Sunday, February 26, 2017

2571. Amazon Deforestation Accerates

By Hiroko Tabuchi and Claire Rigby and Jeremy White, The New York Times, February 24, 2017
Amazon deforestation
COLONIA BERLIN, Bolivia — A few months ago, a representative from Cargill traveled to this remote colony in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands in the southernmost reaches of the vast Amazon River basin with an enticing offer.

The American agricultural giant wanted to buy soybeans from the Mennonite residents, descendants of European peasants who had been carving settlements out of the thick forest for more than 40 years. The company would finance a local warehouse and weighing station so farmers could sell their produce directly to Cargill on-site, the man said, according to local residents.

One of those farmers, Heinrich Janzen, was clearing woodland from a 37-acre plot he bought late last year, hustling to get soy in the ground in time for a May harvest. “Cargill wants to buy from us,” said Mr. Janzen, 38, as bluish smoke drifted from heaps of smoldering vegetation.

His soy is in demand. Cargill is one of several agricultural traders vying to buy from soy farmers in the region, he said.

Cargill confirmed the accounts of colony residents, and said the company was still assessing whether it would source from the community. That decision would depend on a study of the area’s productivity and land titles, said Hugo Krajnc, Cargill’s corporate affairs leader for the Southern Cone, based in Argentina. “But if a farmer has burned down its forest we’ll not source from that grower,” he said.

A decade after the “Save the Rainforest” movement forced changes that dramatically slowed deforestation across the Amazon basin, activity is roaring back in some of the biggest expanses of forests in the world. That resurgence, driven by the world’s growing appetite for soy and other agricultural crops, is raising the specter of a backward slide in efforts to preserve biodiversity and fight climate change.

In the Brazilian Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest, deforestation rose in 2015 for the first time in nearly a decade, to nearly two million acres from August 2015 to July 2016. That is a jump from about 1.5 million acres a year earlier and just over 1.2 million acres the year before that, according to estimates by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

Here across the border in Bolivia, where there are fewer restrictions on land clearance, deforestation appears to be accelerating as well.

About 865,000 acres of land have been deforested, on average, annually for agriculture since 2011, according to estimates from the nongovernmental Bolivia Documentation and Information Center, an area nearly the equivalent of Rhode Island in size. That figure has risen from about 366,000 acres a year, on average, in the 1990s and 667,000 acres a year in the 2000s.

Now, a new study by an environmental advocacy group points to fresh indications of large-scale forest-clearing by Bolivian and Brazilian farmers who trade soybeans with Cargill.

That organization, Washington-based Mighty Earth, used satellite imaging and supply-chain mapping information from the Stockholm Environment Institute, an environmental think tank, to identify deforestation in Brazil where two American-based food giants, Cargill and Bunge, are the only known agricultural traders. The supply-chain mapping by the environmental institute uses customs, shipment and storage data, as well as production data from Brazilian municipalities to trace agricultural exports back to producers.

According to Mighty Earth’s analysis, the Brazilian savanna areas in which Cargill operates, a region called the Cerrado, saw more than 321,000 acres of deforestation between 2011 and 2015. Mighty Earth also linked Bunge, the other agricultural giant, to more than 1.4 million acres from 2011 to 2015.

In Bolivia, where supply-chain mapping is not available, Mighty Earth sent employees to areas where Cargill operates. The organization used drones to record the clearing of forests and savannas in areas where Cargill operates silos.

The study was funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and a nongovernmental organization, Rainforest Foundation Norway.

A reporter for The New York Times independently traveled to remote areas of Bolivia described in the environmentalists’ report and interviewed farmers engaged in deforestation who said they sold soy to Cargill. The farmers described what they called Cargill’s push to increase its purchases of locally produced soy and its attempts to enhance bonds with local producers.

The reports of fresh deforestation come despite a landmark deal signed three years ago by Cargill and other companies that included a target of “eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities like palm oil, soy and beef products by 2020.” Experts at the time said the deadline, laid out in the New York Declaration of Forests, would require companies to start straightaway to make their sourcing more sustainable.

Both Cargill and Bunge said the report seemed to inflate its role in the region’s deforestation. Cargill’s share of soy in the Bolivia municipalities in which it operates came to about 8 percent, Cargill said. Meanwhile, in Brazil’s Matopiba region, Bunge’s share was about 20 percent, the company said.

And soy is just one crop behind deforestation, said Stewart Lindsay, Bunge’s vice president for global corporate affairs.

“One company alone cannot solve this issue,” Mr. Lindsay said. “A positive step would be for more companies to adopt zero deforestation commitments, apply controls to block crops grown in illegally cleared areas from entering their supply chains, report publicly on progress and invest millions of dollars to support sustainable land use planning efforts, all of which Bunge has done.” (Bunge, however, is not a signatory to the New York Declaration of Forests.)

In an interview, Cargill chief executive David MacLennan said the company was studying the allegations of deforestation in Bolivia and Brazil linked to the company. “If there’s something there, if it’s substantiated, we’ll do something about it,” Mr. MacLennan said. “If that’s accurate, it’s not acceptable.

“We’re going to honor our obligations and our commitments,” he continued. “We’ve committed to ending deforestation and to do our part in ending deforestation. Our word is our bond.”

National Priorities
Forest loss is detrimental to the earth’s climate. The clearing of woodlands and the fires that accompany it generate one-tenth of all global warming emissions, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, making the loss of forests one of the biggest single contributors to climate change.

Only about 15 percent of the world’s forest cover remains intact, according to the World Resources Institute. The rest has been cleared, degraded or is in fragments, wiping out ecosystems and displacing indigenous communities, scientists say.

Behind the rise in deforestation is a strategy by multinational food companies to source their agricultural commodities from ever more remote areas around the world. These areas tend to be where legal protections of forests are weakest.

The Brazilian Amazon, a poster child for the global forest-conservation movement, has enjoyed increasing protections, like a moratorium announced in 2006 on forest clearing for soy production. Between that time and 2015, Brazil reduced Amazon deforestation by almost two-thirds, according to estimates by Mongabay, the environmental news site, based on data from the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The uptick in forest loss since then, however, has raised concerns that the progress is far from secure.

Brazil was aware of the challenge of keeping deforestation at bay, Everton Lucero, the secretary of climate change and forests of Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment, said in an interview.

“We are very uncomfortable with the bad news that we had a rise in deforestation, and we are taking every possible measure to reverse it next year,” Mr. Lucero said. Budget shortfalls amid Brazil’s recent economic and political turmoil, he said, had wreaked havoc with its policing of its rain forests.

When traveling to remote regions, “Sometimes our command and control units were without fuel for helicopters,” he said. “Hopefully we are on a recovery path.”

Bolivia, on the other hand, presents a different situation. President Evo Morales, a socialist, has made securing “food sovereignty” a major part of his agenda, driving Bolivia’s agricultural expansion. There are relatively few forest protections, and the government’s Forestry and Land Authority is tasked with the potentially conflicting roles of regulating land use, forestry and agriculture, and issuing concessions for logging and farming. The landlocked country has declared that it expects to clear almost 14 million more acres of forest by 2025, to convert into farmland.

Bolivia’s greenhouse gas emissions levels per capita exceed that of many European countries, despite having a far lower per capita income. Deforestation is responsible for more than 80 percent of Bolivia’s total carbon dioxide emissions, according to a recent study by researchers at Insead, a graduate school based in Fontainebleau, France.

A major culprit is the cultivation of soy, which has jumped more than 500 percent in Bolivia since 1991, to 3.8 million hectares in 2013, according to the most recent agricultural censuses. Little of that soy is consumed domestically. The vast majority is processed and exported as animal feed in a commodities trade that serves a global appetite for hamburgers, chicken and pork.

“The forest is seen as useless land that needs to be made useful,” said Nataly Ascarrunz, executive director of the Bolivian Institute of Forestry Investigation, a joint monitoring effort started by the Bolivian government and the United States Agency for International Development.

“There’s a lot of pressure for economic development,” Ms. Ascarrunz said. “When resources are flowing, production is happening and people have work. It’s very hard to argue with that.”

Looking Toward 2030
Victor Yucra, the director general of Bolivia’s forest and land management at the Forestry and Land Authority, stressed the need for the Bolivian government to balance the protection of its forests with the needs of its agricultural sector.

“Our concern is in ensuring that intensive agricultural production takes place within a framework that also provides for sustainable forestry and protection for standing forests,” Mr. Yucra said.

Mr. MacLennan, the chief executive of Cargill, described a business trip to Brazil last year, during which he saw the Amazon from a plane window. “You look down and you see this beautiful forest,” he said. “Kilometers and kilometers of forest. But you also see these big chunks of dirt.

“The brown really contrasts with the green,” he continued, comparing the forest and deforested areas. “When you see it, it’s like, ‘Holy cow. That’s what’s happened.’ It just hit me when I saw it in broad daylight — the impact the deforestation has.”

Mr. MacLennan initially garnered praise among environmentalists for pledging to extend the no-deforestation pledge it had made regarding palm oil to cover every commodity the company handles. Cargill’s commitment was called one of the most sweeping environmental pledges ever made by a large agricultural company. It earned Mr. MacLennan a photo opportunity with Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general at the time.

Even before the New York Declaration, Cargill had made significant efforts to buy palm oil sourced only from land not linked to fresh deforestation, according to a supply-chain expert with extensive experience working on Cargill’s global sustainability efforts. The expert spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying that to do so openly would jeopardize professional relations with the company.

Cargill continued to invest millions of dollars adding extra staff members and hiring third-party auditors to verify that the palm oil was coming from established fields, not farmland freshly carved from the forest, he said. But Cargill has been less aggressive with other commodities, he said.

Part of the issue was Cargill’s decentralized setup, the expert said. Another problem was the resistance from commodities traders, whose incentive is to seek supplies from as many sources as possible in order to drive down costs. Buying only sustainably grown commodities would mean a more limited supply.

Now, environmental groups accuse Cargill of backtracking on its 2020 deadline. In recent statements, Cargill has adopted a 2030 deadline for elimination of deforestation from its supply chain — a separate deadline, mentioned elsewhere in the New York Declaration, that was meant to apply to ending all forms of deforestation, not just those related to agricultural commodities.

“They’re willfully misinterpreting the Declaration,” said Glenn Hurowitz, chief executive of Mighty Earth. “They’re breaking their own pledge.”

Cargill is committed, Mr. MacLennan said, to eliminating by 2020 deforestation from its production of palm oil, a commodity widely used in food, detergents and cosmetics. But, he said, Cargill had always understood the declaration to give all signatories until 2030 to tackle deforestation.

“I don’t think I or others appreciated the vast complexity of the task,” Mr. MacLennan said. “Let’s say that we are trading or buying and selling soybean meal. Where did the soybeans come from? And did they come from deforested land? Maybe we weren’t buying the soybeans directly. I don’t know.”

Holly Gibbs, an expert in tropical deforestation and agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, called the 2030 deadline interpretation devastating. “If we were to wait until 2030,” Ms. Gibbs said, “there would be no forest left.”

In Mr. Janzen’s newly cleared field, a long strip of land flanked by vivid vegetation, blue-white smoke drifted from a smoldering landscape.

The German-speaking Mennonites, who live amid horse-drawn buggies and farmhouses that wouldn’t look out of place in rural Ohio or Pennsylvania, trace their origins to 16th-century Protestant reformists who migrated to Russia, the United States, Canada, Belize and Mexico in search of farming opportunities and religious freedom. Some moved to Bolivia in the last century, and about 57,000 Mennonites now live in 55 secluded settlements here, eschewing some aspects of 21st century technology, like modern cars, but enthusiastically embracing others, such as tractors and genetically modified seeds.

Their trade with companies like Cargill has transformed their communities into a bloc of relatively prosperous landowners. But in recent years, they have also been targeted by land reforms enacted by Mr. Morales, who has pledged to reverse the centuries of subjugation of Bolivia’s indigenous majority.

The farmer, Mr. Janzen, with the help of two laborers, spent the day digging roots from the earth, between smoking woodpiles. There was a brown jumble of slender trees, saplings, shrubs, bushes, vines and roots. Occasional larger trees showed gashes where the bulldozer first made contact, pushing them to the ground.

Farther downfield lay more long, neat cordons of debris, waiting to be burned. “If the rain holds off, I’ll burn the rest tomorrow,” he said.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

2570. Major U.S. Science Groups Endorse March for Science

By Lindzi Wessel, Science News Weekly, February 23, 2017

The March for Science, set for 22 April, is creating a buzz in the scientific community. The march arose as a grassroots reaction to concerns about the conduct of science under President Donald Trump. And it has spurred debate over whether it will help boost public support for research, or make scientists look like another special interest group, adding to political polarization.

Leaders of many scientific societies have been mulling whether to formally endorse or take a role in the event. And today, some major groups—including AAAS (publisher of ScienceInsider), which has about 100,000 members, and the American Geophysical Union (AGU), which has about 60,000 members—announced they are signing on. The two organizations were on a list of 25 formal partners unveiled by the March for Science.

“We see the activities collectively known as the March as a unique opportunity to communicate the importance, value and beauty of science,” AAAS CEO Rush Holt wrote in a statement on the website of the Washington, D.C.–based organization, which bills itself as the largest general science society in the world. Participation “is in keeping with AAAS’ long-standing mission to ‘advance science, engineering and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.'”

“This is a unique moment for AGU, the scientific community, our nation, and the world,” AGU President Eric Davidson and President-elect Robin Bell wrote in a statement on the website of the organization, also based in Washington, D.C. The March “presents … a very real, high-profile opportunity to call on our elected leaders to remember the role science plays in our society and to support scientific innovation and discovery, and the people and programs that make it possible,” wrote AGU CEO Chris McEntee.

The details of how the endorsing organizations will be involved in the march are still being worked out, AAAS CEO Rush Holt told ScienceInsider. For instance, possible financial support from AAAS has not yet been discussed, he says. Holt acknowledged concerns that the march could lead to a political backlash if it is perceived primarily as a partisan attack on the Trump administration. But he says “I would be more concerned about having a big rally on behalf of science and our not being there.”

Here are the groups included on today’s list of formal March for Science partners:
Earth Day Network (co-organizing Washington, D.C., march)
314 Action
500 Women Scientists
American Anthropological Association
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of University Professors
American Geophysical Union
American Society for Cell Biology (about 9000 members)
Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology
Center for Biological Diversity
Cochrane Collaboration
Consortium of Social Science Associations
Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
Entomological Society of America (about 6000 members)
International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO
League of Extraordinary Scientists
National Center for Science Education
National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs
The Natural History Museum (mobile museum)
New York Academy of Sciences
NextGen Climate America
Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science
Science Debate
Sigma Xi (more than 110,000 members)
Society for Conservation Biology North America
Union of Concerned Scientists
Here’s a rundown of where other groups stand (newest entries at the top of each section; updated 23 February):

Say they are supporting the march
The American Statistical Association (ASA) in Alexandria, Virginia. ASA “endorses the stated purposes of the 22 April March for Science as a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community,” reads a statement on ASA’s website (nearly 19,000 members).
The American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) supports the march and canceled a plenary lecture at their annual meeting, scheduled in New Orleans, Louisiana, this year, so that organization leaders can accompany conference attendees to the local march, AAPA Vice President Josh Snodgrass told Science (about 1700 members).
The Association for Psychological Science in Washington, D.C. “We stand with all of the other disciplines in the scientific community in support of the march and are helping to get the word out via social media. And we are brainstorming about other ways to help,” the organization’s executive director, Sarah Brookhart, wrote in an email (about 33,000 members). 
The American Sociological Association in Washington, D.C., has endorsed the march in a statement on its website (more than 13,000 members).
Say they are thinking about it, but no decision yet
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) in Washington, D.C. "SfN is committed to communicating the crucial role of science and the importance of open global scientific exchange,” said Kara Flynn, senior director of communications and marketing, in an email to ScienceInsider. “Working with AAAS, we look forward to learning more about the event's goals.” (about 38,000 members).
The Optical Society (OSA) in Washington, D.C. “We are still considering at this time if or how we will get involved. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the news for planning updates,” Rebecca Andersen, OSA’s public relations director, wrote in an email (more than 20,000 members).
The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) in Rockville, Maryland. “Although we have a date and a compelling mission statement, there’s a lot that has yet to be worked out,” noted ASPB Chief Executive Officer Crispin Taylor in an email. “That said, to the extent that the march organizers maintain their emphasis on a positive and apolitical message regarding empirical science and its role in decision making, I expect that, at a minimum, ASPB will support the participation of its members in the march.” (about 4000 members).
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) in College Park, Maryland. “We simply do not know much about this march yet,” wrote AIP Chief Executive Officer Robert Brown in an email. But he noted that AIP staff is “free to exercise their free speech by participating in this demonstration as individuals.” (a federation of 10 societies that, combined, have more than 120,000 members).
The American Chemical Society (ACS) in Washington, D.C. “The American Chemical Society is impressed with [the] number of individuals who have already voiced their support for science and the march—it is a testament to the grassroots organizing power of social media. ACS is currently seeking to gain greater insight into the goals and messaging of the march to determine if there is an appropriate role for the Society,” reads a statement from ACS (more than 157,000 members).

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in Washington, D.C. “This isn’t something we’re currently planning on getting involved in, as an association,” wrote Jeff Lieberson, the organization’s vice president of public affairs, in an email to ScienceInsider. APLU includes 238 institutions, including many major research universities.

The American Physiological Society (APS) in Bethesda, Maryland. 22 April is the first day of the APS annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois, which could create a conflict for the society’s members, APS Communications Manager Stacy Brooks wrote in an email. She noted that it’s not clear whether APS will play a role in the march and that the society has not been contacted by march organizers, adding, “We hope that the energy generated by the March inspires more people to advocate on behalf of research and discovery for many years to come.” (about 10,500 members).

“At this point, we are not engaged with” the march, says a spokesperson for the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, a nonprofit research organization based in Fairbanks, Alaska.

So far no organizations have explicitly come out against the march. But American Institute of Physics Chief Executive Robert Brown suggested in an email that any “inflammatory demonstrations will cause negative retaliations.”

2569. The Banality of the Anthropocene

By Heather Anne Swanson, Cultural Anthropology, February 22, 2017
The Banality of "The Banality of Evil" by Banksy  
I want to propose an Anthropocene territorialization and a subject-making project in which anthropologists might want to engage. The territory of which I write is a place called Iowa.

There are plenty of troubling things about the Anthropocene. But to my mind, one of its most troubling dimensions is the sheer number of people it fails to trouble.

For many living in precarious situations, the Anthropocene is already life-altering, life-threatening, and even deadly. It comes in the form of a massive flood or a rising tide that takes their homes away. Or as an oil well that poisons the river on which they depend.

But for others, especially the white and middle-class of the global North, the Anthropocene is so banal that they do not even notice it. It is the green front lawn, the strip-mall parking lot, the drainage ditch where only bullfrog tadpoles remain.

Iowa lies at the heart of this banal Anthropocene. The Anthropocene, here, is wholesome. It is the cornfield and the industrial pig farm. It is the 4-H county fair and eating hot dogs on the Fourth of July. It is precisely this banality, this routinized everydayness (see Arendt 1963), that makes the Iowa Anthropocene so terrifying.

I write of Iowa not from the outside, but from a place of connection. I, too, am Iowa. Without it, I would not be where I am. My mother and father were born and raised in Iowa, and its mid-twentieth-century agricultural modernization and postwar dreams for better futures propelled their upward mobility. It allowed them to get off the farm and become the first people in their families to go to college. Iowa’s industrial agriculture and its surpluses thus made my own scholarly career possible.

Indeed, we are all implicated in Iowa. We are all entangled with the everyday violences of industrial agriculture and nationalist projects in a way that substituting an organic latte for the hot dog or shopping at Whole Foods won’t solve. We cannot make ourselves clean. The urbanized coasts are made possible by the production of the heartland. New York is standing on Iowa (cf. Moore 2010).

How is it that Americans, especially white middle-class ones, learn not to notice such entanglements, to not be affected? How do we learn not to see the damage around us?

Iowa is objectively one of the most ruined landscapes in the United States, but its ruination garners surprisingly little notice. Less than 0.1 percent of the tallgrass prairie that once covered much of the state remains. You’ve seen the Anthropocene J-curves: the rise of atmospheric CO2, human population growth, and dammed rivers, to name a few (Steffen et al. 2015). The decline in Iowa prairie makes a reverse J. Between 1830 and 1910, Iowa lost a whopping 97 percent of its prairie acreage. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The reorientation of Iowa’s landscape toward capitalist agricultural production has resulted in the obliteration of worlds that once occupied it. The American Indians who carefully tended the prairie through burning and bison management have been forced out of the state. Nearly every acre has been privatized. Today Iowa ranks forty-ninth out of the fifty U.S. states in public land holdings. Ninety-nine percent of its marshes are gone. The level of its main aquifer has dropped by as much as three hundred feet since the nineteenth century, largely due to the extraction of irrigation water. Water quality is a mess, too. Between 2010 and 2015 more than sixty Iowa cities and towns had high nitrate levels in drinking water due to the leaching and run-off of agricultural fertilizers. And those same fertilizers wash down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, where they have created an aquatic dead zone the size of Connecticut.

Few people, either within or beyond Iowa, notice the profundity of these changes. When my uncle, a farmer in northeast Iowa, gazes out at his cornfields, he does not see the annihilation of the prairie, the loss of the bison, or the displacement of American Indian communities. He does not notice the contamination of groundwater, even though he had to redig his well a few years ago due to bacterial seepage from a nearby pig farm. He simply shrugs off such things and wonders what the crop prices will be next year.

Blindness proliferates: when my uncle becomes blind to the violence of his own corn, he becomes blind to others in neighboring farmhouses, in the neighboring towns, in neighboring states. He cannot see Standing Rock, and he cannot see why Black Lives Matter might matter to him.

It isn’t exactly his fault that he doesn't notice. White middle-class American subjectivities are predicated on not noticing. They are predicated on structural blindness: on a refusal to acknowledge the histories we inherit. As Deborah Bird Rose (2004) has shown in the case of Australian settler colonialism, dreaming of futures requires blindness to the past.

Michel Foucault’s work reminds us that the discourses that shape our subjectivities are not just words; they are also the bricks of the prison, the institutional form of the clinic (see Hirst 1995). But we have failed to see that they are also the monocrop cornfield. Iowa’s landscape infrastructure produces us and the Anthropocene. The cornfield is an assemblage that brings the so-called common good of progress and nationalist growth into being. It produces grain futures markets and cheap hamburgers. How can we better see its terrors and erasures?

One of these terrors is that there are countless Iowas beyond Iowa. I currently live in Denmark, where I am a member of a research project called Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA). One of my colleagues, Nathalia Brichet, uses the term “mild apocalypse” to draw attention to the normalized degradation of Danish landscapes. In the midst of Denmark’s rolling fields and highly managed forests, the Anthropocene continues to be stubbornly hard to see.

Donna Haraway has called for curiosity as both scholarly method and political practice, as an antidote to these learned blindnesses. In her book When Species Meet (Haraway 2008), she becomes curious about who and what she touches when she reaches out to pet her dog. That curiosity becomes a radical practice of tracing and inheriting histories, such as the dog-herding practices of livestock-based Australian colonization efforts and the making of purebred dogs. But in a world of structural blindness, such kinds of curiosity do not come naturally. They must be cultivated. But how? How, in the words of Joseph Dumit (2014), do we wake up to connections?

Can we imagine corollaries to Bible study meetings or consciousness-raising groups in which people would be encouraged to trace the histories of the landscapes they inhabit, a process that might draw them into new ways of seeing themselves and their worlds? I imagine such practices as a multispecies analogue to Foucauldian genealogy (see Foucault 1970). Might exploring the genealogies of Iowa cornfields, for example, denaturalize them and counter the power of their banality? Might they enable Iowans and all of us to become more curious about the conditions of our own subjectivities and, in turn, how we might transform the landscapes with which they are entangled? This is the important work of making curiosity more common, of troubling the Anthropocene.

Arendt, Hannah. 1963. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Viking Press.
Dumit, Joseph. 2014. “Writing the Implosion: Teaching the World One Thing at a Time.” Cultural Anthropology 29, no. 2: 344–62.
Foucault, Michel. 1970. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon. Originally published in 1966.  
Haraway, Donna. 2008. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Hirst, Paul. 1995. “Foucault and Architecture.” In Michel Foucault: Critical Assessments, Volume 4, edited by Barry Smart, 350–71. New York: Routledge.
Moore, Jason W. 2010. “‘Amsterdam is Standing on Norway’ Part One: The Alchemy of Capital, Empire, and Nature in the Diaspora of Silver, 1545–1648.” Journal of Agrarian Change 10, no. 1: 33–68.
Rose, Deborah Bird. 2004. Reports from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonization. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.
Steffen, Will, Wendy Broadgate, Lisa Deutsch, Owen Gaffney, and Cornelia Ludwig. 2015. “The Trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration.” Anthropocene Review 2, no. 1: 81–98.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

2568. World Meeting of Popular Movements: Modesto Manifesto

By Popular Movements, Modesto, California, February 19, 2017
Participants in the Popular Movements in Modesto, California, February 16, 2017. CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski

An initiative of Pope Francis, the World Meeting of Popular Movements’ (WMPM) purpose is to create an “encounter” between Church leadership and grassroots organizations working to address the “economy of exclusion and inequality” (Joy of the Gospel, nos. 53-54) by working for structural changes that promote social, economic and racial justice.

Popular movements are grassroots organizations and social movements established around the world by people whose inalienable rights to decent work, decent housing, and fertile land and food are undermined, threatened or denied outright. These movements primarily represent three increasingly excluded social sectors:
  • workers who are at risk or lack job security;
  • landless farmers, family farmers, indigenous people and those at risk of being driven off the land by large agribusiness corporations and violence; and
  • the marginalized and forgotten, including persons who are homeless and persons living in communities without adequate infrastructure.

The World Meeting of Popular Movements (WMPM) is designed to bring these communities together with faith leaders from across the world.

U.S. Regional Meetings

Attendance for the U.S. Regional WMPM is by invitation only.

The U.S. Regional WMPM, to be held February 16-19, 2017 in Modesto, California, will bring together hundreds of grassroots leaders from various cultures and communities across the United States with representatives from the Vatican, international grassroots groups, and U.S. Bishops. The convening of faith and social justice movement leaders is co-sponsored by the Vatican’s department for Integral Human Development (IHD), the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and PICO National Network.

The Organizing Committee for the Modesto meeting has included representatives from the following groups:
  • Direct Action & Research Training Center
  • Gamaliel Foundation
  • Homeboy Industries
  • Interfaith Worker Justice
  • Jesuit Ministries of the Jesuit Conference of Canada & the United States
  • National Domestic Workers Alliance
  • PICO National Network
  • Service Employees International Union
  • U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives
  • View the 2017 WMPM Agenda
  • Ver la agenda en espaƱol

*      *      *

Manifesto of the Modesto, California, meeting
Grassroots popular movement leaders from across the United States, along with our brothers and sisters from 12 countries met for the First U.S. Regional Meeting of Popular Movements in Modesto California, February 16-19, 2017. Two-dozen U.S. Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Peter Turkson, staff from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Vatican department for the Promotion of Integral Human Development joined us during our meeting.

We live every day the reality that Pope Francis describes when he says that our families and communities are being assaulted by a “system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few.” With the Pope we recognize that we are at a “historic turning-point” and that resolution of “this worsening crisis” depends on the participation and action of popular movements.

In this spirit, we transmit the following urgent message to popular movement members, and leaders in the United States and globally, and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pope Francis.

We believe that every human is sacred with equal claim to safe water, education, health care, housing and family-sustaining jobs. All people are protagonists of their future. We each have a right to be included in the decisions that shape our lives. Our faith leaders and congregations are called to stand with those whose backs are against the wall. We will be remembered not just by the empathy we express but by the actions we take. Our economy is meant to be in service of people not profit. Racism and all forms of human hierarchy, whether based on skin color, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, arrest and conviction records, immigration status, religion or ethnicity are immoral.

We experience the pain inflicted on people by racial discrimination and economic oppression. The lack of good jobs, affordable housing and clean water and air is literally killing people. Racism is stripping Black, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Native people of their humanity and fueling police abuse and mass-incarceration, and fueling a crisis of homelessness and displacement. Raids and Trump Administration Executive Orders are scapegoating immigrants and ripping families apart.

We understand that a small elite is growing wealthy and powerful off the suffering of our families. Racism and White Supremacy are America’s original sins. They continue to justify a system of unregulated capitalism that idolizes wealth accumulation over human needs. Yet too often our faith communities and religious leaders fail to heed the mandate to denounce greed and stand with the poor and vulnerable.  The issues we are facing are intertwined and require all of our voices and actions.

As Pope Francis told us: “The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong; and when it can no longer be denied, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a “non-neighbor.”

We propose the following actions:

1. Sanctuary

We urge every faith community, including every Catholic parish, to declare themselves a sanctuary for people facing deportation and those being targeted based on religion, race or political beliefs. Being a sanctuary can include hosting families at-risk of deportation, accompanying people to ICE check-ins, organizing to free people from detention, holding Defend Your Rights trainings and organizing rapid response teams. All cities, counties and states should adopt policies that get ICE out of our schools, courts and jails, stop handing over people to ICE and end practices that criminalize people of color through aggressive policing and over-incarceration.

As Pope Francis has said to us: “Who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community, people of compassion and solidarity, social organizations. It is us, it is you, to whom the Lord Jesus daily entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we can continue pouring out all of his immeasurable mercy and salvation upon them.”

2. Disrupting oppression and dehumanization

We must put our bodies, money and institutional power at risk to protect our families and communities, using tools that include boycotts, strikes, and non-violent civil disobedience.

As Bishop Robert McElroy said to us, “We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our communities to deport the undocumented, to destroy our families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men & women as a source of threat rather than children of God. We must disrupt those who would take away healthcare, who would take food from our children.”

3. Bold prophetic leadership from faith communities

At this moment of fear and anxiety, we urge our clergy and faith communities to speak and act boldly in solidarity with our people. As Cardinal Tobin shared with us, sometimes our faith leaders need to walk out in front and show that they are not afraid either. We ask our Catholic Bishops to write a covenant that spells out specific actions that dioceses and parishes should take to protect families in the areas of immigration, racism, jobs, housing, and the environment.

4. One People, One Fight

We commit to break down the walls that divide our struggles. We will not let corporate and political elites pit us against each other. We are in one fight to rebuild a society in which every person is seen as fully human, has a full voice in the decisions that shape their lives and is able to thrive and reach their human potential.

5. International Week of Action May 1-7, 2017

We are calling on people in the U.S. and across the globe to stand together against hatred and attacks on families during a week of action May 1-7, 2017.

6. State and regional meetings of popular movements

We propose meetings of popular movements in each of our states over the next six months to bring this statement, the vision of the World Meetings and the Pope’s message of hope and courage to every community in the United States.

7. Popular education

We propose to develop a shared curriculum and popular education program to equip people with analysis and tools to transform the world. We will focus on the development and leadership of young people. We will draw on the wisdom of our faith and cultural traditions, including Catholic Social Teaching. We recognize that our spiritual and political selves are inseparable. We have a moral obligation to confront and disrupt injustice.

8. Political power

To defend our families and protect our values we must build political power. We must change the electorate to reflect our communities, through massive efforts to reach out to tens of millions of voters who are ignored and taken for granted by candidates and parties. We must hold elected officials accountable to the common good and encourage people in our communities to take leadership themselves, including running for office, so that we can govern the communities in which we live.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

2567. Book Review: The Liberal Defense of Murder

By Philipe Sands, The Guardian, February 20, 2009

This book addresses two issues: why the US uses force, and why some leftists and liberals provide support. Both give rise to speculative responses, and propel the writer into a hazardous exercise. Who can say, after all, the real reason that President Bush decided to go to war in Iraq, or what truly motivated a particular individual to lend support. Beyond instinct or intuition, both issues require mastery of many factors - history, geopolitics, money, psychology, political philosophy, to suggest but a few. To engage in both tasks, as Richard Seymour does with this ambitious book, is to undertake a project that faces considerable hurdles.

Seymour believes that the US has long been engaged in an imperial enterprise, and that its foot soldiers include a great number of liberals and progressives (Nick Cohen and Michael Ignatieff among them). Seymour casts these thinkers and writers as enablers. "Imperialism is not a distant relic, but a living reality," he writes, "and the moralisation of the means of violence has been the task of liberal and progressive intellectuals since they first competed with clerics for moral authority." The charge is deep. It may be sustainable for some of his targets, in some instances, but the generality of the attack undermines its effectiveness.

One reason is that Seymour never grapples with the reality that the US has used force for a multitude of different reasons over the past five decades, and that some instances are justifiable whereas others are not. In short, not every use of force justifies a charge of murder. You need some basic criteria to distinguish between what is just and unjust, lawful and unlawful, murderous or not. Seymour doesn't identify any. On this account, it seems all force is wrong, so that any liberal support may be treated as liberal justification for murder. That doesn't hold up. Iraq I (1990) wasn't Kosovo, which wasn't Sierra Leone, which wasn't Afghanistan, which wasn't Iraq II (2003). There is no seamless link between these military expeditions. The reality is more complex, and requires engagement with a basic question: when can one state use military force against another?

The answer, in law if not morality, was "settled" by the UN charter in 1945, a document that Seymour ignores. Against the backdrop of the second world war, the then world of nation states - less numerous than today, ostensibly more colonial - came together to replace the status quo that basically allowed them to use force whenever they wanted. Under the new rules, military force was lawful in just two circumstances: self-defence (when an armed attack had occurred or was imminent) or where the security council authorised its use (requiring a resolution adopted by a positive vote with no permanent member voting against). That, at least, was the theory. In practice, the scheme had many opponents, not least the neocons who sat in the upper galleries of the Bush administration, drawing inspiration from another bunch of former progressives - men such as Irving Kristol and Nathan Glazer - from the 1950s who proceeded to travel another path.

The UN drafters sowed the seeds for a third possible justification for war, the heart of Seymour's critique. For the first time in a multilateral treaty, the charter gave legal force to the notion of fundamental human rights for all. But that commitment was to be balanced with an obligation not to interfere in the domestic affairs of another state. Ever since, the $64m issue has been how to balance these competing commitments. Did the drafters of the charter envisage circumstances in which a huge threat to human rights in one country could justify the use of force? An affirmative answer opens the door to humanitarian intervention. Seymour seems to come down on the side of those who believe human rights violations should not justify force, while many of those he aims at - irrespective of whether or why they supported some or all of Iraq I and II, or Kosovo, or Afghanistan (in 2001) - take the opposite view.

So the book becomes a bit of a rant. In charting the intellectual roots of this apparently open-ended appetite for violence, mayhem and murder, important points of detail are missed - what was the justification for the war? - and the transformed framework of rules and principles is bypassed. Iraq I was explicitly authorised by security council resolution, Iraq II was not. Afghanistan was, at least initially, seen to be justified by the unanimous security council resolution 1373, an act of self-defence. Many will not be pleased by such security council actions, but their existence has important consequences and they cannot be ignored.

Humanitarian intervention has been the subject of longstanding attempts at codification. After Kosovo, which was problematic on many grounds, the Canadian government sponsored an effort to develop new principles, known as the Responsibility to Protect. After 2003, that effort ground to a halt, as Iraq made clear the potential for abuse. Over the long term, the real critique of those who supported the latest Iraq war is that they killed off any hope, for now at least, of garnering support to use force where massive violations of fundamental human rights are taking place. It is not sufficient to label the US as "the chief inheritor of the legacy of violent white supremacy". The more obvious conclusion - if such a claim is to be made - is that those who are on the receiving end of what Seymour perceives as US excess have, through the acts of their own governments, or their failure to object, contributed to their own oppression.

The Liberal Defence of Murder glosses over vastly important issues. Was the post-second world war human rights project intended to create new conditions of colonial domination? Has it contributed to circumstances in which there will be more oppression and misery, rather than less? Have the economic rules promoting globalisation engendered war? A scattershot aim at "liberal and progressive intellectuals" doesn't hit home. Force can be justifiable in some circumstances, in domestic law and in international law. The difficult issue is when, and the answer to that turns on the particularities of each case. The generality of Seymour's conclusion, the broad sweep of his argument and the passion of his attack are overstated, dissipating their force. More nuance and context could have made this potentially important book compelling. It is a shame, as buried in these pages and their footnotes is a great deal of damning material on the apologists of recent illegalities.