See film "Island Earth"

SUBHEAD: An underground movement of young people moving back to the land and growing their own food.

By Jerry DiPietro on 18 January 2017 for GMO Free Kauai -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2017/01/see-film-island-earth_18.html)


Image above: Detail of promotional poster for film "Island Earth". From Jeri DiPietro.

the Kauai premiere of a film "Island Earth" by Cyrus Sutton, an Emmy Award winning film maker and Professional Surfer. The film features many of our local and national friends in the movement!

The film is about all of you, and will help bring our story to the rest of the world!

WHAT:
Documentary movie "Island Earth" about agriculture, GMOs, pesticides and Hawaii.

WHEN:
Friday, Feburary 10th, 2107. Doors open at 6:00pm. Movie starts at 7:00pm.

WHERE:
Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center
Kaumaulii Highway
Puhi, Kauai

SPONSORS:
Hawaii SEED, GMO Free Kauai and The MOM Hui

CONTACTS:
Tabling space available for our coalition partners (with reservations in advance of the event.
Call MiKey at (808 )651-9603 or Jeri at (808) 651-1332. 

We hope to fill up the Performing Arts Center so please come meet filmaker Cyrus Sutton, and please share and help spread the word! See you on Friday, February 10th.


Video above: Trailer for "Island Earth" From (https://youtu.be/8YHfoehag5I). Provided by (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cyrussutton/island-earth-documentary)

This documentary is about an underground movement of young people moving back to the land and growing their own food in response to corporate corruption in our food supply.


Video above: Background film about Cyrus Sutton and "Island Earth". From (https://youtu.be/q1YCMkcVDDg).

Cyrus Sutton is many things. A surfer. A storyteller. A filmmaker. An activist. It's his dynamic, healthy skepticism of the status quo and profound dedication to change that make him a visionary in the canon of contemporary surf personalities.

Currently, he's producing a new film called Island Earth that explores the world's food supply. You can bet that it will inspire you to take your food – and the way you choose to spend your cash in supporting business – just a little more seriously. And that's a good thing. 
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Deep State Division

SUBHEAD: The military may play a role reducing the toxic influence of neocon and neoliberals within the Deep State.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 18 January 2017 for Of Two Minds -
(http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjan17/rogue-deep-state1-17.html)


Image above: Mashup by Juan Wilson of split in US intelligence agencies. From (https://www.pinterest.com/explore/central-intelligence-agency/).

Rather than being the bad guys, as per the usual Liberal world-view, the Armed Forces may well play a key role in reducing the utterly toxic influence of neocon-neoliberals within the Deep State.

Suddenly everybody is referring to the Deep State, typically without offering much of a definition.

The general definition is the unelected government that continues making and implementing policy regardless of who is in elected office.

I have been writing about this structure for ten years and studying it from the outside for forty years.
Back in 2007, I called it the Elite Maintaining and Extending Global Dominance, which is a more concise description of the structure than Deep State. Going to War with the Political Elite You Have (May 14, 2007).

I've used a simplified network chart to explain the basic structure of the Deep State, which is the complex network of state-funded and/or controlled institutions, agencies, foundations, university research projects, media ties, etc.

The key point here is you can't separate these network nodes. You cannot separate The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the national labs (nukes, energy, etc.), the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, the National Security State (alphabet soup of intelligence/black budget agencies: CIA, NSA, DIA, etc.), Silicon Valley and the research universities. They are all tied together by funding, information flows, personnel and a thousand other connections.

For the past few years, I have been suggesting there is a profound split in the Deep State that is not just about power or ideology, but about the nature and future of National Security: in other words, what policies and priorities are actually weakening or threatening the long-term security of the United States?

I have proposed that there are progressive elements within the sprawling Deep State that view the dominant neocon-neoliberal agenda of the past 24 years as a disaster for the long-term security of the U.S. and its global interests (a.k.a. the Imperial Project).

There are also elements within the Deep State that view Wall Street's dominance as a threat to America's security and global interests. (This is not to say that American-based banks and corporations aren't essential parts of the Imperial Project; it's more about the question of who is controlling whom.)

So let's dig in by noting that the warmongers in the Deep State are civilians, not military. It's popular among so-called Liberals (the vast majority of whom did not serve nor do they have offspring in uniform--that's fallen to the disenfranchised and the working class) to see the military as a permanent source of warmongering.

(It's remarkably easy to send other people's children off to war, while your own little darlings have cush jobs in Wall Street, foundations, think tanks, academia, government agencies, etc.)

These misguided souls are ignoring that it's civilians who order the military to go into harm's way, not the other way around. The neocons who have waged permanent war as policy are virtually all civilians, few of whom served in the U.S. armed forces and none of whom (to my knowledge) have actual combat experience.

These civilian neocons were busily sacking and/or discrediting critics of their warmongering within the U.S. military all through the Iraqi debacle. now that we got that straightened out--active-duty service personnel have borne the brunt of civilian planned, ordered and executed warmongering--let's move on to the split between the civilian Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the DoD (Department of Defense) intelligence and special ops agencies: DIA, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, etc.

Though we have to be careful not to paint a very large agency with one brush, it's fair to say that the civilian leadership of the CIA (and of its proxies and crony agencies) has long loved to "play army".

The CIA has its own drone (a.k.a. Murder, Inc.) division, as well as its own special ops ("play army" Special Forces), and a hawkish mentality that civilians reckon is "play army special forces" (mostly from films, in which the CIA's role is carefully managed by the CIA itself: How the CIA Hoodwinked Hollywood (The Atlantic)

Meanwhile, it's not exactly a secret that when it comes to actual combat operations and warfighting, the CIA's in-theater intelligence is either useless, misleading or false. This is the result of a number of institutional failings of the CIA, number one of which is the high degree of politicization within its ranks and organizational structure.

The CIA's reliance on "analysis" rather than human agents (there's a lot of acronyms for all these, if you find proliferating acronyms of interest), and while some from-30,000-feet analysis can be useful, it's just as often catastrophically wrong.

We can fruitfully revisit the Bay of Pigs disaster, the result of warmongering civilians in the CIA convincing incoming President Kennedy that the planned invasion would free Cuba of Castro's rule in short order.

There are many other examples, including the failure to grasp Saddam's willingness to invade Kuwait, given the mixed signals he was receiving from U.S. State Department personnel.

Simply put, if you are actually prosecuting a war, then you turn to the services' own intelligence agencies to help with actual combat operations, not the CIA. This is of course a sort of gossip, and reading between the lines of public information; nobody is going to state this directly in writing.

As I have noted before:
"If you want documented evidence of this split in the Deep State--sorry, it doesn't work that way. Nobody in the higher echelons of the Deep State is going to leak anything about the low-intensity war being waged because the one thing everyone agrees on is the Deep State's dirty laundry must be kept private.

As a result, the split is visible only by carefully reading between the lines, by examining who is being placed in positions of control in the Trump Administration, and reading the tea leaves of who is "retiring" (i.e. being fired) or quitting, which agencies are suddenly being reorganized, and the appearance of dissenting views in journals that serve as public conduits for Deep State narratives."
Many so-called Liberals are alarmed by the number of military officers Trump has appointed.

Once you realize it's the neocon civilians who have promoted and led one disastrous military intervention (either with U.S. Armed Forces or proxies managed by the CIA) after another, then you understand Trump's appointments appear to be a decisive break from the civilian warmongers who've run the nation into the ground.

If you doubt this analysis, please consider the unprecedentedly politicized (and pathetically childish) comments by outgoing CIA director Brennan against an incoming president.

Even if you can't stand Trump, please document another instance in which the CIA director went off on an incoming president-- and this after the CIA spewed a blatant misinformation campaign claiming a hacked Democratic Party email account constituted a successful Russian effort to influence the U.S. election--a surreal absurdity.

Let me translate for you: our chosen Insider lost the election; how dare you!

A number of observers are wondering if the CIA and its Deep State allies and cronies will work out a way to evict Trump from office or perhaps arrange a "lone gunman" or other "accident" to befall him.

The roots of such speculations stretch back to Dallas, November 1963, when a "long gunman" with ties to the CIA and various CIA proxies assassinated President Kennedy, an avowed foe of the CIA.

Setting aside the shelfloads of books on the topic, both those defending the "lone gunman" thesis and those contesting it, the unprecedented extremes of institutionally organized and executed anti-Trump campaigns is worthy of our attention.

Given my thesis of a profound disunity in the Deep State, and the emergence of a progressive element hostile to neocons and neoliberalism (including Wall Street), then it's not much of a stretch to speculate that this rogue Deep State opposed to neocon-neoliberalism has Trump's back, as a new administration is pretty much the only hope to rid the nation's top echelons of the neocon-neoliberal policies that have driven the U.S. into the ground.

Rather than being the bad guys, as per the usual Liberal world-view, the Armed Forces may well play a key role in reducing the utterly toxic influence of neocon-neoliberals within the Deep State.

If you have wondered why academics like Paul Krugman and the CIA are on the same page, it's because they are simply facets of the same structure. Krugman is a vocal neoliberal, the CIA is vocally neocon: two sides of the same coin.

I invite you to study the chart above with an open mind, and ponder the possibility that the Deep State is not monolithic, but deeply divided along the fault lines of Wall-Street-Neocons-Neoliberals and the progressive elements that rightly view the dominant neocon-neoliberals as a threat to U.S. national security, U.S. global interests and world peace.

We can speculate that some of these progressive elements view Trump with disdain for all the same reasons those outside the Deep State disdain him, but their decision tree is simple: if you want to rid America's Deep State of toxic neocon-neoliberalism before it destroys the nation, you hold your nose and go with Trump because he's the only hope you have.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: America versus the Deep State 1/10/17
Ea O Ka Aina: The deepening Deep State 12/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Is Deep State tanking Hillary? 10/31/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Is the Deep State dumping Hillary? 9/26/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Is the Deep State for Hillary?  8/9/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Deep State Long Game 8/12/16

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Last Man on the Moon

SUBHEAD: Astronaut Eugene Cernan has died at 82. He was the last man to walk on the moon.

By Xeni Jardin on 16 January 2017 for Boing Boing -
(http://boingboing.net/2017/01/16/astronaut-eugene-cernan-last.html)


Image above: Eugene Cernan aboard the Apollo 17 Command Module covered in moon dusted spacesuit on way back to Earth. From original article.

"We leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind."

These were the last words Eugene Cernan said upon leaving the surface of our moon, at the end of Apollo 17.

Cernan (shown below at the beginning of EVA 3) was the last man to walk on the moon. He died Monday, January 16, 2017 surrounded by his family.


Image above: Eugene Cernan, with Earth overhead, during moonwalk during last NASA mission to moon in 1972. From original article.

From the NASA remembrance:
Cernan, a Captain in the U.S. Navy, left his mark on the history of exploration by flying three times in space, twice to the moon. He also holds the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last human to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
He was one of 14 astronauts selected by NASA in October 1963. He piloted the Gemini 9 mission with Commander Thomas P. Stafford on a three-day flight in June 1966. Cernan logged more than two hours outside the orbiting capsule.

In May 1969, he was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, the first comprehensive lunar-orbital qualification and verification test of the lunar lander. The mission confirmed the performance, stability, and reliability of the Apollo command, service and lunar modules. The mission included a descent to within eight nautical miles of the moon's surface.
In a 2007 interview for NASA's oral histories, Cernan said, "I keep telling Neil Armstrong that we painted that white line in the sky all the way to the Moon down to 47,000 feet so he wouldn't get lost, and all he had to do was land. Made it sort of easy for him."

Cernan concluded his historic space exploration career as commander of the last human mission to the moon in December 1972. En route to the moon, the crew captured an iconic photo of the home planet, with an entire hemisphere fully illuminated -- a "whole Earth" view showing Africa, the Arabian peninsula and the south polar ice cap. The hugely popular photo was referred to by some as the "Blue Marble," a title in use for an ongoing series of NASA Earth imagery.


Image above: Iconic photo of whole Earth taken by Eugene Cernan during Apollo 17 mission, the last voyage to the moon. From original article.


Video above: NASA film of Eugene Cernan singing "Merry Month of May" while moonwalking. From (https://youtu.be/8V9quPcNWZE).

See also:
  .
The Gobbler: Moonshot Part One 9/21/94
A rocky road to the Cape Canaveral.

The Gobbler: Moonshot Part Two 9/21/94
Up close to a Saturn V Rocket.

The Gobbler : Moonshot Part Three 9/21/94 
NASA's first launch to the Moon.

Global Warming clobbers Ocean Life

SOURCE: Katherine Muzik PHD (kmuzik@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: These die-offs are different, much different. All-out alarm is warranted with bells clanging!

By Robert Hunziker on 16 January 2016 for Counter Punch -
(http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/16/global-warming-clobbers-ocean-life/)


Image above: Scientists measuring thinness of ice in the Arctic around meltponds. From (https://fossilfreeri.org/2015/07/26/science-risk-and-morality/).

The waters of the Pacific off the California coast are transparently clear. Problem is: Clear water is a sign that the ocean is turning into desert (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA).

From Alaska to Central America, and beyond, sea life has been devastated over the past three years like never before. Is it Fukushima, or nature running its own course, or some kind of perverse wrath emanating from global warming? For a hint, scientists refer to the lethal ocean warming over the past few years as “the Warm Blob.”

After all, global warming hits the ocean much, much harder than land. Up to 90% of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming is absorbed by the ocean, which is fortuitous for humans.

Just imagine the chaos if the situation were reversed: Mobs of regular ole people morphing into maddened gangs striving for food, huddled in far northern latitudes while Mid America scorches brittle crops in sandy soil, a dystopian lifestyle.

“Upper ocean heat content has increased significantly over the past two decades” (Source: Climate Change: Ocean Heat Content, NOAA, Climate.gov, July 14, 2015). More than 3,000 Argo floats strategically positioned worldwide measure ocean temps every 10 days.

Scientists classify the Warm Blob phenomenon as “multi-year ocean heat waves,” with temperatures 7° F above normal and up to 10°F above normal in extreme cases. How would humans handle temperatures, on average, 7° to 10°F above normal? There’d be mass migrations from Florida to Alaska, for sure.

As it happens, sea animals do not do well. They die in unbelievably massive numbers; all across the ocean… the animal die-offs are unprecedented. Scientists are stunned!

After years of horrendous worldwide sea animal die-offs, 2016 was a banner year. Is this out of the ordinary? Sadly, the answer is: Yes.

The numbers are simply staggering, not just in the Pacific, but around the world, e.g., the following is but a partial list during only one month (December 2016):
Tens of thousands of dead starfish beached in Netherlands;
Six-thousand dead fish in Maryland waterway;
Ten tons of dead fish in Brazilian river;
Tens of thousands of dead fish wash up on Cornwall, England beach;
Schools of dead herring in Nova Scotia;
One 100 tons of fish suddenly dead in Indonesia;
Massive fish deaths ‘state of calamity’ in Philippines;
Thousands of dead crayfish float down river in New Zealand;
Masses of dead starfish, crabs, and fish wash ashore in Nova Scotia, and there are more and more….
In fact, entire articles are written about specific areas of massive die offs, for example: “Why Are Chilean Beaches Covered With Dead Animals?” Smithsonian.com, May 4, 2016. Chilean health officials had to resort to heavy machinery to remove 10,000 dead rotting squid from coastlines earlier in the 2016 year.

Over 300 whale carcasses hit the beaches and 8,000 tons of sardines and 12% of the annual salmon catch… all found dead on beaches, to name only a few! You’ve gotta wonder why?

According to Nate Mantua, research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, California: “One of the things that is clear is there’s a lot of variation from year to year along the Pacific Coast, and some of that is tied into natural patterns, like El Niño,’ Mantua said. ‘But what we saw in 2014, ‘15 and the first part of ‘16 was warmer than anything we’ve seen in our historical records, going back about 100 years” (Mary Callahan, Year in Review: Ocean Changes Upend North Coast Fisheries, The Press Democrat, Dec. 25, 2016).

Fishermen bitterly claim the ocean is changing like never before. Meanwhile, scientists study those weird changes but do not fully understand the problem.

Unfortunately, the general public does not see changes hidden within water; otherwise, they, the general public, might organize and demand their politicians in Washington, D.C. fight climate change/global warming.

According to John Largier, professor of coastal oceanography at UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, “Climate change syndrome is definitely having an impact,” Ibid.

As it happens, the world climate system is interconnected, interwoven such that climatic stress originated at sea spills onto land, e.g., the Warm Blob was first observed and linked to a high-pressure ridge stationed over the north Pacific in 2011.

 This ridge diverted winter storms, thereby exacerbating California’s drought meanwhile weakening winds that ordinarily absorb ocean heat and stir up the cold water necessary for immensely productive Northern Coast breeding grounds for marine wildlife.

Morosely, too-warm ocean water serves as breeding ground for the infamous deadly “red tide,” a bloom of single-celled organism that thrives in warmer waters, producing a neurotoxin called domoic acid, resulting in enormous numbers of sea lion fatalities and massive destruction of Dungeness crab fisheries and all kinds of other trouble.

Too-warm water also contributes to the collapse of bull kelp forests, which are the ocean’s equivalent of the tropical rain forest; meanwhile, purple urchins thrive and multiply in explosive fashion in the poisonous environment, devouring remaining plant life. Thereby, out-competing hapless red abalone, the shellfish that people love.

Collapsing food chains are evident up and down the Pacific Coast earmarked by large die offs of Cassin Auklets, a tiny seabird, as well as massive numbers of Common Murres. The sea lions and fur seals suffer from starvation and domoic acid poisoning. In early 2013 scientists declared the sea lion die-off an “unusual mortality event.”

Nursing sea lion mothers are unable to find enough forage like sardines and anchovies. Pups, searching for food, strand on beaches filled with curious sunbathers with a natural proclivity to cuddle the hapless cuties that could easily result in fierce attacks. As it happens, lifeguards run along sandy beaches warning beachcombers beware!

Still, wildlife die-offs are an ancient phenomenon, mentioned by Aristotle in his Historia Animalium (4th Century B.C.). In the U.S. in 1884, hundreds of tons of dead fish bellied up in lakes around Madison, Wisconsin. This knowledge of the past gives one pause when considering whether an all-out alarm is warranted this time around. After all, isn’t it nature’s way?

No, this time it is different, much different. The all-out alarm is warranted with bells clanging! Yes, of course part of nature’s cycle over the eons involves wildlife die-offs. That’s nature, but nowadays nature is out-of-whack! Ring the bells; blast the sirens!

As published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Recent Shifts in the Occurrence, Cause, and Magnitude of Animal Mass Events, Vol. 112, no. 4, Aug. 5, 2014) it was found that worldwide animal die-offs are increasing in both number and magnitude, even after statistically correcting for the fact that mass deaths are now more likely to be documented than in the past.

“Every biologist I spoke with who is researching mass-mortality events said that many wildlife die-offs today really could be signals of serious problems with the ecological fundamentals of the planet” (Source: J.B. MacKinnon, On Animal Deaths and Human Anxieties, The New Yorker, April 21, 2015). That is the worst possible news you can ever hear.

As for only one example amongst many, the typical number of bird deaths per reported die-off was about 100 in the 1940s. Today it is 10,000 and reported much more frequently than 75 years ago.

Bottom line, the ocean ecosystem is under fierce attack, and it is real, very real indeed with too much global warming, too much ag runoff, too much heavy-duty massive overfishing, likely too much nuclear radiation.

The ocean absorbs anthropogenic CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, similar to the upper atmospheric   The ocean absorbs 90% of the heat that is generated CO2.  Thank your lucky stars for that… but only temporarily!

There is deadly acidification in the ocean caused by excessive CO2 concentrations (already damaging pteropods at the base of the marine food chain).

As stated by the Environmental Defense Fund: “Oceans are at the Brink”- For decades, the ocean has been absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) dumped into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. It has absorbed a lot of the extra heat produced by elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. But even the ocean has limits!

Going forward, how will the Trump administration confront this messy, possibly fatal and very complex situation, since fossil fuels are the main driver behind climate change/global warming?

Will the Trump administration initiate a nationwide renewable energy plan, similar to Communist China? Accordingly: (Michael Forsythe, China Aims to Spend at Least $360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020, New York Times, January 5, 2017)

.

Dumb and Dumber

SUBHEAD: Coal-loving Wyoming legislators are pushing a bill to outlaw wind and solar.

By Katie Herzog on 14 January 2017 for Grist -
(http://grist.org/briefly/coal-loving-wyoming-legislators-are-pushing-a-bill-to-outlaw-wind-and-solar/)



Image above: The Eagle Butte coal mine outside Gillette, Wyoming is operated by Alpha Coal West Inc. and is one of about a dozen mines in the Gillette area. From (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/20/us/as-wind-power-lifts-wyomings-fortunes-coal-miners-are-left-in-the-dust.html).

On the first day of the state’s legislative session, nine Republican lawmakers filed legislation that would bar utilities from using electricity produced by large-scale renewable energy projects.

The bill, whose sponsors are primarily from the state’s top coal-producing counties, would require utilities to use only approved energy sources like coal, natural gas, nuclear power, hydroelectric, and oil.

While individual homeowners and small businesses could still use rooftop solar or backyard wind, utilities would face steep fines if they served up clean energy.

Wyoming is the nation’s largest producer of coal, and gets nearly 90 percent of its electricity from coal, but it also has huge, largely untapped wind potential.

Currently, one of the nation’s largest wind farms is under construction there, but most of the energy will be sold outside Wyoming. Under this bill, such out-of-state sales could continue, yet the measure would nonetheless have a dampening effect on the state’s nascent renewable energy industry.

Experts are skeptical that the bill will pass, even in dark-red Wyoming, InsideClimate News reports. One of the sponsors, Rep. Scott Clem, is a flat-out climate change denier whose website showcases a video arguing that burning fossil fuels has improved the environment.


.

Insane Clown President Trump

SUBHEAD: Matt Taibbi says were too sure of our own influence, too lazy to bother hearing things firsthand.

By Tyler Durden on 17 January 2016 for Zero Hedge -
(http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-01-15/matt-taibbi-insane-clown-president-trump-was-right-about-media)


Image above: "Insane Clown President" illustration by Victor Juhasz. From (https://muffybolding.com/2015/08/17/its-always-darkest-before-the-don/).

While U.S. political journalist Matt Taibbi has made no bones about his dislike of Donald Trump... (via Rolling Stone a day after the election)

Most of us smarty-pants analysts never thought Trump could win because we saw his run as a half-baked white-supremacist movement fueled by last-gasp, racist frustrations of America's shrinking silent majority.

Sure, Trump had enough jackbooted nut jobs and conspiracist stragglers under his wing to ruin the Republican Party. But surely there was no way he could topple America's reigning multicultural consensus. How could he? After all, the country had already twice voted in an African-American Democrat to the White House.

Yes, Trump's win was a triumph of the hideous racism, sexism and xenophobia that has always run through American society. But his coalition also took aim at the neoliberal gentry's pathetic reliance on proxies to communicate with flyover America.

They fed on the widespread visceral disdain red-staters felt toward the very people Hillary Clinton's campaign enlisted all year to speak on its behalf: Hollywood actors, big-ticket musicians, Beltway activists, academics, and especially media figures.

Trump's rebellion was born at the intersection of two toxic American myths, the post-racial society and the classless society.
CBC reports that the Rolling Stone columnist admits in his new book - "Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus" - the president-elect got more than a few things right during an election campaign that brought to the forefront America's struggles with racism, class divide and economic stagnation.

One of Trump's gambles that really paid off, according to Taibbi, was painting a target on the back of the U.S. political media.
"The media and politicians had spent so much time with each other that they lost touch with regular people, and Trump capitalized on that. He made us in the media villains, representative of this out of touch, ivory tower political culture," he said.

"I think there's some fairness to it, as much as I dislike Donald Trump, he hit a note, several notes, in this campaign that were true, and that was one of them."
Another one, he says, is Washington corruption. Taibbi believes Trump was correct to say that both Democrats and Republicans have become more beholden to their political donors than to their constituents, and his vow to "drain the swamp" struck a chord.

But he doesn't think Americans should hold their breath for their incoming president to fix any of the issues at the heart of his campaign rhetoric.

"Even though his diagnoses on some things in some cases are accurate, it's his solutions that are the problem,"  Taibbi said. "He's not a deep thinker and his instincts for fixing everything are purely authoritarian."
As Taibbi concluded in a lengthy article just a day after Trump's election victory,
"We journalists made the same mistake the Republicans made, the same mistake the Democrats made.

We were too sure of our own influence, too lazy to bother hearing things firsthand, and too in love with ourselves to imagine that so many people could hate and distrust us as much as they apparently do.

It's too late for any of us to fix this colossal misread and lapse in professional caution.

Now all we can do is wait to see how much this failure of vision will cost the public we supposedly serve. Just like the politicians, our job was to listen, and we talked instead.

Now America will do its own talking for a while. The world may never forgive us for not seeing this coming."

.

Under New Management?

SUBHEAD: Is Trump just another variant of the Deep State stranglehold on the Untied States?

By Jeff Thomas on  16 January 2017 for The International Man -
(http://www.internationalman.com/articles/under-new-management)


Image above: Obama meeting in White House with Donald Trump after he won the presidential election. From (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/us/politics/transition-briefing-passing-the-presidency-to-donald-trump.html).

In 2008, the majority of Americans voted for “change,” and in some ways, they got it. They received a heavier dose of collectivism in the form of Obamacare, but in addition, they received an even heavier dose of “more of the same.”

Mister Obama did not put an end to Guantanamo as he promised.  And, although he did remove troops from Iraq (only to send them back a few years later), he expanded America’s military adventures overall, invading numerous sovereign nations.

As for his promise to come down hard on the sworn enemies of democrats—the evil usurpers on Wall Street—he instead dug in deeper. His Treasury secretaries were banking insiders, not the “reformers” that had been anticipated.

Many who had voted for Mister Obama were deeply disappointed. Under him, government had grown, warfare had expanded, the economy worsened and Wall Street became even fatter than before.
In 2016, Americans, in large part, sought the selfsame changes—less central government control, less overseas aggression and a reigning-in of Wall Street and banks.
But to achieve these ends, voters switched sides once again and voted for a Republican, one who boldly committed to “drain the swamp.”

So, what are the odds that they’ll receive those changes? Let’s have a look.

When a new leader is elected, the best first assumption to make is that his campaign promises probably had little or no relationship to his actual intentions.

More likely, his intentions will be to continue to pander to the Deep State and those that helped him to get elected. Therefore, it’s always a good idea, in any country, to pay attention to the new leader’s choice as his posse.

The US president-elect has been active in choosing the gunslingers who will ride with him into Washington and the choices may provide an early warning as to who the new president really intends to be.

So, first off would be his closest advisors—his chief of staff and his chief strategist. Mister Trump’s choices, respectively, are Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon. Mister Bannon is a Goldman alumnus.

In addition, Gary Cohn, Goldman’s president, has been chosen as director of the National Economic Council. By any measure, the cabinet will be somewhat of an extension of Goldman.

Mister Trump railed against Wall Street during his campaign and vilified his opponent on Twitter, stating, “Hillary will never reform Wall Street. She is owned by Wall Street!” His supporters had every reason to expect that he would prove to be the reformer they hoped for, yet his choices above suggest that that’s not the plan.

This likelihood is further enforced by his choice of Steven Mnuchin, who spent 17 years at Goldman, as Treasury secretary. His choice for commerce secretary is Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor who is also unlikely to emerge as an advocate for reform.

As to whether warfare will be diminished in the coming administration, Mister Trump has stated clearly, in reference to ISIS, that he intends to “bomb the shit out of ’em.” (No uncertainty there.)

His choice for national security advisor is Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, whose primary focus is in ramping up tensions with Iran.

His choice for secretary of defense is Gen. James Mattis, who has declared his desire to invade Iran. In addition, Mike Pompeo, who also favours an invasion of Iran, has been selected as head of the CIA.

These choices are not likely to sit comfortably with Mister Putin, with whom the president-elect suggests he will enjoy a good relationship. Nor will they sit well with the many throughout the world who already feel the US has gone far beyond its limit in seeking to police the world.

Rather than back off from the dreaded Wolfowitz Doctrine, the choices of cabinet members, taken collectively, suggest a continuation of the foreign boondoggles that began in 2001.

The one departure may be in the important position of secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, a lifetime employee of Exxon who has developed good relations with Russia and opposes government regulation of business. He may be the one pick that reflects Mister Trump’s campaign claims.

Still, Mister Tillerson falls right in line with the ever-expanding corporatist relationship extant in the US government.

Finally, those who hope that Trump will reverse the trend of the Deep State’s near-total control over the US will be disappointed not only by the choice of Mike Pompeo for the CIA, but of Trump campaigner and establishment insider Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

None of the above guarantees that the voters who chose Mister Trump will soon be experiencing buyer’s remorse, but the indicators that Americans may find themselves out of the pan and into the fire are significant.

There’s an old saying that “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” and the lineup of new players above suggests that that may well be the case in the next administration.

Meanwhile, not only the US, but the entire world will be holding its collective breath over the coming months. The new president is less likely to spend as much time on the golf course as his predecessor. He’s far more likely to hit the road running.

The question will be in what direction he chooses to run. His choices for cabinet suggest that that direction might have less relationship to his campaign rhetoric and more relationship to the ongoing Deep State program.

To be sure, his clear choice of Washington insiders for so many of his primary cabinet positions informs us that the swamp will not, in fact, be drained. Big Business, the military-industrial complex and Big Banks will dominate the Trump cabinet.

Whatever the world will be treated to under the new American presidency, the words of Neil Innes ring true:
“No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.”
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The Cheeto Cometh

SUBHEAD: Will the Deep State tear the country apart in the attempt to defend all its ill-gotten perquisites and privilege?

By James Kunstler on 16 January 2017 for Kunstler.com -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/the-cheeto-cometh/)


Image above: Donald Trump looking snacky. From (http://myfox8.com/2015/12/07/trump-ban-all-muslim-travel-to-us/).

I dunno about you, but I rather enjoy watching the praetorian Deep State go batshit crazy as the day of Trump’s apotheosis approaches. I imagine a lot of men and women running down the halls of Langley and the Pentagon and a hundred other secret operational redoubts with their hair on fire, wondering how on earth they can neutralize the fucker in the four days remaining.

What’s left in their trick-bag? Bake a poison cheesecake for the inaugural lunch? CIA Chief John Brennan has been reduced to blowing raspberries at the incoming president.

Maybe some code cowboys in the Utah NSA fortress can find a way to crash all the markets on Friday as an inauguration present.

What does it take? A few strategic high-frequency trading spoofs? There will be lots of police sharpshooters on the DC rooftops that day. What might go wrong?

Civil War Two is underway, with an interesting echo of Civil War One: Trump dissed Civil Rights sacred icon Georgia congressman John Lewis, descendant of slaves, after said icon castigated Trump as “not a legitimate president.” That now prompts a congressional walk-out of the swearing-in ceremony.  

The New York Times is acting like a Manhattan socialite in a divorce proceeding, with fresh hysterics every day, reminding readers in a front-page story on Monday that “[Martin Luther] King’s birthday falls within days of the birthdays of two Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.”

Jeez! Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters?

There’s not much Trump can do until Friday noon except tweet out his tweets, but one can’t help but wonder what the Deep State can do after that magic moment passes. I’ve maintained for nearly a year that, if elected, Trump would be removed by a coup d’état within sixty days of assuming office, and I still think that’s a pretty good call — though I hope it doesn’t come to that, of course.

My view of this was only confirmed by Trump’s performance at last week’s press conference, which seemed, shall we say, a little light on presidential decorum.

Perhaps it befits this particular Deep State to go down in the manner of an opéra bouffe. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, old Karl Marx observed.

What does the Union stand for this time? The rights of former SEC employees to sell their services to CitiBank? The rights of competing pharma companies to jack the price of insulin up from $20 to $250 a vial? The rights of DIA subcontractors to sell Semtex plastic explosives to the “moderate” jihadis of the Middle East?

So the theme of the moment is that Donald Trump is a bigger crook than the servants and vassals of the Deep State. He ran for president so he could sell more steaks and whiskey under the Trump brand. He’s in violation of the emoluments clause in the constitution.

Well, I’m not aware that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, or Andrew Jackson put their slaves in a blind trust after they became president.

Anyway, at this point in our history, nobody can beat the Deep State for financial turpitude, certainly not a single real estate and hotel magnate.

I guess the big question is whether the Deep State — and, yes, Virginia, the Deep State does exist, unlike Santa Claus — will tear the country apart in the attempt to defend all its ill-gotten perquisites and privileges.

The public at large is restive, eager to get on with the job of deconstructing the matrix of racketeering that adds up to the immiserating culture we live in, a society where health insurance company presidents make $40 million a year while ordinary people lose their homes because a $5,000-deductible health insurance policy doesn’t cover the cost of treating a routine tonsillectomy.

I didn’t vote for the Cheeto-headed sonofabitch, but it will be interesting to see what he does between noon and six p.m. Friday, if he survives the festivities.

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Japanese whale slaughter

SUBHEAD: Sea Shepherd catches Japanese poaching fleet with dead minke whale in Australian Whale Sanctuary.

By Staff on 15 January 2017 for Sea Shepherd Global -
(http://www.seashepherdglobal.org/news-and-commentary/news/sea-shepherd-catches-japanese-poaching-fleet-with-dead-whale-in-australian-sanctuary.html)


Image above: Slaughtered minke whale on deck of Japanese "research" vessel. From Sea Shepherd.org.

After five weeks of patrolling the Southern Ocean, Sea Shepherd has located the Japanese whale poachers’ factory whaling vessel in the Australian Whale Sanctuary with a dead minke whale on its flensing deck, the first to be documented since the International Court of Justice ruled against their whaling operations in the Antarctic in 2014.

The Nisshin Maru was spotted by the helicopter of Sea Shepherd’s MY Steve Irwin at 12:34AM GMT (11:34AM AEDT) at a position of 64 57.6S - 085 09.6E, within the Australian Whale Sanctuary.

When the helicopter approached, the Nisshin Maru crew scrambled to hide the slaughtered whale with a tarp, while the fleet’s harpoon ships Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru #2 quickly covered their harpoons.  

"The whale killers from the Nisshin Maru were caught red-handed slaughtering whales in the Australian Whale sanctuary,” says Captain Adam Meyerson of the Ocean Warrior, Sea Shepherd’s newest Southern Ocean patrol ship. “The Steve Irwin has shut down their illegal operations and caught them trying to hide the evidence."


Image above: Crew covers harpoon gun with tarp as Sea Shepherd helicopter nears Japanese whale hunting vessel Yushin Maru. From SeaShepherd.org.

These are the first photographs documenting the Japanese whaling fleet’s killing of whales since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled their whaling program illegal in 2014 and the Australian Federal Court found the Japanese whaling industry in contempt for killing protected whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary.

Sea Shepherd’s discovery of the factory ship and the slaughtered whale comes just a day after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Australia on an official state visit.

Jeff Hansen, Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia stated, "The lack of action by the Turnbull government while whales are being killed in Australian waters just a day after Japan's Prime Minister was on a state visit in Australia shows that the government has no spine when it comes to protecting the wishes of Australians to defend the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary."

Sea Shepherd’s helicopter has relayed the whaling fleet's position to the MY Steve Irwin, now on an intercept course with the factory ship. No more whales will be killed today.

“The fact that the Japanese crew went to cover up their harpoons and the dead minke whale on deck just shows that they know what they’re doing is wrong,” says Captain Wyanda Lublink of the MY Steve Irwin;
“They know they are in contempt of the ruling of the International Court of Justice and the Australian Federal Court. How can the Australian government ignore these actions when the majority of Australians condemn what they are doing?”
About Operation Nemesis
Operation Nemesis is Sea Shepherd’s 11th Antarctic whale defense campaign. In Sea Shepherd’s past ten campaigns over 6,000 whales have been spared the grenade-tipped harpoons of the illegal Japanese whaling fleet. Japan’s so-called “scientific research” program used to justify the killing of whales has been rejected by the International Court of Justice and the International Whaling Commission’s scientific committee. In 2015 the Australian Federal Court fined the Japanese whalers $AU1 million for hunting within an Australian whale sanctuary, however it remains unpaid.

See more here: http://www.seashepherdglobal.org/nemesis/about-operation-nemesis.html

For further information, photos, video footage and interview requests, contact:

Heather Stimmler, Sea Shepherd Global Media Director
E-mail: heather@seashepherdglobal.org
Tel: +339 7719 7742 (EUROPE, GMT+1)

For Australia and New Zealand media requests, contact:
Adam Burling, Media Coordinator Sea Shepherd Australia
E-mail: adam@seashepherd.org.au
Tel : +61 409 472 922 (AUSTRALIA, GMT+11)

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Change can be a bitch!

SUBHEAD: 2017 will be the year where most people's favorite worldview flies off the rails.

By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 13 January 2107 for The Automatic Earth -
(https://www.theautomaticearth.com/2017/01/2017-change-can-be-a-bitch/)


Image above: From Revelers bundle up while gathered at Times Square during a New Year's Eve celebration Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, in New York. Photo by Julio Cortez. (https://www.abqjournal.com/918871/ringing-in-change.html).

2016 brought a lot of changes, or rather, brought them to light. In reality, the world has been changing for many years, but many prominent actors benefitted from the changes remaining hidden. Simply because their wealth and power and worldviews are better served that way.

It’s entirely unclear whether we will ever get a chance to see to what extent the efforts to hide developments have been successful, or even been perpetrated at all, because we don’t know to what extent truth and reality will be accessible in the future.

What we can say at this point in time is that the changes 2016 delivered were urgently needed. There are many people out there who just want to turn back the clock, and change everything back to how it was, but they can’t, and that’s a good thing, because the way things were was hurting too many people.

2016 will go down in history as the year when a big divide between groups of people in the western world became visible, a divide that had until then been papered over by real or imaginary wealth, as well as by ignorance and denial.

When politics and media conspire to paint for the public a picture of their choosing, they can be very successful, especially if that picture is what people very much wish to see, true or not.

But as we’ve seen recently, our traditional media have become completely useless when it comes to reporting news; the vast majority have switched to reporting their own opinions and pretending that is news.

On the one hand, there is a segment of society that either has noticed no changes, or is so desperate to hold on to what they have left, that they resist seeing them. On the other hand, there are those who feel left behind by that first group, and by the idea that the world that is still functioning and even doing well.

The first group has been captivated by, and believed in, the incessantly promoted message of recovery from an economic, financial and gradually also political crisis. The second see in their lives and that of their friends and neighbors that this recovery is an illusion.

It’s like the old saying goes: you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. And that’s why you have Brexit and Trump and why you’re going to have much more of that, certainly across Europe. Things are not going well, and there is no recovery, for a large enough percentage of people that their votes and voices now swing the debates and elections.

It’s not even complicated. This week there was a report from Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class that concluded that half of Americans, 160 million people, can’t afford to have a broken arm treated (at $1,400).

And sure, you can say that perhaps that number is a bit too high, but there have been many such reports, that for instance say the majority of Americans have less than $1000 in savings, and can’t even afford a car repair.

In Britain numbers are not much different. Over the past decade, the country has been very busy creating an entire new underclass. If your economy is not doing well, and your answer to that is budget cuts and austerity, it’s inevitable that this happens, that you create some kind of two-tier or three-tier society. And then come election time, you run the risk of losing.

Both Britain and the US boast low unemployment numbers, but as soon as you lift the veil, what you see is low participation rates, low wages and huge numbers of part-time jobs stripped of all the benefits a job used to guarantee. It allows those who still sit pretty to continue doing that, but it’ll come right back to haunt you if you don’t turn it around, and fast enough.

For many people, Obama, Merkel, Cameron and the EU cabal have been disasters. For too many, as we now know. That doesn’t mean that Trump will fix the economic problems, but that’s not the issue.

People have voted for anything but more of the same. Which in Britain they’re not even getting either, so expect more mayhem there.

In most places, some variety of right wing alternative is the only option available that is far enough removed from ‘more of the same’. Moreover, many if not most incumbent parties are in a deep identity crisis. Trump did away with the Republicans AND the Democrats, and they had better understand why that is, or they’ll be wholly irrelevant soon.

In Britain, the most important votes in many decades was lost by the Tories, who subsequently performed a musical chairs act and stayed in power. You lost! Losers are not supposed to stay in power! But the other guys are all too busy infighting to notice.

That identity crisis, by the way, is not a new thing. If you look across the western political spectrum, there are all these left wing and right wing parties happily working together, either in coalition governments or through other ‘productive’ forms of cooperation.

So who are people going to vote for when they’re unhappy with what they’ve got? Where is that ‘change’ that they want? Not on the traditional left or right.

So you get Podemos and M5S and Trump and UKIP and Le Pen. It’s not their fault, or the voters’ fault, it’s the political establishment that has tricked itself into believing in the same illusion it’s been promoting to voters.

And yes, they have now proven that it’s possible to stave off, for a number of years, a deeper crisis, depression, by borrowing and printing ‘money’. Especially if you can at the same time hit the poorest in your society with impunity.

But in the end no amount of fake or false news on the economic front will allow you to continue the facade for too long, because people know when they can’t afford things anymore. The evidence here is somewhat more direct than with regards to political fake news, though they may well both follow the same pattern of ‘discovery’.

Our societies are still run as if there is no real crisis, as if it’s all just a temporary glitch, as if the incumbent models function just fine, and as if recovery is just around the corner. And we can make it look as if that is true, but only for an ever smaller amount of time, and for an ever smaller amount of people.

The basic issue here is not a political one. It’s economic. Our economic systems have failed, and they can’t be repaired. We should always have realized that no growth is forever, but at least we now know. Or could know, it’ll take a while to sink in.

Next up is a redo and revamp of those economic systems, but that is not going to be easy, and may not get done at all. The resistance may be too strong, warfare -economic or physical- may seem like a way out, there are many unknowns.

We could, ironically, get quite far in that redo if we simply cut all the waste for our economic processes, but then again, that would have us find out that much of the system runs entirely on wasting stuff, and wasting less kills the system.

However that may be, and however it may turn out, this is where we find ourselves. Protesting Trump and Brexit is inevitable, but it doesn’t address any core issues. From a purely economic point of view, Obama failed spectacularly, as did David Cameron, as does Angela Merkel. And as do, we will find out in 2017, many other incumbent ‘leaders’.

Their successors, whatever political colors they may come from, will all come to power promising, and subsequently attempting, to restart growth. Which is no longer feasible across an entire country, or even if it were, it would mean squeezing other countries. With corresponding risks.

Trump and Brexit are necessary, perhaps even long overdue, in order to break the illusion that things could go on as they were. But they are not solutions. America needs a big wake-up. Trump looks likely to deliver one. That is needed for the rest of the country to wake from its slumber.

Ask yourself: are you going to get weaker from dealing with a Trump presidency? Maybe not the best question, or at least not before having asked: do you know how weak you are right now?

For Britain to leave the EU is a great first step. As I’ve said many times, centralization is not an option without growth. And Brussels has shown us quite a few of the worst consequences of centralization. Nobody should want to be a part of that.

Summarized: for most people, 2017 will be the year of the inability to understand where their favorite worldview flew off the rails. Change can be a bitch. But change is needed to keep life alive.

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The Rights of Nature

SUBHEAD: Indigenous philosophies are reframing the law as it applies to the rights of the natural environment.

By Kiana Herold on 6 January 2017 for the Intercontinental Cry-
(https://intercontinentalcry.org/rights-nature-indigenous-philosophies-reframing-law/)


Image above: Cofan Indigenous leader Emergildo Criollo looks over an oil contaminated river hear his home in northern Ecuador. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network. From original article.

Indigenous battles to defend nature have taken to the streets, leading to powerful mobilizations like the gathering at Standing Rock. They have also taken to the courts, through the development of innovative legal ways of protecting nature.

In Ecuador, Bolivia and New Zealand, indigenous activism has helped spur the creation of a novel legal phenomenon—the idea that nature itself can have rights.

The 2008 constitution of Ecuador was the first national constitution to establish rights of nature. In this legal paradigm shift, nature changed from being held as property to a rights-bearing entity.

Rights are typically given to actors who can claim them—humans—but they have expanded especially in recent years to non-human entities such as corporations, animals and the natural environment.

The notion that nature has rights is a huge conceptual advance in protecting the Earth. Prior to this framework, an environmental lawsuit could only be filed if a personal human injury was proven in connection to the environment. This can be quite difficult. Under Ecuadorian law, people can now sue on the ecosystem’s behalf, without it being connected to a direct human injury.

The Kichwa notion of “Sumak Kawsay” or “buen vivir” in Spanish translates roughly to good living in English. It expresses the idea of harmonious, balanced living among people and nature.

The idea centers on living “well” rather than “better” and thus rejects the capitalist logic of increasing accumulation and material improvement. In that sense, this model provides an alternative to the model of development, by instead prioritizing living sustainably with Pachamama, the Andean goddess of mother earth.

Nature is conceived as part of the social fabric of life, rather than a resource to be exploited or as a tool of production.

The Preamble of the Ecuadorian Constitution reads:
“We women and men, the sovereign people of Ecuador recognizing our age-old roots, wrought by women and men from various peoples, Celebrating nature, the Pacha Mama (Mother Earth), of which we are a part and which is vital to our existence…. Hereby decide to build a new form of public coexistence, in diversity and in harmony with nature, to achieve the good way of living, the sumac kawsay.”
The traditional Quechua relation to the natural world is firmly rooted in the Constitution. The interchangeable use of nature and Pacha Mama testifies to the indigenous influence on the Constitution.

The concept and the praxis

 In the 1970s, Christopher Stone, an American environmental legal scholar, articulated the legal notion of the rights of nature in his widely read essay Should Trees Have Standing? Stone envisioned a new way of conceptualizing nature through law that broke with the existing paradigm of the commodification of nature, often established through law.

Property rights are a primary example of commodifying the natural world. When treated as property, nature incurs damages that often go unrecognized. Stone writes that an argument for “personifying” nature can best be considered from a welfare economics perspective.

Under capitalist economic logic, many externalities that negatively impact the environment are not registered when calculating the cost of an action. Transforming nature legally from mere property to a rights-holding entity would force byproduct environmental effects of production to factor into cost calculations. Under this framework, nature would be better protected.

Incorporating rights of nature into a national constitution is a powerful paradigm shift, but may seem hypocritical and idealistic given states’ continuing dependence on extractive industries. In Ecuador, 14.8 percent of the GDP comes from profits from natural resources as of 2014.

Moreover, under Ecuadorian law, the rights of nature are subject to principles of so-called national development. Article 408 of the constitution stipulates that all natural resources are the property of the state, and that the state can decide to exploit them if deemed to be of national importance, as long as it “consults” the affected communities.

However, there is no state obligation to abide to the result of the consultation to these communities– a gaping hole in full protection of these environments and the people living within them.

Nonetheless, Ecuador’s Constitution was a significant step in changing the legal paradigm of rights to one that is inclusive of nature.

Bolivia follows

 Bolivia followed in Ecuador’s footsteps. Evo Morales, the first indigenous head of state in Latin America, was elected in 2005 and called for a constitutional reform that ultimately established rights to nature in 2009.

Again, indigenous philosophies were instrumental in the formulation of Bolivia’s new Constitution. The constitution’s preamble states that Bolivia is founded anew “with the strength of our Pachamama,” placing the indigenous understanding of nature as central to the very creation of the revised political state. Like in Ecuador, the Bolivian Constitution allows anyone to legally defend environmental rights.

Bolivia’s government soon instituted the Law of Mother Earth in 2010, later re-coining it as the Framework Law of Mother Earth and Integral Development to Live Well.

The law lays out a number of rights for nature, such as the right to life and to exist, to pure water, clean air, to be free from toxic and radioactive pollution, a ban on genetic modification, and freedom from interference by mega-infrastructure and development projects that disturb the balance of ecosystems and local communities.

Part of the rationale behind the law is the hope of helping the environment through reducing causes of climate change, which is directly in Bolivia’s interests. Increasing temperatures in Bolivia pose problems to the nation’s farming sector and water supply.

Again, however, this legal concept does not match economic realities. The rights of nature are directly at odds with extractive industries that are intimately tied to Bolivia’s model of economic development. Despite legal frameworks defending the rights of nature, Bolivia’s profits from natural resources comprise 12.6 percent of the GDP as of 2014.

But there are alternatives to the Andean experience. Across the Pacific, New Zealand has also granted a legal status of personhood to specific rivers and forest, thus enabling the environment itself to have rights.

The New Zealand Take on Rights of Nature

Unlike Ecuador and Bolivia, New Zealand’s rights of nature are not embedded in its constitutional law, but rather protect specific natural entities. Native communities in New Zealand were instrumental in creating new legal frameworks that give legal personhood, and thus rights, to land and rivers.

New Zealand has bestowed legal personhood on the 821-square mile Te Urewara Park, and the Whanganui River, the nation’s third-largest river. This was part of the government’s reparation efforts for the historical injustice at the foundation of New Zealand’s state: colonial conquest of land from native peoples.

The Tuhoe tribe’s ancestral homeland is currently the Te Urewara Park. With the imposition of colonial governance, most of their land was taken from them without consultation, resulting in great spiritual and socio-economic losses. The land was designated a national park in 1954.

The Tuhoe tribe never signed the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown, which stripped the tribe of their sovereign right over their land. They have since contested the British assertion of sovereignty that undergirds the formation of the modern New Zealand state.

Their centuries-long struggle finally yielded results. As part of New Zealand’s reparation process towards Indigenous Peoples, the national government negotiated with the Tuhoe tribe regarding their historic land.

In 2012 the Tuhoe tribe accepted the Crown’s offer of financial reparations, a historical account and apology and co-governance of Te Urewera lands. The national government renounced ownership of the land, giving the land its own personhood.

Under this framework, the land is now a legal entity in itself, owned neither by the government nor the Tuhoe tribe. The land is no longer property. It is its own untamed natural presence in and of itself, with, as per native understanding, its own life force and identity.

The land is now co-governed by the Tuhoe people and the New Zealand government.

The 2014 Te Urewara Act declares the park “a place of spiritual value.” The Act acknowledges that it is the sacred home of the Tuhoe people, integral to their “culture, language, customs and identity,” while also being of intrinsic value to all New Zealanders.

In a similar process of granting legal personhood, the local Maori tribe, the Iwi, helped the Whanganui River earn legal personhood status in 2014 after winning a long-fought court case.

This was part of a centuries-long struggle that the Whanganui tribes undertook to protect the river. Since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the river has been subject to gravel extraction, water diversion for hydro-electric plans, and river bed works to better navigability, under protest from local tribes.

The Maori fought to protect the river through a series of court cases beginning in 1938, defending their claim to the management of the river as its rightful guardian.

Throughout the court cases, negotiations were undergirded by the native saying “Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au,” which translates to “I am the river and the river is me.” This reflects native philsophies of reciprocal and equal relations between people and nature.

New Zealand's attorney general Chris Finlayson was quoted in the New York Times as acknowledging the Maori perspective as formative in the granting of rights to these natural entities, saying “In their worldview, ‘I am the river and the river is me,’” he said. “Their geographic region is part and parcel of who they are.”

Expanding Legal Horizons?

 The legal concept of rights of nature signal the influence of Indigenous Peoples as political actors in state-making, fundamentally reimagining law and how the natural world is conceived.

These ideas present a revolutionary rupture in the conventional anthropocentric understanding of sovereignty, and a realignment of how the natural world is valued.

In fact, they could chart the path forward for a new understanding of mankind’s relation to the natural world, even if they operate within the legal structures that are not conducive to indigenous philosophies.

It is true that the rights of nature as they currently stand have deep limitations, particularly given the ongoing extraction of non-renewable natural resources in Ecuador and Bolivia.

Problems of corruption, environmental inequality and economic dependence on extractive industries are major challenges to the full realization of the rights of nature.

Yet small acts can lead to lasting change. This shift in the way we relate to and legally protect nature, however small and plagued by obstacles, could be an incremental step toward a more sustainable relation to the planet that could allow us to preserve the earth for future generations.

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