Monday, 21 March 2011

One Rule for Libya Another for Bahrain and Saudi

Whatever some on the left may say, Western decisions over where and how to intervene in the ongoing Middle East chaos are not, and will not be primarily about whether counties have oil, nor about human rights. Such decisions are about naked self-interest and hurried judgements as to which dictators can survive and which are likeliest to be most sympathetic and receptive to Western interests in future.

ÖMER TAŞPINAR, a columnist at Turkish daily, Today’s Zaman sees that:

“Washington is engaged in a high-wire balancing act. Not only is the American superpower unable to shape events, it is also unable to adopt a consistent policy. Realism and idealism, the two most powerful -- and often clashing -- currents of American foreign policy are creating embarrassing double standards …”

“ … when it comes to a country like Bahrain, where the US has vast military and security interests at stake, the rights of citizens are secondary to these “realpolitik” considerations.”

“According to the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom [sic] … Bahrain has the freest economy in the Middle East and North Africa region and is tenth overall in the world.” says Wikipedia.

“Petroleum and natural gas, the only significant natural resources in Bahrain, dominate the economy and provide about 60% of budget revenues.”

With the King of Bahrain a solid and respectable Sunni whose interests are safely and inextricably allied with Saudi Arabia and the Western order, as against the Shia of Iran, it seems clear that he is a safe pair of hands, whatever his little local difficulties with impudent subjects - in sharp contrast to the turbulent revolutionary Muammar Gadaffi, who has never been a true friend of the West or of the Sunnah.

Friday, 18 March 2011

What's the CGIAR Ever Done for Us?

Asks Luigi Guarino at the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog.

Dave Woods points out in the comments that:

"[T]here is a glaring hole about the value of the germplasm collections as the basis for varietal improvement both within and beyond the CG and their future value under climate change. But a lot of this value was in bringing in and screening new samples year by year. This was ticking along at about 12,000 samples around the time of the CBD but now seems to have gone down to 5,000 or so a year under the FAO Seed Treaty: FAO is being coy about this number. Unless this figure goes up fast the Treaty is not a policy plus for the CG and could damage global agriculture."

And then there's the dead hand of bureaucracy and "intellectual property" represented by SMTAs ...

Threat Multipliers

Man unkind chooses to build his vulnerable industrial complexes in hurricane, flood, earthquake and volcano areas. When natural disaster hits, as it obviously does, these go down like dominoes, piling man-made onto natural and creating mega disasters, or as Garry Peterson puts it, cascading disasters, which in turn may likely be magnified by a deliberately globalised financial system.

Ever more people, ever more industry, ever more threats.

Oh yes, man’s so clever he cuts himself on a regular basis.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

It's a Lock-in

The Screeching of Positive Feedback

It shouldn't be a surprise to see chaos in a part of the world where human numbers have been and continue to double in mere decades, and fertile land as well as water for growing food is already insufficient and depleting rapidly. So, amid renewed talk of oil-induced recession, the world seems to be going round in ever more vicious circles:

Lack of investment in agriculture and population increase -> Food price rises -> civil unrest including in oil producing countries -> oil price increases -> food price increases -> more unrest -> and so on and on …

Actionaid USA have produced an interactive map of the places under greatest stress from food import dependency. They note that:

"As a result, [of subsidies] U.S. farmers have diverted 40 percent of corn production from food and feed to fuel, and land once used for soybean production has been converted to corn to meet the demand for biofuels set out in the federal RFS. Seven times as much corn is sent to ethanol plants than is being kept in our national stockpiles. Over the last two years, the amount of corn fed to livestock fell by 3 million metric tons, while corn shipments to ethanol producers grew by 33 million tons. These shifts put pressure on food stocks until they cross a tipping point, driving prices up."

"Spending scarce taxpayer dollars to shift crops from food to biofuels at the expense of hungry people and already stressed resources like soil, water and air is unsustainable."

HT Worldwatch blog.

Stuart Staniford at Early Warning blog points out that, "It's worth noting that the energy content of the human food supply is about a sixth of the energy content of the human fuel supply (about 86 mbd of liquid fuels, equivalent to somewhere in the neighborhood of 120-130mbd of ethanol). This is the core problem with converting food to fuel - we are taking from a small pool to try to make up for deficiencies in a large pool, and we will have a much bigger effect on the level of the small pool than the bigger pool."

Wealthy motorists and the private car lobby are literally driving the world into starvation and recession.