There is no economy on a dead planet

 By Jon Crooks, published on 30th April 2015 on The News Hub


Our current economic model, commonly referred to as neo-liberalism, now dominates every corner of the earth. Thatcher and Reagan won. They sold us on an ideology of competition in every aspect of life. They began the process of removing as many barriers to competition as possible. They crushed unions, stripped away regulation there to protect workers, consumers and the environment we live in, all in the name of increasing competition. This ethos of competition now drives a large part of our human behaviour. We don’t think like communities or even as a unified nation of people any more. It’s dog eat dog, survival of the fittest. The real tragedy is that unfettered competition is supposed to benefit us by increasing choice and cutting bureaucracy, but in reality it has done the opposite. Big business is getting bigger and more powerful at the expense of small independent traders that provide real choice and originality. Real choice has been replaced by the monotony of large chain stores, restaurants and coffee shops and personal service has been replaced by call centres and self service via the internet as businesses get bigger by cutting costs.
Our transport, communications and energy infrastructure has been sold off to big business, so now our governments are left impotent when it comes to tackling global problems like climate change. In short, they’re no longer in charge. Our democracy is a sham. So much power has been handed over to the private sector that our politicians are powerless to act. Or so it seems. 
Unwilling to interfere with the market to install the infrastructure necessary to quickly switch our energy supply to clean renewable sources. Unwilling to interfere with the free market to put in the infrastructure to pave the way for a switch to electric cars. But hang on, don’t we provide millions in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry every year? And what about the deal with Eon to build and run the new Hinkley nuclear power station? Huge subsidies proposed, which has now led to a legal challenge by one of our fellow EU members.
It’s clear therefore that it isn’t just about ideology and an unwillingness to interfere with the ‘free market’, our problems are amplified by greed, power and vested interests. How many government ministers have links to the fossil fuel industry and the big energy companies? How many of their friends and supporters are wealthy landowners who benefit from agricultural subsidies? Those in power support privatisation because it is a transfer of public money to private interests. From the 99% to the 1%. They do this because they believe in a ruling elite and they want to maintain this status quo. Growing inequality? They simply don’t care.
Globalisation and neo-libralism are not compatible with securing a safe and stable planet for the future. The pursuit of continuous economic growth at the expense of all else can’t continue indefinitely. We can’t continue to base our economic system on competition at a time when we need collaboration to deliver a safe and secure future for ourselves. Tell me, how can we expect over 200 nation states to agree on a way to limit CO2 emissions whilst simultaneously competing with each other for business; the same business that is producing the CO2 in the first place based on a competitive market economy that only services to drive up consumption? We can’t. 
Is change possible?
There is certainly a growing number calling for a change to the economic system. It probably started with the Occupy movement, which has now been joined by a growing grassroots environmental movement. The problem is that whilst we know what we want, we don’t know how to get there. Politically, many on the left will vote Green this time around, but will that be enough? The they can hope for is a few seats in parliament and perhaps a little more influence on the Labour Party if they form a minority government with the support of the Left. 
The problems with UK politics run deep. Most people can’t think outside of the existing political orthodoxy that is represented by the three main parties and the corporate media because it’s not debated and reported on in mainstream channels, and most people vote how they’ve always voted anyway. That’s if they vote at all. Only 65% voted in the 2010 General Election and most of those votes were meaningless in our First Past the Post system, where only people in ‘marginal seats’ affect the outcome. It’s a dire thing to admit, but our democracy is not democratic enough to be relied upon to drive the real change we need. 
After this election and its aftermath is over there are 3 things that need addressing: 1) we need constitutional reform – a new voting system based on proportional representation, regional devolution and an elected 2nd chamber of parliament; 2) we need to free the press and media from corporate ownership and vested interests; and 3) reform party funding to make it fair and equitable and out of the grasp of corporate power.
We might then finally begin the journey that closes the gap between the country we have now and the country and world that most people would surely prefer.

Japan – the rogue nation out to kill more whales

Published on The News Hub on 21st April 2015


Earlier this month, whaling ships left port in north-eastern Japan to embark on another government-backed ‘scientific’ whale killing program in coastal waters around the country and another new Antarctic whaling program is planned for later in the year despite international court rulings against it.

The four ships that left port in Japan earlier this month could kill up to 51 minke whales in a few short weeks as part of a so-called ‘research’ program in the north-western Pacific. Can this really still be going on after all these years?

By the mid-1970s global whale populations had been reduced to less than ten percent of their peak populations – they were a species near extinction. It made sense to stop killing them. Greenpeace famously brought the issue into the public domain at the time through a number of anti-whaling campaigns, which put the environmental campaigning organization on the map.

Commercial whaling was finally banned by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1986, but Japan carried on under the loophole of undertaking scientific research. Japan has killed 13,000 whales since the IWC ruling on commercial whaling came into effect in 1987. Ridiculously, under the ban Japan has even been allowed to sell meat from the “scientific” hunts on the open market.

In May 2010, in a landmark legal challenge, Australia initiated proceedings through the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that Japan was pursuing a large-scale program of whaling and was using science as a thinly veiled cover for commercial whaling in the Antarctic waters. Finally, in March 2014, the ICJ ruling banned Japanese scientific hunts in the Antarctic. The court decided that the hunts were nothing more than commercial whaling masquerading as science.

But it isn’t over. Japan has a new plan to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean this year. The Japanese government is thumbing its nose at the International Court of Justice. Under this new plan they aim to kill almost 4,000 minke whales over 12 years and this despite a panel of experts from the IWC, the body that once regulated commercial whaling around the world, condemning Japan’s newly-revised plans.

The ocean conservation organisation, Sea Shepherd, has opposed the Japanese government’s slaughter of whales in Antarctica since 2002. Throughout those years, they have remained the only organisation dedicated to protecting the sanctity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Spearheaded by direct-action, Sea Shepherd has saved the lives of over 5,000 whales, and has shone a spotlight on the atrocities committed against protected, vulnerable and endangered whales by the Japanese whaling fleet.

But unfortunately, the new Japanese program is also focused on limiting Sea Shepherd’s capabilities. It includes an expanded hunting area, twice the size of that designated previously, aimed to make it more difficult for Sea Shepherd to locate the whaling fleet; a transferable and compoundable quota, meaning that the lives of whales saved by Sea Shepherd in any year will be transferred and added to the quota of the next; and a commitment not to engage with Sea Shepherd, thereby reducing any opportunity to draw international attention to the proposed yearly whale slaughter.

As such, the ocean conservation NGO will direct its resources elsewhere this year. Instead, they will take their fight for the whales from the South to the North. Thousands of cetaceans are still targeted for slaughter in the northern hemisphere each year too. Norway and Iceland alone have a combined yearly kill quota of over 1,500 whales. This number includes 154 endangered Fin whales.

But what now for Japan’s declaration that they intend to continue to kill whales in the Southern Ocean in violation of both the ICJ and the IWC? This is not a response of a nation that adheres to the rule of law. It is the response of a rogue nation that intends to bully its way into getting what it wants.

Japan thinks they will be able to get away with it and they may indeed get away with it, but perhaps it is time for Japan to be treated like the rogue nation they have become in response to their criminal operations and their contempt for international law.