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30.08.2019 – New York, USA – Redazione Italia

This post is also available in: ItalianGreek

Kazakhstan, the newest state party to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

On 29 August, the International Day against Nuclear Tests, Kazakhstan deposited its instrument of ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, becoming the 26th signatory state to do so. The Treaty will enter into force at the moment of the fiftieth ratification.

As ICAN indicated in a message to its members, from 1949 to 1989, 456 Soviet nuclear tests – including 116 atmospheric tests – were carried out at the Semipalatinsk site in Kazakhstan, with devastating long-term consequences for human health and the environment.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan inherited about 1,400 nuclear warheads, which it then dismantled, recognizing that the best way to have security is disarmament.

The date of 29 August 2019 has a special significance for Kazakhstan marking 70 years since the first Soviet nuclear test at the Semipalatinsk site and 28 years since its formal closure.

ICAN congratulated Kazakhstan on its ratification and underlined the continued efforts of Alimzhan Akhmetov, of the Centre for International Security and Policy in Kazakhstan, in encouraging the Kazakh government to take this important step.

Another important moment for building up the numbers of signatures and ratifications will be at the high-level ceremony to be held during the UN General Assembly in New York on 26 September, International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

29.08.2019 – Pressenza London

[UK] Is Boris Johnson’s parliamentary prorogation constitutional? How to understand the UK system
(Image by Owen Jones Facebook)

Michael GordonUniversity of Liverpool for The Conversation

Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament is intensely controversial. It shows a clear disregard for values which are crucial to the operation of the UK’s constitutional system. The process of leaving the EU had already placed the UK’s political institutions in constitutional overload, but that had not yet escalated to a constitutional crisis. Now the country is edging ever closer to a crisis being manufactured by a prime minister determined to engineer a no-deal Brexit on October 31, if a new withdrawal agreement cannot be negotiated with the EU by then.

The UK has a “political constitution” rather than a single written constitutional text. This means the constitutionality of government action can be evaluated in three different ways: compatibility with the law, political convention and constitutional principle.

First, from a legal perspective, the order to prorogue parliament is difficult, if not indeed impossible, to challenge. The legal power held by the Queen to prorogue parliament is a very broad one, and the courts will be reluctant to become involved in adjudicating on a highly political act of this kind. It is difficult to see any legal standards which this decision has violated, especially since the government is presenting the decision to prorogue parliament as a normal preparatory step for the announcement of a new legislative agenda in a Queen’s speech on October 14.

Second, from the perspective of political convention, there was no possibility that the Queen would act as a “constitutional safeguard”, rejecting the prime minister’s request to suspend parliament. As a hereditary monarch, the Queen’s role in the UK constitution is to act as a formal head of state, remaining above party politics, rather than exercising significant discretion herself. By political convention, the Queen acts on the advice of her prime minister, and in this case she has done so in textbook fashion, approving the order without delay. It would be unrealistic to expect that, in a democratic system, an unelected monarch would take on the role of “guardian of democracy” by resisting a recommendation from her government.

End of story?

So if the prorogation of parliament was lawful, and executed by the Queen in accordance with well established political conventions governing her conduct, what are the constitutional grounds for objection?

We can look to a third perspective, based on constitutional principles. The UK’s political constitution is constructed around the relationship between parliament and government.

The House of Commons is the elected element of the UK’s central institutions, and it is from there that the government draws its authority, by obtaining and sustaining the confidence of the Commons. To retain this confidence, and to remain in office, the government is accountable to parliament. It is subject to scrutiny by MPs and peers. These constitutional principles are central to the operation of the UK’s democratic system.

When the government does not have the support of the House of Commons for a policy it intends to deliver, the response should be to change that policy, persuade parliament to back it, or for the government to fall.

The House of Commons does not support leaving the EU without a deal on October 31. But rather than engaging with parliament, the prime minister has had it prorogued.

It’s problematic enough to shut down parliamentary scrutiny for multiple weeks just as the government is trying to negotiate a Brexit deal – one of the most disputed political issues of the current era. But it is even more objectionable when the prorogation also considerably reduces the time available for parliamentarians to organise against a no-deal scenario. With such a truncated timetable, they are limited in their ability to produce legislation to delay it or organise a vote of no confidence in the government.

In these circumstances, the prorogation of parliament shows a clear disregard for substantive constitutional values. It limits the possibilities for a majority in parliament to challenge the government’s agenda. It sidelines parliament at a moment when political decisions of immense importance will be made. And it challenges the core democratic constitutional idea that the government is accountable to parliament.

The government may have developed a pretext to justify the prorogation of parliament. It has most likely followed a course of action which is lawful. But in doing so, it shows disdain for the core idea of democracy on which the UK constitution is based.The Conversation

Michael Gordon, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Liverpool

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

28.08.2019 – US, United States – Pressenza New York

Plowshares’ Motions Denied, Trial Set for October 21

Yesterday, 509 days after their arrest, a federal judge denied all the pre-trial motions by the our friends. Today, the judge set their trial date: Monday, October 21, 2019 with jury selection beginning at 9 a.m.

The Plowshares had urged U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to dismiss their charges for numerous legal reasons as well as the fact that the hundreds of first strike nuclear weapons on the submarines based at Kings Bay Naval Base are illegal and immoral.

The judge found the Plowshares did establish a prima facie case under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because they were sincerely religiously motivated to challenge the nuclear weapons at the Naval Base. Wood also found that the government’s actions substantially burdened their right to exercise their religious beliefs. However, the judge went on to rule that the government had a compelling interest in keeping unauthorized people out of the base and the prosecution of the Plowshares activists was the least restrictive means of protecting the safety of the base.

The Plowshares argued that the government bringing multiple duplicative charges threatening 25 years is far from the least restrictive option to keep unauthorized people out of the base. On April 4, 2018 the seven activists entered the naval base in St. Mary’s, GA. They undertook various nonviolent actions such as pouring blood, hammering on a statue of a Trident II D5 missile, and placing crime scene tape in front of the entrance to a headquarters building.

“We took these actions to say the violence stops here, the perpetual war stops here – at Kings Bay, and all the despair it represents,” said Clare Grady, one of the Kings Bay activists. “We took these actions grounded in faith and the belief that Jesus meant what He said when He said, ‘Love your enemies,’ and in so doing offers us our only option for hope.”\

The judge’s 19-page opinion denying the motions will be posted at www.kingsbayplowshares7.org.

SIGN OUR PETITION:  petition.

Monthly vigil at the Kings Bay submarine base on the third Saturday of the month, usually from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Reading for August 27 from Praying for Justice. “When anguish comes. they will seek peace, but there will be none.” Ezekiel 7: 25

Reading for August 26 from Praying for Justice. “The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness.” Isaiah 33: 5

Reading for August 25 from Praying for Justice. ” Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ ” Luke 10: 5

28.08.2019 – Countercurrents

Tinderbox Earth: The significance of the Amazon and Siberian fires
(Image by LQD-Denver / CC)

By Dr Andrew Glikson

As fires rage across tens of thousands square km the Amazon forest, dubbed the Planet’s lungs, producing some 20 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere, with some 72,843 fires in Brazil this year, where fires on such a scale are uncommon, as well as through Siberia, Alaska, Greenland,  southern Europe and elsewhere,they herald a world where increasing temperatures and droughts overwhelm original habitats, flora and fauna (Figure 1).

As the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets progressively melt, at more than 6 times faster than during the Seventies, the tropics expand and arid deserts encroach into temperate Mediterranean-type climate zones at a rate of 56 – 111 kmper decade, the Earth’s fertile regions are progressively replaced by environments less suitable for farming.

According to reports “climate change itself is making dry seasons longer and forests more flammable. Increased temperatures are also resulting in more frequent tropical forest fires in non-drought years. And climate change may also be driving the increasing frequency and intensity of climate anomalies, such as El Niño events that affect fire season intensity across Amazonia.”

Figure 1 (A) Burning Amazon rainforest; (B) A warm smoke plume emanating from the Amazon fires; (C) The spate of Siberian wildfires from July 2019, reaching 6.4 million acres.

The pace of global warming is astounding climate scientists. Within the last 70 years or so major shifts in climate zones and an accelerating spate of extreme weather events—cyclones, floods, droughts, heat waves and fires (Figure 2)— is increasingly ravaging large tracts of Earth.

Figure 2.Extreme weather events around the world 1980-2018, including earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts.Munich Re-insurance.

However, despite  its foundation in the basic laws of physics (the black body radiation laws of Planck, Kirchhoff’ and Stefan Boltzmann), as well as empirical observations around the world by major climate research bodies (NOAA, NASA, NSIDC, IPCC, World Meteorological Organization, Hadley-Met, Tindale, Potsdam, BOM, CSIRO and others), the anthropogenic origin, scale and pace of climate change remain underestimated and the subject to extensively propagated denial and untruths. Extreme climate change remains counter intuitive to many, let alone where potential mitigation could affect vested economic interests.

Climate scientists find themselves in a quandary similar to medical doctors,committed to help the ill and facing situations where they need to communicate a grave diagnosis. How do they tell people that the current spate of cyclones, devastating islands from the Caribbean to the Philippine, or floods devastating coastal regions and river valleys from Mozambique to Kerala, Pakistan and Townsville, can only intensify in a rapidly warming world?How do scientists tell the people that children are growing into a world where survival under a mean temperatures higher than +2 degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial temperatures) may be painful, and in some parts of the world impossible, let aloneunder +4 degrees Celsius projected by the IPCC?

The Cassandra syndrome is alive and well. Throughout history messengers of bad news have been rebuked or worse, nowadays facing reluctance on the part of the mainstream media to publish the dire climate change projections. Given the daunting scenarios climate scientists are looking at, many find it difficult to talk about the issue, even among friends and family.

As atmospheric levels of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide have reached a combined level of near 500 parts per million, intersecting the melting threshold of the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets and heralding a fundamental shift in state of the terrestrial climate, fires consume large parts of the land.

It would appear parliaments preoccupied as they are with economics, legal issues and international conflicts, hardly regard the future of nature and civilization as a priority.

Andrew Glikson, Earth and climate scientist

26.08.2019 – London UK – Silvia Swinden

This post is also available in: French

Why the G7 can only deliver more of the same (only worse). But there is hope
Representation of consciousness from the seventeenth century by Robert Fludd, an English Paracelsian physician (Image by Robert Fludd, Public domain, Wikipedia)

It is that time of the year and the leaders of 7 industrialised countries get together to address the world situation. What an opportunity to deal with inequality, the climate crisis, the trade wars, gender discrimination, racism, the refugees crisis, regulate multinationals, tax havens and banks, stop unbridled speculation, promote access to healthcare, education, housing, services. (Sigh)

But none of that will happen, the meeting is all about reinforcing the system that accumulates more and more wealth for those at the top. There will be benign declarations and promises about the most pressing problems but nothing will change.

In front of such cruelty it is important to try to understand what stops some people from accessing their capacity for solidarity and compassion. We can call them psychopaths, not as a diagnosis but as an insult, but that won’t help us understand, or ultimately change the present state of affairs.

We live in the times of “the Myth of Money” in which most of the population has been thoroughly conditioned to believe that money can be the only reward for work, the only measure of a person’s worth, the only indicator of how the country is doing, the only thing that can build up self-esteem and make us strong to compete with others for more money.

And the more entrenched this belief system has become in a person, the more ruthlessly they will apply themselves to maintaining it. It is a form of being in a kind of hypnotic fascination, sleepwalking through life apparently awake but taken over by this massive illusion masquerading as opinion, philosophy, commitment, plan of action and meaning in life.


Money talks and it speaks English

With an accent from Wall Street

Empty of meaning giant tyrant

god-like puppet with clay feet.


Not only those at the top suffer this illusion. The problem is precisely that the majority of the population carry the same Myth and so they are likely to elect people who promise them wealth, shooting themselves in the foot for not realising they are lying. We have seen time and again the most draconian austerity governments being put into power by the poorest of the population. We would call them the populist right but without the Myth of Money people would be able to look elsewhere.

Awakenings

Not everyone gets hypnotised and this is the great thing about humans, no matter how monolithic and pervasive a belief system there are always people who find themselves wondering about the alternatives. Because Intentionality builds an understanding of the world out of many bits of information, many experiences. And these dissidents from the mainstream (often considered crackpots or misfits, certainly people who don’t fit in) become the kernel of new alternative proposals, as we see today in those who reject both neoliberalism and the growing fascism, promoting instead compassion and solidarity not only in interpersonal relationships but as a system in itself.

How such system could look like? Instead of money being the only reward for work, a Universal Basic Income could deal with all the needs of the population so that they can choose what to do freely and with gusto. Instead of the only measure of a person’s worth, people would be appreciated for their creativity, joint work, contribution to common projects, research into the great unknowns of human existence for which there is not time now, busy as we are with paying the mortgage. Instead of the only indicator of how the country is doing, there are already those who are proposing to replace the GDP with  a measure of the well being of the population. Instead of the only thing that can build up self-esteem it is well known that this is strongest when people feel well integrated and cared for by their community and when communication highlights the virtues of individuals rather than being mostly critical. Also, in a world where competition is replaced by cooperation there is no need to prove who can make more money. And bring on the machines to do the mindless heavy work! 

But extricating oneself from such a strong and almost universal belief in Money might not be so easy for everyone. As George Monbiot says in his TED talk, the story, the narrative (the Myth) has to be replaced by a new one. So, what can we believe in that will be the launchpad for a new state of affaires that respond to the real needs of humanity? 

This is the time Revolution of Consciousness, when people are learning to discover the amazing hidden treasures that dwell in the profound spaces of their own minds. Through various forms of meditation, through different practices, through the awareness that treating others as we would like to be treated gives us inner unity and a sense of growth, through creating new ways to build up Commons, through participating in the great inspiration of young social movements, through rejecting mechanical responses and choosing intentional ones that open the future, the new story, the new narrative is coming alive. It is the great awakening of the human being, conscious of their experiences and the effects of those experiences on their whole being. 

A new humanism is being born out of the power of simultaneous transformation of individuals and society, at the core of the methodology of Active Nonviolence. 

It is easy to get distracted by the antics of the “psychopathic” politicians, after all they create huge smokescreens with bizarre declarations and actions that keep the corporate media well fed with unsettling “news”, lest people manage a glimpse of what is really going on.

But those who enthusiastically and joyfully accept the undertaking of awakening themselves in the company of others doing the same will no longer be diverted from the path towards a new and humanised world.

Reading for August 24 from Praying for Justice. “You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.” Exodus 23: 1

26.08.2019 – Robert Burrowes

Our Vanishing World: Glaciers

Something is causing the worlds glaciers and mountain ice fields to melt. And, despite your first thought, it is not the ongoing climate catastrophe.

It does not matter where on Earth the glaciers and mountain ice fields are located, they are all melting. Moreover, the projected timeframe for some of them to disappear altogether is ‘imminently’; that is, within years. And for the rest: a few decades (although that projection is being routinely revised downwards, depending on the glacier).

Why? Because the most recent research suggests that beneath the ocean surface glaciers may be melting ten to 100 times faster than previously believed. This is because, until now, scientists had a limited understanding of what happens underwater at the point where glaciers meet the sea. By using a combination of radar, sonar and time-lapse photography, a team of researchers has now provided the first detailed measurements of the underwater changes over time. Their findings suggest that the theories currently used to gauge glacier change are underestimating glacier ice loss. ‘The overall trend of glacier retreat around the world is due to both warming air and warming oceans’, observed Professor David Sutherland, an oceanographer at the University of Oregon and lead author of the new study. Glaciers are getting ‘eaten away on both ends’.

According to Professor Rebecca Jackson, an oceanographer at Rutgers University and co-author of the study: ‘The theory we’ve been relying on for these melt rates is wrong. We should be able to predict melt rates based on ocean conditions… [but] they’re not at all related in the way we expected.’ Beyond air and water temperatures, ‘ocean salinity, currents and the glacier’s shape can all play a role in influencing tidewater glacier melt’. See ‘Direct observations of submarine melt and subsurface geometry at a tidewater glacier’ and ‘Oceans Are Melting Glaciers from Below Much Faster than Predicted, Study Finds’. These findings of rapid glacier melt confirm earlier research, touched on below, although the variables melting high mountain glaciers are different to those melting ones that terminate at sea level.

So how many glaciers are there and what is their status?

According to the Randolph Glacier Inventory (RGI), the most reliable estimate of the number of glaciers in the world is 198,000. These glaciers cover 726,000 square kilometres, that is, 0.5% of the Earth’s land surface. See the Randolph Glacier Inventory and ‘Mapping the World’s Glaciers’.

The Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) project is designed to monitor the world’s glaciers primarily using data from optical satellite instruments. Glacier inventories are a specific technique for mapping glacier attributes, such as area, length, slope, aspect, terminal environment (calving into the sea or a lake, or terminating on dry land), elevation, and glacier classification. See ‘Mapping the World’s Glaciers’. There are many types of glacier. For an extensive (and stunning) selection of photos of glaciers, illustrating many aspects of these majestic ice formations, see the ‘Glaciers online Photoglossary’.

So, from north to south, what is the status of the world’s glaciers?

Glaciers in the North

As you would expect, the vast ice masses in the Arctic – which consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Northern Canada, Norway, Russia and Sweden – include many glaciers.

While there are no glaciers in the Arctic Ocean itself (because it has no landmass), the glaciers in places like Greenland, North America, Russia and western Europe are melting rapidly.

A recent study, for example, confirmed the rapid melting of Greenland’s glaciers: ‘The recent deglaciation of Greenland is a response to both oceanic and atmospheric forcings. From 2000 to 2010, ice loss was concentrated in the southeast and northwest margins of the ice sheet, in large part due to the increasing discharge of marine-terminating outlet glaciers, emphasizing the importance of oceanic forcing.’ See ‘Accelerating changes in ice mass within Greenland, and the ice sheet’s sensitivity to atmospheric forcing’ and ‘The Greenland Ice Sheet Is Melting at Astonishing Rate’.

But Greenland is not the only place in the far north where glaciers are melting rapidly. For a snapshot of glacier melt in other regions, see ‘Melting glaciers threaten to inundate Russia’s Far North and Siberia’‘Glaciers in the Canadian High Arctic are melting at an unprecedented rate’‘Graphic: Dramatic glacier melt [in Alaska]’‘Sweden’s Highest Peak, a Melting Glacier, Is No Longer the Nation’s Tallest’ and ‘The Devdoraki Glacier in the Georgian Caucasus Keeps Collapsing’.

Glaciers in the Himalaya

Substantial glacial melt in the Himalaya has been evident for a long time. By 2011, glacier melt in the Nepalese Himalaya, for example, had already created a ‘spattering’ of 1,600 high altitude glacier lakes that threatened communities living ‘downstream’. For example, if the Imja glacier lake ‘breaks through its walls of glacial debris, known as moraine, it could release a deluge of water, mud and rock up to 60 miles away. This would swamp homes and fields with a layer of rubble up to 15m thick, leading to the loss of the land for a generation. But the question is when, rather than if.’ See ‘Watching a glacier die at Imja Lake’ and ‘Glacier lakes: Growing danger zones in the Himalayas’.

A 2013 study by a University of Milan team led by a Nepali scientist found that ‘some glaciers on or around Mount Everest had shrunk by 13% in the last 50 years with the snow line 180 metres higher than it was 50 years ago. The glaciers are disappearing faster every year’, the report noted, ‘with some smaller glaciers now only half the size they were in the 1960s’. See ‘Glacier response to climate trend and climate variability in Mt. Everest region (Nepal)’ and ‘Most glaciers in Mount Everest area will disappear with climate change – study’.

And a study done in 2015 concluded that the estimated 5,500 glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region will likely experience ‘continued and possibly accelerated mass loss from glaciers… given the projected increase in temperatures,’ according to Joseph Shea, a glacier hydrologist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Nepal, and leader of the study published in The Cryosphere, the journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). See ‘Most glaciers in Mount Everest area will disappear with climate change – study’.

But the latest word comes from the comprehensive and authoritative 2019 report The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment: Mountains, Climate Change, Sustainability and People, requested by the eight nations – Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar – the mountains span, and involving more than 200 scientists working on the report over five years (with another 125 experts peer reviewing their work). The scientists examined the hyper-complex 3,500 kilometres-long Hindu Kush Himalayan system where glaciers feed the Ganges, the Indus, the Yellow River, the Mekong and the Irrawaddy, among ten major river systems. Directly and indirectly, these glaciers supply1.65 billion people with clean air, food, energy and work. See ‘Himalayan glaciers on the eve of destruction’.

Summarizing the report, Pepe Escobar explains: ‘The path towards environmental disaster is eerily straightforward. Melting glaciers flow into rivers and lakes. Bursting lakes inevitably translate into more floods. And that means extra glacier runoff into major rivers, more flooding and inevitable destruction of crops.’ See ‘Himalayan glaciers on the eve of destruction’.

The conclusion to be drawn from this report is simple: ‘Even radical climate change action won’t save glaciers, endangering 2 billion people.’ See ‘A third of Himalayan ice cap doomed, finds report’.

Glaciers at the Equator

At the Equator, glaciers are under siege. Glaciers at the Equator? you might ask.

Yes indeed. Mt. Kilimanjaro, which has three distinct volcanic cones – Kibo at 5,895 metres (19,340 ft), Mawenzi at 5,149 metres (16,893 ft) and Shira at 4,005 metres (13,140 ft) of which the latter two are extinct with Kibo dormant – is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It rises out of the Great Plains of East Africa almost on the Equator. At over 19,000 feet, this mountain was once covered in glaciers, proving an awe-inspiring sight to those who saw it.

However, glacial melt on Kilimanjaro is accelerating and a 2013 report noted that Kilimanjaro’s shrinking northern glaciers, thought to be 10,000 years old, could disappear by 2030. The entire northern ice field, which holds most of Kilimanjaro’s remaining glacial ice, lost more than 4 million cubic meters of ice between 2000 and 2013, representing a volume loss of approximately 29 percent during that period with a loss in total surface area of 32 percent. In 2012, the ice field split in two, revealing ancient lava that may not have seen the sun for millennia. See ‘Kilimanjaro’s Shrinking Glaciers Could Vanish by 2030’. The southside glaciers should last a little longer.

The latest report, based largely on an analysis of NASA Earth Observatory satellite data in 2019, conducted by scientists at the University of Massachusetts, simply confirms earlier documented if irregular trends: ‘The long rains (Masika) of 2019 are concluding with virtually no snow accumulation on Kilimanjaro glaciers.’

More ominously, ‘Absent a major event bringing sufficient snow (e.g. 30-50 cm) to reduce solar radiation penetration, the forthcoming extended dry season will probably begin with a snow-free crater. As a result, ablation of both horizontal and vertical glacier surfaces is likely to be dramatic in the months ahead.’ See ‘Kilimanjaro Climate & Glaciers’.

If you would like to see some spectacular photos of remaining glaciers and remnant glaciers on Mt Kilimanjaro as they were in 2016, you can see them in Ian van Coller’s limited edition art book ‘Kilimanjaro: The Last Glacier’ or see them in a ‘flip through’ video.

Glaciers in Southern Latitudes

Like glaciers elsewhere, those in southern latitudes are melting rapidly. Recent research confirms the rapid demise of glaciers in the icefields of Patagonia, located in the high Andes atop Chile and Argentina, where glacial retreat is occurring ‘at a non-glacial pace’. The North Patagonian Icefield feeds ice to 30 significant outlet glaciers, of which the San Rafael Glacier is ‘the fastest-moving glacier in Patagonia’  and ‘one of the most actively calving glaciers in the world’.

The South Patagonian Icefield, more than triple the size of its northern counterpart, includes the Jorge Montt Glacier which terminates in an ‘iceberg-choked fjord’ as a result of the glacier’s rapid disintegration and retreat. The Upsala Glacier has been retreating ever since documentation began in 1810. For photos and a video, see ‘Melting Beauty: The Icefields of Patagonia’.

One extensive study revealed that 90.2% of Patagonian glaciers shrank between 1870 and 2011 with all regions suffering extensive glacier loss. Notably, however, annual rates of shrinkage across the Patagonian Andes ‘increased in each time segment analysed (1870-1986, 1986-2001, 2001-2011), with annual rates of shrinkage twice as rapid from 2001-2011 as from 1870-1986’. See ‘Shrinking Patagonian Glaciers’.

Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, glaciers in New Zealand, including the famous Fox, Franz Josef and Tasman glaciers, are also in retreat. See ‘New Zealand’s glaciers are shrinking’.

Glaciers in Antarctica

As with the Antarctic itself, glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate generating a near-endless sequence of dramatic news headlines, as one glacier after another attracts attention due to the extraordinary nature of the changes, with the latest research showing affected areas losing ice five times faster than in the 1990s, with more than 100m of thickness gone in some places. See ‘“Extraordinary thinning” of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica’.

One recent analysis of satellite data has found ‘extreme’ changes are underway at eight of Antarctica’s major glaciers as ‘unusually warm ocean water slips in under their ice shelves’. The warmer water is ‘eating away at the glaciers’ icy grasp on the seafloor. As a result, the grounding line – where the ice last touches bedrock – has been receding by as much as 600 feet per year’. See ‘Net retreat of Antarctic glacier grounding lines’ and ‘“Extreme” Changes Underway in Some of Antarctica’s Biggest Glaciers’.

For example, Pine Island Glacier is an immense glacier on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. It is one of the least stable of glaciers – quickly retreating and losing massive amounts of ice – accounting for about 20 percent of the ice sheet’s total ice flow to the ocean. Every year Pine Island Glacier loses 45 billion tons (40.8 billion metric tons) of ice. See ‘Photo Gallery: Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier Cracks’.

Since 2001, Pine Island Glacier has calved six huge icebergs but, ominously, the rate of calving is increasing. Following major calvings in January 2001, November 2007, December 2011 and August 2015, in September 2017 it calved an iceberg 4.5 times the size of Manhattan and, just one year later, was poised for another – and even larger – calving as a 30 kilometre rift appeared in its centre ‘where the ice shelf touches warmer ocean waters that are melting it from underneath’. See ‘Huge Iceberg Poised to Break Off Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier’.

Meanwhile, the Thwaites Glacier, also in West Antarctica, is disintegrating. According to a recent NASA-led study ‘A gigantic cavity – two-thirds the area of Manhattan and almost 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall – growing at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is one of several disturbing discoveries.’ See ‘Huge Cavity in Antarctic Glacier Signals Rapid Decay’.

While the ongoing destruction of Antarctic glaciers already guarantees sea level rise of considerable magnitude, even if emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide were halted today, there will be other climate feedback effects. Oceanographers have detected a trend of decreasing salinity in Antarctic waters fed by ice sheet melt: This affects the density of the deep, very cold waters that drive key ocean currents that affect climate at the surface. Moreover, increasing freshwater at the edge of the ice sheet ‘could also disrupt the timing of biological cycles… starting with phytoplankton – the critical base of the Antarctic food web’. See ‘“Extreme” Changes Underway in Some of Antarctica’s Biggest Glaciers’.

Can We Save the Glaciers?

A joint research project conducted by scientists at the Universities of Bremen and Innsbruck concluded that ‘contemporary glacier mass is in disequilibrium with the current climate, and 36 ± 8% mass loss is already committed in response to past greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, mitigating future emissions will have only very limited influence on glacier mass change in the twenty-first century. No significant differences between 1.5 and 2 K warming scenarios are detectable in the sea-level contribution of glaciers accumulated within the twenty-first century.’

In other words: ‘more than a third of the glacier ice that still exists today in mountain glaciers can no longer be saved, even with the most ambitious measures’. Calculated on the basis of a new, average car, one kilogram of glacier ice is lost every five hundred meters traveled by that single car. See ‘Limited influence of climate change mitigation on short-term glacier mass loss’ and ‘Glacier mass loss passes the point of no return, researchers report’.

So can we save what will be left of the remaining glaciers? Obviously, not without a monumental effort. But before inviting your involvement in an effort to do this, let me explain a point I made in the opening paragraph: it is not the ongoing climate catastrophe that is destroying Earth’s glaciers. It is human behaviour. The climate catastrophe, including the melting of the glaciers, is being generated by our behaviour.

And we have control of that behaviour. Or, more accurately, we can each control our own behaviour. And that means you have some choices to make that will make a huge difference, for good or bad, depending on what you decide.

If you wish to fight powerfully to save the remaining glaciers, consider joining those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ which outlines a simple program to systematically reduce your consumption and increase your self-reliance over a period of years.

Given the fear-driven violence in our world which also generates the addiction of most people in industrialized countries to the over-consumption that is destroying Earth’s biosphere – see ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’ – then consider addressing this directly starting with yourself – see ‘Putting Feelings First’ – and by reviewing your relationship with children. See ‘My Promise to Children’ and ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’. For fuller explanations, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.

If you wish to campaign strategically to defend the glaciers then consider joining those working to halt the climate catastrophe and end military activities of all kinds, including war, as well. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy which includes a comprehensive list of the strategic goals necessary to achieve these outcomes in ‘Strategic Aims’.

In those cases where corrupt or even electorally unresponsive governments are leading the destruction of the biosphere – by supporting, sponsoring and/or engaging in environmentally destructive practices – it might be necessary to remove these governments as part of the effort. See Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.

You might also consider joining the global network of people resisting violence in all contexts, including against the biosphere, by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

Or, if none of the above options appeal or they seem too complicated, consider committing to:

The Earth Pledge

 Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children (see explanation above)
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not buy rainforest timber
  8. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  9. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  10. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  11. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  12. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  13. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Do all these options sound unpalatable? Prefer something requiring less commitment? You can, if you like, do as most sources suggest: nothing (or its many tokenistic equivalents). I admit that the options I offer are for those powerful enough to comprehend and act on the truth. Why? Because there is so little time left and I have no interest in deceiving people or treating them as unintelligent and powerless. See ‘Human Extinction by 2026? A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival’.

So, in a nutshell: Are you willing to fight to save the glaciers (and preserve the biosphere)? Then remember this: The only way to fight is for you to reduce your consumption and to help persuade others, one way or another, to do so as well. Nothing else can work.

 

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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