Wednesday, November 30, 2011



Please pass that link, or this short link to all your email contacts, or post it in blogs. Add it to comment sections. Help get the word out, so we can get more listeners and more stations. Radio Ecoshock is broadcast on over 50 stations now. I'm working on extending it further, with more news in coming weeks. If you pass around this Grist interview you can really help!


No this isn't another Radio Ecoshock program of doom! Instead, we are going to look at one of several large-scale solutions available. This new/old technology can grab carbon out of the air, and store it back in the soil.

Short Description:

"Desperately looking for a clean way to remove dangerous carbon from the atmosphere, Alex interviews Allan Savory of the Savory Institute. His project to capture carbon into the soil, using intelligent herd management in Zimbabwe, is on the short-list for the Virgin Earth Challenge. We follow up with Abe Collins, a carbon farming leader in Vermont, USA. Plus organizing for local food in North Carolina (even in hard times) - Aaron Newton at ASPO 2011. "


In 2007, billionaire Richard Branson announced the Virgin Earth Challenge. He offered a 25 million dollar prize to the best method to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, with no harmful impacts. Out of 2600 submissions, Allan Savory and the Savory Institute survived to the current short-list of 11 technolgies to do it.

We talk with Allan Savory, the 76 year old pioneer biologist and agriculturalist from Zimbabwe.

Savory is an fascinating interview. He also won the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge, for a world-changing technology.

Plus, futurist Seth Itzkan (who went to Zimbabwe to see for his own eyes) tells me old Allan went out into the African night with a large rifle, to protect the camp from a pride of lions that had taken a big cow the night previous. That's character.

Seth's Africa blog here.

Wanna know what it's like to sit out in lion country without a gun? Check out this short video with Seth and "Knowledge the lion chaser."

Yet, as you hear in this interview, Savory absolutely insists we need all the predators, from lions through hyenas to wild dogs.

The behavior of herd animals changes when predators exist. The herd bunches up, fertilizes the ground and works it in with their hooves, and then move on in a tigher group. This benefits the land, as Savory shows repeatedly on his large experimental farm in Zimbabwe, near Victoria Falls. The vegetation roars back, where neighboring lands experience hard packed soil and desertification. Even the ground water comes back, with year-round ponds appearing. His knowledge could literally transform the landscape of the world, if applied.

Forget what you know about animals and land management. Desertification is not what you think. A very old relationship between animals and grass lands could reverse the damage.

It may even be a mega-solution for climate change. In a classic interview, I talk with a world-recognized pioneer in natural land management, Allan Savory, founder of the Savory Institute.

Allan Savory was born into white-ruled Rhodesia. He became a biologist, a game manager, a member of Parliament. Savory resigned and went into exile over the racist policies of that government. Now the country is called Zimbabwe, and Savory has returned often, to teach and to test his methods of restoring water, life, and carbon to the land.

His best known book is "Holistic Management: A New Decision Making Framework" written with his wife Jody Butterfield.

In 2003, Savory won the Banksia International Award, quote "to recognise extraordinary individuals or organisations that have made, or are making a significant contribution to improving our environment on a global level."

Allan Savory & the Africa Centre for Holistic Management was the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Winner. "Operation Hope" showed a way for permanent water and food security for millions of Africa's poor.

In November 2011, Allan Savory topped over 2500 others to place in the top 11 finalists in the Virgin Earth Challenge. His project not only reverses desertification, but offers a global technique to removed vast amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. It may be a low-tech way to stop runaway climate change.

Here is the Savory Institute You tube channel.

But if you read or look at only one thing about Savory's plan for the soil and the climate, this short paper is it. "A Global Strategy for Addressing Global Climate Change" It opened my eyes.

In 2007, I spoke with Peter Donovan, the publisher of a book by the Australian author Allan J. Yeomans. That book is "Priority One, Together We Can Beat Global Warming." Peter Donovan is now on a road tour promoting the Soil Carbon Challenge. The idea is to get farmers to measure their current carbon in the soil, so they can know what works to capture and keep more of it.

Then I got an email from a remote outpost in Zimbabwe, in lion country. It's amazing to connect with someone so far back in the bush. That's the new world we live in.

It was none other than Massachussetts futurist Seth Itzkan. Seth is and analyst and advocate for sustainable economic development. He's the CEO & Founder Planet-TECH
Associates. Itzkan went to Zimbabwe to see Savory's claims with his own eyes.
Seth was amazed by what he found. As claimed new water sources were appearing where the Savory management technique was used. Properly managed land was rich with
vegetation, in an area generally blighted by on-going encourachment by the desert. Hard, hard soil with a few scrubby bushes can be converted back to moist rich grasslands by natural herd management. Savory mimiced nature to recapture the land, and the carbon from the sky. It works.


The limitations to this technique are several. The main problem: humans need to change their conceptions of agriculture, their opposition to herd management, and the inate social demand to rid the planet of dangerous animals. And we'd have to re-educate millions of poor farmers. I'll consult a leading climate expert on the role of soil carbon in a coming program.

I have to overcome personal resistance too. I've been taught, as millions have, that over-grazing by animals is turning the world into deserts. Now we learn that is due to our unnatural way of raising animals, and killing off predators and the wild spaces they require.

Personally, I'm trying hard to become a vegetarian. North American meat is poisoned with anti-biotics and other chemicals. Red meat is know to raise cancer risks, especially of the bowels. The feed-lot meat production chain is just a giant prison for animals and their suffering.

But that is not at all what Allan Savory, and our next guest, are promoting. Their solution to climate change does involve animals, and meat eating - but it is the most Nature-based geoengineering plan out there.

Here is what these new agriculturalists are telling us: we don't need to darken the Sun. We need to manage grasslands, to use cover crops when growing grains and vegetables, and we need the help of animals and their predators to restore the carbon cycle.

My thanks to Karl Thidemann for pushing me to learn about Savory and soil. Karl's been gently emailing me for years, telling me to look into it. It only took four or five years Karl! I just wasn't ready, or I'm a slow learner.

I'm just glad we got Allan Savory on the air on Radio Ecoshock. You can download or listen to that 24 minute Allan Savory interview here.

I should just add the importance of grass fires when it comes to climate change. In the interview, Savory clearly explains how damaging slash and burn agriculture is. All over Africa, and all over the world, subsistence farmers burn the fields over to clear them. This releases more carbon than millions of cars. Some of it is recaptured by new growth, but the overall
impact of the black carbon, and the burst of carbon during fire season, further damages both the climate and the soil. I haven't said it as well as Allan does. Please listen to the interview.


Then to Abe Collins, a farmer in St. Albans, Vermont. He uses methods to capture carbon with agriculture. Collins started out working with the Navajo in Arizona, applying techniques learned from Allan Savory, to reverse the deterioration of Navajo land. They all learned together how to use animals to reclaim desert land, rather than creating more of it.

Collins returned to Vermont, and converted a former dairy farm to a beef operation. He measures soil depth, and carbon content, to see improvements as they develop.

It takes nature about one thousand years to create an inch of soil. The modern farmers hope to do it a lot faster, without using a lot of fossil fuels.

The extra soil also helps with flood control. Vermont surely needed that, when tropical storm Irene flooded towns and wiped out roads. We discuss how proper soil managment can help with extreme rainfall events accompanying climate change.

We also talk about the "Keyline" system developed by P.A. Yeomans in Australia. His son, Allan Yoemans published a book in 2007 on ways to save the climate using agriculture. It's called "Priority One". You can order the book, or download it from this site.

Collins was part of a crew, including Peter Donovan, who attempted to get "carbon farming" recognized in the New England carbon trading scheme. Why pay big companies to off-set emissions, or even worse, fake green geoengineering, when farmers can capture carbon - AND feed us sustainably?

At the end of October 2011, Abe Collins kicked off "the Soil Carbon Challenge" in Vermont. Video here.

Or check out this: Part One of a five part You tube presentation by Abe Collins: "Presentations from the Quivira Coalition's 9th Annual Conference, November 10-12, 2010, in Albuquerque, NM "The Carbon Ranch: Using Food and Stewardship to Build Soil and Fight Climate Change". The rest of the talk will pop up on the right side of the You tube screen.

To keep up with the whole discussion of carbon farming, Abe recommends this site:

Download the Abe Collins interview (17 minutes) here.


The program wraps up with a new presentation from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas conference in Washington D.C. in November 2011.

Aaron Newton is the Local Food System Program Coordinator for Cabarrus County, North Carolina. He tells us how to develop your local food-shed, even in hard times. And why the most important crop may be... new farmers.

It's a really helpful short presentation from Aaron. The ways the County used the tax structure to both keep farmers, and to fund community organizing around local food. Lots of good tips for localizing your own community. The Newton talk is dead-on for how to create a local food-shed getting ready for Peak Oil.

Our D.C. correspondent Gerri Williams was at the ASPO conference, and sends this recording. My thanks to ASPO USA for sharing the audio, and for getting localization on the Peak Oil menu.

Listen to/download the Radio Ecoshock broadcast of Aaron Newton at ASPO 2011 here.


We'll be doing a second show on sequestering carbon in the soil in two weeks time. Next week, we look into a different sort of growing: winter gardening (and why extreme climate change may make you do it...)

Radio Ecoshock

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fracking Gas = Climate Crash

MUSIC CREDIT: the theme music this week is "My Water's on Fire Tonight" written and performed by David Holmes, Andrew Bean, Niel Bekker. Australian compilation album: "Whole Lotta Frackin' Going On"

Recording credit: Robert Howarth speech at ASPO recorded by Carl Etnier of Equal Time Radio, Vermont. Speech courtesy of ASPO USA.


For years, governments, industry, and TV ads told us natural gas is the safe bridge fuel while we move away from dirty coal and oil.

Cornell University scientist Robert Howarth wondered "Is that true?". When Howarth found no science to back up big claims for the gas industry, he and a team from Cornell went to work.

The results are startling. In the short-term, escaped methane from gas fracking threaten to tip us into catastrophic climate change. The total impact of the shale gas industry may be worse than coal. In the United States, where thousands and thousands of new gas wells are drilled, almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions may come from methane. The "natural" gas industry is the largest single source of methane emissions.

The frackers vent loads of gases for the first two weeks after drilling, before connecting pipes. They could collect (and sell) this "waste" methane (read "climate killer") but don't bother. Natural gas storage facilities also vent methane as part of their designed operation. Old leaking gas delivery systems complete the job.

Methane is rising in the atmosphere. New science from Dr. Drew Shindell shows in the first 20 years, methane is 105 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2.

Even at 100 years, Shindell finds methane is combining with other air pollution to generate an impact 33 times more powerful than CO2. Not 21, as determined in the 1990's by the IPCC. That old figure is still being used by industry and governments. Expect a change as Shindell becomes the new lead author of this section in the upcoming IPCC.

You must hear Dr. Robert Howarth explain the importance of new science on methane. he is the expert, I am not.

The industry insists we only calculate methane over a 100 year period. But the latest report from the International Energy Agency (generally a conservative source) says our climate future will be determined in the next 5 years. More new science suspects the burst of methane helped tip us into a mass extinction 250 million years ago.

The 20 year time frame for methane could be the jolt that tips other systems into positive feedback loops. Like igniting the peat in the Arctic. Or warming shallow seas enough to release frozen methane clathrates from the bottom (which started to happen last year). If either of those go, we are toast.

Robert Howarth has taken a lot of abuse for even daring to assemble a comprehensive look at the total greenhouse gas impact of the gas fracking industry, whether it is coal bed gas or shale gas. And we haven't even discussed the fact fracking is now known to cause earthquakes, uses incredible amounts of fresh water, and risks polluting whole watersheds with a single leak of the mass toxic chemicals pumped underground.

The United Kingdom may be next. With gas production from the North Sea fields down by 25 percent, there is a public relations push to get lots of gas fracking in the UK. This may be the next big environmental battle there.

Fracking mania has hit Canada and Australia as well. Everyone needs to know what the latest science says.

Program includes 27 minute speech by Professor Robert Howarth of Cornell at ASPO USA 2011, November 2nd in Washington D.C. Recorded by Carl Etnier of Equal Time Radio, Vermont. My thanks to ASOP USA for this fine presentation.

Then a follow-up interview this week with Robert Howarth, to fill in his hurried climax of the speech - that methane emissions, when calculated over 20 years, using the new higher rate discovered by Drew Shindell - could add up to at least 44% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States! We discuss this, and the importance of a 2006 paper by Dr. James Hansen of NASA, on the importance of controlling methane emissions.

I covered that in 2006 here for blog entry, or download the audio here.

In 2006, I also put out a "Methane Primer" which is still helpful. Blog for that primer is here, and the audio for download here.

But now I'll have to revisit that piece, since like the IPCC, I was told methane was only 21 times more powerful than CO2. The science moves so fast, it is already outdated just 5 years later.

Essentially, if we cannot control methane, we still lose the climate known over millenia, even if we could limit carbon dioxide emissions. Methane alone can tip us.

The natural gas industry, Howarth says, is the single largest source of methane in the U.S. Shale gas fracking makes that much, much worse.


We add an interview promised last week, with Samuel Labudde, about the billion dollar scam ripping off carbon credits.

Companies in China are threatening to release powerful greenhouse gases, unless these fake credits are continued. Ratepayers in Europe are being blackmailed.

LaBudde, a noted wildlife biologist, is also covering the climate beat for the Environmental Investigation Agency for the American branch of the organization.

To honor the craziness of gas fracking in Australia, the theme music this week is "My Water's on Fire Tonight" written and performed by David Holmes, Andrew Bean, Niel Bekker. Australian compilation album: "Whole Lotta Frackin' Going On"

The lyrics in "My Water's On Fire Tonight" is a product of Studio 20 NYU ( in collaboration with ( The song is based on ProPublica's investigation on hydraulic fractured gas drilling (read the full investigation here:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

5 Years to Climate Hell

SONG CLIP "Five Years" by David Bowie, album Ziggie Stardust & the Spiders from Mars (1972)
SONG CLIP: "We Are The Many" by Makana (no album yet)
TELECONFERENCE with Lester Brown by Earth Policy Institute (recorded by Alex Smith)
Download full conference in CD quality (22 minutes) here.

Welcome. This week we have a show packed with good news, horrible news, and crazy news - all about the coming climate shift.

Here is a quick show overview, with more notes below.

Yes, those greenie extremists say we have only five fossil polluting years left before Planet Earth is thown on an unstoppable path toward extreme climate change. Oh wait, this warning comes from the conservative voice of 28 major countries, the International Energy Agency. It's the most depressing news yet.

Lester Brown of the Earth-Policy Institute has at least a dribble of good news. U.S. greenhouse gas emisisons are starting to drop. And it's not just because Americans are broke with no manufacturing left. I hate to talk good news against a tsunami of evil tidings, but you will hear some of what Lester told the world press in a news teleconference.

Diana Bronson is the Program Manager for an international organization called the ETCGroup, with offices in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and the Philippines. Their latest book is "Earth Grab, Geopiracy, the new Biomassters, and Capturing Climate Genes."

Haven't heard about that? We'll also talk about synthetic biology, geoengineering and other risky projects your mother never told you about.

We speak to Emily James, executive producer of "The Age of Stupid". Her new film, "Just Do It" follows the climate camps which foreshadowed the whole Occupy movement, and the young activists who won't take climate wrecking lying down. "Just Do It" is a tool for activist training. It's already being shown in Occupy camps around the world.

We wrap up with a short clip from the Occupy song "We Are the Many" which Hawaiian singer Makana snuck into the APEC summit dinner. Despite record security, Makana sang to the assembled powers about the rage of the many left out. It's hard to keep out all of the people all of the time.


The big International Energy Agency, the IEA, which hasn't given a hoot about climate change for decades, suddenly issued a stark warning.

As the Guardian newspaper headline says: "If fossil fuel infrastructure is not rapidly changed, the world will 'lose for ever' the chance to avoid dangerous climate change."

"The door is closing" says IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, and if we can't change our energy infrastructure in the next five years, quote, "The door will be closed forever."

If we add up all the fossil fuels we could still burn, and stay below the 450 parts per million thought to keep us below 2 degrees of global warming - and keep the Greenland Ice sheet - we only have a little left. In fact, the IEA study calculates we will have burned at least 90% of that last reserve by 2015. By 2017, if we want a habitable climate for our descendents, we have to stop burning all fossil fuels, and prevent other human-made greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.

In 2010, we tossed a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, about 6% more than the year before.

Quoting from the report, the International Energy Agency says:

"On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.”

“… we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F]…. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.

A global average warming of 6 degrees Centigrade, or 11 degrees Fahrenheit is the disaster that British scientist Sir James Lovelock warned us about years ago. Scientists calculate that around 11 or 12 degrees Fahrenheit, mammals can no longer cool themselves with sweat.

And these are global average increases. Some places, like the Arctic may go up 25 degrees or more, to become tropical rainforests. Most of Africa, the United States, and large parts of Asia would be uninhabitable. And we haven't even talked about the total disruption of rainfall patterns - like drought, floods, fires - on land. Or the stratification of the ocean which can lead to a shift in species, leading to dead zones, or even dead seas.

Here is what Joe Romm, expert blogger at, writes, quote:

"The IEA report deserves the label 'bombshell,' though, because for most of the past two decades, the IEA was the source of bland, conservative, business-as-usual analysis. When I was Acting Assistant Secretary of Energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 1997, no one at DOE paid much attention to IEA reports. And that perspective continued through most of the 2000s.

But in just the last few years they have woken up to the risks posed to peak oil — see IEA top economist warns [in August of 2009]: 'We have to leave oil before oil leaves us' — and especially climate change. In releasing its 2009 WEO, the IEA warned, 'The world will have to spend an extra $500 billion to cut carbon emissions for each year it delays implementing a major assault on global warming.'

Now the IEA has done the calculation a different way, concluding, 'Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.' Those who counsel waiting for breakthrough technologies are urging us on a path that is unsustainable, irreversible, potentially catastrophic, and economically indefensible, according to the IEA....

The new analysis shows that because of soaring emissions, we are running out of time for the '450 Scenario.' We are at risk of irreversibly 'locking in' dangerous warming.

Thank you Joe Romm, for leading us through the latest climate news.

As I told Ecoshock listeners previously, climate scientists are still figuring out why we haven't already heated more according to the emissions we release. Sure, we've seen record floods, fires, storms, and the Russian heat wave of 2010. But it could be hotter already.

The always worth-while podcast "The Climate Show" (#20)from New Zealand offers a good summary of current thought. There are three known cooling factors operating.

One: aerosols from a wave of new Asian coal plants pumps sulphates into the atmosphere which reflect sunlight back into space. That's a limited time offer.

Second: the sun has been in a quiet perioid, with few Sun Spots, and solar flares. That may be ending, as NASA reported a "monster" solar flare on November 4th. That particular flare was not facing the Earth, so we didn't get hit. But it may indicate the period of solar quiet is over, which could add slightly to our warming.

Third, and the largest factor, is ocean mixing. The ocean absorbs somewhere between 80 and 90 percent off all the excess energy in a greenhouse atmosphere. The seas mix this down. Recent research shows even the very deepest parts of the ocean are warming slightly. All this heat will come back out eventually, guaranteeing warming for centuries, if not millennia.

In the last two years, the cooler waters are coming up, in the phenomenon known as La Nina. Another recent study has shown the ocean cycle called "ENSO" has not been affected by climate change. So the warmer water phenomenon, the "El Nino" which gave us the record hot year of 1998, should return in the next year or two. When it does, expect record heat waves.

Even with all those cooling factors, NASA still named 2010 as the hottest year on record. It is frightening to imagine the coming climate disasters, as we ramp up. And according to the IEA, and a series of national Academies around the world, we have just 5 years to drastically cut all our greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, all countries, all the players like the U.S., Canada, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Japan - intend to do nothing at the next climate conference in Durban at the end of November 2011. The American Congress continues to deny global warming is even happening. Presidential Candidates promise they will get rid of any environmental laws, and the Environmental Proteciton agency.

Our future is not looking good. At times, I fear the remainder of humanity will end up in Northern Canada, Scandinavia, Siberia, Patagonia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. The rest of the world will be wrecked and uninhabitable.

To fend off this ultimate pessimism, I can only offer two bits of good news. First, we'll look at a few patterns in the original big polluter, the United States, where greenhouse emissions are going down, no matter what the politicians do or say. Lester Brown explains that.

And don't forget, we're going to wrap up with a tasty interview and new film on how to get out there and make some noise before we all go down in flames.

But first, an interview on the cutting edge. Synthetic biology. Capturing climate genes, and fending off crazy last-ditch ideas to shade out the sun. Check this out.

Diana Bronson is the Program Manager for an international organization called the ETCGroup, with offices in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and the Philippines. Their latest book is "Earth Grab, Geopiracy, the new Biomassters, and Capturing Climate Genes."

20 minute Diana Bronson interview listen/download in CD quality here.
20 minute Diana Bronson interview listen/download in Lo-Fi (faster download) here.

You can do somthing about this! Go to and participate by sending your photo to world leaders. Tell them, when they gather at Rio + 20 to ban geoengineering. Don't let a few scientists or corporations alter the Sun (or turn the sky milky white instead of blue...)

I promised you a bit of good news. Yes, I know, it goes against Radio Ecoshock Show policy, but I trust this source. Lester Brown founded the World Watch Institute, and then his own Earth Policy Institute. He's a man for numbers and facts, and trusted by greens, industry, and governments - rare these days.

In the radio program I run selections from the Lester Brown press teleconference November 2nd. You'll also hear Lester's response to a couple of doubts I raised on your behalf. Is it just because all the manufacturing has moved to China? Or the Tar Sands emissions for American oil are burned off in Canadian production?

Lester agrees there are problems with the numbers. He says we need a way to calculate the emissions in products, in the countries where they are consumed. If that were done, America's emissions would be higher, and China's far lower...

Download/listen to the Lester Brown teleconference here.

Yes, it's good news that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have gone down. Although I am just now investigating new science showing the total American greenhouse gas emission might have gone UP, when we count in all the methane leaking out of gas fracking operations and gas pipelines. Expect to hear more about that.

There are some mitigating factors which Brown raises. Like the bulge of population, the Baby Boomers, are starting to retire. When they don't have to commute to work, miles traveled drops. More city youth are turning to bikes and mass transit, as the car is no longer such a status symbol. The U.S. auto fleet is more fuel efficient.

And campaigns to stop coal plant construction, and close old ones, are becoming more successful. It's hard to believe, but in July 2011 New York Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg donated $50 million to the Sierra Club anti-coal campaign!

But even if official statistics say American emissions are going down, it's kind of like saying 6% fewer women were raped this year. Not really all that much to cheer about, as more gigatonnes of emissions continue to pour out of American smokestacks and tailpipes.

We also have to remember that North Americans are responsible for about half of all the greenhouse gases already in the sky. We never want to admit that. It's like that famous scene where from the TV program Sienfeld. Elaine complains she doesn't want to be responsible for the loss of Joe Mayo's coat, even though she was the one who tossed it out the window.

We don't see why we should be held responsible, even though we are. That's what the rest of the developing countries are complaining about. That is why they want the climate compensation fund promised to them by Hilary Clinton, and expect to get it at the upcoming Durban Climate Conference. It won't happen, even though it should.

Maybe we can make something happen. Maybe we can still force our fossil leaders to try to save the climate for the coming generations.

Download the CD Quality 19 minute interview with Emily James, film maker of Just "Do It" or get the faster downloading Lo-Fi version here.

Speaking of actions, a Hawaiian singer named Makana was brave enough to sing his new Occupy movement song to all the assembled world leaders at the APEC summit in mid-November in Honululu. While other Occupiers protested outside, Makana serenaded the Saturday night diners inside with his song about the people's rage.

Find a the whole song, with lyrics, on You tube.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock
Now on 50 stations, on 3 continents.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Plane Justice - Banned In America

BONUS AUDIO THIS WEEK: The complete interview with Dan Glass, the famous "Plane Stupid" campaigner from the UK. The crazy actions that highlighted the serious impacts of expanding airports and air travel. 32 minutes Lo-Fi 7 MB.

Rockin' out with the Steve Miller Band, this is Radio Ecoshock. Big old jet airliner, the magic of flying, we can fly! Humans love those roaring jets so much, we hardly notice the 5 percent boost to greenhouse gases from all the jet fuel burned.

You may not love them so much if you live within 12 miles of any airport, where the cancer, heart deaths, sleepless nights and wrecked lives grow. It's not just the noise. Cancer-causing chemicals fly from the exhaust and drop into communities all over the world.

As the world economy peaks in growth, and starts to shrink in resources, the airline industry and their government boosters still plan on a mad burst of expansion. Over 3,000 American airports plan new runways, like runway number eight at O'Hare in Chicago, or JFK in New York.

Victims under the flight paths are blamed by the industry, and abandoned by major environmental groups in the U.S. and Canada.

Not so in the UK. British and Scottish green groups boosted public awareness. 3,000 camped out to stop the expansion of Heathrow airport in London. They killed the third runway. We'll talk to leader John Stewart in Britain. Although John has no criminal record, he's been banned from America in a horrible loss for free speech, and airport protest groups.

In this program, you will hear what Stewart planned to say on the recent Aviation Justice Tour in the U.S. and Canada.

Then we'll hear from one of the most experienced airport expansion campaigners in the U.S. Debi Wagner has been fighting off pollution from SeaTac airport in Seattle for decades. She knows where the cancer grows.

I'll squeeze in a bit from British "Plane Stupid" campaigner Dan Glass, the man who super-glued his hand to the Prime Minister's sleeve. He too got a visit from one of Obama's top FBI agents.

I'm Alex Smith. The dream of mass flight for humans is killing the planet, and wrecking the lands below. Get ready for a hard landing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Live From the Occupy Oakland General Strike!

Remember this?

The chaotic scene in Oakland, California on the night of October 25th. Former Marine Scott Olsen received serious head injuries after being shot at very close range by police clearing the Occupy Oakland site and streets.

An investigation has been called into police actions. The Mayor apologized. The injury to Olsen invigorated Occupy Wall St protesters and others around the country.

The ugly violence, played out on TV's around the world, also caused other Mayors to reconsider, and let their Occupy protesters stay.

By November 2nd, activists called for a General Strike in Oakland. The results were mixed with some unions cooperating. But the transit system, most institutions, and the big shipping port of Oakland remained open.

Until the evening, when the crowd of a few thousand grew upwards to 5,000 or much more. They marched to the Port gates and forced operations to shut down, at one of America's biggest shipping zones.

Late that evening I received emails (and audio) from several Oakland protesters and media activists who were satisifed with the peaceful occupation of the city.

Occupy Oakland went from police brutality to widespread public engagement,with hardly any police around.

But later that night, in the early hours, with a dwindling crowd, there were a few break-ins, window smashing, and more confrontations with police.

The next morning, November 4th, the tent city called a meeting to discuss the "destructive anarchists" as one blog called them. Occupy Oakland campers considered an apology, and a work-crew to clean up broken glass downtown. The assembled group re-affirmed their non-violence.

This is just one of the divisions and challenges in the midst of the Occupy movement. The majority favor non-violence. A minority want to go much further, into violent revolution if need be.

Meanwhile, a Radio Ecoshock correspondent from the Bay Area, long time media activist Karen Nyhus, sent us a series of short on-the-scene recordings of another big topic in the Occupy movement: the role of the 99% opposing governments dominated by fossil fuel billionaires, intent on profiting from damage to our climate. They want justice.

Here we go - actuality from the Occupy Oakland protesters, November 2nd, the day of the general strike. You hear a fascinating set of interviews, from activists to the down-but-not-out.

You'll hear cat-calls from corporate media. Would you believe Rupert Murdoch's Wall St. Journal keeps writing headlines that it's all over, or the protesters are just drug-addicted bums? What a surprise!

Big TV interviews all the Mayors and Chiefs of Police.

We interview the people who were there.

All recordings are by media activist Karen Nyhus, thank you Karen - keep it up!

If you have audio for Ecoshock, use to send your mp3 file to this address: radio at

Please send an email first, asking if your audio idea will work for our program.

I'm Alex Smith, thank you for listening.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DURBAN Conference of the Polluters - The Show

This week is our first broadcast in the UK. Join us every Tuesday Noon on Resonance 104.4 FM, London. Radio Ecoshock is now carried by 48 stations on 3 continents.

This program is about the upcoming "Conference of the Polluters" in Durban, South Africa. After the disappointments of Copenhagen and Cancun, does anyone really care?

Do we the luxury of despair, as rising greenhouse gases threaten everything we know, and coming generations?

The real show at Durban, offically known as COP-17, the United Nations Conference of the Parties (to the Kyodo Protocol) - is the what happens outside the gathering of world leaders and their industrial supporters. In this show you hear those other voices.

Directly from South Africa, Professor Patrick Bond lays out the awful truth, where climate talks have gone into the dead zone. The climate justice movement strives to change all that.

I ask Dr. Bond: "Will it be safe to protest in Durban?" That's not a given, considering South African police have shot some protesters in recent years. But it may not be any worse than Copenhagen, where Danish police forced up to a thousand people into a "Kettle" and kept them penned up in bitter sub-zero cold. That's what you get for giving a damn.

Don't miss this interview with Patrick. It's so loaded with good points, I've written a special blog with notes here - and that doesn't touch the surface of all the up-to-date activist info this very plugged-in man brings up in our wide-ranging talk on climate. You can download/listen to the 23 minute Patrick Bond interview separately.

Through a UK-based organization called the World Development Movement, you hear two more voices from Durban. Bandile Mdlalose is general secretary of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a shack-dwellers' movement in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

And from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, campaigner Bongani Mthembu explains what everyone from Occupy London knows, what you already know, about corporate control of our governments. I've chosen the best short clips from a video of Bandile and a video of Bongani on the WDM site.

Bongani seems right in touch with the Occupy London protesters in St. Paul's and around the world. He knows what you know: big corporations have taken over our governments.

We need to understand: Durban is already "occupied". Like most African cities, and in fact most countries of the world, there is a large community of people living in shacks. Most have no services. No electricity, no sewage, no safe running water. The police only arrive to evict them.

World Development brought Bandile, from the Shack Dwellers movement, for an 8 city tour of the UK this Fall, to help raise awareness of the realities of Durban, as the COP-17 climate talks fast approach.

From London, I chat with Murray Worthy, a policy analyst for the World Develpment Movement. Murray explains the recent Durban activist tour, and expectations for the coming climate conference. Listen/to download the whole WDM segment (18 minutes) here.

Learning from the exclusion of activists in Copenhagen, environnment groups are working to empower youth from developing countries, using new media. In San Francisco, I find Madeline Kovacs of Project Survival Media. Along with Shadia Fayne Wood, Madeline is helping to empowert youth media teams coming to Durban, from India, Kenya and more.

Those teams will create fresh reports, from outside the walls of power and pollution.

Again, you can download or listen to the Madeline Kovacs interview (15 minutes) here.

We leave with a song for the Occupy Movement, "Change Change" by the Canadian singer known only as "Thistle". I hope to post it soon on our "Music" page, in the Audio on Demand menu at Change Change doesn't have an album or a web site, but it could easily be an anthem for the Occupy movement around the world.

I found this song at the end of this powerful video of Dr. David Suzuki speaking at the Occupy Vancouver Camp in late October 2011.

Suzuki is a world-famous biologist and television host ("The Nature of Things"). He really unwinds for the 99% in this speech. I'll post the audio on my site, and thanks to "Keepemstraight" for being the video conscience of Vancouver. Visit his You tube channel.

My thanks to Daphne Wysham, host of Earthbeat radio, for her guest suggestions, and to Phil England, former host of "Climate Radio" in England. We need both of these green radio hosts back on the air. Koch Brothers are you listening? Green radio producers need just a measly million dollars to keep the truth coming out!

This is your planet. Tune into the climate underground, soon to erupt into the mainstream, with Radio Ecoshock.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Durban Climate Talks - Professor Patrick Bond

When I spoke to Patrick Bond, it was very hot in Durban. But it was 36 degrees C in neighboring Zimbabwe. Bond predicts another wave of "heat refugees" will flee Zimbabwe into South Africa.

Durban is the site of the next Conference of the Parties, known as COP-17, starting November 28th, 2011. It is the grand gathering of the countries of the world, under the United Nations, trying to prevent serious climate damage on Planet Earth.

Thank heavens the Copenhagen climate conference failed! That's the view of our Radio Ecoshock guest, Patrick Bond. He is a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and director of the Centre for Civil Society there.

Dr. Bond has worked for the South African government, especially in the Reconstruction program. He advises several international journals, and has a history of civil rights activism. Patrick just returned to Durban from a European conference and lecture tour.

Before we get to the upcoming Durban climate meeting, known as COP-17 - let's handle some previous business. In late 2009, many climate activists in Europe and North America were crushed by the failure to find a meaningful agreement, at the Copenhagen climate conference.

Bond says there are really two streams of environmental thought and action regarding the ongoing United Nations climate talks, known as the "Conference of the Parties" (to the Kyoto Protocol).

The first, like Climate Action Network, really hoped the industrial countries and the developing world could use climate financing and market mechanisms (like carbon trading) to work towards a lower emissions world.

The second, now more widely known as the "Climate Justice Movement" - rejects actors like The World Bank, and capitalist intervention using tools like carbon trading. They also question the REDD agreement banking carbon credits in forests, especially tropical forests - because it takes rights away from the indigenous inhabitants.

Dr. Bond wrote a short paper where he summarizes the objections of the Bolivian negotiating team to the proposals at Cancun, Mexico after Copenhagen:

"The Bolivian delegation was the only sensible insider team, and they summed up the summit’s eight shortcomings:

• Effectively kills the only binding agreement, Kyoto Protocol, in favour of a completely inadequate bottom-up voluntary approach.

• Increases loopholes and flexibilities that allow developed countries to avoid action via an expansion of offsets and continued existence of ‘surplus allowances’ of carbon after 2012 by countries such as Ukraine and Russia, which effectively cancel out any other reductions.

• Finance commitments weakened: commitments to ‘provide new and additional financial resources’ to developing countries have been diluted to talking more vaguely about ‘mobilising [resources] jointly’, with expectation that this will mainly be provided by carbon markets.

• The World Bank is made trustee of the new Green Climate Fund, which has been strongly opposed by many civil society groups due to the undemocratic make-up of the Bank and its poor environmental record.

• No discussion of intellectual property rights, repeatedly raised by many countries, as current rules obstruct transfer of key climate-related technologies to developing countries.

• Constant assumption in favour of market mechanisms to resolve climate change even though this perspective is not shared by a number of countries, particularly in Latin America.

• Green light given for the controversial Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programme, which often ends up perversely rewarding those responsible for deforestation, while dispossessing indigenous and forest dwellers of their land.

• Systematic exclusion of proposals that came from the historic World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change, including proposals for a Climate Justice Tribunal, full recognition of indigenous rights and rights for nature.

That ends a quote from Dr. Patrick Bond.

This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith with Professor Patrick Bond from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. Patrick Bond predicts failure at COP-17, and explains why in the interview.

In addition to the problems above, he adds intellectual property limitations on transferring renewable technology to developing countries.

Bond compares the climate emergency to the case of HIV/AIDS medicine for Africa. With the big pharmaceutical companies charging $15,000 a year for treatment, it was a death sentence for Africa. Bond says 55% of South Africans test positive for the HIV virus.

In response, with support from some large countries, the World Trade Organization, at it's DOHA round in 2001, made an exception for these drugs, allowing the production of generic versions, vastly cheaper.

Patrick Bond suggests the same sort of emergency action for solar, wind, and other technologies are now required to save our climate.

For example, China and the U.S. are now engaged in a "Solar War" over intellectual property rights.

The second major road-block is the developed country use of environmentally damaging technologies to cover their energy short-falls. Bond includes such things as the Tar Sands, Shale Frackin, and especially dangerous geo-engineering schemes. He notes the latest experiment with British scientists to test injecting pollution into clouds has been delayed.


The host of the Durban Climate Talks coming up at the end of November has been very quiet about them. Unlike the World Cup soccer, which was promoted as an international event four years previous, few South Africans know a conference that could determine their fate is being held in Durban.

I ask Professor Bond whether NGOs and interested individuals will be able to protest freely and safely in Durban. That is an open question, as there have been recent instances where South African police have shot protesters. I'm not talking about rubber bullets. Shot them.

Bond and others have been pressing the South African authorities to recognize the long tradition of non-violence established there by Gandhi, when the Mahatma lived in S.A. up until 1914, and developed his methods. But we can't be sure.

South Africa is set to release it's own climate action plan at the Durban conference. But the COP-17 host has little to brag about. Through the largest ever World Bank loan, worth several billion dollars, South Africa has constructed the world's third and fourth largest coal plants. Emissions are climbing rapidly with no end in sight.

Further confusing the situation, the big mining and industrial companies, like BHP Billiton and Anglo American (which were begun in South Africa, but now reside in Australia and the UK respectively) - arranged a sweet-heart electricity price as part of the negotiations to end Apartheid.

While these big corporations get power for pennies, sometimes as cheap as 2 cents a Kilowatt hour, poor South Africans on a pension pays as much as 28 cents a KWH. If they can get power at all. A reported 40% of South African homes have no electricity.

There have been angry protests as poor South Africans have been disconnected from electrical services, and the big corporations get a virtually free ride.

Two of the country's biggest polluters, Sasol and Eskom, are on South Africa’s COP17 negotiation committee. The South African environmental group Earthlife is protesting their inclusion.

As we all know, the European Union is under tremendous financial stress. Europe is considered a leader in renewable energy, and funding safe energy in developing countries. Now that all seems in doubt. We discuss the impact of the economic crash on climate negotiations.

Bond considers the $100 billion offered by Hilary Clinton at Copenhagen for a climate fund - is likely dead.

Yet he notes there was plenty of money to bribe and blackmail country delegations in the Denmark talks, as revealed by the Wikileaks U.S. State Department cables. The cables say $50 million was paid to the Maldives to get their support, while millions were yanked from Ecuador and Bolivia when they refused to sign the weak "voluntary" Copenhagen Accord.

Speaking at a climate justice seminar in Johannesburg South Africa last week, Bernarditas Muller, the chief negotiator for the G77 developing countries said, quote "Durban will not be the burial ground of the Kyoto Protocol".

Professor Bond says Kyoto will likely pass away in 2012, except for the emissions trading schemes which capitalists can use for profit.


Despite doubts about any worthwhile agreement at COP-17, and I agree a real solution looks hopeless at this time, I still see two positive reasons to give a damn about the Durban climate conference.

The first goes back to those NGO's and youth organizations who will attend. I think a lot of networking and drive will come out of the Durban meet-up, even as the politicians dodge their responsibilities. The real show is the side show.

My second reason for refusing to let hope die, is this: we have no other choice. Eventually, driven by horrible climate events, humans will have to meet, agree, and act - or go extinct.

Remember the decades required by many movements. The fight against slavery and apartheid took generations. Nobody had the luxury of giving up.


During the interview, Patrick talks about a new book from the ETC Group on Geoengineering. He calls it "Land Grab" but the actual title is "Earth Grab - Geopiracy, the New Biomassters and Capturing Climate Genes"

Listen to this wide-ranging 23 minute interview with Professor Patrick Bond.