Beyond Global Cargo Cultism:

Political Economy At Issue

- Dennis Small

“It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a matter of converting the high technology from weaponry to livingry” (R Buckminster Fuller).

“‘Techno fixes' - technical solutions to social problems are appealing when we are unwilling to change ourselves and our social institutions. There is a long history of technological interventions entrenching the behaviours that created the problem” (“Geoengineering Is Not A Solution To Climate Change”, Scientific American, Professor Clive Hamilton, 10/3/15,

“We desperately need a re-vision, a re-perception, and a re-invention of the system that has given Western civilisation its long-term strength and its recent weaknesses. We need to wake up capitalism to its mission…  into a set of moral imperatives and heroic demands that are implicit in the Western way of life… into the secrets of our hidden magic, into the secrets of our unseen gifts, and into the secrets of our utopian capacities” (“The Genius Of The Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism”, Howard Bloom, Prometheus Books, 2011, p22). For Bloom, capitalism is apparently the evolutionary spirit of the universe at work!

“A primitive economic paradigm is destroying life in front of our eyes. But hope lies in the pioneering work of Herman Daly and others on ecological economics” … We need genuine sustainability for our very survival, “but the old paradigm is supported by a powerful clique. All our voices are needed to bring this essential change”, Kay Weir in “Editorial: The Ecological World View: Ending The Culture Of War”, Pacific Ecologist (PE), – “Paradise On Earth: The Ecological World View', no. 23, Spring 2015,

“It must follow that adaptive changes occurring to any natural system are those that serve to maintain its critical order and hence its stability within the context of the critical order, or stability of the whole Gaian hierarchy” (“The Way: An Ecological World-View”, Edward Goldsmith, Themis Books, 1992/96, p230).

As the quotes at the start of this article show, there have been strongly competing visions of the future in the West. There has been a whole range of utopian and dystopian scenarios. A central contrast, as illustrated above, is between technologically devised science fiction (“sci-fi”)-style utopias, and a future oriented instead to an intimate, sustainable, and harmonious integration with the natural environment. The other side of the coin in the case of the latter vision is the nightmare of environmental disaster. 

World Views In Contention

For the pundits of the first type of world vision, human technology and supposedly god-like creativity can continuously overpower and benignly transform the constraints of nature. Such people feel quite at home in a completely artificially devised environment. In general, they have little empathy and rapport for our fellow creatures on planet Earth, and the complex biodiversity of life. Many of them seem to relate better to robotic machines than real living beings. 

In actuality, this particular world vision has come to reign supreme, forging on relentlessly. For the global power elite, it represents the very embodiment of progress. It is regularly presented in deterministic terms. Sometimes, however, it can take a more probabilistic or possibilistic version with all sorts of speculation about outcomes (see “Homo Deus: A Brief History Of Tomorrow”, Yuval Noah Harari, Vintage, 2015/16). 

But democracy for some is understood as being outstripped altogether by technological “progress”, or whatever we want to call it; and however we come define to define this technocratic future (ibid.). While Professor Harari's book cited here has some references to “global warming” his study has no index entry for “environment”. It leans heavily in the direction of a weirdly “sci-fi” future. It got rave reviews from the mainstream media!

For adherents of the second type of world viewpoint, in order to survive and thrive we must learn to conform to Nature's constraints, and the inevitable limits imposed by the natural world. A number of us can positively enjoy this adaptive relationship and intimacy with the Earth's biosphere. Those who keenly appreciate the experience of being in the wilderness (with “Deep Greens” on the edge of this side of the spectrum) exemplify such sentiment. 

Of the larger religions, Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism are most representative of this viewpoint. Spiritual beliefs like animism and totemism express the views of by far the most long-lived type of human economy – that of traditional hunters and gatherers, and our early ancestors, stemming right back to the beginnings of hominid evolution.

Challenging Civilisation

The 21st Century confronts human civilisation with a plethora of unprecedented challenges. This writer is a long-time adherent of the second type of vision. In my view, there also needs to be a deeper dimension to tackling the imperatives of the natural world. We must learn to subdue and sublimate the dark, self-destructive impulses of our human nature and its evolutionary roots, to transform the beast within for the better. 

This must include drastically curbing the reckless, exploratory exuberance of constant technological innovation, experimentation, and adventurism, with all its multiplying and damaging impacts on the biosphere. It can be acknowledged that the “technological imperative” may be integral to the human trajectory on the curve of evolutionary overshoot. But if human “free will” is not merely an illusory artefact of complete determinism, we have – in existentialist terms – the freedom to choose.

The “technological imperative” can be defined as: “The view that if we can do something we should do it, such as generating energy from nuclear power, even if it has many risks and unknowns associated with it” (“Oxford Dictionary Of Environment And Conservation”, Chris Park, Oxford University Press [OUP], 2007/8, p445). A central environmentalist principle runs directly counter to the technological imperative.

This is the “precautionary principle”, defined as: “a proactive method of dealing with the environment based on the idea that if the costs of current activities are uncertain but are potentially high and irreversible then society should take action before the uncertainty is resolved” (ibid., 353). The precautionary principle can be broadened out into a generally pre-emptive approach to technology and its applications. I shall take up this consideration later below when discussing the hugely important issue of planetary boundaries.

Technocratic Dreams/Nightmares

From the late 1950s to 1976, nuclear power was on the table as a real option for NZ energy generation. By the mid-1960s a “Think Big”-type nuclear power station was being planned for Northland. But opposition got the proposal canned. Hey, Winston Peters, NZ First Party leader, would-be Northland regional developer, and now our Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) – eat your heart out!  

My birth family even once hosted back in the 1960s era a very nice chap, who was not just a distant British relative but a nuclear engineer sponsored by our Government of the time to investigate the possibilities here for a power station. Luckily for us all, democratically mobilised and widespread anti-nuclear activism stymied the technocratic push for this form of energy.

I cut my own environmental teeth in somewhat heated debates with our nuclear engineer visitor. Eventually, we both amiably agreed to disagree.  There are still nuclear power pundits to contest in Aotearoa/NZ, dedicated to the overseas models of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and various lesser known more minor debacles, let alone all the problems of waste disposal, decommissioning, etc.  

Incidentally, it must be said here that DPM Peters is certainly taking a commendably positive, peace-making approach to the current Korean nuclear crisis. Long-time activist John Gallagher sets out a relevant programme that our Government would do well to adopt (see his “Korean Nuclear Standoff In Context Of International Rivalries: Can Nuclear-Free NZ Help Out?, Peace Researcher [PR], 52, November 2016,

Even some mainstream media have been encouraging (e.g., “Is Peters Key To Breakthrough On North Korea?”, Laura Walters, Press, 28/10/17). Worldwide, we need a massively boosted programme of pre-emptive peace-making, given increasing international tensions. The dangerously belligerent President Trump continues to talk up war on North Korea, raising the risks of the final Holocaust for us all.

Getting High On Technocratic Consumerism

In the latest phase of the modern era, the human ape has become blindly obsessed with its own innovative tool-making. The commercialised mainstream media are central to the dissemination of this culture. Technocratic capitalism today exults in promulgating the benign vision of a new robotic industrial revolution, driven by artificial intelligence (AI), and with everyone ultimately wired to the Internet in a virtual state of religious, mystical exaltation. 

This state of “Singularity” is supposedly achieved when you can't tell a communicating computer from a real human being. On a rapidly over-populating planet, a most bizarre aim is to try and make a human-style robot, in as lifelike a manner as possible. Ideally, this robot would be a sort of superior being. All this stuff is very much a preoccupation of the rich and powerful of humankind. 

The local branch of the capitalist media in Aotearoa/NZ, along with a high-tech industry now worth $10 billion, are very enthusiastic cheer-leaders for this touted new “revolution” (“Soaring Kiwi Tech Sector Tops $10b Of Revenue: Report”, NZ Herald, 17/10/2017, As usual, all the accompanying and accelerating assaults on the Earth's ecosystems are cavalierly disregarded.

The ultimate high-tech epiphany is promoted as being One in a “singularity” with a network of self-regulating computers. AI will commandeer evolution in its own “self-engineered” way, unfolding at an awesomely “exponential” speed. The robots will take over! In sober reality, this is all so much enthusiasm for scientific technology and its applications become ideological bullshit! 

NZ satirist and social commentator Joe Bennett ably sends up this purported “new order of being. The singularity” (“Are We About To Hit The Self-Destruct Button?”, Press, 18/10/17; see also his “Fear Not, The Saviour Of Humankind Is Here”, Press, 9/8/17; & “You Don't Need To Keep Up With The Joneses”, Press, 11/10/17). But, sadly, his is one of the few such voices in the media. By far the dominant media line is “gung-ho” (e.g., “Our Economic Future Lies In Technology”, Ellen Read, Sunday Star Times, 29/10/17; “We Can Thrive In The Age Of AI: The Key To NZ Succeeding With AI Is Attracting Top Talent To Our Country”, writes Richard MacManus, Press, 1/11/17).

Aldous Huxley's prophetic “Brave New World” (1932) is yet unfolding around us in a bizarre new fashion at the hands of mad scientists (“Homo Deus”, op. cit.; “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies”, Nick Bostrom, Oxford University Press [OUP], 2014). There are indeed real and potentially catastrophic dangers from automated robotic systems in situations of human-generated conflict. The Frankenstein Beast is being unleashed! We must control it in the struggle for a fairer and far more sustainable future (see the dire warning below by Elon Musk, one of the “revolution's” architects and pundits).

Consuming The Planet

The pursuit of capitalist growth and profit-making are fundamental to the technocratic syndrome. While the world may be awash with cellphones, most hi-tech stuff is only consumed by a small affluent minority of the global population. It is their avidly gross consumerism and fantasies about the future that drive the constant technological programme of mindless innovation.

“Oxfam estimates that one tenth of the (global) population is most responsible for factors that result in planetary stress, such as greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) and energy use. It is their consumption, and the production methods of the companies producing the good s and services these wealthiest people buy, that drives most of the environmental damage threatening human society” (“What's Really Happening To Our Planet? The Facts Simply Explained”, Tony Juniper, Dorling Kindersley Ltd./Penguin Random House, 2016, p205).

“Half the world's C02 emissions are generated by 11% of the world's population” (ibid.). Likewise: “High-income countries are home to 16% of the world's population, but use 57% of all electricity”; and, the same 16% of the global population also account for 64% of all spending on consumer goods” (ibid.).  Of “the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale [my emphasis] (“The Gift Of Death”, George Monbiot 10/12/12,

In addition, capitalism keeps conditioning more and more people to want to consume more and more of the planet's resources, happily trashing the planet – while the boom lasts ….  “World trade rules force countries to participate in the festival of junk” (ibid.). The huge underlying human and environmental costs are blithely ignored.

Milking Land And Water: Exceeding The Limits

A graphic illustration of how the rich milk the Earth's biological productivity is provided by “the EU (European Union, which) has 7% of the world's population, but uses 33% of the planet's sustainable nitrogen budget to grow and import animal feed” (“What's Really Happening To Our Planet”, op. cit.). Yet, Earth-wise, nine critical planetary boundaries have been identified, including “biogeochemical flows” (ibid., pp182/3). “Disruption to the nitrogen cycle and the large-scale release of phosphorus has crossed into the zone of high risk” (ibid., p182).

The other “planetary boundaries” include climate change which is now in the zone of increasing “risk of abrupt and irreversible impact” (ibid.). Nitrate fertilisers are contributing to global warming (ibid., p67). “Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas causing climate change” (ibid.). There are, to be sure, a range of detrimental ecological effects associated with excessive nitrogen fertiliser use – from aquatic pollution to harmful “changes to ecosystems on land” (ibid.).

Another planetary boundary is “freshwater use”, where “there are major local and regional challenges” (ibid., p182).  The case of Aotearoa/NZ certainly illustrates this, and the intimate, interacting interconnections among the complex, dynamic factors of the various planetary boundaries. In our own specific local-regional case, there is major “disruption” impacting on the country's nitrogen cycle, with the accompanying “large-scale release of phosphorus”. 

Planetary Boundaries In Growing Crisis

Our waterways are suffering from the resulting heavy pollution, especially from intensive dairy farming. Yet another planetary boundary, like climate, now undergoing acute stress is the closely related sector of “land system changes” (ibid.). This involves: “The global-scale conversion of natural habitats, especially deforestation to make way for farming” (ibid.). 

Most ominously, several of the nine recognised planetary boundaries have now been crossed: climate change; biosphere integrity (biodiversity); land system changes (e.g., deforestation); and biogeochemical flows (“Four Of Nine Planetary Boundaries Now Crossed”, Stockholm University, press release, 16/1/15, Two of these – climate change and biosphere integrity – are considered “core” or fundamental boundaries, the continuing violation of which would drive the Earth system into a new state with awful consequences for humans and other life forms. 

The remaining planetary boundaries are: stratospheric ozone depletion; ocean acidification; atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms); introduction of novel entities (e.g., organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nano-materials, & micro-plastics). Stress is increasing on some of these too, e.g., “the rate of ocean acidification is at least 100 times faster than at any other time for 20 million years: it is heading towards the risk zone [my emphasis] (“What's Really Happening To Our Planet?”, op. cit., p183)

Pollution, Precaution, And Intrusive Innovations

Excessive biogeochemical flows, GHGEs expressed in global warming, and several other assaults on planetary boundaries are all types of pollution in the broadest sense.  But even a more conventionally restricted definition of “pollute” in the sense of: “To make impure or dirty with harmful or poisonous substances” (“Oxford Dictionary Of Environment And Conservation”, op. cit., p347) is scientifically acknowledged as having a very grim global reach (“World Pollution More Deadly Than Wars, Disasters, Hunger”, Press, 21/10/17). 

A major new study published in the Lancet medical journal has estimated that environmental pollution – from filthy air to contaminated water – is killing about nine million people per year (ibid.). In fact, owing to the lack of relevant research, this finding is only a “partial estimate”, and the true figure is “undoubtedly higher” (ibid.). We can also see, once again, how different factors interact and compound together.  For instance, coal burning contributes significantly to the killer smog suffered in cities like Beijing and New Delhi.

Some recent NZ research by Dr Sally Gaw and her students points up the ramifications of such pollution in Aotearoa/NZ (“Striving To Preserve Taonga Species”, Press, 30/10/17). Among other pollutants, “polar fleece clothing is a significant source of plastic contamination… 'It would probably have been better if polar fleece had never been invented, in terms of what's being shed into the environment'”, Dr Gaw said (ibid.). Such pollutants contaminate and interfere with the ecological web of life, impacting food chains with accumulating deleterious effects.

What is called is now called “The Great Acceleration” of human impact on the planet, introducing the new geological era of the Anthropocene in which humans have become the dominant force, is dated from the 1950s (“What's Really Happening To Our Planet?”, op. cit., p178). In reference to pollutants, “there are plenty of potential toxins still being ignored, with less than half of the 5,000 new chemicals widely dispersed since 1950 having been tested for safety or toxicity” (“World Pollution More Deadly”, op. cit.). 

A Toxic Economy?

The human urge to innovate as expressed in the technological imperative is routinely in conflict, as indicated, with the need to be as precautionary and pre-emptive as possible. Currently, pesticides – particularly neonicotinoids – are being blamed as a major cause in the global decline of bees, which are so essential for the pollination of our food crops (“Strongest Evidence Yet That Neonicotinoids Are Killing Bees”, New Scientist: 29/6/217,  “There can be little doubt now that the world's most widely used insecticides are bad for bees” (ibid.). 

Bayer and Syngenta, the giant companies making this category of pesticide, naturally deny the charges (ibid.). Currently, the official line here in Aotearoa/NZ is to play down the risks of neonicotinoid pesticides. With regard to pesticides in general, the path-breaking research work in Aotearoa/NZ has been done by Meriel Watts (“The Poisoning Of New Zealand”, Auckland Institute of Technology Press, 1994). As she observes: “Runoff of pesticides into surface waters and leaching into ground water are well-known phenomena and have resulted in extensive aquatic contamination all over the world” (ibid., p123).

During her early career, Watts copped lots of critical flak from technocratically oriented scientists and corporate pesticide agents. But she has gone on to gain well-earned credibility. Watts later got her doctorate to become our leading authority on the adverse effects of pesticides, and on non-chemical alternatives (Meriel Watts, Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility, These days she runs her own consultancy and is a consulting scientist for the United Nations (UN). 

Dr Watts has been a leading campaigner for a ban here on Dow Agroscience's neonicotinoid sulfoxaflor, which is used to coat plant seeds. This followed its removal from the market in the US, after evidence showed it constituted a risk to bees (“NZ Urged To Follow US Pesticide Ban”, Radio New Zealand News, 17/9/15, ).  The “technical fix” can backfire badly.

Up In The Air Or Down To Earth? 

The visionary environmentalist Lewis Mumford prophetically analysed the self-destructive trends of Western Civilisation, with its deep dream of humans becoming machines, or machines effectively taking control (“The Pentagon Of Power: The Myth Of The Machine”, vol. 2, Secker & Warburg, 1970/1). Mumford, in “The Myth of the Machine”, traced the history of what he called “Technics and Human Development” in volume 1, and then in volume 2, its modern condition, and the prospects ahead. 

In his foreword to “The Pentagon Of Power” (the title taken from the distinctive shape and symbolism of the Pentagon's military headquarters), he warned about the dangers of the dehumanising processes of Western culture's technological obsession. “If the key to the past few centuries has been 'Mechanisation Takes Command', (Mumford's) theme . . . may be summed up in Colonel John Glenn's words on returning from orbit to Earth: 'Let Man Take Over'” (ibid.). 

Some American leading sociologists, including C Wright Mills, also warned long ago about how the then “technological revolution” posed “terrible threats to cherished values of freedom, individualism, and political democracy” (“The Technological Threat, ed. Jack D Douglas, (Prentice-Hall Inc., 1971). Late into the second decade of the 21st Century, we have the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, with things like electronically-updated, robotic “countless time-savers, space-savers, and work-savers”, let alone a multiplicity of communication and entertainment facilities, “apps”, etc. spreading throughout our socio-economic system.

These technological innovations are indeed becoming pervasive with constant and increasing governmental and corporate intrusions into our freedoms and privacy. Democracy is being rapidly eroded, both overtly and covertly, by the national security surveillance state (NSSS). Besides Foreign Control Watchdog (FCW), we have monitored and campaigned strenuously against the various menacing trends in Peace Researcher (PR) over many years. The logic and impetus of the capitalist political economy, given both mounting domestic and external problems, is towards neo-fascism. The democratic Left must stand firmly in resisting these negative pressures.

We need to take charge of the technological imperative, and instead turn it into a tool designed to fit in with the imperatives of spaceship Earth's natural ecosystems. In recent times, our political Establishment, including even the Greens, have been rapt with hi-tech escapism and off-the-planet ventures epitomised by Rocket Lab, the American transnational corporation (TNC) with very close links to the Pentagon (see my “Corporate Conditioning Neo-Liberal Conformity: Mainstream Media Inc & Co” in Watchdog 145, August 2017, 

Rubbishing And Wasting The World!

Many factors have been involved over the years in the discourse of formulating, promoting, evaluating, and assessing, let alone fiercely debating, the competing visions of the future indicated at the start of this article. Hearteningly enough now, given the plethora of mounting man-made threats - from climate change to nuclear war dangers - people are again mobilising around the globe in a whole suite of campaigns for positive, pre-emptive action (“Optimism Over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change”, N Chomsky & CJ Polychroniou [interviewer], Penguin Books, 2017)

At the same time, major corporate interests like Google and Amazon, along with all their political agents, researchers, and public relations (PR) people are fervently pushing the AI revolution and prospect of unlimited profits. Multiplying drones in all shapes and sizes are the most dramatic symbol of the new technological revolution. Besides the giant TNCs, a host of smaller new wave technology firms are involved, including here in Aotearoa/NZ as noted earlier. “Future Shock” a la Alvin Toffler is truly here at last! I shall make some further comment on our own national situation below.

Meantime, the global environmental crisis continues to grow. “As Prince Charles puts the challenge: “Our world is changing faster than at any time in human history, as a result of our own actions. To support a rapidly and unsustainably growing population and develop our economies, we are consuming ever-greater quantities of natural resources and making physical changes to the Earth that would have been unthinkable even a few generations ago” (from Foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales, Charles Windsor, in “What's Really Happening To Our Planet?”, op. cit., p8).

Prince Charles himself is certainly caught up in the contradictions of his own position in the British Establishment, and within the wider Anglo-American axis. But it is surely most enlightening and revealing how Charles, despite his royal role, has been mocked for his views on the environment by key elements of that same Establishment. His awareness and concern are not appreciated by so much of the rest of his ruling class! Some interim wildlife conservation work and relevant publicity by the royals might be worthy and fine, but advocacy for any actual changes to our cultural outlook, economy, lifestyle, and expectations are totally beyond the pale.

The outlandish BBC documentary series Supersized Earth, celebrating giant engineering projects, expresses the official view of the future. It promotes “the spectacular story of how we have redesigned our planet to build the modern world”, and so the vision of environmental destruction in the Anthropocene. Transforming the Earth in just a generation on an unprecedented scale and pace is apparently all good news in the Great Acceleration on the curve of evolutionary overshoot! 

Twittering And Tweeting Stupid, Self-Destructive Slogans

Currently, “Trumpism” - now beamed and implemented from the White House itself - has merged together so many of the looming human-generated threats as a central focus for concerted protest. Trumpism also thus serves to provide a very personal focus for the articulation of alternative forms of positive social action. It is therefore, ironically enough, sparking a lot of extra vigour and activist resurgence on various issues - from human rights to climate change.

To be sure, we need to keep up the momentum and boost it greatly (see Jeremy Agar’s review elsewhere in this issue of Naomi Klein’s “No Is Not Enough: Defeating The New Shock Politics; plus “The Public In Peril: Trump And The Menace Of American Authoritarianism”, Henry Giroux,   

In his slogans about making America great again and putting America first, President Donald Trump is appealing to the most primitive tribalist impulses about forging the “American Dream” –  motives driving imperial repression, rampant militarism, and environmental destruction. The stock market has correspondingly boomed. But Trump is proving too crude and volatile, and too racist in his nationalistic populism, even for some of the US power elite. In actuality, Trump's approval ratings have slumped badly in the US. At the same time, his Establishment enemies are pressing home the attack about alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election campaign. How all this will shake down is as yet unclear.

America's Deepening Internal Divisions

Professor Noam Chomsky considers the US Republican Party (popularly known as GOP [Grand Old Party]) “the most dangerous organisation in world history” (“Optimism Over Despair”, op. cit., p120). Even the established core of the neo-liberal GOP is “so far to the Right that they are unable to get voters with their actual policies: dedication to the welfare of the very rich and the corporate sector” (ibid., p105).

Yet, owing to Trump's very volatile and aggressive behaviour, some traditionally oriented Republicans are now however openly feuding with him. His success in gaining the White House was a function of his appeal to a marginalised base of supporters: - besides those disenfranchised and sidelined by the free market, the Christian fundamentalist bloc, white racists, and so-called “nativists”, who embrace a primitive, reactionary kind of nationalism. “Hate groups are on the rise in the US, a development credited to the energising effect of Donald Trump's Presidential campaign” (“Hate Group Numbers In US At Near Record High”, Press, 18/8/17).

Currently, far Rightist and former Trump Chief of Staff, Steve Bannon, is working to consolidate and expand this base in opposition to the Republican Establishment, in order to try and take control of the Party (“Army Of Trump Clones Target GOP“, Press, 23/10/17). However, President Trump's problems seem to be mounting. In turn, the dangers of an unstable President are clearly ominous for everyone.

Such social conflict reflects the underlying process of competitive pressures worldwide making for greater division, both within and between societies. These social conflicts span the globe.  They reach from Catalonia (also internally divided) versus the Spanish State to Iraqi Kurdistan versus Iraq's Shi’ite State regime; and from Trump's increasingly divided US pitted against so much of the rest of the world to a besieged Russia trying to hit back at enclosure by NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation). The latter has retaliated by trying to stir political dissension beyond its borders, as well as trying to eliciting support.  

Neo-Liberalism And The Rise Of The Reactionary Right

Australian Professor Clive Hamilton in his incisively analytical book “Requiem For A Species: Why We Resist The Truth About Climate Change” (Allen & Unwin, 2010; reviewed by Jeremy Agar in Watchdog 124, August 2010, clinically and summarily dissects the reactionary and neo-conservative forces that have been instrumental in paving the way for the increasingly neo-fascist stance of American politics. Trumpism, triumphant in winning the Presidency, is the current culmination of this far Right movement

In 2010, Professor Hamilton set out the background and context as to how reactionaries have taken control in the US, especially with regard to the crucial issue of the environment. He says: “Many environmentalists believe that Big Business is responsible for the worst forms of environmental damage; that, left alone, the free market cannot fix the problems, and that Government intervention is essential. In the case of global warming they also believe that only international cooperation, including legally binding obligations on the major polluters, can solve the problem”.

“In these views, environmentalists are perhaps not far from the views of most citizens of developed countries, including US citizens. Others go further to argue that the system itself is at fault, tracing ecological decline to uninhibited corporate power, the structural compulsion to grow, technological determinism, and the allure of the consumer life [my emphasis] (ibid., p107).

As an example of such views, let us also quote here analyst Oliver Boyd-Barrett, author of a recent very important study on the media and imperialism (“Media Imperialism”,  [hard copy by Sage Publications Ltd., 2014]).

Boyd-Barrett points out that: “the officially enshrined values of the largest economies of the world (principally the USA, followed by Europe, the former Soviet Union, India, China, Brazil, Indonesia) look every day more similar, and more like the values propelled by US elites; and associated with the philosophy of neo-liberalism, a philosophy of the 'free market' executed through unregulated monopolistic or oligopolistic capitalist production and exchange, consumerism, and individualism” (ibid.).   

Taking Up The Challenge Of Radical Change

Even some exemplary expositions about what humankind needs to do to avoid looming catastrophe can be somewhat conflicted in the messaging incorporated within their prescriptions. For instance, various indicators of “progress”, as expressed by assorted measures of socio-economic success, are often not at all clearly differentiated from environmentally damaging trends (e.g., “What's Really Happening To Our Planet? op. cit.). They can indeed be confounded with the successes achieved by unsustainable economic growth in evolutionary overshoot (ibid.). Yet such supposed progress is ultimately spurious.

Really effective changes for “sustainable development” will need to be far deeper and more radical than so often seemingly envisaged, especially in regard to “economic growth” (ibid.). The book “What's Really Happening To Our Planet? The Facts Simply Explained” does at least recognise the need to implement a “circular economy”, recycling wastes as much as possible (ibid., pp203/4, etc.)

Path-charting, influential environmentalist Barry Commoner proposed four so-called “laws of ecology”, which are really general principles or guidelines, in his book “The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, And Technology” (1971) (Oxford Dictionary of Environment and Conservation”, op. cit., p254). They are: everything is connected to everything else; everything must go somewhere; nature knows best; there is no such thing as a free lunch” [my emphasis] (ibid.).

Ever since the landmark publications of the Ecologist's inspired tract, “A Blueprint For Survival”, (Edward Goldsmith, et al, Tom Stacey, 1972), and the Club of Rome's “Limits to Growth” (DH Meadows, et al, Pan Books, 1972, & repeatedly updated since), a range of concerned and expert groups and individuals -  including, for instance, the Worldwatch Institute, and the Earth Policy Institute - have made an overwhelmingly compelling case (i.e., in rational, analytical terms in light of the best available scientific knowledge) for alternative paths to a genuinely more sustainable future. But the Western capitalist political Establishment and its corporate media have long systematically buried, dismissed, or distorted such warnings, predictions, appeals, and admonitions.

Today, Peter Christoff and Robyn Eckersley in “Globalisation & The Environment” (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013) and others basically propound and chart the same forewarned themes along the same lines. It is worth noting here that many of the world's most distinguished scientists in 1972 endorsed and supported the original “Blueprint”, which set out in compelling fashion the case for a “circular economy” (see 'Statement Of Support', op. cit.). Yet the neo-liberal, militarist market as driven by the US power elite and its TNCs has rolled on. Now President Donald Trump is trumpeting his own perfidy loud and clear.

Reactionary Globalism

As outlined earlier, Western globalisation has produced a wave of very reactionary politics in recent years, going back decades. Professor Clive Hamilton goes on to explain the American development of this even more extreme form of politics: “So neo-conservatives were right to identify environmentalism, and its hold on the public imagination, as a threat to their worldview and political aspirations… (and) this challenge to conservative values generated 'a sustained anti-environmental counter-movement' in the US, that soon became 'institutionalised in a network of influential conservative think tanks funded by wealthy conservative foundations and corporations'” (“Requiem For A Species”, op. cit., p107). 

These groups came to “take many forms – legal foundations, think tanks, charitable endowments, PR firms, etc” (“The Greenpeace Guide To Anti-Environmental Organisations”, Carl Deal, Odonian Press, 1993). Cunning PR strategies and tactics have been systematically employed, e.g., “ecologically destructive industries have set up elaborate front groups that masquerade as environmental organisations but actually work to destroy the environment” (ibid.). 

There are instances of this corporate syndrome in Aotearoa/NZ too in various social areas. For example, “Big Pharma” firms have employed similar tactics here in another such tried and tested American ploy. These firms have used apparently “grass-roots” civic groups, manipulating them behind the scenes in order to try and pressure Pharmac to subsidise certain drugs. They assiduously peddle their pesticides here, no matter the public concerns voiced.

Marketing Malignancy For Profit

The neo-liberal American model has certainly been very powerful in all kinds of ways. “During the early 1980s, anti-environmentalism (took) root in a network of conservative and libertarian think tanks in Washington. These think tanks – which included the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Marshall Institute, (have) variously promoted business interests and ‘free market’ economic policies, the rollback of environmental, health, safety, and labour protections.” (“Merchants Of Doubt: How A Handful Of Scientists Obscured The Truth On Issues From Tobacco Smoke To Global Warming”, Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway, Bloomsbury, 2010, p125). 

Corporates, banks, and rich capitalist elites have powerfully funded these Rightwing neo-liberal outfits ever since. Since the early 1990s, such anti-environmental organisations have multiplied in both numbers and interconnections throughout American society, and more widely throughout the West and beyond, with climate scepticism emerging to take centre stage today. Most significantly, the NZ National Party and its crony media have been in close cahoots on climate scepticism until very recent times. Given the pervasive reach of globalisation, the international influence of these Big Business/TNC-sponsored and funded agencies has indeed spread disinformation and obfuscation around the planet.

TNCs and anti-environmental/climate sceptic groups have often operated hand in glove. An especially egregious example has been the crony combination of ExxonMobil and the Heartland Institute in the US, assiduously pushing lies about the science of global warming. The corporate media have always been deeply embedded in so much of this stuff. Their complicity has thrived not only because of their pronounced Rightwing bias but also sheer ignorance due to lack of proper scrutiny and inquiry (ibid., pp240-43). Of course, Rightwing bias can help explain this latter deficiency.

Trumping The Environment

President Donald Trump has now taken the capitalist assault on the environment to a whole new scale of attack. Trumpism is both exuberantly ignorant and openly antagonistic: – rejecting and walking away from the Paris Accord on action to combat climate change; and, in effect, declaring open slather on the biosphere with drastic deregulation of US resource management, etc. 

The increasingly irrational fundamentalist mindset of the American reactionary Right is stunningly and perversely bizarre, although sadly very predictable. Its war on the natural world is indeed scaling up in quite staggering fashion. Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Scott Pruitt, has told coal miners in Kentucky “that he will move to repeal a rule limiting GHGEs from existing power plants, assuring them, 'The war against coal is over'” (“'The War On Coal Is Over', Says EPA”, Press, 11/10/17). His pronouncement came against the backdrop of raging wildfires in California and in the wake of devastating Mexican Gulf hurricanes, let alone similar disasters around the planet. 

While US environmental and public health advocates decried Pruitt's announcement, industry groups welcomed the move (ibid.). Noam Chomsky has written: “How Trump is intent on driving the world to the precipice” by his appointment of “militant climate change deniers” and environmental vandals like Scott Pruitt to key Administration positions (“Optimism Over Despair, op. cit., p.94). The ruling Republican Party keenly backs this sort of Trumpian policy, including funding cuts to the EPA to reduce or remove regulatory controls on environmentally destructive and dirty industry (ibid., p196). 

Record-breaking hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and record firestorms in California, all in 2017, cannot shake the American Right's commitment to suicidal stupidity. Lamentably, the crazy paleo-conservatives currently have unprecedented political power. President Trump has, as well, plenty of like-minded capitalist mates throughout the Anglo-American axis, e.g., Australian ex-PM “Mad” Tony Abbott, preaching his “crap” climate change scepticism at the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London in October 2017.  According to “Mad” Abbott, global warming is actually beneficial! 

The Global Warming Policy Foundation was “established, and is fronted, by climate sceptic Nigel Lawson, who was a minister in former British PM Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government” (“Climate Policy Is Like Sacrifices To Gods – Abbott”, Press, 11/10/17). This outfit is in the mould of the American Heartland Institute. But it has very calculatedly also adopted a specifically targeted and pseudo-scientific sounding name. In the Trumpian era of brazenly “post-truth” politics, “alternative facts”, and “fake news”, the PR manufacture of credibility is fundamental to Rightwing machinations. Trump, Abbott, Lawson, & co. are quite prepared to sacrifice humankind to Mammon on the Juggernaut of capitalist “progress”.

The War On Nature

It seemed no coincidence that Abbott's speech came at the time the Australian Turnbull-led government was acting further to reduce measures to combat climate change (ibid.). Climate change scepticism has been deeply rooted in the ruling Liberal Party, with former PM John Howard another eminent exemplar of this mindset (ibid.). Australia is top of the nations in per capita GHGEs and heavily dependent on coal exports to industrialising China and India. Australia is also the top per capita consumer of coal in the world. Vested economic self-interest is the primary driver of fossil fuel entropy and its increasing waste implosion for humankind.

As if in reply to the “Mad” Abbott, Pacific Island leaders have strongly criticised Australia's fossilised policies and politics, accusing it of being “stuck in the “Dark Ages” (“Aust. Slammed As Emissions Hit Record High”, Press, 2/10/17). An increasing number of Pacific islands are “at risk of sinking beneath the sea” (ibid.). As well as ramping up action to counter global warming, NZ's new Government is considering “an experimental visa for people from the Pacific displaced by climate change” (“'Rising Seas' Visa Possible”, Press, 2/11/17).

One very alert and far-sighted environmentalist, among other scientists and experts, posted a warning years ago that so sadly went unheeded, as has been common practice (“Our Drowning World: Population, Pollution, And Future Weather”, Antony Milne, Institution of Environmental Sciences, Prism Press, 1988). Aotearoa/NZ itself faces increasing challenges (“Counting The Cost Of Climate Change And Rising Sea Levels”, Press, 7/9/17).

The fundamentalist pollution and denial syndrome is reflected here in Aotearoa/NZ. It is perhaps best symbolised by “Myrtle”, the tractor once driven in protest by a National MP up the steps of Parliament. This particular protest action was representative of National's farming constituency in their opposition to what they labelled at the time the “Fart Tax”, a measure proposed by the then Labour government to curb GHGEs, including methane from cattle. 

Mischief-Making “Myrtle”

“Myrtle” was wheeled out again just before the 2017 election in another farmer protest, this time against a proposed Labour Party levy to help better control water pollution from dairy herds. Pumping waste pollution into the environment was endemic policy and practice for the “blue-green” National government, its corporate backers, and rural supporters.

Thankfully, this crony, corrupt Government was finally ousted in the September 2017 general election due to a most unexpected and happily, in the end, very favourable, fortuitous turn of political events. NZ national politics has taken a long overdue turn to the Left (so it is a distinctly ironic coincidence that the surname of the former National MP who drove Myrtle up Parliament’s steps is Ardern. What goes around comes around, eh. Ed.).

The new Labour-led coalition Government, headed by PM Jacinda Ardern, is most admirably gearing up to implement some urgently overdue measures to combat both global warming and water pollution (“Coalition United On Environment”, Press, 25/10/17). These are just some - if very critically important elements - of the previous National government's poisonous legacy. Former PM John Key had a very prominent hand in such dirty work. In stunningly crony style, his own Party has even knighted him for it all!

Aotearoa/NZ has a badly misconstrued and contaminated model of dairy farming, with intensive overstocking the norm (“Mike Joy: Orthodox Economics Conceals Real Costs Of Agriculture”,, 28/10/16, The dairy industry has been a very environmentally damaging case of neo-liberal economics at work. 

In light of “Myrtle” the tractor, it seems almost symbolic that NZ is suffering an outbreak of the Myrtle rust fungal plant disease, apparently blown in from Australia (Myrtle Rust, MPI – Ministry for Primary Industries, 8/09/2017, This disease, by the way, can also be transmitted via people or machinery. From a general perspective, free trade continues to erode national biosecurity systems, adversely affecting both humans and the ecosystems they depend on. 

Grappling With Cargo Cult Crap

Dr Mike Joy, who has campaigned so spiritedly to save our waterways from degradation, has yet had to contend with the continuing crap from the neo-liberal brigade. For instance, Dr Eric Crampton from the Big Business-run, so-called New Zealand Initiative tries to take Dr Joy to task over the issue of environmental limits (“Offsetting Behaviour – Everything Bad Is The Fault Of Neo-Liberalism Or Orthodox Economics Or Both”, 28/10/16, cargo cultists like Crampton effectively recognise no environmental limits at all (ibid.). They blithely peddle the most simplistic, self-serving, and facile interpretations of how neo-liberal economics relates to the biosphere. 

In a criticism of the original predictive computer study “Limits To Growth”, Dr Crampton picks out some examples of what he considers to have been proved faulty projections, e.g., on the trajectory of human population growth and its relationship to resources (ibid.). For hopelessly blinkered Rightwing pundits like Crampton, deteriorating ecosystems - for him, just really “externalities” to ignore whatever his argument to the contrary! - along with global warming, resource wars, etc., etc., are only so many hiccups on the way to the neo-liberal paradise. 

Whole vast awkward dimensions of ecological reality and political economy are merely shunted out of sight. In particular, it is all the interconnections and interactions of crucial variables like world population growth, industrialisation, pollution (including GHGEs), food production, and resource depletion - and in turn their compounding and complex interconnections and interaction with the rest of the biosphere - that are so critical in their combined outcomes and impacts on human society. Again, this nexus is interlaced and interfused with political policy and practice, as well as the whole range of human ambitions, intentions, and expectations.

It is surely easy to take a set of complex predictions made back in the past, however soundly and scientifically based, and note that some have not materialised up to the present. All sorts of factors might plausibly intrude.  The real question to address is how any such set of predictions stacks up overall in the longer run. So far as the original “Limits To Growth” is concerned, there is the great irony too, that although Western capitalism has dismissed the general thesis, international pre-emptive action has been taken on various specific issues, at least to some extent. This has helped change the contours of certain predictions.

The major point that I would make here is that not only has “Limits To Growth” been updated over decades (see: “The Limits To Growth”, Wikipedia,, the general thesis is still very much on track (“Scientists Vindicate 1972 'Limits To Growth' – Urge Investment In 'Circular Economy'”, Nafeez Ahmed, Guardian, 4/6/14,; and “‘Limits to Growth’ Was Right: New Research Shows We're Nearing Collapse”, Cathy Alexander and Graham Turner, Opinion, Guardian, 1/9/14,

Growing Constraints And Competition For Raw Materials

Population growth is an issue that Dr Crampton considers to have been a misconstrued projection in “The Limits to Growth” (ibid.). Yet there have been programmes of pre-emptive population control, perhaps most pre-eminently and controversially China's former “one child” policy. Another projection failure in Crampton's opinion has been a predicted supply shortage of chromium.

But, again, there has been some capitalist cognisance of costs and convenience, contributing to “environmental efficiency” as it were. “In 2015, around 30% of the chromium units in stainless steel were derived from scrap” (“Chromium Outlook 2017: All Eyes On Steel Demand”, Investing News, 3/1/17, Some recycling, characteristic of a “circular economy”, has kicked in over time.

Geopolitical ambitions and investment prospects drive the global mining industry. By the turn of this century, competition for exploitation was stepping up in Africa. This continent's mineral resources “have long acted as a magnet for foreign mining companies” (“Resource Wars: The New Landscape Of Global Conflict, Michael T. Klare, Metropolitan/Owl, 2001/2, p217). 

I remember writing letters to the Editor of the Christchurch Star long ago, trying to help counter the white racist lobby peddling concerns about the Russian-backed “commies” getting their hands on Rhodesian chromium, and other southern African minerals.  Horrors, this would have seriously affected our material standard of living, and even threatened the whole Western way of life! Enforcing and maintaining racist oppression was vitally necessary for such people, who included some National Party MPs at the time, e.g., the late Bert Walker.

Tragically enough, the British colonial legacy and diehard white resistance in Rhodesia have resulted in the conflict-ridden afflictions suffered by Zimbabwe since independence. Mugabe's cruel rule (which ended in November 2017, after 37 years) paralleled the corresponding corrupt betrayal of black revolution in South Africa. Achieving positive change is a constant challenge, both in the spheres of social justice and sustainability.

Rampaging “Resource Curse”

The “resource curse” long endured by Africans rampages on more than ever these days. In recent years, China has been muscling into this former Western preserve for the imperial plunder and exploitation of raw materials. Geopolitical struggles are entrenched there once again. China has intruded deeper into the bastion of South Africa, and southern Africa in general. In reaction, under the cover of its terroristic “War on Terror”, the US has ramped up its interventionist inroads into the African continent. It had already been looking more to secure African minerals, especially West African oil.

One analyst paints the big picture as she sees it: “China's stealth (and not-so-stealth) global incursions will act as a catalyst for more global tensions around resource imbalances. Even more so, China's resource demand pressures will continue to force commodity prices higher” (“Winner Take All: China's Race For Resources and What It Means For Us”, Dambisa Moyo, Penguin Books, 2012, p206). 

From the South China Sea to Syria, and from the Ukraine to Afghanistan, the Social Darwinist contests go on in an ever-widening range of fronts and potential flash-points. More and more peoples are suffering terribly, e.g., the Muslim Rohingyas subject to ethnic cleansing by the repressive military regime in Myanmar (Burma).  The affluent, greedy, predatory West is little concerned with the plight of such peoples however. Aid outlays are pitiful in comparison with the huge human need. But, of course, sectors like the arms industry, wars, space exploration, the entertainment industry, high-tech, etc., etc. receive enormous and increasing expenditure.  Such is the hallmark of our civilisation.

Dirty Work Imperial Interventions

To return to Africa for illustrative purposes, American involvement covers the spectrum from increased investment in resource extraction, e.g., West African oil, to a greatly boosted programme of covert dirty work, founded on decades of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) machinations and other such interventions (“Dirty Work 2: The CIA In Africa”, Ellen Ray et al, Zed Press, 1980; see also: Full text of “Dirty Work 2: The CIA In Africa”, Internet Archive, 

The standard media cover for such operations continues unabated. In October 2017 several US special forces Green Berets personnel were ambushed and killed in Niger, an event highlighted by another tweeting controversy for President Trump. Radio NZ (RNZ) presented the fire-fight incident in its news bulletin as part of the global fight against “extremists” (18/10/17). 

Note that Western forces can freely plunder and pillage the planet, slaughtering on a huge scale, but that, naturally, we are never “extremists” like those so viciously opposing us. The cargo cultism of global capitalism depends on resources secured and protected by the forces (the hidden, and not so hidden, fist) of the militarist market. At the same time, Hollywood and the big American media corporates like NBC and CBS exult in their own warmongering barbarism (“Network TV's Calorie-Free Take On American Patriotism”, Time, 2/10/17). Our own TV channels are awash with this sort of very nasty stuff, plus all the neo-liberal greed and indulgence displayed in various documentary series and drama shows.

Noam Chomsky and Andre Vltchek estimate that between “50 and 55 million people have died” since the end of World War II (WWII) because of Western neo-imperialism and related violence (“On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima To Drone Warfare”, Pluto Press, 2013, p1). Hundreds of millions more have died due to indirect causes like hunger and disease. The Western mainstream media, however, see their job as systematically suppressing or twisting the truth (see my “More Media Warmongering: Signs of Things To Come”, Part 1 in Peace Researcher 41, July 2011,; & Part 2 in PR 42, November 2011,

Compounding Conflicts

The dead Green Berets in Niger were members of the US mission in the Lake Chad Basin - a severely stressed African region, both environmentally and socially (“Figure Of The Week: The Shrinking Lake Chad”, Brookings Institution, 9/2/17, Global warming and human over-use has resulted in what has been called “the incredible shrinking Lake Chad”. Yet the only concern for the Western media, including its NZ sub-set, is how it apparently affects us. The internal US controversy over Trump's remarks has been the prime focus for the TV channels here.

Four countries – Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon – encircle the ecological disaster of the Lake Chad Basin, with all its socio-economic, ethnic, and political fallout. So, this then is yet another tragically afflicted area in which the biggest State terrorist nation in world history is now militarily engaged. But hey, what did President Trump actually say to one of the widows of the dead Green Berets?! 

“Islamist militants form part of a regional insurgency in the poor, sparsely populated deserts of West Africa's Sahel. Jihadists have stepped up attacks on UN peacekeepers, Malian soldiers and civilian targets since being driven back in northern Mali by a French-led military intervention in 2013” (“Three US Soldiers Killed In Insurgents' Ambush In Niger”, Press, 7/10/17). The United Nations (UN) and other international agencies have been calling for action to address the root causes of the insurgencies across North and West Africa.

Fallout And Failing States

Following the Western overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011, his Tuareg mercenaries returned to the various northern African states from which they hailed. In Mali, a country neighbouring Niger, they helped stir up a Tuareg rebellion, drawing on deeply rooted grievances. The armed forces in Mali reacted by executing a March 2012 coup against the Malian government. 

French armed forces' intervention in Mali soon followed in support of the new military regime, on the excuse of al Qaeda-affiliated militants and tribal groups threatening to take over the country (“Is The French Invasion Of Mali Tied To A Colonial War For Uranium?”, Global Research, Centre for Research on Globalization: 30/1/13, Mali lies in a region regarded as a mineral “El Dorado”. In accordance with the normalities of media presentation, any links between Western resource predation and insurgencies based in the grievances of poor people are rigorously abjured.

Ensuing tensions and conflicts include peoples in Niger as well, and elsewhere in the Sahel, along with much of the rest of Africa. Niger is just south of Libya. It has become more unstable in the wake of the fallout from Gaddafi's overthrow, and a consequently conflict-torn, destabilised Libya, now so deeply divided after the joint Anglo-American/French military intervention.

Most of what Western agencies get up to in foreign lands is kept well out of public sight by the political Establishment and its crony media.  In the particular case of the dead Green Berets in Niger, President Trump's controversial tweeting has momentarily blown the covert cover on US special ops there, even if the mainstream media have kept so much of the underlying story under wraps.

Blowback From The West's Terroristic Resource War On The World's Poor

Niger, a colonial and neo-colonial victim of France in particular, has some of the world's largest uranium deposits, and also other valued minerals like gold. Yet it remains one of the world's most illiterate nations, as well as poverty-stricken and hunger-ridden. In the lead-up to the US-led illegal “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq in 2003, Niger became the centre of a stormy controversy due to the GW Bush Administration claims that Saddam Hussein had tried to use it as a source of uranium for nuclear weapons manufacture, as part of the Iraqi regime's programme of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The Washington “beltway” controversy over the Niger uranium claims took a quite bizarre turn when Valerie Plame, the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former US career diplomat (1976-98), was outed by the Bush Administration as an undercover CIA operative. This was, remarkably enough, a form of retaliatory payback against Wilson, who had personally investigated the allegations about the supposed uranium from Niger and had found them to be baseless. Ironically, Wilson had done his investigation on the request of the CIA (“The Politics Of Truth: Inside The Lies That Led To War And Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity – A Diplomat's Memoir”, Joseph Wilson, Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2004). 

President Bush & co. were instead determined to invade Iraq on the pretext of very artificially and maliciously contrived propaganda and lies. Bush claimed in his notorious 2003 State of the Union address that: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa”, namely Niger (ibid., p2). Bush and British PM Tony Blair were crony mates together in the malign spin of State terrorism.

Never mind, the Nigerien government has asked the US to “start using armed drones against jihadist groups operating on the Mali border, raising the stakes” in the counter-insurgency campaign (“Niger Wants Drones”, Press, 3/11/17). And evidently, as ever, the US is only too willing for more death squad work (ibid.). Meantime, according to the UN: “Africa needs 11 million more doctors, nurses, and teachers by 2030 to prevent a 'social and economic disaster' that could propel millions to migrate” (“Africa's Crying Need”, Press, 27/10/17).  The situation for millions of Africa's children is critical (ibid.).

The Banality Of Evil

To return to the kind of defence of neo-liberalism mounted by the New Zealand Initiative's Dr Eric Crampton, we have seen that it rests on a whole host of unacknowledged assumptions. When all the costs of “free trade” and “free markets” are added up, the true social, environmental, and economic costs are enormous and mounting. Just to safeguard oil and gas supplies in the Middle East in line with the “Carter Doctrine” demands trillions and trillions of dollars, both historically, and in the present and foreseeable future. This neo-imperial control helps keep oil prices within American-mandated parameters.

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have analysed the monetary cost (including many hidden costs) of the Iraq war in a study published in 2008, demonstrating both the steely grip of the military-industrial complex on the American economy and its global reach (“The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost Of The Iraq Conflict”, WW Norton & Company, 2008, reviewed by Jeremy Agar in Watchdog 118, August 2008, book reveals the self-serving corruption of key elements of the US neo-con/neo-liberal power elite in tandem with the comprador clique, that it installed in control of Iraq. 

Monetary costs continue, and will do so - one way or another - far into the future. By far the worst costs, of course, are the terrible ongoing costs to the people of Iraq, and inhabitants of the wider region. Meanwhile, political and jihadist blowback - like the Islamic State (IS) movement - will also carry on relentlessly, whatever the proclaimed victory over IS in Iraq and Syria in 2017.

Privatised war is not only inevitably self-perpetuating, it is also a most lucrative business. The burgeoning NZ defence industry is thriving on all this Anglo-American engendered chaos and mayhem. Under the Trump Administration, mercenary forces are being given a further fillip. Such US routine warfare practices as bombing and drone attacks on civilians, special forces' dirty work, terroristic death squad raids, etc., are all going hand in hand with renewed vigour and bloody intent (see my “Military Strategy, Trumpism, And State Terrorism” in PR 54, November 2017,

NZ, unfortunately, has deep connections with American counter-insurgency strategy and tactics (ibid.).  Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 is in the predatory mode of this tradition (“NZ Ready Reaction Counter-insurgency” (also in PR 54, ibid.). But civic resistance and peace activism are stirring on the West Coast of the South Island (“Why Are Martial Law Military Exercises Being Held In Local Communities?”, Daily Blog, Barbara Creswell, 19/10/17, excellent article!).

Increasing International TensionsAnd The Need To Defuse Them!

Meanwhile, the Pentagon regards climate change as a “conflict multiplier” or “threat multiplier”, aggravating and inflaming areas and issues already fraught with tension and strife. Trumpism, in turn, is now ratcheting up the confrontational militarism and State terrorist dimensions of American foreign policy, both directly and indirectly. Climate change denial, on the one hand, and violent aggression, on the other, are intimately fused together.  

Here in Aotearoa/NZ, we must strive for an independent, peace-making policy stance more urgently than ever.  We now have our own Aotearoa Independence Movement (AIM), see Murray Horton’s “Time For Independence From A Crumbling US Empire, in Watchdog 145, August 2017, We must assert our sovereignty.

Even NZ's official stance is shot with irony and contradiction. The head of the NZ Defence Force, Lt. Colonel Tim Keating, has admirably appealed to world leaders never to allow us to repeat the horrors of world war and battles like Passchendaele (TV3, NewsHub Live At 6pm, 13/10/17). Any such war in our time would be absolutely horrendous and on an “unimaginable scale” (ibid.). 

Keating expressed concern about increasing international tensions, which we need to positively and constructively control. We need to learn the sad lessons from past wars and never repeat them. Of world leaders, Pope Francis is leading the way in warning about the dangers of climate changes and the preparations for world war (e.g., “Pope Issues Dire Climate Warning To World Leaders”, Press, 13/9/17).

Combating The Political Economy Of Militarist Confrontation

Incidentally, TV3's European correspondent Tova O'Brien did an excellent job at the Passchendaele commemorations in signalling the urgent imperative for peace-making. This included the interview with Keating (TV3, op. cit.). Her approach contrasted with that of TV1's correspondent Joy Reid, and this channel's conventional, war-legitimating emphasis on heroic “sacrifice”. 

TV1, absurdly enough, pushed the purported glorious cause of fighting for freedom and democracy in the European imperialistic, competitive struggle of World War I (WWI). It constantly peddles the most superficial propaganda on foreign policy in a most malign, misleading fashion. Again, most ironically, and almost quite surreally, the terrifying backdrop to the Western WWI commemorations is the enormous military build-up by both NATO and Russia, in the continuing fall-out following the US-engineered overthrow of the democratically elected Ukrainian government.  As time goes on, the official Anglo-American propaganda line, as transmitted by crony PR media like TVNZ, becomes more and more surreal. 

As TV3 showed, there is even growing concern among some of the established Western military about increasing international tensions. Such deepening concern includes elements of the American military itself, as well as some leading Republican party politicians (“Why Republican Senator Bob Corker Is So Scared Trump Will Start WWIII”, Vox, 9/10/17,  

Close To Home: Dirty Politics Reborn!

Since 9/11, Western dirty politics abroad has been increasingly evident on our own domestic scene. Besides the gross manifestations of militarist confrontation and arms build-up during 2017, the tentacles of Trumpism are reaching out in less obvious ways. This was certainly manifest during NZ's national election year. While the performance of the NZ mainstream media was better in election year 2017 than in election year 2014, a lot of the same old biased stuff so evident in the approach of the media in the past was visible once more. 

This syndrome was particularly prominent in the nasty treatment of the Labour Party before the advent of Jacinda Ardern as its leader. But, as described below, dirty politics again raised its ugly head, this time in the “post-truth” style of Donald Trump. Back in 2014, poor old Labour Party Leader Andrew Little had been handed a highly contaminated “hospital pass” when he succeeded the much maliciously targeted David Cunliffe as Labour's front person in the wake of the “Dirty Politics” furore (“Dirty Politics: How Attack Politics Is Poisoning New Zealand's Political Environment”, Nicky Hager, Craig Potton Publishing, 2014, reviewed by Jeremy Agar in Watchdog 137, December 2014,

The National government and its crony media had quickly pinned the label of “Angry Andrew” on Little. A lot of us were indeed very angry, indeed outraged, at the covert dirty work of the National Party and the various media machinations in ensuring it a third term. We very definitely owe investigative journalist Nicky Hager a heartfelt debt. His insightful initiative and brilliant investigative journalism uncovered a most pernicious, and even potentially neo-fascist network, taking shape within Aotearoa/NZ (ibid.). It was consolidating within the ruling established political power structure; and it had been carefully screened by the mainstream media from proper public scrutiny and democratic accountability.

The ramifications of Nicky's ground-breaking research still go on. A critical dimension of the National government's “dirty politics” relates to the question of corporate power, governmental regulation, and food safety. A defamation claim by three health experts against three “dirty politics” players – attack blogger Cameron Slater (Whale Oil), corporate PR man Carrick Graham, and former National MP Katherine Rich, Chief Executive Officer of the TNC-dominated NZ Food & Grocery Council – got only minimal mainstream media attention.

See “Whale Oil, MP, PR Man To Face Jury Trial”, Newsroom,4/10/17,; besides Nicky's book, see: “Where There's Smoke, There's Sugar”, NZ Drug Foundation, At The Heart Of The Matter, November 2014,

On a number of fronts, especially dirty-style politics, the record of the NZ media is woeful. See six of my previous Watchdog articles on the relevant themes: “Media Manipulation: From Future Perfect To Militarist Machinations: From Free Trade To Globalist Conflict”, 136, September 2014,; “Subverting Democracy: The Dirty Politics Of Media Machinations”, 137, December 2014,

“Contesting Crony Media & Neo-Liberal Dirty Politics”, 142, August 2016,; “Media Machinations, Cronyism, And Dirty Politics: The Neo-Liberal Agenda”, 143, December 2016,; “Deconstructing The Dirty, Neo-Liberal Media: Politics Of The Democratic Deficit”, 144, May 2017,; & “Corporate Conditioning Neo-Liberal Conformity: Mainstream Media & Co”, 145, August 2017,

The Big Lie

As Nicky Hager himself has pointed out, for the moment much of the National Party's covert operations have been subject to the cleansing power of sunlight shining in dark places (“Sunlight Did What Sunlight Does: Nicky Hager On Dirty Politics, Three Years On”, The Spinoff, 16/8/17,

But the dirty politics of the National government had a new resurgence soon after the appointment of Jacinda Ardern as Labour Party Leader, only a matter of mere weeks out before the date of the general election (23rd September). In a desperate attempt to try and counter the so-called “Jacinda” or “Ardern effect”, expressed by a sudden lift in public support for Labour, National dug deeply into the Trump political playbook of “fake news”, “alternative facts”, and “post-truth politics”.

This time the attack strategy was brazenly open, rather than covert.  Treasurer Steven Joyce emerged as the boldly egregious “Big Lie” maestro, closely backed by PM Bill English, who already had real form, having proven himself to be an outstanding liar in the “Todd Barclay Affair” (“Political Roundup: The Hugely Damaging Barclay Scandal”, NZ Herald, 27/6/17, 

Joyce charged that Labour's budget plan had a yawning fiscal gap of over $11 billion - $11.7b to be precise. His accusation was, in fact, pure, cynically calculated and malign bullshit! (e.g. ”Is There Really An $11 Billion Hole In Labour's Election Plan?”, The Spinoff, 4/9/17, It was dismissed as groundless by all the economists consulted by the media.

Fascist-Type Assault On Democracy

Instead of dirty, covert, “black ops”-style politics, the National government went this time for the openly outrageous in attack strategy. It is certainly characteristic of Trumpian politics. But, even more disturbingly, it was straight out of the Nazi playbook. “The Big Lie” is a well-known propaganda technique (Wikipedia,  “The expression was originally coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book 'Mein Kampf', about the use of a lie so 'colossal' that no one would believe that someone 'could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously'” [my emphasis] (ibid.). This is exactly what Steven Joyce did.

The technique is commonly known as the Goebbels principle, after Hitler's Propaganda Minister (“The Big Lie Theory and Human Behaviour”, ETNK, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” (ibid.). Steven Joyce applied this most cynical technique to the hilt and it clearly worked enough for him and his Party to damage Labour, as reflected in a pronounced rebound boost in the polls for National before the election.

While much of the media declared that Joyce's claim of Labour's fiscal hole was a lie, they failed to attribute the inspiration for its use to Hitler and the Nazis. If it had been a Labour Government, despite the political anomaly about origins, they would have proved pitiless in their condemnation. It has long been standard practice for the media, even if quite critical of something adversely reflecting on National's leadership, to soon move on. Whereas, in the case of past Labour Leaders like David Cunliffe and Andrew Little, media harassment about certain issues has been personally targeted and routinely repetitive.

Dirty Rotten Liars

This media bias stood out in the case of National's very dirty, lying strategy in the immediate run-up to the election. In 2014, the National Party should have been labelled as the “Dirty Politics” party but instead escaped virtually unscathed thanks to the crony media. In 2017, the same Party should have been roundly criticised and pilloried as a pack of devious liars. Yet the media so egregiously let them off the hook again (“Why We Need A Change Of Media As Well As A Change Of Government”, Daily Blog, 26/10/17,  

Along with what relatively token criticism was dished out on the issue, there was also a general recognition by the media, prior to the election, that the “Big Lie” was probably working in National's favour. For sure, the media helped feed and amplify National's nasty attack politics instead of repeatedly and strongly rubbishing it as would have been due (ibid.). Open criticism lapsed almost entirely in the last couple of weeks or so before voting. 

Far from condemning the National government as a bunch of malicious liars, some reporters even openly showed admiration for its Nazi-style strategy and tactics (e.g., “The 'Dead Cat' Masterstroke That May Just Win National The Election”,, 25/9/17, Their own style reflects former PM John Key's remark that “winning ugly is better than losing tidy”. Such is the sad state of our supposedly democratic culture today!  

Political Interpretations In Contention

In a previous 2017 Watchdog article, I took issue with a particular political science study about the 2014 election for its misconstrued and misleading interpretation (“Deconstructing The Dirty Neo-Liberal Media: Politics Of the Democratic Deficit”, Watchdog 144, May 2017, ).

Regarding the 2017 election, Associate Professor Grant Duncan, a specialist in political theory and NZ politics at Massey University, thinks “the democratic system is working surprisingly well” (“After Dirty Politics A Clean Policy Fight”,  Radio New Zealand News, 22/9/17, Professor Duncan labelled Joyce's “Big Lie” as just “outrageous populist rhetoric”, or simply “pork pies” (ibid.). Obviously, the very meaning of “democracy” in so-called “political science” can be a politically contentious issue!

Fortunately, in the end the “Big Lie” attempt by the National government to try and sabotage our democracy failed. Most ironically, even one of the previous misdeeds from the 2014 general election have caught up with it. National had pirated the Eminem tune Lose Yourself (Press, 28/10/17). A court finding “ordered the Party to pay $700,000 for using the 'soundalike' version of Eminem's 'highly original work'” (ibid.). Eminem is kindly donating the money to hurricane relief (ibid.).  

National's Machiavellian election strategist Steven Joyce is on record as cynically boasting, when earlier challenged, that what the party had done with its “track [openly] called Eminem Esque” was “pretty legal.” Moreover, this was the same Party that had staged in 2012 a military-style armed raid on Kim Dotcom's Coatesville mansion in PM John Key's electorate for allegedly flaunting intellectual property rules on music and film. The raid was at the behest of Hollywood film and music corporate moguls concerned for their intellectual property rights, such an integral component today of so-called “free trade” deals. 

National's Nasty Authoritarian Style

Once more, the silence by the media on National's egregious hypocrisy and its ramifications has been damning in comparison with all the hype and circus over Dotcom's allegedly criminal behaviour. The contrast in media treatment of the two cases is stark. Dotcom himself has successfully sued the Police over the raid, obtaining a monetary settlement out of court in October 2017. 

A historical context of US TNC interference in our democracy undermining unions and labour rights frames all this (for background, see “Lest We Forget: Warner Brothers Won 2010 Roger Award for ‘Hobbit’ Affair”, by Murray Horton, Watchdog 131, December 2012,; and “The Media Fails Media 101: Peter Jackson, Warner Brothers, Employers And Contractors” by John Minto, Watchdog 132, May 2013, Thankfully, the new Labour-led government is moving quickly to restore these labour rights (“The ‘Hobbit’ Law: How It Happened”, Press,1/11/17).

However refreshingly and engagingly positive and congenial Jacinda Ardern may be as the Labour PM – much of the Rightwing media are already again sharpening up their knives (“How The Corporate Elite Will Attack Jacinda, Winston & The Greens”, Daily Blog, 22/10/17, Martin Bradbury, journalists like Martin van Beynen are openly worried about the swing to the Left (“Ardern Needs To Take On Liberal Left”, Press, 28/10/17).

Former PM and current National Leader Bill English is so far out of touch that he actually talked of the “brutal” Labour Party after its first week in office. But this kind of language is a typical signal to National's “glove puppets” in the media to start stepping up their criticisms. English is aiming to be obstructionist in bloody-minded fashion.

Having watched Parliament TV closely for a number of years, I can personally testify to National's often nasty authoritarian style. Lately, bloggers on the Standard ( have been checking out the vile sort of online stuff posted on Kiwiblog, which is run by “Dirty Politics” agent and crony media commentator, National's David Farrar. The potential for really reactionary politics in NZ is large (see my “Reactionary Pakeha Politics. The 100 Days: Claiming Back New Zealand. What Has Gone Wrong And How”, Watchdog 135, April 2014, Trumpian politics reflects a Rightwing movement across the West.

Democracy And Sustainability At Issue

To pick up again on the theme of sustainability and trade, the machinations of TNCs in collusion with crony, comprador governments are central to the issues about which non-government organisations (NGOs) have campaigned and agitated for so long.  Despite some light being shed on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations, the mainstream media here still push the neo-liberal line on “free trade”. Of course, airily talking about and promoting so-called “sustainable” economic growth, in conjunction with increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP), productivity, exports, etc. have become routine for Western economists and politicians. Such talk certainly provides the focus for discussion in the NZ Parliament.

Despite its criticisms of the proposed TPPA, the Labour Party stubbornly cleaves to supposedly genuine Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). NGOs have to step up the campaigns to try and persuade the new coalition Government to take more serious action against the continuing corporate assaults on our economy, society, and environment. The transparency and accountability of our democracy is at stake – both in the sense of what's left of it, and how we can create more meaningful civic participation (“Labour Risks Being Bulldozed On TPPA-11”, Scoop News, 30/10/17,; “TTP Talks To Test New PM”, Chris Trotter, Press, 31/10/17). 

Growing Geopolitical Competition

But the discriminatory protectionist policies of the corporate media have remained pervasive right up to the present. To try and publicly discuss the relationship between free trade and a deteriorating environment is effectively taboo, which takes suicidal stupidity to new depths. The mainstream media were virtually united in urging on the new Labour-led coalition Government to sign the new version of the TPPA deal, now orchestrated by Japan, after the Trump Administration ostensibly gave up on it. They are dedicated to their role of facilitating the exuberant free folly of evolutionary overshoot (e.g., “Ardern's First Big Test: TPP At APEC”, Stacey Kirk, Press, 23/10/17; “Pedal To The Metal For Ardern”, Tracy Watkins, Press, 30/1017).

As was the case with the Obama-manipulated TPPA, the underlying geopolitical agenda is militarist market competition with China. Japan is proposing “a strategic dialogue among leaders of the US, India and Australia, aiming at counteracting China's expansion under its 'Belt and Road' policy” (“Plan To Counter China”, Press, 27/10/17). NZ has enthusiastically embraced China's “Belt and Road” policy too. Technocratic neo-liberalism is rife with contradictions! The Japanese “proposal is for the leaders of the four nations to promote free trade and defence cooperation across the land and sea to Southeast, South, and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East and Africa” (ibid.). So Social Darwinist rivalry goes on in compounding complexity.

Free Market Follies And Fantasies

In the early 1980s, a computer-oriented, decentralised economy was supposedly opening up for us all a la futurist Alvin Toffler's books “Future Shock” (1970) and “The Third Wave” (1980). Today, we are riding the latest wave of the electronic “revolution”. Bloomberg commentator Noah Smith embraces the new science fiction vision: “If machine learning makes most of us obsolete, we will have to alter the structures of society to redistribute the massive abundance created (my emphasis), in order to make everyone's leisure time as pleasant as possible” (“Meet Machine, Our New Writer…”, Press, 19/10/16). 

Smith goes on to comment with a straight face that: “This is the rise-of-the-robots’ scenario that lots of people are worried about, but it doesn't have to be a scary thing, if society changes accordingly” (ibid.).  So, let us take stock of this crazy “techno-optimistic” sort of stuff so far. On a planet, where even the blindly free trade obsessed NZ government now also officially recognises the rising threat of resource wars - let alone historical and current wars of this nature! - in its new defence posture, we have another parallel universe within global capitalism of limitless resources for further industrialisation and entrepreneurial economic growth. 

Bloomberg's Noah Smith is clearly on another planet! But then this is just par for the course. Such cultural contradictions are running wild today as neo-liberalism grinds further into its own entrails, courtesy of Brexit, Trumpism, etc. The overriding emphasis in our education system today is on tuning children into the constantly changing information technology scene, rather than learning how to cope with climate change, and a rapidly deteriorating biosphere. They should be learning instead the most positive, cooperative, adaptive, and remedial ways for conservation, long-term sustainability, and human survival. 

“Be Extremely Afraid!”

“Tesla CEO Elon Musk (founder of both SpaceX and Tesla) has warned a bipartisan gathering of US governors that government regulation of AI is needed because it's a 'fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation'” (Press, 17/7/17).  So, most ironically, a leading exponent of the new wave of electronic and robotic machines – spanning such things as “solar energy, space travel, self-driving cars”, and other emerging technologies – expresses deep concern about the path humankind is plunging down.

Musk “said the first step is for Government to get a better understanding of the fast-moving achievements in developing AI technology” (ibid.). Ominously enough, he stressed that once the public had gained in awareness, “people will be extremely afraid, as they should be” (ibid.).  Stanley Kubrick's remarkably prophetic film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, pictured the space ship computer Hal (Hell!) trying to take over control of the spacecraft and its mission in malign fashion.  “The Terminator” and other “sci-fi” films have highlighted the emerging dangers. Elon Musk well warns that AI could even trigger a nuclear world war (Prime News, 17/7/17). 

It is certainly the height of irony that Musk “has joined dozens of chief executives of AI companies signing an open letter urging the UN to ban the use of AI in weapons before the technology gets out of hand (“Musk And Experts Seek Ban On AI Weapons”, Press, 23/8/17). Musk and “more than 3,000 AI and robotics researchers” had a similar open letter in 2015 (ibid.). 

US-instigated drone warfare is already running amok, murdering, terrifying, and destabilising peoples (see my “We Must Strike First!: Pre-empting Warfare Strategy And Technology From Spinning Out Of Control” in PR 53, June 2017, Automated weapons would take such practices to a higher, far more dangerous level.

Real Costs Keep Rising

During the nine years of the National government, net GHGEs have gone up by 21% since 2008. “Despite generating 80% of its electricity from renewable sources, among the highest in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, NZ has the second-highest level of emissions per GDP unit in the OECD and fifth highest emissions per capita” (“Environmental Pressures Rising In New Zealand – OECD”, 21/03/17, 

In the new age of the Anthropocene, we are now even getting deeper into a new epoch within this greater era where multiple major disasters are impacting simultaneously around the Earth. As climate change becomes even more severe, many more millions of people are going to be adversely affected. UN agencies and other international bodies are trying to mobilise governments and peoples to take pre-emptive action as much as possible, and as fast as possible. We need to transition and adapt our societies to a low carbon economy.

Certain people and groups will also increasingly turn to “deus ex machina” science fiction type solutions for planetary problems. There are big concerns here. Various fantastical geoengineering proposals are being proposed to purportedly protect the planet. For instance, Jim Flynn, who is Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Otago, thinks it is hopeless to try and persuade political leaders to slow or stop economic growth (“No Place To Hide: Climate Change: A Short Introduction for New Zealanders”, Potton & Burton, 2016). He instead keenly endorses certain grand technocratic schemes.

Grossly Crunching Growth

Flynn himself effectively rejects any limits to growth anyway, most bizarrely thinking that humans can somehow greatly multiply their scale of production and consumption on planet Earth. On the question as to how it all can be sustainable, he is silent. To be sure, Professor Flynn is immersed in technocratic fantasy and ultimately quite off the planet like market technocrats in general. 

While Flynn shows awareness of certain environmental issues, he evinces little understanding of the deeper implications of the inevitable limits to growth other than those posed by climate change. More and more, the very process of economic growth must deepen in its destabilising import. Both global warming and other environmental limits, however interrelated, will inevitably intervene, disrupting and impeding the process.

A prominent political philosopher, Professor Flynn, who is also a committed social democrat, an expert on human intelligence, and a critic of American foreign policy, argues the case for certain “technical fixes” to both buy time to offset the impact of climate change, and effect a longer-term solution (ibid.). He advocates “large-scale engineering intervention in the Earth's climatic system” (ibid.). He labels the opponents of such grandiose schemes as another category of “deniers” of what we obviously need to know and do – just like climate change deniers! (ibid.). To be sure, he accuses his opponents of “delusion”.

Think Big Technology Means Totalitarian Control

Flynn's concern for his fellow humans may indeed be most admirable but, other than in his understanding of the dire nature of anthropogenic climate change, he does not even get off first base on general environmental knowledge and human ecology.  Professor Flynn's own specific “technical fixes”, following certain suggestions by some scientists, are in the realm of “cloud cuckoo-land”, e.g., cloud-seeding of Sun-reflecting white clouds from the mass pumping of sea spray “into the sky”; and for the longer-term, the well-worn fantasy of clean, cheap energy from the “laser or plasma fusion of heavy hydrogen” (ibid.).  Cloud-seeding could have all sorts of harmful environmental effects in itself! 

The idea of hydrogen fusion providing readily accessible and usable energy for endless production and consumption for the world's masses is a “sci-fi” pipe-dream.  Meanwhile, global warming will be increasingly acute given economic expansion, despite our best efforts at avoidance and mitigation. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has indeed appealed for far more urgent and ambitious goals by governments everywhere, given the sharp spurt in temperature increase over 2015-2016, and the consequent weather fallout from melting ice to raging wild fires.

Professorial Ponderings And Pontifications

The type of grand climate geoengineering schemes promoted by Flynn, and similar technocratic enthusiasts, would further consolidate and intensify control by the corporate State and its power elite. Such schemes demand authoritarian or even totalitarian control. While in his argument for “Think Big” geoengineering solutions, Professor Jim Flynn does highlight crucial socio-economic issues, we would do far better here in Aotearoa/NZ to more actively agitate for the adoption of the raft of climate change prevention, mitigation, and adaptation measures advocated by the Royal Society and other soundly science-based groups. This would help set a model for more positive action elsewhere.    

However, if conditions continue to rapidly worsen on planet Earth, and there is real international failure to take sufficiently pre-emptive and adaptive action, then one of the great powers is very likely to take up some sort of geoengineering option. Desperation could well kick in here, whatever the problematic aspects of any geoengineering venture.       

Waking Up To Evolutionary Overshoot

Over the last century or so, human impact on the Earth has grown tremendously, especially since the 1950s. In both scientific terms and the interpretation of human history, the central question is what lies at the core of this development. How we understand it shapes how we address its challenges. At bottom, the evidence is overwhelming that the human experience is rooted in our evolutionary biology and our relationship to the rest of the biosphere. Political economy is embedded in the Earth's ecosystems. For a host of reasons, this underlying truth has been suppressed or avoided in so much of modern culture. For sheer survival and for a future worth living, we must choose the path of REAL sustainable development.


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