CEOs included ‘reduced environmental impacts’ in the three outcomes that should be joint government and business priorities in the countries in which they are based… and they are showing greater understanding of environmental impacts in their business and supply chain.” PwC said the results from this year’s survey also revealed a higher level of concern of climate change amongst CEOs than they did after the UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen in 2009 (50% vs 37%).

read more… Climate change fails to top list of threats for business leaders at Davos | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian

Hawking: Humans at risk of lethal ‘own goal’ – BBC News

Humanity is at risk from a series of dangers of our own making, according to Prof Stephen Hawking. Nuclear war, global warming and genetically-engineered viruses are among the scenarios he singles out. And he says that further progress in science and technology will create “new ways things can go wrong”. Prof Hawking is giving this year’s BBC Reith Lectures, which explore research into black holes, and his warning came in answer to audience questions. He says that assuming humanity eventually establishes colonies on other worlds, it will be able to survive. “Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years. “By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race. “However, we will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years, so we have to be very careful in this period.”

Source: Hawking: Humans at risk of lethal ‘own goal’ – BBC News

Antarctica shaping up as 21st century geopolitical hotspot – Nature, News, Society – NZEDGE

Antarctica shaping up as 21st century geopolitical hotspot The locale of one of today’s greatest real estate development grabs might surprise you. It’s not Dubai, Las Vegas, or Shanghai, but the frozen continent that rests at the end of the world. Writing in The New York Times in late December 2015, Simon Romero describes increased activity from various global players, including Russia building its first Orthodox church (with logs imported from Siberia), China’s plans to operate five bases (complete with indoor badminton court in its Great Wall Station), and India’s spaceship-looking Bharathi base, built on stilts and interlocking shipping containers. “An array of countries is rushing to assert greater influence here,” Romero writes, “with an eye not just toward the day those protective treaties expire, but also for the strategic and commercial opportunities that exist right now.” Why the race to the bottom? “The newest players are stepping into what they view as a treasure house of resources,” University of Canterbury School of Social and Political Sciences Professor Anne-Marie Brady told the Times. A treaty banning mining in Antarctica—which shields coveted reserves of iron ore, coal, and chromium—is expected to come up for review by 2048 and the continent’s mineral, oil, and gas deposits are all highly prized. The Times article details how researchers recently found deposits that hint at the existence of diamonds in the region and geologists estimate the area holds at least 36 billion barrels of oil and natural gas. Rather than the desolate, monolithic icescape of popular imagination, Antarctica is shaping up to be a 21st century geopolitical hotspot. Professor Brady is perhaps the world’s foremost scholar at navigating Antarctica politics. Editor of The Emerging Politics of Antarctica (2012, Routledge Advances in International Relations and Global Politics), a volume that examines the post-Cold War challenges facing the continent’s governance, Professor Brady specializes in subject matter related to the power and influence of China, New Zealand’s largest trading partner and the nation that arguably has the fastest-growing operations in Antarctica. Prof. Brady has published groundbreaking research in the field, covering China’s modern propaganda system and the nation’s relationships with Antarctica and the Pacific, as well as major revisionist histories of the Long March and of New Zealand’s national icon, Rewi Alley.

Source: Antarctica shaping up as 21st century geopolitical hotspot – Nature, News, Society – NZEDGE

Bernie Sanders Reflects on Dr. King’s Legacy with Cornel West, Killer Mike, and Nina Turner

Bernie Sanders sat down on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with Dr. Cornel West, rapper and activist Killer Mike, and Nina Turner, the former minority whip for the Ohio Senate, to discuss Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. The four discussed his life, his legacy, and the effects he had on the struggles still happening today. Several times the discussion comes back to how Dr. King’s legacy is frequently sanitized, obscuring how truly radical and outspoken his views were. Bernie sanders reflected on Dr. King’s path and how his aims expanded far beyond racial justice alone in the months leading to his death. “This is what courage is about. He said, ‘Enough.’ If he was going to be consistent with his own inner soul, he had to ask other questions. And the questions he asked, he says, I’m a man of nonviolence, but we’re living in a time of Vietnam War.” He then links Dr. King’s struggle against Vietnam and civil rights to his Poor People’s Campaign, a grassroots movement that fought for economic rights and against income inequality. Dr. Cornel West echoed this sentiment, explicitly linking this to Sander’s campaign. “I was sitting in church today, Mother Emanuel Church, and we were reading the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said West. “And I said to myself, ‘This is what the Sanders campaign is about. This is what it’s about. It’s about the poor, working people. It’s about keeping track of the weak and the vulnerable. It’s about mustering the courage to tell the truth about Wall Street, about wealth inequality.”

Source: Bernie Sanders Reflects on Dr. King’s Legacy with Cornel West, Killer Mike, and Nina Turner

Dark Money review: Nazi oil, the Koch brothers and a rightwing revolution | US news | Jane Mayer, in The Guardian

Lots of American industrialists have skeletons in the family closet. Charles and David Koch, however, are in a league of their own. Charles Koch is ‘disappointed’ in 2016 Republicans – but will still give $900m.

The father of these famous rightwing billionaires was Fred Koch, who started his fortune with $500,000 received from Stalin for his assistance constructing 15 oil refineries in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. A couple of years later, his company, Winkler-Koch, helped the Nazis complete their third-largest oil refinery. The facility produced hundreds of thousands of gallons of high-octane fuel for the Luftwaffe, until it was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1944. In 1938, the patriarch wrote that “the only sound countries in the world are Germany, Italy and Japan”. To make sure his children got the right ideas, he hired a German nanny. The nanny was such a fervent Nazi that when France fell in 1940, she resigned and returned to Germany. After that, Fred became the main disciplinarian, whipping his children with belts and tree branches. These are just a handful of the many bombshells exploded in the pages of Dark Money, Jane Mayer’s indispensable new history “of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right” in the US. A veteran investigative reporter and a staff writer for the New Yorker, Mayer has combined her own research with the work of scores of other investigators, to describe how the Kochs and fellow billionaires like Richard Scaife have spent hundreds of millions to “move their political ideas from the fringe to the center of American political life”. Twenty years after collaborating with the Nazis, Fred Koch had lost none of his taste for extremism. In 1958, he was one of the 11 original members of the John Birch Society, an organization which accused scores of prominent Americans, including President Dwight Eisenhower, of communist sympathies. In 1960, Koch wrote: “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America.” He strongly supported the movement to impeach chief justice Earl Warren, after the supreme court voted to desegregate public schools in Brown v Board of Education. His sons became Birchers too, although Charles was more enamored of “antigovernment economic writers” than communist conspiracies.

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Source: Dark Money review: Nazi oil, the Koch brothers and a rightwing revolution | US news | The Guardian

Shock figures to reveal deadly toll of global air pollution | Environment | The Guardian

Shock figures to reveal deadly toll of global air pollution World Health Organisation describes new data as ‘health emergency’, with rising concern likely to influence decision over Heathrow expansion Smog in central London in 2011.  The World Health Organisation has issued a stark new warning about deadly levels of pollution in many of the world’s biggest cities, claiming poor air quality is killing millions and threatening to overwhelm health services across the globe. ‘Yucky pollution,’ says my daughter, as Delhi chokes Read more Before the release next month of figures that will show air pollution has worsened since 2014 in hundreds of already blighted urban areas, the WHO says there is now a global “public health emergency” that will have untold financial implications for governments. The latest data, taken from 2,000 cities, will show further deterioration in many places as populations have grown, leaving large areas under clouds of smog created by a mix of transport fumes, construction dust, toxic gases from power generation and wood burning in homes. The toxic haze blanketing cities could be clearly seen last week from the international space station. Last week it was also revealed that several streets in London had exceeded their annual limits for nitrogen dioxide emissions just a few days into 2016. “We have a public health emergency in many countries from pollution. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with horrible future costs to society,” said Maria Neira, head of public health at the WHO, which is a specialist agency of the United Nations. “Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma. Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too – even dementia. We are storing up problems. These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous,” said Neira. Last week David Cameron, whose government has been accused of dragging its feet over air pollution and is facing legal challenges over alleged inaction, conceded in the Commons that the growing problem of air pollution in urban areas of the UK has implications for major policy decisions such as whether to expand Heathrow airport.

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Source: Shock figures to reveal deadly toll of global air pollution | Environment | The Guardian