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Economic gaps generate humiliation in have-not nations and alienation in have-not individuals. Together, these extreme features demean people to the point where terrorism becomes their only possible response. See Terror in the Name of God and Jessica Stern for why this is so.

From: The Nation Online, 10 Feb 2009

Tin-eared Titans BY TOM ENGELHARDT

Sometimes it's the small gesture that defines the end of an age. Richard Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers, the single financial firm the Bush administration allowed to collapse into bankruptcy in what may someday be thought of as the slow-motion Crash of '09, made one of those gestures recently. Just to be clear, we're talking about a man who, between 1993 and 2007, took home a tidy $466 million in pay. (That's no misprint, though it's a pay level that it would take factories of workers cumulative lifetimes to reach.) Then, in 2008, the year his firm would collapse, Fuld was awarded another $22 million in what was called "retirement pay."

But that's the big picture. Here's the small one that catches our shape-shifting moment perfectly. Fuld was recently outed for "selling" his wife their jointly held $14 million, 3.3 acre Florida beach-front mansion -- one of five houses the two of them owned, including their 8-bedroom main domicile in Greenwich, Connecticut -- and the lovely touch is the selling price: $100. That's right, one hundred bucks "in a possible attempt," writes the British Times, "to move assets beyond the reach of infuriated investors of the collapsed bank." Smooth move, Dick! Just petty and sleazy enough for a $488 million man. [Essentially a half billion dollars!!!! And for what? Driving a Wall Street Company into bankruptcy. And he is not alone in this scam, or it is treason?]

Fuld and the other CEOs, who lived fabulous lives in their many mansions and passed out money as if it were sand, have been slow to grasp changing times. After all, as late as last December, according to the Wall Street Journal, John Thain, CEO of Merrill Lynch, "let it be known" that he expected a $10 million bonus in a year in which the company he oversaw had a nifty $28 billion in losses. Like Fuld, these men have proven remarkably tin-eared as well as lead-fingered and, in a season of catastrophe for their firms and for so many Americans, they still managed to pass out a staggering $18.4 billion in bonuses.

From Canada Tibet Committee

Thursday, July 17, 2003 SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters)
U.N.: World can't afford rich China.

Demand for goods from 1.3 billion people could soon deplete resources, a U.N. official says.

SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) -- China's ambitious economic growth plans are environmentally unachievable because the world does not have enough resources to allow its 1.3 billion people to become Western-style consumers, a U.N. official has said.

This will soon be a crunch of the first order. China is not a sleeping giant; it is a giant wide awake and coming on strong as is their right under present international law.

Klaus Toepfer, head of the U.N. Environment Program, said China's aim of quadrupling its economy by 2020 can only occur if developed nations radically change their consumption habits to free up scarce resources for the world's poor.

China is not imperialistic, nor is their population growth out of control. They have pragmatic leadership. At the rate their economy is growing, China could well match the economy of the US by 2020. Now that Mr. Bush has won another term, what do you suppose the national debt will be in the US in 2008? The crash was due to unsustainable debt burdens caused by inept managers looking out only for themselves. The US as a whole could become a similar model on the national scale. The Neocon position is that the debt will be of no consequence given the historic growth rate of the US. There is an added reminder here--Europe is also growing faster than is the US. We think times have changed, but Mr. Bush seems to be looking back, not ahead.

"Quadrupling the GDP of a country of 1.3 billion, can you imagine what are the consequences if you go in the same structure as was done in the so-called developed countries?" Toepfer told reporters during a visit to Sydney, Wednesday.

He said that if China had the same density of private cars as, for example Germany, it would have to produce 650 million vehicles -- a target that environmentalists say the world's supply of metal and oil would be unable to sustain.

"It's not a question whether you are devoted to nature or whether this is an emotional topic. This is the rationality of economics." Toepfer said.

You do the math. The US standard of living if made available to everyone on earth is some four times what the earth can sustain. Maybe this is why Mr. Bush is choosing war instead of diplomacy as a grand solution. That strategy can only fail as it is now pursued.

China's gross domestic product, or GDP, grew eight percent last year and the government expects it to expand another seven percent in 2003.

A rate of 7.5% quadruples an investment in 20 years!

Toepfer was in Australia to attend a conference of young environmentalists from Asia, discussing ways of changing consumer habits so that precious resources such as water are conserved.

He said the world's approach to resource use was going through a significant phase with slow economic growth persuading governments in Europe and North America to aggressively try to stimulate consumption.

While senior Chinese officials appeared to be fully aware of the constraints the environment placed on their economic plans, Toepfer said more work needed to be done in developed nations to make environmentally friendly products "trendy" and mainstream.

Is this a problem for China, or the rest of the world? The Neocons, in particular seem to have no clue.

Published on Thursday, May 23, 2002; Toronto Star

Planet's Future At Stake,

U.N. Report Says
"It would be a disaster to sit back and ignore the picture that is painted." Klaus Toepfer U.N. Environment Program

by Olivia Ward

LONDON In 30 years, the Earth could look like a desert-strewn wasteland of urban slums, lose almost a quarter of its mammal species and leave people inhabiting large regions perishing from thirst and water-borne disease.

Or, it could be stabilizing global warming, repairing damage to water resources and mitigating the worst effects of environmentally induced poverty.

According to a massive United Nations environmental study released yesterday, the planet is poised on a precipice, and time is running out for making tough political and economic choices that can pull it back from disaster.

"The choices made today are critical for the forests, oceans, rivers, mountains, and other life-support systems upon which current and future generations depend," said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), based in Nairobi, Kenya.

"Fundamental changes are possible and required," he added. "It would be a disaster to sit back and ignore the picture that is painted."

Released in advance of the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held Aug. 26-Sept. 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa the 450-page report is based on contributions from more than 1,000 scientists collaborating with UNEP.

But rather than publishing a laundry list of dire predictions it follows logical sequences of events, showing the environmental consequence of decisions that focus on unchecked economic growth, national security or sustainable development.

Most damning is the "market first" scenario one that strongly resembles the philosophy of the current administration in Washington.

With emphasis on untrammeled economic growth, the report said, 3 per cent of the Earth's surface will have been absorbed into cities within 30 years, with a disastrous effect on wildlife and biodiversity.

At the same time, 55 percent of the global population will face moderate to severe water shortages, with 95 percent of those in West Asia in crisis.

More than 11,000 plant and animal species will be dead or dying, including 1,000 mammal species that make up nearly a quarter of the world's total mammal species. Among the most threatened are the black rhinoceros of Africa, the Siberian tiger and the Amur leopard of Asia, according to the U.N.'s World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Most coastal regions will be clogged with pollution through urban growth, intensive farming and tourism overload. In addition, almost one-third of the world's fish stocks are depleted, overexploited or recovering as a result of overfishing.

Michael Novacek, provost of science at the American Museum of Natural History, said the U.N. figures are in line with projections based on land loss and degradation of oceans "that as much as 30 per cent of species diversity will be erased by the middle of this century."

"We have a taste of this in marine ecosystems," he said, citing devastated coral reefs in the Caribbean, loss of fisheries in the Mediterranean and the "hugely threatened" South China Sea, which feeds so many people.

Emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas held responsible for global warming, will rise to 16 billion tonnes a year, doubling air pollution worldwide from levels before the industrial age of the 19th century, and accelerating global warming.

"This is an eye-opener," said Toepfer, a former environment minister in the German government. "The figures are not a nightmare prognosis for the future ... decisive action can achieve positive results."

At Johannesburg, he added, "we need a concrete action plan ... concrete projects ... and above all a clear declaration."

Some environmental progress has been made since the landmark 1972 Stockholm environmental conference when UNEP was established, the report said. The quality of air and river waters has improved in Europe and North America, and checks on chemical emissions have made it possible for recovery of ozone layer damage, which has been growing to alarming proportions. Forest management schemes, such as those of Canada, Finland, Norway and the United States, are ensuring that the impact of over-harvesting of timber will be reduced in those countries.

The number of hungry people in the world is also predicted to fall, in spite of the disappearance of farmland and pollution from agricultural chemicals.

But much of the progress is in wealthy industrialized countries, and the report found evidence of a widening gap between rich and poor.

"The poor, the sick and the disadvantaged, both within societies and in different countries and regions, are particularly vulnerable," it said. "Everyone is vulnerable to some extent to environmental threat, but there is evidence that the gap between those able and unable to cope with rising levels of environmental change is widening."

In some of its more dramatic findings, the report revealed that the number of people affected by disasters has climbed from an average of 147 million a year in the 1980s, to more than 211 million a year in the 1990s. At the turn of the century, financial losses from natural disasters were estimated at more than $100 billion (U.S.)

Environmentally based health disasters are also startling, including those from contaminated water supplies, the report said. "There are about 4 billion cases of diarrhea and 2.2 million deaths a year, equivalent to 20 jumbo jets crashing every day."

At Johannesburg, the U.N. will make a last-ditch attempt to change course from disaster, by persuading often resistant leaders to act in the best interest of the planet. So far, much smaller changes have met strong opposition.

Copyright 1996-2002. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. [Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine and our own policy.]


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