Azmi Bishara - Between the self-promotion and consumerist hype of the Live 8 concerts, it is possible to discern some of the features of an albeit unwritten and unsystematically thought out ideology, which places itself at the centre of, rather than against, current global policies. There are no longer evil forces in the world, not even in the context of African poverty, with the exception, of course, of fundamentalist Islamic movements. The London bombings furnished an opportunity to affirm the sense of harmony and complacency within a culture that has rallied to display its solidarity on behalf of the absolutely abstract victim, poor and defenceless Africa, which cannot, in contrast to the culture of terrorism, play anything but the victim. It is important, too, that our demonstrations of universal solidarity in the fight against poverty and disease be heavily spiced with celebrity appearances and performances lest solidarity becomes boring.
Francis Wheen - A penniless asylum seeker in London was vilified across two pages of the Daily Mail last week. No surprises there, perhaps - except that the villain in question has been dead since 1883. ‘Marx the Monster’ was the Mail’s furious reaction to the news that thousands of Radio 4 listeners had chosen Karl Marx as their favourite thinker. ‘His genocidal disciples include Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot - and even Mugabe. So why has Karl Marx just been voted the greatest philosopher ever?’ The puzzlement is understandable. Fifteen years ago, after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, there appeared to be a general assumption that Marx was now [to quote Monty Python] an ex-parrot. He had kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil and been buried forever under the rubble of the Berlin Wall.
Jeff Berg - Today the world economy is based on an ideology which exalts the virtue of supply and demand, and in practice at least to an extent this mechanism is allowed to operate in global trade. The monkey wrench to this system will come when the reality of oil supply refuses to cooperate with the demands of our economic ‘laws’. When the world hits peak oil, much less terminal decline, and demand outstrips supply our economic world order is forever changed. Because from that point on it will not matter to oil production what our governments say, what our corporate leaders demand or what laws the economists at the WTO assure us are as ineluctable as the law of gravity. It took hundreds of millions of years to make the oil we have now and when there is no more, well, there is no more, ever.
Bill Henderson - The big end of the year recap story of 2004 will not be Bush reelected, but peak oil. After years of underground speculation, the specter of Die Off in our time, right around the corner, is being debated even on the business pages. Of course, the tyranny of the present discounts any perspective that demands radical change, but the reality of peaking production and escalating demand is hard to ignore and the consequences are just a little bit scarier than even four more years of one of the worst US administrations ever. If these global-scale problems are going to be the hallmark of the 21st century, then we must make a conscious attempt to rid ourselves of lingering 20th century lens bias or at least add this global-scale appreciation to understanding how events and policy formation today will effect us tomorrow.
Jeff Berg - A fiscal train wreck is one thing but when it is combined with the following elements it makes the recipe for a perfect storm as American as apple pie. Meanwhile back on the ranch America’s president and congress cut taxes during war time and America’s elite dances a merry jig to the tune played by the pied pipers of flat earth economics. The following projections and facts are in no particular order for the order changes naught a whit the laws that govern even such exalted beings as Republicans and Democrats. The laws I speak of here are physics and the all too inevitable cycle of violence, blame, retribution, and violence; which I will refer in this piece by the fancy CIA moniker of ‘blowback’.
John Michael Greer - With the coming of Peak Oil and the beginning of long-term, irreversible declines in the availability of fossil fuels (along with many other resources), modern industrial civilization faces a wrenching series of unwelcome transitions. This comes as a surprise only for those who haven’t been paying attention. More than thirty years ago, the Club of Rome pointed out that unless something was done, a global economy based on fantasies of perpetual growth would collide disastrously with the hard limits of a finite planet sometime in the early 21st century. The early 21st century is here, nothing was done, and the consequences are arriving on schedule. The road that would have brought industrial society through a transformation to sustainability turned out to be the road not taken. The question that remains is what we can do with the limited time we have left.
William Bowles - In today’s globalised environment, the idea of a single ‘superpower’ is a redundant concept. It is within this context that we need to set recent history, for there is no escaping the terrible ‘logic’ of capitalism – expand or die. The problem is where to expand to? The USA and UK are still attempting to recreate a world long dead and buried - a world dominated by an outdated economic model that nevertheless refuses to die simply because it has the military and economic power to threaten the rest of the world with destruction unless it tows the line. So what’s an ‘old’ socialist like me to do, for it’s clear that at least in the current climate of fear and repression, and the fact that an alternate economic model based upon cooperation and a shared system of humane values is not on the cards, the world is faced with catastrophe.
Mark Townsend and Paul Harris
Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters. A secret report, suppressed by USA defence chiefs and obtained by a British broadsheet newspaper, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world. The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.
One hundred and twelve billion of anything sounds like a limitless quantity. But in terms of barrels of oil, it’s just a drop in the gas tank. The world uses about 27 billion barrels of oil per year, meaning that 112 billion barrels--the proven oil reserves of Iraq, the second largest proven oil reserves in the world--would last a little more than four years at today’s usage rates. Furthermore, the U.S. assault on Iraq has not undermined the power of OPEC and Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, it has if anything enhanced that power. This will not change until Iraqi oil production significantly exceeds its pre-invasion level. Thus, even in the short term, and on the most cynical level, U.S. Iraq policy vis-a-vis oil has been a failure.
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