By Jennie Erin SmithPhotographs by Federico RiosAug. 31, 2021, 2:30 a.m. ETLeer en españolFLORENCIA, Colombia — In June 1912, Leo Miller, a collector with the American Museum of Natural History, arrived in the Caquetá region of Colombia, where the eastern foothills of the Andes melt into the forested lowlands of the Amazon basin.Miller was working for Frank Chapman, the celebrated curator of birds at the museum. Chapman suspected that Colombia’s wildly varied topography had given rise to an unusual density of species, and sent collectors like Miller to bring him birds from all corners of the country to study.
“As the United States comes to grips with the climate crisis, fossil fuels will slowly recede from being primary sources of energy. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that the petrochemical industry is counting on greatly increasing the production of plastics and toxic chemicals made from fossil fuels to profit from its reserves of oil and gas.
That transition is why the challenges of climate, plastic pollution and chemical toxicity — which at first might each seem like distinct problems — are actually interrelated and require a systems approach to resolve. The danger is that if we focus on only a single metric, like greenhouse gas emissions, we may unintentionally encourage the shift from fuel to plastics and chemicals that are also unsafe and unsustainable.
Already, according to a 2018 report from the International Energy Agency, petrochemicals, which are made from petroleum and natural gas, “are rapidly becoming the largest driver of global oil demand.”
Petrochemicals are ubiquitous in everyday products, and many of them are poisoning us and our children. Stain repellents, flame retardants, phthalates and other toxics are contributing to cancer, falling sperm counts, obesity and a host of neurological, reproductive and immune problems, research has shown.”
This is 10/10. My last NYT piece I can share this month in its entirety. It is appropriate, because the increases in the production of plastic pose a serious threat to life as we love it. A lot of the cancer and other diseases that we have, or will have, are related the poisonous pollution we put in our environments, and then goes into our bodies.
How much money has been spent?
“The vast majority of spending in Afghanistan has come from the US.
Between 2010 to 2012, when the US for a time had more than 100,000 soldiers in the country, the cost of the war grew to almost $100bn a year, according to US government figures.
As the US military shifted its focus away from offensive operations and concentrated more on training up Afghan forces, costs fell sharply.
According to the US Department of Defense, the total military expenditure in Afghanistan (from October 2001 until September 2019) had reached $778bn.
In addition, the US state department – along with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other government agencies – spent $44bn on reconstruction projects.
That brings the total cost – based on official data – to $822bn between 2001 and 2019, but it doesn’t include any spending in Pakistan, which the US uses as a base for Afghan-related operations.
According to a Brown University study in 2019, which has looked at war spending in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US had spent around $978bn (their estimate also includes money allocated for the 2020 fiscal year).”
Source: Afghanistan: What has the conflict cost the US and its allies? – BBC News
“. . . Focusing on the execution of the withdrawal is giving virtually everyone who insisted we could remake Afghanistan the opportunity to obscure their failures by pretending to believe in the possibility of a graceful departure. It’s also obscuring the true alternative to withdrawal: endless occupation. But what our ignominious exit really reflects is the failure of America’s foreign policy establishment at both prediction and policymaking in Afghanistan.
“The pro-war crowd sees this as a mechanism by which they can absolve themselves of an accounting for the last 20 years,” Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, told me. “Just think about the epic size of this policy failure. Twenty years of training. More than $2 trillion worth of expenditure. For almost nothing. It is heartbreaking to watch these images, but it is equally heartbreaking to think about all of the effort, of lives and money we wasted in pursuit of a goal that was illusory.” “
“. . . We now live in a broken-windows world. I would argue that it began a decade ago, when Barack Obama called on Americans to turn a chapter on a decade of war and “focus on nation-building here at home,” which became a theme of his re-election campaign.
It looked like a good bet at the time. Osama bin Laden had just been killed. The surge in Iraq had stabilized the country and decimated Al Qaeda there. The Taliban were on the defensive. Relations with Russia had been “reset.” China was still under the technocratic leadership of Hu Jintao. The Arab Spring, eagerly embraced by Obama as “a chance to pursue the world as it should be,” seemed to many to portend a more hopeful future for the Middle East (though some of us were less sanguine). . . . “
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Nice column, but you reach too far, and fall short, though there are criticisms you approach that are valid. Comparing the Russian gas pipeline to other failures seems silly, like comparing apples to oranges. Everyone needs a little natural gas for the next 50 years or so. Even Biden didn’t cancel all the pipelines from Canada. Our walking out of Afghanistan doesn’t show that we are over as a great power, but that we are starting to act again like an intelligent as well as great power, with more fights in the future than just against the primitive Taliban. You are still right about several important and serious mistakes. We should be occupying Syria right now not Afghanistan. Ignoring the red line Obama had drawn himself was dumb, cowardly, and over cautious. But Afghanistan is history. We should be discussing an invasion or insurrection in Brazil, to save the rain forest. That is in our national interest.
David is a jack of all trades and master of none, and a military historian, who blogs at InconvenientNews.net.