The Courage to Say No
By Naomi Klein
The Nation: December 16, 2009 (in the January 4, 2010 edition)
On the ninth day of the Copenhagen climate summit, Africa was sacrificed.
The position of the G-77 negotiating bloc, including African states, had
been clear: a 2 degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures
translates into a 3-3.5 degree increase in Africa.
That means, according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, "an
additional 55 million people could be at risk from hunger" and "water stress
could affect between 350 and 600 million more people." Archbishop Desmond
Tutu puts the stakes like this: "We are facing impending disaster on a
monstrous scale.... A global goal of about 2 degrees C is to condemn Africa
to incineration and no modern development."
And yet that is precisely what Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi,
proposed to do when he stopped off in Paris on his way to Copenhagen:
standing with President Nicolas Sarkozy, and claiming to speak on behalf of
all of Africa (he is the head of the African climate-negotiating group), he
unveiled a plan that includes the dreaded 2 degree increase and offers
developing countries just $10 billion a year to help pay for everything
climate related, from sea walls to malaria treatment to fighting
It's hard to believe this is the same man who only three months ago was
saying this: "We will use our numbers to delegitimize any agreement that is
not consistent with our minimal position.... If need be, we are prepared to
walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our
continent.... What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above
the minimum avoidable level."
And this: "We will participate in the upcoming negotiations not as
supplicants pleading for our case but as negotiators defending our views and
We don't yet know what Zenawi got in exchange for so radically changing his
tune or how, exactly, you go from a position calling for $400 billion a year
in financing (the Africa group's position) to a mere $10 billion. Similarly,
we do not know what happened when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met
with Philippine President Gloria Arroyo just weeks before the summit and all
of a sudden the toughest Filipino negotiators were kicked off their
delegation and the country, which had been demanding deep cuts from the rich
world, suddenly fell in line.
We do know, from witnessing a series of these jarring about-faces, that the
G-8 powers are willing to do just about anything to get a deal in
Copenhagen. The urgency clearly does not flow from a burning desire to avert
cataclysmic climate change, since the negotiators know full well that the
paltry emissions cuts they are proposing are a guarantee that temperatures
will rise a "Dantesque" 3.9 degrees, as Bill McKibben puts it.
Matthew Stilwell of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable
Development--one of the most influential advisers in these talks--says the
negotiations are not really about averting climate change but are a pitched
battle over a profoundly valuable resource: the right to the sky. There is a
limited amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere. If the
rich countries fail to radically cut their emissions, then they are actively
gobbling up the already insufficient share available to the South. What is
at stake, Stilwell argues, is nothing less than "the importance of sharing
Europe, he says, fully understands how much money will be made from carbon
trading, since it has been using the mechanism for years. Developing
countries, on the other hand, have never dealt with carbon restrictions, so
many governments don't really grasp what they are losing. Contrasting the
value of the carbon market--$1.2 trillion a year, according to leading
British economist Nicholas Stern--with the paltry $10 billion on the table
for developing countries, Stilwell says that rich countries are trying to
exchange "beads and blankets for Manhattan." He adds: "This is a colonial
moment. That's why no stone has been left unturned in getting heads of state
here to sign off on this kind of deal.... Then there's no going back. You've
carved up the last remaining unowned resource and allocated it to the
For months now NGOs have gotten behind a message that the goal of Copenhagen
is to "seal the deal." Everywhere we look in the Bella Center, clocks are
going "tck tck tck." But any old deal isn't good enough, especially because
the only deal on offer won't solve the climate crisis and might make things
much worse, taking current inequalities between North and South and locking
them in indefinitely. Augustine Njamnshi of Pan African Climate Justice
Alliance puts the 2 degree proposal in harsh terms: "You cannot say you are
proposing a 'solution' to climate change if your solution will see millions
of Africans die and if the poor not the polluters keep paying for climate
Stilwell says that the wrong kind of deal would "lock in the wrong approach
all the way to 2020"--well past the deadline for peak emissions. But he
insists that it's not too late to avert this worst-case scenario. "I'd
rather wait six months or a year and get it right because the science is
growing, the political will is growing, the understanding of civil society
and affected communities is growing, and they'll be ready to hold their
leaders to account to the right kind of a deal."
At the start of these negotiations the mere notion of delay was
environmental heresy. But now many are seeing the value of slowing down and
getting it right. Most significant, after describing what 2 degrees would
mean for Africa, Archbishop Tutu pronounced that it is "better to have no
deal than to have a bad deal." That may well be the best we can hope for in
Copenhagen. It would be a political disaster for some heads of state--but it
could be one last chance to avert the real disaster for everyone else.
From: "dean tuckerman" <email@example.com>
Subject: [R-G] some amazing statistics
Pentagon now spending more for war than all 50 States combined spend
to run the country
By Sherwood Ross
Fri, 25 Dec 2009 13:38:00 +0000
The U.S. spends more for war annually than all state governments
combined spend for the health, education, welfare, and safety of 308
Joseph Henchman, director of state projects for the Tax Foundation of
Washington, D.C., says the states collected a total of $781 billion
in taxes in 2008.
For a rough comparison, according to Wikipedia data, the total budget
for what the Pentagon calls "defense" in fiscal year 2010 will be at
least $880 billion and could possibly top $1 trillion. That's more
than all the state governments collect.
Henchman says all American local governments combined (cities,
counties, etc.) collect about $500 billion in taxes. Add that to
total state tax take and you get over $1.3 trillion. This means Uncle
Sam's Pentagon is sopping up nearly as much money as all state,
county, city, and other governmental units spend to run the country.
If the Pentagon figure of $1 trillion is somewhat less than all other
taxing authorities, keep in mind the FBI, the various intelligence
agencies, the VA, the National Institutes of Health (biological
warfare) are also spending on war-related activities.
A question that describes the above and answers itself is: In what
area can the Federal government operate where states and cities
cannot tread? The answer is: foreign affairs--raising armies,
fighting wars, conducting diplomacy, etc. And so Uncle Sam keeps
enlarging this area. His emphasis is not on diplomacy, either.
For every buck spent by the State Department, which gets some $50
billion a year, the Pentagon spends $20. As for the Peace Corps, its
budget is a paltry $375 million--hardly enough to keep the Pentagon
elephant in peanuts.
Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz and finance authority Linda
Bilmes write in their "The Three Trillion Dollar War" (W.W. Norton),
"defense spending has been growing as a percentage of discretionary
funding (money that is not required to be spent on entitlements like
Social Security), from 48 percent in 2000 to 51 percent today. That
means that our defense needs are gobbling up a larger share of
taxpayers' money than ever before."
And they add, "The Pentagon's budget has increased by more than $600
billion, cumulatively, since we invaded Iraq." With its 1,000 bases
in the U.S. and another 800 bases globally, the U.S. truly has become
a "Warfare State." Today, military-related products account for about
one-fourth of total U.S. GDP. This includes 10,000 nuclear weapons.
Indeed, the U.S. has lavished $5.5 trillion just on nukes over the
past 70 years.
No other nation has anything remotely like this menacing global
presence. The Pentagon strengthens its grip by running joint
"training" exercises with the military of 110 other nations,
including outright dictatorships that suppress internal unrest.
The U.S. spends more on weaponry than the next dozen nations combined
and is by far the No. 1 world arms peddler. "The government employs
some 6,500 people just to coordinate and administer its arms sales
program in conjunction with senior officials at American embassies
around the world, who spend most of their 'diplomatic' careers
working as arms salesmen," writes Chalmers Johnson in "Blowback: The
Costs and Consequences of American Empire(Henry Holt)."
Chalmers goes on to say the U.S. military establishment today is
"close to being beyond civilian control" and that despite its ability
to "deliver death and destruction to any target on earth and expect
little in the way of retaliation" it demands more and newer equipment
"while the Pentagon now more or less sets its own agenda" and
"monopolizes the formulation and conduct of American foreign policy."
How long will it be before this tyrannical, anti-democratic, colossus
that is sucking up as much money for war as all states, counties and
cities spend on peace--and which straddles the globe, boosts
dictators, and beats the war drums--turns on its own people?
(Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based public relations executive who
formerly worked for major dailies and wire services. Contact him at
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