Swans Commentary » swans.com December 19, 2011  



Perspectives: A Review of 2011


2011: A Stormy Year


by Jan Baughman


A Cartoon



(Swans - December 19, 2011)  

Pic: "2011: A Stormy Year" - © 2011 Jan Baughman - Size: 52k

A Stormy Year - © 2011 Jan Baughman


2011 proved to be a stormy year, indeed. The events represented above are for the most part articulated in the excellent articles of this year-end review. Yet there were many significant stories that barely registered on the Richter scale or made the weather report of 2011, including the effects of climate change that created the veritable storms that wreaked havoc around the globe, the whimpering end to the Iraq occupation and what we've left behind, and the stark reality behind the We Support Our Troops bumper stickers.

Arctic sea ice melted to near-record levels this year, and in true opportunist fashion, corporations are seizing on this as a literal opening for profits. And in typical corporate fashion, they spun this development as a means to protect the environment. According to an October 5 Guardian article, Melting Arctic ice clears the way for supertanker voyages (which byline read Scandinavian shipowners say cargo routes through the Arctic, made possible by warmer temperatures, would save money and emissions):

Supertankers and giant cargo ships could next year travel regularly between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Arctic to save time, money and emissions, say Scandinavian shipowners.
The route, which cuts around 4,000 nautical miles off the southern Suez route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, has barely needed an ice-breaker since July as annual sea ice melted to a near record low extent. 'We saved 1,000 tonnes of bunker fuel -- nearly 3,000 tonnes of CO2 -- on one journey between Murmansk and north China,' said Christian Bonfils, a director of Nordic Bulk Carriers in Oslo.

The shipowners, who anticipate that the northern route could gradually be opened for four to six months a year as air and sea temperatures increase, are exploring the possibility of regular summer passages through the Arctic ocean. This could save them €180,000-300,000 on each voyage, they say.
Canadian and American maritime experts have estimated that 2% of global shipping could be diverted to the Arctic by 2030, rising to 5% by 2050.

Thereby increasing the damage to the Arctic...

Corporations continued their successful lobbying against environmental protections, because in the short term they are profiting from climate change, even while denying its existence. The Durban climate summit added nothing substantive to Kyoto, but for "...blaming the developed world for climate change and dictating how much guilt money it should pay. The implication is that somehow all this money -- at least $100-billion a year, rising to as much as $1.6-trillion -- will buy an end to global warming. In return, developing nations agreed to be bound by emission targets in some future deal that will be negotiated by 2015. Whoopdeedo," according to Lorne Gunter of Canada's National Post.

Turning to Wyoming, f*ing fracking fluids were found in an aquifer that provides drinking water to residents near the fracking field, while the US Environmental Protection Agency -- languishing on the threatened species list -- was accused by the offending company as having contaminated the water during the testing or monitoring process!

Speaking of threatened species and 2050, according to the National Wildlife Federation, "As climate change melts sea ice, the U.S. Geological Survey projects that two thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050. This dramatic decline in the polar bear is occurring in our lifetime, which is but a miniscule fraction of the time polar bears have roamed the vast Arctic seas." The length of their hunting season has dropped due to ice melting, the availability of food (seals) is decreasing, and therefore their weights are dropping and their populations declining. They have reportedly been observed resorting to cannibalism.

Polar bears have fallen out of favor, with the middle class taking their place in 2011 as the poster child for extinction of a species.

The year is ending with the unceremonious withdrawal of US troops from Iraq; not because we've acknowledged the illegality of our war and occupation, but because we were summarily kicked out. However, perhaps the U.S. ultimately succeeded in exporting democracy (read: capitalism) to the country it destroyed! In true capitalist fashion, Iraqis began turning some of the 505 (Five Hundred and Five...) military bases and prison camps into hotels "to lure executives from oil and oil-services companies that operate in the nearby fields. The trailers-cum-hotel rooms go for about $190 a night, and they can be booked only in blocks in advance. The dream that we have is to turn this into a commercial oasis,' said Maythem H. al-Asadi, Kufan's [the hotel's developer and operator] president. 'It's only a matter of time.'"

Oil production in Basra is expected to take off, and Camp Bucca, with its "panoramic scene of storm fencing and coiled razor wire" may serve as a perfect venue for exploitation. "'Exxon loved it,' Mr. Latif [Basra Gateway's general manager] said of the former Camp Bucca. Their representatives visited half a dozen times, he said, to examine the security arrangements, taking in the sprawl of razor wire and concrete walls and exclaiming, 'Oh boy, it's excellent!'"

Mission Accomplished?

And what about our troops, returning or otherwise? For those troops still intact, suicides among active and reserve Army servicemembers hit a record high in July. And in November it was discovered that the Dover Air Force Base mortuary dumped incinerated bits and pieces of at least 274 of its war dead in landfill between 2003 and 2008, at the same time antiwar enthusiasts were being accused of not supporting the troops... Meanwhile, in a rare 2011 show of bipartisanship, the House overwhelmingly approved an obscene $649 billion defense budget -- $18 billion over this year's budget -- while civilians are left dangling over the economic abyss. Onward to Iran!

Indeed, it's been a very stormy year. Here's to 2012, with hopes for calmer weather, a bit more respect for the environment, and as always, the wish for world peace.


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About the Author

Jan Baughman on Swans -- with bio. She is Swans co-editor.   (back)


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Internal Resources

Years in Review

Other Cartoons by Jan Baughman

Patterns which Connect

America the 'beautiful'

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published December 19, 2011