control of life
The sixth mass extinction, primarily driven by human activities, is more dire than previously anticipated, with entire branches on the tree of life now disappearing, finds a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sept. 18. Researchers from Stanford University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, led by Gerardo Ceballos and Paul Ehrlich, assessed 5,400 genera of terrestrial vertebrates, including 34,600 species. The staggering results: 73 genera have become extinct since 1500 AD. This rate of extinction surpasses the last million years by 35 times. In other words, in just five centuries, human actions have triggered a surge of genus extinctions that would have otherwise taken 18,000 years. The researchers refer to this as a "biological annihilation." (Earth.com)
A Buddhist monastery carved out of a cave complex in the rainforest of Malaysia stands to be evicted after losing a legal appeal in its case against a cement manufacturer that seeks to demolish it to mine limestone Sept. 8. The Court of Appeal ruled for Associated Pan Malaysia Cement in the case brought by the century-old Dhamma Sakyamuni Caves Monastery, finding that the company has the right to evict "squatters" from the tract at issue on a limestone massif known as Gunung Kanthan—despite the fact that it lies within the Kinta Valley National Geopark. The forested massif is home to several endangered species of both flora and fauna, and most of it has already been cleared for quarries. After the appeals court ruling, the Perak state government formed a special committee to mediate in the conflict. The Dhamma Sakyamuni monks pledge they will resist eviction. (The Star, New Straits Times, NST, Free Malaysia Today)
After a snap election in Ecuador Aug. 21, left-populist Luisa González and millennial businessman Daniel Noboa are headed to a runoff in October. Both are seen as political successors: Frontrunner González is a protegé of exiled former president Rafael Correa. Second-placing Noboa is the son of banana magnate and five-time conservative presidential candidate Alvaro Noboa. Placing third was Christian Zurita—whose name was not on the ballot, but who replaced the assassinated anti-corruption candidate Fernando Villavicencio. (PRI, NPR, Al Jazeera)
In Episode 166 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses how a little-noted US-Mexico dispute on trade and agricultural policy has serious implications for the survival of the human race. Washington is preparing to file a complaint under terms of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement over Mexico's decree banning imports of GMO corn, slated to take effect in January 2024. Concerns about the (unproven) health effects of consuming GMO foods miss the real critique—which is ecological, social and political. GMO seeds are explicitly designed as part of an "input package" intended to get farmers hooked on pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers, and protect the "intellectual property" of private corporations. Agribusiness, which can afford the "input package," comes to dominate the market. Eased by so-called "free trade" policies, agbiz forces the peasantry off the market and ultimately off the land—a process very well advanced in Mexico since NAFTA took effect in 1994, and which is intimately related to the explosion of the narco economy and mass migration. The pending decree in Mexico holds the promise of regenerating sustainable agriculture based on native seed stock. It is also a critical test case, as countries such as Kenya have recently repealed similar policies in light of the global food crisis. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The UN Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, concluded Dec. 19 in Montreal, with what is being hailed as a landmark agreement to address the current unprecedented loss of species, now termed the planet's sixth mass extinction. The centerpiece of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, conceived as a match to the Paris Agreement on climate change, is the so-called "30x30" pledge—with countries committing to protect 30% of their territory for habitat preservation by 2030.
In Episode 94 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg presents a special cannabis harvest season interview with Karla Avila in Northern California's Emerald Triangle. A licensed producer of artisanal outdoor cannabis for the legal market through her homestead-based company Flowerdaze Farm, Avila is an advocate for small-scale "legacy" growers through her work with the Trinity County Agriculture Alliance. She is also a founding member of the statewide Origins Council, which is seeking to establish official "appellations" for cannabis, certifying a strain's regional origin. Avila discusses the challenges now facing small legacy growers who are struggling to keep alive heirloom genetics and ecologically sound cultivation methods in a legal market increasingly dominated by large-scale enterprises on an agribusiness model. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The New Zealand parliament has passed a motion declaring a "climate emergency" in recognition of the ongoing global crisis, joining a growing number of nations that have formally acknowledged the crisis and approved similar declarations. The motion approved Dec. 2 was supported by the Labour Party, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori, while the National Party and ACT opposed it. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved the motion, calling climate change "one of the greatest challenges of our time," and citing the "devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on New Zealand and the wellbeing of New Zealanders." The motion also notes "the alarming trend in species decline and [the] global biodiversity crisis, including the decline in Aotearoa's indigenous biodiversity."
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) formally agreed June 22 to hear a complaint filed by 64 indigenous communities in Bolivia's eastern rainforest, accusing the Bolivian state of violating their territorial rights under the administration of ousted president Evo Morales. "The proposal and actions by the Bolivian government to build the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway, whose central section (section II) crosses the heart of the Isiboro-Sécure National Park & Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS), have generated multiple violations of the rights of indigenous peoples by the Plurinational State of Bolivia," according to a statement by the advocacy group EarthRights International. The complaint charges that the Bolivian state undertook to build the highway through the territory without consulting or obtaining the consent of indigenous inhabitants. It also alleges that the government illegally used force to break up the cross-country "VIII Indigenous March" that was called to protest the road construction in 2011. (Agencia de Noticias Fides)