Archive for the ‘Climate’ Category

9781784780401-max_221-35d961c1f3e3af20ab8ad2edc9a7d143Patrick Cockburn, The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the new Sunni revolution, London, Verso, 2015, 192pp; reviewed by Karim Pourhamzavi

The recent advances of the Jihadists in the Middle East and North Africa, accompanied by a huge amount of violence and atrocities, has shocked people around the globe. Large numbers of media reports have been produced to explain the phenomenon and now a handful number of books are available to shed a deeper light on what is happening in Syria and Iraq. Arguably, The Rise of Islamic State by Independent newspaper journalist Patrick Cockburn is one of the best-produced.

The solid argument that the book contains is that ISIS cannot be understood separate from the conflict that is currently taking place at both regional level in the Middle East and global level. Saudi Arabia, from Cockburn’s point of view, remains the ideological and financial source for ISIS and other Jihadist groups who fight in Syria, such as Jabhat al-Nousra and Ahrar al-Sham. The author believes that any policy for deterring the Jihadists in Syria and Iraq that doesn’t address the critical role of Saudi Arabia and some other Persian Gulf states and, most importantly, Turkey ,which uses its long borders with Syria for the safe passage of the Jihadists to Syria, is a defused policy. Similarly, the US-led coalition and their air strikes, so far, appear to be inefficient in preventing ISIS from expanding in Iraq and Syria or to “destroy” it, as President Barak Obama claimed they would in 2014.

At the same time, the critical role of the (more…)


Andy Warren gets negative about a film before he’s seen it and takes a quick look at the history and themes of Hollywood science fiction cinema and their parallels in the real world

Interstellar: yet another misanthropic view of humanity

Interstellar: yet another misanthropic view of humanity

It is perhaps foolish to base too much on a film’s trailers. However, Hollywood generally can’t help but leak the key points. So I think I’ll be fairly safe. Once I’ve watched it I’ll write an update.

“We’ll find a way … we always have,” says Matthew McConaughey’s character, Cooper. “Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.”

These quotes sound inspiring out of context – in the moody voice over. The reality is, I expect, rather uninspiring.

Recently released Interstellar (November 2014) will deliver the latest dollop in what I call the “humanity is doomed unless…” genre. The genre that likes to market itself as highbrow science fiction but which in reality manages only “we’re suddenly doomed but that brilliant man will save us – hey what does that lever do?” with as much glossy scientific credibility as the production can afford.

Interspersed with footage reprising the dust bowl depicted in The Grapes of Wrath (Depression-era US Midwest “bread belt”), farmer-but-also-engineer-and-brilliant-pilot McConaughey (the brilliant guy) is torn from his down-to-earth farming life (“good people”) because he is humanity’s only hope – the hope that we can find a new habitable planet elsewhere in the universe.

Judging by the sheer quantity of thrillingly impossible action sequences and dramatic moments in the various trailers I’ve watched, this film will have no choice but to quickly dispatch with its main justification and cut to the core of it’s mission – dressing up a basic dystopian morality message with special effects and bite-sized wisdoms delivered in McConaughey’s otherwise enjoyable slow, thoughtful Texas drawl. Yet another environmental story is dressed up in a relatively new and exciting form – this is the goal of the marketing machine’s influence on script and storyline. The environmental theme by now needs no introduction – the work has been done by dozens of previous Hollywood productions and the earnest bleating of the green movement. If the film has been done well, we might see some truly breathtaking space travel. I genuinely hope so.

About those Dust Storms…

John Steinbeck wrote in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath: “And then the dispossessed were drawn west – from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless – restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do – to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut – anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land.”

Steinbeck was describing life for farming families driven from their farms by a period of intense drought which hit them on top of the Depression and a rapaciously brutal banking industry – subsequently bailed out by Franklin Roosevelt and the 1933 Emergency Banking Act – a forerunner of the US Congress appetite for bailing out Wall st on a more regular basis today.

Where Steinbeck based his work on brutal reality, Interstellar draws on the imagined reality that appeals to enviro-zealots and doom mongers. What (more…)

Can livestock fix man-made deserts?

Posted: June 2, 2013 by daphna in Climate

by Daphna Whitmore

Can climate change be curbed with herds of livestock?  Allan Savory, a  Zimbabwean ecologist-biologist, makes a compelling argument for using big numbers of herds. Kim Hill interviewed him on 1 June and asked him about his work reversing desertification.


Areas of the world facing desertification

Two-thirds of the world’s land is turning to desert Savory says. He claims climate change can be reversed by  greatly increasing the number of grazing animals in order to reduce desertification.

The greatest single cause cause of desertification, he says, is over-resting the land.  Too few animals on the land,  too long on the land and over-grazing plants plus burning grasslands – as farmers have done for centuries – compounds the problem.

What do the animals eat on the bare ground when he puts animals on the desert land? The answer is fascinating.