>Beijing suspects false flag attack

>on South Korean corvette

by Wayne Madsen
Online Journal Contributing Writer

onlinejournal.com (May 28 2010)

Wayne Madsen Report’s intelligence sources in Asia suspect that the March attack on the South Korean Navy anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvette, the Cheonan, was a false flag attack designed to appear as coming from North Korea.

One of the main purposes for increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula was to apply pressure on Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to reverse course on moving the US Marine Corps base off Okinawa. Hatoyama has admitted that the tensions over the sinking of the Cheonan played a large part in his decision to allow the US Marines to remain on Okinawa. Hatoyama’s decision has resulted in a split in the ruling center-left coalition government, a development welcome in Washington, with Mizuho Fukushima, the Social Democratic Party leader threatening to bolt the coalition over the Okinawa reversal.

The Cheonan was sunk near Baengnyeong Island, a westernmost spot that is far from the South Korean coast, but opposite the North Korean coast. The island is heavily militarized and within artillery fire range of North Korean coastal defenses, which lie across a narrow channel.

The Cheonan, an ASW corvette, was decked out with state-of-the-art sonar, plus it was operating in waters with extensive hydrophone sonar arrays and acoustic underwater sensors. There is no South Korean sonar or audio evidence of a torpedo, submarine or mini-sub in the area. Since there is next to no shipping in the channel, the sea was silent at the time of the sinking.

However, Baengnyeong Island hosts a joint US-South Korea military intelligence base and the US Navy SEALS operate out of the base. In addition, four US Navy ships were in the area, part of the joint US-South Korean Exercise Foal Eagle, during the sinking of the Cheonan. An investigation of the suspect torpedo’s metallic and chemical fingerprints show it to be of German manufacture. There are suspicions that the US Navy SEALS maintains a sampling of European torpedoes for sake of plausible deniability for false flag attacks. Also, Berlin does not sell torpedoes to North Korea, however, Germany does maintain a close joint submarine and submarine weapons development program with Israel.

The presence of the USNS Salvor, one of the participants in Foal Eagle, so close to Baengnyeong Island during the sinking of the South Korean corvette also raises questions.

The Salvor, a civilian Navy salvage ship, which participated in mine laying activities for the Thai Marines in the Gulf of Thailand in 2006, was present near the time of the blast with a complement of twelve deep sea divers.

Beijing, satisfied with North Korea’s Kim Jong Il’s claim of innocence after a hurried train trip from Pyongyang to Beijing, suspects the US Navy’s role in the Cheonan’s sinking, with particular suspicion on the role of the Salvor. The suspicions are as follows:

1. The Salvor engaged in a seabed mine-installation operation, in other words, attaching horizontally fired anti-submarine mines on the sea floor in the channel.

2. The Salvor was doing routine inspection and maintenance on seabed mines, and put them into an electronic active mode (hair trigger release) as part of the inspection program.

3. A SEALS diver attached a magnetic mine to the Cheonan, as part of a covert program aimed at influencing public opinion in South Korea, Japan and China.

The Korean peninsula tensions have conveniently overshadowed all other agenda items on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visits to Beijing and Seoul.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright (c) 2010 WayneMadsenReport.com

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

Copyright (c) 1998-2007 Online Journal


Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

>Did an American Mine Sink South Korean Ship?

>by Yoichi Shimatsu

New America Media, News Analysis (May 27 2010)

South Korean Prime Minister Lee Myung-bak has claimed “overwhelming evidence” that a North Korean torpedo sank the corvette Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 sailors. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that there’s “overwhelming evidence” in favor of the theory that North Korea sank the South Korean Navy warship Cheonan. But the articles of proof presented so far by military investigators to an official inquiry board have been scanty and inconsistent.

There’s yet another possibility, that a US rising mine sank the Cheonan in a friendly-fire accident.

In the recent US-China strategic talks in Shanghai and Beijing, the Chinese side dismissed the official scenario presented by the Americans and their South Korean allies as not credible. This conclusion was based on an independent technical assessment by the Chinese military, according to a Beijing-based military affairs consultant to the People Liberation Army.

Hardly any of the relevant facts that counter the official verdict have made headline news in either South Korea or its senior ally, the United States.

The first telltale sign of an official smokescreen involves the location of the Choenan sinking – Byeongnyeong Island (pronounced Pyongnang) in the Yellow Sea. On the westernmost fringe of South Korean territory, the island is dominated by a joint US-Korean base for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations. The sea channel between Byeongnyeong and the North Korean coast is narrow enough for both sides to be in artillery range of each other.

Anti-sub warfare is based on sonar and acoustic detection of underwater craft. Since civilian traffic is not routed through the channel, the noiseless conditions are near-perfect for picking up the slightest agitation, for example from a torpedo and any submarine that might fire it.

North Korea admits it does not possess an underwater craft stealthy enough to slip past the advanced sonar and audio arrays around Byeongnyeong Island, explained North Korean intelligence analyst Kim Myong Chol in a news release. “The sinking took place not in North Korean waters but well inside tightly guarded South Korean waters, where a slow-moving North Korean submarine would have great difficulty operating covertly and safely, unless it was equipped with AIP (air-independent propulsion) technology”.

The Cheonan sinking occurred in the aftermath of the March 11 to 18 Foal Eagle Exercise, which included anti-submarine maneuvers by a joint US-South Korean squadron of five missile ships. A mystery surrounds the continued presence of the US missile cruisers for more than eight days after the ASW exercise ended.

Only one reporter, Joohee Cho of ABC News, picked up the key fact that the Foal Eagle flotilla curiously included the USNS Salvor, a diving-support ship with a crew of twelve Navy divers. The lack of any minesweepers during the exercise leaves only one possibility: the Salvor was laying bottom mines.

Ever since an American cruiser was damaged by one of Saddam Hussein’s rising mines, also known as bottom mines, in the Iraq War, the US Navy has pushed a crash program to develop a new generation of mines. The US Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command has also been focused on developing counterparts to the fearsome Chinese naval “assassin’s mace”, which is propelled by a rocket engine.

A rising mine, which is effective only in shallow waters, rests atop a small platform on the sea floor under a camouflage of sand and gravel. Its detection system uses acoustics and magnetic readings to pick up enemy ships and submarines. When activated, jets of compressed air or solid-fuel rockets lift the bomb, which self-guides toward the magnetic center of the target. The blast rips the keel, splitting the ship or submarine into two neat pieces, just as was done to the RKOS Cheonan.

A lateral-fired torpedo, in contrast, “holes” the target’s hull, tilting the vessel in the classic war movie manner. The South Korean government displayed to the press the intact propeller shaft of a torpedo that supposedly struck the Cheonan. Since torpedoes travel between forty and fifty knots per hour (which is faster than collision tests for cars), a drive shaft would crumble upon impacting the hull and its bearing and struts would be shattered or bent by the high-powered blast.

The initial South Korean review stated that the explosive was gunpowder, which would conform to North Korea’s crude munitions. This claim was later overturned by the inquiry board, which found the chemical residues to be similar to German advanced explosives. Due to sanctions against Pyongyang and its few allies, it is hardly credible that North Korea could obtain NATO-grade ordnance.

Thus, the mystery centers on the USNS Salvor, which happened to be yet right near Byeongyang Island at the time of the Cheonan sinking and far from its home base, Pearl Harbor. The inquiry board in Seoul has not questioned the officers and divers of the Salvor, which oddly is not under the command of the 7th Fleet but controlled by the innocuous-sounding Military Sealift Command. Diving-support ships like the Salvor are closely connected with the Office of Naval Intelligence since their duties include secret operations such as retrieving weapons from sunken foreign ships, scouting harbor channels and laying mines, as when the Salvor trained Royal Thai Marine divers in mine-laying in the Gulf of Thailand in 2006, for example.

The Salvor‘s presence points to an inadvertent release of a rising mine, perhaps because its activation system was not switched off. A human error or technical glitch is very much within the realm of possibility due to the swift current and strong tides that race through the Byeongnyeong Channel. The arduous task of mooring the launch platforms to the sea floor allows the divers precious little time for double-checking the electronic systems.

If indeed it was an American rising mine that sank the Cheonan, it would constitute a friendly-fire accident. That in itself is not grounds for a criminal investigation against the presidential office and, at worst, amounts only to negligence by the military. However, any attempt to falsify evidence and engage in a media cover-up for political purposes constitutes tampering, fraud, perjury and possibly treason.


Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times, is an environmental consultant and a commentator on Asian affairs for CCTV-9 Dialogue.


Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

>Lost Leaders

>by Dmitry Orlov

Club Orlov (May 29 2010)

It is embarrassing to be lost. It is even more embarrassing for a leader to be lost. And what’s really really embarrassing to all concerned is when national and transnational corporate leaders attempt to tackle a major disaster and are found out to have been issuing marching orders based on the wrong map. Everyone then executes a routine of turning toward each other in shock, frowning while shaking their heads slowly from side to side and looking away in disgust. After that, these leaders might as well limit their public pronouncements to the traditional “Milk, milk, lemonade, round the corner fudge is made”. Whatever they say, the universal reaction becomes: “What leaders? We don’t have any.”

Getting lost can be traumatic for the rest of us too. When we suddenly realize that we don’t know where we are, urgent neural messages are exchanged between our prefrontal cortex, which struggles to form a coherent picture of what’s happening, our amygdala, whose job is to hold on to a sense of where we are, and our hippocampus, which motivates us to get back to a place we know as quickly as we possibly can. This strange bit of internal wiring explains why humans who are only slightly lost tend to trot off in a random direction and promptly become profoundly lost. After these immediate biochemical reactions have run their course, we go through the usual stages of:

1. denial – “We are not lost! The ski lodge is just over the next ridge, or the next, or the next …”

2. anger – “We are wasting time! Shut up and keep trotting!”

3. bargaining – “The map must be wrong; either that or someone has dynamited the giant boulder that should be right there …”

4. depression – “We’ll never get there! We’re all going to die out here!” and

5. acceptance – “We are not lost; we are right here, wherever it is. We better find some shelter and start a campfire before it gets dark and cold.”

Some people don’t survive, some do; the difference in outcome turns out to have precious little to do with skill or training, and everything to do with motivation – the desire to survive no matter how much pain and discomfort that involves – and the mental flexibility to adjust one’s mental map on the fly to fit the new reality, and to reach stage 5 quickly. Those who go on attempting to operate based on an outdated mental map tend to die in utter bewilderment.

Working with an outdated mental map is a big problem for anyone; for a leader, it may very well spell the end of the position of leadership. After the catastrophe at Chernobyl, the Soviet leaders attempted to operate, for as long as possible, with a mental map that included a relatively intact and generally serviceable nuclear reactor called “Chernobyl Energy Block Number 4”. “The reactor has been shut down and is being cooled”, went the official pronouncements from the Kremlin, “we are pumping in water to cool it”. After a while it became known that there is no reactor – just a smoldering, molten hole spewing radioactive smoke – and the coolant water, prodigious quantities of which were indeed pumped in and spilled in its general vicinity. It instantly boiled away into radioactive steam (which drifted downwind and eventually rained out, poisoning even more of the land). The rest of it leaked out, forming radioactive settling ponds and threatening to further leak into and poison the river that flows through Kiev. As you might imagine, that little episode turned out to be just a little bit embarrassing. Anyone who could think started to think: “Following these leaders is not conducive to survival. Let’s make our own plans.” Gorbachev went on with his usual long-winded blah-blahs, but the milk-milk-lemonade routine would have served him just as well.

More recently, we have been exposed to the spectacle of corporate leaders and public officials attempting to operate, for as long as possible, with a mental map that includes a blown-out but otherwise serviceable deep-water oil well in the Gulf of Mexico variously called “Deepwater Horizon” or “Macondo” or “MC252”. A number of unsuccessful attempts have been made to capture the oil and gas that have been escaping from it using at least three different techniques. BP – the well’s owner – is an oil company, and so their first reaction was to get and sell that oil no matter what. They tried to fit the well with a “top hat” to get all of the oil, but when their contraption didn’t work because it got clogged by methane hydrate crystals they stuck a smaller pipe into the leak, just to get and sell some of the oil, and when that worked it made them happy. But, coming under pressure to do something about all the oil leaking out and poisoning the environment, they finally decided to try shutting down the well by squiring various substances into it. The procedures they’ve tried, going by idiotic Top Gun names like “junk shot” and “top kill” – have all been to no avail. At some point it becomes clear that there is no oil well – just a large, untidy hole in the sea bottom with hydrocarbons spewing out of it, forming huge surface slicks and underwater plumes of oil that kill all they encounter and eventually wash up on land to continue the damage there, turning the Gulf Coast into a disaster area. Starting in another month or so the toxic soup composed of oily tropical seawater and decomposing coastal vegetation and sea life will be stirred up and driven inland by tropical storms and hurricanes. Gulf Coast oil-grunge will become the de facto new national style: oil-streaked skin and clothing and perhaps a dead pelican for a sunhat.

When things go horribly wrong, it is natural for us mere mortals to try to obtain a bit of psychological comfort by holding on to familiar images. A person who has totaled his car tends to continue to refer to the twisted wreckage as “my car” instead of “the wreckage of my car”. In the case someone’s wrecked car, this may be accepted as mere shorthand, but in many other cases this tendency results in people working with an outdated mental map which leads them astray, because the properties of a wreck are quite different from those of an intact object. For example, our lost leaders are continuing to refer to “the financial system” instead of “the wreck of the financial system”. If they had the flexibility to make that mental switch, perhaps they wouldn’t insist on continuing to pump in more and more public debt, only to watch it spew out again through a tangle of broken pipes so horrific that it defies all understanding, with quite a lot of it mysteriously dribbling into the vaults and pockets of bankers and billionaire investors. It will be interesting to watch their attempts at a financial “top kill” or “junk shot” to plug the ensuing geyser of toxic debt.

It is natural for us to naively expect our leaders – be they corporate executives or their increasingly decorative and superfluous adjuncts in government – to be our betters, having been picked for leadership positions by their ability to lead us through difficult and unfamiliar terrain. We expect them to have the mental agility and flexibility to be able to revise their mental maps as the circumstances dictate. We don’t expect them to be stupid, and are surprised to find that indeed they are. How is that possible? Mental enfeeblement of the ruling class of a collapsing empire is not without precedent: the British imperial experiment was clearly doomed as early as the end of World War One, but it took until well into World War Two for this fact to register in the enfeebled brains of the British ruling class. In his 1941 essay England your England, George Orwell offers the following explanation:

… [T]he British ruling class obviously could not admit that their usefulness of was at an end. Had they done that they would have had to abdicate … Clearly there was only one escape for them – into stupidity. They could keep society in its existing shape only by being unable to grasp that any improvement was possible. Difficult though it was, they achieved it, largely by fixing their eyes on the past and refusing to notice the changes that were going on [a]round them”.

And so it is now: as the American empire has been crumbling, its leaders, both corporate and corporatist, were being specially selected for being unable to draw their own conclusions based on their own independent reasoning or on the evidence of their own senses, relying instead on “intelligence” that is second-hand and obsolete. These leaders are now attempting to lead us all on a dream-walk to oblivion.

Back in 2008 I published the prediction that while Chernobyl was rather decisive in putting paid to the Soviet scientific/technological program and in dispelling all remaining trust in the Soviet political establishment, the US program of scientific/technological progress and ruthless exploitation of nature is more likely to suffer a death by a thousand cuts. But if one of these cuts hits an artery early on, a thousand cuts would be overkill. Just as with any wreck, the properties of a radically phlebotomized body politic are rather different from those of a healthy one, or even a sick one – not that our lost leaders could notice something like that! They will no doubt go on going on about money and oil (and the predictable lack thereof), but they might as well be telling us about their milk and lemonade, and please hold the drilling mud. How embarrassing!


Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

>How We Wrecked the Ocean

>Posted by Gail the Actuary {1}

The Oil Drum (May 17 2010)

We have been hearing a lot about what the oil spill is doing to the ocean. But something else which is also concerning is the condition the ocean was in, even prior to the spill. We live in a finite world. Our continued mistreatment of the ocean, the reduced fish population, and the disappearance of large fish in the last fifty years are all serious concerns.

Jeremy Jackson is the Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In this talk, Professor Jackson lays out the shocking state of the ocean today: overfished, overheated, polluted, with indicators that things will get much worse. The film is from TED Talks {2}. The movie is eighteen minutes long and offers subtitles as an option.

Here is the transcript:

I’m an ecologist, mostly a coral reef ecologist. I started out in Chesapeake Bay and went diving in the winter and became a tropical ecologist over night. And it was really a lot of fun for about ten years. I mean, somebody pays you to go around and travel and look at some of the most beautiful places on the planet. And that was what I did.

And I ended up in Jamaica, in the West Indies, where the coral reefs were really among the most extraordinary, structurally, that I ever saw in my life. And this picture here, it’s really interesting, it shows two things. First of all, it’s in black and white because the water was so clear and you could see so far and film was so slow in the 1960s and the early 1970s, you took pictures in black and white. The other thing it shows you is that, although there’s this beautiful forest of coral, there are no fish in that picture. Those reefs at Discovery Bay Jamaica were the most studied coral reefs in the world, for twenty years. We were the best and the brightest. People came to study our reefs from Australia, which is sort of funny because now we go to theirs. And the view of scientists about how coral reefs work, how they ought to be, was based on these reefs without any fish. Then, in 1980, there was a hurricane, Hurricane Allen. I put half the lab up in my house. The wind blew very strong. The waves were 25 to fifty feet high. And the reefs disappeared, and new islands formed. And we thought, “Well, we’re real smart. We know that hurricanes have always happened in the past.” And we publish a paper in Science, the first time that anybody ever described the destruction on a coral reef by a major hurricane. And we predicted what would happen. And we got it all wrong. And the reason was because of overfishing, and the fact that a last common-grazer, a sea urchin, died. And within a few months after that sea urchin dying, the seaweed started to grow. And that is the same reef. That’s the same reef fifteen years ago. That’s the same reef today. The coral reefs of the north coast of Jamaica have a few percent live coral cover and a lot of seaweed and slime. And that’s more or less the story of the coral reefs of the Caribbean, and increasingly, tragically, the coral reefs worldwide.

Now, that’s my little, depressing story. All of us in our sixties and seventies have comparable depressing stories. There are tens of thousands of those stories out there. And it’s really hard to conjure up much of a sense of well-being, because it just keeps getting worse. And the reason it keeps getting worse is that, after a natural catastrophe, like a hurricane, it used to be that there was some kind of successional sequence of recovery, but what’s going on now is that overfishing and pollution and climate change are all interacting in a way that prevents that. And so I’m going to sort of go through and talk about those three kinds of things.

We hear a lot about the collapse of cod. It’s difficult to imagine that two, or some historians would say three, world wars were fought during the colonial era for the control of cod. Cod fed most of the people of Western Europe. It fed the slaves brought to the Antilles. The song “Jamaica Farewell” – “Aki rice salt fish are nice” – is an emblem of the importance of salt cod from northeastern Canada. It all collapsed in the 1980s and the 1990s. 35,000 people lost their jobs. And that was the beginning of a kind of serial depletion from bigger and tastier species to smaller and not-so-tasty species, from species that were near to home, to species that were all around the world, and what have you. It’s a little hard to understand that, because you can go to a Costco in the United States and buy cheap fish. You ought to read the label to find out where it came from, but it’s still cheap, and everybody thinks it’s okay.

And it’s hard to communicate this. And so, one way that I think is really interesting, is to talk about sport fish, because people like to go out and catch fish. It’s one of those things. This picture here shows the trophy fish, the biggest fish caught by people who pay a lot of money to get on a boat, go to a place off of Key West in Florida, drink a lot of beer, throw a lot of hooks and lines into the water, come back with the biggest and the best fish, and the champion trophy fish are put on this board, where people take a picture, and this guy is obviously really excited about that fish. Well, that’s what it’s like now, but this is what it was like in the 1950s, from the same boat in the same place on the same board on the same dock. And the trophy fish were so big, that you couldn’t put any of those small fish up on it. And the average size trophy fish weighed 250 to 300 pounds, goliath groper. And if you wanted to go out and kill something, you could pretty much count on being able to catch one of those fish. And they tasted really good. And people paid less in 1950 dollars to catch that than what people pay now to catch those little, tiny fish. And that’s everywhere.

It’s not just the fish though that are disappearing. Industrial fishing uses big stuff, big machinery. We use nets that are twenty miles long. We use long lines that have one million or two million hooks. And we trawl, which means to take something the size of a tractor trailer truck that weighs thousands and thousands of pounds, put it on a big chain, and drag it across the sea floor to stir up the bottom and catch the fish. And think of it as being kind of the bulldozing of a city or of a forest, because it clears it away. And the habitat destruction is unbelievable. This is photograph, a typical photograph of what the continental shelves of the world look like. You can see the rows in the bottom, the way you can see the rows in a field that has just been plowed to plant corn. What that was, was a forest of sponges and coral, which is a critical habitat for the development of fish. What it is now is mud. And the area of the ocean floor that has been transformed from forest to level mud, to parking lot, is equivalent to the entire area of all the forests that have ever been cut down on all of the earth in the history of humanity. And we’ve managed to do that in the last 100 to 150 years.

We tend to think of oil spills and mercury, and we hear a lot about plastic these days. And all of that stuff is really disgusting, but what’s really insidious is the biological pollution that happens because of the magnitude of the shifts that it causes to entire ecosystems. And I’m going to just talk very briefly about two kinds of biological pollution. One is introduced species, and the other is what comes from nutrients. So this is the infamous caulerpa taxifolia, the so-called killer algae. A book was written about it. It’s a bit of an embarrassment. It was accidentally released from the aquarium in Monaco. It was bred to be cold tolerant, to have in peoples’ aquaria. It’s very pretty, and it has rapidly started to overgrow the once-very-rich biodiversity of the northwestern Mediterranean. I don’t know how many of you remember the movie “The Little Shop of Horrors”, but this is the plant of “The Little Shop of Horrors”. But, instead of devouring the people in the shop, what it’s doing is overgrowing and smothering virtually all of the bottom-dwelling life of the entire northwestern Mediterranean Sea. We don’t know anything that eats it. We’re trying to do all sorts of genetics and figure out something that could be done, but, as it stands, it’s the monster from hell, about which nobody knows what to do.

Now another form of pollution that’s biological pollution is what happens from excess nutrients. The green revolution, all of this artificial nitrogen fertilizer, we used too much of it. It’s subsidized, which is one of the reasons we used too much of it. It runs down the rivers, and it feeds the plankton, the little microscopic plant cells in the coastal water. But since we ate all the oysters, and we ate all the fish that would eat the plankton, there’s nothing to eat the plankton. And there’s more and more of it, so it dies of old age, which is unheard of for plankton. And when it dies, it falls to the bottom and then it rots, which means that bacteria break it down. And in the process, they use up all the oxygen. And in using up all the oxygen, they make the environment utterly lethal for anything that can’t swim away. And so what we end up with, is a microbial zoo, dominated by bacteria and jellyfish, as you see on the left in front of you. And the only fishery left, and it is a commercial fishery, is the jellyfish fishery you see on the right, where there used to be prawns. Even in Newfoundland, where we used to catch cod, we now have a jellyfish fishery.

And another version of this sort of thing is what is often called red tides or toxic blooms. That picture is just staggering to me. I have talked about it a million times, but it’s unbelievable. In the upper right of that picture on the left is almost the Mississippi Delta, and the lower left of that picture is the Texas, Mexico border. You’re looking at the entire northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Your looking at one toxic dinoflagellate bloom that can kill fish, made by that beautiful, little creature on the lower right. And in the upper right you see this black sort of cloud moving to shore. That’s the same species. And as it comes to shore, and the wind blows, and little droplets of the water get into the air, the emergency rooms of all the hospitals fill up with people with acute respiratory distress. And that’s retirement homes on the west coast of Florida. A friend and I did this thing in Hollywood we called Hollywood ocean night. And I was trying to figure out how to explain to actors what’s going. And I said, “So, imagine you’re in a movie called ‘Escape from Malibu’ because all the beautiful people have moved to North Dakota, where it’s clean and safe. And the only people who are left there are the people who can’t afford to move away from the coast, because the coast, instead of being paradise, is harmful to your health.”

And then this is amazing. It was when I was on holiday last early autumn in France. This is from the coast of Brittany, which is being enveloped in this green, algal slime. The reason that it attracted so much attention, besides the fact that it’s disgusting, is that sea birds flying over it are asphyxiated by the smell and die, and a farmer died of it, and you can imagine the scandal that happened. And so there’s this war between the farmers and the fishermen about it all. And the net result is that the beaches of Brittany have to be bulldozed of this stuff on a regular basis.

And then of course there’s climate change, and we all know about climate change. And I guess the iconic figure of it is the melting of the ice in the arctic sea. Think about the thousands and thousands of people who died trying to find the Northwest Passage. Well, the Northwest is already there. I think it’s sort of funny, it’s on the Siberian coast. Maybe the Russians will charge tolls. The governments of the world are taking this really seriously. The military of the arctic nations is taking it really seriously. For all the denial of climate change by government leaders, the CIA and the navies of Norway and the US and Canada, whatever are busily thinking about how they will secure their territory in this inevitability from their point of view. And, of course, arctic communities are toast.

The other kinds of effects of climate change – this is coral bleaching. It’s a beautiful picture, right. All that white coral. Except it’s supposed to be brown. And what happens is that the corals are a symbiosis, and they have these little algal cells that live inside them. And the algae give the corals sugar, and the corals give the algae nutrients and protection. But when it gets too hot, the algae can’t make the sugar. The corals say, “You cheated. You didn’t pay your rent.” They kick them out, and then they die. Not all of them die; some of them survive. Some more are surviving, but it’s really bad news. To try and give you a sense of this, imagine you go camping in July somewhere in Europe or in North America, and you wake up the next morning, and you look around you, and you see that eighty percent of the trees, as far as you can see, have dropped their leaves and are standing there naked. And you come home, and you discover that eighty percent of all the trees in North America and in Europe have dropped their leaves. And then you read in the paper a few weeks later, oh, by the way, a quarter of those died. Well, that’s what happened in the Indian Ocean during the 1998 El Nino, an area vastly greater than the size of North America and Europe, when eighty percent of all the corals bleached and a quarter of them died.

And then the really scary thing about all of this, the overfishing, the pollution and the climate change, is that each thing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but there are these, what we call, positive feedbacks. The synergies among them that make the whole vastly greater than the sum of the parts. And the great scientific challenge for people like me in thinking about all this, is do we know how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again? I mean, because we, at this point, we can protect it. But what does that mean? We really don’t know.

So what are the oceans going to be like in twenty or fifty years? Well, there won’t be any fish except for minnows, and the water will be pretty dirty, and all those kinds of things, and full of mercury, et cetera, et cetera. And dead-zones will get bigger and bigger, and they’ll start to merge. And we can imagine something like the dead-zonification of the global, coastal ocean. Then you sure won’t want to eat fish that were raised in it, because would be a kind of gastronomic Russian roulette. Sometimes you have a toxic bloom; sometimes you don’t. That doesn’t sell.

The really scary things though are the physical, chemical, oceanographic things that are happening. As the surface of the ocean gets warmer, the water is lighter when it’s warmer, it becomes harder and harder to turn the ocean over. We say, it becomes more strongly stratified. The consequence of that is that all those nutrients that fuel the great anchoveta fisheries, of the sardines of California, or in Peru, or whatever, those slow down, and those fisheries collapse. And, at the same time, water from the surface, which is rich in oxygen, doesn’t make it down, and the ocean turns into a desert.

So the question is: How are we all going to respond to this? And we can do all sorts of things to fix it, but in the final analysis, the thing we really need to fix is ourselves. It’s not about the fish; it’s not about the pollution; it’s not about the climate change. It’s about us, and our greed and our need for growth and our inability to imagine a world which is different from the selfish world we live in today. So the question is: Will we respond to this or not? I would say that the future of life and the dignity of human beings depends on our doing that.

Thank you.


{1} http://www.theoildrum.com/user/Gail%20the%20Actuary

{2} http://www.ted.com/talks/jeremy_jackson.html?utm_source=newsletter_weekly_2010-05-05


Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

>BP oil spill

>Can environmental crime ever be made to pay?

by Tom Levitt

theecologist.org (May 24 2010)

Million dollar fines and compensation claims may dent the profits of BP and other companies admitting responsibility for ecological disasters but, on their own, are they enough of a deterrent?

The full cost of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to marine and coastal ecology along the US south east coastline, both now and in the future, is only just being realised.

BP has admitted ‘full responsibility’ for the spill {1}, which occurred after an underwater explosion on its Deepwater Horizon oil rig. A blow-out prevention device that guards against such accidents was not working and an extra device fitted for emergencies was not present on the oil rig.

How much is enough?

In a damning statement, the US environmental group the Sierra Club {2} said that BP, which makes more in profit in a week than it has spent on responding to the oil spill so far, should be liable for a limitless amount of costs.

‘There is no limit on the damage done to wildlife. There is no limit on the damage done to coastal communities. There is no limit on the loss of jobs in fishing and tourism. There shouldn’t be a limit on the amount that oil companies like BP are required to pay for cleanup’, a spokesperson said.

Already more than 19,000 compensation claims have been made, mostly from fishermen. However, the maximum oil companies like BP are liable to pay for such claims is $75 million. A bill aimed at increasing that liability cap to $10 billion has so far been blocked by lawmakers in the Senate who offer the excuse it could adversely impact on small oil drilling companies who can’t afford the liability.

BP is still likely to have to pay for most of the clean-up costs associated with the spill, estimated to be as high as $20 billion. Some believe it should also be forced to pay to restore coastal wetlands and ensure the recovery of any wildlife that survive the disaster.

A hopeless deterrent

But are such costs alone likely to prevent future disasters? Not according to the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) {3}, which says BP has a history of big pay-outs. Only last year it paid a $87.43 million fine for health and safety mistakes that led to the death of fifteen workers and injury to 170 in an explosion at its Texas City refinery in March 2005.

‘That may sound like a lot’, says IPS director Daphne Wysham, ‘but BP made $163 billion in profits between 2001 and 2009 and another $5.6 billion in the first three months of 2010. Along the way it paid fines for violating the law that totalled roughly $530 million, or one-third of one per cent of the company’s profits over the same period.’

Polly Higgins, a campaigning environmental lawyer, says in the end fines were ‘hopeless’ at deterring companies from taking potentially devastating risks, particularly large multinationals like BP whose profits exceed the GDP of a small country.

‘These companies already factor in the legal fine costs – it’s an externality that in the end the person buying their final product pays a bit extra to cover’, she says.

Shareholder pressure

However, others say BP’s falling shareprice and likely drop in annual dividend payout could see shareholders start arguing for more stringent safety measures to prevent the risk of ecological disasters.

Ben Bundock, from legal activists ClientEarth {4}, says BP’s response so far to the outbreak is likely as much as about safeguarding against less tangible losses than anything else.

‘This isn’t just an environmental issue; its a business issue for BP because their reputation is also at stake. They have a relationship with the US authorities to maintain. There could also be a loss of access to new markets and not to mention the billions in share price value.

‘When risks are this large, shareholders may start to become more proactive about pushing directors to take account of safety mechanisms to avoid such disasters’, says Bundock.

Time for an ecocide law

Higgins says falls in company share prices after previous oil disasters did not last long and were not proven to be an ‘effective deterrent’ to multinational giants like BP. She argues that the only effective deterrent is an international ‘ecocide law’ {5} to prosecute companies that damage the environment in the same way that individuals are prosecuted for genocide or war crimes.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) {6} set up in 2002 is currently limited to prosecution of individuals of four crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Higgins says it should now include another – ecocide – defined as ‘the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished’.

‘The international crime of ecocide would legally bind BP to take full responsibility for the damage and destruction to, or loss of, ecosystems caused by this incident. Where a large oil spill causes large, long term or severe ecosystem destruction, ecocide prosecution will attract imprisonment of the CEO and liability for restorative justice’, says Higgins, who explains this would involve oil companies actively repairing the damage they had caused and not just paying a fine and leaving.

She says the burden of eco-responsibility would provide a strong incentive to oil companies not [to] risk such potentially damaging projects in place from the outset.

Small countries

US activist groups, such as Public Citizen {7}, agree that it is now time to advocate more preventative measures rather than ‘polluter pays’ strategies.

Director Tyson Slocum says BP’s long list of fines, totalling more than $730 million in the US alone in the last few years, shows money alone is not enough.

‘The fines clearly have not been a deterrent to BP committing multiple crimes. It is only when we consider permanent sanctions (revocation of leasing rights, withdrawal of corporate charter, et cetera) or criminal prosecution of individual executives will companies get the message.’

Bundock, from Client Earth, says that, rather than the US, it is likely to be smaller, less powerful countries where oil companies have no vested interest in being cooperative that would benefit most from an international crime of ecocide and restorative justice.

‘If the oil spill had occurred off the African coast would the response have been as quick? Look at how long it too for the Trafigura incident, when waste was illegally dumped in Cote d’Ivoire, to come to the forefront of international media. The US administration is in a much stronger position to go up against an international multinational but it won’t always be so with environmental disasters’, he says.


{1} http://www.bp.com/genericarticle.do?categoryId=2012968&contentId=7061712

{2} http://www.sierraclub.org/

{3} http://www.ips-dc.org/

{4} http://www.clientearth.org/

{5} http://www.thisisecocide.com/

{6} http://www.icc-cpi.int/

{7} http://www.citizen.org/

Other Useful Links

Polly Higgin’s ‘ecocide’ law campaign



Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

>Deepwater Horizon

>This is What the End of the Oil Age Looks Like

by Richard Heinberg

Post Carbon Institute

countercurrents.org (May 26 2010)

Lately I’ve been reading the excellent coverage of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill at TheOilDrum.com, a site frequented by veteran oil geologists and engineers. A couple of adages from the old-timers are worth quoting: “Cut corners all you want, but never downhole”, and, “There’s fast, there’s cheap, and there’s right, and you get to pick two”.

There will be plenty of blame to go around, as events leading up to the fatal rig explosion are sorted out. Even if efforts to plug the gushing leak succeed sooner rather than later, the damage to the Gulf environment and to the economy of the region will be incalculable and will linger for years if not decades. The deadly stench from oil-oaked marshes – as spring turns to hot, fetid summer – will by itself ruin tens or hundreds of thousands of lives and livelihoods. Then there’s the loss of the seafood industry: we’re talking about more than the crippling of the economic backbone of the region; anyone who’s spent time in New Orleans (my wife’s family all live there) knows that the people and culture of southern Louisiana are literally as well as figuratively composed of digested crawfish, shrimp, and speckled trout. Given the historic political support from this part of the country for offshore drilling, and for the petroleum industry in general, this really amounts to sacrificing the faithful on the altar of oil.

But the following should be an even clearer conclusion from all that has happened, and that is still unfolding: This is what the end of the oil age looks like. The cheap, easy petroleum is gone; from now on, we will pay steadily more and more for what we put in our gas tanks – more not just in dollars, but in lives and health, in a failed foreign policy that spawns foreign wars and military occupations, and in the lost integrity of the biological systems that sustain life on this planet.

The only solution is to do proactively, and sooner, what we will end up doing anyway as a result of resource depletion and economic, environmental, and military ruin: end our dependence on the stuff. Everybody knows we must do this. Even a recent American president (an oil man, it should be noted) admitted that “America is addicted to oil”. Will we let this addiction destroy us, or will we overcome it? Good intentions are not enough. Now is the moment for the President, other elected officials at all levels of government, and ordinary citizens to make this our central priority as a nation. We have hard choices to make, and an enormous amount of work to do.


Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

>What If The Oil Spill Just Can’t Be Fixed?

>by David Roberts


countercurrents.org (May 26 2010)

The BP Gulf oil disaster is reaching an interesting phase. People’s gut instinct, their first reaction, is to find someone to blame. They blame BP for negligence; the Obama administration for its tepid response; the Bush administration for lax regulatory enforcement. People have been casting about for some way to compartmentalize this thing, some way to cast it as an anomaly, an “accident”, the kind of screwup that can be meliorated or avoided in the future.

We are, however, drifting toward a whole different kind of place. Today BP is attempting the “top kill” maneuver – pumping mud into the well. If it doesn’t work, well … then what? Junk shot? Top hat? Loony stuff like nukes? Relief wells will take months to drill and no one’s sure if they’ll work to relieve pressure. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that we’re going to be stuck helplessly watching as this well spews oil into the Gulf for years. Even if the flow were stopped tomorrow, the damage to marshes, coral, and marine life is done. The Gulf of Mexico will become an ecological and economic dead zone. There’s no real way to undo it, no matter who’s in charge.

I’m curious to see how the public’s mood shifts once it becomes clear that we are powerless in the face of this thing. What if there’s just nothing we can do? That’s not a feeling to which Americans are accustomed.

Once we know that accidents can be catastrophic and irreversible, it becomes clear that there is no margin of error. We’re operating a brittle system, unable to contain failure and unable to recover from it. Consider how deepwater drilling will look in that new light.

The thing is, we’re already operating in those circumstances in a thousand different ways – it’s just that the risks and the damages tend to be distributed and obscured from view. They’re not thrust in our face like they are in the Gulf. We don’t get back the land we destroy by mining. We don’t get back the species lost from deforestation and development. We don’t get back islands lost to rising seas. We don’t get back the coral lost to bleaching or the marine food chains lost to nitrogen runoff. Once we lose the climatic conditions in which our species evolved, we won’t get them back either.

We’re doing damage as big as the Gulf oil spill every day, and there’s no fixing it. Humanity has grown in power, wealth, and appetite to the point that there is no more margin of error anywhere. We’re on a knife’s edge, facing the very real possibility that for our children, all the world may be one big Gulf of Mexico, inexorably and irreversibly deteriorating.

Perhaps if the public gets a clear taste of this, they’ll step back and contemplate whether the kind of energy we use is really as “cheap” as it looks. Maybe they’ll stop thinking about how to drill better and start thinking about how to avoid drilling altogether. Because some mistakes just can’t be undone


Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html