More than a decade ago, I sat down with the head of the academy of architecture in Pyongyang. The school was housed in a large, drafty building in the center of North Korea’s capital. Students were building models out of cardboard and wood. A few were in front of state-of-the-art desktops using the computer-aided design software that had become indispensible to modern architects. But there was one element missing from the architecture program. North Korean builders paid virtually no attention to energy efficiency.
Challenging Climate Apartheid
In downtown Durban, the climate negotiators have settled into their beachfront hotels, ready for the official UN climate negotiations starting Monday. Already, voices speculate about cracks in the existing negotiating blocs. Will the developing countries hold together all the way? Will the so-called emerging economies flex individual muscles?
Fiddling on Climate
The image of Nero fiddling as Rome burned—albeit apocryphal– has stuck as the metaphor for willfully irresponsible government. Government representatives, gathered at climate change talks in Durban, South Africa, have been fiddling for the past week. Of the hundreds of closed-door sessions, official meetings and informational seminars, all that’s come out so far is cacophony. By the looks of it, they plan to fiddle right through to the end, wasting one of the last opportunities to respond in time to a threat that affects not only their societies, but the entire planet.
America Is Not Broke
This report challenges the premise that America is broke. In fact, we argue that the current fiscal challenge poses an opportunity to harness our ample but misdirected resources in ways that will make the country stronger.
Occupy and the Climate Negotiations
Anyone who claims that the fate of the climate talks is bound to the fate of the Occupy movement better expect a bit of skepticism in return. Now, if it were Occupy and the Climate Justice movement, that would be a different story! Both are complex social movements, and both are driving hard for economic justice. Their overlap is inevitable. But the negotiations themselves? What have they to do with economic justice? What have they to do with the great divide between “the 1%” and “the 99%”?
Fukushima Women against Nuclear Power
From the very first, it has been quite difficult to politicize earthquake and tsunami hit Tohoku, despite the poor planning, the slow and uneven response, the failure to provide aid in a timely way in the days and weeks afterward, and the often poorly organized evacuation centers—an issue which resulted in a number of unexplained deaths. Now, the temporary housing facilities virtually insure that communities, or what is left of them, will stay dysfunctional for a while, even as their residents are often the ones called upon to manage their own relief. While the silences of fatalism and the shock of such a terrible disaster have been noted, anyone who has been to the Northeast on a regular basis is aware that the frustration and anger erupt in different ways almost every day. The point, however, is that rarely does it emerge in the unified voices of protest, rarely in coherent demands for systematic help, almost never in anger expressed in a way that the rest of the nation can hear.
In contrast, the threat of nuclear radiation and critiques of the nuclear industry have been skillfully politicized in ways that have led to the largest set of demonstrations in Japan (with the exception of Okinawa) since the US-Japan security treaty protests of the 1960s and 1970s. These protests have been based in Tokyo, utilizing urban networks of activists who have provided the digital framework for organization that has brought together an older generation of anti-nuclear activists, young families, hip urbanites, office workers and union protesters. This is, perhaps ironic, considering that many of the protesters and marchers rarely have contact with Tohoku. The nuclear threat, organizers say, extends beyond Tohoku, even beyond Japan. And indeed, this is the message that has been heard around the world, as the anti-nuke protest and politics were staged with specific reference to Fukushima (sadly, rarely with respect to the wider ‘Tohoku’ region).
Seven Billion … And Rising
The world’s population surpassed 7 billion on October 31. But except for perhaps the anti-family planning lobby, this was a milestone that few were in a mood to celebrate.
Global capitalism is in a deep, deep funk, with the center economies caught indefinitely in the iron grip of stagnation and high unemployment. Extreme weather events have become a fact of life, yet any move towards a successor to the Kyoto Protocol continues to elude the world’s governments. Agriculture seems to be at the limits of its productive capacity, prompting many to ask: Have we walked into the Malthusian trap?
Travel Writer Michael Jacobs Does Justice to the Andes
Michael Jacobs explored the length of the Andes from the lush jungles in northern Colombia to the snow-covered peaks of Argentina’s southernmost tip.
A Hakka Man Farms Rare Earth in South China
First of all, it’s not earth nor it’s rare, as they say
It lies under our feet, sparkling the soil we farm
Red, green, yellow, blue, purple, sky of grass
And buffalos, patches of rice, bamboos, sweet yams
The Ungreening of Obama
Barack Obama was green when he entered the Oval Office. He was a relative newcomer to politics. He was also the most successful fundraiser in presidential history, hauling in more green than the two Democratic and Republican candidates in 2004 combined. And he was, more or less, an environmentalist.