Monday, July 8, 2013

The Shape of Things to Come

Alert reader Nebris pointed out this post from Mr. Nafeez Ahmed on the Guardian blogs:

Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks

Dr. Ahmed points out what should be obvious by now, the massive surveillance and domestic military operations that have been constructed in Western Nations are not really to "combat terror" but to keep domestic populations at bay and under control, to keep the current system functioning at all costs and to prevent any other systems from emerging. Dr. Ahmed lists in extensive and damning detail evidence to back up his conclusion using widely published sources. I'm glad the Guardian is publishing this, and I wonder why it's not getting more attention.

I've written about Nafeez Ahmad before. See especially this post from January 2012, in which I wrote:
...And while some are optimistic about the Internet and new communications technologies to get around restrictions imposed by the state, to me they seem like the ultimate tool of repression. The internet is not small or local; it is a complex system owned and run by elites (government and corporations), and it monitors where you are at all times and everything you do. It is the ultimate panopticon, one with no escape or recourse.
And I also mention several other thinkers, including John Robb, who is also someone whose name pops up frequently.

Dr. Ahmed correctly identifies this as "The crisis of civilization," and he correctly identifies this as a series of interlocking crises including our banking/economic systems, resource scarcity, political corruption, and similar big-ticket issues. In that, he is very similar to the underlying themes of this blog as well - we cannot understand what is happening unless we understand the larger picture, which those in power do not want us to see. And I'm glad to see one of his articles today also on Egypt's new age of unrest is a taste of things to come:
Morsi's key problem was that he had spent most of his energies on consolidating the reach of his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, rather than dealing with Egypt's entrenched social, economic and political problems. Indeed, Egyptian unrest is the consequence of a fatal cocktail of structural failures rooted in an unsustainable global model of industrial civilisation - addicted to fossil fuels, wedded fanatically to casino capitalism, and convinced, ostrich-like, that somehow technology alone will save us.
Egypt's oil production peaked in 1996, and since then has declined by around 26%. Having moved from complete food self-sufficiency since the 1960s, to excessive dependence on imports subsidised by oil revenues (now importing 75% of its wheat), declining oil revenues have increasingly impacted food and fuel subsidies. As high food prices are generally underpinned by high oil prices - because energy accounts for over a third of the costs of grain production - this has further contributed to surging global food prices.

Food price hikes have coincided with devastating climate change impacts in the form of extreme weather in key food-basket regions. Since 2010, we have seen droughts and heat-waves in the US, Russia, and China, leading to a dramatic fall in wheat yields, on which Egypt is heavily dependent. The subsequent doubling of global wheat prices - from $157/metric tonne in June 2010 to $326/metric tonne in February 2011 - directly affected millions of Egyptians, who already spend about 40% of their income on food. That helped trigger the events that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 - but the same configuration of factors is worsening.

Egypt has suffered from horrendous debt levels at about 80.5% of its GDP, far higher than most other countries in the region. Inequality is also high, widening over the last decade in the wake of neoliberal 'structural adjustment' reforms implemented throughout the region since the 1980s with debilitating effects, including contraction of social welfare, reduction of wages, and lack of infrastructure investment.
His work is so informative and well-written, that I think I can just outsource writing on this stuff from now on. Thank goodness, because I already have a full-time job.  And on a very similar topic, I also flagged this post, also from The Guardian, from last week: Climate change poses grave threat to security, says UK envoy:
Morisetti's central message was simple and stark: "The areas of greatest global stress and greatest impacts of climate change are broadly coincidental."

He said governments could not afford to wait until they had all the information they might like. "If you wait for 100% certainty on the battlefield, you'll be in a pretty sticky state," he said.

The increased threat posed by climate change arises because droughts, storms and floods are exacerbating water, food, population and security tensions in conflict-prone regions.

"Just because it is happening 2,000 miles away does not mean it is not going to affect the UK in a globalised world, whether it is because food prices go up, or because increased instability in an area – perhaps around the Middle East or elsewhere – causes instability in fuel prices," Morisetti said.

"In fact it is already doing so," he added, noting that Honda's UK car plants had been forced to switch to a three-day week after extreme floods in Thailand cut the supply chain. Computer firms in California and Poland were left short of microchips by the same floods.

Morisetti is far from the only military figure emphasising the climate threat to security. America's top officer tackling the threat from North Korea and China has said the biggest long-term security issue in the region is climate change.

In a recent interview, Admiral Samuel J Locklear III, who led the US naval action in Libya that helped topple Muammar Gaddafi, said a significant event related to the warming planet was "the most likely thing that is going to happen that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about".

There is a reason why the military are so clear-headed about the climate threat, according to Professor John Schellnhuber, a scientist who briefed the UN security council on the issue in February and formerly advised the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

"The military do not deal with ideology. They cannot afford to: they are responsible for the lives of people and billions of pounds of investment in equipment," he said. "When the climate change deniers took their stance after the Copenhagen summit in 2009, it is very interesting that the military people were never shaken from the idea that we are about to enter a very difficult period."

He added: "This danger of the creation of violent conflicts is the strongest argument why we should keep climate change under control, because the international system is not stable, and the slightest thing, like the food riots in the Middle East, could make the whole system explode."
Earth Insight by Nafeez Ahmed (Guardian blogs)

The Cutting Edge (Nafeez Ahmed's blog)

It's too bad most Americans will continue to get their information from talk radio or cable news. With a name like Nafeez Ahmed, a lot of Americans will probably just write him off as an anti-American "terrorist." Sigh.

See also this post from 2011: The New Enlightenment

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