Bahamas Blog International
No trade without help on undeniable climate change
By Sir Ronald Sanders:
Climate change is now undeniable according to a new study headed by the US National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration. It is already having a disastrous effect on small island states. The very existence of some of them, particularly in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, is threatened. Caribbean islands too are endangered as are countries such as Belize and Guyana with low lying coastlands.
In the latter case, coastal erosion is reducing beaches that are crucial to the tourism industry on which all of the small Caribbean islands now depend. The Atlantic coasts of both Guyana and Belize are below sea level, but it accommodates most of their populations and their agricultural lands. Sea-level rise, therefore, threatens all of them.
The challenges that climate change poses to small states are not only overwhelming, they are impossible to be met from the scarce resources of the governments.
In a recent speech in Trinidad and Tobago, the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines put the matter in clear terms when he said: “In mountainous States like my own, over 80% of our major infrastructure is located along our coastline, within a few feet of the inexorably rising seas. The cost of adaptation and preservation of our infrastructural developments are daunting, and beyond our individual capacity to address”.
While small states are the primary victims of climate change, they are the least contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions that are the biggest contributors to climate change and global warming. Together, the harmful emissions of greenhouse gases from all small states account for less than 0.1 per cent of the global total.
In a fatuous argument, the US Department of Energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre had rated Trinidad and Tobago at number 9 in the worst emitters of harmful gases in the world in the year 2007. However, the measurement was based on population size, not on the volume of emissions. To underscore the silliness of the argument, the tiny Caribbean island, Montserrat, with a population of 10,000 people and no manufacturing or industrial production of any magnitude, was rated at number 17 in the world.
The reality is that, despite the per capita argument that developed countries and international institutions are fond of using to measure a range of issues to procure a desired (but illusionary) result, small states contribute little to global warming but they are its primary victims as evidenced by sea-level rise, stronger and more frequent hurricanes, flooding and other natural disasters.
These same small states are also the victims of the worst trading arrangements in the world.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) makes no provision for their special circumstances, nor does the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Hence, small islands such as St Lucia (100,000 people) and St Kitts-Nevis (50,000 people) are treated in the same way in the WTO as the United States (350 million), Canada (33 million) or the European Union (400 million). No special rules apply.
In the IFIs, many small states – and certainly all those in the Caribbean – are “graduated” from concessional financing because, on the measurement of per capita income, they are rated as middle-income countries.
The point is that small states are the casualties of climate change but the large industrialized nations that cause the problem are doing little to help them cope with the difficulties that have already been created and that are worsening. The member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which are the world’s most industrialized countries, are responsible for an estimated 77 per cent of the total greenhouse gases which were emitted in the past.
The IFI’s that are controlled by the OECD governments have no machinery in place to provide small states (especially those in the Caribbean who have been graduated from concessional financing) with soft loans or grants to help them mitigate the impact of climate change, on their key trade sectors including agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism.
And, the terms of trade are punitive rather than helpful. A case in point is the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and individual small countries in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Nowhere in the EPA is there an acknowledgment by the EU that its greenhouse gas emissions are adversely affecting climate change and harming small island states and states with vulnerable coastlines. And, nowhere is there a correlation drawn between the cost of such harmful effects and trade benefits that could be granted.
Indeed, small states are punished twice for their innocence. Their key trade sectors are compromised by climate change caused by industrialized nations, and then they are made to open up their markets for a flood of goods and services from the industrialized nations on the false idea of reciprocal treatment.
The WTO admits that “global greenhouse gas emissions have roughly doubled since the beginning of the 1970s. Current estimates indicate that these emissions will increase by between 25 and 90 per cent in the period from 2000 to 2030”.
China, India and Brazil (now G20 countries) will be three of the large developing countries contributing to the projected increases, and they too have a responsibility to face up to the harm that they are doing to small countries that lack the financial means to pay for adaptation and mitigation.
There is clearly need for a major change in the IFIs in their policies toward small and vulnerable economies. The insistence on per capita income as a measure to graduate countries from concessionary financing has proven that, by itself, it is an illogical calculation for the capacity of small countries.
But, the trade rules in the WTO also have to be adapted to cater for small and vulnerable states more widely and effectively than they do. A special category of special and differential treatment for small states is necessary both to provide these countries with the means to cope and, also, to make the WTO relevant to their needs.
Small countries should refuse to sign any more agreements until their plight is acknowledged and machinery established to address the harmful effects of climate change on them.
A growing body of literature now exists on the problems of climate change and trade for small states. But, the governments of small states themselves should be making the case in the WTO and the IFI’s in a persistent fashion.
A high-level team drawn from the Caribbean, Pacific, and the Indian Oceans should be created to press their case at the next meeting of the G20. It would be a good occasion for frank talk between offenders and sufferers on an issue of human survival.
July 30, 2010
BP to take $10 billion tax write-off for cleanup
By Tom Eley:
BP on Tuesday announced its intention to take $10 billion in US tax write-offs related to the cost for response and cleanup of the Gulf oil catastrophe.
The oil giant penciled in losses of $32.2 billion for its second quarter earnings statement. These include $2.9 billion for its response so far and $29.3 billion in future estimated costs that the company says will cover all further damages associated with the spill.
BP will be able to write off $10 billion in US taxes based on the claimed loss. It will also be able to write off an undetermined amount from taxes owed to the United Kingdom, where it is based.
Included in the future costs is the $20 billion BP must provide to the Independent Claims Facility escrow fund established by the Obama administration. It has yet to provide the fund with any money, “claims czar” Kenneth Feinberg admitted this week.
The $20 billion for the claims facility—“neither a cap nor a limit” according to the White House—is to be paid by BP in installments for the next four years.
Analysts anticipate that the company will easily outstrip what it pays into the claims facility through the sale of assets from its global empire. Also on Tuesday BP announced plans to sell $30 billion in assets over the next 18 months, including the $7 billion sale to Texas firm Apace Corporation of 2 percent of its global oil and gas production.
BP’s estimate that its remaining costs for the disaster will be $29 billion is significant, analysts say, because it indicates that the firm has determined that its fine per barrel stipulated by the US Clean Water Act will be the minimum possible: $1,1000 per barrel.
If the federal government determines that BP was “grossly negligent” in causing the accident, on the other hand, the Clean Water Act stipulates a fine of $4,300 per barrel. This larger assessment would likely result in an additional $10 billion in liabilities for BP.
On top of this, a finding of negligence might open the floodgate for a raft of further costs, including through litigation.
BP’s latest moves make clear the purpose of Obama’s $20 billion escrow fund. The claims facility scheme was in reality dictated by the corporation to the White House as a means of defending its long-term viability by fending off lawsuits and prejudicing judges against those turned down by Feinberg.
Feinberg has spelled out that only a relative handful will be able to realize compensation from the fund, and he has traveled up and down the Gulf Coast urging residents not to sue BP.
In testimony last week before the US House, Feinberg ruled out assistance to those suffering mental health problems as a result of the spill, in spite of warnings from public health experts that such conditions will likely be widespread in the Gulf and among cleanup workers.
“If you start compensating purely mental anguish without a physical injury—anxiety, stress—we’ll be getting millions of claims from people watching television,” Feinberg said, with evident contempt for those who have seen their lives wiped out. “You have to draw the line somewhere. I think it would be highly unlikely that we would compensate mental damage, alleged damage, without a signature physical injury as well.”
Feinberg also hinted that those who emerge with chronic conditions years from now may also be barred from lawsuits if they accept a claims payout now, calling it “the toughest of all” questions he must resolve.
Also not eligible for compensation, according to Feinberg, are tourism industry and real estate losses caused by the “perception” of damage but not actual oil, and fishermen who operated on a cash basis. Feinberg has also declared that the pay of cleanup workers will be counted against whatever claim they might realize.
In fact $20 billion, even if it is realized, is a pittance compared to the economic, ecological, and public health disaster caused by the spill. A new study carried out by Oxford Economics, a British consulting firm, estimates that the Gulf coast will lose $22.7 billion in tourism revenue alone over the next three years.
28 July 2010
On Wall Street, crime pays very well
Report rubber-stamps bonuses
In a report issued Friday, a federal “special master” found that 17 big financial firms awarded nearly $2 billion in bonuses and retention payments to top executives during the period when they were receiving bailout funds from the US Treasury under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Kenneth Feinberg, the special master for TARP executive compensation, declared in a perfunctory four-page statement that he “did not determine that payments were contrary to the ‘public interest’ requiring monetary reimbursement.” He also claimed that he had no legal authority to rescind the bonuses or penalize the banks that awarded them.
A total of 419 banks participated in the TARP program between October 2008, when it was established in the midst of the Wall Street crash, and February 19, 2009, when new rules went into effect to regulate executive pay. But the bulk of the payments were made by 17 firms. The 600 executives at these banks received payouts, combining salary and bonuses, totaling $2.03 billion. This represents an average of $3.38 million per executive.
In press interviews after he delivered the report to the Treasury Department, Feinberg said that many of the payments came to more than $10 million per individual, amounts that he said “were in our view ill-advised.” He also called them undeserved, noting that in many cases bonuses were awarded because the bank “guaranteed it regardless of performance.”
The awarding of these bonuses represents direct robbery of the American people, since the banks that were paying these outrageous sums to their top executives were receiving hundreds of billions directly from the Treasury, as well as guarantees from the Treasury and the Federal Reserve that bring the total potential commitment of public funds to nearly $24 trillion.
While claiming that “Congress didn’t give me the power to do anything more than ask” for rescinding of the bonuses, Feinberg did not even do that. Moreover, in his report he did not name any of the executives who received the payments, nor even the institutions that awarded the bonanzas.
The 17 banks comprise the dominant Wall Street firms and a few of the biggest regional banks: the insurance giant AIG, American Express, Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Boston Private, Capital One Financial, Citigroup, the CIT Group, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, M&T Bank, Morgan Stanley, PNC Financial, Regions Financial, SunTrust Banks, US Bancorp and Wells Fargo.
Feinberg’s report was celebrated on Wall Street with undisguised gloating. The Wall Street Journal sneered that the so-called “pay czar” was ending his 18-month tenure “not with a bang but a whimper.”
The report on bank bonuses only underscores the impunity with which the financial aristocracy rules over American society. Under conditions where 20 million people are out of work, wage levels are being slashed, and the social infrastructure is under ruthless attack in the name of “deficit reduction,” the lords of Wall Street and the hedge fund kings accept not the slightest restraint on their incomes and their accumulation of private wealth.
The use of such terminology to describe the financial elite is perfectly justified. Wall Street today is as haughty, rapacious, self-satisfied and parasitic as the French landed oligarchy before 1789 or the Russian Tsar before 1917. The disconnect between the billionaires and CEOs and the great majority of the American people has reached unprecedented dimensions.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, appearing on several Sunday morning interview programs, endorsed Feinberg’s contention that he had no authority to halt the bonus payments—without noting that the Obama administration had insisted that Congress not enact any legally binding restrictions on executive pay and bonuses. In other words, the “pay czar” was impotent because the White House wanted it that way.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Geithner was asked how he could justify a situation where those whose financial operations caused the present economic slump were raking in seven- and eight-figure salaries and bonuses, while ordinary people are struggling to survive. He made no real answer, only pointing to the financial reform legislation signed into law last week by Obama as though it provided a solution.
The reality is that the bill was largely shaped by Wall Street interests and does nothing either to punish those whose profiteering and swindling touched off the present crisis or prevent a recurrence in the future.
Meanwhile, Obama has rewarded Feinberg with a new and well-paid position. After rubber-stamping the self-enrichment of the Wall Street executives, Feinberg has begun, as administrator of the Gulf oil spill compensation fund, by declaring large numbers of workers and small businesses ineligible to receive payments from BP.
26 July 2010
Don't burn our bridges: The case for a single Caribbean airline
By Sir Ronald Sanders:
“Don’t Burn Our Bridges: The Case for Owning Airlines” is the title of a book authored by Jean Holder, the current Chairman of the Caribbean airline, LIAT. It is a serious work which should be read by all who are concerned with both Caribbean economic integration and the growth of the services industries at both the national and regional levels.
Holder is uniquely placed to write the book, not only because of his position with LIAT but also because of his past work as Secretary-General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Tourism Research and Development Centre.
His basic argument is that Caribbean governments must own a regional airline. “To those who say Caribbean governments cannot afford to do this, I reply that they cannot afford not to”, he emphatically declares.
As Holder sees it, the countries of the Caribbean archipelago “depend on air transportation services to connect them with the world and each other, and for this, they cannot rely solely on foreign carriers, which would take decisions about services, routes, schedules and financial performances according to the best interests of their owners and shareholders”. He argues that “such decisions will not, and cannot, always coincide with the best interests of the Caribbean states”.
One of the compelling reasons that Holder advances for an airline that is a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) carrier, is the ambition to create a Single Market and Economy among the 15-member states of the grouping. “In a vibrant, working, single market and economy where there is a greater harmonization of regional and international policies than currently exist, the political directorate of the CARICOM member states must know for certain that it is not a hostage to external forces, for either political or economic reasons”.
“It should not be possible” he says, “for it (the Caribbean Single Market) to be cut off from the rest of the world and the member states from each other, simply because it offends some other country or some other person outside the community”.
He may be over emphasizing the case to make the point. It is hardly likely that the region would ever be entirely cut off from the rest of the world by all foreign carriers. Equally, it is unlikely that all air transportation within the region would be cut off by all carriers at the same time. Some airline or airlines will always remain to pick up the slack and the business, even though it may be at a higher cost to the region.
But, it is the case not only that some foreign-owned airlines could desert some countries in the region if they considered that the destinations had become uneconomic, but also that the airlines that remain could demand higher prices for the services they provide. In this regard, it is important that all CARICOM countries should have a carrier, owned within the region, on which they can rely and which they can use to calm prices, provided that the governments of all the countries understand that they cannot expect other regional governments to subsidize their routes.
This is the contention right now about LIAT – the airline that serves the Eastern and Southern Caribbean.
LIAT is owned and financed by only three of CARICOM’s governments – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St Vincent & the Grenadines. The St Vincent Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, makes the point repeatedly that many other CARICOM countries (not Bahamas, Belize Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname) depend on LIAT to provide air transportation for people, the services industries and some goods, but they decline to contribute to the cost.
It is quite remarkable that some of the Caribbean countries that refuse to participate financially in LIAT have no hesitancy in providing subsidies to large foreign owned airlines to continue flying into their countries. British Airways, American Airlines and even German airlines have been the beneficiaries of such subsidies.
The Caribbean has also witnessed the financial failure of airlines that have been owned within individual states – either by governments or private sector companies. BWIA, owned by the government of Trinidad and Tobago, collapsed under a mountain of debt and had to be closed-down to rid itself of many of its unsustainable obligations. The Trinidad and Tobago government assumed much of the debts of BWIA and launched Caribbean Airlines which now flies much less routes.
Jamaica, too, saw Air Jamaica seamlessly accumulate huge debt in a transition from government to private sector and back to government ownership, until the International Monetary Fund (IMF) made it clear, as part of its conditions for a loan to the government to prop up the economy, that Air Jamaica had to be sold.
In an arrangement between the governments of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean Airlines now owns Air Jamaica. Even though the name “Air Jamaica” will remain, the airline is now effectively owned by Caribbean Airlines and will be merged with it.
It has long been argued that the airlines, owned by individual Caribbean states in pursuit of their ‘symbols of nationhood and sovereignty’ were luxuries they could not afford.
When Holder was writing this book, he could not have envisaged that the Trinidad and Tobago owned, Caribbean Airlines, would have bought out Air Jamaica a few months later. He said: “The move from national ownership and control, to what I refer as community ownership and control, would require a sea change in the thinking of the region, not only among political leaders but also at the level of the people themselves”.
That sea change has begun to happen, swelled by a huge tsunami of necessity that is wrecking weak national capacity and underscoring the urgency of more robust capability from deeper Caribbean economic integration.
It has taken severe economic collapse in Jamaica to cause pride to be swallowed and a single airline to be created for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
Caribbean Airlines should also buy out LIAT and merge it into the entity that now owns Air Jamaica, and shares in the merged entity should be bought by all CARICOM governments. In turn, the services of the merged single Caribbean carrier should extend to Belize and the Bahamas in the North and to Suriname in the South creating, at last, the bridge throughout the countries of CARICOM that has long been needed.
In 1992, the West Indian Commission in its report, “Time for Action” called on regional governments to formalize a CARICOM policy on sea and air transportation. They stressed its importance for tourism, for integrating production and trade and most critically “in terms of helping to foster among West Indian people a sense of community in a West Indian homeland”. The recommendation has laid unattended these last 18 years.
Jean Holder’s book lays out the justification for all this, and much more besides. Surely, the establishment of a single Caribbean airline cannot be a bridge too far. Its necessity should now be painfully obvious.
July 23, 2010
The other tragedy
Reflections of Fidel
(Taken from CubaDebate)
IN my meeting with the CIEM economists on Tuesday, July 13, I talked of the excellent documentary by the French director Yann Arthus-Bertrand, with the participation of the most eminent and well informed international figures, on the other terrible danger to the human species which is taking place before our eyes: the destruction of the environment.
The documentary affirms in a clear and categorical way:
"In the great adventure of life on Earth, every species has a role to play, every species has its place. Not one of them is useless or harmful, they all balance each other. And here is where you, homo sapiens, intelligent human being, come into history. You benefit from a fabulous legacy of 4,000 million years, provided by the Earth. You are only 200,000 years old, but you have already changed the face of the world."
"The invention of agriculture changed our history. That was less than 10,000 years ago."
"Agriculture was our first great revolution. It resulted in the first surpluses and gave birth to cities and civilizations. Memories of thousands of years searching for food faded. Having made grains the yeast of life, we multiplied the number of varieties and learned to adapt them to our soils and climates. We are like all species on Earth. Our principal daily concern is that of feeding ourselves. When the soil is less than generous and water becomes scarce, we are capable of making prodigious efforts to extract enough from the soil to remain alive."
"Half of humanity works the land, more than three quarters with their hands."
"Pure energy. The energy of the sun, captured during millions of years by millions of plants more than 100 million years ago. It is coal, it is gas. But, above all, it is oil."
"In the last 60 years, the population of Earth has almost tripled. And more than two billion people have moved into the cities."
"New York. The first megalopolis of the world is the symbol of the exploitation of energy that Earth provides for human ingenuity. The workforce of millions of immigrants, coal energy, the indispensable power of oil. The United States was the first to ride on the phenomenal revolutionary power of ‘black gold.’ In the fields, machines replaced people. One liter of oil generates as much energy as 100 pairs of hands in 24 hours."
"They produce sufficient grains to feed two billion people. But much of those grains are not used to feed people. Here and in other industrialized nations it is transformed into feed for livestock or into biofuels."
"As far as the eye can see, fertilizer below, plastic above. The greenhouses of Almería, Spain are the orchard of Europe. A city of vegetables of uniform size waits every day for hundreds of trucks to take them to the supermarkets of the continent. The more developed a country, the more meat its inhabitants consume. How can the world demand be satisfied without having recourse to concentration camp-style farms? Constantly faster. Like the lifecycle of livestock that can never have seen a meadow."
"In these food lots, packed with millions of head of livestock, not a single blade of grass grows. A fleet of trucks from every corner of the country takes tons of grain, food soy and protein granules to be converted into tons of meat. The result is that 100 liters of water are needed to produce one kilogram of potatoes, 4,000 liters for a kilo of rice and 13,000 for a kilo of beef. Not to mention the oil burned in the production and transportation process."
"We know that the end of cheap oil is imminent, but we refuse to believe it."
"Los Angeles. In this city spread out over more than 100 kilometers, the number of cars is practically the same as the number of inhabitants."
"The day seems like no more than a pale reflection of the nights that convert the city into a starry sky."
"Everywhere machines are excavating, removing and tearing out of the land little pieces of stars buried in its depths since its creation… Minerals."
"…80% of this mineral wealth is consumed by 20% of the world population. Before the end of this century, excessive mining will have used up almost the totality of the planet’s reserves."
"Since 1950, the volume of international trade has increased 20 times; 90% of trade goes by sea. Five hundred million containers are transported every year, sent to the largest centers of consumption…"
"Since 1950, the fishing industry has increased fivefold, from 18 to 100 million metric tons per year. Thousands of shipping-factories are emptying the oceans. Three quarters of the fishing areas are exhausted, finished, or in danger of becoming so."
"Five hundred million humans live in the desert lands of the world, more than the whole combined population of Europe."
"Israel transformed the desert into arable land. Although now these farms are drip irrigated, the consumption of water is still increasing alongside exports."
"The once powerful River Jordan is now just a stream, its water has flown to the supermarkets of the entire world in crates of fruits and vegetables."
"India is at risk of becoming the country that will suffer the most from lack of water in the coming century. Mass irrigation has fed its growing population and in the last 50 years, 21 millions wells have been sunk."
"Las Vegas was built in the desert. Millions of people live there. Thousands more arrive every month. Its inhabitants are among the largest consumers of water in the world."
"Palm Springs is another desert city with tropical vegetation and luxury golf courses. How much longer will this mirage continue to prosper? The Earth cannot support it."
The Colorado River, takes water to these cities, is one of those rivers that no longer reaches the sea."
"Scarcity of water could affect two billion people before 2025."
"All living material is bound together: water, air, land, trees."
"Primitive forests provide a habitat for three quarters of the planet’s biodiversity; in other words, of all life on Earth."
"…in just 40 years, the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon, has been reduced by 20%, has given way to livestock ranches or soy farms; 95% of this soy is used to feed livestock and poultry in Europe and Asia. Thus, a forest is transformed into meat."
"More than two billion people, almost one third of the world population, still depend on charcoal. In Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, charcoal is one of the principal consumer goods of the population."
"In the hills on Haiti, only 2% of the forests remain…"
"Every week, more than one million people increase the population of the cities of the world. One human out of every six is now living in a precarious, unhealthy and overpopulated environment, without access to daily necessities, like water, drainage, electricity. Hunger is extending again, it is affecting almost one billion people. Throughout the planet, the poor are fighting to survive, while we continue excavating for resources without which we can no longer live."
"Our activities liberate gigantic volumes of carbon bioxide. Without realizing it, molecule by molecule, we have affected the climatic balance of the earth."
"The Arctic icecap is melting due to the effect of global warming, the icecap has lost 40% of its thickness in 40 years. In summer its surface is shrinking year by year. It could disappear during the summer months by 2030. Some say 2015."
"By 2050, a quarter of land species could be threatened with extinction."
"…as Greenland is warming rapidly, the freshwater of an entire continent is flowing toward the salt water of the oceans."
"The ice of Greenland contains 20% of all the fresh water on the planet; if it melts, the sea level is going to rise by close to seven meters. The atmosphere of our planet is one indivisible whole. It is a asset that we all share."
"In Greenland, lakes are beginning to appear in the landscape. The icecap is melting at a speed that not even the most pessimistic scientists foresaw 10 years ago. More and more rivers fed by glaciers are joining together and emerging onto the surface. It was believed that the water would freeze in the depths of the ice. On the contrary, it is flowing under the ice, carrying the ice crust toward the sea, where it breaks, turning into an iceberg."
"The expansion of water on heating caused, in the 20th century alone, a rise of 20 centimeters. Everything is becoming unstable. The coral reefs are extremely sensitive to the slightest change in the water temperature; 30% have disappeared. They are an essential link in the species chain."
"If the sea level keeps rising faster and faster, what will the great cities do, those like Tokyo, the most populated city of the world?"
"…in Siberia and in many parts of the world, it is so cold that the ground is constantly frozen. This is known as permafrost. Under this surface is resting a climatic time bomb: methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon bioxide. If the permafrost melts, the release of methane could cause the greenhouse effect to go out of control with consequences that nobody can foresee."
"Twenty percent of the world population consumes 80% of its resources."
"The world invests 12 times more in military expenditure than in aid to developing countries."
"Five thousand people die every day from drinking polluted water, one billion people do not have access to drinking water."
"Close to one billion are suffering from hunger."
"More than 50% of the grain marketed in the world is used for animal feed or biofuels."
"Species are dying a thousand times more rapidly than the natural rate."
"Three quarters of fishing areas are exhausted, reduced or in dangerous descent."
"The average temperature of the last 15 years has been the highest ever registered."
"The ice cap is 40% thinner than 40 years ago."
In the final minutes of the documentary, the director Yann Arthus-Bertrand softens the language in order to praise some positive actions of countries which, without any spirit of offending or wounding, he felt obliged to mention.
His final words were:
"It is time for us all to come together. What is important is not what has gone, but what remains. We still have half of the world’s forest, thousands of rivers, lakes and glaciers, and thousands of successful species.
"Today we know that the solutions are here. We all have the power to change. So, what are we waiting for?
"It depends on us to write what comes next. Together."
The subject that has occupied the major part of my efforts: the imminent danger of a war that would be the last of the prehistory of our species, to which I have dedicated nine Reflections since June 1st, constitutes a problem that is becoming daily more aggravated.
As is logical, 99.9% of people are sheltering the hope that an element of commonsense will prevail.
Unfortunately, given all the elements of the reality that I perceive, I no longer see the most minimal possibility of that being so.
For that reason, I think that it would be much more practical for our peoples to prepare themselves to face that reality. Our only hope consists of doing that.
The Iranians have done precisely that, as we did in October 1962, when we opted for disappearing before giving in.
Yesterday was like today, by the designs of chance, not merits of intelligence or the individual history of any one of us.
The news arriving every day from Iran is not moving one millimeter from the position affirmed by them to sustain their just rights to peace and development, with one new element: they have already succeeded in producing 20 kilograms of uranium enriched by 20%, sufficient for constructing a nuclear artifact, which is even further maddening for those who, a while back, decided to attack them. That is what I analyzed on Friday the 16th with our ambassadors.
Not even Obama could change that, nor has he demonstrated at any time the decision to do so.
Fidel Castro Ruz
July 18, 2010
Translated from the Spanish by Granma International
america american bahamas bahamian bahamians caribbean crime crisis cuba cuban economic economy global government haiti health history ict4d individualeconomy international investment obama people political revolution social war washington world