Twenty-five years ago today (September 18, 1987), US secretary of state George Shultz and Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze agreed the principles of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty. Simon Leadbetter looks at the parallels between the mutually assured destruction (MAD) from nuclear war and the similarly assured destruction (SAD) from climate change.
In October 1987, the American and Soviet leaders, Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev, famously met in Reykjavik. On December 8, of the same year, they signed the treaty putting out of action 3% of their nuclear missiles. A small step, but it heralded the start of the most dramatic reduction in weapons since the nuclear arms race had begun in earnest in the 1960s.
The world was simpler in 1987. Two superpowers completely dominated the geopolitical stage and if they wanted to do something, anything, they could do it in just under three months. At the time, capitalism was still fettered but straining at the leash following market liberalisation, Soviet-style socialism was gasping its final breaths (although we did not really know or believe it at the time) and there were murmurings of a rising middle kingdom, in the form of China. Tiananmen Square was just under two years away and, post-Nixon, the west liked China, rather than feared it.
For the record, Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up was the number one single and Michael Jackson’s Bad topped the Album Chart.
There are many parallels with the threat of mutually assured destruction in the nuclear arms race and the similar, albeit far slower, threat from climate change. There is a clear and present danger to our way of life and children’s futures. Death from a nuclear war is probably more straightforward to tackle, as it is easier to visualise and certainly a lot more immediate, than the highly complex, non-linear behaviour and impacts of our climate. There were also only two serious players in the game. However, both nuclear war and climate change represent an end to our way of life which will only be solved through collective and negotiated effort.
President Reagan’s decision to pursue disarmament talks apparently followed a viewing of The Day After, a television movie produced by the excellent ABC network, which dramatically shows the build-up to, destruction and aftermath of a nuclear war. In his diary, the president wrote that the film was, “very effective and left me greatly depressed”, and that it changed his mind on the prevailing policy on a “nuclear war“, which was to ramp up the rhetoric, increase stockpiles of weapons and to argue that the US would prevail in any war.
The UK had its own The Day After, in Threads, which is possibly even more brutal. One can only speculate on how Reagan would have reacted to An Inconvenient Truth or The 11th Hour had he been president at the time of their release. Sadly, in the fact-free, opinion-fuelled environment of US politics today, he probably would make the bad decisions that they are currently making.
That said, the president’s mind must have been open to persuasion, which is more than we can say for the heavily lobbied, blinkered and dogmatic climate change sceptics that dominate the Senate and Commons and all but a few of our media outlets.
A warning bell or white flag from planet Earth?
News that the Arctic ice cap has reached its lowest summer extent in recorded history and that we could now be facing an ice-free Arctic by 2015/16 should be ringing alarm bells in the capitals and every household of the world.
We could just about calculate the effect of a nuclear exchange between US and USSR (if you live in an urban/military/industrial setting, you’re almost certainly fried), but we have no real idea of how bad an ice-free Arctic will make conditions in the northern hemisphere. Uncertainty in the overall climate and local weather is very bad for societies, economies and ecologies.
Uncertainty in the weather makes farming and fishing increasingly difficult and food is a basic requirement for a functioning society.
Just as watching a dramatic reconstruction of a nuclear aftermath changed a president’s mind, the actual witnessing of the most dramatic Arctic melt, well ahead of the more outlandish predictions, should give us all pause to think about our current economic and ecological trajectory.
The world is more complex in 2012. The hegemony and balance of US-Soviet superpower status is history. China and India have created new balances of power. Five years ago, Putin threatened to pull out of the INF, objecting to US missile plans, but some commentators believe it was more to do with China being uncovered by the treaty. The US and Europe are so in debt to China, that the traditional diplomatic relationships between nation states and economic blocs is in uncharted territory. As Rio+20 demonstrated, getting agreement between 109 heads of state is harder than getting agreement between two.
However, this is not a voice of despair. In the developed world, we have the choice to be more informed and are more powerful than we have ever been. We have the vote so we can vote for those who take this threat seriously. We consume a lot of stuff, so we can buy the things that do the least damage to our planet and selves. We also have great wealth, compared to the rest of the world, so we can invest in a way that promotes sustainable companies and activities and penalises those which do harm.
Blue & Green Tomorrow is crowd funding its next three reports on just these issues to encourage those with wealth and power to invest more sustainably. To support us please watch and read our pitch at…
It will not solve all the problems by a long shot… but you’ve got to start.
Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy
Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.
Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.
Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.
How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:
- They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
- They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
- They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
- They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.
Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.
Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use
The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.
Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.
Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers
Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.
Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.
Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy
Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:
- Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
- Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
- Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.
You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.
How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands
Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.
Small waste adds up over time
A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:
- Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
- Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
- Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
- Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.
Going electronic has significant benefits
If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.
Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:
- Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
- Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
- Using financial software to manage your books
- Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
- Arranging digital feedback and review forms
- Making the most of Google Docs
Going green can help you to make money too
Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.
Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.