Monday, July 31

denial runs deep

Half-Hour Hurricanes
St. Louis's July 19th Ultra Storm

As clips of hurricane-strength winds uprooting trees across St. Louis in late July made national news, many commentators spoke of the awesome power of nature. But this storm was not an act of god. It was an act of Exxon-Mobile and its friends. And they are not gods, even if they are treated as such by the White House.

Where were the warnings?

...The storm didn't seem real until it was over, maybe 30 minutes later. Needing to know if my organic garden needs water, I carefully watch the weather reports. But I couldn't remember any storm warnings. At home with no electricity, I look through the paper for the forecast for that day: "Humidity will be very high and the excessive heat warning remains in effect." Nothing about the possibility of a storm, not even a mention of rain or wind in the forecast.

Talking to Roger Hill, a meteorological consultant for Weathering Heights in Worcester, Vermont, I said that, during my 30 plus years in St. Louis, I had never seen such extreme weather with no warning at all. He jumped in, "If you are wondering if it's part of global warming, the answer is yes."

He explained that storms are a balancing of energy between the rising of low-lying, humid warm air and the sinking of colder air. Extra warmth makes the balancing more extreme. The ongoing warming of the earth causes stronger upward and downward motions of air masses, which results in more violent wind and rain. Hill, who does weather forecasting for five radio stations, expects that global warming will result in more erratic fluctuations between the extremes of drought and excessive storms.

...Everyone agreed that it was the most damaging storm system ever to hit St. Louis. And there was zero warning 12 hours before the first blast arrived. The second most destructive storm in St. Louis history saw 217,000 people without power. That was in August, 2005.

Though the two worst storms in St. Louis history happened within the last 11 months, the phrase "global warming" did not appear in corporate media. I did not hear it on the radio or see it in dozens of newspaper stories or TV broadcasts.
The single explanation of the storm was that it was a "gust front" resulting from a combination of hot, moist air from south of St. Louis and cool air pooled in north central Illinois. No media analysis probed why it was so intense, unpredicted, and the second in two years. Media stories were limited to human suffering and relief efforts.

The ultra-storm

Let's go over some of the storm-related events in St. Louis, but not as something in the past which is over and done with. Instead, visualize them in the present, as what is likely to happen in cities during the more intense and more frequent events caused by global warming that could be called "ultra-storms."
  • The day the ultra-storm hits, there is no warning on radio, TV or newspaper that would help people prepare for it.
  • Suddenly, winds increase to 60 ­ 90 miles per hour, knocking down trees and blowing off roofs.
  • Between 55% and 90% of homes lose electrical power.
  • Broken power lines in yards and streets ignite fires and electrocute residents and repair workers.
  • Entire business districts become ghost towns, with block after block of locked doors during the day and no lighting at night.
  • Temperatures of over 100 degrees with sweltering humidity push people without power to seek relief at cooling centers or at the homes of relatives or friends.
  • Cops, emergency workers, and a token 300 National Guardspeople go door-to-door looking for anyone stranded in the heat.
  • Another storm (or 2 or 3) during the next few days starts everything up again.
  • As days go by, people throw rotting food out of their refrigerators.
  • Power outages make gasoline and ice premium items.
  • Clean-up crews make streets passable but water main breaks flood other roads.
  • People in low income areas watch the rich get their power restored first.
  • Those who cannot be at home to give access to power company workers discover that their homes do not get repaired and they prepare for weeks without electricity.
  • People get a "boil order" for drinking water and then the gas gets shut off due to line breakage. (Maybe use candles to boil water?)
  • Reporters show roads blocked by trees, power lines broken by trees, cars crushed by trees, and roofs smashed by trees, leading viewers to see the tree as public enemy number one and the chain saw as god's greatest gift to man.
  • Reporters never utter the phrase "global warming," as if station editors want to be sure that viewers see the crisis as a natural disaster and never connect the dots to New Orleans.

Sunday, July 30

want to understand?

Catherine Austin Fitts is a woman who has been deep inside the money and political system and understands how it works. I was led to read the article referred to below after reading this critical appraisal of Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth"

In this extensive article she reveals detail after detail, all fully known and available if anyone wants to check her sources.
This cartoon says it all - although the details will shock you.

After years of working in the belly of the beast, and then years of harassment by the powers that be, Catherine now works through Solari to evolve a "financially intimate world."

Her story is eye popping even for a hardened investigator of the workings of the ruling elite. And her passion for change is an inspiration.

Friday, July 28

been busy

If you are wondering if there is another post coming soon, sorry you will have to wait - Kim and I have been busy. :)

Tuesday, July 25

war was never the answer

It is hard to be in the middle of a process that we trust will bring a new and healthy child into this world, and not be touched, moved, and feel a twinge of desparation at the state of the world we are inviting her to.

We cannot bear to watch the continuous carnage. We cannot bear to hear the screams of children. We cannot bear to stand by as the United Nations and the G 8 abrogate their responsibilities to stop a war that should never have been started.

We call for a rapid deployment of diplomats from the Quartet, (US, UN,
Russia and EU) to talk with all parties involved in Iran, Syria, Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon and the region. We call for a cease-fire and simultaneous exchange of prisoners including the three soldiers initially captured by Hamas and the Hizbollah.

Above all, we
call for an end to the occupation of Palestine and the establishment of two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in mutual respect. We call for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq. We call for the force of law, not the law of force. Who will teach the powerful that overwhelming force can only result in overwhelming catastrophe.

War is not a solution. As long as people are dominated, humiliated,
marginalized, kept in poverty, excluded because of their religion, color, identity or gender we will see violence and revenge.

As long as
the world spends a trillion dollars a year on weapons and war and pathetic sums on health, education and the elimination of poverty, we will continue to witness violence. We know too much about root causes of violence, about what makes for peace, to still resort to old destructive violent forms of behavior.

We appreciate the courage of so many journalists who have brought the
sights and sounds of the brutality from Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq to our living rooms. Our tears flow with those of the parents without children, the children without parents, the dying, wounded and traumatized.

How will this end? How will the healing begin? Who will
rebuild homes, communities, factories and bridges? Who will start schools that promote reconciliation and prevent further violence? Let us see courage, compassion, vision and action in the diplomats who now hold the future in their hands.

Civil society has for years made
efforts to bring people together, to sow the seeds of peace. We care deeply about leaving a safe world for our children and grandchildren. We say, STOP the fighting, START the talking.

Drafted by Cora Weiss

President of the International Peace Bureau
777 United Nations Plaza,
10th Floor
New York, NY 10017,

International Peace Bureau Head Office
41 Rue de Zurich,

Phone +41-22-731-6429

Sunday, July 23

when things go wrong

It is my humble opinion that the changes necessary to the create health and well being in our society and the world, will come from changes we make in our individual and personal lives.

It is simple and requires no personal change, to point the finger at one or a group of powerful "others" and highlight
their failings. Unfortunately this approach is widely accepted. However it requires us giving away our personal power - through the assumption that others are more powerful and it is they who need to change.

We engage in this ritual most commonly in relation to politicians - an absurd habit really if we analyze that
power structure and see that politicians are beholden not to the people, so much as to the corporations who fund their campaigns, and who they have to placate if they are to be reelected.

When I read the following description,
from David C. Korten's latest book, of the early life of George W. Bush I found it easy to feel compassion for the individual. And it raised some questions.

Justin A. Frank, a respected Washington D.C., psychoanalyst and professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center, points to George W. Bush as an example of the potentially tragic consequences of nonnurturant parenting. By his reading of the public record of George W.'s early childhood experience, Dr. Frank concludes that young George suffered a serious lack of nurturing parenting, with devastating consequences for the United States and the world as he subsequently acted out his unresolved childhood conflicts on the global stage.

Young George's father, George H.W. Bush, was largely absent from the home and had little role in George W.'s early upbringing. His
emotional distant mother, Barbara Bush, was by her own account a strict disciplinarian who regularly invoked harsh physical punishment. When George was six, his younger sister, Robin, was diagnosed with leukemia, but he did not learn of her illness until after her death. George simply was told not to play with her. In the meantime, his parents frequently flew with her to the East Coast for treatment. On her death he was left to struggle on his own with unresolved feelings of abandonment, resentment, self-blame, and love associated with the tragedy and his parents' stoic response to it.

Such early experiences profoundly influence whether a child will grow up to perceive the world as largely safe and affirming or
threatening and alienating. They also influence whether the child develops a positive self-concept and the ability as an adult to admit error, feel compassion, and see oneself through the eyes of another -- in other words, the ability to take the step from an Imperial to a Socialised Consciousness and beyond. Persistent fears and self doubt may also translate into learning disabilities, rigid belief systems, claims to moral certainty, and megalomania that bar the passage to the high orders of consciousness. Confined to an Imperial Consciousness, individuals so afflicted are unable to acknowledge even to themselves the evil of the harm they inflict on others or the moral hypocrisy of their positions.

Dr. Frank documents the ways in which all these symptoms of thwarted development have been manifested by the adult George W. during his presidency. This pattern has been common among Empire's ruling elites since the earliest days of Empire, and the species has paid a terrible price.

question that arises is: What form of society can we create that bypasses this unfortunate state of affairs? How do we bypass lineage as a primary determinant for who leads a society, and instead embrace and support only those outstanding individuals who demonstrate the real qualifications needed for such important roles?

Tuesday, July 18

resource wars

A friend made this 5 minute video clip in three sleepless days after watching a documentary related to Peak Oil, 911, resource wars, global warming and resource wars. I hope you like it.

what is civilisation?

Dear friends and readers of this blog. I have been busy recently in another world, hence the postings here have been little less frequent of late. It's not that there isn't a lot to write about - there is plenty. In fact, it seems that change is the essence of our era, and it is coming at us at a pace that at times leaves us stunned - or turning to denial for respite.

As I write, the leaders of the wealthy G8 member countries are negotiating trade deals with the slave countries, in order to be able to perpetuate the destructive consumptive madness of our schizophrenic civilisation - if we look at the effects of our actions we are almost without exception, in small or large part, contributing to the demise of the systems which sustain us. Little wonder the breakdown of mental health is a significant issue in our western industrial societies.

But some brave souls are breaking free of the patterns of daily living (that we have been taught are normal and healthy), and are waving flags to get our attention, in the hope that we will change before change is forced upon us. It maybe too late, but it's worth a shot.

Derrick Jensen is one of these brave souls, who is willing to look the realities in the eye, and be moved by the implications for us and our children and their children. Here are a few snippets from an interview with Arthur Magazine:

ARTHUR: Why does civilization need to be brought down now?

DERRICK JENSEN: A few years ago, I began to feel pretty apocalyptic but I didn’t want to use that word because it’s so loaded. And then a friend, George Draffan, said, ‘So Derrick, what’s it gonna take for you to finally use that word? Give me a specific threshold, Derrick, a specific point at which you’ll finally use that word. Will it take global warming? The ozone hole? The reduction of krill populations off Antarctica by 90 percent? How about the end of the great coral reefs? The extirpation of 200 species per day? 400? 600? Will it take the death of the salmon?’ And I thought about that.

Salmon were once so thick around here that you couldn’t see the bottom of the river. You could hear the runs coming from miles before you’d see them. People were afraid to put their boats in the water for fear they’d capsize. And now, when I go out to Mill Creek, I start crying because I see two salmon spawning.

This civilization is killing the planet. They say that one sign of intelligence is the ability to recognize patterns. I’m gonna lay out a pattern here and let’s see if we can recognize it in less than 6,000 years. When you think of the hills and plains of Iraq, do you normally think of cedar forests so thick the sunlight never touches the ground? That’s how it was before...

... And yet civilization keeps chugging along, despite the deforestation and extinctions. People seem to believe that everything will work out via new technology or the system balancing itself out, even if they don’t know exactly how.

There’s something called carrying capacity, which is the number of any given species that a certain area can support permanently. Certainly populations can overshoot carrying capacity—you can have an island that can support a thousand deer forever but if you put 10,000 deer on it they’re gonna eat too much vegetation, they’re gonna cause erosion, they’re gonna permanently reduce carrying capacity. You can temporarily exceed carrying capacity, which is clearly what’s happening here...

...This way of thinking, that if we just ignore the problems, things are going to be okay, is really really easy, and it’s one of the things the Nazis used to great effect. At every step of the way, it was in the Jews’ rational self-interest not to resist. Because they kept pretending that things couldn’t get worse.

So, would you rather get an ID card, or resist and possibly get killed? Do you want to get on a cattle car or do you want to resist and possibly get killed? Do you want to take a shower, or resist and possibly get killed? At every step of the way they could talk themselves into not resisting. Zygmund Baumann has this great line, this is a direct quote, that “rational people will quietly meekly go into gas chambers if only you allow them to believe they’re bathrooms.”

It’s the same thing. Rational people will go quietly and meekly to the end of the world if you’ll only allow them to believe that the salmon don’t matter...

...people who think bringing down civilization would bring mass misery are ignoring that this is what’s already happening! It’s just that most of us don’t see it. There are people dying right now, starving to death in India, now, because of the global economy. Seventy-eight percent of the countries reporting child malnutrition export food. During the much-publicized famine in Ethiopia during the 1980s, that country exported green beans to Europe.

During the infamous potato famine, Ireland exported grain to England (and part of the reason the potato blight took hold in the first place was that the Irish were pushed to the poorest land). The famines come a lot of the time because a) people have been dispossessed, b) the land they were on is now used for cash crops for export and c), the water’s been stolen for semiconductor plants or aluminum smelters or whatever. The current system is already enslaving them and exploiting them.

Several years ago I asked Anuradha Mittal, former executive director of Food First, if the people of India be better off if the world economy disappeared tomorrow. She laughed and said, Of course. One of the examples she gave is there are former granaries in India that now export dog food and tulips to Europe. These are people who are dying right now...

Read the full article

Saturday, July 15

Korea and Cuba

Is it possible we might have to roll up our sleeves in the coming days and get used to sweating? Muscle power is renewable energy. The following article from Yes! magazine speaks to two examples of how others have faired in response to a sudden energy descent, something we can surely expect in the not too distant future.

That peak oil is coming is no longer a question. It’s only a matter of when. The global food system we are familiar with depends crucially on cheap energy and long-distance transportation—food consumed in the United States travels an average of 1,400 miles. Does peak oil mean inevitable starvation? Two countries provide a preview. Their divergent stories, one of famine, one of sufficiency, stand as a warning and a model.

North Korea and Cuba experienced the peak-oilscenario prematurely and abruptly due to the collapse of the former Soviet bloc and the intensified trade embargo against Cuba. The quite different outcomes are partly due to luck: the Cuban climate allows people to survive on food rations that would be fatal in North Korea’s harsh winters.

But the more fundamental reason is policy. North Korea tried to carry on business as usual as long as possible, while Cuba implemented a proactive policy to move toward sustainable agriculture and self-sufficiency. Read full article...

Tuesday, July 11

peak oil links

I have posted a few articles on this subject, but felt it was time to bring the information all together in one place. Today I watched an excellent piece of investigative journalism which screened on Australia's ABC Television yesterday. I hope our own New Zealand TV get inspired to share this information with the people soon!

This post will be a work in progress. I will keep updating it with short clips and new links in the coming days, so come back again. Meanwhile if you can, watch this - it is worth the time. And I would like to read your comments.

ABC Four Corners Documentary "Peak Oil?" video
ABC Four Corners Documentary "Peak Oil?" transcript

Supplies of oil and groundwater are in decline, and neither resource can be swiftly substituted. Oil is the universal elixir, used for petrol, pesticides, fertilizers, factory farmed food, transportation, refrigeration, heating, lighting, medicines, cement, much of the stuff in shops, in the office, in the factory, in the sky, in the home, in the hospitals, in computers, in our every day life. Peak oil heralds the end of the party, like when the grog runs out. Only worse. No ride home, except on a bike; no morning Jacuzzi, unless you've got plentiful water tanks and solar panels; no breakfast without an edible garden or a local food co-op. Perhaps malls will morph into farmers' markets. Fast companies will slow down. Tomorrow's hot jobs will be those now considered uncool, as in organic agriculturalists, water diviners, orchardists, recyclers, compost lavatorians, geologists, gas siphoners, builders of bamboo bikes, renewable energy boffins... Numerous voices are urging people to powerdown, to adapt to a post carbon future. Read more...

Here are a few good links in case you want to explore further:

putting things in perspective

After watching this you may feel that we are not as significant as we tend to assume. And that in fact we are a simply one point on a continuum, which stretches in both directions to infinity!

Wednesday, July 5

peak oil in pictures

When I saw this representation of human kind's discovery and subsequent consumption of oil it became clear that it is just a blip in our human evolution. The fact that oil has been around since we were born, doesn't affect the reality that in a few short years we will have used it all up.

Make no bones about it - the fight is on, over control of the last scraps, because the society as we know it has come to depend on it. But as consumption exceeds production more and more countries, just as we witnessed in Zimbabwe, will miss out.

The term Peak Oil refers to the likely fact that we have reached the pinnacle of global oil and natural gas output. Production will soon start to decline while demand continues to surge due to an increasing world population and the rapid industrialization of India and China.

How serious is peak oil? James Howard Kunstler in The Long Emergency provides an answer.

For Kunstler, peak oil marks a sharp discontinuity in human experience. The cheap oil and gas of the recent past have created an "artificial bubble of plenitude" that has raised human population far above the earth's base carrying capacity.

When this bubble bursts, the earth's ability to support human life will dramatically decline.

Monday, July 3

politicians and peak oil


You really are a creative, energetic and passionate man and I am delighted to know you a little.

Thank you for keeping me in the communications loop, this is really appreciated. I delighted in reading about your number eight wire, creative money saving solutions. You have been and continue to be highly effective in the business of disseminating information.

I understand your frustration at the slowness of response. I am quite clear in my own mind that the solutions will come in both directions. Just as people are building up local solutions and responses, so too are people like you hitting on the politicians and demanding approprate responses to this situation we find ourselves in. Our leaders are presently failing in their task, to focus on the issues and lead this fine country into a better future.

I look forward to the day when the people with a brighter vision for the potential of this country are assuming the mantel of leadership. NZ has the potential to become a shining example of a way forward from the madness of continued economic growth and the corporate driven consumption trap, into a creative, cooperative society of people who understand the deeper values of love, compassion, sharing, and a deep respect for all life.

Be sure to have someone photograph the delivering of these packages, I would suggest at least a photo of you at the beehive post box - or however you are delivering them - with close ups of the list of parliamentarians they are being given to, and a closeup of an open package. It will make a great news story - I will certainly post the pics here, with references and links to which you have been so doggedly maintaining for how many years now?

On 7/3/06, Robert wrote:

Morning James

This is what I went with in the end, I printed it 3 up with the quotes on the back, then stapeled them to a deposit slip for my bank account, so it is costing me about $50 for DVDs and about 180 sheets of paper + a roll of sellotape . I already had 70 copies of Peters lecture I just scrached the back of it so it only plays for 40 -50 min, that way I am sort of not throwing them out, well I am chucking them in the bin, just via Box 18 888 )


To all concerned MP’s.

We need at least $30,000, to get 5 DVDs, a 20 page booklet, and a CD with PDF type displays and literature as teacher’s aides, into 800 – 1,000 secondary schools and public libraries.

The DVDs are:
I am including The Power of Community and 45 minutes of Dr Peter Lloyd’s 85 minute lecture with this request, please take the time to watch these DVDs and then consider what is the best thing you can do for our community?

Since the government has over $40 million to spend on Buy NZ made, Environmental issues (PCE), and Energy issues, we trust you will recognise the fantastic return on investment this offer represents. A mere $30,000 for the wide dissemination of a considerable volume of valuable information.

We look forward to hearing from you,

The Oilcrash Group

Robert Atack

"......But the real issue last week was about bio-diesel and the world running out of fossil fuels. That was the point of the photo op*, and I went there to make that point, it's the world walking the plank frankly, not Don Brash...."

Don Brash, leader of the National Party
7:20am on 15/5/06, Morning Report, National Radio, Radio NZ
* Referring to his method of transferring off the Earthrace boat

PM - " I'm sure it [the rise in oil prices] is causing concern in every country. Because everyone is on the receiving end of the same phenomenon. Which is oil prices very high, because we're probably not too far short of peak production, if we're not already there. And that concentrates the mind..." [snip]

Helen Clark, New Zealand Prime Minister 18/04/2006
Questioned about govt response to oil price rises.

You’re quite right. Shell Oil International is working on the assumption that between 2005 and 2010 world oil demand will outstrip the capacity of the wells to supply.

Then the price will really go up. So get your bike out!

Jeanette Fitzsimmons, while leader of the Green Party
Email: Thursday, March 23,2000 2:29AM

OIL @ $120 NZ a barrel
"The price is so high now it has to come down"

Alan Bollard Governor Reserve Bank
Monetary Policy Statement June 2006


Information is a human right

Saturday, July 1

starving in the dark

I read this outloud to Kim tonight, awed at the extent of destruction we wreak on each other in the name of righteousness. . . I can't come close to the eloquence of Virginia Tilley's writing, so I will stand aside. But
for one sobering moment, as you read this, imagine yourself in the position of these people:

On the excuse of rescuing one kidnapped soldier, Israeli is now bombing the Gaza Strip and is poised to re-invade. It has also arrested a third of the Palestinian parliament, wrecking even its fragile illusion of capacity and reducing the already-empty vessel of the Palestinian Authority into broken shards.

In the shambles, Palestinians may be observing one bitter pill of compensation: vicious angling by Fatah to reclaim control of Palestinian national politics and its rivalry with Hamas are now rendered obsolete. Even the dogged international community cannot maintain its dogged pretense that the PA is actually capable of any governance at all. The demise of the disastrous Oslo model, Israel's device to ensure its final dismemberment of Palestinian land and its fatal cooptation of the Palestinian national movement, may finally be at hand. Perhaps Palestinian unity again has a chance.

But no one knows what will replace the PA. It is therefore not surprising that this transformed diplomatic landscape is absorbing the principal attention of an anxious international community.

Nevertheless, politics should not be the greatest international concern. For over in Gaza, one appalling act must now eclipse all thoughts of "road maps" or "mutual gestures": on Wednesday, Israeli war planes repeatedly bombed and utterly demolished Gaza's only power plant. About 700,000 of Gaza's 1.3 million people now have no electricity, and word is that power cannot be restored for six months.

It is not the immediate human conditions created by this strike that are monumental. Those conditions are, of course, bad enough. No lights, no refrigerators, no fans through the suffocating Gaza summer heat. No going outside for air, due to ongoing bombing and Israel's impending military assault. In the hot darkness, massive explosions shake the cities, close and far, while repeated sonic booms are doubtless wreaking the havoc they have wrought before: smashing windows, sending children screaming into the arms of terrified adults, old people collapsing with heart failure, pregnant women collapsing with spontaneous abortions. Mass terror, despair, desperate hoarding of food and water. And no radios, television, cell phones, or laptops (for the few who have them), and so no way to get news of how long this nightmare might go on.

But this time, the situation is worse than that. As food in the refrigerators spoils, the only remaining food is grains. Most people cook with gas, but with the borders sealed, soon there will be no gas. When family-kitchen propane tanks run out, there will be no cooking. No cooked lentils or beans, no humus, no bread ­ the staples Palestinian foods, the only food for the poor. (And there is no firewood or coal in dry, overcrowded Gaza.)

And yet, even all this misery is overshadowed by a grimmer fact: no water. Gaza's public water supply is pumped by electricity. The taps, too, are dry. No sewage system. And again, word is that the electricity is out for at least six months.

The Gaza aquifer is already contaminated with sea water and sewage, due to over-pumping (partly by those now-abandoned Israeli settlements) and the grossly inadequate sewage system. To be drinkable, well water is purified through machinery run by electricity. Otherwise, the brackish water must at least be boiled before it can be consumed, but this requires electricity or gas. And people will soon have neither.

Drinking unpurified water means sickness, even cholera. If cholera breaks out, it will spread like wildfire in a population so densely packed and lacking fuel or water for sanitation. And the hospitals and clinics aren't functioning, either, because there is no electricity.

Finally, people can't leave. None of the neighboring countries have resources to absorb a million desperate and impoverished refugees: logistically and politically, the flood would entirely destabilize Egypt, for example. But Palestinians in Gaza can't seek sanctuary with their relatives in the West Bank, either, because they can't get out of Gaza to get there. They can't even go over the border into Egypt and around through Jordan, because Israel will no longer allow people with Gaza identification cards to enter the West Bank. In any case, a cordon of Palestinian police are blocking people from trying to scramble over the Egyptian border--and war refugees have tried, through a hole blown open by militants, clutching packages and children.

In short, over a million civilians are now trapped, hunkered in their homes listening to Israeli shells, while facing the awful prospect, within days or weeks, of having to give toxic water to their children that may consign them to quick but agonizing deaths.

One woman near the Rafah border, taking care of her nephews, spoke to BBC: "If I am frightened in front of them I think they will die of fear." If the international community does nothing, her children may soon die anyway.

The astonishing scale of this humanitarian situation is indeed matched only by the deafening drizzle of international reaction. "Of course it is understandable that [the Israelis] would want to go after those who kidnapped their soldier," says Kofi Anan (while the Palestinian population cowers in the dark listening to thundering explosions demolish their society), "but it has to be done in such a way that civilian populations are not made to suffer." Even as Israel bombs smash Gaza's roadways, the G-8 stands up on its hind-legs to intone, "We call on Israel to exercise utmost restraint in the current crisis." How about the Russians, now angling for position in the new "Great Game" of the Middle East? "The right and duty of the government of Israel to defend the lives and security of its citizens are beyond doubt," says Russia's foreign ministry, as though poor Corporal Shalit warrants any of this mayhem, "But this should not be done at the cost of many lives and the lives of many Palestinian civilians, by massive military strikes with heavy consequences for the civilian population."

And what says noble Europe, proud font of human rights conventions, architects of the misiĆ³n civilizatrice? "The EU remains deeply concerned," mumbles the mighty defenders of humanitarian law, "about the worsening security and humanitarian developments." Seemingly soggy phrases like "deeply concerned" are diplomatic code for "We are seriously unhappy." But under these circumstances, "remains deeply concerned" suggests that this staggering crime is just one more sobering moment in the failed "road map."

Diplomatic bubbles of unreality in the Middle East are the norm rather than the exception, but at some point the international community must face the very unwelcome fact that it needs to change gear. A country that claims kinship among the western democracies of Europe is behaving like a murderous rogue regime, using any excuse to reduce over a million people to utter human misery and even mass death. Plastering Corporal Shalit's face over this policy is no more convincing that South African newspapers emblazoning the picture of one poor murdered white doctor over their coverage of the 1976 Soweto uprising.

Israel has done many things argued to be war crimes: mass house demolitions, closing whole cities for weeks, indefinite "preventative" detentions, massive land confiscation, the razing of thousands of square miles of Palestinian olive groves and agriculture, systematic physical and mental torture of prisoners, extrajudicial killings, aerial bombardment of civilian areas, collective punishment of every description in defiance of the Geneva Conventions--not to mention the general humiliation and ruin of the indigenous people under its military control. But destroying the only power source for a trapped and defenseless civilian population is an unprecedented step toward barbarity. It reeks, ironically, of the Warsaw Ghetto. As we flutter our hands about tectonic political change, we must take pause: in the eyes of history, what is happening in Gaza may come to eclipse them all.

Dr. Virginia Tilley is a professor of political science, currently working in South Africa.

bio fuels or food

I don't wish to be a wet blanket on a man's dream - having ridden on this thing last night and met Pete, the man behind the dream, I have huge respect for the energy it has taken to manifest this. But really, do you honestly think, as I suspect many hope, that we are going to maintain the status quo of consumption levels by shifting to bio-fuels.

Our grain reserves are dropping every year, as production outstrips demand, and this is only possible by using huge volumes of fossil fuels (about half of all fossil fuels are being used to grow food). With demand for bio-fuels increasing more people are going to go hungry.

The truth about bio-fuels. This is not a simplistic article - gird your loins.

Come on people, we are going to have to powerdown.