Tuesday, 26 June 2012

So what are we fighting for again?

"Our country can no longer speak with moral authority" 
                                                  - President Jimmy Carter on President Obama's "kill list"

Fighting for western values in the never-ending War against Terror. Bush and Blair used this line over and over; and so too have their successors, David Cameron in the UK and perhaps even more so "Democrat" President Obama.

In the name of this struggle, constitutional freedoms have been set aside, the centuries old principle of habeas corpus has been ripped up, a surveillance society has emerged across the planet, interventionist wars in Iraq, Libya and now Syria have encouraged intolerant strains of Islamism (paradoxically in the defence of supposedly democratic and increasingly aggressive Israel), and a host of new laws have criminalised previously legitimate acts of protest. The British Government is now proposing to hold some trials in secret, without juries, and the Americans are hinting at an attempt to extradite Julian Assange on a capital charge of treason should he ever leave the Ecuador embassy in London.

Meanwhile in South America, in one week two democratically elected leftwing Presidents have been deposed by judicial coups backed by the USA and its corporate masters. And now we also know that, as more American pilots are now being trained to fly remote-controlled drones from the comfort and safety of offices in the heart of the USA, hundreds and even thousands of civilians have already been killed in their strikes, and President Obama is operating a kill list. With this, he is  permitting Americans to assassinate people around the world in an orgy of international criminality which if, say, the Chinese were doing would probably by now have invited threats of nuclear assault from the White House. Often drones are used to undertake dreadfully (and deliberately) misnamed surgical strikes which slaughter dozens and scores of innocent bystanders - such as a recent mission which involved bombing a public funeral.

It makes you wonder, what is it exactly we are fighting for? What are these so-called western values which apparently set us so apart from the rest of humanity? And if they are so precious, why have they been so readily set aside?

"Oh, I got a live one here!" 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Green Left - a new website for ecosocialists

Within the Green Party of England and Wales there is an active ecosocialist group, Green Left. Formed to promote the values of socialism as a counter to the unalloyed destruction of the environment by predatory capitalism, it has been successful in moving much Green Party thinking leftwards, even if the party as a whole would not, as yet, define itself as firmly socialist (though few Greens would not see themselves as being of the broad left or at least centre-left). It acts as a network within the party and as a bridge to socialists and other radicals outside as well.

The group has just launched a new website, which sets out articles and videos (including a speech by Green Party activist, Romayne Phoenix, who is also chair of the Coalition of Resistance - below). It also includes the Green Left newsletter, The Watermelon.

There is a link to the site on the right hand panel here, but you can also get there by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Stop Animal Torture as "Art" - Petition

In the Netherlands, a so-called "artist" is being allowed to torture dogs, hamsters and chicks to death as  supposed "performance art". 

Please sign this petition calling on the authorities to prosecute her.

Monday, 18 June 2012

VIDEO: "United Kingdom" of Austerity?

Sometimes the most powerful words are those set to music. And occasionally they come from the most unexpected of places.

ABC were a Sheffield-based 1980's music group who had a string of hits such as "The Look of Love", "All of my Heart" and "When Smokey Sings". Lead singer Martin Fry was well-known for his lame suits and powerful voice, and the songs were moving but optimistic, in spite of the atmosphere of the times, but they were by no means vacuously devoid of meaning or intent.

In their second album, "Beauty Stab" released in 1983, they evoked some haunting themes about society at the time. And to my mind the most powerful of these was the amazingly dark song "United Kingdom", which closed the album. Fry says he wrote it on returning to Sheffield from tours to the USA and after he was so struck by the devastation to the city from the closure of the steel industry and the general recession and austerity of Thatcher's Britain. I remember hearing "United Kingdom" at the time in my student days, his deep gravelly voice conveying the bleakness of the era, while a piano leads a slow melody that quickens only to emphasise the repressive nature of a state set against its own people. Even today, its resonance makes the hairs rise on my neck.

There's never been a video for this song, so I've set some more contemporary pictures to its evocative sounds and present it here. Its lyrics remain tellingly familiar. Maybe history moves in circles, maybe each wave will push us slowly towards some sea-change: but for now, just as 1980s music enjoys something of a revival, the politics of the 1980s seems very close again too...

NB, this video is not publicly listed on Youtube. Please share from this page.
(And thanks, I think, to Seany Mac for the cracking picture of George Osborne halfway through...)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

In The Name of the Holy Goat

The last week has seen the Church in both England and Scotland split over issues of discrimination. Following the lead of some of their American and African counterparts, the Anglican and Presbyterian denominations have been struggling over sharply differing views of the role of the Bible in contemporary Christian thinking and its status as the Word of God, and what that in turn means in practice.

There is sharply different thinking between those who believe the Bible to be the literal Word of God and those who seek a degree of interpretation - and so the debate has raged, with passages from the Bible quoted by both sides.

So, what does the Bible have to say on the issue of men with beards? A number of these individuals have infiltrated the highest echelons of the Anglican Church in particular, causing consternation for some followers who fear they will next suggest Jesus wasn't even a white guy!

Consider this: Leviticus 21.5 says: They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body.

Jeremiah 48.37 , admittedly not the happiest bunny in the Bible, sees the idea of shaving as not the most positive event: For every head is shaved and every beard cut off. On all the hands are gashes, and around the waist is sackcloth (Sounds like a pretty grim experience Jerry had at the bathroom mirror, though in context he was writing before safety razors were invented - aha, but "context" is precisely the sort of revisionism we need to be careful about!)

Later on from the Bible writings came the Church Fathers, and, praise the Lord, they are pretty clear - shaving is for girls! 

"How womanly it is for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, and to arrange his hair at the mirror, shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them! ... For God wished women to be smooth and to rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane. But He has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him as an attribute of manhood, with a hairy chest, a sign of strength and rule." - Clement of Alexandria (vol. 2, p. 275)

Yep, beards are good; razors the implements of Satan.

So, as we contemplate all these namby-pamby, bare-faced Bible deniers like Pastor Fred Phelps, preacher Mike "Shagger" Reid, Governor Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich, you have to ask where's the beards? These perverts stand chin-naked before the Lord, picking and choosing which bits of the Bible they want to believe - like stoning homosexuals and demonising rape victims - and which bits they want to forget about (beards!) like the demon-worshipping dilettantes they clearly are. What a shocking example to young people! What an abomination, undermining western values and abandoning all the good facial hair to the Muslims and Jews...

At least in England, one man stands out, no girly priest in the contest for the Yorkie Bar of Faith: praise the Lord for Archbishop Rowan Williams and his Mighty Fuzzface! This is Muscular Christianity at its Bible Best! A Real Man and His Real Beard - let no one tear asunder!
The only razor is his mind - his Mighty Fuzziness

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Undercover Sex - the curious logic of the Minister for Police

Hot on the heels of Caroline Lucas' charge that an undercover policeman exploded a bomb in order to help inflitrate an animal rights group, Police and Criminal Justice Minister, Tory MP Nick Herbert, has defended more recent operations involving police agents having sex with suspects as part of their investigatory duties.

As covered in yesterday's blog, there have been several recently revealed undercover operations where, aside from acting as agents provocateurs, undercover officers struck up intimate relationships with suspects and members of the groups they were working, in one case going so far as getting married and having children. Speaking to the continuing debate in Westminster Hall today, Nick Herbert said that it was not only acceptable, but important that officers could have sex on duty so that they are "plausible"- otherwise, their targets might rumble them more easily if they did something so inexplicable as turn down the opportunity of having it. "Banning such actions would provide the group targeted the opportunity to find out whether there was an undercover officer specifically within their group.", he declared.

Nick Herbert - important for police to have sex with activists they investigate
This is staggering: not only does it essentially oblige police officers to have sex as part of their job; it also logically suggests that they should go along with a whole range of activities to sync with whatever group they are involved with. Yesterday, Mr Herbert insisted in response to Caroline Lucas that the alleged bombing in 1987 could not happen now because of changed procedures under the RIPA laws, but in truth, it is easy to extend sleeping with targets to gain their trust to carrying out criminal acts to do the same. Indeed, this presumably was the motive of the police officer back in 1987 (unless, of course, it is to encourage the group to commit acts they would not otherwise have thought about doing, as appears to have been the case with officer Mark Kennedy's shenanigans).

Where would Mr Herbert draw the line? If fathering children with unsuspecting women who have done nothing criminal is ok, what about an undercover officer was faced with the prospect of being plausible within a suspected paedophile ring? Mr Herbert's logic is really badly flawed - what happens if the group decides they want their new member to rob a bank or mug someone as an initiation - do they have to fit in then? And what about the police officers themselves - can they refuse to have sex with their targets? Most police would see this behaviour as unethical and counter-productive. But with Nick Herbert setting the tone, will their superiors castigate them for failing in their duty if they don't hop into bed, close their eyes and think of England? 

Herbert is both proposing conduct more in keeping with an authoritarian regime than a democracy; AND he is pushing decent police officers down a very conflicted and personally dangerous path. But then its back to the office for him, smug in his bold rhetoric about things he will never be called on to do himself.

Of course, the authorities can be quick to cut loose their operatives - senior officers let it be known, after many years of apparent ignorance on their part, that Mark Kennedy allegedly exceeded his orders (something he flatly denies). Nick Herbert's line of argument today suggests otherwise - the Minister at least seems comfortable with some pretty unethical behaviour. Indeed, it seems he might positively require it. By his logic, Chief Constable Kennedy should only be a matter of time...

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Nuclear Nonsense - do you trust them?

The British Government is extending the life of our existing 16 nuclear reactors. This in part helps them fudge the divisions within the Coalition on nuclear as a component of future energy production; but the prospect of even older reactors continuing to produce more and more radioactive waste is concerning. All the more so when you consider the repeated assurances by Government Ministers and industry "experts" that the systems used are safe - and yet, time and again, everything from technical failure to human error raises new concerns.

We have the potential to develop the most powerful offshore wind and wave energy production in Europe; this would be clean, risk-free in terms of waste and safety. Yet one of the first acts of the Coalition Government was to drop plans for manufacturing and installing offshore wind farms in the North Sea that would have created thousands of jobs, made Britain a contender in the alternative energy market (where we are far behind the likes of Germany) and given a massive boost to clean energy.

This was done in the name of austerity; but the extension of the life cycles of ageing nuclear power stations means that the Government will find billions of extra pounds to subsidise this inefficient, dirty and dangerous technology. The public support wind farms by a margin of over 2 to 1, contrary to the claims put up by the right wing press - and if the concentration is on offshore, this would be even higher. Wind alone is not the answer - no green campaigners have even claimed that; but it is a vital part of the mix, and one that Britain could readily harness.

Isn't it time we demanded the Government's investment goes there instead of continuing the massive subsidy of nearly £4 billion per year to run and, eventually, decommission nuclear reactors (let alone store and protect the waste for several thousand years)?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Bad Science

"Questions of science, science and progress, do not speak as loud as my heart...
( from "The Scientist", by Coldplay)

In the video above, Natasha Thomas-Jackson* puts forward her call to science to serve humanity rather than indulging itself in dangers with unknown consequences. In this impassioned plea to science to recognise the inherent and immeasurable value of each individual human, she touches on many of the contradictions in scientific research and the all-too-frequent confusion in scientists' actions of the possible with the desirable, or even acceptable.
Natasha's words in the introductory video talk to a very current and relevant debate which has had a considerable airing in the UK recently both in terms of popular protests against GM food and just the other evening in a powerful new television documentary on BBC4.

"Surviving Progress", asked the question, what is progress? And why is it the common assumption of humanity is that all progress is good? As one illustration pointed out, the Stone Age hunters who developed weapons that killed two woolly mammoths rather than just one ate well; but the hunters who worked out how to drive a herd of two hundred over cliffs to kill them on a near industrial scale and so wipe them out as a species were suffering from a progress trap - perhaps not immediately, but sooner or later the change they had created destroyed their means of survival by destroying a key source of nutrition.

From the felling of the last tree on Easter Island to the rush to exploit our rapidly diminishing natural resources, humans often seem on auto-pilot: if things can change, they will, and we should always, universally, welcome change. We are the most creative species to have existed, yet simultaneously the most destructive, in spite of (or maybe because of) our unique intellect.

Nowhere it this more apparent than in the field of science. Science has driven the series of quantum leaps in human existence and experience in the last three centuries: life expectancy has risen exponentially, with human numbers rising similarly. In the Middle Ages, it took nearly thirteen centuries to add 200 million people to the human population of Earth; now it takes just three years.

This massive increase is the fruit of scientific advances in fields as diverse as medicine, engineering, agriculture and energy. It is without a doubt a benefit to countless individuals, and yet alongside this has been a blindness to some of the less beneficial impacts of these changes on people and their environment: so we live longer but in a world driven by unprecedentedly high levels of destructive consumption (with associated pollution and chronic ill health) and unprecedentedly low levels of personal happiness and community cohesion. Science has made facts of miracles, but in doing so it has often diminished as much as enhanced our existence.

Progress is not of itself good; like everything else, it depends on the choices of people to determine its nature. Science often portrays itself as a search for a discernible, measurable truth. Yet it is packed with assumptions and hypotheses it often simply cannot prove; it depends far more than it would ever admit to on theory and choice. And in this, the potential consequences of a scientific discovery or development must play a much bigger role in decision-making - the threads linking decisions for change need to be linked and pursued, not put to one side in an appraisal of simply the immediate target of change. 

For example, the current genetically modified crop trials in Britain might improve the yield of wheat by destroying aphids, but if aphids' numbers fall, other insect and bird species who feed on aphids may suffer, with a domino effect with untold consequences for the food chain and our own survival. And on what level can we be assured that the genetic modification of our food will not affect us? After all, this is not crossing different crop strains by natural means - rather it is altering their makeup at the most basic level. Fish genes are implanted in tomatoes to make them look redder; growth hormones are fed to chickens to make them grow faster and more profitably. There seems to be little in the way of any moral compass - simply if something can be done, in time, it will be done.

Left - Henrietta Lacks, possessor of key cells in the battle against cancer
This may sound exaggerated, but consider the willingness of many scientists to develop weapons of mass destruction; to undertake lethal experiments on humans and animals with nuclear radiation and toxic chemicals; or to assist companies seeking to copyright the DNA of medicinal plants in order to alienate and profit from the Commons of Nature. Consider the awful case of black American Henrietta Lacks and her "immortal cells" of cancer - where her tissue was taken without her knowledge or consent. It was cultivated and used for decades of experimentation which created huge strides in the treatment of the disease yet simultaneously some of her family members were left to die virtually untreated for cancer because they were uneducated, black, poor and unable to pay. Who or what has determined the moral choices in each of these cases? Often, it seems, has been the seeking of profit rather than truth; frequently with plenty of prevailing prejudice and bigotry silently thrown in for good measure.

It would be being more than over-optimistic to hope that things have changed - as one article put it recently, "For scientists, cells are often just like tubes or fruit flies—they’re just inanimate tools that are always there in the lab. The people behind those samples often have their own thoughts and feelings about what should happen to their tissues, but they’re usually left out of the equation." (Smithsonian Magazine).

What should drive science - profit, people or simply the possible? As we enter this ever braver new world, we need to ask what science is for other than to serve humanity and the planet safely, and how to limit it in terms of its actions and their potentially dreadful consequences without crushing its creative potential. Science has a vital role to play in our future - indeed, it will be one of several vital responses to the crisis of global warming, especially in developing clean energy. But it is precisely for this reason that science needs to be shaped and tempered by a morality and ethics which represent more than simply what is feasible or even scientifically rational. Science may be the means, but it can't be the end.

Just as there is good progress and bad progress, each of these have close and ready allies in good science and bad science. The choice of which path to take has to be guided by more than simple profit-seeking or experimenting simply because it is possible to do so. By law, by regulation, by democratic consent and engagement, progress should be for people, for all of us, our companion species on this planet and the precious, fragile biosphere without which survival, yet alone progress, would not be possible.


*Natasha Thomas-Jackson is Executive Director of RAISE-IT UP, a project in Flint, Michigan, USA, which promotes youth engagement, expression, and empowerment via performance arts opportunities, community involvement, and social justice initiatives. Please share her call to science in the video above; it deserves to be heard.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Darkside of the Jubilee

'Royalty,' according to Bevan 'in the propaganda apparatus of society as it is', had four functions: to foster the illusion of national unity; to preserve the hierarchy of honours and titles by which representatives of the workers are subjected to the most insidious form of corruption; to supply a fertile source of diversion; and, above all, to intervene in a time of acute political crisis and exert its influence in favour of the existing social order."

My thanks to Amanda Adlem for this gem of a quote: and nothing proves its continued relevance more than the news that has broken this evening about how the Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames was staffed.
Who wouldn't want to "volunteer" for their big day?
So, while the rich and famous were feted at ceremonies and banquets to celebrate the Queen's incredible achievement of living for sixty years after her father died, the Royal Family lived fully up to what it is all about: exploitation of the weak and poor to buttress the status quo. For while it laid on a spectacle for the masses, it achieved it by using unpaid "volunteers" from a Government workfare scheme to work 14 hour shifts stewarding the crowds of sheeple as they were herded towards the sounds of trumpets and the flashing of fireworks over the Thames.

And not only did it use free labour: it also required these "volunteers" to sleep under Tower Bridge the night before with no access to toilets or washing facilities. But then, in the eyes of our rulers, the Great Unwashed probably wouldn't need such things - after all, there was always the river...

This from the Guardian newspaper:
Two jobseekers, who did not want to be identified in case they lost theirbenefits, later told the Guardian that they had to camp under London Bridge overnight, to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday.

So well done to the Windsors - yet again they've pulled of a taxpayer-funded fest to celebrate themselves and the social hierarchy they represent scrounging off the backs of the least well-off. All the self-congratulatory TV coverage and the smug looks of the Establishment may smother the news, but make sure the truth isn't hidden away: write to your MP and local papers, 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Cradling of Capitalism

The Horror, the Horror - apprentices at work...
Tonight, with nothing to watch but highlights of the Royal Jubilee pageant on most channels (interspersed with adverts urging people to buy food, clothes, furniture - all in celebration of Her Maj's sixty years of sponging off the taxpayers), I tuned in to the "exciting climax" of the Lord Sir Alan Sugar publicity vehicle that is The Apprentice.

I have to confess that, in spite of my socialism, I have watched this programme before. There is something minorly spellbinding about the obsequious nature of these would be Masters-of-the-Universe, privately trumpeting their sheer brilliance (one tonight even likened himself to the Norse God Thor - he works in executive recruitment, after all!) before being lined up like errant pupils before a schoolmaster and parroting "Good morning Lord Sugar" as the hirsute one clambers out what looks like a hire-car to pronounce on their task that week. "Please may I clean your shoes with my tongue," feels just a short, short step away for some of these eager entrepreneurs.

They were a rum bunch - each somehow worse, both more self-abasing and yet simultaneously fantastically arrogant, than the last. There was not a single sympathetic character among them - one wanted to set up a hedge fund to let people speculate in wine they'd never drink; another wanted to create a call centre to identify people in debt to sell on their names to debt management companies; while even the one who talked about helping cut carbon by getting people into green jobs was actually just eyeing up the chance to charge finders' fees for staff hired by alternative energy companies (he won).

It would barely matter - on one level, it is just another piece of bad unreality TV; but on the other hand, because of its popularity, it has done a lot of damage to people's view of the workplace and of what is needed to get on in life, especially among younger people. Just as other programmes like Big Brother have become more and more extreme in their thrill-seeking, so the apprentices have become more and more cut-throat and two-faced, as well as completely over the top in their claims of transforming his Lordship's £250,000 investment into £25 million in one case and £145 million in another.

It's a bit like the people in some soap dramas who are on their uppers one week before declaring they are "going into business" and, hey presto, two episodes later they own a pub or run a car lot that has made them rich. No turned-down-by-the-bank here; lots of murders but no bankrupt businesses. Everyone just needs to shout a lot and declare themselves to have a dream. Just like the apprentices. Hard graft and capitalism will deliver the rest.

Yes, of course. It's on the telly, so it must be true. Except of course, as such a driver of our culture, the mass media can and does shape its own reality, which led to an interesting moment in The Apprentice this evening. Bamboozled by the flood of pseudo-business jargon from the pseudo-business people, deafened by the strategic business plan roll-out process and the apparent belief that if you say I will bring something totally new to the world of business often enough it somehow becomes true, even Sur Alan, sorry Lord Sugar, bemoaned the emptiness of the competitors' statements. One of his sidekicks suggested this was on account of people thinking they need to use big words to big-up their dull proposals. But perhaps it is more than that.

Perhaps, watching previous series of this supposed window on the world of business, these young people actually mistook the waffle and hyperbole that issued from the lips of previous competitors and His Magnificence Himself as being...well...real and the accepted way to get ahead in business. So much so that Lord Sugar is in fact the author of his own bewilderment.

There can be only one: dog-eat-dog capitalism at is very worst.
The Apprentice is a nasty piece of work. It takes (mainly) young people and brings out the most aggressive, mean-minded, over-competitive aspects of their characters in a dog-eat-dog race where friendship and co-operation are reduced to social masks behind which lurk the fangs of a blood lust for success. One competitor thought it a good idea to boast smirking that she can stab people in the back while smiling at them: "they call me the blond assassin!" It shows a world where hierarchy is all, where anything that doesn't make money is nonsense and where you need to find ways to make cash from almost anything at all...

Well, maybe I am doing it a dis-service: on reflection, perhaps it really does show up at its most basic the commodification of anything and everything in a consumer society shaped by the ill-named free market; and the sheer aggression and relentless unpleasantness and exploitation that is capitalism, the endless drive towards eliminating rivals until just one remains - the only one who matters or counts for anything in this world. Yes, in its unreality, perhaps it in fact exposes neoliberal capitalist reality better than any documentary or speech ever would; but in the same moment, it validates all of this as normal, right and indeed unavoidable if you ever want to savour the sweet taste of success.

Even when it momentarily acknowledges its own unpleasantness, with one interviewer tonight querying the plan to make money out of people in debt, it quickly passes over any moral questions to concentrate on the contest. Indeed, not once in any of the programmes I've seen in its eight series has anyone ever mentioned ethics. But then, there's maybe not enough profit in that, and profit is all; at least, that's the apparent zeitgeist of this show.

I could change channels, but to what? Bring on the first series of The Apparatchik. Now, that would make for different viewing...

Friday, 1 June 2012

Forty per cent in Four Decades: the startling decline in Africa's Biodiversity

Africa is the cradle of humanity: in the final analysis, we are all Africans. Our human species emerged from the heart of the Continent some 150,000 years ago, spreading over the planet that is our home. Since then, as we have "advanced" in numbers, technology and resource use, humans have changed the face of the Earth like no other species in its existence. With both massive potential for creative good and destructive bad, humans now stand at a momentous crossroads where one path leads to a powerfully different but better way of life, sustainable and co-operative, while another, the "business-as -usual" scenario, leads to increasing resource exhaustion, worldwide pollution and warming and increasing conflict between humans.

Nowhere perhaps is this choice more urgently apparent than on our Mother Continent of Africa: a report just published today charts a forty per cent decline in African biodiversity in just four decades; and, as everywhere, it is the poor who are bearing the brunt of this.

In this article, Emmanuel K Dogbevi, Managing Online Editor of "GhanaBusinessNews.com", sets out the issues covered by this ground breaking report and the choices that face both Africa and humanity as a whole.
African biodiversity - Miombo Woodlands in Zimbabwe
Africa suffers 40% ecological decline – Report
A new report on Africa’s ecology shows that the continent has suffered a decline of nearly 40% in biodiversity in the last four decades.
The report, a joint effort by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was launched June 1, 2012 in Arusha, Tanzania during the Annual General Meetings of the AfDB.
Titled, ‘The Africa Ecological Footprint Report: Green Infrastructure for Africa’s Ecological Security’ takes stock of the health of Africa’s ecosystems, as well as trends in resources use patterns. It also lays out recommendations on implementing green development pathways for Africa, the AfDB has said in a press release.
It indicates that the report is intended to stoke up thinking on greener development in Africa and to rally action by policy-makers and investors in the lead-up to Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development taking place later this month in Brazil.
According to the release, the Africa Ecological Footprint Report 2012 outlines two alarming trends, which if not addressed by policy-makers and investors are likely to lead to important social and economic impacts.
The first, it says is by tracking the changes in wildlife populations as a proxy for ecosystem health, the Africa Living Planet Index shows a decline of nearly 40% in biodiversity in the last four decades. This decline reflects a degradation of the natural systems upon which Africa’s current and future prosperity depends.
Secondly, the rapid population growth and increasing prosperity are changing consumption patterns, with the result that Africa’s ecological footprint – the area needed to generate the resources consumed by the people who live here – has been growing steadily.
The report finds that while Africa’s total ecological footprint is set to double by 2040 in a business-as-usual scenario, the good news is that Africa is in an advantageous position to act.