A Civilisation Hell bent on Destroying Itself

A Civilisation Hell bent on Destroying Itself

Climate change: ‘We’ve created a civilisation hell bent on destroying itself – I’m terrified’, writes Earth scientist

By James Dyke, Senior Lecturer in Global Systems, University of Exeter

The coffee tasted bad. Acrid and with a sweet, sickly smell. The sort of coffee that results from overfilling the filter machine and then leaving the brew to stew on the hot plate for several hours. The sort of coffee I would drink continually during the day to keep whatever gears left in my head turning.

Odours are powerfully connected to memories. And so it’s the smell of that bad coffee which has become entwined with the memory of my sudden realisation that we are facing utter ruin.

It was the spring of 2011, and I had managed to corner a very senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) during a coffee break at a workshop. The IPCC was established in 1988 as a response to increasing concern that the observed changes in the Earth’s climate are being largely caused by humans.

The IPCC reviews the vast amounts of science being generated around climate change and produces assessment reports every four years. Given the impact the IPPC’s findings can have on policy and industry, great care is made to carefully present and communicate its scientific findings. So I wasn’t expecting much when I straight out asked him how much warming he thought we were going to achieve before we manage to make the required cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Oh, I think we’re heading towards 3°C at least,” he said.

“Ah, yes, but heading towards,” I countered: “We won’t get to 3°C, will we?” (Because whatever you think of the 2°C threshold that separates “safe” from “dangerous” climate change, 3°C is well beyond what much of the world could bear.)

“Not so,” he replied.

That wasn’t his hedge, but his best assessment of where, after all the political, economic, and social wrangling we will end up.

“But what about the many millions of people directly threatened,” I went on. “Those living in low-lying nations, the farmers affected by abrupt changes in weather, kids exposed to new diseases?”

He gave a sigh, paused for a few seconds, and a sad, resigned smile crept over his face. He then simply said: “They will die.”


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Untold devastation awaits us if radical action is not taken. Frans Delian/Shutterstock.com

That episode marked a clear boundary between two stages of my academic career. At the time, I was a new lecturer in the area of complex systems and Earth system science. Previously, I had worked as a research scientist on an international astrobiology project based in Germany.

In many ways, that had been my dream job. As a young boy, I had lain on the grass on clear summer evenings and looked up at one of the dots in the night sky and wondered if around that star a planet orbited with beings that could look up from the surface of their world and similarly wonder about the chances of life being found within the unremarkable solar system we call home in the universe. Years later, my research involves thinking about how surface life can affect the atmosphere, oceans and even rocks of the planet it lives on.

That’s certainly the case with life on Earth. At a global scale, the air we all breathe contains oxygen largely as a result of photosynthetic life, while an important part of the UK’s national identity for some – the white cliffs of Dover – are comprised of countless numbers of tiny marine organisms that lived more than 70m years ago.

The chalk is made up of ancient pulverised shells of tiny organisms called coccolithophore. John Hemmings/Shutterstock.com

So it wasn’t a very large step from thinking about how life has radically altered the Earth over billions of years to my new research that considers how a particular species has wrought major changes within the most recent few centuries. Whatever other attributes Homo sapiens may have – and much is made of our opposable thumbs, upright walking and big brains – our capacity to impact the environment far and wide is perhaps unprecedented in all of life’s history. If nothing else, we humans can make an almighty mess.

Change within a lifetime

I was born in the early 1970s. This means in my lifetime the number of people on Earth has doubled, while the size of wild animal populations has been reduced by 60%. Humanity has swung a wrecking ball through the biosphere. We have chopped down over half of the world’s rainforests and by the middle of this century there may not be much more than a quarter left. This has been accompanied by a massive loss in biodiversity, such that the biosphere may be entering one of the great mass extinction events in the history of life on Earth.

What makes this even more disturbing, is that these impacts are as yet largely unaffected by climate change. Climate change is the ghosts of impacts future. It has the potential to ratchet up whatever humans have done to even higher levels. Credible assessments conclude that one in six species are threatened with extinction if climate change continues.

The scientific community has been sounding the alarm over climate change for decades. The political and economic response has been at best sluggish. We know that in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to rapidly reduce emissions now.

Required emissions reductions to limit warming to 2°C. Robbie Andrew

The sudden increase in media coverage of climate change as a result of the actions of Extinction Rebellion and school strike for climate pioneer Greta Thunburg, demonstrates that wider society is waking up to the need for urgent action. Why has it taken the occupation of Parliament Square in London or children across the world walking out of school to get this message heard?

There is another way of looking at how we have been responding to climate change and other environmental challenges. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating because it offers a new perspective that could cut through inaction. Terrifying as it could, if we are not careful, lead to resignation and paralysis.


Read more: Climate change: seeing the planet break down is depressing – here’s how to turn your pain into action


Because one explanation for our collective failure on climate change is that such collective action is perhaps impossible. It’s not that we don’t want to change, but that we can’t. We are locked into a planetary-scale system that while built by humans, is largely beyond our control. This system is called the technosphere.

The technosphere

Coined by US geoscientist Peter Haff in 2014, the technosphere is the system that consists of individual humans, human societies – and stuff. In terms of stuff, humans have produced an extraordinary 30 trillion metric tons of things. From skyscrapers to CDs, fountains to fondue sets. A good deal of this is infrastructure, such as roads and railways, which links humanity together.

Along with the physical transport of humans and the goods they consume is the transfer of information between humans and their machines. First through the spoken word, then parchment and paper-based documents, then radio waves converted to sound and pictures, and subsequently digital information sent via the internet. These networks facilitate human communities. From roving bands of hunter-gatherers and small farming tribes, right up to the inhabitants of a megacity that teams with over 10m inhabitants, Homo sapiens is a fundamentally social species.

The techno-planet. Joshua Davenport/Shutterstock.com

Just as important, but much less tangible, is society and culture. The realm of ideas and beliefs, of habits and norms. Humans do a great many different things because in important ways they see the world in different ways. These differences are often held to be the root cause of our inability to take effective global action. There is no global government, for a start.

But as different as we all are, the vast majority of humanity is now behaving in fundamentally similar ways. Yes, there are still some nomads who roam tropical rainforests, still some roving sea gypsies. But more than half of the global population now lives in urban environments and nearly all are in some way connected to industrialised activities. Most of humanity is tightly enmeshed into a globalised, industrialised complex system – that of the technosphere.

Importantly, the size, scale and power of the technosphere has dramatically grown since World War II. This tremendous increase in the number of humans, their energy and material consumption, food production and environmental impact has been dubbed the Great Acceleration.

The great acceleration of the technosphere. Felix Pharand-Deschenes Globaia

The tyranny of growth

It seems sensible to assume that the reason products and services are made is so that they can be bought and sold and so the makers can turn a profit. So the drive for innovation – for faster, smaller phones, for example – is driven by being able to make more money by selling more phones. In line with this, the environmental writer George Monbiot argued that the root cause of climate change and other environmental calamities is capitalism and consequently any attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately fail if we allow capitalism to continue.

But zooming out from the toil of individual manufacturers, and even humanity, allows us to take a fundamentally different perspective, one that transcends critiques of capitalism and other forms of government.

Humans consume. In the first instance, we must eat and drink in order to maintain our metabolism, to stay alive. Beyond that, we need shelter and protection from physical elements.

There are also the things we need to perform our different jobs and activities and to travel to and from our jobs and activities. And beyond that is more discretional consumption: TVs, games consoles, jewellery, fashion.

The purpose of humans in this context is to consume products and services. The more we consume, the more materials will be extracted from the Earth, and the more energy resources consumed, the more factories and infrastructure built. And ultimately, the more the technosphere will grow.

The growth of the economy is based on the growth of consumption. Roman Mikhailiuk/Shutterstock.com

The emergence and development of capitalism obviously lead to the growth of the technosphere: the application of markets and legal systems allows increased consumption and so growth. But other political systems may serve the same purpose, with varying degrees of success. Recall the industrial output and environmental pollution of the former Soviet Union. In the modern world, all that matters is growth.

The idea that growth is ultimately behind our unsustainable civilisation is not a new concept. Thomas Malthus famously argued there were limits to human population growth, while the Club of Rome’s 1972 book, Limits to Growth, presented simulation results that pointed to a collapse in global civilisation.

Today, alternative narratives to the growth agenda are, perhaps, getting political traction with an All Party Parliamentary Group convening meetings and activities that seriously consider de-growth policies. And curbing growth within environmental limits is central to the idea of a Green New Deal, which is now being discussed seriously in the US, UK, and other nations.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, champion of the US Green New Deal. Rachael Warriner/Shutterstock.com

If growth is the problem, then we just have to work at that, right? This won’t be easy, as growth is baked into every aspect of politics and economics. But we can at least imagine what a de-growth economy would look like.

My fear, however, is that we will not be able to slow down the growth of the technosphere even if we tried – because we are not actually in control.

Limits to freedom

It may seem nonsense that humans are unable to make important changes to the system they have built. But just how free are we? Rather than being masters of our own destiny, we may be very constrained in how we can act.

Like individual blood cells coursing through capillaries, humans are part of a global-scale system that provides for all their needs and so has led them to rely on it entirely.

If you jump in your car to get to a particular destination, you can’t travel in a straight line “as the crow flies”. You will use roads that in some instances are older than your car, you, or even your nation. A significant fraction of human effort and endeavour is devoted to maintaining this fabric of the technosphere: fixing roads, railways, and buildings, for example.

In that respect, any change must be incremental because it must use what current and previous generations have built. The channelling of people via road networks seems a trivial way to demonstrate that what happened far in the past can constrain the present, but humanity’s path to decarbonisation isn’t going to be direct. It has to start from here and at least in the beginning use existing routes of development.

This isn’t meant to excuse policymakers for their failure of ambition, or lack of bravery. But it indicates that there may be deeper reasons why carbon emissions are not decreasing even when there appears to be increasingly good news about alternatives to fossil fuels.

Think about it: at the global scale, we have witnessed a phenomenal rate of deployment of solar, wind, and other sources of renewable energy generation. But global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. This is because renewables promote growth – they simply represent another method of extracting energy, rather than replacing an existing one.

Renewable energy production has not led to a reduction in fossil fuel use. Thongsuk Atiwannakul/Shutterstock.com

The relationship between the size of the global economy and carbon emissions is so robust that US physicist Tim Garret has proposed a very simple formula that links the two with startling accuracy. Using this method, an atmospheric scientist can predict the size of the global economy for the past 60 years with tremendous precision.

But correlation does not necessarily mean causation. That there has been a tight link between economic growth and carbon emissions does not mean that has to continue indefinitely. The tantalisingly simple explanation for this link is that the technosphere can be viewed like an engine: one that works to make cars, roads, clothes, and stuff – even people – using available energy.

The technosphere still has access to abundant supplies of high energy density fossil fuels. And so the absolute decoupling of global carbon emissions from economic growth will not happen until they either run out or the technosphere eventually transitions to alternative energy generation. That may be well beyond the danger zone for humans.

A repugnant conclusion

We have just come to appreciate that our impacts on the Earth system are so large that we have possibly ushered in a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. The Earth’s rocks will bear witness to humans’ impacts long after we disappear. The technosphere can be seen as the engine of the Anthropocene. But that does not mean we are driving it. We may have created this system, but it is not built for our communal benefit. This runs completely counter to how we view our relationship with the Earth system.

Take the planetary boundaries concept, which has generated much interest scientifically, economically, and politically. This idea frames human development as impacting on nine planetary boundaries, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and ocean acidification. If we push past these boundaries, then the Earth system will change in ways that will make human civilisation very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. The value of, say, the biosphere here is that it provides goods and services to us. This represents what we can literally get from the system.

The planetary boundaries that are intended to help define a safe operating space for humanity. Steffen, W., et al, 2015. Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, 347(6223), p.1

This very human-centric approach should lead to more sustainable development. It should constrain growth. But the technological world system we have built is clever at getting around such constraints. It uses the ingenuity of humans to build new technologies – such as geoengineering – to reduce surface temperatures. That would not halt ocean acidification and so would lead to the potential collapse of ocean ecosystems. No matter. The climate constraint would have been avoided and the technosphere could then get to work overcoming any side effects of biodiversity loss. Fish stocks collapse? Shift to farmed fish or intensively grown algae.

As defined so far, there appears nothing to stop the technosphere liquidating most of the Earth’s biosphere to satisfy its growth. Just as long as goods and services are consumed, the technosphere can continue to grow.

And so those who fear the collapse of civilisation or those who have enduring faith in human innovation being able to solve all sustainability challenges may both be wrong.

After all, a much smaller and much richer population of the order of hundreds of millions could consume more than the current population of 7.6 billion or the projected population of nine billion by the middle of this century. While there would be widespread disruption, the technosphere may be able to weather climate change beyond 3°C. It does not care, cannot care, that billions of people would have died.

Fewer people would not necessarily mean a smaller technosphere. Gunnerchu/Shutterstock.com

And at some point in the future, the technosphere could even function without humans. We worry about robots taking over human’s jobs. Perhaps we should be more concerned with them taking over our role as apex consumers.

Escape plan

The situation, then, may all seem rather hopeless. Whether or not my argument is an accurate representation of our civilisation, there is the risk it produces a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because if we believe we can’t slow down the growth of the technosphere, then why bother?

This goes beyond the question of “what difference could I make?” to “what difference can anyone make?” While flying less, cutting down on eating meat and dairy and cycling to work are all commendable steps to take, they do not constitute living outside the technosphere.

It’s not just that we give tacit consent to the technosphere by using its roads, computers, or intensively farmed food. It’s that by being a productive member of society, by earning and spending, above all by consuming, we further the technosphere’s growth.


Read more: Climate change: yes, your individual action does make a difference


Perhaps the way out from fatalism and disaster is an acceptance that humans may not actually be in control of our planet. This would be the vital first step that could lead to a broader outlook that encompasses more than humans.

For example, the mainstream economic attitude about trees, frogs, mountains, and lakes is that these things only have value if they provide something to us. This mindset sets them up as nothing more than resources to exploit and sinks for waste.

What if we thought of them as components or even our companions in the complex Earth system? Questions about sustainable development then become questions about how growth in the technosphere can be accommodated with their concerns, interests, and welfare as well as ours.

This may produce questions that seem absurd. What are the concerns or interests of a mountain? Of a flea? But if we continue to frame the situation in terms of “us against them”, of human well-being trumping everything else in the Earth system, then we may be effectively hacking away the best form of protection against a dangerously rampant technosphere.

And so the most effective guard against climate breakdown may not be technological solutions, but a more fundamental reimagining of what constitutes a good life on this particular planet. We may be critically constrained in our abilities to change and rework the technosphere, but we should be free to envisage alternative futures. So far our response to the challenge of climate change exposes a fundamental failure of our collective imagination.

We must start to see ourselves as a small part of a planetary natural system. Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock.com

To understand you are in a prison, you must first be able to see the bars. That this prison was created by humans over many generations doesn’t change the conclusion that we are currently tightly bound up within a system that could, if we do not act, lead to the impoverishment, and even death of billions of people.

Eight years ago, I woke up to the real possibility that humanity is facing disaster. I can still smell that bad coffee, I can still recall the memory of scrabbling to make sense of the words I was hearing. Embracing the reality of the technosphere doesn’t mean giving up, of meekly returning to our cells. It means grabbing a vital new piece of the map and planning our escape.


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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Costs of Technologies reshaping Energy-related Investment

Costs of Technologies reshaping Energy-related Investment

Following on the ever-increasing ease of accessibility of all renewables-hardware, the costs of technologies reshaping energy-related investment per The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Investment 2019 report have mainly affected and/or facilitated the surging demand for even more power. In effect, it is in the developing world, including, the MENA region where the market seems to be the highest, that this is happening before our very eyes. Hence this article of the World Economic Forum.

A general view of the DanTysk wind farm, 90 kilometres west of Esbjerg, Denmark, September 21, 2016. Picture taken September 21, 2016. To match EUROPE-OFFSHORE/WINDPOWER  REUTERS/Nikolaj Skydsgaard - D1BEUNDQTLAA
The costs of technologies are reshaping energy-related investment
Image: REUTERS/Nikolaj Srkydsgaad

The world invested almost $2 trillion in energy last year. These 3 charts show where it went

By Charlotte Edmond, Formative Content.

22 May 2019

The world invested $1.8 trillion in energy last year, with spending on renewables stalling, while oil, gas and coal projects increased.

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Investment 2019 report shows overall global investment in energy stabilised in 2018 after a recent decline, with the power sector continuing to make up the biggest proportion of this spending. Much of that investment has been fueled by the world’s rapidly increasing demand for electricity.

Investment in coal increased for the first time since 2012, despite reduced Chinese spending to focus on power generation.

When it comes to cleaner fuels, there was little movement in the overall investment in renewables and no net addition to capacity, driven in part by the falling costs of some technologies. But production of biofuels, which has fallen behind the IEA’s sustainable development targets, saw a rise in investment last year.

The agency’s report also showed minimal increases in energy efficiency investments, with spending on transport efficiency remaining constant even though sales of electric vehicles are motoring upwards.

Indeed, the IEA warns there is a “growing mismatch between current trends and the paths to meeting” the world’s climate goals laid out in the 2016 Paris Agreement and “other sustainable development goals.”

The changing landscape

The costs of technologies are reshaping energy-related investment, as the chart below demonstrates.

Some of the most marked changes have been seen in the power sector, where there have been dramatic falls in the costs of solar, onshore wind and battery storage.

Prices for some efficient goods such as light-emitting diodes (LED) and electric vehicles have continued to fall, too. But investment in efficiency innovations is still being held back by governmental policy and financing challenges.

On the other hand, there has been little change in the costs of nuclear power projects and carbon capture and storage – a technology that aims to trap greenhouse gases before they enter the atmosphere.

Who invests the most?

China remained the biggest market for energy investment last year, even as the US is rapidly catching up, the IEA report said.

Increases in oil and gas — particularly in the shale sector — have driven the bulk US investment. By contrast, China is putting much of its money into low-carbon projects, with big investments in nuclear power and renewables.

India is the most rapidly growing market for investment. Elsewhere, investment in energy generally has fallen in recent years in Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the agency.

Have you read?

How young people really feel about digital technology

How young people really feel about digital technology

Revolt on the horizon? How young people really feel about digital technology. It is already happening but on the other side of the Mediterranean. The 2011 raucous events liberally labelled ‘Arab Spring’ surfing on the then available Social Media did take their respective establishments by surprise in Tunisia and Egypt. Lately, it is Algeria’s as well as Sudan’s that no doubt are undergoing the same treatment. The almost full and deep spread of Digital Technology is definitely for something in the simultaneous and coordinated gatherings, for instance in every single town and village of all and far-flung 48 provinces of Algeria. Moreover, the impact of social networks has given a specific decantation process via all social media seems to help in delineating issues and decide ways to pursue each and to which end. Inevitable progress and/or technological advances in the digital hardware in hand is making it hard to predict where all this is leading.

Meanwhile here are Dr Mike Cooray, Hult International Business School and Dr Rikke Duus, UCL with their views on the matter this side of the English Channel.

File 20190521 23823 1t9fa9p.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
DisobeyAr/Shutterstock

As digital technologies facilitate the growth of both new and incumbent organisations, we have started to see the darker sides of the digital economy unravel. In recent years, many unethical business practices have been exposed, including the capture and use of consumers’ data, anticompetitive activities and covert social experiments.

But what do young people who grew up with the internet think about this development? Our research with 400 digital natives – 19- to 24-year-olds – shows that this generation, dubbed “GenTech”, may be the one to turn the digital revolution on its head. Our findings point to a frustration and disillusionment with the way organisations have accumulated real-time information about consumers without their knowledge and often without their explicit consent.

Many from GenTech now understand that their online lives are of commercial value to an array of organisations that use this insight for the targeting and personalisation of products, services and experiences.

This era of accumulation and commercialisation of user data through real-time monitoring has been coined “surveillance capitalism” and signifies a new economic system.

Artificial intelligence

A central pillar of the modern digital economy is our interaction with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms. We found that 47% of GenTech do not want AI technology to monitor their lifestyle, purchases and financial situation in order to recommend them particular things to buy.

In fact, only 29% see this as a positive intervention. Instead, they wish to maintain a sense of autonomy in their decision making and have the opportunity to freely explore new products, services and experiences.

The agency pendulum swings between the individual and technology. Who will take control? boykung/Shutterstock

As individuals living in the digital age, we constantly negotiate with technology to let go of or retain control. This pendulum-like effect reflects the ongoing battle between the human and technology.

My life, my data?

Our research also reveals that 54% of GenTech are very concerned about the access organisations have to their data, while only 19% were not worried. Despite the EU General Data Protection Regulation being introduced in May 2018, this is still a major concern – grounded in a belief that too much of their data is in the possession of a small group of global companies, including Google, Amazon and Facebook. Some 70% felt this way.

In recent weeks, both Facebook and Google have vowed to make privacy a top priority in the way they interact with users. Both companies have faced public outcry for their lack of openness and transparency when it comes to how they collect and store user data. It isn’t long ago that a hidden microphone was found in one of Google’s home alarm products.

Google now plans to offer auto-deletion of users’ location history data, browsing and app activity as well as extend its “incognito mode” to Google Maps and search. This will enable users to turn off tracking.

At Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is keen to reposition the platform as a “privacy focused communications platform”, built on principles such as private interactions, encryption, safety, interoperability (communications across Facebook-owned apps and platforms) and secure data storage. This will be a tough turn around for the company that is fundamentally dependent on turning user data into opportunities for highly individualised advertising.

Facebook is trying to restore trust. PK Studio/Shuttestock

Privacy and transparency are critically important themes for organisations today – both for those that have “grown up” online as well as the incumbents. While GenTech want organisations to be more transparent and responsible, 64% also believe that they cannot do much to keep their data private. Being tracked and monitored online by organisations is seen as part and parcel of being a digital consumer.

Despite these views, there is a growing revolt simmering under the surface. GenTech want to take ownership of their own data. They see this as a valuable commodity, which they should be given the opportunity to trade with organisations. Some 50% would willingly share their data with companies if they got something in return, for example, a financial incentive.

Rewiring the power shift

GenTech are looking to enter into a transactional relationship with organisations. This reflects a significant change in attitudes from perceiving the free access to digital platforms as the “product” in itself (in exchange for user data), to now wishing to use that data to trade for explicit benefits.

This has created an opportunity for companies that seek to empower consumers and give them back control of their data. Several companies now offer consumers the opportunity to sell the data they are comfortable sharing or take part in research which they get paid for. More and more companies are joining this space, including People.io, Killi and Ocean Protocol.

Sir Tim Berners Lee, the creator of the world wide web, has also been working on a way to shift the power from organisations and institutions and back to citizens and consumers. The platform, Solid, offers users the opportunity to be in charge of where they store their data and who can access it. It is a form of re-decentralisation.

The Solid POD (Personal Online Data storage) is a secure place on a hosted server or the individual’s own server. Users can grant apps access to their POD as a person’s data is stored centrally and not by an app developer or on an organisation’s server. We see this as potentially being a way to let people take back control from technology and other companies.

GenTech have woken up to a reality where a life lived “plugged in” has significant consequences for their individual privacy, and are starting to push back, questioning those organisations that have shown limited concern and continue to exercise exploitative practices.

It’s no wonder that we see these signs of revolt. GenTech is the generation with the most to lose. They face a life ahead intertwined with digital technology as part of their personal and private lives. With continued pressure on organisations to become more transparent, the time is now for young people to make their move.

Dr Mike Cooray, Professor of Practice, Hult International Business School and Dr Rikke Duus, Research Associate and Senior Teaching Fellow, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Military dominating Civilian life and Society in Egypt

Military dominating Civilian life and Society in Egypt

The MENA region countries, notably the republics amongst them, have undergone upheaval of vital importance lately. The latest but not least would be the military dominating civilian life and society in Egypt. This country being at the forefront of all the republics in all domain of governance could be an indicator of the trend for the other governments. Algeria and Sudan come literally on the brink of following, such as their own military dominating the country’s civilian and societal life.

Amgad Hamdi in his 20 May 2019 article elaborates thus on the Egyptian Institute for Studies.

Militarization of Egyptian Ministry of Health

It is no longer a secret that the military dominates civilian life and society as a whole in Egypt. The present cabinet with all its civil ministries is no longer the only civilian front for the military rule. In fact, the military has tightened its grip on all aspects of civil life through employing military officers, both retired or in office.

On 22 December 2018, Hala Zayed, the current Minister of Health, announced that directors of 48 model hospitals (29 of which belong to the Ministry of Health and 19 to the Ministry of Higher Education) will be chosen from among the military. This decision violates all legal and constitutional values ​​of ensuring that all citizens have equal opportunities when applying for a job based on objective evaluation criteria, not due to belonging to any State body or party, whether civilian or military. This move comes after founding the Faculty of Military Medicine, a critical development in the course of military dominance over the civilian sphere, and within the framework of seeking to tighten control over service sectors that are directly related to citizens, such as the health sector.

Militarization of leading positions in the Ministry of Health

As the Egyptian government that came after the military coup sought to exclude all components of the civil society, the phenomenon of controlling the vital sectors in the Ministry of Health, including the security, finance and administrative sectors, in addition to dozens of jobs in the middle administration at the level of director-general, which is difficult to monitor because of lack of transparency in the announcement of mechanisms of military personnel appointment in those positions.

The prevalence of the presence of the military in various sectors of the Ministry of Health contributed to increasing anger among employees, in light of the huge salaries that those military commanders receive added to the huge salaries they receive from the army starting from 15 thousand pounds to officers with the rank of Colonel and up to 25 thousand pounds for officers with the rank of Maj. General, which increases the psychological burden on civil servants in those sectors, whose salary may not exceed 1500 pounds per month.

A- The military in the Ministry of Health

Among the most important military figures that were appointed in leading positions at the Ministry of Health after the July 2013 coup:

1- Major General Mohamed Fathallah, an anesthesiologist in the Armed Forces, was appointed to the position of spokesman for the Ministry of Health, from 29 July 2013 to 25 November 2013, and was then promoted to the Head of the Health Minister’s Office.

Fathallah only made one statement on the number of deaths during the dispersal of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins as well as subsequent events all over the country, during his tenure as an official spokesman of the Ministry of Health. On 15 August 2013, one day after the massacre, the Egyptian Ministry of Health officially announced that the incidents left 578 dead and 4201 injured all over the country, including 288 deaths in Rabaa only.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Coup Alliance, known as the National Alliance Supporting Legitimacy, announced that the number of victims after the dispersal of anti-coup sit-ins reached 2,600 in Rabaa Adawiya alone; and some Brotherhood leaders, such as Mohamed El-Beltagy and Essam El-Erian, said 3000 protesters were killed by the army and security forces on 14 August, while the number jumped to 4000 or 5000, including those viewed as “coup victims” in general. However, the Human Rights Watch said the death toll reached one thousand.

Commenting on this:

– The Ministry of Health was supposed to issue several consecutive statements on the situation following the initial statement. However, only three statements were issued between 14 and 17 August.

– The total number of victims announced by Major General Mohammad Fathallah, the official spokesman of the Ministry of Health, (578 people), after only one day of the Rabaa sit-in dispersal cannot be accurate due to the state of liquidity and severe disintegration of the State institutions at the time.

– No subsequent data were issued to indicate the status of the injured and the hospitals to which they were transferred, and whether there were subsequent deaths among the injured.

– The Ministry of Health did not play its role in preserving the rights of the dead and injured through issuance of official death certificates showing the real causes of death or injury, which could support the legal position of the families of those affected in the course of criminal prosecution of army and police forces involved in killing demonstrators.

– So far, the Ministry of Health has not released any new data or statistics regarding the massacre of dispersal of Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins, especially causes of death.

– The Ministry of Health did not respond to the complaints raised by the Egyptian or international press about discrepancies in statements about the numbers of victims and remained silent.

The appointment of a military doctor in this position as spokesman of the Ministry of Health, at this specific stage, begs a question about the accuracy and transparency of information regarding the incident, where the victims were civilians and the convicts were army and police forces, amid silence of the official spokesman of the ministry.

2- The position of assistant to the Minister of Health for Financial and Administrative Affairs was mostly occupied by the military except for the period from January to October 2015, where the current Minister of Finance, Mohamed Maeit, held the post: Major General Ahmed Farag took over from 2006 until the January Revolution (2011), then Major General Ashraf Khairi, and after that Dr. Maeit as we mentioned earlier, and finally Major General Sayed Al Shahid, who has been in this position until today.

3- The Central Department of Administrative Affairs: Dr. Ahmed Emad Eddin, former Minister of Health in March 2017 appointed Major General Ahmed Baligh Al Hadidi as Head of the Health Ministry’s Central Department of Administrative Affairs. The Administrative Affairs Sector is responsible for all types of maintenance within the ministry office including plumbing, carpentry, electricity, as well as sending and receiving the office correspondence.

4- General Security Department: Dr. Ahmed Emad Eddin, the former Minister of Health, appointed Major General Ahmed Zaghloul as Assistant to the Minister of Health for Political Communication and Security Affairs, replacing Major General Ahmad Said, former Director of the Ministry of Health’s Security Department. Also, the former minister of health appointed Major General Hisham Abdel Raouf as assistant to the minister for basic care.

As we have seen, the military control all sectors of the Ministry of Health as well as the overall policy-making within the Ministry and the Ministry’s resources, logistics, personnel files, communication systems, facilities and services, in addition to the operating system and internal regulations.

B- Management of model hospitals

The decision of Hala Zayed, the current Minister of Health, to appoint the directors of the model hospitals (48) from among those who have a military background is the most dangerous decision in the context of development of the course of military dominance on the health sector in Egypt, for the following reasons:

– The decision is the first of its kind that restricts applying for a civil position to the military.

– The decision allows the military to systematically invade the Ministry of Health’s middle administration, as directors of hospitals, which enables them to control the joints of the health sector as a whole, not only the top administration and policy-making, but also extends to the executive.

– The decision represents a qualitative leap in the path of imposing military hegemony on society, through the appointment of soldiers in service or retired in civil service sites where there is direct interaction with citizens on a daily basis.

– The appointment of the military as directors of government-owned hospitals, this time not as military doctors, but as professional soldiers assigned to work in administrative not technical positions. Therefore, the decision represents a quantitative and qualitative transformation in this regard.

– The decision will increase the drop-out and emigration of doctors due to deprivation of the possibility of promotion and holding administrative positions in the ministry.

– This military move is an encroachment on the civil rights and social structure of the Egyptian working environment. It is also a negative indicator of the tendency towards a full militarization of society.

– The aim of such decision is to appease the military, who were fired from their positions in the armed forces, especially after the coup of 2013.

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Renewable Energy Now Accounts for 33% of Global Power

Renewable Energy Now Accounts for 33% of Global Power

Nicole Garman May 21, 2019

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, 171GW of renewable energy was added to the global system in 2018. That made up two-thirds of the overall new power generation capacity added for the year and one-third of the world’s capacity in whole.

Wind and solar energy contributed 84% of the renewable sources, with solar seeing the largest growth for the year at an increase of 94GW in capacity. Most of these solar facilities were installed in Asia, which also hosted over 40% of new wind energy.

Wind accounted for 564GW in total, joining 1,172GW of energy from hydropower and 480GW of solar to register 2,351GW of renewable energy for the year.

The Price is Right

In part, such innovation can be attributed to record-breaking efficiency in production cost. For the first time, the industry saw renewables running a lower price tag in production than fossil fuels.

According to analysis and data culled from Bloomberg, The Frankfurt School, IRENA, and UN Environment by Kaiserwetter Energy Asset Management, fossil fuels generated energy costs ranging from $49 to $174 per MWh in 2017, while renewables logged rates from $35 to $54 per MWh over a comparable period of time.

Renewable energy programs have been growing for the past five years, bolstered by technological innovations that make wind and solar energy easy to access for both commercial and residential users.

Double Time

In U.S. cities alone, the Environment America Research and Policy Center reports doubled solar energy capacity in the last six years; Honolulu ranks as the top per-person producer at 646 watts per resident, and Los Angeles took top honors for overall installed capacity.

45 of the country’s 57 largest cities logged substantial numbers, with one-third tallying photovoltaic capacity at quadrupled rates.

Regional leaders for solar capacity per capita include Burlington, Vermont in the Northeast; Washington, D.C. in the South Atlantic; San Antonio, Texas in the South Central region; Indianapolis for North Central; and Las Vegas for the Mountain region.

Honolulu led the Pacific, leading the charge for Hawaii’s goal to transition completely to renewable energy sources by 2045.

In addition to advances in technology, effective public policy and passionate advocacy are credited for the earth-friendly energy surge.

  • This article was originally published on II Thomas.
  • Image Credit: lovelyday12 / Shutterstock.com
Universities struggling with the concept and agenda of ‘Greening’

Universities struggling with the concept and agenda of ‘Greening’

University World News GLOBAL : Although young people are driving a global wake-up call on climate change and the need to reduce our carbon footprint, many universities struggling with the concept and agenda of ‘greening’ and their achievements to date have been “scattered and unsystematic”, UN Environment, the leading global environmental authority, warned this week.

UN urges universities to be catalysers of sustainability

By Brendan O’Malley  18 May 2019 Share



In a report published on its website, it says some schools and universities are leading by example and reducing carbon emissions, promoting renewable energy and becoming “hotbeds of activism on the defining issue for a generation”.

But, it says, “while some noteworthy exemplars of university sustainability initiatives exist around the world, there is a need to maximise the potential benefits by encouraging their replication in as many universities as possible globally.”

This article is part of a series on Transformative Leadership published by University World News in partnership with Mastercard Foundation. University World News is solely responsible for the editorial content.
Across the world, UN Environment is working with universities to set up national and regional Green University Networks to enable institutions to incorporate low carbon-climate resilience development strategies and sustainability in education, training and campus operations.

“Decarbonising our economies and lives will be a defining and recurrent element of any profession until the end of this century,” said Niklas Hagelberg, coordinator of the Climate Change Programme at UN Environment. He said going carbon-neutral provides a great opportunity to “demystify carbon neutrality for students” and can give them a practical experience through inclusion in curricula and operations of the school or university.

UN Environment has produced the Greening Universities Toolkit V2.0 to inspire universities to design, develop and implement strategies for green, resource-efficient and low carbon campuses.

The toolkit aims to encourage and promote the contribution of universities to the overall sustainability of the planet and help them become agents of change. Drawing on innovations and best practice in sustainability, it looks at defining sustainability, initiating transformations, indicators, technologies for transformation, policy governance and administration and resources for change.

It includes dozens of case studies from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America outlining sustainable campus innovations implemented.

Climate emergency

In Britain, declaring a climate change emergency, the University of Bristol had already become what is thought to be the world’s first higher education institution to issue its own ‘climate emergency’ declaration, reflecting growing student unease over the slow pace of official action. Two weeks later, parliament, on 5 May made history by declaring a ‘climate change emergency’.

Bristol University said it wanted to acknowledge the deep concerns of its students and reaffirm its “strong and positive commitment to take action on climate change”. It is already acting to reduce its own carbon footprint.

The university has reduced carbon emissions by 27% since 2005 through a combination of technical measures, including heating controls and LED lighting. It has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 and in March 2018 it announced plans to divest completely from all investments in fossil fuel companies within two years.

“The University of Bristol plays a key role in fighting climate change; it does this through its research, its teaching and how it operates,” said Professor Judith Squires, deputy vice-chancellor and provost.

“Calling a climate emergency highlights the urgency of the task we are engaged in and I hope others join us in increasing their action on this, the biggest challenge we face.”

UN Environment said it is fitting that Bristol University should be a leader in this field: it houses the Cabot Institute for the Environment, home to several of the lead authors on reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including last year’s devastating analysis that the world is running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Many other positive examples among universities exist to inspire innovation and action.

Achieving carbon neutrality

For example, Bowdoin College in Maine in the United States became carbon neutral in 2018, two years ahead of the schedule it pledged as part of the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments. The private liberal arts college reduced its carbon emissions by 29%, from 16,326 metric tons in 2008 to 11,620 metric tons in 2017.

Bowdoin College installed a cogeneration turbine, which produces electricity as a by-product of generating heat, converted buildings from oil to natural gas, insulated 5,100 feet of underground steam tunnels, replaced thousands of lights with efficient LED bulbs and diverted more than 50% of its waste from landfills.

To account for its remaining emissions, the college is investing in carbon offsets with regional impacts, and in renewable energy credits associated with wind farms. Additionally, Bowdoin is announcing a pioneering renewable energy project partnership that will result in the largest solar array in the state of Maine.

This will involve working with other educational institutions to help fund construction of a 75-megawatt solar project in Farmington. The project is expected to offset nearly half of Bowdoin’s annual electricity consumption.

As part of its carbon neutrality action plan, Bowdoin has held energy reduction contests, trained eco-reps to educate the campus community and employed about 200 students to raise awareness about climate change among their peers.

It has increased its composting of food waste, switched security officers out of vehicles and onto bikes to use less petrol, and has insulated buildings and sealed doors and windows to reduce energy waste.

In Washington DC, American University also reached carbon neutrality two years ahead of schedule. It now uses 21% less energy per square foot than it did in 2005.

The college has six LEED-certified buildings, with four others planned. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

American University also has eight green roofs, seven solar panel arrays and nine bioretention basins and rain gardens. All of its shuttle buses run on biodiesel, the campus is also bicycle-friendly and the university has planted more than 1.2 million trees in the city to offset greenhouse gas emissions from commuting.

Half of American University’s power needs come from a solar panel farm it established in North Carolina in partnership with the George Washington University and George Washington University Hospital. The other half comes from renewable energy credits.

Australia’s Charles Sturt University was certified the country’s first carbon neutral university in 2016. As well as procuring carbon offsets, it has introduced electric carts on campuses, commissioned solar photovoltaic systems, established battery recycling centres and beefed up its recycling processes.

In Kenya, Strathmore University set out to become the first climate neutral university in the country and installed a 0.6 MW rooftop solar plant to provide energy and reduce its carbon footprint. The Strathmore Energy Research Centre decided to export the excess energy to the grid and a power purchase agreement was signed in 2015. The solar plant is also used as a live laboratory to train technicians to design and maintain such installations.

UN Environment says it is working with other Kenyan educational institutions through the Kenya Green University Network, which was launched in 2016 in collaboration with the National Environment Management Authority and the Commission for University Education. The aim is to integrate sound environmental practices and knowledge sharing into Kenya’s 70 public and private universities.

Direct personal action

Students across the world in schools and universities have also taken direct, personal action. At West Hollow Middle School in Long Island in the United States, students have taken the UN’s Climate Neutral Now pledge to measure the school’s greenhouse gas emissions, reduce what they can and offset the rest using certified emissions reductions.

UN Environment said such action has effects that ripple out into the community. West Hollow School has produced a full curriculum for teachers to raise awareness among students and encourage both pupils and staff to also work on reducing their carbon footprints at home.

For Bristol University student, Giles Atkinson, who had a key role in organising the petition to declare a climate emergency, universities can take a leading role in responding to climate change.

“This [climate emergency] declaration will help communicate the urgency of the situation and inspire further action. We hope that other universities follow suit,” he said.