Making Ecocide a Crime


ECOCIDE is the mass damage or destruction of the natural living world.

We believe ECOCIDE should be a crime at the International Criminal Court – alongside Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

Our legal and diplomatic team is already helping to make that a reality.


Most environmental law is civil law. However, suing companies (civil litigation) only leads to financial penalties. It doesn’t change what businesses actually do. If company bosses faced going jail, it would be a very different story. The short clip below highlights the difference between civil and criminal law and why it is crucial that we make ECOCIDE an international CRIME!



A crime of ecocide prevents big business investors from financing harmful practices, and prevents insurers from insuring them. People in positions of superior responsibility – eg CEOs and government ministers – become prosecutable as individuals for ecocide which they cause or permit.


Any state that is a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) can propose an amendment to the Rome Statute, which is the court’s governing document.

When 2/3 of member states approve, amendments can be added.

Any member state can then ratify and enforce the amendment.


Small states which are vulnerable to ecocide and climate change have the biggest incentive to support.

Although an amendment to the Rome Statute has not yet been officially proposed, 2 sovereign states (Vanuatu and the Maldives) have already publicly called for consideration of it (December 2019 at the ICC’s Assembly in The Hague).

For the first time in 50 years this law has been signposted on the global stage

The next step is for a state to propose a viable amendment, with support from other member states. Our immediate mission is to facilitate this.


  1. Expert legal, strategic and practical assistance for states interested in taking ecocide law forward.
    This is what we do.

  2. Visible public support, so governments around the world understand we all want this law to protect the Earth. And funds to support the legal and diplomatic work. This is where you come in.

COVID-19 an opportunity to build a low-emission economy

Image: David Stanley/Flickr

A few years ago, I went to Tunis, Tunisia, my hometown, for a short visit in the month of December. It had been almost 20 years since I visited in the winter. My visits were usually in the summer so my children could go to the beach and enjoy the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.

But with each visit, I found the summers becoming unbearably hotter. The last time I went during the summer, I had to keep the air-conditioning unit in each room working almost all day, and my children refused to leave the house, which defeated the purpose of the outdoor summer activities.

I grew up in Tunis and spent my first 20 years there. The temperatures frequently reach 40 C, and sometimes beyond, especially between mid-July and mid-August. Opening the windows at night might help, letting a light breeze refresh our sweating bodies. During the day, we keep our home darkened by the window shutters, and draw the curtains to create a cooling effect. We never had an air-conditioning system.

Over the years, those tricks became useless, as the temperatures rose higher and higher, and the rise came with a new phenomenon: the car pollution. From the early ’90s, an increasing number of cars filled the streets of the crowded city. Thus, creating a sense of suffocation and the near disappearance of breeze.

In 2013, there were 1.7 million registered vehicles in Tunisia. Compared to over 35 million registered vehicles for a population of 37 million in Canada, the number of registered vehicles relative to Tunisia’s 11.6 million population might seem low, but we are talking about a network of 19,418 kilometres of road in Tunisia (as of 2010) compared with a network of roads of over one million kilometers in Canada (as of 2008).

In 2016, Tunisia emitted CO2 emissions of 2.6 tonnes per capita. In 2014, Canada emitted 15.2 tonnes per capita.

Even if statistically speaking Tunisia is less polluting than Canada, the concentration of pollution in Tunisian cities combined with poverty, a weak public health-care system, crumbling infrastructure and dense urban areas make the population more at risk for pulmonary diseases.

The hotter the weather during the summer, the more air-conditioning units are installed in buildings, and of course, the more CO2 is released in the air. Combined with the increasing number of cars driving around the city, it creates a vicious cycle.

So, in order to avoid spending two or three weeks avoiding the sun and breathing artificially cool air filtered through air conditioning, I stopped going to Tunis in the summer. It made me sad.

I lost the comforting heat of the sun on my skin. I missed those breezy nights when we stayed up past midnight. I lost the incredible shades of the sky at dusk.

I also became angry at the cars that drove crazily in the narrow streets, and most of all I resented the policy makers who for decades instead of investing in more public transportation encouraged citizens to buy cars by relaxing the personal loans conditions and easing car-import restrictions.

But these policies are not random or unique to the transport sector: they took over all sectors. It is part of the disengagement of the state from the public sector and its replacement by neoliberal policies where citizens are made principally responsible for their health, education, transportation and jobs.

Today, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the “emperor has no clothes.” If this horrible crisis brought us something good, it showed us that a neoliberal economy is no longer an alternative, and the pollution that this economic model brought is not inevitable.

What is even more interesting are the results of a study that linked air pollution to coronavirus deaths. This study, despite its limitations, showed a storng correlation between the presence of the nitrogen dioxide and the number of deaths due to COVID-19.

This finding matches previous studies about links between the number of deaths caused by SARS in 2003 and air pollution.

In her iconic book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, showed through the notable examples of Chile and Iraq how private corporations literally take advantage of economic and social chaos created by some natural disaster or social unrest to fill the void created by the orchestrated absence of the state. Neoliberal policies were sneakily introduced and became the norms during times of crisis. Private schools replaced the poorly funded public ones. Private corporations became the owners of long-term facilities for seniors.

The COVID-19 pandemic should be an opportunity to create a “reverse” shock doctrine. Already we have the evidence, day after day, that if it wasn’t for the measures introduced by the government to help the most vulnerable, the economy, the businesses, the research, the health sectors, the situation would be worse.

Instead of having a government playing the role of “saviour” for the last resort, why don’t we have policies where the public good is always sought after? Why don’t we accept once for all that the economic system adopted so far is wrong? Pollution kills us and a better alternative is possible. SOURCE

Mazigh holds a PhD in finance from McGill University. . You can follow her on Twitter @MoniaMazigh or on her blog.

Big Oil Leaders Should Stop Trying to Push Back Indigenous Rights

Under cover of COVID-19, they’ve asked to delay federal UNDRIP law. We won’t be shoved aside.


BC AFN Regional Chief Terry Teegee at a fall gathering to recognize the BC government’s adoption of the UN declaration (Bill 41). Photo via the BC Government Flickr.

The emergence of COVID-19 has meant serious changes for all communities around the world. First Nations communities in B.C. are no different. The communities I represent are bracing for the possibility or are already dealing directly with the harmful implications of the coronavirus.

We are all making sacrifices to ensure that we flatten the curve. In B.C., we have now seen our sacrifices paying off, with the number of new cases beginning to flatten.

So many of us have had to give up our jobs, change our work schedules (for those who still have a job), stop seeing our families, and limit our freedom to move. So I was shocked to hear that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is attempting to use this unstable time for its own gains. CAPP is selfishly arguing to place itself before the Nation-to-Nation relationship, before Canada’s Constitution and before human rights.

In a letter leaked to the media, CAPP has asked the federal government to decrease environmental monitoring requirements for petroleum extraction projects and push back Indigenous rights. CAPP asks Canada to set aside the climate crisis and set back the Nation-to-Nation relationship.

As Indigenous Peoples, we fight for recognition of our rights to our territory through court cases, direct action and legislative change. Last fall the B.C. government passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. This made our province the first jurisdiction to adopt the UN declaration in Canada. It was an important step towards reconciliation in British Columbia, and I was proud to have been part of drafting it.

The Assembly of First Nations continues to push for similar legislation at the federal level to bring Canada into alignment with our international obligations, and to respect Indigenous rights across the country. Thanks to our work, the Trudeau-led federal government has already committed to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law, similar to the legislation here in B.C.

CAPP’s letter singles out our efforts and asks the federal government to delay this legislation. CAPP’s president Tim McMillan claims that the consultation required to implement the UN declaration federally would be impossible during the COVID-19 emergency. This demand demonstrates McMillan’s archaic approach to business in 21st-century Canada and makes me question whether the CAPP is adequately representing its members. It also is an extremely offensive attempt to move our country backward in terms of both Indigenous rights and environmental protections at a time when our attention is focused on weathering a health emergency.

The BC Assembly of First Nations supports business development in this province. We have an excellent relationship with the B.C. Business Council, partnering on a number of initiatives. The BCAFN also supports our member communities with a set of tools for economic development called the Black Books.

We have heard again and again from businesses in this province that success means partnering with Indigenous Peoples and bringing our communities in at the ground level of any venture impacting our territories. Some businesses in B.C. have been using this approach for a decade now, and we are seeing it pay off for all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. That’s why the B.C. Business Council supported the implementation of the Declaration [on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] Act.

CAPP is proposing an emergency measures act approach that places a deregulated natural resource economy before constitutional rights. This approach belongs in the past. If CAPP is thinking about the future, it would be recognizing Indigenous rights and extending a hand in economic partnership. It would be embracing the implementation of the UN declaration federally, and it would understand that its projects will only succeed by partnering with Indigenous Peoples from the start.

I would like to offer Tim McMillan and his staff the opportunity to learn more about the UN declaration, and about doing business with Indigenous Peoples. If his organization hopes to continue to be relevant in 21st-century Canada, a conversation on respecting Indigenous Peoples would be a good start.

The days of pushing our people to the side are over. We are all here to stay, and together we can honourably rebuild the country’s economy in a way that is inclusive and respectful of all peoples. SOURCE    [Tyee]


BC Attorney General rolling out First Nations justice strategy


The Seven Deadly Pandemic Sins

We are seeing some bad behaviour of biblical proportions. An illustrated essay.


Which ssssins have you committed? All illustrations by Dorothy Woodend.

For all the good, kind and compassionate things happening during this global pandemic, there’s some biblical-level bad behaviour taking place.

The Seven Deadly Sins are always a useful reference. Think of them like the Dewey Decimal System for cataloguing all the crappy stuff that humans do to each other and occasionally to themselves.

While there’s plenty of time-honoured sins, COVID-19 has unleashed some hot new takes on the big seven.


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The surge in sales of sex toys was a little unexpected but makes a certain kind of sense. If you’re not locked down with a significant other, you probably have a lot of free time on your hands, so you might as well get creative. But pace yourself, people: these are powerful tools for getting through a rough patch. Don’t wear yourself out. Also, don’t think on that analogy too long and hard. Heh…


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If this lockdown goes on for months, your magical rabbit friend may run out of juice, in which case you’ll have to go out for batteries only to find the stores cleaned out. Every time I try to buy groceries there’s a different item that’s been hoovered. One week it’s eggs, the next it’s butter. Yeast, bread, milk, hair dye, sex batteries… but nothing got scooped up quicker than toilet paper. Somewhere there must be acres upon acres of the stuff, stockpiled en masse, like that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark that pulls out to reveal an endless warehouse crammed with boxes and crates. Perhaps in someone’s garage or basement a similar scenario is taking place, TP as far as the eye can see, an ocean of the stuff. The greedy can poop for decades and never have to spare a square for their fellow humans. There’s special place in hell for those folks.


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The pillaging of necessities has led to some epic showdowns in the grocery aisles, with people tussling over things, ramming shopping carts and yelling at others that they’re too damn close. The people especially guilty of giving into their inner fury and outraged entitlement are the Karens of the world. Freed from nice lady niceties, women of a certain age are running amok and letting out their inner rage, and it’s a terrifying thing. Kicking random people in the cereal aisle, lighting dumpsters on fire, galloping headlong down the highway clad only a bra and panties — is there nothing these terrible Karens won’t do?


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If there is one word that drives me into a Karen-kind of rage, it’s the word blessed. Add a hashtag sign in front of it and I will foam at the mouth like a rabid dog and tear the seat out of your pants with my bare teeth. Since we’re all spending a lot more time on the internet and social media, the people who have instagrammed their perfect apartments, impeccable sourdoughs, fitness routines, new novels, renovation projects and home décor have attracted much ire. A little smugness and self-satisfaction with your personal projects is OK, we’re only human after all, but too much and one can easily trigger others into the sin of envy, coveting thy neighbour’s sourdough yeast starter.


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Without anyone to judge it’s easy to snack all day, every day, until your eyes roll back in your head like two raisins in an overstuffed cinnamon bun. The siren call of the refrigerator is like the alluring song that entices ships to dash themselves on the rocks. Beware the sweet sound of cheese, chippies, cookies and pizza pies. In an age of Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes and Door Dash, there’s an endless parade of foodstuffs coming to your door. Just don’t answer.


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After you’ve eaten your weight in nacho chips, you might be tempted to have a little snooze for one to 12 hours. Take a page from our friends the anaconda. After a large meal, the fearsome serpents must sleep it off for days, even weeks at a time. If you need a little digestive time, that’s fine, but eventually you must rouse your slinky coils and go a’hunting once more, staking out the grocery store, lying in wait on the top of the shelves for unwary Karens. Swallow them whole and spit out the oversized sunglasses and Louis Vuitton bags.


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The cardinal sin, the one that got Satan booted out of heaven, is pride. Depending on how you look at it, this sin can be one of ego, hubris or overweening self-regard, in which case no one takes the cake quite like celebrities. There’s been a wealth of bad actors complaining in their mansions about being bored, pretentiously pontificating in the bathtub, and, worst of all, foisting their tuneless singing on an unsuspecting public. Actress Gal Gadot took it upon herself to round up a bunch of her famous friends and force them to sing for a horrified world. The timing (in advance of Gadot’s new Wonder Woman film), as well as the inclusion of Lynda Carter (who played an earlier version of the bustier-clad superhero) was a tad suspicious, but that was the least of its crimes. Joel Golby writing for the Guardian perhaps said it best: “… the video itself is the worst thing I’ve ever seen on the internet, and I’ve seen corpses on this thing.”

And if that wasn’t enough to convince that the end days are nigh, there’s also a plague of locusts as well.

Better to look forward to the day when humanity emerges from this pandemical period, trailing toilet paper, empty chip bags and vibrators, resolving to clean up its act, starting with no more sourdough… ever again.   SOURCE   [Tyee]

In the midst of an economic crisis, can ‘degrowth’ provide an answer?

Degrowthers are susceptible to caricature – but their ideas raise important questions about how, how much, and why we work

‘Reading the current moment as a repudiation of degrowth is premature and unjustified.’ Photograph: Michael Brochstein/Sopa/Getty Images

Amid the misery and chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there are some short-term consolations. The precipitous drop in road and air traffic has left the air cleaner and the skies clearer. For advocates of a Green New Deal (GND) – a vast, state-funded green infrastructure project, including a total transition to renewable energy and the construction of mass transit systems – there are reasons to be optimistic. As the severity of the unfolding global recession becomes clear – the IMF predicts a 3% global contraction – the GND looks like the best route to recovery.

The GND had been growing in popularity before the outbreak – including among establishment politicians, with all the leading Democratic presidential candidates expressing support for some form of it. But with with 26 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits in the past five weeks alone, and given that green industries are more efficient job creators than fossil-fuel ones, there is a powerful, immediate economic rationale for some kind of “green stimulus”. That is without even taking into account the longer-term economic case for decarbonizing: a 2018 US climate report calculated that the devastating effects of unchecked global warming will shrink the US economy by as much as 10% by the end of this century.

But the economic fallout of Covid-19 has cast a harsher light on another strand of the climate movement, commonly termed “degrowth”. Influential among Extinction Rebellion activists, but often regarded as unrealistic by mainstream policymakers, degrowthers, as their name suggests, argue that uncontrolled economic growth is ecologically unsustainable and that to avert climate catastrophe we need to not only shut down the fossil-fuel industries but to reduce consumption overall. Degrowthers insist that we must find ways of living and working that do not require our economies to endlessly expand.

Degrowthers have been particularly susceptible to caricature in recent weeks. “The coronavirus crisis reveals the misery of degrowth,” the Spectator predictably argued. But current living conditions – sudden mass joblessness, confinement and isolation, widespread food and income insecurity – are not a meaningful foretaste of greener things to come. The nightmare we are currently enduring is not degrowth’s secret dream come true; it is at most a grotesque parody of it, and one which is now liable to be weaponized by opponents of the movement.

Reading the current moment as a repudiation of degrowth is premature and unjustified. It overlooks the distinction between what we are experiencing now – an unplanned, abrupt cessation of vast swaths of economic and social activity – and what advocates of degrowth envisage: a thoughtful, democratic, managed and equitable downsizing of the economy.

Most degrowth advocates do not champion economic contraction as such, but argue for the necessity of adapting to the continuing, long-term global stagnation sometimes called “secular stagnation”. The fact that we can only think of slowing down our economies in terms of recession and austerity – with the associated cuts to public spending, growth in inequality and decline in real earnings – says much more about our political landscape than the economic facts.

Yet there is one important criticism of degrowth that has been decisively bolstered by the sharp reversal in global economic fortunes resulting from the coronavirus lockdowns: the consequences for jobs. GDP is a notoriously crude and partial measure of a society’s wellbeing, failing to account for a whole host of indicative factors including equality, access to energy, the quality of healthcare, education and social support systems. But when GDP falls or slows because workers cannot produce goods or offer services, unemployment surges. Coronavirus has brought that reality dramatically home.

As the economist and energy adviser Robert Pollin has written: “the immediate effect of any global GDP contraction would be huge job losses and declining living standards for working people and the poor. During the Great Recession, global unemployment rose by over 30 million. I have not seen a convincing argument from a degrowth advocate as to how we could avoid a severe rise in mass unemployment if GDP were to fall by twice as much.”

The twin crises besetting us – the public health emergency and the unfolding economic trauma triggered by the measures to contain it – have laid bare much about the configuration of our world that we already knew but rarely fully apprehend: its interconnectedness, its fragility, its stark inequalities. But these crises have also brought into visceral relief the fact that employment is the heart and soul of the economy. As the British economist James Meadway has argued, the economic depression now upon us threatens “the most fundamental institution of all in capitalism: the labor market itself”.

Since we have so little time left in which to stabilize the climate, we must be ruthlessly pragmatic in assessing the limitations of green strategies. Degrowth is no exception. The scale and speed of investment required to completely renovate the energy and transportation sectors does not seem conceivable without growth continuing, at least for the time being. Politically, as long as a steadily rising GDP remains an electoral necessity, it is difficult to imagine a recovery that doesn’t involve desperate efforts to restore growth – and not necessarily through greener means – by politicians anxious to revive flagging ratings.

Yet to fixate on the question of growth risks exaggerating the differences between the Green New Dealers and degrowthers – elevating the former as practical-minded technocratic capitalists who want a return to normal economic activity, just motored by a different energy source, and dismissing the latter as abstemious, back-to-the-land utopians who want to deprive of us most of the luxuries of modern capitalist life.

This in turn could lead to our learning only some of the lessons of the current predicament, and taking only some of the opportunities it offers. What both strands of climate thinking ask us to consider – and what the current crisis poses with special, brutal force, as phrases like “key workers” and “essential services” enter common parlance – is the question of what kinds of jobs we need, and what kinds our planet needs of us.

Which goods and services are indispensable, and which would we be better off without? Degrowth and the GND offer different answers to this question – from green infrastructure construction to the care economy – but they both pose it, as well as raising important broader questions about how, how much and why we work. Once it is safe to emerge from economic survival mode, I hope we will have the wisdom to follow the lead of both movements by systematically reflecting on which kinds of productive activity actually enrich our lives – and which among these our planet can sustain. SOURCE

  • Lola Seaton is assistant editor at New Left Review

America’s fracking boom founders as global prices and demand collapse

The shale industry made the US a major producer once again. But Covid-19 looks likely to ruin many prospectors

Drilling for shale oil in Texas. The price of WTI crude, the US benchmark, went below zero last week. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The US shale industry was forecast to deliver record high oil production this year. Only a few months ago the Permian basin was expected to increase its oil output to a new high of 4.8 million barrels per day, on the way to spurring the entire US market to a record daily output rate of 9 million bpd in 2020.

The Permian, North America’s largest shale basin, has been one of the biggest drivers of a shale oil boom that helped make the United States the biggest oil producer in the world, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Instead, the region – which stretches from western Texas to eastern New Mexico – has endured its biggest one-month production decline in history. Now observers expect to see a string of oil-well closures, rising debts and bankruptcies as the coronavirus pandemic slashes demand for crude and threatens to wipe out hundreds of startup frackers. Suddenly, reaching 9 million bpd has become highly unlikely.

The impact of the virus has slashed demand for oil across the globe, triggering a race to fill the world’s remaining storage facilities with unwanted crude to avoid shutting down wells entirely In the US, this has forced producers to pay customers to take their barrels, and caused the worst price collapse in market history.

“The current price environment is more or less a complete disaster for the majority of shale companies,” says Artem Abramov, head of global shale research at the consultancy Rystad Energy. “At $30 a barrel, many companies would be able to adapt gradually. But at $20 a barrel, many players – especially those with poor balance sheets – will struggle financially.”

The benchmark price of US crude, known as the West Texas Intermediate (WTI), crashed below zero for the first time last week for May deliveries, and the price for June dropped by a third to just over $15. The rest of the price curve for 2020 shows prices under $30 a barrel – well below the $55 that most US producers need to break even.

The US largest storage facility – at Cushing in Oklahoma – is already two-thirds full and the remaining capacity is understood to have been snapped up by oil traders and brokers. Meanwhile, off the US coast, supergiant oil tankers – each filled with around 2 million barrels of crude – have been paid to stand idle as makeshift storage. Oil producers without storage space have limited options: sell crude at a loss to those still willing to take it, or shut down oil wells and risk financial ruin.

“There are no good answers for the industry in a $30-per-barrel environment,” says Stephen Richardson, an analyst at Evercore ISI. “Let’s not fool ourselves: it’s all uneconomic and likely to stay that way.”

Abramov says: “Market forces will ultimately regulate the industry in a very brutal manner, forcing massive ‘shut-ins’ [well closures] across the country before the market imbalance can improve.”

The crash threatens to change the face of the industry, say experts. The number of fracking projects in America’s shale heartlands has already fallen by two-thirds as oil producers struggle to find buyers for their crude, or space to store it.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to fracture tightly packed shale rock and release trapped oil and gas. It is a controversial method, with environmental groups warning that it could pose a health hazard by poisoning water aquifers – on top of producing more carbon-intensive fossil fuels. But it has made the US a powerhouse in oil and gas production once more.

 America’s largest oil storage facility, in Cushing, Oklahoma, is filling up fast. Photograph: Drone Base/Reuters 

Continental Resources, the largest oil producer in North Dakota, has reportedly stopped all drilling and shut in most of its wells in the state’s Bakken shale field. The company, owned by billionaire Harold Hamm, is understood to have told customers it will not be supplying oil after the collapse in oil markets last week.

The US oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron have also set out plans to rein in production and spending. Exxon will cut planned spending by 30% or $10bn (£8.1bn) this year, while Chevron will cut spending by a fifth, or $4bn, compared with last year.

The downturn is likely to hit the thousands of small, sometimes family-owned, US fracking companies, which will be forced into administration or into mergers with more financially resilient rivals.

“This will be oil’s last dance for many US producers, as the Trump administration’s efforts to save the shale industry will fall short,” says Konstantinos Venetis, a senior economist at research firm TS Lombard. “North American shale oil producers will be forced to shut in very soon and most of the smaller players will not be able to survive this low-price and dismal-demand environment.” 

President Trump is preparing to use treasury funds to buy US oil to store in the government’s strategic reserves, and is understood to be considering blocks on all imports of crude from Saudi Arabia which are already en route. The measures may offer respite to a few producers but are too little too late, analysts say.

The industry cannot expect the same help from investors that was offered following the 2015 oil market crash either. Investors ploughed about $50bn into the industry in 2016, but rising debt and low returns have now sharpened investor expectations and eroded their appetite for risk. In February Moody’s, the credit rating agency, warned that a “staggering” $86bn worth of shale-industry debt was due to be repaid by 2024.

“Even before the oil price crash, the business models began to change. Investors historically provided a lot of capital to the industry to finance the capital growth. Last year, they began asking these companies to come up with more disciplined and balanced capital programmes and focus more on profitability,” Abramov says.

The companies that survive will be the leanest left standing, he adds. “It won’t be the same industry once prices recover.” SOURCE

Jillian Ambrose is the Guardian’s energy correspondent

It’s simple. If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up

It’s the great taboo of our age – and the inability to discuss the pursuit of perpetual growth will prove humanity’s undoing

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham.

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems. It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues miraculously vanished, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.

Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained. But coal broke this cycle and enabled – for a few hundred years – the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable, the Ecuadorean government decided to allow oil drilling in the heart of the Yasuni national park. It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as either blackmail or fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich. Why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills, will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America.

Yasuni national park. Murray Cooper/Minden Pictures/Corbis


The UK oil firm Soco is now hoping to penetrate Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo; one of the last strongholds of the mountain gorilla and the okapi, of chimpanzees and forest elephants. In Britain, where a possible 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil has just been identified in the south-east, the government fantasises about turning the leafy suburbs into a new Niger delta. To this end it’s changing the trespass laws to enable drilling without consent and offering lavish bribes to local people. These new reserves solve nothing. They do not end our hunger for resources; they exacerbate it.

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious, will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.

Some people try to solve the impossible equation with the myth of dematerialisation: the claim that as processes become more efficient and gadgets are miniaturised, we use, in aggregate, fewer materials. There is no sign that this is happening. Iron ore production has risen 180% in 10 years. The trade body Forest Industries tells us that “global paper consumption is at a record high level and it will continue to grow”. If, in the digital age, we won’t reduce even our consumption of paper, what hope is there for other commodities?

Look at the lives of the super-rich, who set the pace for global consumption. Are their yachts getting smaller? Their houses? Their artworks? Their purchase of rare woods, rare fish, rare stone? Those with the means buy ever bigger houses to store the growing stash of stuff they will not live long enough to use. By unremarked accretions, ever more of the surface of the planet is used to extract, manufacture and store things we don’t need. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that fantasies about colonising space – which tell us we can export our problems instead of solving them – have resurfaced.

As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year’s predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if we miraculously reduced the consumption of raw materials by 90%, we delay the inevitable by just 75 years. Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues.

The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result, they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle-class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.

Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it. SOURCE

George MonbiotTwitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found at

Earth Day offers a chance to re-evaluate our path

Earth Day was born on April 22, 1970 — 50 years ago.

Father and daughter following pathway in sunset

Fifty years after the first Earth Day, and during a difficult time of slowing down, it’s fitting to rededicate ourselves to the power that harmonizes “left-” and “right-brained” thinking.(Photo: Negative Space via Pexels)

Earth Day was born on April 22, 1970 — 50 years ago.  

Since then, the human population has more than doubled, from 3.7 billion to almost eight billion. Our drive toward endless population and economic growth has led to the destruction of massive swathes of pristine forest through clear-cutting, burning and flooding for agriculture and industry, and millions of species pushed to extinction. Toxic pollutants have spread through air, water and soil and into every person. Our hyperactive practices have radically altered the atmosphere’s chemical composition while causing ocean pH to drop catastrophically. 

The world is now on pause, as we follow the rules and guidelines to keep ourselves and loved ones safe from COVID-19. To confront this and other crises, political and business leaders would do well to take time to consider the systemic flaws this pandemic has exposed. That requires understanding some of how we got here. 

The rise of the Industrial Revolution gave science and its servant, technology, the power to move mountains. Linear, analytic “left-brain” thinking became dominant over the collaborative, holistic thinking associated with the brain’s right hemisphere. Progress was equated with growth. Economics became the dominant “science.” And most science was reductionist, looking at phenomena in isolation, out of context and often under artificial conditions. 

But natural and human events often derail the most linear plans. The First World War positioned the U.S. as the world’s leading economy, but trouble in the agriculture sector and stock markets brought it crashing down, sparking the Great Depression. 

Production and mobilization during the Second World War brought the U.S. and other countries out of that calamity. After the war, manufacturing, especially in America, turned from tanks, boats, guns and planes to cars, refrigerators, TVs and toasters — many designed to have limited lifespans. 

In the 1950s, consumerism and credit kept the postwar economy burning. But to maintain it, we had to get hooked on growth.

In the 1950s, consumerism and credit kept the postwar economy burning. But to maintain it, we had to get hooked on growth, to feed our debt. Advertising came to the rescue. It led us to think “progress” was a straight line to more cars and bigger houses in suburbia, full of labour-saving devices and alluring entertainment technologies. 

Then the ’60s hit — “right-brain” thinking rose against the “left-brain” creep of the preceding decades. It was an age of rebellion, of marches and demonstrations by those who rejected injustice and lifted up noble ideals. It wasn’t just against something: it was supremely creative.

It gave birth to an explosion of music and the civil rights, feminist and peace movements. And to the environmental movement, sparked by Rachel Carson’s influential book Silent Spring in 1962. All these revolutions were thoroughly intertwined, with music and art playing integral roles. They rose in part from a transformative shift to balance the “left-brain” dominance of Western thinking. 

Over time, those movements have had varying degrees of success, but fragmentation means some major challenges, including climate disruption, have yet to be resolved. Now, more than ever in these physically distancing times, we need to come together. 

As we batten down the hatches to counter COVID-19, we give Mother Earth much-needed respite from our activity and development. 

Looking outside, we’re struck by clear skies with no plane contrails. It’s quiet. As we batten down the hatches to counter COVID-19, we give Mother Earth much-needed respite from our activity and development. 

It’s amazing what people have done to confront this crisis. International efforts to develop treatments and vaccines have overcome national jealousy, distrust and enmity. Provinces are uniting to support each other, and the federal government, cities and towns are rediscovering the power of compassion and working together. 

People everywhere are looking after themselves and their families, supporting neighbours in need, making the necessary sacrifices to get through this. Those working in health care, the food and grocery systems, emergency services, education and more have shown what real heroism can be. 

Fifty years after the first Earth Day, and during a difficult time of slowing down, it’s fitting to rededicate ourselves to the power that harmonizes “left-” and “right-brained” thinking, male and female, reason and imagination. Let’s not fall back into the trap of trying to solve the great problems of this world with only half a brain. That’s what got us out of balance, and into trouble, in the first place. 

Every day should be Earth Day! After all, we only have one Earth. 

Be kind, take care, wash your hands!