Friday, January 25, 2008

Capitalist Despair & the Climate Crisis

[Show script][to hear the program, click the title above]

[sci-fi - but all too true clip from trailer for new game]

Our opening clip comes not from a documentary of our times, but from a trailer for a new video game called "Frontlines, Fuel of War." I suppose gamers really know the game is up. But, even our collapse, can be made into a profitable fantasy, for the screen.

I'm Alex Smith, and this is Radio Ecoshock.

You know, life has always been a battle between routine and interruptions. I say, we are entering the age of interruptions.

Privileged consumers hope the shopping carts will fill up, forever. Commuting to work, shopping for fun, planning vacations far away. It's been fun living fat. We like it, we want it to go on, living as model consumers, the hope of the world. We'll do almost anything to keep this mobile parade, of bursting store shelves, and stuffed closets. OK, we'll do anything.

The big interruption appears to be the loud cracking sound, as Capitalism buckles under it's own weight. Now that the Wall Street Christmas bonus billions have been given away, by bankrupt firms, the media is allowed to discuss a slight re-adjustment.

[Bush, Cramer, Beck]

Authors like Demitri Orlov, and James Howard Kunstler, suggest the United States is falling, like it's counter-weight, the former Soviet Union. It just took a little longer to appear. Next week we'll have a new speech by Jim Kunstler, recorded in Vancouver by Radio Ecoshock.

You've heard that America's largest bank, Citi-group, is being "rescued" by Muslim state governments. That the largest brokerage, Merill Lynch, declared a $16 billion loss. The largest mortgage lender, Countrywide, was saved by a fire-sale buyout by Bank of America. You probably didn't hear, that the fraudsters who sold all those fantasy investments, took off with $65 billion dollars in bonus money last year, from many of the same companies bleeding multi-billion dollar losses.

Once the enormity of the situtation is realized, soon, there will be endless lawsuits, and government investigations. In fact, the city of Cleveland is already suing several banks, including Wells Fargo. The city alleges these lenders were predators on the poorest people, leading to mass foreclosures. Wrecked, abandoned homes have scarred the city. Over a thousand perfectly good houses have been torn down, after they were wrecked by the angry former home owners, and/or vandalized by the numberless urban poor. Millions of homeless in the country, but we have to tear down houses. It is pitiless madness.

This has led to a new phenomenon in the United States - another measurement of the pain. Some cities are being designated as "refugee cities." This is where people are fleeing the breakdown of municipal services and city life. We have all imagined climate refugees, and those families fleeing war. We never imagined that some major American cities would break down, as they are breaking down.

Here is an excerpt from a speech by a Canadian city Councillor, Clive Doucet, where he describes refugee cities.

[clip][about 5 minutes, Clive Doucet in Vancouver January 14th, 2008, recorded by Radio Ecoshock - the author of new book "Urban Meltdown"]

The flip side: some cities are still functioning. These Doucet calles "refuge" cities - the places where people go for a hope of jobs, medical systems that work, schools that are safe.

The process of capitalism is a transfer of wealth from the many to the few. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in the sub-prime mortgage scam. Lenders went agressively to the poorest people, to people of color. The African American community was particularly hard hit. Whatever people of color had managed to save, through working two or three jobs, was taken into the banks, with a promise of the American dream. A house of your own. A real bedroom for your kids. Now you can have it. But you can't keep it.

Here is a digest of the radio program "Building Bridges" report, on how sub-prime mortgages were aimed at the poorest communities. This program was broadcast on New York Public Radio, WBAI, on January 14th, 2007. At the end of the full program, there is a phenomenal speech by Martin Luther King in 1965. I have only included a few bits from the original half hour show.

[Building Bridges about 6 min]

You can find "Building Bridges," a labor oriented radio program, at The report on sub-prime and people of color, is available from the organization "United for a Fair Economy." Find them at The report is called "Foreclosed: The State of the Dream."

But the sub-prime scam, as we know, was just the water melting down deep, moving the whole financial glacier toward the sea. All the half-baked mortgages, and loans to people counting on ever-increasing real estate values, in their homes, were re-bundled as Collateralized Debt Obligations, CDO's, and other strange derivatives. The original mortgage values, already over-inflated, were multiplied several times, to many investors, as capitalist banks do. That mountain of multiplied debt was then sold off, all over the world. Big German and Korean banks bought them. Pension funds bought them. Small municipalities from Wisconsin to the Australian outback bought them.

After all, the ratings companies said these investments were "AAA." Now the companies and banks which issued them, like Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, are writing off their own CDO's, as worthless.

Worse, banks and all sorts of institutions bought insurance for their investments, in case there was a loss. The insurance companies have no hope of paying off all the bad debt. The insurance companies themselves will go bust, or be bailed out by governments. You, the taxpayer, and your children, will go into big debt, just to pay off the scandals of Wall Street. Just like the Savings and Loan government bailout, which still hasn't been paid off.

All this turmoil leads many of us to wonder whether Capitalism can survive. A simple history of capitalism shows the close links to piracy. Now the pirates have left with their billions for off-shore havens. The industrial system of America has been gutted, shipped overseas. Confidence in the dollar and government bonds is shattered. And you know when George Bush steps in to "help" - the disaster is already out of control. Bush is like the character George Costanza in the Sienfeld comedy TV show. George discovers that every instinct he has is wrong. He should do the opposite.

History will show that George Bush and his administration has gone wrong on almost every important issue. They stalled action on climate change, in America, and internatonally, during the key period when action might have saved terrible changes. We know his record on Katrina. Now he wants to hand out $800 to everybody to go shopping. That should fix the missing trillions - I said trillions - of dollars in the phoney pumped up world of finance.

But all this is the human circus, on a blue planet in deep trouble. Many Greens deeply doubt that Capitalism can meet any of the challenges it creates. All the light-bulb changing, the phoney trades in carbon that let the smokestackes keep belching, the failed climate talks. Can there be a "green capitalism" - or will we see abrupt social change in reaction to abrupt changes in financial markets, the oil supply, and the ever-more inhospitable climate?

I don't pretend to know the answers. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Communist. Still, here are two speakers who claim green capitalism is impossible. That some sort of social action - socialism - must develop into a new economic and political model for the Long Emergency.

First up, George Monbiot, columnist for the Guardian newspaper in Britain, and author of the book "Heat, How to Stop the Planet Burning". Monbiot spoke at the climate rally in Britain on December 8th. You can hear the whole speech on youtube - Monbiot is spelled monbiot. But I want to play just a clip with the clearest description I've ever heard of Capitalism, and why it must grind down the planet to nothing, to continue growing.

[Monbiot - 5 minutes]

Very profound. In Capitalism, we must mine more, cut more, pollute more, filling the world with plastic trinkets and machinery, to justify the increase in the money supply, that is assumed by compound interest. Capitalism must always grow, or collapse. We have grown to "peak everything." We are hauling out the last beast of the forest, for food and decoration, cutting down rainforests to grow bio-fuel for SUVs, grabbing the last edible creatures of the sea. We have grown to 6 or 7 billion people, all wanting cars, monster homes, and more fatty foods. When we reach the limit, we begin the process of collapse, whether slowly over decades, or very quickly, indeed.

I've just recorded another speech by eco-socialist Ian Angus. The event was called "Can We Stop Climate Change?", held in Vancouver January 20th, 2008. Angus sums up our situation after the failure of the Bali climate talks in December.

[Ian Angus speech about 20 min, recorded by Radio Ecoshock]

You just heard Ian Angus with the green eco-socialist view on climate change. Find Ian Angus at his blog

I'm Alex Smith, this is Radio Ecoshock, and we're deep into the subject of climate and capitalism.

I began this show with the hot topic of the day, the unraveling economy. It is exciting to live during big changes, even bad ones. When we come out of the haze of sports talk, and celebrity gossip, we gaze at crumbling institutions. Most people duck back inside the mass media cocoon, while the political debate becomes ever more irrelevant. Expect miles of ink, and a billion hours of social attention, to focus on the American economy, and world-wide waves of worry. We can all pretend we are adults, to learn that the word "derivative" really means "scam." That is where our municipal and pension funds went. But remember, life is interruption.

While humans spin their attention, the giant interruption is growing unseen in the sky, moves in ocean currents, cracks open miles down, under the ice. We call it climate change. Whatever happens to the War in Iraq, the collapse of the economy, and all those important things - we somehow have to focus. To focus the nation. Because, as we hear now from Evan Goldstein, we have just three years, until 2012, to create massive social change. To warp away from the carbon economy.

The alternative, is a planet of struggle, the hardest of times, for ourselves, and all our descendents. At least in this interview, taken from the program "Between the Lines", we find a growing awareness of the climate deadline, stimulated in the schools.

[clip, Evan Goldstein][about 6 min]

Evan Goldstein was interviewed for the alternative news program "Between the Lines." Find them at

We need to hear about this climate crisis, over and over again. We are so easily distracted by ourselves, by the culture that demands all of our attention, all of our hours. Besides, the shift in the planet is so enormous, we can hardly imagine it.

As Rajendra Pachauri, a leading spokesperson for the IPCC told one reporter:

"You can read as much as you want on these subjects, but it doesn't really enter your system. You don't really appreciate the enormity of what you have," Pachauri said.

He sees all the scientific evidence. And he can still hardly comprehend what it means.

But I don't think the parlysis of fear is any answer. Just this week I heard a stimulating interview in the program "Mind Over Matters." Francis More Lappe, the author of "Diet for a Small Planet," - way back in the 70's, has written two books about conquering personal fear, and moving toward self-empowerment. Even in a crazy world.

Here is a tiny sample of Lappe:

[Lappe clip - Mind Over Matters interview]

During the interview, we learn that Lappe, for all her fame and expertise, went through years of self-doubt and fear. She described her struggle and ultimate victory over fear in her book "You Have the Power". I intend to read that.

Lappe's new book is called "Getting A Grip, Clarity, Creativity, and Courgae in a World Gone Mad." Find out more at

Abrupt climate change may also bring abrupt social change. Is it time for eco-justice? For community? Maybe the Long Emergency will not end up in the global battle zones predicted by our video game writers. In fact, I predict the far-flung American bases will be closed. The new world economy, one more based on localized production and renewable energy, cannot afford the waste of militarism.

It doesn't have to be that way. Abrupt social change has happened. It could be happening now.

I'm Alex Smith, your host at Radio Ecoshock. You can download all our programs, and a ton of good green radio, free, from our website at
Thanks for joining me this week.

I'd like to dedicate our closing song to all the Wall Street brokers, and bankers, who made off like bandits. This is classic Joni Mitchell, with "Raised on Robbery."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


This is writer, activist and hitchhiker MacDonald Stainsby. He is coordinator of a website called

The Tar Sands megaprojects in Northern Alberta, Canada are so horrible, so insane, I don't really want to talk about it. In fact, most Canadians - and Americans, prefer not to think about this issue at all.

It is the world's largest strip mining operation. It is Canada's largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. The Tar Sands are melting down gluey rock to feed America's energy addiction.

As Stainsby will tell us, in this speech recorded in Vancouver January 20th, 2008 - in the Middle East, it takes about one barrel of oil to produce one hundred barrels of oil. A hundred to one gain in energy. But in the Tar Sands, it takes one barrel to produce just three.

Meanwhile, all the natural gas of Canada's arctic, which was once destined to heat homes, is now earmarked for the Tar Sands, to melt down the rock. When that high quality gas is used up, the big oil companies propose to build nuclear power plants, instead.

The Northern Rivers are being drained off. It takes at least 4 liters of water to make one liter of oil. Giant toxic tailings ponds are building up, and leaching back into the river systems.

The strip mines can be seen from space....

I won't go on. The Tar Sands, for all these reasons, and for the climate change they bring, have been called a crime against humanity.

MacDonald Stainsby tells us all we need to know, in a series of reality-checks for a society desperate for oil at any price. Stainsby describes himself as "Rad-Green" - part of a radical anti-capitalist green movement. In fact, he is a wide-ranging social activist, fighting against war, for unions, and against oppression of Indigenous people. He believes we are facing both Peak Oil, and severe climate change, at the same time.

MacDonald Stainsby's articles are published in alternative journalist like CounterPunch, ZNet, BriarPatch and Dominion Magazine.

Let's listen to MacDonald Stainsby, recorded by Radio Ecoshock, at the downtown Simon Fraser University campus.

------ 23 minutes of a powerful speech, loaded with facts that shock...----------

You've have been listening to MacDonald Stainsby, on the Canadian Tar Sands, recorded January 20th, 2008, by Radio Ecoshock. You can download this speech from our website at Look on our Peak Oil or Climate Change pages, of the audio on demand menu. The speech was part of a presentation called "Can We Stop Global Climate Change" put on by the Vancouver Socialists.

MacDonald Stainsby's articles are published in alternative journalist like CounterPunch, ZNet, BriarPatch and Dominion Magazine. In particular, you should search out the special Tar Sands edition of Dominion Magazine, for November 2007. It is a 47 page guide with maps, photos - awful photos - and insider stories from people literally working in the camps.
It is a portrait of life under total corporate control - in some ways like a well-paid Stalinist dream.

You can find this issue of Dominion Magazine online at

And don't forget Stainsby's Tar Sands site at

The Tar Sands aren't about Alberta, or even Canada. There is a developing network of pipelines and refineries connecting this giant spiderweb of oil from the very high Arctic of Alaska, to the American Mid-West, and all the way down to Texas. If the Middle East blows up, worse than it already has. If Venezuela or Russia shut off the energy tap - America and American oil companies plan to wring out the Canadian landscape for every last drop of oil. Canada is the security blanket for American motorists and power companies.

No Canadian political party, other than the Greens, has called for an end of Tar Sands development. The current government is totally oil-friendly, trying to remove impediments like environmental laws or native people. Royalties are lower than anywhere else on Earth, and the usual big corporate tax subsidies for oil are in place.

Government will never stop the Tar Sands, as long as political parties accept corporate donations. As the leader of the Liberals, the alleged climate man Stephan Dion said: No one can stop the Tar Sands. There is just too much money in it.

Only the workers, and the people of Canada, can fight off this vampire destroying the land, the water, and the atmosphere. Please get active.

I'm Alex Smith - and this is Radio Ecoshock. Download our weekly program, and tons of free green audio, from our Website, at

By the way, I'm sorry to report humanity has become so insane. All the animals and plants are sorry. Now it looks like Gaia, the interactive living ecosystems of the Earth, may be acting to heal itself - of us. So tragic, for a species that has such great potential.

Let's meet again, next week, on Radio Ecoshock.