The Rise and Fall of America’s Environmentalist Underground – Matthew Wolfe – The New York Times

“Late one summer evening in 2018, an American citizen named Joseph Mahmoud Dibee was sitting in José Martí International Airport in Havana, Cuba — trying, unsuccessfully, to sleep — when he was approached by three men. Dibee, a civil engineer, was in Havana on a layover. After a long business trip in Ecuador, he was heading home to Russia, where he lived with his wife and stepson. The men demanded his passport, then led him out of the terminal and into a waiting sedan. Dibee asked where they were going, but got no response. Sandwiched between his captors, he was driven miles through the night before finally arriving at what appeared to be a jail.

For the next three days, Dibee would claim in a subsequent court filing, he was imprisoned without explanation and, in effect, tortured. His small concrete cell was open to the elements; during the day, the cage baked. As Dibee, who was then 50, sweat through his clothes, the jail’s guards gave him little to drink. He soon became nauseated and began to repeatedly pass out. With no way of contacting his family, Dibee worried that, if he died, they would never learn what happened to him.

On his fourth day of confinement, weak from dehydration, Dibee was dragged to an air-conditioned trailer in another part of the facility. He was met by a middle-aged man in fatigues who identified himself as an officer in Cuba’s state intelligence service. Smiling, the officer held up a bottle of water.

“But first,” he said, “tell us about the fires.”

Several days later, on Aug. 9, 2018, Cuban authorities handed Dibee, in shackles, over to agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. To the F.B.I., Dibee’s arrest marked the end of a decade-long manhunt for one of the agency’s most wanted domestic terrorists. In 2006, Dibee was indicted on a charge of participation in a series of arsons carried out by a shadowy band of environmental activists known as the Earth Liberation Front. In the late 1990s, the ELF became notorious for setting fire to symbols of ecological destruction, including timber mills, an S.U.V. dealership and a ski resort. The group, which warned of imminent ecological catastrophe, was widely demonized. Its exploits were condemned by mainstream environmental groups, ridiculed by the media and inspired a furious crackdown from law enforcement.

Fleeing before he could be arrested, Dibee had spent years as a fugitive in Syria, Russia and Mexico, until he was picked up passing through Havana. After his interrogation by the Cuban authorities, the F.B.I. flew him in a Gulfstream jet to Portland, Ore., where he was arraigned for charges relating to his role in the attacks. This April, Dibee pleaded guilty to arson and conspiracy to commit arson.”

Admiral Blair and General Dunford | Ukraine’s Russia Crisis Reveals the West’s False Sense of Energy Security – The New York Times

Dennis C. Blair and 

Admiral Blair, who retired from the Navy in 2002, was a director of national intelligence in the Obama administration and served as commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. General Dunford was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Obama and Trump administrations. Before that, he served as commandant of the Marines.

“Russia’s belligerence against Ukraine is underscoring once again the inextricable link between national security and energy security. Today, Russia is flexing its energy dominance over a dependent Europe. But tomorrow, the danger may come from China and its control over the raw materials that are key to a clean energy future.

The United States and its allies must ensure that doesn’t happen.

In recent years America has been lulled into a false sense of energy independence. The shale revolution of the past decade has generated incredible supplies of vital natural gas and oil. European countries, blessed with diverse economies, have also felt relatively secure in recent years. But that is changing.

Germany now depends on Russian suppliers for as much as two-thirds of its natural gas and the European Union for about 40 percent. And as it phases out its nuclear power plants by year’s end, Germany, Europe’s largest economic force, has appeared more hesitant than its peers to forcefully confront the Kremlin. Moscow sees Europe’s energy dependence for what it is: a supply chain dynamic it can control and exploit at will.”

Conflict and Climate Change Ravage Syria’s Agricultural Heartland – The New York Times

“HASAKA, Syria — At a government bakery in Hasaka, Syria, a faded image of former President Hafez al-Assad looms over the aging machinery and clanging steel chains of the assembly line. The painting dates from long before the war, when this region of northeast Syria was still under government control.

Outside, a long line of families and disabled men wait for bags of subsidized flat bread, which sells at about a quarter of the market price.

What is new at this bakery, the largest in the region, is the color of the flour dumped into giant mixing bowls: It is now pale yellow instead of the traditional stark white.

“This is a new experiment we started three or four months ago,” said Media Sheko, a manager of the bakery. “To avoid bread shortages, we had to mix it with corn.” “

” . . . For thousands of years, the Euphrates River and its largest tributary, the Khabur River, which cuts through Hasaka Province, nurtured some of the world’s earliest farming settlements. But the rivers have been drying up.

The U.S. space agency, NASA, which studies climate change, says the drought that began in 1998 is the worst that some parts of the Middle East have seen in nine centuries.

Irrigation pumps on the Khabur River, which has slowed to a trickle. Now the pumps have to work overtime, using more diesel fuel to get the same amount of water.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Turkey, which controls the region’s water supply from parts of northern Syria that it controls through proxy fighters, has been accused of reducing the flow to the area inhabited by the Kurds, whom it considers an enemy.”

Opinion | Will Iván Duque Protect Environmental Defenders? – The New York Times

Blanca Lucía Echeverry and 

“At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, President Iván Duque of Colombia carried out a charm offensive to convince the world he is an environmental champion who would protect his nation’s vast forets. He promised Colombia would be carbon neutral by 2050 and that, by next year, 30 percent of the country’s land and waters would be protected areas.

But back in Colombia, armed gangs are threatening and murdering community leaders and environmental activists who have been trying to protect Colombia’s forest from destruction by mining, lumber and oil companies. Morbidly, Colombia has emerged as the world’s deadliest place for environmentalists and others defending land rights. Global Witness documented at least 65 killings in 2020.”

Thomas Friedman | Biden and Climate Change Have Reshaped the Middle East – The New York Times

“So, I just have one question: Should I point out how President Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is already reshaping Middle East politics — mostly for the better? Or should I wait a few months and not take seriously yet what one Gulf diplomat drolly said to me of the recent festival of Arab-Arab and Arab-Iranian reconciliations: “Love is in the air.”

What the heck, let’s go for it now.

Because something is in the air that is powerfully resetting the pieces on the Middle East chess board — pieces that had been frozen in place for years. The biggest force shifting them was Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan and tell the region: “You’re home alone. If you’re looking for us, we’ll be in the Straits of Taiwan. Write often. Send oil. Bye.”

But a second factor is intensifying the pressure of America’s leaving: Mother Nature, manifesting herself in heat waves, droughts, demographic stresses, long-term falling oil prices and rising Covid-19 cases.

Indeed, I’d argue that we are firmly in a transition from a Middle East shaped by great powers to a Middle East shaped by Mother Nature. And this shift will force every leader to focus more on building ecological resilience to gain legitimacy instead of gaining it through resistance to enemies near and far. We are just at the start of this paradigm shift from resistance to resilience, as this region starts to become too hot, too populated and too water-starved to sustain any quality of life.”

In Afghanistan, War and Climate Change Collide – The New York Times

Somini Sengupta has reported on more than 10 conflicts around the world, including in Afghanistan.

“Parts of Afghanistan have warmed twice as much as the global average. Spring rains have declined, most worryingly in some of the country’s most important farmland. Droughts are more frequent in vast swaths of the country, including a punishing dry spell now in the north and west, the second in three years.

Afghanistan embodies a new breed of international crisis, where the hazards of war collide with the hazards of climate change, creating a nightmarish feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people and destroys their countries’ ability to cope.

And while it would be facile to attribute the conflict in Afghanistan to climate change, the effects of warming act as what military analysts call threat multipliers, amplifying conflicts over water, putting people out of work in a nation whose people largely live off agriculture, while the conflict itself consumes attention and resources.”

Ezra Klein | It Seems Odd That We Would Just Let the World Burn – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I spent the weekend reading a book I wasn’t entirely comfortable being seen with in public. Andreas Malm’s “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is only slightly inaptly named. You won’t find, anywhere inside, instructions on sabotaging energy infrastructure. A truer title would be “Why to Blow Up a Pipeline.” On this, Malm’s case is straightforward: Because nothing else has worked.

Decades of climate activism have gotten millions of people into the streets but they haven’t turned the tide on emissions, or even investments. Citing a 2019 study in the journal Nature, Malm observes that, measuring by capacity, 49 percent of the fossil-fuel-burning energy infrastructure now in operation was installed after 2004. Add in the expected emissions from projects in some stage of the planning process and we are most of the way toward warming the world by 2 degrees Celsius — a prospect scientists consider terrifying and most world governments have repeatedly pledged to avoid. Some hoped that the pandemic would alter the world’s course, but it hasn’t. Oil consumption is hurtling back to precrisis levels, and demand for coal, the dirtiest of the fuels, is rising.”

Editorial | Why Spy Agencies Say the Future Is Bleak – The New York Times

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; Photograph, via Getty Images

“Every four years, at the start of a new administration, American intelligence agencies put out “Global Trends,” a weighty assessment of where the world seems headed over the next two decades. In 2008, for example, the report warned about the potential emergence of a pandemic originating in East Asia and spreading rapidly around the world.

The latest report, Global Trends 2040, released last week by the National Intelligence Council, finds that the pandemic has proved to be “the most significant, singular global disruption since World War II,” with medical, political and security implications that will reverberate for years. That’s not schadenfreude. It’s the prologue to a far darker picture of what lies ahead.

The world envisioned in the 144-page report, ominously subtitled “A More Contested World,” is rent by a changing climate, aging populations, disease, financial crises and technologies that divide more than they unite, all straining societies and generating “shocks that could be catastrophic.” The gap between the challenges and the institutions meant to deal with them continues to grow, so that “politics within states are likely to grow more volatile and contentious, and no region, ideology, or governance system seems immune or to have the answers.” At the international level, it will be a world increasingly “shaped by China’s challenge to the United States and Western-led international system,” with a greater risk of conflict.

Here’s how agencies charged with watching the world see things:

  • “Large segments of the global population are becoming wary of institutions and governments that they see as unwilling or unable to address their needs. People are gravitating to familiar and like-minded groups for community and security, including ethnic, religious, and cultural identities as well as groupings around interests and causes, such as environmentalism.”

  • “At the same time that populations are increasingly empowered and demanding more, governments are coming under greater pressure from new challenges and more limited resources. This widening gap portends more political volatility, erosion of democracy, and expanding roles for alternative providers of governance.”

  • “Accelerating shifts in military power, demographics, economic growth, environmental conditions, and technology, as well as hardening divisions over governance models, are likely to further ratchet up competition between China and a Western coalition led by the United States.”

  • “At the state level, the relationships between societies and their governments in every region are likely to face persistent strains and tensions because of a growing mismatch between what publics need and expect and what governments can and will deliver.”

Experts in Washington who have read these reports said they do not recall a gloomier one. In past years, the future situations offered have tilted toward good ones; this year, the headings for how 2040 may look tell a different story: “Competitive Coexistence,” “Separate Silos,” “Tragedy and Mobilization” or “A World Adrift,” in which “the international system is directionless, chaotic, and volatile as international rules and institutions are largely ignored by major powers like China, regional players and non-state actors.    . . . ”

Opinion | How Trump Helps MS-13 – by Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“. . . There are better options. Bill Clinton and then George W. Bush invested some $10 billion in counterinsurgency and counternarcotics efforts to rescue Colombia from the grip of jungle guerrillas and drug lords. The plan was expensive, took a decade, involved the limited deployment of U.S. troops, and was widely mocked.

Yet it worked. Colombia is South America’s great turnaround story. And nobody today worries about a Colombian migration crisis.

It’s always possible that Trump knows all this — and rejects it precisely because it stands a reasonable chance of eventually fixing the very problem that was central to his election and on which he intends to campaign for the next 18 months. Demagogues need bugaboos, and MS-13 and other assorted Latin American gangsters are the perfect ones for him.

But whether he gets that or not, it behooves Americans to know that the crisis at our border has a source, and that Trump continues to inflame it. The answer isn’t a big beautiful wall. It’s a real foreign policy. We used to know how to craft one.”

David Lindsay:

I thought this op-ed piece way above average, and praised Bret Stephens for being spot on in suggesting Trump might actually want to continue destabizing countries to our south. But these top comments do show, I was a little too generous on a major flaw.

RME
Seattle
Times Pick

While analysis is excellent, it’s perhaps inaccurate to blame Obama for creating the conditions that created the ISIS. That was created first by invasion of Iraq, which also benefited Iran. Then in particular by the decision to dissolve the Iraq army. And consider the US more or less told them if they surrendered – which they mostly did – they could keep thier jobs. Perhaps Obama should have negotiated harder to keep a US military presence in Iraq. But at the time there wasn’t much Democratic or Republican political support for continuing US military mission there. Blaming ISIS on that choice is a tad disingenuous.

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Susan commented May 11

Susan
Paris
Times Pick

“Colombia is South America’s great turnaround story. And nobody today worries about a Colombian migration crisis.” And Colombia has taken in millions of refugees fleeing the economic/political collapse in Venezuela. Despite limited means, the people of Colombia have responded to this humanitarian crisis with a compassion sorely lacking on our borders. Instead of threatening American intervention in Venezuela, why don’t we do something to help Colombia to deal with this crisis until Maduro is gone? Of course that wouldn’t provide as many opportunities for Trumpian grandstanding, but might actually do some good.

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Cemal Ekin commented May 11

Cemal Ekin
Warwick, RI
Times Pick

“Barack Obama’s ill-judged military exit from Iraq in 2011 …” Hold on! First, why must we bring President Obama into every discussion? Second, why distort the truth? The decision to withdraw from Iraq was signed by President Bush and the Iraqi government did not want the US troops there. The perpetual “Obama defense” on everything is wearing thin. Please be more careful to state the facts. A simple search will find reliable sources fact-checking this tired story. Why do you still use it?

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Opinion | Time to Panic – By David Wallace-Wells – The New York Times

Quote

By David Wallace-Wells
Mr. Wallace-Wells is the author of the forthcoming “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.”

Feb. 16, 2019,  1034 c
The age of climate panic is here. Last summer, a heat wave baked the entire Northern Hemisphere, killing dozens from Quebec to Japan. Some of the most destructive wildfires in California history turned more than a million acres to ash, along the way melting the tires and the sneakers of those trying to escape the flames. Pacific hurricanes forced three million people in China to flee and wiped away almost all of Hawaii’s East Island.

We are living today in a world that has warmed by just one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s, when records began on a global scale. We are adding planet-warming carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a rate faster than at any point in human history since the beginning of industrialization.

In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released what has become known as its “Doomsday” report — “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” as one United Nations official described it — detailing climate effects at 1.5 and two degrees Celsius of warming (2.7 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). At the opening of a major United Nations conference two months later, David Attenborough, the mellifluous voice of the BBC’s “Planet Earth” and now an environmental conscience for the English-speaking world, put it even more bleakly: “If we don’t take action,” he said, “the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Scientists have felt this way for a while. But they have not often talked like it. For decades, there were few things with a worse reputation than “alarmism” among those studying climate change.

via Opinion | Time to Panic – The New York Times

David Lindsay: Bravo David Wallace-Wells. You have put into words what has been formulating in my mind for months, maybe years. I urge one and all to read the entire piece, and to get active in politics and sustainable living practices.

Regarding the IPCC doomsday report, David Wallace Wells wrote:

“The thing that was new was the message: It is O.K., finally, to freak out. Even reasonable. This, to me, is progress. Panic might seem counterproductive, but we’re at a point where alarmism and catastrophic thinking are valuable, for several reasons.

The first is that climate change is a crisis precisely because it is a looming catastrophe that demands an aggressive global response, now. In other words, it is right to be alarmed. The emissions path we are on today is likely to take us to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040, two degrees Celsius within decades after that and perhaps four degrees Celsius by 2100.”

David Lindsay:  Most species, including humans, will not survive such temperature increases.

Kathleen Schomaker and I now have a folk music concert and sing-a-long to perform on Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction, which also includes a few short readings and humor. We are actively trying to cheerfully sound the alarm, and hope to perform before new audiences. We can be reached at footmad.dl@gmail.com or davidlindsayjr@sbcglobal.net.

There are some great comments about the article above, Time to Panic, such as:

Cromer

What about overpopulation? If global warming is caused at least primarily by human activity, as I believe it is, then the spiraling population of the planet would seem to be the principal cause of global warming. Yet overpopulation , which was widely recognized as a major problem during the 1960s and 1970s, has become a taboo subject even while the earth’s population has enormously expanded. The right and the left both have their own distinct reasons for ignoring or denying the population crisis, and many powerful economic forces have an incentive to discourage anything that might prevent short-term economic expansion. In the long-term, however, everyone is likely to suffer from the catastrophic effects of population growth.

Chuck Burton commented February 16

Chuck Burton
Mazatlan, Mexico

I have been coming to this beach regularly since 1975. Though I am scientifically literate, I do not have enough knowledge and/or education to parse these scientific arguments. And it is so unnecessary anyway. The birds are basically gone, at best visiting here in very small numbers which seem to dwindle each year. Gone. Let me say that again. The birds are gone.

betty durso commented February 16

betty durso
philly area

McConnell thinks he’s so smart to call for a vote on the Green New Deal. I wish it would backfire like Brexit did in the U.K. If we know whar’s good for us we won’t support anyone who votes no. Trump can mock it all he likes, but we know whose side he’s on–those who want to get fossil fuel out of the ground fast before the world switches to clean energy. Revolutionary change can happen if we throw out this bought and paid for poor excuse for a congress. It’s time they worked for us and our children’s future. If and when this comes to a vote , remember who opted for the polluters.