Category: Big Picture

Capitalism Has Left the Building. Enter Technofeudalism

MARK LESSERAUX – Over the last four or five years, like just about everyone else, I’ve been feeling that some kind of huge shift, some sort of sea change has taken place that I haven’t quite been able to define. There were certainly occurrences that stood out. There was the Trump presidency, there was the COVID pandemic, there are the horrible wars in Ukraine, in Gaza and elsewhere, etc.. However, none of these phenomena held up, by themselves or in conjunction with one another, as a satisfying answer to my query — What is Technofeudalism and what are its components that are vanguishing capitalism?

We Need a Plan for the Transition to Renewable Energy

DAVID FRIDLEY and RICHARD HEINBERG – It seems wise to channel society’s efforts toward no-regrets strategies—efforts that shift expectations, emphasize quality of life over consumption, and reinforce community resilience. Even though it may be impossible to envision the end result of the renewable energy transition, we must seek to understand its scope and general direction.

Unchecked Human Activity Is Pushing Ecosystems Toward the Brink

ERIKA SCHELBY – The planet is facing multiple severe challenges that require our immediate attention. Putting an end to the dirty and suffocating fossil fuel emissions may be the most significant global priority, but limiting the misuse of water and restoring degraded land are also essential projects. These two actions could help put the brakes on extreme weather events and slow down mounting losses in biodiversity, biocapacity, and the economy.

How to Make Recyclable Plastics Out of CO2 to Slow Climate Change

ANN LESLIE DAVIS – Chemists are manipulating carbon dioxide to make clothing, mattresses, shoes, and more. These products are already on the market around the world. And others are in the process of being developed. They’re part of a growing effort by academia and industry to reduce the damage caused by centuries of human activity that has sent CO2 and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

COP28 pledge to triple nuclear energy production: ‘Trumpism enters energy policy’

FRANCOIS DIAZ-MAURIN – Last week, a group of independent energy consultants and analysts released the much-anticipated 2023 edition of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2023 (WNISR). The report provides a detailed assessment of the status and trends of the international nuclear industry, covering more than 40 countries. Now in its 18th edition, the report is known for its fact-based approach providing details on operation, construction, and decommissioning of the world’s nuclear reactors.

Election Defenders’ Top 2024 Worry: Online Rumors, Deceptions, Lies Swaying Masses

STEVEN ROSENFELD – Rumors, misperceptions, mischaracterizations, deceptions, lies, and violence in politics are as old as America itself, as political historians like Heather Cox Richardson have noted. There is no simple or single solution, said Starbird. Nonetheless, she ended her Stanford address with a “call to action” urging everyone to redouble their efforts in 2024: “We’re not going to solve the problem with misinformation, disinformation, manipulation… with one new label, or a new educational initiative, or a new research program,” she told trust and safety researchers. “It’s going to have to be all of the above… It’s going to be all these different things coming at it from different directions.”

Predicting Pestilence in Gaza

KATHY KELLY – Calling the Israeli-Gaza War a war on children, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder warned that “inaction by those with influence is allowing the killing of children.” We, the citizens of the world, are those with influence as well as our elected officials. It is the citizens of the world who came out by the hundreds of thousands in recent weeks that caused the seven day truce to happen. Now we must urgently pay heed to another persecution of Gaza’s children and families, waged by one of war’s more silent partners: disease. 

The Brotherhood of Billionaires

LAWRENCE S. WITTNER – In recent decades, a growing similarity has developed between the Chinese and U.S. economic systems. Despite the Chinese Communist Party’s talk of “socialism,” the rapidly-expanding Chinese economy has become increasingly capitalist, with the private sector accounting for about two-thirds of China’s Gross Domestic Product in 2021. Not surprisingly, then, the two countries currently lead the rest of the world’s nations in their number of billionaires. This March, according to Forbes, the United States had 735 billionaires (worth a collective $4.5 trillion) and China had 562 (worth $2 trillion) out of a global total of 2,640.

Reactor Plans Smashed by Costs

WILL WADE – NuScale Power Corp., the first company with US approval for a small nuclear reactor design, is canceling plans to build a power plant for a Utah provider as costs surge. The move is a major setback to the burgeoning technology that has been heralded as the next era for atomic energy.

NATO’s Steadfast Noon Is Ready-made Doom

JOHN LAFORGE – Steadfast Noon is not just code language, or public relations. The event is a large-scale, psychological operation intended to teach us to pretend that nuclear attacks can do good. Of course if nuclear firestorms saved lives and ended war — as U.S. mythology goes with Hiroshima and Nagasaki — then the Pentagon would have used them in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. People love to be fooled. 

DOE’s error-ridden analysis on coal CCS project threatens climate and engagement goals

EMILY GRUBERT – Evaluating whether technologies like hydrogen and carbon capture provide more benefit than harm is a critical activity for the U.S. on our decarbonization journey. The risks are large, and serious. The analyses we need are nuanced and require careful attention: this cannot be a “check the box exercise.” Not taking this seriously risks potentially trillions of dollars and billions of tonnes of GHG emissions, not to mention the trust and goodwill of the American public, which is reasonably skeptical of these potentially critically important technologies. The Project Tundra EA is shocking, with scary implications for doing this right. We must do better, and we must demand better. 

Wildfires Aren’t Just a Threat to People-They’re Killing Off Earth’s Biodiversity

REYNARD LOKI – In September 2022, climate journalist and native Oregonian Emma Pattee wrote in the New York Times that “[c]limate scientists estimate that the frequency of large wildfires could increase by over 30 percent in the next 30 years and over 50 percent in the next 80 years, thanks in large part to drought and extreme heat caused by climate change.” That is a frightening prospect not just for humans but for the countless nonhuman animals with whom we share this planet.

Sending Cluster Bombs to Ukraine Is a Grave Mistake

PATRICK HILLER – The War Prevention Initiative condemns the decision by the United States government to send cluster bombs to Ukraine in the latest arms shipment package. Cluster bombs kill and maim civilians indiscriminately during and after war. They are also a major threat to the environment, contaminating land for decades after they are used. In short, cluster bombs do not win wars and will only hurt current and future generations of Ukrainians.

Decency Requires a Change in Immigration Policy

DEREK ROYDEN – In the years ahead, as climate change truly takes hold, wealthier nations are going to have to make even more difficult decisions about what to do about those fleeing unlivable situations. Unfortunately, as the story of the SS St. Louis and more contemporary reactions to migration show, we don’t have a very good track record in this regard. Can we repair our historical amnesia enough to not only avoid committing moral outrage, but once again strengthening our societies by welcoming immigrants and refugees?