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Could a global grab for fertile soil, bring civil unrest? – ABC Rural (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Updated 9 hours 32 minutes ago
The estimated 1.6 billion hectares of fertile soils currently under cultivation can certainly feed the current world population.
‘Can healthy soil feed the world?’ Seven scientists give their opinion
- Why is soil missing from the ‘big five’ environmental questions of our time?
- A global grab for fertile soil could bring civil unrest
- Soil security on the political agenda
- Long-term soil experiments ‘profoundly undervalued’
- Spending on Earth: an alternative to studying soils on Mars
- Finding optimism in the challenge to double food production
If we still have approximately 800 million undernourished and hungry people on this planet, it is due to serious imbalances in the distribution of wealth, land and natural resources in general.
Market driven preference to allocate part of the fertile soils to producing energy or biofuels instead of food, as well as unsustainable consumption habits and market distortion in the food distribution chain, are causing the perception that our current land resources are insufficient and that we need to further expand agricultural cultivation to new areas.
It is an approach often requiring massive energy inputs, like fertilisers, irrigation and land levelling, and ultimately results in highly unsustainable agricultural models.
The close link between energy prices and food commodity prices on the global markets has been clearly demonstrated during the 2008 food crisis.
Since then we have observed a growing interest by large investors in acquiring land property rights in many parts of the world.
Buying fertile soils is certainly one of the most safe and remunerating forms of long term financial investment, given that fertile soils are a limited, non-renewable natural resource that will be more and more scarce in the future.
Buying fertile soils is certainly one of the most safe and remunerating forms of long term financial investment, given that fertile soils are a limited, non-renewable natural resource that will be more and more scarce in the future.
Rapidly progressing soil degradation processes, like erosion, organic carbon depletion, salinisation, contamination and compaction, together with massive urbanisation expanding especially on the most fertile areas of the world, is already seriously threatening the available fertile soil resources.
With a growing population, a changing climate and on-going land degradation we need to develop a common vision to preserve the available soil resources for future generations.
There needs to be a common approach to global soil resources, assuring that all humans to assure the needed food resources for nations lacking sufficient soil resources of their own, needs to be regulated in order to prevent massive displacement of populations as well as emerging conflicts.
The current trend towards ‘land grabbing’ or acquiring exclusive property rights on fertile land for assuring the needed food resources for nations lacking sufficient soil resources of their own, needs to be regulated in order to prevent massive displacement of populations as well as emerging conflicts.
Dangerous trends towards identifying soil resources as a topic of national security (soil security), therefore excluding access to those resources to populations lacking a sufficient agricultural production basis, need to be prevented.
We need to recognize that soil resources are a common natural capital sustaining the lives of all of us on this planet and need to be shared by all humans if we want to feed the world.
The recently established Global Soil Partnership aims to do this.
As a voluntary partnership of all countries and stakeholders genuinely committed to sustainable soil management, it federates the ‘coalition of the willing’ for soil protection at global level.
Through the establishment of Regional Soil Partnerships it allows for the full involvement of all local actors in this new, challenging vision of sustainable and equitable use of the available soil resources in the world.
First posted Sun 23 Mar 2014, 9:07pm AEDT
Hurricane-force winds disrupted transport and power supplies in Scotland and threatened coastal flooding in England as they closed on northern Europe in what meteorologists said could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the continent in years.
British authorities announced the Thames Barrier, designed to protect London from flooding during exceptional tides, would close on Thursday night and warned of “the most serious coastal tidal surge for over 60 years in England”. Prime Minister David Cameron called a meeting to discuss strategy.
One person was killed as winds of up to 225 km/hr slammed into parts of the Scottish highlands, Britain’s weather office said. More than 80,000 homes were left without power, according to energy company SSE.
That number was expected to rise with road connections blocked by fallen trees and debris. A lorry driver was killed and four people injured when his vehicle overturned and collided with other vehicles in West Lothian, police said.
Tidal surge predicted
All train services in Scotland were suspended shortly after 8 a.m. local time until further notice due to debris on the tracks caused by storm Xaver. Glasgow’s Central Station was evacuated after part of a glass roof collapsed, ScotRail said.
Low-lying coastal areas in eastern England were particularly vulnerable to a predicted tidal surge. Sea defences have been built up considerably since storms and flooding killed hundreds on the North Sea coast in 1953.
Authorities in Germany’s northern port city of Hamburg have issued warnings about the dangers of the winds, which some forecasters are saying could be as powerful as a deadly storm and ensuing flood that hit the city in 1962 and killed 315.
The city on the Elbe River was preparing for a direct hit by the storm on Thursday. Many schools and Christmas markets were closed as the storm neared and dozens of flights to and from Germany’s second city were cancelled.
Ferries to Germany’s North Sea islands were kept in ports.
Won’t let up
“Xaver has developed into hurricane force and it’ll be quite dangerous along the North Sea shore,” said Andreas Friedrich, a German weather service meteorologist.
“The truly dangerous thing about this storm is that the winds will continue for hours and won’t let up. The danger of coastal flooding is high.”
Friedrich said people were being advised to stay indoors across northern Germany because of the dangers such as trees being toppled and parts of roofs blown off. The weather service has issued an extreme weather warning for the northern states of Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Bremen.
In Ireland, Northern Ireland Electricity said 6,500 homes were without power after severe gale force winds with gusts of 100 km/h damaged the power network while another 10,000 customers lower power but had their services restored during the night.
The dogfight over Japan’s biggest problem, its gargantuan government deficit, entered its annual ritual of leaks and pressure tactics that usually leads to a pre-Christmas draft budget with even bigger deficits. But this time, it’s different. Very different.
Japan has always has been a place of huge natural disasters – earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, typhoons, to name a few – and the people have long ago come to grips with it, adapted to it, and incorporated it into their spiritual views. When, not if, disaster strikes, they’re shocked and scared like all human beings, but they’re disciplined, stoic in their manner, and there isn’t much looting, at least not from the lower 99% of society.
Perhaps they look at their public budget deficits and the resulting mountain of debt in a similar manner, a giant volcano that can erupt anytime and do phenomenal damage. And they’re no more alarmed about it than they are about the next Big One. But when this disaster hits, it’s going to be entirely man-made. And by democratic means!
So the leaks have started. The Asahi Shimbun, citing an unnamed source, reported that the Ministry of Finance wants to reduce the amount of debt it will issue next fiscal year to below the amount issued this year. Turns out, tax revenues are rising. But pressure is already building up in the ruling coalition to spend even more, now that there is more money coming in.
Japan’s numbers make you dizzy. This fiscal year, ending March 31, Japan is expected to borrow ¥42.9 trillion ($423 billion) to fund its regular budget of ¥92.6 trillion. Regularbecause a “supplementary budget” of ¥10.3 trillion – a stimulus package, in English – was passed along with it, without which, as MOF Taro Aso explained at the time, “the economy would fall into a severe situation in April-June.”
It brought the first Abenomics budget to ¥102.9 trillion, an all-time record!
The Japanese budget game – like that in the US and other countries – has many kinks to obfuscate reality. So $5.2 trillion of the supplementary budget had to be borrowed, and that additional debt was conveniently accounted for in fiscal 2012, though the bonds would be issued and the money would be spent in fiscal 2013. It sure makes fiscal 2013 look betterslightly less horrible.
Nearly 47% of every yen the government spends is borrowed.
The ¥102.9 trillion in outlays are being funded in part by issuing ¥48.1 trillion in new debt, including the debt for the stimulus package. This is great promise of Abenomics. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
We knew that. But now the source whispered that tax revenues have been rising and will likely hit ¥45 trillion this year, instead of the expected ¥43.1 trillion. This trend would continue into the next fiscal year with tax revenues expected to jump to ¥50 trillion – close to the ¥51 trillion collected in 2007 before the financial crisis.
Where is this new moolah supposed to come from?
The consumption tax hike to 8%, from 5%, effective April 1, might bring in ¥4.6 trillion. The government hopes that salaries and annual bonuses will rise, though this may be wishful thinking. And corporate earnings have been soaring as companies translate their foreign earnings into devalued yen. Thus, the government expects revenues from individual and corporate income taxes to rise by ¥2 to ¥3 trillion.
So the MOF has calculated that bond issuance next fiscal year might actually drop below this year’s level, a micro-step in the right direction that would be welcomed by the ratings agencies and might stave off another downgrade – but not disaster.
But no way. With so much free money being pumped out by the Bank of Japan, and with new tax revenues pouring in, lawmakers want to do what they’ve always done: hand outeven more goodies to Japan, Inc. and their constituents.
Some of the extra expenditures are based on demographics. The aging population will drive up social security costs, which includes health care and nursing care. The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry, with a budget of over ¥30 trillion, is projecting nearly ¥1 trillion in additional outlays just for that.
The endless desire to spend even more money (that they don’t have) came to light in August, when the various ministries submitted their budget requests. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, for instance, asked for a 16.3% increase to make infrastructure more resilient to disasters. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries asked for an additional 13.6% to enrich the already heavily subsidized ag and fishing interests. These budget requests exceeded ¥100 trillion for second year in a row. Now the MOF is trying to whittle them down somewhat. And the fight is on.
Then there’s the consumption-tax hike. Yup, the big money maker. Companies and households are currently frontloading big-ticket purchases. And these purchases will grind to a halt after the tax hike takes effect; Japan went through this last time it hiked the consumption tax. Frontloading caused the economy to boom for several quarters before the tax hike. The aftermath was a long and steep long recession.
Dreading a repeat, members of the ruling coalition are already clamoring for even morestimulus spending to cover that hole next year. Much of it would be dedicated to public works projects, including incomprehensible structures, like the unfinished bridges to nowhere that now dot the land.
Japan Inc. is salivating.
But the MOF is trying to dig in its heels. It wants to use the extra revenues to reduce bond issuance by a smidgen. So if it prevails, the budget fiasco will continue to get much worse, at a slower pace.
But there is nothing to worry about. The BOJ is printing about ¥85 trillion per fiscal year to buy mostly government bonds with it. Simultaneously, the MOF will sell ¥48 trillion in new bonds. Behind the smokescreen of the “market,” the BOJ will buy them all, plus another ¥36 billion, and rumor has it that it will pick up the pace next year. It is not only monetizing Japan’s deficit, but also big chunks of its outstanding debt.
The Japanese know this. They know that this is just another huge disaster coming their way, the next Big One, so to speak, and they’ll keep going about their lives and doing the things they enjoy doing, or have to do, and they’re not going to panic, because it may be years before this disaster will hit, though the looting at the top has already started.
The beneficiaries of Abenomics are now coming out of the woodwork with soaring profits. But they’re doing the opposite of what Abenomics promised they’d do: they’re diversifyingaway from Japan. Read…. Here Is Proof (Provided By Japan Inc.) Why Abenomics Fails The Real Economy
The storms caused widespread power cuts in Riyadh, and closed schools and universities across the capital. [AFP]
|A weather system has caused widespread flooding across the Arabian Peninsula over the past few days.
Initially the thunderstorms stretched from Saudi Arabia to Iraq, then the system slid slowly southwards.
In Saudi Arabia, the storms killed at least seven people, with five more still missing.
The capital, Riyadh, and the northeastern city of Arar were amongst the worst hit.
The storms flooded a number of underpasses on major routes around Riyadh, causing widespread disruption, and the north of the city was plunged into darkness as the storms pulled down powerlines.
Schools and universities across the capital have been closed since Sunday.
Iraq was also badly hit, as the rising flood waters submerged streets and caused buildings to collapse. At least 11 people are known to have died across the country, most of those were killed when their homes collapsed in on them.
In order to try to limit the damage caused by the storms, authorities have tried declaring national holidays. Another holiday was called earlier in the month.
The heaviest rain that has been reported was 112mm in just 24 hours in the Iraqi city of Karbalaa.
The International Airport in Riyadh reported 20mm of rain in a day, just a little more than Doha, where 18mm was received.
The rain is now moving away, across the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Although heavy rain is still expected, the system is weakening, so the flooding should be less extensive.
The region regularly floods when it rains. This is partly due to the lack of drains and also thanks to the sandy soil of the region, which cannot readily absorb water. In May last year, around 20 people were killed after torrential rain swamped parts of Saudi Arabia.
The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.
Ever since I started writing about what is happening in the world around me, my primary theme has been that the root cancer at the core of the U.S., and indeed global economy, is cronyism and an absence of the rule of law when it comes to oligarchs. In the U.S., this cronyism is best described as an insidious relationship between large multi-national corporations and big government to funnel all of the wealth and resources of the nation to themselves at the expense of everyone else. In a genuine free market defined by heightened competition and governed by an equal application of the rule of law to all, the 0.1% does not aggregate all of a nation’s wealth. This sort of thing only happens in crony capitalism, which is basically nothing more than complete and total insider deals to aggregate newly created money into the hands of the few.
The following profile of Washington D.C.’s so-called “boom” from theSt. Louis Post-Dispatch pretty much tells you all you need to know. While I think the tone of the article is absurd considering this is no “economic boom,” but merely parasitic wealth extraction on a unprecedented scale, it is still quite telling. It is no coincidence that as D.C. has grown wealthier, the nation has become much, much poorer. Key excerpts below:
The avalanche of cash that made Washington rich in the last decade has transformed the culture of a once staid capital and created a new wave of well-heeled insiders.
The winners in the new Washington are not just the former senators, party consiglieri and four-star generals who have always profited from their connections. Now they are also the former bureaucrats, accountants and staff officers for whom unimagined riches are suddenly possible. They are the entrepreneurs attracted to the capital by its aura of prosperity and its super-educated workforce. They are the lawyers, lobbyists and executives who work for companies that barely had a presence in Washington before the boom.
At the same time, big companies realized that a few million spent shaping legislation could produce windfall profits. They nearly doubled the cash they poured into the capital.
Sorry these aren’t “entrepreneurs,” they are parasitic opportunists.
At Cafe Joe, a greasy spoon near the National Security Agency in suburban Maryland, software engineers with top-secret clearances merely have to look at the place mats under their fried eggs to find federal contractors trying to entice them away from their government jobs with six-figure salaries and stock options. The place-mat ads cost $250 a week. They are sold out through 2014.
During the past decade, the region added 21,000 households in the nation’s top 1 percent. No other metro area came close.
Two forces triggered the boom.
The share of money the government spent on weapons and other hardware shrank as service contracts nearly tripled in value. At the peak in 2010, companies based in Rep. James Moran’s congressional district in Northern Virginia reaped $43 billion in federal contracts — roughly as much as the state of Texas.
Back in 2000, the company spent a mere $260,000 lobbying Congress, federal records show. Its lobbyists mostly talked to lawmakers about health care: medical manufacturing issues, Medicare reimbursement rates, privacy of health records, and congressional oversight of the Food and Drug Administration.
By the end of the decade, the company had broadened its horizons dramatically. “Government relations” now accounted for $2.6 million — a tenfold increase. On one quarterly disclosure report from 2010, Boston Scientific listed 35 different pieces of legislation on which it was lobbying. They included proposals on patent reform, tax penalties for moving American jobs abroad, tax credits for research and development, rules for transporting lithium batteries, limits on workers’ ability to form labor unions and federal regulation of certain types of financial derivatives.
Government relations has become so important to the bottom line of a modern company, Becker said, that it should be a required course at business school. The numbers suggest she’s right. Companies spent about $3.5 billion annually on lobbying at the end of the last decade, a nearly 90 percent increase from 1999 after adjusting for inflation, political scientist Lee Drutman notes in a forthcoming book, “The Business of America Is Lobbying.”
And you wonder why the economy sucks?
Legal services also boomed, fueled by the growing complexities of federal business regulations. The number of lawyers in the D.C. metro area increased by a third from 2000 to 2012, nearly twice as fast as the growth rate nationwide. And those lawyers have the highest mean salaries in the country, according to George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis.
The more companies spend on influence, the lower their effective tax rates and the higher their stock returns compared with competitors’, according to recent research. A company called Strategas has built an index to track the stock performance of the 50 companies that lobby the most; last year, that index outperformed the rest of the market by 30 percent.
If you still are confused why the U.S. economy is completely stuck in the mud, look no further than the parasites of Washington D.C.
Full article here.
The city of Washington, Illinois, was hit hard by a “large and extremely dangerous” tornado [Reuters]
|Severe storms and violent tornadoes have killed at least two people and injured about 40 and flattening large parts of the city of Washington, Illinois, as they battered the US Midwest on Sunday, officials said.
The storm created tornadoes in Bone Gap and Miller City, Illinois, in Mount Carmel, Noblesville and Vincennes in Indiana, and in Paducah, Kentucky, the National Weather Service said on Sunday.
The storm system is threatening up to 53 million people across the Midwest.
The storm also forced the Chicago Bears to halt their game against the Baltimore Ravens and encourage fans at Soldier Field to seek shelter as the storm roared in.
Chicago’s two major airports also briefly stopped traffic with the metropolitan area was under a tornado watch.
The city of Washington, Illinois, was hit hard by what the National Weather Service called a “large and extremely dangerous” tornado.
Thirty-one people injured by the storm that hit Washington were being treated at St Francis Medical Center, one of the main hospitals in nearby Peoria, according to hospital spokeswoman Amy Paul. Eight had traumatic injuries.
Two people were killed in Washington County, Illinois, about 320km south of Peoria, said Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson.
The agency estimated that at least 70 homes were destroyed across the state.
Stephen Wilson, a spokesman for Peoria’s Proctor Hospital, said six or seven patients were being treated with minor injuries. “Mostly cuts, bruises, some broken bones,” he said.
Photos from Washington, Illinois, showed buildings reduced to rubble and homes torn in half in the city of 15,000 people about 233km southwest of Chicago.
“We have reports of homes being flattened, roofs being torn off,” Sara Sparkman, a spokeswoman for the health department of Tazewell County, Illinois, where Washington is located, said in a telephone interview.
Many of the injuries appeared to have been caused by collapsing structures.
The Illinois National Guard sent a 10-person fire-fighting and search-and-rescue team to Washington to help with the recovery effort.
Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said mobile homes were toppled, roofs torn from homes, and trees uprooted.
She said officials believe some people may be trapped in their basements under debris.
The American Red Cross worked with emergency management officials to set up shelters and provide assistance to displaced residents, even as rescue workers searched for more people who might have been caught and trapped in the storm’s path.
Tornado warnings were in effect for parts of Indiana and Kentucky. Weather officials urged residents of areas with tornado warnings in place to take cover in interior, low-floor rooms of study buildings.
The NWS’s Storm Prediction Center said the storm moved dangerously fast, tracking eastward at 97 kilometre per hour.
Batten down the hatches. Commuters face rush-hour chaos this morning as they wake up to the impact of the worst storm in years, with winds of almost 100mph battering Britain.
As winds tear through property and causing flooding and major travel disruption, more than 7,000 homes in the Bristol and Bath area have reportedly been left without power, flights and rail services across the country have been cancelled or delayed and there is widespread flooding in southern parts of England as rain and hurricane-force winds arrived from the South West.
Trees have been brought down by high winds, damaging property, and a number of roads left impassable by floodwater.
|Millions of people across eastern India are bracing themselves for more flooding as Cyclone Phailin’s effects continue to be felt along the coast.Emergency services are struggling to deliver aid as rising water levels sweep away roads.
Phailin menaced India for days, and while the states where the fierce storm made landfall were well prepared for its fury, the surrounding areas have been caught by surprise.
Across eastern Indian, 12 million people have been affected by heavy rain and flooding.
Al Jazeera’s Nidhi Dutt reports from eastern Midnapore, one of the worst-hit regions in West Bengal state.
- Millions affected by east India cyclone flood (aljazeera.com)
- Floods kill five in India after Cyclone Phailin (abc.net.au)
- ‘Million Mask March’ In The Works for National Mall on Guy Fawkes Day (washington.cbslocal.com)
- Million Mask March Q & A (millionmaskmarch.wordpress.com)
- Million Mask March Event Map: 150+ Locations And Counting (millionmaskmarch.wordpress.com)
- Introducing a Brilliant Parody Website of the NSA (libertyblitzkrieg.com)
News – Storm leaves thousands of Quebecers without power amid scorching heat wave – The Weather Network
- Weather Network forecaster calls for more consistent summer conditions (ctvnews.ca)
- ‘Upside down’ weather forecast for Canada this summer (calgaryherald.com)
- Wild weather in Saskatchewan: Storms produce four tornadoes (calgaryherald.com)