Monday, October 31, 2016

2485. Police From 5 States Escalate Violence, Shoot Horses To Clear 1851 Treaty Camp

By Popular Resistance, October 28, 2016
Photo: Jomathan Ktell
Cannonball, ND - Over 300 police officers in riot gear, 8 ATVs, 5 armored vehicles, 2 helicopters, and numerous military-grade humvees showed up north of the newly formed frontline camp just east of Highway 1806.  The 1851 Treaty Camp was set up this past Sunday directly in the path of the pipeline, on land recently purchased by DAPL.  Today this camp, a reclamation of unceded Dakota territory affirmed as part of the Standing Rock Reservation in the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1851, was violently cleared.  Both blockades established this past weekend to enable that occupation were also cleared.  
In addition to pepper spray and percussion grenades, shotguns were fired into the crowd with less lethal ammunition and a sound cannon was used (see images below).  At least one person was tased and the barbed hook lodged in his face, just outside his eye. Another was hit in the face by a rubber bullet.
A prayer circle of elders, including several women, was interrupted and all were arrested for standing peacefully on the public road.  A tipi was erected in the road and was recklessly dismantled, despite promises from law enforcement that they would merely mark the tipi with a yellow ribbon and ask its owners to retrieve it.  A group of water protectors was also dragged out of a ceremony in a sweat lodge erected in the path of the pipeline, wearing minimal clothing, thrown to the ground, and arrested.
A member of the International Indigenous Youth Council (IIYC) that had her wrist broken during a mass-arrest on October 22nd was hurt again after an officer gripped her visibly injured wrist and twisted it during an attempted arrest. At least six other members of the youth council verified that they had been maced up to five times and were also shot and hit with bean bags. In addition to being assaulted, an altar item and sacred staff was wrenched from the hands of an IIYC member by police. Several other sacred items were reported stolen, including a canupa (sacred tobacco pipe).
Two medics giving aid at front line were hit with batons and thrown off the car they were sitting on. Then police grabbed another medic, who was driving the car, out of the driver side while it was still in motion. Another water protector had to jump into the car to stop it from hitting other people.
Members of the horse nation herded around 100 buffalo from the west and southwest of the Cannonball Ranch onto the the DAPL easement. One rider was reportedly hit with up to four rubber bullets his horse was reported to be hit in the legs by live rounds. Another horse was shot and did not survive. 
A confirmed DAPL private security guard was spotted among the protectors with an automatic rifle heading towards camp. Water protectors acted swiftly to stop the man who was attempting to flee the scene in his pickup. One protector stopped the assailant’s vehicle with their own before the security guard fled to nearby waters, weapon in hand. Bureau of Indian Affairs police arrived on scene and apprehended him.
Three water protectors locked themselves to a truck in the middle of the road and surrounded it with large logs.   After several hours of standoff, the police advanced in a sweep line and moved people approximately 1 mile back down the highway towards the main encampment on the Cannonball River.  Water protectors then retreated to the bridge over Highway 1806  and erected a large burning blockade that the police were unable to cross.   
Law enforcement from at least five states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Nebraska) were present today through EMAC, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.  This law was passed by the Bill Clinton administration and allows states to share law enforcement forces during emergencies.  It is intended for natural disasters and has only been used twice for protests; once in the summer of 2015 during the demonstrations in Baltimore and here on the Standing Rock Reservation. Over 100 were arrested today in total.   
Kandi Mossett, Indigenous Environmental Network stated, “I went to the frontline in prayer for protection of the Missouri River & found myself in what I can only describe as a war zone. I was sprayed in the face with pepper spray, the guy next to me was shot by something that didn’t break the skin but appeared to have broken the ribs & another guy beside me was randomly snatched violently by police shoving me into the officers who held me off with batons then tried to grab me.  I’m still in shock & keep waiting to wake from what’s surely a nightmare though this is my reality as a native woman in 2016 trying to defend the sacred.”
Ladonna Bravebull Allard of Sacred Stone Camp says, “My people stand for the water, and they attack us. My people stand up for the graves of our people, and they attack us. My people stand up for our sacred places, and they attack us. My people pray, and they stop us, dragging us from our prayer, and throw us in the dirt. I know this is America- this is the history of my people. America has always walked though the blood of my people.
How can we stand in the face of violence? Because I was born to this land, because the roots grow out of my feet, because I love this land and I honor the water. Have we not learned from history? I pray for each of the people who stand up. We can not live like this anymore. It has to stop- my grandchildren have a right to live. The world has a right to live. The water, the life blood of the world? has a right to live. Mni Wiconi, Water of Life. Pray for the water, pray for the people. Stop Dakota Access- killer of the world.”
Eryn Wise of the International Indigenous Youth Council stated, “Today more than half of our youth council were attacked, injured or arrested. In addition to our brothers and sisters being hurt and incarcerated, we saw police steal our sacred staff. I have no words for what happened to any of us today. They are trying to again rewrite our narrative and we simply will not allow it. Our youth are watching and remember the faces of the officers that assaulted them. They pray for them.”

2484. Rank-and-File Union Members Speak Out at Standing Rock Camp

By Portside, October 30, 2016

Despite escalating police violence and AFL-CIO leadership of pipeline, a delegation of union members from around the U.S. are spending the weekend of October 29 at Standing Rock camp to join Sioux water protectors against Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL.)
The delegation from Labor For Standing Rock (LSR), comprised of rank-and-file union members and working people.
Liam Cain,Union Laborer at LIUNA Local 1271 Cheyenne, WY and a LSR spokesperson, over years worked on numerous heavy construction sites and pipeline construction spreads. "To the union laborers working on these projects I would just implore you to listen to what regular folks are saying," Cain said. "Don't just listen to the bosses, and not to just the echo-chambers on the spread.
"Listen to the water protectors, listen to folks talking about just transition, a view of the future, involving good paying union jobs, involving many of your skill-sets. Just generating energy in a much more environmentally sustainable manner, rather than just gross over reliance on fossil fuels, that we currently engage in. As the saying goes, 'there's no jobs on a dead planet'."
Cliff Willmeng is a registered nurse with UFCW Local 7, and former member of United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 1 in Chicago. He is a leader in Colorado fight against fracking, a rank-and-file labor activist and organizer for the Colorado Community Rights Amendment. Cliff’s work against the oil and gas industry made national headlines when Lafayette, Colorado banned frackingin 2013. He and his daughter Sasha delivered water tanks to Standing Rock Camp after authorities removed the water supply in August.
“As a healthcare provider, as a father of two, and as a union member I will be heading up to Standing Rock,” said Willmeng, union member and a co-founder of LSR. "We will be supporting the First Nations fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, to protect the environment for my kids, and as a rejection of the decision of the AFL-CIO support the pipeline."
Michael Letwin is former President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325 in New York City, and Co-Convener of Labor for Palestine, whose online petitionin opposition to DAPL has garnered more than 12,000 signers and helped lay the basis for Labor for Standing Rock. In 1973, at age 16, he and others were arrested by the Nixon-era FBI under the Rap Brown Actfor participating in a relief caravanto the American Indian Movement occupation at Wounded Knee.
"Escalating police attacks against unarmed water protectors at Standing Rock on behalf of the oil and gas industry evokes images of Wounded Knee in 1890 and 1973, brutality against the civil rights movement, and state violence today from Ferguson and Baltimore to Palestine," Letwin said. "The labor movement has faced similar violence throughout its history, and from the same forces of greed and injustice."
Labor For Standing Rock was created by rank-and-file workers and union members to mobilize growing labor support for the First Nation's fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The response from working people around the country has been nothing short of staggering. It is clear that the labor movement is no longer content to sit aside while Native American sovereignty is violated, and while land and water are risked. No oil company profits are more important than our rights and environment.
"We at Oceti Sakowin Camp welcome any and all support from our Union brothers and sisters," said Standing Rock Council in an October 13 message to Labor for Standing Rock. "This camp stands to protect our sacred water and support a new energy paradigm, jobs and work in green energy fields. We welcome your support in any ways you feel appropriate, join us in paving a new road to a sustainable future for many future generations."
VIDEO from this weekend here. Photos here.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

2483. The Anthropocene: The Case of Regulation of Fishing Menhaden

By Richard Schiffman, The New York Times, October 26, 2016
School of menhaden
Editor's note: This story is posted for reasons unrelated to the intentions of its author.  Attempts at regulating nature by human society that has reach its apex under industrial capitalist world economy motivated by the pursuit of profit and conditioned by anthropocentrism institutionalized by the Agricultural Revolution approximately10,000 year ago and agricultural-based class societies that followed has now brought us the Anthropocene and the systemic planetary and social. The article below demonstrates one approach in the bourgeois enviromentalist mindset: regulation.  A fancy yet contradictory term for this is "wildlife management" for which students are trained in universities to take jobs in the regulatory apparatus or in the bourgeois environmentalist establishment or academia.  The problem with wildlife management is that it attempts to regulated evolutionary process which typically take very long time to establish or modify ecological systems and its participating component parts through the best method available, trail-and-error. Indeed, it is the very act of social attempt to regulate nature that has brought us the Anthropocene. Yet, there are many sectional interests involved in stating the problem we face and propose "solutions" to it. The article below demostrates these. I urge you to read it with these concerns in mind.  KN

*     *     *

Branford, Conn. — In a bay near this coastal town, the sea was boiling with hundreds of herring-size shiners leaping to flee a marauding squad of bluefish. “These waters are coming back,” Bren Smith yelled above the shrieking din, as sea gulls plunged near our boat, scooping up fish. Mr. Smith grows seaweed and shellfish in Long Island Sound, and he says he’s seen a lot more action out here recently.

What thrilled me about this scene was that I was witnessing what happens when fishery managers set strict catch limits to stop overfishing.

Those leaping silvery fish were menhaden, also known as bunker, or pogies. To Mr. Smith and other fishermen I spoke to, there are encouraging signs that the menhaden population along the Atlantic Coast is healthy after decades of intensive commercial exploitation. Other sea creatures whose lives are intertwined with them also seem to be doing well. Sharks, whales, bluefish, tuna, osprey and other predators depend in part on these fish.

“There’s all this life that wasn’t there before,” John McMurray, who captains his own charter boat, told me. He said it’s been a boon for his sports fishing business off Long Island: “In the past four years, striped bass fishing has gotten a lot better, bluefish as well. We’re even getting bluefin tuna coming inshore to feed on the schools of menhaden.”

Menhaden are filter feeders. They swim in vast schools of hundreds of thousands of fish. Mouths agape as they feed, menhaden are living vacuum cleaners sucking up algae blooms that deplete inshore waters of oxygen and create biological deserts in the sea. A single adult menhaden can clean four to seven gallons of water in a minute.

The name menhaden is a corruption of “munnawhatteaug,” which means fertilizer in Algonquian. Native Americans taught the pilgrims to plant them with their corn, enabling colonists to coax a crop from rocky New England soils, according to Bruce Franklin, author of “The Most Important Fish in the Sea.” Bony and smelly, menhaden have rarely been caught for food. But their oil greased the wheels of America’s machine age after the Civil War, replacing whale oil as a cheaper alternative.

Today, menhaden oil continues to be sought, not as an industrial lubricant, but as a health supplement. Most of the 188,000-metric ton annual catch is rendered into heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid fish oil. Much of the rest is used to produce fertilizers and high-protein feeds for chickens and pigs. In terms of weight, more menhaden are caught than any other fish on the East Coast.

But concerns that menhaden were being overfished led the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 2012 to impose a quota that reduced the historic harvest by 20 percent. That limit was raised by 10 percent last year after regulators concluded that menhaden were not being over-harvested.

Now the fisheries commission is considering a proposal to expand the allowable catch by another 20 percent when it meets Wednesday in Bar Harbor, Me. The largest industrial menhaden harvester on the East Coast, Omega Protein, has suggested that the quota could easily be raised by up to 30 percent. The company points to the commission’s conclusion last year that menhaden were not being overfished. Critics of the 2012 quota decision say, moreover, that it was based on faulty methodology that identified a problem that didn’t exist; others argue that it understated the plight of the menhaden.

Regardless, the commission should keep the quota where it is and wait until a more comprehensive management approach is developed to safeguard this critically important fish.

That work is underway now. Scientists are developing reference points to measure the ecological role that menhaden serve as forage fish and how changes in their numbers would affect the predators that feed on them.

This would be a departure from the way most fish, including menhaden, are managed now. Regulators focus narrowly on how many fish of a particular species can be sustainably harvested. A decision on whether to adopt this more comprehensive approach is expected to be made next year.

Robert Ballou, the chairman of the commission’s Menhaden Management Board, said this method would enable “a new way of managing the fish that will credit them for their unique role in the environment and set quotas that are right, not just for menhaden, but for all of the species that depend on them.”

This is the right approach.

Setting quotas can be a messy process. Sports fishermen, commercial interests, state lawmakers and environmental groups often squabble over fishing quotas, and the limits that result can be split-the-difference compromises that leave nobody happy. And they can be environmentally catastrophic, when commercial considerations trump sound science. That’s what happened to New England’s groundfish fishery, including cod, which was declared a federal disaster in 2012.

This is why regulatory decisions need to be based not just on short-term profits but on the health of the ecosystem as a whole. This approach would be an enlightened departure for fisheries regulators, who typically see their job only as ensuring that specific fish stocks remain commercially viable.

Joseph Gordon, manager of mid-Atlantic Ocean Conservation for the Pew Charitable Trusts, said the commission’s effort to develop a holistic strategy for managing menhaden “is an incredibly exciting precedent. We are finally saying that we value this fish not just for what it provides when it is taken out of the ocean, but for what it provides when it is kept in the ocean.”

Until that approach is implemented, the commission should keep the menhaden quota where it is.

Richard Schiffman is a journalist coerving environmental issues. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

2482. The Meaning of Bob Dylan’s Silence

By Adam Kirsch, The New York Times, October 27, 2016 
Bob Dylan at a London concert in 2011
In the summer of 1964, Bob Dylan released his fourth album, “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” which includes the track “It Ain’t Me Babe.” “Go ’way from my window/Leave at your own chosen speed,” it begins. “I’m not the one you want, babe/I’m not the one you need.”

That fall, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre played a variation on the same tune in a public statement explaining why, despite having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he would not accept it. “The writer,” he insisted, must “refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if this occurs under the most honorable circumstances.” Mr. Dylan was talking to an imaginary lover, Sartre to an actual Swedish Academy, but the message was similar: If you love me for what I am, don’t make me be what I am not.

We don’t know whether Mr. Dylan was paying attention to l’affaire Sartre that fall 52 years ago. But now that he has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he seems to be following in Sartre’s footsteps. Indeed, Mr. Dylan has done the philosopher one better: Instead of declining the prize, he has simply declined to acknowledge its existence. He hasn’t issued a statement or even returned the Swedish Academy’s phone calls. A reference to the award briefly popped up on the official Bob Dylan website and then was deleted — at his instruction or not, nobody knows. And the Swedes, who are used to a lot more gratitude from their laureates, appear to be losing their patience: One member of the Academy has called Mr. Dylan’s behavior “impolite and arrogant.”

There is a good deal of poetic justice in this turn of events. For almost a quarter of a century, ever since Toni Morrison won the Nobel in 1993, the Nobel committee acted as if American literature did not exist — and now an American is acting as if the Nobel committee doesn’t exist. Giving the award to Mr. Dylan was an insult to all the great American novelists and poets who are frequently proposed as candidates for the prize. The all-but-explicit message was that American literature, as traditionally defined, was simply not good enough. This is an absurd notion, but one that the Swedes have embraced: In 2008, the Academy’s permanent secretary, Horace Engdahl, declared that American writers “don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature” and are limited by that “ignorance.”

Still, it’s doubtful that Mr. Dylan intends his silence to be a defense of the honor of American literature. (He did, after all, accept the Pulitzer Prize for “lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”) No one knows what he intends — Mr. Dylan has always been hard to interpret, both as a person and as a lyricist, which is one reason people love him. But perhaps the best way to understand his silence, and to praise it, is to go back to Sartre, and in particular to Sartre’s concept of “bad faith.”

Bad faith, Sartre explains in “Being and Nothingness,” is the opposite of authenticity. Bad faith becomes possible because a human being cannot simply be what he or she is, in the way that an inkwell simply is an inkwell. Rather, because we are free, we must “make ourselves what we are.” In a famous passage, Sartre uses as an example a cafe waiter who performs every part of his job a little too correctly, eagerly, unctuously. He is a waiter playing the role of waiter. But this “being what one is not” is an abdication of freedom; it involves turning oneself into an object, a role, meant for other people. To remain free, to act in good faith, is to remain the undefined, free, protean creatures we actually are, even if this is an anxious way to live.

This way of thinking is what used to be called existentialism, and Mr. Dylan is one of its great products. Living like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone, is living in Sartrean good faith, and much of the strangeness of Mr. Dylan’s life can be understood as a desperate attempt to retain this freedom in the face of the terrific pressure of fame. In a profile in The New Yorker in that same year of 1964, Mr. Dylan was quoted as saying that he didn’t “want to write for people anymore” but rather wanted to “write from inside me.”

To be a Nobel laureate, however, is to allow “people” to define who one is, to become an object and a public figure rather than a free individual. The Nobel Prize is in fact the ultimate example of bad faith: A small group of Swedish critics pretend to be the voice of God, and the public pretends that the Nobel winner is Literature incarnate. All this pretending is the opposite of the true spirit of literature, which lives only in personal encounters between reader and writer. Mr. Dylan may yet accept the prize, but so far, his refusal to accept the authority of the Swedish Academy has been a wonderful demonstration of what real artistic and philosophical freedom looks like.

Adam Kirsch, a poet and critic, is the author, most recently, of “The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

2481. New Climate-Friendlier Coolant Has a Catch: It’s Flammable

By Danny Hakim, The New York Times, October 22, 2016
Axel Friedrich, a chemist, opposes the new coolant because it is flammable. Credit Gordon Welters for The New York Times

LONDON — Rajiv Singh started thinking about how to do his part to fight global warming 15 years ago.

Dr. Singh, a scientist at Honeywell’s lab in Buffalo, began running computer models of tens of thousands of molecular combinations. He was seeking a better refrigerant, one of the most vexing chemicals for the environment.

Refrigerants cool homes, cars and buildings but also warm the planet at a far higher rate than carbon dioxide. Dr. Singh was searching for one stable enough to be useful but that degraded quickly so it did not linger to trap heat in the atmosphere.

“You have to hit the chemistry books,” he said in a recent interview.

As product names go, HFO-1234yf, the refrigerant he played a crucial role in developing, does not roll off the tongue. But it is one of the most important alternatives to hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which have long been used in air-conditioners and refrigerators and which contribute greatly to climate change. On Oct. 15, in Kigali, Rwanda, more than 170 countries reached an agreement as part of the Montreal Protocol to curb the use of HFCs.

But Dr. Singh’s new coolant is also controversial, with critics questioning its safety and viewing it as the latest attempt by large chemical companies to play the regulatory system to their advantage. HFO-1234yf is already becoming standard in many new cars sold in the European Union and the United States by all the major automakers, in large part because its developers, Honeywell and Chemours, have automakers over a barrel. Their refrigerant is one of the few options that automakers have to comply with new regulations and the Kigali agreement.

It has its detractors. The new refrigerant is at least 10 times as costly as the one it replaces.

A number of rival manufacturers have filed suits to challenge the patent. Officials in India, which has a fast-growing car market, are deliberating over whether to grant patent protection.

And then there is the safety issue.

Daimler began raising red flags in 2012. A video the company made public was stark. It showed a Mercedes-Benz hatchback catching fire under the hood after 1234yf refrigerant leaked during a company simulation.

Daimler eventually relented and went along with the rest of the industry, installing 1234yf in many of its new cars. But the company has developed an alternative using carbon dioxide that is being introduced in its S-class cars and some E-class models, with an eye toward further expansion.

In a statement, Sandra Gödde, a spokeswoman for Daimler, said 1234yf had “different flammability properties” than the HFC coolant it was replacing, which is considered to be nonflammable. The company has developed “specific measures in order to guarantee our high safety standards,” she added, including “a specially developed protective system.”

Some engineers and environmentalists, however, say 1234yf is not a good option.
“None of the people in the car industry I know want to use it,” said Axel Friedrich, the former head of the transportation and noise division at the Umweltbundesamt, the German equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency. He added that he opposed having another “product in the front of the car which is flammable.”

Dr. Friedrich, an engineer and a chemist, is also a member of the scientific advisory council of the International Council on Clean Transportation, the group that commissioned the tests that exposed Volkswagen’s cheating on diesel emissions. He collaborated on tests of 1234yf with Deutsche Umwelthilfe, a German environmental group, which also raised fire concerns. While cars, obviously, contain other flammable materials, he was specifically worried that at high temperatures 1234yf emitted hydrogen fluoride, which is dangerous if inhaled or touched.

“I wouldn’t like to use it as a car owner, because it gives me a higher risk and higher cost,” Dr. Friedrich said. “It’s a really unfair solution by the car industry. This is not what government and society should have accepted.”

Honeywell and Chemours (which until last year was a unit of DuPont) have been adamant that the product is safe, and they are not alone. After the Daimler issue emerged, SAE International, an engineering consortium that includes all of the major automakers, said 1234yf was “highly unlikely to ignite,” though the issue led to a brief split with German automakers. The Joint Research Center of the European Union has also said there was “no evidence of a serious risk.” It is being used across the auto industry and has gained approval from regulators in the United States and Europe.

“Daimler was the only manufacturer that cited an issue,” said Ken Gayer, vice president and general manager of Honeywell Fluorine Products.

“All other car manufacturers at the time had incorporated 1234yf, which is mildly flammable, into their designs, with modest design changes, and proven to themselves conclusively that they could safely use the product,” he said.

Daimler’s concerns led to a reassessment. “The entire industry stepped back and said, ‘Could we possibly have missed something?’” Mr. Gayer said. “We reviewed all the work we did, and we also ran new tests to try to understand better what Daimler’s issue was.”

At the end of that process, automakers and regulators “proved to themselves conclusively once again that 1234yf was safe for use in cars, and then finally in 2015 Daimler announced publicly that they would use the product,” Mr. Gayer said.

Chemours said in a statement that the additional testing proved any “concerns to be unfounded.” It added, “Today, all major global automakers around the world are using HFO-1234yf.”

One thing is not in dispute. The new coolant is superior to the HFC it is replacing in its impact on global warming. Hydrofluorocarbons have roughly 1,400 times the impact of carbon dioxide, the baseline used to measure such chemicals. By contrast, studies of 1234yf have ranged from four times carbon dioxide to a recent assessment showing it has an even lower impact.

Because of that, perhaps no single chemical is better positioned to take advantage of the Kigali agreement. While Honeywell and Chemours, when it was part of DuPont, lobbied to weaken and stall HFC regulations in the past, this time they were poised to profit from a product that had fresh patent protection, and they largely embraced the agreement.

Though Honeywell would not give specific profit or revenue figures for 1234yf, sales of its HFC alternatives have helped the company raise annual revenue from its wider fluorine business by double-digit percentages in the last few years to more than $1 billion.

The companies, which sell products under different brand names, have “almost a monopoly,” said Stephen O. Andersen, a former E.P.A. official who has been a representative to the Montreal Protocol and works for the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, an advocacy group.

“The price of the product is very high, about $80 a kilogram, and so that adds up to about $50 to $75 per car, which is a lot of money compared to the HFC they were using,” which he said was about $4 to $6 a car. “So it’s a big shock, and it’s been a lot of controversy.”

David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The safety concern is bogus.”

“The main concern is its high price,” Mr. Doniger said. “While a small part of the price of a car, this could be concerning when repairs are needed.” He said the price would decline after the patents expired, though that will take years.

The conundrums and controversies highlight the complexities of refrigerants and the trade-offs inherent in the fight to curb global warming. In the 1980s, the Montreal Protocol led to the ban on chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, because of hazards to the ozone layer. They were replaced by HFCs, which are being curbed because of their effects on the climate.

Will 1234yf be an equally transitory fix? “Nothing lasts forever,” Dr. Singh, the Honeywell chemist, said. “At least a couple generations.”

Dorothee Saar, head of the transport and clean air team at Deutsche Umwelthilfe, the environmental group, said the new refrigerant presented considerable safety risks. She has her own solution. Ms. Saar, who lives in Berlin, has an old Volkswagen Golf without air-conditioning.

“I can always open a window,” she said.

2480. The International Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) Agreement Requires Little Effort from the West

By John Vidal, The Guardian, October 15, 2016 
The deal on hydrofluorocarbons, used in air-conditioning and cooling systems, has taken years to negotiate. Photograph: Dimitra Louvrou/EPA.

They went to Kigali to eliminate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and take 0.5C out of future global warming, and the 170 countries who successfully negotiated an amendment to the Montreal Protocol agreed to get rid of 90% of them. Job done. Not bad for four days and three long nights’ work.

In fact, the Kigali deal on HFCs, announced on Saturday morning, is fiendishly complicated and has taken years to negotiate in different technical and political forums. It was only struck by an ambitious agreement to give countries different timescales to phase them out, alongside major chemical and big food companies accepting change, the personal determination of the US secretary of state, John Kerry, to get a deal before the election and developing countries agreeing to invest heavily in new technologies.

Rich countries, including the US, Japan and nations in Europe, will now start phasing out synthetic HFCs in 2019, whereas China agreed to peak emissions in 2024, while India and less ambitious countries chose 2028.

As such, the deal reflects countries’ differing levels of development. Because nearly all HFCs are made by a handful of giant northern chemical companies and are used in air-conditioning units and cooling systems made and sold in rich countries, it was relatively easy for their governments to put pressure on a single global industry. Besides, the alternatives, like hydrocarbons, ammonia and CO2, are widely available, safe, have been approved and are on the market.

The deal will make little difference to rich countries. The EU had already started to phase out HFCs and since 2011 had banned them being used in cars. Many global food and drink companies, like Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Unilever, have already started to switch fluorinated greenhouse gases with climate-friendly and other natural refrigerants that are more energy-efficient and can save money. The new agreement is welcomed by many chemical and manufacturing companies because it gives them market advantage over inferior products made in poor countries, as well as green kudos.

But a deal proved much harder for India, China and other developing countries to strike. Their companies have relied on old refrigeration and coolant technologies, and they will now have to invest heavily in R&D and upgrade or replace their factories and equipment. Just as in the wider climate negotiations, they accepted that they were part of the problem and possibly on track to become the main HFC users, but they insisted that, like climate change itself, this was primarily a western problem foisted on them.

The deal has been widely welcomed because it keeps the Paris agreement on track and is an important step towards reducing global emissions. Coming on the heels of a new deal to cap aviation emissions, and just weeks before the shipping industry tries to clean up its act and the UN climate talks resume, it is overwhelmingly positive.

In fact, the Kigali meeting need never have happened. HFCs were widely recognised as powerful climate-warming gases many years ago and governments deliberately missed the chance to eliminate them in 1987 when they agreed the Montreal Protocol to phase out CFC gases and save the ozone layer.

The ozone hole is at last slowly recovering and HFCs are now seen as just a small but important part of the growing climate-change problem. If only it took just a few long nights of negotiations to eliminate fossil fuels too.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2479. Book Review: Fossil Capital

By Irma Allen, Ecologist, April 27, 2016

We all know that coal and steam vanquished over water power in Britain's - and the world's - industrial revolution, writes Irma Allen. But as Andreas Malm sets out in his fascinating new book, the deciding factors in that victory were the unconstrained mastery over people and nature that coal provided mill owners. And so the model was set for the fossil age that may only now be coming to an end.

Coal-fired steam was divisible, privately operable and amenable to concentration. It did not rely on the vagaries of natural cycles, such as weather. It was a prime mover that could be 'whipped up by its master' taming both nature and bodies.

If global warming is the "unintended by-product par excellence", as the opening of Andreas Malm's potent new book states, what is it a by-product of?

The obvious answer is the burning of fossil fuels. But, why do we burn them at all and how did reliance on these substances come about?

Understanding the emergence of the 'fossil economy' - one in which economic expansion and fossil fuel consumption are united, resulting in an accelerating quantity of atmospheric CO2 - demands a return to history 'eyes wide open'. As the book asks, "how did we get caught up in this mess?”

According to his thesis, British industry's switch from waterwheels to coal-fired steam engines in the 19th century is the fundamental turning point upon which the climate crisis hinges. Understanding why this occurred goes to the "roots of global warming" as it reveals the vested interests of 'business-as-usual' today.

The canary in the coal mine warns of unseen danger - Malm's warning is that a false understanding of climate change history is leading to flawed diagnosis, so failed remedies. Echoing her approach, it is no wonder Naomi Klein endorses the book as "essential reading”.

Dismantling of two main theories
Malm builds his argument gradually in quasi-detective fashion, applying Marxist critique to received wisdom. In doing so, he persuasively dismantles two theories, or 'storylines' as he tellingly calls them, which currently dominate on-going political and public reckoning of fossil economics.

The first is the 'Ricardo-Malthusian paradigm'. According to this story, steam arose as a response to scarcity of good watering holes at which to quench the thirst of continued industrial expansion of Britain's cotton mills. Rational actors, so this line of thinking goes, saw the logic and economic competitiveness of the steam engine straight away and set about installing the new technology to the benefit of society.

An intrinsic human pyromania - a love affair with fire - perhaps further spurred our fossil addiction. Malm, however, finds that the transition from water to steam actually "took the form of a protracted contest" without a clear winner over a number of decades. Contrary to wide-held belief, James Watt's patenting of the steam engine in 1784 was not the inevitable start of the industrial revolution.

Early trials with steam engines in manufacturing ended badly, and most mill owners were uninterested years after its invention. This was because water was free and abundant, coal was expensive, while steam engines had frequent technical malfunctions and could even explode. Furthermore, water power was often more efficient than steam.

All this flies in the face of classical economic thinking. What, then, forced the leap?
In answering this, Malm critiques a second, increasingly dominating, storyline - that of the 'anthropocene narrative'. This holds that humankind as a unified category has become a geological agent of environmental change, ushering in a new geologic epoch we must simply now manage, adapt to, or even make the most of, as some 'eco-modernists' insist.

The anthropocene camp blames the human species as a whole for global warming. Yet Malm shows that inequality and differentiated responsibility are central to its history, and it is time to confront that.

Industrial capitalism and the revolution
The early 1820s saw the first structural crisis of industrial capitalism. This was repeated in 1837 and again in the hyper-depression of 1841-2, creating waves of social unrest. In 1824 the Combination Laws, which made strikes and unionization illegal, were repealed.

The "mighty energies of the masses" were awakened. Large-scale protests over poor pay and working conditions were the result over the following two decades, just as industrial capital was struggling. The Chartist movement, seeking rights and a voice for workers, emerged in 1836. Britain was brought to the brink of "all-out revolution", in Malms's words. Industry was petrified. It was during this struggle between workers and capitalists that steam power was adopted.

Colonialism as a backdrop is not touched upon, although its machinations on distant shores would have fed into these tensions and vice versa. Malm's theory, however, is that steam arose out of very specific social relations in Britain "as a form of power exercised by some people against others." It offered a way to subordinate and control unruly labour that was refusing to cooperate.

In the cotton industry, striking spinners could bring factories to a standstill. In Preston, for example, all thirty factories came to a grinding halt when 650 spinners walked out in November 1836. Weavers, although home-based, also contributed to the malaise. Under conditions of worsening pay, due to rising urbanization and the low-skilled nature of the work, weavers were resorting to embezzlement - retaining a portion of the stock to sell on the black market.

Whereas in the industrial heyday this was an annoyance, under crisis conditions this was intolerable for capital. The solution to both was to install Iron Men (self-acting machines) and Power Looms in the factories - run on steam. This was further resisted by workers who feared knock-on implications for employment leading to a general strike in 1842 and 'Plug Riots' that literally 'pulled the plug' on steam engines.

Proletarian "steam demonology" battled the "steam fetishism" that increasingly preoccupied bourgeois fantasies. Yet by 1850 both steam - and capitalists - had won. Chartism had collapsed, and capitalism entered a period of "sustained renaissance". Natural and social power became fused.

The lure of coal
Still the choice of coal, rather than water, as a source of fuel was not inevitable. At one point, large-scale engineering projects to construct artificial waterpower through levees and reservoirs were proposed. But this required coordination and inter-reliance between mill owners - something competitive industrialists were not keen on.

Coal-fired steam was divisible, privately operable and amenable to concentration. It suited capitalist desires well. A number of additional aspects contributed to coal's pull. It offered spatial and temporal benefits over water. Freed from location by rivers, factories could be sited more centrally in cities, where urbanizing population growth offered cheap workers "trained to industrious habits”.

Steam powered by coal did not need to rely on the vagaries of natural cycles, such as weather, either. It was a prime mover that could be "whipped up by its master" taming both nature and bodies. The invention of high-pressure steam was the last nail in the coffin for waterpower - the steady expansion of coal-fired steam the result.

All these were accumulating "moment(s) in the emergence of the fossil economy". Whilst it would have been useful to have a greater analysis of how these aspects intersected, each chapter provides a compelling overview of these eye-opening trends.

The quest for wealth caused climate change
The fossil economy was never a 'species-wide project' nor a democratic endeavor. The root of climate change is shown to lie with the power of some to put the private accumulation of wealth above all else. In particular, Malm argues that historical blame for climate change points at Britain.

More accurately, and more in line with a differentiated class analysis, he ought to say blame lies with Britain's capitalists (and their supporters). Even more specifically - a handful of white British men appear to have pulled the levers. So, is climate change a man? as an article in this paper once asked, or a white British capitalist male? Malm does not speculate, but the implication is there.

In 1850, the year which marked the near complete shift from hand looms to power looms and thus the birth of the fossil economy, Britain "emitted nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as the US, France, Germany, Belgium combined. It emitted a thousand times more than Russia and two thousand times more than Canada.”

Sweden's footprint was on a par with the latter. Today, the US and China, which gets its own later chapter, are of course competing for the title of total contributions to global warming, but Britain still ranks fifth in the world.

There is a sense of future reckoning ominously looming when he states that "the more coming generations are forced to upgrade the significance of matters of carbon, the more sharply will the British exception stand out and its history attract interest." He reveals his own cards perhaps too much when he says that Britain should be smeared "in the soot it has bequeathed to humanity.”

Yet if environmental justice is to be taken seriously - and climate negotiations have been careful to avoid just that - he has a loaded point. His tract serves to blow open the myth that the human species are but one equal category. In the early twenty-first century, the poorest 45% of humanity generated 7% of current CO2 emissions, while the richest 7% produced 50%.

How can we declare the 'anthropocene' a neutral concept in light of this? Its politics of distributing equal blame are both laid bare and dismantled. In this human climate-change farm we are all equal, we are led to believe. But Malm shows that some are more responsible than others. How to resolve this is something he does not venture to tackle.

Future steps
What next? The book's lessons for how we consider current discourse around the diffusion of renewable energy technologies today is striking. As is pointed out, we often hear that renewables are not competitive enough - that the market must decide. Yet if the fossil capital theory is correct, this is not how technological change occurs.

Technology serves social ends. To force the transition, we must challenge the power structures preventing this shift from happening. Malm rounds off the book with a look at how a renewable economy will only occur if it is planned and implemented against private interests whose investments are sunk in fossil capital.

Equally, to meet emissions reductions targets we'd need a "planned economic recession" tantamount to a "war on capital". This is not about waiting for socialism, but a pragmatic, though uncomfortable, proposal to solve our present day mess.
Reworking a familiar refrain, Malm concedes "it has become easier to imagine large-scale intervention in the climate system" - by which he refers to business-as-usual attempts at geo-engineering - "than in capitalism”.

Resolving this paradox would be the work of a miracle, he says - but humans are the only ones capable of conjuring it up. With our eyes now wide open, we better get on with it.