Across the world’s great deserts, a mysterious sheen has been found on boulders and rock faces. These layers of manganese, arsenic and silica are known as desert varnish and they are found in the Atacama desert in Chile, the Mojave desert in California, and in many other arid places. They can make the desert glitter with surprising colour and, by scraping off pieces of varnish, native people have created intriguing symbols and images on rock walls and surfaces.
How desert varnish forms has yet to be resolved, despite intense research by geologists. Most theories suggest it is produced by chemical reactions that act over thousands of years or by ecological processes yet to be determined.
Professor Carol Cleland, of Colorado University, has a very different suggestion. She believes desert varnish could be the manifestation of an alternative, invisible biological world. Cleland, a philosopher based at the university’s astrobiology centre, calls this ethereal dimension the shadow biosphere. “The idea is straightforward,” she says. “On Earth we may be co-inhabiting with microbial lifeforms that have a completely different biochemistry from the one shared by life as we currently know it.”
It is a striking idea: We share our planet with another domain of life that exists “like the realm of fairies and elves just beyond the hedgerow”, as David Toomey puts it in his newly published Weird Life: The Search for Life that is Very, Very Different from Our Own. But an alternative biosphere to our own would be more than a mere scientific curiosity: it is of crucial importance, for its existence would greatly boost expectations of finding life elsewhere in the cosmos. As Paul Davies, of Arizona State University, has put it: “If life started more than once on Earth, we could be virtually certain that the universe is teeming with it.”
However, by the same token, if it turns out we have failed to realise that we have been sharing a planet with these shadowy lifeforms for eons, despite all the scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, then we may need to think again about the way we hunt for life on other worlds. Robot spacecraft – such as the Mars rover Curiosity – are certainly sophisticated. But what chance do they have of detecting alien entities if the massed laboratories of modern science have not yet spotted them on our own planet? This point is stressed by the US biologist Craig Venter. As he has remarked: “We’re looking for life on Mars and we don’t even know what’s on Earth!”
The concept of a shadow biosphere was first outlined by Cleland and her Colorado colleague Shelley Copley in a paper in 2006 in the International Journal of Astrobiology, and is now supported by many other scientists, including astrobiologists Chris McKay, who is based at Nasa’s Ames Research Centre, California, and Paul Davies.
These researchers believe life may exist in more than one form on Earth: standard life – like ours – and “weird life”, as they term the conjectured inhabitants of the shadow biosphere. “All the micro-organisms we have detected on Earth to date have had a biology like our own: proteins made up of a maximum of 20 amino acids and a DNA genetic code made out of only four chemical bases: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine,” says Cleland. “Yet there are up to 100 amino acids in nature and at least a dozen bases. These could easily have combined in the remote past to create lifeforms with a very different biochemistry to our own. More to the point, some may still exist in corners of the planet.”
Science’s failure to date to spot this weird life may seem puzzling. The natural history of our planet has been scrupulously studied and analysed by scientists, so how could a whole new type of life, albeit a microbial one, have been missed? Cleland has an answer. The methods we use to detect micro-organisms today are based entirely on our own biochemistry and are therefore incapable of spotting shadow microbes, she argues. A sample of weird microbial life would simply not trigger responses to biochemists’ probes and would end up being thrown out with the rubbish.
That is why unexplained phenomena like desert varnish are important, she says, because they might provide us with clues about the shadow biosphere. We may have failed to detect the source of desert varnish for the simple reason that it is the handiwork of weird microbes which generate energy by oxidising minerals, leaving deposits behind them.
The idea of the shadow biosphere is also controversial and is challenged by several other scientists. “I think it is very unlikely that after 300 years of microbiology we would not have detected such organisms despite the fact that they are supposed to have a different biochemistry from the kind we know about today,” says Professor Charles Cockell, of the UK Centre for Astrobiology at Edinburgh University. “It is really quite unlikely,” adds Cockell, whose centre will be officially opened this week at a ceremony in Edinburgh.
Ways need to be found to determine whether or not the shadow biosphere exists, says Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. “If you want a clue you can count up the amount of carbon that is emitted by living things – cows, sheep, grass, plants, forests and all the planet’s bacteria. When you do, you find there is a discrepancy of around 5% when you compare the amount given off from Earth’s standard biosphere and the amount you find in the atmosphere.”
In other words, there is slightly too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than can be explained by the emissions of standard lifeforms on Earth. There could be an error in these calculations, of course. Alternatively, the shadow biosphere could be responsible for this excess, says Sasselov. “There is plenty of room for a shadow biosphere. That is clear. Certainly, it is not true, as some allege, that we have strong evidence to show that it does not exist. In fact, the opposite is true: we do not have good enough evidence to dismiss it.”
A key point to note is that scientists – although describing the inhabitants of the shadow biosphere as weird – still assume they will be carbon-based entities. Complex chemistry based on other elements, such as silicon, is possible, they acknowledge but these alternatives cannot create the vast range of organic materials that carbon can generate. In other words, the shadow biosphere, if it exists, will almost certainly be inhabited by carbon life, albeit of an alien variety.
“Billions of years ago, life based on different types of carbon biochemistry could have arisen in several places on Earth,” says Cleland. “These varieties would have been based on different combinations of bases and amino acids. Eventually, one – based on DNA and on proteins made from 20 amino acids – formed multicellular entities and became the dominant form of life on Earth. That is why we find that life as we know it, from insects to humans and from plants to birds, has DNA as its genetic code. However, other lifeforms based on different bases and proteins could still have survived – in the shadow biosphere.”
A different prospect is highlighted by Sasselov, who points out that a complex organic chemical can come in two different shapes even though they have the same chemical formula. Each is a mirror-image of the other and are said to have a different chirality. “Amino acids are an example,” says Sasselov. “Each comes in a right-handed version and a left-handed version. Our bodies – in common with all other lifeforms – only use left-handed versions to create proteins. Right-handed amino acids are simply ignored by our bodies. However, there may be some organisms, somewhere on the planet, that use only right-handed amino acids. They could make up the weird life of the shadow biosphere.”
But how can scientists pinpoint this weird life? Microbes are usually detected in laboratories by feeding nutrients to suspected samples so they grow and expend. Then the resulting cultures can be analysed. A weird lifeform – such as one made only of proteins formed out of right-handed amino acids – will not respond to left-handed nutrients, however. It will fail to form cultures and register its existence.
One solution to this problem is being pursued by Sasselov and colleagues’ Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. They are building an artificial cell – or bionic system – made only of right-handed components including right-handed DNA and right-handed ribosomes. “If there are right-handed lifeforms out there, many of them will be viruses – which will attempt to hijack the DNA of our bionic cells,” adds Sasselov. “When they do that they will leave evidence of their existence. Essentially we are building honey traps to catch any right-handed viruses that might live in the shadow biosphere and so reveal their existence.”
Other scientists suggest a different approach – by looking at Earth’s most inhospitable ecological niches: hot vents on the seafloor, mountaintops, highly saline lakes, Antarctic ice sheets and deserts. Standard lifeforms, mainly bacteria, have been found in these places but only a few. Some niches, researchers speculate, may prove to be just too inhospitable for standard life but may just be tolerable enough to support weird life. Microscopic studies would reveal their existence while standard culture tests would show they had a different biochemistry from standard lifeforms.
Stripes of desert varnish line the canyon walls of Capitol Gorge in Utah. No laboratory has been able to re-create the phenomenon. Photograph: Larry Geddis/Alamy
And a promising example is provided by the desert varnish proposed as a target by Cleland and backed by David Toomey in Weird Life. “No laboratory microbiologist has been able to coax bacteria or algae to make desert varnish,” he states. “It is also possible that the stuff is the end result of some very weird chemistry but no one has been able to reproduce that either.” So yes, these sites could provide proof of the shadow biosphere’s existence, he argues.
Not surprisingly, Cleland agrees. “The only trouble is that no one has yet got round to investigating desert varnish for weird life,” adds Cleland. “I confess I find that disappointing.”
Fascinating. I have come across different versions of Earth “shadow” life over the years; Mac Tonnies’ “cryptoterrestrials“, ancient creatures older than mankind whom remain hidden and undetectable from us. And Peter Watts’ “Behemoth” right-handed amino acid life forms taking over the Earth during the 21st Century.
And I’m not even counting legends of elves, Bigfoot, dwarves, demons and angels from past decades and centuries.
So the idea of Earthly “alien” life isn’t new.
But maybe, just maybe with advanced biotechnology techniques, we’ll be able to detect this shadow life.
Perhaps a whole hidden world!
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.
On April 28th last Wednesday, The Sun of the UK, published an article about a NASA source claiming there was evidence for life on Mars (they have since taken it out). However, it didn’t take NASA long to print a disclaimer:
A Wednesday article in the U.K.’s “The Sun” newspaper entitled, “NASA: Evidence of Life on Mars,” reported that they agency had unveiled “compelling evidence” for Martian organisms. But NASA officials and veteran Mars mission scientists say “no.”
“This headline is extremely misleading,” said Dwayne Brown, a spokesman for NASA based at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. “This makes it sound like we announced that we found life on Mars, and that is absolutely, positively false.”
The piece claimed that the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which have been wheeling around the surface of the red planet since January 2004, found pond scum, which the paper calls “the building blocks of life as we know it.”
“I think they have taken this stuff out of context,” Brown said.
Such a discovery would truly have been groundbreaking, since pond scum, scientifically known as cyanobacteria, are actually a form of life themselves, not just building blocks for it.
“I can only assume that the Sun reporter misunderstood,” said Cornell University planetary scientist Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover project, who was quoted in the story. “What Spirit and Opportunity have found is sulfate minerals… not organic materials, not pond scum, and not the building blocks of life as we know it.
Hmm..did Dr. Squyres get carried away in the interview, or did the tabloid ‘Sun’ do what all tabloids do, stretch a “might be” into a “fer sure?”
Now here’s something NASA can handle; finding life on Earth:
If alien life is ever discovered, scientists expect it will most likely be of the simple, microbial variety. And now they’ve found some serious signs of such life, right here on Earth. And the clues and the methodology could help researchers find life on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
In a pair of images released today — one from NASA’s EO-1 satellite and a closer one taken from a helicopter — NASA researchers explained their examination of a glacier-carved valley that is like none other on Earth. The spot, high in the Canadian Arctic on Ellesmere Island, is called Borup Fiord Pass. It is the only known place on our planet where sulfur from a natural spring is deposited over ice.
The sulfur leaves a pale yellow stain on the ice, and scientists say it’s a clear sign of biological activity.
The sulfur stain, clearly visible in the helicopter image, is not visible by regular satellite photography. But another sensor on the satellite, called Hyperion, makes measurements in wavelengths of light we can’t see. Using this hyperspectral data from Hyperion scientists were able to map the location of sulfur deposits. In effect, they’ve seen clear signs of life from space.
What they learn from all this may help us find life elsewhere in the solar system, according to a statement from NASA.
All kidding aside, the last statement is true in that these techniques would be useful for finding primitive life on Europa, Titan and Enceladus.
Nice, safe, microbial life. No large invading fleets there.
Physicist Wal Thornhill of Electric Universe fame laments on the terrible condition science is in now-a-days as it takes on the mantle of religion, mainly when it comes to Anthropogenic Climate Change:
The Global Warming circus in Copenhagen was politics driven by a consensus that, by definition, has nothing to do with science. The apocalyptic nonsense that opened the meeting highlighted that fact. How many who attended or demonstrated at the meeting actually understand the (disputed) scientific grounds for the hysteria? Meanwhile, leading science journals allow skeptics of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) to be labelled “deniers” and refuse them the right of reply. It is doctrinaire denouncement, not science. It is the journal editors who are denying the scientific method by censoring debate. It is they who are peddling ideology.
Despite the glossy media image, modern science is a mess. When the fundamental concepts are false, technological progress merely provides science with a more efficient means for going backwards. At the same time, government and corporate funding promotes the rampant disease of specialism and fosters politicization of science with the inevitable warring factions and religious fervor.
“Science has become religion! ..although religion may have borrowed some of the jargon of science, science, more importantly, has adopted the methods of religion. This is the worst of both worlds.” —Halton Arp
There have been several warm climatic periods documented in history that had nothing to do with human activity. There seems to be evidence that the Earth has actually been cooling since 2001, in line with reduced solar activity. So it would be more realistic to consider climate change as a normal phenomenon and to plan accordingly because despite all of the hoopla in the media, modern science is founded on surprising ignorance. An iconoclastic view suggests the following:
— cosmologists have been misled by theoretical physicists who don’t understand gravity, which forms the basis of the big bang theory. Imaginary ‘dark matter,’ ‘dark energy,’ and black holes have been added to make models of galaxies and star birth appear to work. When all else fails, mysterious magnetic fields are invoked. The bottom line is that cosmologists presently have no real understanding of the universe;
— astrophysicists don’t understand stars because they steadfastly ignore plasma discharge phenomena;
— particle physicists don’t understand matter or its resonant electrical interactions. They prefer to invent imaginary particles;
— geologists have been misled by astronomers about Earth’s history;
— biologists have had no practical help from theoretical physicists so they don’t understand what might constitute the ‘mind-body connection’ or ‘the spark of life;’
— and climate scientists have been misled by astronomers and astrophysicists so they have no real concept of recent Earth history in the solar system and they don’t understand the real source of lightning and the electrical input to weather systems. For example, the major city in northern Australia, Darwin, was utterly destroyed in tropical cyclone ‘Tracy’ in 1974. The catastrophe was described in part, “At 3am, the eye of the cyclone passed over Darwin, bringing an eerie stillness. There was a strange light, a diffuse lightning, like St. Elmo’s fire.” There was no solar energy being supplied to the 150km per hour winds at 3 in the morning. “A diffuse lightning” is an apt description of the slow electrical discharge (distinct from impulsive lightning) that drives all rotary storms and influences weather patterns. That is why the electrically hyperactive gas giant planets have overwhelmingly violent storms while receiving very little solar energy.
Yet with these unacknowledged shortcomings we have bookshelves filled with textbooks, science journals and PhD theses, mostly unread, that would stretch to the Moon, fostering the impression that we understand most things. And the public is assailed with documentaries that breathlessly deliver and repeat fashionable science fiction as fact. How can this be?
Science has left its classical and philosophical roots, rather like surrealist art departed from realism. The analogy is fitting. It is demonstrated by the fondness for expressing theoretical models in artists impressions, computer animations and aesthetic terms. The artist/philosopher Miles Mathis is of the opinion that “ Science has become just like Modern Art. The contemporary artist and the contemporary physicist look at the world in much the same way. The past means nothing. They gravitate to novelty as the ultimate distinction, in and of itself. They do this because novelty is the surest guarantee of recognition.” So why does the media not have science critics alongside art critics? Has science become sacrosanct? Bluntly, the answer is yes. No science reporter wants to have the portcullises lowered at the academic bastions. Happily, the Internet allows the curious to circumvent such censorship.
So far, the Internet is mostly censorless, except for certain nations where Google has helped their government authorities censor content. Plus you can only believe about 50% what you read. It takes effort to winnow wheat from the chaff at times.
But Thornhill makes valid points in that science has become dogmatic to the point of being a religion that nobody dares question, especially when it comes to anthropogenic climate change.
When people talk about ‘climate change’ now-a-days, they usually mean ‘anthropocentric’ climate change, which means climate change influenced by human activity.
I used to be in the above crowd. Why not? 250 years of Industrial Revolution actions that dumped millions of tons of hydrocarbon waste into the atmosphere surely must have an effect? And to note, ‘acid rain’, ie rain that is essentially sulfuric acid has fallen on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains here in Upstate New York during the 1970s through the early 1990s, the result of which from the smoke-stacks of coal-fired power plants in the Mid-West.
What has changed my mind?
Let me first say this disclaimer; I am not an atmospheric scientist, just a half-assed informed layman.
In that capacity, after 2 1/2 years of research I have IMHO discovered that there is a global elite who stand to gain significantly (economically) from centralized global control of ‘climate change’ policy.
Now do I think that we, as a global society, should get away from using fossil fuels to power our economies and societies?
Sure. But there are too many reasons to list here.
And the poor nations of the Earth, who get short shrift from the First World Nations anyway, know that their economies still need fossil fuel technology, just to break even and make their loan payments to the IMF.
But the recent climate conferences in the Netherlands in the EU (CO15) were not derailed by poor nations (they did walk out at one point anyway), but was jinked by the US and China (is China Third World or First World now?):
Following a meeting in Brussels to discuss how to rescue the Copenhagen climate process, EU environment ministers emphasized the need for concrete, legally binding measures to combat global warming.
The European Union went to Copenhagen with the hope of achieving a broad commitment to at least a 20-percent cut in carbon emissions below 1990 levels within 10 years, but that and other firm goals failed to emerge in the final accord.
The two-week, United Nations-led conference ended on Saturday with a non-legally binding agreement to limit global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times, but did not lay out how to achieve that.
Despite months of preparation and strenuous diplomacy, the talks boiled down to an inability of the world’s two largest emitters, the United States and China, to agree fixed targets.
“Expectations and pressure on the United States have risen after Copenhagen … to really deliver,” Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren told a news briefing on Tuesday after Sweden, as EU president until December 31, chaired pan-EU talks.
Ministers from the EU’s 27 member states will meet again in January to discuss what role the EU can play in cobbling together a stronger agreement.
The bloc went to Copenhagen with a unified position and a plan for financing emissions cuts in the developing world, with a commitment to spend around 7 billion euros ($10 billion) over the next three years to aid poorer countries.
But those aims were largely sidelined as the talks failed to produce a breakthrough. Carlgren described the summit as a “disaster” and a “great failure,” despite what he called Europe’s united efforts.
“Europe never lost its aim, never, never came to splits or different positions, but of course this was mainly about other countries really (being) unwilling, and especially the United States and China,” Carlgren said.
Britain on Monday blamed China and a handful of other countries of holding the world to ransom by blocking a legally binding treaty at Copenhagen, stepping up a blame game that has gathered momentum since the talks ended.
In a sharply worded response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu rejected accusations that China had “hijacked” the climate talks and added: “The statements from certain British politicians are plainly a political scheme.”
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown described the summit as “at best flawed and at worst chaotic” and demanded an urgent reform of the process to try to reach a legal treaty when talks are expected to resume in Germany next June.
But Danish Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard, who quit as president of the talks midway through after being criticized by African countries for favoring wealthier nations in negotiations, said there was no point in getting depressed.
“What we need to do is to secure the step that we took and turn it into a result,” she told reporters as she arrived for the Brussels meeting on Tuesday. Asked whether Copenhagen had been a failure, she replied:
“It would have been a failure if we had achieved nothing. But we achieved something — a first step.
“It was the first time we held a process where all the countries were present, including the big emitters.”
In short, there must be a way to convert the worlds’ societies economies and technologies slowly and evenly with alternate tech over the next 50 years to shift away from fossil fuels. Is there sufficient wealth in the market to begin the change, or is technology being suppressed by the global financial/energy elites so only they have the power to begin the shift, if they feel like it?
If they see money in it, they will start the change.
And the elite aren’t as united as one would think.
ISS Expedition 22 crew launched yesterday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at around 5:15 p.m.:
The Soyuz TMA-17 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 20, 2009 carrying Expedition 22 crewmembers Timothy J. Creamer of NASA, Oleg Kotov of Russia and Soichi Noguchi of Japan to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Pretty soon (2010/2011), Soyuz will be the only transportation for US astronauts.
Some folks don’t care, others are up in arms.
When is an “apology” a “non-pology?”
When uber-skeptic James Randi does it:
Oh, it must be Christmas. As I mentioned in Wednesday’s news briefs, James Randi has come under fire from all quarters this week, after posting his thoughts about global warming to his blog:
An unfortunate fact is that scientists are just as human as the rest of us, in that they are strongly influenced by the need to be accepted, to kowtow to peer opinion, and to “belong” in the scientific community. Why do I find this “unfortunate”? Because the media and the hoi polloi increasingly depend upon and accept ideas or principles that are proclaimed loudly enough by academics who are often more driven by “politically correct” survival principles than by those given them by Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and Bohr. (Granted, it’s reassuring that they’re listening to academics at all — but how to tell the competent from the incompetent?) Religious and other emotional convictions drive scientists, despite what they may think their motivations are.
…It’s easy enough to believe that drought, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes are signs of a coming catastrophe from global warming, but these are normal variations of any climate that we — and other forms of life — have survived. Earth has undergone many serious changes in climate, from the Ice Ages to periods of heavily increased plant growth from their high levels of CO2, yet the biosphere has survived. We’re adaptable, stubborn, and persistent — and we have what other life forms don’t have: we can manipulate our environment. Show me an Inuit who can survive in his habitat without warm clothing… Humans will continue to infest Earth because we’re smart.
In my amateur opinion, more attention to disease control, better hygienic conditions for food production and clean water supplies, as well as controlling the filth that we breathe from fossil fuel use, are problems that should distract us from fretting about baking in Global Warming.
Given that Randi’s skeptical peers and scientific admirers have spent the last couple of months attacking ‘Global Warming Deniers’, Randi found himself in the unlikely spot of being attacked for his ‘pseudo-scientific’ opinion piece. Blog posts decrying Randi’s statement appeared quickly on Pharyngula, The Quackometer, Cosmic Variance, Greg Laden’s Blog and Respectful Insolence. Even more vicious were the comments threads (lead, as it would be expected, by more than 500 Pharyngula comments) in which it was suggested that Randi was suffering from dementia and so on (although you’d have to say there may have been some karmic retribution for Randi in the meanness of it all…with friends like those, who needs ‘woo-woo’ enemies!) And, in a wonderful bit of timing, Randi managed to post his piece on the same day that a fund-raising drive for the James Randi Educational Foundation kicked into gear. Oops.
The back-pedaling was swift – the next day, Randi posted a new statement, “I’m Not ‘Denying’ Anything” (which P.Z. Myers labeled a ‘not-pology‘, leading to some fun exchanges between Myers’ minions and Randi’s followers in comments threads.) And then the back-patting, with plenty of ‘skeptics’ saying that the criticism of Randi showed how healthy the modern skeptical movement is.
But this is nonsense. Randi took a position which was diametrically opposed to the current scientific consensus, and furthermore one that was absolutely contrary to the argument being put forth on a regular basis by other skeptics such as Phil Plait and P.Z. Myers. There was no other option for them but to criticise Randi – it was either that or be hypocrites. What would be a better test of the health of modern skepticism is if other skeptics pulled Randi up for speaking nonsense about more fringe topics. Which he does on a regular basis. And the silence is deafening. The real truth of modern skepticism as a dogmatic faith is revealed in those particular moments.
In the comments threads, many people seemed shocked that their great beacon of truth was spreading misinformation. But the only reason was because Randi took on a topic which didn’t allow his sheeple to nod their head in agreement. Randi often posts rubbish and misinformation on his blog – I’ve criticised him before in the comments section to his blog (asking for references for dubious claims etc) only to be attacked by other ‘skeptics’. For instance, as I mentioned recently, Randi once attacked parapsychologist Dr Dean Radin by saying that he had recently moved into researching presentiment after his other research had failed – in truth, Radin has been publishing successful results on presentiment for more than a decade, in addition to his other research. On another occasion with which I was personally involved, Randi deliberately misled his readers to suit his own personal ends. Randi also often states his dislike (or at least distrust) of the ‘ivory tower’ of academia, perhaps a result of his own lack of education.
What caught my attention in this post was the statement, “Religious and other emotional convictions drive scientists, despite what they may think their motivations are.”
Which brings to mind that paragon of hard scientific study, Isaac Newton.
The mainstream science community forget to mention that Newton was a hard-core Zionist Christian scholar and alchemist who believed he reconciled religion, science and prophecy.
Hmm..double standards run rampant in the science community at times.
After all, they’re human too.
With all the hub-bub about the Copenhagen Climate Conference going on, one thing has become crystal clear.
How come nobody has mentioned the military use of the climate as a weapon?
Hogwash you say?
Check this out:
The term “environmental modification techniques” refers to any technique for changing – through the deliberate manipulation of natural processes – the dynamics, composition or structure of the Earth, including its biota, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere, or of outer space. (Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, United Nations, Geneva: 18 May 1977)
“Environmental warfare is defined as the intentional modification or manipulation of the natural ecology, such as climate and weather, earth systems such as the ionosphere, magnetosphere, tectonic plate system, and/or the triggering of seismic events (earthquakes) to cause intentional physical, economic, and psycho-social, and physical destruction to an intended target geophysical or population location, as part of strategic or tactical war.” (Eco News)
“[Weather modification] offers the war fighter a wide range of possible options to defeat or coerce an adversary… Weather modification will become a part of domestic and international security and could be done unilaterally… It could have offensive and defensive applications and even be used for deterrence purposes. The ability to generate precipitation, fog and storms on earth or to modify space weather… and the production of artificial weather all are a part of an integrated set of [military] technologies.” (US Air Force document AF 2025 Final Report)
World leaders are meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009 with a view to reaching an agreement on Global Warming. The debate on Climate Change focuses on the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and measures to reduce manmade CO2 emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.
The underlying consensus is that greenhouse gas emissions constitute the sole cause of climate instability. Neither the governments nor the environmental action groups, have raised the issue of “weather warfare” or “environmental modification techniques (ENMOD).” for military use. Despite a vast body of scientific knowledge, the issue of climatic manipulations for military use has been excluded from the UN agenda on climate change.
John von Neumann noted at the height of the Cold War (1955), with tremendous foresight that:
“Intervention in atmospheric and climatic matters ….will unfold on a scale difficult to imagine at present… [T]his will merge each nation’s affairs with those of every other, more thoroughly than the threat of a nuclear or any other war would have done.” (Quoted in Spencer Weart, Environmental Warfare: Climate Modification Schemes, Global Research, December 5, 20090
In 1977, an international Convention was ratified by the UN General Assembly which banned “military or other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects.” (AP, 18 May 1977). Both the US and the Soviet Union were signatories to the Convention.
Guided by the interest of consolidating peace, … and of saving mankind from the danger of using new means of warfare, (…) Recognizing that military … use of such [environmental modification techniques] could have effects extremely harmful to human welfare, Desiring to prohibit effectively military … use of environmental modification techniques in order to eliminate the dangers to mankind. … and affirming their willingness to work towards the achievement of this objective, (…) Each State Party to this Convention undertakes not to engage in military … use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury to any other State Party. (Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, United Nations, Geneva, May 18, 1977. Entered into force: 5 October 1978, see full text of Convention in Annex)
The Convention defined “‘environmental modification techniques’ as referring to any technique for changing–through the deliberate manipulation of natural processes–the dynamics, composition or structure of the earth, including its biota, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere or of outer space.” (Environmental Modification Ban Faithfully Observed, States Parties Declare, UN Chronicle, July, 1984, Vol. 21, p. 27)
The substance of the 1977 Convention was reasserted in very general terms in the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro:
“States have… in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the (…) responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.” (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, New York, 1992)
Following the 1992 Earth Summit, the issue of Climate Change for military use was never raised in subsequent climate change summits and venues under the auspices of the UNFCCC. The issue was erased, forgotten. It is not part of the debate on climate change.
In February 1998, however, the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defense Policy held public hearings in Brussels on the U.S based weather warfare facility developed under the HAARP program.
The Committee’s “Motion for Resolution” submitted to the European Parliament:
“Considers HAARP.[The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program based in Alaska].. by virtue of its far-reaching impact on the environment to be a global concern and calls for its legal, ecological and ethical implications to be examined by an international independent body…; [the Committee] regrets the repeated refusal of the United States Administration… to give evidence to the public hearing …into the environmental and public risks [of] the HAARP program.” (European Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defense Policy, Brussels, doc. no. A4-0005/99, 14 January 1999).
The Committee’s request to draw up a “Green Paper” on “the environmental impacts of military activities”, however, was casually dismissed on the grounds that the European Commission lacked the required jurisdiction to delve into “the links between environment and defense”. Brussels was anxious to avoid a showdown with Washington. (see European Report, 3 February 1999).
In 2007, The Daily Express reported –following the release and declassification of British government papers from the National Archives– that:
“The [declassified] documents reveal that both the US, which led the field, and the Soviet Union had secret military programmes with the goal of controlling the world’s climate. “By the year 2025 the United States will own the weather, ” one scientist is said to have boasted.
These claims are dismissed by sceptics as wild conspiracy theories and the stuff of James Bond movies but there is growing evidence that the boundaries between science fiction and fact are becoming increasingly blurred. The Americans now admit that they invested L12million over five years during the Vietnam war on “cloud seeding” – deliberately creating heavy rainfall to wash away enemy crops and destroy supply routes on the Ho Chi Minh trail, in an operation codenamed Project Popeye.
It is claimed that rainfall was increased by a third in targeted areas, making the weather-manipulation weapon a success. At the time, government officials said the region was prone to heavy rain. (Weather War?, Daily Express, July 16, 2007)
The possibility of climatic or environmental manipulations as part of a military agenda, while formally acknowledged by official government documents and the US military, has never been considered relevant to the Climate debate. Military analysts are mute on the subject. Meteorologists are not investigating the matter, and environmentalists are strung on global warming and the Kyoto protocol.
The HAARP Program
The High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) based in Gokona, Alaska, has been in existence since 1992. It is part of a new generation of sophisticated weaponry under the US Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate, HAARP constitutes a system of powerful antennas capable of creating “controlled local modifications of the ionosphere” [upper layer of the atmosphere]:
HAARP has been presented to public opinion as a program of scientific and academic research. US military documents seem to suggest, however, that HAARP’s main objective is to “exploit the ionosphere for Department of Defense purposes.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, The Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction: “Owning the Weather” for Military Use, Global Research, September 27, 2004
Without explicitly referring to the HAARP program, a US Air Force study points to the use of “induced ionospheric modifications” as a means of altering weather patterns as well as disrupting enemy communications and radar. (Ibid)
HAARP also has the ability of triggering blackouts and disrupting the electricity power system of entire regions:
“Rosalie Bertell, president of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, says HAARP operates as ‘a gigantic heater that can cause major disruptions in the ionosphere, creating not just holes, but long incisions in the protective layer that keeps deadly radiation from bombarding the planet’.
Physicist Dr Bernard Eastlund called it ‘the largest ionospheric heater ever built’. HAARP is presented by the US Air Force as a research programme, but military documents confirm its main objective is to ‘induce ionospheric modifications’ with a view to altering weather patterns and disrupting communications and radar.
According to a report by the Russian State Duma: ‘The US plans to carry out large-scale experiments under the HAARP programme [and] create weapons capable of breaking radio communication lines and equipment installed on spaceships and rockets, provoke serious accidents in electricity networks and in oil and gas pipelines, and have a negative impact on the mental health of entire regions.’
Weather manipulation is the pre-emptive weapon par excellence. It can be directed against enemy countries or ‘friendly nations’ without their knowledge, used to destabilise economies, ecosystems and agriculture. It can also trigger havoc in financial and commodity markets. The disruption in agriculture creates a greater dependency on food aid and imported grain staples from the US and other Western countries.” (Michel Chossudovsky, Weather Warfare: Beware the US military’s experiments with climatic warfare, The Ecologist, December 2007)
An analysis of statements emanating from the US Air Force points to the unthinkable: the covert manipulation of weather patterns, communications systems and electric power as a weapon of global warfare, enabling the US to disrupt and dominate entire regions of the World. According to an official US Air force report
“Weather-modification offers the war fighter a wide-range of possible options to defeat or coerce an adversary… In the United States, weather-modification will likely become a part of national security policy with both domestic and international applications. Our government will pursue such a policy, depending on its interests, at various levels.” (US Air Force, emphasis added. Air University of the US Air Force, AF 2025 Final Report, http://www.au.af.mil/au/2025/ emphasis added)
The manipulation of climate for military use is potentially a greater threat to humanity than CO2 emissions.
Why has it been excluded from the debate under COP15, when the UN 1977 Convention states quite explicitly that “military or any other hostile use of such techniques could have effects extremely harmful to human welfare”? (Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques United Nations, Geneva, 1977)
Why the camouflage?
Why are environmental modification techniques (ENMOD) not being debated by the civil society and environmentalist organizations under the auspices of the Alternative Forum KlimaForum09?
Government denial about the military uses of HAARP have been ongoing for decades, although it has been admitted publically it was originally designed for submarine communications.
But in this era of advanced communication satellites, one wonders if this is a credible reason in this day and age.
There are a limited amount of people in the world who understand high altitude atmospheric studies enough to give any layman’s explanation of irradiating the ionosphere to the point where physical effects can be noted all over the world and claim them innocous.
And a lot of those folks are in the military, or contracted by them.
NWO Population Control Propaganda / Commercial Space Venture Uses Old Soviet Tech with Conflict of Interest?
The human-haters among us will surely rejoice in this article:
Leading figures from science and environmentalism have backed a call for population restraint policies to be adopted by every state worldwide as part of the battle against climate change.
The Optimum Population Trust says today (August 17, 2009) that the climate change talks which will culminate at Copenhagen in December must ensure that all countries adopt non-coercive policies to limit and stabilise population growth. Family planning programmes in poorer countries should be treated as “legitimate candidates for climate change funding”. Empowering women to control their own fertility would also have major humanitarian benefits for the poorest women and children in the world.
Successful population policies, which answered the unmet need for family planning, could mean nearly three billion fewer people in 2050, a difference equivalent to 44 per cent of current world population (6.8 billion), OPT says. “All environmental problems, and notably those arising from climate change, would be easier to solve with a smaller future population.”
Figures endorsing the statement include broadcaster and film-maker Sir David Attenborough; Professor Paul Ehrlich, author of the 1960s classic The Population Bomb; Gaia scientist James Lovelock; Jonathon Porritt, chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission until last month and a former director of Friends of the Earth; and Professor Chris Rapley, formerly head of the British Antarctic Survey.*
Roger Martin, chair of OPT, said: “The fact that such eminent individuals, several of them OPT patrons, have personally endorsed our statement should act as a wake-up call to those involved in the Copenhagen process. At the very least it should spur negotiators to start taking population growth seriously as a major driver of climate change. There’s not much point in labouring mightily to cut our carbon emissions if hard-won improvements are then routinely drowned out by rising numbers of people.”
The woman holding the placard stating “Kill Yourself” says it all, doesn’t it?
So far, people like her fit right in the elitists’ plans to spread this vile misinformation.
But there might come a day when they are considered ‘useless eaters’ by the same criminals they once embraced!
Feh! And it’s people like them who scoff at space programs!
Hmm, not only does Bigelow Aerospace figure on launching a stripped down version of NASA’s Orion capsule in 2013, a company named Excalibur Almaz Limited plans on updated old top-secret Soviet space technology to launch capsules and a small, manned space station in 2013:
An international company announced plans to launch a commercial space venture using spacecraft designed for a once classified Russian space program. Excalibur Almaz Limited plans to offer week-long orbital space flights beginning as early as 2013 with updated 1970’s era Reusable Return Vehicles, designed for flying to the USSR’s top-secret Almaz space station. Excalibur Alamaz’s press release said they would be “taking a big leap beyond the sub-orbital flight market targeted by most other private space companies.”
Excalibur Almaz (EA) is currently updating the spacecraft to conduct crew and cargo space missions for private individuals, corporations, academic institutions and national governments.JSC MIC NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) of Russia originally built the spacecraft and EA has purchased both the rockets and modules for the Almaz space station, which was never flown. The RRVs went through nine flight tests, with two RRVs flown to orbit several times.
EA Founder and CEO Art Dula said, “Through cooperation with NPOM and with the support of leading space contractors around the world and an exceptionally strong management and advisory team, EA is in a unique position to initiate a new era of private orbital space exploration.”
Cosmonaut Vladimir Titov, advisor to EA in Russia, said, “With this announcement, the dream of private orbital space exploration may become a reality in the very near future.”
Former NASA astronaut LeRoy Chiao, a current member of the Augustine Commission, is the Executive Vice President for EA. (emphasis mine)
EA is headquartered in Isle of Man, British Isles, and support contractors are located in Moscow, Tokyo, Houston and Los Angeles.
EA’s spacecraft will consist of two parts: an RRV and an expendable service module to provide crewmembers with room to comfortably operate during spaceflight. EA said they will “update the Almaz RRVs with flight-proven technologies where appropriate, while retaining tested legacy systems to ensure safety and economy of operation. A critical feature of the RRVs is their reusability, which will reduce logistical, overhead and program costs for commercial access to space.”
EA plans for its spacecraft to be compatible with a number of launch vehicles and capable of being launched from worldwide sites.
I find it interesting that a former astronaut, and current member of the Augustine Commission is Executive Vice President of this company.
Can anyone spell “c-o-n-f-l-i-c-t o-f i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t ?”
Reporting from Edwards Air Force Base — NASA rolled out its next-generation space capsule here Wednesday, revealing a bulbous module that is scheduled to carry humans back to the moon in 2020 and eventually onward to Mars.Unlike the space-plane shape of the shuttles, the new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle looks strikingly similar to the old Apollo space capsule that carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon and back in 1969, with Armstrong and Aldrin becoming the first humans to walk on the lunar surface.There is one key difference, however. The test module, unveiled at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, is substantially bigger — 16.5 feet in diameter compared with Apollo 11’s 12.8 feet.Still, cramming six astronauts inside will make it “pretty cozy,” he said.
The craft’s extra girth will allow it to carry six astronauts instead of Apollo’s three.
“This is the same shape as Apollo,” said Gary Martin, the project manager for the test program at Dryden. “But the extra space translates into twice as much volume as Apollo.”
Oooh, I’m impressed! /not!
How many times can the wheel be reinvented?
Quite a few apparently.
Finding ancient meteorites on the moon would be exciting enough, but what they may contain really interests Houtkooper.
Consider simple bacterial life on the early Earth, existing inside a rock which is then blasted off the surface of the planet by a large impact. In theory, some of these samples could have landed in lunar craters like Shackleton. Once there, they would be perfectly preserved in a deep freeze for billions of years. Life carried to the moon in this way would almost certainly be dead, although it is possible that some hardy creatures could survive the journey in a dormant state. As Houtkooper succinctly states, “there could be signs of life from early Earth on the moon.”
Things get particularly interesting when a large impact on the moon by an object around 10 km in diameter is considered. If that were to occur, enough material would be thrown up to create a very thin lunar atmosphere. This tenuous atmosphere could last a few hundred years, just enough time to spark into action any dormant life that had been carried to the moon from other worlds.
So it is possible that, dotted throughout the moon’s colorful history, it may have hosted simple but live alien organisms.
Panspermia has made a comeback in recent months, both as a means of transferring life throughout the Cosmos naturally and artificially.
Viability of the organisms being transported about is the issue.
How can living things withstand the rigors of freezing cold, solar and cosmic radiation?
Here are some articles that might answer some of these questions:
A ~ 10-metre object on a heliocentric orbit, now catalogued as 1991 VG, made a close approach to the Earth in 1991 December, and was discovered a month before perigee with the Spacewatch telescope at Kitt Peak. Its very Earth-like orbit and observations of rapid brightness fluctuations argue for it being an artificial body rather than an asteroid. None of the handful of man-made rocket bodies left in heliocentric orbits during the space age have purely gravitational orbits returning to the Earth at that time, and in an3′ case the a priori probability of discovery for 1991 VG was very small, of order one in 100,000 per anmun. In addition, the small perigee distance observed might be interpreted as an indicator of a controlled rather than a random encounter with the Earth, and thus it might be argued that 1991 VG is a candidate as an alien probe observed in the vicinity of our planet.
I think mainstream SETI is afraid of finding Bracewell Probes, because it shakes them from the comfortable notion that material interstellar travel is impossible and any civilization is a safe thousands of light-years away, accessible only by micro and radio waves.
Adam Crowl does ask an interesting question, “…if it is a probe, then why is it suddenly becoming visible? Based on our primitive attempts at invisibility cloaks using meta-materials I suspect any advanced technological species will be able to remain unseen by primitive eyes… yet here we have a probe making itself blatant. Hmmm…”
Hmmm indeed Adam.
If we, people living on Earth, are unlucky, then Apophis, a 390-meter asteroid flying toward the Earth, “will smack right into us in 2036,” according to Andrei Filkenshtein, a Russian astronomer from St Petersburg.But if we are lucky, the asteroid, already dubbed a space terrorist, will fly by at a distance of 40,000 km, the orbit of a communications satellite, in 2029.
Reading tealeaves and hoping for the best is not, of course, the ideal way of avoiding a disaster, which is certain to occur should such a large space body collide with the Earth. It would change the climate all over the globe. If it fell into the ocean, it would produce huge tsunamis and evaporate billions of tons of water vapor that would prevent sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface for a long time. In other words, it would be the end of the world.
When I first saw the words “asteroid terrorist”, I immediately thought the article was explaining how asteroids could be used to “terrorize” other nations and groups of people on this planet.
The idea isn’t new, especially in science-fiction. Sci-fi author Larry Niven used the idea a couple of times in his Known Space Series about a race of beings called Pak and once more with Jerry Pournelle in their ‘The Mote In God’s Eye’.
The method is simple really, just attach a reaction mass motor of any type to the asteroid and bring it into orbit around the Earth. If someone pisses you off, decelerate the thing and time it to come down on your target. Boom! No more enemy!
The trouble is, there’s too much collateral damage, you’re bound to make your habitat uninhabitable!
Fortunately, that’s not what the article is about!
Timothy Good is considered one of the world’s leading experts on the UFO phenomenon.
For more than 40 years he has studied the controversial subject, having interviewed thousands of witnesses worldwide, many from military, governmental and scientific backgrounds.
Timothy has written numerous best-selling books on UFO’s and aliens – which he calls ‘the most highly classified subject on earth’ – and has acted as a consultant to several US Congress investigations into the phenomenon.
An international lecturer, in January 1989 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Timothy became the first UFO researcher from the west to be interviewed on Russian television…
In highlights, Timothy discussed:
The explanations behind the current UFO craze sweeping Britain The declassification of thousands of government documents relating to UFO’s on May 2008 and what this means His belief that aliens are here on earth – in bases dotted around the planet – and how world governments have been – and may still be – in liason with them How aliens have influenced the genetic makeover of human beings How the west has secretly developed advanced weaponry to deal with a possible intergalactic threat Famous UFO cases – including Rendlesham Forest How the United States and British governments have secretly spent millions of pounds attempting to solve the UFO mystery and that it is ‘the most highly classified subject on earth’
Linda Moulton Howe gave a July 9th interview on Binnall Of America on these very subjects, including her 1979 ‘A Strange Harvest’ which is about animal mutilations and her first experience with the UFO phenomenon. I was greatly swayed by Tim Binnall’s interview of her and she never once strayed from her answers to the questions and no ‘hmmming’ and ‘hawing’ like people do when they are trying to BS someone.
As for this guy Tim Good in England, well, credibility is hard to come by when the discussion of UFOs, the world governments and alien bases are involved. Even if someone legitimate from high up just ‘happens’ to develop a conscience and spills the beans here, no one will believe them because the sheeples’ conditioning run too deep.
Lastly, my buddy Geezer Power has been interested in government ‘Star Wars’ tech and how it’s being applied against US citizens and other governments that don’t toe the corporate elite line:
Interview With Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Farda Correspondents Golnaz Esfandiari and Mosaddegh KatouzianSecretary Condoleezza Rice
Prague, Czech Republic ( July 8, 2008 )
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you so much for this interview with Radio Farda. Let me start with a question that’s on the mind of many Iranians these days. Will there be a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, we believe very strongly and President Bush has made very clear that this problem with Iran about its nuclear technology can be resolved diplomatically. That is what we’re working on. We want very much for the Iranian people to be able to have good relations with the United States. There’s no reason that this great civilization with a great history and a great culture should be isolated from international politics. And so there is a diplomatic way to do this, and that’s why the United States, as a part of the group that is Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, and China, has made a proposal to the Iranian Government that we hope they will accept.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful and, defying UN resolutions, continues with the enrichment of uranium. Is it a precondition for United States for bilateral talks and for lifting of the sanctions for Iran to end its enrichment program, and could you perhaps envision future talks without preconditions?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the reason that it’s important for Iran to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing, to come to the table once it has suspended, is that we shouldn’t be in a position of talking while Iran continues to improve the very technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon.
But if Iran wants a peaceful program, it can have a peaceful program. Russia has a reactor, the Bushehr reactor. The United States has been supportive of what Russia is doing there. We have offered, in the proposal that the P-5+1 have made, to help Iran with civil nuclear technology at the highest possible levels. It’s just that when you enrich and reprocess, you are perfecting the technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon; and because of the Iranian regime’s history of lying to the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, it can’t be trusted with enrichment and reprocessing. But it can have civil nuclear power. And so when the Iranian regime tells its people that the West is trying to prevent Iran from having very sophisticated technology, it could not be further from the truth…
HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Reasearch Program). Supposed Weather modification, communication disruption and mind control Weapon. Extended Star Wars Defense Initiative (SDI)weapon of the US military.
HAARP has the ability of modifying the World’s electro-magnetic field.
Geez has been greatly influenced by us tinfoil nuts lately and has done a good job spreading the fact that our “democratic” government is anything but.
Here is a subject I might know a little about, farming.
I grew up on a dairy farm in the 1960s and 1970s. I saw a lot of changes during that time, tractors getting larger, haying and grain equipment getting larger and cows getting larger.
See the pattern here?
But my Dad didn’t believe in that philosophy. Mainly because he couldn’t handle a business worth a shit, but some of what we did at that time had wisdom to it. Like breeding a first calf holstein heifer with a small breed like a Jersey so the calf wouldn’t be so big and cripple the heifer while she was giving birth. Or saving some of the previous harvests seed, like corn, oats or winter wheat for planting the next year. People call that ‘organic farming’ now, but back then it was SOP.
Let’s take a look at organic farming for instance. To be certified ‘organic’, a farmer must prove that he/she hasn’t used any kind of chemical or artificial hormone on their livestock and feedstock for three years. Any and all seed must be of the heritage variety, no Monsanto, Dow Chemical or Bayer GM crap at all. And that’s a tall order now because these corporations have the seed market monopolized to the point where almost all farmers if they want to plant any crop, they have to use the dangerous GM stuff.
I have four cousins who farm organically, one has done it for twenty years. There’s a market for it and the prices are high for organic commodities, thus they are able to make pretty decent livings from it despite the planned destruction of the family farm. Amish communities in Pennsylvania have been able to make good livings from classical farming methods for over three hundred years. It’s only been during the past twenty years they’ve had difficulties because their young people are leaving for the big city and corporate farms buying up all the good cropland.
It is because of these corporate farms and the massive government subsidies they receive for growing corn for ‘biofuel’ that the current world food crisis is occurring now.
And guess who’s in the thick of the biofuel debate now? That’s right, Barack Obama, Democratic Party Presidential candidate:
When VeraSun Energy inaugurated a new ethanol processing plant last summer in Charles City, Iowa, some of that industry’s most prominent boosters showed up. Leaders of the National Corn Growers Association and the Renewable Fuels Association, for instance, came to help cut the ribbon — and so did Senator Barack Obama.
Then running far behind Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in name recognition and in the polls, Mr. Obama was in the midst of a campaign swing through the state where he would eventually register his first caucus victory. And as befits a senator from Illinois, the country’s second largest corn-producing state, he delivered a ringing endorsement of ethanol as an alternative fuel.
Mr. Obama is running as a reformer who is seeking to reduce the influence of special interests. But like any other politician, he has powerful constituencies that help shape his views. And when it comes to domestic ethanol, almost all of which is made from corn, he also has advisers and prominent supporters with close ties to the industry at a time when energy policy is a point of sharp contrast between the parties and their presidential candidates.
In the heart of the Corn Belt that August day, Mr. Obama argued that embracing ethanol “ultimately helps our national security, because right now we’re sending billions of dollars to some of the most hostile nations on earth.” America’s oil dependence, he added, “makes it more difficult for us to shape a foreign policy that is intelligent and is creating security for the long term.”
Mr. Obama very noticably declines to mention the issue of the subsidies. It is a well known fact that Obama’s home state Iowa is the second largest producer of corn in the U.S. and Obama of course would be remiss if he left his clientel hanging should he be selected to be President.
So how does the world feel about corn being diverted from food to fuel production? Well, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) makes a token attempt to protest biofuel subsidies in the U.S. and Brazil:
As was widely expected, the U.S. and Brazil’s biofuel programs came under heavy criticism at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food crisis meeting yesterday in Rome. Jacques Diouf, its head, reserved most of his reprobation for the U.S.’s billions of corn ethanol subsidies (roughly $12b in 2006), which he said were depriving developing countries of food, reports The Guardian‘s Julian Borger.
He accused the U.S. of diverting close to 100 million tons of cereals from human consumption to “satisfy a thirst for fuel for vehicles.” Officials from U.S., Canadian and European biofuel industries had written to Diouf prior to the summit to warn him not to lash out against biofuels — advice he clearly (and rightly) chose to disregard. Ed Schafer, the U.S. agriculture secretary, tried to deflect blame from the ethanol subsidies, claiming biofuel production only accounted for 2 – 3% of the rise in food prices.
By comparison, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) research estimates that it has accounted for 20 – 30% of the price increases over the last 2 years. For its part, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) believes that biofuels caused nearly 60% of the increase in the consumption of cereals and vegetable oils between 2005 and 2007.
Schafer also tried to peddle the canard that corn ethanol was an “efficient producer of energy,” despite mountains of evidence to the contrary (see this post about the significant land-use concerns).
Please note that although Brazil subsidizes their biofuel industry, they use cellulose from switchgrass to turn into alcohol fuel, which isn’t food to begin with. But wholesale clearing of rainforest to grow it is a big issue. Thus this has ecological impact as well.
So what to do? Well, quit giving corporate welfare to mega-farms for one thing. But campaign coffers are filled by corporate PAC money and Monsanto is a big player here. Not only that, Monsanto gengineers the seed for the ethanol:
No doubt Monsanto plans to come up with new, “improved” corn seed products that will target new, improved pests, and will be able to resist new, improved herbicides. That is the treadmill that the human race has put itself on, and whether we’ll ever be able to get off of it seems a highly doubtful proposition, unless food prices rise so high that biofuels become politically impossible. But that dreary quagmire is not the point of this post.
For some time, How the World Works has been convinced that the rush to biofuels will significantly boost the ongoing rollout of genetically modified organisms. There’s just too much money at stake in the energy business for it to be otherwise. The popularity of the latest biotech crops is a perfect illustration of this. These seeds aren’t cheap — they are top-of-the-line products. But for well-financed farmers and industrial-scale agribusinesses aiming to cash in on ethanol demand, seed costs are not a significant barrier. It seems reasonable to expect, in the not-too-distant future, quadruple- and quintuple- and sextuple-stacked hybrids that do all kinds of fancy things such as incorporate herbicide resistance, targeted pesticides, and modifications that make the corn cheaper and easier to industrially transform into ethanol
So there it is in a nutshell. Or a GM corn kernal anyway. Follow the money and you will find how the world works. I have to hand it to the mega-corps though, they have managed to ‘collectivize’ farming to the point that would’ve made the old U.S.S.R. blanch. Or bow down to them.
Well, the U.S. is due for a round of neoliberal corporate communism anyhow and the ‘green technology’ field is slated to be the next big bubble economic powerhouse. And corporate GM corn for biofuels plays a big part in it. Plus picking the wallets of the slaves to pay for it just sweetens the pot even more for these assholes.
Also, don’t expect this to create any middle-class jobs for American citizens, most of the machinery that agribusinesses use are automated, even the tractors.
And there are plenty of illegal immigrants willing to work for three dollars an hour to monitor the equipment!