Russia destroyed one of its own satellites with a ground-based missile Nov. 15, in a test of its PL-19 Nudol DA-ASAT (direct-ascent anti-satellite) system. The blast created thousands of pieces of debris that quickly spread out into Earth orbit. The US says it has identified more than 1,500 trackable pieces of debris from the strike, and many thousands of smaller ones that cannot be traced. That same day, the Russian space agency, RosCosmos, reported that the astronauts on board the International Space Station had to shelter in place due to a cloud of debris passing by the station every 90 minutes, the time it takes for the ISS to orbit the Earth. It was unclear if the debris threatening the ISS came from Russia's ASAT test.
The COP26 UN climate summit on Nov. 13 concluded a deal among the 196 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement on long-delayed implementation measures. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a "compromise," and indeed it was saved through eleventh-hour haggling over the wording. Just minutes before the final decision on the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India, backed by fellow major coal-producer China, demanded weaker language on coal, with the original call for a "phase-out" softened to "phase-down." And even this applies only to "unabated" coal, with an implicit exemption for coal burned with carbon capture and storage technology—a technofix being aggressively pushed by Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, in a propaganda blitz clearly timed for the Glasgow summit.
Thousands marched in Glasgow as the COP26 climate summit entered its second week Nov. 6, demanding ambitious and concrete proposals on limiting global warning to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels—the lowest target under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Police arrested 21 people, including members of the Scientist Rebellion movement who had chained themselves to the King George V Bridge over the River Clyde in Glasgow's city center. A UN Climate Change Update on Nationally Determined Contributions issued two days earlier found that even with the new pledges made thus far at COP26, emissions are still set to rise 13.7% by 2030. To be compliant with the 1.5C goal, they must fall 45% by that year.
With the inauspicious opening of the Glasgow climate conference, activists around the world are increasingly looking to local action as an alternative to the moribund United Nations process on addressing what has been called a "Code Red for humanity." In Episode 95 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the ideas of Social Ecology and radical municipalism, developed by the late Vermont anarchist thinker Murray Bookchin, and how they provide a theoretical framework for localities struggling to lead from below on the climate question. Examples discussed include the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the Rojava Kurds in Syria, and the community gardens and ongoing struggles for reclaimed urban space on New York’s Lower East Side. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 93 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg responds to the request from Patreon subscriber and legendary folksinger Dave Lippman to discuss the contemporary significance of anarchism. Weinberg cites recent examples of an "anarcho-pragmatism" that aspires to libertarian socialism but also works toward concrete victories in the here-and-now: the Zapatistas in Mexico, piqueteros in Argentina, the Rojava Kurds and other liberatory elements of the Syrian Revolution, and Occupy Wall Street in New York. Since last year's Black Lives Matter uprising, anarchist ideas have started to enter mainstream discourse—such as calls for "decarceration" and to abolish the police. Weinberg also makes note of pointed criticisms of some contemporary anarchist thought from the Marxist-Humanists.
In Episode 91 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the 20th anniversary of the launch of World War 3 Report, as it was then called—a direct response to 9-11 and Dubya Bush's declaration of the Global War on Terrorism. In 2005, it was renamed World War 4 Report, on the logic that the Cold War had been World War III, and to emphasize support for the "Fourth World"—land-rooted, stateless, and indigenous peoples. In 2016, the project was transformed into CounterVortex, in light of its expanding mission beyond the original mandate of the GWOT, and to emphasize the need for general resistance to humanity's downward spiral into ecological collapse and permanent war.
A lot of attention is paid to the possible impacts of the climate crisis on international migration—particularly the potential movement of people from the Global South to the Global North. Now, a new report from the World Bank says that climate change could force 216 million people to migrate within their countries by 2050. People living in under-developed regions—such as parts of sub-Saharan Africa—are the most likely to be forced to move. Immediate and concerted effort to reduce carbon emissions could reduce the scale of climate migration by as much as 80%, however. The report is a reminder of what gets overlooked in the focus on South-North migration: There are currently 48 million internally displaced people compared to 20.7 million refugees. Of those refugees, 80% live in countries neighboring their country of origin, and only 16% live in countries in the Global North.
A record number of environmental defenders were murdered last year, according to a report issued this week by advocacy group Global Witness. The report, "Last Line of Defense," counts 227 activists killed around the world in 2020—the highest number recorded for a second consecutive year. Many of the murders were linked to resource exploitation—logging, mining, agribusiness, and hydroelectric dams. Since the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, the organization found on average of four activists have been killed each week.