Agreement Reached in COP 21 Summit

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The COP 21 climate conference has wrapped up in Paris, and will likely go down in history as a historic moment for the international community and climate change; the question is what kind of turning point COP 21 will be. Barack Obama has said as much about the agreement, calling it a turning point for the world. China and India praised the deal, which is a major milestone in and of itself as they are set to become the world’s biggest polluters if trends continue in their economies. CNN even attempted to praise the agreement calling it “hailed as a milestone in the battle to keep Earth hospitable to human life.”

But there is plenty of skepticism over whether the agreement reached in Paris is going to truly be a step forward in “the battle to keep Earth hospitable to human life,” a battle too many are still mind-bogglingly against fighting. The big sticking point for most is that the agreement, while mandating bottom-up a system cutting of greenhouse gas emissions across the world over time, doesn’t contain any strong provisions for punishing member states who fail to abide by those emissions cuts. That may or may not be a fair criticism; there is no supranational legal body responsible for forcing sovereign nations to agree to the terms of treaties and if there was it would be less progressive and more Orwellian.

The rest of the media’s and various politicians’ opining on the agreement boils down to differing degrees of optimism on a single number. The Paris agreement is designed to curb global warming and keep it under 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. In short some think that is possible and some think it is not. Combined with the constantly evolving politics over climate aid to developing nations it’s a recipe for the kind of relatively information-free disagreement that the internet and mass-media were made for. For example Nick Dearden, director of what could be called for better or worse an international eco-socialist activist group called Global Justice Now, has said of the agreement, “It’s outrageous that the deal that’s on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations,” arguing that the agreement is simply not going to be held up by developed nations.

But even business groups in those developed nations are treating this agreement as something different. WBCSD, a sustainable business advocacy group, tweeted that “the transition to a low carbon economy is unstoppable.” If global warming to some degree is unstoppable, one can only hope so are its proposed solutions.

DSW staff are analyzing the details of the agreement reached and will continue to comment on this, the most significant development to date in our lifetimes in the battle to keep earth habitable.

 

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Agreement Reached in COP 21 Summit

2-Week Climate Talks Begin in Paris

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Described by NPR as a mission to produce “a short simple agreement–maybe a dozen pages–that will satisfy nearly 200 nations”, the U.N. Climate Change conference , a two-week convention of world leaders on the subject, has just kicked off only a few weeks after the terrorist attacks in the same city. The conference has been framed in controversy even before it started, as 200 citizens were arrested in Paris during climate change protests. The state of emergency in the city since the terrorist attacks prohibits open public assemblies regardless of the reasons for them.

The talks, which officially started Monday and run through December 11th, are already being treated by some media outlets with more optimism then previous climate talks in the last decade. NPR has said of the independent plans world leaders have submitted before the conference, “Independent experts have calculated that if the world is currently on track for warming of about 4.5 degrees Celsius, these pledges would reduce that to about 2.7 to 3.7 degrees — which is real progress, before the Paris summit even starts.”

But there’s plenty of healthy skepticism to go around, too. Many are arguing that unless something changes, these talks may fall far short of producing the kind of consensus needed to begin the reversal of exponentially increasing global warming trends. Fivethrityeight.com has already noted that “Of the 183 countries [who have submitted plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions], only two — Ethiopia and Morocco — have plans that Climate Action Tracker (a consortium of research organizations) rated as “sufficient” to meet climate goals.” The U.N. itself has even stated out of desperation that these talks are one of the last chances the world has to deal with climate change.

Still, the consensus at this point, that these talks will be different, meaningful even, is growing. This conference is seeing more international media focus then any similar climate meeting before. The fact that virtually every government on the planet has submitted plans for the reduction of greenhouse emissions before the conference has even started is alone a huge step forward. Even the Vatican has commented on how important the Paris conference is to the future of the planet. There are still scores of things that could go wrong; Murphy’s Law is not affected in any way by climate change. But the level of goodwill among governments and people going in to this conference is unprecedented. DSW will be covering the talks as they go ward from now through December 11th.

 

-G

2-Week Climate Talks Begin in Paris

On Paris: What We Don’t Know

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There’s a lot we still don’t know about the attacks in Paris that left 130 dead. There’s a lot we don’t know about the future after these attacks, or what’s going to happen in France or around the world as a result of ISIS demonstrating it can attack western targets once in a while if it chooses to do so (though now that even may not be true).

In this brave new media world where instant response and analysis is required in the face of events that used to shock the world into silence, many people have instead declared as loudly as possible what they do know. In many cases what they know are that according to them, Muslims are scary. That and clinical insanity can be the only reason behind Donald Trump wanting to tag every Muslim in the United States so he can then herd them and treat them as animals if elected president. In a less Hitlery but no less cowardly display, the GOP House, joined by almost fifty Democrats, passed a bill effectively banning helpless refugees (because apparently they’re also scary) from entry into the US. They even went so far as to surround and intimidate one of their own caucus members in a likely futile attempt to get a veto-proof majority.

But the fact is there’s still a lot that we don’t know. French authorities are still capturing some of the attackers; borders were closed due to the attacks until Thursday and may be closed longer. The French Senate is so unsure of what might happen next it extended the country’s state of emergency for three months. There’s no particular guarantee that will help anything.

The fact is it has only been a week since these attacks. Emotions are still raw, information is incredibly limited, and analyses are deeply flawed.

The fact is that by spreading fear and panic the media around the world is doing a gross disservice to humanity.

Analysis is one thing, and as we get it we will do our best to report it here on DSW. But for the rest of it, the fear mongering and the direct selling of emotional terror to the general public for political gain and holistic alternatives to Viagra for white male politicians in the US, enough. Shut up already.

-G

On Paris: What We Don’t Know

When The World Doesn’t Make Sense

I should have been much slower when deciding on my first roommate out of college. Like… Sloth being dragged around by a snail slow. It should suffice to say I don’t understand my roommate and his… Lack of empathy.

Last week, an attack on Paris ended in the deaths of more than one hundred people and a large response from the world largely condemning the actions of the few responsible for these acts.

But some people went a little further than just those responsible.

I was chatting with my roommate, usually a fairly innocent thing to do, when he brings up that he bought a second handgun for “home defense.”

“Like this man,” he said. “If some asshole comes though that door, I be like ‘BLAM!’ and that bitch dead.”

My response, landing outside my usual act of being a bloodless, tearless demon of a man, was to point out that killing someone, regardless of intent or personal defense, isn’t something most people can live with. Hell, if Fallout 4 has taught me anything, it’s that meaningless death or murder in any context has no redeeming value.

The conversation skewed back and forth a few times and I finally asked him, after some particularly unempathetic comments about the lives of others, especially Syran refugees, what he would do about the so-called Islamic State, having given my opinion. He emphatically said that he would, personally and without joining the armed forces, get a machine gun, go to Syria, and just start shooting people.

I was struck speechless. I stood there, in my little apartment just off US 441, and shied from him in horror.

I asked, “Do you realize what they would call you?”

“A fucking hero!”

“A terrorist. They would call you a terrorist and a monster.” I can not believe that another human being, a person from the “enlightened” and “advanced” nation of America could, even in jest, consider such an act.

I am more terrified that there are many thousands of others like this all over America who seem to think everyone in the Middle East, except of course Israel, for… reasons(?), is the enemy and should be utterly destroyed. Good gods! Even a potential President, several, think this way. It baffles the mind that so many can be so short-sighted and narrow-minded to take the “it’s us or them” mindset.

Please leave your comments below and continue the discussion. Terrify me some more or let me hope a little.

-M

When The World Doesn’t Make Sense

THE SONG OF ROLAND AND THE ATTACK ON PARIS

Most of the responses to the recent attacks in Lebanon, Iraq, and Paris perpetrated (most likely) by ISIS sympathizers in Europe and the Middle East has followed the modern standard of what is appropriated or expected to be debated after a terrorist attack. We decide who is responsible, we have a (usually brief, rehearsed and passionate) debate about whether or how many people we should kill in retaliation, we give ourselves a pass at racism for a while while we boo and hiss at the brown-skinned terrorists, and we then return to work without thinking too much else about it.

That superficial understanding (if understanding is even the right word) of modern terrorism and of the Islamic State in general presents a far greater danger to national security then the threat of terrorist attacks themselves. It encourages jingoism and xenophobia as a default response for those that cannot understand the significance and ramifications of world events like the recent attack on Paris. But there was nothing surprising about these attacks, given France’s long and messy history with Islam.

There has been so much discussion on what ISIS really wants, what its goals are, etc., and I don’t want to delve too much into that here, but the popular opinion is that ISIS is an organization bent on bringing about the apocalypse, a gigantic cult so to speak. Certainly there’s plenty of evidence to suggest this is how ISIS recruits new members to its ranks; every culture in the world has a small, clinically insane segment of its population that believes the apocalypse is imminent and they are called to help bring it about. But that theory leaves a lot to be desired. It’s overly simplistic, it has a racist tinge to it, and it smacks of propaganda. At the very least, saying ISIS is a larger version of Jonestown with more aggressive tendencies is an incredibly difficult argument to make. In truth, this has far deeper roots. The organization’s recruitment strategy might take advantage of radical propaganda; there’s not a military in the world that hasn’t done the same at some point. But ISIS’s behavior suggests it’s attempting to restore the dark ages era Muslim caliphate that one dominated the Middle East and came very close to dominating Europe.

If you’ve ever read or heard of The Song of Roland you’ll understand where this is going. The Song of Roland is a very old French military epic poem from the eighth century AD. It celebrates the victory of Charlemagne’s general Roland over forces led by the Emir of Cordoba, as well as some Basque forces, some time around 777  or 778 AD. Even though Charlemagne had to withdraw from Spain a year later and the battle might actually have less historical relevance then the poem would have us believe, The Song of Roland still evolved into a piece of anti-Muslim propaganda through the Middle Ages. The poem wasn’t even written until at least three hundred years later and was steeped with western Medieval tripe about the superiority of Latin Christianity over the pompous and debauchery-laden Saracens.

Charlemagne, of course, was Frankish. And the Franks, after a few hundred short years, became the French. And one does not attack Paris unless one’s target is the French. At least that’s true if we assume one is even remotely competent.

The French have struggled with Islam and Islamaphobia in modern times as well. General Charles de Gaulle, venerated by modern French as a national hero (he even has an airport named after him) took power in France after WWII and immediately made it a priority of his to wage a vicious and bloody war against Algerian independence. This was a war for Algerian independence led by nationalists but many of those nationalists were Muslims. In other words, in modern times countless Muslims gave their lives for a cause dear to their hearts that was directly opposed by the French. Simply given the fact that old propaganda has a way resurfacing during times of war, it’s safe to assume many modern Muslims have read or know of the Song of Roland, and it’s likely that people inside the ISIS command structure know of it as well.

France was a critical turning point in the story of the early Islamic Caliphate. Its military advance was stopped by ancestors of the French, and Medieval Europe turned the story of that into sectarian propaganda. This is only scratching the surface of why ISIS is, but understanding the history of the first Caliphate is crucial to understanding the political and cultural environment of modern Islam and the motivations of the Islamic State in general.

-G

THE SONG OF ROLAND AND THE ATTACK ON PARIS