Overview: Enabling Measures

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Five Enabling Measures: Outline of Contributions

Enabling Measures (EM) are broad indirect measures that are required to activate the proposed twenty Platform for Survival policies. In this sense they are unlike the twenty planks that are designed to directly address five existential threats. The EM are, therefore, more complex and less precise in their formulation. They may describe clear policy change, but they are also inevitably about large-scale framework adjustments and structural shifts.

For example, whereas plank #9 calls on all states to “adopt norms and procedures for the production, recovery, and recycling of materials”, the related enabling measures could include #21, financial institutional support for a recycling transition, #22, civil society involvement in stimulating and monitoring governments, #23, cities and provincial/state level articulation and implementation of policy, and #24, activist shareholders pressing for changes to corporate standards. There are even broader security implications that relate through EM#25, including a durable global survival ethic.

Not every policy proposal among the core twenty (#1-#20) contemplates collective transformation at the “enabling” level (#21-#25), but the latter are integrally linked with each other and all the existential threats. Global change will require both a practical and philosophical shift in governance and public attitudes. Similarly, publics will affect and be impacted by governments.

The five enabling measures cover wide swaths of categories and were developed to collect and integrate dozens of individual proposed “measures” into coherent groups. This effort was not without some controversy, but the logic of the resulting “five” is worth thinking deeply about. They are, paraphrased, covering these constituencies: Sustainable finance; civil society influence; sub-national governance; investment decision-making; and security. All have bottom up and top down relevance and implications, but citizens must encourage (by voting, through activism and advocacy) and governments must act (on their own, by leading, and in cooperation with others at the local, regional and global levels.)

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We Must Do More To Prevent Nuclear War

Author: Polanyi, John
Publication(s): Times Higher Education
Date: 9 December 2019
Link: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/we-must-do-more-prevent-nuclear-war
Notes: This article shares some similarities with the “What Can Canada Do To Prevent Nuclear War?” talk that Dr. Polanyi gave at the University of Toronto in October 2019.

This is a very interesting article by Dr. John Polanyi. (I have cross-posted this to the Overview: War and Weapons comment section).

This is an interesting partial transcript of a 2010-2011 interview with Mikhail Gorbachev. It certainly holds relevance to the current situation as of 2020.

Title: “We Need a New Economic Model, the Planet is Overburdened” – Mikhail Gorbachev
Author: Reprint of Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev.
Publication(s): Creative by Nature
Date: 28 January 2015
Link: https://creativesystemsthinking.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/we-need-a-new-economic-model-the-planet-is-overburdened-mikhail-gorbachev

Article Excerpt(s):

“We badly need a new economic model… We cannot continue living by ignoring environmental problems. The planet is overburdened… We do not have enough fresh water for the people.. Billions of people are subject to hunger today. So the new model must consider all these needs. This model must be more human and more nature oriented… We are all interconnected but we keep acting as though we are completely autonomous.” ~Mikhail Gorbachev

The following is a partial transcript for a recent video interview with former Soviet president and Nobel Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev on “The urgent need to save the planet,” presented by his non-profit organization Green Cross.

“The most important point is to ensure that our complex, quickly changing and developing world lives in peace. Otherwise we won’t be able to deal with any other problem. We must block any revival of the arms race, new militarization… Without peace there will be nothing.

In terms of the international community, we have gone through a very difficult period, with the financial crisis that struck the world in 2008-2009, and I feel we have not yet come out of this global crisis.

It has been described as a financial crisis, but in my [view] its been a comprehensive global crisis, and it demonstrates that the economic model that has been underlying all systems in practically every nation, but specifically the biggest countries like the United States… has failed.

This model has essentially brought us to the current crisis, so therefore, we need to change this economic model. We badly need a new economic model… that is not based on hyper profits and hyper consumption, but a model that takes into account the depletion of natural resources. It should not ignore the problems of social development, poverty and the social contradictions that exist in the world…

The main point is this model will fail if it does not consider the demands of the environment. This is not a requirement for tomorrow. It is a must for today. We cannot continue living by ignoring environmental problems. The planet is overburdened.

In 2011 the global population [reached] 7 billion. At the beginning of the 20th Century we were just 1.9 billion people on the planet, and now we are 7 billion and by 2050 there will be 9 billion. The planet’s capacity is already over extended.

We do not have enough fresh water for the people. Water shortages will give rise to various military conflicts, which I am sure will happen if we do not resolve the water problems. Same for energy and other challenges, including food security.

Billions of people are subject to hunger today. So the new model must consider all these needs. This model must be more human and more nature oriented, so the relationship between man and nature can respond to the challenges of the modern world.

Last but not least, we have not learned how to live with globalization. We are all interconnected but we keep acting as though we are completely autonomous… We need this new model. We must consolidate all our resources to create such a new model. And we need to finance research into all these problems. We must consolidate all the resources that human kind has to answer these questions.”

~ Mikhail Gorbachev ~”

Full interview is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1xOtxwIaKc

Over the last 2 weeks, I have collected a number of COVID-19 related articles. Many of these articles offer intersectional perspectives on COVID-19. I am sharing these here as these may be of interest to Project Save the World readers. I am additionally cross-posting this to the Overview: Pandemics section.

These articles are arranged alphabetical by author surname.

Title: Pyongyang Might Be Ready for a Helping Hand From Seoul
Author: Abrahamian, Andray
Publication(s): Foreign Policy
Date: 24 April 2020
Link: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/24/kim-virus-korea-pyongyang-might-ready-helping-hand-seoul/
Notes: This article discusses the impacts of COVID-19 on the Korean peninsula and inter-Korean relations. The notion of donor fatigue and sanctions – due to the ongoing nuclear issue – straining potential aid for COVID-19 victims in North Korea is an alarming situation to learn about. The hypothetical possibility of joint, inter-Korean work to produce products needed globally and regionally – such as masks -or joint scientific research on the virus is an interesting venue to consider. The author additionally does acknowledge it may be difficult to gain accurate statistics around the full impact of COVID-19 in North Korea.

Title: Coronavirus could kill 190,000 in Africa, WHO warns: Live updates
Author: Rasheed, Zaheena; Gadzo; Mersiha; and Stepansky, Joseph
Publication(s): Al Jazeera
Date: 8 May 2020
Link: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/brazil-minister-floats-idea-coronavirus-lockdown-live-updates-200506233629569.html
Notes: This article provides daily updates on the global COVID-19 scenario and additionally provides an estimate for the impact of COVID-19 in Africa.

Title: ‘We’re facing a double pandemic’: UN body warns of ‘mega-famines’
Author: Al Jazeera
Publication(s): Al Jazeera
Date: 7 May 2020
Link: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/facing-double-pandemic-body-warns-mega-famines-200507174314330.html
Notes: This article discusses a statement by the United Nations’ World Food Programme on double-pandemics – which pertain to the notion of mega-famines originating as a result of COVID-19.

Title: Coronavirus: Asian Vets Head To Australia To Prepare For Next Pandemic
Author: Bloomberg
Publication(s): South China Morning Post: The Coronavirus Pandemic
Date: 6 May 2020
Link: https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/australasia/article/3083070/coronavirus-southeast-asia-pacific-veterinary-detective-squad
Notes: This timely article by Bloomberg and the South China Morning Post discusses a new proactive approach to monitoring pandemics in the Indo-Pacific region. This approach will also see the training of medical professionals (veterinarian surgeons) in the Pacific and Southeast Asia – including how to detect infectious diseases before they jump to humans, how to collect samples, and how to safely care for sick animals. This additionally has connections to Project Save the World’s Plank 15 and 16 and the notion of strengthening inter-regional and international disease management and surveillance systems, as well as integrating environmental, human, and veterinarian health models (via One Health).

Title: Pandemic Modelling Will Play an Essential Role in Rebooting the Economy
Author: Ciuriak, Dan and Fay, Robert
Publication(s): Centre for International Governance Innovation
Date: 29 April 2020
Link: https://www.cigionline.org/articles/pandemic-modelling-will-play-essential-role-rebooting-economy
Notes: This article discusses the interconnected nature of COVID-19, economic systems, and governance systems – and challenges in rebooting/restarting economies (regional and global) as COVID-19 public health and quarantine measures begin to lift.

Title: Five Reasons To Cut Pentagon Spending In the Era of COVID-19
Author: Hartung, William
Publication(s): Forbes
Date: 16 April 2020
Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamhartung/2020/04/16/five-reasons-to-cut-pentagon-spending-in-the-era-of-covid-19/#70ec364e1fec
Notes: This article explores the possibilities of reducing national security and Pentagon related spending during COVID-19 – and the possibility of reforming these budgets in the long-term. Hartung (2020) identifies that “One of the core weaknesses of the current national security strategy is that it relies disproportionately on the Department of Defense to address all threats. It fails to recognize that the major national security challenges the United States faces are not predominantly military. Climate change, economic inequality, and global health challenges clearly pose serious risks to U.S. security. Cyber defense, espionage, and influence operations are also serious challenges. The military is ill-suited to address these challenges.”

This collection of 3 articles from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists offers an interesting perspective on the interconnections between COVID-19 and nuclear-related industries. I am additionally cross-posting this list to Overview: (Mass) Radiation Exposure and Overview: Pandemics due to its relevance.

Title: How nuclear forces worldwide are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic
Author: Krzyzaniak, John
Publication(s): Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
Date: 14 April 2020
Link: https://thebulletin.org/2020/04/how-nuclear-forces-worldwide-are-dealing-with-the-coronavirus-pandemic

Title: COVID-19 and the Doomsday Clock: Observations on managing global risk
Author: Bulletin Science and Security Board
Publication(s): Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Date: 15 April 2020
Link: https://thebulletin.org/2020/04/covid-19-and-the-doomsday-clock-observations-on-managing-global-risk/

Title: Another victim of the pandemic: trust in the government
Author: Macfarlane, Allison
Publication(s): Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Date: 13 April 2020
Link: https://thebulletin.org/2020/04/another-victim-of-the-pandemic-trust-in-the-government/

This article (an opinion piece) by Dr. Earl Turcotte – the Chair of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW) – offers a critical examination of the links between nuclear disarmament and other global crises, such as pandemics.

Title: Public Health Crisis Offers New Lens Towards Nuclear Disarmament
Author: Earl Turcotte
Publication(s): The Hill Times
Date: 15 April 2020
Link: https://www.hilltimes.com/2020/04/15/public-health-crisis-offers-new-lens-to-denuclearization/243749

If The Hill Times version is behind a paywall, the article is additionally available on CNANW’s website here: https://www.cnanw.ca/2020/04/

[I will cross-post this article / comment to the Overview: Pandemics and Overview: War and Weapons section of Project Save the World as well – as it is quite relevant to those sections too.]

Article Excerpt(s):

“That COVID-19 has created a new global reality is clear. If there is any positive aspect to this unfolding situation, it could be a deeper understanding of the fact that the well-being of people throughout the world is inextricably linked. The COVID crisis might also serve as a cautionary tale, helping us to appreciate the fragility of life and avoid threats to humanity that are within our control. In 2019, a team of researchers at Princeton University simulated a limited exchange of low-yield “tactical” nuclear weapons to depict “a plausible escalating war between the United States and Russia, using realistic nuclear force postures, targets, and fatality estimates.” They concluded that more than 90 million people would be killed or injured within a few hours and many more would die in the years following. This is far from the worst-case scenario. In 1982, the Ronald Reagan administration conducted a war game dubbed “Proud Prophet” that concluded that even a limited nuclear attack on the then-Soviet Union would almost certainly elicit a massive response, resulting in a half-billion people killed in the initial exchanges and many more from radiation and starvation over following decades. To be sure, the nuclear threat has been around for a while. Why worry about it now more than usual, when we have so much else to worry about? Because developments of late have made the “unthinkable”—nuclear Armageddon—more probable than ever; factors that led the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on Jan. 23 of this year to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock up to 100 seconds to midnight, closer than ever before. Over the past few years, nuclear-armed states have embarked on a new nuclear arms race, precipitated by the U.S. under the banner of “modernization.” Russia and the U.S. have produced missiles that can travel up to 27 times the speed of sound and are considered to be unstoppable. There has been steady deterioration of the nuclear arms control regime with U.S. withdrawal and subsequent unravelling of the nuclear deal with Iran; U.S., then Russian withdrawal from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; and U.S. refusal to renew the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia that is set to expire in 2021, to name just a few. Add to the mix rising tension among nuclear-armed states, ongoing testing by North Korea, signs that Iran, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea might also pursue nuclear weapons capability, the possibility that one or more terrorist groups will acquire nuclear weapons and the ever-present potential for human miscalculation or accident. Canada is to be congratulated for recently joining 15 other non-nuclear armed nations in the Stockholm Initiative—led by Sweden—that calls upon nuclear-armed states to “advance nuclear disarmament and ensure in the interest of humanity, nuclear weapons will never be used again.” Does this represent a more forceful posture on nuclear disarmament more generally? We pray it does. Our lives and indeed the future of our planet could depend upon it.”

This article offers an interesting discussion and perspective on the future importance and/or role(s) of NATO.

Title: Is NATO Still Necessary?
Author: Tennison, Sharon; Speedie, David; Mehta, Krishen
Publication(s): The National Interest
Date: 18 April 2020
Link: https://nationalinterest.org/feature/nato-still-necessary-145917?

Article Excerpt(s):

“The coronavirus pandemic that is ravaging the world brings a prolonged public health crisis into sharp focus—along with the bleak prospect of a long-term economic crisis that can destroy the social fabric across nations.

World leaders need to reassess expenditures of resources based on real and present threats to national security—to reconsider how they may be tackled. A continuing commitment to NATO, whose global ambitions are largely driven and funded by the United States, must be questioned.

In 1949, the first Secretary-General of NATO, described NATO’s mission as “to keep Russia out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Seventy years on, the security landscape has totally changed. The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact are no more. The Berlin Wall has fallen, and Germany has no territorial ambitions on its neighbors. Yet, America is still in Europe with a NATO alliance of twenty-nine countries.

In 1993, one of the co-authors, David Speedie, interviewed Mikhail Gorbachev and asked him about the assurances he claimed to have received on NATO’s non-expansion eastwards. His response was blunt: “Mr. Speedie, we were screwed.” He was very clear in his judgment that the trust that the Soviet Union had placed in the West, with the reunification of Germany and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, was not reciprocated.

This raises a fundamental question: whether NATO today enhances global security or in fact diminishes it.

We believe that there are ten main reasons that NATO is no longer needed:

One: NATO was created in 1949 for the three main reasons outlined above. These reasons are no longer valid. The security landscape in Europe is totally different today than seventy years ago. Russian president Vladimir Putin actually proposed a new continental security arrangement “from Dublin to Vladivostok,” which was rejected out of hand by the West. If accepted, then it would have included Russia in a cooperative security architecture that would have been safer for the global community.

Two: It is argued by some that the threat of present-day Russia is why America needs to stay in Europe. But consider this: The economy of the EU was $18.8 trillion before Brexit, and it is $16.6 Trillion after Brexit. In comparison, the economy of Russia is only $1.6 trillion today. With an EU economy more than ten times the economy of Russia, do we believe that Europe cannot afford its own defense against Russia? It is important to note that the UK will surely stay in a Euro defense alliance and will very likely continue to contribute to that defense.

Three: Cold War I was one of extreme global risk—with two superpower adversaries each armed with thirty-thousand-plus nuclear warheads. The current environment presents an even greater danger, that of extreme instability arising from non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Russia and the NATO principals are uniquely capable of addressing these threats—if they act in concert.

Four: The only time a NATO member has invoked Article 5 (the “attack on one is attack on all” clause) was the United States after the terrorist attack of Sept 11, 2001. The real enemy was not another nation but the common threat of terrorism. Russia has consistently advanced this reason for cooperation—indeed Russia provided invaluable logistical intelligence and base support for the post–9/11 Afghan engagement. Coronavirus has dramatized another grave concern: that of terrorists possessing and using biological weapons. This cannot be underestimated in the climate in which we now live.

Five: When Russia has a potential enemy on its border, as with 2020 NATO military exercises, Russia will be more compelled to veer toward autocracy and the weakening of democracy. When citizens feel threatened, they want leadership that is strong and affords them protection.

Six: The military actions of NATO in Serbia under President Clinton and in Libya under President Barack Obama, along with almost twenty years of war in Afghanistan—the longest in our history—were substantially U.S. driven. There is no “Russia factor” here, yet these conflicts are used to argue a raison d’etre chiefly to confront Russia.

Seven: Along with climate change, the greatest existential threat is that of a nuclear holocaust—this sword of Damocles still hangs over all of us. With NATO having bases in twenty-nine countries, many along Russia’s borders, some within artillery range of St. Petersburg, we run the risk of a nuclear war that could destroy humankind. The risk of accidental or “false alarm” was documented on several occasions during the Cold War and is even more frightful now, given the Mach 5 speed of today’s missiles.

Eight: As long as the United States continues to spend close to 70 percent of its discretionary budget on the military, there will always be a need for enemies, whether real or perceived. Americans have the right to ask why such exorbitant “spending” is necessary and whom does it really benefit? NATO expenditures come at the expense of other national priorities. We are discovering this in the midst of the coronavirus when the health-care systems in the west are woefully underfinanced and disorganized. Diminishing the cost and needless expense of NATO will make room for other national priorities of greater good to the American public.

Nine: We have used NATO to act unilaterally, without congressional or international legal approval. America’s conflict with Russia is essentially political, not military. It cries out for creative diplomacy. The truth is that America needs more robust diplomacy in international relations, not the blunt military instrument of NATO.

Ten: Lastly, exotic war games in Russia’s neighborhood—coupled with a tearing up of arms control treaties—provides a growing threat that can destroy everyone, particularly when international attention is focused on a more elusive “enemy.” The coronavirus has joined the list of global threats that demand cooperation rather than confrontation even more urgently than before.

There will inevitably be other global challenges that countries will face together over time. However, NATO at seventy is not the instrument to address them. It is time to move on from this curtain of confrontation and craft a global security approach, one that addresses the threats of today and tomorrow. “

These 2 articles are quite interesting and discuss the evolving and ongoing geopolitical situation in the Arctic.

In your opinion, what are the most important geopolitical and other elements of emerging and future Arctic policies?

Title: Why Russia’s Arctic Strategy Requires A Realistic Response From Canada
Author: Braun, Aurel and Blank, Stephen J.
Publication(s): Macdonald-Laurier Institute
Date: 9 April 2020
Link: https://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/russias-arctic-strategy-requires-realistic-response-canada-new-mli-report-aurel-braun-stephen-j-blank

Title: U.S. Says Arctic No Longer Immune from Geopolitics As It Invests $12m in Greenland
Author: Humpert, Malte
Publication(s): High North News
Date: 29 April 2020
Link: https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/us-says-arctic-no-longer-immune-geopolitics-it-invests-12m-greenland

It is particularly alarming to hear – via statements in Humpert’s article – that the United States of America. did not mention climate change in many of the documents outlining their Arctic and regional policies.

This is an interesting article discussing the links between militarism (specifically in the US context) and climate change. For those of you interested in this subject, a similar article – by Tamara Lorincz – was published in the April to June 2020 Edition of Peace magazine.

Title: ‘No Warming, No War’: Report Details How US Militarism and Climate Crisis Are Deeply Interwoven
Author: Corbett, Jessica
Publication(s): Common Dreams
Date: 23 April 2020
Link: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/04/23/no-warming-no-war-report-details-how-us-militarism-and-climate-crisis-are-deeply

Lorincz’s (2020) article – on a similar topic to Corbett’s (2020) – is available here:

Title: Burning and Bombing: Military Expenditures, Military Emissions and the Climate Emergency
Author: Lorincz, Tamara
Publication(s): Peace Magazine
Date: April to June 2020
Link: http://peacemagazine.org/archive/index.php?id=2706

This article – written by Retired Senator Douglas Roche – discusses the interconnection of conflicts / wars and COVID-19. The article is very interesting, relevant, and encourages a broader examination of conflicts/wars and how these shape common and international security. Retired Senator Roche’s article (2020) additionally offers broader lessons on the interconnected nature and risks of conflicts/wars and other global crises.

Retired Senator Roche is also a panelist in Project Save the World’s podcast and talk show – featured in Episode 2 (Abolition of Nuclear Weapons) and Episode 47 (After the INF Treaty?).

Please note this link is for an edition of the article published on Pugwash Canada’s website. The original article was published in The Hill Times – a news publication based in Ottawa and focused on the Parliament of Canada.

Title: Warring Parties Must Lay Down Weapons To Fight Bigger Battle Against COVID-19
Author: Roche, Retired Senator Douglas
Publication(s): Pugwash Canada (originally The Hill Times)
Date: 6 April 2020
Link: https://pugwashgroup.ca/warring-parties-must-lay-down-weapons-to-fight-bigger-battle-against-covid-19/

A .pdf of the article is additionally available on Retired Senator Roche’s personal website: http://roche.apirg.org/public_html/writings/documents/nuclear/040620_htRoche.pdf

Article Excerpt(s):

“UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s plea to ‘silence the guns’ would create corridors for lifesaving aid and open windows for diplomacy in the war-torn zones in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the central areas of Africa.”

“The Hill Times, 6 April 2020

EDMONTON—”The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.” In one short sentence, UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the door to a new understanding of what constitutes human security. Will governments seize the opportunity provided by the immense crisis of COVID-19 to finally adopt a global agenda for peace?

In an extraordinary move on March 23, Guterres urged warring parties around the world to lay down their weapons in support of the bigger battle against COVID-19 the common enemy now threatening all of humanity. He called for an immediate global ceasefire everywhere: “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”

His plea to “silence the guns” would create corridors for life-saving aid and open windows for diplomacy in the war-torn zones in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the central areas of Africa.

But the full meaning of Guterres’s appeal is much bigger than only suspending existing wars. It is a wakeup call to governments everywhere that war does not solve existing problems, that the huge expenditures going into armaments divert money desperately needed for health supplies, that a bloated militarism is impotent against the new killers in a globalized world.

All the armies in the world can’t stop COVTD-19. It’s a dark and scary moment when a bunch of microbes brings humanity to its knees. We’ve come to a turning point in world history. The old ways of building security—bigger and better weapons—are completely irrelevant now.

So what do we do when a virus blatantly crosses borders and ignores strategic weapons systems? More of the same thinking that deceived people into believing that as long as we had big guns we would be safe won’t do. We have to overhaul our thinking.

“Big thinking” is not just a bromide. It’s now essential for survival. We have to build a system to provide common security. In the midst of the Cold War four decades ago, an all-star international panel led by Swedish prime minister Olof Palme established the principle that, in the age of weapons of mass destruction, no nation by itself can find security. Nations can only find security in cooperation and not at one another’s expense. Common security, Palme argued, requires an end to arms competitions, national restraint, and a spirit of collective responsibility and mutual confidence.

Over the following years, the idea of common security broadened out beyond military measures to include new streams of cooperation in economic and social development and protection of the environment.

Suddenly, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. The Soviet Union imploded.The Cold War ended. In 1992, the UN secretary-general at the time, Boutros Boutros-Ghali wrote a stunning document, Agenda for Peace, incorporating the ideas of common security into practical programs for peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping.

But instead of overhauling the global security system to provide common security for everyone, governments lumbered on and threw the peace dividend they had in their hands out the window. The Western countries expanded NATO up to Russia’s borders. Russia invaded Crimea. Arms expenditures shot up. Governments squandered a magnificent opportunity to build a world of peace.The culture of war was too strong and the moment was lost.

Three decades ago, the great historian Barbara Tuchman and author of The March of Folly was right when she wrote: “Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of pre-conceived notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs.”

Now, in the current crisis, Guterres is telling us that continuation of the “folly” of war is jeopardizing the security for all—the rich as well as the marginalized.The Trump administration’s call for $46-billion more for nuclear weapons when the country can’t even provide enough masks for health workers in treating COVID-19 is obscene beyond words.

And what about Canada? The government plans to increase defence spending to $32-billion by 2027. Why? To appease U.S. Donald President Trump’s gargantuan military appetite driving NATO states to spend two percent of their GDP on weaponry and all that goes with it. We can beat COVID-19 by spending money on health and development measures, not arms.

Far better to cut Canada’s planned defence spending by 10 per cent and put an extra $2-billion to $3-billion into the UN’S Sustainable Development Goals, the 17-point program centring around huge improvements in maternal health, water systems and sustainable agriculture. But we can’t get there with a continuation of “ordinary” planning. We need truly bold thinking to beat back the threat posed to common security by COVID-19.

The Canadian government wants to show what it could do on the Security Council. Switching political thinking from the culture of war to a culture of peace would be worthy of the greatest health challenge Canada has faced in the past hundred years.”

This is an interesting article about how mines and pipelines are being considered essential services in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have additionally heard that many construction projects are considered essential services, though an increasing number have shut down in recent weeks due to limited availability of deliveries, supplies, etc. What are folks thoughts on this?

Niki Ashton — an NDP MP representing Churchill-Keewatinook Aski (Manitoba) — summed up one approach quite succinctly via asking ““Are diamonds and gold really essential services right now? No,” she said, referring to mining operations still running in Canada’s North.”

Of further concern is that some Indigenous and northern communities are reporting a lack of testing availability. Dr. Esther Tailfeathers – a Blackfoot physician in Cardston, Alberta – identifies in the video in the article linked below how only 15 COVID-19 tests were available for a First Nations community of 12 000 individuals. The community additionally has a limited number of physicians, 19 hospital beds, and 0 ventilators.

Title: Pipeline, Mine Work Sites Deemed Essential Services Worry Some Canadians
Author: Morin, Brandi
Publication(s): Huffington Post (HuffPost Canada)
Date: 21 April 2020
Link: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/pipelines-essential-services-coronavirus-mines-pipelines-indigenous_ca_5e9668b8c5b6ead1400463a0

Article Excerpt(s):

“People who live in remote and Indigenous communities across Canada are questioning the classification of industrial projects like mines and pipelines as essential services, especially when it appears the “business as usual” approach goes against advice to physical distance as much as possible during the pandemic.

Delee Nikal, a Wet’suwet’en band member of the Gitdumt’en clan from the Witset First Nation, travelled to Houston, B.C. for a grocery run last weekend. It’s in the Bulkley Valley, population 3,600, close to construction for Coastal GasLink’s liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline project.

She noticed a lot of trucks in a hotel parking lot and was appalled at what she saw.

“There were guys all over there. Some were standing outside, shirtless, drinking beer with each other,” Nikal told HuffPost Canada. Their out-of-province licence plates and heavy-duty gear led her to suspect they were pipeline workers. “It’s scary because they have no connection to us locals — they don’t care.”

Her uncle, Chief Dsta’hyl, whose English name is Adam Gagnon and is a wing chief of Sun House of the Laksamshu Wet’suwet’en clan, wants the pipeline work shut down. He disagrees with authorities defining industrial projects as essential services, a designation determined by provincial and territorial governments.

“They’re committing economic treason,” said Gagnon.

In Valemount, about 600 kilometres east of Houston, CN is shipping in over 100 workers next month to complete annual maintenance on its railway tracks, according to “John,” a CN maintenance worker. He requested anonymity due to job security concerns. The influx would increase Valemount’s population of 1,000 by 10 per cent.

“I’m trying to follow protocols as much as I can,” he said. “But it’s business as usual for the big industry players. Physical distancing is impossible to impose in certain working conditions here.”

John said that during morning safety meetings, at least 25 workers are tightly packed into a small space and move through a narrow hallway, often touching shoulders while walking. He can’t keep two metres from his main co-worker because they travel in the same vehicle and eat their meals in it.

“[Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau and health ministers are telling people to stay home and not touch their face — so how does that work? Because this whole industry world isn’t abiding by the same rules.”

In such rural areas, temporary workers and locals shop in the same stores, or employees live with others in the community, so the risk of transmission cannot be avoided.

On Monday, officials said seven B.C. workers tested positive for the novel coronavirus after returning from an oilsands project in northern Alberta. In High River, Alta., located south of Calgary with a population of 14,000, there are now 358 confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to an outbreak at the local Cargill meat-packing plant.

John said he’s thought of quitting, but it’s a difficult choice between work and health when he has bills to pay. He said he’s not worried for himself as much as others in the region if there was an outbreak, especially those who are elderly or immuno-compromised.

Nancy Taylor, 70, who lives in the nearby town of Dunster, is avoiding shopping in Valemount for that reason.

“I think it’s a double standard for all of us in the valley to be socially isolating and sticking to the rules and they (industry) can just come and go,” said Taylor, who is statistically less likely to survive if she contracts COVID-19 at her age.

However, rail transportation is critical to keeping supply chains going, and shutting work down isn’t possible, even in a pandemic, said CN media relations manager Jonathan Abecassis.

“CN is an essential part of the many supply chains Canadians rely on to get the goods they need. As an essential service in Canada, this includes completing safety critical work to ensure a safe and efficient rail infrastructure,” he said.

CN’s pandemic plan aligns with the World Health Organization, as well as provincial and federal authorities, Abecassis said. It includes procedures for self-isolation if an employee or someone they live with has symptoms of COVID-19.

“Employees have also been instructed to respect the protocols in place to maintain a safe working environment, including physical distancing requirements especially as they work in small communities across our network,” he said in an email to HuffPost.

Adding further pressure on the small community is the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, slated to start construction in the area soon. It plans to bring in 50 employees to begin assembling a work camp south of Valemount, which will have a capacity of between 600 to 900 people.

Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton is calling for federal leaders to step in and shut down all industrial projects amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Are diamonds and gold really essential services right now? No,” she said, referring to mining operations still running in Canada’s North.

Industry work camps tend to be in “northern regions, or adjacent or on Indigenous communities that are extremely vulnerable,” said Ashton, who represents the sprawling riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski.

These are ”regions that are completely unprepared to deal with a minimal spread [of COVID-19], let alone a surge. The idea of leaving it up to the provinces, and worst of all, leaving it up to employers whose obviously number one goal here is continued operations for profit …. is in stark contrast to what we need to be prioritizing right now, which is people’s health.”

At a press conference earlier this month, N.W.T. MLA Katrina Nokleby noted, “Safety is our number one priority, but next to that is ensuring that our economy remains healthy and people feel secure.” She expressed confidence in measures taken by resource companies and called them “strong corporate citizens.”

Public health officials in N.W.T. have ordered mining, oil and gas companies to screen employees entering the territory, and the firms have enhanced cleaning and added physical distancing measures including segregating southern and northern workers, according to Nokleby.

Dominion Diamond Mines suspended operations at its Ekati site in March to “safeguard its employees” during the pandemic, while the Diavik diamond mine, owned by Rio Tinto, remains open with about 500 people on site.

“Our focus is on the health and safety of our employees and communities, and on keeping our operations running safely so we can continue to contribute to the Northwest Territories economy,” said spokesperson Matthew Klar in a statement to HuffPost. Diavik has changed the frequency of shift roster changes from two weeks to four weeks, and employees from 12 isolated northern communities or who have specific risk factors remain off-site.

In B.C.’s Bulkley Valley, Coastal GasLink is following guidelines for construction sites and industrial work camps set by the provincial health officer, such as setting a maximum of 50 workers in dining and common areas, and increasing the number of hand-washing stations on work sites.

But there’s another layer to the concerns over Coastal GasLink’s LNG pipeline project that has faded during the pandemic: hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs continue to oppose the construction running through their traditional territory.

Solidarity protests and blockades that shut down many of Canada’s transportation corridors in February built momentum, leading to an intense, three-day emergency meeting between government officials, hereditary chiefs and Wet’suwet’en elected leadership.

Then, the pandemic hit.

‘They’re out there killing the land’
Nikal and her fellow “land defenders” were forced to isolate on their home reserves to avoid the coronavirus, which First Nations are particularly vulnerable to.

“This is heartbreaking,” Nikal said, of not being able to protect her ancestors’ lands currently being “dug up” by construction workers.

“Wet’suwet’en lands are at risk, let alone the people’s health from the coronavirus,” said Kate Gunn of First Peoples Law, who represents Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders. “Many First Nations and Indigenous communities have to divert their internal capacity to keep themselves safe in this pandemic. They can’t send resources out to protect the land right now.”

It’s business as usual on the near $7-billion project slated to carry LNG through northern B.C. to export to Asian markets. This week, Coastal GasLink announced it completed a construction milestone for the first part of the pipeline route.

“They’re out there killing the land. The workers and COVID are a huge threat to us now,” said Nikal.”

Freeze carbon tax, delay new climate regulations during coronavirus crisis, oil lobby asks

What are folks’ thoughts on this article and the scenarios which it discusses?

Title: Freeze carbon tax, delay new climate regulations during coronavirus crisis, oil lobby asks
Author: Rabson, Mia
Publication(s): CBC News (CBC Edmonton)
Date: 17 April 2020
Link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/carbon-tax-climate-regulation-covid-oil-lobby-letter-1.5535601

Article Excerpt(s):

“Canada’s oil and gas producers have asked the federal government to freeze the carbon tax and delay new climate change regulations while the industry weathers the storm of COVID-19.

In a letter to Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan sent March 27, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers CEO Tim McMillan said Canada’s energy sector is facing an unprecedented fiscal assault from a global collapse in oil prices.

The combination of plummeting demand and a production war between Saudi Arabia and Russia pushed prices down all over the world. In Western Canada, heavy crude prices fell below $5 a barrel again this week, less than a tenth of what it traded for a year ago.

The crisis has led to an all-hands-on-deck lobbying effort, with CAPP recording at least 29 meetings with federal officials and cabinet ministers between March 12 and March 29.

Environment critics, however, see the list of demands as the industry’s attempt to use the COVID-19 crisis as cover to curb health and safety policies, and put off regulations that will help the environment.

“It’s a crass attempt to take advantage of a global health crisis,” said Dale Marshall, national climate program manager with Environmental Defence.

He said many of the requests are about things CAPP has repeatedly lobbied against without success up to now, including the carbon price, clean-fuel standards and restrictions on methane emissions from oil production.

Government asked to take ‘tools-down approach’

In an interview with The Canadian Press, McMillan said the root of the requests comes from the industry’s need to maintain safe and essential operations as it follows health guidelines. That includes limiting employees on work sites and maintaining physical distancing for those who need to be there.

The industry also wants to ensure no new laws or regulations are implemented until proper consultations can be completed, and that the industry is given time to recover from this price shock.

McMillan told O’Regan the fossil fuel sector wants to both survive the crisis and be part of Canada’s economic recovery when it has been resolved.

“We encourage them to have a tools-down approach until we have a resolution of the crisis,” he said Thursday.

Among CAPP’s requests are delays to reporting requirements for greenhouse gas emissions, deferring the 2020 requirements for a number of reports on compliance with environmental and safety recommendations, and extending deadlines for reporting on things like air and water pollution.

The industry also wants promised changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to be put off because the needed consultations can’t happen while public gatherings and travel are not allowed.

The law, which governs toxic substances, has been under review since 2016 and the House of Commons environment committee recommended more than 80 changes to it in 2017. The Liberal government held off on implementing any of them until after the 2019 election.

Finally, CAPP wants the Liberal government to delay some major policies and regulations to allow the industry to recover from the economic shock.

That includes freezing the carbon price at $30 a tonne for the foreseeable future, putting off plans to implement a clean-fuel standard from 2022 to 2025, and doing nothing more to cut greenhouse gas emissions, including bringing in its promised legislation to set five-year, legally binding targets on its way to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Marshall said the industry is saying it isn’t safe to send in people to do the required monitoring and testing to meet environmental standards, but is continuing to have hundreds of people on oilsands work sites. There was a COVID-19 outbreak at one of those sites this week.

Marshall said the industry says this is about health and safety but much of what it wants delayed or suspended puts human health at risk from more air or water pollution.”

This article may be of interest to Project Save the World readers, particularly those interested in the Enabling Measures section.

Title: What Is the Shadow Economy and Why Does It Matter? Unlicensed construction or illegal sales by food vendors–it all has an impact on the real economy
Author: Constable, Simon
Publication(s): The Wall Street Journal
Date: 5 March 2017 / 6 March 2017
Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-is-the-shadow-economy-and-why-does-it-matter-1488769322
Note: Article may be behind a paywall. See “article excerpt(s)” section below.

Article Excerpt(s):

“The shadow economy is perhaps best described by the activities of those operating in it: work done for cash, where taxes aren’t paid, and regulations aren’t strictly followed.

Most of the businesses operating in the shadow economy aren’t what most people would think of as criminal enterprises, says Cristina Terra, professor of economics at Essec Business School in France, and author of the book “Principles of International Finance and Open Economy Macroeconomics.”

“Those involved aren’t paying taxes, but they are typically producing goods that formal firms would produce,” she says. Such activities could include unlicensed construction or illegal sales by food vendors.

The size of this sector of the economy has grown large in some countries.

“As a percentage of GDP, it ranges from 25-60% in South America, [and] from 13-50% in Asia,” according to a recent paper by Prof. Terra.

Among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the so-called rich countries, the average size of the shadow economy is smaller, at around 15%, though for some European countries the figure is as high as 30%, according to the report.

This issue matters now for two main reasons.

“For some countries, it is [important] due to budget deficits,” says Prof. Terra. The government simply isn’t collecting enough revenue. “When the informal firms [of the shadow economy] become formal, they start paying taxes.”

The other reason: “Informal firms are constrained in their growth,” says Prof. Terra. “If they grow too big, they attract attention from the government. In addition, they don’t have access to credit markets.”When the percentage of economic activity in the shadow economy is high, these constraints slow down the entire economy.”

Dr. Richard Denton — Co-Chair of IPPNW North America — recently shared this letter from the President of IPPNW Canada (Dr. Jonathan Down). Dr. Denton’s further comments are shared in the comment below this one. Please note that Dr. Denton is additionally the coordinator of “Stop Nuclear Contamination” – available on Project Save the World’s Global Project section at: https://tosavetheworld.ca/stop-nuclear-contamination/

Letter from Dr. Down:

“Dear Fellow Rotarians:

Here is a letter from the President of IPPNW Canada who expresses what I feel are excellent sentiments that I can’t improve upon;

“Our world has turned upside down in just a few weeks. The COVID-19 virus is the greatest disease threat in a century. We hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well. We are in this together and we appreciate our special privilege of life in Canada.

We are deeply grateful to the frontline workers in our health care system: our colleagues, nurses, aides, technicians, secretaries, cleaning and dietary staff. We are also grateful for those providing essential services in grocery stores, pharmacies, transportation and all the invisible jobs that keep the lights on and our society functioning. We know you are putting yourselves on the line, and that many of you are exhausted.

As President of IPPNW Canada, I had planned an enthusiastic letter to tell you of our engagement with high schools and medical students, and our success in meeting with municipal councils to sign the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. All of those projects are now on hold.

Some commentators compare this crisis as a war, but we do not see it as war. Using the war metaphor gives traction to the notion that more military equipment is needed to save us from COVID-19 virus. War is the deliberate killing of one group of people by another. Instead we need to see it as a challenge to healing. The collaboration of scientists and teams of health care providers working together against time to save lives is not akin to aggression. This global effort is one of unity in the face of calamity. We ask everyone to support their local health workers and to follow the requirements of our public health officials to protect as many people as possible from the virus. We will get through this together.

Across the country, people are rising up and working together to support the weakest members of their communities. We see them volunteering to help the elderly and the infirm who need groceries and medications picked up, to help care for children so their parents can work in essential services. We hear musicians performing free concerts online to bring us together and keep our spirits up. We see people offering help regardless of religion or race or ethnicity.

Being isolated at home gives us unexpected insights into the differences between our real needs and the luxuries we thought were important just a few weeks ago. 

We must not minimize the suffering and loss we face ahead, but we need to recognize that the pandemic will end and we will have to address the weaknesses of our economic system, employment, education, and the governance of our country.

Two things are happening at once: the collapse of many of the institutions we have always relied on, and the building of a new global civilization through the cooperation and trust growing as we face a common threat.

Medicine has much to offer in providing a vision for the future. In medicine we speak of the social determinants of health: stable income, employment and working conditions, education, childhood experiences, physical environments, social supports, healthy behaviours, and access to health services. Almost all of these are affected by this pandemic. As we restore our society in the aftermath of this devastating upheaval, we must guarantee international peace or restoration will be impossible. 

For decades, IPPNW doctors have studied the characteristics of peaceful communities and how to build on those strengths. We need compassion, honesty, integrity and determination to build a society that supports the determinants of good health.

IPPNWC is updating our Peaceful Childhoods Kit to help parents, teachers, doctors and support workers in the community, to address the needs of children experiencing loss, instability, and fear. Refugees, migrants and indigenous children need special support and help from communities. IPPNW Canada will focus on how we can sustain healthy and peaceful communities.

Building trust between nations is essential because we know how dependent we are on each other. The mutual trust between President Reagan and President Gorbachev led to major steps in nuclear disarmament. Civil Society played a major part in citizen diplomacy between the East and West before their talks. In fact, IPPNW won the Nobel Peace Prize for that work. We must strengthen our commitment to our peace-building role and reject arguments that increase hatred and exclusion.

In the difficult time ahead we will use this website to post articles and our vision for a peaceful world that can more effectively prevent another pandemic. We invite you to join us as Active Members and participate in our Zoom conferences on our role in working toward healing our planet. 

Warm regards, 

Jonathan Down, MD, FRCP(C), (paediatrician in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)”

[This letter is being shared per a request from Project Save the World’s coordinator, Professor Metta Spencer].

Dr. Denton’s additional comments to the above-letter:

“To this I would like to add that this pandemic has highlighted that our safety and security is threatened by global problems that require global solutions that don’t rely on the military. Climate change, nuclear weapons and now this Covid-19 (see https://tosavetheworld.ca/) has shown that these are some of the problems that cannot be contained by walls or closing borders but need international cooperation through the proper funding of world bodies like the United Nations (UN), World Health Organization (WHO), Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), and the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). We also need to fund our own state/provincial and municipal public health departments and be better prepared for world problems.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.” “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.  It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.” 

Surprisingly, he is being listened as soldiers in Afghanistan, Cameroon, Colombia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen have all "expressed their acceptance for the call," Guterres said. We Rotarians4Nuclear Ban support SG Guterres call of ceasefire and work on addressing Covid-19. We support lifting sanctions to countries to allow medical aid for humanitarian reasons. This coronavirus maybe preventing the IAEA inspectors from making sure that Iran is not making nuclear weapons and thus helping Iran with medical help, will actually make the world safer. In Canada’s capital of Ottawa, we have the largest North American military exhibition each spring, CANSEC, that has now been cancelled by this latest microbe.

The Canadian branch of World Beyond War stated that “CANSEC is a public health threat at any time, regardless of the coronavirus. The weapons it markets endanger the lives of people around the world with violence and conflict. Wars kill, maim, traumatize, and displace millions of civilians. Even distant wars make those whose governments wage them less safe by fueling hatred, resentment, and blowback from victimized peoples. In fact, studies show that nonviolent resistance is twice as successful as armed resistance. War is a top contributor to the global climate crisis and a direct cause of lasting environmental damage. And, on top of all that, war is bad for business. Studies show that a dollar spent on education and health care would produce more jobs than the same dollar spent in the war industry.

Consider this: At current levels, just 1.5% of global military spending could end starvation on earth. Last year, the Government of Canada spent $31.7 billion on the military, putting it at 14th highest in the world according to the Public Accounts of Canada. Plus, Canada plans to buy a new fleet of fighter jets for $19 billion and build a fleet of warships for $70 billion. With the world facing catastrophic climate change impacts, a rising risk of nuclear war, growing economic inequality, a tragic refugee crisis, and now the coronavirus pandemic, military spending must be rapidly redirected to vital human and environmental needs. Instead of increased weapons stockpiling, arms factories must be converted through a just transition that secures the livelihoods of arms industry workers.”

We must work together. We can control this coronavirus with social distancing, washing hands, using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by our first line health care providers and us citizens, drugs and ventilators and preventing it with vaccinations that will come.

Unfortunately, there is no emergency response to a nuclear war, only prevention by abolishing all nuclear weapons.

They don’t give us security or deterrence against accidents, miscalculations or terrorists. We can do this by working on “Back from the Brink program” https://www.psr.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/back-from-the-brink.pdf, on “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” about divestment of your funds from nuclear weapons” https://www.dontbankonthebomb.com/2019-producers-executive-summary/ and endorsing the Japanese Survivors’ Appeal to Abolish Nuclear Weapons at https://rotarians.peaceinstitute.org

Additional Notes:

[My apologies for any formatting errors as this was copied and pasted from a document distributed by e-mail.]

“Visit:

“What if we nuke a city?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iPH-br_eJQ that tells in 4 minutes what would happen to your city if a nuclear bomb was dropped on it.

“How to dismantle a nuclear bomb” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_PXorv5pB4 this tells you in under 2.5 minutes how to do it.

“The Man Who Saved the World” https://vimeo.com/ondemand/themanwhosavedtheworld1 is a longer movie about a Russian who refused to launch Soviet missiles at the USA when he thought that there were American missiles coming at the USSR “The World is My Country” https://www.theworldismycountry.com/ is just over an hour long movie about American Garry Davis who after WWII, renounced his American citizenship to become the first world citizen as he believed that nationalism was the cause of wars.

“International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons” https://www.icanw.org/

#RAGFPnukefreeplanet on facebook and twitter
#Rotarians4Ban and @Rotarians4NuclearBan

In this 75th year of the United Nations that Rotary played a key role in its formation and of the Declaration of Human Rights, let us work together, to tackle this and future pandemics, climate change and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Instead of resisting to changes, surrender. Let life be with you, not against you. If you think 'My life will be upside down' don't worry. How do you know down is not better than upside? – Shams of Tabriz

The crisis makes us see what is really essential.
We learn to stay humble in the midst of not knowing.
Do we really want to back to normal?

Conflict Transformation says … see conflict as a catalyst for constructive change.

Nuclear weapons: Only abolition will protect us from a planetary humanitarian crisis

  1. Is this the truth? Yes, deterrence is a myth. If nuclear weapons are not eliminated, it is only a matter of time until they are used.
  2. Is it beneficial to all concerned? Yes! With zero nuclear weapons, we can continue to work for an inclusive and green planet.
  3. Will it build good will and better friendships? Yes! Abolition of nuclear weapons will free us from distrust and fear.
  4. Is it fair to all concerned? Yes! With abolition, all people, all Rotarians, will be safe from nuclear war.

RAGFPNukeFreePlanet@gmail.com We are People of Action: Educate, Eliminate”

[My apologies for any formatting errors as this was copied and pasted from a document distributed by e-mail.]

This is an interesting article on the impacts of COVID-19 on electoral systems in Africa. Many electoral systems on the continent are already sensitive political systems and social environments. A widespread pandemic is leading to concerns of the failing or increasing instability of regional democratic systems.

Title: African Elections in the Time of Coronavirus
Author: Tyburski, Luke
Publication(s): Africa Source: The Atlantic Council
Date: 24 March 2020
Link: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/africasource/african-elections-in-the-time-of-coronavirus/

Article Excerpt(s):

“African elections slated for 2020 are already being affected by COVID-19, with the potential for delays and disruptions to have significant impact on election credibility, political trust, and adherence to term limits across the continent.

In a year of high-profile elections across the continent, logistical preparations are already ongoing and were meant to be ratcheting up in places like Ghana, which is slated for presidential polls in December, and Ethiopia, where parliamentary polls are set for August. Both countries still need to prepare the voter roll, but bans on public gatherings have flipped electoral timelines on their head. Ghana’s Electoral Commission has announced an indefinite delay of the voter registration exercise, though it promises to resume as soon as possible. With elections approaching sooner and facing a larger population, Ethiopia’s logistical dilemma is even greater. Registration was intended for April with campaigning to begin in May, both well within the window in which COVID-19 looms large.

While election delays would likely prompt bigger headlines than truncated registration periods, the importance of these pre-election logistics cannot be overlooked. The international community should be especially vigilant under these circumstances and be willing to speak up sooner rather than later if countries pursue untenable schedules that imperil the underlying credibility of the polls.

Unfortunately, decisions to delay or revise election programming are bound to be politicized. Opposition groups across the continent are already using governments’ virus response as a means to criticize ruling parties. The General Secretary of Ghana’s main opposition party, for example, has claimed that the ban on public gatherings is a conspiracy to rig the election. This comes as many elections on the continent already face significant trust deficits and a status quo of losing parties crying foul (based on evidence of irregularities or otherwise). In 2019, all nine of the presidential contests on the continent were marred by alleged irregularities, with losing parties taking the results to court in all but Senegal and South Africa. Coronavirus disruptions and accompanying disputes risk further cementing this sub-optimal status quo.

An element of African elections that had been improving as of late is adherence to term limits. This past year, Mauritania’s leader stepped down abiding by term limits, and looking ahead, Presidents Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire and Nkurunziza of Burundi have agreed not to run for additional terms in 2020. Burundi goes to the polls in May, while Côte d’Ivoire will do so in October. While there have been no definitive signs of these politicians altering course at the time of writing, the potential for coronavirus-related states of emergency to be abused cannot be ignored. Further scrutiny should be placed on Burundi, where even if Nkurunziza keeps his promise, his ruling party may be incentivized to skew the playing field toward their new candidate, who analysts say may be the underdog in a free election. The polls are unlikely to be fully credible, and certainly will not be sufficiently observed, but careful attention should be placed on further attempts to restrict campaigning, which would disproportionately hurt the opposition.

Of particular note is Guinea’s decision to go ahead with elections on Sunday, March 22, which included parliamentary polls and a boycotted rubber-stamp referendum on a new constitution that will pave the way for President Alpha Condé to stay in power. With two confirmed cases, and neighboring countries having already limited public gatherings, Guinea’s decision to go ahead has understandably been met by scrutiny. It is hard not to read the situation as an example of political imperatives trumping health directives, and the election’s fallout will advise others as a test case of election administration under coronavirus.

Guinea’s health situation should be watched carefully in the coming days, with the potential for political and social tensions to rise if cases balloon following a day of crowded polling stations and intra-country travel associated with administering the election. Such a scenario would reflect badly on President Condé, whose politics-as-usual post on election day (below) is in stark contrast to the Twitter content of other African leaders, who have taken to the platform to advocate social distancing and hygiene practices.

[…]

Lastly, while presidential contests will be the most publicized, it is worth bearing in mind that parliamentary and local government elections could also be disrupted in places like Gabon (late 2020), Mali (May), Namibia (November), Senegal (late 2020), and Somalia (December). In many places, the average citizen deals more with these types of officials in day-to-day affairs and service provision, meaning that disruptions could be impactful.

With these themes in mind, the Africa Center will continue to follow elections around the continent this year in the time of coronavirus. Be sure to follow our page for updates as they emerge. “

An interesting article from the Center for Strategic and International Studies regarding the ongoing issue of vote buying at th United Nations. This has been a topic that I first heard about several years ago and which I have been hoping to read more about for a while now.

Title: The Pacific’s New Market: Trading Aid for Votes
Author: Poling, Gregory B.
Publication(s): Center for Strategic and International Studies
Date: 9 February 2012
Link: https://www.csis.org/analysis/pacifics-new-market-trading-aid-votes

Article Excerpt(s):

“One should not be surprised when Nauru, a nation of less than 10,000, is offered $50 million from Russia. Nor should the opening of diplomatic missions from Georgia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates in the South Pacific be remarkable when considering what is at stake. An economist might say that a market has emerged for purchasing votes at the United Nations.

As an unintended consequence of the UN system, at least 11 independent Pacific Island nations have found themselves in a unique position: they each have a vote at the United Nations and yet, because of their isolation, have little or no national interests in many of the distant disputes that fill the UN’s agenda. With what is effectively a surplus of ‘unused’ votes, a market has been created where the service of voting at the UN is exchanged for monetary assistance.

For these island nations of the Pacific, their isolation and relatively small size have created developmental challenges. In response, aid has become big business. In 2009, these Pacific countries received one of the highest regional levels of per-capita aid, totaling $184 per person. Although the more resource-rich Pacific nations like Papua New Guinea and Fiji depend on aid for less than 5 percent of their gross national income, other states such as Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands depend on foreign assistance for upwards of 40 percent of their national income.

With such high levels of dependence on foreign aid, Pacific Island nations have sought to diversify their income sources away from traditional donors such as Australia, New Zealand, and the United States in the name of increased sovereignty. The result is that, over the past four decades, the island nations have actively encouraged the formation of an “aid market.””

An interesting article from Bellona regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on the nuclear energy industry. A number of sensitive sectors – such as nuclear power plant operators – are requesting staff member lodge on site to limit potential exposure routes to COVID-19. This further illustrates concerns over the aging and shrinking workforce of experts and technicians in the field of nuclear energy.

Title: Covid-19 Could Cause Staff Shortages in the Nuclear Power Industry
Author: Digges, Charles
Publication(s): Bellona (Nuclear Issues)
Date: 20 March 2020
Link: https://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2020-03-covid-19-could-cause-staff-shortages-in-the-nuclear-power-industry

Article Excerpt(s):

“As the Covid-19 virus grinds world economies to a halt, several national nuclear operators are weighing how to keep sensitive and vulnerable infrastructure chugging along in the face of staff shortages due to the illness.

A number of national contingency plans, if enacted, could mark an unprecedented step by nuclear power providers to keep their highly-skilled workers healthy as governments scramble to minimize the impact of the global pandemic that has infected more than 240,000 people worldwide.

Officials in the United States, for instance, have suggested they might isolate critical technicians at the country’s nuclear power plants and ask them to live onsite to avoid exposure to the virus. Many operators say they have been stockpiling beds, blankets and food to support staff for that purpose.

Should that fail to stem the pandemic’s effect on the nuclear work force, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it would shut down any of America’s 60 nuclear plants if they can’t be appropriately staffed.

Other operators, however, are already seeing the spread of the infection slow things down. In Great Britain, authorities announced they are shutting down a nuclear fuel reprocessing site at Sellafield after 8 percent of its 11,500-strong staff were forced to self-isolate to avoid infection. The move came after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus last week, and will lead to a gradual shutdown of the site’s Magnox facility, which is slated to close permanently later this year.

Sellafield told employees that it would work to “make best use of available people”.

France, the world’s most nuclear dependent nation, announced staff reductions at its Flameville plant in the country’s north. The EDF, France’s national nuclear operator, said that, due to high regional infection rates, it was reducing the staff at the plant from 800 to 100. As early as March 10, EDF reported that three workers at nuclear power plants had tested positive for the virus.

A spokesman for the Flameville plant told Reuters that “we have decided to only keep those in charge of safety and security” working while the coronavirus crisis runs its course.

French grid operator RTE expects nuclear availability to stay 3.6GW below the 2015 to 2019 average and likewise predicts a national drop in nuclear demand.

Taken together, the emergency responses of national nuclear operators are symptoms of a big problem that Covid-19 posed to the nuclear sector, Mycle Schneider and independent energy and nuclear policy analyst told Power Technology Magazine.

“Covid-19 constitutes an unprecedented threat on sensitive strategic infrastructure, above all the power sector,” he said.

“The French case sheds light on a fundamental societal safety and security issue that got little attention in the current Covid-19 crisis. Operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants draw on a small group of highly specialized technicians and engineers.”

Because of that very level of specialization, some in the US nuclear industry are considering simply isolating nuclear plant technicians onsite in a sort of preventative quarantine.

Maria Korsnick, head of the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute told the New York Times that plants are “considering measures to isolate a core group to run the plant, stockpiling ready-to-eat meals and disposable tableware, laundry supplies and personal care items.”

The US Department of Homeland Security is responsible for working with nuclear power plant operators to maintain their operations during a national emergency. On Thursday, the department issued guidelines that echoed the ones suggested by Korsnick.

“When continuous remote work is not possible, businesses should enlist strategies to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease,” the DHS said in a memo, according to Power Magazine. “This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, separating staff by off-setting shift hours or days and/or social distancing.”

Roy Palk, president and CEO of New Horizons Consulting, which advises energy companies in the US, told the magazine that, “There are a lot of unanswered questions because this is not a model everyone is used to working with.”

To keep the lights on, he said, utilities and power plant operators might have to consider keeping staff onsite for the long term.

“These operators have a license to operate, they’re highly skilled, highly trained. They have to be certified.” he told the magazine. “These individuals need to be on the job, they need to be healthy. They have a big obligation to the public.”

Reuters contacted a dozen other power providers, all of whom said they were implementing plans to moderate risks to their employees and to ensure continuity of service, but who declined to comment on whether sequestering staff was a possibility.

In New York, Consolidated Edison Inc, which provides power to around 3.3 million customers and gas to about 1.1 million customers in New York City and Westchester County – both of which are under virus lockdowns – said it was taking steps to keep critical employees healthy, including separating some control center personnel to other locations where they can perform their work.

Duke Energy Corp, which provides power to 7.7 million customers in six states and gas to 1.6 million customers in five states, said it instituted additional worker screening measures, such as temperature checks, at generating and other critical facilities.

Puget Sound Energy, which serves more than 1.5 million customers in the Seattle, Washington area – a region hard hit by coronavirus – said all non-essential workers are working remotely, and the utility has limited access to facilities that provide critical operations.”

An interesting article from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in regards to the impacts of COVID-19 on nuclear inspections in Iran.

Title: One potential victim of coronavirus? Nuclear inspections in Iran
Author: Moore, George M.
Publication(s): Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Date: 17 March 2020
Link: https://thebulletin.org/2020/03/one-potential-victim-of-coronavirus-nuclear-inspections-in-iran/
Notes: See article excerpts.

Article Excerpt(s):

” Should the new IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi decide to suspend inspection visits to protect the health of his inspectors, it could metastasize concerns about Iranian nuclear proliferation. The same result would occur if Iran acted unilaterally to bar inspectors based on real or manufactured concerns about further spread of Covid-19.

To date, there is no public information about whether the IAEA will continue to send inspectors to Iran under the terms of the nuclear deal. Suspending inspections, even temporarily, could potentially leave a multi-month gap that Iran could exploit if it chose to fully break out of the nuclear agreement. In early March, the IAEA reported that Iran had amassed over 1,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, nearly triple the amount allowed under the deal. Following this announcement, updated estimates of Iran’s breakout time—the amount of time needed to amass enough fissile material to produce one nuclear weapon—ranged from approximately four to six months. These estimates depend on assumptions about the type of design Iran might be capable of initially using. Implosion systems require less fissile material than gun-type designs. Whatever the exact breakout time might be, most estimates fall within a timespan that health officials seem to indicate might be the duration of the Covid-19 threat.

Whether Iran would attempt to use the cover of Covid-19 to begin a dash for a nuclear weapon is uncertain. However, the loss of “eyes on the ground” in the form of IAEA inspections would probably heighten the worst fears about Iranian proliferation and possibly worsen already dim prospects for cooperation. Even before the coronavirus breakout, Iran had expanded its production of enriched uranium, probably in an attempt to exert pressure and improve its negotiating leverage following the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the deal and its reimposition of sanctions in 2018.

A second and related danger is that, absent the IAEA inspections, there is a greater possibility of miscalculation regarding Iran and its nuclear potential and intentions. Without hard data, US policy makers could begin to fear the worst and assume that Iran was dashing toward a bomb, and it would be difficult to prove otherwise. Other nations, both Iran’s neighbors in the Middle East and other global powers, might also react in unexpected ways, based on insufficient information and fear that Iran was breaking out to produce a nuclear weapon. In any event, lack of information generally leads to instability and whenever nuclear weapons, or the threat of nuclear weapons, is involved, instability could be exceedingly dangerous.

What could, or should, Director General Grossi and the IAEA member states do about this situation to mitigate any potential risks? First, it is essential that any hazards to the health of IAEA inspectors be minimized. The agency must pre-screen its inspectors before they travel to identify those at heightened risk. In addition, inspectors should be equipped to deal with potential contact with the virus by using proper disposable clothing and disinfecting procedures. Inspectors should also be accompanied by medical personnel and should strive to be self-sufficient with food and housing. It is also possible that enhanced technical oversight systems could be installed to temporarily decrease or eliminate the need for inspectors. Although the IAEA has apparently used remote surveillance systems in Iran, the effectiveness of those systems in a situation where inspectors cannot enter Iran will need to be evaluated, and new or upgraded systems may be needed. Such installations would need to be installed by the IAEA in order to be considered reliable, and that would involve the same risks to those personnel as to inspectors in dealing with the virus.

IAEA member states should fully support such efforts so that inspections can continue. Though it might require extraordinary efforts by the IAEA and its board of governors, it is in the world’s interest to have the nuclear watchdog continue its verification programs in Iran despite whatever level of hazard the Covid-19 outbreak presents. Failure to do so could have dire consequences.”

An interesting article from Dr. Tariq Rauf – the Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Disarmament, Arms Control, and Non-Proliferation Programme – regarding the impacts of COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) on the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty conferences. There is a possibility international travel will be restricted – causing the conferences and associated discussions to be pushed to 2021 and beyond.

Title: Relentless Spread of Coronavirus Obliges Postponing the 2020 NPT Review to 2021
Author: Rauf, Tariq
Publication(s): UN Insider
Date: 2 March 2020
Link: https://www.indepthnews.net/index.php/global-governance/un-insider/3351-relentless-spread-of-coronavirus-obliges-postponing-the-2020-npt-review-to-2021
Notes: Dr. Rauf is additionally a participant in Project Save the World’s podcast and talk-show. Dr. Rauf is featured in Episode 94 “Nuclear Weapons in 2020.” Check it out if you get the chance!

Article Excerpt(s):

“Harvard University epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch in his “very, very rough” estimate (relying on “multiple assumptions piled on top of each other”) has stated that 100 or 200 people were infected in the U.S. a week or so ago. But that is all it would take to widely spread the disease. Lipsitch has predicted that within a year, 40% to 70% of the world’s population could be infected with COVID-19? With the world’s population hovering around 7.5 billion, that translates to some 3 to 5 billion people getting COVID-19 and that perhaps fatalities of 60 to 100 million, according to Lipsitch.

Should unfortunately this worst case prevail, we could have the worst pandemic in human history, even exceeding the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 that killed 50 million people. Under the above scenario, in the United States there could be up to 130 to 230 million cases of COVID-19, with up to 2.5 to 3.5 million fatalities. Obviously, these are the worst “worst case” predictions and likely will not come true, but still an abundance of caution is advisable and unnecessary large conferences and gatherings of people should be avoided. Hence, all the more reason to postpone the 2020 NPT review conference to 2021.”

[…]

What is the NPT?

“The NPT is the world’s most widely adhered to multilateral nuclear arms reduction and non-proliferation treaty. It is considered to be a resounding success in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons to five States that have signed the Treaty and to four others that are not bound by it. Mainly as a result of the NPT, some 10% of the electricity generated in the world is by nuclear power reactors contributing to clean energy, and billions of people benefit daily from the applications of nuclear technologies in such areas as medicine, agriculture, water and animal husbandry.

The principal failing of the NPT has been lack of progress towards eliminating nuclear weapons. Despite a half-century having elapsed since the NPT entered into force, as I have written previously, “The grim reality is that more than 14,000 nuclear warheads of the nine nuclear-armed States are deployed at more than 100 locations in 14 States, the dangers of nuclear weapon use are increasing, and there are stocks of nearly 1,400 tonnes (or 1,400,000 kg) of weapon-grade uranium and 500 tonnes (or 500,000 kg) of weapon-usable plutonium good for more than 130,000 nuclear warheads. Remember, it takes 25 kg or less of highly-enriched uranium and 8 kg or less of plutonium for one nuclear warhead.””

[…]

“Furthermore, some delegations have been complaining about visa denials by U.S. authorities to attend UN conferences and this year’s session of the UN Disarmament Commission had to be postponed. Costs of hotel accommodation in New York are soaring, as are the costs of food and eating out in restaurants. The expertise for nuclear verification, safety and security, and peaceful uses lies in Vienna (Austria), while that of negotiating multilateral nuclear arms control in Geneva (Switzerland). New York has no diplomatic expertise related to the NPT. Thus, there are no compelling reasons at all to convene the presently scheduled NPT review conference in New York this year.”

[…]

“An NPT review conference this year though desirable for meeting the five yearly cycle is not absolutely necessary; rather under the circumstances it poses unacceptable health risks and is a luxury that the international community can ill afford.

The best option is to formally announce the postponement of the 2020 NPT review conference to 2021 with the venue being Vienna, as soon as possible – the earlier the better. The longer this decision is delayed the greater the costs incurred in cancelling flights and hotel rooms – while government and IAEA/CTBTO delegates may well be able to afford such penalties as tax dollars pay for their expenses, for civil society participants the cancellation costs would be onerous and unaffordable as they either self-finance or rely on charitable donations.

For all the reasons noted above, including especially the continuing spread of the COVID-19 virus designated by WHO as a very high global risk, it would not only be inexcusable but also immoral on the part of the UN and the NPT Secretariats to delay any further the announcement of the postponement of the NPT review conference to 2021 and to initiate the logistical preparations for holding it in Vienna next year. “

An interesting article about the recently released (October 2019) plans for the “Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government.” What are folks thoughts on this?

Title: A New Canadian Peace Centre Could Make A World Of Difference
Author: Langille, Peter and Mason, Peggy
Publication(s): Canadian Pugwash Group / The Hill Times
Date: 29 January 2020
Link: https://pugwashgroup.ca/a-new-canadian-peace-centre-could-make-a-world-of-difference/
Notes:

Article Excerpt:

“Who isn’t concerned about our shared global challenges? It’s hard to miss overlapping crises, many fuelled by militarism, marginalization, and inequality.

Canada provided pivotal leadership and ideas in the past and it could definitely help again. The recently announced Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government therefore is a much-needed step in the right direction.

The details have yet to be finalized, but this much is clear: the new Canadian Centre is part of an effort to “lead by example and help make the world a safe, just, prosperous, and sustainable place.” Mandate letters to cabinet ministers suggest an interdepartmental centre (i.e., within government) is proposed “to expand the availability of Canadian expertise and assistance to those seeking to build peace, advance justice, promote human rights and democracy, and deliver good governance.”

While this is promising, three concerns need attention: is the scope sufficiently broad to address our urgent global challenges; should the centre be within government or independent; and is there a better Canadian model?

The mandate needs to reference peace and security, disarmament and sustainable development, defence and foreign policy, and the deeper co-operation required to address these shared global challenges.

Further, a centre within government will be inclined to represent government policy and priorities without providing independent analysis, constructive criticism, and innovative policy options now needed.

This is not how issues of peace and conflict are approached in other highly recognized national centres in Sweden (SIPRI), the United States (USIP), Norway (PRIO), Switzerland (GCSP), Japan (JCCP), Austria (IIPS), etc. Being independent and at arm’s length from government is crucial for the credibility and the capacity of the centre. Canada once led in this respect, too.

In 1984, the late Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau provided a very good model in the Canadian Institute of International Peace and Security (CIIPS). Bill C-32, at that time stated:

“The Purpose of the Institute is to increase knowledge and understanding of the issues relating to international peace and security from a Canadian perspective, with particular emphasis on arms control, disarmament, defence and conflict resolution, and to: a) foster, fund and conduct research on matters relating to international peace and security; b) promote scholarship in matters relating to international peace and security; c) study and propose ideas and policies for the enhancement of international peace and security, and; d) collect and disseminate information on, and encourage public discussion of, issues of international peace and security.”

When initially proposed, the throne speech noted: “Reflecting Canada’s concern about current international tensions, the government will create a publicly funded centre… Fresh ideas and new proposals, regardless of source, will be studied and promoted.”

CIIPS initially focused on four priority areas: arms control, disarmament, defence, and conflict resolution. As new needs arose, it responded with projects on UN peace operations, internal conflicts, confidence building, and conflict prevention.

The approach of creative and innovative research, education, outreach and policy proposals targeted four priority audiences: the public, the scholarly community, the government, and the international audience.

Within just two years, CIIPS was widely recognized and central to collaborative projects with other national institutes and international organizations, as well as numerous universities and centres of expertise. In providing support for civil society and academia, it was also appreciated on the home front.

CIIPS helped elevate discussions on international peace and security in a period of high-risk and high anxiety. As the late Geoffrey Pearson and Nancy Gordon wrote, CIIPS’ demise in 1992 was effectively “shooting oneself in the head.”

The underlying rationale for the former CIIPS remains relevant. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau recognized the growing risks to global security and the lack of independent analysis, facts, and policy options available to the Canadian government.

Twenty-five years of austerity has drained and depleted much of Canada’s independent expertise on peace and security. Most of our foreign and defence policy think tanks rely heavily on funding from DND and the defence industry.

There is also considerably less institutional memory and enthusiasm to explore what might be doable on the key global issues of peace, security, and sustainable development. These include the prevention of armed conflict and its peaceful resolution, protection of civilians, and UN peace operations—all of which should be central to a feminist foreign policy. Instead, we see a focus on new means and methods of warfare from “hybrid conflicts” to offensive cyber operations to space war.

Canada had a positive model in CIIPS; one that may now be emulated and modified in support of a new 21st Century Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government.

The Rideau Institute and other leading Canadian NGOs, in the context of the 2016 Defence Policy Review, recommended: “As one of the few leading OECD members without such an institution, Canada should establish an expert, arm’s length, non-partisan, domestic institute for sustainable common security, with long-term financial viability… Its Board of Directors should be diverse and include academic, non-governmental, and international expertise.”

In light of the new CPOGG proposal, the Rideau Institute went on to say that first and foremost, the focus must be on enhancing Canadian capacity for analysis and policy development on international peace and security, as the only solid basis for “lending expertise to others.” It also suggested that to be credible and sustainable, the mandate must ensure the centre’s independence, diversity, and long term-financial viability.

Finally, the work of the Centre must be firmly grounded in the principles of international co-operation; peaceful conflict resolution; and inclusive, sustainable common security that underpin the United Nations Charter. Canada cannot help to build international peace and security by seeking to impose on others an inward-looking version of “Canadian values”. Instead, our work must be fully and transparently grounded in global principles as reflected in international law and in respect of which Canada has played a key role in developing and strengthening.

In short, for this recently proposed peace centre to be worthwhile, let’s reflect on what is now urgent so we can aim higher.”

This is an interesting article discussing how cities can be centers and hotspots for innovation in sustainability – and what roles that mayors can play in this.

Title: The City Insider Proving that Mayors Can Lead on Climate
Author: Greenfield, Nicole
Publication(s): Natural Resource Defense Council, Inc. (NRDC)
Date: 11 February 2020
Link: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/city-insider-proving-mayors-can-lead-climate
Notes:

Article Excerpt:

“Chris Wheat doesn’t know exactly how he became a self-described “weird political geek,” but it happened early on in life. At five years old, he was reading newspapers, watching C-SPAN, and begging his parents for an encyclopedia set for their Little Rock, Arkansas, home. By age 10, he’d scored an interview with his governor, Bill Clinton, and the following year joined the volunteer corps for the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign, making copies and sending faxes in the War Room. In high school, Wheat was a two-time state champion debater and, after graduation, became the first in his family to go to college.

Later, Wheat would go on to earn his MBA from the University of Chicago, and after a brief stint in the consulting world, reignited his passion for politics. He joined the staff of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office in 2012, first as part of Chicago’s Innovation Delivery team, then as chief sustainability officer, and, finally, as chief of policy. “I left the private sector a lot earlier in my career than I thought I would, but I knew that I needed my work to be about more than what I was doing,” Wheat says. “I needed it to be about something larger.”

Flash forward to January 2019, when—after Mayor Emanuel announced he would not seek reelection for a third term—Wheat would harness that experience to become director of city strategy and engagement for the American Cities Climate Challenge. The two-year, $70 million program is currently helping 25 U.S. cities meet their near-term carbon reduction goals.

It was a natural fit for Wheat, whose work in the Chicago city government had included a host of sustainability initiatives, from tightening recycling ordinances to getting a disposable bag tax passed to overseeing energy efficiency projects. He’d seen how these efforts made a big impact not just on the city itself but also in the lives of individual Chicagoans. He remembers one grandmother on the South Side who was excited to have her house retrofitted because it would finally be warm enough for her grandkids to play there in the winter months. “That’s not something that shows up in an emissions inventory or a press release,” he says. “But it is something that manifests itself directly in that woman’s life and really shows the cross benefits of this work.”

And after Wheat organized the North American Climate Summit in late 2017, an event that brought together close to 50 prominent mayors from around the world, he truly realized the indispensable role that cities can, and must, play in tackling the climate crisis. Cities, he notes, are feeling the oversize impact of climate change, but they are also promising incubators of innovation.

Wheat’s faith in the power of cities to make a difference is part of the reason why he’s been such an effective advocate, notes Nora Mango, who oversees NRDC’s strategic communications for the American Cities Climate Challenge. What’s more, she adds, “Chris possesses a unique combination of tenacity, humor, and humility that makes him both easy to collaborate with and a strong leader. His ability to motivate action from city hall to city streets is incredibly valuable.”

As the director of strategy and city engagement for the Climate Challenge at NRDC, Wheat’s job is threefold. First, he helps manage a team of regional city strategists and climate advisors who are embedded in city halls and helping sustainability directors and mayors’ offices reach ambitious carbon emissions reduction goals. Second, he works with his NRDC colleagues to help address the political and communications challenges the cities face. And lastly, he serves as a city hall “old hand,” working with many of his former counterparts, helping to think through issues and solve problems related to the challenge.

“We’re actually seeing the ambition of cities grow as part of the Climate Challenge,” Wheat says. “Cities are looking to do more expansive and deeper work. So often for us it’s a matter of just keeping up with them.”

And sometimes, Wheat’s job is to slow them down, lest governments barrel right through without adequately considering the perspectives of their constituents. After all, it’s on NRDC and the Climate Challenge to consider who is at the table and help ensure a seat for those who have not necessarily had a voice in these climate conversations before. “There is often an inherent tension between the speed at which cities want to move, because mayors are inherently impatient people, and the need to stop and reflect, in terms of how communities are being engaged,” he says.

Wheat notes his own experience as a person of color—he’s the son of a Korean immigrant mother and an African-American father from rural eastern Arkansas—doesn’t necessarily inform this work because “it is a part of every moment of my being,” he says. He does, however, feel a responsibility to ensure that the places he works and the people he works with are prioritizing issues of equity for communities that have been historically marginalized. “It’s an ongoing challenge for those of us committed to the fight around climate change. We must consider and act upon these issues at the forefront, not [see them] as a nice-to-have,” he says.

And, of course, this work becomes even more urgent in the context of our current federal administration’s inaction on addressing the climate crisis. Wheat isn’t an activist by training, or even inclination. He isn’t the type to go to rallies. Instead, he’s harnessing his childhood “political geek” energy, learning as much as he can, and trying to make changes from within the system.

“The way I channel my anger about what’s happening at the federal level is by trying to be good at my job,” Wheat says. “If I’m good at my job and the Climate Challenge is successful, then I have supreme confidence that it will make a difference not only in terms of reducing emissions, not only ensuring political momentum around this issue, but also just in giving hope to individuals and communities around the country that, yes, the problem is real, but solutions are possible.”

I had not previously heard of France’s nuclear weapons testing in Algeria – though I had heard of France’s nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific. The Algerian tests (Ekker and Reganne) totaled 17 tests during the early and mid-1960s. Testing of the atomic bomb stopped in Algeria in 1966.

For those of you interested – here is an interesting mix of articles on the subject:

Title: Algeria: 60 Years On, French Nuclear Tests Leave Bitter Fallout
Author: Bryant, Elizabeth
Publication(s): Deutsche Welle (DW)
Date: 13 February 2020
Link: https://www.dw.com/en/algeria-60-years-on-french-nuclear-tests-leave-bitter-fallout/a-52354351
Notes: This article identifies the post-colonial legacy of France’s nuclear testing (17 tests) in Algeria. The article additionally identifies how to date only a few hundred people – including only one Algerian – have been compensated.

Title: Diplomatic Effects Of The French Nuclear Tests In Algeria
Author: D., Romana
Publication(s): ArcGis: StoryMaps
Date: 1 November 2019
Link: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/6cd1a9ef9d284557a90b2c353b5f5875
Notes: This site discusses how France used the atomic bomb to shape its foreign policy and place as a global power.

Title: Algerians Suffering From French Atomic Legacy, 55 Years After Nuke Tests
Author: Magdaleno, Johnny
Publication(s): AlJaazera America
Date: 1 March 2015
Link:
Notes: AlJaazera identifies how France has had little accountability for the atomic tests in Algeria. This article additionally identifies how people in remote desert communities near the test site would re-use the melted metal remains of objects that were tested on. This melted metal was then re-used to create jewelry and kitchen utensils. It may still be radioactive.

Title: Declassified Files Expose Lies Of French Nuclear Tests
Author: Todd, Tony
Publication(s): France24
Date: 14 February 2014
Link: https://www.france24.com/en/20140214-map-shows-huge-radiation-spread-french-saharan-nuclear-tests
Notes: Todd’s article Identifies that the radioactive contamination from the testing site in Algeria is significantly larger than France initially claimed. The radioactive fall out from the Gerboise Blue site spreads from the Central African Republic to Southern Spain.

Title: Algeria Seeks New Compensation Over French Nuclear Tests
Author: Yurou
Publication(s): Xinhua Net
Date: 29 January 2018
Link:
Notes: This article discusses the ongoing dialogues between Algeria and France to determine a formal compensation plan and program for those impacted by the atomic bomb testing in Algeria.

Check out this interesting site from ICANW called Schools of Mass Destruction! This project discusses the connection between American post-secondary institutions and the nuclear weapons industry. It is both interesting and shocking.

Link: https://universities.icanw.org/

The project’s executive report can be found at this link:

Link: https://universities.icanw.org/schools_of_mass_destruction

Summary Excerpt:

“Universities across the United States are identified in this new report for activities ranging from directly managing laboratories that design nuclear weapons to recruiting and training the next generation of nuclear weapons scientists. Much of universities’ nuclear weapons work is kept secret from students and faculty by classified research policies and undisclosed contracts with the Defense Department and the Energy Department.

The goal of the report is to spark ethical reflection and action about institutional and individual involvement in the nuclear weapons complex. Specifically, the report recommends:

1) Provide greater transparency into connections with the nuclear weapons complex;

2) Stop directly managing nuclear weapons production sites and dissolve research contracts solely related to nuclear weapons production;

3) For contracts with dual-purpose research applications, demand greater transparency and create specific processes for ethical review of this research;

4) Advocate for reinvestment of weapons activities funding to non-proliferation and environmental remediation efforts;

5) Join cities and state legislatures in urging the federal government to support the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and reverse course on nuclear arms control backsliding.”

I am additionally truly shocked to hear of the sums of money being spent on upgrading the United States nuclear weapons arsenal. According to the Executive Report mentioned above:

“Over the next ten years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates U.S. taxpayers will pay nearly $500 billion to maintain and modernize their country’s nuclear weapons arsenal, or almost $100,000 per minute. A separate estimate brings the total over the next 30 years to an estimated $1.7 trillion.”

An interesting article regarding the role of ship emissions and ship-related pollution in public health. European health agencies spend approximately €58 billion ($83 billion CAD) each year on serious diseases connected to ship emissions and ship-related pollution. These are mostly heart and lung diseases. Furthermore, this annual €58 billion ($83 billion CAD) expense does not include environmental damage.

Additionally of note: “the NGO Transport & Environment said, “Marine fuel is 2,700 times dirtier than road diesel and €35 billion of fuel tax is paid yearly in Europe for road transport, while shipping uses tax-free fuel.”

Given that shipping accounts for over one fifth of global fuel consumption, the fact that its emissions are not more strictly regulated is cause for concern.”

Title: Pollution from ships kills thousands each year
Author: White, Samuel
Date: 10 June 2015
News Agency: EURACTIV
Link: https://www.euractiv.com/section/science-policymaking/news/pollution-from-ships-kills-thousands-each-year/

Article Excerpt:

Shipping emissions are an invisible killer that cause lung cancer and heart disease, a new study has found, but researchers say the 60,000 deaths they cause each year could be significantly cut by exhaust filtration devices.

The University of Rostock and the German environmental research centre Helmholzzentrum Munich have established a firm link between shipping exhaust emissions and serious diseases, that cost European health services €58 billion annually.

Conventional ship engines that burn heavy fuel oil or diesel fuel emit high concentrations of harmful substances including heavy metals, hydrocarbons and sulphur, as well as carcinogenic particulate matter (PM).

People in coastal areas are particularly at risk, researchers said. Up to half of PM-related air pollution in coastal areas, rivers and ports comes from ship emissions, according to the study.

Lief Miller, the CEO of conservation NGO NABU, said, “The results are frightening and confirm our worst fears. Emissions from ships cause serious lung and heart diseases.”

Fine particle emissions have been linked to increased health risks for decades. Although substantial efforts have been made to reduce the sulphur and diesel soot emissions from cars and lorries, no comparable efforts have been made for the shipping sector.

The NGO Transport & Environment said, “Marine fuel is 2,700 times dirtier than road diesel and €35 billion of fuel tax is paid yearly in Europe for road transport, while shipping uses tax-free fuel.”

Given that shipping accounts for over one fifth of global fuel consumption, the fact that its emissions are not more strictly regulated is cause for concern.

Improving air quality through exhaust filtration

For the researchers, legislation enforcing particle filtration and PM limits in shipping is the “next logical target for improving air quality worldwide, particularly in coastal regions and harbour cities”.

Dietmar Oeliger, NABU’s transport expert, said, “We really underline the recommendation of the scientists to urgently switch to low sulphur fuels together with effective emission abatement techniques.”

The most effective method of cleaning up emissions from shipping is to combine PM filters with low-sulphur fuels, a measure that has long been in place on the roads.

Other options include converting ships’ engines to run on gas or retrofitting them with exhaust gas cleaning systems known as “scrubbers”.

Controlling sulphur emissions

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has capped the sulphur content of shipping fuel at 3.5%. By 2020, the IMO will limit sulphur content in ship’s fuel to 0.5% worldwide.

In many of Europe’s coastal waters the limit is 1%, and as of January 2015, the limit in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) of the North and the Baltic Seas is just 0.1%.

According to Transport & Environment, the health benefits from the implementation of the new stricter SECAs are projected to be worth up to €23 billion.

But these limits are not strictly enforced, and the options available for reducing sulphur and PM emissions remain too expensive for the majority of ship operators.

As well as severe health risks to humans, sulphur causes acid rain and leads to a host of environmental problems including soil and water quality degradation and damage to biodiversity.

“We need meaningful measures to incentivise the uptake of cleaner marine fuels as a stepping stone towards cleaning up the sector,” said Sotiris Raptis, clean shipping officer at Transport & Environment.

An interesting article about the role of the shipping industry.

Title: UN Will Force Shipping to Clean Up its Act
Author: Laramée de Tannenberg, Valéry
Publication: Euractiv
Date: 26 October 2016
Link: https://www.euractiv.com/section/transport/news/un-will-force-shipping-to-clean-up-its-act/
Notes: See additionally Samuel White’s EURACTIV article on premature deaths from pollution from ships.

Article Excerpt:

The UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is pondering measures to cut shipping pollution and bring emissions into line with the Paris Agreement. EURACTIV’s partner Journal de l’Environnement reports.

Like commercial aviation, marine transport slipped through the cracks in the Paris Agreement. Responsible for more than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, commercial shipping is also a major source of local air pollution.

But the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MPEC) has begun to take local and global impact of shipping pollution seriously; it was on the agenda for the committee’s 70th meeting in London this week.

The UN organisation is considering enforcing stricter regulations on large ships. Under the proposals, the owners of the tens of thousands of ships with a displacement greater than 5,000 tonnes would be obliged to measure their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and to declare the results to the IMO and the ships’ countries of registration. This is a first step.

At its meeting in April this year, MPEC also agreed on the need for marine transport to take account of the Paris Agreement. The IMO plans to adopt binding measures to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint, and could lay out its timetable this week.

Cutting Sulphur Emissions:

The 171 members of the IMO will also have to agree on a date for the entry into force of the new rules on the reduced sulphur content of fuels. Adopted in 1997, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) placed a limit of 0.5% on the sulphur content of shipping fuel, which will come into force in 2020.

60,000 premature deaths per year

Existing rules limit the sulphur content of shipping fuel to 3.5%, making marine transport the biggest emitter of sulphur oxides in the world. Exceptions can be found in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) of North America and Northern Europen where the mlimit is 0.1%.

In 1999, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University estimated that between 5% and 30% of the concentration of airborne sulphates in coastal regions was down to commercial shipping. These particles are harmful to marine and land environments, as well as to human health.

Later research by the University of Delaware attributed more than 60,000 premature deaths per year in Europe and Asia to this pollution, and predicted that that figure would rise by 40% by 2012.

Opposition from refiners

But refiners of shipping fuel have spoken out against the mandatory sulphur reduction. At least, if it comes into force so soon.

Cutting sulphur content would require big changes to machinery and investments in the billions of dollars. According to the consultancy CE Delft, the success of the reduced sulphur convention will depend on the ability of the refiners to provide low-sulphur fuel from 2020. If not, the oil companies and some shipping companies plan to push the entry into force of Annex VI of the MARPOL convention back to 2025.

One interesting detail: the Cook Islands pushed hard to strengthen the Paris Agreement, but are one of the fiercest opponents of binding emissions limits on maritime transport.

CBC published this interesting article yesterday (15 February 2020) of the Canadian impacts of Russia’s $300 billion investment in the Arctic – specifically within the realm of gas and oil. These investments would encourage development of and increased traffic in Northern sea routes. There is hope that this could assist with economic bolstering and potential development of remote Northern communities along the Northern Sea Route. What impacts these activities will have on locals – including Indigenous (Chukchi, Nenets, etc.) peoples – has yet to be fully determined. However, there is international concern that gas and oil drilling in this ecologically sensitive region could result in long-term, environmental damage – such as through leaks or spills.

On a related topic: it is important to note that the Soviet Union formerly used the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, and areas around Novaya Zemlya as a nuclear waste dump. These areas abut and/or intersect the Northern Sea Route. I am hoping that some of these $300 billion in investments could go towards cleaning up these sites. Former President Boris Yeltsin’s science advisor first reported on the state of the Kara Sea nuclear waste dump in 1993 – though according to recent media articles – little has been done in subsequent decades to clean-up and contain the nuclear waste, move it to a more appropriate and secure location, and remediate the contaminated environments. Interestingly, several gas and oil companies proposed drilling the Kara Sea due to its large gas and oil reserves – but shifted plans about 5 years ago. Multiple agencies – including environmental groups – indicated concern of drilling activities in close proximity to a nuclear waste dump. In recent years, Russia additionally has developed floating nuclear reactors which can be moved along the Northern Sea Route to supply power to remote regions – with a particular focus on resource extraction activities.

Title: What Russia’s $300B investment in Arctic oil and gas means for Canada
Author: John Last
Date: 15 February 2020
News Agency: CBC News / CBC North
Link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/russian-arctic-oil-and-gas-explained-1.5462754

Article Excerpt:

“Last month, the Russian government pushed through new legislation creating $300 billion in new incentives for new ports, factories, and oil and gas developments on the shores and in the waters of the Arctic ocean.

The incentives are part of a broader plan to more than double maritime traffic in the Northern Sea Route, on Russia’s northern coast — and give a boost to state energy companies like Gazprom, Lukoil, and Rosneft.

But analysts say their immediate impact will be increased exploration and development for offshore oil and natural gas.

With Canadian and U.S. offshore oil developments still on ice, here’s what Russia’s big spending could mean for the Arctic — and Canadians.

How is the money being spent?
Russia’s government is offering tax incentives for offshore oil and gas developments, including a reduced five per cent production tax for the first 15 years for all oil and gas developments.

Projects in the east Arctic, closer to Canada’s Beaufort Sea, receive an even greater incentive — no extraction tax for the first 12 years of operation.

Russia may be borrowing a page from Canada’s book in drafting the policy. Doug Matthews, a Canadian energy writer and analyst, said the incentive package sounds “rather like our old national energy program in the … Beaufort [Sea] back in the ’70s and ’80s.”

What new projects are getting the go-ahead?
Russia’s minister of the Far East and Arctic, Alexander Kozlov, said in a press release that those incentives are resulting in three new massive offshore oil projects.

Currently, there is only one producing offshore oil platform in Russian waters — the Prirazlomnaya platform, located in the Pechora Sea.

Russia’s state oil companies are also expected to massively intensify their onshore Arctic operations.

Rosneft’s Vostok Oil project, billed as the “biggest in global oil,” will involve the construction of a seaport, two airports, 800 km of new pipelines, and 15 new towns in the Vankor region.

“The project is expected to become the stepping stone for large scale development of Arctic oil,” said Nikita Kapustin, an energy researcher with the state-funded Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an email.

Developments in the Laptev, East Siberian and Chukchi Seas — nearer to Alaska — are “more distant prospects,” Kapustin said.

But massive incentives for Arctic ports and pipelines could make exploiting those regions more feasible in the future.

What could the environmental impacts be?
Simon Boxall, an oceans scientist at the University of Southampton, said sending more goods via the Northern Sea Route could actually have a positive environmental impact.

“You’re knocking thousands of miles off of that route, and that of course saves energy, it saves fuel, it saves pollution,” he said.

The problem, Boxall says, comes with what those ships are carrying. Any spilled oil degrades slowly in cold Arctic waters, and is easily trapped beneath ice.

Boxall is optimistic that moderate spills from Russia’s offshore oil projects could be contained to “a fairly small locality,” and would be unlikely to affect Canadian shores.

But Tony Walker, an assistant professor at the School of Resource & Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University, disagrees.

“Any petroleum products released into surface water could easily get to the Northwest Territories in just a matter of days,” he said.

“Basically, it’s everybody’s problem.”

Walker says most Arctic nations have limited capacity to perform cleanups in the region. Russia’s fleet is mostly based in Murmansk, near its western border, he says, and is mostly decommissioned anyway.

“So it would really be virtually impossible,” he said.

How could this affect oil and gas prices?
Despite enabling access to more than 37 billion barrels of oil — equivalent to about a fifth of Canada’s total remaining reserves — analysts say the effect on prices should be negligible.

“The main intention of Arctic oil is to replace production of some of the more mature Russian fields,” said Kapustin.

“I don’t see much of an effect on price,” said Matthews.

The primary market for Russia’s Arctic oil and gas is China. Canada’s market share there is so small, Matthews says, it’s unlikely to make a difference.

Could Canadian businesses benefit?
Since U.S. and EU sanctions were put in place in 2014, international oil companies have been reluctant to co-invest in Arctic oil projects. Sanctions prohibit collaboration on offshore oil projects with Russia’s biggest companies.

Canadian businesses also might not have the expertise needed any longer, according to Matthews.

“We were really the leaders back in the ’70s and ’80s for technology for Arctic exploration,” Matthews explained. But “when the oil industry in the Beaufort [Sea] shut down in the mid-’80s … we really lost that technological edge.”

Canada’s recent investment in pipelines means some Canadian companies have built expertise in their construction, including in cold-weather environments.

But Matthews and other analysts say Russia is more likely to look to the East for expertise and investment — to Japan and China, and to India, which Kapustin said has already invested in the Vostok Oil project.”

There is ongoing debate in Ireland – as well as elsewhere – around allowing the United States’ military to use airports – both as a base for operations, as well as a stopover. Attached here is an article from January 2020 identifying the political and public debate on this subject:

Title: Poll: Should the Irish government push for an end to the US military use of Shannon Airport?
Author: N/A
Date: 29 January 2020
News Agency: The Journal (Ireland)
Link: https://www.thejournal.ie/us-military-shannon-4984136-Jan2020

Article Excerpt:

If in Government, Labour would push for an end to the use of Shannon Airport for US military planes according to party leader Brendan Howlin.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie for the general election podcast The Candidate, Howlin said the Labour Party would go head-to-head with President Donald Trump and end the use of Shannon for US military planes unless those troops were involved in UN-sanctioned military operations.

Howlin’s calls follow concerns about inspections of US aircraft that land at Shannon being raised on numerous occasions in the last Dáil.

The issue was highlighted again last week when US Vice President Mike Pence met with US troops during a stopover at Shannon Airport.

So, today we’re asking you: Should the Irish government push for an end to the US military use of Shannon Airport?

Please refer to the article itself for the poll.

Please find attached a recent (January 2020) update from the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign:

Link: shorturl.at/uBMUW

Text:

In January 2018, New York City decided to divest the city’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within the next five years. Now the city looks set to also divest from the nuclear weapons industry.

Last Tuesday (January 28), the Council held public hearings on draft Resolution 0976 which calls on New York City to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and divest from the nuclear weapons industry, and on Initiative 1621 to reaffirm New York City as a nuclear weapons-free zone and establish an advisory committee to implement this status.

The draft measures were introduced to the council in June 2019 by Council members Daniel Dromm, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos. Since then, New York peace, climate and disarmament activists have been campaigning to build endorsement from enough council members for the adoption of these two measures.

The campaign has included directed research, lobbying of councillors, public events & actions, and open letters in support such as the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Open letter to New York City Council sent to every city councillor in November 2019.

‘City of New York pension funds should not be used to support any aspect of nuclear weapons production, plain and simple,’ Councillor Helen Rosenthal told a support action organised by the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign in front of City Hall in October 2019.

‘Helping to fund nuclear proliferation (whether directly via investments in weapons manufacturers, or indirectly via Citibank and other financial institutions with ties to weapons makers) runs contrary to what this city and our 300,000+ municipal workers stand for. Our teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and so many other public sector workers have devoted their careers to making life better for their fellow New Yorkers. We cannot in good conscience assist in underwriting the catastrophic loss of life and environmental ruin that would result from a nuclear conflict.’

Impact of NYC nuclear weapons divestment:

New York City pensions have approximately $480 million invested in the nuclear weapons industry. The divestment of this amount would probably not make any financial impact on the weapons manufacturers.

However, it would serve as a positive example of an action that can be taken by cities and other investors to align their investments with their ethical values. And it would give support to federal initiatives to cut nuclear weapons budgets, such as the SANE Act introduced into the U.S. Senate by PNND Co-President Ed Markey and the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by PNND Member Eleanor Holmes-Norton.

The Hearings:

The public hearings on Thursday were run jointly by Council member Daniel Dromm and Council member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the NYC Committee on Governmental Operations. They included testimony from a wide range of New Yorkers and civil society organisations, including from labour, education, academia, finance, health, religious and law sectors and from communities impacted by the production, testing and use of nuclear weapons. Witnesses stretched in age from 19-90. Click here for a video of the testimonies.

As the public hearings opened on Thursday, the two measures were one-vote short of a veto-proof majority. By the end of the hearings, Council Member Fernando Cabrera had affirmed his support thus ensuring the required votes for adoption. As such, it looks fairly certain that the measures will be adopted.

New York Administration resistance addressed by Move the Nuclear Weapons Money

One unresolved issue from the hearings is which city department would oversee the implementation of the two measures. Another issue is what resources, including budget, would be required for implementation and from where these would come.

The New York City administration was represented by Ms Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs, who argued that her department (the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs) had neither the resources nor the mandate to implement the measures if they were adopted. She argued that her department was responsible for building good working relations between NY City and the United Nations, educating youth about the United Nations, and reporting to the UN on NYC’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, but not to engage in national security policy or international disarmament which was the mandate for the Federal government – not the city.

Mr Jonathan Granoff, representing Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, responded in his oral testimony that the remit from these resolutions was not that the City engage in advocacy at the United Nations, but rather to implement obligations arising from the UN that are applicable to cities as well as to federal governments. This is exactly what her department is doing with respect to SDGs, and is what they have a mandate to do for nuclear disarmament.

‘The very first resolution of the United Nations, which was adopted by consensus, affirmed a universal commitment to abolish atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and this is further affirmed as an obligation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty ,’ said Mr Granoff, who is also President of Global Security Institute and an internationally respected lawyer.

‘Ms Abeywardena, in outlining her department’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, seems to be unaware that SDG 16 includes the obligation to implement such international law at all levels of government, including at city level. As such, the Commission on International Affairs does indeed have the mandate to implement these measures if and when they are adopted.’

With regard to the human resources required to implement the measures, Mr Granoff agreed with Ms Abeywardena that her commission and the City Council did not have much expertise on nuclear weapons. ‘This is exactly why an advisory committee is required – to provide that expertise, and that expertise is here in this room, and you can have our expertise for free. The only resource standing in the way of getting rid of nuclear weapons is emotional, spiritual and political will.’

New York City and Mayors for Peace:

The written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money included a proposal that a key action New York City should take in implementing the resolutions once adopted would be for them to join Mayors for Peace.

Jackie Cabassso, North America Representative for Mayors for Peace, in her oral testimony outlined some of the actions of Mayors for Peace – including introduction of nuclear disarmament resolutions that were adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Ms Cabasso reminded the City Council of the invitation from Mayors for Peace to New York to join, and urged she that they do so.

Please find attached a update (January 2020) from the Basel Peace Office. This update was provided to members of its mailing list. At the request of Project Save the World’s coordinator – Professor Metta Spencer – I have attached a copy here:

Link: shorturl.at/cdnTU

Text:

On Tuesday last week (January 28), New York City Council held public hearings on two measures (draft Resolution 0976 and Initiative 1621) which if adopted would oblige the city to divest its city pension funds from the nuclear weapons industry and establish an advisory committee to develop city action to further implement its status as a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

New York City pensions have approximately $480 million invested in the nuclear weapons industry. The divestment of this amount would probably not make any financial impact on the weapons manufacturers. However, it would serve as a positive example of an action that can be taken by cities and other investors to align their investments with their ethical values. And it would give support to federal initiatives to cut nuclear weapons budgets, such as the SANE Act introduced into the U.S. Senate by PNND Co-President Ed Markey and the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by PNND Member Eleanor Holmes-Norton.

The adoption of the two measures could also pave the way for New York to become a member of Mayors for Peace, a global network of over 8000 cities working for global nuclear abolition (see Mayors for Peace, below).

Actions to support the two measures:

The two measures, which were introduced to the Council in June 2019 by Council members Daniel Dromm, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos, have been supported by local peace and disarmament campaigners and by Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, a global campaign co-sponsored by the Basel Peace Office to cut nuclear weapons budgets, end investments in the nuclear weapons and fossil fuel industries and reallocate these budgets and investments to support peace, climate and sustainable development.

Actions to promote the draft measures have included an Open Letter to New York City Council endorsed by representatives of over 20 New York peace, disarmament and climate action organizations, and a count the nuclear weapons money action in front of city hall.

City of New York pension funds should not be used to support any aspect of nuclear weapons production, plain and simple,’ Councillor Helen Rosenthal told the Count the Nuclear Weapons Money action. ‘Helping to fund nuclear proliferation runs contrary to what this city and our 300,000+ municipal workers stand for. Our teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and so many other public sector workers have devoted their careers to making life better for their fellow New Yorkers. We cannot in good conscience assist in underwriting the catastrophic loss of life and environmental ruin that would result from a nuclear conflict.’

The Hearings

The public hearings on Thursday were run jointly by Council member Daniel Dromm and Council member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the NYC Committee on Governmental Operations. They included testimony from a wide range of New Yorkers and civil society organisations, including from labour, education, academia, finance, health, religious and law sectors and from communities impacted by the production, testing and use of nuclear weapons. Witnesses stretched in age from 19-90.

As the public hearings opened on Thursday, the two measures were one-vote short of a veto-proof majority. By the end of the hearings, Council Member Fernando Cabrera had affirmed his support thus ensuring the required votes for adoption. As such, it looks fairly certain that the measures will be adopted.

Resistance from New York City Administration:

Issues that were presented by the city as difficulties in adopting and implementing the resolutions were the human and financial resources required to implement them, and which city department would be responsible.

Ms Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs, testified argued that her department (the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs) had neither the expertise, resources nor the mandate to implement the measures.

However, her concerns were addressed fully in the oral testimony of Jonathan Granoff, represeting Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, who argued that the expertise and human resources were available from the disarmament and investment communities present at the hearings, and that the mandate for the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs to act already existed in their commitments and programs for implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals – Goal 16 of which includes the role of local authorities to implement universal peace and disarmament obligations.

New York City and Mayors for Peace:

The written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money included a proposal that a key action New York City should take in implementing the resolutions once adopted would be for them to join Mayors for Peace.

Jackie Cabassso, North America Representative for Mayors for Peace, in her oral testimony outlined some of the actions of Mayors for Peace – including introduction of nuclear disarmament resolutions that were adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Ms Cabasso reminded the City Council of the invitation from Mayors for Peace to New York to join, and she urged that they do so.

An interesting article from Democracy Now:

Title: Risk of Nuclear War Rises as U.S. Deploys a New Nuclear Weapon for the First Time Since the Cold War
Author: William Arkin
Date: 7 February 2020
Publication: Democracy Now!
Link: https://www.democracynow.org/2020/2/7/us_new_low_yield_nuclear_weapons

Article Excerpt:

The Federation of American Scientists revealed in late January that the U.S. Navy had deployed for the first time a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead. The USS Tennessee deployed from Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia in late 2019. The W76-2 warhead, which is facing criticism at home and abroad, is estimated to have about a third of the explosive power of the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) called the news “an alarming development that heightens the risk of nuclear war.” We’re joined by William Arkin, longtime reporter focused on military and nuclear policy, author of numerous books, including “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.” He broke the story about the deployment of the new low-yield nuclear weapon in an article he co-wrote for Federation of American Scientists. He also recently wrote a cover piece for Newsweek titled “With a New Weapon in Donald Trump’s Hands, the Iran Crisis Risks Going Nuclear.” “What surprised me in my reporting … was a story that was just as important, if not more important, than what was going on in the political world,” Arkin says.

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: As the nation focused on President Trump’s impeachment trial, a major story recently broke about a new development in U.S. nuclear weapons policy that received little attention. The Federation of American Scientists revealed in late January the U.S. Navy had for the first time deployed a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead. The USS Tennessee deployed from Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia in late 2019, armed with a warhead which is estimated to have about a third of the explosive power of the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima.

The deployment is facing criticism at home and abroad. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, called the news “an alarming development that heightens the risk of nuclear war.” On Capitol Hill, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said, quote, “This destabilizing deployment further increases the potential for miscalculation during a crisis.” Smith also criticized the Pentagon for its inability and unwillingness to answer congressional questions about the weapon over the past few months. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov responded by saying, quote, “This reflects the fact that the United States is actually lowering the nuclear threshold and that they are conceding the possibility of them waging a limited nuclear war and winning this war. This is extremely alarming,” he said.

We’re joined now William Arkin, longtime reporter who focuses on military and nuclear policy. He broke the story about the deployment of the new low-yield nuclear weapon in an article he co-wrote for the Federation of American Scientists. He also wrote the cover story for Newsweek, which is headlined “With a New Weapon in Donald Trump’s Hands, the Iran Crisis Risks Going Nuclear.” He’s the author of many books, including Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.

Bill Arkin, it’s great to have you back.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Thanks for having me on, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: So, to say the least, this has been an explosive week of news in Washington, D.C., and your news, which has hardly gone reported, is — should really be one of the top news stories of these last weeks.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Well, during the very time when the Iran crisis was at its highest, the United States, last December, deployed a new nuclear weapon, the first new nuclear weapon to be deployed, Amy, since the end of the Cold War. So here we have not just a momentous occasion, but a weapon which is intended explicitly to be more usable — and not just more usable against Russia and China, but to be more usable against Iran and North Korea, as well. It seemed to me that looking more deeply at this weapon, looking more deeply at the doctrines behind it, and then, really, what surprised me in my reporting, looking more at Donald Trump and the role that he might play in the future, was a story that was just as important, if not more important, than what was going on in the political world.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what this — what does it mean, “low-yield” nuclear weapon?

WILLIAM ARKIN: Well, “low-yield” is actually a little bit wrong. The United States actually possesses nuclear weapons with even smaller yields than five to six kilotons, which is what this is estimated at. That’s 5,000 to 6,000 tons. And so, that would be — if you thought of it in Manhattan terms, it would be probably something on the order of 20 square city blocks obliterated and radiation coming from that area. So, to say “low-yield” is, of course, a little bit wrong. But it is the lowest-yield missile warhead available to the strategic nuclear forces.

And the real reason behind deploying a Trident warhead with this low-yield weapon was that the United States, the nuclear planners, felt that they didn’t have a prompt and assured capability to threaten Russia or threaten other adversaries — “prompt” meaning that it would be quickly delivered, 30 minutes, or even, if a submarine is close, as low as 15 minutes, and “assured” meaning that it isn’t a bomber or an airplane that has to penetrate enemy air defenses in order to get to the target. So, those two things, prompt and assured, is what they really wanted. And putting a warhead on the missiles on the submarines allowed them both covert deployments as well as getting close to the target.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what this means between the United States and Russia.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Well, between the United States and Russia, I think it really doesn’t change very much. The Russians can denounce the Trident warhead, but the reality is that they have 2,000 of their own small nuclear weapons of this sort opposite Europe. And one of the justifications for the deployment of this new nuclear weapon, Amy, was that the Russians in fact had, if you will, a numerical advantage against NATO, and there was a desire to have a more “usable” nuclear weapon in order to eliminate that advantage. I think the U.S.-Russian situation is certainly tense, but it’s not really what this weapon is about. What this weapon is about is having a more usable nuclear weapon against countries like Iran and North Korea, where in fact a shocking first use of nuclear weapons, a preemptive use of nuclear weapons, would be used to either stop a war or to destroy a very important target, say, for instance, if there were a missile on a launchpad ready to strike at that United States.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2017, General John Hyten, who’s now vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. already has military capabilities to respond to Russian deployment of nuclear weapons.

GEN. JOHN HYTEN: The plans that we have right now — one of the things that surprised me most when I took command on November 3rd was the flexible options that are in all our options today. So we actually have very flexible options in our plans. So, if something bad happens in the world and there’s a response and I’m on the phone with the secretary of defense and the president and the entire staff, which is the attorney general, secretary of state and everybody, I actually have a series of very flexible options, from conventional all the way up to large-scale nuke, that I can advise the president on to give him options on what he would want to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Arkin, if you could respond?

WILLIAM ARKIN: Options. That’s what they’re always saying, “options.” They need better options to do this, better options to do that. You have to look at this new weapon and say, “In its most basic terms, what does it give the United States that it doesn’t already have?” And those two things that I already mentioned: a prompt capability, being able to strike at a target in 15 minutes or less, and, second, an assured capability — that is, a missile that’s able to penetrate any enemy air defenses.

That makes it a particularly dangerous weapon in the hands of the current president, because I’ve heard from many people, more than I expected in my reporting, that they were concerned that Donald Trump, in his own way, might be more prone to accept the use of nuclear weapons as one of options when he was presented with a long list of options. One senior officer said to me, “We’re afraid that if we present Donald Trump with a hundred options of what to do in a certain crisis, and only one of them is a nuclear option, that he might go down the list and choose the one that is the most catastrophic.” And that officer said, “In 35 years of my being in the military, I’ve never thought before that I had to think of the personality of the president in presenting military options.”

AMY GOODMAN: So let’s talk about Iran now and what this means for Iran.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Well, the deployment, it happened very quickly. The decision was made in February 2018. The Trident warhead was already on the production line for the strategic submarines. So, at the end of the run of these warheads, they made about 50 new ones that were of the low-yield variety, because the production line was already operating and hot. So it happened very quickly. Ironically, it happened at the very time that the House of Representatives was debating whether or not the weapon should even be deployed. And by the time that was finished and President Trump had signed the defense appropriations bill on 20th of December, the weapon had already been in the field. So, it shows really a disconnect, as well, in the congressional debate between what’s actually happening on the ground and what it is that they’re talking about.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, for this to have been passed, you know, the House isn’t the Senate. The House is controlled by Democrats, so the Democrats passed this.

WILLIAM ARKIN: That’s correct. But in the end, the Senate turned down the House recommendation that the weapon not be deployed. And really, the tragedy here is that all of this occurred while the Tennessee was being loaded with a new missile, while the Tennessee was being prepared to go out on a new patrol, while the Tennessee actually went out into the Atlantic Ocean.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk again about Iran, exactly.

WILLIAM ARKIN: So, Iran is important because in June, when the drone was shot down, the president declined to retaliate militarily. And I think he got a lot of criticism from his party, from his wing, that he had made the wrong decision, that the United States should have retaliated against Iran. I think that stuck with Donald Trump. And I think, in the end, when it came to the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, in Baghdad, killed on the 2nd of January, that strike, people have told me, specifically was approved by Donald Trump, enthusiastically pushed by Donald Trump, because it kind of erased the mistake of him not retaliating in June.

At the same time, the United States was also increasing the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, in the Iran area. B-52 bombers were flown to Qatar. The USS Abraham Lincoln was sailed into the region. And there was a general buildup of defensive forces in places like Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia.

At this very moment when U.S.-Iranian relations are at such a deep, I think, divide and at a time also when Iran is free — and it’s not clear that they will, but free — to continue to pursue the development of nuclear materials and nuclear weapons, I think that we see maybe the beginning of a little bit of a creation of an argument that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction and that the United States is going to have to take action against that. And you’ve seen now from the president a number of very blunt statements that have said, “We will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.” That’s not necessarily what anyone I’m talking to in the military is focusing their attention on. They’re much more concerned about Iran in Syria, Iran in Yemen, Iran’s role in Iraq. But in terms of war planning, I think at the highest levels within the U.S. government there’s a general consensus about Iran as being still one of the “axis of evil,” still being in pursuit of nuclear weapons. And the Trump administration, particularly if it’s re-elected, is going to make Iran, I think, the centerpiece of a new defense strategy.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, it is President Trump that set that situation up by pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear accord and decimating it.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Yes, that and also the second decision that was made, which was designating the Quds Force as a foreign terrorist organization. This, ironically, in kind of the bureaucracy of terrorism, triggered a number of decisions and a number of actions, one of which was, with foreign terrorist organizations, the U.S. military then begins the process of targeting their leadership. And that’s what resulted in their starting to track Qassem Soleimani and then ultimately killing him. So it seems to me that we have these two separate tracks kind of converging at the same time: a foreign terrorist organization designation, on the one hand, and weapons of mass destruction, on the other.

AMY GOODMAN: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently advanced the Doomsday Clock 20 seconds closer to midnight, the clock a symbolic timekeeper that tracks the likelihood of nuclear war and other existential threats. It now stands closer to catastrophe than at any time since its creation in 1947. This is Mary Robinson, former Irish president, former U.N. human rights chief, speaking last month as the clock was set to 100 seconds to midnight.

MARY ROBINSON: The Doomsday Clock is a globally recognized indicator of the vulnerability of our existence. It’s a striking metaphor for the precarious state of the world, but, most frighteningly, as we have just heard, it’s a metaphor backed by rigorous scientific scrutiny. This is no mere analogy. We are now 100 seconds to midnight, and the world needs to wake up. Our planet faces two simultaneous existential threats: the climate crisis and nuclear weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Irish President Mary Robinson. The significance of the Doomsday Clock, Bill?

WILLIAM ARKIN: I think the real significance is the lack of public interaction and public activism on the question of nuclear weapons. Really, that’s the missing ingredient today, Amy. We have a situation where the United States and Russia are engaged in multi-hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of nuclear modernization, at a time when the United States is at a high level of crisis with Iran and North Korea. And where is the public? Where is the public? And where is the anti-nuclear movement? And where even is any candidate speaking up about this subject?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, speaking of the anti-nuclear movement, the nuclear-armed submarine we’re talking about was deployed from Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia. This is the same base where seven Catholic peace activists were recently found guilty on three felony counts and a misdemeanor charge for breaking into the base on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birth [sic], on April 4th, 2018. This is Plowshares activist Martha Hennessy, the granddaughter of Dorothy Day. It was actually the anniversary of his assassination. But this is Martha Hennessy, the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, speaking after she was convicted.

MARTHA HENNESSY: The weapons are still there. The treaties are being knocked down one after the next. But we are called to keep trying. And we will do this together. And we have no other choice. Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Martha Hennessy is the granddaughter of the Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, one of the seven who were found guilty when they went onto that nuclear base. So, Bill, in this last comment, if you can talk about the significance of their action? And also, when you say “low-yield” nuclear weapon, it must calm people. But this is a third of the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima?

WILLIAM ARKIN: So, “low-yield” is merely the title. It’s like saying that a Hummer is a small truck. I think that what’s important for people to take away from this development is that the United States has a new usable nuclear weapon, what the military itself considers to be more usable. That’s the change. And it’s also a weapon that can be stealthily and covertly deployed in the oceans. And that’s a change. And we do it at a time when, at least against Russia and North Korea and Iran, the United States is engaged in nuclear brinksmanship, at a time when it seems to me that the Congress is out to lunch, and there isn’t really an anti-nuclear movement in the United States, a mass movement, that could take up arms against this.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of Martha Hennessy, Liz McAlister, the peace activist and widow of Phil Berrigan, and others getting convicted on their protest at the base?

WILLIAM ARKIN: I started writing about nuclear weapons in 1981, when Ronald Reagan became president. I believe that’s about the time when we met. And then we had marches in which hundreds of thousands of people were in Central Park and in Europe and around the world. And today we have nothing of the sort. So, yes, it’s important that these peace workers continue to do their work and continue to do their important attention operations and exercises, their own, if you will, actions against nuclear weapons. But it’s not enough. The public has to be more engaged. And I believe that the Democratic Party candidates for president need to speak up and say something about nuclear weapons, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, there is a debate tonight in New Hampshire. We’ll see if that question is raised. William Arkin, longtime reporter who’s focused on military and nuclear policy, author of many books, including Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State. And we will link to your articles and your cover story in Newsweek magazine.

Geothermal energy has significant potential for a number of global regions. Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility recently shared this article indicating geothermal energy is being explored in Massachusetts. Is there an opportunity for expansion of geothermal systems to other regions?

Title: How A Climate Change Nonprofit Got Eversource Thinking About A Geothermal Future
Author: Bruce Gellerman
Date: 13 January 2020
News Agency: WBUR (Boston University)
Link: https://www.wbur.org/earthwhile/2020/01/13/heat-eversource-geothermal-energy-climate-change

Article Excerpt:

Natural gas utilities in Massachusetts are facing an existential crisis: they could be out of business by mid-century. That’s because the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act requires emissions from burning fossil fuels — like natural gas — be cut by 80% economy-wide by 2050.

But now a solution that could help save the companies — and the climate — is at hand. Or, more accurately, underfoot. It’s geothermal energy, which takes advantage of the biggest energy storage system on earth: the earth itself.

Our planet absorbs the sun’s solar energy and stores it underground as thermal energy that can be used to heat and cool homes and businesses. Just a few yards down, the earth’s temperature is a constant 50 to 60 degrees; warmer than the air above during winter, cooler in the summer. You can take advantage of the temperature difference using what is called a geothermal or ground source heat pump: plastic pipes filled with water and antifreeze pick up the heat from the ground, and the pump circulates it through a building.

The technology, developed in the late 1940s, does away with furnaces, air conditioners and hot water heaters, and is the most efficient way to heat and cool a building. While it’s widespread in some countries, like Sweden, it’s been slow to catch on here.

“The site has to be appropriate,” said architect Lisa Cunningham, who recently designed a gut renovation of a private Brookline home using geothermal energy. The best sites for geothermal systems have lots of space to install horizontal pipes in relatively shallow ground. But because the Brookline lot is so small, workers had to drill two holes 500 feet deep.

“One thing that’s so great about having a project like this right in the heart of a very dense town, we’re showing people it can be very cost-effective,” Cunningham said, adding that the cost for installing the system in the Brookline home “came in less than a comparable gas system.”

But that includes thousands of dollars in state rebates and federal tax incentives that are expiring. Cost is still a big hurdle, said Zeyneb Magavi, co-executive director of Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), a Cambridge-based environmental nonprofit.

“Geothermal ground source heating has been around a long time, and it has usually been installed one house by one house individually,” she said. “It works. However, it is a fairly high up-front cost, and you have to have the means and motivation to be able to do it.”

Magavi, a clean energy advocate, said she asked herself: Who already digs holes and puts pipes in the ground, has big money and is motivated to find a new business model? Her answer: natural gas distribution companies.

Magavi was familiar with the gas utilities through her work — along with HEET co-executive director Audrey Schulman and the Gas Leaks Allies — helping gas companies identify leaky pipes most in need of repair.

Together, they found it would cost $9 billion over 20 years to fix the aging infrastructure. Magavi suggested they use for money to transform the industry instead.

“The idea is that a gas utility takes out its leaky gas pipe and, instead of putting in new gas pipe, we put in a hot water loop,” Magavi said. “If we’re going to invest in infrastructure, let’s invest in infrastructure for the next century. Let’s not invest in infrastructure that was hot in 1850.”

HEET commissioned a study to investigate if there were a way to make geothermal energy appealing to both utilities and environmentalists.

“We wanted something that was renewable, resilient, reliable, kept gas workers in jobs, [was] equal or lower cost than gas, and safe and doable,” Magavi said. She found that “networking” — connecting geothermal systems to many homes and businesses — ticked all of the boxes.

“The beautiful thing is that when you interconnect them, the more customers you put on the system, the more efficient it gets,” Magavi said.

Magavi showed the results to senior officials with Eversource, the largest energy delivery company in New England.

It was an unusual pitch, but she felt that “they also understood that we were approaching this always from a data- and fact-based conversation, and they took us very seriously,” Magavi said.

Eversource Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Penni Conner said the company likes the idea.

“This looks a lot like the gas business that we’re in except it’s totally clean,” Conner said. “Eversource can bring the capital and the expertise to this. We know how to build infrastructure.”

Eversource conducted its own study of networked geothermal heat pump systems, leading it to propose three different pilot projects to Massachusetts regulators in order to prove that the networked systems are feasible.

Under a networked system, homes and businesses would own the geothermal heat pumps, while Eversource would own and manage the system of pipes, sensors and pressure regulators, Conner said. That would convert the gas utility into a networked, thermal management company.

“Maybe I have a laundromat that has a lot of heat load, maybe it’s working a lot in the evening,” Conner said. “So they are leveraging putting heat back into the system potentially in the evening when others need it for cooling. So you get that benefit.”

State regulators are now reviewing Eversources’s proposals for networked pilot projects, and could give the go-ahead within a year.

“I think we can move fast,” Magavi said. “My vision of the future is that we have wires delivering us renewable energy competing with pipes delivering us renewable energy. So thermal power and electric power grids, and the two benefit each other.”

Geothermal energy heating our homes, with pumps powered by solar- and wind-generated electricity. If this unusual collaboration between a natural gas utility and an environmental organization pays off, a clean energy future could be right under our feet.

An interesting article on nine major climate change tipping points.

Title: Explainer: Nine ‘tipping points’ that could be triggered by climate change
Author: Robert McSweeney
Date: 10 February 2020
Publication: Carbon Brief
Link: https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-nine-tipping-points-that-could-be-triggered-by-climate-change

It is quite interesting to hear that New York City (New York, USA) is taking measures to divest their pension funds (totaling $189 billion) from the nuclear weapons industry by 2023. I am reminded of how several cities – including Toronto, Ontario, Canada – have signed initiatives to declare their cities nuclear weapons free zones. How many cities globally have invested funds in the nuclear weapons industry? Is this data available? I think encouraging more cities, regions, companies, and organizations to divest from the nuclear weapons industry is a vital subject to explore in more detail.

On this subject, here is a recent update from the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Campaign regarding New York Cities initiative to divest from the nuclear weapons industry:

Link: shorturl.at/nvIS1

Text:

In January 2018, New York City decided to divest the city’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within the next five years. Now the city looks set to also divest from the nuclear weapons industry.

Last Tuesday (January 28), the Council held public hearings on draft Resolution 0976 which calls on New York City to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and divest from the nuclear weapons industry, and on Initiative 1621 to reaffirm New York City as a nuclear weapons-free zone and establish an advisory committee to implement this status.

The draft measures were introduced to the council in June 2019 by Council members Daniel Dromm, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos. Since then, New York peace, climate and disarmament activists have been campaigning to build endorsement from enough council members for the adoption of these two measures.

Council Members Dromm and Cabrera, co-chairs of the City Council hearings, look at mock $1-million nuclear weapons money notes as Jonathan Granoff presents testimony on behalf of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money.
The campaign has included directed research, lobbying of councillors, public events & actions, and open letters in support such as the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Open letter to New York City Council endorsed by representatives of over 20 New York peace, disarmament and climate action organizations, plus investors and entrepreneurs.

‘City of New York pension funds should not be used to support any aspect of nuclear weapons production, plain and simple,’ Councillor Helen Rosenthal told a support action organised by the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign in front of City Hall in October 2019.

‘Helping to fund nuclear proliferation (whether directly via investments in weapons manufacturers, or indirectly via Citibank and other financial institutions with ties to weapons makers) runs contrary to what this city and our 300,000+ municipal workers stand for. Our teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and so many other public sector workers have devoted their careers to making life better for their fellow New Yorkers. We cannot in good conscience assist in underwriting the catastrophic loss of life and environmental ruin that would result from a nuclear conflict.’

Support action outside city hall on October 29 which ‘counted nuclear weapons money’ and presented the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Open Letter to the NY City Council.
Impact of NYC nuclear weapons divestment

New York City pensions have approximately $480 million invested in the nuclear weapons industry. The divestment of this amount would probably not make any financial impact on the weapons manufacturers.

However, it would serve as a positive example of an action that can be taken by cities and other investors to align their investments with their ethical values. And it would give support to federal initiatives to cut nuclear weapons budgets, such as the SANE Act introduced into the U.S. Senate by PNND Co-President Ed Markey and the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by PNND Member Eleanor Holmes-Norton.

The Hearings”

The public hearings on Thursday were run jointly by Council member Daniel Dromm and Council member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the NYC Committee on Governmental Operations. They included testimony from a wide range of New Yorkers and civil society organisations, including from labour, education, academia, finance, health, religious and law sectors and from communities impacted by the production, testing and use of nuclear weapons. Witnesses stretched in age from 19-90. Click here for a video of the testimonies.

As the public hearings opened on Thursday, the two measures were one-vote short of a veto-proof majority. By the end of the hearings, Council Member Fernando Cabrera had affirmed his support thus ensuring the required votes for adoption. As such, it looks fairly certain that the measures will be adopted.

New York Administration resistance addressed by Move the Nuclear Weapons Money”

One unresolved issue from the hearings is which city department would oversee the implementation of the two measures. Another issue is what resources, including budget, would be required for implementation and from where these would come.

The New York City administration was represented by Ms Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs, who argued that her department (the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs) had neither the resources nor the mandate to implement the measures if they were adopted. She argued that her department was responsible for building good working relations between NY City and the United Nations, educating youth about the United Nations, and reporting to the UN on NYC’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, but not to engage in national security policy or international disarmament which was the mandate for the Federal government – not the city.

Mr Jonathan Granoff, representing Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, responded in his oral testimony that the remit from these resolutions was not that the City engage in advocacy at the United Nations, but rather to implement obligations arising from the UN that are applicable to cities as well as to federal governments. This is exactly what her department is doing with respect to SDGs, and is what they have a mandate to do for nuclear disarmament.

‘The very first resolution of the United Nations, which was adopted by consensus, affirmed a universal commitment to abolish atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and this is further affirmed as an obligation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty ,’ said Mr Granoff, who is also President of Global Security Institute and an internationally respected lawyer.

‘Ms Abeywardena, in outlining her department’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, seems to be unaware that SDG 16 includes the obligation to implement such international law at all levels of government, including at city level. As such, the Commission on International Affairs does indeed have the mandate to implement these measures if and when they are adopted.’

With regard to the human resources required to implement the measures, Mr Granoff agreed with Ms Abeywardena that her commission and the City Council did not have much expertise on nuclear weapons. ‘This is exactly why an advisory committee is required – to provide that expertise, and that expertise is here in this room, and you can have our expertise for free. The only resource standing in the way of getting rid of nuclear weapons is emotional, spiritual and political will.’

New York City and Mayors for Peace

The written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money included a proposal that a key action New York City should take in implementing the resolutions once adopted would be for them to join Mayors for Peace.

Jackie Cabassso, North America Representative for Mayors for Peace, in her oral testimony outlined some of the actions of Mayors for Peace – including introduction of nuclear disarmament resolutions that were adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Ms Cabasso reminded the City Council of the invitation from Mayors for Peace to New York to join, and urged she that they do so.

EU to unveil trillion-euro ‘Green Deal’ Financial Plan by Frédéric Simon [EURACTIV: 14 and 15 January 2020]

Link: https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/eu-to-unveil-trillion-euro-green-deal-financial-plan/

“The European Commission will propose on Tuesday (14 January) how the EU can pay for shifting the region’s economy to net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 while protecting coal-dependent regions from taking the brunt of changes aimed at fighting climate change.

The EU executive is to unveil details of its Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, aimed at mobilising investment of €1 trillion over 10 years, using public and private money to help finance its flagship project – the European Green Deal.

The “Green Deal” is an ambitious rethinking of Europe’s economy, transport and energy sectors aimed at turning the EU into a global leader on the clean technologies that will shape the coming decades.

Overall, the Commission estimates that an extra €260 billion in investments are needed per year to finance the switch to clean energy and reduced emissions.”

I am questioning whether enough will be done to mitigate the impacts of climate change with 2050 as the target goal. What impacts will this plan have in the near future? What about by 2030, 2040, etc.? The article additionally addresses the role of nuclear power – namely that some countries are lauding it as a climate friendly solution. This is alarming, given no nation has a feasible, long-term plan for the storage of radioactive wastes.

“There is also a tricky debate over nuclear energy to be navigated.

France champions atomic power as a low-carbon energy source which can help abate climate emissions. The Czech Republic and Hungary too defend nuclear as part of their energy mix.

But other member states, such as Luxembourg and Austria, are opposed to nuclear energy being painted as “green”.

The Commission document excludes transition fund money to finance the construction of nuclear power plants.”

Here is an additional article on the subject by Samuel Petrequin at AP News [14 January 2020]:

Link: https://apnews.com/5d4db8ffda58f03f090a04c35f0a2dc8

” The European Union plans to dedicate a quarter of its budget to tackling climate change and to work to shift 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) in investment toward making the EU’s economy more environmentally friendly over the next 10 years.”

[…]

“Another 7.5 billion euros from the 2021-2027 EU budget is earmarked as seed funding within a broader mechanism expected to generate another 100 billion euros in investment. That money will be designed to convince coal-dependent countries like Poland to embrace the Green Deal by helping them weather the financial and social costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

“This is our pledge of solidarity and fairness,” said Frans Timmermans, the Dutch politician tapped as executive vice president of the European Green Deal.

The plan would allocate the money according to specific criteria. For example, regions where a large number of people work in coal, peat mining or shale oil and gas would get priority.”

[…]

“In order to qualify for the financial support, member states will need to present plans to restructure their economy detailing low-emission projects. The plans will need the commission’s approval.”

I heard in the news yesterday – 23 December 2019 – that the British Columbia area – had a number of earthquakes in a short time period. It seems somewhat similar to how the earthquake started in Japan in March, 2011. I am shocked more cities in the Americas – such as those along the West Coast – do not have more discussions around disaster planning. Scientists have been warning about earthquake and tsunami risks in these regions for decades! A 9.0 earthquake struck in January 1700. How would the large cities fare if a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit Los Angeles, Seattle, or Vancouver? Do these cities have warning systems? What about the smaller cities and towns – such as the numerous regions along the Latin and South American coasts (Guayaquil, Puerta Vallarta, etc.)

As municipal governments unanimously declare climate emergencies, it’s depressingly inadequate.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberal MPs did so similarly, while his inner circle went ahead with an oxymoronic re-approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This will see a tripling of the flow of diluted bitumen—the world’s dirtiest oil—and a seven-fold increase in waterway crude-shipping traffic.
Renowned linguist and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky has noted that while the mainstream news-media will report on climate change and related extreme weather events, it will then go to business-as-usual reporting that seems to encourage stronger fossil fuel markets and by extension its consumption.
This is one reason I still see humankind’s dire environmental situation as somewhat analogous to a cafeteria lineup consisting of diversely societally represented people, all adamantly arguing over which identifiable traditionally marginalized person should be at the front and, conversely, at the back of the line; and, furthermore, to whom amongst them should go the last piece of quality pie and how much should they have to pay for it—all the while the interstellar spaceship on which they’re all permanently confined, owned and operated by the fossil fuel industry, is burning and toxifying at locations not normally investigated.

What role does translation play in these circumstances? Is it possible that some things do not translate “cleanly” or clearly across languages? Could this result in misunderstandings or a difference of understanding? Who is responsible for translating vital conversations, documents, or memos and are they vetted to identify or mitigate bias? Are there implicit or explicit biases in cross cultural concepts (or other circumstances) that are not being accounted for or considered? This would be extremely difficult to address in real-time translation. Even slight wording differences could make a difference in specific circumstances. This could have a massive impact on relations between various parties – think like the “broken telephone game” only on an exponential scale.

Spain obstructs agreement on ‘Tobin tax’ . By Jorge Valero | EURACTIV.com .
Revenue sharing among member states appears as the main outstanding issue in order to reach an agreement on the financial transaction tax (FTT), as Spain still opposes the redistribution of resources, European officials told EURACTIV.

Sources close to the dossier said that Italy has also made an alternative proposal to share the revenues.https://www.euractiv.com/section/economy-jobs/news/spain-obstructs-agreement-on-tobin-tax/ . (Photo German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire arrive to hold a joint news conference after a Special Eurogroup Finance Ministers’ meeting in Brussels. [Julie Warnand/EPA])

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Column: How much would Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax raise? Economists battle over the number . https://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-wealth-tax-20190626-story.html

Most millionaires support a tax on wealth above $50 million, CNBC survey says https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/12/most-millionaires-support-tax-on-wealth-above-50-million-cnbc-survey.html

Oscar Mayer heir: It’s time for a 100% tax on billionaire estates
By Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins is the great grandson of the meatpacker Oscar Mayer and the author of Born on Third Base and, with Bill Gates Sr., of Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes. He is a founding member of the Patriotic Millionaires.
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/24/its-time-for-a-100percent-tax-on-billionaire-estates-oscar-mayer-heir-says.html

I think there’s a shift towards using the Tobin proposal as a template for a variety of sin taxes to generate revenue. In the end the goal is to shift funds from the wealthiest; it is a redistribution project. Remember that Tobin’s goal was not revenue generation but calming speculation. This is pointed out in the plank essay.