Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Archive for the ‘European Union’ Category

Tearfund has unearthed the truth!

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Fantastic news today!  Tearfund, a UK based Christian charity focused on promoting overseas aid and development, has announced the success of its ‘Unearth the Truth’ campaign.  As of today, the EU has implemented new Transparency Laws that will make it much harder for corrupt governments and companies around the world to trade with the EU.  Here is the news in Tearfund’s own words…

We’ve unearthed the truth!

As we approach the G8 summit, all eyes are on world leaders to take action on hunger. But we also wanted to let you know some great news about our ‘Unearth the Truth’ campaign.
Recently European leaders made a provisional deal to implement strong transparency laws in the extractive industries – and now it’s official!
Today, the European Parliament, voted in new laws making all big oil gas and mining companies owned in Europe publish what they pay to local and national governments.
This is a crucial step in the fight against poverty. More open and transparent payments mean citizens and churches can see more of the revenue from natural resources invested in their communities, and less of it lost to corruption in secret.
Thank you for all the ways you’ve backed the Unearth the Truth campaign – from lobbying your MEPs to praying. It is because of your support that these laws have become a reality!Thank you.The Campaigns Team.

Written by Martin Lack

12 June 2013 at 14:00

Memo to Osborne, Merkel, Cyprus and the World

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Dear George Osborne, Chancellor Merkel, EU Commission, Citizens of Cyprus, and people everywhere,

I would like to hereby remind you of what Richard Heinberg said in his book The End of Growth.  Here is a quick audio-visual summary:

Please accept my condolences for your loss(es) and my sincerest wish that you will now stop lying to yourselves; and face-up to the nature of reality.


Martin Lack.

Further to the comment by Lionel Smith (below), this is what page 159 of Stephen Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell looks like:
universe in nutshell p159
This is the problem that we have with exponential growth.

Who wants cleaner cars in the EU then?

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With apologies for the delay, here is the latest email received from Greenpeace:

VW has now turned away from the Dark Side


Hi Martin,

Right now, we have a huge chance to help save the Arctic.

To tackle the threats posed by the disappearing ice and the invasion of oil drillers – like Shell – we need to reduce the world’s thirst for oil. We can do that by making greener cars. And the good news is we’ve already begun.

Politicians are right now deciding the rules for the next generation of European cars. Let’s demand tough laws to make them greener. [i.e. the deadline is tomorrow]

We know this can be done. When we first asked VW to make their cars cleaner and more efficient, they said it wasn’t possible. Then 526,000 of us piled pressure on VW and helped persuade the biggest and most powerful car company in Europe that clean technology is possible. That’s something we can be proud of. Now it’s time to move the whole of Europe (and the world) forward.

Push your European representatives on strong targets for cleaner cars and help reduce the world’s thirst for oil.

This isn’t just about our continent. If we make these big wins here, the global car market will feel the pressure to keep up with innovation in Europe. That means we could see less polluting cars in countries like China and the US too. That’s better for the Arctic, the air we breathe and the stability of our global climate.

Over the next few months European politicians are making decisions that will affect every new car in Europe – this is a huge opportunity – so let’s make sure we send the strongest possible message. We know that these politicians aren’t used to getting thousands of messages from people like us, so this could really have an impact.

Together we can show the world what can be done,

Nic and all the Greenpeace crew

PS Of course, not everyone drives – I don’t – and your bicycle is the most efficient vehicle you can use. But cars are a big part of society today, so please help make cars cleaner in Europe (and the world).

PPS You may have heard about the No Dash For Gas heroes who shut down a polluting gas power station last year and were being sued by owners EDF for £5m in an attempt to stifle peaceful protest. This week, we heard the amazing news is that, after nearly 65,000 people signed a petition, EDF have backed down! The activists still face criminal charges and you can get the latest updates on their website.

Life is full of tough choices…

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…but this isn’t one of them.

Or is it?
The trouble is, of course, that removing all the subsidies and tax breaks given to the fossil fuel industry (which are delaying the creation of a free market in power generation) will make fossil fuels even more expensive.

In the USA, the fiscal cliff was narrowly avoided by last-minute agreement on budget cuts (hence the above choice). However, the fiscal cliff arose out of over-spending and economic stagnation; and both of these can be blamed – at least in part – on rising fuel prices.

In the UK, fossil fuels are already more than twice as expensive as they are in the USA (as they have been for decades). However, as a result of a weakening currency, they are now expected to reach an all-time record next month.

Even if we ignore the impossibility of perpetual growth in resource consumption and waste generation on a finite planet — and the consequential reality that we cannot rely on perpetual economic growth to pay-off the massive debts denying it has caused — we all need power to heat and light our homes; and get us to and from work.

The end of the era of cheap energy is therefore cited by many as the reason for the end of growth.  This is a reality the World urgently needs to take on board.  This will require radical thinking; and radical changes in policy in all areas of government policy.  Thus, Richard Heinberg has been proven right:

Is it time to go “cold turkey”?
Sadly, electric cars are not going to be the answer; unless the electricity is generated from renewable or nuclear energy.  Therefore, since the latter will take decades to become a reality – and our governments are still not doing as much as they could to invest in renewable energy – power generation capacity is clearly developing into a serious problem.

Here in the UK, we are facing a double-whammy: Record-breaking high fuel prices and the EU-enforced early-retirement of 10% of our oldest (and most-polluting) coal-fired power stations.  Therefore, unless we, as individual consumers, invest in renewable energy, we will soon be paying more than ever for something whose supply will be more uncertain than ever.  Believe me, if I could install solar PV panels on my roof I would.  Sadly, without a job, I cannot.

Sadly, too, opposition to the radical solutions needed for us to resolve our problems is unwelcome irrespective of its origin: Denying that we have a problem is just as much an impediment to implementing solutions as is disregarding potential solutions for ideological reasons.  For example, if our governments had not given up on fast breed reactor programmes in the 1980s (as a consequence of the campaign for nuclear disarmament mutating into ideological opposition to civil nuclear power generation) we would probably by now have solved the technical problems and be extracting uranium from sea water (wherein there is more of it than there is beneath our feet).

Must we embrace nuclear power?
In the long-run, yes, I think we must. The only thing that will make this unnecessary is the increasing possibility that Nature will soon intervene – and reduce the global human population to pre-Industrial levels (i.e. 1 billion). However, in the meantime, an awful lot of poor people need low-tech solutions. The good news is that such solutions definitely exist and, as Stephen Leahy pointed out over the weekend (reposting an item from over 3 years ago): “Bringing clean energy to billions costs far less than fossil fuel subsidies”.

Will we choose to fail or choose to succeed?
Just how long, I wonder, until expensive energy (and therefore expensive food) causes social instability?

What will our governments do then?  Admit they were wrong and make radical changes, or send the Army on to the streets to maintain order?  Sadly, I think we know the answer to that one – Jared Diamond gave it to us several years ago:

Wonderous Stories from Greenpeace (let us hope for more)

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Hi Martin,

We’ve done it again – more good news!

European politicians voted overwhelmingly in favour of radical, progressive reform of our fishing laws. A “victory for citizen power” is how Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s environment analyst, described it. So, well done citizens!

Together we set out to achieve what seemed like an impossible challenge: to reform the infamous Common Fisheries Policy – the package of broken laws that have depleted our fish stocks and devastated fishing communities across Europe.

Previously, huge industrial interests have held our seas to ransom, emptying our waters for profit. But then thousands of us stepped in to help. Cooperation between campaign groups, fishermen, champion politicians, retailers, and celebrity chefs like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, all made sure that our MEPs could not ignore what we wanted: real change to protect our fragile seas.

So what’s in the new measures? A ban on discards: the cynical practice of throwing dead fish back into the sea to meet fishing quotas. The changes also reward responsible fishing and set catch limits in line with the best scientific advice. Importantly, new rules to improve the behaviour of European boats wherever they fish, anywhere in the world. Now, we stand a real chance of achieving a fish-filled future.

There are more hurdles ahead. The next stage will require agreement from European fisheries ministers (and that could take months). But let’s take a moment to enjoy this, and reflect on how much we have achieved.

Let’s keep going!

Nic and the whole Greenpeace community

PS There is more work to do. Unsustainable industry players won’t give up easily. So please consider donating to help safeguard the future of our seas and our fishing communities.

End ecocide in Europe (and the World)

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I am not sure what good it will do unless the whole World decides to stop self-harming as well but…

Image credit : End Ecocide in Europe

If you live in the EU please sign-up here to help stop ecocide in Europe (thanks Pendantry).


One way to stop Ecocide in Europe would be to stop Hydraulic Fracturing from going ahead in your neighbourhood.  The best way to do this would be to form or join a local protest group:  See the Frack-Off website for details.

As a hydrogeologist who has spent many years working on Landfill sites, I am well acquainted with methane; and how it is better to burn it than to let it escape into the atmosphere.  Therefore, even if you discount all the immediate environmental hazards associated with fracking, you should be very concerned about the uncontrolled releases of methane that will occur if fracking becomes common practice.  As per my recent blog post, Stephen Leahy explains why here.

Meanwhile, on the subject of those immediate environmental risks, here is the inside story from someone who was, until comparatively recently, directly involved; environmental scientist Jessica Ernst (thanks Christine).


Ultimately, of course, ecocide will only be avoided if we stop doing the things that are causing it.  And the main thing we are doing that is causing it – is growing in numbers in the absence of predators; consuming exponentially-increasing amounts of food and water; and producing exponentially-increasing amounts of waste.  This is no idle piece of misanthropic rhetoric – it is a cold hard fact.

Louise Gray published a short article on the Telegraph website yesterday, in which she cites Sir David Attenborough as having described humans as a plague on the Earth that need to be controlled by limiting population growth.  This has attracted an  an awful lot of attention and comment; most of it negative; and some of it very unpleasant.  What I find most astonishing is the inability of so many admittedly-self-selected people to appreciate the difference between ideology and science.   Furthermore, despite little evidence of scientific training in many of their comments, they seem content to accuse Attenborough of being a bad scientist; a bad person; and of peddling bad ideology.  All this reality inversion prompted this comment from me:

Absolutely stupendous amounts of Dunning-Kruger Effect in evidence here:  Despite the fact that only 49% of the population can be better-than-average at doing anything — and a far smaller percentage are likely to know what they are talking about in this instance — the fallacy of the marketplace of ideas is clearly the intellectual fortress to which the ideologically-prejudiced retreat when confronted with the scientific realities of Nature.

A few hours earlier I had found it necessary to respond to a particularly stupid assertion (that every human could be given 1000 square feet and there would still be room for plenty more) by saying this:

You need to look up the terms “ecological carrying capacity” and “overpopulation” in a reputable scientific dictionary.  The latter is dependent on the former – which is specific to local conditions – so even one person per square mile makes a desert overpopulated.

If you think that a seven-fold increase in the human population since the Industrial Revolution is not a problem – especially as we are running out of the “cheap” energy that facilitated it – you are picking a fight with basic biological science: Populations of any species are limited by food supply and by predation.  Humans have no predators but, having ignored (or disputed) the warnings for decades, we are now beginning to see people fighting over access to clean water and food; or at very least complaining about the price of life’s essentials – hence the Arab Spring.

The writing is very much on the wall.  We ignore it (or dispute the fact that it is there) at our peril.

I am afraid REDD is not Green

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In my search for employment I have recently come across FERN – a European non-governmental organisation (NGO) seeking to improve the way the EU deals with the issues surrounding deforestation. FERN certainly has picked a very difficult nut to crack. However, to understand how the UN is now failing to solve the problem of deforestation, one has to understand how, over the last 20 years or so, it has failed to solve the much bigger problem of climate change.

From its very earliest days, the UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process has pursued the notion of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). This supposedly committed each developed country (and/or Annex I party) to “corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change, by limiting its anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting and enhancing its greenhouse gas sinks and reservoirs” [Clause 2(a) of the UNFCCC]. However, it took 5 years to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol; which included the principles of joint implementation (JI); the clean development mechanism (CDM); and putting a price on pollution through emissions trading (ET). Critics have denounced the latter as allowing speculators to make money out of trading in pollution permits; the non-ratification of the Kyoto treaty by the USA did not help; and an awful lot of time has been wasted arguing about what exactly CBDR means.

In recent years, the UN has sought to address the multi-faceted problem of deforestation through its Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). Unfortunately, REDD is widely seen as failing because:
(1) It has allowed polluters to purchase forested land (and so prevent its destruction) as an alternative to reducing their pollution (ET); and
(2) It has encouraged land owners to make money from forested land by replacing native forest with commercial plantations such as palm oil.

The UN has responded with its REDD+ programme – designed to encourage the conservation of biodiverse old-growth forest rather than their replacement with monocultures – but this too is widely seen as failing (because ET is failing).

This is a subject I intend to explore in more detail but, for now, I would like to encourage all readers – especially those for whom all these acronyms may be new – to watch this brief video, which I found on FERN’s Home Page.

Written by Martin Lack

30 October 2012 at 00:02


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