contributors – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sat, 04 Dec 2021 05:16:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.18 Under Harsh Taliban Rule and Boycotted by International Donors, Afghanistan is becoming Hell on Earth https://www.juancole.com/2021/11/boycotted-international-afghanistan.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/11/boycotted-international-afghanistan.html#respond Tue, 30 Nov 2021 05:08:47 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=201529 By Liam Felloni | –

Bristol, UK (Special to Informed Comment) –

Ninety days into the Taliban takeover, the situation in the country is worsening by the minute. Since Afghanistan is no longer backed by Western governments, and the Taliban government is heavily sanctioned, the country is on the verge of famine. As hunger rises in prominence and child fatalities sore, the Afghan winter and Taliban will be a deadly combination.

With a lack of competent governance, international hostility and worldwide scrutiny, the situation in Afghanistan is described by the executive director of the World Food Program, David Beasley as “as bad as you possibly can imagine”. As the financial situation in the country deteriorates, Afghanistan is entering into the “worlds worse humanitarian crisis we have ever seen“.

As the Taliban continue to regiment towns and territories, journalists report that children are being sold and human rights are being abused. In Afghanistan right now, law-abiding citizens are being forced to choose between life and death under the new Taliban regime.

Ever been Hungry? Think again!

As the December cold looms close, the first speck of snow is expected to reach Kabul any day now, making acquiring food even more difficult. As the La Niña weather pattern threatens a second drought in the country this year, the harvest of wheat, which accounts for almost 60% of Afghans’ caloric intake will be disappointing. Owing to these circumstances, only “5% of households have enough to eat every day” in Afghanistan.

As worldwide leaders ponder how to deal with the new Taliban regime, they have ceased their humanitarian and other aid. Forty percent of the country’s GDP has evaporatedand the US has frozen $9.5 billion of Afghanistan government reserves. A contributing factor to this is that Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is a significant Taliban government member is currently on the ‘Global Wanted Terrorist’ and the FBI’s most-wanted list. Owing to Haqqani’s notoriety and the fact that the Taliban are an internationally recognised terrorist organisation, Western governments are declining to release billions of dollars in foreign aid to help Afghanistan. Thus, the $220 million a month needed to moderately feed the 22.8 million hungry mouths won’t be available this year.

With economic implosion and the blockage of foreign aid, Afghanistan this winter is preparing for a catastrophe. This is because “the cold will only finish the work that malnutrition began months or years ago”

According to the UNOCHA, it is estimated that more than half of the 39 million Afghan population needs humanitarian assistance in 2021. One in two Afghans face emergency levels of acute food insecurity.

A new deadly voyage?

Desperate Afghans are looking to escape Taliban control. Some 122,000 Afghans were safely evacuated from Kabul back in August. Many more seek to depart now.

David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme has stated that:

“This winter, millions of Afghans will be forced to choose between migration and starvation unless we can step up our life-saving assistance, and unless the economy can be resuscitated”.

The reason being is that for Afghan citizens who are unwilling to bandwagon the extremist ideologies of the Taliban, the threat of food insecurity, human rights abuses, and economic and violent pressures are pushing more Afghans to flee the border to safety

The International Organization for Migration has indicated that the Turkish authorities have returned more than one million Afghans to their native country in the last 6 months. This is because Turkey is unwilling to host another country’s population in addition to existing Syrian refugees. Yet, with no money or food and increasingly poor health, Afghans are being deported back to Afghanistan, broke and broken.

The UN High Commission on Refugees has warned that by the end of 2021, the humanitarian crisis will displace half a million more Afghans. However, with little recognition from neighbouring countries, Afghans will be forced to seek refuge further afield, with many experts believing that they will head for Europe. This prospect has triggered a wave of anxiety for European countries as the nightmares of the 2015 migration crisis is still a vivid memory. In addition to this, with the unfolding border crisis between Belarus and EU member Poland, the potential influx of Afghan migrants ending up on European shores could unravel years of border developments that have been implemented to manage illegal border crossings into Europe.

Afghan families are being forced to do the unthinkable to survive. Afghanistan parents have begun selling their own children as food poverty and malnutrition spiral, according to the BBC, The Telegraph, NBC and the Insider. Reports suggest that children as young as 9 years old are being sold as wives to men for as little as $500.

This misery among young men is a recruiting opportunity for the so-called Islamic State group, the Afghan affiliate of which is known as “Khurasan,” the medieval Muslim name for eastern Iran and the parts of Afghanistan and Central Asia that abut it. lS-K, also known as ISIS-K and ISKP, is the most extreme and violent of all Jihadist militant groups operating out of Afghanistan. IS-K pays their soldiers salaries, and is one of the few prospective employers in some areas, given that the “situation inside the country remains dire.”

One Afghan told Human Rights Watch:

“We don’t have enough food … we only eat once a day. With the winter approaching, the situation can get even worse than this. The Afghan [Taliban] government doesn’t have any clear plan to fix the hunger issue, and I doubt if the international community has one. What I clearly see is that soon most Afghans will die just for not having food, and as always, no one will care.”

In addition to this, a woman in Southeast Afghanistan, when asked about the situation in Afghanistan, stated that the problem is “Worse than what appears in the media.”

Liam Felloni holds an MSc. in International Security from Bristol University in the UK.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

MSNBC: “Afghanistan On Verge Of Famine And Economic Collapse Amid Humanitarian Crisis

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Pandemic History: The Great Plague of Justinian in the 500s AD was a Black Death that Shaped the Century before Islam https://www.juancole.com/2021/11/plague-justinian-century.html Thu, 25 Nov 2021 05:02:25 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=201425 Research News of the University of Cambridge | –

‘Plague sceptics’ are wrong to underestimate the devastating impact that bubonic plague had in the 6th– 8th centuries CE, argues a new study based on ancient texts and recent genetic discoveries. The same study suggests that bubonic plague may have reached England before its first recorded case in the Mediterranean via a currently unknown route, possibly involving the Baltic and Scandinavia.

We have a lot to learn from how our forebears responded to epidemic disease

Peter Sarris

The Justinianic Plague is the first known outbreak of bubonic plague in west Eurasian history and struck the Mediterranean world at a pivotal moment in its historical development, when the Emperor Justinian was trying to restore Roman imperial power.

For decades, historians have argued about the lethality of the disease; its social and economic impact; and the routes by which it spread. In 2019-20, several studies, widely publicised in the media, argued that historians had massively exaggerated the impact of the Justinianic Plague and described it as an ‘inconsequential pandemic’. In a subsequent piece of journalism, written just before COVID-19 took hold in the West, two researchers suggested that the Justinianic Plague was ‘not unlike our flu outbreaks’.


Detail of the mosaic of Justinianus I in the Basilica di San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy

In a new study, published in Past & Present, Cambridge historian Professor Peter Sarris argues that these studies ignored or downplayed new genetic findings, offered misleading statistical analysis and misrepresented the evidence provided by ancient texts.

Sarris says: “Some historians remain deeply hostile to regarding external factors such as disease as having a major impact on the development of human society, and ‘plague scepticism’ has had a lot of attention in recent years.”

Sarris, a Fellow of Trinity College, is critical of the way that some studies have used search engines to calculate that only a small percentage of ancient literature discusses the plague and then crudely argue that this proves the disease was considered insignificant at the time.

Sarris says: “Witnessing the plague first-hand obliged the contemporary historian Procopius to break away from his vast military narrative to write a harrowing account of the arrival of the plague in Constantinople that would leave a deep impression on subsequent generations of Byzantine readers. That is far more telling than the number of plague-related words he wrote. Different authors, writing different types of text, concentrated on different themes, and their works must be read accordingly.”

Sarris also refutes the suggestion that laws, coins and papyri provide little evidence that the plague had a significant impact on the early Byzantine state or society. He points to a major reduction in imperial law-making between the year 546, by which point the plague had taken hold, and the end of Justinian’s reign in 565. But he also argues that the flurry of significant legislation that was made between 542 and 545 reveals a series of crisis-driven measures issued in the face of plague-induced depopulation, and to limit the damage inflicted by the plague on landowning institutions.

In March 542, in a law that Justinian described as having been written amid the ‘encircling presence of death’, which had ‘spread to every region’, the emperor attempted to prop up the banking sector of the imperial economy.

In another law of 544, the emperor attempted to impose price and wage controls, as workers tried to take advantage of labour shortages. Alluding to the plague, Justinian declared that the ‘chastening which has been sent by God’s goodness’ should have made workers ‘better people’ but instead ‘they have turned to avarice’.

That bubonic plague exacerbated the East Roman Empire’s existing fiscal and administrative difficulties is also reflected in changes to coinage in this period, Sarris argues. A series of light-weight gold coins were issued, the first such reduction in the gold currency since its introduction in the 4th century and the weight of the heavy copper coinage of Constantinople was also reduced significantly around the same time as the emperor’s emergency banking legislation.

Sarris says: “The significance of a historical pandemic should never be judged primarily on the basis of whether it leads to the ‘collapse’ of the societies concerned. Equally, the resilience of the East Roman state in the face of the plague does not signify that the challenge posed by the plague was not real.”

“What is most striking about the governmental response to the Justinianic Plague in the Byzantine or Roman world is how rational and carefully targeted it was, despite the bewilderingly unfamiliar circumstances in which the authorities found themselves.

“We have a lot to learn from how our forebears responded to epidemic disease, and how pandemics impacted on social structures, the distribution of wealth, and modes of thought.”

Bubonic plague in England

Until the early 2000s, the identification of the Justinianic Plague as ‘bubonic’ rested entirely upon ancient texts which described the appearance of buboes or swellings in the groins or armpits of victims. But then rapid advances in genomics enabled archaeologists and genetic scientists to discover traces of the ancient DNA of Yersinia pestis in Early Medieval skeletal remains. Such finds have been made in Germany, Spain, France and England.

In 2018, a study of DNA preserved in remains found in an early Anglo-Saxon burial site known as Edix Hill in Cambridgeshire revealed that many of the interred had died carrying the disease. Further analysis revealed that the strain of Y. pestis found was the earliest identified lineage of the bacterium involved in the 6th-century pandemic.

Sarris says: “We have tended to start with the literary sources, which describe the plague arriving at Pelusium in Egypt before spreading out from there, and then fitted the archaeological and genetic evidence into a framework and narrative based on those sources. That approach will no longer do. The arrival of bubonic plague in the Mediterranean around 541 and its initial arrival in England possibly somewhat earlier may have been the result of two separate but related routes, occurring some time apart.”

The study suggests that the plague may have reached the Mediterranean via the Red Sea, and reached England perhaps via the Baltic and Scandanavia, and from there onto parts of the continent.

The study emphasises that despite being called the ‘Justinianic Plague’, it was “never a purely or even primarily Roman phenomenon” and as recent genetic discoveries have proven, it reached remote and rural sites such as Edix Hill, as well as heavily populated cities.

It is widely accepted that the lethal and virulent strain of bubonic plague from which the Justinianic Plague and later the Black Death would descend had emerged in Central Asia by the Bronze Age before evolving further there in antiquity.

Sarris suggests that it may be significant that the advent of both the Justinianic Plague and the Black Death were preceded by the expansion of nomadic empires across Eurasia: the Huns in the 4th and 5th centuries, and the Mongols in the 13th.

Sarris says: “Increasing genetic evidence will lead in directions we can scarcely yet anticipate, and historians need to be able to respond positively and imaginatively, rather than with a defensive shrug.”

Reference
P. Sarris, ‘New Approaches to the ‘Plague of Justinian’, Past & Present (2021); DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtab024.



The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified. All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.


Featured illustration: Credit: Petar Milošević

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Glowing Review of Juan Cole, “Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires” (Video) https://www.juancole.com/2021/10/glowing-muhammad-prophet-empires.html Sun, 03 Oct 2021 04:08:34 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200392 Dr. Shabir Ally reviews Juan Cole’s book,
Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires [Click]

Da’wah Center Toronto — “A review of Juan Cole’s book on the prophet Muhammad pbuh – Dr. Shabir Ally” – Fast forward to 12:24 for English review

Dr. Ally’s site says,

    “Dr. Shabir Ally holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, with a specialization in Biblical Literature. He also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D from the University of Toronto with a specialization in Quranic Exegesis (tafsir). He is the president of the Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International in Toronto where he functions as Imam. He travels internationally to represent Islam in public lectures and interfaith dialogues. He explains Islam on a weekly television program called Let the Quran Speak. Past episodes of this show can be seen online at: www.quranspeaks.com.”

Purchase

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How Gerrymandering Threatens Democracy https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/gerrymandering-threatens-democracy.html Fri, 24 Sep 2021 04:08:02 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200247 By Arnold J. Oliver | –

Tiffin, Oh. (Special to Informed Comment) – Right now, Ohio, Michigan and other states are in the process of drawing new legislative boundaries, which takes place every ten years based mostly on information gained from the US census. As this process gets into gear, it appears that once again single party dominance will be baked into Ohio’s electoral system. Michigan, on the other hand, has enacted reforms to enhance fair electoral competition. We will explain what gerrymandering is, and why it is damaging to democracy; then we will briefly outline the reforms adopted in Michigan.

Gerrymandering is a strategy designed to give an unfair advantage to a particular party by drawing the boundaries of electoral districts to maintain and consolidate power. This is done by “cracking”, that is dividing communities to reduce their voting impact; and by “packing” opponents into few districts with the intent of weakening their influence everywhere else. Gerrymandering has been around at least since 1812, when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry drew up skewed districts to aid his political clique.

Although gerrymandering has been around for centuries, it has recently become both more sophisticated and more dangerous. Today’s new hyper-powered gerrymandering makes use of modern computing and mapping technology to draw district boundaries with such precision as to nearly guarantee rule by the party that controls the process.

To put it bluntly, gerrymandering aims to create safe seats for politicians by maximizing the number of votes that do not count. No matter for whom one pulls the lever, the outcome of the vote is tilted in one direction. Instead of voters choosing among candidates for office, it is instead the politicians who select the voters.

This arrangement has dire consequences. For one thing, the artificial creation of so many safe seats leads to politicians who have little fear of being removed from office, and as a result they are more tempted to engage in corruption. It seems apparent that Ohio’s extreme gerrymandering has been partially responsible for recent incidents of outrageous corruption including First Energy bribes, tax money rip-offs by on-line schools with no students, the looting of state pension funds, and more.

Not only that, but safe gerrymandered districts also contribute to political extremism. In districts with safe seats, the general election is less important; the real contest is in the party primary in which radicals of various stripes can often knock off more moderate opponents. When the radicals win the general election and take office many of them are loath to compromise. Political polarization increases.

Gerrymandering is also a powerful instrument of voter suppression in that it discourages voter turnout. After all, what is the incentive to vote in an election in which the outcome is all but guaranteed? Although not well researched as yet, states with extreme gerrymandering may have around five percent lower turnout as a result.

At this point in time Ohio is among the ten most gerrymandered states in the country: The Republican party wins about 58- of the seats in Congress. Ohio State House and Senate seats are similarly distorted. Nationally, the Republicans gain around 20 seats in Congress each election cycle due to gerrymandering. In an evenly divided Congress such as exists now, that is a huge advantage.

Ohioans know most of this, and strongly oppose gerrymandering. In 2018 a ballot initiative to drastically limit the practice passed with around 75% support. Unfortunately it appears that the state’s Republicans aim to continue extreme gerrymandering in spite of their promises not to do so, and the clearly stated wishes of the voters.

In Michigan it is a different story. Thanks in large part to the work of political novice Katie Fahey starting in 2016, the citizens of Michigan overwhelmingly voted to get rid of partisan political control of the redistricting process and place it in the hands of an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The Commission aims to create legislative districts that are compact, competitive and reflect the political balance of the state’s electorate – in other words, the opposite of gerrymandering. In a political tour de force for the ages, Ms. Fahey kicked off this political revolution with a single Facebook post.

It’s too early to tell whether the Michigan Redistricting Commission will be successful, but at least they have a chance.

Ohio would do well to heed these lessons in citizen action and the folly of taking politicians at their word.

Arnold Oliver is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. He can be reached at ]

—–

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

WFRV Local 5: “Protesters held a car parade and rally to voice their opposition to gerrymandering”

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A short History of Climate Change and Civilization that does not End Well (XKCD Webcomic) https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/history-civilization-webcomic.html Fri, 24 Sep 2021 04:02:01 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200238 Randall Munroe,

XKCD: A webcomic of romance,
sarcasm, math, and language.

Via Randall Munroe,

XKCD: A webcomic of romance,
sarcasm, math, and language.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

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The Pogrom at Sabra and Shatila https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/pogrom-sabra-shatila.html Sun, 19 Sep 2021 04:05:32 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200164 By Donald Wagner | –

See Journeyman Pictures documentary – Informed Comment .

( Electronic Intifada) – The US withdrawal from Afghanistan marks the end of the latest in a long list of disastrous American military interventions. A quick review of the past 50 years reveals a dismal pattern of American betrayal and lack of accountability leaving behind suffering and failed states.

We are familiar with the US defeat in Vietnam and withdrawal from Saigon in 1975 but who remembers the chaos left behind in Laos or Cambodia?

Or consider the Reagan administration’s interventions in Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Their legacy today is the children and families at our southern border who are refugees from Reagan’s policies – which included supporting genocidal death squads.

We can add to the list various countries devastated and abandoned by the US across Western Asia and North Africa, including Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. The list grows even longer when we add interventions in Africa, Central Asia, South America and the Caribbean.

“The American-led fight against terror by military force and supporting authoritarian governments in the Middle East, Asia and Africa has ravaged the quality of governance and the lives of ordinary people,” journalist Rami G. Khouri wrote recently.

That is putting it mildly.

I saw this destructive pattern up close in May 1982, when I led a delegation of relief and development specialists to Lebanon. On 4 June we found ourselves under the US-funded Israeli bombing of Beirut, launching a war that killed at least 17,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians and wounded tens of thousands more.

Israel followed with a ground invasion on 6 June. A week later, Israeli forces had occupied most of Lebanon and besieged its capital – ostensibly in order to rout the Palestine Liberation Organization that was then largely based in the country.

A US-brokered ceasefire agreement reached in mid-August stipulated that the PLO had to withdraw its military and political personnel from Lebanon and Israel’s army would remain outside of Beirut.

As part of the agreement, the US committed to provide safety for the more than 300,000 Palestinian civilians in Lebanon. On 20 August, Reagan ordered the US Marines to begin deploying in Lebanon, along with French and Italian forces, to guarantee security and stability during the PLO withdrawal.

Three days later, Bachir Gemayel, the head of the Israeli-allied Lebanese Forces militia, was elected by Lebanon’s parliament as the country’s president. But on 14 September, before he had taken office, he was assassinated with a massive car bomb.

Defying the United States, Israel violated the ceasefire agreement and occupied West Beirut, including the area of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

On the evening of 16 September 1982, Israel sent the Lebanese Forces militia into Sabra and Shatila, where thousands of now defenseless Palestinian civilians lived.

But Sharon had insisted that despite the internationally supervised PLO withdrawal, more than 2,000 Palestinian “terrorists” were still hiding out in refugee camps.

It was a complete fabrication. According to declassified Israeli documents and accounts of former US officials, Sharon and other Israeli leaders misled American diplomats into accepting the false claims about thousands of Palestinian “terrorists” and defied Washington’s requests to withdraw Israeli forces from Beirut.

The same night the Lebanese Forces militia – also called Phalangists – entered the camps. Israeli officials were already aware that civilians were being killed, according to historian Seth Anziska.

Israeli foreign minister Yitzhak Shamir had reportedly already heard about a “slaughter” going on in the camps. But when he and other senior Israeli officials met their American counterparts on 17 September, Shamir made no mention of it.

“Where are you from, my friend?”

Before news of the massacre broke, I returned to Beirut with two leaders from Mercy Corps International with proposals for medical and economic relief projects in Lebanon. We did not reach the refugee camps until Monday morning, 20 September.

Our experience was mild compared to what the Palestinian survivors and international medical personnel serving in Palestinian hospitals had experienced that weekend. We entered Sabra and Shatila at around 11 am and were met by Lebanese Red Crescent workers who gave us handkerchiefs soaked in cologne.

“Keep this at your nose as the smell of decaying bodies will make you sick,” we were told.

Five minutes later we stood in shock and tears as mothers screamed in desperate grief when workers pulled two bodies, and body parts, of their loved ones from the rubble.

After several interviews, I approached a Muslim cleric overlooking a deep pit where workers were carrying body bags for burial. I expressed my condolences and the sheikh shook his head.

“I saw many of the victims at Friday prayers,” I recall him saying.

“We will never know how many died here,” he added. “On Friday evening I heard shots and saw the bodies of several men loaded onto trucks. Only God knows where they were buried.”

He estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 people had been killed.

The names of 1,400 victims have been documented. But the actual death toll is thought to be much higher because the Phalangists abducted many victims.

Then he asked the dreaded question: “Where are you from, my friend?”

I paused in embarrassment and said, “The United States, and I know the blood of these victims is on our hands.”

“Yes, the blood is on your hands as Americans,” he responded. “But I thank God you are here to see what happened. All we ask is that you go home and tell the truth of what you have witnessed here.”

The following day we met with Lebanese journalists who said it was common knowledge the US had promised security for the Palestinians and to keep Israel out of Beirut.

Had the US government – which undoubtedly had the power to do so – stood up to Ariel Sharon’s deceit and ordered Israel to withdraw from Beirut, the massacre could have been avoided.

A clear case of genocide

To their credit, people in Israel held one of the largest demonstrations anywhere protesting the massacre.

However, in 1983, the Kahan Commission, Israel’s official investigation, concluded that officials and personnel of that country were only “indirectly responsible” for the massacre.

Sharon was removed from his position as defense minister but the following year he was back in the government. In 2001, he became prime minister.

No Israeli and not a single Lebanese militia leader was tried or convicted for the genocide at Sabra and Shatila and the US escaped accountability for abandoning the Palestinians.

The Sabra and Shatila massacre was a clear case of genocide by any standard of international law, yet the responsible parties escaped prosecution and conviction.

Indeed, transcripts of discussions between senior Israeli officials and the Lebanese Forces militia starting in January 1982 reveal the genocidal intent.

The transcripts, published in 2018, include talk of “cleaning out of the [Palestinian] refugee camps” and the need for “several Deir Yassins” – a reference to the notorious April 1948 massacre of Palestinians in a village near Jerusalem during the Nakba.

They also contain explicit references to the decimation and expulsion of the Palestinian refugee population from Lebanon so that “Sabra would become a zoo and Shatila Beirut’s parking place.”

While US officials and mainstream media avoid the topic, the pattern of genocide and injustice against Palestinians continues.

Yet the political climate is changing and the time has come for the United States to take responsibility for its complicity in Israel’s war crimes, including the Nakba and the 1982 massacre.

Enough

The US public can take up the cause by demanding Israel be held accountable for crimes inflicted on Palestinians. As taxpayers, we can demand an end to the almost $4 billion annual grant we give Israel.

The accountability can be measured by an immediate end to Israel’s theft of Palestinian land to build colonial settlements in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem.

Israel must stop detaining, imprisoning, abusing and killing Palestinian children.

We must demand that full equality and political rights be guaranteed for Palestinians and the dismantling of the Israeli apartheid system which has lately been acknowledged by human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Israel’s own B’Tselem.

Finally, the millions of Palestinian refugees scattered around the globe must be allowed to exercise their right to return and receive compensation.

The time has come to draw a line and say enough suffering and death for Palestinians. No more Sabras and Shatilas.

Donald Wagner is a long-time activist for Palestinian rights and an ordained Presbyterian clergyperson. His memoir will be published in spring 2022.

Reprinted from the Electronic Intifada with the author’s permission

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Was Sabra and Shatila a genocide? https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/sabra-shatila-genocide.html Sat, 18 Sep 2021 04:06:22 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200143 By Donald Wagner | –

( Electronic Intifada) – The US withdrawal from Afghanistan marks the end of the latest in a long list of disastrous American military interventions. A quick review of the past 50 years reveals a dismal pattern of American betrayal and lack of accountability leaving behind suffering and failed states.

We are familiar with the US defeat in Vietnam and withdrawal from Saigon in 1975 but who remembers the chaos left behind in Laos or Cambodia?

Or consider the Reagan administration’s interventions in Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Their legacy today is the children and families at our southern border who are refugees from Reagan’s policies – which included supporting genocidal death squads.

We can add to the list various countries devastated and abandoned by the US across Western Asia and North Africa, including Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. The list grows even longer when we add interventions in Africa, Central Asia, South America and the Caribbean.

“The American-led fight against terror by military force and supporting authoritarian governments in the Middle East, Asia and Africa has ravaged the quality of governance and the lives of ordinary people,” journalist Rami G. Khouri wrote recently.

That is putting it mildly.

I saw this destructive pattern up close in May 1982, when I led a delegation of relief and development specialists to Lebanon. On 4 June we found ourselves under the US-funded Israeli bombing of Beirut, launching a war that killed at least 17,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians and wounded tens of thousands more.

See Journeyman Pictures documentary – Informed Comment .

Israel followed with a ground invasion on 6 June. A week later, Israeli forces had occupied most of Lebanon and besieged its capital – ostensibly in order to rout the Palestine Liberation Organization that was then largely based in the country.

A US-brokered ceasefire agreement reached in mid-August stipulated that the PLO had to withdraw its military and political personnel from Lebanon and Israel’s army would remain outside of Beirut.

As part of the agreement, the US committed to provide safety for the more than 300,000 Palestinian civilians in Lebanon. On 20 August, Reagan ordered the US Marines to begin deploying in Lebanon, along with French and Italian forces, to guarantee security and stability during the PLO withdrawal.

Three days later, Bachir Gemayel, the head of the Israeli-allied Lebanese Forces militia, was elected by Lebanon’s parliament as the country’s president. But on 14 September, before he had taken office, he was assassinated with a massive car bomb.

Defying the United States, Israel violated the ceasefire agreement and occupied West Beirut, including the area of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

On the evening of 16 September 1982, Israel sent the Lebanese Forces militia into Sabra and Shatila, where thousands of now defenseless Palestinian civilians lived.

But Sharon had insisted that despite the internationally supervised PLO withdrawal, more than 2,000 Palestinian “terrorists” were still hiding out in refugee camps.

It was a complete fabrication. According to declassified Israeli documents and accounts of former US officials, Sharon and other Israeli leaders misled American diplomats into accepting the false claims about thousands of Palestinian “terrorists” and defied Washington’s requests to withdraw Israeli forces from Beirut.

The same night the Lebanese Forces militia – also called Phalangists – entered the camps. Israeli officials were already aware that civilians were being killed, according to historian Seth Anziska.

Israeli foreign minister Yitzhak Shamir had reportedly already heard about a “slaughter” going on in the camps. But when he and other senior Israeli officials met their American counterparts on 17 September, Shamir made no mention of it.

“Where are you from, my friend?”

Before news of the massacre broke, I returned to Beirut with two leaders from Mercy Corps International with proposals for medical and economic relief projects in Lebanon. We did not reach the refugee camps until Monday morning, 20 September.

Our experience was mild compared to what the Palestinian survivors and international medical personnel serving in Palestinian hospitals had experienced that weekend. We entered Sabra and Shatila at around 11 am and were met by Lebanese Red Crescent workers who gave us handkerchiefs soaked in cologne.

“Keep this at your nose as the smell of decaying bodies will make you sick,” we were told.

Five minutes later we stood in shock and tears as mothers screamed in desperate grief when workers pulled two bodies, and body parts, of their loved ones from the rubble.

After several interviews, I approached a Muslim cleric overlooking a deep pit where workers were carrying body bags for burial. I expressed my condolences and the sheikh shook his head.

“I saw many of the victims at Friday prayers,” I recall him saying.

“We will never know how many died here,” he added. “On Friday evening I heard shots and saw the bodies of several men loaded onto trucks. Only God knows where they were buried.”

He estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 people had been killed.

The names of 1,400 victims have been documented. But the actual death toll is thought to be much higher because the Phalangists abducted many victims.

Then he asked the dreaded question: “Where are you from, my friend?”

I paused in embarrassment and said, “The United States, and I know the blood of these victims is on our hands.”

“Yes, the blood is on your hands as Americans,” he responded. “But I thank God you are here to see what happened. All we ask is that you go home and tell the truth of what you have witnessed here.”

The following day we met with Lebanese journalists who said it was common knowledge the US had promised security for the Palestinians and to keep Israel out of Beirut.

Had the US government – which undoubtedly had the power to do so – stood up to Ariel Sharon’s deceit and ordered Israel to withdraw from Beirut, the massacre could have been avoided.

A clear case of genocide

To their credit, people in Israel held one of the largest demonstrations anywhere protesting the massacre.

However, in 1983, the Kahan Commission, Israel’s official investigation, concluded that officials and personnel of that country were only “indirectly responsible” for the massacre.

Sharon was removed from his position as defense minister but the following year he was back in the government. In 2001, he became prime minister.

No Israeli and not a single Lebanese militia leader was tried or convicted for the genocide at Sabra and Shatila and the US escaped accountability for abandoning the Palestinians.

The Sabra and Shatila massacre was a clear case of genocide by any standard of international law, yet the responsible parties escaped prosecution and conviction.

Indeed, transcripts of discussions between senior Israeli officials and the Lebanese Forces militia starting in January 1982 reveal the genocidal intent.

The transcripts, published in 2018, include talk of “cleaning out of the [Palestinian] refugee camps” and the need for “several Deir Yassins” – a reference to the notorious April 1948 massacre of Palestinians in a village near Jerusalem during the Nakba.

They also contain explicit references to the decimation and expulsion of the Palestinian refugee population from Lebanon so that “Sabra would become a zoo and Shatila Beirut’s parking place.”

While US officials and mainstream media avoid the topic, the pattern of genocide and injustice against Palestinians continues.

Yet the political climate is changing and the time has come for the United States to take responsibility for its complicity in Israel’s war crimes, including the Nakba and the 1982 massacre.

Enough

The US public can take up the cause by demanding Israel be held accountable for crimes inflicted on Palestinians. As taxpayers, we can demand an end to the almost $4 billion annual grant we give Israel.

The accountability can be measured by an immediate end to Israel’s theft of Palestinian land to build colonial settlements in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem.

Israel must stop detaining, imprisoning, abusing and killing Palestinian children.

We must demand that full equality and political rights be guaranteed for Palestinians and the dismantling of the Israeli apartheid system which has lately been acknowledged by human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Israel’s own B’Tselem.

Finally, the millions of Palestinian refugees scattered around the globe must be allowed to exercise their right to return and receive compensation.

The time has come to draw a line and say enough suffering and death for Palestinians. No more Sabras and Shatilas.

Donald Wagner is a long-time activist for Palestinian rights and an ordained Presbyterian clergyperson. His memoir will be published in spring 2022.

Reprinted from the Electronic Intifada with the author’s permission

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Open Letter to Chancellor Merkel: Germany’s Mega-Floods are a Wake-Up Call that We need Radical Climate Action, Now https://www.juancole.com/2021/07/chancellor-germanys-climate.html Fri, 30 Jul 2021 04:01:33 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199174 Prof. Dr. Eicke R. Weber
10625 Berlin

An Bundeskanzlerin

Dr. Angela Merkel
Bundeskanzleramt
Willi-Brandt-Straße 1
10557 Berlin

July 25, 2021

Dear Chancellor Dr. Merkel,

We are again in deep concern.

We were very grateful that our first letter of March 2011, after the terrible Fukushima catastrophe (see attachment), may have helped to reach your quick and for many also surprising decision to finally phase out the use of nuclear power in Germany. We also noticed that you used the argument of the fundamental lack of control of complex systems, since we can never know all starting conditions, elsewhere in political discussions. When we sent you that first open letter on the future of nuclear power just 10 years ago, we expected that the phase-out of nuclear power would also accelerate the addition of renewables. Unfortunately, today we see that the conversion of our economy to a CO2 – emission free supply of our energy and our transport services, announced by so many public proclamations, party programs, coalition agreements etc., is moving much too slowly to really avoid the expected terrible consequences of man-made climate change.

This month’s terrible floods in the heart of Germany and our western neighbours, with over 200 victims, are a drastic portent of things to come for our wonderful blue planet in the years and decades ahead, if we fail to turn the tide decisively enough now.

Our climate researchers can describe in detail what developments the earth’s climate will take in the coming years and decades as a result of the unchecked increase in CO2 and other climate-damaging gases such as methane in the earth’s atmosphere. They warn of the dangers of ‘tipping points,’ the critical, irreversible thresholds toward which we are heading but which we do not know precisely. Beyond these thresholds, further development will accelerate irreversibly. In the important publication in Proc. Nat. Acad. Sciences 115, 8252 (2018) (see attachment), many authors from the IPCC described in detail that much sooner than 2050 we are in danger of crossing important thresholds and sliding into the scenario called ‘Hothouse Earth’, with temperature increases of 3 degrees and more, accompanied by sea level rise of one meter and more still in this century. It is very likely that this threshold will be reached as soon as 2035, in your and our lifetime!

However, all the studies of the world’s best scientists are not able to reliably predict local weather phenomena. The argument of complex systems applies here as well: While weather follows physical laws that we know in detail, the amount of data that would be required to reliably predict weather over the long term is beyond our computational capacity. We are getting better at our predictions, but the key question of what the weather will be like in, say, a world with 500 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere is still unanswerable.

In other words, with the man-made increase of the climate-damaging gases in the atmosphere far beyond the limits of the last 1 million years, we are conducting a global experiment with our blue planet, the outcome of which we can only guess, but not calculate.

However, we can say with certainty, that the weather phenomena we are currently experiencing, such as the present terrible floods, the tornado with wind speeds of about 300km/h recently in the Czech Republic, the worldwide drought and heat catastrophes, are unfortunately only the beginning of the slide into the ‘Hothouse Earth’ detailed in the cited 2018 PNAS paper.

These dire prospects coming our way are also driving Greta Thunberg and activists from Fridays for Future, Scientists for Future, Parents for Future, and many others to say out loud:

HOW DARE YOU?

How dare we gamble away the future of a dignified life on earth for this next generation, in our generation? The climate demonstrations that are now flaring up again are certainly completely justified with this perspective.

On the other hand, we should recognize that our scientists have not been idle: in the last 20-30 years, through scientific and technical achievements, we have laid the foundations for a rapid transformation of our energy system, and indeed the world economy, towards 100% renewable energy (100%RE), both, from a technical and financial perspective. The cost of solar energy has been reduced by more than a factor of 10, from 50 ct/kWh at the beginning of the century to less than 5 ct/kWh in Germany now. In sunny regions, we will soon harvest solar power for 1 ct/kWh, to produce virtually unlimited green hydrogen or fresh water!

The situation today can therefore be aptly described as follows:

– We have clearly identified the problem before us;

– We have the necessary tools and the necessary means to solve the problem;

– These solutions are cost-effective, and they create jobs;

– But we are faltering; The strong opposition of the fossil fuel economy is endangering the future of the planet!

Earlier this year, a group of leading scientists, inspired by me, signed a call:

‘Declaration of the Global 100%RE Strategy Group’ (www.global100restrategygroup.org, see attachment), in which this situation is presented, with citations to other scientific publications on this subject.

Therefore, especially in view of the experiences of the last week, we would like to urge you to take the topic of the Climate Chancellor seriously, now at the end of your term of office, and to help courageously to take up the immediate transformation of the economy and our energy system toward100% RE by 2035. You have little to lose by doing so, but potentially much to gain!

What is to be done? There are many detailed analyses of this. Here are just a few key points that require swift action:

The phase-out of electricity production with lignite must come before 2038 for ecological and economic reasons, since lignite is not only harmful to the climate, but also massively damages the life and health of the population in the producing regions through the associated mercury and heavy metal emissions.

Move with priority and urgency to remove all the remaining barriers to the fastest possible expansion of renewable energies. It is simply unbelievable that we are now seeing solar and wind power plants being taken off the grid because the 20-year subsidy under the Renewable Energy Sources Act is expiring, and yet no sensible and unbureaucratic connection regulation has been found! All restrictions on the expansion of wind power must fall: Developers must of course include the residents in the vicinity of new wind turbines, but rigid distance rules are completely nonsensical.

Taxes on self-produced and self-consumed solar or wind power should be dropped. Feed-in to the grid can and should be designed to support the grid. The use of batteries must also be freed from bureaucratic regulations: Battery storages serves to move electricity on the time axis, and on average are neither generators nor consumers!

In the 16 orientation points formulated by ‘Scientists for Future’, it was shown that, in order to comply with the Paris climate protection agreement, an expansion of photovoltaics in Germany to 350 GW and of wind power to 150 GW by 2030 is required. The German government’s current expansion targets are far too low for this and must be adjusted immediately to the levels required for climate protection.

To move the world towards 100%RE, we will need about 30-70 terawatts of PV generation capacity alone globally. One of the authors of our 100%RE declaration, Prof. Breyer of the LUT University in Finland, demands that we should therefore immediately start to build PV factories, aiming for 100 worldwide by 2025, each with a production capacity of 60 GW per year, equivalent to the largest PV factory planned in China today. By doing so we can install the approx. 60 terawatts, 60,000 gigawatts of PV capacity required worldwide by 2035.

Europe should definitely take a leading role in the manufacturing of PV! Today, we in Europe produce just 0.4% of the solar cells produced worldwide. We are slightly better with modules, but these will be equipped with imported solar cells. It is pleasing that there are many initiatives in this direction, united in the ‘European Solar Initiative’. The Swiss company Meyer-Burger has already started to produce state-of-the-art heterojunction solar cells in Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt!

We concluded our letter of March 2011 with the words: ‘Please also consider, Madam Chancellor, the exemplary effect and the enormous opportunities that further German action will have in Europe as well as worldwide. The leading position we have achieved in recent years in the field of renewable energy technologies is seen and admired around the world. The aforementioned reorientation of energy and energy research policy in this direction will be equally noted and will influence the actions of global players towards a sustainable energy supply.’

A clear word from you on the goal of 100%RE by 2035 will be heard, even now at the end of your term!

Yours sincerely

Prof. Dr. Eicke R. Weber

Chair, European Solar Manufacturers Council ESMC

Attachments: list of initial signatories of this open letter, Open Letter of March 2011, 100%RE Declaration, PNAS article of August 2018.

Unterzeichnende des offenen Briefes vom 27.7.2021

von deutschen und internationalen Wissenschaftlern an Bundeskanzlerin Dr. Merkel

1. Unterzeichnende aus Deutschland, die größtenteils bereits den Brief vom 11.3.2011 zum Thema Fukushima, Zukunft der Kernenergie unterschrieben haben

Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Frank Baur

Inst. F. ZukunftsEnergie- und Stoffstromsysteme (IZES), Saarbrücken

Prof. Dr. Bolt

FZ Jülich

Prof. Dr. Heinz Clement

Universität Tübingen

Prof. Dr. Daniel Deimling

Hochschule Heilbronn

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Eberhardt

DESY – CFEL Center for Free Electron Laser Science

Dr. Ludger Eltrop

Universität Stuttgart

Hans-Josef Fell

Energy Watch Group, Berlin

Univ.-Prof Dr. Jürgen Garche

Universität Ulm

Prof. Dr.-Ing. John Grunewald

Technische Universität Dresden

Gregor Hagedorn

Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Olav Hohmeyer

Europa-Universität Flensburg

Dipl.-Biol. Rolf Krueger

Aachen

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Lau

Technische Hochschule Ulm

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Richard Leiner i.R.

HTWG-Konstanz

Prof. Dr. Manfred G. Lieb

Heilbronn

Prof. Dr. Götz Lipphardt

Hochschule Mannheim

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Konrad Mertens

Fachhochschule Münster

Prof. Dr. Henning Meschede

Universitär Paderborn

Professor Dr. Jürgen Parisi

University of Oldenburg

Tobias Pörschke, M.Sc.

Technische Universität Braunschweig

Prof. Volker Quaschning

Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft HTW Berlin

Prof. Dr. Rau

Fz Jülich

Prof. em. Matthias Rommel

Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil

Dr.-Ing. Rainer Reimert

Professor (entpflichtet) am KIT

Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Arne Rüdinger

Fraunhofer-Institut für Silicatforschung (ISC)

Prof. Dr. Christian Schaffrin

Hochschule Konstanz

Prof. Dr.–Ing. Peter Schaumann

Leibniz Universität Hannover und Fraunhofer IWES

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Friedrich Sick

Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin

Prof. Dr. Susanne Siebentritt

University Luxembourg

Thure Traber

Energy Watch Group, Berlin

Professor Dr. Thomas Veeser

HAW Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Michael Vollmer

TH Brandenburg

Prof. Jürgen Walter

Hochschule Karlsruhe

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Weber

Hochschule Augsburg

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Viktor Wesselak

Hochschule Nordhausen (in.RET)

Dr. Heike Wex

Leibniz Institut für Troposphärenforschung, Scientists for Future Leipzig

Dr. Harry Wirth

Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE, Freiburg

Prof. Dr. Volker Wittwer

Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE Freiburg, emeritus

2. International signatories of the letter from July 27, 2021, who signed the

‘Joint Declaration of the Global 100% RE Strategy Group’

Prof. Armin Aberle

National Univ. of Singapore, Solar Research Inst. SERI

Prof. Andrew Blakers

Australian National University

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Breyer

LUT University, Finland

Prof. Juan Cole

University of Michigan, USA

Dr Richard Corkish

University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Dr. Mark Delucchi

UC Davis and Berkeley, Energy Systems, Economics, and Environmental Assessment

Dr Mark Diesendorf

University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Prof. Renate Egan

University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Paul Gipe

Author of: ‘Wind Energy for the Rest of Us’ Bakersfield, CA, USA

Prof.Dr. Martin Greiner

Aarhus University, Denmark

Prof. Mark Z. Jacobson

Stanford University, USA

Prof. Willett Kempton

University of Delaware,USA

Prof. Brian Vad Mathiesen

Aalbork Univ., Denmark

Mika Ohbayashi

Renewable Energy Institute, REI, Japan

Benjamin Sovacool

University of Sussex and Aarhus University, Uk and Denmark

Ass. Prof. Dr. Sven Teske

University of Technology Sydney, Australia

Dr Pierre Verlinden

University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

——-

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

German Chancellor Merkel visits flood-ravaged region | DW News

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The Delusion of Infinite Economic Growth https://www.juancole.com/2021/07/delusion-infinite-economic.html Mon, 12 Jul 2021 04:01:03 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198832

Even “sustainable” technology such as electric vehicles and wind turbines faces physical limits and exacts environmental costs

By Chirag Dhara and Vandana Singh | –

( Scientific American ) – The electric vehicle (EV) has become one of the great modern symbols of a world awakened to the profound challenges of unsustainability and climate change. So much so that we may well imagine that Deep Thought’sanswer today to Life, the Universe and Everything might plausibly be “EV.” But, as Douglas Adams would surely have asked, if electric vehicles are the answer, what is the question?

Let us imagine the “perfect” EV: solar powered, efficient, reliable and affordable. But is it sustainable? EVs powered by renewable energy may help reduce the carbon footprint of transport. Yet, the measure of sustainability is not merely the carbon footprint but the material footprint: the aggregate quantity of biomass, metal ores, construction minerals and fossil fuels used during production and consumption of a product. The approximate metric tonne weight of an EV constitutes materials such as metals (including rare earths), plastics, glass and rubber. Therefore, a global spike in the demand for EVs would drive an increased demand for each of these materials.

Every stage of the life cycle of any manufactured product exacts environmental costs: habitat destruction, biodiversity loss and pollution (including carbon emissions) from extraction of raw materials, manufacturing / construction, through to disposal. Thus, it is the increasing global material footprint that is fundamentally the reason for the twin climate and ecological crises.

The global material footprint has grown in lockstep with the exponentially rising global economy (GDP) since the industrial revolution. This is largely because of egregious consumption by the super-affluent in a socioeconomic system founded on growth without limits. Can we resolve this fundamental conflict between the quest for limitless growth and the consequent environmental destruction?

Industrial era exponential rise in the use of primary and derived physical resources: cropland (a), fossil fuels (b), freshwater (c), metals (d), plastic (e). Credit: Our World in Data (CC BY-SA 3.0 AU)

ENTER TECHNOLOGY

Technological innovation and efficiency improvements are often cited as pathways to decouple growth in material use from economic growth. While technology undoubtedly has a crucial role to play in the transition to a sustainable world, it is constrained by fundamental physical principles and pragmatic economic considerations.

Examples abound. The engine efficiency of airplanes has improved little for decades since they have long been operating close to their theoretical peak efficiency. Likewise, there is a hard limit on the efficiency of photovoltaic cells of about 35 percent because of the physical properties of the semiconductors that constitute them; in practice few exceed 20 percent for economic and pragmatic reasons. The power generation of large wind farms is limited to about one watt per square meter as a simple yet utterly unavoidable physical consequence of wake effects. The awesome exponential increase in computing power of the past five decades will end by about 2025 since it is physically impossible to make the transistors on the computer chip, already roughly 5 percent of the size of the coronavirus, much smaller.

Whether it is principles of classical, quantum or solid state physics or thermodynamics, each places different but inexorable constraints on technological solutions. Basically, physical principles that have allowed incredible technological leaps over the past century also inevitably limit them. We might consider that extensive recycling of materials would offset efficiency limits. Recycling is crucial; however, while glass and metals can be recycled almost indefinitely without loss of quality, materials such as paper and plastic can be recycled only a few times before becoming too degraded.

Additionally, recycling itself may be an energy- and materials-intensive process. Even if physical laws could be broken (they cannot) to achieve recycling with 100 percent efficiency, added demand from the imperative for economic growth would necessarily require virgin materials. The key point is that efficiency is limited by physics, but there is no sufficiency limit on the socioeconomic construct of “demand.”

Unfortunately, the situation is even more dire. Economic growth is required to be exponential; that is, the size of the economy must double in a fixed period. As referenced earlier, this has driven a corresponding increase in the material footprint. To understand the nature of exponential growth, consider the EV. Suppose that we have enough (easily extractable) lithium for the batteries needed to fuel the EV revolution for another 30 years. Now assume that deep-sea mining provides four times the current amount of these materials. Are we covered for 120 years? No, because the current 10 percent rate of growth in demand for lithium is equivalent to doubling of demand every seven years, which means we would only have enough for 44 years. In effect, we would cause untold, perhaps irreversible, devastation of marine ecosystems to buy ourselves a few extra years’ supply of raw materials.

Exponential growth swiftly, inevitably, swamps anything in finite supply. For a virus, that finite resource is the human population and in the context of the planet it is its physical resources.

The inescapable inference is that it is essentially impossible to decouple material use from economic growth. And this is exactly what has transpired. Wiedmann et al., 2015 did a careful accounting of the material footprint, including those embedded in international trade, for several nations. In the 1990–2008 period covered by the study, no country achieved a planned, deliberate economywide decoupling for a sustained length of time. Claims by the Global North to the contrary conceal the substantial offshoring of its production, and the associatedecological devastation, to the Global South.

Recent proposals for ecocidal deep-sea and fantastical exoplanetary mining are an unsurprising consequence of a growth paradigm that refuses to recognize these inconvenient truths.

WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY?

These observations lead us to a natural minimum condition for sustainability: all resource use curves must be simultaneously flatlined and all pollution curves simultaneously extinguished. It is this resource perspective that allows us to see why EVs may help offset carbon emissions yet remain utterly unsustainable under the limitless growth paradigm.

Sustainability from a resource perspective: Exponentially rising resource use and pollution (a and b) are unsustainable. We define sustainability as flatlined resource use (c) and extinguished pollution (d). Credit: Aditi Deshpande

THE REAL QUESTION

We have argued that the inextricable link between material consumption and GDP makes the infinite-growth paradigm incompatible with sustaining ecological integrity. Thus, while EVs constitute a partial answer to the climate question, within the current paradigm they will only exacerbate the larger anthropogenic crises connected to unsustainable resource consumption.

The real question is this: how do we transition to alternative economic paradigms founded on the reconciliation of equitable human well-being with ecological integrity?

This is an opinion and analysis article; the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Chirag Dhara is a climate physicist and a research associate at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

Vandana Singh is a professor of physics at Framingham State University working on transdisciplinary climate pedagogy.

Reprinted from Scientific American with the authors’ permission.

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