Thursday, May 26, 2016
Go To Original
For readers immersed in the annals of Empire, it is well known that the United States is no ordinary country in the world system. The United States is a unique Empire whose national security strategy since 1945 has relied upon a mix of diplomacy and brute military force to make the world safe for American capitalism around the world, and more importantly, made the world over for global capitalism. Unlike bygone colonial Empires, the U.S. Empire has not in its recent history tried to directly dominate territories, but instead, strove to build, integrate and police a world system of allies that share its model: capitalism, the neoliberal state form, and the consumerist “way of life.”
As of late, though, we read that the U.S. Empire is in relative decline, perhaps even headed toward a full-fledged collapse. The old American Century is supposedly being eclipsed by a new Chinese one. Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (the “BRICS”) are a bloc emerging to challenge the U.S. Empire. A tectonic shift from a U.S.-unipolar order to multi-polar disorder is happening.
The spectre of decline has haunted the U.S. Empire for as long as scholars and activists have attempted to understand and change it. In 1960, U.S. President John F. Kennedy declared that the “fundamental problem of our time is the critical situation which has been created by the steady erosion of American power relative to that of the Communists in recent years.” But it wasn’t. In the 1970s, deindustrialization, the horrors of Vietnam, the OPEC crisis, and stagflation set off a powder keg of opinion that the U.S. Empire was finished. But it wasn’t. The rise of West German and Japanese capitalism throughout the 1980s and their taking a bite out of the U.S.’s piece of the global economic pie combined with military over-stretch sparked more chatter about America being in trouble. But it wasn’t. In the 1990s, neoliberal and postmodern proponents of “globalization” argued that the break-up of the Soviet Union, the consolidation of the European Union and new developments in info and communication technologies heralded a fundamentally new world system that was post-U.S. Empire. But it really wasn’t. The Bush Administration’s post-9/11 launch of the global war on terror momentarily revived talk of the U.S. being an Empire, and quite a strong one. But then the Global Slump of 2007 sunk in, and declinism once again spun around the planet.
Whether or not the spectre of decline is now a real material force around the world is up for debate, and fortunately, many democratic socialists have made important and astute contributions to it. Now, early into 2016, we read everyone from the neoconservative hawk Charles Krauthammer lamenting the chaotic conditions of a world system marked by “disarray” due to “American decline” to the former U.S. Ambassador Chas W. Freeman Jr. worrying that if Americans fail to “repair the incivility, dysfunction, and corruption of our politics, we will lose our republic as well as our imperium.” The rhetoric of decline is nothing new, and it is regularly wielded by the U.S. Empire’s opinion-makers to build working class consent for programs to rebuild U.S. power each time elites perceive it to be waning. The imperial messenger Thomas Friedman, for example, teamed up with Council on Foreign Relations member Michael Mandelbaum to make a liberal case for American renewal. And Donald Trump’s conservative narrative of decline fills the heads of his acolytes with dreams of Empire-enabled social mobility by promising to “make America great again.”
The U.S. Empire is indeed currently beset by serious problems as the world system undergoes real and significant changes. Yet, the declinists of our time risk overlooking the solidity of the U.S. Empire’s power relative to would-be contenders, and their flagging of present-day change downplays continuities with the past. For the short term, the U.S. is still the only Empire, and with regard to its combined power – capitalist, military and communications media – it is largely unrivalled.
The U.S. is home to the most (and most of the biggest), trans-national corporations (TNCs). The 2015 Forbes Global 2000 ranks the world’s biggest companies using four metrics (sales, profits, assets and market value). While many countries around the world are home base to various TNCs, the U.S. is still global capitalism’s grand central station. The statistics are staggering. Although the U.S. and China are evenly split when it comes to the top ten largest TNCs, the U.S. is home to 580 TNCs, a sum larger than its next three competitors combined: China (232), Japan (219) and the United Kingdom (104). Together, the BRICS total 341 – Brazil (13), Russia (27), India (56), China (232), and South Africa (13) – a sum that falls short of the U.S. by 239.
Photo Caption: U.S. share of world GDP (nominal) compared to BRICS. Source: International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook (October 2015).
Moreover, the U.S. is still the centre of global finance capitalism, as the dollar, not the Yuan or the Euro, is the reserve and most used currency. Central banks, corporations and consumers inside and outside of the U.S. still look to the Federal Reserve to back their holdings. Additionally, Forbes’ 2016 list of the world’s 1,810 billionaires shows the U.S. is very much home to the planet’s combined wealthiest bourgeoisie. 540 billionaires live in the U.S. while 518 live in the BRICS: Brazil (30), Russia (77), India (84), China (320), and South Africa (6). Sixteen of the world’s top twenty-five richest people are American, and these super rich include: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg LP), Charles Koch (Koch Industries), David Koch (Koch Industries), Larry Page (Google), Sergey Brin (Google), Jim Walton (Wal-Mart), Sheldon Adelson (Casinos), George Soros (Hedge Funds) and Phil Knight (Nike).
Declinists are correct to point out that the U.S.’s share of global nominal gross domestic product (GDP) has been falling for the past fifty years or so, from about 40% in the early 1960s to 24.4% in 2015. But given the U.S. has a mere 4.4% of the world’s population (319 million people on a planet of seven billion), its hold of nearly a quarter of world GDP is outstanding. China, home to about 20% of the world’s population (more than 1.35 billion people), accounts for 15.5% of the global GDP.
The U.S.’s capitalist might is coupled with its continuing military dominance. In 2015, the U.S. was the world’s top military spender. The U.S.’s 2016 defense budget is $596-billion whereas the BRICS account for $368.7-billion. The U.S. defense budget is almost three times the size of China’s ($215-billion), the world’s second largest military spender, almost nine times the size of Russia’s ($66.4-billion), the third biggest spender, and more than eleven times the size of India’s ($51.3-billion), the fourth top spender.
A portion of the U.S. Empire’s gargantuan war chest flows to U.S.-based war corporations, which research, develop, and sell weapons technologies to the Department of Defense (DOD). Six of these rank among the top ten biggest war corporations in the world: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Precision Castparts – all major DOD contractors and procurement sources. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. continues to be the world’s biggest exporter of arms.
Photo Caption: U.S. share of world military expenditure compared to BRICS. Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (2015).
Moreover, the DOD controls an estimated 7,100 nuclear warheads (compared to China’s 260, Russia’s 7,700, and India’s 120) and maintains almost 1,000 military bases across more than sixty countries, many dutifully propped up with a Status of Forces Agreement signed by host client States. Russia has bases in nine countries (the most recent implant is in Syria) and China is building some floating bases on coral islands in the South China Sea. Clearly, neither Russia nor China come close to rivalling the U.S.’s military base superiority. And there is no country on the planet today engaged like the U.S. in a permanent war with no clear boundaries or foreseeable end in sight.
Over the past fifteen years, the U.S. has pummelled or intervened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Venezuela, Guatemala, Libya, and Syria. More recently, the U.S. has carried out hundreds of military actions across Africa and is pivoting its military and diplomatic corps toward East Asia to contain a rising China. The U.S. National Military Strategy of 2015 says Russia, Iran, North Korea and China are “acting in a manner that threatens” the American “national security interest.” Signalling the possibility of a Third World War, it says “the probability of U.S. involvement in interstate war with a major power is assessed to be low, but growing.” Global peace is not forthcoming.
The immense capitalist and military power of the U.S. Empire is complemented by concentrations of communications technology, media and cultural industry power. The 2015Forbes Global 2000 list shows nine of the world’s top ten media companies to be based in the U.S.: Comcast, Walt Disney, Twenty-First Century Fox, Time Warner, Time Warner Cable, Directv, CBS, Viacom, and BSky Broadcasting. Moreover, the U.S. is home to five of the top five biggest broadcasters and Cable TV firms (Comcast, Walt Disney, Time Warner, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV); two of the top five communications equipment firms (Cisco Systems and Corning); two of the top five computer hardware firms (Apple and Hewlett-Packard); three of the top five computer service firms (Google, IBM, Facebook); four of the top five computer storage device firms (EMC, Western Digital, SanDisk, NetApp); three of the top five Internet and catalogue retail firms (Amazon.com, eBay, Liberty Interactive); three of the top five publishing companies (Thomson Reuters, Nielsen Holdings, Gannett); two of the top five game firms (Activision-Blizzard and Electronic Arts); two of the top five semiconductor firms (Intel and Qualcom); four of the top five computer software and programming firms (Microsoft, Oracle, VMware, Symantec); and two of the top five telecommunication firms (Verizon Communications and AT&T).
Photo caption: U.S. share of top global communication technology and media companies compared to BRICS. Source: ForbesGlobal 2000 (2015).
Large and globalizing communications technology, media and cultural industry companies certainly exist in other countries, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Sweden, and the BRICS. But in almost every industry segment of the Forbes Global 2000, U.S. companies are dominant. All in all, the U.S. is home to 92 of the world’s biggest communication technology, media and cultural industry firms. They are the most significant owners of the world system’s technological infrastructure, the means to service and access this infrastructure, and the lion’s share of the means of producing, distributing and exhibiting the commercialized informational and media goods pulsing through it each day. The BRICS collectively house a mere 25 of the world’s biggest companies in this area, and as a bloc, are far from rivalling the USA.
With regard to its combined structural power, the U.S. Empire is still a substantial force to be reckoned with.
U.S. Empire’s Security for Capital, Insecurity for Workers
The quantifiable reality of the U.S. Empire’s power is an important counterpoint to hard and fast declinism, but the reified image of its power is also used to mask the social class power it perpetuates. So much of the U.S. Empire’s power is rationalized as necessary to secure “America” and much of the world from real and imagined “threats,” with “national security” foregrounding it in an expression of the collective interest – though it clearly does not serve the interests of everyone.
The U.S. Empire is one in which the corporate rich and powerful few preside over the State while the many working people beneath are compelled to sell their labour-power in exchange for a wage they need to survive. It is an Empire in which the State’s national security planning structure is hierarchical, centralized, exclusionary, elitist, and “heavily and consistently influenced by internationally oriented business leaders.” The State’s national security interest largely serves trans-national capitalist interests while masking this fact by depicting what’s good for global corporations as good for “America” and vice versa. The U.S. Empire’s securing of the private profits of the capitalist rich over the social needs of the many has fostered conditions that make workers around the world more insecure. The privileged few atop the U.S.’s social hierarchy influence foreign policy and they are the primary beneficiaries of the Empire’s “security.” The working class majority, excluded from foreign policy decision-making, bears and is made insecure by its costs.
As the U.S. Empire grows, so does inequality between the owning class and the working class. The U.S., home to the most concentrated private wealth on the planet ($63.5-trillion in total), is also the country with the largest wealth inequality gap between the rich and the poor. The .01% of America’s super rich takes in upwards of $25-million a year while more than half of Americans earn under $30,000. CEO-to-worker pay scales vary across industries, but the gap between what CEOs take from workers and what workers make in wages has increased over the past five decades. In the 1960s, CEOs earned about 24 times the amount of the average worker. In 1980 they got 42 times more. Now they get anywhere from 50 to over 600 times of workers’ pay. As the U.S.’s share of world GDP has gone down, the compensation for American CEOs has gone up, with top CEOs now taking an average more than 300 times the typical waged worker. In 2014, the CEOs of Comcast Walt Disney, News Corporation, Time Warner, CBS and Viacom each pocketed a median compensation of $32.9-million (U.S.). In 2015, Donald Thompson, the CEO of McDonalds, got paid 644 times more than the average McDonalds worker, whose fight for $15 continues to be thwarted.
While the U.S. Empire keeps building up its guns, the State’s low taxes on the rich and squeezing of the working class plus austerity measureshas made the provisioning of public goods less of a priority. The U.S. State spent $3 to $7-trillion on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, killing an estimated 1.3 million civilians in the process and stoking global anti-American blowback. Yet, it doesn’t have the resources or mechanisms in place to feed the 15.3 million American children under the age of 18 currently living in hunger. It allocates hundreds of billions of dollars to the R&D of technologies of death by the likes of Lockheed Martin (e.g., the F-15) while its own infrastructure crumbles and public schools and peaceful routes to a good life get defunded. The public education system’s teachers add more value to society than defense contractors, yet they have joined their students as the precarious poor. Persuaded to see college, not class struggle, as the path out of poverty, many poor racialized people sign up to be sent off to war in exchange for a shot at tuition. Many return home with PTSD and are unable to live, let alone go back to school. In 2014, approximately 22 Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans killed themselves each day. Since 1962, the U.S. State has funnelled more than $100-billion in aid to Israel, yet still can’t find the cash to build public housing for America’s poorest. It bailed out Wall Street with $16.8-trillion, yet can barely fathom a living wage to lessen the immiseration of American workers without coin-operated neoliberal think-tanks lamenting that some billionaire would suffer.
As the U.S. Empire expands, so does class inequality between the propertied few who benefit from ongoing wars waged for the security of capitalism and the millions of workers made insecure by its social consequences.
That said, the U.S. Empire is not spontaneously liked or always pre-approved by American working people, nor by those living across the many allied states that make up its sphere of influence. From its earliest days, the U.S. Empire has been contested by American anti-imperialists. Inside and outside of the U.S., anti-imperialism has a rich, progressive and trans-national history. Since 9/11, many have done the republic a service by calling for the U.S. Empire to be “dismantled.” Yet, the powerful have fought hard to deter and de-Americanize the democratic tradition of anti-imperialism. As a result, anti-imperialism is not a very popular or pervasive position today. Despite the U.S. Empire’s many perils and sorrows, a large number of Americans still believe they live in the world’s best country. The millions who disagree are being seduced by Trump to “make America great again.” Around the world, global opinion about the U.S. is “mostly positive.”
Given these contradictions, what might compel so many working people to accept this Empire as a “way of life”? Why might working people look so favourably upon the U.S. Empire, no matter how controversial it is? What means do the U.S. Empire’s planners rely upon to make the ruling class interest in neoliberal capitalism and global war appear to be the collective security interest of all?
The U.S. Empire’s Culture Industry: Selling Empire as a Way of Life
During the Second World War, Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno coined the concept of the “culture industry” to both highlight the capitalist system’s incorporation of culture into its circuits of accumulation and interrogate the for-profit production, distribution, and marketing of all the world’s cultural forms – high and low – as commodities. For them, cultural commodities seem to help people cope with alienating work routines, conceal the class system through portrayals of America as a land of happy consumers, close minds to the terrible state of present conditions instead of opening them to alternative futures, and teach conformity not critical thinking.
Early into the 21st century, the U.S. culture industry retains global dominance. CNN is the most watched international news source acrossAfrica. Year after year, Hollywood rules the worldwide box office. The top twenty highest grossing films of 2015, from blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Jurassic World, are owned by a few studios in Los Angeles, California. CBS’s NCIS is the world’s most watched show, mobilizing the attention of more than fifty five million viewers spanning over two hundred cultural markets. Call of Duty: Black Ops III,Madden NFL 16, Fallout, Star Wars Battlefront and Grand Theft Auto V are the top five best-selling video games of 2015, all the property of U.S.-based studios. Google, Facebook, YouTube and other U.S. digital giants control the most visited websites in the world. These behemoths of the Internet monitor, mine and then assemble all user-generated content into data profiles, and then sell these precious commodities to advertising firms in an expanding market worth more than $100-billion.
While capitalist logics drive the U.S. culture industry’s growth, the U.S. State has long relied upon this industry’s creative labour-power for global pro-American consent-building, particularly regarding issues of national security and war. Going back to World War I, the U.S. State and the culture industry forged a cozy relationship via the Committee on Public Information (CPI). In How We Advertised America, CPI head George Creel famously declared that the CPI was “a vast enterprise in salesmanship,” and “the world’s greatest adventure in advertising.” From the CPI in World War I, to the Office of the Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs in the late interwar period, to the Office of War Information in World War II, to the United States Information Agency in the Cold War, and to the Office of Public Diplomacy in the U.S. War on Terror, the U.S. State has consistently established links with media firms to promote U.S. Empire to the world.
My new book, Hearts and Mines: The U.S. Empire’s Culture Industry, theorizes and historicizes this contradictory convergence of the interests of the U.S. State and U.S.-based globalizing culture industry. The concept of the U.S. Empire’s culture industry flags a geopolitical-economic nexus of the U.S. State (striving to promote itself and engineer public consent to dominant ideas about America and U.S. foreign policy around the world) and U.S.-based yet globalized media corporations (seeking to make money by producing and selling cultural commodities to consumers in world markets). Although the national-security interested U.S. State is relatively autonomous from profit-interested media corporations, I show how these two organizations often work together to manufacture and sell commodities that sell Empire as a way of life. The geopolitical interests of the U.S. State and the capitalist goals of U.S. media corporations do not always march in lockstep, and at times they conflict, yet the U.S. Empire’s culture industry points to a more collusive relationship between state agencies and media firms than is often recognized.
Faced with anti-imperialism at home and blowback abroad, the U.S. Empire’s culture industry in the early 21st century is deploying an even larger army of commodities that strives to grip the hearts and minds of American and trans-national publics and keep the U.S. Empire admired – or, at least, tolerated.
In 2012, U.S.-based Capitol Records’ teen idol Katy Perry hooked up with the U.S. Marines to make the music video for her hit song “Part of Me.” In this video, Perry catches a cheating boyfriend. Instead of getting angry at him, she gets overtaken by a military recruitment ad that tells her “All Women Are Created Equal, Then Some Become Marines.” To spite her boyfriend and cope with heartbreak, Perry joins the Marines, cuts her hair, camo-paints her face, and endures basic training at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton alongside actual U.S. Marines, who dance, sing, and fight to her song. Following “Part of Me,” Perry said shooting the video turned her into a “wannabe Marine” and made her “so educated on people in the service,” whom she sees as “the heart of America.”
Photo Caption: MTV pop idol Katy Perry joins the U.S. Marines.
In the same year the U.S. Marines enlisted Perry’s pop image to portray military service as a righteous path to women’s liberation, Warner Bros. Pictures geared up to releaseMan of Steel. This blockbuster casts the classic DC Comics character Superman alongside the men and women of Team Edwards Air Force Base. Superman and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fly and fight together against alien evil that threatens the planet. “It was a great choice,” said Mark Scoon, an executive at Warner Bros. “Our experience at Edwards has been beyond phenomenal, no matter how you look at it – from the bottom up, or top down. There has been extraordinary cooperation across the board.”
While Man of Steel travelled the globe, taking in $25.8-million from China’s box office in one weekend alone, NBC was broadcasting a reality show called Stars Earn Stripes. Produced by reality TV mogul Mark Burnett and hosted by retired military general Wesley Clark, the show pairs B-list actors with U.S. Navy SEALs, Marines, and Green Berets to complete military training challenges in competitions to win money for various charities. NBC’s website described the show “as an action-packed competition show that pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services.” In response to criticisms that it cheapened war, U.S. Navy Corpsman Talon Smith candidly quipped: “Entertainment is how America will receive information.”
Photo Caption: Superman, shill for the military-industrial-complex.
Photo Caption: Hollywood’s B-list braves basic training.
Yet, in 2012, many people were not just passively receiving infotainment about the military from TV shows. Instead, millions of people were paying to virtually “play kill” as soldiers in the hyperreal wars of digital games. The online game Kuma/War let people play simulated versions of U.S. military events – from killing Osama bin Ladento helping Libyan rebels kill Muammar Gaddafi – soon after the U.S. news packaged them as having happened. The more than seven million copies of Battlefield 4 sold worldwide meanwhile recruited players to virtually fight alongside a U.S. special operations squad across and against a belligerent and threatening China. For facilitating this “cultural invasion” and smearing “China’s image,” China’s actual Ministry of Culture banned the game.
Photo Caption: As China’s military rises, global gamers virtually put it down.
The above are but a few of the hundreds of media commodities packaged and sold by the U.S. Empire’s culture industry to teach working people in the U.S. and around the world to identify with Empire.
The U.S. Empire, to be Continued?
The U.S. is an Empire and the pillars of its structural power – economic, military and communications media – remain entrenched around the globe. Despite the remarkable rise of the BRICS, none of these countries rival the USA. As recent research shows, the BRICS are facilitating and legitimizing their own integration into the neoliberal capitalist circuitry of the U.S. Empire while simultaneously trying to hollow it out.
To promote, glorify and sell the U.S. Empire as a way of life around the world, the culture industry is vital. The U.S. Empire’s culture industry tells U.S. workers they must continue waging wars “over there” so that they do not have to fight “over here” and tells workers around the world that the best dream to have is to become more American.
An internationalist strategy advises U.S. workers to peacefully struggle against the trans-national capitalist elite over “here” in solidarity with democratically minded anti-imperialist workers “everywhere.” Instead of focusing on trying to transform other societies, the U.S. should focus on understanding and changing itself, and for the better. A deeply democratic and socially just republic at home cannot exist alongside an Empire abroad. Until then, democratic socialists face the challenge of dismantling the Empire from within, and they can do so united with progressives around the world. As Robert McChesney puts it, “If a viable pro-democracy, anti-imperialist movement can emerge” in the U.S., “it will improve the possibilities dramatically for socialists and progressives worldwide.”
Go To Original
A recent trip up Washington State's Mount Rainier brought home to me how rapidly things are changing, even in the high country.
I first climbed the mountain in 1994, when the main route was a picturesque climb up smooth glaciers. Most of the time crevasses weren't even visible, and snow cover was abundant.
But anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) has been speeding up with each passing year, and in the same area 22 years later, I found large portions of it nearly unrecognizable. We took a somewhat different route than the one I'd climbed in 1994, primarily because the lower portion of that route is now unusable, as the glacier it traversed is so broken up and crevassed as to make it impassable.
It being early season (most of the guide services had yet to begin taking clients up the mountain), I expected much heavier snow cover and the snow bridges over crevasses to be in decent shape. That wasn't the case. After gingerly stepping our way over several sketchy snow bridges, I was grateful we weren't on the 14,411-foot-high northwestern volcano any later in the season than we were. Thankfully, we were able to summit and get back down without incident.
Less than a year and a half earlier, in December 2014, Nature World News reportedthat ACD was melting Rainier's glaciers at "unprecedented" rates (six times the historic speed).
"Changes that normally occur over a matter of centuries are transpiring over decades," according to the report. "The Nisqually Glacier, for example, one of Rainier's 28 named glaciers, has been disappearing since 1983. It's currently at a historic minimum and still shrinking - more than 3 feet every 10 days."
Paul Kennard, a National Park Service geomorphologist,said of the rapidity of the decline of the glaciers, "If you look at it on a graph, it's like a Ping-Pong ball just fell off the edge of the table."
And things have only sped up since then, both in terms of hotter temperatures as well as loss of ice on the Pacific Northwest iconic mountain.
To give you an idea of how rapidly ACD is occurring, one of the most striking infographics I've ever seen on the rapidity with which the global temperature is increasing can be viewed here. Make sure you watch it; it only takes a moment.
Climate disruption only continues to speed up.
NASA recently released data showing that the planet has just seen seven straight months of not just record-breaking, but record-shattering heat. It is clear, through the space agency's data, that this year we are already well on track to see what will likely be the largest increase in global temperature a single year has ever seen.
The NASA data also show that April was the hottest April ever recorded, as well as the fact that it crushed the previous April record by the largest margin of increase ever recorded.
That makes it three months in a row that the monthly record has been broken, and easily at that, by the largest margin ever. When record-smashing months started in February, it was then that scientists began talking about a "climate emergency," and since then our situation has only escalated.
In particular, the way this is playing out in the Arctic is horrifying. An Arctic without summer sea ice could happen as early as this September, a turn of events that would have serious implications for global climate patterns. The decline in Arctic sea ice extent, area and volume is in the midst of a deep dive more severe than those that occurred in 2007 and 2012. The loss of sea ice is even outpacing the worst-case modeling predictions. It's worth noting that less than 10 years ago, scientists believed that an Arctic free of summer sea ice was not something that would happen until at least 2100.
But given that a recent four-day period saw a net loss of ice area the size of New Mexico, we will be lucky to see summer sea ice in the Arctic in September two to three years from now. Given the radically high temperature records and corresponding ice loss, scientists have been saying that the Arctic is now in "uncharted territory."
When we look at the amount of human-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it too is only continuing to increase.
Global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration first crossed over the 400 parts per million threshold in 2013, but now, scientists are speculating that we may have entered an era when the global concentration remains permanently over that mark -- an event some scientists are seeing as a point of no return.
And with the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide increasing, temperatures are increasing right alongside it, and with higher temperatures comes a lowering of the oxygen content of most of the global oceans before 2040.
Yes, that is as scary as it sounds. According to a recent press release from theNational Center for Atmospheric Research, a reduction in the amount of dissolved oxygen in the oceans due to ACD is already happening, and will become widespread before 2040.
Matthew Long, the lead author of the study that this press release is based on, stated, bluntly:
Loss of oxygen in the ocean is one of the serious side effects of a warming atmosphere, and a major threat to marine life. Since oxygen concentrations in the ocean naturally vary depending on variations in winds and temperature at the surface, it's been challenging to attribute any deoxygenation to climate change. This new study tells us when we can expect the impact from climate change to overwhelm the natural variability.
The press release added, "Scientists know that a warming climate can be expected to gradually sap the ocean of oxygen." This is literally making it harder for fish to breathe, as well as exacerbating the effects of ACD and ocean acidification.
Facts like these are why, according to a report recently published in the UK, a person may be five times as likely to die in an extinction event than in a car crash.
On multiple levels, this is extremely difficult information to take in: emotionally, intellectually, psychologically, spiritually. But this is the world we live in today, and we need an accurate understanding of what is happening in order to make informed, and better choices for how we are to live our lives.
It is in the spirit of providing the most updated, accurate information available that this dispatch is written.
Read on, sit with the information and then use it as a mirror for your life.
A report by Lloyd's of London sees the single greatest threat to civilization over the next four decades as ACD-amplified extreme floods and droughts that impact multiple global grain-producing "breadbaskets" simultaneously. Hence, the "Food System Shock" report warns that when this occurs, mass rioting, civil war, terrorist attacks and mass starvation are likely to happen.
The impacts of ACD on various species continue to make themselves known.
A cascade effect of ACD impacting weather, insect availability and other food sources is taking a serious toll on birds like the red knot, which is seeing its populations decline as the birds' body mass shrinks, according to a recently published study.
The report shows how, in the case of the red knot, the consequences of ACD are only being seen at a distance, which is another important concept for us to get our minds around as the crisis unfolds on multiple levels.
In this case, the body size of the red knot has been decreasing as its breeding grounds in the Arctic continue to warm, but, as the report states: "The real toll of this change appears not in the rapidly changing northern part of their range but in the apparently more stable tropical wintering range. The resulting smaller, short-billed birds have difficulty reaching their major food source, deeply buried mollusks, which decreases the survival of birds born during particularly warm years."
On that note, a recently released report by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative shows that one-third of all North American bird species are at risk of going extinct, and ACD is one of the drivers of the catastrophic bird loss.
As usual, the majority of the most dramatically obvious impacts of ACD are in this sector of the dispatch.
The World Bank issued a new report warning that global water shortages will deal a "severe hit" to economies across the Middle East, North Africa, and Central and South Asia as ACD progresses. The report warned that by 2050 growing demand for water from both cities and agriculture will cause dramatic water shortages in regions where it is currently in abundance, in addition to worsening shortages that already exist. This will, according to the World Bank, generate broad amounts of conflict and human migration across the regions cited.
Another report from the World Bank shows that, conversely, by 2050 there will be 1.3 billion people, along with $158 trillion in assets, put at risk from flooding and sea level rise alone. The twin factors of ACD and urbanization are the culprits, and the report warns that increasingly intense extreme weather disasters will continue to make matters worse as well.
Meanwhile, in the Micronesian island nation of Palau, the famous UNESCO World Heritage site of Jellyfish Lake is losing its namesake. Severe drought and increasingly hot temperatures are causing the unique non-stinging jellyfish to vanish, and possibly not return.
Sea level rise is continuing at abrupt rates.
A study in the journal Environmental Research Letters linked ACD-caused sea level rise, along with wave action, to the Pacific Ocean swallowing several villages and five of the Solomon Islands.
More and more studies are showing the likelihood of far higher sea level increases than previously projected, as the rapid pace of melting of both the Antarctic and Greenland icecaps increases. The studies show that abrupt sea level rise is an increasingly realistic threat, with sea levels estimated to rise by six feet within this century, and far higher in the next -- flooding out many of the world's heavily populated coastal areas and cities.
As if to underscore that point, a study recently released by the UK-based charity Christian Aid projected over 1 billion people at risk from coastal flooding by 2060, with the populations of China, India and the United States being the most heavily impacted. Again, ACD and overpopulation are cited as the prime drivers of the crisis.
Recent images of the unprecedented coral bleaching event that is signaling the demise of Australia's Great Barrier Reef reveal the complete destruction of coral colonies that are large enough to fill an area the size of Scotland.
Recent findings by leading ACD researchers and coral reef scientists show that the exceedingly warm water temperatures that drove the bleaching event at the Great Barrier Reef were made 175 times more likely by ACD, and could well become the "normal" water temperature with permanent bleaching there within the next 18 years.
Meanwhile, India is experiencing dramatic coral bleaching events as well. Rohan Arthur, the scientist who heads the coral reef program at the Nature Conservation Foundation based in India, has been studying the coral reefs and documenting the bleaching. Arthur described India's widespread coral bleaching as "heart wrenching," and expects it to continue to worsen.
In Florida, it's not warm waters that are destroying coral. Instead, acidification is causing that state's coral to disintegrate faster than had been predicted, and a recent report shows that this trend will only accelerate as ocean acidification progresses, with the world's oceans continuing to rapidly absorb carbon dioxide.
Positive feedback loops have been wreaking havoc in the Arctic as well.
Arctic Ocean acidification is being sped up by erosion and river runoff in Siberia. As the permafrost is thawing there, coastlines across Russia are falling into the ocean, along with rivers dumping massive amounts of carbon into the ocean, which is all combining to ramp up the acidification, which is bad news for all things living in the once-pristine waters of the Arctic.
In Austria, the glaciers are melting so fast, they have retreated an average of 72 feet during last year alone, which is more than twice the rate of the previous year,according to a recent survey.
In the Antarctic, the news of more melting continues. In eastern Antarctica, where the vast majority of the ice volume resides -- an area once believed to be largely free of the impacts of ACD -- the Nansen Ice Shelf has produced an iceberg 20 kilometers long. A giant crack in the shelf that has existed since 1999 expanded dramatically in 2014, and that trend continued into this year, when melting on the surface and from the warming seas below the shelf caused an area larger than the area of Manhattan to release out into the ocean.
On the other side of that continent, the Antarctic Peninsula saw an incredible new record high temperature of 17 degrees Celsius last year. This, coupled with the ongoing ramping up of the melting of the ice shelves, is having global implications already, including sea level rise, and impacts on global weather patterns.
Extreme drought across the world continues.
In California, Gov. Jerry Brown has deemed that state's water conservation efforts permanent, a sign of resignation to the fact that the state's drought is now being considered ongoing, without an end in sight. Ninety percent of California remains in drought, and summer is just beginning.
As if to underscore that point, Lake Mead, the largest US reservoir, broke a record in May by declining to its lowest level ever recorded.
In Zimbabwe, the UN Development Programme announced recently that 4.5 million people, which is at least half of the country's total rural population, will need food and water aid by next March, as an extreme drought persists with no end in sight.
Summer had barely found its stride when residents of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, became part of the historical record: Their town saw the single largest fire evacuation event in Alberta's history. More than 80,000 residents of the tar sands oil town fled massive wildfires, in what couldn't be a more obvious sign from the planet that engaging in the most environmentally destructive method of fossil fuel extraction might not be the best idea.
Things settled down a bit after the winds shifted and the fires subsided -- until the winds shifted again and the fires returned, forcing yet more evacuations as people again did not get the earth's memo.
So far this year, 22 times more land has burned than burned in the same period last year, and that year was one of the worst fire seasons in Canada's history. Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with the rest of the country's mainstream media, have opted not to mention ACD when discussing the wildfires that threaten their earth-destroying cash cow, the tar sands.
Meanwhile, a recently published study shows what we are already seeing -- that warming temperatures in the northern latitudes are spurring more fires across Alaska, which in turn cause increasingly warming temperatures ... hence, yet another runaway feedback loop is unveiled.
Out-of-control wildfires raged across the Russian-Chinese border, as well as nearby Lake Baikal, according to The Siberian Times, resulting in more ACD refugees.
As mentioned in the introduction of this dispatch, heat records around the world continue to be set at a breakneck pace, including the overall record heat increases for the entire planet.
More specifically, Southwest Asia and India recently saw historic heat waves that have brought more than 150 deaths. Cambodia and Laos each set record highs for any day of the year during April. Cambodia saw 108.7 degrees Fahrenheit on April 15, and on April 26, Thailand set a record for national energy consumption (air conditioning), according to The Associated Press.
India went on to break its heat record in May, when the city of Rajasthan saw 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 degrees Fahrenheit), as the heat wave besetting northern India persists, as temperatures have exceeded 40 degrees Celsius for several weeks in a row now.
Looking to the north, the Russian Hydrometeorological Center recently reported that since May 2015, every single month has been the warmest in Russia's history. By way of example, in March, the temperature deviation on islands in the Barents Sea was a staggering 12 degrees Celsius.
In Alaska, despite it being very early in the summer, heat records are breaking by the dozens. Recent statements from the National Weather Service reported that the towns of McGrath and Delta Junction in the interior of the state hit a high of 78 degrees and a low of 49 degrees, respectively, beating the previous records set in 2005 and 1988 for each. Fairbanks set a new high temperature record of 82, which shattered a century-old record of 80 degrees set in 1915.
The largest city in Alaska, Anchorage, set a record of 72 degrees, a stunning seven degrees above the previous high that was set in 2014, while Juneau and Bethel, set new heat records. Even Barrow, in the far north, saw 42 degrees recently, breaking the previous heat record by four degrees. Given that Anchorage has already seen the second-largest number of record high temperatures for any year and there is still 63 percent of the year left, 2016 will certainly break the previous record of high temperatures seen, which was set in 2003.
In Africa, the heat continues to be unrelenting, and that trend is expected to not only continue, but increase, according to a study recently published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. According to the study, by 2100, heat waves on that continent will be hotter, last longer and occur with much greater frequency.
One of the research team's authors said that "unusual" heat events will become much more regular, "meaning it can occur every year, and not just once in 38 years -- in climate change scenarios."
Denial and Reality
Never a dull moment on the ACD denial front, especially with Donald Trump dominating headlines in the United States, and the corporate media giving him all the coverage he could possibly hope for.
Trump, who could very well become the next US president, recently named ACD "skeptic" Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) as his energy adviser. Cramer is one of the leading oil and gas drilling advocates in the US, and North Dakota has been one of the states on the front lines of the US shale oil and gas boom.
Over in the UK, a group of the most eminent scientists there recently criticized The Times of London newspaper for its "distorted coverage" of ACD, along with the "poor quality" of its journalism around human-caused climate disruption. Media misrepresentation has been a major culprit for much of the public unawareness and misunderstanding of ACD.
Back in the US, on the reality front, Kevin Faulconer, the Republican mayor of San Diego, is pushing forward with a plan to run the city completely on renewable energy by 2035.
Another hopeful note: Recent polling shows that now half of all conservatives in the United States believe that ACD is real, which is an increase of 19 percent over the last two years.
Exxon, now targeted by a campaign aimed at making the oil giant pay for ACD, isworking overtime to blunt the attack. Exxon is sending executives and lobbyists to meet with state representatives in an effort to mitigate what could be extreme economic losses for the company if the campaign continues to be as successful as it has been thus far. The campaign against Exxon is now deeply tied to the overall campaign to pressure universities and businesses to divest from fossil fuel companies, which has been incredibly successful and is becoming more so by the week.
Lastly, in a story that has not gotten anywhere near the coverage it deserves, the US government has been actively resettling its first official ACD "climate refugees." A large grant of federal money was given to Louisiana's community of Isle de Jean Charles, where the people have been struggling (and losing) against rising seas, coastal erosion and increasingly violent storms.
It is important to note this development, since well before 2100, there will be millions of people along US coastlines who will have to be resettled further inland as sea level rise only continues to speed up.
Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's latest inventory of greenhouse gas emissions provided the warning that methane and carbon dioxide emissions are "going completely in the wrong direction," as the amounts being injected into the atmosphere continue to accelerate.