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Breakdown to Breakthrough is Possible Now

March 23, 2011 Comments off

Today is the 65th anniversary of the birth of my beloved wife Meredith and the 22nd anniversary of the discovery of cold fusion by University of Utah chemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons.  In the years since, not only have we had dozens of authentic proofs-of-concept that certain nuclear reactions of nonradioactive elements can be assisted chemically, we now seem to have the first practical device that could provide the world with its first commercially viable clean “over-unity” energy device ever and thus end the tyranny of dependence on our current toxic energy systems that so rule us in our daily lives.

For many decades I have had intimate contact with energy issues—as a U.S. Congressional senior consultant on nuclear power, as a university professor and as an author and editor of books and studies on the subject—all of which was undertaken free of vested corporate and political interests. As I have examined the issues in more and more depth, I have come to realize that nuclear energy is one of those topics that scares the living daylights out of me.

The dangers of reactor safety and waste disposal, not to mention the proliferation of nuclear weapons, could result in this source of electricity and its weapons applications killing almost all of us.  It’s time for the public to become more aware of the danger of using radioactive fuels that will be with us for generations to come.  We are stealing not only our own healthy environment but that of our children, their children and onward for thousands of years, because of selfish decisions being made by the mad mainstream myopic culture that dominates us.  The deadly toxic plutonium, cesium-137 and other highly radioactive byproducts now escaping into the atmosphere, ground, water and food from the Fukushima reactors could kill thousands, perhaps millions, of people over the next tens of thousands of years and render the region permanently uninhabitable (like Chernobyl).  For example, the half-life of plutonium-239 is 24,000 years!  And how about the millions of long-lived highly radioactive fuel rods that are scattered all over the world and we don’t yet know how or where to dispose them? How could our governments and industries be so mad as to provide electricity from such a dangerous source of fuel?

In 1975 when I was a nuclear energy advisor to U.S. Congressman Morris Udall (D-AZ) and his subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, I and others from the scientific community took a close, hard look at nuclear fuel cycle safety issues.  We came to the sober conclusion that nuclear power is extremely dangerous—so much so that this technology should be abandoned as soon as possible worldwide.  The risks involved, especially when these power plants are built on fault zones or in areas that are vulnerable to tsunamis, are simply untenable.

With 36 additional years of hindsight under our belts during which a litany of accidents occurred–most notably the “impossible” meltdowns at Three Mile Island, then Chernobyl and now Fukushima–it is now obvious that we were correct in our recommendation to abandon nuclear technology. I can recall going through the calculations that accurately predicted some of the apocalyptic happenings we now face and which could have easily been avoided if the safety of the planet had not played second fiddle to the profits of the nuclear industry.

During the 1970s a proposal to build over 1,000 nuclear power plants in the United States was promoted by the nuclear industry, by President Richard Nixon and by the U.S. Congress Joint Committee on Atomic Energy.   Fortunately, this potential nightmare was thwarted by public outcries about the dangers of nuclear power, by our subcommittee’s Democratic majority oversight authority, and by market forces unwilling to risk the dangers involved in nuclear power.  As a result, over the past three decades we have successfully placed a moratorium on building new nuclear power plants in the United States.  We now have 104 nuclear power plants, instead of over 1,000 that had been advocated by the industry during the 1970s.  But with the increasing pollution, resource depletion and climate change resulting from relying on coal and oil power plants, the nuclear industry has seized the opportunity to renew its campaign to build more nuclear power plants, shamelessly promoting them as “clean and safe energy.”

The ravages of nuclear power are but one sad example of how our large vested infrastructures have become corrupted by powerful financial interests.  The influence of short-term financial profit affects our energy systems more than any other sector, but it is also having an increasingly deleterious effect on our financial, water, agricultural, waste, military and governance systems as well.  Our planet is rapidly becoming grossly unsustainable, with massive devastation guaranteed within a generation due to wars, pollution, climate change, deforestation, water shortages, soil destruction and economic instabilities.  But there is no issue more dangerous than the Faustian bargain we have made with our commitment to nuclear energy.

As I watch the unfolding saga in Japan, I feel nearly paralyzed by another dose of grief over the disastrous effects that our fossil fuel/nuclear juggernaut has had on all of us, as we once again pick up the pieces and try to carry on almost as if the nightmare hadn’t happened.

The 2011 Japan nuclear crisis is but the latest indignity we suffer globally, simply because of the blatantly false assertion that this source of electricity is clean and carbon-neutral and therefore we should have a worldwide nuclear renaissance.  To the contrary, according to Dr. Helen Caldicott, a nuclear power plant would have to operate for 18 years before becoming “carbon neutral,” because the mining/transport/ construction infrastructure consumes an enormous amount of fossil fuels. Nuclear power is not only far from being carbon-neutral, it is even farther from being safe, as the latest nuclear crisis, this time in Japan, demonstrates. Yet the official response here, as promoted by the nuclear industry and echoed by the media, is similar to that in the other disasters: well, it looks like we got through this one (whew!), but it’s now time to return to business-as-usual and re-enact our collective amnesia.

The oil and coal disasters fall into the same pattern:  the recent $8 billion judgment in Ecuador against Chevron-Texaco for dumping millions of gallons of oil-slicked toxic waste into the biodiverse Amazon rainforest and water supply killing and rendering sick thousands of local residents; the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico; the carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels contributing to probably irreversible climate change and ocean acidification; the wars for oil now expanding to Libya; the leveling of mountaintops for coal; dwindling supplies of easily obtainable oil; and the depletion of hydrocarbon resources, to name a few of our grossly unsustainable energy policies.   In the face of the latest oil-and-coal-related disasters as well as nuclear disasters, it should be obvious to the most casual observer that oil, coal and nuclear energy should be phased out as soon as possible worldwide, especially since we have access to clean and safe alternatives.

My research and analyses from decades of experience as a professor and as an energy advisor to U.S. Congress and presidential candidates clearly demonstrates that in the near future we’ll have to abandon both hydrocarbons and nuclear power as our primary energy sources (now about 93% of the energy mix worldwide), and that we need to find another energy source to replace them soon.  King CONG (coal, oil, nuclear and gas) is grossly unsustainable when we consider full life-cycle environmental costs.

When most people consider an alternative to uranium, oil, nuclear and natural gas, they think of the traditional “renewables,” such as biofuels, hydropower, solar power and wind power. Although all of these are greatly superior to hydrocarbons and nuclear in their impact on the environment, it is important to note that they all use much too much land and materials to be considered truly clean and renewable. If they were our only alternative, we would have to make them work somehow, but it would require enormous changes to our life-style and economy in terms of reducing energy needs and improving efficiency. What is not widely known, however, is that there are numerous potential sources of clean energy that do not require excessive land and materials and which would be far less disruptive to our lifestyle and economy than converting to traditional renewables.

During the past 25 years I’ve visited the laboratories of dozens of researchers who have come up with a variety of proofs-of-concept of breakthrough clean energy technologies that appear to be clean, cheap, decentralized, scalable, safe and potentially transparent/open source.  Concepts include energy from the vacuum (sometimes called “zero-point”), cold fusion and advanced hydrogen and water chemistries.  To date, these remarkable possibilities, which require further research to come to full flowering, have so far been violently suppressed by vested interests that profit enormously by preserving the status quo.  The researchers themselves have suffered untold calamities due to lack of support and often outright intimidation.  There’s little or no short-term money in this field (so far), which means that these highly creative and dedicated scientists have been forced to carry on their work on a shoe-string budget, always with a pressing need for funds, and despite a deep and realistic fear of reprisals from vested interests in the energy industry.

In order to protect this absolutely essential research from threats from the established energy industry, we need to create protected R&D laboratories scattered around the world to do the necessary perfecting of some of these technologies so they can be brought forward to humanity as soon as possible.  We need to establish independent scientific panels to assess the efficacy of the technologies, guided not by the profit motive but by concern for humankind and nature.   So far, this kind of concept design philosophy has been stymied by the disbelief of mainstream scientists and environmentalists who have their own vested interests and are unwilling to even examine the evidence for breakthrough clean energy, thus forming an unwitting alliance with the powers-that-be, who simply want to go on with business-as-usual for short-term economic gain.

Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi

Yet as a scientist myself, I am convinced that any one or some of the new energy concepts, when carefully researched by competent teams, could effectively transform our reliance on hydrocarbons and nuclear into an energy source that would be widely available at virtually no cost to the environment.  One almost-commercial example is Andrea Rossi’s Cold Fusion Energy Catalyzer  http://RossiColdFusion.com and http://www.peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Andrea_A._Rossi_Cold_Fusion_Generator.   Two excellent websites describing the state of the art of over 100 promising clean breakthrough energy concepts are http://www.peswiki.com and http://www.free-energy-info.com. (Go ahead. I dare you to go to those sites and examine the evidence with an open mind!)

For the sake of our very survival, we need to begin this process immediately.  Even if you personally do not believe that radically new energy generation is realistic, would you not agree that the seriousness of the crisis makes it worth a try?  If it is within our power to develop and utilize breakthrough clean energy, then we must develop the political will to overcome the obstacles to making it available so that we can save our planet. So far, the conundrum suggests that we shouldn’t venture forth, simply because of powerful industrial interests and our short-sighted fear of the unknown.  We know that large corporations like General Electric and large governments like the U.S. simply don’t want new breakthrough clean energy because it threatens their vested interests in large nuclear reactors and centralized fossil fuel facilities and grid systems. But this conundrum needn’t go on forever if we do things differently.

As a member of the Apollo team during the 1960s I had the experience of participating in tiger teams (skunkworks), which were characterized by a “can-do” attitude that certain outside-the-box goals could be accomplished with the right optimism and discipline.  And these remarkable teams, which were in large part protected from the voices of doubters and vested interests, accomplished amazing results that were far outside the box of conventional expectations. But so far nobody has yet run with the opportunity to develop breakthrough clean energy in a way that matches the urgency of the Apollo mission, nor is there much public discussion about this possibility.

I believe new energy should be the Holy Grail of our time if we are to have any hope for a truly sustainable future for our home planet. There are several promising new energy concepts, any one or some of which, with further development, could provide the energy solution for the Earth. Most conventional decision-makers, however, in their preoccupation with short-term gain, are unable to step back and even consider the possibilities of developing a radically different approach to energy.  Therefore, it is likely that we will need to support and protect the R&D process far away from the grip of conventional decision-makers on energy policy.

It’s ironic that one form of nuclear energy that is dirty, expensive, unsafe, unreliable and highly centralized (nuclear power plants) can very soon give way to another form of nuclear energy (the Rossi cold fusion device) that is clean, cheap, safe, reliable and decentralized.  The Rossi reactor is the first of many new energy technologies that could end the nightmare.  This energy source comes in manageable local 10-killowatt units that could provide truly sustainable electricity and heat for all of civilization.  Any radioactivity from the reaction is very small and containable (honest!) and the raw materials for the reactions are abundant and nonradioactive (fine nickel powder, hydrogen and an undisclosed catalyst).  This is authentic transmutation, this is the safe alchemy to provide the kind of energy we can reliably and affordably use.

The Rossi reactor is crucially important to the credibility of an energy solution revolution because after dozens of proof-of-concept experiments over the years, we at last have a technology that will likely be able to stand alone in its ability to compete in the marketplace as well as provide the world the kind of energy source it so desperately needs.  The Rossi device is a role model for what we need and can have.  The challenge now is not that we don’t have what’s necessary for humanity’s quest for truly clean energy but that we can assure its urgent and ethical introduction to a world riddled with hubris and greed.

A few of us in the innovation field gathered in 2010 at Montesueños-Vilcabamba and founded a non-profit organization called the Global Innovation Alliance.  Our mission is to develop and assess those technologies that could achieve the goal of sustainability.  We propose that a given lab would work on a number of technologies: (1) some near-term “bridge” technologies that could provide economic independence of the laboratory alongside creating a learning experience about the multitude of localized nature-friendly approaches, and (2) longer-term projects such as the production of clean breakthrough energy and water purification devices and other truly sustainable technologies.  The first such laboratory and educational center is being prepared in New Zealand.  We are also compiling a list of some of the most talented inventors and scientists to participate in the laboratories we envision.

We here in Latin America—with our wealth of natural resources, indigenous wisdom, environmental awareness and newer progressive governments—live in an ideal locale to build the kinds of facilities and develop clean technologies that pass the true tests of sustainability.  But in order to achieve this goal, the various nations will have to become more sovereign from imperial corporate interests.  In Ecuador, for example, we are discussing with government officials and indigenous groups the possibility of introducing new energy technologies, sustainable organic and medicinal agriculture, localized energy-water-food-waste management systems, restoration ecology, regional currencies and other infrastructures that could replace the dirty but temporarily lucrative extraction of petroleum, minerals and agricultural monocultures for export.

Initially this is a hard sell to government officials and other funding sources, mainly because of the short-term thinking of corporations and governments seeking cash flows right away.  But in order to get to where we need to go (true sustainability) we have to create new alliances, new entities that can move forward with innovations.  I believe Latin America is one of the few “safe” places on the planet to carry out this controversial but essential research and development.  It’s relatively free of the many vested pressures of the global North, whose focus is on imperial militarism, economic and resource exploitation and financial tyranny.

The ideal solution will be to establish some protected R&D laboratories and educational centers (innovation sanctuaries) worldwide.  For this job, we’ll need the cooperation of both governments and private funding sources.  However, the laboratories could become self-sufficient after a year or two when some of the bridge technologies are introduced.  The proposed enterprises come out of a deep conviction regarding the importance of preserving the sanctity of nature and furnishing truly clean infrastructures as a first priority and profit only as a second priority.

In summary, nuclear power is dangerous to our health and to the environment and must be stopped.  Extracting and burning fossil fuels results in polluting our land, waterways, oceans, climate and atmosphere so badly that we cannot continue to pursue fossil fuels either.  It is time to think outside the box, to come up with solutions that are truly sustainable.  That such solutions do exist should be considered and accepted by creative decision-makers who have an open mind and a sense of responsibility for what we are doing to our planet.  Developing and implementing breakthrough clean energy technologies is the course we must follow if we are to have any chance of reversing the onslaught of planetary destruction and achieving a sustainable world of harmony with nature.  What are we waiting for? Another, even worse, ecological disaster? If not now, …when?

In the darkness of our times, there’s a glimmer of hope that can light our way to a brilliant future.  Our job now is to recognize what that is and to act on it.

__________________________________________________________________

I thank Chuck Millar for his able editing of this essay.

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Update on the global energy dilemma

March 14, 2011 Comments off

Japan earthquake nuclear plant damageThe recent Japan nuclear disasters and their uncertain outcome are telling us once again that nuclear power and the very existence of nuclear weapons is hazardous to life for generations to come.  Yet our leaders steadfastly continue to support ever more consumption of nuclear power and hydrocarbon energy in the face of obvious and overwhelming problems, where we need to phase out these energy sources and phase in a blend of totally new clean energy sources that would involve a publicly transparent research effort that should rival that of the Manhattan and Apollo projects.

Of all the polluting activities that humanity pursues, there is none more damaging to the environment than the abuse of energy.  The extraction of oil, coal and uranium in increasingly sensitive ecosystems, their transport, their incineration and their disposal are causing more environmental havoc on Earth than any other single factor.  But the awesome multitrillion dollar vested industrial interests have so far staved off any attempt to curb this extraction.  Whether it’s the BP Gulf oil gusher, the Chevron-Texaco decimation of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the leveling of West Virginia mountaintops, the dirty extractions of tar sands in Alberta or the resulting deforestation and water and air pollution or earthquake-induced radiation emissions from nuclear power plants, the story is always the same: the vast extraction and burning of hydrocarbons are destroying the planet.  The mandate to cut way back on coal, oil and nuclear use—now 80 percent of the world’s energy mix—is reinforced by the scientific consensus that the principal cause of global climate change and the acidification of the oceans is in fact the routine burning of hydrocarbons and uranium.  Yet public policies remain unchanged, even in the face of our headlong race into ecological catastrophe.  There is little time to spare before we experience an irreversible tipping point of instability in our climate and in our dying ecosystems. Is it not collective insanity for humanity to rely on such dirty energy?  Our top priority should be the introduction of truly clean, sustainable energy.

On the Need for New Governance

March 10, 2011 Comments off

Introduction

Many of us in the scientific, environmental and progressive communities have become increasingly alarmed about the dire global emergency we now face.  The nations of the world truly lack authentic leadership to redirect our course to the goals of peace, justice and sustainability.  We need new governance systems to guide our future destiny for the good of ourselves, all of nature and future generations.

Those of us who are knowledgeable about future possibilities–whether they be in creating breakthrough clean technologies or in consciously ending war, corruption, greed, injustice and environmental devastation–have been divided and ruled by a tyranny so pervasive and insidious that it has manipulated us into standing by in powerlessness, ignorance and complacency.

It is now time for us to declare “enough” and to embark on a new mission—one dedicated to the values of truth, beauty, compassion, and humility.

To these ends we dedicate ourselves as we chart a new course that will ensure for ourselves and future generations a peaceful, just and sustainable world.  Nothing less will serve the needs of the planet in this time of grave crisis and unprecedented opportunity.

What Doesn’t Work

It is far easier to identify systemic corruptions that don’t work under current governance than to propose new governance systems that do work.  For example, the peaceful democratic protests of early 2011 from Wisconsin to Egypt all reflect a desire to end the tyrannies of top leadership in those jurisdictions, but they are not as clear about what kind of governance they want to replace the old tyrannies. It’s often stated that you need to let go of what you don’t want before bringing in what you do want.

Therein begins the revolutionary process, but it’s only the beginning.  We need to follow an agenda that would fulfill Buckminster Fuller’s adage, “There is only one kind of revolution, and that’s revolution by design.”

The progressive literature spells out the tyrannies of vested interests that control our governments, particularly the U.S. government.  These systems must be replaced by governance that truly serves the needs of the people and the planet if we are to have any chance of surviving these times.   Some of the websites that accurately describe our collective dilemma include www.commondreams.orgwww.globalresearch.ca, www.alternet.org, and www.informationclearinghouse.info.  There is no need to repeat here the abundant evidence they cite for our accelerating global decline due to careless human interventions.

We can conclude from the evidence, however, that what doesn’t work at a basic systemic level includes at least the following:

•   The use of dirty energy, particularly oil and coal, but also most of the other energy sources now in use as well, which are simply unsustainable when full life-cycle environmental costs are considered;

•   Unsustainable agriculture, mining, forestry, and land development; unsustainable water and waste management; and unsustainable chemical, biotechnical and pharmaceutical production;

•   Unnecessary, expensive and morally corrupt wars, which are accompanied by torture, lies, cover-ups, domestic spying, bloated military budgets and the continuing terror of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction;

•   The corrupt financial power and dominance of central bankers and Wall Street, including related bribes to politicians and judges, resulting in a growing division between rich and poor; and

•   Corporate control of the government through lobbying and other monetary subversions, resulting in governmental acceptance of the unsustainable practices listed above.

We believe that, first and foremost, these practices must end as soon as possible, with a carefully planned phasing-out of those institutions that promote and benefit from them.

What Does Work

We believe that an intelligently planned design process must now begin, one that would implement truly sustainable practices in place of our current destructive activities.  The design of such practices will proceed from an assessment of a broad range of technologies  to determine which should be selected for research and development and what kind of governance should be applied to ensure their safe and timely introduction.  Among the most urgent tasks that lie ahead will be to deploy:

•   Clean breakthrough energy systems, previously suppressed, that could effectively solve the energy crisis, eliminating the extracting and burning of fossil and nuclear fuels and the pollution from other central station/grid sources;

•    Clean water, energy and waste management systems, based on technologies such as those of Viktor Schauberger;

•    The power of combined human intention to heal ourselves and our environment;

•    Sustainable organic and medicinal agriculture to replace large monocultures, GMOs and the use of pesticides and herbicides;

•    The cessation of all other unsustainable practices, such as chemtrails, toxic dumping, unnecessary mining, and geoengineering;

•    Protected research and development centers to phase in the new sustainable technologies under the guidance of new governance systems that are not influenced by financial gain or outside parties;

•    The end of unnecessary war, military spending, and secrecy; the abolition of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; and the creation of an Earth Corps to clean up the planet;

•    A total revision of the monetary and financial reward system that would ensure the end of the current domination by central banks, which has resulted in unlimited wealth for the few and growing poverty for the many; and

•   An abandonment of economic growth as the principal driver of public policy.

A new governance system must ensure that these goals and others of the same nature be implemented as soon as possible. Our very survival depends on adopting these measures.

Overcoming Vested Interests

Perhaps the greatest challenge lies in overcoming the inertia of powerful vested interests.  By following the money, we generally see that the more profitable the enterprise, the more it is likely to be involved in pollution and unethical practices.  A dramatic example involves the billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch, who both pollute the environment and also fund leading Republican politicians, who then pass laws that enable polluters to continue polluting and increasing their profits while cutting their taxes—a dynamic that is ultimately unsustainable to the nation and the entire planet.

Of all the polluting activities that humanity pursues, there is none more damaging to the environment than the abuse of energy.  The extraction of oil, coal and uranium in increasingly sensitive ecosystems, their transport, their incineration and their disposal are causing more environmental havoc on Earth than any other single factor.  But the awesome multitrillion dollar vested industrial interests have so far staved off any attempt to curb this extraction.  Whether it’s the BP Gulf oil gusher, the Chevron-Texaco decimation of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the leveling of West Virginia mountaintops, the dirty extractions of tar sands in Alberta or the resulting deforestation and water and air pollution or earthquake-induced radiation emissions from nuclear power plants, the story is always the same: the vast extraction and burning of hydrocarbons are destroying the planet.  The mandate to cut way back on coal, oil and nuclear use—now 80 percent of the world’s energy mix—is reinforced by the scientific consensus that the principal cause of global climate change and the acidification of the oceans is in fact the routine burning of hydrocarbons and uranium.  Yet public policies remain unchanged, even in the face of our headlong race into ecological catastrophe.  There is little time to spare before we experience an irreversible tipping point of instability in our climate and in our dying ecosystems. Is it not collective insanity for humanity to rely on such dirty energy?  Our top priority should be the introduction of truly clean, sustainable energy.

Building a Consensus

The requirement to design truly sustainable energy systems is in many ways the easiest place to start.  Energy involves physical problems that demand physical solutions.  We must insist on having sustainable energy regardless of how the technologies are eventually implemented, which ones are selected or when they come on-line.   Those decisions will emerge from an ongoing process of assessment.  First we need to research, assess and develop a variety of parallel technologies, any one or some of which will become dominant in our future energy mix.

Our mantra should always be, Is this particular approach truly sustainable? Is it cheap, totally clean, decentralized, safe, reliable, publicly transparent and selected honestly for its environmental friendliness?  The design requirement for the systems to be developed is that they be as sustainable as possible from a wide variety of options being assessed.

The best way to achieve these goals is to create publicly supported R&D centers to assess and build the most promising options, ranging from bridge technologies that work for nature rather than against nature (e.g., Gunter Pauli’s “Blue Economy”) to the most elegant breakthrough energy systems.  We should pursue many approaches in search of the best ones, and we will advance our knowledge even from those approaches that are not selected for further development.

The ongoing process of selection is not likely to be as challenging a task as the equitable distribution of the technology for the common good.  Selection will be largely based on an ongoing assessment of which technologies best fit the criterion of sustainability generations from now.   But the more difficult challenge will involve introducing innovative technologies to the world so that everyone benefits from them.  This will be the principal task of the new governance system.

The new governance will need to be sovereign for it to do its job effectively.  We can no longer tolerate the suppressions of the past.  The new initiatives should apply to governance at all levels—local, regional and global.  Evolving the wisest consensus will involve an ongoing process of assessing, researching, developing and introducing the most sustainable innovations —in an environment where we are protected from all vested interests.  We will need to be free to move forward independent of outside influences.

Conclusion

Given that we are all knowledgeable about the dire circumstances of today’s world, we won’t need to spend time focusing on the destructiveness of the old paradigm, but instead we can move forward briskly on conceptual designs for the new governance and breakthrough clean energy systems. The planet is crying out to us to adopt a kinder and better way of life as soon as possible.  We needn’t be confined to any particular locale, bioregion or planet as a whole, because the requirements of sustainability and sovereignty everywhere are the principal drivers for the new world we wish to create.  It’s time to get on with the job—before it’s too late.

Call for an Alliance for Sovereignty and Sustainability in Latin America

March 10, 2011 Comments off

The time has come for us to conceive new governance systems devoid of corruption and vulnerability to outside influences and dedicated to peace, sustainability and justice throughout the region.

For centuries the United States and other imperialist powers have been destroying the livelihoods of millions of people and natural habitats in Latin America through economic exploitation, military invasions, engineered coup d’etats, ruthless extractivism and pervasive ecocide.  Although many nations are now becoming more democratic and independent of the pressures and exploitations from the North, and are providing their citizens with more opportunities and improved infrastructures, the economic imperialism is still present in a more subtle form.

As much as the new “progressive” governments and alliances in Latin America claim to be turning over a new leaf, the exploitation continues at a brisk pace with multinational corporations, aided by imperialist powers, still dominating the economy. Although more revenues than in the past are now coming into these nations from the export of oil, gas and agro-mineral resources, these payments are inadequate to fully support progressive measures, and furthermore they can support these measures only temporarily until the resources are depleted. Ironically, these payments from multinationals have bought the silence of the governments and prevented them from taking a stand with indigenous peoples and environmentalists to preserve, restore and sustain their ecosystems. This silence regarding the rights of nature and indigenous people has grave implications for global climate and biodiversity.  Without government support and protection for indigenous people and their natural ecosystems, the rape of the environment ultimately destroys all in its wake.  It’s time to declare “enough” and pursue a much more conscious path toward sovereignty and sustainability.  The entire future of Latin America is endangered if we don’t take this path.

Moreover, under pressure to service a multibillion dollar debt agreed to by previous corrupt governments, current governments often find themselves still making payments that by now are often collectively well in excess of the loan principals.  Partly due to this pressure, Latin American nations continue to grant lucrative leases to the large oil, mining and agricultural companies to exploit the most biodiverse and fertile habitats on Earth, creating ecological and cultural havoc in their wake, in return for some short-term income for the government.  These “bribes” might make a particular government look good temporarily and provide some debt servicing, development and employment opportunities, but they are disastrous in the long run in their effect on true sovereignty and sustainability in the region.

One-third of Ecuador’s revenues, for example, come from oil exports.  As the films Crude and Yasuni clearly show, the devastation of the land, the water and the indigenous communities in the rainforest due to the exploitation of oil is widespread and can be permanent.  Because a full 80 percent of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon is earmarked for oil drilling, the consequent road-building is causing Ecuador’s deforestation rate to be the highest in South America, at 3 percent per year.  At that rate, half the jungle will be gone in just 25 years and most of the voluntarily isolated indigenous peoples will be destroyed or violently displaced.

All of this waste and devastation is unnecessary.  It is possible to leave the oil and minerals in the ground and instead create long-term programs to provide the people of Latin America with abundance and true sustainability through innovation that works with nature rather than against nature. Such innovations include clean breakthrough energy, sustainable organic agriculture, clean water and waste management, natural medicines, industrial hemp, permaculture, eco-tourism, health tourism, regionalized economies and a reformed monetary system that serves the needs of the people.

In light of the frightening escalation of environmental destruction in Latin America, combined with the fact that the world economic and political strongholds of the North are beginning to fall like dominoes, now is the time for us to join together to implement new policies to ensure sovereignty and sustainability for the Latin American peoples for generations to come.  Only then can we fulfill the prophecy of the coming together of the eagle and the condor in lasting peace.