The Green Blues Show – Edition 30

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In today’s edition of the Green Blues Show: Who’s to blame for climate change – ‘Us’? The Royal ‘We’? Or global capital and neoliberalism? Automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace – a revolution against labour? And, one prominent Israeli is worried about where Israel is heading.

 

The summer of 2018, here in Canada, is shaping up to be a scorcher. Maybe the hottest on record.

This past Sunday in Winnipeg, smack dab in the center of North America, a public alert went out, with a forecasted high of 38 degrees Celsius. The humidex value, combining heat and humidity (a Canadian invention), rose to forty. Hot and sticky. In early July, the humidex reached an astonishing 47 in Toronto. In Quebec, eighteen heat-related deaths were reported.

Across the pond, soaring mercury in Scotland at the end of June melted the weatherproof lining on the roof of a Glasgow science centre. Further east, in the Omani town of Quriyat, on the Persian Gulf, temperatures exceeded 42.6 degrees for 51 hours – the highest nightly low ever recorded on the surface of planet Earth.

Sunrise in Nunavut (David Kattenburg)

The worst may be in store in northern China. There, American climate modellers predict ‘wet bulb’ temperatures of 35 Celsius by the end of the century. Above 31, the human body can no longer thermoregulate. People die. Food crops wither. Under conditions like this, life as we know it will be sketchy at best.

As if this weren’t worrisome enough, consider this: Earth is now one degree warmer, on average, than it was at the start of the industrial revolution, 200 years ago. What’s one degree? The Paris Protocol (which Donald Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from), would limit the rise to two degrees.

In an early July report in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers warn that Earth may suddenly reach a tipping point, or a sequence of tipping points, and switch to “hothouse mode,” where runaway positive feedbacks kick in. The threshold for this is unknown. It could be two degrees. At that point, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be for nought. Earth’s average surface temperature could rise by up to five degrees — warmer than at any point since the mid-Miocene epoch, 15 million years ago. Regional temperature rises, especially in the northern hemisphere, could be much higher. Millions would perish. Heat expanded oceans, engorged by melting polar ice sheets, would flood coastal cities. Plant and animal species would vanish in droves.

So, not a pretty picture for today’s toddlers and soon-to-be born. Speak to your elected official.

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Who’s to blame for climate change? This question is being hotly debated in the wake of a cover-to-cover essay in the New York Times Magazine by Nathaniel Rich entitled “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.” In a nutshell, Rich argues that “We” could have turned the climate change crisis around in the 1980s, when scientists like Jim Hansen first rang alarm bells, and the US Congress held hearings. Even the oil and gas industry was on side, before everyone collapsed in indecision.

Rich’s analysis has been rebutted by critics – among them, Alyssa Battistoni, a doctoral student in political science at Yale University and an editor of the online journal Jacobin. Listen to our conversation in today’s edition.

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Automation and artificial intelligence are among global capitalism’s great gifts to humanity. And it’s all been bequeathed to us in a blink of an eye – nowhere more obviously than in the retail sector.

Cash registers with keys seem dinosaurian by comparison. Human operated optical scanners have now given way to self-service kiosks. With the advent of online ordering and drone delivery, these will all be things of the past.

To get some sense of the impact of technology on the retail sector, I spoke with Scott Price, a Winnipeg-based labour historian currently engaged in researching the history of Manitoba food and commercial workers. Scott also hosts a radio show and podcast at 95.9 CKUW-FM, University of Winnipeg Radio – together with Greg Gallinger – called Radio Free Winnipeg. Give it a listen.

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Israel has just passed a new Nation-State Law, formally establishing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Under the new legislation — incorporated into its Basic Law (Israel has no constitution) — Israel’s Jewish citizens have exclusive right to national self-determination. Israel’s non-Jewish, Palestinian citizens have no such claim. Their language, and claim to land, are demoted to secondary status.

There’s a word for this sort of political system, and it’s coming to be commonly accepted – including among very prominent Israeli Jews. David Harel is one of these.

David Harel

Harel is a computer scientist at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, where he holds the William Sussman Professorial Chair. He is also the current vice-president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. An op-ed piece by David Harel and Israeli writer/translator Ilana Hammerman appeared in the June 29th online edition of the Guardian, calling on the international community to hold Israel accountable for its actions.

I reached David Harel at his home in Israel. Listen to the complete version of our conversation here.

In today’s edition of the Green Blues Show, songs by Little Walter Jacobs, Bukka White and Drifting Slim.

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