Category: China


This is the first of two talks I gave at the International Conference for Animal Rights in Luxembourg, on September 12 2013, and the first of seven talks I gave on my Fall 2013 speaking tour in Luxembourg, Germany, and Italy.

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I have blogged often against fatuous “Vegan Victory” celebrations and parades to remind everyone that while meat consumption is temporarily down in the US, it is growing at staggering rates on a global level (see, for instance here and here). Particularly, I have tried to warn people that the world’s most populous and rapidly modernizing nations — such as China, India, and Indonesia — continue to expand their economies, develop Western-capitalist social-economic models, enlarge their populations, and dramatically increase their production and consumption of meat.

China continues to lead the way in posing grave ecological threats to the world and slaughter ever-more animals for consumption. I have emphasized the ambiguity of China, which is that as animal advocacy grows, so too does meat consumption.

In a major new and foreboding development, on May 29, meat producer Shuanghui International bought Virginia-based Smithfield Foods for nearly $5 billion dollars, in what many consider to be the largest Chinese acquisition of a US corporation in history.

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Smithfield Foods, founded in 1936, was a major meat producing corporation particularly of pork. The transaction was beneficial to both parties, for while pork consumption has declined in the US, it is steadily rising in China. The US slaughters 100 million hogs for food consumption annually, whereas China butchers 470 million hogs per year. Thus, in a classic case of demand stimulating supply, Smithfield Foods is now part of Shuanghui International. China — with a population of 1.6 billion compared to 300 million people living in the US — is the world’s leading producer and consumer of pork.

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As if US meat production methods were ever safe, or there is a thing as safe pork or healthy meat, some members of Congress are voicing hypocritical health concerns voiced. “I have deep doubts, said  Representative Rose DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, “about whether this merger best serves American consumers and urge federal regulators to put their concerns first.” But this is China, after all, and such “safety” concerns are not without merit: “Demand for U.S. meat in China has risen tenfold over the past decade, fueled in part by a series of embarrassing food safety scandals, from rat meat passed off as pork to thousands of pig carcasses floating on a river.Demand for U.S. meat in China has risen tenfold over the past decade, fueled in part by a series of embarrassing food safety scandals, from rat meat passed off as pork to thousands of pig carcasses floating on a river.”

china-produces-nearly-six-times-as-much-pork-per-person-as-the-rest-of-the-world

China produces nearly six times as much pork per person as the rest of the world

Apart from underscoring the oxymoron of “safe” or “healthy” meat of any kind, the more important issues are not sickened consumers foolish enough to consume animal “products,” but rather the ethical issue of a growing global animal holocaust and the catastrophic environmental impact of factory farming and the global rise of agribusiness and appetites for flesh, especially in the large, rapidly modernizing nations such as China.

14-facts-about-the-staggeringly-huge-chinese-pork-industry

Chinese Pork Industry

Despite foreign ownership, USA Today notes:

“Shuanghui has 13 facilities that produce more than 2.7 million tons of meat per year. Under the agreement, there will be no closures at Smithfield’s facilities and locations, including its Smithfield, Va., headquarters in the historic southeastern Virginia town of about 8,100 where it was founded in 1936, the companies said.

Smithfield’s existing management team will remain in place, and Shuanghui also will honor the collective bargaining agreements with Smithfield workers. The company has about 46,000 employees.

“This transaction preserves the same old Smithfield, only with more opportunities and new markets and new frontiers,” Smithfield CEO Larry Pope said in a conference call. “This is not a strategy to import Chinese pork into the United States … this is exporting America to the world.”

Sadly, this statement is true, and when US carnivorous culture influences global markets and massively populated nations such as China, it is the perfect storm for ecological collapse.

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Also see: “14 Facts About The Staggeringly Huge Chinese Pork Industry”

Another hopeful sign of how moral progress and animal advocacy continues in the 21st century version of the “cultural revolution” in contemporary China.

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MSN News, May 22

 China animal cruelty: A farmed brown bear with a metal corset

Courtesy of Peter Li. In China, bears are kept in tight cages and farmed for their bile.

More and more Chinese, especially young people, are calling out cruel practices, such as bear bile farming, in China.

Bile extracted from caged bears. Stray animals abused and neglected. Sharks‘ fins lopped off for soup.

Most people’s perception of China’s animal rights record is as grim as the fates of some of the animals living there. But a movement has quietly risen to challenge that.

“‘Animal welfare’ was a foreign term,” Peter Li, who works in China for Humane Society International, told MSN News in an e-mail. “It is now a well-known concept in China.”

In February, China Daily reported that the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine said at a press conference that “the process of extracting bear bile was as easy, natural and painless as turning on a tap. After the operation was done, bears went out to play happily.”

Bear bile is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes, such as preventing gallstones, but experts disagree over whether it works.

China animal cruelty: School children protest animal cruelty.

Courtesy of Peter Li. Young people in China have been particularly active in protesting animal cruelty.

After the association’s comments, a video went viral in China showing a much less sunny version of the bile extraction process. Animals Asia says the practice is cruel and invasive.

“Over the years, the campaign against bear bile farming has often been a sensitive one, but today it is clear that the issue is finally mainstream and even schools are engaged and involved, with support and numbers growing all the time,” Animals Asia Founder and CEO Jill Robinson said in a statement.

That response is one sign of a larger animal-welfare movement in China, Li believes. He said the country has “changed beyond recognition.”

According to Li, ordinary people in China, especially young people, are pressuring the government for anti-cruelty legislation. Even pet ownership has changed. Li said that regulations on pet ownership have softened and that dog culling has abated.

“The movement is strong and will grow stronger,” he wrote.

It’s not just young people motivating the changes. Animal rights in China has been endorsed by some of the country’s best-known celebrities.

Jackie Chan . . . has been speaking for tiger protection and against cruelty to farm bears,” Li wrote. “Yao Ming . . . is a towering moral figure. He calls on the Chinese people to stay away from shark fin soup, from ivory products and bear bile products.”

China animal cruelty: A government cat shelter in China

Courtesy of Peter Li. Stray animals are often abused in China, but that is changing now.

Groups like Humane Society International and Animals Asia are still pushing, however.

“The explosion of newspaper, TV, radio and Internet stories in China about bear bile farming has seen a massive online outcry demanding justice for the bears,” Robinson said. She said in the statement that when Animals Asia was working on its campaign against bear bile farming, the group was “inundated by people who wanted to take part.”

But Li sees a lot more work ahead if things like bear bile farms and the hunting of endangered species is going to end.

“A lot needs to be done, admittedly,” he said. “But, today, it causes a strong reaction when animal abuse is exposed.”

I interrupt my regularly scheduled apocalyptic programming to report more good news out of China.

By a strong of luck, a truck carrying 600 cats fattened for slaughter crashed on route to the restaurant where they would be served as fleshy delicacies, regardless of the hideous and nauseating condition which they typically arrive in the long and torturous ride to Hell’s Kitchen. Unfortunately, and 100 feline victims died in the crash, some escaped to an indeterminate fate.

But experienced Chinese animal activists rushed to the scene to save hundreds of survivors, liberated them from the truck at their own response, and are caring for them until all can be adopted.

An activist reports that the response by compassionate Chinese citizens was swift and decisive. We can safely assume all surviving cats will be adopted and homed, and while some may remain round and fat, they will likely lead comfortable and content lives, experience  experience human love rather than hate, and die of natural causes rather than being murdered, butchered, and stabbed with knives and forks before shoved down the pipes of human gluttony and indifference.

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RT News, January, 17, 2013

Cats being cared for after truck crash

Up to 600 plump white cats escaped death when the truck carrying them to be slaughtered crashed and they were rescued by animal rights activists in central China.

Volunteers hauled the cats from the overturned lorry in the central city of Changsha. Around one hundred felines, however, died in the accident while others escaped, says Xu Chenxin of the Changsha Small Animal Protection Association.

The cats, most of them plump and white, were heading to restaurants in the southern Guandong province, the China Daily reported.

“It was easy to tell they were meant to be eaten, from looking at the crates you could tell their owners didn’t care if they were alive or dead. When I arrived, the truck was piled high with more than 50 crates. The cats had travelled for days, without water or food, and the smell was dreadful” Xu told AFP on Monday.

The volunteer group which recued the felines negotiated with one of the trucks drivers to buy the animals for 10,000 yuan ($1,600) and they were now awaiting adoption.

“We’ve already had inquiries from families across Changsha,” said Xu.

Activists often come to the rescue of animals in China. In one of the biggest occasions they bought around 500 dogs intended for the dining table from a convoy of trucks on a highway in Beijing in 2011.

China does not have laws to protect non-endangered animals such as cats and dogs. Although cats are not commonly served up as dinner in Chinese restaurants, some establishments, especially in the south, will put cat on the menu.

AFP Photo/China Out

A disturbing update from the front lines of the war on animals, with elephants and rhinos the principle targets, certainly in Africa, and headed rapidly for extinction. A new study described below confirms one’s fears that the inexplicable fetish for ivory, its high monetary value aside, still principally driven by Chinese market demand (the same country also in midst of revolutionary change in its views toward animals reflected in scores of liberations of cats and dogs headed for slaughter and rise in animal advocacy generally).

There is no measure too costly, no action too extreme, no coordinated effort too large to stop this escalating holocaust of  rhinos and elephants, It is clearly high time to defend these majestic animals by any means necessary by shutting down lines of demand and supply, through a ruthless counter-war on poachers, via draconian penalties for consumers and peddlers of ivory, through drone attacks on crime syndicates descending from helicopters for their unconscionable kill, and with crackdowns on state complacency or complicity anywhere in Africa and Asia.

This is a dramatic window into the sixth extinction crisis in the history of the planet unfolding before our eyes; may we do more than watch this continuing saga of rhinos and elephants dropped by guns and machetes until all are wiped off the continent, with nothing remaining of their millions of years of evolution but macabre carvings and statues and graveyards.

The articles linked below are well worth reading, and anyone who doubts the vicious and implacable greed and violence driving the war on elephants and rhinos should read through the valuable New York Times archives.

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Jaymi Heimbuch, Tree Hugger, January 17, 2013

If you’ve been following ivory poaching in the news lately, you may be wondering if there is any hope at all for elephants.

Just yesterday, the Washington Post reported, “Custom officials seized 638 pieces of illegal elephant ivory estimated to be worth $1.2 million at Kenya’s main port, evidence of what wildlife officials described Wednesday as a growing threat to East Africa’s elephants.”

And just two weeks ago, on January 5, eleven elephants were killed in one massacre by a gang of poachers at Bisadi area of Tsavo East National Park.

The problem is vast and complex, but part of the reason for the growing crisis is the booming economy in China. As the BBC reports:

“China is the main buyer of ivory in the world,” said Dr Esmond Martin, a conservationist and researcher who has spent decades tracking the movement of illegal ivory around the world. He has recently returned from Nigeria, where he conducted a visual survey of ivory on sale in the city of Lagos. His findings are startling.Dr Martin and his colleagues counted more than 14,000 items of worked and raw ivory in one location, the Lekki Market in Lagos.

The last survey, conducted at the same market in 2002, counted about 4,000 items, representing a three-fold increase in a decade.

It is enough to make us wonder if there is any possibility of saving elephants as a species in the face of such rampant killing and rising demand for ivory. Save the Elephants, a prominent nonprofit working to bring attention to poaching issues and Africa’s elephants, just released a 14-year study of elephants in northern Kenya, concluding that adult elephants are more likely to be killed by humans than to die from natural causes.

Science Magazine reports,

“Clearly it is the most detailed and comprehensive demographic analysis undertaken for any elephant population, and perhaps any wildlife population, at least in Africa,” says Norman Owen-Smith, an ecologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. It provides a base “for modeling the potential impacts of increased poaching” on other African elephant populations, which are also suffering from illegal killing.

The study notes that in 2000, there were 38 males over 30 years old in the study population, but by 2011 there were just 12, with seven males maturing into that age group. That means only five of the original 38 males over 30 years old were still alive 11 years after the study began. And by the same year, 56% of the elephants found dead (and few elephant carcasses are actually found) had been poached.

The rise in poaching is not only a concern of conservationists, but also tour operators. The loss of elephants in Kenya means a loss of revenue for people running sight-seeing and safari tours. And the businesses are responding to events like the massacre in Tsavo East National Park. AllAfrica reported this week, “The umbrella body Kenya Association of Tour Operators wants a new wildlife bill to be drafted and the government to take major steps to address the poaching menace.”


After National Geographic’s impressive expose, Blood Ivory, a renewed attention has been brought to the serious issue of poaching, a problem on the rise and reaching a disturbing level of intensity as Save the Elephants has proven with their study.

But there is a glimmer of hope. Elephants have proven that they can recover their numbers if given a chance. The elephants studied by Save the Elephants experienced a small baby boom after the intense poaching of the 70s and 80s lessened.

However, the renewed pressure of poaching has stopped that rebuilding of numbers, and could have a long-term impact on the species, with the loss of important information passed down from older generations of elephants to younger generations, including where to find water, food, and other vital resources in a harsh landscape.

In a recent conversation with National Geographic, Iain Douglas-Hamilton notes that losing older elephants means the loss of the “memory bank” and a lower potential for survival for younger elephants:

Studies elsewhere in Africa show that families which lose large numbers of matriarchs do much less successfully in later life. They have a low survival rate. In the time of drought, for example, the really smart and experienced matriarchs may take their families to a completely different place, only because they’re experienced. Maybe they remember their mothers took them to a place like that when they were young. That means sometimes that they have to take a counterintuitive decision. Like maybe in a really drought-stricken area you’d have to go deeper into the worst area to get through to the other side. That’s actually happened in Tarangire, as reported in a study which showed that the really old matriarchs knew what to do. Young elephants tend to have a higher rate of survival if they have good leadership.

So, are elephants doomed? The fact is, there is hope. There is always hope. But unless something changes, and fast, to protect elephants from poaching, that hope is dying with the older generations of elephants.

The New York Times has created a landing page for all their stories on the ivory trade, making it easy to explore the issue.

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Also see:

The Elephant Killing Fields

Vatican Stand on Religious Use of Ivory Would Help Slow Illegal Killings of Elephants

By Dianey Toomey, Yale Environment 360

“National security expert Michael Klare believes the struggle for the world’s resources will be one of the defining political and environmental realities of the 21st century. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he discusses the threat this scramble poses to the natural world and what can be done to sustainably meet the resource challenge. His most recent book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, describes how the world economy has entered a period of what he calls “tough” extraction for energy, minerals, and other commodities, meaning that the easy-to-get resources have been exploited and a rapidly growing population is now turning to resources in the planet’s most remote regions — the Arctic, the deep ocean, and war zones like Afghanistan. Klare discussed China’s surging appetite for resources, the growing potential for political and military conflict as commodities become more scarce, and the disturbing trend of the planet’s agricultural land being bought by companies and governments seeking to ensure that their people will have enough food in the future.”

Michael Klare

Yale Environment 360: You make the point that when it comes to the age-old competition for raw materials, we’re in an unprecedented age. How so?

Michael Klare: I do believe that’s the case. Humans have been struggling to gain control of vital resources since the beginning of time, but I think we’re in a new era because we’re running out of places to go. Humans have constantly moved to new areas, to new continents, when they’ve run out of things in their home territory. But there aren’t any more new continents to go to. We’re going now to the last places left on earth that haven’t been exploited: the Arctic, the deep oceans, the inner jungles in Africa, Afghanistan. There are very few places left that haven’t been fully tapped, so this is humanity’s last chance to exploit the earth, and after this there’s nowhere else to go.

e360: Natural resource extraction has never been a pretty business when it comes to the environment, but you write that now that the era of easy oil, easy gas, easy minerals and other resources is basically over, and what’s left is in deep water, remote or inhospitable climates, or in geological formations that require extraordinary means to get at. So paint me a picture of what extracting these tough resources looks like.

Klare: We’re really going to be using very aggressive means of extraction, so the environmental consequences are going to be proportionally greater. For example, to get oil and natural gas out of shale rock, you can’t just drill and expect it to come out. It doesn’t work that way. You have to smash the rock, you have to produce fractures in the rock, and we use a very aggressive technology to do that — hydraulic fracturing — and the water is brought under tremendous pressure and it’s laced with toxic chemicals, and when the water is extracted from these wells it can’t be put back into the environment without risk of poisoning water supplies. So there’s a tremendous problem of storage, of toxic water supplies, and we really haven’t solved that problem.

And that’s just one example. Drilling in the Arctic presents a tremendous problem because the Arctic, by its very nature, is at the edge of survival and all the species there are living at the edge of survival, so any oil spill could push them over the edge into extinction. So [oil companies] must have on hand all kinds of extra capacity to deal with the possibility of spills, and that’s much more difficult to engineer than in the Gulf of Mexico, where there are tens of thousands of boats that you could hire on short notice to bring out skimmers and booms to contain a spill. There’s nothing like that in the Arctic. Moreover, if this were to happen in winter, there would be no way to move equipment up there to build a relief drill. Remember, it was a relief drill that closed the Deepwater Horizon spill, but you can’t do that in the middle of winter when the Arctic [Ocean] is covered with ice.  Continue reading

This is a long, sometimes technical, but most worthwhile read. It lays out clearly the connection between a grow-or-die capitalist economy and the rapidly-worsening ecological crisis. It demonstrates that capitalism is inherently unsustainable and ecocidal, and that any talk of reform or “green capitalism,” or veganism as the panacea for our problems is absurd.

The most immediate crisis we face today is that of a metastasizing global capitalism economy, and unless this entire system can be dismantled and radically reconstituted, I see no chance of survival for the millions of species inhabiting this planet including the only true malignant predator and inexorable force of destruction, Homo rapiens.

The problem, of course, is not only the violent and dysfunctional animal that humans are, but the catastrophic results that follow when human primates organize growth-oriented, hierarchical systems of domination, and these eventually evolve into a capitalist economy addicted to growth, and the resource extraction this system demands, especially now with over 7 billion people consuming well over 100 billion land and sea animals a year.

There is hope, and somewhere in the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea there is my wallet which I lost seven years ago and perhaps that might turn up too.

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By John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, Z-Net, December 10, 2012

Capitalism today is caught in a seemingly endless crisis, with economic stagnation and upheaval circling the globe.1 But while the world has been fixated on the economic problem, global environmental conditions have been rapidly worsening, confronting humanity with its ultimate crisis: one of long-term survival. The common source of both of these crises resides in the process of capital accumulation. Likewise the common solution is to be sought in a “revolutionary reconstitution of society at large,” going beyond the regime of capital.2

It is still possible for humanity to avert what economist Robert Heilbroner once called “ecological Armageddon.”3 The means for the creation of a just and sustainable world currently exist, and are to be found lying hidden in the growing gap between what could be achieved with the resources already available to us, and what the prevailing social order allows us to accomplish. It is this latent potential for a quite different human metabolism with nature that offers the master-key to a workable ecological exit strategy.

The Approaching Ecological Precipice

Science today tells us that we have a generation at most in which to carry out a radical transformation in our economic relations, and our relations with the earth, if we want to avoid a major tipping point or “point of no return,” after which vast changes in the earth’s climate will likely be beyond our ability to prevent and will be irreversible.4 At that point it will be impossible to stop the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland from continuing to melt, and thus the sea level from rising by as much as “tens of meters.”5 Nor will we be able to prevent the Arctic sea ice from vanishing completely in the summer months, or carbon dioxide and methane from being massively released by the decay of organic matter currently trapped beneath the permafrost—both of which would represent positive feedbacks dangerously accelerating climate change. Extreme weather events will become more and more frequent and destructive.

An article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated that the record-breaking heat wave that hit the Moscow area in 2010 with disastrous effect was made five times more likely, in the decade ending in that year as compared with earlier decades, due to the warming trend, implying “an approximate 80% probability” that it “would not have occurred without climate warming.” Other instances of extreme weather such as the deadly European heat wave in 2003 and the serious drought in Oklahoma and Texas in 2011, have been shown to be connected to earth warming. Hurricane Sandy, which devastated much of New York and New Jersey at the end of October 2012, was impacted and amplified to a considerable extent by climate change.6

The point of irreversible climate change is usually thought of as a 2°C (3.6°F) increase in global average temperature, which has been described as equivalent at the planetary level to the “cutting down of the last palm tree” on Easter Island. An increase of 2°C in global average temperature coincides roughly with cumulative carbon emissions of around one trillion metric tons. Based on past emissions trends it is predicted by climate scientists at Oxford University that we will hit the one trillion metric ton mark in 2043, or thirty-one years from now. We could avoid emitting the trillionth metric ton if we were to reduce our carbon emissions beginning immediately by an annual rate of 2.4 percent a year.7

To be sure, climate science is not exact enough to pinpoint precisely how much warming will push us past a planetary tipping point.8 But all the recent indications are that if we want to avoid planetary disaster we need to stay considerably below 2°C. As a result, almost all governments have signed on to staying below 2°C as a goal at the urging of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. More and more, 2°C has come to symbolize the reality of a planetary point of no return. In this sense, all the discussions of what the climate will be like if the world warms to 3°C, or all the way to 6°C, are relatively meaningless.9 Before such temperatures are attained, we will have already reached the limits of our ability to control the climate-change process, and we will then be left with the task of adapting to apocalyptic ecological conditions. Already Arctic sea ice experienced a record melt in the summer of 2012 with some scientists predicting an ice-free Arctic in the summer as early as 2016–2020. In the words of James Hansen, the world’s leading climatologist, we are facing a “planetary emergency”—since if we approach 2°C “we will have started a process that is out of humanity’s control.”10 Continue reading

Italian Facebook Steve Best Rome Lecture Tour Event Page

Per Animalia Veritas Steve Best Event Page

“Interview with Steve Best,” Asinus Novus

“Steve Best in Italy: From Philosophy to Action,” by the blog (and more), Asinus Novus. The writers provided a nice summary of my talks and main ideas.

A Key Meeting,” Arielvegangfashinblogspot.com; a refreshingly intelligent, fair, and incisive essay on my work, thank you Ariel.

“Now Enough,” Barbara Balsalmo

 

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I wish to thank everyone in Italy for inviting me to speak again this year, and for being such gracious hosts, fantastic activists. and amazing people. There are dozens, perhaps over a hundred of people who made this tour possible and joyful. I cannot possibly name them all. I do however, wish to offer a very special thank you to:

Kostia Troinia and Barbara Balsamo for inviting me and being the principal organizers of my talks in Rome. You are the best!

Marcos Aragao for your excellent photos.

VeggieChannel.com for your tremendous effort in interviewing me, taping my lectures in Turin, Rome, and Latina, and for having the courage to post my talks on your channel.

The kind women at Asinus Novus for showing enough interest in my work to summarize my talks and interview me; it was a pleasure, thank you.

Per Animalia Veritas; thank you for your activism, support, and bold defense of militant direct action!

The ReWild Cruelty Free Club; you guys rock and make the best vegan food!

Paolo Trono and his club, Vegan Città di Latina (a former abattoir transformed into a space for music, lectures, and culture!) in which I gave my final speech in the Rome area before moving north to Brescia; thank you for your kindness, the great audience, and the great free food and beer!

Piercarlo Paderno for inviting and hosting me in Brescia. You are a great new friend and did amazing work to help liberate the Greenhill dogs.

The Occupy Greenhill movement (see here and here) for their bold act of liberation that will go down in history as one of the most important actions of this century. In their post-Greenhill reorganization, the group is now called Animal Amnesty, and will keep opening chained fences and locked doors!

A very interesting report from a former climate skeptic. Muller seems scrupulously honest, as a scientist or any thinker should be, and while he continues to reject specific arguments from the climate change camp, the salient point is that his own studies, peer-reviewed, lead him inexorably to the conclusion that global warming is real, it is advancing quickly, and it is human-caused, all other variables accounted for.

Also noteworthy is his warning of the awakening giant, China, and how it will contribute significantly — so long as it stays on its present path and it shows no signs of letting up — to heating up the planet even more.

Of course, the politics and endless bickering among the scientific community (along with the noise created by professional demagogues on the payroll of corporations such as ExxonMobil) continues, but a sane approach — which cannot exist in a world dominated by huge oil and gas corporations and their paid political operatives in various governments, ensuring our addiction to fossil fuels continues unabated — would be to error on the side of caution.

But humanity, generally speaking, has been anything but rational and cautious, and we have still not learned the lessons of all the civilizations and empires that have collapse because they exhausted their resource base. Climate change involves a major paradigm shift in our economies, technologies, worldviews, and lifeways, and thus forestalling social and ecological crisis demands far more than conserving fossil fuels (the absurdity of which is all the more apparent once one accounts for the rapid modernization of China, India, Indonesia, and other still or formerly “undeveloped” nations, and also for the still-surging human population growth).

Yet the human brain has adapted itself more to fix problems once they arise rather than take preventative measures. Climate change is one problem that is soon to be too late to “fix.”

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Richard A. Muller, The New York Times, July 30, 2012

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.       

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the I.P.C.C. concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans. It was possible, according to the I.P.C.C. consensus statement, that the warming before 1956 could be because of changes in solar activity, and that even a substantial part of the more recent warming could be natural.

Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions.

The historic temperature pattern we observed has abrupt dips that match the emissions of known explosive volcanic eruptions; the particulates from such events reflect sunlight, make for beautiful sunsets and cool the earth’s surface for a few years. There are small, rapid variations attributable to El Niño and other ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream; because of such oscillations, the “flattening” of the recent temperature rise that some people claim is not, in our view, statistically significant. What has caused the gradual but systematic rise of two and a half degrees? We tried fitting the shape to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials), to solar activity and even to rising functions like world population. By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice.

Just as important, our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent. Although the I.P.C.C. allowed for the possibility that variations in sunlight could have ended the “Little Ice Age,” a period of cooling from the 14th century to about 1850, our data argues strongly that the temperature rise of the past 250 years cannot be attributed to solar changes. This conclusion is, in retrospect, not too surprising; we’ve learned from satellite measurements that solar activity changes the brightness of the sun very little.

How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.

It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.

Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.

The careful analysis by our team is laid out in five scientific papers now online at BerkeleyEarth.org. That site also shows our chart of temperature from 1753 to the present, with its clear fingerprint of volcanoes and carbon dioxide, but containing no component that matches solar activity. Four of our papers have undergone extensive scrutiny by the scientific community, and the newest, a paper with the analysis of the human component, is now posted, along with the data and computer programs used. Such transparency is the heart of the scientific method; if you find our conclusions implausible, tell us of any errors of data or analysis.

What about the future? As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.

Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.

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Recommended:

Andrew Revin, “‘Converted’ Skeptic: Humans Driving Recent Warming”

Zachary Shanan, “What is Causing Global Warming?”

Is There a Scientific Consensus On Global Warming?

http://planetsave.com/2012/01/19/what-is-causing-global-warming/

China’s Surging Middle Class

The growth of the Chinese middle class is staggering, projected to be 2-3 times larger than the entire US population, and the implications are frightening for the inevitable spike in meat consumption and release of climate change gases.

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The middle class in China has topped more than 300 million people. And they are a growing factor in the world’s economy.

CNN, April 20, 2012

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — CNNMoney interviewed Helen Wang, author of The Chinese Dream: The Rise of the World’s Largest Middle Class and What It Means to You. A consultant, Wang was raised in China and has lived in the United States for more than 20 years.

Q. Who are the middle class in China?

 A. I define middle class as households with an annual income of between $10,000 and $60,000 U.S. dollars. But income is a little misleading because the cost of living in China is very different. A rule of thumb is a household with a third of its income for discretionary spending is considered middle class.

In China, the middle class is all concentrated in big cities, not like in this country, where a lot of the middle class are in the suburbs. Most people have a college education and relatively stable jobs. There are a lot of entrepreneurs and a lot of white collar workers, working for multinationals or state-owned companies.

They are a lot younger … 20 to 50. A lot of them own homes. Like Westerners, they want everything Americans have.

This new middle class just emerged in the last 15 to 20 years. Fifteen years ago, people didn’t have cars yet. But in the last seven, eight, or nine years … everyone has a car. Some people have more than one car.

Q. How big is the Chinese middle class?

A. It is estimated that it’s more than 300 million — already larger than the entire population of the United States.

About 25% of the population is middle class. It’s about 50% of the urban population.

Q. How did the middle class climb the economic ladder?

A. A lot of it is entrepreneurship. With China’s economy growing over the last 20 to 30 years, there have been a lot of business opportunities.

Some people still go to college and then get good jobs. A lot of multinationals employ these young college graduates. They pay relatively better than Chinese companies. Many foreign companies are contributing to creating the white-collar middle class.

Chinese state companies also employ a lot of people. Their income has more than tripled over the last 10 or 15 years.

Q. How are they changing China?

A. The Chinese are shopping a lot more. Retail is booming like a wildfire in China. There are a lot more consumers and they are demanding a lot more services.

A lot of Chinese, especially younger consumers, are really into the luxury brands. They associate Western luxury brands with quality of life and sophistication. They want gyms, health care clubs and definitely travel. They want to see the world. The restaurant business is doing very well.

The younger generation — people under 30 — they are consuming like crazy. They save zero. They spend all of their salary on a Louis Vuitton purse. A lot of them stay with their parents so they don’t have housing expenses. But once they get married, then they start to save.

Q. Are they concerned about the economy and their financial positions?

A. They know China is growing wildly, and they’re very busy trying to catch this opportunity. They know China won’t grow at this high speed forever and they know the window of opportunity will close. They know government won’t take care of them anymore. They have to take care of themselves.

Q. What is the future of the Chinese middle class?

A. The Chinese middle class may grow to 700 to 800 million, which is 50% to 60% of China’s entire population. In the past, all the predictions have proven to be too conservative.

But on the other hand, a lot of Chinese will be in the lower middle class because education will prevent them from moving up. If young people start going into vocational schools, that’s for lower skilled jobs.

Q. What does that mean for the U.S. and the rest of the world?

A. It means a lot of opportunities for American companies selling in China.

A lot of U.S. companies are doing extremely well in China. While GM filed for bankruptcy a few years ago, their sales in China soared. Chinese consumers helped GM to turn around.

Nike is doing so well, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken. A lot of smaller companies are looking to sell into China. That will help the American economy.

Because of rising wages in China, we are already seeing some manufacturing jobs come back to this country. Those jobs will continue coming back and that will create jobs in the U.S. as well.

The same thing goes for the Western economy in general. Chinese consumers love Italian products. They want Italian products made in Italy.

Q. What are the barriers to entry for those still in poverty?

A. If you are born in urban China, you can go to public school and you enjoy a lot of government benefits. For rural Chinese, they have none of these. If you’re born in the rural area, you can’t even live in the cities. That’s gradually changing. They let the rural people come into the cities to do the work. But there are still restrictions.

There is no future for people who live in the villages. There are still a lot of barriers for those people to move up the economic ladder.

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